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Saint Justin was a well-educated man.  He spent a great deal of his time studying as well as writing apologies for Christians, which ultimately cost him his life when he was martyred for his beliefs.  We commemorate him on June 1st.

My little Justin struggles with learning, in general.  He has spent much of his life attending therapy sessions to help him in various areas but it’s a brain based disability that will be with him his entire life.  After I read the story of his saint aloud to him tonight, I asked my Justin, “How do you think you can imitate or copy Saint Justin in your life?”

He thought for a brief moment, then replied, “I could try harder on my school work.”

Intrigued, I inquired further, “Why is it important to try really hard on your school work?”

Without hesitating, Justin told me, “So I can teach others about God.  If I don’t get better at my reading then I don’t know what to tell them.”

His response immediately made me think of the quote from Sophie Koulomzin –

“You can only teach that which you have made your own…”

My kids never cease to amaze me with what they ultimately teach ME!

For our activity tonight, I had Justin help me make his name day cake.  We decided to try a new recipe to see how we liked it.  We have a birthday coming up where there will be several people in attendance who have some severe food allergies so we were interested in seeing how this recipe turned out.  We ended up making a vegan, gluten-free cake and everyone enjoyed it.  We substituted King Arthur gluten free flour in place of regular flour but followed the rest of this recipe for the spice cake.

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For my Justin, learning anything new (and I do mean anything) comes with great difficulty.  It’s easy for him to get overwhelmed by the immensity of the task before him and, in turn, shut down.  There are two aspects that have allowed him to flourish to the degree that he has – his love of God and cooking.

When he was younger, he would often ask me, “What did you put in this?”  (He was asking for specific ingredients in a meal.)  Seizing the opportunity for some possible motivation, I would tell him, “I’ll share all my secret recipes with you as soon as you can read.”  He desperately longed to be able to read the recipes to me but I mistakenly overwhelmed him more than I motivated him.  He needed to work along side of me (crack the eggs, scoop the flour, stir the batter, etc.) for several more years before attempting to learn the finer details (reading the recipes).

“first I do, and then I learn about what I did”.  (Boojamra, Foundations for Christian Education)

(You have no idea how many light bulbs went off in my head while reading John Boojamra and Sophie Koulomzin’s books simply by thinking about how my children have flourished or not flourished in their learning.  The mistakes I’ve made versus the successes we’ve had – and then understanding why certain approaches worked and others failed miserably.)  This is the first year where I’ve been able to have Justin read most of the recipe to me – and he’s loving it!  Hence, why it was such a HUGE deal for him to help me make the name day cake tonight.

Additionally, this past year for Sunday School, he received his own Orthodox Study Bible.  From the boy who refused to read anything – I found him reading page after page of his Bible in his room and then telling his brothers about his favorite stories from the Bible while they were sitting at the table eating.  (One of my other boys also started reading after being gifted his Orthodox Study Bible from Sunday School.)  Our family’s calm amongst the storms has always been with God.  Always.

Additional Connections and Extensions:

Saint Justin: Philosopher, writer, apologist, martyred, well educated

He studied in Alexandria and Ephesus.  Where are they?  Why were they important places to learn/study?

Learn how to chant his Troparion and Kontakion

Go to the library to learn more about philosophy or an Orthodox topic of interest so we can talk about it with others.

What is an apologist?  A person who makes a defense in speech or writing of a belief, idea, etc.  (Write an apology.  Write a speech for the Oratorical Festival.  Be able to explain to a friend what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in a concise, easy to understand way.)