As I get my fingers dirty in this world of motherhood, I start rethinking about what my priorities are. It seems like when I was single, life was so fast and nothing that I wanted to do could be stopped. Now everything that I wanted to do has stopped and focused on a little tiny person that has changed my life completely. I do not mind this change of heart. It makes me realize that all my plans that were made previous were not as important as this commitment called motherhood. Even if I do work on 4 hours of sleep and have a meltdown when I realize there is no more coffee in the house. I have not been thankful lately. I have been taking for granted everything that has been given to me. Thank God for His endless mercy. Without it I would have perished a long time ago.
A very good friend of ours is having twins and asked my husband and I to be Godparents to one of their boys. Well what an honer… except that I do not know the first thing about organizing any kind of baby shower event. Thankfully the Godmother that she had chosen for her other boy is very aware of what needs to be done for such an even. She put me in charge of a few items such as games and thank you baggies. I started having a total meltdown when I realized that I have never accomplished putting together such items in my life. How am I ever going to be a good mother that organizes lunch boxes for her kids is what came into my mind. Hence the meltdown.
I am not what you would call a girly girl. It is thanks to God and His mercy I have a son as a first child since I would not know what to do at all with trying to be girly. I jumped out of airplanes for fun (parachute included) dived the deep seas over 100 ft down (almost died a few times, my cat lives are running out) and jumped off a bridge (bungee cord included). Yes organizing an even and games is not in my nature.
With Google being my best friend in times of crisis, tomorrow is the day of the big bay shower event. “Mom is having to get out of her comfort zone” says my husband to my 6 month old boy that is staring blankly at me as I put together thank you gifts. Yes that statement says it all.
Recently I have been reading this book by Sofia Cavalletti. It is a great insight into a child’s mind and its religious potential. It is based on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Montessori style program that is available for Sunday schools. We use this at our parish even though we had to modify lessons based on Orthodox teachings, however it is has been an eye opener for me so far and makes me view the upbringing of children differently.
always now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen”
As we gear up for the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week I think about how fast Lent went by this year. Maybe it is because it is true what they say about being a parent, life just moves faster once you have children. Maybe it is the lack of sleep and getting up every hour to comfort my son that is having a difficult time that made the days and nights blend in together. Whatever the reason I am glad that it is almost over and also sad. Glad because it has been a hard journey but sad because it has been spiritually refreshing. As my brother in law is getting ready to be get baptized this Lazarus Saturday I ponder on how he is just beginning his spiritual journey with Christ. Aren’t we all just beginners?
Before my son I hated Mondays because it meant that I was back at work at a corporate job that I disliked and the whole cycle started all over again. Today however was a different Monday. My small little family went and celebrated the Annunciation Feast old calender style and my son got to meet a great Bishop that was visiting a parish. Not a bad start to a Monday. Blessed week everyone.
Let compassion overcome your timidity…Give something however small to the one in need; for it is not small to the one who has nothing; neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could. And if you have nothing, give of your tears. Great is the comfort to the afflicted of the sympathy that comes from the heart. St. Gregory of Nazianzus
I recently started thinking about compassion and how am I going to teach my child compassion in the midst of this world that seems to lack it more and more everyday. First thought that came into my head is that our home has to be a compassionate environment from which he can learn by example. I am trying more and more each day to be mindful of my actions and how I can correct them to live a more Christ centred life. There are plenty of opportunities everyday that teach me to be compassionate and not judge my brothers. But in the middle of our everyday struggles compassion is something that sometimes gets less attention then other things. Something so simple such as saying a prayer for someone in need or giving a helping hand seems to have gone out the window for me as of now since in my own opinion I am too busy. How dare Christ ask me to be compassionate in the middle of this busy and restless time in my life?
That is what I find myself asking as I try to make it daily through my own sins. Lack of compassion for me seems to also bring on judgement. I see someone in need and don’t help them and make a judgement towards them as some sort of justification for my lack of compassion. To not judge our brothers is hard for many people it seems like. It is so easy to do in this society that has talk shows and TV shows that do just that, judge. Talk talk talk, intellect, intellect, intellect. We are told by society that we should have an opinion about even the smallest things. How can we even begin a fight against judgement?
When asked how we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. For me is seems like compassion leads to less judgement. Such a simple recipe but a tough thing to put into action. Ready here we go, my challenge. To stop and be compassionate towards people either something small like a prayer or something bigger like actually taking the time to listen to someone in need. And here is the biggie…No judgement. One, two, three…GO!
To see ones own sins is both a blessing and a curse. It is really hard to know the truth about ones self. To be fully shown how by my own sins drag me down and affects me. It can also be a blessing since once we see our own sins we have the ability to repent and try to live a better way of life. I never like going to confession but once I go and receive absolution I feel like a brand new person that is able to continue the good fight. There is a reason why confession in the Orthodox Church is a sacrament. It is a mystery that I do not even want to know an answer to just like the Mother of God and the Incarnation, there are some things that I really do not want an explanation for. To see my own sins is what we ask God to grant us during Lent so that we can repent but the process of it and actually experiencing it is a different story.
Someone once told me that as a parent you will truly see yourself and know who you really are. I am beginning to see what they were talking about. I look at my impatience as a new mother and really try to correct it everyday but I get more impatient with myself because things never go the way I want them to. So the battleground that is in my heart has become a fight between pride, because I want things when I want them, and patience which the Lord teaches me every day with my son. The Lord by His great mercy allows us to see our sins one at a time it seems like. Like an iceberg if we were to see the whole bottom part of the iceberg it would be scary to even travel near it. Same with our sins, if we were to see all of our sins at once we would just fall into despair and never look back. “Oh look at all my sins and my inability to do anything holy” I complain to my spiritual father. “Yes and look at Gods mercy as He works out your salvation.”
Grant me to see my own sins. Probably the hardest thing we can ever ask God. It is this part of the St. Ephraim prayer that I struggle with most of all because truth is I do not want to think of myself as a horrible person. Part of it is because in this society we are told to feel good about ourselves the majority of the time and if we don’t then fill in the blank for a quick fix remedy that is prescribed by your TV, food, games, shoes, lattes, etc. I do not want to see my sins because that means I am doing something wrong, how can that be? Is there such a thing as perfection?
Recently my quest for perfection has made me realize many things about myself. It made me realize that my quest for perfection is based on society’s standards and not the Churches teachings. It is when I try to be perfect that I fall into other temptations such as judging and end up being the Pharisee. It is hard for a new mom such as myself to not look at other moms and wonder how they are raising their children and judge them. Yes, to see my own sins is a blessing and a curse. It is in seeing my own sins that I realize more and more that there is no such thing as perfection for me right now. I may never be a perfect mom or a perfect wife. As long as I continue to strive towards Christ and follow His commandments that is when I can somehow someway begin to transform my life into a better one. A perfection that is in Christ alone not some idea of perfection. It is a hard and narrow road but well worth it in the end.
…sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
Guilty as charged. The St. Ephraim prayer that we say during Lent is a very powerful prayer for me. All these things I realize that I do at some point and pay no attention to correcting them at all but just go on with my day, thinking that I am somehow entitled to having a right to be slothful for example or have the right to know gossip or just to talk about stupid things that do not matter. Lent is a time for transformation and transfiguration for Orthodox Christians and let me tell you, it is like when you make the decision to fight the spiritual fight all the demons come out and attack you from all sides. It is easy for me to sit in the nursery room at church and listen to the latest church gossip while I nurse my son. It is easy for me to judge mothers that have kids on how they are raising them. Of course I have prideful thoughts about how my kid won’t end up like that. It is not so easy for me to change my way of thinking and I have to fight against thoughts of judgment like most people. It seems like I can add on to the beginning of this prayer with my own sins like “take away from me the spirit of… judgment, pride, anger etc.” All this taking away during this fast I start thinking… are we addicted?
