All posts by GretchenJoanna

About GretchenJoanna

Orthodox Christian, widowed in 2015; mother, grandmother. Love to read, garden, cook, write letters and a hundred other home-making activities.

See how the sower goes on.

“When the times are fulfilled and the end is at hand, when the world’s autumn comes and God sends His angels to reap the harvest — what will they find in the barren fields of our hearts? And yet, the time is nearly accomplished and the end close by for each of us, the time which we shall each face even before the common harvest.

“But let us not be downhearted. See how the sower goes on sowing among the rocks and thorns and by the roadside. This means that he places some hope even in such fields as these.

“And we know from the lives of the saints how often a soul which had seemed irreclaimably stifled by sin, blinded by passion, hardened in evil, became good ground, fertile and productive, purified of poisonous mixtures and alien seeds.”

-Fr. Alexander Elchaninov,  Diary of a Russian Priest

 

A bean. A life.

It’s been a long time since my first posting of the poem below. I thought of it this morning when I was sorting my Painted Lady beans. October is the month to clean up all the leftovers of summer plants and visitors. It probably won’t surprise you to know that little boys left dishes in the playhouse sink!

Last week four helpers came for a long session of work, and the youngest of them washed up those dishes; now I can put them where the winter wind won’t drop leaves and dust and rain on them, when it blows through the paneless windows.

They also finished up tasks relating to those runner beans, removing the last of the vines from the trellis, and shelling the beans into a big bowl.

Then it was my turn, to take out the biggest pieces of stem and pod so that the beans could simply be washed when I’m ready to cook them. But no sifter or screen that I could find had the right size holes.

When I was dusting this morning I hit upon the idea of using a microfiber cloth to spread the beans on, thinking it might reach out and grab all of that litter. It worked beautifully. I spread a layer of dirty beans on the cloth, and then moved the beans off, leaving all the detritus behind. The shriveled or undeveloped beans were left with the inedibles.

 

A WOMAN CLEANING LENTILS

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a stone, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life, Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.

— Zahrad

There is a book we’ve had for years in our parish bookstore, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. I might even have it in my house by now, but I haven’t read much of it. One might think its message is similar to “The Power of Positive Thinking,” but it’s not. It’s more like what the Apostle Paul said:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

That book is a collection of teachings from Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, such as:

“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”

“We need repentance. You see, repentance is not only going to a priest and confessing. We must free ourselves from the obsession of thoughts.”

“Freedom belongs to God. When a person is free from the tyranny of thoughts, that is freedom. When he lives in peace, that is freedom. He is always in prayer, he is always expecting help from the Lord—he listens to his conscience and does his best. We must pray with our whole being, work with our whole being, do everything with our whole being. We must also not be at war with anyone and never take any offense to heart.”

Quietly thinking, letting words come to one’s mind, sorting them out — it sounds like a wholesome and meditative activity. But how many pieces worthy only of the garbage might we find in the bowl of a lifetime — or merely a certain calendar year — stones and shriveled things, and who knows what words and whole tirades and laments that might pop into one’s mind?

When they do, it’s better to grab them, to be like a microfiber cloth. Keep only the beautiful, smooth and thankful legumes on which your soul can feast and grow strong. Every lentil can be like a knot on a prayer rope, bringing the sorter closer to her Lord, Who is her Life.

Little Church Planner

I wanted to share this organizing tool in January, but I never got around to it; now that I’ve used it for most of the year I am even more pleased and thankful that a couple of homeschooling mothers designed such a resource for the Orthodox homemaker.

It is a large spiral calendar/planner with plenty of space for writing in each day’s box, plus sidebar spaces for menus, intercessions, and notes. The creators have a more specialized homeschool planner as well.

Each week, month, and fasting period has a double-page spread, as does Holy Week. Even the whole year, with the Twelve Great Feasts on the sidebar, has its two-page spread, “2020 at a Glance.” Fasting days are listed, many saints’ days, readings according to the new calendar, and quotes pertaining to the Christian life.

I remember when the first planners like Day Runner were popular — was that in the 90’s? I had seven people to organize, feed, and keep track of, and I tried to use various systems, all of which required shrinking my handwriting down to fit on small pages. In those years I eventually learned about myself that I can’t think if I am writing small. One thing I love about this planner is the size, and the way I can get a wide analog view of a week or a larger period of time.

In the last year or two I’ve also used my phone to help me remember things, and I will often type things into one or another app when I am away from home, but then I have to copy the name or date, etc on to paper soon, if it is going to do me any good.

This planner will perhaps appeal to very few of my readers, and probably those have already seen it. But to the theoretical Someone: The publisher is Parousia, and this would be a good time to consider it for 2021. You can see pictures of the creators of this resource on the website. A big THANK YOU! to Natalia and Maria!

Hiding under their feathers.

THE BIRDS OF PASSAGE

You are the one who made us
You silver all the minnows in all rivers
You wait in the deep woods
To find the newborn fox cubs
And unseal their eyes
You shower the sky with stars

You walk alone
In the wild royal darkness
Of the heavens above the heavens
Where no one else can go.

When the fragile swallows assemble
For their pilgrimages
When the hummingbirds
Who are scarcely more
Than a glittering breath
Set out for the rain forest
To drink from the scarlet flowers
On the other side of the world
With only now and then
The mast of a passing ship
For a resting place and an inn

When the Canada geese
Are coming down from the north
When the storks of Europe
Stretch out their necks toward Egypt
From their nests on the chimney tops
When shaking their big wings open
And trailing their long legs after them
They rise up heavily
To begin their autumn flight

You who speak without words
To your creatures who live without words
Are hiding under their feathers

To give them a delicate certainty
On the long dangerous night journey.

-Anne Porter