every piece of every puzzle has a place…

“Do you ever feel like life is pushing us toward something,
some greater purpose?”

Spencer Stone

Clint Eastwood said it was just a story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
And he was right.

And whereas the majority of the movie 15:17 to Paris is basically the lead-up backstory
to the real-life terror attack which unfolded that fateful August evening in 2015 aboard
a Thalys train bound for Paris…
The movie, the story, is more or less, a finished puzzle.

Rather it’s the pieces to this completed puzzle that’s really what’s important.
And these pieces are the lives of three boys who grew up to be in the right place
at the right time…not by odds but by Divine direction.

And if you doubt that, think of each incidence during the courses of the lives of three boys–
think of their ups and downs, their directions, their troubles, and failures.
Think of their lifelong friendship, think of the coming together of each
individual puzzle piece which could only fit together one way, and one way only.

Terror events that end happily…meaning that the bad guys are apprehended,
and where there may be wounded– no one dies…The setting rather is an uncrowded train
full of individuals on holiday or simply commuters and is not a crowded concert hall,
not a crowded street, not a large office building…
these events readily fade more rapidly versus the larger and more televised terror melees
which we live with for years.

Such is a reason as to why telling this story is important.

The movie has received less than stellar reviews.

Clint Eastwood, as director, is taking a lot of heat for producing what is being
perceived as an uncharacteristically poor performing film.
His choice to use the actual boys, who are indeed the real-life heroes,
is being seen as a near catastrophic move for the making or breaking of the film…
which is being seen, more or less, as breaking.

Whereas Eastwood had cast Tom Hanks in the role of Sully Sullenberger in his movie
about the pilot who successfully ‘crash’ landed a fully loaded passenger plane
on the Hudson River, a choice which most critics saw as genius,
here he opted to use nonactors.
A less than genius move so say the critics.

Yes, the movie is a little slow.
Yes, the boys are a little stiff—but they aren’t actors…
A little fact I actually found welcoming.

The flow of the tale is a little awkward bouncing between present and past, past and present.
But you know, I didn’t want to see an actor’s portrayal of this story, I wanted the real deal.
I didn’t want Hollywood, I wanted the nitty gritty of the actual, not the glamorized fictional.

Now we all know I loved the movie the Darkest Hour—but there were many liberties taken
with the historical truth in that film.
Scenes that were totally fictional, cloyingly sentimental which played directly to
the viewer’s emotions.

15:17 to Paris was just what it was…real, raw and unpolished.

However it was what played out in each one of these boys lives,
from the first day they met in junior high, down to what lead each one of them to be on
that particular train on that particular evening of that particular year…
which was the catalyst for preventing a horrendous catastrophe.

The pieces of the puzzle were put into motion long before August 21, 2015.

It’s the details of these three boys lives, the hand of God, which rested on each of them,
the prayers and faith of parents which all catapulted them, leading them to that particular
train coming out of Amsterdam taking them to Paris,
a city they had been very reluctant to visit.

Each puzzle piece as seen by the nonbeliever, the jaded and skeptic would simply
be seen as coincidental.

Coincidence that Stone did not make his hoped-for area of focus with the Pararescue team
due to a lack of depth perception.
This leads him rather reluctantly and begrudgingly to take coursework in paramedics…
of which came into play as he held his hand deep in the neck on the bleeding carotid artery
of the shooting victim on the train, keeping this man alive versus his bleeding out.

A life of failures, slamming closed doors, knocks and hard licks all preparing each
ordinary boy, now grown man, pushing them toward the extraordinary.

Extraordinary by the ordinary, something Eastwood reminds each of us in the sharing
of this real-life story with the real-life individuals involved.
Nothing fancy, nothing glamorous, nothing high tech nor over the top.

This has been an important reminder for me which I suspect will be an important
reminder for many of us.

This is not a Hollywood type of movie.
This is not an Oscar would-be movie.
I doubt Eastwood considered such or perhaps didn’t care about such when wanting to
remind us of the whats and whys when it comes to the making of an ordinary puzzle piece.
Puzzle pieces that have each been pre-ordained to fit together.

Or at least that’s how I see it.

May each of us who are indeed ordinary step up to the extraordinary when we are so called.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

time to get busy

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,
at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Mother Teresa


(the ‘I couldn’t wait’ poundcake / Julie Cook / 2017)

I suppose I could be living in Alaska and I would still feel this
impending sense of dread.

For you see, this is just how deeply I care and feel for this land I call home…
Whenever there is some sort of calamity approaching this great country, I fret.
Much like a mother hen over her chicks.

It doesn’t matter if its raging fires in the west, drought in the southwest,
blizzards in the north and northeast, earthquakes in the heartland, or floods,
tornadoes and hurricanes in the South…
I feel an almost overwhelming sense of foreboding that is hard to shake.

I think it has a lot to do with me being a doer and or a fixer…
as in I need to be in action doing and fixing.
For it is in such cases, cases where I am relegated to simply sitting, watching
and waiting, that I feel most helpless.
How can I help, fix or alleviate that which I can only watch?
I can’t.

And such is the nature of natural disasters and disease…
we most often have to sit, watch and wait.

So with today, as I write, being Saturday,
the sun is brightly shining in a near cloudless blue sky,
as the wind gusts pick up in both frequency and gusto….
I know Irma is drawing ever closer.

I sit and watch the reports of a massive storm inching its way closer and closer
to my sister southern state.
And I know there will be catastrophic damage.
Storms are just that way.

So as I feel a wealth of nervous energy, I’ve done what I always do when there’s
nothing to do but wait and watch.
I cook.

Today it’s what I’m calling a hurricane pound cake.
As we are being told that we will most likely have flooding, high winds and will
lose power along with the millions to our south….
there’s nothing like a fresh pound cake to munch on in the stormy dark.

So as I try to busy my hands, my thoughts and my body…I also must busy my soul.
For all we truly have in such precarious times is prayer.
To have conversation with God.
And in that conversation, we must be prepared to wait as we listen.
Much like we do in a storm…as in we wait and listen…
Yet the difference with God is that we know there is
no one greater in which to turn.

We can certainly prepare for life’s storms all we want as we tick off those items
on a checklist of what to buy, what to have ready, what to do…all just in case.
Knowing that once the dust settles, the time to really get busy will truly be underway.
Such as helping and cleaning and comforting.

Yet with all this talk of waiting and watching and praying,
I was poignantly reminded today of the very notion of depending on prayer.

This afternoon I watched the most recent postings of one of my favorite
Christian apologists.

Nabeel Qureshi.

I’ve mentioned Nabeel here before.

Nabeel is a young roaring Christian lion.
He is an ardent and outspoken Christian convert from Islam who minces no words.
He is a lecturer and author who is rooted deeply in the Word of the One True God
as He has been washed in the Blood of the Lamb.

Nabeel is also a husband and a father who is in the latter stages of aggressive
stomach cancer.

I have watched periodically Nabeel’s youtube videos chronicling his journey
with cancer.
His fight, his treatments, his testimony…
Inspirational is putting it mildly as I have marveled over his unyielding faith
in the face of so much physical suffering and emotional uncertainty.

Somehow seeing Nabeel and hearing the frustration and depression fighting their way
into his being, I continue being blessed by his ardent faith in God’s will.
And as a dear friend noted as we both lamented together over this most recent
turn of events in Nabeel’s battle…
Nabeel WILL be healed, no matter what!!

So as we gather our thoughts and prayers, readying for yet another storm to take a
swipe at this country, it’s time to get busy…
Busy in prayer…
that we may remember not only those standing in the crosshairs of a hurricane,
but that we recall those who are in the midsts of their own personal storms..
such as Nabeel and his battle with cancer.

Remembering that in the end, God’s will wins,
and in turn, guarantees that we win as well.

https://christcenteredteaching.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/let-nabeel-know-on-facebook-and-twitter-that-you-love-him-and-you-are-praying-for-himvlog-42-palliative-care-on-youtube/

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18

a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

written words from a father…

DSC01114
(an early blog pic / Julie Cook / 2013)

“[you have] demonstrated beyond refutation your slovenly happy-go-lucky harum scraum style of work.
If you cannot prevent yourself from leading the idle useless unprofitable life you have had during your schooldays and later months, you will become a mere social wastrel, one of the hundreds of the public school failures, and you will degenerate into a shabby unhappy and futile existence….”

These words were penned by a distant and aloof man who found no merit or worth in his eldest son.
His son had proved to be a miserable student which was of great embarrassment to the likes of this most well-do-to and one of the day’s most notably recognized politicians.

The boy’s school marks were so low that his father stated that he was “too dimwitted” to peruse a career as a barrister (lawyer), an assumed career path for a boy of his family’s social status, but rather was relegated to following a path towards a military career.
His father hoping for a bit of redemption in the boy, convinced himself that if the boy could succeed as an Infantry officer, all would not be lost.

However the embarrassment and disappointment only continued as the boy scored so low in school and twice failed the entrance exam to the prestigious military academy that his father all but gave up on the boy. On his third and final attempt the boy finally received a passing score, yet it was still considered too low to qualify for the revered infantry training…leaving the boy the only route of choice…. becoming a calvary man, much to the humiliation of his father.

Yet this emotionally harangued young man was undeterred by his father’s lack of affection, obvious disappointment, acknowledgement and support.

The father had always been bigger than life in the eyes of the young boy.
A stranger and hero to be worshiped from afar.

All of this even as the boy pined away homesick in boarding school…
With news that his father had actually come to the same town in which the boarding school was located in order to address a political function, the boy was devastated learning that his father made no attempt to visit or call upon the boy.

Crestfallen the boy wrote immediately to his father—yet rather than showing his very real pain and disappointment as one would expect, the boy merely states that he doesn’t understand why his father couldn’t visit yet in the same breath states that he knows him to be a very important and busy man.

The father, who had become quite sick while the boy was away at boarding school, died rather prematurely at the age of 45.
This sudden death of his father only heightened the boy’s sense of hero worship in a man who had remained distant at best and blatantly detached.

The boy would grow to be a man who always kept his father at the forefront of his thoughts and actions. His life’s goals and ambitions were always focused on following in the footsteps of his father.

One would only think that such words and actions by a man so detached and so vocally dismissive from his son would simply breed a seething loathing within a growing boy…allowing the seeds of resentment and hatred to fester.
Yet within this particular young boy turned man, anything could have been further from the truth.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, the particular boy in question, grew to be one of the West’s greatest men to have lived.
He had a long prolific, heroic and stellar career as a soldier, writer, artist, painter, statesman, historian, cabinet member, Prime Minister, world leader, husband and father.
He never cowered at the painful rebuffs of a man he idolized…never allowing the continued hurt and detachment of Lord Randolph Churchill to deter his quest to succeed at the things in which he tried his hand.
He always wanted to make his father proud…
dare we say, he most assuredly did…

Happy Father’s Day to all the men in my life who have overcome the obstacles in their paths in order to forge a life worthy of praise….