Malvern has been a special place for Jane and I for many years. Nestled in the Worcestershire side of the Malvern Hills, we first visited over 30 years ago and have been there many times since. Indeed, I write this sat in a special place within that special place: a self-catering cottage at Cowleigh Park Farm.
We first stayed here all those years ago and also a couple of other times when our children were very young. Having changed hands and been refurbished in the intervening 20 years, arriving and walking in was like meeting an old friend.
A place of ‘Comfort. Security. Warmth.’ (to quote a line from Looking to Move On). A sunny afternoon, sat in the garden with cups of tea. Sublime.
But what a difference a day makes: snow the next morning (and even heavier the day after – but with Jane giving the car a push up the driveway, we still got to Crufts!).
Malvern is the type of place we could see ourselves living in. Other places have fitted that description too: Romsey, Brockenhurst, Sherston, Ripon. Places which have a special place in our hearts (although our beloved Devon will always be home and a new one beckons there too.).
The 1980s and my 20s coincided. The first half of both saw regular visits to another special place. Taking the four hour train journey from Bristol, where I was living, to the city of York. Long weekends two or three times a year, staying in the same B&B with the same couple who ran it. York became a special place. A place of comfort, security and warmth amidst the challenging years that my third decade had become. A place of solitude. A place of retreat. A place to be me – or perhaps it was more a case of, to find me. A place to reset with God.
It seems to me we often ‘find’ ourselves in other places. Places away from the normal demands and expectations. Places which help us to ‘reset’ ourselves with God too. Places to remind us of what has been gained and what has been lost and needs recovering.
When thinking of special places, I am minded to recall how Jesus had his own. Often in the mountains (the parallel with the Malvern Hills is not lost on me) but always a place of solitude, a place of retreat. Perhaps even a place to find himself… and to reset himself with God.
Not everyone is able to travel to such places of course and making a special place within our homes set aside for prayer can also be helpful. Whether at home or elsewhere, having a special place to reset with God can bring a different perspective. Providing that objectivity of distance and separation to refocus on all that may have become blurred.
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