Thursday, February 28

You HAVE to Watch This...

Yes, I know that I am supposed to be on a break, but I could not believe this little one!

A Little Blogging Break...

With our little one's baptism this Saturday, preparations to do for the house, church, and party, and lots of family and friends coming to celebrate with us, a blogging break is in order. I hope to be back on Tuesday. I will resume the Frumpy to Fabulous posts then. I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, February 27

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Seventeen...

Day Seventeen: Adding Beauty to Everyday Life

One of the nicest things about being a homemaker (whether you also have a job outside the home or not) is the the fact that our mission is make life peaceful and lovely for our families. Though it can be hard to motivate ourselves to add beauty to lives when the every day routine gets in the way it is worth the extra effort! Here are some posts by talented women to inspire you to enjoy the moment and add beauty to your everyday life:

Glamor Closet Makeover
Of Tissues and Hankies
Creating a SenseSational Home
Keeping Kids Warm - Inside and Out
Mitford Moments
Making Things Homey
Winter's Charms
Sick in Bed
It Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful

Do Orthodox Christians Worship Icons?

People sometimes ask if we worship Icons. The answer is simple, it is an emphatic No!

No Christian worships an image. Christians worship God. We do not worship Icons, but we do venerate them. That means we show special respect for the Icons. We do this because the Icons are a way of joining us to the goodness and holiness of God and His Saints.

When an Orthodox Christian goes into Church he lights a candle, makes the sign of the cross then kisses the Icons of Christ, His Mother the Theotokos, and the Saints.

A screen separates the Altar from the rest of the Church. This screen is known as the "Icon Screen" or "Iconostasis" because it supports a series of Icons. The North and South aspects of the Iconostasis is divided by central double doors known as the "Royal Doors" or "Holy Doors". Characteristically in Orthodox Churches, the first Icon to the right of the Holy Doors is the Icon of Christ, the Creator of All Things. To the left of the Holy Doors is an Icon of the Mother of God with Christ cradled in Her arms. The Icon depicted on the Holy Doors is that of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, where the Archangel Gabriel brings to Her the news of the impending Miraculous Conception. Icons of the four Evangelists are also often found on the Holy Doors.

The Holy Doors show us the way heaven and earth are reunited by Christ. The Icon of the Annunciation reminds us that God came down to us as a person. Mary was a doorway for Christ to enter this world, and for us to enter heaven. The Icons of the Four Evangelists remind us that we come to God through the teachings of the Gospel.

To the right of the Icon of Christ on the Iconostasis is the Icon of the Forerunner St John the Baptist. To the left of the Icon of the Virgin and Christ Child is the Patron Saint of that particular Church Parish

Every orthodox home has its Icon shelf, and family Prayers are said there.

The meaning of Icons

Images have always played a part in teaching Christians about their faith. Icons are much more than religious pictures. They are a way of telling people about some complicated Christian teaching in a simple form that anyone can see and start to understand -- even a tiny child. Icons in the earliest days of the Church were a means of depicting Gospel events to Christians who may not have been able to read the Gospel themselves.

Christians of the Orthodox Church say that it is both wrong and impossible to make a picture showing what God looks like. We have never seen Him, we hardly know Him, We cannot draw Him. However, God came into this world as a person. He became flesh and blood as Jesus Christ. This is what Christians call the "Incarnation". This belief that God became a man is one of the most fundamental of Christian teachings. We can paint a picture of Christ because He lived here as a person. The word "Icon" means a picture or image. In simple terms an Icon of Christ is a picture of Christ which tells everyone that God became a man.

The meaning of Icons goes even further than this. In Icons of the Saints, the pictures do not look like pictures of ordinary flesh and blood. They look strange. The Church teaches that Christ had a human body in order to save our bodies as well as our souls. At the end of time, when Christ comes again, everyone will rise from the dead. We will not look the same as we do now. We will be utterly changed, and we will shine with the glory of God. Icons show people with that sort of body -- a Resurrection body. The Church also teaches that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. In a way then, the Saints are living 'Icons' of Christ. Because Christ was God and Man at the same time. He was able to show us just what that image and likeness of God can actually look like. The Gospels tell us that once, at a place called Mount Tabor, the Apostles saw that Christ was shining with light. (Matt. 17. 1-13; Mark 9. 2-13; Luke 9. 28-36) The same thing sometimes happens to people who live a very holy life. When they are deep in prayer they shine with a mysterious light. Their bodies have been changed so that they show the image and likeness of God. They are holy flesh. Not all of the Saints show this sort of holiness on the outside in their lives. More often they grow into the likeness of God in a hidden way, but all Icons of the Saints show that they have already changed from ordinary flesh and blood. Saints are depicted with a halo of light around their head.

There are many examples of miraculous Icons throughout time. Some even today. Orthodox Christians believe firmly that God can use thing's of this world [such as wood and paint] to help us to share in the heavenly world. We use water in Baptism or bread and wine in Holy Communion. We ask God to bless these ordinary things so that they can bring us to Him. Similarly, we ask God to bless Icons as well, so that the paint and wood and the artist's skill can be used in His service. Icons are blessed to bring us to God. This is the reason why we call them "Holy Icons".

Windows into heaven

In an ordinary picture things seem to get narrower as they go into the distance. This gives the picture its feeling of depth. It is called "perspective". Icons are different. On many of them the picture seems to get wider as it goes into the distance -- the perspective is back to front.In an ordinary painting you can often see the sun, or else you can see light and shadow. You can tell the time of day, or you can see that it is night. You can not see these things in an Icon. There are no shadows, or ways of showing day and night. An Icon shows a view of heaven, so it is lighted by the unchanging light of God.

Icons are painted this way on purpose. An Icon is a window into Heaven. The veneration granted to the Icon is said to pass on to Heaven and the person depicted therein.

The struggle against iconoclasts

A violent disagreement shook the Christian Church 1200 years ago.

From the time of St Constantine the Great, the Roman emperors accepted Christianity. Most of them encouraged the Christians to build Churches and to use pictures to explain their faith to all the people of the Roman Empire. There were a few Christians who thought you should not use pictures at all, and the Church had to be careful that people did not worship statues or icons in the way that the pagans did. However, in most parts of the Christian world, the people developed their religious art for almost 500 years.

Quite suddenly the Byzantine emperors ordered the Church to stop using pictures or any sort of images. Icons were smashed and mosaics were painted over. For a while there was a fierce struggle between the icon smashers and the icon users.

Quite a few of the Byzantine emperors hated Icons, so did the courtiers and many of the soldiers. These people who hated icons, or smashed them, are often called the 'iconoclasts'. The iconoclasts taught that physical thing's had nothing to do with spiritual thing's. They said you could not use a man made icon to help you with prayer, or to bring you closer to God. They also said that you should not have any pictures of people in Church. The only picture they allowed was a fresco or mosaic picture of the Cross. Some of them even believed that Christ should not be shown in a picture because He was good and had nothing to do with the material of this world which was evil.

All this made the Orthodox Christians think carefully about using icons and mosaics. Christians also had to think about the physical matter of which the world is made. In fact the icon smashers called themselves Christians, but their ideas were not really Christian at all. The Orthodox Church prepared the full Christian answer to their attack.

The Old Testament teaches that God created all the world, and mankind as well. He saw that all the things that He had made were good. It was later that man turned away from God, and the whole world fell under the power of death, evil and sin. In other words, there was nothing wrong with matter in the first place because God made it good.

The New Testament teaches that God loves us so much that He sent Christ to become a human being. Christ came in order to save us, and to give us a chance to come back to God again. He became matter just as we are. Because God became a man in Christ, this physical world has begun to be reunited with the heavenly world again. Matter has started to regain its full glory. Christ has shown us that human flesh can become filled with God. He was physical matter that was God bearing. In the same way all physical matter can become filled with God's presence. This happens to the saints, to the water at a baptism, or to the bread and wine for Holy Communion. It can also happen to the wood and paint of an Icon.

The Church believes that Christ was both God and man. Firstly, He united Divinity with the matter of this world by His Incarnation. Secondly, in Christ, matter was drawn up into Divinity with His Ascension into Heaven. Anyone who said God and matter were opposite like good and evil was attacking this teaching about Christ.

The Church accepts that before Christ came into the world it was impossible to make a picture of God: no one had seen Him or understood Him enough. Once Christ came and dwelt on earth, it was possible to make a picture of God because Christ was God. Anyone Who said you should not make a picture of God as Christ seemed to be saying that Christ was not really God.

Finally, Orthodox Christians believe in the Resurrection of Christ in a physical body. We believe in a physical resurrection for all believers when Christ returns in Glory. We do not believe that our minds will survive alone, or that some ghostly spiritual form will rise from the dead. Both body and soul will be saved, matter and spirit together. So we believe that mind and body should join in worship. Spirit and matter should unite in praising God. In Orthodox services and worship this teaching of the Church is put into practice. Decorations of flowers stand beside icons made from wood and egg and the colours of the earth. Candles of brown beeswax glow beside golden olive oil in glass lamps. Incense made from resin and tree sap sends up its smoke from golden incense burners. Human beings, wearing cotton and linen and wool from sheep, bow or cross themselves, pray silently or raise their voices in praise. Offerings of bread and wine, full of sunshine and the goodness of the earth, are laid on the altar. All of creation dances before the creator. All of God's goodness is offered up to God. In a mystery the Holy Spirit descends to confirm that this is truly heaven on earth, and that God's kingdom is coming now.

It took about a hundred years for all these ideas to be argued out. In the end the iconoclasts were overcome, and in 843AD at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, icons were put back into the Churches.

The effect of the iconoclast controversy can still be seen to have an effect on Orthodox Christians even to this day. Orthodox Christians will kiss the Icons at the front of the Church just before receiving Holy Communion -- before the priest comes out of the altar with the Holy Gifts. This custom began as a way of showing you really were Orthodox. Kissing the Icons showed that you have reverence for them and proved that you werenít an iconoclast. It showed that you believed the things that the Orthodox Church taught.

On the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (first Sunday of Great Lent) we celebrate the triumph of true Orthodox believers over the Icon smashers. Icons are brought from home, and others are lifted down from the walls of the Church for a procession to show everyone how we feel about them.

St John of Damascus says "The Icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring monument to the victory of the Saints and the disgrace of the demons."

by Tony Holden

adapted from "Explaining Icons"
Stylite Publishing Ltd.

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Sixteen...

Day Sixteen: Feet

Whether you get pedicures, paint your own toenails, or leave your tootsies natural, chances are your feet could do with a little TLC. With sandal season just around the corner it's time to begin caring for your feet! Make sure you give yourself a pedicure (removing old polish, trimming nails, caring for cuticles, and buffing away dry skin) once or twice a month. To keep your feet in good condition between pedicures, be sure to moisturize them every time you put on a pair of socks or stockings. Your feet will be beautiful before you know it!

Monday, February 25

No Graven Image: Icons and Their Proper Use...

An anonymous commentator on my blog, recently wrote the following in response to my post on the icons added to our church this past week:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth Exodus 20:4

My response comes from an article on this very topic:

"The first time I invited a particular Protestant friend to step inside an Orthodox Church, he looked around very slowly, carefully, cau­tiously. “It’s pretty,” he said, “but doesn’t the Bible warn against graven images?”

His reference, of course, was to the icons, painted images of Jesus Christ and His follow­ers who, through the centuries of our history as the Church, have been portrayed for all to see. Was he right in his concern?

That particular Church, like most Ortho­dox Churches, was very beautiful. And the Bible, specifically the Old Testament law, does say, “Thou shalt have no graven images” (Exodus 20:4, KJV). So, the question is, do those icons, those paintings portraying Christ, His Mother, the saints, and special biblical events, come under the category of graven images?

The history of icons and of their use in the Orthodox Church is not only fascinating but instructive. They are no new thing. Nor were they invented by an apostate medieval Church. The use of representations for instruction and as aids to piety goes back to the earliest centu­ries of the Church, and likely they were there in some form from the very beginning. Cer­tainly we know that even in legal-minded Israel, paintings and other artistic representa­tions used to help the people remember spiri­tual truth were not at all unknown.

In both the tabernacle and the later temples there were images used, especially of the cherubim. And a recently unearthed syna­gogue of the last few centuries before Christ has paintings of biblical scenes on its walls."

To read the article in it's entirety please go HERE.

Sunday, February 24

February 24th...

It's time for another Commitment to Loveliness! This is a fun way to increase femininity and beauty in our lives each week without even trying! All you have to do is choose five things that you would like to work on or do during the week that will increase the loveliness in your life!

Here is my list for this week:

1. Continue my journey from Frumpy to Fabulous.
2. Prepare for the arrival of our guests this coming weekend - make sure there are enough linens to go around, the menu is shopped for and prepared as much in advance as possible, the rooms are clean, and there are pretty little touches to make life easier for them
3. Plan and prepare for the meal that will follow our son's Baptism

4. Purchase small gifts for our son's godparents

5. Make a few extra special dinners for our last meaty meals before Lent begins

Once you have chosen five simple things, post them on your blog and link to this post in your post, and then post the direct link to your Commitment to Loveliness post below. If you do not have a blog, but have a commitment to share, please post them in the comments section.

From Office Building to Church: Part Twelve...

Fr. John worked very hard to mount sixteen icons of the Twelve Great Feasts and other important events in the life of our Lord this past week. He was also able to hang them and this Sunday blessed them before Liturgy.

Saturday, February 23

Pride and Prejudice, Episode 3...

Sunday, February 24th - 9pm EST

Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth Bennet in
the definitive adaptation of the most-loved of all Austen novels.

To view on YouTube, visit HERE

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Fifteen...

Day Fifteen: Adding Cosiness and Tranquility to Home Life

In order to have a cosy, tranquil, and well-kept home, follow these steps at least once in the morning, afternoon, and evening:

1. Have a hearty meal prepared and serve it at the table with a nice setting.

2. Take a few minutes to freshen up: tidy hair, moisturize hands, straighten appearance, etc.

3. Put the house into apple-pie order: tuck dirty dishes into the dishwasher, wipe down counters, sweep kitchen floor, put the odds and ends that have wandered from their homes away, etc. If this is done three times per day, picking up the whole house will only take about 15 minutes.

4. Tidy up the children.

5. Minimize noise. I try to keep the volume on the t.v., ipod, and my own voice ( no shouting!) down... It is nice to have some soft music on in the background sometimes!

These little touches add to the tranquility and coziness of our home... and that gives me comfort and happiness too!

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Fourteen...

Day Fourteen: Going Out

It never fails. The day that you dash out to the market for a quart of milk wearing sweats and sporting dirty hair, you meet an acquaintance who looks as chic as can be! Avoid embarrassment by learning how to polish your look.

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

Friday, February 22

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Thirteen...

Day Thirteen: Hands

As a wife, mother, and homemaker I am constantly using my hands in caring for my family, cooking, and tending our home. My hands touch the skin of people I love and are visible to everyone from the checkout clerk at the grocery store to other mothers on the playground.

Though I love getting manicures, getting them regularly isn't practical for my lifestyle or our bank account. To keep my hands pretty, there are a few products I use frequently:

Neutrogena Instant Nail Enhancer
Neutrogena Fast Absorbing Hand Cream
Sally Hanson Maximum Growth Cuticle Pen
A Nail File

Keeping these things on hand (no pun intended;) ) will help you obtain and keep your hands and nails beautiful.

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

Thursday, February 21

I'm Late, I'm Late, for a Very Important Date...

I'm sorry that the From Frumpy to Fabulous posts are late (again!). Things have been difficult in our house for the past day and a half due to vaccinations and a tumble down the steps (everyone is fine now, just sore!). I may have some time later tonight to catch up, but I'm not sure. I hope everyone is having a good week!

Wednesday, February 20

Little Man's (Belated) Two Month Update...

We just returned from our two month appointment for our baby boy. He is growing quite nicely and weighs 8lbs. 8ozs. and is 20.5 inches long (he was 4lbs. 1oz. and 17.5 inches at birth). Since he was such a preemie (eight weeks early), he's just now starting to do things like smile and look at us when we talk to him, hold his head up a little, and be awake more. We discovered that he had an umbilical hernia last week (just like his mama), but the doctor says that it is a small one that should rectify itself by the time he is two years old. All in all, it was a good appointment with answers to our concerns:)

In other news, his baptism is on March First. We bought him this cross (the same as his sister's for simplicity's sake) for his "everyday" one and his godmother will be giving him his baptismal one. I can't wait to see what she's picked out! We are also looking forward to seeing the baptismal gown his godfather offered to get! That day will be full of wonderful surprises and lots of wonderful family and friends coming to see our little bundle of joy become an Orthodox Christian!

Imaginitive Play: A Toy Kitchen...

Tuesday, February 19

Creating a Child-Friendly Environment: At the Table...

Though we did start our little girl off with sippy cups, she has always used "real" bowls, plates, and silverware (appetizer forks and spoons).

Though I mainly did this for two reasons - practicality (children's things don't seem to work as well... especially the utensils) and beauty (children's things in our price range are ugly) - I have found that there are some other benefits as well. For one, our little girl is very careful with breakable things. Additionally, I was practicing Montessori concepts without realizing it!

After searching around a bit, I was able to find some 5 oz juice glasses for our little one to use instead of her sippy cups. As you can see from the pictures, she's loving these little glasses!!

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Twelve...

Day Twelve: Reading for Pleasure

When one's day is already packed with a long list of "To Do's", it is not easy to fit in reading. You'll be glad if you do though! Reading a bit from the Anne books each day is my little respite from the daily grind. I am reading Anne of Ingleside right now (at an embarrassingly slow pace!) and am loving the images of motherhood and home life. Once I finish these, I'm going to continue with any Miss Read books I can get my hands on!

What are you reading for pleasure?

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

Monday, February 18

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Eleven...

Day Eleven: Dressing

Check out some of these past articles on making outfits, working with what you have, and creating the perfect wardrobe:

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Ten...

Day Ten: Face

If you don't think that you have time to care for your face, check out these ten minute plans for cleaning and making up your face.

Clean Face

Make Up

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Nine...

Day Nine: Exercise

It is very easy for me to fall off of the exercising bandwagon during the winter months because it is often too cold to venture outside with my little lady. I detest exercising just for the sake of exercising... preferring instead multi-task (cleaning, chasing children, etc.) or at least have fun (dancing, playing in the pool, going for walks, etc.) while I am working up a good glow (ladies don't sweat;) ). Awhile ago, I listed a few great ways to work excerise into your day. If you have any other ideas, please share!!

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

February 17th...

It's time for another Commitment to Loveliness! This is a fun way to increase femininity and beauty in our lives each week without even trying! All you have to do is choose five things that you would like to work on or do during the week that will increase the loveliness in your life!

Here is my list for this week:

1. Continue my journey from Frumpy to Fabulous.
2. Clean the house from top to bottom (sounds daunting, but after today's work I am already 1/4 of the way through!).
3. Take a walk outside weather permitting

4. Enjoy a bubble bath at least once.

5. Make a wreath similar to Mrs. Wilt's.

Once you have chosen five simple things, post them on your blog and link to this post in your post, and then post the direct link to your Commitment to Loveliness post below. If you do not have a blog, but have a commitment to share, please post them in the comments section.

Sunday, February 17

Pride and Prejudice, Episode 2...

Sunday, February 17th - 9pm EST

Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is Elizabeth Bennet in
the definitive adaptation of the most-loved of all Austen novels.

To view on YouTube, visit HERE

Creating a Child-Friendly Environment: Religion...

We have several icon corners in our home and for awhile now, I have wanted to put some of our icons at our daughter's eye level (one of the little girls I used to babysit for had an icon corner in her bedroom at her level and it was great!). I was able to put these icons up using the same method I used for the artwork I recently put on our walls.

Creating a Child-Friendly Environment: Art at Their Level II...

Here is another method I've found to put art at my children's eye level without leaving nail holes.

Friday, February 15

From Frumpy to Fabulous in Three Weeks: Day Eight...

Day Eight: Cultivating a Meek and Quiet Spirit

Instead of reading my mediocre writing on this subject, I direct you to Hannah's beautiful essay. Though it is written from the perspective of a mother dealing with children, I feel that it can be helpful for any woman seeking to become more feminine in spirit.

To read more about this challenge, click HERE.

Creating a Child-Friendly Environment: Child-Sized Furniture...

I've been continuing to implement some of the ideas that I've read about in Mommy Teach Me and Mommy Teach Me to Read by Barbara Curtis (MommyLife ) and have even begun to find a few ways to use what we have right now while we wait to get some of the things Barbara recommends. In the first picture, you can see our little girl using a kitchen chair to see what I'm doing at the kitchen island (if you do this, be careful that your little one doesn't slip!) because we don't have a step stool yet. In the second picture, our 20 month old is sitting in her booster seat eating, but this is also where we do crafts and work on projects together in lieu of the small wooden table and chairs we'd like to someday own. I am looking forward to when we can get a step stool and a child-sized table and chairs, but feel good about using what we have for now!

Beautiful Photographs from Our New Favorite Book...

For this beautiful book reminds me so much of Beatrix Potter... We highly recommend it!

Pictures from a Luncheon We Hosted...

When a nice man from our church came over earlier this week to help Fr. John learn how to use his new table saw, I invited his wife over for a little bit of visiting followed by lunch for all. We enjoyed side salads, baked ziti, and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Check out those colorful sprinkles!

Flowers from My Valentine...

Thursday, February 14

Happy Valentine's Day...

I hope that you had a lovely Valentine's Day! Papa and Baby Boy started the day out by giving the girls a lovely bouquet of oriental lilies and a heart shaped balloon! We hosted an impromptu Valentine Brunch for one of our little friends and his mama and served heart-shaped pancakes, bacon, and juice. Once our play date was over, we had a wonderful nap under a pink quilt (I couldn't resist!) and finished up our day by ordering crosses for the babies, eating takeout, and watching a dvd. What did you do to celebrate?
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