“…sweet consolation…”

Having a rough day today. My teenager was away at camp for 10 days and I guess he missed us because he chose to share the bug he picked up at camp with me! I am sick and it is making me cranky! This morning, there were 3 magpies in our front yard – two on the lawn and one in a tree – having a very loud argument. For those of you who are familiar with these large, loud birds, you know what I mean.  Even our cat, who is nick-named, “Scaredy-cat,” was angry with these birds. Her back was arched and she was hissing at them, as she watched them from the front window!  I woefully needed coffee to get my head to function and to help me wake up! Ha-Ha!  Not a fun way to be woken up when you have a lousy head cold. I am trying to get better soon, because I am flying 5+ hours to California to see my new grand daughter, and to visit “memory homes” with my mom.  It makes me sad, just prepping for the trip.  Sad because I will have to leave my son, his wife, and their new baby and sad because I will have to leave my mom and I am not sure how many visits with her I have left.

I have been struck with the cycle of life recently.  Our deacon had a stroke this past week.  Last weekend, he was his smiling self and then he was not.  And yesterday, a dear friend of ours’ daughter had their first grand child.  Just talking with her today was so much fun.  I was lucky in that we already have two grandchildren and our third is on her way, so I knew the overwhelming sense of love my friend would experience.  And she did not disappoint! The pure joy in her voice was incredible to share.  I also spoke with a sibling about my mom and her encroaching Alzheimer’s and how we’re all going to handle it.  It just seems that life is constantly cycling through and I was never in a place to really notice it until now.  I guess seeing as how I am a “senior” citizen and all, I notice this tenuous life cycle we have here on earth, while preparing for our eternity in heaven.

Little thingsIt is such a joy to share all these things that happen in life with those we love, those we meet, and those we may not even know.  The little joys are incredible.  As I watch my son and his little family, I see so many moments I had with him as a boy.  Times of joy that I hold closely in my heart.  There are smells and sounds, visions and memories that I will have always in my heart, that warm me and fill me with joy on days when loud birds wake me and I am sneezing, sleepy, and cranky! The joy of an ever-expanding family through the marriages of our children, the births of our grandchildren, and even the deaths of parents….we are cycling through life and it seems like it is getting faster and faster, and more and more frightening, the older I get!  Thanks be to God for my family, friends, and my faith. I am blessed.

And when I am stressed or angry, or feel out of sorts, there are memories and sights and sounds and smells that reinvigorate me, that I hold deep inside of me and are a part of my living faith.  I have such fond memories of many, many, midnight Liturgies of Pasca, swinging the lamps in preparation for the big entry; of meat dishes and their smells and tastes after the long fast of Lent; of songs and scents we only experience at different holidays.  I love being Byzantine and having dishes which are served on one day a year, using recipes passed down from mother to daughter over centuries of Christianity; recipes that have not changed in thousands of years.  I love feeling connected to Our Lord, His Apostles, and the early Church, knowing we use the same incense, the same tones and songs, the same words of the Gospel, that they experienced, too.

Someone asked me on Sunday what drew me to become Byzantine.  One particular memory, which I have shared in posts before, was listening to our Deacon intone “Sophia, Orthoi” while processing in with the Gospel Book.  It took me back in time to the Apostolic Church and the connection was so real, I did not want to ever lose it.  The sounds of the tones used, the smell of the incense, the way in which the Parish participated, took me back in time and I loved feeling that.  The Holy Icons, the Holy Fans, the words of the liturgy, the vestments worn by the priests and deacons…they all brought me into communion with our Lord and our faith.  I love history and tradition, so anything connecting back to the Apostles is wonderful in my eyes.  I love the unbroken tradition and the historical connection through text, song and scents, textiles and foods.  It’s pretty comforting for me; it grounds me.

St. NikolaiAnd as this week has demonstrated to me once again, we are cycling through life’s experiences at a rapid clip.  My emotions and my health are all over the map. Some days are incredible; some not so much – like today.  Times are tough right now, but our blessings are inordinate. And as each thing comes to me, I earnestly try to thank God for these experiences, to seek His guidance, and to wait on Him and His will for my life.

St. Anthony of Optina.2The highlight of my trip south will be the baptism of our grand daughter.  Although there will be lots of people and families baptizing their children, I am so thrilled to be there for this sacrament for her, and for her parents.  The changes our family has been through over the past year of weddings, births, and deaths…our emotions are pretty fraught with tension.  I will be saying goodbye to my son and his little family, and the ability to hold (and smell – I love baby smells!!) my little grand daughter.  I will be bidding my mom goodbye and I am not sure if more visits are in store for us or not.  My heart is so torn.  But through all these cycles of life, I thank you, God, for reminding me of these blessings and the love I have been privileged to share.

