Sunday, December 28, 2014

22 Years

Today I celebrate 22 years of marriage to my wonderful husband!
December 28, 1992 Mount Hermon, California
 22 years of love
22 years of struggle
22 years of laughs
22 years of tears
22 years of "for worse"
22 years of "for better"
22 years of learning and growing
22 years of blessing
22 years of AMAZING!
22 years of "existing"
22 years of embracing each other
22 years of choosing Christ
22 years of right choices, wrong choices, togetherness, isolation, reconciliation, affection, prayer, miracles, seeking and finding.

Marriage is not what is portrayed in movies.  It is not Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth or Emma and Mr. Knightly.  It is not "once upon a time" or "happily every after".  Marriage is a roller coaster, a steep path, a chaotic mess of stress, emotions and experiences.  It is a "walk in the park" on a perfect day, a welcome comfort and peaceful respite. Marriage is a covenant.  It is a sacrament! 

My marriage has been full of choices.  Before we got married we decided we did not believe in divorce (a statement that had been made by my grandparents).  That word has never been part of our arsenal when things get heated.  For us that has meant that we have to figure out how to keep walking when things are hard.  I know that divorce is not always avoidable, but in our marriage, keeping that word out of our vocabulary has meant we have had to learn to humble ourselves and climb mountains even when there didn't seem to be any strength left to climb.  This has allowed us to see the Lord do mighty things and bring us to crystal streams to drink from that we didn't know existed...and we have been refreshed. 

I am so thankful my husband has loved me all these years.  I am thankful for the blessing of children along the way.  22 years ago I said "I do" with all my heart and I am SO thankful I still mean it today.
May God grant us many many years!

Bonnie Johnstone's photo.
22 Years has grown us as lovers, parents and individuals.  Thanks be to God for all things!

Traditional Prayer for a Married Couple

O Merciful God, we beseech You ever to remind us that the married state is holy, and that we must keep it so. Grant us Your grace, that we may continue in faithfulness and love. Increase in us the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, that no quarrel or strife may come between us. Grant us Your blessings, that we may stand before our fellows and in Your sight as an ideal family. And finally, by Your mercy, account us worthy of everlasting life: For You are our sanctification, and to You we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer by Archimandrite Nicodim (Mandita)
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, our Sweet Savior, who taught us to pray always for each other, so that by thus fulfilling the holy law we will be made worthy of Your mercy: look down with compassion on our married life and keep from all perilous falls, from enemies both visible and invisible, my husband/wife whom You have granted me, that we may pass our time together until the end with oneness of mind. Grant him/her health, strength, and fullness of wisdom enlightened from above, so that he/she may be able to fulfill his/her duties all the days of this life according to Your will and commandments. Protect and keep him/her from temptations, and may he/she be able to bear and conquer those temptations that come upon him/her. Strengthen him/her in right faith, strong hope, and perfect love, so that together we may do good deeds and that we may order all our life according to Your divine ordinances and commandments.

O Greatly-Merciful Lord, hear us who humbly pray to You, and send Your divine blessing in truth on our married life and on all our good deeds, for it is Yours to hear and have mercy on us, O our God, and to You we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer for a Husband
O Christ our God, thank You for my husband. Thank You for the talents and skills You have placed in Him. Help me to love him unconditionally and to be an encouragement to him. When challenges come, allow us to face them together with mutual respect. Let my help to him be as an offering to You, O Lord, and let him love me as You love Your Church. Grant us protection from any external or internal attack that would compromise the covenant we made. Help me to be quick to forgive any shortcomings, remembering that we are both in need of Your salvation. Grant us the strength to endure any trial or temptation, drawing closer together and closer to You. For You are our Light and Salvation, and to You we ascribe glory, to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Least of These

