Saturday, 8 December 2012

Advent Club with St Nicholas

Today we have been enjoying the story of St. Nicholas. We're a day or two late, according to my Dutch friend, but I thought Nicholas should definitely get a place in our Advent Club, and as my children get older, I am gently shifting their attention to towards him - not that I have anything against Santa -but Nicholas provides a different emphasis for them. There is a Godly Play story about St. Nicholas that I have seen, but I don't have that book. Instead I used this story which is from Barnabus in Churches, who provide some wonderful resources suitable for use at home or church, many of them freely available online. Quite a few are inspired by the Godly Play style of story telling.

Here are the materials I used. The story suggested using a red felt underlay, but to tie up with Advent, I decided to go for purple, which I believe is the colour used for the official Godly Play version. The objects I used to tell the story were a wooden cross, some coins (next time I would maybe use some foreign or old coins to deflect away the excitment at seeing cold hard cash!), a model of a boat - not having one handy I made a simple paper boat, which seemed to satisfy the children greatly.

 To explain Nicholas' work as a bishop, Barnabus suggested a woolen stole, but that would not have meant anything to our group. Bishops don't feature in their understanding of church, but I was able to say that this is a type of church leader, and that leaders are there to look after people like a shepherd. So I thought I would use the figure of the Good Shepherd - the perfect role model for any leader. 

Part of the story talks about Nicholas' work defending and explaining the Christian faith, helping people to understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Nicholas may have been part of the group that wrote the Nicene Creed. Again, this is something unfamiliar to the children, but I read a little of it out, and interestingly, one boy decided this was the most important part of the story - a budding theologian, I wonder?

For me, one of the things I especially love about this style of story telling is the chance to make the objects used. Here are the three money sacks that Nicholas secretly threw in to through a window to proved dowries for three poor girls. Made from felt, with leather thong to tie them (I sewed the thong into one side seam, so they wouldn't get lost), and filled with a few copper coins, they make satisfyingly tactile objects. The children were very keen to touch them!

Finally there is a 'present' which I kept fairly plain, in order that it wouldn't detract too much from the other objects, and St Nicholas himself. The story called for an icon, but I already had made this figure a year ago, from wool felt, pipe cleaners and roving. Seeing his red bishops clothing and pointed hat was a bit of a lightbulb moment for some of the group...

The wondering was interesting, and the questions Barnabus offer are good. One is ' I wonder what Nicholas found hardest about being a  bishop' - one child replied, with great perception, 'leading the church' - something I'm sure most bishops and other leaders would agree with!

Following the story we continued around the kitchen table with a variety of crafts, making decorations to hang on the wonderful sparkly trees we made last week. This Friday I will take them to decorate the tables for the Christmas dinner of our local Seniors club.

Something new for us all was making apple cinnamon dough. This was a bit messy but brilliant fun. These decorations can't be eaten but once dried, should last for several years. There is an excellent tutorial here.
We also strung some dried orange slices on ribbon, and by popular demand, glittered some more pine cones. 

As the children left, they found their shoes had been filled with a satsuma, some chocolate coins and also a little Nicholas card.

Sometimes a little word is all that's needed. The boys have their own advent calendars, but inspired by this I made some paper pockets which I paper-clipped to a string. For each day there is a very short Bible reading for Advent, just a verse or two. I compiled the readings for use at L'Arche, with simple themes such as hope, peace, joy and love. We have been pulling the readings out at breakfast and reading them then, then again at the start of dinner. In these busy days, with my mind in a hundred places, they have been the perfect nourishment, sustaining me and coming back to me often. I try some other Advent books and they are good too, but sometimes a little word is all that's needed.

Hope you're enjoying Advent too!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Just in time for Advent!

The last time I took any photos was back in early September - a glorious day spent on a local beach - the pictures tell of swimming, rock-pooling, kite flying, beach combing and frying up bacon and mushrooms for sandwiches. What the pictures don't say is that there was a very strong wind that day or that sand got into my camera lens. The poor thing was understandably rather unhappy and made ominous crunching sounds. Oh dear....Three months later and one (almost) new lens later and I'm reunited with my precious camera again, feeling wiser and poorer!

So in the record of our family life we go straight from sand to snow, and right into Advent. The autumn has been a strange one anyway, and I have a lot to ponder this season. My husband was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy, which causes him to have a type of 'absence' for a couple of minutes at a time. We had seen the symptoms building up for a while, with no conclusive diagnosis last year, but with time it became obvious. Actually having this diagnosis gives us a lot of peace, because it could be a lot worse, and the medication he is able to take is working brilliantly well. The only downside really is that he is unable to drive this year, which sometimes requires a bit of planning, but we have been so grateful for assistance from friends, who have also been praying deeply with us. Thom has had to make various adjustments to his life, especially to have more rest, but in some ways it feels like a season of growth for him.

For me, Advent is very welcome, reminding me to wait and welcome the ways of God in our lives. I have felt very run down and especially tired this year, and it causes me to wonder about the one life I have to live. How I can live it as well as possible, in step with God's Spirit and the yearnings of my heart?

However, a particular source of joy has been the continuing discovery of Godly Play, and the possibility of doing small things well. I'm always so inspired by the Godly Play community, and especially by Sheila over at Explore and Express . As our church situations are very similar - just small seeds beginning to grow - we don't have weekly services, so often we do Godly Play at home as a family. However, Sheila's Advent Clubs seemed to be something we could offer to a few other children.

So today, and for the next three Saturday mornings of Advent, we are meeting in our home with five or six children. I can't tell you how nice it is to get to know these children better! Today, as it was our first time together, and we come from a totally non-liturgical church, I took the time to explain what Advent is, using the Godly Play story of the Circle of the Church Year and the Advent wreath - they were fascinated!

I also told the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which does feel very appropriate for Advent, all that waiting and growing...

In stead of an open response time, we were working on making some table decorations for the local Seniors Christmas Lunch, and for some house-bound folk in our church. The group responded really well to the idea of giving in this way. Today we took some rounds of a log, which the older ones drilled holes in, then 'planted' some twiggy stems. We all spent a very happy time painting, gluing and (lavishly!) glittering the branches, as well as some pine cones to hang on them. The photos don't do these wonderful looking trees justice! They really echo the icy ones outdoors.  Next week we'll make some more decorations

Another possibility for the children was to make a gift for the birds - which they had loved and wonderfully named in the Parable. We used more pine cones dipped in soft vegetable fat and then rolled in bird seed. You can find a simple tutorial here. We enjoyed a well-earned feast together, but it was just wonderful watching the crowds of different birds coming to enjoy their feast.

Wishing you a very joyful Advent!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A story with a view

One for the Godly Play the most recent GP newsletter they included a few stories about unusual locations for storytelling - on a frozen lake from Rebecca Nye probably comes top! However, I recently had the chance to tell The Great Family in one of the world's most beautiful - and famous spots. 

The team I am part of at L'Arche had the rare opportunity to spend the day together - with the previso we didn't go too far and didn't spend much money! Hmm, a challenge. Happily we are less than ten miles from Loch Ness, so we planned a day on the beach there, with a barbeque.

There is always one tiny problem with planning such days in Scotland...the weather. But we prayed and hoped and trusted. And had one of the most beautiful days possible, it was calm and wonderfully warm. Being on a beach, albeit a rocky one, was a good place to wonder about Abram and Sarai's journey, as we pondered on our journey together in L'Arche. Seasoned and sharp-eyed Godly Players will spot a few extra stones in the desert. Each of us placed one in response to ourselves in the story. 

We also broke bread together and thought about the hospitality of Abraham, and what that means for us in L'Arche as we welcome folk, well known and new, each day. This icon sits in the house at L'Arche and often reminds me to go beyond the necessary in my welcome, as well as to take my own part in the feast to which I am invited.

PS No, Nessie did not come to join us for the story - maybe she's just not ready yet!
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Wednesday, 4 July 2012



This is just a wee post to pop my head up and say 'hello!' - our last month has been overfull and a few things just have had to be dropped - poor old blog - it's you again. The days have been packed with birthday celebrations, Jubilee parties, family reunions, work on our house - new flooring at last - hurray! There has also been lots and lots of storytelling, and baby steps towards a new Godly Play Circle in Inverness. Finally the school holidays have arrived - and my own, so high on my catch up list is Featherglen...emerging from its' cocoon. 

My youngest son is an avid observer of wild life. Our house and garden is full of jars - which we try to get emptied out each day - of his catches. A month or so back he found a huge furry caterpillar, a real beast of thing, which we managed to feed until it built its cocoon. And then we waited...and looked dead...very dead. But  what did we know? Suddenly, there it was, a strikingly patterned and utterly beautiful Garden Tiger, Arctia caja. They are a bit unusual, so we spent time enjoying its' unfolding before releasing it - in the hope of more to come. 

I'm grateful that my son draws my attention to things so small. So very small, but with its' own story to tell, one that touched me deeply.

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Sunday, 20 May 2012


One of my children is a big fan of dragons - in fact he frequently dresses like one - is it rude to say he sometimes behaves like one...? He's usually a very sweet pet dragon...he also loves all things that come in eggs. I haven't posted much recently about crafty things but I was delighted to find a dragon pattern here. It was pretty easy to make, and relaxing to sew by hand. I had a wee wooden egg and managed to needle felt a baby dragon to go inside.I haven't done much needle felting before but I was the little chap wasn't too tricky to make. Do you know Rhythm of the Home? It's a great resource for making things for children (and their adults) as well as some interesting articles on their blog. I'm looking out for the summer edition!


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Monday, 14 May 2012

Just a quick update, here is the almost-end of our Eastertide garden, rejigged again for Ascension. It's not the greatest of pictures and I see the kitchen table is covered in lego, but hey, that's the stuff of our lives! The star that T put in the bare branch at the start of Lent 'because God is with us' has hung on, and seems all the more relevant for celebrating the mystery of Ascension - that 'Jesus went away so He could be with us always'

And also a link to a post about Godly Play in L'Arche - not written by me but I am there... Here  is a felted picture made by me and two of our Community core members. We made it as a focal point, as we don't have a lot of GP materials, and it helps to lend a sense of belonging if we sometimes make things together. Additionally it was a very therapeutic and meaningful activity for the three of us. Wet felting is a great way to work out frustrations! Do I have any? Hmm, oh just occasionally!

Friday, 11 May 2012


I love meeting new friends through the blogosphere, especially people who I would never have the chance to meet otherwise, but who share a lot in common with me. I've been very inspired by Storyteller who blogs here and Sheila here. They both blog a lot about Godly Play and very kindly asked me to write something for them about celebrating the season of Easter. It was a good challenge for me to settle and focus in what have been some full days. You can read my thoughts about creating an Eastertide Garden here and also about the Road to Emmaus here. Oddly enough, while my posts were being posted in Finland and Germany I was away from home at a L'Arche meeting, staying at the wonderful Emmaus House in Edinburgh.

I can't resist showing you a few pictures from a visit to friend's farm just down the road from our home. Feeding lambs? Surely one of life's sweetest experiences! Happy reading and happy weekend!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Viking Invasion!

 This weekend, once more, Scotland was invaded by vikings! Um, except they were mainly Scottish vikings and a couple of Canadians too...OK, so what I know about vikings could probably be written on the back of a very small postcard. But I do know that small boys (and their dads, so it turns out) just love them! And so it came to pass that for my youngest son's birthday party, that our garden and house was filled a horde of erm, really rather cute, no, apparently I should say, ferocious vikings.

And a dragon. Because what are vikings without dragons? And because T just IS a dragon. Of the smallest, generally sweetest, kind.  For years now...

So after gearing up with some felt helmets - which came together surprisingly swiftly - I may do a wee tute if life allows...wooden shields (made by the Chief himself) got decorated and named with runic letters. Wooden swords all round, then it was time for a bit of viking training - led all too convincingly by the Chief himself - soon had everyone roaring around the garden.

A bit of blind fold viking dressing...

No wonder he looked rather grumpy...

Then to the feasting! They each made an edible shield (that's pizza to you and me).

For fans of Cressida Cowell's books of 'How to Train your Dragon' can you spot Hiccup and Camicazi? And Toothless of course...

The Chief proved (once again) to be a million times better at cake decorating than me.  Me: "Can you make me a dragon?"  Him: "No problem" And so it proved to be. No flames, other than seven candles but it was all devoured...

Vikings welcome any day!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter Crafts

Happy, happy Easter! I love Easter days! There's always such a sense of anticipation - spiritually, obviously for me, but also perhaps that sense of spring, that the year has turned, of being the right time sow seeds, enjoy a few days of's all about being re-created and re-creating.

On Saturday after the all-too-necessary evils of a bit of housework, and with my husband away for the day, the boys and I had a very creative day. We started with some wonderfully smelling beeswax candles, made in eggshells (following inspiration from Explore and Express and a tutorial from Magic Onions). The boys cut the wicks and J tied them onto bamboo sticks. T poured the wax pellets into an old baked bean tin (impromptu bain marie) and inspected their melting progress in a slightly overfull steamer.

Then we moved from melting wax to melting chocolate - a rather more popular choice - to make some little nests on a spoon - simple and fun - and with lots of tasting and chocolaty fingers along the way! We popped them in the fridge, while I told the boys the final part of the Faces of Easter Story.

 We headed out to the garden and woods to get all we needed for our Easter garden, which turned out to be quite an installation on our kitchen table! I was surprised but pleased that they enjoyed arranging the flowers, which J especially did very well. he also found the big rock to close the tomb. T put his clay bird in pride of place. Our wheatgrass has grown very well!

Finally, it was time to eat the wee nests, which were a big hit. It was a great afternoon, after all the activity of the last few days.