“…She uses prayer.”

“Oola – a life that is balanced and growing in all the key areas of health and well-being. It can be a noun or a verb. It can be a definition or a feeling. It can be as complex as a life growing and balanced in fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun (the 7 F’s of Oola), or as simple as a sunset, a quiet book on the beach, or a special moment with a child. It is a place we all shoot for in life. The feeling we experience as we celebrate our successes along the way. In short, Oola is cool.”

Glenallen drive2

That is from the Chapter One intro to a book I adore, entitled, “Oola, Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl. They are pretty amazing. There is a Facebook page, a website. They do personal coaching. They are on the top best sellers’ lists and have gone international. If you want to do yourself a favor, get this book. Get in touch with the Oola lifestyle and you will not be sorry. I would say that it would enhance your life. It has mine. You can purchase the book on Amazon and on their website and they are always having specials. (If you click on any of the statement above, it will take you to their website; I think).

I love my faith and I love my family, and my life. But sometimes we get out of whack. Sometimes one area or another becomes heavier than normal and it can throw you completely for a spin. It happens regularly and some would say, “That’s just a part of life.” And they would be right. But for some people, it is hard to bounce back and find that balance again. Our world is a pretty demanding place. Finding our little section of the world and making it all work can sometimes be beyond our abilities, alone. And so we reach out. We also, at times, have to let go. And that is what I am dealing with – letting go of some things and people, and embracing through reaching out, a new life.

I know that community is something we need. We cannot live as an island (“No man is an island, entire of itself.” John Donne). We need people to make us human. There are those who shun humanity in search of a higher plane of existence with God – hermits of various denominations. They are called to that purpose. Those who choose to enter monasteries and live a life of silent service and prayer to God – they pray for each of us, believers or not. And, “We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost,” (Sept. 12, 2012; Pope Benedict). I do believe that we cannot worship in a vaccum, either. Some people say they have faith and do not need to go to Church. But few of those people live a life of faith, of prayer and sacrifice to others. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:38-40.

Having said all of that, my faith was rocked. Not my faith in God! Thanks be to God! My faith in others. In being treated honestly, and fairly. And after listening to an awesome podcast/video yesterday, it sort of hit home for me. I listened to Victoria Pavlatos and she has a Facebook page. She posted a podcast/video entitled, “Life in the Fishbowl.” She is the wife of an Orthodox priest and together they have 9 children. (She is an amazing photographer and her business is Tori Ava Photography – check out her website. She is amazing! There should be an imbedded link on the next word). She commented about what it was like to be the wife of a priest and how the scrutiny is pretty tough. She lives with constant comments about her children’s attire, their behavior, and expectations by their parishioners. I wish she lived closer to me!! Her words touched my heart so much. She asked that their community pray for her husband and for her family, before they judge them. Because when you are in front of anyone, be it a corporation, a group, a club, or the Church, everyone looks to you. And at you. And at your family members. We are not perfected, yet. We just chose to serve our communities in a very visible way. And some people are nastily vocal when we do not live up to their expectations of us. And some will say, “You chose that. It is part of the position.” Again, that is also true. However, you can still be wounded and hurt and sometimes it is enough to cause you to pause. And sometimes it is even enough to want to be done with the whole thing, and to walk away and let go of all of it.

I have often heard that the Church is not for the well, that it is a hospital for the sick.

St.John C hospital

We all seek to reach that wonderful state of oneness with God we call, “Theosis,” in the east. It is when your heart is full of God and you feel the world fall away. That state is something to work towards, and each time we fall and get back up, seeking forgiveness, we are that much closer to God. Every once in awhile we are thunderstruck at the actions or words of others, in their judgement of us and we cannot seem to get past it. It is not that I have not forgiven people; I truly have. But I also know how they think, their processes, and I know what they think. Especially of me. And so I come to a point of not wanting to bang my head against that same wall, over and over again.

russian orthodox church 03

When I walk into an Eastern Church, I am literally dumbstruck. Speech becomes impossible and I always whisper, if I even say a word. The incredible artwork, the incense, the icons, the candles…it overwhelms your senses. If you have never been in one, it will seem overwhelming and beyond comprehension. Sometimes it is almost impossible to imagine attending services there, because it seems so foreign. For the western mentality, and what we are used to in our architecture, it is vastly different. But I find immense peace inside an Eastern Church. I love just standing before an icon, lighting a wonderfully-scented beeswax candle, and offering up prayers. The “smells and bells” get me every time. I could go into the whys of icons versus statues, but that is a history lesson for another time. Let me just say, my personal space where I type this has a very large (and I mean about 2 feet tall; okay, I measured – 27″) statue of St. Rita, my patron saint above me, on the top of my desk. There are smaller statues for each of our children, of their patron saints, on the top of our bookcases. But behind me, there are numerous icons (one for each of our children and some festal icons, too). I appreciate both. So I wanted that to be clear. However, after migrating east, I do not think I could return to the western style of worship. Which leaves me in a conundrum of where to go. For now? I am not going, at all.

prayer

For now, through spiritual direction, I am praying. I am reading. I am meditating. I am receiving spiritual direction online in a formal program. My faith life is not dead. But right now, it is not communal or corporate, either, and I miss that. I am working through what I am going to do, and I am still uncertain. And that is where “Oola” has helped me greatly. I need, I survive, with balance in my life. When one thing is out of line, it can throw everything else off. I have learned that there are these areas in our lives that we need to place a laser focus on and they are called the 7 Areas of the Oola Life. And I am focusing on them, as best I can. They are, “Faith, family, friends, fitness, finance, field, and fun.” And as I focus on an area, it tends to highlight another area and I work over there for a bit. It is like learning to juggle 7 plates in the air (read the Oola book!!) and I am getting better at choosing not only my plates, but how I stand when I am balancing.

beautiful woman

For me, prayer is essential. Without prayers, our souls slowly die off, in the sense that we lose our connection to God. It hampers our ability to give to others. And through prayers, and others reaching out to me, I have found an alternate expression of my love and faith and have been stretching a little bit. It has bent over, and weighed in on, and affected, both “field” and “finance,” enhanced with some wonderful new, “friends.” And all of those things run into “family” and I am now having to deal with “fun”! Through these new experiences, I have had so many hours of laughter and fun. This weekend, I am taking a road trip over some pretty high mountains, with a friend. I am ridiculously excited. And we have 6+ hours to gab to our hearts’ content (without our husbands sighing at us and being bored). The top photo is actually the road we will be driving! Gorgeous! Through my friendships developing, along with field (career) and finance, my fitness is once again coming to the forefront. I am working, once again, on being fit and healthy. For me, but for my family, finance, field, friendship, and fun! It is all interconnected. How cool is that? So very Oola. I must say that my dad’s quote from 40+ years ago comes to my mind, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” I was adversely affected and it caused my attention to change focus, and opportunities are arising. I am blessed.

Climacus prayer

I will continue to seek Theosis and a greater union with my God. I will ceaselessly pray. I will contemplate where I belong in this huge world in which we reside. But I am doing it with a freer heart, and one that is becoming more and more “balanced, in an unbalanced world.”  God has blessed me; thank you, Lord. And, thank you, Oola Guys!

oola quote

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“Words left unsaid…”

Wordsleftunsaid

And that, my friends, is why I blog! I have had several incidents happen to me and I have been mulling these things over in my head. The words are screaming in my head, so here goes:

A faithful friend

The past few weeks have been transformative for me. And my journey is not over. I have been involved in a leadership training course (along with significant time management training) and have evolved as a person so much. I have made fundamental changes to my life. I have altered habits I have had for years and years. I have changed how I manage my time. And I have been evaluating the circles of friends I have, who surround me like ripples in the water from a thrown pebble. Every once in awhile, it is healthy to re-evaluate who gets the lion’s share of our time. And in addition, who gets the emotional energy required to maintain these circles of relationships.

When you think about it, you are involved with all sorts of people, from disparate backgrounds and situations. We have work friends, neighbors, church friends, friends we have had since kindergarten, high school friends, college friends, friends we have as a couple, friends we made while single. Friends come from all the journeys we have been on in our lives. And some of them we keep, some we have lost, some we have discarded.

Seat at table

I’ve spoken to not allowing everyone to have a seat at your table in previous posts, and I am so firmly entrenched in that process – letting go. Sometimes it is hard to let those go who are toxic to you, but I know that energy/emotion vampires are just not healthy for me. I have learned that there are people out there who smile and shake your hand, but who are not your friend. And to be honest, that is fine. Not everyone we meet is meant to be a friend. Many are meant to solely be an acquaintance; someone who passes through but whose soul does not take root with yours. In a way, that realization is rather freeing.

Forgive.LesBrown

And now I am working on letting go – and that includes my disappointments and unfulfilled expectations, my heartache and feelings of being let down. But I have learned that forgiving others when they let you down allows you to heal and move on. I know not everyone I meet is my friend, nor meant to stay, as I said above. And I know that I am not perfected – God still has a great work left to do in me. Because of this immense transformation and learning curve I am on, I realize that working on myself takes much effort. And I may let other things slide while I engage in this work of bettering myself and growing. But I cannot become who God wants me to be, sitting on my couch, hiding behind my books and feeling sorry about myself. I cannot get better physically, or spiritually, or emotionally by waiting on…well, waiting on what?

I am so happy and excited to be taking myself in hand and working on all these myriad issues I have. It is a good work. In the meantime, people in my life either support me and what I am doing, or they do not. If they do not, they will no longer be included in my circle. That “block” button on Facebook will be getting a workout in the near future. Don’t judge me for that comment. There comes a time in our lives when we need to cull those we allow close to us. Some of the people who have taken root in our lives are not healthy for us; they are not “life giving” but rather drain you. In addition to that, my time on social media is declining and it is a good thing. I am reading good things. I heard a great quote, “Don’t fill your head with another person’s trash.” Ponder that for a moment. That is the written word – in books, movies, music, news outlets, and all forms of media. Whose trash are we letting in? For one thing, I have disavowed politics. It makes me too angry and an uglier version of myself. It is gone from my electronics. Just flat out gone. I have no clue what is going on right now and it is a peaceful thing. I removed all my gaming platforms. Stupid way to be a sucker of my time – it can literally suck hours away I will never get back. Done. And I am evaluating my reading material. This is the hard one! I belong to so many book clubs and read such a variety of literature. My bible is getting a workout, and that is a great thing!

During this time of personal renewal and growth in this leadership/time management class, I am also embarking on a study with a couple of friends. We are using this amazing book entitled, “The Holistic Christian Woman.” (The author is Cynthia Damaskos, CHC. I purchased it through Ancient Faith Publishing, but it is also available on Amazon). Here’s a little taste: “Even being concerned about people’s real or perceived perception of you and your life can be subliminally stunting your joy. Are you afraid to be yourself? Are you afraid to be different from what people expect, in a culture of excess and cookie cutter expectations? These perceptions can lead you to say “yes” to too many requests, or “no” to many changes that should be made. For me, these were also self-imposed boulders that were also blocking my way.  There may be a big boulder that you need to move before all the rocks fall into place.”  And that’s just the intro! I am only 2 weeks into that book and I am fundamentally different. It is flabbergasting to me that I can be so affected in my 50s by two disparate things, coordinating together so flawlessly. Through our faith, we know there are no coincidences, just occurrences that God has construed for our good. I am so blessed.

Livingforothers

So I am moving forward and through this movement, I am finding that I cannot stay how I am, where I am, or who I am. It just does not work any longer. For me, or for my family. It is wonderful to undergo these sorts of things with the full support of your spouse. He is reaping the benefits of my learning curve and my becoming a better me. We are both starting to move some boulders, allowing the rocks to fall into place. We are seeking our joy in places that are new for us, and we are happy. Growth is a wonderful experience.

One of the things I just cannot tolerate any longer are those who purport to be friends but who fundamentally are not on the same page I am on. One area of belief is the equality of all people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” —The Declaration of Independence

This is a fundamental view of Americans. We are all equal. Women have the vote! African Americans can sit on the same buses and drink out of the same water fountains, attend the same schools, work at any job they choose, and marry anyone they choose! All races have the same rights! We do not allow discrimination based on age, race, religion, creed – these areas are sacrosanct. That word means that this thing we hold, this belief, is so sacred, it cannot be altered or interfered with. It is inviolable! (That means it cannot be infringed upon). But there are still people out there, that when it gets right down to the nitty-gritty of life, do not believe everyone is equal. They just do not accept it. And I will pray their souls are opened to the Grace of belief, and of truly loving their fellow man. We are all created in the image of God. All of us. Not just some of us. And some of the change I am going through is being less tolerant of those who are intolerant, if that makes sense. They just don’t need a seat at my table. “If you can change, everything will change for you.” That was in a speech by Jim Rohn, a wonderful speaker. I am changing and I am affecting change in those around me.

KeepSilence

Even though I am thinning the circles around me in some ways, I am keeping a Holy Silence. I am giving these things to God, Who is far more equipped to handle them than I am. I am still such a work-in-process that I cannot really judge others. I can feel the pain of their poor choices in words and attitudes, and I can feel the pain of disappointment. Those are valid things. And I can wallow in it. I can. It is perfectly acceptable to wallow sometimes. But what exactly does it get me? What am I waiting for? Apologies that won’t ever come? Growth and change from people so entrenched in their ways of thinking, they are walking back and forth in ditches so high they cannot see out of them? No. I am moving onward and I am turning inward, working towards a better self, a stronger self.

