Monday, November 17, 2014

40 Day Nativity Printable and getting organized

If you read my blog for very long, you'll find that there are two things that I love the most: special breads with special shapes for holidays and the Jesse Tree. I get so excited about them and love to share when they turn out lovely. But I'm really bad at, like, everything else - so don't take this organization as the standard for the rest of my life.

This year, I started early to organize my ornaments and readings - not quite so handmade, but neat and tidy and that makes me happy.

1. I bought an ornament storage box from Lowes. We now have two sets of ornaments, so I wanted a way to organize the ornaments by day - and easily see if we're missing something. This box has 48 compartments, so I put two days in the first four compartments to make room for 52. I wrote the numbers in the compartments with a gold pen. We'll keep the box under the tree (once we have a tree!).

2. I printed my Jesse Tree readings. I'm using the Jesse Tree readings from the festal celebrations group. They also provided some additional readings for each day, which are really nice. Somewhere I downloaded a pdf with the scripture readings and additional readings combined (I can't find the source for this pdf! does anyone know where it came from?), and I had this printed and coil bound at fed/ex kinkos. It can be pricey - but I'm always very happy with things I print there, and now we'll have a nice book for years to come.

We keep the book in a basket in the living room with our other read alouds and nativity books, and my Old Testament timeline in a plastic sleeve. We try to read at night after dinner, but don't sweat it if we get behind. I'm so grateful for all of the people who organized the Jesse Tree ornaments and readings in the first place! 

3. I made an easy 40 day Advent calendar printable. While I LOVE the Jesse Tree, it doesn't provide a visual way to see how far you've come/have left to go - and you can't find commercial calendars with 40 days. There are a lot of complicated projects you can do to make your own, but this year I made a simple printable instead. We put it on the fridge, and I thought we could draw the ornament symbol or X each day. Grab the PNG below to print.

These organizers aren't necessary, of course, but now they're done - they make my fast a bit simpler and prettier - and maybe they'll make next year easier, too. So hopefully I can continue to move through the fast a bit more quietly now.

Wishing you a good fast!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Old Testament Timeline Printable for Jesse Tree

Okay, I'll admit it: I started playing Christmas music yesterday. 

with a few sweet ornaments from our ornament exchange group
I'm getting ready for one of my favorite family traditions of the whole year. During the Nativity Fast we do a Jesse Tree, with readings and ornaments from the Old Testament that lead to the birth of Christ. I've noticed my children don't always have a good sense of how the different events relate to one another. For years, I've wanted a Bible Timeline to provide a context for the stories we tell. There are several commercial ones: most have a lot of text and dates and are more involved than I need. I really like this one with all the pictures, but its 10' long! That just won't work for our home. 

So I obsessed over it for 48 hours, and made my own. I drew a simple cartoon history of the Old Testament. It doesn't include every prophet and king and favorite story (because otherwise it would be 10' long!), but it provides a big picture, so when you're reading your favorite story you can point and say, "this happened here." I'm hoping it will help my kids develop a sense of the continuity of the story.

I drew the timeline over 5 sheets of paper, but through the magic of Adobe, I've squished it onto a single printable page. Yes, ONE page. The pictures are tiny, but they are simple and readable, so I think it works. 

And its for you, too! Wishing you a good Nativity fast! Grab the printable PDF here - it includes a black and white page, and one with a little color. 

If you don't want the teeny-tiny version, you can order it in poster form from Zazzle in various sizes and paper qualities. I haven't actually done this yet, but I might. Let me know if you do! Click the embedded poster image below to head over to zazzle.

*I've cross-posted this on wewilsons blog to share the fun.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Be the Bee Fan Art

Be the Bee is having a fan art contest - and I always love any fun art contest. The girls and I re-read Elder Paisios story about the bee and the fly (posted below) and  then drew some pictures. Contest continues until October 31! 

"I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories.  A third category does not exist; people either belong to one of the other.  The first one resembles the fly.  The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt.  For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground.  It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell.  If the fly could talk, and you asked it it show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like.  I only know where to find garbage, toilets, and dirt."  there are some people who resemble the fly.  People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively, and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on.  When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet.  Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: "I don't know.  I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil."  This is the second category of people who have a positive way of thinking, and see only the good side of things.  They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface." - Elder Paisios

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebrating St. Veronica!

This is our first year to celebrate Name Days in our family. I read a bit about what others do to celebrate (mostly like birthdays with cake and presents), but it didn't seem to work for us. We just celebrated the girls' birthdays this spring, just before this name day, and we've always made a big deal of birthdays, so it would seem strange to switch and this point. I hate to make another day about presents, too, and I really wanted this day to be about learning about the saint.

We celebrated St. Lucia Day last year, our very first name day celebration, and it was simple but really lovely with Lucy-buns for breakfast, we read the story book, and we made St. Lucia crowns.  So we modeled my younger daughter's name day after that celebration. We made a big breakfast with a candle and flowers and St. Veronica's icon on the table. While they were eating I read some of the stories about St. Veronica that I cobbled together from different sources. I especially liked the short piece written by Bishop Demetri (my sources are below).

Then we made handkerchiefs! We talked about the hem of Jesus garment as well as the legend of St. Veronica's veil, so a pretty handkerchief seemed to tie in nicely. We talked about what a "hem"is, and how we touch the hem of the priest's robe in the Great Entrance with faith like St. Veronica. We also talked about Veronica's simple and kind act toward Jesus on the way to the cross. I know some people have made handkerchiefs with an image of Christ on it, but I wasn't sure we could do it nicely, or what we'd do with the finished product - so we just made pretty handkerchiefs. I printed some embroidery templates I found online, and the girls colored them with iron on crayons. Then we ironed them onto the handkerchiefs. (I made these handkerchiefs myself from white fabric I had in my closet. I cut squares and hemmed them the day before. This was my last minute use-what-you-have plan.) 

We probably won't make handkerchiefs every year, but I think handkerchiefs have lots of craft and gifting potential. They will be a small way to reinforce the lessons we learn from St. Veronica each year, the way that candles will be for St. Lucia, apples for St. Euphrosynos, red eggs for St. Mary, etc.


 St. Veronica
1. The Gospel account and teaching: 
"The moment in which St. Veronica dares to touch Jesus – out of her great hope that He can heal her – can teach us a great deal about the immense power to be found in our trust that God loves us and wants to heal us of our infirmities!” – Bishop Demetri, Auxiliary Bishop, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (

2. The statue of Jesus she erected, as told by the historian Eusebius in the early 4th century:
“Since I have mentioned this city I do not think it proper to omit an account which is worthy of record for posterity. For they say that the woman with an issue of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel, received from our Saviour deliverance from her affliction, came from this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there. For there stands upon an elevated stone, by the gates of her house, a brazen image of a woman kneeling, with her hands stretched out, as if she were praying. Opposite this is another upright image of a man, made of the same material, clothed decently in a double cloak, and extending his hand toward the woman. At his feet, beside the statue itself, [2298] is a certain strange plant, which climbs up to the hem of the brazen cloak, and is a remedy for all kinds of diseases. They say that this statue is an image of Jesus. It has remained to our day, so that we ourselves also saw it when we were staying in the city. Nor is it strange that those of the Gentiles who, of old, were benefited by our Saviour, should have done such things, since we have learned also that the likenesses of his apostles Paul and Peter, and of Christ himself, are preserved in paintings, the ancients being accustomed, as it is likely, according to a habit of the Gentiles, to pay this kind of honor indiscriminately to those regarded by them as deliverers.” – Eusebius (

3.  The meaning of the name "Veronica" (from the Greek for Bernice) and the veil of Veronica. 
On the first Good Friday, St. Veronica was the woman who stepped out of the crowd and wiped the perspiring face of Christ as he struggled to carry the Cross on the road to Calvary. The cloth she used miraculously retained an imprint of the countenance of the suffering Messiah." From

4. The above website also includes the Stichera for Lord I have cried, which are really lovely. I couldn't keep my kids attention long enough to read these, but I'll hang on to them for the future:

Tone 8
By humbly and courageously touching the hem of Christ’s garment with faith/ Holy Mother Veronica/ your issue of blood of twelve years was healed by the Master/ who then endowed you with the gift of healing/ and as rivers of spiritual waters overflowing their banks// you water those sick and suffering, with the healing grace of God.

Your name means true image, /for with true compassion, you used your veil to gently wipe Christ’s face as he carried His Cross./ His image remained on your veil,/ and you carried His wonderworking icon and the gospel to those in need./ Holy Mother Veronica, //teach us to seek healing through the One True God and Savior of our souls.

Who would not wonder at and glorify faithfully the unseen miracles of humble Veronica? O the wonder and glory of God given grace! / Teach us by thy example/ to turn with faith to God for the healing of our souls and bodies.

Glory…   same tone
Your holy feast has become a bright heaven of salvation, / O Holy Mother Veronica, / that shines like the sun with the action of divine healings;/ your miracles of salvation shine like stars.// Teach us to pray with faith to Christ for the healing of our souls and bodies.

Troparion…  Tone 8
The image of God was preserved in you Holy Mother Veronica,
For taking up your cross you followed after Christ.
Teaching us to disregard the flesh for it passes away,
but rather to nurture the soul, for it is immortal.
Therefore, your spirit is rejoicing with the Angels Oh Holy Mother Veronica

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The whole universe is a cosmic Burning Bush

All things are permeated and maintained in being by the uncreated energies of God, and so all things are a theophany that mediates his presence. At the heart of each thing is its inner principle or logos, implanted within it by the Creator Logo; and so through the logoi we enter into communion with the Logos. It is to discover through our spiritual intellect that the whole universe is a cosmic Burning Bush, filled with the divine Fire yet not consumed.  
The contemplation of nature has two correlative aspects. First it means appreciating the “thusness” or “thisness” of particular things, persons and moments. “True mysticism,” says Oliver Clement, “is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.” Secondly, it means that we see all things, persons and moments as signs and sacraments of God. In our spiritual vision we are not only to see each thing in sharp relief, standing out in all the brilliance of its specific being, but we are also to see each thing as transparent: in and through each created thing we are to discern the Creator. 
Natural contemplation signifies finding God not only in all things but equally in all persons. When reverencing the holy ikons in church or at home, we are to reflect that each man and woman is a living ikon of God. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). In order to find God, we do not have to leave the world, to isolate ourselves from our fellow humans, and to plunge into some kind of mystical world. On the contrary, Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all those whom we meet. 
Many people who find the imageless prayer of silence altogether beyond their present capacity, and for whom the familiar phrases written in Scripture or in the books of prayer have grown dull and dry, can renew their inward life through the practice of natural contemplation. Nature and Scripture complement each other. In the words of St Ephrem the Syrian: “Wherever you turn your eyes, there is God’s symbol; Whatever you read, you will find there his type. Look and see how Nature and Scripture are linked together. Praise for the Lord of Nature. Glory for the Lord of Scripture.”
- from Chapter 6 of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mother Raphaela on Abundant Life

I am very slowly reading Growing in Christ, Shaped in His Image by Mother Raphaela.  The quote below from the first chapter especially struck me as counter cultural - the antithesis to Oprah and mommy-bloggers who are encouraging me to find my true identity, to not lose myself in the mundane work of motherhood. I am so tempted to look forward to the time when my children are sleeping so that I can have "me-time," or to feel glad when no one else shows up for prayers so I can pray alone. But these times alone are distractions from abundant life of love to which God calls us.

"It is a struggle to have a life of our own, distinct and apart from others around us, whether these others be family members, fellow community members, or fellow workers. Often we may feel that the demands of life are far too great for us; that we cannot fulfill our obligations to others and still have time for ourselves, to 'be' ourselves. Yet if we see our life as our own private affair, that we can only be our true selves when we are doing what we alone want to do without the need to respond to the needs and demands of others, we have created a false sense of identity, far removed from the human ideal taught by our Lord: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Mt 22.39) and St. Paul: 'We, though many, are one body in Christ,  and individually members of one another' (Rom 12.5).  
Anna Boganis
When we fall into this mode of thinking, we begin to feel that time spent with our family or community or fellow workers is time taken from our real life...The energy needed to maintain a separate sense of identity while living in a close family or community environment can become phenomenal. In fact, those who enter into marriage or monastic life with such an attitude usually come to find themselves in a living hell. They cannot maintain this approach to their personal life and remain married or persevere as a member of a monastery.  
For some people, there is an easy and quick way out of such a hell. They can withdraw from the demands of community and family, especially on a live-in basis. Such people often try to find a place to live and a means of support that will not take much time or energy from their perceived real lives. A simple job with undemanding hours, where even during their work they can think, dream and look forward to the hours of their lives off the job can bring them a sense of real relief. Sadly however, by trying to save their own lives, they lose them. These people end up at best on the fringes of life, unable to share fully in the abundance of love.  
There is another way for Christians. It is the way of concretely dying - laying down our individual lives out of love for the brethren - and then discovering that there is an abundant life after such a death. Accepted and lived out in one way or another, this death to the old man is definitely at the heart of any vocation or call from Christ our God. There are all sorts of 'christs' being preached these days. The Church preaches Christ crucified, and His words to all, not just to his chosen disciples, were, 'If any one would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me' (Mk 8.34)."
- pg 15, 16