How to Live the Life You Desire

Follow your bliss.

This seems to be the primary psychological path to a happy life that is set forth by the sages of our day. When I was younger, I rejected this idea as being the opposite of God’s will. I believed that what I wanted was always in direct opposition to God’s will. Happiness was not the goal. Only obedience. It never occurred to me that the first step in doing God’s will is discerning the difference between my own will and God’s. Discernment is the crown of wisdom. How could a layman like myself hope to arrive at a level of knowing God’s voice and His will? After much reflection and questioning my own thoughts and beliefs, it would seem that God’s “voice” is not much different from my own consciousness. It is “me.”

The jury is still out on whether the division between God’s voice and my own is possible in the deepest parts. Can I make this distinction on my own? Is it possible to separate my own will from God’s? On a moral level, discerning God’s will is pretty dialectic. The Bible is full of “do this” and “don’t do that.” One can arrive at God’s will by reading His commands and by hearing those commands preached and taught. In this way, man’s conscience is purified and reprogrammed in a sense. This process is fine and good and well worth pursuing. However, I want to know God’s will in the inner parts. Does my own conscience bear witness to the truths that lead to doing God’s will? Are these truths self evident?

For a mom of five, living in the world, and working in this current system of trade, politics, and economy, the path to discernment is messy. I do not have a clear-cut rule to help me along the way. My days are full of diversion, interruptions, and switchbacks. I will set out in one direction only to find myself in the same place. This leads me to a kind of spiritual apathy and despondency. Spiritual despondency is like a treadmill, a whole lot of work but going nowhere.

Turns out this going nowhere builds muscle and slims, but unless one gets off the conveyer belt the fitness one gains walking miles in one place is never actualized. This is what a lot of spiritual pursuits feel like to me. Working hard, but not doing God’s will, or at least feeling like I am.

This is not the life I desire to live.

So how do I live the life I desire? A life of doing God’s will? I have found that following my bliss may be a better way to discern. When the soul is enlightened by the Law of the Lord, it properly orients itself to happiness. I believe it is impossible to discern what truly makes us happy without the law and commandments of God, the great tutors. However, this law is written on every man’s heart. We are without excuse. It is ultimate self knowledge.

If you know what makes you happy, truly happy- you can know God’s will. You can know yourself.

To watch the movement of the soul is a discipline that must be practiced by those who wish to live the life we desire. A happy life. A life of doing God’s will. For example, when the soul experiences a movement toward strife or anger, it is imperative to examine the current course or thoughts and beliefs. What am I thinking and believing that is causing this movement away from happiness? To repent from a false belief that is causing suffering is to do God’s will.

This is the tragic reality of the unrepentant sinner. To believe that sin will make one happy is the greatest suffering. I’ve never known an unrepentant sinner who was leading a happy life. This is a great training tool for children who are young on the path as well. A mother can ask, “Did that make you happy when you lied? What happened to your heart when you told the lie? Be still and look. What would make you happy now that you have done this?” It never fails, my children know the path back to happiness, and it is always the path of obeying God’s commands. God is ultimate reality. Ultimate bliss.

We were created so that by grace we may be happy with God in heaven. Heaven can be actualized on earth. It is in doing God’s will. Following God’s commands is ultimate happiness. Suffering is the caricature of sin. Suffering exists because we have not yet done God’s perfect will . We are not yet humble. I still experience suffering. However, I know by reading the lives of the saints, and by Christ’s example as well, that I can suffer without suffering. To be that happy… To be perfect…

If the soul is suffering because of unforgiveness, forgive. The joy that comes when we forgive an enemy is the indication that we have done God’s will. This examination of conscience is applicable to all sin. Look where you are unhappy. There is sin there. With this belief, it is easy to understand that to suffer is not the sin, it is our response to our hardship that creates the unhappiness. This is my understanding of, count it all joy.

Sin does not make us happy. If this were true, God would have played a cruel joke. He would have placed us in a reality that ensured our misery, death, and ultimate separation from Him. In contrast, the path to God and living the life we desire is pathed in happiness. This happiness kindles a relationship, likened to a warmness of heart in knowing God in the inner parts. This for me is communion. Friendship.

Follow your bliss. Not like the pagans, but as a child of God- created to be happy with Him in heaven.

This is how to live the life we desire. Heaven on earth. A happy life here and in the world to come.


Would The Real Orthodox Mother Please Stand Up?

It is 5 am.
A breathing machine. Early morning headlights. The neighborhood rooster. All sorts of mundane thunders. Not a one has disturbed my slumber.

