Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Sunsets by the sea: A swift visit to Lymington

It was the end of a hot day.  The cool water felt good on our feet, and the waves lazily pushed the pebbles around on the beach.  Across the channel, the Needles turned from white rock to glowing peach, as the sky dimmed, the air became cooler and stiller, and the red sun sank irresistibly towards the edge of the earth.


 

We had discovered that the best time to come to the beach was at 7pm.  The crowds had gone, the parking was free, and we didn't have to mess around applying sunscreen.  Once the sun had finally disappeared, we bundled the boys into towels and drove them back to the cottage, where they were happy to fall into bed.

The cottage - a compact and fortunately cool Victorian semi - was in Lymington, where we managed to spend a few days in August.  It's a neat little place with a high street that tumbles down the hill to a harbour full of expensive yachts.  A short drive away, through the New Forest, is Beaulieu Motor Museum, which of course had to be the first stop on our itinerary.

The Motor Museum was packed with cars, from the very old...


...to the very fast...


...to the very small...


 

...to the downright odd.



And who remembers these??


Graham, Toby and Theo absolutely loved Top Gear World, with the Real Cars that had been altered, cannibalised, and generally wrecked by the presenters.  I retreated to the beautifully peaceful remains of Beaulieu Abbey, and reserved my admiration for the beans and squash in the kitchen gardens.




All the pre-booking systems for Covid-19 compliance meant that most places were operating at a much reduced capacity.  That was great at Beaulieu, but we got caught out for the Isle of Wight ferry, which turned out to be fully booked for foot passengers.  We had to settle for a cruise round the harbour.  Still, I doubt they would have let Toby steer the Isle of Wight ferry!




Turning our backs on the sea for a few hours, we found our way into the New Forest and paddled in a stream.  It mostly flowed over stones (rearranging them to divert the water into new channels was a most absorbing activity) but of course the boys had to find the one patch of mud.  And make the most of it.




We also said hello to some of the ubiquitous New Forest ponies, and ate - what else? - New Forest ice lollies.  Usually Walls and Nestle are the only choices, so we were pleased to discover a company that offered some new options.  Toby was delighted to find one which was something like an ice cream sandwich and a Feast jammed together.

 



On our final day we took one more walk down to the marina in Lymington, along to the open air swimming pool (which sadly had also been fully booked for our visit). 


The journey home was carefully timed to coincide with the second Silverstone Formula 1 race, so that we could listen to it on the car radio.  The excitement of Max Verstappen's unexpected victory meant that we hardly noticed the miles disappearing beneath the tyres, and in fact we didn't stop until we pulled on to our own driveway.  

It had been a long few months of lockdown, and life wasn't back to normal yet.  But a few evenings of watching the sun set by the sea had definitely made things look better.

Monday, 17 August 2020

John 3:16 vs Micah 6:8 - How do you sum up the Christian faith?

 

Through my growing-up years, if I'd asked someone which Bible verse summed up the Christian faith, I'm pretty sure they would have responded with John 3:16.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 NIV)

It was the verse; if you could quote one bit of the Bible from memory, this would be it.  Those of us in UK Sunday schools in the 1990s can probably still sing John Hardwick's musical setting, with its acrostic chorus: "L is for the love that he has for me, I am the reason he died on the tree..." (it finishes with F and E, in case you were wondering).  And while no one would argue that it represented the totality of God's revelation to us, I think most evangelical Christians reckoned it was a good start.

Nowadays, I rarely hear anyone quote John 3:16.  But everywhere I turn, people seem to be leaning on Micah 6:8.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8 NIV)

The Lectio 365 prayer app uses it as one of their key verses.  I have recently heard several talks using it as a central text, and anything referencing racial justice, environmental issues, poverty or slavery is quite likely to include it.  Again, no one is using it as the be-all and end-all of our faith, but as a guide to living a Christian life, many people count it as a good place to start.

Looking at the two verses together, the difference in emphasis between the two is quite striking.  I think there has probably been a corresponding change in emphasis among many UK Christians, which is why we now hear Micah 6:8 quoted more than John 3:16.  So let's look at each of them more carefully.

John 3:16

This starts with that great statement of what God has done: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.  The fact that our faith rests on what God has already achieved for us is front and central in this verse - and as I've previously argued in my post about teacups, this is quite an important thing to remember.

that whoever believes in him... Our response, then, is to believe in someone not to do something.  In my experience of how this verse has been used, the emphasis is often individualistic (you yourself must believe) and prescriptive (this is the set of ideas you must believe).

...shall not perish, but have eternal life. So we wind up with the ultimate threat/reward: are you in or are you out?  The understanding of this phrase was definitely that it referred to your "eternal destiny" i.e., whether you went to heaven or hell when you died.  So the bit between believing (as a one-time individual decision) and salvation (as a specific thing which happens when you die) is left unsaid if you use John 3:16 as a summary of the Christian faith.

Micah 6:8

This verse also starts with a statement of what God has done, but in a much vaguer way.  He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. Does this mean the giving of the law, or a reference to God's character, or to our own consciences?  No one seems too bothered about the exact meaning, and it's usually glossed over in order to get to the "live justly" bit.

And what does the Lord require of you? In contrast to the verse from John, the focus here is on what we do in response, not what we believe.  This is used to declare that our faith comes with a strong responsibility to the world around us, and that responsibility is not just making sure other people know what to believe.

To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Well, this firmly fills in what John 3:16 leaves out - and avoids any mention of eternal salvation.  Although Micah's text is addressed to "You, O mortal", it tends to be interpreted in a more corporate way - we, as a church, are called to work for justice and mercy in the world.

So if there has been a shift in emphasis from John 3:16 to Micah 6:8 to understand what Christianity is, what might we have gained?  And what might we have lost?

I think there's been a shift from belief to action.  

This is one of the clearest distinctions between the two verses; John is about believing, and Micah is about acting.  We are less likely to say, "To be a Christian, you must believe this," and more likely to say, "Come and join in with what we're doing as Christians".  We're more likely to talk about bringing God's kingdom to the world around us, and less likely to make firm statements about heaven and hell.

Is this a gain?  It has the benefit, hopefully, of giving our churches fuzzier edges - people can join in with what we do, without having to decide whether they agree with every article of our faith.  It also reflects the wide variety of beliefs within the church itself.  It's less important whether a church is Baptist or Pentecostal or Anglican, and more about whether it's an active part of the community.

If we're not careful, though, it has the danger of making it more about us than about God.  We lose that joyful affirmation of a historic event - God loved us and sent his Son! - as we rush around trying to figure out the best way to do justice and love mercy.  Again and again, we need pulling back to the good news of what God has done, not just good advice about how to live.

I think there's been a shift from love to justice.  

"Love your neighbour" often turns into, "Be nice to those who you naturally associate with," or at least, it does for me!  I find talking about justice much more challenging, as that requires me to pay attention to people I wouldn't naturally associate with, and answer questions about whether they get the same consideration that I get.  Which, really, is what loving your neighbour means.

Framing things in terms of justice also gives us a different set of expectations for people.  We can work for justice - and indeed mercy - for everyone, regardless of whether we agree with them, because we believe that justice and mercy are good ideals in themselves.  Whereas Christian love has sometimes become conditional.  "Of course God loves you, but he only really welcomes and loves you if you're doing the right thing."  As I write that, I realise how ridiculous that is - we should be able to say exactly the same about love as we do about justice and mercy.  But I still find myself trying to justify it.

So it's not that justice overall is better, but that it gives us a fresh perspective.  Our concept of love has got distorted, so that it's easy to persuade ourselves that if we are nice to those like us, then we are being loving.  Asking ourselves whether we are promoting justice makes us look again at how we are living.

I think there's been a shift from individual to societal.  

Interestingly, John 3:16 is the verse that talks about "the world" and "whoever", whereas Micah 6:8 addresses, "You, O mortal".  On the other hand, in John's gospel, Jesus is talking to one man, Nicodemus, whereas Micah is prophesying to the whole nation of Israel.  

At any rate, the model of Christianity built around John 3:16 tends to emphasize doing mission by bringing individual people to a definite point of belief in Jesus.  The model built around Micah 6:8 tends to emphasize being missional by influencing the society around us.  Some of that comes out of different ideas about the main point of following Jesus - is it to save us from eternal damnation or is it to bring God's kingdom to the world?  Some of it is a reaction to the growing individualism in our culture, and a recognition that many people need a community to belong to.

Of course, individuals are society, and vice versa.  We can't separate the two, and maybe that's useful to remember - that when we talk to one person, we talk about the world, and when we speak to our nation, we say, "You".  We can't just have lofty ideals about changing our culture, and we can't just deal with the person in front of us and ignore the larger picture.  We need both.

How do you sum up your faith?

A post like this reminds me just how difficult it is to make generalisations.  I'm pretty sure these shifts apply to a larger group of Christians than myself, but I'd struggle to define who they are and what labels they might give themselves.  Evangelical?  Post-evangelical?  Liberal?  Progressive?  Hopefully it's less about the labels and more about realising some of the weak points in our previous understanding, and trying to address them (without over-compensating the other way!)

So, has your faith shifted?  Would you sum it up differently now to how you would have done in the past?  And what have you gained or lost in the process?

Thursday, 2 July 2020

States of Matter (or Making a Glorious Mess)

It started off as a lesson about touch.


Theo's meant to be looking at the five senses this week, you see, so we've had a bit of fun with tasting food while blindfolded, and guessing the smells.  Today was the sense of touch, so I thought, "Ah yes, those touchy-feely boxes." 

Then I thought, "How about jelly?" 

Then I thought, "Gels.  Foams.  Aerosols.  All sorts of fun stuff!"

And quite frankly, if having a chemistry degree doesn't mean you teach your kids about colloids and viscosity by the age of 10, then what is the point?

So for colloids, we had green jelly, blue shower gel, shaving foam and yoghurt.  (Is yoghurt a colloid?  I'm pretty sure it is.)  Otherwise known as lots of lovely gloop. 

If you missed that bit of your education, a colloid is basically one state of matter dispersed in another one.  So you can have a solid mixed with a liquid, which gives you something like shower gel, jelly, or yoghurt; or liquid mixed with gas, which gives you shaving foam, whipped cream, or whisked egg whites.  Most things that are kinda gloopy are probably colloids.  This website gives a pretty good explanation.


Powders are another interesting one.  All the tiny bits are definitely solid, but because they can flow over each other like the molecules do in a liquid, you can pour a powder a bit like you pour a liquid.

(You can also explode some powders quite nicely, but I think we'll stick to watching YouTube videos for that experiment!)

We had flour, salt demerara sugar and custard powder for a nice range of particle sizes, and talked about whether they felt soft or gritty or squeaky (that was the custard powder).


And then we had viscous liquids.  That's black treacle, golden syrup, olive oil and water.  Viscous is one of my favourite words.  It means thick and sticky.  Viscosity is the measure of how viscous something is.  Treacle has the highest viscosity here, and water the lowest, and we talked about if a liquid got really really thick and sticky, it would pretty much be a solid.


Of course, after all that, they said, "Can we mix it all together?"

And I said, "Sure, why not!"

So we had this:

And this:

And finally these, which you'd almost think were edible if you didn't know they were composed of shower gel, black treacle, cornflour and shaving foam.


After that we melted chocolate and coconut oil (solid into liquid transition) and made these, which are, in fact, edible, if you don't mind all the sugar balls getting stuck in your teeth.


And after that I had to wash sticky gloop off every bowl and spoon in the house, and get the boys to change their T-shirts.  But it was worth it to hear them say, "That was the best homeschooling day ever!"

As long as no one says, "Mum, can we do it all again tomorrow?"

Saturday, 27 June 2020

A cycle of growth

I wonder if you feel like you've had to do a lot of growing lately?

For once I'm not talking about vegetable gardens (although the strawberries are ripening fast), but personal growth in response to events around us.  There have been so many things happening in the world that we have to understand and adapt to, and it often feels overwhelming.  How do we comprehend it?  What's the right thing to do?  How much do we have to change, personally?  What are we responsible for?

Changing and growing is complicated.  It's not like hopscotch, where you hop neatly from box to box and end up at the finish line.  Sometimes there are obvious changes to make and actions to take, but not always.  A good analogy might be a whirlpool, where each part swirls into the next, sometimes trapping you in an eddy, sometimes pushing you onwards.

I couldn't do a good diagram of a whirlpool, so you'll have to imagine this one being full of eddies and swirls instead of nice neat arrows and straight edges!  But I've found it helpful to think about growth as including these four steps, and to try to make time for each one.

hearing

This is usually the first step in realising we need to change something. We hear a new perspective, or encounter a new situation, which makes us think about the world differently.  For many of us recently, the shocking murder of George Floyd has made us re-evaluate our experience and understanding of systemic racism.  The images of pollution on Blue Planet made us reconsider how we use and dispose of plastic.  Or we may have talked to a friend about their struggle to get help for mental illness, or seen an article about living conditions for cocoa growers.

Last year I started to hear stories from LGBT+ people about their experience with church.  I'd been vaguely aware that it was a difficult area, but it was shocking to hear so many voices saying, "I was told God could never love anyone like me", "I prayed for years to be healed", "I felt like I had to choose between my faith and who I was".  Fortunately there were also some stories of acceptance and support, but these often came after years of struggle, not as a matter of course.  That was a first step for me in realising how narrow my experience of Christianity had been, and trying to learn more from people who come at faith from a very different direction.

When we hear, that new story opens up a possibility or a problem, and prompts us to find out more.

learning

Once we've heard that initial story, we will probably find that there are a lot more.  Suddenly we're immersed in statistics, figures, conflicting opinions and personal experiences.  We read books, watch documentaries, join Facebook groups, participate in discussions.  We are learning not just what we didn't know, but how much we didn't know.

It can be tempting to get bogged down in the learning quadrant, trying to find out everything at once, or to give up in despair and ignore the whole thing.  There's also the danger that we feel like learning is all we need to do - once we know about the issue, we don't actually have to do anything differently.  For me, reading books is easy; getting involved with actual people is much harder.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter, it's been easier than ever for those of us who are white to learn what life is like for our black neighbours.  I'm grateful to authors like Afua Hirsch, Ben Lindsay, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I'm grateful to my friends who have shared their experiences on Facebook or spoken up in church.  There is a lot that I simply had no idea about.  Learning more has been saddening, breathtaking, humbling and eye-opening.

Once we've started to sort through the mass of new information and emotions, the obvious question is, what do we do now?

following

This is the action quadrant.  I've titled it following partly because the original idea for this came from a Bible story, so the reference was to following Jesus; also in the sense that we follow the new ideas and stories to grow - they lead us to knowing different people, doing different things, organising our lives in different ways.  Hopefully.

The amazing Jen at Sustainable(ish) recently held a week-long online festival about all things eco.  It was packed with speakers on topics from mending clothes to growing veg to inspiring your family to get involved.  The one thing I really liked, though, was her persistent question, "What are you going to do now?"  Every talk was ended with the challenge to make one small change as a result, and there was a pledge page to say what you were going to do.  I found that pointer from learning to following enormously helpful.  It was also great to have the emphasis on little steps, rather than feeling like you had to save the whole planet in one go.

As we follow and make changes, it inevitably leads us back to learning more and hearing more.  But the final step is also important.

sitting down

We need rest.  Changing and growing is exhausting, especially if we are trying to convince others to change too, or battling against opposition and circumstances.  We need time to sit down; or to walk, dance, lose ourselves in a book or play silly games with the kids.

Sitting down also carries the idea of reflecting and attending.  It gives us space to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it, and it gives us time to allow our creativity and imagination to work.  If we are following God, we sit down, like Mary, to attend to his words and spend time in his presence.  We "re-centre our scattered senses" in the words of Lectio 365.  Time spent sitting down isn't a waste, or an optional extra.  It's a full part of what we need to do.

In the autumn I attended an away day run by the Bishop of Derby.  Often a conference day will leave me so full of information that I feel like I need another day to process it all!  But this one was different.  Bishop Libby had structured it so that each section of speaking was followed by an equal amount of silent time to consider what we had heard.  We could pray (there were prompts if required), write, walk around the neighbourhood, or just sit in the beautiful building.  I came away feeling refreshed.  That time to sit down had been just what I needed in the busyness of life.

So sitting down re-invigorates us for the challenge of making changes.  We gain a new focus as we hear, learn, follow, and grow in new ways.

Image from Pixabay

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Martha and Mary: What happened next?

My name is Martha and I work in a church kitchen.  So I tend to have a certain affinity with the Biblical story of Martha and Mary.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the traditional version is this.
Jesus and his friends went to stay with two sisters, Martha and Mary.  Mary spent her time sitting with Jesus and listening to all his stories, whereas Martha was trying to keep up with all the housework.  Finally Martha got fed up and went to Jesus.  "Don't you care that I'm doing all the work while Mary just sits here?" she asked him.  "Can't you tell her to help?"  But Jesus said, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by all the work, but there's only one thing you need to do.  Mary has chosen the better part, and it won't be taken away from her."
Source: Wikimedia Commons

(I rather like this picture.  Martha looks like she might just lob a dead bird at Jesus if he doesn't get up and help, pronto.)


Or the meme version:
This is Martha.

Martha runs around doing all the work.

This is Mary.

Mary sits and listens to Jesus.

Don't be like Martha.

Be like Mary.

Mary, clearly, is the one who has her priorities right in this story.  But you won't be surprised to hear that I have some sympathy with Martha.  After all, the work needed doing - she had a house full of people to look after.  Was she being unreasonable?

I think Martha was being very reasonable to stop and ask for help.  Because we don't, do we?  We soldier on, listening to our families sitting around, waiting in vain for them to realise what we want them to do.  We'll make cryptic comments, or hold whole conversations inside our own heads, but we'll never ask, because it should be obvious what needs doing!

But Martha asked.  So either she was desperate, or she was better than most of us at recognising her passive-aggressive tendencies.  At any rate, she went to Jesus and asked for what she needed.  And Jesus, as he did so often, looked at her and told her that actually, she needed something else.

The question is, how did he do it?  If you re-read the story, you'll see that it stops on quite a cliffhanger.  Jesus has uttered his nice neat phrase, but then what?  Does Martha sit down?  Or throw a dead bird at him?  Here are a few more possibilities.

But Jesus said, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by all the work, but there's only one thing you need to do.  Mary has chosen the better part, and it won't be taken away from her." Mary smiled smugly at Martha.  Then Mary and Jesus turned away and continued their conversation.  Martha stood there for a moment, then returned to the kitchen and vented her anger on the pots and pans, muttering darkly about people who just turned up at other people's house and expected to be fed.  Jesus shook his head sadly.  "Some people just don't get it, do they Mary?"

2  But Jesus said, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by all the work, but there's only one thing you need to do.  Mary has chosen the better part, and it won't be taken away from her."  Martha hesitated, thinking of everything that needed to be done, but Jesus patted the seat next to him.  "Come on Martha, I've hardly seen you.  We don't mind if lunch is a bit late.  Sit with us a few minutes, and then Mary will come and help.  Won't you, Mary?"

But Jesus said, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by all the work, but there's only one thing you need to do.  Mary has chosen the better part, and it won't be taken away from her."  There was a pause.  Then Jesus grinned.  "You know I'm right, Martha, but we have been a bit selfish, letting you run around and take care of us.  Come on Mary, you help in the kitchen.  Peter, why don't you lay the table, John can carve the lamb, and I'll sort out the bread and wine.  We'll have dinner ready in no time, and then Martha and I can have a nice chat in the garden this afternoon."

Which scenario would you prefer?  Or do you think there was a different ending?

*******************

Talking of endings, all the ones I tried for this post didn't seem to work.  Should I discuss how we often seem to value the Marthas more than the Marys in our churches?  Should I talk about how our perception of Jesus' likely actions is influenced by our culture and experiences?  Should I say that the Christian faith can often feel like another list of things to do, not an invitation to stop and listen?

Or should I say that to me, the only way the Christian story makes any sense is by understanding it as Jesus alongside us.  If he is not in the mess and the pain and the busyness with us, right there, feeling it with us, then the whole thing falls apart.  We are left with a God who sits on a heavenly cushion and issues unhelpful memes about how it would all be fine if we'd just do things a bit differently.  "Don't be like Martha.  Be like Mary."

But I think Martha could say, "Don't you care...?" to Jesus because she knew he did care.  Because she knew he wouldn't belittle her for asking for help.  And I think that as Jesus worked alongside Martha, and as she learned more about what it was to work alongside him, then she understood why he said that about the better part, too.

I was going to say that we can never know what the ending to the story is.  That's partly true.  We don't know what happened to Mary and Martha that day.  But we can find out what happens when we have a similar story in our own lives.  Does it stop with an unhelpful meme?  Or does it continue as we learn to work alongside Jesus, and as he teaches us how to find the better part, which won't be taken away.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Lockdown life

Nine weeks in.  It kind of feels like it's gone quickly, and it kind of feels like we have been doing this forever.  The sheer repetitiveness is probably one of the hardest things.  Having said that, we generally seem to have plenty of stuff to do.  Here are some of the highlights.



Physical

The trampoline features A LOT.  The boys can do front flips, back flips, any-way-around flips...


I just bounce.  Gently.

Also cycling along the canal towpath, hitting tennis balls around at the local playing field, and - for me - exercise DVDs.  I might even have tummy muscles by the end of all this!  We've occasionally jumped on the bandwagon and joined in with Joe Wicks, but the poor guy always looks like he's making such hard work of it. He's had a wrist injury the whole time.

Educational

A recent survey found that middle-class children were doing 6 hours of school work per day, while lower-income kids did 4.5 hours.  From which I conclude that either most parents are stretching the truth, or our family is the dregs of society.  I can cajole the boys into 2 hours if I try really hard, and it usually means that the next day they want a day off, "because we did so much work yesterday, Mum".


We've managed to keep a few things ticking along, though.  They both have online Maths and English websites to do activities on.  Toby did a display poster about Bentley cars and Theo did toy car addition and subtraction (play to their interests, why not?)  Occasionally I get creative and we do things with food colourings and paint.








The boys' music lessons have continued online - Theo has a live video link for guitar, which works well.  Toby's group keyboard lesson is done via recorded video, which he hasn't found quite so interesting, plus my electric piano doesn't have as many sounds as the music centre's keyboards!  But they've had more time and energy to practice than when they had to fit it around school.  And I don't have to drive to town in rush hour traffic.  Definite bonus.

I've also decided that Lego is officially educational, since that's their other main activity.  Since it involves design skills, following instructions, sharing and cooperation, and (when they decide to pool their resources to buy a new set) money management, it's not too much of a stretch, I feel.  They recently spent a full three hours sorting the entire collection into individual colours.  Why do they never concentrate that long on school work?



Social

Well, obviously social is a bit more of a challenge - I'm counting myself fortunate to be an introvert right now.  And even I could do with seeing a few more people!  However.  We're Skyping family regularly, and the boys have managed a few video calls with friends, or chats from the pavement as we've been cycling past their house.

Our church has embraced Zoom with gusto, so I've been joining in the weekly "coffee mornings" and Sunday services.  Zoom has also made it possible for our book club to keep chatting (occasionally we even talk about books!) and I've been trying out a few new things, such as the Derby Happy Cafe and the amazing Sustainable(ish) online conference, which covers pretty much everything environmental you ever need to know.



Offline, our street had a socially distanced street party for the VE Day bank holiday, which probably wouldn't have happened if we hadn't all been stuck here.  Usually our street is the kind where we barely see our neighbours from one week to the next.  It was perfect weather, we shared some food and talked across the road, and the house with the best sound system played music, and Toby declared, "I want to stay until everyone goes inside" - which turned out to be, finally, about 10:30 at night.

Spiritual

We celebrated Easter with our traditional Palm Sundaes, Simnel cake, and, um, chocolate for breakfast (all very spiritual, don't you know?)  We also did a couple of Easter egg hunts.  I really enjoyed the Radio 4 Easter Day service, and having discovered that, have continued listening to the Sunday service they broadcast.




Family "church" has been variable in frequency and quality, but we have tried a bit.  The Reflectionary website is good - we prayed prayers based around a slice of bread, and will have a go at clouds in a bottle for Ascension.  BRF is posting regular Messy Church at Home activities too - I think we could manage paint splatter flames for Pentecost.  And the boys loved this gratitude scavenger hunt from Simple Acres Blog!


For myself, the extra time gained by not having to dash out the door in the morning has meant I'm actually managing daily prayer for the first time in years.  A friend recommended the Lectio 365 app, and I've found listening to something rather than reading surprisingly helpful. It forces me to slow down and concentrate, rather than dashing through it.

Mental

Gardening is proven to improve mental health, I believe, and fortunately the lockdown happened at just the right time to start planting vegetables.  Watching seeds turn into little plants all by themselves made me feel like everything can't be totally wrong in the world.  The CDs are for bird scaring; they seem to have worked on the pigeons, but that's just given the sparrows the chance to peck at the plants instead!


We've also had some beautiful flowers in the rest of the garden.  Graham's favourites are the peonies.



Baking, apparently, is also stress relieving, which is why it's almost impossible to get hold of flour.  I've had fun experimenting with a few different recipes like beetroot brownies (4 tbsp flour!).   Theo wanted to make strawberry cake, and we celebrated Graham's birthday with a coconut cake.  The boys decided that it needed to be decorated with a tropical island, so Toby made a palm tree.




We also celebrated Graham's birthday with a delicious takeaway curry.  The boys declared it to be "the best meal ever!".  Considering neither of them would even touch curry six months ago, that's got to be good.  Graham and I are quickly adding Indian restaurants to the list of places we can eat as a family (previously limited to pizza, carveries and McDonalds).  When we can eat out, of course.


Finally, here's a funky photo of Toby and Theo that they created themselves.  At times like these, you have to keep counting your blessings, and these two are certainly high up on my list!