Every time I feel like I’m struggling to be productive and make progress, or if I’m feeling restless and stuck, it’s usually because I’ve let go of structure. Structure in life is so important. It’s one of those contradictions…more structure leads to more freedom. When you have important structure in place in your life, you have the freedom to be, to do, to pursue. When you have your values settled, you don’t have to constantly overthink everything; you know immediately where your priorities lie. When you have routines and habits and guidelines to follow as you live day to day, you can maintain your health to the extent of your control. When you know your responsibilities and goals and obligations, you have things to do and places to be, and the want-to-do’s can then fall into place in between those must-do’s. When you have no structure, suddenly the choices paralyze you. What to do today, tomorrow? What to eat, not eat? What to work towards? What to believe? These answers are easy with appropriate structure in place, but without it, anything could be the answer, and those questions remain up in the air.

Children need structure to grow and flourish. My grandmothers were guiding lights in my life in this department, as well as my mom, who  continues to provide and encourage structure, the maintenance of the foundation laid. Today is International Women’s Day, and I thought it topical to reflect on this necessary and wonderful structure provided by the women in my life. “Structure” is a solid, almost harsh word, but I associate it with nurturing, support, strength, tradition, and freedom. Of course, my Orthodox faith is a major source of structure in my life, and it’s fitting that the top human example of our faith is a woman, the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, who is “the most exalted and most honoured person by God. She is the most revered and most loved by humans. She is a binding force for all Christians.” Women truly are a binding force in the world. We have a gift to nurture and love and be gentle, and to raise the future generations, to raise our boys and girls to be good men and women. A humble young woman gave birth to God and now we can look to her, our heavenly mother, for guidance, for protection, to intercede on our behalf.

So on this International Women’s Day, I’m thankful for the structure provided by the women in my life, in heaven and on earth, and I strive to remember their example and be the good woman good women raised me to be.

I’ll end by sharing this lovely icon of the Virgin Mary by Madame Struve, the French woman iconographer who did many of the icons for my home parish in the 1960s (I love her use of color, softer and more varied choices than the more frequent bold primary colors in traditional iconography).

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