Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday... and reflections on what one is given in various seasons of life

A quiet day for the most part.
Since the time change + other things, we have had a hard time
getting to bed on time.  
Still dealing with some fatigue because of that.
I am ordering take out for dinner to help out with this.
A real blessing to be able to do this.
Construction has continued and was interesting to watch.
Am enjoying Mat. Constantina's book of stories.
Very readable but a lot to digest, as it were.
I really liked her analogy early on of how she had to learn
that the spiritual life is not like baking a cake;
that one does not merely put the ingredients in and voilĂ , have a cake! 
I really appreciate and understand Mat Constantina's words on
not judging others, on doing as you know best to do and not
worrying about it and about how it is important to have a 
spiritual father instead of, to put it in my words, have a 
DYI approach to the spiritual life - 
Orthodoxy best lived is not like that - like Mat. Constantina's words
on the spiritual life being like baking a cake - 
but by having input from someone (i.e. a spiritual father or mother) who
can guide you in things.
There is something that is really hard to explain that I have learned 
since moving here:
about spiritual fathers.... I am still learning and trying to figure this out,
but I can tell you what I see at this juncture.
I used to think it was simple:
find a spiritual father, depend on him for everything pertaining the spiritual life
and be saved.  
Finis! Finished! 
In general this IS the best way... 
but there is something in this that must be understood.
It was this book
that helped me understand about this and to understand
what had just happened to me, 
when I was newly married and living in NJ.
I was given so many blessings in this time.
Including an early visit to a small monastery
and words that I still remember,
As I said earlier, I left everything when I married my Husband,
left Ottawa and moved to New Jersey.
This included a lot of my daily patterns and prayer life.
It was rather cataclysmic in a lot of ways.
I could not remember how I even prayed in a lot of ways,
from my life in Ottawa and my new life as a wife.
Added to this, God allowed that I lost my main prayer book
the day that we fly from our honeymoon to our new home together.
Favourite much used prayer book, with bookmarks from my life there,
it was simply gone and I had no way to replace it,
it was out of stock everywhere online, at the time.
(I've since gotten 2 copies of it!).
So the small prayer rule I had, the very book I used was gone.
My Husband had a very different prayer rule and 
I struggled to adopt this and adapt to it.
Even now this has not been fully successful, to be honest.
Anyway, back to what I was trying to say....
I also left my spiritual father, I 
I was really leaving him so that I could get married
to my beloved Husband.
And I will assure you that my spiritual father told me I had 
to leave him, that while some can keep their spiritual father
when they move, that it is not what I was to do.
And my dear beloved spiritual father in Ottawa was 
absolutely right.
He was right that he would not be able to advise me
because he would not know my life here.
He was right because of my new life here is so different that
my old life and ways simply do not fit here.
I can tell you that I do have a new spiritual father and that I am
very blessed.  He's wise, gentle, traditional and very experienced.
But it is not the same and is not as much like what I used to think
of in terms of having a spiritual father.
I am not able to depend on him like I did the one I had in Ottawa.
I confess as the church subscribes and do not have
weekly discussions or talks like I did in Ottawa, not even 5 minutes of such.
But I can tell you that whatever God gives you is *enough*.
It is here that Fr John Krestiankin's letters helped so much.
Basically what I learned is of his advice to many 
that there are simply not a lot (I think he would say even not any) elders
like there were in the days past --
not that there are not living Saints - I know someone who knew 
Fr John Krestiankin himself and said to me recently:
"I think he will be a Saint one day"
-- but what Fr. John was saying is that it is very important to read
Orthodox books and also to be more independent. 
(Of course we are not talking here about independent as in
do what you want, feel free to sin, not at all! many of his letters are
very firm to people, saying even that they have not begun 
to live as a Christian!)
From this I had to learn to trust God in new ways.
And understand that what I was given in Ottawa was a real gift.
That it was for a season.  That it was for my healing.
I can say without a doubt that my Ottawa spiritual father helped me
grow up and be ready to marry my Husband.
I also understand now that not everyone is given
a spiritual father that they 'obey in everything'... and that God 
gives something different to everyone.
I think that this is one of the biggest things I can say right now:
God gives something different to everyone
and that we are saved together but by means that are often ordered by God
for each person according to what they need and are 
able to receive at the given time.
Now, this said, may I be sure to say that this does not 
mean, because one does not have a spiritual father in the way that,
if there were enough of them would be what everyone should have,
that one is exempt from the basics of the spiritual life for an 
Orthodox Christian.
We all need to go to the sacraments of Holy Confession and 
receive Holy Communion.
You do not need a holy elder to have these two things
and in God's mercy He can save us through His means
through the Church.
And I think it is a is good to read books, be aware,
pray that God will lead us... it is good to go to Orthodox Monasteries when 
we can go, it is good to have Lent, to pray and fast as we are able.
The older I get the harder I realize life is. How easy it was when
I was younger to not understand other people's struggles and that
for some just making it to church is a huge victory. 
That God will help us as small and struggling that we are.
That He loves us.  That there is HOPE even 
when we are not at all where we wish we were spiritually or
do not have the resources or life we wish we had.
We can trust that God is still with us, in everything and that even 
when we struggle, like I did recently, with our lives as they are 
at present, that God can use it all and that He is here to pour out 
His mercy.... 
And trust that what God gives us is *enough* and that He will make
way for what is next in His time...
Anyway, there's things I have been pondering for a while!
Thanks again everyone for your encouragement and prayers.
I've received news about my Dad, he has a small broken bone in his leg,
a clean break and basically if you were to break a bone this is how you would want to 
do so!  Please though pray for him as it is hard to be laid up for the time
it will take to heal, with need for the leg to be elevated and such.
Thanks again for your prayers!
I am always inspired by my parents by how they take each day
and seek to trust God in everything! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Whew, Better, Looking forward...

Thank you so much,
everyone who has sent comments my way on my last post,
I can't thank you enough.
I know that these feelings of missing Ottawa come to me
rather suddenly and I just have to wade through them.
I had a nice weekend,
had an early dinner with dear friends on Saturday,
had Patrick's 40th day memorial service,
vigil, and we were given things from Patrick's house that 
dear friends of ours found there for us. 
We took home a lot of treasures from Patrick,
my Husband is really excited about some that were found for him,
that I may be able to show you later when they are on display.
The table full of papers
...are especially meaningful to me...
 I had found them at Patrick's last Monday,
in the last hour I was helping with the packing and sorting. 
I did not dream it would be given to me and am so touched. 
It's a bunch of hand written recipes and 2 vintage cookbooks. 
I am carefully sorted and put them in page protectors.
 They will be in a binder I have for recipes and I can't wait to bake, 
cook and share them with you all!
I must add some things that I have been reflecting on that I did 
not have in Ottawa and have now.
I can remember how I would come back home
after Holy Week and have my pretty paschal food and 
best table setting, Sunday morning of Pascha,
and I would have no one to share it with.
I remember the loneliness of going home after church
and not having a family to come home to or with.
Now I have my Husband and it's so nice.
Also it's just been an intense year - about 
double the travel we usually have, we got sick
various times, and I am still dealing with my 
new eye issue (it's not better, I probably need a second
shot-in-the-eye in a week Monday) and life as we know it.
But we must never give up, must always
remember our blessings and seek to be thankful.
That's a huge thing right there.
Prayer request: My Dad hurt his leg last week
and goes to doctor tomorrow about it.
We are hoping it is merely sprained,
but of course don't know for sure.
I won't go into details here but my Dad was 
really protected in this all and I thank God so much for that.
My parents-in-law hope to visit us in May and we are really
looking forward to that!
And I am honestly thankful for my life here...
it's just a work in progress and sometimes it's easy to 
remember the good things about where one last was and
forget the difficult or fail to see the wonders that I have here.
Thanks again so much for your kindness and prayers,
they are so appreciated!!!! 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Here, now, again

