movie night: discussing difficult questions together

 

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summer fun – many years ago

In the middle of the busy-ness of holiday club at church, which we were all part of (proud mummy week!) we made time to sit and watch a film together that A had seen and wanted to share with us. Now this was not, obviously, one to share with T so late one evening the rest of us sat down to watch Hacksaw Ridge (rated 15). If you are looking for a feel good, easy on the eye movie this is NOT it. It is hard to watch, gritty and violent. It is based on a true story of a conscientious objector who was awarded the US medal of honour in America during WWII, showing his decisions and people’s reactions to him. It is a film of inner struggle, the way we are shaped by our circumstances, of principles being lived in the extreme context of war. I’m not sure it would have been one I’d have picked out for a family film night – even though we do almost always discuss what we watch together in the light of our faith and our values.

The most obvious discussion point was of course is there a ‘right’ Christian view on war? Of course this isn’t one neat question and our discussions ranged from ‘What is pacifism?’; ‘What is Just War theory?’; ‘Tell me about conscientious objectors’; ‘Is there a right answer?’; ‘What should we listen to, the God of the Old Testament who sends his people to war or Jesus in the New Testament who doesn’t?’ right through to talking about the Quakers, religious freedom and unsurprisingly Bonhoeffer. None of these are easy questions, with straight forward answers. And in a way as a parent sharing faith I could not escape the background question – ‘how am I supposed to get from what the Bible says to an opinion or a principle that I can live by now in this world?’. So much for a light family movie night, or a bit of time out from the busy schedule! But we do discussion in this family, tired or not we love to grapple with the tough questions together. But don’t be under the impression we discussed until we were content with the answer and then went to bed at peace with it – this is ongoing, and I’m sure we’ll talk together about the same questions from many different angles and in the light of different contexts over the years to come.

 

 

These are not clear cut, neat and tidy discussions with a definite outcome or answer. These questions yet again challenge us to cope with that and live with that – not at all easy especially when life in general is shaped by definites and routines, clear cut thinking. In a way growing up in a vicarage is a tough call for my amazing autists, from an early age we have had to cope with and live with a certain amount of uncertainty, flexible routines and have had to regularly adapt family life around Andrew’s (and mine) fluid working patterns. But when we come to discussions like this I am so very thankful for it, because from an early age we have established (unwittingly) categories, or ‘boxes’ in our thinking to put the maybes, not-yets, perhapses, and yes-and-no’s of life. If we hadn’t we might not have coped with the stresses of the necessary flexibility of our routines! I guess in a way we did the same thing we did for metaphors and similes, we named them and that gave them a box to be put in which made them manageable. The ‘grey area’ discussions need a box in our thinking too, a ‘we-can’t-see-the-big-picture-but-God-can’ box or an ‘its-a-paradox’ box.

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We also discuss in the context of faith, not in the abstract (if there ever can be), in the context of both what we know about God and what we have experienced of God, within the balance of truth and experience. What we know of God from the Bible – all of it, the big story – and the community experience, including our own personal experience, of the people of God in the past and now, all in the light of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

In order to grow a healthy relationship [with God], we need a good balance of truth and relational experience. It is important that we learn to wrap one around the other, viewing one in the context of the other, so that they are inextricably linked, instead of compartmentalizing them as separate elements. (Parenting children for a life of faith, Rachel Turner)

And importantly we discuss together – there is very little point in me pretending that I have it all sorted out, or that I know all the answers even though there is a feeling of pressure as a parent to give an answer. Discussing together is authentic, grappling with tough questions acknowledging there is no easy answer is real. Modelling real faith to our children is not always easy and neat let’s face it!

 

So, to the questions!

What is pacifism? I have written a little about this before when reflecting on Remembrance Day . The Mennonite ‘Truth and Justice Network’ have some interesting articles about active pacifism, and the Quakers also have some useful resources.

Just War? A detailed essay about Just War theory here gives historical context and ethical basis for the theory. An easier to dip in and out of explanation is here.

Bonhoeffer It is easy to find out about his life, and the painful decisions he had to make during WWII. His wrestling and his response to the unfolding circumstances around him, and his internal, faith values are a powerful testimony of faith and of real relationship with God that shows us the depth of difficulty we have living faithful, faith-filled lives for God and also the peace we can find when our lives our deeply rooted into God. 

What does the Bible really teach us about war? What about the differences we seem to see between the Old and New Testaments? There is a really interesting article about historical context and anthropology by L.Stone which gives a context for us to read the Old Testament passages within. It challenges us to think what is different about the people of God to the people groups around them. There is also a useful discussion on Biblica  which tackles the question head on, and explores how we can understand God’s holiness and judgement revealed to us in Jesus.

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missing Curly Grandad: doing grief together

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Some days it can feel like it has been a lifetime since my Dad died suddenly, other days it could have been yesterday. Grief is a funny thing.

