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!

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.

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!

Camping Family Event: Home Edition

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!

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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!)
  4. 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!)
  5. 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!

Other Fun

  1. 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!
  2. Here are 22 kid-friendly campfire stories to read around the “fire”!
  3. 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!

-Bekah

At Home Family Worship: Palm Sunday

It’s time to make your own DIY palm branches, start a dance party parade, and shout ‘Hosanna’ for Palm Sunday!

Download the worship guide (below) and use the provided videos during your family worship time.

Happy Palm Sunday! Hosanna, blessed is he!

Hosanna to the Son of David!
(The song Westwood kids have been learning!)
Holy Moly: Palm Sunday, SparkHouse
Be Bold! Be Strong!
Prepare Ye, from Godspell on Broadway

Beach Bash: Home Edition

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!

lime rickey snow cone

FOOD

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!

Holding you in digital hugs and prayer, Bekah