making gifts together

We are just beginning to make our plans and preparations for filling shoeboxes with gifts for children which we collect as a church and send around the world with Operation Christmas child.

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homemade flower crayons

This year I am keen to get B, A & T involved more and have been wondering if there are any gift ideas that would be easy enough for us to make together to put in. There’s something prayerful about spending time making something to bless someone else, and those times we do manage it I find it inevitably changes, and blesses us too.

So here’s a list of ideas I’ve found:

  • T-shirt headbands (‘lovestitched’ have an easy to follow tutorial here)
  • T-shirt neckwarmers (needs sewing) (‘lilblueboo’ have a good tutorial here)
  • no sewing tutu skirt (Simply Real Mums have instructions here), the same method can quickly also make a flowy headband, or wrist band.
  • braided bead bracelets (see beadaholic’s video tutorial here)
  • no sewing fleecy pom pom hat (great instructions here from Creative Jewish Mum)
  • homemade shaped crayons (valentine ones on Mumdot here) These can be any shape you have a silicone mold for of course.
  • dolly peg fairies/dolls – sharpies, lace, tulle, felt, wool and imagination! A quick google for ideas revealed lots and lots to be inspired by.
  • wooden car tracks (BuggyandBuddy share their instructions here for wooden track) I was wondering if the same concept could be done with felt pieces, which would mean corner pieces could be made too.
  • lollipop stick puzzles (Mum Endeavors makes some here)
  • a world in a tin/suitcase – you can buy tiny tin suitcases, or use a little tin or large matchbox. Buy a little soft toy or little play figure that will fit in the tin or box, and then use felt, pretty papers and tape to decorate in the tin. Maybe the box will turn into a bed for the little doll, or maybe you have room in the tin for a whole house, or scene for the play figure.
  • baby tag blanket  – will need sewing (‘wholefully’ has a good tutorial here)
  • stacking game made of cotton reels (Handmade Charlotte has instructions and a printable design for beautiful animal mix n match, look here.)

Well, we’ve made a start at having a go at some of these. It’s a great way to stop and chat together, particularly about what the children who get the shoeboxes will be like, and what they will enjoy playing with or using, and where they might live.


a rainbow tutu headband



pine cone prayers

A couple of weeks ago I went for a walk around our town with my three and a few others, and when we walked through the park we started to pick up pine cones. Nothing new, I can’t resist them. Anyway a whole bag of them have been waiting patiently since, for me to do something with them.

It may be a completely crazy idea but I was trying to decide how to create a prayer board for the kitchen – you know somewhere to put photos of people or verses to remind you to pray while you are busy with kitcheny things – and I got to thinking about my bag of pine cones. I mentioned my idea to Andrew who made a brilliant suggestion of one of those deep photo frames that you can put 3D displays into. Today we found just the thing, medium, plain unfinished wood.

As soon as we got home the hot glue gun was out & plugged in!

First I mixed up a colour with what was to hand, kids ready mix poster paints. Then I quickly went over just the front of the frame, leaving the sides and back plain and removed the glass completely.


while I was doing this part, Andrew came past & commented that we do a lot of these kinds of things now I write this blog. It’s good for us then, I said. Followed by, what a good idea let me get my camera!

By the time I had done the small amount  of painting the hot glue was hot – oozing onto the kitchen work surface… so I began to rummage through my bag of pine cones choosing a mix of heights and sizes, and placing them very higgledy  piggledy into the frame. I was aiming for un-uniformed, interestingly textured – the more sticky out bits the better, and little gaps are good, I want places to nestle photos and prayer prompts in amongst them.

I turned just one upside down, to be at the centre. I then added a couple of really small cones in one corner, and added some feathers and a shiny conker just off centre – because there was some hot glue showing.


I love the finished thing, it would be great in the middle of a table or hung on the wall. We are planning to hang it, within reach of B, A & T so they can see it and add to it when they want to. So my hope is that it will be a practical and beautiful place to display prayer prompts and will help me especially to focus my prayer for others as I chat with God in the everyday, and that perhaps it will be useful to the rest of the family too. I’ll post a picture of it in use asap.

Do you have a prayer board, or book, or space? How do you use it together as a family?



the votes are in

love joy peace

I vividly remember my first ever vote. Walking in to the Polling Station with my Dad, who took me to the desk and proudly announced to everyone and anyone that it was my first time to vote. We registered, went to the booth to cast our vote, posted it into the black box and went home! I don’t know who felt more proud, Dad or me – I certainly remember the feeling of the sheer privilege of it, and the weightiness of the process of reading up, carefully considering, praying & voting.

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can [all] be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (1 Tim 2: 1-4 MSG)

We grew up discussing together. Questioning, discovering and finding out for ourselves. Matters of faith, ethics, the big questions of life were mulled over. Sermons were discussed at Sunday lunch. Politics was also a significant part of family conversation. We knew (or at least I’m fairly sure we knew) how Mum & Dad probably voted, but they modeled a way of weighing up policies from different parties, holding them up against the Bible and our experience and knowledge of our faith, questioning them and ourselves. They modeled a sense of responsibility to take each opportunity to vote seriously, showed us in their attitudes and actions the ways that policies were not simply academic but affected people. We were not told which party we should vote for, we were shown how to vote. I’m so grateful for their lives of faith and the example they gave us. I’m thankful too that over the years they have made room for our questions, our doubts, our naivety, our simplistic thinking. That they did not belittle but encouraged.

So today I have thought a lot about that first experience of voting, and how my parents made space for us to grow and discover for ourselves – and how that spurs me on to keep intentionally making that same safe space for mine as they grow. I have, as usual, missed my Dad’s voice and encouragement in the run up to today. We have definitely not stopped the big discussions, not stopped asking the difficult questions whenever we get the chance to all be together – and the older ones in the next generation are getting into the swing of it very ably too now – but it is one of those parts of life where it still feels very stark that his voice and his wisdom is not in the mix anymore since he died!

What would he be reminding us of now that the votes are in, and the counting begins? Whatever tomorrow brings I think Dad would be reminding me of my calling to Christ-likeness, in my loving and living, in my choices and my thinking. So I am reminding myself of Jesus’ ‘manifesto’ – and praying for more grace! (so much more needed as always!)

When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God’s Spirit is on me;
    he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
    recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
    to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”


He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent.  (Lk 4:17-19 MSG)



angel unicorns & other prayers


Who’s to say God hasn’t got an army of angel unicorns ready and waiting to rescue and assist!

T drew her angel unicorn as an encouraging picture for a Christian under persecution – it’s quite another story that she then wouldn’t part with it to be posted & brought it home instead!  I can see how angel unicorns would be the very best encouragement – T loves all things my little pony at the moment, and lets face it a flying magical unicorn is just about the most helpful, powerful & rescuing thing in that world… so an angel unicorn must be the very best angels God has to send and sort things out!

We were thinking about the story of Daniel in the Lion’s den at our church junior club, BLAST, last night, and how God sent his angel to keep Daniel safe. One of the activities was to write letters of encouragement to Christians living in places where it’s risky and dangerous, or not allowed to live out your faith as a follower of Jesus.

It is hard sometimes to connect with the reality of that, living here; hard to know where to begin praying, hoping & standing with people in such different and such desperate circumstances. We read some stories of real people with the kids, and thought together about what we knew about God that would be encouraging and important to remember.

“he’s always with you”

he can hear absolutely everyone (at the same time!)”

“he can help”

“he can save people when they are in trouble”

“he loves everyone”

  At our first ‘One church’ (our service where we all learn alongside & from each other, inter-generational worship) service of the year we thought about Christians living under persecution, and ordered some resources from Open Doors for families to take away to learn more, and to help us pray. They include a story of a persecuted Christian, written and illustrated in an appropriate and accessible way, and lots of ideas of prayer-full activities to do together and also

Here’s T & I using the prayer map game – I’m sorry to say that T loves my camera so much that most of the filming is done by her!!

‘Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out’.

From Ephesians 6 (MSG)

it’s a big world out there


How do you encourage thinking outside the box?

How do you give kids a chance to find out what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes?

I feel very strongly about the injustices I see in our world, how some have so much while others have so little. I feel very strongly about the way distrust of difference, hate, and racism seem to be becoming ‘normal’ according to the media and our politics when what I see in Jesus’ life and words is always a loving reaching out to the marginalized, always a challenge to injustice. Jesus himself summed up God’s instructions for the best way to live like this:

One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

(Mt 22:34-36 MSG)


For Andrew & I it really matters that we help our children to see that there is a big world out there, a world full of people that are made in God’s image, precious to him, loved by him. We want to nurture trust, open-heartedness, an inquisitiveness about difference, respect and a longing for justice in our children.

