determination

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing,
great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions
of honour and good sense.
Never yield to force.
Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Winston S. Churchill, Never Give In!: The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches


(the wee one working on what it takes to crawl / Julie Cook / 2018)

Spending time in Atlanta with the wee one celebrating Poppie’s or Papa’s birthday
(depends on who your ask) )

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?
So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.
They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control,
lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

measuring time

“In tribulation immediately draw near to God with confidence,
and you will receive strength, enlightenment, and instruction.”

St. John of the Cross


(she’s already cheering on her DAWGS despite her great-grandfather’s love for Tech / Julie Cook
/ 2018)

We are a measuring sort of people.
We measure heights, weights, sizes, shapes, lengths, distances, amounts, numbers,
comings and goings…
You name it, we’ll measure it.
And we particularly like to measure time…

We enjoy measuring time so much that each year we mark time with a New Year’s celebration.
Just as we mark days of birth.

Any kid will tell you just how important the marking of a birthday really is…

And so it is that I am bittersweetly reminded that this time last year, on March the 10th,
we marked Dad’s 89th birthday.

You may remember he was gravely ill but was so excited to have “lived” long enough
just to have one last piece of cake.
Dad loved his sweets—chocolate especially.

He was born on his mother’s birthday in 1928 and died just hours before what would
have been his brother’s 97th birthday–
a brother who had preceded him in death by 8 years.

Dad died just 9 days after we celebrated his birthday.

The passing of a year’s time has brought with it a great deal of change.
All from one March to the next.
Seasons have come and gone… just like they usually do…
but within those seasons there has been a great deal of measuring…
both pluses and minuses.

This time last year, here in this house of my youth, we held a vigil for a life slipping away.
This year, 365 days later to the very day, we joyously mark a 3 week birthday of a new
life full of expectant hopes and dreams.

I find myself sitting in the same room that I once called my own, rocking a
young new life blessedly to sleep.
One who now claims my old room as her own.

I sit in the dimly lit room, illuminated only by a single bulb closet light
that cuts softly through the slats of the closet door. A small projected patch of stars
dance across the ceiling emanating from a novel little owl nightlight.
The sound of crickets and tree frogs gently pierce the silence, also coming from the
little owl nightlight.

The walls are the same.
The windows are the same.
The closet is the same…
Gone is the carpeting, long since stiped away, now exposing the original hardwoods of
this 1950’s house.
Gone are the gossamer sheer drapes, replaced by white wooden shutters.
The colors of paint have evolved with the changing times.

My thoughts drift back and forth over the near 60 years that I’ve known this house.
With memories and feelings being mixed—some pleasant, some not.
There is an unsettling mixed with a calming sense of hope.

My prayer is that for this new precious child, this house, this home, will be one of
peace.
I am reminded of the prayers and anointing of both house and crib.
The imploring of God’s grace to be poured down abundantly upon this family’s
new generation.

So happy birthday Dad and happy birthday to your new great-granddaughter…
a great-granddaughter who now calls the house you were so proud to purchase so long ago,
home…
A house you and mother were so proud to have for your own young family.
As a new generation calls it their own…

By wisdom, a house is built, and by understanding, it is established;
by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6

Happy Birthday Dad….

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up,
foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust,
I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.”

Ovid


(a rather blurry picture I’ve posted before of dad when he turned 4 in 1932)

I wasn’t very sure we’d make it to today…
and not so certain we’ll finish the day…
but…
for now it will be a day of celebration
as our birthday boy turns 89…

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Numbers 6: 24-26

Off to a little celebration

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth. ”
― Ovid

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel

IMG_0018
(A very young dad with his big brother Paul–1928 or 29)

So I’m off to a tiny fete this morning…a very wee celebration.
Shhhh…..
Someone is turning 88 today and has asked that all interested parties just…
forget the day,
let it pass,
ignore it…
for it, this milestone of life, represents but one less year remaining on this earth….
one year closer to departing this life….

Well, if you look at it that way, I suppose we’re all working our way closer to demise each and every morning we open our eyes…however…I certainly don’t think that’s any way to live…
merely ticking off the days…especially when there’s a birthday to celebrate…

So celebrate we shall…. despite all the gloom and doom from the birthday boy…

Happy Birthday Dad!!!!!

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.

Lamentations 3:21-25

Friday the 13th, it’s your lucky day

God gave us the gift of life;
it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.

Voltaire

DSCN1233
(a female Mallard preens at the stream that runs through the grounds of Adare Manor, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I suppose a birthday is a day for a true celebration…
A reason for celebrating to the utmost as we only are offered one every 364 days.
A day for getting all gussied up and being able to preen about for a day…
just like the belle of the ball.
Or so that’s how I hear some folks go about a birthday.

And because I was born on a Friday the 13th I was always told that Friday the 13th was a lucky day for those born on such an ominous day of misfortune…hummmmmmm….

I’ve never been much for drawing a bunch of attention to myself.
I’m a bit shy about this whole birthday hoopla.
I usually do better if it’s someone else’s birthday, allowing me to make the fuss over them…
I don’t do well receiving the “fuss” as it makes me feel rather awkward.
I’m not certain as to why that is…
And mind you, it’s not that I don’t like to be remembered, I do— I’m just one who likes to keep it quiet and simple.

And to some degree I do attribute that whole birthday awkwardness to that whole adoption thing.
Not that my adoptive parents didn’t make birthdays marvelous—they did…
And it’s not so much that I am actually Sophia Loren’s love child….
Don’t look so alarmed…If you’ve been a reader here often enough you will see that that little piece of news surfaces every once in a while, but we still must keep that our little secret as Ms Loren isn’t totally aware of that little fact–but I digress…

Yet in all seriousness, as I ask to be indulged today in all matters serious and or celebratory as it is my birthday, it should be known that I am a firm believer in the transference of emotions from mother to child when a woman is pregnant. A woman who is angry, resentful, fretful, neglectful to and of the child she carries certainly conveys those negative feelings, thoughts and actions to that unborn child.

And whereas you may think I’m going off a bit half cocked on this one, I have spent many years having done a good bit of reading, study and research on the topic as it obviously hits close to home.

Imagine a woman who is pregnant…
A woman who did not want to be pregnant…
A woman who is shocked by the pregnancy, angry over the pregnancy, embarrassed by the pregnancy…
A woman who goes to great lengths to hide her pregnancy…so much so that she does not seek prenatal care, does not take care of herself as a pregnant woman should…plots and plans to immediately “get rid” of said baby once “it” is born…or even worse, harbors ill will to the unborn child and even considers ways of doing away with it entirely…

Terrible yes, but sadly it happens.

And now how are we to ever imagine that this little living, breathing human being inside is to develop happily, full of health and vigor, if there is a massive sense of dread and resentment and plotted abandonment looming over its arrival…
No warm and fuzzy nurturing here.
No fun little baby showers.
No bright happy nurseries.
No imagining what a little life’s potential is to be…
No warm daydreams of what will be…
Rather just dread, denial, anger, resentment, loathing…

Therefore pregnancy and parenthood are not to be entered into lightly…The ultimate responsibility for another life is woven into that mystical nine month time period…

So yesterday evening I caught a snippet of a story on the national news about some sort of law suit being filed by a group of women who had become pregnant while taking a particular brand of birth control pill. It seems that the pills had been mislabeled in the box–making the pills less effective on the days they were thought to be more effective.
These 100 plus women, who got pregnant due to the said ineffectiveness of the pills, are now suing the pharmaceutical company for damages and unplanned costs of now having to raise unplanned and unwanted children.

The story stated that 94 of the women continued with the pregnancies, carrying the babies to term.
Yet they are part of a law suit that states that they want to reimbursed for cost of raising a child and educating a child as they hadn’t bargained on doing such…

Hummmm…

Am I the only one left standing here wondering what of this is good?

I wonder how these children, who when old enough to understand, will feel knowing that their moms sued because they really didn’t want them in the first place and didn’t bargain on having to take care of them financially for say the next 25 years or so.

If that just doesn’t scream of warm and fuzzy parental nurturing….

Perhaps the irony of sadness here is lost only on me.

I have never been one to believe in birth control as a green flag for sex. It’s just simply not that easy nor that simple–despite everyone’s desire to make it so.

There is a grave and deep responsibility to having sex that our society, our culture, has apparently lost all sight of…
Even if you remove the Religious component there still exists a huge responsibility to having sex—it should be anything but causal.

Sex in our society has become as common place as buying a Coke.
Sex is sex and that’s that…no one wants it to be anything more–just a moment of self satisfaction reduced to a carnal animalistic level.

It seems as if it has become an unalienable right right up there with voting.
Sex is a huge marketing ploy, it’s huge in advertisement, huge in entertainment, huge in sales, huge in all sorts of venues that make this capitalist county of ours run—any dinnertime commercial espousing the importance of “looking for that just right moment” of Viagra or Cialis can tell you that.

Sex on a first date is as common as buying a pack of gum.
No longer is there commitment, a relationship, a thoughtfulness of both parties, or God forbid there be a marriage before hand as that is just so last century…or maybe even two centuries ago…

Yea yea, I know and I get it—I’m too old fashioned, or I simply don’t understand, or I’m just too uptight, or I’m too naive, or I’m too religious, or I’m too much of a prude, or I’m no saint so shut the hell up, or I’m too old, or I’m too conservative, or I’m too…just fill the blank…

I will simply say that it should behoove all of us to remember that sex comes with a huge responsibility that has a variety of end results and ramifications. Lest anyone one of us forget that nothing is a 100% guarantee to stop said ramifications but for one thing and one thing only—that being abstinence—and we all know that that ain’t happening in this “I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it… so there” society of ours.

The sexual revolution of the 60’s….
Now there’s a revolution which has had catastrophic reverberations…
Sex for sex sake, we all can now have our cake and eat it too…we’ve rationalized everything, ignoring others, just in order to have our cake and eat it to the point that we legalized abortions by golly, we made morning after pills and we’ll do anything we have to do, even up to sertilizing ourselves, all in the name of having responsible irresponsible sex—causal or otherwise just because we want to so therefore we can—“it’s my body, my party and I won’t be crying”…that’s our liberated selves in a nutshell

Wherever has the importance gone?
The big deal?
The whole overwhelming awe in creating of a new life?
The desire to form a family?
The wonder of being a couple?
The mystical bond between a man and a woman bound in a single union?
The nurturing?
The specialness of the moment?
The sacredness?
Dare I say it, commitment…as in…for life…for Love???…
Where is the Creator who has joined two in the union for all of Creation…

Please know that I say all of this knowing that at the same time…
Life happens..
There are mistakes, accidents…we do things we regret, we didn’t really mean,
Things we’d change if we could…but simply can’t… or… that’s just the way it is and that’s that…

I am very much a believer in Grace…as I am a product of that Grace in and on so many different levels of this life of mine.
I believe that with God, all things can and will work to His Glory…if we turn it all over to Him…it’s just that some things may take the long way ’round getting there due to our not having listened in the first place…but He can and will still make it work in the end.

I realize that some of you just don’t buy any of what I’m saying and perhaps even vehemently oppose such a thought…
and that’s ok too.

But it is indeed my birthday and I think I’ll have my say since I’m shying away from any sort of hoopla.

And why for heaven’s sake should I venture into such heaviness on a day that is meant to be a day of celebrating you ask….Well I will celebrate later, quietly with my family, but as I have lived long enough now to know, as I reflect on this day of another year of living and to what that living of a life well entails, that we as a society, a culture, have got to turn things around and turn them around fast before turning around is, in a word, impossible…

So, on this Friday the 13th…to all those birthday babies out there young and old, legit or not, happy or sad, adopted or in foster care, alone or surrounded by a throng of loving family and friends– I wish you all happiness, joy and love….
Happy Birthday to me and to us….

Shadows, Groundhogs, badgers, Candlemas and a birthday

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Old English song

If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.

Old Scottish song

Groundhog%20Munchies
(image taken from the web)

February 2nd marks, for Christians, the holy day of Candlemas, otherwise known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Jesus Presented in the Temple
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:22-40

In both the US and Canada February 2nd is also known as Groundhog Day.
A hopeful day designated for anticipation and decision making. . .the pivotal marking of whether or not Winter is to linger for 6 more weeks or if Spring is to make a long awaited early arrival.
Either the groundhog sees his shadow or not—-The importance of shadows and clouds suddenly fills the air with expectancy. The signposts of legend and lore pointing either toward or away from Spring.
In Germany it was first a hedgehog–later in England it was a badger–and now, in North America, it’s a groundhog which is to take top honors bearing the responsibility of forecasting.

February 2nd is also Aunt Martha’s birthday and we certainly can’t let that monumental event be overshadowed by a groundhog, a hedgehog or a badger now can we. . .

So on this new day to this new month, early on in this new year, may we actually hope for clouds, shadows and Spring. . .may we be mindful of the significance of a wee child being presented in a Temple so very long ago and may we, much like Mary, ponder in our hearts as to how that single event has changed our lives as we are to never be the same. . .Also. . .may we think of wishing those we know and love, like Aunt Martha, a very happy birthday. . .
now. . .where are those clouds and did anyone think to bring the cake???