It must be desperate when God sends a self-care opportunity out of the blue: crazy busy autism household in lock down.

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!

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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.

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Decorating our windows with the message of hope this Easter

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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?

 

Praying for the world together: Covid 19

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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…

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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!

 

Need help to keep bedtime calm tonight? 5 hope filled Bible stories to listen to

 

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 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.