Saturday, December 31, 2011

Can this be true?

If you want to do something good, do it; and if you cannot do it, then resolve to do it, and you will have achieved the resolution even if you do not fulfil the action itself. Thus a habit, whether good or bad, can gradually and spontaneously be overcome. If this were not the case, no criminals would ever be saved, whereas in fact not only have they been saved, but many have become conspicuous for their excellence. Think what a great gulf separates the criminal from the saint; yet resolution finally overcame habit.

- Saint Peter of Damascus

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I haven't had the time to write about Christmas Vigil, or the Nativity Liturgy, or Saint Stephen's Day. There is so much I wanted to write about while it was happening for the very small purpose of not forgetting it.

I also could write for a long time about Saint Cyril's Catechetical Lectures which I am still reading, or the book Path to Sanity which I am also reading. 

But I can't. I have biscuits in the oven for the kids, and the day is already sweeping me away. At night I fall asleep with the kids, so I haven't had time to sneak back to the keyboard. The readings on Saint Stephen's feast day were beautiful. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yesterday's Reading

Kassi's Nutcracker performances were this weekend, so we were unable to attend Liturgy in its entirety. We left right after Communion in order to bring her to the stage at her call time.  I can't go without mentioning yesterday's reading from Hebrews. It was deeply moving and as always, I felt as though I had never heard it before, which can't be true but remains.

9By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;
10for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called,"
19concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
22By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's command.
32And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:
33who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
36Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.
37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-
38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
40God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Hebrews 11:9-10,17-23,32-40

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jesse Tree 2011, nearing the Nativity Feast!

Painting seems to happen in bursts. We joke that next year this will be so easy with all of the ornaments done.

With time constraints pressing us, some of them are very simple.

What a fun project. It has really marked the days of the fast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beginning to Read The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem

There is no place to begin with this, so I will start where I am:

"The present is the season of confession: confess what thou hast done in word or in deed, by night or by day; confess in an acceptable time, and in the day of salvation[9] receive the heavenly treasure. Devote thy time to the Exorcisms: be assiduous at the Catechisings, and remember the things that shall be spoken, for they are spoken not for thine ears only, but that by faith thou mayest seal them up in the memory. Blot out from thy mind all earthly[1] care: for thou art running for thy soul. Thou art utterly forsaking the things of the world: little are the things which thou art forsaking, great what the Lord is giving. Forsake things present, and put thy trust in things to come. Hast thou run so many circles of the years busied in vain about the world, and hast thou not forty days to be free (for prayer[2]), for thine own soul's sake? "

This is referring to the Great Lent before our Baptism. He must mean private confession, in prayer by oneself? 

At Vigil last Saturday, the evening before the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, Father Stephan ended the Vigil with a call to Confession. Karl wasn't there, I was present with three of our children and my Godmother that night. It was a very moving call as Father described the great forgiveness of God for those who repent. For the first time I heard Father say the opening exhortation of confession- usually he is over in the corner and quiet. 

I wish I could write in a convincing way about how much I desire to be received into the Church and be called a Believer. This feeling overwhelmed me early on after becoming a Catechumen and has not diminished in any way. But as I have tried to explain before, another sensation has grown alongside it, and it is one of fear. Now I do not feel ready, it is like something is missing. These Lectures of St. Cyril are exciting in a way nothing else has been for awhile. Direct communication to me, the Catechumen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

to make myself understood

I have noticed, silently, a new trend in my behaviour. It is like this: I don't write about or talk about things because I either cant think of how to explain them or I think no one will understand. I hope to challenge this trend by forcing myself to write or at least talk, personally, about those things one by one.

Beginning now.  I have read and been told that no one is ever ready to be Baptised and recieve Communion. God's grace is sufficient to make us worthy. Why doesn't this comfort me at all or make me feel ready? I keep thinking, well, 'they' don't know the particular kind of unready I feel. Everything feels so unanswered, like a question on the tip of the tongue.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Saint Nicholas Day at our Saint Nicholas Church

You were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith; an image of meekness and a teacher of abstinence. Your humility exalted you. Your poverty enriched you. O holy bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
The icon of Saint Nicholas at our parish is so beautiful. When we were preparing for the feast day on the Sunday before, we had a chance to see it uncovered. It was covered in glass for the Liturgy.

We arrived in plenty of time for Liturgy. The children even got to meet Bishop Benjamin as he walked into the parish hall. They were quite shy- so was I- I have no idea how to behave around a Bishop. I can hardly navigate my interactions with Father! Rome was happy to show Bishop his new turtles.

I had Rome as my charge so I did not see much of the Liturgy. We were present for the vesting of the Bishop. When he put on his crown Rome said "There! Now he is beautiful!"The photos below are not in order.

I left with Rome where Archdeacon Kyrill said "As many as are Catechumens, depart."

The feast after was beautiful and delicious. Rome was curious about "all the Fathers" and "how could there be so many Fathers?"

Holy Bishop Saint Nicholas: part 2

You were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith; an image of meekness and a teacher of abstinence. Your humility exalted you. Your poverty enriched you. O holy bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

We did not make it to the Festal Vigil on Monday night. I had an appointment with my doctor and as my best friend said, I do not get to cancel doctor's appointments with the shape I am in. So we sat at home and wondered what was happening now at the Vigil. The evening service is the beginning of the morning service and to miss it is to be late to Liturgy. But this was out of our hands.

In the morning we had a visit from Saint Nicholas at home. As I explained to the kids, we honoured Saint Nicholas' memory by putting a gift and candy in each of their shoes. They were thrilled to start this tradition. Toly received spinning tops, Rome little toy turtles, Tristan stencils and a pencil and Kassi, a bell for her bicycle. Chocolate coins and oranges were everywhere.

Then we set out for church and our parish feast day.

Holy Bishop Saint Nicholas: part 1

You were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith; an image of meekness and a teacher of abstinence. Your humility exalted you. Your poverty enriched you. O holy bishop Nicholas, pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Our first Saint Nicholas day as Orthodox Christians.

On the Sunday before we stayed behind to help decorate the church. The kids and some of the mothers decorated inside the hall where we have the feast. We even put on Christmas music. My husband and another father friend put up lights outside, climbing ladders and all. Inside the church people were putting up green boughs over the doors and behind the cross. Father Stephan and the choir practised the hymns for our parish feast day and a visit from Right Rev. Benjamin, our Bishop.

The nourishing environment of the church can hardly be described. In my whole life I have never felt so invited to be a part of something.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The months since I became a catechumen have been very intense months. Even before the Church, this past year, year and a half has been more than just intense.. it has been the hardest time of my life.

There was a time when I used to think that nothing could ever happen to me that would be more difficult than a specific span of years in my childhood that I remember with horror. I remember believing that, even a few years ago. Now I know that is not true, because I am recovering from something greater than those old memories.

It is not what I might expect. I would think that being a catechumen and in the process of learning about God would have a grounding effect. And it has surely given us strength to survive our summer of trials. There is that. The fact remains, though, that I have never felt so unstable. The work of approaching the Church is extremely upsetting to my soul, mind, and heart.

I told Tikhon about this and he did not relate. He is at ease with it all. And now that I write this out I realise that it doesn't sound the same as it feels. It sounds as if I am not "at ease" with the teachings of the Church, or not ready to accept it. That is not the case at all, no no no.

It is more the opposite. I am at ease with the teachings. I do accept the Church. It is overwhelming to be myself there. To think of who I am in my entirety and hold that thought while standing in the presence of God.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hunting for Mushrooms

Beautiful forest. We were up in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed on Thanksgiving Day. Father taught us to find honey mushrooms, and wow did we ever find them!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nativity Fast

Yesterday being the first day of Advent, and the beginning of the fast of the Nativity, I am learning how to cook for a family in a Lenten way. Last night our supper was pasta, with very vegetable marinara sauce and salad. I also made French bread from Julia Child's The Way To Cook. I have used this recipe in the past but not recently.

On a recommendation, I bought a silicon mat for kneading bread upon. It is perfect! I had no idea this item was missing from my kitchen. No oil was needed for forming the loaves and no mess.
I also baked a cake for Tristan's name day today. I have a trusty vegan cake recipe which I used, and I made up a frosting from coconut oil, cocoa and coconut milk.

Today being the second day, I have soaked a mixture of beans and barley for soup.

It is difficult to be the person in charge of the food production and the person without access to a car. I need to learn to make adequate shopping lists for Tikhon.

I want to briefly mention that this is one of my favourite cook books. I tend to enjoy  cook books with foundational, basic recipes. This one is on a shelf next to only two others: Betty Crocker and Nourishing Traditions.

Apostle and Evangelist Matthew

Today is Tristan's name day. His middle name is Matthew.

Holy Saint Matthew, Pray for us. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reading Matthew

I am reading Matthew. Constantly, I wish I could ask a question about what I have read. I wonder if I should keep notes to ask questions or if I should put the idea of understanding it out of my mind.

New Feelings

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. My role as caretaker of our littlest was not easier than usual, but our weekends have been like this for a long time now and we are all used to the routine. Vigil the night before, homeward for sleep, and back in the morning to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

I finally spoke to Father about my new feelings. I've been trying to write about this here but have not been able to put it into words.

 I am overwhelmed by feelings of fear and awe.

There was a time which anyone can read about in my journal where I felt more than ready. I felt urgency. I had read all of these books about Baptism and the Holy Mysteries and wondered why on Earth I was waiting. I still do, intellectually. I will not abandon my original position that I am in grave need of Baptism and reception into the Church. But as if in layers, something has overcome my feelings of readiness and I cannot shake it off.

I am not sure how to describe the slow and complex way things have changed. Once, I remained in the church for the Holy Anaphora. It was by accident, because Rome had gone in and I had to follow him to scoop him up, but then there I was kneeling down on the rug with Rome in the middle of something I could not disrupt by leaving. It might seem like nothing, but it was not nothing. It was the first time I felt this sense of fear I am trying to describe. I did not belong there.

I am not full of confidence that Baptism will make me worthy to receive these Mysteries. How can I go ahead with this thing of such importance, not feeling ready? Of course, I have some time. I have until Holy Saturday. It doesn't feel like enough. How could it ever be enough? Is there anything that can be done in any amount of time for the sorry state of my personhood?

All things are possible through Christ. Still, when the prayers are said in the Liturgy they are full of hope that God will not condemn us.

Grace shining forth from your lips like a beacon has enlightened the universe.
It has shown to the world the riches of poverty;
it has revealed to us the heights of humility.
Teaching us by your words, O Father John Chrysostom,
intercede before the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Article on Economy and Conversion

I came across this article today, which doesn't really apply to me since I am not Baptised and will be Baptised before Christmation, but I am curious about it.

Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours

Today is Romneya's name day. 

†Pray unto God for us, O Holy Saint Martin, well-pleasing to God, for we turn to you, who are a speedy helper and intercessor for our souls.†

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jesse Tree Project 2011

We are making ornaments for a Jesse Tree project. I thought this would be a good catechism project for our whole family, so with Father's blessing we are beginning it . There are 52 images- 40 leading up to Christmas and 12 for Christmas. We are using imagery from Festal Celebrations Yahoo group. Because the kids are doing most of the work, we are simplifying the images as we go.

We are using acrylic paints.

We have wooden discs that we bought from a reuse store. First we use gesso to make a white background.

We have only just begun and need to keep ahead of the days. These symbols, which are partially painted, represent Creation, Adam & Eve in the garden, The Fall, and Noah. There are bible readings to go with each. Every day we will hang one and do the reading.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hymn of Kassiane

Kassi received a gift last night at Vigil- an icon of her patron, Saint Kassiane. She was so surprised and happy. Thank you!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fasting, thoughts

I am sure that whatever stage of my life I am in, wherever, it must be complicated. Everything is so complex, and everything includes learning to fast as a catechumen.

 I understand the fast, in what small way I am able. What I am having a hard time with is how we (ourselves, as a family) should fast. I am surrounded, thank God, by many helpful people who have advice and experiences to share. We have the most wonderful and true friends, as well as a parish full of helpful fellows. They can be roughly divided into 3 groups.

 One group will not comment on how I (personally) should fast. This group includes my priest, and I love him for it. In the depths of my soul. On a more practical level– I am the keeper of the home and have to do the cooking– it's not as useful as I might like.

 Another set of friends encourages me to be easy on myself. They remind me that no one keeps all the fasting rules. They admit they break them– who doesn't?–so it is okay to be less than perfect. Substitute.   Use non-olive oils. Et cetera.

 The third group has few members and most of them are books, not people. This group of advisors urges me to aim high and keep the fast as perfectly as I can.

What should I do? I am sure that some of my advisors would think it fine for us to start off by simply removing meat from our diets according to the fasting days. (or substitute everything with soy versions) We can become more correct later. In effect, I would be making my own rule of fasting and (presumably) following it. This doesn't sit well with me, but I can't say why. I can't imagine keeping the fast to the point of waiting until a certain hour to eat. How would this fit in with Tikhon's work, etc? What about our children, what should we expect from the eldest? How can we do this in a way which can work, even if we don't ultimately hold to it perfectly?

I browse the internet for Lenten recipes to learn. The vast majority of public Orthodox fasting recipes out there break the rules. I really don't know what to make of it. I admit it is probably a fault of mine, but I don't see the point of doing anything if we aren't going to at least try to do it correctly. Try, perhaps fail, but try again.

Still, there remains a temptation to listen to that voice that says, "Don't take it too seriously".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saint Tabitha

Yesterday was my name day, because I am named for Saint Tabitha.

Holy Saint Tabitha, pray for me. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The confidence that comes from answered prayer

I had a new experience the night before last.

I have prayed without expectation, and I have prayed in order to refocus myself and ward off, as the prayer says, "many and cruel memories". Once I wrote about someone who told me to pray confidently, asking for the intercession of the Theotokos and how impossible that seemed. As scattered at those sentences are, they are relevant.

I woke up in the wee hours consumed with anxiety. I had not had bad dreams but woke as if in the middle of a terrible argument or turmoil. I was so stressed I felt like I couldn't breathe. The subject of my stress was nothing, really, but it felt like everything. This is very characteristic of the anxiety disorder/ PTSD that I have experienced throughout my life. I was unable to function and awash in the sea of my worry.

I went to pray. I returned to bed, and the prayer didn't "work". Nothing changed, It was worse, possibly. I started to think about how God doesn't help with this, never has. Then the thoughts turned to anger over a God who can't help with something so consuming that it has limited me throughout my entire life. Why won't God fix this? Why has He never answered my pleas in the night?

My youngest son woke up and wanted milk. After I helped him, I decided to pray again. I lit a candle and alone in the dark, I chose to believe. I chose to try on the idea that all things are possible with God. It was not unlike "faking it". I forced the faith on my prayer and made every effort to ask for relief, an increase in faith and an end to my turmoil.

I went back to bed. When I woke up again, my fear was gone. It was as if it had not happened. I feel light. And I have continued to, praying with thankful prayers. I have never felt anything like this.

I know, I assume, that my anxiety attacks will continue. Nothing can take the confidence I have now, the  new strength that comes from having a secret weapon.

I read a little from a certain book every day. It is called My Life in Christ by Saint John of Kronstadt. today the passage that I flipped to was worth sharing:

"When you experience oppressive waywardness of heart and unbelief in respect to any object of faith, then know that the enemy is in your heart, and that he mocks at your ignorance, your weakness, and your inconstancy in faith. Sincerely condemn at once your foolishness, your blindness, your sinful inconstancy in faith, and your ingratitude to God, for the former light of your heart and former benefits, received by you through faith in that object (for instance, in the relics of the saints) which your heart in its sinful obstinacy now denies, or in which it does not now believe as it formerly believed, and the Master will have mercy upon you; your anguish will cease, and you will be at rest. O, the enemy wishes that even in matters of faith everything should be in accordance with his falsehood!" - Saint John of Kronstadt. In my edition, which was gifted to me, it is on page 106.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A desire to Confess

Tikhon goes to confess and I stay back with the children, because I can't. I have wanted to all along. At first I thought my desire to confess was self-centered, a vain attempt to make myself feel better. It has grown as we have grown and become close to other people in the church.

When I am Baptized and Chrismated, I will not confess then. When and where will I confess my sins from my life before Baptism?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Social Anxiety/ stress Disdorders

I would love to read more on stress disorders from an Orthodox Christian perspective. It is really not enough to read that these are manifestations of vanity or weakness. I have struggled with this all my life. If healing is a possibility, I wonder how.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I need to take the time to pray for contentment with our current circumstances. We have so much to be thankful for, and we have all that we need.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Tonight at Vespers I was fighting feelings of anger. These are completely unwarranted, but they persisted.

Why am I just now finding this relationship with God? Why not before? This is hard to reconcile with the Almighty God. My Godmother reminded me that this life is not everything. Suffering in this life has little importance. I know, and yet it is still hard to let go of the angry feelings I have, directed for the most part towards myself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

An Interesting Talk

I spoke to a friend, who will be Godfather to my oldest son, on the phone. It was a good conversation. The most interesting part ties into a feeling I have had for the past few weeks.

The feeling is: I have "grown up". I never knew what that meant or how I would know it. I was mostly not sure I even wanted to be involved. Now I am certain that at least an element of it, some inkling of it, has occurred. It's good.

I am consistently receptive to outside ideas in a way I have not been since I was 12 or so. I am capable of thinking outside of my current emotion. Effectively, this means I can see the point of view of another even when it conflicts with my own. Can I act upon the advice of another? Not yet tested.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Most people are like a shaving of wood which is curled round its central emptiness." -Saint Theophan the Recluse

Father brought this concept up last Sunday. It was expository for me in more than one way, although I don't claim to understand the Gospel that Father was talking about. I think the reading was from Mark chapter 8,

†“Whoever desires to come after Melet him deny himselfand take up his crossand follow Me35For whoever desires to save his life will lose itbut whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole worldand loses his own soul37Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generationof him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”†

Being self absorbed is not necessarily thinking you're the best, or building yourself up. It is also thinking you're a failure, and obsessing over your own shortcomings. It is everything which is not extending your heart in love which reaches every direction. Denying your own will, and instead becoming busy with the work of love, as Father put it.

Openness to love, and to life. Right now we are in a waiting place. We can't move forward with our plan for this life until we deal with the mess we are in. As upsetting as this feels, it really should not concern us much. The real work of living, what we are really about, has nothing to do with our circumstances. And I know that I am like the shaving of wood, wrapped around my own empty ideas of what life is, who I should be, and my broken concept of love.
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