Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back to Look Forward

In a few short weeks,
I'll return to tending the birds in my nest!
Thank you for your comments.  The Jesus Prayer really is the silver bullet for those things that rise up to frighten you.  I would say defeat, but honestly, if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:32).

I have had visits from my spiritual father preceding Christmas and they are a great comfort.  If you ever land in trouble, call your priest!  Call your spiritual father or mother, avail yourself of the sacraments as never before.  Don't be shy!  Had the Church not considered these things, they never would have created the office of Deacon which has been with us from the beginning.  Saint Stephen, pray for us!

So looking back to look forward a bit, my lovely, amazing, heroic husband, who has persevered against all trials and stumbling blocks that have been thrown his way since the day I left them, took me and five of our six children to Nativity of Our Lord Monastery in Kemp, Texas for the monastery blessing and the hierarchical liturgy.  Now, it was probably too soon for me too make such a long trip, but I loved this day.

We arrived late to the blessing, but on time for the liturgy.  Mother Barbara ushered all the children to the front so that they could see everything.  This was so generous because the chapel was packed and because she trusted the children so much to behave themselves out of their mothers' and fathers' sight.  Happily, the children responded well to this act of faith and were mostly still, very quiet, and exceedingly well behaved.

Look how still and quiet!  Fr. Joseph hardly had to even glance sideways!
Our now four year old, E.- we've celebrated two birthdays and three name days just the last four weeks- spent part of the time sitting in my lap and part of the time playing on the lawn just off the porch.  On a side note, sitting throughout the whole of liturgy was wonderfully strange.  Our parish, like many OCA parishes in the South, has only a few chairs around the perimeter for the elderly and infirm, so we all stand.  Because of the crush of people before and behind me and because of my injury, I was so blessed to be able to just sit and close my eyes and listen and pray in my heart as I have never before.  Well, for a moment.  But that was a powerful moment.

As I have mentioned before that Texas has some strange weather, especially right before the first week or two of January.  It was cold that day, but with a bit of exercise and a jacket, E. stayed warm and happy.  When she got too cold, she snuck in, climbed up into my lap, and then stuck one ice cold hand under my sweater on my bare neck and shoved the other, thumb first, into her mouth.  There she sat until it was time to receive and she willingly went with Mother Barbara to the get in line with her brothers and sisters.    It wasn't long before she came scampering back with hands full of antidoron.  As I had not yet received, I could not accept the blessed bits that she was trying to feed/cram into me, but it was cute.  Afterwards, the deacon traveling with Met. Jonah served me communion so that I did not have to try to use my walker (it's more like very slow skipping on one leg, all hop).  At which point, my wayward little imp had finished her load of blessed bread and was now demanding the piece offered me by the altar servers.  She got half.

Afterwards, we were treated to a lovely luncheon reception at the Cedar Creek Country Club.  The children were given preferential treatment and seated at the tables closest to the the guest of honor, Met. Jonah.  As if that weren't enough, the Metropolitan generously received them all first and gave them blessings and sweet gifts that had been prepared by the local mastushki.  Thank you so much, Met. Jonah!

It was a really beautiful day.  We left the monastery spiritually refreshed.  As I reflect on that day, it fills me with so much joy and happiness.  It reminds me how kind and great our Lord is.  I look forward to being fully reunited with my husband and children in our home.  I cannot wait to cook something, bake something, do something to return all the love that they have shown and given me all these weeks.  

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for revealing my path and salvation.  May I become worthy through Your grace of these blessings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Catching Up

I had originally wanted to chronicle my injury as much for me, as to tell the tale, so to speak.  The thing is now I feel ambiguous about the whole chronicle-ly thing.

One of the first things I became deeply aware of throughout this process of getting hurt, going to the hospital, and now healing has been a sense that I was being tempted.  I guess that sounds sort of crazy.  I do not typically walk around with a sense of the Devil or temptation or anything else of biblical proportions.  I mean, who am I?  No one, that's who.  Not worthy of a speck's attention much less our Lord's.

Nonetheless, I have felt His hand on me throughout this whole ordeal and it has awed and humbled me.  But there was something else there too.  There was this . . . flattery.  This whole weird pride thing was beginning to happen.  My parents are impressed, my doctors are impressed, readers write to tell me of my strength, friends compliment my endurance . . .  the thing is this is not me.  This endurance and strength and 'presence of mind'-- none of it belongs to me.  It belongs to God.  It all belongs to the King of the Universe, but not me.  So there has been this temptation, this terrible temptation, lurking behind every turn, every compliment, every demure response to say:

Yes!  I did that!  I am that strong!  I am that woman, who fell without a noise, gritted my teeth and bore it.  Me, alone, by myself.

 But that is a lie.  There is nothing here that belongs to me.  God saved me during those terrible moments.  It would be false to say otherwise.  I have been moved by His profound love for me.  I don't know what else to say.  Even today that Jesus would condescend to hear my weird little petitions (tonight's was: Lord, I really, really wanted Tex-Mex for dinner.  Please help me to be satisfied by whatever I get instead.  You know what?  He answered that prayer, not later, but right then) just sort of bowls me over with embarrassment.

