A few odd things about me, and a question for you

March 17, 2013 | 102 comments

There’s this thing going around where bloggers share five things about themselves that people might not know about them. I just love these posts! Micaela at California to Korea was kind enough to tag me for participation, and since I’m always up for an easy post idea, I couldn’t resist! Here it goes:


A visit to Mexico City when I was 21.

Our family has close ties to Mexico, and I always assumed that our kids would grow up spending a lot of time there. My paternal grandfather (the one who’s always cooking for us, even at 98 years old) spent over 30 years living in Mexico and South America, working as an engineer overseeing the construction of refineries. My dad grew up there, mostly in Mexico City and Tampico, and speaks Spanish with a Mexican accent. We often went to Mexico to visit friends in my childhood, and to this day my grandfather talks about how much he misses it.

Joe has a similar background: His grandparents had some orange groves along the Texas-Mexico border, and Joe spent many summers picking oranges all day, then crossing the border in the evenings to hang out in Reynosa. His uncle’s wife is from a small town in Nayarit, and she still has a charming little cottage on the Pacific ocean that we used to love to visit.

Joe learning to shuck oysters in Tepic, Mexico, in 2001.

Unfortunately, the parts of Mexico where we have the closest ties have been some of the hardest hit by drug violence, so our kids have never even visited. I really hope that one day we’re able to start going down there again, since I think of getting to know Mexico as an important part of our kids’ family heritage.


I’ve done a lot of talking lately about my genetic blood clotting disorder, Factor II, since it’s responsible for all of the recent health drama. However,  my family also carries another genetic disorder as well: HNPCC, which is known as the colon cancer gene mutation. People who have HNPCC will almost certainly get colon cancer, and are at high risk for other types of cancers as well (both my dad and his mother had colon cancer because of it, though it wasn’t fatal for either of them). For many years, our family has been involved with researchers at MD Anderson to study this mutation. They’ve gathered lots of blood samples from us, and have been particularly interested in our family tree. It’s fascinating and tragic to watch the gene get passed down over the generations: when you look at one of our family trees that lists causes of death, you can watch the disease snake its way through the family line.

One time when I was at MD Anderson, the researchers spread out a huge map of the United States that was covered with colored lines. The lines were the family trees of all known people with HNPCC, all going back to one man who immigrated to the US from Hesse, Germany in the mid-1700s. Five percent of all colon cancer cases are due to HNPCC, and it all goes back to this one guy. So, if your family is an HNPCC carrier (of if you’ve never been tested but have a strong family history of colon cancer that tends to have its onset when people are in their 40s), then we’re related!

Children of carriers have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutation. I was tested back in 2004, when I was pregnant with my first child. Before they would give me the results, they wanted me to talk to a counselor who would help me process the news either way. (I wasn’t upset about it, but that may be because I’m an only child: evidently there can be a lot of anguish if, say, one sibling finds that she does not have it, when her brother does.) I’ll never forget the day they called me with the results. I’d been taking a nap and the phone woke me up. I saw that it was the researcher’s number. I braced myself when I answered, knowing that what she was about to say would change my life. She skipped any kind of greeting and got right to the point: “You don’t have it, ” she said. I exhaled and felt overwhelmed with relief that I had just won the biggest coin flip of my life.


There is only one thing in my life that I can’t really talk or write about in detail because it was so traumatic, and that’s the year I spent at a bad junior high in Littleton, Colorado. It was a dangerously overcrowded school where most of the teachers had mentally checked out due to their own bad circumstances, and a Lord of the Flies environment had taken over. (Half of the kids at that school went to a high school called Chatfield, the other went to one called Columbine.) We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and I attended eight different schools in a variety of places across the country in my K-12 education, so I’m pretty familiar with what normal kid teasing and bullying looks like. What I saw in Littleton was something else. The actions I witnessed, and sometimes experienced firsthand, were fueled by a kind of cruel heartlessness that could only be described as demonic. When I saw that viral video of the kids harassing the elderly bus monitor, I was saddened but not shocked. There wasn’t a week that went by at that school in Littleton that I didn’t see (or end up on the receiving end of) something like that. To say that that was a formative experience for me is an understatement; it very much impacts the person I am today.

4: 10, 000 HOURS

A wild Friday night at the Bishop household! (Bonus fact: my maiden name is Bishop.)

As I mentioned above, we moved around a lot when I was growing up. As an awkward, nerdy only child, it usually took me a long time to meet people at new schools. I’m an introvert and had a good relationship with my parents, so it didn’t bother me too much that I would sometimes go months and months without a single friend (other than sitting alone at the lunch table so much — man, that never stopped being weird).

The most significant thing that came of it, however, was that it launched my love of writing. This was just after word processor computer programs had come on the scene, and so I would pour my energy into writing essays, novels, and even little plays. During summers and weekends, I would sometimes spend six, eight, or even 10 hours a day writing. When I encountered Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “10, 000 hours” rule, I was amazed to realize that I had easily done 10, 000 hours of writing in my life. I think that makes me proof that having that much experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be a genius at the top of your field; some of us need 10, 000 hours of practice in order to be minimally competent.


Baby me, with my mom, uncle, and grandmother. Our Lady of the Assumption, Atlanta, 1977.

I was baptized Catholic as a baby. I had no religious upbringing after that (so much so that once when someone responded to me with the rhetorical question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” I had to ask, “Wait, is the Pope Catholic?”), but I am convinced that the grace of my baptism played a large role in helping me find my way home. I wrote more about that here.

* * * * *

Well, that’s a lot about me. Now let me ask you something:

Typing up #3 made me realize that that was the most formative experience of my life outside of my religious conversion, in that it was an experience that has led to significant and long-lasting changes in who I am as a person and how I relate to the world (mostly in a good way). So my question for you is:

What was the most formative experience of your life?


  1. Magdalen@FromHeartToTable

    Right now at sixteen years old, I have to say it was a toss-up between two things: growing into a deeper relationship with God as I entered high school, and meeting my current best friends. Both of those things have really helped me become the person I am today, and in the most positive of ways.

  2. Maureen

    When I was nineteen I became pregnant. I was terrified my Dad would toss me out of the family and the house. When I had to tell him, he just patted me and said, “Everything will be ok.” That’s it. Not one word of reproach, disappointment or anger. Not one. The mercy and love my Dad showed me and the constant support he gave me was a turning point for our relationship. He mirrored so consistently (athough imperfectly) God’s love for us. I have never doubted my Dad’s love for me and as huge as it was, I cannot image how much more God loves us.

    • Maureen C.

      This is beautiful Maureen! Sounds like that scary and uncertain time in your life turned into a blessing. BTW – I am a Maureen too!

