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

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

at home…with God

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis


(our home in December 2017 during a winter storm / Julie Cook)

As we prepare to move homes…from a house we built to one we did not,
I have become keenly aware of what it means to be rooted as well as somewhat uprooted.
What it means to be sheltered.
To be comfortable.
To feel safe.

Yet that’s not always the case for many of our sisters and brethren.

For many, there is no sense of stability.
No sense of security nor well-being.

So within the melancholy I’m finding in leaving,
there is a greater sense of gratitude.

If a house can feel emotion, which we know it cannot, my desire would be that this house
could feel our deep level of not only a bittersweetness in leaving but more importantly,
that it could sense our level of thankfulness for the years of shelter, safety,
and rootedness it provided.

And so it is within this flood of emotion…the type of emotion that only transition
can bring…of which I know is not coming from the leaving, the going, or the coming that
is the root of my unsettledness…it is the longing I have for “home”—
a longing for a home that transcends this world.

I know that our hearts, none of our hearts, will be at rest until we find
ourselves embraced in the arms of our Father…


(Julie Cook / 2019)

The peace coming from the Holy Spirit is more than relief from suffering,
a sense of well-being, or a sense of equanimity.
It is rooted in a deep sense of home, home amid the cosmos
(which we who have faith know is being at home with God).

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.
from Christ vs Satan in Our Daily Lives

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

summoned to live…

Amid all the fear that characterizes our time,
we Christians are summoned to live in joy and communicate joy—
joy in spite of fear, joy in the midst of fear.

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


(December sunset in Georgia 2013 / Julie Cook)

“Prayers are God-filled words in which our love and God’s love are joined.
That love embraces the people for whom we are praying,
and love always changes people and situations.
This doesn’t mean that we will always get what we want,
but Jesus does promise that we will get what we need.”

Rev. Jude Winkler, OFM, p. 14
An Except From
Daily Meditations with the Holy Spirit

love, family, holiness

“O Holy Family—the Family so closely united to the mystery which
we contemplate on the day of the Lord’s Birth—guide with your example
the families of the whole earth!”

Pope St. John Paul II


(Bartolome Esteban Murillo / circa 1660 / Hermitage Museum)

Joseph, the man tapped by God to be the earthly father of Jesus,
is more or less an enigma…just as he remains an enigma in
ecclesiastical history.

As a preteen, after Jesus was lost from the family’s caravan having hung back in Jerusalem to
visit the Temple following the family’s pilgrimage for the festival of the Passover,
we simply don’t hear /read much more regarding Joseph or of his presence in the boy Jesus’s life.

By the next time we hear about Jesus, he is a grown man who has a predestined meeting
with John the Baptist for baptism.
It is simply assumed that Joseph must have died, leaving Mary a widow.
And oddly, throughout the ages, artists have more or less depicted Joseph as an older man…
as we know that Mary was a young woman when she was engaged to Joseph.

Perhaps that has been the rationale…Joseph was older and therefore passed
away when Jesus was just an adolescent.
But I wonder…was he really that much older than Mary?

There seems to be more questions about the man Joseph than there are answers.
And perhaps that is all part of the Holy mystery that embraces our lives.

But the one thing I know…
the most important thing that we do know, is that Joseph had to be
quite the man to be chosen by God the Creator to be the earthly father to God’s only son.

The example of a man as to what a father is meant to be…
the type of man that our sons and daughters so desperately yearn for in their lives.

Our children, now more than ever, need their fathers.
Joseph reminds us of this.

“Love is an excellent thing, a great good indeed, which alone maketh light
all that is burdensome and equally bears all that is unequal.
For it carries a burden without being burdened and makes all that which
is bitter…sweet and savory.
The love of Jesus is noble and generous; it spurs us on to do great things
and excites us to desire always that which is most perfect.”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 87
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

I love nurses–they exemplify everything God would like to see in us, His children.

Augustus was the son of a god and he asked the whole human race to swear loyalty
to him as “Father”.
It’s at this moment that God the Father sent the real Son of God into the world…
God works His providence even in the midst of human foibles.

Dr. Edmund Mazza
from Rediscovering Christmas


(Vampire day, again / Julie Cook / 2020)

Well you may remember my tale from about a month ago…
my tale about having to go siphon off an entire pound of blood due to being a
Hemochromatosis carrier.

A hemo what you ask…??

Well, it seems that my body hordes iron.

