There are no accidents

“In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences”
Pope John Paul II


(a two legged okra? / Julie Cook / 2017)

Tuesday I spent the day doing something that needed doing.
It needed doing ages ago.

I pulled out two step ladders along with a box of dusting clothes and proceeded
to take everything off my bookshelves—

These bookshelves were builtin cabinetry, on either side of the fireplace,
and it was the thing about the house that I loved most when we moved in
20 years ago…
Because I always wanted a place to properly put my books.
And did I mention my book collection, within that twenty year time, has
only grown.

But it wasn’t just books that had since found homes on the shelves.
Maybe it’s the art teacher in me but these where mini display shelves of
design and creativity….they held my “treasures” from trips,
they held memories.

However to the causal observer, I feared, they held chaos.
Hopefully organized chaos, but chaos none the less.
And as I age, I think I’m finally understanding…less is more.

I took down every last book, picture, knick knack, souvenir, treasure…
emptying all shelves as if preparing to pack up, box up and move…
which mind you I do consider constantly as I hear the ocean often call
my name..but then I’ll hear the mountains call out as well…
so to keep things quiet…
I just ignore them and stay put….

I climbed up and down, balancing precariously on the cabinet edge, in order to get
everything moved, off and down.

I next proceeded to dust.

Finally I had a clean slate.

I spent the remainder of the day sorting.

What should be boxed for Goodwill.
What should be boxed and stored.
What should be moved elsewhere.
What should be allowed to stay.

We had brought back 9 very old decoy ducks that had been Martha’s.
Beautifully old decoys of various species, sizes, shapes, ages and colors…
with one being a giant rustic fish and one being a giant sitting turkey hen.
All now having come home to roost with the 4 I already had.
My flock of 4 sits on the fireplace—
what would I now do with Martha’s flock of 9???

It all started for me when I inherited my grandmother’s very old wood carved decoy
of a male canvas back duck named Henry…Henry is now nearing 100.
In her last years of life, as the dementia set in, Mimi named the decoy Henry
and he sat at the foot of the bed as if it were a pet…and I believe
in Mimi’s mind, Henry was real and was indeed her pet….

Eventually I decided to strategically place the decoys up on my shelves—
sitting a couple on top of books, while others were flanked by a few books.
I threw in few antique plates, a framed photo or two…
Poked and placed until I got something that I think to be tastefully presentable…
rather than stuffed to the gills full.

But all of this rearranging is not the point of this post.
Nor are the ducks or books or dust or junk…

As I was sorting through the wealth of books that I’ve acquired over the years–
with the bulk being based on Christianity, the Saints, Monasticism, Prayer,
the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, European history and lots of Art history…
one little book literally fell out amongst the hoard…
resting at my feet on the floor.

Most of my books are hardback, some are large and lovely, some are old and rare..
but this little paperback book simply seemed to fall out of nowhere….

It’s a book I remember ordering years ago.

There Are No Accidents
In All Things Trust God

by Fr Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R
with John Bishop

I remember that I never finished reading the book for whatever reason,
which I do remember starting while I was still teaching.
Time then was never on my side…not that it is now,
but these days I try to be more diligent with both my time and reading.

The book is based on an interview with Fr. Benedict..
as he was known by his first name and not his last.
He was a Franciscan monk, teacher and retreat leader who died in 2014.

He was also a monk who was hit by a car while crossing the street at the
busy Orlando Airport in 2004.
His survival was very questionable.
He was an older gentleman who sustained some very serious injuries.
Both broken bones and severe head trauma.

There were surgeries, long stints in ICU, ventilators, physical therapy….
He never walked again without assistance nor could he raise his right arm
but yet he survived and he persevered.
For he had a mission.
And that was to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The doctors warned that if he lived, he’d never talk again,
never think again as he most likely would be severely brain damaged.
They also said he wouldn’t walk let alone dance…
but he was ok with not dancing
because he never liked to dance anyway.

