faith · friendship · homeschooling · kids · motherhood · parenting

Sidetracked by Loneliness

Homeschooling can be a lonely business.  At times we home school mothers experience isolation so acutely that we feel derailed, lost, sidetracked.  This is a weird phenomenon given the fact that we are with our children all day each and every day- well, most days.

Many factors contribute to loneliness, and each mother has a different set of circumstances and a different list of needs.  What we do share is the need for true connection and friendship.  If we perceive that this need is not being met, our days can take on a sort of depressive gloom that trips us up -the heart occupied with a nagging sadness is heavy, and this contributes to an overall sense of loneliness.

I cannot say that I have found the answer to this problem.  Maybe its not a problem that must be solved, but a reality that must be understood. It’s strange how we can have wonderful friends, and still feel lonely- disconnected.  We may have a Church family, a great mother, a spiritual father, an attentive and sweet husband- and yet, there is this disconnect.  This makes me wonder about the monastic nature of homeschooling- how spending my days away from the madding crowd is a much bigger spiritual struggle than I give credit.  Whether I understand why or how, the fact remains that I deal with loneliness.

We are very afraid of loneliness…we are especially afraid when our children experience loneliness.  It’s hard-the hardest thing I do as a homeschool mother of five, and some days I give into the schemes, the plans, the frenzy of a mind panicked.

I will it not to be so.

I am not very good at manufacturing happiness.  I’ve tried-boy, have I tried.  I’ve tried so hard that there was no space left on the calendar, no wiggle room, no chance for loneliness to sidetrack our happiness.  In the end this happiness was about as one dimensional as the wall calendar it was written on. It took mom and children to the brink…and we dangled there for awhile until finally- I came undone.

Because facing fear is about coming undone…it’s about unclinching the fist and opening up to the possibility that even if everything I fear comes upon me I am still held, I am still loved, I remain, we remain.

Deep and abiding fulfillment takes courage.

The courage to live it.

And homeschooling will stretch this courage very thin. I imagine that many of life’s circumstances stretch our courage thin.  We all fear being alone.

We praise thee, the Mediatress for the salvation of our race, O Virgin Theotokos; for in the flesh taken from thee, thy Son and our God hath deigned to endure the Passion through the Cross, and hath redeemed us from corruption, since He is the Friend of man.
~ Hymns of the Resurrection

jesus

Mediatress teach us your self giving love.  Make us worthy to receive your gifts and to know your abiding friendship. O Friend of man, make us worthy of your friendship and worthy of the friendship you give us in those precious souls here and now.  Help us endure the loneliness that comes from our own sin, and help us to know your mercy.  For Thou art good and lovest mankind.

books · faith · homeschooling · Uncategorized

Orthodox Education

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An excerpt from the description of Sakharov‘s  I Love, Therefore I Am: The Theological Legacy of Archimandrite Sophrony.

Because Fr Sophrony traversed the major religious and intellectual movements of our time, his spiritual make-up is enriched by various currents of thought. Notwithstanding this diversity, never does his theology transcend the boundaries set out by the Orthodox tradition. The patristic heritage has for him indubitable authority. He absorbed the legacy of the Fathers in its living depth. This came not by way of an academic research, but through his ascetic strivings on Mount Athos. His wide spiritual and intellectual background elevates the Orthodox tradition to an authentic level where it opens up to universal dimensions.

This came not by way of academic research…
What came?
The patristic heritage.
What is the patristic heritage?
It is The Way.
It is Christ as ultimate reality.
But through his ascetic strivings…
To follow The Way we must abandon ideas and pray.

Orthodox education is at it’s best when prayer is at the center.  If we as educators labor, let us labor to pray.  Let us strive to unite the mind in the heart.  Let this be the heritage we seek.  And trust that Christ is ultimate reality, and all good things come from Him.

faith · family · homeschooling · kids · motherhood · parenting · teenagers

What Teens Really Need

Yesterday, I was told a story about two very great kids we know, a young man and woman, who were caught in the library making out. I chuckled at the story…who knows if it is even true.  Both, age 16, come form great homes and are homeschooled.  Again I just chuckle…not because I am laughing at the indiscretion or making fun in the least, it’s just funny how we homeschool moms think that homeschooling will somehow insulate our teens from the normal processes of growing up.  I was kind of laughing at myself, knowing that in some sense the way I have chosen to parent could leave me vulnerable to such gossip.  It could happen to any of us.

