Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cats: their entertainment value never ends

Poor Indiana, he's just not enjoying this.

Smokey is young and kittenish and just wants to play.

Indiana isn't and doesn't.

Smokey tries anyhow...












 Oh yeah, and there's the more elderly Genevieve who was sleeping on a cushion the whole time, not disturbed in the least:


 squat·ter -

              (noun)

a person who settles on land or occupies property without title, right, or payment of rent.




Illnesses and Prayer

 Note: When Elder Porphyrios refers to illnesses, consider things beyond cancer and other obviously serious, painful things. Consider also more "invisible" illnesses. I had previously read this (multiple times) and felt like it didn't really apply to me because I wasn't suffering from an acute, serious illness. This morning I realized my error, and also realized he nailed me. (:

+     +     +     +     +     +     +

We benefit greatly from our illnesses, as long as we endure them without complaint and glorify God, asking for His mercy. When we become ill, the important thing is not that we don’t take medicines or that we go and pray to Saint Nektarios. We need also to know the other secret, namely, to struggle to acquire the grace of God. This is the secret. Grace will teach us all the other things, namely, how to abandon ourselves to Christ. That is, we ignore the illness, we do not think about it, we think about Christ, simply, imperceptibly and selflessly and God works His miracle for the good of our soul. Just as we say in the Divine Liturgy, ‘we commend all our life to Christ our God.’

But we need to wish to ignore the illness. If we don’t wish to, it’s difficult. We can’t simply say, ‘I ignore it’. And so although we think that we are ignoring it and giving no thought to it, in point of fact we have it in our mind continually and we cannot find peace within ourselves. Let me prove this to you. We say: ‘I believe that God will cure me. I won’t take any medicine. I’ll stay awake all night and I’ll pray to God about it and He will hear me.’ We pray all night long, we make entreaty, we call on and coerce God and all the saints to make us well. We go to one place and another. With all these things don’t we show that we are far from ignoring the illness? The more we insist and blackmail the saints and God to make us well, the more acutely we feel our illness. The more we strive to get rid of it, the more we feel it. And so we achieve nothing. And we have the impression that a miracle will happen, and yet, in reality, we don’t believe it, and so we do not become better. 

We pray and we don’t take medicine, but we don’t find any peace and no miracle happens. But you will say: ‘What do you mean that I don’t believe? Don’t you see I haven’t taken any medicine?’ And yet, at bottom, we have doubt and fear within us and we think to ourselves, ‘Will it really happen?’ Here the words of Scripture hold good: If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘be lifted up and thrown into the sea’, it will be done. [Matt. 21:21] When faith is real, whether you take medicine or not, the grace of God will act. And God acts through doctors and medicines. The Wisdom of Sirach says: Honour the physician with the honours due to him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him. The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a man of sense will not despise them. And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him. [Sir. 38:1,4,12]

The whole secret is faith - without doubts, gentle, simple and artless: in simplicity and artlessness of heart. [Wisd. 1:1] It is not a question of ‘will power’ or ‘mind over matter’. A fakir can display this kind of ‘will power’. It is a question of having faith that God loves us with infinite love and wants us to become His own. That is why He allows illnesses, until we surrender ourselves in trust to Him.

If we love Christ, all things will change in our lives. We do not love Him in order to receive some reward such as health. Rather we love Him out of gratitude, without thinking of anything, only of the love of God. Nor should we pray with any ulterior motive and say to God: ‘Make such-and-such a person well, so that he may come close to You.’ It is not right to point out ways and means to God. How can we presume to say to God, ‘make me well’? What can we tell to Him who knows everything? We will pray, but God may not wish to listen to us.

A person asked me a little while ago, ‘When will I get well?’

‘Ah,’ I told him, ‘if you say, “When will I get well?” then you never will get well. It’s not right to entreat God about such things. You entreat anxiously for God to take the illness from you, but then the illness lays even tighter hold on you. We mustn’t ask for this. Nor should you pray about this.’
He was taken aback and said, ‘Do you mean I shouldn’t pray?’

