Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Monday, March 3, 2014

Great Fast: Everyone Wants to Know What's For Dinner

We begin Great Lent again.   As usual I am feeling very unworthy.  There are many bad habits which need correcting.  I am looking forward to living a life with more humility.  I'm ready.  I'm ready for my purification.  

Aside from deeper spiritual wants, I have entered upon this fast with apprehension.  I have been in the habit for the past year of eating too many sweets.  I never give up all sweets for Lent, because in the past I have viewed myself as having enough moderation in this respect.  

Last Great Lent I gave up fancy coffee creamer.  I drank my coffee with only honey, and kept it up for 7 more months after Lent.  But, as my sweets intake increased so did my intake of honey.  Eventually, I began drinking creamer again.  I was worried this morning that I would not be able to get through without sweets.  But, I think the grace of God has helped me through.  I pray that He will help me to the end of Lent.  This little experience of grace has helped me to see how deeply I am dependent upon God's grace for the small things as well as the great. 

The children colored the Last Judgement Icon this morning.  I have wanted to make a big poster for the kids to paint, but I have not found the time, so I figured that we had better get on with the Lenten lessons.  

I think Kristiana really captured the spirit of the icon. 


Alex added lighting bolts of death. Eek!


Tonight we are having something interesting for dinner.  I have never made anything like it before.  It is completing my original recipe.  But, it has lots of flavor and beautiful color.  In case you want to try something new, interesting and Lenten friendly, here's my recipe (and I will also be able to remember how I made it if I post it here):


Spicey Clam Stew

2 cans (6.50 oz) of clams

1/3 cup of celery, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced 

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

2 T cilantro

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes

Open cans of clams and pour the juices into a 3 qt. pot.  Bring juices to a boil and add the raw veggies.  Let simmer until the veggies appear softened.  Add cilantro, tomatoes and clams and let simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Optional: omit jalapeño if you don't like the heat.  I did not add salt as the canned food already had enough sodium. 

The children are very picky.  Therefore they will be having slices of cheese, strawberries, carrots and likely they will drag out the goldfish crackers before dinner is over. 


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Faith Like a Child

The sweetest interaction occurred yesterday during homeschool.  Alex (7 yrs.) bumped into Kristiana's (5 yrs.) chair and she nearly fell out of the chair.  Alex quickly moved back to his seat without saying a word.  Kristiana let out a huge exasperation, "Alex! You almost made me go to Heaven!"  Alex and I immediately began giggling.  It was exceedingly cute and silly that firstly, she thought falling out of her chair would make her die and secondly, that dying would mean she would go to Heaven.

Then Kristiana became a little weepy because we had laughed at her.  It was hard to express to her that we were not laughing at her meanly, but that we thought what she said had a sweetness and an innocence about it.

I whispered into Alex's ear, "What she said was funny because she thinks she was going to die and dying means she is going to Heaven.  But, it does not work that way does it?  We don't go to Heaven just because we die." 

Then Alex responded, "Yes, Mommy. She doesn't know about Hell.  Let's not tell her about Hell and then she cannot go there because she won't know evil.  She will only know good."

Awe. Melt my heart.  It is a nice thought to think if we just don't tell her about bad things, then she will always be good.  I also was surprised that this is the thought my son had for his sister whom he sometimes wishes never existed. 

DSC00276100 8199

Mno Hya Lita!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Christ is in Our Midst" - Retreat Part 2

Continued from Retreat Part 1

Fr Daniel Forsythe, from St. Basil the Great, Byzantine Catholic Church in Irving, Texas was our first speaker of the day.  Fr. Daniel expounded upon the Schmemman reading briefly and then turned to his favorite Bible passage, The Samaritan Woman, St. Photini, (John 4:1-45).

Samaritan womanChrist and his disciples came to "Jacob's Well," outside of Samaria at noon.  The disciples traveled on farther into the city to find food.  Jesus, sat by the well and asked a woman to give him a drink.  The woman was shocked Jesus would talk to her.  Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.  Further men and women do not normally talk with each other in public.  Jesus asks for a drink of water, after some banter about the water and well Christ offers, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14).

Jesus and the Samaritan woman discuss her life and worship all alluding to the worship of the Samaritans as well as her personal life.  Finally, Christ reveals to her that He is the Messiah and she believes Him and runs to the town to tell everyone.  They believe and come to the well to meet the Messiah.  St. Photini, the Samaritan woman, is known as the Mother of the Church in Samaria.

Following the meeting with the Samaritan woman, the disciples returned and offered Christ food, but He said that He had food they did not know about.  “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor” (Jn 4:34-38).

Fr. Daniel explained, we encounter Jesus as we are, as Photini did.  She was not perfect.  She was a sinner who had had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband.  But encountering Christ is life giving.  The woman is elevated from being a lowly Samaritan and a woman of ill-repute to becoming the leader of conversion for her people in this life-giving encounter with Christ.

In summary, in the Gospels we never are given Doctrine from Jesus, which is what the Samaritan woman and disciples sought from Christ.  What we get from Jesus is Jesus.  Jesus is Truth.  Jesus is living and moving in our midst, giving us Truth throughout His ministry on Earth.

The Eucharist is not a Doctrine laid out in the Gospels.  Jesus gives Himself to us--sacrificing Himself for our sake out of Love.  The Eucharist is our gift of ourselves back to Christ.  We come to be in communion with God out of our love as He always has offered His communion with us from the beginning of time.  From the Greek word eukaristo meaning grateful, with gratitude, grace.  It is not saving in Its transformation--we are transformed in our partaking.  It is a mystery in which our communion is our saving.  We must recognize Christ in each other and come to the table together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is our communion with God as the Church, not individually.   Therefore, it is costly to turn Liturgy into a hyper-spiritual experience in which it is your expectation, need and desire that every moment be engaged in an individual, lofty, spirituality.  Communion is not an individual experience.  It is the Church coming to the table.  Christ does not cease to be present in life's experiences and distractions.  We do not need to have an ultra-awareness of Christ's presence to actually be in Christ's presence.   A toddler is tugging at your clothing, or babbling away during consecration--Christ does not cease to be present.  While lighting a candle in prayer and your mind suddenly questions whether you turned off the oven before leaving the house--this does not negate your prayer.  "Christ is in our midst!"

Liturgy is our coming together as Christ's Church.  The Holy Spirit has gathered us proving we have a relationship with Christ--whether there is heightened awareness of Christ or not.  When we eat our Eucharistic meal, when we come and have a place at the table as son's and daughter's of Christ, that is our saving.

***I am sure I have not done Fr. Daniel's talk or Fr. Schmemman's essay justice, however, I have to add my own reflection as a mother.

When Fr. Daniel spoke the words, "Christ is in our midst," a blessing I have heard many times in the Byzantine Church, I burst into tears.  I hoped that no one around me would notice.  How could I explain my sudden emotion at that moment.  I could have bawled and still I get teary-eyed when I think about it.  These words were my undoing.

As a mother of three pre-school aged children, it has been years since I have attended a Liturgy or uttered a prayer uninterrupted.  There have been so many times in which I felt hopeless, because I would go to the gathering of the Liturgy and had hardly participated at all as I spent the entire time disciplining or attending to children.  In the past, I felt strained emotionally, and in my spirit, that I could not focus on a tangible relationship with God--with Christ.  Yet, I persevered, and over time, I felt I came to a place of peace about it all--that is until this day came.

Through all the noise and busy-ness of my days with these beautiful blessings--my children, my work--Christ is in our midst.  Through all the Liturgies in which the children were the central focus as opposed to the worship--Christ is in our midst.  Through all the days in which my attention was on my duties and on doing good work--Christ is in our midst.  Through all my worst and best moments--Christ is in our midst.  How many times I had heard this phrase before, and this was the first time I knew it was not only true, but it released me from my own bondage in some strange way.  We do not need to hunger or thirst for Christ.  He is in our midst now.  This gave me comfort and peace (like a warm hug).  His grace is there.  I had been receiving it all along.  I have been in His midst--my every prayer has proved it, my every effort has proved it, and my presence at His table has proved it.  And He has blessed me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

On Being - Renee

Yesterday I wrote an email to my closest friend and after reflecting on it for a day, I decided I should share it, because it is not only a good reflection on what is going in my life now as wife and mother, but also a good reflection of who I have been in the past. It may serve as a small inspiration to others who seek change for the better.

