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Valdamarr
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« on: March 04, 2010, 06:03:21 PM »

I have a great difficulty finding balance between my spiritual life and my ordinary life.  By that I mean that I am sometimes very devout to the exclusion of worldly things, or else, possibly as a result of my melancholic disposition, trying desperately to bury myself in fiction.  I also have a hard time being social, one of the things that makes me so reluctant to become Orthodox (in my experience, it is almost impossible to avoid socializing in Orthodox parishes).  Being very introverted makes it hard for me to have meaningful friendships, and I often fall back on Hemingway's assertion that "there is no friend truer than a book."

So I suppose I have two or more problems here.  The most glaring is my lack of balance and thus stability.  The second is not running away when people get too involved in my life.  Does anyone else struggle with things like these?
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« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2010, 06:29:54 PM »

I have a great difficulty finding balance between my spiritual life and my ordinary life.  By that I mean that I am sometimes very devout to the exclusion of worldly things, or else, possibly as a result of my melancholic disposition, trying desperately to bury myself in fiction.  I also have a hard time being social, one of the things that makes me so reluctant to become Orthodox (in my experience, it is almost impossible to avoid socializing in Orthodox parishes).  Being very introverted makes it hard for me to have meaningful friendships, and I often fall back on Hemingway's assertion that "there is no friend truer than a book."

So I suppose I have two or more problems here.  The most glaring is my lack of balance and thus stability.  The second is not running away when people get too involved in my life.  Does anyone else struggle with things like these?

Yes. You just described me. I am also very introvert and I experience almost exactly the same struggle.

I guess you and I are fine though. Does it bother you that you are like that? I have actually reconciled with the way I am. It's not likely to change and there is nothing wrong in it, I guess.
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2010, 11:40:00 AM »

I have a great difficulty finding balance between my spiritual life and my ordinary life.  By that I mean that I am sometimes very devout to the exclusion of worldly things, or else, possibly as a result of my melancholic disposition, trying desperately to bury myself in fiction.  I also have a hard time being social, one of the things that makes me so reluctant to become Orthodox (in my experience, it is almost impossible to avoid socializing in Orthodox parishes).  Being very introverted makes it hard for me to have meaningful friendships, and I often fall back on Hemingway's assertion that "there is no friend truer than a book."

So I suppose I have two or more problems here.  The most glaring is my lack of balance and thus stability.  The second is not running away when people get too involved in my life.  Does anyone else struggle with things like these?

Yes. You just described me. I am also very introvert and I experience almost exactly the same struggle.

I guess you and I are fine though. Does it bother you that you are like that? I have actually reconciled with the way I am. It's not likely to change and there is nothing wrong in it, I guess.

Me three. I'm pretty much of an introvert, as well. On the Meyers-Briggs, I'm about as strong an INTJ as you can get. For us introverts, as I understand it, it's not actually about social shyness as it is about where we draw our energy to function. Introverts draw from within - extroverts draw from other people.

Luckily I married a raging extrovert, who is firmly convinced that total strangers are just dear friends he hasn't met yet! Although he can be aggravating sometimes, I do envy him.

I agree with heorij - I pretty much think we're ok. We can however work on recognizing that it's not all about us, and be a little more open to others. Sometimes they need our help.

IMHO, Orthodoxy is a shy person's dream come true. Rather than fiction though, what about reading spiritually edifying books?
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2010, 12:19:11 PM »

Luckily I married a raging extrovert, who is firmly convinced that total strangers are just dear friends he hasn't met yet! Although he can be aggravating sometimes, I do envy him.

Same here! My wife is much more extrovert than I am. And it does have a certain down side: for example, sometimes when we attend a party together, and it's getting late, and I am bored to death, she does not want to leave because she always has something to talk about with all kinds of people, even complete strangers. She and I even had our share of "shouting matches" about this. But I got used to that. If we are at a noisy and boring party, I let her do her talking, while I find a bookshelf and randomly read all kinds of books that stand there (even cookboooks). Smiley
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Valdamarr
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2010, 12:15:29 PM »

Thank you for your replies.  I also believe there is not a single thing wrong with being introverted, and I accept that as part of my personality.  What is wrong with my own extreme introversion is that I let it keep me cloistered and self-absorbed to an extreme.

