even when you’re down, look up

“A people who do not honor the deeds of their worthy dead
will do nothing worthy of being honored by their descendants.”

Macalay


(a weathered tombstone, Myers Cemetery, Townsend, TN / Julie Cook / 2020)

It was hot, nearing 90, as the sun beat down on our backs.
The bugs certainly weren’t bothered by the heat as they swarmed around our faces.
My husband kept slapping at his legs to fend off the ravenous bites.

On this particular July 4th, 2020 we found ourselves wandering around the oldest cemetery
in this particular part of Tennessee—
Myers Cemetery in the small sleepy town of Townsend, Tennessee.

Townsend boasts being the quiet side of the Smokies…
a far cry from nearby Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

We like quiet.

Townsend is one of the gateways to The Great Smokey Mountains National Park…
in particular the gateway to Cades Cove—
One of the first mountain settlements by white European immigrants in what was
originally a part of the Cherokee Nation.

Myers cemetery dates back to 1795, if not even years before.
There are approximately 300 graves, many unknown, and even many unmarked.
Out of the approximate 300 marked graves,
75 graves belong to children under the age of 12.

There was the bittersweet double tombstone of twins born in 1805—
each living 4 and 5 days respectively.

Sheep and lambs that rest atop tombstones, denote the graves of children.

Even the small etched hand, held within a larger hand.

But many of the oldest graves simply have a single stone or piece of slate marking one’s place.

And so when I saw the worn weathered marker of a hand with a finger pointing upward, I couldn’t
help but see the significance that even in death, we are reminded our hope and help
comes from above.

So as we find ourselves currently gripped by all sorts of angst, sorrow, fear and the unknown on this earth, it is here in a quiet mountain cemetery , walking amongst the long dead, that I am pointedly reminded that even in death,
we are to always look up…

“We must pray literally without ceasing— without ceasing—
in every occurrence and employment of our lives…
that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation,
or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant
communication with Him.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121

Pandemics and pandemonium

It is urgent for the modern world to regain a faith perspective.
Otherwise, mankind is headed for its destruction.
The Church cannot confine herself to a merely social vision.
Charity has a spiritual meaning. Charity is closely related to God’s silence.

Robert Cardinal Sarah
from The Power of Silence


(within the all cosumming seaweed are a few little gems /Rosemary, Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

I got away for a few days…away from most of the distractions of our time.
I saw little in the way of a pandemic and I saw less in the way of civil pandamonium.
I was thankful, relieved and found some needed clarity, of which I will share in the coming days.

But what I do know is that time is of the essence—
the time for decision making is now…

There is a terrible and all encompassing suffocating mass now washing up on
the shore or our world.

It threatens our very existence.

Yet most who call themselves Believers are opting to ignore what has
washed up at their feet…pretending nothing is there.

They step over it while ignoring the rotting stench.


(masses of seaweed washing ashore / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2020)

A decision is looming.

It will require conviction.
It will require resolve.
It will require fortitude.

More to follow…

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve,
whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River,
or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15

Yearn to be small

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience –
that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.”

Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles)


(full moon / 2018 / Julie Cook)

Sorrowful at dusk, I wandered outside to mindlessly water the plants.
The sun had set and the moon was rising in the evening sky.

There was a quiet to this little world of mine.

A stark contrast to those teeming cities across this reeling nation caught in turmoil.

It was not yet night but rater twilight…and the rising moon caught my eye…

It wasn’t yet a full moon, but the light cast was illuminated through a humid and hazy sky–
casting an ethereal thin glowing shimmer…all veiled through a typical southern night sky.

I looked up, and despite not yet being a full moon, I suddenly felt very small.

Overwhelmed by a seemingly small glowing skewed orb in a steamy southern night’s sky,
oddly, I found a peace in the sense of being small.

I suddenly yearned to be small…
I relished in feeling minute.

For to be small meant that I was not the center of this, or better yet,
I was not, am not, the proverbial center of the universe or even my universe.

And maybe that is really my hope…my hope, my wish, my prayer…
that my fellow countrymen would and could see that they too should yearn to be small.

That the terrorists, the rioters, the looters, the arsonists, the criminals could see
that they are not as big as they imagine nor as grand as their egos dictate.

And so I say to one and all, yearn to be small.

Egos, our egos, are not small.
They vie for power and control.
They vie to be front and center.

An ego is much like a black hole in that it gobbles up everything in its path.
It feeds upon everything and everyone that happens within its sights.

Death, the loss of life, the destruction of property are all of little consequence–
as the ego fails to acknowledge the reality.

The ego lies.
Satan lies.
He is the father of all lies.

The ego is too self-absorbed to see anything other than itself or of its wants and needs.
The ego yearns to be fed.
It must be fed in order to survive and thrive.

Our lives are being consumed by egos.
Ravenous egos.
And they don’t care who stands in the way.

We can either succumb to the lies of an ego, or we can be bold while
daring to be small.

May we yearn, nay dare, to be small.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;
believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

John 14:1-4

Don’t say it!!! Rather let us say thank you!

“The line between ‘normal’ and ‘neurotic’ begins to appear when
any activity becomes compulsive –
that is, when the person feels pushed to perform the act because
it habitually allays his anxiety rather than because of any intrinsic wish
to perform the act.”

Rollo May


(the roses are blooming despite our current quell of life / Julie Cook / 2020)

Don’t say it!

I don’t think I can bear hearing it one more time…

“new normal”

There is no such thing.

There is either normal….or there is its antithesis…not normal
‘New normal’ is not a thing.

We are either normal or we are not….end of sentence.

If I suffer a stroke and my current way of life is suddenly altered, I will work to make
it normal again—what I know to be normal.
I may struggle, things will obviously be altered but I will work toward normal.
I will not give up or give in–I will do my best to be what I know to be normal.
I may or may not make it—but I will strive for what I know as normal.

“New normal” is a compromise, a ‘less than’ sort of approach.
A settling.
Settling for something less and “other than.”

So to all those ‘powers that be’ who keep trying to tell us that we are to now live
a new normal…to accept life as a new normal…
I say NO!

We will not settle.
We will not settle for ‘less than.’

Rather we will strive for what we know to be normal.

And we will do so with wisdom, patience, and prudence…
we can and we will be normal again.

Our armed forces…those men and women who have bravely fought and also
sadly died throughout this near 250-year history of our nation…
those who have fought defending this great nation of ours did not give their all,
they did not offer up their limbs and lives, for a nation that simply settles.

They knew, just as I know, that we are an exceptional nation.
We will not accept “less than.”
They have taught us this on each and every beachhead, unfriendly sky, dense jungle,
tumultuous sea and savage battlefield.

And so today of all days, we owe a deep sense of gratitude to our veterans and
their valiant sacrifices—
We owe it to each and every last one of them to continue to strive to be ‘better than’
rather than ‘less than’.

So let us, this day, take the opportunity to thank those who have served and continue to serve…
thanking them for reminding us that we are indeed a nation worth fighting for!

These are challenging days and precarious times…and yet we have faced challenges before…
And each and every time we have faced the seemingly insurmountable,
we have risen to the challenge and we have overcome.

And we will do so again.

We will do so not by settling but by fighting for what we hold dear and cherish…
that being our liberties and freedom—the very ideals our servicemen and women have
sacrificed their very lives for.

Today, we offer our gratitude.
Tomorrow we move onward and upward!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

fruitfulness and provisions for the future

“The stillness of prayer is the most essential condition for fruitful action.
Before all else, the disciple kneels down.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a new season’s little figs to be / Julie Cook / 2020)

Man not only should possess the fruits of the earth, but also the very soil,
inasmuch as from the produce of the earth he has to lay by provision for the future.
Nature must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him.
And this stable condition of things he finds solely in the earth and its fruits.

Pope Leo XIII
from Rerum Novarum

Disciples of hope!

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
St. Catherine of Siena


(a pre pandemic January sunrise at Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2020)

There is an excuse for some anxiety today, but no one has a right to be without hope.
Yet the prophets of gloom abound, and the disciples of hope are few.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen
From The World’s First Love

Yep, I’ll be the first to admit that these have been some trying times.

And yes, much like everyone else throughout this global ordeal, I have found myself fretful,
fearful and even angry.

We, humans, strive to control our destinies no matter what.
We like to believe that we are the captains of our own ship.
And we want to steer those ships upon the seas of life while
sailing into only calm waters.

But life, much like a wild horse, will not yield to being tamed.
The seas will pitch and roll at will.

We find ourselves tossed about in a maelstrom,
growing anxious as both frustration and depression set in.

If we throw in an already deeply divided and often hate-filled nation, we have the makings of
a most toxic mishmash of fear, bitterness, and resentment all sprinkled with a heavy dose
of a pandemic…it doesn’t get much worse.

The prophets have been touted and proclaimed… the prophets of falsehoods, ill-will,
and doom.
Prophets with a little p, prophets who profess conspiracy, animosity, divisiveness
and even hate.

But that need not be our fate.

We can make a conscious decision.
We can choose to set ourselves a part.
We can step aside from the small prophets
opting to be a disciple, a follower of Hope…

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:2-5

piece of cake

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”

St. Brendan


(the wildflowers are now blooming / Julie Cook / 2020)

Oh, how the words of St. Brendan have touched my heart today–
(today, for me, being Monday and yesterday for you).

Walking into the unknown.
Journeying beyond the familiar.
Needing faith, as well as hope, while we leave the old ways, the old life, far behind.

Now left feeling helpless while trying to navigate uncharted waters…
Murky waters leading into something vastly different and to
something surreally new.

This is not to be a temporary change—not a momentary glitch to a set pattern or routine.
Such hiccups in life are not always pleasant but are made manageable in that we know they are
not meant to last…as in, not forever.

But this is not that.
This is not a slight bump or pothole in the road.

I think in all of this that what it boils down to is my simply yearning for what was…

And if the truth is really told, I think it is the feeling of freedom that I long for,
as well as pine over, the most.

To come and go as I once did…without worry or fear.

To hug an old friend who I’ve run into in a store.

To take a spontaneous road trip.

To save for, to plot and then plan a special vacation.

To actually linger in a garden shop…feasting on the colors and breathing in
the heavenly scents of beauty…free of masks or strips of tape that
keep me at a certain distance.

To simply being able to finally go back to the dentist for the new crown for my broken tooth.

Yet all those things are deemed “non-essential”, unnecessary to the basic day to day living.

So instead, I am left to precariously gather weekly supplies while spraying myself
with the sole sacred can of Lysol.
I tend to wee grandchildren as their parents now work and teach from home.
We cook, we eat, we clean, we wash, we huddle together and we wonder what tomorrow
will bring.

And so yes, I pray that God will give me the faith to leave what was known and trusted
behind as we all now embark on a journey into the new…of that which is
untrodden fresh ground.

If I walk hand in hand with my Father…that which is unknown, will be a piece of cake.

You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you,
that you may live, and that it may go well with you,
and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Deuteronomy 5:33

Beautiful hope is found in the weeds

“You are like a chestnut burr, prickly outside,
but silky-soft within, and a sweet kernel,
if one can only get at it. Love will make you show your heart some day,
and then the rough burr will fall off.”

Louisa May Alcott


(a thistle prepares to bloom / Julie Cook / 2020)

Thistles, to me, are most alluring.

To Eeyore, they are a tasty ‘smakeral’ or so Pooh would observe.

They begin, in the early spring, as a spikey mass or clump, of uninviting serrated leaves
emerging oddly from the ground.

