Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Finally, the long-awaited pictures from our Chrismation! I've been quite busy trying to keep my rapidly swelling feet elevated which is not particularly conducive to blogging as that places my typing hands within an awkward position snaked about my very large girth and reaching toward the keyboard...

At any rate, the whole week last week was full of frustrations and doubts for me. It was obvious the enemy of our souls wanted to create strife in those same souls but Sunday morning did eventually roll around and find us all healthy and ready. Although, as we all walked out the front door in our neatly pressed white garments there was more than the usual sibling bantering and verbal battering. Even the 5 minute drive to where we hold services proved near fatal to a deer that lunged headlong in front of the (rental) van - an occasion never before witnessed by my husband who has been driving this road for nigh 20 years now.

We arrived at the church unscathed, however, and almost early by Orthodox standards of time (i.e. only a few minutes late). The first thing we did was take off everyone's shoes and line them up along the wall. Fr. Greg had promised the children that they could go through the whole service - including Divine Liturgy - unshod and so we abandoned the shoes first thing (of course this wouldn't be unusual for some jurisdictions but is not common practice in the Ukrainian church). If you're counting pairs you might notice one pair missing - David didn't even bother to wear his into the van...and, yes, we allowed JM to wear his new Cars "crops" to church since they wouldn't be seen anyway...Nathan suddenly decided he loves to wear his shoes and socks and it took us several minutes to mute his protestations at the injustice of us doing something to him which he would normally do on his own within moments of being shod in the first place (his miniature wing tips are in between Betsy's and Ruth's sandals).

To begin with, we gathered all the children in the back where Fr. Greg asked us Do you wish to enter into union with the Orthodox-Catholic Faith?I do! Here I got a hit over the head with a tremendous peace and calm. All my fears, worries and doubts were dispelled as I clearly stated the whole purpose of all our preparations. The YES of my children from a couple of days before settled once and for all within my own soul and the rest was a wonderful ride into the arms of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Greg laid his hands on each one of us as he prayed for us O Lord God of Truth, look down upon Thy servants who seek to make haste unto They Holy Orthodox Church, and to take refuge under her shelter.Those words, under her shelter...Finally I knew that I'm safe, moored on a rock and no more shifting around in the sands of the divided church. In the CEC we talked about women finding shelter under the authority of and submission to their husbands, the bishops and the presbyters. In Orthodoxy it is the Living Church Herself who shelters the faithful - and has been doing so uninterrupted for 2,000 years....Yes, This is a safe place....

We then got to renounce the various teachings we'd followed. We'd had an extensive conversation with Fr. Greg determining which set of questions would define those teachings for us considering our meandering path through much of Christianity. We settled on a set of teachings, the most important of which for us was the opportunity to renounce our recitation of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. Those three simple words - and the Son - have proven to be the core of just about every conflict we had within the church to that point. It was so good to renounce them, put them behind us, recite the creed as a family without them, and truly walk into our new church home one with the Orthodox faith and teaching.

We were now ready to enter the church with the saints awaiting us. Fr. Greg offered up the part of his vestments called the Epitrachelion and each one of us held onto it as we walked into the temple reciting Psalm 66. He led us to the Ambon where had been placed a Gospel, a cross, and the Chrism. Fr. Greg urged us Stand aright. Stand with fear. And before the Gospel and the Holy Cross of the Savior affirm your vow and each one of us in turn from Tad on down to the Nathan then kissed the Gospel book and the cross.

Next came the fun part. Fr. Greg anointed each of us with the Holy Chrism announcing with each sign of the cross Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit to which the congregation responded each time Seal!

Each of us in turn was marked with the Holy Chrism on our Forehead - SEAL! Eyes - SEAL! Nostrils - SEAL! Ears - SEAL! Mouth - SEAL! Chest -SEAL! Hands- SEAL! and Feet - SEAL! Nathan was none too enthusiastic about this part but Betsy and Ben in particular were beaming with joy. I think Ginny took this picture just to prove to me that I do have feet at this point in my pregnancy. I was beginning to doubt...

After the oiling up, there was general sponging down on all the same spots for each one of us and that was the celebration of the Holy Sacrament of Chrismation. We paused here for a few photo opportunities. There were so many cameras lined up across the row in front of us that you can see none of us were looking at the same one at the same time. This picture is our family in our white garments with Fr. Greg and our dear sponsors Ginny and Joe.