Katherine, in what way do you think of Orthodoxy as a "shy person's dream"?  Speaking for myself, I get anxious and nervous when approached by strangers, and end up tongue-tied and exhausted (that's the way it feels at least).

As to spiritual reading versus fiction, I can only say that I use fiction as an escape, a way to place myself in some other place and time, at least temporarily, though I will often ponder some of the concepts and themes of whatever I am currently reading even when I am not engaged in reading.  Spiritual reading puts me in a more religious/devotional mood, and when I am nursing my pet resentments, I do not want to be religious (another problem altogether).  So fiction, and sometimes non-fiction, serves as an escape from worldly cares/problems/etc.
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2010, 11:25:23 AM »

Thank you for your replies.  I also believe there is not a single thing wrong with being introverted, and I accept that as part of my personality.  What is wrong with my own extreme introversion is that I let it keep me cloistered and self-absorbed to an extreme.
Yes, that is the danger - the self absorption. I say this with love, so take it from someone who had to learn the hard way, but you may not be quite as special or as fragile as you think. Wink Doing only things that we want to do and interacting only the way we want is, not to put too fine a point on it, selfish and fairly egotistical. Other people need our prayers and our help, but we will never know it unless we step outside our comfort zone.

Quote
Katherine, in what way do you think of Orthodoxy as a "shy person's dream"?  Speaking for myself, I get anxious and nervous when approached by strangers, and end up tongue-tied and exhausted (that's the way it feels at least).
Because the Divine Liturgy is so quiet and contemplative - you can engage with it on whatever level.
Here's a tip: plan for being approached by strangers. My husband calls it an "elevator speech." Your name, what you do, why you're there. Then have a few useful questions "how long have you been going to this church?" "what do you like about it?" etc. Then just stand there, listening. Most people love to talk and appreciate a good listener - there are so few of them around.

Quote
As to spiritual reading versus fiction, I can only say that I use fiction as an escape, a way to place myself in some other place and time, at least temporarily, though I will often ponder some of the concepts and themes of whatever I am currently reading even when I am not engaged in reading.
Of course you do, honey. I do it myself. Why, I even have to mentally slap myself around for doing it during the Divine Liturgy! Grin 
That's why, during Lent especially, I try to confine myself to "spiritual" reading.

Quote
Spiritual reading puts me in a more religious/devotional mood, and when I am nursing my pet resentments, I do not want to be religious (another problem altogether).  So fiction, and sometimes non-fiction, serves as an escape from worldly cares/problems/etc.
Yes, and that's the point, isn't it - spiritual reading for us is almost a podvig. We have to give up that escape available to us in fiction and we have to give up nursing our pet resentments, and we have to face ourselves. It's neither easy nor pretty, but it's vital.
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2010, 12:25:21 PM »

Speaking of "spiritual reading," I personally have always found a lot more spirituality in some fiction than in some patristic writings.  Embarrassed
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2010, 12:39:02 PM »

Speaking of "spiritual reading," I personally have always found a lot more spirituality in some fiction than in some patristic writings.  Embarrassed

I'm glad you said it first! Cheesy

I find I get more "spirituality" out of reading The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion than I do out of reading many Patristic writings. (maybe even most) I'm reading LOTR right now exactly because I'm in a dark place spiritually and I need it....reading about guys glowing in the dark, moonbeams shooting out of their hands and floating around 5th century Egypt just doesn't help me. Frodo and Sam approaching Mount Doom....that helps me. Maybe it's the way I'm wired, or maybe I'm just a Tolkien nerd. Cheesy

 
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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2010, 01:16:19 PM »

