We all have a story to tell! Personal Connection is just one of the ways we share stories here at Circles of Faith. Ordinary women are doing extraordinary things for God. We hope you enjoy this and it encourages and inspires others to take that next step to what God is calling them to do.
Here’s an inside look at our regular Contributor and Licensed Professional Counselor Susanne Ciancio, who writes our monthly feature Susanne Says.
Faith -Tell us your faith story.
My older sister, younger brother, and I, along with Mom, went to church every Sunday. My 87-year-old mother, who was and still is, a devout Catholic was a major influence in my faith. We attended first Friday services and Monday night novenas together.
We saw some very serious answers to prayer. << Click to Tweet
In those days, the church we went to was considered progressive. It was in Holmdel, New Jersey, and known for guitar masses and a very loving approach to God. Even as a child, I felt the presence and comfort of God. When life at home became stressful and chaotic, which was frequent due to family issues like addiction, I learned very early on that I could turn to God. I stayed close to God through high school and somewhat in college. However, as a young adult I went through an extended season when I wasn’t a churchgoing person and sadly didn't miss church or God at all.
Meanwhile, my husband was being pursued by God in the years leading up to our son's birth and says that he got saved on the day our son was born. I watched Christian TV and listened to Christian radio with him, and eventually the Gospel penetrated and I had an encounter with the living God, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Life - What does life look like for you?
I was born and raised in New Jersey, so like most residents of NJ, I love the ocean and the proximity to New York City.
During college I worked in a restaurant and the guy who owned the restaurant was very cute and tremendously funny. We wound up falling in love and getting married. He became my best friend and definitely still is!
My son Mark was five weeks premature and had problems breathing because of collapsed lungs. He became a thriving healthy baby, toddler, and academically gifted and athletic young man. Sadly, I never became pregnant again. In 1996 we adopted a gorgeous little girl from Moscow and our family was complete. Natasha was 4 1/2 years old when she came to our home. Thankfully, our son and daughter, although almost nine years apart, get along really well...like best friends.
In 1986, I became a professional Christian counselor and worked in a beautiful setting just three miles from my house. Perfect for raising kids! I made my own hours and was always around before and after school. I was able to lead a Moms in Prayer group for 10 years at Calvary Christian Academy. I attend Calvary Temple in Wayne, NJ, where I’v served in almost every capacity at one time or another, including as Deaconess of Marriage and Family. In the years that have followed, I started doing marriage and parenting seminars with other professionals, mostly in churches in the area. Eventually I started teaching adult Sunday school for men and women in the areas of parenting, marriage/relationships, and finally my favorite: the transformed life.
I now have a private practice in West Orange with several other mental health professionals. I also do consulting and supervise pastors who do counseling and occasionally mediate in church affairs. My mother is 87 and transitioning from one living situation to another so, currently, taking care of her is a priority. Fortunately, my two siblings are also involved in our mother’s changing needs.
Community - What does community look like for you?
Life’s more fun with friends and family!
My friends were the highlight of my life growing up. God really blessed me with great friends! There was none of the backstabbing and lying and "mean girl" stuff to contend with. I still meet with these friends every month or so and a little more in the summer. All of my friendships are important to me along with my family of origin and my own little family.
I enjoy teaching and being involved in women's Bible studies as well as faith-based community groups. My husband and daughter and I are members of a local church, but we love visiting the churches in the area to see what God is up to. One of my great joys is attending church conferences and hearing great speakers.
Intersect - Where and how does the above come together for you?
I was probably 10 when I knew I wanted to be a psychologist or marriage counselor. My passion is to grow in the knowledge and grace of God and mentor, teach, or drag as many as I can to journey with me. I'm all about loving The Lord, family and growth: my own and others. << Click to Tweet
My own transformation is far from complete, but I can see how God is using the desires He placed in my heart even as a young child to impact others for Him.
My heart’s cry is to help people get unstuck and overcome resentments through the empowering grace of God and the discipline of abiding. If I were to write a book, it would probably be a guide to help the family of God navigate their way through that terrain.
Next Round - What's new and next?
One of my current prayers is, "What's next, Lord?" I feel like I'm in a transition period right now, anticipating what The Lord has in store for me. I love contributing at Circles of Faith in the monthly column called Susanne Says where I share insights from years of mental health practice. The Lord is stretching me in this area. Giving advice and counseling others is quite a different skill than writing about the same issues, indeed!
I would love to learn a new language or go back to studying French, which I studied in high school and college. A new language is the best way to keep the brain young and healthy.