For starters, I look at King David and look at how bold his prayers are.  In Psalm 7, David claims God as his own defense:
My defense is of God, which saveth the upright of heart. (Psalm 7:10)
Wow.  How do you know you've got the upright heart?  This could really go against you, know what I mean?  Maybe this is Me of Little Faith?  Maybe this is the sister of False Pride, False Humility?

So, what do you do when you are faced with these challenges?  From my mind, God is clearly calling me to something.  I feel uncertain how to discern it.  The answer is prayer, but what prayer?   Can you help me out, dear Readers?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Arms, No Legs, No Worries

Nick Vujicic was raised in a devout Serbian Orthodox household. This is a totally inspiring video. Check out this video and thank God for your life!  

As Nick says, "it's a lie to think your not good enough."

Also, go see his website,  Life Without Limbs.  Really amazing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O' Tannenbaum, O' Tannenbaum, How Lovely Are Your Branches?

I am shamelessly lifting this post wholesale from the very intelligent, Opuscula Theolgica.  This is from the St Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary bulletin.

“I suspect that the custom of decorating a tree at Christmas time is not simply a custom which came to us from the West and which we should replace with other more Orthodox customs. To be sure, I have not gone into the history of the Christmas tree and where it originated, but I think that it is connected with the Christmas feast and its true meaning.

First, it is not unrelated to the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah:
 ‘There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’ (Is. 11:1). St. Cosmas the poet had this prophecy in mind when he wrote of Christ as the blossom which rose up out of the Virgin stem from the stump of Jesse. The root is Jesse, David’s father, the rod is King David, the flower which came from the root and the rod is Theotokos. And the fruit which came forth from the flower of the Panagia is Christ. Holy Scripture presents this wonderfully. Thus the Christmas tree can remind us of the genealogical tree of Christ as Man, the love of God, but also the successive purifications of the Forefathers of Christ. At the top is the star which is the God-Man (Theanthropos) Christ.

Then, the Christmas tree reminds us of the tree of knowledge as well as the tree of life, but especially the latter. It underlines clearly the truth that Christ is the tree of life and that we cannot live or fulfill the purpose of our existence unless we taste of this tree, ‘the producer of life’. Christmas cannot be conceived without Holy Communion. And of course as for Holy Communion it is not possible to partake of deification in Christ without having conquered the devil when we found ourselves faced with temptation relative to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where our freedom is tried. 

We rejoice and celebrate, because ‘the tree of life blossomed from the Virgin in the cave’.

Excerpt from: “The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the 12 Feasts and Orthodox Christology” by Metropolitan of Nafpatkos Hierotheos Vlachos – November 1993

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Handmade Gifts for Teachers

I have typically not been as diligent gift-giver for the kids' teachers as I would like to be.  I was seeking to rectify this oversight the day "It Came to Pass."  Between the four kids in school, they have eight main teachers.  In a family of eight with one on the way, times are never short on wants/need and are rarely long on moolah.  So what to do?  Donate to their Scrips account?  Well, it is not a bad idea and I can sneak in for $5-10 a teacher without much fuss or embarrassment, but it isn't very personal and this school does not participate.

So what to do?  A friend suggested bath bombs.  She and I made soap a few weeks ago and I had considered that, but then I ran across this bloggie suggestion:  Candy Cane Sugar Scrub!  Why, it's festive, pretty, and seasonally scented!  

So on that fateful day of Ankledoom, I ran out and bought a big bag of sugar and 4 boxes of candy canes and some peppermint essential oil.  Having recently made a castile-style soap, I have plenty of light olive oil and cocoa butter on hand.  Pint and half pint jars can cost as little or as much as you want to spend, but they aren't hard to find.  If you don't want to use olive oil, you can substitute it for Almond oil or Sunflower oil.  Any of them would be very healing to dry, winter skin.  

Finally, this project is simple enough to do with the kids.  It makes very little mess and takes approximately 10 minutes to put together.  Sadly, there are no pretty labels or ribbons for ours as I am limited on my travel capabilities, but I still think the jars of sparkly, pink fluffy sugar are pretty as can be all the same.

Candy Cane Sugar Scrub
(makes 8 pints)

4 boxes of candy canes (48 canes total)
8 cups of white sugar
4 cups of light olive, almond, or sunflower oil
4 tsp. Vitamin E oil for a preservative (optional, I didn't use it)
8 tsp. cocoa butter (optional, I did use it)
½ tsp peppermint essential oil

  • Unwrap all the canes and put into the food processor.  
  • Grind to a powder.  
  • Place sugar and candy cane powder in a bowl and whisk together.
  • Place oil and cocoa butter together in a small sauce pan and heat over medium low until the cocoa butter melts.  Let cool slightly.
  • Add essential oil.
  • Pour oil mix over sugar and mix thoroughly until it all looks like wet sand. 
  • Spoon into widemouth jars and decorate with festive ribbon or fabric of your choosing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Regina Spektor - "Fidelity" (Live In London)

We tried to move me to pain medicine every five hours rather than every four. The medicine is very strong and makes me feel pretty agitated, at times. Then there is potential for addiction or acetaminophen overdose or, or, or . . . ACK! Help! The Logismoiti have got me!

Anyway, shifting the meds didn't work and I have ended up being awake all night. So I thought we were all entitled to a little cheering up (especially after the last post). Have a listen to my current favorite musician, Regina Spektor. She is my go to channel on Pandora Radio.

Weather here in Tejas is such that during the winter months, we have days, sometimes weeks of warm, southerly, Gulf air currents that leave us in a weird tropical state of affairs, only to be suddenly overcome in a matter of minutes (it isn't unusual to see the temperature take a 40 degree nosedive after a week of high 70s and low 80s). Of course, I've been indoors for over 10 days now and have no real idea of what the weather is like. I hear it's cold. My Minnesota friends are probably chucklingly at what we, Sun Belt folks, consider chilly.

All of this is to say that it is difficult for a body to build up any sort of tolerance against this climate in flux and so Mr. Flavius and the children have gotten sick. Two of the children are headed off to the pediatrician with their Gran, so I will hitch a ride home and spend some time with my Beloved, while they are getting treated. He's been threatening to stash me away in a tower if he gets ahold of me again. I'm so in love with that man.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When It Happened. . .

***I feel like I should post a warning here.  A couple of people have mentioned that this is very . . . raw.  I don't mean for it to be, but then I'm on an enormous amount of painkillers and maybe a tad bit desensitized from all of it.  So proceed with caution. . . ***

More from the saga about my ankle.

We live seconds from a firehouse that also houses EMS and an Ambulance.  You can see the roof of my house from the driveway of the fire station.  This has always served me as a great comfort that they are there watching over our neighborhood as silent guardians.  On the night that I smashed my tibia to bits, the knowledge that Emergency Medical Service-members were literally seconds from storming my home to rescue me from my pain, fear and the watchful eyes of my horrified children and husband gave me the strength to not cry out.  It reminded me that I had indeed been in equal or almost worse pain and that relaxing, cleansing breathes were all that separated me from the present terrible moment and an ambulance ride where I could weep, be afraid, and likely receive some relief in the form of an i.v. analgesic.

Please note:  I am no martyr.  It is not that I am some great self-controlled stoic.  There are only two things I know for certain about crisis (which is most certainly where I had landed):

  1. panic makes everything worse 
  2. children do not need nightmares to come to life

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In Which Worldly Trouble Uncovers Abundant Blessings

or ... how I learned not to prophesize . . .
(My how lofty that sounds!) This is a brief post to relate some news.

Thursday, December 2, was A.'s birthday.  Birthdays in the Motherworks-Flavius household tend to be well celebrated family affairs.  We have not typically gone in for the large elementary school gathering that I grew up with, but we do tend to stretch out these natal celebrations for a full week.  The school parties, the home gatherings, the grandparent celebrations . . .  it is a big deal.  I tend to make 2 or sometimes 3 desserts for these multiple birthday party week's festivities.  All of this is to cover over that there will not likely be 50 gifts from little friends, a material explosion from family members, a pre-Christmas Christmas (and even then presents aren't the prominent feature of that holiday either).  We do not run short on the singing, the celebrating, and the feasting (as best we can during a fast such as the Nativity Fast).

With some sisterly help A. planned her meal and picked out her cake.  She asked if we could celebrate at my mother's and Gran readily consented.  So I baked a cake, Mr. Flavius wound up his work day, and the children prepared to go a'celebrating.  The cake was a tall, three layered, chocolate affair covered in raspberries, filled with raspberries, and smothered in chocolate.  Seeing as we would be traveling to mother's I plated the dessert and went searching for a cake cover.  I spied with my little eye a glass cake dome that I inherited from my grandmother.  Perfect.  I grabbed a chair (a well built, sturdy chair of generous proportions and counter-heighth) and proceeded to try and fetch the dome.  Alas!  It was too high and so I set about climbing down from my perch to ask Mr. Flavius to obtain the object for for when . . .  the chair went sideways.  Even now, it seems beyond physics that it could have turned sideways, but it did.  My foot slipped between the rungs of the chair as I fell without a cry toward the ground.  Somehow things were twisted and wrenched and slammed and snapped.  Specifically my tibia was torqued and snapped and my fibula apparently tore through flesh to make up for the extra pressure and science of my circumstances. I landed as  though I had leapt to my stead from the balcony of a saloon and I was preparing to get  out of town.

I did not pass out or faint or cry out or go into shock.  I knew from the pain that my ankle was broken.  I glanced down, the grave injury hidden by my pant leg, and saw blood on the ground.  As Providence would provide, I landed in front of the telephone.  I immediately called 911, explained that I was need an ambulance and then laid down on the ground to wait.

Since then I have had 2 surgeries and an 8 day stay in the hospital.  I am currently at my parents' home recuperating.  I will write more and update you as time allows.  But I did want to thank everyone for all their prayers, gifts, well, wishes, and support.

This broken leg has turned out to be a gift of many blessings.  I hope to adequately relate them to you in the near future.