Perspective is everything!

"Am I "seeing" today in God's light? Or is it a purely human agenda (my own and other people's) taking up my entire field of vision? How burdonsome that can be. And what a relief it is to let light in; that is, hand it all over to God and re-focus on His presence in the whole picture. Perspective is everything!"
~ Sister Vassa Larin

 

This part of Sister Vassa's devotion for May 19th in her book  Reflections With Morning Coffee really hit home this past week.  Often as I work myself up over recent events and anxious thoughts of the future and hurts from the past, I loose sight of this simple and obvious reality.  Perspective really is everything. When we come out of our own field of vision, the anxiety lessens.  When we re-focus on God's presence, everything looks so different!

Recent events in our lives have led me to seeking His word more often - more time alone with Him and more devotion and prayer.  And more listening....  One prayer stays at the forefront of my mind.  It's from Philippians.  It speaks of thanksgiving (gratitude) and changing perspective from anxiety to one of thanks and focusing  on things that are lovely and praiseworthy.  Perspective IS EVERTHING!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.           Philippians 4:6-9

 

Our struggles and challenges are real.  But we need not give all of our energy to being anxious over them.  We can focus on what is lovely.  Perspective is everything!

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me, a sinner.

 

 

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So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.     ~ James 1: 19-20

 

The above quote came from a devotional I was reading during my 'weekend away".  I've had some issues lately that have ignited anger, or wrath.  It's so hard to deal with angry emotions, especially when you know you are being ill treated.  It's difficult to stand up for yourself without giving into the temptation of reacting in anger.

Be angry and do not sin; Have remorse upon your beds for what you say in your hearts.       Psalm 4: 5

It is okay to be angry, but not to act with anger.  One must even be remorseful for the angry words in your hearts.  One must certainly repent of angry actions.

 

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.    Ephesians 4:29

Be careful of the words you speak while angry.  Be sure they are imparted with grace.  Stop, count to ten and pray before you speak.

 

Oh Lord, help me to not become discouraged and to be slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Give me grace to follow the way of Your love.  Help me to not sin when I am angry but to speak  with grace, to respond with love instead of reacting with wrath.  Help me to keep my head and be careful with my words and deeds.  Help me to remember to pray continually in all moments and to seek You in the times of trouble.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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I've taken a weekend away.  Well not really, it's more like a few days during the week but a few days during the week didn't make a very good title.  😉

Life has been hard as of late and I keep reading about Adrenal Fatigue and how important it is for self-care.  One book author (a doctor) actually recommended to one of her patients that she just stop everything and go away for a month and do nothing but rest and relax.  Um?  I can't do that.  But when my husband said a few weeks ago that he planned on going to see his mom for a few days in May my brain went into happy mode and I asked if he could take our youngest along with him.  The older two are quite self-sufficient and this would give me, not a month, but  a few days in which to go away.  So I left on Sunday- not a minute too soon for my adrenal and mental health- and am happily here until Wednesday.

So I have almost 3 days of taking care of myself.  What to do??

My current "Work Space" for my 'weekend away'...but only for work I want to do when I want to do it.... I'll be sad when the three days are over but hopefully well rested!

 

I brought my own food to a hotel with a kitchen (NOT a bad price, I was pleasantly surprised after doing a little searching). Good healthy food I can just throw together and not worry about whether anyone else likes it but me.  Last night's dinner was yummy!

I brought my favorite icon and my bible.

 

 

I brought two devotional books.

 

I brought my latest and favorite book on Adrenal Fatigue (to study the detox and self-care ideas suggested by Dr. Romm).

And I brought my Bullet Journal -  completely blank with lots of supplies to get it started.  Do you use a bullet journal?  I just stumbled on this idea recently and have watched all sorts of YouTube Videos and scanned Pinterest for ideas on how to make mine work.  It will be all my planners, list making and such all wrapped into one notebook.  I LOVE the idea!!!  And I've had a great time getting it started.

This is in the front few pages....a verse from Philippeans 4 and a doodle page to remind me to simplify things...
My first Weekly Planning pages... I'll be doing some adjustments for next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I actually started the bible reading, prayer and devotionals last night as well as got the Bullet Journal started, ate dinner,  took a bubble bath, played a little solitaire for the first time in ages, played around on the internet and went to bed by 9:15.  Then I  slept for over 8 hours! I haven't  done that in            A G E S!!!  Of course, I'm sure the fact I only slept two hours the night before has a lot more to do with that than just getting away...   🙁

I know this get away will not eliminate the Adrenal Fatigue.  But it IS a step to health.  Learning to let myself know when I need to get away and acting on it is a BIG step in my path to self-care.  Also spending more time in quiet devotion and prayer is something I need to increase.

