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

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

Lay Down Your Burdens

Joshua Larson, our Messy Worship Music Director, shares many of his own compositions with us to sing at Messy Worship. His wife Karen and son, 6th grader, Jack make up the Messy Worship Band. We are so lucky to have them leading us!

Grab some tissues, your kids, and a few minutes to sing together as your home worship today. God is good, everyday! Every day, God is GOOD!

Lay Down Your Burdens, By Joshua Larson (sung by Joshua, Karen, & Jack Larson)

Lay Down Your Burdens, By Joshua Larson

Lay down your burdens for Jesus our savior. Lay them down, lay them down. Hope springs eternal for Jesus our savior. Lay them down, lay them down, lay them down

People get ready for Jesus our savior, lay them down, lay them down. A new beginning with Jesus our savior. Lay them down, lay them down, lay them down.

Lay down your burdens for Jesus our savior. Lay them down, lay them down, lay them down

Let's Go(d) Fly a Kite!

Hold onto your [winter] hats folks, it’s a windy day!

Something about the wind swirling around my face helps me visualize God everywhere, being breathed in, creating motion and direction, and surrounding me. And if I’m the ‘kite’- I soar, I crash, I try again and again and again, and the wind [God] is always there for me.

Looking for a DIY kid project for today? Homemade kites!

Don't miss it.

This quarantine business is overwhelming. No doubt. No basketball tournaments. No concerts. No soccer games or track seasons. No toilet paper at Target. No hectic weeknight or weekend schedules.

BUT, WHAT IF…this is the opportunity we’ve always wanted to slow down and reconnect with and invest in our families? A break from our “busyness”. A chance to play and pray and REALLY listen to each other!

Image may contain: possible text that says 'FAMILY WE MAY NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER, BUT TOGETHER WE HAVE IT ALL'

An opportunity to be reminded of what’s really at the center. What really matters.

Don’t miss it.

adapted from Pastor Hans Dahl

Attitude of Gratitude

As our rhythms change and things feel big, I have to ask myself, “what’s really happening here”? Do you? Is it helpful for you to stop and take a minute to find your center? Writing down the things that we’re grateful for can help us to reorient ourselves in a time of chaos and uncertainty. Print this out and hang everyone’s on the fridge, screenshot it and post it to your Facebook or Instagram story, use it at the dinner table, however its helpful to keep you centered and your tweens/teens talking or writing!

#stayathomephotos

INTRODUCTION
Here’s a twist on the traditional scavenger hunt – instead of gathering items from a list, you will make photos of each of the list items. All of these items can (hopefully) be found inside your home. Feel free to change items, or add your own!

PHOTO SUGGESTIONS
For these photos, think creatively and not just literally! The goal is not to take a documentary photo of the objects, but to create a new work of art that has feeling and meaning to it beyond representing the object. Your camera is not a copier, so use the camera as a your paintbrush. Feel free to do whatever YOU want to create these photos. Move stuff. Put your camera in a place you wouldn’t normally. Think abstract, not literal. Also, think, “one more” when taking photos. If you already have a photo of an object, and see a different one later, take one more photo.

REFLECTION
When you are done with the photo scavenger hunt, take a moment to think about: what specific objects did you take photos of and why? which photo(s) do you like best and why? what did you learn about how you create?

Post your photos here so everyone can see your artistry!

Thanks to my friend @msladekphoto for helping us create art together!