I resonate with this thread as well.  I agree that the Orthodox church can be an introvert's dream come true, but I think it is also an extrovert's dream come true.  At least at first it is.  As much as there is great freedom in the church, the faith and the gospel are not content to leave us where we are.  Just as there are introverts that are uncomfortable being around other people there are extroverts that are just as uncomfortable being with with themselves.  I think the church provides a challenge no matter what side of the coin you are on.  When I first started inquiring into Orthodoxy I attended services for months hoping to not be noticed.  It mostly worked.  I praise God that it didn't completely work.  There were a few people that would seek me out just to say hello and to tell me that they were glad to see me.  Then one of the deacons pulled me aside after Divine Liturgy and asked me if I had met with the priest yet.  I said, "no".  "Would you like to?", he asked.  Being put on the spot, I couldn't think of a good enough reason to say no.  I have come to both dread and look forward to those moments when people encroach upon and push me out of my comfort zone a little bit.  If I insist on, and am allowed to be insular I am not only of little help to the rest of the body, I am disabling the work of the body of Christ in my own life.  My comfort or discomfort don't have any bearing on what is true or real.  They are subjective and don't really have anything to say about a given situation.  Coffee hour is still a bit overwhelming though.   Grin  You will often find me in the library.

Find ways to accept social interaction in doses you can handle.  No one runs a marathon on the first day.
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« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2010, 03:17:10 PM »

As much as there is great freedom in the church, the faith and the gospel are not content to leave us where we are.  Just as there are introverts that are uncomfortable being around other people there are extroverts that are just as uncomfortable being with with themselves.  I think the church provides a challenge no matter what side of the coin you are on...I have come to both dread and look forward to those moments when people encroach upon and push me out of my comfort zone a little bit.  If I insist on, and am allowed to be insular I am not only of little help to the rest of the body, I am disabling the work of the body of Christ in my own life.  My comfort or discomfort don't have any bearing on what is true or real.  They are subjective and don't really have anything to say about a given situation.  

This is truly excellent!

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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2010, 08:37:20 PM »

I have a great difficulty finding balance between my spiritual life and my ordinary life.  By that I mean that I am sometimes very devout to the exclusion of worldly things, or else, possibly as a result of my melancholic disposition, trying desperately to bury myself in fiction.  I also have a hard time being social, one of the things that makes me so reluctant to become Orthodox (in my experience, it is almost impossible to avoid socializing in Orthodox parishes).  Being very introverted makes it hard for me to have meaningful friendships, and I often fall back on Hemingway's assertion that "there is no friend truer than a book."

So I suppose I have two or more problems here.  The most glaring is my lack of balance and thus stability.  The second is not running away when people get too involved in my life.  Does anyone else struggle with things like these?
You stated that you "don't want to run away" which probably means that you want to begin to attach to others. To help attachment, first you need to identify why you have run from people. Next, find people that share your same interests.   Work on building trust one small step at a time with them.   Share one feeling at a time with them. If they are accepting/friendly, share one more feeling with them. Remember to build trust slowly and you may be able to meet your goal of attaching
to others.

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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2010, 01:53:14 AM »

INFP here, I get what you're saying completely. I'm hoping to overcome the parts of socialization that I dislike by finding one or two people to get close to, and letting it go from there. Also, charity work: people don't seem to mind if you're busy during this Tongue
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2010, 09:37:19 AM »

I identify with this thread very much also.  One thing I do know for me is that I feel a connectedness with all people and never feel overly compelled to talk to someone because of the connected feeling already, almost as if it a holistic in a weird way.  I can also be extremely goofy and have a good time such as karaoke ( LOL and I am the worse singer ever, though the one tone I do have, I have down pat).

I have also learned to ask questions then let people spend the next hour talking about themselves with a little prompting hear and there, but that is a bless and a curse because people don't ever get to know the real you.
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2010, 03:10:43 PM »

I would consider myself to be quite introverted as well.  However, when I get to know people and they get to know me, then I find myself to be comfortable in a more social setting, provided that the people there are people I know.  In church, the people who know me know to leave me alone, not because I am uninterested in them, but because there my desire is to set myself before the Lord's presence, while acknowledging at the same time, that we are all doing the same thing.  Such is the very definition and essence of the word Liturgy. 

