Battles and busy as a….

“Never be so busy as not to think of others.”
Mother Teresa

“Live not for Battles Won.
Live not for The-End-of-the-Song.
Live in the along.”

Gwendolyn Brooks

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(a lone seagul, Kinsale Harbor, Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

You thought I was going to say a bee…or maybe even a beaver…
As in busy as a typical busy sort of creature…
but there’s just something about this rather forlorn looking seagull which seems to sum up the current
state of affairs.

Busy times…
Crazy times…
Surreal times…
have been beset upon me and my brood…

It is during the overwhelming and consuming moments in our lives…those most trying times which seem hell bent on sucking the very life out of our beings…
that I am blessedly reminded of the wise counsel of St Padre Pio…the mystic Capuchin monk from Pietrelcina, Italy…

“Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence.
He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles.
He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously.
He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.”

(8/15/1914)

So it is off this Monday to the battle grounds…

May we all fight courageously…

“The Cost Of Courage”

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
“Atticus Finch”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“There is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you.”

― Charles Dickens

“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”
― Napoléon Bonaparte

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(the cover of my most recent read)

According to Merriam Webster, courage, a noun, is defined as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty”

Is it something we are born with?
Perhaps something hardwired as well as innate?

It seems as if it’s something that transforms ordinary human beings into the extraordinary–
Beckoning some to run towards a catastrophe. . .while others run as far away as possible.

Yet when it comes to courage, there is always tragically a flip side. That’s the thing about courage, it exacts a toll.
For each act of courage or bravery, the remnants can result in a tremendous cost—a willing sacrifice of everyone and everything which the courageous holds dear. A sacrifice offered up within a nano second, sans decision making, without thoughts of consequence or possibilities of regret–all of which are assumed and accepted rapidly without remorse. . .

Throughout the duration of WWII there are many known stories of bravery and sacrifice offered by ordinary citizens.
Yet for every known account of courage and sacrifice, there are countless tales of the extraordinary that are simply lost to the annuals of time. . .of which stretch from Italy, to Poland, from Russia to Czechoslovakia, From Albania to Turkey, From Japan to Hawaii, from France to Great Britain. . .

I’ve read countless numbers of books about the lives and exploits of those known and unknown average individuals, across the globe, whose private moments of sacrifice changed the course of destiny for vast numbers of the unsuspecting—all of which saved and spared those otherwise doomed.
Sacrifice which often left the courageous individual on the losing end of life.

And that’s the thing about courage and the courageous—the ultimate cost is readily paid with no expectation of reparation.

Author Charles Kaiser has compiled an extraordinary tale of the greatest cost paid by one Parisian family during the Nazi Occupation of Paris. The true story, untold until Kaiser’s personal connection with the family wove itself into a printable format, is but a scant microcosm of the real price paid by the average French citizen during the French Resistance which grew from the defeat and eventual occupation of France by Nazi Germany.

Not only is this a tale about a single family’s war tragedy and of the tiny ensuing triumphs found in liberation and freedom– freedom of which should ensure that life in one’s own county is lived as one culturally and religiously should live—rather it is a tale of all those individuals and families who believed in a life free from murderous tyranny and of the choices they each took to guard against its ultimate conquest.

I think such a story of the sacrifices made for the betterment of not merely one’s self, but rather for the betterment of all of humanity, is so vastly timely as well as important for those of us living today in the 21st century. . .
It is a story that is not only to be shared and remembered, but it is a story which reminds those of us who enjoy the freedom of life today that we owe an endless depth of gratitude to those who once gave so very much. . .

Merci mes amis. . .

A must read. . .

Quick get the umbrellas. . .cause when it rains. . .it pours!

“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.
I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

Mother Teresa

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Thomas Paine

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(buckeye butterfly wandered into the garage away from the scorching heat / Julie Cook / 2015)

When I was younger, I did not always bear up very well under the heavy stifling blanket of turmoil, tragedy, stress or disaster.
My reactions often immature, unbridled, angry, resentful, beaten and lost.
I have come to learn, albeit it often reluctantly, that it is from the exposure of such catastrophes, coupled with the passage of time, which all act as an abrasive agent to toughen the thin skin of youthful emotions and tender feelings.

Tenacity is forged in the fire of trial, tribulation and misfortune.

I don’t think any of us is ever immune from such.
Everyone, at some point or other during one’s lifetime, will find themselves faced with, what at first may seem insurmountable, yet once the dust settles and the options weighed, becomes one more link in the chainmail of life’s armor.

A personal world is turned upside down most often by forces unforeseeable and unpreventable and as random as they come.
We will find ourselves asking the angry and accusatory questions of “why” and “how” while a balled up fist waves defiantly at an unseen God.

I wish we could all just hide under a rock someplace. . .a place faraway and immune from tragedy and the often cruel events of life—yet sadly there is no such safe haven in which to run and hide.

And yet it is my faith in that unseen God, the God of all creation and time, the One who I know to be far bigger and greater than any trial or tragedy in my life, the One who bears my burdens and sustains me in the palm of His hand— It is through Him, coupled by my faith in Him, that allows me to put one foot in front of the other and continue trudging through this thing we call life. . .

And please note that I did not say that that faith and belief or even that God himself makes the pain, the sorrow, the struggle, the suffering any bit easier—it does however, make it bearable.

Therefore if you should see a woman walking down the street carrying an open umbrella overhead when there is nary a cloud in the sky with zero chance of rain in the forecast. . .and not one who carries such to avoid exposure to the sun—just know that it is most likely me–as I am well aware that when it rains it pours.

“If you’re going through hell, {by all means} keep going.”
Winston Churchill

Please continue in your prayers for my daughter-n-law and her family as they slowly begin to feel their way in the dark as they determine what to do in the aftermath of the devastation of the fire which took their home.
As her grandfather tearfully lamented. . . “over 70 years of my life is now completely gone”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Tenacious

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
― Harper Lee

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(a couple of volunteer pansies popping up / Julie Cook / 2014)

The garden of Winter stands empty and bare.
Lush rich canopies, once towering overhead, are now all but forgotten
Only gnarly sticks and branches, jutting precariously helter skelter,
stand as the lonely sentinels of the yard.
Once an oasis of cool green grass offered a refreshing respite for hot tired toes,
now all that was, stands garishly transformed, stunted and brown
As a blanket of grey wraps its cold arms around everything in sight.

Yet just under the veil of freshly fallen snow
or perhaps it was just after the latest hard freeze,
a demure, yet tenacious wonder, appears.
Short and stocky, yet perky and hardy
joyful little face-like blooms emerge one by one.

No other color or tender blossom dares tread this time of year
as the frosty winter air is not for timid or faint of heart.
Nevertheless take courage you who are cold and weary–
as you who suffer, laying waste under the wiles of Old Man Winter’s wicked spite,
for there is one who stands valiantly at the ready to offer both
color and hope to your worn and bleary senses. . .
for behold the lowly pansy readies for a fight.

To blend or not to blend?

“There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy”
― Henry Miller

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(cloudless Sulpher Butterfly on yellow snapdragons / Julie Cook / 2014

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On this lovely Fall afternoon, I was most appreciative of the small gift of a visit from a Cloudless Sulpher butterfly visiting the yellow snapdragons dotting my yard. Here it is mid October, a time when cool breezes and fading sunlight should come calling, yet it still seems as if we are caught in a perpetual season of summer—very warm as the familiar summer residents, who should be long gone by now, are still very much at home.
Hummingbirds, all manor of butterfly, cicadas—all still present and accounted for.

Odd weather indeed.
It’s entirely too warm during both day and night as there is very little color to leaves which are simply falling off, entirely prematurely, before dazzling our sight with the fiery display expected this time of year.

Unseasonal indeed.

Yet as I followed the jittery herky jerky motion of this late season visitor, I was intrigued as to how well my little friend blended right in with the yellow snapdragons. It was almost difficult to distinguish between creature and flower. I suppose it is suitable and most desirable to blend in with Nature when one prefers to dodge predator and foe. . .

