Sustained By Song

My beautiful sunshine-y daughter Michelene and I at her conference
My daughter Michelene and I at her conference

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you, and everything you do, yeah, they were all yellow. From the song, Yellow, by Coldplay.

Have you ever had a song that was stuck in your head? That was me, last week with two songs that just fit perfect. Perfect that is, for exactly what was unfolding. For you see it was my Holy Week, leading up to Greek Easter, and I was assisting my daughter with her work conference.

The first song was Yellow, by the band Coldplay. When I initially heard it last year I was doing a wedding coordination. I went straight to the DJ and asked him what the song was. He told me; I went home and looked it up. I have been listening to it on and off ever since. Last week, wow, I was obsessed. It was stuck like something fierce in my head.

So out of curiosity I looked up the lyrics, then I searched to see if Coldplay had ever talked about their meaning behind the song. I thought initially it might be about jealousy (you know, yellow) but it turns out they say it is about devotion, pure and simple. I loved that. It made complete sense. I wondered of course if it was possible the song was a reflection of my devotion to Holy Week, and also to my daughter? If you click on the word “lyrics” above, you’ll see the words to the entire song. Tell me what you think.

So all week, I allowed that song to float through my head. As I was helping my daughter I stayed in tune to the Holy Days. I thought of my church and knew I would get there on Friday. The conference was (magically) on diversity and there were very inspirational speakers and people there. It was truly amazing to be witness to this amazing group and their message. And I got choked up a couple of times seeing how beautiful my daughter was; a true professional and a stellar coordinator. She was just like the stars that shine, in everything she does…..exactly like the song said.

My church on Good Friday. Thank you to Christina for this picture.
My church on Good Friday. Thank you to Christina for this picture.

When the conference was over, it was Friday around 1pm. A different song slowly crept into my head, replacing the former. It was an ancient hymn, a huge part of Good Friday services. My cousin Christina and I went together to my church that evening. As soon as the Metropolitan and the choir began to sing, I got chills. I’ve sung this song over and over since I was a child. It was so beautiful and it struck a chord deep in my heart. Thank you to my sister Mary who found this rendition of the hymn on the internet by Glykeria.

So two songs and deep faith got me through the week. I am forever grateful to have had them fixed in my mind to remind me what a precious week it was. Not only for the love of my daughter, but for the everlasting love of my faith and Savior.

Christos Anesti!

 

 

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Magnificent Sky

I want to wish all of you celebrating Easter this weekend a very happy and joyous holiday. To my Jewish friends, Happy Passover….and to my fellow Orthodox Christian friends, a happy Palm Sunday. 🙂 Many thoughts for a post went through my head this week- chocolate, food, celebrations- but in the end, I just wanted to share my favorite sky pictures and a few meaningful quotes with you.

Sky Many Clouds Stream

Psalms 36:5: Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Dusk Shot

Psalms 71:19: For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?

Blue Clouds

Genesis 1:14-15: Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.

NIght Moon

Psalms 89:37: “It shall be established forever like the moon, And the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.

Sky Stream for Pandora
Pandora’s Light

Mark 13:25: AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.

Cropped Rainbow

 Psalms 78:23: Yet He commanded the clouds above And opened the doors of heaven.

I hope you have some quiet time this weekend, some time to reflect and relax.

xo Joanne

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Greek Easter Memories

The Mon River by Christina
The Mon River, Photo by Christina

Tomorrow, for Easter Sunday I will be going to my Aunt KC and Uncle Steve’s house in the big city of Stockdale, PA. Actually, Stockdale is not a big city 🙂 but it is big in my heart.

My Uncle Steve is my mother’s only brother. He and his wife, my Aunt KC have been married close to fifty years. Every Easter, they host our family gathering, complete with grilled lamb chops, spanakopita, easter bread, pastichio (greek lasagna) and many other delicious foods and desserts.

Uncle Steve and Aunt KC live on the homestead. That is, they are exactly where my mom and her brother grew up their entire life before my mom married my dad and left Stockdale. My aunt and uncle have updated the house over the years but parts of my grandmother’s remain much the same. Even original pieces of her now antique furniture are still there.

What is it like to go to Stockdale every year? Well it’s like a homecoming. When I pull up to the curb of my grandmother’s (yiayia’s) old house, I am filled with memories. I see the Monongahela river and remember the times my uncle took me water skiing as a teenager. Walking into the old kitchen, I am back in time, remembering the summer months I watched yiayia cook- avgolemeno soup especially- and how I used her handheld rotary mixer to beat yellow egg yolks into frothy gold.

When I was growing up, the whole family would go to midnight church services on Easter eve. Arriving home at 2 or 3 am, my grandmother would put out a full spread on her dining room table. Roast lamb, potatoes, green beans, bread, salad and desserts like baklava of course. She’d use her best lace tablecloth and fancy dinnerware. It would be 4 am sometimes before we’d all crawl into bed. Then we’d be up again, late morning to start the eating all over again.

And the red eggs. We’d always have red hard boiled eggs on the Easter breakfast table. These were to play a game that all the cousins got involved in. We’d each select one egg. Then we’d take turns tapping our egg against each other’s, one at a time. The goal was to have a hard shell, hard enough for your egg not to crack. The last person left with an uncracked shell was the winner. As you can imagine, this became quite competitive!

When dinner time finally came on Easter day, a prayer would be said for all the blessings bestowed. We’d eat our fill of the delicious food and play, play, play until it was time to go. Now my Aunt KC has a wonderful egg hunt for the kids, the more grown up ones hiding the plastic goodie filled eggs for the smaller ones.

I look forward to seeing my cousins I don’t get to normally see all year. Celebrating spring and re-birth, everything that God has given us, gratitude for what we have, that is what it is all about. Have a happy Easter! Kali Anastasi!

 

 

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Kisses for God

Candles 2

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Phillippians 8-9

Being a Greek Orthodox Christian, this is my Holy Week and this past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It felt wonderful to be in church early to read the epistle (the above passage). My sister Mary has thankfully come to stay with Mom a whole week leading up to Greek Easter. Though I have loved spending time with my mother, I am loving the nice bit of freedom I will have this week. (Thank you Mary!)

Church filled up fast on Sunday. Many people came; lots of beautiful children and babies (which I just love). Father E. read the gospel about the last days of Jesus and the oil that smelled so good. Palms were handed out at the end of the service, molded into the shape of a cross. There was a fish dinner afterwards and Mom was able to see many of her friends that she has missed for months. It was a good day.

One of the most touching sights in church was the candles, lit by practically everyone who entered. It was amazing to see them ablaze, lighting the back wall of Narthex. Even one of my fellow council friends remarked on the specialness of them. I thought of them as kisses for God, as if every one of us was sending kisses to heaven and perhaps to loved ones who have passed on.

I have to tell you about the feeling I had being back in church. After many months of devotion to mom, I felt a peace, a gratitude to God for all the blessings in my life. My mom is recovering, I have a new life (minus my job!). Some things are different, some things are the same. Some things feel really good and my relationship to God feels another level deeper.

Maybe you have a special form of prayer or something you do which gives you this same feeling? Maybe it’s your church or a walk in the woods that does it for you. Maybe you feel that feeling of connection when you ride a gentle horse, run or walk on the beach. Perhaps you feel it when you kiss your baby or do the poses of yoga. You name it; maybe this provides the same feeling for you as my church does for me. What would you do without it? Would things feel the same?

I am grateful I have my church to go to. It is there I can connect and feel even closer to God.

What is your favorite form of spiritual connection? What moves you deep inside?

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