There have been two global calls to prayer in the last few days, but it has not been easy for us as a family to join in at the right time or in the same way.
But we do want to pray!
Here are some creative ways to pray together as a family for this world as it struggles with Covid-19 on top of all the other urgent and devastating needs for prayer – war-torn, cholera, malaria, malnutrition, slavery, child-marriage, trauma, displaced people…
- Play a board game and ‘travel’ around the world. But pause to pray for each place you go through and arrive in. We have this game sitting on our shelf.
- We happen to have an inflatable globe, but if you have a balloon you could use that and simply write countries on it with a marker pen. Throw and catch – pray for the place which is nearest your thumbs when its your turn to catch.
- Lovely ideas from GodVenture – make a pile of stones together, each stone a prayer – blow bubbles to visualize asking for God’s blessing to fall and spread around the world, our family, our community. You could draw places and people and then lay out the pictures and blow bubbles over them.
- Get crafty together – a collage using recycling materials in the house, or painting with water/chalk outside. Talk and pray together for the places you add to your creations. Remember God made the whole world and it is his!
- Prayer doodle alongside each other. We printed off a simple map of the world to use.
However we manage to bring our families together to pray, whether it’s a way that works for sensory seekers, those who can’t sit still, or who wouldn’t join in with words our prayers are powerful because the God we bring our prayers to is mighty!
You’re tired, they’re tired. Nothing is how it should be – we’ve had another day with many of us at home rather than school, college or work – anxieties are running high for everyone. You’re frazzled and yet you all need and want a calm snuggly, safe bedtime – don’t know about you but I’m not the best story teller on days like this!
Here are some great places to find hope-filled stories told by other (calmer!) people to get you all ready for bedtime…..
Sally Lloyd Jones – author of ‘The Jesus Storyteller Bible’ and many other books, is going to be reading some stories on Instagram while there are a lot of us stuck in at home.
The Bible Society has an animation ‘Super Cool Jesus’ which tells the story of why Jesus came, and how he loves us.
Saddleback Kids quirky animation of Matthew 6 is all about how much God cares for each of us – especially when there’s lots to worry about!
Bob Hartman has a wonderful story song all about God’s good world.
Bible App has loads to choose from, and activities to download and print that follow up on a story if you want to.
We’re all getting very anxious about the news of Coronavirus, and Covid 9. It is very difficult to find the right words to give reassurance and clear instructions about staying healthy. Mark Arnold has brought together some really clear, useful resources that I think are going to be really helpful in my chatting with B, T & A.
Mark Arnold writes about ‘Coronavirus – helping children stay safe’, with links to helpful infographics over on ‘The Additional Needs Blogfather’ – who if you’re not already following, you’ll be pleased to have discovered!
Yeah!!! It’s spring! We’ve made it!
There are daffodils out, pink and yellow primroses and catkins (no idea if that’s the right word, but I seem to find myself calling all spring-time, yellow-polleny-fluffy things on trees catkins) and the air smells hopeful.
At the same time T has now been to her new school for two weeks and is settling more quickly than we dared to even dream she might. She’s still on-the-edge-tired by the ends of the day but she’s going, and is going out of the house for clubs and groups outside school too. Just a remarkable change for which we are so very thankful to God. We even did school this week with Daddy away, and the wonderful help of a friend, I wasn’t sure that was going to be possible when I looked ahead last week.
This time last year I had already shown you all our plans for lent but this year I haven’t even had the head space to make any plans at all – and here we are in lent. It happens, and it’s okay. Someone asked T the other day what she was giving up for lent, she replied ‘NOTHING!’ – which caused a giggle or two.
However I came away from that conversation feeling quite freed in an unexpected way. No we haven’t given things up, instead we’ve kept tight hold of God – not intentionally for lent, just out of sheer necessity. The last few months have felt a little like it did when I was a child and was holding tight to a parent as we got safely to our destination through a crowded market or street – I’ve always hated being in crowds, everyone and everything pressing in and having to constantly adjust and dodge. As a child, holding tight didn’t stop the experience being a tough one but it was my tangible point of certainty that my parents would get me through. As a family we’ve had a lot of adjusting and dodging to do, it’s been full on and at times has felt like a crowd constantly jostling into us but I have been aware of that tangible point of certainty despite not being able to see over everything to the destination.
So, no we’re not giving anything up this lent – we’ll keep pressing on with God as we are, holding tight. I would, of course, love to fit in time to read a book, and when we get sunny spring days like today I fully intend to get back out into the garden and care for it. All of that will be more than enough of a Lenten challenge this year!
Our parenting has always been in the context of church life, which inevitably means fellowship lunches – bring & share – pot suppers – whatever we want to call them. You know, time after worship around food and together time with the church family.
It’s never been particularly optional being the vicar & family which means over the years I have had to come up with a number of coping strategies for us as a family to get through these as smoothly as we can.
It’s not that we don’t like them, or don’t think they’re important -we do. It’s that they’re perhaps one of the hardest bits of church family life for us as a family.
They are often noisy, and crowded – that’s a really good thing, but hard for us. There is an unpredictability about them; the room layout will be different, timing will be an inexact science, you never know what food there will be (even if quiche is a given in most churches here in the UK, what flavour!?!), or who might sit with you! So many unknowns. And you’re expected to eat, in front of people! Something that is at times an overwhelmingly paralyzing, stressful thing. There is almost inevitable sensory overload, and anxiety about the uncertainties, and the social demands – together these can make a fellowship lunch both daunting and very exhausting.
I was reminded just this last weekend of all the years I have been alongside children and young people finding all this overwhelming because we had an 80th birthday in the family with a big meal at a carvery to go to. Not easy, but we did it.
So over the years I have got us through these meals using a variety of coping strategies and I just wondered if any might be helpful, or jog a new thought that might be helpful for you:
- Using a social story about what might happen, what the room might look, smell, sound like. And what I can say if someone talks to me.
- Taking a familiar chair – easy enough for us when B was small, partly because she was petite for so long our portable strap on any chair highchair could come with us everywhere.
- Trying to face them away from the whole room in our choice of seats at tables rather than expecting them to cope right in the middle of it all facing all the other tables.
- Allowing under table picnics and play as needed – and brushing off the looks and comments of others (life’s far too short!). In fact I have often found other children come and join in.
- Taking the kids choice of food and keeping some back to make sure they get some at the table we sit at.
- Bringing their own packed lunch.
- A bag of distractions! Bubbles, games, fiddles and fidgets, a favourite book or set of little play things, colouring.
- Set challenges or play a game: how many people can you count wearing purple, etc. Or an ‘eye spy’ sheet of things to look for and tick off during the mealtime.
- Not staying to the end, but leaving when the kids are reaching their limit – when possible.
- Creating a breakout space – either bring a bag of stuff and a picnic rug, or organize to use resources from church. A designated area that’s there to escape to, slightly tucked away but safely in sight.
- Negotiating how long we’ll stay, or what might be eaten (for example, eat one thing then we’ll go) – and sticking to the agreement.
- Staying alongside rather than mingling, reducing the fear of people not known so well joining the table or coming over to chat.
- Ear defenders.
- Arrange in advance who will fill your table so there are no surprises – again not always possible.
- Accepting that sometimes it will all go belly-up and there will be tears.
- On that note I try to make sure there’s inbuilt time for recovery afterwards – though again this isn’t always possible.
- Daring to decide it’s just not possible or helpful to get there at all this time , and making the decision to give it a miss – trying not to ‘feel’ that. This is a tough one for many of us – hugs may be required!
- Taking a travel cot to use as a play-den when little. Added benefit of the mesh sides shielding some of the constant movement in the room in terms of visual sensory input. Also the familiarity helped sometimes.
I would love to hear your strategies as a family, if you also find yourself wanting to join in with fellowship lunches.