Just a Perfect Day

Some days are just perfect on their own. Today I spent the day with my favorite 7 year old in the entire world.

Nate and I went to a TaeKwonDo tournament. His first. He competed in forms and sparring. Nate did a great job. He had fun hanging out with his TKD mates. It was so much fun watching him hanging out with the kids. Being excited about a sport he has been involved in for three years; and the smile on his face when he got a trophy and a medal was priceless.

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Third Place Trophy for Forms

The best part of the day was simply being with my son. God has blessed us with such an energetic, loving, smart and honest young man. He loves life so much and it just rubs off on others.

I thank God everyday for giving Nate to us.

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Nate and his instructor Lori

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MUSA – Wellman

Work or Not

Well, it’s been a few weeks now since we found out that our livelihood is changing. Due to changes within the Medicaid system in Iowa our jobs are likely to be taken over by a managed care organization. The organization has been contracting with us since April to do case management for their Medicaid funded members. It is my understanding that they feel they can control costs and improve outcomes and supply themselves with more accurate data if they use their own case managers. I work for a county case management agency that has always received the highest marks and very limited corrective actions for many years while providing excellent support for members. As a result, this change in course was shocking.

As recently as November 2016, our director was assured by this MCO that contracting with local case management agencies was the best move they had made when being chosen one of the three MCOs to manage Iowa’s “Medicaid Modernization”. Then we found out about three weeks ago, via news media first, that the MCO was going to move some members in house. No timeline was given, and no set number or type of clients was given. In the weeks since, no real good information has come forth. More like radio silence except for one recent email which did give a basic time line that whatever they have in the works, they want to have completed by the end of June 2017. That’s not a lot of time when it comes to transferring as many as 12,000 members from one case manager to another.

This MCO is in the active hiring stage, and many of us have applied and interviewed. Most of us has not heard one way or the other at this point. In the mean time I am sending out resumes and applying online in a somewhat haphazard way hoping that I would get hired by this MCO and that would make short work of it.

Jobs are out there all over the place, the problem for me are two fold. I live on a family farmstead and don’t want to move unless it’s a last resort, and two, the income we make now can be hard to match, as many similar jobs in my field don’t pay as well.

I am more that willing to look into other opportunities, other fields, but that comes with the issue of different experience which may not match well with mine. So I am also putting trust in God that his plan is better than whatever I can think of and hope it all goes well.

I never imagined when I took this job almost 12 years ago that I would be looking for something else. Especially not under these circumstances. Thankfully we have some money in the bank in case things get stretched out, but it’s not going to last a long time, so again, I pray things will turn out soon.

It sounds a little after the fact, but remember that nothing is guaranteed. You have a job you are sure you are going to retire from and suddenly it’s gone. It happens every day, just to other people; then sometime it could be you.

Until next time, when ever that is.

Ducks and Stuff

Our new duck house! Not quite finished but coming along. I still need to paint it and put some shingles on the roof. Our two Pekin’s at least have a safe place for the night. They seem to be enjoying their new outdoor living area. We had to get them out of the barn as they are too messy to be in a barn stall. They are several weeks old now, I forgot exactly when we got them, so I am going with several weeks. They are plenty old enough to look like ducks and not ducklings.

A little update on how things are going. First of all, as you can see, I am not the most prolific blogger. I think about it, but don’t always follow through. I have other things going on, so blogging is really an every so often kind of thing. And I kind of go on binges. So who knows, we might get several blogs in a row here and then none for a while, guess we’ll have to wait and see.

We have been working in the garden. Weeds are a serious issue around here. We continue to work on ways to control them without using chemicals. Now I am not against chemicals in an all out fashion, but we do at least try to limit them. However, I am seriously considering some kind of chemicals this fall to see if we can kill off the grass that keeps growing. At this point though we will continue to pile on the straw and weed as much as we can find time for.

Nate continues to grow and will be seven at the end of the week. He is attending some day camps this June and will start his studies again in July. He took half of May off as his break from school. Homeschooling is working well for him and us. He will technically be in Second grade when the next school year starts, but he has a lot of work that is third grade level coming up. He really likes math and he is going to start doing science and social studies this year to go along with math, language arts and reading. He’s such a sponge when it comes to learning things.

Hannah does a great job of teaching and keeping Nate on track with his schooling. She has been enjoying the break as well. I think she is really looking forward to getting vegetables from the garden to start canning.

Overall we are doing well and things here on the homestead continue to transform. There will always be things we want to do, but we try to take it one day at a time. That helps keep things a bit simpler.

Until next time…

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

O Lord, Thou didst reproach the Pharisee when he justified himself, boasting of his deeds; and justified the Publican when he approached humbly, seeking forgiveness with sighs; for Thou dost not draw near to arrogant thoughts, nor turn away contrite hearts. Wherefore, we also kneel before Thee meekly, O Thou Who didst suffer for our sakes. Grant us forgiveness and the Great Mercy.

 

+ Doxasticon from Orthros, Tone 8

When the Pharisee went down with empty glory, and the publican bowed himself in repentance, they came to Thee alone, O Master. But the one through boasting lost his reward, and the other by his silence deserved gifts. Wherefore, by those sighs confirm me, O Christ God, since Thou art the Lover of mankind.

+ from the Praises at Orthros, Tone 1

Read more about the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, in an excerpt from Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann
Listen to a podcast about the Sunday by Fr. Josiah Trenham, The Doors of Repentance

From the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

Luke 18:10-14

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Beautiful February Day

Spring is coming. It’s a lovely 52 F here today. It’s supposed to cool back down a bit, but wow it is nice. In addition, the wind from the past couple of days has calmed down and now it’s beautiful and sunny.

Soon enough we will be able to plant our garden. Looking forward to expanding. We are planning to at least double the size of the garden we had last year. This will allow more room for crops like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and so on that even when strung up tend to take up a lot of room. We also plan to plant more berry plants. Right now we only have a few and considering how delicious they are, we want to have access to more.

I am going to get out soon and prune the apple trees as a few of them have gotten too tall and far too many branches. Week branches don’t hold apples very well. We have ten apples trees. They are consider dwarf, but are still pretty tall if we don’t keep them trimmed. Often we get more apples than we can actually eat before they go bad. Of course we feed some of them to the chickens.

I am actually looking forward to mowing the yard. I am hoping to get to it early and keep it up better than I have the past couple of years. Often we start too late and then the lawn tractor won’t hardly cut it. I am determined this year to keep up so we don’t have any problems with the yard getting over grown.

Soon I will be going to buy a chainsaw. I still have a tree to finish cutting up from last fall when it fell down and took out one of our power lines. I don’t have a chainsaw of my own that actually works, so I have been saving up to buy a new, hopefully, a very good one. I am looking at Echo brand. Several people said they have Stihl and they really like them as well. Besides the tree that is down, I have a lot of others that need to be trimmed or removed.

There are always things to do here on the homestead and I am looking forward to doing some of them without freezing by buns off. Now I am off to check on the chickens.

Thinking Early About Lent

So my last soda (Coca-Cola) was on January 26th. I have to admit it is getting easier to be without it. I have noticed though that since I am not taking in so much sugar and caffeine from drinking so much soda that I am hungry a lot more. As a result, I have already gained weight. I also haven’t put much effort into exercising, but I wasn’t doing that beforehand either. So I guess I am making a trade off at this point. I have been allowing myself one cup of regular coffee a day. I would love to be able to get rid of that too and maybe I will try to go for that along with my fasting for Lent.

This coming Lent will be my first as an official Orthodox Christian. I am going to do my best to follow the Orthodox fasting Tradition as followed by the Church. My wife and I have discussed this and agree that the idea is to follow in the spirit of the Tradition more so than the letter. What does this mean? We are going to do our best to follow the ideas of no meat, no dairy, no alcohol (we don’t really drink much so that shouldn’t be an issue), etc. If however there happens to be the need to use a small amount of dairy, or such for a recipe, we are not planning to be so strict as to completely change the plans for the meal to avoid this. I think, especially as those new to fasting, we are going to have a hard enough time with this to begin with. Also, there is always the issue of legalism. We don’t want to become so rigid that we are legalistic about fasting, or any part of our religious experience. We have always believed that it is better to follow as closely as possible with the idea of the Tradition so that if we start to get to the point where we do things simply because there is a Tradition of the Church, we need to step back and evaluate why we are doing those things. Are we doing them because we feel it is necessary and right in following Jesus’ teaching and worshiping God, or are we doing them just because that’s what all the others at church are doing?

Our priest told us during our classes to learn about the Orthodox Church that following the Traditions as much as we can is more important than following everything to a T just because it’s written. As we go along in our church life we will likely find ourselves following more and more of the traditions because we feel it is right, rather than simply because those traditions are there.

Below are some General Rules of the Lenten Fast as taken from the Website of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese:

GENERAL RULES OF THE LENTEN FAST

The Lenten Fast rules that we observe today were established within the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during the sixth through eleventh centuries. These rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks and nuns.

The first week of Lent is especially strict. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a total fast is kept. In practice, very few people are able to do this. Some find it necessary to eat a little each day after sunset. Many Faithful do fast com­pletely on Monday and then eat only uncooked food (bread, fruit, nuts) on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the fast is kept until after the Presanctified Liturgy.

From the second through the sixth weeks of Lent, the general rules for fasting are practiced. Meat, animal prod­ucts (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard), fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shell-fish are allowed, as is vegetable oil. On weekends, ol­ive oil and wine are permitted.

According to what was done in the monasteries, one meal a day is eaten on weekdays and two meals on weekends of Great Lent. No restriction is placed on the amount of food during the meal, though moderation is always encouraged in all areas of one’s life at all times.

Fish, oil and wine are allowed on the Feast of the An­nunciation (March 25) and on Palm Sunday (one week before Easter). On other feast days, such as the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist (February 24) , the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), the Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), wine and oil are permitted.

HOLY WEEK

The week before Easter, Holy Week, is a special time of fasting separate from Great Lent. Like the first week, a strict fast is kept. Some Orthodox Christians try to keep a total fast on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. Most eat a simple Lenten meal at the end of each day before going to the evening Church services.

On Holy Thursday, wine is allowed in remembrance of the Last Supper. Holy Friday is kept as a strict fast day, as is Holy Saturday.  Holy Saturday is the only Saturday in the entire year when oil is not permitted.

In short, these are the Lenten rules for fasting. Traditionally, the Church Fathers recommend that someone new to fasting begin by resolving to faithfully do as much as he or she is able during the Lenten period. Each year as one matures as a Christian, a fuller participation can be under­taken. However, it is not recommended that a person try to create their own rules for fasting, since this would not be obedient or wise. The Faithful are encouraged to consult with their priest or bishop regarding the Fast when possible.

Personal factors such as one’s health and living situation need to be considered as well. For example, an isolated Or­thodox Christian required to eat meals at their place of employment, school or in prison may not be able to avoid certain foods. The Church understands this and extends leniency.

 It is important to keep in mind that fasting is not a law for us—rather, a voluntary way of remembering to not sin and do evil, and to help keep our focus on prayer, repentance and doing acts of kindness, for we “are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

EASTER, BRIGHT WEEK AND THE PASCHAL SEASON

The Lenten Fast is broken following the midnight Easter service. With the proclamation, “Christ is risen!” the time of feasting begins. The week after Easter is called Bright Week and there is no fasting. For the next 40 days, the Church celebrates the Paschal (Easter) season. Joy and thanksgiving are the fulfillment of our Lenten journey.

It is a bit over a month until Lent, so I have some time to prepare myself. Hopefully with God’s help I can do well at following the Lenten Fast. If you happen to read this post, please pray for my family and I as we try to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the Orthodox Christians who have gone before us.

Until next time…

Saint Ephraim the Syrian

Saint EphraimO Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity, meddling, lust for power and idle talk. But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, integrity, humility, patience and love. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to condemn my brother. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.” – Saint Ephraim the Syrian