Yet, the silent shuffle of a scared seven year old wakes me like a cold glass of water thrown in my face. It’s amazing really. How is it that I just know she is there, without a word, without a sound?  The door to our bedroom has been open to children for 17 years, and in all those years my husband and I have comforted each of our five wild and crazy-eyed kids through unthinkable childhood nightmares. Kids can dream up some twisted stuff.

It is a wolf this time.

I part the covers and she crawls under with me.  I feel her.  Her body fits perfect next to mine, a sure sign that very soon it won’t.

A few words about how to deal with imaginary fears, this wolf nonsense has to stop.  I squeeze her and kiss her. Meanwhile daddy, who has been silently assessing the situation and is returning from a trip to the bathroom, begins to remove whatever is piled on one end of the futon at the foot of our bed.  I hear the items hit the floor with blunt thuds, sounds like laundry.  I thought I put all the laundry up from there this afternoon. Slade assures me it’s not much of anything, mostly pillows.  A comfy spot is made, and I lift the covers, a signal that Elinor needs to make her way down there.  She knows the routine.  We all know the routine.

Elinor joins her brother, 3 year old Sam, he’s at the opposite end. He started out the night in that spot, unwilling to sleep in his big boy bottom bunk alone.  I worry that their feet will touch and war will commence. It’s happened before.

I try to settle back into my pillow.  My lower back is stiff, and my feet are hot.  I roll a few times, but it is no use.  I am awake, no going back.  I hear my husband, already relaxed.  I envy his sleep skills, singularity is such a luxury.

I am still thinking about the wolf.  Elinor said the wolf was trying to eat her.  What does that mean?  I resolve that the kids are watching too many cartoons.  I wrestle with how existential cartoons are these days. It is so cruel to lay such heavy societal burdens on our babies.  That’s it, we are taking a break. No more cartoons for awhile.  No more wolves, no more unnecessary burdens.

My house shoes and a new robe are on by this time.  I close the door on my sleeping brood and head to the kitchen, consoling myself with the quiet opportunity to sip coffee, pray, and write. I am already planning an afternoon nap.

Standing at the kitchen sink, filling my old-fashioned coffee pot, I look across the road and see that my neighbor’s kitchen sink light is shining, one square light in an ocean of black.  I wonder if it is LeAnn, my friend and mother to seven children.  Is she up too?  It could be anyone in her house, a kitchen sink light at 5 am could be anything.  The possibility that it is LeAnn comforts me. I say a prayer for her.

Prayer.  The thought comes that a single prayer prayed with attention is better than lengthy prayers said in distraction.  When I push the button on the coffee maker I make my way to the icons.  A single prayer with attention.

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy Name…

When I finish I return to my coffee and pour a cup.
And now here I sit at my desk, attempting to write about my role as an Orthodox mother. As I read over what I have written so far it occurs to me that not much more needs to be said.  The story of my morning is the story of my life as an Orthodox mother.  The melody changes, but the drone note remains…my heart bound by God and my family.

It’s hard to tell whom I love more, my family or God.  The two loves are so connected it is impossible to distinguish where one begins and one ends.  I do not think this is a wrong path for an Orthodox mother.  How can the humble love of either compete with the other…together they work as one.
How love works on us.

Perhaps some will assert that those who speak about the role of an Orthodox mother should be more specific.  I myself love to snoop on the details of the daily lives of Orthodox mothers.  Hello Instagram! However, I feel that while I glean much instruction from others, the real heart of Orthodox motherhood is unseen, wrapped in a mystery that makes it beautiful and strange and infinitely diverse.  There is nothing more fearsome for me than to look upon the humility and love of an ordinary Orthodox mother.  I try to mimic, and in some ways mimicking has been my lifeline as a convert.  In other ways it has set me up for major failures.

When we converted seven years ago I sort of had a crisis in my mothering- major plot twist.  The first wave of conversion brings with it a romance that is akin to falling in love, the second wave is like homesteading; establishing new routines, new traditions, new disciplines, new recipes, new everything.  I am currently in a third wave of conversion; I call it remaining. At some point, I have to stop converting and be Orthodox, be a Christian.  I have to accept that there is no such thing as an Orthodox mother, at least not in a singular or static form.

It is not Orthodox mother- it is Orthodox mothers. There is not one definition, only a million experiences.

We are different, you and I.  Different stages.  Different circumstances.  Different husbands.  Different children.  Different everything. And yet, we share so much.  We share in our love of God and family.  We share in our need to repent and dig deep and lean heavy on the strength of our Father.

Like modern cartoons, I believe that much of the modern spiritual writings, commentary, and opinions stir up existential angst…like a wolf come to eat us. Perhaps if I gave one piece of advice, one humble instruction, it would be this- pray. Stand before God with an open heart and pray. In prayer, God provides. If books and blogs have failed you, even if your priest cannot help you- God can. As mothers we can pray. Pray always.

My heart’s desire is to encourage you, to connect with you in the struggle.  If you are weary be refreshed in knowing that the Orthodox way is the way of love.  Let that love wash over you and break your heart and fill you up.

The sun is up now, and I promised my chicks pancakes.  The house is churning with arguments, math lessons, and PBS.  I have a to-do list that’s long and my back is still tight.  You understand. Somewhere in all of this there is life, the life of an Orthodox family.

poetry · Uncategorized

Whole Food

What do you eat
One apple cut two
Drink a half glass
Of grandpa’s home brew
Legs and thighs
Pieces and parts
Chopped and diced
Arranged a la carte
Parsing and plating
Never reach full
Make me a salad
A bowl full of cruel
We slice at the heart
We carve at the bone
Wheat never looked
So horrifically calzoned
I dream of no knife
Or division asunder
Whole food at the altar
Man’s sweet Newton Wonder

baby · faith · family · homemaking · kids · motherhood · parenting · saints · Uncategorized

What I want my daughters to know about the 2016 US Election

(I wrote this three days before the election.)

A certain Hillary Clinton campaign add depicts small children innocently watching the television as Donald Trump makes fun of the disabled, offering up one calloused and derogatory remark after another to the massive crowds at his rallies. The television add ends with this epitaph, “Our children are watching.”

Epitaph, you say?  Yes, in an horrifyingly ironic way Hillary’s tag line is like an inscription on the tombstone of the unborn.  Our children are watching-in memory of the children who are not watching the television, the children who are not our choice.

Dear daughters, labor to discern the times and ponder what is good and true and beautiful.

We live in a world where it is not okay to make fun of the disabled and yet it is perfectly okay to abort a disabled child.  Understand the times. Ponder how evil is always rooted in some convoluted lie-some twisting and confusion of the truth.

Mother Angelica said, “I do not vote for candidates, I vote for life.”  And this is where I stand.  All other issues flow from this one issue…life.

Hold your ground as a woman.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a child-bearer, physically and/or spiritually.  And bearing children is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

And do not hate men.  Come alongside them and bear their weaknesses.  Do not be deceived by women who tell convoluted lies.  For woman is created to be a help meet, physically and/or spiritually. This is hard and you will suffer.  As long as I am alive I will help you bear this burden.  As a woman I will try my best to support you.

Hillary Clinton does not represent me as a woman, nor does any other woman who shares her ideology.  She represents all I am trying to repent of, sin that is rooted in a strong-willed desire to rule.

Stay veiled- stay hidden- stay quiet in spirit- stay repentant.
Look to the Theotokos, pray, and remember the icon of motherhood.
Do not be deceived by convoluted lies.
Remember the woman who ran for President of the United States of America in 2016- remember her in your prayers.
If she wins-keep praying.

To the woman he said, I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in sorrow you shall bring forth children; and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. Genesis 3:16


Homeschooling – just keep practicing.

Reposting…because I need it.

A Chime of Hearts

This is the time of year that I reflect on our home school journey… I evaluate, I ponder, and I make decisions.  I think it is better to do this now… at the end of the school year… rather than wait until fall when I will be hopelessly idealistic….right now I am a realist.  The end of a school year makes realists of most homeschool families.  This year we welcomed a new little fella into our lives, and man did I have a time trying to manage all of the schoolwork, housework, and activities with the joys and concerns of an infant. However, we did manage…we made it, and it was a great year! We are very blessed.

Homeschooling is a never-ending learning experience on so many levels.  It really is a lifestyle.  That is why home school articles are so peculiar.  Among articles detailing curriculum, schedules, and methods an…

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faith · Uncategorized

How to be free of a good reputation…



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.



books · faith · homeschooling · Uncategorized

Orthodox Education


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.


Old Mother West Wind’s Children

Just something I thought would be a great share for fall.  I am taking my littles to the park today with a quilt, a picnic, and a copy of Mother West Wind’s Children.  It’s going to be a wonderful sunny day, great for a nature hike.  I will be using my Boba Wrap…baby wraps are wonderful, don’t you think?  And I love their slogan…Freedom Together.  

Find all these wonderful nature inspired characters at