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

Clutter, Clutter everywhere

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.”
― Albert Einstein
(photograph:storefront window / Savannah, Georgia / Julie Cook / 2013)

I was walking down the sidewalk of a side street, late yesterday evening, while on a quick trip to Savannah, Georgia, when I stumbled upon a most interesting storefront. At first I wasn’t quite certain as to what type of business this actually was that I had wandered upon. There was a poor old philodendron plant that ran the length of the inside window of the store. Dead leaves out numbered the living leaves and were scattered along the very sad sprawling vine running the length of the storefront window. It was perched amongst dirt, magazines, keys, and junk. It needed pruning, cutting, watering and simply a good cleaning…the window itself– filthy.

The store was full of “stuff” that sparkled in the fading sun; immediately drawing ones eye inside to the massive array of keys dangling from a million hooks– like that of a groaning tree struggling under the weight of a million shining Christmas ornaments hanging on for dear life– covering each and every wall. There were several old time cash registers… one propped up by the door, another perched on an old timey safe far too small for the register. There were old lanterns hung precariously from the rafters, tin and various old metal salvage items laying on the floor….

Was this some sort of Antique store, junk store, locksmith or all of the above? It did catch my eye and it strangely beckoned me to come in to explore. However it was well after 5, closing time long past….Beckoning and yet repelling at the same time—made me a little nervous. It was dirty, dusty but interesting…….

Ecclesiastes 3:6….a time to keep and a time to throw away….

I too have accumulated a great deal of “stuff” over this lifetime of mine. Things that are mine and my husband’s, things that were Mother’s, things that were my grandmother’s, my great-aunt’s, my grandfather’s, my son’s left behinds, my future daughter-n-law’s transition things, and now my dad’s things….family treasures that are now “cluttering” my house and my world. But everything seems to have a story, a connection…what stays, what needs to go…..I can’t seem to let go.

I had vowed that once I retired it was time for me to “let go” of so much of my “clutter”… but so much of the “stuff,” my stuff, is compiled from the very pieces of my life. My past and these “things” are parts of the connections to and with my past. And yet, as I have read so very much about Francesco Bernardone and of his conversion…of his literal take on God’s often metaphoric words, of his stripping himself of all of his worldly connections, including his clothing..leaving him naked, exposed and yet free to take up the simple cloak of a simple man whose only desire in life was to hear God’s word, to follow His word and to live His word…..

How can any of us attempt to hear and follow, just as St Francis heard and followed…how can we do that and do that very well while we attempt to manage all of the “stuff” in our lives? The “stuff” which requires so much of our attention, our concern, our worries….it gets in the way, it blocks a clear cut path, it’s burdensome….and yet we cling to it so tightly……The old cliche “you can’t take it with you” rings so very true and yet we are all so overpacked with all of our clutter.

St Francis knew the answer. Einstein’s quote states the answer. Ancient scripture teaches the answer…SIMPLICITY. Learning to live a life of simplicity verses the standard chaos and clutter is no easy task. Our western society’s motto has always been bigger and more is always better. From biggie sizing our food to our desire for name brands and luxury items, to always acquiring the latest technology. As soon as you walk out of a store with, say, the latest and greatest phone, a new more advanced device is advertised the very next week, leaving you yearning for the new toy and feeling “less than” with the old toy, which was brand new itself the previous week—leaving you with a drawer full of really good phones, just not the latest and greatest…..a vicious cycle indeed and sadly a genius of mass marketing…

So perhaps we are often “victims” of our own clutter. We fall into the marketing and sales traps…those slick sales gimmicks that insidiously slink into our brains taking control of our very will power and wallets without so much as nary our knowledge…..we must fight the desire and simply say, “NO”– no more, I have enough thank you very much—-my house is fine, my car is good, my clothes are nice, my furniture is functional…but what about the economy you say, we must do our part to keep the economic growth in our country….yada, yada, yada…. See what I mean—it’s a vicious cycle indeed.

Now back to my clutter and less is more….
I will leave you today pondering this dilemma of mine and no doubt of your very own…time to down size just as Dad is saying you’ve got to come get everything out of the basement and don’t you want Mom’s this and that…..the list goes on.

Maybe there is just a little more space in the basement……..