I don’t know about you all but I feel like one of the silver linings of this pandemic is the way we’ve reconnected with appreciating each other. I was in a park downtown a few weeks ago and heard the banging of pots and pans and general hooting and hollering that I found out is a nightly occurrence to show health care workers appreciation. HOW COOL IS THAT? The signs in yards, the hearts in windows, the cheerful chalk art? It fills my heart to see all of the ways we’ve learned to show appreciation for one another, in ways we’ve maybe never even done before!
This week is marked by a few appreciation holidays that existed before the virus but will exist in a new and maybe bigger way this year. This is a week marked with celebrations of many nurturing roles in our society, teachers, nurses, and mothers. That is a lot of people to celebrate and appreciate! Now I know we have reached the end of nurses and teachers appreciation week and you may have already planned a mother’s day celebration, but I wanted to share a few distance friendly ways to show appreciation to people who fill those roles for us whether or not it fits into this week. If I’ve learned anything from this season of life, it is to appreciate more, hold hugs tighter, and always be kinder. I can’t wait for those long hugs! But until then, appreciation and kindness will reign. People have shown appreciation from a distance for years, so there are some standards that can be used. Flowers, cards, videos are always meaningful ways to share your love from a physical distance.
Cards rule all celebrations it seems. But in a time when we can’t as readily browse the card aisle at Target, homemade is the way to go! Any paper folded with a kid’s handwriting and drawing on it is a win in my book! But if you want to do something new, try one of these pop up card ideas for a special hero in your life!
Flowers are another standard sign of care. But they can get expensive and many people are limiting exposure to delivery people right now. A few ideas to show how your appreciation is blooming! First, now is the time where tulips and lilacs are popping up! Make a homemade bouquet and leave it on a teacher/nurse/mom’s doorstep. Don’t have a green thumb? (I’m with you!) Make flowers at home!
To put a teacher spin on any of these flowers, swap out the stem for a pencil 🙂
While we are physically distant, hearing the voice of a loved one is comforting to say the least. Send your teacher/nurse/mom a video to tell them how appreciated they are! Or record an audio message to accompany a card or a picture. Sending a scan or photo of a card is a way to really keep your germs to yourself and a picture of a card that comes with a recording is the icing on the cake!
No matter who you are celebrating, or being celebrated by this weekend, I hope smiles and sunshine fill your days. You are loved! Now go out and remind others it is true for them, too!
One of the most uplifting parts of the last few weeks is seeing the love spread throughout our communities, shown in hearts in the windows, signs on the lawns, and distance birthday parades. I have a friend from college who is a talented chalk artist and she has been taking her talent from her own stoop to our community. I love the idea of spreading this love beyond our own front stoops and doors (safely of course!). This weekend for some family fun, here are a few ways to spread love (while keeping your germs to yourself!)
Chalk Someone’s Stoop
Do you have a family member you miss, or a community leader you want to thank, take a trip to their house and leave a message for them in chalk! Maybe there is a neighbor in your community you know lives alone and you want to leave them some hope! Don your masks, pile in the car or walk down the block, and spread some chalky cheer! Text them or call them when you are finished so they can come wave out the front door, or leave it as a surprise for them to find later!
Homemade Yard Signs
Do you have a paint stick, a wooden kebab skewer, or an unused ruler? That is all you need to bring a yard sign to a friend! (besides art work and tape of course!) Make some encouraging signs and leave them in someone’s yard that you think could benefit! Bring them to your essential worker friends and family members and write on them “An essential hero lives here!” or just include encouraging messages and leave them for strangers. How cool would it be to open your door to a sign that said “You matter!”
Thank You or I Love You Parade
With the physical space between us, the list of people we miss is much too long. Take a “Thank you!” or “I miss you!” or “I love you!” tour of those people! Decorate your car like you are in a parade and take a trip to drive by those loved ones’ homes! Text them when you are on your way or honk really loud and surprise them 🙂
Spreading this love in your own yard is also special and a great way to get the family working together creatively, and outside! No matter how big or small the sign, the sentiment is huge and meaningful! Join us in spreading kindness (not germs!)
In celebration of earth day, we’ve been hosting an “earth day” challenge at Westwood. It has been so fun and uplifting to see pictures of how you are celebrating God’s good creation!
One of my personal favorite things people do to help out mother earth is go on litter walks and pick up trash. In this new era, it is a bit tricky to safely make that happen, with the shortage of gloves and the need for them in medical settings. So instead, I’ve made up a nature scavenger hunt for you to take a walk, enjoy this beautiful weekend, and look out for the beauty in creation! You can add your own items to it before you set out, or follow along on the hunt, either way! There are pictures next to the words so non-readers can play along, too! Enjoy God’s good creation!
The 2020 Olympics are postpone to 2021 but the spirit of competitiveness, perseverance, and coming together does not have to be! This weekend, with wonderful weather on the horizon and wiggles to get rid of, why not host your own at home Olympics! I bet many of our Westwood kids are not old enough to truly remember an Olympics, especially a summer one since it has been 4 years. If you want to warm up with some highlights, I recommend any of Usane Bolt’s triumphs, the US Women’s national soccer team (any other Mia Hamm fans out there?), and of course gymnastics (hello Simone Biles!) I didn’t even mention swimming or volleyball. And that is just the summer events. There are so many inspiration moments that come out of the Olympics and hosting your own might be a great way to spend the weekend! Just make sure the competition is friendly, because you still need to live together after the closing ceremonies!
Here are a few components to consider:
Before you start, have your kids work together to make medals. They can just be paper and whatever string or ribbon you have lying around, but have them ready for each of your “competitions”.
Make a torch to light during the opening ceremonies out of tissue paper and those precious toilet paper tubes.
Decide on the games you will participate in. Will you do indoor or outdoor events? Will they be traditional (like a race) or less traditional (like paper airplane flying)? Here is a list of possibilities to get you started:
Bean Bag Toss or Corn Hole
High Jump, Long Jump, or even the limbo
Gymnastics (like somersaults, cartwheels, or hand stands)
“discus” using a Frisbee or paper plate,
Egg and spoon races or a relay race
Have your kids come up with games of their own!
Opening Ceremonies and Parade of Nations: Choose a family uniform to wear and start your ceremonies with a parade. You could use paper to make a family flag to carry, too! Just make sure you are playing the Olympics Fanfare (chills!) when you present the torch!
Medal Presentation: Make sure to have a celebration after each event as you award medals. Maybe let them choose their own “anthem” (who says Frozen can’t be played on the medal platform!)
Closing Ceremonies: Time to parade those medals around the living room or yard! Often times the best part of the Olympics is the fanfare and cultural celebration on display during the opening and closing ceremonies. Maybe this is time for a talent show!
Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you enjoy the gift of weather and family, and know your Westwood family is thinking of you and sending you love! (and hoping for some Olympics photo recaps!)
Sunday, maybe more than ever before, I feel the need to celebrate the resurrection. A pastor I know recently said, “Though it may not always feel like it, the promises of Easter are as true today as any other day.” I needed to hear that, I need to repeat that, I need to tell that to everyone I know. Like you all, I will be celebrating Easter in a new way this year. My family attended the sunrise service at my home church every year since my baptism at that 6am service in 1992. Even as a 27 year old, I slept in my childhood bedroom so my mom could wake me up at 5:00am with the soft words “Bekah, wake up, Christ is risen.” This is the first year in my life I won’t be starting Easter off that way. (I asked my mom if she’d call me at 5:00am this year- no dice). I’ve been grieving this change, along with all the others of this season, a lot lately. There are no two ways about it, this is a sad/confusing/time-warp/scary/messy/blessed/scary-again time for our local and global communities. However, the more and more I sit with it, the more I feel OK. Because Christ’s resurrection is not dependent on a sunrise service, a nap, a ham dinner, and another nap. Those traditions are important and sacred, but the Easter promises are already true, and they will always be true. So this year, I will celebrate differently and it will be good, and I will continue to grieve, and both of those realities can and will be true at the same time. Whatever comes this Sunday, the tomb is already empty, and it is good. As Martin Luther said, “our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” I’ll be soaking up that promise as much as I can during this very peculiar springtime.
Indoor/Outdoor camping is quick way to have some fun and make some memories as a family during this odd season of our lives. I still have fond memories of the night my dad set our giant tent up in the living room and we had a camp out to prepare of an upcoming Boundary Waters trip. We pretended we were under the stars, ate food we’d only eat on a camping trip, and shared ghost stories. It was magical and a night I think of often. I know many of you have done this already and if you have any ideas to add, write them in the comments! If you haven’t, this is a way to “get outside” (even if you are still inside) and have a new experience while staying safe and distant. A bonus blessing: this weekend it will be sunny and dry so you can camp in your yard instead! Don’t have a tent or are not a camping family, blanket forts are just as magical!
Camping Approved Food
First things first, you know food is always the priority in my mind. Here are a few ideas for special campfire and camping treats!
Trail mix is always a good snack and can be made with any and all of those end of the bag snacks you have in the cupboard. Pour it all together in a bowl and let the kids mix it up!
Stove-top popcorn: if you are anything like me, you purchased a bag of popcorn seeds with the intent of making homemade popcorn and left it to gracefully age on your shelf. Many younger generations might not even know popcorn can be made outside the microwave and it tastes SO good!
To me, camping is associated with cast iron skillets and dutch ovens. Skillet pizza is a delicacy that all should enjoy and you likely have all the ingredients in your fridge or freezer already! Bonus: I’m sharing my mom’s easy as (pizza) pie crust and sauce recipes in her very own handwriting (stains and all!). (I literally ate this last night!)
Dutch Oven Desserts: we used to make these when I was a kid and it felt like magic. You can pop it in your oven or bake over a fire if weather permits. Also very pantry friendly (any pie filling, box cake mix, or jam on the shelf will work!)
Indoor S’mores are always a good idea, and outdoor are even better if weather permits! If you are anything like me, you have leftover s’mores ingredients calling your name on the pantry shelf that won’t make it to next summer!
Don’t have a fire pit outside, make good use of your treasured toilet paper rolls and build one inside! This is a great craft for kids and can be creatively done with whatever materials you can find!
Sing some classic campfire songs! If your kids have gone to camp or VBS, ask them to teach you their favorite
I hope you find a way to enjoy our beautiful spring and your loved ones this weekend! If you camp or build a fort, send me a picture! I’d love to see your faces! Whatever you do this weekend, breath deeply, know you are loved, and give yourself grace and space as we walk through this season. Holding you all in prayer and sending virtual hugs!
In this new season of ministry, my hope is to provide our families with DIY events that you can pull off with a little planning, a little imagination, and the extra time we have together. This week? The Beach Bash: Home Edition
One of the greatest joys of my time in family ministry has been the beach bash. For the past 3 winters, we’ve gathered together in GSH, dusted off our sandals and Hawaiian shirts, and made memories together to the Sounds of Summer by the Beach Boys. I have to say that this is has been an unanticipated ministry moment for me these past three years, yet I have found it to be one of the best parts of the job. What I love about the beach bash is that it gives us the gift of lighthearted fun, flexes our imaginations, and gathers us together at an event that is messier and louder than anything else we do at church. Why not bring that same energy, imagination, and fun to our homes during this uncertain season?
In an attempt to bring the beach bash to life, I’ve pulled together some DIY ideas for you to pick and choose from to build your party.
First off? Music and atmosphere! What is a party without an amazing soundtrack? To the left is our favorite beach bash soundtrack of the last few years. YouTube has their own playlist, too!
This link will get you to one of our beachy backdrops we’ve used on the screens for the past few years. But if you want to feel like you are scuba diving with the ocean creatures, this is the link for you! I bet your families could have quite the beach or underwater dance parties!
Decor and Activities
Next up, activities and decorations! One of the staples of the beach bash is our grass skirts. Now, if you already have some around you are in luck! But if not, use this tutorial to put your old streamers to good use and make your own! This can decorate your food table, enhance your beach outfit, or both if you really stocked up on streamers! Don’t have green tape or green streamers, a little color never hurt anyone and a rainbow hula skirt sounds amazing! Beach parties require sand, and if you have flour and oil at home you can make your own kinetic (or moon) sand for the party! Finally, dust off your sandals, Hawaiian shirts, and sun glasses! Now is the time to put them to good use! You can even do an at home costume contest! Limbo contests are encouraged and yard sticks from the state fair come in handy for these!
Finally, the best part of any party, in my humble opinion, is the FOOD! Traditionally, beach bash has had pizza for dinner and I don’t need to give you directions on that (pineapple is encouraged but not required- this can be VERY divisive :)).
But my new and favorite addition to beach bash this year was our dessert- SNO KONES! You don’t need a fancy machine and sugary syrup to make it happen, just use a blender or food processor and your family’s favorite juice! There are endless combinations and they taste just as delicious!
There is no wrong way to throw a beach bash as long as you use your imagination. I hope you all can find joy in the little things as we gather in this new way. If you want to share the joy you find in your parties, send me pictures and stories! I’d love to see your smiling faces!