I'm also working on my food plan for the next few months--  there's 40 new foods on my AVOID list now from the ALCAT test results I got back about a week ago or so and about 15 other items  that affect some of the supplements I've been taking so I need to rethink on some of that as well.  I'll be working on detox stuff too which is VERY IMPORTANT to folks with MTHFR as well as Adrenal Fatigue and whatever else ails me (just sent in some hormone type saliva tests today and will be awaiting those results too).

Well-  there's my little catch up post on my time away and what I'm up to.  Time for a little rest now as my body is telling me to do.  In the meantime,

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU NEED A LITTLE R & R?

 

 

It is a time of much challenge to those that are Christians throughout the

world. 

 We  must nourish our minds and souls with the words of our Lord and our Church Fathers.  For in this nourishment we will find strength, courage and wisdom.

 Please allow me share to with you some words that I find nourishing to my mind from the sources that I thrive upon - The Holy Bible, books and sources on the saints and church fathers, and various other books and sources related to my Orthodox Faith.  I hope you will gain from these peaceful reflections as I do.   May God be with you.

 

Recently, I have once again read The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: A Prayer Book for Orthodox Moms by Annalisa Boyd.  Why I don't carry this book around me daily is beyond me.  If you are an Orthodox Mom and you don't have this book, get it now.  Her words are so true to heart and the pages are filled with quotes of the church fathers and prayers to suit every need.  I wanted to share some today.

 

Those times I have stepped back and taken a moment in silence, I have found many of the issues I thought were so pressing actually fall away to reveal heart issues- issues I need to bring before the Lord in continual prayers.  Of course this doesn't mean discipline may not be in order, but I will not be sinning in my anger if I take a moment to reflect , pray for my child, and address him in love. What impact might I have on my children's souls if I consistently approached them in this manner?  ~  Annalisa Boyd

 

Prayer -  Complaining

Lord Jesus Christ, let every word that comes from my mouth be acceptable in Your sight and full of Your praises.  Remind me when I feel like complaining that our Lord Jesus Christ endured the very Cross without a single complaint.  Let my mouth speak of Your goodness, and may I tell the world of my great joy because of Your finished work on the Cross.  When the worm of complaint tries to penetrate my heart and mind, let it be a reminder to me to pray for my family and those in need.  Amen.

 

Prayer - Greed/Selfishness

Grant, O Lord, Your wisdom to teach my children to be lovers of God rather than lovers of the world.  In their innocence let me not neglect these great lessons necessary for their souls.  If my heart has forgotten these lessons, or wasn't properly taught, forgive me and help me to learn in all humility.  Help us to accept the gifts you provide for us, but let us also be eager to give whatever we have to those in need.  Remind us always that this world is our temporary home, a mere shadow of the glories to come.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

How do you refrain from complaining in your life?  How do you teach your children to be lovers of God rather than lovers of the world?

 

I use to do posts that I titled "reflections".  It's been a long time and I'd like to get started again.  I glean so much in my bible reading, devotion reading, prayer books, quotes from our Church Fathers and other sources.  I like to share them with my readers.  So may this be the first in a long line of Sunday Reflections!

Photo by Pixabay

It is a time of much challenge to those that are Christians throughout the

world. 

 We  must nourish our minds and souls with the words of our Lord and our Church Fathers.  For in this nourishment we will find strength, courage and wisdom.

 Please allow me share to with you some words that I find nourishing to my mind from the sources that I thrive upon - The Holy Bible, books and sources on the saints and church fathers, and various other books and sources related to my Orthodox Faith.  I hope you will gain from these peaceful reflections as I do.   May God be with you.

 

And pray ye without ceasing on behalf of other men.  For there is in them the hope of repentance that they may attain to God.  See, then, that they be instructed by your works, if in no other way.   ~  St. Ignatius of Antioch

 

 

Help one another with the generosity of the Lord, and despise no one.  When you have the opportunity to do good, do not let it go by.  ~  St. Polycarp of Smyrna

 

“Illumine our hearts, O Master Who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

— Prayer read silently by the priest before the reading of the Gospel

For further soul nourishment, take out your bible and read Today's Readings:  Acts 12:1-11; John 15:17-16:2

 

What are your thoughts and reflections?  What do these quotes and prayers bring to mind? 

This icon is on my computer desktop.  Oddly it's one of my absolute favorites and yet we don't have one for our walls.  So every year I add it to the desk top and it stays there for quite a long time.  A visual reminder of what this week and what our faith is about.

So it's Holy Week already.  Wow-  and I thought Lent was hard.  Today has been full of difficult challenges- emotionally and physically,  but I keep looking forward-  knowing the resurrection is coming- knowing there is light at the end of these dark tunnels and God can pull us through anything.  But there are moments, difficult moments, in which it is very hard to keep the eye on the One Thing Needful.

 

This week will be a light week as far as homeschooling goes.  Really there are no lessons planned.  Just a pile of materials.

 

Though these will be our focus.

 

And all the days go like today even these may not be consumed in the entirety as I hoped.

But there is church services.  And there is Pascha.  What else is truly necessary?

Our Little Icon Wall in our dining room

 

 

Today is the Feast Day of the Annunciation  -  the announcement made by the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would have a child.

The Gospel Reading is Luke 1:25-38.

"And having come, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.'

Mary was blessed.  She was highly favored, Full of Grace!

She is, in fact, the most blessed woman who has ever lived because of her absolute and complete  willingness to receive God's grace .  As spoken by her son, the Theotokos, Mary, was blessed to "hear the word of God and keep it" (see Luke 11:28).  She was the first to say yes to Jesus!  Her response was of highest obedience to God.  She sets an example for us all.

Where the first woman, Eve, was disobedient to God, Mary is obedient.

This is an obedience to God we can all learn from.  And teach to others.  Especially our children.

Will I teach my 6 year old about Mary's virginity?  No, not this year.  Will we have lots of lessons to  teach him about all the details of Mary's life and about the Betrothal between her and Joseph and teach him how Jesus was her only son and that Joseph's other children came from a previous marriage?  All of this in due time, but for a 6 year old?  My focus is on the most important aspect.  Mary said Yes!  She said Yes to God and that is what we all must do.  She is the greatest woman who ever lived because she accepted God's will with willingness.

Accepting God's will with willingness.

Isn't accepting God's will  what we all struggle with?

Isn't obedience what we all struggle with?

Isn't obedience what our children struggle with?

This feast day is a wonderful opportunity to teach our children the wonderful ways of obedience-  how obedience to God can change the world.

For more about why I think Mary is the Greatest Woman Who Ever lived, see my post from November, 2013.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast love...

 

We read over it daily.

We talk about the meaning of the words, the meaning of the prayer.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

 

I make him aware of his transgressions and, sure enough, he makes me aware of my own.  Not so much in our lessons, but in day to day life.  Those are the most important lessons of all.

Our children are tools to our salvation.  No one can point out to me my sinful ways or humble me quite as quickly as this little being.

Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

 

God gave us these children.  They teach us wisdom.  Oh but to have the open eyes of a child!  To see the glories they see-  and to see the truths that come so easily to them!

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

A constant prayer on my lips, in my heart...

 

Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy Sprit from me.

 

I need His ever presence.  I need the guidance of the spirit.  I must look to Him to restore my joy.  I must guide this young child to always seek His presence.

O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise

 

Oh and Lord close them when they need to be closed!

 

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit

Stay close to me Lord- through this Lenten season and all the seasons to come.  Help me to break this prideful spirit...help me to sacrifice and show Thy steadfast love and Thy abundant mercy to all as you have given freely to me.

Help me to teach these young ones the same.

Thank you to Basil Fritts of Flickr for the photo- slight adjustments were made.

 

 

 

 

Ladder of Divine Ascent

I stated in a previous post that I would be reading Thirty Steps to Heaven for Lent this year.  I've always enjoyed the vision of the Ladder as it offers us as Orthodox a visual of steps to take on our journey in becoming closer to God.  For my readers who are not Orthodox, Saint John Climacus, also known as Saint John of Sinai and St. John of the Ladder, wrote a document for the monastic at Sinai in which has been known as wonderful guidance to not only monastics, but to the layman as well. Vassilios Papavassiliou has written a guide for us average person to go along with the Ladder of Divine Ascent-  a little more easily understood and relative to those of us not taking monastic vows so to speak.  In other words, ordinary folk living within the world that may have some difficulty understanding the words of Saint John or how to apply it to our daily lives as spouses,  mothers, homemakers, homeschoolers and parishioners can now more easily learn and accept the challenges offered by the words of St. John.

The author does well to remind us that the climb is not necessarily in order rung by rung.  So those of us that have not obtained the mastery of renunciation, the first step, do not have to feel we are stuck forever on the first rung.  In reading the book, I must admit I'm probably stuck on them all thus far- and I'm only halfway through. The author goes on to say that very few people will be able to climb all 30 steps of the ladder.  In fact, if you think you have, he says, you probably need to go back to the beginning.

I could probably write an entire blog on just this book alone.  I have a feeling it will be a starting point for many future posts. It will definitely be on my shelf of books to reread.  This one may become well worn in time.

In the meantime, if you haven't read it yet, I urge you to do so-  Orthodox or not.  It is packed of great wisdom on how to live this life always thinking of our relationship with God and keeping in mind that all we do or don't do affects that relationship.

God wants us to have a child's heart.  Thus St. John tells novices of the monastic life to look to infants as their example.  We can take this to apply equally to adult converts or nominal Christians who have only now decided to make a beginning of spiritual life.  God ants us, though grown up with adult minds, having knowledge, wisdom, and understanding , to be like children:  "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).

 

I know, I KNOW...setting aside any time in the day is difficult. It's HARD.

But setting aside prayer time, time with GOD, is the most important time of your day and without it, the rest of the time just doesn't go the same, does it?

So how do you do it?

Well, for me, my best time is when the rest of the house is quiet.  And while that doesn't please my tired body at 6am when my alarm goes off, it does please my soul.   So that's what I do.  I set the alarm for 6 (or a time that I know I'll have at LEAST a half hour or more to wash my face, get that first 16 ounces of water in, maybe make a cup of coffee and start my morning devotion time in a QUIET, peaceful atmosphere).  I like to have more than that half hour, but sometimes my body is too tired.  Regardless, I like to have as much quiet time for my reading and prayer as possible.

I start out with some quiet prayer time.  I may say a few of our Orthodox morning prayers...

From my bed and sleep Thou hast raised me:  O Lord, enlighten my mind and my heart, and open my lips that I may praise thee, O Holy Trinity:  Holy, holy, holy art thou, O God.  Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.

but mostly this is quiet time for me to talking to God, thanking Him for my blessings, asking him to increase my faith and telling him what's on my mind.

I, personally, save most of my formal prayers for Morning Prayer time with my family (or, as it turns out most days, me with my youngest son).  I follow this up with my daily readings, and either studying the psalms (one that I'm working on memorizing and one or two extra), more Gospel reading or the book of Isaiah (which just happens to be the book I'm trying to work on currently, using a bible study guide to help me along and understand this prophetic book more clearly).  Sometimes I follow up with another book on the Orthodox Faith or a devotional or similar book.  Currently this is when I'm trying to read a minimum of five pages of Thirty Steps To Heaven- the book I chose to focus on for the season of Lent.

Your prayer time may look similar to mine or it may look completely different.  There is no hard and fast rule.  BUT ,  you should have a rule.  Something to guide yourself to be sure you always have that prayer time.

Now- keep in mind-  do allow for flexibility.  Your time of prayer rule shouldn't be dogma.  There are times it just won't be possible to keep it.  Times you may need to pray earlier, later. in a different place (my preferred place is my comfy living room chair) or dramatically shorten the time.  The important thing is that you do make your prayer time, your time with God, a regular routine.  It's too important to continuously skip.

While remembering to allow for flexibility, think about what time is best for you?  Morning? Afternoon?  Early evening? Bedtime?  Does it need to be a quiet time like mine?  Maybe distractions aren't an issue for you and you can be more flexible for it.  Maybe you have a ten minute break time at work where you can sneak off and have a few minutes.  Think on it. Ponder.  I'm sure you can come up with SOMETHING.

Short on time?  Even 5 minutes for now is better than nothing.

Of course, the more time you spend with Him, the more mindful and aware of His ever presence you will be.  But sometimes the course of our lives don't allow that half hour or more in a day.  What can you do then?  Well last Lent I was experiencing just this.  A dear friend of mine, my Godmother actually, mentioned again the prayer soap she had.  A special bar of soap she had that when she used it, she would pray for someone.  So I took away our liquid soaps for the duration of Lent and replaced them with bars of soap.  They weren't all fancy, but because it was a bar, it made me remember.  And so when I washed my hands, I would pray for something....maybe for my Godmother or another person, but mostly I just used the Jesus Prayer as I was washing.

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

It was a good habit all through Lent, and while I admit I don't ALWAYS think to do so now (and have returned to my liquid soaps), I do quite often find myself praying the Jesus prayer at this time.  It was a great way to be sure I was getting in at least SOME prayer time in my day.  So if you are really truly pressed for time, some sort of thing like this may be just what you need to get started.

What do YOU do to get in your prayer time?  I'm sure others would love some more tips!