Monday, December 13, 2010

This Christmas

My Grandmother was a collector.  She collected miniatures, dolls, and many other things.  When she reposed, there was a bit of an argument among my sisters and I.  See, at some point in each of our lives our Grandmother promised each one of us could have her miniatures.  This fall, after Lucia was born, my sisters and I got together to divide the miniatures.  This task was quite difficult.  There was one particular miniature we all wanted....a gumball machine.  There were hurt feelings, but there was also lots of joy and squealing as we relived each little miniature and how it reminded us of our Grandma. 

I am facing a similar difficult task now.  One that is proving to be quite challenging.  My Grandpa has asked each of his children and grandchildren to bring an ornament to Christmas this year. This ornament should hold some memory of our Grandma.  It can be new, old or handmade, all that is required is that it represents my Grandma.  I am not exaggerating when I say that this one request has been occupying my mind ever since he asked me.  

I walked through Target last night intending to find a tree skirt.  Instead, I wandered over to the ornaments section analyzing each ornament and trying to find how it would exemplify Grandma.  And I found myself wanting.  None of the ornaments show her kind heart and gentle spirit.  There was no single ornament that would convey just how warm a hug from Grandma could be.  Her cheerful laugh and smile could not be reduced to a hanging bauble.  

It's hard to wrap my mind around a Christmas without her.  She has always, always been there.  Every piano recital, every speech, every play, every birthday, she was there.  Maybe that is why this task is so hard to accomplish.  I don't want to think about the fact that this Christmas she won't be there.  I trust that she is praying for us.  I feel it.  And I find comfort in knowing that the physical pain she endured these last couple years is over.

No matter what ornament I choose, I know that she will love it.  And when we all gather to hang our ornaments on the tree and explain what each one means, I believe that she will be present with us.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What are you listening to?

We have a lot of Christmas favorites in this house. Along with the classic Nat King Cole and others, there are a few other Christmas albums that are getting heavy rotation in the Heider home this year.

A Very Rosie Christmas

Rosie Thomas is one of my absolute favorite artists. This album is a little sappy and sad at times, but also full of joy. Rosie loves Christmas.

Songs for Christmas

Sufjan Stevens can do no wrong in my opinion. His Songs for Christmas collection has some original, traditional and lesser known songs. It also includes of my favorite Christmas songs Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming.

Snow Angels and The Darkest Night of the Year

Over the Rhine is so amazing. Karin's voice alone could keep you warm during the cold Midwest winter.

What are you listening to in your homes? What songs get you in the Christmas spirit?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Birth of Lucia Grace

I want to start off by saying that my husband is the most amazing man in the world. When I labor with him and bring a baby into the world with him I realize all over again why I love this man. He was my rock and strength during the fast 6 hours of labor of this baby and I am in total awe of him.

Labor began at 5:30 Thursday morning. I had been having some strong contractions in the middle of the night when I would get up to go to the bathroom. I didn't really think anything of them, just though maybe I ate something that wasn't agreeing with me. Then, at 5:30 I could not fall back asleep. I decided to go downstairs because I felt that I needed to pace with the contractions. I was trying to time them in my head and thought they were only lasting 30 seconds, but later realized that they were about 1 minute in length and about 3-5 minutes apart. My husband came down at 6 am and knew that labor had begun, but I was still in denial. He kept asking if we should call the midwife, but I wanted to wait, thinking that once I went to the bathroom I would be fine. I did go to the bathroom and the contractions only increased in strength. I was still able to walk during them, but they were so intense that I had to stop talking during one. So at 6:30 we decided to call the midwife, who had quite a drive ahead of her. After we called the midwife we called our doula, the amazing Stephanie Dank, and my mother.

Our daughter slept in and my husband actually ended up waking her around 8 am. By that point the contractions were very intense. I decided to start singing a tune each time I got a contraction. I'm not sure why, but it really helped to start off high, then get lower as the contraction ended. Z really liked that I was "singing to baby turtle" and wanted to help sing too. Our doula came around 9. Shortly before she arrived I decided I needed to be in our bedroom. I was grateful that it was cloudy and overcast outside, I really need dark when I labor. Z unplugged the clock in our room and Joe was about to plug it back in but I told him to leave it unplugged. So after Steph arrived I was not aware of time passing, just the intensity of labor.

