Dormition and Transfiguration Items Available

New items available for upcoming feasts.  Transfiguration is August 6th and the Dormition Fast begins August 1st.  We have a calendar to count down the days of the Dormition Fast, and a cute nightlight to remember the Light of Christ.

Come and see!

Orthodox Christian Craft Supply

 

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Holy Week Journal: Holy Thursday

No morning service today.  Poor Lonna stayed home from school sick.  We took advantage of a slow morning.  We’ve been limping through the week school-wise, trying to still get the basics in.  After today, though, we’ll take off until next Tuesday.

We prayed the Canon to the Lord for a Sick Child for Lonna, and anointed her with oil.  She has been suffering from a bad cold-like virus for the last few days.

In the afternoon, we went on a nature walk.  I had vowed that we would walk the same trail once a month for an entire year, tracking the progression of seasons, etc.  We never made it there in January or March, so we’re off to a horrible start!  On our February trip, it was an icy tundra, but yesterday, the signs of spring were evident.  Although it was about 42 degrees, it seemed much warmer.  There was this bright, glowing orb in the sky…I think I vaguely remember it, but it’s been so, so long since I’ve seen it…yes, I believe it’s called the sun!

The sun shone and showed off the pond swelling from spring rains.

Spring waters and buds are nice, but the real attraction was the wildlife.  This preserve is Canadian Goose Central in the spring.  Here, dozens of geese lays their eggs and hatch their young.  The air thundered with the honk…honk of the geese on water, land, and sky.  No goslings yet, but one mama for some reason built her nest out in the open by the trail, so we watched her for a bit (or was it the dad???).  Then, we were treated to bath and show off time from the rest of the crowd.

I always try to get out in nature during Holy Week.  The natural world is not separate from us.  In our modern society, where we spend most of our days indoors, we have forgotten our close ties to nature.  God is present in His Creation…all of His Creation…and by learning about the world around us, we learn more and more about God and more and more about ourselves.  Pascha is in the spring for a reason.  The parallels between the awakenings of the trees and the awakenings of our souls; the birth of baby animals and our deliverance from death; these should not be missed.

At Vesperal Liturgy in the afternoon, we remembered the Last Supper.  Also, Father put Communion in the tabernacle on the altar.  On every Orthodox altar is a container called the tabernacle.  Every year on Holy Thursday, the priest takes some of the bread and wine consecrated at the Liturgy and places it in the tabernacle.  That way, throughout the year, if someone is sick or dying and needs to take Communion right away, the gifts are there and available.  They are the body and blood of Christ, so they do not spoil or rot.  They are mystically preserved in case the need arises.

Of Your Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today, as a Communicant.  For I will not speak of Your mysteries to Your enemies, neither like Judas will I give You a kiss, but like the thief will I confess You, Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.

Lonna felt better by evening, and we all returned in the evening for the service of The Twelve Passion Gospels.  Remember, Orthodox liturgical time runs from evening to evening, not morning to morning, so this is a service for Holy Friday.  My first year as Orthodox, the whole week was jolting and seemed off kilter.  It just seemed wrong to remember things on the “wrong” day.  Now, though, I enjoy this wise arrangement. On Thursday night, we remember the Crucifixion.  Your heart contemplates the mysteries of the events all throughout your sleep, and when you wake up Friday morning, it is fresh in your mind.  You go through the day already in remembrance, rather than living a day and then only talking about it at its conclusion.

Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung upon the tree.  The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.  He Who wraps the heavens with clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.  He Who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.  The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.  The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  We worship Your passion, O Christ.  Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.

15th Antiphon— The Twelve Passion Gospels

This service is one of layers.  The accounts of the Passion in all four Gospels are read in one service.  In between each of the twelve readings, we sing about what we’ve read.  There’s one layer.  And then another.  And then another.

Midway through, the clergy come out from behind the altar carrying a life-size icon of Christ, as well as a cross.  They lay Christ on the cross and nail Him to it.

The sound of the rock hitting the nail pierces the air in the room.  My breath catches in my throat.  They raise up the cross, and we all come forward to prostrate before it and kiss the feet of the Lord.

By the end of the service, I cannot explain the feelings.  All I can say is that I truly feel.  They crucified Christ.  They spit on and slapped Him.  They killed the King.  And I am the one to blame…

As I lay down in bed on Holy Thursday, I mourn.  The Lord is dead.  Indeed, the anticipation of Resurrection is in the air.  It’s not a mysterious ending to this story.  We all know what happens in the final act of the play.  But today, today is not a day to celebrate.  It is not a day to jump ahead.  I try to live like the Apostles of Jesus who did not understand what was happening at the time.  I try to stand beside that Cross in misery.  Christ is dead.  Let the whole world weep.

The most memorable song of The Twelve Gospels service refers to the thieves crucified alongside Christ.  One jeers at the Lord, but the other sees that this man beside him is not just any man.  He utters the words on my lips as I drift off to sleep, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom”.

The wise thief, You made worthy of Paradise, in a single moment, O Lord.  By the wood of Your Cross illumine me as well, and save me.

The Orthodox Life: Part 2 (Communion)

I was going to write about Prayer next in this series, but I think I’ll play with the order a bit to make things more cohesive.  This is a series of posts about the Orthodox Christian life.

****************************************************************

The Divine Liturgy is the service on Sunday morning in an Orthodox Church, but that’s not the only day it can be served.  Liturgy can be served almost everyday.  In local parishes, it is usually served on Sunday’s and Feast Days.  It is not merely a worship style.  It is not merely a prayer service.  The Divine Liturgy is the service of the Eucharist (Communion).  It is the core of the cycle of services, because it is the core of our Faith.  Christ died and rose again.  In the Divine Liturgy, we commemorate that as we commune with each other and God.

I remember Communion as a child.  I was blessed to grow up in a church that did celebrate Communion every week, which is unusual in the Protestant world.  The shiny, brass trays would be passed down the rows, one containing small, Tic-Tac sized bread wafers and the other containing small cups of grape juice.  I was very excited when I was baptized, because that meant that I could actually partake of these elements.  Then and into adulthood, I tried hard to make something of that moment.  To appreciate the symbols and what they stood for.  To have my heart and mind embrace the sacrifice of Christ.  It was quite difficult most of the time.  The flow of the service unintentionally distracted from contemplation.  Basically, Communion was that short moment between the singing and the sermon.  It was too jarring of a transition for it to be much else.

The Divine Liturgy’s intention is to celebrate the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Communion is not just a part of the service…it is the service.  The first section of the Liturgy was designed for all those seeking information about this faith called Christianity.  We pray, we read Scripture, we listen to a sermon.  It’s a time of careful and deliberate instruction.  In present times, all are welcome to stay the entire Liturgy, but in ancient times, visitors and those still learning were asked to leave before the Eucharist.  Actually, they were required to leave.  Words still remain in the Liturgy today, testifying to the weight of this moment.

“The doors!  The doors!” the Deacon cries out.  In the Ancient World, Christianity wasn’t common, popular, or even legal in most places.  In fact, it was a dangerous thing to be a Christian.  Christians were persecuted, tortured, and killed frequently.  For their belief in God.  For their belief in the Resurrection.  For their belief in the Eucharist.  All outsiders were made to leave and not watch the moment of the Eucharist.  The doors were sealed and guarded, for in many cases, partaking of the Eucharist could literally get you killed.

But why?  What is in this act that you could be killed for?  I could never imagine anyone being killed for the Communion service of my youth.  It was a symbol.  A remembrance.  I definitely couldn’t imagine someone being willing to die for it.  But the blood of the martyrs cries out to me.  This Eucharist…it is no symbol.  “Take…eat…this is my body.”  Not a symbol.  Real flesh.  “This is my blood.”  Not a symbol.  Real blood.  The flesh and blood of Christ.  Just like He said.

In the Orthodox Church, we do not try to explain how this transformation takes place.  We do not need to know.  All we need to know is that Christ said it…that’s enough.

In John 6:56, Christ says that “he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  He says this as part of a long talk with His disciples.  An uplifting promise that He will be with them and He, the Bread of Life, will nourish them.  But their response is not one of joy or peace.  Instead, they are confused and troubled.  Some even leave Christ, never to follow him again.  All because He said they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  Would they respond so dramatically, if it was just a symbol?

In the word Communion, I am called to Truth.  There is no compartmentalization in the Orthodox Life.  There is no Sunday life over here and workday life over there.  No God in a safe little box to tie with a crafted bow of control.  Communion with God is a total offering.  Christ was sacrificed not just so I could avoid punishment.  It was not a legal transaction.  It is not that I was one day guilty, and then the next I choose to believe in Jesus, so I am innocent.  It is not black and white.  It is not human reasoning.  There is no way to be rational about salvation.  It is not a formula.  God is not confined by the limits we place on Him if we say one must do this or that to be “saved”.  He saves who and how He wishes.  He did not give His Son so I could get out of jail free.  He gave His Son so I could be with Him.  All of me.  To commune with God in the truest sense.  Not a meeting or a chance encounter.  A communion.  To become one with God and more like Him day by day.

What does communion mean?  It means a total transformation.  Not my life in separate sections, fitting God in when I remember Him or need Him.  My life is no longer my own.  The old man is dead.  I am a new creation.  To commune is to give myself to the Creator, the one who fashioned me and nurtured me and loves me.  I have no desire to be me.  Me is a vague and formless notion of false hopes and inaccurate assumptions.  I want instead to be in God, to be His.  I cannot be God, but I will never stop trying to be like Him as much as possible.  In Him I move, and breathe, and have my being, as Paul says.  Every move.  Every breath.  Every moment to be.  To just be.  Not to dictate where and when and how God will affect my life.  Not to say no, even when I say yes.  But to be…in God to be.

The Liturgy also reminds me that the Christian story is not a story where I am the main character.  When I first came to the Orthodox Church, I was fairly annoyed at the set up.  No stage with big screen T.V.’s to make it easier to see.  No sound system to make it easier to hear.  Instead, the priest had the seeming audacity to not even face the audience.  No, his back was turned almost the entire time, and you couldn’t even see him anyway, because he was hidden behind a wall with a door.  To top it off, sometimes a curtain was drawn in front of the door.  How dare they!  How dare they not cater to my comfort, my interests, and my likes.  How dare they not make this environment “seeker friendly”.  How dare they be so infuriatingly mysterious.

Orthodoxy is about mystery.  In every movement of the Church, I am gently…and sometimes forcefully…reminded that Christianity isn’t about me.  My life, my salvation…all of it is done in community.  The priest stands at the altar, and yes, his back is to us, but it’s not because he’s ignoring us.  It’s because he’s joining us.  We all face together to the East, to the rising Sun.  We all offer our prayers together to the God who made us.  I look around me at my fellow Christians, and I am constantly reminded of who my neighbor really is.  It is these people who struggle and praise along with me who I must love.

The altar is a sacred place, and what happens there is not a show.  I do not need to see it.  I do not need to hear every word.  What is happening is a deep and glorious mystery, and if I don’t allow myself to enter into that mystery, I will never see God.  God cannot be explained.  He cannot be grasped in my stumbling, human manner.  If I could fully explain Him, why would I need Him?  I stand in church and face the altar.  The gift.  The sacrifice.  I lay myself and my worries and my frustrations and my pain on that altar.  I humble myself before the mystery that I cannot grasp.  I sacrifice my will and choose to believe in what I do not understand.

The priest prepares the gifts.  In the chalice, he places the bread.  The Lamb whose side is pierced.  The names of all of us.  Then he adds the wine mixed with warm water, the warmth of the Holy Spirit.  He comes from behind the altar, and we all draw near.  The first is a tiny baby, newly baptized.  Orthodox Christians do not reserve baptism for a certain age.  We baptize our youngest.  We are all members of the Faith.  There is no magic age when God can be grasped.  We all struggle till our dying moment to do that.  We all make a new decision for Christ every day.  Every day is a choice.  Follow God or follow the world.  Choose God or choose my own reasoning.

Since we baptize our babies and promise to raise them in faith, we do not withhold the great gift of the Eucharist from them.  As they grow, they desperately need the nourishment of the Bread of Life.  They need God.  They need the Eucharist.  Father takes the tiniest spoonful of bread and wine and wiggles it into the mouth of the sleeping babe in his mother’s arms.  My eyes tear up at the beauty of this moment.  A mother dedicating her child to God.  A community supporting its newest member.  A testament to the truth that life in Christ is not to be put off or saved or pushed back.  Life in Christ begins at birth.

The rest of the congregation files to the front of the church, all receiving Communion from the same chalice and the same spoon.  There is one God.  One Christ.  One altar.  One sacrifice.  We are one body.  We commune as one.

As I approach the chalice, I cross my arms over my chest in repentance and bow my head.  God is an all consuming fire.  How can this be?  How can I partake of His very flesh and blood, so unworthy that I am?  I cannot comprehend how grateful I am for this gift.  All I do is repeat to myself the prayer of the Theotokos, recounted in the Gospel of Luke, when she is told that she will bear the Son of God.  “Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word.”  I give myself to you, Lord.  I am your handmaiden.  Commune with me this day.  Feed me with your life and breath.  Nourish me with your love and peace.  I am your handmaiden.  I serve you with my every moment.  I worship you with all of my being.  Forgive my many sins, Lord.  I am not worthy to partake of this preciousness.  Make me worthy!  Lo, this fiery coal of You has touched my lips, may it take away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  Do not forsake me, Lord.  Remember me, O Lord, in your Kingdom.  May I always remember You.  I am yours.  Take my life.  All of it.  Commune with me, Lord.  Commune with me.  Always now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

Next post:  The Orthodox Life: Part 3 (Feasts and Fasts)

Coming up for air

Wow!  I am finally almost maybe getting caught up with the avalanche of orders we have received in the last ten days.  Thank you to everyone who has been so patient.  I hate it, personally, when I order something, and it takes forever to ship.  I hate even more to be the cause of a delay for other people.  So, I’ve seen a lot of the wee hours of the night and into the next day in the last week.

Did I mention that my husband got a job?  Did I mention that he was unemployed?  No, I don’t think I did.  It was a private, complicated time that we kept to ourselves quite a bit.  He was laid off in June.  We knew it was coming.  The beleagured school system for which he ran an after school program is on the verge of imploding.  There was no money or desire to renew his grant.  Two years of hard work and changing the lives of countless families…no longer valuable in the sight of the powers that be.  Just when they were getting going, it all came to an end.  Even though we knew that day would come for months and months, he just could not find a new job.  We watched June approach in slow circles and then an increasingly frantic spiral of speed.  What is it that they say?  It’s a Recession when your neighbor loses his job…it’s a Depression when you lose yours?  The Recession has hit non-profit with a bomb.  People like my husband, who has worked his entire adult life in social services, have watched their funding dissolve and their job opportunities go up in smoke.  It was incredibly difficult to find a new job.  It was most difficult to fight the temptation to collapse into fear.  That darkness of faithless fear was like a specter in every corner of every day.

As an Orthodox Christian, I don’t believe in a prosperity God.  The granter of every wish and desire.  I think it’s fair to say that I probably won’t ever be rich.  Not with social work as our bread and butter!  We definitely could have lost everything we had in this unemployment.  We could have been hungry.  We could have been desperate.  Those things happen.  God didn’t promise me riches.  He promised me something much more valuable …Himself.  When those shadows came every day…God was there.  When the fear pressed in on every side…God was there.  He is the Light.  In Him there is no shadow.  That was all we needed.  We were on the edge of financial ruin, but we were beyond rich.

I’m so grateful to God for the opportunities we’ve been given.  Most of all, I’m grateful for the lesson of unemployment.  It will take a long time to get back to the place we were pre-unemployment.  Our lives have been changed for years to come.  We never went hungry, though.  We always had somewhere to live.  We had an easy time of job loss compared to what many are still going through.  I have no complaints.

I don’t want to focus on the happiness I feel that my husband will actually get a paycheck next week.  Instead, I celebrate the joy that through our suffering, we learned even more not to rely on ourselves.  There is a God in Whom we trust.  For everything we have in every day.  And more than any physical need or comfort.  For the Hope of the life to come.

Glory to God!

Finally!

So many of you have been waiting patiently…ever so patiently…for me to get the last of the Nativity items added to the shop.

I am finally done!

I’m sorry that it took quite a bit longer than I planned.  As I design these crafts, my goal is to make projects that:

1)  Can be done by people who are not especially crafty

2)  Can be done by people who do not own craft supplies

3)  Are appealing to different ages

4)  Can be done either in families or in large groups like church schools

5)  Are economical

6)  Stay true to Orthodoxy

Sticking to those goals can get pretty complicated, but I pray that I have done so.  I had to leave behind several ideas that just didn’t come together.  Forgive me if you were hoping for something that I wasn’t able to do.

Come visit the shop and see the final item list for the rest of 2010.  There are twenty resources for Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, Thanksgiving Day, St. Nicholas Day, and Nativity of Christ.

The Learning Boxes are new and improved with sturdier boxes and printed (rather than e-book) study guides.  The Ark of the Covenant in the Entrance of the Theotokos Box and the sheep with real wool in the Nativity of Christ Box are favorites of mine.

I’ll be back later this week to actually WRITE in this blog.  My brain has had no room for anything creative other than rhinestones, pom-poms, and pipe cleaners.  I’m looking forward to sharing with you about how we strive in our family to live an Orthodox life.  See you soon!

Orthodox Christian Craft Supply

Mummies in the Morning

Last school year was so hectic on many levels, and the result was a significant decline in our usual number of field trips.  I don’t think it’s a necessity for all families, but it’s important to us.  It’s our way.  We learn by doing.

This year, I’m trying to arrange Friday as field trip day.  It might be a nature walk, a trip to a museum, or a play/concert.  Some weeks, it might just be to the library!  It’s a weekly goal, though, and we’re sticking to it as much as possible.

This Friday, we went to our art museum to see the Ancient Egypt collection, since that’s the time period we’re in right now.  Jared is learning so much!  He commented that he was surprised how much he’s remembering from what he’s read, as he recognized and explained the objects on display.  Always nice when the kids actually remember something!

Across the street from the art museum, we stopped in at the botanical gardens.  I’m trying to visit there weekly right now, so we can document the change of season.  As Jared explored, I sat on a bench and prayed, taking as many deep breaths of green, fragrant air as possible.  It won’t be here much longer!  We have a large, indoor area with desert and rainforest habitats, which is a real treat in January.  I go in there all year, though,…just for the butterflies.

The rainforest room is filled with moths and butterflies of all sorts.  They were extra lively yesterday, since we happened to visit while the mist machines were watering.  It really made it feel like a jungle with the mist filling the room and playing with the light.

I definitely didn’t feel like going anywhere yesterday, but I’ve decided that I can’t let that be much of an excuse.  With chronic illness, it’s always a high wire balancing act.  Since there is no day when I feel “good”, I have to decide just how bad the bad is.

Thursday night, we went to open house at the high school.  We were given a copy of Lonna’s schedule, and we traveled through her day.  That sounded like a fun time.  I didn’t think, though, about what it would mean to actually walk around to all her classes, trying to beat the clock.  We spent five minutes in each classroom, and then the bell rang, giving us four minutes to get to the next class.  How on earth do these kids get through their day!  Start at one end of the building…run to the other end of the building…go outside to a trailer classroom…go all the back to where you were at the beginning.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Exhausting!  It was nice to imagine her day, though, and to meet the men and women who get the privilege of teaching her.

Lonna always hated field trips.  She complained before, during, and after every outing.  Even though I think about the hole left by her absence, it’s for the best.  She’s extremely happy running around that school.  Besides, the mist machine would mess up her hair.  🙂

We celebrate your godly memory

During the Apostles’ Fast, we have the chance to remember several of the Apostles…not just St. Peter and St. Paul at the conclusion of the Fast.  Today is the feast day for both St. Barnabas and St. Bartholomew.

As I read through the book of Acts with my children this month, it’s such a pleasure to have the opportunity to remember the feast day of some of the individual Apostles we’re reading about.  (St. Jude will be remembered on June 19th as well)

Troparion – Tone 3

Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas,
entreat the merciful God
to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.

How I Make My Schedule

As I mentioned, I’m spending this summer in a highly scheduled routine, trying to learn about rhythm and effective use of my time.  With God’s mercy, hopefully I won’t have to do this forever, and I’ll learn enough to make it part of my life naturally.  For now, it’s been an eye opener.

Here’s how I’m making my schedule for each day…

Every night before bed, I make the schedule for the next day.  I have a computer-generated sheet that is marked out in half hour increments.  I also have a list of questions that I wrote to prompt me as I determine what needs to be scheduled when.

I should preface all this by explaining a few things regarding my physical health.  I have chronic cardiac problems that have led to chronic lung problems.  The short story is that I started with several arrhythmias (from childhood or adolescence).  I began having surgeries and procedures to deal with those a little over ten years ago.  Complications from those procedures left me 100% dependent on a pacemaker.  I also received damage to the veins leading from my heart to my lungs.  I have two stents in those veins and have had angioplasty five times in the last three and a half years.  I anticipate having more angioplasties…probably every year or so, as there is no cure for that condition.  Those damaged veins give me severe shortness of breath and pain from chronic pleurisy (lung inflammation).  Meanwhile, I had open heart surgery three years ago to repair a valve.  I have another valve that leaks and may or may not need attention down the road.  I take handfuls of medications that have challenging side effects and am always trying to find the balance between what I need to do and what I want to do.

So, that’s where I’m coming from.  I just mention it so you know the background.  Someday I’ll write about the immeasurable blessing of all the above.  For it is simply that…a blessing.

* My list of questions starts out with the category of Spiritual.

1)  Is it a fast/feast?

2)  Is there church?

3)  Is there something/someone that needs extra prayer?

If it’s a fast, I need to schedule extra prayer time.  If it’s a feast, I need to make sure we’re celebrating.  If someone is having surgery or is struggling, I can jot down their names at different intervals throughout the day’s schedule to make sure they are remembered.  I schedule prayer first, before anything else.  It is the anchor of the day.

* The next heading is Events/Activities.

1)  Are there any special events?

2)  Are there any recurring activities?

Here’s where I need to check the master calendar for doctor’s appointments and meetings.  I also have to look to see whether there’s a recurring class for one of the kids or a sporting practice.  (Just because there’s always soccer practice on a certain day doesn’t always mean I’ll remember that when it’s time!  Trust me…you do not want to forget the five year old’s soccer practice.  She will not be happy!  So, I schedule it all, even if it seems routine.)

* After that is School.

This one is very short now, because tomorrow is Lonna’s last day at public school.  Jared still has a little bit longer to wrap things up in homeschool, but it will not be at a specific time each day.  He’ll probably have about an hour a day for a few more weeks.

1)  Does Jared need to work on anything?

2)  What can I do with Hilary?

This is my reminder to fill my eager little preschooler’s need for educational stimulation.  I’ll write about her quite a bit in the future, I’m sure.  I’ve never had a sponge of a child like her before.  She loves to learn, and I need to remember to give her all the opportunities and resources she craves.

* Next comes Household.

1)  What cleaning needs to be done?

I can’t do marathon cleaning sessions, so I clean one room a day.  Small house, so that works!  Monday is bedrooms.  Tuesday is living room.  Wednesday is kitchen/dining room.  Thursday is bathrooms.  Friday is porches and cars.

We pick up, do dishes, and wipe down bathrooms every day, but during evening chore time, we do the major cleaning of whatever room it is on the schedule.  The dusting, vacuuming, etc.  That way, it all gets done each week, but there’s not too much at one time.

2)  What laundry needs to be done?

Ah, laundry!  My arch nemesis!  We meet again!  I admit that I despise laundry.  It reminds me of all the things I can’t do.  It’s hard to lift it or carry it or bend over and sort it.  My husband actually likes doing laundry, so he does the lion’s share of it when he’s able.  He’s been working so much lately, though, that I hate to leave him with that burden.  I’m trying to schedule at least a little laundry every day.

3)  What are we going to eat?

I make a weekly menu plan every Friday.  For dinner, I follow the guideline of Monday: Chicken, Tuesday: Seafood, Wednesday: Italian, Thursday: Mexican, Friday: Asian, Saturday: Pizza, Sunday: Chef’s Choice.  During fasting periods, Monday changes to Beans/Grains.

I’ve done something along this line for about five years, and I like this version the best.  I used to do it by meat (chicken, pork, ground turkey, etc.), but then during a fast I had to do a complete overhaul.  I also tried soup on one day and casserole on another, but that just seemed to be too narrow.  This works better.  There are so many different options for each category.  Italian, for example, could be anything from soup to salad to pasta to veggies.  Room for variety but enough direction to keep my brain from hurting.

Sunday, as Chef’s Choice, usually becomes something fun like biscuits and gravy, if it’s not a fast, or a chance to use up leftovers.

I also menu plan Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack, but I would say that we only follow it for those about half the time.  Sometimes I cook something special for Lunch, and sometimes everyone is just in the mood to grab a sandwich.  No worries if we don’t follow the menu plan.  Same for breakfast.  I cook oatmeal or waffles or something else several times a week, but most days they just want cereal (low sugar or naturally sweetened).  For Snack, I plan out to bake granola bars or make smoothies a couple times a week, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s not a big deal.  It’s dinner I’m most worried about.  All of our food follows the guidelines of natural, minimally processed, and mostly homemade.  Our location and budget makes things complicated, though, so we’re still learning and changing.  We’re kind of Nourishing Traditions with a healthy dose of compromises.

I’ll share some of my favorite recipes as I come across them.

4)  When am I going to cook the meals?  Do I need to thaw/soak anything?

5)  Any errands need done?

6)  Any special projects that need attention?

I’m still making it around the house doing a major overhaul and simplification.  A little every day makes a big difference.

* Next category is Physical.

1)  Was today a busy day?  If yes…schedule extra rest tomorrow.

2)  Is tomorrow going to be a busy day?  If yes…schedule down time.

I try to alternate an active time with a quiet time.  If I try to go, go, go all day, it just doesn’t work.  I have to space things out.  Maybe I’ll clean, and then schedule a reading time with Hilary.  Maybe I’ll go to an appointment, and then schedule to come home and crochet for awhile.  Two active things back to back ends badly, and multiple active days back to back can be a disaster.  Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I try to be mindful of what I’m asking of my body and be realistic about what I can do.  I schedule a nap time for myself every day.

3)  When will I take my Lasix?

I take the diuretic, Lasix, for congestive heart failure, and it requires…ahem…frequent trips to the bathroom for several hours after I take it.  Like, every ten to fifteen minutes for two hours kind of frequent.  If I don’t put it on the schedule, sometimes I end up just not taking it, because I don’t want to have it kick in right when I leave the house.  Or it’s too late in the evening, and I don’t want to be up all night.  I can skip a day here and there, but two days in a row leaves me swollen like a balloon and having the lovely sensation of drowning when I breathe, so I schedule to take it when I’ll be at the house.

* Last is General.

1)  What’s the weather?

It’s Northeast Ohio.  You have to check the weather every day…or several times a day, depending on the season, if you have outdoor plans.

2)  What worked well today?

3)  What didn’t work well today?

4)  How can tomorrow be better?

One of the reasons I’m doing this scheduling exercise is because I am absolutely horrible at realizing how long it actually takes to accomplish something.  I think I can get five things done before it’s time to leave for art class, and then, I all the sudden realize we should have left the house ten minutes ago, three of the things are only halfway completed, the little one is crying from being hungry, the older one is grumpy because he hates being late, I can’t think straight because I’m running around like a crazy woman, and no one’s heart has any room for prayer in the middle of all the stress.  Not simple, effective living!

So, I look back at the day and think about whether I need to leave more time tomorrow for an activity or be more realistic about what I can fit in a day.

How did things flow?  Was there a simple rhythm or a chaotic jumble?  Were the kids balanced or stressed?  Did I pray enough (can I ever pray enough????)?  How can I improve for tomorrow?

So, I answer all those questions and fill in my schedule.  Sometimes, the plan fails miserably or life happens and things change.  But…there’s a plan!  It’s much better for me to have to alter a schedule than to never have a schedule to begin with.  I don’t have to cloud my brain with a mental to-do list, worries to remember to do this or that, or too many choices about how to fill my time.  I think about all that for fifteen minutes the night before.  Then, the actual day itself can run more smoothly.  I know what needs to be done and what can wait.  I don’t have to decide in the middle of everything else.  My brain is freed from complications and my mind and heart are opened to prayer.  For that is the real purpose of all this.  De-clutter the mind so the heart can cry out to God…not on a schedule, but without ceasing.

Next time, I’ll share an actual schedule and how that day played out…