Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking Back at 2013

2013 was a really full year! When I look back, I am so thankful for all the things that I got to do and experience and all of the people that God brought into my life.

Here are a few of my favorite posts: 

Although the actual training was in Dec. of last year, I've spent all of 2013 putting what I've learned into practice.

The Legacy of MLK Jr. in my life
Some personal thoughts about about how Dr. King's life and work influenced me.

Continuing my quest to work through the Saint stories in Volume 7. This is probably my favorite story so far.

Visiting this Godly Play and Waldorf-inspired church in Houston was a highlight of my year.

Godly Play Film in English
Translating this film for GP Germany was both a joy and a load of hard work!

This might have been my favorite after-school club ever.

Interactive Autumn Nature Table
Definitely my favorite of all the nature tables I have created.

Godly Play Training in Minsk
This was a milestone for me - my first time leading a Godly Play training.

A fun afternoon with my family in the greatest city in the world.

I love exploring the possibilities with Godly Play.

Art Project: Nativity in a Box
One of my best art projects.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ideas for celebrating Epiphany

Celebrating Epiphany is wonderful way to officially end the Christmas season. The feast commemorates the visit of the Magi to Baby Jesus sometime after his birth. And as the Godly Play story says, "Every year they come too late, after the baby has been born . . . That's why we think about them on January 6!"

Here are some ideas that I have done in past years:

This simple art project leaves a lot of room for the children to develop and explore on their own. I left the star in the sample blank as symbol of the space inside us that God's revelation can fill. 

Make an Epiphany cake
The link to the recipe is in the post above!

For preschool children, this activity develops coordination 
and reminds the children of the gifts that Baby Jesus received.

If you have any other ideas or links, please share them in the comments!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Coming Close to the Mystery of Christmas

You may have noticed that I wrote less frequently during Advent than I did last year. There is a reason for that. Last year, I became acutely aware that although I was teaching children to come close to the mystery of Christmas through stillness and peace, I was doing a lousy job of it myself. Sure, there was a lot to be done as with every Advent season: my daughter's birthday that always falls between 3rd and 4th Advent, the GP Trainer's Training in Holland, the Advent Club and the usual rush to find presents and decorate the house. But I found myself not being really centered in Christ and His peace, and just worrying about a lot about things that in hindsight weren't that important.

This year, I ended up experiencing the most meaningful Advent that I had in many years. Several things helped with this, but the main thing was that I went into Advent with the mindset that it was okay if I didn't get everything done and a determination not to let the business take over my life.

I chose a couple of "mentoring" aids to shepherd me through this time:

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen - This book has short devotions and scripture passages for each day based on Nouwen's writings. It also has a suggested "activity" for each day. I love that the activities vary and appeal to different spiritual styles. For example, some are symbolic, while others are action-oriented. I did not put pressure on myself to do each activity, but rather chose the ones that were most meaningful to me. The book takes you through Christmastide, so I am still reading it.

The liturgy from Creighton University's Praying Advent and Celebrating Christmas

and the Liturgy of the Hours from Divine Office

(Both of these are Catholic resources, and although I am not Catholic, I firmly believe in the Worldwide Church and allow myself to be enriched by many different Christian traditions.)

Then, I carved out time each morning and most evenings to pray and read.

These simple prayers and devotions helped me to remember what was important and actually practice Advent in a fresh way. Now, I am using them to enter into Christmastide as well.

Another thing that helped was that I bought the majority of gifts, especially the ones that needed to be mailed to relatives in the States, in November.: ) And I didn't allow myself to worry about finding the things that could be bought at the last minute.

And I chose to limit and simplify the preparations for Advent Club. We had less art projects and more open-ended stations. That helped immensely with the stress-load!

There were still personal and financial crises during this time, but there was an inner peace and strength from God to deal with them that was not there last year. 

