Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent Club - The Names of God

For the second week of Advent I tried out another new story on the children. As we don't have liturgical church I can play hard and fast with what we do in Advent!  This story is based on the book 'In God's Name' by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. It explores the different names for God and how each person has their own special name for God. At the end, the people of the world come together around a mirror-like lake, they see themselves and others reflected in the mirror. Their voices join together as they discover that God can have many names and yet be the One God.It's a beautiful book with wonderful artwork.

The story has been put together by some of the Godly Play trainers in the UK and I have it on loan for a while. It is still in development. It has the usual wondering questions but then I asked the group to bring something to place in the centre that expresses who God is for them.

As part of our activities we try to have an outward looking focus. This year we decided to make a banner to decorate the local community hall where we meet for worship. We'll be inviting guests for a couple of events this coming week, so we decided to make something that communicates who God is for us. So, building on the children's ideas, we took a long length of paper, sponged it with red, yellow and gold. As it dried, each child took a letter, spelling out JESUS, and then collaged it in the way they wished to. I provided a pile of different materials and glue and let them get on with it...Everyone was very engrossed.

Finally, when the letters were dried, they were cut out and glued on the background. I waited a week to do this, and the children had put a good coat of PVA over each letter, so they dried really securely.

This week - just yesterday, the group started the Club by writing on many names of God - the ones they chose - around the big letters. It was a good way to get ready. The banner looks superb! There is a lot of sparkly material used which doesn't show up in these photos - the light is so poor at the moment.I'll tell you more about  Week Three in my next posting...

Friday, 6 December 2013

Back at time for Advent

 Hi folks...oh my goodness it has been a long time. Our computer died and we've been limping along with a variety of solutions, we're not all sorted yet, but hopefully soon! And we have had a lot going on. We are all well but life has been very full. Hopefully more of that soon. In the meantime we find ourselves back at Advent! When did that happen? But, no matter how busy, it's always a special time of the year. We started with a celebration at L'Arche, and then my lovely local children asked if we could do Advent Club again. So, here we are. At a recent Godly Play training day, Alex our trainer showed an alternative way of telling the Advent story. I called it The Story of the Advent Wreath.

Afterwards we all made Advent wreaths using oasis rings, loads of greenery and candles. here. Some of the girls work really fast so I have learned to always a few extra choices! I forgot to take photos of their wreaths but they were much like the one we made last year:

The children did really well, especially at helping one another. Two of the wreaths were given away to older people in our village, which really touched me. I also gave the option of making a nativity set using some beautiful Holy Family Cutouts from Good Ground Press. As usual Sheila has lots of lovely inspiration here. I'm sure I'll be using some of her ideas. Hopefully I'll be back again soon. For now, it's time to snuggle in with knitting by the fire this evening. We had plenty of snow today - winter has begun!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Easter Garden

 It's become a family tradition to make an Easter Garden, usually on Easter Saturday. We take the Lent Garden and transform it with from sand and rock to plant and seed filled soil. One of my sons came around the woods to gather some of the natural elements and the other helped sow grass seeds. Little jars are tucked in place to hold flowers and candles. For the Saturday we put a big stone across the moss-covered 'tomb'.

On Easter Sunday the garden comes alive with added flowers, figures, candles and Easter decorations suspended from budding branches. The boys wooden eggs from Easter Club take pride of place.

What I love seeing is how the garden changes over the weeks that we will have it. Already a few little chicks and some eggs have crept in, thanks to my younger sons. I know there will be a variety of visitors to the garden! But somehow it brings the story of Easter into our everyday, announcing good news to all! The grass has sprouted, and now ten days later, it has had it's first haircut, with the trimmings going to our real chickens, happy for some spring greens. If we remember to water the garden, it should be with us for the whole six weeks of Easter, reminding us of new life daily.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Back to the 80s!

