A Guardian Angel’s Warning

Orthodox guardian angel for women

 

In the summer of 1993, Deanna drove her gray hatchback around the unknown neighborhood for a third time, seeking out a friend’s house.  After the past three years of a tumultuous and painful relationship with Kyle, she desperately desired a man who would fiercely love her back. She wanted to take a chance with her good friend, Patrick.  They had been fellow classmates in their sociology class at the local community college four years before and had kept in touch.  She knew he liked her more than just as a friend, so she believed her efforts to pursue Patrick would be worthwhile, as she struggled to unshackle herself from the dead end that was Kyle, the golf enthusiast.

The gray cloudy sky veiled the afternoon sun, as Deanna rolled down the same street for the fourth time.  Panic and worry settled in her chest as she faced the realization she didn’t know which house was Patrick’s.

As her hopes fell, the car rumbled to a stop in front of a modest, two-story house.  She checked her watch and found it was already after four o’clock. Anxiousness took hold of her, and the thought of calling Patrick flooded her mind.  The insistence grew so strong that she turned off the engine and exited the vehicle.

Walking up to the porch, ideas of what she’d say to Patrick floated through her mind.  Since she’d lost the chance to surprise him at his house, she’d have to surprise him with a call.  She knocked on the door with anticipation of the soon-to-be conversation.

A minute later, the door slowly opened, and a middle-aged man in a bathrobe eyed her with a mixture of irritation and curiosity.

“Hi, can I borrow your phone?” she asked with an impatient smile.

He hesitated for a moment, still staring at her, but then said, “Just a minute,” and retreated from the doorway, leaving the door cracked.

Eagerness and excitement bubbled inside Deanna as the imagined conversation with Patrick danced in her head.

Suddenly, a voice neither specifically male nor female squelched the talking in her head.

“What are you doing?”

Deanna froze, hearing this unexpected and unfamiliar voice.

“Leave the porch, get in your car, and get out of there.”  The tone was firm but not cruel.

Fear laced through her stomach as the realization of nearly entering a complete stranger’s home shook her.

Deanna bolted from the front of the house, got in her car, and fumbled for her keys, trying to shove the car key into the ignition.  As the vehicle hummed to life, she glanced at the house, where the man stood there still in his robe, behind the screen door, peering at her with a stony expression.

Heart pounding, Deanna flicked a wave in his direction and sped off.

 

(This story is based on my true life experience, with change in names for privacy)

 

 

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The Unique Ancient Christian Perspective in Fiction Writing

santorini sunset with church

In our Western world, we are accustomed to works by Christian authors of the Protestant and Catholic faith communities, but we’re lacking a voice for the rich and beautiful traditions of Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Romanian, Serbian, etc.) Christian faith in the fiction publishing realm and bookstores.

This reality struck me in the past two months, but only compelled me to the point of writing about it today.  Readers could learn so many fascinating aspects of the Orthodox Christian culture, traditions, and way of life with access to these writers’ works present in the fiction writing arena in the United States, especially.

I guess it was only natural that I, being an Orthodox Christian, would come to this realization eventually.  I only wonder if any of my Orthodox Christian brethren have thought about this and wished there were fiction books out there that delved into the traditions and beliefs of their own.

theophany cross dive

As a rather new writer in the past three years (coming back to writing after a nearly eighteen-year hiatus…you can read my writing history in a few of my previous blog posts, like my blog post “A Lifelong Dream Unfolding”), I’m still trying to get down the skills of writing, grasping good plot, and character development, but I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

You see, we Orthodox Christians don’t really fit into the tight guidelines of the evangelical Christian publishing, or completely in Catholic publishing.  Our beliefs are a bit different from the Western mindset, and our traditions are unique.  Wouldn’t it nice to have a venue to share these types of stories with you readers out there?  Maybe readers would find the cross dives done in a body of water nearest to a community’s church, why we make St. Basil’s bread, wear prayer rope bracelets, fast, wear crowns/stefana at our weddings, or wear wedding bands on our right ring fingers intriguing.  These traditions and beliefs may be refreshing interwoven in a fiction novel of a character of Eastern Orthodox faith.

stefana marriage crowns

While googling Orthodox Christian fiction writers, I found one from 2011 under a Facebook friend’s website.  With regards to fantasy (which is the genre of the story in the link), in my own personal opinion, I’ve not really been into fantasy about people with supernatural powers because they already truly exist in those who become holy in Christ–Saints.  There are plenty of stories of them in the Orthodox Christian world, but hardly known in the United States, my home country.  Incidentally, Ancient Faith Publishing has started accepting women’s fiction and other fiction by Eastern Orthodox Christians, and I hope other publishing companies follow…at least a few…because it gives us EOCs an outlet for our work.  🙂

I believe opening up this Eastern Orthodox Christian mindset in the Western World’s fiction publishing world would add a unique, fresh, profound, and brilliant expression of Christianity that’s so needed.

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Pondering 2017 & Anticipating 2018

happy new year clock

 

This year started out rough.  My husband, Troy, had been searching for a job since November 2015, and by the time 2017 ushered in, our hopes were dwindling but not completely gone.  We still held on to our faith that God would lead us toward the right job for Troy and having survived the past year on his small military retirement and disability, God provided for us in our financial and familial circumstances.

In February, I worked for a temp agency to help our financial dilemma.  An architectural firm employed me for a month, and that was fine.  It had been about seventeen years since I’d worked outside the home, and that was a huge step for me and a good experience.  It helped a little when we needed some supplemental income.

But in those many months, I wondered what God ultimately wanted us to do.  What was His Will for us?  Well, it seems, in echoing our priest here at our church in Lancaster, God was teaching us perseverance, patience, and testing our faith in Him.

john 14 18 beautiful verse

And then God provided us a door that opened to the richest of blessings.  A couple weeks into May, the local school district hired Troy as Maintenance Director.  This truly was, as I said, a huge blessing because we had thought Troy would end up having to find work and commute from one of the big cities one to three hours away from our home.   Instead, his office is no more than ten minutes from our house!  God is good.

So, 2017 started rocky, but blossomed into a pretty awesome year.  We got to finally go back to our beloved Colorado for two weeks to spend it in the Rocky Mountains at Estes Park and visit our church family/friends in Colorado Springs.  After being away because of Troy’s schooling in Boston since 2013 and moving to Lancaster, PA in 2015, we didn’t know if our friends had just moved on.  We know how relationships and life can change with time.

Troy & I in Estes Park:Drake, CO June 2017

(Troy and I at our cabin in Estes Park, CO)

But we were pleasantly surprised, overjoyed, actually EUPHORIC, when we visited with our cherished spiritual father, his precious wife, our church family, and friend I have known for thirty-eight years.  My friend, KiMar, and I have managed to keep in touch for that amount of time, in separate states, moving about all those years since both our dads had careers and retired from the Air Force.  It’s the longest friendship I’ve had in my life, and it’s beautiful.

My university online courses have kept me busy throughout the year, and I’ve learned a great deal in those classes, such as nonfiction writing, context of writing, playwriting, literary theory, English language, and modern European history.  It’s been great.  It’s only strengthened my writing skills.

snhu logo 2

Then things started opening up for my writing. In the summer, I got back into revising my novel, Passage of Promise, that I’d written in 2015 and finished in early 2016.  I wrote a couple of short stories, and then I wrote a short play.  By December, as I’ve said in another blog post, that play and one I wrote in my creative writing class back in 2015 were read informally at the local theater.  It was the most wonderful experience, something I hope to never forget.  Thankfully, my dear son videotaped the readings so I can go back and watch them at any point to help raise my spirits if ever I’m feeling down or doubtful about my writing abilities, which happens sporadically.  The three actors who read my short play, “Falling Up Stairs,” will be performing it on the theater’s small theater-in-the round stage January 20, 2018, and I’m really excited about this…to be watching in the audience and getting to hear and see their reactions to this quirky piece.  I hope they like it!  I hope it makes them laugh!  I also began a new story December 7, and am still working on that.  What a way to wrap up the year!

DreamWrights Community Theater

Every New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, it is in our Orthodox Christian tradition to make a vasilopita (St. Basil’s bread).  St. Basil lived in the fourth century.  He believed strongly in helping the poor.  Via Saint Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church’s website, here’s a little excerpt on the life of St. Basil:

During the fourth century, one of the  greatest Fathers of the Christian Church appeared on the spiritual horizon of the  Orthodox Faith. His name was Basil and he was Bishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia (Asia Minor). He was born four years after the First Ecumenical Council held in the year 325 A.D. Saint Basil was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers of the Church (the others were Gregory of Nazianzus, his best friend, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa).

Saint Basil was the first person in human history to establish an orphanage for little children. He also founded the first Christian hospital in the world. His fame as a Holy Man spread like wildfire throughout the Byzantine world. He was considered one of the most wise and compassionate clergymen in the entire history of the Church. His Feast Day is observed on January 1st, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season. The Church, therefore, in respect for his many contributions to the Church and to mankind in general, combined the joy and happiness of the New Year with the glory of the birth of Christ, and the Epiphany into what is known in the Orthodox Church as the Vasilopita Observance.

st. basil the great

This bread we make is a sweet bread named after St. Basil.  From the same website, here’s some background on why we make the bread and how its made:

Saint Basil the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.

This original event which happened in Cappadocia of Caesarea in the last half of the fourth century, is very much alive in our Orthodox homes each year the 1st January. According to tradition, special sweet bread (in some areas of Greece, it takes the form of a cake) is prepared both in the Orthodox homes and in the Church community which is called Vasilopita. Sweets are added to the bread which symbolize the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usually added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives that portion of the Pita which contains the coin is considered blessed.

vasilopita

(example of a vasilopita – St. Basil’s bread)

It is rare that I get this coin, and it is pretty rare for Troy, too.  In 2016, our brother-in-law got it and had the best sales record that year where he works.  Lo and behold, Troy got the coin for 2017, and we saw so many blessings spring forth from it!  Secretly, I’m hoping and wishing very much to see the coin in my slice of vasilopita for 2018, so this upcoming year will be the year my books are published, and I am fortunate enough to hear and read the reviews of my readers feeling hope, inspiration, and satisfaction after perusing my book(s).  God willing!  In any case, I’ve got much to look forward to 2018:

  • Finishing up revisions of my first novel and preparing it for a professional editor, submitting a query to a publisher, and hopefully getting a positive response, even though I know to expect a rejection letter!  It’ll be published in 2018, for sure. 🙂
  • Watching my play on the stage!
  • Finishing up my current work in progress.
  • Reading so many great books.
  • Four-day weekend in D.C. (tentative!)
  • Vacationing in Estes Park and Colorado Springs again! (praying!)

 

Here’s to a successful and blessed 2018!

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The Day in Which the World has Joyously Changed Forever

the nativity of Christ

 

The birth of Christ God incarnate changed humanity and all creation forever.  The second Person of the Trinity condescended onto Earth and took on the flesh of the Theotokos, and through this, we Eastern Orthodox Christians sing many hymns celebrating this:

“Our Saviour hath visited us from on high…
And we who were plunged in darkness and shadows
Have found the truth,
For the Lord hath been born of the Virgin”.

“The wall of partition is destroyed,
The flaming sword is dropped,
The Cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life,
And I partake of the fruits of Paradise,
Whence, for my disobedience, I was driven forth”.

“Heaven and earth now are united through Christ’s Birth!
Now is God come down to earth
And man arisen to the heaven”.

magi visiting Theotokos & Christ

“Today Christ is born in Bethlehem of the Virgin.
Today He who is without a beginning begins,
And the Word is made flesh.
The powers of Heaven rejoice,
The earth and her people are jubilant;
The Wise Men bring gifts to the Lord,
The shepherds marvel at the One who is born;
And we sing without ceasing:
“Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, (God’s) good will toward men”.

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him!

Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child Nativity

 

A Blessed Christmas to you all.  May Peace and Love fill your hearts.

 

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The Holiest Woman in the World Came To Be With Us This Morning

holy Iveron icon

 

She came at the sound of the thundering bells, the melodic, harmonious hymns of the chanters, and the people awaiting her with feelings of respect, reverence, and love. The Mother of all poured out her nurturing stream of tears through the Holy Iveron Icon—one of God’s many holy paintings in His Church. The subdeacon, Nectarios, who travels with her, shared the miraculous healings and protection of The Theotokos’ maternal prayers and love. Each of God’s children received her sweet-smelling tears through anointment of our cheeks, chins, foreheads, and hands. Furthermore, we experienced her loving presence at the end of the service, kissing her and her Son and our Savior via this glorious icon. Glory to God!

 

 

 

An Encounter With St. Andrew

St. Andrew the first called

 

As my family and I stepped inside the Church of St. Andrew in the town of Patras, Greece, we immediately observed its huge interior with frescos and mosaics in brilliant colors encompassing the walls and ceiling. The large space was cool, and our feet shuffling on the marble floors echoed through it. Straight ahead was the narthex, or foyer of the church, and further in, the nave. There were chairs on either side of the aisle leading up to where the marble-laden icon screen stood, beautifully ornamented with the altar in the center.   Large crystal chandeliers hung down from the lofty ceiling, where in the center, the Pantocrator (Christ – ruler of all), painted in the dome, gazed down and blessed us.

Eventually, my sons and I, along with my mother, came to the white tomb where St. Andrew’s head lay under a silver and glass enclosure. Vases with beautiful flowers were on either side of it. I kneeled on the step before the tomb and bent my head, saying nothing at first. A glorious, mystical fragrance permeated the air around me. At first, I thought it was the flowers next to me on my left and right, but I leaned over and inhaled their scent, and none of them had this wondrous aroma. The smell closely resembled flowers. Gardenias, perhaps, but it wasn’t. It was emanating from the relic below the silver and glass box covering it. Moved to tears, I struggled to swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. Just then, St. Andrew’s life and ministry flashed through my mind like a motion picture.  His pain at his crucifixion swept through me, and I caught my breath. I asked St. Andrew to pray for us , kissed the glass dome, and crossed myself.

Housed in wood and glass next to the marble sarcophagus were the original pieces of the cross on which St. Andrew was martyred. As I had done a moment ago at St. Andrew’s tomb where his head lay, I kissed the glass encasing the remnants of the wooden cross. My faith was affirmed and strengthened that day.

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This is a piece written for my Introduction to Creative Writing Class back in early 2015.  This is a true encounter I had with St. Andrew at the Cathedral named after him in Patras, Greece.  Below is a picture of my husband, sons, and I in 2010 standing in front of St. Andrew’s Cathedral on our trip to Greece in May 2010.

family in Patras, Greece May 2010

(Inside the nave of St. Andrew’s Cathedral)

St. Andrew's Cathedral

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Have you ever had encounters with Saints or the heavenly hosts?