To start, I feel busy, but at peace with it. Our family has just begun to master a new routine and we are very happy about it. I still do not have time to do everything I want to do, but I am finding time for the important things.

On Self-improvement

Some important things that I am finding more time for are praying and working out. There is somewhat of an "etymology" here. Around the time that folks at my work decided to do a Biggest Loser style weight loss competition I had already decided to just give IT over to God. I had decided that I was not strong enough on my own. And that IT is the fact that I need to slim down to at least my pre-pregnancy weight (this slimming down is not for vanity's sake, but more so I can be strong, literally, for my family and strong for the next time I am pregnant. Fitness is important when pregnant). So, part of giving IT over to God is praying more. But, I don't pray about IT, because I gave IT to God. I sit (I am just waking up, so I am not cognizant enough to do anything else) and pray for about 20 minutes, formal daily prayers from the New Testament Orthodox Study Bible.

Then I work my butt off doing "30 day Shred." That's a really hard work out. I have been doing the video for just 1 week. It has been almost 3 weeks since I started Biggest Loser and I have lost 10 lbs--ten more to go.
Prayer and working out are two things I never imagined I would have time for as a part of the morning routine. But, I guess giving it over to God made it possible. The only thing I am doing different is making my lunch the night before, which doesn't take that long--maybe 5-10 minutes. I cannot understand how trading 5-10 minutes would equal to 45 minutes in the morning. I don't understand it, but somehow it’s working.

On Family Updates

The kids are doing well. Alexander got new shoes--again. He wears them out so quickly. We just bought him new shoes two months ago. He has been talking about them all week. They glow in the dark, the first night he had to sleep with them.

He has also been getting himself up in the morning. Up to this point waking him up was something Andrew, or I did every morning. We would carry a sleepy little man down stairs, get him some milk and help him start the day. Really, it has been a chore for me, because first I have to get Andrew up, which is quite a feat. This is all under the guise of I don’t have time to get Alexander ready anymore, so Andrew must help. But, I think I spend half that time trying to get Andrew out of bed. So now that Alexander gets himself up, and comes and finds me, I say, “Alexander, go wake up Daddy to take you down stairs.” This is very effective, because who can say no to, “Daddy, Yake up! Yake up, Daddy!”

I am at a point with Kristiana in which she wants to spend all her time with me, but I have no clue how to keep her entertained. I can tell she is pretty smart and she is very sweet. She flirts with her Daddy a lot. It’s fun to watch. (On a side note, my friend suggests I sing to her. If only I knew more songs. I have found letting her play with dinner leftovers is a lot of fun for her.)

Andrew has spent a lot of his time recently researching gold and silver. He wants to buy some so our family is prepared should hyperinflation hit, which it inevitably will considering that the U.S. just spent more in 6 months than we have spent in 6 years.

We have long wanted to establish family prayer time with the kids, but it is difficult to formalize a way to do it that is meaningful to both adults and children. Much of children’s prayers and songs are far too puerile for adults. I think the best thing we have done so far is singing Byzantine hymns to Alex right before he goes to sleep. We have tried praying Orthodox prayer with the kids, but they just bounce off the walls and interupt. But, we continue to attempt snippets of prayer with them. Andrew does not like to pray the evening prayers with me because I am ready to wind down hours before he is (he’s a night owl). So it is a struggle. One day, maybe when the kids are a little bigger we will discover a way to gather meaningfully. We are going to start by learning, by heart, more Byzantine hymns. Andrew found a website that has the music (I have really poor tonal memory).
Also, I hope to add some new pictures of the little Claytons soon.

On Loneliness – Where I have Been

I do truly empathize with loneliness. There was a time in my life in which I was extremely lonely, and it was agony. I was so depressed about it. Finally, I went to confession and confessed my loneliness as an evil vice. Being lonely certainly turned my thoughts inward and away from God. When I confessed and prayed my penance, though I was still alone, I was at peace.

Lonely times are often a time of tribulation (Agony in the garden), but that time as in anytime of tribulation is a time to become more holy, a time to find peace, joy and trust in the Lord. It can also be a time to enjoy the wonderful person that you are. It is a time to find who you are or remember who you are.

I once hated being alone, especially quiet and alone, but now I know I can cherish it as much as being surrounded by family and friends. And once you are at peace with who you are alone, you will also be free to be yourself and be charitable to others.

On Blog Makeover

You may have noticed some changes. I have long been trying to makeover the blog header, because after Kristiana was born it became dated and excluded of our new family member. I did not want it to ever be exclusionary again and I want the header to be timeless. So, I am giving this another try. I hope you like it. Also, the sidebar has changed, but I regularly do maintenance there, so that will constantly be changing.

Friday, September 7, 2007

You Make Me Proud

Adam, I am proud of you.

I am proud that you were the kind of person that so many want to remember and honor your memory. I am proud that there are two races in your name. I am proud that there are so many willing to give up a little bit of their time to run a race and give back to the community.

It makes me proud that you liked to try new things. You were great at learning about people—all kinds of people. You were going to make the world a better place. At least, you thought you might try. You learned languages that others were afraid to try. You were a heart to heart kind of guy.

I am glad I got to know you. I am glad that you called me all summer long to gripe about your breakup with your girlfriend. I am happy you called me July 15th and I took the time to answer the phone. I am holding on to the last few things you told me. I loved when you tried to teach me new things. I loved telling you when you were wrong, because you were smarter than me.

I hope that you are praying for me and all these earthly souls. I need some Grace. I always need some Grace to soften my hardened heart. Sometimes, I think that we are all lost and will not be redeemed.

But, you make me proud. You make me proud, because you always acted honorably. You were not always the best at what you did, but you sought to do good. We cannot all be the kind of person that you get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to huff up a hill 5 kilometers, just so you can say, "I did it for Adam." But, you were that kind of person. You make me proud little brother.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dying You Destroyed Our Death; Rising You Restored Our Life

Adam, may His eternal light shine upon you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Seedlings of Hope

Yesterday Andrew and I enjoyed a day of family togetherness. It was a cool rainy day. We all slept in a little bit. As usual, Alexander and I got up first and did our normal diaper, nebulizer, breakfast routine. Knowing Andrew would be very sleepy I put on a pot of coffee and Alexander played a little bit. As I was waiting for the coffee to brew I looked out on the back porch. It looked and sounded very tropical rainforest with the large trees hanging over our porch and the rain coming down so heavily. I became very happy. It reminded me of Washington, or Australia. I especially liked that it was not blistering hot Texas weather. It was a good day to sit on the porch. So, I woke up Andrew and told him that there was coffee and he had to come drink it on the porch. Andrew did not hesitate. He got up and poured himself a cup of coffee and joined us on the porch. We each read our books, sipped our coffee, or played with toys, respectively. We sat for a long while enjoying the gentle, peaceful, uninterrupted sounds of rain pattering to the earth. Then Alexander became hungry and sleepy with great urgency as he let me know. So, I nursed him there on the porch and he fell asleep in my arms. After a short while the coffee had created in me my own sense of urgency. So, I went inside and put the Alexander down in his crib. He napped for two hours. This gave Andrew and I time to just sit back relax and talk. We talked about how much we liked being parents and getting to know Alexander. We have had such a life fulfilling experience with Alexander. We think he has a good personality.

Andrew and I were discussing all these facts and I suddenly exclaimed that I do not understand people who do not want a family, or are hesitant about starting a family—have standoffish opinions about having children. Recently, I had a conversation with a couple who were not sure they were ready to start a family. Not that they did not want children, they just had the attitude tht most young married couples have these days. They wanted to spend a few years married, work a little on their careers, make sure they had enough money and so on. One major thing in their minds was that they could not see themselves as parents yet. These are all very common notions amongst newly married couples today. As opposed to sixty years ago when young married couples could not wait to have children and tried very hard to do so.

Initially, Andrew and I thought it would be best to wait to have children until he was finished with his PhD. I mean graduate students are not known for having the resources to support a family. But, we also did not want to wait too long. I think that many people would say that we have started a family too soon. But, that is what people also said about us getting married right out of college—too young, too soon. But, how can they know when it is the right time for us? I cannot think of a more natural and coherent progression of our lives. Andrew and I are very fortunate to be two very practical people. We were not caught up in a purely physical relationship nor were we struck dumb by fanciful idealistic views of each other and our relationship. Therefore, it was quite natural for us to grow up, become friends, leave our families and naturally assimilate into our own family.

At some point in the first year of our marriage, as our love for one another grew, our fears of having a child before we were capable of caring for one disappeared. Of course, not knowing what to expect, there was a little trepidation. However, now that we are amidst diapers and high chairs, we can honestly say that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

In our conversation yesterday, Andrew began telling me that in having a child he realized that it is the most important thing you can do (I hope that Andrew will take a little time explaining this in the blog as he did to me yesterday). It is more important than your career or school. It is the greatest thing to be able to procreate, to love someone, to love someone who is of your flesh and of your spouses flesh—forever united, and to teach the young, to have a special bond, to change and add to the world with your offspring, and to do it now rather than later. If you wait until later, you may never get the chance. The sooner you add to your family the more time you will have to spend with them. So, again, I do not understand those who do not want children and, or want to wait to have them.

Needless to say, we had great day being a family yesterday.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

Does it get any better than this?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Birthday

Today is a particularly difficult and emotional day. It is what would have been, my brother, Adam’s 21st birthday. I would have taken him out for a Guinness. Well, he would have been away at school, so in reality, I would have called him to wish him a happy day, and then I would have called him the next day to hear all the dirty details of this significant birthday. Which, I imagine, would not have been so dirty, but more like, “We went to this pub and I met some girls, and then when I got really toasted and I sang every Irish ballad and drinking song I know. And have you heard of an Irish Car Bomb?!...One of the girls I met gave me her number. She goes to Catholic U. I think I am going to call her.” And that is what I am going tell myself he did.

I feel that I have been able to grieve properly. By that I mean I have been going through the healthy psychological process that helps one to move on. But, it has not been a year yet since the day he died and I expect there will be days like this. I do not want to even think what my parents are going through right now.

Psychological processes aside, I cannot imagine what the despair in the loss of a loved one would be like without faith. Yes, I am sure that for any normal individual one will recover from the loss whether there is belief in God, faith and hope. But, what a miserable time it would be. It was hard enough being faced by the death of my brother. It was great comfort to hear the priests say, “Life has not ended, only changed.” Knowing what a good person Adam was, I do not think that he was out of grace with God. I truly believe that God gave him a chance to prepare himself for coming into the light. I truly believe that when I say prayers that they are heard by a saint in heaven. Knowing that he is with our Creator, who created us out of His Love is a tremendous comfort. I learned that it is in our suffering that we are closest to God.

All year long I have been thinking about “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis. (The best novelists are those who can observe life and translate it into words.) He described grief so well and how one might feel toward God and faith in this situation. I do not have a copy of this book at hand, so I cannot include any specific quotes. But, he described how when his wife died, he could not remember what she looked like accurately, because he had seen her so many times from so many angles that it was now all a blur--a combination of it all dancing in his head. The best way he could remember her was in a picture--still, from one angle--and that made him angriest of all. That is not the way he wanted to remember her.

Similarly to C.S. Lewis' experience: On the way home from Adam’s funeral, on the plane, I sat clutching a little white Bible with name monogrammed in silver on the cover, and in it I had stuffed several eulogies people in my family had written, the programs from the funeral, a prayer card that had Adam’s birth-death and a quote (Wisdom 1-6 & 9), a print out of eight of Adam’s poems, and a few pictures. Andrew and I had been doing Sodoku puzzles. We had finished one and were taking a break. I set the Bible down on the tray in front of me and a few things fell out. I could hardly bear to look at them. I was so mad at the sight and I began to crumble inside. I panicked and thought, “This is all I have left of him! These little scraps of paper, this is all I have to hold on to! I have my memories, but those fade and change. These are the only material things I have!” It was quite a moment of terror in my heart, the same as the Sunday morning my mother called and said, “Adam is missing.”

“Only the good die young.” That is so true. Adam was so amazing. He accomplished so much and had some very deep thoughts to pass along to us all. He was destined to be a great poet and a great diplomat. I am so grateful he took the time to write down his thoughts. He had such a unique and beautiful way of thinking. He is greatly missed.

Happy Birthday Adam!