Byzconsin!

Byzconsin1
Three and a half years have now passed since we moved from the High Desert in sunny California to the farm country of crisp and cold Wisconsin. Time has gone by quickly and life has been interesting–full of surprises, both good and bad.

You know how we pray to live in peace and repentance during the Divine Liturgy? Well I really thought the move here was about us making a big step towards doing that. Nice, quiet, peaceful country life in a small village by the monastery. Lots of peace and opportunity for repentance.

My definition of peace since moving here has changed. My understanding prior to moving was that peace meant living with little conflict, with everyone in my little circle getting along well, with lots of time to pray and cultivate those wonderful “inner peace” moments. No, that’s not what I think peace is now.

My definition of repentance is different too. I was expecting frequent confession, ample opportunity for liturgical prayers, peace and quiet in order to work out my salvation and pray for forgiveness of my sins. I mean I know I am a mom and wife and busy with my normal duties so it’s not like I thought I would be Saint Mary of Egypt going to the desert to repent, but yeah, in some ways I thought I was gonna be Saint Mary of Egypt going to the desert to repent!

Ironically, life’s circumstances have been that regular liturgical prayer has been lessened since being here (for me and the kids at least) and I really miss the prayer life we had, not only at home but at the parish we joined after the monks moved from California to Wisconsin. I wouldn’t say prayer has lessened, my own personal prayer has certainly deepened, I think Manny would say the same, but formal prayer has been sporadic, and that makes me very displeased. Much hasn’t turned out like I hoped.

Thankfully, life seems to be settling down and becoming “normal.” We bought a home here in Saint Nazianz about a year after we moved here. This past Christmas was our second one in the house (I will be writing about the house in a separate post). Buying the house has helped to have some sense of home and normalcy. It was also a huge answer to my deepest prayers of not wanting to move around and rent but give the kids a stable home to call their own. This has by far been one of the biggest blessing of making the move from California to Wisconsin.

Many people have asked us lots of questions about moving so far from home to live by the monastery. Basically, we have known the monks since before we were married (we discuss that in more depth on the ‘Our Story‘ page ). When they moved, our family (along with a lot of our friends from the monastery) ended up at the local OCA parish. It was a good year there but most of our friends had plans to move and we were struggling financially to maintain our lifestyle in California. We hoped for better things for our family. We didn’t want Manny to have to commute in such crazy traffic every day (about an hour one way), we wanted to buy a home (house prices had gone through the roof in our hometown), we wanted to afford a healthier lifestyle, eat better, have a garden, and just live life less stressed out by regular day to day living. We longed for a simpler, healthier, and a more peaceful life. All of this lead to our decision to move. We considered several places but starting over from scratch with a new church community wasn’t appealing and Wisconsin seemed to meet a lot of the “wants and needs” on our wish list. Living by the monastery was also appealing because we would have access to all of the services all year long; being Eastern Catholics we are already limited on churches anyway. After months of discussion, prayers, and planning, and without even visiting the place, we packed up and moved over 2000 miles from home, friends and family. We wanted out of the rat race and made a leap of faith, hoping for the best.

Now back to the peace and repentance. I know some people have assumed that we live in some kind of utopia, but just as the word means, there is no such place. A monastery (just like a family) is a group of Christians who have come together to work out their salvation. Community is needed because in it we find two things (hopefully): 1) Love and a safe place to grow. 2) A mirror. You cannot run from your sins or true nature easily when you live in any close community. These two reasons are why marriage or monastic life are important to the Christian life. So just as there are no perfect marriages there are no perfect communities, each are made up of sinful people struggling along to attain salvation and hopefully help one another out along the way.

So, peace meaning everyone in my little circle is getting along beautifully is so far from reality. We may all have our great moments together but reality is we are a struggling group of sinners. And I am a sinner and it is within my own soul I struggle the most to find peace. I have come to understand more and more that inner peace is found deep within, in the depths of the heart where God dwells. It is my own sin that keeps me from seeing and feeling that peace, but even in spite of my own sinfulness, I have come to find the comfort of Christ within. I need to purposely seek Him out, but He is always there. That is peace–knowing I am a child of God and knowing that He will never abandon me.

Repentance doesn’t have so much of a Mary of Egypt look to it. At least not externally. Certainly, internally, repentance is that constant inner struggle, the constant battle against one’s passions and selfishness. Life is so busy and hectic with raising and homeschooling children that I struggle to get to confession and extra prayer services even though the monastery is just up the street. The nearness in location doesn’t make things any easier. The quiet and solitude here in this small village have aided in facing my own demons, but having been a stay at home mom for 19 years now I’ve always had a lot of solitude. Nevertheless, it has increased.

So life has been interesting! Blessed yes, but also full of struggle and surprises. We plan on writing a series of Byzconsin posts to explain further the different aspects of making this crazy life changing move, and the realities of close community and family life here in rural Wisconsin as Byzantine Catholics. So stay tuned!

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for this beautiful post. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. I am always rediscovering how what I think will happen after a certain life event is usually not what God has in mind. I totally get how you thought that living by the monastery=Mary of Egypt; I probably would have thought something similar! I think it is so excellent that you point out the importance of community, and how community means a mirror. When we live in community with others, not only do we rub each other the wrong way at times, but we realize that the effects of our actions will remain, at least in the memory of other people!

    I’m excited to read more of your Byzconsin posts! I think that you all have so much wisdom and awesomeness to share with us! 🙂

    • How right you are, Anne Marie, our behavior does remain and can even cause much damage which is easily seen in a small community and in families. The love and concern also leaves a large impact. A friend recently told me the great thing about the Church is we are all united, and the bad thing about the Church is we are all united. Haha, how true that is! Thanks for your kind words and for reading!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: