Tag Archives: Ideas

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.

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.

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Here is a large collection of resources that you may wish to comb through: http://ww1.antiochian.org/christianeducation/index

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Orthodox Educational Resources:

Listen to Dr. Chrissi Hart reading a great variety of children’s books at https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/grapevine

Every day, you can listen to Deacon Jerome Atherholt’s readings about a saint commemorated that day, here: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/saintoftheday

Prepare your heart for Sunday’s Gospel reading by listening to https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend

Each week you can listen to this meditation and then discuss it together: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/tendingthegarden

If you have small children in your life, don’t miss this resource: https://orthodoxpebbles.com/

Find Orthodox crafts, ideas, and even some recipes here: https://raisingorthodoxchristians.com/

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: http://dce.oca.org/page/activity-books/

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: http://dce.oca.org/page/focus

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! https://potamitis.us/

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: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/bethebee

Celebrate spring and new life with these activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/on-celebrating-new-life-in-springtime/

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: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/on-finding-a-way-to-help-even-on-a-limited-budget/

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): https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/gleanings-from-a-book-anthony-the-great-by-john-sarantakis-illustrated-by-misha-pjawka/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/gleanings-from-a-book-spyridons-shoes-by-christine-rogers/                                         https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/260/ (“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 https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com  to find ideas like these: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2019/01/25/learning-about-a-saint-st-kendeas-commemorated-oct-6-19/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2018/08/10/learning-about-the-saints-st-tikhon-of-zadonsk-august-13-or-26/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/learning-from-the-saints-st-peter-june-29/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/learning-from-the-saints-st-nina-january-1427/ https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/saints-of-recent-decades-st-paisios-july-12june-29/

Find a variety of Orthodox-related art and craft ideas here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-expression-in-lessons/

Other Educational resources:

Many companies are offering free subscriptions during the social distancing period. Here’s a list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1t3r618pd8MAi6V87dG2D66PtiKoHdHusBpjPKXgm36w/htmlview?fbclid=IwAR1MdJ7K0-_QEbSGW78tR9hYtY9KGs9_2YOat1Ow8jPk0E-b14Vm5HN8qiY&sle=true#gid=0

Free printable pages by theme or age level: https://www.123homeschool4me.com/home-school-free-printables

Online educational resources for a variety of ages: https://funinfirst.com/free-online-learning-at-home/

Take these virtual field trips without any of the expense! https://www.tripsavvy.com/virtual-field-trips-for-kids-3129414

Here are even more virtual field trips: https://adventuresinfamilyhood.com/20-virtual-field-trips-to-take-with-your-kids.html

Just for fun:

Here are a variety of spring-related activities: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/a-handful-of-spring-memory-makers-for-families/

Here are 50 (!) family-fun activities you can do together: https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/50-fun-things-to-do-at-home-with-kids

This is a wonderful season for reading. Here are some suggestions for great chapter books: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-3-books-to-read-with-older-children/

Perhaps it is too cold to do some of these activities, but others may be fun! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/06/26/on-family-fun-ideas-for-summer/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/go-out-and-play-ideas-for-summertime-outdoor-fun/ and https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/back-pocket-ideas-for-summer-fun-activities/

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: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/try-a-little-kindness/

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.” https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

Here’s a daily lunch doodling time with author/illustrator Mo Williams: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems

Craft idea: make a Godfulness Jar. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/07/17/on-creating-and-using-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: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/back-pocket-ideas-for-creative-children/

Work on learning the scriptures together by scripture journaling. Here are a few ideas: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/on-learning-the-scriptures-by-creating-a-scripture-journal/

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.) https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/art-projects-for-sunday-church-school-paper/

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: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/on-winter-fun-and-learning/. 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?

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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. https://iheartcraftythings.com/paper-plate-snowflake-yarn-art.html

https://thecraftingchicks.com/snowflake-paper-plate-kids-craft/

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

https://www.craftsonsea.co.uk/winter-activities-for-toddlers/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes

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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. https://www.mireillemishriky.com/indoor-family-activities-to-beat-the-winter-blues-with-biblical-references/

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Recycle a few paper or styrofoam cups to make “snowmen” faces, then grab some sock balls (or fake snowballs) to play this indoor game! https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/12/snowman-slam-game-for-kids.html

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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!

http://www.flairflickers.com/14-jingling-winter-crafts-for-kids-to-bring-flurries-and-fun-at-home/

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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: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2015/02/foaming-snow-recipe.html

This one is made with hair conditioner and baking soda: http://mommasfunworld.blogspot.com/2013/01/fake-sensory-snow-that-feels-real.html

And here’s one made with cornstarch and lotion: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/11/snow-dough-recipe-for-play.html

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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! https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2018/01/snow-candy-for-kids.html (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”.)

