let me tell you…

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring
momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them.
The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(our son and his daughter, the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Let me tell you a little bit about our son…

He turns 31 later this year and would absolutely die if he knew his mother was
sharing anything about him on her blog.

Oh well.

I’ve written about him before, several times…it’s just that I don’t tell him that I do.

I’ve written about him not because he’s simply my son nor because he’s famous, infamous
or terminally ill…thank the Lord he’s none of those things but just our son.

I write rather because his growing up was not an easy journey…

It was a journey that seems oh so long ago and yet the memories of the difficulties
remain.

Despite that long and often difficult journey, we, his parents, are so exceedingly
proud of the man, husband, and father he’s grown into.

And that is what I want to write about.

But I also want to write, not so much about our son,
but rather about the very surreal time in history in which we are now
finding ourselves living in.

We are living in a dystopian culture that is playing fast and loose with
something so straightforward and simple as the obvious fact of biology and gender…
that being the exacting fact of male and female.

It is a culture that is trying its best to demasculate any and all males.
A culture that is shaming boys, young men, and adult men…for being just that, male.
A culture that allows children to “choose” a gender, with gender being
a fluid notion.

I, for one, believe in and very much want strong men.

I want strong men in my life.
I want strong male role models who know what it means to be a man…
I want men who know what it means to be a Godly man.
Mature men.
Men who understand God’s intention for them as husbands, leaders,
role models, fathers…

And these desires of mine do not equate me with being weak, dominated,
overrun, demure, belittled or abused.

Just shy of 40 years ago, my late godfather, an Episcopal priest,
sat me down right before I got married in order to share a few important
thoughts with me.
As my priest, but more importantly, as my Godpoppa, he felt compelled to tell me that
marriage was not going to be easy.

I think we all know that an engaged bride-to-be lives in a bit of an unrealistic fairytale
of fantasy.
There is a whirlwind of activities, details, and parties to attend to;
reality is not often found in the fanfare.

My Godpoppa told me that I was marrying a good man but a man who had been abused
both physically and emotionally as a child by a hardcore alcoholic father.
He told me that my husband-to-be had not had a positive role model of
what it meant to be a loving husband and father.

He wanted me to keep this all in mind as we prepared to embark on
a life together.
He knew all too well that there would be difficult times.

He already knew, up close and personal, of my own issues with adoption and
dysfunction within my adopted family— but in his wisdom, he knew that
two broken people were about to be joined as one…
as in two becoming one big broken person.

Not only did I have to learn how to be a loving, supportive, forgiving wife and later
a mother–of whom was also working and tending to the house…
but my husband had to learn how to be a good husband, provider,
and an eventual positive father—
the type of father he desperately wanted to be for our son.


(our son and my husband many moons ago / Julie Cook / 1995ish)

And my Godfather was right—marriage was and is hard—add work, bills,
life and parenthood to that and things can become dangerously complicated fast!

I read the following quote this morning from the author Tom Hoops:
People think of “the family that prays together stays together” as a quaint old saying.
But it was a favorite saying of Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta,
and the daily practice of Pope Benedict XVI’s family, according to his brother’s biographer.

I had to learn the hard way the importance of seeking God first and foremost when
it comes to one’s most intimate relationships.
It is imperative that He be in the middle of all we do because if He is not and
we substitute ourselves in the center, then we have a toxic equation for
stress and disaster.

It is Satan’s desire that the family fails.
If the family fails, Satan gains a greater foothold in our world…as all binding institutions
begin to crumble.

But I suppose I’ve deviated a tad from my original intention with this post…

Yet we need to understand that parenthood, like marriage, is often a learn
as you go experience.

And so it was with us—especially when our 5-year-old son was diagnosed
with a rather severe learning disability and a year later with ADD.

Life suddenly took a difficult turn.

He didn’t learn to read until he was entering the 3rd grade.
We spent the previous summer driving back and forth every day to a
specialized private school in Atlanta that focused on teaching kids with
dyslexia how to read.

We spent our afternoons fighting over homework and driving from tutor to tutor.

