FMF: Stuck and Stable

I must admit, a lot of times I feel stuck. I feel stuck in the kitchen cooking for hours each day. I feel stuck on the couch nursing my twins. I feel stuck in this house, homeschooling and cleaning. It can be difficult to remain positive about this stability. It can be challenging to remember that I am doing exactly what God has called me to do. I am nourishing hungry bellies, educating future generations, and caring for the little slice of paradise that God has granted me. Truly, I am blessed.

Stability is one of the vows that all oblates make, and one of the principles that I am trying to apply to my life. We live in world where people shop for “perfect” churches and where families don’t hesitate to move across the country. To remain “stuck” and “stable” is looked upon as archaic. Yet, here i find myself vowing to meet life head-on. I have promised to do my best to remain stable in my spiritual life, commitments, and relationships.

I have vowed to still my wandering heart. There are days where having a career seems more appealing than staying home with my kids. There are moments where other parishes seem to offer more beauty than mine. There times where I regret the path my life is on. This is where my vow of stability comes in handy. When I persevere through the bad days with my kids, I get to see them hit milestones! When I put down roots in my parish, I develop friendships that will last a lifetime. When I am determined to own the major decisions I have made, I find satisfaction in my growth.

It isn’t easy to be stuck, but as Abba Poeman once said, “It is by warfare that the soul makes progress.”

 

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Completely Wrong

My husband and I have only been living the Benedictine lifestyle for a few months, but already I’m realizing that this way of life is much different than I imagined it would be. You see, when I became an oblate, I thought that I would be denying the world for the sake of growing closer to God. I thought that by shutting everything out, my spiritual life would blossom. Yet, this is not what being an oblate is about at all.

 

Being an oblate is about dedicating your life to serving God and living a life of prayer. As an oblate, you are obligated to formally pray every three hours. It doesn’t matter what you are in the middle of doing when that prayer time comes around, you must pause and lift up your heart with the millions of other people throughout the world who are also reciting those exact same prayers, at that exact same moment. The prayer schedule is ancient, communal, and salvific.

 

In the past, when I’ve visited monasteries, I was always blown away by the peaceful atmosphere, slow pace, and the constant prayer. The beauty is always so overwhelming that my chest burns. I have always left the monastery grounds wishing that I could live that kind of life. Wishing that I too could escape from the world, so that I could focus all of my attention on God alone. (At least, that’s what I thought the monks did)

 

Now I realize that I was completely wrong about the monastery. The beauty of the monastery isn’t found in it being an oasis from the world. It is that the men who live there live a life that recognizes God’s Presence in the world. That’s why the monastery is filled with beauty and peace. The monks consecrate the mundane. Those men still clean toilets, lose sleep when stressed, work hard each day, and get discouraged. They haven’t escaped the world at all. They just see the world as it was created to be seen.

 

This is what I’m learning. Thanks be to God for the slow conversion of my soul.

2017-2018 Curriculum Review

This is my first official year homeschooling! Believe it or not, Renee is already in Kindergarten. Last year we did a relaxed Preschool, working our way through a used copy of the Sonlight Pre-K curriculum. We had a lot of fun with it, but I felt like it was too challenging to fit our Orthodox Christian faith into their very Protestant minded curriculum. This year we jumped headfirst into full-time Homeschooling, using a Catholic curriculum, and we have been enjoying every step of the journey! IMG_20170911_130757964

Now that our year is coming to an end, I thought I would give you a little review of our 2017-2018 school year.

Renee is very intelligent and creative! She was over-the-moon excited to begin homeschooling. Renee thrives on structure and craves hands on attention. Homeschooling has been such a blessing in those areas. We treasure the time we spend learning together each day.

This year I chose to use Catholic Heritage Curricula. The curriculum boasts of academic excellence, catholicity, gentility, simplicity, flexibility, and affordability. Could you really ask for more in a homeschool curriculum? The best part is, I have found all of these things to be true!

During the past seven months, I have watched Renee blossom into a beautiful little girl. She is no longer an immature toddler. She now has a firm grasp on our faith and a love of learning. Her favorite subject is math and her least favorite thing to do is copywork. (Is she really my child!?!)

My youngest daughter, Nora, has been joining in with our lessons as well. CHC offers a wonderful Preschool program that can be easily combined with the Kindergarten classes. Although academics are more of a struggle for Nora, she has enjoyed getting to take part in the fun!IMG_20170911_130106741

To supplement the curriculum, I have thrown in a few books from the Sonlight book list and a few worksheets I’ve found on Pintrest or on religious blogs. These help us keep the routine fresh and fun!

Recently, I found an excellent resource that I plan on implementing more in the next year and during our summer school program. It’s education.com! They offer worksheets to help kids explore topics, practice skills, and build knowledge. They have easily sorted their worksheets by grade and they offer resources from Preschool to High School!

Here’s an example of a worksheet we just did earlier today. The girls had to guide the caterpillar through the maze, where they met some other cute crawlies along the way! If you are looking for great kindergarten resources, visit Education.com.

Download Maze Crawlies Answers   

    Download Kindergarten Maze Crawlies  

So that is what the Judd family has been doing this year! If you have any questions about the resources or curriculums I have mentioned, feel free to comment or send me a message!

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Emptiness

Good Friday is upon us and my soul is filled with sadness. Perhaps it is the extra hormones rushing through my pregnant body, but I can’t stop thinking of how Mary must have felt as she watched her Son go limp on the cross… The same hands she held were pierced with nails. The same baby toes she was overwhelmed with the desire to kiss, were now stained with blood. She must have felt so empty…

Tonight my soul longs for Pascha. My heart misses the bells on the censor and the decorated altar. I want to proclaim “Christ is Risen from the dead,” but for now the house is quiet.

Crickets are chirping in the darkness outside.

An ambulance is parked in front of our neighbors house.

An amber alert for two children was announced on the radio.

Tonight the world mourns…

“O my people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!

I gave you a royal sceptre, but you gave me a crown of thorns.

I raised you to the height of majesty, but you have raised me high on a cross.”

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When God Made You

I recently purchased a children’s book titled, “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer. The book showcases children from around the world, and poetically describes what God was thinking as He created them. The illustrations are stunning and the message of the book is uplifting. It will make a perfect addition to my girls’ Pascha baskets.17797297_771529353011470_2120100665_o

Inspired by the story, I decided to write up little descriptions that define what God was thinking as He made my girls. My attempts aren’t quite as eloquent as the original author, but I think they fit my girls perfectly.

When God made Renee, He plucked a dandelion from the earth, sprinkled glitter on top of it, gently wrapped it in a bright colored package, and refined it in fire. He blindfolded the beautiful little soul He had just created and with a laugh He revealed His surprise and said, Renee, PLAY.

When God made Nora, He mixed giggles, smiles, and snuggles in a large sandbox. He added a few sprinkles of spunk and a pinch of a apple seeds. He poured the blend into a heart shaped mold and said, Nora, LOVE.

 

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For the Love of the Lord

 

Spencer and I just returned from a relaxing weekend at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. After spending a few days immersed in deep conversations and heavenly worship, I am having a hard time getting back into my regular routine.

While at the monastery, I confessed giving into my depression and slacking off with my household duties. Now here I sit faced with a choice. I can strive towards a life of repentance and dive right into my chores without complaining, or I can veg out on the couch and waste away my time on social media sites. To some this might seem like a trivial matter, but I know that my decision could very well put me one step closer to heaven or hell.

There is a list of chores sitting on my kitchen counter. Today the list calls for dusting, washing the bed sheets, and vacuuming. In reality, I could put off these chores until my husband is home and can help. Things would certainly get done faster… Or I could offer up my work to my family and the Lord as an act of love.

As I dust the shelves I quietly pray, “I do this for the love of the Lord.” As I vacuum up pretzels I repeat, “For the love of the Lord and my children.” As I spread crisp sheets on the bed my whole being chants, “For the love of the Lord and my marriage.”

These are such small acts. I don’t expect anyone to notice that I have dusted the living room and bedrooms. Even if they do notice, I doubt they would care very much. But in my heart I know that the Savior sees my hard work and I pray that He is pleased with me.

Today I choose to take one step closer to heaven.
“For the love of the Lord.”

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The Spiritual Rose of Platina

I have a special bond with Blessed Fr. Seraphim Rose. While visiting the Hermitage of the Holy Cross with my heterodox Father, during the summer of 2016, Fr. Seraphim Rose made himself known to us. Of all the books in the guest house, my Dad picked up a huge biography on the Saints life. Together we got lost in the pages of that book. We jumped around in the various chapters and found ourselves moved to tears by the Saint’s perseverance and determination to live a godly life. The sections about Fr. Seraphim’s death were particularly powerful.

When our pilgrimage was over I continued to develop a relationship with the Saint. The way he reached out to my Father was unmistakable. I made it a habit of asking Fr. Seraphim to pray for my Dad. I trusted that Fr. Seraphim would not let my Father slip through the cracks. If one day my Dad converts, I will know exactly who to thank.

A short time after my pilgrimage to the Hermitage, my husband and I decided to actively start trying to conceive. Typically, we have absolutely no problem getting pregnant right away. With my first daughter we got pregnant the very first month of trying. Then my second daughter surprised us with a positive pregnancy test only 6 months after Renee was born. I thought this time would be no different, but I was wrong.

Months passed, but my womb remained empty. My husband and I were utterly exhausted in every way. I was haunted by the thought that I might not ever get to grow life in my belly again. That’s when I turned to Blessed Fr. Seraphim. With tears streaming down my cheeks I begged him to pray for me. I rested my forehead on his icon and promised that if we conceived, I would name the child after him.

Shortly after that conversation, I got a positive pregnancy test. Fr. Seraphim had once again touched my life. His prayers worked! Some might say his prayers worked a little too well. During my 11th week ultrasound I found out that I was carrying twins!

Next week we will find out the sex of our two little blessings. I’m keeping my promise to Fr. Seraphim. Depending on the results, one of the babies will either be named Gideon Rose or Ada Rose.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for these children. One thing is certain though, with Fr. Seraphim watching over them and praying for them, they are destined to turn out okay.

Blessed is God who is glorious in His Saints!