As my brother in law comes over and spends some well deserved quality time with my son we start talking about what we are giving up for Lent and he states to me that he will be giving up his energy drinks in the morning which is really hard for him. I think about what type of things we pile on day to day and how during this time we try to live a simpler life. It is this simple life that seems to bring a lot of peace to my household. I notice that when I do find some peace within myself my household tends to run more smoothly. Am I addicted to this chaos that I do not even know how to get out? Parenting has made me see a different side of life. I have moments of joy which is true joy it seems like. I dread the day that I have to click on that Monster add and look for a job again. It is almost like what the scriptures say about the women and mothers all make sense now. How come my life was never this peaceful before? Was I so addicted to the working and the pleasures it brings with money this whole time that I was missing the point of life?
Now we are living more of a simple life but it is more meaningful it seems like. So I am letting myself get attached. I am letting myself get attached to my son and watch him as he falls asleep and try to treasure every moment that I have with him because I will miss him so much when I do have to work. I am letting myself nurse him to sleep and stay with him as he sleeps in my arms. Yes all this reading about how he is going to be used to a certain way of getting to sleep and blah blah blah from these “experts” is going out the window. I am working on giving up this chaos that has build up in my heart so much that I find it hard to concentrate without thinking about the future. As I struggle with things like not having that ice cream, cheeseburger or watching that TV program to pass time, my mind start shifting towards other things and I realize that I will have my first son only once. All this talk about how I will regret it may be true but oh well, how else are we ever going to learn if we do not take our own chances and make our own decisions? Take away from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk. And may I find peace again in the middle of this chaos.
As we begin Great Lent I would like to say goodbye to the following items…
Chocolate. Oh we have our great times and you have helped me celebrate moments of joy in my life and you have been with me through moments of sadness. I will miss you but separation makes the heart grow is what they say.
Meat. Yes cheeseburgers will be missed and great steak from Whole Foods will be thought about during these 50 days, but think about all the money that will be saved by not buying steak. All the veggie burgers from Costco will not replace you.
TV. Even though we do not spend that much time together I will still miss the PBS programs and European news. All my worldly updates will have to now come to me from people. We will meet again TV.
Dairy. We have a bumpy relationship it seems like because my son gets agitated once I start eating dairy. But dairy, oh dairy the ice cream you help make delicious will be missed.
Although I will miss these items I know that somewhere down the line during Lent true peace will be met by true suffering. Let me now remind myself that fasting without prayer is useless. That it is not about just giving up physical items but spiritual faults as well. Prayer, fasting and alms giving, a good recipe for Lent.
“The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there” ~St. Macarius
Recently it seems like our household is getting less and less sleep. With our boy about to be 4 months old we are always striving to find a good balance in our lives but it always seems to be challenged by new developmental milestones such as rolling over and teething. Just when we have a rhythm down all of a sudden something happens that makes us start from the scratch. Our son does not know how to soothe himself back to sleep yet and I find myself spending countless hours on Google trying to find out about baby sleep cycles and how to get your baby to sleep and to help them stay asleep. I always seem to find one solution that it gets back to. The cry it out method. I for one am not for this method but I see why parents choose this option as it seems like an easy solution to the sleep depravation that effects everyone. It seems to me that sleeping is something that parents knew there would be a lack of but not realizing how parenting also rolls over to nighttime parenting until they are faced with this dilemma.
A wise friend once told me that you just have to start functioning on less sleep. Yes, that is what is happening now. At times like these I forget that my attempts at parenthood are wasted unless I bring myself to the point of prayer first. It makes me wonder, who am I serving?
I forget during these sleepless nights that the Lord is the Master of my life, just like the beginning of St. Ephraims prayer states. I bring myself to the point of depending too much on the world for answers and not come to Christ first with prayer and humble heart and ask Him for guidance to raise my son right. As Lent starts and we deprive ourselves of great goodies such as cheeseburgers from In and Out, our struggle remains in the heart. It is almost like it comes at a perfect time for me as always and I realize that I have to focus more on prayer and purifying my heart rather than Google and other peoples opinions. As Orthodox Christians our whole worship is centered around the altar. Even our wedding services are around the altar stating that we need to center our lives around Christ first. When I stand during Liturgy I always forget that. I forget to center my life around Christ first so that everything else will follow. Instead I find myself wondering about things like drool getting on my sons shirt and having that be my top priority. (Insert big sigh here) Deep breath in… Deep breath out. Oh Lord and Master of my life… Forgive me a sinner.