My name is Caitlin Anne McHale (Now Floreal). I was born on February 25, 1985 in Winchester, Virginia, USA. Here in the Dominican Republic, everyone calls me Catalina, which is the Spanish named I have used since high school Spanish class. It is the name I wrote on my name tag when I came on my first volunteer trip here and we were told to pick a Spanish name. When people pronounce Caitlin in Spanish it comes out Kite Lean. Catalina is much easier.
I grew up on my family's pleasure farm outside of Winchester, Virginia in Frederick County. I went to First Presbyterian Pre-School, then was a Senseny Road Superstar, then a James Wood Middle School Bulldog, and then a James Wood High School Colonel. After graduating from James Wood in 2003, I attended Virginia Tech and became a Hokie. I graduated from Virginia Tech in December 2006 with a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Leadership & Social Change. In December 2016 I got my Juris Doctor from Concord Law School but have yet to sit for the bar.
Growing up, I had dreams of writing books, birthing and raising many kids, becoming a veterinarian, and playing in the WNBA. I also really enjoyed art and hanging out with friends and family. I was very into sports - summer swim team, gymnastics, then all through middle school and high school I played basketball, volleyball, and track & field. Sports, along with school, was such a huge part of my life!
|My granddad, Dr. Mark McHale AKA Doc.|
I grew up with strong Christian faith and absolute belief in the power of prayer. I grew up this way first because my parents raised us this way, and second because I saw the proof that the prayer worked. I prayed for my own physical ailments and saw results and prayed for sick animals and saw results. I didn't always see results, but did see many that were definitely attributed to the prayer. I then began praying about anything and everything and seeing God answer prayers all over the place, so I continued to tell him that I would never doubt him and never forget.
One of my favorite activities growing up was feeding our sheep with my father, as well as observing the birth of lambs. I remember being comfortable in our home when feeding time would come in the evenings, but would always make the decision to put on my boots and jacket and leave the warm and comfortable place to take part in the magic of the herd of sheep. God spoke to me through it and amazed me. After all, how many verses compare us humans with sheep and Jesus as the Shepherd? I remember a time when I sat in a stall holding lambs whose mother was not able to care for them properly. It was cold and they cuddled in my lap. I then remembered one of my favorite songs from our church:
I will not forget you.
I gather my lambs in my arms.
So I will comfort you, and carry you close to my heart.
I realized at that moment that what I was doing with those lambs is what God does with me, and will always do with me, and any of us that seek him. Another time I realized something else about God while interacting with sheep is when my father did something he always did. He shoveled out a little pile of corn. All of the sheep flocked to it. He then moved down the fence line and shoveled out another pile of corn. All of the sheep left the first pile and found the second. He shoveled out another and they did the same. They did not understand that they could divide themselves among the three piles. After a bit, they figure it out and spread out, but they do this every time. To us humans, they look quite stupid, but we have a vision that they don't. And so it is with God. This reminds me, therefore, to always seek wisdom from him. If not, I will appear as one of these sheep, doing something that doesn't make sense.
|The McHale family's pleasure farm.|
I remember struggling with feelings about baby lambs that were abandoned by their mothers or their mothers did not produce milk to feed them. While I felt bad for the situation as I knew it was best for a lamb to be raised by its mother, I was always excited for us to be able to take one in and bottle raise it. I learned that the way to deal with this as a shepherd with sheep or people is to do all that you can to keep a family together and support them, but when it doesn't work out, joyfully accept it into your family. Know that the new addition is something God is entrusting you with. Of course, the mother can be part of your family too in a way, but not as far as primary caregivers are concerned. The maternal instinct is God given, but can be quite strong, and like an X-man, we have to learn how and when to use it. This is something, I believe, I will continue to learn.
I now mother my own children, the children of others who have come into my care for different reasons, as well as the organization I co-founded, and every program within it. I wake up every morning fully thankful and never the least regretful for these beautiful babies and the privilege to care for them.
|Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” |
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)