Friday, August 31

Collecting Bits of Nature...

Several weeks ago, we had some of our children's godparents visit and we took them to one of our favorite beaches for a few hours.  While we chatted and got our feet wet, Sugar Plum spent some time collecting shells.  She found quite a few (which is very unusual for our beaches).  Once we got home, the shells were deposited on the step and we sort of forgot about them once all of the little ones got sick.  One day last week, they were dumped into a galvanized tub that it is a multi-purpose plaything for these children of ours and washed.  They have been washed and rewashed many times since then and each time I spot them in the tub damp from the water, I admire their beauty.  Look at all of the shapes!  Look at the colors!  They aren't the perfect shells that we can find in the gift shops around here, but they are just lovely in their own way. 

I have been spotting little Nature Museum ideas all over the web lately.  I love these ideas to display all of these little collections children bring home!  Eventually, I think that it could be the next step up for older children who have been maintaining a nature table while they were little. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons for nature displays and I cannot wait to take long walks looking for pretty leaves, acorns and other nuts, seed pods, grasses, shells, and rocks.  It will be nice to find different ways to display our findings in our home.

Thursday, August 30

Organizing for School at Home...

I have been kind of waiting for inspiration to strike when it comes to how to organize our school things and finally got it the other day.  We purchased all of our books a few weeks ago, I bought a binder, binder tabs, and fancy paper from the Martha Stewart Staples collection, and we found a wonderful planner at Target that will be great for a monthly overview as well as space to write things down each day.

We are planning to try to do our schoolwork in the playroom each morning this year.  We did most of our work at the dining room table last year, and that was mainly because we had a grabby toddler on our hands.  We still have the toddler, but he is a little more easily distracted and I am hoping that being in the playroom will allow him to occupy himself while we do our work each day.

I decided to re-purpose one of our bookshelves for our learning materials this year.  The top shelf holds Sugar Plum's basket of  school books, a little pencil holder, and a pretty framed illustration by Shirley Hughes.  The second shelf has a basket full of our learning basket materials each week, a featured book, and binoculars.  The bottom shelf holds Little Man's basket of books and a few activity books that he likes, as well as a basket of wooden Handwriting Without Tears letter shapes that he will be using. 

This setup is pretty simple.  We'll see how it evolves over the year!  We are looking forward to our start next week...  though I am a little nervous about how we'll get it all done.  Somehow we've ended up with a lot of house-guests planning to come that week! 

Wednesday, August 29

Yarn Along...

This week was an exciting one!  I finished my tenth waffle knit dishcloth and got to dip into yarn that I bought weeks ago!  Though I had planned to make twenty waffle knit dishcloths (we use them for everything!), I was getting a little tired of knitting them.  I finally did get into the groove with the pattern though and my tenth one was just as it should be! After I get some things off of my To Knit List, I think that I will return to knitting dishcloths to bulk up our supply.

One of our parishioners recently had a baby boy, so I decided that I wanted to make her a few Petite French Farmhouse Dishcloth Pattern No.1 washcloths.  I will complete the gift by getting a pretty bottle of baby soap to go along with them.  This yarn is wonderful!  It is Elsebeth Lavold Cotton Patine and is so silky and soft!  I started knitting with one strand of the yarn and found that I had the wrong sized needles, so I followed my sister's suggestion and just doubled the strand.  I was nervous that this would be confusing, but it isn't!  If we are ever blessed by another baby, I will be using this yarn to make tiny little things for for him or her to wear.

As for reading, I am re-reading my English Country Homes and Interiors that my mother gave me when she visited last month.  We also just finished More About Paddington on cd and are about to start These Happy Golden Years.  I am sad that the Little House series is coming to a close, but am already planning to listen to it again for Little Man's kindergarten year (which starts next Autumn!).

Come tell us what you are reading and knitting!

Tuesday, August 28

Struggle for the Icons...

Note:  Do not be alarmed by the subtitles...  this video is in English!

Monday, August 27

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Thirteen inches of water poured down on Saturday night in a crazy thunderstorm that lasted several hours!  When we woke up on Sunday morning we were shocked at how much water had accumulated!  The little ones had fun splashing in the puddles while they lasted.  The water is already gone!

Sunday, August 26


They followed him across the waiting room and up the stairs to where his mother was waiting in a little hall at their head.  She was small as Laura, and plumper, and she was daintiness itself, in a soft gray dress with snowy white ruffles at throat and wrists.  But she was so friendly that Laura felt comfortable at once.

In her bedroom they took off their wraps.  the room was as dainty as Mrs. Woodworth.  They hesitated to lay their coats on the dainty bed, with its knitted white coverlet and ruffled pillow shams.  Thin, ruffled white muslin curtains were draped back at the windows, and on a little stand-table a knitted lace doily lay under the lamp.  White knitted lace to match was spread on the bureau top, and white lace was draped across the top of the mirror frame."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, August 25

Jonathan Jackson Wins Emmy!