And what if it does?!
Will the world come to an end?
Will all our efforts have been for nothing?

These fears reflect a very deep rooted heart condition, a condition that is hard to admit and face.  To face these fears is not simple, it requires true inquiry and reflection, and a willingness to be undone.

It’s crazy that we even wrestle with these fears…the very fact that I am alive and well and striving to live a life before God is proof that indiscretions do not ruin teenagers…I had plenty, and I survived. I was a good girl, but I made out with my husband before I married him.  My teenage girls know this, we have talked about love and sexuality and attraction and marriage…I have shared my heart with them and also my experiences, letting modesty and discretion be my guide. I do not glorify sin…but I do not see sin in everything.

Teens need real.
Teens need mercy.
Teens need relationship.
Teens need lots of conversation.
Teens need fun.
Teens need trust.
Teens need firm convictions.
Teens need unconditional love.
Teens need prayer.

Parenting with fear seems to be the norm these days, and I am guilty at times.  This culture has turned structures upside down, and it is scary…very scary.  Sometimes I watch my teens and I think; this is all they know, this culture is all they know.  Reality is that we are a part of this culture, and we will either cower in fear or face it head on, and the struggle will not leave us unscathed whichever path we choose.  There will be indiscretions…every generation has had indiscretions.

Parenting teens brings me to my knees.  In prayer I know that I must resist the urge to bolt from my heart and rule with an iron fist of fear.  In His hands, and living in His presence will see us through, for Love conquers all.  Love is the opposite of fear.

Perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18    
faith · family · homemaking · homeschooling · kids · learning · marriage · motherhood · parenting · teenagers

How to Not Be Empty

Beware of the barrenness of a busy life. -Socrates

I really don’t know when I got it in my head that I desperately needed to outsource in our homeschool to be successful.  After Samuel was born I think I was determined not to let another baby hold my older children back from their goals (my goals is more like it). It was a great plan, so I thought… just let someone else teach them, hold them accountable.

What followed was a year of schooling outside the home, in co-ops and online.  How I reasoned that packing this gang of five up in a car and traveling an hour one way was an easier way to educate my upper level students is kinda foggy…but I do vaguely remember my husband warning me, counseling me, shaking his head at me.

At first we were cooking with gas…getting lots of educational stuff done, making friends, going to fun activities, and in general just enjoying the new day to day.  We were busy, and in the beginning that felt as if we were thriving.  However, after a little while I noticed that our lives were becoming less and less centered at home. My cooking became weird, our prayers too sparse, everyone was going in different directions, the littles were being cared for but not cared for, I was growing more and more discontent, and in general just feeling disconnected with myself and my family, especially my husband.

And then a few weeks ago I hit a wall, circumstances collided and my choices became clear…all that is left now is to correct course.  My mom commented, “Mandy, thank goodness you have things you can cut without hurting anyone…the activity and busyness of your life can be easily remedied.”  Her comments are those of a woman who knows what it is like to have responsibilities that cannot be remedied.

The ability to correct busyness is a blessing, almost like a gift, and I am very grateful for the freedom to choose the life I desire and need.

I see now that my outsourcing was about fear and pride…it was me believing that our home life was not enough…that I was not enough.  Ironically, it is the outsourcing that is causing a true emptiness, an exhaustion and distraction that makes me unavailable. It also refocuses our life on things that are not bad in themselves, but result in a deep and true distraction nonetheless.

So, here is my remedy for emptiness…how to not be empty…Go Home!

