Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Growing Room


One year ago today, Bishop +ANTOUN blessed and officially broke ground for our new temple.

 Then he handed the shovel over to the little ones!  The children took turns digging a scoop of dirt to officially kick off construction of our new place of worship.

A member of our parish created this amazing replica
of the future building, in cake!!!

And here we are today!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Halloween

Once a year I feel compelled to mention this topic, though it is such a controversial subject among believers. There are those who feel strongly both ways. I would ask that whatever your opinion, you at least take the time to consider the following: how do we make the decision to participate or to not participate?  I would suggest the same way we make all decisions as Orthodox Christians, by looking at what the Bible, the Church Fathers and the Canons say.

"...Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
 Phillipians 4:8

If that is what we are to hold up and think about, the lovely, the gracious, the worthy of praise, how does Halloween measure up? There is nothing lovely about glorifying death. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what the Church is about.We celebrate life. We are weeks from entering into a time of honoring the incarnation of our Savior. We begin turning our hearts and minds to the fact that God humbled himself by becoming fully man in order to destroy death. Think about that just a minute. The One True God, all powerful, all knowing, all honorable. Put on flesh. Lived on this earth. Suffered temptation from Satan. Endured mockery, pain, death. Entered Hell. CRUSHED DEATH. FOR US. Why would we want to celebrate that which He endured so much to destroy?

So, for me, no, it is not just all in good fun. It is not just a harmless night for children to dress up and get free candy. IT IS A NIGHT THAT HOLDS UP ALL WE REJECT. IT IS A NIGHT FOR SATAN. So, my question is "why?" Why would we WANT to participate? Because it is fun? Because it is uncomfortable to keep our kids home from Halloween parties? Because someone might make fun of us or our children? Because we don't want our kids to "miss out"?

Each morning as we read the lives of men and women who gave their lives rather than eat food sacrificed to idols, children who died rather than bow to anyone other than God, how can we ask those questions? I think of the mothers who encouraged their children to martyrdom.  They weren't worried their kids would be made fun of - they were worried their children might not attain eternal communion with God. They didn't try to protect their children from embarrassment, they exhorted them to stand strong against the world, a world that hated them and their God. This world still hates us, and it hates our God. So, give your children the strength to stand against evil, teach them to be martyrs!

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22

If you are interested in reading what others have to say on this topic - here is a selection of links to articles that say far better than I what our duty is as Orthodox Christians in this world. If you have never given this issue thought, or if you are unsure about what is right, I challenge you to take the time to read at least one of these articles.

Finally, on the practicality of the issue. I really do encourage you to consider keeping your kids out of school Halloween celebrations if your school participates in such events. Avoid too much shopping with your children over this  time. I try to limit the places we go during this time, since even a trip to the local drugstore is full of nightmarish images that can affect a young one in ways we often don't realize until much later. My daughter had years of nightmares from a grocery trip to Sam's where she turned a corner to be faced with a life-sized plastic witch. The night of October 31 has always been stressful for me, with young kids how do you avoid the ringing bell? Our former parish used to have an Akathist to the patron saint of our church. What better place to be on this night, than in church, praying for the world?  This year, with Halloween on a Wednesday, we have the blessing of regularly scheduled Vespers.  A sister parish has a prayer service followed by a meal and skits on the lives of saints performed by the children.  If your parish does not offer a service that evening, gather with a few friends (preferably in a home that is not in a suburban neighborhood if possible :) and say the prayers yourself. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Did you know?

Did you know there is a miniature church sitting on the altar which holds the reserved consecrated Gifts for the sick and those unable to commune on Sunday?  Did you know that the light you see always burning on the altar is called the presence lamp, and that it is there to remind us that Christ is physically present upon that altar always?  Did you know we bow and cross ourselves when we enter the church, pass in front of the altar, and leave the church in order to acknowledge and reverence that we are standing in the presence of Christ every time we enter the church?  Did you know there is a beautiful golden silk cloth with an icon of Christ in the tomb called the antimins, and it is upon this the Gifts are placed when they are being consecrated?  Did you know that the Gospel book has an icon of the crucifixion on the front, and the Resurrection on the back, and that the back is always placed up on Sunday since we are taking part in the Resurrection every Sunday?  Did you know there is a "star" that is placed over the bread before it is consecrated?  I spent the last few weeks creating the cards for our altar works for the Level 2 children in our catechesis, and these are just a few of the things these children will be coming to understand in the atrium.  It has been such a joy to experience working with these older ones, they bring a different kind of delight into the atrium.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Toy

I usually avoid kitchen "gadgets".  Give me a knife and a cutting board and I will go to town.  I actually find chopping vegetables to be a very enjoyable, perhaps even therapeutic activity.  But this summer I also was really trying to use every last vegetable from the garden and the CSA, and in search of some different ways to use all those vegetables I pulled out a few cookbooks collecting dust on the shelf.  The result is a flip back through a "cook"book on raw foods and the impulse to purchase a spiro*li.  The result, a newly found love of zucchini "noodles"!  The kids thought they were made from cucumber, which made them all the more appealing.  Looking for something to top those noodles with?  Well, just wait and I will share with you the best balsamic vinegar I have ever tasted!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fairy Party: The Fun

So, what do you do to entertain more than a dozen little fairies?  Well, not too much is required.  Party activities consisted of dressing up......

.....face painting.....
(I let 2 of the oldest girls take this challenge on, and they did quite a nice job)

......polishing of toe and finger nails.....

........and building fairy gardens!

Inexpensive birdhouses stained by the crocodile hunter, ceramic pots fitted with styrofoam and covered with moss.........

.....and a buffet of lovely naturals to create their very own fairy garden to take home!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Necessity, the mother of new skills

Yeah, I now know how to use a scroll saw.  Chalk it up to the lack of volunteer talent within our parish, the determination of a handful of catechists, and one parishioner with a father who had an old saw and no use for it!  Woodworking has never been a hobby I exactly longed to explore, but freedom from begging others or paying for the many little pieces needed for all of the parable work in the atrium is something I CAN APPRECIATE!   And maybe in my spare time I could tackle a few projects from Wee Folk Art.   Ok, maybe not anytime soon, but a girl can dream.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wisdom from Little Ones

There are moments that make me smile, and moments that make me stop and realize how little I understand.  And there are children who seem to be restless, unable to settle into the atrium.  They wiggle, don't look at me and seem to be in another world when receiving a presentation.  Then out of their mouths come some of the most beautiful and profound words, and I realize that no, they aren't listening to me, thank the Lord.  Rather they are hearing the sweet whispers of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.  They can tune to those whispers easier than I, they have fewer obstructions blocking their vision, their hearts are more open.  Those are the moments when all the work is forgotten.  Those are the moments when all the frustrations, complaints, broken materials, and long hours disappear.  Those are the moments I learn to be still and to listen with them.  And when I stop, and listen with them, these are the things I am blessed to hear:

A child at the baptism area, lighting his candle over and over again:

"They had light, and more lights, and no dark.  Had a meal, then it was night and they went to bed.  It was all light so no hurtness could be around.  Seven candles, then they had light in the world, but not the sun."
A third year child crossing himself as he prays in the baptismal area

Another morning a child sang these words while lighting his candle:

"Light, light, light.
God is good.
He loves us, He loves us.
A second year child at the Mystical Supper materials

Months later, that same child, a four year old boy, spent 20 minutes at the model altar, asking me to sing song after song.  Then he completed his work and went over to the baptism area.  Once his baptismal candle was lit, he stood before the table for several minutes, lifting his light up into the air over his head, singing softly over and over again:

"My light is growing, my light is growing."

301. wiggly, jumpy little boys
302. sweet words from children
303. unconditional love from little ones
305. brutal honesty because all they know to tell you is the truth
306. children who don't worry about how poorly I sing, and instead can hear the beauty of the words in spite of my inability to carry a tune
307. mornings in the atrium, where I too can learn to slow down and be still, and know that He is God

Friday, October 12, 2012

Finally! the Hazel skirt

I love this skirt.  I am not kidding, it takes about 2 hours to make. 

 I had one finished weeks ago, but just couldn't seem to slow down long enough to get the other two completed.

So I stayed up late the night before our beach vacation and finished the other skirts.

The girls wore them to dinner one night in a quaint little sea side village.  I saw this cute table and bench so I had them pose for photos.

 Only after I starting snapping photos did I notice that the dress in the window coordinated with their shirts!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fairy Party: The Table

A fairy party really should be held in the gardens; where else would fairies play?  While I waited until just hours before the party to get it all out, we were fortunate, as the tail end of hurricane storms delayed a day and the predicted rain didn't arrive to spoil our fun.  Had the rain come down, we would have pulled everything under a covered porch (and I would have been a mess :)

Grapevine wreath suspended from a tree, draped with sheer fabric found on clearance and used for previous parties.  White sheets make the perfect table cloth - they bleach easily, they are big enough to drape, and my linen closet is full of them!  A bit of a splurge- the rose petals.  A few dozen roses (if you can get old ones they are discounting you can spend about $20 and really make an impact) deconstructed to decorate the grassy carpets with a bit of color around the table.  A few folding tables in the yard, along with nearly every chair we own will accommodate 14 guests ranging in age from 2 to 12.

A few flowering artificial branches mixed in among branches from the yard made for an impressive main arrangement.......

....while smaller fresh blooms burst from tea pots and tea cups.

And a sweet friend can always be counted on this time of year to provide an abundance of garden grown zinnias to add extra color and homegrown delight.  Small doves and bird nests were scattered along the length of the table, scavenged from the Christmas decorations boxes.

Mix and match plates always work well for a garden party, so a selection of patterns were set out....

.....and c*rning ware dishes and glass jars were planted with moss and ferns dug from the yard and turned into tiny fairy gardens with the addition of furniture items borrowed from the dollhouse.
This is the perfect time of year to snag a few fairy statues, when all of the garden decor goes on clearance at your local hobby store.  I bought these 8 years ago and they have been used for three different fairy birthdays now, so at $7 each they were a deal!

And upon her arrival, each fairy guest found her very own set of fairy attire hanging from her chair.

An aerial view of all the little fairies feasting.

And here is what things looked like at the end of the night .......

......little ones gone, food put away, candles still flickering in the dark.  I am sure there were some pixie visitors just waiting for us to all go to bed so they could continue the festivities!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Summer Thanksgivings

Before I fully embrace the cooler weather, berries on my dogwood and changing leaves, I am taking a look back at all the fun and beauty that was this summer, so here are a few of my summer joys and blessings.

287. seven hour concert - singing along with the Brothers of the Sun

288. karaoke with friends after Vespers on Saturday nights

289. performing "Livin' on a Prayer" with my gals, who are wonderfully forgiving of my out of tune singing!

290. discovering Downton Abbey and Doc Martin

291. the Feast of the Dormition, standing by her tomb, offering prayers every evening

292. the abundant and beautiful liturgies of September

293. the Life Giving Cross of our Lord

294. opening our Level 2 atrium

295. toes in the water, toes in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold margarita in my hand!

296. holding hands with my husband of 18 years

297.  watching my kids jump into the ocean, pure delight and joy on their faces

298. paddle-boarding for the first time! 

299. walks on the beach at night

300.  seven days of sitting on the beach, building margin into our lives and doing nothing but 
enjoying time with my family 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fun at Co-op

Flying kites they made, just like Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fairy Party: The Frocks

Every fairy needs a frock, so with a bit of coordinating with the moms of our guests, we matched skirts, wings and fairy crowns with leotards or shirts the girls already owned.  Once the colors for each girl were known (and waist measurements), we went to work creating skirts fit for a fairy queen.  First, yards and yards of tulle!  For several months I collected tulle on sale (best deal - H*bby Lobby at 77 cents a yard!).  Pink, purple, blue, brown, green, yellow, red, black, plain tulle, shimmery tulle, glittery tulle, tulle in every color imaginable. Needless to say, we did not stick to a pastel color scheme, but rather represented the colors of an abundant garden, overflowing with flowers of all seasons!

I have tried several different techniques in the past for creating fairy skirts.  One year my sister-in-law and I used a length of ribbon for the waistband, cut 14 inch squares of sheer fabric and tied one corner of each square to the ribbon.  One year I found inexpensive fairy skirts from Orient*l Trading.  This year, I found a simple pattern from Lazy Mama Designs, and I think these skirts are the best ones so far!

They were incredibly easy to make; in fact, I can't take credit for making more than a couple of them.  Dimples godmother offered to help, so she got started and cranked out the first 4-5 skirts one afternoon.  Once the elastic waistband is sewn, the rest of this project is stitch free!  

Then, as time ran short, I put the Little Princess to work, and she worked for two days straight, making the rest of the skirts!

I also had a few skirts leftover from the last fairy party, which consisted of a length of tulle folded in half and a waist band stitched into it, with ribbon threaded through the waist, and flowers and small bells placed into the folded skirt.

Upon arrival, each fairy guest located her garments and quickly dressed for the evening.  Tags were inspired by this lovely fairy party.  Each girls name was printed on their tag (names shopped out to protect privacy :)

Soon our woods were full of colorful fairies, running, jumping, swinging and playing!
After seeing all their lovely skirts - I want one too!  Might make that a project for the next fairy party.