What would Judas say ….

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So tell me, If we stood face-to-face, in silence for a moment that felt like an infinity, and I cradled your face in my hands, and told you how beautiful you are, would you believe me?” (Jeanette LeBlanc)

As if written by Judas, who betrayed Jesus (fiction)…..

Beautiful? I don’t even know what that means. Stop touching me! Don’t you know what I did? Ugly. That’s what I am. UGLY! You offend me by telling me I am beautiful. I know you are lying. They are all lying. They said He would have forgiven me. Puf. Forgive? That’s a fictional word, if there ever was one. I know they say He forgave Peter, but he did not do anything as bad as ‘I’ did. Thirty pieces of silver. It wasn’t even gold! That’s how cheaply I sold myself. I did not sold Him, but me, and every notion of good judgement, even though I don’t think I had much of it before anyway.

So no, I am NOT beautiful. I don’t even like that word. It reminds me too much of Him. You know, even after I died, well I took my own life, He came to me. He even would have embraced me had I allowed. Forgiveness. That horrid word was on his lips. But I would have none of it. Lies. Those were all lies! Something ugly cannot be made beautiful. Something wrong cannot be made right by that word He so often likes to utter. He told me ‘He’ had corrected it. But no, I did not buy into it.

I wept. Oh how I wept for making that step. Tears of self-hatred and regret. I never cried in order to ask Him to make it right. When hatred poisons your soul, you don’t see silver nor gold nor gentle acts someone might offer to help you out of the narrowness of your prison. Hatred makes you only see hatred and walls. And you hate yourself the most. Anything beautiful scares you, and challenges your hatred so that you despise it three times more than if it wasn’t beautiful. Love? Forgiveness? They wanted to break my walls of self-hatred, but I did not allow them. So don’t you try now. Move your hands from my face! I cannot stand the warm touch. It reminds me that someone might care, a little bit too much. But I had shut the last possibility of beauty and love far in the deepest corners of my heart. I lost the key – on purpose. So don’t you now remind me. Leave me in the self-hatred. Beautiful? Puf. That’s another fictional word, I tell you. You are a writer, you should know.

Do you think there are people who think this way, even in part, about themselves?
Do we? 

I want to speak to all the hurting parts of our hearts and tell them, you are beautiful. Your essence is. You are not beautiful because of anything you have done, but because you are loved. Yes, you may not believe in God, or even if you are like me – you do, but you will say “it’s not enough”. Quit that shitty monologue in your head, You Are Loved!
There. Now, lets live like we know it.

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This was an answer to the prompt from the “30 Questions To Bring You Closer To Your Wild Heart”, a course run by Jeanette LeBlanc. Next round is starting on 15th November and you can sign for it here.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 6th November 2017)

 

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Growth makes life worth living

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Growth mentality means we can learn more about ourselves, about life, about God, no matter what happens in life; good and the bad. I have had times when I moaned, ‘why do I always have to grow?’, but that time is not now. Usually when I moan it is because I expect to get something out of a particular season of learning. But that is a misconception. Growth is a gain in itself.

I am grateful for people who have journeyed with me throught my growing pains, through the moments when inspiration floods you with new life, who listen, nurture, challenge and enable my growth. And the people out there who have ‘growth’ as one of their values inspire me. Investing into growth, reading, searching, exploring both within and without brings richness to life that would not be there otherwise. And the glimpse of the spark that God put into each of our hearts gets a chance to breathe a few more deep breaths…

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 27th October 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

 

 

 

Why couldn’t I?

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Why could I not write with a black marker on the black paper? No one told me I couldn’t, but they will say it’s silly. No one will be able to see it. What if I don’t want it to be seen? What if it’s a secret only for those who deserve to carry heart-shaped-gold hidden behind the dust that fell on my tears? What if it’s a lie I want to write about, but don’t want anyone to know? And then I will put some colour on it. Red. RED like crimson. Will it look like blood? Well, I want it to be full of life. You don’t have to colour your perception with meanings I did not create. You can always ask. I’ll clarify.

No, I won’t write with red, it will be a splash in the middle of the black paper, all over the black ink. It will spread down, rise up, go left and right, little bit of everywhere like rivers that are forming their own river-banks for the first time… Which colour should I add then? Yellow, I think. In the middle of the red, it will shine like the Sun. Some of it will splash like raindrops all over the top. Raindrops turned into stars. And then blue; I will squeeze it out at the bottom of the paper like deep sea that stands naked before the universe filled with a wonderful mystery.

I think I will leave it like that, to dry out. It’s neither a painting nor drawing nor a weird way of writing. All these colours – they are life.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 10the October 2017)

New York, where a heart gets wide open (remembering 9/11)

9-11 memorial

My article about travelling to New York and visiting 9/11 memorial was published on Finding Philothea, and I want to share it here with you as well.

Traveling helps me to get to know another piece of earth, with its beauty and its challenges. Earlier this year in April I visited New York for the first time. I was looking forward to a short holiday and to reconnect with a friend who lives there. Looking back, there were so many highlights that each day was a little lifetime in itself.

I traveled there during Holy Week, so while this big city was impressing me at almost every step, there was another layer that accompanied me over the five days.

I live in Dublin, Ireland, which is small compared to New York. The population of New York City is a little less than Ireland and my native Croatia combined. I’m talking about two countries that would fit into one city. Everything seemed BIG. My hotel room was on the 12th floor, with a view that stretched itself as the sun set over the horizon of tall buildings. I felt so little in New York, but not insignificant. I wanted to learn, I wanted to explore, I wanted to know more about the history of America, I wanted to see the sights, learn about its buildings, its art, its people. The city evoked a thirst I did not even know I had. This city is alive and it increased my own thirst for life and knowledge.

The first evening I went to Broadway. Being tired from a transatlantic flight did not stop me from enjoying the show, “The Great Comet of 1812,” starring my favorite singer, Josh Groban. There were parts in the show when my heart almost exploded wide opened with the powerful singing, and a story that touches one’s depths. Earlier that day my mum told me she baked lots of cakes for Easter, teasing me in a way because I wouldn’t be home with them. “Well, I’ll be in Broadway tonight. I think I’ll be alright.” My friend Christine organized this evening, and while we already have some wonderful shared memories of listening to Josh Groban live, it never gets old to create new ones.

Imperial Theatre, Broadway

However, that was not the only time that New York knocked my heart wide open. I was hoping to visit the September 11th memorial on Good Friday, thinking it would correspond well by bringing the pain of that memory to Jesus as we remember His death. But that day turned out differently, so I had to postpone it until Holy Saturday instead. It was just me that morning trying to find my way from the hotel into the city. It was supposed to be easy, taking a train from my stop all the way to the World Trace Centre. Yet, as it turned out, that train wasn’t running that day, so I had a full-blown New York experience of trying to navigate my way on the Subway. Soon I learned that this was a city below a city. People were helpful and kind. Half of the time they gave me correct directions, while the other half they were well-meaning and friendly but unfortunately their instructions were wrong. After some time I started longing for some daylight and I felt a great sense of achievement when I finally arrived at the World Trade Centre.

Leaving the station, I followed the signs to the 9/11 memorial. Just before the memorial I saw a street sign indicating ‘One way,’ and thought to myself, terrorism is really a one way street. No good comes out of it.

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I did not know what to expect. I felt reverence coming to where the Towers were, walking slowly. A lot of people were there and yet it wasn’t noisy but rather solemn, perhaps even calm. And then, sadness overtook me. I simply wanted to cry. There were no words in my head that triggered this reaction. The memorial is dignified and it actually evokes healing. The foundation of the first Tower that I approached goes into the depths, and water gently washes it, like a fountain running deeper into it. Names written on the walls of the foundation gave victims dignity, each name remembered. Occasionally there was a white rose next to a name, and I did not know if seeing that made it more sad or beautiful or if their loved ones put it there. All I wanted to do was cry. But I did not. Not sure why, but I held the tears in, letting them gather like the water that is being gathered in the depth of the foundation of each Tower.

I carried those tears with me the whole day. That evening, full of impressions and tired after walking a lot, I went to Mass. I was meeting a friend at her church far from where I was that afternoon, so I was a few minutes late. The church was in the dark, because at the Easter Vigil on Saturday the light comes in gradually while the readings are being read, signifying the light of Christ’s resurrection coming into the darkness of this world. I found a seat at the back of the church, sat there and finally I wept. I wept at the loss of life, the wound that this city experienced during the terrorist attack. I wept at what we people sometimes do to each other. I wept because Holy Saturday was a day when shattered hopes were mixed with Jesus’ redeeming work; while the Resurrection was happening, the disciples were in grief. I wept because the Alleluia that we would sing that night comes out of such deep sadness, as the one that New York experienced. Alleluia does not come out of joy, but out of pain as it is being redeemed by the Lord. I wept because all of this, both out of gratitude to the Lord for new life, as well as the pain. I wept for this city, for its needs, for America and all that needs to be put right. As I wept I offered silent prayers, beyond words, to the Lord, and I thanked Him for the light that conquers death, for hope that rises out of despair, for love that is stronger than hate.

Today as we remember 9/11, I am not in New York, but my memory of that city, of its vastness, its beauty, its story that touched me, stays with me in such a way as if I have met a person whose scars are part of their wisdom. There are more memories from my trip to be told, but New York certainly knows how to touch someone’s heart.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 10th September 2017; first published on Finding Philothea)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

Sarma – traditional Croatian recipe

I was in Croatia earlier this month visiting family and I asked my mum to teach me how to make ‘sarma’, traditional Croatian dish. I knew how to make a similar dish, but wanted to learn how to make sarma too. My mum did not quite understand the idea of taking photos while cooking, but due to them some of my friends asked about the recipe. I thought to share it here as well. If you make it, I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients:

mince beef – 0.5 kg
rice – 15 dg (or one cup)
medium size red onion
2-3 garlic cloves
1 or 2 eggs
salt
pepper
pickled cabbage*
*you will need to buy it in a Central European shop; Slovakian, Polish, Bosnian, whatever is near you.

later you will need:
cooking oil
flour
paprika

Mix beef & rice. Cut the onion and garlic and add that too, add eggs, salt and pepper and mix it altogether.

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Wash the cabbage in cold water. Cut out the middle bit (root) and use only the leaves. Put the meat mixture into each leaf (pictured) until you use it all.

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When you put the meat into the cabbage leaf, roll it well and press the top of it inside towards the middle, so the meat is tightly rolled in the leaf. Place it in a pot – see the picture – and add water to it. In terms of the amount of water, cover it all and add another 5cm of water (or so) into it.

Let it to cook for 2-2.5 hours. Ten minutes before you remove the pot from the stove, put little bit of oil on a frying pan, add flour and paprika and stir for a few moments until the flour had fully mixed with oil and paprika. Pour that into the water and let sarma cook for another 10 minutes. And that’s it.

Mashed potatoes go well with it.

Bon appetite!

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 30th August 2017)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

 

When the waves meet the shore

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I don’t always take advantage of the fact I live close to the sea. Partly it’s because Ireland isn’t warm enough in order to go for a regular swim, unless it’s in a swimming pool and unless one is adventurous and doesn’t mind being immersed in the cold water. But for walks and leisurely atmosphere Irish coast is beautiful and it does wonders to your soul.

That day I was already in the neighbouring coastal town, so I asked for direction towards the sea. It took less than ten minutes from the main street. I walked there and sat at the beach. Some people were actually swimming; not many. The Sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. It was warm when the sunshine was out, and then the temperature cooled down with the clouds and the sea looked less blue, more grey and dark. I found it peaceful, so I sat observing how the sea meets its shore.

I love watching the waves of the sea coming to the shore. The last one jumps as if playing some exciting game, and explodes into millions of small particles of water. As it does that, it soothes the shore, caressing the pebbles and stones. The sound of the waves is so calming…

After throwing a few pebbles in the sea, I let the wind play with my hair. It was that kind of day.

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© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 11th August 2017)
Photos by © Iva Beranek

Don’t be only a visitor this summer 


Don’t be only a visitor this summer, enter the season as if the quality of your life depended on it. Let yourself feel the grains of sand not only on the surface of your skin, but let them enter deeper into your life. They say we are made out of stardust – know it, believe it, own it. Perhaps stardust is just another name for love. Enjoy the sunshine but let it penetrate your soul too. Take in the peace that inner rest brings and integrate it in the centre of your soul. Don’t be only a visitor this summer, be a host and welcome the summer inside your flesh and bones. 

© Iva Beranek (Malta, 27th July 2017) 

Photo by © Iva Beranek 

The Journal of Strength

 

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I don’t often sit in front of an empty page to see what will come as I type, like one would sit in front of an open fire admiring the flames as they dance. But even now as I thought of it, my eyes fell on the little icon on the top that tells me ‘write’. As if concluding my thoughts it said, ‘come on, come and write’.

This evening is calm. Clouds have withered away, there is a light in the neighbouring house. Birds are probably asleep, though it’s late it is still daylight.

A few months ago, someone told me to start a journal of my strengths, especially to help me with rough days. She told me, “You are strong. And you have to exercise your mind same as you exercise your muscles”. By writing about it I remind myself that I am strong, even though on more challenging days it feels as if the opposite is true. One thing I noticed. I redefined strength. In my view strength is not not-being-vulnerable. Quite the contrary, my strength is that I acknowledge my vulnerability but I don’t stop there.

Here is today’s example. Entry 83. I am strong because I let myself feel even unpleasant feelings of loneliness and despair – they lie to me about my weakness, but I am strong because I face them.

“They lie to me…” and they do it fiercely. Earlier in the year I faced one of my very intense fears and people told me I was brave. But fear makes you think you are a coward simply because you feel it. Then you unmask what is behind a ‘lie’ and realise, I’m simply human. I don’t slay fear fearlessly like a heroine would slay a dragon, but I faced it and it remains conquered on the pages of my journal.

Sometimes I read through the journal and get encouraged by words I wrote. Entry 44. I am strong because I use my vulnerability for connection (with others) not isolation. Yes, there is a tendency towards isolation at times, but even here by writing about what I learned on my own skin I hope to cross boundaries of my own house and enter into yours. With a simple thought, a few words, and perhaps a torch that brings light, should you need some.

Entry 48. I am strong because I am happy today. And you know what, this made me smile.

We often identify with our emotions, especially if they are intense, no matter whether we call them ‘good’ or ‘bad’. As if they tell us, “This is who you are”. Well, thank you, for it is true you are telling me something about me, whether ‘you’ are joy, or anger, fear or unrest. However, when I take time to stay with you, with all your persuasion that you are overpowering, you lose your capacity and I expand mine. Therefore, while you are part of me, you are not me. But you don’t have to be an enemy either, through you I grow, I become more human, more alive.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 7th July 2017)
Photo by © Iva Beranek

Talk to me about light

 

“Talk to me about light”,
he said
and I thought of the first ray
of the morning sun
that removes darkness at dawn
and how gently it kisses
a flower hidden in the grass
that’s how your light
caresses my soul

He looked at me with the gaze
firmly attached onto my eyes
as if seeking my depths
in love
and saying silently,
“talk to me about light,
once more”

I smiled
but what can I say about light
to the one who enlightens
my soul

yet I obliged
by pointing to the light,
the greatest among them,
which blinds death
with the vigour of life
holding miracles in each ray
when this light reaches my heart
everything that was dead
comes to life
again

“Talk to me about light!”,
he exclaimed,
like a lover who is never satisfied
always wanting more
and knowing that more
will be given

This time …. I stared
into the empty space
between his heart and mine
and said,
“YOU speak to me about light,
and why is there darkness 
where only light should be?”

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 16th May 2017)

A letter. Send to: a tooth fairy

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Dear tooth fairy,

I don’t know how often you get a letter from an adult, but I am guessing it does not happen very often. As you know, I had my wisdom tooth taken out on Tuesday. I was a little bit afraid* that I might be in pain after the surgery, simply judging by the pain the week before, but it all ended up going smoothly and painlessly. I already had to face one of my fears last year, and going into surgery was another. Do I get something for bravery?

You know, I was wondering if you would pay me a visit, and the night after the extraction I got a box full of amazing chocolates from a friend. I presume you arranged that, so I wanted to thank you. I had no tooth to leave beneath my pillow for they kept it in the clinic. I was wondering whether I should have asked for the tooth, but clinging onto something that needed to be removed is not wisdom, so I think I’m alright without it. If you need the tooth, I will tell you where to go. You have abilities far beyond my knowing, I am sure you will know how to decipher which tooth was mine.

Since it was not just any tooth, it was a wisdom tooth, I thought you could give me more than chocolates. Also, if you look like an ugly man in a dress, the way my friends suggested, please pretend to be invisible. Would you be able to tell me, the fact that my wisdom tooth is taken out, does that mean that I now have more or less wisdom? Why is it even called the wisdom tooth?

I must say I am grateful for one more thing, though I think that Someone with more power than you brought this one about. For reasons far more extensive than what I can put into this letter, I was aware for a long time that I needed to rest. Yet, with all this awareness, I still was not able to take all the rest I needed. This tooth plunged me into it, without even asking for my permission, and perhaps that was its wisdom.

As I am writing this I want you to know that you are still welcome to bring the other gift. Something tells me you have another surprise, perhaps it’s even big. I can’t wait to see what it is!

Yours,
Iva

*understatement.

© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 7th April 2017)