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. Stephanie 24th August, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    This is as beautiful as it is impactful. Thank you, Tanya.

    • Tanya 13th October, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

      Thank you, Stephanie.

  2. Mark Allman 31st July, 2017 at 10:15 pm #


    I too hoard memories. I do hoard some that are not good for there are some I need to keep in order to be reminded that my decisions have consequences. I keep them so that I hopefully not fall into the same trap again. They also color my favorite memories with brilliant colors in contrast. I also keep some that hurt for in keeping them honors what makes them ones that hurt. Loved ones lost or stories that need to be heard. I never want to forget the hurt of losing someone I love for it honors them I believe. Some hurt never ends and that’s ok. I agree that God takes our pain and I don’t have to nurse those memories to honor that hurt but it will always be with me. Life is made from the good and the bad woven together. Hopefully our lives richer for going through them both and yes for having them not forgotten.

    My favorite memories are what makes life so worthwhile. Moments that meld into cherished memories. To be able to relive them in my mind or to share with another and have them bless again. Those memories, like a fine book I have read are there to be enjoyed again and again. Those great memories also give me hope in a future of creating even more great moments to remember.

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

      I really love your thoughtful wisdom and perspective here, particularly as it extends the conversation beyond the original blog post- what can our painful memories teach us when we keep them beside us? How can we reflect on them productively, without them swallowing us up in despair? I absolutely love your thoughts on this – thank you so much for writing.

      And memories, like a fine book = YUM!! That’s exactly what it’s like. And Wordsworth expresses a very similar thought in Daffodils (one of my favourite poems!) Thanks, as ever, for your wonderful comment

  3. Stephanie 31st July, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

    This is stunning, Tanya.

    • Tanya 19th August, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

      Thank you so much, Stephanie <3

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