Ana Shawl:

This is a long one but I wanted to share with my prayer group family a little bit of my story. This has been on my mind for a couple of days already. Itís not so much a conversion story but just one of those really special times in your life that you want to share with people. So here goes. I'll send out the conversion story later on. Also, for more information on Medjugorje, our Medjugorje site is: http://www.medjugorje.org

I was brought up Catholic and went to church with my parents and 3 brothers and my sister when I was a child. We also went to confession frequently, probably about once every two months. I would sit and read these prayers and sometimes my sister and I would pretend to have masses in the house and try to recite the prayers that we heard in church. I continued to go to church throughout my teens but mostly to see my friends and didnít really pay too much attention to the mass although I didnít want to miss a Sunday. My Uncle who was a priest and would always bring me bibles or pictures and prayer books and I loved this.

Later in my teens, I really didnít pray all that much and found it difficult to go to mass. There were still my friends there that I wanted to see but just didnít think much about it or talking to God.

I got married when I turned 20 and had two Children, Katie Rose and Stephen. The marriage was terrible and emotionally abusive from the very beginning but I stayed for the kids mostly. My parents finally persuaded me to just leave and I would be able to stay with them. I ended up moving out with the kids and later got divorced.

We were on our own and I still didnít think going to church would make that much of a difference. Even after the first time I went to Medjugorje which was in 1983, when there was still dirt around the church. I loved it there but really didnít stay very long and didnít know that much about it. I am Croatian and mainly went to Croatia and Bosnia Hercegovina to see my family. I felt very warm there and knew that something was going on. There were no steps or confessionals, just dirt and police barricades. My family there told me some of what was going on but they mostly wanted to show me around. It wasnít until I got home that I really understood what just happened to me when I went to Medjugorje. This was the beginning of it all.

The second time I went to Medjugorje, I knew what was going on from all the reading that I did, talking to my family there and thought it would be so nice to share this with someone who I loved but how in the world would you ever find a man that would want to pray the rosary with you, that would want to go to daily mass and monthly confession and just basically live the messages with me that Our Blessed Mother had asked us to do.

I remember reading a book that said, if more people prayed about their spouse when they were looking for one, then there wouldnít be as many divorces. If you left this process up to God. So I decided I was going to do this because I knew that I was not very good at picking out men so I would just leave this up to God. I knew also now that I couldnít just get married, but that I would need to have the marriage annulled.

I had been praying for about two years for finding a husband, if there was one on this earth. I didn't know if after getting divorced and all that God really wanted me to find someone or if I should just remain unmarried again for the rest of my life. So, I was praying and asked the Blessed Mother that, if there ever was a man, that God wanted me to meet and marry, then I would have to know that it would be from God so I told the Blessed Mother that I would like, if I could, two signs from her that he was sent by God. I didn't want to make the mistake of picking someone out for my self.

My two signs were a rosary, because then I would know that whoever it was would love the Blessed Mother and that was important, and the second sign was a Crucifix, and then I would know first that he loved God and second I wanted to get married saying my vows holding that crucifix in Medjugorje. I also thought, what guy would ever give a girl those things, nobody that I have ever met so I thought it would be a good thing to ask for.

My wonderful friend Linda, whoís also on this list, kept telling me to get a computer so we could talk since she lived in Costa Rica. I got a computer that my brother had given me and at first I was only playing games on it, and writing letters. Soon in the mail I got a disc for the internet and thought, how neat, I think I'll try that. So, I started to get on the internet, write some e-mail to friends and joined a couple of catholic groups that talked about the church. I always loved Medjugorje and I asked my friend Linda if there was any kind of web site that had to do with Medjugorje on the internet, she told me to check around, I thought, well, if there isn't a website then I would love to make one but had really no idea how to do it but I thought it really needed to be done.

Anyway, I had asked in one of the Catholic mail lists, if there was anyone who could tell me if there was a web site for Medjugorje. A man from Croatia wrote to me and told me about one, I thought well, maybe he knows his stuff so I'll try it out. I got onto the website that was called Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. I was so impressed with this website, and this person had so much information on there, I was really impressed, but I was also wondering, where he got his information from because I have seen a lot of things about Medjugorje that weren't true in other books or just misinformation so I wanted to make sure that this guy got all his information from true sources.

So, at the bottom of the website was his name, Steve Shawl, so I thought I would just write him a little letter and ask him where he gets his information and also tell him how I just loved the web site and I was so glad that he was working so hard with it. He wrote me back I think the next day and he wrote back a long letter telling me just about every source that he got his information from.

