Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Pictures

I'm a terrible photographer. The house actually looks quite nice in spots but the camera doesn't do justice to it. Oh well. Here they are:
 
Mom gave me some straw ornaments last year and I wanted to highlight them. I hung them from the garland on the bookcases. They look very nice.
 
The nativity was my mother's mother's. I have been putting it up for many years now. I always have to put it up high so it won't be destroyed. I'm sure it wasn't very expensive at the time, but I love it because it was hers.

I have quite a few crocheted snowflakes and thought I'd string some on a ribbon across the living room window. Not quite what I had envisioned. I need to tinker with it.

The hutch in the kitchen houses all of my Christmas china. My mother has been giving me pieces for several years. I love it! (Notice the surplus of snowflakes...I didn't miss an opportunity.)

This is the first time we've had outside lights except around the front door. Not much, but the children were really excited.


Time to get children in bed!
If only I were going now too...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas

Boy, that last post was depressing! I've had more sleep and time with my own family now so I feel much better. I was playing around watching clips on youtube (completely wasting time, but fun) with Father and we watched this again. It's a riot. I really like this group. Let's get back in a more cheery Christmas spirit! [Ok, that video ha been pulled so here's another fun a cappella group]

[On a related note, here's an old favorite!]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brussels Sprouts

Sometimes when you go to the grocery store, you have a fit of inspired repentance and you buy things you never would. A few days later, you're wondering what to do with them. So you look in your cookbooks in the index for ideas. Finding NO recipes containing that particular vegetable, you resort to the internet and search for relevant recipes. When most of the recipes start with "Despite the poor reputation that has followed the Brussels Sprout for decades...", you begin to wonder what you've gotten yourself into.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent

We started the Nativity fast yesterday - thirteen days later than our new calendar brethren. [For explanation of calendar differences, follow this link: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Julian_Calendar] We're old calendar for the first time this year. The Serbian church still follows the old calendar (like a lot of the world) while a lot of the churches in America follow the new calendar (like the OCA, the Antiochians, etc.). There was a distinct advantage particular to our family: Duchess's birthday always fell during the Nativity fast, but not anymore. She's very happy about this. Of course, we always celebrated it early. Also, Thanksgiving just squeaked in the door this year. Nice to have turkey instead of fish!

The most important (and visible) difference is, of course, the date of Christmas. For old-calendar Christians, Christmas is January 7th. That means that while most of the world is having Christmas parties (I know of some next week), we will be beginning Advent. While people are singing Christmas carols at church, we will still be fasting and preparing. While people are taking down their Christmas trees, we will be putting ours up. And when most people have forgotten Christmas, lost their New Year's resolutions and are starting on their "Lose 40 Pounds Before Bathing Suit Season!" diets, we will be celebrating the birth of Christ. Needless to say, it's going to be different!

We had to decide what to do about the family divide. We are the only Orthodox Christians in our families. We also had to contend with the children's reactions. They're used to opening presents on December 25th and will have received and given extended family gifts by then. We decided to open presents on December 25th but continue to fast and then celebrate Christmas (liturgically) on January 7th. For all intents and purposes, this means that presents and Christmas will be separated. Everyone talks about how material Christmas has become - I guess we're actually doing something about it this year. I don't know how other convert families cope with this problem, but we're going to try this this year.

I'm looking forward to a quiet Christmas, away from the cacophony of commercial Christmas glitz. I can't say with any honesty that I enjoy the fast, mostly because of the difficulty of cooking for five children (not that the baby fasts, but that only makes it harder). But it's not supposed to be "fun" and we cater too much to our bodily desires anyway. And if you never fast, you don't know how wonderful the "feast" is! As hard as it is, I wouldn't give it up for anything.

I hope everyone has a good Advent, no matter what calendar you're following, so that on Christmas Day, we can offer this:

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!

—Kontakion for Christmas, Roman the Melodist

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all! We spent yesterday and today at my Mother-in-law's house. She lost her husband just over a month ago and we wanted to be with her for the holiday. Sitting around the table and saying what we were all thankful for as we began dinner, I could only feel the loss. I looked at each of my children in turn and felt grateful for their shining faces. I suddenly remembered my father saying that all he wanted in the world was for all of us to be safe under one roof. This evening as we had supper at home, I felt very acutely the absence of my oldest son who stayed with Grandma to help her through the next few days. There were six of us at the table, but it felt empty. I now know what my father was talking about. This Thanksgiving, we are scattered all over. My parents are with my youngest sister and my oldest brother and his wife in one state. My oldest sister and her husband are in another state with their four children (speaking of blessings, more on that later). My youngest brother is in Iraq. My sister-in-law and her husband are away this year. And my father-in-law is no longer with us. Oh for the days when families lived within a stone's throw of each other and thirty people gathered for dinner. But enough melancholy. We are blessed beyond measure! All of us are healthy and happy. We have a secure house, enough food, and countless things that multitudes don't have. I have a wonderful husband, five bright children, a job (nurses pretty much have infinite job security), and a small corner in the heaven-on-earth we call the Orthodox Church. And if everything were taken away tomorrow, I would still be blessed beyond measure. I would have the privilege of having loved some of the most wonderful people on earth, the privilege of having served others and I would have the one thing no one could ever take: my faith in God. So to everyone out there, Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks be to God for his immeasurable blessings and mercy!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A few words of introduction...

I've thought long and hard before starting this blog. Frankly, I find my own writing insipid. I've never kept a diary for longer than three days because every time I'd read it, I'd abandon the whole enterprise. So this is rather a Great Experiment.

By way of introduction, let me display my many hats: I am a mother of three girls and two boys between almost-two and nine. I am a wife to my husband of eleven years. (Bless his heart.) I have been a nurse for almost as long. (Bless my heart.) I am an Orthodox matushka by virtue of my husband's priesthood.

Actually, since we're now at a Serbian church, technically the title is no longer matushka (which is Russian), but I can't pronounce the Serbian title so "matushka" I stay. Concerning our Orthodoxy, my husband and I have been converts to the Orthodox church for over a decade. I will probably delve into my own journey in a future post. We're currently serving a Serbian Orthodox mission. This is not as much of a problem as you might assume since, while we don't speak Serbian, neither do 99% of the parishioners.

A final word to explain the title of this blog. When my oldest three children were very small (i.e.-three, two and infant), I complained to my spiritual father that I seemed to spend more time outside the church than inside: walking/nursing the baby, removing the loud/crying toddler(s), etc. He told me that I was "praying with my feet." I have had many, many occasions to remember his words with gratitude. Sometimes the days are so busy dealing with one child-related crisis after another that I feel like I pray in snatches on the run. Then I remember that just as my church-to-narthex ratio has increased, this too shall pass. One day will my days seem empty with no feet pounding on the stairs, no toys to step on in the dark, no jelly-kisses from the baby, no terrible knock-knock jokes. One day I won't be watching magic shows in the living room or setting up tents from the bunk beds. It won't take 45 minutes to match 37 1/2 pairs of white socks in various sizes. I can go to church and stand in the choir by myself and not hear "I HAVE TO GO POTTY" stage whispered during one of the quiet bits. This will be the point at which I look across the church at the frazzled new mother with envy and turn to my oldest and say:

"When am I going to have grandchildren??"