I’m beginning the book anew.

For I too believe there are no accidents—
for behind every accident, every incident, be they minor or devastating…
it is there our Omnipotent God resides…

There are blessings to be wrestled over but we do not like nor do we
want to wrestle.

And therein lies our challenge…
our challenge to comprehend, to sort and to accept.

We stand as a lost child feeling overwhelmed and frozen by fear, pain
sorrow, horror, devastation, disbelief, greif.
Our thoughts, our faith, our being… rocked all to the foundation,
as we are left to rile with unbridled anger.

Because this God of ours is not reacting…
this God of ours is not playing the role…
this God of our is not doing things the way we would have Him do…
and therefore we decide we don’t need, don’t want, don’t like this God
as we assume ourselves to be the better god….

And there rests our trouble….

“There are no accidents.
Evil things occur because of bad will or stupidity or fatigue,
yet whatever the cause, God will bring good out of it if we let Him”

Fr Benedict

“even when we do not choose evil, we choose the good so half heartedly
and with so many qualifications that mediocrity becomes our canonized statis quo.”

Fr Benedict

God’s child

The flowers of the earth do no grudge at one another,
though one be more beautiful and fuller of virtue than another;
but they stand kindly one by another, and enjoy one
another’s virtue.

Jakob Boehme


(Bocce balls in the sand / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

“Who hates his neighbor has not the rights of a child.”
And not only has he no rights as a child, he has no “father”.
God is not my father in particular, or any man’s father (horrible presumption and madness!);
no, He is only father in the sense of father of all,
and consequently only my father in so far as He is the father of all.
When I hate someone or deny God is his father,
it is not he who loses, but I:
for then I have no father.

Søren Kierkegaard

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:
Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child,
nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

1 John 3:10

adoption

“As soon as I saw you,
I knew an adventure was going to happen.”

Winnie the Pooh

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(ice encrusted sweat gum balls / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, back in the fall, you might remember me mentioning that an editor
from Plough House Publishing had stumbled upon my tiny little corner of the blogosphere.
After reading some of the things I’d posted,
she thought that I might like to receive some of their books for my perusal…
perhaps using one or two in future posts…
perhaps a full fledged review or more appropriately…
simply an added bit of flavoring or spice
to whatever it is I may be posting…

Several of the books contained the works of Alfred Delp,
the Catholic priest arrested by the Nazis who was eventually hung for not
denouncing his faith or the priesthood.

A couple of weeks ago my publishing friend contacted me again letting me know that she
was going to be sending out a new, yet uncorrected proof, of a soon to be released
book for my perusing.
The name of the book is
You Carried Me
A daughter’s memoir

by Melissa Ohden

In her email my friend gave me a little background to the book and story.
In a nutshell it is the story of a now grown woman coming to terms with her adoption.
Little did my publishing friend know that I too had been adopted and had even written
about my own adoption here when I first started blogging.

Mrs Ohden’s tale is not merely one of a child given up for adoption who
subsequently goes on a quest for the answers to those nagging questions of an unknown past…
but rather Mrs. Ohden’s story is a bit more complex.

For you see Mrs Ohden is actually the survivor of an abortion.
As in she was an aborted baby, who lived.

Now before you click the exit button or start rolling your eyes, stay with me for a minute.

Her story is not a rant.
It is not political.
It is not a sentimental soppy tale of angst and devastation before finding needed redemption…

or maybe…

in actuality maybe it is—
maybe it is all of that and more.

This is a post that really needs to be more and go further,
but I don’t have the necessary time or strength for the emotional journey it would require.
And you don’t have to time to read such….

Here is a link to the first time I posted anything about my own adoption….
it is early on in the blogging days so it is not as polished or clean as it should be…
as I am the queen of typos and a victim of the constant undetected autocorrects…
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

January 22 in the Catholic church is a day of prayer…
a “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”

So I decided the time might be right to add a post along those same lines…

I promise I’m not going to jump on my soapbox here, I’ll wait for another day.
And I must admit that I really debated as to whether I wanted to read the book…
or not.

