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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Tired

When people ask ‘how are you?’ what do you reply?

‘Fine’

‘Good’

‘yep, how are you?’

One of my go-to replies is ‘head above water!’ But in the midst of the relentless, coming-at-me, complicated, tiring, purposeful, joyful, infuriating, beautiful life of ours there are times when I add in my head – ‘just’. You know that kind of tired when you’ve been treading water for so long the weary ache sets in, or you’ve been carrying something just slightly too heavy or awkward and suddenly you just have to put it down for a minute, when you’re running to catch up with someone and you’re nearly there – but not quite. That tired.

That tired that opens the door to the insecurities – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘what’s the point in trying’, ‘it won’t work’, ‘I’m failing’, ‘I always fail’, ‘I’m a failure, rubbish, why bother’, ‘nobody, invisible…’ – and a tiny voice in the midst of the clamor ‘ ‘help!’. Elijah tired.

When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”

He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.

The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:3-9 MSG)

I come back to this passage over and over again. So human. So real. And God, our Father so gentle and purposeful. ‘There’s still a journey to make, eat, sleep, come on keep following – I’m here with you – one thing at a time Elijah’. We are seen, known by name, loved and sent with purpose & company. Time to catch a breath, eat & sleep the best I can and keep on stepping out with God.

lam 3 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

special interests

 

Some call it obsession, some think it narrow

but in our family we love special interests;

with intensity, with all we’ve got

we focus, we explore, we research and find out.

Our knowledge creates a safe space in which we can curl up and rest.

Familiar and known.

Digging and drawing,

collecting and cuddling, playing and gaming,

gather the facts, devour the info.

It is expertise we can share.

Breathe it all in, get the sand between your toes,

the clarity of focus takes experience deep, deep, deeper;

you can taste it, smell it, know it.

It’s all or nothing,

all in, or not at all.

That’s the wonder and beauty of special interests.

And in the pursuit we see

fierce loyalty, tenacity against the odds;

a single-mindedness that isn’t swayed.

Peer pressure can’t touch this.

So yes, some may think it narrow, some think we obsess.

I guess some may even find it boring,

but in this family we love special interests.

In them we see echoes of a Creator, a Father’s heartbeat.

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seeing in colour: how do we experience life in all its fullness?

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Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG)

“It’s so sad Mummy”, “what is T?” – “they don’t see all the colours.”

We were chatting about our two lovely, cuddly kittens. We’ve been busy in T’s bedroom, new curtains, some bigger shelves and a good sort out. We’ve also been making a house together for her dolls, and have so enjoyed the colours and fabrics and papers we have been playing with. And Jaffa loves it as you can see – on this visit to the house he found the bedroom and decided to settle in for a nap tucked in by T, too cute!

Cats apparently only see in black and white, or only a very limited range anyway. Of course we talked about how they had only ever seen things this way which meant that the shades and densities of black and white and all in-between were what they were used to, they could still have favourites and enjoy the differences (Jaffa seems to love pink for example, but we don’t know that pink looks the same to him as it does to us).

Recently someone reminded me of John 10:10 – life in all its fullness, life in abundance is what Jesus gives us as he comes into our lives. And I thought back to this little conversation. Spiritually we have got so used to seeing only in black and white, and we are very comfortable with that. But God sees in technicolour! And in Jesus it is as if he opens our eyes to catch glimpses – not too much or we’d be overwhelmed – of the dazzling colours of real, full, life. I expect we each get to see and experience different glimpses too. The abundant life of God splashes into our lives in different places and in different ways. One of my go-to phrases about my life as a disciple is that ‘my joy looks different from yours’ (or swap in peace, or hope etc). I don’t mean that God’s truth is relative – not at all – I guess I’m meaning that the expression of it, my experience of it as it splashes into and through my life here on earth may be very different from yours. We are unique, and God’s revelation of himself is personal at the same time as being the same truth for all, across all time and cultures.

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We each see and experience in a different way. Some much more differently than most. My girls see and experience the world around them differently from most and sometimes I wonder if that means they see very different shades, depths and brightness in the colourful splashes of God’s abundant life that break into ours.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand more of what they see, what their faith experience feels like? Wish I could be a fly on the wall. But it’s their personal friendship with God, their story with him. I only walk alongside, hoping to encourage and enable. But I’m also walking alongside ready to listen and learn, and rejoice when they share with me. I am learning (still!) to listen when T starts to sing in the garden or as we walk – it’s in these songs that she often describes her friendship with God, or her wonder at him and all he’s made. When I chat with B about a faith experience of my own, I’m learning to be braver and gently ask how she sees it, or if she’s experienced anything similar – and am learning to wait for her answer (which may come days later!). When I am planning something for a church group I’m enjoying asking B, A & T what they think, what they would choose to do to explain, or what craft or activity it makes them think about. Drawing and doodling together continues to be a great way of talking and sharing faith experiences together too.

What are the times your kids are able to share an insight about their faith?

In what ways does God’s abundant life splash it’s colour into your family life?