      • Maureen

        It was! It is a very treasured memory and lesson. You have a beautiful name!

    • Sue

      That made me cry a little, Maureen. Fathers who know what grace is- nothing more beautiful in the world.

      • Maureen

        It was a beautiful thing. It makes me teary when I remember it. He was the most comforting person I have ever met. My joys were his joys and my disappointments were his. I am so very fortunate to have had him for a Dad. He is my sweet Daddy dear!

  3. SWP

    The most formative moment in my life is when I assented to matrimony. And that would not have been possible without a devotion to Divine Mercy. So perhaps it was the period of spiritual direction that led up to my assent, which included daily prayer of the Chaplet, frequent confession, and total consecration to Mary.

  4. Eva

    Wow- big question. I suppose that there are different formative experiences for each facet of my life.
    I guess that i assume that part of me thinks they the ‘big one’ hasn’t happened yet, as I’m still not the person that I want to be. Of course, it probably has and I just haven paid attention to it!

    Sadly, I think that my most formative experience was moving from the ‘ home of my heart’ when I was 14, leading to a lifetime of not feeling as if I am ‘home’.


  5. Mary

    I think bullying on the bus to junior high was the formational experience of my life. I turned to God to handle and process it and received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That experience is the reason I am part of the Catholic Renewal today.

  6. Jw

    You look like your mom, beautiful!

    • Gail

      I was so struck by that too. I really thought the picture was of Jen at first, holding one of her own babies.

  7. Amelia

    I think the most formative experience of my life happened in college. It was New Year’s Eve, 1996 and I was at a Youth 2000 retreat. The retreats are run by Franciscan Friars and focus on Adoration and the Blessed Sacrament and there are lots of awesome talks. It was at that retreat that I first realized that the Eucharist IS the body of Christ. I had been raised Catholic…was Confirmed, and had been receiving Communion (mindlessly) for years. It wasn’t until that retreat that I really realized the importance of everything. It was pivotal in my life because it helped turn me towards God and cemented my Catholic faith in my mind and it was there that I made a conscious decision to be Catholic and follow God.

    • Maureen

      That is beautiful! You are so fortunate. Too many Catholics go through their life ‘mindlessly’.

    • Beth Anne

      I went on that retreat in high school as well and it was the first time I really realized that the Eucharist was THE BODY OF CHRIST as well.

  8. Pier

    How awesome that you were baptized at my parish! Although, I did not live here in 1977, Our Lady of the Assumption has been my home since 1988. You were baptized in the “temporary” church that was our place of worship for 50 years. In 2005 we were blessed with a beautiful new building. I hope you can come see it sometime!

    • nancyo

      Pier!!! this is Nancy from our CBSW co-leader days! I was just going to tell Jennifer about the new church, but I”m glad you did. Hope you’re well.

  9. Jesabes

    Honestly, I think the most formative experience of my life may have been the day I stumbled upon a blog, which led to me starting my own, and going to a small meetup of bloggers. Now my ‘internet friends’ are among the most important people in my life and almost everything I do/buy is influenced by them. (As it would be with any group of very close friends, but I’ve never really had that outside the computer. I have friends, but not ones that are this close.)

  10. Hope

    I sitting here looking back over my life and seeing the different times when I made a rather sharp turn in a new direction. When I gave birth to my youngest son I just about became a statistic. That was a turning point for me. A few months later I got serious about God. My son is 25 years old now. How different his life would have been had I not had such a serious wake up call.

  11. Jen G

    I suppose you could say it was my realization that climbing the career ladder wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. Upon graduating college, I naturally assumed my business career would follow an upward trajectory, but the more I saw of that life the less I wanted it for myself. I value peace over material things, and that fact sometimes surprises other people. Now, I just concentrate on being the best servant that I can through my work at a level I feel comfortable with. And that’s good enough for me.

    • ~Nona

      You’ve chosen a wise course. Even in work, we serve God very well when we choose the servant role.

      To be sure, properly exercised, a leadership role is likewise a servant role. It tends to have “glory”, however. This may be why so many of us misunderstand it. You are enjoying glory, however. The glory of peace — deep, deep peace, isn’t seen by others but is very rich, albeit not in material terms.

      What a good wise choice you’ve made!

  12. Therese

    The most formative experiences of my life were being a teen mom, serving in the Military and my reversion to catholicism.
    As my children finished high school I secretly lived my unfinished high school years (I flunked out of freshman year) through theirs. I was determined to see them have normal teenage years and a finished education and they did. As a teen mom you are still in a teen frame of mind and if your not carefull get stuck in that mental and emotional time frame. Growing older in my twenties and thirties I began leave that frame of mind and move on to adulthood (late bloomer).
    The military helped a great deal in my family and professional life and I am most grateful and am priviliged for having served and protect my fellow man and country.
    Then came my reversion. A cradle catholic who fell out of the catholic cradle at a young age. I was very far away from God and the church until my thirties but never realized how far away. Until one night God allowed evil to show me just how deep a niche was waiting for me in hell and I will never forget it. I came back to the church and changed my whole life around. I thank God for that experience as He knows what a hard head I am. I never want to go back to that life without God and His church ever. I love the faith journey God is taking me on and hope it never stops.
    Thanks Jennifer!

  13. emily

    I would said my dad being an alcoholic.

    It has shaped so much about me & how I react to things. I don’t know if I’d even be the same person if he had been sober for a long amount of time (he has been sober I think twice, amounting to months). He still is an alcoholic and though I don’t see him much, I still think about it often. I do drink wine occasionally, but I don’t know if I could drink beer. To this day I get a strange nervous/anxious feeling when I am around people who are drinking; responsibly even. It doesn’t go away, but I can socialize in those environments (restaurants, friends’ houses) if I focus. It took a lot for me to be “okay” with being around it. I would never have more than 2 drinks (and even that is pushing it) because I am so afraid to be drunk and have never, ever been drunk in my life. And that’s just one way it’s affected me. I have numerous emotional issues because of the verbal abuse I suffered. It’s hard for me to let other people drive because my dad drove under the influence and I feel out of control when I’m a passenger.

    Ugh. Makes me feel ill just thinking about it!

    • Jeff

      I can relate to that; my father, who’d had a drinking problem before I was born, began drinking again when I was 13. I’m just realizing now as I write this that I can’t really remember what he was like before that – that ‘dad’ has been eclipsed by the brooding, frustrated cynic who’d sooner kick in a locked door than look for his keys. He lived with us in that state for about a year before my mom kicked him out; considering the mental and spiritual damage he inflicted on me (and my mother) during that relatively brief time I can’t imagine living that life for an entire childhood and adolescence, as so many have to do.

