Sunday, January 31, 2010

Two Visitors

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend of the 24th in southern Indiana. This gave me the chance to visit the very new, as yet unnamed, mission in Evansville. (Sorry, no pitures this time.) It was so wonderful to be able to go to Liturgy while there. This was a first for me. Although Evansville is the third largest city in Indiana, and if you include nearby Owensboro, KY it has a metropolitan area of easily 400,000 people, there is no Orthodox church of any jurisdiction in the area. I have long been praying for a mission to be started there, so it was a particular joy and blessing to attend Liturgy in my home town. Please pray for Father Daniel and the faithful there. They are a very small community right now, so I pray that this seed will bear much fruit in the years to come.

While I was in Evansville, being warmly welcomed by the founders of the mission, we had a visitor at my home parish in Indianapolis. This is not unusual, since we generally have at least a few visitors every week, be they family or friends of parishioners, people new to or visiting the area, or people curious about the Orthodox faith. But our visitor last week, Stacy Towle Morgan, has written about her visit to St. George at her blog, Never Enough Sundays where she is blogging about her experiences as she visits a different place of worship every week this year. In addition to writing about her visits, she is also taking the time to interview the spiritual leaders of the communities she visits, so you can hear her podcast where she has interviewed our pastor, the V. Rev. Father Nabil Hanna.

Morgan amusingly titles her post about her visit to St. George, "This Is Not a Church for Sissies: Discipline Required."" I can understand how she drew that conclusion, especially having visited an Orthodox Church as we prepare to enter Great Lent, but actually I think the Orthodox Church is absolutely for "sissies." Discipline is certainly something I find to be a constant struggle, and I know I'm not alone in that. The Church supports us in that struggle. It provides us with the loving support of a community of brothers and sisters engaged in the same struggle, spiritual fathers to guide us, and the nourishment of the Food we need to strengthen us.

I found it interesting to read about the Liturgy from the perspective of someone totally new the experience. I'm still quite young in the faith, having been Chrismated only three years ago, but although I was worshiping that same Sunday in a new place, with new people, in a very different environment than usual, the experience wasn't new to me at all. It was the Holy Liturgy that I've come to know and love, that I participate in each week. As I stood in Father Daniel's dining room, singing along with a choir just getting to know one another and the music, I felt totally at home.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Knitting Diversions

Last weekend I headed down to the toe of the state to visit family and to attend a baby shower. A good friend is expecting her first baby in early March. In addition to a gift from her registry, I knitted this hat. She is having a boy, and they have decided on the middle name Patrick, so I thought green would be appropriate. This pattern is the umbilical cord hat from Stitch n' Bitch. I've made it quite a few times now, in various colorways. I'd call it my go-to baby gift at this point. I can knit it up in an evening while watching a movie or two. After making a couple I felt totally familiar with this baby hat concept. I'll happily do stockinette in the round all day long, and I love a project with decreases at the end. Yep, love that mindless knitting. It's easy enough that I've made some fun variations, like pumpkin hats with ribbing for October babies. This one was straight from the pattern though. It's even the suggested yarn, in a different colorway.

I had this yarn in my fairly meager stash (Leftover from making those pumpkin hats, I think). I know some knitters have a tendency to let their stash of yarn get out of control, but I'm very project oriented with my yarn buying. I tend to buy yarn for something I want to knit and then knit it before I buy more yarn. Most of my"stash" consists of leftover odds and ends. I think I only have one skein that I bought for a project that I never got around to knitting.

I do have a couple of works in progress right now, though. This little hat was a quick diversion from a bigger project I'm working on. I'm knitting another baby gift at the moment that I hope to finish and get mailed off by next weekend. It's rather bigger than a hat, so it's taking more than just an evening of knitting. Also, I still have a sock in progress. It probably would have been finished long since, but I need to buy more needles. I'm too hard on tiny sock needles apparently. I'm on my sixth sock and I've snapped 3 of six needles. They are rather toothpick-like, being wooden number ones. Maybe I should get some aluminum ones so I won't break them again. Once I finish the other project I'll have to track some down, so my husband can have toasty hand-knit socks before winter is over. Instead of getting new ones, I started that other project, which I should probably get back to now, actually.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Health Kits for Haiti

On Friday afternoon, around 3:30 pm, I announced to one of my co-workers, "I have no plans or obligations for this weekend. I don't think I've had a free weekend since sometime in October!" I was really looking forward to doing a lot of knitting, watching the Colts on Saturday evening, and doing a little house cleaning. Then about 4 pm, James called me to say that we had been asked to help at church with an effort to put together health/hygiene kits for Haiti, and my plans immediately seemed pretty trivial. I felt really blessed to have this opportunity to do something with my own hands, beyond praying and writing a check, to help those affected by this terrible earthquake. And I have to add that with many hands working together, we got it done so quickly that it didn't encroach on my own selfish plans at all.

