I met Rebecca in 2014 at a park on the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. I remember it clearly because we were both at a Church event with our dogs. I noticed her right away—this beautiful tall blonde woman–holding her sweet little boy in her arms. We got to talking, and from there we became fast friends. We bonded over our faith, motherhood, and my love for cookies and her insane ability to bake them. Rebecca has been a godsend in my life. She daily inspires me to grow in my faith, and shows me through her life and her love what it means to trust in the Lord and work hard to carry out his will. Not long ago, Rebecca gave her full testimony to our group of friends, and the moment I heard it, I knew that it had to be shared. I hope you enjoy.
GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOURSELF:
I am from western Kansas. I grew up on a farm and was raised very Protestant. I came to Kansas City for college, and attended MidAmerica Nazarene University. I am a convert to the Catholic faith, a wife, and a stay-at-home mom of my two boys.
WHAT WERE SOME CHALLENGES YOU HAD TO FACE EARLY ON IN LIFE?
After college, I was accepted to go to Bulgaria with the Peace Corp. Before I left, I visited all the necessary doctors to get checked out, because once you leave they don’t let you back into the US. One of the things I did was go to the dermatologist because I had a mole that was growing. I wanted to get it removed, and wasn’t thinking too much about it, but a week later—after I’d already packed up, said goodbye to my family, and took a plane to Chicago for orientation—I received word that the mole I had was cancerous.
Upon hearing the news, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. All I could think was that the “cancer” was going to have to wait—I was going to Bulgaria. I soon found out that I was wrong. I was given a ticket home, and learned later that the Peace Corp won’t allow you to travel abroad unless you are cancer free for at least five years. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t have any other plan for my life. I had waited almost an entire year to go, and it was over before it even started. I was so mad, angry, frustrated, and powerless to do anything.
WERE YOU ANGRY WITH GOD?
Not primarily. I was more upset that I had to move back home and face everybody after having my big plan fall through. I didn’t think God even cared. At the time, I didn’t have a personal relationship with him, and I felt like the cancer was just something that was happening to me. I couldn’t understand how he might have a plan for me in these trials I was facing.
DID YOU EVER MAKE PEACE WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO JOIN THE PEACE CORP?
It was a very long time before I did. I had surgery soon afterwards, and while I was recovering, I still held on to my plan. Then, just a few months after my surgery when the cancer was cleared, I met Ross. I never would’ve met him if I had gone to Bulgaria. Soon after meeting him I realized that I couldn’t have him and the Peace Corp, which allowed me to let go of that dream.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CONVERSION PROCESS.
At a Christmas service when I was in high school, someone sang the song, Mary Did You Know. When I first heard the song I was shocked. I thought, This is a Catholic song! Does she know she is singing a Catholic song?? The girl was singing about Mary kissing the face of God! But the more I thought about the words, the more I became awestruck. It hit me that no one in the Bible was ever allowed to see the face of God, but then I thought, here’s Mary, this girl in a stable, in nowhere Bethlehem…holding GOD! And I remember thinking, Oh, that’s why Catholics love her. She kissed the face of God! She was the first and she kissed him as a mother, the way all mothers kiss their babies. That night was the moment when my conversion began. I was slowly softening towards the Catholic faith.
When I started dating Ross, I was really overjoyed that he was Catholic. My interest in Catholicism and in Mary continued to grow. At one point, I read Paolo Coelho’s book, “By the River Piedro I Sat Down and Wept.” The Holy Spirit used that book to help me understand Mary’s role in the Church. I began to discover that, as Jesus is the New Adam, Mary is the New Eve. The book began opening my eyes to Mary’s pivotal role in our salvation. After that, I was open to becoming Catholic just because of Mary. I went through the RCIA program, but my family had a really tough time with the thought of me becoming Catholic. I decided to hold off on entering into the Church, but not long after, I read David Currie’s conversion story called, “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic.” Currie’s book opened my eyes to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and that was kingpin for me. Jesus really becomes present in his flesh in the Eucharist, and that happens only in the Catholic Church. I saw that Mary was drawing me towards her Son, and once I understood that, I had to become Catholic.
DID FAITH AND PRAYER COME EASY TO YOU AFTER YOU ENTERED INTO FULL COMMUNION WITH THE CHURCH? WHAT OBSTACLES, IF ANY, DID YOU FACE?
After I’d converted, I remember feeling a bit spiritually lost. I felt like I didn’t know how to be Catholic. I’d been Protestant my whole life, and prayer in the Catholic faith was so different from everything I grew up knowing. It was really hard at first to adjust.
Then, right after I married Ross, we began experiencing infertility. It was heartbreaking to go through that; I felt so much disappointment, disillusion, and pain. I remember thinking, This is just like the Peace Corp. Everyone tells you when you’re growing up that you can do whatever you want to do, and have whatever you want to have, but it’s just not true. I wanted to go to the Peace Corp, but I didn’t get to go. I really wanted to have a baby, but I wasn’t going to have one. I couldn’t understand why God kept saying no to me, and I began to develop a mistrust towards him. He had taken away the two major things that I wanted so badly.
WHAT WAS YOUR LOWEST POINT?
2012. It was a tough, tough year for me. My uncle’s melanoma came back, and after it had metastasized in his brain, he died at the age of 63. His cancer had been in remission for 41 years, and I took his death really hard because he was such a big part of my life. On top of that, the parallels between his life and mine were altogether too real. He had melanoma when he was 22; I had it when I was 23. Even though his was much more invasive than mine, the fact that he hadn’t had any problems for over 40 years and then it came back so strong and fatal was really scary. It still scares me when I think about it.
Not long after that, I got word from my dad that my cousin had died. It was very out of the blue, and at that time I was already in a really tough spot. I felt like I was drowning under the weight of infertility, and I was experiencing so much resentment towards others who had exactly what my heart desired. When I heard the news, it broke me. I cried and cried for days.
DID ANYTHING OR ANYONE BRING YOU CONSOLATION DURING THIS TOUGH TIME IN YOUR LIFE?
Yes, Mary did. Even though time was passing and I was having a hard time trusting God with all of my suffering, I was always able to take it to Mary. I trusted her and felt like she understood my heart and my suffering. I think that’s why God gave us a heavenly mother. Sometimes it’s just easier to pour your heart out to your mom. She was such a comfort to me. I received my first big sign from her right after I consecrated myself to her on the Feast of the Assumption. I knew I had to get a miraculous medal to complete the consecration, but I didn’t really want go through the hassle of finding one. Being a relatively new Catholic, I didn’t know how it all worked or if it would be expensive. One night I was sitting in adoration and I remember praying that someone would just give me a miraculous medal. I knew it was ridiculous, but I prayed for it anyways. Later, as I was leaving adoration, I walked into the vestibule (which I hardly ever do), and immediately noticed a pile of miraculous medals in there! They weren’t there when I arrived, so someone must have come in while I was in adoration and left the pile there. I was in shock! Stuff like that doesn’t happen to me. I picked one up, and I was thinking, Wow. It was one of those things that you can easily dismiss as coincidence, but I knew that it was more than that. I knew that Mother Mary was telling me that she was listening to my prayers and that they weren’t going to be brushed off.
WHAT WAS THE MAIN TURNING POINT FOR YOU?
Towards the end of the 2012, I felt like I’d reached my limit in suffering, and that I just couldn’t do it anymore. One day in the adoration chapel, I pleaded with God to make my suffering go away. The only thing I could think of to do was to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. This was a pivotal moment for me, because as I prayed each mystery, I began to feel a closeness with Christ like I’d never felt before. As I prayed, I felt like I was with Jesus during his passion, and also that he had come to the adoration chapel with me. I gave my suffering to him, and he gave his right back to me. I gave him all the burdens that had been weighing on my heart, and I heard him whisper back to me how much he was hurting, too. I laid out all the pain I was feeling, and as I meditated on his scourging, I could sense that he was bearing the lashes with me. I told Jesus that I felt like I had been made a fool for wanting children, and that my marriage felt like a sham because no life had come from it. As I meditated on the crown of thorns being placed on his head, I heard him say to me, “I know. Me too. I understand your pain.” And as I told Jesus that the weight of my crosses were just too heavy to carry any longer, he turned to me and said, “Me, too. I’ve fallen, too.” That night, I had a profound encounter with the suffering Christ. I felt so close to Jesus. He was telling me that he was right down there in the pain with me. As I began to see that I wasn’t alone in my suffering, I found the strength to go on.
WERE YOU EVER ABLE TO ACHIEVE PREGNANCY?