Some good friends turned 50 recently and threw an 80s party in our village hall. As we were teenagers then it wasn't hard to come up with costumes. I was very happy to spend the night dancing with one of my teenage crushes, Robert Smith of The Cure! And doing his makeup, no less (his and hers black eyeliner, yikes!). The boys went as Luke Skywalker and a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle. I just went as my younger backcombed self, a look that can only be described as Oxfam chic. It is amazing what still lurks in old jewellry boxes. Thomas wore my Dad's old dinner jacket, which I used to wear myself in the 80s. The other costumes were brilliant too, ranging from Margaret Thatcher to Wonder Woman. There was a mixture of wonderful and truly awful music - which surely sums up that decade, it was all so over the top and theatrical. And no longer being angst-ridden teenagers, we enjoyed it all so much more.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Easter Club Week Six

Happy Easter! Last weekend was so full of celebration that we needed a day or two to recover! Now is the school holidays so between time with the family I am slowly catching up. Our final Easter Club was on Easter Saturday, not quite the end of Lent, but I wanted us to enjoy the celebration of Easter together, so it had a festive feel.

I told a Godly Play story about real Easter Eggs, using the psanky that I had made. I also made lots of flat egg shapes with many of the traditional Ukranian designs, colours and their meanings. The children each designed their own, on paper, then on flat wooden egg shapes. They worked so hard! They finished them with ribbons to hang as Easter decorations. 

I had also found these lovely card baskets to make. They were perfect for their eggs and some Easter candles.

And the sun shone! So we were able to head out to the garden to hunt for chocolate eggs - an essential way to finish! It was a lovely end to a lovely few weeks. I shall be happy to have my Saturday morning lie-in again, but the children have asked to get together for a Pentecost Club...of course! But I'm not quite sure what you do at one of those...I'll have to have a think about it. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Easter Club Week Five - Brunch Club

For our fifth week, we decided to do something different.  We invited parents and neighbours to join us for a fundraising brunch for Blythswood Care, which is administered locally. My boys have enjoyed helping out at their annual shoe boxes event, where thousands of boxes, filled with practical presents, are checked and packed into lorries before being sent off to countries acroos Eastern Europe and even India. Blythswood help support many small Christain run projects, and we had heard that they were looking to raise money for nutrious breakfasts for an orphanage in Romania. It seems like a little money can go a long way.

The children all brought along their home baking - as you can see from a the impressive array above! Everyone worked hard setting up the kitchen, decorating menus, a moneybox and cakes. We buttered lots of rolls - bacon rolls are very popular around here.

It was really lovely having all our guests, including Danny from Blythswood who shared some photos of the place where our money was going - we raised enough to give a child a good breakfast for a year!

We did also have time to finish the Faces of Easter and to marvel at how fast our rye grass cross has grown this week...oh and to try out some those wonderful cakes!

Proud - Fier

This one is for Granny Poppy in France! C'est pour toi, Granny Poppy,  il etait si fier d'etre dans l'equipe! Regarde comme il est beau dans ses vetements sportifs. Il a beaucoup aime le concours, malgre la neige! Bisous x

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Pysanky Making

Although I would love to get out to the garden and start clearing the way for spring growth, the weather has been pretty horrible recently, so at weekends I have spent some happy times playing around with eggs. Pysanky Eggs are a Ukranian folk tradition. Eggs are decorated using a batik style, with wax and layers of dyes. A finished egg can be kept for many years.

The hardest part is controlling the flow of wax. Traditionally the tool used is a kistka, and these are readily available on the internet. However, what I have to hand is a batik pen, given to me a long time ago. It is similar - a wooden handle with a metal nib and reservoir. Some beeswax pellets are put into the pen, which is held over a candle flame until melted. Then you draw the pen over the egg, in whatever design you like.

 I found this helpful book at a jumble sale just before Christmas. It has lots of helpful tips and wonderful drawings of traditional motifs, as well as descriptions of Ukranian Eater customs. I also found this site very helpful - a great introduction to Pysanky. There are some some good colouring pages too.

It is lovely seeing the pattern and layers of colour build up. The instructions help you to build up to complex geometric patterns but there are also many traditional folkloric motifs which draw from nature, and are more freeflowing.

Finally you melt off all the wax and get the big reveal! This is the exciting part! And addictive too...

A friend recently challenged me about the pagan origins of egg painting, but as I thought about it, not only are these eggs lovely objects in their own right, they are, in the words of Jerome Berryman 'real Easter eggs...the eggs were trying to say with colours and words what had happened that day'. If Christ is in the business of making all things new, then I think that can apply to our art and celebrations as Christians too.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Easter Club Week Four

Another lovely week with our group. The children really got the idea of finding something in the room to tell a little more of the ongoing story The Faces of Easter, as you can see from the picture above. I was pleased that they are starting to feel comfortable with going to my story shelf and pulling things out from other stories. They also picked up some everyday objects, including toys and were keen to explain the connection with the story - a lego Samurai reminded us of the Roman occupation of Israel, for example. My husband was really intrigued by some of the observations they made. It kept us thinking long afterwards.

I offered a few choices this week for our response time - we are fortunate to have plenty of time and it is so lovely not to rush anything. We marked out the shape of a cross with pebbles in a box of compost, then sowed some rye grass seeds. Already some little sprouts of growth are showing. We will use it for our church service on Easter Sunday then give it as a present.

I have been trying to share something about different ways of praying, and this week talked about praying when we don't have any words...a very common experience isn't it? Sometimes when I struggle to find words but still want to intentionally pray, I just sit with a wee wooden cross in my hand. I just wanted the children to know it's OK to pray like that, and sometimes very powerful! So I offered them some wooden crosses to sand and wax, to use like that if they wish. We had a short practice at the end - cue some giggles, of course!

A friend who does Messy Church kindly gave me a big bag of leftover Easter crafts - Easter week bracelets, cards, bookmarks and so on. Although these types of crafts are very structured, they seemed very popular and engrossing. Yet again, I am struck by the importance of the process, rather than the product. My boys really enjoyed the beading - but show little interest in what they have made! A couple of the older girls (in their early teens) remarked how relaxing colouring in is. I guess that they probably don't have much chance to do it now, but this simple activity is indeed very satisfying. I am going to keep my eyes out for colouring which might prove attractive to older children. 

Next week (Saturday 23rd March) our Easter Club is planning to have a brunch for friends and neighbours, in aid of Blythswood Christian Care. If you live in the neighbourhood and want to join us for coffee, cake, bacon rolls etc, you would be very welcome to come along at 11am to our house.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Easter Club Week Three

Our group met again yesterday, a little smaller than usual, but I don't mind, as there is always more time for each child in a smaller group. I took a little extra time to help the group get ready for the story. It is a wonderful group as they are so enthusiastic and participate in everything, but I realised that they also need to know about being ready on the inside - which isn't about being quiet and sitting still - although that can help! We talked about being quiet on the inside so we don't miss something which may be just for them. This is such a helpful part of Godly Play, and respectful of where each child is at. It helps them to learn about themselves and prepare themselves internally.

I started telling the Faces of Easter story, which can be told over several weeks. Last year my material was very simple - laminated pictures, but this year I am so happy to have the artwork mounted on boards and a nice wooden rack. There are a few people in Inverness and the Highlands starting out with Godly Play. We have got together a couple of times to make some of the  materials together. I will have to share about those days another time but they have been great fun and very enjoyable - especially all the cake that people bring along!

 At the end of the story, instead of the usual wondering questions, the children are asked to find something else in the room that helps tell the story. They were very enthusiastic about that! As it was in our living room there were many items they could choose, and their reasons for doing so were very interesting and beautiful.
As this first part of the story focuses on the birth and childhood of Jesus, I asked the children if they wanted to make a gift for Mother's Day. In Great Britain it is always three Sundays before Easter.  I supplied some simple cloth bags, pens and fabric paints and let them create a special bag for their mothers. They worked really hard on this and everyone produced a gift to make any mother's heart fill up.

 Of course I had to be very careful not to look too much at what my boys were doing! I'll show you their's in another posting, but if you were celebrating Mother's Day today, I hope, like me, you had a wonderful day.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Weekend Work

No Easter Club this week, as I was invited to go and do a bit of storytelling at a local church that's considering using Godly Play. However, I did find time to carry on a little with my woodwork project...lots of sanding, sanding, sanding...can you tell what it's going to be?

I have a busy week ahead...but I hope there'll be time to enjoy a few peaceful moments. Have a good week too!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

More Godly Play at L'Arche

 Here's a link to a post on the L'Arche Inverness blog about a Godly Play session I ran this week. I didn't take the pictures - the first one will give you a laugh - my boys think I must have found something scary in the desert! There, you can't resist looking now, can you?! It's almost worth a caption competition!

 I had a chance to use my new Desert Bag - which is a big strong bag with cords to pull up and safely transport the sand used for a number of the stories. I told the story of the Exodus, as we'll be having a Passover Meal in a few weeks time and I thought it would be a good way to help understand the meaning of this meal. Then we really get to 'taste the story'!

Another view of the bag - a bit of an odd angle, not sure what happened there...I made it using these instructions from Johanna at Godly Play Finland. Instead of making it square as suggested, I went for a rectangle as I think it's important to have plenty of space. However, the instructions were great, especially the corners which are really strong and nicely done. I had to think about them for a while to 'get' them, but they are brilliant.  I had to use two lengths of thinner cord doubled up, and ended up with 3 layers of cloth for strength. It was what I had in my stash and I'm really determined to use what I already have for making things. I'm very pleased with the result and got some enthusiastic help with pinning and cutting from my youngest. Another reason to love Godly Play! Both boys enjoy the finished product too...although I have seen the odd dinosaur creeping in...not surprising really!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Easter Club Week Two

Just a few pictures from our second week of our Easter Club. I told the Parable of the Good Shepherd, which was the second time for this group. They started to recognise it, which gave me a good opportunity to ask them if they could  go a bit deeper with it, which they did.After I tell the story, I ask a number of 'Wondering Questions' which are completely open-ended, but encourage the children to make their own response and connections to the story. There are no 'right' answers and the observations the children make are sometimes truly amazing.

For the Response Time, I decide to give them a few choices, including the chance to make a prayer pot, a lovely idea that Sheila came up with. Four of them decided to do that and they seemed to enjoy working with the clay. We talked a little about coil pots and thumb pots...took me right back to pottery lessons at school, happy days!

In addition everyone wanted to paint with some watercolours I'd provided. This was very popular, so I will have to get a few more sets for the future. As we all work together around the kitchen table, we do chat quite a bit. Talking about the paint gave me the chance to show the painters what happens when you try dropping paint onto wet paper. I'd love to get some really good quality water colour paper for them to enjoy working with. Despite the lack of space, it was a very peaceful time, and everyone became absorbed into their work

I didn't manage to take any photos, but some of the group also worked a while with wool roving, making pictures onto hessian. This also seemed to be very satisfying for them, so I will offer that as an option again in the future.

Each time we meet, I learn something new, what works, what doesn't. I don't get it right every time, but I am so encouraged by this group who give me a safe place to learn, as I hope I give them a safe place to learn and grow too. I'm encouraged by their generosity - the home made cakes that are brought for our feast - and their desire to think about people outside the group too. We can't meet next week, but I'm already looking forward to seeing them again in two weeks. In the meantime I'm looking forward to storytelling at L'Arche and a local church.

Sheila, at Explore and Express, who inspired me to run these clubs, is also running an Easter Club in Berlin. You can read about her group here.