in a manger

“Augustine drew out the meaning of the manger using an idea that at first
seems almost shocking, but on closer examination contains a profound truth.
The manger is the place where animals find their food.
But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven,
the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves.
This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life.
Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God,
to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God.
From the poverty of Jesus’ birth emerges the miracle in which man’s
redemption is mysteriously accomplished.”

Pope Benedict XVI, p. 68
An Excerpt From
Jesus of Nazareth Infancy


(image courtesy Maxlucado.com)

I love this offering by Pope Emeritus Benedict regarding St. Augustine’s comparison in that a manger
is the place where animals are both sheltered and fed…is, in essence, the same place where mankind
finds both his shelter and food—

That the saving Bread of Life…the body and blood of our Savior, first came to us in the
way of a humble manger on a precarious night and located in a far-flung middle eastern village.

A trough turned crib, resting in an animal’s manger.

A newborn infant becomes both the sustenance and, in turn, Savior of all mankind.
The analogy of feeding and nourishing the soul of man.

We know that birth leads to life and life requires sustenance…
yet in the end, when death does come…we know that death is but a mere formality…

For the one who was born in a humble animal’s stall brings both sustenance
as well as eternal life…

Merry Christmas…
and to our Jewish brethren, Happy Hanukkah.

It’s off the to the Mayor and Sheriff…

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

overcoming by birth

A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered,
each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.
Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”

John 16:32-33


(The Atlantic)

To look out over, or perhaps down upon, seeing this celestial orb floating mysteriously
out in space, I would image might leave a viewer feeling a sense of awe, perhaps
even serenity.

A mesmerizing, undulating and oddly rolling ball consisting of calming oozing hues.

The cooling colors, the swirling of clouds in the atmospheric covering, the wonderment of
what might it be…could not be lost on anyone fortunate enough to view such at
quite the vantage point.

However, for those of us bound by gravity, we smugly know otherwise.

For wherever mankind inhabits, there is always to be a certain level of strife.

And whereas the knowledge of that little fact might, for some, be a depressing reality—
there is a small spoiler alert…

For unto us is born…a Savior…

A Savior who has overcome the world…

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

a solemn reminder

Time and tide wait for no man.
Geoffrey Chaucer


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Perhaps this is an odd place for an early morning stroll but Colonial Cemetary in
Savannah is both a peaceful and serene place to wander…
Not only are there tabby lined paths that weave throughout this rather massive burial
place, but there are also beautifully majestic ancient oaks veiled in the otherworldly
ethereal Spanish moss which cast dancing shadows across the landscape of an otherwise eerily
still and silent place …
All of which adds to the allure of this surreal and tranquil place.
It is a place steeped in centuries-old history.


(tabby path / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The stories and lives of the known as well as the unknown.
Folks who had come from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Poland, Germany…
Most of who had come pre-Revolutionary War and who have since each found a resting
place in this protected piece of land, in a country they would each come to call home.

A Declaration of Independence bears many of their names just as do state counties.
State colleges have named buildings in their honor as we remember both the heroic and the notorious.


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

From Today in Georgia History:
August 2, 1776- Statewide
Georgia joined The United States on August 2, 1776, the same day that Button Gwinnett,
Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

The declaration was approved on July 4, but signed by only one man that day, John Hancock.
Fifty other delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress signed on August 2.
Later that year, five more brought the total to 56.

Eight of the signers, including Gwinnett, were foreign-born.
One was Roman Catholic, a handful were deists and the rest were Protestants.
They all went on to lives of public service in the republic they founded:
there were two future presidents, three vice presidents, two Supreme Court justices,
and many congressmen, diplomats, governors, and judges among them.

In 1818, 14 years after Georgia’s last signer died, Georgia named counties in their honor.
Charles Carroll of Maryland, the last of all the signers left, died in 1832 at the age of 95,
but their revolutionary idea of a self-governing free people lives on.

The experiment they began remains unfinished, as it was on August 2, 1776,
Today in Georgia History.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The cemetery, no matter how many times I find myself wandering, affords me new discoveries
hidden amongst the trees and mostly ignored by the abundant squirrels who call this
park-like cemetery home.

Numerous tiny graves now protect the innocent… some who are named, some who are not.
Eternally protecting the mortal remains of those who were born only to quickly pass away—
as they were born during a time when both birth and death walked hand in hand


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Some grave markers are elaborate—hand carvings which are each works of art
while others remain plain and simple.
Some markers offer kind and poetic words while others have lost all legibility
to the passing of time.
Names, dates, and lives seemingly washed away from both time and the elements.

It is said that despite the iron fence that now encloses the cemetery,
the buried actually extend yards beyond, extending outward into the city they
called home.
The city paved and built over many graves long before a permanent fence
was erected.

Even the office of the Archdiocese of Savannah is housed in an old colonial building
that undoubtedly was built upon the graves of the unknown as recording details of
those buried was not always a priority.

Yellow fever victims are in a mass grave in a far corner of the cemetery while
unknown Confederate and Union soldiers now spend eternity side by side.

It is said that this is one of the most haunted places in the city…
but yet this city boasts many an otherworldly spook and specter.

I like to learn of the lives who have all gone before me.
Those who lived in a time much different from my own and the
similarities of lives lived are more alike than different.

For we all live, love, hurt, suffer, laugh and cry…and each eventually die.
Not so much different as we are still very much alike.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

And the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV

the heaviness of missing

“how anxiously I yearned for those I had forsaken.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man


(crab/ Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I have always wrestled with the notion of “good-byes”.
I don’t like them.
Never have.
Most likely never will.

There is an odd finality to it all…this business of good-byes…
or so it surely seems at the time of parting.

Perhaps it is the continuity of constancy and consistency that seem threatened
during the action of good-byes.

More times than not, I readily comprehend the cognizant reality–
meaning that my mind is well aware that I will indeed be seeing or be with whomever it is
that might be momentarily leaving my physical presence…

So in some regards, I feel almost silly for getting so worked up or sad.
My brain screams at me, telling me to suck it up, you’ll see them–again– soon–
For crying out loud!

Yet the pain in the spirit, soul, and heart is still very real
as I know that there are those good-byes that are temporary and those that are more permanent.
And it is the permanence of those good-byes that are indeed most bitter…
As all of us will eventually experience such on a very personal level.

I don’t know but I often think adopted folks feel partings perhaps a bit more deeply than others…

I am more than aware of the effects that a mother-to-be has upon her unborn baby in the womb—

There is a transference of emotions, hormones, sounds, senses…even down to the very things
the mother eats or drinks.

Throw in anger, sorrow, stress, fatigue, resentment…
all of that passes through to the one she carries.

A baby who is destined to be “left behind” following its birth…be that for adoption,
knows most pointedly on a deep subconscious level, for a lifetime, the pain of both
rejection and good-byes…

Be they simple, short and fleeting or be they bitter, lasting and full of forever loss…
a good-bye is deeply felt and understood.

And so it was with the parting of our grandchildren today, after having been with them
for the past three days, that my heart was weighed down by the stinging tears
associated with such a parting and loss…

Picking up the left-behind toys and the topsy turvy disarray of a house that only babies
and toddlers bring…
all the while battling with a personal heaviness of heart and stinging tears.

Silly emotions really, but the depth of sudden stillness can be physically unsettling
when just moments before, just before the fully loaded car pulled out of the driveway,
the level of endless energy had been deliriously exhausting as it filled the entire house.

In my particular case of loss, as my brain works tirelessly to tell me, will be blessedly short.
Yet all the while, I know that for others, some good-byes will be sadly lasting and difficult.

So I was reminded of all of this notion of partings and good-byes today when I read
my friend Salvageable’s blog post regarding his missing of a fellow blogger friend.

https://salvageable04.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-fading-and-disappearance-of-aurora/

Often in our lives, our experiences of missing and loss come because of the one we
long for, for whatever reason, opts to move on or perhaps move away…

There comes frustration in such losses because they are really out of our control,
as are most losses—and they come with no real explanation or reasoning.

One day they’re here, the next day they are not.
No words, no contact, no good-bye.

An open-ended loss.

Just as we experience with a death…
equally as difficult and hard to wrap one’s head and heart around…
for there is no control with the loss.

Most often, there is also no opportunity for farewell.

Either way, the after effects affect our whole being.

I offered my empathy to Salvageable as I expressed just how much I’ve missed my blogging
friend Natalie.

Much the same way that I miss my aunt.
Both became sick and yet I never saw either one of them during their illness.
In Natalie’s case, we had never met face to face.

One minute, we spoke over the phone, then there’s an illness that occurred, and then poof,
they were gone.

Just the other day, my daughter-n-law and I both lamented how much we missed “Aunt Maaaaaathhaaa”
It’s just weird that she’s no longer a physical part of our family.
We spoke on the phone on a Tuesday evening as I shared that she was to soon be a great aunt.
I had no visible bearing as to how sick she was as we chatted about my becoming a grandmother.
Her voice raspy but her mind was focused as she talked about getting some strength back.
A day later… on Wednesday, she was gone.

Similar to my friend Natalie, but our’s was communication via texts and emails while she was
in the hospital.
I told her that I was going to fly out to see her…a day later her daughter actually text back
that her mom was in ICU and for me to wait.
Four day’s later she was gone.

I liked what Salvageable had to say in his post about there being a designated place in Heaven for
Wordpress bloggers to finally meet…because there are so many of you I love dearly,
yet we have never sat together at a kitchen table and shared a face to face laugh or tear.

And such is this life of ours…perhaps it’s akin to being something like pen-pals.
One day, for whatever reason, the letters just stop coming.
Leaving us to always wonder as to what happened.

Yet thankfully there is a takeaway in all of this melancholy chatter and that is actually
the of good news in all of this heaviness.

For it is here, where many of us join and come together, that we are brought together
by our shared love for Jesus Christ.

Even those who come here to counter our words and our posts…those ardent disbelievers and atheists
who come to argue, fuss, cuss and discuss our seemingly “disillusionment”–
all come because of Jesus.

And for those of us who believe, it is that love of Jesus that sustains all of our losses,
be they great or small, temporary or seemingly neverending.

Therein resides our Hope and our Grace.

For those of you who come to fuss, cuss, discuss or for those who come simply with their loss and sorrow…
blessedly and thankfully, we all have Hope.

For He is indeed the great I AM…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

the Sheriff has arrived for duty

“Human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
― George Washington


(the Sheriff dressed for his arrival at home…finally)

It’s been a whirlwind of time and activity…
trying and hard as well as grateful and good.

It’s like I told Tricia the other day…when our family’s newest addition ended up in the
neonatal unit shortly after his birth, it was as if the world simply stopped and stood still.
Nothing outside that hospital mattered…

no politics
no societal or cultural idiocy
no countries
no governments
no Democrats
no Republicans
no tit for tat…

Absolutely nothing mattered but that our little guy would rally.

In hindsight, we learned that one of his lungs had collapsed and he “strangled” on amniotic fluid—
of which was suddenly realized when the “crisis” occurred while he was being kept in the nursey
following his birth.
Hence the surge of staff presence and the rapid removal to the neonatal care unit.

Add to that a few other issues that would delay circumcision for at least 6 months.

When my son and daughter-n-law returned home without a baby…
the very baby they had raced to deliver Sunday night, it was a sad arrival back home
and it was hard.

I had just returned home from having spent 4 days with them—we thought we still
has about 3 days when at midnight I got the call…
“Mother, I need ya’ll to come back, NOW!”

But how many couples experience such…?
How many parents continue to leave for the hospital only to come back home without the baby
they had left to go deliver?

It quickly put a spin of reality on birth…
something that we in the “civilized world” now take for granted.

We treat delivering a baby much as we do a trip to the dentist— a simple in and out.

100 years ago…folks knew not to take such for granted…

Perhaps it is our technological advances that have left us jaded and smug while feeling
almost infallible and indefensible to those worst-case scenarios…
situations that a century ago our grand and great grandparents knew better than to assume
that all would be well.

I learned as an educator to expect the worst, but rejoice when the success comes…

Maybe that’s why I consider myself more or less a pragmatist…
despite the fact that I claim and often cling to the positive…
I know, however, that life can change on a dime.

We were fortunate.

His initial tests came back negative and he got to come home to us late Thursday afternoon.

He weighed nearly a pound less than and was shorter in length than that of his sister,
The Mayor, when she was born nearly 15 months ago.

He lost weight in the hospital…backtracking from his birth weight.
But is slowly making a come back to the weight he arrived with.

Lanky and spindly vs a sister who was more round and full.

And speaking of the Mayor…she was a bit apprehensive on the day of her brother’s birth.

And note that face on The Mayor when she clamored up to sit by Mopie (aka “Biya”) when holding
the new Sherrif…

The Sheriff now wears a tiny monitor on his foot which measures his heart rate and oxygen levels…
And thankfully so far so good.

He’s just so tiny and seemingly frail…but I suspect that having to live under the tutelage
of his new boss, the Mayor, will require a ramp up in fortitude…
something I suspect our little Sheriff will certainly rise to occasion for…

I have no doubt…

Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it again:
Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

Neonatal units are scary places

“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

Complications today on several fronts have left us all unsettled…all
but the Mayor naturally.

He will remain for several more days barring any further worries…
And a surgery down the road in about 6 months is in his future…
But we give thanks for the bountiful blessings we have received thus far…

As in after nearly 30 hours, I finally got to hold my first and only grandson…

The Mayor is just too busy to be bothered with worry.

This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

a new sheriff in town

The new sheriff, James Gregory arrived this afternoon at 1:13.

The Mayor was introduced to her new staff member…

But nonplused by the new addition…she opted to simply smell the day’s roses…