it’s that time of year again….

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, ‘It will be happier.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson


(Nany’s plant is blooming again….)

****It’s that time of year again…or so that’s what they keep telling us.
When you’re husband runs a local retail business, time and life ‘this
time of year’, is not your own….those of you who know me, know this….
And so my posting may be a bit more “lite” verses hefty and plentiful….
But I’ll do my best…..

This Christmas lily, which just so happens to be currently in bloom,
the one in the above photo, was my grandmother’s… Nany.
I’ve written about Nany’s lily before.

There is a tale of tenacity in this lily.

Nany died in 1986 and therefore I inherited the plant.
How and why I was the recipient, I don’t recall…
perhaps it was because mother had just died three months prior and poor ol dad
had no idea as to what he’d do with a plant…only to throw it out….
Having none of that, I “volunteered” to take the lily.

It was early on in our marriage and I was young…
more like stupid now that I look back on my younger self…
but I suppose we all were back then…..

I had left the plant out one night when there was a frost.
The plant died….
or so I thought.
Oh well.

Yet my husband brought the pot back inside the house, despite it being just now
a pot with a frozen brown mass of mess drooped within.

I pruned away all the dead parts and just kept the pot with it’s dirt.
Then a few weeks went by with little to no thought of the plant…that was until I walked past it one day and low and behold…a green shoot had begun to make it’s way upward…
the rest is history.

Nany probably had the plant 10 or more years before I inherited it—
making the plant…roughly somewhere between 40 to 50 years old….

Yet the plant had never bloomed.

I just thought it was a big green leafed plant that was until one year
right around Christmas.
Our son was little and we were still living in our first home,
the house before this house.
A shoot in between the midst of the large green floppy leaves magically appeared
bearing one cluster of three blooms.
It was like some kind of miracle to me.
Who knew this was a flowering plant?!

Probably everyone other than my dumb younger self.

Talk about fragrant.

So now every year since, this plant sends up a lone shoot,
during sometime each December…making it a Christmas Lily.
A small miracle taking place each year in my kitchen, where the plant now lives.

Except this year…..

This year, for the first time since I’ve had the plant, two shoots have emerged.
I don’t know if it’s some sort of sign or some sort of fluke—
I’d like to think Nany is looking down and is happy knowing she will have a great
great granddaughter in February.

I was named after both of my grandmothers…and my son and daughter-n-law are now
using my maiden name for our soon to be granddaughter’s middle name—-

Both Nany and Dad would be pleased…..

My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favor.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.
I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:1-14

seeing or simply seeing through….

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?
Do not ignore him when he is naked.
Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk,
only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad.
He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said:
“You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and
“Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”…
What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden
chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying
his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well

St John Chrysostom


(rainy cold day in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Winter arrived today in Georgia…a cold rain with freezing temps
as snow is predicted for later in the week…
But we don’t like to use that ‘S’ word here in Georgia as it tends to
send everyone into an apocalyptic tizzy.

I was out running errands in this cold rain, hitting the grocery store,
picking up odds and ends while playing the role of pre-Santa—
as in I was doing those things and gathering those things we usually do and gather
this particular time of year.

Once I was finally home, I felt pretty good about what I had accomplished
and actually started some more rounds of baking…
yet I had woken this morning with a rather fetid brow along with a
troubled spirit about the news of a friend…

I say friend but really she is just someone whose business I have frequented
for probably the last 25 years…as we’ve seen one another about once a week
or so…

Yet that’s pretty much been the extent of the relationship.
We each know one another’s families, because that’s how it is in a
smaller community. Particularly with those particular businesses that have been
a part of the community for eons.

This friend basically watched my son grow up and whereas I don’t sew,
she actually sewed his cub scout badges on his uniform for me.

I had also known her mother.
A genteel southern lady who worked at this family business until she was almost 90.
She always called me honey or sweetie and I appreciated that.

Over the years, I’d bring in small remembrances at the holidays as
they in turn would offer me and my family the same…
the appreciation of being a customer mixes with that of a true level of friendship.

This friend, as she is older, is not technologically savvy but did try
following my blog once.

That was when I actually learned that her grown son suffered from the same mental
illness that had plagued my brother—a tale which was in a post I had
once written about forgiveness.
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/)

The post had touched her so much that she tried delicately talking to me about it
one day when I had run in to pick up a few things.

