Monday, March 3, 2014

Clean Monday

It is Lent again.  I pretty much feel like it completely snuck up on me this year! Last year I had recipes stocked, supplies for my kids and I had done lots of reading about what was to come. 
Not so much this year.  With 5 kids, me in classes and Josh working overtime, I just haven't had time to prepare.  But that's okay, because Lent arrived, whether I was ready or not!

I have to say, Forgiveness Vespers was still so amazing this year!  There is just something completely humbling to ask forgiveness of all of your Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  It was really special this year getting to forgive our first ever Godchildren.  Never would have dreamed that one!  If you don't know about Forgiveness Vespers, make sure to check out my post from last year (our first experience) here.

I did remember last year reading about something called Clean Monday.  The date had already passed, so I missed it, but I stuck it in the back of my mind to tackle this year. With no advance planning really needed, I knew we could give it a try.  Basically, the concept is to deep clean your home as you prepare for some deep cleaning of the soul.  It's only been about 5 years since this house was deep cleaned, so it was getting to be about time :)

I did have some high expectations of the day. The house was all going to be sparkling when we were done, and yes "we." The whole family was going to clean, probably while we lovingly sang hymns together.....

But what really happened was this:

1.  The 3 babies cried all night.  It was a tough night!  We had to divide and conquer. Josh ended up with one set of babies, I took another and we were still both up much of the night.  So my goal of getting up at 6:30am to get a head start on the day did NOT happen.  I begrudgingly got out of bed at 8:30am and stumbled through getting breakfast and coffee.

Thank you, God, for the reminder that I'm not in control.  And that regardless, Your way is the right way and the day still even greater rewards than I imagined!

2. Once I got down to the nitty gritty in the kitchen, I realized...this would not be a one day job.  We would be lucky to get the kitchen done.  And you know what, we didn't even get that done.  I scrubbed all the cabinets, all the walls, cleaned out the oven and wiped down all the blinds.  It was a very tedious job. I still wanted to tackle the fridge and microwave, even just have clean counter tops.  But at the end of the day, Josh and I are pleased with the work that was accomplished.

Thank you, God, for the reminder that no matter what my expectations are of Lent, I probably won't meet half of them.  40 days is just not long enough to clean out my entire soul.  I will get some good work done, and the work will be tedious. And I pray that by the end of Lent, God will be pleased with the work that was accomplished.

3.  I was actually pretty surprised at how helpful my oldest two were.  They were pretty excited to be helping to clean and that it was an "Orthodox thing."  I probably over estimated there cleaning abilities, but I was thankful for the teaching opportunities we had today and hopefully a wonderful tradition has been started.  The three youngest on the other hand....I just had these visions of them with dust rags in their hands, merrily wiping down the baseboards.  Instead, they screamed and fought all day and I did a lot of cleaning with a baby on my lap...or two.

Thank you, God, for the reminder that I need to live my life as an example to my children in everything that I do.  That even though there are good tasks to be done, the task is not the most important thing.  My kids are.  And loving them through this whole process of Lent is very important.  It's also important to teach them the heart and spirit of Lent, and I was very thankful to be able to do that today.

4.  Josh and I worked ALL DAY LONG!  It was tiring.  We got dirty.  And at the end of it, you really can't tell we did anything at all.  Unless you lived here, you really wouldn't notice the missing food  and milk on the walls or all the dust off the blinds or the drips off the cabinets.  But we do!  And it sure does feel nice to have them gone!

Thank you, God, for the reminder that throughout this process of Lent, no one but me will see the work being done.  No one really should see the work being done.  I am so thankful for the time you gave me today to do totally monotonous chores that gave me the opportunity to pray and think about the fall of Adam and what that means in my life. Thank you for the slow process to help me see the cleansing that needs to take place in my soul. 

I am really looking forward to this Lent.  I've gotten to the point where I crave the spiritual growth.  I need a time of purging the soul and renewing the heart.  Last year I felt as if I was merely going through the motions trying to grasp all I could to understand what this new thing called "Lent" was all about.  This year I am ready to be transformed.  Thank you, God!

Friday, July 5, 2013

June in our Home


We get a brief break from family chaos this month.  A little break from birthdays.  But of course, there is never a dull moment in the Bradley house!

Abby is growing up way too fast!  We are so glad that she is weight bearing!  Some of you might not remember, but Julianna was a very late walker and didn't want to do much with her legs.  Abby will hold on to something standing up and is even trying to figure out crawling.  Right now, she can only manage to go backwards, which is just fine with me!

Like our dinner by candlelight?  We has some fierce storms this month.  Although this storm only lasted about 5 minutes, it was very powerful.  We ended going 27 hours without power and having to do some creative thinking on how to keep our 5 gallons of raw milk and gazillion dollars of frozen strawberries safe!  Of course, Josh was working, so I had to handle most of  it myself.  It's a good thing my parents live near by and we could camp out there!

I got to run in my second obstacle race, this time a 10K.  I had a blast!  It was put on by the friendliest volunteers and was pretty low-key, so I felt very at ease and had a great time!

My cheerleaders.  It was so nice to have my family there to cheer me on!  It really makes a difference knowing they were there for me.  It must have worked too, I came in 1st place out of all the women running the 10K!

Believe it or not, this is the first time our family has gone out for dinner as a family of 7 all by ourselves.  We don't get out much!  Nothing says family better than some good Mexican!

I cracked up once I realized that they had Mickey Mouse plates!  Do you see his head above my refried beans??

Life can be exhausting.

Our good friends, Missy and Erik, whom we met when we lived in the "brown" Apartments moved away this month.  We were very sad to see them go, but we know they will be very happy living closer to family.  We had them over for dinner and fun before they moved.

May in our Home

May was a VERY big month for our family.  I am sad that I don't have pictures of everything (mainly my awesome surprise 30th birthday party), but I'm sure you can just picture it in your minds.

Just to confuse our newly Orthodox minds, Makayla's 7th birthday was on Holy Saturday.  We took the whole morning to celebrate Makayla, including her birthday doughnuts.  She was showered with gifts and fun. 

Then we spent the rest of the day preparing for Pascha!  My first Pascha, and I'm asked to dye eggs red.  Do you know how hard it is to get them RED!  I tried hard, and nobody complained, they actually came out kinda cool looking and I was very thankful that there were many different shades of eggs.  We partied ALL night at church, it was awesome.  Our service doesn't even begin until 11:45pm and doesn't end for a good 2.5-3 hours later.  Then the party starts!  We have all packed food in baskets that we have been fasting from for the past couple of months and we chow down!  It's a wonderful time of celebration.  We didn't get home until 5 in the morning, thankfully all of the kids  slept until around noon or later!  Then we had a picnic and egg hunt at the park with our church family.  It was the best Cinco de Mayo I have had.
And then of course is May 6th.  The second best day of the year.  Or at least is was to me!  I turned 30 this year!  Ya'll, I have been waiting for this day my whole life.  Being the baby of the family, I never felt like I would grow up and be treated like an adult.  Well, now, no one can say I'm not!  Even though I have five kids, I still didn't feel like an "official" adult until I reached the big 3-0.  To top it all off, my sweet husband threw me a "surprise" party.  I had a blast!  I know everyone had to have been exhausted from Pascha, so I was so honored that everyone came out to help me celebrate my special day!

I ran my first ever official 5K.  It was a lot more intimidating than I thought it would be.  There were serious runners everywhere!  And then once we started it seemed like it was all up hill!  I didn't finish in under 30 minutes (my goal), but I did get close and I ranked 10th out of 40 for my age group, which I was pretty impressed with for my first 5K. 

There is a sign on this scale that says "Please weigh children before picking." Too cute to not snap a picture!  And boy did we pick some Strawberries!  Funny story.  So we brought a little red wagon to help transport some kids through the fields.  They also had wagons provided for your buckets.  Josh counted out the amount of buckets he wanted us to fill and set them in a wagon, a mere 6.   Well, apparently everyone thought that our wagon was THE bucket wagon and ended up putting leftover buckets in our wagon.  So when I finished a bucket I would hand it to the girls and have them bring me an empty one.  As long as there were buckets, I kept going.  We did not pick 6 buckets full, we picked 12 buckets full!  Needless so say we were a little bit surprised at the end of our picking.  And we ate spaghetti the rest of the month to offset the cost of the berries on our food budget...

We did get 34 pints of jam canned for this year and about the same amount frozen for smoothies and flavoring things.

Our church school ended in May.  To say thank you to the girls' teachers I like to make them something.  Since they got jam last year, I thought I would do something different this year, so I made Rosemary wreaths.  I thought they turned out pretty good for not having any idea what I was doing!

The finished product

Isn't my Abby just precious!  

Oh the joys of free reign in the bedroom have begun.  Sydney has finally learned how to climb in her sisters' beds and takes turns sleeping with each sister at night.

Although Pascha threw us off a bit, we did finally get around to celebrating Makayla's birthday.  She decided she wanted to go bowling. (This really didn't happen until June, forgive me)

Another cookie cake for the birthday girl

And this pretty much sums up the life of Julianna right now.  If there is dirt she is going to dig in it.  She LOVES playing in the dirt.  She was even sticking her head in it the other day.  

April in our Home

So, here we go again, another better late than never post.  But if I don't do it, my kids are going to yell at me in 20 years when they are looking back through my blog and wondering, "What happened to April?" 
As I can only remember what happened in April based off of the pictures I chose to take, here goes:

Every year we take the kids to a free event called Farm Animal Days, it seems to be a little less fun every year :(  I think it has to do with the fact that every year we have more kids and every year it seems more people are there.  The lines were terribly long!  At least they serve free ice cream!

Oh, the precious Bunnies! They did have more bunnies available for touching this year.  I do love a good soft bunny. I'm still not sure exactly what makes bunnies good farm animals, I just know Josh won't let me have any for pets (they are great for compost, their poop, not the actual bunny)
I just love Jul's face at getting to see the goat up close.  I guess this is the reason we come back every year, the kids just love seeing the animals!

Sydney excited about pigs.

Baby chicks are fun to hold as well and had to line to prove it.  I'm not allowed to have chicks either...

What says "Happy Birthday" better than donuts for breakfast???  My sweet Caroline turned 6 on April 18th!!  When did she get that old?  I'm really not so sure how this happened, but I guess I can't do anything about it.  I love you Caroline!  You're a blessing of a daughter and a joy to see growing up.

Ever so creative, Caroline wanted a Princess Piñata Party, so here they are, dressed as Princess's decorating their piñata.  We also played a traditional game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey and busted our own piñata. 

The scrumptious cookie cake.

A big group from our church decided to take a field trip to the Zoo in April.  We had a great time!  It worked out well and we never lost anyone...for long.

Most of our crew of kids.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Obedience and Repetion

photo credit

One of the first things that can be noticed about the Orthodox church is the amount of repetition.  Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy, Lord have Mercy.
This is sung countless times throughout each service. 
There are even times when it is chanted 40 times in succession.
Not only that, but each year is repeated Liturgically, so we celebrate and fast at about the same times year after year. 
When it comes to living life and obeying God, I could use a little bit of repetition.  It is so easy to forget that helpful point in the homily, or even the pleadings of morning prayers just minutes after they are completed. 
Lately, I have been pondering the amount of services that I attend with my children.  Managing 5 small kiddos at church is no easy task.  Thank God for a wonderful church family, or it couldn't be done!
But there are still times, no matter whose arms they are in, only Momma will do. 
And then there are many times I am at church as a single momma due to Josh's work schedule. 
Some services I probably make it only 5 minutes actually in the service, let alone actually hearing what is being said. 
I am learning to listen quite intently when I have the chance and to be thankful that most things are repeated so that I can have a chance to hear them again.
But to be honest, I just get weary sometimes. 
Loading up all the kids, packing all the diaper/formula bags, remembering all the blankies, etc. just to struggle through a service without ending up crying myself can sometimes be a toss-up in my head.
So why do I even bother?
Obedience and Repetition.
Because someday, my kids WILL sit quietly through service.
Someday my kids are going to understand what is being said/prayed during service.
Someday my kids are going to pray along with service.
Someday my kids are going to grow up and leave my house and have the choice of whether they are going to go to church or stay home. 
I want them to know that this life, this Orthodox thing, it's who we are, it's what we do. 
It's not something that we do when we feel like it or want to. 
It's not always easy.
But it's not about us, it's about God.
So regardless of how much I feel like going to as many services as possible, I continue to go because I want to obey God.  I need the repetition, not just for myself, but for the eternity of my children.
*This blog post was inspired by a homily by Fr. Stephen Rogers on Ancient Faith Radio, entitled Obedience and Repetition