here we go again...
I managed to get the living areas and kitchen clean,
the 'Island' counter with flowers and table runner
instead of a mass of clutter.
We went to Festal Matins for (new calendar) Annunciation
for our evening prayers.
It's really hard being constantly between 2 calendars.
I would of loved to go to liturgy tomorrow,
but we are going to our far-away church tomorrow night,
for Patrick's 40th day service and vigil
and can't do both; so God willing we will have liturgy
for Annunciation at our far-away church,
13 days from now.
I started Mat. Constantina's new book;
it's a fairly easy read, lots to think about.
The parts about her missing Greece are so familiar to me;
I am really missing Ottawa a lot lately;
worse than it's been in months.
I don't know what to do with it.
I think it is in part because it has been so hard these past few months
and that it's been a hard year in a lot of ways.
It's normal for me to wish to go on vacation for a bit when things are 
hard; my roommate and I, back in my undergrad days,
used to joke about going on vacation to Europe when those
stressful midterms and papers rolled around.
So I guess i am going to take a deep breath and remind myself of the things
I have learned and been told about my marriage and moving to the States from
Canada... something to hold on to, myself, as I try to ride this wave out.
First, when I was talking to an Abbess that knows me and I trust for advice,
about how I was leaving everything I knew to marry my Husband,
she simply said, 
is that not the Gospel?
To leave all to follow Christ?
Second, my Husband's spiritual father, when he gave my not-yet-Husband
the blessing to marry me, told me that I was not losing my 
spiritual family in Ottawa, I was merely enlarging my 
family, adding new members, it was getting bigger, not smaller.
I was not losing them but gaining others.
Third, my Husband's spiritual father is right.
I would of never gotten to know and love Patrick like I have.
I know many new people and have many reason to be grateful.
Fourth, Elizabeth Elliot's book was one of the first things
I read in my early days of my marriage
and her book 
helped me see that where I was now,
as bewildering as it was at times, was where God wanted me.
That I could trust that where I was is indeed the will of God for me,
part of His plans for my life.
There are things I am meant to do here.
There were people waiting for me here, ones I did 
not know of who, at least for a time, had need of me in very
concrete ways. 
I had to leave my spiritual father of 7 years and find a new one,
as he instructed me to do... and I have... it's not the same, no, but
here's something I am still thinking of that my new spiritual father 
told me the first year that I was married,
when I told him I was missing Ottawa,
by which I meant the church esp.
He reminded me of St Mary of Egypt and how for years she
struggled with temptations about her former life and wishing to go back.
The music, the fish she ate, the list went on.
There was a reason that my first spiritual father gave me the blessing
to know my Husband (at all, as in email him) if I was willing to leave 
Ottawa; he knew how much I loved it there,
how much I was willing to sacrifice to stay.
I have even learned that it is really a kind of mental torture to 
continue to wish for that which one cannot have.
Now what I can and can't have, in terms of one day living in 
Canada again, I really don't know.
That's the hardest part of it.
Not knowing the will of God for one's future,
down the road a ways.
It took me well over a year to even admit
to my Husband that I had lost something in leaving 
Ottawa, while I gained something deeply wonderful in 
return, my Husband, my marriage, my new home and life here.
I've struggled with my neighbourhood this past year,
it's been just over a year since we heard the gun shots of a man
murdering a woman.  Lord have mercy.
There's been various things here that I have never had to face up close;
I lived in downtown Ottawa, I knew what building and area there was 
especially rough. But I never lived in it or really near it.
It's culturally different here.
I went from a church that was very multi-cultural, with a priest who
speaks 4 languages fluently, a deacon with two, with many languages
in liturgy; the Lord's prayer often being said in 4 or 5 languages every liturgy;
while I really only, sadly, know one language, I loved being surrounded by
them... I lived in the capital of Canada where I heard many 
languages daily; sometimes I hear someone speaking French here
and it just makes my heart sing.
It took me about a year to adapt to the music of my new far-away church;
now I know it well and I truly love it;
something I still miss so much, and I think will until my dying day,
is how my Ottawa parish knelt (other than the Paschal times) for the 
Consecration of the Holy Gifts.  
The silence.
The sense of the Holy.
The sense of repentance happening.
Lord have mercy, I could weep just thinking of it.
I remember at my far-away church and once glancing at Patrick,
sitting in his chair, and realizing how deeply he was concentrating 
and in prayer; how hard it is for me to pray now; 
I never prayed well but I still feel like I am missing the
"cues" that I used to have, that my heart knew
and responded to.
But I can say that God has still been merciful to me.
That He has shown many times that He is still with me as 
I try to make my life here.
It is said that a new grief will often open up
old griefs and that things mingle in this way,
grief hitting grief,
grief opening another door of grief,
as it were.
So, I will keep doing what I am to do here.
Continue to struggle to build a life here;
enjoy what I have, like NYC and Trader Joes nearby,
and my two churches, many new friends,
my life with my beloved husband,
and try to keep carving out the life God wants me to have here.
These songs are what I listened to a lot when I was newly married
and still hold a lot for me today:

And this song, I can't say enough about it.

