Category Archives: Orthodox Family Life

A Page to Help with Focus During Streaming Liturgies

The OCEC’s “Divine Liturgy Activity Book”, available here, includes a page that can be helpful as we lead our children through streaming Divine Liturgies at home. The OCEC has very kindly granted us permission to share this page, page 12 in that book, with you in case it would be helpful to you.

Consider printing one copy for each child. The first time your child follows along with a liturgy, with this page in hand, they can number the items in the order that they see the priest do them. The copy could be used a second time, if the child colors each piece of the circle on the page as he/she sees it happening during a subsequent liturgy.

Here is a link to the printable page.

We thank the OCEC for allowing us permission to share this page.

A Handful of New Resources

We have recently come across a handful of new resources that can help Orthodox parents and educators as they instruct the children in their lives. We thank the authors for sharing electronic copies of these resources with us. We are sharing the resources with you in the order in which they came to our attention. We hope that you find them helpful as you instruct our young brothers and sisters in the Faith.


Philo and the SuperHolies VBS  

Fans of Mireille Mishriky’s “Philo” books will be delighted to know that she has collaborated with Shereen Marcus (of Bridges to Orthodoxy) and they have created a SuperHolies-themed Vacation Church School program. This five-day program provides its purchasers with videos, crafts and activities, lesson plans including Bible stories, saint stories, and memory verses, and even “parent recap cards” that can further the children’s learning as parents ask additional questions about each day’s experience.

Each VCS session focuses one one or two SuperHolies each day. (If you are not familiar with them, the “SuperHolies” are the fruits of the Spirit). The session begins with a video featuring Philo and his “Super Challenge” of the day. The children are invited to help Philo to use a Fruit (or two) of the Spirit to help him overcome his challenge, and that Fruit, that SuperHoly, is the focus for the entire day’s session. Every session also contains a saint’s story and a passage or story from the Scriptures.

The program is designed to include two small group sessions for the children. In one, they’ll learn about an Orthodox saint who is struggling with a challenge similar to Philo’s. In the other, they’ll focus on a passage from the Scriptures that is also related to that struggle. There are planned activities, discussion suggestions, and even crafts that will support this learning. The goal of the day is to help Philo figure out what to do about his Super Challenge.

The program includes suggestions for each day’s opening and closing large group sessions (including the video of Philo’s Super Challenge of the day); two small group session lesson plans for K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th for each day; extra ideas (including game suggestions, songs, and videos) and the printable Parent Recap card for each of the 5 days.

Find more information here:


Divine Liturgy Guide

Gina Govender has developed a Divine Liturgy book that can help children to follow along with key portions of the Liturgy. “The Divine Liturgy: A Guide for Orthodox Children” was illustrated by Althea Botha, and has been endorsed by Archbishop Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The intent of this book is to provide children with instructions so that they can easily follow along in the Divine Liturgy. At the beginning of the book, a section called “The Meaning of the Divine Liturgy”, talks children through the liturgy and encourages them to look for ways that each part of the liturgy points to the life of Christ. The pages that follow walk the children through the liturgy by including actual portions of the liturgical text illustrated by a colorful watercolor-and-ink picture. These portions of the liturgy are shared in the book: Commencement, Prayers for Peace, the Little Entrance, the Readings, the Great Entrance, Spiritual Prayers, the Creed, the Mystical Supper, the Invocation & Sanctification, Supplication, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Communion, Prayer of Thanksgiving, and the Dismissal.

The acknowledgements page of the book encourages parents of the readers to bring their children to church, even if they are wiggly and noisy. After all, “The presence of children is a gift to the Church and a reminder that our community is growing. As Christ said, ‘Let the children come to me.’” This book can help to welcome the children and involve them in the liturgy.

Inquire about purchasing the book here: (Notes: the price noted is listed in South African Rands, and at the time of this post, equals slightly less than $15, not including shipping/handling. The book is a fundraiser for upgrades at a Hellenic playschool/pre-primary school in Senderwood, South Africa.)


Super Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah

Author Mireille Mishriky has introduced a brand new series of children’s picture books! “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club” will take children on an adventure with a group of children who are struggling with the virtues. Along the way, the children in the Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club will get to know some of the lesser-known saints from the Bible. The first book, “The Super-Secret TreeHouse Bible Club and the Prophet Micaiah” walks alongside Marina, Theodore, and Marcorios as they learn why it takes courage to be honest, and how God blesses people who tell the truth.

Marina isn’t sure what to do because her friend encouraged her to lie, or she would no longer be her friend. Theo doesn’t know how to LIVE the Bible, as their priest said in his homily. Marco also doesn’t know how they can possibly “…not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”, but he suggests that they begin by praying. And so, they do.

A bird appears as they pray, and it helps them find a story in the scriptures about the prophet Michaiah, who told the truth when hundreds of others were lying. It landed him in jail. But in the end, he was right, and if the kings had listened to him and obeyed his words instead of the ones they wanted to hear, they would have been spared much heartache. Marina makes a secret wish, and the bird helps it to come true: the children get to meet the prophet Michaiah, who appears in their treehouse, and they ask him a few questions.

His wisdom helps Marina know what to do, and the book ends on a positive note as Marina and her friend Sarah come clean on what happened.

This book is available as an ebook, and you will find it here:


A Closer Look at “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour: Lessons 2 and 3

This is the second in a series of closer looks at Fr. Michael Shanbour’s book “The Good Samaritan: A Children’s Catechism” (available here: This beautifully illustrated hardcover book houses an Orthodox Christian catechism that is intended to be read with children. Find our overview of the book here: In each post of this series, we will focus on two chapters (called “lessons”) in the book. We will begin with a synopsis of each lesson followed by a handful of quotes found within its pages. We may also occasionally include a few related links offering additional background or information to the parents. It is our hope that these posts will be a useful resource for parents who are sharing the book with their children, as families learn together about the Orthodox Christian Faith.


Lesson 2: The Fall


The second lesson of “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” helps children to learn about the choices that Adam and Eve made and the consequences of those choices. As is characteristic of the book, the lesson is written as a conversation. It uses only words that children can easily understand.

The lesson begins by describing Paradise as a place that was beautiful both inside and out. When God placed Adam and Eve in this beautiful place, they could have lived there with God forever, if they had chosen to do so. They had a lot to learn, since they were newly created. Their bodies were grown up bodies, but they needed to grow spiritually.

God provided all that Adam and Eve needed, and set only one limit: they were not to eat from one tree in the middle of the garden. Just as we are all easily tempted to do the things that we know we are not supposed to do, Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s tempting words when he told Eve that God’s limits on the tree were not quite fair.

The lesson explains how they ate, and everything changed. Their communion with God was broken. They felt cold and naked. They even tried to hide from God. Then it goes on to show how God in His mercy extended the opportunity for Adam and Eve to repent, to own up to what they’d done, so that their relationship could be restored. But they blamed others rather than admitting their own choice.

The lesson tells about how this made God feel very sad and that because of their choice, He had to send them out of Paradise, and eventually they would die. However, it explains that this was not a permanent separation: it is more of a “time out” until God could do something to cure them. That “something” is Christ.


Here are a few quotes from the lesson:


“God gave them everything they needed. And He wanted them to love Him and to be obedient so they could always know His embrace. But sometimes kids are not obedient. Have you always been obedient? Tell the truth! Did your mom and dad tell you not to touch a hot plate, but you did, and you burned your hand? Did they tell you not to eat so much candy because you would get sick? Did you eat it anyway and end up with a stomach ache? Most of us have done something like that. Adam and Eve did something like that too.” (p. 19, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


“What did Eve do? She listened to the serpent… Eve was tempted with pride. And so, she ate. Then she gave some to her husband Adam. And he ate too. And what happened? They began to feel different inside: sad and lonely and cold. God seemed so far away now. Things changed outside too…” (p. 21, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


“God wanted to give Adam and Eve a chance for Confession. But they didn’t confess their own sin: they confessed the sin of others. In the Church, God has given us the Sacrament of Confession… whose sins do we confess? Only our own, right? We don’t blame others like Adam and Eve did. This is very important to keep us healthy and close to God.” (p. 22, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


Parents and older children may benefit from hearing more about the Fall in this podcast:



Lesson 3: The Sickness of Sin


The third lesson of the book focuses on the sickness of sin. It begins with a quick review of the preceding lessons, since they lay the groundwork for this one. It also offers several footnotes which contain additional activities that could be done during the reading of their particular part of the lesson, to enhance the lesson and better demonstrate the point(s) being made.

After the brief review, the lesson goes on to talk about how God has created each person in His image, stamped with His image on our heart. Beginning with Adam and Eve, anytime someone chooses to sin, this icon, the image of God, becomes dark and difficult to see. It is easy for us to forget God when His image in our heart is dirty with sin. We think more of ourselves and what we want. His image in our heart needs to be cleaned and restored. The lesson mentions that only Christ can clean it, and that the reader will learn more about it in a future lesson.

The lesson goes on to teach the reader about their nous, the eye of their soul, which was created to help each of us to see God and His blessings. It tells the reader that when we sin, our nous becomes dark like a window at nighttime: we can not see through it because it is darkened. When God’s light is not in us because of our sin, we can’t see Him clearly and it feels like He is far away (even though He is not).

The lesson explains how Adam tried to replace loving God with things, as he tried to become happy again. All of us do the same, choosing to follow our passions instead of God. It compares passions to magnets and offers a memorable hands-on suggestion of how to demonstrate the lesson using actual magnets. The lesson talks about how everyone has passions, even saints. The saints, however, have learned to turn their passions over and turn to God instead, which makes the passions no longer able to “stick”. (The suggested activity of turning one of the magnets over at this point to show how they repel each other will be an effective way to make this point.)

Before its close, this lesson touches on the struggles we all face to keep our hearts clean, keep our attention on God, and keep our trust in God. Sin fights against all of these. But Christ can provide the medicine that we need to be saved in these struggles, and the forthcoming lessons will help us to learn more.


Here are a few quotes from the lesson:


“…God did not create Adam and Eve to die… He was sad to see their hearts darkened and sick with sin. For this meant their hearts could no longer see Him and experience His perfect love.

Because we are children of Adam and Eve, we also live with this sickness… How can we become healthy again?” (p. 27, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


“…after Adam sinned he had difficulty seeing the stamp of Jesus in his heart. This means that Adam forgot about God and thought mostly about himself and his own desires. He no longer sensed that God was in him and with him. Do you ever forget about God?” (p. 28, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


“Like a magnet, when our passions get too close to sin they want to stick to them. These passions pull us toward sin. And the more we sin, the stronger the magnetic force becomes. Sometimes it feels like we can’t stop from sinning, but with God’s grace we can.” (p. 30, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


“The saints cleaned their hearts from the dark passions so that the light of God could come in.When the light of God comes into our hearts, we can see what is really important and true. Our spiritual eye—our nous—is filled with light. We find joy and peace. Then we can turn our attention to the love of God and our neighbor.” (p. 31, “The Good Samaritan: a Children’s Catechism” by Fr. Michael Shanbour)


Parents and older children may benefit from listening in as Mother Melania from St. Barbara Orthodox Monastery in Santa Paula, California talks with Kevin Allen about the passions, how they cloud the window of our hearts, and how we can begin the work to be free of their grasp in this podcast:


While at Home: Choosing to Make the Most of Bonus Family Time

In this season of social distancing, many of us find ourselves at home with our children, with considerably fewer activities and opportunities filling our schedule. At moments this may feel daunting: how can we possibly keep our children “entertained” for that many hours, for an uncertain number of days? How will we not all go “stir crazy”?

Right now, at the beginning of this season – however long it may be – is a good time for us to carefully choose our mindset, which will shape the atmosphere of our home. If we view this “bonus” time together as a gift from God, wherein we can build our relationships with each other and continue to grow toward Him, our children will respond accordingly. We are being given the opportunity to teach our children, through our example, what it means to trust God and to love and serve others. They will see – even more than usual – our gratitude towards God and His provision; our generosity with our neighbors near and far; and the love that we have for Christ, demonstrated in our prayer/study/participation in church (as possible).

Will we fail? Yes. When we do, let us model asking for forgiveness and getting back up again. Fall down, get up again: this is the way our Faith works! How we handle our own failure is also an opportunity to teach. Glory be to God, Who never gives up on us when we fail.

This bonus family time affords us the chance to help our children learn more about the Faith. Of course, our own example is the best way to teach them! But there are many resources available that we can access from home that can help. We aim to share these resources (and some others, just for fun!) with the community. It is our hope that these resources will help you to build your (and your children’s) faith while also creating many fun family memories.

May the Lord bless us all, and strengthen us for the days ahead.

Here is a large collection of resources that you may wish to comb through:


Orthodox Educational Resources:

Listen to Dr. Chrissi Hart reading a great variety of children’s books at

Every day, you can listen to Deacon Jerome Atherholt’s readings about a saint commemorated that day, here:

Prepare your heart for Sunday’s Gospel reading by listening to

Each week you can listen to this meditation and then discuss it together:

If you have small children in your life, don’t miss this resource:

Find Orthodox crafts, ideas, and even some recipes here:

If your children enjoy activity books, check these out! Themes include “Saints Who Were Physicians and Healers”, “Saints and the Animals That Served Them”, “Saints in Times of Trouble”,“Saints of North America”, and more! Find them here:

The OCA’s department of Christian Education has these wonderful focus units (“Journey to Pascha”, “My Orthodox Family”, “The Theotokos”, and more) available for free download:

Potamitis Publishing offers all sorts of children’s books and activity books. Their “Paterikon for Kids” books are child-sized and colorful, and will be a useful resource to any family!

This is a great time to take in the “Be the Bee” video series and talk about them together as a family! Find them here:

Celebrate spring and new life with these activities:

There are so many needy people around us, and now we “see” them more easily. How can we help, even if we have limited resources? Here are some suggestions of ways to work together as a family to help someone in need:

Here are a few of the Orthodox books that we’ve shared, as well as some learning ideas that could be used at home (even though the ideas were originally written for Sunday Church school classes):                                (“H is for Holy” by Nika Boyd)

Learn more about the saints during this time! They have all been through great struggles and show us how to be faithful to God to the end. Although these blogs were written for Sunday Church school, many of the ideas will work in a home setting, as well. Search “saints” at  to find ideas like these:

Find a variety of Orthodox-related art and craft ideas here:

Other Educational resources:

Many companies are offering free subscriptions during the social distancing period. Here’s a list:

Free printable pages by theme or age level:

Online educational resources for a variety of ages:

Take these virtual field trips without any of the expense!

Here are even more virtual field trips:

Just for fun:

Here are a variety of spring-related activities:

Here are 50 (!) family-fun activities you can do together:

This is a wonderful season for reading. Here are some suggestions for great chapter books:

Perhaps it is too cold to do some of these activities, but others may be fun! and and

This is the perfect time to practice random acts of kindness. What a gloriously fun way for us to be thinking of others more than ourselves, and to bring joy in this tense time! Need some ideas? Check these out:

Take a daily safari with the Cincinnati Zoo! From their Facebook post: “While the Cincinnati Zoo is closed and kids are home from school, let us help make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational. Join us for a Home Safari Facebook Live each weekday at 3pm where we will highlight one of our amazing animals and include an activity you can do from home.”

Here’s a daily lunch doodling time with author/illustrator Mo Williams:

Craft idea: make a Godfulness Jar.

Explore a variety of art styles together (yes, you too, mom or dad!) during this time at home. Here are a few suggestions:

Work on learning the scriptures together by scripture journaling. Here are a few ideas:

There’s a whole series of art tutorials, each featuring a cross (but could be used for anything), that you may enjoy trying together. The first in the series focuses on using paper as the main medium, and is found here. (At the end of the blog post there’s a link to the second in the series. Follow that link and the subsequent ones to find all of the different tutorials.)

Gleanings from a book: “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura Jansson

Years after a pregnancy, a woman may look back and wonder at how quickly it passed, but in the heart of the experience, pregnancy often feels like it takes an eternity. Those long days and weeks of pregnancy are good preparation for motherhood. Although a woman may understand that fact, sometimes pregnancy still feels lonely and frightening, even if it is not her first one.

Laura Jansson, who is both a mother and a doula, has undertaken the task of walking alongside women who are on the journey of pregnancy. She serves those living near her in her roles as a childbirth educator and a doula. Now, through this book, her comforting and encouraging words can support and help soon-to-be mothers around the globe.

“Fertile Ground” begins with three prayers “of a woman with child”. Jansson recommends that her readers always begin reading her book by praying those prayers. The bulk of the book takes a pensive look at different aspects of pregnancy, and is divided into seven themes: “Welcoming a New Reality” “Experiencing Pregnancy”, “Exploring Birth in Symbols”, “Fearing Labor”, “Braving Labor”, “Becoming a Parent”, and “Preparing for Birth”. Each chapter forms a weekly meditation, and these begin with week six of a woman’s pregnancy, right around the time in which she confirms that she is pregnant. Every meditation is a focused reflection related to the theme under which it falls, and includes stories, insights, and encouraging scriptures and words.

Jansson asserts that pregnancy is, indeed, a pilgrimage, as indicated in the title of the book. She explains in the introduction: “Pregnancy… is a kind of journey: a purposeful one, but sometimes also slow, waddling, and laborious—more of a saunter than a sprint. And saunter is a good term for it. The word [saunter] comes from a French phrase… meaning “to the holy ground.“ For this is a journey traversing a wide spiritual landscape. There are dizzying peaks and eerie valleys, arduous climbs and refreshing streams. Every day we draw nearer to the holy city that is our destination. There we encounter and usher into the world the divine image in a new form: our baby.“(page 11) Through “Fertile Ground”, Jansson walks alongside her reader, pointing out new growth and signs of God’s touch along the path of pregnancy.

“Fertile Ground” is designed to be read weekly, over the course of a pregnancy. There are a series of chapter-specific reflection questions included at the end of the book. These are offered in the event that that the reader wishes to respond to each chapter in a journal. Or, several women experiencing pregnancy simultaneously could read the book together and discuss the questions in the context of a regular gathering.

The lone appendix of the book addresses losing a baby. Jansson is familiar with this difficult path as well. Her child Seraphim fell asleep in the Lord during the first trimester of pregnancy. (May his memory be eternal!) She was inspired to include this appendix because “very sadly, for many of us, loss and pregnancy go hand in hand.” (p. 307) The appendix, like the rest of the book, extends a hand to offer support and hope to its readers.

Women who are on the path of pregnancy will find encouragement and food for thought buried in the deep reflections in this book. In these pages, they will uncover the opportunity to nourish their own spirit even as they nurture the small life within them. Women who have already given birth will find reflections on their experience in this book that will help them to grow even after the fact. In “Fertile Ground”, Laura Jansson offers a treasured gift to the women of the Orthodox Christian Church.

Find “Fertile Ground: A Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” here:

Here’s a conversation with Laura about her interesting life and her book:

Here are some gleanings from the book:


“The act of making a baby is sometimes called procreation (the Latin prefix pro meaning “forth”). But the phenomenon of fingerprints proves that mothers are more than procreators, merely bringing God’s creation forward into a new generation. Mothering is not just something my body is used for, a passive means of production. Rather, from the beginning He entrusts me to help mold the clay from which He forms humanity. Astonishing as it seems, the Creator lets me come alongside Him, working next to Him in the dirt as His work takes form. He empowers me to be not simply a procreator but a co-creator of one of His greatest works: a human creature who uniquely bears His image and who will help write the next chapter in the story of the world’s salvation history. It’s a noble and high calling indeed.” (p. 28, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“Seeing the co-creative work of childbearing through this eucharistic lens reveals my parental role as priestly in nature. ‘The Eucharist is the anaphora, the “lifting up” of our offering and of ourselves,’ writes Fr. Alexander Schmemann—and in the liturgy of childbearing, my baby is the living sacrifice I lift up to God. When I cooperate with the creative work of God in this way, pregnancy becomes an act of worship, transformed from a mere biological process into a sacred act.” (p. 34, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“…When I host those in need, I entertain angels (Heb. 13:2) or even Christ Himself (Matt. 25:35)… Pregnancy calls me to live out this vocation by offering the welcome of paradise to the little one in my womb. He is like a guest lodging for a season in the innermost chambers of my body. At a cost to myself, I share with him my food, time, and space. Of course, doing so is part of the pregnancy package, and once I sign up I don’t get to choose my terms. But I do have a choice to make. In what manner will I receive my guest?” (p. 43, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“The unity of the Godhead shown in Rublev’s Trinity icon also finds some analogy in our human motherhood. Of course, unlike the Persons of the Godhead, a mother never shares full oneness with her child. Nevertheless, as we stand with swelling bellies, gazing on the three figures in the icon, the circular movement of their reciprocity speaks deeply to us. Their openness to one another moves us. We experience anew the truth that God is not just a self-contained unit but a relational being.” (p. 89, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“God’s warm brightness will always rest on my child no matter which way he chooses as his life unfolds. Whether it’s acknowledged or not, God’s radiant love illumines the whole of humanity: ‘He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good’ (Matt. 5:45)… I have the opportunity to direct my child actively along the illumined path. My bones and muscles and sinews will guide his body into the earthly light; in the same way, my heart can point his heart to the light of heaven. After the enlightenment of his birth-day, I can help him come to the enlightenment of baptism, the enlightenment of the Holy Mysteries, the enlightenment of a life of prayer, and finally, the enlightenment of death into the Kingdom, so that his whole life is a progression toward unity with God.” (p. 118, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“Perhaps this is what the Holy Apostle Paul meant by that rather cryptic statement in one of his letters: he says women ‘will be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control’ (1 Tim. 2:15)… He’s not saying that women are saved by childbearing, as if babies were collectible box tops that could be exchanged for free entry on Ladies’ Night in heaven. No: women, like men, are saved by Christ—each one of us in the circumstances of our own unique life. Rather, Paul says it is possible for us to find our salvation in and through our maternal experience.” (p. 134, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“All our relationships—with the world, with other humans, and ultimately with God—have their locus in our bodies as well as our souls. This is why our worship is so physical. Bodies fold in prostration, incense billows, bells jangle, candles flicker, wine sweetens lips, melodies rise, and chests are enfolded in the sign of the cross. Each of my senses draws me into the beauty of God’s presence. In my worship I ask Him to save me, and that me is an inextricable bundle of body and soul.” (p. 162, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“The logismoi that come to us in labor usually converge around our pain. It’s no sin to have such an impression; it’s how we respond to it that is the issue. If we let the thought be, it passes. If we latch onto it, it leads us to the next one, a little further down the road: This is really bad. Next we come to Poor me! Before we know it we’ve reached a state of mind where our pain is all that exists: I’m dying! This is never going to end! Somebody just kill me now. We have lost all sense of control over our fate; we have become nothing more than slaves to our impressions. Looking at the situation through the lens of Logos rather than logismoi, we see that this trap is an illusion… In labor, as in many of life’s hard situations, we cannot always choose a way out of the experience, but we can always choose a way in.” (p. 198, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“Slowly it dawned on me that, far from being alone in my plight [caring for a child in the middle of the night], I was part of a huge secret army of caregivers keeping vigil through this night. Right now, other mothers and fathers were feeding, rocking, soothing, changing, holding, and tending their babies. There were those up with an older child who had been sick or had a bad dream. There were parents in hospital, propped up next to incubators, or pacing linoleum floors as they labored to give birth. There were people caring for others not their children—beloved parents dying or friends in crisis. There were those whose hearts, or whose monastery bell, had awakened them to pray for those in need. Like night watchmen, each of us took our turn to watch and to sleep, but at no time did the world have to keep turning without the collective witness of our love.” (p. 225, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“…It’s understandable if I want my baby to land in a nest a little more luxurious than the newborn Christ’s. But for me, too, a simple nest can be a fitting one. My baby cares not a whit about color-coordinated nursery accessories. What makes a difference is the space I create to accommodate him. Can I hollow out a place of safety, belonging, and comfort for him in this world? Will I make of my own life the nest in which he can grow?” (p. 268, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“…both we and our babies leave this moment behind; we leave our pregnancies, and our babies leave our bodies. Throughout motherhood we will know this experience again and again. Our little ones leave first our wombs, then our arms, then our sphere of commanding influence, and finally our homes. Their job is continually to go foth, and ours is to allow them to do so. Being a mother, as one scholar puts it, is ‘a lifelong process of  “being there to be left”.’” (pp. 292-293, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


“…I felt my miscarriage had reversed the order of creation, putting death before birth. I was the mother of this tiny person, and by dying he had become my senior in the Kingdom. Everything was backwards. Yet because I had never known the child of my own womb, there was a little room for complicated feelings. My huge sadness had a kind of sweet purity to it that left room for a sense of wonder. ” (p. 28, “Fertile Ground: a Pilgrimage Through Pregnancy” by Laura S Jansson)


Expectant mothers may find these scriptures (from p. 201 of Jansson’s book) helpful as a focus point during labor.

On Ideas for Winter Fun

Those of us in the northern hemisphere find ourselves right in the middle of winter. In case the winter is getting to any members of our community, we thought perhaps this might be a good time to offer some ideas for winter family fun. Several years ago we gathered some ideas to that end, and shared them here: If you have not yet read that and gleaned from the fun activities therein, you may want to check it out!

Because we are constantly seeking additional resources for those in our community, several additional winter-fun related ideas have come to our attention, and will share them below. May they inspire your family to have a fun time (or many of them) together, regardless of the weather!

What fun things does your family do together during the winter?


Families with young children may enjoy creating these yarn-sewn snowflake-printed plates (first link). The second link suggests a way for families with older children to create a similar (but more complex) project on plain paper plates.


Families with toddlers will find a variety of winter craft and activity ideas here:


Families will find seven fun winter-related activities (links for directions included) in this blog post. Author Mireille Mishriky also includes suggestions of related Bible stories if you want to tie in a family scripture discussion.


Recycle a few paper or styrofoam cups to make “snowmen” faces, then grab some sock balls (or fake snowballs) to play this indoor game!


Find fourteen different winter craft ideas here. We especially liked the sparkly snow paint recipe, and the egg carton penguins are adorable. “Snow” much fun!


If your winter is snowless, but you’d enjoy the fun of playing in snow, consider these ways to make “snow” to play with indoors:
Here’s a recipe with shaving cream and baking soda:

This one is made with hair conditioner and baking soda:

And here’s one made with cornstarch and lotion:


If you have a lot of fresh snow, you may want to make this “snow candy” by boiling down maple syrup and pouring it on a pan of fresh snow! (For a literary extension, you may want to do this after reading about it in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book “Little House in the Big Woods”.)


Paint some of the snow outside of your house with the help of a few varied koolaid packets, some water, and a handful of squirt bottles as described here:


Recycled cups, parts of balloons, and a few cotton balls become super fun “snowball shooters” here:


Here are a host of family-fun ideas that can be done outside in the snow. Our favorites include “pin the smile on the snowman” (using chocolate cookie “coal” for the smile pieces); hunting for brightly-colored ice cubes (frozen ahead of time and hidden around the yard); and using beach toys for tubing. Find these ideas and more here:


More On House Blessings

Several years ago we wrote about house blessings. If you missed that post, check it out here: The post encourages us to prepare our hearts and our home for our house blessing. Included are links to articles explaining the importance of having our home blessed, the actual house blessing service, the troparion (so we can practice singing it as a family before our house blessing), and a printable page that can help our family to prepare for our house blessing.

After checking out that piece and all that it has to offer, take a look at what we are sharing here. We have done a little more research, and have found several additional resources. We think that you may find them helpful, so we are sharing them here as an “extension” of sorts to our original post.

May the Lord bless us all and our families, as we prepare our hearts and our home for our house blessing!


“Since our homes cannot be brought to the Church, the Church – through the priest and cantor – go to the homes. There, the service of blessing, which began in the church, is finished with the sprinkling of water in the home… By sanctifying our living quarters, our private place, we extend the grace of God to our individual dwellings.” Read more about house blessings in this article:


Families with young children may find this information and lesson about Holy Theophany (which talks a bit about house blessings) helpful to use to teach the children about this wonderful event.


Draw Near Designs offered a simple guide to prepare for your house blessing, complete with a “map” of where on your prayer table to place each item needed for the blessing. They have also included ways to incorporate children in the preparation for the blessing, for example: “Have your kids pretend to be the priest and walk around the house blessing or censing it. Have them remove any toys that are in their way and in turn would be in the priest’s way as he walks though the house.” Check out their post here:


Author Jane G. Meyer wrote a beautiful, child-centered piece about house blessings, and shared it on the Orthodox Christian Network. “There may be a few rituals in the Orthodox Church that we struggle to explain to a young child, but the house blessing is not one of them. Many of the elements that accompany this tradition are appealing to a little one. Here are a few things we’ve discovered over the years that make this tradition especially meaningful…” You can read the ways that she incorporates children into the house blessing in her article, found here:


Fr. Hector Firoglanis of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, PA, writes about holy water and how having our house blessed with it is important, in this article: Among other things, he writes, “Holy Water (as is the case with all the sacraments of the Church) is not magic. It is a visible means (in this case, water) through which God transmits to us His invisible Grace. God does not enter our lives in order to make our lives easier; rather, He makes Himself available to give us the strength and Grace to overcome the hardships and challenges of life. There is nothing more important than to teach a young person that God is with us no matter what — during the good times and the bad, during the victories and the losses, in life and in death.” Having our house blessed with Holy Water is one way to help teach our children that God is with us no matter what.


You may wish to print this prayer from the early church, and allow your child(ren) to decorate it as you talk about your upcoming house blessing. Talk together about all of the things we are asking God to do when we pray this prayer and when we have our house blessed. Perhaps your family will find it helpful to incorporate this prayer for the blessing of your house into your prayers more regularly than once a year!


Zaccheus welcomed Christ into his home with generosity. “Do they (your children) see you welcoming Christ into your home by giving what you can to those who need it?… Is it clear to everyone who lives there and visits there that your house is a house of prayer?” Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick challenges his listeners to welcome Christ as Zaccheus did, not just for the house blessing, but all year around.