Saturday, March 21, 2015

4th Saturday of Great Lent...

Here we are, more than half way through Great Lent already! It's true that Great Lent really goes by faster with each year.

Today, my husband was away all day visiting parishioners, and amidst the craziness with the kids, I tried to do a little reflection in my head of how Great Lent is going for me this year. One of the things that immediately came into my head was that I feel like I have spent every waking hour of this lent on my feet in the kitchen. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like cooking and washing pans/loading the dishwasher, and tidying up the kitchen is what I am doing most of my day, every day(this happens outside of Lent, too, but for some reason lately it feels like more time). It's a big frustration to me when I think that I could be spending my time reading, cleaning other parts of the house (like following along with my cleaning plan) and trying to grow in some way before Pascha. So I made a little plan to help myself for the rest of this Great Lent. I whipped out the paper plates, and decided that I am going to use only paper plates from now on until Pascha (but maybe Sundays will be an exception). I started out with this new system for lunch today, and my clean-up was so much easier! I was wiping down the counter within minutes, instead of spending almost 40 minutes cleaning up after a meal (which includes checking that the kids aren't tearing down the house every few minutes, running to break up fights, etc). I'm really hoping that the time I save on cleaning up will add on to my reading and quiet reflection time until Pascha.

In other news, this was a busy week! Yesterday was the first day of spring at last! My family in NY was getting snowed in, but we had a springy temperature of 50 yesterday and today. It has been so nice to wear lighter jackets outside for the last 2 weeks! In accordance with the first day of spring, and tomorrow's feast of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, I made zhavaronki (lark buns) yesterday. I look forward to this every year so much! (next to my pan of birdies is split pea soup). Russian tradition has it that as a welcome to spring (which always falls right around the feast of the 40 Martyrs), we make little buns in the shape of lark birds.

Today, I embarked on a new adventure: making piroshki for the first time in my life!!! I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never made them before, but I have an excuse: my grandmother made hundreds of piroshki at once when we were growing up, and she'd freeze them so we always had them at our fingertips when they were wanted or needed. I did help her make them, though, if that counts! Once I got married and moved away, I was busy with school and Babushka always supplied me with frozen piroshki, so again, I never even thought about making my own. Times have changed a bit now and I am a little more independent in the kitchen than I was back when we first got married. I decided today that it was going to be the big day that I first made piroshki. I had a great time with the recipe (which one of my best friends gave me), and the kids did, too! It was a perfect thing for them to help with, because they loved cutting the circles out of the dough!

As you can see, my filling of choice for this first try was mushrooms and onions. YUM!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Falling and Getting Up

"Mercifully, God's goodness longs to help us, and He encourages us, 'Every time you fall, get up again.' To fall is human, but to fall and not get up is demonic. Even if we fall seventy times seven a day, let us arise again. Many times we find fault with others, we harbor feelings of hatred and hostility, and we do not forgive easily, ignoring God's commandment to forgive seventy times seven a day (vid. Mt. 18:22)."

-Elder Ephraim, from The Art of Salvation

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Icon Corner

One of the first things on my Lenten cleaning list this year was to get all our icon corners in each room set up. Well, we've had quite an eventful Great Lent so far (with many little temptations and a really sick little girl for a while!), and so I'm a little behind with my list. Some things I have done ahead of time, some things late. 

Today, my hubby finally had a free minute to hang up the icons in our bedroom. These are really special icons to us. The one in the middle is of Archangel Gabriel. We got married on his feast day (July 26), so my extremely thoughtful godmother/aunt and uncle gave us a hand-painted icon of Archangel Gabriel to remember to pray to him for our entire life together as a wedding gift. To the left and right of our icon of Archangel Gabriel hang our wedding icons. A Russian Orthodox wedding tradition is to have wedding icons - specifically, an icon of Jesus Christ for the husband, and an icon of the Mother of God for the wife. There are no specifications regarding the style of the icon or the specific icon of the Mother of God (there are so many different portrayals of her!)... Anyhow, in our case, we asked a friend iconographer of ours to paint us our wedding icons back before our wedding. He chose to paint us the image of the Three-Handed Mother of God because the original Three-Handed icon is located at a Serbian monastery on Mount Athos (Hilandar), so he thought that was nice for a Serbian household. (Of course, we had an icon of Jesus Christ too, for my husband).

To finish up about the wedding tradition - on your wedding day, you are blessed with your icon by your parents just before taking off to your wedding service (as a final blessing to get married). I LOVE THIS TRADITION! It always makes me tear up when I see this in real life (like for my sister's wedding) or when I look at this picture of this special moment on my own wedding day.

We have SO many icons in our collection, but I love having these three very special icons in our bedroom. They are a reminder of our wedding day every time I look at them, and they are a constant reminder to both of us that in marriage, you always need to put God and the Church first if you want to have a successful marriage.

I should mention that I have somewhere, deep down in a box, a beautiful icon cloth that my aunt/godmother gave to me (it is the one in the photo above, actually)...Once I find it (I am very slow at unpacking at the moment) I'll drape it along the icons or underneath them to make this space look even nicer (and to cover up the weird spacing in the right side). 

Remembering God...

"A certain saint advises, 'Remember God in times of peace, so He can remember you in times of sorrow.' We must always remember God; not only when we experience sorrow, or when we are in need and in danger, but also when we enjoy good days with peace, health, and prosperity. In this way, God will remember us in our time of difficulty."

From the book (the amazing book I'm currently reading!!) The Art of Salvation, by Elder Ephraim

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Baker Family

Great Lent is always a time of extra temptations. For some families, the temptations are greater than others. On Sunday night, a Greek Orthodox priest died in a tragic car accident while driving home from Vespers with his children. Fr. Matthew Baker was thrown from his car after it tumbled several times, but somehow (by a miracle) his children were all ok.

Fr. Matthew leaves behind not only his wife, Presbytera Katherine, but SIX young children, all ages 12 and under. Truly, this is an enormous tragedy. I have not been able to get this family out of my head since I heard about this horrible news. According to many, Fr. Matthew was truly a giving soul, a person who was not only an intellectual but a true person of God. One person put it so beautifully "the world lost someone it was desperately in need of."

The main thing this family, especially Presbytera Katherine needs, is of course, prayer. But in terms of material needs, there has been a fund established to help this family survive, as they have lived in poverty for many years and have no material goods. They had just moved into their first rental home as he had JUST started receiving his first priestly salary on his first parish.

PLEASE, please, reach into the depths of your heart and into your bank account if you can, and make a donation to this family who is so much in need of our help right now. Click here to go to the page where you can not only safely donate whatever amount you'd like, but also follow along with the donations and updates (frequent ones) about this family and their status.

May Fr. Matthew's memory be eternal, and may God send peace, blessings, and most importantly, strength to Presbytera Katherine and her six beautiful children at this extremely difficult time for them.

PS: I had asked a few friends where Pres. Katherine was during the accident out of curiosity...and was deeply saddened to find out that she had been at home resting after just having suffered a stillbirth of their 7th child at 17 weeks of pregnancy. This poor woman really needs our prayers!