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When totschool changedMay 14, 2017

Spring came, unfurling it’s opportunities to get out of the house and explore, it knocked our tot-school, upped our social life and lead letter Y and Z to spread their merge activities over more than a week each. With letter ‘Z’ now finished I thought I’d share the beautiful and unexpected continuation to our journey.

It started with a request from a friend, to take their little boy (6 months older than Adam) for the mornings. The first week was a steep learning curve, my language faltered, my children’s ministry mind wanted to plan activities, the boys were adjusting and the house suddenly felt rather small. Out came toys to be scattered, tot-school went out the window as alphabets were not shared, and my cupboard full of art materials was scoured with a shaken head more than once.

Adam is confident with his letters, numbers, shapes and colours after our first trip through the alphabet. So, with the days changing, I happily pressed the pause button on the ‘formal concept learning’ in favour of ‘skills learning’ to hone gross and fine motor skills, interactive play, turn taking, instructions, etc.

I’ve just finished week 2 of the two boys in the morning, we had a bit of a break between weeks, and this time I was prepared. I’d found loads of ideas and yet what transpired was setting up a 2 part activity morning. Free play with the addition of a play prompt followed by a table time activity and then outside time if the weather allowed, food and final bits before nap wrapped up out time together.

We’ll alternate weeks between having corporate play mornings and weeks of just our little family. I’m hoping the quieter weeks will still hold at least one play prompt of creative activity, perhaps with a concept learning slant. However, for the next fortnight we have grandparents visiting so no tot school or corporate play mornings.

I thought I’d share our weekday corporate play mornings activities in lieu of tot school for this week.

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Reversing the flowMay 13, 2017

As part of my year of investing I’ve been trying to invest in my spiritual well being a bit more. It’s easy to pass the buck on this, onto the scripture I need to study for ‘work’, the time spent in church buildings, the ever filling prayer list, especially when personal time is precious. Truthfully it’s not a discipline I’m great at holding but pushing myself this year changed the way I saw retreat.

Last year I was blessed to get the chance to do the Velvet Ashes retreat and it was great, but this year I wasn’t alone. As the two of us sat in the rented apartment making our way through the material it felt like my thirsty soul, that had been fed through brief showers, was submerged in an ocean. My recent discipline of a daily pause to let scripture breathe it’s influence had changed the way I examined the beautiful material we worked though. I was more realistic and prepared to dream of moving the practices forward. I was surprised to recognise how much the daily repetition had changed the moments of silent struggle into opportunities for me to ask…

‘How can I connect with God in this moment?’

The more of motherhood I experience the more the pull and push and battle over priorities and time and focus grows. While I’ll willingly endure a hiatus to personal plans for my child’s early years, my mental health still needs a separate identity, my spirit needs watering, my relationship with a my saviour needs nurturing. The balance teeters on a knife edge.

For me the echo that will last from the retreat is not a lot of extra practices but rather turning that ‘pause moment’ sentence upside down. It’s not just about how I can connect, but also how I can allow God to connect with me. As part of our exercises we did some centreing prayer time, space where we just dwell in the presence of God without an agenda. It’s a practice I’ve found myself returning to. It’s a deep place and yet it’s so simple.

I didn’t realise how spent, exhausted and empty I’d felt even though I’d found space and rhythm and joy in life. It took the slow process of a truth seed planted and nurtured and protected to show me why. My energy, my faith, my enthusiasm was all flowing one way… out. I was frantically building my steps up to God and ignoring the ladder he’s already lowered down. I was parched and yet raising my diving board ever further from water. I need to learn not just to taste but to dine on God’s words, to dive into the wellspring, breathe in the ever present God and recognise he is in this space with me.

The space we get at the edges of life, the times to pause are so precious and yet so often filled running in the shadow of the rapidly falling hourglass sands. We get so wrapped up in out own reality our connection gets condensed into whispered arrow prayers. Clearly, some moments my heart is heavy and dripping with the need to share, but other times I’m learning to whisper in the quietness of my heart ‘Lord, I come to you’ and as my fingers uncurl and my eyes close I bask in the miracle of being a child of the divine.

Building Easter brick by brickApril 18, 2017

Every Easter, bar one, for the last 17 years of my life I’ve been able to walk into Sunnyside church and proclaim Christs resurrection surrounded by faces who have journeyed alongside me. It changed this year. It was the first Easter we didn’t travel and I’d be lying if I said the prospect didn’t feel like heartbreak back in December when we bid England goodbye. Even back then my heart already longed for the red chairs of Sunnyside and the mice in blankets breakfast.

This year more than ever I knew that I’d need to create a sense of Easter. I needed to find a way of building the season, intentionally, purposefully and concretely both for my head and my heart. Traditions, however weak, ground us, anchor our seasons and when they evaporate into plane trails we get a chance to evaluate them, reject, assume or develop them.

To make life a touch easier orthodox Easter was on the same day so at least it wouldn’t be a random Sunday when everything went on as usual. It promised a day of family and cracking hard boiled eggs while presents were uncovered the Easter bunny had left behind. Beyond that my canvass was scratched with biblical trails and liturgical clues. I love the spin of the church year so I decided that my Easter preparations must start with lent.

LentLent

It’s really easy to skip lent. To arrive on Palm Sunday with all the joy and try and cram all the deep and often dark stuff into that tiny week which ends in the greatest darkness being broken by the purest light… but those wiser than me thought perhaps it needed a bit more time to approach the cross and tomb, I’m inclined to agree. I scratched together a lent walk from half a pizza box and hole punch. I like tangible things, they focus me and help me see a journey to the end. It’s heavily based on the wooden cradle to cross spiral wreaths. Every day I moved that little figure and imagined that cross, those dusty streets, that long walk. By the time Easter Saturday came it felt like I’d almost always carried it, always been so close to the one who shared my load.

As holy week approached my mind started to travel back then though Easter traditions I’d known – Simnel cake, Easter bonnets, Egg hunts, yellow and white decorations, little lambs, chicks and bunnies, eggs and more eggs, blown eggs, painted eggs, hard boiled eggs rolled down hills, chocolate, oh the chocolate, Passover meals and hot cross buns, dawn services and Easter gardens, fresh cut flowers in baskets and bouquet, holy week services and the long pause of Easter Saturday. I picked them up and examined them in my mind. What would prepare me spiritually and physically for this season?

Holy WeekHoly Week

A Holy week journey is something I’ve done a few years now. I use the JWL resource and always seem to receive a lot from following and adapting it’s childlike biblical simplicity. I was eager to keep the spiritual side rather than overindulge in chocolate eggs or toilet roll bunnies, both of which we managed to do anyway. Monday starts with a simple felt coin purse into which we count coins then fling them on the ground. It is such a low key and simple way to start and yet somehow my heart jumped at items I could grip in my hands. I looked on the weeks familiar symbols and started to see how they could become my stepping stones to lead me on. Tuesday we made oil lamps out of play dough, pushing the candles deep and watching them flicker before blowing out foolish maids candles, they were not prepared, but suddenly I felt I was beginning to be. Even when Wednesday fell by the wayside my footing did not falter.

Holy ThursdayHoly Thursday

I’d struggled with Thursday, the original focus was Eucharistic but how could I do something like that with a toddler? Then Passover dawned in my head, the original meal. For the first time, in a long time, I roasted meat and tried to make unleavened bread. It was lovely and so poignant to tear that flat bread and wrap it round the meat, and quite too tasty for my expanding waistline! Friday I upper my game and went big with homemade sweet hot cross buns. I’m storing the recipes, treasuring the photos. We added in cardboard eggs dabbed in paint, Easter nests and coloured parchment paper cut into delicate chicks and bunnies and lambs.

Saturday my Lent journey sat complete, nothing more than an empty cross in the centre. A huge bunch of beautiful fresh flowers sat centre on the table and as Adam fell asleep I strung up the words ‘He is risen’ and laid the table with a candle and basket of Easter treats – a few chocolate eggs and bunnies. I’d found myself a chocolate egg too, well something don’t need to change.

Easter decorationsEaster decorations

I stood in Vera’s kitchen on Easter afternoon after we’d played the game of cracking eggs and eaten our feast. She told me how it was the first day of Easter for her and I realised that for me Easter day is the grand finale, it’s the fireworks at the end of the long and often gruelling show, a finale this year I’d dreaded but believe I may come to treasure.

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19