Syndicating from Google+.

I’ve really been enjoying my time using Google Plus. As of yesterday, I’ve officially been Facebook free for a month. Since then, I’ve spent some time trying to figure out how I can combine Google Plus with my blog at ScottHowell.ws. I don’t think Google+ is quite ready to be a blog replacement, but I found some neat ways to push some of my Google+ content over to my blog as mini-blog posts.

To do this I have to use the Public Post option – which I rarely use. But using the Public option makes a bit more sense for blog posts, which is a post that I probably wouldn’t mind sharing on my own website anyway. By using a WordPress plugin called “FeedMyWordPress” and a RSS service called “PlusFeed” I can automatically make any of my public posts carry over to my website. For now I have it set up to just show up as a draft so I can pick and choose what gets published.

I think the majority of my longer blog posts will be made directly on my website, but it will be fun to test this out, as it’s quicker to write a quick post up on here and I’m guaranteed a higher level of interaction with readers and commenting on Google + itself. You will still be able to comment on these mini posts on my site though.

What’s really great about this, if I edit a post in Google+ – the post should correct itself in WordPress as well. Also, it appears to bring in images I post. I will have to see if links work as well.

So we’ll see how this goes. Just testing this out. My hope is that people who aren’t willing to make the jump to Google+ yet will at least see more activity on my actual blog.

Jackson Turns Three!

Today I woke up as a father to a three year old. How does that happen? Lindsey & I haven’t even been married for three years yet. Although we are holding on to most of the festivities until Saturday for his Big “Blue’s Clue’s Happy Birthday Extraordinaire” Party with all of his family, we will be making a special trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s tonight. I had no clue there was one around here until Lindsey set the evening up, and I certainly haven’t been there since I was a kid. But, we should have fun 🙂

We’re kind of having a normal day today as I’m kind of under the weather this week. Not sure what’s wrong, but I’ve had a sore throat since Sunday and it’s made my energy a bit down lately. Hopefully this will be out of my system by Saturday. Regardless, I just wanted to make this quick post today, because today is special for us, as Jackson has never really received any special attention before on his birthday that we are aware of. So it has been exciting to teach him the tradition this summer with my birthday earlier in the month, as well as his 4 year old cousin Reagan’s birthday before that. I think he kind of understands this is a special day and if you ask him about it he will smile and sing “Happy Birthday, Me!” from time to time 🙂

Also, if you haven’t noticed I cut the rope with Facebook and I am exclusively on Google+ at the moment. Some of you may have wondered where I’ve went, while others may not have even realized I had left. But, I want to make it clear that I didn’t drop Facebook because of Google+. I decided to drop Facebook because of some peer pressure, and because I waste too much time on there as it is and there are some other areas in my life I want to try to focus more on. So for now, that leaves me on Google+, which I believe is a better social network. Right now it’s not as busy as Facebook, but is definitely growing and a much more appropriate avenue for sharing more privately with certain friends than Facebook allows.

If you are missing me on Facebook, rest assured I’m still around. I’m going to commit to blogging more on a daily basis again with shorter posts to make it up until more people transition over to Google+. I would have blogged more this week, but like I said I’ve been kind of under the weather. Also, even if you are not yet a member of Google+ you might get email updates from me when I update my blog. I’m sending these out only to some close friends and family that I don’t think would be bothered. These emails will actually contain a link to my blog, but also a way to join in on the conversation at Google+, if you do decide to join. If you didn’t get an email for this post & would like to be added to the blog list please let me know. Also, if you get an email and you don’t want to get them from many any more, there should be an unsubscribe link as well in the email. (Or just let me know, and I can take you off manually)

That’s all I’ve got from me. Hope everyone is doing well!

Projectile Oatmeal, Toddler Eating Issues & Facebook’s Fate

First their was the fear of Jackson going potty in public without a diaper. Luckily I made it through that father test, however yesterday I faced another challenge I had been hoping would never come – a sick toddler.

Surprisingly, Jackson has never really been that sick since he’s been home with us. There was a couple of times he had a cold and a real bad runny nose and cough, but that’s to be expected I guess and they usually came and went very quickly. Last night however Jackson had a strange quick turnaround from healthy bouncy boy to a lethargic sick kid with a fever. It happened really quickly after his afternoon nap. I noticed he wasn’t full of his normal hyper self after his nap and he wasn’t really interested in doing anything beside watch TV. Then, when Lindsey got home he actually started to feel very hot and was almost falling asleep. Of course we couldn’t find our thermometer, so Lindsey headed to Target real quick to grab one. Well, while she was gone he would not do anything. I even asked if he wanted to do his favorite activities which include Eating, Dancing and Horse rocking. He politely told me “No Papa” to each question. Well after giving him some water, Jackson vomited everywhere nearly missing me in the process. Pretty gross. But he did end up okay after that. We gave him some medicine for the fever and in less than an hour he was back to his normal self running around and wanting to play. He’s been fine ever since! It was such a strange quick sickness, but it seems to have passed.

Also, this is kind of on a different subject, but lately in the last month Jackson has started going through an annoying phase. I’m sure it’s normal, but we’re not sure how to handle it. Basically, he’s refusing a lot of the food we offer him for meals, sake the food he really enjoys like oatmeal, hotdogs, and the like. He used to eat almost anything we made for dinner as long as we cut it up in small pieces, but now he is being really stubborn.  A typical dinner tonight of left over lasagna took about an hour or so to even get him to eat a few bites. Does anybody have any advice?

Last, I am closer and closer to dropping Facebook. I know I’ve been driving the point a lot, but Google+ is great. I’m not pushing the idea simply because you should join “another” social network. But, for many of us Facebook is an addiction that hundreds of my friends are hooked to. I want to break free from spending hours each day reading my feed. I’m still a tech guy at heart though and I think social networking is okay and fun, but Google+ is changing the way you share information and let’s you really share what you want with only who you want. And as I mentioned earlier,  one of the best features is the quick way to just read up on people you care about and hide all the other junk if you just need a break.

So as an update to my last post, I’m closer to possibly quitting Facebook. There’s still clever ways I can share my blog updates via email to my close friends until they make the jump. If I do move to Google+ I plan on updating my blog more frequently though. If I make this “bold” move, I’m excited to see how much of my day will be free to actually get work done and in turn spending more quality time with my son.

As a side note, I’m going to help a new group of Stay at Home dad’s by hosting a weekly hangout on Google+ to offer support and friendship for other Stay at Home Dad’s – and specifically for those who happen to have adopted. More details on that soon!

Google+ Circles & Circumcision

Well, I’m guessing the title of this post got your attention! Sorry I couldn’t resist.  I’ve been meaning to post about these two subjects on my blog and found it funny that the two words both share meaning. I wanted to talk about Google+, because it’s a new type of social network that I’ve become very fond of and I wanted to briefly mention circumcision because Jackson just had the surgery done last week.

I don’t care or want to get into a debate on circumcision itself. If anyone reading is against the surgery for whatever the reason – that’s fine. It’s just something we decided to do, because we probably would have had it done if Jackson was biologically ours anyway. For whatever reason, they don’t do circumcisions in Ukraine at birth, so it’s something that we planned on having done for him eventually. Really the only reason I bring it up is because regardless how taboo the topic might be, this was Jackson’s first surgery that we know of, so I thought it would be silly to ignore it on here.

The surgery was the middle of last week and he did very well! Lindsey and I have never been in a situation where we had to have our kid in surgery before so regardless of how routine the process might be, it still was a little nerve racking! But, Jackson was a trooper. He had a local anesthetic as well and something that was similar to an epidural around his “area”.

They also gave Jackson some loopy medicine before before all of this, so it was funny to see him kind of out of it. After the surgery was all done (and we were told everything went very well) we were told he might have some problems walking because he wouldn’t be able to feel anything around his waste until the drugs wore off. He was kind of wobbly and out of it as you can see from the pictures below. Overall, he’s doing fine. I think the hardest part was the 8 hours where we couldn’t feed him any food prior to surgery!

 

Moving on to Google+ – It is the newest social network made by Google and is currently in a limited field trial. I’ve heard rumors though that it should open publically by the end of this month. I managed to snag an invite on the second day of its testing and I have to admit I’m falling in love with it. I know a lot of people reading might throw the thought of joining yet another social network to the wind immediately, but I’m finding it a great replacement for Facebook. Currently, I use a combination of Twitter and Facebook for my “social” needs. I’m really only using Twitter because it was the cool thing to do at the time. I only have a handful of followers on Twitter and I only log on to it now to post a status update, which I have set up to cross-post to Facebook. As for Facebook, I’ve been on it the longest and I’m unhappy to say I’m probably addicted. So much so, that I’ve been looking for a reason to get “out” for awhile.  Not until Google+ came around have I thought this might actually be a possibility.

First for those non-techies reading. Here’s a quick overview of the Google+ Project itself provided by Google:

The more I use Google+ the more I love it. I know I’m sort of a tech junkie, so you could say I’m biased because it’s new, but it only took a week of using Google+ to realize how much I’m addicted to Facebook. (But all for the wrong reasons). The problem with Facebook is that all of your friends, not-so much friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, parents, and high school buddies are all put together in one basket. When you post on Facebook, all of your friends see what you post and there is little you can do to distinctively share certain posts or photos with certain groups of people. At least, easily. And the same goes for your friends. Therefore, you spend hours on Facebook just like me, reading through your feed, trying to find something in the mess that really interests you. With G+ that all changes, as you put friends into “circles” by subjects or categories that interest you. What’s nice about this is that you have the ability to sort your feed (known as “The Stream”) by these circles.  Therefore if you feel like just catching up with your high school buddies you can view that stream, or if you want to know what Aunt Judy is up to, you can click your Family Stream.

Sharing works different on Google+ than Facebook too. With every post, picture, or link that you share, you decide upfront which of your “Circles” sees it. So if you’ve got a bunch of photos from a family vacation to post you can share it only with your “Family” Circle, but hide it from your “Co-Workers” circle. Same thing goes with status updates and the like. There’s a lot of my friends on Facebook that could care less to hear what I have to say about my thoughts on the new Mortal Kombat game. With Google+ I can easily share that information with only the people I put in my “MK Community” circle. You can also put people in more than one circle, which is a nice addition.

With Google+ there are no Friend Requests. I can add you to any of my circles without your permission and you can add me without my permission, but this is ok, because I can control what people see outside of my own circles. You do have an option to share posts or photos publicly – which I do from time to time. If you add me to your circle, but I don’t want to add you, you will only be able to see my Public updates that I specifically chose. If you are a real privacy freak, just don’t share anything publicly on Google+ and your “not-so much friend” won’t be able to stalk you.

Google+ is great because you can easily keep private what you really want to keep private. All Google+ requires publicly of you  is your full name and gender. I spend hours of wasted time on Facebook reading about things that really aren’t that important. But I do it, because it pulls me in because I feel like I have to know what’s going on. With Google+, I can finally spend just a few minutes reading and sharing with just the people I really care about. And when I need my Acquaintances “fix” I can view that stream, but it’s not always in my face.

This is just the start, as I haven’t even began to talk about other features of the site including Hangouts – which make group video chat easy and fun. Also, like Twitter you can follow people you don’t know, but just interest you. So if I can have my celebrity fix and friends fix all in the same place, who knows maybe my days of Twitter are almost over too.

I’m not completely decided, but I am contemplating moving over to Google+ and ending it with the other networks. While I decide, drop me a line if you want an invite to the service. I’d be happy to add you to one of my circles! 🙂

Visit my public profile at – http://gplus.to/scotthowell

My So-Called (Christian) Life. Part 3

I’m now in Day 100 of my yearly bible reading plan and I wish I had started a day earlier as today’s reading from Hebrews 11 would have been perfect to have read yesterday before I gave my input on what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ! This chapter in whole is about Faith in Action and gives plenty of examples of people from the Old Testament who lived their live in faith for God. The chapter starts out with a simple and easy to understand definition of faith:

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)

The people of the Old Testament had confidence not in themselves, but in the power of God to get them through situations that seemed impossible. From Abel to Moses, these figures demonstrated complete dedication and trust. If you get a chance read Hebrews 11 today, and then go back and spend some time reading about these figures and their stories.

To conclude this mini series of My So-Called (Christian) Life, I wanted to gear most of today back to the present and where things are now in my family’s walk with God. If you’ve read my last couple of posts I gave a general idea of how my faith has grown since I moved on from being a Catholic and why my faith now is so important to me. If it wasn’t for everything up until now that I explained, my life would be radically different. I don’t want to change the topic, but thanks to knowing that I’ve received the gift of salvation and that I have become ready and willing to serve God’s will, it has let my wife and I do some incredible things in our first couple of years in marriage. Mainly our adoption of Jackson. Adopting Jackson was done purely out of surrendering ourselves over to Jesus and accepting and listening to what he had planned for our lives. Never before in my life had I seen God come up with such a strong plan that he laid on our hearts. Adopting wasn’t our idea. We would have been fine on waiting until after we tried to have our own children first, but he knew there was an orphan in the world who needed a home and he selected us to be his parents. Without our faith, never would we have got ourselves in such a position to hear this call and pursue it. Our lives would now be radically different otherwise. (For more on our adoption of Jackson, read our Ukraine Adoption category of this blog.)

With that said, we find ourselves stepping out on faith once again in our lives. And much like the first go-around where God called us to adopt, He’s taking His time and is testing our patience on what he has planned next. Moving out to Indianapolis was like some of the heroes of the Old Testament who stepped out on faith, not knowing the outcome. We had every opportunity to stay in Ohio, but we felt pushed by God to move forward. Though his whispers were soft, we didn’t question and gave up everything we had in Ohio to start a new life here. I think without God in the picture we never would have moved. We were quit comfortable in Ohio and had great friends and family, and not to mention a great church. Granted, I have faith that God will connect us with new friends and a church, but it might be years before we know for sure why it had to be here. Though, one could say it was inevitable we would end up here, as this gives Lindsey a chance to be closer to her family.

So as we wait for our next step I have learned that we must just continue to march on with what we’ve learned from God’s word and start making a life here. I’ve been relatively quiet about our church hunt as I think it would be unfair to judge churches publicly here, which is why at least on my blog I have never specifically given the name of a church that we have attended. And that will continue until we are certain we have found our new church home. But to give a little bit of an update since we moved here at the end of February, we have tried five churches. We set out at first just trying the extreme opposite of what we were used to – which is what I’ll simply coin as a “bigger” church. At New Life we were used to a congregation where if you attended for a month or so, generally over time you would start to recognize the people around you. We like the size of a church to be not too big, but not too small. If a church is too small, you have to judge and make sure that it’s small because of the history, as I believe any church that is teaching Biblical truth will grow gradually on its own naturally. But if a church is too big, you have to wonder how many people use big congregations as way to “hide” amongst others. You can be “new” every week or be a long time attender and nobody would know the difference if a church family is too large.

The first two churches we visited were bigger than what we were used to. There was quirks we didn’t like about them though. You could definitely sense God was working in these churches, but we just didn’t feel comfortable.

The third church we visited is where we have spent the majority of our time since we’ve moved and looking back I guess we could summarize it as the best of the three options we first tried. The congregation wasn’t too much bigger than what we were comfortable with at NewLife and the worship was similar. The teaching was a lot different though, but I appreciated the amount of biblical reading mixed in with the sermon. All of the sermons we heard were very informative and full of information and details, but for our own tastes maybe lacked a bit of passion than what we were used to. Although, a lot of people were very friendly here and up until recently we couldn’t find any excuse as to why we shouldn’t keep going. We were even on the verge of stepping into a Life Group, which is one of our biggest priorities of any church we attend. However, as anxious as we have been to just get this church experience going we felt like God was nudging us to try a couple of more places. Thankfully he didn’t reveal some huge reason to us as to why this church was “wrong” for us, as that would have made me kind of feel bad about moving on. There’s nothing really wrong with this church, it is a great church and I can see without a doubt that God is working in it and doing great things, but something just didn’t feel right for us personally.  As I’ve gone to learn, God can put these types of feelings in our mind, not because something is wrong, but because He just has a better idea in mind for that specific person who is following him.  Thankfully though this church filled a void for a time allowing us to worship our God over the last couple of months and gave us some consistency. We also met some great people and were even invited over for dinner by a family who has a wonderful heart for ministry.

So the last couple of weeks we’ve tried a couple of different churches. One church was very small and just wasn’t for us, but I definitely “got” why the church existed but just isn’t what we need now based on our level of Christian maturity.

So that leaves us with a church we tried last week. In some ways this has been the most interesting find that we have come upon. I won’t give the name, but for starters this specific church is unique simply because of its location and story. A long time ago a developer who just so happened to be a Christian, wanted to build a housing development with a very comfortable feel to it. He wanted to give the development a small town feel with sidewalks, opened lawns and even a big hill to go sledding on in the winter. And because he was a Christian, of course he wanted to build a church right smack in the middle of it! It was built without a congregation at the time, but eventually found a church family. We tried this church last Sunday and it kind of felt like we were stepping into “Wisteria Lane” from Desperate Housewives! (No, I don’t watch the show) It kind of feels like a fairy tale with all of the houses surrounding the church. The church itself is beautiful and has something I have grown to miss –windows so you can see the beautiful neighborhood around you.

Well, as for our experience I will say this. I’ve been known to jinx myself in the past, but there was something very special about this church from the moment we stepped in that we had not felt since moving here. It was that unexplainable feeling that you get when you just know something is right. That feeling last Sunday was exciting! The people were friendly, you could tell they were a family, and we were immediately noticed and engaged in small talk from the moment we stepped in the church doors. (Way to go Welcome Team!) And apart from that, the Pastor’s sermon was very biblical based, mature sounding, and full of compassion (but not over the top).

At first I believe we were looking for New Life when we moved here. This church isn’t New Life, but if God intended New Life to be our home forever we would still be in Ohio. We need a church that can grow us even stronger in our faith and build upon all of the foundations that we were fortunate enough to lean and be a part of at New Life. So in time, I know we will find that perfect church family. This church shows promise though, enough promise that I can easily announce it here. I can’t wait to try a couple of more weeks. If it doesn’t work out, I think God has allowed us to have time to learn more patience though, and we will be eager and excited to keep looking if that is the case.

I wish I had more to say, but I don’t know what tomorrow holds yet. I’m grateful for my having Christ in my life and having an exciting opportunity to start a “New Life” of my own here in Indiana and  look forward to wherever His will may lead. Thanks for reading and it is my sincere hope that this short story on my background and faith helps you become as eager as we are to live a life for Christ. I’m not sure which mountains God wants the Howell family to start moving, but as soon as He lets us know, you will be one of the first to hear. God Bless!

My So-Called (Christian) Life. Part 2

For those who knew my grandfather, who we called PapPap, anyone would likely say that he was a man of strong faith. Though he was a bit ornery and was always playing jokes and showing us grandchildren such fun games like 52 card pickup, you could tell he had a heart for Jesus. PapPap liked to talk a lot and share a lot of stories from his past. His stories might mean that you had to stick around for an hour or so, because he kind of took awhile to get to the point. But that’s what we all loved about him. There was always one conversation that would occasionally come up though that you could tell was important to him, and that was his faith. I remember several years before he passed away my family and I were visiting him and Grandma in Georgia where they were living at the time. PapPap and I were in the kitchen as he was showing me some card tricks as was the norm. After playing, he started telling his usual run of stories. I’m not sure how we ended up on the topic, but somehow the conversation turned to his faith. I remember him specifically saying that he wasn’t afraid of dying someday, because when he did he was certain he would be in heaven with the Lord. I don’t really remember if he specifically told me what I needed to do to get the same results he was looking forward to, but for whatever reason he decided to share this with me and showed me how confident he was in his faith with God.

Years later, I see the importance of having faith myself. Faith is what drives my life now and my every day actions and decisions. If it wasn’t for my faith in Jesus Christ, I really would have no purpose in life. For years I tried to put my faith in this world instead. Although this earth is a gift from God, this earth alone can not save me from a life from sin or make me happy. It’s important to know where we should be placing our faith. Putting our faith and time into things in this world is a waste of time, as there is no reward that comes from it. We must put our faith in Jesus, because we are not here for ourselves, but for Him, to do His works and will as he pleases. The Bible makes it very clear that our love for this world is nothing God wants to associate Himself with in 1 John (NIV):

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

A lot of people might ask why we must have faith in Jesus and do his work and worry about his goals and wants. The reason is because we are not God and we were created solely to serve him. Non Christians might take offense to this, because why should we spend our time and energy for someone else we can’t physically see or or touch? We should because of the award that is waiting for us. The award is, that if we carry out Jesus’s will and not our own, we can receive the gift of eternal life in the end. But to receive this ultimate gift God puts in a very important condition that must not be overlooked. That condition He requires of us is Faith. God requires us to have Faith because there is no greater way to show our love and trust in someone. I guess God could have made it easier and shown up to us with a crystal ball and proved we would receive life for our surrenderance to Him, but our motives might be different. It would be no different than being tempted by your boss with a $1,000 bonus check to complete a project. By adding faith to the equation God knows you truly love him. Don’t trade serving God for serving this earth as I can guarantee serving Jesus is far better with or without salvation in the picture. Have faith and enjoy the benefits of doing things you thought were not possible:

12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14 12-13 (NIV)

It is important to remember that eternal life alone is not the only reason to have faith. Don’t be selfish. Know that as an unbeliever, the fact is whether or not you believe it now, you are a sinner and nobody who has sinned can enter the kingdom of God when they die. Theoretically speaking then, since all men are sinners none of us qualify for the ultimate gift of eternal life. Our sin has to be answered for, and fortunately for us we have such a loving God that He sent his only Son to pay the penalty for our sin for us, so that as long as we have the faith in Jesus that he did die on the cross to cover that sin, we are forgiven and allowed to enter His kingdom. It’s a beautiful picture and seems fair enough to me. I pray that if you are not a believer that you consider this. Without Jesus, the wages of sin is death. Verse John 3:16, probably one of the most famous versus in the Bible, sums it up nicely:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

The reason I started off on this tangent about faith in this 3 part post is because it is the most important part of my life now. Once I accepted to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and believed he died for my sins, it changed my outlook on life and made every decision I make to glorify Him. I don’t care about what I want in this world anymore because the world doesn’t care what I want and will lead nowhere. I serve God and enjoy following His will because it’s an honorable thing to do. Someone has offered me eternal life and the promise of eternal happiness. It’s a privilege, not a nuisance, to put His wants before my own. I am so thankful to have learned this. Being a sinner myself, I am happy that Jesus is what makes getting up in the morning worth it and let’s me enjoy my time here on earth.

It’s my hope to finish this subject of my “So Called (Christian) Life” tomorrow. I plan on blogging a bit about why the Bible itself and Church is such an important part of my life, as these are the tools God has given my family to shown us His will. Without these two things, along with the Holy Spirit and prayer, we would be lost trying to figure out what God has in store for us. What I won’t get into is what I think is the perfect church. There’s plenty of blogs and places to go to get opinions on that, but I will briefly note what’s important to us in a church, as we’ve been put into the unique situation to find a new church family since moving to Indiana.

My So-Called (Christian) Life. Part 1

(As I was writing this post I decided to split this up over the next few days. I mentioned last week Lindsey and I were close to committing to a new church and starting in a new Life Group. However, since then we made the tough decision to let God lead us elsewhere. This series of posts will give a background of my church experience over my lifetime and end with where we are in the process of finding a new church family. Enjoy!)

Well over a decade ago, I headed with my parents to one of the most beautiful churches in downtown Columbus. It was St. Joseph Cathedral, the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Columbus. I was there to receive a special blessing and reward by the Bishop himself along with several other lucky teen candidates from surrounding parishes in the state of Ohio. All of us had been selected as “Alter Server” of the year due to our dedication, responsibility and display of leadership in our performance on Sunday mornings. I was excited to receive such an award. There hadn’t been too many times before that I could recall where I received such recognition from someone else for my hard work. It wasn’t something I applied to win, but something that the Pastor of my then-church at St. Mary’s in Lancaster thought I was worthy of because of my years of dedication of serving Mass and other Holy events like Easter, Christmas and the like. I served as an alter boy from 5th grade all the way until the end of my senior year in High School. I always showed up early and volunteered to fill in when others were absent or unavailable. I felt important and excited to be part of the mass. Being an alter server was something special and not taken likely, and it filled a void to make myself feel Godly and acceptable in the eyes of my fellow Catholic friends at CCD (Sunday School) and at home.

Ironically, after seven years of washing the priest’s hands, helping with the Eucharist and so forth, once I graduated high school I stopped going to church. Regardless of how dedicated I was, Catholic Mass and Church was something that was required of me by my parents. Now that I was out of high school I chose to stop going. What was the reason?

Flash forward to today and my memories at St Mary’s seem like they were from another lifetime. There was a four year void from the time I stopped attending Catholic Mass and eventually found a new church home in Canal Winchester, Ohio called New Life, which being a non-denominational church was a complete 180 degree flip from anything I had ever experienced. The four years in between churches was an interesting time in my life. Lucky for me I was generally a good kid, but during those four years I went through an incredible transition that had many highs and lows. I became rebellious and was forced to be independent and any remnant of God I was holding on to was mostly let go. Thankfully during that time God put amazing people in my path and put me in circumstances that forced me to rethink what the definition of church was and the importance of it. Furthermore I learned of something that even called for more urgency in my life than church – an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.

Before 2006 I did not understand what this meant. After years of being an alter server and attending CCD classes my entire life, I was only told Jesus was “the son of God” and that he was my “friend”. I knew he died on the cross, that doing so was an unfortunate thing, and that he did it for us. As far as why he did it, and the impact it has on me and all the people on earth, I was completely clueless. Ignorant would have been an even better term. I had a bible, but never looked at it, and never really took the chance to really comprehend what it said. Until I graduated high school nobody offered to mentor me or share the true message of the gospel and what it shared. Before I started attending New Life, somehow I became fortunate enough to be swindled into visiting the church’s young adult group with some friends of mine. I remember one conversation at that group that sticks out in my head today. People were talking about when they were saved. I’m still embarrassed to say, but I really didn’t even know what they were talking about. Yes, I had heard of the term used before, but I honestly didn’t understand what we needed saved from, let alone what that had to do with Jesus dying on the cross. I figured Catholics did it our way, by just loving God and going to church, and that got us to heaven.  I figured “other Christians”  just coined my experience with the term “saved”. Was I ever wrong.

Do I blame the Catholic Church? Partially, but the Catholic Church can not be my excuse. The answers were always right in front of me in the Bible. I just chose not to read and find out. However, I feel somewhat cheated at times. Up until 2006 I felt like I had to hold a special allegiance to my own Catholic upbringing. I had a really hard time letting completely go of my Catholic roots as a I transitioned into an “ordinary” Christian life. I remember when I first started attending New Life’s services a friend of mine at the time came point plank blank out asked me “When are you going to admit you are not Catholic anymore?”. It wasn’t until later that same year in 2006 I believe I was finally able to admit I’d let go of Catholicism. Up until very recently whenever the conversation of when I was “saved” came up, I gave the excuse that I was raised Catholic, so I couldn’t really tell you the exact date I was saved. I would explain that I’ve always loved God, so it must have happened at some point. When this conversation last came up several months ago, granted I knew I had been saved. There was no question about that, but I was in denial of when. Most saved people have this incredible story of the time they were saved and how they said that “special prayer” and have incredible testimonies. Not me.

However, I’ve recently realized that if being saved truly means that you accept Jesus into your life to have a true relationship with Him, then there is no way I was saved when I was a Catholic. I was never a true Christian then because there was no relationship with me and Jesus. I’m still not sure of the exact date, but I can say for the first time publicly I believed it happened in 2006 (before I met Lindsey) during a service at NewLife where I broke down in prayer and handed all of my problems, worries, and stress over to Him. Ever since then, things have been alright for me. So if that was when, I guess I’ve been a true Christian for only 5 years.

But you know what, that’s okay. These last five years have been the most meaningful of my entire life. Praise the Lord for that!