O tidings of comfort and joy…Merry Christmas

Man’s maker was made man, that He, Ruler of the stars,
might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)


(ice crystals form on the glass / Julie Cook /2022)

In the midst of the mystery of these cold and dark days, my wish is that we
will each continue to seek and find both comfort and joy…
Comfort and joy found in both the knowledge and grace of the birth of an innocent babe…
God made man…
Savior to all who are lost and to all who still seek that which is greater
than themselves.

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain shepherds
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereat this infant lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth efface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.

‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ is one of the oldest Christmas carols
there is, and one of the most popular.
The carol originates from 16th-century England and the
earliest known printed edition was published in 1760.

Classic Fm

a wicked wind this way comes…

“She wanted to kiss the hurt away, but knew from her own life
that it would always be there.
The sadness would remain, but it would exist next to new, buoyant memories.
He had come through his own fiery trial as she had hers, not unscathed,
but forged into something altogether different and stronger.”

Sharon Kay, Wicked Wind


(Clingman’s peak / North Carolina/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

Winter storm Elliott has certainly made his, her, its presence known from west to east
and south to north…

Raging winds, dangerous ice, blizzard snows, deadly windchill
only to be followed by power outages, ruptured pipes, dead batteries and delayed travel…
right on cue for both Christmas and Hanukkah…
Misery likes company, or so they say,
so I suspect we’re all in pretty good company right about now.

The troubles in my little neck of the woods is the hurricane force like winds and
the negative windchills. Nothing like frostbite taking place within 10 minutes on
exposed skin out in this mess.

Perched on the northwestern side of this mountain I now call home,
it seems to make for some mighty wicked winds during normal conditions…
throw in a winter cyclone and well, it’s
nothing like anything I’ve ever exactly experienced before.

However as the good girl scout I was taught to be, I have prepared.

There is a generator up and running.
I put down rugged traction metal treads on the outdoor stairs.
I bought a chainsaw, axe and tow rope.
I have two 4 x 6 metal stacks full of seasoned firewood wrapped tightly
to keep it all dry.
I have either removed and brought inside or bungee-corded and strapped down
all outdoor items that might choose to become projectiles in such winds.

I have a new car battery and new tires.

I have the pantry, fridge and freezers all filled.

I am thankful that I was able to prepare and thankful
now to have a safe warm place in which to shelter.

And so now I hunker down.

Yet I can’t help but notice that in all of this life and death storm business—
the sky is currently a bright Carolina blue and the
sun shines brightly high in the sky.
Clouds blanket the nearby mountain range but at least my little
corner remains clear.

This is just part and parcel of a new normal.
My new normal.

And I must say that there is a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing
that one can weather a storm…be that an actual storm or simply one of life’s
many storms.

Most often that satisfaction comes only after the storm has
subsided and passed…not during the height of the tumult.

And it is in all of the hindsight following such a storm,
a storm that life seems to constantly bring our way, that we
actually discover that our mettle has been tested…
We know all too well that the fire we have passed through was most certainly hot…
and whereas we were not necessarily left fully or wholly intact, let alone left
unscathed, we realize however that we have been forged into
something altogether different and blessedly…we have been forged into
something altogether so much stronger than ever before.

So here’s to weathering our storms…

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2


(Clingman’s peak / North Carolina/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

And so this is Christmas…

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
And so this is Christmas

John Lennon

(as noted yesterday, I wanted to share the two posts I’d written over the years regarding
the Christmas Day ceasefire truce between British and German troops during WWI.
No matter what circumstances we may be facing…be it war or simply life–there
remains nonetheless the Holy Miracle of a December’s night eve.)

The WWI Christmas Truce
December 17, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 24-25, 1914, an impromptu cease-fire occurred along the Western Front during WWI.
Amid the battle, soldiers from both sides set aside their weapons and came together peacefully
in an event that has come to be known as the WWI Christmas Truce.
Here are a few first-hand accounts of that historic event.


British and German Officers Meet in
No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce Courtesy of Imperial War Museums

The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience.
“Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon
German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet
of their front line trench.
Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men
of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in
No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship,
invited the Canadians to join them
and celebrate the occasion.
Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong,
and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion,
moved out to see what the enemy looked like at close range.

Conversation proved difficult at first,
but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others,
having rehearsed for the occasion, one must judge,
endeavored to establish their benevolence by
constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.”

For nearly an hour the unofficial peace was prolonged,
the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes and foodstuffs
and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of
most excellent beer.

By this time, news of the event had reached authority,
and peremptory orders were issued
to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith.

When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire,
aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result,
warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been
resumed…

For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line,
but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that
normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”

Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack
near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914.
His troops succeeded in pushing back German soldiers and occupying their trenches.
While returning alone to the British trenches to report,
Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly.

For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line.
During the informal Christmas Truce, soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center
space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried
British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other.
An English Chaplain conducted a service.
Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours
fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried
to a small military graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.


(British and German troops bury soldiers during the WWI Christmas Truce – 1914
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce.
Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day.
Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience.
“For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide,
between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land,
dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.”
Rader recounted cautiously raising his head.
“Other men did the same.
We saw hundreds of German heads appearing.
Shouts filled the air.
What miracle had happened?
Men laughed and cheered.
There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine.
There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels.
The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away.
The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies
for a brief moment during WWI
evaporated as fighting resumed.

(To learn more about WWI and the soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
la, la, ah, ah
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)

(John Lennon)

Christmas 1914 (re-post from 2014)

“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”

Pope Benedict XV


(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News,
January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)

(today and tomorrow I will offer two re-posts—posts I’d previously written
regarding the miraculous Christmas Truce of 1914 during WWI—
thus a small reminder that the true meaning of Christmas is far greater and more powerful
than ourselves and that of our own inward and outward struggles and turmoil)

War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.

Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…

And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…

As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.

Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….

Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…

That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.
History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas (a re-boot)

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would
if it could walk up and down in the garden,
swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

St. Nicholas of Myra


(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied
for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

(a little timely history lesson for this season of giving/ originally posted
in 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”
Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

thankfulness intertwines with hopefulness

“In giving us this regular hunger for food,
we are also given opportunity to sacrifice for each other and for God
and to discipline our appetites.
Always cognizant of our nature, the liturgical year is rife
with periods of both fasting and feast.
In order to feast, we must also know sacrifice;
in fact, it’s only in sacrifice that we understand what a feast really is.
Our lives can contain an ever-repeating rhythm of each in its proper time.
In the same way that it would be profane to feast on Good Friday,
so would it be improper to fast on Easter.
This rhythm is a reminder of both a need to be filled as well
as a need to strengthen our resolve so that we might long first
and foremost for the feast that has no end.”

Carrie Gress and Noelle Mering, p. 88


(turkey season in Georgia 2017/ Julie Cook)

Ok, so just maybe the above image is not necessarily an image of what we might consider
to be one of thankfulness and gratitude—
well certainly not for this particular creature being photographed that is…

…but oh isn’t it such a beautiful and magnificent bird?

We know Ben Franklin thought as much as he wanted the wild turkey to be our
Nation’s national symbol.
However, I must admit, I suppose wiser heads prevailed allowing for
the eagle to take center stage…

So maybe beautiful, or even pretty, isn’t exactly the right word or words
to describe the turkey.

Let’s just go with, say…colorful, textural, unusual, sublime, prehistoric,
and yes, how about even mysterious.

Mysterious, much like this time of year…
a time of year when we find ourselves entering into that which
reminds us that there is something much bigger and truly greater than
ourselves—even greater than any black Friday sale.

And it is a time that begins with today’s kickoff of the
annual advent of thankfulness.

I’ve always been one to give Thanksgiving day its due…
as in I believe it is a day that should indeed have its own time
in the spotlight.

A set day to remind each of us of all things full of
both gratitude and thankfulness.

Yet far too many of us seem unable or even willing to keep our thoughts
on such notions as we find it difficult keeping our Christmas spirit
of childlike glee at bay.

Many of us have already decked the halls with our Christmas decorations…
having done so well before the final candle of the jack-o-lantern
was even extinguished.

That lingering pumpkin spice scented candle’s smoke still lingers
in the air as Christmas trees, what with their glistening baubles and balls,
now come racing past to take center stage.

Thanksgiving Day, for many, receives only a cursory nod as folks have set their
sights on all things such as sales and bargains laced with the taste of
peppermint and gingerbread.

For me, I think this year in particular reminds me that…no, wait…
I think “reminds me” is the wrong phrase…I think that my soul has
actually been pricked to remember, perhaps actually even prodded with
a red hot cattle iron….
that for me, particularly this year, it is a time to be thankful
and such thankfulness must be paramount…especially this year of all years.

In the midst of a year that has seen its full bait of both loss and heartache,
the sense, that palpable feeling of both gratitude and thankfulness,
must still exist. They must still be allowed to manifest themselves
despite a seemingly insurmountable wall of all things contrary.

Because if we cannot find, if I cannot find or if we cannot
find our ability to give thanks even in the midst of our pain and suffering…
if we cannot cling to a sense of gratefulness despite our heaviness…then
we have lost all ability to hope.

And it is in that hope…that deep down sense of hopefulness,
that we actually find our ability to move forward…
even if that forward motion is simply one step at a time or simply
one more minute in a lifetime full of minutes..
one more breath at a time…

Thanksgiving reminds us of hope.

The notion that things will get better…not simply that they must get better
but rather that they WILL get better—
no matter what that getting better might look like.

It might not be what we imagined, it might not be what we expected…
but it will be hope none the less.

So I wish each of you not merely a happy Thanksgiving day but rather I
wish you each a renewed sense of hope—
for in that hope rests our real sense of thankfulness and gratitude…

“Prayer is an aspiration of the heart.
It is a simple glance directed to Heaven.
It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.”

St. Therese Lisieux

“Remember the past with gratitude.
Live the present with enthusiasm.
Look forward to the future with confidence.”

St. John Paul II

Good-bye my dear old friend…

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Animals are such agreeable friends –
they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.

George Eliot


(Peaches in her beautiful prime / Julie Cook/ 2017)

How do you pick a day, a time or even the place for the death of another?
The death of someone you love dearly?

How can you be the master of another’s right to live or die?

Or perhaps more simply, how can one be given the tremendous responsibility
to glibly turn the hand with a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

…just like those various Roman emperors,
those long ago bloodthirsty leaders who were burdened, or perhaps gifted,
with such decisions— never seemingly having any internal
moral turmoil…none like I have had…

How in the world can one balance both mind and heart in
such everlasting ending sorts of decisions?

Oh there are those out there who seem to give such thoughts no never mind…
Those who have little if any regard for the living or the sanctity of
their, or anyone elses for that matter, life.

The phrase moral responsibility has been tossed at me like a
dead weight over the past several weeks.
As in…. it is my moral obligation to do the “right thing” by my
cat…my pet, my tender responsibility.

That being Peaches, the older of my current two cats.

She is/was 15 years old…
diagnosed with aggressive and advanced bone cancer in her jaw
just a few short weeks ago….

I’ve had a cat in my life ever since I was 6 years old.

Oh there was the occasional bird, fish, mouse, along with several dogs
over the years, but cats have been the constant.

So I did a little counting….
during the course of 57 years… that being from age 6 to 63, I have had a total
of 7 cats.
7 cats spread out over 57 years.

Some of them were more cat-like, while two of them were more dog-like.
(Yes even a vet once told me one of my cats was more dog-like than cat-like…
meaning they had a deeply bonding personality…not aloof and independent like
most typical cats.)

Peaches, who was more cat-like, came into my life in 2007.
She came as a lonely, lost and starving 8 month old kitten.

Our son had just graduated high school and had left for college when Peaches showed
up—it was as if on cue she came into my life when there was a drastic void.
She readily filled that void.
She was tenacious, street wise and determined to live.
And yet faithfully, throughout both the good and bad, Peaches stood by my side.

So fast forward to a recent divorce, upheaval and obvious loss…
all multiplied by a major move—
and suddenly, and oh so sadly, it came time for her to leave her post…leaving me.

So having overseen me resettled, I suppose she believed her job was complete.

It’s just that I wasn’t ready to make that decision for her, for me, or…for us…
not yet…
but whoever said life would be fair…

And so I thank you Peaches, my dear tenacious friend,
Mommy will always love you!!!


(sporting her “Mimi” hat)


(holding on to Percy’s tail, her surrogate child)


(Wednesday at the Vet’s when we said our good-byes)

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in
peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters,
you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ,
stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua

once upon a time…

“The goodness of God is the highest object of prayer,
and it reaches down to our lowest need.
It quickens our soul and gives it life,
and makes it grow in grace and virtue.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(St Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC / Julie Cook)

Once upon a time life was simple and time ebbed slowly…
a community and her people were rooted not merely in one another
but rather in their collective belief and faith.

This belief system, this faith was a connective cord that wove its way deep
into the core of each member of the community…

And it was in this said system of belief and faith…components of humankind,
which in turn gave way to something more…

It all gave way to something much more than and much greater than mere faith
or the belief itself…

It was something that was not easily nor readily understood
but yet it was simply and undeniably embraced…

It was that of a great mystery…

A mystery as old as humankind.

A mystery that had long ago been woven into the fabric of life.

One could enter their local houses of worship—some great, many small,
any time day or night in order to contemplate one’s place within as
well as outside of this mystery.

It called to each member of each community.
It was an almost innate calling in which each individual was summoned,
at no particular time or place in time, in order to
examine,
contemplate,
lament,
rest,
mourn,
ponder,
exalt,
rejoice…
all while finding their own connectivity both within and outside of this
great Mystery…


(the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)


(detail of the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)


(detail of the frescos by Ben Long/ St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC/ Julie Cook /2022)

finding peace…in and with the world

Be at peace with your own soul,
then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.

Saint Jerome

Who except God can give you peace?
Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?

St. Gerard Majella


(an apple gourd—who knew??? / Julie Cook / 2022)

Ten some odd years ago when I started this little blog…when I began taking up
a tiny bit of residence in this endless space known as the blogosphere,
my desire was to share my personal ramblings of that of both journey
and transition…I was a teacher for heaven’s sake…we share by the sheer
nature of our trade!

And at that time, it just so happened that my life was one big journey
of transition…

There was the new transition and journey into retirement.

While at the same time there was the sorrowful transition of walking
from that of life to that of death’s door with both my dad and my aunt.

There was the journey of handing a child’s hand, turned that of a
man, to that of another woman’s hand…the passing of a torch so to speak
from one to another.

There was the discovery of a real biological past…complete with names and faces.
Yet there was the renewed rejection of a birth mother to that of her adopted child.
Again.

There was the eventual addition of two new joyous lives into my own.
The filling up of one’s heart…a heart that had just shortly before felt so
sorrowfully full of loss.

There was a pandemic.

There was a new retirement.
There was moving.
There was divorce.
There was loss.
There was unfamiliar.

And so now, as I stop for a bit of introspection and reflection,
I think my thoughts have shifted just a tad.
As in my axis has tilted just a wee bit off from its normal rotation.

I’m finding the notion of Peace…be that peace within, as well as peace outward,
to be a more immediate focus.

I think that’s why the following observation by Thomas á Kempis
has resonated so deeply within this restless soul of mine this evening.

I don’t believe that our dear brethren Thomas is inferring, as so many observers
quickly and most falsely assume of our Christian faith….
that being that we must suffer in order to eventually acquire peace…
but rather I find it all to be quite to the contrary…

It is the notion that we should seek peace amidst the chaos of
this life…a feat short of the miraculous given our current day and times..

We mere mortals will all eventually endure some sort of suffering in this
life—some, more it may appear, than most.
Fair or unfair as it may be….yet suffering, be it just or unjust, there
it will be.

And so therefore, it should be our task to seek peace within such times
and within such circumstances as we may be currently finding ourselves.

For it will only be in that Peace…that we may find rest amidst the storm.
For if we do not seek we will never find nor know that there is indeed a
Peace far greater than any turmoil life can throw at us…

And so now we begin a new journey of transition…that of Peace…

Will you come walk this path with me?

“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make
peace between other people.
Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.
Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and
readily believe the worst.
But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good
and are suspicious of no one….
It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people,
for they are always well liked.
And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those
who agree with us.
But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live
at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us,
for this needs a great grace…
in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing
of suffering and contradictions,
not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity.
Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace,
for such persons are masters of themselves,
lords of the world, with Christ for their friend,
and heaven as their reward.”

Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73

Thank you

Grief is the price we pay for love.
Queen Elizabeth II


(Town and Country)

Indulge me please, if you will, as I look backwards a bit—to a different year,
a different day, a different funeral…but yet…a funeral that harkens forward
to today’s global family’s funeral.

There were, no doubt, countless numbers of funerals today around our world.
Hearts that are broken.
Lives that are now turned upside down…all as good-byes have been somberly said.
Good-byes that we mere mortals find most difficult to comprehend.

Death.

We as a collective group of humankind do not “do” death very well.
We find it very difficult to wrap our heads, let alone our hearts, around
such a notion.

We often feel anger, resentment, unbearable sorrow and for some, yet for a
fortunate few, we might even feel a sense of relief and yes,
eventually if we are fortunate…we feel that ping of hope.

There has been lots of global news as of late…sorrows, tragedies,
storms, pain, suffering…
yet the majority of the news, along with a good bit of the the world, stopped
today to say their farewells to a well known woman.

All as a family grieves and a nation grieves and as a global world family
grieves…

Yet in all the well televised grief, one thought came galloping into my mind—
the simple thought of gratitude.
That of a simple, “thank you.”

For I believe a soul’s example of simply living out one’s life day to day,
is the best example, the best teacher, any of us will ever or can ever receive.

And so we look back to April 2021….
knowing in our now hindsight that the gentleman in the photograph at the
end of the post who is tipping his hat, undoubtedly extended his hand to
the lady we bid farewell to today…

more and more alone…
but we all know we are never alone…and she knows too!

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.”
George Bernard Shaw

“The strongest men are the most alone.”
Ibsen


(BBC)

Anyone who might have watched the funeral Saturday for Prince Philip,
or even caught a passing news story regarding his service,
undoubtedly saw the painful image of an elderly woman clad in black, stooped
with age, sitting alone in a cavernous and seemingly empty sanctuary.

Donning a black mask–attempting to breath, shedding tears, mouthing
the ancient words to an ancient faith…muffled and hindered–all adding
to the heaviness of grief.

It matters not that she just happens to be the current sitting Queen
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland along with
other realms, as well as head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith…

On Saturday, Elizabeth that elderly woman, was very much alone.

Elizabeth is the only ruling leader, from around this great big world of ours,
who is a part of that Greatest Generation…
She is the only remaining active leader who can personally remember the
time when a world was torn a part and a time when she,
along with the rest of her generation rolled up their sleeves,
doing what it took to fight tyranny and defend Western Civilization’s
democratic freedom.

I was deeply struck by that thought…
the only remaining currently active leader…

Awed by such a thought and yet I also was left feeling rather empty.

We are losing members of our Greatest Generation daily…
actually quite rapidly.

“According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 325,574
of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2020.”
nationalww2museum.org

Those who I have known and loved, those who served either in war or
at home, are now gone…all but my one remaining aunt who will be 96
later this year.

Before they were wed, Prince Philip served active duty in HMRN
(His Majesty’s Royal Navy) and while as a young princess, Elizabeth,
upon turning 18 in 1944, insisted on joining the women’s branch
of the Royal Army–the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS)

Despite royal lineage, they each chose the path of service.
It mattered not that their service would be precarious and even dangerous…
doing one’s part for the betterment of the whole was the only thing
that mattered.

And that is what troubles me.

Elizabeth is now alone—as in having lost those who lived that
previous time with her.
Those who knew peril yet persevered none the less.
They were stalwart.
They didn’t complain, they simply pressed on…ever forward.

No limelight, no self seeking attention, no apology tours, no
tell all books, no interviews of self complaints…
no “look, woe is me” placards worn around one’s neck…
there was nothing about self because there was no time to
think about self–there were too many others to worry over.

More or less, it was a stoic approach to a foreboding and
unrelenting storm.

And by the way, you and I, and all the generations behind us,
are the better for their generation.

But the thing that truly saddens me is that the following generations
don’t get it…they have no idea as to the sacrifice or lessons that
are to be gleaned.

I can only imagine the grief this woman feels in her heart.
Her family are all a rather fractured lot and now she has lost her
only remaining stalwart companion–
a man who had been by her side for 73 years.
That companion, that husband, that “stay” is now gone–leaving
a woman lost in her solitude.

Her grief, as witnessed in that picture of a lone figure bidding
her husband good-bye, is palpable…but I also know that Elizabeth
has a strong faith.

She and Billy Graham had a chance encounter decades ago.
A documented encounter that appears to have had a lasting effect
on Elizabeth’s faith.
So whereas Elizabeth is certainly feeling most alone today,
she actually knows that she really is not alone…not ever really.

She knows who her Savior is.

So whereas I am not worried that Elizabeth will succumb
to her grief–because she is a woman of duty and service who knows where
her true Hope lies—rather—I worry for us…
I worry for both you and I.

We are rapidly losing the leadership who understood what it meant to serve.
To put others ahead of self…putting others before their own self-centered
wants or needs.

No talk of self or selfish agendas…
No dalliance in to false ideologies.

Simply the defenders of both freedom and faith.

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