“Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, “I don’t want you to hire me – and I don’t care for jam.”
“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day‘,” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t your other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”
“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first –“
Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Have you ever been to a cemetery and found that on top of several headstones is a haphazard pile of small pebbles?
It’s a Jewish custom to place a pebble on a headstone to show respect for the departed. They are called ‘Stones of Remembrance’. What’s the origin of this custom? There are many theories, but this is my personal favourite …
So it is written, in the book of Joshua, Chapter 4, that God dried up the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross on dry land, into the promised land. God then commanded that a member of each of the 12 tribes of Israel, place a rock on the bank of the Jordan in Jericho as a memorial. For generations to come, the people would see the large mound of rocks taken from the middle of the river, and they would look back and remember what God had done for them there.
Looking back at my failed engagement and relationship which ended in 2000, it was devastating, but God turned my life upside down (in a good way), saved me from an unhappy marriage, and opened up a whole new world to me. ✔
Looking back at my dear Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2012 and his subsequent illness and my Mama’s struggle to care for him, it was traumatic for all of us, but God somehow drew ever so close to us as we pulled together as a family. ✔
Looking back to 2015, at Hubby and my fertility struggle, it was a rollercoaster ride of hopes dashed and bearing all to absolute strangers, but God carried us through that. ✔
Looking back at our annus horribilis after Hubby and I took over the management of our company, it was an extremely trying and painful time, but God answered so many of our prayers and we made it through! ✔
Looking back at the final tragic weeks of my Dad’s life, his death and funeral, God was merciful and what a time of crying and celebrating we had together as a family, remembering Dad and sharing precious stories. ✔
Looking back at the 3 years of Brexit debates, referendum, uncertainty in UK and EU markets, culminating in 2019, which at the time I thought was a pretty bad year … boy was I naive. But, with God’s help, we made it through and started 2020 feeling strong and hopeful. ✔
God must be teaching me something in 2020.
Of course, this is not just about me. I guess we all have a lot to learn – us as individuals, as families, peoples, nations, the world. I’ve read the articles, seen the news. I know that wherever you are in the world, you’re also feeling pressed, dear reader. Take heart. ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place’ (says the Bard).
For my part, I do wish I’d get better at learning life’s lessons, so that God doesn’t always have to bring out the ‘big guns’.
In the meantime I’m building my memorial of stones. One day I’ll look back at 2020 with some understanding – j’espère.
P.s. Have you watched Steven Spielberg’s 7-Oscar-award winning Schindler’s List (1993)? If you haven’t, DO, and bring a box of tissues. The film ends with all the actors (and their real life counterparts), visiting the grave of Oskar Schindler. Each person places a pebble on his grave.
P.p.s. It’s a really meaningful exercise to look back and make a list of all the things that have challenged you, changed you, moved you, floored you, but did not break you.
P.p.p.s. This morning I read a terrifying article about the mess that South African hospitals are in and I’ve not been able to shake some of those images out of my mind all day. My heart is breaking for my beloved country. Hence my memory stones. I needed to find a way to keep my hope up.
P.p.p.p.s. “Screw your courage to the sticking place” is another way to say affix your bravery to a place that it will not abandon you (from Shakespeare, MacBeth).