Books in 2014

Now that Christmas is done, I have less knitting projects to post. I still have two projects I’m working on. Flip-flap fair isle mittens for my mom, and a scarf for my husband.

I have read more books this year than I have in a long time. I read 27 books (11774 pages) this past year. Most of that is probably due to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I am so very hooked on that series. I binged on that. It is so good. After I finished that series, I decided that I should read more.

The one that started it all!

Here’s a list of books that I read this year and some of my thoughts on them.

1.The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet: Make Lunches Your Kids Will Love with More Than 200 Deliciously Nutritious Meal Ideas by Laura Fuentes

There were so many good ideas in this book. I need to buy it. It has a list of all the recipes in the back of the book, you can mark whether or not the kids liked it, what you need to change in the recipe, etc. Pretty awesome.

2.The Joy of Hobby Farming: Grow Food, Raise Animals, and Enjoy a Sustainable Life by Michael Levatino

The more I read about farming, the more I want to do it and I figure the more I read about it, the better educated I will be when it comes time to purchase some land and animals.

3. Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell

I’d say this is a good resource book to have on the shelf if you can’t figure out why your compost pile isn’t working like you want it to. I think the biggest struggle for me and my compost pile right now is putting enough brown materials in it. I have bunches of vegetable scraps, but not so much of anything else.

4. Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food by Wendell Berry

Reading this book is enough to make anyone who has the smallest interest in farming or food production want to run off and purchase a farm.

5. The Call of the Farm by Rochelle Bilow

This book started off really good, but it kind of turned into a love story, not that that’s bad, but I wanted more farm details in it. I did read it rather quickly. I think the author is a good writer.

6. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon*

I waited for over a month on my library’s wait list for this book. It was well worth the wait. I think that during that wait I thought about what was going to be resolved from the previous book almost every day.

7. The Guru, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios by Dionysios Farasiotis

This book is by far the best Orthodox book I have read in a long time. It was in a very conversational style, and was more like a biography than anything else. I read it very quickly, I’m very interested in the topic here. It deals with demonic possession, hinduism, witchcraft, and how to escape those things.

8. An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7) by Diana Gabaldon*

This novel is set during the beginnings of the American Revolution. Both sides are represented. So good and definitely a cliffhanger ending.

9. Harvest: Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food by Max Watman

This book was interesting because it dealt with food in a more realistic manner than the idealistic organic typical foodie. He shared failures and successes.

10. A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander, #6) by Diana Gabaldon*

You just have to read it.

11. Family Life (Spiritual Counsels, #4) by Paisios of Mount Athos

I highly recommend reading this book and re-reading it. I need to buy it. Elder Paisios goes through young people figuring out what they’re going to do with their life (going to college, what to study, etc.) and getting married, raising children, and taking care of elderly parents. It will cause you to question the way you do things. It has changed my life.

12. The Fiery Cross (Outlander, #5) by Diana Gabaldon*

On the eve of the American Revolution

13. The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins

I believe I wrote about this book in a previous post. But suffice it to say that you can tell Mr. Jenkins has a protestant paradigm that taints the way he sees and writes about Catholic and Orthodox Christians (though I’ll have to give him kudos for even mentioning Orthodoxy).

14.  Drums of Autumn (Outlander, #4) by Diana Gabaldon*

Read it.

15. Voyager (Outlander, #3) by Diana Gabaldon*

This was was a bit harder to get through than the others, but it’s worth it.

16. Parenting With Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline

Has some really good ideas, but somewhat hard to implement with toddlers who can’t converse with you.

17. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2) by Diana Gabaldon*

Gasp!

18. Outlander (Outlander, #1) by Diana Gabaldon*

I got hooked on this series by listening to a podcast from craftsy that they had with Diana Gabaldon because evidently Jamie Fraser knows how to knit. Little did I know that it would become a series that I couldn’t put down.

19. The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski

This is a history of fashion, mostly it’s practical and functional uses and how clothes were made. It’s made me think a lot more about what I wear. In the past year, I have worn more skirts. I only have one pair of jeans and the rest are skirts, though I bought myself a pair of leggings so I could wear skirts in the winter and not freeze.

20. The Handmade Marketplace: How To Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, And Online by Kari Chapin

I took notes on this one. I’m just starting to sell my hand knits. I don’t think it will turn into a full-time income, but it helps a little. By the way, if you want something knitted, I will happily quote you a price.

