“…on the path unwinding…”

The world is spinning and we are all hanging on, while it tumbles in space. And every once in awhile, it seems like there is a “hitch in the get along” and things go askew. We all have those days where we want to just crawl back into bed and hit the rewind button. I had several of those days recently. Thankfully, not back-to-back, or I would be nutsy….certifiable.

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

I was talking with my hubby, who has also been very stressed out lately, and I told him that if he continues to carry everyone’s burdens on his shoulders, he will be crushed with the weight of it. He said he knew that, but then asked me, “How do you stop caring?” And he is right. We both tend to worry too much about things and people and situations we really don’t control. We take on the burdens of others because it is just part of our nature. And sometimes it can weigh you down. A lot. And those are the days we want to stay in bed, hiding under the blankets, and just not deal with it.

As we age, we forget everyone else is aging, too. Sometimes it hits you when a friend’s kid all of a sudden is older and doing adult things, and you still think of them as a little child. Those years when my kids were young seemed to drag, but as they hit high school, life began to race by us. And somehow I related to my parents and other family members the same way – I forgot that as we aged, they aged, too. After speaking with my mom this morning, I was relating how my youngest son’s girlfriend’s grandma is my age. Ha-Ha. And my mom said she remembers turning my age 20+ years ago. And I stopped and realized she is 87 years old. I remember my great-grandma being 87. I remember my great-grandpa, at 90, saying he was just flat-out tired and dying a few days later. My dad (his grandson) is pushing 91 years old. My dad has Parkinson’s dementia, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other ailments. My step-sister (stepmom’s daughter) and I had a two hour discussion about our parents (they have been married more than 35 years now) and how their aging is not going well. I remember babysitting her when she was in junior high school. People thought her younger sister was my daughter. And now we are discussing our parents’ death wishes and we realized they probably won’t last the year. When did all this happen? When did she become a grandma, too?? I am used to the fact that I am older, but when did everyone else get older?

“Listen to your father; without him you would not exist. When your mother is old, show her your appreciation.” Proverbs 23:22

And we are trying to listen to our parents. We are trying to appreciate them and honor them. Dementia and Alzheimer’s make caring for them so very difficult. And it makes these last days we share with them very stressful. I kept thinking my parents would always be there. But they will not be. “None of us is guaranteed our next breath” (Thank you, Abouna Justin, for the quote). We all should be prepared to “meet our maker.” I’m not sure what state my parents’ faith is in, but that is not my business. I will share with them as I able to, from the place in which I find myself spiritually, and try to meet them where they are. However, what I am tasked with in the immediate future is respecting my parents for who they are and what they have done for me in my life, and ensuring their comfort as they experience the end of their days. I want them to know they are loved and appreciated. I want to keep them fed and warm and comfortable, and occasionally share a laugh together.

And I am doing this while still parenting a teenager; while being a grandma to 5 gorgeous grand babies, and still trying to enjoy the move to a new home. In a few days, my sister-in-law will arrive in their motorhome with 9 of their 10 children. I am looking forward to it so very much. But at the same time, I realized this is my last free Saturday. Because after this, I will have company at my home, and then I will be flying to get my mom and moving her in with me. My life is going to completely change. So is hers.

But I want to embrace it all with joy and hope and a love of God, sharing that love with others. Some days I know I will want to crawl back into bed and hide. But I won’t be allowed to do that. I will be guiding my teen towards adulthood, my grandchildren into childhood, and my mom and dad to “meeting their maker.” And in my head, I keep singing that Disney song from the Lion King….

Circle Of Life
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the Sun
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the Sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life.
And we are all spiraling along on our own circle of life. Things happen, days pass, the world keeps spinning on its axis. As each day morphs into night and we face another day spent, I hope we reflect on how we have moved through our own circle of life that day. How we have embraced these responsibilities we have been given, and how we celebrate all the joys we have experienced. Life is a blessing. Life is to be cherished. Each day of it. As I was struggling with anger towards my husband recently (cleaning out a garage is NEVER fun) I kept telling myself how grateful I was for our many blessings, and how incredibly blessed we were to have all this stuff we needed to deal with and put into its proper setting and place. The opposite – being homeless and having nothing – would indeed be frightening. And as I have learned through keeping a gratitude journal, there is something in every day and in every thing to be grateful for. Truly. So, I am grateful for this latest spin on the circle of my life. My Lord is with me every step of this life. I am grateful and I am blessed.

