Monday, December 31, 2012

This is It

I didn't close out the blog when we left seminary because I thought I might continue posting about our life in ministry, but I realize now that I will probably never do that.

To this point, our life is too hard and the lessons we are learning are too raw and ongoing to be summed up in a pithy little point on a blog. The problems are too personal to be publicly aired online or anywhere else.

So, on this eve of the new year, 2013, I bid you farewell, readers. I will be turning off comments on prior posts to reduce the amount of spam that I get, but those of you who know me are always, of course, welcome to contact me on Facebook or via e-mail.

May God bless you in this coming year. Remember me in your prayers, if you would.

A Sinner

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What I Have Learned

I've been musing, lately, between chasing my children and using up yards of packing tape, on what I've learned while my husband has been in seminary. How am I different now that we've had this experience? Was it worth it for all of us to come here as a family and for me to devote my time to staying here with the children, rather than getting a full-time job, in part so that I could be more a part of the seminary experience?

I have a few thoughts about this, but I also realize that, in some ways, I'll never realize how much I've changed in the time that I've been here. In others, I may not realize how my perspective has shifted until we get back into the "real world" again for awhile. But I do have a few tidbits I've gleaned along the way that I can think of now.

One: as a pastor, or any type of leader, it doesn't matter if what you're doing is correct, or even if it is the best thing in the world, if you don't have your people on board with you.

Two: and this is related, in general, people need you to teach them simple things and repeat them often. Perhaps this sounds to you like being with my children all the time has gone to my brain, but I take this from my own experience of what I need in a pastor. If my confessor were to say the same thing to me five or even seven times in a row after each confession, I would still have to admit that I needed to hear it again. We easily forget simple truths that are really the key to our salvation.

Three: there are so many people out there who bear the name of "Orthodox" who are so different from you. You have to love them and share the church with them anyway.

Four: as a Christian, the only right you have is to put the rights of others before your own desires. Fighting for our own rights is unbecoming of us as followers of Christ.

Five: it is essential that we always view the externals of our Christianity as gifts. The moment we see them as ends in and of themselves or as rules we wish we didn't have to follow, we've lost. This goes back to number two. We need the externals (prayer rules, fasting, liturgical rubrics, Sunday "sabbath," head coverings (for me), etc.) to reinforce the simple truths we need to hear over and over. If I spend my Sunday trying to figure out what I can and cannot do on this self-imposed day of rest, I miss the great gift of an opportunity to consciously develop my spiritual awareness and relationship with Christ in a way that should spill over into the rest of my week. If I criticize others because they don't appropriate the externals "correctly," I am missing the point entirely.

As I say, I'm sure there are more things I'm not thinking of. By the way, just because I didn't give something a long explanation above doesn't mean I think it is less important than the ones I did expand on. Some were just more self-explanatory than others, I guess.

If you are so inclined, please continue to pray for us. My husband is in Guatemala at the Orthodox orphanage and monastery helping out and serving there this week. When he returns, we'll head out for parts south on a round-the-south trip from New York to Kentucky to Texas to Florida, where the real work will begin!

Blessed feast of Pentecost to you all!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


On March 18th, the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross, I was blessed to be at my husband's ordination to the priesthood. In one sense, I probably should not have been there because my middle daughter was only experiencing a temporary respite from what turned out to be a croup virus that ended up plaguing not only her, but the other two, and several other children on campus for weeks to come. She seemed to be feeling well enough the morning of the ordination, but by that afternoon, it was clear that she had not been on the mend.

It would have been one of the deepest regrets of my life not to be able to attend my husband's ordination, though, so even though I feel badly that children got sick, I can't say I wish I had stayed home with her. His ordination to the diaconate in May of last year felt really earth-shattering; huge; life-changing. I cried the first time I saw him communed with the clergy. I was a bit more distracted during this ordination - the babe that was 7 months old and unable to crawl yet at the first ordination was now 17 months old and able to run. And run she did - right towards the center of the solea every chance she got (when she wasn't clinging to me and begging to be held). It was as if she knew that was where Papi was headed (even better than he did, as it turns out :)). Distractions aside, this was definitely a momentous occasion: I got a little misty about his serving for a final time as a deacon, and his distributing the Gifts to me took on a new significance. Still, his first Sunday to preside over a liturgy, which followed his ordination by two weeks, felt like a bigger deal. It was then that he began to fulfill his priestly ministry. It was then that the people said to him: " May the Lord God remember your priesthood in his kingdom, always now and ever, and unto ages of ages." I ask you to continue to offer this prayer for him, dear readers.

Things are starting to move forward a bit with our placement in Miami. One of the more exciting aspects of the situation there for me personally is the presence of a classical, Orthodox school, which is being sponsored by the same ministry as the church to which my husband has been assigned. Their website is still under construction, but things are starting to come together. It is such an amazing opportunity that I almost can't believe it's true! The families undertaking this project have taken out a 3-year lease on a property that was formerly a Catholic church and school, on a beautiful lot of several acres. Even though it used to be a parochial school and that is what it will be again when school starts in the fall, the local governments are still requiring the administration to go through some legal hoops and apply for certain exceptions, etc. Things have worked out more smoothly than seemed possible up to this point, however, so we continue to have faith in God's providence.

We are excited about the work that is to be done in Miami, but also overwhelmed at the enormity of it. On one hand, it keeps feeling like I've been preparing my whole life to do just this thing; on the other hand, realistically, I keep thinking, "How can God trust us with this gigantic task when I can't even stay on top of my family's laundry?" I'll be honest and admit, too, that just packing up and moving down there seems like a gargantuan feat at this point, not to even mention the fulfilling of the calling once we arrive.

I read the other day, on the blog of another clergy wife, that energy yields energy. Getting up and expending energy doing things you need to do actually gives you more energy to do those things. I keep repeating this in my head over and over when I feel unmotivated, because I've found it to be true. I think I had best go get me some of that by-product energy right now. 

May God grant you a blessed rest of your Holy Week and a bright and glorious Pascha of our Lord!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Lies Beyond

Before we came to St. Vladimir's, I remember searching eagerly through the photos on Facebook of someone who had just visited here. I was looking for clues about what the place I was going to live in would look like, or be like. I badgered the wife of the one seminary family I knew with questions about everything. It all seemed so foreign and different.

Once we arrived, after a period of adjustment, during which we got to know the members of the amazing community here, we began to watch that year's outgoing class go through the process of ordination and placements (or lack thereof). Even from that time, though, if I am honest, I was not only looking at my friends' experiences out of love and concern for them (though that was there). I was doing the same thing I had done back in Texas. I was searching for clues about the place I was headed. What was going to happen to us when we were in their shoes?

Some were ordained priests before their third year even began, while others were not ordained until the day of graduation. Some knew for a year or even more where they would be placed; others were still paying rent to the seminary as the month of July began. We, on the other hand, seem to have ended up somewhere in between.

It was actually in the fall of 2010, my husband's middler year, that he received a call about a non-canonical church in the Miami area looking for a Spanish-speaking priest to help bring them into Orthodoxy. It sounded good, but, as has happened so many times in this process, we had little information to go on and really no say in how the events unfolded. Several months later, things picked back up. Discussions resumed, and by the end of September, husband, littlest bean, and I were off to Miami to visit this parish. Upon return, we were asked our impressions and opinions, and then we heard nothing again for months. Now it seems that talks have resumed again, but we're still lacking many important details.

This time, there are no pictures to comb through for details. There is no one to ask questions of. No one has been exactly where I am. But by now, I think I may have finally learned that that is okay.

Regarding ordination, we actually had about two and a half weeks notice this time that my husband will, God willing, be ordained to the priesthood this coming Sunday, March 18th. I find it significant that his ordination will take place on the Sunday of the Elevation of Cross for a couple of reasons. The first is that I count this day as a special anniversary in my spiritual walk. It was the first Sunday I ever spent at the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. That visit changed my life and I hope I am always grateful to God (and to the nuns) for it. Without it, I am certain I never would have been ready for my husband to go to seminary, and now, on the exact anniversary of that visit, he will be ordained. It's also significant because we both realize that his ordination is really a calling; he's answering the call to take up his cross and follow Christ in a particular and public way. What a blessing to get to do so on the Sunday of the Cross.

I invite you to read his take on it, and ask you to keep us in your prayers.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Family's Path to Pascha

What we did in our house was to make “pebbles” printed on brown construction paper (cut down to fit through the printer). Then we made a “pathway” printed on tan construction paper (also cut down). We cut all of these out and taped the path across the living room wall, attaching the pebbles to the pathway with double-sided tape.

Then there is a page with the gospel readings available from the Festal Celebrations Yahoo! Group. Based on these, I made up a small coloring page to fit inside each “pebble.” These we printed on plain copy paper and the kids colored. Each day of Lent, we are cutting the appropriate picture out and putting it on its brown paper stone on the pathway.

Here's a sample page: 

This helps us is several ways:
1.       The entire pathway is a visual way to keep perspective on how much time there is left in Lent. After the image is attached to each stone, it is clear how many plain brown stones are left each day.
2.       At the end of the pathway, we have hung an icon of the resurrection. This reminds us what the whole journey is about.
3.       It ensures that we are at least reading a little scripture and focusing on the life of Christ some each day.
4.       In our family, we do this at the time that our kids would normally have “screen time” each day, as something different to look forward to.

If you give me your e-mail address, I'm happy to send you the coloring pages I've made.

Lenten Activities - A Compilation

I guess there's a sense in which some would say the title of this post - Lenten Activities - is a contradiction. We should be doing less during Lent, simplifying our activities so we can fast, pray, and give alms. But we do have children to raise and I think it helps to do things with them that emphasize the nature of our lenten journey and Christ's road to the cross.

So here's what I've found:

Links and Resources:

·         Pascha boxes – decoupaged craft boxes with special contents for each day of holy week
Learn about them and how to make your own here and here. Or buy pre-made ones here.

·         Lesson Plans – the OCA has a great entire unit on the Journey to Pascha you can check out here

·         Sundays of Lent: There are coloring and activity pages available for the Sundays of Lent (and other Sundays throughout the year at OrthodoxOnline and Let Us Attend.

·         Calendars to Purchase: similar to advent calendars, these have readings or activities for each day of Lent. Find onewith icons/readings and one with activities.
      Other activities along the way: this is a nice little blog for all sorts of activities to engage children in the church year. Two posts about Lent are Pre-Lent and Lent.
     Path to Pascha with Festal Celebrations Group - – if you have (or create) a yahoo account, you can join this group, which they say is a “ list is for organizing group ornament exchanges for an Orthodox Jesse Tree, 12 Days of Christmas ornaments and Lenten Path to Pascha. Other ideas of conforming our homeschooling life to the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church are also discussed.” My family’s Path to Pascha activity is based on their program.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Catching Up

I have really let time get away from me this semester as regards this blog. I'm sorry about that. I felt very inspired for awhile to write a post about the importance of supporting seminarians so that they can devote themselves to their required chapel attendance and to their private prayer lives, but I never finished it or wrote any other posts instead of it.

The semester started off with a bang - really no time to warm up and get used to what the new "normal" routine for this year would feel like because we had some irregular, time-consuming events. First, I compiled all the information and photos for our staff/student directory here for the third year, second, I volunteered to coordinate the children's booth for St. Vlad's annual Education Day (Open House), and third, husband and little one and I took a trip to Miami to find out about a parish that's a possibility for us after graduation. I know how dangerous it is to live in any moment but the present, but I have to tell you that September was so stressful, my mantra became, "It will all be better in October!"

October did eventually come, and with it, the first birthday of our youngest girlie. We celebrated with a rubber-ducky-themed party that was so much fun. She celebrated by learning to walk a few days before her birthday and then by promptly getting her first ear infection. Otherwise, she was healthy and continued to be the biggest of the three sisters at her age.

In November, I finally felt I had a chance to figure out the level of energy it was going to take to homeschool the older two while keeping the toddler happy, cook meals, and keep our house presentable. Can't say I do it all all the time, but I've pared back extra activities (and, admittedly, increased my caffeine consumption) to try to make it all work.

One thing that happened here, which I missed in favor of letting the husband attend it, was a talk by Father Themi, of Australia, who is a missionary to Sierra Leone. We are blessed to have many good speakers here at SVS from time to time, but the campus was truly abuzz after his visit. It had an impact that I haven't experienced from any other event here, and I didn't even get to hear him speak! Just browsing his website (especially clicking on the button that reads "How Rich Are You?") changed my perspective on the world. I also happened to stumble across a movie called, A Walk to Beautiful, about Ethiopian women devastated by obstetric fistula. Perhaps that is part of the reason I never finished my post on reasons to support seminarians. I guess I felt that we all need to take a good, hard look at what we really need as opposed to what our nearsighted perspective makes us think we need.

Also in November, we took a trip to visit little one's godparents in their new parish down south. It was a joy to have spent two Thanksgivings in a row with them (she was baptized on Thanksgiving last year). They seem to be adjusting well to a life of ministry and really enjoying owning a home for the first time ever. It was a very nice, relaxing trip for us, and I sincerely hope to be able to return the hospitality that they showed us in the near future. I often worry about my tendency to center all my life, feelings, and thoughts on my life and my own little family, while I feel that my success in life is so dependent on my getting out of myself and connecting with other people. I've been advised time and again to make and keep the connections with other clergy wives while we're here at seminary because of how invaluable their support will be invaluable once my husband is in ministry. So, hopefully, this visit will be one of many like it in the years to come.

I don't think I've written much about the St. Juliana's Society (clergy wives' group) here on campus, but if I haven't, it's because there is almost too much to say rather than nothing to say about it. This semester we have been blessed to hear from a panel of adult children of Orthodox priests, a hospital chaplain and family systems therapist, an Orthodox nun on the topic of children in the church, and our campus pastor on the topic of prayer. Every one of these has been so formative and enriching. Finally, to wrap up the semester, we learned about making wreaths from live greenery collected on campus (yes, I'm there in the picture, with my head inside my wreath).

I also can't mention preparations for becoming a clergy wife without telling you about the wonderful parish that we are assigned to for pastoral formation as part of the third year MDiv requirements. My husband and I are blessed to be in a parish where the priest and his wife both take the formation of seminary interns very seriously and have years of pastoral experience to share with us. Our children love being in a regular parish again and are really enjoying weekly church school during coffee hour as well. We are so thankful for how the people there have taken us in, even though they know our time there is short (just one school year), and even though we are only the latest in a long line of interns from SVS.

My girls and I have been doing an Orthodox Jesse Tree this year, and I hope to eventually get pictures of that up here, but in case I don't (or don't do it before Christmas), I would like to wish all of you a blessed rest of the Nativity fast and a joyous Feast of Our Lord's Coming in the Flesh :)