Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prepare the Way for the Lord

A lot of people get indignant about store Christmas displays going up right after Halloween.  However, for a lot of reasons this makes sense.  In the Eastern Catholic Church (and Orthodox), we begin our journey to Christ's Nativity celebration on November 15.  This is 40 days before the Feast of Christmas.  For 40 days we fast, pray, offer works of mercy and give alms all in the name of Christ, and preparing our souls to be present at the celebration of Christ's birth.  Upon Christmas we begin merrymaking and we do not quit until 40 days later.  The preparation and celebration periods are similar to that of Easter.

So, as an Eastern Christian, I say prepare your homes and your hearts.  We cannot prepare if we are not reminded everywhere we go.  This does not mean we should get all decked out for Christmas immediately.  It means hang a wreath to remember the Eternal life God promises, but do not hang the merry lights which remind us Christ is with us.  We will save the lights for the Christmas season.  Set out the Nativity displays but do not place the baby for whom we are waiting to be born.   Go ahead and take advantage of the pre-Christmas sales and give, give, give.  But do not open one's own gifts until Christmas.  St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, is our greatest example of one who displays the true spirit of Christmas.  He spent his life fasting for the feasts and giving to others.

Alex and the tree


What I get indignant about is being invited to a bunch of Christmas parties before Christmas with lots of lavish feasts and ridiculous menial gift exchanges without a single nod to the poor, needy, sick, imprisoned.  I hate to walk the neighborhood the week after the Christmas season has begun and see the Christmas trees pitched out beside the road; and all the Christmas lights come down.  If one pitches out Christmas immediately after it is begun, we ARE left with that empty, consumerist feeling.  On the other hand, if we celebrate Christmas like the East, we may enjoy the merrymaking and the life and light Christ gave this world for longer and with much love until we begin the next fast.

Related Posts:

The Four Fasts: Preparing for Holiday Grace

Nativity Fast

Holy Supper

St. Nicholas' Feast


Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Happens? Life?



And so it begins--the barrage of rude comments about my pregnancy.  It's not my nature to quip back snippy little comments.  I really do not feel like I need to be confrontational.  But really, what are these people thinking when they open their mouths and feel free to speak about my procreations.

It started at my first prenatal appointment.  The nurse was obviously new and she started asking questions and making rude little comments.  She asked me if it were my first pregnancy.  No, I have three children at home.  "Oh, how old are they?"  I tell her and she replied in a sad little voice, "Oh, did you mean to have them this close?"

"Uh, [it's really none of your business and completely inappropriate for you to say such things. What if I was having a hard time about it and broke down crying. Then what would you do? Do you have a counseling degree?] well, I would like a little more space in between, but this is fine too.  We are excited."  Then she had the nerve to ask me later if I was, "OK."  I told her, yes, and it is not my first show.  I am doing fine, better than fine.  This has been the most comfortable pregnancy yet.   Maybe, it would be a difficult situation for her, but all her intrusive questions and concern and overt disagreement with my "situation" really got on my nerves.  The next time was not much better and I will be talking to her supervisor next time if she makes one more flip comment.

However, today I received the rudest comment I have received to date.  I was at the grocery store, which is where I get the most comments because I run into the most people than anywhere else.  Most often, people say "You have your hands full," or ask how old my kids are, because they are all so small and look close in age.   I ran into a mom from the Karate studio where Alex took lessons.  She smiled, nodded and said, "Hi."  Then I stepped passed her and grabbed an onion.  She spotted my growing belly and said, "Oh, are you expecting."  I smiled and said,

"Yes."  She smiled again and said,

"Oh, [concerned sigh, as if she were consoling me] it happens.  So that's why you have been hiding out."  (Actually, not hiding out.  Quit.  We cannot afford the bait and switch membership increase.)

Huh? What? Smile nod, move away quickly.  "Alex, let's go. Move a little faster."

What "happens?"  Marital Union?  What did she mean? Did she mean "accidentally" having kids close together in age?  "Accidentally" having more kids than two, or three?  Why do you assume that this is something that just, uh, happened?  As if the preceding act between a man and a woman just happened--miraculously.  What am I supposed to say?  "No, the conception of this child was not an 'accident.'"  Really, it's none of her business how "it" happened.  And it's really wrong of her to assume that it just happened and that we did not mean for it to happen.  Just because she does not want anymore children does not mean I do not want any more and especially not close in age.  Oh the fallacies in her little statement and in her sigh.  We are really happy to have another child on the way.

I went home and told my husband and laughed.  He laughed too and said I should have replied, "Yes, it does.  A few times a week with my husband."

A friend of mine, who has six children, always has cute quips for such comments.  I can hear her now, "Yep, it sure does happen.  It works every time.  We have intercourse during ovulation and the sperm and the egg meet…"  At this point, someone starts blushing and she stops.

I do not mind, "You have your hands full."  It's not really a comment on anything more than they observe that I am busy with small children, which I am.  I do mind the tone some people say it with.  Whatever happened to "Unless you can say something nice, do not say anything at all."  Whatever happened to, "Congratulations."  "We wish you many blessings."  Why can our culture not just enjoy the beauty in the creation of new life? Choose life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Evening with American Leadership

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This week I went to a lecture at Baylor by myself.  It was a question and answer session with the university's president, Ken Star (you remember Ken Star from the prosecution of Pres. Clinton), and former Secretary of State under Pres. Bush, Condoleeza Rice.  For a few years now I have been enamored with Miss Rice's intellect.  I bought a copy of her new autobiography, No Higher Honor, which she was promoting during this visit.  It is a massive 784 pages.  I don't know when I will find time to complete reading this book.  But, I have begun it and it is very interesting. During the evening, Ken Star read excerpts from the book and Miss Rice expounded upon them.   It was definitely an evening to remember.  Here are a few poorly quoted excerpts from the evening.

1. Advent of a New War - On 9/11, as the president's National Security Advisor, one of Miss Rice's first few phone calls before rushing to the underground bunker was to call the Russian president and let him know that the U.S. was gearing up defense.  President Putin's response was in support of the U.S. and this was the first time Miss Rice, a soviet expert, knew that officially the Cold War was over. This was surprising to me, because the Cold War had been declared over publicly ten years earlier.  What did she know that the public does not know about the U.S. relationship with Russia?  Or was it that the Cold War was so ingrained in her heart that she could not let it go until then?

2.  The Hope of a Civil Society - Of course, she talked about the middle east and the sort of problems they dealt with.  She described the leaders and international problems.  Until now, I never really knew what counter-insurgency was until she defined it during her talk.  She discussed that they were faced with a unique problem.  They had to provide military, security, infrastructure, welfare relief and more all to create diplomacy and stability, all to help root out those who wish to do harm to the people within those regions and the U.S. alike.  In other words, the had to be on the defense and the befriend the locals. The goal was not necessarily to bring democracy to these areas the U.S. occupied, but to bring about civil society, in which those with power and freedom did not exploit the meek.  In the end, that may have manifested as democracy.

3. A Proud Moment - One day the presidential Cabinet was having a very serious discussion of whether to allocate $15 Billion to African Aids Relief.  They debated how they could justify such an expense.  Things that were discussed were such things as the fact that the relief would go where it was most needed and not necessarily where there were stable and responsible governments and therefore it may be misused.  Also, the antivirals are not a cure for AIDS they only extend life and was the expense worth it if they were not curing disease.  At that Miss Rice stepped in and said that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer when she was fifteen.  The treatment she received extended her life another fifteen years.  Those years were important.  She was there to be a role model for her daughter and see her daughter grow into a woman and be launched into life as a professor at Stanford.  Extending the lives of mothers in Africa will be important.  They will be there for their children longer and may make good impacts on the lives of others.  Following, the tone of the conversation changed.  It was a turning point.  Another cabinet member stepped and said, "If we are able to do this and do not, history will shame us for it." (Pro-life moment :-)

4.  Defining Faith - A defining moment in faith was when she attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  The three hour high Mass had completed, the bells began to peal, the pall bearers carried the casket to the doors of St. Peter's Basilica they turned and presented the glass casket to the crowd.  At that moment the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine shone directly on Pope John Paul II as if God were ascending his soul to Heaven.  It was an awe-inspiring moment.  At that moment, she had never in her life been so sure of the resurrection and the life eternal.  Later, Laura Bush asked if she had seen it too.  She was sure the press would report the moment, but nothing was reported.  A week later the Argentine president asked her if she had seen it as well.  It was then she thought, perhaps it was a moment only for the believers.

5. What Makes Us Great - Finally, it came time for questions from the audience.  They only allowed four questions, but this is where I felt she shined.  A female college student asked what advice she had for a young college female to gain the ranks she has achieved.   Her response was an old fashioned, All-American, pull yourself up by your boot straps response.  She said, "I am afraid sometimes that America is losing what made us great.  And that is it does not matter where you started or where you came from.  It matters where you are going."  America uniquely owns that.  We build ourselves up from nothing into becoming millionaires and presidents.  We get to define ourselves.  She continued, what I am afraid of in the new America is entitlement, when you are given, or demand something you do not necessarily deserve, something you have not earned.  Therefore, my recommendation is to not give into victimhood--when someone mistreats you because you are a woman or young.  Do not limit yourself by how someone else defines you.  If you grow up a black woman in the segregated south, it might mean you need to work twice as hard to get where you want to go.  Find mentors to guide you.  Be the best.  Work as hard as you need to achieve your goal, your American dream.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Archangel Michael, Defend Us In Battle

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who wander throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

I did not believe that we would achieve this icon writing session today.  I tried and tried to draw the outline, but it seemed everything, including a very fussy baby got in the way.  I tried to remain patient through it.  I tried to lay the fussy baby down for a nap, but after being so fussy all she wanted to do was play.  She stayed awake for another hour and a half and I continued to work through the madness.  Then I tried to lay down the baby again and it did not seem she was going to sleep.  But then I thought, it seems that so much is getting in the way, evil is at hand.  So I prayed to St. Michael that he defend us against this evil so that we might complete this icon and be holy people.  And then the baby fell asleep very unexpectedly.  I returned to the other kids and they were ready to paint.  We talked about the Icon and painted.  It went smoothly and quickly and we have beautiful results to show.  If you ever entertained the thought that Archangel Michael might be a myth, stamp out such thoughts now.  The way this day started, and seeing how this day ended, it was nothing short of a miracle.  It was St. Michael's prayer and presence guiding us away from the "snares of the Devil."

This icon completes Alex's and my year of writing icons together.  I feel truly triumphant.  This is something we will have for the rest of our lives.  We have learned so much from this Windows into Heaven.  I hope to give this experience to all my children if we are able.

Archangel Michael

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Archangel Michael Alex

Kristiana got to have her own Icon.  It was a bit simpler than Alex's.  She was well pleased and did a good job.


Archangel Michael Kristiana

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Miss Independent - A Culinary Queen

I do not know what it is with my kids lately, but they have decided they rule the kitchen.  They are constantly helping themselves to food.  Much to my chagrin.  They have always been very independent children.  They are very happy to go and explore the world on their own.  This has been good and bad.  They like to meet new people and see new things--good.  They talk to strangers, tell them personal things and may even agree to go with a stranger--bad...

This morning as I went to take a shower, I asked Kristiana to go to the play kitchen and make me a lunch.  I just wanted to distract her while I hopped in the shower.  When I had just begun to shower, I heard pots and pans banging in our kitchen.  I thought, oh well, not exactly what I asked her to do, but I don't mind if she bangs a few pots and plays pretend.  Then when I was nearly finished showering she came into the bathroom and said, "Mom, I can't open the garbage for my egg."

"What, now?"  and then I saw a little hand come through the side of the shower curtain and it was filled with a cracked egg shell.  Oh my!  I was envisioning a kitchen floor covered in cracked eggs.  I rushed to put on a robe and went to assess the damage.  In the kitchen, Kristiana had pushed a chair up to the stove and had the carton of eggs on the counter.  There were about seven eggs sitting inside a pot and one egg had been cracked over them.  She also had a pink plate sitting to the side ready to place her masterpiece.  I told her that we would save the un-cracked eggs for later and I washed them off.  I told her that we could still cook her egg.  She asked for a spoon to stir her egg.  Thankfully, she could not reach the knobs for the burners.  I turned on her burner and supervised her cooking of her egg.  And then she ate it.  It was a fun to watch her cook and show her independence.  I think she is a natural in the kitchen.  Although, I think barely three years old is a little young to begin her culinary career--not sure if this expression of independence was good or bad.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes

1. I am so happy my friends are getting to enjoy time with their newly placed foster daughter.  They have been longing for this for a long time.  And they still need lots of prayers that her residence in their arms becomes more permanent.  May God's will be done.

2.  Alex made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on two consecutive evenings when he was presented a dinner he did not like.  I was a little worried that a dangerous precedence had begun.  My rule has been that if he tried dinner and felt he could not eat it, we would make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after everyone was done eating.  But, this night he wandered away from the table and exclaimed, "I am going to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."  I thought, "I have to see this."  I said, "Okay. If you make it, you can have one."  He gathered the ingredients and made a super sloppy sandwich.  It was cute and awesome.  The next night he did the same thing.  The two dinners were a bit on the grown-up side.  He has not rejected dinner and made a sandwich since.  The second night Kristiana wanted to be like Alex too and had to make her own sandwich.  But, mommy commandeered the making of that sandwich part way through.

3.  Annie loves Lady.  Annie is such a dog girl.  Every chance she gets, Annie has a petting session with Lady.  She even talks to Lady as she pets.  She smiles and says, "Yaydee! Yaydee!"  It brings us so much joy watching this exchange.  And Lady is very patient.


4.  This week, Annie is sleeping on her own.  Our solution to our cuddly bed-buddy was to put her in a full-size bed and cuddle her before she goes to sleep.  Then she sleeps through the rest of the night.  I am hoping this becomes a permanent solution.  (Grandmom and Granddad, set up the bunk beds for Christmas.  Annie needs her own bed.)

5.  Have you noticed that we have not written any Icons lately?  Ever since the last time when baby was painted instead of the Icon I have not allowed any painting.  I am afraid my fragile state could not handle it.  I have been going to the local kid store where they have free painting on Fridays, so that the kids can get out their creative painting talents in a controlled environment.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience.  The first time we went, Kristiana asked me to draw her a mermaid and she spent over an hour meticulously painting it.  So each time I go I draw her a new picture.  Alex has also been very creative and painted whatever comes to his imagination. He painted a rocket blasting off into outer space, monkeys playing in the jungle, a robot, a jungle and a rainbow (with the colors in proper order and no one helped him. :-)


6. We had fun dressing up this week.  We have two adorable princesses and one cute skeleton.  Alex thinks the human anatomy is fascinating, but he did not wear the mask because it was scary and it was not his intention to scare.



7.  Well, I am running into some not so fun pregnancy symptoms.  Firstly, I am now back into having pregnancy insomnia.  I am utterly exhausted, yet wake up to pee in the night and then cannot shut off my brain.  I should probably get up and read or write.  Secondly, I had a day this week I could feel the pregnancy hormones raging.  I was emotional, my belly hurt and I could not stop falling asleep.  But all is well that ends well--a cute new human in our arms.