It all sounds so matter of fact now…but at the time it was anything but.

There was a father who was gone working 16 hour days, 6 days a week, a wife who
was teaching and commuting 30 minutes to and from work to home while shuttling a
child from school to tutoring to home, to homework, to Scouts, then back home again…

Throw in making supper, tending to the house, washing, cleaning, preparing
lessons for the next day…and life just seemed to get more and more difficult.

There was enough exhaustion, frustration, resentment, tears, fears and worry
circulating in our young lives to last a lifetime.
And there were many times I angrily raised a fist and questioned God.

Yet our son wanted nothing more than to be “normal” and of course we
wanted that for him.

But what was normal?

For him to be “normal” meant that there was going to have to be a great deal of
commitment, time invested, assistance, sacrifice and lots and lots of work.

But of course, you can read about all of that in the following linked posts written years back…
because today is not a day to dwell on what was but rather today is a day to look at what is:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-journey/
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/a-large-collective-sigh/

I actually had colleagues who openly voiced their skepticism over our son ever
going to college let alone being successful.

It wasn’t easy.
There were hurdles.
There were setbacks.
There were mistakes.
There were injustices.
And there was simply dumb rotten luck.

Then there came a girl.
And then came love.
And then came marriage.
And eventually, there came a degree.

Some very tough jobs followed—they came complete with low pay, poor hours,
dangerous conditions, a lack of appreciation, pounded pavement,
all the way to a shuttered company, a lost job, and then news of a baby.

When things were looking their lowest, a ray of light shone through.

Out of the blue came a new job.
New promises from a prominent company.
A new start.
Along with that new baby.

Yet hours remained frustratingly poor, pay remained minimal and frustration remained high
as the promises kept being pushed aside.

However in all of that remained something more important, something more instrumental,
something more exacting…that being…perseverance.

It was a desire and a will ‘to do’, not only for himself but more importantly the
desire to do, to be and to provide for his young family.

He wanted to be that man he saw in his father.

A man who made years of sacrifices of self for the betterment of his wife and child.
A man who was just that, a man who possessed both determination and a respect
for responsibility.

There was work, there was a growing family as baby number two appeared…
added to all of that was more college work for an additional degree add-on.
A balance of living life while looking ahead.

And just when life was looking overwhelming and growth was looking stymied and stagnant…
along came an opportunity for something different, something new and something that
seemed improbable, unattainable and most unlikely…and yet it came none the less.

After gaining a toehold in the door and with nearly two months of
interviews and scrutiny, the new job offer came last week.

I know I’ll be writing more about all of this change in the coming weeks…
but first, there are the necessary two weeks of finishing up one job before
starting another.

There will be the training, learning the adjusting…for not only our son
but for his entire small family.

Change is good, but it is also hard.

Yet the one thing in all of this that I know to be true is that our son did this on his own.
He earned the opportunity and sold himself as the best asset he could be…

There is God’s hand and timing in all of this.
And I can say this as I’m now looking back.

On the front end, things can look overwhelming and impossible…

Yet my husband toiled to become that man, that father, he so yearned to be…
and now his son is following suit…

Living the life as the man God intended for him to be.

A strong focused man who loves his family.
A man who works to lead his family and honor his wife.
A strong role model for both his young son and daughter.
A man who continues to make us, his mom and dad, so very proud.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul.

Proverbs 29:17

I know our problem


(sun coming up /Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve been chatting a great deal, as of late, about the current state of events
taking place around this Nation of ours.

Not a great deal of positives to report–or so say the news outlets…
or so say many of us average observers.

Because according to anything newsy, the sky is falling, the Russians are coming,
the White Supremacists are already here, everyone is a racist and if you support the
President of the United States of America, you are to be immediately outed via all things social media,
shamed, tarred, feathered and branded a deplorable, annihilated and readily destroyed…
plain and simple.
Heck, they wanted to make a movie about that very thing.

100 years ago such news would have been met with shrieks of laughter or the
hushed tones of berating to never say such heresy.

Sigh.

The other thing I’ve been chatting on and off about is the state of the Chruch
(be it the Chruch on either side of the pond)—
As in there’s been a big sell-out by denominations and clergy…all opting to follow the culture
gods and not the God of all Creation.

Happy happy is the key.
Abortions are okayed.
Same-sex marriages are approved, as well as happily conducted in sanctuary after sanctuary.
Gay clergy are a-okay.
Transgenderism is embraced.
The biological concept of male and female is now passe as gender is a fluid notion.
The traditional family is a cumbersome dinosaur and considered obsolete.
Males are to be neutered all because we no longer like strong male figures in the world.
Intolerance is the new tolerance.
Violence is the end to whatever means…
all the while the Chruch turns a blind eye or jumps in willing, into the thick of it all.

Yep, things seem all topsy turvy if you ask me.

And so I think I’ve finally figured out the problem.

At first, I thought the problem was simply that we had become an angry people.

Think Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Neo-Nazis…or even the angry progressive liberal news…
However, I think I’ve actually narrowed things down beyond the mere angry component.

Yes, we are indeed an angry people but that is just a result of our real problem.

The real problem is that we have lost The Sacred.

We have lost our understanding of The Sacred.

We have lost our longing for The Sacred.

We have lost the reality of our very need for The Sacred.

But here’s the thing, The Sacred has not lost us.
Never has.
Never will.

But for us, on the other hand…well…we lost The Sacred like we lose our keys.

We put Him down and can’t seem to remember where we put Him.

And if the truth be told, we don’t care if we find Him or not.

We’ve become so consumed by ourselves that we’ve squeezed the space The Sacred occupied
till there is no space left.

We are smug and arrogant, powered by tremendous appetites and egos…and yes, anger.

And yet I dare must ask… exactly how happy are you?
How content?
How at peace?

And so here’s the thing…it’s not too late to make room in that overly crowded
discontented space.

It will take, however, a little humbling,
a little letting go of that ego and of course that anger…and a simple,
“Dear Father, please hear me…”

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy,
and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

grits and magnolias

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther

“Dripping water hollows out stone,
not through force but through persistence.”

Ovid


(a bloom from the magnolia tree my grandmother and mother planted when I was a little girl/
Julie Cook / 2016)

Driving home late this afternoon from Dad’s I passed a car that was sporting a bumper sticker.
I enjoy reading most of the stickers that either I pass or those that pass me…
stickers which are stuck on the various vehicles throughout my commute…
Some of them are cute and clever,
some are benign and boring and some are flat out truthful and or offensive.

One in particular caught my eye as I barreled out of Atlanta late today.

“GRITS”

I for one am not a huge grits enthusiast…
although my Dad has always loved his grits each morning as a part of his breakfast regimen.
If the truth be told, I actually prefer the more northern fare of home fries rather than the
southern ground corn with my eggs and bacon…
I also love some good hash browns…not smothered or covered mind you—just a little salt is good.
Grits are just so so….despite being doctored up with salt and butter…I still prefer potatoes.

I do however love a nice cheese grits casserole or a hearty bowl of polenta with fresh parmesan cheese grated on top…but as far as breakfast, I happily forgo the grits.

Dad actually use to question my being a true Southerner as due in part to my less then
enthusiastic desire of grits with breakfast…
loving watermelon however did help me save face as well as my heritage…

So back to today’s bumper sticker…
GRITS is short for
Girls Raised In The South….

I like it….
as in there’s a little grit in that craw sort of thing going on.
As true southern girls are not all lace and petticoats contrary to popular belief.
I think more of Scarlet O’Hara’s raised fist stating that she will never go hungry again
sort of tenacity verses that demure “well shut my mouth fiddle dee dee”
cloyingly sweet honey dripping sentiment.

For Southern girls are fierce and tenacious….
much like my beloved Georgia Bulldogs—
cute and sweet to look at, even appearing a bit lackadaisical or slow,
yet mean and fierce, just like a junk yard dog when necessary.

Which brings me to magnolias.
Another true southern staple…
but in my case, I’m thinking more like a Steel Magnolia…

A magnolia bloom is a quintessential fragrant flower of the deep south.
Lilly white when unfurled to its full glory…and full of heady aroma…
Yet a magnolia tree is no demure little tree.
Supposedly they are trees that are older than bees.
How that all works, I’m not sure, but after looking at some of trees whose roots
have grown upwards out of the ground as in the trees are now sporting “knees”…
…I have also known a few of these trees that are well past the 150 year mark…
Well, I suppose I liken them to cockroaches….
in that they would most likely survive a nuclear event and simply keep on keeping on….

I say all of this as I’ve been reading recently a lot about the continuing business
of all things feminist…female militancy at its worst, raising its ugly head….
As in the latest being some boycott and march, yes another drole protest…as in how novel,
is to take place Wednesday….

Haven’t we marched and protested a bit much as of late…??
surpassing our quota for say…maybe the next 10 decades?!

Feminism.
Despite being of the female persuasion I’ve never cared for “feminism.”
The Gloria Steinem, bra burning, Hellen Reddy I Am Woman Hear Me Roar,
contraceptive swallowing, in your face militant feminism.

And whereas much of that may sound of a former time,
today’s feminists are not much different in their militant banter, male emasculating,
in your face nastiness, band of hidden agenda sisterhood, sign waving, fist raised,
unappealing anger group of gals.

I have grown weary hearing women chant that most males are misogynists.
Just as I am tired of hearing about gender choices, vagina hats, abortion rights,
reproductive issues, inequality…
yada, yada, yada…

If memory serves, there is but One who ordained gender, ordained equality
ordained roles, ordained all of life but I digress….

I grew up when good ol boy networks were very much alive and well.
I grew up in the work force where I was sexually harassed over and over long
before it was a popular catch phrase.
I endured and persevered…because here in the South, that’s what we all do…
male or female…
we persevere.
We don’t whine and most often, we don’t complain, not publicly anyway.
Yet we have been known to get a bit even when necessary….

For we Southerners have a determination and a steeliness that gets us through much of what
life throws at us.

Black or white, red or yellow…we preserve.
As we’ve often had to make do with less while equally sharing any of our abundance.

And respect has always been a big part of being raised in the South.

Many folks have always equated the South with being backwards, backwoods, ignorant and redneck.
Think Deliverance, while hearing dueling banjos, and that’s what other’s have mostly
thought of us.

Our speech pattern may be a bit drawn out but that certainly doesn’t mean that our brains,
nor are our hearts, are anything but quick and large….

I am proud of being a woman, and a southern woman at that,
because it means that I have a strength that many men do not.
No matter our point of origin, the strength of a woman is found in the heart of a fiercely
protective mother, yet one who knows that letting go is simply part of life.
Think Mary….

I am proud of being a woman who can appear perhaps a bit simple, unassumingly sweet
but who can be complicated, deeply profound and hell on wheels when necessary.
Think Mother Teresa

A woman who loves and appreciates men—men who are masculine…
and whose mothers imparted upon them a sense of decency and compassion.
Because I know real men can and do cry.
Just as I know real men can stand alongside a woman while defending their nation…
all the while never blinking an eye…
Think Joan of Arc

I like what it means to be a woman—
to be nurturing while strong, sentimental while determined,
and tender while tenacious….
Think Clare of Assisi

This isn’t intended to be a complicated or political discourse on women’s rights,
gender equality, or the importance of the solidarity of women….
for I have neither time nor strength for that never-ending debate…

This is merely the observation of women by a woman…a southern woman.

A woman who has more in life to worry over than protesting and marching.
A woman who has been busy being a wife, mother, daughter and caretaker.
A woman who was so busy working that she never selfishly thought that
demonstrating or picketing was ever a priority during the forging, caring,
teaching and living of life.

No….there is no real place for the militancy of feminism when a woman
is busy living her life…as she cares and works for all those around her…
it’s what real women do—
fiercely and tenaciously caring, raising, nurturing, honoring and protecting…

Here’s to real women everywhere…those too busy to protest and march….
Those women who are strong of body, spirit and soul…
those who understand the true importance of what God has entrusted upon
them….
that of living a life of a woman…..

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13