Monday, June 17, 2019

The Ascetic Lives of Mothers

This is a book review on the audiobook. I was gifted a copy of this audiobook for an honest review.

After answering the call to pick an Ancient Faith audiobook to review, I was drawn to the title of this book. I am a mother. Therefore, I probably need to read this book. But, I did not read the entire title. The Ascetic Lives of Mothers: A Prayerbook for Orthodox Moms. Imagine my surprise as I began listening to this book. It is another hectic afternoon. I have finished working for the day (part time Orthodox school principal). I am at home, earbuds in, ready to dive into an audiobook when I realize- this is about prayer. And that this book is actually a prayerbook. And, this is exactly what I needed to hear on this challenging day. When I realized what this book really was about- I paused and made the decision to spend time really listening to the prayers, quotations from our Church Fathers, direction, and advice. Normally, I will listen to an audiobook for a few hours at a time (those precious hours when the boys' are at school, my husband is in his home office working, and I am doing the mom thing). This prayerbook needed more time to digest. I listened in short bursts of time over a few weeks. I found that by listening to this book while working around the house helped to keep me focused on praying while working. The book is divided into chapters with a special focus on a specific topic, prayers for different occasions, and daily prayers. The author's voice is soothing to listen to which is especially important in audiobooks.

And, listening to the audiobook now has me wanting to purchase a copy to keep in my prayer corner as the audiobook (at least on my kindle) does not have chapter names listed. 

This book was a delight and a surprise! I look forward to re-listening to it in the future. 



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Humility


“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.”

It is fitting that at the end of the year, our focus is on humility; the mother of all virtues as Mother Teresa describes it. From September to now, we have introduced a different virtue to our students each month. Our deepest desire for all of our students at ASA is that they go on to lead lives of virtue and that they, outside of our walls, will be an example to others of what it means to lead a virtuous life. We provide them with these tools based on our Orthodox Faith that when they are grown, they will remember the words and example of the ASA staff and of you, their parents, in order to persevere in the virtues.
“We suffer because we have no humility and we do not love our brother. From love of our brother comes the love of God. People do not learn humility, and because of their pride cannot receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, and there for the whole world suffers.”
-St. Silouan the Athonite
May we always strive for humility in all areas of our life.
Mrs. Blankenstein


Monday, April 8, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Patience

 


And so let us be glad and bear with patience everything the world throws at us, secure in the knowledge that it is then that we are most in the mind of God. – St.Basil the Great

Every month, I attempt to write an article on the Virtue of the Month. As I think on what to write, I search for a quotation from the Church Father’s to hopefully inspire me as I write this. Sometimes, the simplest quotation seems to convey the exact message that I am looking to pass to you and our students. This month, St. Basil the Great, beautifully writes (better than I ever could write) the importance of patience. As we enter the last few weeks of Lent, let us be mindful and continue our struggle with patience as that will be when we “are most in the mind of God”. Kalo Pascha!

May it be blessed,

Mrs. Chrstina Blankenstein

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Thank you!!!



Thank you to the nuns of Paracletos Monastery who donated a beautiful icon of our Feast day to the school!

Check out all their fabulous images at https://www.orthodoxmonasteryicons.com/collections/festal-icons/products/midfeast-of-pentecost-icon.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Generosity


“When a man really considers his neighbor as himself, he will never tolerate having more than his neighbor. If he does have more, but refuses to share things generously until he himself becomes as poor as his neighbor, then he will find that he has not fulfilled the commandment of the master. He no longer wants to give to all who ask, and instead turns away from someone who asks of him while she still has a penny or a crust of bread. He has not treated his neighbor as he would like to be treated by him. In fact, even if a man had given food and drink and clothes to all the poor, even the least, and had done everything else for them, he has only to despise or neglect a single one and it will be reckoned as if he had passed by Christ and God and He was hungry and thirsty.”— St. Simeon the New Theologian

