Sunday, December 28, 2008

Home

Brief blog hello!

I got in late last night. Am going to the monastery soon. Birthday tomorrow!

I was at my church in Michigan today for Sunday morning Liturgy. High winds last night created a lot of power outages and many churches were cancelled. Not the Orthodox Church though!

So I stood in my church for Matins without any power - my Godmother praying for the lights and heat to return.

Right when our priest was singing, at the beginning of Liturgy, Glory to Thee Who has Shown us the Light the lights went on.

The lights and heat stayed on until about 10 minutes after the Liturgy was done.

Glory to God!

Monday, December 22, 2008

May Christmas come to us


The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.



May we cry out to the Lord in the barren cave of our heart:


Come, O Immanuel! Save us, O Good One!
We have no one but You;
Come, be born in us,
Come, O Christmas!
Root of Jesse,
Come, break
the stony ground of our hearts,
Take root in us!
Come with Your Holy Mother
Bring us to Your cradle;
Come, so we can worship You,
Born of Your Virgin Mother Mary,
Come

Returning in the New Year

While I am away I will, Lord Willing...

*Celebrate Christ's Nativity
*Celebrate my Oma's 100th birthday
*Celebrate my sister's belated birthday
*Celebrate my birthday
*Celebrate New Years
*Stay at the monastery
*See my Godmother
*See family

For most of this time, I will not be near Internet.

I pray that everyone has a good Christmas, a Blessed New Year and all of God's goodness.


Thank you for all of my new and old blog friends for your care and love for me!


Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

(A Brief Synopsis) What I have been given in the Church*:





The Protection and Shelter of the Saints. I was at a friend’s birthday party a while back and asked to see this friend’s icons. His icon of the Theotokos looked out so tenderly. The Mother of God is a deep Mother and I felt reassured of the protection for this friend.


The Mother of God, Virgin of Vladimir Icon












While at St. Herman’s in Langley, when I looked at the iconostasis, St. Herman always looked worried for me, like a Father worried for over his child. I know St. Herman loves me and many others and is a Father and Grandfather figure to them.

St. Herman - I got this Icon last year at the Monastery.

St. Nicholas prays for me. When I desperately needed money in school I received news of a bursary on St. Nicholas day. I was chrismated in his church; I have been moved to tears praying for beloved ones in my life who are in distress and cried out to St. Nicholas to save them.

Spiritual Fathers and Mothers. My spiritual father is the spiritual father to the child within me. I am reminded of Kathleen Norris’s book title, little girls in church when I think of how I have experienced church, especially at the evening services when there are fewer people. Monasteries are very important and have kept the spiritual life of the Church alive for centuries.

Beauty. Most of the Protestant churches I went to were so barren of any beauty. The Orthodox church has beauty in the liturgy, in the Icons, in the prayers. Poetry, song, ritual – spanning centuries and many cultures.

Truth. The Orthodox Church has not deviated from the worship of the Holy Trinity. We worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and offer the liturgy to God in the Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity, Rublev Icon

Today pluralism, pantheism, “tolerance”, inclusively, Eastern Meditation, are what is cool, hip and very trendy. Not all trends are bad, and there are reasons for what is culturally important. There are things that people feel they are lacking and need. However, if the true needs of a person’s heart are not met by Christ in the Holy Trinity, then they are not fully met.

Love. I do not find the promotion of “tolerance” loving. Saying, we will tolerate you is not loving. I believe that God is love. Love has boundaries; love is a Father not letting a child be burned by fire, love is a Mother not allowing a preteen daughter to harm herself by inappropriate behaviour or relationships. Love does not tolerate all things; it bears all things and hopes all things. Bearing and tolerating are different.

I have been blessed with a spiritual Father who gives me clear boundaries and does not give his blessing for me to destroy myself by sin. He loves me, is patient with me, understands me very well, but he loves me too much to let me “get away with things”. That said, my experience of the Church is not controlling but always given the freedom and option of obedience and repentance. What I do with the need for repentance is up to me.

The sacraments. Including baptism and chrismation, the Eucharist, confession – they save, heal and give hope. Not full or immediate healing necessarily but they can transform and save.

In the church I am able to grieve and pray for the dead. I can ask Saints in the Holy Spirit to give my love to those I miss who have died. When I was a protestant I felt the connection was severed instead of the living and the departed both worshiping in church; in the liturgy we join heaven’s worship.

In the Church I found the merging of one’s body and one’s soul. The dualism that exists in many protestant churches is not in the Orthodox Church. We kiss icons, priest’s hands, drink Holy Water, kneel, prostrate, stand; the body is part of worship here.

Christ has become visible, has become man. Christ is the first icon. Orthodoxy has a holistic understanding of the person that predates our current medical preference towards holistic treatment. Our soul is in our body; a human is not a body and soul as completely separate entities, as if they are oil and water held in by our skin. The final resurrection includes our bodies. Christ is shown in the Gospel in His glorified human body; nail prints and wounds visible.

Reverence towards the body is shown also at death – the body of our loved ones can stay in church – when we have the Panihida (requiem) we reverence the one we love who has died. We give a final kiss to them. We kiss the Cross and Gospel book near by to them.

The understanding and reverence of the body is based Orthodoxy’s understanding of Christ incarnate. My spiritual father has taught us that Christ is what a human was created to be. To excuse someone’s failures by saying “she or he is only human” is a misunderstanding of what a human is to be.

Fatherhood and Motherhood. Christ has given His Mother to us. St. George is a beloved hero and protector. I am a woman. I am more than happy to be protected. This does not devalue me or imply weakness; it does mean I can breathe easier. Men can learn to be men by praying (i.e. asking for prayers) of saints like St. George. And I do not mean they can learn to be rude or overbearing but true men. And I am free to be a woman and be strong in this. St. Mary Magdalene is called Equal-to-the-Apostles for centuries! The Theotokos more honoured than the cherubim, for She bore the Saviour of the World. The understanding of what it means to be human, and what it is to be a woman or a man can be restored by the Church and was never lost in the church. Here I do not mean to gloss over problems, questions current or historically based. I studied feminism and literary criticism for some years. What I have been given in the Church answers these questions centuries before postmodernism and still applies. The Desert Father’s understanding of human struggle and weakness is often more astute in their observations of the human soul.

St. George - I got this icon from my church last year. All during Lent my spiritual father patiently let me have St. George be in the Altar area in a window. I was so comforted to know St. George was in the Altar praying and fighting for me and everyone else from my Church.

Repentance, Humility and Communion with God. This is the hardest to write on, as I am young in the faith! The sacrament of Confession and the life of an Orthodox Christian is based in repentance in order to purify one’s self of the passions (sinful desires, thoughts, and so on). The spiritual life is a life of humility and repentance; not being inwardly hostile towards anyone, not judging. A life of constant prayer and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit are the goals of every Orthodox Christian.

Spiritual growth is evidenced by our increasing understanding of our need for the ever-present mercy of God and the awareness of our own unworthiness and sinfulness. Somehow the concept of sinfulness, in the West, has been linked to the body, as if the body contains the sin. This is a misunderstanding that can be corrected by time and prayer within the Church. I am not wise enough to explain the difference**, only that I sense it. Something to ask my spiritual father about!

Asking one’s spiritual father is part of learning humility. We have the Church and the tradition of the Church to teach us. We do not base our understanding of God or how to live a Christian life based only on our own thoughts, understanding or interpretation of the Scriptures, the world and our personal life. We do not trust ourselves, this side of the grave. This does not mean living in a state of anxiety or intense insecurity. It does have to do with humility before God, knowing how easily we are distracted and lead astray. Fr. Thomas Hopko writes, in his 55 maxims, that we are to expect to be tempted until our last breath.

As I said at the beginning of this section, I am spiritually young. I have not even begun to learn these things! All I have to do is read the section in Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit to realize not only the depth of a Christian who is acquiring the Holy Spirit but how much I need to grow. I am at most a small sapling in need of further water and food from our Holy Church, with a lot of tilling of the stony ground of my heart! As I this to be the truth, I will not write on communion with God other than to say it is the goal of an Orthodox Christian and the Saints show how it can bring life and spiritual consolation beyond anything outside of Christ and His Church.


HOLY WEEK. Living through Christ’s death and resurrection. Being challenged to live everyday in the light of Pasca, of Christ’s resurrection. This is where all ends and begins. As Father Thomas Hopko has talked about – it is all about Mary’s Womb and Christ’s Tomb.

An Icon of the Resurrection of Christ.

The Church gives depth, prayer, beauty, hope; in other words, the Church has brought Christ to me. Christ: the source of all depth, of all beauty, the hope of all prayers, who wept for the death of Lazarus and, soon after, trampled down death by death.

*I have edited and added to this post. A lot of the additions are what I have been taught; here my experience is more in what I have been taught as opposed to what spiritual heights I have attained! I am still young and young in the faith. It is entirely possible that I have misunderstood something, though I have done my best to keep to the teaching as I have received it. Understand this to be a “disclaimer” to this post. The best way to understand what can be given/found in the Orthodox Church is to be in Church (and or monastery) and to search for a good spiritual father or mother.

** This part I am less sure about - or at least how to best explain it - will have to do more research and asking and report back!

Needing Christmas

Well. I can't seem to write the post I want to write. I posted one and took it down later.

This is okay. It will be re-written when it needs to be.

I am down to the last days before I leave for Christmas.

To be honest I am struggling with a lot of heaviness this season. Actually Christmas has been hard for a while.

It is hard to come to terms with my life - I never dreamed I would be living in a city as a single woman with a professional career. Though a lot of those in the blog world struggle with finances while raising children, I still wish I could trade places. Of course it is hard, of course. Life is hard, from what I can tell. But it is hard to be alone too. There is no one to wake up to here, no one to take care of (except my Cleo Cat who we all know I adore), no one to talk to. This can be hard.

But I know, such as it is, that God has given me a lot of what I dreamed for. I have a spiritual father, a job, a good apartment, a lovely cat, pretty things. Not to mention His mercy. The Saints. The Church. I have good friends, who are my spiritual family.

But it is a struggle! A struggle to be a Christian. A struggle to be thankful and not afraid.

One of my biggest fears is that I would gain the good job, apartment, things and feel my life empty. Money does not buy happiness, total security or inward peace or fulfillment.

Of course one would want enough to provide for housing, food, clothes, heat, hot water. One of my family members buys groceries with food stamps. I know money is needed to live here.

But we need family too, community; sometimes it seems that we all get so overwhelmed and busy that it is hard to be there for another. I have been there too many times - feeling so exhausted that I can give very little.

It is hard.

But Fr. Thomas Hopko quotes Fr. Schemman who told us that Christmas comes to us as a gift, we do not come to Christmas.

Lord Jesus, come. We are waiting for You and need You. Come to us on Christmas Day but come also to us now, come. And when You come, may we open our hearts and let You in the barren cave of our soul. Come and bring Christmas to our hearts so that we can go with You to Your Passion, Your Crucifixion and Your Pasca. Come.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Librarians, we share things

Well. Hello again blog world, it feels like a long time, the day or so away.

Library land is going a bit better for me - someone at work has been lending a huge helping hand for one part of the work. The rest - well - it is not yet done. But I sure answered a LOT of reference questions!

So in library fashion, it is time to share from my blog reading.

I comment on an increasing amount of blogs, but I still read more than I comment on.

One of these, that I appreciate a lot, is by a man named John, who is aware of the world, various cultures, has traveled, and whose outlook on life I respect. Just wanted to mention his latest post, which reviews an article and outlines some of the challenges of a world that continues to misunderstand Christianity. It is well worth reading. His blog makes me think of friends whom one is better by having.

I also read this very lovely titled blog - Lost in-Elegant Cogitations where Phillipa gave a wonderful quotation (that I repeat below); see this post for an interview with Archbishop John of Belgorod. One of the many things I love about the Orthodox Church is the difference you find in perspective:

"It’s hard not to grumble when we deal with illness or sorrow. But here one can remember what an old woman crying by the church said. When the priest asked her what she was crying about, she answered, “I think God has forgotten about me: this year I have never been taken ill and there has been no sorrow in my life.” "

This reminds me of a quick blurb I heard on Ancient Faith Radio when Fr. Thomas Hopko challenged us to be thankful for the sorrow in our lives.

When ever I think of monasteries and Orthodox Fathers, including Fr. Thomas Hopko, I am very reassured. There are people, by the mercy and grace of God, who can teach us, who we can trust.

I find this shocking when I think of it (I am too often too busy, tired or distracted to remember, to my shame) that I have met, seen and heard spiritual fathers and mothers who are trustworthy and who show deeper Christianity than I once knew*. The small amount of faith I do have, I know is because of ones like these. And they are worth trusting because they know humility is of Christ.

*(I will have to do a post someday on the struggle to explain why I feel I have been given more in the Church than when I was a Christian but not in the Orthodox Church. Between the huge relativism found in parts of post-modernism and my dearly beloved Protestant Christian friends who, for the most part, would say what I have found was where I used to be, I find it a challenge to articulate where I now see myself; not to even begin to explain the Orthodox Church.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rublev's Trinity


In Church I have learned of the horrors that Rublev (the Icon painter) lived through.
A world invaded, villages destroyed, immense cruelty.
In my reading, I have come across someone saying that this Icon is the one of the best arguments for revealing God's existence.
What inner spiritual riches Rublev shows
in the midst of what appeared to be a living hell
as it is often phrased today.
It is this understanding of the Trinity
of Christ being in our midst
that is needed.
Christ with us.
When I was overcome with sickness in the middle of the night
while talking to a dear brother
that I became aware of what it can be like
God suffering alongside.
God in the Trinity is with us.

What Gets Us Through

One of my former classmates blogged about how he struggled to continue to be a Christian (I am waiting to read part 2 of his two part series).

Personally I think we all come to parts of our lives that are very difficult - what could be called a hell on earth. Death, illness, loss, relational stress, relational breakdown, family crisis - they can all trigger other internal crisis within ourselves, including a crisis of faith.

I have been in this place; since around my 10th year of life, I knew what it was to lose someone I loved. I have seen families shattered when the mother unexpectedly died. I have seen the small children crying, in shock; I have seen them still struggling, years later. These are no small things.

The question then is what gets us past or through these times; if we do, indeed, get through them. I am reminded of something Fr. Thomas Hopko said - a lot of what happens to a person, and that person's reactions (esp. about faith) come from who they have met.

My spiritual family (various brothers and sisters), my spiritual Father, my spiritual mother - they are part of this.

For me it is also a glimpse of God's love - an accepting warm love - when I was a teenager that kept me from giving up. When I struggled to believe, I would think of this experience and know that there was something more out there, even when it seemed totally alien to me.

Also now it is the Church and the Saints and the Icons. The monasteries. The Church and the Saints are part of this love. Humility, I have been told, is the other side of love; one coin two sides.

These things, they keep me.

The Psalms, they uphold me; Kathleen Norris writes of the Psalter as sustaining prayers, keeping her while her husband battled cancer.

Above all is God's mercy.

Psalm 23 - Thy mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life.
One of the translations I read replaces follow with pursue.

I know too well how I fail in areas of my life daily. I worry, fail, try to trust, and then find myself worrying some more (for example).

Yet I am promised that His mercy is new every morning. In the end somehow God pursues and keeps me. May we live under God's mercy forever and strive towards it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Working Women

I am aware that my life, in a lot of respects, is not only very good but so far is manageable. Ignoring the insomnia, and other such things, really I cannot complain.

Work has been challenging as of late - I have too much on my plate and am not keeping up with some important things because of more pressing urgent things. I need help and prayer for this.

That said, there are much harder things. I think of the single parents who are working and taking care of kids.

Life is a challenge at times.

What do you do when things seem unmanageable?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Relief

I received confirmation that over the Christmas holidays I can return for a brief visit to the monastery. My second communion as an Orthodox Christian was there. I have stayed twice before.

I can't tell you how relieved I am that I will, Lord willing, be returning there for a short while.

I often get stuck in my own little world with its worries, joys, confusions and chaos. I hope to get beyond this and be able to rest and receive advice for those things I need to ask.

It is times like these that I feel most hopeful.

May the Lord continue to show His mercy to us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

For Fun

I just love these pictures of Cleo. I find them cute and they make me laugh. She loves windows and hearing the cars down on the street below.

Yay for cute cats and pets who make us laugh! Thank God for such blessings!!






Small Things

On the list to do:

1. Clean house
2. Put up Icons

Already done:

1. I finally registered my phone number with the National Do Not Call List. Canada, unfortunately, is often behind the US in phone matters. This list just started this past September. Soon I will not come home to phone ID showing 8 or more callers a day from various 1-800-numbers. This is good.

2. Phone errands

Thoughts of the day:

What it means to be okay with one's personality and preferences. I can be an introvert, in other words.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Still Alive (in case anyone was wondering!)

