I grew up in southern California and moved to St. Louis in 2008. I am a writer living in the Tower Grove neighborhood with my husband and young daughters. I joined St. Pius V parish in 2013, just after my youngest was born. Though raised in a non-religious home, my parents, especially my mother, believed in a realm of ancestor spirits who entered our lives in very real ways, and to whom we were indelibly connected and beholden. After 3 years of seeking, learning, and becoming part of a community, I was baptized in 2016.
In the five years between joining my parish and beginning Bridges, I couldn’t articulate exactly why faith life had become so important to me. All I knew was that my family and I were fed in important ways by our community and the liturgy, and that I felt pulled by something. When I came to Bridges, I was still filled with questions about my faith and my church. I wanted a space where I could begin to figure it out. There was something more I was looking for, though I didn’t know exactly what it was or how I would know when I found it. It was also less than a year after I had been laid off from a teaching job I had loved, and I was seeking some grounding and relief from anxiety, doubt, and fear. My 14-year teaching career, which formed a big part of my identity, had been upended and I was trying to put it back together.
During the course of receiving the Bridges Exercises in Everyday Life, what surprised you?
As I learned more about listening to my desires, I discovered that my career transition was far more settled than I had believed. When I stopped to listen, in real stillness, I felt deep gratitude for my new work and a real sense of fulfillment. After being laid off, I returned to freelance writing, which I had done on the side since college, and though my learning curve for building a business and stepping into digital marketing was steep, I was enjoying the work. But I had been so consumed with worry about our finances, and with the hurt and anger of a deeply acrimonious layoff, that I was missing the fact that my new work was actually going well. I only realized all this after my prayer companion reflected back to me how I spoke about my writing projects with passion and excitement. She also helped me see when I spoke with guilt or obligation, assuredness or peace. It was a relief and a surprise to learn that I could be led, with plenty of help and by my own desires, toward being my truest self. I came to Bridges to learn everything I could about God, not expecting to learn a great deal about myself.
Why would you recommend the Bridges Retreat?
It was very hard some days to keep my prayer commitment, to be vulnerable in faith sharing with others, and to let go of the busy-ness, frenzy, and scarcity of daily life to find time and space to enter the Scriptures. But I would tell others that a year of showing up is what I would recommend most about Bridges. The year was a lesson in steadfastness, reconfiguring my expectations and rewarding me in unexpected ways. I had thought that encountering God would feel extraordinary—lightning bolts and angels singing. It was, in reality, far more wonderful to be shown how we don’t have to wait around for God to become present to us in sensational ways, but only turn toward the ordinary, each other, and ourselves to find holiness.