Welcome to MyOrthodoxFamily.com! Tell us who you are.
I grew up in the Church, the daughter of a cantor and a servant of the church in so many capacities, all of my life. I was crowned in marriage to a believing man and now I am the mother of the next generation of the faith. We homeschooled them through high school, and I taught Eastern Christian Formation at my parish for years until, sadly, it was apparent that there were no more students in our congregation to teach but my own children and so our formation program was closed. When my children all grew into adulthood it occurred to me that these lessons, that I worked so hard to develop and that brought me and my family so much closer to Christ and to His saints and had given us so many joyful memories, were just sitting there, while other moms I knew were desperately looking for resources. I have always believed that children learn best by doing and so there were many activities, games, recipes, and crafts that I had developed to help them remember different aspects of the faith. With these, I decided to start a website for Eastern Christian moms, a blog, ByziMom.com, where I share my perspective on various aspects of Byzantine life, a children’s monthly publication, ByziKids Magazine, and a few books and ebooks along the way. I have poured my lesson plans and my heart into each of these projects to help other “ByziMoms” educate their own little saints in the faith for the past two years.
What do you most enjoy sharing? What do you feel most called to share?
Living a faith-filled life is a rare thing these days. Not many attempt it and when they do, they find precious little support. My own children live in an environment where they rarely hear a choir, see a procession, or even witness a full church at Divine Liturgy. I worry that if we who love the faith and all its richness, do not promote it and share it with those around us, it may be lost. I love to share our Eastern Christian lifestyle with anyone and everyone, and it’s fair to say that I love to learn from other Eastern Christians of different jurisdictions and traditions just as much as I love to show them my own perspective! For example, I was asked about five years ago to lead a group of my friends, who were not Eastern Christian, during the Great Fast to help them understand what our fasting regimen was like. The group quickly grew to include over 500 people, some seasoned Orthodox fasters, some clergy, some real beginners, some Roman Catholics, and even those with no real affiliation with any church at all who expressed an interest in fasting practice and had asked to come along for the ride. I am pleased to say that the group is thriving today, learning and sharing recipes and stories about the spiritual and physical transformation we attempt each season. I’ve learned so much there and have had the opportunity to help guide others through the experience which transforms me little-by-little, every season. We all walk along the path to theosis together! It amazes me to learn just how similar we all are in our love for Christ, even if we express that love in various ways.
The world of social media is complex. What do you see as difficult and as redemptive about sharing your journey in this way?
It is difficult because it is lonely, especially now, during the pandemic restrictions. I may connect with hundreds of followers daily, but days may also go by without physically seeing another fellow believer, except for those in my household. Even on Sundays, we have no meetings, no fellowship with others, no support system. The concept of a “church family” is lost to us now. It is difficult that social media has become the primary way for me to connect with like-minded moms, but praise God that I can! If not for this medium some of us may not see Christian fellowship in our daily lives at all! It has also been a way for me to connect with and gain inspiration from so many extraordinary people whom I would have never met otherwise.
What is your earliest, distinctly Orthodox memory?
When I was a little girl, I was lucky enough to have gone to a mission church near my home with many other young families who had a true love for tradition. Many in the congregation, like my own mother, were new to the traditions of the Eastern Church, but recognizing their richness and beauty, they were eager to learn them and teach them to us children. One of my fondest Christmas memories was of wearing a white angel’s robe and stovepipe hat, both made by my mother, with gold ribbon wound about me in an X-shape. My sisters were similarly dressed, and my brother was dressed as a little shepherd. We were in an ancient Nativity play, one we had heard many stories about as having been performed in the old country, before our families had settled here. We were small enough to not have to memorize any lines, just a song in Old Slavonic which we sang with all our hearts. We had often heard of how the men of the village in Europe would travel from house to house after Holy Supper on Christmas eve, carrying a miniature church, reciting the same lines and singing the same songs. They would be offered a drink and some food as they went, joyfully spreading the message that the angels had once given to the shepherds on that other cold night. My grandparents came to watch us at the church after Liturgy, smiling as they heard the familiar message, this time said in the unfamiliar English. Perhaps they remembered having seen this as a child, or even participated in it as we were doing. Perhaps they thought they might never witness this event again in their lifetime.
What do you hope will be the mark you leave on the world as you pass through it?
My greatest hope is that I am a strong link in the chain of believers that stretches from Christ Himself throughout time, winds through the ages, and channels back to reach Him when He comes again. I hope to be an example of true motherhood, which loves as Christ loves, and inspires many to give all of themselves to nourish others. I hope my children, remembering our joyful lessons, will love Christ and His Church always and teach their own children to do so with all their hearts.