Square peg, round hole.

Square Peg/Round Hole

Sometimes we try to fit in. We try very hard. And all the while we know it’s not a good fit. But we have committed time, we have begun to know others trying to fit in, too. It is hard to “man up” and admit that it is not working.

My husband and I have been married 37 years this month. The entire time we dated (2 years) and most of our married life, we knew we did not belong in Southern California. We have life-long friends there. We had established relationships and commitments. We met each other in Southern California. We had our kids and pretty much raised them there. But we longed to escape to seasons and weather, and much more green! Eventually, my husband secured a position in Washington State. We were elated. We told everyone we knew that we were relocating. Very few of our friends talked to us about our relocating. I don’t think they really believed we would do it. And many have no longer kept in touch. A few admitted they were hurt we left. It amazed me. After just two years, our eldest son asked us to relocate, yet again, to Alaska.. We hesitated but then figured that if we did not take that big leap at that point, we never would. And all that leaving was about 12 years ago.

Back Yard about 1pm in December 2021

Our views outside have changed quite a lot. We experience sub-zero temperatures like pros these days. It was just 20 degrees outside and I only wore a sweater, while running errands. (Always keep heavy coat with me, just in case. And gloves – in my coat and in my purse!). And we have adapted to a much colder environment, and we are thriving. We dove into raised beds and gardening in the arctic regions. It’s a whole, new ballgame up here. Our cupboards and freezers are full of hard-earned bounty. We are happy here.

A little more than 18 years ago, we discovered the eastern side of the Catholic Church, in earnest. We had met a Syro-Malabar bi-ritual priest over 25 years ago, and that had been our introduction to eastern thought and practice. But when we entered the Melkite parish for the first time in San Bernardino all those years ago, our lives drastically changed. The Melkites challenged our faith practices. The Divine Liturgy wove its way into our souls. My husband spent 4 years in the Melkite seminary, becoming a deacon. Our lives revolved around our faith – what we ate, the prayers we prayed, the things we did – everything centered on that little parish in San Bernardino. We belonged, in a very deep way, to a vibrant community of like-minded believers and it was our little paradise. Many of our Roman friends did not understand what we loved about it. Many attended my husband’s ordination and were still confused – several remarked that they would go to Mass later, to receive communion, when they had just attended a Divine Liturgy. They did not understand that it was a “valid” liturgy and their “Sunday obligation” had been met. They did not accept different as equal. And that has become apparent in so many aspects of our lives. Accepting different as just different, but not less or less valid.

Historic and current local Roman parish

Covid has been a game-changer on so many levels. One thing it did that continues to frustrate me is that covid “mandates,” which are not laws, closed the doors to our churches. And our churches allowed them to be closed. Pastors cowed to the political pressure of a pandemic that has upturned and twisted our culture. I know we will never be able to return to “normal.” It is frustrating. We were reduced to watching livestream liturgies. And frankly, when that was all that was available, I was actually fine with that. Because I could livestream Melkite liturgies. Up here, there are no Melkite parishes. None. Up here we can find Byzantine, Roman, and Orthodox parishes.(as well as a plethora of Protestant denominations). We attended the Byzantine parish up here for years, but when we moved more than an hour away, we stopped attending (Boy, was I convicted on that excuse last night!). And so we drifted to a local Roman parish, after some friends invited us.

Each week, we would squirm or feel uncomfortable during some part of the Mass. During the height of the pandemic, it was surprisingly orthodox in that the Mass was solemn and beautiful. So were the homilies. Subdued. Thoughtful. Deep. Reverent. Quiet. And then the “restrictions” began to be lifted and more families started returning to the Masses. We could sit in every pew and there were no tapes separating people. The choir came back. The homilies loosened up, too. And we started to experience not just “squirm” moments, but moments that actually made us angry and frustrated. Behaviors we had left behind when we ventured east came crawling back into the Masses. And we grew increasingly uncomfortable.

