All I can say about that is, Thank you, God! The Holidays are so stressful. We started out with Elliott’s birth, then Todd’s birthday. We followed that up with Christmas, which we were planning on having at Donna’s parents, but since her dad had the flu we ended up staying home. We got to see my brothers, his wife and son, and my other brother on Christmas Eve. We actually got to go to our own Church’s Christmas Eve mass, which was kind of awesome. Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we had Donna’s dad’s Christmas Party. Her dad was better by then, and so we all went and had a good time. It turns out that Todd had the flu all that time, and so we ended up making my brother and his family, and then my family in Michigan sick with flu…. Ugh. Then I ended up getting the flu, and so we ended up staying home for New Year’s and Preston’s birthday… Then we had Christmas with Donna’s parents the following weekend. I had a sore throat the entire time…turned out to be strep. We finally all got better. Then we had Elliott’s baptism, which was nice, but Russell was a toot for family pictures earlier in the day. Turns out he was getting sick. He had strep the next day. Followed by flu later in the week. And then Preston got the flu and strep at the same time that weekend… Let me just say, this is getting old! Oh, I forgot to say.. Elliott had the flu at around the same time that I did. He actually didn’t do too bad with it.
I’ve been really lazy with my updates this last year. Sorry about that! It’s been a pretty interesting year, to say the least. My Father-In-Law had a liver transplant a few weeks ago. That has been a real blessing for our family. He is doing much better than he had been. I’ve been really excited to see how much he has progressed!
God has really been blessing our family. We were getting a little frustrated with some things at church, and as is our modus operandi, decided to try going back to the Catholic Church. Well our priest at the Orthodox Church, Father Peter, stepped in and set us straight! Instead of running from our problems, he has been helping us talk them out. I am really thankful for him.
Preston and Russell have both continued to serve at the altar at church. Preston has really taken to it! He knows how to do most of the liturgy already, and I’ve heard him asking to learn how to do other parts! I’ve been singing for the church choir, with the most important part being the Propers. It has been challenging, stressful, fun, and completely fulfilling!
Todd still doesn’t like to eat much (except for candy, bread, and other junk-type food), so he’s still a tiny little dude. I’m sure he’ll get better, though.
I’ve started a new diet as of one week ago. My cholesterol has been a bit too high and my doctor keeps wanting me to take statins. I have taken them before and don’t like the way they make me feel, so I think I’m going to try taking this low-cholesterol diet thing seriously this time! I’ve also decided to experiment with going gluten-free. This makes Russie pretty happy. He is glad to not be the only one! Let me tell you, my stomach has felt much better in the last week than it has in years! I’m not sure if it is because of the smaller portions that I’ve been eating, or the lack of gluten, but whatever it is, I like it… I used to have problems with heartburn almost constantly. I have only had a couple of small episodes of heartburn since I’ve started my new diet. Yay!!!
Well, it’s Advent now. I normally look forward to Advent because I like to do a devotion as a family. The kids always enjoy it, especially the playing-with-fire part! But it has been a rough start, I’ll tell you what! The furnace went out = -$400. The front tires on the van needed to be changed = -$300. And now it seems that Preston’s lousy teeth are going to cost us another $200! Poor kid, he got his Mama’s teeth… lol
But, despite it all, we’re still getting by. And that’s what counts. Right?
We made it through our first Lent as Orthodox Christians. I can’t say we did the greatest job at fasting, but we tried. I think that we did okay, so that’s good. I know that I can’t expect perfection right at first, but as long as we’re constantly improving in our relationship with God I think that we’re on the right track.
The boys got to participate in the Paschal procession. Preston was the Holy Torch Bearer (at least, I think that was his title!), and Russell got to carry the Holy Water.
Lent begins for us Orthodox this week, about a week-and-a-half before non-orthodox have Easter! I’m excited, and a little nervous, to be beginning Lent. You see, in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church, the Lenten discipline is to fast and abstain (from meat) every day of Lent except on Sundays! I’m not sure I can handle that yet… Donna is planning on doing Monday/Wednesday/Friday as meatless for the entire family. I am going to attempt to do closer to what the Church call for… but no promises! This is one thing that I love about the Orthodox Church. The Church expects a lot from its members, but it also realizes that everyone is at a different point in their spiritual journeys. It doesn’t proclaim that its members are “going to hell” because of their failures. Rather, the Orthodox Church, as a true hospital for sinners wants us to work towards the goal. I can handle that attitude, and honestly, I think I am more likely to reach (or at least, get close to) the goal. Additionally, I will be striving towards the goal with the right attitude — not avoiding hellfire — but striving towards being more like Christ. After all, that is the ultimate goal of life.
We were finally Chrismated in the Orthodox Church today! It is great to finally belong to a church again. I’ve felt homeless for a while, not being able to take Communion. I’m really excited about being a part of the One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic, and Orthodox Church. Following the Mass, we had a potluck and all-parish meeting. It has been a great day!
I know that we’ve been back and forth over which church to attend for a while. We’ve been attending (somewhat sporadically, at first) Saint Benedict Antiochian Orthodox Church since January, 2015. Saint Benedict is one of few western rite churches within the whole of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I think that I have finally found the church that teaches what I believe is the truth in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Like the Roman Catholic Church, it is an ancient church that teaches Scripture and Tradition. But, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, it does not teach what I consider to be excesses – such as papal infallibility. It also doesn’t demand scholastic answers for everything like the RCC does. This scholastic reasoning in the RCC has resulted in such teachings as the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, mortal/venial sin definitions and requirements, and a host of other things that just about drove me mad during the time I was in the Roman Catholic Church.
It is also different from Confessional Lutheran Churches in significant ways. The Lutheran Church does not teach that Tradition is authoritative, which hardly makes sense since the New Testament didn’t even exist in the early days of the Church! The Orthodox Church also teaches free will, unlike the Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church teaches a confusing single-predestination which is best described as follows: If you get to Heaven, it’s God’s fault; if you go to Hell, it’s your fault. Ultimately, nearly all of Lutheran doctrine is affected by this faulty doctrine.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is a sacramental church, which I think is a necessity. Like both the RCC and Lutheran Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church believes in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is apostolic in both senses – bishops ordaining bishops throughout time, and in that it adheres to the apostolic teachings. It is biblical – almost all the liturgy and prayer is taken from scripture.
I’m really excited to be becoming a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. If all goes according to plan, we will all be Chrismated in November, before Advent.
We made it up to Michigan again this year to visit with my parents. We had a wonderful time! My mom taught Preston how to play Rummikub, and he is pretty good. He was beating all of us! We got to visit with Uncle Gary and Aunt Lorna, Cousin John, and Marissa. Melody and Chad seemed to be doing well, and Grace is a real cutie! We got to see some of the sights – Tawas and River Road, Tahquamenon Falls and Lake Superior, and we even got to see the Chicago skyline on the way up there (I’m never driving that way again…)! We bought some cheese and hiked some trails. We got to see Mama’s new church building. All-in-all, it was great!
After a fairly stressful week, I decided I wanted to get away. Years ago, when Donna and I lived in Alabama, we would pack up and drive a few hours, stay at a motel, and just explore the area in which we found ourselves. It’s a little more difficult to do that around here, since you really need to drive a lot further in order to get anywhere interesting! So we haven’t done that in a long time. Well, this past weekend was the one. I just had to decide where to go…. It was going to be a warm, but really windy weekend. I figured east would be the way to go, since I could get to the woods, right? But then, at the last minute, I decided to go west to Carlsbad Caverns. The wind wouldn’t bother us underground!
We left on Friday after work and drove to Lubbock where we stayed the night at a nice Holiday Inn Express. The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel. They had the greatest breakfast ever! Freshly made pancakes, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal, eggs, bagels, sausage, cereal, yogurt, several different kinds of coffees, and juice. Yum! We left from there and drove the rest of the way to the cave.
We decided to go down through the natural entrance. The cave was absolutely stunning! The trail was very steep, winding for about 1.25 miles down 750 feet, or, as the park ranger said, the equivalent of a 75 story building! I had to carry Todd most of the way. He walked some, and Donna gave me a (very) short break. Preston and Russell were troopers, and made it down all by themselves! By the time we made it down to the bottom, where the restrooms were, my arm and legs were killing me! We didn’t make the tour of the Big Room, which was a little disappointing, but I suppose that gives us an excuse to go back!
We drove all the way home that evening, hitting a skunk in the process. We all piled out of our stinky van and went to bed at 12:30 am Sunday morning. And yes, we did make it to church later that day!
Once I get my pictures off the camera, I’ll add a few to this post.
Donna and I decided to start attending church closer to home. While we weren’t unhappy with Our Redeemer, we were just getting exhausted going into Wichita Falls so much. We also felt that it would be nice to begin getting to know some people in Holliday. We officially joined Holliday First United Methodist Church on October 5th. Donna and I both are in the choir, which we enjoy. The boys have Sunday School or nursery and they seem to enjoy it. It is really nice to not have to go to a restaurant afterwards on Sunday, too. It only takes a couple of minutes to get home, so we can eat there if we want to! All in all, I think it is a good move for us. We really look forward to getting to know our new church home!