I survived the Christmas party. The food was good. They had mashed potatoes. This made me happy.

The lighting was ambient and nice. For a while they played music much too loud. Everyone seemed happy, talking with one another. I left around eight-thirty.

I am tired. By the taxi ride home (buses are on strike right now, very UNCOOL, boo hiss; and it is cold out) my earrings felt heavy.

A nice woman who is quite new was my friend. I was quiet for a lot of it. The standing for an hour talking holding a glass (I had cranberry juice as I said I would) was long. I started to struggle but then I started praying and I knew that others were praying too. I felt at peace and happy to look at everyone and smile and pray as best I could.

I am really drained now and am glad to be home. I am glad also that I do not have to do that all the time. The dinner was fine though and I felt more relaxed. It was just the standing for that long at the beginning was hard.

I am glad it was a calm dinner party.

I was really happy to wear my new outfit and jewelry; I even did my hair, which is not saying much though. My hair curls naturally after being washed so I put hair stuff in and scrunched. That is all I am willing to do to it!!! But yes, it is FUN to be a girl and dress up....

Thank you everyone for your encouragement, advice and prayers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

tomorrow night

is the aforemetioned Christmas Party.

May God be glorified.

I admit to looking forward to wearing my new pretty outfit ... I am hopeful.

May God be with us all and help us in whatever is needed for us.

Monday, December 08, 2008

New things to learn and to own

Now that I work in Corporate Canada, running a small special library, I am involved also in Corporate Life.

I grew up in a small town, most of the people I knew were more blue collar Christians who faithfully lived and worked and sent their children to Christian schools. Very thoughtful, deliberate, God-loving people.

People that I hope Wendell Berry would like, especially the ones that had farms. These were not the doctors, lawyers, business or civil servants. And so, I did not experience five-course meals, table settings with more than one knife, fork and spoon, until I was in my early twenties. And in time, I became a librarian.

Libraries, even public libraries, can be a bit more business like. But not like where I am now. And so, I am going to my first Corporate Christmas Party. Cocktails and hors d'Ĺ“uvre, with mingling and later a meal. Thankfully (I asked the right people) there has never been crazy alcohol induced things. I am not comfortable drinking socially myself, so I will get some nice red Cranberry juice or something.

And today I bought a pretty red sweater with a nice black/grey/silver strands suit jacket and pants. I also got some nice silver with crystal (or what looks like silver and crystal) flower necklace and earrings. I have been wearing the same silver earrings for 4 years strait and very very rarely buy jewelry at all as I always wear my silver Cross and silver earrings. I do not remember buying a dressy necklace since high school in the early 90's. Anyway. I feel a bit more prepared now and now have to continue to pray for wisdom, courage and Christ's love for the social mingling part.

I usually would rather quote Jane Kenyon's poem on staying home instead of going out than go to big events! (Unless they are with my church, this seems different, as it is family).

So the little country girl has to grow up to be a city girl with a professional career, Cute Cat and a nice one bedroom apartment.

Please pray for me - this is all new to me and I have felt nervous about it.

Also, if you have any suggestions for how to make small talk, please share with me! I had a really good conversation yesterday after church and was reminded of the introvert's golden key - ask the other person about themselves. Any other tips, I would love to hear.

For me, I really feel that this is part of my growing up and is linked to my inner healing (another story that this post is indirectly about). What are things that you see as things that helped you mature and grow?

Trusting God

My sister took this picture and posted it on facebook. I had forgotten that snowflakes are so intricate and how each one has exquisite individual detail. When talking to her on the phone, we both found that we had thought - how can anyone not believe in God as Creator after seeing snowflakes!?

Notice that one of these looks like a flower!

We all have painful events and situations in our lives. We all have struggles, fears and hangups. I know I do - things that seem impossible to change, get over or do. We can feel so overwhelmed that any possible action or way to move forward seems either non-existent or fruitless; we fall into despair.

It is then that I need to remember the God who loves us. The God who makes snowflakes. The God who gave us the Church. The God that Fr. Thomas Hopko talks about, teaching us that life is good and worth living (in his "Commencement" podcast).

It is this God that I must turn to now, when I wake in the middle of the night, sleepless again.

If God cares enough to be able to make snowflakes so beautiful, He can care about us and be taking care of us, right now, no matter where we find ourselves.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pictures So Far

Everyone who has read my blog for a while, knows that I love my Cat Cleo. She is my faithful, cute, comforting little companion and adds a lot of cheer and delight to my life.

My apartment, thanks to a very generous and helpful friend, is now 80% box free! However, until I get my IKEA furniture (much will have to wait until the new year as it can only be ordered and I am leaving for Christmas in 2 weeks so it may not get here in time), my apartment will not be fully picture blog worthy. I would rather show it off when it is done, etc.

But to show a little of my best apartment ever... here are pictures of Cleo in my new place:

The love of windows and birds! I decided early on that I would not worry about Cleo being on my desk. She loves windows...

I am pleased with the light blue paint. I am still adjusting to having a different place though. Apparently it takes time!


This is in the living room by the sliding door. I love the gold chair - it was my Dad's chair when I was a child and we placed "spaceship" with the navy buttons during the day when he was at work. Cleo also loves this chair. She is often near by when I blog! You can also see a bit of the green paint that I chose.
It is going to take a while for my new place to be fully set up, but at least I have a good start.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Today in the Blog World - two comforting and instructive posts

I read this post by a priest in the Carpatho-Russian diocese - the sections on the Theotokos and prayers really struck me. Including the prayers in the Midnight Office.

This line in particular caught me:

As you are more honorable than the Angels, raise me above this world's confusion

And Fr. Tobias also quoted from our prayer book - Come to Me. This is a lovely prayer book that I find very simple and very good. As I come from a Protestant background where prayer was mainly spontaneous, this prayer book helped me gain a good beginning to praying the prayers of the Church.

The quote is from morning prayers:

O Birth-giver of God, my most holy Lady! Unworthy as I am, I beg you: by your holy and powerful prayers, empty my heart of all despair, of all laziness and slowness in understanding spiritual things, of all forgetfulness, of all sinful and crafty thoughts. By the strength of your prayers, cleanse my clouded mind and bruised heart. Free me from the memories of sins long gone by. Rescue me from every inclination to do wrong. In your goodness help me, for I am poor and lost. For you are praised by all generations, and your glorious name is honored forever.

I have been learning how hard it is to pray, especially to pray with attentiveness. However, I have hope because of the powerful prayers of the Theotokos.

I also appreciated this post by Fr. Stephen, whose blog, Glory to God for All Things, I have recommended to many without reservation. Fr. Stephen's post touches on prayer being possible even in our distracted lives; Orthodoxy shows that we can pray when in personal hells and when coming to ourselves, realizing our brokenness.

Both these blog posts give hope when in despair and show Christ coming to rescue us even in Hades. Thank God. And Thank God for Christ’s Holy Mother who prays for us.

Most Holy Theotokos save us!

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Apartment Adventures

Unfortunately I was woken up at 2 AM to someone trying to get into my apartment. Even though I knew they were probably confused and on the wrong floor, and possibly drunk, I still found it scary to wake up to someone knocking and trying to open the door with a key. I lit a candle by my Theotokos Icon and tried to calm down again. It took a while, I admit. I told the Super in the morning on my way to work and hope it never happens again. I will be inquiring about it again tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am thinking of putting an Icon on my front door...

I still love my apartment though. I have been here almost a week already! Some people have lived in this building for many years and are older. This makes my heart sing - they are probably responsible, unlike the confused one waking me at 2 AM...

Work went well this week, thanks to many people’s prayers and God's mercy. I feel like I am slowly catching on now to what I am supposed to be doing (most of this was all new to me) and I got to do some really involved and interesting reference questions. Some days being a librarian is fun. :)

I must admit that my life is not what I thought it would be, but I feel really thankful that I have a job and now a nice place to live. It is getting colder and I love winter! I also love that I can walk to work and to Church and to most things...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reading Therapy

So... to relax in the quiet of the evening, flat out IGNORING the rest of my boxes in my living room...

I am re-reading Agatha Christie's 4.5o From Paddington. I love Miss Jane Marple.

Just thought I'd mention my love of mystery books. I have a lovely narrow bookshelf half full of mysteries. I find them relaxing, calming and give a sense of stability; I like the predictability, humour and the othernes about them.

Would love to hear what you read to relax, for comfort or for a challenge...

A diagnostic fun quiz

Mimi had a fun post, so I decided to play along... except I did not save the picture...

I would say this captures a lot of me, however not everything. I can be a leader as well... Anyway, here it is:

You are an Ingrid -- "I am unique"

Ingrids have sensitive feelings and are warm and perceptive.

How to Get Along with Me
* Give me plenty of compliments. They mean a lot to me.
* Be a supportive friend or partner. Help me to learn to love and value myself.
* Respect me for my special gifts of intuition and vision.
* Though I don't always want to be cheered up when I'm feeling melancholy, I sometimes like to have someone lighten me up a little.
* Don't tell me I'm too sensitive or that I'm overreacting!

What I Like About Being an Ingrid
* my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feeling at a deep level
* my ability to establish warm connections with people
* admiring what is noble, truthful, and beautiful in life
* my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor
* being unique and being seen as unique by others
* having aesthetic sensibilities
* being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me

What's Hard About Being an Ingrid
* experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair
* feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don't deserve to be loved
* feeling guilty when I disappoint people
* feeling hurt or attacked when someone misunderstands me
* expecting too much from myself and life
* fearing being abandoned
* obsessing over resentments
* longing for what I don't have

Ingrids as Children Often
* have active imaginations: play creatively alone or organize playmates in original games
* are very sensitive
* feel that they don't fit in
* believe they are missing something that other people have
* attach themselves to idealized teachers, heroes, artists, etc.
* become antiauthoritarian or rebellious when criticized or not understood
* feel lonely or abandoned (perhaps as a result of a death or their parents' divorce)

Ingrids as Parents
* help their children become who they really are
* support their children's creativity and originality
* are good at helping their children get in touch with their feelings
* are sometimes overly critical or overly protective
* are usually very good with children if not too self-absorbed


and here is where it is from

If you decide to play along, tell me who you were placed as!

Monday, December 01, 2008

This Day Is Good

I had taken a weeks vacation time for my apartment move. Today I did not leave my apartment building. I did laundry and it felt like a deep luxury. Fr. James from the Cathedral in Ottawa laughed at me months ago when I told him that the laundry room is run by a debit card system - no change needed. "You're moving up in the world" he said.

Yep. This apartment feels so wonderful. Clean newly lacquered Parkay floors, green and blue walls. A kitchen with many cupboards. To live in a clean building, where glass doors are not smashed, there are no holes in the basement ceiling, the buzzer works, there is an elevator (great for laundry) and near instant hot water from the taps. I am richly blessed and I know it.

I am holding off on pictures until I get more things in order. I have been working on getting my books out of boxes. I feel really hopeful. These last few years have often been so exhausting that I was often overwhelmed. Tomorrow I return to work... at least I will be coming home to a better place. God help me - I want to rebuild my life...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Icon Corners - my old and new apartments


My longtime (almost 11 years!) friend Tamie asked for pictures of my new place. I will try to do so sometime this week. First though I feel like I need to finish staying goodbye to my old apartment.
The picture above is from my Icon corner in my now former smaller cute apartment. I knew I would miss my former Icon corner and I do. It was this cute little room and I would light it with candles year round in the morning; it gave me a lot of hope, light and comfort during many hard and difficult times.
My new Icon corner is being assembled; the same shelf with the same Icons is up - a good friend of mine put it up for me the same afternoon that I moved. But it is different!
I picked the wall colour itself - a light blue - it almost seems too flat or dry looking. Perhaps I would of liked a glossier sheen, even though that is not what is typically done. And it looks so bare and empty still. And way to clean looking - by which I mean I do not yet have my prayers, lists and quotes up.
However, at least I have a start. And my Icon of my Patron Saint, Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou, is now up as well. Patron Saints are really important - they pray for us and can be Mothers and Fathers to us. Of course I do not know how to explain why or how this is, but I know it to be true. St. Irene is especially known for her prayers for peace; Irene means peace. I struggle to stay at peace, so she is a real gift to me.
About the Icon Shelf in the picture. The Icons from Left to Right are:
St. John of Rila, Patron Saint of Bulgaria
The Resurrection of Christ
The Crucifixion of Christ
St. Xenia of Petersberg
The Theotokos
Christ
St. Nicholas of Myra
St. John of Rila can teach us about prayer and the love of God.
St. Xenia prays a lot for provision of us - homes, jobs, families - and was a fool-for-Christ. This Icon was the first one I ever bought and is from St. Herman's.
The Theotokos is also referred to as the Mother of God - to understand Christ as Incarnate God and Man one has to understand that His Mother bore the Son of God and is His Mother. She can also be our Mother and prays mightily to Christ Her Son for us. I got this Icon from Holy Dormition Monastery shortly after I was chrismated.
The Icon of Christ was a gift from a fellow parishioner at St. Herman's. I remember looking at this Icon and the Icon of St. Xenia and wondering what I do with them. So I just looked at them a lot. To be honest, for a start, I think this was the best thing I personally could of done. I have a lot of tender memories of this beginning in my life. St. Herman's was the best place for me to have begun my journey into the Orthodox Church!
St. Nicholas of Myra - I was chrismated at his Church in Michigan and this Icon was a chrismation gift. St. Nicholas is also known for his prayers for financial provision and for protection. As a Bishop, spiritually he has been a Father to many through the centuries through the Holy Spirit and prayer.
I have been supported by so many over the past year in prayer - looking for work, the foot injury of this past summer, and starting a new job and moving. I hope I have been humbled by this, as I have seen how much others have interceded for me and I have struggled to do the same.
I know there are seasons in our lives and that we cannot always maintain things as we want to. I remember appreciating Fr. Thomas Hopko's comment about doing and praying as we can, not as we wish we could!
Thank God for His mercy and that there are Saints who can pray to Christ for us!

Friday, November 28, 2008

I've Moved

It went really well.

The movers were wonderful. My friends incredibly helpful and supportive.

My apartment, though box strewn, is most lovely.

And my Icon shelf and lampda are up!

Thanks be to God!

Moving Day

Yay!!!! The day is finally here!

May God be glorified in this day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is Maybe Not that Good

So yesterday I and some friends got a LOT packed. I went to dinner. I went to church. I came back, feeling my spirit lighter.

Then I stubbed my toe of my injured foot my cat's carrier. It is now 7 hours later. My foot hurts. I know what a fracture feels like. I think I broke my toe. It hurts to walk on it. I used my Crutches.

I am MOVING tomorrow morning.

I will probably have to go to the ER, am waiting for the nurse from Telehealth to call me back.

My goodness.

Lord help me!

UPDATE:

My toe is taped. I am feeling much better and am reassured. It still hurts to walk on it. I think I was scared because of my more severe foot injury this summer.

On with life, walking a bit gingerly and packing...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thought of the morning

I was thinking of a few years ago, when I was seeking to move back to Ottawa; I was so worried! Here is something I began to learn during this time:

We are safest in God's Holy Will.
Christ, in obedience to the will of the Father, sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross.
Christ, while being crucified, was still safe.

I have the deep song of the Bridegroom Matins within me this morning - these lines especially:

wake up my soul, weighed down by sleep - beware... O my soul... crying Holy, Holy, Holy...

Although the Nativity Fast has yet to start for me (begins Friday) I am already longing for Lent and especially for Holy Week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I think it's stress


Two nights ago I woke up in a huge panic - full scale I'd say - was sick 4 times, called two friends. Was up for a few hours. I hope to never go through that again. I did go to work, and had a nice quiet day in the library. God answered my prayer fully on this one - I listened to Ancient Faith Radio and a podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko on the Samaritan Woman and one by Fr. Stephen Freeman. I felt really fragile at work, so fresh from that very unexpected episode.
When I had left my building that morning for work, the inner door (two doors to get in to the building, one inner door being the one that is locked) was shattered. Glass in various swept up piles, glass still in the inner rim of the door, falling out when I opened and then closed the door. I wonder if I woke up, feeling like I could not breathe, after hearing this door smash. Pretty dramatic, eh?
The whole time I was still aware of God, my icons are still up in my small box-strewn apartment.
Last night, I had Indian take-out for dinner. I called and emailed various friends. I am loved.
I have friends coming each day to help me pack; Friday morning the movers come. The apartment I am moving into is not far away, so it will not be too bad. I need to figure out how to get my Cat Cleo to my new place. Maybe I will walk over with a friend and Cleo in her carrier. Or I may take a taxi. It will depend on how quiet Cleo is being and if she is trying to escape! (I know my little Cat well!)
The door downstairs is fixed, FYI and I am going to see my doctor tomorrow to be sure everything is okay health-wise.
Suffice to say, I believe I am still in need of prayer...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What it comes down to

More than one friend has reminded me that no matter what happens in my life,

God will not abandon me.