Adoption is not an easy topic for me.

At 57 I have lived a life of putting pieces back together that I had never taken apart…
they were taken apart long before I was born.

I am a believer that we are all broken and damaged goods.
I’ve yet to meet a human being who wasn’t…
as in no one is the embodiment of perfection.

It’s just that some of us do a better job then others of living and
dealing with what makes us, us.

Our parents were not or are not perfect.
And despite our best attempts, all of us who are parents will fall woefully flat…
as our kids will be the byproducts of our own shortcomings and dysfunctions…
be they good or bad or just simply despite it all.

Yet for adopted kids there is an added trove of unanswered questions.
For even the most well adjusted among us is still a human being
and will muse at some time or another the questions of why and who.

Walking down the street, often wondering if I’ve ever bumped into or crossed the path
of the biological family I’ve never known,
I look in a mirror and wonder…
I wonder where the green eyes come from.
I wonder why I like certain things and dislike others…
Who passed on this or that?
Where are my roots and my heritage….

Throw into the mix the circumstance the biological in-utero connection
between mother and child.

A baby who is to be given up, as soon as it is born, cannot help but have certain
anxieties and heaviness passed on by a torn woman burdened with guilt,
resentment, angst, worry, or sorrow….
add then to that the knowledge that the pregnancy is to be terminated…

A heavy load for the psychological growth of any individual.
Certain things will always bubble below the surface…like it or not…
As any doctor or psychologist or psychiatrist worth their salt will tell you…
there is a deep innate connection between mother and child
whether we want to acknowledge that or not.

Despite the best parenting skills and love given and offered by the adopted parents,
those who are given up for adoption have a higher incidence of issues with
abandonment, anger, rage, self esteem and a wealth of insecurities…
For it is all just part and parcel.

Melissa Ohren’s burden was a bit heavier because she was to have been killed, never born.

Her’s was a late third trimester saline injection abortion.
It was hard for me to read her recounting of her “delivery” by the nurse who actually
realized that the delivered baby was not dead nor about to die.

Saline injections are meant to burn and suffocate…surviving is rare if ever.

She spent a lengthy time in an intensive care unit of a neonatal center.
Potential adoptee parents were told that this baby girl would most likely face a lifetime
of both developmental and physical burdens and deficits.
Potentially blind, deaf, delayed developmentally, never walking, or talking…
the list was long and grim.

Yet her adopted parents jumped in with both feet despite a possible lifetime of
care and need.

Melissa Odhen however defied the odds.

She never suffered any lasting or long term physical or developmental effects.

So Mrs Odhen tale is more than merely filling in the who of an adopted child…
her’s is a tale heavy on the side of why and how.

Her adopted parents were always loving and supportive of her quest.
As they were the couple she always claimed as her parents—
The knowledge of adoption and late abortion never lessened her love of and for this couple
nor ever did her need for answers lessen their love for her.
They supported her digging and her quest from the very beginning.

I found that I could relate to some of her feelings and questions,
especially when she married and eventually became a mother herself….
as there are lots and lots of worries and concerns regarding genetics and potential
problems when an adoptee is pregnant herself.

Yet I could also relate to some of her angst filled adolescent struggles
over issues such as the identity of self, a sense of not fitting in,
a deep seceded anger and frustration that she
could never quite put her finger on.

All wich exploded once she learned of the failed abortion.

Imagine yourself as an adoptee…
you find yourself, despite knowing you are
obviously wanted and loved by your adopted family,
yet there remains a primal feeling buried deep within
that you are not worthy of being wanted…

Or either you find yourself constantly left wondering as to how or why your biological
mother could have ever given you away…
As it all ties into the need of being loved and of knowing ones self worth.
You spend a life struggling with a sense of self worth…you battle internally,
rationalizing with your self that you are worthy of love..of course you are,
yet your own mother made the conscious decision that really, really you weren’t…

It is a constant and deadly internal struggle.

