Day One – Elizabeth Turns Fifty

Infant Elizabeth With Dad

Fifty years ago today I made my way into the world at 2:02 am. Born two weeks before I was due, I was rooted out of the womb early when my mother’s doctor suggested I looked big enough to deliver and as he was going on vacation, an earlier delivery might work better for them both.

The photo above is one of the earliest I have of my newborn self and my dad happens to be holding me. I’ve no time to write this morning as Margaret and I are off to meet up with John for some fun around London, but I did want to say thank you for the sweet birthday comments you’ve left over the last 9 days.

I’ll be back in a day or two after I recover from our London journey with loads more stories and photos. See you then.

Day Two – Unexpected Gifts Of Spirit

Tower Of London (Lower Right)

Yesterday was a day where I felt contemplative for the most part. The Underground line we needed was overcrowded and Margaret and I made our way on trains that made me feel a bit claustrophobic. After much waiting, we finally arrived at the Tower of London which had a fair amount of people milling around and we split up like we tend to do taking as Margaret put it the other day, “ separate field trips.”

Having been to the Tower before, I went more slowly than I would when exploring a historical space and spent a lot of time thinking about the lives of the people who had lived within its walls as both the keeper and the kept. There is no escaping the burden and responsibility of those who had the power and those who coveted it.

As the afternoon wore on a rainstorm came up suddenly, sending people hurrying for shelter and I went in search of my sister. I was tired of thinking too much anyway … stuck as I was on what memories we leave behind when we die. It is difficult not to think about when all around you are the stories of those whose lives were impacted by their own actions or those of others.

All Hallows By The Tower

All Hallows By The Tower

Walking away from the Tower, we came across a small church of great significance. All Hallows by the Tower has been as they put it a “ A Christian Beacon on Tower Hill since 675 AD. ” If you are ever in London, I would suggest you visit this place where The Saxon Abby of Barking founded the church as their literature states in 675 AD.

Underneath in a crypt there is a small museum complete with tiny cobblestones from a Roman floor and other evidence of city life for almost 2000 years. There is a link to American history as well as details about the almost total destruction it suffered during WWII.

All of its history and artifacts made for interesting reading, but the important part of our visit was found as one usually expects or hopes in its service. Margaret and I happened to arrive as they were getting ready for a something called a Taizé Service which is a short service using prayer, chants and silence. Simple and meditative was just what it was with a perfect mix of scripture readings and music made up only of voices.

All Hallows By The Tower

It was exactly the thing I needed to lift my spirit and an unexpected gift on a day heavy with too much contemplation and dark thoughts. There was biblical reading about, “ all those who seek me “ and the service finished with a simple prayer that ended gently with the words … “ Have the courage to live your life.”

Afterwards when I stepped outside on to a wet London sidewalk and looked up to see the image below, I couldn’t help but remember from the bible stories of childhood about the message from God found in each rainbow. It was an interesting finish for a doubting, but still seeking ” Thomas.”

While I don’t usually ask for gifts and I am generally funny about receiving them, I wonder if I might ask for one from those of you who are reading this today. It doesn’t matter if you come across this after September 10th, I will still see a comment if you leave one for me. If you would … please take a second to tell me your favorite post I’ve written here at Gifts of the Journey or maybe a little something about yourself if you’d rather.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Day One, the final post of the big birthday countdown and I want to say thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting over the last few days in particular. It makes all the writing mean just a bit more to know it matters to someone other than just me.  xo

Remembering Without Regret


At 18, On A Weekend Pass Between Basic & AIT Training (Letting My Hair Down)

I am generally not bothered by birthdays. I tend to see getting older as just a different set of opportunities and I haven’t been worried in any significant way about the proximity of 50 as I turn 49 in a few weeks, but something shifted this morning.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of the day scanning slides and old photographs into the computer. These images captured moments from my army days or just before and I was reminded how very young I really was then. I can’t believe how much responsibility the military gave a woman barely old enough to vote, someone whose parents still wanted her in by midnight when she was already 18. Going from grumbling about a midnight curfew, to rushing down to the motor pool on alert at 3:00 am before getting my M-16 rifle from the Arms Room was a shift of substantial proportions.

Sometimes I forget how significant that time period that was when I think back to the decisions that led me to where I am now. Looking back at those photographs, I see a young woman… still a girl in many ways, jumping into the water with barely a look to see how deep the level or even a pause to test the temperature. I’ve always been someone ready to take a chance, but seeing all the people and places in pictures yesterday made me go back to memories I’d packed away..many of them shut away in a small box of slides I’ve been moving from place to place over the years. I found myself reflecting with sadness at times about some of the decisions I’ve made over the last 30 years and I am amazed how easy it can be for both regret and gratitude to share the same space.

It’s good you don’t know everything when you’re 18, but I do wish I’d had a better understanding of one thing back then. It’s a simple concept that took me years to get…that a moment lost is really gone forever. I still struggle with letting go of worry about the future and even worse…looking back at things I wish I’d done differently. It sounds trite and we hear it all the time, this talk of living in the moment, being present in your own life, but it is a common theme and one which has been illuminated by a variety of quotes for hundreds of years. I’ll leave you with the one that makes the most sense to me this morning. If you have one you’d like to share, I hope you’ll take a minute to leave it in a comment.

We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.

~Fulton Oursler