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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: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/02/kool-aid-snow-paint.html

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Recycled cups, parts of balloons, and a few cotton balls become super fun “snowball shooters” here: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/12/snow-shooters.html

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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: https://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/snow-activities-kids/

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More On House Blessings

Several years ago we wrote about house blessings. If you missed that post, check it out here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/time-for-house-blessings/. 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!

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“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: https://blog.obitel-minsk.com/2017/06/why-do-orthodox-christians-have-their.html

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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. https://orthodoxpebbles.com/new-testament/holy-theophany/

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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: https://www.drawneardesigns.com/blog/2019/1/23/house-blessings?

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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: http://myocn.net/for-the-child-the-house-blessing/

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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: http://www.annunciationorthodox.org/publications/annunciator/18-news/spiritual-messages/173-how-holy-water-helps-us. 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.

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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!

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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. https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/emmaus/are_we_ready_for_jesus_to_visit_sermon_jan._22_2017

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A Handful of Orthodox Gift Ideas for Christmas

We have recently come across a variety of wonderful Orthodox books and resources (mostly for children) that would be lovely Christmas gifts. We found them noteworthy enough to gather them into a little collection, so that we could share them with you, in the event that you were not aware of them.

Some of these we have shared before, but are sharing again, in case you missed them the first time. Others are brand new (or new to us, or newly re-published). Our intent is to offer gift suggestions that could double as useful tools in the growth of a young Orthodox Christian’s life. Perhaps you will find one or more of these suggestions helpful as you select gifts for your loved ones.

We know that there are many more ideas than we are able to share here, so we have missed quite a few. What child-friendly, Orthodox-faith related gift ideas do you recommend? If you are (or know!) an artisan who crafts (and sells) beautiful gifts for Orthodox Christian children, please share them below!

Here are a few Orthodox Christmas gift ideas that we encountered:

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Ancient Faith Publishing’s brand new Nativity coloring book, “Beautiful Christmas: an Orthodox Coloring Book for Children” was created with children ages 5-12 in mind. Meagan Elizabeth Gilbert’s 59 lovely illustrations include a mix of both coloring and activity pages. Check it out, and purchase your gift copy(s) here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/beautiful-christmas-an-orthodox-coloring-book-for-children/

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Families with very small children may be interested in this set of Nativity blocks, safe for children to hold and play with. The back of each block contains a verse of a song or prayer from the traditions of the Church, written in language that is young-child friendly. https://store.ancientfaith.com/little-saints-nativity-playset-a/

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This learning cube transforms from one icon-style image to another, and each image includes a shortened version of the Nativity story. https://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-learning-cube-the-nativity/

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Four-year-old Anthony will teach anyone who reads this book how to handle the challenges that come their way, with grace, and with God’s help. https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/gleanings-from-a-book-anthony-the-great-by-john-sarantakis-illustrated-by-misha-pjawka/

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Young children will resonate with Philo in this book, or any of the other books featuring his adventures with the SuperHolies! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/gleanings-from-a-book-philo-and-the-faithfulness-superholy-by-mireille-mishriky-illustrated-by-s-violette-palumbo/

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As they read this book, elementary-aged children will be drawn right into young Spyros’ life as he learns from St. Spyridon – without even knowing he’s interacting with a saint! https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/gleanings-from-a-book-spyridons-shoes-by-christine-rogers/

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Teens and adults will benefit from the wisdom and example of St. Anthony, as shared in this graphic novel: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/gleanings-from-a-book-a-forest-in-the-desert-the-life-of-st-john-the-short-by-creative-orthodox/

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Late elementary-aged children and adults alike will learn from the life of St. Eustathios in the engagingly-written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel, “The Cross and the Stag,” which we wrote about here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/gleanings-from-a-book-the-cross-and-the-stag-by-gabriel-wilson/

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Author and illustrator Grace Brooks has done it again! She has written yet another mesmerizing book about an Orthodox girl facing real-life problems and choosing to solve them with the help of her priest and the friends from her parish who are part of the “Every Tuesday Club”. The girls in this club are aging as time goes by between the publishing dates of Ms. Brooks’ books, which is a beautiful way for the series’ fans to have age-appropriate books along the way. “Xenia the Warm-Hearted” follows 14-year-old Xenia as she tries to improve the way that she interacts with others, even without the use of internet on her phone (a privilege she lost when she was online, gaming outside of her family’s rules). This book is appropriate for early teens (or older), and contains its fair share of age-appropriate struggles in the context of some mystery and suspense. Purchase your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Xenia-Warm-hearted-Every-Tuesday-Club/dp/1698351038

Here are a few quotes (and a teaser!) from the book, to give you a taste:

“Xenia regarded him woefully. ‘I wanted to make such a change, but I’m having trouble figuring this out. I mean, it’s good to want to be a better person. But I still don’t understand people very much and… I don’t always seem to like them. I did all this research, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ …[Father Andrew answered,] ‘I think that this isn’t something that you can research by just reading about it — not even by reading the lives of the saints, though that’s an excellent place to start. You’re not going to get anywhere with a list or a guide that tells you what to do and what not to do. I can’t say enough good things about prayer, but even that is just a start.’ Father smiled at her kindly. ‘You may have to find out by doing.’” (p. 117)

“Her eyes had drifted out the window as she spoke, where the gusting wind was blowing a pillowcase on the clothesline. Energy encounters matter. Mobility and immobility. Wind resistance, oscillation, flexibility. ‘It’s very beautiful,’ she finished dreamily. ‘Not to me,’ he [Charlie] sniped, bringing her back to reality. ‘If there is a God, then why is the world such a mess?’ Xenia was used to this question as well. ‘Because there’s evil in it, too. And sometimes we are — all of us are — carriers of that, like a mosquito carries a disease. But that’s not how it was supposed to be…’” (p. 293)

“…and that’s how they found them: two frightened young people huddled together in a ruined living room with broken glass and squirting pipes. That was the sight that greeted Mr. Murphy and Jake when they pulled up a minute later, in the mistaken belief that they were coming to the rescue…” (p. 415)

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Readers who are fans of fantasy and/or symbolism will thoroughly enjoy “The Dome Singer of Falenda” by Katherine Hyde. It has been a really long time since we read such a delightful fantasy. Originally published in 2016, and just re-published, this book filled with music and beauty, fraught with gripping adventure, and causes the reader to re-think the power of their thoughts. Themes include the power of familial love, the importance of discerning (and valuing) good over evil, and the importance of focus. The protagonist is a boy of 13, and his Falendian sidekick is a girl of 14. People of a variety of ages and genders will be entranced by their journey and uplifted by this beautiful read. Find your copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Dome-Singer-Falenda-Katherine-Bolger-Hyde/dp/1732087326/

Here are a few quotes from the book, to give you a taste of it:

“Anyway, I’d read enough books to know that when it comes to adventures, the only way out is through.” (p. 23)

“I gasped for air. ‘What—me? You’re having me on. I’m no deliverer. I’m not brave, or strong, or clever. All I know how to do is sing.’ ‘But singing is precisely what is required. That is how we will break the Dome—by singing. The elúndina chose you for your gifts of singing and thought-speech. And also, of course, because you are your mother’s son.’” (p. 36)

“I’d been thinking of nothing in particular, but as soon as I tried to wipe my mind clear of thoughts, it filled with a whole crowd of questions…This wouldn’t do. I shook my head and tried to focus on my surroundings. I peered at the rough, ridged texture of the malacána bark, listened to the clear, musical cry of a bird, inhaled the sharp, fresh smell of the trees, like cedar mixed with peppermint and cinnamon. I felt the chafing of Vali’s thick, soft coat beneath my legs, the still, cooling air against my cheeks. When was the last time I’d stopped to pay attention to things like that? At home I was either buried in memories or planning how to cope with the next calamity. I’d forgotten how to just be.” (pp. 57-58)

“The Tower had no windows or doors that I could see, but at the center of the side facing us the ranks of guards angled outward. The door must be hidden there. It looked like my mother was right: it was impossible. The din in my head took on a new undertone: ‘You have failed, you must fly. You have failed, you must fly.’ Maybe the bad guys really were going to win. Meli’s thought-voice broke through. ‘I hear it too, Danny. But you must resist these thoughts. You must shout them down with truth. Everything that babble says is a lie, for lies are all the Enemy knows. We have not failed until we give up, and we must not give up.’ ‘I don’t want to give up. But how can we succeed? How could we ever get in there to rescue your parents, or get to the top from outside? I’m afraid I left my Spiderman gear at home.’ Meli ignored that. ‘Our parents did it seven years ago. Somehow they reached the top.’ And now they were inside.” (p. 149)

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Homemakers in your family may enjoy this read! “Searching for the Sacred” by Lois Clymer is a book filled with the memories and musings of an Orthodox Christian wife and mother. It tells the story of her (and her husband‘s) dream for a little homestead, and how they have realized that dream in a variety of locations, over the years. Anecdotes include adventures that they’ve had with their family, and a variety of things that she has learned along the way. In addition to living on a homestead and growing much of their own food, Mrs. Clymer addresses other experiences they’ve had, including some experiences in the world of politics; finding ways to enjoy small homesteads away from home; her foray into owning and operating a CSA; and adventures and lessons learned while building two tiny houses. Throughout the book, readers will find encouragement to search for God in the world that He has created. Pick up a copy here: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/778125-searching-for-the-sacred

Here are a few of our favorite quotes, a handful of Lois’ learnings, that she shares in the book, scattered amidst the stories from her life:

“Hard work is the secret to success. I soon found that it helped to be organized and to prioritize. When I did the most important thing first in the day, the rest of the day flowed more smoothly…” (p. 4)

“Most of us find that life doesn’t always go the way we wanted it to. What do we do when pain and disappointments and grief enter our lives? As a young person, I struggled with how to be happy… I came across some wise counsel regarding happiness. If I am unhappy… it is not because of my environment, but because of the way I am evaluating my environment.” (p. 14)

“I have certainly not always been perfect, and I have held on to bitterness from time to time. But I have noticed that when I can release that bitterness and let it go completely, something good happens in my body. My creativity and my joy returns. The antidote to the poison of bitterness is forgiveness and gratefulness.” (p. 23)

“Most of us don’t know much about simplicity. We have more possessions than we know what to do with. One time I heard a motivational speaker say that every possession you have uses up valuable brain space. You think about it, you catalog it, you think about cleaning and repairing it, you organize it. To lighten your brain load, think about how to live with only half of the possessions you have and then DO IT.” (p. 81)

“Wherever you live, maybe this book will motivate you to enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life: grow a plant or vegetable, take a walk through a woods, or enjoy the antics of a chicken or a goat.” (p. 86)

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

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

 

Week 1: Introduction

Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker begin their collaborative work, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” with important introductory pieces. Before they mention anything about building the family’s little church, they quite frankly (and repeatedly) urge their readers to each ask their priest which practices will be the best for their particular family. Each reader’s priest knows them and their family situation and thus can best speak to what will or will not be helpful to building the little church in that particular home.

The introductory chapter offers a bit of background for the book, including reasons the authors wrote it. They found that they needed a book like this when their children were younger, but there was none to be had. So they undertook the task to write this one. This introductory chapter offers suggestions of where to begin the process of creating an Orthodox home. It takes a moment to explain the concept of “the little church”. It also touches on what it means to live an Orthodox life. This first chapter is foundational to the book, and prepares the reader well for the subsequent chapters.

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 that can offer you a closer look at the beginning of the book:

***

“As you attempt to implement the concepts you find here, you may run into trouble. Whenever you’re in doubt, please ask your priest.” (p. 5, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“‘Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments. Our children need remedies for all these things! We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we were equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!’” ~St. John Chrysostom (p. 7, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“This book is for parents… We offer this book from sincere hearts to you who desire to present the rich heritage of the Orthodox Church’s teachings for families — what our great saints and elders have often called ‘the little church’.” (p. 9, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“For many families, it is hard enough to get the family up and out of bed for the Divine Liturgy each week — let alone to take on daily prayer, frequent Scripture reading, weekly fasting, Lenten seasons, Vespers, vigils, Matins, and feast days! How can we do everything we’re ‘supposed to do’ when it’s hard enough to find time to do the bare minimum? How are we to raise saints when our toddler doesn’t want to keep his diaper on?” (pp. 10-11, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“‘My wise priest advised me to stop comparing, to know that we are all running this race together but we must run it with our heads down. When I stopped worrying about what others were doing, I was better able to focus and to lead my own family.’ ~ Elissa Bjeletich (p. 12, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“‘One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a parent was ask for help… Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll never know what your family can accomplish when you seek counsel and guidance along the path.’” ~ Caleb Shoemaker (pp. 13-14, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“In our modern culture, we compartmentalize our lives… Yet Jesus clearly calls us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. There is no compartmentalization in this, but true unity… Christ is calling us to a unified understanding of ourselves and our lives. Love for God must become the foundation of everything, and all aspects of our lives — our jobs and our families and our recreation, our meals and our entertainment — must all be connected to and part of a unified whole…” (p. 15, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“…the reality is that young people are fleeing the faith of their families, but not those whose families have instilled a deep faith within their hearts; and the little church is one of the defining reasons children stay in the Church as they grow up.” (p. 17, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

“The Orthodox life is not complicated. It is beautiful in its simplicity, wondrous in its depth, vivifying in its ritual and sacraments. The complications are typically self-imposed when, instead of following the Church’s teachings or the admonitions of our priests and confessors, we try to cobble together a hodge-podge religion based mostly on external trappings and false deadlines.” (p. 19, “Blueprints for the Little Church: Creating an Orthodox Home” by Elissa Bjeletich and Caleb Shoemaker, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2016)

***

If you’re interested in learning more about the ideas found in “Blueprints for the Little Church”, check out this webinar https://www.goarch.org/-/blueprints-for-the-little-church; this keynote address https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHPZ57H5zPo; Elissa’s author website https://elissabjeletich.com/; and/or Caleb’s YouTube channel, “May I Have a Word?”: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDmih9jUJ5QKGXfU8iKI-aA/videos

On the Gift of Story

When I was a child, I remember sitting with my family (and any guests we were hosting) around the table after dinner, and listening as the adults told stories and jokes. I have always loved stories, and this daily experience fed my hunger for them. Throughout my growing-up years, I remember begging my parents to tell me tales from their childhood. Sometimes they’d remember one, and tell it to me, and other times they couldn’t think of any story to tell. I remember adamantly thinking to myself that I was going to remember every single thing from my childhood, so that I would always be able to tell my own children stories when they asked for one. In my childhood mind, that was the best gift I could give to my future kids. (Unfortunately, my memory did not serve me as well as I intended, and therefore many times when my own children would ask for stories, I could not call any to mind! Now that my children are grown and no longer begging for stories, often something will jog a childhood memory, and at last I can think of stories to tell!)

It wasn’t until I was teaching first grade in a private Christian school that I began to appreciate the gift (and power!) of story. My favorite class to teach in those years was Bible class. One day, I realized why I loved teaching Bible class so much (besides the obvious fact that it was a lesson from the Scriptures). You see, it was in Bible class that I could teach in a way that engrossed my students: through story. Years later, after we had children of our own and I was no longer teaching in a classroom, our family began sharing other cultures with children and their families through educational gatherings which always included folktales. I am confident that the children (and adults) who attended may not remember any of the facts or activities from those gatherings. But if I were to ask them something about the folktale that we told, even years after the event, a light would go on in their mind, and a smile would cross their lips, as they remembered it. Stories are a gift, because they are memorable, and even children can understand them.

What is it about stories that entices children? And is it just a childhood thing, this longing for stories? I have noticed in my adult life that I am much better able to digest concepts if they are embedded in a story than if I am just presented with the idea. I retain much more from walking through a living history exhibit and speaking with its re-enactors than I do from visiting a glass-encased-artifact museum. As our family journeyed toward Orthodoxy, it was Frederica Mathewes-Green’s story of a year in their mission parish, her book Facing East, which made the Faith real to me, not a straightforward theological discourse. Story speaks to the adult me, just as much as it did to the child. I suspect that I am not alone. Given our whole culture’s renewed interest in storytelling (even businesses are utilizing storytelling for increased success!), it seems that stories are for everyone, not just children.

Perhaps this is why, throughout the history of mankind, storytelling was utilized as a means for communicating culture, history, and morals. That’s a tall order! But it was effective. Unfortunately, in the last centuries, we have begun to step away from the gift of story. As we rely more on technology for learning and less on sitting together around the dinner table (or campfire) and talking to each other, the experienced people in our midst are not as readily able to share their wisdom through their stories. This has reduced the organic transfer of culture, history, and morals. The recent “rebirth” of interest in storytelling in our culture is a step (back) in the right direction. Now it is up to us to move beyond interest in storytelling, and begin to actually practice it.

Stories are a gift, because they are a memorable (and fun!) way for life lessons to be beautifully conveyed. Our Lord Himself offered us this gift when He told stories. Remember all the parables that He shared? Many of them were great stories but they also incited discussion because they housed deeper meaning. Christ modeled for us the use of story for teaching.

We should be taking advantage of this gift! As we do, perhaps the stories that we share will come from our personal experience. As a child, I craved stories from my parents’ growing-up years. But even now, as an adult, I continue to savor the stories that they tell me from years gone by. We should not underestimate the value of personal stories. Retelling our personal history allows our listeners to hear what life was like when we were younger. The stories are engaging because they’re real, they’re about someone the hearer actually knows, and they bring the past to life. They can also teach a lesson, especially if we are humble enough to even tell the stories of our mistakes. As we share our stories, let us be careful not to gloss over those mistakes. Rather, let us allow our listeners to learn from them. God gives us opportunities to suffer and stumble and get back up again, not just for our own salvation, but also for the salvation of those around us who can learn from our choices (and even from our mistakes!).

Another way to share the gift of story is through reading books together. They may be Orthodox books and/or books that directly teach an important concept or lesson. At other times, we may share a story from a book that is not Orthodox, and maybe does not even directly teach a concept or virtue, but it opens up a way to speak together about one. Perhaps the main characters in the story actually make the wrong choice. Rather than throwing out the story altogether because of that wrong choice, we can allow such a story to become a launching point, a way to safely talk together about the Faith and our choices and to learn through the characters’ mistakes. This can save us from having to make the mistake ourselves. (Of course, each family is different, and is thus differently able to process the stories that they hear. Because of this, we adults need to decide which stories are appropriate to share with our listeners. This requires preparation through careful thought and pre-reading before sharing, but in the long run, it is very worthwhile.)

Modern schedules may no longer allow for the daily extended mealtimes that I experienced when I was a child. This makes it more difficult for storytelling to happen naturally. However, this gift is so valuable that it is worth investing the time and energy required to make it happen. Let us find a way to give the gift of story, and value it when we receive it in return!

Note: We are not all professional storytellers. That’s okay. The personal touch, the time that is offered in order to tell a story, and the beloved voice of the teller is what makes each story valuable and approachable to the listeners, whether or not the storyteller is a pro.

 

Here are some ideas and additional information that may be helpful as you begin to share the gift of story:

***

Years ago we shared a series of posts about bedtime stories. In case you missed it: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-1-why-read-at-bedtime/

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-2-books-to-read-with-younger-children/

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-books-together-part-3-books-to-read-with-older-children/

***

We wrote before about the value of sharing stories from the scriptures. If you missed that, check it out here:

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-from-the-scriptures-part-1-introduction-and-a-few-resources/

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-from-the-scriptures-part-2-old-testament-stories/

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/bedtime-and-other-rituals-reading-from-the-scriptures-part-3-new-testament-stories/

***

Did you see our blog post about telling the stories of the saints? If not, here it is: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/bedtime-and-other-rituals-sharing-stories-of-the-saints/

***

Would you like to read more about the value of telling your children stories from your family’s history and/or your own personal life? Check this out: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/what-kids-learn-from-hearing-family-stories/282075/?utm_source=atlfb

***

Most folk tales offer the opportunity for character-building discussions. Check your public library’s 398.2 section of the non-fiction part of the children’s department to find a multitude of such books (but, as always, read the stories yourself before reading them with children, to verify that they will work for what you’re trying to learn together). There are other character-building stories available, as well. For example, these: http://www.momentsaday.com/storybooks-that-build-character-printable-activity-pages/

***

Here is a list of picture books that may be helpful to your family, if you are looking for stories that can encourage discussions on character building. (Again, we encourage you to read these books yourself before sharing them with your children, to make sure that they’ll work for your particular situation.) https://thecharactercorner.com/15-books-to-teach-character-to-kids/

***

Here are some suggested chapter books that may be helpful to your family, if you are looking for stories that can encourage discussions on character building. (Again, we encourage you to read these books yourself before sharing them with your children, to make sure that they’ll work for your particular situation.)

https://www.notconsumed.com/chapter-books-teach-moral-lessons/

https://thecharactercorner.com/character-building-books/

***

If you want to read more about encouraging character-building through stories, you may find these books helpful: https://www.christianbook.com/honey-for-childs-heart-fourth-edition/gladys-hunt/9780310242468/pd/42463?event=ESRCN|M and https://www.christianbook.com/honey-for-a-teenagers-heart/gladys-hunt/9780310242604/pd/42606?event=ESRCN|M

 

 

On Family Fun Ideas for Summer

We in the northern hemisphere are right in the middle of summer. For many of us parents, this means that we have more time and/or a different schedule with our children. There are so many ways to spend that additional time! We have gathered some ideas that can be tucked away if and/or when you would like to offer your children an idea of something to do.

If you already have ideas and plans with your children, that is awesome! You will not need these ideas! If you would like to add to your list of “things we may want to do”, perhaps something here will be of help to you. Check them out as you have time and energy.

Either way, God bless you and your family as you enjoy the summer time together!

 

Here are the ideas that we found. What ideas do you have to share with the community? Please comment with your own fun family activities!

***

Before you get bogged down by too many ideas and the feeling that you must have every day scheduled for your children’s summer vacation, treat yourself (and your family, by applying your learnings) to this podcast. You will find that is an hour well invested: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hmhs/summertime_parenting
***

The title may make this seem as though it is just for “littles”, but the myriad of kitchen-ingredient doughs could be fun for any aged child! https://team-cartwright.com/taste-safe-sensory-play/

***

Here are fun ideas for your own backyard that will challenge your children to play and exercise: https://www.funlovingfamilies.com/diy-backyard-play-areas/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=280897172_7438592_258321

***

If your children are the crafty sort, you may want to take a look at these beautiful things that they can make with items found in nature: https://www.howweelearn.com/breathtaking-nature-crafts-for-kids/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=723694014_29094136_80903

***

Here’s a compilation of cool and clever ideas for summer fun! https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/72221/cool-activity-ideas-summer/

***

If you have a beach ball or two, you’re all set for these fun games: https://www.birthdaypartyideas4kids.com/beach-ball-games.html

***

From games to art, here’s a fabulous, screen-free collection of ideas of things kids can do: https://selfsufficientkids.com/screen-free-kids-activities/

***

Here are some gender-specific idea collections. (We recommend that you look through both, though, because children like to try all sorts of activies, and the fun is not gender-specific!) https://www.moritzfinedesigns.com/25-summer-activities-for-boys/ and https://www.moritzfinedesigns.com/25-summer-activities-for-girls/

***

Check out these fun science experiments! https://lemonlimeadventures.com/must-try-summer-science-activities-for-kids/

***

Turn your backyard into a play space – or a gameboard! Check out these fun ideas: https://www.diyncrafts.com/17772/home/35-ridiculously-fun-diy-backyard-games-borderline-genius

