Here’s the scene: May 24, 1977 in Jamestown, New York at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. A priest prepares the church for a baptism. In just a few hours, another newly-illumined soul would join the ranks of the Orthodox by the denouncing of the devil, putting on of Christ, taking up the cross and receiving Holy Communion. She would be a small, four and half month old baby, bathed in oil and holy water and clothed in white garments. Her given name, as well as her baptismal name, is Sarah.
So now that I have set the scene, let me fast forward a bit, to where I can actually recall events in my life. I am the daughter and sister-in-law of priests. What does that mean? To me, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. That may seem like an awful remark, but just like other kids’ dads went to work at the office, so did my dad. My dad’s office just happened to be a church. To others, it is often assumed that I am well versed biblically or have fewer struggles because I have a connection to “the man upstairs.” You see, I spent most of my years back East in the Boston area. The majority of the parishes seemed to focus a bit more on the culture versus the religion. My dad always taught us that there was a fine line between the cultural traditions and religious traditions, seeing as some of our cultural traditions were results of our faith. My dad also enforced the importance of not crossing that line. He was attempting to keep the spiritual and cultural beliefs separate.
Growing up, I didn’t know what Pascha was about—it was just Easter, plus red eggs and lamb. I had no idea, until I was in college, what Halloween really meant. I didn’t know what a metania (prostration) was, and the Jesus prayer; no idea! So, here’s the next scene: move ahead a few years, and my sister meets her future husband. I was so ignorant and far removed from God that I referred to this man as the “holy guy!” Really, I did. So, they got married and started having babies. I would visit and see how they lived their lives and they were so happy living so simply. I started asking questions, instead of accusing them of being religious fanatics. Wow, can you say “information overload?” I decided to live with my sister and Fr. Timothy for a summer and it was incredible. I learned so much. I also realized how much work I had to do. There’s a big difference between saying you believe in God and living a God-pleasing life. It still took a few more years, but this is when I began to stop denying the obvious, and truly start working on giving up my own will and accepting God’s will.
Fast forward a few more years and I end up moving to Oregon. I never imagined I could leave “home” and survive. At first, I hated being away from dad, other family members and friends. I would cry all the time. I would pray, pray and pray some more. I thought I was doing something wrong because nothing was changing. It was then that I started meeting with Fr. Theodore and learned I had to make some life changing decisions and sacrifices for my life to get on the right path. Are you serious? I already moved across the country, I go to church every Sunday and I pray. There’s more? I honestly believed that I was just meant to be a lost soul. I felt so weak and beaten down and decided the only way to be happy was to move home. Well, thank God that plan failed! I met Dimitri, my husband, and things changed. We are close in age and he had been on a similar journey. He could relate to how I felt. We both had a prayer rule and started saying it together every night. I lived in Beaverton and he lived in Eugene, so we would also pray together over the phone. I started believing in God, not just praying to Him. I started believing that He was in control of my life, not me. I realized my disbelief was the devil fighting for my soul and I refused to allow evil to win. Dimitri coming into my life helped me see that God loves us all. We have had our ups and downs and that reassures me that we are okay. The path to The Kingdom is long, narrow, bumpy and at times frightening.
Here’s the current scene: I live in Beaverton with my husband. I live less than two miles away from my sister, brother-in-law and their nine (yes, NINE) children. Our Koumbari live five miles away, which means that I have the opportunity to spend plenty of time with my godson. I have the privilege to pray for him and take him to communion every week. I am surrounded by friends and family and my extended family at St. John’s. I live three thousand miles away from my dad, but our relationship is stronger than it has ever been and he visits when his schedule permits. I have learned that God does answer all of our prayers, just not always in the way we want. I will end with my favorite quote from the movie Bella, “You want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans!”