Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Flowers for Mommy

It is true I am finding it easier to grab a quick 20 minutes during nap time to record a podcast, but oh how I miss writing here!

This month is National Parenting Month.  I always find that humorous, like it's something we need to acknowledge as some sort of new truth in our lives.  I am very aware that I am a parent.  I have been parenting for nearly 24 years. I have been changing diapers for 20 of those 24 years.  I have made meals, wiped noses, cleaned up vomit and poop. I've held out my hands to catch children jumping in the pool, pull children who shouldn't have jumped into the pool out of the pool, accept the deposit of gum that wasn't supposed to be chewed, to receive hugs and to point in the right direction.  The thing is...we all have.  So why do we proclaim this National Parenting Month?  Why is it significant?  Is it just another awareness thing I need to support with a particular ribbon pinned to my overalls?

Officially this month was created to "help the public better understand the role parents play in the development of their children."  I generally don't like "awareness" stuff.  I even have a hard time with Mother's Day because...HELLO...I am that same mom all the rest of the year too (for better or for worse).  But there are those moments, those break down moments, when mamas themselves need to better understand the role they play in the development of their children.  With all we do we can still feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, exhausted, frustrated, elated AND in tears at the same time and just plain OVER. IT. We wonder, as soon as their feisty little wills start exerting themselves, if anything we do will have a positive impact on our children's lives. While mothering is one of the most beautiful and fulfilling jobs on the planet, it can bring us to our knees like nothing else.  It is good for us to be reminded of the importance of our constant investments into the hearts and minds of our children, not so we can rise up and call ourselves blessed, but so that we can find refreshment for the long hard journey ahead.

Something marvelous has happened to me TWICE at Trader Joes.  Not only have I found amazing food and receive wonderful customer service, I found healing.  Okay, yes, I am sort of a "peace, love, brown rice" kind of person, but while strange things were afoot at the Circle K, amazing blessings took place at TJ's.  It had been a hard day.  I was actually at the store without any of my children!   With the number of mouths I have to feed in my family the check out clerks often assume I'm stocking up for the month when I'm just buying for the week.  Sometimes they ask how many children I have, sometimes they don't.  But somehow I always end up saying something about our large family, adoption or foster care after I mention how big my family actually is.  It's usually casual and fun.  I hear a lot of stories from the checkers about how they thought about doing foster care, or their parents or some other relative adopted...makes for easy conversation.

While the checker and I talked and after she stopped staring at me when I said 9 children, she rang her bell, whispered to a courtesy clerk and continued to ring up my groceries.  Moments later the clerk returned with a bouquet of flowers for me!  I was stunned and started getting teary eyed.  In fact as I write this  happy tears are stinging my eyes.  She thanked me for being a mom.  She made my day.  Yes, I knew I was leaving the tranquil place that houses my favorite oriental rice crackers and heading back willingly to the lion's den I call home, but this woman thanked me for cleaning up the poop and giving the hugs and saying "no" when necessary and cheering louder than anyone and crying secretly in my room because one of my children told me they hate me and that I'm not their mom or they wish they had another mom... She thanked me for being.

So, happy National Parenting Month.  If no one gets them for you then get yourself a bunch of flowers (or a box of chocolate or just plug your years for 30 seconds for at least a little peace and quiet) and know that the work we do IS important and the investment we make into the lives of our children IS worth it EVEN IF they can't/won't/don't receive it.  Get out of the closet, uncurl from the fetal position, and go hug your child...unless they're sleeping then for goodness sake let them sleep!

Many blessings in Christ!

