Friday, March 25, 2011

Joyous Feast

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to the virgin Mary.  And the angel said, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"  She was afraid, and the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus..."  And Mary didn't know how this could be possible, but the angel assured her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God..."  Then, Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." (my paraphrase of Luke 1:26-38) 

I love the Annunciation because of Mary's courage and faith.  She was afraid, but she was willing to trust in God's will for her.  And because she was willing to trust, the rest of us received the greatest gifts: the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Christ.

Finally, below is a youtube video of a Catholic song, based on the Haily Mary prayer, that I just love.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Can't Be Beet Chocolate Cake

This delicious cake is also relatively healthy and Lenten!  I found this recipe online last year when a friend gave me a beet she didn't want to use.  I'm afraid of beets, and I refuse to eat borscht. However, I will eat anything (afraid or not) if I can hide it in something I do like.  I'll be making this recipe today for our Presanctified Potluck.  It was a big hit last year with everyone, but DH.

So, if you have a beet and want a nice treat try this yummy cake.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Blessing of Rejection

"It is also key to listen and watch for the message the rejection has hidden in its folds. At 40 I now believe rejection is God's way of kicking you to higher ground. That said, I would add that although this has always held a gift for me, I still sometimes grow tired of God's boot print on my behind." 

   -By Suzanne Finnamore, "Why Avoiding Rejection Is a Major Mistake" from 
the May 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine

I was reading this article last night because I know people who are sometimes stymied by the fear of rejection.  Just the fear is so bad that they don't even want to try for whatever it is they need or want.  I certainly used to be that way.  I remember being so afraid of rejection that I was debilitatingly shyIf I had a crush on someone, I would wish on dandelions for him to notice me, talk to me, like me.  If the wish came true, I was afraid he wouldn't like the real me, so I wouldn't let him get to know me. 

I'm not afraid of rejection anymore.  I'd still prefer for people to like me, for potential employers to want me, for publishers to like my writing, but if they don't, I'm okay with that.  I think having a husband and children whom I know love me and want me despite all my deficiencies, which they know better than anyone, makes it easier to move past the rejections of other people.

And like Suzanne Finnamore, I can see the blessing in some rejections.  Both DH and I have applied for jobs in the past that we thought we needed, but they were extremely far from family, or they meant having to give up too much time with family, or putting a toddler in daycare.  While being rejected from such jobs still held a sting, I also found it to be a blessed relief.  Maybe things would be a little tougher for awhile, but we'd still have the most important thing -- family --, and we could wait for a better opportunity.

Yes, rejection hurts, but sometimes we need it, and we must always pick ourselves up from it and seek out the next (better?) opportunity.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Balls: A Lenten Dessert

These are DH's favorite, and when I brought a tray for the potluck after Presanctified Wednesday, he asked, "Why are you bringing those here?  Aren't they for me?"  Everyone else loved them just as much, but we did manage to return home with two small ones for the next day.  This was a recipe that he learned in his first grade class, but I've changed a couple of ingredients to make it healthier and fastable.

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1/4 cup ground oats
1/4 cup honey

Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.  Roll into balls (and sprinkle with extra powdered sugar if desired).

Quick, easy, and no actual cooking required! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Giving Alms

I know you're not supposed to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so I'm probably going to obliterate any heavenly treasure I've stored up. However, I had an encounter today that I haven't been able to shake.

I took the morning to do my weekly shopping.  Today was a day full of traffic, accidents, and beggars.  On the way to Target the last stop of the morning, I saw two homeless men on the side of the road.  One was close enough for me to talk to, so I called to him and offered a bag of food, which he took happily.  I like to keep bags of crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. in the car in case I'm stopped at an intersection with someone asking for help.  I never carry cash around, and I prefer not to give money, anyway.  Most people take the food gladly.  One man rejected my offer the second time I saw him because the crackers were too hard for him to eat.  The next time I saw him, I had bananas ready. All of this is really back story to say that I am more than willing to help if someone needs something, and it's in my power to give it.

