brave knights and heroic courage

“I was born for the storm, and a calm does not suit me.”
Andrew Jackson


(Autumn and Poppie or Papa, depending on who you ask / Julie Cook / 2018)


(Andrew Jackson and Autumn seem to have much in common / Julie Cook / 2018)

Sometimes life is more than simply chasing the proverbial dream…

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies,
let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

C.S. Lewis

This is the real reason…

“If you wish to strengthen your confidence in God still more,
often recall the loving way in which He has acted toward you,
and how mercifully He has tried to bring you out of your sinful life,
to break your attachment to the things of earth and draw you to His love.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori


(the first tiger swallowtail takes flight at the blueberry bushes / Julie Cook / 2018)

Somedays I get it better than other days.

There are those days I totally get it.

I understand it.
I can see it.
I can live it.
I can claim it.

And I readily share it…

For there is a conviction.
A confidence.
Plus I even have a bit of a swagger as I wear it smoothly and easily.
It is mine and I rest in it.

And I feel good about it.

But then there are the other days…

The days, which for unknown reasons, things are not nearly as clear.
I totally miss it.
I totally, and very obviously, don’t get it.
I don’t demonstrate it.
I don’t mirror it.
I don’t live it…
while doing it a great disservice.

And that disservice is very much acknowledged by my inner self…
As sometimes I can even feel a bit of ill intent.
A defiance.
Add a bit of delight and satisfaction to that defiance.
And the wickedness rises.

This is when I actually realize how very much I am off track.

I have wandered, for whatever disjointed reason, away.

And this is when I am pulled back to a cross and an empty tomb…

“God will forgive you if you ask him to.
Though your sins be numerous as the grains of sand on the shore,
God’s merciful forgiveness is far greater than your sins.
Do not be afraid.
Trust in his love.
Repent of your sins without delay and return to the house of the Father.
He is waiting for you.”

Patrick Madrid, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Bible

when a great aunt comes calling…

“There is peace even in the storm”
Vincent van Gogh


(from left to right:
Aunt Blanche, Aunt Alma, my great grandmother Wiliford, and shy Mimi (Mary)
hiding behind their mom / circa 1917)

When I was a little girl, I had two great aunts who were still living.
Aunt Blanche and Aunt Alma.

Both women rattled my nerves…
or maybe it was more like they simply scared me to death.

They were the sisters to my grandmother, my mother’s two aunts.

Blanche had never married.
For as long as I could remember, she had lived with my grandmother,
having her own separate area of the house.
She always seemed old to me.

The story went that she had had a young beau who had asked for her hand in marriage…but…he was California dreaming and bound, hoping to make his fortune
in a bustling new area of the country.

This was a time of one century turning to another.
The thought of leaving home and family in Georgia,
setting off to a still newly settled West Coast, with a young man who had nothing
more than a dream… was simply more than she could bear.
She turned down his proposal and remained single until she passed away in her
late 80’s.

The other great aunt, Great Aunt Alma lived in Clearwater, Florida.
She and her husband had no children of their own and in my mind,
they lived to simply play golf with the other old people.

This pistol of a woman was as wide as she was tall.
At 4’11” she was truly short and truly round.
Her perfume filled the room with a sickeningly sweet scent that lingered in
one’s nostrils long after she was gone.
When first arriving she would always make a bee line for little cheeks…
grabbing both cheeks with her thumb and index fingers, giving them a hard tweak and squeeze before leaving brightly red lipstick mark imprinted on both now sore cheeks.

Whenever we were told of an impending visit by Aunt Alma, a deep sense of dread
descended over both me and my younger brother.
Yet as I aged and grew up, my great aunt who by now was widowed, seemed to
be more gruff and impatient…far from embracing or loving.
She no longer grabbed to pinch cheeks or smear ones face with lipstick
but was rather matter of fact and brusque with her greeting.
Plus she would cuss like a sailor in her impatience.

I kept both of these women at arm’s length as their personalities and lives were not
overtly open to young people. They were nice and always gave nice gifts yet there was
no mistaking the fact that they preferred limited interaction with their
young great niece and nephew.

And so now it seems as if we have a new great aunt arriving on the scene…
one who has announced the coming of a most wicked visit.

Her name is Irma.

Somehow I imagine that she too is rather brusque and very matter of fact.
As she is also very round and and exceedingly wide.
We’ve been told that she will roar into town making her presence known in a
most deadly fashion.

Just as I had a sense of dread as a child over the forthcoming visit of great Aunt
Alma, I now have that same sense of foreboding with Irma’s impending visit.

But the difference between Alma and Irma—Alma did love us in her own odd way as
she did enjoy giving us gifts… Irma I fear however cares only for herself…
Taking no prisoners and making no apologies before abruptly departing just as
rudely as she arrived…

Prayers for Florida as well as neighboring Georgia…..
as our prayers continue for Texas and Louisiana…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:29-30

I’ve got this

It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’
You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.

Winston Churchill

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action,
and discipline that enabled us to follow through.

Zig Ziglar

DSCN4276
(a great black wasp feeds on the sedum / Julie Cook / 2016)

I am often heard to quip…
“I’ve got this”

As in…
“don’t worry”
“not to fret”
“I’ve got it all figured out…”
“and totally under control”

Which, depending on the situation and the occasion, may or may not always be true…

However despite all events to the contrary,
I’ll defiantly say it anyway…

“I’ve got this”

Regardless of…
and despite of…
the situation or circumstance…
I’ve got this…

For it is my seemingly in-control demeanor that will assuredly reassure
whomever I’m having to reassure…
“not to fret,
“not to worry…”
“I’ve got this”

All of which, as of late, has been Dad.

Every question, every worry, every skepticism ladened protest is
immediately met with my reassuring…
“Dad, I’ve got this….”

And with the utterance of that one simple sentence,
he usually calms down, settles down and quiets his fretful angst.

It matters not whether he knows that maybe, just maybe, I really don’t
“have it” under control…
or whether he knows if I really do know where it is I’m going or
what it is exactly that I’m doing…

Just hearing me say those three simple words… puts his worried mind at ease…

Yet despite my pretense of assurance and false offering of security…
I know that there is One who actually does truly know…
That there is One who actually does have it all totally under control.
One who actually does have it all figured out…
One who actually knows the only real Way…
One who actually knows the real Truth…

No fudging
No bravado
No stretching of the facts…
No false offerings while merely hoping for the best…

For it is found in His words,
in His reassurance,
His constant state of being in control…
That is where it is that I find my comfort, my hope and my salvation…

For When the Lord God says, “I’ve got this”
I know that without a doubt He does indeed,
truly have this…..

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides across the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemies before you…”

Deuteronomy 33:26-27

waves and ripples

“A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.”
Stephen Crane

DSCN3339
(Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

In the blink of an eye, a seemingly glasslike sea,
rippling and lapping gently against one’s boat,
can turn angry, vicious and deadly.

The calm and peace…
the solitude and the seamlessness of being one with the sea…
will change…
is changing…

Will you be ready?
Are you ready?
The winds have shifted…
The current has quickened..
And the storm is nigh…

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Look! Disaster is spreading
from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
from the ends of the earth.”

Jeremiah 25:32

He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107:29

updates on prayers

I wanted to share the most recent information regarding our niece… the one for whom I asked yesterday for your prayers.

Chrissy remains in ICU.
What prompted this current crisis in her body and of her system is yet unclear, but the crisis does remain….

However…..

Yesterday the family was given very little hope.
She had been placed on a ventilator Sunday but fought its presence.
She has developed pneumonia.
She was placed into a coma yesterday in order to allow the ventilator to do its job.
Her vital signs continued to fail as her kidneys began to shut down.
Yesterday was a heavy day as feelings and thoughts were not optimistic.

At the same time, prayers have continued.

Last evening my sister-n-law and husband spoke over the phone. My sister-n-law was barley hanging onto the rope in her life…yet a knot has been thankfully tied at the end.

Late last night I had a clam concerning Chrissy….this after a day of dread and doom.
Never one to trust these “mood” swings, I dismissed it as I continued to focus on healing.

This morning I still had the calm.

As I headed to Atlanta this morning to see my dad, my husband called telling me that Chrissy had actually had a “good” night….that they would use dialysis on her today to “jumpstart” the kidneys…

It was then that my sister-n-law text wanting me to share her deep gratitude for everyone I had asked to pray for Chrissy—she doesn’t know about my blog nor of my asking all of you.
She’s just knows I’ve asked friends to join in prayer.

I debated whether I should tell her about the “calm” I’d experienced as I didn’t want to throw out false hope or what in her desperation may sound trite and empty…but I went ahead and shared that I felt late last night as well as this morning that Chrissy was going to beat this.

She didn’t text back immediately and I feared I had overstepped my boundaries.
Then suddenly she responded…
She told me that when she was driving home last night late from the hospital that she too had a calm to wash over her. She felt that Chrissy was going to make it.

I then told her that we would continue to claim that.

My sister-n-law is a quiet private individual–she is also very emotional and I’ve known that seeing her child, no matter a grown woman, in such dire shape, has taken the mother in her to a place of utter despair.
For her to share with me that she had felt a calm was / is huge.

As of this afternoon, Chrissy is thankfully hanging in there.
The dialysis will begin shortly…

So once again, I ask that you continue with me on this journey of prayer.
Please know that I thank you and that my sister-n-law Gretchen thanks you as well—she just doesn’t know how many of you there are…..

shadowlands

“At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“They themselves do not see the world of light as we do, but our shapes cast shadows in their minds, which only the noon sun destroys.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

DSC00463
(carolina chickadee / Julie Cook / 2015)

In a maddening life and even more maddening world,
the monochromatic greys and browns have cast a sickly pall and a deepening shadow upon the soul.

Racing five steps forward, while falling 8 steps back, a heavy laden spirit
sinks further into despair.

What of. . .
kindness
thoughtfulness
cooperation
genuineness?

Where is your humanness?
That which marks you as
compassionate
emphatic
concerned
selfless

A worn specter is seen dragging itself through the shadowlands, alone and stooped.
As the world remains in darkness and full of gloom, the figure casts no shadow of its own.
Tears begin falling like overly ripened fruit from a tree, thick and heavy, each landing with a sickening thud.
While weighted feet drag slowly through the muck, one behind the next.

Heavy
Weighted
Slumped
Dragging
Beaten
Dirty
Lonely
Isolated
Dark

In a life and world stripped of any and all light
Greys collide, melding with black and white.
Tonal nothingness wraps itself like a dirty wet heavy towel across the shadowlands.
The ground trembles.

A random clap of thunder suddenly lifts sunken eyes skyward
Three limp figures, atop the hill, reflect the single flash of light.
Within the static electricity, a host of figures emerge.
It is as if a million tiny stars now flicker and dance across the darkened sky.

Light begins reflecting light, as if the sky itself is now on fire.
A thousand crystals shatter into ten thousand shards of perfect light.
Colors crash madly into one another, cascading from the Heavens.
A chromatic sea washes across the dry grey land, monotones scatter.
A spectrum of energy consumes the lifeless.

As light returns, bodies straighten, faces lift.
Light rays playfully now join with shadows, creating an unknown depth and richness
No longer present are the three limp figures atop the single lone hill
Darkness, Death and Despair have been replaced with a dazzling Light. . .
As the single brilliant Light gives way to an endless new Life. . .

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 9:2