Jonathan Jackson converted to Orthodoxy in 2012!  I posted an interview with him by Father Andrew Damick awhile ago, HERE.

Friday, August 24

A Quiet Friday Afternoon...

Today has been quiet.  It is the first day in about ten days that the children have not had tummy troubles and have been able to eat whatever they want without consequence.  Father John and Co. are laying tile in the Chapel and eating Mexican Seafood Soup that Miguel's wife prepared and I am puttering around the house.  I keep coming back to this arrangement of dried hydrangea that I put in on the wooden chest by the front door.  I bought eight stems from our little farmer's market this morning (along with five purple and white eggplants that will be grilled and made into babaganush at some point) and promptly put them in a white metal flower container.  I keep rearranging the blooms to get the right balance of color.

The boys are busy bees out-of-doors today.  The ride-on lawnmower is parked in front of our house because it is broken and they are playing on it, pretending that they are construction workers.  Sugar Plum is quietly knitting up bracelets and necklaces to give to her friends (one of whom is a six month old baby!).  She is using her long-lost knitting fork that I found by simply sticking my hand between couch cushions (though we removed all of the cushions multiple times to look for it or make pillow forts in the weeks that it has been missing!).

Later, I think that we'll wash our shells from the beach and lay them in the sun to dry.  I'll finish up a washcloth and we may go swimming.  I'm not sure what we will have for supper, but it will probably include the babaganush!  It would also be nice to have warm peach crisp, but that depends on whether the peaches are ripe.  

I hope that you are having a peaceful day too!

Wednesday, August 22

Yarn Along...

This past week was a rough one for our family...  all three little ones were sick with strep, a stomach virus, or a combination of the two.  We also had lots of company and the start of putting in the tile floor in the church!  Because of all that, I only picked up my knitting once the whole week!  Once I took it up again on Monday evening, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to remember what to do.  Thankfully that was not a problem!

I have six waffle knit dishcloths completed right now.  It is still quite easy for me to loose my place (I've yet to turn out a perfect one!), but I feel like I am getting a bit better at keeping track!  Now that our sicknesses seem to be under control, Sugar Plum and I are hoping that we can pop over to the knitting shop this Saturday for a bit of a lesson.  She is still doing wonderfully on her knitting!  She lugs her knitting basket around wherever she goes!

We're listening to Little Town on the Prairie right now and enjoying it so much!  I can't believe that we only have two more books in the series to listen to after this!

Come tell us what you are reading and knitting!

Tuesday, August 21

Image of God?

Note:  Do not be alarmed by the subtitles...  this video is in English!

Monday, August 20

Blueberry Cream Scones...

Blueberry Cream Scones

2 c.  Flour
1/2 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 stick Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 c. Blueberries
1/2 c. Sour Cream
1 Egg
Sanding Sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in bowl of food processor.  Add butter and pulse blades until mixture looks like coarse meal.  Take care not to over process.  Combine sour cream, vanilla, and egg, then add to mixture in food processor; pulse just until mixture starts to come together.  Fold in blueberries.  Transfer to lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch circle.  Sprinkle with some sanding sugar and score into 8 triangles.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Sunday, August 19


One bright April day, a red mini stopped outside Tullivers and a tall woman, paper fluttering from a gloved hand, made her way into the house.

Miss Fogerty was on playground duty that morning.  Standing on the sheltered side of the school, teacup in hand, she watched with mounting excitement.  Around her squealed and shouted the sixty or so pupils of Thrush Green Church of England Primary School.  During those delirious fifteen minuted of morning play-time, they were variously space-men, horses, footballers, boxers, cowboys or- among the youthful minority - simply mothers and fathers.  The noise was earsplitting.  The bracing Cotswold air produces fine healthy lungs, and the rumpus made at play-time could be clearly heard by fond parents who were safely half a mile away.

Agnes Fogerty, quiet and still as a mouse, and not unlike that timid animal in her much-pressed grey flannel skirt and twin-set to match, stood oblivious of the chaos around her.  Somehow, she sensed that the stranger would take on Tullivers one day.  There was something purposeful about that stride towards the front door, and the delft slipping of the key into the lock - almost as though the house were hers already, thought little Miss Fogerty

Miss Read

Saturday, August 18

The Right to be Right...

By Father Richard Rene
Years ago, I encountered Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s great novel Love in the Time of Cholera, which (among other things) explores the nature of harmonious relationships.
In the story, a couple has been married for almost fifty years. In the routine they have evolved, the wife is responsible of restocking the bathroom with soap. One morning, however, her husband says: “For three days now I have been washing without soap.” The wife knows that she had neglected her responsibility, but rather than admit her fault, she snaps, “Well, I use the bathroom every day, and there has always been soap!”

