Take off your shoes…

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What is holy?

Anything where I have to take off my shoes, metaphorically. I don’t walk barefoot on this earth, even though perhaps I should, at least when I am walking inside my heart, or inside yours. Your stories are holy, filled with grace that falls through the cracks. The silence that rests in my chest between heartbeats and the breaths is holy. The way I look at him, even when he cannot see, is holy. A smile that resides on our lips after a flower has opened up or after a bird flew by, after a child started to cry, all of them are holy. A tear, oh tears they are holy like sacred salt consecrated with longing and love. They wash away any stain, they clear away the pain…they are treasures from the soul, and the soul is holiest of them all.

You know why?

There is a part of us that is so deep, so pure, intact in fact from any stain of life. No matter which wrong decision or hurt rains inside, there is the deepest centre in us that is always holy – it is rooted in God. A diamond planted deep in our soul, in our heart. The longing we feel? It is from that diamond. It reminds us who we are. So when you tell me your story, I will take off my shoes, listen and observe…between all the words, there is a spark, unique for you, unique for me, that diamond inside: who we really are, is holy. I think each of these diamonds are taken out of God’s heart and that’s why the true meaning of our existence is love.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

When Jesus was a refugee

Yesterday was a feast of the Flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to a foreign land in order to save their lives. I never knew we had this feast or how it’s marked, but what I do know is that it reminds us that Jesus, the one who came that we might have life, had to escape from his native land and became a refugee. Imagine the terror, Herod asking for all the little boys to be killed in Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph, being warned in a dream, running away to escape. I know they trusted God, but they must have been terrified. Now, imagine further what would happen if when they approached the new land, alas the borders were closed? ‘Sorry, no escape, go back into death’.

Instead, thankfully, they managed to run away and they lived in a foreign land, to us a hidden life, and probably ordinary in many ways. But Jesus knows what it means to be a refugee, a foreigner, and even though he was but a child when they escaped, I believe he knows even the fear, uncertainty. Not only because he is God, but because children soak up everything and remember more than we would ever think. Jesus understands how it is to be a refugee. And what about us? It’s something to think about…would we let Jesus into Egypt, or would we tell Mary and Joseph they are not welcome, they should go home. ‘There is no room in the inn, not only in Bethlehem, but also closer to home’.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th February 2017)

Waterfall

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If all the memories
cracked open in me
a waterfall would come
out
from within my heart
not a waterfall of tears and
sadness, nor a
waterfall of joy either
but one that is filled with every
emotion, thought, sigh
every laughter I ever felt
whether asleep or awake,
waterfall vibrant and alive
full of strength as it’s
gushing out
and all those memories
stored in my very cells
would explode in the symphony
as if singing with choirs of birds
millions drops of water
bursting from within
each representing a memory
sometimes glistening
in the light of the sun
looking like diamonds
or pearls,
sometimes raging
into a storm
as they fall
they would paint a different
kind of me
from year to year
and yet the same one
all along

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 17th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Wild

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This life is wild, unpredictable like the wind at times….even when you have a dream, and the stubborn inner certainty to follow it, still you can never know all the roads where you will be led on. Sometimes we don’t even know if those roads are right, or wrong, until perhaps later on. Even beauty is wild, goodness too, in this world that sometimes doesn’t value either of the two. I want to take all the goodness that I can and throw it in the face of the ugliness out there, all the terrors and wars and ways in which we walk over the treasures in someone else’s heart, oh if I could be that wild to stand up and say, ‘no, not here, you cannot walk over these people’s dreams. Here is a mirror, go and have a look, there is a treasure hiding in your heart, yes you forgot that you are good! Stop that war, stop that fight, rather take this mirror, and show others who they are’.

Horses, I always think of horses when I think of being wild. Wild horses, running free, untamed, knowing that freedom is their destiny. I suppose there is grace in their ‘wild’, there is pose, and elegance. They are who they are meant to be, and while I call them beautiful, in their wildness there is peace. Oh if people could learn from it!

© Iva Beranek (February 2017) #wildheartwriters

Solitude

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I like to roam in nature or around the city, with a camera around my neck, looking for scenery to open itself up before me and present me with a new version of beauty. Solitude, most people say, are those times when we are alone, but I think it is more than that. It is a quality of presence as we go about our day, a connection with everything, and with God, but also with oneself. It is those times when we don’t need to pretend. Sometimes solitude is alluring and pleasant, other times it burns like a transforming fire. It teaches of the essence of who we are, created and loved, but also imperfect. If we really want to get to know someone we need to spend time with them. Same is true for getting to know ourselves. We need to spend time with what is in us, with our thoughts, inner movements, experiences, everything that we are, even our contradictions. It may seem attractive to run from one thing to the next, avoiding to meet, befriend ourselves. But in those moments, rare or not rare, perhaps depends on the day, when we decide to stop, take a deep breath, we let ourselves be, in those moments peace slowly starts to enter in. I have to say, solitude is not always easy, it shows me the cracks in my very own being. But it also shows me not to be afraid of them. It shows me the road to open up to God even those exiled areas of my heart.

Solitude is, however, not only about self-exploration. For me, being alone is an invitation to create. I hardly ever write when there are lots of people around. One or two, I don’t mind. Or if I got to a coffee shop and bring the computer along, I don’t mind lots of people passing by, but I still have this quality of presence that helps me to focus on the ‘paper’ in front of me. Whether the means is the camera, writing, prayer, reflection, solitude provides this unique focus on what truly matters, and has the ability not to be overly distracted with the rest.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 8th February 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek
Photo challenge, Daily Post: Solitude

To a teenage daughter I never had

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don’t be afraid to cry
for the life you never had
for the years of joy or
agony
as they weaved a tapestry
in your soul
all the intricate moments
that sometimes come to you
in fragments and
other times they sweep you
like a river of memories
good and bad
all mixed up

that is
they would come
had my life been different
but I never bore you below
my breast
you never nested
in the middle of my being
the man who could have
been your father
is unknown to me
perhaps we never even met

if I ever am a mother
and you are born
you will never know me
as I am now
still somewhat young
struggling through life
loving and breathing
even when love is scarce
and breath costs more than
blood ridden gold from
an African goldmine

what comforts me the most:
you will not know
wars that are plaguing the earth
at this time,
there will be new ones
people never learn
but I hope at least
the war that is sometimes
raging in my soul
will be gone
before you are born

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 20th January 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Tonight Christ comes to your heart and mine

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“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her” (Luke 1:45)

The first Advent, when Mary became a God-bearer, was the end of waiting, a very long centuries old waiting. The Israelites had a centuries old promise from God that Messiah would come and now was the time when this promise was being fulfilled. I prefer images that show Our Lady being pregnant, as they are most evocative with meaning in this season. Even though during Mary’s advent Jesus wasn’t yet born, He was in fact already there, nurtured in silence beneath Mary’s heart.

In the last few years, I started to think that Advent is about NOW. About what God is doing at this moment in our lives, partly because the traditional understanding that focuses on ‘waiting’ no longer spoke to me. But what is more, in the wider context of the history of God’s people, Mary’s advent was not a very long season of waiting, it was the end of it.

This Advent was probably the hardest I ever had, and yet the most graced and meaningful at the same time. God brought light to the corners of my soul that were hidden in the dark, and simply allowing it to happen was terrifying. But all I could think of in the midst of it, and now, is how good God is. Had He not led me on this journey I would continue carrying a burden I was never meant to carry, but now because of His goodness, when His grace finishes its work within me, I will no longer have to. And that is a meaning of Christmas.

Christ comes to our most deepest needs. In the midst of circumstances that make our hearts feel ‘lowly’ or ‘poor’, Christ comes, because there is room for Him there. No matter how you are, how you feel, joyful or not, welcome Him this night into your home, into your heart. All He needs is an invitation. We don’t have to be perfect or perfectly prepared. None of us is, anyway.

C. S. Lewis said, “In our world, there was once in a stable someone who was bigger than the world itself”. That ‘stable’ tonight will be your heart, and mine, just one more reason to call it a Holy Night.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 24th December 2016; small part here was taken from my reflection written on 30th November 2014)

How many episodes of ‘Gilmore Girls’ can one watch in a day?

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Many, if you ask me, even though I did not count my record to date. I started watching it again on Netflix sometime in September. I say ‘again’ because I watched most of it years ago when I was still living in Croatia. It almost feels like I haven’t stopped since, but I have, and I forgot what I saw before. I knew the characters, yet I did not remember much of the story, which was good, so I can enjoy it as if watching for the first time. I got back into it really quickly. Soon I watched episode after episode, every free time I had: in the morning before work, in-between something, getting ready to go out in the evening, I wasted no time.

I probably broke the record with how fast one can watch through the “Gilmore Girls” seasons. On occasional free day I would not be surprised if I watched up to (at least) ten episodes; and a season normally has twenty-two. So when it came to the end of October, I was already half way through the 6th season, wondering what will I do when I finish 7th, and final one. But my withdrawal syndrome kicked in sooner than expected when a Netflix glitch told me at the end of the 20th episode of the 6th season, “Thank you for watching”. And it looked like there was no more.

“You gotta be kidding me!”, I thought. “I can practically become a citizen of Stars Hollow (where they live), after watching it. I already love coffee, I would fit right in.” I was not prepared for that. Thankfully, and I say that with a great sigh of relief, when I refreshed Netflix, all was alright and I continued watching. This month I watched much less, because for different reasons I had to watch over the phone. I could watch two or three episodes a day this way, not much more.

But now, as I am on the last episode of the last season, I don’t need to worry about the withdrawal syndromes! Because this is right on time for the new film that came out on Netflix a few days ago, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”. No spoilers please, as I still haven’t dived into the new episodes! To top it all up, a friend and I went to a Gilmore Girls themed party in Dublin just recently. While the party did not match our standard or expectations, we had fun.

I even tried ‘Rory’, the infamous drink they had for Rory’s 21st birthday.

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Well, I agree with Lorelai’s and Rory’s judgement, the drink sucks. They didn’t like it in the show, and while I was very curious about it, I didn’t like it either. Not sure how it feels when they put something dodgy in your drink, but it was a weird experience drinking it so I said “I ain’t finishing this” – and neither did they finish it in the show.

Thankfully, I still have a little while longer to spend in Stars Hollow, and if I see I will miss watching it when I come to the end, I may start all over again.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 27th November 2016)

A gift of being real (ramblings of a writer)

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It has been a while since I wrote something substantial. Not that I had nothing to say, my head was often full of various speeches that would formulate into wonderful rhetorics in the most unlikely circumstances. Most often I got the inspiration in the morning as I was getting ready to go to work, while eating breakfast and drinking coffee on the go. Topics would come into my head, either related to my own life or whatever was a buzz of the day, and I would tell myself snippets of a potential speech, but of course there was no audience listening to me. I would open the fridge to take something to eat, and a few profound thoughts were on my lips. But, for some reason, I did not take time to write those things down. Each of those fleeting thoughts ended up being like a wind writing its story through the falling leaves of autumn trees.

Sometimes I wonder why there are times through the year when I struggle with writing. A person is probably not a writer if they don’t struggle with writing. Why would they? They wouldn’t even think about it. They would commit their time to something else and be quite happy about it. I am not a painter, so the fact I don’t take time to paint is not such big a deal. Yet if I had the gift of painting and I wouldn’t do it, I would probably be aware of it.

I think I know what has been stopping me. Apart from being busy, and needing rest in my free time, there is something else. I prefer writing honestly, but I have not been allowing myself to let it flow out of me without trying to polish my thinking. I am not quite sure why I wasn’t allowing myself to commit my thoughts on paper. Not everything needs to be public. I could have written a journal, and perhaps my soul even demanded it. If we don’t let the thoughts out they fester inside. Sometimes the best reflections come through the written word. I often learned new things while writing, so why was I blocking myself in this learning process? Perhaps I don’t need to know the answer, just acknowledge it and integrate it somehow into my writing. I’m telling myself, “Write a journal Iva, don’t keep your thoughts in. First of all, you write for yourself, because writing is what makes you ‘you’. You don’t have to write in order to be read, even though of course you want that too, but don’t put pressure on yourself”. If I write for someone else I will always want to be excellent, whereas a journal doesn’t have requirements for this or that. I think I just need to write, honestly. Whether it’s good or not, who cares.

I was in Greece at the end of August; you may have read about it here on my blog. No, I didn’t go on a holiday. I volunteered in a refugee camp for a week. It was not an easy experience, though very valuable. I didn’t do it in order to gain something for myself, but I did get a gift while I was there. I was writing about my experience, as raw as it was, and shared it with my Facebook friends. My best friend said those reflections were one of the best things I had ever written; because I wasn’t censoring my own thoughts. I just said it as I saw it. That week in Greece gave me a gift of being real. Perhaps that’s what a place that is stripped to its essentials does; it stripes you to yours and you cannot but be real. That is exactly what I need in my writing, and not just in writing. I need this gift of being real in my life.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 23rd October 2016)

What I would pray today

Today on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi I would not pray “Lord make me an instrument of your peace” (even though I like that prayer), because I have to keep renewing that peace in myself (I am not a constant ‘carrier’ of it). I would rather pray,

Lord bring yourself and your peace to all the wounded parts of the world that are crying out for it. Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, everywhere. Bring it to every heart that needs you – there is not one person on the planet that doesn’t need God’s peace, and bring it soon, now. Tell the noise of wars to shut up, calm them like you calmed the storm, change our hearts, into darkness of this world, bring your light.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 4th October 2016)