Thursday, November 29, 2007


“Who am I Lord?” asked St. Maria of Paris before she found her vocation as a monastic. She went on to provide an answer to her own question:
“Only a pretender, broadcasting grace, distributing sparks from the fire.”

By that fire I am burned but not consumed, despite the one step forward three steps back routine that’s put a permanent limp in my stride, like Jacob forever wounded after wrestling with the Angel. I have questions too, you know– loud, accusing inquiries about my motives, authenticity, and audaciousness:

“Do you think if they knew how imperfect you were, how easily persuaded you continue to be by greed, fatigue, and hunger, they would listen?”

“Only a pretender,” Oh dear St. Maria, is it possible to admit such a thing? Well, shoot then, let’s do it! I am a fake. I’m a fraud. And yet still, still yet, my weary soul keeps reaching - keeps wrestling with the sin that mocks my Faith. But I believe, with every flawed fiber in my being! Prayers for mercy continue rolling off my tongue, even as it slices, and sometimes (how I do wish it were all the time) edifies my neighbor. Forgive me my brothers and sisters; I beg of you to focus only on the grace heaped generously upon this silly, foolish girl - the same grace, of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, I will continue to broadcast until death unveils the mystery of eternity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This week (beginning bright and early on Thursday the 29th), for my Close to Home podcast on Ancient Faith Radio, I interview my eight-year-old son, Elijah, about St. Nicholas. He's a real riot, our boy, don't miss it!
Click HERE for your listening pleasure.
And now...for an original poem:
There once was a midwestern mom,
Who was quite convinced that a bomb,
Had gone off in her home unawares.
But when she searched harder,
She found her small daughter,
Had thrown all their books down the stairs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Its like a sitcom over here, but the exploding coffee pot, missing gloves, screaming kids, and impossibly narrow window of time in which the school bus can be caught are real - not scripted frustrations for inducing laughter. Everywhere I turn, everything I lay my eyes on is a reminder of what I should get done today but won’t. And it’s building up around me – the dirty laundry, the bathtub scum, the responsibilities that antagonize me like a playground bully. Sometimes I feel like a great mom, and sometimes I am convinced that I suck at it, that if only I had two more arms, a decent nights sleep, and what else? Let’s think about this logically. A cleaner house? Would that make me happy? How about a couple of Stepford Children, all flawless and beautiful and completely inhuman? Am I really this flustered by imperfection?

I need to slow it down, take a breath, and say a prayer. Of all the things I could possibly screw up today the only one that matters is my interaction - with the two tinies playing in the living room, the big brother and sister upon their return home this afternoon, my husband working late, and with whomever else God puts in my path for the purpose of being encouraged by the likes of a weak, undeserving, but nevertheless blessed me (despite my Capri pants and knee-high socks shouting “Look who doesn’t have any clean jeans!” ). This is the once in a lifetime day that the Lord has made, and there are obviously some sinister forces at work trying to keep me from rejoicing in it. But too bad, wet coffee grounds strewn generously all over my countertops, I have bigger fish to fry and you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, no way to dampen my outlook if I don’t let you!

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Oh yes siree friends, I did it! I got a first-hand glimpse of black Friday. Had you been in Battle Creek, Michigan on the day after Thanksgiving, and had you also happened to stroll into the one main shopping mall in town, it is very possible you and I would have crossed paths outside the Aunt Annie’s pretzel store or Victoria’s Secret, where holiday spirit was being spread via soft core porn to the delight of more than a few adolescent, male patrons.

It is a standing tradition that my two sisters-in-law and I take off alone (did you catch that part? Alone, as without children) to drink fancy coffee, grab lunch, and if possible, knock a few items off our gift lists. It was a fascinating field trip, as always, fraught with revelations hardly earth shattering yet consistently startling nonetheless. What an odd occasion has Christmas become without the story of Jesus’ birth to define it!

What I saw were ginormous gingerbread men, candy canes, and price tags. I heard Santa songs, and echoing retail chatter (“Buy one get on half off …today only!”). I felt the momentum of spending now and thinking later, of baking, decorating, and celebrating what exactly? Winter? Credit Cards? Calories? Is it really possible to just ride a wave without splashing, at least a little, in the body of water that formed it? Can one truly become so distracted by shiny bows and paper that they inadvertently toss out, unopened, the only present worth receiving into an alleyway dumpster? Knowing myself, I’ll say "yes" most heartily and thank God for a Church prescribed fast to reign me in. Because I’ve never been skilled at fence straddling, it's always one side or the other, it’s always Christ or empty greed and disappointment.

