joy….to give or to receive…

“I don’t think of all the misery,
but of the beauty that still remains.”

Anne Frank


(the work of a day / Julie Cook / 2017)

Thanksgiving afternoon, I was complaining to my daughter-n-law, dreading the notion
of having to begin the yearly arduous ritual, of “putting up” Christmas.
Some people will go into a feeding frenzy of all things consumerism and
I will go into light mode….

“Why do we do this?” I lamented.
“Why do we work our butts off, schlepping stuff up and down from basements
and attics every year….

Why do we move all this stuff in while moving all the other stuff out…
making way for holiday paraphernalia…
just to turn around to then put it all away again in just a couple of weeks???”

I lament so because I am the one who pretty much does it all….
all the lights,
all the decorating,
all the tree,
all the buying,
all the wrapping,
all the cooking,
all the cleaning etc…
because bless my husband’s heart,
he runs a retail business.

Suffice it to know that our lives are not our own right now…
nor will they be…not until about the middle of January.

Neither my husband or I truly “get” this Black Friday absurdity that consumes
this nation of ours.
He does nothing out of the ordinary for it and I don’t even acknowledge it.
Something about the wantoness of all the materialism consuming this country of ours
just oozes of emptiness.

Why do people stand in line for hours on end when they should actually be
home just enjoying Thanksgiving, family, time off, being outside, being inside, being someplace other than a strip mall, a big mall, etc…
oddly preferring to scoop up “stuff”????
Stuff no one really “needs” to survive.

Places like Syria just keep coming to mind when I see cars parked 4 deep,
wrapped around parking lots, just so folks can buy a flat screen TV or clothes,
a mixer or whatever it is they think they JUST have to have in order to survive Christmas…
along with all the other trivial things no one really needs in order to survive.
Like I say, I just don’t get it…..

So my daughter-n-law reminds me, “well you know he really does appreciate it”
He being my only child and son who was born a week before Christmas.
Christmas is his official holiday….but certainly not his dad’s.

The night our son was born, oh so many moons ago, in the wee hours of a December Monday morning…my poor husband had to leave us shortly after the birth so he could go
open the store and work all day…after having been up all night.
Missing his only child, his new son’s first day of living…
He is remorseful all these many years later, but it was how he fed us,
and for that we give thanks.
Yet how does one ever get back time?
They don’t.

In this family of ours, there is definitely some resentment concerning the consuming madness of holiday shopping…. on all sorts of levels…
and yet our son just adores Christmas…what are those odds?!

Sigh…..

So as I was lamenting, my daughter-n-law tells me about a movie they recently went
to see —-a movie I would never ever consider watching.

They are only in their late 20’s—they watch things on television and at the movies
that I pretty much consider toxic—
of which I hope they too will soon realize as toxic…but until then,
I just pray….

My daughter-n-law relayed a line from the movie which actually resonated with me….

She said that in the movie the main character was grousing, much like I was, about
this whole Christmas business.
In walks the mother who deadpan responds….
“don’t you know, mothers don’t receive
joy, theirs is but to give joy”
(a paraphrase)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

An understanding as to what exactly a lot of this is really all about.
It hit in certainly not a martyresque sort of understanding…but a deeper sense of understanding.

It is an understanding that none of this is about me….never has been.

It’s not about what “I” can get,
not about what I can buy,
not about what I can have….
nor is it about what I want….
but rather it’s about what I can give.

It’s about the ability to give verses the ability to get and receive….
And that giving has nothing to do with stuff—not of things gathered
from a store, or from on-line or from any place else for that matter.
Nothing tangible….

It has nothing to with with savvy shopping, marketing strategy, deals, door busters
or the madness that has become what we know as Christmas in the modern world.
A time that won’t even allow most schools to utter the word “Christmas”
but rather “winter break.”

What this season is about…isn’t about all this decorating,
or about all this consuming, or about all this buying and wrapping of “stuff”….

It’s not about the amassing or consuming….or materialism.
It’s not about the biggest gift, the best deals, the nicest trip to some
exotic wonderland.
Rather it’s about what we can offer and what we can give…

Because the original notion of this holiday Christmas business wasn’t about
Black Fridays and sale margins…it wasn’t about cyber Monday’s or on-line surfing…

It was about a gift…. but not a gift in the modern mindset of what constitutes
as a gift…

It was a single tiny gift that was actually given in order to save…
to save both you and I, as well as all of mankind, actually from ourselves….

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything
we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

2 Timothy 1:9

dreams

“Yes: I am a dreamer.
For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight,
and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

Oscar Wilde

Spare a little candle
Save some light for me
Figures up ahead
Moving in the trees
White skin in linen
Perfume on my wrist
And the full moon that hangs over
These dreams in the mist

These Dreams lyrics
Heart

dscn4686
(super moon 2016 / Julie Cook)

Maybe it was the moon…all that super business doing some massive gravitational pull
on my subconscious…
Or maybe that’s just it in a nutshell, my subconscious…

It was about 5:30 this morning when I woke from a night of fitful sleep.
I had a headache.
If it’s not my back, it’s also my neck—
as in all my discs are giving out…
and obviously the warranty has given out as well…

I got up and rummaged around in the oddly lit house under the watchful eye of the latest super moon,
looking for a couple of motrin to alleviate the gnawing aching pain.
I thought I’d just go ahead and get up since I was pretty much wide awake…
But knowing I had a long day in Atlanta with Dad, what harm would laying back down do,
just for a minute….

Bad idea.

Obviously I fell back asleep…into one of those massively deep sleeps…
as in out like the dead.

It was during this dead sleep that I found myself having the most crazy and vivid dream.

But of course I don’t know why that would be something new or out of the ordinary because
all of my dreams are pretty much crazy.
They often seem quite real albeit bizarre, odd and absolutely not normal.

In this particular dream I was somewhere, though I knew not where,
I just knew it was not home, nor any place familiar.
I was pushing my son in a baby carriage…whereas in real life he’s almost 28…
yet in the dream he was a baby.

We were trying to get away from some bad guy who was following us.
The next thing I remember is that I’m reading in a newspaper in some sort of room
that was again, not familiar.
It was the obituaries and I was reading that both my dad and godfather had each died as
I suddenly found myself desperately trying to text my mother to tell her what I’d read…
because I knew she’d need to know and would need my help.

Ok, so in real life, my mom has been gone now for over 30 years, long before texting ever existed,
let alone living in a society that is now joined at the hip with their cell phones.

I remember that I frustratingly couldn’t get the text right….
which just means that some part of my brain knew that mother was not exactly in texting range….
and yet I couldn’t find my right clothes or any of my “stuff” …
because remember, I was someplace unfamiliar….

Thankfully I finally woke up…only to realize that both my husband I had overslept—
I jumped up, he got up…
and off we both raced for the day.

As he was getting ready to leave for work, I told him briefly about my dream—
and in his typical nonplused fashion…
“I can tell you where you were.”
“Really?!
You can?!” I marveled.
“Yeah, you were in the nut house because all your dreams are the stuff for loony bins”

And I suppose he has a point.

The night before last, I dreamt someone was trying to kidnap and kill my beloved cat
and that I had gotten Carrie Underwood to watch him and help keep him safe.

But I knew where that bizarre dream was born…
it was the direct result of the heavy birthday supper I had eaten that night—
very rich and overfilling…resulting in very poor and fitful sleep.

Last night’s dream however was so vivid that I woke with tears in my eyes and immediately hit
the computer to scour over the obits for my godfather…who thankfully was not there.
A bit irrational but that’s how clear it all seemed.

He and dad are in equally poor states of health…both physically and mentally
with him in a facility while dad is still at home….
So I imagine that that constant worry over both of them,
simply lingers somewhere past the waking and cognizant part of my brain.

And then there was / is mom.
Obviously I am missing her tremendously as I now go it alone caring for dad.

When I was young and foolish I would, from time to time, imagine what it would be like when I
was like my parents who, at the time, were caring for both of my grandmothers—
it’s just that I never imagined what we’d all be living, or in mother’s case not living,
as we are today.
And maybe that’s the thing—life is never what we imagine nor dream what it will be.

Sometimes it can be the stuff of dreams—
all good, all nice and all delightfully other worldly…
but for the majority of the time,
it is humanly real, raw and very very hard.

I think that’s why I’ve let what’s going on in this country of ours bother me so badly…
as it’s just left me feeling so depressed, not that my own life hasn’t been depressing enough.

Life is hard.

And it requires a great deal from us just to make it through.

I work hard just getting through each day…
as these past two years have been all but draining of all emotions and physical well being.
It’s as if I’ve been living under a very heavy grey cloud…
ever since, having lost their cognitive and physical freedoms,
Dad and my stepmother required outside help.

And it is very much that I have bordered on depression on and off these past two years.

Yet I work very hard to make certain that they are ok in their own home…
cause that’s how dad wants it…
to go out in a box from his own home…whenever that day comes—
despite me explaining to him that I don’t think a box will be involved….

There is the day to day running of their household…
the caregivers, the housekeeper, the nurses, hospice, the bills, the taxes, the invoices,
the groceries, the doctors, the hospitals, the maintenance on a older home…
And then there is our household 75 miles away—
as in me the caregiver, the maid, the cook, the yardman, and everything else in between…
when and if there is time or energy or even desire…

People wonder why I don’t have time to do this or that anymore…
why can’t I squeeze in anything for me or for them or for whatever…
I obviously don’t even have time to sleep worth a flip let alone the nicer things about
nurturing self or that of friendships….

So I grow angry when I see on the news the sea of protesters across this county.
Surely I’m not the only person who has life issues to contend with.
My life is more than enough to keep me busy and focused…
Lord knows how’d I manage to balance protesting, marching, walking out of class…
all the while fussing and cussing with my neighbors on the street…

Life is bigger than any of us realize…
It’s bigger than this election.

When it is all said and done…
presidents will come and go,
elections will come and go…

Some elections will go the way we want and some will not…
that’s how life works—not always as we’d like…

That’s simply life and it is what it is wherever or not you and I like that…

And I can honestly say that anyone battling a catastrophic illness, caring for loved ones,
watching elderly parents slowly slip away or who has been devastatingly injured,
will tell you that that is not how they ever would have imagined or dreamed their lives would go.

So everyone out there who seems to think they have all sorts of time for all
this bitching, complaining and nasty fussing and cussing…
because that’s what protests are are they not…glorified bitching and complaining…
obviously has way too much time on their hands to waste…
the otherwise precious energy for living.

My God, can’t those of you just be thankful that you can afford to be in college?
And can apparently afford to ditch class…
not to mention all these high school kids out there walking out of class who can’t yet even vote.
Stay in class for heaven’s sake and learn something about being a decent citizen
because wandering around on the streets fussing and cussing your neighbor
isn’t gaining anything but expending wasted anger….

Instead of wrath and anger, be thankful that you live in a country that affords you
the opportunity to vote—
Never mind that whomever it was you wanted to win may not have won…
because that’s simply the result when two people run…one wins, one does not.
That’s called democracy and you have a military that has lost countless of lives
of men and women over the generations who sacrificed everything for you…
you who now use your protected freedom and wasted time in life that you cannot get back
to bitch, complain, fuss and cuss and march…

But be glad you have choice…so many countries don’t get choice.
That little fact is in part why other nations view us as entitled and spoiled—
we bitch and complain even when we have options and choice…
as in we never really seem happy.

Be glad that obviously you are healthy enough to go out, ditching class or work,
just to bitch and complain…
because those who are sick, hurting or busy with the demands of life, simply can’t fit any of that in.

Dream…dream big…big wonderful sorts of dreams…
because one thing we know about America is that dreaming and working can make dreams come true—
because America has always equated to opportunity…
where in other nations…
opportunity not so much….

Don’t fuss and cuss…because life is simply too short…
Dreaming is so much more important and much more fun and much more hopeful and much more productive
than bitching and complaing and marching and fussing and cussing our neighbors….

Just ask Dad….who just wishes he could have a little more time in life to dream….

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams….”

Acts 2:17

find praise

DSCN1711
(a tired weary sheep slowly gets up / Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Worn and weary
Run ragged and haggared…
Feeling forgotten and alone in all you do…
Overwhelmed and underwhelmed by all that must be done…
Add in the busiest time of year…
You’re stretched too thin yet can you please offer up some more?
They want the proverbial blood from a turnip…

There is a heightened sense of urgency.
The overbooked schedules…the events, the pageants, the parties, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the traveling, the wrapping, the singing, the sledding, the shoveling, the chopping, the washing, the exams, the grading, the deadlines, the reports, the dinners, the meetings…..it’s all simply never ending.
Or is is too quiet…
Too lonely, too empty, too little, too late…
Just shake it all up and pour it up neat…either way it’s all too much.

It’s either too cold or its either too hot.
You’re either too late, too soon, just in the nick of time…or simply put… you’re simply out of time as the deadline is all but passed.

The lines are endless and the tempers are shorter.
Good cheer is hard to find in the overcrowded parking lots, roadways, and snarling traffic jams.
Rush here, hurry there, get this and pick up that as you have yourself
a Merry Little Christmas now…

Or is it all just too quiet…
Too empty and too painful as you struggle though the day?
Remember, lock your doors and look over your shoulder, bad things lurk in the shadows. And don’t forget to unplug the lights….

Is it any wonder you’re tired, overwhelmed, ill tempered…
Fussing and cussing, complaining and lamenting…
The lists grow longer as the cash flow falls shorter.
As the airports cancel the flights…
Sneezing, coughing, aching…getting sick with no extra time in sight…
It’s hard to find a smile when hurting, silent and sad…
Bah humbug you shout, let’s be done with it already.

“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani”

Forsaken and forgotten…alone and at wits end.
Vulnerable and exposed or simply empty and spent?
Who has time for joy, merry and bright…
When the mall is packed with people…
When you feel only sad and lonely…
When you’re so busy you’ve forgotten what it’s all about…

Emotions are heightened, raw and frayed this magical yet manic time of year.
Be it good or be it bad.
Isolation verses exposure as you fight to find the happy middle.
For there is no middle road to your life this season of the festive.
Only emptiness as everyone seems unable to understand why.

You cry out day and night but no one acknowledges your need as they’re too busy walking away…as the lady rings the bell…

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

The party goes on with or without you, as everyone jumps to grab the ring.
The glasses are raised with each and every cheer, yet your glass is empty and your plate is oddly bear.
Everyone gloats as they bask by the fire, yet who’s really happy now?

But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.

A second wind is found, a helping hand is offered, a needed embrace takes you in while comfort is found in a smile.
And deep within you manage to find the words…

“From you comes the theme of my praise…”

I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.


(excepts from Psalm 22)