Being thankful

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Autumn is here! A time for gathering in and taking stock. Plums, apples & whatever soft fruit and veg I have successfully grown. It’s a time of change and a time for re-grouping somehow I always feel. And of course a time of thankfulness. For us crunchy leaves also mean birthday season – so much to give thanks for. But it’s been a tough month to be honest… with so much newness everything seems to have taken a lot more energy than usual. So I’m looking for practical, calming activities to remind myself to give thanks and count all those blessings!

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Doodle thanks I can’t help but doodle my way through life, so this one wasn’t hard to find. Simple… paper and a pen, add a few things when you have a moment to sit down each day. Wouldn’t it be great to display a whole family’s set of doodle thanks. Or maybe start a big communal poster that everyone can add to throughout autumn!

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Jars of thanks: again, not a new idea. We have collected thanks in jars at other times too. It’s lovely to fill a jar together over a few weeks and then have a celebration get together and read them all out. A prayerful activity that grows gratitude in us. These jars were washed out plastic hot chocolate jars (quite astounding how many of these I accumulate!) decorated with foam stickers. We made them at our church’s monthly accessible service.

 

Contemplative colouring: a new design for our celebration of Harvest at church. Please follow the link to print out a copy and enjoy. The idea came to me as I was thinking about surviving those downpour moments in life, when you feel under a cloud and nothing is easy or going smoothly. As I chatted to God about how tough things felt we imagined this together, going one step further than ‘learning to dance in the rain’ we turned the umbrella over and began collecting the rain. I was reminded of the imagery of God’s blessing being poured out, being like rain on thirsty ground. So much rain that it is more than enough blessing for me and for me to share with others. Abundant blessing in the midst of the storms of life. It helps me to stop with an activity like this and deliberately become more aware of the blessings God pours into my life, it makes thankfulness bubble up again.

Books: There are so many good books out there that help us explore thankfulness, and get us talking about gratitude. ‘The world came to my place today’ by J Readman & L Roberts is great for thinking about how many other people and places have had a part in bringing what we need and want to our homes. The classic ‘Wonderful Earth!’ by N Butterworth & M Inkpen is one I go back to over and over again which helps us think about taking care of the gift of creation. Someone recently reminded me of Pollyanna by E H Porter, and the glad game. It’s not one we have so it’s now ordered and on its way! My own book ‘My Easter egg hunt’ explores all that Jesus has done for us and ends with an emphasis on our thankful response.

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Bible story: Looking at the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus would be interesting. Mina has a lovely way of retelling the story over on Flame Creative Kids  It would be fun to go on and each make a chain of 10 paper people, and challenge ourselves to have said thank you 10 times by the end of the day. Or perhaps make some gingerbread men to help us remember.

Bunting: We have often made decorated paper bunting – I have hooks at the ready on one of the kitchen walls. Paper cut into triangles or flag shapes, newspaper, colourful plastic bags, pressed flowers – you get the idea…almost anything can look great as bunting. For thankfulness, at Harvest or Thanksgiving time how about leaves. Decorate with metallic sharpies or marker pens, writing or drawing some of the things we are thankful for. Then laminate them (may need to go through the laminator more than once) and they will keep their colour and hang really well. A hole punch at the top of each and as simple as that you have autumn thankful bunting.

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full to overflowing

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We have reached our limit for plums!!

There is a wonderful plum tree in the garden here, and this year it has been heavy with plums. The freezer is full; we have had to reinforce the cupboard shelf to hold the number of jars of jam, syrups, jellies & chutneys (including some beautiful bottled plums still there from last year!); the ice-cream has been made; curd is stored in the fridge; and cakes have been made, eaten and frozen! It’s been a good harvest!

I have loved the days when Andrew & I have gone out and worked together to pick and sort the plums, with a ladder and bowls (and A sent hurriedly for saucepans & bags when bowls were exhausted), and intrigued hens pottering round our feet.

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I love the way our glut of plums gave T & I an excuse to go and chat with the neighbours here, and to spend time finding out how they are. Andrew has also taken plums a bit further, to friends in church.

The (seemingly endless) task of cutting and cleaning plums for jamming has given me times standing chatting with B; rather orange fingers if I’ve done too many all in one go; and quite a few giggles with my girls whenever we found a wriggling pink grub inside one!

It has been fun to search out new recipes – and to taste test some – the plum syrup is pretty good in a fruit salad, and yes it is good on pancakes. B & I have also enjoyed naming some adapted recipes – my favourite this harvest ‘plumentine marmajam’ (perfect name for a chunky, just sweet enough clementine & plum jam).

I am loving the fact that we have now reached our limit of picking and storing too! Now over to the birds, the insects, bats & hedgehogs to forage and harvest. And we will gather in the last few ripening blackberries, elderberries, and hazlenuts – and hopefully a butternut squash when it is ready & a few late corgettes.

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Can’t help but feel very keenly just how full to overflowing our store cupboard is, especially in the light of watching the news with B, A & T this morning finding out a bit more about how the convoy of aid trucks was bombed on its way through the fragile ceasefire to those besieged & desperate in the cities of Syria. And reading about the growing food crisis in Sudan, and the affects on families of the troubles in Yemen. The material I am preparing this half term for our pre-school sunday group is ‘God made enough’ – so I can… share, be careful with all he gives me, trust him, have all I need…

B & I read tonight:

Do you know how God likes to be introduced?

His name is the Lord … Father to the fatherless, defender of widows (Psalm 68:4,5 NLT)

Our Almighty God who sifted stars through his fingers, stands not with kings and princes, but with the weak, the powerless, the poor…

He hears their cries. He fights for them and defends them.

(from ‘God’s title’, out of Thoughts to make your heart sing, Sally Lloyd & Jago)

And I find myself singing this prayer quietly as I wait for her to get to sleep:

Oh God, help me to keep our eyes and hearts open, to see the ways you fill our lives to overflowing so that it can flow out to others. Spirit help me to keep us feeling the compassion and love of the Father’s heart who hears the cries of the hungry, lost & forgotten. Help me Lord, to live generously and open heartedly; to model the opposites of ‘grabbiness’ and ‘looking after myself first’ for my children as we all grow in faith, learning life driven by faith and hope, not fear or despair.

For you are the God of the broken, the friend of the weak. You wash the feet of the weary, embrace the ones in need. I want to be like you Jesus, to have this heart in me. You are the God of the humble, you are the humble king.