When I was young, sometime in early elementary school, my family joined the Presbyterian Church in town. We liked it there: good people, fun Sunday School programs. My parents were involved, and so were my sister and I, especially once we were old enough to participate in the high school youth group.

That youth group was great. It was a fun, comfortable place to talk about our faith. We did a lot of service projects and some great social events (a scavenger hunt was PARTICULARLY memorable!).

At home, though, talking about faith was not a common event. The only times we prayed were at Thanksgiving dinner (because our grandparents were watching, I assumed) and when somebody died.

That deeply impacted the way I regarded prayer. Unconsciously, it only seemed fit to pray when others expected us to or when the worst happened. I really did associate prayer with tragedy for a long time, to the point where I got the same sick feeling in my stomach when I thought about praying that I got when I learned my grandparents had died.

I stayed active with my home church throughout high school, but never bothered with church during college. I didn’t really LIVE there, and the Presbyterians on campus weren’t exactly active, so I gave myself a pass.

I met my husband in college, and he was active with the Catholic church on campus. He sang in the church choir, so I’d attend with him from time to time, and socialize with his choir buddies.

I didn’t mention all this to my dad; he has had a lifelong problem with Catholics (the story goes that as a kid, he was beaten up by the kids in his very Catholic neighborhood for being a Protestant and looking like a Jew). He even threatened not to attend his own brother’s wedding because he was marrying a Catholic girl in a Catholic church (he did end up attending, though reluctantly).

Fast forward a few years. My husband and I became engaged, and began to navigate the treacherous waters of an inter-faith marriage. I’ve mentioned my dad’s hangup; his Mom is a staunchly devout Catholic. We were required to participate in an Engaged Encounter through the Catholic church (very helpful, by the way!), and I was required to sign a piece of paper promising to raise any of my future children as Catholics before my husband’s priest would authorize the marriage. We married in the Presbyterian Church, but my husband’s priest helped preside.

When we went for pre-marriage counseling, the minister at my Presbyterian church gave us amazing advice: “Whatever you do, do it together.” He told us not to split up on Sunday mornings, but to stay together and perhaps alternate churches. Hanging on to that piece of wisdom got us through the next few (rough) years.

After we married, we moved a few towns away in suburban Chicago. We started out alternating churches, but found the Catholic church to be more appealing than the local Presbyterian church. We loved the building and especially the old Irish priest, who would occasionally serenade the congregation with beautiful ballads in honor of special occasions like Mother’s Day, baptisms or the renewal of wedding vows.

When we moved to Pennsylvania for my husband’s job, we started alternating churches again: my Presbyterian church, and three different Catholic parishes (we eventually joined two of them, one after the other). People would come up to me at the grocery store and tell me they knew me from somewhere. I felt crazy rattling off four different churches to figure it out!

When our first baby was born in 2001, we knew we had to get her baptized. But how could we, without offending at least ONE grandparent? We agonized for over a year (one year and one week to the day, which also happens to be her little sister’s birthday!), finally settling on baptizing her in the Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania.

Three years later, our second little girl was born, and we put her in the car at six weeks old to have her baptized at my husband’s parents’ Catholic church in Illinois. [Interesting story: her belly button became infected and had to be cauterized hours before we left. Her belly button stump fell off en route, somewhere in Ohio. Also? The trip home to PA took a record time of 12 hours (average is 8 hours) because she cried the whole way from Chicago to Toledo.]

About two years ago, we started getting mail from the Catholic church reminding us to bring our older daughter to church to prepare for First Communion.

That was my last straw. No offense to any Catholics who may be reading, but I have a few issues with Church teachings. And I’d had ENOUGH of attending four different churches. Our kids had no continuity with a Sunday School curriculum. Hardly anyone knew us at any of the churches. On top of it all, my heart was CRAVING God. Trying to be a part of four different faith communities was NOT working.

So it was time to re-visit the idea of changing denominations. We had considered it many times over the years, but my husband hadn’t been ready…and NO ONE wanted to break my mother-in-law’s heart. We were terrified of what she’d think.

This time, though, we were ready to try. We’d tried it THEIR way, and it just didn’t work for our family. Now, it was time to try it OUR way.

We started with the local Lutheran church, mostly because it was the Protestant denomination closest to Catholicism. It was just down the block from the Presbyterian church and one of the Catholic parishes.

We felt welcome the moment we stepped inside. One of the ushers, a grandfatherly type, took an instant liking to my girls. And knowing that we were visitors, he kept a special eye out for us every week and would introduce us around a bit. The pastor, coincidentally, just happened to be a fellow client of the personal trainer I had worked with the year before. I knew him better as a sweaty gym rat like me than as a pastor, and so was not as intimidated by his collar as I otherwise might have been.

We have since joined that church and become active members. It gives me peace in my heart knowing that we have a spiritual church home.

Fast forward again. I read The Shack by William Paul Young, which completely revolutionized the way I understood a “personal” relationship with God. And after surfing online one day at the end of March 2009, I came across Kirk Cameron‘s website Way of the Master. I had been wrestling with some spiritual questions, mainly “How good is good enough to get into heaven?”

I took this quiz, and it changed my life. Immediately afterward I sat at my dining room table, laptop open in front of me, and prayed—awkwardly—that I was so sorry for all my sins, and that I would try so hard to do better.

Since then, I’ve changed. I listen to Christian music (specifically KLOVE). I read the Bible (almost) every day (at this site), and I bought this study Bible. I really try not to take the Lord’s name in vain anymore. I sat down with my kids and tried to explain to them what I’ve learned. I’m even (slowly) attempting to read the Bible from cover to cover.

I’m trying to get it right. And as Lisa and I have figured out (the hard way), this battle with my weight is way more than I can handle on my own. But as Jesus said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)