Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Faith is a Free-Fall

Six years ago God called me back to church when I knocked on the door of the rectory of St. Francis De Sales Parish. That was a confusing and dark time in my life. I was transitioning between parishes after moving, and questioning my faith, despite my previous heavy involvement in another parish.

I remember pushing big brother in his stroller; he was about five months old at the time. I felt troubled, to say the least. Naively, I had always believed that if I trusted my instincts, then God would protect and reward me. I left my job and suddenly, my husband and I free-falled into debt. I made more money than he did at that point, and we were young without a clue as to how to manage our finances. I wanted to be home with my baby (and have more children). Staying home was what my heart was telling me to do. I completely trusted that God would help me out, but when things started to get really tight, and we were stressed as a couple, I started to wonder if my instincts were all wrong.

Staying home forced me to slow down and take a deeper look at the direction I was heading in my marriage and my relationship with God. I realized that I was hurting in both areas, and I needed to make changes. My husband and I needed to pay attention to some obstacles in our life as a couple, or we weren't going to make it to a golden anniversary.

I was actually stunned to discover that all was not perfect for Loren, and it was hard to look at things under such a close lens. My heart told me that my marriage was right, my choice to stay home with the baby was what I needed to do, so why were things so stressful, and so wrong? I was angry at God, but mostly at myself for facing failure.

What forced me to walk every day was that we had to sell my truck to pay the mortgage. Every morning I'd meet the regulars on foot in town: the young woman from El Salvador who lugged two mesh bags of laundry plus a two year old to the laundromat, and the old disabled man who walked a mile from his apartment where he lived alone to volunteer as the altar server at weekday mass. I'd also pass the church on my way to the bay. I still went to mass, but felt cold and indifferent about it. Walking forced me to notice the people and things around me. I would have missed these experiences if I were driving by them.

One morning I decided to knock on the rectory door. My prayer was in the form of thoughts, and it wasn't very reverent.

"Okay God, If you really give a crap about me, put me to work. You help me, I'll help you. Let's see if you're still listening."

The pastor let me wheel my stroller into his living room. I was wearing sweats and probably sweating. We talked about the possibility of starting a youth ministry program at the parish as big brother stared, strapped into his seat. The meeting was welcoming and casual. For me at that moment, this priest truly represented the qualities of St. Francis De Sales. Over time, in addition to being my boss, he ended up being one of my favorite people, really present on a personal level for me and my husband, and teaching my children about the Catholic faith through his presence and example.

God heard my challenge and gave me a job that even nurtured my decision to be a stay-at-home mom, despite my nasty tone in prayer. I made a small salary part-time building the program, not enough to pull us out of financial ruin, so I thought. We created a budget and stuck to it. The tiny salary turned out to be much needed extra money that helped pay off debt. My husband went back to school to increase his earning power. Eventually my salary became grocery money when I had two more children and needed diapers and formula. Today that same amount is bonus savings. God pulled us out of a mess and reassured me that He is still there for me.

Running a youth ministry program brought me closer to Jesus and I never prayed so much as I do now. When I was confirmed at 15 years old, I picked the name Frances, after my Nana on my father's side, and not with any real direction toward one particular saint. Looking back I can recognize how God was creating a connection I would later see, and giving me the grace of the Holy Spirit that would lead me back to him at 28. What this experience has done for me is reaffirm my trust in God. In the future as I face more challenges, this memory will bolster my confidence in following my heart.

Picture is Extreme Sports Art from Yahoo Images


Wendy said...

I loved your come-to-Jesus moment! Reminded me of Anne Lamott.

I lead a small group of teenage girls who find a way to crack me up every time I'm with them!

I found your writing to be deeply honest and refreshing. Glad to have found & now be following your blog!
~ Wendy

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

What a fascinating and revealing story. I was just in the middle of writing my own story of how I'm returning to teach as a catechist next year. Sometimes walking the walk helps bring us closer to our faith just like putting on a social smile helps us to feel better. I have a story about returning to my faith too but am so not ready to reveal it to the world. You are very brave.

Putz said...

saint frances, that is what i should be calling you, i wish i was married to my church...i feel that is a must before i finally die

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Putz, In the end Christ will come to wed his Church and his bride will be one, pure, without blemish - it is in the book of Revelations.

Loren Christie said...

Wow, Thanks Wendy! Welcome. I'd love to hear more about your ministry too.

Loren Christie said...

Thanks for the really nice comments Mr. Putz and Elizabeth.

Angela said...

Your writing is so honest and refreshing. Jesus really knows how to meet us where we are at to bring us back to Him. Having financial pressures, a new baby and a sort of lack of purpose as a SAHM sounds so familiar to where I was 2 1/2 years ago. It is great to see how God has used that. God Bless you!

jen said...

What a wonderful testimony. This was so encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing it.

Loren Christie said...

Thank you Jen, and Angela. Your feedback on my writing means so much to me. It makes me feel very happy that I can hit a chord with you. As far as being honest, well, I am so happy and willing to share with the world the ways God has blessed me in my life. Be brave and witness your faith.

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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