Let me explain: I am not a “kum-bay-ya” person. I don’t feel comfortable around extroverted expressions of faith. Random “alleluias” and loud “amens” are not part of my DNA. It makes me uncomfortable. Musical accompaniments with varied instruments. Clapping. Standing and clapping. Kids running up and shouts and all sorts of things like that are just not for me. Father cracking jokes and inviting responses during Mass. I prefer old world reverence. I prefer chants. I like a good Tridentine Mass. I love the prayers. And as I gravitated eastward, I realized I was in search of the Holy, in an old world expression that works for me. This past weekend was sort of it for us. Even though we have quite a few friends who attend the local Roman parish, we just cannot do it any longer.

Advent

I began an Advent study using materials provided by the local parish we have been attending. Along with that, I have been reading the Psalms with my Orthodox brethren. And one of the interesting things for me was the process of preparation – not for the Child Jesus, but for His Second Coming. In the Roman material, it prods you to think about your eternity with your faith. On December 3rd we were reminded to let go of things – how fasting and abstinence can enrich your life. And I realized I could pack our truck and load our camper and be off with our dogs and I would be fine with that. Honestly fine. I could separate and leave the rest behind. On the 5th we were reminded about repentance. And I noted I needed to work on the fact that I am still angry our Church doors were closed to us during Covid. The ecclesial gave way to the political – because by now you have to agree it was not to the science! My anger lingers and I am working on that. On the 6th, a change happened to me. St. Therese of Lisieux’s quote was the day’s heading: “There is no joy like that known by the truly poor in spirit.” The reading speculated that at the core of repentance is the acknowledgment that we cannot save ourselves. “Man is a beggar before God.” And “Advent is the end of a long history of waiting for the fulfillment of an ancient promise.” The reflective questions at the end asked, “Are you dry and parched, crippled by sorrow? Are you trying to power through every challenge by your own strength?” And my response, after pondering it, was that I am, indeed parched. The change is that I came face-to-face with what was really bothering me, and I wrote: “Dry because I miss and long for the holiness of Byzantine life. I want Divine Liturgy!” And yesterday’s reflection was from James 4:8 – “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” I felt drawn to Byzantine liturgy, and so did my husband. We chose to attend another of our local Roman parishes where they host our Byzantine Mission every other Sunday at 4:00pm. I cannot describe what it was like, really. It felt like falling into a warm pool of holy. We took a deep breath and the incense, the sounds, the icons drew us in. The familiar rhythm of liturgy was a balm to parched souls.

Sacred Heart Byzantine Mission

New icons had been painted since we were last here, and we reveled in their beauty. We sang the Liturgy with a renewed joy and vigor. Father’s homily reflected the readings and the history of Advent. We felt the tug of the traditional, the historical, the reverential, the beauty that is Divine Liturgy.

Divine Liturgy

We have resolved that we will make the effort to experience the divine on a regular basis. We are parched and dry and we miss Byzantine worship. It’s an hour away, but only twice a month. We can make the trek twice a month, and twice a month the mission will be 5 minutes away. I think that is doable!

During last night’s wonderful homily, Father expanded on the story of the celebration being planned, from the readings, and how the host invited more people off the street because the original invitees were coming up with excuses not to attend. In those days, preparing to host a celebration could take months of preparation and was very costly. And very few were coming. Father then asked us what our excuses were. Why are we not coming to the celebration? My husband and I immediately looked at one another, and I believe in that moment, we realized we needed to make the effort. There may be odd things that are off, in comparison to a Melkite liturgy, but they are procedural in nature. They do not make us squirm in our seats, nor do they incite anger in us. We felt the holy we had been longing for. We felt the pull, and it filled something in our hearts we had been lacking. We had become square pegs trying to fit into a round hole, trying to be Roman. We are no longer Roman; we are Melkite; we are Byzantine. And that is something we just cannot walk away from. We need to go where we are fed. I believe life is like a salad bar. Find where your soul sings. No matter where it takes us. Try different things to know what works for you. Become comfortable in your own skin. Different is just different: it is not less nor invalid. We learned to embrace change a long time ago. We have been on this journey for over 20 years now, and for us, we still lean eastward…

St. Nicholas Dome

Let go of the tether…

Tetherball

A tether is “a rope, chain, strap, or cord for keeping an animal within a certain radius.” It can also be used for objects (hence we have tetherball) and to keep infants safe with a car seat in a car. Basically, it’s a restraint system. Why am I defining this? I have been doing some soul-searching lately. What am I tethered to? One of the things that keeps running through all the philosophies rampant on the internet is that we need to focus on God and God alone. God wins, in the end.

London’s Chrystal Palace

We are just regular people. Like George Carlin would say, “There’s a big club and you ain’t in it”! And we should question everything. Absolutely everything. If you look into the late 1800s construction style, you have to scratch your head. No electric or power tools. The roads are still dirt and most people got around in horse-drawn vehicles, not cars! The Pearl Street Power Station was opened by Thomas Edison in 1882. 1882! The Chrystal Palace above was built in 1854. How? There are literally decades of our history that we are unaware of. Where is our collective cultural memory? As an anthropology major in college in the “progressive” 1970s, I was never told any of this history. The architecture alone is astonishing. Where did it all go? Why was it erased from our history?? Who decided we needed to erase that? Makes you think, doesn’t it? Look up Tartaria and the 1800s construction style. Look up the Great Mud Flood. Why is this not common knowledge? Very interesting digging.

We are all so worried about Omicron or the next variant. Our supply train. The weather. The economy and crypto-currency. The world is going insane on a multitude of fronts. We all know someone who has been vaccinated. We all know people who have had Covid, in one of its many forms. Many of us know friends who have died from Covid treatments. We have had our faith leaders close the door of our churches because they bow to political pressure. Where is their faith in God? The money doesn’t flow if you do not follow the narrative. Slowly the media is now even reporting on some aspects of the Maxwell trial. The biggest trial of the century so far. And CNN actually talked about some of the fallout with the vaccines and pericarditis and the many deaths and injuries from these untested vaccines – I know I was shocked they dared to utter a word. Maybe because they have to make up for the Cumo debacle! (These shots really are not vaccines, are they? When I got my polio vaccine I was no longer susceptible to the disease – but these covid shots? They keep coming…the first couple don’t work so let’s keep shooting people with more chemicals…)

The Vaxx

The elites of this world are frightened by truth. They keep layering the world with more and more deception. So many of us blindly follow the “tell-a-vision” and believe our government is here to save us. No one is here to save us – we have to save ourselves. In recent news, studies have now shown the graphene component in these vaccines acts like razors in our blood streams. It destroys our ability to fight infections. There’s a new term in our lexicon of language as well; “VAIDS.” “Vaccine acquired immunodeficiency disease.” Yeah – its a new form of aids – from the vaccine. Look into Fraudci and his involvement with aids. People died from the cure, not the disease. He needs to held accountable! Our world leaders are trying to decimate the population. I know…quackery, right? Look at the Georgia Guidestones, for one simple example…

Georgia Guidestones

One of the precepts engraved on the stones is keeping the world population at 500,000,000 and another is one world government. Look into it. Don’t trust a random blogger you come across. One thing I have learned in all of this, trust no one – no one’s opinion or their “facts.” Dig deep and find your own answers. And that is what brings me to this post today…looking for my own information. As I dug deeper, and was reading information and bookmarking sites I want to return to, I kept hearing in my head – “What are you tethered to? What keeps you attached to this world, to this life?”

“It’s going to be biblical..”

The line (and image) above is from the movie, “Law Abiding Citizen.” A man gets even for all the wrongs done to him and he swears, “I’m gonna pull the whole thing down. I’m gonna bring the whole f***in’ diseased, corrupt temple down on your head. It’s gonna be biblical.” For many of us who follow patriots and the causes of freedom, this quote has been used to define this moment in time, and how patriots need to respond. And many patriots refer this quote to taking down the cabal, the elites who control the world. Taking down the global banking system. Global economy reset. Among many other issues.

I am listening. I am researching for myself. I am learning. I am fearful and prayerful. I am not really settled and this little voice keeps asking me about being tethered. The Lord tells us quite plainly, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39)

Letting Go…

All of the things I have discussed, and so many more, are things that bind me. My family is the one thing I have held onto more than anything. A friend’s mother once related to me that if we are doing this parenting thing right, our kids take off and explore new things, in new places, with new people. And they are fully confident to do that, even if it means leaving parents far, far behind. If Christopher Columbus had never left home, we would all still be in Europe. (Just an old saying – not arguing accuracy in this post). LOL. And I have come to realize recently that my kids are all grown up. I mean I know they are from their ages, but their “separateness” became more glaringly real to me. Oh yes, I pointed them in the direction I thought they should go. And they took my advice, and then made their own decisions. Most of those decisions are taking them away from me. We diverge over many, many subjects. It has caused hurt feelings and we often tap-dance around quite a few topics. At the heart of it, I will always love my kids. It doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing. I gave them life and I will always love them. But I cannot fix or change them now. They are married with families of their own (almost all of them – one more to go!). They have careers and homes and responsibilities and they are choosing their own way in this life. The hurtful part is that generally speaking, we are no longer on similar paths, nor share the same orbits. And my husband and myself are pretty much all that we have. We knew that on some instinctual level, but facing the reality of it as we sit in matching recliners in the evenings, alone and watching mindless TV and chatting, the hard reality is that it is just the two of us.

Divergent Paths by Julie Lonneman

If I am honest about it, that little voice I keep hearing is telling me to just let it go. Let my kids, and some dear friends, go on their merry way, with my love and blessings. Do I agree with their choices, their decisions? No I do not. Can I change anything by talking to them, or presenting them facts and figures, and studies that prove my points? I cannot. Will I lose them by trying? Well, I almost have in the recent past, so I would have to say that to pursue it at this point would cut them off from us, and I am not sure I can bear that. I know I have to let them be men (I have all sons) and forge their own trails, but darn it all, I miss them in my life. I never imagined my old age would be so very solitary, in the sense that we don’t see our kids and grandkids around our table anymore, nor celebrating holidays as a full family. (We have even replaced our big table with a small, glass one!) There is geography (we now live 1000s of miles apart) and the cost of travel (and restrictions – thanks Byden) and transporting kids; I really get it. But all the same, here in my pity party, it’s not turning out to be what I had imagined during all the years I spent raising the boys, and all the years invested in some friendships.

Ad-libbing with dogs…and paring down a tad…

The above is our Christmas decor – pretty much all of it. We decorated for ourselves because we know our extended family won’t be around our tree, and we rarely entertain friends these days. In addition, we had to adapt to a very smart and stubborn 8-month-old standard poodle puppy who would love to chew on almost all of that stuff up there. Ha-Ha. It’s small and simple and I think I like it this way. We are getting rid of a lot of holiday stuff and are even thinking of paring down in other ways, as well. It is helping me to let go. Stuff is stuff and we have come to realize very little of the stuff we love is important to our kids. I want to give it away or sell it while I know where it is going and not leave it for them to settle when I am gone.

Letting go of everything – all this concern in the world – as well as family and friends – for the sake of eternal salvation is a jarring reality. As I get older, and after my Covid experience, I know more than ever that my days are numbered. I will face my God alone. I hope and pray our Blessed Mother, and some angels and saints will stand with me, but ultimately my faith is between me and God. Just the two of us. And when I think in those terms, it is easier to deal with letting go, with disappointment and feeling let down, with fear for the future of this world. So many prognostications are being bandied about that we are in the end times. Perhaps we are. Bishop Vigano recently stated that those who fight this new world order, the cabal and the elites, “will have the help and protection of God.” I can go with that. So, be prepared to sacrifice everything for your faith – the faith in God and in your country and the things you believe in. All of it. Home, relationships, friends, family. Because the powers that be want you to submit, even to the point of giving your life for what you believe. So for me, I want to be able to walk away, even to death, with my head held high, letting go of all that tethers me to this world.

Holding on to that tether to this world…