Tonight is Our Easter

AJ and Gregory with candles Good Friday

Many people cannot figure out for the life of them why on earth we became Orthodox Christians. They hear about our 2 hr. services every Sunday morning, and they think, “hmm, that’s a little long!” but then when they find out we also STAND for the ENTIRE 2 hours (yes, even during the sermon) and that we have all of our kids with us the entire time (we don’t believe children should be sent to a nursery or children’s church), well, then people just look at me like I’m darn near crazy.

And if that’s not shocking and counter cultural enough, I then tell them about Holy Week leading up to Pascha, where we are attending church 2-4 hrs. every single day, making for a grand total of around 20 hours of church before we’ve even GOTTEN to the Easter service. And that, my friends, is a service that begins at midnight and ends around 4am, after which we stay up even later for drinking, eating, dancing, and general partying.

And yes, our kids are with us the entire time.

Pascha 2014 Gregory and Momma

Granted, most parents bring sleeping bags for the kids. Sometimes we wake them up at 3am when it’s finally time for communion, sometimes we let them sleep. Sometimes we’re right there with them, taking a little snooze and then getting up to sing some more.

From the second service on Friday, all the way until Pascha early Sunday morning, someone stands watch over Jesus’ “tomb” reading the Psalms. Last night, my husband woke up at 1:30 in the morning, drove to church, and read out loud by himself from 2-3am. We do this as an opposite response to the disciples who fell asleep, because they could not stay awake even when their Savior who had done so much for them needed their friendship the most.

In other words, I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy. Orthodox Christians do learn a type of strength and endurance from many days and years of practice, but we are still human, after all. Our feet get tired. Our bellies get hungry after 40+ days of not eating any meat or dairy. Our arms get tired from holding our kids for hours. Our patience wears thin when the kids cry or throw a fit and everyone hears.

We don’t do all of this because it’s easy.

We do it because we are giving our own human frailty and brokenness as our only and most essential response to what Christ gave to us with his Life, Death and Resurrection.

We participate in his Life by denying our passions in order to highlight our frailty and the ways in which we need His grace and strength. We participate in his Death by mourning at his funeral on Good Friday. We participate in his Resurrection by allowing our souls to be nourished by communion and then celebrating with our church family.

Yes, the kids will have a rough time when we have to wake them up at 11pm and drive to church tonight. But there’s no way that I would ever deprive them of the joy we get to share on Pascha. It’s an indescribable joy that I only wish we could share with everyone.

To all of my fellow Orthodox Christians out there (yes, I’m looking at you, Tom Hanks, Troy Palamalo and the Hansen Brothers!), Christos Anesti!

Palm Sunday and Life Around Here

One of the “differences” between Orthodox Christianity and the rest of the Western world is that we operate based on the old Julian calendar. Some years, this means that our Easter falls on the same Sunday, and other years, it is later. This year, our Easter was off by just one week (some years it’s been a month different!). This means that instead of celebrating Easter today, we had Palm Sunday. A friend of ours caught this sweet little picture of AJ kissing an icon of Jesus riding in on a donkey. Palm Sunday with AJ I absolutely love this time of year here in Dallas. Spring is in full bloom, it rains every other day, and everything is lush and green. Now that we live by a huge lake, we have the most gorgeous drive home from church in downtown. Here’s a taste of what we got to experience today. These aren’t even filtered– this is what it looks like in real life (in fact, the second picture was taken through the front windshield while we were driving)! Spring in Dallas lake Spring in Dallas The weather has been absolutely gorgeous when it’s not raining– mostly in the 60s and 70s with sunshine and a slight breeze. We’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors, that’s for sure! Jesse with stroller Gregory on trike AJ and I took yesterday morning to go get haircuts while Jesse and Gregory went to Saturday morning liturgy at church (we have church twice a day during Holy Week, so church is 75% of our life during this season). After haircuts, AJ and I walked over to the grocery store across the street. It’s my favorite store in the metroplex, quite honestly. It’s a small store called “Natural Grocers“, and is not unlike Whole Foods, except for the fact that it’s a little smaller. The unique part about this store is that it used to be a movie theater many years ago. They use the old movie marquis to display health food posters 🙂

natural grocers

sunny day with AJ

We’ve also had a lot of great times with friends lately. Last Thursday, I babysat all 3 of my godsons. Friday night, we had my doctor’s family come over to have music lessons and then eat out with us at a restaurant. Saturday, we had two other families over for dinner. And then Sunday afternoon, we ate out with friends after church. unruh boys and gregory on swings Jesse and I hardly ever turn down an invitation to spend time with friends since we spent 3 years feeling very lonely in CA. We’ve been trying to make up for those years ever since, which probably means we’ve been overdoing it with our social calendar! I guess as long as we get precious moments like this as a family every night, I’ll be okay with the busy-ness. 🙂 Jesse reading to boys

GAPS Recipes That We are LOVING

5 Favorite GAPS Diet Recipes

When I first started on the GAPS (gut-healing) diet a few weeks ago, I was extremely skeptical as to how things would taste and how on earth I was supposed to find anything that actually made me feel full. After all, we are also abstaining from meat.  In addition, dairy, grains, nuts AND beans are all forbidden on the GAPS diet. What’s left, you might ask??

Coming from someone who eats vegan 40% of the year due to all the Orthodox fast days, along with having avoided gluten, chocolate and potato like the plague for almost 2 years, the fact that the GAPS diet is intimidating for me means that it probably is for a lot of other people too. I’m already used to thinking outside the box and getting creative, but this was a whole new ball game for me, folks.

Over the past few weeks, I have scoured Pinterest, and here are the best 5 recipes that I’ve come across so far. These 5 are tried and true, meaning that not only did me and my husband enjoy them, but our picky 4 and under crowd did as well! Not only that, but they were all very filling.

Here they are, ending with the BEST one (you’ve gotta try it).

#5 Roasted Garlic and Sweet Potato Soup:


Even the name sounds amazing, right? It is SO good.

#4 15 minute Miso Soup

miso soup

Gotta hand it to the Japanese, Miso soup is super yummy and soothing. We actually got a bunch of instant packets from Natural Grocers (our version of Whole Foods over here) for me to make a snack whenever I feel hungry.

#3 Sundried Tomato Alfredo “Pasta”

You can do almost anything with a spaghetti squash in hand. We did a variation on this the other night, and if you’re wary of eating cashews (again, I have to stay away from nuts for right now), Daiya cheese is a good alternative.  Doesn’t this look amazing?? Who knew that under 10g of carbs could look so good, right?

#2 Avocado Soup


This soup was so creamy and awesome. You can sub out the chicken broth for veggie broth, as always.


And the winner……(drumroll)…..


#1 Chicken and Cauliflower Fried Rice:

chicken cauliflower stir fry

I was skeptical that a bunch of cauliflower chopped up in the food processor could taste like rice, but it DOES! And it’s sooooo yummy. Salt is actually a good thing on the GAPS diet because it helps keep your electrolytes up, but they also sell low-sodium Tamari sauce if you want. By buying pre-cooked “Quorn” chicken to keep this vegan, and also microwaving our peas and carrots in a steamer bag, this recipe took around 15 minutes to make. So yummy, and so cheap!

Let me know if you try any of these recipes!

Saint Nicholas Day

In the Orthodox church, kids not only get to celebrate Christmas, they also get Saint Nicholas Day. Every December 6th, Orthodox boys and girls around the world put out their shoes at night and awaken to find candies and little toys. The candies of choice are gold chocolate coins in remembrance of Saint Nicholas’ gift to the man whose daughters were to be sold into slavery since they had no dowry. For us, the dreaded “Santa Clause Issue” will be an easier one, since we can actually talk of the real man behind the myth and point to his generous acts of charity that are a part of our lives year round.

The boys were pretty geared up about it all. They set out their shoes the night before and sat down with Jesse to read a children’s book we have about Saint Nicholas.

children reading a Christmas book

Shoes on the window sill

The boys each got a small action figure and a bunch of gold chocolate coins that I got from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at the mall. You should’ve seen the way Gregory freaked out when he saw his shoes just outside the back window! He jumped into our bed Saturday morning begging for us to open the back door so he could get his “Ironman” 🙂

AJ and Gregory with toys

Excited Gregory and AJ with shoes and toys

A day later on Sunday, our church held a special Saint Nicholas Day event for all the kids in the parish. They dismissed all of the kids (around 70 of them!) right after communion and sat them all in chairs in the parish hall. One of our young adults dressed himself as St. Nicholas, while another lady (his fiancé’, actually!) “interviewed” him. The kids got to learn all about St. Nicholas’ life through the answers he gave. Then, there were crafts and snacks for the kids, and then they got to go up by age group and receive a stocking full of gifts and candy from Saint Nicholas. How fun and cute!

I definitely know that this will be one of the holidays I most look forward to from now on!