Finance First Friday: Have Faith

Those who have been lucky enough to interact with parishioner, Sue MacIntosh, will have noticed her joy in life. When Sue told with me that she “is living the dream”, I asked what her secret is. I was blessed with her Gramma’s astute advice, “have faith”. True to form Sue, generously agreed to share her story with you as well.

I was born into the Episcopal Church and spent many a Sunday at Zion Episcopal Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, sitting with my Gramma Dottie in the 3rd pew on the Epistle side. (My mom later jumped us to the Gospel side, but that is another story.) Gramma and I were close, and I often unburdened myself to her. She would respond with her usual advice: “Have faith.”

I struggled with her meaning. “How do I find faith?” It took me many years to understand her. As my life went on and troubles mounted, I finally realized to “have faith” like Gramma said, meant I needed to BELIEVE with a capital B.

Financially, I was blessed to have my college education at the University of Iowa supported by my parents. My parent also nurtured a habit of always saving at least half of every birthday or Christmas gift and any earnings in a savings account.

However, at the age of 30, I found myself divorced with two children under the age of 5 and no chance of child support. It was not the future I had hoped for. I was a lab technician, doing what I loved, but it would certainly not support us very easily, even with steady help from my parents. I had to find something different – perhaps an industry job. Desperation? Maybe, but a year later, I was moving with the girls to St. Louis and a good job at Sigma Chemical Company.

I had found faith! Faith that I could succeed in a corporate atmosphere, living a day’s drive from family, doing a job I had never imagined doing. Faith that my girls could survive and thrive in a new environment. We found new friends and a church family, and we flourished!

Three years later, I landed a research job in biotechnology at what was then Monsanto. Since this company was only across town, it was not such a big leap of faith as our last move, but it did require me to believe that this was the right decision.

And it was! We had a range of research projects in plant biotechnology. Our team’s project was to develop Bt crops: plants that were able to protect themselves from chewing insects using the same protein that organic gardeners applied to their crops, except these plants made the Bt protein right in their own cells! Our team had molecular experts who would put some DNA into a plant, and the protein biochemists (that was me) would tell them what was happening in that plant. It was a very exciting time to be on the cutting edge of science. I was so lucky.

One day at that job made an especially big impression on me. All the lab leads presented their 6-month research summaries in front of the division leaders and a bona-fide Nobel Prize winner. Mr. Nobel Prize sat and listened the whole day— and was certainly wined and dined—as he gave his advice for our various projects. “Wow,” I thought as I watched him, “that is a cool job. Maybe one day…?” It would take time, and it would take faith.

A few years later, I was provided an opportunity to work in a small start-up on the west coast, funded completely by the Danish firm, Novo Nordisk. Move to California? I had never been more than a day’s drive from my childhood home; that would not be possible from California. I was nervous and contemplated the decision for more than six months, but eventually, I believed we could do it! I had faith.

This move was tougher on my girls, but ultimately, they had a ball in California. We all hung in there together and flourished together. My daughter Katie completed high school there and my daughter Laura had a gang of great friends. For me, working within a small company of 30 people – half men, half women, and led by a woman – opened the door to possibilities. Four years later, after winning a research competition, we found ourselves living in a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark and I was working in a brand-new research facility that our team had designed. All along the way, I was very careful with our money, making sure we lived practically and modestly.

Much has happened since Copenhagen. We returned to California and then the Midwest. Both girls graduated from my alma mater, have families of their own, and are happily working in the finance industry right here in the Twin Cities. I made another huge leap of faith and moved into a new but related area, Regulatory Affairs, where we developed data to support the safety of biotech-based crops. I believed in myself, and started my own consulting business in 2005, helping small companies with their biopesticide or biotech products. This let me live close to my family and I could arrange my own time to be with my grandkids each week!

As with every move, I searched out an Episcopal church, just as my parents did when I was growing up. In Denmark, the only Anglican church is St. Alban’s Church in downtown Copenhagen. Because it was Anglican, they spoke English! Definitely a plus if I was going to convince my girls to join me! Besides Denmark, there was Emmanuel Episcopal Church outside of St. Louis, MO: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Woodland, CA; St. Timothy’s Church in West Des Moines, IA; St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC; Messiah Church and then St. John’s in St. Paul, MN; and my summer church Ascension Church in Hayward, WI. All of those communities strengthened my faith and strengthened my confidence. My financial history, along with many other things in my life, would have turned out very differently if I had not made it a priority to connect with an Episcopal faith community everywhere I lived.

Fast-forward to now. Because I had been so careful with money all along, about 10 years ago I found that I could afford to build a lake house on Moose Lake near Hayward, WI. And just two years ago, I traded in my Highland home for a townhouse in White Bear Lake. It might sound surprising, but it took quite a bit of faith to spend money after holding on to it so tightly.

Finally, I have retired but still work with one of my clients, Nuseed, 2-3 days per month. My title? Regulatory ADVISOR! Yep, I am living the dream I had all the way back from when I met Mr. Nobel Prize, all because I believed, because I finally grasped my Gramma Dottie’s mantra, “Have faith.”

Thank you, Sue and Dottie, for sharing your faith with us! During these bleak times, it is uplifting to hear stories of hope.

Understanding and navigating our society’s financial systems as followers of Christ can be challenging. Maybe that is why Jesus talked about money and possessions more than prayer and faith. As with most spiritual practices, we gain strength when we share with and support each other. To write a post, offer resources, submit an article, or do an interview please contact Executive Administrator, Sarah Dull – you never know who needs to hear your story.

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