A week or so ago, I wrote about my Lenten goal of becoming a better caretaker of my home. I wasn't aiming for perfection, to erase any and all signs of there being children, LIFE!, in this house, but rather an overall feeling of calmness found in drawers containing clean socks and underwear, in floors uncluttered with toys, in bathroom counters not encrusted with toothpaste, in meals planned in advance, etc. I've learned the hard way that a total revamping of my daily habits is a surefire way to fall flat on my face in frustration, thus I've been slowly, ever so slowly, making just one change to my routine at a time and then trying to stick with it awhile before moving on to something else.
Yesterday, I was at K-Mart, where they had an insane sale on winter apparel and even some springy looking items. I picked up some pants and long-sleeved t-shirts for the boys (for the fall) and an outfit for Priscilla. I bought myself a couple of sweaters for about $4.00 dollars each, understanding, promising myself, that I would donate to our local resale shop at least two of the sweaters I already had in my closet – sweaters I never wore.
Well, wouldn't you know it, those "two sweaters" turned into three garbage bags full of clothes – clothes given to me but weren't right for my body type, clothes I'd outgrown but had been hanging on to just in case I lost weight, clothes stained or ripped or all stretched out. I kept only what I absolutely loved and felt great in. Oh my gosh! How cathartic that was!!! Too much stuff makes me anxious and awfully crabby.
You know what inspires me in the long-term? Not new planners (believe me, I've tried every kind there is!), new methods, new cleaning "tools," but rather a firm conviction that housework is indeed holy. I want (need) to be reminded over and over that the repetition is not a waste, not punitive in nature, but a spiritual blessing. I read the following passage this morning in Kathleen Norris's, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work. It totally revived me. I hope that you, this afternoon, find it to be an encouragement as well! Thanks and thanks again for your prayers and friendship!
I sense that striving for wholeness is, increasingly, a countercultural goal, as fragmented people make for better consumers, buying more bits and pieces – two or more cars, two homes and all that fills them – and outfitting one's body for a wide variety of identities: business person, homebody, amateur athlete, traveler, theater or sport's fan. Things exercise a certain tyranny over us. Whenever I am checking bags at an airport, I recall St. Teresa of Avila's wonderful prayer of praise, " Thank you God for the things I do not own." Things are truly baggage, our impedimenta, which must be maintained with work that is menial, steady and recurring. But, like liturgy, the work of cleaning draws much of its meaning and value from repetition, from the fact that it is never completed, but only set aside until the next day. Both liturgy and what is euphemistically termed "domestic" work also have an intense relation with the present moment, a kind of faith in the present that fosters hope and makes life seem possible in the day-to-day.Read More
POEM The following poem was found on the body of a Russian soldier killed in Listen, God… for never in my life before Have I spoken with You, but today I want to greet You. As You know, From childhood I was always told That You do not exist… And I so stupidly believed it. I never gazed at your creations, but tonight I looked out from a crater dug by a grenade At the starry sky above me; and I understood Quite suddenly, while marveling at the How cruel a lie can be. I don’t know, God, if You will stretch Your But I will tell You and You’ll understand Is it not marvelous that amid this fiery hell I’ve suddenly seen the light of knowing You? That’s all I have to say. Just one more I’m glad that I have come to know You. At midnight we are set for an attack, Yet I’m not scared: You’re looking down upon The signal… Well, I must be off… How wonderful to talk to You… And I just want That, as You know, the battle will be fierce, And so perhaps this very night I will come knocking on Your door. And though I have not been Your friend Will you allow me to come in?… But I am crying… O my God… You see, My eyes have opened to the light. Farewell, my God… I’m off… and hardly will How
OF A SOLDIER
one of the fiercest battles with the Germans during World War II.
hand to me?
strange… but death now holds no fear for me at all.
The following poem was found on the body of a Russian soldier killed in
Listen, God… for never in my life before
Have I spoken with You, but today
I want to greet You. As You know,
From childhood I was always told
That You do not exist…
And I so stupidly believed it.
I never gazed at your creations, but tonight
I looked out from a crater dug by a grenade
At the starry sky above me; and I understood
Quite suddenly, while marveling at the
How cruel a lie can be.
I don’t know, God, if You will stretch Your
But I will tell You and You’ll understand
Is it not marvelous that amid this fiery hell
I’ve suddenly seen the light of knowing You?
That’s all I have to say. Just one more
I’m glad that I have come to know You.
At midnight we are set for an attack,
Yet I’m not scared: You’re looking down upon
The signal… Well, I must be off…
How wonderful to talk to You… And I just want
That, as You know, the battle will be fierce,
And so perhaps this very night
I will come knocking on Your door.
And though I have not been Your friend
Will you allow me to come in?…
But I am crying… O my God… You see,
My eyes have opened to the light.
Farewell, my God… I’m off… and hardly will
Remember us, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!
Find more poetry HERE.Read More
It all started Sunday afternoon when my husband noticed our outside spigot was leaking. Being the responsible guy he is, he went to the basement to turn off our water- to figure out the cause of the drip, drip, dripping. Then, uh-oh, much to his dismay, Troy, when attempting to turn the water back on, realized the valve, that ancient, rusty, fickle water valve, was broken. And from there…oh my goodness, what a disaster!
I won't get in to all the unbelievable details because, frankly, they make my head spin. All I know, or care to know, presently, is that 24 hours, two plumbers, six city workers and a massive hole in our front yard later, that troublesome valve has finally been fixed. Welcome back to our home, wet, wonderful WATER (Yes, you can flush the toilet now my darlings)! I sincerely apologize, from the bottom of my heart, for ever taking you for granted!
What a day.Read More
Our children's librarian was on a mission. I watched her weaving through the aisles pulling display books from off the top of shelves with purpose – one here, two there. "I'm sick of snow!" she told me, by way of explanation. All the books in her arms, the books she was intent on removing, were wintery with covers featuring stark white icy landscapes. Her plan? To replace them with flowery books, summery looking books. "I want to see green!" she announced. I nodded, in full agreement.
Last week at Walmart, I bought the springiest wreath I could find (on clearance, of course) and displayed it boldly on our front door. It looks ridiculous, I admit it, so delicate and pastel against the harshness of the brown slush and grey skies. "Well, that's wishful thinking," commented my mother when she stopped by. We were hit with another several inches of snow overnight. I'm thinking warm thoughts, sunny thoughts, short-sleeve shirt thoughts in an attempt to keep the cold weather blues at bay. Oh, February, how you test my resolve to stay cheerful!
Thank goodness for puzzles, Play-doh and "The A-to Z Mysteries" book series! Hooray for lovely Linda from our parish (St. Elizabeth's) who yesterday turned our church basement into a Pysanky egg making studio for all ages! Each Sunday now, until Pascha, our whole family can look forward to working on our colorful and fragile, one-of-a-kind, creations! Three cheers for bubbly baths, great books and despair defying podcasts. And then there are those good friends who make you laugh and remember that life is comprised of seasons (hot, frigid, pleasant, trying) – seasons that pass, that come and go.
Then there's coffee.
You know, I just might make it to April, when life and hope will be Resurrected, after all.
I am so, so thankful for THIS wonderful book I have been reading with my son. I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but explaining the complexities of Lent to naturally (hormonally?) skeptical adolescents missing, already, their X-Box and ice cream can, at times, be just a tad challenging for a mom – an Orthodox convert mom unable to draw from her own Lenten childhood experiences because she hasn't any. What is especially difficult as my children get older, I am discovering, is striking that balance between enforcing the Lenten guidelines in our home ("I know this is hard for all of us, but this IS the way it is and is going to be until Pascha) and stressing that these "guidelines" are a crucial means to an end, rather than an end in and of themselves. None of their neighborhood friends are fasting. "Is it just our own little parish," I'm sure they wonder, "inventing these extra services, these 'no meat, no dairy' rules?" My children are watching me like a hawk, observing my attitude, my actions, for clarification.
Troy and I, both, have been doing our best to replace the noise of the television, of the radio, of the video games with more time together as a family – time reading together, mostly, which brings me back to the book, that really wonderful book, I've been going through with Elijah, entitled, A Journey through Great Lent, by The Very Rev. Stephen Belonick. In it, he reflects on the Lenten Scripture for each day, provides "Daily Wisdom of the Fathers," a Hymn, the life of a saint, and concludes the day's reading with a small insightful prayer. His "voice" is very down-to-earth and his meditations quite thought-provoking. The other day, my son and I read the following meditation together, which helped renew my own determination to stay focused, and helped Elijah understand that:
1. This Fast is bigger than just our family, than just our parish, than just our country, our generation.
2. Without these "tools" the Church provides for us, it is nearly impossible to rise above our earthly cares and the passions keeping us preoccupied with our own selfish desires, or to shake the downward pressing, soul numbing, forceful grip of this materialistic and voyeuristic culture.
Yes, we actually had a real back and forth conversation about this. And for that, this Orthodox convert mom, praying ceaselessly for guidance as she imperfectly passes down the teachings and Traditions of the Orthodox Faith she so cherishes to her children, is extremely grateful.
Mountains figure prominently in many Bible stories. I am reminded of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God's hand; Mount Tabor, where Jesus led Peter, James and John to witness His Transfiguration; or the hill from where our Lord taught His famous Sermon on the Mount.
In all these cases, mountains express a theological principle – God reveals Himself and distributes divine gifts to those willing to rise above this world and seek a higher reality.
This is what Elijah envisioned when God spoke through him to call all people "to go up to the mountain of the Lord" in today's reading.
Climbing a mountain takes effort. It requires we have the right equipment. More importantly, it presumes that we are courageous and willing to attempt the climb.
Great Lent is such a mountain. God calls us to ascend to Him. The journey is difficult and requires effort. Rather than boots and spikes, our gear comprises of prayer, fasting, scripture reading, quiet and a willing heart.
When most mountaineers are asked why they brave the elements and dangers to scale a mountain, they often respond, "Because it is there."
When asked why we undertake this trying Lenten Journey, we must respond, "To ascend the mountain is not an option for us; it is where we will meet the Lord and receive true life from His hands." Surely, this gift is worth the effort.
- From a Journey through Great Lent by The Very Rev. Stephen Belonick