As mentors of children, it is so important that we also tend to and cultivate our own spiritual lives. Advent is over, but it is still Christmastide. If something was missing in your Advent experience, then allow yourself to be drawn closer to God during the rest of this Christmas season. And then think about what might help you to grow during the "green and growing" Sundays before Lent.

Giotto's Adoration of the Magi, Source:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Christmas Eve Tradition

Jedes Jahr am Heiligabend besucht unsere Familie das Krankenhaus in der Nachbarschaft um  Weihnachtslieder mir den Patienten dort zu singen. Davor brunchen wir mit der Gemeindefamlie und danach gehen wir gemeinsam los zum Krankenhaus, wo auch andere Freunde uns treffen um auch mitzusingen. One of our favorite Christmas traditions is on Christmas Eve. First, we brunch with our church family,  and afterwards we join them and a few other friends for Christmas carolling at our neighborhood hospital.

Es macht natürlich gar kein Spass im Krankenhaus am Heiligabend zu sein. Deswegen hat eine Freundin, die auch Krankenschwester ist, diese Idee ausgedacht gemeinsam mit den Patienten zu singen. Wir gehen schon 5 Jahre hin um die Hoffnung von Weihnachten weiterzugeben und den Patienten zu zeigen, dass sie nicht allein sind. Being in the hospital isn't much fun on Christmas Eve, so a friend in our church, who also is a nurse at the hospital, came up with the idea of singing with the patients to spread a little Christmas cheer and remind them that they are not alone at this time of year.

Das Krankenhaus ist katholisch und die Mitarbeiter geben sich Mühe um eine weihnachtliche Stimmung zu schaffen, z.B. durch die teilweise handgemachte Deko wie man unten sieht. The hospital we sing at is a Catholic one, and the staff always put up lovely, handmade decorations like the stars below. 

Die Patienten reagieren unterschiedlich auf das Singen. Manche lachen und singen mit. Andere sind von den Liedern berührt und haben danach Tränen in den Augen.  The patients all have different reactions. Sometimes they laugh and sing along with us. Sometimes they are touched by the songs and begin to cry. It is a blessing to share in their joys and sorrows at this time of year. 

Und unsere Kinder freuen sich jedes Jahr darauf. Es ist einfach ein Teil des Heiligabends für sie. And our children always look forward to this part of the day as well.

Wir haben in Deutschland 2 offizielle Tage für Weihnachen gewidmet. Wir geniessen die Ruhe in der Stadt, das Ausschlafen, und schönes Essen. Ich wünsche euch noch 12 schöne, besinnliche Tage von Weihnachten und hoffe, dass ihr auf eure Art u. Weise bis 6.1 gut feiern könnt! We have two official days of Christmas in Germany, so we are again enjoying sleeping late and eating great food. I wish you a wonderful 12 days of Christmas and hope that you will celebrate in your own way all the way to Jan. 6!

P.S. Herzlichen Dank an Benjamin für die wunderschönen Fotos in dieser und der vorherigen Post!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent Club 2013 Week 4

In der letzten Woche haben wir den Seniorenheim besucht um diese Weihnachtshoffnung, die wir über die letzten paar Wochen besprochen und erfahren haben, weiterzugeben. At last it came time to visit the Senior Center in our neighborhood and share a little of the hope of Christmas that we having been talking about the past few weeks.

Am Anfang waren wir ein bisschen schüchtern . . . 
At first, we were a bit shy and all sat together . . . 

Ein Paar ältere Geschwisterkinder, die den Spass nicht verpassen wollten, kamen auch mit . . . 
We were also joined by some older siblings who just couldn't resist tagging along for the fun.: )

Dann hat unser Vikar uns in ein Memory-Spiel begleitet. Wir bildeten Teams aus Senioren und Kinder zusammen. Then, our vicar led us in a game of Memory with the Seniors and that broke the ice.  We had three teams made up of a seniors and children together.

Es war so toll, dass wir nicht aufhören wollten! It was so much fun that we were sad when the game came to an end!

