My journey to Orthodoxy begins with a large family tree of Christian relatives. Attending church was the best part of my week even as a toddler. I had a tiny Bible that I ‘read’ constantly. It was my treasure until my own daughter “baptized” it, which made it no longer readable. My first church was the First Methodist Church. As a teen I attended the Methodist Church and the Latter Day Saints Church (part of my Dad’s family have a century long history in the LDS). I was like a dry sponge, soaking up the guidance they each gave spiritually. In late high school I asked my Mom if I could attend the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church with a friend. The pastor there suggested I buy a Scofield Reference Bible to help answer my questions, which opened up a whole new world of information.
While in high school I met my first husband. After several years we married and together looked for a church. We discovered a Conservative Baptist Church, which seemed to have similar beliefs to the EUB, so we settled in. As the years went along I had this feeling that there was more about God than I was learning, but I was stuck. I had no idea where to go to get answers. In fact I was not sure what my questions were! I began to read every Christian book I could get my hands on. I prayed, studied the Bible and asked questions. Nothing was bringing me closer to God and this caused me a lot of discouragement. My decision making became very unwise over time. My life long medical issues were getting more complicated. Prayer was most frustrating. I could not explain at all why the words and hours of prayer seemed to be so hollow. I just knew what I was doing was not the real walk with God. I felt more like a commodity than a Christian. The bright spot for me during this period was in working with children.
My mother-in-law passed away in 1984. We were her caregivers for her last five years. Mama and I had gone to a Foursquare Church occasionally, so after her passing I continued going there for a few more years, but was not satisfied. The stained glass windows of the Lutheran Church looked inviting, so my daughter and I dropped in. I was tired, discouraged and beginning to feel a lot of anger spiritually. The Lutheran Church gave me a bit of peace and hope. I was accepted just where I was. Everyone I had trusted previously said they had the answer to finding God. Neither of the Lutheran pastors made such claims, so I stayed.
In 1988 I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Sinai, despite issues with my lungs. When the guide had to take an injured member of the group back, he let me stay alone. I was left at St. Catherine’s monastery for several hours. I was deeply touched by the peacefulness as I wandered the area. Leaving was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. For months afterwards, I cried thinking of St. Catherine’s, knowing that it somehow held the secret to what I was so wanting and needing. At the time, I did not know that St. Catherine’s was an Orthodox monastery. I still had never heard of the Orthodox Church.
I married Ted Deming in 1993. His son, Matthew, was killed in March 1999. Life for Ted was very difficult and going to church was as well. I had worked in grief therapy and knew he needed time. I decided that we would take the next five years for healing. Neither of us went to church those five years. I kept going back to a verse that had come to me when I was at a dangerously low point: “Be still and know that I am God.” It is all I had and all I knew to trust. I had stopped reading the Bible. I put all of what I had learned aside – it was all too confusing for me to understand how to live a Christian life. All I knew was that something was wrong.
One day in early October, Ted decided that we should have dinner at Holy Trinity’s Greek Festival. As we walked up the steps on NE Glisan, I spotted the church and decided we should go in. Inside Dn. David Cole was answering questions from a group of visitors. Ted and I sat in the church for over an hour. Over several months I stopped at Holy Trinity’s office with questions, visited their bookstore and had several conversations with both Fr. James and Fr. Jerry. I knew Orthodoxy was what I was looking for. I began by following the prayers and suggestions in a booklet called, “Building a Habit of Prayer”. Slowly I became quieter inside. I was gaining a sense that all would be sorted out inside me. On May 2nd, 2004 I went to Divine Liturgy by myself. As strange as it seemed to me, it was also familiar. I was comfortable, despite my hearing loss. When I told Ted about going to Holy Trinity he was surprised since we had not talked about going there at all. I did not tell him much, because I was processing all that I had seen, heard and sensed. The only difficult thing about Divine Liturgy was my lack of hearing. I jokingly told Ted much of what I heard was ‘all Greek to me!’ To my surprise Ted came with me the next Sunday. With a smile, he told me that what they were singing and saying was indeed Greek!
Ted and I were Chrismated at Holy Trinity on March 16th, 2005 at the beginning of Lent. I took St. Catherine the Great Martyr as my patron saint. Later that same year, we started attending Bible Study, then morning Orthros at St. John the Baptist. My hearing deteriorated considerably and lip reading assisted my hearing device in making things out, so attending services in English became important. In 2009, we began talking about making St. John our church and later moved to the west side of town to make this possible. Ted continues to serve as a sexton at Holy Trinity, so his attendance at St. John is limited for the time being.
Becoming Orthodox brought me back to my original desire: knowing the true God. Orthodoxy is like the small Bible I treasured as a child – I am clinging tightly to it because it is so very precious.