Russian baptism

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“…He’s trying to change your heart.”

God is changing your heart

Very introspective today.  Life is just not going smoothly.  And it is not just for us; many of our friends and contemporaries are suffering in many ways, as well.  Today there was a bloodless coup in Egypt.  I have no idea where that situation is going.  Meanwhile we have Syria, who allowed the anarchists to behead a Catholic priest along with two others.  And for whatever reason (something I just do not understand) our country is backing those rebels.  There is unrest here in the USA over our economy, the healthcare plan being forced upon us, and the issues of choice versus pro life.  On and on it goes.  There seems to be no relief in sight.  Recently, I read this little piece online from an Orthodox blogger who stated that as they were incensing their house, their daughter explained to her mom why she avoided the TV set.  She said, “Because of that evil man sitting on top of it.”  The mom agreed that indeed, Satan enters our homes through the TV in oh so many ways.

Don't compare

We are pushed to compare ourselves to those around us. Even though I used the above graphic in my last blog post, it keeps coming up.  People say they are better people of faith because they do this or that, or they do not do this or that.  We need to look to Christ, the reason we proclaim a life of faith in the first place.  The Lord Himself proclaimed to us that He did not come to bring peace; He did not come to unite, but rather to divide. (“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Matthew 10:34).

And boy oh boy, do we have divisions!!  There are eastern-rite Christians; there are Latin Rite Christians.  There are Protestants, and Jewish, and Islamic believers.  There are Budhists and Zoarastrians.  There are Republicans and Democrats.  There are also Tea Party members who claim neither political party.  There are law-abiders, and law-breakers.  We have earners and takers in financial realms.  We have givers and takers across all areas of division.  We have that theory of 10% in everything.  What theory?  It says that in almost every organization – schools, companies, cultures, churches, families, groups of friends…that about 10% of that particular group does all the work.  All the work to keep the group intact and functional.  In our country, that 10% is very wealthy, with 90% doing the direct labor, or no labor at all.  There are those in our churches and parishes who are always around, doing everything.  They clean the hall, they mow the lawn, they work in the kitchen, sweep the sanctuary, attend and perhaps even plan, all the events.  Those 10% are the people who always vote; who help out in local politics, who volunteer at organizations across the country.

All of this brings me to the above graphic of comparison…we need to stop comparing and start appreciating.  I understand that some things people do or are involved in are not appreciated (people who bomb to make a point; people who kill or steal, or otherwise harm others…the list is long).  I understand that some belief systems will, and do, clash.  Islam and Christianity have been clashing for centuries and will continue to do so.  The haves and have nots will continue to clash.  Bread lines may start again and those who have may need to assist those who have not.  Witness Egypt today where millions took to the streets to clash with their government.  I understand and know that we cannot appreciate everything; conflict is inevitable.  I am guilty of conflict myself, when my baser instincts take over my better self.  And I seek forgiveness for that all the time.  That being said, I am also pensive and introspective today about all this conflict.  I am digging deeper to try and find that sweet spot of peace I once held so closely. I am clinging to the edge of a chasm of despair.  But the despair is not one of faith; I know God has my back.  It’s all this around me, crashing down on me.  I know that to give in is to admit defeat.  But once in awhile, even the steadfast need a break.

DidacheGod has my back and I know the struggles I have are all from my choices and decisions in life, but are all allowed through Him and His will for my life.  I also think that my grasp is beginning to weaken, and that rope I am clinging to is running out of space to cling.  And still my heart sings when I pray.  When I hear my grandson’s joyous and infectious giggles or when I see the twinkle in my grand daughter’s eye, or when I feel the life of my grand-daughter-in-utero wiggle, I weep with joy.  God has blessed us with an incredible family and incredible life.  It has come down to about as basic a life as it can get. The only way things could be less would be to be homeless.  And when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the basics of life; when the only direction you can go is up, perspective is an interesting component of life.  I look up – the only direction left to me – and I see God.  He is smiling.  He is waiting.  He is there.  For some unfathomable reason at this time in my life, we are all waiting, almost holding our collective breath.  We are waiting for that break, for that one thing to happen that will change all of this.

Breathe todayAs our pastor used to tell us, “You are not guaranteed your next breath.”  Oh Abouna, how right you are!  So today, even though it feels like Chicken Little is running around yelling about the sky falling, I am breathing.  So I am blessed.  And today, even though I swept and mopped floors, the most exciting thing I have accomplished all day, is that I was allowed to breathe.  So I will count my blessings and hang on for another day, breathing one moment to the next, waiting with My Lord, for things to fall into place, just as He has planned for me.  (Inhale) Jesus son of God, (exhale) have mercy on me, a sinner.

Gods plan