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Finding A Better Life

by Nancy Caldwell

In 1996, I became a confirmed Catholic, and it has changed my life. What brought me there was the example set by my family and many friends. When my husband and I were married, we agreed that our children would be baptized in the Catholic faith because he knew his obligation to do so. When I watched them go through their First Communion is when I realized I wanted what they had. We weren't churchgoers at the time, but my husband realized what he had to do and returned to Sunday Mass and brought them through their catechism. Naturally, with his renewed faith, he began praying for me.

I was a very unhappy person, centering my life on myself. While I believed in God and was raised Protestant, I was not able to center my life on Him. I depended on myself and others to guide me through this life. The self-inflicted misery was oppressive, and I became out of control. Through my husband's example, I began to realize I needed help and we needed to practice our faith as a family unit.

As always happens in matters of the Divine, I bumped into one of the deacons of our local Catholic Church. I knew him from work and felt comfortable with bombarding him with questions in the search for advice. He knew what I was searching for and made inquiries for me about the RCIA. Naturally, while attending the RCIA program, what followed was a year of answers, comfort and support. I came to understand what was so special about being a Catholic and finally became confirmed at the Easter Vigil in 1996.

The whole experience was like coming home- the prodigal "son" has returned. I began to understand the importance of prayer, especially of my own experiences. Many people prayed for me, especially my husband, and I believe the prayer was the pivotal point of my conversion. What I found most intriguing is how he prayed- with patience and trust that his prayers would be answered. This is where many of us get caught up and become frustrated. If we pray with trust and patience and say to Him, "thy will be done, not mine," the answers will follow in the right time or, as I would say, in "Divine Time!"

Since my conversion, many experiences have occurred. I have tried to open my mind and notice where God has place His mighty hand in my new life. My awareness has motivated me to live right and trust that I do not have to do it alone. "Seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened." This is my new motto. I have prayed for many things, and the answers haven't always been what I wanted. But, with an open mind, I always see the good that has arisen from the situation.

When I completed the RCIA program, my head became full of ideas that I wanted to do in order to reciprocate. Service, service, service. My director warned me that I did not need to conquer the world right yet. Her advice basically was to go to Church, take care of my family and set a good Christian example.

Since my confirmation, I have seen many miracles. I have found that miracles are not necessarily lightening bolts and booming voices. God works in very gentle ways. One experience in particular was at work. One of my co-workers had to be the biggest grump known to man. I always greeted him with a smile and a "good morning." After all, God even loved him! He would grumble back and maybe sometimes carry on a short conversation with me. Let me tell you, though, he was downright ugly! One day he came to me and told me he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He knew I was handy and wanted me to make something special for the nurses in radiology with whom he had been very difficult. It would be his way of apologizing. So I set out and dressed a cute little teddy bear in a clown outfit. He loved it, and asked for more. Later, he told me they had put the bear in the radiation room for others to find at least a little joy.

Then I got really brave and made him rosary beads and gave them to him, along with a booklet on how to pray the rosary. I gave it to him all wrapped up in a nice little package. He said, 'This had better not be another prayer book!" I turned on my heels and walked out so he could open it alone.

The next day he saw me and beamed as he whispered, "That was the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me!" Was I ever relieved (thank you, God). Another day, he told me, "you know, I'm not a religious man, but while I was on the radiation table yesterday I prayed for your daughter." My daughter has scoliosis for which she has been prescribed wearing a brace. He knew how concerned I was about her and offered me the best gift of all - his prayer.

A few weeks before he died, he came to me and said the beads I made him had broken. My gesture had blossomed into his daily prayer of the rosary, not for himself, but for others. When I offered to fix it or make him a new one, he refused and said he would get it fixed himself which I found out the next day he did.

When he died, I felt such comfort in the knowledge in my heart that his life had been redeemed. I can picture him in Heaven with angel's wings. The man learned how to pray and even though he was dying a painful death, his face radiated with joy and happiness as soon as he had begun. In a short year's time, he was able to join heaven and earth with his transformation.

I now know what God wants from me. It is not difficult because He guides me every step of the way. He wants me to simply live a good life, put others first and be a good Christian example, just as my director advised me. It would be self-serving to do something glorious, and I am no longer here to serve myself. I trust that God will take care of that!

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