Thursday, January 28, 2010

Take to Flight

Yesterday, I took Hilary to a nature class at one of our city's lovely parks.  We try to explore as many of the different nature centers as possible that were so wisely laid out before urban sprawl swallowed every green thing into its stifling grip.  Many of them have monthly classes for preschoolers that we enjoy.  This was at one of my favorite nature centers.  It's a teeny lodge in the depths of the forest, a lengthy distance from our house, but always worth it.  The craftsmanship is inspiring, the setting is perfection, and on a sentimental note, it smells just like the log cabin we stayed in on our honeymoon.  One end of the narrow building is nothing but glass, looking out on a collection of bird feeders.

I love looking at birds.  So many different reasons why their grace and dainty determination speak to me.  I was drawn to the window especially yesterday, since we have been having a bird drought at our own feeders.  I don't think we could even pay a bird to come to our house, for reasons I haven't quite figured out.  We have three different feeders for winter birds, arranged in appealing, squirrel-proof places.  There's a birdhouse that my landlords put up long ago, and when spring comes, we'll have multiple sets of babies born there, but birds.  Maybe it's the traffic of the busy road on the other side of the trees.  Maybe all my neighbors have fancier birdseed.  Whatever it is...they won't come.  Jared and I were going to do a year long study of ornithology.  We were looking forward to bird walks and tracking visitors to our backyard.  We've counted birds in the past for a national effort to track numbers and species, and we thought we'd do that again.  I canceled the study.  I didn't want to skew their results by making it look like all birds had mysteriously vanished from existence in Northeast Ohio.

Jared tagged along to Hilary's class, so he and I watched the birds together with delight.  So many different species.  So many birds!  We smiled at the chickadees darting from feeder to feeder.  We laughed at the mourning dove who crashed the party of all the smaller birds and pushed everyone else out of the way with his lumbering girth.  Jared commented on the voracity with which these birds were eating.  They were eating like this was their last meal.  Like they didn't know good and well that they could come here anytime.  Like their lives depended on it.

As I watched the birds and their near frantic determination, I answered him that they were just doing what birds are designed to do.  A single, focused mission to stay alive.  To eat when fuel is available to fight against the frigid temperatures.  To just do what God intended birds to do.

From that moment, I was sucked into their world.  I watched their faces, their steps, and their purpose.  What would my life be like if all I did was concentrate on what God meant ME to do?  What would be different in a day filled not with means of my own diversion, but rather with purpose and an underlying, driving force to get the fuel to survive?

I am human and...oh, about a million times more intelligent than a bird.  I have a soul.  Therefore, I can't make a direct comparison between the two of us.  I know this.  But bear with me in the analogy for a minute.  At that moment, I felt that even though I may be higher up on the food chain, those birds are way smarter than me.

I get distracted.  I get tangled in meaningless passions that skew my life.  Even when I try to repent and change my ways, I end up right back where I started.  I live like I don't know where to go.  Like I don't know what God meant for me to do.

God intends us to spend our lives drawing closer to Him.  To seek him out in a forest of distractions.  To fill ourselves full of Him.  Like its our last meal.  Like our lives depend on it.  Why then, do I settle for junk food that may satisfy me for a time with its ooey-gooey goodness, but quickly leaves me crashed in a heap of emptiness?  Why then, do I turn my back on the shelter of stability and fly around in the dark and uncertainty, only to see that while I changed, He's just where He always has been?  Why do I think I know better than the One who designed me to be me and not a bird or a fish or any kind of animal?  Those birds were made to be birds, and they do it well.  I was made in the image of God to be like God, and I'm awful at it!

Life is work.  It's so easy to just get off the path.  To live like I forget my purpose.  There are things I will do in my life.  Things I will accomplish.  Those things are wonderful.  They mean nothing, though, if I live my life and don't live it with God.

As Orthodox, we don't believe in a secular world.  There's no separation between our spiritual life and the rest of life.  Life is life, and every moment can be filled with God.  Heaven and earth are not separated into different, neat compartments.  This is the kingdom here and now everywhere you look, and blessed is that kingdom.

I left the nature center and filled my lungs with the chilly air.  I thought about the rest of my afternoon.  I had to drive home, get Hilary down for her nap, and watch a documentary for school with Jared.  Not the most newsworthy day!  Nothing that sounded all that meaningful.  As I drove home, I thought about how I could do each of those things like a bird.  With purpose.  Without distraction.

I could choose not to lose my temper with Hilary.  I could give Jared my full attention.  I could pray, and pray, and pray while sanctifying the time...simple and ordinary time.  It's hard to stay in that state of sanctification and not drift back into "regular" life, though.  Where life is life and God is God, and they don't always mix.  Not that we're out there purposely trying to push God out of the small moments, but let's face to day life can be pretty dull.  It isn't all mountaintop spiritual moments.  It isn't flashy.  It doesn't seem like much to bother involving God in.

Life is simple and complicated and dirty and downright boring sometimes.  It's achingly routine and normal.  It's easier to remember God in the big moments of joy and sorrow.  It's easier to reach to Him in the extremes.  To find Him in the small and boring stuff...that can be hard.  It's way too tempting to lose focus.  To get caught up in things that are too great and too marvelous for me.  When I do that, I miss a great opportunity.  The opportunity to redeem those small, simple moments and claim them for God.  The opportunity to just be a bird and be what I am meant to be.

When I don't do that, I'm just wasting time...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee who stood at the temple and declared, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men."  The Pharisee went on to give specific examples of who he was better than and why.  You can tell he had really thought this out!  He had a very, very high opinion of himself.  Meanwhile, a humble Publican stood far off with downcast eyes and a contrite heart.  Beating his breast, he was able to say nothing else but, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"

This story is one of those that just makes me internally say, "Ouch!"  Been there.  Done that.  I am sooooo a Pharisee sometimes.  Pride is a passion with deep and far-reaching roots.  It rears its ugly head every chance it gets.  Even when we don't realize it, we size people up and make judgments.  Often, those quick judgments are way off the mark, but they will color our perception of the person in every way.  We think we're better than other people.  Maybe it's the guy at work who just never gets it right, and you're the one having to come behind and do all the clean up with no credit.  Maybe it's the relative who has made a royal mess of her life, while you and your excellent wisdom saw it coming from a mile away.  Maybe it's the family at church who just doesn't ever seem to do it the way it should be done, while you are a model of piety.  The opportunities to make ourselves feel better than someone else are everywhere.  Everywhere.  Even if it's just getting huffy,  because you didn't get to go first in line at the grocery store.  Doesn't everyone know that you only have three items in your cart and that lady has five hundred and forty-three and you've been waiting there for two whole minutes and she just walked up and by golly you deserve it???  Thinking we know it all, can do it all, should be it all.  Pride, pride, pride.  Even when we do well, sometimes we ruin it by patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.  Where is our humility?  Where is our brokenness and emptiness that realizes our sin and our distance from God so profoundly, that all we can do is ask for mercy?

After we did our reading last night, we discussed pride as a family.  I asked Lonna and Jared to go around the room and name three things that each person did well.  I made them start with their little sister, which really made them have to think!  Then, my husband and I added things to the mix.  Finally, I gave them each a name of a person outside our family who I know they struggle getting along with.  Someone they complain about who just doesn't do things right.  Someone they think they're better than, whether they realize it or not.  I asked them to name something that person did better than they did.  I was impressed with their answers.  They didn't go for the surface.  They saw those people in a different light and bent those heads in humility.  Good job guys!

Four year old Hilary listened to the Gospel reading, but then I did an activity with her to bring it on her level.  "The Big Brag" is a story in the collection Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss.  A rabbit and a bear get into an old-fashioned bragging contest, each claiming to be the best of the beasts.  The rabbit brags that he can hear remarkably well.  So well, that he can hear a fly on a mountain ninety miles away cough.  Next, it's the bear's turn to brag.  He claims that way, way past that silly little fly on the mountain is a tree.  In that tree is a hummingbird nest.  In that nest are two eggs.  The bear can in fact smell that the egg on the left is a little bit stale!  Just when the bragging is at its peak, a lowly worm appears.  He claims that he can see better than they can hear or smell.  He can see all the way to Japan and China.  He says,

"I'd looked 'round the world and right back to this hill!
And I saw on this hill, since my eyesight's so keen,
The two biggest fools that have ever been seen!
And the fools that I saw were none other than you,
Who seem to have nothing else better to do
Than sit here and argue who's better than who!"

After the story, we talked about bragging.  We started out by naming all the glorious things about the people in her life.  We discussed how God made everyone good at different things, and how instead of seeing how good we are at something, we should focus on how good our neighbor is at what they do.  Now, that concept flies in the face of much of our society's message to kids.  In an attempt to build self-esteem, the world bends over backwards to give kids the battle cry, "I'm special!"  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying any child should be made to feel worthless, but sometimes it swings too far the other way.  There's often no counterweight to kids being told they're the best.  It's very difficult to be an American kid and not be filled to bursting with pride.  Our "me" society grooms kids early to have it their way, on their schedule, and in their favorite color to boot.  "No" is often a word that doesn't even appear in their vocabulary.  Later, these same kids grow up to struggle with issues of tolerance and acceptance.  They run over others in their endless pursuit to be the best, and they are devastated, when in shock, they realize that in fact they are not the center of the universe.

What a change there might be in our culture if we didn't wait so long to tell our kids that they're not always the best.  Yes, shower them with praise for all the unique and generous gifts that God has given them as individuals!  But also point out how smart, how talented, how loving, how giving, how beautiful, how wonderful the other kids are, too.  Teach your child how to see that shining icon of God in everyone else.  Especially the people that get on their nerves!  Teach them how to go last.  How to be a good loser.  How to celebrate someone else.  Teach them to be merciful, so that they may see how much they need to ask for mercy.

After our discussion, Hilary did some handwriting practice.  We didn't use the words, "I'm the best," but rather, "You're the best!"  As she wrote, we continued to talk about how loving it is to put others first.

Next, we used the idea of this craft.  Hilary threaded beads on a chenille stem to make a bendable version of the worm from the story.  I sneaked in some math skills by asking her to follow the pattern of one big bead and two little beads.

She loved the finished product.  We bent him around her bedpost, so he could watch her sleep.  She named him "Butter", which has nothing to do with a lesson on pride, but it's such a completely random and silly name, I had to include it!


The prayer that the Publican prays is the basis for that cornerstone of Orthodox prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer.  In it, the words, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," are repeated over and over.  In mystical simplicity, the heart turns to God in communion, and the soul repents anew each moment.  No bragging about what we can do.  Just humility and a yearning for the only One who can do it all.  I'm encouraging Lonna and Jared to pray the Jesus Prayer more often this week.  Pray it and think about the Publican who inspired it.

This week, I'm challenging myself to find one person each day who is better at something than me.  Doesn't mean I'm bad, just that I'm not the best.  We'll also refrain from fasting this week as a reminder that we can't use it to point out, like the Pharisee, that we're better than people who never fast.  I'll defrost my turkey still waiting from those holiday sales and begin the ritual of getting rid of all the meat hiding in the depths of the freezer before Lent starts.

I think I might just have to make myself a worm, too.  He would have a good home at my desk or somewhere else he could easily be seen.  I need a reminder, too, that I'm not the best.  My way is not the best.  My ideas are not the best.  My behavior is not the best.  I am chief among sinners, and every time I think so highly of myself, I stand in the way of God.  Only with humility, a bowed head, and beating my chest can I cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"  I'm not the best, but I know Who is.  I need Him more each day.  Lord have mercy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ice Age

Since it's been unseasonably warm this week, we finally got to resume our weekly nature walks.  Winter always makes it obvious that I'm not from around here.  I'm one of the crazies that loves the snow!  Where I'm from, snow never stays on the ground for more than a few days and ice comes in the form of the dreaded ice storm.  So, ever since we moved here, admiring the ice on Lake Erie is a treasured winter pastime.


The first thing that always strikes me about the ice covered lake is the sound.  The sound of silence.  No waves lapping at the sand.  No sea gulls squawking for a bit of your lunch.  No crowds.  Just silence.  Like the world and all its cares stopped in icy suspension.  Like peace and quiet has a shape you can touch and a texture you can feel.

The hills of ice made it look like Jared and Hilary were starting out on a great Arctic adventure.  Which way to civilization?  Is there any land anywhere or only this vast expanse of snow?  The beach melts away, as just a few yards out, it seems like a brave new world.  (Never fear...they're not as far out as they appear!)

As we wandered and filled our lungs with the crispness of the cold air, my mind and heart replayed the line from the sixth chapter of Isaiah, quoted in the Divine Liturgy:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth.  
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

I thought about God.  About the massiveness of nature.  We drive past beauty every day and don't notice it.  We so rarely allow our minds to grasp the world outside our bubble of busyness.  What color was the sky today?  Ask a thousand people that question on any given evening and how many would know the answer?  How many would instead live a whole day and never once look up?  I gave thanks for this day that God allowed me to notice the sky.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth.  
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

I thought about the awesomeness of Creation.  How unpredictable and mighty and glorious it is.  Even in the tiny gentleness of  a snowflake.  Even in the crushing devastation of natural disaster.  I prayed for those suffering in Haiti.  Those who died even during the time we stood on that beach.  I prayed for their souls and the lives of those still suffering.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth.  
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

I thought about all those who suffer today.  In war, in persecution, in sickness, in hunger, and in despair.  Some a world away.  Some right down the street.  It doesn't take a natural disaster to see the suffering if we open our eyes.  It's in you and in me.  We can't bear to see it all the time, though.  So, we pretend it isn't there until something major happens, and we can no longer ignore it.  We freeze our hearts just enough to dull our pain and make the thought of everyone else's pain manageable.  I prayed for all those suffering today on the outside, and all those aching on the inside.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth.  
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. 

I thought about emptiness and fullness.  For Heaven and earth are FULL of God's glory.  It's not hidden.  We don't have to go on an expedition to find the wonders of God.  The earth is full of them.  Filled to overflowing with glory.  But we must be empty of everything else to be full of God.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth.  
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

Unseasonably warm is still pretty cold after awhile, so we left the beach with one last look over our shoulders.  I came home and tried to find the glory in the sink of dirty dishes; the laundry; the to-do list.  If earth is full...really, truly full...of God's glory, aren't all those things just trips to the beach?  Moments of silence, clearness, and beauty.  Full of glory.  I prayed and thanked God for the glory, and I prayed that today...of all days...I'll see it.  Everywhere.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Revision with Prodigal Son and Last Judgment

I've uploaded the first revision to the Master File.  Now, the readings continue through the Sunday of the Last Judgment.  From here on out, the revisions will come in full week chunks, since on Forgiveness Sunday, which would be the next Sunday in line, the readings switch to daily.  Hopefully, I'll have that up next Monday! 

From My Youth Master File

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zacchaeus Sunday

The kids and I were Chrismated on a Zacchaeus Sunday.  When Father first told us that he wanted to pick that day as "the" day, I admit that I was a bit disappointed.  Couldn't it have been a little flashier...maybe Theophany or another of the biggies???  Nothing like starting off a spiritual renewal with a healthy dose of pride, huh?!  Soon, though, I learned to appreciate this small man Zacchaeus.

As I say in the reading guide, Zacchaeus is a wonderful example as we prepare for the arrival of Lent.  He didn't hold back from being foolish.  He just wanted to see Jesus, and he didn't care how silly he had to look to do that.  How often do we back off from expressing our faith, just to keep from standing out in the crowd?  Zacchaues is a reminder to never let anything hold us back from Christ.

Additionally, Zacchaeus is a model of repentance.  He didn't just mumble a half-hearted apology for his actions and go right back to his old tricks.  Zacchaeus turned around.  He went the other way.  He really and truly changed. That's the challenge of Lent.  Reflect.  Change.  And mean it when you say it!  Zacchaeus Sunday is our wake up call.  It's that reminder that Lent is on its way, whether you're ready or not!

This is the last Sunday in ordinary time.  Next week, we'll launch into the Lenten Triodion, and the taste of the season will be in the air.  Today, we don't even have a troparion to sing to Zacchaeus.  Nothing marks him liturgically except for the Gospel reading of his story.  He's not flashy, but he's poignant just the same.

So, we did our first reading tonight.  The older kids read the Scripture and the guide, and my four year old read the Zacchaeus story to us from her children's Bible.  Then, it was craft time.  In our family, I will try to incorporate at least one craft or other young children's activity per week.  I will also try to match the Scripture readings to her Bible if at all possible.  The rest of the time, she'll just absorb what she can from our reading and color icon pages while we read aloud.

I used this craft idea.  We made a sycamore tree to represent Zacchaeus.  First, my older daughter, Lonna, helped the younger one, Hilary, trace her arm to use as the tree trunk.

Then, Hilary cut out the trunk and glued it to a piece of construction paper.


Next, she colored sycamore leaves to glue on the branches.  My husband took this image, shrunk it down, and created a custom sycamore leaf coloring page.  Any leaves would do, though.

The result was a stylish sycamore tree, and hopefully a little bit of a lesson on willing to be a bit foolish for Christ.

Speaking of young children absorbing things, I share this story.  Saturday morning, my husband and I were in our room trying to decide whether we could drag ourselves out of bed on such a gloomy morning.  Hilary came into our room, walked up to the side of the bed, and said, "Oh, Daddy!  I had the most wonderful dream!  It was beautiful!"  We smiled to ourselves at her sweet, soft voice.  I asked, "What was it about?"  She answered, "Church."  My heart swelled.  Could it be?  She got it.  She finally got it!  Perhaps it was the smell of the incense that filled her dream.  Perhaps there were bells or four part harmony flooding her brain as her sweet, angelic face slumbered on her pillow.  That's what I was thinking, UNTIL...."Yes, I dreamed about Church.  We had toast with syrup on it and sprinkles and whipped cream.  It was delicious!" 

My four year old was so touched by her wonderful, beautiful dream...of coffee hour!  Sigh.  Oh, well.  At least we were in the same building as the altar. 

My point is, don't hold back from sharing your faith with your children.  No, they won't get it all the first time.  Or the second, or the hundredth.  Heck, I still have to hear the same things over and over.  Why should they be any different?  I don't think Hilary understands repentance.  She can't explain the theological significance of this date in the liturgical cycle.  But she knows that there was once a man named Zacchaeus who followed Jesus.  And maybe that will be just enough to make her want to follow, too.  Toast and sprinkles aside, the Church fills her dreams.  It's my job to make sure it fills her life, as well.

Read Scripture with your kids.  Pray together.  Let them see you pray by yourself.  Take them to church.  Talk about God when you see a beautiful flower or when there's a bump in the night.  They'll get it.  They will.  The greatest example to them will be your desire to share.  They'll see that it matters to YOU, and that...that will make all the difference.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lenten Wreath

I know I want some kind of tangible something to visually take us through Lent.  Along the lines of an Advent wreath, an Advent calendar, or the Jesse Tree.  Why leave all the great ideas for Advent!  I have lots of ideas for different things, but I decided I wanted to start with a wreath.  I like the idea of light during this time.  A reminder of Who is leading the way.

So, I stopped by my local craft store this afternoon on a mission to find materials to make a Lenten wreath.  I could see in my head a vague glimmer of what I wanted.  I figured I would walk around the store and like a bolt of lightning...inspiration would hit!  I've done that many, many times.  The best ideas never come until you're actually surrounded by the smell of craft paint and unfinished wood.

That was the dream.  In reality, I walked up and down the aisles completely frustrated that no craft manufacturer out there seems to be in the business of reading my mind.  Everything was too small, too big, too expensive, too plain, too over the top, too just not right.  Should the wreath have 12 candles to include the weeks of preparation, Great Lent, and Pascha?  Or is just 7 enough?  (If we start too soon with the candles, the kids might be fed up by Cheesefare.)  Should it be round or freeform?  Should it be flowers or wood?  Oooh!  Oooh!  Yes, a wooden cross with 12 candle holders.  But they don't have Orthodox crosses, of course, and I love the idea of an Orthodox cross.  The Protestant ones are so plain and lack something.  Aaargh!  They don't sell that elusive "something" in stores!

What to do...what to do.  Walk around the store again, of course!  Please tell me that I am not the only one who does this.  If I get a project idea in my head, I get trapped in some kind of paralyzing brain time warp.  I cannot, absolutely CANNOT, go forward until I get the details sorted out in my head.  Until that time, I'm stuck on repeat.  It consumes me in an unnatural way that is so detrimental to the physical, emotional, and spiritual life.

So, I spent waaaaaaay too much time at the craft store.  Eventually, I put some so-so items in the cart.  Not exactly what I wanted, but at this point, I was so desperate, I was semi-content to settle.

As I made my way to the check-out, I had it...the moment of inspiration.  It wasn't anywhere near where I thought I would find the "perfect" thing, but I walked around the corner of the aisle and there it was:

Not the fanciest thing ever, but it caught my eye.  I've put out a challenge to myself to make this year the Year of Simplicity.  I've filled my plate so full lately, it's out of control.  Add to that some chronic health problems I have, and I try in futility each day to keep that ever-shrinking plate balanced.  It must stop.  I need to decrease so Christ can increase.  I need to do less.  I need to just be...with God.

This candle holder is simplicity to me.  The gracefulness of the line.  The fact that I wouldn't have to hurt my brain to make it work.  The fact that it was super-cheap.  We have a winner!

So, I went back through the store one more time, but I knew what I was getting.  Simplicity doesn't have to mean that my creative streak completely goes out the window, so I got the things that would make the candle holder my own.  First, I jazzed up the votive holders:

A little more texture is a little more my style.  Then, I added the candles:

On the first Sunday of Great Lent, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we will light one purple candle during our family reading and prayer time.  We'll light that one candle each night that week.  Beginning the next Sunday, we will light two candles.  The next Sunday, we will light three candles.  And so on, and so on.  On Pascha, we will light all the purple candles and the white candle in the center.

It needed one more thing, though.  Something to set the theme of Lent.  Something to remind the kids what all these spiritual endeavors are about.  That was the easiest part.  I knew exactly what to say.  I bought a small, unfinished wood oval.  At home, I painted it purple.  Then, I had my husband, whose handwriting looks way better than my chicken scratch, write the first line of one of my favorite Lenten songs...Open to me the doors of repentance.  I attached the oval with a glob of hot glue.


There we go.  Not what I thought I would end up with, but really the perfect thing for our family.  I wanted something with votives, so I would have the option to leave the candles burning in vigil with less fire hazard.  I wanted simplicity that still had my personal stamp on it.  I open door.  

So, I wasted an afternoon in my own head.  I start off my Lenten preparations already in need of repentance.  Where I make things complicated, God is simple.  Where I am shallow, He is complex.  Where I am wandering, He is centered.  He keeps calling me to be simple, and I just make things so, so hard. 

Lord, have mercy on me for my wavering heart!  Forgive me for wasting time.  Time I could have spent praying.  Time I forgot what repentance is really all about.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life...  Open the doors...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Master File

Here is the From My Youth Master File

As I update, I will make individual posts with the content, and I will also revise this master file. This original file includes the introduction and readings for the first two Sunday's of preparation for Lent.

More to come!


For the past several years, our family has enjoyed traveling through the time of Advent accompanied by the tradition of the Jesse Tree. Even before we converted to Orthodoxy, we followed this guide of daily readings and activities for children. Each day during Advent, we meet a new character from the Old Testament or explore a prophecy of Christ. It sets the mood and keeps us focused on where we're going...not to Santa, but to the Messiah. The past two years, we have been extra pleased to follow the Orthodox version of the Jesse Tree. But Nativity has passed, Great Lent approaches (extra rapidly this year!) and I miss the Jesse Tree. The readings were such a bonding time for our family and a wonderful skeleton for family prayer time.

So, I began to think about how I could incorporate the pattern of the Jesse Tree into Great Lent. I threw around ideas for my preschooler, and I continue to explore those ideas for the future. I decided, though, to focus first on my older children. They crave materials just for them and not ones we've adjusted up or down to their level. They find some adult material dry or a little too deep for a quick, daily read. They also immediately turn up their noses at anything smelling of childishness. They're on their own path and want that uniqueness respected.

My older children want to embrace Lent, but they don't know how to stay in that moment of focus for so many weeks in a row. When we are blessed to attend the extra Lenten services, my kids are reminded of the call to increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But they get fairly used to fasting after awhile, and on the days in between services, it's all too easy to forget God and shift back to a regular life of school, sports and friends. The world is a tempting distraction, especially for this generation. The self-centered attitudes of our society are everywhere in ever-changing snazzy packages of electronic temptation. While the Church asks them to say "no", the world screams "yes". It's hard enough as an adult to stay focused during Lent! Even more difficult when you're caught between childhood and adulthood.

In response to my children's dilemma, I am in the process of creating From My Youth: Orthodox Christian Reflections on Great Lent for Older Children and Teens. I am writing this for my own children, but I am also pleased to share it with whoever is interested.

My prayer is that it will provide a daily reminder for my children. Of Christ. Of the doors of repentance. Of the road to Pascha.

As I complete each section, I will add it for all to access. Please remember that I am not a theologian. I'm a simple mother just trying to share the Faith with my children. Forgive any errors I may commit. Please bear with me as I tweak the format and content. I will try to finish as quickly as possible.

Glory to Jesus Christ!