Women leave home for many reasons, and I only judge myself, we all have stories.   Sometimes home seems the most empty place on earth and outsourcing presents itself as a remedy, and for some this may be true.  However, for me my home is a fountain of grace, a constant outlet of energy, and a nourishing refuge.  Home is my remedy for emptiness, my journey has taught me this.

faith · family · Orthodoxy

Ancestors of God

It occurred to me in Church yesterday that everything I was experiencing in the liturgy was according to gender.  I worship as a female…and over and over in the liturgy I am reminded that it is precisely because of gender that I am saved.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

And all creation rejoices!

Creation is something that we must receive as reality.  A Christian’s world is not what he/she makes it. Creation is gift, given to us and we must receive it.  A Christian’s response to this gift is to commune with the world through role playing.  I have a part to play, a role I was given by the Director Himself.

Everything in creation has an identity and role to play.

Roles are derived from identity. The role of a tree is that of a tree, because it is a tree.   A tree cannot sing, even if we imagine the beautiful rustling of leaves to be a choir.

When it comes to the male and female persons we again see the duality of these realities.  Males and females have form…identification…and they do things…role playing.

The modern view of gender is concerned mostly with parts and totally disregards what men and women do…denying that men and women were created to do different things.

The classic Christian qualifier of womanhood has everything to do with the womb.  In regards to males it also speaks deeply of a man’s ability to produce offspring through seed.

Seed and womb…He created them male and female.

What has replaced the received creation of male and female is a world of our own making. However, this remaking of the world will fail…for only in the true image are we created, we cannot be something “other”.  We are not God, we are His creation.

My name day was Saturday, and as I pondered the icon of Joachim and Anna at the golden gate I grieved for a world that is void of such images.  I shudder at the images of the world.  I cling to the Image of God in the icon.

In the embrace of Joachim and Anna lies the ancestral heart of Christianity, as if every begat is made present in that one embrace.

Man and woman, embracing, conceiving, begetting.

Seed and womb, glorifying God.

All those begats in the Scriptures, the lists we say are boring, that we like to skip over, they are the real story, the real story of man, the reality of our salvation.

Christian marriage is the embrace of man and woman, the embrace that begets, and when it doesn’t we hurt, we cry out, we suffer.

He created them male and female.

We are the Ancestors of God.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

faith · family · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · Orthodoxy

I Have Missed You

It’s been a long season of no blogging…and I cannot explain why.  I have been busy, yes, but that’s not it.  I think I was just too lazy to write anything, and when I did have the enthusiasm I spent it on other things.

But, I have missed it.  I have missed it because I miss my Orthodox connections and friends.  I did not realize how much of a part of my life you all were…all you wonderful Orthodox bloggers.  I visit your sites from time to time, but I have not participated in the network.

It’s made me really think of the wonderful support we are for each other. Orthodox life is difficult when we try to go at it alone, and sometimes we do not find the kind of support we need in our parishes.  Mostly I am speaking of homeschooling, but the support also extends to the everyday life of an Orthodox family that is seeking to live the faith in the home.  I have missed the support I received from writing here regularly.

I hope I can reestablish the habit of blogging…because now more than ever I feel a kind of distraction here in the outside world that scares me.  Many of my friends have confessed the same thing…a strong distraction.  Somehow I think blogging in a group of Orthodox women kept me centered and focused, at least focused on different things, good things.

Thank you for reading my blog….thank you for commenting…and thank you for being my blogging friends.  I have missed you dearly.

faith · Lent · Orthodoxy

Hymn of Kassiani

 

“Keep this spirit.”  These were the final words of Father tonight.
faith · Lent · Orthodoxy · Pascha

Holy Monday

This lent has been the most difficult.  I have been extremely distracted, not wanting to dive into the full experience.  It has also been a hard Lent in terms of dealing with inward sins and weaknesses.  I feel like I have been dug up, and now it’s time to replant.

At Lazurus Saturday services I saw that not every Lent will be the same, and that this Lent is not a failure…maybe something deeper is at work.  I am weak; emotionally and physically, and the hymns of the service made me realize that I cannot resurrect myself.  I need a Savior.  I am powerless, and this flesh will rot if it is left in the grave.