The Orthodox Church knows that no one is saved alone.  One can condemn himself all by himself; no one else can do that.  But we are saved together through our oneness in Christ and that includes introverts and extroverts alike.

If we liken introversion as a spiritual gift such as detachment and exile (as St. John Climacus describes them in his work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent), then there is nothing inherently wrong with it.  But, as has already been pointed out, if our spiritual conduct is only done with ourselves in mind, either because of fear of others or simply not liking others, then we became self-absorbed and exile ourselves not only from the world but also from the Kingdom.

I think we also need to differentiate clearly between loneliness and introversion.  An introverted person is not a loner, necessarily, though to many people, it comes off that way.  As I have said, I am introverted, but I am comfortable in certain social situations, though for most of my week, as I live alone, I do not have a great deal of interaction with others save for over the computer or on the phone.  Loneliness is a problem precisely because loneliness is isolation even from God.

Who knows?  You may very well find your giftings to be perfectly suited to the angelic life of monks.  Perhaps that is something you should look into.  But unless you decide to live as a hermit in the desert, even among the brotherhood you will still be interactive.  Granted it won't be a "chatty" kind of interaction, but, especially in prayer, you will all be together in service to God.  Just mho.

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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 03:43:57 PM »

My husband calls it an "elevator speech." Your name, what you do, why you're there. Then have a few useful questions "how long have you been going to this church?" "what do you like about it?" etc. Then just stand there, listening. Most people love to talk and appreciate a good listener - there are so few of them around.

I actually avoid the question "What do you do?".  This question can lead to all kinds of awkward situations that make the person you're talking with uncomfortable, and because of that many perceive it to be an extremely rude question.  For example, professions range from medical doctors and university professors to janitors and waiters.  Many are currently unemployed.  While there is no shame in any honest day's work, some people are embarrassed when two classes cross wires like this.  Some fast-food servers get embarrassed explaining to the doctor that that work at Taco Bell.  Many are embarrassed they are out of work.

I'm not getting on your case, just letting you know that the question bothers a lot of us, even though inquiring about one's profession is a common feature of social interaction in the United States.  You might want to suggest that your husband move that question out of his rotation.
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2010, 05:30:48 PM »

My husband calls it an "elevator speech." Your name, what you do, why you're there. Then have a few useful questions "how long have you been going to this church?" "what do you like about it?" etc. Then just stand there, listening. Most people love to talk and appreciate a good listener - there are so few of them around.

I actually avoid the question "What do you do?".  This question can lead to all kinds of awkward situations that make the person you're talking with uncomfortable, and because of that many perceive it to be an extremely rude question.  For example, professions range from medical doctors and university professors to janitors and waiters.  Many are currently unemployed.  While there is no shame in any honest day's work, some people are embarrassed when two classes cross wires like this.  Some fast-food servers get embarrassed explaining to the doctor that that work at Taco Bell.  Many are embarrassed they are out of work.

I'm not getting on your case, just letting you know that the question bothers a lot of us, even though inquiring about one's profession is a common feature of social interaction in the United States.  You might want to suggest that your husband move that question out of his rotation.

You misunderstood. It is not questions to ask people, but a short introduction of yourself, prepared in advance for shy people who often become tongue-tied when others try to engage them in conversation.
And I don't think I will tell my husband that either. First of all, as I said before, it's not a question, and second because it is a technique that he teaches his clients. He is a job developer, in a non-profit organization, working with mostly homeless and ex-offenders, to help them overcome obstacles to finding (and keeping, which is often more difficult for them) a job. It's been a useful technique or tool for many of his clients over the years.
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« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2010, 10:47:01 AM »

My husband calls it an "elevator speech." Your name, what you do, why you're there. Then have a few useful questions "how long have you been going to this church?" "what do you like about it?" etc. Then just stand there, listening. Most people love to talk and appreciate a good listener - there are so few of them around.

I actually avoid the question "What do you do?".  This question can lead to all kinds of awkward situations that make the person you're talking with uncomfortable, and because of that many perceive it to be an extremely rude question.  For example, professions range from medical doctors and university professors to janitors and waiters.  Many are currently unemployed.  While there is no shame in any honest day's work, some people are embarrassed when two classes cross wires like this.  Some fast-food servers get embarrassed explaining to the doctor that that work at Taco Bell.  Many are embarrassed they are out of work.

I'm not getting on your case, just letting you know that the question bothers a lot of us, even though inquiring about one's profession is a common feature of social interaction in the United States.  You might want to suggest that your husband move that question out of his rotation.

You know it's interesting that you say this.  On the one hand, I can certainly understand how an unemployed person might feel awkward having to admit that they have no job (although, in this economy, it's so common that I think they have much LESS reason to feel awkward, since there are SO many out there in the same unfortunate circumstance).

On the other hand, however, in our parish, everyone kind of knows that if you need a job, the first and best place to go is coffee hour.  The best thing an unemployed person could possibly do for themselves is tell everyone they know that they're unemployed.  The majority of job opportunities come from networking (which is, essentially, telling people you need a job).  And in the parish, there is such a diverse group of people in such diverse careers that chances are quite good there will be someone who can help you.

In fact, a perfect example (as I know KatherineofDixie and her husband personally)... I know of a young lady in Katherine's parish who happened to tell Katherine's husband (in just such a conversation) that she was looking for a job at our regular Lenten Sunday Pan-Orthodox Vespers.  By the next evening, Katherine's husband had an interview set up for her. 

I certainly appreciate the concern and sensitivity you show by your post for those who might not feel confident in such a situation, but I really think that the best way for a person to help themselves is to tell people they need a job.  And I really think that it is incumbent upon us as their brothers and sisters in Christ to be sensitive and approachable enough that they feel comfortable talking to us, and then help them in any way we can.  I know when someone tells me they need a job (which has happened several times just in the past six months or so), the first thing I do is suggest anyone I know that I think they might be able to contact for help, and then I start putting out feelers to people I know on their behalf.  It has been successful several times, by God's grace and to His glory!
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« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2010, 11:06:43 AM »

Most people who know me would probably classify me as an extrovert, but I think it's more because I'm rather opinionated and, once I know someone, I have no problem whatsoever expressing my thoughts and opinions and engaging in discussion as long as I have found them to be a soft place to land, so to speak.  With people I don't know, however, it's heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping nervousness and anxiety.

Coffee hour, for me, is almost torture.  I have a VERY hard time at coffee hour, because I'm SO unsure of myself.  And being married to one of the priests of the parish, I'm sort of expected to approach and greet people.  Honestly, most of the time I seek out the people I feel comfortable with to talk to.  Sometimes, depending on what's happening in the parish and how I feel, I just avoid coffee hour altogether.  I'm working on it, though...

I think the key for me is "acting."  I came up through drama and the arts and still perform quite often (now it's primarily singing, though, not as much acting).  So when I have to approach strangers, or am approached by strangers, I switch into acting mode.  I act like I'm comfortable, I act like I'm not shy.  I guess it's just faking it til I make it.  And what do you know, 99.9% of the time, I'm comfortable talking to them by the end of the conversation.  So I just act like I'm comfortable until I am comfortable.  Make sense?

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« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2010, 09:46:19 PM »

"it is almost impossible to avoid socializing in Orthodox parishes"

That's right. You're not supposed to avoid contact with your fellow Orthodox: You are all, collectively, the Body of Christ. There is no such thing as a lone Orthodox. Orthodox Christianity isn't practiced in private. The members of your church are relatives. Unlike your own relatives, with whom your relationship can become uncomfortable, your brothers in the church--if they practice true Orthodoxy--will always forgive you. Also, there's a big difference between doing things together and becoming uncomfortably intimate.
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2010, 10:53:16 PM »

My husband calls it an "elevator speech." Your name, what you do, why you're there. Then have a few useful questions "how long have you been going to this church?" "what do you like about it?" etc. Then just stand there, listening. Most people love to talk and appreciate a good listener - there are so few of them around.

I actually avoid the question "What do you do?".  This question can lead to all kinds of awkward situations that make the person you're talking with uncomfortable, and because of that many perceive it to be an extremely rude question.  For example, professions range from medical doctors and university professors to janitors and waiters.  Many are currently unemployed.  While there is no shame in any honest day's work, some people are embarrassed when two classes cross wires like this.  Some fast-food servers get embarrassed explaining to the doctor that that work at Taco Bell.  Many are embarrassed they are out of work.

I'm not getting on your case, just letting you know that the question bothers a lot of us, even though inquiring about one's profession is a common feature of social interaction in the United States.  You might want to suggest that your husband move that question out of his rotation.

You know it's interesting that you say this.  On the one hand, I can certainly understand how an unemployed person might feel awkward having to admit that they have no job (although, in this economy, it's so common that I think they have much LESS reason to feel awkward, since there are SO many out there in the same unfortunate circumstance).

On the other hand, however, in our parish, everyone kind of knows that if you need a job, the first and best place to go is coffee hour.  The best thing an unemployed person could possibly do for themselves is tell everyone they know that they're unemployed.  The majority of job opportunities come from networking (which is, essentially, telling people you need a job).  And in the parish, there is such a diverse group of people in such diverse careers that chances are quite good there will be someone who can help you.

In fact, a perfect example (as I know KatherineofDixie and her husband personally)... I know of a young lady in Katherine's parish who happened to tell Katherine's husband (in just such a conversation) that she was looking for a job at our regular Lenten Sunday Pan-Orthodox Vespers.  By the next evening, Katherine's husband had an interview set up for her.  

I certainly appreciate the concern and sensitivity you show by your post for those who might not feel confident in such a situation, but I really think that the best way for a person to help themselves is to tell people they need a job.  And I really think that it is incumbent upon us as their brothers and sisters in Christ to be sensitive and approachable enough that they feel comfortable talking to us, and then help them in any way we can.  I know when someone tells me they need a job (which has happened several times just in the past six months or so), the first thing I do is suggest anyone I know that I think they might be able to contact for help, and then I start putting out feelers to people I know on their behalf.  It has been successful several times, by God's grace and to His glory!

While I would agree with Alveus that the question "What do you do?" can be uncomfortable OUTSIDE of the Church, I would have to agree wholeheartedly with Presbytera that it can be a great help INSIDE of the Church.

I was blessed enough to be a member of the parish that Presbytera's husband serves at when I lost my job in Dec of 2008. When word got out that I had lost my job, all kinds of people from all walks of life (some I had never spoken to before) came up to me in attempts to try to help me land another job. I can't tell  you how much it meant to me to have that kind of community come around and support me and pray for me during such a difficult time.

Fr. Christos (Presbytera's husband) even went to great lengths to put together of an English translation of a Paraklesis to St. Xenia of St. Petersburg for all of the unemployed people in the community. (Not just in our parish, but people from other parishes were invited to attend as well.)

In the end, God had other plans for me, and I ended up leaving Atlanta to move back to New Jersey to live with my parents and go to school full-time. But Glory to God, my parish community here has also been supportive of me, and has prayed for me during this time.

Outside of Church... well, Alveus is right. Reactions are quite different.

I've had people infer that I am lazy, mooching off the government, and all other kinds of accusations thrown at me, simply because my company decided they no longer needed my services, along with 11,999 other co-workers of mine the day they laid me off. (Even within my own family, these kind of remarks have been hurled at me.)

Don't get me wrong, in the time since I have lost my job, I have struggled a lot with the question "What do you do for a living?" and my identity in society; but I never struggled with my identity within the Church.

There, I am a Handmaiden of God. Smiley

In XC,

Maureen
« Last Edit: March 18, 2010, 10:53:37 PM by HandmaidenofGod » Logged

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jer 29:11
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