still out here…wandering… but blessedly not lost

“What is a vocation?
It is a gift from God, so it comes from God.
If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will.
We must enter that path: if God wants, when God wants, how God wants.
Never force the door.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a little pearl crescent visits the black eyed susans/ Julie Cook/ 2022)

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross

Life has been busy…which is a good thing…
And yes, I’m still out and about wandering.
But what we do know is that all who wander, are not lost…
or so says Gandolf in his letter to Frodo from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit…

Blessedly, I’m slowly finding my way and feel lost no more.

So while I was out happily wandering… I wanted to share a few shots from around my new area.

I’ll be back here in Blogland on a more regular basis shortly,
but until then…here are a few images of God’s goodness—
please enjoy…

“Let us beware of complaints, resentments,
and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us,
discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements,
or who even persecute us with injuries, insults, and calumnies.
Rather let us go on treating them as cordially as at first,
or more so, as far as possible showing them esteem,
always speaking well of them, doing them good, serving them on occasion,
even to the point of taking shame and disgrace upon ourselves,
if necessary to save their honor.
All this ought to be done, first, to overcome evil with good,
according to the teaching of the Apostles; and secondly,
because they are our allies rather than our adversaries,
as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe;
and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit,
they ought to be considered our dearest friends.”

St. Vincent de Paul, p.413


(a hungry bumble bee / Julie Cook/ 2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(a pollen encrusted bumble bee visits a rose of Sharon /Julie Cook/2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(knockout rose / Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)


(a little skipper butterfly visits a joe pye weed/ Julie Cook / 2022)

neither abstract nor random

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much
at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty,
but at the love with which we do them.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a rogue dahlia / Julie Cook / 2022)

Reading the following quote by Cardinal, now saint, Newman I must admit that I
was pieced by his words.
My heart was pricked as my thoughts now raced.

The quote took on more than just mere words once uttered by a now deceased man.
These words were suddenly very pointed and direct—not abstract nor random.

I found myself overwhelmed…
however, I must admit, I find myself rather overwhelmed as of late most days…
both in positive and negative ways…
yet this time the sense of being overwhelmed was different.

For these particular words, on this particular day, left me overwhelmed in a
most welcomed way.

I found myself amazed, awed and greatly humbled by the fact that everything
within my life—
every big and every minute thing…
those intentional and unintentional movements of all my comings and goings…
that of the time being ticked off of my day’s ins and outs,
those of all my years in and years out…
That of my birth, my in between and that of my death…
all seen and long known by One and only One…

Yet “sin excepted”

The sin is mine, not His.

And yet His is still the knowledge…knowledge of even the sin…
Those known and unknown sins, those seen and those unseen sins…
those past, those present and those sins yet to be.

Even our very sins are known.

The actions and reactions…all known.
All seen by the one Omnipotent Creator.

Yet whereas everything is precisely ordained…the sin is not.

However He knows even of our poorer choices…the good and yes, even the bad
long before we choose. Long before we even have the choice.
He knows of those reactions…be they good or be they bad…long before
we even think to act or react.

And even in that most difficult notion of our fallen nature, I find peace.

Peace that He sees what was and that which is just as He knows what will be…
even when we ourselves have neither knowledge nor clue of what we will do
in the next 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years…

We think we know.
We think we have an inkling of our own comings and goings..
and yet truly, we do not.

But what I do know, and I know with all certainty, is that God will continue
to bring good from bad….inspite of me and that of which I know and do not know.
And it is in that one fact that I find much rest and assurance.

“O my God, you and you alone are all wise and all knowing!
You know, you have determined everything that will happen to us from first to last.
You have ordered things in the wisest way,
and you know what will be my lot year by year until I die.
You know how long I have to live.
You know how I shall die.
You have precisely ordained everything, sin excepted.
Every event of my life is the best for me that it could be,
for it comes from you.
You bring me on year by year, by your wonderful Providence,
from youth to age, with the most perfect wisdom,
and with the most perfect love.”