Lent is almost over, Pascha is drawing near…our Savior draws near. And I am the laborer who has come at the last hour.  May we all labor in the last hour.  Blessed Holy Monday.

faith · family · Orthodoxy · parenting · pregnancy

Sanctity of Life Sunday 2015

Archpastoral Message of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon

To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America:

Dearly beloved,

Today (January 18), has been designated by the Orthodox Church in America as “Sanctity of Life Sunday,” a day on which we re-affirm our faithfulness to the eternal value of human life and re-commit ourselves to the defense of the lives of the unborn, the infirm, the terminally ill and the condemned.

Our proclamation of life is offered in the context of a world in dismay at the terrorist attacks that recently shook Paris, the latest in a series of seemingly endless tragedies throughout the world that unnecessarily claim many innocent lives.  Following this latest tragedy, Christians, Muslims, Jews and non-believers have engaged in discussion and debate about a range of issues, from human dignity to the responsibilities of political cartoonists, from freedom of expression to humanity’s capacity for tolerance.  Unfortunately, much of this debate is framed in an atmosphere of ideological violence, whether this be a “war on infidels” or “war on terrorism.”  In such divisive engagements, there are rarely any victors but only more victims.

As Orthodox Christians, who hold dear the revealed truth that the life of “all mankind” is
sacred, we might reflect, along with St. Nikolai of Zhicha, on the paschal victory of Christ over death and corruption:

“Christ’s victory is the only victory in which all humanity can rejoice, from the first-created to the last. Every other victory on earth has divided, and still divides, men from one another. When an earthly king gains the victory over an another earthly king, one of them rejoices and the other laments. When a man is victorious over his neighbor, there is singing under one roof and weeping under the other. There is no joyful victory on earth that is not poisoned by malice: the ordinary, earthly victor rejoices both in his laughter and in the tears of his conquered enemy. He does not even notice how evil cuts through joy.”

Our world is so full of these joyless and dark victories that we might despair of being able to put forward the hope and light of the Gospel message. We would do well to heed the words of St. Nikolai and keep our hearts and minds focused on our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, in Whom alone can solace, hope and joy be found in any meaningful and lasting way.

Indeed, Christ did not say: “I offer one of many complimentary paths”;  He said: I am the Way. Christ did no say: “I hold to the correct philosophical principles;” He said: I am the Truth. Christ did not say: “I subscribe to the only viable political agenda;” He said: I am the Life.

It is only possible to attain to this Way, this Truth and this Life through Christ and through the light that He bestows to those who strive to allow even a small beam of that light to enter their hearts and illumine their path. As St. Nikolai writes: “Christ’s victory alone is like a sun that sheds bright rays on all that are beneath it. Christ’s victory alone fills all the souls of men with invincible joy. It alone is without malice or evil.”

Let us therefore make every effort to offer this “victory of light and life” to those who are surrounded by darkness and death. Let us be bold in our adding our Orthodox voices in support of the value of every human person, born or unborn; let us offer consolation to the mothers who have undergone abortions and offer our prayers to them and to all who have been affected by this tragedy; let us affirm our Orthodox understanding of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God and yet in need of healing in Christ.

Let us, together with St. Nikolai, proclaim the great victory of Christ:

“A mysterious victory, you will say? It is; but it is at the same time revealed to the whole human race, the living and the dead.

“A generous victory, you will say? It is, and more than generous. Is not a mother more than generous when she, not once or twice, saves her children from snakes but, in order to save them for all time, goes bravely into the snakes’ very nest and burns them out?

“A healing victory, you will say? It is, healing and saving forever and ever. This gentle victory saves men from every evil and makes them sinless and immortal. Immortality without sinlessness would mean only the extending of evil’s reign, and of that of malice and wickedness, but immortality with sinlessness gives birth to unconfined joy, and makes men the brethren of God’s resplendent angels.”

With love in the Lord,
 
+TIKHON
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

faith · Orthodoxy

MYSTAGOGY: An Annual Theophany Miracle – The Jordan Reverses …

MYSTAGOGY: An Annual Theophany Miracle – The Jordan Reverses …: “Today the nature of water is sanctified. The Jordan is parted and reverses its flow on seeing its Master being baptized.”