And as I pondered the necessity of blending in, I was suddenly struck by the contrast of what it means not to blend in.

Scanning the headlines of today’s news, I was so happy to learn that Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot point blank in the head, almost two years ago to this very day, for simply speaking out against the Taliban’s ban on educating girls, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was this time last year that I had written a post about my hopes that she would win the prestigious award. You can catch that post here as well as the follow-up post:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/building-a-firm-foundation/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/post-script-regarding-malala/

Malala was targeted by the murderous thugs of the Taliban because she chose not to blend in. She chose rather to stand boldly for her belief that education, in particularly the educating of young woman world wide, is a key to ending the vast entrenched thuggery, violence, and fear that suffocates and silences woman and children across this globe. A view counter to the militant forms of Islam running rampant on this planet.

When her school bus was ambushed two years ago by a group of armed men, with a lone gunman entering the bus carrying a loaded Colt 45, all the girls cowered and covered their faces, praying to blend in and hide. . .all except for Malala. The gunman then asked, “who is Malala?” At that point Malala turned to face the gunman as he proceeded to unload 3 rounds point blank at her head. Malala, at the time was 15. Odd that an “organization” such as the Taliban would be so very fearful of a 15 year old girl. . .

Malala could have chosen to blend in as the other girls by lowering her face and covering it with her veil and hands—yet she had made a conscious decision to live her life by not blending in. Despite her youth, I think Malala was well aware of the danger of taking such a bold stance in her corner of the world of intolerance and fear.

I wonder. . .
As a growing secular world, that is joined by the likes of such movements as ISIS, continues to stifle, as well as works tirelessly to silence, and in some cases eradicate, the Christian faith– as Western society continues to brush such a reality aside by writing the worry off as the view of extremist conservative paranoia, do those of us who claim that Faith as our own, have the courage and strength to chose not to blend in. . .have we made the conscious decision, just as a young 15 year old girl made a conscious decision, to stand boldly in the face of fear, persecution and slander and proclaim the Truth?

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5

The courage to continue….

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

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Beautiful Stain Glass Rose window from Sainte Chapelle / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011

Merriam-Webster defines courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

Courage is not what we see depicted from Hollywood. Courage is not the professional athletes we laud over on the playing field. Courage is not physical prowess. Courage is not bravado. Courage is not belittling. Courage is not loud. Courage is not easy. Courage is not glamorous.

Courage is silence when others scream. Courage is for the tears shed alone. Courage is a smile when one is overcome by despair. Courage is going forward when others turn away. Courage is standing when sitting feels better. Courage is letting go when holding on is all one yearns to do. Courage teaches. Courage is quiet. Courage is lonely.

Courage is rooted in a mental decision to make a choice—it’s an either or with no time provided to weigh ones’ options. It’s a just do it mentality without the Nike swoosh. No glitz, no glamour, no pats on the back. It’s hard, difficult, dirty and even painful. But it’s the right thing–not the popular thing. It’s a moral thing not a trendy thing.

Our world needs more who are willing to act, to live, to choose courage.
It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
Your choice.

lose not thy enthusiasm

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Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.
– Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of my all time favorite heroes—the one single voice in the wilderness, the only one who seemed to possess the clarity of reality, the discernment of reason– the single individual who publicly and loudly tried and tried to forewarn a free world of an impending and sinister descent into tyranny if all were caught napping–as it seemed was the precarious direction freedom were heading via appeasement or simple denial…all the while, little by little, European nations were devoured by madness….and yet “the powers that be” thought Winston daft.

He was an aristocrat whose life was not the type of life one might imagine for an aristocrat—a cold distant father who never expressed joy or pride in his son—an American mother who was the belle of every ball and an attraction for every man… and she knew it. His solace was his collection of toy soldiers, his “nanny” Woomie–the only adult to truly care for and show affection to a lonely little boy, as well as a life-long love of riding and of horses which eventually took him to military mastery in the Calvary, much to is father’s dismay.

He was not a good or successful student whose father had to twist arms and pad hands just to get him simply enrolled in a private school of much lesser prestige than desired. He had a pronounced speech impediment which later proved to only add intensity to his rallying cries to his nation. He was not good with money as he often teetered on financial ruin. He was ousted repeatedly from his position in Parliament, only to come back again, and again. He lost, at the time, his youngest child to a fatally brief illness, he was the ire of a rising dictator.

Yet he was never deterred. I think in some ways all the negatives and all of the seeming defeats and tragedies only feed into what became our freedom’s greatest crusader. Thankfully so….The stalwart commander who steadied a nation for 2 long lonely years of near destruction, death and constant fear. He stayed the course, never wavered even when the British people began to question the leadership as the bombs continued falling night after night, decisive battles constantly being lost, as the net grew ever tighter around the small island nation, the final bastion of freedom between the US and Hitler.

He is one of the greatest orators of modern time–despite the speech impediment. He commanded the English language like no other and has been hailed as a modern day Shakespeare. He was a profuse writer who supplemented his family’s income by writing volumes of historical tomes. He was an accomplished artist who sought much peace and solace in the hours he spent painting. He preferred to sleep only in silk, better on the skin you know. Cigars, champagne, brandy, whiskey being constant companions. He was childlike, always comfortable at play with his children yet compared constantly to a bulldog possessing great tenacity and of a lion projecting a terrible fierceness.

He never backed down, not even in the face of what appeared to be inevitable defeat. He knew what it was like to be taken as a prisoner of war during the Boer War and the risked all for a brazen escape. His was the battle cry …”Never, Never, Never give in/up……”

So it is to dear Winston, who I often turn to in times of “battle”—life’s battles—his rallying cries echoing in my heart. Be courageous even when things appear lost or hopeless. Never give up, keep going, continue fighting for the right thing despite the difficulties and of all those around you who would prefer taking the easy way out–press on….if you find yourself in “hell”, by all means keep going….

Humor, wit and determination were his trademarks in life—they helped him to be a most successful individual who battled, by himself for quite sometime, an evil empire. Those of us who live and enjoy free lives today owe much to this enigma of a man…who to most young Americans is now but a mere chapter in a history book. The epitome of a true scholar and a gentleman who harkened to a different time all together.

I think of Winston often being the David battling the great Goliath in many areas of his life–if it wasn’t his own government, it was other governments or governmental leaders—he simply eyed his opponent and hammered at the weak spot until victory was his—or his nation’s.

Yesterday’s visit with Dad, an ardent admirer of Churchill, as he lived as a young man during those dark days of war, death and destruction, was relatively successful—as successful as can be hoped for at this juncture. It helped that I had called in my backup troops (troop member). We had a list of “conditions” to present, that which if followed, meant all could maintain life in relative tranquility—mainly the timeliness of bill paying–the daily taking care of life’s business, the taking of one’s meds as directed, the bill accounts to be set up for automatic payments—there was the initial desire to balk, the wanting to run for the cover of passive aggressive behavior—but it was met head on with a smile and not the blinking of an eye.

There was a trip to the bank, a promised call to a lawyer, the promise of organization..it helped that good health had returned to all parties involved, minds seemed clearer, the realization that “these people mean business so I’d better straighten up” seemed to actually sink in…

The leak is dammed for now. I know what lies ahead but at least for today, the sun is shining. I feel better, he seems better. We made a small dent in cleaning out accumulated “junk” which simply made for a less daunting appearance to “the office” —

I will follow up with a call later today to see if he has made the calls he was to make—hopefully fulfilling his end of the bargain. No home health care for now, no talk of assisted living…but those options are looming—I will go back weekly or more often to help keep the ship balanced and afloat.

Thankfully for now—the seas have calmed and the enemy seems to have abated… for now. I know it, the sinister enemy of life, is still there, hiding in the shadows of a dimming mind, but for now, I can see a clearness in the eyes that I have not seen in quite sometime…….as Winston likes to remind us…
“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”