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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Tot-school | Week 24 | Letter YApril 9, 2017
This past week’s tot-school…
…was deliberately sparse
After a weeks pause we got back to tot-school light this week. We were childminding an extra little one every morning so rather than focus on just the letter we did morning activities and then I added in a letter Y activity if the afternoon allowed. With 2 little boys to entertain having a hands on activity most days set up was a real treat. Our walls became adorned with their artwork and I’m already stockpiling ideas for the week after next when we do it again.
Letter Y was a trial though. I found it difficult to get excited about and most of the ‘usual’ words just didn’t seem to work. While I made up the set for yogurt and yo-yo I failed to find a yo-yo for us to play with so none of that material got used. Yacht – he calls it a boat, Yellow – not an object, Yam – it’s called a sweet potato, Yarn – that’s called wool, Yak – really, he’d not have a clue! I drew a large Y n the floor on Monday and he immediately identified it correctly, I concluded sometimes we try too hard.
The pack I’ve made is available for download at the end of the post.
This weeks read more questions:
It was lovely to do so many hands on activities with another child
I’d hoped to do yogurt painting but with so many messy things each moring I couldn’t face it in the afternoons
I’ve chosen not to include pictures of the other little boy, it’s not my place to make the decision for his parents and even if it limits my pictures I’d feel unsure without express permission for each and every photo.
Serving in stillness (rest)March 30, 2017
This weeks theme is rest and it’s something I’ve actually found myself ahead of the ball on for once. I’m fighting for alone time but I’ve found a rhythm that, at least for the while, seems to leave me less exhausted and more excited than daunted about work.
I’ve let go of my expectations as I recognise what to invest in, it’s given me permission to trust God is still working when I’m not. Invest…these’s that word again, my word for the year seeping into my everyday. This process of investing may conjure up visions of building ones pile, or digging the earth and tending the saplings, but in practice it’s turned out to be much more about pruning. Perhaps you can grow beautiful roses in the dense jungle but they will be more appreciated and easier to tend in well pruned flowerbeds. And that’s where rest comes in, because last year I was trying to do so much and feeling so much personal disappointment as my to do list grew ever longer.
So my days are now in a pattern that build in rest and work and time to be open to the day. Zeljko often goes off to work at a friends house and I tend Adam alone for the later part of the morning. We play, I may get space to browse my phone or sort some laundry but it’s not what that time is for. Today we painted with bubbles in the dirt, tomorrow we may build a Duplo house to be saved from fire or go explore the canal and pick dandelions. After we’ve eaten a light lunch and I’ve sat the 30-45 minutes in a darkened room Adam is (fingers crossed) asleep.
Last year at this point I’d go rushing into the thousands of jobs I’d mentally been listing all morning, but no longer. It’s not healthy for me and I’ve no chance of finishing them even if I exhaust myself – I would have ended up resentfully picking up my toddler when he wakes, while realising how much was left wanting. Instead I use this precious ‘me’ time to listen to the daily meditation and a light workout on the wii. 20 minutes later I make a cuppa and settle at the computer for work. I know that limits my time, but I’m mentally, physically and spiritually prepared. In the houses stillness as I work I can pause to mediate over the words I listened to and if I need to stop. Memories and prayer needs and whispers of recognition seep through. Even though it’s such a short sprint I usually get enough done that it’s only print outs and excitement which draws me back to continue or tweak later in the day. It focuses me, the toys can be collected between games later, the washing up while Adam watches Bing, the vaccume may wake him anyhow, they are not the priority and so they sit abandoned.
After nap is tot-school, if we do it, then our evenings are family time – to cook a meal or watch tv, see friends, wander to the shops, city or soft play place. As spring makes it’s rapid journey on the way to summer, outdoors beacons us more. If I’d known my days would be so relaxed I’d have felt guilty for I know the funding that upholds my work, but slowly I’m coming to realise there is service in the stillness too, witness in the time to spare and everyday duties, work of the heart. Service does not need to be continuous to be effective, but reliable and regular and continuing. We place an artificial bridge between serving and action. We forget there is serving in our personal care, and not just in the cheesy ‘your body is a temple’ way. Rest is a commandment and a discipline, Sabbath is not just a day but a practice of living. Equally action can be a distraction, it can leave our heads so busy and bodies so weary we are unable to hear the still small voice, unable to meet the need when a friend asks us to come, unable to serve those nearest to us fully. Next week we’ll get to say yes to a friend who needs a someone to look after their son each morning, perhaps we’ll go see the newest parents in our friendship circle or God will surprise us with something unexpected… it’s quite exciting giving God empty space to fill.
Linking up with Velvet Ashes where the theme this week is Rest