Our youngest, Mary, abhors hiking. When faced with an outdoor dirt covered trail of any kind, my able-bodied daughter starts to wilt, and her legs mysteriously go weak – too weak to will themselves forward one step at a time. It’s become an inconvenient aversion for her father and me, who love to hike and want to hike as a family. In the past we’ve tried explaining logically to her that she is, in fact, quite capable of completing a short trek through the woods, there being zero physical limitations to hinder her from accomplishing such a modest physical undertaking. This commonsense line of reasoning has traditionally been met with much weepy naysaying and the gnashing of baby teeth.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, while at my in-laws, the weather was cool but crisp and sunny. After stuffing our bellies with generous helpings of pumpkin, pecan, blueberry, and apple pie we were feeling antsy to get out there in it and reinvigorate our sluggish bodies with a h-i-k-e along one of the picturesque trails nearby. But how….how could we possibly pull that off and sidestep all the whining and necessary pep talking that usually dampen our nature walk experiences? We had to put our heads together – had to think outside the box and come up with a strategy that could
trick help Mary into developing a different, more positive perspective. Any mom will tell you, it’s all in the delivery! How you spin it can make or break the implementation of a great new plan.
“Alright, everyone!” we announced to our children and nieces and nephews after brainstorming up a fresh approach to an ongoing dilemma. “Get your hats and coats on! We are departing in fifteen minutes for an owl hunt before dinner!”
Notice that “Owl Hunt” does not contain the word “hike” in it, or “walk,” “trek,” “stroll,” “slog”, “tramp”…you get the picture. An “Owl Hunt” implies not a pointless, destination-less, calorie burning excursion through bare branched trees, but an adventure! Mary likes owls, and much to our relief she found it not all that appalling to, in the good company of her beloved cousins, keep her eyes peeled for signs of life while putting one foot in front of the other. There was purpose in that, and even a bit of wonder. One can’t help but be touched by wonder when deliberately paying attention to the beauty that is, but so often ignored.
“True life is lived when tiny changes occur,” wrote Leo Tolstoy. It’s the small minute to minute decisions to either see or stay blind, listen or remain deaf, go forward or waste our days in idleness, that bless or curse our existence on earth with either hope, redemption, love and peace or despair.
Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.
- Leo Tolstoy
I remembered myself as being a much better bowler than I actually am. “If I beat you,” asked my youngest son, “can I stay up twenty minutes later tonight?”
“Sure thing,” I agreed cockily, and then proceeded to dish out all manner of good natured trash talk, which my kids balked at because they know me too well. Having played catch, four-square, Wii Tennis and badmitton with me in the past, they were pretty confident I was grossly over estimating my coordination skills.
It was our third day at our in-laws house, after having celebrated Thanksgiving with many, many beloved siblings, cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles, that we decided on this family “just for fun” outing. By then I’d finally detoxed enough from my self-inflicted go-go-go-ness, that had had me frazzled and easily irritated five days prior, to be ok with the allowance of a little spontaneity.
This new stage of my life, and new business venture, is proving to be equal parts exciting and challenging – challenging particularly in the area of time management. I love the work, adore the work, but need to learn how to work not harder, but smarter. I can see now how very easy it is when working from home to never, ever stop working. It takes discipline to leave a task half-way finished so that dinner can be started, laundry folded, my family enjoyed.
As always, this Nativity Fast has come at the perfect time, lest I add to my already overly preoccupied soul the pressure to shop, spend, and heap upon myself the stress of feeling ever behind in my holiday planning. Now is when I need to express gratitude for my blessings – including, of course, and most importantly the Incarnation I’m to be preparing for, my loved ones, and this incredible opportunity to grow my own business – and pray for the self-control to be a better steward of them. The Nativity Fast calls for increased prayer, stillness, attentiveness, and yes, joy – all of which I am starving for but too weak to pursue on my own. What a gift for the Church to intervene by guiding and supporting me along the narrow path toward peace, redemption and fullness.
This afternoon, I am focusing on: developing an “all, or at least something” approach to staying mindful of what matters most, praying through my smallest of decisions and interactions, staying on task, and being present for the person in front of me.
This afternoon, I am also happy to unveil the brand new Molly Sabourin Photography website I’ve been slaving over!!
Bless you all, as you go about seizing the beauty and significance of this once-in-a-lifetime Monday!
Make ready, O Bethlehem: let the manger be prepared, let the cave show its welcome. The truth has come, the shadow has passed away; born of a Virgin, God has appeared to men, formed as we are and making godlike the garment He has put on. Therefore Adam is renewed with Eve, and they call out: ‘Thy good pleasure has appeared on earth to save our kind’.
- Orthodox Hymn
My niece Jane is in-between - in-between a big sister and a little sister, in-between loud, expressive cousins who can outtalk, outshout, out-silly her. She is soft, like cotton, and doe-eyed, and always, always says, “please” and “thank you.” I was just thinking how she is more of a mystery to me than my other children and nieces, who are of the heart on sleeve, open book variety. “Janie,” I asked her yesterday, “can I take your picture?”
“Sure,” she said, of course. And thus was born my latest photo session, of Jane, just Jane, not sandwiched between siblings, or cousins, or classmates, but Jane alone, all sunshine-y and wonderful. This is exactly why I’ve fallen in love with portraiture. It is pretty darn lovely to pause for a moment from obsessing over myself and take in the internal beauty of a friend, a family member, a neighbor – to try and capture the essence of that distinct beauty in a image to save and cherish.
I hadn’t realized how long Jane’s hair had gotten, or how her face had started to thin out and lose its baby girl chub cheeks. I asked her questions while I photographed her, about kindergarten, Thanksgiving and such. We laughed when she made funny expressions and got dizzy from spinning around. We told my youngest son to “beat it” when he attempted to photo bomb her Janie-only shoot with his two-fingered bunny ears. It was a sweet thirty minutes of bonding time. Click HERE to see the all-Jane, only-Jane portrait session in its entirety! And “like” that Facebook page for more updates on my Sabourin Photography business.
Have a peaceful weekend, and a Blessed Navity Fast to my Orthodox brothers and sisters!
Come join us over at Amber’s Photo Friday Project!
I hadn’t known we’d end up here. That morning I’d had my sights set on chores and such, like I do every morning. But on this particular morning my husband happened to have the day off of work. I had assumed I wouldn’t see him much as he had his business to attend to and I had mine. Around noon, however, we both wound up back at home – in the same place, at the same time.
“Let’s go out for lunch,” I said, because the kids were at school and after school they had play practice. “And how about a hike?” my husband suggested, because he’s sporty like that. It was cold, but sunny. I grabbed a hat, some gloves and my hiking boots.
After leisurely dining together, at a real restaurant, we drove for only a few minutes to the National State Park. It was silent there and empty, save for the heavily bumper-stickered Honda Prius parked next to us.
Absent was the noise of news, and all electronic distractions. It was just Troy and me in the great outdoors with a four mile path laid out in front of us.
We saw a buck, a deer, a woodpecker, and the beach. We companionably talked and didn’t talk. Gosh, when was the last time we’d been alone like this? It was hard to recall.
I love this man, I remembered while huffing and puffing up a steep incline, for how he quietly inspires me to try a little harder, push myself a little further, open my eyes a little wider, grow a little stronger and more independent every day. In the woods, I reflected briefly on our fifteen years of marriage and how we’ve evolved as individuals, and as a couple, via parenthood, conversion, setbacks and breakthroughs.
It was so, so good and refueling to get away.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Christ our True God, who loves mankind, look down with mercy and compassion upon every soldier who is facing a daily struggle with war, aggression and terrorism. Each one desires to live before You, and be ever protected by Your Right Hand. Preserve them, we humbly pray, and watch over them every given hour. Guide their steps, give wisdom and discernment to all who are in leadership, that Your will may prevail, and that they may return safely to their homes and loved ones.
Draw us closer to You, we pray. Grant to us and to each soldier the desire to say as the Psalmist did, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.” (Psalm 91)
In Your righteousness forgive us as we continue in the defense of our beloved country. Watch over those whom we love, our wives, our children, relatives, and friends, as well as all civil authorities. May Your guiding Spirit be with those who govern us. Bless our country America, our allies, and all those who love freedom, peace, and good will among all men.
May Your mercy be ever granted to us, for without fear but with love, humility, and obedience we to turn to You, that we may be strengthened, stand firm, and live.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Humbly In Christ Our Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
A Blessed Veterans Day to you all!Read More