So, fast forward to Target.  I got out of the car and was opening Bumble's door when a lady approached.  I was a little suspicious so I took a step back to keep some space between us. She was speaking frantically and quickly, "Miss could you help me?  It's not for me; it's for my kids."  

"Sure," I said.  "What do you need?"  At this point, I was expecting a cell phone to call someone because of a broken down car or something.


"I don't have any cash, but you can come shopping with me, and I'll buy whatever you need."  I thought this was a great offer, but she looked at me hesitantly.  So, then I added, "Or you can tell me what sorts of things you need, and I can bring them out to you when I'm done."  I know from past experience that homeless people especially are sometimes reluctant to go into stores, and I thought that might be why she hesistated.

"Uh, no.  Thanks."  And she walked away zig-zagging between cars.  I suppose looking for another mark.  That was not my thought as she walked away, though.  I was thinking, But your kids need stuff.  I really don't mind helping.  It wasn't until later that my thoughts became more cynical.  I realized, though, that what she probably really needs more than the money or food is a prayer.  So I offered one for her because sometimes that's the only help I can give.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bean Burrito Soup

This is a really simple recipe that captures the spirit of Lenten food.  It arose from a modified recipe the results of which I did not anticipate.  I started out to make a leek and potato soup that I have made many times.  Then, because I've already been getting complaints of people feeling bad from not having enough protein, I thought I'd add some beans.  My initial plan had been to add great northern or some other white beans, but not finding them in my pantry, I turned to some pinto beans.  I had not thought ahead to how that would affect the look of the soup until it was too late.  So, I continued on with a brown soup expecting the worst when my family saw it.  I was pleasantly surprised when the girls finished their bowls with only a few grimaces, and DH asked for seconds of the "Bean Burrito Soup."  So, here it is...

3-4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large leek, sliced
1.5 cups of dry pinto beans, rinsed & soaked
1 T salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 dashes garlic powder
water or vegetable broth
hot sauce (optional)
cheddar cheese (optional)

Toss everything into a large pot, and cover with water or broth.  Cook until the beans are soft (30 minutes in a pressure cooker, 1.5 hours otherwise).  Puree in batches until smooth, adding extra water if it gets too thick. 

DH wanted hot sauce, especially a Mexican habanero variety.  The girls had cheddar.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Role Model

Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you shall be saved.


I've been thinking about this quote by St. Seraphim of Sarov for several days now.  I have heard it repeated or read it many times since becoming Orthodox.  Most recently it was in our church bulletin about a fortnight ago.  When I'm sitting alone reading the Bible, or even cleaning the kitchen and listening to the radio, obtaining a peaceful spirit seems like such an easy thing to do.  I think, "When Bumble wakes up, I'll play a game with her. It'll be great!" or "When Yaya comes home from school the first thing I'm going to do is give her a hug."  I resolve to be a gentle disciplinarian and to speak quietly and calmly at all times.  But then life gets in the way.  Someone disobeys, someone whines, something just doesn't go right, and all my peaceful thoughts fly away.  I become tense, frustrated, angry -- everything that I don't want to be.

I want to acquire that peaceful spirit, but I'm just not sure how to do it.  I have been reading the Bible daily, attending church services, and praying; but I still can't seem to keep the bad thoughts and feelings at bay.  Perhaps, I should read up more on the lives of the saints, starting with St. Seraphim, for inspiration and ideas...


Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Ode to Daylight Savings

As a kid growing up in the Deep South, daylight savings time didn't have much impact on my life.  The change in the amount of light throughout the year was subtle enough that it largely escaped me.  I also thought fall was the best season because somewhere there were brightly colored leaves falling from trees just waiting for someone to walk by and crunch them.  Since moving to the Midwest daylight savings time has become much more meaningful, and fall is no longer my favorite season.  I still like it well enough, but spring is now my favorite as trite as that may be.

