Handmade Icon Ornaments

you'll need brushes, modpodge, wood and icons

Handmade ornaments are always so personal and welcoming in a parish setting. At St. Basil’s, our first set was worn out by many loving and curious little hands. So, I decided this was the year to make a new and improved set that could withstand the love and storage abuse. I’m sharing this process with you in the hope that you’ll want to give it a try.

Here are the simple steps:

First of all, you need a Paul Bunyon of a husband to slice two dozen 1/4 inch circles from a medium sized hard wood branch. Now, we don’t cut trees down here every week, but we happened to be clearing some brush in our backyard and had the branches available. If you aren’t comfortable slinging a chainsaw around, go to Michaels or other similar craft store and buy a bag full of wood slices. That’s a whole lot easier.

Next, you’ve got to seal the wood. I learned this the hard way. On my first try, I sprayed gold paint directly onto the wood slices and it just absorbed right into the wood. On the second try, I sprayed polyurethane on the slices to coat and seal the wood. Then, I spray-painted all the slices gold on both sides. You can find cans of gold spray paint at Home Depot, Walmart, and craft stores.

Finally, I took a drill and bored holes into the top of each painted slice to make a sturdy place to thread a ribbon through the ornament. Finished with the wood preparation, now I was ready for the fun stuff: pasting and decorating!

A good quality image is needed for each icon ornament. I went digging in our “holy trash” pile of old calendars and bulletins for images and also printed some from the internet. We decided to use images of Jesus and the saints related to the season: St. Herman of Alaska, St. Lucia, and St. Nicholas. I’ve attached a page with small versions of the images we used here.

Once you’ve gotten the images you want, gather medium sized paint brushes, a bottle of Modpodge, glue, glitter and a spool of narrow ribbon. Glitter makes this project extra fun. There wasn’t a single kid that made an ornament that didn’t want gold glitter all around the icon.

At church on the first Sunday in December, we gathered up the kids, young and old to make the ornaments. I had the images already cut out along with the Modpodge, glue and glitter waiting.

Each child selected an image and got to work. First, I had her glue the image down on the wood. Then, she dipped her brush into the Modpodge and painted this mixture over the entire surface, until the whole side was completely covered and saturated. A couple of moms helped their very young children with the process. We also had a few teens join in the project. After the ornaments dried a few minutes, the glittering began. Basically, the kids had free, artistic reign here. Some glittered ALOT, others just a bit. Last, a gold or red ribbon was threaded through the drilled hole at the top and tied into a loop.

The ornaments dried for several days and went right onto the tree. I think they turned out beautiful. Hopefully, they will hold up a few years. If you give this a try, or have done this before, please leave a comment about your experience below.


gag ball fun
gaga ball

He was sweaty and healthy and playing intensely at gaga ball with a large group of Orthodox peers wearing stealthy crosses.

The eye contact was brief.  Then, he darted away into the game.

Outside the camp, big kids were hugging and crying and vowing to keep in touch.

My older boy saw me second.  He had just emerged from the infirmary.

“I thought I had to check you out of the sick bay,” I said smiling him a greeting and hugging him hello.

“They told me I could come out and say good-bye,” he said disappearing into a crowd of tall youth.

While the younger set competed at the gaga ball court, camp counselors were taking pictures with their campers.  Eventually, I had to extract my youngest from the game and find our fellow travelers.

This was the last morning of camp.  It had all come to a crashing end.

Saying goodbye is tough.

What is it about endings that challenges the human psyche?  We don’t want to say goodbye.  We don’t want the good times to end.  

Summer is this way too.  Who wants the glorious unstructured days of summer to end? 

I struggle with endings as my kids age up.  Will this be the last summer they want to do camp?  Will this be our last family trip? 

As I ponder these questions, I see my mother leaning outside the doorway of my childhood home, tears in her eyes as we hug, my car packed full of luggage and kids pulling out of the driveway.   These are not new emotions.  goodbyes have been tough since the beginning of time.  

In the book of John, we see that “Jesus wept.”  Jesus wept because he loved Lazarus and knew that Martha and Mary were grieving for their brother.  Even though He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead within a few minutes, He was still overcome with sadness to see his friends so distressed. Martha and Mary didn’t want to say goodbye.

As camp ends, summer ends, childhood ends, God knows our struggles and that gives me comfort. What He knows is that beautiful things and experiences are on the other side of the goodbyes.  We just trust and go forward.

saying goodbye

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Laptop, Desktop, ipad and Phone

Slice of Life 2019: Day 17

One thing I’m learning during the Slice of Life March Challenge is the importance of keeping a charged laptop.  Right now, I’m in the passenger seat of our truck, my husband is driving, and my laptop battery only has about 30% battery life left. That’s because yesterday, I used the laptop in the kitchen, on the porch and at a coffee shop. I’m slicing remote! Any and everywhere I can squeeze a slice in, I do it.

At this moment, I’m clicking away at the keyboard as we drive down to a Lenten service called The Sunday of Orthodoxy.  Every year we attend this service at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Atlanta.  This service is so joyful and interesting.  Priests and parishioners from all the Orthodox Churches in the Atlanta area attend this service together.  Each priest brings an icon from his home parish to celebrate the restoration of the icons into the churches in 787 AD.  After the vespers service, a procession of the icons around the interior of the cathedral is followed by a short talk and then a Lenten meal in the fellowship hall.  Since this is a Greek church there is always yummy Greek food at the meal.  Tonight, someone has made rolled grape leaves and hummus.

One of my favorite things about tonight is seeing friends and loved ones, old and new. Orthodoxy is a small and tightly knit group and it is always wonderful to catch up with friends over dessert and a cup of coffee.

“How’s your daughter?”

“Are you going to Rebecca’s shower?”

“I heard you guys have a new, super young priest.”

We converse about our work, lives and children.  There is a sense of belonging we all feel here, at this service, with these people.

Afterwards, as soon as I get home, I’ll make a mad dash for the power cord so that I can plug this baby in.  Slicing definitely challenges my writing equipment and batteries.  I utilize all my devices to get the words out: laptop, desk top, iPad and phone. All the tech is getting put to good use this month!

A March for Life


Last year on January 19,  I made the decision to participate in the Atlanta March for Life.

I made the decision based upon two reasons:  1. In response to the Women’s Marches of 2017, I wanted my boys see a demonstration of peace, humility and love where people of all ages and orientations stood for choosing life.  2. In response to my own history as a formally pro choice woman, I wanted to stand publicly for the unborn.

In the Women’s Marches of 2017, we heard Ashley Judd say, “But yah, I am a nasty woman?! A loud vulgar, proud woman.”

In the March for Life, we saw women and men walking in prayer and humility to remind the people of Atlanta that life and babies are a precious gift from God.

There is nothing proud about joining a march with several hundred people walking in protest against the 53 million abortions that have occurred since 1973.  Many of the marching women had had abortions themselves and were walking as a testimony against it.   The day we walked, January 19, 2018, it was sunny and 45 degrees in Atlanta.  Snow and ice had only recently lost its grip on the city and people were beginning to move about. The streets were still grey with salt and gravel.

I called Father Tom Alessandroni earlier that morning and asked if he would join us.  He said yes and we picked him up and made our way downtown to the capitol.  As the quiet demonstrators gathered, speeches and testimonies were given by pastors and abortion survivors and life enthusiasts.  Prayers were said over the event and over our country. Father Tom’s presence at the event was noticeably welcome and several men and women came to speak with him and ask him about which church he was from and about his cassock.

After an hour of speeches, the march began. It began in silence and there was a somberness of those in attendance.  Many people held signs with statements like:  Unborn Lives Matter or We Love Babies.  What struck me was the diversity of those marching.  I saw women and men of various races and colors and ages all gathered to support the unborn. There was no shouting or profanity.  No one was pointing fingers or accusing others of evil or hate.  There were no vulgar signs. It was just a peaceful demonstration by people with one thing in common: life.

The one mile march took us right through the streets of down town Atlanta. Banners bearing the image of Martin Luther King attached to lamp posts greeted us as we strolled past the gold dome of the capitol, silently past the enormous Coca Cola sign and through the campus of Georgia State.  Within 30 minutes it was over.

I wanted to share with you these images from our day.  It was chilly and uncomfortable standing in the concrete park at the foot of the capitol, waiting for the walk to begin.  I’m glad we made the effort to be a part of this life-movement.

By participating, I wanted our boys to see that there is a way to protest and demonstrate without vulgarity, profanity or judgment.  I wanted them to see that there is a time to stand up, even when it is not vogue or cool or when people are cursing you for doing it.  “You’ve got to stand up for your own narrative,” I told them.  “If you don’t, somebody else will choose the narrative for you.”




It’s Camp Week

July 1 – It’s camp week!

These are beautiful words to a parent’s ear!  Camp week!  It’s here.  That week when the kids pack up their clothes, boots, sleeping bags, towels, and pillows and go have fun while mom and dad get a little time alone and some peace and quiet.

This is the second year my boys are headed off to Camp St. Thekla, an Orthodox Christian summer camp operated by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of Miami and the Southeast.  Last year, all we heard for two weeks after camp was how much fun they had, how great their friends were and how they couldn’t wait to do it again.  So, here we go.

Getting ready for camp can be a bit tedious.  There’s the suit cases to pack and only the coolest of t-shirts can go on the trip.   There’s a costume to bring for Decades Night.  There’s mom double checking to make sure deodorant was included.  There’s pillows.  Gabe brought his shredded pillow again which is also shedding stuffing everywhere.  We put a second pillow case on that one.  That was Saturday night.


Father Jacob blessing

Then, of course, there’s Sunday church and the Blessing for the campers!  St. Timothy’s in Toccoa, GA  had 5 going to CST this year.  Father Jacob douses them thoroughly with holy water after he says the prayers.

Then, there’s the road trip up there.  Everyone in the truck, yakking about camp games and counselors and Fr. Alexander.  It’s a lively conversation all the way up the twisty, curvy roads to Cleveland, SC.  Alas, we pull into the retreat center.  This is the time when mom gets a little anxious.

“What’s that Cascades thing you were talking about?” I ask.

“Oh, it’s where they let us jump off a waterfall into a pool of water, about a 50 foot drop,” says my quit witted teen.  “You won’t have to worry about Gabe.  You have to be 13 to go.”

“That makes me feel so much better,” I gasp. “Only one of you has to die.”

“Don’t freak, mom!  It’s not 50 feet and there’s a life guard,” he says with a grin.  “We’ll be fine.”

Father Alex at the check-in

So, yes, I do get a tad worrisome, but most of that eases as I meet the counselors and see Father Alexander again, the very capable coordinator of this ministry.   Then, I hear screams!  Those screams come from about five different kids running up to Hunter hugging, high fiving and beaming that he’s finally arrived.  He scurries away with them into the sunset, backpack over shoulder, not remembering to look back and say good bye.

It’s all good.

At check in, a friend and mother of six says, “We’re going to Asheville so we can sleep.”

“Good idea,” I agree, thinking about our own quiet week ahead.  It will be nice to sleep and think and breathe!  On the way back to the truck, I catch a glimpse of my youngest; he’s crowded around a busy game of poll ball completely unaware that he has a mamma nearby.

It’s all good.

Moments later, I nudge up into the driver’s seat, husband beside me, unable to help my big smile.  He’s smiling too as we head off together into the sunset.

Foreground: 2 a prominent or important position.

The Foreground is a blog series providing a glimpse into what one family is attempting to make prominent:  a life in the church.  We are a family of seven with some in the nest and some out.  We have kids in college, in high school and in middle school.  One of us is a sub deacon and one of us runs the parish book store.  Orthodox for 14 years, one of us attends a Greek church and the rest attend our local OCA parishes. What’s in our foreground?   Come join us this week and find out.

Go to http://www.familylifeministry.atlanta.goarch.org/ to see this blog and other great family oriented content.