The kids were then able to take their Chrismated, barefoot selves and have a seat while Tad and I received the sacrament of Confession - a much-needed catharsis as we had much to put behind us and now much more to which we could look forward. With my hand on the Gospel and the icon of Christ before me, this sacrament took on new meaning and touched me deeply.

We celebrated after Divine Liturgy - during which we all received Eucharist for the first time in the Holy Orthodox church - with a picnic at our house. It was a wonderful time during which we were really able to feel a part of our new church family. Their love and generosity was apparent throughout our whole catechumenate and especially during this special celebration. Tracy brought us a flower. She had carefully picked over each one, counting blooms, until she found one with 9 blooms and a couple buds carefully tucked under the leaves. We thought that was so neat. I'll try to water it, but it will be a challenge!

The parish photographer, Alex, and his wife presented us with a large, framed print of this picture which had been taken during the bishop's visit last month - yet another beautiful gesture that said to us clearly we are part of this family. We have been included in the family photo album, grafted into the family tree, adopted into this Church. The bishop himself had expressed a desire to be there with us for our Chrismation celebration. He spoke to Fr. Greg shortly before the big event and expressed his sadness that he would not be able to make it. However, he specifically requested that Fr. Greg send him all of our Chrismation names so that he could offer prayers for us during the Divine Liturgy in whichever parish he happened to be this day. One special gesture after another after another....

Ginny and Joe gave us an icon to add to our slowly building collection. This one got hung immediately on the partition wall facing the dining room. It had already been blessed by Father. Ginny and Joe also offered another tremendous gift of their time and talent specifically for JT, Ruth and Miriam. Ginny makes beautifully decorated cakes which those three have never been able to try due to their dietary limitations so Ginny, determined to make them feel loved and included, spent several days converting her own cake recipe to Feingold specifications. The cake was gorgeous, tasted fantastic and made three of our brood in particular very, very happy. They did, indeed, feel loved.

Pani Chris had crosses for each of the children and then Fr. Greg presented us with an icon that came with a story. It seems about 5 years ago one of the parishioners traveled to a parish where he knew he would be able to buy some special icons that he thought the parish could then use to give as gifts as needed. He came home with 5 icons - 4 of which were common icons of Christ and were, indeed, given as gifts as a couple of years passed by. The fifth one, Fr. Greg said, was just a little odd - not bad, just different - and he wasn't sure to whom it could possibly be given as an appropriate gift. His conundrum was solved, however, when our family arrived at the church door and became catechumens. It quickly became apparent that this icon had been sitting in his office for the past five years patiently awaiting the arrival of our family. Receiving this icon as a special gift was the final affirmation for our whole family that we had come home. God knew just how to welcome us into this new family and had had the mercy to show us once again that all things come together for His glory and that He does, indeed, have a plan for us.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chrismation - Tad's Recollections


Yesterday, we all got up early, washed up, dressed, fed the little ones, then everyone lined up while my dear wife put clean white shirts on all the kids as we prepared for chrismation. Even the van was white for the occasion (a rental while we await Clifford's repair). Naturally, hassle after hassle kept cropping up, from whining toddlers to lost car keys to almost colliding with a deer (in a section of town where I have never, ever seen a deer in over twenty years of driving through it). But, we made it to our mission church's borrowed temple space, and after removing everyone's shoes (my wife will put some pics up on her blog soon), we entered into the Christmation Rite.

My poor wife has been assailed with doubts and challenges all week, but they really didn't start for me until we began the "cleansing" by renouncing all manner of misguided beliefs. The key one for me was the renunciation of the "filioque", because I believe that this single word is the root of all the troubles the Church struggles with in the modern age, especially the charismania with which we have been up close and personal. Anyway, as these waves of random doubts and fears passed over my soul, I assuaged them by reminding myself of all the fine, upstanding Orthodox Christians I know, then those whose writings I admire (Anastasia Theodoris, FMG, Fr Alexander Schmemann, Fr Thomas Hopko), then to the great saints of the Church (St John Chrysostom, the Great Cappadocians, and so many more), and it suddenly struck me that this was what the Communion of Saints was all about -- that great "cloud of witnesses" that serves to strengthen and guide us through our fears and uncertainties. Then, the next thing I know, Father has the oil out, people are shouting "Sealed!", and then I've crossed that bridge and now stand as one with the saints of Orthodoxy. One by one the rest of my family joined me, and then we all stood together surrounded by the saints and the hosts of heaven.

The rest of the day was a joy. We had invited the parish over to our house to celebrate with a cookout, and it was great to welcome our new parish family into our home to sit, chat, eat, and get to know each other just a little bit better. They brought us some beautiful icons, which I hope we can get pics up soon. The weather was perfect, and everyone had a great time.

That night, after everything got cleaned up and my wife and I were relaxing, we compared notes on how we felt at the end of this long adventure. "Safe" was her word. "Home" was mine -- but not in the sense of returning to anything, but more in the sense of how we would refer to our adopted children on their arrival days as "bringing them home". We have been adopted home, and it is a good feeling indeed.

Many thanks to everyone who have supported and prayed for us during this time. May God grant you many years!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Yesterday Fr. Greg came and met with the children to discuss any of their questions and go over the Chrismation service, Eucharist, etc. He was explaining to them how we would stand in the back and not enter the church until we had answered some questions and then went on to tell them what the questions would be. The first question, he said, would be Do you want to become members of the Holy Orthodox church? He wasn't expecting an answer, he was just listing off the questions, but when he asked that three of the children shouted out "YES!" That's when it hit me. Yes! I want to become a member of the Holy Orthodox church. My children are excited - even Ben and JT are on board - and seeing that excitement in my children woke up a spark in me long dormant. My children have some intuitive sense that this is right and good but I think I've been hesitant to get excited, to fully enter in, to allow myself to be fully engaged and it took that resounding YES from my children to jumpstart my own sense of adventure and joy. I suddenly pictured us taking that first step across the threshold into the church (oh if only we actually had a church building and we could walk into the middle of the domed Christ!) and becoming something new.

A friend emailed me early in the week. She wouldn't be able to come to the Chrismation but her heart is with us and she reminded me that we may be attacked by the enemy of our souls this week. She was right - and the attacks came from people we know and love - people from our last church who just kept showing up all week in our lives and inadvertently reminding me of the mess we left. I should have been encouraged and glad to be moving on but instead I found myself feeling bogged down with old emotions, past guilts, insecurities that have no place in our current life.

I don't want that victory to belong to the evil one. I want the victory to be Christ's. I want more than anything else to join my children and my dear husband in saying YES! YES, this is solid ground. YES, this is a dwelling place of the Holy Trinity. And YES, this will be a safe home for us.


For those who don't follow the family blog, we've decided to name the baby Talitha Hope and we've been calling her Tali. Tad, in his infinitely clever sense of humor, has since dubbed me Talitokos - Tali Bearer....You know it's time for Chrismation when we've developed inside Orthodox jokes...One more day!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Getting Ready...

Last Sunday it gave my heart a little thrill when I went up for a blessing during Eucharist and Fr. Greg mumbled "2 more weeks" as he blessed me with the chalice. Now it is just one more week as next Sunday our whole family will celebrate the sacrament of Chrismation together and receive Eucharist after a long, dry many months. We are excited to become an official part of this parish which we have grown to love and to be one with the Holy Orthodox Church. There are still lots of questions and particularly that nagging question in the backs of our minds, but I think we are ready. We are ready to be a part of something ancient and wonderful and mysterious that will take us the rest of our lives to unwrap. If you live nearby and would like to celebrate with us, please come. It would mean the world to us to share this new expression of our faith with friends and family - or even perfect strangers who just want to taste and see a bit of Orthodoxy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who's to say it won't happen again?

And, seeing that we have already left at least one church with enthusiasm for another, what is going to keep us from doing the same thing down the road?

This question was posed on the On Our Way Home forum and I wanted to post my response here because it has been very much on my mind these past months. There is much more I could say about it but this sums up my thoughts.

I ask myself this question daily - sometimes hourly as our Chrismation date approaches. I embraced my PA Dutch Lutheran heritage with loyal gusto, I jumped into the charismatic movement in the Episcopal church and followed that thread around for years and through several denominations, I went into the Roman Catholic church kicking and screaming until I realized God had a great plan for my time there and there is much to love about it and then we found the CEC and that was going to be our final resting place - the one church that had it all - and it turned out to be a lie, a failure, the most painful stop on our journey.

Orthodoxy is like nothing we've ever experienced and yet everything we've been searching for but how can we know? How can we know we won't betray Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy won't betray us? We just can't. All we can do is cling to the hope that God does guide us even when we fail to hear correctly. And, there is really nowhere else left for us - short of jumping into a cult, we've pretty much been there, done that.

Honestly, I am still struggling with why we ended up in the CEC. Many have tried to console us with the God molding, shaping and making us lemonade argument but I just can't buy it yet. Maybe with more time and distance I will but I still feel like it was all a big mistake in judgement that could have been avoided. I am ashamed to say that out of my own prelest, I wanted a place where I could be prophetic and be heard. I found it...and my so-called prophetic words were twisted and used to justify prideful and hurtful decisions. This may be the foundational reason for me that Orthodoxy is where we belong now. They call pride what it is and seek after nothing less than the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit. But boy does that look different to the Orthodox than to this former charismaniac! When I grow old I want to be able to dispense some small wisdom with simply a quiet wink and a nod - and even then recognize that I am but nothing in the ages upon ages.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Hierarch in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!

One of our visitors along with our bishop last month was Fr. Dan. We had encountered Fr. Dan once or twice before and each time he proved to be a very effervescent and enthusiastic priest. He was wonderfully playful with the children and very warm with everyone. This past weekend he was consecrated as a bishop at the Ukrainian cathedral in Parma, Ohio. Fr. Greg was able to travel to Ohio for the event (he and Fr. Dan were seminary buddies) and returned home full of wonderful stories and descriptions of the various ceremonies throughout the weekend. You can read about his consecration here.

Tad and I have been struck by the process of choosing and training new bishops in the Orthodox church. It makes sense that only those priests called to celibacy would be allowed to become bishops. The travel and pastoral duties of a bishop are definitely much better fulfilled without the addition of a family to support emotionally, physically and certainly financially as well. Fr. Dan was consecrated an auxiliary bishop first which means that in his youth (both physically and as a newly-consecrated hierarch) he will spend time learning how to be a bishop. He will travel quite a bit, observe a lot and take the time to absorb and learn even more. I found his remarks to the Hierachs of the church to be quite revealing of his humility and the humility required of the episcopal office. So much so, that I think they are worth repeating here:

“The will of the faithful of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Holy Synod of the Great Church of Christ call me this day to the most responsible service and authority of a Bishop, successor to the Apostles and witness to the words and deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is with the profound sense of humility that I stand in front of you my brothers hierarchs, reverend fathers and brothers and sisters in the Lord and reflect upon my unworthiness to receive this call and be chosen for this profound service and responsibility – a bishop in our Lord’s blessed Vineyard.

I cannot help but to reflect upon the words of Holy Apostle Paul, describing the moral standards and characteristics of Episcopal service: “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered … but hospitable, a lover of what is good, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”

A steward of God…. Am I worthy of this responsibility? Were the Apostles worthy of this responsibility?

They were simple people – fishing, collecting taxes – doing the things ordinary people do to live. Then something happened. They were called by someone and sent somewhere. And when that happened, everything changed. They saw themselves differently, went places they never thought of going before, thought thoughts that never would have come into their heads, and did things they never would have seen themselves doing. Their world turned upside down. They were called and sent – and everything was rearranged.

Standing in front of you I also reflect upon the words of Holy Prophet Isaiah, the very words that our Savior Jesus Christ once spoke at the beginning of his public ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted… to announce a year of favor from the Lord…"
One of the first duties of a bishop is the proclamation of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I humbly realize that as a bishop, I will now enjoy the privileged responsibility of teaching the faith and proclaiming a word of hope and encouragement to people not only of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA but to people of all cultures and languages. Although the circumstances may vary, ultimately, it is one same Word that people need to hear—the Good News of our Risen Lord.

In the Holy Priesthood - as bishops, priests, and deacons, we are ministers of God's Word, a Word that we can only proclaim to others if we have first heard it in the silence of our hearts through prayer.

Our work of evangelization naturally leads people to the Lord's altar, to a desire to share in the mystery of His Death and Resurrection through the Holy Mystery Eucharist and the other Mysteries of the Church.

My beloved brothers: as a shepherd, bishop is concerned not only for the unity of the Church, but also in looking for ever-new ways to promote the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception until natural death. As a teacher, bishop is not only handing on and renewing our Orthodox faithful in their understanding of the Faith, but he is also called to articulate our faith values and show how they apply to the many social issues of our times. I beg you to pray for me so that I have the strength to become a voice speaking on behalf of the basic human rights for all people. Because of my faith and ethnic background, heritage, and somewhat limited experience, I hope to have a special opportunity to witness to the special needs of people; to help others become ever-more sensitive to cultural diversity and the way our Church and our country will be stronger as we learn to share the gifts and resources with one another.

I solemnly realize that as a shepherd among my own - Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Christian community, I must deepen my own holiness through the exercise of my episcopal ministry among the people of God. I pray that my availability and sensitivity to the clergy and laity alike will be a source of joy and encouragement for them and for myself as well. I will do everything possible to help to build up the unity of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church by involvement in the work of the parishes and institutions and organizations of our Church throughout the world that continue the teaching and healing ministry of our Risen Lord.
This evening, I spiritually prostrate myself before the Lord, acknowledging my human weakness and dependence on God’s mercy. Then, in all humility, with every fiber of my being I shall arise from the posture of prostration – a sign of my complete self-giving – and come forward for the most powerful but ever silent gesture of the descent of the Holy Spirit - laying on of hands, the central act of Episcopal consecration, a reminder that ordination brings a whole new identity, a new way of living.

I am being called to this ministry in order to serve in the name of the Lord. May I always remember that He alone is my life source and that all ministry will be effective and fruitful only to the extent that I must forget myself and allow Christ to work through me.
The obedience that I am pledging this day is not simply committing myself to a particular eparchy for a certain number of years. Rather, my obedience must embrace an attitude whereby I freely and completely immerse myself in this service and this Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church with all of its gifts and needs.

I prayerfully reflect upon the question posed to the sons of Zebedee in the Gospel: “Can you drink this cup?” As I am consecrated and then drink of the Cup each day, may I be renewed by the love for the Lord and His Holy Church. May the Holy Spirit come down upon you, my beloved hierarchs and our whole Church, blessing all of us who serve together in His Name.
And so, with fear of God, I anticipate the descent of the Holy Spirit and with a child-like attitude I beg you, my beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord to remember me in your prayers, and you, my beloved hierarchs, I beg to bless me and remember me, a sinner, in your prayers so that the Lord will send down His Divine Grace and make me a worthy servant of His Church for His Glory and salvation of others. Amen.”

This is yet another of our hierarchs well on his way to restoring my faith in the true apostolic leadership of the church. May God grant him many years!


It's been raining like the dickens here for a couple of days. Last night we sat on the sofa and heard a couple of rescue vehicles roar down the road and turn into what seemed like either our neighborhood or one very close by. We opened our front door to investigate and the smell of smoke filled the doorway from the outside air. It brought back so many memories since it smelled exactly like our house did after the fire three years ago. We sat back down and started chatting about it when I realized that JT was really struggling. Within minutes he was in tears and shaking on the sofa. He was so concerned about the fire that he asked his dad to go out and investigate but couldn't bring himself to go along. He was worried about the people in the fire, he was worried about the house, he was just one big ball of worry. I encouraged him to pray for the people who had been affected by it since he could understand all the emotions they might be feeling. He snuggled with me on the sofa until Tad returned with the report that the fire was across the main road from our development, looked like it had started in a garage and also looked like it had been reduced to smoldering fairly quickly.

I asked JT if knowing made him feel better and he said, "yeah". I asked if he'd been praying for them and he said "Yes." That was a touching moment. He's been struggling so much with his faith lately that to see him go to Jesus when he is feeling most vulnerable and frightened was very encouraging. It's also helpful that our new Orthodox faith provides us with such a simple way to cover all the bases when we just need to cry out to God in our own weakness and inadequacy - "Lord have mercy" speaks volumes to the soul.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I had the following email exchange with a friend of mine concerning the post about Pascha. She is a cradle Episcopalian whose father was an Episcopal minister. I love her sense of humor...

I really enjoy your blog about the Orthodox Church.
I was intrigued by the expression "flesh-meat". As a history teacher, I can tell you even as late as the American Revolution, "meat" was a generic name for food - e.g., Thou givest them their meat in due season. "Sauce" was anything that accompanied the main dish - vegetables, bread, etc. but not necessarily gravy! So flesh-meat would be an archaic (but entirely correct) way of announcing the end of Lent without specifying ham, beef, lamb, and so forth.
Very nifty.

Too funny, Dani. You always have such a different perspective - do you mind if I post your comment in the comments section of my blog?

And as far as flesh-meat being archaic, that's Orthodoxy in a nut-shell. The joke goes

Q. How many Orthodox Christians does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. (insert your favorite ethnic accent) Change? What is this thing you call change?!

We are indeed enjoying "Bright Week" with the consumption of lots of flesh-meat!


"Change? Why?! my grandmother donated that light bulb to the church!"
Someplace around here I have a thing about how many Episcopalians it takes to change a light bulb, and the answer is 306, or some such number.
One organist to write a cantata "Phos Luminate", and a choir of twenty to sing it, plus the secretary to type up the bulletin, the rector to lead the service, a crucifer and two acolytes, and a congregation of two hundred to sit in the pews and wonder if this is ever going to end.
And the sexton to actually change the bulb!
And, yes, you may add my little history lesson to your comments section!

The Tyranny of the Mentally Ill

It's been two weeks since Noah's grandmother walked away with him and decided not to let us parent him. So many have offered their prayers for us and for Noah and I can tell that the prayers of the righteous are indeed effective as promised in the scriptures. Thanks to those prayers, we have been blessed with a lot of clarity in thought and feeling over the past two weeks. Initially, I was heart-broken to have only an empty crib left of the little life we spent the last 8 months raising and nurturing and bringing to emotional health. Then something interesting began to happen. We began to realize that in many ways we are greatly relieved. In my heart that seems selfish and childish but as our minds and hearts began to clear, we recognized the many ways that Noah's grandmother held us in her control.

Our parenting of him, unfortunately, had very little to do with Noah and everything to do with his grandmother. I was not able to do anything with Noah without wondering if my way of doing it would upset his grandmother, would be the source of yet another confrontation, would be met with criticism - and I mean anything - from wiping his jiggly little dupa to dressing him to handling his therapists and filling his sippy cup. We realized that, while we thought we were drifting more and more into a parental role, his grandmother had never really given up an ounce of control. On many days, I wondered which child was more difficult to raise - Noah or his 63 year old grandmother. Without Noah in our home, we are finally getting out from under what I've been thinking of as the Tyranny of the Mentally Ill. It feels good to not have to worry about every minute decision I make in a child's life, to not grimace when the phone rings, to not plan my arguments and plot the boundaries I'll be laying down that day...

We have an interesting call on our marriage and our family. We take people in. We adopt children whom others have spent time messing up before they get to us. We bring in young mothers and their babies. We provide respite for other parents who can't get past the next minute without a break from their children who have serious needs (and, thankfully, the favor is returned). And we listen...a people, moms, dads who have been affected by the cycles of poverty, mental illness, abuse. We've been around the block a few times now and we're no longer the doe-eyed optimists. These cycles are hard to break, even harder if you are the one doing the soul-breaking labor of cutting into them and leaving them behind. There have been times in the journey when we've been thankful that God has said, "You've given enough. You've done your share in this one's life. Well done good and faithful servant." We might not understand Him saying that when the timing seems way too early to have done much good so this must remain another mystery of our faith.

Ten years ago we lost another baby. We had him in our home as an adoptive placement for 3 months when the birthfather bailed himself out of jail and decided to try to be a dad (that was a nice Christmas present the week before Christmas). It wasn't long before he was back in jail - this time until his son will turn 16 or 17. I talked to his mom a couple of years ago and she says the baby we would have raised in our home is turning into a punk like his dad. At age 7 he was already belligerent, defiant, a ladies' man with a flattering tongue. For ten years we've been praying for that baby, now a 10 year old, to come home to us, for God to do some miracle, for the course of his life to be altered and end the cycle of poverty and abuse he's in. I have his dad's prison address sticky-noted to my computer monitor so I can write to him someday again. He always writes back - he's bored, lonely, says he's changed but I don't know.

So when people say they will pray for Noah to return, I have my doubts - doubts that are founded in a deepening understanding of the reality of life on this side of God's triumphant kingdom.

I had a dream a couple of nights ago. It was an icky dream but good in that for the first time I was able to separate my feelings for Noah, my lost son, from my feelings towards his grandmother. I think that dream is probably the beginning of the real grieving process now that we've begun to sort out the pscyhological abuse we've endured for the past year. Yes, continue to pray for Noah. He is now stuck back in the cycle of co-dependency. His grandmother will continue to define herself in his existence. Unless something drastic changes, he will lose the emerging personality we finally saw in him here to the tyranny of expectations set on him by the mentally ill. It is too subtle to report to any governing agency. He certainly isn't being neglected or physically abused, just subject to the never-ending existence of the poor and their problems. After all, Jesus did promise us that the poor we would always have.