I explained to him that I just finished picking up Mirjana the Visionary and her husband Marko at the airport and taking them to the Hotel where they would be staying for the weekend. She was going to be speaking. I did a little article on what I learned from her and her husband and told Steve that I would send it to him so he could read it. He wanted to know if he could put it on his web site so I said sure. We e-mailed each other a couple more times and I think it was the 3rd time we talked to each other on the internet that I knew that this was a special man, it was completely different talking to him then it was talking to anyone else on the internet or in person.

I just knew that something good was to come of our meeting and was explodingly happy (if thatís a real word). I ran downstairs and got down on my knees and asked the Blessed Mother if this was THE man, I just had that feeling. A couple of weeks after this, I was offered a partnership in a company that was just starting out. I would need to move and the kids would need to start school in another part of the city. Anyone would have been real excited about this, but I felt sick. I knew I would need to be almost married to this company and work long hours. The children would have to go to a daycare center and I didnít want that at all. Most of my family and friends were pushing me to take this position. I had to write to Steve and tell him all this. I felt that there was something so special about him and that if I took this partnership, there would be no hope of anything becoming of us.

Steve wrote me back, and in his letter he told me that he thought that there was something special about our relationship and he didnít want to scare me but he thought that we would have a future together. He then told me something that Iíll never forget. He told me that he had been praying Novenaís and Chaplets of Divine Mercy to find a woman who he could spend the rest of his life with. He also told me that he had asked the Blessed Mother for two signs to know that when he found this woman, that he would know for sure she was from God. He told me that I had fulfilled his two signs and that he knew that I was the one he was to marry!!! Steve also told me that every time he prayed for someone special, he always felt that there were three special people who would come into his life.

I had to tell the children what was going on at this point. I asked the Blessed Mother for help so that this didnít sound so strange and that this would be another affirmation if everything went well. I didnít know what to expect. I explained to them about a man that I had met and told them all about him. My daughter told me, ďMom, I think you should marry him.Ē Which totally took me threw me for a loop. Then Stephen told me that he sounds like he would be a good dad. This was so unlike them. I didnít tell them anything about the signs at this point.

I was blown away. I was so happy. I just knew it. I told him that I had been praying for the very same thing. I said that I had two signs I was waiting for still though. Later on that night, I was praying and asked with all my heart if Steve was the man that I was supposed to marry and would she let me know. Then, like a bolt I shot out of bed and remember that just the day before, he had sent me the rosary. He sent not just one for me but also for the children. I talked to him the next day and told him that I received my first sign but I still had one to go and then I would know for sure. Later on, Steve told me that he went to mass and prayed a Rosary and asked to know what my second sign was. He wrote me back later that day and told me that he knew without a doubt what my second sign was after prayer. He told me that he needed to send me my crucifix. When I told him that was my second sign, we both had tears in our eyes because we knew that God had wanted us to be together and that there would be something special He needed us to do together with the children.

Some weeks later, Steve went to Medjugorje with his father. This was going to be his first time there and he was really excited. I wasnít able to speak with him while he was there but he was always close to me. During prayer one night, I had a sort of dream that Steve and I were together in Medjugorje with the children and we were in front of our Blessed Mother, we were hugging and all of a sudden, there was a great white light that came and fused us all together as a family. It was such a great feeling. When Steve returned from Medjugorje, he told me that he had a dream, it was of us being together hugging, me, him and the children, and a white light had come and fused us together as a family. Exactly how I had seen it.

So many of these little affirmations happen to all of us and to the kids. Anytime, one of the children had a question as to how all of this would come about. I would talk to Steve and he would answer them, before I even had the chance of asking him. It truly feels as if God made us for each other and to be a family living the messages that our Blessed Mother has given us.

Steve finally formally proposed to me on the top of Mt. Krizevac, on the 15th anniversary of the apparitions in Medjugorje, June 25th. It was awesome. We were able to get married holding the cross which is the tradition in Medjugorje and neighboring parts.

So, now here we are several years later and everything is wonderful. The annulment came through without any problems. The kids and I left California and met Steve. We got married here in May 31of 96 but went to Medjugorje and renewed our vows and had a wedding reception over there with all my family. We work together with the Medjugorje Web site and have twice a year our Medjugorje Web tour. We have a wonderful family with Katie, Stephen and now little Tihana Maria. Now too, I help with this list and feel good that I can do more for Our Lady.

Whew, so there you have it. There are so many other little things that happened as my friend Linda knows since she was there when all this was going on but this is basically it. Thank you so much for letting me share this with you all.

God Bless you
Ana

Picture on top is me and Steve.

Picture is of Katie, Steve and Stephen on the way up Mt. Krizevac.

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