Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Answering YOUR questions, part 1

Thanks to EVERYONE who submitted questions for me to answer.

I promise to make the answers as interesting as possible. I find my own life to be breathtakingly boring, but to an outsider it may seem like a carnival ride. So here we go.

Bridgett asked
When did you know your husband was "the one"? And, because I'm fascinated by converts, anything about that process is most welcome.

And Jennifer asked
Were you and TP always the same faith or did you switch for him? Did you know he wanted to be a minister when you met him? When is he going to find a job closer to me?

Okay. So. Here's the story of how I became Mrs. Texan Papa.

My parents wished for a good little girl, and for the most part I was. But I was an opinionated good little girl, and I wasn't afraid to speak my mind. I loved attention and did whatever I needed to do to get it. I took risks. I pushed the envelope. I batted my cute little eyelashes and got away with a lot. Basically, I was the baby of the family and by the time I was a teenager I think my parents were exhausted and just wanted it to be over with.

Did I tell you that the year I left for college my parents took vacations out of the country? TWICE??

I grew up Catholic in a family with an old-school Catholic mom and a non-church-attending Dad. My dad believed in Jesus but just didn't feel that church fit into his Sunday morning routine of golf and/or tackling the "honey-do" list. We'd leave for church and he'd say, "Tell JC 'hi' for me!"

Anyway, I say my mom is "old-school" because she came from the era of Catholics... heck, the era of American Citizens for that matter, who pretty much trusted authority figures and believed whatever they said. As a kid, she did what she was told to do and never asked why. That's how she was raised and that's how she raised me. That was my life. Be good. Behave. Listen to your parents and don't disagree with them. And if for some reason you DO misbehave, just make sure your parents NEVER. FIND. OUT. Because "sorry" is one thing but the lasting guilt is quite another.

I attended PSR classes (Parish School of Religion - I think?) every week K-8th grades at my local Catholic Church (shout out to St. Clare of Assisi!). In 9th grade I took confirmation classes and was confirmed at the end of 9th grade, although I can't remember a thing that was said or taught in that class. I don't ever remember studying or reading or reflecting on my relationship with God or my religion. I *do* remember asking myself, "What if this isn't for me? Should I tell my parents I don't want to be confirmed?" But that answer to that was a resounding NO because that meant I'd only postpone my confirmation until 11th grade, which meant 2 more years of classes. no. thank. you. So, get confirmed I did.

All through high school and college, every guy I'd ever met was no match for my chutzpah. *I* wore the pants in every relationship I'd ever been in. I didn't see it that way but looking back I know it was true. I think I purposely (although subconsciously) picked guys who liked a strong woman (that's a euphemism for "willing to be bossed around".) I liked having the strongest personality in a relationship. It felt empowering.

I went to college for 4 years with a string of on-again, off-again boyfriends. After college I stayed in my college town and found a job just north of the city. I stayed there 2 years and cut my teeth teaching in a rural town with a limited budget. I got involved with my local Catholic church and even led a small youth group in my apartment on alternating Sunday nights. I think I kinda sucked as a youth minister but I really wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. Unfortunately I never really got that feeling from church, but I did feel happy serving God. It was a mixed blessing.

After those 2 years, I realized how much I missed home and my family, so I moved back to St. Louis and took a teaching job at a Catholic high school. I loved it and it renewed my faith in my decision to be a teacher. I also really valued the fact that I could share my faith with my students. But... it's true what you've heard: Catholic school teachers make a pittance for a salary. So I took a part-time job with a catering company and THAT'S where I met my husband.

I met him in September. We were engaged by Thanksgiving and married in May. It was pretty fast. And no, I wasn't pregnant!

Texan Papa was different than any other guy I'd met. He had a very definite sense of self-confidence. Not cockiness, but just a sense that he clearly knew who he was, what his ideas were, and that he didn't need to apologize for them. That was a really attractive quality. He was in the seminary at the time, studying to be a pastor, and his commitment to his faith fascinated me too. I had always looked at priests as very "untouchable" ... NOT THAT I WANTED TO TOUCH ONE. shame on you for thinking that! I mean, they were considered an elite member of our church. Heck, they weren't members, they WERE the church. So finding a man who was interested in leading a church... well... it seemed kinda powerful, in a way.

But as we got to talking more, and as our relationship grew and our discussions went beyond, "What's your favorite way to eat potatoes?" we talked about faith.

I realized how very little I knew about my own faith. I don't know whose fault that is: my parents for never teaching me anything at home and expecting the church to do it all; my church's for not passing on a message I could take hold of; or my own for never caring enough to simply read the bible. I think it was a combination of all three, and it worked together with my upbringing to believe that whatever I was told in church was good enough. No one ever discouraged me from asking questions but no one encouraged me either. As a matter of fact, I almost felt like I'd be a defector if I dared to suggest that something I'd heard didn't gel with what I'd thought to be true.

Texan Papa gently explained the differences between his faith and mine. He encouraged me to question my beliefs, and to seek answers in the Bible. As a matter of fact, on our first Christmas together he bought me my very first Bible. Can you believe I was almost 26 years old, regularly attending mass at my local parish, I didn't even own a bible? We talked about our faiths and if it would be possible to raise our children together with separate religions. We decided it just wouldn't work because his faith was the cornerstone of who he was. And, while I wasn't quite there yet, I knew it was also important to me. I wasn't to the point yet where I HAD to be one religion or another, but I knew I was a Christian.

I took adult confirmation classes at the Lutheran Church (LCMS). I studied the Small Catechism. I found myself asking questions that had very clear answers. I also found myself asking questions that don't have any answer. I learned that it's okay not to know the answer, and to instead put my trust in God. I learned that if I ever had a question about my faith, there is only one source for the answer: the bible. Not church history, not any one person in a position of authority, not later writings by men and women with degrees after their names. Just the bible.

I got confirmed in the Lutheran Church in March. We got married May 30, 1998.

So, when did I know Texan Papa was "the one"? hmm... well... I guess it was May 30th. See, I knew he was a good man and I knew I loved him. But I'd loved men in the past and I'd been burned before. I felt like, until we said those vows and promised to be together forever, I was just holding my breath. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I half-expected him to walk out the door. That's the thing about love: it can do a number on you. It has the ability to put you in the most amazing high and at the same time, bring you down to the lowest low you've ever felt. So when I heard him say "I do" I knew that he wasn't going anywhere. Another one of Texan Papa's strengths is his intense loyalty. He is incredibly committed to me and our family and he won't let anything get in the way of that. He's always put us first and it hasn't changed in almost 13 years. Sometimes his commitment to us causes him to put himself last. Sometimes it causes us to pick up & move so we can have a better lifestyle. But I guess the traditional answer to "when did you know he was the one" isn't easy for me to answer because I've thought a LOT of guys were the one, early on anyway. But "the one" is the one who stuck by me. The one who was not only willing, but eager, to go the distance with me. Texan Papa is the one because he was willing to be more than just a boyfriend. He wanted to be a husband and father. Some guys I dated had really wonderful qualities. Some guys I dated wanted our relationship to last. For one reason or another, none of those relationships worked out - timing, external factors, personal issues, etc. But Texan Papa was the complete package. He fulfilled me emotionally, intellectually, and he helped me find direction for my spirituality as well. I really, truly believe that every heart break, every high and every low, that I had up to the time I met my husband was just a practice run. God's plan was for me to meet the man He had picked out for me, and I had to date all these other guys before in order to understand what a fantastic man Texan Papa truly is.

And Jennifer, I don't think we're moving south anytime soon. But the next time you go to the lake you better give me a call because I will TOTALLY make the drive this time.

 More of your questions answered next time!

I linked up my awesome with Jennifer at Momma Made It Look Easy!

Texan Mama


Gigi said...

I love this! Funny, I would have never guessed that your romance was a whirlwind one. Those seem to work out pretty well; at least in my experience. Met at the end of August was married by mid-January - 20 years ago.

This was beautifully told and TP sounds like a wonderful person - your soul-mate. Thanks for starting my day on such a positive note!

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

As someone who grew up Catholic, it was my aunt who bought me a Bible--I was well into HS. She wasn't Catholic...long story, hm, perhaps a post?

My feeling was the Bible was read to us instead of the expectation we delve into it ourselves. I have Catholic friends who would disagree, but that was my experience.

Jennifer said...

We're going this weekend. :)

April said...

My dad was much the same as yours. He believed in Jesus, but he never went to church with my mom and me. Thankfully, when we was in his 70's, he got saved and baptized...OH, HAPPY DAY! This was such a fun post to read...thanks for being so open!

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

Remember, though I'm old, I just got married four years ago. What you wrote about "I do," has stuck with me all day. My friend gave me the best advice at my shower four years ago, she said, "When you hear those vows, remember it's not 'I'll try,' it's "I DO.'"

I hold onto that.

Bridgett said...

That's lovely.

I received my first bible at my first communion. I had a very different Catholic experience from yours, however. I'm glad you found a religious home--so many Catholics just fall away to nowhere.

nicole said...

I think your experience in the Catholic church is indicative of the time. Unfortunately real, authentic Catechism just didn't happen most of the time. I am glad that you took time to learn what your faith is to you, and that you share it with your husband. I think interfaith marriages carry an extra struggle that I can't imagine. I know couples make it work and thank goodness for that, but I'm glad my husband and I share our Catholic faith.

I enjoyed reading this--gave real insight to you. :)

tz said...

what a beautiful story! thank you so much for sharing,

Melani said...

Great story! I certainly don't think your life is boring as you say...maybe to you since you know it all!

I can't wait to read more, what a great forum.

My parents raised me and my sister as Lutheran...but my dad converted from Catholic when he married my mom. Then, I found out that his dad converted from Lutheran to Catholic for HIS mom! Interesting, huh??

My husband is a Catholic...I can't seem to find it in me to ask him to convert, BUT we did agree when we got married, to raise the children Lutheran and have them baptized in my faith. I think he would convert after his parents pass away...being Catholic means a lot to them and well he respects them!

Maricris Zen Mama said...

Thank you for sharing your love story. It's always a joy to see how two people ends up together =)

Heather said...

What a great story. Isn't it amazing how things never work out quite how we expected, but always work out perfectly.

Visiting from MMILE - sharing your awesome.

Maggie S. said...

I. Love. This. Post. G., You are just a communicator.

Stopping by from Jennifer's place today.

Jennifer said...

What a great story! I love it!

lacey said...

Great love story. :) Between you and your husband, and you and God. Reading/hearing about people coming to know and love and trust God is such a blessing! Thank you for sharing!