I hope you all have a most Blessed, Healthy, and Joyful New Year!
I hope you all have a most Blessed, Healthy, and Joyful New Year!
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
(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:
Here’s to a successful and blessed 2018!