looking forward rather than at now…

“Let us love the Cross and let us remember that we are not alone in
carrying it.
God is helping us.
And in God who is comforting us, as St. Paul says,
we can do anything.”

St. Gianna Molla

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich

I think I’ve touched on this thought before.
I think it was most likely this same time last year.

It never fails that each year, during this particular season of the Chruch calendar,
this season of Advent, this time of notable anticipation,
I just can’t help but look forward.

Maybe I shouldn’t look ahead…
but I just can’t help it…I do.

I just can’t help but not to look.
I can’t help but know already how the story ends.

Of course I’m not alone in that…
most of us who are Believers already do know how the story ends don’t we?!

And yes I know, technically the story doesn’t really end…
but perhaps that’s a bit of a spoiler for those not exactly in the know…

However that’s not today’s worry.

The lamenters will cry “why can’t you just enjoy the moment?!

And maybe I should…maybe I should just turn a blind eye to what I know
while ignoring the facts.
Maybe I should just bask in the magic of this season;
enjoying this time of joyful expectations, of mystery, of hope and of celebrations.

But I can’t ignore the fact that there is a looming foreboding shadow that I
simply can’t shake.
Consider it the ying and yang if you will.

For both Advent and Christmas, this mix of a season that speaks to all that is to be,
happiness and joy, is what some might call the front end of the story…

Or maybe it’s actually what is known as the backstory to the end story…
the story that is behind the real story.

Figuring I wasn’t alone with this notion,
I poked around a bit and found the image above at the front of the post.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who understood that there is more to this
time of all things of happiness, newness and of birth.

For we all know, whether we like it or not, birth leads to life which in turn leads
eventually to the grave.
But who wants to think about a grave and or death when we can be toasting to what
is happy and bright right?

Not a self-absorbed culture, that’s for sure.

And so whereas we do indeed rejoice, as so we should,
we do so with a knowingness.

I’ve used this image of this particular painting before.

It is a painting by one of my favorite artists, Michelangelo Merisi
(Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio–or just Caravaggio for short.
He’s known by his town of birth and not so much by his birth name.

The painting in question is known as Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri)

Caravaggio’s paintings and subject matter can be unsettling to some viewers.
His life was no less unsettling.
And he was certainly far from saintly as his life would make any modern-day gossip tabloid
green with envy as his life truthfully read of such fodder and yet his talent,
his skill, his gift, his vision, his juxtaposition of his subjects
along with his use of light and dark, shadow and dramatic lighting…
all seem to be an exclamation point to his chosen imagery and subject matter.


(Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Dei Palafrenieri) 1605-06 / Galleria Borghese)

I love this painting because it is so dramatic and powerful…

Allegorical yes, but it’s that end story in a very stalk and near visceral nutshell.

The end being the crushing of both Evil and Death.

Leaving us with birth, life, death, grave and yes, finally, victory…
All of which is rolled into this one single painting.

As both Mary and her small son, all under the watchful gaze of both Mary’s mother
and Jesus’ grandmother, St Anne…who watches on as now both mother and child put an
end mark to that which desires nothing more than to haunt their lives…

Mary’s yes to God, along with Jesus’ willingness and sacrifice, are all that was necessary
and needed in the resounding NO to Satan.

In the painting, they figuratively demonstrate victory, our victory, over both Evil and Death,
in a very decisive fashion.
Crushing the head of the snake.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

Mary who was told great things by the angel Gabriel and who was told great things by
the Magi, and who was told great things by Simeon…basked in the celebration of the
birth of her child, all the while looking forward.

She had been told and she knew and she held it all in her heart.
And I doubt that a day did not pass while she lived the life of a loving mother to this
atypical son of hers, that she didn’t feel the same foreboding that I sense now.

My sense of foreboding, however, pales in comparison to the one whose heart
had been pierced the day she said: “yes, I will do your bidding, Lord.”

Mary knew both joy and sorrow, both life and death…but the most important thing
that Mary knew was that there is victory over death…victory that just so happened to be
found in the birth of her son…

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Blessed Among Women

Luke 1:38 MSG

And Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,
I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me
a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

John 12:44-50

We can’t help but look forward….

transitional nesting

If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting Robin unto his nest again…
I shall not live in vain

Emily Dickinson


(a quickly snapped photo while mom was out worming / Julie Cook / 2017)

We live in a continuum of both space and time.