After 6 months of charting with the Creighton method, my doctor offered to prescribe amoxicillin to improve my cervical fluid, but I knew that cervical fluid wasn’t the problem. I knew I had endometriosis because my mom had it and it runs strongly in families. I was referred to another doctor, and ended up having a major surgery to remove a ton of endometriosis. After the surgery in 2009, we had a few months to try and get pregnant. When I didn’t, I ended up sending all of my charts to the Pope Paul the VI Center in Omaha. They are the place to go because they have the highest success rates for treating infertility. Eventually, I did a hormone series and after that it was a long process of charting and blood tests. After the diagnostics series, they told me that the endometriosis was really, really, bad. They told me I needed to go back and have a major surgery to get rid of it all, which I did in February of 2012. They told me that the healing would take about 18 months, but in that time my rate of successfully achieving pregnancy would be about 40-50%. My chances were a lot lower than other people who had undergone the same treatments because my endometriosis was so bad. Still, I felt hopeful. After four years of infertility, I felt like the odds were nonetheless favorable.
After the series of surgeries in March, and almost an entire year after that, we finally got pregnant! It was one of the most shocking moments of my life!
WHEN YOU FINALLY FOUND OUT THAT YOU WERE PREGNANT, WERE YOU COMPLETELY OVERJOYED?
Not at first! I was afraid that I was going to lose the baby. I thought that it was too good to be true, that God didn’t really want this for me, and on top of that, my progesterone levels were really low. I had to start getting shots, and I was terrified that I was going to miscarry. I didn’t let myself get excited about the baby until around 14 weeks. When we finally started telling people, I thought, OKAY! I am going to have a baby!
WHAT ARE SOME INSIGHTS YOU CAN OFFER ON THE MEANING OF SUFFERING?
It is so easy to get wrapped up in your own pain that you forget that the Son of God suffered too, and that the human experience involves suffering. God himself did not avoid it. He had to go through it because suffering is a part of all of our lives. But redemptive suffering brings you to Christ, and in that way it is profound. I know now that this encounter I had with the suffering Christ was a real gift. I pray I never have to endure such suffering again, but I see now that Christ had always been there in my sorrow. He was just waiting for me to be broken enough to turn and hear him say, “Me, too. Me, too.”
WHAT HAS YOUR SUFFERING TAUGHT YOU ABOUT MOTHERHOOD?
A mother described it perfectly once. She said that her infertility had become the bottom of the ocean in her life. She explained that whenever she feels like she’s drowning in the pains of motherhood, all she has to do is touch her feet on her lowest point (her infertility) and push off. I always think of that when the chaos and messiness of everyday life with my kids causes me to feel embarrassed, fatigued, or overwhelmed. I remember that at one point in my life I feared that I was going to die childless. In those moments, I touch the ground and snap out of it.
ABOUT A MONTH AND A HALF AGO, YOUR CANCER RECURRED (AND EVENTUALLY CLEARED). DID YOU HANDLE IT DIFFERENTLY THAN THE FIRST TIME?
Yes. Definitely. I mean, there was still denial. I always have this resistance in me that doesn’t ever want to totally accept reality—especially when it’s scary or difficult—but overall my reaction was totally different. I definitely was scared, but I prayed a lot, and knowing that so many people were praying for me was such a comfort.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CURRENTLY STRUGGLING WITH THE CROSS OF INFERTILITY?
This is a hard one. I would say, just…admit that it hurts.
There’s so much pressure from society to just “get over it,” just “adopt a baby,” just “do foster care.” Society tells you that there are lots of ways to get a baby. That’s not true, and you have to accept that it hurts. You have to accept the pain, and accept the loss, and face the fear that you are never going to have a baby. Face that fear, but in that fear, remember that God has not abandoned you. He is with you even when you feel forsaken. To anyone suffering from infertility, I know that it is hard for you to let anyone know how much you are suffering, but God knows and he is calling you. Open your heart to hear him.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CURRENTLY STRUGGLING WITH THE CROSS OF CANCER OR ANY OTHER TYPE OF DISEASE?
Find a good doctor, and accept the blessing of the reminder of your mortality. We live in such a cocoon of comfort and first world medicine, and we are so sheltered from the fact that we are going to die. The ultimate truth of life is that we are all going to die. Give your mortality to God, ask him to help you suffer well and to let your light shine, and don’t be afraid to open up and share your suffering with others.
WHAT DOES YOU OWN PERSONAL FIAT LOOK LIKE?
My fiat is saying my rosary every day and meditating on the mysteries. Whenever I say the words in the first joyful mystery, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word,” I ask Mary to live in my heart so that I may be able to say yes to God all the time, like she does. I pray that I always know distinctly when God is calling me to do something and that I always say yes to him.