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, p. 103

“these three Persons determine my life…”

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

St. Basil the Great


(wild crabapples blossoms / Julie Cook / 2013)

“Now surely I do see what an immense effect such a doctrine
[of the Holy Trinity] must have upon life.
It is no mere question for theologians, but one that concerns every living soul.
Whatever is allowed by God’s power must be guided by His wisdom and
urged on by His love.
All that happens to me in life, the little worries and the great anxieties,
the crises and the daily annoyances, the sorrows and the joys,
the harms that reach me through the sins of others,
the great crimes of history, the huge and devastating wars,
the partings and loves and the whole cycle of human experience
are permitted by Power, which is itself wise and loving.
These three Persons determine my life, and, since I walk by faith,
I must surely grow very patient in my attitude toward life.
For how can I complain or criticize God’s Providence,
since it all comes under that triple influence of Power, Wisdom, and Love?
Under the guidance, then, of this mystery,
I can walk through the valley of death or the more perilous borders
of sin without loss of courage or hopefulness.
Nothing can make me afraid. How these are separate, yet one,
I do not know, nor can I reconcile in my concrete experience
the claims of each.
It is always a mystery, but a mystery in which I believe.
Whatever Power allows on earth is designed in Wisdom
and attuned by Love.”

Fr. Bede Jarrett, p. 10
An Excerpt From
Classic Catholic Meditations, p 10

what lessons…sure intentions

What lessons God gives us in nature if we take the time to reflect on them…
If we take the time to reflect on the meaning and
purpose revealed to us in the ordinary experiences of our lives,
the world lights up, even in the darkness.

Fr. Joseph Kelly
from On Second Thoughts: A Book of Stories


(flowers in the snow / Julie Cook/ 2017)

“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

the journey, the uncomfortable of the unfamiliar

My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place,
and more of a discovery of my long-lost home.

Jennifer Fulwiler
from her book Something other than God

Change is uncomfortable.
Kirby Smart


(unseasonably warm weather has the gardenias in bloom / Julie Cook / 2022)

Perhaps it’s because it’s the start of another new year.

Perhaps it’s because so much of this said new year remains unknown.

Perhaps it’s because we long to forget the year that was..along
with the year before that…

Perhaps it’s because we are actually standing on the periphery of that
which is simply spilling out before us…

Spilling and spreading outward both far and wide…
much like a randomly tossed gallon of paint working
itself outward…spreading and covering everything in its path.

And yet frustratingly, we cannot see what that spilling and
spreading-out entails.

Nothing seems to be in focus…
All we can clearly see is that we are standing at the edge something
that reaches outward from where we currently stand…
beckoning us to follow suit.

It’s similar to standing on the edge of the sea.
We stand at the surf’s edge peering outward to a distant horizon line…
a horizon that seems to be endlessly far away yet calls us to come.

And thus we are reminded that have we have a choice.

We can either remain standing at the edge of all that is…
or…
we can set out on a journey that is calling us, nay beckoning
that we come.

Merriam Webster tells us that a journey is:
something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another

Meaning…that if we choose to move, hopefully forward
versus God forbid backward or irritatingly merely remaining in place—
we are obviously to be moving from one place to another.
As in…forward motion…with blessed great momentum.

The notion of such is not always comforting to we the creatures of habit.

We don’t like the unknown.

We don’t like the uncomfortable.

We don’t trust the unfamiliar.

Yet if there is to be growth, there must come the uncomfortable
of the unfamiliar.

And so the journey begins.

For better or worse.
For either good or bad.
The journey beckons.

The question we must ask ourselves, on the forefront of this new year..
are we ready to trust?

Are we ready to put one foot in front of the other?

