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A Steadfast Heart: Following Christ in the Messy and Unpredictable

Written by Rebecca Browns

July 1, 2024

When the Villains are Beautiful

I come from a large family; I’m one of 8 children, red haired, and introverted. However, when passionate about something, you would not know I was an introvert. And something that fills me with passion is the theme that colors my life: the great grace of steadfast love.  

My name, Rebecca, in Greek means tie or bind, which in modern iterations means steadfast. Sounds idyllic, but I promise you the road that led me here was crazy, messy and brilliant!

At the age of four my mom took me to see the Nutcracker. She was a dancer, and hoped that her first daughter would take to her love of dancing as much as she did! I loved it! On the car ride home we talked about the performance, and I declared “I want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy one day!” This brought my mom to tears and soon I was enrolled in ballet classes.

From there I trained until I was in 7th grade, and we realized that if I really wanted to become a professional, we’d need to get to a school that had a higher caliber of training. Going into my 8th grade year, I moved into an apartment with my oldest brother in Chicago, and homeschooled so that I could attend the Ballet Chicago Studio Company. After two grueling and amazing years of training, I was accepted into the year round program in NYC The School of American Ballet (this is like Juillard for ballerina’s except for high school)!

All the while, my Faith was present, and what I mean by this is, I had received all the sacraments at the usual increments, and attended Mass on Sundays, no matter where in the world my ballet training took me. Thankfully, during my time in New York, I was blessed to share a dorm with three Catholics, two Christians and a Mormon (sounds like a who walked into a bar joke). They were all so kind and helped to keep my head straight during these intense years of training.

At 19 I was in my final year at SAB, and it was time to audition for professional companies. In the span of three months, I had auditioned for 50 ballet companies, but only landed one contract with The Minnesota Ballet. I spent one year with them, but was let go after my first year because the company had a weight clause in the contract that I was unfortunately unable to stay under during my time with the company.

I returned home to Illinois and took some time to heal from a foot injury. Then moved back to Chicago to get back into shape and hopefully land another contract. These two years in Chicago were brutal. I was working full time at Starbucks and dancing full time with the Studio Company I trained with before I went to New York. By God’s abundant grace, at this time I fulfilled my childhood dream: I performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. This moment will forever live in my heart and memory as one of the most thrilling times in my life. The music is so grand and Tchaikovsky to this day is one of my favorite composers!

Lent of 2014, I decided to punctuate my day with prayer; throughout my time dancing God has always been faithful, and I was experiencing some pretty deep depression. A month into Lent, I woke up from a dream where I saw myself ministering to people in a church setting. It was pretty vague, and nothing like the norm for my dreaming— you know the fall of a cliff type of dream. I called my mom feeling perplexed, and she said to take it to prayer, possibly this is God calling me to a new path. I did and as the rest of Lent progressed, the joy I once had in my dancing slowly came back! 

I knew this wasn’t just happenstance, but God giving me the grace and courage to close this chapter of my life and open a door to a new journey! What’s that line in Frozen— “love is an open door”— how true this is when in the context of our relationship with God.

My last performances came and they were arguably my best; it was a perfect ending to twenty years of my life being dedicated to the artform. As I moved home, I attended a year of community college and worked at Starbucks (can you tell I like coffee?). In my research into college, Fransican University of Steubenville loomed large.  At the time FUS was the only university I had really known about that was Catholic and offering degrees in evangelization. I toured Fransican and absolutely fell in love.  From that point on, I was fairly certain where I would end up.

But my mom suggested I look into another college— one she had heard about from some families from our high school— Benedictine College. I kid you not, I thought to myself, “what is possibly good in Kansas?” Well, naive and arrogant Rebecca didn’t realize some years later she’d be a resident of the state. (God has such a lovely sense of humor!

Reluctantly, I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised that it held the rigor of Steubenville and had an evangelization degree.

We visited and the word that describes my visit was “home”. The hospitality on campus was palpable! I applied to Benedictine right before Lent; I was blessed to be accepted to both Steubenville and Benedictine! As an avid Gilmore Girls fan, I poured over pro and con lists and did extensive research on both schools, trying to find every ounce of evidence to uncover the best fit. Ultimately, I gave it to God because my diligent research, although good, was never going to be good enough if it wasn’t God’s will for my life.

Along with giving up chocolate, I decided to attend daily mass and adoration every Friday morning. I was in adoration praying and trying to be open to the Lord’s will for my life, and had a sense of joy and confidence with Benedictine. I was unable to shake Benedictine out of my mind. I went home and told my mom that “I’m going to Benedictine!”

 And thank the Lord I did because the formation I received there was a beautiful gift, and my college experience also gave me the sappy story of meeting my husband! 

Everything I encountered at Benedictine superseded any place I have ever experienced, and to this day, are still the most peaceful and joyful years of my life.

My senior year at Benedictine I discerned what I was going to do post college. Logan (my now husband) and I were discerning marriage. And I was incredibly inspired by one of my professors at Benedictine who challenged us in our desire for holiness. If you’ve caught on, when I find something good I jump head first into it, and so in one of the many office hours that I spent asking questions about theology, the world, and my place in it, he suggested I look into being a professor of Theology. It provides a flexible schedule and, since I am so invested in continuously learning, it’s a great career to be in. I thought and prayed about this, and realized I am thriving in school for once in my life, why not follow this gift and natural talent I had for Theology and Philosophy!

I got to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, in awe of the knowledge and humility of the professors. However, three months in I was miserable. Similar to the reason why I was miserable at the end of my ballet career; God placed a desire for motherhood in my heart and the Institute brought that to the forefront of my mind. I enjoyed my classes, and was once again formed as a person and not just taught or lectured at!

During the first semester finals, I was also working at the John Paul II Shrine in DC; one day, my boyfriend came to pick me up from work to go attend an end of semester party. Much to my surprise, he said he wanted to pray with me, and immediately my brain went to every negative possible thought. In the chapel (which housed the first class relic of St. John Paul II), he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him! 

We ended up getting married right before the last semester of my masters, in the middle of COVID lockdowns. We could have postponed, but at the time, there was no telling how long these conditions would last. We decided we’d rather get married surrounded by family and then throw a party later to commemorate! 

Got to love God’s timing though because a year and a half after being married we had the reception, and I was pregnant with our little girl! Logan and I took the opportunity to take some silly photos in our wedding attire showing off the bump— a sense of humor is so important in this life!

After I graduated from the Institute, we moved to Kansas where we both got jobs in the Church. Both of us were miserable, but put on a good face because this was the career we desired to be in. My husband ended up being let go due to financial burden at his small parish, and I left my job due to burnout. We finally both landed in jobs we thought would stick. My husband by the grace of God was once again let go due to financial concerns and landed an HVAC apprenticeship. After he started this, I was dealing with postpartum depression along with working in a full time marriage ministry that was absolutely fabulous. I am partially at fault for the burnout in this job, because I loved it and love the parishioners at this parish very dearly! But all the same, I am thrilled and grateful that God made a path for me to step away from full time work.

I am so incredibly thankful that God loves with such grandeur to continue to pour out the grace daily and say yes as I have along my journey, because none of this was easy, or tidy as this post may make it sound. I could have very easily turned away at any point in my journey. 

Jesus I Trust in You! 

JMJ, pray for us!

About the Author:

 Rebecca Browns is 31 years old, wife of 3 years to my incredible husband, Logan and mother to one beautiful daughter! I am currently a part time nanny for a lovely family, co-run the Podcast, At Mary’s Tapestry, and do some VA gigs when I have time around my outgoing and

 energetic toddler!

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