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 did it to Me.’  -Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)
This is the time of year most people are more aware of the plight of the poor and needy and more willing to offer financial or physical relief.    The Salvation Army bell can be heard ringing from the moment you open your car door at many stores.  Gift receptacles are arranged near store exits to collect toys or food to be distributed to struggling families near Christmas.  We are reminded that Christ is the center of this holiday, or if not Christ then at least "the spirit of giving". I've read the above verse many times and it is easy to look out at a homeless or struggling man, woman or family and feel compassion.  It is easy to pray for them or offer a small token of hope.  It is even easy to keep from passing judgment on them for how they ended up in their current situation.  Where I struggle is having this same way of thinking toward my own family.  I know their history.  I am aware of their struggles.  I see the face behind the social mask they hold up when they're with friends.  I am supposed to love, train, discipline.  But isn't the Lord instructing us to be a servant to all mankind for His sake?  And doesn't "all mankind" include our children?

How do we train and discipline our children while treating them as the "least of these"?  My first challenge is to apply this verse to my life, James 1:19  "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

It's so hard as a mama to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.  Often we are trying to "put out fires", behavioral and emotional "fires", in our homes.  What I'm finding is sometimes we must respond quickly but most of the time we can step back and take some time to determine the best course of action.  Sometimes it requires days of prayer and contemplation, the counsel of a trusted mentor or spiritual father or mother.  It is true that sometimes our actions must be swift.  If my children are in a physical fight I would not take the time to ponder the best way to address the situation just like I would not watch my young child walk into the path of an oncoming car.  I would snatch them out of the way and address the danger once they were no longer in harms way. I'm talking about all the other times when contemplation and prayer would allow me the time necessary to really speak to the heart need.

Last night was an example of when I DIDN'T step back or seek the Lord.  We had watched a new Christian comedy video and the boys got to stay up an hour past bedtime.  It was a time of bonding as months of stress melted away into laughter.  When the video was over I instructed my boys to head off to bed.  They didn't comply.  FIVE TIMES I told them to go to bed and they ignored me as they relived and laughed over moments from the comedy show.  They finally went down and I thought the "episode" was over, but a moment later two of my boys come running up the stairs, waking up the baby, because the younger decided to throw a pen at the face of the older.  You know that "DONE" moment?  The moment when you decide the "calm mama" thing just isn't working and you unleash the angry mama.  Well you may not do that, but I do...and did.  You see, I expected them to be thankful for the extra hour on a school night.  I wanted them to rise up and call me blessed for letting them have hot chocolate with a candy cane stir stick.  Essentially, I wanted to be recognized for my goodness (with humility of course...).  I knocked them down, verbally, as I laid the guilt on as thickly as I could.  Were they repentant?  No.  You can't force repentance, but that's exactly what I wanted.

What I SHOULD have done is wait until morning to discuss the situation with them and sought the Lord for His wisdom in the meantime.  You see, our #1 goal is to help our children seek the Lord for their lives.  They don't get there by us "guilting" them into submission.  So does this mean we don't teach and train our children?  And if we're supposed to train and discipline, how do we treat them as "one of the least of these"?

1. Change your point of view - When we have children we tend to see the only the charge to train our children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Our starting point needs to go back a little ways.  We need to see the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We need to embrace the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God.  They are icons. 

2. Remember the purpose of "training and admonition" - Discipline means, "To instruct or educate; to inform the mind; to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits; as, to discipline youth for a profession, or for future usefulness." Websters 1828 edition.  Our goal as parents is to teach our children, to inform them, to prepare them not only for a profession and future usefulness but as active, useful participants in the body of Christ and the life of the Church.  "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." If we can keep this idea at the forefront of our training regime, we can "be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath".

3. Have compassion for where they are in the working out of their salvation - I have children in my home who are adopted and are experiencing great struggles because of the lives they had before they came to us.  But my biological children have gone through very challenging times as well.  They are experiencing life for the first time.  They don't have years of life experience to help them understand what is going on.  They are washed over with hormones that can feel SO overwhelming.  They are just beginning to learn what it means to bring their passions into the submission of Christ. 

4.  Embrace the job you've been given - If you are a mother then you have been called to pour yourself into the lives of your children.  You have been called to be Christ to them and to serve the Christ IN them.

5. Be gentle with yourself - It is hard to live a life of humility and repentance WHILE being an authority in the lives of our children.  When we "fail"...and we will...we need to acknowledge our weakness, repent (before the Lord and our children if necessary) and take the hand Christ offers as He picks us up and sets us back on the path.  He doesn't want us to become depressed or discouraged with our failures but to turn our eyes from ourselves back to Him.  Oh and He has such compassion for us mamas!
Understand two thoughts, and fear them. One says, "You are a saint," the other, "You won't be saved." Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. But think this way: I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins. –St. Silouan the Athonite
Let us be the hands of Christ to those in need, whether we are related to them or not.  Let us give them drink and food in His name and let us give them the training and correction they require in His name as well.  He will give us the strength and love we need to accomplish that which He has called us to!

Dearest Lord Jesus, show me how to be a loving mother to my children. You know the desire of my heart is to mother my children in a way that will draw them to You. Forgive my shortcomings and help me not to sink into despair, but to rise up in faith with the knowledge that Your holy power is strong enough to sustain me and guide me to be the mother my children need. Help me to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to forgive my children of their faults. Grant me Your vision for my children that I may know how to train, encourage, and pray for them. For You are holy, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Calm Without a Storm...

Usually, when things are going well, we see it as the calm before the storm.  That's the way it tends to be at my house.  A sea of emotions going up and down.  Ominous clouds usually lurk in the distance, or right overhead, threatening rain.  I am generally without a boat just bobbing up and down clinging to a bit of debris from the last wreck.  Sounds bleak doesn't it?  Sometimes mamas go through seasons like this.  The season of GO GO GO GO GO...  The season of, "but mom!" or "No!" or "it wasn't me."  These season can be very stormy and unpredictable.  But have you ever noticed how beautiful things look after a storm? 

My 10 year old son goes to a "Waldorf inspired" school.  We really didn't know if he would make it.  This is the longest he's been in any kind of program.  It was beginning to look like this wonderful opportunity was going to be coming to an end.  The poor teacher had her hands full with several challenging students, but mine was almost a daily landmine waiting to go off.  She received emails from concerned parents and had to listen to students sharing their frustration, sadness or fear about what my son had done.  But last week was different.

A little over two weeks ago, my guy started a new medication.  This wasn't a big deal.  We have tried years of natural alternatives (herbs, essential oils, minerals, etc), which would work for maybe a week and then we were back to the raging sea of behavior.  Then, we started exploring the world of medication.  I cried when we made the decision, but my guy has some physiological issues that herbs, diet and exercise just weren't addressing.  The medications he started with followed the same pattern as the herbs.  They worked for a few weeks and then back to square one...or perhaps two.  Finally we found a combination that took the tiniest bit of the edge off my little landmine.  It made him sleepy in the morning, but then he was just as busy and anxious in his own skin.  But, two weeks ago we started something new AND IT'S WORKING!  He had a good week at school.  Did you hear me?!  He had a good WEEK at school.  Not just a good morning or a good day.  Not just a moment of focus.  He had a GOOD WEEK!  Perhaps it was just a fluke.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of going to the Winter Faire held and my son's school.  It was delightful and very crowded.  Normally, the crowd would start revving up my son's engine.  Normally, seeing familiar faces and being in his school for an activity would make him more determined to show off...usually by saying or doing something inappropriate.  But he didn't!  He was calm.  He was focused and a joy to be around.  He had gotten a few treats, so I was sure our calm time would be over within the hour.  It stayed!  That night was busy and I was still waiting for the storm, but it never came.  In fact, looking up at the sky I actually saw stars!  I'd almost forgotten they were there behind the clouds. 

                                       (French knitter made out of toilet paper roll and popsicle sticks)

When it was almost time for bed, my guy started working on a spool knitter he had made as a craft at the faire.  My older sons were intrigued and asked him how to make one and allowed him to instruct them!  This never happens!  It was so peaceful!  I wondered if this was how other households lived.  It doesn't really matter, I am enjoying the calm.  I am enjoying being able to see the sun rise and set over the sea.  I know there will be other storms, or that the clouds I'm so used to may return, but calm moments like these allow me to remember that God will keep me afloat,  and that's the most important thing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Through the Icon Launch

This is just a short blurb to let people know that our audio drama production, Adventure to Advent, is with the duplication company and due in December 11th.  Our digital download is available RIGHT NOW! I also have my books available and if anyone wants them personalized just let me know. 

My friends husband does the whole website/web design thing for a living.  I tried to do it all myself and boy was it hard for me.  My brain doesn't think that way.  I spent hours on the phone with tech support and working on putting together the website.  I have to give my friend's husband a cyber high five because it's hard AND he has to deal with people like me who don't know anything about computers, web my voice travels through a phone and someone can hear it on the other end :) 

Come on by, take a look and tell me what you think! 

Visit us at

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Baby #31 will be leaving in two weeks for what will most likely be her forever home.  We've cared for this baby since she was released from the hospital.  We have invested much love and time into her care.  We have had to learn all sorts of new terms and methods of caring for such a medically fragile little one.  We've had to think outside the box when choosing toys for her as texture is much more important since she is visually impaired.  When we've held a little one like this so close it can be very hard to let go.

I've had people tell me they have no idea how I do what I do.  While they can imagine caring for the "littles" they can't imagine having to let them go.  It can be painful to say goodbye.  There have certainly been the ones we were relieved to have leave our home.  We will of course pray for all of them but some just seem to make a little nest in our hearts for the duration of their stay.  Because it could be overwhelmingly painful to say goodbye to little bit babies who are taking a piece of my heart with them, I've had to come up with an explanation my mind understands and my heart believes.

I have given birth to three beautiful daughters.  If one of them was born with some life threatening illness and didn't live more than a few years, months, days or even minutes, I wouldn't trade the opportunity to be their mama for anything!  I wouldn't refuse to love the next child that came along. I'd love, possibly more fiercely, because of the loss.  It is the same with our little bit babies.  Some we have loved so much and longed for after they've gone.  Some have made us feel like our home will always be missing "a little something" because of their absence.  But each time I receive a new little one in my home the Lord miraculously allows love and compassion to flow again allowing me to welcome each child into my heart. 

We will certainly miss our little rosebud.  We are SO thankful she is going to a kind and loving family!  As we go through the transition of her leaving our home, over the next week and a half, I will grieve, I will probably weep, I will smile and, Lord willing, I will allow the Lord to prepare my heart for the next blessing He allows into our home. 

No it's not easy, pain and suffering never are.  But just because it's hard doesn't mean it's bad.

May Christ open our hearts to receive His blessings, His mercy and His healing. Glory to God for all things!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gift of "NO"

Right now, sleeping in a basement bedroom, looking all cute and innocent, lies a very intense four year old. While he is asleep he is relaxed and peaceful, but when he is awake LOOK OUT WORLD!  When awake, my four year old imagines himself king of our home and is completely taken aback when his subjects, Dad and Mom, tell him...wait for it..."no".  It isn't always a big NO!  Often there's not even an exclamation point.  Often times we are just redirecting him or even telling him, "hold on just a moment."  This is too much for his highness to handle. His eyes get big, he tenses his whole body and may even hit himself in the head and growl to show the intensity of his emotions.  It may be too much for him to handle, but thankfully it is not too much for those who are REALLY in charge of the kingdom of home to handle. 

Tim Hawkins (one of our FAVORITE comedians) does a wonderful routine on giving your kids "the gift of 'no'."  When we watch him we all laugh because good comedy is good because it takes real life moments, puts them under a microscope and then lets us view them without the tension, aggravation and frustration usually present when we encounter those situations in real life.  But "no" can be a gift.  "No" helps to establish boundaries and reminds our little princes and princesses that they are not, in fact, masters of the universe.  "No" give us an opportunity to teach our children about patience and how to handle disappointment correctly.  "No" lets our children know that while we love them without limit, that love helps them to learn to limit themselves and how to avoid major issues in the future.  But let us not forget "yes".

