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.

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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.

 

 

 

New Year: same old

For the last few years we have been finishing our carol service in the words of Rend Collective’s ‘For all that you have done’ , a beginning point of turning our hearts to face the new year hand in hand with our God. It has been increasingly meaningful to me to begin that heart process there in the midst of the warm, tangible hopeful joy of the Christmas story.  Standing in the strength of the community declaring ‘Emmanuel God is with us’ is the place to be standing as I look forward into another year.

‘As family we’ll go

Shoulder to shoulder,

hand in hand, into the great unknown.’

And now, a blink of an eye – and many sleepless nights, heaps of washing, precious time with family and plenty of washing up – later – here we are, in 2020! Holding on to ‘Emmanuel God is with us’ and walking one step at a time into all that is ahead for us. There are always so many unknowns, many small and large decisions to make along the way that will shape family life and challenge us. Looking through previous January photos reminds me of challenges already faced. And I’m certain as it’s always been, we will each react differently to the challenges and new ways of being as a family that we will encounter in 2020. We’ll each struggle with different things, be terrified at different times and enjoy other moments. It will be another year of amazing, bewildering, chaotic, fruitful, challenging; pretty full on family life no matter what! New year maybe, same old – absolutely!

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. (Ruth 1:16)

When I think of the many heroes of the faith who stood similarly at the brink of the new, the unknown and yet took that first step with God – taking their family with them, whatever that felt and looked like! – I’m reminded that however uncertain and unknown a new year may feel there is a solid bedrock under my feet, and a faithful companion with me and ahead of me. And when I fall, or fail, or falter I will be picked up, dusted down, cried with, laughed with and hugged and will be able to step forward again.

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snowy January 2013 – couldn’t resist!

Many seem to choose a word for their year these days. In some ways that seems a heap more manageable than a list of resolutions so I’m wondering whether to hold onto ‘Emmanuel’ – metaphorically and literally this year. As a word that can be declared above the challenges and the busyness; celebrated together – the great mind-blowing truth that shapes us more than the world ever can; and hidden in when rest is needed!

As for resolutions maybe it’s to laugh more – Andrew has been suggesting it for years!

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Fun and laughter in the snow January 2013! Here’s to warmer fun & laughter during 2020!

 

 

 

BBQ & picnics – eating alfresco

 

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The summer brings its own unique challenges when your children are hypersensitive, and when they are stressed by change. There are of course the obvious challenges, summer brings heat, heat means different clothes are worn which feel different, are unfamiliar and outfits don’t feel as practiced. There’s sun cream – the feeling and the smell, and the need for sunhats. School breaks up for the holidays so you add in a whole string of changes of routine, weeks at home with parents working; at home and parents off work some days; holidays away; days out & visitors. And along with the constantly shifting routines comes very unpredictable eating compared to term time.

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We plan fun eating as families don’t we! Days out can involve cafes, tea-shops and picnics. Some stay at home days mean take away in the sitting room with a film, some days we eat in the garden ‘because it’s hot’, other days we have people round and BBQ outside. Over the years we have found eating outside together as a family really difficult. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, eating together as a family even in the normal routine has always been a challenge. In fact it has only been possible at all in the last 6 years! It still feels fragile and new to me! (I wrote about it in ‘no-one told me that’)

There are many things that make eating outside difficult.

There are lots of distractions, some of them are good but often we all end up on high alert due to other distractions – wasps, (bees, hover flies – in fact anything that flies and could possibly be misinterpreted as a wasp!), spiders, ants and flying ants, seagulls and crows. The fact that many insects and animals in the great outdoors are attracted by the smells of our picnics makes eating outside incredibly challenging. It’s tricky to enjoy eating when facing an overwhelming feeling of impending doom!!

We have had some very memorable, funny-with-hindsight, eating alfresco experiences so far as a family. One of my early memories of these challenges was a picnic in County Durham, on a wooden picnic table by a beautiful giggling stream. All dappled in the sunlight coming through the trees. I sat one side, Andrew the other. B & A were still quite little, and I remember by about 3 minutes in I was sitting with both of them sitting on the table facing me, their heads burying themselves as close to me as possible with me drawing my rain coat around them to defend them from all the flying things – with Daddy of course standing guard against big flying things near by! So much for the beautiful spot. We did get a fleeting glimpse of a water vole though in-between the cries of terror when gnats came too close!

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When they were a similar age I remember a fateful picnic on the beach during which a seagull plodded nonchalantly over and took the sandwich out of A’s little hands – I’m not sure he’s been able to forgive that seagull yet!

Yet another memorable outdoor eating experience was at a family farm attraction, which just happened to be having a wasp problem that summer. We started our lunch outside but the wasps were dive bombing us, flying at us and down at our food through our hair!! We quickly went inside with our picnic only to find exactly the same problem but this time in an enclosed space. Goodness it was grim.

At a zoo day out quite recently actually we had problems with dive bombing seagulls. One took the food out of my hands in flight. Again we tried putting Daddy on guard walking around us but it was not enough, and we had to abandon outdoor eating and run for shelter.

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Just this lunch time A was recalling a camping meal with friends during which we had to warn a friend who was just about to take a bite & chew that there was a wasp sitting on his mouthful.

Many a camping meal outside the tent has been abandoned as one by one members of the family have run inside despite the heat inside the tent in the day, and eaten zipped in the bedroom behind the flysheet.

Ah, fond memories (who am I kidding!!). Well, this summer is no exception, we’ve already had some BBQ’s in the garden, eaten outside (well, for some of the meal anyway) and been camping. So far mosquitoes are coming out top predators during mealtimes but there’s still plenty of camping meals to be had so wasps, ants, earwigs & seagulls all have the chance to come out on top still! Bring it on!!

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understanding personal space

 

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excuse me – still here!

So how on earth do you begin to learn all about personal space, and respecting other peoples?? Everyone has a boundary at a slightly different distance. Relationship determines subtle yet important differences for each context. Different cultures have unspoken yet definite socially acceptable ‘rules’ about it. It’s not something that gets openly explained very often, yet we’re expected to get it right – every time, every social gathering, family meal, sharing of the peace!

For most of us it is learnt when we’re very young, one of those things that gets ‘picked up’ simply by being in relationships and experiencing a variety of social contexts. Learnt through picking up subtle body language cues; inference gleaned through experience; making connections between a variety of moments of cause and effect, carefully and correctly interpreted in the midst of social interaction. It’s a wonder it’s ever possible to get this right!

So what about those of us who don’t learn by inference? Or easily ‘read between the lines’? What if body language cues are a language yet to be learnt? And what if the way you see things leads to joining up the dots between cause and effect differently from everyone else, and connections are made therefore to different facts, different variables in previous moments of social interaction? How are the rules of socially acceptable interaction with others, understanding their personal space boundaries learnt??

I suppose the answer is, differently; from a different perspective; with an often refreshingly different approach and an analytical honesty that isn’t afraid of questioning a cultural norm.

I suppose the answer is also, painfully. Others don’t respond kindly to people seemingly ‘rocking the boat’, and openly questioning cultural norms – especially when expecting someone to be ‘old enough to know better’. Doing life differently can lead to feeling like an outsider or feeling disliked and unaccepted.

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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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