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Get to Know Me: Faith Journey

 

Baptized Catholic as a Baby

Both my mother and father's side of the family are devout Catholics. As a baby, I was raised in the very small Saint Stephens Byzantine Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona. This was an Eastern/Greek Orthodox tradition which meant the entire mass was sung (many parts in Latin), had super intoxicating incense pearmeating the building and "holy water" flung at us from the priest walking up and down the isles. There was a very strange altar, confessional booths that were dark and dreary, a cold basement that was smelly and weird, eerie stained glass windows,  and a "Pay to pray to the Saints" candlelight kneeling prayer area. The pictures of Jesus and the Saints were literally everywhere and they creeped me out. They looked like aliens throwing up gang signs with masonic type symbols everywhere. Creepy. Super creepy! These images were so jolting to my spirit as a small child. Along with the indoctrination that I was a sinner and made to believe God was mad at me and I had to perform and be perfect or be damned to hell. The Lord and I worked through this false teaching and the damage this caused during a Sozo Healing Session at age 30. {More on this later}.  

I was baptized as an infant with water being sprinked on my head over a basin and then completed my First Holy Communion at age 7 which was supposedly my declaration to accepting Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. It's silly to think back on now. I just did what I was told, along with all my peers in my catacism class and I felt pretty special that I got to wear a pretty white dress and veil and have my whole family there to celebrate me. 

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Went to Church with Grandma

Not long after I completed my First Holy Communion, there were some changes to the doctrine. All of a sudden the bishops or cardinals (Idk, who understands Catholic heirarcy of power anyway?!) decided that they were going to wrap their 3 main faith declarations of confirmation, communion and baptism all in one. This meant that infants would be baptized, which gave them auto entry into Heaven. My family didn't agree. So my grandmother switched to subscribe to the standard, Roman Catholic doctrine. My parents pretty much checked out all together. They really didn't attend church after my little sister and brother both completed their "First Holy Communion" both around age 6-7. But my heart wanted more of God. Even though I couldn't relate to or understand anything that was said during Sunday mass and the repetitive responses seemed cultish to me and even though I was met with resistence any time I asked any questions, I still wanted to go. So for a little while my grandma would pick me up, take me to church, have brunch and take me back home. 

 

Introduced to Relationship Outside of Religion

It wasn't until I was 16 and my high school boyfriend bought me my first Bible. His family were leaders in a large local church, Phoenix First Assembly of God (now Dream City Church). This was my first church experience outside the Catholic church! I was in AWE! I couldn't believe how JOYFILLED everyone around me was! This exposure outside the Catholic religion really created a stir in my family, though. I was given strict instructions to never speak of "my religion" to my younger sister and brother or share "my Bible" with them or I would be evicted from my home. It was hard. I didn't understand it. I couldn't understand why the Bible was not welcomed when, to my understanding at the time, Catholicism was founded on it? 

I know now that one cannot support what they do not understand. 

My family were indoctrinated and some even had negative experiences with evangelicals. I was viewed as a Bible-thumper and a radical weirdo. 

 

Intrigued but not TRANSFORMED

As I mentioned in My Testimony, most of my 20's were spent being defiant and damaging to the Kingdom. At one point, my best friend in high school (who claimed to be an atheist) called me out, "Heather, you claim to be a Christian, but really I only see that you go to church every once in awhile." Whoa! She was right. I read the Bible occassionally, but I was living so apart from God. I got drunk frequently and lived promiscuiously. 

 

Church Search

For many years, I was craving a Church to call "Home." I went to many churches around the valley and none seemed to fit. And believe me, I tried. As I wrote in Welcome HOME! I tried connecting, volunteering, getting involved in groups and studies, and experience a place with vibrant worship and exemplary Christlike leadership. Nothing clicked.

 

The Radical Holy Spirit Encounter of 11.2.14

Check out my HIStory {His Story @ Work in Me} there you will find more on my journey of finding relationship outside of religion, and the radical transformation moment after a Holy Spirit encounter while crying out in despair in my bedroom. 

On November 2, 2014, I had a radical Holy Spirit encounter. I surrendered my life to Jesus not just as Savior but as LORD. From that moment on, EVERYTHING changed and I’ve never been the same since!
 

All-In

In August 2015 I saw an ad on My Facebook for a Propel Women event hosted at a local church, then called City of Grace. I had never heard of that church so I looked online and saw they had 3 campuses in the valley, one of which was an old cathedral in the heart of downtown Phoenix. I called my friend Rachael and we went that weekend. Instantly we both felt at HOME! On our first or second visit, we met the campus Pastor, Ruth (who quickly became MY mentor pastor) and she invited us to come early the next week and begin serving. I was shocked! No red tape, no membership classes...just show up and join the huddle! 

The next month we hosted the Propel event at our Mesa campus and Pastor Ruth invited me to serve. She said she had a "special assignment" for me. She invited me to serve backstage. This experience changed EVERYTHING for me! {More on this to come...stay tuned!} 



I would LOVE to hear YOUR Faith Journey story!     When did you accept Jesus as YOUR personal Lord and Savior? Please share in the comments below or send me a message!
 

I am beginning a project soon about testimonies of faith and I'd LOVE to hear YOURS!