Dann hörten wir eine Gedicht . . . 
Then, we heard a poem  . . . 

und ein paar handgemachten Geschenke für den Seniorenheim präsentiert.
and presented the Seniors with some hand-made gifts. 

Danach aßen wir ein kleines Snack und unterhielten wir uns mit den Senioren in kleineren Gruppen. Es war eine sehr schöne Zeit gewesen! Afterwards, we shared a snack with the Seniors and talked with them in small groups. It was a lovely afternoon and both we and the Seniors were blessed by our "playdate".

Dann trafen wir unsere Eltern auf Plätzchen und Kinderpunsch! Then, we met our parents on the way home for some more cookies and warm Christmas punch!

Frohe Weihnachten!
Merry Christmas!

Advent Club 2013 Week 3

Diese Woche bekamen wir Besuch von dem Vikar der Gemeinde, wo unsere AG stattfindet. Da er uns in den Seniorenheim begleiten wird, wollte er die Kinder kennenlernen und Ideen mit ihnen austauschen. Er war ziemlich lustig und hat uns geholfen unsere Ideen in einen vernünftigen Plan zu verwandeln. Our third week of Advent Club started out with a visit from the vicar of the church where we meet. (Sidenote: a vicar in the German Lutheran Church is a little different than in other denominations. Here a "vicar" is actually a priest in training.)  He leads the church services at the Senior Center we will be visiting and wanted to meet the children and hear their ideas of what we should all do together. 

Dann zündeten wir die Christuskerze an . . . 
Then, we lit the Christ Candle . . . 

 . . . und wir stellten die Kirchenuhr richtig. (Im Foto unten hat ein Kind die Uhr gestellt und ich fragte nach, woher sie wusste, welche die "richtige" Zeit war.)
 . . . and "set" the time on our Church Clock. In the picture below, one of the children set it and I am asking her how she knew where the right "time" was. 

Danach hörten wir die Godly Play Geschichte, "Die heilige Familie". Mit "heiliger Familie" werden alle Menschen u. Tiere gemeint, die bei Jesu Geburt anwesend waren. Die Geschichte ist eine Vertiefung um den Kinder zu helfen sich persönlicher mit den Menschen und Tieren in der Weihnachtsgeschichte zu identifizieren. Sie zeigt auch die Verbindung zwischen dem süßen Baby in der Krippe und dem erwachsenem Mann, der am Kreuz starb und war auferstanden. Then, we heard the Godly Play story about the "Holy Family". Here, the Holy Family refers to everyone in the story of Jesus's nativity, including the animals. This story is meant to take the children a little deeper into personally identifying with the people and animals that witnessed and took part in Jesus' birth. It also shows the children the connection between between the baby in the manger and the man who died on a cross and rose again. 

"Hier ist das Christuskind, das die Arme ausbreitet, um euch zu umarmen . . . Das Kind wurde ein erwachsener Mann. Der starb dann am Kreuz. Das war sehr schlimm, aber es ist auch wundervoll, auf eine geheimnisvolle, österliche Weise wundervoll." "Here is Baby Jesus with his arms stretched out to hug you . . . Jesus grew into a man who died on a cross. This was very sad, but also wonderful in an Easter kind of way. Jesus is now everywhere all the time. And now, he can stretch out his arms and hug the whole world."

Hier sehen die Kinder die Verbindung zwischen Weihnachten und Ostern. (Entschldigt bitte die Schatten im Foto - wir haben im Nachhinein geschnippst.) Here the children see  how the baby in the nativity is related to the man who died on the cross. (Sorry for the shadows in the picture! We took this after the club was over.)

Am Ende habe ich diese Fragen gestellt: At the end, I asked the children these questions:
Wer in der Heiligen Familie gefällt dir am besten? What person in the Holy Family do you like the best?
Wer ist am wichtigsten? Who do you think is most important?
Hast du mal diese Figuren woanders und nicht zu Weihnachten gesehen? Have you seen any of these people somewhere besides in a manger scene at Christmas?
Gibt es jemanden, den wir weglassen könnten, ohne die Geschichte zu zerstören? Is there anyone we could leave out and still have everyone we need for the story?

Die Kinder hatten eine Vielfalt an Antworten, aber die Mehrheit fand Maria und den Esel am wichtigsten, weil "ohne Maria hätten wir kein Kind gehabt" und "der Esel half Maria nach Bethlehem zu kommen". While the children had varied and interesting answers, the majority of the group focused on Mary and the donkey being both their favorite and the most important, because "without Mary there wouldn't be a baby" and "the donkey helped Mary get to Bethlehem". 

In der Kreativphase suchten die Kinder eine Aktivität aus:
During Response Time, we had these activities to choose from:
1. Krippe-in-einem-Schachtel / Nativity-in-a-box
2. Gebetsecke / Prayer corner 
3. Adventkranz / Advent wreaths
4. Memory-Spiel für den Seniorenheim basteln / make Memory cards for the Seniors
5. "offenes Atelier" mit Buntpapier, Kleber und Naturmaterial / an "open" station to make your own creations with pretty paper, glue, and nature materials

Und zum Fest brachte Melinda (die Co-Lehrerin) ihre schon bekannte Brownies für uns zu geniessen. Und das Zimmer war von strahlenden Kindergesichtern geleuchtet! And for our feast, Melinda (my co-teacher) finally brought her famous chocolate chip brownies. And there were smiles all around . . . 

Nächstes mal, los in den Seniorenheim!
Next time, it's off to the Senior Center!

Click here for:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Club 2013 Week 2

Diese Woche haben wir erfahren, was man in der Adventszeit macht, und woran man in den 4 Wochen denkt. Wie nähert man sich an so groß ein Geheimnis wie Weihnachten? Was bedeuten die 4 Kerzen im Adventskranz? Also, wir machten uns auf dem Weg nach Bethlehem mit den Propheten, Maria und Josef, den Hirten und den heiligen Königen. This week we learned about why we have Advent, what we do during this time and what we think about during these 4 weeks. How do you come close to a mystery as great as Christmas? And what do the four candles in the Advent wreath stand for? We set off on our journey to Bethlehem with the prophets, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men. 

Unsere Schule ist so groß gewachsen in den letzen paar Jahren, dass wir dieses Jahr beschlossen haben, die AG auf die 1.-3.Klassen einzuschränken. Dies ist eine gute Entscheidung gewesen, damit mehr Kinder teilnehmen konnten, und ich konnte den neuen Kindern die Kerngeschichten von Advent vorstellen. Our school has grown so much in the past couple of years that we decided to limit Advent Club to the 1-3 grades this year. It's been a good decision, because more children can participate, and I can introduce the new children to the core Advent stories. 

In der Kreativzeit haben wir weiter an "die Krippe-im-Schachtel" gearbeitet. During the Response Time after the story, many of the children worked on their "Nativity-in-a-box". 

Die fertigen Krippen sind wunderbar! The finished nativities are so unique and beautiful!

Manche Kinder verbrachten Zeit in der Gebetsecke, wo sie etwas an Gott schreiben konnten oder etwas malen für ihn konnten. Some of the children spent time in the prayer corner, where they could write something to God or draw a picture for him.

Und viele haben einen Adventskranz gebastelt. And others made an Advent wreath.

Es gab auch eine Station, wo wir ein Memoryspiel für den Besuch im Seniorenheim gebastelt haben. Die Kinder haben je 2 gleichen Bilder auf Bierfilzmatten gemalt. There was also a station where the children worked on a Memory game to play with the Seniors that we will be visiting soon. They each drew two identical pictures on blank drink holders. 

