Much of my non-work time at the moment is spent in the dining room – or more specifically in Flower-lake City, T’s playmobil town. As you can see over the Christmas break a huge number of different buildings and sets have been put together, carefully arranged to form a town with a main street alongside an out of town area for the stables and the conservation and animal rescue center. It has given us the opportunity for hours (yes literally hours, I really wouldn’t want to keep count!) of storytelling, co-operative play (as long as I do & say exactly as I’m told of course; any of you with any experience of PDA will know what I’m talking about) imagination and stretching our thinking, and sharing outside the box.
As you can imagine it’s not always smooth sailing, there have of course been the usual obstacles because it is incredibly difficult for T to share the imaginative space and story tell with me. Sometimes we have to replay till I get it right, other times I get away with a suggestion or my own twist on what’s required – quite often with a lot of giggles. We’ve had a few moments when cats have wanted to join in too, which have proved a little tricky to navigate without meltdown. Those moments have brought back vivid memories of having to call A a ‘Giant’ whenever B’s games were changed or ‘ruined’ by her baby brother crawling or walking through – especially when he picked things up en route. Giving A a character took the intensity of the reaction away from him a little and over time became more of an expected part of the stories we played out with the dolls, marbles or whatever figures of choice we had organised.
The very first building as you go into Flower-lake city is a church. Over Christmas we had an exciting event in the community. Izzy & Charlie got married – we had no church at the time, and so we created a very outdoor wedding which suited them very well. But T got thinking, and Daddy made suggestions and our community church was created. A building that was in the loft (thank you Aunty E!), origionally a school building was found and cleaned and with a bit of card and imagination transformed into a welcoming church. Rev Ricky joined the town as our minister – still in need of a planned wardrobe change so she has a collar but very much becoming part of the furniture of the town.
What’s been so lovely to watch is the way Rev Ricky has got involved and the way the community has been using the building. I’ve found it so exciting to see T’s own experiences of church being played out so positively. To be honest sometimes (esp over the pandemic) I wonder if church is a positive for T at all.. or if she even wonders at why we do what we do. So what an encouragement. Rev Ricky has come in to do assemblies in the school – which is next door to the church, just as our church infants school is where we live. Most days she fetched the snacks and drinks for the school kids and drops them off. PE lessons have happened in the church space – with the stack of chairs neatly at the back out of the way of course – health and safety!
And when it’s church day in Flower-lake City a lot of the families come to a service, during which the children have their own teaching groups – acorns and mighty oaks (I’m pretty sure B helped name these groups one day when she popped in) – and they have their own notice boards to display their art work in the church building. Next plans Rev Ricky has are a mid week acorns group for the babies, and a movie night – always a favourite here where we live. I’m not going to lie, its also been a lovely excuse to do some mini crafting at the same time as trying my hardest to assist in the play as I’m asked to!
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!
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.
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.
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 forpets – 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.
You will have seen the numerous rainbows of hope & cheerfulness appearing in windows around the world in the last few weeks, and I was reading last night about the teddy bears that are being dressed and propped up in windows for children to spot as they exercise. Great ideas for community and sharing positive messages with each other whilst social distancing.
So it got me thinking – how can I decorate my windows and doors with the message of hope this Easter?
Not just to participate in the hope of Easter as a family, but to somehow share that hope we have with the community around us. Maybe an upstairs window, the front door, the gate at the end of the driveway… places that will be seen by delivery drivers, walkers out for their daily exercise, and neighbors.
Could I even perhaps even tell the story of Easter week? (Or am I thinking too big?)
Could cut outs (large -ish) of card from boxes etc. work in a window to make a silhouette in the evenings and could be coloured to be interesting in daylight.
Or could tissue paper stained glass work?
What are you going to do to share the hope of Easter in your community this year?
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!