“Praying with my feet” – a blog that got my attention by its name and a beautiful picture showing the lovely family of an Orthodox priest. The owner is matushka Anna, an open and charming person, who accepted to share with us some of her experience in being a matushka.
“I am just an ordinary person”
Matushka Anna, you are the homeschooling mother of five small children, a recently retired nurse and the wife of on Orthodox priest in the south of the United States. What means to you being a matushka? Is there a specific, a different life style?
Being a matushka in this country... I think that the answer would be different depending on the jurisdiction (mostly Orthodox Church in America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Antiochian Orthodox with some Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox etc.) and the part of the country. In the South, most of the churches are smaller and are missions. In the Northeast there are many more Orthodox Christians and the churches may be quite large. It is this way across the entire country - a checkerboard. I can only answer from my own experiences, of course. I am in the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) living in a very small town in southern Mississippi. There are very few Orthodox Christians here and most people have never heard of the Orthodox Church. They certainly have not heard of the word "matushka"! So, as far as the world outside my church is concerned, I am just an ordinary person. In my church, I don't have an official position, I'm not 'assigned' to this parish, I'm not an elected official (in fact, I'm ineligible), yet I am set apart. I know that, for many, the matushka is someone who is supposed to be a paragon of virtues, the role-model of Orthodoxy (next to the priest). For others, the idea of calling someone "matushka" is difficult. It is like this when you have a mixed group of converts and cradle-Orthodox. I attend a very nice church; the people are very kind and loving. I know that I am watched - I have to be very careful not to give scandal. I don't mind this. I try to live modestly, frugally, piously. I am not a perfect person by any means, but it is important that I try hard.
You have a blog, named Praying With My Feet. Why this name?
Well, the best way to answer that would be to quote from my blog: "When my oldest three children were very small (i.e.-three, two and infant), I complained to my spiritual father that I seemed to spend more time outside the church than inside: walking/nursing the baby, removing the loud/crying toddler(s) etc. He told me that I was 'praying with my feet'. I have had many, many occasions to remember his words with gratitude."
In everything I do, I need to remember to "pray with my feet" or hands or whatever. The life of a mother of little children is busy. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be much time to pray. But I can make my actions prayers.
How is an ordinary day for you?
Oh my! Well, in a lot of ways it is very ordinary. I usually wake up next to my 3 year old who has probably climbed in bed with me. I try to go for a walk very early for exercise. Everyone gets up and dressed and we have breakfast. Some children have morning duties like feeding the cats and sorting laundry. I try to get homeschool going as soon as possible because it becomes more difficult as the day goes on. This usually takes all morning although some children are done sooner. If possible, I try to get some house work done during this time too. It doesn't always happen.
Around 12 we have lunch, usually sandwiches because that's what everyone likes and because I tend not to cook lunch and dinner. By 1:30 everyone is taking a rest. The youngest takes a nap but the older children are free to lie in bed and read. The girls (because they have their own room) may quietly work on a puzzle or do some other quiet activity. I NEED them to have an hour rest because we all need a break from the noise and commotion! Especially me!
In the afternoon we do various things. Every Monday we go to the library. Depending on the weather, they may play outside, play in the sprinkler, play on the porch, whatever. They are very creative and I don't have the habit of telling them how to play. They also have various chores to complete during the day and they may have to finish some homeschooling if we did something else during the morning. A week or so ago we took them to the planetarium and this morning I took them to the train station. I also try to get any house work done for the day (I have a weekly schedule). By late afternoon I will be getting dinner ready or getting everyone ready for vespers (which we do every Wednesday and Saturday). After dinner the girls are responsible for clearing the table and doing the dinner dishes. They may watch a DVD in the evening or just play. Usually I have at least one or two children hidden in various places reading. We may also play a game together as a family. Father also likes to read aloud. After washing up they're supposed to be in bed with a book by 8:30 and lights off around 9. Father and I will spend the time after that talking or reading together. Obviously, Sunday and feastdays are different as we'll be at church.
About the prayer life, Father and I do our rules separately, he usually in the morning, I usually at night. We have a family icon "corner" - due to lack of space it's on the wall by the dining table. The children also have icon corners in their rooms with the icons being placed at child-level. The older ones have their own rules and do them on their own. Father had started walking to church, taking some of the children with him, in the evening to say a quick vespers. That's been nice. Our oldest has gone with him to the church very early many times to say matins with him. She's learning how to chant.
(to be continued)
Interview realized by Preoteasa Natalia & Preoteasa Eufemia