Add to the fact that your biological mother actually wanted you dead.
Leaving a toxic and even deadly combination for the most grounded of individuals.

The book is not long, a mere 165 pages—
and once I committed to reading it,
I finished it in a day and a half, despite my being a rather slow reader.

This book and story are not a catalyst for protest,
but rather simply a tale of one woman’s quest of
self discovery, spiritual discovery, acceptance and forgiveness…
for both self and for a biological mother she slowly begins to understand.

And yet it is a good book adding a bit more flavor to the debate
that grips this nation of ours…
As we continue revisiting and coming to terms with Roe v Wade…

Melissa Odhen has created a foundation for other survivors of abortion…
Abortion Survivors Network and is an advocate for all those
who have been impacted by abortion…

More on adoption at a later date….

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

(Psalm 139:13-18)

Intimate affair

O, Star of wonder, star of night
Star of royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Lyrics from the Christmas Carol
“We Three Kings of Orient Are…”

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(image of the Adoration of the Magi by Giotto / Cappella Scrovegni / Padova. Pad ova, Italy / 1305)

“Not everyone sees the star”

Observes Christoph Blumhardt in his Advent reflection The Wisemen’s Star.

If everyone had seen the star,
would not all of ancient Palestine been turned upside down from such
an extraordinary sighting of a brilliant light illuminating the eastern sky?

Has not history shown us that the sighting, and subsequent gathering,
was not intended as a major crowd massing phenomenon…

but rather a more intimate affair…

Gathered were a host of angels, a handful of shepherds, three wisemen,
along with a sundry menagerie.

Not exactly the breaking news, front page headline sort of event…

But rather a quiet tender affair…
Intimate,
private,
personal…
and closely gathered.

The birth of a child…

Yet not just any child…

Blumhardt surmises that “it is necessary to have an upright, sincere heart.
Whoever is not filled with longing but is only inspired by egoism,
only interested in his own salvation, with no feeling for sighing creation—
he will not see a star even when it is there; he does not see the glory of the Lord.

So we must ask ourselves….
as we enter this new season of waiting….

Will we see the star?

Are we filled with desire and longing?

Is our heart sincere?

For if that is indeed so, that our hearts are indeed ready…both longing and looking…
we must remember not to be late,
for we have been invited to an amazingly intimate affair.

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:9-10

Where is the Sacred?

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”

― Wendell Berry

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Glendalough, County Wicklow / Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where is the Sacred,
the Holy,
the Hallowed?

Where has it gone?

Has man lost his connection to the Divine
and what it means to be
reverent,
quiet,
observant….

Oh how it so seems…

Does the mocking of a drowned two year old child, off the coast of Turkey,
make anyone else uncomfortable, distressed or disturbed…
or is it just me?

Does Charlie Hebdo and others who make light over everything and anything,
who use the satirical to…
malgin,
berate,
and draw attention to…

Do they, the magazines, the papers, the comics.. try to make us…
better,
wiser,
more insightful…?

Do they make us think, laugh or simply feel numb?

All with their mocking, ridiculing and disrespect…?

Freedom of speech…
it is the rallying cry is in not…
The defensive call to arms.
Yet whose word is free and whose words are not?

What of….
what of the respect found within that freedom…
what of the cost of human sanctity found within that freedom
what of the spilled blood found within that freedom

Was respect not rooted in the foundation?
Civility?
Courtesy?
Fairness?

What of the respect for…
for life,
for death,
for the living,
for the dying,
for the less than,
for the maligned,
for the young,
the old,
all found within that freedom…

What of the honor to be afforded to all human beings regardless of…
stature,
class,
race,
age,
belief,
Does none of that matter…
Is it all just fodder now for our obsession with the biting satire of our own contagious dark humor?