21. United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement by Kurt B. Reighley*

This book went through various new movements within american agriculture and pop culture. It was rather informative and I hadn’t heard of some of them. Entertaining.

22. Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh*

I found some things that I would like to implement in this book, but somehow I think that maybe the culture outside of us will have more influence than we would like.

23. 8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil

I took notes on this one too. Some of the things he mentions are not hard to do, others are like ‘yeah, right’. One thing he recommended was to have a news fast. Don’t let all the negativity of the news and/or social media get to you. Just turn it off. I already do a version of that.

24. A Man is His Faith: Ivan Kireyevsky and Orthodox Christianity by Alexey Young

My husband got this book on interlibrary loan from the University. It was a short book, but really good. Ivan Kireyevsky was a lay person who had a very wide influence in Russia. Good person to know about.

25. Organic Gardening For The 21st Century by John Fedor

Good resource and inspiration for things to think about.

26. To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan

This was an entertaining read. Some things I could relate to, others I could not, but if you want a light read, try it.

27. Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit : the lives and counsels of contemporary elders of Greece by Middleton, Herman

This book is a compilation of the lives of Elders and their selected writings. We read it in the Women’s Faith and Growth meetings at my Church. I loved it and the conversations it inspired. I started reading more books about and by Elder Paisios. That information has changed my life.

I love the printed book. The smell and feel of the pages. It’s wonderful. I love libraries. Thank God for libraries!

My goal is to read 50 books in 2015. Here’s hoping I don’t fall off the bandwagon. You can follow me on goodreads.

The Great and Holy War

I majored in history in college and I guess you could say I was mostly interested in religious history. This is the type of book I’m interested in. I don’t exactly have the same paradigm as the author, but you never really hear about the religious side of, well, anything really. I’m in the middle of this book, but I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Pascha and Picnic

I made some Greek Easter Bread for Pascha. It came out huge! I didn’t expect that at all. I hadn’t dyed any eggs this year, so I didn’t put any eggs in the bread. You’re supposed to put a couple red eggs in the dough and then bake it. Oh well.DSCN0270 DSCN0271 DSCN0272 There’s a family at Church that invites the congregation over for a meal and an egg hunt. It was so awesome. They had BBQ pork, fried chicken, raw kibbe (which I did not try – I know… how lame of me), ribs, and ice cream bars at the end of the day. I LOVE ice cream. So good.DSCN0278 DSCN0277 DSCN0276 DSCN0275 DSCN0274 DSCN0287 DSCN0286 DSCN0285 DSCN0279 DSCN0280 DSCN0281 DSCN0282 DSCN0283 DSCN0284

Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday

We went to the Lazarus Saturday Outing at the Chancery. Anastasia and Alexandra got to pet pigs, sheep, goats, cows, bunnies, chickens. Anastasia got to ride a pony. I think she really liked it.DSCN0235 DSCN0236 DSCN0237 DSCN0238 DSCN0239 DSCN0241 DSCN0242 DSCN0243 DSCN0244 DSCN0245

They got to jump around in the bouncy house. Alexa was giggling pretty much the whole time. It was so cute.
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This is the egg hunt. In each set of ages there’s one egg with a chocolate coin in it, if you find it that means that you get an icon from Bishop Basil. My husband and I have the worst luck ever; I don’t think we ever win anything. But Alexa found the egg with the chocolate coin. Maybe our luck is changing, or she’s just lucky.
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This is Palm Sunday at Church. Bishop Basil reads the Gospel reading again after the procession outside and all the kids chime in with “Hosanna!” It gives you goosebumps and makes you want to cry tears of joy. Anastasia moved her way up to the very front. Alexa fell asleep on my shoulder.DSCN0253 DSCN0254

This Was From Me

“This Was From Me,” is a famous letter attributed to  St. Seraphim of Viritsa that was sent to his spiritual child, a bishop, who was in a Soviet prison at that time.  The consolation and counsel offered to the bishop can help anyone widen their perspective in a way that makes the impulses appear smaller and God’s providence even larger than life.

“Have you ever thought that everything that concerns you, concerns Me, also?  You are precious in My eyes and I love you; for this reason, it is a special joy for Me to train you. When temptations and the opponent [the Evil One] come upon you like a river, I want you to know that this was from Me.

I want you to know that your weakness has need of My strength, and your safety lies in allowing Me to protect you.  I want you to know that when you are in difficult conditions, among people who do not understand you, and cast you away, this was from Me.


I am your God, the circumstances of your life are in My hands; you did not end up in your position by chance; this is precisely the position I have appointed for you.  Weren’t you asking Me to teach you humility?  And there – I placed you precisely in the “school” where they teach this lesson.  Your environment, and those who are around you, are performing My will.  Do you have financial difficulties and can just barely survive?  Know that this was from Me.

I want you to know that I dispose of your money, so take refuge in Me and depend upon Me. I want you to know that My storehouses are inexhaustible, and I am faithful in My promises.  Let it never happen that they tell you in your need, “Do not believe in your Lord and God.”  Have you ever spent the night in suffering?  Are you separated from your relatives, from those you love?  I allowed this that you would turn to Me, and in Me find consolation and comfort.  Did your friend or someone to whom you opened your heart, deceive you?  This was from Me.

I allowed this frustration to touch you so that you would learn that your best friend is the Lord.  I want you to bring everything to Me and tell Me everything.  Did someone slander you?  Leave it to Me; be attached to Me so that you can hide from the “contradiction of the nations.”  I will make your righteousness shine like light and your life like midday noon. Your plans were destroyed?  Your soul yielded and you are exhausted?  This was from Me.

You made plans and have your own goals; you brought them to Me to bless them.  But I want you to leave it all to Me, to direct and guide the circumstances of your life by My hand, because you are the orphan, not the protagonist.  Unexpected failures found you and despair overcame your heart, but know that this was from Me.

With tiredness and anxiety I am testing how strong your faith is in My promises and your boldness in prayer for your relatives.  Why is it not you who entrusted their cares to My providential love?  You must leave them to the protection of My All Pure Mother.  Serious illness found you, which may be healed or may be incurable, and has nailed you to your bed. This was from Me.

Because I want you to know Me more deeply, through physical ailment, do not murmur against this trial I have sent you.  And do not try to understand My plans for the salvation  of people’s souls, but unmurmuringly and humbly bow your head before My goodness.  You were dreaming about doing something special for Me and, instead of doing it, you fell into  a bed of pain.  This was from Me.

Because then you were sunk in your own works and plans and I wouldn’t have been able to draw your thoughts to Me.  But I want to teach you the most deep thoughts and My lessons, so that you may serve Me.  I want to teach you that you are nothing without Me.  Some of My best children are those who, cut off from an active life, learn to use the weapon of ceaseless prayer.  You were called unexpectedly to undertake a difficult and responsible position, supported by Me.  I have given you these difficulties and as the Lord God I will bless all your works, in all your paths.  In everything I, your Lord, will be your guide and teacher.  Remember always that every difficulty you come across, every offensive word, every slander and criticism, every obstacle to your works, which could cause frustration and disappointment, this is from Me.

Know and remember always, no matter where you are, that whatever hurts will be dulled   as soon as you learn in all things, to look at Me.  Everything has been sent to you by Me,    for the perfection of your soul.  All these things were from Me.

Prayer of the Optina Elders

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring.

Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will.

For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things.

Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.

Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.

When things unforeseen occur , let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.

Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none.

Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events.

Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

Amen

Managing Time

In the tense modern life which we live, the problem of managing time is an all important one. I am not going to try and convince you that you have plenty of time and can pray if you want to; I want to speak of managing time within the tensions, the rush of life. I will spare you any description of the way in which one can make time: I will only say that if we try and waste a little less of it, there will be more of it. If we use crumbs of wasted time to try to build short moments for recollection and prayer, we may discover that there is quite a lot of it. If you think of the number of empty minutes in a day when we will be doing something because we are afraid of emptiness and of being alone with ourselves, you will realise that there are plenty of short periods which could belong both to us and to God at the same time. But what I want to speak about is something which I believe is more important. It is the way in which we can control and stop time. We can pray to God only if we are established in a state of stability and inner peace  face to face with God, and these things release us from the sense of time – not objective time, the kind we watch – but the subjective sense that time is running fast and that we have no time left.

First of all I would like to draw your attention to something which we all know and we all discuss. There is absolutely no need to run after time to catch it. It does not run away from us, it runs towards us. Whether you are intent on the next minute coming your way, or whether you are completely unaware of it, it will come your way. The future, whatever you do about it, will become the present, and so there is no need to try and jump out of the present into the future. We can simply wait for it to be there, and in that respect we can perfectly well be completely stable and yet move in time, because it is time that moves. You know the situation when you are in a car or on a train and you sit back, if you are not driving, and you look out of the window; you can read, you can think, you can relax and yet the train moves, and at a certain moment, what was the future, whether it is the next station or the last station to which you are going, will be present. I think this is very important. The mistake we often make with our inner life is to imagine that if we hurry we will be in our future sooner – a little like the man who ran from the last carriage of the train to the first, hoping that the distance between London and Edinburgh would be shortened as a result. When it is that kind of example we see how absurd it is, but when we continually try to live an inch ahead of ourselves, we do not feel the absurdity of it. Yet that is what prevents us from being completely in the present moment, which I dare say is the only moment in which we can be, because even if we imagine that we are ahead of time or ahead of ourselves, we are not. The only thing is that we are in a hurry, but we are not moving more quickly for this. You must have seen that more than once. Someone with two heavy suitcases, trying to catch a bus, rushes: he is as quick as he can be, he runs as fast as the suitcases allow, and he is all intent on being where he is not.

– from Beginning to Pray by Metr. Anthony Bloom

The Tragedy of Man

The tragedy of our times lies in our almost complete unawareness, or unmindfulness, that there are two kingdoms, the temporal and the eternal. We would build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, rejecting all idea of resurrection or eternity. Resurrection is a myth. God is dead.

Let us go back to Biblical revelation, to the creation of Adam and Eve and the problem of original sin. ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1.5). The commandment given to the first-called in Paradise indicates this and at the same time conveys that, although Adam possessed absolute freedom of choice, to choose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would entail a break with God as the sole source of life. By opting for knowledge of evil – in other words, by existentially associating with evil, by savouring evil – Adam inevitably broke with God, Who can in no way be joined with evil (cf. 2 Cor. 6.14-15). In breaking with God, Adam dies. ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof,’ thus parting company with me, rejecting my love, my word, my will, ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Gen. 2.17). Exactly how Adam ‘tasted’ the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not important. His sin was to doubt God, to seek to determine his own life independently of God, even apart from Him, after the pattern of Lucifer. Herein lies the essence of Adam’s sin – it was a movement towards self-divinisation. Adam could naturally wish for deification – he had been created after the likeness of God – but he sinned in seeking this divinisation not through unity with God but through rupture. The serpent beguiled Eve, the helpmeet God had made for Adam, by suggesting that God was introducing a prohibition which would restrict their freedom to seek divine plenitude of knowledge – that God was unwilling for them to ‘be as gods knowing good and evil’ (Gen. 3.5)….

The fate of the world troubled me profoundly. Human life at whatever stage was unavoidably interlinked with suffering. Even love was full of contradictions and bitter crises. The seal of destruction lay everywhere.

I was still a young man when the tragedy of historical events far outdid anything that I had read in books. (I refer to the outbreak of the First World War, soon to be followed by the Revolution in Russia.) My youthful hopes and dreams collapsed. But at the same time a new vision of the world and its meaning opened before me. Side by side with devastation I contemplated rebirth. I saw that there was no tragedy in God. Tragedy is to be found solely in the fortunes of the man whose gaze has not gone beyond the confines of this earth. Christ Himself by no means typifies tragedy. Nor are His all-cosmic sufferings of a tragic nature. And the Christian who has received the gift of the love of Christ, for all his awareness that it is not yet complete, escapes the nightmare of all-consuming death. Christ’s love, during the whole time that He abode with us here, was acute suffering…. This is how it is with the Christian: for all his deep compassion, his tears and prayers for the world, there is none of the despair that destroys. Aware of the breath of the Holy Spirit, he is assured of the inevitable victory of Light. The love of Christ, even in the most acute stress of suffering (which I would call the ‘hell of loving’), because it is eternal is free of passion. Until we achieve supreme freedom from the passions on this earth suffering and pity may wear out the body but it will only be the body that dies…

We may say that even today mankind as a whole has not grown up to Christianity and continues to drag out an almost brutish existence. In refusing to accept Christ as Eternal Man and, more importantly, as True God and our Savior – whatever the form the refusal takes, and whatever the pretext – we lose the light of the eternal…. When we choose Christ we are carried beyond time and space, beyond the reach of what is termed ‘tragedy’….

The soul may return to this world. But the spirit of man, having experienced his resurrection and come near existentially to eternity, is even further persuaded that tragedy and death are the consequence of sin and that there is no other way to salvation than through Christ.

-from ch. 4 in His Life is Mine by Archimandrite Sophrony

On Times of Darkness

The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain: thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark  hours, days and weeks. They say then that “God has left them” in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.

The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.

On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: Haste thee, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth (Psalm 88:8), and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head: now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks.

The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander