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.