So many books, so little time…

It’s often not a good sign when I have too many books on the go. It can mean I’m not focused and my mind is rushing around. But sometimes it’s just because I can’t resist another book. I keep saying no more until I’ve finished the pile by the side of my bed!

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This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.

No More Friendly Fire (bought from Eden)

This short book was written by the leaders of my church, Wellspring Church, Watford and I had the privilege of hearing some of the chapters delivered as talks a couple of years ago. One of which even influenced Little Miss’s name!

I wish I’d read this book years ago! I grew up in a church where women weren’t allowed to preach or have formal leadership roles. My confidence was so low that I just accepted this view. And accepted it for many years. Internalised misogyny.

But then – and this was partly as a result of hearing Helen herself preach – I realised that there was a different view. I read and studied such books as Why Not Women?, Discovering Biblical Equality, Women in the Church and Jesus Feminist, and I have been encouraged in my own spiritual gifts and have grown and flourished.

No More Friendly Fire focuses on how men and women can – and should – work together and explores this through looking at biblical stories such as Deborah, Esther and Ruth. Helen and Tim don’t shy away from looking at some of the awkward and confusing passages in the Bible and also aren’t afraid to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a short book and definitely worth reading!

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Phoebe by Paula Gooder (also from Eden)

This has been on my wish list for a while. It’s like a novel but not. In fact, Paula Gooder says it’s not a novel and it’s helpful to bear that in mind when reading as it does feel too didactic in parts. It’s based on a real life Christian woman called Phoebe who was a deacon in the early church. Other Christians mentioned in the New Testament make appearances too: Junia and Adronicus, Prisca and Aquila, even Peter. It’s an interesting approach, very easy to read and a great way to bring the early church to life.

In Pursuit of Butterflies (library)

Trying to identify butterflies is tricky when looking after two young children! Both butterflies and children move quickly and demand attention. There’s an abundance of cabbage whites and meadow browns (or are they gatekeepers?) and I was thrilled to watch a peacock earlier this week and may have spotted a red admiral this afternoon.

In Pursuit of Butterflies is evoking a longing to go ‘butterflying’ to discover some of the rarer butterflies. I can’t travel around the country in pursuit of butterflies or spend hours standing in a wood but I can experience some of the pleasure vicariously through this book by an erudite butterfly-obsessive.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (borrowed)

The rise of the far right has got me thinking and I decided I needed to read some Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and author who was executed in 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Following a colleague’s advice, I’m going to start with Eric Metaxas’ biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Time to stop writing and get back to reading!

Am I growing?

At the start of the academic year, I reflected on change. Small Boy was about to start in the nursery class at our local primary school, I went back to work after a year’s leave, and both Small Boy and Little Miss were going to be looked after by a new childminder.

It’s now the end of the summer term and sitting here on a hot and humid July’s evening, last September seems such a long time ago. Both children have grown and developed so much in the last ten months – as one would expect them too. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, there have been huge steps forward. Literally, in the case of Little Miss who started walking in October!

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But have I grown?

What does it even mean for me to grow?

Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient and more kind? Am I more gentle, more faithful and more self-controlled?

There’s a story in the Bible of two sisters: Martha and Mary. Friends of Jesus, they open their home to him. Martha works hard preparing the house for their guests while Mary sits and listens to the intriguing itinerant rabbi. Martha becomes angry with her sister and appeals to Jesus, who then gently chastises his harried host: ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’

I have always identified with Martha and find Mary irritating. I would have been angry with her too! I am an activist, a list-maker, a doer. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I achieve a goal – even if it’s just a small task!

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But Mary has chosen what is better.

I cannot escape the thought that growth isn’t about my achievements or my knowledge.

Am I sitting at the feet of my rabbi? Or am I rushing around trying to serve him?

I know I have written about this before and I’m embarrassed and frustrated that I still seem to be in the same place.

I still long for something deeper but struggle with the demands of my days.

Maybe it’s also sometimes easy to keep moving than to stop.

I think I will wrestle with this for many years to come.

Cake!!!

Today Family Pilgrim made a cake! IMG-20180630-WA0003

This year we have a mini vegetable-bed in our garden (dug by Mr Pilgrim and Small Boy) and we’re growing courgettes. Grand-père started them off in his greenhouse but since the beginning of May they’ve been growing in our garden. We have our names on a waiting list for an allotment and we hope to have one by the end of the year.

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We’re all surprised by how well they’re doing and we have a lot of courgettes! We are also getting some in our Church Farm vegetable box and so I thought we should make a courgette cake.

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I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and we used fair trade sugar, chocolate and cocoa, alongside Dove’s Farm organic flour and free range eggs from Church Farm (where we’ve seen the chickens!).

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Making a cake with Small Boy and Little Miss is not straightforward but Mr Pilgrim did a great job of involving Small Boy with the baking while I prevented Little Miss from playing with sugar.

One of my colleagues recommended using an electric whisk rather than stirring with a spoon because of the high liquid content of the courgettes. We also drained some of the water out of the larger courgettes.

The finished cake was enjoyed by all four of us with plenty left over.

My sister has suggested we make a courgette and lime cheesecake next!

World Refugee Day

Today Wednesday 20th June is World Refugee Day and we’re in the middle of Refugee Week in the UK.

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Like many people of faith, I’m angry that the Bible has been used to justify the separation of children from their parents in the US. If you’re not aware, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said this: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, also said: “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.” Thankfully, a number of faith leaders in the States, have refuted this view.

The more I read the Bible, the more I see a call to love, welcome, give and protect the vulnerable and the stranger. I can’t let World Refugee Day and Refugee Week pass without doing something. So here are some ideas:

EDIT: Send an email to Homeland Security here through Amnesty International.

Transformed

I love finding out the word for ‘butterfly’ in different languages; I’ve discovered many of the words are beautiful and fun to say, such as papillon (French), mariposa (Spanish), farfelle (Italian – like the pasta), labalaba (Yoruba) and lolo (Malagasy). In other languages, the meaning of the word is evocative, such as the Danish word, sommerfugl (literally ‘summer bird’),  and the more down-to-earth Dutch word, boterschijte.

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One of my 18 Countryside Activities for 2018 was to learn to identify five new butterflies. So far this year, I’ve spotted and learnt:
And hopefully I will see a few more as the summer progresses.
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Small Boy loves Transformers (he has some of the toys as well as a DVD of the 1980s cartoons) and was delighted recently to have the opportunity to sleep in a ‘transforming’ sofa bed.

Last year, when chatting with my writer friend (and owner of the transforming sofa) about a section in her book, I was struck powerfully by her insight that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is irreversible. The butterfly does not – and cannot – go back to being a caterpillar. The butterfly is not like a Transformer, a sofa bed or our trailer tent. The transformation is permanent.

St Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, explains how: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’.

When I chose to become a pilgrim, a spiritual transformation happened. I looked no different on the outside but I was a ‘new creation’ and could not go back to being a caterpillar even if I tried! And I tried.

As I continue on my journey of faith, I am able to accept as true both the immediate spiritual transformation that occurred (I am a new creation, irrevocably changed) and the slow (at times, painfully slow) gentle refashioning which is making me more like Christ himself.

I love the analogy of pilgrimage and this is something I am going to be exploring over the next couple of months. But every time I see a butterfly I am joyfully reminded of the great transformation that has already taken place in my life.

My Wild Journey

Since reading Just Living last year, I have started a journey of discovering the beauty of the natural world – and the harm that we are causing it.

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The view from our nearest park

Last June, Small Boy, Little Miss and I took part in 30 Days Wild. I recently reread my blog post on it and was struck by how something that was on the periphery of my conscious thought has become a central part of who I am.

I’ve enjoyed reading Robert Macfarlane and John Lewis-Sempel and have been influenced by their erudite, evocative and literary writings on Britain’s countryside.

But I had learned to see another wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, , vigorous and chaotic. This wildness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.

The weed thrusting through a crack in the pavement, the tree root impudently cracking a carapace of tarmac: these were wild signs, as much as the storm wave and the snowflake.

There was as much to be learned in an acre of woodland on a city’s fringe as on the shattered summit of Ben Hope: this was what Roger [his mentor and friend] had taught me – and what Lily [his young daughter] did not yet need to be taught.

It was something most people forgot as they grew into adults.‘ Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places, p.316

This ‘wildness of natural life’ – ties in so well with the ethos of 30 Days Wild. Last year, we spent two weeks in the Lakes during June with nature on our doorstep. I had been unsure how we would find 30 wild activities this year when at home in our post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the outskirts of London. But that’s the point of 30 Days Wild. It’s there. We just need to look.

Today we marvelled at a snail speedily slithering over our watering can – look carefully and you can see its poo!

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We watched one of the residents of our bug hotel, an ant, carry a small dead fly that had been caught in a web. One wing with its intricate lace pattern remained captured in the spider’s trap. Woodlice scurried away when we lifted up last year’s decaying leaves.

Yesterday, we walked, picking up litter on the way, to our nearest nature reserve – an area of wilderness reserved for bees, butterflies and brambles – and played with sticky goose grass.

June, and so our 30 Days Wild, did however begin on another Family Pilgrim camping trip. The campsite was on the edge of a wood and each morning a resident cuckoo would call for hours. I’d never heard a cuckoo before and couldn’t believe my ears at first. We made Stick Man out of sticks, wandered in the woods and when it rained and we sheltered inside, I drew a duck!

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Spot the Stick Men

I part-climbed a silver birch tree, walked barefoot on the grass and created daisy chains for the children. We found over 20 cabbage white caterpillars and pretended a tree (species unknown!) was a house.

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You might not want to take part in 30 Days Wild this year but maybe you could take a little bit of time to discover wildlife and wild places on your doorstep.

Back on the Bike

Last month, I wrote about needing to find restorative activities and I thought a follow-up would be apt since this week is actually Mental Health Awareness Week 2018.

I’ve got back on my bike!

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Still not a photo of my bike!

