“We give thanks to You, invisible King..”

 

Food Thanksgiving

We give thanks to You, invisible King. By Your infinite power You created all things and by Your great mercy You brought everything from nothing into being. Master, look down from heaven upon those who have bowed their heads before You; they have bowed not before flesh and blood but before You the awesome God. Therefore, Master, guide the course of our life for our benefit according to the need of each of us. Sail with those who sail; travel with those who travel; and heal the sick, Physician of our souls and bodies. By the grace, mercy, and love for us of Your only begotten Son, with whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, good, and life giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.” (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

This week is hectic. It’s Thanksgiving here in the USA. So many ways to celebrate; so many ways to give Thanks. Each time we attend Divine Liturgy, we continually beseech God for mercy, and we constantly give thanks, “to You, invisible King.” This holiday season is one where tensions fly with family members and friends, alike. Everyone has a plan in their head of what the “Holidays” are supposed to be. For whatever reason, they ALWAYS fall short. Why is that? I remember a conversation between two siblings, wherein they were recalling incidents in their youth. One of them remarked, “Were we even raised in the same family?” It was because their memories were vastly different of the same events. And I know that is what happens each year. We have fond recollections from our youth, but they are quite often not what truly occurred. We laugh and laugh as our boys retell certain instances in their lives, because to the mind of a child, it happened a particular way. But, we, who experienced it as adults, have a far different recollection.

kidsthanksgiving

Hosting the holidays has been stressing me out. It’s because I have a very tiny house and there will be a lot of grown-ups trying to cram into it. I do mean a tiny house, with a one-butt kitchen. (If you have one, you know what I mean). There are other reasons, too. Like trying to live up the expectations of a family feast for my kids, grandkids, and extended family members. We also have many, many subjects that will naturally be taboo at our table. (A varied belief system, political system, and even agnostic/atheistic tendancies). There will be football! Ha-Ha! But even that can be heated (we all like different teams). The food is coming in from a variety of people, so all I have to worry about is the turkey (they don’t stress me out – just a big chicken), stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. Should be simple. We will have far more food than we can eat but hopefully everyone can taste something they like. My kids have already said that since they are now adults, I can’t make them eat what they don’t want to eat. So if all they eat is stuffing, gravy, rolls, and pie, washing it all down with a beer, I need to deal with it. Ha-Ha.  Well, okay then.

I am missing the days of attending Divine Liturgy and feeding the homeless, as we did in previous years. Our current parish is hosting a meal after the Divine Liturgy and I will miss it this year; perhaps next year we can hop from place to place, enjoying the company of a variety of family and friends. Perhaps sharing our previous experiences in helping the less fortunate will be something I can share around the table, maybe even inspiring an openness to giving to others. Who knows, maybe next year our family (extended as it is) will help to feed the homeless? One can always hope. One particularly happy Thanksgiving was shared with friends in Washington State a few years ago. My god daughter flew up for the weekend and we went to a friend’s house. They had invited a lot of disparate individuals and their table conversation was incredible. We had such a wonderful time. It was nothing like we had experienced in the past and to this day, it is one of my favorite holiday memories.

Hand held table

Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as I like to call it, is a peculiar holiday to America – and I like the idea of it. But with all the political correctness going on, we don’t really focus on the Pilgrims being grateful for a harvest helped by their interaction with the native peoples, and with them sharing their bounty. We instead are focusing on our own small families (in perspective) and on what time the stores are having their “Black Friday” shopping hours! People are boycotting lists of stores who are opening on Thanksgiving itself, and many who are already set up for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my second favorite holiday. For most of my life, it was my favorite holiday (I have been converted to Pascha. I adore the whole environment of Lent and Easter, especially learning all the new traditions here). In recent years, it seems like more and more that the marketing world leads us from Labor Day in September, right through to Thanksgiving and Christmas – all at once. The ads and the deals; retailers trying to get your money. It is taking away from the “thankfulness” of the season. I wish we could return to simpler, quieter, and slower days and years. We just seem to be rushing through all our days lately. Perhaps it is because I am getting older and I notice it more. And I truly wish we could get over this attachment to all the “stuff” we need to buy. Remember the old saying, “You can’t take it with you?” Seems so appropriate. We should stop and be content, be grateful for what we do have.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.…” (1Tim 7:6-8)

My prayer for my family and friends is a grateful heart and spirit. Silence, peace, and loving kindness to everyone. Being sated by what we already have and being able to recognize our wealth – in things, yes, but in our family, friends, faith, country. Enjoying those around us. Feeling the blessings God has laid before us in our lives. God is good and He knows what is best for us. Hosting Turkey Day is good for me. It lets me work on my “Martha” and learn to be more “Mary.” God is working in me, even in the week of “Thanksgiving,” as I am learning to redefine my essence of “family” and being grateful for those who darken my doorstep and gladden my table.

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From a wonderful site, “(In)courage ~ Home for the Hearts of Women” and an article entitled, ” A More Mary, Less Martha Thanksgiving”  by Dawn Camp, came the following WONDERFUL advice:

If you’re an anxious holiday host, I hope these thoughts help you, too:

Don’t experiment with new cooking methods or recipes on crucial dishes unless you have a backup plan. Delegate, delegate, delegate: ask other guests to bring bread, sides, or desserts. More Mary, less Martha: spend more time enjoying your guests and less time cleaning; use paper plates! Let your guests help you set the table and get the food ready to serve; they’re thankful you’ve opened your home and want to assist you. Enjoy the people you’re with; you probably don’t see enough of them. Thanksgiving is about being thankful; make it the focus of your holiday.”

I plan to take her advice to heart. I am about to sojourn to the store with my youngest son. I plan to get paper plates and lots of napkins, even plastic silverware and cups. I want this to be an easy Thanksgiving; a joyful and thankful day. And I hope by simplifying things, we can enjoy one another more (and I will even help myself destress a little bit) and truly be in the mindset to give Thanks.


HappyThanksgiving

“In all things give thanks.” 1Thess 5:18

DidacheSo I had all these awesome plans for blessing our house.  I wrote a post for this blog about it.  As I ended that post, I mentioned ‘chasing elusive dust bunnies.”  Well, as I was reaching down to grab one by its ears, I heard a “pop” in my back and felt searing pain.  Oh boy. House blessing not happening!

I was able to get into a new Chiropractor my son is seeing, and that poor guy!  The first time he meets me, I am literally crying and screaming whenever he touches me.  We take x-rays, we massage, we do all these weird things I had never experienced before. This went on for about 2 hours and I was relaxing and actually pain-free!  Then he tilted the table so I could stand, and wowser! The pain was so intense I cried and cried, started to shake, and could not hold myself up.  I was literally sinking to the floor, if my husband and the doctor had not held me up.  They put a large “cinch” or “truss” around my waist, gave me an ice pack, and sent me on my way to the ER.  There are some things even a Chiropractor cannot handle…and me and my back last night was one of those things.

Off we went to ER.  Did I mention this was in a snowstorm (well, for here it was being called a “light dusting” of 1-2 inches)? The ER doctor had a completely different diagnosis than the Chiropractor, but their treatments were exactly the same…bed rest, laying as flat as possible, for the next 2-3 days.  Right.  As you can tell, I am not laying flat.  Been as flat as I could be in my recliner, for hours upon hours.  Standing is fine. Sitting is its own kind of hell.  Ice packs, heating pads, pain meds.  And I cannot move without something tweaking and hurting.

But I am giving thanks.  I had someone acknowledge my long, long struggle with back issues.  There are reasons for the intermittent issues I have with my back and trunk muscles (I felt vindicated for all my episodes and times of extreme pain; the times I could not work, let alone even move.  My husband said he always believed me, but to have a doctor confirm it and x-rays show it, made me feel justified somehow).  And I see options ahead of me.  This should have been dealt with years ago, but I put it off (not a big fan of doctors!).  I usually only see a doctor for an issue – not a very good preventative maintenance person.  (At least where my health is concerned). Through the pain, the way ahead seems clearer, somehow, like God wanted this to happen so I could just get on with it, and deal with it.

As I was in agony, I was able to pray.  I was able to surrender to what may lie ahead for me.  And I clung to my family.  My husband held my hand and tried to make light of it.  His concern and his love were obvious to me.  And I felt loved, from my family and my friends who I knew and know are praying for me.  My kids are kicking in and helping out with some things for my youngest son…driving him here and there in the falling snow; dropping off uniforms for CAP this weekend; dropping off my RXs, making us dinner…wow, I am blessed!

So I will give thanks…thanks that I have found a doctor in a new town.  Thanks that I am getting some medical intervention that I need.  Thankful my kids are close by and are wonderfully attentive.  And thankful for some down time.  Painful downtime, but I am still.  Picking up, once again, some favorite books but most especially, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” by Elder Thaddeus.  As the Chiropractor was helping me into the car last night (in snowy weather) he kept telling me to think positive thoughts, and to breathe.  I wonder if he’s read Elder Thaddeus, too?

390px-OrthodoxCross(black,contoured)

Today, I am breathing….

Abba IsaiasToday is Monday…in so many senses of the word!  First of all, our boiler, which provides us our heat, sprung a leak all over the garage last night.  So my husband, being judicious, shut off all the hot water to the house.  All the hot water.  This morning, the plumber told us he was on his way…that was at least two hours ago.  In the meantime, it rained all night long, and is still raining.  It is pretty dark outside.  They are laying all new electrical lines through our area and actually putting in sidewalks and streetlights (we live out of town).  This morning they “accidentally” cut our power.  Yay.  No hot water, no heat in the house, no sunshine, and now, no electricity.  On top of that, I had been trying to contact my retirement board from my former governmental employer – need I say more? Customer service is not their forte.

And so I found myself, sitting in the dark, in a sweatshirt on the couch with my newly-hairless mini-Schnauzer sitting next to me shivering, in complete silence, contemplating this turn of events.  I had been espousing Holy Silence at Church just yesterday.  I had joked about how loud life is these days with all the electronic interference.  I think I was just tempting Our Lord to give me an opportunity to practice Silence.

Frustration  does not even come close to what I am experiencing.  And I remembered the graphic above, quoting Abba Isaias.  Boy, did I need that!  In his book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” Elder Thaddeus tells us that we can control our environment by how we react to it and by what we give back to it.  I was dealing with a crabby woman on the phone this morning, who needs so many lessons in customer service, and I caught myself snipping at her (“What do you mean, 4th from the bottom? The bottom is the bottom, there is nothing listed below the bottom of the list.  That’s why it is the bottom!” To which she replied, “Well, fine then; it’s the 4th UP from the bottom.”) and I stopped myself from going further and literally prayed for her in my mind.  I have worked in customer service in retail, for various governmental agencies; I have waited tables and tended bar!  I get the whole customer service thing and I realized, “It’s Monday!”  And I will be held accountable for the thoughts I have, and the way my thoughts project into my environment – my thoughts came spilling out of my mouth before I had the chance to edit them.  I apologized to her, telling her I did not understand the jargon common to retirement boards, and asked if she could please assist me; her demeanor immediately changed and I castrated myself for having let my frustration get the better of me.

Life has a way of bringing us up short some days.  We are hit right between the eyes with whatever weakness we seem to be trying to work on.  I had a priest tell me one time, “Never pray for patience, because that’s when all hell will break loose.”  He explained that God just doesn’t give us what we lack; He teaches us how to have what we lack. If we lack patience, He will use every opportunity available to teach us how to be patient.  With my frustration reaching its peak early today, God has been thrusting me into situations where I am learning to temper my frustration with kindness and to try to learn to relax in these situations.  Mark Hart the Bible Geek (check out his Facebook page) tells us, “God’s got this” and I totally believe that.  God does have this, and all the days of my life. I need to learn to get into sync with whatever He has for me. I need to slow down and be quiet; I need to learn to listen.  Is my life going where I want it to? No.  Am I better off than yesterday?  It depends on what we are qualifying.  I am better off because I have a great place to live (other than it’s dark and a little chilly in here today!!), I am close to my family, and my Church community is continually surprising me and blessing me with new friends and a wonderful place to worship.  Financially? Absolutely not.  We are pretty much at that desperation point, but I know God’s got this, too.  His timeline does not always coincide with what I think I need or what I think needs to happen, but that is what faith is all about.  Allowing God to work.  Giving Him time and space to evident Himself in all aspects of my life.  I keep thinking that the Lord has way more faith in me and my perseverance than I do, and quite often I look to heaven and make the “time out” sign the refs in football use!  But still, I awoke today. I had a visit from my grandson and daughter-in-law, who brought us some hot coffee.  My power was restored, by men working in the pouring rain, so I could sit here and type.  God is good and He is working.  “All good things come to he who waits,” as the old saying goes.

DidacheAs the Didache explains to us, the troubles that come to us are from the Lord. He is teaching us what He believes we need to know.  And so I hope in the Lord. I offer my frustrations to Him; I offer Him also my Silent moments, asking that He enter in.  I thank Him for my next breath, and I praise Him for being in my life and loving me, even when I trip and fall so far short.  God is good.

Breathe today