Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Der Herr ist auferstanden!
Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!

Hopefully some Easter grass will begin growing here during Eastertide!

Happy Easter!

Frohe Ostern!

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Song for Good Friday

On this Good Friday, I want to share with you one of the songs that we sing with our children each night before they go to bed. It was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his stay at Tegel prison here in Berlin shortly before his execution. 

The song is called "Von guten Mächten" and roughly translates as "By Gracious Powers". Below is the original German followed by the most popular English translation. 

Von guten Mächten

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
so will ich diese Tage mit euch leben, 
und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen
erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist bei uns am Abend und am Morgen
und ganz gewiß an jedem neuen Tag.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach Herr, gib unsern aufgeschreckten Seelen
das Heil, für das Du uns geschaffen hast.

Und reichst Du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern,
des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
so nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
aus Deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst Du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
an dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
dann woll'n wir des Vergangenen gedenken,
und dann gehört Dir unser Leben ganz.

Laß warm und hell die Kerzen heute flammen
die Du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht,
führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen!
Wir wissen es, Dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
so laß uns hören jenen vollen Klang
der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
all Deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

"By gracious powers"

By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
and confidently waiting come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.

Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
Oh, give our frightened souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord, You taught us to prepare.

And when this cup You give is filled to brimming
with bitter suffering, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

Yet when again in this same world You give us
the joy we had, the brightness of Your Sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through,
and our whole life shall then be Yours alone.

Übersetzung: F. Pratt Green

You can hear the melody to the song here in German and in English here

A note about the translation: Green's translation is the most readable, but this one more accurately reflects the original German, although the sentence constructions render it difficult to read.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In our sketchbooks . . .

If you read our last post, you know that we've been spending a lot of time at the hospital. Between visits to Grandpapa, we've managed to make some art. 

This is a picture inspired by sketches of trees that I saw on furniture at the Art Nouveau Museum here in Berlin.

And another phoenix. The phoenix is an ancient symbol of Christ's resurrection that I have been exploring during Lent. 

This is the Michaelis Kloster (St. Michael's Monastery) in Hildesheim, Germany that I recently visited.

My 10-year-old made a linocut of some Marvel superheroes. Guess who?

And my 8-year-old loves cupcakes and horses.

We're joining Friday Sketches at Dion Dior's beautiful blog
Dion Dior

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A different Holy Week than we imagined . . .

Once a year, the grandparents come to visit us from the US. One of the hardest things about living the life we have chosen is that we are so far away from them, so we love seeing them and spending time with them. For many years now, they have come to visit us in Berlin and we have taken a trip together to some other European vacation spot. We have made a lot of unforgettable memories this way. 

My children could hardly sleep on Thursday night waiting for Grandmama and Grandpapa to get here. The grandparents arrived late that evening, so the kids expected them to come to their school on Friday, the last day of school before the Easter holidays, to pick them up. Then, on Sunday, we would all fly to Sicily, Italy together for a vacation. The kids could hardly contain themselves with excitement - grandparents, the beach, gelato on every corner, and as much pizza as they could eat!

But what happened is this . . . my father-in-law, who loves to get out and about, decided to go grocery shopping with me and my husband on Friday morning. As we were walking along and chatting, he suddenly stumbled on some cobblestones and took a very hard fall on the sidewalk. Even though he got up, it became quickly apparent that he wasn't going anywhere. The ambulance came minutes later and took him to the emergency room. 

A hospital stay and surgery on his fractured tibia followed. Although Germany has an excellent medical system, it's still scary to have surgery in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. He came through the surgery okay, thank the Lord, and will start physical therapy today. 

So here we are. The last few days have been completely different than we imagined they would be. Everyone has been dealing sadness and disappointment, especially my father-in-law, who never dreamed that he was flying to Germany to stay in a hospital. An somehow, we have all felt God's grace gently carrying us through it all. 

This was not the Holy Week that I would have chosen for our family, but it is the one that God allowed. And here are some things that I have observed:

Jesus' followers also imagined a very different Holy Week so many years ago. After Palm Sunday where all Jerusalem hailed Jesus as the new king, they probably imagined a grand outcome with celebrations. It's no surprise that they all ran away after the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our natural instinct is to run away from anything painful. The disciples also had to deal with pain, sadness and disappointment that would not be resolved until well after the resurrection had taken place. And our sadness here will linger for a while as well, but that's okay.

Falls are unexpected, they happen quickly, and you are not prepared for them. I am re-visiting the Stations of the Cross, where Jesus falls three times, in a new way. Watching my father-in-law stumble and fall was terrifying. Not knowing how badly he was hurt and being momentarily paralyzed with shock - I never want to relive that again, but I know there will be other falls in life, literal and metaphorical. My comfort is in knowing that God will always be there. 

Before this happened, I thought my rest would come in the form of a vacation - sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun, viewing amazing art and eating wonderful food. I thought that I had earned this after the last eight weeks of hard work. But as my friend Shannon in Brussels (you can read her thoughts at THÉology) has shared with me, God's rest does not always come in that way. There are times when physical rest does not happen and we rest in who He is: His completed work in creation, the work the He will complete when creation is fully renewed, what He has done in us, and what He will do in us. And this is the kind of rest that I am seeking this Holy Week. 

I wish you and your families a meaningful Holy Week and a joyous Easter celebration!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It's Pysanky time again!

"Mom, I'm so glad we get to make Pysanky and not just those boring Easter eggs that everyone else makes!"

Not that I have anything against other kinds of Easter eggs, but it is nice to that hear my ten-year-old really enjoys making Pysanky, the Ukrainian Easter eggs that are painted using a batik method with beeswax. 

If you'd like to find out how I learned to make them and then taught my children, please read this

This year, I finally made a real drying rack. I, the handwork challenged one, hammered some nails into plywood (driving my neighbors batty, I'm sure!) in tripod formations to dry the eggs after dying and more easily varnish them.

This year, I also got brave enough to hollow out the eggs afterwards with an egg pump. (In the past, we have just left the insides intact and they harden after a couple of years.) So now, we'll be able to glue ribbons on to our finished eggs and give them to friends for their Easter trees.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Art Project: Sewn Collages with Felt and Burlap

Over the last 5 years of doing after-school clubs, I have become better at recycling (or "upcycling") art supplies to reuse in new projects. When planning the Easter Club this year, I looked around at what I had and saw that we still had tons of burlap left over from our wool pictures that we have used in several clubs and children's church. And as you can imagine, being a Godly Play teacher, I have lots of felt scraps lying around as well. So, inspired by an idea that I saw in an art book where the children sewed pictures onto cloth, I came up with this idea for sewn collages. 

In setting up this corner of our Godly Play room, I tried to visually explain the process to the children with the examples below, so that they could figure out what to do without asking. This was, of course, motivated by the Montessori principle, "help me to help myself". I then threaded several needles with embroidery thread and had them in a pin cushion with a needle threader beside it. 

Here are the visual examples of the process for the children to follow:
1) pinning the cut-out felt pieces onto the burlap
2) sewing the felt pieces onto the the cloth

I also made my example as simple as possible, because I have learned that if I make a full picture, some children often simply copy my work rather than coming up with their own ideas. 

The children needed about two sessions to complete their work. These were 1-5 graders, who worked independently for the most part. Preschoolers would probably needed more time and slightly more assistance. 

Here are a couple of examples of the children's work:

In general, I have found that both girls and boys in the elementary years love to sew. Obviously, sewing is good for their fine motor skills, and there is something very satisfying about the end result. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Easter Club 2014 Week 3 / OsterAG Woche 3

Diese Woche haben wir "Die Gesichter Christi" gehört, die  vom Leben Jesu erzählt, mit Schnappschüsse von seiner Geburt bis zur Auferstehung. This week we heard the Godly Play story called "The Faces of Easter". This story takes us through the life of Jesus with snapshots of his life from birth to death and resurrection.

Wie bei "Das Geheimnis von Ostern" betont diese Geschichte, dass Ostern 2 Seiten hat, die man nicht von einander trennen kann (auch wenn man will!). Eine Seite ist ernst und traurig und die andere verursacht Freude. Die Auferstehung, das "Ende" der Geschichte, ist gleich wie ein Anfang, damit die Geschichte immer weitergehen kann. Like "The Mystery of Easter", "Faces" emphasizes that Easter has both a sad and joyful side, and even if we wanted to, we can't separate the two sides from one another. But the resurrection, the "end of the story", is really a beginning, and the story goes on.

Nach der Erzählung wurden die Kinder eingeladen das Zimmer anzuschauen und einen Gegenstand auszusuchen, der uns etwas mehr von der Geschichte erzählt. Sie waren echt kreativ gewesen! At the end, the children are invited to look around the room and place an object next to one of the pictures to tell us more about the story. It is amazing what the children come up!

Dieses Mädchen nahm Stempeln mit Symbolen der Dreieinigkeit und stellte sie neben das Bild von Jesu Taufe.  This child chose stamps with symbols of the Trinity to place near the picture of Jesus' baptism.

Dieser Junge nahm Da Vincis "Letzter Abendmahl" und stellte es neben das Bild, wo Jesus Brot und Wein mit seinen Jüngern teilt. This child placed Da Vinci's "Last Supper" near the picture of Jesus breaking bread and wine with the disciples.

Und dieser Junge nahm 2 Bauklötze und stapelte sie auf einander. Er sagte, der Bauklotz unten stellt Gott dar and und der obere die Welt. Er erklärte weiter, die Welt ist stabil, weil Gott das Fundament ist. And this child chose two wooden blocks, saying that one block represented Jesus as the foundation and that the other block was the rest of creation resting on him. 

Viele Kinder wollten in der Kreativphase mit Farbe malen. Many of the children chose to paint during the Response Time.

Andere fertigten ihre Papierblumen und klebte sie an Ästen. Others finished their paper flowers and attached them to twigs. 

Einige arbeiteten mit Buntstiften und Stempeln. Some worked with colored pencils and stamps.

Und andere nähten Collagen mit Filz und Jutestoff. Others made sewn collages with felt scraps and burlap.

Nächste Woche besuchen wir einen Kinderclub in einem anderen Stadtteil. Warum? Weil wir Kindern  vermitteln möchten, dass unser Leben mit Gott nicht nur in der Kirche ist. Er geht mit uns überall hin, und wir feiern ihn in allem, was wir tun!  Next week we'll be visiting a children's club in a different part of the city to play together and plant some flowers. Why? Well, we like for children to make the connection that our faith in God isn't just something for inside the church walls. We take it with us wherever we go and celebrate God in everything we do.

Woche 4 kommt bald! 
Stay tuned for Week 4!