The Wallet

The Wallet

 

“My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water. ” Carl Hiaasen

Boys of all ages and shapes love the freedom and excitement of a boat ride on a full lake in May.  There is a freedom on the water.  Hair blowing, sunglasses on, the smell of gasoline…all is well at the beginning of summer.

Just a couple of months after my son turned 16, he and a school friend were out on the upper Lake Hartwell in our little blue skiff enjoying those first days of summer break.  Of course, these radiant waters, like the sirens to the Greek sailors of yore, were calling my teen boys to test the parameters of the new Yamaha engine we had just installed.  They had to make and crest waves.  They had to turn donuts.  And, they had to push the ability of the small craft to stay afloat amidst a variety of maneuvers mixed with speed and wind.   Ultimately, what happened next was quite predictable.  They flipped the boat and swamped all the contents.  Paddles and jackets and half consumed water bottles could be seen floating along with a plastic bag and briefly, a hat.  Although stunned, the big boys weren’t injured and were able to right the small boat and return home.

As the adrenaline wore off,  the teens began to work through all the things that were in the boat just minutes before it went asunder.  There were water bottles, food packages, fishing poles and tackle, sunglasses, wallets, and cell phones.

“Oh no!  My wallet was in my pocket!” was the gasp I heard.  “All the gift cards I got from my birthday were in the wallet.”

“Did you have cash in there?”  his dad inquired.

“Maybe $5 – $10 bucks,” was the assessment.

For months, stories were told of the perilous incident.  Various theories surfaced of how the boat flipped, where it happened, and why the boys were able to right the craft.   Everybody  was profoundly grateful that the boys were safe and that the whole business only amounted to  some lost items.  We were thankful God had spared them from their own bad judgments.

And…just as quickly as that fantastic summer-freedom feeling came, it went.  Like the release of water from Hartwell Dam on a sweltering August day, those carefree times were gone.  Summers, Christmases, proms and graduations whirled by in a fast current of ceaseless days.

Then, on a recent December afternoon, a package arrived at our non lake house.   The padded manila envelope was addressed to my oldest, now almost 22.  Home for the holiday, he found the package and opened it.

“Ya’ll come here and see this!” was the call.  The family gathered ’round our kitchen counter while he emptied the contents onto the flat surface.

What took place next was truly astonishing.  Carefully, and with great curiosity, my son opened a flat and dingy rectangular object.  We all stood there gazing, and upon closer inspection, realized what it was!!  A smile of recognition came to my boy’s lips.

“This is my wallet!”  he blasted.  “This is the wallet I lost when we flipped the skiff.”

Sure enough!  It was the wallet of a 16 year old boy, a perfect time capsule of a by-gone era.  The wallet, lost by a boy, was now opened by a man!  The case itself was constructed of grey duct tape.  The contents, although water battered,  were undisturbed:  gift cards, a driver’s license and a library card.  The remnants of a heavily water tattered $5 and $1 bill were displayed along with a few tarnished coins.  And, there was a note.  The note told of how the young finder had seen the wallet near the boat ramp on GA 123 in Toccoa, GA.  She collected the wallet and intended to return it to its owner, but, as often happens, time got the better deal and it ended up in the top drawer of a dresser.  The writer of the note, finding the wallet one morning and realizing it had not been returned, mailed it to my son along with a little sticky note affixed inside:  “Looks like you had a $1 and a $5 in the wallet — Thought I would replace that for you.  Cherish the memory!”

 

I was at a loss for words, which is unusual!  What a kind and generous thing to do, return a water-logged, trashed duct-taped wallet to a kid you will likely never meet!!

While my son was contemplating the gift cards, I was struck by the generosity of a person I will never be able to thank!  A person who took the time to be kind!  That can be a rare thing.  But, people are good!  Lake people are good and I will cherish the memory.

We Got the Grad!

We Got the Grad!

There’s a lot of hype associated with getting that perfect graduation picture.   You know, that intense feeling that you need a perfect memory of you with your first born child wearing  his college regalia right after the ceremony.   Throw in some traditions like, “your grandfather had his picture taken from this very spot” or “all graduates take their pictures by the this campus feature” and you have the perfect storm.

It was the morning after my son’s graduation.   All smiles, we approached the quintessential grad photo location on Florida State’s palm studded campus:  Westcott Fountain.   Dozens of happy parents and students were waiting for their “moment” to take a picture with their grad in front of the historic fountain.  Both my husband and I had our pictures taken here some 30 years before.   Of course we would wait forty five minutes in the heat for our perfect picture moment.  This was “what you did!”

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There was plenty of joking and playing around while we waited.  It was a glorious day; that North Florida heat was beating down on the bald and the young.

peake & chase

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regina & peake

getting a photo

I nervously tinkered with my aged camera, checking out my lenses in the sun, working my filters.

Finally, we were up.  I told the folks behind us, ” We may be a minute. There are quite a few of us.”  The group behind us looked at their watches, “No problem.  We’ll give you a couple of minutes.”

Yikes!  A couple of minutes to get four grandparents, five kids, an uncle and a best friend into a picture, all looking the right direction, all in focus, all smiling.  This is going to be fun.

grad in the sun

riley w grad

wait i dropped it

First, we got the graduate.  That was easy, a few lens changes and the lighting was fine.  Then more joined.  Finally, we got the whole bunch and had the best friend take the family group shot.  Whew!  What a relief!

We can use these for our Christmas picture…what a great looking family…so proud of our graduate…isn’t she a neat mom with her camera set up… you go girl…now we can get out of the heat…isn’t that lady together! These thoughts and more went through my mind.

By now, we had been moved off to the side for the next group’s time in the sun.

“Momma Naz,” I heard Chase say.  “I think I got some good pictures.”

“Thank you for taking ’em!” was my reply.

“I didn’t happen to hear a shutter click though.  You must have a really quiet camera,” he added.

“What?” my hyped-mamma, camera ears heard the words you never want to hear.

“There was no click? What do you mean you didn’t hear the shutter?”  I ran over, grabbed the camera and scrolled to the most recent shot.  There were no family pictures.  No pictures with grandparents.  No picture with my Uncle who had driven up from Port Richey.  No Christmas card shot!  My heart sunk.  Chase had taken the cell pictures first and, after the delay,  the camera had automatically shut off!

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Ugggg! What are we going to do now?   I had to think fast.

The older family members were melting.  Tempers were flaring.

“Well get ’em off the cell phone,” said the graduate.

The grandparents and the favorite uncle left.

Tears were starting to come.

“NO!!”  I suddenly felt like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!  We would get that damn picture.

harder than we thought

enough

I took a side angle of our group in front of the camera hoping no one would get too upset with us.  I prepped Chase on how to turn on a camera.

Round two was shot, with mostly smiles but a few growls.  I ran to the camera.  Better to check just in case.    The horror!  Every frame was blurry!!

blurry

“Let’s get out of here!” was the agitated command from the rear.   The graduate gave an evil eye.

“NO!”  Clark Griswold snapped again.  We will do this!   I prepped Chase on how NOT to turn the camera to manual focus.  “Keep it on AutoFocus,” I barked.

Round three. Half grunts, twisted lips and mangled brows, but we got it in focus.  Strangely, I felt vindicated, like someone had done me some wrong and now we were even.  Maybe it was my sun-baked brain telling me that taking pictures is my only important role in the world.

The truth is, no one did me wrong and I’m not a great photographer.   I just got too hyped up about getting some stupid graduation photos.  And, of course, Murphy’s Law kicked in to remind me that my priorities were all wrong.

Of course, there are more important things!  We got the grad!  Whether I captured a decent picture or not, he’s still a grad. He finished it and I am so proud of him!

family with grad

peake mom &

Cheap Field Trips # 2

Cheap Field Trips # 2

What’s gargantuan, gorgeous and gratuitous?

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion!  That’s right!  The Governor’s Mansion is absolutely free to tour and hosts regular visits throughout the year.  If you live near your state capitol, odds are you have a governor’s mansion to tour.  If not, a local public building or historic home will do. Many places offer free or discounted tours for youth.

In our home state of Georgia, the Governor and his wife throw open their doors and welcome the public to their beautifully decorated home at Christmas.  Living fairly close, we decided to check out the mansion one recent December morning and were pleasantly surprised!

After driving along a fabulous street with enormous and exquisitely landscaped residences, we approached the mansion on the left.  An attractive iron and brick palisade ran along the perimeter of the property.  Just east of the expanse of lawn and trees, we came to a small drive with a gate station attended by GHP officers.  Upon passing a simple inspection of credentials, we parked right on the grounds, close to the home.  It certainly wasn’t your Disney World parking lot with trams and a long wait. Instead, lovely magnolias and large oaks greeted us as we stepped from our truck and ambled past a school bus and a couple dozen vehicles.  The small crowd seemed to be moving toward the front door, and there, after a short wait of about 10 minutes, we saw the Georgia First Lady herself.

My youngest was decked for the occasion.

He looked up at me and asked, “Mom, who is the lady greeting everyone at the door?”

I whispered back, “That’s the Georgia First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Deal.”

“Oh!” he retorted with a goofy, surprised kind of smile.

When it was our time to approach the threshold of the home, my guy looked up and simultaneously, but cautiously shook the hand of the esteemed greeter. As a surprise, the first lady looked down at him and said, “I live in this house. Perhaps one day you will live in this house too.  But you gotta study hard and you can’t be mean, ‘cuz nobody’s going to vote for someone who’s mean.”

That’s a curious thing to say, I thought. But, certainly not untrue.

My boy nodded, smiled and quipped back, “I’m really mean!”

Now, I thought he was going to say something like, “Yes, Ma’m!” However, my children master the art of sarcasm quite early, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I was slightly concerned how she might receive this.

Evidently, she must be familiar with 10 year old boys because in the next second, she started up with a gleeful and endearing sort of laugh that seemed to last a full 20 seconds!

We stepped inside.

Once inside, my son thought a minute and then asked,  “Can we go back and take a picture with Mrs. Deal?”

I guessed that last exchange of dialogue and laughter convinced my boy that the two now shared a sort of bond.

“It couldn’t hurt to ask,” I said, thumbing in my purse for my iPhone.  I love a good photo opportunity and a challenge.

“Would you mind a quick photo?” I asked with slight apprehension, trying to cover my embarrassment.

She grinned. “Why certainly,” was her response.

This is how we began our lovely tour of the mansion!

 

Mrs Deal

 

The Georgia Governor’s Mansion was built in 1967.  It is an impressive, three story Greek Revival home with 30 Doric columns surrounding the porches. Each of the columns is made from California Redwood.  Once inside, we were hosted by volunteers who gave us little tidbits about each of the rooms, furniture and decorations.  In front of one broad fireplace, we ran into two lovely volunteers wearing colonial era clothing.  In the vast dining room, we took in the Federal period furniture and state chinaware.  We soon discovered that each room was decorated according to a different region of the state.  One tree was embellished with popularly grown Georgia products, like cotton, pecans, peaches and peanuts. Another was decked in Coastal Georgia ornaments such as shells and starfish.

After working our way through the first floor, we went down a flight of stairs and into the basement where we were greeted with cookies, punch and a local student choir.  It was a very festive way to spend a December morning.  This is definitely one trip we’d like to repeat!  It was really quite memorable and, best of all, it was free!!!!

Cheap Field Trips # 1

Cheap Field Trips # 1

kiosk

In the spirit of  stop-and-smell-the-roses, we’ve been making an extra effort to take cheap field trips this year.  Cheap could be free, or just cheap!  The best thing…these are fun little outings that get us off our routine and don’t require any preparation or great expenditure of funds.

I will be sharing these experiences in a series called Cheap Field Trips.

Cheap Field Trip # 1:  Visit a local Recreation Area

We happen to live near the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on the “beautiful” Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, GA.  There is a place called Powers Island which is an access point for folks “putting in” their canoes or rafts to float the river. Mr. Powers was a blacksmith and gunsmith here on the edge of civilization in the 1830’s.  He ran a ferry right from this island.

From I-285, I’d seen this parking lot and trail head for decades and never stopped.

“We’re going there today,” I told my youngster, one recent Wednesday in February.

Silence came from the back seat.

“It’s supposed to be in the 60’s today. We are doing something outside,”  I snapped, hoping he would catch the fever.

We pulled into the empty parking lot. The grey lot blended with the barren trees.  A solitary, work truck could be seen in a space by the restrooms, occupied by a man eating a sandwich from a wrapper.  His windows were up. A medium roar could be heard from the interstate a few hundred yards away.

“Hmmm. This does look a bit sketchy,” I thought as we unloaded ourselves from our truck. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it into my camera bag.  Then, I looked westward.  Through the dormant trees, the sparkling, greenish waters of the Hooch drew us thither.

The Chattahoochee

 

For these cheapie trips to be memorable, you’ve got to take a slow pace.  Don’t go on a cheapie trip thinking you’re going to get some exercise.  If you get fresh air, that’s a plus!  These excursions are about slowing way, way down to see and observe.

A rust colored bridge formed the entry point of the trail and drew us toward the island.  There, on the banks of this mighty waterway, we saw our first point of interest.

bridge to Powers Island

 

“What is flotsam and jetsam?” asked my inquisitive boy after I called out the words.

“It’s floating stuff that has come to rest between these downed trees,” I gestured toward the logs forming the clog.

“Flotsam are things which float up…like things that have washed away from the shoreline and into the river.  Jetsam are things which have been flung off boats and float from the river to the shore,” I continued, pulling out my zoom lens.

beauty along the hooch

basketball heaven

“I can sure tell people like to play basketball and tennis in this town,” he deducted.

“What about football?  See that black one over there?” I pointed.  He tip toed lightly across the colorful trash and grabbed it. The treasure secured, he squeezed it, heard the leaky hole and then threw it back into the pile.

This multi hued wedge of trash kept us busy for a good fifteen minutes.  There were a bazillion water bottles, every sort of ball, numerous plastic toys, various sized cups, some milk jugs, and a few unidentifiable things.  A pungent, earthy smell hovered over the place.

plastics

Not far from the trash heap was a rock island that needed exploring.  I took a picture and then my guy said, “Mom, you come out here.”  I hesitated a minute and then this middle aged mamma hopped the swift current to make it safely to the rock, camera equipment and all.

on the rock

Sycamore balls

Then, we saw the trees.  They were mammoth!  Who would think there would be giant trees on an island like this?

“Must’ve been here when Mr. Powers was working the ferry,” I concluded.  We looked up and saw their tips touching the deep blue winter sky.

One had a crevice two feet taller than my child.  A quick flash of the cell phone light illuminated a couple of creepy, glowing eyes.

 

the granddaddy

bat eyes

As we walked the trail, each successive tree seemed to be larger and larger.  Finally, we reached the granddaddy of all the trees!  Easily it was five human wing spans across.  Against the blue sky and with sun shining brightly behind, the size and shape of this gargantuan took my breath away.

“What a great way to spend 60 minutes,” I said as we merged back onto the interstate.

“It was pretty good,” was the recap from the back seat.

This trip cost $3, which was paid at the kiosk by the trail head.   It was a great day.

the granddaddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Lake Bed

On the Lake Bed

On the upper reaches of Lake Hartwell, just south of the mountains where the lake gives way to river and the city gives way to country we have a house.   In this remote section of the lake, even during seasons of high water, we seldom in a single day see more than a handful of boaters.  Duck hunters frequent these river banks as do white tailed deer and Canada geese.   Tales of Cherokee ghosts, brave pioneers and small gauge railroads are told about these surroundings by local historians and naturalists alike.   Except for the occasional flock of flying geese or an air-boat propelled carp hunter, it is quiet here.

weeds

Yet, beneath these green waters lurk secrets and treasures and even creepy things.

These things, usually covered by the shadowy waters of the Tugaloo, rear their heads when the water recedes.  Tiny, living seeds lay dormant waiting for an opportunity to burst forth into life.  Huge, old stumps hide their past, clutching the river banks as if still waiting for a rescuer to retrieve them from the rising waters that flooded these shores more than 50 years ago.   Hidden household items from the 1980’s, dumped from some boat or washed away in some flood are now ensconced in mud and grass.  Their glinty edges catch the eye of a passerby demanding to be picked up and pondered.

Around Thanksgiving, we ventured out into this strange land that we call the lake bed. Mournful children, so saddened by the encroaching mud at Labor Day, were now mesmerized by this peculiar beauty that awaited them.

Launching ourselves from the dock, we tip toed across the soft mud toward the river.  A good 10 pair of shoes were heavily soiled in the process, but eventually all of the family plunged forth into the straw colored meadow.  A drone came out of its box and buzzed overhead.   I heard a child yell out, “It’s amazing!  It’s so soft.”  I peered  50 yards across the prairie and saw my 10 year old making a grass angel!

“What are these mom?” asked another as he picked a tightly packed bud from a tan colored bush.

“Not sure,” I mumbled as I noticed the fall leaves on the South Carolina side framing a backdrop to our activities .

A quick glance north and my black dog came into clear view, her shiny coat juxtaposed against the monotone grasses.

jasmine

We lingered here a bit and then walked on toward the water’s edge.  There we saw several, old craggy stumps, remnants of days when this was a fast flowing river winding through a fertile corn field.   Downstream we saw symmetrical ripples in the sandy bank,  formed when the water drained out bit by bit, like a bathtub needing a shot of Drano.

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ripples

Suddenly, I was startled away from my amusement with the ripples by a thud to my left.  This was the sound of my teenager whacking autumn toned bushes.  Each whack produced a cloud of tiny, poufy seeds dimly lit by the late autumn sun.  We took a few minutes to whack some more of these tender bushes and take photographs.  How did these shrubs grow so quickly?  Wasn’t there water here just two months ago?

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taking-pics

Next, we moved a hundred yards down river to a flat, sandy area on the shoreline.  It was the perfect slate for practicing cursive.  It’s much easier to form capital letters in the damp sand!

cursive

After handwriting, I found myself sitting in the supple grass for a few more minutes, taking in the autumn colors and the stumps.  So many stumps!

“They’ve been down there this whole time,” I told my boys.  “We just swam over these giants a few months ago!”

“That is creepy, mom, ” a boy announced.

“We’ll have to remember where they are when the water comes up,”  I noted.

By this time, like the lake, the late afternoon sun was running out.  It was time to get home.

As we shambled back toward our dock, the most amazing hues of a pink and blue sunset caught my eye.  “Probably the affects of all the smoke,” I mused, remembering the fires just north of here up in Rabun.  The big sky, without trees or water, gave a vast, open feeling, like being out on a Montana ranch.  We North Georgians don’t typically get big openness,  I figured.

sunset

At dark, we arrived back at the marooned dock;  that stark reminder that things are not as they should be.

“You certainly can’t have a lake without water!” my husband maintained later on the phone.

“Yes! But, you can have a lake bed!” this nature nut retorted.

Out on the lake bed, we’d been given a consolation, a little silver lining to an otherwise very disappointing situation.  Nature was there, all around;  and it was lovely.

grass

 

 

Confessions of a Previously Pro-Choice Woman

Confessions of a Previously Pro-Choice Woman

babies

There’s been a lot of talk lately about life, abortion and women’s rights.

I’ve been thinking about my own struggle with these issues.  Perhaps my story can give perspective to others who grapple with these things.

As an only child, I grew up in a home with two loving parents, both of whom wanted to limit their family size to one!  My mother, influenced by the thinking of the day, was concerned that there would not be enough global resources to support the world’s growing population by the year 1980.  My father, who had two children from a previous marriage, was reluctant to even have a third child.  This small, quiet environment of restricted society was my crucible.

As I grew older, and went to college, I was convinced that it was absolutely outrageous that women should be straddled with all of the burden of pregnancy, especially when men can walk away at any time.  The idea that our society didn’t hold men accountable at the same level as women for the caring and raising of children — that was egregious to me!  So, I became all about pro-choice.  A woman had a right to choose if she wanted to keep her child!  What if, God forbid, a woman was raped!  Or, what if, the young girl was pregnant and couldn’t support a child because she was still in school?  These questions plagued me.

At this point, I never considered the child. The child never played a role in any of these scenarios.

Somewhere along the way though, God changed my heart.  It didn’t happen all at once, like at a seminar or during a sermon.  It happened because He, in His infinite wisdom, changed the way I thought about children.

Maybe, the change began when my husband and I were unable to have a child as soon as we decided, “Let’s get pregnant!”  Two years, several fertility treatments and a lot of prayer brought our first child, a boy.  It was during that experience that I realized how precious life is, and how wonderful it is to welcome a new baby into the family!

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At first, I wanted to have “a couple of kids” like everyone else.  “Maybe we’ll have a boy and a girl, ” I told my husband.

But, when I found out I was pregnant with my third, I was irate with my hubby!

“How could you do this to me?”  “Everyone is going to think we are freaks!”  I yelled in a hormonal fit!  Three kids, this close together is not what I signed up for!

My loving, non-reactionary husband, was calm.

“You are going to be okay!  I don’t give a damn what people think! I am excited that we have another beautiful life coming into our lives.”

His words were reassuring.  But I had a ways to go.

After my third child, a friend gave me a magazine called Above Rubies.  This publication devoted to encouraging mothers was a concentration of articles and testimonies focused on the joy of having children and families!  I devoured this reading and the seed was planted that children, (note the plural)  are a gift, not a burden.

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Surprisingly, I now wanted a fourth child, and wasn’t mad when I discovered we were pregnant yet again.

Unfortunately, with this pregnancy, a new struggle occurred. In public, complete strangers would stare and make comments about my family as if I were “irresponsible” to have yet “another” child. “Are all of those yours?” they would ask.  “You know what causes that, don’t you?” They would question sarcastically as they saw my rounded belly! Sometimes, I think people just wanted to make conversation, but other times, you could tell that a person was truly agitated that we were making “too many” babies!

babies

 

My father showed up at the birth of my fourth. He was smiling and gave me a dime.  “Put this between your knees and squeeze!”  He chuckled. “It’s the natural form of birth control.” He thought he was being cute. Holding my newborn son in my arms I looked at him and thought, “Which one of your four siblings would you want to erase, Dad?” I kept silent.

Still I continued to receive pressure from both family and friends to “quit having kids already.”

My uncle said to me when I was pregnant with my fifth, “Isn’t that about enough?” This is quite an audacious query to put before an eight-month pregnant lady!  Why did he feel he had the right to make such a comment?  I really believe he thought I was out-of-line to have more than my share of children.

In 1957, journalist Mike Wallace interviewed Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.  In this interview, Sanger revealed what became an agenda to change the way our society thinks about fertility:  “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into this world.”  My uncle, like so many in our culture, had bought into this line of thinking.

“You guys can do whatever you want, but I think you’re crazy,” a close family member told me one day when I told her of my impending fifth birth. How is a young mother to deal with this kind of pressure?

Looking back, I realize that the struggles I’ve had with abortion, birth control, family life and women’s rights are all related!  There is a culture in our country, perhaps even the dominate culture, that doesn’t value children.  Many don’t see children as a gift from God.  Many don’t see them as precious.  Rather, many around us see children as a burden, an expense, a hassle.   As a nation, I believe we aren’t going to progress on this issue until we address this pervasive thinking.

Our ideas about abortion won’t be changed at the clinic or at the women’s march.  Our ideas about life and family will only be changed in the heart when God shows us that we are more complete, more joyful even, when we give of ourselves to others and to our children.

To wrap this up, I want to tell you about something that miraculously happened in my dad’s heart with the birth of my fifth!  When I told him that we would be having another baby he said, “I am glad.  You are a good mother.”  He came to the hospital and held his new grandson.  “You did good!” he said softly.  What a change in this man!

God is the healer of hearts, the changer of minds and the giver of children!!  Glory be to Him!

kids

 

Who is Saint Angelina?

Who is Saint Angelina?

My relationship with her began in 2005 when my priest Father Jacob Myers asked, “Who is your patron saint?”  I looked at him intently, “What is that?”

“That is the saint whose name you take on as a Christian when you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church.

“Oh!” I responded, feeling as if I were somehow incomplete.

Sitting at his disheveled desk, he shuffled with some papers and leaned slightly back in his chair. “You should have Saint Angelina as your Saint,” Father flung the name at me with a wry smile. “She is a wonderful mother of boys.  You will be good for each other!”

“…good for each other?”  What did Father mean by that comment?  I am a mother of boys. I pondered the idea for a while and then a small boy probably came over and rubbed his nose on my skirt and that was the end of the discussion!  From that moment on, St. Angelina of Serbia was my saint-name.

For the next 10 years, each time I approached the Holy Eucharist, Father would address me as, “Servant of God, Angelina.”  This title agreed with me, but I was much too busy to go beyond merely accepting what Father Jacob told me about Angelina.  With five children at home, a husband, a part-time job and a new faith to learn, I had my hands full.

St. Angelina of Serbia

 

Then, one day last year, I got to thinking about Angelina and how we would be good for each other.  Before I could really get to know my saint, I had to tackle my hurdle about saints and their roles in our lives.  Why know these people, I thought?  Why have a saint-name?  It took about 10 years of being an Orthodox Christian before I could honestly answer these questions.

As a lay person from a non-Orthodox background, this is how I have come to understand the idea of saints and their roles in our lives.  The saints of the church are men and women who have proclaimed and followed Jesus Christ.  Some followed Him all of their lives; some followed only at the end, but all made a decision to follow.  Many lived their earthly lives before the common era.  All of these godly people struggled and persevered in the face of persecution, rejection, horrible circumstances or spiritual trials. Now,they are at the feel of Jesus praying.

Having a saint-name is a holy privilege.  As children adopted into the family of God, our saint-name is our spiritual family name and reminds us that we are part of God’s earthly and heavenly family.  Having a patron saint directly connects us with a spiritual family member who has already gone through this life with its struggles and trials.

Knowing your saint is like knowing an elderly relative who has already lived through your season of life.  She has been there and is already at the feet of Christ praying for you.  And, just as you might ask your great aunt to pray for you with a job situation or a new marriage, you can ask your saint to pray for you and she will.

Once I began to understand and be cool with this mystical idea that saints know us, care about us and pray for us, then it was easy to take the next step.  And that step was getting to know Angelina and her life.

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St. Angelina of Serbia, who lived nearly 600 years ago, was a godly mother and wife. She was married to St. Stephen Brankovich and together they had two boys. She was made a widow by the Ottoman Turks, who gouged out her husband’s eyes.  Together, with her boys, she relocated her husband’s relics to his beloved homeland of Serbia. In spite of this and the persecution she received at the hands of the Ottomans, she continued to raise her sons to an adulthood of faithfulness. Angelina was devoted to prayer and acts of mercy all of her life.  Today, St. Angelina is the most revered saint in Serbia along with St. Militza!  What a legacy.

As a model of prayer, a woman of charity and a mother of love and kindness, St. Angelina has already been good for me!  This 15th century woman of God reminds me daily that living a life of prayer and humility in a self-oriented culture that devalues faith and family is the most important thing.  In her icon, we see her holding a small cathedral, which symbolizes that she is  a pillar of the church.

After writing  and pondering, I looked around and realized we didn’t have an icon of St. Angelina at church.  So, in December, I got together with my godson and we made a couple of wooden icons, one of the Dormition of the Theotokos and one of St. Angelina.

Seeing Angelina frequently reminds me of that important thing that Fr. Jacob told me, “that we would be good for each other.”  If I am to meet my end of the bargain, I’ve got to get walking in her footsteps.

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Angelina of Serbia