“I always knew my family was different from most other families – in the number of kids but also in the way faith was part of our everyday living,” Mary said.
“I have many memories of early-morning prayer with community neighbours, shared meal events and very much a ‘community lifestyle’.”
That lifestyle was among Brisbane’s Emmanuel Community, and it is a bond that has remained.
Husband James also moved in Emmanuel circles, and they both served on NET (National Evangelistion Teams) in the early ’90s.
“NET was a life-changing experience that further cemented my spirituality and drew me even deeper in my faith,” Mary said of that time although it was “quite a challenge” to not be by James’ side while away.
“Our relationship definitely had its share of ups and downs,” Mary said.
“In it all however, we kept eventually being drawn back together …
“James was definitely ‘the one’ for me.”
The Garrahys have been married for 14 years and are parents to Grace, 12, Eli, 8, and Jenna, 7.
In her marriage and from her close-knit family, Mary’s dreams have been supported.
“James has always encouraged me in the pursuit of my dreams, in my creativity, in my faith,” she said.
“He didn’t hesitate in supporting me to leave the family in 2006 and go on the overseas trip that included Assisi.
“He was the one that wanted to buy me my first DSLR camera … (and) when I share ideas about some art project or other, James is right there actively encouraging me to go on and create it.
“His support means the world to me.”
God is “intrinsic” in their lives, the couple agreed, Mary saying she doesn’t “find herself doubting God”.
As such a “tree change” evolved in recent years where they trusted in God’s promptings.
The family sold their Brisbane home in 2009 and moved away from “comfort zones” to pursue a God-centred “dream”.
“Sure we talked about retiring to the coast ‘one day’ – usually with the sigh of ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ …
“It had taken us 10 years to even get the deposit to buy our first home in suburbia … (but) then it happened, a whirlwind hit us and our path well and truly changed direction.
“It began via the growing awareness that we were headed for a crisis of sorts – an evolving conviction over a couple of months that we needed to ‘fight for our family’ and that how we were living wasn’t cutting it.”
Mary said they were “busy doing good things” that meant their family “consistently took second place”.
In June 2009 Mary and James “agreed to be open to other paths, no matter where they led”.
They felt led by God to buy a block of land, near a nature reserve on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, and build their dream home.
While the “tree change” wasn’t without its challenges, God was at every step.
So much so, within weeks James secured a teaching job at St Teresa’s Catholic College, Noosaville, and they “couldn’t back out now”.
“The ‘door’ was not only staying open for us to walk through – we were speeding through it,” Mary said.
“Step by step we kept walking forward.”
Today the family is settled in their tree change, while maintaining strong ties with family and friends in Brisbane.
Brother-in-law Michael O’Donoghue was also “instrumental” in helping Mary create The Assisi Project.
“Without Michael’s gentle nudging and persistence with the idea – over many months and many years – this card range would not have happened,” Mary said.
“He eventually went out and purchased a computer to lend to me so that I could complete them.
“He also made contact with the Franciscan Friars so (through the cards) we could actively support the continuing work of St Francis to the poor and marginalised.”
Mary and Michael are actively supporting the work of the Franciscan Friars through their creative endeavours.
All the while Mary’s Assisi experience lives on, not only in her work, but also in her heart.
“Bit by bit, the experience of being in Assisi melted my heart,” she said.
“It reached through to me and brought something to life again within me – the nature, the stories about St Francis and St Clare … it all spoke to my heart.
“I experienced a God who was loving me with all the beauty.
“How could my spirit not respond to it?”
The Assisi Project is supported by Christian Supplies, Brisbane, and more about Mary’s work can be seen via www.mlgcreative.com
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