Apologies – and the guilt coming out of lockdown

Is it true, what I’ve been reading on social media over the last 2 months, people have been redecorating houses, getting fit, taking up new hobbies? Apparently lockdown has been an opportunity for such things – for some!

Isn’t it hard not to face coming out of lockdown with a whole load of new things to feel guilty about. The untidy, unclean house let alone not re-decorated; the really few number of ‘good days’ of school at home; the fact that I’ve not been able to sit here with a cuppa for a whole 2 months!!; the non-existent new hobbies and achievements. Oh dear, if comparison is the thief of joy this is going to feel rather tricky to negotiate!

Surely I’m not alone!

Well, to try and help myself, I’m going to sit here for a moment and list my lockdown achievements – however different they may be:

  • We have (just about) always had clean clothes to wear!
  • Everyone has eaten something every day (even if it wasn’t at the right time, or in the same place as everyone else, or particularly nutritious)
  • School work has been printed out and talked about – a lot – enough said!
  • I have discovered and explored new places in the house and garden to create semi-permanent dens and tents. (safe chill out spaces and divide and conquer!)
  • Church has come into our living room, and study, and kitchen, and sometimes bedroom and even behind the sofa on Sundays.
  • I have become quite used to filming, editing and leading myself in worship and reflective activities of various kinds.
  • I have created film studio zones in the house and garden – that can be rediscovered under the mess when needed.
  • My volunteering responsibilities and my work have been done – that should be in capital letters, what an achievement in these circumstances!
  • And I have learnt all about green screens, stop frame animation and some basic editing. Watch out world!!
  • I have continued to exercise my extreme parenting skills – juggling, multi-tasking, peace keeping and hostage negotiation, wrestling the octopus-es or is that -i?, mentoring, counselling, resilience under a regime of sleep deprivation and red-coat entertainment as required.
  • We have bought and settled in 2 rabbits – Flapjack, and Tiffin.
Flapjack on the right, Tiffin on the left
  • I have tried new baked goodies – A has been baking lots of bread, and cake.
  • As a result I reached my ideal weight for the first time in years – even if fleetingly.
  • T has made it into the bath and shower enough.
  • I have made fabric masks for all of us.
  • I actually rang the doctors – yes me – if you know me well you will instantly agree it has to go on the list of achievements.
  • I have smiled, and laughed, played games and spoken to extended family regularly.
  • (I have also sighed, been tired, grumpy, frustrated and very anxious in equal measure)
  • I have not fallen out (permanently!) with any family members!!

Thanks for listening! It really helps to list things sometimes – there have been plenty of achievements – but as always they might not look the same in our family. What do they look like in yours as you ease out of lockdown?

It must be desperate when God sends a self-care opportunity out of the blue: crazy busy autism household in lock down.

Social media is giving me the impression that everyone has managed to achieve great and exciting projects during lockdown. I think I’m developing a good dose of lockdown envy, and guilt that I haven’t! There have been no home improvement DIY’s, no de-cluttering, no clearing out – the house is in fact messier and more chaotic than usual. I haven’t learnt any new interesting skills (apart from with tech for our ministry tasks). There just hasn’t been the time or the energy!

Doing work, ministry, volunteering, schooling, family life; being Mum, carer, wife, author, a disciple, a human – all simultaneously, all in the same space for all these weeks has been an intense challenge with no respite. The worries of the lockdown and the virus have made T more clingy than usual, set back our sleep (which lets face it wasn’t great anyway), caused bigger and more frequent waves of anxiety that have had to be managed… and everything has had to be done differently – and we don’t like change in this household!

I’ve been counting it as a good day when we are all up & dressed for some of it, and we get to bed having been fed & watered (which we are always – thank you Andrew!) and still in one piece!

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Just for a moment this morning we all went to the garden, at the same time and stood looking up at the house martins circling the garden, and trying out our house walls and window ledges for size. It was breathtaking – the birds, and the all stopping together to take it all in.

In a whirl of busy-ness where when ‘work’ (voluntary & now job as well – that’s taking some getting used to) can be put down, something or usually someone else needs to be attended to it was like a long drink of cold water on a hot day!

I do thank God for those unexpected moments he provides which, of course, turn out to do self-care and rest so much better than anything you could have planned … and not quite achieved.

 

Butterflies and a rainy week in lock down

The news in our house this week is that our butterflies have emerged from their chrysalises, and also a tiny green caterpillar we had collected from the garden has transformed into a two tone tiny moth. Very welcome addition of interest into a rainy week in lock down!

And a reminder of how impatient we are! And how beautiful and transformational the plans are that God has for his children – his new creations.

 

 

Love is patient, love is kind…practicing family love during lock down

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The trouble with lock down is that it is magnifying our weak spots! It is intense being together 24/7 for this length of time!! (Or is that just us – please tell me it isn’t)

Loving each other as a family cannot stay as words only, this pressurized time needs us to step up big time and become much more conscious of our actions towards each other. Not at all easy! Our actions means our tone of voice, our assumptions (often based on un-forgiven baggage lets face it), our body language and facial expressions (which of course we don’t all read in the same way which adds another layer of complexity), our acts of service and choices that affect each other.

The Bible gives us a daunting description of family love…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

from 1 Cor 13

… and of course shows us what that love looks like in practice in the life and death of Jesus. The passage finishes with ‘LOVE NEVER FAILS’. Oh help!

Truth is, when I rely on my ability to ‘try, try, try again’ with even just one of the adjectives in the passage I run out. My fragile, incomplete ability to love is not enough to never fail my family. It is true that being a Christian is not to be perfect – but rather to know we need perfecting by the grace of God.

This week one of the new words for T in her school work at home was ‘invoke’, to actively invite and welcome in, to call upon the presence of. A word that for me conjours up a picture of embrace… which is not simply me embracing an abstract concept when it comes to God, but rather a real living, holy presence who is also actively invested in the embrace! I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal’s return and the Father who out ran the shame and disgrace to reach his child and clothe him with honour, and crown him with love. We are invited into an embrace full of love – love so abundantly given that there is enough to fill us to overflowing.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Col 3:12-14

We still ‘try, try, try again’ – but wrapping the clothes God gives us really close, fully embracing his loving grace-filled presence (yep – on a good day!!), allowing his love to embrace us – our thinking, our actions and words.

God’s not finished with me yet!

 

 

Caring for creation during lockdown

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It should I suppose come as no surprise that because God the creator of the world also made us we have an innate close bond with his creation. The Bible reminds us that everything in creation reveals God’s glory to us – points us to God.

Every little part of his creation is a testimony of his character and his heart.

psalm 104 v 24

Scientists will tell us that gardening boosts good mental health, anything creative and focused helps us become grounded and mindful of the present which reduces anxiety and regulates emotion. It has all the health benefits of getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air, and physical exercise to help us stay healthy and sleep better.

Animals too are well recognized for their therapeutic benefits. Again, potentially reducing anxiety and regulating emotion.

None of this is any surprise to God, who made us and placed us in a garden to live in harmony with his creation and himself. Caring for creation is a part of what makes us tick.

So how on earth can we stay connected, keep caring for creation during lock-down?

Easy enough I suppose if you happen to have a private garden, all that’s needed is the motivation to get everyone out there and taking part! A scavenger hunt, or a personal little patch of soil and some seeds; a mud kitchen; or a fairy garden or dinosaur landscape to play with.

But what about caring for creation if you are inside, without a garden? 

I was reading today that in Spain at the moment children are not permitted to leave their houses at all. That does require a lot of outside the box thinking in order to care for creation (and ourselves!). Here are 5 ideas for connecting with nature during lockdown that don’t need a garden!

  • Grow caterpillars – We sent off for a kit that included a butterfly (zipped and netted) enclosure, and a pot with 5 tiny caterpillars in containing all the food they needed. Simple! It has been amazing to watch them eat, and grow – shed their skin, eat, poo and grow some more. (They became huge!) The sealed pot has made it so easy to keep them safe and well as we have enjoyed watching them change. Today they have all turned into chrysalises and we have moved them to the butterfly enclosure to wait for butterflies.

 

  •  Window watching – make time to bird, bee or butterfly watch out of the window. RSPB are hosting a bird watching breakfast between 8-9am in the UK during the lockdown. The Big Butterfly Count(which happens between July – Aug in the UK) has a good printable guide to UK butterflies. Now is a good time to start getting in some spotting practice. There is also an app and ID guide to help with spotting bees from Friends of the Earth.
  • Share the care for pets – if you have a pet, get everyone who’s in lockdown with you involved in their care. Invent new toys for them, study their behaviours, find out more about them, take photos, enjoy more cuddles than usual.

  • Watch a nature documentary – yes it’s not the same as getting out there, but it’s good. Be amazed at God’s creation. Get up close to animals or places you wouldn’t be able to normally in the great outdoors and be inspired to marvel at the God who made and sustains it all.
  • Fruit and Vegetables – spend some time really noticing and enjoying the fruit or vegetables in your kitchen. Make some pictures using vegetable prints and be amazed at the patterns they make. Do a blind smell or taste test and find out who can guess all of the fruit and veg correctly. Find out where they grew, and what their plant looks like. Hold a seed from a fruit in your hand and think about how it contains all that is needed to grow into a new plant which will produce new fruits. God is an astonishing designer.