The season of Advent is about to begin. We’ll be putting up our Christmas tree at the weekend and will start spending time each day reading the Christmas story with Small Boy and Little Miss.
(We also have a Lego Advent calendar for Small Boy and Little Miss has an Advent mouse with a tutu!)
I’m going to start reading a recently-published novel ‘A Christmas Calling’ by Chris Cottee as well as two devotionals ‘A Perfect Love’ by Mummas: The Word and ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting‘ by Paula Gooder (a charity shop bargain in January).
I want to make space for God during the busyness but more than that: I want my everyday nappy-changing, tidying, cooking, shopping, queueing, Facebooking, walking to school, project-planning life to be Christ-centred.
I have now been blogging for a year. My first posts are all reflections on Advent and Christmas which you may wish to read or re-read over the next few weeks:
I am reading Planetwise by Dave Bookless. A book I am going to have to re-read and read again. It is theologically dense and mind-set shifting. Right now, these words (on p.106-7) are resonating with me:
“Yet we are created to belong to a people and a place. We were designed to be in relationship, not only with God, but also with a community of people and the natural world.”
“Wherever we are, even if it’s not a place we have chosen, God is equally challenging us to pray and work for the welfare of the cities, towns or villages where he has put us.”
He quotes Jeremiah 29:4-7:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
“There is a desperate need for people to be like mangroves: deeply committed to the places God has put them. Deeply rooted people hold together the fabric of a community. Deeply rooted people get to know the local ecosystem: the right things to grow and when to grow them, and they notice when the seasons are changing. Deeply rooted people don’t move on when things get difficult, but rather draw on those deep roots into God and the human and natural community that supports them.”
I want to be a mangrove.
Today is Black Friday. I really like this article from Positive News listing alternative activities to shopping. I’ve added some of my thoughts…
Revamp your wardrobe
My new hobby of buying items in charity shops is fun and addictive! I’ve not spent a great deal of money and have purchased some gorgeous items – some of which are not quite my usual style. I’m wondering how long I can go before I actually need to buy a new item of clothing!
I’d encourage you to get to know your local charity shops. Declutter your wardrobe and search for your own bargains!
Read a book in peace
Read. Read on your own. Read to a child. Visit your local library. Buy a second-hand book from your local charity shop or from Better World Books. Buy someone else a pre-loved book. Give away one of your own books. Buy a book for a child in care this Christmas through The Book Trust. Read.
Go for a walk where you live. Look up. Look around. Go down a street you’ve not been along before. What do you see? Who do you see? Where’s the life?
Support ethical businesses
Consume better (a list I’m compiling of how and where to do this). Make one change the next time you do your supermarket shop.
Clothes, books, toys, a bike, a trailer tent and a bread machine – all items Family Pilgrim have purchased second-hand this year.
(And we’ve borrowed toys, clothes, books, tools and cloth nappies)
Give items away to people in need. Be patient when you want something. Try and find it second-hand.
Buy gifts for refugees in need
If you can’t get to the pop-up shop mentioned in the Positive News article, then donate to your local charity helping people seeking sanctuary.
Give your time willingly with no strings attached.
Support independent designers and artists
Appreciate creativity. Be generous.
Give something away. Find out about Buy Nothing Day.
Support companies that are doing their bit.
Have a look at Traidcraft’s thoughts on Black Friday (including some scary stats on how much money is spent over this weekend and how many people around the world celebrate Black Friday).
Enjoy today and this weekend: be generous, be kind, be loving, be creative, be you.
Small Boy learns a new nursery rhyme each week at school and this week it’s I’m a Little Teapot.
I have just started using my teapots regularly as I have switched to loose leaf tea because tea bags contain plastic.
Boil the kettle.
Warm the pot.
One spoon for me.
And one for the pot.
Pour the milk into the mug.
Find the tea strainer.
Pour the tea.
It certainly takes longer but there’s something peaceful about the pause, the ritual and the space.
Let’s start with the good:
I picked up a whole carrier bag full of rubbish as we walked to church on Sunday.
The two bins in our local park have been padlocked because someone had previously threw the metal bin over the fence into a field where there are horses and donkeys.
I love my local community and it saddens me to see litter on the grass verges and vandalism which could harm animals.
Strangers on the internet have been mean to me.
I posted a comment on a Marks and Spencer’s Facebook post which was advertising their Paddington Bear merchandise. I wrote that the Paddington films have an amazing message which is at odds with their adverts in UK newspapers which incite hatred towards immigrants (see Stop Funding Hate).
I naively wasn’t expecting anyone to read my words let alone comment. None of the negative comments were particularly bad (knowing how some people are trolled on social media) but I’m quite sensitive and I was surprised by some people’s reactions. I’m not used to people behaving like that towards me and I was hurt and angry. Normally, a Facebook notification on my phone is a positive thing as someone has ‘liked’ a photo I’ve shared but on Wednesday I dreaded seeing the red notification symbol and felt sick inside.
Some of their words are still going round my head. Am I a ‘snowflake’? Do I ‘have a life’? Yet, I don’t regret what I wrote and I’m going to post a letter to Marks and Spencer this weekend outlining my concerns about their advertising.
Ultimately though it’s not about me and what a handful of people think about me. It’s about taking a stand on behalf of people who are currently experiencing injustice.
I watched The Story of Stuff recently. I was struck by Annie Leonard’s example of a $4.99 radio and how its production couldn’t possible be that cheap. She therefore wasn’t paying its true cost. So who was?
In the spring, I switched to getting our milk from a local milkman rather than from the supermarket. I liked the community aspect of this and now I know which farms our milk comes from.
This week, I trialled glass bottles. It is more expensive but in reality milk in plastic bottles costs more – but I am not the one paying the price.
Milk in a glass bottle tastes better and the bottle looks and feels amazing. I’m definitely sticking with environmentally-friendly, reusable glass.
This week’s top Consuming Better purchase is a fair trade wooden nativity set from Embrace the Middle East (a charity tackling poverty and injustice in the Middle East). I’ve been searching for a nativity set for several years in which the people look more Middle Eastern rather than Caucasian and I’m really pleased with this beautiful set.
Small Boy and I have already had fun playing with it and using the figures to tell the story of Jesus’ birth.
Maybe it’s time for a milkman revival!
zero-waste, ethical gift!
I’ve been reflecting on how to celebrate Christmas in an ethical way. Mr Pilgrim and I have come up with some principles on how we would like to ‘do Christmas’ this year.
For us, this means reading the Nativity story with Small Boy and Little Miss, celebrating Christmas at church services, and consciously taking the time throughout Advent and Christmas to reflect on the wonder of the creator of the world becoming a baby.
We want to make the most of the holiday period to spend time with those whom we love.
We’ve not done this before so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. I suspect Mr Pilgrim will need to rein in my spending!
This article is well worth a read before thinking about how to give to charity at Christmas. Sometimes our giving may make us feel good but is not actually that beneficial to those we are trying to help.
Family Pilgrim will be making a financial donation to New Hope, our local homelessness charity, as well as buying a few practical items for people who are currently sleeping rough in Watford. These items (e.g. socks) have been requested by New Hope and will be distributed by their staff and volunteers. I am keen for Small Boy and Little Miss to be involved in the choosing and purchasing of these items so that they are grow up aware of the importance of social justice, generosity and compassion.
I have some ideas for ethical gifts but since the intended recipients may be reading this, I can’t give details!
My new-found love of visiting charity shops has resulted in a number of clandestine purchases for Small Boy and Little Miss, including a collection of Mr Men books and an unopened Playmobil bike mechanic set.
Fun Fact from Zero Waste Week:
“Each charity shop saves approximately 34 tonnes of textiles from landfill annually and by reusing and recycling things that would otherwise go in the bin, these thrifty national treasures help to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 3.7million tons per year.”
I’ve already written about my creative alternatives to wrapping paper: old maps and unwanted fabric tied up with biodegradable garden string. Thank you Grandpère for recommending the string!
And as for me, I am hoping for a razor made out of recycled yoghurt pots, an energy monitor (to help me reduce my carbon footprint), Lush bar soap and reusable kitchen wrap. I’d also like a sea turtle and some Cred jewellery!
The hardest thing for me is limiting myself in what I buy for Small Boy and Little Miss. Thankfully, Mr Pilgrim is very good at keeping me on track here!
And what about you? If you celebrate Christmas, is there anything you’d like to be more intentional about this year?
I struggled to write those two words earlier this week. I felt weak, ashamed and scared to write publicly on my Facebook account that I have been sexually harassed/assaulted/abused.
The man on the train who wasn’t touching me by accident.
The manager at a work Christmas party who offered to ‘take’ my virginity from me.
Wolf-whistles while walking in my school uniform.
The story still not told.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
I wrote in my last blog how I didn’t have the time to write a post for World Homeless Day or World Mental Health Day but I have just read this by Jon Kuhrt – one of my social justice heroes – which covers both those topics.
“Grace has enabled him to accept truth”
My daughter and I have just got back from WLM’s Sleep Out held last night in the grounds of St James’ Church, Piccadilly.
It was an uplifting evening. 82 supporters gave up their bed for the night to sleep out and (so far) we have raised £35,000 for our work to bring rough sleepers in from the cold.
A platform for change
Michael was one of our formerly homeless clients who spoke to everyone last night at the start of the evening. He talked about how WLM gave homeless people ‘a platform to help people like him come off the streets’.
A platform to help. It’s a good phrase to describe our work.
Charities like WLM provide support, stability, consistency and resources for people in need. And these are vital ingredients that help homeless people make the steps they need to make.
But it’s wrong to think that any…
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