We have reached the beginning of Lent. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our journey in our Faith and whether or not we are leading lives of virtue. Our virtue of the month for March is generosity. Be kind to everyone you meet. Give to all- not only to those who are less fortunate but give of ourselves (time, patience, love) to everyone that crosses our path. At Agia Sophia Academy, our staff strives to instill in our students the importance of giving to one another as one of the highest of virtues. We must continuously teach our children through our own example of giving and generosity to all.
By the way, this Lenten season, remember to pick up a “grab and give” bag to hand out to those in need. And, please look at our Food Barrel Friday list for those in need. These are all simply and easy ways to share what we have with our neighbors.
Kali Sarakosti! Have a blessed Lent!
In Christ,
Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Virtue of the month- Love


Our virtue of the month for February is love. When we think of February, we think of chocolates and hearts, cards and flowers; the exchanging of gifts with those we love. Growing up, my dad always gave us boxes of chocolate covered cherries for Valentine’s Day and even though they weren’t my favorite candy, this gift was a small act of love from my father. At other times, he sat next to me almost every evening while I practiced piano. This was not a material gift but a gift of his time. While both gifts have value, which gift is of greater value?
"A child needs a lot of love and affection, and much guidance. A child needs you to sit by his side, listen to his problems, caress him and kiss him. If a mother takes an upset and mischievous child into her arms to caress and kiss, the child will calm down. If the young child is filled with affection and love, later that child will be strong and able to face the problems of life." – St. Paisios of the Holy Mountain
Our goal at ASA is to guide our students through love so that they, as St. Paisios said, “will be strong and able to face the problems of life.”

May all our interactions with our children be blessed,

Mrs. Christina Blankenstein

Saturday, February 9, 2019

I Live Again- Audiobook Review...


As I listened to this audiobook, my mind kept returning to one thought... Princess Ileana, during the time of the war, exemplified the Proverbs 31 woman:
13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
This book is not about her monastic life or the establishment of the monastery. This book is a journal of the events of Princess Ileana's life during a very specific time period- her life during WWII and after- leading up to her family leaving Romania. How she "lives again" as she transitions from being a princess of Romania to the Archduchess of Austria to the time of WWII, and, finally, to when she is forced with her family to leave her country. 
Princess Ileana was not idle- her ability to learn nursing, build hospitals, give to the poor, and convince communist officials to support her endeavors were inspiring. 
As I finished this audiobook, I was inspired by her untiring example of giving to others and helping her fellow man. And, her adventures, which she writes about very matter of fact (almost as if she believes that anyone else would have done the same thing which shows her true humility). I am eager to learn more about how Princess Ileana became Mother Alexandra of blessed memory, how she "lives again" in monasticism. 
Technically, this audiobook is very well done. The quality of the recording is amazing. The narrator, Kristina Wenger, does an excellent job- I almost believed it was the voice of Princess Ileana herself! 
The one downside to the audiobook is that the published book does contain illustrations and photos of Princess Ileana and her family. But, that is the downside to audiobooks, especially autobiographical books, is that there is not a way to convey the photos or artwork. We happen to own a copy of the book and I was able to look through the photos/illustrations (but I waited until after I finished listening to the book in order to write a review of the audiobook). 
I was gifted a copy of this audiobook for an honest review. Purchase your own copy of the audiobook through Audible.com or purchase the printed book through Ancient Faith Publishing

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Virtue of the Month- Self Control

Our Virtue of the month for January is Self-Control.
What is self-control?
According to the dictionary it is
the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the
expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations.”
Self-control is the control of how we express our feelings.
In order to do this, we need grace from God and a lot of practice
to gain self-control.
Throughout our school day, and even at home, we are presented
with challenges to our self-control and we must decide
how we will respond to those challenges.
Do I yell? Do I insist on doing things my way?
Montessori teaches uses the phrase “self-regulation” in place of “self-control”.
The greatest way to teach this is modeling.
We, as parents and teachers, show our children what
“self-regulation” or “self-control” looks like.
And, within our faith, we have the examples of the lives of the saints to guide us.
Following are links to three articles on self-control-
one Orthodox Christian and the other two are Montessori.
May we all grow in self-control and be the models to our children
that they need for us to be.
May it be blessed,

Mrs. Blankenstein

Friday, January 18, 2019

Quotation on education...

When I am reading a book- any book- I keep a log of quotations that inspire me or cause me to pause to think for a moment (or more). While reading a book for a book group I belong to, I came across the following quotation: 
"A boy is told that the object of his life is to "get somewhere," and that means to get money; that it is up to him to "make good," and that means to make money. From his tenderest years he is submitted to nerve-racking tests of his potential money-making capacity. The school examinations have come to mean that; he must pass well because otherwise he will not get a good job, in other words, a job with a good salary. Education is no longer primarily intended to teach him to serve God, or to enrich his life, but only to give him a passport into the commercial scramble. Many sensitive boys break down under the strain of examinations, not because they are wanting in the knowledge to pass, but because each one they do pass brings them a step nearer to the world of competition, in which, they know instinctively, so much that is fine in them will perish." The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander (originally published in 1944)
This book is a reflection on parts of The Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God. The title of the chapter in this book is "Fiat"- Let it be done.The author, in the prior paragraphs, writes about how money has become the all important, all encompassing item in our lives. We are constantly pushed to have more, do more, make more money. And in that pursuit, something is lost inside all of us. And this begins when we are very young. What is the purpose of our education. Is it to serve God? To guide us along our path to salvation? Or is it to get ahead, make more money, achieve more things than those around us? 


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

I Live Again... next book review for Mrs. B.

For my next Ancient Faith Publishing book review I will be listening to the book I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria. This will be my first audiobook book review and I am very excited to listen to it!
Check back soon for two book reviews written by ASA students for Shepherding Sam!

May it be blessed,
Mrs. Blankenstein

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kind Words...

Happy New Year! I am including a card that we receive from a monastery. In July one of the first things that I did was to write to all the Orthodox monasteries in the United States and ask them to pray for our school. We added their addresses to our mailing list to keep them updated on our school and to continue to ask for their prayers. Here is a lovely response from our Christmas card. Prayer is vital to the success of our school.
May it be blessed!
Mrs. Blankenstein

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Barn and The Book by Melinda Johnson- Book Review

The Barn and the Book by Melinda Johnson

Please go here to read my review of Shepherding Sam by the same author.

The Barn and the Book is the follow up book to Shepherding Sam, both by Melinda Johnson. I highly recommend reading Shepherding Sam prior to reading The Barn and the Book- only because you are introduced to the characters in the first book and I believe that it makes the ending of The Barn and the Book that much more powerful after having witnessed Sam's struggles in the first book.

We follow Sam and Saucer on another adventure at the monastery. Sam is a boy who struggles with spending time at the monastery, going to church services, and, now, staying focused in Sunday School. Saucer is a corgi who continues to look for opportunities to herd- whether it be animals or children (especially Sam). This book takes place during the Nativity season and there is an opportunity for the children to publish a story in the anniversary book about the monastery. The children in the book all have ideas for their stories except Sam who is completely focused on a story he heard. The story is that on Christmas Eve, all the animals are able to speak at midnight for one hour. Sam wants to know what Saucer is really thinking and makes it his mission to stay up until midnight at the monastery.

This is an excellent follow up to Shepherding Sam. Sam continues to make strides in his ability to focus at the monastery through Saucer's help. Plus we are introduced to some new children and nuns who are each going through their own struggles, too. Sister Anna is a wonderful character that both adults and children can relate to with her struggles of finding her gifts to use at the monastery for the Glory of God. I especially loved the story around Sister Anna and, of course, the very wise Gerontissa! And the book is written in a way that I believe children would be able to identify with her struggles as well as the struggles of all the characters.

To find out if Sam is able to hear Saucer speak, purchase this book! Great for all ages- especially 5 years old and up (including adults). This book would make a great read aloud but I highly recommend reading Shepherding Sam before The Barn and the Book.

I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase your own copy at Ancient Faith Publishing