Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dead Ends

Six-year-old Priscilla, bless her heart, has an unusually difficult time recalling the proper name of just about anything. I mean, it’s always close, so close, but just off enough to make you nearly spit your coffee out when you hear the alternative version she’s been mulling around in her brain for a while finally being unleashed over breakfast.

“Mom,” she has asked for example, “can we borrow that Disney movie again from the library?”

“Which one, honey?”

“You know, with the guy that’s all bent over…oh, wait… I remember! The Hunchback of Never Done. Can we get it?”

Then there’s “cretzels”, her favorite salty snack, “with” in lieu of “if” (as in “With you give me a bite of yours, I’ll give you some of mine”) and her own unique take on a certain obnoxious underwater sponge creature, “Scrunch Bob Short Pants”. So three months ago when she approached me about participating in the “Flocks of Love” program, I just briefly imagined needy barnyard animals before figuring out that what she meant to say was “Locks of Love” and oh no, that involved the cutting of her silky, shiny, youthfully perfect hair. I hadn’t realized that she overheard our neighbor, who had recently shorn her own flowing locks for charity, describing to me the process. Apparently, if you have at least nine or so inches to offer, this organization will turn donated hair into wigs for cancer patients. Now what kind of a mom would say no to that?! Not me, certainly, it was much easier to just change the subject and hope she’d forget about it.

Then last weekend, I was summoned upstairs by my husband, Troy, who was speed bathing our kids before tucking them into bed. “Molly!” he yelled, “Could you help me with this?” Mary had fallen and bumped her nose, the boys were getting rowdy and Priscilla was still soaking in the bathtub waiting for someone, now me I guess, to wash her. I drizzled on the normal amount of shampoo but it seemed to disappear into what I quickly discovered was a matted mess, the likes of which I had never before encountered. “What in the world?!” I marveled, while trying to scrub and disentangle what felt like one humongous dreadlock. Hidden inside that monstrosity, I found lollipop bits, lint balls, and a band-aid. It took me a full forty minutes to work my way through it and between Priscilla’s sobs we revisited the "Locks of Love" suggestion both coming to the same conclusion that maybe it was a great idea after all.

The night before her scheduled salon appointment, I only got a little teary. You see it’s a novelty to have a daughter whose hair is nothing like mine. While I was a bright shining star in 1987, when bigger was better and Aqua Net induced volume was fashionable, the following decades proved to be a humbling challenge what with “tame and controlled” back in style. Priscilla got the ideal mix of my wild mane and Troy’s fine, stick-straightness. When she wanted to look like Rapunzel, I stashed away the scissors watching with fascination her hair grow downward instead of up and out and everywhere. I became quite attached to the brushing and braiding and ribbons, but it was time now to move on and allow her to grow up a little. It was time to exchange the sentimentalism for practicality; letting go would bring freedom to both of us.

Being as overly reflective as I am, this fairly momentous event triggered a gloves off type scrutiny of some other personal attachments which may in fact be more of a hindrance than a boon to my quality of life. I am referring to those guilty pleasure behaviors that over time become deeply rooted, impossible to yank free from the fertile core of my being without the proper tools and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. These include but are not limited to: grudges, envy, Internet surfing, self-pity, curiosity, and anxiousness. These detract from, not encourage, my ability to act intentionally throughout the day, wringing out of it every sacred opportunity that I can to grow in faith. Yes, I could use a decent trim; dead ends are pretty tacky, quite unbecoming for a gal so adorned with Grace. Then the upkeep, oh my goodness, what a colossal waste of my energy like trying to climb mountains while dragging a boulder. “Well, of course you have to pray,” says my priest in confession, and there it is: the most straight forward, most obvious, most challenging of solutions.

There were no tears this morning, no foul moods due to stubborn snarls, otherwise known in Priscilla’s language as “hair nits”. We both found within ourselves the courage to simplify and are now reaping the rewards of that decision. We had a few extra minutes thanks to the removal of those excess inches to stand in front of our icons before school started and offer up a hymn of praise to Christ. “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,” my children and I sang in unison, their tender voices filling me with determination to release what doesn’t edify, what doesn’t matter, to exchange the superfluous for the “one thing needful”. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things, says St. Paul in Philippians 4:8.

Do I want to thrive, really, or am I far too contented with mere survival? Snip, snip, snip what I choose to cut will make obvious the answer to that question. Old habits die hard, get your game face on, every moment carries with it new temptations. But the experience of a load being ever more lightened by each obedient submission of your time, your thoughts, your resources reassures one this is right, this is hopeful, this is good, life has meaning, I’m not lost; there is joy in shedding burdens and sprinting Home.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


When its freezing outside and money is scarce, we hit the library. The three of us: my sister-in-law, Paige, our friend Kris and I, huddled around a child sized table piled messily with stickers, crayons, and paper. It was unusually crowded, unusually noisy; static haired kids ran largely unsupervised while their moms flipped through magazines and occasionally tossed out verbal reprimands for particularly aggressive behavior. “Share, please, Ethan. No running, Lucy.” Admittedly, I too, kept a distant eye on my own rowdy charges so interesting to me was the conversation at hand. Kris had been reading a book about a woman who claimed she had “found herself” by way of a divorce and some global traveling. Depression had been oppressing her, making more and more obvious her discontentment with marriage and the overall life she was immersed in. Courageously, she cut the ties that were binding her to an unsatisfactory existence and became proactive in achieving her own sense of worth and fulfillment.

Her story has inspired women everywhere to step up and reclaim their dreams- desires too often smothered by busyness and responsibility. I understand why the author of this very popular memoir has been embraced with open arms by the overworked and under appreciated masses because I, too, tend to burn with motivation when self-help cheerleaders spread their “the sky is the limit” mantra. “I am more than this!” I begin thinking to myself, which is accurate but also tricky. How I interpret that statement is of utmost importance, lest I sprint around in circles chasing hopes that pop like bubbles once you touch them.

Every morning I awake to very visible, audible, un-ignorable boundaries. My role as a stay-at-home mother limits quite severely any opportunities for being recognized as something other than an enforcer of rules, a provider of meals, a stereotype of societal irrelevance. For the most part I am fine with this, I can take it all in stride: the demands, repetition, lack of praise, until, that is, a longing to be referred to by my given name (as opposed to “Mommy, can I…?”) swells so suddenly within me I fear I’ll crack in two from all the strain. I spare myself the guilt of treating such a reflexive impulse as sinful, ungrateful, or selfish; I have no more control over these periodic flare-ups than I do over hunger or exhaustion. It is the crucial minutes following, when I decide what to do or where to go with the restlessness that reveals everything.

If there were a way to live effectively for Christ and your own happiness I for sure would have found it by now. The amount of man-hours I’ve spent testing that possibility make me pretty much an expert in the field of wishy-washyness so please, just trust me on this one. What never works, upon reaching the end of oneself, is stoking outlandish “what-ifs” until the fantasy of a better job, a better spouse, a better income, etc becomes in your mind the only viable option for relief from the constriction of your current circumstances. What I’ve been known to do is mix a little bit of faith with a whole lot of assumptions about what would be best for me at any given moment. I’d toss out a prayer for guidance boomerang style, letting go of my will for just a second before reaching right out to grab it back again. “Here’s what I propose, please make it happen. Amen.” From there I would force a change in the name of God, or question His goodness when my best-laid plans fell through. Either way, I lost the point entirely; I lost my sense of direction by running both to Jesus and from Him simultaneously.

It was through Orthodoxy that I learned to be still, and that is no small statement considering my propensity to wander. In this apostolic Church where Sacraments and Liturgy can through real, non-symbolic miracles, tame a girl’s obsession with herself, as in unraveling completely the surprisingly ineffectual theory that being catered to, entertained, released from trials, brings satiety. It turns out that the receiving of holy chrism at one’s baptism or chrismation, the regular partaking of the actual body and blood of Christ, absolution through Confession, joining with martyrs and saints in the worship of the Holy Trinity can transform an individual from within. Such established Traditions take into account that I am human and weak and foolish. These enduring and consecrated gifts have overridden my faulty preferences and after ten years time finally penetrated my thick soul with the only Truth that matters: I am more than this in that I, we, were created to serve, praise, be filled with Christ Jesus.

“O Lord,” we plead with Metropolitan Philaret, “I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask for either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You. Visit and help me, for the sake of your great mercy. Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to you. I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me to pray. Pray You Yourself in me.

Its nuts around here – I’ve had four hours of sleep, the children are bickering, no one is pleased about my dinner plans and there is a fork in the road, two paths to choose from: resentment or the illogical thankfulness found only in relation to the Kingdom of Heaven. Spiritually, emotionally, physically I stay in the thick of it, and find Christ – custom designing the daily ups and downs that will most effectively strip me of the longing to be anywhere but in His presence. It’s not always pretty but today I’ll take authentic purpose over fleeting glamour and pray tomorrow for the strength to do the same.

Click HERE to listen to this post. This is a service of Ancient Faith Radio.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


In the early 1980’s, I considered myself to be quite the thespian. My brother, Bobby, and I were regulars at the Park District Community Theatre where we performed in such classic plays as, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Alice in Wonderland, the only difference between the two of us being that he always scored one of the leads whereas I was consistently relegated to a chorus/prop-mover position, otherwise known as an “extra.” This identity warranted many a trite pep talk from the director and my parents on the importance of embracing an optimistic spirit - “There are no small parts, only small actors...” they’d predictably reassure me. So in the interest of those friends and grandparents dedicated to adolescent dominated, sub-par entertainment, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and decided to make the most of it.

In “frozen” sketches, for example, like when Charlie Brown mentally stepped away from a baseball scene for an intimate monologue (sung as a solo) while those of us in the outfield paused mid-action until the song was over, I prided myself on staying insanely still. “Is that little girl in the red cap even real?” I imagined the twenty plus audience members murmuring amongst themselves. “I didn’t see her blink once the entire time.” Later on, in a classroom setting for a musical number called “Book Report”, I vowed to wow them by pouring all of my energy into the craft of faux conversation. “Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon” we were told to say to one another, looking interested, laughing casually, while the big guns (i.e. Lucy, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty) were delivering real lines, scripted lines, in the foreground. I had made peace with the very valid possibility that I would never be a star, but I refused to be held back by the intrinsic limits of my given character; I would make sure that each show shined brighter because of me.

Frizzy hair, a cross-country move, and a hormone heightened, debilitating sense of self-awareness, all worked together to melt my “can do” attitude into an unassuming puddle of insecurity. I reasoned, most self-protectedly, that I certainly couldn’t fail what I never tried; lack of ambition was the quickest and surest cure for disappointment. Thus I permanently quieted the naggings for fame and fortune, learned to live within my social, intellectual, and financial means. I named and claimed an inconspicuous persona, staying contentedly under the radar, blending into my current generation like one muted voice in a choir. I made peace with the very valid possibility that I was called to pursue a life of anonymity. I was obedient to a fault, overly submissive to a skewed amalgamation of God, my fears, and good manners.

For all of those for whom an effective spiritual prescription is keeping quiet, letting go, and being taken down a notch or two, there are the just as many more who are super duper comfortable with their timidity, and we all know how well comfortableness and faith mix together - like oil and water, Packers and Bears fans, blue Play-do and white shag carpeting. We are the group with a million excuses: “I’m just a mom…and a flighty one at that. I’m a convert, a guest in this historic Church. I am flighty mom convert who would do best to leave the evangelizing to the experts, the seminarians, the clergy with their answers and photographic memories for dates, rubrics, and Scripture.” The story of a tongue-tied Moses being called to give an unwanted speech to the wicked Pharaoh makes us tremble in our boots. “But being asked to do something I totally stink at,” we try to convince ourselves, “would be disastrous. It would take a miracle for that to work out…oh, I get it. That’s the point.”

“Perfect humility dispenses with modesty,” said C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory. There’s a very fine line between arrogance and doubt. Biting off more than one can chew can both choke the overly zealous and increase the spiritual appetite of the undernourished. Taking great leaps with conviction can promote pride in those addicted to the limelight yet also form a much-needed backbone in the anxious. The trick, I’d imagine, is staying open, keeping prayerful, being willing to do whatever it takes (like either asserting or restraining oneself) to make sure the Kingdom of God shines brighter than the gaudy, neon glow of worldly passions. To let others do all the participating is to bury a borrowed talon, and we all know how well that went over – like a lead balloon, a wine-less wedding reception, a spotless doorframe amongst those marked and bloodied by trust and sacrifice.

We all, every brave and fearful one of us, have an essential part to play in the attainment of salvation, for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our enemies. God is offering me another chance to rise above the intrinsic limits of my given character. I can, most gracious Savior, if You lead me. I will, if You ask, regardless of the dreaded consequences and upheaval of my placidity. I accept that such a radical departure from my comfort zone would only highlight Your power and mercy. I believe I’d find my voice, if You so desired. So where from here? I’m ready and waiting, but please take over quick before I lose my nerve. Faith of a mustard seed, right? That’s all that I need to get started? Well, curtains up then on this role of a lifetime; may I portray Your love with genuineness and precision. And for now, perhaps, my mean impersonation of a mannequin might come in handy – no flinching, no distractedness, just a sustained and ardent longing for opportunities to come alive and sing my heart out.

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Monday, January 14, 2008


I want you to read the next line quickly, without pausing to reflect upon the evil that would drive a person to perform such an act of depravity. Last week a man threw his four young children from a bridge and I am tired of being held hostage by this sort of nonsense. It seems now would be a good time to promote beauty over filth, creation over destruction, sacrifice in lieu of greed; it seems today could use some lace around its edges.

My two-year-old daughter, Mary, just this past Saturday, broke a seventeen-day streak of wearing the same velvety semi-formal Christmas dress - to the library, the store, Church, and to nowhere in particular. At first it annoyed me what with all the new lovely outfits she's received as gifts and adorable hand-me-down sweaters, jeans, jumpers still stuffed in her drawer untouched and unloved by their current fickle owner. But after a week or so, once it sank in that this phase was not about stubbornness but rather honest to goodness appreciation for a piece of attire that made her feel like a princess, I began to admire her dedication. Mary, as of yet, has no concept of societal norms, her motivations stem only from an unpretentious confidence too rooted in unconditional love to be wilted by the opinions of others.

I enjoy stringing words together, words I like the sound of, words I play like an instrument, wield like a brush to compose a story, paint a picture, clear my head. There are plenty of things I could be doing, should be doing like sleeping, straightening-up, worrying about all the cruel ways this world could hurt me, but then my days would be smashed on top of one another by monotony. There is bravery in rising above, there is hope in the resurrection of unwarranted kindness and in art for its own “unnecessary” sake.

Because when Beth, my dear friend, invites me for lunch and her table is set with coordinating linens and tastefully etched goblets, I feel blessed and invigorated by her hospitality. When my sister-in-law, Paige, goes out of her way to participate in lives other than her own, I feel inspired to get out of myself and make connections. When
Julia takes photographs, when my cousin (in-law) Erik lives modestly off of his highly melodic and emotionally perceptive music, when Mary’s godmother takes the time to design a lovely watercolor of their cabin in the woods, I remember to believe in the Good, that life is holy, and that faith cannot be measured, calculated, or mass produced with all the repetitiveness and unoriginality of an assembly line. There are countless ways to defy malevolence, to offer our talents, our unique drives and passions back to God.

I am most courageous when actively combating hell with expectations of Heaven, when I get off my lazy, stupefied, media junkie haunches and deposit a little luminosity where there wasn’t any. Drive past my priest’s house in the springtime and I guarantee you’ll be taken aback by the glory of his garden – wild, explosive, and vibrant with every color imaginable. I defy you to listen to St. Elizabeth’s choir belt out “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” at the end of Liturgy without smiling. Turn off the television and pick up a book, call a friend, write a letter. Delight in and encourage wholeheartedly your child’s imagination. Let the compliments flow generously while all judgments dry up from lack of use. Bring forth something noble from out of nothing and be satisfied!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Having thoroughly read through the first five chapters a good half dozen times, I have decided this year to go ahead and move on through the rest of the Brother’s Karamozov by Dostoyevsky. To be honest, I feel a little sheepish that is has taken me so long to do so. I mean, really, it's a literary treasure chock full of Orthodox Spirituality. I’ve met Orthodox converts who were drawn to the Faith solely by the contents of this novel.

See, what happens is, I sit down with all 822 pages, get started and then frequently interrupted by requests for dinner, clean clothes, homework help, etc. and then I put the book down for a month or so, opting rather for something more useful, like an umpteenth perusal of the three-year-old Good Housekeeping article on how to clean anything in under a minute.

It turns out that acquiring a taste for excellence takes some discipline and forethought, but I’m here to hopefully prove to you and to myself that it is worth it. As a special treat, my Close to Home podcast this week will offer a radio drama of sorts. I am reading ( in my best radio voice) a passage from The Brothers Karamozov. This excerpt involves Father Zossima, a much loved and revered Orthodox elder of a well-known Russian Monastary and a peasant woman, having made a pilgrimage to see him, asking for Spiritual counseling after the death of her four children due to various illnesses. If there is anyone in your life you fear losing then I hope that you will find this text to be as wrenching, victorious and prayer provoking as I do.

Click HERE to listen to this podcast in its entirety.

This is a service of Ancient Faith Radio.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


It never mattered how much of a lead I was given – five runs, ten runs – I could never, and I mean never, ever, beat my older brother in a game of whiffle ball. If you were able to hit the back fence of our perfectly square yard, you automatically had yourself a trot around the bases homerun. Bobby nailed his target over and over and it was frustrating as all get out to have to pitch then whirl my head around to watch the ball sail out of reach and my brother take his time reaching first, second, third while the score tipped ever more heavily in his favor. It never mattered how determined I was, or how fiercely I choked up on that monstrous red bat, I could never, and I mean never, ever, put one past him. One, two, three, I was out and usually crying; nothing’s fair when you’re only nine and he is twelve.

He used to hide around the house until I’d shake with foreboding. At any moment, from any possible place, Bobby would jump forth and scare the living daylights out of me.

“Mom!” I’d yell, in my most annoying tattletale voice, “Bobby’s being mean again!”

“Then don’t play with him,” she’d answer, like always. Like every single other time I came to her with a similar complaint. My mom seemed less concerned then than I am now, watching with deja vu eight-year-old Elijah taunting six-year-old Priscilla with his two year age difference. “Be good to each other!” I yell, trailing them like a maternal shadow, micromanaging their interactions, turning molehills into mountains and feeling yucky about it. I am wondering now if moral suffocation is the best way to get a point across after all.

I have excellent kids, great kids, human kids who sneak lollipops when I’m not looking, shove junk under their bed on clean-up day, scream with frantic concern if one of their brothers or sisters gets hurt, call me from school to ask about a movie being shown (“Am I allowed to see that one, mom?”). They, like me, have good days and bad days, make positive choices and poor ones, deserve to be held accountable for every indiscretion and, yet, oh the grace of it, are continually forgiven. “What were you thinking?!” is such an accusatory, wall building, unanswerable conversation starter and yet I find myself picking at the scabs of my children’s mistakes with those very same words on a daily basis. Perhaps a log removal is in order, a remembrance of my own selfish nature; maybe love and consequences (minus the wordy and nitpicking lectures) is enough.

Bobby and I grew to respect each other immensely. My mom was right not to worry, not to beat us over the head verbally with the golden rule, but rather to keep her distance (to keep her sanity by setting boundaries). We fought, we got bored, we apologized on our own, and we have plenty of bonding memories to show for it. I want that for Priscilla and Elijah, for all of them: shared secrets, soft giggling after lights-out that I hear but take my own sweet time climbing up the stairs to put an end to, a relationship that transcends a mother’s well intentioned meddling. Nothing builds character quite like sharing a bedroom, sharing blood, sharing a childhood with your siblings - nothing keeps one humble like a few sweaty summers of getting the pants beat off you in whiffle ball by your hero, your rival, your friend.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


I like the idea of having five-year-old Benjamin snuggle up on my lap while I read to him from the Boxcar Children or the Illustrated Life of the Theotokos, but Benjamin would rather that I not do either. So tonight while my head pounded like the subwoofer in a tricked out Monte Carlo, while the rest of my family was at vespers getting sprinkled with the blessed water from the Feast of Theophany, while I was alone with my third child, I read to him instead from the The Definitive Guide to the Craft of Star Wars: Episode 1.

How is it possible to live with a small person everyday, to have labored them into existence, and yet still feel locked out from the core of their being? Where his siblings drape their own open wide personalities around my shoulders like a shawl, Ben knits together secretly the convictions, fears, and hopes that will come to define him away from my prying eyes, anxious heart. When they say “yes”, Ben says “no.” When I call “come”, Ben stays put - whether out of defiance or pure distractedness, I couldn’t tell you.

I have tried to pull him to me, to gently, lovingly, tame his wild self into a boy that would reflect my moral, social, and spiritual values. I have angrily, sternly attempted to force him into an easier to handle version of a son – one that didn’t talk back, make up their own outlandish words to our evening prayers, or ask our visitors to “Please go home now,” much to my obvious chagrin. I have talked at him, corralled his exuberance, made excuses for his unapologetically non-conformist behavior. But recently, I have been struck with fervor to re-introduce myself as a mother who respects his right to not be me. Its either that or watch him drift just out reach over the years that threaten to steal him with their lure of adolescence, independence, and eventual adulthood.

“What do you want to do right now, sweetheart, besides watching mommy ‘just get these few more things done?' Look me straight in the eyes and tell me about the superheroes, villains, and dragons whose storylines can keep you playing in the bathtub till the water turns tepid and your skin an iridescent blue. Is it frustrating when I drag you along through my agendas like a muzzled puppy? Lets set limits that are fair, sensitive to your age and temperament, realistic. Let me hear that laugh that starts rumbling in your gut before exploding like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I love you as you are – my gift, my delight, my salvation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The mood in general was tense and apocalyptic. I was an inexperienced mother grappling with possibilities more sobering, outlandish, open-ended than I had ever before had to contemplate throughout my relatively brief quarter of a century on this earth. There were warnings, theories, haunting instructions: “Duck and cover!” “Stockpile your cellars!” “Get plenty of extra batteries for your flashlights!” The countdown began, we collectively winced - the whole wide world on the brink of a brand new millennium.

10 (lock the door in case there's looters), 9 (step away from the computer, it may explode), 8 (pass out those bottles of water), 7 (light your candles, here comes the blackout), 6 (kiss your loved ones, forgive your enemies), 5 (snuggle close, we’ll generate body heat), 4 (stuff the cash under your mattress), 3 (grab your prayer rope), 2 (hold your breath), 1 (laugh nervously; we were all mistaken. Break out the champagne! Happy New Year!)

How silly we must have looked to those who knew better. A Tower of Babel type of foolishness involving miniscule ideas that seemed giant to the men and women who meticulously built them from out of intellect, research, and self-confidence. “The Sky is Falling!” said someone, and we panicked, while time marched on oblivious to all the commotion, while God remained uninfluenced by the uninspired prophecies of His children. Eight years later and another midnight passes, devoid of total annihilation on a global scale. I’m still here, still standing, still clueless about the future, still waffling between faith and apprehension. And the Midwestern snow cascades generously down from the Heavens, landing peacefully, indiscriminately, on both the beautiful and the ugly, on the living and the dying, on those who think it miraculous and on those who find it commonplace, totally explainable, and irrelevant. We are busy, busy, busy understanding everything.

A friend shared with me her struggles – devastatingly heavy unknowns. “Please pray,” she requested, and I felt her sorrow drip into my heart. This New Year will unfold for many like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book (“I’ll do this, than that, than the other. Here’s my timeline set in stone.”), but for just as many more it will pry open doors they had mentally, emotionally, spiritually bolted shut to no avail. There will be joy where we least expect it and unforeseen discontentment in the surefire plans to make us better, happier, more likeable than before. Of course I want to change a few things about myself; I’m sure my husband and children would be only too pleased to compile an alphabetical list for me. Let’s see…there’s patience, organization, self-control, blah, blah, blah, all the regulars - nothing’s new under the sun of my domesticity. But with an official, January 1st, starting point upon me, the temptation to go ahead and once more resolve something significant, stretching, potentially life changing is irresistible.

So here it goes (drum roll, please) …this year, I, Molly Ann Sabourin, am determined to make fewer resolutions, to plan less and trust more in the omnipotence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I wish to quiet my longings by way of prayer, to stay focused on salvation through consistent participation in the Divine Services, to confess my way back to the narrow path after inevitably veering too far right, too far left. I want to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” like it’s a career, a bona fide calling worth the bulk of my time, energy, and resources. When it seems absolutely insane to move forward in the direction of Christ’s leading, when I’m handed a trumpet to knock down insurmountable walls, a staff to part the waters, may I, may we have the confidence to silence the naysayers, ignore the odds against us, and let God work a miracle in the midst of loss, trepidation, and distress. This year I want to decrease my amount of goals and increase my intercessions for others. “Thy will be done,” I mean that (please overlook the trembling), I really do.

It took me a full two hours to scrub the eighteen months worth of maple syrup, dried jam, and unknown sticky pools of brownish gunk from out the drawers and crevices of my refrigerator, but now it gleams and I find myself opening the door to peer inside of it as often as possible. It feels good, really good, to bask in the fruits of my labor. Sure, it would be great to also have a basement I could walk through without cringing, a couple of shirts ironed, a pantry with spices stacked neatly side by side instead of piled haphazardly like the clothes still shoved in our suitcases, but today I will delight in the small accomplishment at hand – a refrigerator that yesterday was dirty but now is clean. It’s all a matter of perspective, really, either “Poor me, look at this mess I’m surrounded by!” or “My, what a lot of opportunities I have to make a difference.” New Year, new chances, new beginnings – choose wisely.