Category Archives: Orthodox Christian Child Rearing

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Appendix 1

 

Note: This is the final blog post in a series which offers ideas of how to build up the little church in your home, based on the book “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we have focused on one portion of the book and shared the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Appendix 1: Making Your Way Through the Liturgical Year

“Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” concludes with a few appendices. The first one is extensive (48 pages), and is the only one we will be featuring. This appendix is an extremely helpful addition to the book. It goes through the Church year and offers suggestions of ways that families can bring the life of the Church into their little church throughout the year.

The appendix offers fun activity ideas ranging from suggested songs to recipes to related science experiments. It also offers suggestions and directions for simple crafts that families can create to enhance their celebrations of feasts or deepen the meaning of the season. The suggestions are as varied as the expected readership, and most of the activities/crafts can be adjusted to be done with children of a variety of ages.

In our opinion, this section of the book is the most likely for readers to revisit in the years that they have children living at home, because of its helpful suggestions for the feasts and fasts of the Church year.

If you wish to interact with the authors of “Blueprints For the Little Church”, you can connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com. You may wish to also check out their Pinterest boards at  https://www.pinterest.com/orthoblueprints/boards/.

Here are a few gleanings from Appendix 1:

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(on Prayerfulness as one of the highlights of the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God) “Here at the beginning of the liturgical year is a good day to spruce up the family prayer corner with the children. You might clean out the shelves, allowing children to dust and polish (and discuss) the various items you keep there. In addition, we might allow the children to create little prayer books, either copying down or printing up the prayers of your family prayer rule and binding them into little books…” (p. 176, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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(prior to the Nativity Fast) “Younger children can visualize the preparation of a soft place for Jesus by creating a little manger out of a box and then slowly filling it with cotton balls every day, as they mark a good deed one for each day of the fast.” (p. 181, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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(at Theophany) “On Theophany, priests all over the world perform the Blessing of the Waters, blessing vessels of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. Jesus’ sanctification of the waters is repeated every year. Imagine how many times a single drop of water may have been blessed in the last two thousand years!
…Try this visual demonstration of God’s grace flowing through water: Fill a clear glass container with clean water. Add food coloring… and watch the colored liquid slowly mix into the waters—just as Christ’s holiness has sanctified all the waters of the Earth.” (p. 188, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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(on Great and Holy Friday) “As the hymn conjures the image of the Theotokos at the foot of the Cross, the idea of presenting ourselves—of laying our sins and our troubles—at the foot of the Cross is powerful… Invite children to write their worries, prayers, or sins on slips of paper and prayerfully set them at the foot of the Cross today. Talk with them about how we bring our broken and contrite hearts as an offering to our Lord, trusting that He will heal us and bring us to abundant life.” (p. 206, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

(for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos) “One day, as she [the Theotokos] prayed on the Mount of Olives, an angel told her that in three days she would join our Lord in Paradise, and he gave her a palm branch from Paradise. She returned home to prepare herself… then lay down on her bed and fell asleep in the Lord. There was a beautiful funeral procession: first, St. John the Beloved carried the branch from Paradise, and then St. Peter carried the censer… [as they] brought her to her tomb at Gethsemane.

…We might head outside and gather some branches or sticks and then decorate them like the branch from Paradise that the angel brought to the Theotokos… Children can… use whatever supplies you have on hand to decorate their branch: they might paint it and cover it with glitter or plastic gemstones; they might draw and cut out leaves or fruits and glue them on.” (p. 219, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

 

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 8

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

Chapter 8: Raising Good Stewards

The eighth chapter of “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” focuses on stewardship. The Church teaches us that fasting, prayers, and giving alms are key elements in our growth in holiness. So often we focus more on the fasting and the prayers, and almsgiving is almost an aside. In this materialistic day and age, it is imperative that we intentionally give alms, not just throwing a few quarters in the offering basket, but truly giving alms in a way that is selfless.

The chapter encourages its readers to focus on where (from Whom) all of our gifts and resources have come. It goes on to challenge each reader to re-order their values by choosing to value their Faith and other people around them over their possessions (perhaps better called “the worldy goods that will otherwise possess them”). It encourages readers to give of themselves and their gifts as well as giving their money and possessions. The authors offer practical suggestions of how to do each, sharing other families’ experiences with stewardship along the way.

Both this chapter and its message fly in the face of the prevailing culture around us. But giving generously is a key building block of the little church which we must not omit. May we learn to give more generously, and with great joy. For, “through the cheap price of doing good to men, we can acquire the priceless Kingdom of God.” ~ Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow.

Do you have a family stewardship question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 8:

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“Everywhere we turn, we see proclamations that our lives would be in a sorry state indeed without expensive clothes, gadgets, and skin care projects. No matter where we go to escape the siren song of stuff, we are met with greater and greater temptation to embrace discontent; we don’t gratefully embrace the blessings we have, but instead we yearn for more, more, more.” (p. 146, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“With greed apparently hardwired into our psyche, how can the little church hope to stand against the rising tide? …Just a quick glance over the Fathers and Holy Scripture will make it clear to even a casual reader that the way we use our resources is essential to a healthy spiritual life.” (pp. 146-147, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Throughout Sacred Tradition, the faithful have always turned from themselves to God when they struggle with the temptation to greed and avarice. The first step toward building a strong little church is placing Christ as the cornerstone.” (p. 149, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“We cannot be free of our possessions so long as they continue to hold preeminence in our minds. As St. Thalassios said, ‘It is not difficult to get rid of material things if you so desire; but only with great effort will you be able to get rid of thoughts about them.’”(p. 151, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“The question to ask yourself and your family is not how much you can afford, but in what ways you can give to God’s work of your time, treasure, and talents.” (p. 154, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“The act of almsgiving is as important as how you fast or how long you say your prayers. These three are interconnected in a mystical way that vivifies the rest of the building project.” (p. 158, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“The only limit to almsgiving is your imagination. The important part is realizing that we are giving back to God out of our love what He has so graciously given to us out of His own love for us.” (p. 158, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

 

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 7

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 7: Fasting as a Family

Chapter 7 takes a closer look at what it means to fast together as a family. The chapter begins by discussing what fasting is; why we fast; and what fasting is NOT. It goes on to talk about how fasting works, and how beautiful it is that the Church encourages us all to fast together in preparation for big celebrations by placing fasts into our calendar throughout the Church year.

Although fasting can seem very regimented and somewhat severe, the authors repeatedly remind their readers to be merciful to themselves and to their family, especially during fasting periods. The chapter offers a section on dietary restrictions and ideas of how to fast while facing such a struggle. A significant section of the chapter is dedicated to ideas of how to lead children in fasting.

The chapter contains a section that addresses other forms of fasting (beyond the “great fasts” of the Church year). Readers are encouraged to fast from more than just food; and especially to fast from bad attitudes while fasting. As always, there is input – including ideas – from a variety of families throughout the chapter.

This chapter concludes with a heavy dose of mercy. “When (not if) you fall, do not waste any time beating yourself up about it, but simply do your metanoia… and begin again. This is how we practice repentance and humility.” (p. 143) Readers will step away from this chapter challenged to fast with their family to the best of their ability; but also reassured that grace and mercy reigns for when (not if) they fail.

 

Do you have a question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 7:

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“Christ does not say ‘if you fast’ but ‘when you fast,’ because fasting is as central to the Christian life as prayer.” (p. 118, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“The Church upon the ‘bright threshold of the Fast’ looks forward with eagerness, and yet we frequently speak of fasting as if it were a dreaded burden… Often, because we are overly focused on the food, we fail to see that fasting is a beautiful and joyful opportunity and to treat it with the eagerness it deserves.” (p. 118, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“We human beings are easily distracted—easily caught up in the pleasures of the world—so we learn to take breaks… The Holy Church sets aside some time for fasting, for holding back from the pleasures of food and worldly entertainments, so that we can focus on God, and then balances fasting with periods of feasting. By striking this balance, we come to find more joy in the bounty He provides us.” (p. 119, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Fasting from foods is only an effective spiritual tool when we combine it with prayer, almsgiving, and fasting from sin.When we practice humility, gentleness, and love, we are defeating the other passions that keep us from God. A true faster will not only abstain from food but will fill his or her days with almsgiving and charitable acts, with study of the Scriptures, and, most importantly, with an intensified effort at prayer.” (p. 121, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Our fast must be a love offering, an effort to soften and prepare the heart so that prayers are more powerful and God’s presence is more palpable—so we have to find a way to lead our children to make a good and intentional fast. Forcing them to fast does not create a freewill offering, and yet as is true of most parenting, we must sometimes make our children do what is good for them… They may not want to do it, but we must find a  way to lovingly teach them to do it so that they learn.” (p. 131, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“As parents, we must take the time to explain fasting to our children, but our example will be far more important than our words… If we say that the fast is a joyful love offering, and then we fast in misery, overly focused on the food we’re serving, our children see it.” (p. 132, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“There is a common beloved maxim about fasting: What comes out of our mouths is more important than what goes into our mouths. This is very true; we aren’t going to become holier by denying ourselves meat but screaming at our children… Be merciful at all times, and don’t let irritability get the best of you. Be merciful to your children and to yourself. Fasting is hard. It’s supposed to be hard.” (p. 136, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“When (we do not say if) we fall, we do not give up, but instead, we get up again. We fall, we get up. Over and over again. There may be nights when, out of exhaustion, we feed our families an easy but completely non-fasting meal. Say a prayer, thank God for this food, and ask Him to help you do better. Don’t give up; just get back up and keep working at it.” (p. 142, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

 

A Handful of New Resources for Nativity Lent

Nativity Lent is almost upon us! Very soon we will enter this season designed by the Church to help us prepare our hearts and our homes for the birth of our Lord. The Nativity fast offers us the opportunity to attend services more frequently. We are encouraged to pray, to fast, and to give alms. Those of us with children in our care may find it helpful to have a few resources to help us prepare their hearts as well. A few such resources recently caught our attention, so we are sharing them in the event that you have not yet encountered them, and will find them helpful as you prepare your hearts for the Nativity of our Lord.

These blog posts of ideas from years gone by may also be helpful to you:
https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/preparing-for-the-nativity/, https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/on-preparing-our-hearts-anticipating-the-birth-of-christ-each-day-of-the-nativity-fast/, and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/ideas-for-keeping-our-focus-on-the-nativity-of-christ/

 

Check out these resources for the Nativity Lent:

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The folks at Orthodox Pebbles have pulled their Nativity resources (including resources related to the Nativity Fast, such as St. Nicholas Day) together in this collection: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/2018/12/18/the-nativity-of-christ-our-full-resource-collection/

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Color Your Way Through The Nativity Fast

Fans of Sparks for Orthodox Kids, rejoice! Illustrator Casey Newman has created a coloring book for very young Orthodox Christians to utilize throughout the Nativity Fast. “Color Your Way Through the Nativity Fast” begins on November 15 and offers a variety of coloring pages, nearly one per day, all the way through Theophany. Its 60 pages are mostly illustrations, many of them featuring a saint of the day or something related to the Nativity. The saints pages also have a brief story about the saint being featured, and often include some information about how the saint’s clothing is colored in the icons, and why it is that color. There are a few pages of word art, featuring prayers or songs. Children can cut out the last few pages of this 60-page book, for they are intended to be made into Christmas cards! Purchase your copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Color-Your-Through-Nativity-Fast/dp/1698389531/

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If you would like a small coloring book to tuck into your purse or backpack, check out this 5”x8” 30-page mini Nativity Fast coloring book! Each page features an icon, a prayer, or a song for a young child to color. A few pages are even included at the end of the book, which could be removed for use as Christmas cards! Purchase your mini-book here: https://www.amazon.com/Color-Your-Through-Nativity-Mini/dp/1698864515/

(If you’re not familiar with Sparks for Orthodox Kids, check out their website here: https://sites.google.com/view/sparks-for-orthodox-kids/home.. Their homepage says, “Church can be so serious, we want to make sure there are fun things for the kids to help foster positive attitudes for God, Church, and prayer.” At their site you will find some craft ideas and a lot of coloring pages, grouped by month, in the form of reproducible line art icons. These coloring pages can be printed and will enhance young children’s learning about/participating in the life of the Church. Follow “Sparks” on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.)

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Ancient Faith Publishing recently published a lovely coloring book for the Nativity season. “Beautiful Christmas: an Orthodox Coloring Book for Children”, created for children ages 5-12, is illustrated by Meagan Elizabeth Gilbert. The book contains 59 beautiful coloring and activity pages with themes related to the Nativity fast (including St. Lucia and St. Nicholas) and many pages dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lord. If a child were to color one page a day, this book will last through the entire fast as well as all twelve days of Christmas, with a few pages to spare! Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/beautiful-christmas-an-orthodox-coloring-book-for-children/

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Draw Near Designs has just released a beautifully decorated felt Nativity Lent calendar. The calendar has 40 numbered pockets, and comes with a felt star that can be moved from pocket to pocket each day of the Nativity fast. (They offer 7 other suggestions of things that could also be put into the pockets – ideas such as including a scripture verse for each day, or an act of kindness to perform that day.) Read more about the beautiful calendar here: https://www.drawneardesigns.com/blog/2019/9/30/advent-calendar-ideas
Order your own pocket calendar, either small or large, here: https://www.drawneardesigns.com/shop/advent-calendar-sew-it-yourself-kit

 

(Note: the large pocket calendars are large enough to hold the ornaments that go with Elissa Bjeletich’s beautiful Nativity Lent book, “Welcoming the Christ Child”, which we wrote about here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/gleanings-from-a-book-welcoming-the-christ-child-family-readings-for-the-nativity-lent-by-elissa-bjeletich/
Those ornaments and book are available together, here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/welcoming-the-christ-child-gift-set/)

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Ancient Faith’s podcast “Tending the Garden of Our Hearts” will be offering episodes related to the Nativity fast and stories of some of the saints commemorated during the fast. Give it a listen here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/tendingthegarden

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To keep your Nativity fast focused on Christ, adults and/or families with older children may find these weekly studies helpful. Each week’s study follows the Church’s liturgical readings and offers ideas of ways to live the Faith during the busy Nativity season. http://stgeorgegreenville.org/our-faith/advent

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A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 4

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 4: Creating Sacred Space

The fourth chapter of “Blueprints for the Little Church” encourages its readers to set up prayerful space in their homes. The authors encourage their readers to create a sacred space, a “family altar”, where they regularly meet to pray together. This space may begin with only an icon or two, but can grow until it includes many items that enhance our worship at Church, as well: multiple icons, candles, incense, holy water, etc.

The chapter talks its readers through selecting a location and icons, then taking each small step needed to prepare both the space and the family for worshipping in that space. It addresses the use of candles and incense in family worship. Readers are encouraged to have, use, and drink holy water in this space. They are also encouraged to acquire some holy oil to keep here for use, as needed. It also discusses the creation and use of a vigil lamp in the family worship space.

As is the case in the rest of the book, throughout this chapter the authors have included related quotes from families other than their own. Each cites their own experience while encouraging readers to set up their home’s altar in a way that works best for the members of their own family. The chapter is helpful for readers of all levels of Orthodox experience: it will be useful to readers who are starting from scratch, but it will also offer the opportunity of re-evaluation to those who have a family altar that has been used for decades.

Do you have a parenting question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

 

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 4:

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“Setting up an icon corner is a crucial part of building your little church. Just as our church buildings are elaborately adorned with images of Christ, His Mother, and the saints, our homes reproduce this in small scale with a family icon corner.” (p. 71, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Each family will bring their own flavor to the icon corner, and no two will be exactly alike. What all family altars have in common is that they are the gathering place for prayer and worship in the daily rhythm of life.” (p. 73, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Begin with two icons: Christ and the Theotokos. If all you have is a cross, that’s a good starting place, too… If you only have one icon, place it in a conspicuous location in your house and use it for prayer. If you have no printed icons, you have your children and your spouse to pray with you—the living icons of Christ in your life!” (p. 75, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Lighting candles and burning incense also help to shore up the notion that we are bringing the parish into our own home and  that our houses are places where Christ and His angels and saints are welcome.” (p. 78, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“Most Orthodox families will receive holy water once or twice a year to bring home. St. John Maximovitch recommended getting enough to last you the whole year and making sure you drink some every chance you get.” (p. 82, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“To use [holy oil]: Place a little of the oil on your finger and make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person being blessed. This can be a very powerful and emotional experience for parents and their children. Don’t hurry. Pray for each person and sign their head with a cross in the name of the Trinity. You may find your children crave this special connection between the two of you and the saint to whom you are praying.” (p. 87, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“As you set out to create sacred space in your home, know that you cannot do this wrong. Set aside a space in your home and let your icon corner develop as it suits your family best. The important thing is to gather together in prayer and to make room in your home to live out your faith.” (pp. 88-89, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

 

A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 3

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 3: Church Services and Parish Life

The third chapter of “Blueprints for the Little Church” offers its readers encouragement and ideas for including their children in the life of their parish through frequent Church attendance and active involvement with parish life. It also begins to address incorporating the Orthodox Faith into their home life. Along the way, the authors extend grace to their readers, and spur them to do the same to themselves and their children, especially during the divine services.

The chapter addresses when to begin attending services with children. It offers strategies for the struggles that Church attendance can bring (not just to children, but also to their parents). Both authors chime in with examples from their own family life, and they also include stories and suggestions from other parents with varying levels of parenting experience. The authors encourage their readers to attend weekday services whenever possible, and to also find ways to include children in serving their parish and get to know other parishioners alongside that regular attendance. The chapter then discusses inviting your priest into your home for such events as house blessings, slavas, birth blessings, and serious illnesses.

This chapter is full of ideas and suggestions, but it is also full of grace. Readers will come away feeling encouraged to heighten their participation in the parish and to more fully incorporate the Faith into their family’s life. But they will also be relieved by the encouragement to extend grace to themselves – and their children – along the way. When they do so, it is for their own salvation, as well as their children’s.

 

Have a parenting question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors? Connect with Elissa here: https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from Chapter 3:

***

“‘It is vitally important for us as parents and as Christian adults in our home parish to communicate through words, actions, and attitudes that the children of the parish (all of them) are full members of the Body of Christ and are welcome at the services of the Church… We must develop welcoming, loving attitudes toward the children and young adults of our parishes— not in programs and activities, but in full inclusion. After all, we are joined with them in Christ through Baptism and the Eucharist… Be the loving example, the caring mentor, the welcoming friend to all families.’ — Caleb” (p. 47, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“The first… move you can make is to help your children develop a worshipful demeanor. When you say your prayers at home, ask them to behave as you’d want them to behave in church: stand, face the icons, pray. Don’t fight, don’t hit your sister, don’t scream… Signal to your children that worship in the home and worship in the church are the same—so they require the same kind of attention and respect.” (pp. 48-49, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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(after a discussion offering ideas of some quiet distractions that some young children may need during a service) “Ultimately… distractions [during the divine services] are not the answer. We need to focus on our goal: Are we just trying to quiet the children down, or are we hoping to raise saints? If our goal is to invite them into the worship and to make them a part of it, then we must do the opposite of distracting them. We must constantly be bringing their attention back to the services.” (p. 53, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Pride rears up in anger when a child dares to disobey or distract us, but humility defeats pride. We should remind ourselves we’re not perfect either. Our own minds wander; we lose focus; we forget to pray. We’re not infallible, and just as we ask God to forgive our iniquities and heal our infirmities, we must be even more merciful with children. The irony in this situation is that—because of our infirmity—we are focusing on the failures of our children and failing to recognize our own failure to engage in the liturgy.” (pp. 57-58, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“…coming to church more than once a week will integrate worship into your daily life. It’s an antidote to our modern problem of having separated our church lives from our daily lives, bringing church into the everyday.”

(p. 60, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Try to resist the urge to compare yourself and your family to the other people in your parish. Know that the family that seems to be effortlessly perfect is likely struggling in ways you can’t see, and the family that seems to be a mess may in fact have a more profound piety than you would imagine. God knows our hearts, and we are here to support and love one another along the journey.” (p. 63, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“One of the wonderful functions of a priest is to visit you during those critical times, to support you through joy, struggle, and sorrow. Many families do not call on their priest for assistance, not understanding that there are special prayers and blessings he can offer. When we do call on our priest, we come to understand that along with powerful prayers, he brings comfort and reassurance, making the Church present at these most important moments.”(p. 68, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Your parish is another family—consecrated by God to help you come to salvation… Your involvement in the life of the Church will bless and sanctify that community as the Holy Spirit works through you to bring the presence of Christ into every relationship… Go to serve, go to grow, go to love, go to learn. Your children will learn from you to form a lasting relationship with their future parish community, and their faith will be the stronger for it.” (p. 70, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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In this 11 minute video, “Blueprints for the Little Church” author Elissa Bjeletich talks with Fr. Ted about bringing children to Church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSRcSfva1-Y&feature=share

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A Closer Look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home”- Chapter 2

Note: This series of blog posts will offer ideas of how to build up the little church in your home. The series will take a closer look at “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker. Each week we will take a look at one portion of the book and focus on the wisdom and ideas offered there. Find an overview of the entire book here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/gleanings-from-a-book-blueprints-for-the-little-church-creating-an-orthodox-home-by-elissa-bjeletich-and-caleb-shoemaker/

We thank Elissa Bjeletich, Caleb Shoemaker, and Ancient Faith Publishing for granting us permission to share the book with you in this way. Purchase your own copy here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/blueprints

 

Chapter 2: Getting Started

The authors of “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” encourage their readers to begin changing their lifestyle to better reflect the life of the Church, but they implore the reader to do so gently. This second chapter of the book offers suggestions of ways to bring the Faith to life in our own homes in a very basic and focused manner. Too much too soon can easily burn a family out, which is not at all the goal. The goal is to grow, and to continue growing, not to flash into a flame that quickly extinguishes.

The reader is encouraged to consider the maxim that Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory was given when he was a young, enthusiastic college student: “Go to church; say your prayers; remember God.” (p. 37) The authors encourage their readers to consider that statement important, because it’s short but full of wisdom when it comes to living the Orthodox Christian life. These three actions will greatly strengthen our little Church. They can be carried out in different ways, none “better” than the others. But our priority should always be that we attend the Divine Services, pray, and keep God foremost in our minds.

The chapter offers suggestions from parents and grandparents of ways to begin doing these things. It shares wise suggestions from Fr. Seraphim Rose as well. Again and again, the reader hears that they should go to church, pray, and remember God. Each suggestion recommends applying gentleness when starting new Orthodox practices, and that families be gracious with themselves and each other along the way. The chapter closes with the admonishment that when we fall, we need to get back up again every time.

 

If you have a parenting question for the “Blueprints For the Little Church” authors, you can connect with Elissa here https://elissabjeletich.com/contact/ and email Caleb at caleb.shoemaker@gmail.com.

Here are a few gleanings from chapter 2:

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“The two things all Orthodox families should begin doing immediately are very simple: Pray and go to church.” (p. 36, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Begin by committing to attendance at every Sunday liturgy, rain or shine, and begin to schedule your extracurricular activities around church. If your family expects you at Mother’s Day brunch, tell them you’ll hurry over after church. If the soccer team always plays on Sunday morning, let them know that you’ll be in church. Make the firm commitment to attend church every Sunday.” (p. 38, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Many saints’ lives teach us that simple humility and fervent prayer bring us closer to God. Trust in this, and don’t get lost in an effort to do everything all at once. Begin to build your little church by laying a foundation of prayer and church attendance, and then build it up layer by layer, a little at a time.” (p. 41, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Learn first of all to be at peace with the spiritual situation which has been given you, and to make the most of it. If your situation is spiritually barren, do not let this discourage you, but work all the harder at what you yourself can do for your spiritual life. It is already something very important to have access to the Sacraments and regular church services. Beyond this you should have regular morning and evening prayers with your family, and spiritual reading—all according to your strength and the possibilities afforded by your circumstances.” (a quote from Fr. Seraphim Rose, as shared on p. 42, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“Ask God and His saints to help you as you shepherd your family along this path. Pray that all of you will grow in your love for Christ, that each of you will come to yearn for Him and for a life in the Church. This is the most important thing you can do to help your little church grow.” (p. 43, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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“‘Don’t force children to pray, because that might make them become bitter towards it. Instead, just pray in front of them and ask them to participate. If they refuse to join in, then just pray by yourself and try again the next day. Lead by example.’ —Sophia, mother of two” (p. 44, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

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