It’s only a short journey from home to work and just twice a week but it does make a difference to my mental health.

I’ve also done well at swimming once a week – aided by my new swimming costume made from recycled plastic! I’ll leave you to guess which of the colourful (garish?!) designs I chose. woman-underwater-842135_1920

The whole Pilgrim family seems to be restored by being outside and we had a fantastic Bank Holiday Weekend camping trip in ‘Trailey’ – our new-to-us trailer tent. Grandma provided the bunting and I’m trying to convince Mr P we should buy solar-powered fairy lights.

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This is Trailey!

We’ve also had a surprise new addition to the family – a cat! The Furry One needed a new home and so has come to live with us. Pets are well known for helping to relieve stress and spending time stroking his soft fur is so soothing. He is adored by Little Miss and Small Boy and (somewhat surprisingly!) looked upon with a great deal of affection by Mr Pilgrim.

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We are entering another busy period as a family and I know I need to look after myself and my mental health during this time. This will mean accepting that not everything is going to get done perfectly and on time. It means sometimes saying no to people’s requests and risking their rejection. It means making different decisions.

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Shaving, scrubbing and plogging

I am becoming an expert in consuming better – it’s so much easier than consuming less!

[I’ve updated the Consuming Better page and managed to put it on the front page. Please leave a comment here if there’s an ethical product you’re interested in me trialling!]

I’ve learnt that some sustainable choices are far better than the standard option e.g. the Mooncup (it’s more convenient, saves money and is sustainable), while other choices are a little more inconvenient or expensive yet it’s worth it e.g. cloth nappies. But some ethical options have been a waste of money e.g. the razor made of yoghurt pots which kept falling apart!

I didn’t want to return to single-use plastic razors so I decided to brave a safety razor – a metal razor with replacement blades. I bought a lady’s long-handled one from Edwin Jagger (it’s beautifully made) and after some initial accidental wounds (!), I am getting the hang of it – just in time for the warmer weather!

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Not my legs!

I’ve also invested in EuroScrubbies – 100% cotton cleaning cloths (which last for years) to use instead of kitchen sponges. Mr Pilgrim asked me to research alternatives because of the microfibres shed by conventional washing up sponges.

I’ve also bought my very own litter picker which had its first outing recently when my church ran a Helping Hands morning in our local area. It’s amazing how much rubbish there is when you start to look for it – lots of cigarette butts, drinks bottles and sweet wrappers. Small Boy was very keen to use it as well! Not sure if I am fit enough to start plogging but I think I can start with plalking!

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What’s on my shelf (part 2)?

As I wrote in January, I am doing the Better World Books challenge this year as well as reading more books about nature.

Currently on my shelf (and when I say shelf, I mean lying on the floor next to my bed).

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God is Stranger by Krish Kandiah

This is a insightful book and I recommend it. Theologically dense, it’s not a book to read quickly or even to be read once. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with the uncertainties of faith, and this book gives us space to appreciate the mystery and ‘unknowingness’ of God. It also challenges the reader to offer hospitality for the stranger in our midst: the refugee, the child in care and those with nowhere to call home.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane

I love words and I am growing in love for the natural world around me. This book is all about words for nature, weather and the land. As Macfarlane writes in this Guardian article, Landmarks is a collection of words which are ‘tiny landscape poems, folded up inside verbs and nouns‘.

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The Stand by Stephen King

This is for the Better World Books Challenge – a book published the year I was born. It’s very long, my first Stephen King and a very different genre from what I usually read. I love his characters and style of writing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story develops. I did have a sneak peek at the last few pages to reassure myself!

A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi

Thank you to a friend for sending this to me for the Better World Books Challenge – a book about food. It looks like a light-hearted read – some relief from the above books!

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

A book set in Africa for the Better World Books Challenge. I’ve read a lot of well-known African fiction but this book was published in 2012 so after (a good while after!) my formal studies. It was an Observer top 10 African book 2012 and I’m looking forward to reading. If you’ve not read any novels by African authors, you should!

Books I’ve discovered this week and have added to my wish list:

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In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates

Circe by Madeline Miller

Phoebe by Paula Gooder

Happy reading! Dido x

 

Restoration

Over this last week, a number of people have expressed their concern for me. It seems that my inner angst is not as hidden as I hoped! I’m tired and tense with a spinning, aching head. future-2304561_1280

I was encouraged to think about activities which are restorative. I realised that writing this blog – focusing my mind and losing myself in a single task – is something which renews and refreshes me, and helps me to develop the resilience I need for day-to-day living.

Walking round a lake, riding my bike or going for a swim are other re-creative activities.

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I used to live near this reservoir and would frequently walk or run round it.
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My current bike doesn’t look like this but maybe my next one will!

I am planning to start cycling to work again this week. The cold weather and a temporary office move meant I’ve not cycled to work for a while and I miss it.

I wrote last Mayabout my mental health for Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus is on stress which seems apposite.

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I need to ensure I make time for restorative activities and to avoid the things that perpetuate the metaphorical and physical head-spinning.

Thank you for reading.

Dido x