It’s not always straight forward helping our children to see things or understand things from someone else’s perspective.

Simon Baron-Cohen first described ‘Theory of mind’, or ‘mind blindness’ talking about human instinct to discern that we think individually and that others may think differently, and therefore act differently. He wrote extensively about his hypothesis that this is a major area of brain development and function that happens differently in people with autism. Uta Frith has suggested another hypothesis, called ‘Weak Central Cohesion’ which highlights the difference between a brain wired to instinctively to see the forest first and only then the trees, and those that would see the tree first and only then the trees, and then the forest! A theory that explores how different ways of thinking learn to see the big picture, and make connections across different contexts. (Or at least that’s what it seems to be talking about as I read about it!! find out more here.)

Both of these theories seem helpful when thinking about the daunting task of encouraging out of the box thinking, seeing things from another’s perspective, learning to find out what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes (now that’s a great metaphor I’ll look forward to unpacking with B & T!).


They remind me that for my girls it is very likely that they will learn these things in a different way to many, that they may need support and may need me to be very intentional about creating opportunities to explore because all this may not be their comfort zone thinking.

The theories also remind me not to expect inference learning to be happening, they remind me too that learning one new thought does not make the next new thought any easier to pick up. Sometimes help is needed connecting up the dots.

We have been lucky to have lived in a multicultural city, and to be a part of a church also vibrantly multicultural as B & A  grew up, and where T was born. It was easier there for all our senses to be exposed to the wonders of difference – different food, different colours, different accents – all were around our family life pretty much all the time. We became God parents again while we were there, and together found out about, and had a go at cooking Sri Lankan feast food for the meal after D’s baptism (we didn’t do as well as D’s mum did cooking us a roast dinner though!!). It has  been amazing (& will continue to be) to share birthday, Easter and Christmas traditions with each other as families, and to hear stories about family life in Sri Lanka before they moved here.


God Mum & God daughter: one very happy me, and one totally gorgeous D (appearing here at clearly nurturing with permission!)

Now we have moved somewhere less multicultural those natural everyday, living-alongside-each-other-opportunities are not as frequent and I find myself trying even more to be intentional about creating opportunities for those hands on, face to face connections that give us a chance to keep on finding out more about the big world on our doorstep.


Journey Home – a game (The Big Issue)

Games and books are great, and they do start great discussions. We love ‘travel the world’ (ELC) and have recently had good discussions with our older two playing ‘Journey Home’ (The Big Issue) (We would recommend looking through the scenarios that come up in the game before playing with your teens, some are hard hitting, some may be ones you want to take out at first and put back into the game when you feel they might be better equipped to talk about them). We try to add thoughtfully to our book collection, looking for books that are from a different perspective or context. We have been enjoying Susie Poole’s, ‘Sister Lucy’s Great Big Family’; Amnesty International’s, ‘We are all born free’ with it’s beautiful illustrations; Beatrice Hollyer’s, ‘Wake up world’ that looks at a day in the life of children around the world; Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood’s, ‘The Colour of Home’ with T recently. And A has just been given  ‘Here I stand’, by Amnesty International which looks as though it’s going to be very thought provoking.


But there is nothing like those encounters which involve the senses, and let us meet people even through photos and stories told first hand.

Last weekend we hosted an evening about EAPPI  because my sister has been travelling and working with them. It was a great opportunity to find out about such a seemingly distant and difficult to understand area of the world. I made Baklava, and A & B helped put out other mainly middle eastern snacks with Aunty Em before guests arrived (while I put T into bed who was having a full blown implosion after having a brilliant play date at a friend’s house after school).

Then we enjoyed them with a few friends and listened, asked lots of questions and discussed as Aunty Em showed us photos she had taken in Hebron, and told us about Zidan and his daughter who she had met there. Telling us about their home, school and about the street where they live. It was such a good ‘doorway’ to ‘step into’ what life is like for many in Hebron, and a way of finding out about both Israelis and Palestinians working for peace together in the area.


Zidan picking fruit hebron/West bank/photo/Emily


school girl at a checkpoint hebron/West bank/photo/Emily