Saturday, September 3, 2011

Worshipping from the Narthex

It was a long but beautiful day.  Much cooler than it's been for weeks.  His Grace Bishop BASIL was in attendance and it was so sweet to watch him bless the children.  He's such a big papa bear with children, if that's okay to say:) 

The children played on the playground, drank too much soda and, most importantly, missed naps.  This last bit didn't matter much while the playground was available.  The children played happily enough, but then it was time for church. No more smiles and giggles.  Sweat and dirt streaked faces bobbling back and forth as unhappy children entered the sanctuary.  The sugar crash was beginning.  As the singing increased so did the siren like whine escaping our youngest guy's throat.  Little eyebrows knit together and nothing on the planet entertaining enough to occupy his exhausted mind. 

So off to the narthex we go.  Out to sit on an uncomfortable chair with an unhappy baby.  Yet the words "Lord have mercy" still reached my ears.  "Amen" still escaped from my lips.  I crossed myself on the inside though my hands weren't available.  And this little one absorbed it all too.  God's word says that His words will not return to him empty but accomplish the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55) and I believe this happens for mamas in the narthex, or the cry room or anywhere else where we only hear wisps of the Word while tending our little ones. 

God is there, even in the narthex:)  He is still ministering to the mama soul tending the little ones He's given us.  He doesn't forget about us even there.  Enjoy those moments and as we sit on the outskirts let us rejoice in those inconvenient times.  When we can accept where we are, THERE we are worshipping our Lord.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

But for the Joy Set Before Me

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months or years where there are those few glorious moments of sunshine in between the torrential downpours? It is said Mother Teresa had a clear calling, almost audible, from the Lord to serve the impoverished and broken of India. After that, however, she felt very little of His presence the rest of her life. She struggled and agonized truly working out her salvation with fear and trembling such as most of us will never know. She said in a letter "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,—Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me—that I let Him have [a] free hand."

I am going through very tiny trials compared to huge ones many many face every day. But I am very simple and the tiny trials can feel very heavy. Although Mother Teresa struggled the rest of her life with the silence and emptiness she experienced she pressed on and ran the race even though she felt like she was running in the fog with the finish line out of sight. Trials do not mean hope is lost, it means a lot of changing and dying to self and surrendering of ones will. As we endeavor to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" we may experience a sort of grief.  Our minds and bodies have held certain patterns for so long they feel lost without the worry, despair and anxiety they're used to. 

But how do we endure the crosses we are given to carry?  How do we take each step down that narrow path to our own Golgotha?  We are to be "therefore" imitators or Christ. We can pray as He prayed, surrender our will as He surrendered His and take each step we are called to take in His name.  And when we feel we can not go on, and even before we reach that point, we can accept the help of others walking the same narrow path as we are.  We, the Church, are striving for salvation individually, yes, but also corporately.  Let us not forget that.  And, like Mother Theresa, let us keep giving, dieing to ourselves daily and carrying the crosses Christ has allowed for the salvation of our souls.

Let us not lose hope, but trust in the Way.  Let us not grow weary but find strength in Christ.  Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Missing Mommies

Out of my 6 fantastic children I got 3 ready made.  I never knew I would adopt but we're so glad we did.  But with adoption comes some sorrow.  There is the longing for the parents they either never knew or had to leave.  Our older boys were bigger when their lives changed forever.  They were toddler/preschool, but old enough to know that while my name was mommy, their mom was mommy.  As they went from our home to family homes back to our home they didn't have contact with their mommy and it wasn't until after their adoption that they had voice contact for the first time.  They have a unique situation going for them.  After parental rights were lost their amazing courageous momma got clean and has been ever since.  They have their stuff to process, but they have been able to start re-establishing a relationship with her and will be able to meet her and spend time with her.  I am truly proud of her and feel blessed to share that Mommy name with her. 

My younger guy is not so fortunate.  His mommy is MIA.  He is left to come up with fantasies about his parents and who they might be.  He's too young for me to share all the information about his early life and the life of his birth momma.  It's hard to tell him we don't know where his momma is or who his birth dad is.  To him I am mommy, but there is a hole in his heart where the first mommy peg is missing. He knew her heartbeat first.  He feels angry and lost and envious of his other brothers.  All I can do is hold him, pray for him and shed momma tears.  I don't know for sure if he will ever know his birth momma.  I don't know at this point if she is even still alive.

But with all of this pain God does not leave us without hope.  Hope for all involved!  I do have hope for my boys that they will reunite with family or, if that is impossible, to plant their roots deep enough that the sorrows of a unfair and painfully imperfect world won't be able to uproot them. 

May God grant them the strength of men, though they are still boys. Amen. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Of Chairs and Stitches

Plastic?  Really?  Plastic?!

My middle son came upstairs this evening leaking blood.  I'm not a "freak out" kind of mama when it comes to blood, especially from boys, but this blood was pouring down his leg and dripping onto the floor.  When I looked there was a 4-6 inch gash on his leg below the knee with no known cause.  I sat the patient in  chair and got all the gauze and the trauma pad and wrapped it while telling my son to apply pressure.  The other boys buzzed around like bees in the excitement sending up exclamations as the blood soaked through the dressing and dripped on the floor.  I went downstairs to try and discover what object might have caused the injury but saw nothing but a chair and bean bag they said the were jumping on.  The chair had been covered with a thick plastic which was now torn in various places by little boys sticking pencils in it during school time.  No, that couldn't be the cause. The gash was certainly deep enough to warrant stitches so I got a big sister to carry the injured party to the car while dishing up dinner to sustain the driver (me) and the injured party (him) before we left.  My youngest guy bid his brother a farewell and went crying into the house because he was sure the invalid was going to get his leg amputated because of the severity of the wound.

The hospital wheeled us right into an exam room and the hero courageously endured the painful shots to numb the area before they cleaned it and sewed him up, all while watching Tangled on the in room TV.  He was excited to be able to keep the cleaning syringe and face mask.  The gash ended up being only 2 1/2 inches long, but mommy measurements are often a bit larger than hospital measurements:)  The doctor asked how he got the cut and, as it turns out, it was the plastic on the chair.  It was like a giant deep paper cut.  He ended up with 10 stitches (the doctor said he could have gotten away with 7 but he was trying to beat a friend's record...shhhh don't tell) and home we came with all the limbs we left with.

What did we learn...torn plastic can be lethal at high speeds and that boys could probably injure themselves with a cotton ball under the right circumstances.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Righteousness of Birds

Just when I think they're not paying attention God sends us a dead bird.

It was this past Sunday after rest time my boys went outside to play.  I was expecting the usual American Ninja Warrior training attempts with the makeshift obstacles they've created.  Or maybe they'd tire themselves on the trampoline by trying to bounce one another over the net (attempted never achieved).  Suddenly my youngest burst through the door telling me to come quickly, "there's a black squishy thing out there you've got to see!  It's an emergency!".  I braced myself for what I might see.  Some half dead snake perhaps (at which point I wouldn't be able to help them if they were's hard to help when screaming while standing on top of the kitchen island).  Thankfully it was only a dead bird.  The older two boys asked if they could get the medical gloves we use for picking up dog poop and take a closer look at the bird.  I had no problem with that as long as I didn't have to touch it. 

I walked away but  few minutes later I went to check on them to make sure they weren't being disrespectful to the bird.  I'm fine with scientific study which may include opening the chest cavity to see what everything looks like, but I do have a problem with breaking bones or popping off a head just to see what it might feel like to destroy a creature...even a dead creature.  To my delight not only were they being respectful, they were planning a burial for the poor thing.

My youngest was the grave digger while my older two were clergy.  My middle guy got his blue belt from Jiu Jitsu and wrapped it, best he could, like an Orthodox deacon, over his white tee shirt.  The oldest came out with what looked a little red ridinghood cape with his yellow jiu jitsu belt representing his stole.  They placed the bird in a clear empty tennis ball container and began the service by singing their rendition of a burial song "O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good alleluja.  For His mercy edureth forever and ever alleluja".  Of course their version didn't include all the words, but it was a good attempt.  The oldest held out our cross shaped wind whirl thing for the other boys to kiss  and then sang as they circled the grave several times.  He took hold of his martial arts belt and held it up over the grave and blessed it with the sign of the cross while the young deacon picked dried weeds to represent the flowers we needed to place on the grave.  The bird was placed in the grave and we placed the weeds on top of the "casket" while the "deacon" faced the attendees (me) to announce the service that would be happening directly following the burial.  The grave digger placed dirt atop the grave as the "priest" poured little vials of Holy water over the grave and blessed it with a large rugged cross they had made from nailing two pieces of wood together.  They bowed to the icon of the Holy Trinity and again circled the grave singing.  Finally the "priest" gave a moving homily and said a prayer over the "righteous bird" that it might "live again in heaven and live for good this time".  The grave digger whispered something into the "deacon's" ear calling him away into the club house.  Right when the "priest" finished out came the two youngest and dramatically said "I'm Conan and I'm Thor and we're here to pump (stomp) you up!"  In their best Arnold Schwarzenegger accents (learned this from camp). 

