neither abstract nor random

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a rogue dahlia / Julie Cook / 2022)

Reading the following quote by Cardinal, now saint, Newman I must admit that I
was pieced by his words.
My heart was pricked as my thoughts now raced.

The quote took on more than just mere words once uttered by a now deceased man.
These words were suddenly very pointed and direct—not abstract nor random.

I found myself overwhelmed…
however, I must admit, I find myself rather overwhelmed as of late most days…
both in positive and negative ways…
yet this time the sense of being overwhelmed was different.

For these particular words, on this particular day, left me overwhelmed in a
most welcomed way.

I found myself amazed, awed and greatly humbled by the fact that everything
within my life—
every big and every minute thing…
those intentional and unintentional movements of all my comings and goings…
that of the time being ticked off of my day’s ins and outs,
those of all my years in and years out…
That of my birth, my in between and that of my death…
all seen and long known by One and only One…

Yet “sin excepted”

The sin is mine, not His.

And yet His is still the knowledge…knowledge of even the sin…
Those known and unknown sins, those seen and those unseen sins…
those past, those present and those sins yet to be.

Even our very sins are known.

The actions and reactions…all known.
All seen by the one Omnipotent Creator.

Yet whereas everything is precisely ordained…the sin is not.

However He knows even of our poorer choices…the good and yes, even the bad
long before we choose. Long before we even have the choice.
He knows of those reactions…be they good or be they bad…long before
we even think to act or react.

And even in that most difficult notion of our fallen nature, I find peace.

Peace that He sees what was and that which is just as He knows what will be…
even when we ourselves have neither knowledge nor clue of what we will do
in the next 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years…

We think we know.
We think we have an inkling of our own comings and goings..
and yet truly, we do not.

But what I do know, and I know with all certainty, is that God will continue
to bring good from bad….inspite of me and that of which I know and do not know.
And it is in that one fact that I find much rest and assurance.

“O my God, you and you alone are all wise and all knowing!
You know, you have determined everything that will happen to us from first to last.
You have ordered things in the wisest way,
and you know what will be my lot year by year until I die.
You know how long I have to live.
You know how I shall die.
You have precisely ordained everything, sin excepted.
Every event of my life is the best for me that it could be,
for it comes from you.
You bring me on year by year, by your wonderful Providence,
from youth to age, with the most perfect wisdom,
and with the most perfect love.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 103

the journey, the uncomfortable of the unfamiliar

My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place,
and more of a discovery of my long-lost home.

Jennifer Fulwiler
from her book Something other than God

Change is uncomfortable.
Kirby Smart


(unseasonably warm weather has the gardenias in bloom / Julie Cook / 2022)

Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of another new year.

Perhaps it’s because so much of this said new year remains unknown.

Perhaps it’s because we long to forget the year that was..along
with the year before that…

Perhaps it’s because we are actually standing on the periphery of that
which is simply spilling out before us…

Spilling and spreading outward both far and wide…
much like a randomly tossed gallon of paint working
itself outward…spreading and covering everything in its path.

And yet frustratingly, we cannot see what that spilling and
spreading-out entails.

Nothing seems to be in focus…
All we can clearly see is that we are standing at the edge something
that reaches outward from where we currently stand…
beckoning us to follow suit.

It’s similar to standing on the edge of the sea.
We stand at the surf’s edge peering outward to a distant horizon line…
a horizon that seems to be endlessly far away yet calls us to come.

And thus we are reminded that have we have a choice.

We can either remain standing at the edge of all that is…
or…
we can set out on a journey that is calling us, nay beckoning
that we come.

Merriam Webster tells us that a journey is:
something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

Meaning…that if we choose to move, hopefully forward
versus God forbid backward or irritatingly merely remaining in place—
we are obviously to be moving from one place to another.
As in…forward motion…with blessed great momentum.

The notion of such is not always comforting to we the creatures of habit.

We don’t like the unknown.

We don’t like the uncomfortable.

We don’t trust the unfamiliar.

Yet if there is to be growth, there must come the uncomfortable
of the unfamiliar.

And so the journey begins.

For better or worse.
For either good or bad.
The journey beckons.

The question we must ask ourselves, on the forefront of this new year..
are we ready to trust?

Are we ready to put one foot in front of the other?

The year is calling…

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the
calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

goodness and guides

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God
for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Molla


(yellow roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross

discipline and a holy will

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect
through trial and suffering. Only by carrying the Cross can one reach
the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(a rose still covered by the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2021)

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without
expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola

What is Grace—I just keep having to ask

I have had to experience so much stupidity,
so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow,
just in order to become a child again and begin anew.
I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths,
to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”

Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of
extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”

Matthew Henry


(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook /2015)

****Even though this is actually a post that I wrote 6 years ago,
the notion of Grace has never been far from my thoughts.
For you see, I am very much a product of Grace.

Over and over, or so it seems.

Merriam Webster defines grace as:
a:unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

And so here’s the thing about this “unmerited Divine assistance”-
it is a gift that is freely given.

It is neither earned nor bought.
And it pricks the most tender part of one’s soul.

It pricks the hard steely, yet false, façade and bravado we call self.

It breaks down the walls and the hardened heart while it fills
a sea of endless wounds.

A flood washes over us and we find ourselves terrified of letting
go and letting Grace transform us.

So why is it so hard to receive something so welcoming and healing?
The answer is beyond my soul—it is not something I can logically comprehend…
and maybe that’s the thing.

Grace is not logical.

Grace brings us to our knees…because we know we have not earned this
gift called Grace.
Quite the contrary.
We have done everything in our power to shun it and even repel it.
We bristle at such tender warmth while being too cold,
too hard, too lost to see the simple Truth.

For me it’s seems to have come in phases–
throughout this thing I call life.

Maybe it’s just a matter of me needing to be reminded…
reminded that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t as accepting
of the initial gift as I needed to be….
For I still have kept a deep part of my wounds hidden.

Too ashamed, too hardened, too wounded to think
Grace would or could ever make me truly whole.

I’ve recently been reminded of this most tenderest of gifts.
It’s broken my heart…broken my façade..
and that’s just what Grace does…
it breaks us and then it heals us and then it makes us whole.

And thus we are each the better for Grace…

And so I want to thank my dearest of friends who recently offered me Grace…
Grace coupled by her own graciousness.
A gracious heart…reaching to a wounded heart.
It is a gift she has freely given me—
a freely given gift that was not nor ever has been deserved nor earned,
yet one that was freely and lovingly given…no strings, no penalties.
And it is within this most generous gift that I have been poignantly reminded me
that God is not yet finished with me and that He continues to want
me make me whole.
Love can and does heal a multiple of sin…

and now the post from 2015–

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so…
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon…
More shy than bold.
It is neither garish or loud.
Nor is it boisterous or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask…

Grace is the second chance when all other chances have been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for…
Grace is life when one actually deserves death…

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold.
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen…
For it is actually free—free to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly.
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question…
Would you ever hand over your child…
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes…
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much–
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing you today…

“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.
The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin,
and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices.
Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury,
from which she showers blessings with generous hands,
without asking questions or fixing limits.
Grace without price; grace without cost!
The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid
in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending
it are infinite.
What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,
baptism without church discipline,
Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.
Cheap grace is grace without discipleship,
grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ,
living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field;
for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has.
It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.
It is the kingly rule of Christ,
for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble;
it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves
his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again,
the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,
and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.
It is costly because it costs a man his life,
and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.
It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.
Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
“ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear
a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.
Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

submission of the soul, “when God requires action, sanctity is to be found in activity”

The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation,
as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul
with the glory of God.

St. John Damascene


(Gulf fritillary/ Julie Cook / 2021)


Gulf fritillary / Julie Cook / 2021)


(Gulf fritillary / Julie Cook / 2021)

Submission of the soul.

For many of us, the notion of submission comes with great difficulty.
Submission is equated with the notion of weakness.
A giving up and giving in.

And yet we cling viciously to the visage of ego…that false image we hold high
and large against the humility of heart…a tenuous balance is struck.

We let that false visage block oh so many possibilities.
Hitting wall after wall, we wonder how much longer will we struggle.
So much heartache ensues because of that false visage of hubris.

Self inflicted wounds.

God is not one to be quiet when He knows what is required.

It may take years before we finally let go and submit…but when we do,
blessings will flow like a burst dam of water.

May those healing waters flow…

“The will of God gives to all things a supernatural and divine value
for the soul submitting to it.
The duties it imposes, and those it contains,
with all the matters over which it is diffused,
become holy and perfect, because, being unlimited in power,
everything it touches shares its divine character. …
The entire virtue of all that is called holy is in its approximation
to this order established by God; therefore nothing should be rejected,
nothing sought after, but everything accepted that is ordained
and nothing attempted contrary to the will of God. …
When God requires action, sanctity is to be found in activity.”

Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, p. 15
An excerpt from
Abandonment to Divine Providence

are you getting what you want or what you need?

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation
if you had it—so by not getting what you’ve asked,
you really are getting what you want.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(swallowtail spicebrush butterfly / Julie Cook / 2021)

“What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering.
If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.
It matures and trains us, purifies us,
teaches us to love unselfishly, makes us poor in heart, humble,
gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor.
Fear of suffering, on the other hand,
hardens us in self-protective, defensive attitudes,
and often leads us to make irrational choices
with disastrous consequences.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

comapassion, endurance, perseverance

“Three things are necessary to everyone:
truth of faith which brings understanding,
love of Christ which brings compassion,
and endurance of hope which brings perseverance.”

St. Bonaventure


(a pollen laden honey bee / Julie Cook / 2021)

“My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls,
and especially for poor sinners.
If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers
to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed
from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy.
For them I dwell in the tabernacle as King of Mercy.
I desire to bestow My graces upon souls,
but they do not want to accept them.
You, at least, come to Me as often as possible and take
these graces they do not want to accept.
In this way you will console My Heart.
Oh, how indifferent are souls to so much goodness,
to so many proofs of love!
My Heart drinks only of the ingratitude and forgetfulness
of souls living in the world.
They have time for everything, but they have
no time to come to Me for graces.”

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, p. 367
An Excerpt From
Diary of St. Faustina

starting over; yet always moving forward

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose;
new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.
Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions,
he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things,
he will certainly do nothing effective.”

G.K. Chesterton, A Chesterton calendar

This is now…

(The fruits from a brand new baby blueberry bush / Julie Cook / 2021)

This was then…

(my resident squirrel at our former home)


(Blueberries and squirrels at our former home)

Life is a constant of forward motion.
Always moving ever forward.
For good or bad.

We can’t move back, nor do we need to.

We are always being propelled forward.

Sometimes the forward momentum is painful.
Sometimes the forward momentum is expected.
Sometimes that forward momentum is unwanted.

Yet we continue forward despite our willingness or refusal.
Forward is the only direction.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that
in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58