It’s a lovely day in the neighborhood….is it? Is it really Mr. Rogers???!!!

“All of us, at some time or other, need help.
Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world.
That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–
in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Fred Rogers


(Fox News)

Here is a great story I caught during a quick foray into doing something novel…
such as actually sitting down, breathing and reading things that were not Disney
or child-related.

And this oh so novel activity took place during the briefest of moments of quiet
when my two wee charges were finally napping simultaneously—

IT’S A MIRACLE!!!

A MIRACLE I tell ya!!!

You do know that the Mayor and the Sheriff, along with their mom,
are here during Coronagedon right?

What is this…nearing the end of week 2 ???
And by the way, what day is this???
Thursday, I think.

So our daughter-in-law is a teacher.

She is now spending 8 plus hours holed up in our makeshift office/ guest bedroom
each Sunday trying to create a week’s worth of lessons for the middle grades
that she teaches—
Social Studies to various grade levels–6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

During the weekdays, she is submitting attendance,
for those students logged in onto the learning platform via the computer each morning.
She is then live on-line for 4 or more hours each day in order to answer questions,
post more webinar assignments while e-mailing with
parents and students— of which is an all-day and night activity.

This is on top of being a mom to two kids who are two years old and 11 months old.

Hence why she’s with us while her husband, our son, is home in Atlanta, working
from home.

The state’s on lockdown so the separation is a little tough on this little family.

And it is beyond my soul as to how two working parents with young children
are managing to work from home during the Coronageden without extended
family to help.

My daughter-in-law is sensing that some parents are getting very testy.
Some have e-mailed words of thanks…
Some, on the other hand, have been downright ugly.
Yet some were ugly before all of this mess, so needless to say,
the caddyness has ramped up exponentially.

It’s as if the parents have forgotten the fact that their children’s teachers
also have children and lives, and are all stuck inside just like they are…
doing the best they can under the circumstance.

Patience seems to be as scarce as toilet paper!

Our daughter-in-law teaches at an Atlanta private school that feeds into the larger
private high schools—so some of these parents are, in a word, a tad uppity
while blessedly some, on the other hand, are more than kind.

As a former educator, I can sympathize greatly.

So let us look at what is happening here with this whole national learning from home
emergency.

Homeschooling has now gone national…as I suspect it has gone global.

We have parents and their children all together in the house
for an extended length of time….as in weeks on top of weeks.

No sports.
No scouts.
No recess.
No clubs.
No nothing.

Just parents, kids and home.

Children are used to having hands-on instructors despite working
on-line or from textbooks…there are still adults in the room
instructing and or assisting.

These are usually trained adults, as in educators.
Folks who know their subject matter readily and fluently.

With schools being shut down, kids are home with “instructor” assistants
who are now their parents…parents working from home and also assisting with schooling.
With the majority of parents ill-equipped to instruct in subjects, they know nothing about.

And all of this just doesn’t seem to be going very smoothly.
Or so the following story seems to explain.

As funny as the story is, I was touched reading it as it seems
that parents all over the country, and I suspect all over our globe, are
now each carrying the educational burden for their children and
they are not carrying it very well.

So my word today to everyone is kindness—as well as patience.
So make that two words.

We are all tired.
We are all stressed.
And we are all in this together.

Here’s the story…

An 8-year-old boy’s hilarious journal entry is going viral for his candid thoughts
on his mother’s attempt at homeschooling during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is not going good,” says the boy, whose name is Ben.

“My mom’s getting stressed out. My mom is really getting confused.
We took a break so my mom can figure this stuff out. And I’m telling you it is not going good.”

Ben’s mom, Candice Hunter Kennedy, wasn’t entirely upset by her son’s remarks,
seeing as she herself shared a photograph of the journal entry to Facebook.

“Y’all I’m dying!!!” she wrote on Facebook last week, adding that she was
particularly amused by “that last sentence.”

Thousands of Facebook users agreed with Kennedy in the comments,
telling her they found it “so funny,” and assuring her she wasn’t the only
parent struggling with homeschooling her kids.

“My kids feel the same way,” one said.

“This will be all of us next week,” added another.

“Dead,” someone else simply wrote.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear initially recommended the closure of schools in the state
on March 12 in a bid to slow the coronavirus outbreak. All districts soon complied,
with plans to shut down for at least two weeks, per the Louisville Courier-Journal.

In fairness to Kennedy, though, she knew homeschooling was going to be tough on the very first day.

“We are 39 minutes into [non-traditional instruction],” she wrote in a Facebook post on March 16.
“Papers are everywhere. Kids are panicking. I am stress-eating while trying to keep it
together so the kids can’t see my own panic. Teachers need triple raises ASAP!!”

https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/boy-journal-moms-attempt-homeschooling-coronavirus-not-going-good

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

dedicating a life…

“The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is
because we have no Almighty Christ.
We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no
abandonment to Jesus Christ.”

Oswald Chambers


(the cake for the big day / Cakes by Darcy / Julie Cook 2018)

According to Bible.org, a dedication is:
Dedicating a child acknowledges God’s sovereignty not only over the child,
but also Mom and Dad. Parents present their child before God and His people asking
for grace and wisdom in carrying out their responsibilities.
Parents also come praying that their child might one day trust Jesus Christ as Savior
for the forgiveness of sin.

And so that is what we, our family and friends, have come together today to do.
To lift up and dedicate a little girl to God…
asking His grace and wisdom to be poured out over her as well as that same grace and wisdom to be
poured out over her parents and over all of those
charged with her care and raising.

Our prayer is that God’s light will always be the light which shines brightest,
the light to the lamp which will constantly illuminate her path throughout her entire
life’s journey.


(Autumn / Julie Cook / 2018)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7

when your child is not your child

It is more than tragic that a dying child should be used as an ideological
football in a court presided over by a gay activist judge whose impartiality
was not publicly evident;
and that the critical issues of the rights of parents v the state should be lost,
in what appears to be a residual antipathy to Christian teaching and values.

But there will be more of this.
Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(the chives are a bloom / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve tried not jumping into this mess.
I’ve even tried not to read much about it.
I didn’t want to hear one more, read one more, feel one more sorrow.
For you see this is a story that breaks my heart in a million different ways.

Maybe it’s because I am a mother, an educator, a new grandmother.
Kids have been my business most of my life.

Maybe it’s because I believe that the bond between a parent and child is
the greatest bond–apart from our bond with the Father.

Or maybe it’s because I believe all life to be sacred…
Aged, new, healthy, infirmed, joyful, dying or ailing.

Life is precious and sacred…all life, everyone’s life…end of sentence.

His name was Alfie.
He was 23 months old.
I say was because Alfie lost his fight against an illness this past week.

His story is a mess.

He became sick over a year ago…

In a nutshell:

A baby boy named Alfie Evans died early this morning at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital
in Liverpool, England, in the pediatric intensive care unit that had been his home
for the last 18 months. The life he lived for close to 24 months was mercilessly short,
yet full of meaning. He didn’t know it, but he was at the center of a heart-wrenching debate
about who should have final authority over children’s medical care: Parents, or the state?

Evans was born on May 9, 2016,
the healthy child of two young parents, Tom Evans and Kate James.
But as early as July 2016, Alfie’s health began to deteriorate.
He was brought into the pediatric unit at Alder Hey in December 2016,
where, over the course of a year, he suffered seizures,
bi-lateral pneumonia, and cardiac complications that put him in a coma by January 2018.

Alfie’s doctors decided that continuing to keep the boy on ventilatory support was
not in his best interest, concluding that he had an untreatable,
progressive neuro-degenerative disease of unknown origin.
Typically, in the UK, doctors in a similar position use private mediation (pdf)
to agree upon a course of action with family members.
But Alfie’s parents did not accept the doctors’ conclusion, arguing that the hospital had
rushed to judgment.
In later court hearings, they said they felt the hospital had “given up” on Alfie.
And so the hospital turned to the family division of the UK’s High Court for a ruling.

Justice Anthony Hayden ruled in favor of the hospital in February 2018,
saying that while it was
“entirely right that every reasonable option should be explored for Alfie,”
continuing to keep him on life support “compromises Alfie’s future dignity and fails to
respect his autonomy.”
The family then filed an appeal request before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,
which was denied in March 2018. After having exhausted all legal options in the UK,
the Evans took their case to the European Court of Human Rights, where their appeal was ruled inadmissible.

…The case of Alfie Evans has resonated with Catholic and Christian communities
around the world.
They see in his case a fundamental conflict between the actions of the British legal
system and their religious belief in both the right to life and the right of parents to
determine a child’s medical care.

Some religious activists have banded together in support of the Evans family,
calling themselves “Alfie’s Army,” and regularly protest outside the hospital where Alfie
is being treated.
In response to the outcry from the Catholic community,
the Italian government offered young Alfie citizenship,
arranging for him to travel to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Italy.
Even Pope Francis, who met with Tom Evans in Rome earlier this month,
has weighed in on the case.

Quartz

The Pope, who took a personal interest in the case, tweeted:
“I am deeply moved by the death of little Alfie.”
He added: “Today I pray especially for his parents,
as God the Father receives him in his tender embrace.”

(BBC)

Alfie Evans is not the first baby whose medical condition sparked similar debates.
Last year, Charlie Gard, a terminally ill British baby,
died in July 2017 a day after the British High Court ruled that his life support
could be withdrawn. Charlie’s case had attracted the attention of world leaders from
Pope Francis to US president Donald Trump.

Quartz

Even our favorite former prelate to the Queen, Gavin Ashenden, has had a few choice
words of his own regarding the case of Alfie.

Not only was baby Alfie kept as a prisoner of the state, and the rights of the parents
set aside in favour of the state, but this was accompanied by personal vitriol directed
at the parents’ Christian advisors.
And further, this morning,
the Times placed its weight behind the learned gay judicial campaigner’s
personal disgust with Christian orthodoxy.

Bishop Ashenden is speaking of the magistrate, Anthony Hayden, who ruled in this case against the
wishes and rights of the parents of this child as well as against the child himself.
Going so far as to offer snarkiness toward those Christian groups rallying around the defense of parents and child.

The danger of the judiciary, the malice of the media, the perniciousness of progressive policies – and how Alfie paid the price.

Progressive secularism…
The wedge that will continue to divide and divide and divide.
How far will you allow it to divide your own decisions and your own life and
your own family and the life of your own child?

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through
him and for him.
And he is before all things,
and in him, all things hold together.

Colossians 1:16-17

it was a good day

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
‘Til your good is better and your better is best.

St. Jerome


(for unto our little family, a child is born / “Moppie” Cook / 2018)

Lots to share from the past 36 long unslept hours when life took a sharp curve…
careening nearly out of control.
I’ll eventually journey into more detail regarding tale about the panicked what-if’s,
the tremendous burden of concern,
and the seemingly miraculous turn from potential devastation to the long-awaited
satisfaction of life…

The highs and lows that can still, in this modern 21st century of ours, become a by-product of birth.

And as each birth is indeed the same…that being a miracle of the unknown and unseen…
we were actually afforded the grace of this miracle of life of our own…

7 Lbs 14 oz
19 inches
arriving at 4:15 Saturday afternoon.

I’m home for a bit of sleep, a most welcomed treat, before hitting the road again…
But I wanted to thank all of you who joined us in prayer these past 9 months and especially these
past precarious 36 hours…

Autumn has blessedly arrived…


(my son with his brand new daughter…who he actually named / “Moppie” Cook / 2018

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

Sun, moon and the love of a grandfather

“There are fathers who do not love their children;
there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.”

Victor Hugo


(an older moon shot I’ve used before / Julie Cook / 2016)

I know that yesterday I had given us, or perhaps actually issued is a better word,
a laundry list of “issues” that we were going to need to play catch up with….
all sorts of pressing issues that had come down the pike while I was busy
with all things snow….

And yes, we shall indeed visit those issues…however, I was called into active duty, unbeknownst to my best laid plans, with active duty in my case being
the emergency holiday help at my husband’s store…

So now that I’m finally home, it’s late and I’m trying to prepare some sort of
hot meal of sustenance and get a post ready for tomorrow (which is now today if
you’re reading this), so I think we’ll hold up
on those more pressing topics until I have the proper time to do them justice….

And as life would have it, something interesting arrived in yesterday’s mail
that is now taking precedence.

You may recall that the I have a friend at Plough Publishing House who actually
happened upon my blog about a year ago or so.

That’s how we met.

She has been sending me sample copies of books that she thinks that I will enjoy…
and in turn will perhaps share with others….of which I have as time has allowed.

The small package that arrived in yesterday’s mail was one of those books.

A book that probably has made a bigger impact on my heart than my publisher friend
would have imagined.

Those of you who know me or have been reading this blog since this time last year…
know that I was knee deep in caring for my dad and stepmother.

Dad had an aggressive form of bladder cancer…he was diagnosed in late August and died
in March. Both he and my stepmother had also been diagnosed with varying degrees of
dementia quite sometime before that…
so needless to say we were just all in the middle of a downward spiral is putting it
mildly.

It was a hard road for us all…with dad being an amazing example
quiet acceptance, perseverance and fortitude.

This time last year we already had 24 hour care as well as Hospice care…
plus I was driving over each and every day.

The last time dad had actually gotten out of the bed was on Christmas day when we
wheeled him to the table to enjoy Christmas dinner.
Naturally he didn’t have much of an appetite but he was most keen for the dessert.
So dessert it was.

Dad and my son had a very special bond.
My son was my dad’s only grandchild and Dad was more kid than dad…
so needless to say, they stayed in cahoots most of my son’s growing up.


(Christmas day 2016, Brenton and Dad)

My dad was always graciously generous to his grandson and to say that my son
was dad’s partner in crime was to have been putting it mildly.

I won’t go on as it seems I’ve written about all of this before and if I do go on,
I’ll simply loose focus over my original intent of this post and
cry more than I already am.

The book my friend sent me is actually a children’s book.
And I imagine it came my way because I will become a grandmother soon.
Yet the tale of the book resonated so much with me, not so much because I am
a soon to be grandparent,
but rather because it is a tale about a grandson and his grandfather.

It is a book written by a German author, Andreas Steinhofel and illustrated by a
German artist Nele Palmtag—and yet the tale is quite universal.

Max’s grandfather is in a nursing home because he has what is surmised to be
Alzheimers or some other form of dementia….’forgetting’ being the key word.
And nine year old Max, who adores his grandfather and misses their life together
before the nursing home, formulates a plan to “spring” his grandfather from the
nursing home…
in essence a plan to kidnap his grandfather.

And in so doing another member of the nursing home escapes by accident.
A long and spindly woman who is in search of the sun…as she dances
behind Max and his grandfather on their misadventure.

The tale is not a long read—-
I read it in less than an hour’s time.
Yet it is a deep read by adult standards.
It is funny, it is cute, it is painful, and it is very very real.

I think my 29 year old son would appreciate the story much more than his 9
year old self would have—as he now has the hindsight of understanding
Max’s deep longing.

I know that if my son could have kidnapped his “Pops” from that hospice bed he
would have….and off on one more adventure they would have gone.

But in this tale of last adventures, Max’s grandfather reassures Max, who is now desperately afraid that his grandfather, in his forgetfulness, will forget
he loves Max…explains to Max that he will always be there, loving Max,
even if it appears he has “forgotten.”

He explains to Max that when we look up into the sky we know the moon is there
because we can see it. Yet during those nights that the sky appears to be moonless,
which is only because of how the sun is shining on the opposite side of the moon—
the moon is indeed still there—just as his love will always be there for Max,
even if Max won’t be able to directly see it….

After finishing the story last night, I could not recount the tale to my husband
without crying…finding myself just having to stop talking as I allowed the tears
to wash down my face.

The story as read for a child would be fun, poignant as well as mischievous…
As for any adult touched by the stealing effects of memory loss or just the loss of
a loved one in general, will find the tale heartwarming and very poignant.

Just as I now fondly recall a life that once was…

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

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…”

01-giotto-di-bondone-the-adoration-of-the-magi-cappella-scrovegni-a-padova-padova-italy-13051
(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