Orthodox Mother's Prayer for Her Children

Holy Father, Immortal, from whom all goodness and gentleness comes, penitently I pray Thee for the children whom Thou hast given me to bear. Keep them in Thy grace and holiness, that Thy name may be glorified in them. Direct me by Thy grace to raise them toward the glory of Thy holy name and the benefit of other people. Grant me the gift of the patience necessary to do so. O Lord, enlighten the mind of my children with Thy Wisdom to learn to love Thee in their souls and thoughts. Instill in their hearts the fear and abhorrence of every vice, that they may be able to go the right way without sin. Adorn their souls with purity, goodness, humility, diligence, patience, and every virtue. Guard their lips from all slander and lies. Bless my children, that they may progress in virtue and holiness, and grow under Thy care into honest people. May their guardian angels be with them and protect them in their youth from misleading thoughts, from the evil and sinful temptations of this world, and from the traps of all unclean spirits. And when my children sin before Thee, do not turn away Thy face from them, but according to Thy great mercy be merciful unto them, for Thou alone art the one who cleansesth people from all sin. Reward my children with worldly good things and everything they need for salvation. Keep them from wrath, anger, misfortune, evil, and suffering all the days of their lives. O good Lord, I pray Thee, grant me joy and happiness from my children. Keep me in righteousness and justice, that with Thy children I may stand before Thee in the day of Thy dreaded judgment, and that without fear I may say: Here I am, Lord, with the children whom Thou hast given me, that together with them I may praise Thy most holy name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Found Here: http://www.saintgregoryoutreach.org/2011/12/mothers-prayer-for-children.html 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Prove It!

Okay, it's been nearly a year since I've written a new post.  I've been making podcasts in my 12 passenger van and running around chasing all my children that seem to keep multiplying before my eyes!  When I wrote my first book, Hear Me my "about the author" piece stated we had four children.  Then my second book said we had 6.  Book number three showed that we'd grown to eight and book number four, due out in 2017, should say something about the NINE children we have!  Whew!  But I'm back because I have something I need to say.

I just posted podcast about the racial tension in our country and picking sides  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhF8A4p_lsM .  Then this morning I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, "2000 years ago Jesus solved the debate about which lives matter.  He died for all." What do I do with that?! 

Now wait a minute Christian,  I think we have much more to offer to this conversation than these words.  Do we post things like that and assume we are really making a difference and living the Christian faith? Are we so distracted by "religious" quotes that we miss the big picture?   We have to be careful not to fall into traps that make us feel like we're accomplishing something meaningful while remaining completely uninvolved and detached from the world around us.

James 2:14-17 NKJV says, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?   If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

This very idea is what motivated my husband to ultimately say yes to being a foster parent.  It was one thing to see the need but another to sacrifice our comfort and get our hands dirty by living out our faith by works.  I can't say he was exactly kicking and screaming, but my husband certainly did not want to have anything to do with government run institutions.  But that's where the need has been.  In all honesty it would have been much easier to help in some other way...doing something that did not include the "ugly" that comes along with the good and bad of foster care.  I had children young and today my youngest birth child turned 19.  I could potentially be an empty nester or at the least have a house full of completely competent adults who can fend for themselves.  That would have been easier.  I could have written all sorts of little snippets about the challenges of raising children while resting comfortably on the other side of the chaos, but God requires more from us.  He's not calling everyone to do foster care, but He does call us all to DO and make a difference in our homes, in our churches, in our communities and the world! 

Jesus explained to His disciples how it was going to be at the end of the age, when the sheep were separated from the goats.  He said, "for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Matthew 25:35-40 NKJV

Is it really helpful to say we are Christians and make comments like the one above but put no action to our words?  Let our actions show what we believe.  If we believe Jesus solved that debate, which I think we do, and that He died for all, which He did, then let our actions PROVE what we believe. PROVE that you are a follower of Christ by your love for others.  PROVE that you belong to the Lord by your deeds.  PROVE your faith and, as the saying goes,  if you have to...use words.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Family Prayer

A lovely mama asked a question online about how to handle prayer time with 4 young children.  When she asked the question my mind raced back to when my oldest three were young and my desire was to nurture them in the faith.  Because I loved the Lord so much I imagined I'd just call to my children and they'd come skipping over, immediately stopping whatever they were doing, so they could pray to the God of the universe.  All would be peaceful and we might even glow a little because of the glory of God illuminating our hearts and minds.  For 11 years I had this picture in my head and for 11 years I have struggled and fought and seethed (YES SEETHED DURING PRAYER!).  Why didn't my children want to pray?  I mean some of my children wanted to pray while others seemed quite annoyed at the interruption and my "littles" got blasted with a burst of energy as soon as they crossed the threshold into the living room. I was sure all the other good Christian children were sitting at the feet of their parents to soak up whatever morsels of wisdom they might give.  I was certain all the other mamas had to find time to take care of their homes because their children were begging them to take a moment to pray or light a candle or read to them from the scriptures.  I didn't really think these things, of course, but my attitude and frustration suggest that I must have believed it at some level.

