Monthly Archives: May 2014

Savoring Summer: Time With Our Children

Many of us are rapidly approaching the end of the school year, and preparing to have additional time with our precious children. Some of us are eagerly anticipating that time, while others of us are wondering how to fill all of it, to keep the children occupied. Regardless of our attitude regarding the forthcoming summer, it is coming very soon (and perhaps has started already for some of us), and it would behoove us to take some time to prepare ourselves! Both this note and the subsequent week’s daily posts will offer suggestions to both the “anticipaters” and the “wonderers.”

Pray! First and foremost, let us remember to pray. We can start by thanking God for this opportunity with our children. He has blessed us by putting them into our lives, and entrusted us with their care and education. He will certainly give us what we need to spend this summer loving and learning with them! So, let us also ask Him for wisdom to know what to do with our children, as well as grace to love them every moment of the summer, as we gently point them to His kingdom each day. “Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts.” – Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

Celebrate! When school is finished, celebrate the hard work and learning that the children have accomplished, this year! Go out for ice cream or a meal. Maybe welcome the children home with a banner or another idea such as one of these: http://creativepartyideasbycheryl.blogspot.com/2013/05/last-day-of-school-ideas.html

Have a plan! Everything runs more smoothly if there’s a plan behind it. For the families who have children who function best with a schedule, consider making one like this http://www.icanteachmychild.com/2014/05/printable-summer-schedule/ to keep posted on the fridge or in another family space, changing it as needed for each day’s schedule. Find ideas of things to do in the “down” or “free” time here:  http://www.digitalreflections.typepad.com/digital_reflections/2009/06/100-free-things-to-do-with-your-kids-this-summer.html.

Learn together! Extend the children’s math and science learning into the summer time by together doing fun activities such as these: http://www.science-sparks.com/2013/05/19/summer-science/http://www.babble.com/crafts-activities/25-at-home-science-experiments/http://www.dreambox.com/blog/outdoor-math-games; or http://zenomath.org/play-math/fun-math-games/.

Read! You can’t go wrong with reading. The local library can hook you up with all sorts of information and adventures! If you need ideas, here are 20 books to read with a five-year-old: http://godlyrose.blogspot.com/2013/08/what-we-read-for-fun-august.html. Or check out these books, and then go on related field trips as suggested at: http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/category/book-list. See http://www.onlypassionatecuriosity.com/10-books-for-boys-to-read-this-summer/ for book ideas for boys and http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Books-for-Girls-Kids-Reading-Listfor ideas for girls. If you want to take advantage of free summer reading incentive programs, check out these: http://myfrugaladventures.com/2014/04/free-summer-reading-programs-for-kids-2014/!

Teach basic skills! Take advantage of the “extra” time summer offers to help the children learn skills they’ll need to know later in life. Cook with them. Help them to garden. Take them shopping for groceries. Teach them to do a chore they haven’t yet tackled. Teach them to sew. (See http://spoonful.com/crafts/12-easy-sewing-projects-for-kids for kid-friendly sewing projects.)

Get crafty! Plan to do crafts that your children enjoy, or provide supplies for something they’ve never tried before. Invest in art supplies that are new to them, so they can explore and/or you can learn together how to use the supplies! If you prefer to have a plan for the craft, find 46 simple craft ideas using basic supplies here:http://www.happinessishomemade.net/2014/05/17/45-quick-easy-kids-crafts-anyone-can-make/.

Keep rainy day plans in your back pocket! Rainy days happen during summer. Not to worry, if you’ve got a plan “in your back pocket” for such a time as this! Check out the fantastically fun ideas at http://innerchildfun.com/2011/08/10-rainy-day-activities-for-kids.htmlhttp://innerchildfun.com/2011/03/what-we-do-on-rainy-days.html; and http://rainydaymum.co.uk/101-ideas-for-a-rainy-summers-day.

Be still! It goes against the grain of our culture to be still and quiet. Teach your children the beauty of this by taking them on a hike, or to a stream/lake, or even to a city park; and take a few moments to be still in that space. Start with just a few minutes of stillness. After the still time, talk about what you saw, heard, smelled, felt, etc. during that stillness. How much of that would you have missed, if you had been talking/moving, instead of being still? Thank God for helping you to notice His beautiful world, and work throughout the summer to find more times/ways to be still. “Be still and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10

Take time to chat! Savor the extra time by finding out new things about your children. Not sure what to ask? Check out these sweet ideas for bedtime chats: http://www.imom.com/espresso-minute/20-pillow-talk-questions-for-you-and-your-child/. Or, print and use these questions: http://www.imom.com/tools/conversation-starters/kid-talk-1.0/ or http://www.imom.com/tools/conversation-starters/kid-talk-2.0/.

The summer is nearly upon us. Let us take advantage of our this extra time with our children, by teaching them important skills, having fun together, and learning more about who they are and what they like. Most of all, let us take them by the hand and lead them in the way of Life; both by our words and our deeds. May the Lord bless and guide us as we choose to savor our children’s presence, this summer!

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A Family Celebration of the Ascension of Christ

It is nearly the end of the Paschal season already. Our families have been celebrating Christ’s resurrection for many days, beginning with the glorious celebration of Pascha! The end of the Paschal season offers us another opportunity to celebrate: the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, which always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Pascha.

This Feast is one of the twelve Great Feasts of our Orthodox Church Year. And yet, for many of us, it goes by nearly unnoticed. Let us learn more about this feast and find ways to help our family celebrate Our Lord’s return to heaven and His promise to send us the Holy Spirit; and let us find ways to make that celebration special!

The Ascension is important to us as Orthodox Christians for many reasons: it marks the end of Jesus’ time on earth reassuring His followers, after His resurrection; it is the date on which Christ gave his last commandment to His disciples (now, us!); and it is the day in which Christ Himself took human flesh (His body!) into heaven, the presence of God, restoring man’s communion with God by giving humanity a permanent place of honor in heaven. (See more athttp://www.theologic.com/oflweb/feasts/ascen.htm orhttp://www.metropolitannektariosofhongkong.org/2013/06/celebrating-the-feast-of-ascension/.)

That is a lot to celebrate! Let us teach our children what the Ascension is about, and together celebrate this feast! Here are a few ideas:

Celebrating the end of Jesus’ time on earth:

Celebrating the last commandment Christ gave to his followers:

  • To find out what the last commandment is, unscramble the “secret code” in the circle at http://www.sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/commissionwordcircle.pdf.
  • Talk about what this means: “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Brainstorm how your family can be part of fulfilling this commandment.
  • Check out http://www.ocmc.org/ and http://www.iocc.org/ to see how other Orthodox Christians are fulfilling this last command of Christ. Look for ways to help them: pray, give money, and/or go and help!

Celebrating Christ taking His Body with Him and thereby restoring humanity’s communion with God:

  • Discuss the incarnation with your children: what does it mean for Christ to be both God and man? (Suggestions for this discussion, at different age levels, can be found at http://www.thrivingfamily.com/family/faith/2009/god-with-us.aspx.)
  • Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your children. Smash it together really well, so that the fillings mix. Have the children pull the sandwich apart and look at it: “is it just peanut butter? Just jelly? Would it be as delicious to eat it like this? (No, and it would be messy!) We’re a little like one side of that peanut butter and jelly sandwich: we’re supposed to be with the other side, with God, all the time, not just have a little of God in our lives (like a little jelly in the peanut butter), but we should be together completely. That’s the way we are best, and meant to be!” Put the sandwich back together again, and as the children eat it, discuss how we were made to be with God. Christ’s redeeming our humanity by taking His body with Him into heaven puts all humans able to be back with God again, as we were meant to be.

Make a plan together as a family to intentionally celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord, this year. Find more information on the Ascension at http://www.antiochian.org/ascensionor http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-church-year/ascension1. Print and do this Orthodox activity at http://www.orthodoxabc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/022-EN-ed02_Ascension-of-Christ.pdf.

Troparion (Tone 4)

O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
That You are the Son of God,The Redeemer of the world!

Kontakion (Tone 6)

When You did fulfill the dispensation for our sake,
And unite earth to Heaven:
You did ascend in glory, O Christ our God,
Not being parted from those who love You,
But remaining with them and crying:
I am with you and no one will be against you.

The Creed: What We Believe

The following excerpts on the Creed can help us teach our children about our statement of faith. These excerpts are from Natalie Ashanin’s article “The Creed Is What We Believe,” first published in Little Falcons (http://www.littlefalcons.net/) magazine, “Creed,” issue #37. Used by permission.

“Have you ever been asked to describe your faith? To tell what you believe? If you are like a lot of people, you probably got tongue tied and everything you knew seemed to fly out of your head… But all you have to do to avoid this embarrassing situation is to become familiar with the Creed, or, as it is often called, ‘The Symbol of the Faith.’

“The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word, ‘credo,” which means ‘I believe.’ The Creed was originally developed for use in baptism, when the person being baptized would make a statement of what he believed. We still use the Creed in baptisms and chrismations… Reciting the Creed is like reciting  the Pledge of Allegiance to our country, but this pledge of our faith in God is a far greater pledge than one to any country on earth. When we sing or recite the Creed during the liturgy, we are acknowledging that we accept and believe in what the Church teaches us and there is an implied pledge to uphold and witness to these teachings…

“Because the liturgy is a ‘work of the people’ in which everyone is called to participate, most of the prayers say ‘we’ or ‘us,’ but the Creed uses ‘I’ because each person is called to make their own statement of faith. In order for Christians to act together as a people of God, they must have a common belief and the Creed serves the purpose of bringing them together in their faith.

“The Creed starts with a statement about ‘God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.’ God made everything because He is perfectly good. He made everyone and everything so that all would be good and happy with Him.

“Then it continues with a description of our Lord Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God and how He came down from heaven to save us, suffered and died and rose from the dead. We affirm that He ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

“The final part of the Creed speaks of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father. It continues to acknowledge faith in ‘one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.’ The word catholic is used here in its original meaning of universal, that which includes everyone. It does not refer to the Roman Catholic church, which separated itself from the Orthodox Church in 1054.

“When you hear the Creed being recited in church try not to use a book, but see how much you can remember by heart. Over time it will become second nature to you and then, when someone asks you to tell them what you believe, you will have it all there on the tip of your tongue. No, you don’t have to recite it word for word, but you will know what it is that you believe and be able to explain it to others.” (pp. 4-8)

Let us as parents reaffirm our own beliefs by studying the Creed. Let us also pass on the faith by teaching “The Symbol of the Faith,” the Creed, to our children. We should go through it together, phrase by phrase, helping our children to learn what it means. Then, we can help them commit it to memory so that they can embrace it for themselves.

“I believe…”

Mothers In God’s Service (reprinted with permission from Life Transfigured: A Journal of Orthodox Nuns, Vol. 21 #2)

The following article applies to all Orthodox women: mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, Sunday Church School teachers, and fellow parishioners alike. Each woman in the Church has an important role in the parish, and can be used by God to be a great blessing to the children and young people of the parish! May the article encourage the women who read it to “serve God in motherhood,” as we work together to raise the little ones in our parishes to love and follow God.

“Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all called to serve God. Whatever talents He has given us, we should choose to use in the service of His glorification. One such talent is the ability of a woman to care for the children she bears. She takes care of their physical needs and also tries to promote what she herself perceives as a need to know God. To women, God has given the wonderful mission of raising children, of building little temples for Him, raising another generation inspired to praise God.

Orthodox Christians understand just how exalted motherhood is. Has God not willed to be incarnate of a woman – Mary, the blessed offspring of aged Joachim and Anna? She was found worthy to take part in the mystery of the incarnation, having perfected in her soul purity, humility, obedience, silence, simplicity and a gentle disposition. She knew that such is precious in the sight of God (I Pet. 3:4). And in the environment of her purity of mind and speech, as well as her quiet comportment, she raised her holy Son with gentle love and care. While she is unique in her holiness, she is absolutely beautiful in her humanity. Perhaps every woman cherishes the wish in her heart to have the special grace that renders the Mother of God the saint of saints and the model of purity and silence.

To all who are called by God to motherhood, may it be granted not only to be worthy servants of His chosen flock, but also to take part in raising that God-glorifying generation. While God entrusts the leading to spiritual growth and development of virtues to many people, including priests and godparents, He chooses women to serve Him in motherhood, and we ought to understand that it is a holy calling. A woman worthy of being called “mother” is also worthy of being deemed “martyr” because raising children is a great sacrifice of self. Do not underestimate the serious and holy service you render when you accept from God to raise the little ones He gives you.

Happy Mother’s Day!”

Reprinted with permission from Life Transfigured: A Journal of Orthodox Nuns, Vol. 21, No. 2, Summer 1989, p.10. Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Ellwood City, PA.