As the sun begins to set earlier and the clocks are set back in the fall, I get a feeling of dread.  At first, I look at it stoically and tell myself, "Maybe the winter will pass more quickly this year."  When we are able to travel around the holidays, it helps a little to speed things up.  Then we hit February, and the snow keeps falling, and even though the sun stays up a little longer, it feels like winter will never end.  For some of us the entry into Lent makes everything feel even darker, too.  This is particularly bad when we have an early Lent, which, fortunately, is not this year.  But then in the midst of all this bleakness daylight savings time shows its happy face.  Now the sun really begins to "stay up late."  And even if the snow hasn't completely gone away there is now real hope that spring will arrive soon with summer fast upon its heels. 

Easter will be here in 43 days, and although not as easy to pinpoint, spring will be here soon, too.  In the meantime don't forget to set your clocks ahead tonight, and have a happy first day of daylight savings time.

So as not to make a liar of my title here is an imperfect ode.

Turn the clocks ahead
For now we're off.
It's time for bed.
Do not scoff
For an hour now lost
Will be an hour of light.
Hope that light does bring.
This is slight cost
For a great delight.
Now we draw close to spring.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Are We Doing?

I was saddened to hear that the Wisconsin Assembly, too, passed the controversial bill banning collective bargaining for state workers.  I was further saddened to hear that some of the Republican senators who first passed the bill have received death threats from opponents.  This is a perfect repeat of the Healthcare Reform Act with the actors merely changing sides!  I think the biggest difference between these two controversial bills is that one was meant to help the American people, whether you agree with it or not, and the other was meant to strip Americans of their rights.  What are we doing?  We are going to destroy ourselves if we don't stop buying into polarizing propaganda, look at the facts, and start finding compromises that will truly help solve the country's problems.

And I guess that's all I have to say on the matter.

Pot Meet Kettle

I heard this morning that the Wisconsin State Senate Republicans passed the controversial bill to ban collective bargaining for public employees.  They did this quite slyly, removing the budget aspects of the bill that would have required Democrats to be present.  Might I say they are forcing this bill upon a populace that doesn't want it?  The large demonstrations in the capitol and elsewhere as well as multiple opinion polls showed that a majority of the people in Wisconsin did not support this bill.

I am saddened to hear that it passed because I fear it does not bode well for the plight of public sector employees in other states, and really all employees, if it becomes law.  More than this though I am flabbergasted by the Republicans' hypocrisy.  It seems not so very long ago that I heard national Republican leaders decrying the President and Democratic majority in Congress for "forcing" the Healthcare Reform Act on a "disapproving" American populace. 

Whether we're talking about national, state, or local politics, I think that if you're going to get on your high horse about the responsibilities of the majority, you really should practice what you preach.  Rather than "ramming" an unwanted bill down your constituents' throats, why not work towards some honest, fair compromise?  I hope the Wisconsin Assembly will act with less duplicity than the Senate Republicans.  I hope they will listen to what the people are telling them and consider a reasonable compromise to solve the state's budget woes while still protecting the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Forgiveness Vespers

And so begins Lent.  I feel like I'm off to a good start, but as soon as I say that I'll trip and fall...

After liturgy, we had friends over for a last cheesy meal, which I regret was not as tasty as I had hoped it would be.  The company was good, though, and the kids had special bedtime stories from friends before we returned to church for vespers.

The vespers service seemed unusually well attended for a 7 o'clock service at our parish.  It was rather uplifting.  My children were unusually well behaved, too.  That was even more uplifting.  Yaya even stood in the forgiveness line by herself this year.  It was the first time she wasn't being held by someone.  We were joined at the service by Archimandrite Mathias, and his brief sermon was just the pep talk I needed to get moving in the right direction.  One comment, in particular, has stuck in my mind, and I think it is worth repeating.

He said... Just as with the prodigal son who came walking back to the father, and whose father ran to meet him, so if we take just one step, God the Father takes many to meet us.

There is such great hope in that for me.  Although I may not take as many steps as I'd like during this Lent or throughout my life, God will be running to meet me as long as I keep taking some.

To all of you who were not at Holy Trinity's service tonight, I ask your forgiveness for any offenses I may have committed against you.