Sunday, July 31, 2011

For the Dormition Fast

With the Dormition Fast beginning tomorrow, I am approaching fasting as an Orthodox Christian. I want to be clear that I am not speaking about it here to make it public, rather to clarify my thoughts on the matter.

Karl and the kids will not be making this effort. Karl is recovering from major surgery and is anemic from blood loss, so he is excluded. The kids will be learning about this with me but not expected to participate.

I expect to pray a lot during this time, because I am familiar with the weaknesses I have when it comes to food. Often, I make a slip and then give up entirely. I have printed out a single psalm for my wall to use, my favorite psalm and one I have shared here before:

Save me, O God, for the waters flood my soul. 3 I am stuck in the mire of the sea, and there is no place to stand; I came into the depths of the sea, and the storm overwhelmed me. 4 I grow weary with crying; my throat is hoarse; My eyes fail me from hoping in my God. 5 Those who hate me without a cause multiplied even more than the hairs of my head; My enemies who persecute me unjustly have become strong; Then I paid for things I did not steal. 6 O God, You know my foolishness, And my transgressions are not hidden from You. 7 O Lord, O Lord of hosts, let not those who wait for You be put to shame because of me; O God of Israel, let not those who seek You feel ashamed because of me...

14 But I, O Lord, pray with my prayer to You; It is the time of Your goodwill, O God, in the abundance of Your mercies; In the truth of Your salvation, hear me. 15 Save me from the mire, that I may not be stuck therein; Deliver me from those who hate me, and from the depths of the waters. 

Are there other prayers I can use for help in this time? I am also looking for teaching resources on the Dormition for the kids. 

And so it begins. I feel ready now. I understand the function of fasting in a way, and want to proceed. 

Today at Liturgy my cake was a success and the birthday song to Romneya was so cute. Better even was hearing Father say Romneya's name- which he pronounces correctly- and sing МНОГАЯ ЛІТА. Rome was so happy. And, so, are we.

This is the last in a series of every-day-for-a-month posts. I have made it through my first nablopomo.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vespers, a gift, and a cake

Vespers tonight was charmed. The two littlest fell asleep on the way there. I put Romneya in a sling and carried Anatoly, who lay back down on the only bench in the back and slept through the entire service. Rome did likewise, in my arms. A peaceful evening for our family, with a beautiful drive both ways.

A friend at church- I mentioned him the other day- gave us a gift tonight. He is the man who told us about Saint Xenia. He brought us an icon of her. It was so thoughtful and unexpected! Matushka tells us to pray confidently for her intervention in finding a home and place in our new lives as Orthodox Christians.

This is the icon he gave us of Saint Xenia.

Tomorrow I am bringing a cake to church for Rome's 3rd birthday. I am using a recipe I have employed for many years, Chocolate Beet Cake. Having the parish sing his birthday song will be delightful. This incredible group of people, each family as pleasant as the next, prayed for and continues to pray for us every day. I am amazed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aidan's Prayer at Meals

The eyes of all look to thee with hope
and thou givest them thy food
in due season
for thou openest thou hand
and fillest every living thing
with thy favor.


Thursday, July 28, 2011


I recently purchased The Orthodox Study Bible as a kindle book. I am disappointed. Not in the Bible- in the format. The Bible, it turns out, is not the kind of thing you want to have to wade through to find a page. You want to be able to flip to a book, back and forth to find the chapter and verse as needed. With the kindle edition, you have to tab down (no touch screen) to the testament, the book, the chapter and the verse, then escape back to find a new verse. Unless reading the Bible cover to cover, the kindle edition leaves a lot to be desired.

I am considering buying the paper edition of this Bible, but I am not sure. It calls itself The Orthodox Study Bible, but is it a good choice? We have a Bible already, from Karl's Lutheran family, it is an NIV. 

Ages of Grace asks for The Orthodox Study Bible, so this is part of my thinking. I hope to ask my priest and others at our church soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rome will be 3

I named Romneya (our youngest son) after Saint Martin of Tours, the Merciful. This was long before I knew about the Orthodox Church. I love the name Martin and had read about this saint. Tikhon and I both loved Romneya but we compromised on his middle names. His full name is

Romneya Martin Grey

Rome's was my most difficult birth, but he has been the easiest child anyone could imagine. He was born with an incredible air of peace which he has even now. He is truly himself, and everyone is drawn to him. I look forward to sharing the Church with him as he grows.

Romneya was born on July 29th and so he will be 3 this Friday. Happy Birthday, Rome!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Homeschooling Year

I have made a 'tab' up top that leads to my curriculum planning for this year. You can see it here as well. If you are a fellow homeschool family, please share ideas! We have always homeschooled, but this is our first year as an Orthodox family.

Children's Bible Reader

This looks like fun!

Sorry for the short post, but it is my intention to make a category of quick home school resource ideas.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Saint Xenia

In thee, O wandering stranger, Christ the Lord hath given us an ardent intercessor for our kind. For having received in thy life sufferings and grief and served God and men with love, thou didst acquire great boldness. Wherefore, we fervently hasten to thee in temptations and grief, crying out from the depths of our hearts: Put not our hope to shame, O Blessed Xenia.

A friend from church came over today to help with the kids while I went shopping for much needed staples. We had time for a conversation and food, and he introduced us to Saint Xenia. He suggested that she could intercede for an outcome with regard to the kids' schooling, to moving nearer to Saint Nicholas, and finding a home nearer to and within our church community.

I have become sporadic in my reading, a symptom of too many books at once. I am lost in My Life in Christ.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


“It should be noted that in the Fast of the Holy Apostles and of the Nativity of Christ, on Tuesday and Thursday we do not eat fish, but only oil or wine. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we eat neither oil nor wine…. On Saturday and Sunday we eat fish. If there occur on Tuesday or Thursday a Saint who has a [Great] Doxology, we eat fish; if on Monday, the same; but if on Wednesday or Friday, we allow only oil and wine…. If it be a Saint who has a Vigil on Wednesday or Friday, or the Saint whose temple it is, we allow oil and wine and fish…. But from the 20th of December until the 25th, even if it be Saturday or Sunday, we do not allow fish.” (from Chapter 33 of the Typikon)

It is this sort of paragraph which caused me to ask our Reader about fasting. How should I begin? Do I buy a calendar, and try it on? Is there a construct that determines fasting rules, which can help me mark my own calendar and have a deeper understanding of the spirit of the fast?

Today I learned quite a bit, within the month of August, and I feel prepared to approach fasting in our home. I look forward to a lot of reading on the subject. I do mean that.

Today at Liturgy: The kids did well, better than they have since Karl's illness. Today I feel like I understand our long catechism. I would even prolong it if it were not for the desire to commune with the Church. Look at us grow and learn! Maybe it is just today that I can feel this way, but there is a sense of promise to all of this that is very sweet.

Please pray for us, my husband Karl Tikhon, and for our Archpriest Stephan who we need here with us more than we have needed a single person ever before.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


We are just home from Vigil. Because Tikhon is just home from surgery, we found a trusted babysitter for the two littlest ones and took with us the two older. Tomorrow we will have our full compliment, but tonight was peaceful. Towards the end I held Kassiopeia on my lap and she told me the song was the most beautiful she had ever heard or even imagined. I feel just that same way.

I came home with 2 new books to add to my reading list, borrowed from the lending library.


I meant to get another, recommended to understand the fast, The Lenten Triodion.

I could not find it in the short amount of time I had.

I am now reading Too Many Books. The symptoms do not lie. I think I can finish The Inner Kingdom quickly if I apply myself.

I have to say I am sad that we live 35 minutes and a $5 bridge toll from our church. I do not wish to miss another service, ever. Looking at the August calendar I wonder if we can make it happen. If we were nearer...

