Imagine, if you will, a light-filled chapel. It's high domed ceiling contains the icon of Christ, surrounded by his holy apostles. Shafts of evening light are coming through the western window in the back wall above the balcony, and indirectly through the northern and southern side windows as well. The place is filled with incense and smoke and evening light. People stand to pray.
A carved wooden iconostasis is in front. To the left is an icon of Mary, the Mother of God holding Jesus Christ, God become flesh. To the right is an icon of Jesus. Two large candle stands filled with sand and holding beeswax candles are in front of each icon. St. John Maximovitch and St. Raphael of Brooklyn stand like sentinals on the walls beside either side of the icon stand. Behind the altar is a wall-sized icon mural of the resurrection: The conquering risen Christ hauling Adam and Eve up from their tombs by the wrists like recalcitrant toddlers. The God who rescues us.
I am to the right, if one is facing the altar, in an alcove with the rest of the choir, not facing the front, but rather facing the side. I am singing.
I can glance up and see my husband and a few other people up in the balcony. My two oldest daughters are standing together. Almost 14, M is wearing a long denim skirt, a long sleeved t-shirt with a tank top under it because she says the neck is too low on the t-shirt, and a headscarf covering her long blonde hair is awkwardly tied under her chin. She doesn't care. She started wearing a scarf to Church a year or so ago, without me saying much about it at all. And at almost 16, my oldest daughter, B, is wearing a simple denim dress. She cares not a whit about fashion. Her hair is in two braids and she's wearing a black and white checked bandana. She can never quite get her clothes to match, even when I limit the color range of what I buy for her.
The two sisters are holding hands lovingly, and facing the font of the Chapel. Every once in a while they let go to cross themselves. I can tell they are praying.
I am watching them, because B has been struggling with involuntary body movements lately. Something else gone wrong in her brain. But tonight, her body is calm, and it is such a blessing! We feel surrounded by the prayers of so many who are interceding for her. And as I sing, I tear up in gratitude to have two such daughters. I tear up for their love for each other, the tender care M is showing to B. I tear up for the fact that B is doing better this evening, that her mind is calm and her body is calm. I watch them pray.
Both girls are mildly on the autistic spectrum. Finding friends is difficult for them. But then again, the advantage is that they are free to be themselves and they don't worry about what others might think of them. Both girls are brilliantly intelligent. They both have deep faith. Piety. Love for God. And love for each other.
And as a mother, all I can do is offer them to God and pray that they continue to grow in God's grace, love and mercy.
What blessings! What more could a mother ask?