“…I am with you…”

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged.  I apologize to those who actually read these!  Ha-Ha!  Thank you for hanging in there with me.

These past months have been, to say the least, difficult.  There have been days (like today) when I am on the verge of tears so often, I almost just want to sit and cry and be done with it. Instead of giving in to a sort of despondency, instead I sat and prayed this evening, seeking the Lord’s guidance in our lives, in my life.  And I would formulate words, but then nothing would come from inside my head; words just would not come to my conscious mind. However, it felt like something was already there, just waiting for me.  And now I sit here, and I am smiling.  I felt such a peace, a serenity, and a presence of God.  I know He works for our best and has nothing but our souls in mind as He works all the little miracles we barely notice day-to-day.  He is working towards our eternity and we can barely see past the end of our nose!

Blessed SeraphimI had a wonderful conversation with a fellow parishioner this weekend.  It was so nice, sitting knee-to-knee and looking at one another, and really connecting.  And one of the things that came up was that I have learned so much over the past 4 years.  For one thing, I have learned that the world calls us and calls us to a certain standard and we compare ourselves all the time to the people sitting next to us.  But we miss the point.  God is also calling to us.  He is calling us to an eternity.  Not the latest purse or smart phone, house or car, but eternity.  We can choose to listen to the noise and chaos and all the emotions that come from that, or we can opt to close ourselves to it.  I have learned to let go; to let go of money, homes, the things we fill our homes with, and certain people and situations I filled my life with.

The other day, I could not sleep.  It’s been happening a lot lately. I read novels until at least midnight but am awake by 5 or 6 am.  It is finally dark in the mornings up here, as the days are gradually getting shorter.  I always walk to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee.  When we lived in SoCal, we got a Keurig coffee brewer.  It’s one of those coffee machines where you put in a little plastic “pod” and brew one cup at a time.  I love coffee, I should explain right off the bat. And I mean I love the taste of it. I love coffee candy; chocolate-covered coffee beans; coffee ice cream; coffee-flavored coffee cake! So for me, the sensual pleasure of brewing my single cup of coffee was pure bliss.  We relocated to the Seattle area and I learned so much about coffee. There is literally a coffee kiosk on almost every corner.  And I learned about roasting the beans and where to buy beans from and how the soil composition and elevation, temperature and rainfall all affect the beans. I went to the first Starbucks next to Pike’s Market, stood in ridiculous lines to have a cup from that particular location (with a dear friend who was visiting from SoCal), just to say I had done that!  I have tasted some amazing coffee from some amazing roasting companies. At one point I was having coffee delivered to my home on a monthly basis.  And then our Keurig broke.  We bought a regular, old, coffee brewer; the type that brews an entire pot at a time.  Nothing too fancy, but it is bright red, which is my salute to interior design!  I digress; I got up this morning and started to make a pot of coffee; it was about 6:00am.  As I grabbed for the can of Folger’s Columbian Brew, I got the giggles.  Folger’s?  Really?  In a huge pot, no less?  Where had I sunk to?  Ha-Ha!

A_small_cup_of_coffee

The thing is, once it was brewed and I tasted that first cup of coffee, I sighed with joy. It tastes wonderful.  And I followed it up today with a pot of decaf from a grocery-store, plain wrap can.  No brand name, at all.  And I enjoyed that, too.  I have learned so much from these moves. I do not need labels; I do not need much at all.

I was able to sit down this afternoon and pay our bills.  Next month, that may not be something I can do as readily.  But we have made it this far with prayers and help from friends and family.  We have had to ask for assistance from time to time.  We have had to tell people, “Thanks for inviting our family, but it is just beyond our budget right now.”  Things like that are very, very humbling.  But they are also freeing.  No, I don’t have much.  If thieves broke into my home, they would fine keepsakes and things that mean something to me, but not riches!  And people who know we are struggling have been incredibly generous, without making us feel bad, or less about ourselves.  It has been uplifting, for our hearts, heads, and souls.

We have been blessed beyond measure with family close by, a home that we love (small and humble as it is, we have found it really fits us so much better than any home we’ve lived in), and a parish community that is welcoming and filling some holes we had in our lives.  We are making new friends and establishing ourselves in a new community.  Our son is being blessed in friends, organizations he belongs to, and an incredibly amazing schooling experience he is about to begin.  We are blessed in ways we never imagined or expected – hoped for, of course, but they are unexpected because they keep cropping up and showing us the Presence of God in our lives in places we did not expect.

So I could choose to panic and worry, and not sleep. I could be crabby or hide away in my house, bemoaning our situation.  But I cannot help but smile; I have such a deep sense of contentment and peace.  We have no source of income in the ways of this world, but we are becoming enriched in ways that count, in ways that matter.  God is showing me that He is preparing my eternity and that I am to hold tight to His promises and His guidance for me and my family. He is faithful to us; we are the ones who wander off, on our divergent paths.  We are the ones who lack the patience to allow God to work in our lives, in His time!

I think I will go heat up (E-gads! Yes, in a microwave!!) a cup of decaf and settle on the loveseat with my two doggies, and enjoy an evening of quiet.  I am blessed; I am very much at peace, and still smiling!  And the Lord walks with me.

Isaiah 41-10

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“…Place your rest in Him.”

2Thessalonians3-3This morning, our youngest son is off to do some service hours, more than likely lasting all day, working with his Scout Troop at a Salvation Army Food Bank.  This year it is falling on Holy Saturday.  Normally, in our family, we keep from Good Friday through the Easter Vigil, a quiet, contemplative time.  We try to keep the quiet, somber mood of Good Friday going, until “Christ is Risen!” is shouted late into the night on Saturday night (really, Sunday morning!!).  This year, however, is slightly different.  Our focus is different, and our practice is different.

We will be attending Divine Liturgy, and the community here celebrates the Resurrection tomorrow morning, whereas we are used to a rather robust all-nighter at our old parish.  It sort of fits with our lives right now.  Yesterday was a major step in faith for our family, in that we formally announced that we are relocating. We have set dates and we have made plans….we are moving on in our lives, totally relying on the promises of faith.  We are striving for a better life, a better environment for our family to thrive.  But it is mired with risk; much risk.  We are willing to take that step, however, because we all feel God is calling us to this decision.  It has been many years in the making.

The service our son is doing today, on what would normally be a quiet day for us, is emblematic of the direction in which we are going – we are stepping out of our comfort zone to make a stand in faith.  It is uncomfortable to take a stand.  It means being different.  It means being risky.  It means doing something that people like us never do!  We always plan everything. We never just go for it. Until now.

All Merciful Savior Vashon Island

All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery

Abbot Tryphon wrote another wonderful blog this morning. He titled it “Hopelessness; When you feel Hopeless” and this is what he said:

“It is easy to resist taking care of yourself if you run at full speed as though you are the only one who can get things done. We all need to set priorities, making sure we focus on Christ and not let that which is transitory rule our lives. If you pay attention to your health, family and spiritual life, everything else will take care of itself. Don’t let your life be so full of work that you don’t have time to focus on the things that bring you joy. Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.

If you focus only on the things that haven’t been done and ignore the little things that bring joy to your life, you’ll find yourself in a rut. If you are constantly thinking of where you’d rather be living, or the job you’d rather have, or the work that still needs to be completed, you’ll wake up one day and realize all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have.” (Abbot Tryphon, All Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery; Vashon Island, WA).

This commentary on modern life sums up almost perfectly the conclusions my husband and I have come to, which in turn motivated our step-out in faith.  My husband realized that he has been missing life; it is passing him by; we both stopped and realized that so many years have gone by and we somehow feel like we missed something along the way.  When we relocated to the Pacific Northwest, so many of our friends were concerned for us because of the different weather pattern, most especially all the days of darkness and wetness.  My husband noticed no real changes.  He told me that even in SoCal, weather really wasn’t a factor in his life.  He never noticed missing the sunshine.  He said he would drive to work in the dark, and drive home in the dark – up here or down there, it didn’t make much difference.  And that gave us both pause to think: why did he not notice there was no sunshine in WA?  He worked so many hours, he rarely saw it anyway!  Because he was missing the sun, what else was he missing? What were we all missing?

Both of our older sons’ wives are expecting babies right now.  One of their wives is due in May, the other in October.  For our older son, this is his second child.  Our youngest son, aged 14, came downstairs the other day and we just stopped what we were doing and looked at him.  He had just showered and shaved and he looked – well, he looked a lot older than he had the day before!  When did our 5-week preemie grow up to be a father, expecting his second child?  When did my curly-mopped blondie become a college graduate, married man, and expectant father?  When did our 14-year old start regularly shaving?  Time passed has us by and we did not notice.  Our lives have been “so full of work, that you don’t have time to notice the things that bring you joy,” to quote Abbot Tryphon.

We have allowed the ‘busy-ness’ of life to interfere with living our lives.  We’ve created this bubble around us of habit.  Early mornings and late evenings, living the demands of life.   And we are sort of grabbing onto the shirt-tails of our youngest son.  Don’t misunderstand, our children’s younger days were a joy. We homeschooled both our older sons until they went to Catholic High Schools, and they have been involved in Little League, and Ice Hockey leagues, High School sports teams, and even Rugby.  So we did a lot with them.  We used to go hunting with our Springer Spaniels regularly; we had many wind surfing weekends and times spent traveling across states to spend vacations with extended family members.  Our youngest son is still homeschooled and he is involved in Scouting as well as the Civil Air Patrol, so we do a lot with him, as well. It is just that when you finally do stop and re-evaluate your life, it is surprising to realize that it has been 30 years, the kids are grown and wait a second – we want to slow this process down a little!

Now we are taking deep breaths, praying, and we are moving 2600+ miles to be near our oldest son and his family.  We want Sunday dinners and grandchildren running around the front porch.  We want the chaos an extended family living nearby brings.  We want more hours of the day invested in these last precious years we have with our youngest son at home.  We want to take the time to know our adult children as adults, to enjoy their company, and to relish those moments of being grandparents.  We want to slow this ridiculous pace down and be able to languish in the long coffees we share with our children, and the cookie-making-moments with our grandchildren.  We want to hold onto and relish life, realizing that “all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have,” as Abbot Tryphon is warning us.

And so we’ve prayed and begged God to give us direction and if He has to employ a 2×4 to get our attention, to please do that.  We believe our prayers have been answered, as so many things are falling into place.  There are some major gaps, but that is where we step out in Faith.  The Holy Fathers posted this quote today, “You cannot learn to see just because someone tells you to do so. For that, you require your own natural power of sight. In the same way, you cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer. Prayer has its own special teacher in God, who ‘teaches man knowledge’ (Ps. 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just.”
(St John Climacus)  We firmly take hold of the promise that, “He grants the prayer of him who prays.” and we step out in faith, clinging to Our Lord.

The next few weeks, we will be outside of our comfort zone.  We will begin this new era of life by changing how we celebrate Holy Week and we will move on from there.  My husband is with our son, at the Scouting event, sharing time with him.  It is one tiny step in faith towards a life lived, keeping these words in the forefront, “Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.”  We rest in His promises and we move forward in prayer. I think it’s good to shake things up a bit now and then; and I am eager to explore this non-comfort-zone part of our lives and see where it leads us. As we prepare to shout, “Alithos anesti” “He is Risen”! “Haqan Qam”! “He is Risen”! we also prepare to take a step out in faith.

Joshua 1,9