What gives you life on Candlemas/Groundhog Day?

What is giving you life right now? 

Thoughts for the midwinter Cross-Quarter Day of Candlemas (February 2nd)    Oh – and it’s Groundhog Day too!

Maybe you’ve had the flu – or at least the sniffles.
Or that lingering lurgy and you just can’t shake it off.
The days may be lengthening, but spring is not yet here, and January has been such a long long month. Especially if like mine it has been more-or-less dry.
Budgets are tight, the weight won’t shift and winter has reached the woefully dreary stage. Plus my FaceBook feed is thoroughly depressing right now – Brexit to one side, POTUS on the other, Bishops in the middle.

Winter is hard for me. You too? It’s all too easy to look at what is draining and crushing and difficult right now. But there is another way and it’s actually simple. I like simple and I like doing something simple that helps.
I once read an article about searching out what gives you life. What energises you, what helps you to keep you smiling – in spite of what is going on everywhere else.  And with the middle of winter due on February 2nd, this idea is one I’m finding life giving.
And that’s what we need, right? Little things that are life giving. To notice them, make a note of them, remind ourselves to do them, have them, use them. Doing more of what makes you happy, what gives you life.  Little things that make a difference.
So I decided to make a list – it’s personal and yours may be very different.  But perhaps it might be helpful to share our lists and suggestions, to give us ideas of what actually feeds us, strengthens us, gives us life.

Daffodils or hyacinths on the kitchen table. Bright, cheerful and scented, they lift my mood whenever I see them.

Lighting a scented candle while I’m sitting working at the computer; and having supper by candlelight. Love it! Candles both relax and lift my mood

Bubble baths. Even 10 minutes to wallow in warmest water, with a good book. Not the Kindle – don’t trust myself not to drop it in! (no photo here…..)

Wearing my favourite clothes. Instead of keeping them for ‘best,’ just wearing them and enjoying them. And throwing out what I feel I ought to keep but actually never wear. Taking discarded things to the charity shop. 

Eating well. And nutritiously. Takes an effort but SO worth it! Here’s a hot chicory, mackerel and radiccio salad I made last week. Yum. (Thanks to chef Tom Kerridge's new book!)

Reading the Psalms. I read 5 each day and so it takes a month to read them all the way through. Start with the Psalm that corresponds to the day’s date, read it and add 30 to find the next one to read, and so on up to 5 Psalms. SO: on the 15th, read Psalms 15, 45, 75, 105, 135. Today is the 30th and I read Psalm 30, 60, 90, 120 & 150. (tomorrow is Jan 31 so just Psalm 119 on the 31st)  I’m using “The Psalms on Fire,” which is the new Passion Translation and I find it extremely helpful.

Exercise. Yes, I know, we all hate it while we are doing it. But then it depends on what type of exercise. Because I have discovered I prefer some and loathe others! Walking in the fresh air or taking a Pilates class each make me feel so much better. Preferably both, regularly. 

Painswick - the Rococo Gardens

Painswick - the Rococo Gardens

Doing nothing for a few minutes. I either close my eyes or indulge my latest passion - colouring letters from mediaeval manuscripts. Breathe deeply and just enjoy the moment. 


Pause and assess - choose to do more of what makes you happy.

S'mores with the family

S'mores with the family

Can’t wait to read your list – what gives you life in the deepest middle of winter?

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Liltingly it drifts on the gentle breeze.

The spring song of the birds.

In hedgerows, from treetops, under bushes tipped palely green. They sing trill whistle call chirp, tiny feathers ruffled in the air.   The symphony crescendos, wafts away on the wind, floats back.

Happiness sounds in each note.

I stand still the better to hear it. Something in me responding, lifted by this music.

These birds sing because they have songs in them to release. Notes to utter. It is the best thing that they can do, to sing right now. To sing because.

And their music is balm, soothingly uplifting. Deafening in its persistence.

And so I too sing. Trill and chirp and tweet within my soul. And the song becomes MY song, the attitude of my heart. Inexpressible, uplifting, known only unto God. So it changes me.


I have listened.

I have sung.


I will remember.


Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark,….. when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint.                  Ecclesiastes 12:1,2,4



The disciples were full of questions about God.

Said the Master, “God is Unknown, the Unknowable. Every statement about Him, every answer to your questions, is a distortion of the Truth.”

The disciples were bewildered. “Then why do you speak about Him at all?”

“Why does the bird sing?” said the Master.

Not because he has a statement, but because he has a song.

The words of the Scholar are to be understood. The words of the Master are not to be understood. They are to be listened to as one listens to the wind in the trees and the sound of the river and the song of the bird.

They will awaken something within the heart that is beyond all knowledge.

 - Anthony de Mello S. J.


The book stared back at me. Dared me to pick it up. Buy it, even.

It’s blue – always a favourite colour. And written on the front in large capitals:


New year.

New me?


Can I ever feel HAPPY again?

Resigning from my beloved work in ordained ministry to concentrate on getting well again, emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Recovering from the dark heaviness of depression and post traumatic stress syndrome which has clung and clawed to my shoulders for sixteen months.

Removing the burden of the guilt of not working - a first step to accepting this major life change, this living with What. Happened. And. Cannot. Be. Undone.


And joy. Can I find joy again as I learn to give thanks and find the grace in each moment?

The book leaps into my hand. I start reading as we drive away.  I am hooked from the start, wanting to know if it’s possible for me too. Knowing I need to work out my own salvation because it is God at work in me.  So I begin. January.


But I read fast and furious, wanting to know next month and the one after; and the book tells of discerning what made its author happy when younger.

I am instantly eleven years old.  Gawky and geeky, losing the immense podgy penny-ness. Happy, cycling freely and fast; devouring books faster than my parents can buy them for me, scribbling stories of my own creating, racing with the dog along the beach.

That was me. That joyous little girl.  Where did she get so lost? Can she be refound in a new me?


Regroup. Remember. Reform.

What counts is whether we (I) have been transformed into a new creation. (Gal 6:15, NLT)


That happy girl.  She read. And read.  I have not, for a year, been able to read.

Can I find my reading me again?

Might children’s literature be a hidden treasure?


The project tells of a new book group; of the joy of rereading those much loved gems of childhood.  My heart leaps.

Can I do it?  Commit to a book a month with friends?


Narnia. Green Gables. And Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents. Should Mallory Towers creep in? And the Lone Pine Five and my complete set of The Chalet School? All 58 of them?

Did anyone else read Dorita Fairlie Bruce and Mary Louise Parker and Elsie Oxenham? Even their names weave an ancient spell.

The Secret Garden and The Little Princess.  Noel Streatfield.

Alice and Katy.  The mayday Queens in The Abbey. Heidi of course.


And more, so many more.

They are on my bookshelves still.


Could we meet and enjoy? Find some fun? Eat food from the books?

Would you come?