Posts Tagged With: orthodox

What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

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Categories: Articles, Words of wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

When Lent is Different

Is your Lent different than others in your church? Being a convert, I had an early, and probably unhealthy, association of fasting seasons solely with food.

I’ve grown accustomed to the crowds discussing their various fasting survival skills. Some complain that they will not look at hummus or PB&Js or couscous when this is all over. Others swap bean or lentil recipes and how to make X be just as filling as the non-Lenten version.

But what if your Lenten journey looks much different than others in an outward sense? I look around coffee hour and know that there are those who are pregnant or nursing mothers. I know several who already require a gluten-free, Paleo, or other specific diets where a vegan version just can not work for the sake of their health. I know of priests who have lifted fasting requirements for those who are grieving a recent death of a loved one.

Here’s some encouragement from the Antiochian Archdiocese:

Fasting is more than not eating food. Saint John Chrysostom teaches that it is more important to fast from sin. For example, besides controlling what goes into our mouths, we must control what comes out of our mouths as well. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we curse God or our brother?

Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast is called “ascetic.” This refers to actions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting. (http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent)

As a convert, the emphasis on food and the equating of food with fasting was HUGE for me. Lent means going vegan for 6 weeks. I’m supposed to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays because that’s what I’m supposed to do. A few years ago after overhearing a conversation among some other converts, I realized that fasting is something a catechumen or new convert can latch onto easily to “feel Orthodox.” You can’t commune, so you try a few other things to fit in, like adventures in making your own hummus. (Yes, there are multiple stories behind that comment…)

To the relief of our cradle brethren, we eventually chill and realize that fasting is not about the food. From the Orthodox Christian Information Center:

Fasting is not merely a restraining from food. During the days of the fasts, the Church sings, “While fasting bodily, let us also fast spiritually…” True fasting includes deeds of Christian mercy. It is an alienation of the evil-one, a restraint of the tongue, a laying aside of anger, a cutting off of vices and an exposure of falsehood… Thus, for a Christian, fasting is a time of restraint and self-education in all respects, and a real Christian fast gives believers a great moral satisfaction. (http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/prayer_feasts_fasts.aspx)

If fasting is about the ascetic or self-denial, it is no wonder that we have exemptions for persons in certain circumstances. What good is it for the church to demand that those with medical or dietary needs ignore what is best and be so ill that they can not pray? They are already under a rule of self-denial, even if not the diet the Church prescribed.

We just ask that before you stand next to us, please brush your teeth, especially if you had bacon.

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Have a blessed Forgiveness Sunday, everyone!

We all love Forgiveness Sunday, but Grumpy Orthodox Cat has found some unique benefits.

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Ancient Faith Giveaway

Okay, ladies and gents, we have a rather exciting announcement to make.  This week we’re having our very first giveaway, sponsored by Ancient Faith Publishing.

Some of you may remember AFP when it was called Conciliar Press.  They’ve published many classics and favorites, including Frederica Mathewes-Green and Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon.  I remember poring over the Conciliar Press catalogue as a kid the way my ancestors read Sears-Roebuck before Christmas.  They have books and e-books, music, jewelry, icons, greeting cards, all sorts of pretty things.

Ancient Faith Ministries is also the organization behind Ancient Faith Radio, which offers both music and podcasts.  At this point they’re averaging over 600,000 podcast downloads a month from over 150 different countries, which is kind of stunning.  Their music streaming has saved my sanity more than once, especially if I was home sick on a feast day or trying to work/study while keeping a taste of Lent around.

And the really cool news?  They want to give you books.

PATRISTICA Patristic Treasury

The writings of the Church Fathers are regularly lauded but rarely read, partly because their sheer volume is so daunting. Yet they constitute the “first story” of the Christian faith, built upon its apostolic foundation, which we ignore at our peril. Patristic scholar James Payton has made the Fathers easily accessible by selecting passages that are devotionally stimulating, doctrinally thought-provoking, or epigrammatically striking. With his help, the average Christian can find stimulation, comfort, challenge, and inspiration in the Church Fathers.

The Scent of HolinessScent_of_Holiness

Every monastery exudes the scent of holiness, but women’s monasteries have their own special flavor.
Join Constantina Palmer as she makes frequent pilgrimages to a women’s monastery in Greece and absorbs the nuns’ particular approach to their spiritual life. If you’re a woman who’s read of Mount Athos and longed to partake of its grace-filled atmosphere, this book is for you. Men who wish to understand how women’s spirituality differs from their own will find it a fascinating read as well.

WordsForOurTimeWords for Our Time

The twentieth-century elder Abba Matta of Egypt, known in the West as Matthew the Poor, is widely regarded as the greatest Egyptian elder since St. Antony the Great. …Abba Matta had a marvelous ability to communicate the deepest spiritual truths in the simplest and most practical language, making them accessible to laypeople as well as monastics. He speaks to the heart rather than the head, gently exhorting the reader to pursue a deeper life in Christ. To read these talks is to sit at the feet of one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our age.

So here’s the drill:

You can enter 3 ways.  First, comment on this post and give us the title of the book (or gift) you like best from AFP’s website.  For the second entry, like us on Facebook (or already-have-liked us).  And the third entry comes from (publicly) sharing this post on Facebook or your blog.  After you like us on FB and share the post, leave a separate comment for each action.

In other words, a person who comments here with their favorite AFP book will get one entry.  If she then likes us on FB she should leave another separate comment saying she did so; this will get her a second entry.  And if she shares a link to this giveaway on her blog or FB wall, she should leave a final separate comment for her third entry with the URL.

The contest closes Sunday night (10/20/13) at 11:59pm.  The 3 winners will be declared a week from today and notified via the email given when commenting.  The winners will have 2 days to claim their prize before we pick an alternate.  Each person can only win one book.

Good luck!

– – –

P.S. Not too late to get in touch for details on the Chicago get-together tonight.  We’d love to see you.

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Tiderip

This tiderip where the water is always troubled,
This place where the smoothest seas erupt
To toss and buffet, this place of no peace—
You know what it is—this hidden shallows
Where the rocks reach up to graze the skin
Of your skiff—This is where the world was cut
From you. Envious, it seeks to wound you.

Mother Macaria Corbett, “Tiderip” — Endless Winter Nights at Monk’s Lagoon

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Piña Coladas, Long Walks on the Beach

username: LiveLoveLaugh2013

My self-summary: Gosh, what do I say in these things? LOL! I can’t believe I’m trying internet dating, but my friend swears this site is good, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
I have an old soul but am young at heart. I love to laugh and have a good time. I can be sarcastic. I’m loyal, spontaneous, open-minded, and laid-back. I’m really down to earth, and I have a big heart. I like to live every moment of my life to the fullest! I’m passionate about everything I do.
I want to be treated like a lady. I look just as good in a little black dress and heels as I do in jeans or sweats!

What I’m doing with my life: Living it!

I’m really good at: making ppl smile! 😉

What I’m looking for:
Looking for my knight in shining armor! I’ve kissed a lot of frogs, so I’m hoping for a prince. LOL I’m a hopeless romantic. 🙂
I want a man who knows what he wants, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and can laugh at himself. Sense of humor is a must for me! If you can make me laugh that is a huge bonus!
It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, as long as you’re passionate about something!

The first things people usually notice about me: my eyes n smile 🙂 🙂 🙂

My favorites: I ❤ music—everything but rap and country! My favorite books are Eat, Pray, Love and Twilight.

The six things I could never do without: my family, iPhone, friends, um…I’ll get back to you on that LOL

I spend a lot of time thinking about: romance 🙂

On a typical Friday night I am: I like to go out and have a good time with friends, but sometimes I like to stay in.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit here: If I put it on here, then it wouldn’t be that private would it ? 😉

You should message me if: If you think you can handle me! I don’t do drama. I don’t want a player. If you’re just going to cheat, don’t bother. Ugh, I’m so tired of games! Please show me all men aren’t pigs.
If you’ve gotten this far, you should definately send me an email! I don’t bite, I promise! LOL!

* * *

username: princecharming4u

My self-summary: Man, I don’t know what to say. I lost a bet so I had to make a profile…
My friends and family would probably say I’m loyal, hard working, but still totally laid back. I’m just an average guy who likes to chill. I’m a nice guy, pretty active, funny, intelligent and straightforward. My friends and family are very important to me.
I enjoy the finer things of life. I love to travel! I like the beach, mountains, fine dining, sunsets, wine. I know how to treat a woman like a lady.
I’m really laid back and looking for a partner in crime to take advantage of everything this city has to offer while living life to the fullest.  I work hard and play hard. What you see is what you get.

What I’m looking for: I’m looking for someone fun loving! I want to have my last first date. I’m looking for a good-hearted woman who can be my special someone.
I don’t want a gold-digger, a liar or a drama queen.
I’m looking for a girl that looks as good in a baseball cap and jeans as in a little black dress. Someone attractive, interesting, intelligent, fun and sweet. I’m as comfortable in jeans as I am a tux.

The first things people usually notice about me: I’m tall.

My favorites:  I love to eat good food. I love listening to all kinds of music. I love to travel. I love to have fun. I live life to the fullest.

The six things I could never do without: air, shelter, food, water, family, YOU

On a typical Friday night I am: probably out with friends

The most private thing I’m willing to admit here: If I told you I’d have to kill you! LOL. I hate talking about myself, but I’m an open book, so if you want to know anything, just ask.

Message me if: you want!

* * *

Do you see the problem here?

These profiles say nothing specific, though they repeat themselves frequently—they’re almost obnoxiously bland.  They were created by mixing together as many clichés and stereotypes as I could find, and to my horror I realized I’d read at least a dozen profiles like these.

There’s a lot of words there that don’t really MEAN anything, and many are impossible.  I guarantee that you are not passionate about everything you do.  And if you are truly passionate about wiping the silverware dry as you take them out of the dishwasher, then you are insane and I want nothing to do with you.

Generic adjectives like attractive, interesting, intelligent, fun and sweet are so subjective that they’re basically useless.  What does it mean that you’re laid-back?  In reference to what?  Are you trying to say you’re not high maintenance, or that you’re a hardcore homebody, or that you don’t get riled up over the small stuff? Great!  Say that instead.

Here, have some examples.

Literally says nothing unique about you: I love to laugh.

  • Honestly, when’s the last time you met someone who said they hate laughing?  (I thrive on tedium and have cultivated a superb scowl.)  “I like to enjoy myself” is a tautology, and a particularly inane one.

Better: I’m lighthearted, or I have a dry sense of humor and collect bad puns, or I’ve memorized everything Monty Python ever made.

*

Says darn near nothing about the person you’re looking for: I’m looking for someone attractive, interesting, and fun.

  • Gee, who isn’t?

Better: I’m a sucker for green eyes and big muscles, or I love being able to have long conversations where literature, stories from our childhoods, and world events all intertwine, or I really want someone I can go rock climbing with, and make cheesy knock-knock jokes all the way up the ascent.

*

Says nothing particularly illuminating about you: I live life to the fullest.

  • How many people do you know who openly admit to half-assing their lives?

Better: I love the thrill of pushing myself for a goal. I make an effort to pay attention the many blessings life offers, big and small, and to never take anything for granted. I fail of course, but hey—try, try again, right?

*

Says something, but it’s both vague and somewhat foreboding: I work hard and play hard.

  • What, do you make execs cry in the boardroom and then come home to do a line of coke?  Do you manage 200 head of dairy cattle and the state’s largest organic cabbage farm, but stay out at the disco til 3am? This does not necessarily sound balanced or healthy, and it’s really nonspecific. What does this mean?!

Better: I love my job (at a PR firm working mostly with non-profits) and tend to put in a few extra hours, but I don’t take work home with me.  To unwind, I really love going for long runs on the trail, though I’ll never say no to a fierce game of Scrabble and a glass of scotch.

Do you see the difference?  Good.  Now go forth and fix your bloody profile.

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Be assertive.

I rewrote the title of this post three times before I could let it sit as simply, “Be assertive.” I tried things along the lines of “The Value of Being Assertive” or “The Squeaky Wheel” or “Sometimes, you have to ask for what you want” first—gentler, less direct options designed to encourage you to be assertive without actually making it a command.

Ha.

Anyway, I bought a cheap Goody hairbrush a month ago, and last week I was dismayed to realize that the rubber coating on the bristles was wearing away—my morning routine was becoming painful, and I was going to need a new brush.  I didn’t want to have to buy a new one already, so I did a quick search of Goody’s website and found their contact form.  I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I wrote a quick note:

Hey there, I’m feeling a little frustrated. I bought a grey paddle-style hairbrush from you a month or two ago and the rubber coating on the bristle tips is coming off–it’s definitely becoming painful. Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?

I wasn’t rude or demanding.  I still dithered a bit—”Would you be up for replacing the hairbrush?” instead of “Please send a replacement”—and I honestly didn’t think they’d even read my comments.  But to my surprise, three days later I got an email.  Pick out a replacement of comparable value from their website, it said, and they’d include a prepaid envelope so I could mail the crummy brush back for their engineers to mess with.

The brush I was interested in was a little more expensive than the brush they were replacing.  I didn’t want to claim it was of comparable value, but it didn’t hurt to ask.  After all, no harm done if they said “nope, choose again.”  So I just said, “I’d love to try this brush, if that’s all right.”  And then I never heard back.

But a few days ago I got a package in the mail.  I now have a new “Heritage Collection” brush, Goody may learn something from my hard head destroying the other one, and my hair feels amazing.

Moral of the story?  Well, partly to say that it’s worth giving your business to companies that want to protect their good name and that listen to their consumers.  Partly to plug this rather delightful new brush of mine, because good customer service deserves a callout.  But mostly to remind you that you get to make your voice heard.

There are times to be gentle and beat around the bush and imply things.  There is value in that, and there’s a reason we’re taught to do it.  But there are also times to cut to the chase and be upfront about what you want.  You’re allowed to say, “I’d like ______, please.”  Even if _____ is an inconvenience.  Even if you’re not guaranteed to get it.  Even if, even if, even if.  You get to speak up.

It can be so uncomfortable.  As often as not, it won’t do any good.  You still won’t get what you asked for, much of the time.  And that’s okay.  Your odds are a damn sight better than if you just sit there wishing silently.

I still wasn’t hugely direct when making my requests.  I have to work on that.  I still spend a lot of time and effort not-saying things, because I’m still figuring out how to speak boldly—I don’t want to become a harpy, but I also don’t want to become a doormat.  It’s easier when it needs to be said, when I’m speaking up for someone who needs me or against some grand injustice where many voices need to be heard.  But our voices deserve to be heard over little things too, and it’s a good life skill to have in the arsenal.  A crucial one, in fact.

Many women I know are very sensitive to the effects of their requests, sometimes too sensitive.  There’s a link between being open with one’s desires and trusting that it’s okay to be vulnerable enough to say what you want.  It takes courage to speak up.  It also requires paying attention and noticing that there’s something you need, and preferably recognizing what it is.

And too, we have to trust that the other person can handle the request without becoming resentful or guilt-ridden if they can’t acquiesce.  Especially in relationship and business situations, you need to be willing to speak up.  Your mama can’t read your mind to know that you now hate hooded sweatshirts, and she’ll send one every Christmas unless you say you’d love to receive her favorite novel instead.  Your boyfriend doesn’t know that his new cologne reminds you of your ex, your roommate genuinely wants to know what you’d like for dinner, and your boss (or client) will pay you as little as you’ll accept.  Even if your request is denied or thwarted this time, it’ll still be a net win.  They’ll know more about your needs and wishes, you’ll know more about how the two of you handle this sort of situation, and you’ll know you can speak up about more and harder things in the future.  Communication is a Very Good Thing.

There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  Being rude is aggressive.  Being demanding is aggressive.  Acting entitled is obnoxious and often aggressive.  It’s aggressive to say, “You need to give me a new hairbrush yesterday!”  It’s aggressive to say, “Your company is horrible and my hairbrush is lousy and I’m gonna smear your name all over the internet unless you placate me.”  It’s aggressive to say, “If you don’t give me a new hairbrush, I’m calling my lawyer.”  (Nota bene: There are times when, to protect yourself, you may need to be aggressive.  And calling a lawyer is not necessarily aggressive in all situations.  But if your initial contact is threatening to sue over a broken brush, that’s aggressive.)

It’s assertive to say, “I’d like a replacement brush.”  It’s assertive to say, “Actually, I’d prefer pasta for dinner.”  It’s assertive to say, “That comment made me uncomfortable.” And there is nothing wrong with that.

So.  Be assertive.

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Linkage: Friendship Edition

Good stuff elsewhere on the internets

Friendship: the newly-discovered stress reliever [Verily Mag]

Seraphic’s pep talk: The best part of the single years are girlfriends [Seraphic Singles]

Contrariwise, Mother Gavrilla Papayannis once said, “There are people who deprive us of our solitude without offering us company.” [Caelum et Terra]

Thoughts on strong bonds of friendship for single, celibate Christians [Spiritual Friendship]

Friendship Attachment Styles and how to handle the differences [Captain Awkward]

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Words of Wisdom

In truth, the Lord does not seek virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor worldly men, but doth value the free intent of the person within the arbitrariness of his free will to offer thanks to the Holy Spirit, which acts and which rules the life of each person yearning to be saved.

Saint Macarius the Great, via OrthodoxHelp

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On Beauty and Being Oneself

It’s not news that there’s endless pressure to be pretty, and to fit in, and somehow there’s this idea that it’d all be smooth sailing if only you could buy that new item of clothing or your skin would clear up. That you’d be better somehow, more accepted, more loved (by others? yourself?), if you could just lose 5, 15, 30 pounds or grow 4″ or have a nose that was just a little straighter or master the latest “vintage chic” hair tutorial from some chick on Youtube.

And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with being pretty, or with wanting to be pretty. I’m all for taking good care of yourself. But there’s a lot wrong with letting someone else’s idea of pretty shape how you see yourself, and how you love yourself.

There’s a distinction in my mind between being pretty and being beautiful. Pretty is, at best, subjective and temporary. And it’s limited by some rather unforgiving standards.

I’m reminded of a well-known blogger and author who was in a plane crash–Stephanie Nielson. She had been very pretty. After the crash her entire body was severely burned, and she no longer conforms to the standards of pretty. She lost her familiar shape, her ability to move comfortably, even her freckles. But in every way, she is beautiful. She glows, she’s still pleasing to look at, she’s attractive in the sense of a warmth that draws people to her. Beauty is something greater.

A few years ago, there was a talk given by a very kind older priest. (Monk? Fr. Sergei or Fr. Sergius; he was connected with a seminary.) He was talking about church music, but one quote stood out. He said,

Beauty is the grace that holds the universe together. It is the glory of God.

I’m not going to say something trite and idiotic like “You just have to accept yourself!” or “Everybody’s pretty!” But I will say this: You are made in the image of God. And no amount of unfashionable clothes, extra pounds, or failed Youtube makeup tutorials will change that.

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