Advent my way – or a better way?

adventAdvent for Christians is the season leading up to Christmas, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This year Advent began on 29th November, the earliest date possible. It’s a time when many traditional churches light candles, and Christians wait expectantly for Christmas Day when we remember the birth of Jesus, and look forwards to his promised return.

So what are we doing this Advent? Is it a special time? or are we absorbed in planning and logistics? Who to invite, who to ignore, and why? How much to spend, and who to buy presents for? What parties to host, and which parties to attend? What to eat and drink, and have we got enough? And above all, how do we get what we want, eat and drink what we want, and get to do what we want?

As a result, what should have been a blessed time for peace and reflection, we have made into a stressed time of soaking ourselves in materialism and over-indulgence. What began in a poor humble shelter has been commercialised and become all about money and corporate or personal gain. And what was a simple birth has become an excuse for gluttony and excess.

So what can we do about this, if indeed we want to do anything at all? How do we bring Advent and Christmas back to basics within all the busyness and responsibilities of modern life?

Well, I suppose I could try to take some time out of my frenetic preparations. Impossible you might say! But time-out doesn’t have to be hours and hours, just a couple of minutes of space and mindful thought can bring focus and rejuvenation. Perhaps I can think outside the box, and every time I go up the stairs, I can ask for His help in what I am doing. When I have that peaceful moment alone in the loo, I can ask God for patience in the turbulence of life. When I’m standing by the kettle, making yet another cup of tea or coffee, I can praise Him for the gift of friends and family. I can begin the habit of looking at things positively and endeavour to bring Jesus right into my busy life by my attitudes and the way I treat others. I can seek out the good, and stop thinking and behaving as if I am the most important person in the universe.

 

Farewell Brinny, faithful friend and companion

I’ve put off writing this for too long, but now the time is right…..

Brinny, my faithful, loyal dog for nearly fifteen years, was a Staffie/Jack Russell cross-breed, strong and stocky, and pulled like a train! She was mainly white, with large brindled patches of black and brown, a deep ‘staffie’ chest, and back legs that I’m sure contained springs! Like a ‘bull in a china shop’, she knocked me over several times. Whilst she was with me during the good times, she also saw me through many trials and tribulations. With a wagging tail and a cold wet nose, she was always eager to see me, even when she was old and arthritic and her strength was failing.

She was always my dog. The moment I stood up she was there, eager to get to where I was going before I did!  She lay in the doorway to the office when I worked; by the side of my chair when I relaxed, and in her bed under the stairs at night, so that I couldn’t leave without her knowing! And she spoke with eyes that followed me wherever I went.

She came to us as an eager young rescue dog of one or maybe two years old. We never knew her background, except that her obvious dislike for travelling in the car led us to believe she had been taken somewhere by car and then abandoned. Initially she was always car-sick, but over the years, travelling became a little easier. But she still could never relax in the car, shivering and panting continuously; however, we knew she would always rather come with us than be left behind. Even when we travelled to the park, or out into the country, she didn’t like leaving the car, but just wanted to get back in and go home again. We got round that by mostly walking her locally.

The years went by, the children grew up, moved out and started their own lives. Brinny was my constant companion. Through sudden bereavement she was a warm body to stroke, and would always listen attentively – and never once disagreed with me! Brinny got older, white face turned to grey, her joints became painful with arthritis, and her hearing deteriorated. Sadly, her anxiety when I left her increased, even when she stayed with family members. This is a video my daughter Jo took when I went away for the weekend:

Finally, when Brinny was about sixteen, (one is never exactly sure with a rescue dog), it became clear that I couldn’t put off the inevitable for much longer. So in November last year I took her to the vet, and he agreed with me. I put it off for one more week, and then returned, and Brinny’s life gently slipped away in my arms. I now have another rescue dog, a very different dog, (more about him in another post), but Brinny will always have a special place in my memory and in my heart.

Brinny April 2015

Cats in Boxes

My sister’s cat Pepsi has a lovely bed; comfortable, padded, just the right size and shape, and designed specially for a cat. However, Pepsi is more often found cat-napping in an old cardboard box! Just a discarded old Amazon box, with a screwed up bit of paper in the bottom, but she obviously likes it, and feels safe in it. Seeing Pepsi curled up so snug in her box, reminded me of the book and poem by Eve Sutton, that tells about cats from various countries and how they like to do different things; then she says ‘but MY cat likes to hide in boxes.’ I think Pepsi would agree.

If you have small children around, the book is certainly worth a look, and is of course called ‘My cat likes to hide in boxes’.

Pepsi in a box

 

annaJo – Breathe with me

annaJo

What can I say? This is my daughter; a fantastic young woman, a talented singer and songwriter, and an inspiration to all who know her. Jo suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, an inherited illness that attacks the lungs and digestive system, and I know just how difficult life can be for her. But Jo is never one to let CF get the better of her, and with a group of friends, Jo’s latest project has been to produce and release a charity song to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The song was released last month and is called ‘Breathe with me’. The song is available to download from iTunes, AmazonMP3 and Google Play, and all proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

 

If you are able, please do consider giving to the fund using the DONATE tab on the Breath with me website:  www.breathewithme.info

Or through the Cystic fibrosis trust website: www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

Thank you, Gill

A Widow, or not a Widow

I don’t usually write on political or controversial subjects, but I am so in-sensed by the imminent proposals of the UK government, that I felt I had to write something; but I choose my words with care!

Next Wednesday, 5th March 2014, the Members of the UK Parliament will get to vote on plans to completely remove traditional marriage from English Law. This is following the changes regarding same-sex marriage, that were approved last year despite strong opposition, and come into effect next month. These laws have stood for many hundreds of years, but the plan now is to remove the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ from legislation because they don’t line up with the UK governments new definition of ‘marriage’. This I consider to be a complete waste of time and money, in what I thought was an economically difficult time, when the country is strapped for cash, and we’re all being told to ‘tighten our belts’!
That’s all bad enough, but what infuriates me further, is the fact that they also want to replace the word ‘widow’ with the phrase ‘woman whose deceased spouse was a man’! I was suddenly widowed just over seven years ago, when my husband (a man!) became ill and died within a month, at the age of 51. As you can imagine it was a very traumatic and difficult time for myself and my family. Even now I find it incredibly hard to refer to myself as a widow when asked – it still happens quite frequently – but it is a simple term that everyone understands. How much more difficult it will be to state that ‘I am a woman whose deceased spouse was a man’, each time I am asked! I was barely 50 years old when my husband died, and therefore have the prospect of being ‘a woman whose deceased spouse was a man’ for quite a few years.
On reflection, I think that I would rather be called, and call myself a widow, despite what the government may or may not decide.

Having got my thoughts into order, I think I’ll email my Member of Parliament now, and tell him what I feel.

Names

Names are very important, but we rarely have any choice in the matter. My parents chose my name, they signed a form, and that was it. My name means ‘youthful’, but does its meaning have any impact on me, or define who I am?
Then we choose names for our own children. We pore over baby books searching for names we like, have suitable meanings, or sound right when linked with our family name. Or do we make something up, like J M Barrie with ‘Wendy’ in Peter Pan. Our children have no choice, we sign the form, and that’s it.
Some may change their
 names, but how do they choose? We all have pre-conceived ideas about names – the spotty kid we grew up with, the class clown, the girl who was always top of the class, or names of pop stars and celebrities. And would changing our name actually make any difference to the essential part of us, because surely we’d still be the same person inside?
Some names seem to go on for ever, weaving through history; some appear for a moment, and disappear again just as quickly; others come and go, their popularity waxing and waning like the phases of the moon. And don’t start me on spellings – how can children learn to spell if their own names don’t follow the phonic rules of their mother tongue?
However,whether we like them or not, our names do give us a place in society, a place in history, and a place within our circle of friends and family. My friends and family know me by my name, and I know them by theirs, and that’s a very good place to be.

All Good Things Come To An End

I’m finally, and reluctantly coming to the end of my holiday in Australia. I have one more day, and will probably spend most of that packing and stressing about whether my luggage is over weight or not! If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a fantastic time; visited lots of fabulous places; seen many incredible sights and scenery, had some very different experiences, been called a ‘pom’ a few times, and generally had a wonderful time.
I leave Australia with very mixed feelings. I’ve been here nearly two months, and am now looking forward to getting home – despite the cold and wet of an English winter, (but hoping I’ve missed the worst of it). I am eager to see my daughter and son, and of course my dog Brinny. I’m also looking forward to catching up with other family and friends. I am however very sad to leave my sister Sue, brother-in-law Chris, and the family, and also the brightness and warmth of the Australian summer!

So farewell Australia, till I visit again – which I’m sure I will!

Flag of Australia

Flag of Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)