Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walking through the wilderness

This has been a very, very hard Lent. Last year I lost my job, moved, and never had the catharsis of Pascha. This year we've had two medical emergencies (one involving 3k of money we don't have), loneliness, fear of the future, insecurity in relationships, et al.  We've had a few oases along the way, but it's seemed like a dry, weary land in which there has been very little life at times; and the thorns and weeds have been choking out these thirsty sprouts as they reach for the Sun.

This posting is very hard for me to write as I sit here. We are so blessed in our lives, but it's hard to see those blessings when the emotions are high and the pain seems so very real. I have been so defensive and prickly. Our girls have grown quickly, matured slowly, and discovered ways to nearly kill themselves on various occasions stretching from Forgiveness Sunday to this date (see previous post about AJ's attempt at internal puncturing with a push-pin tack and our trips to the emergency room). Life is just so hard right now. I knew this Lent would be hard (Lent is always hard), but I didn't realize that it was going to be this hard this year.

I need the Resurrection. I need to be resurrected.  Spiritually, emotionally, holistically, I need to be brought from life to death.  I'm so tired of the wilderness and ready for the Promised Land--even if that Promised Land is only an all-night celebration of the Resurrection, or a "brief service" resulting in our being fully welcomed into the life of the Church; and I've just only recently realized that Lent doesn't end for us until we do that. We will continue being in this state of not-yet-but-someday until we stand together at the doors of the church and the priest lays his hand on our heads and begins to pray over us that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit and come to the life in Christ.

Pascha is coming, and I'm so excited for this year!  This year we get the catharsis at the end of a very difficult Lenten fast.  I can't forget, though, that this is just one year at the beginning of so many more to come.  God be with you all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let us approach the fast with joy (?)

Lent 2011 began on Monday.  By last night we had visited two hospitals, had three x-rays, three waiting rooms, and hours of slow commute from our small town to the big city as our little girl decided to inaugurate the fast by swallowing a push-pin.  Mere hours after I had texted my dear friend E. about how we were praying for stability in the midst of our chaos, we were flung into the midst of the most terrifying moments I've ever experienced as a parent.  In the early afternoon while she was supposed to be napping, A.J. found a way to ingest a small, red push-pin.  Felicity called me at work on the way to the hospital, and we spent the rest of the afternoon and all night waiting, praying, and dreading that we'd have to watch our little girl go through a very invasive procedure.  As it turned out, the push-pin has moved into her bowel and so they couldn't operate, and now we just have to wait and pray.

Lent has never been a dull experience for me personally.  Every year God decides to put me through my paces and really takes the time to refine me just a little bit more.  I'll admit that my first thought was to complain.  "Go Lent" was heard from my mouth more than once.  I was so upset (not like angry upset, but upset in the way that a basket full of fruit can be upset) by the whole experience.  I couldn't even think to do anything but to pray and pray and pray and pray.  I just kept repeating, "Lord make speed to save us; Lord make haste to help us" over and over and over again with occasional Lord's Prayers and intercessions to the Theotokos.  I needed words of prayer and salvation (prayer A) and I needed a mom (prayer B).

Right now our little girls is laughing, smiling, and playing games with her baby sister.  She's talking about the Toy Story characters on her little sippy cup, and seems oblivious to the stress of the previous night.  I am so overjoyed and so thankful for all the prayers that were offered up (but here on earth and in Heaven).  I'm so thankful for the ministrations of her Guardian Angel who has watched over her these two years.  God has been so good to us, and I realize that you can't experience the joy of the Resurrection without the pain of the Crucifixion: that there is no Lenten spring without the hard work of germination and growth through trial and sometimes pain.  "Normal" may have to wait, but I pray that God continues to show himself to us every day over the Fast.

Sorry if this is incoherent, but I'm sure you understand.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cultivating Normal

As Peter mentioned briefly in his last post, we attended the Orthodoxy in the Home webinar last month.  As with any seminar, we heard many speakers talk about many subjects, and I wont be able to digest all we learned here in any sort of detail, certainly not to the extent which would truly do the conference justice.  I would like to expand on some ideas that we were confronted with during the webinar and how we will be working them into our Lent.
As we mentioned during the Nativity Fast, following the traditional Orthodox fasting regimen is unwise for us, and the monk who is walking us through our catecuminate has urged us not to.  Instead, in thinking about it, we will be concentrating on cultivating normal.
Over these past few months, we have been striving for survival.  Through moving, unemployment, having a second child, and moving again, our family rhythms have taken a real beating.  In many cases, they never existed to begin with.  Since we've embraced Orthodoxy and begun to settle here, we've realized that in many ways, our life is still chaotic and unplanned.  I often feel behind in everything from meals to laundry, not to mention prayer and bible study.
The webinar offered a few helpful tips that we will be implementing as we try to tame the chaos.  (Note that we will not attempt to be rid of it all together.  Not only would this be a useless endeavor, but life would be no fun at all.)
First, we're adjusting our approach to evening prayers.  As much as we would like to pray together for 20 minutes, singing hymns, reading from scripture and learning about the day's saint, we recognize that this is impossible to do with young children.  In fact, as we were reminded, it is better if we relax and enjoy the prayers we do say, even if it's only a quick Lord Have Mercy before the toddler rampages through our bedroom.  We are a new family, we're new to Orthodoxy, and our prayer time will develop as we do.
Secondly, I have adopted a new strategy when it comes to Liturgy.  We had been relegating our two-year-old (as of tomorrow) to the back/side of the sanctuary where she would be less in the way, able to run, color, read, play Ring-around-the-Rosy, etc.  While this worked fairly well for her, it meant that one or the other of us missed the majority of the service, catching tidbits of the homily, singing a bar now and again, but generally not participating.  While we still do that for the litanies, I've determined that it's not the best thing to do for the whole service, especially since there's often quite a bit going on.  So, for these last few weeks, we deposit our bags in the back but we sit right up front.  From the first row (which is always empty) she has a full view of the choir, the priest, the acolytes, the readers, and everything else.  She watches intently while I point out what's going on by the altar, she's learning some of the songs, and she doesn't start to lose interest until the end of the homily.  I enjoy interacting with her throughout the service, answering her questions, confirming her observations.
At home these days, we're taking wall paper down in the dining room, praying that the snow will end eventually, and looking forward (with trepidation) to our first lent.  We're rejoicing in God's provision for our needs, but not our wants just yet.  Overall, I'm appreciating more and more this season of our life and striving to keep that perspective.