Strongwoman

Life throws us curve balls now and then, but life also throws us opportunities. And I have been given one that I was not ready for a year ago. But I am now. And it feels like I am re-awakening to that “other” woman I was, before I stayed home. I am not saying that being a stay-at-home-mom, a homeschooling mom, was a bad thing. It was my vocation and I loved every moment of it (and I miss the days when we lived on farms and I had muddy boys in muddy boots, messing up my kitchen floors). But I started to hide. I was not out and about, affecting my community. I was not growing as a woman, outside of my growth as a married woman and mother of faith. My faith has been my saving glory in this life. I am so blessed. But I also know I have so far to go. And I am now moving. I am in motion. I am reading; I am learning; I am growing. I hope everyone comes along for the ride, but I am already noticing the circles growing thinner. And that is perfectly okay.

Processofchange

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Life is fragile…”

Life is fragile

Each and every opportunity we are given to embrace life at its fullest is a blessing. And life is so fleeting. I’ve quoted my former pastor many times on my posts and he used to say, “You are never guaranteed your next breath.” It is so very true. Each breath is a gift from God. Each and every one. So what are we doing with those precious breaths we have been given today?

I live near a military base. I actually really like it. I love watching the huge jets fly over the house. Even the Huey helicopters can make the walls rattle and dishes fall over. But we all jokingly say, “It’s the sound of freedom.” This week (and last week) they are playing war. The large booms have our cat scurrying for cover. Our walls rattle, the dishes shake in the cupboards, and pictures bang on the walls. We are near the artillery range and also near where the huge rounds land. At night, if you get the right angle, you can see the tracers. But it’s loud and it’s 24/7. I jumped out of my skin about 12:30 am, and laughed, saying, “Ahhh…that was freedom booming” and promptly went back to sleep. But during the day, since they are so random, I am on edge. It makes it hard for me to focus on getting done what I need to accomplish. I am a SAHM, but I also homeschool my son, maintain this blog (among other writing projects) and I am taking an online business-building course. The snow today is muffling the booming a little and my oldest dog is over on the couch snoring, so it’s not too bad. And I had to type because things are, as usual, weighing on my heart.

Life is precious and precocious, and full of amazing turns, twists, and alternatives. We shared the joy of a grandson’s birthday yesterday, celebrating his life, all four years so far. And coincidentally, there was a horrible accident on our only highway (yes, this is pretty rural) where an 18-month old was ejected from the car in the carseat, because another vehicle hit them head on with such force, the side of the car was ripped off. Our whole community was praying for the families involved (the 18-month old is okay as of this morning; just some broken bones – a miracle, really). Several pregnancies were announced, as well as some deaths. The ambiguous nature of life really hit me yesterday.

Seat at your table

There have been several people in my life who have sapped me of energy. They are energy-suckers who seem to create a sort of “Pig Pen” of chaos around them. (I am referring to that character in Peanuts, who has a cloud around him all the time). They also seem to bring with them a cloud of drama. Honestly, as I get older, I am less and less likely to want to deal with drama. Life has its own ups and downs, without adding to it. Some people love to gab about everything, and everything is dramatic. I don’t need more of it as I get older, I need less of it.

Friend.FB

I had someone ask me why I had “de-friended” them on Facebook. It was not meant as a slur or a slight. I tried to explain that social media is a construct; it is not reality. Just because someone “friends” you does not mean they are your friend. “I am not sure that word means what you think it means,” to quote from the Princess Bride movie. So many people derive their sense of worth by how many friends they have on Facebook, what sort of purse they carry, type of car they drive, how big their diamond rings are, what the logo on their jeans are…and they assume all those selfies posted online are a reflection of real life. Ha! I sit at my table, watching my son do school, as I type away. I am no way posting a selfie right now! It is snowing outside. I have on a nightgown, bathrobe, big socks, slippers, and my hair is pulled up into “I don’t know what” hairdo (basically a “get it off my face and out of my sight hairdo”). You think I want anyone to see that? It is my reality, but not what I share with the greater world. Most of what is on social media is what people wish for themselves; what they wish their lives were like. Some friends and I sat at a restaurant in California a few years ago, people watching. We were wondering how many who drove by in Cadillac Escalades and BMW’s were living debt-free? How many had tons of cash in the bank? Which ones were living paycheck to paycheck? But that’s not the image they were presenting. They were projecting what they needed to be, in order to feel accepted. Facebook is so much like that. There is far too much drama associated with friends you make there. To me, de-friending or unfollowing someone is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for ourselves, and for them.

Calvin and Hobbes. Friend

I value life and I try – more and more – to surround my life in prayer. To buffer myself, my family, and my friends with prayer. Adding someone to my prayer list is investing in that relationship. It is enlisting God to assist me in my concerns for that person. Of course, God already knows and has probably been waiting for my heart to soften for this person for years, but still, I love knowing God and I are tackling someone together, for their blessing. True friends are so precious. One of the gifts of my life is that I have a couple of people I KNOW, without a doubt, are my friend. I could call them and no matter the cost or inconvenience, if I needed them, they would hop on a plane and come to my side (or drive across town). That is so very rare in this self-oriented culture of ours. We need to nurture those relationships and we need to seek God’s blessings for our friends. We need to cocoon ourselves in God’s centering love and focus on that. And I do not think that everyone needs to be at my table. A table only seats a few people. We can think of the Last Supper as a great example. Christ invited only the 12 to sit with Him. We know through Apocryphal writings that there were family members there. There were women cooking and serving. There were children running around. But at the table were just the 12 – only those Christ invited to sit with Him.  For me, there are lots of people in my life. I have groups and subgroups of friends I have made from here and there (school friends, college friends, work friends, church friends, neighbors, etc – and even Facebook friends). The total of my Facebook friends number over 300. Would I want all of them seated at my table? Of course not. There are degrees of separation and there is practicality. There are also affairs of the heart. Most of the women I count as friend, truly friend, have shared emotional journeys with me. We have married, birthed, and buried together. I have a friend who showed up when my grandma, who lived with us, died. She was not asked to come; neither was her husband. But they came and held my hand and put an arm around me as the mortuary came and took grandma away. They stood with me as witness, as friend, as ally when my grandma passed from this life to the next. That is a friend. She and her husband will always have a seat at my table. They are also people I know who would rush to my side, regardless of my geography, should I ever need them. I am blessed. But when I compare them with some of the people called friends on social media? No; there is no comparison.

Realones

Life is becoming more and more precious. As we age, we start getting a solid look at the end zone; the final door; the end of this life. And those we have around us, those we choose to walk this path with, become more and more special. I will continue to unfriend on social media. I will slowly pull away from those platforms entirely. Because as we get closer and realize our days are numbered and there are far fewer of them left, we become aware of the priceless role a true friend plays in our lives. We become aware of the transient nature of life and how it can be taken in a moment. Through my faith in God and His infinite love for me and for others, I know that I will reunite with loved ones and share in that glory for eternity. Right now, my goal is to make life as precious and celebrated as possible, for all those who are in my life and those I may touch. My life is open to making new friends. I enjoy meeting new people. But I have also come to see that I am a better person because of the people I surround myself with. I am better because they are in my life. They are a part of my life. They are also not all on social media platforms, and you know what? It’s fine with me. The less I can be present out there, the more I can be present to those sitting next to me, at my table.

Phones to conversate

Today, as I take that next breath, I promise to be true to my commitments to my family and friends. I vow to always view the next person I meet as a potential friend. I vow to place relationship and substance with friends above pretense and convenience. I also know that God and I will continue to hold in prayer those who need it. I will try to be the kind of friend that people need me to be. I love this life and feel blessed in those who have managed to find a place at my table. And there is always room for more. But I also will not feel guilty when I need to “unfriend” someone and move forward. God is watching; I am praying, and I am breathing still.

And so I muse… comings and goings…

“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.'”            Job 1:21

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”    Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been musing over many things lately. The Lord’s providence in my life, for sure. I see blessings all around me. And I see the empty places, as well. Sometimes we wonder why we “end up” where we are. I have had some interesting conversations recently with a disparate group of people; some friends, some acquaintances. And I have come to realize that the “empty places” in our lives are sometimes there for our blessing. Even if we notice them and they become bothersome or we become sad for the noticing. 

cartoon-lady-closet

I often see people struggling with their “things” – and our “things” can be literally junk we pay to keep in storage. I had a friend who had a storage unit for all her “seasonal decor” because she was over-the-top at decorating and had no basement space to store her decorations for every holiday. So she paid for a storage unit, where she kept each season’s/holiday’s decorations. She always had her house perfectly decorated for every holiday, often using a professional to assist her. But I never got over the fact that she spent money on a storage unit to keep all that stuff. I have friends who are constantly “cleaning out” or “organizing.”  I completely get that. When we left our large home and downsized in California, and then when we left California for Washington, we got rid of a lot of extra furniture, and decor.  We simply had no place to put it. When we finally relocated up to Alaska in a 30-foot U-Haul truck, I downsized in a large way. We live very simply, but I am constantly getting “the urge to purge”!  Our things, or attachment to them, can weigh us down in so many ways. I love that saying, “You can’t take it with you” and the quote from Job at the beginning of this post sort of brings that out – “Naked I cam from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.” Our things are here to assist us, to make life easier, and to bring us joy.  Have you ever walked into a museum and been brought to a hushed silence in awe of what you are seeing? Oh, I have.  On several occasions.  A memorable one was a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for an exhibit of Icons and Illuminated Manuscripts from Saint Catherine’s in the Sinai Desert. I could not even speak, but just whisper in the presence of some of these original icons, holy artifacts, and manuscripts. That is a case of storing things for a purpose!

Illuminate manuscript

The Lord allows us to experience the fruits of creation throughout our lives. Being in the presence of those who are creative, for me, is overwhelming at times. I am not very good at things “artistic” and am in awe of artists. I have wept at ballets, especially when my very gifted daughter-in-law danced in a production in college. I have wept at plays and operas. Once the “Phantom of the Opera” began and Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman sang, I started weeping and did not stop until it was over. What an experience to see them in person, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles! So, so blessed. We are given people and things to make life especially joyful and to bless us in a special way.  But there are times for all these things, for all these people, and all these experiences.  And there is also time for simple, quiet, and unadorned. “For everything there is a season.” 

Take people out of your life

I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we hang on to people, and have them in a sort of “storage unit” just in case. It is not fair to ourselves, nor them. Because of social media, the word, “friend,” has been highly – ridiculously – over used. There are, in fact, very few friends in our lives. We have acquaintances by the score through social media sites like Facebook, but how many friends?  I mean, real, honest, “lay-their-life-down-for-you,” friends?

No one at funeral

Why do we place such emphasis on Social Media? Is it really necessary in our lives? It has come to replace real-life interaction, in so many cases. I have seen wedding invitations only on Facebook. Birth, graduation, divorce announcements, only on Facebook. Communicating with friends, only on Facebook. So many not commenting at all, just watching everything on Facebook (how creepy is that?). The ability to be that much removed from someone gives people a lot of leeway in their communicating. Some people revel in the anonymity of Twitter and Facebook and Snap Chat. They are removed from directly interacting with people, allowing them to say some of the most outrageous and hurtful things. And it’s one of the profound ways I have seen my “Christian” friends behave very, very un-Christ-like. How easy it is to cut people down and be cruel, without having to look them in the face and see the hurt you cause them. In addition, the milieu itself is completely artificial. It is not real life. Just like reality TV is not real. (Cannot believe how many people don’t get that whole premise). We are playing to our worst selves, by allowing this computer I am using and the screen I see to be the sole way we know one another, or communicate. And do not even get me started on cell phones, especially “smart phones.” It’s one of the ways we disconnect from people, even in a crowded room. I am guilty of this and is one of the myriad of reasons for my musing, and posting, today.

High Tea

One of my most-favored places for communicating is a local coffee house. Not Starbucks, because those are more for the computer-using workaholic/college student. No, I mean a real coffee house, or tea shop. I love high tea. (If you’ve never gone to a real, British High Tea, try it sometime. It is delicious and wonderful and one of my most treasured memories with my dearly departed Grandma). These days, I love choosing a delicious scone and trying a new brew concoction, and then sitting down with a close friend and gabbing away the hours. I have friends I have moved away from and we have reminisced that those are the times we miss the most – coffee around my kitchen table, often with bread baking in the oven (especially when we lived on dairy farms!). I have realized that people and things are put in our paths for our enlightenment, our joy, our appreciation, by a gracious God, Who loves us. 

I cannot save everything I have ever owned, and everyone cannot stay my friend. Perhaps we don’t share the same activities, the same lives, any longer. It is okay to say goodbye to a friendship, just like that comfy sweater or favorite pair of jeans. Some relationships are formed out of camaraderie and convenience. When either support is removed, the friendship falls apart. And it is okay to lose a relationship that way, most especially if it was based on things like soccer schedules and living next door, or carpooling and church attendance. When we move on, we take aspects of these people and things with us. We have grown because of them, and hopefully learned from them. We move on. 

cartoon-coffee-cup-clip-art-196859

When I was younger, my grandmother gifted me with her tea cup collection. God bless her. Each cup had a story, and I remember them distinctly. I have been blessed with sons. Sons do not care about tea cups. What am I going to do with these tea cups? I chose to gift them, a couple at a time, to people who mean something to me. Sharing my Grandmother’s tea cups became a way I could leave a part of myself with others who have shared my life. And each tea cup I give away, I write down the story my Grandma told me about that cup. I cannot keep all these cups and saucers. There are so many of them, as in literally dozens of them. Some of them appeal to me and I will probably hold onto them longer, but some are not my particular “cup of tea” and so I can gift them a bit easier. I am planning on each grand daughter, and daughter-in-law, receiving tea cup sets. Some have cookie plates with them, that are for enjoying high tea. But I am slowly gifting them all away, as I know I cannot take them with me (as in the quote from Job above). The same holds true for friends. It is okay to give them up, to let them go. Each person, each thing, has a time in our lives. It is difficult sometimes to let people go; we mourn that particular relationship and we miss the person. But it is healthier to allow the relationship to wither on its own, and allow God to work in our lives by allowing new people into it.

And I am feeling more and more confident that as I age (and hopefully mature) and my circles tighten and shrink, that it is okay. It is also okay to become quieter. Sometimes keeping silent in the face of harsh words, whether spoken or written, is the “better part of valor.” (To paraphrase Shakespeare). Discretion, being that better portion, can be said to be silence in many instances. We can be discrete in how we handle ourselves insofar as friendships, both the making and letting go. As I was perusing my “friends” on social media, I came to see that the ones I hold especially dear are not a part of the social media frenzy, and it is not how we communicate. Several on there I also communicate with through emails, and shockingly enough, actual conversations. My closest friends will stay my friends whether or not I post my status on Facebook for that day. So as I ease into my 60s, I am seeing that my life can quiet down, can be even more simplified through the purging of social media outlets, as well as too many “things” in my life. Simplicity is something I think God appreciates. A simple, direct approach to life is actually freeing. Keeping your schedule simple, your “appointments” simple is also a way to be more in touch with God. Less time with others is more of an opportunity to spend in quiet contemplation. Do not get me wrong, I will still go to museums, plays, concerts when I can. I will attend school plays and productions for my grandchildren when I can. I will continue to dine with friends, and meet for a “cuppa” at the local coffee house. I am not locking myself away. But I am being more discrete in more aspects of my life. Sometimes all this “stuff” out there just gets to be too much.

sit with you lord

“…who is truly reliable?”

Everybody friend

I have been pondering this subject a lot lately. I have been forced to think about it over several months, through several occurrences and conversations. And it has been an instructive adventure, to be sure.

Over the course of more than 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have had a myriad of “friends.” We have friends we brought with us to our initial dating relationship. I have friends from elementary school with whom I still correspond. My husband has one particular friend from his childhood who still means the world to him, even though they have not lived near one another in over 35 years. We have made friends as a couple over the years, as well as made friends as individual adults through life experiences. I am friends with an old boss, a couple of friends made through our dairy life, and my husband has many friends throughout the USA because of work and through his diaconate program and training. There are some people who you will be close to throughout your life. And then there are those who do not stay with you. And that is where I am at, on this fine, rainy, and very fall day in Alaska.

 “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

We have come to realize that “friend” is a term that is used very loosely. With the advent of Facebook, you can add friends at the push of a button, and you can also “unfriend” someone just as simply. People often brag about how many Facebook friends they have, and I have heard of some people who have a thousand or more! That’s is almost inconceivable. Last night, our grandson was jumping up and down in front of our window, and so excited because “his friends” were coming over. We had to explain that they were friends of grandma’s and grandpa’s, and also friends of his daddy. He then yelled, as he continued to jump up and down, “Daddy’s friends are here. I see them!” (He’s 3 years old). Friends mean so much to people, and quite often it is our friends who save us from drowning in our lives.


“Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable?” Proverbs 20:6

As our children grow, friends come to mean something very much to them. Our youngest son is in high school and friends are quite the topic in his life. And as teenagers, we know how up and down moods can be, and how very fickle friendships can also be. I’ve seen teens be “besties” for a month or two, and then become total anathema towards one another the next month. And it causes such anguish in their lives. If we are honest, it can also cause anguish in the lives of adults. There are those we have been friends with for years and years, and the next thing you know, they are no longer a part of your life. This has happened to me quite often over the past 5 years of moving around. And because I have experienced it recently, and my son has also been subject to “drama” within his circle of friends, it caused me to write this out, to help myself get a handle on it.

I truly believe God places people in our paths at certain times, and for a specific amount of time, for our edification and for our education, as well as for our presence in their lives. But not perhaps to stay for a lifetime. Letting go is one of the hardest lessons in this process towards maturity, and hopefully, wisdom. I believe that my maturity – not just aging – has been deeply affected by the people placed along the pathways of my life. And for all those experiences and relationships, good and bad, I am profoundly grateful. Because of these people and experiences, I have come to know myself; and I am getting more and more comfortable with myself. Different influences by different people brought me to be who I now am. And I am a daughter of God; a child of the Most High. And I am blessed. We all are blessed. I have a few bumps and bruises; even some scars. But the Lord has brought me to this day, and for that I am eternally grateful.

As we have grown older, and our children have aged and moved out on their own, our friendships have changed. We had groups of friends we hung out with when we were all dating. Some went on to get married, as we did, but some did not. Hanging with single friends while married is not conducive to staying married, so many of those relationships fell away. As our children grew, we gathered friends with kids the same ages and with similar interests. As schooling started for our children, we garnered an entire group of friends surrounding our homeschooling and parish activities. We still have many of them, now sharing grand-parenting together. But most of them have fallen off. Our interests changed and we moved away. Convenience is a huge factor in maintaining relationships.  It is very hard to maintain deep friendships while living so far away from one another. There is no daily interaction; no morning coffee or park days. And I miss that very much,

I realized that people I thought were friends were not. They were people we engaged in the same activities with. Once we were “geographically undersirable,” our relationships flitted away. I thought this past year was a good example of that – Christmas cards. In past years, we received stacks of cards. This year, I checked to see who sent cards. Very, very few of the people I considered friends. And it made me sad. As I have aged, my circle of friends outside of family has shrunk. And I am completely okay with that; truly I am.

This summer, in fact just a few weeks ago, we visited our son and his family in our old stomping grounds. We saw very few friends. Some people were a little hurt we did not see them, or make the effort to see them. But I thought about it, and a very close friend also verbalized this: When you work and have just a short amount of vacation time/money to spend on travel each year,  and your children live thousands of miles away, you have limited time to see family – and our family is priority #1 for us! And so my circle has become quite small and exclusive. We stayed with a family, our youngest son’s godparents, for a couple of nights when we first flew into town. I had the best time. We dined with them and another couple and I was content – I was happy. We saw another family while connecting our teen up with some friends and he spent a couple of nights with them. It was great to reconnect. We also interacted with some other friends who happen to own a gathering place of sorts where other friends met up with us and we had the best evening! However, we spent the majority of our time with our son and his family. It was where I wanted to be – holding on to each moment I could, making memories with my grandchildren. I hugged and cuddled as much as I possibly could. And my smaller group of friends totally understands this; most of them live it, too.

“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” Proverbs 22:24–25

I have tried to explain these different aspects of friendship to my youngest son. I have often told him that people who are in your life should make you a better man. Friends should bring out the best and enrich our lives. They should not drag you down, nor make you a lesser person. There are so many pressures on teens; we’ve all experienced that. Who in our group of teens were an occasion of sin for us? Who pushed us to break the Commandments of God, the rules of our parents, and even the law (for me it was under-age drinking)? Are they friends in the best sense of the word? Do they pray with us, and for us?  Do they gossip about us behind our backs, or do they discourage evil words? Do they encourage our faith and stand beside us as we try to fight the tide in our culture? Do they lead us to that wide, simple pathway to evil? Or do they hold us up as we traverse that narrow road of righteousness and truth? And with all the pressures in each age that young people face, how are we as parents helping our children? Do we encourage the right relationships and help them navigate the teen years with Christ as the Head of our Families?

“Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend.” Proverbs 22:11

This has been an arduous practice in discernment for me. It has been painful, this process of letting go. But I also have learned that I am blessed beyond measure by the people I have in my life. I am making new friends, people who “hang around you and laugh with you.” They may not be “friend” in the truest essence of the word. But I am okay with that, too. Because I know who my friends are. I have held them and wept with them as we have parted. They have shared life and death with me. They have held me up as I have tripped. They have comforted me and brought me joy and laughter. And as I recently read, “Friendship has to be an exchange. It cannot be a one way street; that’s self sacrifice. As someone recently told me “if someone wants to be a part of your life they will make the effort to be in it, so don’t reserve a place in your heart for someone who doesn’t make the effort to stay”. Harsh? A little, yes. But ultimately, the Lord of All places people in our lives when they are needed to be there. Or perhaps when we need to be in their lives. When they don’t stay, we need to let go and be thankful for the enrichment that experience gave us. I know I am rich; I have my faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, I have the love of my life beside me, an incredible family I love more than life itself, and a handful of people I can honestly call, “friend.” I am so very blessed.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:13–15 

“See how they love one another?”

2Thessalonians3-3Sometimes in life, we have to step out in faith.  And sometimes we are called to go a little further in our steps than we are comfy with.  I know it’s happened to me more than once.

I had an awesome conversation with a friend I have known since I was 14 years old the other day.  My son sort of freaked when I talked about how long ago that was! (My 40th HS reunion???  Agh????   When did that happen???).  My girlfriend and I can chat and it’s like we’re back in the bathroom at her parent’s house and sixteen years old, shoving each other aside for mirror space, or arguing over a curling iron, as we get ready to go to “the game.”  We giggle insanely at things that happened more than 40 years ago.  She is one of the few people in my life who I hold up on some sort of pedestal (which I know she would totally hate me to do) because life has been incredibly cruel to her, insofar as her health (and love-life) have been.  We joked about her hearing aids and remember our parents yelling at us to turn down our music.  But we laughed.  She hates the disease that has changed her life, but we can still laugh with each other.  She is in between church homes and she is lonely. She wants a vibrant faith experience and something that will equal her excitement about God, and she has been unable to find it.  She is looking, and even though she cannot drive, I admire her for still seeking ways to be out and about and engaged in life.  I admire her because regardless of what is handed out to her, she keeps moving forward; she keeps loving everyone around her, and she maintains her joy.  She is always and ever stepping forward in faith.  I love her so much and mourn the fact we are literally thousands of miles away from each other.  But she encourages me in so many, many ways.  I know I am blessed because one ugly day in my life more than 40 years ago, she reached out to a shy, new girl in a high school gymnasium and literally took my hand and dragged me out into girl’s field hockey!  And we have been friends ever since.

FriendsFriends, family, and our faith community are who we reach out for when life hands us conundrums and conflicts.  And when those steps we need to take are big, we do reach out and we try to learn before we leap. I believe that when you step out in faith, you need to do that with your eyes fully open. Being an informed person does not mean you don’t trust God or trust that people have your best interests at heart.  What it does mean is that you do your due diligence in seeking all the facts before jumping in with both feet. This can be applied to pretty much everything.  There’s a saying I wish I would have heeded more times than I have and it goes like this, “Just because someone says you can, does not mean that you should.”  Boy, if I would have listened to that a few more times, I am sure my struggles would have been fewer!  And even though the decisions we are facing do entail someone telling us we can, we need to be sure that we should.

Trust GodIn our culture, it is becoming more and more obvious that God is being thrust into the sidelines, if present at all. I recently read an article by a Protestant author who stated that “in the Bible, God points to several things that will signify the End Times, including a godless culture, senseless violence, rampant immorality, and falling away from a true faith.” (Jeff Kinley, “As it was in the days of Noah”).  And in speaking about the new Noah movie starring Russell Crowe, he said, “We’ve basically pushed God to the margins, we’ve shoved Him out to the edges of our society and in fact we’ve written Him out of His own story as ‘Creator,’ God’s not even allowed to be the Creator anymore. So there’s rampant godlessness, not just in our country but in the world as well.”   Just today there was an article about a TV show on HGTV being cancelled before it even aired because some pro-abortion activists described the stars as being “Anti-choice extremists” for espousing a Biblical view of marriage and life.  One man, one woman; abortion is murder.  And this is bad??  I wrote on my friend’s FB wall, “The world is truly going to hell. Gird your loins.”  And I believe that.

All Merciful Savior Vashon Island Abbot Tryphon (All Merciful Savior Monastery, Vashon Island, WA – photo above) posted on his blog today, “In this age where secularism is on the rise, and materialism has become a major distraction from spiritual pursuits, Christian friendship has never been more important. The pursuit of personal fulfillment, entertainment, worldly pleasure, and the acquisition of material goods, has become the dominant theme of our age. Families that once placed the life of the Church as the center of their week, have drifted away from God. Having made idols of worldly pleasures and pursuits, their family life has become focused on transitory goals, leaving them in a state of spiritual bankruptcy.”

He then further says, The life of a Christian has never been easy, but in an age that is proving to be hostile towards the things of God, Christian friendship is all the more important. We need each other. We need the encouragement that Christian friendship can give us, as we face a world that has rejected Christ. The unity we have when we receive the Body and Blood of the Saviour, during each and every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, gives us strength to withstand whatever may be coming. When all else has failed, and our culture, economy, and material world has fallen into ruin, only faith will have the power to sustain us.”

And ending with, It is only our faith, supported and strengthened by our fellowship in Christ, that will have the lasting power to keep us from falling into despair, as our world enters into a darkness that will seem unconquerable. Hiding from the reality of a world that has lost it’s way, will in no wise make the future brighter. Lifting each other up, as we share our faith in the Christ Who came to make all things new, is the only hope we have. Let us not waste this life God has given us, but let us move forward in faith, together, knowing that ultimately, the gates of hell will not prevail against those who love God.”

Abbot Tryphon has been a wonderful source of wisdom, for me and for all of us who regularly read his blogs or listen to his podcasts (Ancient Faith Radio).  And today he once again hit the nail on the head for the issues in our lives, and the choices before us. (The Abbot has a habit of articulating what is happening to me, or those around me.  God is awesome like that!).

Taking a step in faith requires having faith, or it is just a step.  Going headlong into an unknown is something anyone can do, and many often do.  If our forefathers had not ventured forth, wanting new trade routes and ways to get around the conquering Moors, we’d all still be in Europe.  Most went with the blessings of their country, their Kings and/or Queens, and in the company of the Church in the person of her priests.  We conquered the unknown through the blessings and reliance on the known – our faith.

Sail-Boat13It is good to rely on our faith and our faith community in all things.  The Bible is rich in stories of the nascent Church and how believers supported one another. (Galations 6:2) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Acts 2:42-46)  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart..”  (Acts 4L 32-25) “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

In other works about the early Church and its history, there are many other examples and one of the most famous in the history of the Church are in the writings of the North African theologian, Tertullian (160-220AD). “Tertullian imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . .  how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).” (Christian History Institute, article on Tertullian).  There are so many examples of why we Christians need to maintain our Christian fellowship and how we should strive to keep within Christianity for many of the things in our daily lives.  We tithe to support our Churches, our priests and religious, and we work to ease the suffering of the captives and the poor.  It is what Christians have done for centuries. Our culture, unfortunately, is becoming less and less a place of Christian ideals or values.  It is becoming less and less a place we need to spend the majority of our time mixing in.

inground-sprinklers-toutXIn this era of modernism gone absolutely mad, I believe we are called to strengthen these ties with other Christians, and called to make our Church the center of our family lives once more.  Sunday should become, once again, the day of prayer and celebration with our families and our faith communities.  It is hard to remember how quiet it was when I was a kid.  On Friday evenings, the city shut down and did not open again until Monday morning.  The freeways were empty on the weekends (I remember when the freeways were empty after 9:00am and until after 3:0pm!!).  There were no traffic jams.  People were at home.  Malls were closed.  Most restaurants were closed (the fancy-schmancy ones were open on Friday and Saturday evenings, but no one was open on Sundays).  Movie theaters, live theaters, and drive-through dairies were open (the era of fast food was still an idea.  People did not eat out of paper bags – you ate off plates).  Perhaps a “mom and pop” market on the corner would be open portions of the weekend, but generally, business and public life shut down for two days every week.  You could hear kids laughing and sprinklers going on everyone’s lawns on the weekends, broken by the sounds of lawn mowers and birds chirping.  You could actually nap on your front lawn, under a tree.  But on Sundays, we had Church.  Everyone went to one of the Churches in town.  The parking lots were full.  And we spent more time with our friends, enjoying barbeques and good times in our backyards.  We worshiped together, we brought food to people who were sick, we watched friend’s kids when they were sick or needed our help, and we played and vacationed together.  It was a different time and I am feeling called more and more to re-engage in that sort of lifestyle. In a lifestyle where I trust in my faith community and immerse myself more in it, rather than in this craziness we call our world.  And taking a step in faith is almost easier, in some ways, surrounded by your community.

When our communities really gel, and we all know where we are and who we are, then confident, we can reach out in faith and assist those in need, bringing them closer to God.  When we can come together regularly, holding one another up in faith and in our trials of life, we will truly be a Christian community.  I don’t think of it as going back to the glorious 50s or that I want to turn back the clock.  But I do believe our early Christian brethren were looking at life through the lens of faith more than most of us now do.  As far as decision making goes, in all things, I am going to trust God.  “See how they love one another?”

Problems big God

 

“…shall not prevail against it.”

*Before reading my post, please know I agonized over posting this. It is a part of my personal growth and is written with no ugly intentions.  Please do not read it if you feel you will be angry. It is not my intent to anger or hurt anyone, it is just a discovery I made about my walk with God. It is about where I am and where I am going, which is the whole point of this blog.*

Hand prayer incense

Blog Post Begins:

There’s nothing new under the sun, as the Scriptures tell us. (Ecc 1:4-11).  And sometimes it feels like nothing can surprise you.  And then something does, and it can be a life-altering surprise, or it can be God, whispering to you.

Trust GodA life with no surprises can get to be pretty dull.  I’ve had some surprises lately and I kind of like it; sort of like it. I’m dealing with it! Ha-Ha!  This Lent has been a pretty topsy-turvy Lent.

Coming to a realization can be a surprise, in an of itself.  And that has occurred with me.  I realized that when I left the Roman Church and embraced the Eastern Church, I did so by jumping in with both feet.  I embraced the philosophy, theology, and practices of my Eastern Church wholeheartedly.  I found repose, sweet and quiet repose, in the teachings of my eastern faith.  We had a pastor who inculcated us fully in the philosophies and traditions (both types of traditions) of the eastern Church, and he also showed us the whys and wherefores.  We were blessed.  The theological tenets of eastern practices and traditions were fully explained and made perfect sense to us.  We completely embraced it all – culture, foods, traditions, practices.  All of it – hook, line, and sinker.  Our catechesis in the faith was truly remarkable.  Now that we are away from that community, we see it even more fully.  We miss it very much.

St. NikolaiI distinctly remember a huge turning point for me and it was during a Divine Liturgy.  The incense was pretty heavy and the light played just right through the windows…during the procession, the vestments just glowed and the sights, sounds, and smells just filled me.  And then our Proto-Deacon intoned, “Sophia, Orthoi”!  And I was transported to the times of the Apostles and the early gatherings of the nascent Church.  And it was a transformative moment for me.  I experienced my faith.  And I was hooked – for eternity.

As I have learned more and more about Eastern thought and philosophy, a part of myself that had been empty began to be filled.  And I did not even realize there was an empty space; a part of me unfilled.  I do not need much of the traditions of the western church any more because I’ve become consumed by my faith, my experiential faith in the eastern Church.  There are things called sacramentals in the west and two examples are scapulars and rosaries. You do not have to wear a scapular or recite the rosary to be fully Catholic. Those are things outside of dogma that enhance your faith experience, but they are not necessary to believe, to be in a state of grace.  They are externals. They are almost “trappings” of our faith.

Most Roman Catholics own at least one rosary, even if they do not use it.  In the mainstream church, very few people are even aware of what a scapular is, let alone wear one.  I had a scapular in pretty much every color, using them for many reasons.  They enhanced my spiritual life and I loved them.  I always wore a miraculous medal, for example.  Because I loved the story and loved the Mother of God.  My middle son and his wife were laughing a couple of weeks ago, because they recently moved into their own space and were unpacking (finally) all their wedding gifts and they realized they have a crucifix for every room in their home, plus some to spare!  It is part of our Catholic identity.  It is a demonstration of who we are.  People used to come into our home and ask where the altar was, because gradually all our artwork was religiously-oriented, with a crucifix in every room.

Byzantine CrossWhen I became an eastern Catholic, I left most of those western things behind me.  I embraced the Jesus Prayer and wear a prayer rope on my wrist most days.  I no longer wear a crucifix, but an eastern or Byzantine cross.  I love learning about all the food traditions in the east; how certain foods are served only once a year on a particular feast day.  I love that!  And there are so many flavors of eastern Catholicism.  Within the eastern grouping of Churches, there is such difference, but the same Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  Some eastern Churches will only use certain types of candles and incense and it becomes a part of the experience of who they are.  Being so fully immersed in my eastern faith is, at times, hard to maintain.  And I will explain why…

I feel that being an eastern Catholic identifies me first as being a part of a free-standing, independent Church, that happens to agree with Rome on many issues. It does not mean, however, that I embrace Roman theology or practice.  I listen first to my Patriarch, and then check in on what the Pope has to say.  I listen to my local ordinary before I ever pay attention to what the local Roman church or diocese is up to.  Roman Catholicism does not affect my life.  It is not part of who I am.  I am also a Greek Catholic…that is another aspect that is different from the Roman Church.  Greek versus Roman in many areas; it is just an area of influence and I prefer the Greek influence.

All of that being said, I know many will be angry with me because I am somehow “dissing” their beliefs. Not at all. Please do not think that way. I have children and grand-children who are Roman Catholic. It is a matter of preference and taste.  I just discovered that I am really, and truly, eastern.  A woman I just met did not understand how I did not know the movers and shakers in the local Roman Catholic scene.  When I said to her, “But I am not Roman Catholic, I am Byzantine Catholic, why would I know them? I have no reason to attend a Roman church.”  Her response was, “Well, it doesn’t really matter because we are all Catholic.”  And therein lies the crux of my problem.  I was surprised because I realized I am really not Catholic, in the sense she inferred.  I am not. I used to be, but I no longer am.  I am a Melkite Greek Catholic, blessed to have been catechized in all things Greek and Byzantine.

There are little “t” things within eastern expression that I love and value. When I see the western expression coming in and being used in preference over the eastern ones, I get a little testy.  I apologize for that.  But once you immerse yourself in all things eastern, the western insistence on superiority or preference gets tiresome.  It is the classic tale of David and Goliath.  We easterners are David.  If you are eastern, embrace it. Learn of all the richness of being a Byzantine, Greek Catholic.  Learn about the physical history of how the eastern churches came to be.  Live as an eastern Catholic. I can find fulfillment and riches enough to keep me learning for the rest of my life, if I read and study and learn from just the eastern philosophical/theological side of the aisle.

This is a touchy post because so many of my friends are Roman Catholic, as are two of my sons, and grandchildren.  My Protestant family and friends will only be flummoxed by this post, but it is an issue and it is what I am dealing with. And I want people to know that different is not a better/worse sort of thing…it is just different.  What I expect is that when we seek the mysteries for our children, when we want the blessing of the Church on our lives, we should live totally as if it were the most important thing in our lives. We don’t drop in for Chrismation or Crowning, if we do not plan to live that life.  We could get Confirmation or Marriage instead.  Leading our children to God should be the supreme emphasis of our lives as parents.  A long and winding road, full of contradictions and contradictory practices can be awfully confusing for the faith development of our children, and not having a firm foundation can lead to a young person having no place to stand where they feel safe.

TipToe WalkingI remember feeling that I was tip-toeing around when we had a major upset in our lives. By tip-toeing I mean I had no safe, solid place to stand. It was a “the ground was moving under my feet” sort of feeling. We were no longer welcome in our home parish because of an incident with a son of ours.  People we thought were friends, were not.  We were spiritually floundering because of the actions of some priests and religious in our lives. Our children were floundering.  Our church had let us down in a profound way. And then we were led, by our son, to the east and to our pastor (who became a life-long friend and spiritual adviser).  I believe God brought us to the east to save us, and to enhance the faith we thought we were loosing.  The deepest wounds were being healed.  The deepest longings were being met.  That moment of “Sophia, Orthoi” became the life-line I was waiting for.  And from that moment, I dove into the font of love I found in the eastern Church. Perhaps I am so eastern because of the pain and hurt experienced in the western Church. I can see that.  But I also know that the theology of the East fills me.  And the more I learn, all these years later, the more I want to know.

Icon Corner.candlesAnd when I see latinization creeping in to my Byzantine practices, I want to shore up the Church and enhance even more our Byzantine traditions, both large and small T.  There are things Byzantine parishes do not do, purely because it is not, historically, who we are.  We flounder with our identity because we are so small, and in recent years, made up largely of converts from the west.  Converts, many of whom want to bring their familiar practices with them, and have not been fully catechized into the richness of the east.  We have vespers; we have orthros; we have Divine Liturgy.  We have so many amazing things.  We do not have to inculcate Roman traditions into our parishes.  However, there are just so many little ways westernization is creeping into our eastern practices and I really just do not want to see that.  Otherwise, why be Byzantine? Why have Byzantine rites or Churches? If we are nothing more than a “different mass” with lots of incense, why bother?

And so when my little sheltered, Byzantine world is shaken, I blog! Ha-Ha!  I feel that if I partake here and there of different traditions of the west and the east, I become a hodge-podge of nothing. “A cafeteria Catholic,” if you will.  A mixed bag of things that do not mesh well.  Because their historical roots are so very different.  My minor in college was Biblical Archeology and I love all things historical and all things physically historical.  And when I dove into the east, I found history pretty much left alone, with artifacts intact.  The liturgy is free of things I was leaving behind in the west.  Many of the issues of the western church do not affect us in the east.  It is because our view, our perspective, is just slightly different.  And I love that difference; it’s what drew me east. And it is what keeps me eastern.  So the surprise that happened is that I discovered who I really am. I am a Byzantine Catholic.  I am a Melkite Greek Catholic. That identity is mine and it is not going away.  It is leading me along my own, personal, theosis track, where I will embrace my eternity.  And it is doing so, holding the hand of my spouse, for eternity. The surprise is that I really know it; I really own it; and I will do whatever I can to protect it.

Church.Savior of Spilled Blood. RussiaMatthew 16,18