“I wish there were a holiday where we fasted from just pasta,” my eight-year-old son, with an aversion to tomato sauce, told me this afternoon. And I suppressed the urge to go on and on and on to him about restraint, preparation, and prayerful eagerness. We shape the traditions around here, my obliging husband, Troy, and I, we set the tone by our actions and example. Over bowls of “fast appropriate” beans and rice, its up to us to build the excitement, to create our own familial momentum toward the wholly satisfying climax of Christ becoming man for our salvation. We fast with purpose, we fast out of obedience, we fast to heighten and reclaim the inexplicable joy of the Feast of the Nativity in its purest, unadulterated form.

They feed off our giddiness (those spongy, all eyes and ears, sons and daughters) over Christmas morning Liturgy, over a banquet to be shared with friends and family, over offering Christ’s love to those especially in need of it, and yes, the exchanging of gifts. Its up to us to structure the priorities our children will forever cling to so that one day, when they’re out killing time in a shopping mall, the nauseating, unsubstantial fluff of holiday mayhem will send them scurrying home to their refrigerators full of hummus, pita bread, and spinach for nourishment, to their prayer corners for guidance, and to the Church where everything finally makes sense, where cries of “Christ is Born, Glorify Him!” explain it all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It is cliché but mandatory: my insistence that the children ponder upon, and then state aloud, what exactly they are thankful for; After all, ‘tis the season for gratitude (and gorging). I found this year’s offerings to be especially indicative of each of their unique personalities, like an illustrated book cover designed to foretell the romance, humor, or suspense within its pages.

For Mary, I had to observe, studying clues she dropped while playing with her customary repertoire of baby dolls, baby doll beds, and baby doll blankets. Though at first it seemed obvious (uh-m-m, baby dolls?), my skilled eyes, ears, and arms were able to accurately distinguish a mere hobby from her true passion: having me, her mother, no farther than three inches away from her at any given moment (see my last post). Thus I have concluded that Mary is thankful for my lack of employment outside the home.

Benji answered quickest and with the least amount of hesitancy. “Silliness!” He yelled, using that vibrato-fied, "Marvin the Martian Loony Toons voice" that only the silliest of five-year-old boys is capable of producing.

My six- year-old daughter, when asked for a response, immediately went into beauty contestant mode - straightening her posture, widening her eyes, and swallowing purposefully in preparation for whatever perfect reply was about to pour from out her lips and bless us all. “I am thankful,” said a dead serious Priscilla, “for my family.”

And then Elijah, my sweet, unpredictable, eight-year-old son with a head chock-full of fantastical story lines, unfounded phobias, and Jeopardy worthy trivia, proceeded to once again think outside the box with his untraditional choice of: The Magna Carta.

Well all this appreciation has got me thinking, about the ratio of my thanksgiving prayers to my pleas for deliverance, assistance, and material goods. Maybe at least 50/50 would be a soul-refining percentage to shoot for. So Lord, Jesus Christ, I am thankful for the interruptions that slow me down, for the frustrations that keep me evermore dependent upon You, for the privilege of being a mother. I am thankful that at this very moment my loved ones are healthy, there is dinner in the oven, and for access to the words You’ve let us borrow - to ask for mercy, speak the Truth, and sing Your praises.


Monday, November 19, 2007


So I’ll tell you what Mary does not give a flying flip about, and that is my plans for bringing baked goods to a large festive gathering on Thanksgiving. She is also anti: dinner making, socks (on or off her feet), and being looked at, touched, or spoken to by her siblings. I checked her repeatedly for hangnails, contusions, or a fever – for any explanation as to why my toddler is as crotchety and demanding as old Ebenezer Scrooge. But nothing jumped out at me even as her foot stomping, naysaying, and fervent neck clinging threatened to pinch a few nerves and dampen my holiday spirit.

I tried scouring my memory for any recollections of how the other children acted at this age, but its foggy terrain- my early years as a mama, a blur of diaper changes, sleepless nights, and adjusted expectations. Around 3:00 this afternoon, I finally surrendered; cookbooks remained closed, phone calls went unanswered as I resisted with all my might the urge to multi-task, and looked my little daughter full in the face. And that’s all she really wanted I suppose, for when we rocked and sang and cuddled she flashed a smile that tore right through me. Mary melted into my arms like butter browning in a frying pan - it was golden, warm, and delicious.

“I can’t always stop you know,” I try and tell her like she gets it. “Sometimes mommy has to put you down. There are other people in this family who need me, the clothes won't wash themselves; sweet pea, you’ll just have to wait your turn.” And I know its true but if I’m honest with myself the time between these purposeful interactions needn’t be so far apart, what Mary’s begging for doesn’t really take that long. I am beyond thankful this year, as always, for our four sons and daughters who keep growing like weeds in the August sun. Maybe there are more opportunites, than I originally estimated, for slowing down, tuning out, and giving in.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


So for this post I need some feedback because I’m faced with a real conundrum. I moved to this lovely place so my kids could go to school, and at the school they now attend the teachers are excellent. I moved to this place because when Elijah was six years old I kept him home with me and we butted heads like bulls competitively sparring - me for control and he for the freedom to do what he wanted, when he wanted, without my chronic nagging. We moved to this place and our relationship improved; was it maturity on both our parts or the hours away from each other – me focusing on the “babies” and he discovering limits (“So wandering around the classroom and procrastinating on assignments really isn’t acceptable? Huh”.) from an authority figure other than his mother? Their grades are excellent, both Elijah and Priscilla’s. And I’m relieved, I must admit, that the math problems (already out of my meager league) they bring home for my inspection are being taught by those for whom the carrying, dividing, and multiplying of numbers doesn’t cause an immediate short circuiting of the brain. All in all it’s a pretty good set-up, so why am I wrestling with my conscience?

I was on the phone yesterday with a very dear friend who recently pulled her own daughter out the public school system. I was affirming her decision with reasons like:

“Socializing? Who needs it?
I would have enjoyed my own education so much more without the distracting drama of volatile friendships and unbridled hormones.”

“It doesn’t matter what method you use to teach her, if she is being focused on as an individual, rather than as a part of a class, she will excel.”

“Our culture is most definitely more liberal, more aggressive in its methods to propagate our children with its whacked out morals, than it was when we were kids.”

So keep them home, right? Except here is the problem: me, me, me, me me. I didn’t like who I was as a home school mom, all flustered and tightlipped while reigning in my kids for an impossibly long twelve hours. The bickering, their refusal to cooperate, the toddler sitting on my head and whining for juice while I was trying to read an assignment, didn’t exactly bring out my best attributes as a parent. I’m afraid I just don’t have the patience (or the stomach) for it. I adore my family; nothing makes me more fulfilled than connecting with them over popcorn in the afternoons, listening to the best and worst parts of their day, praising them for their test scores and encouraging them whenever, wherever, and however possible. So what’s an overly protective and hopelessly unorganized gal to do?

I would really prefer at this juncture some sort typed out memo from God, Himself, instead of a gentle, extraordinarily subtle, prompting from the Holy Spirit. If you happen to have gotten one, a typed out memo that is, having to do with this very decision please be so kind as to mail it here, to this lovely place I moved to so that such decisions would not be necessary.

Friday, November 16, 2007


“Hello,” said a familiar voice on the phone. “Your daughter is in my office because her neck hurts.”

“You mean her throat?” I tried to clarify.

“No, her neck,” she corrected me, “Priscilla says her head feels heavy.”

“I don’t know what to make of that.” I answered honestly. “Should I come and pick her up?”

“That’s not necessary,” the nurse assured me. “She says she can make it through the rest of the day. I just wanted to let you know what was happening.”

“Thanks,” I tell her, “and by the way, I am sorry that she visits you so often.”

“No problem,” said the nurse, “She’s a cutie.”

