I love stories that illustrate, without a doubt, God’s guiding hand, His providence, giving evidence of something more than just coincidence. This is one such story.
At the beginning of this year, I used Jennifer Fulwiler’s website to randomly select my patron saint for 2017. St. Frances of Rome was the winner. I was pretty excited about the selection because from a quick glance at her bio, it appeared that she was the patron saint of discernment. And wouldn’t you know it – my husband and I were in the midst of making a big decision for our family.
You see, we were trying to determine whether or not we should move back to our hometown. For a long time I had felt a pull to relocate our family closer to our roots. Currently, we only live an hour away. I know, I know. It’s a relatively short distance! I could be an airplane ride away. But I was longing for the type of proximity that would allow my children to truly grow up with their cousins, go on impromptu adventures with aunts and uncles, and spend summer afternoons swimming with grandparents.
I also really wanted help. If you’ve been reading my blog or know me in real life, you know that our son Theo is not a neurotypical child. Although at this moment I finally feel like our family’s arriving at a somewhat well adjusted place, for a while we were drowning. Well, I should specifically say that I was drowning and I wanted to be nearest to the people who loved us the most, our family.
So what was holding us back from picking up and moving? Aside from job issues, our biggest concern was Theo’s education. He’s currently in a self-contained classroom in a special education preschool. He receives an abundant amount of speech therapy services as well as some occupational and other social services. After doing my research it seemed likely that Theo would not receive the same amount of services if we moved to a school district in or near our hometown.
Despite the possible decrease in educational services, I still felt we were being called to move. However, at that time I wasn’t completely at peace with either option, staying or leaving. So, my husband and I prayed and prayed looking for clarity. I also frequently prayed a St. Frances prayer for discernment.
I decided to tour a couple of schools that Theo would possibly attend if we moved. I thought that after viewing the schools I would feel a definitive answer in my heart. Instead, I felt more confusion.
My mom was watching my three children while I toured the schools. After I was done I figured I’d take advantage of having a little alone time and headed to a boutique makeup store to treat myself to a new lipstick, something I probably hadn’t done in about eight years. On my walk from the parking lot to the storefront, my fingers moved from bead to bead, praying a bit of a rosary.
Upon entering the store, I was greeted by a couple of familiar faces, asking me what I was doing in town. Another woman, who I did not recognize, began to help me search for the perfect neutral pink tone for my lips as I explained my reasons for being in town. Some tears came to my eyes as I explained my concerns for my son who was mostly nonverbal at 4 years old. As soon as I started to get to the part about relocating our family, the woman helping me just blurted out,
“I don’t think you should move here.”
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear…but I listened.
She went on to explain that she had a close friend who had grown up in the area and now has a son with autism. The previous spring this friend and her husband had decided to move their family away from their friends and family so that her son could receive more therapy and other educational services at a different school.
“Wait,” she stopped in her tracks. “Where did you say you live now?”
“Crystal Lake,” I responded.
“Oh! That’s where they moved!”
No way. Then I asked her if she happened to know where the child was going to school. She texted the mother, her friend, and the response gave me chills.
Her son went to my son’s school.
I had been praying for God to just be blunt, to tell me what we should do. And through this stranger at the make up store, He spoke to me in no uncertain terms. We needed to stay put. I felt this sense of peace wash over me in that moment, knowing we were where we needed to be for our son.
Even though I had this peace that comes with being in alignment with God’s will, I still felt a mix of emotions. I was elated thinking that I had received this most amazing God moment. But I was also deeply saddened that living a 5 minute drive from most our extended family was not in God’s plan at this time.
As I left the store and looked down at my rosary bracelet I remembered that just the day before I had completed a 28-day rosary challenge. You may or may not recall that one of the fifteen rosary promises is “whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.” That had certainly just happened.
Later that evening, I was scanning Twitter and I noticed a link to an article that I had retweeted earlier in that same day so that I would be reminded to read it later. The article initially caught my eye for two reasons, first it was about St. Frances of Rome, my saint for the year. And second, the title was St. Frances’ Secret to Finding God Through Your Family.
After the day was done, I read the article. Although I had learned a little about St. Frances when I initially picked her for my 2017 saint, I didn’t know her full story. She had thought she felt a calling in a certain direction and then came to find out that it really wasn’t where God wanted her at the time. It turned out that the calling she felt was real and in agreement with God’s will, but the timing was not. And once I read this, my day made so much more sense.
I called one of my close and faithful friends to tell her about the signal grace at the make up store and the article about St. Frances. She knew how long my husband and I had been discerning this decision. At some point she interjected,
“Courtney, isn’t it the feast of St. Frances of Rome today?”
I had chills for the second time that day as my quick google search revealed that, yes, that day (March 9) was indeed the feast of St. Frances of Rome, patron saint of discernment, and my saint for the year.
Sometimes I really need God to slam me over the head with his will. That day I don’t think it could have been any any clearer.
Friends, if you are discerning something, I strongly encourage you to try to make the rosary a daily habit and then check out St. Frances of Rome. She’s pretty amazing.
St. Frances of Rome, pray for us!