And who knew that the body only uses what it needs—if there is excess,
well, the body simply stores it up in the organs…where it sits.
Think of a balloon simply filling up with more and more air…
eventually, something has got to give!

The high end of a normal iron level in the blood is 150.
I was sitting at 330…therefore, I have to be milked like a cow in order to
bring my levels down.
Sadly, I do not do well with giving blood.
I never have.
My blood pressure tends to bottom out and I basically get quite sick just before I pass out.

So yesterday was once again vampire day.
I had to go give blood.

I go to the hospital’s infusion center.
Folks are here for their chemotherapy, needed antibiotics, phlebotomies,
needed fluids, steroids…you name it.

Many are cancer patients.
They walked slowly and were pale.
They were minus all hair and bundled up due to the cold.

Many were on walkers or canes.
They were both young and old.

Four of us are divvied up into a quad with hospital chairs in each corner of the quad.
Some curtains were drawn some were not.

The nurses greeted each patient by name.
Many knew the regulars…mainly those who were the chemo patients.
“Hey darling” you’d hear a warbly voice call out to a familiar nurse.

The rapport was enough to make you feel that you were missing out
on some glorious secret friendship.
I felt almost envious as there were many
“I love yous” and “I love you too”—each sincerely and genuinely shared.
An intimate special moment shared between caregiver and patient…
human being to human being.

“Honey, you want me to get you something to drink?”
“How bout a ginger ale?”
“How bout a diet ginger-ale…it’s all we have.”
“That would be perfect!”

Some patients had recently undergone amputations due to infections or diabetes.
They were there to receive high-powered antibiotics.

“Mr. Gentry, we’ll see you back here on Christmas day, ok?”
“Christmas Day, really?!”
“Yes sir, we’ll be here…and so will you, you hear me?!”
“Well only if you wear your hair down…”
It seems that elderly Mr. Gentry, getting about on his walker, is a bit of a rounder
with these ladies—and they all seemed to love it.

He had part of his foot amputated this past week after having cut his foot this past summer
at the lake while playing with his grandkids.
These nurses were all well aware of his hijinks and played right into his devious intentions.
Mr. Gentry needs high-powered intravenous antibiotics every day for a couple of weeks.

I was enjoying soaking in these conversations all the while as I was slowly losing a part
of myself into a plastic bag dangling on the floor.

I really do ok up until the very end of my time being hooked up like a gas pump.
Right before I’m finished filling up the bag, that’s when things go downhill.

And true to form, today my BP fell to 63 over 34.
And true to their form, the nurses who saw all color fade from my body, came racing over
in order to flip my chair up so I was practically on my head,
they next threw a cold washcloth on my head.
They handed me a green puke bag…which thankfully I did not have to use.
My curtain wasn’t drawn and I would have hated being the show of my quad.

All of this was taking place while the nurses changed out the lines and immediately
began administering a bag of fluids.

It is amazing what these fluids can do.

I go from passing out and near-death to right back to the life of the living.

Slowly my BP climbed, but then oddly it dipped again.

This time it didn’t rebound like it did last time.
I didn’t rebound like I did last time.

The nurse had to walk me out to my car this time as I was still a bit woozy headed.

“Go straight home.”
“But I need to go to the grocery store.”
“Do that later!”

But before the nurses pulled my head up off the floor, one nurse came by each chair in our quad
and handed each patient a simple candy cane.
She made certain that each patient saw the story printed on the wrapper…
the story of the candy cane.

You can say what you want to say about Christianity and spirituality within such a setting…
You can throw in your sarcasm about faith in fairytales…but I will tell you one thing…
the folks in those chairs each appreciated their candy cane, mattered not their faith or creed–
they appreciated its story and the fact that one human being was offering hope to those whose
hope was starting to run on empty.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 Peter 4:10

wakeful and hopeful

Being awake for God and for other people—that is the kind of ‘waking’
that Advent has in mind, the wakefulness that discovers the light and brightens the world.

Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)


(Rublev’s Christ circa 1420 / Icon from Svenigorod / Julie cook / 2014)

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us,
namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI

(Happy Hanukkah and Advent
to all the brethren and sisters of our collective faiths)

something greater than

“He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him wherever he goes.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola


(one of my first Sunday School homemade ornaments circa 1961 / a picture from ourn tree 2014)

God would have given us something greater if he had something greater than Himself.
St. John Vianney