The Right Tools For The Job

Copyright © 2014 Molly Sabourin

Yesterday I was drooling over irons at Target, which I realize as I type this makes me sound far less glamorous than I actually am. I mean I do have other interests besides ironing, like organizing my gift wrapping supplies, collecting cook books I’ll rarely use, bulk shopping at Costco…oh good grief, never mind. OK, so on paper my life might seem a tad mundane and ordinary. I can assure you in reality it is all kinds of extraordinary to me.

But anyway, back to ironing. Ironing is a chore I have admittedly wrestled with for years because it takes me an insane amount of time to accomplish, like a ridiculous amount of time. Recently, while at my in-laws, I discovered the root of my problem, however, whilst ironing a wrinkled blouse I had packed, using their iron – a hotter and heavier iron than the cheapy one I’ve owned for most of my marriage. Wow! It took me half the time to get that bloused pressed! It turns out I’m not an entirely incompetent ironer after all; it’s just my tool for completing that particular task is insufficient. Thus I am saving my pennies for an upgrade. Can you hardly wait to find out which iron I’ll choose?! SO exciting, right?

Having the right tools for a job can make all the difference in the world. Right now, for instance, it is freezing cold and snowy outside and our neighbor with the snowblower is clearing out his driveway, and our sidewalk, in a fraction of the time it is taking our other neighbor with his shovel. I’ve learned the same lesson with photography. My lens choice can make or break an image. I have domestic tools I rely on, professional tools, sanity saving tools (good books, a stainless steel travel mug, an internet radio…), and thanks to my Orthodox Christian faith a treasury of spiritual tools, which I have an even greater appreciation for as of late.

My youngest daughter was having difficulty getting back into her routine after Christmas break. I totally get that! Sometimes the thought of an unknown tomorrow requiring more effort and energy than we feel we can conjure up is too much to bear, especially on the heels of a nice long quiet respite from homework and busyness. Her insides were all knotty and unsettled resulting in more than a few tears, and she was looking to me for help in mustering up some courage.

I took her upstairs to our prayer corner where she carefully lit each candle and assisted me in getting the incense going. There, with the heavenly beauty of the icons surrounding us and the scent of holiness in the air, she read aloud from her children’s prayer book:

O Lord, grant me to greet this day in peace, help me in all things to trust in You, guide my will all day long, bless all those who I meet today, help me to not get frustrated, angry or hurt, but to have Your peace in my heart. In all that I do, guide my thoughts and feelings. Help me to be wise and to not embarrass or hurt anyone. Grant me strength to work this day, guide my will, and teach me to pray. Amen.

Inspired by the remembrance that God and His saints and His angels would be accompanying her to school, she grabbed her St. Nicholas necklace from her jewelry box and put it on. She also took a sip of Holy Water for good measure. Witnessing my daughter’s strength be girded up by these tangible and merciful instruments of faith providing her access to a bigger eternal perspective warmed my soul. It also renewed my determination to douse our entire home with the sounds and sights and smells of heaven on earth.

Copyright © 2014 Molly Sabourin

See, my four kids, two of whom are teenagers, aren’t all that interested in canned pep talks, drawn out lectures and wordy explanations. Last year in fact when my oldest daughter was in seventh grade and I was in the habit of smothering her with snippets of wisdom I had acquired after surviving my own junior high dramas a thousand years ago, she finally requested  I cool it a little with the serious mother/daughter heart-to-heart talks. She wants, and needs, to figure things out on her own by trial and error, gaining understanding through experience,  leaning on me for support when the going gets rough. My job right now is to provide a safe and uplifting haven from the chaos and confusion my children face in the world. The greatest gift I can give my family is a tranquil home environment filled with seen prayer, heard prayer, sung prayer, communal prayer, prayer in response to both heartache and joy, prayer in the form of hospitality, my own ceaseless prayer on their behalf, prayer as a way of life.

 

Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts. That is, you shouldn’t give guidance to your children with a voice that they hear with their ears. You may do this too, but above all you should speak to God about your children. Say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I entrust them to You. You gave them to me, but I am weak and unable to guide them, so, please, illuminate them”…. It is not sufficient for the parents to be devout. They mustn’t oppress the children to make them good by force. We may repel our children from Christ when we pursue the things of our religion with egotism.

-Elder Porphyrios

Copyright © 2014 Molly Sabourin

Of course my sons and daughters will have to struggle. I cannot prevent them from stumbling as I have stumbled. I cannot protect them from all suffering, nor should I try to, as hard as that is! But what I can absolutely do is make readily available the tools they’ll need to gain access to unearthly peace when in the midst of their necessary suffering. I can show them by example what it looks like to cast one’s cares upon Christ, every day, every minute, and find rest. My greatest hope is that the faith exhibited by their father and me will be a lasting source of comfort to them, pointing them wordlessly in the direction of the narrow path that leads to truth, love and salvation.

Lord have mercy on my not so little babies! Into your hands I commend their spirits. Bless them, save them and grant them eternal life!

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I am the 70 year old mother of a 44 year old daughter who is going through very difficult times. This post was helpful for me. I love your insight into things and I wish I knew then (when my own children were young) what I know now. God is merciful and we can trust him with all things.

    1. Blessings, Olga! My own mom always tells me that it never gets easier. She still hurts when her grown children are hurting and struggling. Nothing has driven me to prayer like motherhood. It’s a humbling, amazing, faith inducing vocation. I take much comfort in the fact that God loves my children even more than I do and that His mercy is new every morning! Peace be with you and your daughter!

  2. I, too, Olga, am an older mother of adult children who were not raised with these wonderful tools. I felt gladness that this young mom has them, and regret for my suffering adult children. But, I have read those wise words of St. Porphyrios and written them down a few months ago, and I ask for his intercession and help often. I have come to believe in God’s mercy as well.

  3. Thanks for this post and your blog in general, Molly. My wife and I–by God’s grace and mercy–will culminate a journey of over four years on Lazarus Saturday this year when our family of five (+1 in the oven) is baptized and chrismated into the Church. We’re dealing with extended family tensions as well as the stress of having one car and attending a parish that’s 25 miles from home (toll roads all the way!). We are rarely able to attend services outside of Divine Liturgy, and even then we have to arrive late because two of our children are under the age of 3 and can’t make it through a full Liturgy w/o meltdown.

    Because of the logistics we face, we’ve been starkly aware of the fact that the home environment will be all the more important for our enrichment in the Orthodox faith, for our sanity, and for our children to develop the spiritual hunger we desire for them. So for these reasons, your blog is a treasure. I’ve been consuming “high” Orthodoxy in the form of books, blogs and podcasts for years now, but my wife and I are woefully behind on building and implementing an Orthodox Christian culture in our home. We need (my wife especially) just the sort of humor, truth, grace and “plainness” you’re providing to the AF Blogs lineup. Thanks and God bless!

    1. Greetings, Josh! Thank you so much for your comment. I was very encouraged by your kind words and will add your precious family to my prayers as you continue on your spiritual journey together! Peace to you and your wife as you grow in the Orthodox faith, one little step at a time. I am ever stumbling and getting up again right along with you! : )

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