Thursday, February 23, 2012

lent is not about guilt- its about going back to the beginning

Its that time of year. We make lists of lenten foods to buy, we pull out our prayer ropes as we equip ourselves for the journey.

Yet, if you are like me, you can become overwhelmed by all the great ideas people have out there. You see beautiful arrangements, calendars, countdowns, icons. And you want to do it ALL. You hear words of wisdom and piety and want to BE that, to DO that. Almost immediately following the inspiration is one of two reactions- setting impossibly high goals for Lent, as if it were a trophy to win. Or, feeling guilty knowing that you can't do all you want to for Lent.

And that gong of guilt can ring and ring throughout the season, each time we fall, each time we forget what we should do. Guilt can deafen us to the real purpose of lent.

The purpose is to go back.

We go back to the Garden of Eden, where our ancestors had a perfect relationship with God. Where they lived with the animals, but didn't eat of them. Where their time was spent tending the garden, but not enslaved to labor. Where they conversed with God and each other in wholeness and intimacy.

We attempt to change some things in our lives now to reflect that time. We say no to distractions so we can say yes to communion.

If we do that, we have lived out the Lenten journey.

I have found that it is better to have small, realistic plans in which we can be consistent, rather than lofty ideas that end up fizzling out. Everyone is different, and especially as a family, there are many needs to consider. This year, I hope to:
- mark our lenten journey with a special candle and a calendar at our prayer corner.
- have lenten meals for me and my husband and lenten dinners for our whole family
- say the prayer of St. Ephrem each day (my boys love this!)
- reduce our TV watching (I am the worst of all at this!)
- only be on the computer when my boys are in bed
- read spiritually uplifting books
- volunteer at the local community center

It is hard, as we have been gone from the garden for so long. Our habits are entrenched and the world around us affirms the very vices we are trying to abandon. I often hear people saying they are looking forward to Lent, but I for one, sigh deeply as I look at the list above and begin what I know will be a difficult road.

But that is the grace of Lent. We are not traveling alone. If it were up to us, we couldn't take even the first step. But God himself is in us, accompanying us and guiding us. By His grace, we will walk in faithfulness back to the beginning.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Though I haven't blogged much about it, the past two months have been a roller coaster. My husband finished all his classes except for one, so he began looking for a job. I had heard people complain about the economy and heard stories of people looking for work for a year or more, but I never really understood how totally unsettling it is to not have a job.

Not to brag, but my husband has quite a variety of skill sets. He has done construction for years, taught art classes, worked in a hotel, cleaned at the school where I taught, and now has a masters in counseling. He applied at probably 12 different jobs and most of them never called back. He had some doors open and then close and then open again. He had an opportunity that we said no to and then wondered if we had done the right thing. Our standards got lower and lower. He looked at seasonal jobs and things that didn't even require a high school education.

Two weeks ago, I reached my limit. I was shopping for health insurance, which in itself is a walk through the valley of fear, and crunching the numbers, and living with the constant hope that the phone ringing was a job offer. It was exhausting and one evening I just laid on the couch and refused to make any more decisions or answer any more questions. I just needed a break from it all. I had my little breather and then I felt better.

And on Monday, he had an offer. Not a great offer, but something.
And on Friday, he had another offer. It was the job he had wanted, with benefits, in his specialty area, and the shift he preferred. It was all we had wanted. . . just a couple months later than we would have liked.

Seeing my husband so happy this weekend, I realized that he carried as big a burden and I did. Bigger, even. He loves us so much that he filled out application after application, got background checks and drug tests. Just to take care of our family.

Now I am reflecting, wondering what I was supposed to learn through this process. What gift of grace was I given despite the stress and anxiety? On this road that seemed so twisted and strange to me, what did God want to reveal?

One thing I learned is that gratitude is a practice, not a feeling. On the worst days, I could look up from my own fear and see how rich I am. I made myself pay attention to all I have and I discovered that my most favorite things in life are free because they are a gift.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hilarious!! Abacus vs. Computer

This was from Matuska Anna's blog- Praying with my Feet

Advantages of the Abacus versus the Computer
  1. The abacus isn't obsolete three days after you buy it.
    “Hey, Joe, look at my new AB5000!”
    “I hate to tell you this, but they just released the AB5001.”
  2. People can't steal information from your hard drive.
  3. You can't fritter away your afternoon playing solitaire or minesweeper.
  4. Facebook isn't so much a hit.
  5. It's much safer for your kids to play on.
  6. You can take (in theory) an abacus through the metal detector at an airport.*
  7. People think you're smart. Any idiot can use a computer.
  8. The abacus floats in a flood.
  9. If you want to resell it, simply move all the beads to the left to zero out your hard drive.
  10. There are no “abacus viruses”.
  11. In a pinch you can make your own abacus. In less than a decade.
  12. You will never be subjected to “abacus chain mail.”
  13. The cost of ink cartridges doesn't factor into your buying decisions.
  14. You can use the abacus in a power failure.
  15. Y2K was a non-issue.
Disadvantages of the Abacus versus the Computer
  1. Internet connections are a lot slower.
  2. You can't fritter away your afternoon playing solitaire or minesweeper.
  3. Not much memory.
  4. There's no abacus help desk.
  5. No one has figured out how to download music yet.
  6. It's hard to watch DVDs on your abacus.
Things that are just the same
  1. If you drop it, you probably lost all your work.
  2. There's still a learning curve.
  3. Somebody else will always have a newer or more impressive one than you have.
  4. Your kids will still figure it out faster.

    (A collaborative effort by Father and Matushka)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

adam thada, i need you here

what is more fun than comparing different health insurance plans?

what else could delight the soul more that juggling numbers for deductibles, premiums (why cant they just say the word payment?), copays and coinsurance?

what could bring more joy than comparing your bank account to your monthly income and deciding which one should take the bigger hit?

One word- ANYTHING.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

choosing the season (or not)

As I write, it is 52 degrees and sunny outside. If you dont look at the calendar, it feels like March or April. The daffodils have been fooled, the trees are blooming. We had one little snow and now spring is edging into February. I love spring, its my favorite season. Usually when a day like this comes in March, I go crazy buying soil and seeds. But this year it feels so premature, like an interruption in the normal cycle of things. I look out the window and my inner clock says, "this is just not right".

I was thinking today that the weather and thus, seasons, are something beyond our control. They are subject to forces greater than us. The tilt of the earth, the patterns of the rain, the directions of the wind. Even with all the money we spend to predict the weather, all we can do is predict it, we cannot change it. It is given, not taken.

Thus are the seasons of life. We make plans, we do the best we know how to make a good life, but some things are beyond our control. Life comes, death comes. Friends disappoint, family falls ill. Loved ones move, jobs change. Some events are blessings we could never have imagined. Some are hard, very hard.

I have lived around fatalists- people who face the world believing that bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it. I have also lived around control freaks- who believe that with enough hard work just about anything can be changed.

I probably lean to the control freak side, but as I get older I see that there are some choices placed in our hands and others that are beyond us. Sometimes action is the cure, and sometimes prayer is the hope.