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

God’s glorious sense of timing and humor

God does not give us everything we want, but He does fulfill His promises,
leading us along the best and straightest paths to Himself.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I continue to walk this very new and most foreign life of mine, I find that
some days are easier than others…and as is the nature of life,
the ying and yang of it all, some days are much harder than others.

In reality and if I’m being honest, some days are really…simply put–
very dark and difficult.
And it is within those darker days, life can seem down right scary and dreadful.

I think major life transitions are like that.

I can tick off 4 of the top 5 major causes of stress very readily.
Those things found on the forms in doctor’s offices that ask
if you have had a significant life change regarding relationships,
finances, moving etc…
Check, check and check again.

So there are definitely days that include a lot more heavy lamentations versus
the desired uplifting jubilations.

Wednesday seemed to be such a day.

I found myself in the midst of my morning prayer time imploring God
to please draw ever near…as in I needed Him something fierce.
Tears streaked cheeks have become the norm..
And so ode to yearning to have that loving embrace offered by an ever loving Father…

Jolted back to the present, suddenly I heard the familiar whistle from
my phone indicating an incoming text message.

“Oh great” I heard myself muttering, “now even God is texting….”

I stopped mid imploring and reached for my phone.
I am more than accustomed to my days now seemingly being dictated by a simple text…
be it good or be it bad.
And that’s when I found the above little inspiration being offered by my cousin.

I felt new warm tears forming in my eyes as I read the words.

“Wow” I thought…”God’s timing really is something isn’t it?!”
A virtual otherworldly and most needed hug just as I prayed for Him
to please, oh please, draw near…and remember…despite the last 7 months
of hell, I still believe that there is no such thing as coincidence.

So following my prayer time and my typical morning cry, I
remembered that I had already taken the trash and recycling out,
putting it all by my car as I was needing to head to the dump.

I quickly re-grouped and grabbed my purse and keys, heading out to the car.
I needed to hurry up and get everything loaded into the back of my car…
hurrying up before…before somebody else found the trash.

And that’s when I saw it.
I stopped dead in my tracks.

The cat was sitting on the front porch watching what she must have perceived to be
the regular neighborhood dog…
a big black 400 pound “dog” helping himself to his very own private lunch bag.

I felt my blood pressure rising as I grabbed two long piece of cardboard.

“THAT’S IT BEAR!!!!
“YOU GET YOUR LAZY A%& UP THIS MINUTE AND MOVE!!!!

I was so mad I couldn’t see straight.

Yet there he sat… resting quite comfortably licking clean the discarded cans of
cat food while savoring the past its prime watermelon.
Never mind the scooped up cat litter, the discarded egg shells, the dirty paper towels
etc, etc, etc….

I continued ranting…walking within arms length waving my cardboard.

“I SAID GET UP!!!!!!”

And just like a scolded dog…he sheepishly looked down and away…
cutting sorrowful eyes back and forth.

“I’M NOT GOING TO SAY IT AGAIN, GET UP AND MOVE!!!”

I began whacking two cardboard sticks together in his face as he reluctantly
got up and moved back a few feet.
I could tell he wanted the empty cans of cat food.

“MOVE IT BEAR!”

I got louder and stood taller whacking my cardboard sticks together.
Finally, yet very reluctantly, my lazy dinner guest, scooted down the bank and
sat where he could see me…as I could see him.

I was ranting the entire time as I picked up the remnants of trash trailing
the driveway..stepping in a torn bag of nasty cat litter and nearly slipping on a couple
of peach pits.

I was yelling and lecturing at this young hooligan just I would any juvenile delinquent
caught doing something that was wrong…
trouble with my particular hooligan was that he was being an opportunist–
a hungry lazy opportunist.

And so as I finally shoved all the trash into a new bag and pushed it into
the back of my car, all the while still lecturing a lazy bear, I thought
of how my mood was prior to this latest bear encounter.

I was sad.
Going from sad to mad.
And that’s when I thought of God and His humor.

First He reminds me He does hear me and He does still love me…
just as He certainly thinks a good diversion is often a much needed cure.

