Just around the bend—a pilgrimage

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

Of Course God does not consider you hopeless.
If He did, He would not be moving you to seek Him (and He obviously is)…
Continue seeking Him with seriousness.
Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.”

C.S. Lewis

“If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.”
Vincent van Gogh


(Tremont, TN , The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

(I thought this was a good post to pull out of the archives from 2015
please enjoy)

Along many a journey taken throughout our lives,
there often comes a point when every journeyman realizes that oddly there are
no clear-cut signs, no helpful mile markers,
no familiar landmarks pointing him or her in the proper direction.

The only thing for certain is that there is a path with the choice
of either continuing forward or the option of simply turning around—
heading back to whence one originally came.

How often does the journeyman continue onward?
Continuing onward yet all the while feeling as if he or she
is blinded by the loss of direction?

It is as if this journeyman, nay pilgrim, is feeling his or her way
along in the dark— thinking that after every curve,
after every bend along the path…
surely clarity shall be glimpsed as finally there has to be
something familiar or something offered as some sort of
informational directional compass…
that the chosen path is indeed the right and correct path for this
particular journey.

Such are the times in which we find ourselves living.

The journey is often arduous, steep and seemingly treacherous.
And yet there are days when the journey seems endlessly boring and benign.
We often tire, growing weary and overwhelmed physically, mentally
and emotionally.

It is as if we are wandering lost within some massive forest with no end in sight.
There is no welcoming safe haven…there is no one who is to act as guide…
only those who wait hidden in the shadows hoping to inflict some sort of harm
as we journey onward.

Yet as all who journey, those who opt to take such journeys in life,
realize and accept that there have never been any guarantees to any journey
ever taken.
Every journey and every path is left to the chance and the whims
of those forces which prevail against us.

How is one ever to prepare for such an odyssey?

How does one prepare when even the very path, the journey,
the pilgrimage, the sojourn is not clearly marked,
definitively set or offers any sort of guidance or clear directional choice
to the one setting out on the trek?

What of the perils, the dangers, the evil which lies-in wait..
those unseen snares and traps, each vying to catch the innocent
trekker who is perhaps ill prepared and off guard?

Is there hope?
Is there help?
Is there assistance?

Ah… but there is indeed One…
One alone who is fully prepared and ready.
One alone who knows the way.
And it is to Him we all must turn as He is the One who will offer comfort,
direction, defense and solace for the often long, lonely
and frightening journey…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15:13

a vision of Lent

“Contrary to what might be expected,
I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in
my seventy-five years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else,
that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

Malcolm Muggeridge

dscn2555
(Bonaventure Cemetery /Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook 2016)

Lent…
giving up
sacrificing
doing without
fasting
denial
hard
difficult
arduous
abstinence…

But what is it about this Lent…this entering into the desert…
this time of isolation and self denial….
What brings us here?
Why are we here at this crossroads…
Where is it that we are now bound…
What will be the point of this…
longing,
introspection
and intent of focus…

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs.
We see his blood as he dies.
We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.
He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were,
in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you.
His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:
as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you,
so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.

St. Augustine

img_0373
(detail/ painting by Julie Cook)

a vision of Lent

“Contrary to what might be expected,
I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful,
with particular satisfaction.
Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in
my seventy-five years in this world,
everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence,
has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained…
This, of course, is what the Cross signifies.
And it is the Cross, more than anything else,
that has called me inexorably to Christ.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

dscn2555
(Bonaventure Cemetery /Savannah, Ga / Julie Cook 2016)

Lent…
giving up
sacrificing
doing without
fasting
denial
hard
difficult
arduous
abstinence…

But what is it about this Lent…this entering into the desert…
this time of isolation and self denial….
What brings us here?
Why are we here at this cross roads…
Where is it that we are now bound…
What will be the point of this…
longing,
introspection
and intent of focus…

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs.
We see his blood as he dies.
We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.
He bows his head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were,
in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you.
His whole body is displayed for your redemption.
Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind:
as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you,
so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.

St. Augustine

img_0373
(detail/ painting by Julie Cook)

a large collective sigh…..

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein

RSCN3812
(my giddy, degree holding, son)

Did you hear that?

That sound of exhaling?

That whooshing sound Saturday morning…
the sound of a large collective, slow released, heavy sigh?

The sound of years and years of the breath held by two parents, their son…
and now a young wife…
along with a myriad number of friends and family…

A sigh that has actually been held for….
A lifetime.

DSCN3845

See this young boy?
This picture was taken on a balmy Friday night in May of 2007.
It’s the image of young man who had just graduated high school…
standing on the edge of a well anticipated future…

Yet what he, in his delirium of conquering the one mountain failed to realize that carefree night,
was that he was not yet finished climbing…
For looming in the distance, just beyond the horizon of his youthful exuberance,
lay a mountain range far more challenging than what he had just conquered….

That exciting evening, so long ago, indeed marked a successful passing….
The passing of a 12 year long struggle…

Yet the magnitude of the struggle to which I speak is most likely lost on those who have never
experienced or lived through a child who has had to struggle academically.

And whereas I have written about this struggle before…
That of his particular struggle and of our particular struggle as a family…
The massive weight and enormity of it all came rushing back to the forefront of my heart and soul
this past Saturday morning while sitting in a crowded gym of a southern university.

From that fateful day his first grade teacher called me, a fellow educator, telling me she had a concern…a concern that something just wasn’t right…
to finally sitting in a college gym waiting for a commencement ceremony to begin…
our road has been painfully long and arduous.

From the hard diagnosis of a crippling learning disability…(most likely inherited…)
later compounded by a diagnosis of ADD…
It was double indemnity that was sadly to be our unfortunate lot.

There were many hurdles, impossible hurdles…
And there was testing..lots and lots of testing.

There were the years of refusal to take the medications that were promised to help make things easier…
to finally relenting…
Then only to live with the ill effects of those medications on ones body…
Eventually going back to life without medical help.

There were disappointments…
and failures,
and lapses,
and anger,
and frustration…

There were tears…
lots and lots of tears…
from both child and parents.

There were tutors, reading camps, repeated courses, more tutors…
There was working, studying, studying longer and harder then others
There was the staying after, long after others were gone…
There were sacrifices…

And…
There were a few rare triumphs…
The acceptance letters…
Along with the…
changing of schools…
The changing of majors…
The sitting out…
The waiting…
The continued waiting…
The nos,
The not yets,
The not nows…
The too bads…

Yet there were hopes and dreams.
Always hopes and dreams…
Hopes and dreams that would never fade or go away…

And there was a determination to realize those very hopes and dreams…
just like anyone else who has hopes and dreams…
anyone else who was “normal”….
because wasn’t that what so much of this was all about…
just wanting to be normal like everyone else…

Knowing that you were not stupid…that you were not slow or dumb…
as they would whisper behind your back…
Knowing all the while that you were smart and that you could learn…
that you could excel…
that you could be like everyone else…by God!!!
And by God it would be….

You wanted to prove that you were normal…
Normal like those who didn’t have to struggle, didn’t have to work so very hard…
You wanted to be like those who made the good grades, who didn’t have to expend the energies…
You wanted to be like those who just made school seem… easy…

However today is not that day…
It is not to be that day for the retelling of the very long and hard fought journey of ours…
It is not the day for rehashing and re-living the difficulties nor for the recounting of all the struggles…
And it is not a day to expound upon our seemingly misfortunate poor dumb luck…

No…

Today is not that day…

Rather…

Today is THE day to rejoice…
It is a day to soak it all in.
It is a day to exhale.
It is a day to smile.
It is a day for tears.
It is a day of HOPE.
It is a day of DREAMS.
And it is a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude….

DSCN3836

The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:9