Waiting in silence

The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord’s promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal rewards.
Charles Stanley

“Memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.”
H. Rider Haggard

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(busy carpenter bee / Julie Cook / 2015)

My soul, now in silence, waits. . .
As the earth joins in with a palpable anticipation.
ALL of Creation shutters in the deafening stillness.
Man hangs in the balance between the living and the dead
As both Life and Death vie for final control of all humankind

A tug and war ensues for each and every soul
those that were, those which are and those who are yet to be.
Yet it is only the keen of heart who take notice.
The majority of mankind races off in the opposite direction, lost and unaware.

The ground groans deep within as tiny ripples race across the surface of time
A battle fiercely rages out of site from all of humanity,
as man sits on the precipice of eternity.
We wait, watching, listening, wondering
Our fate is sealed,
yet the question remains. .
what will that fate be. . .

The Aftermath

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(the remnants–boxes, torn paper, ribbons and trash / Julie Cook / 2014)

Do you hear that?
It’s the loud collective release of breath from what has been the building up to and of a wealth of emotions. . .
Excitement
Anticipation
Joy
Frustration
Disappointment
Impatience
Elation
Melancholy
Exhaustion
Expectancy

As each emotion is somewhat dependent upon one’s age and stage of life, one may have more invested in the frenzies verses the weariness of this thing and time we call Christmas, coupled with what others call Hanukah.

It’s been a month long whirlwind of highs and lows and everything in between.
Visits to Santa
Elves on shelves
The lighting of candles, both Menorahs and Advent wreathes
Cooking
Cleaning
Shopping
Wrapping
Partying
Eating
Visiting
Traveling

And today, Boxing Day in both the UK and Canada, a day after, a day of leftovers and has beens, we enter the time known as the “aftermath”

It is a time when we find ourselves feeling. . .
blue,
sad,
letdown,
weary,
tired,
depressed,
thankful,
wistful,
and longing for something we can’t quite put our fingers on.

It is now time to decompress from the overload of being wound tight as a top for a solid month.
The window of merriment and break-neck speed living, which started in late November with Thanksgiving and will culminate, realistically, on January 2nd. When life as we know it, resumes and gets back under way.
Back to work
Back to home
Back to school
Back to the daily grind of life.

The giving and receiving is coming to a halt.
The hysteria of shopping lingers with the “after” sales.
The time of transition is once again at hand.

It’ll take some time.
Time to. . .
repack
unpack
move to storage
return to the stores
reclean the mess
reset the schedule
follow the new resolutions
settling back in to the routine. . .
finding a groove once again

Take time to be. . .
good to yourself,
good to others,
Continue to keep a spirit of. . .
gratitude,
anticipation,
expectancy,
peace,
joy,
giving,
kindness,
thoughtfulness. . .

Take a deep breath and move forward.
Slowly at first, then a quicker step will most certainly be soon to follow.
And just soon enough, before you even know it, all that now seems like a letdown, leftover, and somewhat sad will be coming untrue. . .as your heart will be full, happy, and content, as you continue as you have, to focus on others and of their wellbeing rather than your own. . .
Because isn’t that what this time is really all about—the joy of the giving of ourselves to others, just as the wee babe came into this world to give himself to us. . .

Longings

“Until the longing came again, like the longing that you hear in the whistle of a train that is going far away. But the longing isn’t really in the whistle, the longing is in you—for the wonder and the loveliness that is in the world, and everywhere.”
Meindert DeJong

“Will it be here that we shall find a place which will not elude us, or which if it remains does not exert on us a culpable attraction? Or must we, leaning over the deck and watching the shores glide by, move forever onward?”
André Gide

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(a Georgia sky on a late November evening which heralds change is in the air / Julie Cook / 2014)

What does your heart
pine for,
ache for,
yearn for?

What do your senses
long to touch,
crave to taste,
thirst to hear?

Is it a familiar embrace?
The loving sound of your acknowledged arrival?
The sought after special glance?
The intimate gathering of your sacred and long outgrown surroundings?

The time is at hand. . .
Longing and expectancy are reaching a fevered pitch.
Tis the season of fanfare and making of merry.
Cascading emotions flow like wax from a candle.
Anticipated elation mingles with tremendous reluctance.

Where does one find oneself on those magical days?
Is it in the familiar or perhaps the far far way?
Is there work to be done or is time allowed for gatherings?
And what of the missing?
Long gone or simply far away?

Open arms long to welcome.
Relief for some, trepidation for others.
A cocktail of the joyous and melancholy poured up neat.

And yet, during this new season of
longing,
awaiting,
expectancy
there is One who waits, hidden in the shadow of
the fanfare,
the hoopla,
the crowds,
the travel,
the food,
the gifts. . .

Come thy long expected One
A single star brilliantly lights your path
Your name is whispered on the wind
Open arms long to embrace
The surroundings stark and simple
No fancy settings here
As cherubim long to sing you home
Your place at the table has been set
A homecoming is fast approaching
as our Thanksgiving finally begins

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(a Georgia sky on a late November evening which heralds change is in the air / Julie Cook / 2014)

Hurry, get ready, it’s coming

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
Anne Bradstreet

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(image taken using a trail camera / Troup, Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

Pausing briefly, this Sunday morning in order to welcome a new month to the calendar, this the first wee days of March, I cannot help but feel a great deal of anticipation.
Anticipation because I know that with March comes more warm days than cold.
Longer days than short.
More growth than death.
More sun than cloud. . .
or so we hope.

Old Man Winter is not dead and gone by any stretch of the imagination but He is in the death throws as the ending of another winter grasps for its final breath—for which, I am thankful.

I say all of this as I also find myself filled with a bit of foreboding trepidation on this beautiful brand new morning to a brand new month.
With the arrival of Spring, and all of its splendid glory, an epic climatic battle of the seasons is destained to ensue, relegating us mere mortals to that of spectator and victim.

The ferocity of the clash between a dying winter and a blooming Spring comes at a tremendous cost to Earth’s inhabitants. Such encounters seem only to be more fierce in recent memory. Looming somewhere in the atmosphere, as days warm and winter continues to fuel the strong north winds, the inevitable meeting of these two bodies of energy, warm and cold, spawns a fury that sends chills down the spine the most seasoned farmer, metrologist and emergency responder.

It is the phenomena known as the Tornado.

So whereas I am more than ready to welcome in a more temperate climate, sans winter’s cold winds and gray skies, I do so with one eye turned ever skyward, silently offering a small prayer, not today Lord, please not today.

Boxing Day–A day of giving, remembering and recouping

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.
Saint Teresa of Avila

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Today the boxes, the ribbons and bows, that were just 24 hours prior, tucked neatly and gloriously adorned under the shadows of a festive tree, now lie discarded, being all but forgotten.
The tremendous crescendo of the dizzying frenetic days which lead up to the collision of the cosmos of family, friends, the sacred, the secular, the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the traveling the sharing, the tolerating, the worshiping, the singing, the giving, the taking, the buying, the selling, the ordering, the joy, the reflection, the reverence, the mystery. . .
All sadly over in the blink of an eye.

Today we trudge like automatons through a sensory overload of the leftovers from a frantic month long pace, literally picking up the pieces of family, friends, and of a season now spent. Weary and bleary eyed the skip in our step and the joy to the world on our lips are each suddenly slowed and silent as we find ourselves slowly exhaling.

Tired, we begin to re-pack the treasures and mementos of our lives, back into the dusty musty boxes, sending them back to the tombs of attics and basement and storage for a 3 season hibernation with the hope of returning next December. Yet the echoes of keeping Christmas in our hearts all through the year, for many, will slowly grow all but silent as we transition from the old to the new.

And yet as we prepare to hunker down for the remainder of a long, cold and silent winter with the thoughts of now warmer brighter days toying with the shadows of our dark somber moods, we must lay claim that despite the waning excitement from an advent of long anticipation, the triumphant delivery of Joy, and the passing of old time to new, ours is not a solitary journey.

Yet, as we find ourselves on this morning after, feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost as we sift through the debris of yet another year’s season of festivity– we are awarded a single small respite and an opportunity to suck in a much needed second wind. For today is Boxing Day. A needed day of transition. Below I’ve added a brief history behind this day of deep English tradition or for those of us of the Western Church, the day St Stephen’s Feast. . .

(Information taken from wincalander.com)
Boxing Day History
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas in Britain. It’s history dates back to the Age of Exploration. The priest would place a wooden box on each ship and crew member’s would drop coins into in hopes of ensuring a safe return. The box would remain on the ship, upon it’s return, the priest would say a prayer of thanksgiving and in return receive the box and its contents. He would safeguard the box until Christmas, where he would then open it and share the contents with the poor. The “alms box” is a similar tradition observed in many churches still today.

Boxing Day Facts & Quotes
1.In the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of large estates would practice Boxing Day. They would do this by boxing up leftover food, clothing and other household items. These items would be distributed amongst their tenants and workers the day after Christmas.

2.For Boxing Day, many charitable organizations practice a form of giving boxes to the poor. Operation Christmas Child is one such organization.

3.December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day for the Western Church. The Feast of St. Stephen honors the first Christian martyr. Stephen was stoned to death outside the walls of Jerusalem, shortly after the Crucifixion.

–Boxing Day Top Events and Things to Do
–Clean out your closets and donate to a local charity.
–Donate to a local food bank.
–Prepare a Christmas box for a charitable organization.
–Donate money to a church or other community group which cares for the poor and elderly.

It’s not always what you think

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Upon first glance, the tree out in the pasture appears to be rather bare with only what one would assume to be a few straggling leaves. . .and then, suddenly, you hear it. There is a rousing deafening din of chatter–rising and falling to a crashing crescendo of chirping only to immediately and eerily cease—a few seconds later, it begins again.

Upon further inspection the leaves, or so it seems, are not leaves at all but rather hundreds of starlings, better known as grackles. I posted some images a week or so ago of this massive flock covering the telephone lines up and down our street. Today the roosting spot of preference is the tree in the pasture.

These pictures simply do not do justice to the overwhelming presence of these birds. A swarming black cloud. It is mesmerizing watching the mass of bodies and wings weaving in and out throughout the sky to the tree tops, only to be suddenly startled, taking off en masse, to another tree top. Amazing how they fly in tandem without running into one another–another beautiful example of the synchronization of nature.

As we find ourselves approaching the season of watchful waiting, expectant anticipation, may we be mindful of the unexpected wonders of the season. Small gifts of joy and magic found in the simplest of things, as in a group of birds.

I find today’s quote by the late great G.K. Chesterton, the larger than life British writer and journalist, and Catholic apologist, most heartening–a sober reminder helping to carry us through this season with a heart turned toward thanks and joy. To be mindful of what the season is truly about and not to the contrary of the glamour and glitz that the retail giants would lead us to believe–to love, to forgive, to believe and to hope when the world would direct us differently.

Watching, waiting, forgiving hoping, loving, believing— Veni, Veni Emmanuel…

revealed secrets give way to waiting

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.”
Andrew Wyeth

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(rainy day in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

Once all the blooms have faded, the last scarlet leaf floats away and those transit warm weather residents have packed up, moving elsewhere, the stories of a season, or sometimes two, reveal, for good or bad, their secrets.

The canopy of trees and shrubs, full of their once glossy leaves, which acted as an insulating blanket, covering and concealing the birth of fawns and the hatching of chicks and poults—all providing sanctuary to the pups and kits who called the woods home, now lay barren, exposed and painfully open to predator and foe.

Our Autumn, Nature’s explosive time of glorious fading, is now giving way to Winter’s often harsh time of waiting and anticipation—Nature’s Advent. It is throughout the long winter, with its snow, rain, ice and cold, that Nature patiently and expectantly waits, hunkers down and fortifies itself while looking forward and toward a Spring which will offer to all the long suffering— a renewal of life.

The cyclical rhythm of life, which so beautifully mirrors that of our deep and abiding faith, is certainly instep as we find ourselves preparing to begin our own season of waiting and watching–expectant anticipation.

On this new day to this new week, may the unseen secret stories of life slowly, yet delightfully mysterious, make themselves known–may you, in your time of expectant waiting and anticipation, find peace with what has been, as well as with what currently is—I pray that your season of Advent will yield not only to hope but to an unparalleled sense of joy. Amen, amen.

Anticipation

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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(image of the Nandina bush in the front yard / Julie Cook/ 2013)

Anticipation.
It is most usually a positive state of life… be it the giddy excitement leading up to a vacation or trip of a lifetime, the welcomed relief of a loved one’s long awaited homecoming, the expectant arrival date of the birth of a child, or even the sweet relief to the end of a school term…all are looked upon with a delightful sense of expectancy, joy, and the visualization of something most exciting and / or pleasurable which is about to take place. It’s what gets us over the humps and through the low doldrums of life.

Of course we can counter the positive anticipation by coupling it with a sense of dread, worry or foreboding— as in the stressful prepping before a major test, the nervous waiting for a required surgery, an isolating time of servitude, or the poignant end of something most special.

Either way, the anticipation aspect of any event is 9 times out of 10 the most potent component of any situation— with the actual event taking a bit of a backseat to any sort of “lead up” time.

How many times, as children, were we overtly full of such rapt anticipation, awaiting Christmas and the visit of Santa, that we were beside ourselves with energy, delight, agitation and sensory overload?! It was as if by the time Christmas morning finally rolled around, we felt somewhat let down, disappointed or either our eyes were so glazed over from the anticipatory overload that we found it difficult to maintain the exhilarating high we’d been riding since Thanksgiving.

Our western culture seems to have mastered the art of anticipation—as you are no doubt hearing Carly Simon singing her most notable song in your head as you visualize ketchup slowly making its way from bottle to bun…anticipation sadly or joyously drives our economy.

For my generation it was the arrival of the 4 inch thick Sears catalog. I would spend hours eagerly marking page after page, item after item, for mom and dad, and of course Santa, to fill my hopes and dreams. For today’s kids, it is a true sensory overload as they absorb larger than life, high definition, clear images on their 50 inch plasma interactive televisions of the latest gadgets and gizmos, jewelry and designer this and that which they must receive in order for their lives to, sadly, be complete.

Times Square screams such with it’s constantly moving, undulating, bigger than life, ever-changing advertisements… as the same can be said world wide from Tokyo to Hong Kong, to London to Pairs—bright lights, bright colors, big, large, giant images and pulsating sounds of which are all intended to hypnotize us into a glazed trance of believing that we must have, be a part of, or become these glamours images in order to reach our individual utopias as we are dressed and sporting everything the same as the person next to us…hummmm

I say all of this with a bit of reflection. It was the other Sunday evening when I accompanied my poor husband, who owns a small business in our community and who has spent his entire life in retail, as he went to check his store—just as he does each Sunday evening, the only day the business is thankfully closed.

As we made our way back to his truck, having completed the week’s deposit, in the darkened nearly empty parking lot, we couldn’t help but notice a small bevy of vehicles parked just outside of Bath and Body Works. It was well after store hours as all the other businesses were dark and shuttered for the night. There were a dozen or so employees busily decorating the store for, what else, Christmas. It was November 3rd.

My husband let out a long heavy sigh. “I can never remember a single Christmas or Thanksgiving that I have ever really enjoyed” he sadly lamented. I’ve been married to him now going on 31 years— I know this. He is 64 years old and from the earliest time of memory he has spent the “holidays” wrapped up in his family’s business giving way now to his own business. It is indeed a love / hate relationship which sees owners and employees moving momentum from one holiday to the next, riding the perpetual holiday wave as it were.

The hours, the time, the energy, the demands, year after year, have grown exponentially. Way back when, back in a vastly different time in this country, businesses closed at noon on both Wednesdays and Saturdays with all businesses being closed on Sunday. Slowly that has all changed. Businesses, if they expect to stay competitive or just viable are open 7 days a week at least 12 hours a day. Add to those hours during the Holidays.

Black Friday does not signal Christmas, a time of our Holy anticipation, that of the Advent leading to the birth of a Savior, but rather it is the marking of a feeding frenzy. A need to feed an unquenchable thirst and hunger of and for consumerism which gives way to our obsession with materialism. It has nothing to do with what Christmas, or even Hanukkah, is actually all about but rather it has everything to do with our economy and the need to feed it.

My daughter-n-law “to be” lamented this morning that her cherished pumpkin lattes from Dunkin Doughnuts are on the last call list as they are making way for the Christmas flavors. It is November 5th. I thought Pumpkins and Spice were the sights and scents of November… as in Thanksgiving, as in the end of the month, not the beginning of the month. Weren’t we just trick or treating last week?

A dear friend of mine in Florence, Italy, whose family has had a business in that most magical and historical city for almost 150 years, was recently lamenting that the Ministry of Commerce and the governing officials there in the city of Florence are pressuring all businesses to stay open 7 days a week, 365 days a year and to forego the siesta hours of closing for lunch. An entrenched way of life and of a culture being told to change to meet the growing and insatiable appetites of a hungry consumer driven populace.

I just wish things were different. I wish we could all just slow down, savoring the time and seasons of our lives..relishing life rather than the empty things that we hope to gobble up in order to fill it all full…

Just like Pooh in today’s quote–the eating of honey is really wonderful but it’s the time, the magical time, leading up to the actual eating that seems even more sweet… Here is to the sweet anticipation to all of those magical moments in your life. . .make time to enjoy every moment.

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