The best way to pull oneself up and out of one’s own self…

“Know, dearest daughter, how, by humble, continual, and faithful prayer,
the soul acquires, with time and perseverance, every virtue.
Wherefore should she persevere and never abandon prayer…
The soul should advance by degrees, and I know well that,
just as the soul is at first imperfect and afterwards perfect,
so also is it with her prayer.
She should nevertheless continue in vocal prayer,
while she is yet imperfect, so as not to fall into idleness.
But she should not say her vocal prayers without joining them to mental prayer,
that is to say, that while she is reciting,
she should endeavor to elevate her mind in My love,
with the consideration of her own defects and of the
Blood of My only-begotten Son,
wherein she finds the breadth of My charity and the
remission of her sins.”

—St. Catherine Of Siena, p. 92

reporting in

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Mark Twain

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice,
forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”

St. Augustine


(a healing view in NC/ Julie Cook / 2022)

I know there are a great number of questions regarding the sudden and now
lengthy absence of this blogger.

Some of you know the answers, some of you do not.

However for the sake of all involved…for this particular day,
I’ll simply stick with Mark Twain…
I am not dead.

I will say however that it has often felt like a thousand deaths over these
past many months.

In a nutshell life, my life, has turned upside down and
I will simply leave it at that.

What I would like for us all to remember however is that being turned upside down
is truly not an uncommon occurrence in the fabric of our humanness.
Most all of us, at some point or other, will experience a life that
often flips and flops.

Yet what we all need to remember is that the flipping and flopping isn’t the true nor
real story found in the turmoil…
The actual true grit of the matter is found in how we manage
through all the flipping and flopping.

I’ll just say that my family’s dynamics have changed.
No details are necessary…just the knowledge of flux and change is sufficient.

There has been both sorrow and anger.
Upheaval and tumult.
Pain and suffering.
Frustration and maybe…just maybe I can feel a bit of resolve.

So within all of the flipping and flopping, I have moved to a new state.
I am mending as I pick up my scattered pieces.

When one is attempting to put one’s life back together…routine becomes important.
And so I look forward to resuming my time spent here…a once cherished routine.
I want to be here with you—my blogging family and friends.

So with all that being said, it’s time we get reacquainted.
Please know I have missed you all.

“My God, you know infinitely better than I how little I love you.
I would not love you at all except for your grace.
It is your grace that has opened the eyes of my mind and enabled them to see your glory.
It is your grace that has touched my heart and brought upon it the influence of what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair…
O my God, whatever is nearer to me than you, things of this earth,
and things more naturally pleasing to me,
will be sure to interrupt the sight of you, unless your grace interferes.
Keep my eyes, my ears, my heart from any such miserable tyranny.
Break my bonds—raise my heart. Keep my whole being fixed on you.
Let me never lose sight of you; and, while I gaze on you,
let my love of you grow more and more everyday.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 44-45

Home

The key to perseverance is keeping your eyes on the goal.
For every Christian, that goal lies just beyond the gates of death.
Our true citizenship is in the only place where we will truly feel at home:
Heaven.

Fr. J. Augustine Wetta, OSB
from his book Humility Rules

Thinking of the notion of home…I’ve thought back to a post I wrote back in 2013..
a post about a simple back door.
Here’s the link…

If a door could talk

I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the world I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home, I’m coming home
Tell the world that I’m coming
I’m back where I belong, yeah I never felt so strong (yeah)
(I’m back baby)
I feel like there’s nothing that I can’t try

Skylar Grey

the mystery in misty memories

“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved
and where all your yesteryears are buried deep,
leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can.
Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour
because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones,
vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud,
formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham


(a misty rising of the superman / Julie Cook / 2017)

(a timely tweaked re-post from 2017)

Whispers slip out from scented branches…
all while caught lingering between twinkling lights.

Each bauble, each ball, each special tangible memory calls out from ages past…
transporting the now to the then.

Broken, chipped, bent or faded…it matters not–
the flood of what once was cascades down upon the unexpected.

Voices long since silenced are suddenly as clear as a bell…
as a clock chimes upon a stocking draped mantle.

