Four months have passed since we moved to Caergwrle, a picturesque village in north east Wales that sits nestled under the protection and beauty of Hope mountain.
Not a day has dawned when my heart hasn’t overflowed with joy and gratitude at this gift.
Traveling through the pages of my life, I count roughly 26 house moves in my 44 years. That does not include foster care placements in Cyprus, long summers visiting maternal grandparents in Spain, the time leading up to my third birthday when my mum and I accompanied my father on his merchant navy vessel, or the in-between houses that hosted me and my family over the years.
I spend a lot of valuable time (when I should probably be more productive) reflecting.
Evaluating, re-evaluating. Small, seemingly unimportant moments, events, words, can speak volumes to my heart, visiting places of past pain and healing, mistakes, failures, lessons and restoration.
I want to grasp it all, not lose a second, not miss a memory, not forget, not to be passe, ungrateful, apathetic. I want to live it all, appreciate, soak…
The photographs I chose for this post speak of this inner need to connect with the simple pleasures and unrepeatable joys. The quality of the photos is certainly not professional and the camera on my phone is old and decrepit but still, they capture what my heart wants to shout out. Joy, joy, joy. Hope, hope, hope.
There was a time in my childhood when I lived on my paternal grandparents’ farm in a small village outside Nicosia in Cyprus.
It was a difficult time, my grandparents were grieving the loss of their only child (my father), coming to terms with the shock of my mother’s suicide, trying to manage the bureaucracy that comes with death, finances, debts that would one day take our farm & home away from us. They battled chronic and severe illness, isolation, lack of basic facilities like running water or electricity. In the chaos of those years, they tried to provide for me. Their love was unfaltering, unconditional but in a practical way I was neglected.
Still, while trying to make sense of my own pain, while adapting to my new identity as the village orphan (pentarfano), I took refuge and experienced joy in the simple momentary things, which most of us miss in the fury of our busy days.
My pet dogs, the metal swing that allowed me to throw my head back letting my hair brush the dirt on the ground, the golden wheat swaying in the welcome breeze and where I lay hidden for endless hours, the hot sun on my face. The fig tree I hang from staring into the water reservoir that watered the farm’s orange, olive, almond and fig trees. The imaginary monsters underneath the filthy water.
Sitting by the fire listening to my grandmother recite stories of surviving Turkish persecution from her home in Constantinople (now Istanbul).
The fragrance of wild thyme in the fields, evening jasmine and Cypriot roses. Unforgettable. Unmistakable. Precious. Joy. Hope.
Though my life has been filled with its share of challenges, it has also been filled with victories, successes, overcoming.
Hope. It taught me lessons one cannot learn in school not even with the best teachers. Life has been my teacher. Life is everyone’s teacher. Each and every one of us have a story filled with challenges and victories, failures and successes, mistakes and achievements, hurt and forgiveness, pain and healing.
We all have a story. Mine is no sadder than another. It just is what it is. What matters is what I can draw from it. What I drink from this well of fresh water. What I glean from the threshing. What remains inside me that makes me a person who can appreciate more, complain less. A person who can make a difference to others. A mum who recognises that while trying to be the perfect super mum, what truly matters is that I give my children unconditional love, safety, security, presence, memories, joy, hope.
We have no control of our circumstances and we all get our fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly. Some people get more than their fair share. It can be utterly heartbreaking.
And yet, I often read of so many amazing transformational changes that come from adversity.
The mother whose son was stabbed to death now runs a charity visiting prisons and speaking to inmates about forgiveness and restoration. Not only is she preventing further crime, but those men and women are leaving prison transformed and determine to live with purpose.
Charities that provide medical help, surgery, equipment and palliative care, birthed after a child lost its life to terminal illness.
Organ donations that give life after the tragedy of an unexpected death.
Refugees who have found stability in their new home now helping other refugees, ex homeless, ex addicts, ex violent fathers bringing about transformation due to a change in their heats and a need to give back and bring hope.
Hope. Our tests become the testimonies which give hope to the hopeless and propel the hurting and broken to keep walking one step at a time towards their victories and testimonies.
Hope is what keeps us fighting, battling, swimming. When everything else is gone, we cling on to hope.
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”Robert Fulghum
Forty four years on, I live in a village I didn’t know existed even though I lived 30 minutes away for the last 18 years. It is a fitting place to be in at this season of my life. It is a place that speaks loudly to my heart and soul. It represents all that has taken place over the last 44 years and the direction in which I have traveled, that of HOPE.
Nature and animals were the undoubted keys that kept me clinging on to hope throughout my childhood and held me in survival mode. All through my adult years with every house move I asked God for a tree or water. It gave me hope.
“Please, just a tree to look at, some water, and I can keep pushing, I can keep swimming.”
And He did. With each move there seemed to always be a tree outside my window.
Even when we lived in dire lodgings that belonged to an employer of a take-away shop we worked for. Even then, I looked out of the window of the hopeless miserable flat and spotted a tree. I beheld that tree every day while traversing yet another miscarriage, another loss, another day stuck in a place I hated, with no way out. The tree gave me hope. It happened at every house move. I had found something to help me, to lift my spirits, to being me joy, to keep me hoping.
Imagine the excitement, joy and gratitude I felt with this move when not only did I get a tree, but I got a whole mountain! And not just any mountain, Hope Mountain. wow. Really? Yes really.
But it didn’t stop there. the gifts came abundant. Not only a mountain of trees but a river too. Water AND trees. Double portion. Whoa. Grateful.
It isn’t wasted on me. I don’t take it for granted. I remind my children of the countless children growing up caged in high rise blocks, in flats with no greenery of fresh air, in city pollution. I tell them to practice gratitude for this gift for however long it lasts although I hope it lasts forever.
I am not complacent and as I walk through the village each day I can’t take the beaming smile off my face. All my senses come alive and my heart feels like bursting. I think I can cope with anything living in Hope.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed for ever. It doesn’t need to be. The gift of hope is right now, right here is what I need in order to keep moving forwards, living, hoping, giving.
It is a time of respite, reflection, orientation as my family and I walk into the new. New things are awaiting us all. Exciting, nerve racking, change is scary but not when you have hope.
With hope you can face anything, even your wildest fears because you know that on the top of that mountain awaits you the most spectacular view. The most wonderful picture. The most precious gift. Freedom from the fear that kept you climbing it. And everlasting hope.
“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”Martin Luther King
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”Helen Keller
“Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all”Emily Dickinson
” They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: Someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”Tom Bodett
“When the world says “give up” hope whispers, “try it one more time”