Category Archives: Creativity

On Finding a Way to Help (Even on a Limited Budget)

Author’s note: We have written in the past about having a family goal for the summer. If your family’s summer goal is to grow in the faith, read on! We’ve also shared some ideas of activities in your back pocket for when your children need some guidance/something to do. Here is yet another idea  – something that your family can do together that will offer common purpose while also allowing you to actively live your Faith this summer.

 

There are so many different needs that come to our attention. A local fire or flood, a foreign orphanage, a friend-of-a-friend’s illness with lofty medical costs, hungry homeless in a nearby city, etc. The list goes on, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Because we are Christians, we need to live a life of giving and helping. We become aware of needs, sometimes on a daily basis, and we know that we should be part of the cure for those needs. But where do we start? What can we do to help? How can we make a difference?

There may be times and seasons in our life when we can actually go to where the need is and physically help. There may be other times when going is just not possible, but we are able to help financially. But what about those times when we cannot go, but we also do not have the kind of money that we want to donate to help?

Even as far back as the 6th century, this must have been an issue as well, because Abba Dorotheos spoke to it. His words still hold for us today. He said, “No one can say, ‘I am poor and hence I have no means of giving alms.’ For even if you cannot give as the rich gave their gifts into the temple treasury, give two farthings as the poor widow did, and from you God will consider it greater gift than the gifts of the rich. And if you do not have as much as two farthings? You can take pity on the sick and give alms by ministering to them. And if you cannot do even this? You can comfort your brother by your words. ‘A good word is better than the best of gifts.’” In other words, we need to look at what we can give, and give that; whether it’s lots of money, a little money, our time, or our kindness.

If we want our family to live the life of the righteous people mentioned in Matthew 25: 35-36 (“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” etc.), we can give of what we have, as Abba Dorotheos mentioned. But maybe we can get a little creative with what we have, and multiply it so that we have more to give! If we just back up a little in that same chapter of Matthew, we will find one of Christ’s parables: “The Parable of the Talents.” In this story, we read about people who were given talents (money) according to their ability. The focus in this parable is not so much on how much they were given as it is in how they USED what they were given. The person with only one talent who did absolutely nothing with it ended up losing what he was given; whereas the ones who used what they were given, multiplied it and were able to enter into the joy of their lord.

But how do we multiply what we have? First, we need to sit together as a family and identify which need(s) we want to help to meet at this time. Our priest can be very helpful in this part of the process: he knows what is needed and can help us decide where to give! Then we need to decide how much we can give (we’ll call that our “deposit”). After we’ve committed to give a portion of our money – the deposit – to help meet the need(s) we’ve selected, we can begin to brainstorm creative ways to multiply that deposit. We can either set a specific goal of how much we hope to raise and work to that end, or just try to make it grow as much as possible: that’s up to our family. Once we’ve brainstormed ways to multiply our deposit to help us reach our goal, we need to select one of those creative ways to multiply it, then work together to carry it out.

This process can be a great blessing not only to those in need who receive the final gift we give, but also to our family! They will gain some items or finances that they need. We gain the joy of giving from what we have. We also gain the positive experience of working together to choose a need and then finding a way to help to meet the need. Perhaps best of all, we gain the peace of knowing that, at least in this part of our life, we are living as true Christians.

“Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Need some ideas of ways to multiply your giving? Here are a few. What ideas do you have? Share them with the community, and let’s all get to work, making a difference in our world! We are not limited to one creative means of multiplying our deposit: once we complete one project’s gift, we can move on to another!

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Spend your family’s deposit money on supplies to create something else that you can offer for sale. Does your family like to bake? Spend it on ingredients and get baking! Do you prefer to create things? Spend it on craft supplies and make the crafts together. Do you enjoy building things? Purchase the needed wood and get sawing! (Here are some ideas for starters: http://www.parents.com/recipes/familyrecipes/quickandeasy/simple-bake-sale-treats/; http://diyjoy.com/crafts-to-make-and-sell; http://www.diyncrafts.com/4478/home/40-genius-rustic-home-decor-ideas-can-build)

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Perhaps your family’s “deposit money” isn’t money at all: maybe you are able to donate items that you no longer need or use or just want to give. Together as a family, go through your things and find these items. If you are trying to meet a need that requires the items themselves, you can give them as your gift. If not, you can sell them at a yard sale, consignment shop, classified ad, or online. Then you will have money to give if that is what is needed! (You may want to check out the ideas here, or find more elsewhere online: http://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/where-to-sell-your-old-stuff-for-top-dollar/)

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What can you turn your “deposit” into? Find something that you’re willing to part with, and trade it for something better. Then trade that item for something even better, and so on, until you end up meeting your goal for the gift you want to give. Need inspiration? This young man traded a red paperclip for a pen shaped like a fish… and traded that for a doorknob with a crazy face on it… and on and on, until he had a house. Adults (one of the trade offers which he turned down is not appropriate for children to hear) can watch his Ted talk about the experience here, for inspiration, if you haven’t heard about this idea before: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s3bdVxuFBs

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Perhaps you’d rather have a family work day to turn your “deposit” into more money. Brainstorm the kind of work you can do together as a family – perhaps yard cleanup, a painting job, cooking or cleaning for someone. “Advertise” to your parish and/or neighbors, to see if any of them would need your help and be willing to hire your family. You may need to spend some of your “deposit” on flyers advertising your family’s services, on gas to get to wherever you’re working, on lunch or drinks needed to fortify you, etc…, but your earnings should still multiply it!

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What talents do your family members have? Consider hosting a “(your family’s name) Shares Their Talents” night in your backyard. Charge a small admission fee, have snacks for sale, have some guessing games or raffle items, and then share your talents with attendees in a performance! In this case, your “deposit” will need to cover advertising flyers, food, and prizes. Your talents and the donations of your generous guests will multiply the deposit to grow your gift! (Here’s how one family hosted a neighborhood talent show, if you need ideas: http://lessthanperfectlifeofbliss.com/2013/08/talent-show-party-night-with-stars.html)

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What if you have no “deposit” money available to give? No problem! Approach business owners that your family knows, to see if they would be willing to sponsor your family as you serve in the community. This idea gives twice: once to the organization which you are serving in the service project, and once to the need which your sponsor money will help to meet! Ask your priest for ideas of where to serve. If he doesn’t have any suggestions, consider one of these ideas: https://hybridrastamama.com/50-family-friendly-community-service-project-ideas/

 

Back Pocket Ideas for Summer Fun Activities

Over the course of summer break, it is quite possible that our children will come to us parents and proclaim their boredom. In my opinion, boredom is a good thing, for much creativity results when children are offered the opportunity to concoct their own adventures rather than having activities and expectations continually thrust at them. When my own children were younger, if they came to me and said, “I’m bored!” I would often reply, “Oh, okay! That is your choice! There are plenty of options of things that you can choose to do instead. Take your pick of them – or be bored! It’s up to you!” They would usually go find something to do. (Now that they’re young adults, we sometimes talk about the glories of boredom: how wonderful it is to have a moment where you do not have so many responsibilities pressing on you that you can actually be bored for a bit! How times and perspectives change!) So, boredom is a choice, and it is not a bad thing for our children to have it as an option.
That said, it is always a good idea for adults to have a backup plan in place when they are responsible for children. While it is okay for our kids to feel bored, and it is vital that they learn how to come up with their own ideas of things to do, occasionally there may be a time when our kids really do need ideas and guidance! This blog post will offer you, the parent, some backup plans to “keep in your back pocket” for such a time as that. (Unless you have a fantastic memory, we recommend that you may want to read through each of the ideas we offer and jot notes about a few favorites on a 3×5 card. You can literally keep it in your back pocket for when you need ideas!)

Here are a few “back pocket” ideas that we found (in the order in which we found them). What ideas do you have to share with the community?

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For children who love (or need to learn more about) science, here are links to 30 different experiments best performed in the summer heat: http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/05/science-fun-for-kids.html

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Find a list of 40 ideas of things children can do with water (and an ad for a toy makes the 41st idea) here: http://raisingwhasians.com/water-summer-activities-kids-printable-checklist/

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Create some sand play dough to manipulate and to decorate with those shells, stones, and sea glass pieces you have collected. Find the recipe here: http://mamapapabubba.com/2014/05/26/sand-play-dough-with-loose-parts/

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Find the rules for outdoor play games, for when you need inspiration for family game nights, here: https://www.wired.com/2009/08/simpleoutdoorplay/

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Find 18 super-cool experiments to perform together, here: http://spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com/blog/boyish-charm/18-fun-science-experiments-for-kids

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This list of 50 fun things to do in summertime may already be in your family’s plans! Check it out if you need an idea of something fun to do together: http://www.bonbonbreak.com/50-fun-summer-activities/#.WT7Dl1TyvIU

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Help these two young ladies in their mission to make the world a more positive place, one cleverly hidden decorated rock at a time! This summer, Zoey and Carrington’s goal is to have rocks placed in as many of the 50 states as possible, in the name of Rock Our World Studio. Can you help them with their 50 State Summer Challenge 2017? To learn more, visit: https://www.facebook.com/RoCkOuRWoRLdStudio/

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And last but not least, a list of projects for parents who need something to do! (Yes, the children will benefit from the results of these, but adults will need to do most of the DIYing.): https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/diy-projects-that-will-blow-your-kids-minds?utm_term=.bl72MMk4J1#.fdnZddG15D

 

Gleanings from a Book: “When God Made You” by Jane G. Meyer

Jane G. Meyer’s new book, “When God Made You” invites readers of all ages to look at each person in the world and consider what God was thinking when He made them. Every spread of this gleefully-worded book introduces a child from a different part of the world, and suggests what God had in mind when He created that child. Each “person recipe” in the book, just as in real life, is completely unique and brimming with the love and enthusiasm of our Creator.

“When God Made You” celebrates each person’s extraordinary qualities, looks, talents, and interests, recognizing each facet as a gift that has been poured into that person’s life by God Himself. The book also demonstrates to the reader that God does not just give those qualities to us to enjoy, but because He wants them to be used and shared. Every child in the book, upon being created, is issued a command: to plant, to sing, to paint, to lead… The book brings to life the reality that from the moment we are created, God has in His mind the work that He has set for us to do.

Throughout the book, Megan Elizabeth Gilbert’s whimsical illustrations bring to life the individual being described. Readers can see Makani, Hikaru, Bridgid, Carmelo, and all the others in their home environment, savoring their surroundings and beginning to act on the command that God has given for them to fulfill.The illustrator has carefully captured cultural details (down to the very fabric of the traditional clothing), and uses these characteristics to effectively embellish each spread. The reader can sense the joy God has in creating each person through the charming illustrations in this book.

The book both begins and ends with this important question: “What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?” This question – actually, the book as a whole – naturally lends itself to a family discussion on individual uniqueness. God’s plan for each person, His delight in each of us, and His love for each person are clearly demonstrated in the pages of this book. This book will be an invaluable addition to any Orthodox Christian family’s library.

Here is more about the book itself:

Take a sneak peek into the book by taking a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F5hoXb8-mM&feature=youtu.be or by flipping through a few digital pages here: https://issuu.com/ancientfaith/docs/when_god_made_you/13?e=0

Check out the “When God Made You” facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WhenGodMadeMe/

To add this book to your family’s collection, purchase a copy here: http://store.ancientfaith.com/when-god-made-you/

 

Here are a few activities your family can do together after reading “When God Made You:”

Have each member of your family draw a self-portrait and write (or describe) what God was thinking about when He made them. Hang the self-portraits up where you can all see them and enjoy them. Find ideas of unique ways to display them here: http://www.helpyoudwell.com/blog/2015/9/30/12-ways-to-display-kids-artwork

Encourage each family member to celebrate the other members of the family. Allow each person to write their version of God’s recipe for every other member of the family. What did God think of when He made the other members? Write the “recipes” on recipe cards such as this (print on cardstock): http://www.antiochian.org/sites/default/files/when_god_made_you_recipe_card.pdf. After you’re finished, read the recipes together and talk about what you’ve written, celebrating the great things God has created in each member of the family. Display the recipe cards near your self-portraits.

Work together to make lists of words that describe each member of the family. These lists can have some similarities to each other, but should largely unique, just as the person they describe is unique from the rest of the family. Order (or create your own) a canvas art piece for each family member, featuring their name and descriptive words, as suggested here: http://www.iheartcraftythings.com/2013/07/god-made-you-subway-art-canvases.html?m=1

Challenge each member of the family to take this idea one step further: Ask each person to  think of someone they don’t get along with very well. Instead of thinking of how much they don’t like the person, have them make a list of the good things that God has put into that person. What was God thinking when He made them? (This is an excellent way to realize that God has created EVERYONE, and to look for the positive even in those whom we struggle to love.) Take some time to pray for the people who you have a hard time getting along with. After making the list of great things God put into the person/people you struggle to love, tuck the list(s) away somewhere that can be re-visited when the going gets tough with the individual(s) again. Re-visit the list to add more great things, as you think of them! And, as Fr. Andrew Harmon says in http://www.antiochian.org/love-your-enemies, keep focusing on the GOOD thing(s)!

Look at what the Scriptures have to say about God creating us uniquely. For example, read Genesis 1: 27-28, Psalm 118:73-74, Psalm 138:13-16, Job 33:4, Isaiah 64:7, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Jeremiah 36:11, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 2:10. Select one to focus on as a family and create a piece of wall art together featuring that Scripture. Find Scripture wall art ideas here: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/scripture-wall-art/

This song called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” combines many Scriptures as a sort of lullaby from God to each of the people He has created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igYWIzrC9Ko

Older children and adults will be encouraged to read this blog post called “What God Says About Me.” The blog tells about the author(who has Down Syndrome)’s search through the scriptures and how learning what God says about His people brought her comfort. Read the blog at http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/what-god-says-about-me.

Consider taking this challenge from “When God Made You” author Jane G. Meyer herself: “…If your kids are interested in either writing a profile about themselves, or drawing their own portrait, with your permission we’ll be collecting these images to post on the When God Made You facebook page,and maybe on a page here on my own website. And it doesn’t just have to be kids! Feel free to send me your own writing or illustration as well!!!” She posted that challenge in this blog about her book: http://www.janegmeyer.com/blog/when-god-made-you/

On Learning the Scriptures by Creating a Scripture Journal

Recently, we have looked at the importance of memorizing the Scriptures and helping our children to do the same. This blog post will offer another way to meditate on (and even memorize) the Scriptures: through Scripture journaling. When you maintain a Scripture journal, you meditate on and/or memorize the Scriptures by creating an artistic illustration of a different Scripture passage on each page of the journal. There are many ways to do so, and you do not need to be an artist to create a Scripture journal. If you can write or if you can doodle, you can create one of these journals. Even young family members can make a Scripture journal! It is a fun, creative way to delve into the scriptures, and many members of the family can enjoy doing this exercise together.

You will need a blank journal for each family member who wishes to participate. You will also want to round up pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, watercolors; whatever art supplies you wish to work with in your journal. (Note: remember that if you plan to use markers or watercolors in your journaling, you will want a journal with thick pages so that the colors do not bleed through to the next page. You will also want to place extra paper behind each page as you work, to absorb any possible bleed-through.)

Select a verse (or verses) which you want to ponder or memorize. Decide how you will illustrate that passage. You can simply write it in your own handwriting, thinking about the meaning as you write, and perhaps writing a few of the keywords in a way that emphasizes their meaning. This is a very basic way to Scripture journal, but it achieves the goal of engaging the Scriptures and meditating on each word.

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Once you are comfortable with that method, you could write the passage in a similar way, but add some color and a few small illustrative pieces to help bring out the meaning of the passage.

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Perhaps you would rather meditate on the passage by creating a sketch that helps you to learn its meaning. If that is the method you prefer, you can print out the passage, tape it into your journal on one side, and create an illustration on the other page that helps you think about and learn the passage.

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If you are memorizing the passage, one way to do so is to print it out and glue it in the middle of a journal page. Read through it several times, and then continue to repeat it to yourself as you create a colorful design around it. Zentangle patterns work well for this type of journal piece, and can give you ideas for your design. Repetitive doodling is great for meditation, so, as you are working, continue to repeat the passage. You will memorize the passage and have a beautiful addition to your journal when you finish!

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It could also be that the passage will lend itself to a particular idea of how it should be illustrated. If that is the case, you can create your illustration around the passage, gluing a copy of the passage in the midst of the piece.

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You could also hand write the passage right in the midst of your illustration.

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These are only a few of the variety of ways to create a Scripture journal. If this method of Scripture meditation/memorization appeals to you, by all means, try it! Your final results may not be museum-worthy, and that’s okay. The purpose of the exercise is not to create a stunning work of art for the world to see. The act of Scripture journaling is intended to help you to learn more about the Scriptures, to meditate on their meaning, and to commit them to memory. The final product will serve as a reminder of your work of meditation and memorization.

“And we, too, who do no more than listen to the Scriptures, should devote ourselves to them and meditate on them so constantly that through our persistence a longing for God is impressed upon our hearts [and thereby we shall be amazed to] see how the wisdom of God renders what is difficult easy, so that gradually it deifies man.” ~ Saint Peter of Damaskos

 

Here are some links that you may find helpful as you begin your Scripture journaling:

Here is a blog post about Scripture journaling. This journaler uses both lined and unlined pages when she creates a piece: http://michelleperkett.blogspot.com/2015/11/new-mps-bible-art-journaling.html

Want to try your hand at Scripture journaling, but don’t know where to start? Take this 30 day challenge: http://karachupp.com/shall-write-copy-30-day-challenge/

Here’s an excellent blog on doodling that incorporates Scriptures into the doodles:  https://1arthouse.wordpress.com/doodles-101/

This artist uses some zentangle techniques in Scripture journaling: http://www.zenspirations.com/galleries/scriptures/

This Scripture journaler has illustrated passages in a more “smash journal” style: http://www.carissagraham.com/2012/03/i-made-book-scripture-scraps.html

Need inspiration to draw an illustration for the Scripture passage you are memorizing/pondering? Here are a few beautiful pieces where the artist drew an illustration and incorporated the passage in her own handwriting. http://peggyapl.blogspot.com/search?q=prayer+journal

Consider taking this 31-day challenge to begin your family’s adventure in Scripture art journaling: http://artbyerinleigh.blogspot.com/2012/09/31-days-of-scripture-art-journaling-day.html