Breaking Bottles of Oil

mary of bethany oils

Over this past year, I have begun using doTerra’s oils. I haven’t made a huge deal of it here on the blog, because I wanted time to test it out and see how things went. But it’s hard to keep quiet, because I can’t stop posting about some new thing I’ve cured, some recent ailment of mine that I’ve alleviated.

Long and short, I LOVE my oils. They’ve changed my health for the better.

But that’s definitely not what all this is about.

As I was waxing poetic about my oils to Jesse the other day (he’s super into them as well, but in a totally manly way, isn’t that right Honey?) he looked over and said, “You know, it makes sense that you are really drawn to essential oils. After all, your Saint is Mary of Bethany.”

This remark stopped me in my tracks. Mary of Bethany has been my Patron Saint ever since I was chrismated, 7.5 years ago. I even have her icon in our family’s prayer corner, holding a bottle of oil.


And yet, I had never put two and two together.

You see, I chose Mary of Bethany because she was the sister of Lazarus and wanted to sit at Jesus’ feet. In fact, in every icon, she is always pictured at the feet of Jesus or holding one of his feet. She was a listener and a friend, not just a doer like her sister, Martha. You guys, I AM naturally a Martha. And I really don’t want to be. It’s one of my greatest goals in life. Slow down long enough to listen and love people. It’s one of the reasons I’ve intentionally decided to be a 99% stay at home mom during this season.

mary of bethany icon

But I had forgotten the other reason Mary of Bethany is so famous.

She was the one who poured expensive oils all over Jesus’ feet. These were precious oils she had been saving for her own funeral someday, or maybe to heal a loved one.

But Jesus was what she loved. She wasn’t going to wait for another answer, another healer or another Messiah. He was it.

And she didn’t just pour that thing out, she BROKE open the jar. Gave him everything with hopeless abandon, smashed the vessel, showed that she was all in, holding back nothing.

Judas rebuked her, just as her sister Martha did for sitting at Jesus’ feet, many years prior. He didn’t want her wasting such a costly thing for no apparent reason. He didn’t understand that what he was watching was Love without restraint. Love looks foolish, Love looks like a pointless waste of resources. Love doesn’t make sense when it’s viewed by someone in “go” mode.

As I think about my precious oils, these doTerra bottles that cost me hard-earned money, I remember all the times when I’ve counted drops and metered them out.  And then I think of all the times I’ve metered out my personal resources. I’ve avoided helping friends because I’m worried I’ll be too tired or too frustrated. I’ve refused to let my husband serve on parish council because hearing about all the drama every week made ME so mad, not him. I think twice before every invitation, every chance to go out and do something, every perceived need for those around me.

Worst of all, I’ve even metered out my time with my Savior. When deciding whether or not to go to extra services on a Wednesday or Saturday night, I start thinking about all the things I have to do for the coming week and the thought of wrestling my kids to keep them quiet just sounds too draining.  Instead of praying by myself before the kids get up, I squeeze out every last drop of sleep because I “need” it in order to keep from getting worn down.

I don’t break bottles of oil over Jesus’ feet in my day to day life. I measure those drops out, giving Jesus what I think I can manage, instead of trusting Him with all of it.

Just as I need to learn to listen at Jesus’ feet as He shows me how to love those around me, I also need to learn how to let go of my resources when it comes to Love.

I had an experience after church on Sunday that I’ve barely mentioned, even to Jesse.

We were on our way downtown, going to look at an open house. We decided to kill some time and go to the ONE Peet’s coffee house in all of Dallas, smack dab in the middle of downtown underneath a Sheraton hotel. We decided that I would run in so that we could save a few dollars while parking.

As I was running in, rushed because I “needed” my coffee fix, a homeless man who’d been sitting there asked if I’d give him money so that he could eat.

It was this weird experience, where I heard the words, but I didn’t even know I was saying them. Almost like the words were spoken from somewhere, skipped my brain and went flying out of my mouth.

“No. Come with me. We can get food together.”

I was confused. The man was confused. He followed me in, but I had to urge him on several times, because he didn’t understand what was going on (neither did I!).

And there we were, standing side by side at the counter. The woman who was supposed to be working the cash registers decided to take her time doing other things instead of helping us, which made for a loooong time standing side by side. One of those, “not sure where to look or what to do” moments. You guys, I’m not a friendly person when it comes to strangers. I just stand there awkwardly, hoping it’s all over soon.

The man ordered coffee– an order he changed because he heard me order 2 iced coffees, and he said, “What’s that? Give me one of those!” He’d never had iced coffee before.

It wasn’t until the guy grabbed his coffee and ran off that the cashier said, “Wait, you don’t KNOW that man?”

“Nope.” I said. “He asked for money, but I don’t do that.”

And I realized, I don’t do that. I don’t do this. I try to give, but then I expect my giving to be measured into predictable boxes that I can control. I’m the foster mom who was okay with her kids and their pain until it invaded every last corner of her life. I’m the mom that can agree to move across the country with her husband to chase a good job and grad school– so long as I have my home, life and friends in order. I’m the wife who will only let her husband serve at church if it doesn’t interfere with her kids’ nap schedules.

I don’t response well to my resources being ripped away from me. I don’t respond well to being asked to give them.

But I want that to change. And with God’s help and the example set before me, I think I can.

Breaking bottles of oil, one day at a time.

William’s Baptism

Ever wondered what a baptism in the Orthodox church looks like?

This last weekend, we were part of the baptism of our fourth godchild, William. Normally, in the Orthodox church, babies are baptized within their first 2 months of life. Since our friends were waiting for us to move to Dallas, however, William is already 5 months old!

For long-time readers of this blog, you will notice that our “home” church in Dallas is the same exact place where we baptized our first godchild, Christopher, our second godchild, Lola Magdalena, our OWN son, Gregory, and our third godchild, Jonathan. This is a special place for us, to be sure!


Christopher, 2009 (before any of the iconography on that back wall!)


Lola, 2010

Double Baptism

2011 (double baptism– we were Jonathan’s godparents, and his parents were Gregory’s godparents!)


William, 2014!


We were friends with two other couples long before any of us had kids. Now, we have a herd! Here are 5 of the 7! Baby Joanna and Baby William are missing (or getting baptized!). And, yes, 6 of our 7 are boys! Poor Joanna!



spit up

Want to see the Money Shot? Right as they handed William to me, he spat up. Ah, babies!



Laughing it off!


Taking William up for his first communion!


Midnight Pascha Service…with a toddler!

Pascha 2014 Gregory and Momma When people hear about how much time we spend in church during Easter, they think we’re crazy. Since having kids, we spend less time than we used to, but it’s still a lot when you compare it to pretty much any other church. For example, we took both kids to the Good Friday service, which is essentially a 2 hour burial in a mostly dark church. Our 3 year old was awestruck the entire time and couldn’t stop talking about how Jesus died and was wrapped in a sheet. At one point, he even went up to our 2 year old and hissed, “AJ! Stand up! Jesus DIED.”

After the burial service, there is a short break for dinner before everyone reconvenes for another 2 hour service. On Saturday, starting at 11:30pm, we have the Divine Liturgy Pascha Service that goes until 2 am. Yes, 2 in the morning! Even crazier, this year we decided to bring our 3 year old again instead of letting him sleep at the grandparents house, as is our usual custom. We saw how enraptured he was at the Good Friday service and couldn’t wait to share the Pascha celebration with him for the first time (to see last years Pascha celebration, click here).Pascha 2014 Gregory with a candle And I’m so glad we brought him! As crazy as it sounds, keeping a 3 year old up until 3am (including the feast afterwards), he was very well behaved and loved it. We have a small church, so I was not only able to get him to the front of almost every event so he could see up close, but we were also able to roll out a little sleeping bag for him in the front of the church so he could rest whenever he felt like it (spoiler alert…he didn’t rest!). In the beginning, we sing hymns in the dark over Christ’s tomb. We light candles (Gregory’s favorite part by far!) and process around the church three times. We knock at the door, and when we enter the church once more, the tomb is gone, the lights on, and everyone shouting joyously that Christ is Risen!

If getting home from all that at 4am isn’t enough, we headed back at noon the following day for Agape Vespers, a short 1.5 hour service followed by another feast. Orthodox Christians LOVE their meat and dairy, especially after 40 days of not eating any! The church held an Easter Egg hunt for the kids and also handed out goodie bags filled with bubbles and art supplies for each of them.

Our annual Agape Vespers photo

Our annual Agape Vespers photo

Gregory holding candy   Church of the Anunciation altar   Candles and icons   Pascha Church doors Gregory finding Easter Eggs blog Gregory with Easter Eggs blog The rest of our day was filled with a big dinner feast with both of our families, complete with another Easter Egg hunt that my sister in law organized and ran for all the kids. What are your favorite Easter traditions? Let me know in the comments!

What’s In a Name?

My 3 year old self, playing mommy

My 3 year old self, playing mommy

It’s my birthday! Turning the big 28.

We’re actually waiting until tomorrow to celebrate. Today is packed with piano lessons that I can’t move around, plus we have foster care training from 6-9pm. But I got work off tomorrow, so we’re planning on taking the afternoon/evening to hang out in Cambria!

I’ve been thinking a lot of about names and their importance. It seems to me that our society has lost this importance, in some capacity. We think more about whether we “like” the name or how the name sounds more than about it’s meaning.

And why should the meaning be important?

Think about it. During the first year of one’s life, you are called by that name 10-20 times a day. That’s 3,000-8,000 times in the first year. By the time a kid graduates from high school, they’ve been called by that name close to 250,000 times.

What if you called a kid “dummy” 250,000 times? Even if your intent wasn’t to demean, words have meaning. When you say that name, you are speaking something into existence and attaching it to that person.

We’ve been watching a TV show called, “Orange Is the New Black”. It’s got questionable content, to be sure, so I can’t recommend it. The show is based on a true story centering around prison life in a women’s correctional facility.

What we’ve found so interesting is that the inmates drop their real names and exchange it for a current degrading characteristic of theirs, like, “Crazy Eyes”. Instead of using their name as something to aspire to, they trade it for something base in the here and now. And it changes them.

It’s no secret that Jesse and I named our kids for the patron saint we chose for them. I want them to know that they were named for someone god-fearing. I want them to one day learn about the man they were named for and aspire to fully commit their life to Christ in the same way.

Anthony’s name is incredibly special for this reason. When I was 15 weeks pregnant, before we’d found out the gender, I was driving to the store, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I got the feeling that someone was speaking. And then I just knew. His name was going to be Anthony. When I got to the store, I immediately called Jesse.

“Honey, guess what. I know our kid’s name”.

“What?” he said. “We don’t even know if it’s a girl or boy!”

“I know. But his name is Anthony.”

“But…that wasn’t even on our ‘list’ of names!”

“I can’t explain it, other than I know it’s his name!”

When we officially found out the gender a month later, it wasn’t a shock. We already knew his name. We already knew that the Lord had picked someone special for him to be named after.

Ever since then, the Lord has brought many Anthonys into our life. He’s asked us to help them. It’s amazing to me the power of a name, and the power of associating our child with such a wonderful saint.

My name, “Kelly”, means “warrior”. I was fascinated by this as a child and thought about it often.

I’ve always been stubborn. My parents remember tantrums that lasted for HOURS. They used to have me stand in a corner, hoping that I would have a change of heart when I got tired, but I would hold out for all evening, and they would give up and go to bed. Once, they heard me fall asleep on my feet in the middle of the night and fall over.

When I got my first round of shots at the Dr., I decided that it was NOT going to happen, and I kicked the doctor in the nose in my rage. It took 4 nurses to pin me down.

By the age of 8, I was writing fierce letters to different CA senators, pleading with them to stop abortion. I dedicated one of my birthday parties to a Pregnancy Care Clinic, asking everyone to bring presents for the babies instead of for me. I was gung-ho for the cause, and I couldn’t stop.

I’ve never been able to stop attacking life with ferocity, come to think of it. I decided I wanted to skip a grade in high school, so I made it happen. I decided to do college in 3.5 years, so I did it. I decided I wanted to get married young at 20, so I did. Ever since Jesse married me, we’ve been making huge life decisions every 2 years, moving cross country twice, having kids, taking foster kids, getting Masters degrees in other states, buying a house defying all odds. I’m always attacking life, and, apparently, I’ve drawn Jesse in with me on the crazy ride.

On the down side, I’ve always struggled with being content and staying still. I don’t yet know how to live in the moment without rushing off to the next thing. If I don’t have a project that I am attacking, I feel lost.

But you know? My middle name is Marie. I was named for my Great Aunt Marie, my mom’s favorite aunt. I only got to spend time with her a few weekends since she lived far away, but I remember her distinctly. She moved calmly and intentionally. She wasn’t in a rush, she always had time for me. Kids can tell if someone considers them a nuisance, but she was always comfortable around us. She went out of her way to play with us and never seemed in a hurry to leave. In many ways, she was my favorite relative growing up, even though I rarely got to see her.

When we became Orthodox and it became time for me to choose a patron saint, I decided to use my middle name as an inspiration. I didn’t want to fully re-use “Marie”, because I had already been named for someone and didn’t want to degrade that memory. Instead I chose “Mary of Bethany”.

You may know her as Lazarus’ sister, the one who knew when to be stop working, who knew when to put down her projects and listen. Mary knew that there were times to be still, to be one who loves and listens instead of doing.

Many people have told me how much I “changed” for the better when I became Orthodox, and I wonder if it is in part due to my name. I only hope that I can continue to temper the “warrior” side of my personality with the listener I hope to become.