INTRODUCTION FOR PARENTS
Welcome to Tending the Garden of our Hearts! We hope that you and your children will join us on our journey through Great Lent and Holy Week!
- Every day, we’ll offer a short reading followed by a few questions, to help you engage your children in conversation about the faith during this most important season of spiritual growth and renewal. Sometimes it will be a Bible story, sometimes a Saint’s story, and sometimes it may simply be a little Lenten lesson or idea to consider. The day’s meditation will come in one version for older children, and another for younger children, and each meditation will be available as a podcast and a downloadable PDF. We hope to make this flexible for families, some of whom might like to listen to the podcast in the car, and others who might prefer to make the day’s meditation bedtime reading — and if your family is sometimes able to participate in the car, and sometimes at bedtime, you can move back and forth between the two formats as much as you like!
These are daily meditations, but sometimes that can get us into trouble! Family life can be hectic, and while some days a meditation (whether written or recorded) fits in nicely, on other days… it does not. The Orthodox life is a struggle, and its rhythm is something like fall down – get up – fall down – get up. If you miss a daily meditation, or a week of daily meditations, don’t be discouraged. This happens. Fall down, then get back up and move right to the current day’s meditation. It’s ok to miss a few. Show yourself Christ’s love and mercy!
- Every week, we’ll be engaging a different Lenten theme. We’ll offer a downloadable PDF explaining the week’s theme, and offering ideas for different craft project, object lessons and activities you might want to try, if you have the time and inclination. These extra activities are all optional, and we won’t mention them on the children’s recordings, in case you decide this isn’t a good week for it — and in case you’re playing this at the end of the day and don’t want to get the kids started on a new project at bedtime! Every one of these activities is designed to engage the family in the week’s theme, but none of them are necessary. When you are able and inspired, try some. When you are not, happily skip past them and move on.
- We encourage you to start thinking about Great Lent now, and about preparing a countdown to Pascha for your family! A countdown can be a wonderful way to bring Great Lent to life in your home. Children love a visual reminder and Pascha takes a long time to arrive! Not every family enjoys crafts or gardening, so these are certainly optional, but we do see that especially with younger children, a countdown to Pascha can make a long Lenten season feel more exciting, and its relationship to Pascha more real. Below, you’ll find three countdown ideas: a Path to Pascha, a Blooming Wreath, and a Lenten Garden. (If you use instagram, post photos of your handiwork with these hashtags, and search these hashtags to see each other’s beautiful work! #tendingthegarden #orthodoxlent #orthodoxfamily)
COUNTDOWN TO PASCHA IDEAS
1 — A Path to Pascha: In keeping with the theme of tending the garden, consider creating a sand “garden” with rock “stepping stones,” one for each day of Lent and Holy Week, leading all the way to Pascha.
For this countdown, you will need a large shallow container (a bought-baked-goods serving tray works well), sand, a candle/holder, and 48 smooth stones in a small container. You may also need permanent markers or paint if you wish to decorate or number the stones.
Begin by smoothing the sand in the shallow container.
Plant the candle, representing the Light of Christ (Pascha!) in the center of the container.
Set the container of stones beside the sand “garden,” so it is easily accessible each day.
Beginning on Clean Monday, each day of Great Lent and Holy Week, add one stone to the sand, creating a path spiraling toward the candle.
The last stone should end up right next to the candle, and will be placed there on Holy Saturday. On Pascha, instead of placing a stone, light the candle, the Light of Christ!
- You may wish to number the stones, to help you keep track of where you are in the process (or to help keep track of them if the garden is visited by little hands).
- Or you may wish to paint the rocks, to make them more colorful or to remind you of the theme for the day.
- In lieu of a rock on Holy Friday, you may wish to plant a small cross in the sand.
2 — Blooming Wreath: Create a flower wreath that becomes more beautiful each day, just as our lives become more beautiful as we tend the garden of our heart.
(Blooming Wreath, day 5)
To make this, you will need a grapevine wreath, a bow (we chose green to represent the growth we will experience during Great Lent), colored paper, scissors, twist ties, and buttons or glue. Begin by affixing the bow to the wreath (tie, twist, or hot glue it in place).
To make a flower, begin with a square of colorful paper. The size is up to you (and the size of your wreath.) Varying sizes will look lovely together. Fold the square into quarters.
Fold the quartered paper in half, forming a triangle.
Pinching the corner that is the center tightly, cut the outer portion of the triangle into a curve.
Unfold the paper to reveal an 8-pointed flower!
With the tip of your scissors, poke two holes near the center of the flower. Tuck one end of a twist-tie into one hole, and the other end through a button, then through the other hole (or if you prefer to not use a button, tuck both ends into the flower’s holes, then glue a contrasting paper circle over the twist tie to cover it).
Use the twist tie to attach the flower to the wreath.
It is up to your family whether you make one flower each day, or make all 49 at the beginning of Lent and just add one to the wreath each day. Either way, by the end of Lent, your wreath will be bursting with blooms, just as your hearts are bursting with the joy of having grown closer to Christ during Lent!
- Instead of all flowers, occasionally add a leaf.
- Perhaps you could add a “cocoon” on Holy Friday to represent Christ’s burial and then a butterfly on Pascha to emphasize the beauty of His resurrection.
- If your children love to count, mark each flower with a number indicating what day of Lent it was added to the wreath.
- For the less crafty, instead of making flowers, you could buy some silk flowers at your local craft store and affix those to the wreath each day.
3 — Lenten Garden: Plant seeds that will grow along with your family as you tend the garden of your hearts this lenten season.
For this countdown, you will need dirt, seeds, 49 small containers, and a spray bottle with water. Before Great Lent begins, prepare 49 small containers of earth, one for each day of Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha itself. Plant a seed or two in a different container every day of Great Lent and Holy Week, planting the last one on Pascha. Every day, use a spray bottle to spray the earth in each container already containing a seed, and watch for growth. When the weather is warm enough, plant your Lenten garden plants outside. Be sure to share your excess along the way!
- You may wish to number the containers in which you plant.
- You may wish to decorate the containers to remind you of the Lenten theme for that day or week.
- Perhaps you already have small planting containers on hand, but if not, you can make your own from cardboard egg cartons or folded newspaper (both are biodegradable and can just be planted with the seedlings).