The dispute erupts, threatening to tear the couple’s marriage apart. The husband is banished to the living room sofa. The conflict continues for months, becoming almost a routine for them. One night, however, the husband forgets to retire to his new living room quarters, and climbs into bed with his wife. She taps him on the shoulder to remind him to leave. “Let me stay,” he replies, “There was soap.”

It’s rarely the important things that divide us. In a free society, our relationships with others usually rest on a common vision and common beliefs. God, the universe and everything—these are not the problems most of the time. Rather, it’s the little differences that threaten to wreak havoc. Different forms of Garcia Marquez’s soap dispute can often tear apart marriages, friendships, and even entire communities.

In his Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorts his gentile audience to welcome converts from Judaism, “but not for disputes over opinions.” (Romans 14:1) What opinions are these? Nothing less than the Jewish Christians’ desire to observe the Sabbath and the distinction between clean and unclean foods! Although Saint Paul disagrees—“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Romans 14:14)—he recognizes that the Jewish practices do not strike at the heart of the Christian proclamation, and so counsels acceptance, urging his audience to “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)

One is tempted to wonder how the same Jewish converts might fare under today’s Christian leaders, but we won’t go there… For Saint Paul, the matter is clear: “The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17-18) He then offers a way by which his flock can live in harmony: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him … that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:1-2, 6)

In matters of opinion, Saint Paul tells us that we must bear with the failings of the weak. Even if the other person is wrong, our challenge is to give up our right to be right. In Garcia Marquez’s story, the husband relinquished his obvious rightness for the sake of marital harmony. One might argue that he compromised, but compromise is something one does when a cherished principle—not soap—is at stake. The facts concerning soap (or any other point of dispute) may be important, but is it essential to the heart of the relationship?

That’s a question we need to ask about anything that threatens to divide our marriages, friendships and spiritual associations. “Is this the hill I am willing to die on?” Is it essential—a matter of profound principles? If the answer is no (which it usually is), are we willing to hold onto a right opinion at the expense of a relationship? Saint Paul wasn’t. And if the most influential Christian apostle could relinquish his right to be right, then the rest of us could probably do the same, for the sake of a little more harmony.

Friday, August 17

Box Day!

Here are the books that have arrived for our first grade year at home!  We still have to buy a few sketchbooks and some writing paper and I need to decide what our first read-alouds will be and get them from the library, but then we are all set!

Thursday, August 16


This past week, I finished ten of the Petite French Farmhouse Dishcloth Pattern No.1!  The little ones have been enjoying them in their baths and it has given me a lot of happiness to see a stack of washcloths that I made sitting in a basket near the tub!

Once I finished the little washcloths, I got started right away on making Waffle Knit Dishcloths.  Though this pattern uses the knit stitch and the purl stitch (which I learned for the last pattern), I have found it difficult to get the hang of it.  I have made three washcloths so far (four if you count the one that  was nearly finished and had to be ripped out due to such severe problems) and each one has something really wrong with it.  I think that the main problem is that I keep losing my place while knitting and though I keep a checklist for each row, I have to really concentrate on what I am doing in order to get it right.  I feel like I am getting a bit better with each dishcloth that I do, so hopefully by the time I reach 20 I'll have gotten the hang of it.  So far, I have been able to complete one washcloth or dishcloth each day and so am on target to finish the washcloths and dishcloths by September.  

How are your projects coming along? 

Wednesday, August 15


In giving birth thou preservest thy virginity,
In falling asleep thou didst not forsake the world, O Theotokos.
Thou wast translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by thy prayers, thou deliverest our souls from death.
The Learning Basket for Dormition can be found HERE.

Tuesday, August 14

Canons and Freedom...

Note:  Do not be alarmed by the subtitles...  this video is in English!

Monday, August 13


Baths in our house are a very serious affair!  Even in the summer months when there is a lot of water play (in the pool, at the beach, in puddles after a rainstorm, and with the hose!), our little ones really enjoy time to play and splash in the bathtub.  

Several years ago, after having the unwelcome surprise of finding mildew inside a rubber duck the babies were playing with in the tub, we moved to some unconventional bath toys.  Some of our favorites have included measuring spoons and cups, rocks, shells, natural sponges, and most recently some Schleich and Safari marine animals.  We have tried to keep only a few things to play with in the bath (there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, after all!).  The two favorites seem to be Mighty the Humpback Whale and Trumpet the Sperm Whale. 

 I joke with my friends that by the time that bedtime rolls around I am about five seconds from completely losing it.  Baths come at a point in the evening that I find if I can hang on to a just a little more patience, the evening goes just a little more smoothly.  I know that these moments with our little ones will be times that I look back on fondly and really it is only a few more years before I'll be leaving them to their own devices in the bathing department!  I'll miss the puddles of water on the bathroom floor, the toys in the bathtub and finding that there are no more clean washcloths in the basket because they really needed all ten for a game that they were playing!

