Monday, December 30, 2013

Today's JAR- Are You Willing to Keep Christ in Christmas?

Today's JAR- Some of you are getting antsy and tempted to remove any signs of Christmas from your décor, to start fresh in the new year. But if you ever shouted out "Keep Christ in Christmas!" Then you should consider the irony of removing Him before Epiphany, January 6th. The Orthodox faithful celebrate Christmas for the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.

Please be consistent and keep Christ in the true Christmas season.
 
 
 
 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Walnuts in Syrup are a Sweet Treat


This month I posted a sweet recipe for Walnuts in Syrup on the Sounding.  follow the link for the recipe 

http://myocn.net/walnuts-syrup/ 


Happy Holidays is Perfectly Acceptable.

Christ is Born!  

This has been an amazing feast day, celebrating the birth of our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ.  And for weeks many have politicized the importance of keeping Christ in Christmas, refusing to say happy holidays.  I like saying happy holidays because it doesn't take away from Christmas but includes Thanksgiving and New Years Day in the well wishes.  

We are experiencing a season of goodwill towards men with the religious holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years/Theophany.    Thanksgiving, an American holiday designed to thank God for His many blessings, offers an increased awareness to charitable giving and feeding the poor as a sign of thankfulness. It's also a holiday that focuses on the sanctity of family and gratitude.   

During the weeks leading up to Christmas many of us saw Santas ringing bells outside stores collecting change for humanitarian aid.  When we celebrate the incarnation of Christ we remember the Magis bearing gifts and Jesus' commandment: “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you didit to Me.’"  Matthew 25:37-40

And soon we will be bettering ourselves with resolutions for the new year as we remember the feast day, the Circumssion of our Lord.  And later the necessity to "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," with the a great Feast of our Lord's  Transfiguration, and St. John the Baptist. 

So you see, this is a cluster of holy days not just one.  It's doesn't deny Christ anything to say Happy Holidays.  It only confirms that these months are sacred and worthy of celebration. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's the Second Day of Christmas, Here's an Idea...

Today's JAR (just a reminder). the Christmas celebration has only just begun!!! Let the merriment commence! We celebrate Christ's birth for the next 12 days, till the Eve of Theophany, making this the Second Day of Christmas. are you planning anything special or is your tree already on the curb?

One year we were financially challenged since my husband was in grad school and our son was a baby.  We had saved our loose change all year long and after cashing it in for bills, we split it down the middle and each had $48 to buy 12 gifts for the Twelve Days of Christmas.  We even saved our receipts to stay honest.  That was a fun Christmas!

He got me things like perfume samples, my favorite Bic pens, a gently used book on eBay.  I made him hankies from scrap fabric, found book ends in his mom's basement she no longer needed and a bar of his favorite chocolate.  We also took advantage of the After Christmas Sales in the malls. 

The trick to making this kind of activity work is to save the big stuff for last.  You want to leave Christmas with a Bang!

I hope you can find a new tradition to keep the Twelve Days fresh this year..  Just something sweet to do for one another to honor Christ's birth and incarnation.  Even if it's a few trips to the dollar store. 

We are in a season of celebration... don't go back to normal just yet. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!


 
 
This morning we flipped over the final circle on our Advent Calendar!  Oh what a joy to finally be at our Lord's Nativity!  I remember flipping over the first circle wondering what the fast would bring and if I was up to the task. 
 
 
 
 
 
I have to admit, I wasn't the most graceful Adventer.  (I know that's not a real word.)  With every fast I see one or two places where I am lacking and I don't like it.  Life is so much easier in the disillusion that I am good enough and all my troubles are someone else's fault. 
 
But the reality is, and the fasting seasons make this clearer, my sufferings are a result of my own sins.  I have no one to blame but myself.  But how do I repent?  How do I change my ways? 
 
There is new life in the world, a new beginning in the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And with the new year approaching, this is as good a time as any to stop for a moment and ask ourselves: Where are we a slave to our passions and what are we going to do about it.  Just look at today's epistle reading for Christmas morning:

St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 4:4-7

BRETHREN, when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir of God through Christ.
 
It's time for us to start thinking of how we are no longer going to live like slaves (to our passions) and live a life where we are free, and worthy to be "heirs of God through Christ." 
 
Christ is Born! 
Glorify Him!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Do You Need a Plan B?

It's the Eve of Christmas Eve, and here we are.  Down to the last minute with details and plans, visitors and dinners.  Wrapping and... what am I doing on line?!?! 

Do not panic!  Check to see how much on your to-do list really has to get done.  And how much of it are you own expectations as to what Christmas should be.  Maybe it's time for Plan B. 

It's like that poem... if you let something go it was never meant to be... If you haven't started it yet... and little elves don't come and finish the task... your expectations were too high.   Let it go, run to the store, ask someone for help. 

And if you are at the point where you forgot that this is a religious holy day, then ask someone to bonk you in the head.  

Regroup, put your Mrs. Claus bloomers on and assess. It's sink or swim... Here's a floaty for you to keep it in perspective... a Biblical Plan B, since the inns weren't available?

 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 

Then the angel said to (the shepherds), “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  

 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
 
Luke 2:4-7, 10-14
 
 
 


It's all going to work out lovely if you remember that the day is about Christ's birth and the salvation it brings. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I'm Blessed Like You

 In a way, I have been avoiding Christmas for now. 

No, I'm not a Grinch.  We made a commitment to return to the ancient tradition of participating in the Advent fast, in preparation for the Nativity of our Lord.  We are therefore saving the actual celebration of Christmas till its traditional place, the twelve days between and including Christmas and the Eve of Theophany (January 5.)  The first year we tried it, it was hard to maintain momentum.  By December 29th, we were all Christmas-ed out.  Little by little we have been delaying our celebration.  Today we are more prepared.  We've even acquired a collecting of Christmas Cd's, to play Christmas in house all twelve days, since the radio stations will cease with the holiday music come December 26th.  

So yesterday when I was in one of our local superstores, I wasn't quite in the Christmas Spirit like those around me.  I haven't participated in any random acts of kindness I prefer them to be intentional.  I haven't been wearing green or red, bells or tinsel.  Actually, I was in a bad mood and I wasn't feeling sociable.  So when the man behind me said, "Hello, how are you?"  Out of obligation replied, "Fine and you?"   

He stopped me in my tracks when he replied, "I'm blessed like you."  
 
I had never heard that before but I loved it.  What a great response.  
 
I often forget I am blessed, that we all are.  I tend to take it all for granted: good health, a loving husband, a home, a child.  Most of the time I only look at what I don't have instead of what I do have.   But this man knew.  This man knew that he was blessed.  Maybe he was glad to be standing on his own two feet.  Maybe he was glad he had money to buy the things in his cart.  Maybe he was glad the autistic child with him wasn't having a meltdown.  Maybe he just truly understood what the Spirit of Christmas really was, and there is no need to wait till December 25th (or Thanksgiving to mark the official Christmas Season) to live it.  If nothing else, we are blessed because God is with us. 

 
 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
 
 

This man in the checkout line was a miracle to me for which I am grateful.*  I'm still going to keep the fast and work harder to read something that will nourish my soul.  I will even work harder at being charitable to someone in need.   But more importantly, I will live in the reality that I have been blessed... just like you, because God IS with us.     











*The world does not revolves around me and this man did not chose the same register as I had so that I could see his patience and gratitude.  It just happened that way and I saw it.  I am grateful that I saw his example and repented. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Have You Been Abusing the True Meaning of Christmas?


Hello, my name is (insert your name here) I am a Christmas-holic and I have abused the true meaning of Christmas. 

Christmas-holism is a disease brought upon by the advertisers who have infected us with the ideas that:
  1. We deserve something for our "good" deeds
  2. Gifts need to be bought in the stores    
  3. Love is in proportion to the amount of money spent    
  4. Traditions cannot be broken, even when they are no longer effective

Are we Christmas-holics?  Have we found ourselves depressed and wanting because we can't live up to an inflated expectation? 

 

The best cure for a Christmas-holic is Advent: 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Would you expect anything less from a religious holiday? 

 

Some days I fear we have completely redesigned Christmas into a holiday of ego instead of a loving act of humility.  There is too much talk about what we deserve, what we want, and what we "have" to do during these months.  There are too many expectations. 

 

But in reality, Christmas is a celebration of Christ's love for humanity

 

 For God so loved the world

that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him should not perish

but have everlasting life. John 3:16 

 

It's a holiday of thanksgiving for God's willingness and desire to come to us in the most humbling way possible, as a vulnerable baby:

 

 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-12

 

And it's an opportunity for all of creation to celebrating a loving God. 

   

Today, the Virgin bears Him who is transcendent,

and the earth presents the cave to Him who is beyond reach.

Angels, along with shepherds glorify Him.

The Magi make their way to Him by a star.

For a new child has been born for us,

the God before all ages.

Kontakion in the Third Tone

 

Are you a Christmas-holic?  Rejoice!  because you can change your ways.  It's not too late.  There are still 2 weeks till Christmas...


 

...Did you just gasp too?  

 

 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Christmas and Memories of Our Dearly Departed

This year we did it... We put stockings up for St. Nicholas.  It was a nice treat.  It's our second holiday decoration up... first being the advent calendar.
 
 

 
 
 
 
We are "late" in putting up our decorations this year.  Not because of any sort of political statement but just because homework is a chore in this house and I think that it would be easier for the boy to concentrate on homework if the house looked like business-was-usual.  But mid week, next week, is a half day and the Winter Vacation begins!  Then it's up to the attic to bring everything down. 
 
Although I do like waiting until we are closer to Christmas to decorate... I like to enjoy the 12 Days of Christmas without the feeling of being "over it, already."
 
I love my Christmas décor and can't wait to see it again. So many memories.  We've established a tradition where we buy an ornament a year.  The ornament usually reflects a big trip or event from the year: First Christmas, New Home, a Baby...  And the little things like our visits to the Alamo, the Pilgrim Plantation, and Washington DC.  This is one of our better ideas and usually makes tree decorating take that much longer.   All those memories... even the sad ones.  We love the happy memories but we also don't shy away from the sad ones. 
 
A few years ago, we were still deeply mourning the loss of a dear family member and everything was slow moving, when it came to celebrating.  No one was in a hurry to put the tree up.  I am finding that once your heart breaks that deeply, although the heart repairs, it's scars are forever tender.  We miss our dearly departed family members.  May their memories be eternal.
 
Cyclical events like Christmas have a way of returning memories to the forefront... bringing things up again and again.  The good and the bad all come back to give you another chance to process it until you've either overcome it or it becomes a natural part of you. 
 
Imagine St. Nicholas.   He didn't have the best childhood.  We understand that he was a young boy when his Christian parents died and left him an orphan.  He must have had a very lonely life.  I imagine he missed his parents constantly.  Being an only child, St. Nicholas must have often felt very alone, were it not for his prayers.  We can see by his deep faith and his life's story that he was close to God.  With the Grace and Love of God, St. Nicholas has now adopted all of us as his family.  His examples of piety, charity, and devotion to the true faith have been a beacon for us.  His love for mankind has made him a man of legend... One of the most loved legends of all, Santa Claus! 
 
The church offers this beautiful Hymn to St. Nicholas:
 
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
A model of faith and the image of gentleness,
the example of your life has shown you forth
to your sheep-fold to be a master of temperance.
You obtained thus through being lowly,
gifts from on high, and riches through poverty.
Nicholas, our father and priest of priests,
intercede with Christ our God
that He may save our souls.
 
 I am anticipating the celebration of Christ's birth in the next 3 week... but for now, as we are still in the time of preparation, it's nice to take a break and celebrate St. Nicholas. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

In Honor of St. Nicholas

Last year I saw a flicker slide show of a man who drew on his kid's lunch bags every morning.  It was really cool....  http://blog.flickr.net/en/2013/04/19/dad-illustrates-kids-sandwich-bags-with-imaginative-drawings/ 

So, naturally I thought I'd do it too...

Here are a few samples...
Realized the irony and switched to wax paper for the lunches.


After watching OKLAHOMA over the week-end.

All boys love trains.

The bus was bringing him home early that day.
 
Rita's ice was being delivered to school. 


Today I drew this...
St. Nicholas leaving gold coins by the slippers. 

So in honor of St. Nicholas...
 
Blessed, Holy Nicholas, lean your ear this way.
We have not forgotten that today is your feast day.
You, who gave away your wealth to the needy poor,
Thank you, Holy Nicholas, pray for us once more.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Keeping it Together! A Christmas Binder?!?

Lately I've been checking out other Mom Blogs to see what the competition looks like!  HA!  It's no competition.  I get a few hits here and there and have fewer than 200 friends on facebook... while they have the letter K next to their friend counts and forwards.  I don't mind sharing their good ideas with my facebook friends while they don't know I'm even a "contender."  But one sign that I was still in the Little League of Mom Blogs was a blogger's comment. "Time to get out the Christmas Binder." 

Binder!  Christmas Binder!  All these years I've been keeping good ideas stuck up in my head, and if a good one didn't stick, then it just wasn't meant to be.  I never thought of a binder for Christmas.  I've used a binder filing system to plan my wedding.  I used it to organize the Greek Festival booths.  I've even used it plan out my Senior Thesis- 5 complete outfits designed, patterned, sewn to fit 5 (different) live models who were going to walk down a runway.  But I never thought of a Christmas Binder.  Have I been doing Christmas wrong all these years?

If I were to have a Christmas Binder, it would really have to be a Holiday Binder, because I'd want to include Advent, Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe even the 12 days up to Theophany.  And Yes!  Christ will still be in this Holiday Binder. 

I suppose my tabs would include:
  • Advent-
    • Calendar,
    • Meals 
    • Activities,
  • Thanksgiving Décor,
  • Christmas Décor,
  • Theophany
    • 12 days of Christmas Calendar
  • Holiday Meals (Main dishes, casseroles, and appetizers,)
  • Gift Ideas (to make),
  • Entertainment
    • Movies, CD's, Books and Lyrics,
  • Address List,
  • Favorite Quotes,
  • Sweetest Memories. 

I might even have to log some of our favorite ornaments and the stories that go with them.  Overboard?  No such thing to a woman who keeps a binder. 

Seriously though, I think I will make a Holiday Binder for myself.  I think I 'll start today... my first Christmas card came in the mail and I have to save the address. 

--------------------------------------------------------------


In retrospect, I'd edit it to: 

Advent-
  • Calendar Activity,
  • Meals (save this for Lenten Meal Planner that already exists.)
  • Activities,
Theophany
  • 12 days of Christmas Calendar
Holiday Meals (Main dishes, casseroles, and appetizers,)
Gift Ideas (to make),
Entertainment
  • Movies, CD's, Books and Lyrics,
Address List,
  • Favorite Quotes,
  • Sweetest Memories. 


    I am also open to suggestions....

    Halva, a Sweet Dessert for the Holidays.

    Halva, a fried and syrup soaked semolina, or cream of wheat, is an easy and sweet dessert for fasting periods because its ingredients DO NOT include milk, eggs or butter.  See my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network blog.  
     
     
     
     
     
    http://myocn.net/halva-delicious-fasting-dessert/





    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    Christmas for Toddlers

    We are busy. busy with preparations for Thanksgiving but I know many of you will want to start celebrating Christmas on Friday.  I try to wait as long as possible because it can all be so distracting for us... especially when teachers are still sending homework home.  But for those of you with smaller children here are a few thoughts.


    1) Hide all advertisements and stop watching (or at least limit) TV.  Nothing spoils the giving mood more than greed, and nothing yells greed more than commercials and sale ads. 

    2) Keep it simple.  Toddlers only need 2-3 presents to be happy.  Don't waste your money on toys that will only bore your kids in 2 hours.  Give them craft supplies and interesting paper.  One of our "successful" gifts included really cool graph paper and markers. 

    3) Keep it kid friendly... Don't bring out the pretty manger scene and décor until you are sure the kids won't break them.  When our son started walking and reaching we were in a very small apartment on campus.  We were creative and we opted for a tabletop tree and a kid friendly (and welcoming) manger scene... Now that he's older, we bring out the ceramic manger. 



     4) Read more books.  Libraries usually offer a special section for Christmas books.   Ebay has great prices on slightly used books as well.  I pull ours down from the top shelf in December and have them in reach for him to read and look through.  Libraries also have CD's of Christmas music and carols.  I try to buy a new CD every year because I have learned that the radio will stop playing Christmas music on December 26th, but we celebrate till January 6th with Theophany.  We have a nice collection so far. 

    That's it for now.  Thanksgiving preparations are still tugging for my attention and we have company coming.  I will add more as the season continues...   Till then, stay hydrated and prayerful. 

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Pasta in Burnt Butter

     
    Spaghetti in burnt butter is a great Greek dish.   A few years ago I learned to make it with scrambled egg for added protein.  It looked odd at first, but I've made it several times since... It's inexpensive but filling and flavorful. 
     
    I have to admit that this recipe is almost too easy. 
    But I am posting it so you can remember to add it to your menu planner.  
     
    
     
     
    Boil a water in a large pot.
     
     
     
     
    Add a ton of salt.  One of the cooks on The Chew says pasta is Italian and so the water should be like the ocean, salty.



    Add a pound of spaghetti. 



    As it wilts, stir so it doesn't stick.  Cook for 9 minutes.

     
     
     
    Pour the cooked spaghetti in a colander to drain, dry out the pot with a paper towel and  melt 1/2 stick of butter in the pot.  You can also melt the butter in a smaller pot and pour over the plated spaghetti, but I don't like to dirty a pot unnecessarily.    

    You can also add minced, crushed (or powdered) garlic for added flavor.



    Let it cook, undisturbed, till it browns.




    Remove from heat.  Add drained spaghetti to burnt butter and stir.

     
     
    Pour 1/2c Parmesan cheese and stir.  You can add 1/4 c crumbled feta or Asiago to make it interesting.  

     
     
    Yumm! 




    But you don't have to stop here.  You might want to add more protein.  You can sauté shrimp.  Or you can try an omelet. 


    Omelet

    Scramble an egg and pour into a greased/buttered sauté pan.  Tilt the pan so the egg thins out and covers the bottom. Flip for even cooking.  Cook servings separately or in a large pan so the egg stays thin. 

     
     
    Umm, use a nonstick pan so you don't make a mess.  

     
     
     
    Add ketchup or  hot sauce and serve with sliced fruit.  Makes a quick, cheap, hot dinner.
     

    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Meal Plan Memories

    It's another fasting period for the Orthodox Christians and another 40 days of preparation.  And although the fast is less strict than the fast for Great Lent, it's harder and more tempting because of the holiday baking and Christmas parties.  The church hierarchs have offered economia, leniency, on Thanksgiving day so that we can celebrate the national holiday of giving thanks according to the American traditions of turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes; but then better freeze the leftovers.  :)   It's just a one day pardon. 

    I am a bit behind schedule... I haven't had time to post any new Lenten recipes.  I hope this meal plan from August can hold you over until I get my schedule in order.  

    http://presvassi.blogspot.com/2013/07/meal-plan-with-top-14-meals-for.html

    Good Strength!  And many blessings. 

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Today's JAR- You Are Loved

    Today's JAR- As we prepare for Christmas, this first day of the Advent Fast, it's good to remember that when we start a sentence with "I deserve (blank)" then we've started in the wrong direction. Once we start making decisions because of what we perceive we deserve, because we love ourselves, we've invited suffering into our future.  I say this because these days that lead to Christmas are no longer about preparation, but of indulgence.  Commercials will be airing the next 40 days trying to convince us that we don't have enough and deserve more.  They will try to imply that we are not happy until... And they will plant seeds that we aren't really loved unless... . Let's be guarded from these distractions of the truth; these destructive lies.

    This truth is...

    Well, it's two-fold:  1) No one deserves to be loved.  2) We are loved anyway. 

    Christmas is a confirmation of this... “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16. 

    Let's keep this verse on the top of our thoughts as we enter into this holy time of preparation. 


    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    You've Come a Long Way, Baby

    Remember the cigarette ads in the 70's for Virginia Slims?  It showed a 1900's woman in a corseted dress and tight pointy shoes sneaking away to smoke a cigarette or oppressed because of her gender. They illustrated that women are no longer lower class citizens but can boldly stand strong in public and take a long hard drag off a cigarette. I've seen enough of those ads that I can't even say "You've come a long way, Baby." without the imagery. 

    But lately I've realized that I have come a long way...

    If you were to ask me how long I've been blogging, I'd have told you that I've only been blogging recipes for a few months now.  That's what it seems like.  But when I looked back at my statistics I found that I've been posting recipes and tidbits since January 24, 2013 - ten months!  I've posted 153 times and have over 10,000 all time pageviews.  And yes, I AM a little proud of myself.  I kind of feel like a real blogger. 

    Thank you for coming to my blog.  Please continue to let me know if you've tried a recipe and if it was as you expected.  And please leave a comment if you share a link. 





    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Who Do We Turn To?

    This is the report I read on November 12, 2013:

    Damascus (AFP) – Nine children were killed and 27 people wounded when mortar rounds hit a school and a  school bus in the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, state television  reported.

    “The toll in the  terrorist targeting of the St. John of Damascus school with mortar  rounds has risen to five dead, all of them children, and 27 injured,” a  news alert on Syrian state television said.

    Another four students  were killed when a mortar hit the vehicle they were in, in the central  Bab Sharqi district of the capital, state news agency SANA said, adding  that the driver was also killed.

    Six others inside the bus, including four more students, were wounded in the “terrorist attack,” SANA said.


    Has the world gone mad?  And why aren't we?

    A few weeks ago I wrote a blog, This is Nothing New, for the Sounding, an Orthodox blog that is part of Orthodox Christian Network, OCN  It wasn't harsh or angry.  It wasn't even challenging.  It was a nice way to say, "Hey, umm, people are suffering like they did in the earliest history of Christianity."  But you know what?  We have to wake up.  People are suffering because of their faith and this type of violent persecution (unlike the subtle persecution we face daily as we struggle against homosexuality, abortion, and pre-marital sex.) doesn't seem to be going away.  And it isn't just that people are being attacked, tortured and slaughtered because they are Christians, (as if that weren't bad enough)  but that it's happening in the most ancient Christian cities, where we have been present the longest.  What are we waiting for?  Another war threat on Syria? 

    I'm not going to go into the politics of who America defends and who she ignores.  I'm talking about you, the person reading this post.  There has got to be a way we can raise our voices and be heard as we cry out "Someone has to protect the Christians!" 

    But who would we be talking to?  Who is going to listen to us now that the elections are over?

    We have to pray.  We have to stop and pray right now that the Virgin Mary, who protected the Christ Babe in her womb, will protect all of His children.  We have to cry out to her, daily, for help and protection.  Violence won't end violence. It can hold it at bay.  It can delay it.  But prayer and faith and mercy can change things for eternity. 

    Let's commit ourselves to this prayer to the Virgin Mary from now until there is peace. 





    Kondakion. Tone 2.
    A protection of Christians unshamable,
    Intercessor to our Holy Maker, unwavering,
    Please reject not, the prayerful cries of those who are in sin.
    Instead, come to us, for you are good; Your loving help bring unto us,
    Who are crying in faith to you: Hasten to intercede and speed now to supplicate,
    As a protection for all time,  Theotokos, for those who honor you.


    And there are even more I want to share with you.

    Most Holy Theotokos, save us.
    As You willed, O our Savior,
    To dispense our salvation through Your economy inside the Virgin's womb;
    You showed to all the people that she was our own guardian;
    O the God of our fathers, blessed are You, our God.

     
    Most Holy Theotokos, save us.
     A shelter and protection and a wall unshaken,
    Become, O Virgin., for those who flee to you,
    A sheltered cover and refuge and a place of joy.




    All those do you shelter, O Good One,
    Those who in their faith flee unto you,
    With your strong hand, you protect;
    We who sin have no one else
    Who intercedes for us
    Before God, praying endlessly,
    In ills and all dangers,
    For us who are laiden with
    Our many sins and mistakes;
    Mother, of our God in the Highest
    Therefore, we fall down to you, humbly;
    From all the misfortunes, keep your servants safe.

     
    For those
    I n great sorrow you are joy,
    And for the oppressed, a protection,
    And for the hungry, their food,
    Comfort unto those estranged;
    You are a staff to the blind,
    Visitation of all those sick,
    And to those held by pain
    Shelter and a comforting,
    And to the orphaned, an aid;
    Mother, of our God in the highest,
    You who are the Spotless One, hasten,
    Save your servants from their sin, we ask of you.

     
    Plagal of the 4th Tone
    Lady, do you receive,
    From your servants, their many prayers;
    And deliver all of us from all sadness and necessity.

     
    Tone 2
    My numerous hopes are placed before you, most holy One;
    Mother of our God,guard me with care, within your sheltered arms.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Remember When it Used to Snow?

    I am feeling a bit nostalgic for snow today after seeing so many facebook posts on this morning's flurries in the north eastern states.  I imagine it will be a long time before I see snow again.  At least I hope so.  I am no longer prepared for cold weather.  I no longer have a Colorado winter- worthy coat or a hat to keep my ears warm.  We no longer need those things now that we are in South Carolina. 
     
    Which has lead my mind to wander a bit on the idea of living in the present.  If you are wondering how that happened... this will take longer to read than the process actually occurred... but here goes:  I love living in the South.  I can't believe that I am finally used to the idea that I probably won't see snow but a few more times for the rest of my life.  Why am I thinking of the rest of my life?  Live in today.  Orthodoxy is all about living in today with our mind focused on Paradise.  Kids live in today, as if that's all there is.  That's why they freak out all the time- because they can't imagine that in a few days their troubles will be resolved or disappear.  Adults live in tomorrow, making sure everything is taken care of so they don't have troubles and some times forget to live in the moment, missing wonderful opportunities.  I wonder if "living in the moment" is one of the many ways we are to be like children.  "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven"  Matthew 18:3 (I had to look up the exact verse.)  Yeah, that's it!  Become "like" children but be an adult about it... Live in the moment but remember that tomorrow is another day and you have responsibilities.  Stop distracting yourself with how much or little snow you will ever see again and get back to your blog post.  You have a pile of stuff waiting to finish and dinnertime is coming. 

    Whew!  So yes, somehow I  turned the topic of snow into a theological monologue in my head about Matthew 18.

    So, while you are out, muttering about the windshields that need to be cleaned before you leave.  I hope that you remember to stop for a moment and say, "Thank you, Lord.   I had almost forgotten to enjoy the moment I was in and I was about to miss it." 



    --------------------

    Here are the pictures I was going to post, my first V's Cardbox photos from 2003. We no longer produce them but I go to them when I feel nostalgic for early snow. 

     

     

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Help for the Philippines

    If your heart has moved to offer aid for those suffering in the Philippines, please consider sending support to the IOCC, International Orthodox Christian Charities.

     

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    They Ate with Giants! I Mean They Ate Giants! Giant Lima Bean Caserole.

    GIANTS!
    Large Lima Bean Casserole


    Prepare 1 lb. Large Lima Beans- I like to rapidly boil the beans in PLENTY of water for ten minutes and then cover and let stand for an hour.  I drain the water and rinse the beans well. 
     


     
     
     

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


    Put beans in a large baking dish.




    Add:
    • chopped onion (can also add celery)
    • 3 sliced carrots
    • 1 can tomato sauce
    • 1/2 can water or vegetable broth
    • oregano
    • ground pepper
    • 2 t salt
    • 1/2 t sugar


    The oregano container had such little bitty holes!  I twisted the top of and seasoned like a Greek!  :)




    Bake uncovered for 1 hour.  (I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. Imagine the beans sitting the deep red sauce.). 



    Friday, November 08, 2013

    Fixin' to Get Ready for the Nativity of Our Lord.

    We've lived in the land of fried foods and the revolution for five years now.  I have learned a lot about pound cakes, state's rights and the variety of hunting seasons that fill the year.  I know to ask how a person's Mama is doin' and I know that BBQ is pork smothered in sauce and chicken and steaks are grilled on an open flame.  I know that tea is always sweet and the humidity is always high.  And I know what it means to be "fixin' to get ready."  Every Orthodox Christian knows what  "fixin' to get ready" is, only we call it a fast. 

    On November 15th we begin the Advent Fast, 40 days to prepare ourselves to appreciate the miracle that is Christmas.  I look forward to this season of a lighter fast (not as strict as Easter's Fast) because it keeps us looking at the prize, that Christmas is a religious holiday and not a day we can finally rest from all the shopping, parties and travelling that filled our days since Santa rode down 34th Street and walked into Macy's at the end of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.   

    I actually enjoy the way the Church Calendar is set up with fasting and preparations leading up to Christmas and then celebration until the eve of Theophany, the real Twelve Days of Christmas.  But most people have it backwards.  They over stress, over eat, over drink and over spend during a time when they should be holding back, reflecting on the miracle that is the Virgin's childbirth.  Christmas is a wonderful time not because of the loot under the tree or the vacation time to be with family (all that is good), but because it is a time when we celebrate that the Son of God put on flesh and lived among His creation in a way that only pure and true love would allow.  This kind of truth, this type of deep, awesome act of love can't be properly reflected upon or appreciated in and out of festive parties and rich dinners; walking up and down mall aisles searching out for the perfect present.  This type of miracle deserves a quiet, sober mind and heart.   This type of miracle deserves our full attention, and so we fast.

    And after the time of preparation has passed... after the fast is over and the time to celebrate has come, we are free to celebrate, not just for one day, not for 8 days like we do for Christ's Resurrection, but for twelve days!  The Church Calendar gives us twelve days to celebrate Christmas- until we come to Theophany, the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River, when the dove appears and God declares, "This is My beloved Son."  Then Jesus begins His public ministry and the miracles, teachings and healing that reveal who He is really begins.  Then we are given the opportunity to respond to Christ's invitation to follow Him. 

    So yes, on November 15th we will begin the time of preparation for Christmas.  We should try to fast from meat for the 40 days.  We should schedule time to take care of the poor and lonely.  We should reflect upon the wonderful gift that God gave us more that we stew over what we will be giving our friends and family.  And then when December 25th comes, we will celebrate!  Twelve Days worth!