The year is calling…

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the
calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3

bloom more beautifully

“Be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in
this world by God for the salvation of the soul.
So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”

St. Francis of Assisi


(Julie Cook / 2019)

“Strong passions are the precious raw material of sanctity.
Individuals who have carried their sinning to extremes should not despair or say,
‘I am too great a sinner to change,’or
‘God would not want me.’ God will take anyone who is willing to love,
not with an occasional gesture, but with a ‘passionless passion,
‘a ‘wild tranquility’.
A sinner, unrepentant, cannot love God,
any more than someone on dry land can swim;
but as soon as a person takes his errant energies to God and asks
for their redirection, he will become happy, as he was never happy before.
It is not the wrong things one has already done that keep one from God;
it is present persistence in that wrong.
Someone who turns back to God, as the Magdalene and Paul,
welcomes the discipline that will enable him to change his former tendencies.
Mortification is good, but only when it is done out of love of God….
Mortifications of the right sort perfect our human nature;
the gardener cuts the green shoots from the root of the bush,
not to kill the rose, but to make it bloom more beautifully.”

Venerable Fulton Sheen, p. 185

Sense of scent or the simple act of breathing

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be
inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth;
in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea,
bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where
you feel it touching the first sounds.
Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words,
appearances, emotions, or will.
The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off,
it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up,
imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Patrick Süskind


(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

(I found this little nugget from 2014 and thought it worth repeating…)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome.
When I first opened the jar, in order to use it,
I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany.

Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume,
hair permanents, and medicine, but rather the smell of sudden nearness.
It is a palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom.
I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are
readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party–
a grandmother and both of her granddaughters.
It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory
was so strong.
Not only did I smell the smells,
I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind.
The white cabinets, the double sinks…

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle.
Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff,
I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent.
Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic,
to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s.
I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a
new store that sells candles.
On a round brown table in the center of the store,
I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top.
At the time, my dad had a blue bug.
I loved the smell, sweet and light,
being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug–
I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to
the growing eclectic treasures of a teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs,
not even knowing if they still made those things.
I had brought home a box of old papers and what-nots from Dad’s.
I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling
of the minuscule critters that were already doing damage
to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin,
a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing
in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in my grandmother Mimi’s closet,
my mom’s mom.
Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s.
It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom.
I was playing hide and seek.
Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes,
shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner,
I’m now consumed with a smell, that to this day, reminds me of my grandmother.
Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting,
are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s.
To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s,
but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of
our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory.
The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents,
smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus,
the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing
of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose,
which are caught by the olfactory receptors,
allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with
those initials smells from childhood,
the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells.
Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed
to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting,
processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching,
that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume,
specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly”
just prior to the time of death or immediately following.
It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various
saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt,
followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish
customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead.
There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint
the dead body of Jesus.
There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene,
who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus.
It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body
yet some believe it symbolized his bringing the grace of forgiveness
into an unforgiving world.
This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day,
that there is indeed a change in the air.
Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm
of crackling fires…
I can smell its presence in the air.
As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind,
those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift,
sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life,
waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing…

But thanks be to God,
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being
saved and those who are perishing.
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other,
an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.

2 Corinthians 2: 14-16

the journey of deconstruction

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Who looks outside, dreams;
who looks inside, awakes.”

C.G. Jung

“There is a spiritual loneliness, an inner loneliness,
an inner place where God brings the seeker,
where he is as lonely as if there were not another member of the Church
anywhere in the world.
Ah, when you come there, there is a darkness of mind,
and emptiness of heart, a loneliness of soul,
but it is preliminary to the daybreak.
O God, Bring us, somehow to the daybreak!”

A.W. Tozer excerpts from various sermons…How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

So it has been brought to my attention, over the last week or so,
that perhaps some of my recent posts…
posts that I’ve offered as reposts, along with those penned as recently as this week,
seem to be skirting around a central theme…
a theme of the forlorn or even that of the melancholy.
Some have even asked “are you ok?”

Well…I think I’m ok.
And I think the posts have been timely…as perhaps it is
the times in which we are finding ourselves which is rendering
that underlying sense of the forlorn and melancholy.

But I suppose I should confess that I have been spending a great deal
of time recently thinking about loving and being loved.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about breaking and being broken.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of giving while receiving.

And I’ve fiercely been wrestling with the whole notion of Grace.