Sunday, August 12


After Pa had gone back to the store, Ma talked seriously to Laura.  She said that she wanted her girls to know how to behave, to speak nicely in low voices and have gentle manners and always be ladies.  They had always lived in wild, rough places, except for a little while on Plum Creek, and now they were in a rough railroad camp, and it would be some time before this country was civilized.  Until then, Ma thought it best that they keep themselves to themselves.  She wanted Laura to stay away from the camp and not get acquainted with any of the rough men there.  It would be all right for her to go quietly with Pa to see the work this once, but she must be well-behaved and lady-like, and remember that a lady never did anything that could attract attention."

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, August 11

Cultivate that Quiet Light...

By Protodeacon Leonid Mickle 

Many are perishing

 I have often heard advice similar to that given by St. Seraphim of Sarov: Cultivate the quiet light of Christ within you, and with it you will enlighten those around you. At times, when contemplating the zeal which so many apostles demonstrated in their confession of the Faith before the world, I have wondered about that advice. We know that many are perishing, that many have either never even heard of the Orthodox Church, or are not aware that the Church is not an ethnic clubhouse, but a source of Living Water for all. Why are we not told to advertise, to go out with trumpets, drums, loudspeakers, bright lights, to make the Church more visible? God sometimes provides us with wonderful answers in unexpected settings.

Once, on a long journey, I stopped at a state information center to ask for the best route to my destination. The clerk asked me whether I really wanted the best route, or the quickest route. She pointed out that the best way would add about an hour to the fourteen-hour journey I could expect via the interstate, but that, if I had the time to take the alternate route, I would certainly enjoy the calm and beauty of some lovely country roads. Thinking about my schedule, I chose the interstate. I made excellent time — at least until I was pulled over for speeding. I had saved less than an hour, lost both a sizable percentage of my salary and an opportunity to become acquainted with some pretty country, and had briefly been driven to anger at a state police officer who was properly doing the job for which my taxes paid.

The little things 

 Shortly thereafter, I stopped in at a small church, almost two hours before the Vigil service was to begin. I found the priest trimming the wicks and replenishing the oil in the lamps behind the altar table. He told me that he almost always arrived at the temple well before the scheduled service, in order to maintain the oil lamps. I asked him whether he had ever considered using candles instead of oil lamps. He smiled, and said, “That certainly would be the quick way. I could enter and light the candles without giving them a thought. Without giving them a thought! Think how great a lesson would be lost!

      “Here, lighting the lamps, I must arrange my day so that I can be here early. I must concentrate on my task. I must see that there is an ample supply of oil, so that the lamps do not go out. I cannot hurry. I must pour carefully, lest the oil spill onto the altar table. I must trim and adjust the wick, then light it. and observe the flame: If it is too low, any little breeze may blow it out. If it is too high, it will generate such heat that the glass will crack, or at the least, will burn so quickly that the wick turns to ash, and the flame goes out.

      “Such an apparently insignificant task, and yet, it is done in the House of God, and to the glory of God. If I cannot be attentive to the little tasks which God permits me to take on, how can I hope to persevere in the greater tasks? If I cannot take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to prepare these lamps, to see that the flame remains lit but does not become a self-destructive fire, how can I hope to do the same with my soul? How can I control my passions, and how can I instruct others to do the same? No, sometimes the quick way, the easy way, is not the best way. Glory to Thee, O Lord.’

      While I was struck by his words, to my shame I found myself a little irritated by them. I found myself thinking that, yes, that may well be the best way, but he has the luxury of serving in a country church with a small congregation which does not put great demands on his time. He has the time, he has no secular job from which to rush to the church in time for services… Suddenly, I realized how irrational were my thoughts, and how cunning and persistent was the enemy of our salvation. When faced with an evident truth, the enemy challenges it by bringing to mind external, irrelevant details, diverting our attention away from the lesson.

The little things of family life 

We are all given talents to be used to the glory of God throughout our journey toward salvation. If we exercise them to the best of our ability and to the glory of God, they become part of that light which enlightens the world. The enemy is tireless in his attempts to keep us from performing them. If he cannot sway us from performing the obviously important tasks, he works on the little things, the mundane, seemingly insignificant details of daily life.

      An important arena in this battle is family life. In raising children we are given the opportunity to learn many skills, to develop many talents. We become tailors, fashion consultants, emergency med techs, diplomats, teachers, caterers, chauffeurs and entertainers All of us juggle schedules in a never-ending struggle to manage time. We learn to do a lot of things in a hurry — taking children to school, to after-school classes, to sporting events. What temptations present themselves! Two children, with two different activities beginning only a few minutes apart. We can be on time if there is no traffic, if we time the lights, if…. It is precisely then that we encounter the longest backup seen on the highway in a decade. Turning on the radio, we hear of a multi-car accident several miles ahead. How do we react? Is our first impulse to ask God to preserve them involved, or to become annoyed at being delayed?