Our priest came in and prayed for us and blessed me with the most heavenly smelling oil. It was wonderful to catch whiffs of it as I worked through the contractions. I ended up needing a lot of back pressure, so Joe and Steph took turns applying pressure during my contractions. I know that they were pushing as hard as the could, and I would always tell them it wasn't hard enough. My poor husband's arms were incredibly sore the next day...and he is in shape, so that tells you how hard I needed pressure!

I had some incredible moments of rest in between the contractions. Some moments I felt I was actually able to feel a contraction come on and tell my body, "Please, just wait a little bit...I just need to lay here for a time" and the contraction would subside. That rest was the sweetest rest I had gotten in months.

I got up to use the restroom a couple of times and my doula noticed that I seemed to handle the contractions a little better sitting on the toliet. We decided to move into the bathroom and I went through transition on the toliet. I remember feeling pressure and knowing it wasn't the baby but being very confused about what was happening. I yelled "Somethings coming out of me!" and then I felt my water break. That's when things got very real and it was evident this baby was going to come soon.

I soon felt the urge to push, but remember telling myself that it was way to early to do so, considering the midwife wasn't there yet. As I was sitting on the toliet I began to feel my body bearing down, even though I wasn't consciously pushing. Then I had a couple of contractions where I felt like I couldn't handle what was happening. I remember violently shaking my hands out in front of me. My doula could tell I was struggling and suggested that if I was fighting the urge to push that I should pretend to blow out a candle. That calmed me down a bit, but I still felt the need to push. The midwife's apprentice suggested that it was time to move back into the bedroom unless I wanted to have the baby on the toliet.

As we walked to the bedroom I heard someone say, "They are here now....your midwife is here". I didn't even wait for her to come up. I just got on my hands and knees on the bed and started pushing. At some point someone suggested that we put the birthing ball on the bed so that I could lay on it for support. So I kneeled on the birth ball and in between pushes I was able to lay on it and rest. Our doula asked my mom to come up with my daughter. Joe and I had decided we wanted her to be present for the birth, so she could see her sister or brother come into this world. She seemed to be doing well, though my mom told me later at one point she looked like she was really scared. But then later I heard her ask if she could go to her room. She sounded bored :)

As I pushed I could feel my baby getting closer and closer. It was incredible. Our midwife suggested I reach down and feel the head. That was very motivating to me, because I could feel how close she really was. And I felt her hair! I remember saying out loud how happy I was she had so much hair, that all the heartburn was worth it. Then I remember feeling really happy in between pushes. I said, "Oh Baby Turtle, I can't wait to meet you!". This was something that our daughter said to my belly almost everyday. It just kept repeating in my head, over and over. After a half-hour of pushing, Baby Turtle was born at 11:33 a.m, September 23rd, 2010. Since I was on my hands and knees I couldn't see her right away. I heard a little cry, but she was mostly quiet. And no one had said whether she was a boy or a girl yet! Joe caught her and held her briefly, then passed her up to me. Then I asked, "Did anyone look to see if Turtle is a boy or a girl?" as I opened up the towel. I remember thinking, "Where's the penis?" as I looked at her then said, "A girl!" We were shocked. We all thought Turtle was a boy, except for Azalia. The whole pregnancy she called Turtle a girl. She was right!

Joe was able to cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. The scissors were a little dull, so our midwife actually got sprayed with blood as he cut it! Then we nursed for a long time while I had some contractions. About a half-hour after Lucia was born I pushed out the placenta. Then the midwife helped us into our herbal bath. It was heavenly! Lucia really enjoyed it too. She was so alert and calm the whole time. As I soaked in the bath they weighed and measured her and checked her heart rate. All of this took place right beside the tub so that Lucia was never out of my presence. That was so comforting. After our bath Joe, Lucia and I were tucked into bed. My mom had already taken Z out of the house for a day of fun. Our doula had made us the most amazing zucchini fritters. I didn't eat a whole lot during the labor, so I was starving, and this was just what I needed. After everyone left, we took the most glorious nap together, then woke up and decided to go to the emergency room. I had a 2nd degree tear that needed to be sutured. Our midwife said it needed to be done, but not right away, so we napped first.

The emergency room was an interesting experience. We were treated very nicely by all the nurses, but the doctor was a total jerk and tried to intimidate me. He wanted me to give him our midwife's name, but I refused. He got a phone call and left the room. I turned to my husband and said, "If he comes back in here I'm asking for a different doctor. There is no way I'm letting this man touch me". When he did return he came back with our chosen back up doctor, who did an amazing job stitching me up! I was so grateful.

We came home to a house full of family and food. Z gave me the biggest hug when we walked in. There were cinnamon rolls baking in the oven, baked lovingly by my sister. Z's birthday was the following day and we had promised her cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Our families didn't stay for very long so that we could rest. Joe put Z to bed, then our friend and doula, Steph, returned with a celebration drink for us, wheat beer, to help my milk come in. We reflected on the birth together and Steph shared some things that really stuck out to her. It was cool to get her perspective on it all. After she left, Joe, Lucia and I all snuggled into bed together. As I lay there trying to fall asleep I remember thinking how crazy it was that we had a baby!

The home birth experience was incredible. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was to labor in my own home. Z's birth was natural, but in a hospital and there were many things that happened that I did not have any control over. This birth was different. Joe and I were able to be together and move about the house as we desired. I did what my body told me to do, without being questioned by nursing staff or doctors. And besides the emergency room and the pediatrician, I did not leave the house until yesterday. I know that home birth is not for everyone, but I wish that every mother could experience an empowering birth, a birth that makes them feel like their bodies were made for just this purpose, to bring a life into the world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Braxton Hicks and Feeling Like a Whale

We are officially 37 weeks pregnant. This baby could come literally anytime now. That exhilarates, yet terrifies me. We are "prepared". We have clothes, we have our bed, my breasts are ready to start producing milk (TMI?). Diapers are washed and folded, waiting for a tiny little person to fill them. The house is a mess, but I'm getting little nesting urges that will take care of that. I had the most unnatural desire to dust all the walls in my house today. I have yet to do it, but I want it done. Pregnancy is funny.

It's hard to believe how quickly this pregnancy has gone. It's also hard to believe that it has been a year since we became pregnant with Seraphim and just as quickly lost him. The loss of that little one has been heavy on my heart these past few days. Just one year after we lost him we are preparing to welcome another little one into the world. It's beautiful and heartbreaking.

Z is growing excited for Turtle's arrival. With her excitement, however, comes defiance and independence. She knows that life is going to change. She can sense it in the air, see it in the house, in our faces. As excited as she is, she's fighting this change with all the strength her 3 year old body can muster. To say it's been trying is an understatement. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us! All of us need patience.

And so, we wait. As I grow larger and larger by the second, we wait. With each "practice" contraction my body is slowly preparing itself for labor and the birth of our sweet Baby Turtle. Come soon! But not too soon.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coming Soon

It's been a while since I've taken the time to reflect and write something for our blog. We had initially set out to blog once a week for better or worse, for richer for poorer. Eh, forget it. We had the best intentions, though.

I wanted to write to spill my guts a little. I'm afraid. I think I've had two pretty severe panic attacks this year and even when they're not severe, they hit me like an almost paralysis.

Almost every time I go to confession, our priest encourages me with the phrase "don't worry about nothin'." How simple it is. "Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest". If I'm a Christian why do I feel so damned worried all the time? Who's watching me (besides Christ), what's after me, that could destroy my life?

I'm pinned down like a butterfly on display by these fears. They make me anxious, they make me tired and confused. They keep me from saying what I need to say to family, neighbors and friends. I'm isolated by fear. I'm owned by it.

Our priest did a healing service for me a couple weeks ago and it brought me to tears. There's something about having oil smeared all over you, right after ancient songs and prayers and the laying on of hands. I haven't had even a minor attack since then, and it's my belief that I am healed, maybe not completely, but healed nonetheless by Christ through His servant.

I'm still weary, though, and the frustrating anxieties and fears keep coming back. Maybe the question I should ask isn't "why is this happening" but rather "what to do in the face of it". The fears will come, the doubts, the struggles, the what ifs, the panicky, heart racing, oh-my-God-I-thought-I-was-going-to-die scenarios. We all struggle, but there is help, there is healing.

On another note, we will be having a baby in about three weeks. Lord knows when this will actually happen. It's come to my attention that in the midst of all the health problems and preparing for the baby and chasing our daughter around and trying to find some peace and quiet that I've failed to prepare myself spiritually and emotionally for this child. The other day I swore I heard an almost audible voice saying "make room in your heart and your life for baby Turtle (our nickname for the little one)". We've made room in our home. We've made room in our budget, our schedules, our. . .blog, but have we made room in our hearts, in our lives for this new life? How do you prepare for something like this? What did I do last time? Maybe the answer is that this baby will get what he or she gets. Maybe the answer is to let my ugliness hang out, to stop being pretentious and fake. We pray every Sunday after Holy Communion for "love unfeigned". I really mean it now. God, give me extra love in my heart for everyone.

We also pray every day for those we love: our family, friends, acquaintances, even enemies. We pray for those who have departed this life. I can't help but reflect again on the life and death of our last baby, Seraphim, as I prepare myself for our newest addition. Maybe there's a part of my heart that has still not let go of the miscarriage, has still not healed enough to love fully. Maybe it's this feeling of death creeping around every corner that contributes to my fear and uptightness. Whatever it is, help me, Lord, to come to terms with it, to confront it and see it for what it is.

So, here we stand on the cusp of more change than we ever bargained for, wearied and dazed. And ready to take life by the horns and make it run like a faithful steed (or at least not to knock us off every time it bucks). By the grace of God, to that end we go.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Joseph the All-Comely, the Patriarch, is my patron saint. I’ve grown up knowing his story and trying to emulate him as much as possible. But it wasn’t until young adulthood, in one of my last semesters in college, that I began to look at him with the eyes of an adult and not just a kid. I analyzed all the similar stories that were circulating in the area at that time that all seemed to mimic that of Potiphar’s wife and her forwardness with my saint. It seems that a man’s ability to rebuff the advances of a woman who is pursuant of his manliness, has been a value in many cultures, even if it is seen as nearly impossible for a young man with raging hormones.

Joseph’s story takes me back—in more ways than one--to the back seat of an old Honda Accord where I listened intently to an Adventures in Odyssey dramatization of the tale. At this time, the idea of a woman desiring a man was still disgusting to me and I remember cheering Joseph on as he let out his innocent cry and ran away from Potiphar’s seductive spouse.

Joseph is seen as a type of Christ by early Christians. As I reflected on his story a little bit more, I realized that he is stripped naked twice (once by his brothers, once by the aforementioned temptress) and that he is thrown into a “pit” twice (once into a literal pit by his brothers and once into prison by his boss). Christ was was also disrobed when he was crucified and thrown into a pit (Joseph of Arimethea’s tomb) and then he was stripped of (or stripped off) his grave clothes when he rose from the dead.

It is interesting to note that the word for pit in the Hebrew Scriptures seems to be almost synonymous with the word for Sheol, the place where all the dead go, not heaven, not hell (I think the common understanding of this word needs some work), just a place to go after you die. It seems like most of the Jews believed there was no afterlife, or at least no resurrection, but there were some who held on to a belief that God could raise the dead (the Pharisees). For many of these folks, hearing about some outspoken, but obviously powerful, Jew who Himself had raised the dead, healed the sick, and who supposedly had risen himself from the depths of Sheol (Greek, Hades), would have been almost too much. When it turned out that this same Jew had alluded to the fact that He was “one with the Father” and seemed to imply at other times that he was the “I am” (YHWH in Hebrew), the issue would have been almost unbearable.

For many, though, especially a certain man named Saul who was confronted with the risen, glorified Jesus Christ, this man would do what Joseph the Patriarch did to his brothers when he revealed who he was to them in Egypt: cause them to weep with remorse.

It is also interesting that Joseph brought about the salvation of his people by storing grain and distributing it slowly. Christians believe that Jesus is the bread of life, and some of us believe that his very body and blood are present with us whenever we partake of Holy Communion. The salvation towards which Christ leads us is different than that of Joseph, whose glory was forgotten and gave way to an iron-fisted Pharoah who would only give in after all power had been pried from his hands by a series of plagues. Christ leads us to an eternal, final, decisive salvation, a Kingdom which will never end. Without Joseph the All-comely’s life, it is possible that the Jews would have been wiped out, but, by God’s grace, they were preserved long enough for the birth of a young Virgin whose greatest prayer was “Let it be unto me as you have said”. “Not my will but Yours be done”, prayed her only biological Son. I can only think that Joseph’s statement, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good, the saving of many” was the seed of this willingness to surrender and be stripped completely naked to be thrown into a pit. Thankfully, in His providence, God uses “the weak things to shame the strong”. This is what we hope to be true for our lives.

On holy week, Joseph is remembered for his likeness to Christ. In the Icon above, he is pictured in a worshipful, surrendered pose similar to that of St. John the Forerunner and many others.

When he reposed, Joseph’s bones were somehow kept among the Isrealites as they had made a promise to take his bones with them out of Egypt. And this is exactly what they did when they escaped from the oppression of Pharoah through the Red Sea. I'm not sure where his bones are now, but my saint's life will always be remembered, especially in the Kingdom of God. St. Joseph the all-comely, living in Christ forever, pray to God for us!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What We will Do This Summer

I snapped this picture as my daughter and I were playing outside this afternoon. I asked her why she was laying in the grass, to which she replied "I lay in the grass because it's summa!"

So this is what we will be doing this summer. Along with laying in the grass for approximately 30 seconds, then jumping up and running around the backyard, we will be digging in our garden, getting our feet muddy, running in the sprinkler (daily, if not more) and getting yummy, fresh vegetables and other items from our local farmer's market. Playing in the park and long evening walks will also be included.

Happy Summer!

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Melting Down and Humility

Sometimes, pregnancy can bring out the worst in me.

Let me preface this by saying that I am one of those women that LOVES being pregnant. Seriously, I love it. As soon as that baby belly pops out I am given this super human strength and confidence unlike any I have while I am not pregnant. I become assertive and speak my mind. I know what I want and I don't mind asking people to get it for me. Never am I more comfortable in my own skin than when I am pregnant.

However, with this assertiveness, strength and confidence comes an ugly side. A part of me that loses patience more easily, snaps at the slightest teasing comment or just completely loses control of emotions rises to the surface. Oh is it ugly. Unfortunately, its the people that I love the most that receive this ugly side.

The other day I snapped at my beautiful daughter. Like, seriously snapped. So much that it stopped her in her tracks and she looked at me with this look I have never seen before. I believe it was a mixture of fear and confusion. She had no idea why I would speak to her like I had. I immediately felt guilty and apologized.

My sweet, patient, loving husband gets it too. And when I think about it...really think about it, I feel awful. How can I treat the ones I love with such impatience and disrespect? What is wrong here? What am I missing?

As I went to confession this last week, these incidents were weighing heavily on my mind. As I confessed my sins to Christ and my Father I immediately felt the weight lifted and my eyes were opened to what was missing. "How can you expect to be patient and kind," my Priest asked "if you forget God?"

And there it was. I forget God.

Sure, I could blame the pregnancy hormones on my mood swings and my impatience. That would be easy. That wouldn't require any change of me.

But it's more than that. I have neglected prayer. I have not asked God to help me to love unceasingly. I have forgotten Him entirely.

I will end with a quote from Saint John of Kronstadt, taken from a booklet entitled Children in the Church Today. I will shorten the passage, since it is quite lengthy, but encourage you to read the entire passage if you can get a hold of it.

In everything and at every time strive to please God and think of the salvation of your soul from sin and from the Devil, and its adoption by God. On rising from your bed, make the sign of the Cross and say: "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," and also, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin and teach me to do Thy will." While washing, either at home or at the baths, say: "Purge me with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." When putting on your linen, think of the cleanliness of the heart, and ask the Lord for a clean heart: "Create in me a clean heart, O God!" If you have made new clothes and are putting them on, think of the renewal of the spirit and say: "Renew a right spirit within me"; laying aside old clothes, and disdaining them, think with still greater disdain of laying aside the old man, the sinful, passionate, carnal man. Tasting the sweetness of bread, think of the true bread, which gives eternal life to the soul--the Body and Blood of Christ--and hunger after this bread--that is, long to communicate of it oftener. Drinking water, tea, sweet-tasting mead or any other drink, think of the true drink that quenches the thirst of the soul inflamed by passions--of the most pure and life-giving Blood of the Saviour. Resting during the day, think of the eternal rest, prepared for those who wrestle and struggle against sin, against the subcelestial spirits of evil, against human injustice or rudeness or ignorance.....

St. John of Kronstadt continues on with many other times of day and actions we take in our daily lives. Even if all I do is begin my day like he suggests, I have a feeling I would be less impatient, less snippy and more loving.

Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

It has been so long. I apologize for abandoning this blog. For a while now I feel that I have been in survival mode. With morning sickness (that hung on just a little too long) and the tailbone injury that still pains me, we are just now getting back to normal.

We have been through an incredible journey. We are now a part of the Orthodox Church! I cannot even begin to describe the beauty of our Chrismation/Baptism service. That is for another post, when I feel I can process a little more what I want to say. It's almost like when people ask you, "So, how's marriage?" shortly after your wedding. How can you even began to answer that question? It's amazing, painful, beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I have been interested in finding out the origins of Mother's Day. I found that Julia Ward Howe, the author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", was the first to fight for an official Mother's Day. Her Mother's Day proclamation brought chills.

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Almost 3 years ago my beautiful daughter was born. We will welcome another little one into the world around the time of her 3rd birthday. Motherhood has been an incredible journey. I have learned so much from my daughter and am still learning from her. I feel honored to have a day to celebrate this wonderful journey of motherhood.

Can you imagine, though, if on Mother's Day, instead of buying our mothers flowers or candy, we held a "general congress of women without limit of promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."?

It would be a powerful day.

Thank you, my beautiful Azalia, for giving me the motivation to make this world a peaceful place.

Water, Sun, and Soil (Dying and Dining with Christ)

"O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Ps. 62(or 63):1)

"I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land" (Ps. 142 (or 143):6)

"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)

Whenever I think of water now--this is horrible--I think of the mermaid (or merman) scene in Zoolander. "Water is the essence of moisture, and moisture is the essence of life." "Merman, Pop. (cough cough) Merman."

Now that I've ruined what was going to be a deep, introspective look at water, thirst and the need to quench that thirst, I will begin.

Water really is the essence of moisture, and moisture really is the essence of life. This is why Christ describes what He gives as water. He gave Himself up for the life of the world, as it says in the Gospels. When He was speared on the cross, blood and water flowed out of him. It was in water that he was baptized and commanded his disciples and apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The reading from the Gospel last week was from John, about the Samaritan woman at the well. This reading takes the image of water, so prevalent in the Old Testament (The Spirit of YHWH hovering over the waters, the parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan, Moses disobediently striking the stone instead of speaking to it and water gushing out, etc.) and revitalizes it with Christ himself as the source of that water, and eternal life.

I'm realizing through prayer, attempted fasting, and going to Church to receive the body and blood of Christ, that my desire as an Orthodox Christian is, much like that of all Christians, to make Christ the source of my life.

The way we are encouraged to do this, however, is different and leads us into a personal (in the deepest sense of the word) relationship with Christ. We believe that He is the "illumination of our souls and bodies", as a prayer from St. John Chrysostom says, and that He is "the light that enlightens and sanctifies every man that comes into the world", as St. John the Theologian says in his Gospel. But I wasn't talking about light, was I? I was talking about water.

Aren't these the two things needed to sustain all organic (or carbon-based) life? All we're missing is soil. It is from the soil that God made man. There you go. These three things are essential for life to exist on the earth, and their use in the Scriptures guides us to a deeper understanding of our own lives. We are made from dust, but we are not just dust. In our souls and bodies there is something eternal, something that can and will never die because Christ has conquered death and brought the whole created world up into eternity with Him. "For God so loved the kosmos that He gave his only begotten Son. . ." (John 3:16)

I was comforted to know, as we've been on this journey, that Orthodox Christians don't believe in a distant God who created the world and left it to fend for itself. We believe that God is "everywhere present and fills all things" as a daily prayer of invocation of the Holy Spirit testifies. We are panentheists not pantheists. This nearness, though, raises all kinds of problems when we see so many things that are out of joint: natural disasters (or Acts of God!) diseases, murder, child abuse, miscarriage, just to name a few.

How can God be so close to touching every living thing and yet let or cause so much death and destruction take place? I hadn't set out to address that question when I started this blog. It seems like too much for right now. Just briefly, though, I believe that God weeps with all those who weep, bleeds with those who bleed, and yet is completely unharmed, untouched, and unchanged by doing that. To paraphrase what Bishop Kallistos Ware writes in his book The Orthodox Way, there was a cross in God's heart before there was ever a cross on Calvary. We believe in a God who is nearer to us than sunlight and rain, who is personal, who is able to empathize with our humanity, who cares about the death even of the smallest insect or plant, yet who is so perfect, holy and wholly other than us that His nearness could be the death of us.