In the end, as she sings,
it is Christ who I need, in front,
behind, inside me, behind, everywhere.
CHRIST is the location I need to be rooted in,
not Canada, not Ottawa, CHRIST, and being in Christ 
in His Church... 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday ~ the midpoint of Great Lent

It was very good to be in Church tonight.
Venerating the Cross was a great comfort.
Grieving takes various forms and today I discovered
another layer, with realizing that much of my work
at Patrick's is now done and as always,
we think we have more time.
All I can tell you is that his home is so beautiful,
that it held such colours, beauty, culture,
a love of both the States but I would say even more
for England, Canada and Russia.
Everyone misses a person when they die differently and for 
different reasons; for me it is his kindness,
it's his telling me about what he heard about Canada on the news
this past week and that it was terrible (a lot of it is now days sadly).
He has a big beautiful Canadian flag in his study.
I really miss Canada; I am a Canadian and feel very strongly about
my love of Canada and Canada's connection to the UK.
I miss living in Ottawa and have not visited in almost 2 years, 
at times this feels unbearable,
but there is nothing I can do about it right now;
my life simply did not allow me to come, by way of illness, 
many unexpected things and other trips that had to take precedence. 
It is hard to see my godson growing up so quickly without me.
It's hard to see his older brother turn 10 and I was not there.
But yet I need to be here, I love so much here;
I loved Patrick and have been so glad to serve him in these last ways;
It's hard to let others go, esp. those who saw you in ways that
others simply cannot see.
One cannot give another knowledge of a country and culture
that they simply do not know.
But yet I am so blessed to have many loving people around me
and can only be grateful.
I know that at this time, I am truly meant to be 
where I am and I pray that I can,
as much as I stumble, do some of what 
God was hoping I could do here.
I am most grateful for my marriage to 
My Husband and for the love we share
and that we can double our joys and half the 
sorrows by sharing them.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lately, Here...

Restaurant at hotel Mr Husband 
and I stayed in last night. 
Intense days.
 I had epic insomnia Saturday night and could not go to liturgy, 
as I could not really function. 
Mr Husband had a parish counsel meeting 
so he went ahead to our far-away church. 
I cabbed to Patrick's house in the afternoon. 
G. and family joined us and we packed with extreme carefulness 
all of his Mother's dishes that were in the China cabinet. 
We stayed overnight as my Husband had things to do for Patrick's estate
 and I went back and continued packing and cleaned the China cabinet. 
If you can have reverence cleaning a beautiful China cabinet and dishes, I had it. 
The sun shone in, I had classical music from the UK playing on my phone,
 that Patrick would of loved, 
and the beginning of the book The Scent of Water came to mind,
 about 2 woman who were caring for a newly departed 
who spoke of going out on a stream of living water....

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A quiet day with Church at night

I slept in today...after not being able to fall asleep when I wish to...
Took me a bit to realize today was Wednesday and that
there was presanctified liturgy tonight, which of course 
I needed to fast for!
In the afternoon I watched some videos on my computer and 
knitted the first half of a cover for our new hot water bottle. 
I was on time for church and it was good to be there.
Mr Husband left late and came home late...
we talked and did our shared prayers.
And now it is time to call it a night,
as they say.
Tomorrow I hope to do some reading, laundry and
have hot tea... and just be thankful for a new day.
I am tired as I think many are from Day Light Savings Time,
which always knocks me for a one week loop!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

And for all that...

Well, the blizzard was cancelled!
We had snow and lots of freezing rain.
Power stayed on.
We are so thankful.
Enjoyed the freshly baked bread and cookies today.
Mr Husband worked from home,
as pretty much everyone who could did!
I folded lots of laundry,
did research for helping with Patrick's house,
much more to do there and plans underway,
made lunch and dinner.
Had a much needed hot bath.
And found myself realizing that my whole self
was just whirling with the last few days
and all the work and that I really need
to have some quiet and rest tomorrow... DV.
And that was today.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Whoosh: Patrick, baking and blizzard preparations + prayer request

I woke up to the Blizzard Watch being a Blizzard Warning for
our part of New Jersey and for NYC.
I've been working on prep since Saturday, when I made a soup.
Today I got my baking done.
2 tins of vegan! chocolate chip cookies;
two loaves of bread + 6 rolls;
4 small tins of Koek, 1 medium, 1 large.
I moved veggie burgers, English muffins, batteries up
from our garage freezer as we have no indoor door to it
and the snow may block us from getting in, etc. 
I have jars of filtered water; we filled the tub
for toilet flushing, if we lose power;
we have lots of wool blankets; Mr Husband bought a 
hot water bottle, as if we lose power but not gas, we will
still have our stove top to heat water.
Mr Husband bought gauze and medical tape...
he burned his wrist when he put it over the 
electric kettle that does not whistle and had 
steam coming out of it; it's a second degree burn, 
blistering... it does not hurt him now, but was quite painful last night.
We have a shovel upstairs if needed; 
we could get up to 24 inches of snow.
I ordered a new phone battery bank (a portable charger for the phone) on 
Saturday and impressively Amazon delivered it the next day...
we have an older phone charger as well, both are charged,
our phones are charging, my digital camera batteries are charged...
We have done everything we can think of...
We will see what happens.....
We were at Patrick's after church,
we worked the afternoon and evening,
with a nice dinner break.
We ended up not getting home till 10 PM,
then my Husband had his wrist burnt,
after we were putting away the things that we brought from
Patrick's home; it was a good but intense (emotionally) time.
The beautiful lamp in the picture above is from Patrick's study.
It's such a treasure; we worked on the kitchen a bit and 
I was given a beautiful silver coloured bread basket, some
kitchen things and some baking tins.
I treasure them and have used the two bread tins 2x already today.
It feels like such a good way to honour and love Patrick,
as we miss him and keep praying for him...
I can't stress what a special time yesterday was for us...
So, Mr Husband got home, was doing fine, we had dinner,
did some things, (Koek baking for me!), and then did our prayers.
And then I found out that for the last hour or so, my dear Husband's
throat has been sore.
This really worries me.... he got the flu last March, in Lent,
and it began with a sore throat.
He went to bed already with it still being sore.
He had his first full time week last week...
as you may remember, he was sick full time 5 weeks and then
on half time 2 weeks... for flu and subsequent illnesses. 
Please pray that he (and myself) do not fall ill...
We are as ready as we can be for the storm that is coming.
Now we pray and wait. 
I am remembering again the three prayers Elizabeth Goudge writes of:
Lord I adore
Into Thy Hands
Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

involute (or the latest saga in Elizabeth's life, with 2 cool eye pictures)

I learned a new word today: "involute" which means "wither" (google says 'curl up'). So my trip to the Ophthalmologist was as interesting as always. The doctor, a kind professional doctor with a knack for conversation that makes you feel he is paying attention to you in the moment but you realize that he is seeing probably 20-40 or more people a day; this doctor is Jewish and has the mezuzah on each door way. His office is clean, with nice furniture and lots of doctor's chairs and fancy eye equipment. The people, from elderly and middle aged Jewish people, to a 60 year Malaysian woman who was an aid to an older woman from the Hebrew Home, to a thin black woman, probably from Africa... the Asian lady said she married a man at 39 who was 15 years older than she is and he had already died. She came to NYC to work and was very good at her job. She, the African woman, and I talked about how God always has a way...if one grows old and has no family, there is still a way that one will be cared for.... it was such a fascinating meeting, as if we were having tea and could talk about what really mattered in life. The African woman pointed upwards and said one must live knowing God.... So I had lots of tests for my eye and it showed that there was a change since my first appointment there on November 30th... basically a blood vessel near the retina was enlarged, with a possibility that it may bleed or leak. That's where the 'involute' word was learned. First I was given an eye test where they put dye (via a needle on the top of my right hand) into me, that went directly to the eye. Then they took lots of pictures of the back of the eye, to try to see what was going on. So I was given the choice of 3 medicines in the form of a needle in the eye; I called my Husband so he could be in on the choice and then, once it was chosen what shot I would have, they put many drops in my right eye (to clean, to numb) and put a small eye speculum (something that keeps what it is holding open) in my eye (quite uncomfortable!) this time I was lying back on the medical reclining chair and they gave me a shot in the eye. I could feel the needle in my eye, but there was no sharp pain. Afterwards it felt like I had been punched in the eye and my eye felt so dry, still having some of the drops in it (many antibiotic drops were put in my eye after the shot). This shot was to involute the blood vessel. I go back in 4 weeks to see how this went. Most likely I will need another shot, maybe 2 or 3 more.  :( ... but thank God that I have this medical care! And had such an interesting people-watching time... (There was also this Jewish man who was not cooperating with the woman caring for him, most likely a daughter, and when we were getting into the elevator we looked at each other and I knew quickly that he knew that I knew that he was being difficult on purpose because he found it humorous to do so). Anyway. A day in the life of Elizabeth having NYC adventures!