Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Holiday highs and lows

It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.

There’s been some holiday highs:

  • Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside. IMG_20180724_090346
  • Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
  • Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
  • Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
  • Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!

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  • Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
  • Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
  • Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
  • Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast. IMG_20180727_104131

Holiday lows:

  • Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
  • Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.

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  • Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
  • Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
  • People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.

As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.

community · Ethical living

Sweet to the soul

Today is St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday: a day to celebrate romantic love and the start of the season of Lent.

While walking recently between our local library and the Royal Mail parcel collection office, I spotted a gate with a sign offering local honey for sale. Mr Pilgrim likes to have honey on his morning porridge so I bravely knocked on the door, which was opened by a friendly older gentlemen, and bought a jar of honey. I’ve been discovering how important insects are and I’ve signed up to updates from Friends of the Earth’s The Bee Cause so I can learn how to help bees.

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Following this theme, I have also given my sweet man beekeeping equipment, hives and training for farmers in Ghana from Oxfam Unwrapped. Along with some Divine chocolate! Which I’m hoping he’ll share. [NOTE: These were purchased and this post written before the news broke about the Oxfam staff using sex workers in Haiti.]

An ancient proverb says: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. I am a fan of the Love Languages and Mr Pilgrim’s Love Language is Words of Affirmation. So here are some things words of appreciation for my newest blog follower: “Thank you for being so generous, patient and steadfast. You’re a wonderful husband to me and and an amazing Daddy to Small Boy and Little Miss. I particularly wanted to say today I think you’re great at building relationships with our neighbours. I love being Team Pilgrim with you and serving our community together.”


I have been thinking for a while about what to do for Lent and I have decided to do Love Your Streets ‘Do 1 Nice Thing’. Apparently it is simple, doesn’t require planning and is flexible!

 

 

Ethical living · mental health

The times are a-changing

I once heard someone say that the only people who like change are wet babies but I’m not sure this is true. Little Miss certainly doesn’t enjoy having her nappy changed. She wriggles, rolls over and speedily crawls away.

I have a similar approach to change. I like it but only when I am in control. When I’m not, then I too, twist and turn and try to make my escape!


I’m using reusable nappies more and more now. I tried the ones my friend gave me and grew in confidence. I then discovered my local council (Hertfordshire) run a scheme where they give parents FREE reusable nappies – I love our Totsbots ‘bumbrella’ nappy.

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I was shocked to discover that 4% of UK landfill is nappies and so I’m keen to reduce our use of disposables, and the ones we do have are Naty – an ‘eco nappy’. We’re also using Naty wipes and biodegradable nappy bags.

I much prefer Cheeky Wipes reusable wipes which are not only kinder to our beautiful world but they are more efficient!


September is a month of change for Family Pilgrim as new routines, relationships and responsibilities begin. For all four of us, there will be change to our days. My year of maternity leave ends and I am returning to my paid employment with a mixture of emotions: excitement, apprehension, guilt and sadness. Small Boy starts nursery at our local primary school and both Small Boy and Little Miss will be looked after by a childminder for some of the week.

I hope I am returning to work with increased skills, wisdom and maturity and I am confident that Small Boy and Little Miss will thrive in their childcare settings but I know there are going to be challenges along the way for all of us. For me, I need to manage my different responsibilities and time wisely.

I found this image on the Mind and Soul Facebook page this week with the heading ‘Getting ready to go back to school? What are your best MH (mental health) tips for the new term?‘ It’s good advice for us as a family as we navigate the newness of the month – rest, exercise, good food and fun activities will help us adjust well.

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From Mind and Soul Facebook Page

One of the things I have discovered in the past 12 months is the power of small changes. Last September started with one big change as Little Miss joined Family Pilgrim but as we have sought to live more justly, we have made many small changes, including:

The small changes I have made give me hope and confidence that I can continue to adapt and grow. Things don’t have to be the same!

So – because I like lists and actions – here are three mini challenges for the autumn:

  1. Hit the pause button regularly throughout the day – stop, listen, look, breathe and pray
  2. Create not consume when feeling sad or stressed
  3. Love: the apostle Paul wrote: ‘If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’ If I buy fair trade, avoid single-use plastics, lobby my MP, eat organic meat but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And what is love? Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

Christian

Really Useful Engines?

I wrote a few weeks ago about some of the books I’m currently reading: I didn’t mention that I also read about five Thomas the Tank Engine stories each day to Small Boy. He is in ‘The Thomas Phase’ – we play with trains every day, watch Thomas on TV as part of his screen-time ration, look up the names of engines, boats and cranes on the Thomas Wiki, and, as I’ve mentioned, read the stories (the original ones – which I prefer – and the more recent creations).

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Googling ‘The theology of Thomas the Tank Engine’ brings up a number of different and interesting pages so my thoughts aren’t new or original. My pile of books to read is now as high as my knees (with the superlative Just Living by Ruth Valerio at the top) so I’ve not read the biography of Rev. W. Awdry, the author of the Thomas books. It would be interesting to know more about his faith and theological views but I don’t have the time or the inclination to develop this particular ‘just reflection’ into something more substantive!

Is ‘The Fat Controller’, the stout gentleman who runs the railway, meant to be like God? I want to grab Small Boy, hold him close and tell him Father God is not obsessed with him being a ‘Really Useful Engine’ (the highest compliment an engine can receive). God – and I – love him because we love him not because of his ‘usefulness’ or achievements. Maybe Awdry was heavily influenced by the Protestant work ethic with an emphasis on hard work and discipline?

Yet, I am encouraged by the many stories where the engines go on a journey of self-acceptance. Stafford, an electric engine, wants to be noisy like a steamie but learns to appreciate his quietness when he is able to round up some frightened sheep. The focus is still on getting a job done though!

In a world with a emphasis on appraisals, achievements and awards, how do we remember that not only are we loved because we are loved but those around us are as well? Who in your life needs to know they are loved because they are loved because they loved? How could you express God’s amazing love to them?

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Christian

Have mercy on me

‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’

I first came across this ancient Eastern Orthodox prayer in The Perfectionism Book, and then again, shortly afterwards in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (another marvellous book for those seeking to grow in Christian maturity). 

I often say it (out loud but quietly or simply in my head) when pushing my sleeping daughter in her buggy. The words remind me of my need for a saviour and how I do not need to strive to earn God’s love.

Grace offends. I relate more to the older brother in Jesus’ short story of The Prodigal Son. The child who works diligently and responsibly is aggrieved by the scandalous acceptance of the returning younger brother who’d asked for his inheritance early and spent it on wine and sex. 

The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’ (Luke 15:30 The Message)

‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’

These words remind me of my need for grace. It often seems easier to accept God’s forgiveness for my wrongdoings and failings than to recognise there’s absolutely nothing I can do to earn his affection.

There’s nothing I can do that will ever stop him loving me. 

Yet, I struggle to believe his love for me is not dependent upon my performance and achievements: whether moral, academic, social or professional. 

The truth is there’s nothing I can do to make God love me. 

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‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner’

Forgiveness is liberating and when I experience – just briefly – the peace and acceptance which comes from knowing I no longer have to strive to impress God or meet impossible targets, I have a taste of a deeper freedom and joy: I am loved because I am loved. I am loved. 

And the truth is I am a sinner. I’ve messed up and I fail: I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I want to do. Sometimes I don’t even want to want to do the right thing! 

I had a longing this week to be ‘ashed’ on Ash Wednesday; a deep desire to publicly and physically acknowledge my need of mercy and my reality as a sinner. So I attended a service in a nearby high Anglican Church. 

I recently read Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas – the premise of which is that we all have different ways of connecting with God and growing spiritually. I did not score highly on what he calls ‘sensate’ – liturgy, architecture, classical music – a worship experience which affects all the senses. My preferred ways of encountering God are through study, showing love to others and fighting injustice.

Yet on Wednesday evening as I smelt the incense and heard the soaring soprano, my spirit sensed God’s glory and holiness. As the priest made the sign of the cross on my forehead with the words ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.‘, I was reminded of my mortality and weakness. I am frail. 

Being welcomed and embraced by God doesn’t depend on my strengths, skills, achievements or performance.

He loves me because he loves me because he loves me because he loves me. 

And he loves you too.