Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the human heart is never completely born. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you. It brings to birth new territories within your heart.
- John O'Donohue
His Prayer for Absolution
So shortly after the above photo was taken, I carelessly knocked my Nikon D50 off the kitchen table and watched in horror as the lens cracked off of the body, rendering my beloved camera … useless. For hours I sobbed. Months worth of stress, and some recent disappointments, swelled up and came flooding to the surface. The breaking of my camera brought on a gush of emotions I couldn't control for the major part of my morning. Luckily, the kids were all in school so there was no need for maintaining my composure. I finally cracked is what happened.
Praise be to God.
It is hard to admit to you that I got ahead of myself, forgetting, Lord Have Mercy on me! (though I thought I had the best of intentions), the "one thing needful." This was the fall, I'd decided, to really go for it – to pursue a career in writing. Along with that pursuit came late nights, mounds of ignored dirty laundry, dinners thrown together hurriedly at the last moment, the constant checking of e-mails, lines penned carelessly and ever increasing pressure to write more, to accomplish more, until my responsibilities as a wife and a mother started getting in the way of my best-laid plans. In some rather humbling ways, it was made abundantly clear to me that my priorities had gotten completely out of whack. I'd been burning the candle at both ends for what? What, really? I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit, while blubbering inconsolably on the living room couch, I'd gone too far. I'd put my desire for success ahead of my salvation (you know, ahead of longing to be patient, meek, gentle, in control of my impulses) and my family.
I've been reminded this past week that my salvation is a life-long journey – one in which truths unfold continuously, through my ups and downs, regarding my limits, God's mercy and the soul piercing power of love to bring me back around to repentance, and through repentance, peace. I finally know what I have to do: set up some serious boundaries for the sake of Troy, Elijah, Priscilla, Mary and Ben, and become extra vigilant about praying for wisdom and discipline in this area. I have been savoring, I have to tell you, the look of contentment on my husband's face when he comes home not to chaos but some semblance of order and a hot meal on the table, and when he leaves for work with his belly full of a real breakfast and a homemade lunch in his hands. By slowing down and surrendering fully my ambitions (and shutting down my lap top), I have undivided attention to spare and to invest in my marriage and friendships. I don't care how backwards or outdated it sounds, managing my house, equipping those I adore with the tools they need (healthy food, clean clothes, a tranquil home environment, a listening ear) to succeed in their classrooms and workplace is more satisfying than … well, just about anything else I guess. I'm sorry for losing sight of the fact that I am a mother and a wife, first and foremost (what a privilege!).
I ask for your prayers! I have no chance of finding balance (much less maintaining that balance) without Christ's unceasing intervention. I'm in the best place possible, I believe, an "aware of how in need I am of help" place. Isn't it so remarkably hopeful that our low points can become springboards for real growth and revelation? Yes, even while still grieving the tragedy that is my busted Nikon (sniff, sniff), I understand now, more than ever, that no set-back is in vain, and that God is good, and much, much wiser than yours truly.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:22-24).Read More
I took this picture at my parents' house last Sunday and promptly forgot about it. This evening, I came across it again and this time saw not a bland, mostly blurred photo of a drying out wheat-colored plant, but rather a snapshot of an epiphany, a stunning realization, a hazy concept finally coming into focus. This photo illustrates eerily well, actually, my thirteen-year long journey into the Orthodox Christian Faith. See, I'm all crazy bowled over by the teensy tiny (in the grand scheme of things) bit of spiritual richness and depth I've digested thus far over the last decade via my participation in the life and sacraments of the Church ( my newfound enlightenment – ta da! - is represented by the tip of that one clear stem in the picture. ) - and yet look at how much left I have to learn and discover! I used to think I was pretty much "in the know" as far as God and His mercy are concerned. I mean, I did go to Bible College for four years. But then I did something really terrifying: let go of all I thought I understood, all I was used to, and opened myself up to the possibility that perhaps this ancient, sacramental Faith contained a Fullness I'd never encountered before. WHOOSH! What a humbling and mind blowing ride its been!
Remember when Moses was on Mount Sinai and caught that smallest glimpse of but the back of God and then he came down all white and beaming - so utterly transformed? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about: God as unfathomably,unknowably, incomprehensibly Holy. Shouldn't it never cease to amaze me that we don't just explode when consuming Christ on a Sunday morning? Should I not be, like all the time, in a continuous state of fear and trembling at the mere thought of being known and even loved by… GOD? The more increasingly aware I become of how unworthy (thanks for your help with this one, Orthodoxy) I truly, truly (trust me) am, the more imperative it seems to abandon recklessly my selfish pursuits in order to love, without judgment, my neighbor. That is, after all, the greatest commandment (after loving God, Himself) we were given.
Whoa, who knew a random photo could convict me so (well, maybe that photo and the quote below)?
I'd best keep my eyes wide open.
"Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment."
— John O'Donohue(Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)
Sweet dreams, little one
- Matthew 11:28 & 29
I dedicate this healing piece of poetry to you who are physically, emotionally, spiritually weary and in desperate need of calm. Be, as the author suggests, "excessively gentle with yourself" today, allowing us, the Body of Christ, to offer up prayers on your behalf for we are all in this together – sometimes leading, sometimes following, sometimes carrying the burdens of others and just as often being carried. How good and beautiful is our dependence on one another for salvation.
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The ride you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
Elijah (still eating breakfast): 6th grade, Priscilla: 4th grade, Benjamin and my niece, Isabelle: 1st grade
It is completely silent at my house this morning. Mary (Happy 5th Birthday, Darling!) is out with my parents and the older three are taking hikes in the woods or drawing pictures of stick bugs they've caught at their nature-y, environmentally friendly charter school. I was nervous last year when Elijah decided he wanted to give public school a try after homeschooling for a couple of years – I mean, like really nervous. How relieved I was when my sister-in-law, Paige, brought me with her to a town meeting about a brand new charter school being built in our area focused on, yes, nature and most importantly a very hands-on approach to learning ("We don't just look at maps," Elijah told me yesterday, "we make them!"). His 6th grade class is small and he has at least five classmates who have been home-schooled up until this year. He seems content with this new direction we have taken education-wise, and that makes me content…and ever so grateful. Priscilla and Ben had already been in school last year and were happy to go back this fall. Though the school is new to them as well, they recognized several kids in their classes and declared their teachers to be sooooo nice.
In the past seven years, we've done Montessori, public school, home-school and now this. When I told myself early on I'd take this school thing one year at a time, depending on the unique needs of each of our children, and of our family, at any given time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It all just affirms for me the importance of living in the present moment, of asking God expectantly for the wisdom needed to make the best decision possible for your specific family members and the discipline then to not keep second guessing yourself. May God grant peace (and for sure perseverance) to all of us parents as this 2010-2011 school year begins! For you moms and dads blessing and loving your kids via homeschooling, I highly suggest THIS wonderful and encouraging post written by Mary over at Evlogia. Well, I'm off to take care of the breakfast dishes! Thanks to Father Jospeh Huneycutt for publishing the following back to school prayer on his Orthodixie site!
O God, our heavenly Father, Who lovest mankind, and art most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon these your children, Thy servants, for whom we humbly pray Thee, and commend them to Thy gracious protection. Be Thou, O God, their guide and gaurdian in all their endeavors; lead them in the path of Thy truth, and draw them near to Thee, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in Thy love and fear; doing Thy will in all matters. Bless and strengthen their teachers. And, give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life; and direct them in the way of salvation, for the merits of Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the intercessions of His Holy Mother, and Thy blessed saints –
and their Guardian Angels!
Yesterday, I turned thirty…something and we celebrated by attending Divine Liturgy (Thank you so much for visiting our parish, Brown family! It was delightful to see you!) and then stuffing ourselves with Cinnamon rolls at my parents' house for a Birthday/Back to School brunch. It was lovely.
On another note, I wanted to tell you this morning how touched I was by the messages I received from you regarding my last post. This afternoon, I will continue working on my next podcast, "Love Thy Neighbor," inspired by this most recent first-hand experience of feeling the goodness and grace of God through the kindness of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
May He grant me the strength and determination this week to pay your thoughtfulness forward, gifting others with the encouragement you so generously bestowed upon me.
The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, "What are you going through?"
- Simone Weil