Orthodox Christian Craft Supply

I know it may appear that I dropped off the face of the Earth, but I’m still here!  Our family has been extremely busy working on a very special project.

I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new business that will sell Orthodox-specific craft kits and supplies!

As you know, we’re a crafty family.  I’m always on the lookout for ideas and supplies to teach my children about the Faith in a hands-on way.  There are many resources and supplies available for our Protestant and Catholic friends.  It’s not so easy for us Orthodox.  Many of the projects just don’t meld with our theology.  Most of the supplies just don’t “look” Orthodox.

Orthodox Christian Craft Supply will offer craft kits for Orthodox children.  In this first year, I will focus on projects for the 12 major feasts, plus a few extra.  Right now, kits are available for the Nativity of the Theotokos and Elevation of the Cross.

You don’t have to be crafty to do these kits!  I planned activities based on basic supplies like white glue and markers.  No need to be artistic or own special equipment.  Just a desire to teach children.

Please come visit and look around for yourself or your parish’s Church School.  Tell everyone you know!  I’d also love to hear any ideas you have about what I should develop and offer.

I pray these materials will be useful to you as you share the love of Christ with your children.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!



Transfiguration Feast Day Learning Box

Here’s how our learning box for Transfiguration turned out.  It contains:

*  Hilary’s rendition of Peter, James & John (she swears she can tell the difference!)

*  Icons of Moses and Elijah

*  Hilary’s clay version of Mt. Tabor

*  A cloud with the words: “This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased”

*  A ray of light

*  The troparion for the Feast:

“You were Transfigured on the Mount, O Christ our God,

Revealing Your Glory to Your Disciples,

As much as they were able to bear.

Let Your everlasting Light, shine on us sinners,

Through the intercessions of the Birthgiver of God,

O Giver of Light, Glory to You!”

Instead of painting the box this time, I decoupaged it with tissue paper.  I love the leathery effect it gave the finish.

As is our custom, we went on pilgrimage to the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA to celebrate their feast day.  The weather was perfect—not blazing hot like it has been this summer.  As we drove east to Pennsylvania early in the morning, we repeatedly saw the sun shining down through the clouds in shifting columns of heavenly light.  I instantly thought of the line from the Akathist Glory to God for All Things: “Why is it that on a Feast Day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles?”  Yes, the earth was smiling and bathed in the Light of Christ.

The Liturgy was beautiful, and we stayed on into the afternoon for the service of Holy Unction.  I adore Unction at the monastery with so many priests.  Seeing the faithful scurry in every direction to kneel in front of the closest priest as the Gospels are read touches my heart.  We all need healing…even if it isn’t obvious.  Healing of body and soul.  To humble ourselves and fall to the ground before God in unity…magnificent!

I love Transfiguration.  The darkness is everywhere.  Sometimes there seems to be no light.  But there is always Light.  We, too, can be transfigured by the Light of God.  Shining in heavenly rays…blinding, brilliant, warm, glowing, and true.  O Lord, let us receive light from Your Light!

Dormition Calendar Craft

Here are our plans for learning during the Dormition Fast.

I have crafted a calendar in the style of Advent calendars.  This Dormition calendar has the theme of “Flowers for the Theotokos”.  On August 1st, the calendar will only have an icon of the Mother of God and a vine.

“O Theotokos, you are the true vine, that put forth the Fruit of life.  We pray to you, O Lady, intercede together with the Apostles and all the saints, that mercy may be granted to our souls.”

Third Hour Prayers

Each day of the fast, we will read a selection from Scripture, the majority of which will trace the types of the Theotokos in the Old Testament.  I know others, most notably Mary at Evlogia, have done this in the past, and I thank them for their inspiration!  Rather than choosing a symbol from each reading this time around, we will just stick with offering a flower to the Theotokos each day.  As the garden is filled, we’ll count down the days until the Feast of Dormition.

Dormition Fast Daily Readings

as suggested by the Orthodox Study Bible

(“Types of Mary in the Old Testament” p. 1228) 

1)  The Garden of Eden/the New Eve:  Genesis 2:8-25

2)  Jacob’s Ladder:  Genesis 28:10-22

3)  The Burning Bush:  Exodus 3:1-14

4)  The Jar of Manna:  Exodus 16

5)  The Ten Commandments:  Exodus 20:1-17

6)  The Ark of the Covenant:  Exodus 25:10-22

7)  The Tabernacle/the Holy of Holies:  Exodus 26

8)  Aaron’s Rod:  Numbers 17:16-28

9)  The Dewy Fleece:  Numbers 6:36-40

10)  The Tongs that held the Live Coal:  Isaiah 6

11)  The Gate Facing East:  Ezekiel 43:1-5; 44:1-3

12)  The Mountain from which comes the Stone Cut Without Hands: Daniel 2:24-35

13)  The Fiery Furnace:  Daniel 3:19-50 

14)  The Annunciation:  Luke 1:26-38

15)  Magnificat:  Luke 1:39-56

 The Dormition Calendar idea has lots of potential.  Many different materials could be used to make your own calendar.  Some of the above readings are long and not the kid-friendliest.  Perhaps for the youngest crowd, you could tell the story verbally as they attach the flower each day.  Older kids, however, could dig even deeper by exploring the hymnography to Mary, especially the Akathist Hymn and the Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God (Paraclesis).

If you aren’t crafty or you just don’t have time to gather supplies, I am selling felt kits to make the Dormition Calendar for $7.50 plus $2.50 shipping and handling.

Included: background and vine material, pre-cut flowers, paper icon, buttons, and ribbon for hanging.  All you have to add is glue and kids!  Colors may vary from sample.  You are welcome to choose a color scheme for your flowers.  Choose from brights (as pictured in sample), primary colors, or your favorite color combo.  Maybe Pinks & Yellows?  Maybe White & Accents?  Ask me!!!

I know it’s short notice, but e-mail me right away at craftycontemplative@gmail.com.  I’ll ship ASAP.

I will build my Church

The joy of the feast!  Today we celebrate the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.  What a special time it was for us last night at Vigil and this morning at Liturgy.  The OCA is having a parish ministries conference just a few miles down the road from me.  They used my parish to have the services for the feast!

Normally, I’m used to traveling to a monastery or a bigger parish for these type of large celebrations.  To have our own small building filled with so many faithful was a joyous occasion.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan JONAH celebrated the services, along with His Grace, Bishop MELCHISEDEK.  I was so thankful that Bishop MELCHISEDEK came from the Pittsburgh Diocese to be present, but it reminded me that we were missing someone.  Our widowed Midwest Diocese is still mourning the loss of our dear Archbishop JOB.  May his memory be eternal!

The celebration for our parish was increased as our priest was elevated to Archpriest and our deacon was elevated to Protodeacon.  Axios!

With the Metropolitan, a Bishop, about twenty priests, several deacons and monastics, countless subdeacons, and two of the candidates for our episcopacy vacancy to look at, where was Hilary looking???  Oh, well!  She did say that the Metropolitan was her favorite.  She likes his hat.  🙂

Our sister parish in a nearby town is dedicated to Ss. Peter and Paul, and the priest was so kind to bring the relics of both saints, so we could venerate them.  My husband’s saint is St. Paul, and my son’s saint is St. Peter, so today is their namesday.  To venerate the relics was a deep honor and privilege for our family.

The Apostle’s Fast has ended.  I’m kind of at a loss for what to do with July!  It seems like it’s been one constant fast and/or feast since way back in February when Lent began.  The tendency can be to just get lazy and neglect prayer when there’s nothing “special” going on.  I’m looking forward to approaching this upcoming time with attention and devotion.  You never need a special time to seek God!

What a glorious time of celebration!  How much I’ve learned from contemplating the mission of the Apostles.  As His Beatitude encouraged us today in his sermon…continue to think on the acts of the Apostles.  Remember the things that changed them from learning Disciples to church-founding Apostles.  These are the same things that will lead us on our own journey.  It’s not enough to stay by the sidelines and watch.  There’s more past the first phase of learning and approaching God.  We are all called to more.  We are all called to move from Disciple to Apostle.

Troparion – Tone 4
First-enthroned of the apostles,
teachers of the universe:
Entreat the Master of all
to grant peace to the world,
and to our souls great mercy!

Go and Make Disciples Felt Board

We’re almost ready for our readings to begin, as we journey with the Apostles during this special time of prayer and fasting.

I designed the study to include a symbol for each day’s reading.  We will put each of those symbols on a display.  This will track our progress, serve as a visible reminder of each lesson, and count down to the conclusion of the Apostles’ Fast on the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.

I decided to make a felt board to display our symbols.  I chuckle a bit at some of the pictures I took.  I get all crafty and inspired late at night for some reason, and while my creative juices were flowing, my photography left a lot to be desired!

I started with a piece of 1/4″ thick foam core mounting board that we had left over from other projects.  It measured about 20″ by 30″.  I cut a piece of felt that was several inches larger than the board on all sides, and then I laid the board in the center of the felt.

Next, I stapled the felt to the board.  I didn’t need a staple gun for this, since it’s just a thin material.  I used a regular desk stapler.  As you’ll learn from me, I’m not a perfectionist about the details that don’t show.  If you make this and want the back to look pretty…take more care than I did!  Also, you could just glue a piece of felt or fabric over the back at the end.

Then, it was time to add the water.  I put another piece of darker blue felt on top and cut the top edge to be in a gentle, rolling wave.  I stapled it to the back in the same manner as the first piece.

The boat came next.  I cut a boat shape out of brown felt free hand.  Now, see how the left side is a little wonky.  That’s O.K.  It will be covered up by the net.  People often get discouraged in crafting when something goes wrong.  Don’t be!  Just take the lead of the mistake and roll with it.

I cut some thin strips of a darker brown and applied them to the boat for contrast.  I used a thin layer of tacky glue for this part.  Don’t go overboard with the glue.  It will seep through the felt and show.

I crocheted a fishing net, but you could make one by tying bits of string or twine.  You could also use netting from produce bags or a nylon dishwashing scrubbie stretched out.  Crocheting the net is a simple pattern that would be good for a child just learning to crochet.

To crochet the net, use worsted weight cotton yarn and a fairly large hook (I,J or K).  Make a chain the desired length of the net.  Sc into the seventh chain from the hook.  Ch 4, skip 2 ch, sc in the next chain.  Repeat until the end of the row.  Ch 4 and turn.  Sc in next ch 4 space.  Ch 4, sc in next ch 4 space until the end of the row.  Continue in additional rows until the desired size is reached.

I cut out white felt in the shape of clouds.  Then, I printed out the text in a font that I liked and a size that fit the clouds.  I attached everything with tacky glue.  For the net, I put dots of glue in strategic places here and there around the edges and a few in the middle to hold it in place.

And there’s our felt board!  The symbols will come next.  They will be placed on these fish and added after each reading is completed.

I’m excited now!  Hilary is intrigued by the board and asking lots of questions about what on the earth the Apostles’ Fast is about.  She doesn’t remember it from years past.

Lord, prepare us to enter into this time of prayer and fasting.  May it be a time of learning and blessing for all!

Go and Make Disciples

I have developed a study for children to compliment the Apostles’ Fast.  Inspired by the Jesse Tree, which I have so enjoyed sharing with my Orthodox homeschool companions the past two years, I began a Lenten study for older children this year.  Unfortunately, I was unable to finish that project this time around.  It will be done for next year, though!

The organized and thoughtful reading of scripture during a fast is so beneficial that I decided to try again with the Apostles’ Fast.  Reading together as a family keeps us focused on why we’re fasting, and the use of crafts and symbols speaks to my preschooler in her very own language.

Let’s face it…the Apostles’ Fast is not the favorite of most Orthodox Christians.  School is letting out.  The weather is warming up.  Everyone else in our culture is firing up the grill and putting up their feet.  Meanwhile, Orthodox Christians enter into a time of prayer and fasting.

The length of the fast varies depending on the date of Pascha, so since we had an early Pascha this year, those of us on the New Calendar are getting ready to embark on a fast that will last from May 31st to June 29th.  The Old Calendarists will be fasting into July.  It is indeed a long time.

Rather than a burden, I’m hoping to encourage the children that there are many days coming to learn and pray.  We can take advantage of every one of them.  My prayer is that this study will make the fast more meaningful for the kids and help them understand that no matter what the rest of the world is doing, June means fast and pray in our Orthodox family.  And that’s a good thing.

This is the short and sweet version of the study below.  If you’re interested, explore it with your family and expand as much as you’re able.  I’m going to have the older kids read through the entire book of Acts, not just the smaller readings included below.  I’m not sure what else I’ll do with them yet.

I’m working on the calendar we will use to track our journey through the fast.  I have included symbols in the study to represent each day’s reading.  We are creating a felt display with a boat.  Each symbol is going to be attached to a felt fish shape and put on the display.  This will represent the fishers of men who left everything and followed Christ.  I will post about the calendar when it is completed.

The Apostles’ Fast is a bit overlooked sometimes.  I pray that we will embrace this time of increased awareness of the life God has called us to live.  You can never have too many reminders!  Through all we say and do, may we also be disciples of Christ!