I took a big step today, I deleted my typepad account. This has been the location of my ramblings during the past 5 years of transitions. This past year I recreated it twice, trying to start again with this whole business of blogging. I tried making it anonymous because I was preparing to go into a Central Asian country where I would have to be extra cautious about my religious/spiritual writings. Then, when my program was cancelled just a week after meeting the man of my dreams, I have since been on an interesting journey! This journey brought me, first, to California, to share D.’s car and be by his side as much as possible; then in July, we packed up a UHaul, and headed to Texas with Lily the cat on my lap most of the journey due to unhappiness in her carrier. Her and I have bonded forever, and now she loves climbing into my purse when I’m over at D.’s to take a quick nap and hide from his new kitten, Graham, who loves to pick on Lily…play with her tail, swat her in the face, etc.
July was a foundational month for me… After several years of looking at Orthodoxy from the outside (critically, emotionally, anthropologically and other -ly words that I should try to find in a thesaurus); I took the plunge. I was baptized and chrismated into the Russian Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, California, just a week before we left for Texas where D. was to start a High School teaching job in August. The chunk of hair in the front of my bangs where Father Gideon chose to cut an awfully large section of hair during my baptism is finally growing back, but the memory of this event is still fresh in my mind two months later.
I can also still remember the first time I entered an Orthodox church while doing a summer mission project in Russia back in 2001. All of my stereotypes bombarded me at first. Why would someone off the street feel at home in such a cold, dark place with nowhere to sit? How can this be welcoming? Yet, standing there before God I felt a serious feeling. I couldn’t hide behind my comforts and there was no chuckling about pop culture jokes or video snippets or watching people sing and then applauding them. It wasn’t about us. In the Orthodox Church, it was me standing there with my sins between me and God. It was about His holiness. His righteousness. And I knew He was taking my sins as I stood there in His presence and giving me strength to stand for so long and get past myself and my feelings. Then, all I could do was think on His glory that was all around me. And revel in the thought that His love for me was so deep that He longed to make me worthy to stand there, in His ways, not mine.
And over time I realized that I had no idea how to behave myself in an Orthodox Church, which sometimes resulted in a smack by an old babushka or glares. I learned to just stand in the back and watch. At any moment when everyone would swarm to the front to kiss something or have a cross of oil put on their foreheads, I bolted for the door!
Now I’m really Orthodox. I’m still in the process of “coming out” because of being with an Evangelical mission organization and having my roots down so deep in the non-denominational Restoration movement churches my whole life. I’m now allowed to confess to the priest and thankful to be able to stand in that line with my arms crossed in front of my chest, waiting to commune with Christ in a way I was never able to before. Now I’m excited to not have to do this alone anymore, D. is right beside me as we prepare for confession and Eucharist. Our voices fade in and out of the liturgical singing. The only way our relationship is going to survive the corruption of this world and overcome the world in which we find ourselves is by making our roles as worshipers and followers our ultimate purposes. As soon as we start to consider that it’s all about us and how are we going to do this, then we fall down hard and the saints pick us back up again.
I can feel them cheering us on.
Up to this point, I’ve been sharing the daily readings with quotes and excerpts from the Early Church Fathers with little of my own voice. I would like to make this more personal (then my mom will actually start reading it, right, mom?) and share about my graduate studies, my new kitties, Nicky and Alix…maybe some flutterings about being newly in love when my heart goes pitter patter…but definitely my thoughts and experiences in my first year of Orthodox life. I’m realizing that sharing on Facebook is only in realtime, not showing a log over time. It’s rare to look back on someone’s wall. We only think about what is right in front of us and that news feed is just too much for me sometimes. I’d like to do this again and have it be more like a journal.
So here I go…