Lessons from HS2 for Online Community Building

Four years ago my life split apart at the seams, along with the lives of 200 other families on the estate that I lived.  Emotions ran high.   Anger and fear and sadness.  Some people hid in their homes.  Others sought out solace in those around them.  News crews swarmed and reported and blew out of proportion.  What would happen in the end?  Nobody really knew.  But I knew that if we were going to get through it, we had to pull together.

The news of HS2 coming through the estate where I lived happily brought so many similar things to what society as a whole is feeling today as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.  Yes it was on a much smaller scale, and the outcomes are very different.  No-one was going to die of HS2, and nobody was stock piling toilet paper!  But the feelings that it brought were very similar.

I decided that standing out on the street and crying wasn’t the most helpful of reactions, and instead set up a Residents Facebook Group.  We needed to be community, to strengthen each other, and the best way to do that when we had no community hall or space to gather was online.  Today we see many churches and organisations trying to figure out how to be community online.  And I wanted to share my wisdom and learning from what happened with us four years ago.

Not everyone will want to be involved

My heart for setting up a Residents Facebook Group was so that no-one would have to deal with that news on their own.  I imagined a utopia of support and encouragement, community events off the back of it with happy smiling faces, everyone patting me on the back and saying how great it was.  But that is not the reality.  Truthfully, not everyone will want to be involved in an online community, and THAT’S OK!! Maybe they already have their own support networks – leave them to do their own thing.  Maybe online isn’t for them – pop round and see them instead.  Maybe they just want to deal with it on their own – you can’t force them not to!  But providing an option for those who are feeling scared and vulnerable to connect with others in the same boat is a really valuable thing to do.  Don’t let those who don’t want to be involved stop you from doing it.

emotions will run high – don’t take it personally

In the first few weeks after the news had dropped on our estate, everyone was dealing with it differently.  My husband was calm as a cucumber.  I was crying at every little thing.  My next door neighbours were angry with the government and ready for a fight.  Emotions were right on the surface and people were all to ready to share them online.  Yet there weren’t so good at accepting others had different views to them.

I felt like, as the admin of the group, it was my job to calm everyone down and make it all better, BUT IT WASN’T!!!  We must not fall into the trap of feeling responsible for the wellbeing of those in our online community.  Let them process what is going on.  Let them share their fears and emotions.  Let the group as a whole minister to them.  And don’t take emotional outburst personally – you are just the person providing the forum for it.

aim to be a peacemaker Not a peacekeeper

Sometimes, as the admin of the group, you are going to have to make controversial and difficult decisions.  You won’t always be able to placate everyone and keep the peace.  Sometimes you will have to stand up and MAKE the peace (read my keeper vs maker post from 2016!).   Fight for what is right – freedom of speech but not those who abuse others from behind their keyboards.  Maybe sometimes you’ll have to offend or upset your friends or neighbours by doing that.  It is really really hard to be the keeper for an online community.  But try being a good role model, sharing positive and encouraging things, and praying for those in the group.

digital detox will be needed

Some nights I literally could not put my phone down.  There would be a constant stream of notifications and comments to vet on the the group.  It started to take over my life and head space.   And with so much of our lives likely to enter into an online space over the next few weeks you may just end up with square eyes!!!

So schedule in some digital detox time.  Put do not disturb hours on your phone so notifications don’t ping all night long.  Make it clear on your online group when you will or won’t reply to comments.  And then switch off.

2019 plans and prayers

2019 Plans and Prayers

 

2019 plans and prayers

Welcome to my second reflective post for the New Year – this time I am turning my attention to what I am planning and praying for in 2019.  If you missed my praise points from 2018 then catch them here!  Lets go into 2019 with prayerful hearts, dedicating this year to God. Here are some of my plans and prayers:

  1. ROME!!!  I write this once again, but we have now actually booked the flights and hotels so 2019 will finally be the year we visit this amazing city.  It was on the shortlist for our honeymoon, so this is our treat for the year.  If anyone has any recommendations on restaurants/tours etc that we should go to do let me know.
  2. DIY.  This year will be filled with a lot of DIY as we try to turn our 60’s house into a modern space.  Yes, this is partly because we want a nice place to live, but we also want to have a house that we can use for hospitality, a gift that we have both been given by God to bless others with.  This will hopefully see a new bedroom being created in our garage ready for another lodger, and the kitchen and other spaces being transformed so we can do more meals and open house days.
  3. Reuben starting school nursery. reuben in uniform My youngest is now the grand old age of three, and so after Christmas he has a 30 hour place at the school nursery.  He is so excited, and has missed nursery a lot the last 6 months.  It will also take away a lot of stress for me in regards to childcare, housework and blogging, as I will have at least one day a week where I am not working so can catch up on mum admin!!  I am praying that I can use this time wisely, and that it means I will be able to value the quality time I have with both boys after school instead of trying to be with them and do housework at the same time.
  4. Colour Conference.  This year I have signed up to go to Hillsong Colour Conference with the ladies from my church.  It is down in London, which scares me a lot, but I am praying now for an immense time of spiritual growth over those few days and for relationships to be build up during that time.
  5. Mummy Meditations growth. mummy meditations banner After launching the shop last year and rebranding, I feel like now is the right time to make Mummy Meditations even bigger and better.  I have been collecting feedback and planning new things, so my prayer is that whatever God wants me to do to encourage mums in their journey with him will be successful, and anything that is just my selfishness and pride will fall away.  I am praying for more mums to join us in this journey in 2019 too – maybe we’ll even reach 1,000 members!!
  6. Northumberland.  Yes I  am that annoying person who has their holidays all planned in and booked already!  Family time is so important, and so this year we are going to go and explore Northumberland with is castles, coastline and Holy Island.