Friday, July 22, 2011


Tikhon finished his book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, and now we have taken down any art we have that is commonly associated with any other religion.

We've always been the live and let live sort, and I think we still are. We had this large brass ganesha, a buddha, and a little shiva, some prayer flags, etc. None of these things have ever meant anything to us beyond their surface appeal. We use the brasses as bookends because they are heavy.

I know the story of ganesha, in fact I know many of the Hindu stories. I took a religions course. I enjoyed the stories as fairy tales. Why, then, would these things all need to go as if suddenly we thought they had meaning? Tikhon read the book and I have not (yet), but I agreed with him when he suggested we remove these items from our home. They have no meaning to us, but they have a great deal of meaning to others. Everything we show others is part of how they see us. We of course have limited control over the perceptions that other people make, and even less responsibility for those perceptions, but this blatant misinformation displayed around our home did no one any good. I do not need those things to have beauty in my life. I do not wish to be associated with them so personally.

I look forward to reading the book and seeing in it what Tikhon did.

The Transposed Heads, one of the stories we studied in that religion course. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I have prayed in some form all of my life. Regrettably, most of the prayer was selfish and senseless whining, but that was where I was at the time. In the past few weeks I have experienced a new kind of prayer which I can only imagine is available to me by the grace of God. I have employed it to guard my heart and mind against the constant influx of negative thoughts and haunting memories that have been my existence for as long as I can remember. This is life-altering for me.

Awhile back I wrote about the doubt I have lived with and how it is gone. This entry is in a similar vein, but this new development with prayer is something I never dreamed of. In fact,  just weeks ago, I recall falling asleep with a resigned thought, 'I will never be free of these thoughts and memories. I will simply have to hide them'.  I remember wondering if everyone in the world was just hiding, pretending. But there was more to it than hiding something that plagued me.

I loved my mind full of terrible memories and fantasy. It had kept me company through all the hard things. I would not exist if I hadn't hidden inside its comfortable sanctuary as a child, a teen, an adult. I loved this ability, I felt like I owed it something, and I had a lot of fear when I thought of living without it. I had become so good at this escape that I could 'turn it on' at will, day or night, during any task. It was a good thing. Lost in thought, good or bad, was better than being present sometimes, or so I thought. I was aware that over time the substance of my thoughts changed, but the amazing feeling of protection remained.

This love of mine had been threatened ever since I opened The Orthodox Way, the first book I read on the subject of the Church. I had read many more since, and at some point it was revealed to me that my most valuable skill was a profound wrong in my life that I had to reject. Initial exploration, internally, into what this would take left me feeling powerless. It was at this point that I told myself I would just never speak of this part of me, that it was too hard to imagine letting go.

I can't say there was a moment where things changed, but I did begin to apply prayer to this work of letting go. Not unlike Cognitive Processing Therapy, which I have used to some degree for PTSD, prayer has allowed me to see outside of the process that attaches me to my dissociative behavior.  But it is so much more than any therapy or method. I found that prayer, anywhere and anytime, transports my heart back to the Divine Liturgy, standing before God in a timeless place. Everything else fades away. Calling my heart back to God, even taking a moment to say His Name aloud, has given me the strength to turn away from the thoughts tormenting me.

My mind does not like to be present. The present, especially now, is not a comfortable place. But there has been success, God has granted me freedom.

I expect this to remain a struggle. There was a single moment of failure a week ago where I felt like giving up. I allowed myself to relax into my old (mental) patterns, and the rewarding, narcotic feeling it gave me was frightening. I am so glad I was able to realize this rewarding feeling was false and turn back to prayer.

I am writing this down, nearly certain that no one who reads this could really understand. I wish I could know I am not alone in this, but part of it is a feeling of incredible isolation. Occasionally I think of all the good things about escape in the mind, but now that I have done without it for a bit I realize that the escape does not make up for the torment, and this new life is what I want.

The truth is that any soothing effect my mind might have is nothing compared to the mercy of prayer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beautiful Paper Icons

A friend gave me these beautiful paper icons today. They were her grandfather's. What a meaningful gift!

Who are these saints? I do not know the first, the second could be one of several, but I can't read the name.

Most Holy Theotokos, Save us!

These are very fine prints that shine like gold.

Saint John the Forerunner, Saints Peter & Paul

Saint Nicholas,  Michael the Archangel

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


For some reason, even though we are a day home from the hospital where Karl (who I need to work on calling Tikhon)  had open heart surgery, part of my brain is freed up today to consider the homeschool year. Tikhon is doing well, by the way, and his medications are keeping him somewhat comfortable. He walked around our block today with Kassiopeia.

Back to homeschooling. It is my intention to use the first installment of Ages of Grace this year, which is called Age of Triumph. I have yet to purchase the curriculum (I have had a lot on my plate...) but I did buy the book list the day it was available and have compiled a plan to buy the books.

We are in a situation with the kids where we need all 3 reading levels. My 8- almost- 9 year old is slightly above level B, not quite C. C will be perfect for my read-alouds to him. My 7 year old is barely reading, so level B will be read aloud material for the whole family with her in mind. The level A books will be good for Kassi and Anatoly, many are picture heavy. I am needing to collect as many of the books as I can.

I have found that some are available as free or nearly free kindle books, especially in higher level readers when we are talking about classics such as Beowulf. Some are available on Librivox as free audio books. Many of the level A and B readers are eligible for the 4-for-3 promotion on Amazon, and I have made a list organizing those by price so as to take full advantage of the free book. The most expensive books on the list, the two volumes of the Prolog from Ohrid, are also available for free online.

We homeschool through a public charter, so very few of these purchases will be covered by the funding. We will use most of our funds for classes for Tristan & Kassi. Kassi looks forward to ballet and art class out of the home. Tristan hopes to start piano instruction, and maybe foil fencing if we can get the funding to cover it.

We are in a unique situation this year as part of a vibrant, loving Russian-speaking community at our church. We hope to use Rosetta Stone at home and learn Russian.  It is such a great opportunity to know people the kids can speak with on a regular basis. Language learning is so hard otherwise, and in fact still hard even with immersion.

We will also use old standbys for various ages:

Instructional funding will also pay for supplies and basics like Math curriculum. Our year will once again center around the middle ages, but from a Church perspective. Along with Age of Triumph's history spine we'll use The Story of the World, The Middle Ages and associated activity book. We never made it through last year. We lost our way in some crusade somewhere...

more musings on this come, I am sure.

More Chrismation Photos

Karl (now Tikhon), Father Stephan, and Anthony as Godparent.

Monday, July 18, 2011

More new books to read

I was given 4 new books today. This first one by Saint John of Kronstadt is captivating. I don't know when I will ever be done reading it, it is so enjoyable to flip through and pick up here and there.

I have seen this one pop up as recommended.  Also The Gospel Image of Christ and The Freedom of Morality (Contemporary Greek Theologians Series). That last one is a whole new genre of reading.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Karl is doing well. Pain management is now the biggest obstacle. The kids visited with me again today. I am completely exhausted. I am the sort of exhausted that exhibits itself in strange ways. I can't nap, but if you mention anything I have to do in the next couple of days I will probably burst into tears.

A New Book

Karl received this book at his Chrismation from our sponsors. He really loves it and I look forward to reading it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Patron Saint

We received Karl's patron icon in the mail. We ordered it from Damascene Gallery. It is a very nice reproduction.

Pray to God for my husband, O saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, well-pleasing to God, for he readily turns to you, who are the speedy helper and intercessor for his soul. Amen.
Sitting on the hospital windowsill.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The day after the surgery.

This was a hard day for Karl, and to a lesser degree for me. He is in unbearable pain.

This picture us from early morning, when he was still in the ICU.
They were allowed to give him good pain medicine there. and keep it flowing.
I visited Karl twice today, once when they moved him from the ICU to recovery. and another time when they moved him to his own room. He is already standing with assistance and walking. I know Karl expected a lot of pain, but today was overwhelming. 

Lord, have mercy. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Karl had open heart surgery today while I waited outside and prayed. I still can't get my mind around what happened to Karl in that room today.

Preparing for the operation.
I was blessed to have a good friend with me while I waited. We prayed together and when the time came, we went to see my husband. Everyone had told me to be prepared for the machinery and shock. I was not prepared. It was so hard to see my husband, my rock, so incapacitated. I feel so very sorry that this all had to happen. 

I have visited him one more time since and he is breathing on his own. This is good. We even talked and held hands. 

The doctor was able to repair his mitral valve, and replace the aortic valve with one crafted from bovine tissue. Karl did very well. The doctor also noted that Karl very much needed this surgery- his heart was failing. But with this success, soon he should be better than new!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chrismation in the name of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk

Father Stephan and Karl at the beginning of the Liturgy.
Anointing with the Holy Chrism. Deacon George holds the Gospel.
Father anoints Karl's feet.
Here is Father Stephan, Karl (Tikhon now) and our dear friend/ sponsor Anthony.
Karl receives the cross. Anthony chose the soldier's cross for Karl. It is beautiful.
Here the Holy Chrism is being removed.
May God grant his servant Tikhon many years!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Karl has been admitted to the hospital today. His surgery is pencilled in for Friday. Please pray for my husband and our family.

Monday, July 11, 2011

We spent the entire day slowly swimming through treacle associated with Karl's medical condition. It was emotionally exhausting. This is why we need a mid-week service.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Karl's Chrismation

My dear husband Karl was Chrismated today in the name of Tikhon of Zadonsk. Today was so beautiful, I feel like we can do anything. More later.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yesterday was eventful. I did not mention the results of what was to be our 'big' day with the cardiologist. It did not turn out as we hoped. We were passed off to a new doctor who did not even know our case, and nothing moved forward at all. The new doctor scheduled yet more repeat testing without a mention on when the surgery might be.

And then yesterday, we were out as a family when Karl began to have chest pains and shooting pains down his arm. We immediately drove to the emergency room where while they found nothing wrong with Karl (beyond his already established heart trouble) something happened that I believe will be beneficial to our case. They contacted Karl's would be surgeon.

After we left the ER the surgeon's office called us and wants to see Karl this coming Monday. I am so pleased that we will finally be back speaking to people that can forward Karl's recovery. Glory be to God.

The song is Barry Dransfield playing and singing The Water is Wide. You can hear it here:

"The water is  wide, I cannot get o'er
Nor yet have I the wings to fly;
Give me a boat, that will carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I"

Friday, July 8, 2011

the forgotten medicine

Karl's sponsor gave him this book. I read the majority of it aloud to him yesterday at the hospital. I have finished it myself. It is a good book with a fatherly voice. The first half can be a bit daunting- the language is unabashedly Orthodox- to read aloud in a public place, but we did. The overall message, I would say, is that Confession is so perfect, it is the answer to our every ailment. Also, it is so easy to do, not availing ourselves of it is a huge mistake. So, go confess!

If I had to point to a single benefit to Karl's illness it would be all the reading I have done these past weeks. I have not read so much since I was a young teen, reading mainly Nietzsche, Kant and Kierkegaard. The reading I am up to now is of a new kind, but my intentions are similar as is my unquenchable desire for more.

I am reading more than one book right now, and I feel a need to finish them one at a time and have a new policy of one at a time. They are bleeding together. I have recently finished a couple, The Faith and the layman's Philokalia book. I think I have linked to them before.

I have two new books I have not yet begun to read.  These are both tiny little pamphlets, but I have a notion that the second one here is not going to be a quick read.

I have flipped though it (Orthodox Spirituality) and like it a lot.

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