After listening to Johnnette Benkovic Williams speak about the power of testimonies on Women of Grace Live, one listener shared this personal testimony with us. Her childhood "treasure hunt" of collecting little pieces of smooth glass and keeping them in a jar foreshadowed something much deeper- where she would find her true treasure in the Catholic faith. She also wanted to thank Johnnette for being a spiritual mentor to her through her 30+ years of listening to the Women of Grace radio program.
"Gathering Jewels"I was born into a loving Protestant family with my Mom, Dad, younger sister, and me. We also had loving grandparents that doted over us. When I was 8 yrs old, my mother died from cancer. I have some happy memories of my Mom, like my birthday at Ferrell's, but I also have some sad memories, like my sister and I fighting over candy, as we sat by my Mother's bed in the hospital. I have also seen a picture of my sister and I standing by my Mother's casket. I grew up confused as to why God would take my Mom from me at such a young age.
As a child, I remember being fascinated by collecting little pieces of smooth glass, each of them their own color, and keeping them in a little jar. I did not know this at the time... but this little treasure hunt of mine would be a foreshadowing of something much deeper than I could ever imagine!
Growing up in my Protestant faith, I wrote in my diary... "God, I love you so very much, but I feel deep in my soul, something is missing in my life for you." Please help me, Lord. When I was 20 yrs. old, I met my husband, a devout Catholic. Oh, I told him he needed to get saved quickly if he didn't know if he was already! He proceeded to tell me, "I will know for sure only when I stand in front of God, until then, I can only have a "confident assurance.... but not an absolute assurance." He gave me a lot to think about!
I started going to Mass with him, and was so in awe as to the kneeling down and the reverence to God! After we got married, I took the RCIA class and became Catholic! I had found what my heart was desperately searching for! I received my 1st Confession and was so overwhelmed with joy, to be able to receive Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity! The bread from Heaven, as food for my soul! I gained a spiritual Mother too, Mother Mary, to journey with me throughout my whole life!
In the book, "7 Secrets of The Eucharist," it says, "Exploring the mysteries of the Eucharist is like discovering a bottomless treasure chest; as you unpack each gem, it reveals another that was hidden from view. No matter how many you discover, there are always be more!" In the bible, it says, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field" (Mt.13:44). WOW! I had finally found my TRUE treasure!! But little did I know, that Jesus was going to be taking me even deeper into His divine life!
As my husband and I grew in our faith together, I had a dream. My entire body was being immersed and engulfed into the bottom of the waters! Then suddenly I floated back up and was holding onto what seemed to be like a life preserver in the ocean. I was not sure what this dream meant. Later, I heard about a lady who had a similar dream as I did. She wrote a book called, "Breathing Underwater" by Eileen Benthal. In it, the mother tells of how she must embrace the cross, as she takes care of her adult daughter, who has had to undergo over 90 brain surgeries. She said that during the very difficult times in her life, Jesus was telling her, "You can let go. You are in the ocean of my mercy! You will feel like you are drowning, as the ocean waters rise over your head... But I will teach you a new way of breathing... how to breathe underwater." She knew she could rest in Jesus! St. Augustine says, Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him!" This story brought me much comfort and strength for the very difficult times ahead.
During our time of having children, I suffered a miscarriage at 3 months. Years later, when we became pregnant with our youngest son, our faith was very much tested! I had to have a special ultrasound, which revealed a bright spot on our son's brain and on his heart. The technician told us that our baby would probably be born with Trisomy 18, which is a severe abnormality of the chromosome. He would most likely have deformed parts of his body. Our faith was strong and we knew God was in control. God made our baby in His image, "On Purpose, for a Purpose", but I have to be honest and say, that the following 9 months were a very trying time of exercising my trust in God. I had to take many deep breaths, as I felt those ocean waters, as in my dream, rising over my head! I had to keep saying, "Jesus, I trust in you!" to calm my fears, when they crept up. But God decided to give us a healthy baby boy! Those 'bright spots" must have been "smart spots" because our son is currently, in the gifted/talented program at his school. This is only by the grace of God! A quote comes to mind, "A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man be perfected without trials." I believe God rewarded us for our courage and trust in Him!
I had another dream. This dream was so vivid, that I immediately felt compelled to write it all down. There appeared a queen. She was disturbingly dying, then all of a sudden she was vibrantly alive! She was wearing a crown. I was holding a strand of "beads" or "jewels" in my hand. I heard a voice asking me to fashion or find some jewelry for my mother to wear. The words, "Embellish" & "Adorn" kept coming to my mind over and over, so I wrote them down. Upon reflection, I felt the "Queen" was Mary, Our Blessed Mother because she is called the "Queen of heaven and earth." I felt like my devotion to Mary needed a lot of work! I began saying the rosary, and praying a lot more! In a book about the rosary (The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare by Johnnette Benkovic Williams and Thomas K Sullivan), I learned to ask Mary to "Take me by the hand, To "enter into, experience, and let penetrate my soul and be transformed into the mysteries of Jesus' life through Mary's loving gaze." It's like "bringing alive the life of Christ in my heart!"
I found out there are 15 Promises for those who say the rosary faithfully, each day, and St. Padre Pio says, "The rosary, is the weapon for these times." Now I look forward to every morning and absolutely LOVE to pray my rosary with Mary! I feel like I'm giving rose petals to "The queen of my heart" and Jesus my king!
I read a very powerful book called, True Devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. This book is about consecration to Jesus though Mary. It states, "The key to being fully alive with the life of Jesus Christ.... is a genuine and personal relationship with the mother of God." When I give myself completely to Mary, I am being united more perfectly to Jesus, in union with Him! I give all my merits, graces, good works of love, prayers, and virtues to Mary so she can keep, increase, polish, and make more beautiful! She will hold them close to her Heart until my last breath. Then, Mary will lay all my "treasures," at the feet of Jesus with her fragrance of "sweet-smelling Roses!"
St. John Vianney says, "When we have handled something fragrant, our hands perfume whatever they touch; let but our prayers pass through the hands of the Blessed Virgin, and she will give them fragrance." We give to Jesus, ALL we possibly can give Him, in the most perfect manner, through Mary's hands. St. Maximilian Kolbe says, "Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much... you can never love her more than Jesus did!" So, my dream makes more sense to me now! The "jewels or "gems" I give to the Queen, are like my earthly merits. In the Bible, there are many references to "jewels", as being like virtues and graces. In Prov. 20:15 it says, "There is gold and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." In Malachi 3:17 it says, "And they shall be mine, says The Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels."
As I look back over my life I feel in my heart, that If I had not lost my mom, I may not have met my husband or may never have become Catholic. Our God always works in mysterious ways! The Holy Spirit has shown me that God is always the author of GOOD! He never makes anything bad. We live in a broken and fallen world because of Adam and Eve's sin. God gives us free will. God only allows or permits bad to happen for some greater good! He promises us that he will "work ALL things together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). Pope Benedict says, "God cannot suffer, but he can suffer wWith." I've learned that Jesus properly owns all pain and suffering because he took it all to the cross with Him. By our baptism, it is no longer just me when I suffer- but it is CHRIST in me suffering. By the redemptive grace of Jesus' cross, we are never alone in our pain or suffering! When we chose to suffer With Jesus, we embrace the cross, leading to growth and grace! We need to keep saying, "Stay with me Jesus!"-during the very hard and gut-wrenching times in our life.
As I travel along my life journey with Jesus & Mary as my guide. I have learned that the joys and sorrows of life, inhabit our soul, each walking hand in hand, "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6:10). Jesus and Mary are our perfect guides. They endured, in complete PEACE the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows. I found it very interesting that the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary are also included in the 7 Sorrows of Mary. Like a rose and its thorns and one beauty.
I really enjoy reading the lives of the Saints. I love the writings in St. Faustina's diary! In it, she describes a vision she had of Jesus. She wrote: "Precious pearls and diamonds were pouring forth from the wound in Jesus' heart. I saw how a multitude of souls were gathering these gifts and she said that Jesus told us, "Take as many treasures from my heart as you can carry!"
So, just as was drawn to collect little pieces of shiny glass in my childhood adventure, I encourage you all to go on your own treasure hunt and ask Mary, each day, to "Teach you how to live in God's most holy will" and be sure to "gather as many deeply given spiritual precious jewels" of our Catholic faith, as you possibly can!
My hope is for Heaven. My prayer is, with the most humble surrender of heart that I will one day be able to trade my earthly cross in for a heavenly crown.
To Jesus, Through Mother Mary!
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