I knew it was time to move when I was loading the kids into our van outside of a McDonalds Play Land and my six-year-old son, Elijah, pointing to an iridescent puddle of oil pooling under the pick-up truck next to us, in wonderment said, “Look, mommy, a rainbow!”
For as long as possible, we delayed the inevitable. I home schooled, we converted a porch into an extra half bedroom, and we cleaned out the basement for a few more square feet of living space. With the birth of Mary, however, our family of six was busting at the seams of our 2 ½ bedroom condo getting smaller by the minute. And then our garage was broken into. All of the hubcaps were stolen off our van. My husband, Troy, was almost hit by a car recklessly speeding down the street. I was feeling tense and claustrophobic. The kids were sprouting wings and wanting to fly.
Our unit was on the market for three months. Three months of having to show our place at any given moment. Three months of waiting for offers, offers falling through, and discussions about lowering the price - I was as skittish as a heroine in a horror film. By the time the sale was finalized, after a nail biter of a closing, all the nostalgia had been drained from my heart. We found an old Victorian in a quaint Indiana neighborhood, twice the size and three times as far from Troy’s job downtown. Throughout all the mayhem of sorting and packing, I was distracted from dwelling on the changes that were just around the corner. Perhaps, in all honesty, I couldn’t bear a formal goodbye. The feelings were too raw for handling just yet, too sore for an intrusive examination. We drove off into the future, without regret.
Of all of the millions of concerns tossing about in my mind last year, my children and their adjustment to this move, was not one of them. I had packed them up, along with the picture frames and dishes, assuming they were just as unfeeling as the glass and porcelain we had wrapped with such diligence and care. “They are too small,” I thought, “to notice the difference.” But a week into our new lives as Hoosiers, once the novelty wore off and the permanence was starting to set in, Troy and I found ourselves with a small mutiny on our hands. “This house is too creaky and too scary! I miss my neighbors and our old park!” The disappointment expressed by my kids astonished me. “Are you serious?” we asked. “You have freedom here, and room to play. We live close to the library and bike trails.” But I was missing the point, entirely. Their longings could not be fulfilled using facts and logic. It takes time to develop roots and blossom in foreign soil.
I was reminded of that somewhat recently because this next January it will be ten years since Troy and I officially entered the Orthodox Church. Like our Chicago exodus, the conversion became imminent when it was obvious staying in place was no longer an option. It was a bold move, a big move and one that affected not just our lives, but also the lives of so many around us. We had been romanced by the beauty and antiquity of the Faith. We felt compelled to go ahead in the direction of God’s leading. We were confident in our decision and journeyed toward the future, without regret. Once the novelty wore off, however, and the permanency of sacramental living set in, my soul put on a mutiny of its own. It wasn’t a matter of facts and dates; I knew in my head how sound theologically were the hymns, creeds, and teachings of Orthodoxy. But being only a tiny bud, newly planted in the richness of Tradition, it was hard and humbling to have to wait on elements outside my control for nourishment that would stimulate my growth.
Like a tree, each year of my continued conversion forms a ring, marking a slow but steady development. A nine-ringed Oak is substantially stronger than a seed, but nowhere near close to reaching its maximum potential. There are forests strong and mature to inspire me. There are tender shoots of green, peeking out from under grass and dirt in need of my encouragement and prayer. All of us are stretching upward toward heaven at our own unique pace, equally dependent on the sun, the rain, and the oxygen so generously offered from the hand of God. A forced asceticism, I learned early on, can bloom quickly and even brilliantly before just as suddenly withering away, but a consistent and patient yearning to be conformed to the image of Christ will withstand the storms of doubt and persecution. It takes time to develop roots and blossom in foreign soil.
On our way to Troy’s parents for a highly anticipated long weekend, Elijah and Priscilla asked if we could please drive through the city. It was a little out of the way, but they were so excited by the possibility, we agreed to take the detour. It is captivating, all those buildings and the lights reflecting off the water of Lake Michigan. “Ah, Chicago,” said Elijah from the back seat, “the city of dreams!” I realized then, they were not mere possessions. My children were individuals with their own distinctive passions and sorrows. They would adjust, as they were ready, in their own time and in their own way. I was to love and respect the process. “I think I left my batman in my old room,” four-year-old Benjamin told me yesterday.” I promised him, that we had checked for such things before moving. “Let’s go upstairs,” I said, “to your new room and find it together.”
This previously published blog is being featured this week on Ancient Faith Radio.