Then they went back to arguing and fighting, but a moment of Holiness took place.  And a piece of me wonders if that bird did get to heaven with a surprised look on his face while a bewildered St. Peter ushered him into the Kingdom by the faith and devotion of these little ones. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Name Change

When I went to the St. Paisius Monastery this past May I was drawn to the icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.  Seeing the young Mary listen to the words of the Arch Angel sent from God and accept what was asked of her with humility and was inspiring. 

I have heard it said that mother's experience an asceticism of their own.  Like the monks and nuns who selflessly serve the Lord through their daily rule and extensive prayer, mother's sacrifice their lives for the good of their home and children and learn to depend on Christ for their strength.  It is a lifelong rule, even when the children are grown, as those heart strings never break and we are bound to, at the very least, pray for the souls of our children.  I am certain those monks and nuns who fight the invisible enemy can find themselves weary and, at times, at the very edge of despair. We mothers also fight the invisible enemy as he tries to snatch away our children, our time, our focus... and yet we hold on and scuff our knees and bathe our cheeks with tears for the sake of our children. 

So I thought a name change was in order. Nearly19 years ago I accepted the call the Lord placed on my life to be a wife and mother.  What a high calling and how unworthy I am. 

I'm not a funny writer...most of the time I'm just writing about the challenges in my little family monastery called home, but it does help me keep my sanity on those days when the most joyful time of the day is when my little ones are tucked in and fast asleep...they look so precious I can almost forget the broken lamp, spilled dog food, silverware taken and fashioned into some sort of medieval weapon...almost :)

May we walk in the strength of Christ as we live the ascetic lives of mothers.  Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Finish Line

When we first started attending, there was no Father Basil.  There was a large group of clergy who had left the race track looking for a better route, and he was one of those.  I don't know what he did or how he lived during that time, but I could see by those who had been running longer than I that a miracle had taken place when a few of the clergy discovered the "better route" had taken them on a wild goose chase and they set foot back on the official course.  I saw a man dressed in black, small frame, long beard, prayer rope.  He always bowed low in front of the icons, not with the quick movements we often see from those of us who are distracted as we "enter in to worship", but deliberate movements as if he were truly honoring a friend and was present, mind and body, with the saint or the Theotokos or Christ. 

After some time he became a greeter on Sunday mornings.  He didn't bat an eyelash when my sometimes irreverent son burst into the church with his internal engine on high.  He would allow this little guy to stand with him as a greeter and praised him for his successful moments.  He helped him to slow down and cross himself and, for a moment, be calm in the presence of Christ.

He had been a priest.  When he left the Church he was unordained and no amount of wishful thinking or vestments worn in the fashion of a priest could change that fact.  And when he returned he understood that he may never be allowed to run the race as a pace setter again.  God had other plans.  On December 12, 2010 (my birthday:) he was humbled in front of the Church and his sins laid on the altar.  New shoes were placed on his feet for the race and, by the grace and mercy of Christ, he was given the name Father once again. 

That last Sunday he had no idea his race was coming to an end.  He had no idea the Liturgy he served would be his last.  He didn't know his homily  and the blood and body he served were his final contributions to the faithful. Father Basil met his Lord on July 24, 2011. He crossed the finish line redeemed, reinstated and...running with all his heart. 

May his memory be eternal.

Monday, June 27, 2011


You know it's going to be a long day when it starts with a sigh :) We are trying to figure out what combination of activities, exercises, supplements and meds are going to help my brown boy in his quest to control his mouth and body. This is a slow process and my patience and understanding account can't always sustain the withdrawals he makes on them. Would I trade any of it? No. The deposits he makes are made with hugs and a contagious laugh. He likes to cuddle and ask my what my favorite part of the day was.

But you know what, if working with my children through their emotional or physiological trials is my cross to bear I bear it gladly. It's hard to remember "the joy set before me" when we are right in the middle of the chaos, but in the quite moments (what are those?!) I do remember why we do what we do and feel so blessed to be part of God's plan for my children.

May we mama's help our little ones come to Christ and not hinder them. Even though the path for some may be steeper than it is for others, praise God for the journey :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Struggles are sometime harder when one believes progress is being made then finds it was a very temporary respite. In that brief moment it is tempting to indulge in that respite, letting down your guard. But the demons never sleep. The Devil is never on holiday. Instead we must learn to use that time to "gird our loinas", mend our armor through prayer and stand at the ready with right faith, understanding the whole time that it is only through Christ we are able to stand.

May we cling to the mighty right hand of Christ Himself. Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Last week was Forgiveness Sunday for us. Around the world each Orthodox Church acknowledges the fact that a person's sin affects the whole Church, much like a splinter, small as it may be, affects the whole body. It is very humbling and can be made even moreso if you happen to have a son like mine.

It is almost an out of body experience sometimes being the mother of an impulse control challenged child. As the rest of the church soberly goes to each member, crosses themselves and says "forgive me, a sinner", my son tells each member this whole business is disgusting and to "move on...turn the page". I'm left looking helplessly at each face and feel compelled not only to ask them to forgive me but to forgive my son as well. While it is true most of the young, especially the boys, cringe at the thought of touching, let alone hugging, an adult they are usually a lot less verbal than my son.

So what is my challenge this Lent? To humble myself. To train my children and let go of the embarrassment that often comes with being the parent of child. To serve more and speak less. To honor the Lord with my time. To let go of my ideals and carry whatever cross the Lord has for me, not the extra crosses I stack on my own back.

I do look forward to this Lenten season. And though it was a challenge to go through forgiveness Sunday with my youngest one, I was blessed to see my eldest son embrace this time and humbled by God's great mercy for us all!

Have a blessed Lent and may we see the lessons of Love God gives us through our greatest challenges

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Son's Valentine

"To Mom: I wus hungry and you gave me food and water. I wus naked and you clothed me. I love you."

Tears rolled down my cheeks this morning as I read this card from my oldest son! I was SO not expecting that!!! Just when I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted because of our latest foster additions I received this. Sometimes as a mom it's easy to feel like we're fighting an uphill battle blindfolded in quicksand. Then they say things like that! Even if we accomplish nothing else, if we can see the Christ in our children we find it is 110% worth it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


For some reason my children don't think they can be heard at bedtime. They get so engaged in their play or discussions they aren't aware of the volume level. I have always found a way to sneak down and listen in to get a glimpse into the heart of my children.

Tonight I snuck down the stairs because I heard talking coming from the boys room. I stood in the shadows by the door and listened. My eldest son was talking with our foster guy about a variety of things, very trivial at first. Still I waited and listened instead of going forward with my surprise attack and boy was I glad I did. My eldest asked Foster Guy if he liked me. Foster Guy answered "No". Oldest asked why and Foster Guy explained that he didn't like that I "get him in trouble when he steals things." Oldest became very passionate about the fact that Foster Guy shouldn't steal and that he shouldn't speak badly about me because the Bible says that it shows a parents love for her children when she disciplines them and that the Bible says to obey those in charge of you and that stealing is wrong and that we should "love our enemies". What a blessed moment for Mama. My "honor" was defended by my oldest boy!

I did eventually make my presence known when they started talking about nothing in particular again:)

Over the years I've seen other people's children behave well in front of others and have believed them to be nearly flawless. I've wondered why my children couldn't be a little more like those well behaved children. Later my children inform me that they don't like hanging out with those other children because they are so rude to each other when their parents aren't around or they have heart issues their parents aren't aware of. Then I realize I'd rather know up front what I'm up against :) Through this evenings events I think I will try to be patient with my children as they are learning to follow the Lord and thank God they aren't hiding who they are under false humility or good deeds to simply be seen by others. They are themselves and I am honored to be their mom...even when my "sneaking" doesn't come up with such blessed moments :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hope for Martha

In all the years of hearing, pondering and being instructed on the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)Martha has always gotten a bad rap. It seems like we view Martha as some sort of creature of the underworld for not dropping everything and running to the feet of Christ. Of course we can see the wisdom of Mary sitting at the feet of Christ, but there were things that legitimately needed to get done. Where Martha missed the mark with her attitude. She could have been receiving just as much blessing had her heart been at the feet of Christ even with her hands being busy preparing the meal. Mary wasn't praised for not helping her sister and Martha wasn't corrected for continuing on with the preparations. We do well in the service of Christ if our hearts are like Mary and our hands are like Martha.

There is a lovely woman at church who from the outside might look like a Martha. She is always doing. She makes sure food goes out and tables are wiped down and floors are vacuumed. When we gather for the Sunday school adult class her hands are busy with some sort of handiwork. But I also see her listening. She listens intently during the service and the classes. She is very intuitive when someone is in need or a project needs to be completed.

The Lord calls us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. He tells us that we are His workmanship CREATED FOR good works in Christ. He tells us that we are saved by grace but that faith without WORKS (yes works!) is dead. Often we fail when we get frustrated because our works have gone unnoticed:) You know, I've just heard of people doing that...

Lord grant us mama's the heart of Mary and the Hands of Martha ~Amen