Ethical living · Social justice

Getting ready for Advent

Advent starts in about six weeks and I’m already looking forward to four Advent activities I’ve planned.

Wearing my fair trade Christmas tree hat – I didn’t need it but it’s beautiful and fun! Little Miss adores wearing it and looks so winsome. I don’t look quite so cute but it’s creating joy and laughter.IMG_20181023_083100

Reading God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I have recently read Eric Metaxes’ biography of Bonhoeffer which I wholeheartedly recommend. I’m now ready to read some of Bonhoeffer’s works and this Advent devotional of compiled writings seemed an appropriate place to start.

Reverse Advent calendar – Grandma has already bought the children some exciting Advent calendars. Thank you, Grandma! But I want to do something alongside Lego and Peppa Pig which turns our attention – and our time and money – to those who are in need of some help.

We are going to make a reverse Advent calendar. In previous years, the logistics have overwhelmed me but I have just added 24 items, such as a bag of sugar and tins of rice pudding and custard, to my online shopping order. Each day in Advent the children can choose an item to go in our Advent Box and then together we can take these gifts of food to a local charity which runs a foodbank  – dropping off weekly rather than just before Christmas.

Last year, a friend told me about the Jesse Tree – making ornaments for a Christmas tree which tell the story of Jesus. I’m fairly rubbish at craft and so have ordered a book to help! My hope is that this activity will not only help Little Miss and Small Boy learn about Christmas but will also remind me and Mr Pilgrim of the wonder of Jesus’ birth.

It can be easy to have good intentions but then not to actually do anything. I find planning – and then writing about my plan – means my idea is more likely to become reality!

Advent is still over a month away so there’s still time for you to plan a way of giving, discover something to read or do, or even buy Christmas-themed head-wear!

 

Christian

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.

Christian

Today I flew a kite

I flew a kite today for the first time in over 20 years. 

I noticed it was exceptionally windy this morning when I went outside to the recycling, so when Mr Pilgrim asked what we should do today, I replied: ‘let’s go and fly our kite!’

I’d spontaneously bought it for £2.99 from Oxfam in the summer, confident Small Boy and Little Miss would want one someday. 

The morning reminded me of afternoons on French beaches with Grand-père; the kite spending more time on the ground than in the air. 

But occasionally we got it: the colourful diamond dancing and swirling and circling with its long blue tail twisting and turning through the air.

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In these moments, I almost held my breath with joy and wonder. It was the same when I went sailing earlier this year. Again, it didn’t happen often but every now and then, I’d position the boat correctly with the wind in the sails and we would pick up speed. My muscles and mind remained tense as I concentrated on the boat but inside there was deep exhilaration and joy.

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My instructor was able to look at the lake and determine where the wind was and then position the boat ready for the gusts. I don’t know much about meteorology, sailing or kite-flying but I wonder if this is what journeying with God could be like. We wait, we watch and then together we move in a divine partnership. 

We sing a song at church called ‘Jesus, Be the Centre’ which contains the line ‘Be the wind in these sails’. (It’s a beautiful song, if you have a moment, you can listen here) 

So that’s my prayer for 2018: Jesus, be the centre. Be the wind in these sails. 

Waiting, watching, sailing, soaring.

Christian · mental health

Why ‘Just Reflections’ and who is Dido Pilgrim?

Following the birth of Little Miss in September 2016, I felt a new freedom to share more openly some of my thoughts through my Facebook statuses. Some of my Facebook friends suggested I create a blog so that these reflections may be shared more widely to help others connect with God. 

One of these earlier longer posts was about my desire to be authentic. I had been thinking about how much I value authenticity but often struggle to be authentic myself. A large part of my writing here is the marrying together of different elements of my life and a gentle acceptance of some of my weaknesses: I’m often anxious and afraid with low confidence and self-esteem, I have unhelpful perfectionist tendencies and I’m over-emotional at times. I can be selfish and angry.

It is liberating to be able to write this. For too long, I have been ashamed and have been hiding – too scared to reveal my weaknesses. I’ve realised how my fear of admitting my fears has been limiting me. By declaring out loud the difficulties I face, they somehow lose power. By using words to describe my failings, I am using my strength to diminish my weaknesses. wisdom-92901

Writing has been part of my professional life for over 10 years now but I have always written using a corporate style. It is exhilarating finding my own voice to express myself and to be creative in a way I didn’t think possible.

‘Just Reflections’ – these blog posts are just musings, thoughts and questions about issues which interest me, hopefully with an emphasis on social just(ice).

The word ‘reflections’ brings to mind these beautiful words from first-century Jesus-follower, the apostle Paul: For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror.

‘Dido Pilgrim’ – I am a Christ-follower, a wife, mum to Small Boy and Little Miss, a daughter, a friend and charity worker. Dido Pilgrim isn’t my real name! This is a pseudonymous blog. I’m comfortable writing openly as myself on Facebook among friends but would prefer a level of anonymity here. I believe this will give me more freedom to be honest and vulnerable.

(Dido is a character from Virgil’s Aeneid and Pilgrim refers to the idea of being on a spiritual journey to a holy destination.)