So thats my 2019 plans in a nutshell!  Most of all my prayer is that I stay close to God through whatever 2019 throws at me.

verse for 2019

I stumbled upon my verse for the coming year quite by accident, but felt like it was right for the new season I will be in.  Last year was about strengthening myself, getting through things, and recovering ready to bloom again.  This year, I feel God saying this to me:

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll fine me. Yes, WHEN YOU GET SERIOUS about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” God’s Decree.”  Jeremiah 29:12-14 (MSG)

This verse to me was a wake up call – stop just messing around at the desires I’ve put in your heart and GET SERIOUS.  If you want to follow me, then you have to actually follow me with everything!  If you want those things then you have to actually pray about them.  If you want those dreams then you have to actually pursue them!  If I do these things, then I won’t be disappointed with what God does through me. Am I brave enough to do this?!! We shall see!

will you get serious with me in 2019?

Is getting back on track with God on your list of things to do in 2019?  Then why not join me and over 500 other mums in the Mummy Meditations Community as we look to study the bible, one verse at a time, during the chaos of motherhood.   Make it your New Year’s Habit!   You can find out more over in our Facebook Community.

 

Starting from scratch – mission in a new place

So, the eagle eyed among you will know that recently we moved house.  It was a really exciting move, away from a stressful situation, and into a new and exciting place.  But with the arrival of a new school term, with my son starting in a brand new school, I was suddenly struck with how we are starting from scratch.

Starting from scratch with the neighbours.

Starting from scratch with the mums at the school gate.

Starting from scratch with different school routines.

Starting from scratch with our local places – library, post office, swimming pool.

Everything is brand new, and that means having to start all my relationships from scratch.  And when I looked at having to get to know teachers, kids, parents, office staff at my sons new school this week it was all looking a bit daunting.  I thought about the mums from the old school, the chatter on the school yard and the friendly welcoming faces that would have been there and I felt sad.  I thought about all the teachers who I had gotten to know at the small school of 140 pupils and my heart-wrenched. I had lost my whole network.

But then today in our parents lifegroup, another mum reminded me of something.  That those former relationships didn’t start up over night.  Not at all.  It took 4 years to get to know my neighbours like I did.  It took a whole year for me to get to know the mums and teachers at the school.  I cannot expect to jump back in to a place of intimacy within this new setting.  Instead I should just see where things go.  Let things start organically rather than forcing things to be like they were.

So I will start off with chatting to the neighbours I see out on the street.  I will start off with trying to smile at some of the parents in the yard.  I will seek out new opportunities to get to know people – such as joining the library and going along to the school church for its coffee morning for new parents on the first day of school (what a great idea!).  I don’t need to be super confident or even to look at ways to “do mission” here yet.  I just need to get to know people.  In my own time and my way.  That is a very relieving and releasing thing to realise.

amazing reviews

Amazing Reviews from 2017

amazing reviews

I am now entering that strange reflective zone that characterises the end of the year.  I have been thinking back over everything I had done on the blog this year and was amazing by how many reviews of things I have had the chance to do.  I only really accept reviews if I think they are something I will use and if I think they will have a use for my readers too, so just in case you missed any I have categorised my reviews from 2017 below:

Bible Journaling Products

Children’s Items and Family Fun

Mission and Faith

 

advent happy mail

Advent Happy Mail

advent happy mail

Here’s an exciting advent idea for you!  Every day in advent, send a letter.  In this digital era, lets take this advent to get back to writing and encouraging others through it.  Just download your advent happy mail poster below, and everyday cross off one person from it.  You could even change some of the squares and put your own ideas if you want.

what is happy mail?

Happy mail is something that you receive in an envelope that makes someone else happy!  It is not a bill, statement or junk mail leaflet, but a thoughtful item of mail.  It is something you’ve put a bit of thought into and done to make the recipient smile.  The mail doesn’t have to be a parcel, it can just be a well meaning letter, or lots of other things too.   It could be an extra special Christmas card with an envelope you’ve decorated to make them smile!  There really are no rules or limits.

To give you some ideas and inspiration, here are some useful links:

GET YOUR FREE ADVENT HAPPY MAIL POSTER HERE!!

I will be sharing over on my facebook page and instagram account some of the happy mail items that I am sending out, so do check it out for inspiration. I would love to see what you send too, so share your photos using #adventhappymail

free advent happy mail poster

Share The Joy Linky @ The Family Patch
app for loving your community

Can an app help you love your community?

app for loving your community

can an app help you love your community?

I live in Doncaster, and despite it being crowned the “most chilled and least stressful place to live in the UK”, most people’s reaction to this announcement is “oh that’s a shame!”. You see, Doncaster isn’t the nicest place in the world (although I’m sure it’s not the worst!). It is a typical slightly rundown town surrounded by ex-mining communities.

the problem i face in my community…

Sometimes I walk around my town and feel sad. There is litter, broken things that no-one has fixed, buildings that no-one cares about and general signs of poverty all around. It makes my heart sink and my soul feel heavy. I cry out to the God who created and loves this world – why has it become so unloved by those that live in it?

Practically I try to look after my little corner of the world – my house, my garden, my estate. But try as I might, I can never clean up everything. Even when I go out with the community action team at church and litter pick the streets for a couple of hours it isn’t going to change everything. And yet the impact of just simple litter can be HUGE. Health, crime, anti-social behaviour, loss of business are all things that stem from and can be worsened by the presence of litter in a neighbourhood. Once that pride in a community is lost, it is difficult for it to be rebuilt.

a new strategy…

So I decided a new strategy was called for. I could not be a one woman army who tackles the whole of Doncaster’s litter and other problems (there would be little time for looking after my kids if I did that!!).  But I could flag up every problem I saw that made me sad to live here so that someone else could deal with it.

Who might that someone else be? Well they came in the form of an app on my phone, that goes by the name of My Doncaster Council. (Yes the council).

Our local councils are there to help do tasks that no-one would normally do if it was left to us. They provide public goods and services. We pay them through our lovely council taxes to look after our local environments so that we don’t have to. But lately councils have had to cut back on a lot of things, and so they won’t be out patrolling and checking the local area as much. We can be their eyes and ears on the ground. The app I have means that I can report litter, fly tipping, graffiti and a whole host of other things right there and then. I can post photos and videos so that the council can see exactly what the issue is. I am doing their investigating for them.

will my community feel the love?

Why is this loving I hear you ask? Because I want my community to feel good when they step out the door. I want them to have pride in where they live, to be healthy and happy.  We joke that it’s a British pastime to moan.  Well I want to try to report everything that would be the cause of that  moaning (although I can’t change the weather so we’ll always have that to moan about!). I don’t want to just keep walking past the litter and the broken things and expect someone else to do something about it.  I am loving my neighbours by using this app to get them fixed and cleaned up.

Why don’t you see if your local council has an app too…..

free nativity treasure hunt

FREE Nativity Treasure Hunt

free nativity treasure hunt

Last year I was involved in running a nativity themed treasure hunt at our estate Christmas event.  I wanted to add some fun for the kids, but also bring in the real characters of Christmas. 

The idea was really simple.  Give each child an envelope and hide the nativity characters around the estate (I provided a simple map in case they got lost!).  At each stop they would find a bag of smaller versions of the character, which each child could take one of to put in their envelope.  At the end of the treasure hunt, glue and pens would be provided so that the characters would make a nice nativity picture for the children to take home.

As I was making it I thought perhaps it would be good to share with all my readers.  You could use this at Christmas events or parties, or it would also be perfect to use inside throughout your house on Christmas Eve.  Why not print it off and add it to your Christmas Eve box 

You can download the free printable nativity treasure hunt here – enjoy!  And if you like my treasure hunt then please do share it with you friends, family and church members. 

free nativity treasure hunt instructions

candy cane bombing

Candy Cane Bombing!

So I am feeling rather festive at the moment after weeks of preparing everything at work and now the decorations have gone up at home.  It got me thinking about how I am going to bless those around me this year.  I have done numerous things in the past – leaving secret hampers for neighbours, having an open house – but this year I wanted to do something fun!  So I have chosen to do some CANDY CANE BOMBING!!!

My friend mentioned this on social media last year, and it felt a bit too late to do it then, but this year I am on the ball!  Basically, you get some candy canes and all a little message (see below for my free printable sheets).  Tie it all together and then hook them on to the handles of cars so that when the driver comes back they get a little Christmassy treat.

To tie in with our Mummy Meditations theme of joy I have chosen to put the following verse on my cards to go with the candy canes:

“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger” Luke 2:10-12

To get your free printable pdf version of the candy cane bombing tags and have a go yourself just click here.
 
Why not share some photos of where you have been bombing on my facebook page or tag me one twitter (@ace_rach) – I would love to see!




Why I fasted Facebook but never Quit it


Yes I had a facebook low point last month.  I wrote a slightly rantly post and I fasted facebook for the weekend and I felt the benefits.  But just because I know I need to slow down in my use and schedule regular breaks from it all doesn’t mean I am going to quit it altogether.

Everytime I think about how awful social media can be, I am then reminded of the relationships I am able to have through it that would be impossible without!

The mum’s who connect to my blog through facebook and comment and share – love you guys!

The friends from uni who live far away but are able to encourage me via facebook

The family who I don’t get to see most years but I can share photos of my boys with

The neighbours I have gotten to know and meet through our new residents facebook group

The ladies who I share bible journalling inspiration with from across the world.


The list could go on and on, but I know that without facebook non of that would be possible, and my life would be less rich.  What do you love about facebook?