      And ditto on the discomfort around alcohol; I don’t drink (I’m terrified I’ll become him if I do) and drunk people put me on edge, even if I’m generally comfortable around the person in question. I can’t think of drunkenness as much better than a pointless indulgence at best, and something contemptible at worst. My house is surrounded by a ‘student ghetto’ and stepping out to the store tonight (Saint Patrick’s Day) felt like skulking through some post-apocalyptic world wasteland, populated by shrieking mobs of socially uninhibited mutants. xD I guess that’s the how I played it up in my mind, but I was tense the whole time I was outside, and altered my route as I went to avoid groups of more than 2 or 3.

      That year left me with a lot fear, most of which I’m still struggling with.

  14. Micaela @ California to Korea

    Wow! So happy you played along. 🙂

    Your list really touched me. The bullying thing is close to my heart, having been bullied as a teen and then later I had to deal with it a lot as a middle school teacher. I feel so sad for you and all those kids in Littleton who experienced that.

    I think my most formative experience was studying abroad (Sevilla, Spain) in college. I learned a new language, made the most amazing friends, and experienced a completely different culture. Both good and bad things came from those 6 months, but I can’t regret that time. I was never the same afterwards.

  15. TheresaEH

    My goodness,,,,I thought that your mom was YOU!!!
    Becoming a born again Catholic in 2004. I grew up with a mother who was mentally ill (verbally abusive). I was the ackward kid in school, teased mercilessly by bullies. Due to genetics I am prone to depression. Even with medication the depression can become do dark that it is like trying to tread water in molasses. Thank God that I am able to wake up every morning and go to daily mass, have access to good Catholic spiritual reading and Eucharistic adoration…… If I didnot have these I would have killed my self by now. (you asked, don’t worry, I am fine!!!!)

  16. Considerer

    Well, previously I would have said my parent’s split in ’03, as it was SUCH a relief and enabled me to begin moving on from an abusive childhood and all the emotions and confusions which went with it (though lately I discovered I’m still suffering some of the effects and didn’t even know it!) but perhaps a better one is my marriage in ’10 and possibly (currently) the threat of infertility, which is proving hard to deal with but I think is proving to be a time of refining and increase in faith, praise God.

  17. Carol Hess

    The most formative moment for me was when i lost my 3rd child at 18 weeks of pregnancy. The baby died in utero most likely from a chromosome disorder – Trisomy 18 – although it is inconclusive. They were torn between inducing labor or basically performing an abortion and decided the abortive method would work. I was horrified! And my baby was dead. I was a pro choice conservative – married to a cradle Catholic. I never thought I would have an abortion but I felt it was perfectly all right for anyone else to have one. We were practicing the faith and were raising our sons Catholic. We went to Mass every week as a family but I had no interest in converting. It just didn’t seem important to me. Well, it seems it was important to our Lord as I really think losing that baby was the start of my journey to conversion.

  18. Catholic Mutt

    It may not be the only one, but looking back I can see one moment that had a huge impact on my life that I didn’t even realize until much, much later. I grew up in a Catholic family that in my earlier years was pretty typical of Catholics. We went to church because that’s what you did, and if asked if you loved God, the answer was yes because it was the right answer. And the Bible was a book on the bookshelf that collected dust.

    My grandpa was not Catholic. He was a simple man with a deep love for God and His Word. I remember one time that they came up to visit (we lived about 8 hours apart), and I ran through the dining room and happened to see my Grandpa reading his Bible. That made a HUGE impression because we had a pretty big family, so space when traveling was at a premium and we were only allowed to pack things that were most special to us. To see that he had chosen to pack his Bible, and to see him reverently reading that Bible, changed my life, though I didn’t realize it at the time. But I definitely think of him when I read my Bible or pack it to take it with me on a trip. I only wish I were as consistent as he was about reading it every day while I travel.

  19. Martha

    Oh. My. Goodness. You look soooooo much like your mother!! Cool!

  20. Barbara

    I have so many formative moments that I will just choose the most recent, which was the birth of our fifth child who was born with Down syndrome. Throughout my pregnancy I was filled with unease and worry for her with no idea of her condition. After the doctor told me his inclination, I felt so at peace! She’s been the best thing that has ever happened to our family, and we all learn from her daily.

  21. Sarah B.

    Probably one of the most formative experiences in my life was something I didn’t even know about for many years. My mother died when I was 7 after a long, drawn out illness (she languished in a hospital for more than a year before her death) and her dying wish (she was a convert) was that my grandparents raise me Catholic. They did, although they were non-Catholics. So, her death, and their keeping her promise were probably the most formative experiences for me.

    I love your bright red hair in the Mexico picture!

  22. Colleen

    Yes, you are your mom’s twin…or clone…or whatever suits.

    My answer is very Catholic, but it was winning a trip to travel to NY to go to World Youth Day with Pope John Paul (and the Rosary with Our Holy Father at St. Patricks) when I was in high school. 16 kids won this writing contest from across the country, and I was one. It was eye opening to me to see all of these amazing and faithful teenagers, and it led me on the path to research truly Catholic colleges, which led me to attend Steubenville, which led me to study abroad in Austria where I met my husband! Then we got to see JP2 two times while we visited Rome, and named our first born after him.

  23. Julie

    I think the most formative experience was when I began homeschooling… It led me to a life of sacrifice and following God,s will. It also led me to an amazing group of Catholic homeschoolers who are such models of charity, humility and sacrifice. They also led me to pursue nap and give it all to Jesus.

  24. Bonnie

    When I was a sophomore in high school, my 20 year old brother died of Acute Stem Root Leukemia one week after he was diagnosed. I turned 16 one month later. He was the third child of six. It blew our family’s life apart, and in my grief, I began praying to God, “Why? Why? Why God? Why would you give him to us and let us love him so much, and then take him away without any reason?” Over and over I prayed this. It seemed to soothe my heart. Honestly, I was just crying out. And for the first time in my life I heard God in my heart say, “The measure of your grief is the measure of your love.” and I realized my love for him was immense, since my grief seemed immense. I was shocked, not only by what I “heard” in my heart, (which I knew was not my own imagination) but that God speaks to us in our hearts. That began a conversion within my Catholic life, and I began to read the New Testament to understand other things God has said, and what our lives were supposed to be. In addition, even though my heart was broken and I missed my brother (still do), my grief was changed to joy, because I realize my brother was alive; he was actually really alive with Jesus. It was like my brother was simply far away, like he moved to another country, and I couldn’t see or talk to him, but I would see him again. Almost every life choice I have made since has been influenced by this event.

    • Lauren (LPatter)

      This is so, so, so beautiful. Thank you!

  25. Dreena Tischler

    I LOVED this post and the question; it’s been very evoking reading everyone’s responses. I recently did a timeline of formative events — and there are many — but I think one of the most profound was meeting Sister Mary Chanelle Schuler (http://www.stgertrudes.org/sisterspages/schulerchanelle.html) when I was 15 years old. I was hospitalized in an emergency and my mom was 4 hours away over mountain roads. A stranger when I was admitted, Sister Chanelle was more than a nurse or a nun that night; she was my mother. She stayed by me, she encouraged me, she defended me and she loved me. Over the next several days we got to know each other and she showed me what it truly means to live a life in service to God. So much so, I vowed to name a child after her and was finally able to do it! In the intervening 39 years, she has remained correspondent, guide and friend. I so love her. How different my life would be today had I not met her.

  26. Ellen

    This thing about genetic colon cancer really gave me food for thought. My husband’s father and 2 of his 3 siblings have serious colon issues. His uncle just died of aggressive colon cancer in his late 50’s, my father-in-law has had surgery for ulcerative colitis, and his aunt had to come off the mission field because of her own colon problems. Is that enough for my husband and his brother to be tested? The amount of colon stuff with them is just ridiculously high….

  27. Shirley

    I went to school at OLA in Atlanta from 1-8 grade! That just seems so random to me b/c we met in Houston! Crazy!

  28. Nikita

    Oh gosh, this is truly a very difficult question for me because even though I have only lived a quarter of a century there is a lot that has happened to me.

    But I think the most formative experience of my life would be my conversion. It has such a strong tie with every other experience whether they are from before my conversion to after my conversion.

    I was able to look more into my past and instead be frighten by it or angry I was beginning to be more forgiving. I was able to look at death not in fearful notions, but a beautiful and sad experience that I could help someone through. I found that I was not just some object for men’s desire and objectified because I has displeased God in some way (which I felt that way for so long, that I cannot figure out when it began) but instead I was a child of God who was constantly loved by God who wanted me to just come home to him.

    I was able to be more human thanks be to God through my conversion.

  29. Katherine

    I’d say there were two: 1st, growing up with my mom. I won’t go into all the reasons, but basically it made me very insecure, greatly lacking in confidence, quiet and shy, but it also made me look deeply at the kind of parent I did want to be and the kind I didn’t. 2nd, when I was 13, I met an actor I’d admired for 5 years (Michael Crawford – I was and am a huge Phantom of the Opera fan) and I was so ecstatic, so happy and so grateful, it spurred me to delve deeper into just who this God was to whom I was so thankful and my relationship with God really took off from there.

  30. Meg

    I don’t mean to be depressing after people have movingly spoken of their children, their faith, and other good things, but I should be honest. The most formative experience of my life has been being the older child of an alcoholic mother (and a frequently absent, workaholic father). I was four years old when my brother was born and I soon after decided to protect him from our parents. Every single relative on both sides of my family older than me, with the exception of my father (who smokes pot very frequently) and one of my grandmothers (who smokes cigarettes at the rate of packs a day), is an alcoholic (and some of my younger cousins are, also). I don’t drink, at all, and never have (other than Communion wine), and also don’t smoke or do any drugs, because it is extremely clear to me that our family’s genetics have an inability to stop addiction. It’s not that I don’t trust myself, or I don’t trust God — I am not risking it.

    Like your family history of colon cancer, Jen, my mother’s family has widespread glaucoma and melanoma. I wear sunscreen every. single. day. and have had my eyes’ pressure checked since I was a teenager (which, fun fact, insurance companies — at least the ones I have had — generally won’t cover the tiny puff of air test until a patient is 40, which is when most of my relatives have gone from borderline to full-blown glaucoma).

    I am being overly cautious, of course, in all cases, but when the genetic history is so clear, I don’t see a reason to take any risks. It doesn’t hurt me to be careful!

    • Kris, in New England

      Meg – I can identify with your glaucoma issues, thru my husband. His family on both sides has nearly everyone going into full-blown glaucoma in their mid-50s. His paternal grandmother lost her sight to it because she was afraid of doctors (old school). Thankfully we have an opthamologist who would fight the insurance companies for him so he could have the testing started while in his early 30s. And thank goodness we did that because by age 39 he was starting to lose peripheral vision. Caught early enough and with aggressive medication and subsequent surgery – he’s fine now and his pressures are lower than mine! You are so right, when your genetic history is THAT clear – you just don’t mess around. And truthfully, if our eye doc hadn’t been able to make the case for my husband’s tests, we’d have found a way to pay for them. Period.

  31. Kelly @ in the sheepfold

    As a senior at a Catholic high school, I listened to a dramatic conversion story told by the father of a classmate. That day I prayed my first “grown up prayer” — God, if you exist, reveal yourself to me.

    He did!

    • Meika

      This has to be one of the top prayers of all time. I was a little bit tipsy when I laid in bed and prayed this prayer staring at the ceilng; it was life-changing. My husband prayed this prayer dead drunk while at a party and swimming in Lake Michigan (a good combination, don’t you think?) and considers it a turning point, as well.

      • Eva

        I’ve cried out this prayer on numerous occasions but don’t feel that it’s ever been answered- I wonder what the difference is between us. Not the right time, not noticing the right signs…it’s hard to know, but frustrating!

        • Kelly @ In the Sheepfold

          I don’t have any wise response, but I will offer a humble and heartfelt prayer that you will find what you are looking for. Blessings.

        • Meika

          I wonder if I should clarify, because I wonder if I’ve made it sound like angels descended on clouds here. I woke up the next morning with a compulsion to read my Bible. The image of it is still seared into my brain, the off-pink cover buried under a pile of clothes and halfway underneath my bed. I resisted the impulse for probably two weeks because I somehow knew that Everything was going to change when I picked it up. And at that point I think it was just choice: I chose to pick it up, I chose to read, I chose to believe. It’s not that all my doubts had evaporated; I spent the next many years delving into them and proving this faith true (to the point that I have a master’s degree in theology to show for it). But there wasn’t anything dramatic.

          My husband thinks that the answer to his prayer came in the form of me, and that God sent me to him to explain what faith was all about. That makes me a little uncomfortable, but that’s beside the point; it’s his story.

          It’s interesting to me that you don’t see this prayer being answered, because I can hear faith in your blog posts. I have a sense of God walking beside you on this path, leading you along and keeping you company on the way to your mysterious destination. Peace to your path, Eva.

          • Kelly @ in the sheepfold

            I certainly had no thunderbolt experience either. But from the time I prayed that prayer, I can trace events that occurred and people who came into my life leading me know God intimately. I, too, had to choose, and I would be a full-blown liar if I didn’t say I made a fair number of mediocre choices along the way.

            I love Saint Augustine’s quote: Our hearts are always restless until they rest in you.

  32. Meika

    This is a hard one. I think the most truly formative experience of my life was the move my family made when I was halfway through second grade. Prior to that, I’d felt confident and had lots of friends, and I don’t remember being worried about the move – sad to leave my best friend, yes, but not worried. But I really didn’t make any friends at the next school. The school after that (another year and a half later) was maybe marginally better, though it took more than a year to get to that better place. By the time I got to middle school I was really lonely and alienated. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like I truly fit in a place after that, even to this day. And the bullying – yes, that, too. I actually discovered in high school that I had repressed a memory of a bullying incident in fifth grade, which… was a little crazy. (We did really have to move, by the way; my dad’s boss was horrible with money and he was as likely to not get paid on any given week as he was to see a check. Not sustainable.)

    Although those experiences were difficult, I think that they’ve also made me unconventional and persistent in the face of failure and rejection. If I’m not going to fit anyway, then why shouldn’t I be myself? And since I expect to be rejected, treated poorly, and insulted, I’m not necessarily fazed when that happens. Not that I like or or don’t feel discouraged in the moment, but I generally stay the course regardless of what others think about it if I think it’s the right thing to do. All sorts of therapy sessions there, I’m sure!

    What a great question, Jen. Thank you. This isn’t something I’ve ever thought of, and explains quite a lot.

  33. Brandon W

    TRS-80 Model III! Also my first computer (although I had spent a great deal of time on my grandfather’s Model I before that).

  34. TRS

    My formative experience was my older sister’s murder when I was 15 years old. She was 8 years older than I, and were just at the point in our lives where we finally had some things in common. (it’s hard for a 16 year old to relate to an 8 year old – for example)

    Understandably, our family was devastated. Everything changed. Nearly 30 years later, I’m still recognizing the aftershocks.
    My older brother and my sister were very close. They had 4 years together before I was born and four more before I was of any use! I’m convinced that my brother was so damaged from losing her, that he decided not to get too close to me for fear of losing his heart again.
    Not sure that was a conscious decision on his part, but I do believe that is how it turned out.

    On my parent’s perspective, I remember the funeral director asking my mom, if she wanted to include the fact that my sister was adopted in her obituary. I was stunned when she said, “No. I don’t want anyone saying that she’s not really my daughter and that I don’t deserve to be as devastated as I am.” I was stunned because it had never occurred to me that someone would think an adopted child was somehow less than a homemade child. Or that an adoptive mother would be considered less than a homemade mother. That moment changed my entire perspective on being adopted. I had just learned that people were prejudiced about blood.

    My dad. My dad never fully recovered from losing a child. A man is prepared to protect his children, and he couldn’t protect her from a psychopath.

    My grandmother was the one to reveal to me that a parent doesn’t expect to outlive their child. (that too had never occurred to me, I was young enough to think that whatever happened in my life, was feasible.)

    As for me… I was fifteen. I just lost the person who was supposed to be my lifelong friend and confidant. I had just learned that men will do absolutely anything for sex – including killing a weak defenseless woman. I was terrified to date. My first date, I had friends from school follow us in another car.

    To this day, there are lasting repercussions from this one event.
    Sadly, I barely remember my sister. I can’t even miss her anymore, because she’s been gone longer than she was on earth.

    • Maureen

      I am so sorry for what your sister, you and your whole family suffered. I cannot even imagine. I hope that you will heal from what one crazy person did. I will pray for you, TRS.

    • colleen

      i’m so, so sorry TRS. Someday we will have an eternal perspective for these unspeakable heartaches <3

  35. Meika

    Also – on baptism, since I guess I’m feeling chatty tonight. 🙂 A few years ago, my brother announced that he was going to be baptized. Again. Baptized in the church (Protestant, a proper Trinitarian baptism with water) as an infant, he’s the member of a church which teaches that if you’re not baptized as an adult, it doesn’t count and you have to do it again. Kind big sister/church history geek that I am, I completely flipped out on him, a la “Why, didn’t God show up the first time?? You think he misplaced his calendar?? So it was you led your wayward self back to God, huh??” The grace bit of that “grace and truth” thing was lacking, to be sure.

    So he didn’t tell me if he was ever rebaptized, surprising as that is. But we did go to a baptism at his church and I was STRUCK by how nearly every story included, “I was baptized as an infant, but never really had any faith until…” Ninety percent of these baptisms were REbaptisms of children of the promise. We Reformed types don’t have the strongest theology concerning the efficacy of baptism, but I am personally CONVINCED that it is truly a means of grace.

    • Meika

      Baptism SERVICE, that is. We went to a baptism service. About thirty people were baptized that Sunday.

  36. Sarah

    Do you have any more information on the man who brought the colon cancer genetic mutation to the new world and his family? We have a lot of colon troubles in our family and only a couple of generations back there were people dying of colon cancer, though at what age I don’t know. (I will find out.) Do researchers know the name of the German man?

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I think they do know his name, but they wouldn’t tell me. I’ve always wondered about that!

  37. Melody

    Wow – you look a lot like your mother! My most formative experience (besides being in relationship with Christ) was doubtless my brother’s suicide. He was 14 and I was 16. It taught me to treat people compassionately and to have a lot more mercy. It also taught me what it is like to grieve.

  38. Jamie

    This is going to sound ridiculous but the most formative experience was developing small breasts. And one is much smaller than the other meaning bras don’t fit well, and I have to be very conscious of the fit of my garments. Now, why is this even a big deal? Well, first of all, all of the anatomy pictures I ever saw showed a certain size and symmetry and I simply NEVER got there in any fashion. Secondly, I had a really hot bod as a teenager (still pretty good if I do say so myself) and I’m pretty sure I would have flaunted my body a LOT more if I had nice boobs to go with the rest of me. So my small uneven breasts made me modest. And it made me very cautious about who I chose to be my boyfriend. Which means that I never had a boyfriend until I found someone with really special qualities and that boyfriend became my husband. So while I still am sometimes bummed out by my breasts because sometimes I have to look in the kids section for a bra, I am also thankful for the ways that they forced me to cultivate inner qualities and look for inner qualities in others rather than falling into the temptation of using my bod for attention. Also I have breastfed my 3 children with no problems whatsoever so I’m grateful for the reality that my breasts have functioned perfectly for their milk-delivery purpose.

    • colleen

      just wanted you to know i read this and it made me really happy 🙂

  39. Jeannee

    Thank you for sharing!!! I especially, personally, identify w/ #3 and #4 … and I wonder about that colon cancer gene after reading your fascinating insight into it, because I am adopted, w/ a German ancestor ;- Thinking more about what u wrote about Littleton, Colorado, I’m wondering if it’s one of these dark places, and people’s souls were reacting to it??? That was an (adult-age) experience I had in Talladega (another story, but about the same level of darkness) …. The formative experience question is – intriguing! I’m about certain I would have a very different perspective now, than I would then! Hmmm … let me think on it …

  40. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    Most formative: having to take my son to the psych ER when he was seven.

  41. Kris

    I think I had a lot of formative experiences – we moved around a ton also, because my Dad was in the military. One that stands out is when we moved to Germany when I was in the 6th grade. I had taken ballet for 8 years and was going to audition for a company that year, until we moved. I was told I was quite good. When we arrived in Germany, the only ballet schools my mom could find that were at my level were all taught in German. I was not a very confident child, so I was afraid of not understanding or knowing what was being said. So I quit ballet forever, rather than be embarrassed. I regret it to this day. It taught me that I shouldn’t give up on something I love, just because it might be challenging. I hope I’ve imparted that to my kids. On a totally different note, my last name (married) is Chatfield, and I had no idea there was a high school of that name in Colorado. And I live in Atlanta, so I know OLA parish well – lots of friends that go there, to the church and to the school. So funny that you were baptised there!

  42. Kris, in New England

    For me there are 2:

    Bullying – from the age of 12 until I was out of high school the bullying was relentless and, at times, violent. When I was 14 2 boys in my class tried to rape me in the hallways – while the rest of my classmates watched and stood guard in case a teacher came. One did and it saved me. I was punched, kicked, pushed into a locker so hard that it sprained my hand and generally humiliated nearly every day for 7 years. I’ll never know why – the kids just found an easy scapegoat in the sensitive, chubby girl with granny glasses. Ironically one of my would-be rapists became a close friend by the time we were in our senior year in high school; I, quite simply, forgave him.

    My father’s death – he died 18 years ago when I was 32 and it rocked the foundation of my world. He was the nucleus of my family and we self-imploded over time. Losing my dad reverberated throughout my life. AT the time of his death I was repeating a dangerous pattern in my life by allowing my boss to sexually harrass me and threaten my life if I told anyone. Daddy’s death took off the rose-colored glasses and I grew a spine for the very first time. I reported the boss, got him fired eventually and began to reclaim who I was. Indeed, I found myself.

  43. Sherry

    I remember being not so much bullied as ostrasized –made invisible by my peers indifference. It drove me crazy. It drove me to try out for track, something I had no business doing given my own health issues. It drove me to develop a sense of humor and sharpened my sense of needing to include everyone, it made me treasure my family as the solid base of love they were, and it made me reach out to this day, seeking to be friends with others.

  44. Jenna@CaIllHerHappy

    I can’t think of one particular instance that made me who I am today, but I can trace it back to a time period. I grew up with the same group of girls from grade school and ended up living with them in college.

    I remember my senior year of college feeling like I was having an identity crisis. I felt like I had lived so long with their friendship and I totally disagreed with many of their actions and opinions on life. Not only that, but that was who I was too.

    I met my now husband and starting distancing myself from them, and I am so glad that I did. I love those girls and I pray for them every single day. But, I would not be as strong in my faith if I hadn’t been inspired by the Spirit to listen to my own (and His) ideas for my life.

    I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my husband and I hadn’t made the commitment to grow in our faith together that year.

  45. Colleen Duggan

    Jennifer, there is a beautiful memoir about bullying entitled The Wounded Spirit by Frank Peretti.


    Peretti chronicles how he became the object of negative attention in a gym class, after a horrific medical condition that he grappled with as a child He uses his personal story to examine how culture shapes the way we value life–and how events from Columbine to the movies reflect this. Highly recommend if you haven’t read it.

  46. Jennifer Fulwiler

    Just wanted to pop in to say how much I appreciate everyone sharing their stories in these amazing comments. Thank you.

  47. The Reluctant Widow

    My most formative experience wasn’t an experience per se but a moment of understanding. I was in 4th grade and we’d just seen “the boys and girls” video. They talked about babies and how long they take to “cook.” I knew the month of my parents’ anniversary and the month of my birth. Simple subtraction meant my mother was pregnant before she and my dad married. I had a difficult relationship with my mother. She was known to say “you ruined my life.” I decided right then and there that there was NO WAY I was going to EVER get pregnant before I got married and the best way to ensure that was to never have sex outside of marriage.

  48. Patty

    I am the fourth of kids and when I was 18 I would have said my most life-changing event was the sudden death of my oldest brother from anaphylactic shock. He was a brilliant biochemistry grad student with a bright future. My whole world was turned upside down. Our family lived through a storm for a year, a storm that gradually dissipated but left us forever changed.

    That is what I would have told you, but I would have been wrong. The most life changing event occurred years later, when I lost my only sister when I was 32 and she was just 30. She suffered from clinical depression for years and took her own life one spring morning. The valley that I walked through was black. I hurt so bad inside that I wanted to run far far away, but I could never outrun my own soul. I had a husband and five young children who needed me. They were my anchor and saving grace. During those painful months, I learned the faithfulness of God, the unconditional love of my parents for me, and the rock solid steadiness of my husband whose love and complete devotion I could not return at the time. He waited by my side, while I healed and slowly came back to life. God is good. He is the God of summits and deep pits, of sunshine and shadow. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Ever.

    • Patty

      Oops, that should say, the fourth of FIVE kids.

  49. Lynch Syndrome International

    HNPCC is now known as Lynch syndrome as it is no longer just a colon cancer gene…women have almost an equal prevalance of getting endometrial cancer…and there are many other cancers to which there is a high predisposition, including ovarian cancer, gastric cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, gall bladder cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer and brain cancer.

    Information is occurring daily and technology is changing rapidly…for more info on Lynch syndrome, visit http://www.lynchcancers.com

  50. Christine

    My parents divorce when I was twelve. I am surprised not to see more comments about divorce and the hurt it causes children.
    Because of their divorce, I promised myself I was going to marry a man who would be so strong in his faith..that he knew divorce was never ever ever an option.

  51. Jess

    Suffering depression from the age of ten until I was 19 … definitely the most formative experience of my life. It wasn’t a positive experience (um, obviously), but on this side of recovery (I am 28), I can see that the way in which it was formative has been truly positive.

    Interestingly, bullying was part of my experience of depression and while I would say that was undoubtedly negative, but it also has taught me empathy, love for those who are marginalised and the importance of forgiveness, so it, too, has its own benefits.

    PS: Jen, this is my first comment, but I’ve been reading for a little while. So, hi there!

  52. colleen

    When it really comes down to it, when i think of the experiences and directions and personalities i have chosen in life…they all really boil down to one simple but humongous thing:
    My parent’s marriage.
    My parents are artists, and dad brought my mother to Christianity, they married in 1980. My dad is and was a creative, flawed, insecure, brilliant, critical and sensitive man. My mother was and is gregarious, beautiful, insecure, insanely talented and sometimes a drama queen.
    My mom admitted to me a long time ago, that if she and my dad had been properly counseled, they probably should not, and perhaps would not have gotten married. My younger sister and i weathered the roller coaster as best we could, i think.
    Our daddy loved us more than anything in the world, and showed it. There was never a doubt of his affection, but his fragile and paranoid mentality also produced an equal amount of fear and psychological and emotional abuse towards us and my mother. I can’t count the nights i would lay in my bed sobbing as my dad’s voice boomed through the walls, berating, shrinking, destroying my mother…and as a side-effect, me as well.

    My mom was the “bread-winner”, always working full-time, often absent, so most of my memories of playing with my parents as a child involve only my dad. He was the one who took us on hikes, showed us uncoordinated little girls how to play baseball, and gave us our baths. Dad could never hold a job long enough and work his way up in a career to ever support us, in spite of always insisting on him being the “head” of the house, and commanding respect from us. As a result, my mom was almost always tired and stressed out…but she sang hymns to me when i had nightmares, made our halloween costumes every year, and told us about our changing bodies and how to put Christ first in our lives.

    They separated for over a year when my sister and i were 6 & 8 years old, but i see now how my mom and dad put us at the top of every priority, striving to reassure us we were loved and cared for and safe…in spite of the upheaval happening around us.
    Growing up with them was both painful and wonderful…and confusing for a child.
    There are repercussions that still echo inside of me even now, at 30 years old.
    Observing a marriage at once tumultuous, unique, heart-wrenching has been and will remain a forever life-lesson…showing my sister and myself what we wanted and needed, and definitely did NOT want, in a husband.

    All through my 20s I did find myself often drawn to complicated, artistic and sweet but broken men, just out of the comfort of their familiarity. Men i had to work to maintain a “happy” relationship with. But by the grace of God, I married a man last year that is the opposite of all those things. A man i have never had to “work” to please, but only desired to. A man who encourages me in truth, and handles me with love and gentleness. A man who yearns to treat me as Christ would. Some days i still feel like it can’t be real…!

    My mom and dad are still married.
    Their marriage has shown me what a slow and painful story towards redemption looks like. That God can produce beauty from brokenness. Without the Lord, ironically, my parents wouldn’t have gotten married…but at the same time, they also would never have stayed married…and learned what it means to die to yourself and sacrifice your needs for those of the other.
    In many ways they are still the same people…but my dad is slower to speak, gentler with his words, and quicker to love. My mom has been so sick these past years it has forced her to slow down, calm down, and practice patience and forgiveness. Last year my mom told me that now, after 32 years of marriage…she and my dad have really finally come to love each other. It is still not easy…as old wrongs and hurts have faded, new habits and wounds appear, but the “mystery”…the “why and how” is gone.

    It gives me such hope, to see that in spite of bad decisions, wrong turns and seemingly irreparable damage, God’s grace prevails. It makes me not less desirous to be faithful (knowing that God will use all things to his glory despite my mistakes), but has produced in me an even greater yearning to seek His face, the truth of His ways, knowing how much more joyful it is for me, and for His kingdom, when my desire is for His glory and not my own!

    Okay i could just go on and on but i’ll stop. Sorry that was so long! All these stories have been so amazing to read. Thank you (:

    • Elizabeth

      That was amazing, thank you.

    • Laura

      Yes, thank you for sharing. What an amazing story and even more amazing your insight.

    • sarah

      That was so moving to read. Thank you for sharing.

      • Peg

        You have given me hope because I sometimes get in a despair mode thinking about the effect our rocky marriage 9f 40 some years) had on our grown children when we at times open up and talk about it with them. God’s grace can work in mysterious ways. Thanks so much.

        • colleen

          He is the great restorer, Peg. Opening up and talking about things with your children–especially how you’ve learned and grown from the difficulties and seen what God has done with the struggles–is a HUGE part of healing past wounds. There will always be scars, but those are what God uses to help us comfort others with the comfort we have received. There’s always hope (:

  53. perelandra

    Falling in love at the age of 19. I was typically modern and only pursued the young woman to “have fun”. There was a distinct moment when I realized I was experiencing love- at that moment I realized that life and people mattered. Unfortunately, after 4 years, the relationship ended. It ended, in large part, due to my reversion to Catholicism. I have not found anyone since that time, but I am bless to have had those four years. I hope to find it again, but to center that relationship and love on the Eucharist.

  54. Annaliese

    For me it was a personal miracle.
    I was a cradle Catholic, but never took it seriously until 2005. In that year, some rosary beads that I had for 12 years randomly started glowing in the dark. Except I was the only person who could see it. This lead me to praying the rosary, and falling in love with God.

    A year later I lost the rosary beads while on a youth missionary team.

    Last year I was thinking about them, and after reading a book about the poor souls in purgatory, I thought I would ask them to help me find the beads. I contacted a person who I was staying with around the time I lost them to keep an eye out for them.

    A month later she found them in one of her spice containers. Funny thing was it was over 5 years since I lost them, and they had moved 3 times since then. Today the same rosary is around my neck.

    If it wasn’t for Mary revealing herself to me in such a special way, I probably wouldn’t be the faithful Catholic that I am.

  55. Marie

    Jen, in your baptism pic, your mother looks so much like you that I thought it was you, and the baby was your oldest child. What a beautiful photo.

  56. Michael

    Hopefully it’s coming…

  57. od

    Losing what I consider to be my innocence (in a situation that was akin to rape), at the age of 17. I have never been the same since and it still, unfortunately, affects my life at the age of 32 and a happy marriage, with 4 kids, later. I never told anyone but my husband and a priest. I am still healing but God has given me such an amazing man and life that I have seen many blessings that I thought I never deserved. Clearly He has a plan for me.

    • anonymous

      SO glad someone said this. The most formative experience of my life was being raped at age 5. It is astounding how this minor occurrence, which lasted no more than probably an hour, has touched every part of my life experience and who I am. I have been greatly healed through the unconditional Love of the Father, through good relationships He has blessed me with, and through learning about JPII’s theology of the body. But even speaking in an anonymous format such as this is terrifying.