Each box, now reopened once again…
as each unearthed trinket is removed…
dusty and now worse for the wear from the years of in and out,
dangles precariously on a needle encrusted branch…
bridging both space and time…yet caught between a sea of red and green.

A story line begins to unravel….as a tale of love, loss and even hope sits
arranged, ever just so, inviting all to come behold.

For better or worse, we begin again…
Carrying on with and without…
and if we’re lucky, year in and year out…
a Mystery breaks through the barriers of both life and death.

And we are the better for that Mystery…

“The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty.
A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.
We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery.
Therefore, children have open, wide-awake eyes,
because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery.
They are not yet finished with this world;
they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do.
We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary
of our being,
because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal,
and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…
Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life,
nothing of the mystery of another person,
nothing of the mystery of the world;
it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world.
It means remaining on the surface,
taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated
and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation.
Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of
life at all and even denying them.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

A short story

The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren
is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life,
but rather a legacy of character and faith.

Billy Graham


(early 19th century tombstone / Colonial Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2014)

****Once again I’ve found myself looking back and re-reading previous posts–
posts that might need to be re-shared…this little story popped out from
all those posts and asked to be re-shared as I’ve gone back and tweaked it a bit.)

Hushed voices whispered across the back porch…whispering from under a
sweltering blanket of an oppressive late August evening.

It was almost 10 PM and the old galvanized thermometer was reading 86—-
It was a most welcomed drop from the triple digits which had only added
insult to injury earlier that day, as a grieving family gathered in a tiny
crowded church.

Her thinning frail hand was now working harder than it should,
waving the paper program back and forth as she hoped to stir up the
stifling night air…or were her hands simply nervous and in need of some
sort of distraction?

The screen door creaked to life, breaking the unbearable silence as
familiar steps began tp echo cross the well-worn wooden planks.

“I thought I told you to oil that door last week”
her words now taking more effort than she had strength to offer.

“Has anyone seen Ellington?”

“Not since lunch” was the whispered response.
Ellington was named for the legendary Duke Ellington.

He had always loved listening to the Big Band orchestras.
This love began during that most surreal time, back in ’44,
when he and the others waited on their orders.
Orders for when the offensive assault would begin.
Orders that would mark that fateful June day for all of eternity and
perhaps change the lives of his small world forever.

The days leading up to the invasion were passed nervously while everyone
just sat fidgeting, waiting and wondering.
Like the darkening clouds of an impending storm,
the cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air.

There were the endless games of cards, letters written and rewritten home
all the while those same familiar bands were playing over and over..
playing on the only record player aboard ship.
If he ever made it back home, he promised himself,
he’d get himself a dog and name it Ellington.

“I haven’t seen him since we got back from the Church.”
“You know how that dog loved your daddy.”
“How old is he now, 12?
“Yeah, I bet he’s sitting down by the gate still waiting on Daddy to
come driving up the road in that stupid old pick up.

“It isn’t a stupid pick-up!” she shot over her shoulder
at her brother– sounding angrier then she had intended.

“Mama, can I get you some more tea?” she asks as she stands
and stretches muscles now stiff from sitting in the ‘old man’s’ rocking chair.

“It’s not as comfortable as your Daddy would have made you think, is it?”
“No mam, it’s not.
How in the world did Daddy sit out here every night reading that paper of his?
I’d rather sit on a fence post. . .”

Catherine mutters the statement as she gently rubs a weary behind.

“Your Daddy had a bit more padding back there than you do sweetie.”

At 92 she was a woman still full of warmth and grace.
They had been married almost 70 years.
He had actually asked her to marry him in a letter, written from France,
once he knew he had survived the worst part of the war.

It took the letter 6 weeks to make it home.
Six weeks of her not knowing if he was dead or alive.
When her father brought the mail in the house that evening
and once everyone had sat down to supper…
he silently slipped the letter across the dinning room table.

She looked nervously at both her mother and father, and then slowly
opened the thin airmail post, hands trembling over what
this long awaited letter might say.

Suddenly, sending her chair crashing on the floor as she jumped to her feet..
she shouted, apparently to no one present in the room,
“Yes, Yes Yes. . .”

That was August 1944.

It would be two more years before they would marry,
once the war was finally over and he made his way home with several citations,
a silver star and an honorable discharge.

It had not always been an easy life, but it had been a good life.
They had raised 4 decent and caring children on that small farm–
managing to always pay the bills while keeping everyone feed,
especially the three boys.
They even made certain that the kids would have the option of going to college
if they so chose.
And choose they did.

As Catherine made her way inside to the familiar kitchen, pulling open the faded door
to the old Frigidaire, relishing the blast of fresh cool air,
she hunted for the pitcher of tea.

“I thought we were all going in together to buy them a new one
of these last Christmas?!”
–Catherine mumbles while lingering in the
coolness of the refrigerator’s contents.

She knew her younger brother had followed her inside.

Gathering the courage to speak his mind, with her back now sufficiently turned
in his direction, her younger brother boldly begins to blurt out his
quasi-rehearsed speech.

“I think you ought to take mom back with you and I’ll take Ellington back with me.
It’s not like she. . .”

This younger brother doesn’t even have time to finish his first thought
before Catherine slams the door to the refrigerator and whips around so fast
that it catches James off guard.

“WHAT?!” she hisses through clenched teeth as she fights back the
angry stinging tears.

She always did have Daddy’s quick temper.

“Are you crazy!? she practically screams as she proceeds to unleash
the full wrath of fury laced with the pain and frustration built from
the past few days..
unleashed all upon an unsuspecting yet well meaning,
if not clueless, younger brother.

“I’m not taking her anywhere and you’re certainly not taking that dog back to Boston.
You want to just kill both of them right now?
Taking them from here, especially now, would certainly do it.”

James, now a bit frightened, doesn’t recognize the ranting woman
standing across from him.

“Oh I get it”…Catherine continues.
“Robert knew you were coming in here didn’t he?

James nervously twists his wedding band.

“I bet you both have been planning all of this when Daddy first got sick.”
“He’s out there right now ready to tell Mama ya’ll’s plan isn’t he?”
“And Paul???”
“What about Paul?”
“He’s not even here for Christ’s sake.”
“He can’t even get a plane out of Venezuela for the funeral and you two
have already moved her and that dog!
How dare you James!”

Catherine is now seething in a mix of anger, pain and sorrow.

And just as quickly as the furious storm is unleashed upon a hapless younger sibling,
the rage thankfully subsides.

Catherine suddenly feels as if all the energy, all the anger,
all that once was is now mingled with a terrible heaviness of  immense sorrow.
Any remaining energy has now simply evaporated from her very tired body—all the while
a tempest wind has suddenly and thankfully vanished…
taking all of the energy from the raging storm with it.

Her brother, her younger brother,
is no longer looking at her but rather standing with both hands stretched
out on the counter, his arms are painfully straining to hold up his now
very weary lanky frame–with his head cast downward, he mumbles
“I just thought the boys would like having the dog.”

Catherine, reading the pain in his words, reaches her hand to cover her brother’s.
She’s amazed by how much James looks like a much younger version of the man
she lost only yesterday.

She begins slowly…
“It’s not like Daddy owed any money on this place.
He paid it off 10 years back when he sold off the cows.
Mr. Johnson has been paying them for the hay—
and Randal and Wilton pay Daddy for renting the fields,
plus they’re giving them a percentage of the corn.
They can now simply pay Mama.”

Catherine is now looking at James with the compassion that can only be found in that
of a protective older sister while she begins her stance of conviction.

“I know you think Richard and I never can agree on much…
but the one thing we do agree on is Mama and Daddy.
I know how much Richard loved Daddy and he in turn has only wanted the best
for both of them.”

We’ve talked about it.
I’ve got enough years in at work.
I sent in my letter of resignation last month.
I’m going to stay with Mama for as long as she needs me or wants me.”

“With the girls now gone, the house is really more than Richard and I need.
We’ve talked about letting Robert list the house and we’ll just come back
here to the farm until we find something smaller.”

“Richard can commute to the college.
I can stay a month, six months, a year…”

“And you can go back to Alice and the boys…
buy the boys a dog, but Ellington has got to stay here with Mama!”

“Robert is less than two hours away in Des Moines,
he can be here when and if I need him.”

By now a wealth of tears has finally come to both weary faces.

Whoever would have thought this pair of once rough and tough siblings
would be standing at the counter of the kitchen,
the same kitchen that had once witnessed a myriad of mud covered frogs
swimming in the brand new porcelain sink.
Or a lethargic lizard placed in the freezer for safe keeping.
Or one too many missing cherry pies from a lone windowsill
And what of those late night secret ins and outs of restless teens,
teens who were now sadly finding themselves, all these many years later,
deciding the fate of an aging mother and dog.

“Look at it this way” Catherine interjects attempting to put a much
needed smile back on her younger brother’s face..
“this will finally give Mama the chance to teach me how to make that
famous gooseberry jam of hers.
You know how much she always resented Daddy for turning her only daughter
into a 4th farm hand, dashing all her hopes for a little feminism
on this male dominated farm.”

James lifts his tear-streaked face to meet his sister’s glance.

“You know how I hated that crap” he sheepishly replies.
“Yeah, I know, just as much as Daddy did.”
Catherine now gently squeezes her brother’s hand.

James is now wide eyed as he stares in disbelief at his sister.

“Yep”, Catherine states matter of factly, “he hated it”

Catherine continues, “he said it reminded him of eyeballs covered in sugar,
but he’d eat it any way cause he knew how hard she had worked on it”

By now that captivating yet distinctive boyish grin was slowly returning
the face of a man whose heart was breaking.

“I suppose that’s what happens when you love someone for 70 years”
sighs a very tired Catherine who is now smiling back at her equally
tired kid brother.
“You’d eat anything they cooked and in turn love an
old hound dog named Ellington.”

A gentle reminder

“The measure of love is to love without measure.”
St. Francis de Sales


(wild turkey Cades Cove, The Great Smokies National Park, Tennessee /Julie Coo / 2015)

****It’s time to resume taking our place in our small family’s yearly pilgrimage…
and since I will be out of pocket for the next few days, I’ve
opted to revisit a previous post from 2016—I needed to re-read this post
for all sorts of reasons—if not simply to be reminded that there is so much more
then my narrow sighted surroundings…remember, we must all remain grateful…
Enjoy a rediscovered moment seemingly lost in time…

Late one afternoon last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.
It was one of those late in the day appointments…
the kind of appointment that puts a kink in the entire day….
as in you have to be dressed and ready to go all the while making
certain that you aren’t doing anything else that causes you to overrun
the appointed time.

You know how doctor’s offices can be…

Either they scold you for running late…
as in the receptionist will either actually say something about how you’ve
messed up everyone else by being late,
or rather she will just give you that stare of annoyment while curtly
asking for your insurance information.
Or even worse…they’ll fine you for missing the appointment because
they canceled it when you weren’t there on the dot.

Never mind that you will proceed to sit for hours waiting to finally be seen
despite your punctuality.

I arrived right on time but noticed that the office seemed rather
sparse for that time of day.
This was actually an appointment that had to be rescheduled following my nerve block
as the two coincided and they couldn’t work me in for a solid month,
so I’ve had to wait and wait….
I am happy I wasn’t in total dire straights.

The receptionist asked which doctor I was to see.
When I told her she informed me that he was actually in a different office
in another town that day.

Huh?

“What’s your birthday so I can look up your time…”

I gave it to her while I was now almost certain that for some reason,
maybe the fact that my brain no longer worked,
the appointment was actually to be the following day…
the day I was having to be Atlanta with Dad.

Sure enough it was.

Despite my having gotten the text to confirm the day and time…
despite that the date being marked on my calendar and
despite my cell phone alerting me when to go…

So since I now had to cancel the now following day’s appointment, again,
as I had to be with Dad,
the earliest available was not for another full month…
maybe by then I will be or won’t be in dire straights…

Anywhoo, I exited the office now mad.
Mad at myself…
mad at my crazy life…
and mad that the doctor can’t seem to see me for months at a time…

Aggravated, I got in the elevator with my nose to my phone making certain
I was putting the new date and time in correctly.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the man coming out of the
same office I had just exited,
right behind me as he entered the elevetaor with me.

I pushed the ground floor and was taken aback a bit when I realized I wasn’t alone.
I asked the gentleman which floor he needed.
He told me the ground floor.

We all know how awkward it can be with just two strangers on an elevator together…
as in what do you say, what to you do, where do you look…I put down my phone and
asked my elevator mate if he was having a good day.

“Oh yes mam I am” he said with a distinct country accent.

Here in the south, true southerners either have a deep southern drawl
or one that is what is considered to be more country than southern.
Much to my mother’s disdain, when she first met my husband,
who was at the time my fiancé of their first meeting,
his accent was and still is more country than was her very genteel southern intonation.

My elevator mate was wearing a green and white checked shirt, neatly tucked into his
nicely pressed blue jeans.
He was an older black man, graying throughout his neatly cut hair.
He was rather thin yet spry and was squinting in the dimly lit elevator…
all the while ginning from ear to ear.

He continued…
“I don’t have to come back for 6 more months cause I just got me a
good report from the doctor.”

“That’s great!” I injected, genuinely happy for him because I know all too well
about those bad reports.

“Ever since that operation when he cut on my stomach,
I’ve quit hurting and I”ve gained 10 pounds in a month’s time!
I aint scrawny no more!!!” he proudly boasted.

I told him that that was great and now he’d be able to truly enjoy his Thanksgiving.
“Oh yes mam I plan to…”

By now we were both making our way toward the parking lot.
As we exited the building, I noticed that it was a very warm late fall afternoon.
The sun was shining yet heading deep toward the west…
all the while a warm breeze blowing.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day” he announced more than asked…
as I respond that that indeed it was.
I added “it certainly doesnt feel very fall-like since we’ve not had any fall
or winter-like weather.

“Well that’s about to change this weekend because it’s going to be cold on Sunday.”

“Really?”

I’ve not paid much attention to the weather as of late as we are in an extremely
unseasonable spell of warm weather that is actually hot and dangerously dry.

“Yes mam, but until then, you enjoy this nice weather and you have yourself a
good Thanksgiving holiday.”

“And I hope you do too….”

And with that we went our separate ways.

Suddenly I forgot that I had been mad, aggravated or feeling frustrated that
I’d wasted the better part of the day with stupidity…

Because in that elevator, I had met a spry and happy reminder to the things in our
lives that truly matter….
and it didn’t have anything to do with missed appointments…
or maybe…it really did…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God
.
Philippines 4:6

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

discernment, obedience and wandering…

“A man must go through a long and great conflict in himself before
he can learn fully to overcome himself,
and to draw his whole affection towards God.
When a man stands upon himself he is easily drawn aside
after human comforts.
But a true lover of Christ, and a diligent pursuer of virtue,
does not hunt after comforts, nor seek such sensible sweetnesses,
but is rather willing to bear strong trials and hard labors for Christ.”

Thomas a’ Kempis, p. 64
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ


(a lone willet wanders in the surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook /2021)

Long ago and far away in a lifetime other than this current one, I was
a young, rather naive
no, make that a stubborn and hard headed 20 something.

20 something seems to be the age in which we tend to make
some of our more major decisions…be that college majors,
career paths, relationship choices, moving, staying, coming
or going…the ground work of life seems to really get serious
when we are in our early 20’s.

I have always been one who has tried desperately to listen to that
still small voice found within.

It’s just that the majority of my life, that voice has been more or less,
inaudible.
As in I really need, want, prefer to be hit in the head as I can’t ever
hear that resounding yes or no.

It just seems that I have had to guess throughout so much of my life,
feeling my way blindly in the dark.

For me, I have always believed that that still small voice is
not my own. It is to be the voice of God…
or simply put, the urgings of the Holy Spirit.

This is where the notion of discernment enters into the picture.
We listen, hear and prayerfully discern…God’s will for our lives

So what exactly is discernment you ask?
Well Merriam Webster tells us that discernment is the quality of being able
to grasp and comprehend what is obscure

Grasping and comprehending the obscure.

I think one’s future can certainly be the stuff of the obscure.

And since I’m recalling a past tale concerning an obscure future…
let me continue with said tale.
.
So yes…many lifetimes ago as a young 20 something,
I made a major life decision…hoping I had discerned correctly God’s
desired choice for my life.

The problem, however, was that I had never heard God’s audible yay or nay.
I was rather going on some sort of rote autopilot…following that
which I thought I was supposed to do.

And so, once I had made such a decision, I was set.
There was no turning back.

Obedience or stubbornness—that is yet to be seen.
But when I commit, I tend to do so with both feet.
It’s all in or nothing.
No waffling here.
It’s for better or worse.
Wise or stupid.

And so it was, at this point of my life, I can remember that my godmother
had gotten wind of this particular major decision of mine.

My godmother was a very Godly woman.
Wise yet doggedly determined…as in, her feet were firmly planted
and there was no straying…because she had prayed, heard, discerned
and was now firmly set.

She just always seemed to have a direct line to God and was always lead
by that very resounding direct line.

So when I went to tell my godmother of this particular decision of mine
on this particular day in time, a debate most severe ensued.

She did not think my decision was made with prayerful discernment
but was more of a youthful whim.

A 3 hour roller coaster of back and forth filled the afternoon.

Eventually, I left mad and more determined than when I had arrived
and she, I know, was frustrated and equally defiant.

She had time on her side…a lifetime of experience.
I had only but the gut feeling of a young person still
finding her way.

So where is all of this going you ask.

Well, the other day, our dear friend Oneta, over on Sweet Aroma
(https://onetahayes.com), made mention of this same sort of notion.

She wrote of decision making.
Decisions made inside and outside of God’s will.

Oneta spoke of discernment vs having to wander in a desert.
Meaning that if decisions are made outside of God’s will,
there will be consequences…as in wandering in deserts.
Meaning that God will allow us to wander…
allowing us to go nowhere no time fast.

That is until…

So back to my little story.

At this particular time in my life, I had a good friend who
was about 12 years older than me.
She had watched me grow over the years, often lending a guiding hand or
word.
She too got wind of my decision…plus she got wind of the rift
between godmother and goddaughter.

Unbeknownst to me this wise friend of mine went to my
equally wise godmother.

She told my godmother, as she later told me, that whether or not
my decision was, at the time, within God’s will or not…was not
my friend’s worry because what she knew was that regardless,
God would eventually, in His perfect time,
work that decision of mine to be within His perfect will.

My wise godmother yielded to the wisdom of another…
adding more wisdom to the arsenal.

Now how all that works is beyond my mere mortal’s brain, but I am grateful
that is does work.

The lesson here…
an oft decision can indeed become God’s will because of God’s will.

Not to say there won’t be struggles, frustration, or suffering.
God, however, works all things to His good…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

but wait…you want to know if I wandered or not right??

Well, I’m not certain.
If I’m like the Israelites, I might have two more years to figure that out.

But just know, there has been a lot of other wanderings I
been walking…

somewhere in between..then and now

“We should take as a maxim never to be surprised at current difficulties,
no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience
we shall see them disappear. Time changes everything.”

St. Vincent de Paul


( Highlands, NC / Julie Cook / 2021)

There will always be ‘the then’—and following that—is “the now”…
everything in between is what we call life.

Sometimes we are given a precious gift…we are allowed to reunite with
“the then”… merging it into “the now”.

The middle, that which is known as life, simply fades out of sight.

Time, as well as life, is forgotten.
Years fade blessedly away.
And so ‘what was’ is suddenly and tenderly embraced by ‘the now’
Grabbed up and held tightly in aching arms that have been oh so
empty for far too long.

And we find ourselves exhaling slowly, whispering a grateful thank you to
a Father who knew all along that “the then” was bound to always
be a part of ‘the now”

Thank you Father…

“God never hurries.
There are no deadlines against which he must work.
Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine