Our Pascha in Photos

This was our family’s third Pascha since converting to Orthodoxy. The Lord has blessed us with three years of spiritual growth and beautiful memories. Pascha is now my favorite holiday of the year, and I am doing my best to instill that love in my children as well! This year our festivities included daily Holy Week services, the Paschal Vigil, 2 egg hunts, a HUGE feast, and of course dyeing eggs. We had a blast and are now all in recovery mode.

I wanted to share a few pictures of our celebration with you!

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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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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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Five Minute Friday: Purpose

A few days ago, I sent in the paperwork to receive a “Religious Exemption” from Public Schooling for my daughter Renee. After a lot of thought, research, and prayer this seemed like the best option for our family. The decision to homeschool has been an emotional journey. Somedays I feel overwhelmed about the tasks that lie ahead, but most days I am extremely excited.

You might be wondering, like the majority of my extended family, what my purpose for homeschooling is. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to send my kids away during the day, and catch up on chores or enjoy a little “me time”? Wouldn’t my children benefit from the socialization?

Those are all tempting ideas to consider, but I am sticking to my convictions…

My purpose in homeschooling is immersing my children in the Orthodox Christian culture. The flexibility of homeschooling gives us the freedom to attend more weekly Church services and allows me to integrate the faith into every aspect of their lives.

I want to encourage strong family relationships, create lifelong learners, and make memories.

To sum it all up…

Our Homeschool Mission Statement:

The Judd Family homeschool seeks to build strong family bonds and develop godly character by immersing our children into the Orthodox culture, fostering a love for lifelong learning, and making lasting memories throughout it all. Our ultimate goal is spiritual maturity and academic success.

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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!

10 Orthodox Mom Fails

My family and I joined the Orthodox Church during our parish’s Pascha vigil in 2015. I will never forget that blessed night. My husband and I watched with pride as each of our daughters were baptized. Tears streamed down my cheeks as our parish chanted “SEALED” while Fr. Alban chrismated us. Then with a mixture of excitement and a healthy dose of fear we partook of the Eucharist. For the first time in my spiritual life, I truly felt at home.

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Incorporating Orthodox customs and traditions into our family has been a lot of fun, but also challenging. Neither my husband nor I were raised Orthodox, so this is all new to us. We do our best to immerse our children in the Orthodox culture, but sometimes we fall a bit short. Here is a list of a few of my Orthodox Mom fails:

  • For us the 12 days of Christmas typically last about 4 days before we burn out. Every year I make elaborate plans to stretch out the festivities, but we have yet to follow through with them.
  • My youngest daughter insists on being a nun when she grows up, the only problem is that she wants to be a Mommy nun. She hasn’t realized that nuns do not have biological children.
  • My oldest daughter is very analytical. Lately, after bedtime prayers she will ask us why she can’t see God, her guardian angel, or the Saints. Apparently I haven’t done a very good job in explaining the spiritual realm.
  • I haven’t even begun trying to teach my kids how to name the books of the Bible. The Orthodox Bible contains 77 book whereas the Protestant Bible has only 66. That catchy song I grew up with as a Baptist child just doesn’t work anymore.
  • My youngest daughter once found it appropriate to loudly fart during Communion. To add insult to injury she then announced it to the entire congregation. I wanted to crawl underneath the non-existent pews and die.
  • After spending all night at the Nativity vigil trying to prevent my children from catching their hair on fire, I ended up burning a large section of my youngest daughter’s hair. She reeked for days.
  • My oldest daughter once spilled the entire bowl of Holy Water all over the floor. I scrambled trying to wipe it up with my shirt before anyone noticed.
  • While visiting a monastery I went forward to venerate the icon in the middle of the room. I didn’t realize there was glass in front of it and I ended up face planting loudly into it. I hope the monks just shrugged it off as me being extremely pious.
  • Let’s just say that elastic banded skirts and prostrations don’t mix well together and leave it at that…
  • My children rarely make it to Liturgy with shoes on. We are always in such a rush to get out the door that something has to give… Typically it is the shoes.

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Since our conversion, I have done my best to raise pious Orthodox children. I fantasize about elaborate Pascha celebrations and nightly family prayers complete with incense and candlelight. I dream about homeschooling them with the perfect Orthodox curriculum. I’ve toyed with the idea of naming a baby Seraphim. Reality doesn’t look anything like this.

My family has had a lot of Orthodox growing pains, but I don’t sweat the small stuff. Every time I watch my children light a candle at church my heart melts a little. I smile as they proudly waddle up to partake of the Eucharist. My soul sings as I watch them venerate the icons in our prayer corner. At the end of the day, I know that the faith is sinking deeply into their souls. May the Lord help us as we continue our journey.

Growing Christians

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Nora fast asleep during the Paschal vigil.

Every Sunday morning Liturgy goes the same way. I quickly grab service books as Renee and Nora bolt towards the Nave.  Like runners in a marathon, sticky fingers are dipped in holy water, icons are kissed, and beeswax candles are lit. Then proudly my two little ducklings waddle to our usual spot – close to loved ones but yet close enough to the door so we can sneak away at the beginning of meltdowns.

These days it takes about twenty minutes until little Nora needs a bathroom break. Out the door of the nave we march. Then, due to the tasted freedom, Renee will start to whine about being bored. “Be patient,” I whisper while swaying a cranky Nora back and forth. For a moment things are calm, but then the girls start to argue. Back out we march for a timeout. “Can you find the icon of your Saint?” I attempt a quiet game during the sermon, but the excited exclamations once the icon is found once again force us back into the narthex.

Our “in and out” dance continues for the remainder of the service. The experience is often draining, but also rewarding. Between the disruptions I hear Renee singing hymns along with the choir. And as I whisper prayers into Nora’s soft fuzzy hair, she replies “Amen.” Then at the climax of the service, I get the honor of watching my children partake of the Eucharist. No sight is more beautiful.

Orthodoxy and motherhood is not an easy combination. On the average day it feels like a game of survival. However, this is the path that I was called to walk. This is the cross that I was given to bear. With each passing day my children strip me of all pride and selfishness. Each time I bow my head under the epitrachelion and admit my failures as a Mom, God heals my soul a little more. As I take Communion with my family I feel our sacred bond strengthen.

This ancient path is worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Family picture after the parish egg hunt!