‘Not at all,’ I answered. ‘On the contrary, pray a great deal, but for God to forgive your sins and to give you strength to love Him and to give yourself to Him. Because the more you pray for the illness to leave you, the more it adheres to you, winds its tentacles around you and squeezes you, and becomes inseparable from you. If, of course, you feel an inner human weakness, then you may humbly entreat the Lord to take the illness from you.’

--Wounded by Love, Elder Porphyrios, pp. 227-229

(Thanks to Orthodox Info for doing the typing for me so I didn't have to lose the use of my arms this morning.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hey! I knit a hat!

Make that two hats, actually. The first ones ever! It took me three days off and on to do the first one. The second I did tonight in about 90 minutes (not working straight). Hooray!

The first hat was made using yarn a sweet reader sent me a few days ago. Thanks, Misty! (:

First hat: not so great, but not terrible.


 
Second hat: much easier!


I'm really happy I've figured out how to knit these because they'll be so much softer and stretchier for teeny heads than crocheted ones.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Respecting death; Valuing life

This afternoon we were driving to a house blessing. We got off the interstate and were on a divided four-lane highway for a good while. At some point I noticed that there seemed to be a few cars pulled off the road on the opposite side. I took a good look at the road ahead of us and realized we were gaining on a funeral procession. More and more cars were pulled off on the other side of the road. We slowed down so there was some space between us and the procession which was being brought up in the rear by two motorcycles, one in each lane. This went on for several miles. Only one person sped past on the other side of the road; every single other car had pulled off. And again, this was a divided highway. Two cars passed us but were blocked by the motorcycles. I thought how clever it was of the people heading to the burial to arrange for those motorcycles in the back.

Soon we came to another highway and the procession headed off to the south. To my surprise, the two motorcycles kept going straight - they hadn't been part of the procession at all. They had just volunteered to be the honor guard. Even more surprising, one of the motorcycles headed off rather quickly and left the other. They hadn't even been together.

I thought of all those cars - quite a good number - pulling off the road. I don't know where all in the country (or around the world) you are likely to see this, but this is traditional in the south. The dead and the mourning are respected. When I was making the short drive from my grandparent's house in Apalachicola, Florida to the Catholic church for my grandfather's funeral, we formed a procession headed up by a police car with its lights on. My father was driving and I was looking out the window, seeing how familiar and at the same time how strange everything looked. As we drove slowly through the residential streets, people stopped what they were doing. A man working on the roof of a house put his hammer down, took off his hat, and bowed his head. Other men working in yards did the same. Cars stopped. 

Disrespect for the dead leads to disrespect for the living. When you don't respect death you don't value life. Pro-life talk generally centers on abortion, photos of living, or sadly, dismembered babies on posters. I think abortion is such a horrifying thing and nightmarish thing that it is naturally the center of the pro-life activity. But pro-life means all life, not just life before birth. It means caring for our children, caring for our neighbors, for the homeless, the insane, the lonely, the widowed, the orphaned, the strangers, the immigrants, the elderly, the mentally and physically handicapped, the ill, the suffering, the dying: in short, everyone. Plowing people into mass graves, starving the helpless to death, and butchering babies before birth are one and the same.

When I think on all these things, it is the words that my brother spoke back in 2003 that come to mind. He was only 25 and working in a mortuary affairs unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. [This unit was responsible for recovering, identifying and processing fallen soldiers to send back to the U.S.]

The Marines of the mortuary affairs company follow strict rules and military traditions when handling the bodies of fallen servicemembers.

"We go by the old traditions of handling bodies of a fallen brother," said Smith. "You don't stand over the remains. You don't walk over the remains. That's for friend or enemy.

"We give the dead Iraqi soldier the same respect we would give our own Marine. They are warriors, just like us."

The mortuary affairs Marines take their job seriously because they aren't doing this for themselves; they are doing it for fallen comrades, their friends and families.

"Our CO told us before he left that you can judge a civilization by how they treat their children, their elderly and their dead," Smith said. "The last part is our job."

By these standards, how would others judge our civilization? 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Perfect

Driving home from the store, the temperature in the mid 70's, sunny (but not in my eyes), short sleeves are perfect. The windows and my hair are both down but I'm driving at a dignified 30 so they aren't arguing. Listening to Boston's More Than a Feeling and singing along, doing the percussion parts with my fingers on the steering wheel. In with the prosaic groceries are a skein of cotton and a crochet hook in a size I didn't previously have. Heading home to a family that loves me. Looking forward to Vespers this evening.

Perfect.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silent Tears

I can't march tomorrow in Washington. In fact, this post is about all I can do to participate in the March for Life.

I've talked many times about abortion over the years. No one can be in any doubt of where I stand.

I've prayed.
I've cried for the victims: not only the babies lost but the agony of the souls who participated.
I've stood on the street holding a sign.
I've begged individual women to carry their babies and let me raise them.
I've tried to educate others.
I've tried to break through the cognitive dissonance.
I've shown photographs of my own sweet sons.


Approximately 15% of abortions occur at their age (12-13 weeks) or older
That's over 180,000 babies a year.

I feel helpless. 

What can I do?

I am raising my own children to believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. To believe that life is a blessing. They've seen and held their little brothers. They will never forget those tiny fingers and toes.


I am praying.

I can hope that with God's grace, perhaps I can save one...just one.


abortion statistics

Don't go over the cliff with someone...

One trendy idol of our day that has beguiled many people is the idol of social fashion, as Scripture refers to it. It draws in hordes of people-pleasers who will do anything to appear "reasonable" to others, and "accepting" of everyone's beliefs. It tells us to accept whatever others believe as being as true and worthy of consideration as our own Christian Faith. This, says the current fashion of this world (I Cor. 7:31), is being courteous and "kind," respecting the beliefs of others, whatever they may be. But how kind is it to praise people, letting them think they're spiritually sound and headed in the right direction, when we see something that's going to bring them into trouble? If I see cyclists pedaling at breakneck speed toward a cliff they don't realize is there am I going to cheer them on so nobody will think I'm being critical?

...

That's what we want to do among people who are into idolatry, with beliefs that are harmful to human nature and deprive it of the help of the true God. You don't want to praise them and stay socially aboard when they're racing blindly into spiritual danger. You want, lovingly, to jump off, so that maybe they'll wonder why and come around to ask you about it. Come out from among them, and be separate (II Cor. 7:17), Scripture says - for their sake as well as your own.
-God's Path to Sanity, Dee Pennock, p. 124


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

'Magically Delicious'

Pickles had begged and begged and finally gotten what he'd been begging for: Lucky Charms. Father got them when he went to the store the other day. I personally don't eat Lucky Charms. I like Grape Nuts. Pickles was ecstatic.

Father was looking at the box yesterday and pointed to the claim saying it was "magically delicious".

"Now, this stuff isn't magically delicious."

(I couldn't agree more.)

"It's just highly sweetened cereal with colored marshmallows in it. That's not 'magically' delicious, that's just delicious."

"Well..."

"If the box had a photo of rocks and dried up grass and other stuff on it, but it tasted delicious, then that would be 'magically delicious'."

LOL, true.

 

*  *  *  *  *

I was exhausted one night last week and tossing together something from a box. While stirring and waiting for a boil I idly read the box. [I always have to have something to read. I've read the back of the tube of toothpaste, true story.] I noticed that near the bottom of the directions it said, "Make it your own! Add crumbled Ritz crackers to the top before baking!" Now, a lot of things will suggest customizing the recipe by adding diced chicken or sausage or a can of peas and shredded Parmesan or something, but this was the lamest excuse for customizing a box of something I had ever seen.

*  *  *  *  *

Father made some tortilla soup for lunch. It was out of a bag, true, but it was organic and actually required cooking, not just zapping. I've been trying to cut back and I was pretty close to starving to death while that sucker was simmering away. I was eying the pot, wondering if it was going to beat diving headfirst into last night's smoked chicken when Father said he was planning on adding some chopped up chicken and cheese. By the time we'd finished, it was pretty altered. It was also pretty good. Father said it was the best soup he'd had in a good while.

I said, "Of course it was, you 'made it your own'."

Father laughed and said, "It's 'magically delicious'!"

Life, it goes on.

The wild kingdom still reigns in the house, especially when the felines are hungry.


Children still have to be fed, clothed, entertained, educated, separated.


 Grief finds an outlet in reaching out to other hurting people.


 The house is like a 24 hour factory: it keeps churning out laundry, dishes and clutter.


 While the sun sometimes feels like an affront, it keeps shining.


And another day begins, and your feet lurch forward on the well-trodden path. God doesn't speak with a bullhorn or by sending express telegrams, but through strangers and old friends. Somehow it all gets done and when the sun sets, you are surprised that another day is over and you're still breathing. And then there is sleep, which "knits up the raveled sleeve of care"...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Window

Grief.

Your own,
someone else's;
sometimes they get mixed up.

Each loss you have
is a hole in your heart.

That hole never closes,
but the edges heal...

eventually.

Each hole is a window.

Through it you can see
the broken hearts of others,

reaching through
to help stop the bleeding

until their edges heal too.
 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wee Hats for Wee Heads

21 little crocheted hats for Calvin's Hats. I wish I could knit them because they'd be softer and stretchier, but for the tiniest hats it doesn't matter - they're not designed to be worn.
 
The egg is for scale.



I really like this one.


The tiniest one.


Boys' hats

Non-gender specific hats

Girls' hats

A "just for fun" hat. (:

Largest and smallest

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It snowed! Kind of...





Today we woke up to sunny skies, almost no clouds (first time in what feels like weeks) and a temperature that was already 40 and rising. There is no precipitation in the forecast for the next ten days. Maybe we'll have a chance to dry out!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

+Fr. Jacob Myers

I am stunned to report that Fr. Jacob Myers of St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox church in Atlanta (OCA) has reposed, about 30 minutes ago during an unction service for him in an ICU there. All I know is that he had a staph infection. I don't know any other details. [edited to add: apparently this was related to complications from the flu.] This was very sudden.

Please pray for his wife Mat. Rebecca and his two daughters. Also for his congregation who are now orphaned. I am also acquainted with his brother and sister-in-law and I know they need our prayers as well.

May his memory be eternal!

(Mat. Rebecca and Fr. Jacob, celebrating Fr. Jacob's birthday last fall)

1-17-13: The OCA website has a post up.

Some Random Things

 
1. I just want to update that we have had 14.43 inches of rain since the beginning of December. Half of that was in the last 2 weeks. It's raining now. (But it might turn into snow briefly this afternoon and again tonight. The kids are ecstatic.)

2. Steel cut oatmeal is incredibly better than rolled oatmeal. I'm eating some now. (Goes well with the weather.) Probably most of you already eat steel-cut oatmeal but for those of you that don't, it only take 30 minutes on the stove and it's SO much better. Plus, there are some awesome slow-cooker recipes for oatmeal that you can start at night so the oatmeal is ready in the morning. How neat is that? [I'm not going to link to any because it's so easy: Use the same water:oatmeal ratio you use for the stove-top and dump it in the crock pot. Add raisins, dried cherries, whatever. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. (My crock pot has two low settings, one for 8, one for 10. Use whatever is equivalent on yours.) Voila! It's ready in the morning!]

3. Speaking of breakfast, I had the neatest thing happen. A lady contacted me to ask if she could use one of the photos from my "Hot Coffee" post for an article she was writing. Naturally I said she could. I mean, it's not like I'm selling prints of it or anything. Well, it showed up this morning! Cool! (And I have just noticed my own coffee has gotten cold while I've been writing this. Shoot.)
 

4. I finally finished binding that odd quilt I did the other day. It was so simple. I just had to make myself sit down and do it. It looks very cheerful and cozy on the bed now.


5. I just had a package in the mail!! Always very exciting. This one came from Pres. Eleni at Fields of Basil. I won her blog giveaway in December. It was so much fun to poke around in the box and see all the little goodies she sent. Thank you, Pres. Eleni! What a day-brightener!


(I love how long the rosewood crochet hooks are! They don't poke into my hand!)