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“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

 

Reflection on the “long goodbye…”

after the rainWe had a beautiful spring weekend! Easter arrived amid sunshine and scattered, white, fluffy clouds.  Downtown was absolutely gorgeous; women were wearing bright, spring colors, and it seemed like all the flowers were wide open and smiling at us.  Pink-flowered trees lined all the streets and the glow of spring was on everything.  Today is dark, wet, and rainy.  What a contrast!  The temps have dropped a little; on Easter it was 72 and right now it is just 49, but 58 is expected later on.  Not too bad for April, I would say; Spring is still working its way in!  But the contrast over such a short period of time is startling.  And with the change in sunshine came a change in mood today.  I was pretty excited yesterday about our move…we are now counting down the days.  In less than three weeks, we will be on the road, driving through Canada; the famous AlCan Highway!  I am so excited to see many of the places I saw as a child, whilst visiting distant cousins and enjoying the Canadian summertime.  As a child I visited Canada, all the way from California, in a camper.  I remember laying above the cab with my brother, watching out the window as we drove. It was pretty exciting and the change in climate and foliage was just as exciting as being in a camper!  My family usually camped during summers at the Colorado River on the Arizona side, to spend days and weeks water-skiing. We would sleep on cots under the star-filled skies, never in a tent or other camping arrangement. So for my brother and me, being in a camper was pretty exciting stuff.  The memories of that trip are etched on my mind and I can pull them out from time to time and just smile.  Honey-comb candy; horseback riding in the rain; the city of Banff and Lake Louise; my cousin’s pool that was inside a dome; the mountains and running through fields.  Glorious summer for a kid!

Jan and Mark 1960sMe and my brother in the 1960s!

Childhood can be a glorious time, if we remember to spend some time, enjoying the moments with our children.  My husband and I realized, as I stated in an earlier post, that time has suddenly passed us by; our children are almost all grown and parents themselves.  Did we make the sort of memories with our children that they can look back on and smile?  We are hoping this trip through Canada with our youngest son will create some joyful memories for him.  I find myself in a position with my mom where I am the only one who is remembering these past times spent together.  My mom has Alzheimer’s disease, combined with some dementia.  Alzheimer’s is called the disease of the long goodbye and it is that and oh, so much more.  My mom and I can carry on conversations but they repeat themselves about every 10 minutes or so. She does not remember yesterday, let alone last week, or last month.  Time becomes a blur for Alzheimer patients.  It is especially difficult when it comes to life-altering events, decision making, and the ability to care for yourself on a daily basis.  Eventually my mom will have to be declared incompetent and my brother and I will be making all her decisions for her.  One of the hard parts about Alzheimer’s is that those who suffer from it, realize they have it, as it begins.  She sat there, and heard from her doctor, exactly what was happening to her; she was completely lucid at the time.  My mom will often slap her forehead and say, “Stupid disease!” and know she has forgotten something or said something incorrectly.  Her moments of pure lucidity are dwindling, though.  And it is truly the long goodbye because from moment to moment, I am loosing a little bit more of her.

My mom has always been a very strong willed person.  It created lots of drama in our house, especially with me.  As a teenaged-daughter, my hormones were raging, I was learning a lot (you know how teens can be!!) and we clashed.  Oftentimes it was vociferous and nasty.  My mom and I never really got along that well, until I moved out of the house during college. I am sure my parents sighed with relief when I left, as I know the pressure was released a little bit with me gone. My mom and I have only really developed a good relationship since I have been married.  So the past 30 years or so have been wonderful.  She has been a great mom in that she never interfered or told me how to raise my children, neither did she tell me how to be married.  She was married to my dad for 26 years, but they divorced when I was in my early 20s and before I had even met my husband.  She met her second husband the same month I met my husband and our lives have been intertwined since then.  It has been so nice. My kids love their grandma, although she can put the pressure on!  We would prepare for her visits, first of all by cleaning the house, and second of all by cleaning up ourselves!  My mom never wore white gloves on her hands, but you can bet they were on in her mind!  When we cleaned the house, my boys would ask, “Grandma clean or our clean?” and more often than not, I would ask for Grandma clean!!  She is what I would call a clean freak.  Growing up, she would literally move all the furniture out and polish our floors…weekly, if not more often. The entryway was marble and you can bet there were no smudges or marks to mar the perfect surface.  The counter tops were never allowed to have things on them, and our clothes had to always be picked up.  We had play clothes, school clothes, and nice clothes.  It took a lot of convincing to allow me to wear jeans!  My parents are British and the jeans craze had not crossed the pond, yet. Once I reached high school, she gave up cleaning my room for me (before that, she would come in and re-arrange things and put things away and polish and vacuum while I was out of the house).  The running joke was about what color the carpeting in my room was, as you could not see it.  I hung posters on the ceilings, played my guitar, and bemoaned lost relationships up in my room and she allowed it to be my sanctuary away from the world.  So dramatic.  And my mom just stepped back from that and did not interfere, which was rather nice of her, as now I know how much it must have driven her crazy!  She also always wanted me to cut off my hair.  In those days, it was long, blonde, and straight.  Half-way down my back, parted in the middle…gee, does that give away my age?!?  I never got too hippy-ish, but just enough to be cool. My mom allowed me enough rope to hang myself, as she was fond of reminding me.  I appreciated that about her.

