Seasons Come, Seasons Go: Starbucks Remains Forever!

Every year we travel to the States. It is a LONG journey from Southern Africa across the continents and across the seas and ocean. We usually have a layover in Europe before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Once we land in Europe, I personally love to see familiar things in the airport. This translates to shopping, eating junk food and of course, ordering a Starbucks coffee! Being deprived of Starbucks all year long, it is something I really look forward to! In the past, whenever I traveled in the States or abroad, I always bought my Starbucks coffee in the airport. It was one of my traveling habits. I used to love to sip my cappuccino or treat myself to a sinfully delicious flavored coffee. I would take it on the flight with me and just relax and read and enjoy the journey.

As to what I am naturally accustomed to, one year, as we had a transit in London Heathrow airport, I decided to keep this same Starbucks tradition. But this time, things were different. I had a toddler child, a stroller, a diaper bag and an overstressed and tired brain. Having just landed from a ten-hour overnight flight (did I mention that I didn’t sleep!) and about to go on another flight across the Atlantic, I needed a pick-me-up coffee. I looked forward to sipping that coffee. To relax and unwind. I deserved it after coming so far and needing a treat to keep going!

But then tragedy struck. Before I even boarded the flight, I THREW AWAY MY COFFEE! I am not one of those moms that have it all together. You will likely see me a mess – a total MESS – with lots of bags, wearing sweats, and in panic mode. So, needless to say, I could not manage another thing. Something had to go. Time was ticking. The boarding call had been made. There was no time to finish the coffee.

After a few small sips, a choice had to be made. It was diapers or coffee. I chucked that beautiful white cup into the trash bin. I still remember throwing that cup away. May that Coffee Cup Rest in Peace.

In life, we go through different seasons. There is the season of single-hood when you can dream, be ambitious, and carry a cup of coffee onto a plane when traveling. There is marriage, which is full of its glorious ups and downs. Then there is the season of having young children. Where I am now. I always try to remember that this is a wonderful season, where my kids still “need” me and when I can teach and influence so much! However, there are times when it is frustrating. Where I feel I am missing out. Where ministry and attending spiritually fulfilling meetings are cut short or nonexistent. Where going out with friends is constantly interrupted by bathroom breaks, skinned up knees, demands, and whining. Where things are, what can I say, different…..

Earlier this year, I was complaining to my husband and asked him what I should learn from this season that I am in. I was frustrated and upset because I was missing out on yet another retreat. To be fulfilled and to serve others. I was captive to my thoughts and negativity. Trapped in self-pity.

That very night after I was complaining, during our New Year’s Eve service, servants were distributing Bible verses. The verse I received was: “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

This became my theme verse for the year. That night God answered me in a very personal and real way. There is a purpose in every season we face. To teach and guide me. Our loving God never leaves us abandoned. He leads us out of our captivity and frees our mind and heart.

One day I will sit in the plane with a Starbucks coffee and a book to read. One day I will enjoy “freedom” from having young children. But, one thing I will do differently TODAY, is to enjoy this One Day, this Season I am in.

Let’s Chat: What season are you in currently and what encourages you through it?

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Journey to Perfection

One morning I needed some time to refresh my spirit. I noticed everything, especially when it came to my children, was setting me off. I was fed up. I had had enough and was ready to throw in the towel on this parenting thing! During my spiritual time, God began to slowly reveal some imperfections inside of me. Things I had not really paid attention to. I began to ask if I was being a perfectionist when it comes to my children. Are my expectations too high?

Then, I began to realize that maybe I was. When my son is doing his homework, if he makes a mistake, he messes up his homework and gets really frustrated. He has no room for errors or mistakes. Lately, also his behavior has been a little less than desirable – fighting about everything and disobeying. Needless to say, I have been frustrated. I didn’t think I was asking for much – just to listen! Then, I examined my reaction when he misbehaves, and I am flying off the handle. No room for error. I was placing a burden on him that was unfair to bear.

Christ asks us to be perfect. But our wise, Heavenly Father knows and accepts our weaknesses as He perfect us. Patiently. Lovingly. (Philokalia: The Bible of Orthodox Spirituality, p 82)

We want perfect marriages. Perfect children. Perfect churches. Perfect leaders. When we don’t find it, we go back to our search. We give up. Throw in the towel. We are all imperfect people trying to navigate this thing called life.

Christ is the only perfect One. He calls us to be perfect but it is an ongoing journey. Filled with daily repentance and growth.

We live in a tough, tough world. Coming off the NBA Finals, we see just how tough this world is. Steph Curry, the NBA MVP, was almost perfect going into the Finals game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. When he didn’t deliver a perfect performance, he was bashed and criticized. Lebron James cried like a baby when he won the Finals in an exciting Game 7. For too long he tried to live in a world that demanded him to be perfect. When the buzzer sounded, the pressure of perfect expectations and perfect demands was released and he cried. We idolize teams that never lose. Those with perfect records. I remember in the movie, “Remember the Titans,” Denzel Washington plays a coach who demands from his high school football team, “We will be perfect in every aspect of the game.” He left no room for error. And they went on to have a perfect season. We cheer. We are inspired.

We then demand perfection in our own lives. Our husbands and wives. Our children. Other moms. We do the same for our churches. Our priests. No room for error. We are on a quest to find the perfect service. If there is a challenge or struggle, we often run.

When we fail, or our children, or anyone around us, then we are frustrated. Flustered. Angry.

Personally, when my children, fail, I get so angry. A wise priest once told me that I get angry because my expectations are higher for them, because they are mine. I know people are watching my children. Watching me. And when you are the wife of a priest, there is more pressure unfortunately. Pressure to be perfect. Expectations of perfection. Sometimes in my own mind. Anger is more explosive when all fails. Because I am not perfect. Neither are my PKs (or “Priest Kids”). And I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that it is OK.

I must accept their weaknesses and challenge them patiently and lovingly to perfection. The same as what Christ does for me.

There is a famous saying that says, “Please be patient with me, God isn’t finished with me yet.” They make it mostly into shirts for kids. But it applies to adults as well.

My church is not perfect. My children are not perfect. I am far from perfect. But we strive on – with daily repentance and holiness. I once asked God how many times can I, a Priest wife, stop making mistakes and saying sorry to others. I received an answer – As long as I breathe. It is our lifelong journey to perfection. To be the saints He has called us to be.

“. . . to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” 1 Corinthians 1:2

Let’s Chat: Do you struggle with perfection? How do you overcome the desire to be perfect or your expectations of others?

The Dreaded Crying Room . . . Not Anymore!

When my daughter was sick for months, I could sit in an entire Liturgy or Bible Study without her making a peep. I didn’t get distracted once! Imagine a 2.5 year old sitting and not making a sound? She was so weak, I could actually focus.

Funny how things are because I used to complain when she was healthy because I was not able to focus and pray because she was so active. Then, when she was sick, it put it all in perspective – I wanted to be distracted!

Being distracted meant I had a healthy little girl.

During our annual leave, we have the joy of traveling to various Orthodox churches around the world. We learn many things from our brothers and sisters that help us in our mission here in Africa.

As many moms know, one common thing many of our churches have is a crying room. A crying room is designed for noisy and active children to stay there so that others in the main sanctuary of the church can pray quietly and without distractions. Well . . . distractions from my child and your child.

I have experienced many crying rooms throughout my travels and with two kids.

Here are just a few of my experiences.

One crying room was a “gluten nightmare”! For a mother of a celiac child, I would never want to enter that crying room again! There were crumbs from crackers and cookies ALL over the toys, carpets and benches. I took my little one straight to the showers after walking in that crying room.

In another crying room, there were dirty diapers and toys all over the place.

In every crying room, there were women discussing recipes, children, and other women.

Once during our travel, I finally discovered a crying room that works. Wait, did you hear me?! A crying room that actually works!

You are probably just as shocked as I was. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience. I was in the crying room. And in the beginning it was the usual – two kids running around and making noise, one of them mine. Two moms inside the crying room, each feeling sorry for themselves and trying to pay attention, one of them me. Then, a husband and wife came inside the crying room with their beautiful one-year-old son. Both of the parents were following along in the Liturgy. Both of them were joyfully singing the congregation responses – something I have never heard before in a crying room. Singing, that is.

Then, another family walked in – a husband, wife, and two boys. They were sitting nicely in the crying room. The father would even hush the boys if they got too loud! Hushing children while in the crying room?! The father was teaching his children how to behave in church. Not making an excuse because they were in the crying room.

Then, in walks a lady with a child. She begins to chat with another lady. Something amazing happened. The chatting ladies, who usually dominate the crying room, were drowned out by the husband and wife who were singing so beautifully and loudly. One lady ends up walking out. Gossip and chatting stops. Prayer continues.

The beautiful thing about this family is that no one was an “official” servant of the crying room. They did not sing and pray out of “holy righteousness” or judgment. They did it out of pure love. Love of Christ. Love of their Church. Love of their Child.

I pray this blog encourages you, tired, dear mother who longs to lift up her heart in a liturgical prayer to the Living Christ.

You can make a difference in your church crying room. In your church.

And, honestly, it isn’t about changing our crying rooms, really. It is about our children regardless of their age, next to us, worshipping God.

So – go with another Mom or your husband and sing. Sing loud!

But do it out of Love.

May Christ grant us parents His Grace.

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13

Let’s Chat: Share a crying room experience that was victorious!

 

 

 

Amazing Grace

There is a touching scene in the movie, “Amazing Grace,” where William Wilberforce confides in his friend that he can’t sing anymore. Once he lost hope and was filled with discouragement after many failures, he “loses” his singing voice. Later, in the movie, once he finds love and his sense of purpose renewed again, he begins to sing again.