      • Andrea

        Prayers for continued healing for you both.

  58. Benedicte

    Dear Jen,
    Loved your story about your 6 years old and the cardinals…my son is also 6, and on St Patrick’s day I was explaining to him that thanks to this great Saint, lots of people became christian in Ireland (that’s where we live, and his Dad is Irish). I actually said it in French, as that’s the language I speak with him (I am French)…blank look on his face…so I said “Christian” in english…same blank look…he eventually asked “what’s a Christian” (he actually said “c’est quoi un Chrétien?”…and we do say prayers everynight, bless our food, talk about God and Jesus, go to mass, they do Children’s Adoration every second week… 😉

  59. Laura

    Jen, Thank you so much for sharing. Your #3 has been on my mind since I first read it a few days ago. That, plus the other comments here, have made me more appreciative of my own sheltered/homeschooled upbringing. (Does that count as a formative experience?) I tend to resent it. Neither extreme is good. But I certainly was spared a great deal of pain. Thank you, again, for this.

  60. Jeanne G.

    I have to tell you, I did experience both ostracism and bullying as a child, but they aren’t what made me who I am. I was formed greatly by growing up with loving parents who wanted the best for me, but the greatest formative experience of my life was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My worldview was greatly broadened and I learned how to be an adult and to take care of myself. I wrote a little about it in October: http://knowledgehungry.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/on-this-day-in-2003/ I can’t believe I haven’t written more about it. I am going to have to get on that.

  61. singleCatholicgirl

    Haha, your maiden name is Bishop. That is the best! I love God’s sense of humor, sure Bishop is used in some other religions, but still, it’s great.

    Most formative experience: Witnessing Pope John Paul II at WYD Denver ’93. Enough said.

  62. James

    My greatest formative experience was the summer between my junior and senior year when I went to Governor’s School.

    I went from being living in a small city in South Carolina with somewhat overprotective parents to being almost completely on my own in downtown Charleston. Instead of sticking out for being smart and a good student, I was surrounded by people like me.

    It was also the first time I ever got on the internet. (With Netscape Navigator Gold!) And the first time I read The Onion.

    I got to see that the world was bigger than the town I grew up in.

    It breaks my heart that budget cuts have killed what was a wonderful program.

  63. Elicia

    Becoming a mother when my daughter was born 3.5 years ago. And then nine months ago, becoming a different kind of mother when my son was born with Down syndrome. 🙂

  64. sarah

    I know this thread is old now but I couldn’t help but chime in. My experience is similar to several others….

    The most formative experience of my life was losing my older sister to cancer when I was 8 years old and she was 17. I became the oldest child overnight, was completely overcome w/ grief at an age when I couldn’t even know what grief was, and I watched my parents struggle to keep it together after burying their oldest child. It was life-changing for me and for my whole family. She was a beautiful girl- full of love and life. She had a type of cancer that rarely killed people- especially children. She fought so hard for 2 years. We all watched in horror as it unfolded. She planned her own funeral and chose the song “City of God” as the final hymn. That is where I got the name for my blog. I wrote about her for the first time here: http://letusbuildthecityofgod.blogspot.com/2012/04/other-part-of-my-story.html

    My grief from losing her fueled the next 11 years of my life. I was so angry at God. I left the church for a while in high school. I lived dangerously… so dangerously I cannot believe that I am not dead or in jail. There were many years of abusing alcohol, drugs, and other people. Anything to numb the pain of that loss. Anything to forget that Lisa was dead. Through the grace of God I started healing at 19 years old. I started going to Mass and confession again and my soul slowly lost it’s bitter edge. When I look back I can’t believe that for 11 whole years I was a mad and angry person. What a waste. However, those years, that pain…. has made me who I am.

    • colleen

      One of my favorite verses: “He restores the years that the locusts have eaten…” I hate thinking of years i feel i wasted. But they have given me a unique way for me to reach out and relate to people i otherwise would not have…and it sounds like your experience can be exactly the same way. God redeems even “wasted” years and brings them to glory. you have an amazing future ahead of you!

  65. bobbi @ revolution of love

    Jen, I went through the same torment losing my Google Reader. LOL. I put together a pros and cons list with screenshots if you ever reach the point of looking for a substitute. http://www.revolutionoflove.com/blog/?p=1919

    Also, I can relate to the colon cancer story. Last month my husband had an operation to remove cancer from his colon. We just got the results looking for the gene and thank God he does not carry it. 2013 has been a year of learning to survive and counting your blessings!

  66. 'Becca

    I relate very much to your feelings about bullying. I was bullied occasionally throughout my childhood and almost daily from age 10 to 15. It definitely has had an effect on how I see myself and how I expect other people to treat me–in particular, when someone mistreats me in a way that seems particularly random and cruel, I tend to feel like I must be a bad person.

    BUT it’s important to me not to allow bullying to be my most important formative experience, because I am determined not to let myself be defined by being a victim. I often think of this Suzanne Vega song:
    If you were to kill me now, right here,
    I would still look you in the eye.
    And I would burn myself into your memory
    As long as you were still alive.
    I would live inside of you.
    I’d make you wear my like a scar.
    I would burn myself into your memory
    And run through everything you are.

    That helps me feel that the bullying defined THEM, not me, and it is the bullies who will never be able to escape what they have done.

    Because I didn’t move around a lot, when I was a senior in high school a boy who had bullied me extensively in 7th grade was able to apologize to me. That was sweet. Forgiving him felt almost as good as hearing that he now valued me as a person and thought I deserved kindness.

    As an adult, I’ve been able to help do research on bullying, and it’s been healing for me to feel like I’m a little part of the solution. In that article, I linked to an EXCELLENT series by Dan Pearce that you MUST read if you haven’t seen it already.

    Anyway, my most important formative experience probably was trying to become an architect and failing. It taught me a lot about success, art, work-life balance, divine guidance, and what they all mean to me, and it changed my life dramatically.

  67. Olivia

    1. Sixth grade:
    A boy said, “No one wants to chase you, you’re ugly.”

    2. About twenty years later:
    The King said, “Won’t you let Me live in your heart?”

  68. Anna

    Wow. Great post – #3 is very interesting – could you (or have you?) write more about Colorado? Do you think demographic make up of these towns – the overcrowding & mental checking out as you write – culminated in the violance we have seen?

    Good question about defining moments – will need to think about that!

  69. Beth Anne

    All my retreat experiences. From the ones I did in high school to the really profound awakening retreats I did in college. They really changed the way I looked at my faith and made me take my faith more seriously and made me actually enjoy and want to be catholic.

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