faith · Uncategorized

How to be free of a good reputation…

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I remember the first time I experienced the fear of my own goodness.  Her name was Lynn, and she was an eccentric woman.  She was heavy-set, very tall, and her brunette hair was wild and wiry.  She talked loud, had an appetite like a truck driver, and she could weave a great story.  Her stories were about her, her life- her crazy life before she was saved. She went to our a Pentecostal Church, where words from God were as common as they were bizarre.  But we didn’t know it.  It was considered a good Sunday when the Spirit got to movin’ and the preacher had to skip the sermon in favor of the praise and worship.  It was in this atmosphere that we might see and hear something other worldly.  And we did.  We saw things, and we heard things.  It was spectacular for sure.

Lynn was one of those ladies in our church that had a prophetic gift. She heard things, and she spoke them.  But it was her real life stories I remember.  I cannot retell one prophetic thing she ever said in church, but I do remember a million details from her stories.  They are little treasures that I find here and there as I go about piecing together my own story.

On one occasion Lynn told me a horrific tale about her days of living with the mob.  She was in her twenties and her man of the hour was a bad dude…a mobster that had many enemies.  You can imagine me, a 12 year old school girl, from a small town, raised on a farm, barely had TV,  and the awe with which I might listen to a story like this. And I did.  Lynn fascinated me.  She was kind and real and happy and awesome…and I loved her.  Outside of my mother, she was my first spiritual mentor.  When she told me that another mobster crashed into their bedroom late on night and shot her lover, while she laid right there in his warm blood, I was not surprised. I was fascinated.  Her story of redemption was so real to me.  Here was a lady that was truly saved from something.  Jesus had transformed her.  I envied her eccentricities, her side-ways looking at things, her ability to identify with pain and shame, her way with the unlovelies.

It would seem like a woman like this would be too much for a twelve year old.  But I had known her since I was very young.  She was my grandmother’s best friend.  She was a part of our family. I am so very thankful my mother didn’t shelter me from Lynn and her stories.  I am so very thankful for the opportunity to know a woman like her at a young age.

On another occasion Lynn told me that she worried for the good people in the Church.  She worried that good people would never know God’s love, His infinite mercy, His healing power.  At twelve I am sure that I did not understand the full implications of her words.  All I know is that as a young woman I was keenly aware that I was one of the good people she was referring to, and it scared me for some reason.

I am grown up now, and I have stories to tell of my own- mistakes I have made, people I have hurt, moral failures, religious failures, parenting failures.  But somehow these failures never seem to live up to the life Lynn lived, and I wonder if what she said is true.  Do good people ever really get saved?  Do good people ever know the real Christ?

I am not convinced that we do.

Is there hope for all us who believe we are morally gifted? I sure hope there is.  I am still trying to find my way.  One thing I do know is that we do not have to sin to know God’s mercy, but we do have to work hard at being real.  We do have to work at embracing the Lynns of the world.  Those whose reputations bring reproach, admitting that we are not separate from those we are tempted to judge.  Lynn never really escaped her past.  And what was great about Lynn is that she didn’t care to..she lived real.  Her life was not a before and after photo shoot…she made sure of that by telling her stories in her eccentric way.  A way that helped this good girl be afraid of her good reputation. A way that made me question what good is, and made me admit that I am not really good.  There is none good but God.

In her own way Lynn was like Saint Mary of Egypt.

In her own way Lynn preached the Gospel.

 

 

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

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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.