Während des Fests haben wir weiter besprochen, was wir im Seniorenheim machen werden und warum wir da hingehen werden. Mit viel Lachen und Leckereien kam unsere Zeit zum Ende! During our feast, we talked more about what we would be doing at the Senior Center and why we were going there. Our time came to an end with much laughter and yummy things to eat. 

Bis zum nächsten Mal! More soon! 

On another note, Hillary from Featherglen is also doing an Advent Club again this year. Be sure to check out all the creative things she is doing with the children in Scotland!

Click here for  Week 1 of Advent Club!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Godly Play: Circle of the Church Year

The Circle of the Church Year is a story from the liturgical genre in Godly Play that explains and explores the "seasons" of the church year and how they correspond to the natural seasons. The story also introduces the idea of time being circular as opposed to linear. The children see this when the last "green and growing Sunday" meets Advent in the circle. The end of the year becomes a new beginning. 

The materials for this story are some of the hardest to make yourself. The original material is the wooden puzzle that you see below. You have to be quite a carpenter to get the wooden pieces the same, uniform size. In fact, our German Godly Play training literature recommends that if you are going to invest money into material for a particular story, this would be the one. 

Although I have a large felt calendar that hangs on the wall when we have children's church, I finally broke down and shelled out 70 Euros for the wooden one made by the Lindenwerkstatt. Besides wanting one for the kids I mentor, since becoming a Godly Play Trainer, I have needed one to take to trainings. 

But of course, it is not always possible to come up with that kind of money (and was not possible for me for a long time!). So, I get very excited when I see others coming up with creative DIY ideas. 

Marcy, from Becoming Three, came up with the absolutely brilliant idea of making the Church Year out of Legos. When I saw the picture below on her blog, I immediately asked if I could share it with you. I hope that it helps and inspires many of you making your own materials. Where there is a will, there is a way . . . 

Also, Emily at Watkins Every Flavor Beans shared a felt Church Year made by one of her friends that you can see here. If you are able to sew, this is also a good alternative.

If you know of any other creative ways to make the material for this story, please let me know and leave a link in the comments!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Art Project: Simple Advent Wreath

Here is a simple idea for an Advent wreath that most any child can manage and enjoy. All of the credit for this idea goes to Kiki at Kikis Web, a German-language craft site for kids. (Thanks, Kiki, for sharing your idea!) With only 3 weeks for art during the Advent Club, I needed a project that many of the children could finish in one sitting, so when I found this idea, I knew it was perfect.

For this wreath, I used:
- a straw wreath form
- felt stars in different colors
- pretty stick pins
- candleholders
- beeswax candles

Kiki also has a star pattern in several sizes that you can download here.

First, the children affixed the candleholders onto the straw wreath (our candleholders are made for wreaths and have a long pin on the bottom that sticks into the straw wreath). 

Next, they chose colored stars and attached them to the straw wreath with the stick pins. Although I only used purple and white stars for my model, I provided the children with many other colors to choose from.  

The final step was to add the beautiful beeswax candles. 

Voila! A beautiful Advent wreath. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Club 2013 Week 1

Die AdventsAG ist letzte Woche am Montag begonnen! Obwohl ich diese AGS schon 4 Jahre leite, bin ich nie müde davon, mit Kindern das Geheimnis und die Hoffnung von Weihnachten neu zu entdecken. Da wir eine Woche vor Advent anfingen, haben wir erstmal darüber gehört, was Advent eigentlich ist und wie diese Zeit in den Rhythmus des Kirchenjahres und des natürlichen Jahres passt.  Advent club started on Monday! Though this is now my fourth year of these clubs, I never get tired of exploring the mystery and beauty of the Christmas story with children. Since we started this year the week before Advent, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk first about how Advent fits into the rhythm of the church year, the natural year and the rhythm of our lives.

Nachdem wir Adventslieder gesungen haben um uns ein bisschen Weihnachtsstimmung zu machen, habe ich die Godly Play Geschichte, "Der Kreis des Kirchenjahres" erzählt. Dies ist eine liturgische Handlung, die mittels eines schönen Holzpuzzles den Kindern zeigt, die unterschiedlichen Zeiten und Farben im Kirchenjahr. Die Geschichte betont auch die Idee von Zeit als Kreis - jeder Anfang ist eine Art Ende und jedes Ende ist eine Art Anfang.  I did this by sharing the Godly Play story called, "The Circle of the Church Year". Using a wooden puzzle with removable blocks in the liturgical colors for each week of the year, we talked about how the church took the beginning of the year and the end of the year and bound them together to remind us that for every beginning there is an end and for every ending there is a new beginning.

"Die Kirchenuhr" The Church Clock
Am Ende habe ich den Kindern einige Fragen gestellt um ihnen zu helfen die Geschichte zu verarbeiten. At the end of the story, I asked the children open-ended questions to help us all process what we heard.
"Welche Farbe gefällt dir am besten?" "What color is your favorite?"
"In welcher Farbe ist dein Geburtstag?" "During what color does your birthday fall?"
"Ich frage mich, warum die Kirche Farben benutzt um die Zeit zu zählen?" "I wonder why the church uses colors to tell time?"

Eine 2.Klässlerin hatte eine tiefsinnige Gedanke. Sie meinte, dass grün am wichtigsten wäre, weil " . . .dies ist die Zeit, wo man Ruhe von den ganzen Feiern hat." One second grade girl shared something really profound when asked which color she thought was most important. She thought green was most important, because "that is the time when you get to rest from all those celebrations".

Nach der Geschichte kam die Kreativphase, wo die Kinder eine Beschäftigung aussuchen dürften. After the story we had a Response Time, where the children could think more about Advent and what they had heard. 

Es gab die folgenden Möglichkeiten:
They could choose from these activities:

1) "Krippe-in-einer Schachtel" basteln. Make a "nativity-in-a-box".

2) Mit dem Geschichtenmaterial, u.a. mit dem HolzPuzzle, spielen. Play with the story materials including the wooden puzzle of the church year.

3) Etwas schreiben oder malen mit Stempeln u. Buntstiften in der Gebetsecke. Draw or write something to God at the prayer corner with colored pencils and wooden stamps.

4) Etwas in der Lego-Ecke gestalten. Create something at the Lego corner. 

5. Memory Spiel für den Besuch im Seniorenheim basteln. Make cards for "Memory" to play at the Senior Center that we will be visiting. 

Wir machen immer ein kleines Fest am Ende. Diese Woche hatten wir Butterkekse und Paprika. Die "Kenner" (Kinder, die schon mal in der AG waren) wollten schon wissen, wann Melinda, die Co-Lehrerin, ihre bekannten Brownies mitbringt.: ) We always end our time with a small feast, and this week we had red pepper slices and cookies. The kids "in-the-know", who have been in the club before, were already asking when Melinda, my co-teacher, will bring her famous brownies!

Teil 2 kommt bald! Part 2 to come!

Click here for Week 2

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Twist on Advent Nature Table

Hi Everyone! Hope you are enjoying the first week of Advent! I wanted to share some photos from a friend of mine who recently made her own Advent Nature Table with her son. Irena lives in a place where it can be a bit difficult to find wooden nativity figures, so she and her son came up with a good solution: they made their own out of modeling clay!

Aren't her figures and Advent Nature Table lovely? I especially love how she added the four candles along the way.  I honestly think it's a blessing when we can't find ready-made things easily, because it causes us to use our imagination and creativity!

Our family celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday, since last Thursday was a normal working day here in Germany. (The German Thanksgiving, "Erntedankfest" is in September and is always on a Sunday.) We baked a turkey and had lots of friends over to share in the festivities! 

So on Sunday, we hastily gathered materials to make our Advent Nature. My children did much more of the work this time choosing the rocks and the nature finds themselves. 

I'll have some Advent Club news for you soon, as well as another Advent craft!