Recalibrating

Today feels like a big re-calibration day for me. Last week we made the difficult decision to cancel the summer youth trip, schools won’t meet in person again this school year, camps will be closed, beaches and parks unavailable for the foreseeable future and we have no idea when we might be able to gather as a faith community face to face.

There’s lots to process.

As I talk with youth and parents about all this, I’m hearing a theme of uncertainty. People are not even sure what to look toward because each bench mark that gets passed makes it more challenging to figure out where to put a marker.

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posted originally by Hans Dahl

There’s lots on our minds.

When to watch the news, when to turn it off.
What to tell our kids (big or small), what to leave out.
How to re-enter from a pending lift on stay at home, how not to.
How to stay positive while being realistic with our kids.
Wondering when things will feel “safe” again.

The question and worry train seems endless.

I’ve been meditating on the statement “What’s on your mind is on God’s heart” and I need reminder so I can sleep at night. I need to be reminded (a lot) that God is a VERY present help in trouble. I need to trust the promise that God’s hand is leading and love is supporting me, always, especially right now.

Maybe you need to be reminded of those things too?! Maybe your high school senior, or your new college grad needs to be reminded of those things?! Maybe your middle schooler needs that reminder?

Maybe we ALL need to be reminded! Consider this your reminder, that what is on your mind is already on God’s heart, and that God has got you. No conditions or exceptions.

Appreciation All Around

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

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!

Make a fun cutting project to make a pop up card for any occasion!

Or the sun-catcher card above!

Flowers

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!

For your elementary kids, here is a tutorial on felt flowers!

For pre-k friends, my favorite “ice cream cone” flowers that are very friendly for all skill levels!

Want to combine both? Here is a bouquet card tutorial!

To put a teacher spin on any of these flowers, swap out the stem for a pencil 🙂

Videos

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!

Family Event: Spread the Love

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!”

courtesy of Lowes

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!)

Family Event: Nature Scavenger Hunt

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!

Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic

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If you need a way to pray today, this might be of help. Id invite you to take a look at this with your tweens and teens and discuss:

  • Who is missing from this list?
  • Which person/people listed were surprising to you or may not have been a person/group you had thought of before?
  • If you were rewriting the beatitudes, who would you include?
  • How can you support, pray for and/or lift up the people on this list, or on your list? Then, make a commitment to do so this week!

We’d love to see your lists, post in the comments here or on Facebook and let us know who’ve you added!

Family Event at Home: Olympics!

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:

  1. 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”.
  2. Make a torch to light during the opening ceremonies out of tissue paper and those precious toilet paper tubes.
  3. 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:
    • Basketball
    • Bean Bag Toss or Corn Hole
    • Obstacle Course
    • High Jump, Long Jump, or even the limbo
    • Gymnastics (like somersaults, cartwheels, or hand stands)
    • “discus” using a Frisbee or paper plate,
    • Hula hoop
    • Jump rope
    • Egg and spoon races or a relay race
    • Have your kids come up with games of their own!
  4. 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!
  5. 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!)
  6. 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!)

Deeply connected.

We spent the morning yesterday writing notes and coloring pictures to people we love, but cant be near right now. The weekend was hard for me. We missed celebrating my dad’s birthday, and Easter with our families who we haven’t seen since Christmas. It was complicated and messy in my heart.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'There is evidence that trees communicate over great expanses, sending nourishment, messages and support. And they do all this grounded in place, unable to speak, reach out or move around. We are like that right now, separate, unable to touch, yet deeply connected and sharing our love over these distances love that shines and radiates out of the very root of our being. Nicolette Sowdler MILCER'

Do you know what I mean?

Just a jumbled up ball of feelings. Feeling sad in tension with feeling grateful that we have people to love, and miss.

Grief and blessing,

stir crazy and content,

separate and yet deeply connected.

It was important for me to sit in those feelings, but then to mobilize those feelings yesterday as I talked with my kids about that it means to share love even when we cant be together. Man, my 4 year old gets it, better than me sometimes I think. She has dreams of what she’ll do with her daycare friends, her grandparents and our neighbors when “the sickness” goes away, but she also understands that there are other ways to be connected.

I’d like to encourage, maybe even challenge you to try this too. Sit down with your kids, yep the big ones too, and make a list of 3 people you’re each going to write a note to. It feels incredible to tap into the love and contentedness that is deep inside and write a good old fashioned hand written note to someone. Seriously, try it!

When I stumbled across this quote over the weekend, I started to notice trees differently. I noticed that how seemingly overnight the view out my front window has changed. There’s less sky and more tree each day, the buds are exploding and even though there is snow, there is new life. An Easter message right out my front window, and frankly, one I have probably been too busy to notice before.

I held this Easter message as I wrote simple notes to those we are distanced from, but very connected to. That we, like the trees are connected, growing in our places, and radiating love and support by staying planted right where we are.

Unsolicited Easter Musings

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.

Sew good.

A mom of Westwood a middle and high schooler who is a nurse has asked that we help her and her co-workers have critical PPE to keep her and her patients safe. She works in a respiratory unit and has said that the homemade masks listed on the Blue Cross Website have been approved for her and her co-workers.
(visit https://blog.bluecrossmn.com/covid19masks/ for the pattern and donation drop off sites.) Also a pattern with pictures and alternative materials listed: https://12c6dcf1-a4f3-9a22-bcd8-4c7e844d2e36.filesusr.com/ugd/152b95_829d763ef01a4bcca8ca6ebf34c65b74.pdf

Here’s the pile of masks Westwood
member Cori Taylor has been creating!
(child of Deb and John DeSanto)

I’ve contacted the local Jo-Ann Fabrics stores (Ridgedale and Maple Grove) and they still have mask kits available (one free kit per customer, pick up at cutting counter) and they also do curb-side delivery if you purchase supplies online and pick up at the store.

A great home ec project for a middle or high schooler or a cutting and measuring math lesson for an elementary child.

A lesson that church is more than a building, for all ages!

If you have questions not answered in the above documents, email Dannica.
If you make some masks, or have done so already, PLEASE send us pictures! (d.olsen@westwood.church or j.mohr@westwood.church) We want to highlight the collective good going on right now on this blog and on our website!

Praise Song for the Pandemic

Some of you are parenting teens that are telling you all of what they’re thinking and feeling. And some of you get a grunt at best.

Some are giving you a play by play of their emotions but not all teenagers are open books, right? Its like a big guessing game to know what they’re thinking and feeling sometimes.

This video might be a great conversation starter with them. A four minute prayer/psalm.

PRAISE SONG FOR THE PANDEMIC – written and read by Christine Valters Paintner,
from Abbey of the Arts and music by Giants & Pilgrims.

Watch it together and ask these 3 questions:

How did you feel as you watched the video?
Was there anything you hadn’t thought of before or took notice of while you watched?
At the end, it says “a place to begin”, what new beginnings do you hope come out of this?

This is hard stuff to navigate, conversation makes it easier.

Blessed are the parents, doing it all.