Family prayer time is a time to expose our children to our Christian faith outside the walls of the church.  It is a time to set an example.  It is not about forcing them to pray.  It is NOT about punishing them for not doing it right, not being quiet enough or even seeming disrespectful.  They are babies.  Even the older ones are still young in the faith.  When we feed babies and small children we give them first milk then solids.  When the solids are introduced they are given in small pieces so they don't choke.  It is the same with our faith and our family traditions.  Small meaningful pieces go a long way in providing spiritual nutrition for our children. Helping them ingest manageable portions of Christ's love and mercy, constantly exposing them to His gentleness and grace, will help them crave more of what is spiritually satisfying as they grow.  We don't know what our children are feeling at any given moment or even what their motives are when they disobey. Our younger children are experience life for the first time and our older children often can't communicate how they're feeling as they are constantly bombarded by hormones and emotions that seem to be misfiring.

So how can we handle family prayer time?

1. Keep it super simple.  Instead of doing the complete prayers perhaps just say the Our Father to start with, even with older children.  Slowly build as they, and you, can handle more.  The important part is true prayerfulness not how much we can do.  Don't get me wrong, there is great benefit to doing all the prayers prescribed by the Church and to pray continuously, but what benefit is there to the words if the heart and mind are angry and distracted?

2. Acknowledge to yourself the fact that they are children, they are learning, their lack of interest or ability does not suggest anything negative about them or about your dedication to Christ. God is not surprised or offended by our children's behavior.  We must teach them calmly and gently with great love and patience.  And when we don't we must humble ourselves, repent and try again in the grace and mercy of our Lord.

2. Encourage your children to seek the Lord and praise them for each small success.  "Wow you were quiet during the whole Our Father!" or even "I appreciate that you came right when I called."  Recognizing their accomplishments gives them the feedback they need to help them to desire what is good.

3. Don't act disappointed if your child can't/won't participate.  This is a great season of learning.  They need to know they are loved and wanted by us and by God no matter what.  Often when a child isn't behaving there is something going on internally.  Perhaps they have experienced some sort of disappointment that chooses to show its ugly head right at the moment of prayer.  As adults we know how distracted we can become during our prayer times, why do we expect it to be different for our children? 

5. If there are behavior issues cross yourself and continue your prayers and address the behavior at another time.  We want to embrace the peace of Christ when we are in prayer (and always).  When we try to discipline during prayer time it often becomes punishment and that negativity becomes associated with prayer time making our children dread that time with the Lord rather than desiring it. Address the behavior/attitude at another time when it can be discussed calmly, showing your child you care for their heart more than you care about their performance during prayer time. Remember, God was blessed by the heart of the Publican rather than simply the appearance of righteousness from the Pharisee.

Working out our salvation takes a lifetime.  Just being there, just being exposed to prayer and watching the example you set as you treat them, and the world around you, with love and compassion will make a lasting impression. Let us not only pray with them, but let us pray for them that they will welcome the love of Christ into their hearts, that they will embrace the faith and that they will cling to the Cross of Christ for the salvation of their souls.

A Prayerful Sighing of Parents
For Their Children

LORD Jesus Christ, Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy Most Pure Mother, hearken unto me, Thine unworthy servant (name), O Lord, govern in mercy my children, Thy servants (names). Have mercy on them and save them, for Thy name’s sake.

O Lord, forgive them all their transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, that they may be perfected before Thee. O Lord, set them on the true path of Thy commandments and enlighten their minds with the Light of Christ unto salvation of their souls and the healing of their bodies.

