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.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Simple Stitching

As the days inch their way, a little longer, and as I have more and more precious natural light, then I know it is the time to return to my sewing machine. It's always a lovely feeling, a rush of energy and creativity. And with good reason, as several friends and  family members get ready to welcome their new babes.

The only thing I bought in the sales this year was a copy of Anna Maria Horner's book Handmade Beginnings.  This is a lovely book, full of projects and not just for babies! Her techniques and construction are really good, with attention to detail and some wonderful ideas. I've made a pile of 'Quick Change Trousers' which I would have loved for my boys when they were that tiny. Fully reversible, which is a such a good idea for speedy transformations of mucky little ones.

Boys clothes are often not very exciting, so it was great to be able to go a bit wild with colours, which I think their parents won't mind. Also for another wee one, a simple jumper on the needles, now almost finished.

Small and satisfying, just perfect for brushing away the winter cobwebs.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Easter Club Week One

The wee group of children that came to Advent Club in December asked me if I could run something else for Easter - with pleasure! This sort of rhythm suits me well - rather than plug away at something every week. So, as before, we will meet on a Saturday morning in our home. When the children arrived they were rather surprised - to see this nativity set up 'But it's not Christmas'...well no indeed. However, in Godly Play, a pared down nativity plus a figure of the risen Christ, takes centre stage as a focal point all year round, reminding us that Jesus 'grew up to be man and died on the cross. That is very sad, but it is also wonderful in an Easter kind of way...He is not just back then, in this place or that place. He is everywhere and in every time'.

I told the story of the Holy Family using the nativity. The wondering was very animated. When I asked what we could leave out and mischieviously removed a figure, each and every figure - person and animal was very staunchly defended. If it had been a balloon debate I don't think we could have thrown anyone out!

One of the mothers kindly lent me her olive wood nativity from Bethlehem, but we are slowly making our takes time and a few legs getting cut off by mistake! I am learning which way to have the grain of the wood going and how to be less afraid of the jigsaw blade! My husband made the baby and the sheep for me. They proved irresistible to a visiting child last week, which made me very happy. I am also very happy with the risen Christ figure I cut from an old ikea desk that friend was throwing out. New life indeed!  Together we made a very sweet donkey this afternoon - although it took us a few goes and a few missing limbs to get it right...

Instead of an open response time - something I will offer next week - I suggested the making of Lent 'gardens' as a way of getting ready for Easter. We talked about the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert and the children filled dishes and trays with sand. I had provided some bare twigs and most of them decided to make a cross with them. They enjoyed using a small hammer and nails. Everyone filled a dish with pebbles - it was mild enough to go outdoors to hunt for them. When they go home they can put a pebble in their desert for each day between now and Easter.

I also let them choose a roughly cut out figure to represent themselves.They have some sandpaper to work on it, and we talked about how God's love works in out lives, transforming us and smoothing off our rougher edges. They took these home with some readings for each day.

I also told the Mystery of Easter story. Some of the children chose to work with some paper crosses or to take one home.

We finished with a very un-Lenten feast! But it was wonderful, as one of the families had made us cakes and peppermint creams to share, and was really enjoyed. After sweeping up all the sand, we now have a pair of desert gardens to grace our kitchen table. Watch this space to see how they develop!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Today is Ash Wednesday. Not something I grew up with, and even a couple of years ago I was trying to get my head around. Lent, yes, but Ash Wednesday? Being part of a L'Arche community gives me the great growing experience of meeting and knowing Christians of many, many different backgrounds. Where else would I have ever met an Armenian Orthodox or Mennonite in the north of Scotland? And seen them praying together? Such an experience tells me that the fruit of a life ranks much higher than what people say they believe. So...Ash Wednesday has entered my spiritual world as a significant and meaningful day.

We had a simple service at L'Arche, with help from Fr. Mel, an Episcopal priest from the Black Isle. The ashes, he explained, remind us we are human and that one day we will die. The shape of the cross reminds us of the amazing deep love of Jesus, sent by God to save us from sin. And the dust also reminds us we are precious, like gold dust, to the Father.

Today I'm reminded of my humanity and frailty, but also of the depths God's love. Lent calls me to come away and spend time with my Father. Lent in L'Arche reminds me this also a joyful time!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Meandering along

Happy New Year - yes, rather belated I there a cut off date? I like the French habit of sending New Year cards instead of Christmas ones. It seems to be a much gentler way of doing things - no missed last posting dates, or mad dashes to crowded post offices.

I'm a bit late, partly because it always takes a little time to settle into a new year - the shock to the system of going back to school after gloriously slobbing around for the Christmas holidays, and partly because yet again our computer is on the blink. It won't connect to the internet, so I can only blog with a borrowed computer, which doesn't have all my pictures on it - it's all a bit fiddly for my non-techie wee brain

Do you like this lovely card we had from my mother-in-law? She's a truly wonderful artist, and I have had this card on our kitchen table ever since it arrived.  One thing I love about this time of year is the tiny lengthening of the days, and as the light returns, I see our energy and creativity returning too. So a broken computer has also been a great reason to get outdoors or start on the things I have had gently brewing in my mind for a while.  More about them next the meantime, come and have a wee wander around and see where I live, now it's light enough to get outdoors. 

Do you know about our ridiculous-looking chickies? We do love them - not so much the big holes scratched into the garden - but their sweet nature and crazy looking hairdos. They are always a good sign of life! And they are still giving us a few eggs.

 There are lots of lovely places to go for a wander around here, even in winter, it is really beautiful. I feel very blessed to live here. My children have taught me to look up close and not miss the details. I'm not sure I would have seen these amazing ice formations if they hadn't been shown to me.

 Some of the neighbours...they look fierce but they are softies really, the calves look like teddies.

This is our local castle - a tiny little one, as castles go, and not really designed to keep out invaders. I'm sure the heating bill is horrendous,  but I wouldn't mind the views from the top floor. Do you see the stepped gables? I wonder if the crows use them for hopping up and down on?

Just down the road is the local Free Church. I love the simplicity of this building, it fits right into the landscape, every bit as much as the castle, perhaps even more so.

Well, I'm loving the longer days, my little wanderings around and the rising urge to be creative, the sense of new possibilities for the year . And you? What's happening in the beginnings of this year? Hopefully I can be back again in this space again soon to catch up and mark the days before they speed away.
See you soon.