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.

psalm 104 v 24

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.

 

 

 

faith adventure bags

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It’s been too long! I’ve missed being able to write.

We’ve been dealing with active school refusal (wish it could be called something else, it’s not really a choice) since Christmas. It has been a low level, continual rumble since she began school but has reached a crisis point that we don’t want to let unravel any further – so I’ve been rather out of routine myself as we’ve taken all that involves on – all that will be a different post perhaps when its the right time.

In the meantime I feel the need to share a joy-filled thing with you! There has been a new addition to our accessible service, ‘Sense of Space’, adventure bag library.

‘Sense of Space’ happens once a month in church, we’re a small fellowship of families all shaped in some way by disability, either seen or unseen. We meet to explore faith and grow in faith, to pray and worship using all our senses and very much learning together and from each other. Our adventure bags are a take home discipleship & devotional resource. My best description of them? I suppose they are an inter-generational, sensory rich, faith-story sack to dip in and out of during the time between our services to keep on adventuring with God.

This newest one is based on the wise and foolish builders. It’s in a bright yellow, soft touch bag. Thanks to a gifted early years specialist in our church it includes a beautifully made storm cloud with rain, along with a smooth, cold flat stone, a patch of rough sandy ground (made in hessian) and wooden bricks to build a house.

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Along with that – as with all the adventure bags, there is a key-ring full of ideas for adventures using the resources in the bag. Also the other collected together resources:

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I’ve tried to photograph so you can clearly see the authors and websites these are from. The colouring page drawn by Mandy Grace is from ‘ministry to children’, and the ABC scripture memory verses are from ‘unOrigional Mom’. Other suggestions include playing ‘Simon Says’ (listening and doing of course); a challenge to find out what ‘foundations’ are in the world of building & why they’re important; finding and reading the story in the Bible; using the studies included in ‘Discover how to read the Bible’ by Jeff White; a website to find out about Brother Andrew for children as well as the book for young people and adults; and a pot of play sand to explore and experience what sand is like & why it isn’t a great foundation for building.

All the resources are there to invite playful exploration and discussion that will nurture faith.

When we met last Sunday, a bag was being brought back having been enjoyed so once we’d all gathered we all listened to what had been tried, found out and enjoyed with an encouragement to choose one to take home! Couldn’t have been better if I’d planned it, it was a real encouragement to me.

10 Advent ideas

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Picnics with peacocks, presents and parties! Half term break was a good one. We went away to one of our familiar holiday lets, and enjoyed a slower pace for a week of pottering and walking, eating and playing. Sleep was awful, still all the usual family dynamics and stresses plus the transition into and out of the week but as these things go it was a good one! And we’re nearly the other side of the autumn family birthdays… one belated horse themed party tomorrow still to enjoy and then we start thinking advent!

Do you make plans to mark advent as a family?

For us, times like this can be very hit & miss and we don’t always achieve the picture perfect social media effect. Isn’t it hard to look at ideas thinking ‘I’d love to, but…’ – comparisons are not a good thing. Lets face it every family is unique, with unique skills and interests and dynamics. We all shape our days, weeks and seasons around those – and the wonder of the truth of Advent and Christmas is that God came into the heart of that – into each unique home that will welcome him whatever it’s unique culture looks and feels like. I am encouraged by the thought that our advent, our preparation for Christmas, can have that truth woven through the muddle and mess – the chaos that so often comes from trying to intentionally remember the stories together in tangible ways.

I have posted a number of times about this challenge – this opportunity, should I say this privilege! So you may find these posts interesting.

 

advent ideas  

planning for advent

don’t panic…

This year I wondered if, like me, you’d be pleased to find a list of easy, adaptable advent ideas for families all in one place. There are so many out there, put together and thought up, and illustrated by so many wonderful creative people and these are ones I love:

  • follow the star – hide the star somewhere in the house each day of advent, find it & read the verse for that day. On the last day find it at the nativity scene.
  • the giving manger – I love the concept of adding straw to the manger every time you’ve served or loved someone during advent, so as to fill the manger with love to welcome Jesus.
  • names of Jesus – printable bauble ornaments each decorated with a name of Jesus. Can be coloured and hung during advent, either on a DIY tree, or strung up like bunting.
  • advent prayer – a lovely prayer with actions for littlies that could be used with an advent wreath or advent crown.
  • reverse advent calendar – instead of getting something every day this is a simple way of giving instead.
  • a verse a day – beautifully illustrated, quick to read verses from the Bible free to print out and tuck into an existing advent calendar or to take out of a treasure box on the tea table when you can throughout advent.
  • kindness elves – or acts of random Christmas kindness are another way to focus on giving rather than getting, and to talking together about serving and loving like Jesus.
  • Devotions using ‘The Jesus storybook Bible’ – we absolutely love this book, and these free advent printables help make this easy. Good for snuggling on the sofa or just before bed with little ones throughout advent.
  • Jesse tree ornaments with readings from ‘The Action Bible’
  • Jesse tree with lego challenges although I suspect we would turn the suggested order on its head and begin with the lego and slip the readings and Jesse tree bits in while hands are busy.

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Volunteering together

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Firstly, apologies for the unexpected gap in posts. It was a packed summer, and the new term feels similar! A few good friends are at my side reminding me I’m ‘doing too much’ for which I’m grateful – and am listening, but it’s not a quick fix – life is a bit of a juggling act of lots of demands on my time and energy and in the midst of it all I’m trying to be wise and listen to God’s prompting about what I should be filling each day with. One thing’s for sure – I’m missing writing!

One of the new things that has come into my week over the last 2 years is Girlguiding volunteering. In a way it has crept in, but I welcome it. It’s something the girls and I are all part of now. In fact just this last week we had a first planning meeting for a new Brownies unit and T, B & me all walked down and joined in together which was rather special (with hindsight, it was a bit full on at the time!).

I got involved when T was offered a place at Rainbows, she didn’t want to stay on her own so I stayed too and just helped out a bit where I could. When she moved up to Brownies we wondered if she would stay on her own if she joined the unit where B was volunteering as a young leader but she couldn’t do it very easily – and it was going to impact on B’s freedom to complete her young leader training so I stayed again. This time I began my volunteer leader training to be able to offer a bit more help.

To cut a long story short I find myself this term now heading up the Rainbows and also involved in leading a new Brownies unit – both at Holy Trinity Church.

It’s a bit of a roller coaster finding my feet with more to juggle, and at the same time collecting evidence for the leadership qualification but it’s great to be in it together. Girlguiding’s vision is to be a safe and nurturing space for girls. It has structure, purpose, is adventurous and has the potential to give girls of all backgrounds – and all abilities opportunities to gain life skills, practice teamwork and friendship and to experience things they might not without the group. The structure also has a clear pathway for girls to develop leadership skills, and begin volunteering and leading as they move through from Guides to Rangers and beyond which is what B has been doing.

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Of course B & I are really enjoying the creative side of planning, there may be some projects on the dining room table – again!! – a centerpiece floor mat for our circle time in Rainbows is well underway and should be ready for our first promise ceremony after half term.

There is something really lovely about joining in with something the girls want to be part of. It’s not been without its challenges by any means but I am getting to know some lovely people I perhaps wouldn’t have outside of Girlguiding, and am making the most of the way my girls (at the moment) want to be in it together with me. There may come a day when they don’t want that so I’ll enjoy it while I can.

 

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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