As in….
according to Wikipedia for those of us dummies in anything having to do with physics…
as well as in keeping things in a nice simple nutshell:
Space-time is a mathematical model that joins space and time into a single idea
called a continuum.
This four-dimensional continuum is known as Minkowski space.

Combining these two ideas helped cosmology to understand how the universe
works on the big level (e.g. galaxies) and small level (e.g. atoms).

However in my little corner of the world….
this continuum business simply means that there is a constant forward motion of
ever quickening momentum moving hurdling toward some yet unforeseen future…

Take for example the above image of bug eyed baby robins.

On April 14th, I shared a photograph of a nest with 4 beautiful blue robin eggs
looking ever so hopeful as one had the makings of what looked to be a bit of cracking.

Next on April 23rd I shared the shot of a mom robin’s head peering out over the top of
the same nest as she sat intently vigilant.

Today on April 29th I’m sharing an image of the same nest,
the same blue eggs which are now buggy eyed,
downy tufted little robins to be.

My husband and I were a bit fearful that this particular Mrs. Robin may have had a
bum batch of eggs as she has been sitting for quite sometime…
longer then the bluebirds sat.

He had surmised that she looked to be young robin whose time
of motherhood was maybe a bit overstretched, with this being her first clutch of eggs…
but she fooled us, proving she did know what she was doing…as we now have 4
alienesque little heads bobbing up and down in anticipation of a juicy worm.

And as my thoughts are now focused on nests and the comings and goings from such…
I am thinking of my own family’s current revolving door of a nest.

There has been a frantic frenzy taking place at Dad’s this past week.
There have been nurses, caregivers, security system guys, Xfinity guys, phone guys,
me, my son, Gloria’s two children and two grandchildren, her daughter-n-law,
with boxes, bubble wrap, moving blankets, newspaper…
as Gloria, and her time in the house, is currently being purged.

She moves today to North Carolina to be with her daughter.
However…all of that being said, they are known to butt heads…
so we shall see how long NC lasts.

My son already has gallons of paint at the ready.
One of the caregivers is coming next week for the refrigerator and couch.
The Kidney foundation will be coming for some remaining things.
My cousin is coming tomorrow to look over my brother’s old train set down
in the basement.
As Dad had told me, just before he died, to look in the attic for some things that were Mom’s.
All the while as I bundle up books, videos, DVDs, glasses, clothes, sheets, towels….
all for the Goodwill….

For 55 years Dad called this house home.
As the time has now come to pass occupancy over to a new generation…
As we soon look for a different set of movers to be bringing in
my son and his wife’s possessions…

And so with everyone coming and going, I thought it appropriate to add a link to a
previous post written in 2013…
a post which was the harbinger for the transition that has lead us to today…

That being…if a door could talk…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/if-a-door-could-talk/

A coach teaches a profound lesson

“[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.”

Jim Henson

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As any educator worth their salts will tell you…

No…

wait….

let’s not make this just a teacher thing…

As any person who has ever worked with young people, will tell you…
a visible and physical lesson will go further in making a profound impression
and lasting remembrance than any lecture, paper or book.

Currently it appears as if there are many of us who are dumbfounded, flummoxed, sad
and down right angry as to the widespread level of disrespect currently rippling though
this country as far as our flag, our national anthem, the office of the president,
etc, etc, etc…
are each concerned.

Why don’t they get it???!!
we shout at the television when each new “protest” is broadcast.

Well today I saw a teachable moment about this very issue that should be shared.

My husband and I had gone to Home Depot in search of some sort of downspout
water thing…
There we were in the cavernous building,
wandering far off to some lone aisle searching deep within the bowels
of all things home improvement…
my husband seeking as I wandered behind a few steps pondering
if I should go find some plants that might need a new home….
when I was jolted back to the current moment as I heard
the alert on my phone informing me that I had
just received an email.

It was one of those forward things from my cousin.
Some of those things are interesting and good,
while some of those are utterly stupid or trash.

Curious, I clicked on it.
A couple of moments in,
I hollered out to my husband to halt in his tracks and come look at this.

There we stood, the two of us alone on a mostly forgotten aisle,
in a massive home improvement store,
on a Sunday afternoon,
staring at my phone with tears now streaming down our faces….

For you see…in this forwarded video clip we see a coach who is living and teaching
by example to each one of his players…

He offers a profound teaching moment to a group of young men as to why they are to
spend those early 2 minutes prior to each of their ball games giving their flag, their
National Anthem and their Country their full attention and respect….

Backwards and forwards

Nobody gets to live life backward.
Look ahead, that is where your future lies.

Ann Landers

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(St Kevin’s Monastery / Gleandalough National Park / County Wicklow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Peering over the top of the rock wall, we stare out over an unfamiliar site.
The who’s, the what’s and the why’s of another day and time.
Names forgotten.
Beginning and ending dates, once so important to those whom the comings and the goings of these particular lives truly mattered, are now nothing more than mere worn numbers.

We live,
we perish,
we mourn,
as the living move forward.

Are we different because of those who now are on the other side of the wall?
Are we better?
Are we worse?
Have we been affected at all?

Their voices may now be silent, yet we hear them whisper…
There are warnings, advice, encouragement and guidance
But only if we stop long enough to listen.

Their’s are regrets, sorrows, as well as lives well lived and loved.
Many, such as those across the wall, are all but long forgotten.
A weathered worn marker, ravaged by time and the elements, once a place
for melancholy recollections, stands now as a lonely sage to an unsuspecting future.

We can look and wonder…
We can imagine what may have been,
as we wonder what might yet be…

The way was paved.
For good or for bad.
There were mistakes…grave and regrettable.
Yet there were also moments of greatness and wonder.

Are we better?
Would they be amazed or would they knowingly shake their heads in disbelief?
Do they know what we don’t…
that we too have a date with destiny…
Yet with but two choices remaining…?

We must choose to yield a stone cold will
or
Either we choose to set that will to stone…
just like many of those on the other side of the rock wall…

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

Expect. . .

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
Henri Nouwen

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(a wet quince bloom / Julie Cook / 2015)

Driving on Atlanta’s notorious “top end perimeter, otherwise known as 285. . . the oddly shaped loop which circles around Atlanta proper like a cowboy’s lasso around the neck of a steer, is to any driver, the coming together of the perfect storm.
From stopping suddenly, to herkyily jerkily bolting like a bullet en masse along with tractor trailer trucks, buses, motorhomes, dump trucks, pickup trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, cars and emergency vehicles, all dodging and weaving in a precarious dance between speed, traffic and death is unlike any high stress experience imaginable.
And sadly, it seems as if it is indeed a near or complete death experience, on any given day, for any unfortunate motorist. A sometimes unavoidable necessary evil to traverse.

If it’s not the typical snarl of Atlanta’s Rush Hour, which begins around 5AM or better, lasting until around, say the lunchtime hour, only to ramp back up around 2:30 and lasting somewhere between 7 and 8 PM. . .throw in an accident and the constant ongoing road construction or frustratingly the added construction of the Braves brand new state of the art baseball stadium, any time spent on this particular interstate is truly a white knuckle adventure to say the least.

So imagine my double take this morning as I was barreling making my death defying peaceful morning commute into town to Dad’s when glancing, ever so quickly, over at one of those large electronic roadwork signs perched over the interstate which flashed, not the speed limit, not the travel time between the next conjoining piece of interstate but rather flatly reading. . .
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

WHAT? I quickly glanced back over to the sign but the sign was now about a mile behind me as I was keeping up with the manic flow. . .
What a novel thought.
Pertinent information such as weekend hours of construction, lane shift dates and times, road fatalities are the usual fodder for these giant roadway signs. . .not exactly the place for philosophical waxing and waning. . .yet truly not only a good piece of wisdom for the harried motorist, but for the average person simply trying to navigate throughout their day.

Was God trying to tell me something as I made my way to the awaiting and ongoing loon factory at Dad’s?
Expect the Unexpected. . .hummmm

For good or bad, thinking ahead to what could be either figuratively or literally down the road is a good piece of wisdom.
Take nothing for granted, be prepared, think ahead, anticipate, take no prisoners, go forth, keep going and no matter what, go forward, don’t stop and never go backwards. . .

As I continued on my raceway drive to Dad’s, I considered what lay ahead–of me, of my day and of my life. . .
What would be waiting?
Who would be waiting?
How would poor ol Dad be today?
How would the caregiver be fitting into their lives?
What of the loons flying about, laying in wait with those haunting sounds. . .
Thoughts of what could be, what would be. . .
Yet one thought remained. . .
No matter what was down the road, what was around the corner, what was waiting for me at Dads. . .
God was already there. . .
He knew
He knows
And that’s okay by me. . .

I will always expected the unexpected
I will keep a vigilant eye out for what waits down the road. . .
All the while knowing that God is with me, behind me as well as ahead of me,
as I travel to whatever that may be. . .

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

Wisdom and understanding

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
― Leo Tolstoy

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.

(Proverbs 3:13-18)

The morning light, streaming through the kitchen window, hit the raspberries in such a way that it magically appeared as if a scattering of plump rubies had been randomly tossed across the bowl of cornflakes. Lusciously translucent, a smattering of iridescent and succulent gems beckoned to be tasted.
No longer did breakfast seem so unimaginably ordinary.

It was a morning, just like any other morning, as the early rising sun worked its magic to warm the kitchen, despite the bitter cold air on the opposite side of the window pane. The silence was heavy but pleasing as she was lost to her own thoughts.

Thinking back, racing backwards across time, back to the younger girl she had once known, a slight smirk formed at the corners of the mouth which was now anxiously anticipating the crisp crunch of the cereal. How does one start out as that, tossing in a few decades, and voila, is now this. . .as whatever “this” is, is perceived to be so much better than that. . .
A musing mind now ruminated over all of the events that had worked together to bring both she and the ruby red raspberries to this particular kitchen on this particular morning.

“Life is nothing but one big mistake right after another,” she heard a voice echoing off the kitchen walls, coming as if from some place far away other than that of the empty room as she realized she’d caught herself speaking the silent thoughts out loud to no one in particular but herself.
“Hummmm” she mused.
“Mistakes aren’t really mistakes now are they” . . .again hearing the silent thoughts spoken out loud.
“More like the continuous onslaught of life lessons, one right after the other—picking up steam, say around 13, and not letting up until 50 or so . . .”
“Some lessons simply being easier than others. . .as others are more fun with some being downright wearisome. . .” she chewed over the words with each crunch of cereal.

“Cut, honed and polished . . .”
Her thoughts trail off as she works to corral the last raspberry onto her spoon.

The younger girl wouldn’t have bothered with the raspberries, let alone the cereal, preferring to unwrap some sort of cardboradesque breakfast bar while driving to work. “Who has time to sit down for breakfast anymore–“grab it and go” being her mantra of the day.
“Maybe just an extra coffee instead.”
So busy rushing off to some place she didn’t really want to go, preferring to just stay home, as the fleeting thought raced across her mind “the baby wouldn’t stay so sick if he wasn’t having to go to daycare everyday of his life. . .” This as she pulled into the daycare center’s front drive.

Yet the choice not always hers right?
There were the bills. There was the career. Wasn’t that what this was all about. . .the marriage, the family, the career, the “things” that made the life “special”—isn’t that why we did it? What about his schooling, college. . .what about more kids. . .a bigger house. . .isn’t this what we do. . .the quintessential chasing of the “dream”. . .

“Juggling, balancing, and managing. . .”
Her thoughts trail off as she unbuckles the baby’s carseat.

The younger girl races through life hurrying everywhere she goes, never seeming to have time to enjoy, let alone savor, the moments of the present. Her mind is constantly working on the next step, the next errand, the next meeting, the next hour, the next day. . .never on the current time or events at hand.
What of the little boy?
Daycare sees more of the baby.
As do the endless sitters.
And what of her. . .doesn’t she see more of her own students than their parents?
Isn’t that the way it is, everyone raises everyone’s else’s kids. . .as everyone is just so busy tending to their piece of the pie, of this thing known as living. . .
Just part of the price paid for the job, the house, the car, the trips, the clothes, the life. . .
Maybe next weekend will be different, maybe this summer. . . she rationalizes there will be time sometime in the future. . . sure there will. . .we’ll have more time then, right?

The older woman merely casts a knowing smile

Signs of the times through the eyes of a piper

Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Teddy Roosevelt

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(a lone little sandpiper wadding through the sand Watercolor Beach, Santa Rosa, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

A rather hopeless image is it not?
A lone little sandpiper, supported by tiny little nimble legs barely wider than a toothpick, dutifully trudges its way through an endless sea of sand.
Up and down the dips and hills.
No matter that the air temperature is 97 degrees and the sand barely tolerable to bare feet.
All day, every day, from sun up to sun down, the sandpiper marches on, on his life’s quest of foraging for food and of finding a mate.

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Yet if we zoom in, focusing more on the actual bird itself, blocking out the endless ocean of surrounding sand, the journey, the chore doesn’t appear to be as daunting or overwhelming. Rather we see a cute small bird dutiful to his task, nonplused by the uneven barren terrain.
Merely going about the task of daily life.

Two images of the same little bird which helps to bring us today to our quote by President Theodore Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt, quite the maverick and trailblazer of his day, reminds us that a life lived with numerous attempts and failed attempts is much better than the life lived by those who either, out of fear, ignorance or both, choose inactivity and complacency.

Those who attempt a venture, a quest, a goal will most likely eventually see some sort of progress, triumph or victory. Yet those who remain still, immobile, or sedentary will see simply the same ol thing day in and day out—a rather grayness of nothingness.

My poor Dad, he prefers a life lived in the grayness.
He has never understood my love of traveling nor of my desire for adventure.
I mentioned recently that’d I’d like to one day travel to Ireland.
His response was “just stay home, you can watch it on television”
“Watch it on television?!
DAD, I don’t want to watch Ireland on television!!!”
This as I had called to tell him we were driving down to Florida, to the beach, for the weekend.
“Why do you want to do something like that?”
“We’re celebrating our belated anniversary”
“Why can’t you celebrate at home?”
“Dad” (there is a tone there)
“Dad, there are no terrorists on the roads to Florida” (or so I hope)
“There is always danger; there’s danger driving up to Sandy Springs” (the city just above his home)
“Dad” (note the tone again)
“I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to come up until next week”
“Oh you don’t need to come up. There’s danger on the roads. Just stay where you are”
“Dad, how in the world am I going to see you if I don’t come up?”
“Oh there is just too much danger on those roads. . .”

My mom never got to go anywhere or do anything the least bit adventurous during her life.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, she died from a brief bout with lung cancer at the age of 53.
After her death I wanted to make darn certain of two things. . .
A. that I would beat my mom, living past her short span of 53 years.
and
B. that I would make her a promise– that I would go and do, as best I could, taking with me always her spirit as I knew my mom would have enjoyed and liked to have seen and done more in this world.

Sadly however, I’m afraid Dad may have a point as I think the times in which we find ourselves living are most precarious and frankly quite dangerous.
Dad is right in that regard.
The world has certainly grown dark as the shadow of Death and Fear work in tandem to engulf the lives of a world community.
Suspicion, doubt, apprehension have come to rule our daily comings and goings.

As we read our papers and watch the news, as each is laced with the dire warnings, statistics and predictions of these dark days of which we live, may we be mindful that if we succumb to the fear, to the threats issued by Madness itself, we are the losers who therefore allow Fear, Death and Madness their win.

May we never settle for less in life merely out of stagnation and fear.
Life and living are always going to be accompanied by risk.
That’s simply the nature of the game.
Even the old adage reminds us that “nothing ventured is nothing gained”

I certainly do not advocate throwing caution to the wind, that we should dash off half cocked into the abyss of Madness ill prepared or ill informed, but I do believe in moving forward by being watchful, mindful as well as vigilant, willing to see and do within the confines of good sense and good reason. . .but always moving forward.

May we not allow the times of which we find ourselves living hold us back as we dare to dream the dreams of hope and dare to live the adventure of going to those places and of meeting those people our hearts and minds have always imagined and longed for. . .

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole
creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve
those who travel
surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger;
and bring them in safety to their journey’s end;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Book of Common Prayer