This too must be part of the Gospel. Jesus - Immanuel - God with us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Gospel

After listening to various speeches by newly elevated Metropolitan Jonah, I began thinking more about what the Gospel really is.

I have this vague idea that I used to think it was the general Good News of Christ's freeing us... I am beginning to see that it is more than this.

My sense is it is exactly what was first preached and always preached:

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

I found I was not the only one thinking about what the Gospel is after hearing Met. Jonah - go here for reflections and more of how Met. Jonah has explained what the Gospel is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Sister and Brother-in-Law: praying to be future missionaries to Romania

I have one sister in my family. Two years ago Rebecca and her husband went for a two week trip to Romania to care for the orphans there. They feel in love with the Romanian people, especially the orphaned children. It has been interesting for me, as an Orthodox convert, who already has a very high respect for the Romanian Orthodox spirituality and monastics of Romania, to see my Protestant Sister and Brother-in-Law, Mark, work within an Orthodox country.

They have been to some of the most famous monasteries of Romania, have seen how the Orthodox churches are everywhere, and they even got me an icon of Christ. (I do not have it yet, but am getting it at Christmas time, as I live miles from Michigan).

This past summer, Mark and Rebecca went back to Romania for 5 weeks, to help run a summer camp. They came to back from Romania, and decided that they wanted to be full time missionaries to the Romanian orphans.

For me, as a convert to the Orthodox Church, it is a challenge to know how to best articulate the complexity of Protestant missionary work in Orthodox countries. As I know various friends who are Orthodox, from Orthodox countries, I have heard how it is not easy for Protestant missionaries to work there. There is a lot of mixed feelings, suspicion and cultural confusion towards Protestant's Christian expression. The Protestant songs about Jesus, that many converts from Protestant backgrounds know, are confusing to ethnically Orthodox people who find these songs so casual and foreign to their understanding of God and the Church. However, if Protestants go with the right mindset of love and respect and cultural openness, they will be okay. I even know of an Orthodox priest in Chicago who went to Romania as a Protestant missionary and is now an Orthodox priest in the Romanian jurisdiction!

I love Rebecca and Mark very much. I strongly respect the compassion that they have for the Romanian children. At the very time when the US economy is struggling, and there is so much upheaval, Rebecca and Mark are seeking to be obedient to where they see God calling them. Mark has a full time job as an Engineer and they have a lovely house. They will give up the job security and are seeking to sell their house. They feel, as their blog is also titled, that they are on an Extraordinary Life Journey. And I believe they are.

Please pray for them. They still trying to sell their house and they want to start their life in Romania by this April. If the Lord wills them to go, I will stand behind them in prayer; I will also miss them very much. It is hard for me to imagine not being able to call my sister in the same timezone. Lord have mercy on us!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My last "real" Thursday in my apartment

I move next week Friday - the movers leave their building at 8 AM.

I am thinking that prayers to St. Nicholas and the Mother of God are in order.

It is odd to realize, as I have been Orthodox 4 years, to think that some would think that by saying 'prayers to (Saint, Angel, the Theotokos)' would be odd or heretical. But that is because I see how the prayer books pray - there are lines throughout this saying, pray to Christ for us or pray to God for us.

I am still dizzy intermittently on a daily basis, but I have a week off work, starting next Tuesday. I am relieved. I will finally be moving. My first living room.

I am also thinking of how much work this will all be...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What I saw today...

I was walking home from work and saw a woman kneeling down, off the curb, gathering what I thought were coins in her cup. I was worried, thinking that no one was helping her pick up the coins; their are various people who ask for money on this particular street. Then I realized, as I came closer, that she was picking up cigarette ends and that I have seen her before.

She talks a lot, but it is not always coherent. She is not young; her clothes usually look very clean, long skirts, shades of green. It is hard to see someone look so beautiful, vulnerable and mixed up all at once. I often think of St. Xenia and the other fools-for-Christ, who appeared crazy but were incredibly holy and are now recognized as saints.

Oh Holy Ones, pray for all of us lost sinners, struggling in these streets... Oh Holy Mother Xenia pray to Christ for us!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Call Centres and Globalization

You know that we live in a strange place when calling to book a plane ticket. I was just transferred to an "international" and talked with someone from "Hurtz" for car rentals, with a Southern accent. When asked why I was calling about, she then asked if I was talking to someone from India or someone from the States. I had been transferred to the wrong line. I then had to call again, to be told I had an even LONGER wait time to talk to someone. OK. So I called another airline, only to have to explain that Ontario is part of Canada, not California...

Our world is changing.

Sometimes I think, I get tired of change.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alright, now what?

THANK YOU for prayers for travel. I have returned. Loooong day. Left for train via taxi at 5:45 AM; arrived back at 7 PM to home via a second taxi. 13 hours and I am salaried so no overtime for me. Am not that happy about that part, but it was worse that I did not sleep much last night. I rarely sleep well before a big day.

Other than that, I am having some serious worry moments about my new job and if everything will come to settle and be okay or not. Meanwhile, my spiritual Father confirmed that, esp. in light of my moving situation, it is okay for me to not start the fast yet, as we are Old Calendar anyway. This means I am eating chocolate chip cookies along with my veggie soup and PB on toast.

I could tell it was a long day, and that I needed rest, food and less stress when I was standing in line on a still moving train and could not tell when it stopped moving. That is often what my sensations of dizziness are like.

Anyway. My very wonderful Mother has instructed me not to think about work anymore today. So I will go back to eating my cookie...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Traveling for Work

I am traveling to another of my work's offices tomorrow for a meeting. Please pray for me, if you could; I have to get up early AM to do so.

I am thankful for God and the Church supporting me...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kathleen Norris

I heard Kathleen Norris speak last night. She spoke well. She signed my books. We even talked briefly.

It was good. I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big and smaller news

Wow. The OCA has a new Metropolitan. I listened to one of his last speeches before being elevated. I am impressed; I already had a good sense about him through the podcasts on Our Life in Christ, which is also on Ancient Faith Radio. Go here for the archives which has the podcasts of then Fr. Jonah.

This is huge. I rejoice in the hope I see in this change.


On a smaller note, I had a hard day at work. I feel under a lot of pressure right now at work and my house is non/dysfunctional as it is in boxes. The rest I need I do not feel I am fully getting. However, God has truly blessed me in that for the last few nights, I have not woken until 6 am. Before I was having insomnia, nightmares and waking at 3 AM. I pray I can continue in this better way. I have been struggling with exhausting and dizziness for the last few weeks. My previous job, back last Lent, was very overwhelming; I had increasingly strong episodes of dizziness during this time. This returned when I started my new job. It had lessened and disappeared. But now it is back and is very tiring. Until I move, I do not think it will get much better. (Btw I have been to the doctor more than once about this; I am told each time it is a virus and is stress-related).

I need a lot of help from God. Please pray for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Day

Shameful that all I thought really about Remembrance Day is that if I still worked in Government, I'd have had the day off.

But I did not and was at work.

Some days in library world are better than others. I can tell I am feeling a bit STRESSED and felt frustrated at some of the clients being, well, a tad bit rude. OK, so the Corporate World has PRESSURE but surely we should try to be kind.

However, I am aware that my spiritual Father would view this as a great practical way to work out my salvation: forgive quickly.

Let it go.

An older-wiser person today said we naturally inhale but have to work to exhale. I think I need to learn this a bit more in life.

Meanwhile, today I am researching IKEA furniture. I need to call the phone company - and the competition! Canada phone costs are ridiculous compared to the States other than their long distance. This is usually better, other than for cell phones.

So much to do, and so many mystery books to read!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A heavy controversial hard topic

Preface: I am in ways shy and certainly have feared hurting people's feelings for years and years. So as long as my friends know this and that I wrote the below the best I could for now...

I know this is controversial, and I know that nothing is simple and that both sides of any party can be rash and foolish. However, it concerns me that some who say they are liberal demonstrated that they can also be intolerant. (Note on this link, I do not know who the author really is, but it encapsulates in his own way the concern). (Also, no offense intended to my more liberal friends nor are they themselves violent to demonstrate their beliefs)... GetReligion covers this in more detail as news...

It is hard to know that there can be such polar opposites. I believe these issues are hard and lot of confusion and heartstrings are involved.

Personally, the animosity and a hatred I have never seen before or since, for those with conservative views was one of the things that brought me into the Orthodox Church. I saw and heard about the churches that had (or tried to get) priests fired, or church missions shut down completely because they remained with the traditional understanding that the Anglican church used to hold.

I know people on both sides of this argument. I know a lot of people who were really hurt in this.

Two last things: one there will be further conflict and two - we (on either side!) are called to be like Christ - loving those who we feel wish us ill.

In all things, let us be humble and love one another...

Salvation in the earthly realm

As many of the readers of this blog (thanks for reading) know, I started a new job this past August. I am running a small corporate library. What most do not seem to realize is how much work this takes. Libraries may be quiet, but we are busy!

Busy doing...

*collection analysis (what do my library clients need)
*collection development (finding and buying what is needed)
*acquisitions (the buying and paying invoices)
*cataloguing (what was bought)
*public relations (showing the client what the library can do for them; i.e. marketing)
*reference (answering questions, getting things, researching; this can take from 5 minutes to three days of solid work)
*shelving the books
*belonging to library associations
*going to meetings
*training and organizing training
*going on training
*making sure the budget balances
*hiring and training the person hired
*project management to improve the library (mine is in a mess when I started)
*sending paper and emailed information on a daily basis to clients (standard things that circulate depending on the type of library; this is on top of reference questions)
*reading licenses for online databases and journals (they all have legal contracts governing the use of them (this type of negotiations is part of collection services and is all I did at my last job)
*liaising with publishers

And if you are a solo librarian, which I am; with others in the company at other locations - solo but not alone; you do all of the above. And I am expected to do this in 4 days/week. (This explains some of the stress I alluded to in a previous post).

Well, I found out about an online course that is specific to my type of library situation! It starts in January. My only concern right now is that it would fall on a Friday, which during Lent is my church's presanctified liturgy nights during Lent.

This course would be an extra 10-15 hours a week. This is a lot, even working at 4 days/week. I am also to head up another project at work which will take my attention and energy (on top of everything I listed above). So this course feels like a type of salvation, but one that will require a lot of work.

I really hope it does not fall on a Friday (you would not think it would, however, so I probably have nothing to worry about here).

This also means the following:

1. My new apartment HAS to be fully set up, clean, functional and beautiful before the second week of January (this gives me approximately three and a half weeks).
2. I need to have better meal planning. I have not been eating properly and need to reorganize myself.
3. I will have to decide what I can and cannot do during the week. I need time at night at home to be quiet and rest.

So there it is. Rather overwhelming for me, but really good too.

Thank God and may He continue to help, guide, protect and have mercy. Lots and lots of mercy...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

These days are full of boxes

A friend came over and helped me pack my good dishes. Not that they are all packed yet, but three boxes of them are!

I have been feeling overwhelmed about work and very inexperienced in how to deal with the situations I see ahead of me. It is strange to be nearly 32 and feel a LOT younger than 32. Here I had thought, years ago, that adults knew what to do and had things pretty much under control. Now that I live in the adult world, I am finding this not to be the case.

I am also struggling to see accurately what is actually going on in my current life. At times the waves (so to speak) in my life seem big and terrible. I have a feeling that they are not really that fully daunting, but the newness of them, coupled with the chaos and disorganization in my home, is blurring my vision.

I read a Psalm last night about God trying us with fire and later bringing us to a place of refreshment. I am hoping to gain the inward strength and stability to be able to better ascertain what is actually going on and face the fears and know what to do to solve the underlying causes of these fear-laced waves.

Lord have mercy and save us!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Peter

Peter is now in intensive care.

As emailed to me and others, "His surgery ended up being a quadruple bypass, so was somewhat more serious than anticipated, and this is probably why his recovery is a little slower."

Please keep praying for him. He is a dear friend, a retired librarian and part of my Church's choir. We need him around.

Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Life and Work

Working in today's culture and in a corporate environment I find to be difficult at times.

Lord have mercy on us in the midst of where we find ourselves.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Prayer Request

Please pray for Peter from my Church here in Ottawa.
He undergoes triple-bypass surgery early tomorrow morning.
(He also gave me permission to ask for prayers for him in the blog world).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Full Day

Church - good, peaceful
Church meal - simple, fellowship
Reading at friends - C.S. Lewis
Meal with friends - we all ate each others potato things (Fries, chips)
Home - Cleo my Cat missed me today.

I am tired.

Work - stressful.
House - semi-to-full moving chaos.

Sermon today: about God seeing us and understanding us where we are.

A God who loves and sees us, our situations and stays with us in them.

I need God's overshadowing mercy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Progress

A good friend helped me pack most of my books today. I feel encouraged. I also saw my apartment unit today and have made my final decision on paint colours. By doing a lot of the packing now, I hope to be fully ready to move in a few weeks.

I am thankful.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This Day is Good

Today my parents have their 34th wedding anniversary. I talked with my Mother on the phone. I am blessed to have such good God-fearing parents.

Various church members who have had severe health struggles were back in church today. This was a real blessing.

My kitchen is full of things and empty boxes. I am going to try to calm some of the chaos today.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Current Life Pictures

The view when walking to church; I can walk to my church in about 20 minutes or so.

If you had told me over ten years ago that I would live in the middle of a small city in Canada, in an apartment, I would of found you oddly suspect!

I like it though! I do not need a car, can walk to work and church and to the grocery store. There are many good restaurants and a pretty good bus system.

The leaves are turning!

About the picture below... a good friend helped me move boxes today. Now I just have to fill these boxes.

Like my Holly Hobbie plates? When a friend who had not seen me in over ten years, saw these plates, she felt they were more like the person she knew me to be, back then. Holly Hobbie plates, etc, originated from a woman in New England. Though I was raised in Michigan, New England is a big part of me. This makes Ottawa a good fit for me as well.

St. George (Greek) Orthodox Church in Halifax

These are pictures from my dear spiritual sister's wedding. Not of the wedding itself, but of the church. The weather was suprisingly warm for Mid-October. Sunshine and much happiness.


Taken before the wedding couple came.

St. George - one of my very special Saints. I have been to three weddings at churches dedicated to St. George and know of four couples married at various churches of St. George's....

It was so beautiful.... The iconostasis it the biggest I have seen in person - 16 icons on the top row. I wish I had more time to just be in this church and take it in.


I love how Christ is always the Centre of the Church and always the "Top" icon in the dome...

"That is Hard"

This is a phrase that my (spiritual) older sister says; often pointing out to me that something I am going through is hard, difficult, painful. There is so much of this in life sometimes.

Two people I know in the library world - their Dad's are both very ill right now; at least one of them may be dying. That is hard.

I am reading a book on death - by Joan Didion - a writer I more or less stumbled upon; I read a lot of writers who live in New England or New York City. I have lived six summers in New England; my spiritual mother lived in New England, her husband, now 85, originally hails from Long Island. Didion's year of magical thinking explores and captures the shock and initial grief of her husband's sudden death, weeks before their 40th year of marriage. I was saddened to realize, upon reading more about her, that her daughter died shortly after finishing the book.

Sometimes life and the suffering within it can seem so bewildering.

My work can be stressful to say the least - the corporate culture I work in can be very pressured and my clients can need things ASAP and some of the younger one's stress is so palpable that I can feel inwardly overwhelmed. Yet, yesterday afternoon I felt surprisingly peaceful; surely a moment from God as inner peace is one of the things I struggle to receive...

I can see vaguely that when I go beyond myself and love the people I work for, things are better within me...

Two people were going to help me brave the boxes in my basement apartment locker. One had to cancel due to life's circumstances.

Various people have said they would help me move; but; well. I am going to hire movers anyway. My experience in Ottawa is that people are usually so swept up in the drama and stress (both real) of their own lives that they cannot help me in ways they wish. This is NOT saying that people don't help me here. When I was on bed rest for two months with a crush injury and two fractures in my foot, various people very faithfully came - cooking, cleaning, doing my laundry, taking care of my and my Cat Cleo's needs. But I am still hiring movers. It will make it easier; I will still need lots of other help...

I have already begun telling people: I am dreading the move but look forward to the new apartment. When talking to one of my closest friends, I added, but change is hard! I will still miss this too-small-but-very-familiar apartment. I have lived here two years. I have only lived in one other place that long since I was 18. I am nearing 32 now.

My place is a bit crowded in general; I am really not sure where I will put the boxes. If you saw my current place, you would quickly see what I mean. One of my compassionate helping-me-this-summer friends, when trying to get some things for me in my apartment, told me she began to realize how small and difficult this place is to navigate.

Lord have mercy - on my suffering friends and on myself...

Monday, October 20, 2008

The hard, good and um, funny...

The funny first. I was having a good day at work - when I realized that I was wearing one brown shoe and one black. Sigh. Good thing I find this funny...

The good Fr. Lawrence's podcasts have begun! It is wonderful to hear his voice and listen to him explain the Scriptures. He was there at the beginning of my journey into the Orthodox Church and I thank God for him.

Also I found a copy of Madeleine L' Engle's book A Wind in the Door today at public library book sale! I am not sure if I have read this one or not - I probably have but it has been a long time. I also found a copy of Dragons in the Waters which I am giving to a friend.

I am reading a lot of books right now - Kathleen Norris's book, an Amanda Cross mystery (No word from Winifred), Ulysses by Joyce (wanted to be more in the know as one of my friends is reading it for class; I know it is long and at times said to be unreadable), and I recently obtained, from 8th day books, St. Ephriam's Spiritual Psalter. Ancient Faith Radio reads some of these prayers throughout the day; I am grateful to have a copy. I am reading this book very slowly.

New and old books - L' Engle I have been reading more or less avidly for the last 12 years - Amanda Cross is great for thinking about the academic world, esp. English departments. One gets a real sense of the time period through reading popular mysteries and she deals with a lot of questions, including about the self, feminism, youth, and the current states in culture.

I picked up her book on Winifred when I was in Halifax, at the most overwhelming, real, wood floor and shelves with books that seem to almost cascade down tottering piles bookstore. I would go back, I think, almost solely to see this store again! It was lovely. Their mystery section had classics, they had a small wall of orange Penguins and a small corner with lots of editions of the Bible. I am hunting for a good edition of The Jerusalem Bible as I find that translation of the Psalms very tender. (Through another wonderful translation, which I do own, from 8th day books, is the Psalter of the Seventy).

Okay, the hard. As in hard to know how to process - I am going to have a panihida soon (if all goes as I hope) for my spiritual mother who died ten years ago last week. This is hard to know how to process as grief and as a prayer and not as any form of self-pity, which will hinder real growth, grief and prayer.

A lot is going on for me - preparing for a move, learning my new job - and figuring out how to live and not let go of the reader/bookish/writer side. God is good and I am thankful; He has given me so much.

ps: still working on downloading the Halifax pictures. Soon, I hope!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back

"Back" is a title of a lovely poem by Jane Kenyon... for her it meant back from the darkness of depression...

In my case, I am back from Halifax and back online. My lovely little laptop was getting a "tune up" at the shop, as it were.

I have tons of blog posts to read...so if I usually comment on yours and have not, that is why.

I have heard rumours that Kathleen Norris making a stop here in Ottawa! Clearly, I must investigate this.

I will try to write about my time last weekend in Halifax soon. I have lovely pictures of the Greek church to share.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Books, podcasts and tea

I am still slowly reading Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris. I will try to blog about this. For now suffice to say that I keep thinking I need to quote or tab (I can't bring myself to write in a first edition) on every page. It is a book that is worth reading slowly.

I am re-reading Agatha Christie's Murder at the Vicarage; I love mysteries and really felt like reading one with Miss Jane Marple.

I listened to two podcasts by Fr. Thomas Hopko on Ancient Faith Radio - really good. One on the saints and their intercessions and one on what he would say for a commencement address. I found myself listening and thinking why did no one tell me what he is telling me when I was in University!!

Must go to bed early; feel like I could get a cold again and am to fly to Halifax DV this weekend. I bought a box of lemon tea in hopes of avoiding sickness. It does not help that my apartment building does not have the heat turned on yet and it is COLD. There is a Frost Warning for tonight. Did I mention that I am moving?

Thank God for such blessings in books, podcasts, good teaching on the spiritual life, and the simple enjoyment of a cup of lemon tea.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Joys, Sorrows and a Kitchen Table

In a week my very good friend - who is like an older sister to me - will be married! I fly to Halifax for the wedding this coming Friday morning. I am almost totally ready for this and am excited.

At the same time, this month marks the 10 year anniversary of the death of a woman who truly was and is my spiritual mother, though she was not Orthodox. I hope to be having a panihida for her at church before the end of this month. I learned about prayers for the dead within a year of her death and I still miss her very much. I was only 21 when she died, which now I see as very young to lose one's spiritual mother. How grateful I was, however, to have her in my life right when I needed her. In a real way, you could say that God used her to rescue me from spiritually destroying myself when I was young, hurting and confused. When she died I felt that my Mother had died. (FYI I have a very good biological mother; it is just in life one can also have a spiritual mother as well). So I miss her and cannot tell you how important it is to me to be Orthodox and be able to pray for her still. Truly, somehow, to pray for and with her, in church.

And so life is full of joys and sorrows.

On a lighter note, I am researching dinning room sets - I am hoping to find a well made dining room table and China cabinet. I am dreaming of a brown oak.

I talked with my spiritual father today after our after liturgy meal and my heart was filled with joy.

When my spiritual mother died, I did not think it was possible to be given a new spiritual home. I am so thankful for my church and my spiritual father.

In all things I know I must say, Glory to You, O God! Glory to You!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Years, Two Months

I am giving my 2 months notice tomorrow!

I found this part of my letter amusing (though serious):

Please note that I have a Cat who I love. If you have apartment viewings, please ensure that she does not escape. She has a tendency to wait at the front door for such an opportunity.

I have lived in my apartment two years tomorrow. A lot can happen in two years!

Pray for me!!! I have to start preparing more to move soon!

Thoughts

I had to do some brave things. Or one thing, particularly. I did my first social work lunch. phew. I did not spill that I know of and it went well. At least as well as it could of... I am still learning city and the specific corporate culture that I now work in.

I have days I really like being a librarian. I enjoy the administration (i.e. the running of) the library and doing research.

I am behind on dishes - I admit to being overtired; am worried that I may get sick again. I always was a bit on the fragile side of things.

Am really comforted when I read Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog about the One-Story Universe. It is wonderful to realize (though I usually forget and have to re-realize) that there is a lot of help and protection in this world. That there are Saints and Angels. That Jesus has Grandparents (Sts. Joachim and Anna) and a Holy Mother (the Theotokos, Greek for God-bearer) and that they can pray for and care for us. Of course I would say who wouldn't want Jesus' Grandparents to care for them too!! But it is another thing to realize that these holy Saints can actually pray for us and care for us.

I have been thinking more about Saints Joachim and Anna lately. The Cathedral I go to mid-week has both of them high on a wall in stain glass (it used to be a Catholic church) and I can see them from where I sit... and last week Monday was their day, Old Calendar. I just got a beautiful icon of them for a very close friend, a spiritual sister. Actually she is the first one who introduced me to them...

I am so blessed and I did nothing to deserve it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Good

I am thankful to say that I survived the interview day and it went well.

God has richly blessed me - I feel very thankful for my Orthodox church and for my DV future apartment and such things.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Things

Tomorrow DV I will take part in interviews for a one day/week position where I work. I have never interviewed anyone formally and will be a supervisor for the first time. I feel young and intimidated. Please pray for me.

On the New Calendar it is St. John the Beloved's Feast Day; I need his prayers as he can teach me to have silence within. How much I need to learn this.

Thank you for your prayers.

Long Jean Skirt

I ordered a Jean skirt and it fits! How is it that a long to-the-tops-of-my-feet skirt is so exciting?

It is strange to realize that I have just gotten some really classic durable clothes that I plan on wearing for years.

I feel like I am still slowly entering my thirties...

Kathleen Norris' latest book is quite fascinating. I will try to post about this later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris just published a new book - Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life - published in 2008 by Riverhead books.

A dear undergrad friend, ten years ago, wrote me letters when I worked at camp. Every letter included something about Norris' Cloister Walk. I remember reading my friend's copy later that year; I remember reading Norris' Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith in a hotel in Missouri when the second leg of my flight home was cancelled. Her books changed my life and, without my knowledge, prepared me for the Orthodox church.

Wow. I just found out her latest book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life was published. I began reading it tonight. I can honestly say if I take this book seriously, as I pray I will, my life is going to continue changing. But with time, a lot of time and struggle. It is examining parts of life that I had never considered the ramifications before. It is exciting but I know also that it will take a lot of pondering, deliberation and choices on how I live.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this book... and I am only on page 18 (well, okay I cheated and looked ahead a bit too...). Thank God for writers such as she.

Today, Old Calendar

It is the commemoration of Saints Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Theotokos, Mother of God... It is a very special day! Christ's Grandparents.

I am slowly feeling better and have had a good weekend of quiet. I thank God for His mercy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Part of my story or at least of this chapter

Often I blog when I am happy – I guess this makes for an imbalanced blog, in the sense of it appears that my life is going along in a constant exhausting relentless happy-go-lucky way. Other than the two month broken foot bed-rest summer. Of course anyone who knows me well knows this is not me at all.

Really I am a quiet bookish person who, at the same time, has the capacity to talk a lot when with friends and goes though life feeling things often in a highly intense manner. In someways I am unique though or stubborn or at least in someways quite narrow in my existence. (Or what some would think of as quite narrow, missing almost all sense of proportion and depth).

For instance – I live in Ottawa, the capital of the country (i.e. of Canada) – and I avoid politics, news and all TV. I actually have the capacity as a librarian to know what is really going on – the corporate world I work in as a librarian has to do with the legal and financial world. So if I did want to know the news behind the news, I could easily do so. However, I find it unhelpful to my sense of inward balance and peace, meagre as it is. I know by general feel what is going on through the blogs I read, through the facebook comments of friends, through conversations and through the air. I know of the fear of economies collapsing, the elections, and that there are constantly tragic and beautiful events going on.

But in general I would rather ignore it; it does not seem conducive to helping or adding to my life at this point.

I do not listen to the radio and often go days without listening to music; it is not that I do not love music. I do. And at work I often listen to Ancient Faith Radio; it is like listening, at times, to highly classical and liturgical music. I have some CDs from the St. Elisabeth the New Martyr Convent near Minsk in Belarus. My home church has a beautiful choir.

I am realizing that I will never fit the culture I live in; sure, the colours of paint I am choosing (some sort of muted olive green and a light very pale blue) for my new apartment are currently popular. But really, I love the room in the Dorothy Sayer’s movie I watched again yesterday – Have His Carcase – 1920’s/1930s – full of books, tea cups, things on the walls. Not at all the current popular decluttered minimalist look that is currently all the rage.

I am currently holed up in my apartment with a head cold; it has given me needed time to think and be quiet. I have come to come some good realizations that were hovering and waiting to be articulated, acknowledged. One, there are aspects of my current apartment that I will miss. Esp. my prayer corner, which is a lovely small space, very intimate and warm. Also, it is a huge transition to have a permanent job; I still have a lot of fear of failing it and of suddenly being jobless and with a more expensive apartment. Also I have had to admit that it takes time to set up a new apartment; I remember how long it took with my current one. it takes time for a new place to feel like home. I am relieved, however, that my next move will be easier because I have more people to help me move. Which is good. As excited as I am to have my first apartment with a living room, moving is a hard and stressful event for me, as it is for many. It is very high on the ‘life-stress’ scale. But it is time; where I live now is no longer taken care of and when winter comes with its long and cold months, it is really depressing to live in a place with dirty halls.

I keep having dreams revolving around moving into an unsuitable apartment, that does not fit my tall bookcase.

But I am also learning, even though I did not always have the support I needed when moving, this time I do have it. And somehow, wonderfully, God has given me some true friends and family away from home who love me. I have people when I have a head cold, as I currently do, will bring me Campbell's chicken soup, garlic, tea and chocolate.

I am learning to see how detailed, how particular, God’s care for me is. I am slowly learning to trust.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Doing Fine, I think

All seems well at the moment. Have chosen a muted green and a light pale blue for wall colours. Am planning on a trip to Halifax for a dear sister's wedding in October - am excited. My first 'vacation' in years, other than home for Christmas, which cannot be underrated!

My job is going okay - I am getting used to it and have had some good days.

I feel like this is a special time in my life - first permanent job, soon to have DV first apartment with living room, a weekend in Halifax DV - I am blessed.

However, I am also aware of the importance of this quotation:

"Life is a precious and unique gift, and we squander it foolishly and carelessly, forgetful of its brevity.

Either we look back with yearning on the past or else we live in the expectation of a future in which, it seems to us, life will really begin; whereas the present-that is, our lief as it actually is-is wasted in these fruitless dreams and regrets."

pg 28, The Diary of a Russian Priest by Alexander Elchaninov

It is significant spiritual struggle for me to learn to live in the present and not only to live in it, but savour it, be aware of it, be thankful in it, no matter what the present brings or reveals.

Lord have mercy.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Next Step - Moving!

By God's grace I have found a wonderful downtown one bedroom apartment in my price range. It has everything I wanted - wood floors, light, balcony and sliding door, lots of cupboards, storage space, controlled entrance and is well taken care of. It is quiet and is a corner unit; the super lives on site.

I move December first, which gives me time to continue getting used to my new job, and to pack, declutter, purge and plan. Today I am to sign the lease and hope to take measurements.

I am so relieved and still can hardly believe it. I will be 32 at the end of December, Lord willing, and this apartment is the first 'adult' apartment for me. I have purposely chosen to stay in my smaller, cheaper apartment in order to have savings and because I did not have a permanent job - only contracts.

I hope to live in this apartment for a long time; I can walk to church and to my work and to the grocery store. I have saved up money to buy furniture for my living room; IKEA will continue to get my business.

I am more peaceful about work and really love that I have a small library to run; I love the flexibility and independence.

I am more determined to continue to create a life here in Ottawa; with my new apartment I can, Lord willing, have friends over and will have space for everything. My living room will be kid-proof as I want to have my friends with kids over. I am feeling happy and hopeful about this.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labour Day / New Calendar New Year

After a good weekend of teas, brunch and the Sunday church meal, it is time to get ready for the week.

I am thankful that this week only has three work days in it for me! Work is slowly getting better; a lot to learn.

Most of all though, I need to learn to trust God more and stay peaceful.

I am looking for a new place to live; I desire a bigger closet and a living room. Even though moving is an added stress, along with my new job, I feel it is time to move, if at all possible.

I do not want to live through another winter in this apartment building. I am looking at a place tomorrow night - good location and it has a dishwasher - we will see.

I realized, a few weeks ago, a wonderful thing or saw it from a new angle. Psalm 50/51... when it says

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

I realized that God also is not despising of those who are weak, broken... it was comforting to realize that while many elevate the strong, the beautiful and the rich, God is does not despise those who are broken and weak.

Praying that this new year will be truly a new year...

Friday, August 22, 2008

third week is over

I have been working three weeks now. It is still overwhelming.

I am learning more about seeking to be at peace and trusting God.

Not much more to say than this.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Morning, Early

I did not wake until 6. This is a feat for me, as I often find myself awoken between 4 and 5 am; it seems that even though I am not a mother, I still have her hours. Ironic, perhaps, that I can relate to my newly-mothered friends who are not getting enough sleep.

Well. I read or perhaps re-read half of Sue Grafton's _O is for Outlaw_ and well... skipped the the end. She admits to writing in the more 'hard-boiled' mystery novels; I have read her on and off over the last years. She writes similar books each time, but with a progression in the character's life. I really like K. M., her main character. But I realized that the characteristics of K.M. are not what I need right now - her stubborn Independence and singular aloneness - with a few exceptions. It is interesting, however, to read about a fictional character in the first person; Sue Grafton is excellent in sustaining K.M.'s characterisation. But I find she can lead one to think that they are alone in the world and not in need of anyone else. First, we are never alone; God and His Saints do not abandon. Second, we do need other people.

It is not easy to live in this century as a single person; yet I do not want a roommate really. Sometimes even things I enjoy I do not like to do alone - like cooking. I think cookbooks sell so well because they speak of and assume some sort of community or family. I love feeding people and it is hard not to have a family to feed. I am a professional woman apparently but really it was only so I could survive and be able to support myself - not something I planned on exactly. Not that I am unhappy about it, but community and family has always been more important to me.

I am fortunate; one of my friends who I keep up with via her blog had people asking about when she would have a family etc. A very inappropriate thing to ask a single woman. As if these things are fully in our hands, as if it is easy.

Life is not easy for anyone; and I know that I am blessed that I have a job. Even if the job is a bit overwhelming right now, it has potential to be good.

I have started reading _In Remembrance of Rose_ by M.R.D. Meek... published in 1986... and also a used book I picked up, entitled _when in Greece_ by Emma Lathen, first published in 1969. The book by Meek is a British mystery and appears to promise the well written English family drama involving murder and lawyers. Lathen's book has to do with political intrigue and finance while being a mystery with murder.

Am also slowly watching a play on DVD, _The Man Who Came to Dinner_. I am enjoying it - the acting is great, I love the props and the time period - I could do without the intermissions that I cannot easily fast-forward through, however.

Later this morning I am meeting a friend; I find I have to intentionally focus on building community. When in school one more easily meets people of similar minds; out of school one has to work at it.