And so we strive daily to die with Him, so that we may dine with Him. Dying and dining with (and on) Christ week in and week out, trying to cram our whole messy, un-tucked, scabbed-over, exhausted, prideful existence into the life of the Holy Trinity. Here we go again. Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Thy grace.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lent: Part 2

I started to write a blog but realized it could all be summed up quite simply:

"Hallelujah" and "what the hell am I going to do?!" all in the same breath.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Big Announcement

Things have been a little quiet around here. I've probably written this post a million times in my head and almost published it, then thought better of it. For 12 weeks (well, more like 9 weeks) we have kept the tiniest little secret and told only close family and friends. Because of our past loss, we wanted to be sure that this was happening, this was going to succeed. And after Wednesday afternoon, we were told by our midwife as we listened to the beautiful little heartbeat of our new baby that our chance for miscarriage now was 2%. It was time! We are having a baby!

Our due date is October 1st. That was also Z's due date. I guess that January is a good baby making month for us :) I, obviously, have been extremely exhausted and nauseous 24/7. I feel that I am coming around the bend now. My energy is up, my appetite is slowly returning. On top of the morning sickness, about 4 weeks ago I bruised/broke my tailbone. It was an accident involving a wooden chair and lots of pain. My husband has been a tremendous help to me during this time. I can't even explain how in awe of this man I am. Every time I think I've gotten a handle on how amazing he is I am once again blown away.

And Z. My little mija. She has been so sweet. We told her early on that there was another little baby growing in Mommy's belly. She at once began talking to the baby at least twice a day. She kisses baby and gives him a big hug, then whispers "I can't wait to see you baby!". It's enough to put a hormonal pregnant mother in tears every time. Recently, she was having a conversation with the baby. She is convinced that she can see the baby through my belly button. This girls imagination....incredible. I asked her to ask the baby what his name is. She replied, "He said his name is Turtle." Turtle, baby Turtle.

We can't wait to meet you Turtle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Go in de water? B-baptize? (Lent: Part 1)

The title for this post is stolen from the pleading, questioning phrase my daughter has been repeating lately. She began after the baptism of our friends' (Greg and Steph's) baby Elijah. the first time she saw someone get dunked, there were probably half a dozen or more sharing a horse tank in the gymnasium we used to call "church" (Abiding Grace Community Church, to be more specific). Life has drastically changed since then. Our daughter who was initially scared to death (so scared she could merely burrow her little head into our shoulders) the first time she saw some one go under, now has devised a plan: "My kick it? My splash it?"

Oh, God. The innocence and abandon with which little kids look forward to and anticipate life, love, food (not vegetables, though), toys. . .and maybe even God himself is stunning. I wish I had that sort of recklessness about life. There's a difference between recklessness and carelessness, I think. It's a subtle one, though.

Here we are at the beginning of Lent. We're not arms, legs, toes or even fingernails of the Orthodox Church yet, but we will be in 40 days, Lord willing. Here's hoping and praying we have the robustness, the fierceness it takes to sprint down to an empty tomb and find nothing but grave clothes.

From the morning prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ: "Help me now to love thee as fervently as I once loved sin itself and also to work for thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan."

Friday, January 15, 2010

So...What is Orthodoxy?

We've been getting this question a lot lately. Our search into Orthodoxy began on the down low (do people even say that anymore?) mainly because we had no idea where it would lead us. As we learned more and more, we became more open with those that were close to us and willing to hear us process everything. However, to those who's first encounter with Orthodoxy was when we told them we were catechumens in the Orthodox Church, it has been a bit confusing. I wish that there was one easy to way to explain the differences. But the main thing I want to communicate to people are the similarities. Our view of God is still the same. Everything that we are learning in our catechumen classes is what we already believed. Sure, there a some huge differences, but I would almost call them additions, rather than differences.

Trying to explain what an Orthodox worship service is like is quite difficult as well. Like many things, it's in the experience rather than the explanation. I can tell you what incense is and what is does, but until you smell it, until you leave a service with the sweet scent on your skin, you won't understand. I can tell you what an icon is and it's purpose, but until you see one and venerate (kiss) it, you won't truly know.

Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote an essay entitled "12 Things I Wish I'd Known..." ( ) It's to help prepare first-timers for an Orthodox service. There are many things that are explained that I feel are helpful for someone coming into the liturgy for the first time. My brother gave it to my husband and I before our first service. We gave it to my mother before her first service. Now, we are showing it to you.

While you are there you should read other articles of hers. She was one of the many influential writers that helped us find our way home.