      Unfortunately, it is sometimes the latter. Someone not blessed with a complex daily schedule may offer us the sage advice that had we left early, we could have avoided the temptation; had we so arranged our day as to be there well ahead of time, the temptation would not have come. We are tempted to snap at such an individual that it is not always possible to be early! In so doing, we fall to yet another temptation.

        We can be sure that as long as we live, we will be surrounded by temptations. As long as we strive, we will be tested. Avoid one, and another quickly takes its place. If we set out to proclaim God’s Word, but cannot first calm our passions, if we cannot see the temptations for what they are, we risk bringing not the Word, but temptation to others. If we are to teach others to live as Orthodox Christians, we must first learn to subdue our passions.

The House of God, an island of calm  

The Holy Apostle Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. The Holy Fathers often remind us that as part of this process, we should strive for apatheta. This is something not to be confused with “apathy,” as that term is used in contemporary English. Rather it is dispassion, a purity of heart with which we gain control of, and subdue our passions. In search of a respite from the pressures of hectic schedules, in search of a place in which to cultivate this dispassion, we come to the House of God, an island of calm, a world of peace, a world in which daily life proceeds at a leisurely pace within an overall structure which does not change from year to year.

      As we enter the Temple, a wonderful thing happens. We slow down. We prostrate ourselves before God, and, like the publican, ask God to have mercy on us. We take the time to light candles, to join our little light to the overall light whose Creator we have come to worship. We take our places within a structure whose icons span the centuries and tell us of those who throughout history successfully battled the same temptations, the same passions which now assail us. Before us, in the images on the icon screen, we read our history, We see, frozen out side of time and place, the overall perspective of our path to salvation: The fall, our exile, our promised Savior, the events which led to His Glorious Resurrection, and the means by which we can hope to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

A soft, gentle light 

We enter this refuge, and begin our liturgical day with what the secular world sees as the close of day. We begin not when the world commences its frantic daily schedule, not when we must shade our eyes from the flat detail-obliterating glare of bright sun light, but at the time when God’s creatures are beginning to settle down in their nests, when calm settles over land and sea and all is bathed in a soft, gentle light whose shadows outline God’s creation. In such light, we can calmly study and appreciate the complexity and beauty of God’s creation, we can experience that peace of which Motovilov spoke in his famous discussion with Saint Seraphim on the Holy Spirit. Feeling that peace, we can actively join m the beautiful words of thanksgiving sung at the evening entrance. Having seen the world in the evening light, we perceive what sometimes eludes us in the glare of midday — that at all times it is meet to glorify the Lord, the Giver of life.

      Because we treasure the Peace from Above which we find in the Temple, we consciously strive to do nothing to disturb it. Looking through the Royal Doors into the Holy of Holies, we encounter God on the Heavenly Throne, surrounded by the Holy Angels. During the Small Entrance, we see Christ appear. With Him, and surrounded by the Heavenly Hosts, we are transported from earth to Heaven. What a wonderful expression of a great Mystery! How easily, in the quiet light, in the calm order of that procession, do we cast off the petty temptations, the little distractions of secular life.

      On the other hand, how easily can that Mystery and the calmness of spirit which it engenders be disrupted when, instead of seeing a place of peace, we see chaos, when in the seven-lamp candelabrum two lamps are out while five others are blazing, smoking torches, when acolytes who, because they have not been paying attention, are rushing to light candles, are turning every which way or arguing over who carries what candle or fan. These tasks, while small and routine, are integral parts of the whole. If we attentively prepare the lamps, if we attentively prepare ourselves to carry out the little tasks assigned to us, the quiet light of Christ will be made manifest. If we choose to prepare neither the Temple nor ourselves, we disrupt not only our own calm, but the entire order of service, and risk evoking in clergy and laity alike not an attitude of prayer, but one of irritation or anger.

The family — the little church 

The preparation of the Temple, the preparation of the dispassionate flame, must begin within ourselves, with a recognition of who we are. “And how is your little church doing? How are matushka and the children?” Such a greeting, common among Orthodox Christians. may seem confusing to those outside the Church. The ecclesia, the body of believers, makes up the Holy Church. The family is the “little church,” an icon of the life of the entire ecclesia in Christ. A building prepared for use as the Temple is consecrated by the bishop. Likewise, when we have prepared a residence for our family, we ask the priest to bless it, for it is to be the dwelling place of our little church.

     When we enter a Temple, we see before us the icon screen. When we enter an Orthodox Christian home, we see the krasny ugol, the “beautiful corner,” as the Russians call it, or icon comer. While it may not be directly opposite the entrance, it is not hidden away, for it is the center of our family life: Here we give thanks to God for having brought us through the night, we ask for God to guide us through the day, we ask for God’s blessings as we begin activities throughout the day – be they taking a meal, undertaking a task or setting out on a journey — and we give thanks to God upon their completion. Here we keep holy water and prosphora (blessed bread) to be taken at the beginning of each day. Here we see the images of the saints whose names we bear and who are praying with us and for us. Here, in maintaining the lamps before the icons, we reinforce each day the lesson which that priest so simply and eloquently expressed. “O gentle light…” 

Come unto Me all ye who are heavy laden 

Yes, family life is undeniably hectic. Yes, we could save some time, rush past the icon corner and get on with our daily tasks. However, in taking only a relatively few moments before and after those tasks in order to pray to our Creator, to ask the Holy Theotokos and all of the saints to help us in our tasks, we find that the tasks become more bearable. When unexpected problems occur, instead of allowing the resultant passions to occupy our time, we can simply recognize them as temptations, and get on with the rest of the day. When we stand in the Temple, that recognition can be so simple. We are bathed in that quiet light, we put aside our earthly cares, we look upon the Icon to the right of the Royal Doors, we read the words: “Come to Me all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest...” and a burden is lifted from us. When, at home, it becomes our practice to take that relatively short time needed to prepare ourselves and the lamps which burn before the icons, we cultivate that dispassion in which we can keep the peace which we acquired in the Temple. If we nurture and cultivate that steady, quiet light, if in all of our activities we strive to live in the light, we can subdue our passions, and can become beacons~ to draw to the refuge of the Orthodox Church those who are heavy laden with the passions and temptations. May God grant us all the strength and discernment to persevere.

Thursday, August 9

Saint Herman...

Joyful North Star of the Church of Christ,
Guiding all people to the Heavenly Kingdom;
Teacher and apostle of the True Faith;
Intercessor and defender of the oppressed;
Adornment of the Orthodox Church in America:
Blessed Father Herman of Alaska,
Pray to our Lord Jesus Christ
For the salvation of our souls!
The Learning Basket for Saint Herman can be found HERE.

Wednesday, August 8


I have now been consistently knitting for about two weeks!  I started off just knitting away with some white cotton yarn and by last Sunday had decided that I would bind off on that and find a washcloth pattern to use.  I spent some time looking on the internet and was a bit discourage by the fact that I didn't know how to read patterns.  Eventually I landed on the blog Homespun Living (which I have enjoyed reading in the past!) and found Deb's patterns to be easy to follow!  

I decided that I was going to figure out how to make the Petite French Farmhouse Dishcloth Pattern No.1, but that I would do it all in white.  I watched a video on purling on YouTube and after a little while got it down!  As of tonight, I have made eight washcloths!  They are small and so I will be using them for bathing the little ones.  I also plan to knit three, bundle them with ribbon, and add a fancy bottle of baby soap for any new little ones that are born.  

My knitting goal for August is to get 30 washcloths made.  I'd like ten for bathtime and twenty for the kitchen.  I think that I will need kitchen washcloths that are a bit bigger, so I may branch out and find a new pattern to learn from Homespun Living.  Maybe the Waffle Knit Dishcloth? I'd really like to learn how to make the Baby Fern Stitch Dishcloth, but that might be pushing it for my skill level!

I am really looking forward to continuing to improve my knitting.  I am hoping to make scarves out of the blue and green yarn for our two older children and then perhaps make a little vest for Button.  It is nice to have the yarn shop nearby in case I get stuck!

What crafts are you learning now?

Tuesday, August 7

Holy Images...

Note:  Do not be alarmed by the subtitles...  this video is in English!

Monday, August 6


Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God,
revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it.
Let Thine everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners,
through the prayers of the Theotokos.
O Giver of Light, glory to Thee!
The Learning Basket for Transfiguration can be found HERE.

Sunday, August 5


Edith Carr did not understand herself.  She went to her room after her good-bye to Henderson, lay on her bed and tried to think why she was suffering as she was.

"It is my selfishness, my unrestrained temper, my pride in my looks, my ambition to be first," she said.  "That is what has caused this trouble."

Then she went deeper.

"How does it happen that I am so selfish, that I never controlled my temper, that I thought beauty and social position the vital things in life?"  she muttered.  "I think that goes a little past me.  I think a mother who allows a child to group up as I did , who educates it only for the frivolities of life, has a share in the child's ending.  I think my mother has some responsibility in this."  Edith Carr whispered to the night."
Gene Stratton-Porter

Saturday, August 4

Family Life in an Orthodox Rhythm...

By Matushka Valerie Zahirsky

Those colorful pages of store ads that come tucked into the Sunday newspaper tell us something about our culture. They tell us that every day has become the same as every other day. Here is the ad for chocolates wrapped in red and decorated with hearts on sale for Valentine’s Day. Identical chocolates but in a different shape and wrapped in red and green were on sale for Christmas. And a month from now, no matter how long it is till Easter, they’ll be offered for sale in egg or bunny shapes and wrapped in pastel colors. But it’s the same chocolate, the same sales pitch, the same enticing “sale price.” Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter — what’s the difference? One day is like all the others. We constantly experience this sad reduction of all days to one day. It’s certainly convenient in some ways (you can buy your chocolate any day of the week because the stores are always open) but sameness can be deadly, leading us almost imperceptibly from boredom to depression to despair.

An Antidote to Sameness
Standing as an antidote to this numbing sameness is the insistence of the Orthodox Church that all days are decidedly not the same. If we really pay attention to the rhythm of the church year and let it permeate our family life, we won’t be bored. We won’t be tempted to that despair that is the opposite of peace because it makes us feel angry and cheated: wasn’t there supposed to be more to life than this endless roll of identical days?
Our homes can reflect the peace of knowing that life is leading us somewhere, and that we are preparing for something. A simple act like keeping the Wednesday and Friday fast (not refraining altogether from eating, but refraining from animal products) can be a constant reminder that we are not bound to this world. We are in it, and we care for it and honor it as God’s creation, but we have a higher destiny, and fasting helps us prepare for that destiny by loosening the grip that this world has on us. We won’t die without meat and butter, we learn with relief. In fact, our bodies and souls may be lightened enough to hear God’s voice more clearly than before.

Another antidote to boredom is anticipation. This, too, is part of the Orthodox rhythm of life that can be reflected in our homes. Great Lent is a prime example. Our culture, if it pays attention to Lent at all, treats it as a somber period during which we must “give up” something. And even this has now become a joke. For several weeks before Easter the sign outside our local car wash reads “Don’t give up a clean car for Lent!”

But Great Lent in our families can be a period of nurturing a peaceful atmosphere that gives us time and mental quietude to prepare for the Resurrection. Cutting down on outside activities, giving less of our time to TV or radio, ignoring for just a few precious weeks the noisy entertainments that constantly grab at our attention — all these things can help us maintain a state of reflective anticipation. This is why the Church urges us to look at Great Lent as a gift rather than a deprivation. It is a gift of time — a piece of special time we are given to remember what a great victory has been achieved for us, and what a great destiny awaits us.

Like the Prodigal Son, we may have squandered everything our loving Father has given us. But we have the chance now to recognize, reflect on, and rectify that sin. We can go back to Him. He will receive us with love and without reproach. And when the day of the Resurrection comes, we will be among those once dead who now know that Christ has “trampled down death by death” for us. That knowledge is true peace.

We Belong to Someone
A major source of disquiet for many people in our culture is a feeling of rootlessness. We want to belong; we want to have a purpose in common with others. This is another gift the Church offers us, and one we should strive to share with those not yet in the Church. We belong, first of all, because we are one with the creation of God that worships Him and acknowledges Him as its maker. Jesus Christ referred to this when He said to the Pharisees who wanted Him to rebuke His cheering disciples, “If these should keep silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19: 40).

Because we are part of, in fact the crowning glory of, God’s creation, we share with the rest of creation the privilege of offering Him our thanks. This is beautifully expressed in one of the hymns for Christmas:

Every creature made by Thee offers Thee thanks: The angels offer a hymn; the heavens, a star; The wise men, gifts; the shepherds, their wonder; The earth, its cave; the wilderness, a manger. And we offer Thee a virgin mother!

A family standing together in front of a candlelit icon of the Nativity of Christ and singing or reciting this hymn can certainly feel the peace and wonder of knowing that we have a place in God’s creation.

Icons reassure us that we also belong to the long-established family of God’s people. For example, in the icon known as the “Hospitality of Abraham,” based on Genesis 18, the three seated figures represent the angels who visited Abraham with good news. But the Church understands them as representing the Holy Trinity as well. Looking at the icon, we remember that we are not only the “heirs of the promise” made to Abraham; we are also the sons and daughters of the Triune God who showed Himself to us in Jesus Christ. To have icons prominently visible in our homes , and to talk as families about what they represent, can bring us the peace of knowing who we are and whose we are.

Wonderful Promises
A few years ago, a beer company advertised its product with the slogan, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Now, conviviality is a fine thing (though it doesn’t always have to be beer-induced). But if there are people who really believe that human conviviality is “as good as it gets,” they haven’t yet heard the Gospel message.

Our homes can be places where we proclaim that message and challenge the idea that some limited earthly happiness is all we can ever expect. Look at the icon of the Ascension: Christ goes up in glory, leaving us with promises that tell us what we can really expect. He has said, “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also” (John 14: 3.)

What is this place that Christ goes to prepare for us? As Saint Paul writes, it is wonderful beyond our ability to conceive: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor 2: 9). So we needn’t scramble to find some meaning in this earthly life, or to measure its value in terms of beer. Icons and Scripture remind us of the promises of God. They tell us that His purpose and plan are at work for us. We must work to fulfill the plan and purpose, but we can be at peace knowing that He has declared the great things He has in store.

Just by displaying the icon of the Ascension, we create an opportunity to talk about these things in our families. We can offer a mealtime prayer thanking God for His promises, and asking His strength to help us be worthy of them in our lives. Feeling a sense of life’s divine purpose will contribute to our families’ peacefulness of heart. It will dispel the restlessness that constantly disturbs those who search for meaning and who know perfectly well that if it “doesn’t get better than this,” there is not much point in it at all.

Choosing a Different Course
D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” is the story of a family whose mother is bent on becoming socially prominent. Her ambitions drive her to need more and more money, and the pressure of this is reflected in the family. Lawrence writes that the house itself seems constantly to whisper, “There must be more money. There must be more money.”
The loving young son in the family wants to help his mother. He discovers an extraordinary talent in himself: by riding his rocking horse with great attention and intensity, he can discover the names of winners in future horse races. He does this for several months, placing bets through the family’s gardener and secretly giving his winnings to his mother.
But the huge effort takes a terrible toll on the boy, as his mother’s ambitions and needs grow. She worries about his deteriorating condition, but has no idea what is causing it. The boy finally works himself to death on his rocking horse in one last extreme effort to still the whisper of “There must be more money.”

Though Lawrence’s story is set in England decades ago, it reverberates in our society today. Many families and homes are uneasy because of a perceived need to accumulate as much money and “stuff” as possible. This need can drive us unrelentingly, especially because the ability to accumulate is widely seen as a sign of success.

Once again, the Church offers us a chance to step back and take another look at those things that may be driving us. The troparion used for several saints, including the beloved Nicholas of Myra, contains these words: “Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.”
Suppose this line from the hymn was made part of a family discussion with the question, “What do you think these words mean?” Suppose too that the discussion could be brought around to the idea that many saints chose material poverty in order to pursue spiritual riches without any distractions. This idea might open up a whole new way of thinking for our children, so accustomed to seeing prominent figures who are willing to do almost anything to pile up wealth for themselves.

We can look at more recent Church members. The Grand Duchess Elizabeth, sister of the last Russian Tsarina, Alexandra, was one of the most beautiful and privileged women of her time. Raised a Protestant, she eventually embraced Orthodoxy and wrote letters to her grandmother, Queen Victoria, explaining her choice. After her husband’s assassination, she chose monasticism, and she chose martyrdom in Russia during the Revolution, though her fellow European royals would gladly have gotten her out of Russia before her arrest, had she chosen to leave. But she refused to abandon the nuns in the monastery she served as abbess, nor could she turn her back on the poor and needy people of Moscow who depended on her.
It may be that we and our children will not make choices that go so dramatically against the mainstream as Saints Nicholas and Elizabeth did, but by offering us examples of people who made such choices and who achieved spiritual greatness, the Church reminds us that this path is at open to us no less than to them. That knowledge can bring peace to people — young or old — who have to make a living in the success-oriented world, but who also seek the Kingdom of God.

Everybody Fits In
We all know that each human being is unique, yet most of us want to “fit in.” For some people that is much harder than for others. Unusual personalities or interests, even physical appearance, can make being part of the group difficult. For children and young people especially, this can be a real problem, troubling to the soul.
The great panoply of saints can offer peace to a troubled young soul. If in our homes we follow the daily calendar of saints, we can introduce our children to holy people so varied in their abilities and personal styles that anyone can find a “model” in one of them, if not more than one.

The saints’ stories are often surprising. Who would have thought that gentle Saint Nicholas could strike anyone, even the arch-heretic Arius? The stories of the saints open several layers of meaning that invite us to dig deeper into them. For example, Saint Simeon the Stylite, living on his pillar, intrigues us with his approach to holiness. It adds to our amazement to learn that he did not stay in isolation, but counseled and prayed for the countless people who came to him for advice and guidance. Perhaps most surprising of all, when his monastic elders asked him, as an obedience, to come down from the pillar where he had become such a revered figure, Simeon did so immediately. There is much to be learned and contemplated in these “layers” of Saint Simeon’s story!

All the saints’ lives tell us that any person, and any kind of person, can find the peace of God.
If we can make our homes places that reflect God’s love, our children will believe that Jesus Christ speaks the truth when He says, “My peace I give to you… Let not your hearts be troubled; neither let them be afraid” (John 14: 27).
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