give my your Light

“Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.”

C.S. Lewis


(they take the bulbs and shades…so life is in the dark / Julie Cook / 2020)

Transition seems to bring about a variance of both light and dark.
I can have a lamp, but without a bulb or electricity, I have only darkness.

The same remains true for the soul.
If there is no light, there is only darkness.

We pray for light.
Give us you light oh Lord…

“In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.”

“Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am.
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
When all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is Your will that I should know You
And turn to You.
Lord, I hear Your call and follow;
Help me.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The only truth to cling to, not our current reality

“How great you are, Sovereign LORD!
There is no one like you, and there is no God but you,
as we have heard with our own ears.

2 Samuel 7:22 NIV


(my current reality in what was once a kitchen / Julie Cook / 2020)

My current reality is obviously upside down.

Despite my angst and trepidation, let alone this world of mine being turned up on its head…
the one that I do know is that all of this mess is temporary.

And just like that…we all know that this Nation of ours is also obviously turned upside down.

And as to whether this mess in our Nation is temporary or rather a marker of an ending,
is yet to be seen…yet in the end, the one thing we do know is that all of this will mess
will eventually pass away…

Meaning this too is only temporary…but the thing is…we just don’t know how long it will last…
But that really doesn’t matter.

None of this mess really matters–

Because in the end, there is only One thing that truly matters…
Only One thing that truly matters and actually remains–as a constant.

Whew!

Thank goodness.

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.

Psalm 102:25-27

longing…

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive.
There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.”

George Eliot

“They say when you are missing someone that they are probably feeling the same,
but I don’t think it’s possible for you to miss me as much as I’m missing you right now”

Edna St. Vincent Millay


(The Andy Griffith Show / circa 1960)

Today just seems like a day when I dread turning on the television, dread the landline’s incessant ringing,
dread the cell phone’s constant alerts….

Today is a day to turn it off—- turn it all totally off!

Protests
Riots
Double standards
Elections
Division
Civil unrest

Is it any wonder I would opt to watch something simple.
Something that came from a seemingly more innocent time?

Did you know that on this latest runoff election in Georgia that, between all four candidates,
almost $1 billion dollars was spent on the collective campaigns?

Let that sink in…

The local Atlanta news outlets reported that the candidates spent well over $800 million between their campaigns
…closing in one 1 billion dollars.

Oh pray tell…. what could 1 billion dollars do for those in need in
this aching Nation of ours??

And the looming question that will never be answered, where might that near 1 billion
dollars have come from???
I wonder….

And so the landlines have rung constantly, the billboards have lit up the night sky,
people have knocked on doors, flyers have arrived daily in the mail,
alerts have popped up on phones, commercials have run at an olympic clip…

Waste, waste, waste…

And thus in this small microcosm of Georgia, it appears that we are swirling down the toilet.

And now fast forward to yesterday’s protest in Washington…
And thus my obersvations have been confirmed.

Conservative Trumpers protest and it’s declared a calamity.
Protests and riots continue, unending, in both Portland and Seattle.
George Floyd and Breanna Taylor protests were violent, riotous, destructive..
yet they are declared as attempts at expression.

I am sick and tired of the double standards.

I am sick and tired of all this mess.
But that won’t matter to the masses of the selfish.

I long for that which is not of this world.

And I somehow think I’m probably not alone in that longing…

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you;
and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh,
and I will give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

amen

There [in your kingdom] we hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory,
when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. For seeing you, our God,
as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages and praise you without end.

Eucharistic Prayer III

While up to my armpits in bubble wrap, I managed to catch a glimpse of a newsy sort
of headline.

Seems there was a story yesterday about a US Representatives wrapping up the opening
of the new year’s session of Congress with a prayer that he ended by using both
the words “amen” and “a woman”

What the heck???

Then it suddenly dawned on me…tis a new gender-neutral year.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri, made a very poor attempt at a
gender-neutral wording that really had nothing to do with gender.

I actually had to laugh.

Here I am, a mere mortal, wrapping up my home in bubble wrap for a soon to be move
while a holier than thou democratic US Representative thinks he’s using a gender-neutral
ending for a prayer for Congress.

The word Amen has nothing to do with biology…nothing to do with gender.
Nothing to do with a men or a women…

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/rep-cleaver-ends-opening-prayer-for-new-congress-amen-and-awoman

The use of the word Amen, a word that we of the Judeo /Christian tradition are familiar with,
the typical ending of a prayer, is derived from etymology rooted in Hebrew…

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, From everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.”
Psalm 41:13

You have often heard the word “Amen” but what does it mean,
and where does it come from? It actually appears a lot more in the Bible than you think –
it’s just that is translated in most cases.
All of these Hebrew words actually derive from the same root as “Amen”:

Emunah – Faith, faithfulness, steadfastness
Amanah – Indeed, correct, for sure, contract
Oman – Artist
Omen – Foster parent
Ne’eman – Faithful
As we can see, the word “Amen” carries within it not only faith, but certainty and steadfastness.
It is often used in psalms, prayers, and blessings as a “yes this is true” or “yes I agree.”
In some cases, the Torah even commands people to say “Amen”
in legal procedures when committing to fulfill something.
We see that especially in Deuteronomy 27,
but also in Numbers 5:22.

In the New Testament, the word “Amen” transcribed from Hebrew into Greek,
is used the same way as in Psalms to end blessings and prayers.
But there is one more use – but only by Jesus himself.
Whenever Jesus says “truly I say to you,” the original Greek actually uses the Hebrew word Amen –
“Amen, I tell you.”
Why in the beginning of the sentence?
And why is it doubled to “Amen, amen I tell you” in the gospel of John?

As Santala points out, “Amen” was used in the times of Jesus in a binding legal way –
and he used that formula to convey spiritual truths about who he is.
He is binding himself under an oath that what he says is true –
also when he says “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
John 8:58

The origin and the meaning of – ‘Amen’

So oddly it seems that AMEN has nothing about gender.
Who knew…???
Eyes now rolling.

So it’s like a lifelong friend recently told me regarding this coming year…
“grab the popcorn, and enjoy the show..who knows what will happen…only God knows.”

2021 is going to quite the ride…
God help us all…AMEN!!!!!

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the
four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Revelation 7:11-12

king for a day or king for life—it’s a choice

“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world!”
St. Aloysius Gonzaga

“It is necessary to have an absolutely sure intention in all our actions,
so that the generous fulfillment of our daily duties may be directed
toward the highest supernatural ideal. Thus, our life, apart from moments of prayer,
will be a prayerful life. It is clear that the habit of giving an upward glance
to God at the moment of action is a great assistance in aiding us to
behave always with a pure intention and in freeing us from our natural impulses
and fancies, so, that, retaining our self-mastery, or rather,
God becoming the sole Master, all our movements become dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
We see in the Gospel that whenever our Lord was about to undertake some important step,
He always paused for a moment to raise His eyes to Heaven,
and only after this moment of recollection did He take up the work He had to do.
‘He lifted up His eyes to Heaven’ is a phrase that recurs with significant frequency.
And doubtless, when there was no outward sign of this prayer,
there was the inward offering. The ideal is the same for us.
The constant subjection of self to the guidance of the Holy Spirit
is made easier from the fact of His presence in the soul,
where He is asked explicitly to preside over all our doings…
We shall not submit wholeheartedly to the invisible Guest unless
He is kept in close proximity to us.”

Raoul Plus, S.J., p. 37-8
An Excerpt From
How to Pray Always

where you can find all the answers

“Only in Christ can men and women find answers to the ultimate questions
that trouble them.
Only in Christ can they fully understand their dignity as persons created
and loved by God.”

Pope St. John Paul II


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2020)

“There is nothing to be dreaded in human ills except sin—not poverty,
or disease, or insult, or ill-treatment, or dishonor, or death,
which people call the worst of evils. To those who love spiritual wisdom,
these things are only the names of disasters, names that have no substance.
No, the true disaster is to offend God, to do anything that displeases him.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 334
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

So much change yet so much anticipation…

There is a rich parallel between farming soil and spiritual soil.
It’s no accident that one of the most important virtues of the Christian life is humility,
a word that stems from the Latin word “humus”, meaning “earth”, or literally, “on the ground.”
Humility is a virtue required of men and women alike,
and truly the one virtue all the saints hold in common.

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering
from Theology of Home II: The Spiritual Art of Homemaking


(early January 2020 / the sun comes up over the ocean / Julie Cook)

I took the above picture almost exactly a year ago to the day.
It was early January 2020…

2020.

Let that soak in.

A year, that before it would blessedly come to a close, we would all eventually grow to loath.

Yet on this particular morning in January of 2020, it was just a quiet walk along the beach.
Life was life.
Peace was found in the rhythmic sounds of an undulating surf that simply
was breathing in and out.

We had yet to hear of words such as Wuhan, COVID, Coronavirus, pandemic,
lockdown, masks, George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, CHAZ, socialism,
radicalism…
words that would soon come washing over us like a callous Tsunami.

There was however already the nauseating media circus over an impeachment proceeding…
but had we not all basically grown somewhat numb to the media’s OCD obsession over
all things Trump?

And who could have known that a year ago, when life seemed typical and average…we would find
ourselves, a year later, yearning and pleading for things to be just that…
simply typical and average?

I learned a long time ago to be cautious about wishing one’s life away.

On a collective whole, we have all grown to hate the year 2020.

Oh there are some who had joy throughout the year, but we haven’t
heard much about that joy or the positive milestones nor of the blessings.
Rather we have been inundated with the negative, the darkness, the isolation
and the death.

And so the collective thought is for a good riddance to 2020.
Yet in that good riddance, we must be both willing and open
for welcoming in a new and unknown.

So my prayer on this new day of this new and unknown year is appropriately
from the Book of Psalms…sung prayers.

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

A Happy NEW year to us all!

“If you would suffer with patience, the adversities and miseries of this life,
be a man of prayer.
If you would obtain courage and strength to conquer the temptations of the enemy,
be a man of prayer.
If you would mortify your own will with all its inclinations and appetites,
be a man of prayer.
If you would know the wiles of Satan and unmask his deceits,
be a man of prayer.
If you would live in joy and walk pleasantly in the ways of penance,
be a man of prayer.
If you would banish from your soul the troublesome flies of vain thoughts and cares,
be a man of prayer.
If you would nourish your soul with the very sap of devotion,
and keep it always full of good thoughts and good desires,
be a man of prayer.
If you would strengthen and keep up your courage in the ways of God, be a man of prayer.
In fine, if you would uproot all vices from your soul and plant all virtues in their place,
be a man of prayer.
It is in prayer that we receive the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost, who teaches all things.”

St. Bonaventure, p. 25-26
An Excerpt From
The Ways of Mental Prayer

her name was Eunice Dunn

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Lyrics by
Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood
Sung by Rod Stewart


(Eunice and mom / June 16th, 1953)

Throughout my entire life, I only knew her by her first name…Eunice.

Eunice passed from this life shortly after I arrived into this world–
into this family…

I was born in 1959 and eventually adopted in early 1960— Eunice,
on the other hand, had already long since “retired” from the years she spent
with my grandmother, mother, and aunt.

I imagine that our family’s circle was somewhat complete when Eunice finally
met me when mom and dad had brought me home from the adoption agency in 1960.
They were so proud to show off their new baby to this very special part of my
mom’s story.

I had always heard about Eunice but really knew very little about her.
As long as they had lived, both my mom and aunt spoke of Eunice with
only adoration and abiding love.

For you see, Eunice was more the mother to these two girls rather than their
own mother.

Eunice was a black woman, only a year older than my grandmother.
A black woman who raised two white little girls.

I found her listed on the Atlanta 1940 census records.
She was listed as a part of the household of my grandfather…listed as a servant.
And it was in that census record that I first learned of Eunice’s last name…Dunn.
And that she was but a year older than my grandmother…
My grandmother was 36, Eunice was 37.

This, however, is not a tale about the well-to-do verses something akin to “The Help.”

This is a story about a young working widow and the other woman who helped her
raise her daughters.

Two women working to make ends meet during a precarious time in our Nation’s history.

The part of the story that I always knew was that my grandmother was widowed in 1940,
at the ripe young age of 36.
She had two young daughters–one who was 6 and the youngest who was 1.
My grandmother’s husband, my grandfather, died of alcohol-induced TB while
spending his final days in a TB sanatorium–dying at the age of 40.

My grandfather had squandered their entire life’s savings during the great depression.
My grandmother, as long as I had known her, had a deep wariness of men and
never trusted a man who drank…despite her affinity for Vodka later in life.
Over the years, she liked my dad yet despised my uncle, my aunt’s husband.
Probably with good reason but that’s a story for another day.

Growing up, I can never ever recall my grandmother ever speaking of her husband…
my grandfather.
A man who died nearly 20 years before I was born.

This man–his name, his memory was deemed persona non gratis within this small family.
No pictures.
No stories.
No recognition.

But Eunice…Eunice, she was special.

My grandmother, at 36 years old, while during a depression and world war,
had two little girls who she needed to provide for.

Eunice at 37 also had a family she needed to provide for.

My grandmother went to work and even took in borders during the War.

Yet despite these precarious times, I always knew that my mom,
aunt and grandmother had Eunice.

Eunice was a black woman who worked as a housekeeper for my grandmother.
Later, in order to make ends meet, my grandmother actually took in her older unmarried sister.
The two opened a beauty salon for the upper crust women of Atlanta.

While they spent their days cutting, perming, and dying the hair of Atlanta’s upper crust,
Eunice tended to my mother and aunt.
She cooked, cleaned, and fed the family.
She bought groceries, got my mom and aunt ready for school each morning
and met them each afternoon following school.
She always had supper ready and waiting for my grandmother and her sister after they’d
take the bus home late each evening.

Eunice would arrive each Monday morning and would stay until Saturday morning.
She had her own room and basically kept the house running.
She would go home to her own family on Saturday afternoon, only to return to my grandmother
every Monday morning.
This routine ran for 20 plus years.

Years later my aunt and I would both lament about the sacrifices Eunice had made
for both her own family and my grandmother’s family.
It was a difficult time as the world suffered through both the Great Depression and a world war.
This was a generation that was more familiar with the idea of sacrifice over protests
and demonstrations.

I remember my aunt telling me about how, as a little girl, she would have to ride
in the back of the bus with Eunice.
This being life in the South during segregation.

However to my mother, aunt, and grandmother…there were never any color barriers…
no segregation…all they knew was what made a family, family…
and Eunice was very much a part of that family.

The only pictures I’ve ever seen of Eunice were found in a musty old envelope of photos
that had been stored away in our attic…in a box of things that had been dads following
mother’s death in 1986.

I’ve looked and looked over the internet for any little nugget I could find regarding
Eunice—but the only thing I found was the 1940 census record which listed her
as a part of the Watson’s family.

I wanted to write something that would provide Eunice with the place of honor
that she so rightly deserved and held in the hearts of both my mom and aunt…
but with so little to go on, that has proved difficult.
With the loss of my grandmother in 1989, mother in 1986, and Martha in 2017—
those who knew best are now long gone.

I wanted people to know that despite what our current culture screams about racism,
there has been love that remained colorblind long before the radicalism
of movements such as the Black Panthers or today’s Black Lives Matter.

So I want to say thank you to a woman who I never really knew but who had met me
a very long time ago.

I want to thank her for making both my mom and aunt into the women they become,
in turn, making me the woman who I have become.

Love and family are strong bonds.
Bonds that have each helped to make me the person I am today.

Thank you, Eunice.


(Mother and Eunice, 1953)


(Mother on her big day / 1953)


(Mother with her mother, Mimi / 1953)


(mother with her father in law, my beloved Pop / 1953)


(Mother and dad off to a honeymoon / 1953)

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household,
he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

finding God in all sorts of places…

“We must always remember that God does everything well,
although we may not see the reason of what He does.”

St. Philip Neri


(part of a bilboard is visable from where we parked for a pick up order from Longhorn’s / Julie Cook / 2020)

We had worked all day in our attic…sorting the boxes and plastic tubs of our younger lives.
What to keep, what to toss.

The art of a toddler, the 1950 bank files of my dad, my mom’s 70’s stylish readers,
my dad’s 1930’s coloring books, my husband’s father’s WWII pictures…
Yet the dust and decay took a toll on my sinuses–just like like white on rice…
oh wait, is that colloquialism considered passe PC in this culture of ours???

Anywhoo…

After a full day’s work, we opted to order supper to go from our local Longhorn.

When we pulled into the parking lot, finding a parking spot, I couldn’t help but
notice a rather prominent portion of the billboard hiding just behind the neighboring McDonalds.

The word GOD drew in my attention.
I wonder, had others noticed the same sign, the same word?

Our life is a gift and a giving to others; therefore it is joy at a profound level.
Anyone who seriously makes this idea his own and begins to practice it will find it to be true;
he will discover that the will to live it out, that is, to accept everything as a gift from God,
can transform our life right down to its roots.

Hans Urs von Balthasar
from You Crown the Year with Your Goodness

Once upon a book…

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero


(one of many piles of accumulated cookbooks / Julie Cook / 2020)

Once upon a time, long ago and far away…long before there was a thing
known as the internet…
a time when landlines were all that we knew for communication and payphones
were the only way we could touch base with others when away from home…
it was a time when the printed word was all we had—newspapers,
magazines and books…it was a time when the printed word connected us
to what was and what could be.
Our world was intertwined and deeply entrenched with all things typeset.

And so I am finding that during this trying time of packing up my world…
I’m finding that I am slightly overwhelmed by the number of books I have
accumulated over the years.

As an art teacher with a proclivity for the Renaissance, as an
armchair historian who devours all things World War II,
as a huge fan of Winston Chruchill, as a person deeply interested in Christian symbology
and mysticism…I have amassed a small personal library.
Heck, it’s more like a decent sized library.

Books, books everywhere a book!

So during yesterday’s sorting, the task was to puruse, purge and pack cookbooks.

A love of cooking has run deep in my veins.

I had grown up watching Julia Child’s cooking shows with my mom.
Later it was Atlanta’s own Natalie Dupree.
Any and all cookig shows on PBS.

Throw in all of Mother’s Southern Living cookbooks and I learned early on
the importance of food—
an importance that reaches far beyond mere sustenance.

Food is communion.
It is a tie that binds.

My mom was not the greatest cook but she could make wonderful,
made from scratch, biscuits.
Whereas I did not inherit my mother’s biscuit magic,
I did develop however a love for the magic that rests in the
creativity of any kitchen.

Yet I can vividly remember the day I felt defeat when my mother discovered the thrill
of the cooking bag and hamburger helper.
I, on the other hand, was growing more and more fascinated by all things French,
Itlaian, fricased and sauteed.

So as I was knee deep in the cull taking place in the kitchen,
seeing so many of the older books–
my mind suddenly went racing back to a different time.

This is from a post I wrote back in 2013–it was a reflection about my life in 1986…
the year mom got sick.

“Many years ago when my mom was in ICU battling cancer, and I was a
newly married young woman, I would go each day to the ICU Waiting Room
carrying an armload of cookbooks–upwards of 8 at a time.
As I would sit for hours waiting for the three 15 minute times of visitation allowed
in a 24 hour period, I would read page per page, cover to cover of every type
of recipe and cookbook imaginable.
It was my therapy and my catharsis.
Maybe I needed to know that in the dark shadows of death,
where I had found myself in a vigil for my mom, Creativity,
which I equate with life and living, was still very much present and attainable.”

I should add that I was driving about an hour and a half each day over to Atlanta just
to sit in that ICU, only to drive that hour and a half back home each evening.
A sorrowful ritual that I kept up for 9 weeks.
It was a lonely and very difficult time…but I found an necessary diversion
as well as solace in my cookbooks.

They were cookbooks that my aunt had bought on her various trips and books I had found
while rumaging through the cooking section of every book store I could find.

So as I made the difficult decision yesterday of what books I would keep and what books
I would “release”–I found myself feeling a heavy sense of sadness—
sadness not so much over losing some long loved books, but rather sadness over the fact that
we live in a time when books are becoming obsolete.

Despite my cullig and purging, I fear our movers will be none too pleased when they
find the number of boxes full of books that I have packed up.
Boxes I can’t even begin to pick up…as in they are heavy as lead.

But some things will just have to make this journey with me.
Solace that will be there for me as I unpack in a new world come January.

The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest,
and the books, especially the parchments.

2 Timothy 4:13