This morning, our youngest son is off to do some service hours, more than likely lasting all day, working with his Scout Troop at a Salvation Army Food Bank. This year it is falling on Holy Saturday. Normally, in our family, we keep from Good Friday through the Easter Vigil, a quiet, contemplative time. We try to keep the quiet, somber mood of Good Friday going, until “Christ is Risen!” is shouted late into the night on Saturday night (really, Sunday morning!!). This year, however, is slightly different. Our focus is different, and our practice is different.
We will be attending Divine Liturgy, and the community here celebrates the Resurrection tomorrow morning, whereas we are used to a rather robust all-nighter at our old parish. It sort of fits with our lives right now. Yesterday was a major step in faith for our family, in that we formally announced that we are relocating. We have set dates and we have made plans….we are moving on in our lives, totally relying on the promises of faith. We are striving for a better life, a better environment for our family to thrive. But it is mired with risk; much risk. We are willing to take that step, however, because we all feel God is calling us to this decision. It has been many years in the making.
The service our son is doing today, on what would normally be a quiet day for us, is emblematic of the direction in which we are going – we are stepping out of our comfort zone to make a stand in faith. It is uncomfortable to take a stand. It means being different. It means being risky. It means doing something that people like us never do! We always plan everything. We never just go for it. Until now.
All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery
Abbot Tryphon wrote another wonderful blog this morning. He titled it “Hopelessness; When you feel Hopeless” and this is what he said:
“It is easy to resist taking care of yourself if you run at full speed as though you are the only one who can get things done. We all need to set priorities, making sure we focus on Christ and not let that which is transitory rule our lives. If you pay attention to your health, family and spiritual life, everything else will take care of itself. Don’t let your life be so full of work that you don’t have time to focus on the things that bring you joy. Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.
If you focus only on the things that haven’t been done and ignore the little things that bring joy to your life, you’ll find yourself in a rut. If you are constantly thinking of where you’d rather be living, or the job you’d rather have, or the work that still needs to be completed, you’ll wake up one day and realize all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have.” (Abbot Tryphon, All Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery; Vashon Island, WA).
This commentary on modern life sums up almost perfectly the conclusions my husband and I have come to, which in turn motivated our step-out in faith. My husband realized that he has been missing life; it is passing him by; we both stopped and realized that so many years have gone by and we somehow feel like we missed something along the way. When we relocated to the Pacific Northwest, so many of our friends were concerned for us because of the different weather pattern, most especially all the days of darkness and wetness. My husband noticed no real changes. He told me that even in SoCal, weather really wasn’t a factor in his life. He never noticed missing the sunshine. He said he would drive to work in the dark, and drive home in the dark – up here or down there, it didn’t make much difference. And that gave us both pause to think: why did he not notice there was no sunshine in WA? He worked so many hours, he rarely saw it anyway! Because he was missing the sun, what else was he missing? What were we all missing?
Both of our older sons’ wives are expecting babies right now. One of their wives is due in May, the other in October. For our older son, this is his second child. Our youngest son, aged 14, came downstairs the other day and we just stopped what we were doing and looked at him. He had just showered and shaved and he looked – well, he looked a lot older than he had the day before! When did our 5-week preemie grow up to be a father, expecting his second child? When did my curly-mopped blondie become a college graduate, married man, and expectant father? When did our 14-year old start regularly shaving? Time passed has us by and we did not notice. Our lives have been “so full of work, that you don’t have time to notice the things that bring you joy,” to quote Abbot Tryphon.
We have allowed the ‘busy-ness’ of life to interfere with living our lives. We’ve created this bubble around us of habit. Early mornings and late evenings, living the demands of life. And we are sort of grabbing onto the shirt-tails of our youngest son. Don’t misunderstand, our children’s younger days were a joy. We homeschooled both our older sons until they went to Catholic High Schools, and they have been involved in Little League, and Ice Hockey leagues, High School sports teams, and even Rugby. So we did a lot with them. We used to go hunting with our Springer Spaniels regularly; we had many wind surfing weekends and times spent traveling across states to spend vacations with extended family members. Our youngest son is still homeschooled and he is involved in Scouting as well as the Civil Air Patrol, so we do a lot with him, as well. It is just that when you finally do stop and re-evaluate your life, it is surprising to realize that it has been 30 years, the kids are grown and wait a second – we want to slow this process down a little!
Now we are taking deep breaths, praying, and we are moving 2600+ miles to be near our oldest son and his family. We want Sunday dinners and grandchildren running around the front porch. We want the chaos an extended family living nearby brings. We want more hours of the day invested in these last precious years we have with our youngest son at home. We want to take the time to know our adult children as adults, to enjoy their company, and to relish those moments of being grandparents. We want to slow this ridiculous pace down and be able to languish in the long coffees we share with our children, and the cookie-making-moments with our grandchildren. We want to hold onto and relish life, realizing that “all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have,” as Abbot Tryphon is warning us.
And so we’ve prayed and begged God to give us direction and if He has to employ a 2×4 to get our attention, to please do that. We believe our prayers have been answered, as so many things are falling into place. There are some major gaps, but that is where we step out in Faith. The Holy Fathers posted this quote today, “You cannot learn to see just because someone tells you to do so. For that, you require your own natural power of sight. In the same way, you cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer. Prayer has its own special teacher in God, who ‘teaches man knowledge’ (Ps. 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just.”
(St John Climacus) We firmly take hold of the promise that, “He grants the prayer of him who prays.” and we step out in faith, clinging to Our Lord.
The next few weeks, we will be outside of our comfort zone. We will begin this new era of life by changing how we celebrate Holy Week and we will move on from there. My husband is with our son, at the Scouting event, sharing time with him. It is one tiny step in faith towards a life lived, keeping these words in the forefront, “Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.” We rest in His promises and we move forward in prayer. I think it’s good to shake things up a bit now and then; and I am eager to explore this non-comfort-zone part of our lives and see where it leads us. As we prepare to shout, “Alithos anesti” “He is Risen”! “Haqan Qam”! “He is Risen”! we also prepare to take a step out in faith.