***

Giant painted “mural”, anyone? Waffle cone s’mores? Ice cube stacking? Here’s a large collection of  fun summer ideas! https://mothersniche.com/60-days-of-cheap-summer-fun/

***

For the artists among us (or those who are willing to inspire their children to explore art) there’s this: https://www.artbarblog.com/58-summer-art-camp-ideas/

***

These family fun ideas are all wet: https://whatmomslove.com/kids/best-outdoor-water-activities-to-keep-kids-cool-summer/

***

 

On Ideas for Summer Family Fun

In the northern hemisphere, it’s summer time! For many families, this means a break from our usual school year schedule. We want to provide our children with plenty of time to regroup and rest after the intensity of their studies, because they have worked very hard. We want them to learn to have some unstructured time – and perhaps even a little taste of boredom – to give them the opportunity to invent and play their own games. But we also want them to continue learning, although perhaps in a different way than they are learning during the school year. And in the midst of all of of that, we want to make fun memories together as a family.

To these ends, here is a small gathering of fun activities, learning opportunities, and ways to make this summer a little more fun. Try one or all of them, if you are so inclined! Tuck your favorite ideas into your back pocket if you’ve already got a good handle on your summer. It could be that one or more of them will come in handy at the last minute!

Regardless of how we spend the summer, may we enjoy the change in schedule and savor the additional time to be together!
***

Summer is already partly spent, so you may already have a routine that works for your family. But if not, or if you want to switch things up a bit, here’s a clever way to do something fun together each day of the week during summer vacation: http://citrusandstripes.com/summer-break-schedule/

***

Need ideas for preschoolers? How about some of these? https://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2014/05/50-summer-activities-for-3-year-olds.html#_a5y_p=1729695

***

This page offers 30 educational, creative, and budget-friendly (not to mention fun) ideas of summer-y things to do with kids! https://prettyprovidence.com/summer-activities/

***

Got water balloons? Here’s a post that offers a pile of ways to use them (besides the usual!): http://www.agirlandagluegun.com/2013/07/water-balloon-summer-fun-roundup.html

***

Hot day? No problem, if you have a few squirt guns and a couple of recycled plastic cups!

https://www.thisgrandmaisfun.com/squirt-gun-races/

***

If your summer is hotter than usual, this may help: here are 25 water games to play with kids! https://itsalwaysautumn.com/water-games.html

***

Here are a fun list of unplugged activities for tweens!

https://frugalfun4boys.com/2013/06/30/20-activities-for-tween-age-boys/

***

Want to actually enjoy crafting with your kids? Check out these awesome ideas:

www.listotic.com/29-fun-crafts-kids-adults-will-actually-enjoy/

***

This article lists 100 (!) inexpensive ideas to do with kids during the summer:

http://stepmomming.com/kids-summer-activities/

***

Here are some ideas of ways to help your children learn more from the Scriptures this summer! Although the blogger is not Orthodox, many of these ideas can be used to help Orthodox kids (and parents) grow together in the Faith! https://thepurposefulmom.com/2016/06/summer-bible-study-plans-ideas-kids.html

***
When everyone just needs to go outside for a while, consider one of these fun activities:

https://thejoysofboys.com/outdoor-summer-activities-for-kids/

***

Road trips with lego fans just got a lot more fun! Check out these suggested ideas that can be pulled together quickly before your trip: https://mamainthenow.com/lego-road-trip-activities/

***

Here’s a great list of fun summer activities for teens: https://mykidstime.com/things-to-do/50-fun-activities-for-teens-to-do-in-the-summer/

***

Gleanings From a Book: “Everything Tells Us About God” by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Author’s note: This book is so eye-catching! As soon as I saw it, I was excited to read it! The illustrations are delightfully appealing. The book’s backstory adds to its intrigue. I couldn’t wait to crack it open! However, I had other writing that needed to happen, so when the book arrived, I reluctantly set it on the shelf to wait until now. It was hard to not peek, but I prefer to write about a book right after reading it, so I forced myself to wait. It was well worth the wait. This is a delightful book.

From the first glance, this beautiful book invites engagement. The cover sets the tone for the book: it creates an expectation for beauty, variety, and a joyful revelling in God’s generosity with His people. When the reader opens the book, the end paper catches their eye. It is a golden, nearly-completed puzzle. But why is that one piece missing? And what does this have to do with the title? Without reading a word, the reader is already curious and determined to know more!

The book begins by telling the reader that the world is like a giant puzzle. God made this puzzle to tell us about Himself. He designed each piece – each part of the world – to help us learn some of His secrets. When we really look at the pieces, we can learn about Him through them!

Page after engaging page, the book points out different things in our world and how God uses them to teach us about Himself. For example, the sun tells us we can’t live without God because His love warms our hearts and helps us to grow closer to Him. The food that we eat reminds us that God always makes sure we have what we need, and that He always takes care of us. The animals tell us about God, too: elephants help us see how mighty God is; hens and chicks remind us of how He cares for us; doves remind us of how the Holy Spirit brings us peace; etc.

Livia Coloji’s charming illustrations simultaneously cheer the reader and invite interaction. Bright colors, playful perspectives, and soft edges all help the reader to feel the warm message of the text. Readers can savor the images as well as the words. The first time through the book, the reader looks forward to turning the page to unveil the next illustration and the next piece of the puzzle. Every reading after that, the reader will anticipate the illustrations, revisiting old friends.

The book concludes with an answer to the reader’s initial question. The missing piece in the puzzle of God’s world is each of us! He gives us life so that we can be part of His puzzle. He wants to show the world part of Himself through us! When we love and serve God, we are able to be a puzzle piece to those around us!

The author’s note at the end of the book offers the reader a glimpse at its backstory. The concept of this book was initially presented to Ancient Faith Publishing by Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory. He had written of a conversation with an elderly bishop on an airport run one day. As they drove, the bishop kept pointing things out in the world around them, and talking about how each thing pointed us to God. Katherine Hyde sent Fr. Thomas her rendition of his idea, but it got lost in the shuffle over the years. Fr. Thomas’ family has given their permission for her to publish it, so now we can read this book and marvel at God’s willingness to reveal Himself to us, one piece at a time!

The end paper at the back of the book shows the completed golden puzzle. The reader now knows why the piece was missing and can see how beautiful the puzzle is with all of its pieces in place. Glory to God for including each of us in the puzzle of His world!

Purchase your own copy of this book: http://store.ancientfaith.com/everything-tells-us-about-god/

Here are some gleanings from the book, as well as ideas of ways to incorporate it into a family time:

***
“The sun tells us that nothing can live without God… His warmth fills our hearts, and His love shines on us every day.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“The water we drink tells us Christ is our life…” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“Rocks tell us Christ is as strong as a boulder… Nothing and no one can ever defeat Him or make him stop loving us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“Small things, like flowers… tell us God cares about every detail of His creation.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“Animals… tell us what God is like… The mother hen tells us He cares for us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“Schools… tell us Christ is our Teacher… And He Himself is the perfect student of God the Father: He always does His Father’s will.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“The people we meet… tell us Jesus became human, just like us.” (from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
“Some years ago, Fr. Tom Hopko submitted to Ancient Faith Publishing a story… In this story… a young Fr. Tom drove an elderly bishop to the airport, hoping to engage in some deep theological conversation along the way. Instead, the bishop humbly and simply pointed out how everything they passed had something to tell us about the nature of God.” (a bit of the back story of the book, from “Everything Tells Us About God,” by Katherine Bolger Hyde)
***
If you have children who enjoy coloring, one of the first pages of the book has been made into a coloring page! Download and print it here: https://store.ancientfaith.com/content/everything-coloring-page.pdf
***
Family time idea #1: Before reading “Everything Tells Us About God” together, hand each family member a blank puzzle. Provide watercolor paints, markers, and/or colored pencils and invite them to write a message or create an image that makes them happy on the puzzle. Share the book while the images dry. Then have each person turn their puzzle over, and on each piece, write the name of something or someone in their life that points them to God. Who/what are the pieces that God uses in their life to draw them closer to Himself? (Be sure to help family members for whom the writing is difficult!)

(You may want to buy different sized puzzles, depending on the ages of those in your household. You can find blank puzzles online – for example, this one: http://www.orientaltrading.com/compoz-a-puzzle-blank-puzzles-28-a2-13646291.fltr;
or in a local craft store – for example, this one: http://www.michaels.com/design-a-puzzle-set-by-creatology/10489364.html)
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Family time idea #2: Before sharing “Everything Tells Us About God” with the family, gather items (or pictures of them) that are mentioned in the book. Bring together a few rocks, some water, a cutout of the sun, some stuffed animals (an elephant, a hen, a bee, a lion, a lamb, and/or a dove), seeds, flowers, fruit, bread, stars, a picture of a playground, a picture of school, an article of dress-up clothes, a mini photo album, etc. would work. Place the items you’ve gathered on a large tray. Present them to the family, and ask why they think you’ve gathered these things? Then read the book together and ask the question again. Go through each item and ask how it tells you about God. What items did you miss that are important to your family? What if one of these “puzzle pieces” went missing from your life? What can we learn about how important each piece of God’s puzzle is to the world?
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Family time idea #3: Read “Everything Tells Us About God” together, and then engage in a discussion. How does God reveal Himself to us? What “puzzle piece” from the book did each family member like, and why? Go out for a hike together. Occasionally stop and look around. What “puzzle pieces” do you notice that God has placed around you, that point you to Himself? At the end of the hike, or when you get back home again, invite each family member to think of their own “puzzle piece” that could be added to the book, and draw or write about it on this printable pdf.