She is older and very southern and was thus taught that there are just some
things “a lady” does not talk about in public…
and she adheres strictly to that notion.
So I knew and appreciated the great effort it had taken for her to share her
own story with me.

It was then, following our conversation, that I actually began to see her in
a very different light….
because I now knew she knew about dark heartache and hardships.

And it was then that it actually dawned on me that we only think we know people—especially those in our narrow corners of the world…
we see them, we chat with them, we keep up with them here and there…
but….

So I have to admit that I was a bit convicted with the thought that we
really don’t know our neighbors like we think we do.

For you see we don’t always tell folks things about ourselves.
Things that we are either burdened by, mistakenly ashamed about,
or things we really just want to hide away.

There is often the mindset that if anyone really knows the truth about us…
they will certainly feel differently about us…perhaps non accepting….

She always spoke of her daughter, very proudly—a daughter who doesn’t live in state….but a daughter who shares my same name…
so each time I’d come into the business, this friend would always call me
by a double name—her daughter’s first and middle name—
of which is not my first and middle name….
however, I never corrected her—I just let her call me by her daughter’s name
as I think the “connection” simply made her feel good.

Her health and age have both gotten the best of her…
so about 3 weeks ago, rather unexpectedly, abruptly and unceremoniously, she up
and announced to her brother, the business owner, that she was quitting….
right then and there—
and out the door she went.

Since then her brother and I have spoken rather candidly about his sister,
my friend, as he is keenly aware of how I have sincerely cared about her
well being—
he shared the worries, the concerns, the frustrations in her refusals in having
anything with doctors—doctors she’s needed to see for years…
all of which is coupled by a most stubborn demeanor.

Then last night my husband came home telling me that my friend’s brother
had come into my husband’s business and shared with him news that his sister
had fallen at home and no one had known.
She laid on the floor for about 3 or 4 days before the family checked in on her.

She was rushed to the hospital and had to have a leg removed….
due to a loss of blood flow and may have also suffered a stroke.

I went by the business today with an orchid..as visiting at the hospital is
not an option.

The prognosis, the brother told me, was not good but that the daughter
will be moving her mother out of state in order to be near her and her family,
when and if she can be released.

So the thoughts of the plight of this friend of mine weighed heavy on my heart today
much like the grey cold which added to that sense of heaviness.

Reading the post this evening, by an Orthodox believer, I was struck by the words
that were shared by the 4th century Archbishop, Doctor of the church and later saint,
John Chrysostom over his concern for the poor and the suffering whom he had
witnessed first hand one winter when traveling through a busy city
marketplace in Antioch.

His words and the recalling of seeing those physically suffering, much
maligned and overlooked human beings…
human beings who were looked through as if invisible….
rather than being looked at as living beings,…
stuck me in a most profound sense.

I thought of my friend and of others who we see, but don’t really see.
Not just the obvious individuals who are perhaps homeless and suffering…
but those who we see on a daily basis and are also suffering, only in
a different and more quiet sort of way.

And so I pray that we—meaning you and I— may be more mindful of those
individuals who we pass by either mindlessly or even purposefully–yet do not see.

Each of us has a story…and each of us has a connection…
We are each created by the same Creator…and we are precious
in His sight despite being scorned upon in the sight of others or simply
never seen in the sight of others…

And at the same time we are each called to be compassionate and to serve those who
cannot serve themselves…..

As the words of this most astute saint haunt us to this day:

I have come hither today to undertake a righteous mission among you,
a mission profitable and suitable for you.
By no others than the poor who dwell in this city of yours have I been
appointed the spokesman.
I have been sent not by word of mouth,
nor by vote of the citizens,
nor by a decree of the senate,
but by a most grievous and piteous spectacle.

For as I was hastening to preach before this congregation,
I passed through the market-place and the alleys,
and I saw many lying in the midst of the crossings,
some lacking hands and feet, some without eyes,
some filled with ulcers and running sores and exposing
as much as possible those parts which because of the suppuration
should have been covered.
And I thought I would be most inhuman if I did not appeal to your
charity in their behalf, especially since,
in addition to the reasons I have just given,
I am constrained thereto by the season of the year.
For although it is always fitting to preach about alms
(seeing that we in our dealings with other men are wanting in the
great mercy of our Lord and Creator)
yet at this season especially it is meet so to speak,
when the cold is so urgent.

He did not say, “Now concerning the collections for beggars” or
“for the poor”, but “for the saints”;
instructing his hearers to honor the poor—that is,
of course, if they were devout—and to spurn the rich if they despised virtue.

Come, let us in place of employers hold out compassionate hands to them,
and on this mission let us take as our companion Paul,
the true patron and protector of the poor.
For he more than anyone else concerns himself with this question.
For this reason, when he divided the disciples with Peter,
he did not divide the care of the poor; but when he had said,
“They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship:
that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision,” he added,
“Only that we should be mindful of the poor:
which same thing also I was careful to do.” (Gal. 2:9–10).
In fact, throughout his epistles he preaches about these things,
and you will not find a single letter of his without an admonition of this kind.
For he knew, he knew with certainty of how great moment this question is;
and therefore, as if he were placing an exquisite dome upon a building,
so to his other admonitions and counsels he adds his teaching in regard to charity.

(Delivered at Antioch by St John Chrysostom
After Passing Through The Marketplace In The Wintertime,
And Seeing The Paupers And Beggars Lying There Neglected)

for the full text click the following link:

https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/i-have-come-hither-today-to-undertake-a-righteous-mission-among-you/

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

choosing the the gift wisely…..

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover
as the love of the giver.”

Thomas à Kempis


(the tiniest treasure found amongst the debris / Julie Cook / 2017)

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” Daniel 5:17
Daniels friends let it be known that the God of heaven was their King.
Daniel himself kept his windows open and prayed in defiance of a king’s decree.
Later in his life, Daniel refused the king’s gifts because his faithfulness
to God didn’t have a price.
He refused to be bought.
By gifts we mean the goodies of the world that stand in the way of the
greatness of God’s kingdom.
They come in any form of fame, fortune,
or promotion promised by getting along with the world.
Daniels life didn’t have a price tag.
His services weren’t for sale.
No amount of worldly gifts for kingly accolades could deter him from his mission.
He was a man of deep conviction, dedicated commitment, and undeniable courage;
the grace of heaven was far more important to him than gifts of men.”

Living Among Lions; How To Thrive Like Daniel In Today’s Babylon.
David and Jason Benham

I really do have a great deal of disdain for this time of year.
I’ve written about it before.
Not because it is Christmas mind you, but rather because it is Christmas.

Huh??

Yes, I know, you probably don’t understand that last bit of redundancy.
Yet I would lay money that many of you actually do.

Yesterday a title to a post from a wonderful blog I follow,
jumped out at me from within a computer screen

“Keep your gifts”

Keep Your Gifts

There was a sense of defiance in the title that I found to be almost
exhilarating….
“Exactly!!” I practically shouted as I recalled just how much
I’ve been fretting the ticking of the impending season’s gift giving time clock.

I’m having a really hard time getting “into the spirit of the season….”

Be it this balmy weather, the heaviness of loss, the overwhelming worrisomeness
over this world of ours or the madness that is currently besetting our nation…

Ho hum is apparently beating out Ho, Ho, Ho….

Our family has drastically declined this past year,
leaving more names than I care to actually acknowledge as MIA from our
Christmas list.
Yet there are those who remain who do deserve a little something
under the tree…this as we look forward to a family addition come February.

But within all of that…those who are missing, the list of names, the cards,
the baking, the cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the working, the tree….
which by the way I have no idea when it’ll go up as it seems like it was just
June when my husband and son finally manhandled the thing
down to the basement.
And whereas it takes two to haul the blasted heavy thing
anywhere it must go, I in turn must wait upon strong abled bodies to
happen by my door in order to assist….yet I digress….

So in a nutshell this is a season of tremendous expectation.

And not in the notion of expectant as in the anticipation of waiting but rather
in a societal demand of what is expected.

There are those who fret how they will afford a gift for those they love.
There are those unable to physically seek out a gift for those they love.
There are those who will be away from those they love.
There are those who are simply alone with no one to love,
as they find this time of year so very difficult.
And there are those who go overboard while there are those who take
the path of Scrooge.

It’s just really gotten to be so much more than it was ever meant to be.
And I wonder when it will all finally explode, taking most of society with it.

So it is good, perhaps even life saving, to be reminded that Christmas
is not what the world keeps telling us it is…

As this world and her culture gods and the gods of commercialism and materialism
call out to us like a haunting and enticing siren…
singing a luring and hypnotic call coming from within a television,
or from the myriad of computer popups, from the endless shiny billboards
bedecking the roadways, to the festive sounds from the radio or the
the endless sea of periodicals and catalogs…
all singing the song of falsehood, greed and emptiness.

The quote from the book Living Among Lions, which I must confess I did just order,
sums all of this up so wonderfully—-Daniel offered us the best example—
“keep your gifts or give them to someone else….”
because Daniel neither needed nor wanted these earthly gifts offered by man.

Simply put, Daniel’s gift was God and God alone.

So as you peruse those catalogs and fight the endless throngs at the mall,
or sit glassy eyed and glazed over while staring at the computer as you endlessly
surf and search for that which is to be deemed special and perfect….
all the while as those credit card totals rise and those debit card totals shrink….
be mindful that nothing bought will ever fill the need of both the heart and soul.

For all things bought will eventually break, be outgrown, fade, get lost, or become
quickly outdated.

For the only true “gift” that really matters to any of us is the priceless
gift of Salvation…
Found in a lonely little corner of the world in a forgotten time and place…

In all of my years of service to my Lord,
I have discovered a truth that has never failed and has never been compromised.
That truth is that it is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability
to out give God.
Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him,
He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave.

Charles H. Spurgeon

a little more empty during a tough year…

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(The Very Rev. and Mrs David B. Collins–David and Virginia “Ginny” /
Julie N.Cook / 1981)

In this grainy old photo you see two people who were very much in love—

…and those two people were two individuals who I loved very much as well.

He had been a Naval Officer during WWII and she a staring actress in the original
production of Carousel on Broadway—and yet they somehow met, fell in love, married
and loved one another well into their 90’s….

And they had each loved me.

The year of the photograph was 1981 and it was taken during an evening
a group of us had met up at our favorite British Pub in Atlanta.
The Churchill Arms.
One could have walked into this pub and felt magically transported across the
proverbial pond to a different place and time.

I think both young and old in our group that night wished we were all in England–
during a different time.

Back then, back when I was young, at that pub on Thursday nights,
the Atlanta Bagpipes and Drums would hold court and practice.
There were the nightly dart competitions.
And on Friday and Saturday nights, a dear older lady would play the piano
as everyone would gather around to sing rousing renditions of Waltzing Matilda,
Keep the Home Fires Burning, Over There, etc….
all the while enjoying a pint of Whitbread, Guinness or New Castle….

Funny thing thinking about a bunch of late 70’s college kids singing Waltzing Matilda
and actually knowing not only the words but what the song was about and when it had actually been popular….

I think the pub is still there…where it was back in my youth…
But it’s now a modern trendy sort of place sans all the typical Anglophile
paraphernalia.
No longer does it harken back to a better place and time.
As it beckons to the cutting edge millennial…with it’s more otherworldly
bar atmosphere of the 21st century.

It was probably an odd place for a group of college kids to gather along with their
parish priest, the current Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Philip…along
with this vicar’s wife…..but the church was no small parish,
he was no small church vicar and we were no average lot of kids.

There was very much a homey feel here, there was a fire place, lots of wood—
a place we, a bedraggled little extended “family,”
could all gather to enjoy one another’s company.
A place we could chat, catching everyone up on life at our various colleges and
hear what we had missed at Church.

The drinking age at the time was 18 so we were all good and by the time this
picture was taken, I was well into my early 20’s.

I’ve written about both of them before.
For various reasons…be it because of my adoption, my faith, my family, my life…
as they each had had a prominent role in my small corner of the world.

They each taught me a great deal about life, love, living, dying, fighting,
believing…. as well as lessons about Faith, God, hopefulness, healing and Grace.

They each saved me, more times than I care to recall, from myself.

They each knew of the failings and egregious actions of my life yet
loved me none the less.
As I certainly worked hard at testing that love many a time.

I am who I am to this day because of them.
Better because of who they were.

They actually laid hands upon my head, several times, as they prayed for healing.

Not for a physical healing but for a more profound and more important healing.
A deep spiritual healing.

He was adopted, just like I was.
We shared that—just as she shared us.
She knew the importance of deep healing.
And she knew how important such healing was for both of us and to our pasts—-
to the two people she loved.

They had 4 children of their own…
and then there was me—the surrogate 5th.
They claimed to be my Godparents…by proxy really…for when I was baptized
as an infant, our paths had not yet crossed.

The relationship was set in motion in 1966 when they first moved to Atlanta
in order for him to take the over the position of dean at the Nation’s largest
Episcopal Cathedral.

They are not my parents yet my own parents knew of the great importance and role
this couple played in my life…and where there was jealously there was also
a knowledge that the relationship was necessary for all of us….
Just as their children knew that they were sharing their parents with me
and yet they often spoke in terms of me being “the truly good child”.

Over time, I learned, as I grew and matured, that they needed me just as much
as I had needed them…
life has a way of teaching us such things.

The end of the year will mark a year since he’s been gone.
Her passing was on Tuesday….
And now they are Home, together.
This I know.

Yet that doesn’t make me less sad.
Doesn’t make me feel less lonely.
Doesn’t stop from reminding me that all my parents are now gone…
along with an aunt and uncle, a brother and cousin along with all grandparents.
That all are gone…but me.

Odd how that makes one feel.
Even at almost 60 years of age.
Good-byes are never easy.

There was a time when I could not have weathered this tremendous amount
of loss I’ve experienced this past year…
but I now have a deep knowledge and understanding of Grace.
I am saved by that Grace.
They taught me that…and then some…

joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

reflective remembrance

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty;
it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

― Coco Chanel


(a slice of the Mile High Pie from Bones in Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2017)

As long as I can remember, my birthday has always fallen on the weekend of the
Georgia / Auburn football game.
Never mind if my birthday was on, say a Wednesday,
the birthday has always been marked by this hallowed grudge match.

A grudge match rivalry game considered, by those who write the history of
collegiate sports, to be the oldest college rivalry
in all of college football dating all the way back to 1892.

So this past weekend was no exception when it came to birthdays and football games…
despite the actual day being a few days after the fact of said game.

And so it would have only seemed to make sense that my beloved Dawgs would have
stepped up to the birthday plate by delivering the best gift possible—
a defeat of this most ancient of foes…putting them one more game closer
to a year of perfection….
Yet alas…
it was not to be….

Yet defeat is not the intent of today’s thoughts but rather the musing of what was,
what is and what will be…

When I turned 21, way back when I was in college at this same beloved college of
which I speak of today, I had been invited by a young man who I really liked at
the time, to travel down to Auburn for the game in honor of my birthday.

But I had a conundrum.

My godparents, the priest of my church and his wife, had already invited me to come
home as they wanted to have a small party in my honor.

Now I don’t know too many 21 year olds who would spend even a second weighing out such proposals…as whether to stay or go—as most any 21 year old in their right mind
would have wholeheartedly opted to go to the football game…
excitedly ready to spend a great weekend with great friends
and a potential great beau all the while living it up as one’s team beats
up another—

I however chose the latter.
I went home.

I really can’t say how many 21 year old kids had the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta,
at the time, bake them a birthday cake, but me…

And yes it was indeed a small intimate gathering… yet one that was, obviously, most memorable.

The game would have been no doubt memorable as well…or maybe not…
because I couldn’t even begin to tell you who won that year…
and I can recall that that young man was only a beau for a short time…
but on the other hand I do remember those other particular individuals who loved me
enough to want to make a special day even more special in their own small way.

And so it is with this day of marking the passage of time,
that I find myself being a bit wistful.
Because isn’t that what we do as we age, we become wistfully reflective.

So in keeping with this notion of being both wistful and reflective,
I am poignantly reminded that this is the first birthday that is to be spent
in 58 years without my dad and aunt.

Mother has been gone since just before I was to turn 26, but Dad and Aunt Martha
have been around throughout of what seems to be the duration of time…

Each of them knew how to make a birthday celebration both special and memorable.
As I remain grateful in recalling the years gone past that they did make a special
day just that— special.
Just as I am sad thinking of a new year without them.

And whereas there will definitely be some sadness on an otherwise momentous day…
besides nursing what could have, should have, been with the Dawgs running the table
on a possible all out rout of a season of wins…
it will be a day marked with a sense of without…
of what was and of what is no more…

Yet as our dear friend Coco Channel so pointedly reminds us—
it is not necessarily a matter of what we may have once been or been given,
rather it will be a matter of who and what we will opt to one day be…

May we opt to be both wiser and kinder….


(my husband with his birthday girl / 2017)

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.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

Isaiah 42:2,3,4