Monday, June 21, 2010

Life without baby

My (Peter's) parents took our daughter for the weekend.  It's a Father's Day present either to my dad or to me.  I'm not sure which.  Maybe both.  We're going to take the offering either way and enjoy some much needed husband and wife time before little girl #2 comes along sometime around Dormition.  As a consequence, we have been enjoying a wonderful weekend of church services, outings, dinners, and a soon-to-be experienced Toy Story 3 outing.

This was our first opportunity to take in the Vespers service at church this weekend.  Usually, do to our little monkey's sleep schedule, we aren't able to make it.  It's also a long drive.  We made it a point to go this weekend, because we wanted to go to the Akathist service to the Mother of God Healer of Cancer that our parish celebrates whenever it can fit into the calendar.  This was our first time we've been able to attend.

If you recall from the second part of my story from earlier in the year (found here) my first Orthodox service was an Akathist service to the Mother of God.  This was the first official Akathist I have attended since our decision to explore Orthodoxy began, and it was a very interesting experience.  I'm afraid I don't have a whole lot to say about it now.  I'd like to make a posting later about my experiences getting to know the Theotokos and devotion to her.  To say the least, it was a very moving service and we were personally very blessed to have been part of that experience with our parish.

This Sunday I was able to be part of the whole service!  Usually, I am in and out with the little girl; but without her there, we were able to stay (and stand) through the whole of the Divine Liturgy.  I find that week after week, I am learning and seeing things that I haven't experienced before.  The most significant part of this week was the sense of belonging that I have started to feel.  We've begun singing in the choir.  I was asked to play chess with an old Russian gentleman.  Felicity was having very personal conversations with various people and women in the church!  I got this sense of family that I haven't had since graduating from seminary and moving away from all our friends.

My family and I may never get along over Orthodoxy.  We may always have arguments about Saints, the Theotokos, Liturgy, Theology, et al.   It's ok.  We have family.  There are people who have entered into our life (some temporal and others eternal) who are looking out for us and will make sure that we're never truly alone.  Sorry if this posting is a little vague.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Weakness and Strength

Peter has been encouraging me to blog, despite my instance that there's "nothing" to blog about.  Of course, I realize that not actually having anything specific to write about hardly stops a blogger, in fact it probably encourages most of them.  I, on the other hand, like to wait for big events to happen which might provide for interesting reading material.  Lately, there haven't been too many of these.

Since we returned from our numerous vacations (to the beach with my parents, to a wedding in Ohio, to my sister's bridal shower) life has been relatively monotonous.  As an introvert, I'm really okay with this.  I like to spend my days at home, playing with our daughter, doing some house work, reading, sewing, and being quiet.  Lately, however, even these mundane and simple tasks have been difficult, the reason for which lends me my topic for today.

I'm not sure if we've mentioned it before, but I am currently in my seventh month of, so far, a wonderfully uneventful pregnancy.  The biggest problem I've had has been keeping my iron count and, consequently, my energy level up.  I've never been big on exercising or physical labor, but lately even little things like having breakfast in the morning or going up and down the stairs leave me out of breath and longing for a nap.  I know that there are many people with many conditions that have similar issues, but as a young woman who has been healthy her entire life this experience is completely new and foreign to me.  My natural inclination is to use the exhaustion as an excuse to be lazy, this then leads me to feel guilty about letting Peter pick up the slack in the house work, as well as thoughts about how bad I am at being a good wife, stay at home mom, etc.
Here's where our journey into Orthodoxy has met me head on.  First, I have a name for those depressing thoughts: logosmoi.  Just having a label is nice - it allows me to recognize them for what they are and dismiss them.  Second, I have found that I have the strength to do some things and that that strength comes from the Father and no where else.  That I have the ability to do anything by myself, even when not pregnant, is an illusion.  All my strength comes from Him - this experience has made that fact more apparent.  Finally, I know that I do not have the strength to do all that I feel is expected of me, but I can do all that He expects of me and there is much freedom in that.  I may be able to do the dishes, but I can't do the dishes, mop the floor, vacuum, do laundry and go shopping.  
That's okay.  Things will get done in their own time.  I can let go and rest in his light yoke.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let Us Attend: Part 2

It's been several weeks since my last post about Let Us Attend, by Fr. Lawrence Farley from Canada.  Here's the link in case you forgot what I wrote and/or need a refresher on the book and where you can buy it.  Since I wrote the last post, I've had time to finish the book (twice) and process a little bit more about my Sunday morning experiences at church.  The last time I wrote, I was thinking a lot about the focus of worship on Sunday morning.  This time, I've been contemplating about the lessons of worship.

Each week I leave church reminded of three things: Who God is, Who I am, and Who Jesus is.  I am thrust into these reminders very quickly.  The first few Antiphons serving as a prologue or thesis statement on the rest of the Liturgy.  If you asked me what Church was about, I would tell you (with very little variation), that it was about those three things.

Who God is
Without being a theological treatise on the nature of God, this is what I learn each week: God is loving, good, compassionate, merciful, forgiving, and holy.  The words of the first two antiphons (Ps. 103 and 145, respectively) remind me of these truths.

"Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy Name...  The Lord is compassionate and merciful, of great goodness....  He will not always chide....  He maintains His faithfulness to all generations...."

We then get to hear about His work in history through the reading of Scripture (always preceded by psalms and Alleluias).  The service climaxes with the request that He come into our lives, fill us, bless us, and turn the gifts on the table (mysteriously) into the Body and Blood of Christ.  God is.  That is what I learn each week about God.

Who I am
In a metaphysical sense, I am a creature of material make up.  More than that, though, I am created in God's image and destined to be made like Him by His work in me through the Holy Spirit.  We remind each other throughout the service to worship God with our whole being, that He is compassionate and merciful to the humble; but He resists the proud.  Lay aside pride.  Sit at His feet.  Drink deeply of His mercy.

The Scripture lessons remind me that I am sinful and in need of a savior.  They also remind me that God chose to be that savior.  That He loved me so much that He became a human being to live and die for me and rescue me from Hell.  That reality is never more clear than at the time of communion.  As I sit and watch the faithful go forward to the chalice, I truly do wish for them to taste the Bread of Life and drink from the Fountain of Immortality.  I want that for them, because I want that for me.  We are all one body, and I am so dependent on each of them right now--their prayers and support.

Who Christ is
Christ is God incarnate.  Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who took on flesh and blood and lived and died in real time.  His picture is in our room.  His mother and His faithful followers adorn our church.  His eyes follow me.  His presence permeates the room where we worship.

The icon of Christ at our church is in English.  The Gospel text is "Come unto me all you who are weary...."  Every week I approach that icon and place all my cares into his hands.  I come to Him, asking to have my burden lifted.  I teach my daughter to worship Him alone.  When I leave church each week I go out knowing that He was born, lived, died, rose again, ascended, intercedes for us, and will someday come again.

Let us attend.  Let us be attentive.  It's a call for each of us to "lay aside all earthly cares" and to listen to what is being said.  The human mind wanders, and the imagination gets away from us.  Those times when we are reminded to listen are there for our benefit, because God knows what it's like to have distractions, and the Church knows that people are weak and need reminders.  So let us attend.  God is present.  God is loving.  You are a sinner who needs Jesus.  Jesus loves you so much He died for you.  Remember.