Good Friday is upon us and my soul is filled with sadness. Perhaps it is the extra hormones rushing through my pregnant body, but I can’t stop thinking of how Mary must have felt as she watched her Son go limp on the cross… The same hands she held were pierced with nails. The same baby toes she was overwhelmed with the desire to kiss, were now stained with blood. She must have felt so empty…
Tonight my soul longs for Pascha. My heart misses the bells on the censor and the decorated altar. I want to proclaim “Christ is Risen from the dead,” but for now the house is quiet.
Crickets are chirping in the darkness outside.
An ambulance is parked in front of our neighbors house.
An amber alert for two children was announced on the radio.
Tonight the world mourns…
“O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I gave you a royal sceptre, but you gave me a crown of thorns.
I raised you to the height of majesty, but you have raised me high on a cross.”
I recently purchased a children’s book titled, “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer. The book showcases children from around the world, and poetically describes what God was thinking as He created them. The illustrations are stunning and the message of the book is uplifting. It will make a perfect addition to my girls’ Pascha baskets.
Inspired by the story, I decided to write up little descriptions that define what God was thinking as He made my girls. My attempts aren’t quite as eloquent as the original author, but I think they fit my girls perfectly.
When God made Renee, He plucked a dandelion from the earth, sprinkled glitter on top of it, gently wrapped it in a bright colored package, and refined it in fire. He blindfolded the beautiful little soul He had just created and with a laugh He revealed His surprise and said, Renee, PLAY.
When God made Nora, He mixed giggles, smiles, and snuggles in a large sandbox. He added a few sprinkles of spunk and a pinch of a apple seeds. He poured the blend into a heart shaped mold and said, Nora, LOVE.
Spencer and I just returned from a relaxing weekend at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. After spending a few days immersed in deep conversations and heavenly worship, I am having a hard time getting back into my regular routine.
While at the monastery, I confessed giving into my depression and slacking off with my household duties. Now here I sit faced with a choice. I can strive towards a life of repentance and dive right into my chores without complaining, or I can veg out on the couch and waste away my time on social media sites. To some this might seem like a trivial matter, but I know that my decision could very well put me one step closer to heaven or hell.
There is a list of chores sitting on my kitchen counter. Today the list calls for dusting, washing the bed sheets, and vacuuming. In reality, I could put off these chores until my husband is home and can help. Things would certainly get done faster… Or I could offer up my work to my family and the Lord as an act of love.
As I dust the shelves I quietly pray, “I do this for the love of the Lord.” As I vacuum up pretzels I repeat, “For the love of the Lord and my children.” As I spread crisp sheets on the bed my whole being chants, “For the love of the Lord and my marriage.”
These are such small acts. I don’t expect anyone to notice that I have dusted the living room and bedrooms. Even if they do notice, I doubt they would care very much. But in my heart I know that the Savior sees my hard work and I pray that He is pleased with me.
Today I choose to take one step closer to heaven.
“For the love of the Lord.”
I have a special bond with Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose. While visiting the Hermitage of the Holy Cross with my heterodox Father, during the summer of 2016, Fr. Seraphim Rose made himself known to us. Of all the books in the guest house, my Dad picked up a huge biography on the Saints life. Together we got lost in the pages of that book. We jumped around in the various chapters and found ourselves moved to tears by the Saint’s perseverance and determination to live a godly life. The sections about Fr. Seraphim’s death were particularly powerful.
When our pilgrimage was over I continued to develop a relationship with the Saint. The way he reached out to my Father was unmistakable. I made it a habit of asking Fr. Seraphim to pray for my Dad. I trusted that Fr. Seraphim would not let my Father slip through the cracks. If one day my Dad converts, I will know exactly who to thank.
A short time after my pilgrimage to the Hermitage, my husband and I decided to actively start trying to conceive. Typically, we have absolutely no problem getting pregnant right away. With my first daughter we got pregnant the very first month of trying. Then my second daughter surprised us with a positive pregnancy test only 6 months after Renee was born. I thought this time would be no different, but I was wrong.
Months passed, but my womb remained empty. My husband and I were utterly exhausted in every way. I was haunted by the thought that I might not ever get to grow life in my belly again. That’s when I turned to Blessed Fr. Seraphim. With tears streaming down my cheeks I begged him to pray for me. I rested my forehead on his icon and promised that if we conceived, I would name the child after him.
Shortly after that conversation, I got a positive pregnancy test. Fr. Seraphim had once again touched my life. His prayers worked! Some might say his prayers worked a little too well. During my 11th week ultrasound I found out that I was carrying twins!
Next week we will find out the sex of our two little blessings. I’m keeping my promise to Fr. Seraphim. Depending on the results, one of the babies will either be named Gideon Rose or Ada Rose.
I can’t wait to see what God has in store for these children. One thing is certain though, with Fr. Seraphim watching over them and praying for them, they are destined to turn out okay.
Blessed is God who is glorious in His Saints!
Our bedtime routine begins with family devotions and prayer. After snuggling on the couch and listening to Daddy read from the Bible, we all crowd into the icon corner and offer up a few prayers to the Lord. Nora, my youngest daughter, loves to pray to her guardian angel. Her sweet voice squeaks out the following words:
“O Angel you are truly mine, given to me by God Divine, to always be at my side and teach me what is right. I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong. Never go away from me. From all danger keep me free. Amen”
Every night I do my best to sincerely say these prayers with my children. Sometimes, that is a struggle. It is easy to be thankful for the guardian angel that God has blessed me with. It isn’t as easy to apply the next part of the prayer though.
“I am little you are tall. I am weak, you make me strong.”
Perhaps this part of the prayer is difficult because I don’t like to think of myself as being being insignificant and powerless. After all, I have given birth to two children. I have conquered high school and college. I have endured kidney stones and surgeries. I have told loved ones goodbye and defeated addiction. Surely, I am not weak.
But then I am reminded of that recent temptation I gave into when no one else was looking. I could have distracted myself, but I chose not to. I am not as strong as I would like to imagine… Regardless of how much I lie to myself, I am still desperately dependent on God.
Psalm 21:20 “But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”
My family and I joined the Orthodox Church during our parish’s Pascha vigil in 2015. I will never forget that blessed night. My husband and I watched with pride as each of our daughters were baptized. Tears streamed down my cheeks as our parish chanted “SEALED” while Fr. Alban chrismated us. Then with a mixture of excitement and a healthy dose of fear we partook of the Eucharist. For the first time in my spiritual life, I truly felt at home.
Incorporating Orthodox customs and traditions into our family has been a lot of fun, but also challenging. Neither my husband nor I were raised Orthodox, so this is all new to us. We do our best to immerse our children in the Orthodox culture, but sometimes we fall a bit short. Here is a list of a few of my Orthodox Mom fails:
- For us the 12 days of Christmas typically last about 4 days before we burn out. Every year I make elaborate plans to stretch out the festivities, but we have yet to follow through with them.
- My youngest daughter insists on being a nun when she grows up, the only problem is that she wants to be a Mommy nun. She hasn’t realized that nuns do not have biological children.
- My oldest daughter is very analytical. Lately, after bedtime prayers she will ask us why she can’t see God, her guardian angel, or the Saints. Apparently I haven’t done a very good job in explaining the spiritual realm.
- I haven’t even begun trying to teach my kids how to name the books of the Bible. The Orthodox Bible contains 77 book whereas the Protestant Bible has only 66. That catchy song I grew up with as a Baptist child just doesn’t work anymore.
- My youngest daughter once found it appropriate to loudly fart during Communion. To add insult to injury she then announced it to the entire congregation. I wanted to crawl underneath the non-existent pews and die.
- After spending all night at the Nativity vigil trying to prevent my children from catching their hair on fire, I ended up burning a large section of my youngest daughter’s hair. She reeked for days.
- My oldest daughter once spilled the entire bowl of Holy Water all over the floor. I scrambled trying to wipe it up with my shirt before anyone noticed.
- While visiting a monastery I went forward to venerate the icon in the middle of the room. I didn’t realize there was glass in front of it and I ended up face planting loudly into it. I hope the monks just shrugged it off as me being extremely pious.
- Let’s just say that elastic banded skirts and prostrations don’t mix well together and leave it at that…
- My children rarely make it to Liturgy with shoes on. We are always in such a rush to get out the door that something has to give… Typically it is the shoes.
Since our conversion, I have done my best to raise pious Orthodox children. I fantasize about elaborate Pascha celebrations and nightly family prayers complete with incense and candlelight. I dream about homeschooling them with the perfect Orthodox curriculum. I’ve toyed with the idea of naming a baby Seraphim. Reality doesn’t look anything like this.
My family has had a lot of Orthodox growing pains, but I don’t sweat the small stuff. Every time I watch my children light a candle at church my heart melts a little. I smile as they proudly waddle up to partake of the Eucharist. My soul sings as I watch them venerate the icons in our prayer corner. At the end of the day, I know that the faith is sinking deeply into their souls. May the Lord help us as we continue our journey.