Trust me, don’t use bare hands in an attempt to pull them up in order to rid your space
of this most unwanted visitor.

They will eventually send forth one, or even several, shoots sporting a purplish fringed bulb.
As this odd bulb unfurls its full glory, the bloom is almost regal in a crown-like
explosion of texture.


(a thistle crown / Julie Cook / 2020)

And like all earthly glories, these odd blooming weeds eventually fade, turning themselves
back to seed.


(a field of thistles gone to seed /Julie Cook / 2020)

And yet the fact that these plants are considered useless and invasive and even noxious
weeds, there is a beauty found in their blooming and a bit of
respect found in their tenacity.

Saturday I was reading Kathy’s post over on atimetoshare.me —
Kathy was offering some waxing thoughts regarding our world’s current pandemic situation.

I found one passage most enlightening…

Our current younger generation are those who will not experience the pageantry of
a real graduation – those who will not go to their Senior prom –
those who have been through the good, the bad and now the ugly –
those who will be running our country in the next few years.

These unique young people will become a generation of problem solvers,
creative thinkers, money managers, inventive and innovative thinkers all because
their world was turned upside down by a little germ.
They will be the second greatest generation, because they have experienced plenty or at least enough.
They have been on the cutting edge of technology.
They have seen their nation at its worst and at its best.

SATURDAY SOUND OFF

Kathy noted that this current class of seniors, be it high school or college, are presently
experiencing a great many firsts in the way of loss.

Losses of certain rights of passage.

No Spring sports.
No state championships.
No Spring breaks.
No year-end award ceremonies.
No trophies.
No classes
No proms.
No senior days.
No graduations.
No graduation trips.

Only a seemingly unending sense of loss, isolation with more questions than answers.

And yet Kathy notes that this will be the group to become our next class of problem solvers.
They will be our newest innovators and creative thinkers…in part because
such a role and responsibility has been thrust upon them.

They have been handed a mantle of burden and responsibility despite not necessarily seeing
such coming their way.
And it is perhaps not truly a burden they have wanted…but they have been handed such nonetheless.

And so in this time of surreal losses and misses, there is a generation
that will have to rise to the occasion of problem-solving.

They have the tools at their fingertips as a pandemic has now spurred them on–
be it out of frustration, resentment, or simple curiosity…
hope now rests in the beauty of a blooming generation…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

carrying the cross–building the kingdom

“Since happiness is nothing other than the enjoyment of the highest good,
and since the highest good is above, no one can be happy unless he rises above himself,
not by an ascent of the body, but of the heart.”

St. Bonaventure


(the blackberries are blooming / Julie Cook / 2020)

Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy,
and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom,
are the most authentic children of God.

Letter of St. Benedicta of the Cross to her sisters in Carmel
from Communion with Christ According to St. Benedicta of the Cross
by Sister M. Regina Van den Berg

(St Benedicta, otherwise known as Edith Stein, was an intellectual German Philosopher,
Jew turned atheist and eventually committed Christian convert…eventually becoming a Catholic nun.
She took the name Benedicta upon her consecration and was killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.)

“do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

“Here is a rule for everyday life:
Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

St. Jean Marie Vianney


(blooming quince / Julie Cook / 2020)

There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain
to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed.
All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His
divine action.
It is really and truly there present, but invisibly present,
so that we are always surprised and do not recognise His operation until it has ceased.
If we could lift the veil, and if we were attentive and watchful God would continually
reveal Himself to us, and we should see His divine action in everything that happened to us,
and rejoice in it. At each successive occurrence we should exclaim:
‘It is the Lord’,
and we should accept every fresh circumstance as a gift of God.
We should look upon creatures as feeble tools in the hands of an able workman,
and should discover easily that nothing was wanting to us,
and that the constant providence of God disposed Him to bestow upon us
at every moment whatever we required.”

Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade
An Excerpt From
Abandonment of Divine Providence