Whom God Loves, He Ironically Chastises

Despite my best intentions, I’ve been more absent from posting than I’d hoped. I did spend about a week in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina, photographing my little sister’s wedding. And of course, things are always busy around the house with the kids.

But more than anything, I’ve been looking for work.

Yes, that’s right: yours truly, the adventurous stay-at-home dad who so proudly splashed his new credentials across these very pages just a couple weeks ago, found out the very day that article was published that my wife had been let go – without cause – from her new and promising position, after only a few weeks of employment. And to top it off, the day the article was written and submitted (but before it was published) we discovered that we are expecting our fifth child. (See? Irony.)

It’s been a hard month, and we’ve had to rely on friends and family to get through. Like many families, we live paycheck to paycheck, and when one is withheld, life descends into chaos very quickly. What amazes me is the way people chip in to help out. To be honest, I’m more than blessed to have the kind of people in my life that I do – people who will fire up a prayer chain that quickly spreads across the country, people who will write a check and drop it in the mail to help cover my rent without my even asking them to, people who just love us and care about us in ways that humble me more than I can express.

In the wake of an already tumultuous summer in which I missed the baptism of my first godchild and the ordination of a good friend, I was actually set to miss my sister’s wedding too. There just wasn’t any way. And then, at the last minute, she found a way to get me a cheap ticket, and before I knew it, my baby sister – the one I often watched over and cared for when I was a teenager and she was as young as my little ones are now – was paying for me, the oldest of six kids, her big brother, to come to her wedding of all things. 

And to be honest, even though I wanted to be there, it was hard for me to go. I knew I’d be gone from early Thursday morning until late Tuesday night, taking me out of commission and away from my frantic job search. I’d have to focus on the wedding, and the photos I’d be taking (my sister is a photographer too, and we have a similar style, making me a logical second shooter for the event) and not on the things going on at home. The stress was crushing as I boarded my flight at 5:05 AM that Thursday, and by the time I’d arrived that evening I was getting a service cutoff notice for one of my utilities. 

So I did the only thing I could do. I begged God to take it. To help me carry this cross that I was shouldering. I asked Him if I could please put the situation in His hands so I could just be with my family, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. I am not an abandoner by nature. I want to be, but I never seem to be able to let go. I struggle with trust, always fearing that if I do, I will be disappointed. But in this instance, there was no other choice. I had to follow the old adage: “Let go, and let God.”

And so I did. I watched my beautiful baby sister get married. I took a couple thousand photos. I spent time with my parents and my siblings. I stayed up late, I drank, I smoked, I talked with the men and women who used to be the kids I picked on and bullied, and I reveled in who they have become. Their love for me – our love for each other – helped make me stronger. And while I was there, I was receiving e-mails with job leads, texts with offers of financial assistance, assurances of prayers from people I hadn’t seen in ages who were aware of our plight. The cross I came with didn’t go away, but it did get lighter. 

On the flight home, I read a remarkable little book called Interior Freedom by a French priest named Fr. Jacques Philippe. I don’t know anything about the author, but the book was lent to me by a friend, years ago – a friend whom I know only through the Internet, and who also helped me out once, when I was struggling with another challenge. I’d never read it in all that time, but something possessed me to pick it up and take it with me on the plane when I left for my trip. It’s not a long book, and I read it cover to cover. It’s message was simple, but it rang true: We cannot be happy without love, and to love truly, we must be free. The freedom that engenders love comes from one source only – total abandonment to the Divine Will. We must not only resign ourselves to the circumstances of our lives, but consent to them. By choosing our sufferings rather than just enduring them, we choose God’s will for our lives, and He will be faithful to us. 

I still don’t know what will happen. I had a job interview on the Feast of the Assumption, which I take as providential, and it seemed to go very well. I haven’t heard back yet, but it’s only been a couple of days. It’s possible that things won’t come together. It’s possible that we won’t make rent, and will have to sell off our things and move back to Virginia with whatever we can bring in our van, to stay with my family until we can get back on our feet again. It would be hard, but it would also be a happy occasion. We’d be close to loved ones again.

I can’t say I’ve been a pillar of strength through this all. There are times I’ve been angry, times I’ve broken down, times that the stress has nearly made me sick. But as I learn to give it to Him, to really trust that He is with us, and will look out for us as long as (and sometimes even when we’re not) faithful to Him, like any loving Father would, I know things will be alright.

By

Steve Skojec serves as the Director of Community Relations for a professional association. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned a BA in Communications and Theology. His passions include writing, photography, social media, and an avid appreciation of science fiction. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their five children.

  • Eoin Suibhne

    That book is fantastic. You might consider reading another of his books entitled Searching for and Maintaining Peace. You and the family are in our prayers.

  • Mike

    Sometimes we feel like God wants to hang us. It is because we are his masterpiece.

  • Denys

    I follow your writing here, Steve, and I am really sorry about the pit you find yourself in. I don’t have any good advice, unfortunately, but I will be praying for you and your family.

  • Beth

    Steve–I’ve always admired your writing, ideas, thoughts and most of all, the courage you have to speak the truth. The house you are building for you wife and children will never fall, never fail you. Your and yours are in my prayers.

  • Joe

    Steve … Sorry to hear. I’ve been through that myself … including that lack of trust in God in all things. However, one daily mass reading that occurred one day really helped me though it: Matt 6:25-36. He will provide for you in all matters, if you follow this agreement. God bless.

  • sibyl

    As a wife of a man who just went through a year of unemployment I want to tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Lord does take care of His own, and it seems from this article that you are learning this “severe mercy.”

    It is so hard to take the donations and help that loving family and friends offer. How much better to give than receive! Learning to receive humbly and gratefully is sometimes really bitter, at least for me it is. But God taught me a lot this past year and has now provided us with a job that allows us to meet our obligations. It was His will that we learn to trust Him more, to more fully abandon ourselves to His providence.

    I’ll pray for your family too. God bless.

  • Mary

    I am so sorry for these difficulties and hope that you can find some simple joy in the new baby that God has blessed you with. Your generosity is inspiring and your writing as beautiful as ever. Will pray for work. Soon.

  • Austin

    I wish that I could say something to make you feel better, but that would not be honest. Your situation right now is very difficult, but things will get better, even though, right now, that seems remote. Something will turn up, but it may take time. I have been unemployed and it is very hard. May God bless you and give you strength and hope.

  • Sharon

    My husband was fired and on unemployment for 3 months years ago. I was pregnant with one of our 8 at the time. We survived (barely) and he got a better job closer to our families. Now, he works 1 full-time job and 3 part-time jobs so that we can get out from under our debt (Dave Ramsey + 18 months) and I went back to work part-time after 17 years (still homeschooling the youngest 3). God is good to us ALL THE TIME and He never lets us go without what we need. Keep the faith and we will be praying for you ’round here!! God Bless!!

  • Mother of Two Sons

    Steve, I too have enjoyed your writing and would like to share an approach that I learned that has led and is leading me to be able to do my HEART’s Call full time without total dependence on a 9 – 5 JOB. This is a situation I believe that God is pushing us to have a breakthrough and not just by jumping in and giving money to each other, though sometimes that is a part. Rather working together to create Multiple Streams of Income into our homes to enable us to have strong marriages, families and Christian Communities. You must be a good photographer; and you might already have formed a referral alliance with others where you live… each of you make 10% referral income for any job that you receive through referring each other. You and your wife could make a list of all the income generating ideas/talents/activities. The Fall Festivals could actually become Family Festivals where booths of food and fun make a donation to the Church but keep the rest of the money. This would take the same money spent into the secular world and make the families in our Parish stronger economically and imagine the sense of community that could also grow, if well designed. I believe that the Parishes wouldn’t have to do 2nd and 3rd collections, if the Parish, on the other days of the week mastered this Multiple Stream of Income concept through collaborations. I don’t want to bore you with ideas you may have already attempted. This is a breakthrough we as Catholics must have; money is not a demon, it is improper postion to money. Having and being able to generate income from our basic gifts and talents is critical to the survival of any community, Catholic or otherwise! You are smart Steve and I am certain your wife is equally as smart; I pray to hear all about your Breakthrough in this aspect of your Life!

  • Signe

    I just finished looking at the pics of your sister’s wedding. Very excellent! I think you have a future here. I especially liked the ones of the “happy couple” around the tree, and, of course, the kids, and the levitation!

    I will add you to my prayer list.

  • S

    Hi Steve, It’s good to hear the hope coming out of your situation– one my family can relate to (down to our last earthly 76 cents). I delivered our fourth child two days after my first year of teaching ended, 3 months after my husband stopped working; friends have been amazing, and praise God my husband has an interview tomorrow. To keep my spirits up while I ignore calls from the credit card companies, or while I’m handwashing cloth diapers in the sink, I think about Dante and the lilies of the fields. He will provide.

  • Sarah Curtis

    Steve, I babysat you when you were a baby. I lived just a few doors down from you in NY. I am amazed at your strength, honesty, and integrity! God will bless you abundantly for your faithfulness. You are an amazing writer, by the way! Congratulations on the news of the fifth child. What a blessing! Hang in there. Prayers are being said for you. I am proud of you, my little brother in Christ!

  • freddy

    God bless you and your family. You will be in my prayers. Know that your courage and humility are an inspiration!

  • Marthe L

    “I can’t say I’ve been a pillar of strength through this all. There are times I’ve been angry, times I’ve broken down, times that the stress has nearly made me sick. But as I learn to give it to Him, to really trust that He is with us, and will look out for us as long as (and sometimes even when we’re not) faithful to Him, like any loving Father would, I know things will be alright.”
    Thank you for this encouraging article. Your last paragraph neatly summarizes MY life… I think I will be forever “learning” to really trust, however. But looking back on some very difficult situations in my life (sometimes years later), I almost always find that they had been the door opening on something much better, although at the time it certainly did not feel like it. I chose to write “feel” deliberately. I too have been (and still am sometimes) angry, broken down, sick… but those are just my feelings. There nothing wrong with having such feelings, it is what we choose to do with/after them that counts. A little like this idea that I have read somewhere, I cannot remember where: “Having courage does not mean not being afraid, it is being afraid and doing what one has to do anyway”.

  • Steve Skojec

    Thanks so much, everyone, for your comments. I didn’t know this thread was still going, and I missed the last six or so. (Sarah, you HAVE to e-mail me!)

    Your prayers and support have been so encouraging. I’ve started a new job, as I posted elsewhere, and while we’re still not out of the woods yet, we’ve gone from frying pan to fire to hot stove surface (if you’ll allow me to mix my metaphors) and it’s getting cooler, little by little.

    I can’t thank you all enough. And we’re praying for everyone who is praying for us, even if we don’t know who you are.

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