I am so guilty of being quick to say "no" and then I forget to say "yes".  "No" sets limits but "yes" give hope.  "Yes" is like a refreshment and a reminder that while there are boundaries, there are also opportunities.  "Yes" rewards patience and the proper handling of disappointment.  "Yes" reinforces the love we have for our children and helps to establish trust and an opportunity to develop discernment.  "Yes" lets our kids know that while they are NOT the center of the universe, they ARE valuable and important members of the "kingdom" of home, but most importantly, the kingdom of God.

May the Lord bless us as we strive to teach our children and encourage them in His ways.  And may we give our children the gift of "no" and sprinkle them with the blessings of "yes".

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I bet a lot of you have been hearing about essential oils lately. I've had the pleasure of going to a few very informative parties and trying some oils out myself.  I'm researching (recipes and safety) and testing... and learning chemistry.   I'm finding great success using oils on myself and my family for all sorts of ailments.  Even my more pessimistic children are asking to use oils when they don't feel well.  It is true that I've always liked having a little "medical" bag with my herbs and now the oils make it possible for me to have a more complete, accessible and compact kit.  I'm like a kid in a candy store!

Wednesday my middle son fell.  He had tied an old martial arts belt around the zip line in the front yard and it broke as he flew across the lawn.  My oldest son came running to alert me.  Now when I was a newer mother I would have dropped everything and rushed to the scene of the accident.  I could see him from where I was and he was not crying out, he'd just had the wind knocked out of him.  I walked over to assess the damage, still aware of how different my reactions as a 41 year old mother were from the 21 year old mother I was when I began my mama-ing. 

My poor guy.  All his parts were still in order, but he was going to be sore.  You know how we look for certain things when our children are injured or sick?  My oldest son wants to stay home sick often so when he tells me he's sick I look for certain signs that tell me he really is sick.  With him it's more than just telling me he doesn't feel good, his body language says a lot about whether it is an emotional "illness" or physical.  When injury is being considered I look for how my child moves and interacts after the injury.  In this case my son was willing to get up on his own, though he was careful not to put too much weight on his left leg.  I noted that he did not cry out when he put pressure on his leg even though it was clearly uncomfortable.  He was also willing to try and climb on his big brother's back for a piggy back ride to the car.  He thought better of it, but those actions told me we probably weren't going to be waiting around in an ER that day.

When we got home from our outing I sat my sore guy on the couch and put essential oil on his wounds.   The aroma was just as important to the "patient" as the healing properties.  The aroma let him know that help was on the way.  Now this post isn't about which brand I use and why.  This isn't about what blends or "recipes" I have for cuts, bruises and crazy little boys.  This is more about what I want my children to understand about God and His love for us as I tend their owies.  When I applied the oils I prayed for my son.  I reminded him that we thank God for His mercy and acknowledge that He is the great physician and without Him we would not have herbs or essential oils. 

I love trying to help my family.  I love being able to participate in bringing comfort and relief when there are emotional or physical injuries.  I love offering aid when my littles (and bigs) are sick.  And it is quite satisfying when a remedy works. I do admit that as soon as one of my children complains of an ailment I reach for my essential oils or herbal reference books with my hands, but I try and remember to always have a prayer in my heart.

For the record, my son is healing nicely.  He is very proud of the six inch bruise he has on his upper thigh.  He came up tonight requesting oils for his bruise because it was causing him some pain.  He liked that we prayed first, giving glory to God for all things.  Yes, a lot of times I miss the moments to point my young ones heavenward.  I'm not always calm.  I often think of what I should have done after the fact, but I hope the moments I do remember will have a great impact. 

*If you want to know more about essential oils I am certainly willing to talk about them, why I like them, which ones I use, etc. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Not Noah

Okay, I was curious.  I mean it was supposed to be a Bible movie, right?  The trailer showed Noah, his wife, his sons, a corrupt civilization and an ark.  So far so good.  Not so much.  Aside from the names being correct and the boat and a was a fictional story not even really loosely based on the Bible.  We're not talking about creative license, we're talking about a complete disregard for what many hold to be sacred.  I remember watching Prince of Egypt when it was first in theaters and while they didn't follow the story verse by verse they did keep the heart of the story.  There was no heart in the story of Noah. 

Not only that, but God was presented as an angry God who simply wanted to wipe out mankind, including Noah and his family, and return to Eden.  He just wanted His animals and the world would be at peace, all green and zen. 

BUT, all was not lost.  I watched this with my two oldest sons and listened to their comments as the movie played.  It was a blessing to hear them say things like, "wait, that wasn't in the Bible." or "I thought Noah's son's had wives with them." or "That's just not what happened."  They are learning God's Word and they are learning WHY it is so important for them to be able to discern what is truth and what is so NOT Noah! 

It was fantastic to be able to discuss the scriptures afterward and help them learn some new things about the animals (7 of each "clean" animal and 2 of every "unclean")...and the rest of the story. Following the story as far as the movie, and a little beyond, we read that the Lord made a covenant with not only Noah and his family, but with the animals as well! (did you know that about the animals?!  Look at Genesis 9:8-17!) Who needs to make up a new story?  The original is pretty amazing.

This movie made it pretty darn easy to go through and look at all the discrepancies , but what about all the things my kids see and hear that aren't as easy to discern.  They are children from this present generation.  This generation believes many things that would have been completely foreign in my generation, or my mother's.  Not to say the generations before this were right, or that this generation hasn't contributed anything positive.  What I am saying is that as time goes on the lines seem to get blurred.  There is less black and white and much more grey.  It is hard to contend with grey because it can shift and change so easily. 

In the Akathist to the Mother of God Nurturer of Children we pray:
"Raise my children to strongly oppose atheists.
Raise my children to reject the deceitful teachings of the teachers of unbelief.
Raise my children to not accept the spirit of the sons of the adversary.
Raise my children to run from the world and the delusion of the world.
Raise my children to turn away from evil and do good.
Raise my children to love their enemies and to pray for them."

We want our children to be discerning and loving and compassionate and strong.  Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Let us pray that our children will be able to weed through all that life throws at them and yet find and embrace Christ our Lord.  The Way is not so overgrown that it can not be found. God will reveal the path as each step is taken. 

Glory to God for all things!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Miracle of Saint John

Summer before last we had the opportunity to travel as a family to California for a two week vacation.  It was a blast!  We stayed with friends along the way, friends who, incidentally, had many children like we do which made the adventure seem even more lively.  It was one of those trips where we didn't plan too many things.  We had a few "must do's" but it was so refreshing not to feel like our days were dictated by a schedule. 

One of our "must do's" was to go to San Francisco to hang out with my brother, Uncle Aaron (or Uncle Fun if you're one of his nieces or nephews).  It was a blast!  We went to Fisherman's Wharf and had clam chowder in sour dough bowls.  We watched a magician on the wharf and saw the Silver Man perform, smelled the Ghirardelli chocolate, played on stairs that looked and made sounds like a piano and saw a trolley.  It was such fun! 

We were preparing to take my brother back to his place but, since it was on the way, decided to stop briefly by the Holy Virgin Cathedral - Joy of All Who Sorrow.  We had been to this Church before, when we were preparing to move to Colorado.  We had walked into what looked like heaven! 


We were prayed over by the priest near the relics of Saint John Maximovich and were presented with several vials of oil from his vigil lamp. We had the opportunity to visit the orphanage he had set up. We saw the cell he used with no bed, only a recliner, for he rarely slept and we said the Our Father.  We visited the original wooden church where Saint John's vestments are kept and the priest covered us with the vestments and prayed over us!  We were blessed to have gone.  So this time, while we weren't able to stay for a whole service, I wanted to get a few vials of oil to give godparents and our priest back in Colorado.  I went into the great Cathedral, said some prayers and received five vials of oil.  I quickly put them into my purse because my husband was circling the block in our big van and I wanted to return before the children started a rebellion.   
A day or two went by and as we were packing up to leave I realized one of the bottles of oil had completely spilled into my purse! There were receipts, money, gum and all sorts of other things in my purse.  There were also two prayer ropes I was working on.  I reached in my purse to assess the damage and determine how to properly clean everything up when I realized the oil had been fully absorbed by the prayer ropes!  There was no oil on my purse, on the papers or anything else.  How could that be?! They were saturated with this holy oil.  I wasn't the only one this happened to. Just two weeks ago I heard from a young man in Sunday school who had a similar experience.  He had a vial of oil spill in his bag and all the oil was absorbed by his prayer rope when it should have gotten all over the clothes in his sack. 
Miracles are wonderful things! They are placed there for our edification and remind us how truly awesome God is.  His ways are not our ways.  Some think these kinds of miracles make us want to recognize a particular saint or relic, but everything about a Saint, any wonderworking that comes about from their relics or through their prayers, are not so the Saint will receive praise, but these blessed events all point to the One Who is the salvation of us all. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Shirt Off His Back

For those of you who are married, do you remember the moment, that one particular moment, when you decided in your heart that this was the person you were going to marry?  For me it was watching the movie Hook with my honey and some friends at the theater.  I remember turning to look at him and thinking, right in the middle of Dustin Hoffman's meanness as Captain Hook, "this is the man I'm going to marry!" Just over one year after our first meeting we married and are preparing to celebrate 22 years together!

A number of years ago I had the honor of being involved in the wonderful courtship and wedding of two people I had known separately for years.  I had met the bride when she was six years old and I was 17 helping out at the day camp portion of the conference center I waitressed for.  This sweet curly headed little brown girl was full of spunk!  It was my job to get her over to the next activity.  She looked at me defiantly and shouted, "YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!", then proceeded to stomp on my foot.  She never stomped on my foot again, but she did gain a sweet place in my heart as I had the opportunity to watch her grow over the years.

The groom is the son of our very first priest.  The picture I keep in my mind of him is from when he was about 12 year old riding his skateboard down the street, tall and lanky.  Little did we know then that he'd fill out into a giant!  He was drafted to play for a professional football team and told his mother he thought he was about ready for a bride, but the women he was meeting were not the kind he wanted to serve the Lord with. 

The grooms mother and I had an opportunity one year to lead a workshop for homeschool family camp.  In the back of the room a lovely young woman asked some very good questions and made very thoughtful contributions to the discussion.  After class as we headed to pick up our little ones from childcare, the grooms mother sighed and said, "that girl seems like she'd be a great match for my son.  Too bad she's so young."  Thankfully I was able to shed some light on the age and character of this young woman.  The groom's mother contacted her son and told him about this young woman.  He was intrigued and asked permission to contact this charming her. 

The groom was living in another state so most of the correspondence was through letters, email or phone.  He had the opportunity to come home for Thanksgiving and enjoyed spending time with this young woman and her family.  One of the outings they arranged was to go to Downtown Santa Cruz and hand out sandwiches to the homeless.  As they were doing this, a homeless man came up to them.  They offered him a sandwich.  He told them, "I'm not hungry right now, but I am cold.  Could I have your sweatshirt?"  Without a second thought this young man took off the only sweatshirt he had brought with him and gave it to the homeless man.  The man was so surprised that he started to cry.  "I've seen a lot of people come down here handing out food and I've asked many of them to give me their jacket and you are the first one to ever actually do it." 

That was the moment.  That was the moment this future bride knew this selfless young man was going to be her husband.  She got a glimpse of his true character, one that desired the Lord, one that treated his neighbor as himself. 

Right here is usually when stories say, "And they lived happily ever after."  In marriage there is not happily ever after.  There are great times, good times and less good times.  There are some downright awful times.  There are many many opportunities to learn to die to self.  When children come along, there is the balancing act between lover, friend and mother.  Marriage can be a great challenge, but that doesn't mean we are failing or that it's all hopeless.  It is part of growing up and learning to trust Christ in every aspect of our lives.  This young couple is a beautiful example of Christ and the Church.  They love and live and keep striving for Christ.  Let us also embrace the struggle along with the blessing and trust our marriages to Christ. 

Icon of Ss. Joachim and Anna, Parents of Mary mother of Jesus

Traditional prayer for a married couple
O Merciful God, we beseech Thee ever to remind us that the married state is holy, and that we must keep it so; Grant us Thy grace, that we may continue in faithfulness and love; Increase in us the spirit of mutual understanding and trust, that no quarrel or strife may come between us; Grant us Thy blessings, that we may stand before our fellows and in Thy sight as an ideal family; And finally, by Thy mercy, account us worthy of everlasting life: For Thou art our sanctification, and to Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer by Archimandrite Nicodim (Mandita)

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, our Sweet Savior, Who taught us to pray always for each other, so that by thus fulfilling the holy law we will be made worthy of Thy mercy: look down with compassion on our married life and keep from all perilous falls, from enemies both visible and invisible, my husband/wife whom Thou hast granted me, that we may pass our time together until the end with oneness of mind. Grant him/her health, strength, and fullness of wisdom enlightened from above, so that he/she may be able to fulfill his/her duties all the days of this life according to Thy will and commandments. Protect and keep him/her from temptations, and may he/she be able to bear and conquer those temptations that come upon him/her. Strengthen him/her in right faith, strong hope, and perfect love, so that together we may do good deeds and that we may order all our life according to Thy divine ordinances and commandments.

O Greatly-Merciful Lord, hear us who humbly pray to Thee, and send Thy divine blessing in truth on our married life and on all our good deeds, for it is Thine to hear and have mercy on us, O our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Blessed Memories...The Final Entry

Dear Terry,

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
~ Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis

Do you find yourself in this space? C.S. Lewis was contemplating this idea when he was an able bodied man. But what of the man (or woman) for whom the veil is thinning and a breath separates one life from the next. And if we are in fact made for another world I wonder what that homecoming will be like? Perhaps it is like a bird living its whole life under water using some sort of breathing apparatus. If the bird was young enough it would know no difference. But what a glorious moment if it were to break the surface, dry its wings and find it could fly?! It could fill its lungs with pure air! All the things it saw as it came near the surface would be clear and crisp, not a blur of colors, but each one distinct. What would it experience when it, for the first time, ate the food it was intended to eat?

You will be seeing things clearly for the very first time! Even those glimpses of His glory you've gotten throughout your life will seem as shadows when you are finally on His side. You will truly be able to taste and see that the Lord is good in a way we can't even comprehend! And you, my dear friend, will fly.

I love you!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blessed Memories 4

Dear Terry,

We prayed for you today, not just once, all day really, but Schey and I did special prayers on your behalf. I called too just because I desperately wanted to hear your voice once more. It actually makes me smile thinking about it. It's funny. It's not a "soft gentle" kind of voice it's a very no nonsense kind with the soft and gentle implied :) And the laugh, very contageous and real.

I called today but the morphine was winning at the time. I wasn't able to call back because it was Micah's 8th birthday and he was having an extra hard time due to the very early rising of our other brown boy (2:45 am!) But I thought of you and prayed for you throughout the day, thinking of what your body and mind must be going through right now as you "prepare your garments". There were moments I had to fight back the tears and other moments I just smiled a stupid smile as I recalled moments with you.

That just reminded me of the story of Jordan, I think it was Jordan, who would jump into the deep end at the pool before he could swim and you would fish him out and paddle his bottom. But he kept jumping in, not minding the discipline he would receive as a result of his actions. That is one place you certainly can NOT allow for natural consequences :) Finally you asked him why he kept jumping in and he replied "because I know you'll jump in and get me".

Right now the water must feel like it is closing in around you as you have jumped (or rather been pushed) into these deep waters. But not only is the Lord jumping in to save you, He is in the process of teaching you to breathe under water! He will hold your hand as you learn to breathe in His country. His perfect country.

John 14: 1-4 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

I hope we can speak one more time. But even if we can't speak this side of heaven, I will for my whole life, praise my God every time I think of you. And please, once you are with the Church Triumphant remember and pray for this struggling Church Militant.

I love you SO much my dear friend!!! May the Lord's peace rest upon you!!!