Thursday, December 31, 2020

Righteous Tamar

 I'm researching St. Ephrem the Syrian's unique attention to Tamar in Genesis 38. In my writing, I noted hers isn't the kind of story we write Sunday school songs about - but if we did, we should try to convey the wonder & symmetry that St. Ephrem finds in her story.

So then of course, I felt compelled to write a child-friendly song drawn from his Hymn 9 on the Nativity. I just wrote new words for the Galician Carol, "We Learned for the Angel," which is about the greeting to Mary at the Annunciation. So you hear the familiar ring of "Rejoice, Mary, full of grace," which may be lazy, but also totally appropriate.

Anyway, please enjoy my geeking out over this redeemed story:

Rejoice, O Tamar,
Woman full of faith,
Our Lord has made you chaste.

You sat at the gate
And you stole life,
So you were not afraid.

Blessed Foremother of the Lord!
Blessed desire for the savior you bore!
Rejoice, O full of faith!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

New Book: Darkness is As Light

I'm excited to share with you Darkness is as Light from Park End Books.  Twenty-two women authors (including me!) with a variety of writing styles contributed brief reflections on scripture related to personal experiences of struggle and perseverance. Many of the entries are raw, and I found myself taking deep breaths as a I related to their words. It has been a dark year, but Christ is with us even here and now, urging us ever onward. This isn't a devotional book full of answers, but it is full of brave and true women confronting the darkness while clinging to and wrestling with scripture. 

The book is organized into 9 weeks of devotionals, thematically arranged. Each week begins with a lovely gothic style illustration and a poem (especially feature the work of Allison Boyd Justus, who I dearly admire). It would make a lovely bedtime read (or morning, if you're one of those people!), especially suited to those in need of a light in the darkness. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.
            - Psalm 139.11-12

 Darkness is as Light is available anywhere books are sold. You can support the small press by ordering directly from their book shop. Sneak peeks below!

pg. 1

pg. 81

pg. 82

my stack of publications

Saturday, October 10, 2020


Tomorrow we will have a 5 year memorial for my dear friend's husband, and I'm grateful to offer this along with my prayers for his soul and his family. 

I treasure being asked to make koliva for memorials. I am unendingly grateful to the friend who taught me how to make it, and I'm humbled and honored by the friends who have asked me to make it in their grief. This task takes time and draws my hands into beautiful symbols of color and smell. It is a gift that reminds us of our hope in the life of God, the sweetness of death. 

Wash and boil the wheat about 1.5 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients: deseed pomegranate, chop fresh parsley, toast almonds, measure spices, process graham cracker crumbs

when the wheat is cooked, I lay it out on a towels covered with a clean white table cloth. 
I was taught to pour it out in the form of a cross, and I never skip this step!

Spread the wheat out to dry, overnight if possible. This will take many hours. 

When the wheat is ready, put it in a bowl with the mix-in ingredients.
Be sure to set some aside for decorations. 

Sometimes it is made on a platter, which is very pretty when making a large amount.
Smaller quantities are pretty in a glass bowl through which you can still see the wheat. 

Even though the wheat dried a long time, it still contains some moisture. A layer of graham cracker crumbs separates the sugar from the moisture. 

Next comes the powdered sugar covering. I was taught to smooth it perfectly with wax paper.

Except I can never keep it perfectly smooth! So I started sprinkling an even pattern
of sugar over the smoothed layer. This helps hide the smudges I will inevitably make in the
sugar when I add the decorations. 

First the cross with Jordan Almonds. Someone from our parish got these beautiful silver ones
(and some accompanying decorative candy shapes) from Greece. 

Next the initials of the departed beloved one. I used the white almonds to make the border. 

I like to use the pomegranates (or raisins in some seasons), parsley, and seeds in the
decorations to add color and reflect the hope and life in the cross. I use a tiny paint brush to
dust off sugar that gets on top of my decorations. 

May his memory be eternal!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wisdom! Church School Videos

Hey friends, I'm making some short videos for use in virtual church schools (or families to use at home in lieu of church school). I'm preparing two videos per month through May. September and October's videos are already up. Each video presents a lesson briefly based on Scripture readings through the church year, which families or teachers can share with kids. Each lesson comes with a variety of class ideas, including discussion questions, icons and hymns, activities and crafts. Feel free to use and share. 

Resource Guide

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Pascha in Pandemic

A few years ago I made a painting of Pascha at St. John, which is a big, beautiful church in Memphis, TN.  So, anyway, I'm coping and painting now. This is Pascha this year, in a small, beautiful church in our house. (Also featuring our small St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Jackson, TN on the laptop screen.)

You can order prints of Pascha in Pandemic here, or Pascha at St. John here. See photos from our Holy Week at home here.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Paschal Stichera

Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered. Let those who hate Him flee from before His face.

Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us,
A new and holy Pascha,
A mystical Pascha,
A Pascha worthy of veneration,
A Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer,
A blameless Pascha,
A great Pascha,
A Pascha of the faithful,
A Pascha which has opened for us the gates of Paradise,
A Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.

As smoke vanishes so let them vanish. As wax melts before the fire.

Come from that scene, 0 women, bearers of glad tidings,
And say to Zion:
Receive from us the glad tidings of joy, of Christ's resurrection.
Exult and be glad,
And rejoice, 0 Jerusalem,
Seeing Christ the King,
Who comes forth from the tomb like a bridegroom in procession.

So the sinners will perish before the face of God. But let the righteous be glad.

The myrrhbearing women,
At the break of dawn,
Drew near to the tomb of the Life-giver.
There they found an angel sitting upon the stone.
He greeted them with these words:
Why do you seek the living among the dead?
Why do you mourn the incorrupt amid corruption?
Go, proclaim the glad tidings to His disciples.

This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Pascha of beauty,
The Pascha of the Lord,
A Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us,
Let us embrace each other joyously. O Pascha, ransom from affliction! For today as from a bridal chamber Christ has shown forth from the tomb and filled the women with joy saying:
Proclaim the glad tidings to the apostles.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. Let us embrace each other. Let us call "brothers" even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Holy Week at Home

Holy Week at home with my family was intensely beautiful and difficult - much as it always is - but also not at all like always.

It was hard to stand in our living room next to the couch. Still, the children were able to ask about the scriptures and hymns and icons throughout the service, and actually get answers in real time. My older kids haven't colored in church in many years, but this year they carefully and attentively colored a different icon each day.

Many services felt weird and anti-climactic without the sacraments. Yet, my girls led the processions, lit the 12 candles, read the scriptures, chanted the hymns, and blessed the baskets - things they usually watch others do. So there was a different kind of participation.

We missed our picnics, singing, and meals with friends. But the children took active part in making sure we had a cross for Holy Thursday, they hunted flowers and insisted on making a bier, and they helped prepare our Paschal feast.

Someone commented on one of my pictures that my home looked cozy. I saw my re-arranged living room and, before I realized what I was saying, I laughingly replied, "it has transformed into a little church this week." It's true in the way I meant it - we moved chairs to make the prayer corner larger, and had stacks of bibles, service books, and music ready; oil and candles on stand by; a space made for our antidoron-like-bread and holy water; and an analogion set up for the festal icons. But it was also true in the accidental way that caught my breath when I saw it. We prayed together, liturgized together, suffered and served together in our home this week. My children received more of my attention this week than most regular Holy Weeks. We mourned the crucifixion and celebrated the resurrection in faith as a family.

This quarantined Holy Week revealed how much communion is part of the church, how much we need it, we need each other. But it also revealed God is with us in our most difficult moments, he is glorified in our must humble offerings. Christ is risen from the dead, and all we have to do is show up and celebrate it.

Anyway, this is the post with the pictures to remember it all.

Lazarus Saturday

Lazarus Saturday/Palm Sunday Door Decorations

Lazarus Saturday festivities


Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday Liturgy with Fern-Palms

Palm Sunday Liturgy, with a lucky find of a Lazarus Saturday paper icon and last year's crosses

Holy Monday
Bridegroom Icon with ferm-palms and daffodil-crosses

Holy Tuesday

The transformation of our living room, amid zoom ballet class and services

Holy Wednesday

No unction service this year, but we read some of the readings from the service
and anointed one another from our vigil lamp.

Holy Thursday

coloring icons for the Mystical Supper during the morning Liturgy

dyeing eggs and making butter lambs on Holy Thursday afternoon

Coloring the crucifixion as we listen to the Gospels and light the candles. Some of us were more still than others...

Reading the Gospels

Holy Friday

Cardboard bier ready

flowers gathered

Epitaphios colored during Royal Hours
Holy Friday procession

entering under the bier
Myrrh the children sprinkled

Every generation to thy grace comes bringing, dear Christ, its dirge of praise.

Parish vigil at the tomb on Zoom

Holy Saturday
Dogwood leaves and petals of victory for Holy Saturday

we had a little more fun with the leaves than usual


Come receive the light
processing outside the door (with the window open so we can still hear the livestream)

knocking on the door

Christ is risen!

the dog is confused why we're shouting?

Giddy children settle on the couch for the Liturgy

the little one is already asleep

the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Blessing the baskets with the priest

the analogion

the midnight feast, not everyone is awake.

long awaited ice cream

Bright Week

beautiful cards from missed church friends adorn our festal table

it doesn't stay pretty for long

Egg hunt later in the sun