Monday, June 27, 2011

A Forced Hand

In my job search, at one point, I prayed "God, if you have something else in mind for me, don't let me get this job. I will take it. So, if there is something else for me to do...Your Will be done and all, but don't let me get this job."

And then I got the offer. I better understand what Julia Sweeney meant when she wrote "And God said 'Ha'". There was a lot of soul searching and crying that happened this weekend.

At one point I wrote on my pros and cons list:

"I really would love to take this job. I feel that is would give me some purpose. I could be useful. Right now I just feel like a huge burden to my husband and my child. I just sit around and watch her all day and try to apply for jobs. The house is a mess. Dinners are mediocre. I feel awful about myself because I do not enjoy staying at home with my child. I am not earning any money which makes just a mooch. What do I contribute to this family? More dishes to clean after meals that boring... Piles of laundry and hair clusters making the house unsightly. More bills for stuff we don’t need because I am bored and have nothing to do...

But, if I took the job, would it be any better? I would earn some money, but it would not be enough... And Nina would be sick [from daycare] and then Lance won’t be earning enough money and he makes more than I do and then where would we be?

... I wish I knew what made a person have meaning but I don’t know it. I suppose I put emphasis on earning money because I tend to equate happiness with stuff. But that is not where happiness comes from. I know that, but I don’t know what do so with myself.

I know I am blessed, but I hardly feel I have earned it."

Quite obviously, I have not been a great state of mind. I have been searching for a job, then finally the promise of one arrived, and yet when I got an offer I found it wasn't what I really wanted. The pay wasn't great and would barely plug the hole on a slowly sinking ship that is our finances. I would be rushed to find care for Nina and feel I had failed at not being an adequate mother to her as well as constantly worried about her well being. If the job was in a field I was interested in pursuing, it would be one thing. But it is in education, and I have been there and done that and wanted out of it.

Why would I then go back to make less money?

With heavy heart I had to decline the offer.

My plan so far is:

1) figure out what I want to do by asking people, researching more, etc.

2) join so sort of group or find ways to socialize so I don't feel so isolated

3) raise Nina as best I can without spending money willynilly

I felt as if my hand was forced and it was not the best time for me to make this choice. Yet, I am confident in the choice I did make. I need to figure out what I want and not pursue something to tide me over.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Baptism, Pt. 2

When I left off, I had just discovered that Lance was the guy I had seen as a prospective student and that I was not blind. I had originally thought he was Joel Nowlin (a colleague of ours) and was not nearly as cute as I remembered. Not that Joel Nowlin isn't great, but he is not Lance.

Anyhow, I did the only sensible thing a Catehuman in love could do and that was get baptized. I was Baptized on January 15, 2001 by Father Dmitri Weber at St. Juliana's. It was the feast of St. Juliana and Bishop Gabriel was there.

My new Godmother, Celeste Ryder, is so sweet -- the most humble and kind person ever and would never admit to this. She is really patient and helped me so much -- whether it was advice or letting me stay with her and her husband, now Deacon Anthony Ryder, during summer break. She had trained as an artist and had received the Bishop's blessing to train as an iconographer. She studied at Jordanville though the harsh winters and spent much time away from home. Now she writes icons. I miss her very much and there is so much I wish I could share with her on a more frequent basis.

Baptism is a gift. My parents and I gave the gift of Faith and tradition that spoke truth to us. What I chose to do with those three gifts was, and is, up to me. It is said that third time is a charm. Let's hope this time my Baptism sticks!

As for why we are at St. Katherine's, that is another story altogether.

For me, St. Juliana's in Santa Fe will be where I "grew up". Lance eventually became a Catehuman and was baptized. I sang in the choir, he served in the altar, and we made a point of going to the Akathist services on Friday (three canons + Akathist being the prayer rule to prepare for Communion) and Vigils on Saturday (complete with three cannons and first hour).

Lance proposed after we both graduated (me a year later than he). We were married in May of 2003 at St. Juliana's. Lance had begun work as a purchaser and technical support at a local solar energy company and I had continued to teach. I was diagnosed with breast cancer six months after we were married. The experience changed our prospective and we decided that staying in Santa Fe was amazing, but we had to move onto other things.

Lance is from Seattle and he wanted to go back to the University of Washington to get an engineering degree. I have always loved Seattle since I first visited in sixth grade. I remember seeing a girl with a shaved head and thought "this place is totally where I want to live." It would be an adventure and I was ready for it.

We had attended St. Nicholas cathedral when we would come up to Seattle for Christmas, but being a parishioner was very different. We had known some Slavonic at St. Juliana's as approximately 40% of the service was in Slavonic. The quaintness of a foreign language soon faded away and then became confusion. Lance took up the duty of reading the Epistle in English and I sang as best I could in the choir. Vigils were the most difficult because we could no longer understand the canons in English nor say the hymns well. The Saturday morning English Liturgy consisted of the priest, the two of us, and our friend Helena.

I was at my wits end by Bright Monday of that year for reasons that still don't make sense to me. I guess I didn't get feel at home like I did at St. Juliana's. I felt as if I had been staying too long with distant relatives who didn't understand why I had joined the family.

I didn't become Orthodox to become Russian. I do greatly appreciate cultural traditions that further illumine the Faith. However, to keep a tradition simply because it is Russian, or Greek, or Serbian, or whatever other culture one could throw in there, smacks of Nationalism that St. Paul addressed in his letters. He didn't approve of it and neither do I.

Lance and I ended up at the Monastery on Vashon a year after we moved to Seattle. It was ROCOR and services were in English. Lance was still in school and so the ferry rides were a nice break from studying. I sang in the choir and eventually directed only because I had a some knowledge about rubrics. The one draw back to the monastery was it was impossible to make it for Vigils and we really missed that element of church life.

Once ROCOR reunited with Moscow, we saw a way to broaden our church options. Lance occasionally needed to stay in town and would go to St. Spiridon's in Seattle. We didn't really like it there; it seemed too big and we like being a part of small communities. That and I am pretty sure this Romanian family thought I was Romanian. Even with a few years distance from the Russian social club that was St. Nicholas, I was uncomfortable being mistaken for any ethnicity other than Mexican (which I am).

A family, the Hunts, at the monastery had gone to St. Katherine's and spoke of it as a great community that they missed. Lance went to scout a Vigil. He came back a bit confused because the service wasn't the same. So I went with him next time and he was right -- parts were missing and some elements just plain odd, but it was pretty close.

We made a break for it sometime in 2007 or 2008. Father John and a few others took notice of us even though I tried to blend into the background. Father John blessed our home and met with us to find out how we could be involved in parish life. Lance was willing to help in the altar, which was welcome as Steve Stchur was looking to retire when Anna was born. I accidently left a tuning fork out so he knew I could sing. I told Father I wanted to lay low for awhile and I would rather not have information about my abilities widely known. I did offer to help with church school and did for a year.

Not a week later did Chris Hunt out me as a former choir director to Dan Homiak at the Kallistos Ware lecture and the gig was up. I didn't join the choir right away and eased myself into it. Singing helps me focus during the service. Now chasing after Nina does - sort of.

I most recently volunteered as Hospitality Shepherdess (baa) and am trying to take the role seriously but not too seriously. Lance and I both had parents who were active in their churches and we don't know any other way to belong to a church but to be involved in Parish life.

In short, I and my family are at St. Katherine's because it is the only English speaking, Liturgically conservative* parish around that is fairly small. Also, there are some really cool people that go there -- folks that think, contemplate, pray, and who are kind and generous.

If St. Katherine's undergoes some dramatic changes, we might contemplate another switch. For now, oddities in Liturgics aside, we love our church family and it is home.

*By the way, that is the only time I would ever see being conservative as a positive. Ever.

Baptism, Pt. 1

St. Katherine's is getting a new Priest in July and he asked us to write a "Spiritual Biography". He wanted to get a sense of the parish and how folks came to St. Katherine's.

Lance immediately said he did not want to do it. Apparently, he is not in a great place to talk about why he is at St. Katherine's.

So, I started to write a draft in my diary (which is over 10 years old and is not even half filled) and read it to Lance. We both found it funny and I thought I would share it on my blog.

I have been baptized three times.

The first I do not remember as I was a baby. My mother was Catholic when I was born and it was important to her that I be baptized. My father, apparently, raised no objections though he was Seventh-Day Adventist.

The second time I was baptized was when I was 10 or 11 years old. I do not recall the exact date, but somewhere in my mother's garage exists an embroidered handkerchief with the date. Obviously, I have lost track of it. I do remember the second baptism. I remember my father told me the parish council thought I was too young -- the SDA church typically baptizes at age 12. I remember talking to Pastor David Brass about my relationship with God. Pastor Brass is one of the nicest Pastors I knew and I will always think of him fondly. When he dunked me three times in the adult font at church, my feet rose to surface each time. My mother found this comical. I cannot quite recall who was there, but we must have had family because there was a pink iced "Congratulations" cake at the Top Gallant Court house in Houston. (We lived there while my Tio Jorge and Tia Lulu were in Kentucky -- it was their home.)

I grew up SDA and, besides an occasional Mass for a wedding or funeral on my mother's side, it was all I knew. My parents believed in God, we prayed at every meal (eaten at home or out), we attended every church service possible, and we carried our Bibles to church every Saturday. My parents were very involved in parish life -- my father on Parish Council, my mom helped with Sabbath School, and both lead the teen group until we moved to San Antonio.

No one knew my father's addiction to pornography or how I found it in second grade. So, when my father had an affair that lasted through my high school years, it came as a shock to our church community.

Dr. Flum, my OB, said once that the beginning of adolescence is when a child finally recognizes a parent's humanity -- his flaws and faults. I had my moment as a sophomore in high school and turned from God when I found out all that had happened in my parents marriage. If Christianity could not provide a stable home, I would find some other truth.

I became an atheist for the remainder of high school and when I turned 18 I no longer went to church with my parents. I volunteered at Planned Parenthood and at an event I discovered the Unitarian Church. I began to attend services and became obsessed with Transcendentalism. Having dispensed with Christianity and searching for truth, I had a natural home in the Unitarian Church.

Before my senior year, when I was 17, I traveled to Greece, Turkey, and Italy on a school trip. Outside the cave where St. John wrote the book of Revelation, I saw a young man wearing a St. John's College t-shirt. I could not believe my luck -- since Sophomore year of high school I was enamored with this college. I had read every piece of literature I could find and was determined to go there.

After being a complete nuisance and obnoxiously irreverent in the cave of St. John, I made a point of connecting with this guy. As it happened, he was Greek Orthodox. I didn't really care as my main goal was to know more about the college. Though he attended the Annapolis campus and I was interested in the Santa Fe Campus, I was so excited to meet someone and get a first hand account of what it was like. He painted an ideal picture for me and I made a point of going.

I went in October of 1997 to visit St. John's College and there in a Sophomore math class I saw the most gorgeous guy ever. He was quiet in his blue hooded sweatshirt, curly brown fro encircling his head like a halo and large glasses framing his green eyes. The Great Books Program plus the promise of cute boys was all I needed -- I applied, was accepted, and started in the fall of 1998.

About half way through Freshman year, I read Plato's dialogue "Timaeus" and began to think about God again. I had read parts of the Kabbalah before I started St. John's and decided that since Christianity had failed me, I would become Jewish. I talked to Jewish friends, attended Purim and Passover meals, and bought a menorah for Hanukkah. Still, it seemed like a majority of being Jewish was ethnicity and I didn't have that background. I wanted to be a part of some ancient tradition but was running up against a wall.

At the time I was dating a guy who converting to Catholicism -- the cute guy from the Sophomore math class was no where to be seen. I began to attend church with the Catholic Catechumen which was a huge step for me. Growing up SDA, I was warned about the Catholic Church. They worshiped idols. The Pope was just Satan in disguise. It was all very evil and suspicious and the Godfather was cited as a reference (or something written by Mario Puzo).

I actually found it quite nice. The hymns were pretty, it had an organized system for services, and I liked the religious art. The statues were a little disconcerting, as were the relics; I was beginning to like Christianity a little better though.

One day in Mass it struck me that Sunday was a celebrated day for all Christians as a commemoration of Christ's resurrection. I mentioned this to my boyfriend at the time and he replied "Um, YEH," in a rather incredulous tone.

I was, as they say, hooked after that. Many of the prayers and Saints were starting to make sense to me. I bought prayer cards of two saints -- St. Joan of Arc and St. Therese of Liseux (the little flower) -- and tried praying. I wanted God, Christ, tradition, ritual -- still something about Catholicism wasn't right. My boyfriend mentioned the "backwards cousins" to the Catholics: the Orthodox. It sounded intriguing to me.

In San Antonio I purchased a copy of The Orthodox Faith by Bishop Kallistos Ware. During Christmas break Sophomore year I began to go to Orthodox services. The biggest listing in the phone book was for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and I went to as many services as I could. I found a little envelope in the pews: check here for tithing, here for other gifts, check here if you are interested in learning more about the Orthodox Church. I checked the box, gave my mom's address, and read all the pamphlets they sent.

It sounded amazing, but I was going back to school and didn't know if there were any Orthodox churches in Santa Fe. I mentioned this to my boss at the time, Matt Johnston. Turned out he was a Catechumen at a local Orthodox church. It was Russian though. I hemmed and hawed about wanting to go, but I didn't want to commit. He said it was no problem, he would pick me up on Sunday. And so I went and never stopped going.

St. Juliana's Russian Orthodox Church was a ROCOR parish under Bishop Gabriel and served by Father Cyprian at the time. Father Cyprian, however, was moving back to Georgia and I would have to wait to be baptized. Still, before the summer, I was made a Catechumen. I could have chosen St. Genevieve for my patroness and kept my old name, Jennifer. But, I never really liked the name anyway. So, I chose "Juliana" because I wanted my children to know where our family became Orthodox. Not that I thought I would have children or get married -- but it like saying "when I win the Lotto" and never playing. It was just one of those things I thought.

I had been accepted to the Minority Medical Education Program in Chicago for the summer before Junior year and planned on working in Admissions half the time. I was in the office when I received a phone call from a mom frantically trying to get arrangements squared away for her son who was going to transfer from Annapolis to Santa Fe for his senior year. Parents were not supposed to call the 1-800 number, but I always disregarded this because I knew long distance rates were high.

After talking with the mom and getting the necessary information to transfer her call, I discovered her son was Phil Navarro, the guy I met outside the cave of St. John in Greece. We were both so excited to connect and she seemed really excited that I was Orthodox. "But I am in a Russian parish," I said. "Oh, it's all the same," she replied.

Matt Johnston had hired his friend Lance Kirmeyer to help out in admissions that summer. The odd thing about St. John's is you knew who everyone was even though you hadn't been introduced. Lance had said "Nice singing" to me in the cafeteria after a chamber choir concert I was in and made some sort of joke about me being bored at the front desk. And he knew my name though we hadn't met. Lance had a pretty sweet deal -- he worked Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I didn't really care for him and it didn't seem like he cared all that much for me.

When I came back from Chicago, it was a different story altogether. I had a traumatic experience in Chicago with folks being a little gruffer than I was used to in the South/Southwest and accommodations less than ideal. Add to that an adventure finding a ROCOR parish in Des Plains and going to a fairly hostile Greek church and it made for interesting stories to share with Lance while we were stuffing envelopes. Turned out he had taken a year off after Sophomore year to travel around the world and he shared his adventures with me. And I had broken up with my boyfriend. And he had kind of stopped seeing, or at least pursuing, some girls he was interested in pursuing. And he covertly asked me out, and we stayed up all night talking, and we just kept hanging out. Once evening, about 2 am, I realized he was the guy I saw when I visited St. John's as a prospective student. After a series of questions about where he was Sophomore year, it turned out he was the guy. The guy!

Now, I was becoming Orthodox and a new priest was on the way to St. Juliana's. And Lance was very interested in me and doing things very un-Orthodox even for a Catechumen. What was I do to?

To be continued...