My children have experienced close relatives dying – perhaps more than I thought they might when they were young. B & A were little when Dad died, and almost straight afterwards my Grandad – Dad’s Dad – also died. Before that we had also experienced the loss of other loved members of our extended family.

There is no instruction manual for grief. It is a complex bundle of emotions; sadness, emptiness, anger, confusion, numbness, fear, love, acceptance, hope, thankfulness… and of course family don’t experience these emotions in sync with each other, there is no ‘order’ to feel them in. It can hit in waves, it can leave you feeling guilty on days which feel ‘normal’. It is difficult to navigate for yourself, and difficult to walk alongside others. As a Mum all I could do was walk gently with determination, loving my husband and children as we each waded through different reactions and emotions. Praying for wisdom and strength to face it together, and to share our hope in Jesus with B & A.

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I am certain it was important that we were open with our children about their Curly Grandad (he was the Grandad with curly hair of course), ready to talk about what we all missed without him there. I think it is also important to be open to sharing how we have felt at different times or at different occasions – not always the easiest for super-introvert-me. But I am convinced that talking together openly has been important in walking through this together.

..’children can empathise with and show compassion for peers that have been bereaved. Children aged between five and ten often copy the coping mechanisms that they observe in bereaved adults and they may try to disguise their emotions in an attempt to protect the bereaved adult. The bereaved child can sometimes feel that they need permission to show their emotions and talk about their feelings.

The important thing is to let them do this. Avoid remarks such as, “Come on be a big brave girl for mummy” or “Big boys don’t cry”, such comments however well meant can make children feel they need to hide their feelings or that what they are feeling is wrong. This can cause complications as the bereaved child develops.’ (Cruse)

There were also a multitude of questions that my children had – and perhaps still do. Being as young as he was, A found it difficult to understand the finality of death and for a number of days was looking for Curly Grandad and asking where he was. Strangely T, even though she was born a number of years after Dad died, has gone through very similar stages with us and has also brought her questions about death and how it works. It’s not at all easy to answer questions that need factual detail when you yourself are struggling to come to terms with your loved one’s death. How I wish I could have found a reference book that had all the answers printed out for me at that time. How I wish we could have thought to talk about these topics at a time when we weren’t reeling!

 ..’it is important that the cause of death, the funeral and burial process and what happens to the deceased person’s body are explained in a factual and age appropriate manner to the bereaved child. Children will ask many questions and may want to know intricate details pertaining to the death and decomposition of the body. Again, it is vital that children have such details explained to them clearly so that they understand.’ (Cruse)

It was out of the experience of the first few weeks after Dad died that I began to write. As a Mum of my two very curious, needing detail children, I was looking for the right words, the right way to explain and open up the Bible with them. It was important to find ways to share our faith, our hope because of Jesus about life and death with them. So ‘My Curly Grandad’ was written, partly for them, partly an expression of my own grief and partly for Mums like me needing help finding words and a way in. In writing down their experiences and questions, and weaving Jesus’ good news throughout the story I pray that it spoke to them where they were. I pray now, as it is finally published, that it will speak into other family’s lives and hearts as they walk together in faith, love and grief.

Lent ideas 2019

How very quickly the seasons of faith come around again. Pancakes have been eaten, and today the season of lent begins. What does lent look like in your family life?

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If like me you are still wondering if it might be possible to find the energy to be intentional about remembering lent – and want some ideas to explore, here are some for 2019!

  • Julie over at Happy Home Fairy has prepared a countdown to Easter, 40 days with Jesus’ words. A colourful, ready to use however it fits into family life for you, free printable. I can imagine cutting these out and slipping into lunch boxes, or hiding as a treasure hunt each day. They could be displayed once read, hung from some branches brought in from the garden, or pinned up on the fridge and ticked off day by day.
  • For something completely different, how about a lenten movie night. Great list of movie ideas and activity printables at 1 Cor 13 parenting.
  • Baking prayer pretzels together, info from Mina at Flame Creative Children’s Ministry. 
  • I have adapted a lent-in-a-bag idea I found here at Build Faith, making the written material a little simpler and clearer. Download my version here.

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  • I love the idea of a Jesus tree (like a Jesse tree, but rather than looking at the echoes of Jesus in the lead up to his birth, a Jesus tree focuses on the life of Jesus). There is a lovely free printable by Jennifer at Little House Studio with lots of ideas that could be used but don’t have to be – and some colour in ornaments with devotions.
  • T’s Godmother has sent her ‘Through Lent with Jesus’ by Katie Thompson which is full of daily activities, puzzles and readings. I’ll look forward to looking at that with her.

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If you’ve been following for a while you may remember a couple of years ago I put together a set of free printable weekly activities tied in with my book ‘My Easter Egg Hunt’ which explores why Good Friday can be good. I’ll be posting these again over on my publishing website.

You can also find more ideas for lent on my previous posts about lent ideas.