On Saturday morning James and I went to Holy Liturgy and a memorial for the sister of one of the priests attached to our parish, which was another gentle reminder to me to think of others. Since she lived in Serbia, he was unable to return there for the funeral. Afterward, we learned how to put together the hygiene kits and organized supplies so that we would be ready to teach others how to make them after liturgy today. The congregation all worked together to put together the kits, and in less than an hour we put together about 850. We still need to get a few more supplies to finish putting together 150 more to round out 1000 kits to be shipped this week. It was really a joy to do this, and the hustle and bustle around the hall as everyone pitched in to get it done was fun to experience.

Look here to learn more about what you can do to help Haiti through IOCC, including making health kits or emergency buckets. Recently a staff member from IOCC visited our parish, and he told us that they can never have too many of these kits on hand. It's one of the simplest and most effective things they can do to help people in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. These kits provide a modicum of comfort and dignity to people who have lost their homes and belongings, and they also contribute to sanitation to help prevent the spread of disease after a disaster. We found it so gratifying to do be able to do something tangible to help our neighbors in Haiti, however small, that we are now making plans in our parish to have kit-making days several times a year to make the various kinds of kits that are distributed by the IOCC.

And while I'm talking about IOCC, which is a really remarkable non-profit with extraordinarily low overhead costs, did you know you can select them as your charity at Goodsearch allows you to choose a charity, and each time you use the search engine it donates a penny to that charity. Using their links to web retailers raises even more money for your charity. It lets you see how much money has been raised for your charity each month, and judging by IOCC's numbers, this is a well-kept secret! So mosey on over to Goodsearch, type in IOCC to set them as your charity, and start searching. Also, you may not know this, but if you give money through United Way at your workplace, you can probably direct that giving to IOCC. Click here to learn about it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I have had a gift of some extra free time today. This was the view outside the window a little while ago, and the snow continues. The library where I work closed early, so I got to come home at 12:30. I am not a great lover of snow, but I can appreciate its beauty as long as I don't have to go out in it. For one thing, I don't like going out in the cold and wet, but for another, going out in it spoils the illusion of the snow's pristine beauty. When we track through it we drag up the muck and dirt underneath it. Having celebrated Theophany this week, I've been thinking about the snow in an allegorical fashion. The whole world seems to be wrapped in a white baptismal garment, one actually made up of water itself. Although the garment is inevitably sullied, it will be cleansed and renewed with another snowfall or will melt away to bring forth new life in the spring, so it seems to be a beautiful illustration of the sanctification of the waters.

Now that Theophany is past, we will be putting away our Christmas decorations over the next few days, so I thought I'd post pictures of ours so I can enjoy them virtually once they're packed away, and to help me remember next year what I did. Below is our little pencil Christmas tree, that we bought when we were first married and living in a tiny apartment. It was perfect for us then, and is small enough to fit in our entry way now. The tree skirt is tulle leftover from wedding decorations.

Green is my favorite color. I have a green car, a green coat, green purses, plenty of green clothes, and this green wall in our dining area and kitchen. One of the things I love about the green wall is that it looks so cheery with the red Christmas decorations.

It's about 15 degrees outside right now, so I suspect that very soon the wood you see in this picture will be burning away in the fireplace. You can also see our Nativity set which is on top of the TV cabinet reflected in this mirror. My brother gave it to us as a Christmas gift the first year we were married, and the cave belonged to my mother-in-law, and might be older than I am.

And this is the first time in several years that we've had a real Christmas tree. Last year we were traveling for most of Christmas, so we didn't get one, and for the few years before that we were in an apartment. James surprised me by picking it up from a tree farm here in Indiana, and it's been lovely. We're going to be a little sad to take it down.

So one more time, to those of you celebrating Christmas today on the Old Calendar, "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!"