I remember being very nervous the next day when I told Clint that he had been right all along about the Orthodox Church. I am not really sure why I was nervous. After all, I knew he was not going to be angry with me. He was very surprised, but happy. Clint told me that the next logical step should be to actually visit an Orthodox church. Intellectually, I had decided it was the right place, but there is only so much you can learn by reading. Experiencing it was a whole other matter. I agreed.
Due to the fact that Clint was a preacher on Sunday mornings, the only time we could go was on Saturdays for Vespers. We decided to go to Holy Cross Orthodox Church, a small mission church, an hour away in North Carolina.
That very first service completely overwhelmed me: I did not understand anything that was going on, the smoke from the censer made me kind of woozy, and my feet hurt from all that standing. I also had a huge problem with Mary and with the icons. To me (the artistic one), the icons were badly painted portraits, and even though I had read that the Orthodox do not worship them, it still looked that way to me, because of all the kissing and bowing. Also, Mary seemed to be elevated to near-equality with Christ, and I certainly did not like that. Obviously, I still had a lot to learn.
Through it all, I knew this was where I was supposed to be, so I trusted God to guide me. There were many things I did not understand, but I do remember that from that first week on, I really loved the singing. The songs were so beautiful, so Heaven-like that everything in me wanted to sing along, like I used to in the Church of Christ. (Too bad I did not know any of these songs).
We attended Vespers every week, and got to know Fr. Christopher Foley and his family. He went way out of his way to help us. He answered our questions after services, and even drove to our home several times to study with us. He was very patient and understanding.
During this time I continued to read Fr. Stephen’s blog. The way he worded things just kind of “spoke” to me. What was even more interesting is that on more than one occasion, when I would be struggling with something, amazingly the next day his blog would address that very issue. This happened way too frequently to be coincidence, and it really strengthened my new-found faith. Everything was going smoothly.
Over the next few months our life made a complete turn-around. With the help of Fr. James Early, Clint was able to resign as a pulpit minister, and take a job as a High School teacher in Houston, Texas. We sold our home in Virginia (in 3 weeks), and moved home to Texas. The day before we left, we attended one last service with Fr. Christopher and were “officially” received as catechumens. It was a very exciting day.
We settled into our home in Houston, and began attending services at St. Joseph’s Antiochian Orthodox church. We met Fr. Matthew, and continued on as catechumens, attending services, and going to his Catechumen class every Sunday after the Liturgy. I soaked up every word, scribbling down notes as fast as I could. I learned so much in that class, and Clint and I would discuss what we had learned on the drive home.
For me this was a tough time, however, because now I was actually going to have to tell my parents that Clint and I were converting to Orthodoxy. I knew they were going to take it hard, and they may even disown me, but I just kept thinking to myself that it was worth it, no matter what. Although I was really scared that they were going to go completely ballistic, when I finally told them, they were shocked, but they did not disown me. Naturally they did not like that I was leaving the Church of Christ, but even my dad said that we had to do what was right for our family. I was surprised that they all handled it so well.
As much as I want to sometimes, I do not push Orthodoxy onto them. Now, that does not mean that I do not take advantage of situations every now and again to kind of “throw” something out there for them to ponder over. I just remember how I had felt when Clint tried to shove Orthodoxy onto me, and so I do not want to push them away with my being overzealous. However, if they ask me a question, they know I am going to give them a very full answer. And my mom, my dad, and my sister have all had questions from time to time. My father even asked me to recommend some books for him to read. He said that he wanted to know more about Orthodoxy, and to make sure that we were still worshipping God. (Yeah, dad, I think we've got that one covered).
As this past Pascha was getting closer, and it was nearing the time for us to be baptized and chrismated, I invited my family to come. My mom ended up being the only one who could attend, but we were glad that she got to experience at least a taste of Orthodoxy. Clint and I tried to prepare her for what she would see and hear during the service, but just like me, a year before, I think she was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. (Fr. Matthew was throwing basil leaves at her, after all). I was excited afterwards when I saw her sneak a few tracts in her purse.
The day was a wonderful new beginning for our entire family—one that will forever be etched in my memory—and I am so thankful that God brought us down this road. My only regret is that I did not realize the truth sooner. When I think back to my years growing up in the Church of Christ, I am thankful. Fr. Matthew told us one time that it was a good foundation. It was. I learned to love God there. I am ashamed to think about all those times I got angry with God for making me who I was, and giving me the “wrong” gifts. God created me the way he wanted me to be—he created me to be Orthodox.