At parent teacher conferences, Miss F pulled out from my six-year-old daughter's folder, a small stack of drawings, math tests, and nurse’s slips – small pink squares of paper with words like “stomach ache,” “bug bite,” and “scratch” scrawled upon them. “Is there something I should know?” asked the seasoned instructor across from me. “Like what?” I thought. “That Priscilla is an overly nervous child and a bit of a hypochondriac?” Because she’s not – overly nervous I mean. In fact, she is downright brazen compared to myself at her age. “I’m not aware of anything specific,” I admitted, “but I think going to school all day has been quite an adjustment for her.” That sounded legitimate, right? It was as good a guess as any, because truthfully I’m stumped. It’s like all of the minor aches (indigestion, leg cramps, a foot that’s fallen asleep) that most of us wouldn’t waste two minutes on, evaluating their origin and consequences, swell in Priscilla’s slender body like an impossible to ignore elephant in a room full of budding crushes (oh, help me!), longings for independence, and regressions back to baby talk and midnight thumb suckings.

So this afternoon I was relieved when she walked through our door, head held high and already chatting about the pizza she had for lunch, the boy in her class whose father died of cancer, and did I get a call from the nurse today? “Yes,” I confirmed, “Are you feeling better?” About all of it, is what I meant: the longer days, the grieving classmate, the changes in her world I can’t seem to buffer no matter how much Neosporin I apply, how many hours of sleep I lose to worry, no matter how vehemently I rant and rave against a mangled society, twisting its fabrications around the hearts of my kids like a noose. “Oh yes, I think so,” said Priscilla, between mouthfuls of leftover cake. “I’ll be fine.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Well children, here is the story (at least as I remember it). I am sure some of the details may have eroded over time. Unfortunately, I haven’t acquired as many examples of sacrifice, heroism, and wisdom as I had hoped to be able to share with you by now, but there is, I am pleased to say, at least one choice I have made that I take great pride in and long for you to emulate when the time is right. Though much of my life has been wasted on vanity, self-pity, worry, and envy (I pray for the discipline to learn from my own mistakes), when faced with a decision that would affect everything I was to become, I forsook what was accessible and easy in exchange for pursuing what was worthwhile. I said goodbye to something good in order to embrace what would ultimately be so much better – I chose, my sweet ones, to marry your father.

This may sound overly sentimental to you now but I believe it (like I believe in little else), that there is nothing that can compare with the thrill of giving and receiving true love - love that has its source in the Divine, love that flexes its muscles long after the initial electricity has grown dim, and love that draws its potency from mutual submission. This kind of love will, indeed, last forever; it follows you beyond the grave. It is a gift, a legacy, to those you leave behind. I want to record this while the particulars are relatively fresh in my mind because one day you will inevitably ask me about how I met your dad. This future question should be answered now, while I still remember the intensity of being young. The passions evoked from your first real brushes with independence should not be squandered, or belittled on my part. Celebrate this time of your life. Take advantage of the freedom and energy that you have to make a difference. I know this is easier said than done, but please don’t make the mistake of falling in love too early - of losing out on the fleeting moments to focus on, challenge, and stretch yourself. All too quickly those years will pass by and the friendships you’ve fostered, the knowledge you’ve gained, and the experiences you’ve taken with you will, quite literally, become more precious than any material thing you can imagine.

Guard yourselves against the temptations of tender words and romantic notions for their own sake. There is someone worth waiting for, who can transcend mere flattery and flirtation to make you a more pious, resilient, and empathetic individual. If you are ever in a relationship and find yourself feeling smothered, coerced, or discouraged from expressing any true part of you, please think hard before getting in too deep. Always remember, you don’t owe anything to anyone as far as dating is concerned! People get hurt, that’s how it works. To stay with someone in order avoid wounding them is not only an insult but also a lie. On the other hand, if you are simply crazy about the person you are seeing but they are not treating you with the utmost respect then speak up! You are much too special not to! If nothing changes, then walk away - it wasn’t meant to be. And yes, I’m afraid that the only answer to, “How will I know when I’ve met ‘the one’?” is still the simple and frustrating reply, “You just will.”

In college I was courted by a sweet and generous boy and to his consistent source of affirmation, I would soon become addicted. As my coursework and homesickness increased (in conjunction with the decreasing of my confidence), I clung to our relationship like a drug. When all was going well, I guiltily resented his hovering presence. But whenever insecurity reared its ugly and deceitful head, I would run back to his ever-open arms for a quick hit of instant adoration. As that first year passed, however, I began to make new acquaintances and found the wherewithal to rely less heavily on one willing young man for motivation. After a second year of hemming and hawing, it became obvious that I had let things go on for long enough - it was time to make a change. By God’s grace I found the courage to break it off and move forward. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision.

A few months later, I took a class with your father. We became fast friends, sharing similar backgrounds, ambitions, and spiritual fervor. We ran into each other fairly often on campus, and eventually I would catch myself looking for him – in the library, at the gym, or on the streets of Chicago. The emotions I experienced during that period were completely foreign to me. Although we were spending more time together, I had no indication of his actual feelings about “us”. I couldn’t conjure up a guarantee about anything and yet my attraction to him began to grow. Our conversations weren’t always fluid or without effort, but we enjoyed each other’s presence immensely. Jeopardizing the pleasantness of our friendship (by opening it up to the unpredictability of romance) was a threat we avoided as long as possible. And, wouldn’t you know it, that when we did take that leap, I was ready but he was not. Vulnerability proved to be quite a challenge for him.

As much as your dad tried, I could tell his heart just wasn’t in it and I could not allow myself to remain in a relationship that was one sided. My mother had always drilled it into my head that I shouldn’t stay where I was not completely wanted. It was nothing to take personally, nor was it something to get all self-analytical about. He never coddled me, your father; he was not a crutch or a habit I couldn’t break. I was not in love with the niceties he offered me, I was just so in love with him. I had learned through our relationship how to be part of someone and yet maintain my own identity. And by way of that realization, I braced myself for what I knew was the best course of action: grieving and then leaving; I had to set him free.

Break-ups are only valuable if your paths are truly parted, if you experience, authentically, what life would be like without that other person in it. Your dad and I knew that if we did ever get back together it would most likely be for good and neither of us wanted any regrets about such a decision. If you, my sweethearts, are ever aware of serious doubts within your own relationships but deny yourself the chance to explore those feelings, you have the frightening potential to dampen your marriage with a lot of “what ifs” when things get hard. Here is where you rely upon your Faith, on our belief that life is not random. As Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, so are we sometimes asked to give up what is precious to us. This is not because God is cruel but rather because He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. On our own, we can take a thing as extraordinary as love and distort into something hideous and possessive. But if we can trust enough to unclench our fists, God can transform our incomplete and defective offering into something pure, selfless, and eternal.

I wanted your dad to yearn for me but even more than that, I wanted him to be committed wholeheartedly to our existence together. My absence was exactly what he needed to make a prayerful and genuine assessment of his own priorities, fears, and desires. When he came back around awhile later, more certain and more devoted to our future, I was cautious and then exuberant because I understood clearly the aching difference between a full and partial commitment. I knew this time that he was investing all of himself. While walking down the aisle on July 5th, 1997 to join my life with his, I was downright giddy with assuredness, excitement, and gratitude. I couldn’t believe that after all the ups and downs I was finally marrying Troy Sabourin. And your father, I must tell you, is more beautiful to me now than he ever was. My salvation is being ever spurred on by the solidness of his convictions. Our marriage has made me stronger, braver, and more at peace. I want to give him all that I am and all that I have, not out of obligation but because it brings me joy. You are an extension of this love story, the result of something good and holy. My greatest hope is that through our marriage you will internalize what it means to revere your, eventual, partner as an image of Christ - that you will not compromise or be satisfied with giving or receiving anything less.

My dearest children, may true love (Divine love), find you, fill you, and never let you go.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


On October 25th, I cupped Benji’s big boy chin in my hand. “Five years ago today,” I cooed, “mommy woke up and had to call the doctor …”

“I know,” interrupted Ben “because it was time for me to come out of your tummy and then you cried and everybody ate donuts. You’ve told me that story a million times.”

Not everyone is as sentimental as I am. I’ve always been a sucker for raindrops on roses, deliriously happy endings, and memories that grow sweeter with time. I’m a feel good junkie, forever wringing droplets of schmaltziness out of dried-out, ordinary moments - forever equating goodness with tingling warmth. Just last week I was reading about the Romanovs, holding my breath, hoping against all hope that maybe this time the outcome would be different, maybe in this version their lives would be spared. But historical fact won out in the end and I had to dab my eyes with the tissue I was using for a bookmark. Ditto for the biography of Grand Duchess Elizabeth – the unavoidable finale, while certainly humbling and inspiring, pierced my gut like a blade slicing mawkishness from cold hard reality.

As a teenager I attended youth group at the Bible Church a few towns over. One winter, we bussed it to some cabins in the woods for a weekend of sanctimonious ecstasy. We sang, until our throats were raw, soft as cotton love songs to the Holy Spirit. We confessed to one another (while drunk on Dr. Pepper) secret sins, wicked grudges, and a variety of sordid temptations. We sobbed, embraced, made passionate late night promises to be faithful, zealous, and holy. We journaled, sitting cross-legged on graffiti stained picnic tables, our romanticized aspirations - I was totally “on fire” for Jesus. Being naturally predisposed, however, to use my feelings as a gauge for genuineness, worthwhileness, and authenticity, that experience ingrained in me a permanent correlation between emotion and God’s presence in my life. I was an addict on the hunt for a high in the form of worship - repetitive, melodious, and poignant. But depression set in when the flames died down- God was absent, or angry, or worse yet just apathetic. Sobering up, after binging on such spiritual intoxication, was disheartening and disconcerting to say the least.

Throughout college I would continue to walk the impossibly narrow line between guilt and fanaticism, using my Bible like a road map to guide me. It seemed a scant pairing, even then: just my own fickle self and the Word of God. That is, I suppose, if you didn’t count the hundreds of contradictory opinions, on what the Lord really meant in those verses, being fed to me by pastors, professors, commentaries, small group leaders, and peers. But ultimately, it was my own responsibility to conjure up a belief I felt comfortable with, a task as daunting as crossing the ocean on an inner tube - a task that would eventually leave me cynical, defensive, and irritated. It seemed harder than it should be: finding a connection with the living Christ, one that wasn’t so dependent on my personal and very limited resources. It seemed that I was destined to either buck a nebulous system or to lose my relevance as a Christian through the sterility of lukewarmness.

Thanks be to God, I chose the former, swallowing ravenously the subtantiveness of the sacraments - the historical, touchable, tasteable, smellable, hearable, and recitable Truths of the Christian Faith as was lived out and died for by the apostles, Church Fathers, and saints. Thanks be to God for the stability, the community both earthly and heavenly, the continuity and authority of the Orthodox Church. As I grew in knowledge and practice, as I aligned myself less with the current culture and more with the Church calendar, as I rooted myself in the fertile soil of a Theology unaffected by the sins, biases, and imperfections of its champions, I was able to disentangle myself from the immobilizing habit of depending on feelings to translate my religious experiences. I could finally stop grinding my wheels, and move forward.

Don’t get me wrong, I relish in the joy of Pascha. I shed tears till my face is blotchy on Holy Friday. I’ve had sensations of clarity, remorse, and thankfulness as bright and searing as the blaze of a burning bush. But you see, aha!, these were gifts free and clear – unexpected, uninduced, and unrequired for my growth in the life of Christ Jesus. These were, and will continue to be, the proverbial icing on a cake that is already satisfying on its own, that was formed out of tried and true ingredients blending together, organically, under the direction of an age old recipe. The tools of the Church are building my faith: Eucharist, confession, prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, almsgiving, and participation in the Divine Services. Resources, neither limited nor reliant on ever-fluctuating hormones, moods, and temperaments, anchor my soul. I ‘m being saved on a ship that is strong, swift, and sturdy and I am grateful beyond explanation. I recall the lonely drifting, the wondering if God was pleased with me, and the anxiety that came with numbness, without melancholy. But ask me about the day of Ben’s birth, when I labored in agony for thirteen hours, when near crazy with exhaustion I pushed and screamed and groaned until he emerged like the sun out of darkness, and well… see, even now I’m getting weepy.

I’m just sappy like that I suppose.

Click HERE to visit my podcast site. This is a service of Ancient FAith Radio.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I remember the first time I felt clearly dissatisfied, like all my ambitions were being suffocated by the mundaneness of adult responsibilities. I was making numerous copies on the seventh floor of a truck company. The repetition of blank paper being fed through a machine only to be spit right back out again as a duplicate of the one before it, felt a little too close to home. My days were bleeding into one another without distinction - hours of my existence being wasted on a job for which I cared little, for which I was painfully, maddeningly, ill suited. For a while there things looked promising; professors had been encouraging about my prospects as an impetus for change, “school-free” independence had been an exhilarating achievement, and the marriage I had recently entered into proved to be a titillating venture fraught with both passion and insecurity. But one cannot keep up forever with that feverish pace now, can they? I suspect that Visa bills and ten-hour workdays have leveled many a high hope, have tempered plenty of idealistic aspirations. At the time, however, while Xeroxing my life away, that natural progression towards maturation felt more like “selling out,” the waiting for something else to come along was near unbearable.

News of my pregnancy was a light at the end of the tunnel. I would find clarity in motherhood. I would devote myself to the ecstasy of becoming a co-creator. I would lose myself in the gratification of raising children. The eight-month countdown to my last day as a corporate communications administrative assistant, I viewed as a period of incubation. Every thought and action was devoted to a future starting point. Every day was another square to check off my calendar until real life, my more meaningful life, began. And when, at last, I had trudged through all those peripheral moments leading up to the afternoon of my son’s birth, I delighted in the newfound freedom to let go of old expectations and embrace the sacrificial persona of caregiver, nurturer, and parent.

I poured out that optimism into my perfectly beautiful infant who instinctively sucked every last bit of it from my sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and lonely old soul. And when the well was dry, when the weeks had turned into months without removing from me, permanently, the hunger for something more, the discontentment I couldn’t shake no matter how hard I prayed, I wished, or manipulated my circumstances- I finally stopped trying all together. I threw up my hands, I threw in the towel, and I threw out my preconceived notions of fulfillment. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted, from God, from out of these years I would spend here on this earth. For the first time, without any ulterior motives lurking behind my plea, my intercessions, I prayed to the Lord for mercy. I asked Him for the strength to make it, not through this year, not through this month or week, not even through this day, but through this breakfast, dialogue, or trip to the store. I accepted, out of exhaustion, that I was incapable of doing anything noble or satisfying outside of Christ.

Boom. Boom. Boom. There were three more children, not one of them much taller than my knee. The house was a disaster. My patience - beyond tested; throat tightening, eye twitching, and deep breath taking all effectively, over nine-years-time, chipped away at a crippling habit of preferring my own agenda. The love (intoxicating, unabashed, and unconditional), for these tiny persons as frail and imperfect as I am, continues to keep me up at night in a prayerful vigil for wisdom, courage, and forgiveness. I do not, presently, have my finger on the pulse of social justice. I cannot hop aboard the next Red Cross bus to whatever town is being devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, or fire. I am bound here, firmly, by obligations that in a global sense seem awfully trite and unimportant, but I do not feel unimportant any longer.

Twelve years ago I stepped timidly into an Eastern Orthodox Church only to stay put there for good. Salvation as a process, as a path unique to each of us, was a concept both foreign and intriguing. Upon conversion I accepted it, upon reaching my personal limits, I rejoiced in it. For the very context in which I found myself, in which I formerly struggled to find meaning (as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor) lay the crux of my ultimate purpose: to be faithful in the circumstances custom designed by God to ensure the death of myself, making room for the Resurrection of Christ within me. Every week I wait at the bus stop, I empty the dishwasher, I engage in conversation with my husband, my children, the fellow members of my small midwestern community. Every day it is a fight to participate in those events completely. The alluring promises of potential freedoms (“when the kids are older”, “when this project is completed”), of eventual accomplishments, of another time and place more exciting, more rewarding than the one I am immersed in, beckon me to tune out – to ultimately lose out on the minutes building on top of one another to form a lifetime.

“Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” prayed Moses in Psalm 90. Teach me to desire only the pain, boredom, thankfulness, or frustration you have blessed me with this very second. May I not squander these gifts of illumination, not wish away the tools that can pry me from the bondage of my mortal self. Grant me eyes that find You in everything. Grant me the ears to hear Your directives – as quiet as the whispers on a mountaintop. Grant me the fortitude to live out this day - fully, attentively, lovingly, until its completion.

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