It is a time of much challenge to those that are Christians throughout this whole world.  It is a time for us to remember that we must nourish our minds and souls with the words of our Lord and our Church Fathers.  For in this nourishment we will find strength and courage and wisdom. Let me share with you then, some words that I find nourishing to my mind from the sources that I thrive upon - The Holy Bible, books and sources on the saints and church fathers, and various other books and sources related to my Orthodox Faith.  I hope you will gain from them as I do.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us.

 

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“The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord. That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.”

...continue reading "Peaceful Reflections"

While you are waiting for me to post more on homeschooling, I thought I'd give you an overview of what the little guy is doing.....

So I took a picture of my planning area today where I spent time writing in plans for next week (using plans from the Ambleside Week 8 to guide me)

2015-09-10 15.29.35 HDR

 

and  my lesson plan book.

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Here are the materials we will be using next week if all goes well!

Bible, Religious Studies and Habit Training
Bible, Religious Studies and Habit Training
Nature Study
Nature Study
Language: Reading and Writing
Language: Reading and Writing
Literature
Literature
Math
Math
History
History
Artist/Picture Study
Artist/Picture Study

 

There it is! Most of the materials we will be using during week 8 of Year One using Ambleside as a guide.  If you have any questions from the photos as you wait for more homeschooling posts to come, drop by and let me know in the comment section!  Have a great week!

10

Well summer started just the other day and I realized we are halfway into the year!  This got me thinking back on my posts during January -  one on New Year's Resolutions (I realized I'm doing at least somewhat well with  7-8  of the resolutions I set for myself and not so well with about  7  of them and the one on books I wish to read by the end of this year.  Here's my progress on that list!:

NEWBERRY MEDAL BOOKS:  (I've read a few of these but really need to get cracking!)

  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead  (book review)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman*
  • Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz*
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech  (book review)
  • Missing May by Cynthia Rylant  (book review)
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
  • Carry On Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
  • ?  still deciding....  (Rifles For Waite)  
  • ?  still deciding
* They are not in the picture because I haven't purchased them yet!

HOMESCHOOL SOURCES: (Doing well here)

  • Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Englemann - I've read the parts I need to 'read' but we are still using it for the exercises so I don't count it as totally completed yet! (We are over the halfway point...see my recent post on that here)
  • Exploring America by Ray Notgrass -  Reading Book #2 with my son for school
  • Laying Down The Rails - Sonya Shafer
  • The Early Years - Shafer & Smith
  • All Day Charlotte Mason Seminar  &  The Books and Things Seminar - DVDs and workbooks presented by Simply Charlotte Mason
  • When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper

THE WRITING CRAFT:  (not great, but not bad either)

  • Writing Picture Books: A Hands on Guide From Story to Creation by Ann Whitford Paul
  • 2014 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market
  • A Family of Readers - The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature  (started)
  • Honey For A Child's Heart - The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life  (this one easily falls into the Homeschooling category as well as A Family of Readers) (started...I think I'm about a third of the way in)

ORTHODOXY:

  • The Orthodox Study Bible - yes, I've already read it 🙂  But the bible is a daily must no matter how many times one has read it  (Trying to use a recent recommendation and keeping it lying open in a spot that I pass by often.... it's open to the psalms - also reading a bible commentary on the book of Luke)
  • The Faith by Clark Carlton
  • Inner River: A Pilgrimage to the Hart of Christian Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides
  • The Open Door by Frederica Mathewes-Green (just started again recently)
  • 2014 Daily Lives, Miracles and Wisdom of the Saints (Fasting Calendar by The Orthodox Calendar Company) (ugh.... not doing well with keeping up with this...yikes... not even sure where it is...need to locate and put by the bedside again or maybe with my bible commentary)

FOOD/NATURAL HEALTH:(uh, yeah, well....... not doing so well here...I keep getting distracted by fiction! LOL)

  • The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
  • The Coconut Miracle by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.
  • It Starts With Food by Dallas & Mellissa Hartwig - I've read this before but I have a feeling I'll be reading it again...it was that good and packed with great information.
  • ??  More to be Determined!

OTHER FICTION: (GLIMPSE was just released....maybe I'll talk my DH into stopping by the mall today so I can see if I can pick it up!  Hope it's as good as it sounds!)

  • Dr. Sleep by Stephen King  ***  I couldn't let this one go by, no matter how many other books I'm reading!  It's the sequel to The SHINING....my first Stephen King book that I ever read!   (see my post on it here)
  • Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff - a Newberry Honor Book (See my book review)
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson  -  sadly it's not in the picture because it doesn't come out until January 7th.... but I should be getting it delivered that day!!  (Wrote a post on this one.....still feeling the pain of the protagonist... will probably read this one again but maybe not this year)
  • Glimpse - the debut novel by Kendra  Leighton... apparently based on the epic poem, The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes... this book is due out in August.
  • The Red Badge of Courage (my son is reading this one this year and I never have)
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Another my son is reading)
  • The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (And another)
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare (My son's first Shakespeare - wish us luck!) (started.....oops...forgot to finish although my son did....hmmm...read before we watch the Netflix DVD that's on the TV stand or after???)
  • Others, if time, To Be Determined.....

PICTURE BOOKS:

  • No current list made.... I'm sure there will be tons....  at the very minimum we go to the library every 2-3 weeks and get at least 12-15 books..... that should involve a lot of reading!  (Yep....been reading A LOT of these.... LOVING IT!)

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I'm not giving up on the New Year's Resolutions either.  I decided to print out my list and keep it by my bedside to use as a marker for whatever my current bedside book is so that I have a visual reminder each evening, allowing me to keep them more present in my mind.

How are you doing on your resolutions for the year and reading goals?

2

My little boy likes to scurry over to the isle as the priest walks by with the censor at the beginning of the service so he can deeply inhale the incesne.  He was very upset this past week when there were too many people in our aisle for him to get by in time.  We'll have to remember to stand closer to the end by the isle next time!      

The Orthodox Church service always uses incense in our worship.  The Orthodox Church Liturgy addresses all of the senses and incense, of course, calls upon the sense of smell.  Physical symbols are an important part of worship and incense is one physical reminder of the special purpose at hand while we are present within the church [other physical reminders include water in Baptism, kneeling, etc.] and symbolizes our prayers ascending to God in His heavenly kingdom.

The bible refers to the use of incense in worship. The first mention is in Exodus 25:6, where God listed it among the offerings He desired from the people of Israel.  God also included incense in His detailed directions to Moses for the building of the altar in the tabernacle. And later, God became angry with Israel when they offered incense to foreign gods.  In Psalm 142:2, David says, "Let my prayer arise before you as incense."  In the New Testament, Zacharias was offering incense in the temple when the angel appeared to him and the wise men who came to worship Christ offered gifts of "gold, frankincense, and myrrh".  Incense is also mentioned several times in the Book of Revelation indicating that it is present in heaven.

Incense, however, was not commonly used by the Church during the first three centuries.  This, unfortunately, was due to the the Romans practice of asking Christians to renounce their faith and accept pagan worship and having the person offer incense to the image of the Roman emperor as a test to their renunciation. When this terrible era of persecutions ended, the Church was able to reintroduce incense into worship in its proper way.

Many Orthodox Christians use incense in their homes, the domestic church,  as a  physical and symbolic reminder (one of many). For when we use incense in worship the way we do, it doesn't matter where we are or what we are doing, we are reminded of the  Kingdom of God.

LORD, I Have Cried Out Unto You: hear me! Hear me, O Lord!
Lord, I Have Cried Out Unto You: hear me!
Receive the voice of my prayer!
When I call upon You, hear me, O Lord!
Let my prayer arise in Your sight as incense,
And let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Hear me, O Lord!

4

My son is in those beginning stages of reading.  He's 3 1/2.  It's so exciting!

While I can't say I've sat down with him to do actual reading lessons on any sort of daily basis, I've done some things with him that I think are pretty important for parents to do.  And the first and foremost thing to do, of course, is READ!!!

My son's shelf is full of books!  Well, actually, my house is full of books.  He has picture books filling his shelf in his room.... two really.  One full of board books and those less expensive books from the dollar store and garage sales that I don't mind him bending or tearing pages of that he can have access to at all times.  Another, higher shelf that has the picture books that I'd rather not have torn quite yet.  And, of course, there's a basket of books in the living room and the stack of library books are, well, I think they are scattered at the moment!

I can't say it enough.  Reading is so vital.  We actually began reading to him when he was in the womb.  And that actually wasn't me.  That was my son. (The teenager 🙂 )  He would talk to him and sometimes read a well-loved Dr. Seuss book.

I don't know that reading to children in the womb is necessary for good reading skills.  I'm betting not.  I think that helps though to recognize voice patterns and the tones of those in their environment.  And it certainly can't hurt.

Usually reading starts after birth.  Of course we just started with little plastic books and board books that he could finger with.  He loved books with bright pictures and books that had some texture...and apparently they didn't taste bad either. 😉  In this stage, it's just pointing at pictures and telling him colors and names of objects and maybe telling him what the objects do.

I would say as soon as he was able to really sit up in my lap is when I started the ritual of bedtime stories.  Of course it was very simplistic at first.  Just looking at one of those simple books with the pictures and talking about it.  Then we moved on to simple board books that told a story but were short and sweet.... like Where's Spot?

By the time he was a year old, we were reading 3 times a day.  While I'm not sure he really retained the 'stories' from his bible story book, he did listen and look at the pictures and I'm sure it helped him recognize terms (God, Jesus, angel, etc.).  We continue to read these and as time goes on, he is pointing to various pictures and showing recognition of the people in them.  We also read at rest time and at bedtime.  My goal is always a minimum of 7 books a day in addition to his bible storybook.  No particular reason for the number...it's just what I decided on.

Reading is of vital importance.  Daily reading is essential.  If you don't know why, let me share some interesting tidbits with you:

  • Reading to young children promotes language acquisition and literacy development and, later on, achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school. The percentage of young children read aloud to daily by a family member is one indicator of how well young children are prepared for school. Yet, recent studies on family reading suggest too many youngsters go without the benefit of a family member reading to them.  (RIF.org)
  • Reading builds a stronger relationship between you and your child.  While it's obvious (at least to me) that reading prepares the stepping-stones to academic success, it may not be as obvious that it gives opportunity for you and your child to bond.  There is usually close proximity between the reader and the child, whether it's the child sitting in the lap or very close by.  There is interaction between the reader and the child as the child may ask questions and the reader clarifies or comments and as they both laugh together at the antics of fictional characters.  The reader and child are able to talk about their observations and feelings about what they are reading and share about things that may not come up in other daily interactions.
  • Reading does prepare stepping-stones to academic success.  The child is introduced not only to sounds and new vocabulary, but to the basic process of reading a book.  The child observes how the book is opened and left to right progression as the reader turns the pages and it is good to point to the words as you read again demonstrating left to right progression and you may be amazed at how quickly the child can pick up on common sight words they see over and over.  My son's first recognized word was STOP.... from the delightful book Go Dog Go by Dr. Seuss.  He loves to shout that word out when we are on the right page and he started pointing out this word on Stop signs all on his own.
  • The Children's Reading Foundation suggests reading to your child at least 20 minutes a day.  They state that reading to your child from birth literally wires brain cells together in networks that later facilitate independent reading.

So....  we read to our children.  (Yes, I actually still read to my teenager...he enjoys it.  I love it!)  It's the part of the day I enjoy the most.  And yes, he(our toddler) does know quite a few words already.  This doesn't mean every child that's read to will recognize words by 3.  But just because he or she doesn't, does not mean that the time you spend reading with your child doesn't matter because it does!!  So grab a book off the shelf and start reading!!  🙂

I want this T-shirt!!! But I couldn't find anywhere to actually purchase it...  🙁

1

Today I write of Mary, the greatest woman who ever lived.  She is known to the Orthodox as the Theotokos.  I hope, even if you are not Orthodox, you will read this to find out why we Orthodox Christians highly honor this blessed lady.

A vast majority of Protestants are under the impression Orthodox Christians worship Mary (Theotokos).  This is simply not true.  She is honored greatly.  She is not worshipped.  Worship is for God. And while I know I am one person that cannot sway the mind of someone who has committed to this thought the majority of their lives', I hope that I can at least put a thought into their mind...that perhaps this idea is inaccurate and perhaps he or she could do a little further research before deciding to stick to this conclusion.  And maybe, just maybe, he or she will have a little better understanding of why we do honor Mary and why he or she  should as well.

Theotokos is a Greek term meaning 'birthgiver of God'.  This is the Virgin Mary.  This is the woman who was the first to accept Christ into her life. This is the woman who played an immense role in man's redemtion by her consent to bear Christ. This is the woman that leads us to Christ.  This is the woman the bible has shown us that we should honor. This is she who contained Christ, God who is uncontainable, within her womb.

The bible tells us that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.   The prophet, Isaiah, predicted this conception.  It is written, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).

We honor Mary because she is the mother of Jesus Chrsit.  Mary was not just any random young girl.  Mary had found favor with God.  "Do not be afraid, Mary," said Gabriel, " for you have found favor with God"( Luke 1:30). Mary was chosen by God for an honor that will always be hers alone. And Mary accepted the task given to her.  Mary had free will.  Mary could have run and hid from the angel.  Mary could have protested.  But Mary was willing.  She answered the angel, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).   In this action, Mary was the first to accept Christ into her life.

In accepting Christ into her life, accepting her role of the incarnation, Mary played an immense part of man's redemtion:

"Christ saves men, who have fallen through their own fault into the power of the devil, by breaking that power. He became Man for this purpose; He lived and died and rose again that He might break the chains by which men were bound. It is not His death alone, but the entire Incarnation, of which His death was a necessary part, that freed men from their captivity to Satan."           ~ Fr. John Romanides

The Holy Bible shows us that it is, indeed, fitting to honor Mary and that she is the mother of our Lord.  The angel Gabriel honored Mary,"Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, Blessed are you among women"Luke 1:28).  Gabriel told Mary that God had found favor with her (Luke 1:30). Mary herself, in offering one of the most magnificent prayer of praise to God, "My sould magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;  For behold, henceforth all generation shall call me blessed." Her favor was further established upon meeting with her cousin, Elizabeth, when the woman, upon seeing her, exclaimed,                " Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shuld come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43)

The icons of Mary you will find in Orthodox Christian churches and homes never depict an image of Mary alone.  All icons of Mary are with her son, Jesus Christ.  Mary is honored because of her son and the icons reflect that. The icons of Mary display the mother leading us closer to Him. She led us to him in her acceptance of her part in the incarnation and she lead people to follow him in her life (John 2:5) and she continues to lead us to Him in our life by her example.  She is often seen pointing in his direction or gazing adoringly into his eyes while holding the child out to us to behold with our own.

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Mary held our Lord and Savior in her womb for 9 months.  God, who is uncontainable, was contained within her.  For this and all of the above reasons given and so much more, Mary was the greatest woman who ever lived.  Mary was his mother, giving birth to our Lord.  He honored her and so should we.

Sources Used and Further Sources That May Interst You:

Books:

Other:

"He who is devout to the Mother of God will certainly never be lost."   ~St. Ignatius of Anticoh

7

I’ve got quite a variety of books going now. I’d thought I’d write a bit about my current ‘list’.

Book # 1 - One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This is one I actually started during Lent but did not get far into at that time. I was a little hesitant as I thought it may have a bit too much of a Protestant twist to it, but finding out that it is being read in quite a large Orthodox circle deepened my intrigue and I decided to give it a shot. I was impressed that she has quoted Alexander Schmemann. I am only into the third chapter or so of the book but really like her style of writing and am enjoying her thought process. While she does display some Protestant thought I am awed by her “Orthodox” thinking as well and wonder at how she isn’t Orthodox and think that her faith could be so much more were she to explore the Orthodox Church and not just read a bit of words by it’s theologians….. Her concept of a list is interesting and brings to mind the list I started a year ago. I wonder where it is. In a notebook with a brown cover I recall….but where is that notebook now? I have a feeling in the next day or so I may be searching for that notebook…or perhaps I may need to just start a new one.

Book # 2 - Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

I was hesitant on this one. Self-Help type books make me leery. I’ve been swayed entirely in the wrong direction by them in the past….of course, that was prior to my conversion to Orthodoxy and the wisdom it has granted me. With my faith in mind, I am sure to be less taken in by sheer nonsense of the self being more important than anything or anyone else, etc. but still remain suspicious of anyone lending help to perfect strangers when they do not possess that same faith. I was swayed into reading this one by the intensity of the description of the book by a loved one who is reading the book. It sounded like an interesting perspective of the anger concept that is so often experienced by many, if not all, of us. Some of us more so for various reasons. The first two chapters thus far have been touch and go. Interesting concepts mixed in with de-self talk that raises my eyebrows a bit. In the second chapter, I had to shake my head….the author tells of a ‘hypothetical’ issue between husband and wife who is seeking a job outside the home. The author assumes that though the husband says 'the children need you at home. I support your working, but I do not like to see the kids and the household neglected" that this is not the real issue? I don't know the couple she is talking of. It's probably a hypothetical couple. But the issue is not a hypothetical issue. I think it's wrong for her to assume that there is a different issue at hand. I KNOW that this is truly an issue in households and that it does NOT always mean there is an underlying issue rather than the one the husband states. I just dislike that psychologists ALWAYS seem to think there is an underlying issue. (I agree, there often is....but not ALWAYS) and this particular example irritates me. I think it is justifiable for a husband to be concerned about his children needing their mother at home, etc. and that it does NOT necessarily mean that his wife seeking an outside job puts him in touch with his dissatisfaction with his own job as the author implies.

The third chapter had me laughing the whole way through…but not from absurdity…because I was wondering when the author snuck into my home and hid in the corner watching my husband and I. The chapter described our relationship quite well! So I shall continue reading, staying leery but interested.

Book #3 From a Buick 8 - Stephen King

Stephen King has always been a favorite author of mine. Well okay, not always. Reading one of his books really irritated me and I actually stopped reading them for a period of time. I took personal offense to The Regulators in which he had an autistic boy be the evil character. I have a personal affection for the autistic. I couldn’t get past the ugliness of making such a person evil - not even from the great Stephen King. In time, I moved on and realized even a great talented writer can make mistakes. So while I still don’t like that book or his choice to use this disability for his writings, I still enjoy his creativity overall. This is a book that has actually been sitting on my shelf for quite awhile. I believe I recall hearing it was something that entered his mind while recovering from his accident while running (he was hit by a car). I’m not sure if that is true or not, but that’s my new just for entertainment fiction reading.

Book #4 Hatchet by Gary Paulson
This is the read-aloud book I am enjoying with my son. I read it a long time ago while teaching in an ‘inclusion classroom’. I’m enjoying it more with my son than I did the first time. J I love reading with my son.

Book #5 Windows to Heaven: Introducing Icons to Protestants and Catholics by Zelensky and Gilbert
This should be a good read. I am always struck senseless when I hear of Protestant thoughts on our icons. I don’t get it. I don’t understand why they don’t have visual images of our savior in their homes as a daily reminder of what we are to be grateful for and how we should be living our lives. I don’t understand why they don’t have a picture of the One we should love even more than the family members we picture and frame? While the book title addresses how to present these sweet images to Protestants, the book also addresses their misconceptions and why they struggle with understanding our veneration (NOT worship) of these images.

Book #6 The Pearl of Great Price: The Spiritual Journey of a New Age Seeker to the Light of Christ and the Eastern Orthodox Church by Veronica Hughes
This, I believe, is just as the title implies. I have only ready the introduction and forward thus far but am eager to get further into the story. I love reading about other peoples’ journey to the Orthodox Faith.

Yes, that’s six books. This is not unusual for me. Some of them may take me awhile…some may be done in a few days…perhaps they will all be done soon. It varies. It varies on how much they grab my interest and of course, my daily life. Sometimes I only get a few minutes a day that I can force myself to read. Sometimes more. I may put one on a shelf for awhile….I may add more to the list. I may just have this list for quite some time if life keeps me too busy. Of course, the only thing I can guarantee is that the book I will read almost daily but didn’t include on this list is the Holy Bible. And it WILL be read. Right now I’m working on three books in that one….Genesis(again) and Matthew (again) and ACTS (again….but with my family this time.) We hope to complete Acts before Pentecost.

Well---- that’s enough for now. Now it’s time to read…….

My son will be two years old at the end of the month.

He is our first child that is 'cradle Orthodox'.  It has already been a wonderous experience....the baptism, chrismation and of course the first communion and all of those to follow.  He has wonderful godparents whom we feel very close to.

His favorite activity is playing 'church'.  It started over a year ago.  He waves his plastic links, chained together, as though they are a censor.  As time went on, he learned to kiss icons and crosses, so each time he sees one he must kiss it.  It doesn't matter where it is....within reach or not, so sometimes this is a challenge as he gets rather upset if he can't.  He also takes them off the wall or the dresser and walks around the house with it, holding the icon or cross, or yes, even the bible, high above his head, singing in a tone quite similar to that of the priest....Could it be? "Blessed is the kingdom......"

Now, in addition to bible and censor, we have vestments.  His trusty blanket.  This is the blanket given to him by his godparents on his baptism day.  This is 'blankie'.  This is the beloved item that goes everywhere.  It now rests gently upon his shoulders, tied in a knot at his chin or, in a rather funny fashion, clipped on with a Pampered Chef Twix It Clip,.....  But alas, it drapes across his shoulders hanging down past his knees in the back.  He lifts up his arms, sings (Blessed is the Kingdom) and proceeds to do prostrations and crosses himself.

It is dear. 
It is precious.

It is etched into my memory forever.