Do you know that giving Grace is one thing…while
feeling worthy of receiving such is something else entirely?
Or so I’m learning.

And so I’m faced with the nagging question of how can we freely offer others
such if we find our own selves feeling less-than when needing to
receive the same in like turn?

It is indeed a conundrum.
A conundrum of self.

And thus I have actually been finding myself looking backwards.

Not so much because I’m afraid of going forward, or that I wish to be morose…
rather I’m looking back in an attempt to better understand the now.
Or maybe I should say “my” now.

And no, I’m not talking about looking back through the lens of some sort of
historical context, a political context or a cultural context.
Heck, I’ve purposefully been distancing myself from my obsession
with all things news…avoiding the latest barrage of current events
all of which leaves me more depressed than hopeful.

I am finding that I need to declutter from the world for just a bit
in order to make some sense of the bare bones of this thing we call life…

I’m finding that an interior life issue is far greater than the Border Crisis,
a Pandemic, Dr.Fauci, President Biden, a broken chain of supply and demand,
inflation, vaccines…the list is endless….
and the list is a massive distraction and not the real issue at hand.

For the real issue is that which lies within.

And maybe that’s part of the point.
Avoid the real issue by being distracted by the world’s issues and madness.
And what good am I to myself or others if I am consumed by a world’s madness?

Introspection is a fine line when walking through one’s memories.
We must tiptoe through the effects that those memories have had on our lives
as well as the lives of those we’ve carried along the way.

We must balance such with both clarity and wisdom.
Depression, regret and sorrow are never far behind…dark specters who
nip at our heels while we embark on such a journey.

Such a journey that often becomes an endless void, much like a black hole
that pulls all energy and light into its darkness.

So we must be careful that we are not consumed.

One thing I know about God is that He is often a deconstructionist.
Meaning, He is one to break apart before rebuilding what was into
what needs to be.

I think I’m in the middle of some much needed deconstructing.
Deconstruction, like breaking, is an often hard fraught process.
It can be painful yet oh so necessary if one ever hopes to be whole.

Yet we must remember there is a difference between being broken
as in left in pieces vs being taken apart, dissembled, in order
to be rebuilt anew.

For what God opts to take apart, in order to piece back together
as only He sees best, is indeed to be made more perfect.

It is a journey…and not an easy journey…
but if you ever want to find peace and truth, it is
a journey that must be taken.

So here’s to the journey!
For the bad and then the good!

An excerpt from a post written March 4, 2016

When excavating the locked chambers of the soul…
that quest for the missing piece to wholeness…
The path is narrow, fraught with both emptiness and loneliness
And the darkness will be exacting.

It is a journey few care to traverse…
Isolation is a key requirement…
The striping away of all exterior noise and distractions…
leaves exposed the innermost secrets of one’s very being.

God is exacting.
He is a selfish God, who wants all and will not settle for any less.
He wants not that which is freely offered, willingly given…
He wants, nay demands, that which is desperately held back.

The re-union of created and Creator is inevitable.
There are those who eagerly seek the synthesis, the rejoining…
While others vehemently fear it…
The fragility will shatter…into a million fractured shards…

Out of the mire, the sucking and suffocating quicksand of death…
The spirit longs to reach upward, yearning for home…
Yet it is in the depth of death’s vast darkness that the fractured soul searches…
While the Creator waits…

Bring us home oh Lord
Strip us of that which prevents us from being with you..
Deliver us out of…
the brokenness,
the loneliness,
the emptiness,
the isolation…
of self
Bringing us to the daybreak of You…

goodness and guides

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God
for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Molla


(yellow roses / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s guides.
They will lead you along a path unknown to you,
to the place where God is hidden.”

St. John of the Cross

discipline and a holy will

“It is part of the discipline of God to make His loved ones perfect
through trial and suffering. Only by carrying the Cross can one reach
the Resurrection.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen


(a rose still covered by the morning dew / Julie Cook / 2021)

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served,
to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without
expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.
Amen.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola