Our weeks here at seminary this semester have been flying by. I regret that I haven't had (or at least haven't taken) time to record the things we've experienced, especially the blessings, but here are a few:
At the beginning of November, I got to attend the Pan-Orthodox Clergy Wives' Retreat at Antiochian Village, held in memory of Kh. Joanne Abdullah. The guest speakers were Mother Christophora, of The Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA (otherwise known as the holy land :) ), and Mat. Juliana Schmemman. The topic for the weekend was "How to Be a Clergy Wife and Still Go to Heaven." It was a blessing to be there among so many clergy wives who have endured for many years, and, of course to hear the speakers.
Around that time, the store in which I work finally got a new manager, after having had first an absentee one and then no manager from the time I arrived. There had been a lot of chaos there as a result of that lack of leadership and the staffing issues that were already present before the previous manager resigned, so it was such a blessing to have a good, solid leader come in and start to help things take shape.
I've really struggled with maintaining my 4:30 - 8:30 a.m. shift during the weekdays, but it was still better than working all afternoon and evening, which I had been doing before; I kept wanting to quit the job because of various reasons, which I won't enumerate here (but you can ask me if you really want to know), not the last of which was: I wanted to enjoy this short experience of being a seminary family living in an Orthodox community. It took a long time for me to go over the edge and actually quit because I didn't want to leave for the wrong reasons, I didn't want to give up the steady income, even if it wasn't a lot, and I didn't want to leave the people I worked with even more understaffed than they already were. It took my getting very sick in mid-November and spending two weeks getting well again to make me realize that maybe working 17-hour days (between the store, babysitting the child of another Seminary family, doing work around the house, and cutting hair) is not what I've been called to do. Physical stamina and a high energy level are neither one gifts I've been given. I have to do the best I can with the gifts I have been blessed with.
The day I decided, in the middle of my illness, to quit for sure, we received an unexpected check in the mail; maybe I'm just being silly, but that encouraged me to go ahead and let go of the job. It reminded me that I am not in control. Since that time, we've been told by three families that they are going to start supporting us every month, which, as long as they are faithful, will almost make up for what we'll lose from my paycheck. Now if only someone would promise to send us coffee for free... ( :) ) My last day at Starbucks will be December 11th, if all goes as planned.
Another blessing, related to the wonderful community here, is that my 4-year-old has been able to take ballet and art classes for free as part of our homeschool co-op; in addition, she gets to go to church school every week and have Kids' Cafe after Liturgy every Sunday (a snack time with presentations from the priest who led the liturgy that day and a Q & A time with him).
I can't say enough good things about both the formal Spouses' Program here at St. Vlad's (which has brought us speakers like Metropolitan Jonah and introduced topics like Clergy Taxation Laws) and the more informal Women's Group, in which we've recently learned such things as how to make knots for prayer ropes and how to bake prosphora bread and how it is used. I never cease to be amazed at the truly wonderful things I'm getting to learn about and hear just by virtue of being here.
The Women's Choir, of which I am a member, also had its debut at Vespers on November 21st. I'm told there should be an article about it, with audio clips of the choir and photos, on the www.svots.edu website soon. It certainly was a challenge to prepare for, but I'm told we sounded "angelic." Of course, that's nothing if we did not help to draw souls heavenward, which I pray that we did.
Finally, just this evening about 22 of the women on campus had a lenten recipe swap and movie night. I'll try to let you know how the new recipes are as I try them. Even in that, it's a blessing to know that I'm not the only one who struggles to find fast-friendly meals that taste good and are filling, inexpensive, and easy to make. In the words of another wife here on campus, "Sometimes you just need a little help from your friends!"