Today is indoor play day. Today is hot chocolate day. Today is cuddle up with your blanket day. Today is reflection day. Today is rain day.
At our parish we had a conference in which a priest from San Francisco came by and gave a talk about the life in Christ. When asked about love and what it is he stated that love should not be based on feelings that are fleeting but instead sacrifice. In todays society it seems so much based on feelings that it is almost impossible to know what is sacrifice. As a new parent I find myself making more and more sacrifices for this little bundle then I ever did in my life without him. It makes me wonder what kind of person I was before I was a parent and was I really blind to what love really is. Now this little person has transformed my life in the little time he has been here. I now am forced to make sacrifices like getting up at 3 am to get him back to sleep, or even trying to get him to sleep takes a sacrifice because the process seems so long on some nights. It takes a great deal of patience to not get mad because you just spend all this time trying to get a baby to sleep just to have your cat come by and meow and wake him up so you can start the process all over again. I can see now how being married in an Orthodox church and being a monastic in an Orthodox church has its similarities. My recent discovery was confirmed when my husband and I were taking turns trying to get him to sleep and after 2 hours he finally went to sleep and my husband stated that this was like a monastic matins service so we should have just gotten the service books out and made a vigil out of it. It made me think about love and sacrifice. Is it the same thing? Do we sacrifice out of love?
Being a mother I see love in a different way, now I see it more of a sacrifice. I love my little one and because of that I sacrifice more for him, so for me love and sacrifice go hand in hand. (in the mothering department at least) As Christians we are called to even love our enemies, so the tricky part is how do I bring that love that is sacrificial towards people that do not make me feel all cozy inside? We all have our fair share dealing with people we cannot stand. I try to treat my enemies with respect and think about how I would like to be treated but my pride and judgment always ruins me. As I ponder on this thought a little while longer bam it hits me as I drink my tea… “Love has no boundaries” hmmm interesting. With Lent just around the corner, it is the perfect time to think about others rather than being stuck in ME mode and thanks to the great mercy of God I get a chance to practice sacrificing out of love to even my enemies. Each year it seems like Lent is harder and harder. Christ seems to show us our sins one sin at a time. As we grow each year we can only stand to see how horrible we are a little layer at a time. Oh the Great Fast! It is a great time of the year.
The Dread Judgement! The Judge comes in the clouds, surrounded by a countless multitude of bodiless heavenly powers. Trumpets sound to all the ends of the earth and raise up the dead. The risen regiments pour into the preordained place, to the throne of the Judge, having a forebonding of what verdict will sound in their ears. For everyone’s works are written on the brow of their nature, and their very appearance will correspond to their deeds and morals. The division of those on His right hand and those on His left is accomplished in and of itself.
At last all have been determines. Deep silence falls. In another instant, the decisive verdict of the Judge is heard:to some, “Come,” to others, “Depart.” “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! May Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us!” they shall say, but then it will already be too late to plead. We need to take the trouble now to wash away the unfavorable marks written upon our nature. At the Judgement, we may be ready to pour out rivers of tears in order to wash ourselves, but this would do us no good then. Let us weep now-if not rivers of tears, then at least streams; if not streams, then at least drops. If we cannot find even this much, then let us become contrite in heart, and confess our sins to the Lord, begging Him to forgive them, and promising not to offend Him any more through the violation f His commandments. Then, let us be zealous to faithfully fulfill this promise.
-St. Theophan the Recluse
After death you cannot expect purification. You will remain as you are when you cross over. You must prepare your cleansing here. Let us hurry, for who can predict how long one will live? How can we appear unclean in the other world? With what eyes will we look at our fathers and brothers who will meet us? How will we answer their questions: “What is this that is wrong with you? What is this? And what is this?” What shame will cover us! Let us hasten to set right all that is out of order. to appear at least in a somewhat tolerable and bearable state in the other world.
-St. Theophan the Recluse
Lent is coming. Are you ready?
