covert cooking operations

John usually returns home from work as I am making dinner. Tonight, no exception. Barley simmering away in broth, awaiting their friends, the tomatoes and lentils to join them in the pot. Lentil barley soup. It was a soup kinda day around here. I have never used a recipe for it before, because it’s *soup* after all, not souffle, but my results were usually underwhelming. Uninspired. Soooo…I set out to search that great Cookbook in the Sky, the internet, and my new favorite recipe site. Love reading recipe reviews. I found a promising recipe and set off! Of course, I had no swiss chard–really, do any of *you* have it in your fridge? I did have bok choy, because I like it, and I used it last week in the green curry tilapia I made (Thai). (Side note: some day I will learn never to say never. As in the case of, “There is no way I will ever buy a jar of Thai curry paste.” We are the king and queen of odd condiments around here, so you’d think I’d know better. But anyhow.)

Anyway, the soup is simmering, minding its own soupy business, and John comes home, fixes a Manhattan or other weird drink he makes with an orange twist, puts on the Chopin piano music, and starts hovering. He typically is not a hoverer over the stove. I was trying to finish the state income tax form on the computer so I went ahead and designated him Official Soup Finisher.

Anyone who knows us at all will see immediately that this was a risky thing. Remember India and the spicy food? But me? I never think badly of or misapprehend my husband’s intentions.

So there we are, sitting at the table eating this fabulous soup. John is gushing. Yes, he is gushing. Over the soup. And the soup is really good, I admit. We like soup. It had good proportions of ingredients, and great flavor, and the kids were eating it, kind of. William ate three handfuls of oyster crackers and took one bite of soup and didn’t gag, so that’s good. Carrie ate it too, even the tomatoes.

The children are excused, John is working on his second bowl, and he asks, “Is it time for true confessions?” I have no idea what he is talking about. My mind starts spinning: have I done anything I need to confess? All of a sudden he admits to adding a shake of Tabasco to the soup. *Gasp!* What? No!!!!! My recent policy is not to alter a recipe when I first make it so I will know how it is “supposed” to taste.

But, after considering it while, who cares? The soup was great. I might not have approved a shake of Tabasco in the soup, but the results were great. He got the idea from the Teresa Lust book, Pass the Polenta. Every soup needs a dash of Tabasco to bring out some indescribable zing or zest. And here I thought salt was good enough.

Thankfully, he came clean, and I will henceforth be able to duplicate the soup we ate tonight. Even better, it’s another anecdote in our arsenal of cooking stories. Everyday ingredients, long simmered, and a little surprise zing every now and then. Makes for great soup and a great marriage.

from the small paraklesis

For the last several weeks on Wednesday evening I have been able to attend the service of the Small Paraklesis to the Most Holy Theotokos (by Monk Theosteriktos (known as Theophanes)). The prayers are beautiful, and learning to sing the Odes of the Heirmos is something I enjoy greatly. This evening I did not waver so much, and felt that I was really singing. And Fr. asked me to read Psalm 50. (51 for the western tradition).

As the weeks go by and I learn more and more as a catechumen the more and more I realize and feel grief over my sins. This particular service has become a time that I rely on, a time that is really preparing my heart for the coming Great Lent. In the service, there is one particular prayer I have felt myself especially poured into:

Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, merciful One, wash away my many personal offences.

verse: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your great mercy; and according to the multitude of Your compassions blot out my transgressions.
Put me not into the hands
Of any human protection,
O our Lady, most holy,
But do now receive the prayers of your supplicant;
Sorrow has taken me,
And I am unable
To withstand and bear the demon’s darts;
Shelter I do not have,
Nor a place to go, worthless that I am;
Lady of humanity,
The shelter of the faithful and their hope,
Do not reject my prayers to you…

This service is also teaching me a great deal about how to follow Christ through the example of the Theotokos. I feel she has been guiding us for a long time. At my old parish, after morning prayer on Fridays, I would almost always light a candle before her icon (thanks for putting her there, Fr. S) and pray for myself and my family (among others) and that we would find Orthodoxy somehow.

Somehow, by God’s mercy and many prayers, we’re getting there.

everything but the needful . . .

The last few weeks I’ve been reading Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, and last night this passage hit me as a warning to Orthodox Christians participating in the so-called blogosphere:

In The Orthodox Word, Fr. Seraphim wrote:

“Christianity in practice, and monasticism above all, is a matter of staying in one place and struggling with all one’s heart for the Kingdom of Heaven. One may be called to do the work of God elsewhere, or may be moved about by unavoidable circumstances; but without the basic and profound desire to endure everything for God in one place without running away, one will scarcely be able to put down the roots required in order to bring forth spiritual fruits. Unfortunately, with the ease of modern communications one may even sit in one spot and still concern oneself with everything but the one thing needful–with everyone else’s business, with all the church gossip, and not with the concentrated labor needed to save one’s soul in this evil world.”

Father Serpahim Rose: His Life and Works, pg. 459.

I’m pretty sure that Fr. Seraphim would argue that “staying in one place” occurs after coming into the fullness of the Church, for it is the Church in which we are all called to fully take part.

I know that I, for one, have a terrible time not sitting in one spot and concerning myself “with everything but the one thing needful.” Far too often I give in to the worldly temptation of distraction, even to the point of choosing to talk about and read about the spiritual life rather than doing the spiritual life. Lord, have mercy.

with apologies to Mary Poppins


It’s what to say when you don’t know what to say. John and I were talking a few nights ago, about how, really, we have not much to say that is of any worth or even any interest, here on this blog. Okay, I won’t speak for him, but I certainly feel that way. I am not so eloquent. I did want to post something else so my last post wouldn’t be at the top. Geez. When I think about it, ‘geez’ isn’t such a good word to say, because I think it’s a slang form of our Lord’s name. How did I never notice that before?

My daughter’s very first favorite movie was “Mary Poppins.” It’s the only one we let her watch until she was about 4 and a half, and she could sing all the songs. We branched out to “The Sound of Music” which they call the “Mary Poppins gets married movie.”

It happens to me a lot, that not knowing what to say. When I hear or read about bad things in the world, in my family, in my town; when I hear about good things, too.

My dear, dear grandfather used to have this conversation with me every time we talked: “What do you know, Miss Amy?” And always I would reply, “Not much.” He waited for me to say it, and it made him laugh every single time. This was especially humorous to him when I was in college studying philosophy. I would take it all back, all those years (except the meeting John part) of studying ideas, thinking that somehow I would learn the truth about life. But would I? Didn’t everything that went before prepare me for where I am now?

Except now, I know something better. I still don’t know much, but I know what to say when I don’t know what to say, and it’s definitely not Supercalifracilisticexpialidocious. In the end, it’s the only thing I can say, and I want to say it in the very depths of my being, forever.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.