Maureen Rogers Massoth 1960sMy Mom in the early 1970s

These days, after talking with my mom, I find myself sick to my stomach.  I am angry with her for her stubbornness, and I am also reminded that this disease is a cruel one.  The nice mom I have enjoyed for the past 30 years is slowly being replaced by an angry old lady…almost a stranger, and reminiscent of the mom I had growing up.  Not quite yet, but I can feel it coming on more and more, each time we interact.  And I am deeply saddened.  My brother and I are faced with questions we never dreamt we’d be facing.  How do you care for someone who, one day, will not even know you or recognize your face? Especially when it is your own mother?  How can you force someone to go where they do not want to go, especially when they do not realize it is beyond our control, or beyond their wishes?  My stepdad and I, as well as my brother, had talked about the future for my mom several times since her diagnosis with dementia.  Once she had progressed in dementia and added Alzheimer’s, we had still more discussions.  It was commonly agreed between the three of us, that I would care for her. I had cared for my paternal grandmother (she lived with us for the last few months of her life) and I am willing and able to care for my mom, and my husband is supportive of that.  The hard part about Alzheimer’s is that the patient thinks they are lucid and in charge of themselves, when reality can be far from what they imagine their lives to be.  There are not many options left to my mom, since my stepdad passed away.  Eventually, she will need to come to live with us, because her financial options are so very limited.  The dilemma for me is that she has no desire to do so.  She does not like cold weather and has become a desert baby and loves all things Southwest.  We are relocating about as opposite that as is possible, and to still be living in the USA. As of yesterday, she is bound and determined to stay in SoCal, in her own home, surrounded by her friends and her things.  I greeted that information in silence, with a prayer on my lips, for us all.

Which brings me to my reflection today.  How do I reconcile these changes? One day there is sunshine and the flowers are out, and today it is wet and rainy.  My mom was a vibrant woman, full of life and love for her husband and family; today she is descending into a darker place, a place of anger and frustration and also fear.  How do I help her adjust to this? How do I hold her up during this descent into her mind? She is a stubborn woman and has no desire to be with us in a cold climate. She does not want to leave her familiar home or community. She wants life to continue on as it has.  But the reality is, it cannot continue on as it has.  She will not be continuing on as she has, in a place that is familiar to her.  Very soon, very little will be familiar to her.  Her future is so cloudy and her world is contracting at such a quick pace, I find myself just sitting…unable to make decisions for her; unable to take this on right now; and filled with sadness and an impending sense of confrontation and unhappiness all around for her…and for me.

I know the Lord promises us that He will not give us more than we can handle (“No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1Corinthians 10:13) but every so often, I find myself looking heavenward and making the time out signal at Him.  I often think God thinks way more of my capabilities than I do!  I feel so overloaded some days.  And then I think of this past week…I contemplate again His passion and death…and I realize that these burdens are carried by Him as he fell those three times.  The weight of my burdens were carried by Him, suffering along His way to His death for me.  Then I am filled with an overloaded mixture of thanksgiving, guilt, shame at my weaknesses, and again with thanksgiving that He would do that for me.  I also know He was carrying my mom’s issues along with Him, as well.  Mark Hart, the Bible Geek, posts regularly on Facebook.  His comments are always timely and his sayings are usually right on the money.  Whether he realizes it or not, he coined a phrase that has become my new mantra, “God’s got this.” It is so simple and so profound.  God truly does have all of this. He has all my worries and love for my mom.  He has her future and my future all taken care of.  Now comes a time in my life when I must truly step out in faith, knowing that “God‘s got this.”  There are moments when I want to take back these burdens and carry them myself, but I know that is my stupid pride speaking. I am working hard to remember that He does truly have this day, and all our days, in His hands. Do I let go and let God?

This is taken from an article on a site called, “www.gotquestions.org” titled, “Are we supposed to let go and let God?”~

“Furthermore, when we struggle, we assume the problem is that we are not letting go and letting God. The reality is that we struggle for a variety of reasons. One is that we have a weak faith. We just don’t have enough confidence in God to rest in the reality of His nature and have the peace that comes with a strong faith in Him. For instance, when trials come or we experience illness, financial ruin, or the death of a loved one, do we really believe that “God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)? If we don’t know God intimately, it’s very hard to trust that He is working all things together for good. But if we do know Him, if we have spent time digging into His Word and meditating on His works and His nature, we have faith in His plan and purposes, His love for us, His sovereign control over all circumstances in life, and we rest in the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). But if we don’t know Him, we will always struggle against life’s hard circumstances.

On the other hand, there is a positive reason for struggling—it is good for us and is God’s plan to grow and mature us into the people He wants us to be. Struggles are just one of the ways He strengthens us for the hard things life throws at us. Each one enables us to be stronger and better able to handle the next one. Trials are designed to show us and others that our faith is real. “Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns” (1 Peter 1:7). In Christ, we can face the trials of life with grace and good humor and complete faith that whatever God has for us is okay. This comes from years of walking with Him, trial upon trial, struggle upon struggle.”

I think that rather than hiding, inert with fear, from the trials that are facing me, I would instead “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11) and “fight the good fight in faith” (1Timothy 6:12) and “endure hardship… like a good soldier of Christ” (2Timothy 2:3).  This life is so short.  There is much to overcome and much still facing me.  Through the lessons this Lent in keeping the Holy Silence and enduring these trials through my re-invigorated faith in Christ, I can reach for the sunshine instead of the shadows.  I can choose to be the eternal optimist and placing my trust in Christ and His promises, I can step out in faith.

Psalm 142,3

“…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