September 7th, 2007Mystery, Mercy & Magicby Jef Murray

The phone rang. Thinking it was a friend returning my call, I picked up rather than letting the answering machine take a message. The voice on the other end explained that I didn’t know him, but that he and his wife were the owners of a house Lorraine and I had built in the 1990s. He wanted to know more about the house, and about the folks who had designed it.

Lorraine and I built the MarshNest in 1990, planning to someday live
in this cottage overlooking the salt marshes of the Gulf coast of
Florida. Because of hurricanes, the place was perched 17 feet above
ground level, and the view was at or above the tops of the surrounding trees.

Lorraine and I had been miserable at the time. We were in high stress jobs that gave neither fulfillment nor a real sense of financial
security. We were not church-goers, and had no community or friends other than the people we knew at work. The money was good, but that was all. And, in order to compensate for our suffering, we had decided to create a small paradise for ourselves away from the big city.

We were in love with the marshes, the tides, and the wildlife. We
escaped to the MarshNest as often as we could…frequently once a month or more. Our encounters with wildlife instilled in us a deep sense of home, of love, of wonder. We felt God so clearly in the marshes that we slowly began to seek Him out closer to home.

Over the ensuing years, I became more and more interested in the
Catholic faith. Its mysticism coupled with its grounding in reason was
a paradoxical package I could not resist exploring. And Lorraine,
likewise, was awakened to the possibility of returning to her
childhood faith. We began attending Mass, and in 1994 I was received
into the Church.

The subsequent years changed almost everything about us. I began
helping others explore ways out of dead-end wage slavery at the same time I plotted a way for us to leave our own high stress jobs. The MarshNest was still a solace, but as we found ourselves more and more engaged with our community at home, we no longer felt that the marshes were the only places where we could experience God’s love. We experienced Him in our church choir, in talks I gave to others on getting out of debt and exploring their dreams, in work we did with the Missionary Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order).

In 1997, we sold the cottage, freeing ourselves up, simultaneously, to
explore the possibility of leaving our careers and pursuing goals that
we’d not had since childhood: goals of contributing something of
beauty back to the world, of bolstering others’ faith and hope, of
sharing some of our own sense of wonder not just at creation, but also
at the care with which God will lead you if you’ll let Him.

“We just love the place,” said the voice at the other end of the line.
“We feel God so strongly here that we thought we’d like to know
something about the folks who built it.”

I couldn’t explain to the caller the whole of our journey, but it
struck me suddenly that, perhaps, this was the beginning of his. Our
giving up of something that we had loved so much so many years ago was allowing someone else to take a few teetering steps down his own
spiritual path. And with this thought, I was overcome once again with
awe and wonder at the mystery, the mercy, and the magic of God’s
world.

Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),

Jef Murray

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  • July 2 2009 | by Rachel Schmidt

    ohhh, what a beautiful story.