Mining for Gold

Morning

It was the feast of the angels, and that meant Struan. It was a day that had to be about giving. There have been too many illnesses, dramas and heartaches these last many weeks, that have kept me busier than ever–and focused on the putting out of fires. I was (am) desperately missing the regular routine of reaching out.

Several years ago, when my daughter was five or so, we knew there was a mid-week service at church, but were too busy, too whatever, to even know what we were celebrating. My daughter begged to wear her gold angel wings to church, wings that she had made at school just a few days before. I relented after much begging, and we entered the feast of the holy angels with my daughter already in tune with the day, leading the way as she danced in circles and sang hymns celebrating Saint Michael and his fellow angels.

Children often have knowledge that we would be wise to listen to.

Every night I pray with my littlest one, who will absolutely not head to bed unless he has had triple prayers. My husband typically says the trisagion with him as a start (unless he’s out of town, and then my eldest usually jumps in). I swoop in and say another prayer, thanking God for the day, asking for restful and undisturbed sleep for the night, and John Ronan finishes with prayer number three, said with his eyes wide open and always a smile, entreating the angels to watch over him (among other things!). Triple prayers, every night.

Do you believe in angels?

I do.

Lately I’ve been making my way through Brother Juniper’s Bread Book. Written by Peter Reinhart, a master baker who is also Orthodox, he writes a beautiful explanation of the Scottish tradition of making Struan. It’s a Scottish harvest bread, filled with corn and oats, brown rice and bran. There’s buttermilk and brown sugar and honey…

Midday

Anyway, I had a list of things needing to be done that day–that day of the angels. School, for one. Picking up pine needles. Laundry. Baking Struan, downloading Skype, making a new batch of granola, reading books about angels. I got most of them done. A few of the uncrossed items simply moved to the next day. You know why? It was a feast day! A day to celebrate and learn, and love, and a day to put prayer and feasting in front of errands and domestic dramas.

Rewind

Several days ago I fell into a pit. Piled on top of all the sicknesses came a real live heartache. I haven’t felt angry in a very long time–not real hot anger, but this time I was spinning in circles, my defenses already beaten down by so many other worries and tasks. Prayer. I dipped into prayer, then lunged out, angered again. It was a wild ride. Thank God for the prayers of his saints, for the love of my friends and my priest who reached me and encouraged me to not be so horribly prideful and angry. Anger gets you No Where.

Giving

So, I brought the extra loaf of Struan to a friend who is also in a hard place.

But… when we arrived at church for the akathist, she wasn’t there. Instead, I shared that loaf of Struan with a whole host of everyone. Everyone who was there. So glad I had a way to share. I needed to give. Forgiveness Giving.

Saints All Around

And following on the heals of the feast of the angels was the feast day of Saint Nektarios. What a gift he is–my son was born on November 9th and so we got to celebrate yet again… And all day, when people said Happy Birthday, John Ronan responded this way, “AND, it’s the feast day of Saint Nektarios!”

Saints, birthdays, an ascent from a place of anger to a place of forgiveness. Here are some words I jotted in a notebook last year…

Father sees this time as a time when I can mine some spiritual gold. My body is struggling and God can be my help… Before succumbing to fatigue, ask God for help. Battle it. It will make me stronger in the end. Fatigue, hunger, sorrow–if you can find that place of light, of love and joy in the midst of those trials, then you will indeed strike gold.

Moment by Moment

For three weeks we’ve been battling one domestic dilemma after another. From colds, to migraines, to coughs, to infections. Trying to homeschool a sleeping boy has been difficult (cough, cough through the night, and sleep, sleep during the day). Trying to tend to others when I’ve been unwell myself has been interesting. (My bed has looked so inviting, that I’ve stopped walking by my room.) Cleaning, washing, nursing, slogging back and forth to the pharmacy, making herbal concoctions, and canceling everything. It has been a moment by moment world.

Somehow, in the midst of the madness, we had a Sunday birthday celebration. (Built two birdhouses with papa, goofed around with grandpa, carved a happy pumpkin with grandma [while I slept] made homemade pizza, and roasted marshmallows in the fireplace.)

Somehow, Halloween came and went. Our neighborhood, for better or for worse, is Halloween Central. I get to greet all the little, amazing, beautiful children at our front door and look into their eyes and laugh with them. But it’s true that we have a witch who lives next door. She loves frightening all the little people–so we took her a batch of rosemary rolls yesterday–as a peace-keeping measure–because John Ronan, now that he realizes this, isn’t liking living next door to a part-time witch.

And somewhere in there I managed to bake two wonderful, delicious loaves of pumpkin bread. See, it isn’t all laundry and scrubbing.

And seriously, living moment by moment is one of mankind’s better inspirations. Focusing all my energy on one little sick person, or on one task, has transported this ever-healing phrase from the deep places of my heart, up through whatever nerves carry prayers, and has landed it on my whispering lips,

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Barely Giving

Four dozen persimmon cookies –all to share with folks who visited our church for the Liturgical Arts Festival. (The festival was amazing and the cookies quite tasty…)

Chocolate chip cupcakes–happily handed out to many small and sweet hands–just because we need to keep practice sharing.

A full batch of rosemary rolls, none shared, all gobbled.

So… the lemon cake helped heal the no-good, very bad cold, but believe me when I say I couldn’t find anything to help heal the internal bleeding that kept me bedside this last week. Or the two massive rejection letters that came my way. Or the cold that pounced on top of everything.  Oh, my.  Things do tend to come my way in waves. Gets all of the ick out of the way at the same time, I suppose.

So, no need to spread the germs and tell you any of the gory details. Just know that right now I’m armed with antibiotics and tissues, and the knowledge that it’s my choice whether I smile or frown, simper or simply get on with it.

I’m hoping next week might mean a new spate of baking. But even if it doesn’t, I’m still thankful for oh, so many things. Finches still darting from fig tree to fountain, a little boy who loves being homeschooled even when I’m in my PJs, a husband who hunts and gathers cheesecakes when all is dismal, and laughter in this little house of ours despite trials and a growing basket of laundry.

Lastly, an encouragement to all of you to continue to pray for Nataliya. She went back into surgery just this morning with new complications. May God heal her, and bless her, and bless us all. May we find a way to give and love and laugh even in the middle of whatever this lovely autumn air might bring…

A Little Lemon

It had been three days of a bad cold. My daughter and I were curled on opposite ends of the green couch, complaining and commiserating.

You know, lemon cake might help, I said.

Her eyes brightened. She stopped talking about her  biology class where everything went wrong. She even half-way sat up.

Really lemony lemon cake. Super sour.

That did it. She turned on the music, I hefted my way into the kitchen, she pulled out the ingredients, and I set to mixing.

Once I started to smell the lemon filling the kitchen I knew this was a treat to share–with someone else who needed a lemony cure. I tried to think of others who were suffering with the same nasty, horrible, no-good cold, but everyone I could think of was (thankfully!) healthy. Then, I remembered… My heart sunk. I knew the lemon cake would only be a token gift, but my heart told me not to worry that the giving would be small.

A young mom in our church is strangely, seriously ill. The doctors are at a loss. Natalyia’s liver shut down, and in just one week she went from living a normal life to the very doorstep of leaving. People have rallied, her mom has returned from the Ukraine, and friends are caring for her young son. On Saturday I took the family who is caring for the young boy the lemon cake, and yesterday another young boy had a tragic car accident and the family donated his liver to Nataliya. We are waiting to see how her body reacts to the transplant. Please think of them all, pray for them all, and if you happen to be healthy at the moment, maybe you, too, can give a little something to someone who is on the other side of well.

Meanwhile, I’m on the mend, and seeing the bright, sweet lemony side of things before me. Especially hopeful for Nataliya.

Especially hopeful for Nataliya.

Scones for the Sick

Batch of chocolate chip scones

Mixed and baked: 7:30 am

Ate most of them, gave two to the ailing Gishes

I love making scones. One of these days I’ll post the recipe. It’s too good for words, and you can fiddle with the recipe in all sorts of substituting ways and never ruin it.

So this morning I made a batch of scones as a before-school treat for the munchkins–my second batch in just a few days. The photo above is from an Easter batch I made for the folks at church. Here’s my sweet little one, bedecked in his too-cool blazer that he picked out himself for the special day.

While putting the scones on the cooling rack, the phone rang. I learned that some close friends, carpool friends, were ill. 😦  I packed up a couple of our early morning treats and sent them over to our ailing compatriots.

How fun to share! Get well soon, dear ones…