This year, give something… no matter how small…

Give something, however small, to the one in need.
For it is not small to one who has nothing.
Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could.

St. Gregory Nazianzen


(winter blooms in the deep South / New Orleans, LA /Julie Cook/2022)

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great

O tidings of comfort and joy…Merry Christmas

Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars,
might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)


(ice crystals form on the glass / Julie Cook /2022)

In the midst of the mystery of these cold and dark days, my wish is that we
will each continue to seek and find both comfort and joy…
Comfort and joy found in both the knowledge and grace of the birth of an innocent babe…
God made man…
Savior to all who are lost and to all who still seek that which is greater
than themselves.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth efface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ is one of the oldest Christmas carols
there is, and one of the most popular.
The carol originates from 16th-century England and the
earliest known printed edition was published in 1760.

Classic Fm

a wicked wind this way comes…

“She wanted to kiss the hurt away, but knew from her own life
that it would always be there.
The sadness would remain, but it would exist next to new, buoyant memories.
He had come through his own fiery trial as she had hers, not unscathed,
but forged into something altogether different and stronger.”

Sharon Kay, Wicked Wind


(Clingman’s peak / North Carolina/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

Winter storm Elliott has certainly made his, her, its presence known from west to east
and south to north…

Raging winds, dangerous ice, blizzard snows, deadly windchill
only to be followed by power outages, ruptured pipes, dead batteries and delayed travel…
right on cue for both Christmas and Hanukkah…
Misery likes company, or so they say,
so I suspect we’re all in pretty good company right about now.

The troubles in my little neck of the woods is the hurricane force like winds and
the negative windchills. Nothing like frostbite taking place within 10 minutes on
exposed skin out in this mess.

Perched on the northwestern side of this mountain I now call home,
it seems to make for some mighty wicked winds during normal conditions…
throw in a winter cyclone and well, it’s
nothing like anything I’ve ever exactly experienced before.

However as the good girl scout I was taught to be, I have prepared.

There is a generator up and running.
I put down rugged traction metal treads on the outdoor stairs.
I bought a chainsaw, axe and tow rope.
I have two 4 x 6 metal stacks full of seasoned firewood wrapped tightly
to keep it all dry.
I have either removed and brought inside or bungee-corded and strapped down
all outdoor items that might choose to become projectiles in such winds.

I have a new car battery and new tires.

I have the pantry, fridge and freezers all filled.

I am thankful that I was able to prepare and thankful
now to have a safe warm place in which to shelter.

And so now I hunker down.

Yet I can’t help but notice that in all of this life and death storm business—
the sky is currently a bright Carolina blue and the
sun shines brightly high in the sky.
Clouds blanket the nearby mountain range but at least my little
corner remains clear.

This is just part and parcel of a new normal.
My new normal.

And I must say that there is a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing
that one can weather a storm…be that an actual storm or simply one of life’s
many storms.

Most often that satisfaction comes only after the storm has
subsided and passed…not during the height of the tumult.

And it is in all of the hindsight following such a storm,
a storm that life seems to constantly bring our way, that we
actually discover that our mettle has been tested…
We know all too well that the fire we have passed through was most certainly hot…
and whereas we were not necessarily left fully or wholly intact, let alone left
unscathed, we realize however that we have been forged into
something altogether different and blessedly…we have been forged into
something altogether so much stronger than ever before.

So here’s to weathering our storms…

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2


(Clingman’s peak / North Carolina/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

And so this is Christmas…

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
And so this is Christmas

John Lennon

(as noted yesterday, I wanted to share the two posts I’d written over the years regarding
the Christmas Day ceasefire truce between British and German troops during WWI.
No matter what circumstances we may be facing…be it war or simply life–there
remains nonetheless the Holy Miracle of a December’s night eve.)

The WWI Christmas Truce
December 17, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 24-25, 1914, an impromptu cease-fire occurred along the Western Front during WWI.
Amid the battle, soldiers from both sides set aside their weapons and came together peacefully
in an event that has come to be known as the WWI Christmas Truce.
Here are a few first-hand accounts of that historic event.


British and German Officers Meet in
No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce Courtesy of Imperial War Museums

The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience.
“Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon
German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet
of their front line trench.
Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men
of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in
No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship,
invited the Canadians to join them
and celebrate the occasion.
Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong,
and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion,
moved out to see what the enemy looked like at close range.

Conversation proved difficult at first,
but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others,
having rehearsed for the occasion, one must judge,
endeavored to establish their benevolence by
constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.”

For nearly an hour the unofficial peace was prolonged,
the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes and foodstuffs
and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of
most excellent beer.

By this time, news of the event had reached authority,
and peremptory orders were issued
to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith.

When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire,
aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result,
warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been
resumed…

For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line,
but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that
normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”

Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack
near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914.
His troops succeeded in pushing back German soldiers and occupying their trenches.
While returning alone to the British trenches to report,
Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly.

For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line.
During the informal Christmas Truce, soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center
space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried
British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other.
An English Chaplain conducted a service.
Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours
fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried
to a small military graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.


(British and German troops bury soldiers during the WWI Christmas Truce – 1914
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce.
Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day.
Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience.
“For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide,
between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land,
dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.”
Rader recounted cautiously raising his head.
“Other men did the same.
We saw hundreds of German heads appearing.
Shouts filled the air.
What miracle had happened?
Men laughed and cheered.
There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine.
There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels.
The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away.
The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies
for a brief moment during WWI
evaporated as fighting resumed.

(To learn more about WWI and the soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
la, la, ah, ah
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)

(John Lennon)

Christmas 1914 (re-post from 2014)

“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”

Pope Benedict XV


(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News,
January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)

(today and tomorrow I will offer two re-posts—posts I’d previously written
regarding the miraculous Christmas Truce of 1914 during WWI—
thus a small reminder that the true meaning of Christmas is far greater and more powerful
than ourselves and that of our own inward and outward struggles and turmoil)

War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.

Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…

And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…

As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.

Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….

Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…

That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.
History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas (a re-boot)

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would
if it could walk up and down in the garden,
swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

St. Nicholas of Myra


(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied
for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

(a little timely history lesson for this season of giving/ originally posted
in 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”
Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

being lost can lead to being found…

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him,
and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


(Fra Fillipo Lippi, Madonna and Child with Angels, 1450-65/ Uffizi Gallery/ Florence, Italy)

It never seems to fail does it??

I think it’s pretty safe for all of us to opt betting the full pile of chips
on the fact that this time of year will be, nay is, nothing less than nuts.

It will be, if it’s not already, oh so crazy, oh so hectic and oh so overwhelming…
or for some of us….
it may just be simply a little too quiet, a little too empty and
a little too lonely…

So just for fun, lets throw in a lingering pandemic, a variety of flus,
a mixed bag of weather, an angry divided nation, a wounded duck economy,
one’s own personal ups and downs….
and suddenly we find the perfect storm is churning…just waiting to unleash
its full fury on our unsuspecting souls.

And just like that, suddenly and overwhelmingly we realize that we don’t
know whether we’re coming or going—
and with the truth of the matter being that we really just don’t care.

And if that same truth be told, many of us are probably well on our way to
being much more lost than we are being found.

Thus as the full torrent of the season begins sweeping over us like the unrelenting
waves of an angry sea…knocking us over and over while consuming
what semblance of sanity remains…blessedly, if we stop fighting the madness
just long enough and if we stop to listen just oh so keenly…
a tiny jolt, a tiny shock wave, can be faintly sensed.

And it is in that tiny jolt, that tiny shock wave which jerks us back to
reality—a reality that poignantly reminds us that we’ve actually been
much more lost than we’ve ever been found.

Thus this is why Archbishop Sheen’s words uttered at the beginning of this post
resonate so beautifully today.

Some of us may know how good God truly is—but chances are right about now,
many of us might not be so certain and might just not even be aware
of the fact that we truly are so very lost.

Thus it is my hope that we may all rest in the knowledge that if we can stop
just long enough…
if we can just be still long enough,
we might be so fortunate as to taste that oh so longed for, awaited for
overtly yearned for, and painfully pined for sweetness…
a sweetness found waiting to reward those who are knowingly, or simply unknowingly,
lost…
sweetness for those who are simply waiting to be found…

And suddenly it dawns of us that it is God who has been patiently
waiting this entire tumultuous time…waiting on the lost to stop
long enough to feel and hear His call home…

for even the angles will find themselves rejoicing…

In the same way, I tell you,
there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:10

thankfulness intertwines with hopefulness

“In giving us this regular hunger for food,
we are also given opportunity to sacrifice for each other and for God
and to discipline our appetites.
Always cognizant of our nature, the liturgical year is rife
with periods of both fasting and feast.
In order to feast, we must also know sacrifice;
in fact, it’s only in sacrifice that we understand what a feast really is.
Our lives can contain an ever-repeating rhythm of each in its proper time.
In the same way that it would be profane to feast on Good Friday,
so would it be improper to fast on Easter.
This rhythm is a reminder of both a need to be filled as well
as a need to strengthen our resolve so that we might long first
and foremost for the feast that has no end.”

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering, p. 88


(turkey season in Georgia 2017/ Julie Cook)

Ok, so just maybe the above image is not necessarily an image of what we might consider
to be one of thankfulness and gratitude—
well certainly not for this particular creature being photographed that is…

…but oh isn’t it such a beautiful and magnificent bird?

We know Ben Franklin thought as much as he wanted the wild turkey to be our
Nation’s national symbol.
However, I must admit, I suppose wiser heads prevailed allowing for
the eagle to take center stage…

So maybe beautiful, or even pretty, isn’t exactly the right word or words
to describe the turkey.

Let’s just go with, say…colorful, textural, unusual, sublime, prehistoric,
and yes, how about even mysterious.

Mysterious, much like this time of year…
a time of year when we find ourselves entering into that which
reminds us that there is something much bigger and truly greater than
ourselves—even greater than any black Friday sale.

And it is a time that begins with today’s kickoff of the
annual advent of thankfulness.

I’ve always been one to give Thanksgiving day its due…
as in I believe it is a day that should indeed have its own time
in the spotlight.

A set day to remind each of us of all things full of
both gratitude and thankfulness.

Yet far too many of us seem unable or even willing to keep our thoughts
on such notions as we find it difficult keeping our Christmas spirit
of childlike glee at bay.

Many of us have already decked the halls with our Christmas decorations…
having done so well before the final candle of the jack-o-lantern
was even extinguished.

That lingering pumpkin spice scented candle’s smoke still lingers
in the air as Christmas trees, what with their glistening baubles and balls,
now come racing past to take center stage.

Thanksgiving Day, for many, receives only a cursory nod as folks have set their
sights on all things such as sales and bargains laced with the taste of
peppermint and gingerbread.

For me, I think this year in particular reminds me that…no, wait…
I think “reminds me” is the wrong phrase…I think that my soul has
actually been pricked to remember, perhaps actually even prodded with
a red hot cattle iron….
that for me, particularly this year, it is a time to be thankful
and such thankfulness must be paramount…especially this year of all years.

In the midst of a year that has seen its full bait of both loss and heartache,
the sense, that palpable feeling of both gratitude and thankfulness,
must still exist. They must still be allowed to manifest themselves
despite a seemingly insurmountable wall of all things contrary.

Because if we cannot find, if I cannot find or if we cannot
find our ability to give thanks even in the midst of our pain and suffering…
if we cannot cling to a sense of gratefulness despite our heaviness…then
we have lost all ability to hope.

And it is in that hope…that deep down sense of hopefulness,
that we actually find our ability to move forward…
even if that forward motion is simply one step at a time or simply
one more minute in a lifetime full of minutes..
one more breath at a time…

Thanksgiving reminds us of hope.

The notion that things will get better…not simply that they must get better
but rather that they WILL get better—
no matter what that getting better might look like.

It might not be what we imagined, it might not be what we expected…
but it will be hope none the less.

So I wish each of you not merely a happy Thanksgiving day but rather I
wish you each a renewed sense of hope—
for in that hope rests our real sense of thankfulness and gratitude…

“Prayer is an aspiration of the heart.
It is a simple glance directed to Heaven.
It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.”

St. Therese Lisieux

“Remember the past with gratitude.
Live the present with enthusiasm.
Look forward to the future with confidence.”

St. John Paul II

once upon a time…

“The goodness of God is the highest object of prayer,
and it reaches down to our lowest need.
It quickens our soul and gives it life,
and makes it grow in grace and virtue.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(St Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC / Julie Cook)

Once upon a time life was simple and time ebbed slowly…
a community and her people were rooted not merely in one another
but rather in their collective belief and faith.

This belief system, this faith was a connective cord that wove its way deep
into the core of each member of the community…

And it was in this said system of belief and faith…components of humankind,
which in turn gave way to something more…

It all gave way to something much more than and much greater than mere faith
or the belief itself…

It was something that was not easily nor readily understood
but yet it was simply and undeniably embraced…

It was that of a great mystery…

A mystery as old as humankind.

A mystery that had long ago been woven into the fabric of life.

One could enter their local houses of worship—some great, many small,
any time day or night in order to contemplate one’s place within as
well as outside of this mystery.

It called to each member of each community.
It was an almost innate calling in which each individual was summoned,
at no particular time or place in time, in order to
examine,
contemplate,
lament,
rest,
mourn,
ponder,
exalt,
rejoice…
all while finding their own connectivity both within and outside of this
great Mystery…


(the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)


(detail of the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)


(detail of the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)

finding peace…in and with the world

Be at peace with your own soul,
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Saint Jerome

Who except God can give you peace?
Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?

St. Gerard Majella


(an apple gourd—who knew??? / Julie Cook / 2022)

Ten some odd years ago when I started this little blog…when I began taking up
a tiny bit of residence in this endless space known as the blogosphere,
my desire was to share my personal ramblings of that of both journey
and transition…I was a teacher for heaven’s sake…we share by the sheer
nature of our trade!

And at that time, it just so happened that my life was one big journey
of transition…

There was the new transition and journey into retirement.

While at the same time there was the sorrowful transition of walking
from that of life to that of death’s door with both my dad and my aunt.

There was the journey of handing a child’s hand, turned that of a
man, to that of another woman’s hand…the passing of a torch so to speak
from one to another.

There was the discovery of a real biological past…complete with names and faces.
Yet there was the renewed rejection of a birth mother to that of her adopted child.
Again.

There was the eventual addition of two new joyous lives into my own.
The filling up of one’s heart…a heart that had just shortly before felt so
sorrowfully full of loss.

There was a pandemic.

There was a new retirement.
There was moving.
There was divorce.
There was loss.
There was unfamiliar.

And so now, as I stop for a bit of introspection and reflection,
I think my thoughts have shifted just a tad.
As in my axis has tilted just a wee bit off from its normal rotation.

I’m finding the notion of Peace…be that peace within, as well as peace outward,
to be a more immediate focus.

I think that’s why the following observation by Thomas á Kempis
has resonated so deeply within this restless soul of mine this evening.

I don’t believe that our dear brethren Thomas is inferring, as so many observers
quickly and most falsely assume of our Christian faith….
that being that we must suffer in order to eventually acquire peace…
but rather I find it all to be quite to the contrary…

It is the notion that we should seek peace amidst the chaos of
this life…a feat short of the miraculous given our current day and times..

We mere mortals will all eventually endure some sort of suffering in this
life—some, more it may appear, than most.
Fair or unfair as it may be….yet suffering, be it just or unjust, there
it will be.

And so therefore, it should be our task to seek peace within such times
and within such circumstances as we may be currently finding ourselves.

For it will only be in that Peace…that we may find rest amidst the storm.
For if we do not seek we will never find nor know that there is indeed a
Peace far greater than any turmoil life can throw at us…

And so now we begin a new journey of transition…that of Peace…

Will you come walk this path with me?

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make
peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and
readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good
and are suspicious of no one….
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those
who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live
at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us,
for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing
of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves,
lords of the world, with Christ for their friend,
and heaven as their reward.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73