Choose the Most Beautiful

Alison Turrell, Creative Commons licence Jul 2017

We’re in Spain, and my son has brought home half the beach to keep forever. It is a collection of shells: here a big solid one; there a tiny ice-cream cone; there a fairy’s fingernail, there a misshapen shell disguised as a brown tile, but once part of a living organism. There are twenty laid out; he wants them all.

I remember this. I hoarded, as a child; I made collections. Stamps, candles, letters, memories.

As an adult I hoard memories, especially now I am chronically ill. When you are in the outside world, who knows when you can repeat the experience?

I breathe in the good of the material world in a way I didn’t before being housebound: here there are palm trees and blue sky, with birds dropping poo even as they fly so gracefully though the sky. That image is a quirky one – beauty and grossness side by side, as is so common in life. I add it to my collection.

Here there is a bodega, shelves of wine bottles on the wall, and Spanish men in full throat, slapping one another on the back, and hugging when they cry. They are so freer with their emotions than us in the UK. I keep that memory, too.

But I am aware that my brain has become clogged and clouded. Like an overfull store cupboard, I hold so many stories and memories that I think I will burst. In fact, this is what writing is: the spring cleaning of brain-clutter.

Some of us – particularly writers – hoard our memories like shells from the beach. There are pros and cons to this: we remember our story more vividly, but it can also mean our minds are clogged with too many memories, with their accompanying emotions.


I reason with my son: they can’t all go back in the suitcase.

“Choose the most beautiful to take home with you,” I counsel him.


In the Bible, it says God stores our tears in a bottle. Every single tear shed, all those memories: collected, even treasured, by God.

Knowing this releases me to let go of some of the harder memories – God has them. Those hurts are not forgotten by God, and I do not have to nurse the memory in order to honour the hurt.

I consider the memories I will form of this holiday, and this life; the incidents and scenes I will take with me as I retell and reshape the story of this trip in my mind.
‘Choose the most beautiful,’ I tell myself.



“You keep track of all my sorrows.

“You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

“You have recorded each one in your book.” – Psalm 56:8, NLT

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8, NRSV

Linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday. This was my best five minutes on ‘collect’

Over to you: 

  • How do you order the memories in your head? Are you a memory-hoarder?
  • What does it mean to you to have God collect the tears you cry?

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22 Responses to Choose the Most Beautiful

  1. Jennifer 24th July, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

    Learning to let go of the harder/more painful memories is a difficult lesson to learn – but oh the beauty that comes with more mental space to collect sweet memories!! You are so correct!

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

      It’s so hard, isn’t it?! Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer

  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser 23rd July, 2017 at 6:44 am #

    Tanya, this is brilliant…and as someone who is both chronically and terminally ill, I can say that I collect not memories, but graces…the moments when God’s immanence shines through the deep black of hopeless despair.

    #1 at FMF this week.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

      Wow. I’m so sorry you’re both chronically and terminally ill – you must be working through some hard stuff. But what wisdom here – to collect not memories, but graces. Thanks for this

  3. Cathy 22nd July, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    Going in my “Best of Tanya” collection! But then, I always think the next one is the most beautiful…

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

      (Truth be told, I was rather fond of this one, too…!)

  4. Tammy Mashburn 22nd July, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

    Great post!

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

      Thank you, Tammy!

  5. Glenda Cates 22nd July, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    After both my mom and daughter passed away I have found I am a hoarder as I fight to keep there memory alive to share with my son. Have a Blessed day and I found you through FiveMinuteFriday. I can’t wait to visit again soon. Tell your son my son would be just like him and want to bring all the shells home and if truth be none I might as well.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

      Oh gosh. I’m so sorry that you mom and daughter have passed away. That must be so hard. I completely understand this impulse. It’s part of library-keeping, and so much more urgent and important when there’s someone to pass it onto. And I shall tell my son that he is not alone in his desires!

  6. Marvia 21st July, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    Aghhh. Writers certainly can hoard it all. This reminds me to write even if unpublished just to release the tension of thought sink don’t imprisom myself.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

      YES YES! Write it out. It’s like pooing – you don’t want to do it, but you feel much better afterwards 🙂

  7. Tasha Burgoyne 21st July, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    This is beautiful!

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

      Thanks, Tasha!

  8. Kelli Moore 21st July, 2017 at 6:05 pm #

    I have so many thoughts running through my head. Chills cascading down my body. This is so powerful and so true. All of it. The collecting and hoarding, the too many memories, the fog. You have said so much with so little time and I am honored that you shared it with us. Here is to beautiful memories.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

      Thank you so much for this encouraging message! Yes – here’s to beautiful memories. Thanks for coming by, Kelli

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