 

logistics of a short break

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Sunny weather, beautiful home-cooked food, the sea, sand and sky – what more could we need! We managed to get away for a few days during the school break to spend some time with family.

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It was beautiful to get to the sea. As T commented it is a place which can make you feel ‘free’; on the beach she had space; to talk, sing, collect, dance, watch, notice, feel. (Of course, sensory overload is never far away so short doses required!)

Getting away for a break is tiring though (Oh the irony).

Routines are very different. As a guest you don’t want to call the shots about what and when meals will be, and the unknowing brings its own anxieties when you already live with anxieties about eating. Our animals and familiar surroundings are missed terribly even for a few days. New surroundings means unfamiliar smells, textures, sounds all of which can be tiring to adjust to and difficult to relax around. Family time inevitably includes trying to balance different needs, some needing and wanting to see new places and explore new experiences while others need and want to do the same outings or watch the same movies as last time we visited.

Getting away involves major transitions; leaving and arriving and travelling in-between – twice! And it’s logistically challenging. Choosing outfits in advance, trying to wisely pack the right extras (toys, books, sensory fiddles etc) to keep things calm in all the little gaps, medications (forgot my own this time which didn’t help anything) and those essentials without which the challenge of the new cannot be faced. Making sure things back at base are ready enough for the return.

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Here are my tips for keeping short breaks as smooth sailing as possible in the midst of all the challenges ASC, PDA & SPD throw up…

  • Don’t give in to the embarrassment of taking too much luggage. I struggle with this one even when we are staying with family. Even a few days requires a lot of stuff for us. But the times we have tried to cut things out we have regretted it. If the dolls need suitcases too so be it!
  • Screens come too. If no internet access then favourite programmes must be downloaded in advance. Check favourite games/apps to see if they need internet access, and if so find one that doesn’t and try and introduce it well in advance of the trip.
  • pack some snacks and nibbles (or even a tin or 2) that will almost always be eaten to have on standby. Just knowing they are there can help reduce anxiety.
  • Do some things that you always do at that place so that not everything is new every visit.
  • We are National Trust members which has been so helpful for us over the years. Each new place has a very similar feel to it, and a similar set of components – a house to look round, a garden to ramble through, a play area, a cafe/picnic areas and toilets. So new places can be explored whilst still feeling manageable. Also being members (paying a yearly fee) means we don’t stress if an outing only lasts a short time. There is no pressure to make the day last if it’s not working for whatever reason.
  • Try not to forget essential medication (note to self!!).
  • Take timers/visual timetables etc if you are using them regularly at home. Don’t expect it all to feel easier.
  • Pack sensory toys and fidgets.
  • Anything that makes bedtime feel familiar in a new place needs to come too. Is it a particular blanket, their own pillowcase, a cuddly toy that’s always there, their own clock to hear the same ticking as usual, using the very same devotions or prayer – whatever it is, work it out, pack it and still prepare for some even more sleepless nights than usual.
  • Don’t forget to take lots of pics; stop and take a breath every now and then to remind yourself to enjoy it all and notice all the good bits (after all dancing on the beach is not to be missed!).
  • And when you get home, take a moment to be aware of the many things that happen much more smoothly because of the home and family routine you help put in place – you might need to remind yourself in a few days time!

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DIY no sew weighted lap cushion

Well, it’s been a long week. T has been off school unwell at the beginning of the week which is always tiring. She gets very anxious when she’s unwell, and needs a lot of tlc day and night. She is now back at school, and improving but it has prompted me to look for new ideas to help bring calm!

One that I came across sounded potentially so multi-taskingly helpful that I thought I’d give it a go. Weighted blankets is something we’ve thought about for T but never quite got there. They are pricey or appear to be fiddly and time consuming to DIY (or at least they have become those feelings whenever I think about trying!) But yesterday I came across a no-sew weighted lap blanket/cushion which may give us the chance to find out whether T responds well to having a weighted blanket in the first place before I try and attempt to make one. And into the bargain, it uses mermaid fabric so it can be calmingly drawn and written into whilst using it.

It just so happens I have a mermaid fabric cushion cover waiting in a drawer for the right crafty moment so I have got it out this morning and got going.

The tutorial that inspired me can be found over on ‘lemon lime adventures’.

As is my usual crafting approach I raided the cupboards and used what I had. But I’m pleased with the initial result and am looking forward to T trying it out when she gets back. Friday night is movie night for us so it’s the perfect chance to give it a go. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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  • Raided the cupboards and found dried split peas, and little stones. Ziplock bags and of course the cushion cover.
  • Simply divided up the stones and peas, laid them across an old micro fibre towel and taped them down with box tape/parcel tape. Then folded the other half of the towel over and taped across to hold it all together.

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  • A little bit of careful jiggling and wriggling into the cushion cover, and zipped it shut!
  • Now enjoy!

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