"We will have eternity to celebrate the victories but only a few hours before sunset to win them."
Hello dear ones,
How are you faring out there today? I have just turned 53 and am continuing to 'find myself' for want of a better expression. This isn't the kind of search which involves barefoot treks to mountainous places in search of a guru to guide me with a mystic chant but the prayerful sort, a commitment to a posture of curiosity about myself in God's narrative.
I wrote a friend last week who is facing the difficult task of therapy after years of self-neglect and abuse, outward and within. I wrote:
". . . you're having to overcome a lot, I know what a long and difficult process it is to find yourself under the rubble . . ."
More often than not, through the influence of our environment, family, culture, society, job, religion, we're shaped and conditioned from birth into someone we might not choose for ourselves.
You is buried under you.
Anyone who has tracked with me for a while knows about my start in a spiritually abusive so-called church. I never set out to talk about these things but it seems to crop up often and is as much a part of me as my left foot.
When I first left that place I didn't know my own mind; what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, which decision to make? You lose your ability to trust yourself and more importantly, God. There's so much piled upon us throughout our lives, labels, opinions, other people's expectations, it's like rubble heaped upon our soul. At some point we take stock of things, milestone occasions such as a birthday, new year or health crisis, we begin to hear a faint little cry from somewhere deep down.
Can I tell you why I'm committed to this process? Can I share a shocking story I'm ashamed of but which perfectly highlights the why that drives me?
My friend's daughter was an alcoholic, she'd sadly struggled with substance abuse for years and for whatever reason could not break free. She'd even received a life-giving second-chance liver transplant at a younger age but she still couldn't help going back to the drink. The ongoing assault on her body created other health complications and sadly Elaine underwent a few procedures to remove toes which had poor blood supply. One Sunday, after church, her mum approached me with desperation in her voice and eyes, "Will you go visit my Elaine, she's in hospital again, she's so down and lonely, can you go cheer her up?"
I was a couple of years into this church journey by then, heavily in leadership and buried under so many expectations. Additionally I'd been scolded numerous times for 'stepping outside of my area of authority', so when she asked me this question, a mixture of resentment, fear and abdication came upon me. What I said next shocked us both. "I'm sorry, that's not my department, go talk to Ros."
As soon as the words left my lips my heart plummeted to the floor along with her countenance. You might as well have held up a 6ft mirror in front of Quasimodo! I was sickened at myself. What and who had I become?! This wasn't me, this wasn't Jesus. What had I allowed these leaders, this environment to shape me into, a monster?
I did go and see Elaine. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and so good for my soul to love and care about her in that terrible place. I came away humbled, broken hearted, and all the better for it. Before being in that cultish place I had a free and abounding love for the Lord and people. I'd think nothing of it to drive daily to my friend's house just so I could take her to work as she couldn't afford to run her car, then go back at 5pm and take her home. I did that for 6 months. There was a deep joy running through my life as I served others and felt close to Jesus. I wasn't in a box, I was free to be me.
Reconnecting with your true self is reconnecting with God. It's about being able to fully love and live as you feel to and not as someone else dictates. Don't let yourself become another person's version of you. A lesser you. A less giving, less loving, less alive and beautiful you, because that's who others need to see. That's who you need to be.
I hope that helps someone today.
"For what it's worth, it's never too late, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be . . . . I hope you live a life, you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Did you know I link every book, film, recipe etc in the Beagle? Where you see words highlighted, simply click the link.
Hubby gave these tulips to me on my birthday, there were three big vibrant bunches and some wonderful greenery to fill. I've had this square of fabric stored away for a couple of years and had been waiting for the right setting to use it. The green candlesticks are my daughters and for my birthday morning table she'd put some pink candles in, they looked perfect all together.
I used a different editing process this time by combining three layers of the same image but with different lighting. This produces a HDR, High Dynamic Range picture. HDR takes in more detail of light and colour. It was an unexpected result to see the three layers of candle flame with its halo effect as they were in different places for each individual shot.
I was walking through my local church yard last weekend and came across a beautiful aged and weather worn headstone. The textures and layers of colour are filled with character. I took a picture on my phone and imported it into Photoshop to save as a background layer for future use. I played around with it on this edit, it's quite fun. I like the idea of combining the radiance of flowers bursting with life against the backdrop of a headstone, the memorial to a life itself.
Here it is in the background. I rotated it to a landscape view and faded some of the lettering but if you look carefully some still remain.
"Whenever you are creating beauty around you,
you are restoring your own soul"
No Beagle playlist this month but I'm loving this playlist recommended by Sally Clarkson on her podcast last week. It's perfect to relax, read or rest to - R&R&R! Beautiful Instrumental Music compiled by Jon Winterstein. I particularly enjoy this moving piece called Along The River.
My daughter Zoe has a fabulous upbeat playlist called Drinking Happy Juice which I love to play in the gym if you need something a bit more energetic.
When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre.
This was a birthday present and I'm loving it! A great one for a slow contemplative poetical read with a little commentary and unpacking. And, a great one for the collection!
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
I'm half way through this re-attempt to finish this book. A favourite quote from today's read on the train:
"There is nothing more essential to the enjoyment of a civilised lunch than to have a lively topic of conversation"
Brian Kershisnik is an American painter living in Utah with his family. I first came across Brian's work quite by accident on Pinterest. The second image Young Astronomer, depicts the mother showing her baby the night sky and delighted my heart deeply. This is how I viewed my role with my little ones, holding them safely and close, inviting them into wonder. I've enjoyed looking his other work up, they are simple, idealistic, joyful. I love this scene of Mary and Jospeh with a host of unseen angelic guests around them. I think the dog knows?
Bank of Dave, a true(ish) story.
Heart warming, uplifting, feel-good.
Never disappoints, and I usually cry somewhere each episode!
Morten Hilmer on YouTube. Amazing Bird Photography on the heels of BBC and nat Geo - 2 weeks in Norway.
I've shared Morten's videos before. His photography is breath taking and the narration minimal which makes a refreshing change. This is a slightly different feel to the usual as he teams up with another person but it's still beautifully captivating and his images mesmerising. There's a bit of a gory mystery which doesn't get solved so maybe warn younger viewers.
[Occasionally my recommendations may not be for everyone. My choice of films, books etc are based on my particular tastes and tolerances. Just a note for my G-rated friends]
From Meditations by Hildegard of Bingen
I am the one whose praise
echoes on high.
I adorn all the earth.
I am the breeze
that nurtures all things
green. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.
I am led by the spirit to feed
the purest streams.
I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life.
I call forth tears, the aromas of holy work.
I am the yearning for good.
Which is your favourite?
I don't have a recipe this month but I do have some cookbook recommendations, ones which I live out of and swear by and a new-to-me.
Polpo - Honest to goodness delicious Italian dishes. This was a gift years ago and has many stuck together pages now. The Pizzette are a regular hit in our home, just last Friday night we all sat in the kitchen while we baked rounds of the small delights.
Plant you - new to me but I follow this lady on IG and simply drool at every post. I've already made a few soups from here and they haven't let me down.
Lidia's Italy in America - Like Polpo, a regular go-to for no fuss, quality ingredient Italian food.
I first started on the Blood Sugar recipes when I was having an auto immune issue which affected my joints. I had to drastically cut sugar from my diet in order to address painful inflammation. I loved them, very med based. I've since gone on to collect another two and dip in and out of all three for my weekly meal planning.
And so here we are at then end, I wish you all a continuation of gentleness as you enter February and where focus is needed, a clear mind's eye. I pray for a united heart as you give yourself to good and winsome endeavours. I send you words of courage and bravery to say no when you need to and yes when you should, and may all your life's choices this month lead you ever more back to peace, back to home, back to yourself and back to God.
With much love,
Snaps from home
1-3 St Paul's with Zoe for a January 1st service.
4-6 I've just signed up with The Floral Project™ and will be growing, shooting and giving away, my own cut flowers this year. More on that in March edition. Zoe had a birthday on the 8th. We went to see To Kill A Mockingbird with Matthew Modine, incredible.
7-9 Zoe makes a fab table. Baby snuggles. Feet up after a shoot.
10- 12 Walks with mum. St Pancras at night. Baker Street.
13 - 15 My fave afternoon treat right now, Pocket Coffee. I can only get these once a year at my local Gelato store who imports them. I enjoy one every afternoon with my decaf coffee 😜 The Liberty store in the city, one of my favourite beautiful buildings. The new 50 pence with the King's image.
16-19 My dear friend's life giving home as she makes dinner for us.