Christine Nicolette-Gonzalez & Family

June 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

Somewhere up there…or out there… Sophie Rose Pines Nicolette and Charles S. Nicolette have got to be grinning. You see, this is the moment that they spent hundreds of hours grooming me for. Now, several decades later, after they have both gone home to be with their Creator, their only daughter Christine is for the first time in her life finally “giving her testimony.”

And it has to begin with them. You see, the past twenty-six years of my spiritual journey have probably not been too different from most of yours. However, 51 years ago, I was born into a family that was probably not that much like yours.

My spiritual journey indirectly began in 1938 when a man who said his name was Charlie Bernstein introduced himself to my mom on some tennis courts in Brooklyn, New York. Neither of their tennis partners had shown up, so they started to hit a few balls. Afterwards, he asked her out for some refreshment. Charlie Bernstein was actually Salvatore Joseph Nicoletti, but he didn’t tell my mom this because he suspected that she was Jewish and would not have anything to do with a Catholic Italian young man. And he was right. So the story goes that they dated and started to really like each other. And then my mom’s mother got very ill. One night when my mom was visiting her in the hospital, a young man from the American Seminary dropped by and gave her an Old Testament Prophesy Edition of the New Testament. That night she began to read it, and she couldn’t put it down. At 2 AM, she got down on her knees and asked Jesus to be her Messiah. A few months later, my dad converted from Catholicism to Protestantism, and he never looked back. Because of their unusual testimony, my parents were quickly on the testimony-giving circuit and spent more time in church then they spent anywhere else.

So I grew up in Long Island, NY, raised by two fundamental, zealous Christians who practically lived at church. If we weren’t there, we had a Bible study at our house. My parents expected me to be “saved” and baptized when I was a young child, and I was. Our only family vacations were traveling to Bible conferences on the East Coast. And then when I was five, my mother started to get sick.

I’ll spare you the many gruesome details and just tell you that from the time I was five until she passed away in 1996, my mother suffered from different stages of bi-polar disorder and neurosis. She spent more time in mental institutions during my childhood than she spent at our home, and I felt much safer and happier when she was gone. I have many childhood memories of kneeling down at the side of my bed with my wonderful daddy who was fifty years older than I next to me, and praying earnestly for her to get better. Year after year, my mother wasn’t there for me like other mothers were there for their children’s concerts, graduations, weddings, and the birth of their children.

Due to my mother’s illness, I left home at the young age of 14 and joined my brother in Wheaton, Illinois, which would become my spiritual home for the next eight years. It was at Wheaton where I met several surrogate family members who lived the Christ-walk that I knew I wanted to live when I grew up.

But after graduating from Wheaton College in 1979 and learning that there were no teaching jobs to be had in Wheaton, I crammed all my life possessions into my Ford Pinto and drove to the land of opportunity– Dallas, Texas. Now I was truly out in the world for the first time, teaching English at an inner-city high school. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by more non-Christians than Christians. And many of them seemed to be smarter than I was. So I began to question my faith. Why had prayer never made my mom better? Why did God allow so many innocent people in the world to suffer? Why were so many Christians that I knew so spiritually minded that they didn’t seem to be any earthly good? So one morning I decided to throw everything out and try to live my life without a belief in a God.

I lived exactly one day as an agnostic. And I have to say it probably was the saddest day of my life. By habit, I found myself starting to pray-and then sadly stopping myself. I felt empty-alone-and incomplete. And I knew so quickly that the Creator of the Universe was waiting for me to acknowledge Him once again. But things didn’t really make sense to me until God brought an intelligent, handsome young man named Scott Gonzalez into my life. And he was even one of the types of young men I hadn’t been meeting: a cool Christian! One of the first things we did together was to go to church, and it immediately felt so right to be back home in God’s house. We were married 13 months after we met-and there never has been any doubt that this was the helpmate that my parents had been praying for many years for God to bring into my life.

We’re getting ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary in a few weeks, but it wasn’t until ten years ago that we found Royal Lane–a church that supported the flavor of faith that God had lead both of us to believe was the appropriate one for us. When our neighbor Jan Neece learned that we were looking for a church that would give our children a more solid foundation in biblical teachings, she told us about Royal Lane, a place that she had recently visited. We visited it the next Sunday. Our fourth grade daughter, Analise, was so happy to see woman deacons here; as she had told us we couldn’t join a church that treated girls as less important than boys. And David, our seventh grader, was quickly taken in by the many warm members of the youth group. And of course, Harry, Ray, and other church members made us quickly feel at home. The Sunday morning after we visited we were getting ready to visit one more church before we made a family decision on which church our family would join, when David asked me where we were going that Sunday. When I told him Walnut Hill United Methodist Church, he said, “Can you drop me off at Royal Lane?” God had spoken to us so clearly through our son…how could we be anywhere else?

So now, almost 10 years later, it is my turn to give back to this church that has given so much to our family. Whenever we have traveled from Dallas, we have quickly realized what an anomaly our Royal Lane experience has been, and how blessed we are to call it our church home. I didn’t think that it was possible to find such an open and affirming church in Dallas, Texas-a place that wasn’t judgmental, but rather one that sought to bring each person closer to God and let them serve, no matter what their gender, race, sexual orientation, or socio-economic level was.

A few months after we joined the church, I helped to start the Middle Place Sunday School class. This group of caring, spiritual women has become the group of close friends that I always dreamed was possible, but never had found anywhere else.

I want to thank you for giving me, a Christian woman, and the privilege of being ordained a Deacon. I’m praying that God will give me wisdom during these next three years so I will discern how I can use the gifts God has given me to give back to you-my church family that has blessed my life in innumerable ways.

Tags: A Royal Story