Bless them, O Lord, at home, at school, in their journeys and in every place of Thy dominion. Preserve and shelter them, O Lord, from flying bullets, arrows, the sword, poison and fire, from mortal wounds and sudden death. Guard them, O Lord, from all visible and invisible enemies, and from all danger, evil and misfortune.

Heal them O Lord, from all sickness, deliver them from every impurity, and lighten their spiritual sufferings. Grant them, O Lord, the grace of Thy Holy Spirit and a long life; grant them health and chastity in all piety and love, and to live in accord with all their neighbors, near and far.

Multiply and strengthen them, O Lord, in mental ability and bodily strength, given to them by Thee. Bless them to lead a pious life and, if it is pleasing to Thee, grant them married life and honorable childbearing.

For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, give me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant, a parental blessing for my children and Thy servants, both in this present time, morning, noon and night, and also in Thine eternal, almighty and all-powerful Kingdom. Amen.

O God, Maker of all creation, Thou hast made me worthy to be the mother of a family, and through Thy goodness hast bestowed children upon me; and so I dare to say: these children are Thine, for Thou hast given them being, hast infused them with an immortal soul, and hast raised them to life through baptism.

And in accordance with Thy will Thou has adopted them and received them into the bosom of Thy Church. Send down to me Thy gracious help in raising my children, for the glory of Thy name. Bestow on me patience and strength to do Thy will.

Teach me to plant in their hearts the root of true wisdom-the fear of the Lord-that all their lives they may tremble at Thy words. Open to them the understanding of Thy law. Until the end of their days let them act with the sense that Thou art everywhere present.

Plant in their hearts loathing for every transgression, that they may be pure in their signs. O Righteous Judge, who punishes children for the sins, but sprinkle them with the dew of Thy grace.

O Heavenly Father, order the fate of my children according to Thy blessings, do not deprive them in this life of their daily bread, send down to them in due time all that is necessary for the acquisition of blessings in eternity.

Be merciful to them, when they sin before Thee; look not upon the sins of their youth and ignorance; chastise them and have mercy on them, but turn not Thy face away from them. Turn not Thy face from the in the day of their tribulation, that they may not fall into temptations beyond their strength.

Cover them with Thy mercy, that Thine Angel may walk with them and preserve them. Abandon not my children, O Lord, and give them that which is profitable for salvation. Amen.

From the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children
Compiled By Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Boise, Idaho
December 29th 2002

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I just did a video blog about "recomputing" when we make mistakes on the long (or short) journey of motherhood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11Owy_G8ZJ0 .  It was a difficult video to make.  They weren't joking when they said motherhood is not for the fainthearted! 

Last night was rough as my last daughter shared her thoughts with me about her childhood.  I cried.  I felt like a complete failure.  I thought, "I don't want to be a mom anymore.  I still have no clue what I'm doing after 21 years!"  No, I wasn't abusive.  I didn't neglect my children.  I didn't belittle them.  And yes, their perspective might change when they have children, but I own that I didn't learn how to nurture their hearts in ways they could soak it up the best. 

I'm sure you've all heard of the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  In it he discusses 5 different ways we receive love.  Often we give love the way we receive it.  The problem with that is we may not be giving love the way our children or our spouse receive/understand love and our great efforts sometimes don't produce the fruit we were intending to produce.  When we give from our love vault, their "receiving department" sometimes doesn't register as many deliveries as we've made.  Sometimes we discover how to get a good sending and receiving routine going when our children are young.  Sometimes it's not until you ask the hard questions of your older children.  And what does it mean if we are near or beyond the end of our parenting journey?  What then? 

Joel chapter 2 has a lot to say to us. The book of Joel is a book of prophecy focusing on the need for judgment and repentance.  It's only 4 chapters long but has so much to say.  He first calls Gods people to repentance.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord,
“Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm." Joel 2:12-14

And then he offers God's hope:

"Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvelous things!
Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,
And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the Lord your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." Joel 2:21-25
When we "fail" it is so easy to fall into despair.  Family is a BIG part of working out our salvation. Motherhood is a marathon we run.  There are good running days and bad running days.  There are days on the course we just sit down and weep because we're so exhausted.  Right when I was in the middle of a good cry completely doubting my abilities, my 14 year old came upstairs.  He had no idea I was crying.  He just came to get water, but his presence reminded me that I'm not done.  I have a lot more years left.  I have more opportunities to repent, confess and press on.  I have a lifetime of this family marathon to run well, run poorly, sit down utterly exhausted and then run, crawl or drag myself through over and over again.  The mistakes I've made with my oldest children may not be the issues my younger ones have, but I am confident they'll have their own interpretation of their childhood that didn't meet either their expectations or my hopes.  But we press on with perseverance the race set before us!
Understand two thoughts, and fear them.  One says, "you are a saint," the other, "you won't be saved."  Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them.  But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful.  He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins. -St. Silouan the Athonite
Dearest Lord Jesus, show me how to be a loving mother to my children. You know the desire of my heart is to mother my children in a way that will draw them to You. Forgive my shortcomings and help me not to sink into despair, but to rise up in faith with the knowledge that Your holy power is strong enough to sustain me and guide me to be the mother my children need. Help me to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to forgive my children of their faults. Grant me Your vision for my children that I may know how to train, encourage, and pray for them. For You are holy, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
We need to be gentle with ourselves, dear mothers, and embrace the life of joy, sorrow, repentance and humility we are called to as mothers and followers of Christ. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Okay I may tick some people off with what I’m about to say, but I’m having one of those “moments” so I’m going for it.  God does not hate gays any more than He hates adulterers, fornicators, hate mongers, gluttons or anyone else.  We are ALL fearfully and wonderfully made and we ALL are in need of Christ. 

With the Supreme Court Ruling I have seen a lot of “ugly” displayed by Christians.   I have unfriended a few, not because I agree with the ruling or somehow want to support something that goes completely against my deeply held belief system, but because we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.  We are called to love our neighbors.  The Bible doesn’t differentiate between neighbors who follow Holy Scriptures and those who don’t.  When we prepare to receive the Eucharist we say a prayer that includes the phrase, “I believe that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God Who didst come into the world to save sinners OF WHOM I AM FIRST.” If I am first among sinners how can I turn on my brother or sister and throw hatred at them.  No, as the first among sinners I should embrace them and encourage them in the struggle.  

What am I saying?  Am I saying that we should just stay silent about this issue?  Am I saying that as long as we love Jesus we can do whatever we want?  Of course not!  But what I am saying is that we should love others with the love of Christ.  We should give to those in need.  We should live the Gospel of Christ and when we need to speak, we need to speak the truth IN LOVE.  How can we expect anyone to listen if we are speaking out of anger or fear?  How many times do we reinforce the belief that “God hates…” rather than reinforcing that God calls all to repentance…all to Himself out of great love.  He was not afraid of the prostitute or the publican.  He touched the blind and the lepers, the clean and unclean.  His compassion was deep and His love limitless.

I am not a theologian.  I am not a scholar.  I’m not even all that smart.  I’m sure many will have strong arguments against what I’m saying.  I won’t fight.  The Church does not support the direction the world is going or lifestyles many are living LGBT and straight, but the Church does support 100% the love and mercy of Christ and that is the faith I embrace.

June 28, 2015

To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Dearly Beloved,

The recent ruling by the US Supreme Court on the legality of “same-sex marriages” has received much press coverage and has already caused some consternation about its implications and ramifications. But we Orthodox Christians must rest assured that the teaching of our Holy Church on the Mystery of Marriage remains the same as it has been for millennia.

Over the past few years, the Holy Synod of Bishops of our Orthodox Church in America has issued a number of statements outlining, detailing and clarifying the teaching of our Holy Faith on this matter in light of challenges from our American society.  These teachings remain in effect, in spite of the Supreme Court’s decision.  Links to these statements are provided below.

As we reflect on the Supreme Court’s ruling, we should thank Almighty God that we live in a country that allows us the First Amendment rights to worship freely, practice what we believe as Orthodox Christians, and live as examples of Christ our Savior and His love for others.

The ruling does not change the teaching of the Church, but it does remind us of the need to be Christ-like in our dealings with everyone. The state has the responsibility to enact laws that protect the rights of each individual.  The Church, while it does not bless “same-sex marriages” or view them as sacramental, does see the image of Christ in every individual, and his or her worth in the eyes of the Lord Who died upon the Cross for our salvation.

As the Orthodox Church in America, it is our responsibility to care for those who are in need, help those who are victims of prejudice, racism or persecution of any kind, and to provide for those who are sick, destitute, homeless or imprisoned.

The Church’s mission continues, and we have a great responsibility to be “all things to all people,” so that we all may be “one in Christ,” and hear on the last day, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

With love in the Lord,

+ Tikhon
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Don't Go There

Have you ever seen your child about to cross the line and said these words, "don't go there!"?  Have you ever dropped that warning before the battle begins?  Sometimes it's successful and sometimes they have already "gone there" with their hearts and it is only that it has taken their mouths or actions a little longer to follow.  Often when I tell my kids to not "go there" it is more of a threat or a warning that they are getting too close to the line...to the point of no return...to the place where consequences will ensue.   We, as mamas, hear this from the Lord when we are about to reprimand our child about something petty because we're already "in a mood" or "lovingly" point out a fault in our husbands...again and again...perhaps speaking the truth, as we are told to do, but ignoring the part of the verse that reminds us to speak the truth IN LOVE. 

This past week I was speaking to my priest about some struggles within my family.  I heard the words "don't go there" come from his mouth, but it wasn't a threat or a warning, it was permission.  This really took me by surprise.  I had to think about this because, I will confess, I have a hard time not "going there" with my family.  The idea that I could have the permission to walk away was beyond my scope of understanding.  Of course I must still address the issues, but I don't necessarily have to put on the "Nazi mommy" hat and go to battle with my battling child.  Perhaps I could wait.  Waiting is such a foreign concept!  What would happen if I didn't shout "CHARGE" in my heart and prepare to deflect every argument, insult and excuse?  What if I went in looking at the situation as an opportunity to humble myself, even in...no...ESPECIALLY in my home. 

Image result for mother embracing her children clipartHow does a mother NOT "go there"?  We learn about putting on the full armor of God, but I think we often mistakenly think the armor is to protect us from getting hit with flaming arrows and stray bullets from our children, and possibly our husbands, rather than the enemy of man's soul.  When our children are young we are teaching them constantly, whether we mean to or not, how to sort out life and who we go to for help.  It isn't so much about being the perfect mother as it is about living in repentance in front of our children allowing them to see us on our knees in the midst of the chaos.  It isn't that we have to show them there are no struggles, but how to seek Christ within those struggles instead of lashing out or fighting against our own "troops".  By living in repentance and prayer, by struggling and seeking the guidance of Christ our Lord, we are teaching them how to put on the armor that is only strong because it is made by God so they have the hope of the resurrection and the world to come...that hope that strengthens faith which gives us the courage to follow Christ in humility and love. 

So, Dear Mamas, I give you permission to NOT "go there".  I give me permission to stay away from wherever "there" is as well.  Motherhood takes practice and often includes feeling like a failure.  We can feel like we must be a little mentally "off" because so many other moms seem to have it together.  Well, the best mom ever, the Theotokos, LOST Jesus when he was 12, and yet we certainly wouldn't classify her as a failure!  Be gentle with yourself and ask the Theotokos, the mother of all mothers, to pray on our behalf.  It is a hard road we travel but not one we must travel alone. 

Many are they who say of me,

“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,

My glory and the One who lifts up my head.

I cried to the Lord with my voice,

And He heard me from His holy hill. (Ps. 3:2–4)

May God be glorified and keep us from "going there" that we may go to Him instead!

Saturday, May 2, 2015


I was 15 years old.  I had just gotten home from school.  No one else was home yet.  It wasn't unusual for me to have difficulty finding things...I've never been a naturally organized person.  Normally I would have given up looking, but I just had this...what was it?  It wasn't a sense of urgency, more a feeling of determination.  I felt kind of bad that I didn't know my dad's phone number by heart.  We hadn't talked in about a year, maybe more.  My parents divorced when I was 8 and I had seen my dad once when I was 12.  Why did I care about calling him?  We weren't particularly close.  Most people would assume I wouldn't want anything to do with him.  As I looked for his phone number I realized I had a choice.  The choice wasn't who God had allowed to be my father.  My choice was whether I was going to have a relationship with this man or not.  No one was forcing me to and no one would think badly of me if I didn't. 

Where was that blasted number.  I put it somewhere safe... It took about an hour.  Toward the end of my search I decided I did in fact love my dad.  I trusted my God with my heart and I figured He could work things out between the two of us.  I decided to have no expectations and let our relationship be whatever it was going to be. 

Finally the number!  Now to find the phone...  I dialed the number and my dad answered after the second ring sounding slightly out of breath.  "Hi dad."  I said casually.  "Why did you call me?!"  What a strange question.  He repeated, "Why did you call?  Why did you choose to call right now?"  I was slightly taken aback.  "I just felt like talking to you."  We talked for a only a minute or two and he told me he'd call in a few days.  What I didn't know was that in a room somewhere in Washington DC sat my father holding a gun.  He had made his own decision.  He had decided his life wasn't worth living.  He held that gun and told God that he was checking out of this world and if God didn't want him to He'd need to let him know. He held that gun while I was looking for his number.  He asked that question when I was dialing the phone. 

Pamela Ellis's photo.My father, Dale Harold Woods, passed away last Thursday.  He was 66.  When I was little the Lord provided a "stand in" for my dad, my grandfather William James Johnstone.  When my grandpa died he received my "daddy feelings" because he was a daddy in my life.  When my own father was dying I didn't know exactly how to feel.  What do you do when those feelings reserved for your daddy were used on someone else?  I cried when I found out he was in hospice care.  I mean I sobbed.  I sobbed because I knew the man who'd always been bigger than life with his deep booming voice was small and frail who always reminded me of a mixture of Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman, who always had a dream to accomplish something great, who was still working out his own salvation...this man had wasted away to a mere skeleton of what he used to be.  He was small and frail but hadn't lost any of his spirit.  Why was I crying when I didn't really feel anything?  It felt like any and all tears I'd been storing up regardless of the reason, were all deciding to come out at once.  I prayed a prayer for the dying.  I asked God to reveal to me if I had any anger, bitterness...anything I might have been holding against my dad so I could repent of it and offer my prayers with complete sincerity and love.  The next morning I learned my father had died. I didn't cry, I had already used up my tears and chosen to embrace the will and grace of God.

I've thought about a lot of things since my daddy went away.  I thought a little about what I didn't get to experience with him, but I thought more about  how thankful I am that we at least had some sort of relationship.  We didn't have what could have been, but we never do in any relationship.  I got to hear his voice.  I got to talk to him for weeks before his death.  When he got remarried I received the gift of friendship from his wife and her three children, three new siblings I didn't know I needed, but who are part of me now.  I had the opportunity to see him interact with his grandchildren a few years ago and I received healing by seeing how far the Lord had brought him.  He was still very hard headed and stubborn, but he showed a real interest in his grandchildren and an appreciation for who they were as individuals.  He freely gave them what he had in his heart (my brother does this whenever he visits as well...it is a gift he received from his father). 

Life can be hard and seem very unfair. We don't always get what we hope for or desperately desire from human relationships.  They can be very hurtful and confusing.  My father had many issues before I was born, in my young childhood and throughout his life for many many reasons.  He burned many bridges.  But he always wanted to follow the One Who could rebuild bridges.  Having children with trauma and attachment issues I have, I think, a better understanding of what my dad had to overcome to function at all.  And while I don't feel an attachment to him as my daddy, I am thankful that he existed, that we communicated, that we kept trying and most of all that he kept striving. 

Let us not live in bitterness but let us embrace love and through God's perfect love participate in forgiveness.  God's love is big enough.

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes. (St. John Climacus)