|On the set with Marcus Grodi, who made filming the show so easy and fun!|
At 6 p.m. (MTN), on Monday, March 28, the Journey Home Show will air the episode about my family's conversion and coming into the Church.
Y'all, I'm more nervous about the show's airing than I was about the filming! To paraphrase an old saying, anything good I said came from the Lord; anything bad I said came from me. So all glory goes to God!
It was such a privilege to share my family's testimony! It was also incredibly encouraging to sit with someone and tell him all that the Lord has done. It reminded me how important it is for us all to share with one another our personal experiences of God's goodness and mercy.
I'm so grateful to Marcus Grodi, Matt Swaim, Jim Anderson, Bill Bateson, Janna Pitcock, and Marcus's son, Richard, who stepped in to be the cameraman. The Coming Home Network has an incredible team who made me feel so welcomed! (Marcus Grodi is as kind in real life as he seems to be on the screen. He even made me a cup of coffee!)
|(A happenstance double rainbow after a storm. There is a lot of superfluous beauty in our world and a lot to be grateful for.)|
Although I wasn't given an award, I feel like I got one. It was such an honor to have my story published and to be on the show! So here are my thanks, because blogs are good for shouting out the burgeoning thankfulness that you just can't contain in the quiet of your heart. (I wish I could name everyone by name who prayed and helped. I am so blessed by so many!)
I know I'm gushing here, but I can't help it. For this 48-year-old mom of six, being able to share my testimony in print and on film was an experience I will never forget and will always be grateful for!
|(Father Ben, at top, baptized our first cradle Catholic on October 22, 2017. St. John Paul the Great, pray for us!)|
This all started because my pastor, Father Ben Uhlenkott, called the Coming Home Network and told them they needed to hear my story. His dad was reading the National Catholic Register and saw that they were looking for stories, and told Father Ben he should call them about my family. It was a complete surprise to me that he called! That was in the summer of 2019.
Despite Father Ben's prayers for my family and me, it took me almost 18 months to finally get the story done, which includes getting through the infamous 2020. I would have never finished if not for the loving pokes and prods from Father Ben, his parents, Bill and Eileen, and his sister, Angie, who have all become such dear friends. Many, many thanks to them with all my heart!
Father Ben's pastoral care of our family and our entire parish has been remarkable, especially in light of global news over the last four years. Maybe one day I will write even more about it. Through my job as staff writer for the Idaho Catholic Register, I get to talk to people from all around the state. Whenever someone finds out I know Father Ben, they usually exclaim, "Oh! He is so awesome! He helped my family so much!"
He has quite the reputation in our Diocese for his kind yet practical shepherding of his flock, his heart for outreach ministries, blunt advice, and sense of humor! Our family will always be grateful for him.
|(This is how it feels with God every day.)|
My heart overflows with gratitude for all my family and friends who prayed for me and cheered me on as I wrote my testimony. Even my dad, who left the Church in college and says he's still happy in his Baptist church, encouraged me to write about my family's conversion!
My cousin Bo (better known as Lanier Cordell), who is also a writer, told me to be true to my views and to use my own voice to express them, even though she is not Catholic. She just loves me as I am, and my hope is to always follow her example of loving others as they are.
It's true that we lost friends because of our conversion, but most of our Protestant friends have been so supportive, including in writing and sharing my family's story. And my dear friend, Annie Bullock, and her family became Catholic after we did! (Their story is amazing!)
My small faith community in particular prayed a lot during the whole process of my writing and then the filming. To Ginger Mortensen, Stephany and Ed Herrera, Juliet and Chris Jones, and Tina Punnoose, thank you! (My husband, David, is also in our small faith community, but he gets his own paragraphs down below because he's so awesome.) We have prayed, cried and laughed together for almost 5 years. What a blessing each of them are! Thank you, my sweet friends! St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!
My brother, Glenn, was my sounding board extraordinaire! He and his wife came into the Church on Palm Sunday of 2014. (He still gives me a hard time that he was Catholic before me. Heh. Little brothers never change and keep one humble . . .) He is a graduate not only of Moody Bible Institute, but also of the Seattle Film Institute. After all the months of encouraging me to write my family's testimony, he and his wife, Tina, then gave me some great advice for being on camera. Glenn and Tina, I can't wait until I can travel to Washington and buy you beers! Thank you for everything! Cheers!
|(A rare photo [notice the date on the book] of my [mostly] clean desk at home, where I do most of my work.)|
My editor and the director of communications for our Diocese, Deacon Gene Fadness, also encouraged me to keep writing, in good times and bad, during the pandemic and despite so many family emergencies and so much "stuff" of life. He even prayed over me and gave me a blessing before I took off for Ohio. How cool is that to have your boss give you a bonafide blessing?!
He was on the show about 15 years ago to talk about his conversion from Mormonism. He kindly gave me advice and tips and helped calm my nerves!
In six years, I went from being a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom to being a full-time employee! The change was gradual, but it still brought a lot of challenges. Deacon Gene and the Communications team, Ann Bixby, Vero Gutierrez and Joe Egbert, made the transition a lot of fun. Their prayers, encouragement, and camaraderie make being in the office a delight! Thank you, my friends, for being so wonderful and for all your prayers!
Also at the Diocesan offices is my friend Jay Wonacott, director of the office of marriage and family life. He is responsible for recommending my writing, and the reason I began my career at the Idaho Catholic Register. He and his wife, Michelle, have been constant, faithful and loving friends through thick and thin. I will always hold them dear to my heart!
Freelance writer Lori Chaplin was my mentor who helped me get my foot in the door for writing. I would not be a writer without her help! She got an interview for me with the editor of CatholicMatch, and she showed me the ropes. She gave me constructive criticism and lots of encouragement. It now seems so long ago, when I asked her for help in December of 2015. The impact of her generous kindness will last throughout my life. Thank you, Lori!
Carol Brown, director of marketing and community relations for Salt & Light Radio, was my first friend in Idaho. She has been praying for me and my family for years! Not only was she instrumental in our becoming Catholic, she has also helped me to become a better communicator. She invited the homeschool moms to give book reviews on the Morning Light Show for the radio. The opportunity allowed me to grow as a speaker. I also thank Brian Howell and Hope Ryan for making my time on the Morning Light Show such a pleasure!
I write about the saints for each issue of the Idaho Catholic Register, and the saints have been faithful friends. Of course, there are some to whom I feel closer than others: St. Nicholas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Jude, St. Cecilia . . . and so many more.
St. Francis de Sales was completely unknown to me before I became Catholic. I found out about him when I did an internet search for the patron saint of writers. I have prayed a litany to St. Francis de Sales each week since December of 2015, just before I started writing part-time.
When the Coming Home Network said my flight was on his feast day, I was thrilled at the coincidence! Thank you, St. Francis, for all your intercessions and help!
St. Francis de Sales, pray for us!
Now to my family! David and our kids have been phenomenal! When we first came into the Church in August of 2015, friends told me that our story was so funny I needed to write about it on ye ole blog. I asked my husband and kids for permission to write about it, and they agreed.
However, I asked David to take some time to make sure he was okay with my sharing our story in writing and in public. The day he capitulated to the Lord's call to become Catholic was hilarious, but also a bit embarrassing. It's not easy having the Almighty call your bluff and give you a sign you can't deny . . . But my husband has a great sense of humor and said, "Yes, you should tell the story!"
I asked for permission again when I wrote a short version for the Idaho Catholic Register, and I asked for it before writing the story for the Coming Home Network. Each time my husband and kids lovingly told me to go for it.
|(Our eldest caught us kissing during our family trip to Grandjean. This year we will celebrate 26 years of marriage!)|
Writers who have supportive spouses and kids are incredibly blessed. Writers wear their hearts on their sleeves, feel all the feels, eat and sleep and write at odd times, and get nothing done without deadlines and people who believe in them. I could not have written or gone to Ohio to film the show without my sweet husband and children being so encouraging.
|(Sunday, August 9, 2015, the Feast of St. Edith Stein, at St. Mark's Parish in Boise, when Father Ben brought us into the Church.)|
I also need to thank Bishop Peter Christensen who approved our coming into the Church and who never ceases to be uplifting anytime I see him in the diocesan offices. He has been a constant encouragement to me in my faith and in my writing. I am so thankful for him and his prayers!
Then there are all the numerous priests of our Diocese, retired and active, who have blessed our family over the last seven years. Father Mariusz Majewski, the rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise, deserves a special shout-out for his kindness and prayers for our family!
In 2019, Bishop Peter brought the Verbum Spei community to Boise, and in 2021, they were given an old retreat center as a monastery. Their community has been a source of refreshment, and Father Dominique, Father Johannes and all the Brothers are always a joy. Their prayers and care for our family have brought us great comfort!
And then to our wonderful parish community and school, St. Mark's: What a blessing it has been to grow as a Catholic at St. Mark's! From Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the youth group to the music ministry and perpetual Adoration, St. Mark's constantly strives to provide ways for people to become better Christians. There is also an emphasis on evangelization, which our family particularly appreciates.
How do I even start to thank all the people in our parish and school? How do I thank all our fantastic deacons, the parochial vicars, the staff and faculty? Audrey Weiss, the communications director and secretary to Father Ben, has handled so much and with such grace. My aforementioned friends in my small faith community, Ginger Mortensen and Juliet Jones, also work tirelessly at the parish to bring the best religious education possible for every age and level. And then there is Kris Foster, who stepped up as music minister during the pandemic and has become a great friend and mentor.
That barely scrapes the surface of thanks I have for my parish!
I am so blessed, and it's not because of anything I have done. So much has changed since the day we became Catholic, and I have no idea what is around the corner. But whether a day is dismal or easy-breezy I find myself praising God for bringing us into the Church.
Just a few hours before Matt Swaim called to invite me on the show I took a nap. (I had no idea what was coming, and I was tired, so I decided to be like Jesus and nap.) I napped so hard I had a vivid dream: I was in a large, boxy auditorium-style church with an 80s vibe of worn carpet and slick oak trim. I saw a praise team on a stage to the side and wanted to sing with them. Then I realized they were singing Catholic hymns but they had taken out all the references to Mary. I told them that they were missing out by not singing about her.
"She's so important and wonderful! You need to sing about her!" I said. But they ignored me. I was so frustrated because I knew they were missing a key part of the Gospel by leaving out Mary. So I decided to leave.
I went to a set of doors, but they were locked. I went to another set, and they were also locked. I begged and pleaded to be let out. And then, as one can only do in a dream, I got mad at my brain. I told myself to wake up because I wanted out of this church and wanted to be back in the Catholic Church! With that, I finally awoke.
I told Matt Swaim about it when he called, and we had a good laugh. The feelings of frustration from the dream gave me a boldness to say yes when Matt asked me to be on the show. I knew people needed to be told about Mary and the Church!
A line from an old hymn comes to mind: "I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future." I feared that if I became Catholic I would know Him less because of all the "extras"— the Magisterium and sacramentals, the liturgy and the rubrics. Instead, I have come to know Him better.
I won't know Him fully until the Last Day and, by His mercy and grace, see Him face-to-face, but the Church has given me a broader and deeper view of Him than I ever had before.
Without being trite, I sincerely give my greatest thanks to God for letting me tell my story and share what He has done for my family and me.
|(One of my little ones after daily Mass at our parish, St. Mark's. St. Mark, pray for us!)|
If you want to read the print version of our story, you can head over to the post on the Coming Home Network.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Holy Family, pray for us!
©2022 Emily Woodham