I was baptized into the Orthodox Church when I was 4 years old. My parents were divorced and my brother and I spent most of the time with our mother. In the summers we were with our father, summer days filled with younger siblings and Church outings. By the Grace of God, Orthodoxy was a part of my youth waiting to catch me many years later. I remember the images and paintings, the smell of incense that literally felt as though it warmed the soul, the long services that were marked almost over when the bells were wrung. A time to socialize and to play in the grass under the tall redwood trees.

I moved out when I was 15 years old, something I don’t recommend for anyone. Working hard, going to school and making time to socialize. Making choices that showed how “good” I was but missing something so eternally deep, so much inward pain that was covered up with parties, bad choices and excuses. I was always able to point out the good qualities to cover up my deepest wounds but time always revealed them.

I moved to the Bay Area by the time I was 18, looking for a change. I found a  job (which I kept for 20yrs) and my and partner for 17yrs. But I always had secrets, a dark world I lived in filled with shame, regret a separate life. A darkness that kept me depressed and down for most my life. Where trauma and pain were the only source of life that made it so I could feel anything  inside.  But I smiled a lot so it mostly went unnoticed.

It was around November 2017 that I met Father Ninos Oshaana and Father Tom Zaferes at Ascension Greek Cathedral in Oakland and my life took on another direction. Through the fathers, I was able to have a focus…a direction. A focus on Faith, Love and hope. A focus on Christ himself and of his forgiveness and mercy, and strength.  A different way to see the world in which I lived. A way that continues to challenge me each and every day and all for the love of Christ.

Sincerely,
Mariah