Five Questions: Vanny

Welcome to! Tell us who you are.

My story starts with my mother. My mother is Cambodian. In the late 70’s, she escaped to a Refugee Camp in Thailand during the tumultuous time of civil war in Cambodia where many Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge headed up by Pol Pot. She met and married my father in the camp, and I was born a few years later. Sadly, my father was shot and killed shortly after I was born. Through the grace of God, my mother and I were sponsored to the States when I was almost three, and we settled in Tennessee where I lived through college. I had the blessing of growing up in Church under the wings of my pastor’s family, who basically adopted us into their family. I learned to love Jesus from a very young age.

I have the privilege of being married to my best friend, which was a dream that God so lovingly granted. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this past July. Together we have five kids, four girls ages 12, 8, 6, and 5, and a son, who we thought would never come along, age 2. I’ve been fortunate to get to stay at home with my children ever since our first came along. My husband and I have moved around a fair bit, having started out in Texas, then Tennessee, then Washington State, back to Texas, then Utah, and now back in Texas. We’ve had one of our children born in every state that we’ve lived in except Tennessee.

Due to the pandemic, we have found ourselves formally homeschooling our kids, which is something I thought I would never do. It has been quite a learning experience for all of us. I have found though that I have enjoyed being actively involved in helping my children grow in their education and faith since we are able to incorporate more Orthodox practices and teachings into our curriculum than if they were to attend a regular school.

Without being too long-winded, I also love being creative and making things with my hands. That includes, but is not limited to, baking, crocheting, knitting, writing, singing, and beautifying the spaces in our home.

What do you most enjoy sharing? What do you feel most called to share?

I love talking about the things of God. I want to help people move towards and discover more deeply the life-giving beauty that comes from God, His Word, and His creation. I feel most joy when I am able to encourage and do for others.

The world of social media is complex. What do you see as difficult and as redemptive about sharing your journey in this way?

Social media can easily be a form of distraction and cause us to forget ourselves. There is so much that comes across our feed that can induce us to envy, compare, criticize, judge, etc. But I also love being able to take in nuggets of Truth and Beauty and stories of hope and redemption that also come through my feed. I want to be one of those people that can inject Beauty, Goodness, and Truth into some else’s life, thereby leading them to the ultimate Source of it all.

What is your earliest, distinctly Orthodox memory?

After my husband had been researching and inquiring into Orthodoxy for a few years on his own, we had the opportunity to visit an OCA parish in San Antonio while on a “Babymoon” before our third child came along. I had no real investment in Orthodoxy at that point. My husband was more nervous and anxious than I was about actually stepping into the church. I noticed the distinct differences between that church and our normal Evangelical church. There were no pews except for a few lining the back walls. There was an icon stand in the middle of the church where people walked in and venerated the icons. There were candles that were lit, and the smell of incense hung heavily in the air. I had no clue what was going on. Yet, I sensed a deep sense of sacredness and reverence among the people.

Little did I know, I would embark on my own Orthodox journey and be received with my family into the Orthodox Church two years later. Glory to God!

What do you hope will be the mark you leave on the world as you pass through it?

This life is so short, and nothing reminded me more of that than losing my sister-in-law to a drug overdose at the age of 31 this past January. As the events that have unfolded since then have shown me, life is highly unpredictable, and so much can change in the blink of an eye. I want to be remembered as someone who was always pointing to Christ as I attempted to love those around me to the best of my ability.

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