As a new mom I find myself constantly on the move even though the tasks that I am trying to complete are really not out of the ordinary. To take a shower, for example requires a new skill that I never thought possible, and to run an errand requires packing a bag and having a new strategy that I never thought I would be thinking about. Questions come into my mind before I leave the door like, what if he poops, what if he poops all over his outfit, will he need to be carried or is he going to make it in the stroller, what if there is a meltdown in the middle of the checkout line? All these questions. At any given moment everything can change and something that took me 5 minutes to do now takes 45 minutes to do. This is not an over exaggeration. Currently I am a stay at home mom and this is something that I am not used to since I used to work and go to school for as long as I can remember. I was the career woman that can prioritize and time everything perfectly and it all worked out. Now with a 3 month old I have no control over my schedule or time. I find myself constantly running to get things done. Now it seems like there is not enough time in the day to go to the store even because all these things come up with my child like naps and feedings and changing. As I look around my church community and all the other moms and people that surround me, I see that everyone whom I talk to about their life runs into the same problem. We are all so busy busy busy. A wise saying from the desert fathers says that when you look at a bucket of water that was on the move you see wrinkles and cannot see your own reflection and it is not until the water has been still that you look and can see yourself clearly. The church clearly teaches us to be still and to find time in the day even if you have to schedule it with your iphone to take 5 minutes just being still, be prayerful, say the Jesus Prayer. So with all this stillness advice we are getting it makes me wonder. What are we running for? Clearly there is something to this stillness business.
Recently during the night I woke up and felt really really dizzy, my husband was at work still completing inventory and I could not get a hold of him because out of all the days he ended up leaving his phone in the car. There is nothing scarier that for a new mother who is breastfeeding to be dizzy and start panicking because she cannot get a hold of her husband and cannot think straight because her head is spinning. Thankfully my husband ended up calling me back and coming hope just in time to avoid a nervous breakdown on my part and helped me get through my dizzy stage by feeding me and standing outside with me for some needed fresh air at 4am. Yes we looked a bit weird but this is the time I thought to myself how blessed I am to have such a husband that would stand outside with me at 4am in an attempt to make me feel better after he has been working all night. My point for this story is that it took me to have this episode to realize that I need to take time off to take care of myself not matter how busy I am because in the end it seems like my family suffers if I do not. I need to take time off and just be still.
With the great Lent fast coming up, this is my challenge… to myself. Be more still. To sit down and not live in the next moment but in the present. To know that Christ is everywhere and fills all things.
Here we go we can do this…Just breathe. One more contraction. Here we go one step at a time. “I see the head!” a nurse tells me, “breathe, and one more push.” I hear his scream and increadible joy fills my heart. This is our son. We are parents. We all are crying. After going into labor on the evening of the Fest of the Archangels you came into the world all screaming and tiny, changing our lives forever. People talk about it and you know about it as being true but no one can actually describe to you what parenting would be like unless you have actually experienced it. Then the real podvig begins. How do you handle this newborn if you have never been around babies, babysat anyones babies and the only experience you have is teaching Sunday School for preschoolers? Yes no one really tells you how sleepless nights will feel to you, they don’t tell you how to put your baby to sleep properly either. There are however more than enough parenting books out there to try to give you all sort of advice about how to raise your children. Seriously, go to Barnes and Nobles and just look at the parenting section. Not to mention the advice you get as a new parent as to how to parent your child from other parents. Quite honestly I was never ready for this and never knew that there would exist in this world such controversies as “cry it out” methods and other sleep techniques. No. No one can prepare you on how to deal with a burst of anger when you just fed the baby, changed the baby, rocked the baby and the baby is still is not happy. What am I really doing here? I am not ready to be a mom. I was so comfortable before with going to school and going to work and being secure in my routine in life with my cats and my husband. Now my life will never be the same. Now my life consists of playing the guessing game of what is this baby crying about and see how good we can play it today. Now I find myself secretly looking up baby YouTube videos on how to spend a day with a 3 month old because I have no idea what I should be doing with someone so small. Bedtime routine or no bedtime routine. What time do they start anyways? Yes all these questions. Even our prayer life that was so on track before is now it seems like out of balance. Yes we used to stand so vigilantly during Liturgy and we would hear the screaming children being dragged out of church and now we will be those people that take their child out of a service because you just have to keep moving or rocking. Yes to say our lives have changed is an understatement. This brings me to the reason of starting to write this. Maybe it is because in the middle of all my online surfing and finding very little about people to connect with that lead an Orthodox lifestyle and are trying to make it through the first year of parenthood. Maybe it is because in the middle of all the insane mind challenges I find myself venting on a piece of paper and no real person to speak with, and lets face it women just need to let it out. Whatever the reason is my first entry is based on hope. Hope that I can be a good mother. Hope that I can be a good wife. Hope that maybe I will find some answers to my new life. Hope to move on day by day, step by step. Hope to find the winning prize of a 3 month old smiling because we finally figured out that he needed to burp.