This week, back to school week for us, has been intense… but here we are, it’s Saturday and we have done it – transition from holiday to term time done! (and it could have been worse!!)
An activity book that I had ordered arrived during the week too, and I couldn’t wait to start it together, so I had it near by at tea time yesterday wondering if there would be a moment that might work. We don’t routinely plan to talk faith, or read the Bible together in an intentional way at a meal – meals are stressful enough by themselves (we are together for a start, then add to that the expectation that we might all eat similar food next to each other!) but in the last 3 years we have from time to time managed to try which has been both amazing and terrifyingly precarious to introduce & lead – but having an occasional short stretch of something very intentional is beginning to be more expected by everyone now which means it’s getting a little easier.
We have marked lent in this kind of way twice now, and advent 3 times (with really varied experiences, sometimes it’s impossible & we abandon; sometimes the routine is followed with a zeal that overshadows the content and meaning of what we are doing completely; sometimes is starts a great conversation or sharing between us; sometimes the doing of it together just falls apart & it just causes conflict and stress).
Right now of course it isn’t lent or advent, so we will have to see how it goes… I won’t be expecting to get the book out at every meal, just when it feels like there’s a space & we might just enjoy a bit together – no pressure. I love the fact that in the introduction Victoria Beech says:
Find your own routine
Do it at a time of day and as often as works best for you. Regular is nice, irregular is also nice. Don’t feel you have to imitate a certain pattern or format.
So, how did it go??
The book is called ‘Our Family God Venture’, by Victoria Beech (ordered from http://godventure.co.uk/product/our-family-godventure/ )
The style and format of the book was a definite win, especially with the girls. T kept saying ‘400 stickers!’, and finding the pages they were on. B got excited about the invitingly blank spaces for doodling and writing. A intrigued but as soon as the girls got excited and started drawing it got difficult to find space for him to join them so it got difficult. After trying a number of ways to include and encourage he was still getting more stressed and upset (especially as B was drawing a picture of him into the family portrait frame & not giving him the choice) so he left us to it then. But in the midst of the stresses of turn taking, and social skills we did manage some talking together about how well we know each other, and about how well God knows us. We found ourselves asking what God would draw or write that he liked about each of us?
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139:1,2) (NIV)
After A left we found the Bible passage printed out in a few different versions near the back of the book. Before then we had simply tried to remember it and between us we remembered most … I knew that if I had left the table to fetch a Bible & look it up the moment would have passed before I got back – it’s only ever a short window of opportunity for us before the stresses of trying to do it together get too tricky. Really great to have the passage needed for the whole activity book (Psalm 139) actually in the book itself – much easier to have to hand.
At the foot of the page there is a suggested question to take it further for older children & for you as parents which is great, I shall perhaps pick up that thought with B & A over the next few days – but probably one to one!
Great to have non-glossy pages, felt tips left really colourful marks, didn’t smudge or run. I loved the balance on the page between blank space and invitation to make our mark, spot on for us. Drew us in straight away, and when hands were busy thinking, talking and sharing began to happen.
Just as trying to do anything like this does, it highlighted the things our family finds difficult about working together on something. Turn taking, and waiting is always a flash point; shared imagination about how the page should be used was tricky, as usual there were unspoken and unshared assumptions that were difficult to navigate; personal space – crowding around the book (not helped by difficulties around turn taking) and the ensuing stresses of ‘he touched me’, ‘she shoved me’ etc; and my tiredness making it quite hard to find the energy and quick thinking needed to keep it going smoothly & fun! I was wondering about what might be easier for us as a family, and wondered what a printed, colour-me-in table cloth would be like – maybe for a special moment, like harvest or pentecost or the beginning of lent or advent… a table cloth would be bigger, spreading out the hands on involvement which might make it easier for us! Or what about disposable doodle placemats?
Really pleased we were able to give it a try, hopeful there will be some lovely and God-filled times together as we use this lovely book over the coming months. (And then of course exploring some of the other God Venture resources!)