Recently, my 2-year-old daughter became very sick. She literally began to waste away. She stopped growing. Stopped gaining weight. Stopped playing.

She stopped singing.

It is one of the hardest things to watch. Your child. So small. Helpless. Ill. Sad.

And not knowing why.

We were blessed to travel back to the States so that our little angel could get specialized medical treatment. It was definitely a season of an emotional roller coaster. Our happy family was separated by an ocean. Our little one was put through needles after needles. Dealing with health insurance issues. And the list continued.

Through the support of our families, friends, loved ones, and medical staff from all over, including Zambia, Kenya, United Kingdom, and the United States – we truly never felt God leave our side.

My little girl was diagnosed with celiac disease. What a relief to know what was causing my little one to be so ill! Thankfully, the only treatment is a gluten-free diet.

While it has been a tough adjustment (mostly for me), my little grace-filled angel is thriving! She has gained weight. She is energetic and playful.

And she has her singing voice back.

We learned a lot of lessons during this time. Here are just a few I would like to share:

  1. God is with us. 

As you live for God and serve Him fully, it does not mean that challenges will not come. But, it does mean that when the challenges do come, He promises to never leave us.

I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

2. God created our little girl “unique.” 

She was born with celiac disease, although we recently discovered it. She will always live with it. But, I promise, I will never teach her to be a victim or sorry for herself because she is “different” from everyone else. She is “unique.” She doesn’t have to be like everyone else. After all, isn’t that what Christianity is about?

She can and will live an amazing life. Nothing can hold her resilient, spirited self               down. Actually, this will help her to be even more accomplished in her life.

And on another note, won’t she learn boundaries – that not everything that is                   available she can have? I think this can be applied spiritually. That our call in life is to     be pure. Holy. Not having everything in our bodies. It’s a healthy lesson in life, both spiritually and physically.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1

3. God’s grace is amazing. 

There is no other way to put it. I have felt it. I have lived it. And what is even more amazing is that I see it in my little one. I see His Grace fully alive inside of her!

I expected to hide foods she can’t have. Or for her to have tears for wanting                     something she can’t eat. Instead, I have witnessed a child happy to choose a                   “special alternative for a special girl.” She even now asks me if it is “gluten free” – but       she says it in a very funny way and it sounds like “goofy free”!

What a lesson truly to learn from children. To see His Grace. Working. Living.                 Breathing inside of her. It truly renews my love for Christ and His love for me and us.

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

I can’t thank enough those who supported Fr. Abraham and me through this tough time.

Please pray for us as we adjust to a gluten-free life in Africa, which has its own set of challenges.

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is our victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” 1 John 5:4

Let’s Chat: Any lessons you have learned from a circumstance that has been turned into victory?

Lesson from My Own Mom

My Mother’s Day started off as a normal Sunday morning. My 5-year-old asking “Where is Daddy?” My 2-year-old waking up with a poopy diaper and screaming about wanting something to eat.

We finally make it to Church. We finally make it to the end of Church.

We do end up having a blessed day.

In addition to my family, I was blessed to spend time mothering a group of broken teenager girls who need more positive role models. It was special.

I was also blessed to spend time with other Moms who are serving here in a wonderful Bible Study studying the Song of Songs.

I am surrounded by love.

As I lay my head down on my pillow, feeling full, I remember my own mother. My mother who is many thousands of miles away. Praying for me. Supporting me. Never wavering in her love for me. No matter the distance.

I have many memories of my Mom when I was a child. There is one fond memory I cannot forget. When it is rainy season here in Zambia, I remember it and I laugh.

On one of our many road trips, it was raining hard as we were getting out of the car to eat at our favorite fast-food stop, Wendy’s. She carried all of our jackets. As she was so worried to give us our jackets, she was practically running after us. We ran off. We all left her behind. Carrying everything. She didn’t notice.

She was just concerned for us. Watching us. Her eyes on us.

In the midst of that, she tripped on a sidewalk (Sorry Mom!). She fell hard. She was so busy watching us that she never even saw the sidewalk. She was so busy with concern for us that she never was for a moment concerned for herself.

She truly only cared about us. She only wanted to look out for us. She wanted to serve us. Not to be served.

“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Can I have that same love? I often feel like a failure as a mother. Not good enough. Not gentle enough. Not loving enough.

My mom is so patient. So sacrificial. So gentle. So humble. Everything I desire. Everything I am not.

So this post is for you, Mom. You are truly a wonderful example. And I pray that I can learn the same. With your prayers, I have hope that I can be that way one day.

We are not perfect. Our own mothers were not perfect. But, we do not have to be perfect. We just have to Love. Sacrificially. Through His Grace.

That is a lesson I can learn from my Mother. One of many lessons!

 Let’s Chat: What lesson can you learn about your mother this Mother’s Day season?