Oh laugh and chuckle if you will.
That nervous sort of ridiculing and jaded scoffing…
Join the masses of those who have grown numb, cold, closed, shallow, empty…
and so over the top that there is no longer room for the kind, the compassionate, the soul…
the Hallowed,
the Holy
or
the Sacred…

Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5

the pace now quickens

Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold…

Provers 8:10

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
1 Timothy 1:7

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(St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Anxious, hurried and apprehensive they race along with nervous urgency
as the pace to the journey suddenly quickens.
The moment has drawn nigh and there is no more time to tarry.
The waiting and watching is over.
The benign prosaic observation is no longer available for causal inspection–
As the air is now heavy with the seriousness of what is soon to take place.

The collision of two opposing forces is eminent.
They had seen it foretold in the star.
Only a few will truly understand the overwhelming magnitude of what is to transpire…
For gravity is laced within the expectation.
Two cosmic energies will collide with such tremendous force that the powerful reverberations will spiral outward, affecting all generations across the chasm of time…

There will be a time for joy to be had…as well as heartfelt offerings, homage and gifts.
The time for merrymaking will be at hand as the celebration and toasting will commence.
Yet the excited announcement of these glad tidings brings with it both joy and heavy consequence…

There will be a time of thankfulness, reverence and tenderness
as Hopefulness joyously arrives.
All the while as radiant Light fiercely pierces the blackened veil.
Yet there will also be lingering repercussions for each and everyone,
as the Prince of Darkness will no longer rest,
not while the baby slumbers sweetly unaware.

So hurry on we all must go with urgency in each and every step.
We travel far and wide this day in haste to meet a King.
Yet with this yearly marking of such a grand and festive event,
as mankind is blindly busy making merry within the merriment,
young and old are naively unaware that Time is almost spent.

So sing your glad tidings this grand and hopeful December day…
hurry your way to the manger bare laying down your peace and praise,
for unto you is born this day a child, a Savior and a King
Yet mindful we must all remain…
for there is one who chooses curses rather than to sing

For he waits in the shadows knowing his time is drawing nigh…
as he plots and he schemes for a “A voice was heard in Ramah
of painful crying and deep sadness:
Rachel crying for her children.
She refused to be comforted,
because her children are dead.”

Jeremiah 31:15

For within the innocence of our heartfelt joy lies a fight for every soul…
as the pace for Mankind’s salvation has quickened as one is now born to carry our load.

“an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.”
Matthew 2:13

What is Grace

I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”
― Hermann Hesse

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”
― Matthew Henry

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(a tiny bloom of a strawberry to be / Julie Cook / 2105)

Do you know Grace?
Have you seen it out and about?
During your comings and your goings?
Have you ever been properly or formerly introduced?

I truly much doubt so. . .
As Grace is often quiet and demure.
It prefers to go rather unnoticed until it is called upon. . .
More shy than bold.
It is not garish or loud.
Nor is it bold or showy.

What exactly is Grace you ask. . .

Grace is the second chance when all other chances had been used up.
Grace is the peace in the midst of the fierce raging storm.
Grace is acceptance when the world screams rejection.
Grace is forgiveness when the act has been intolerable.
Grace is hope when none had been previously offered.
Grace is mercy when judgement should be called for.
Grace is life when one actually deserves death. . .

It should be noted that Grace is not cheap.
For it cannot be bought nor sold
It can not be bartered over or traded.
It cannot be taken or stolen. . .
For it is actually free, to both you and me.

Yet this free Grace was once actually rather costly
For that which is free today to both you and me, once cost God a great deal.

Think of this question. . .
Would you ever hand over your child,
Your only child, to be brutally tortured and murdered before your very eyes. . .
Just to be able to offer someone else their freedom?
I would think not.
Yet that is exactly what happened.

A price paid for the healing power of Grace.
A tremendous price that cost God so very much,
Yet it was a price He willingly paid out of a tremendous love for both you and me. . .
and it is because of that very Grace that I am here, writing to you. . .


“Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship