71: A Divine Letter

71: A Divine Letter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

A Divine Letter

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’d moved from my hometown on the Mississippi River to Los Angeles at the age of twenty-six to work in the music business. Initially, it was stimulating and thrilling. But after four years, L.A. lost its allure. The bohemian quality I once loved in my West Hollywood neighborhood began to fade for me, and all I could see were the cracks in the sidewalk on the seedy side of town.

Turning thirty was an awakening. I evaluated the course of my life. I kept thinking if I didn’t make a change, I’d wake up one day to find myself with permanent roots in this city where it seemed everyone jockeyed for position in one form or another. I was uninspired. I was tired. I wanted serenity. I needed a plan.

I resigned from my job in the music business and took a position in client services at a thriving post-production facility in Santa Monica, where I was one of twelve assistants to the clients from major movie studios that came to the cluster of recording studios to synchronize audio with film. It was a unique job, something new and different, but I was still living in Los Angeles. A sensitive friend addressed my discontent by asking two simple questions: “If you could live anywhere, where would it be, and what would you be doing?”

Ireland was my answer. I saw myself in a best-case scenario living upon verdant fields partitioned by gray stone walls on the way to the sea, writing poetry and novels. “There’s only one way to do this,” I said to my friend, “and it starts with a plane ticket.”

It seemed once I’d made the decision, the powers that be aligned in support. After I gave my resignation to the managing director, uncanny things transpired: I’d be standing on a Los Angeles street corner just as a stranger approached to exchange pleasantries in an unmistakable Irish accent. I received useful information repeatedly from surprising quarters and it gave me a feeling of being in tune with destiny. I was certain I’d made the right decision by following my bliss.

And there I was a year later: living by the sea on the west coast of Ireland and employed in the music business because everything had fallen into place. I was living the life I had imagined: I had friends, a rented home, a schedule, a purpose, all from a start-up business dedicated to the careers of Irish musicians. My life had certainty and security. I grew accustomed to Ireland and its cultural nuances and truly believed I’d found my place in the world.

But the rhythm of life has an ebb and flow. By the end of that year, the tides started to turn so subtly they were imperceptible, up until the moment there was no recourse. My non-profit place of employment lost its funding, and there I was in a foreign country without a job. I was baffled and bewildered. What had seemed like destiny became ambiguity, and I was indecisive and riddled with doubt over every option I weighed. I was not ready to leave Ireland; I hadn’t exhausted her charms but it seemed all was lost, that fate had conspired against me.

I’m the kind of person who possesses an optimistic faith in the goodness of things, that life has meaning and God has a plan. The quandary was I couldn’t see anything beyond the roads that appeared blocked. For two weeks I prayed, I meditated, I believed, and I vacillated between hope and despair. Then a letter arrived at my door.

One of the things I had to accept about living in rural Ireland was that it took ten days for a letter to arrive from California. I lived way out in the countryside where there were no mailboxes, so the postmaster would leave my mail at my door. One day during my two weeks of quandary, I bent down to inspect a letter at my doorstep, recognizing right away it came from the United States. I tore open the envelope to discover an offer from the post-production facility in Santa Monica. I had to read it twice, I was so surprised. “The woman who hired you in client services is leaving to have a baby,” the letter began, and by the time I got to the managing director’s signature, I realized he had offered me her job.

My first reaction was complete resistance. No way in the world I’d ever go back to L.A. I put the letter back in its envelope and threw it on the kitchen counter until my disbelief compelled me to read it again. It was then I noticed the letter’s postmark, which was only three days before. “What is this,” I said out loud, “divine intervention?” I considered and weighed until I arrived at the conclusion I didn’t have a choice. Yet all the while, a voice in my head whispered, “Follow this; you don’t have to know why.”

“Follow this to Los Angeles?” my petulance screamed, but that is exactly what I did. I talked myself into returning to Los Angeles by holding to faith, by deciding this might be a stepping stone along a bigger path, that perhaps someone or something would be waiting where I least expected.

Today, I am married to the man who wrote that letter. This year, the novel I wrote inspired by my year in Ireland will be published. I now have a way of deciphering life’s supposed ambiguities, which is to say I now see life’s quandaries as full of potential. When in doubt, I don’t fall into despair. Instead, I look for a bigger picture, and if I keep my faith and narrow my eyes, I swear I can see divinity.

~Claire Fullerton

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