Be wary, keep watching…the time draws nigh

I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night:
ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,

Isaiah 62:6


(the German watchman nutcracker /Julie Cook / 2019)

“St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries,
the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her.
The Devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ.
After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat,
that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to Hell.
For those who have sinned grievously,
there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 138
An Excerpt From
Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori

Broken and in need

“If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart,
then why not thank Him for breaking yours?”

Oswald Chambers


(The Spectatror)

So yesterday I wrote a bit of a confession.

I confessed that whereas I had proclaimed, just a few days prior, that there would
be absolutely no tree this year—suddenly on Sunday, there was a tree.

And thus Tricia, over on Freedom Through Empowerment, in her vast wisdom,
made a most profound observation…one that I just had to share.

The backstory as to why I had I opted on no tree was that
no one was coming home this year.
It would just be me and my husband and that would be a tremendous amount of work for
just the two of us.

Another reason as to why I was not going to put up a Christmas tree was
the fact that one of the tubs that housed my porcelain angels
and age-old nutcrackers fell off of a shelf back in June when I was moving
the older Christmas ornaments out of the deathly hot Georgia attic
to a spare closet.

In the midst of moving, I heard the crash and the ensuing breaking of both
angel and nutcracker alike…
and in turn, the breaking of a piece of my own personal keeping of Christmas.

I immediately told myself that I’d deal with it all in October as it was just more
then I could bear.
At the time—October was far enough away and just seemed like a good time to
think about putting the pieces back together.

Yet October came and went…came and went without any sort of attempted repair.
It was a burden I just wanted to ignore.

I was getting too old for the meticulously gluing back together of the pieces
of so many Christmases past—it was simply more then I what I felt up to doing.
It seems that everything I own or hold precious, in this little corner of life,
has been pieced back together and glued at some point or other.

Knowing that so many of the treasures of my past were now in a thousand shards
and pieces was frankly overwhelming…does everything have to break?!

I knew the work that it was going to take to laboriously sort then attempt to
glue all those broken angels and nutcrackers back together.
Tiny little arms, noses, bases, wings, ornamentation…
Many I had long before I married….going all the way back to high school.

Not expensive really, but just threads of what it is that has helped to make me.

They are the tangible pieces of those who I have loved and who are no longer here.
Those now broken bits being the physical links…the memories of gifts given,
of tiny “treasures”, gathered together.
Each one having a face and a specific memory behind it.

And so I finally dug in on Sunday.
I sorted and started gluing.
Following which, I put up and trimmed the tree…piecemeal angels and all.

Yet my friend Tricia made a very keen observation:

Beautiful tree Julie!
And really, the broken pieces glued together make it all the more glorious.
Kind of like our savior piecing our broken selves together to a more magnificent product.
Merry Christmas Julie!

And what a revelation!

Here I had what I thought to be a total disaster but in actuality, it was
a telling reminder.

It was a reminder, as well as a lesson, of my very own being.

More than me having come from the memories of trinkets given, past down over the years…
It was actually me being something and someone who was and is so much more.

It is the story of a Savior, who has come to put back together my very own brokenness.
Piecing me back together in order that I might be made whole once again.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

A Son, a Savior, who is given as a gift for all mankind?
The bridge that spans the chasm of divide, uniting once again both God Creator
and man created.

He had to come in order to put together that which was broken…broken
that day in a garden so very long ago.
As the breaking has continued down through the ages of time with no hope of repair…
not until the gift of a baby found laying in a manager on a lonely night
in the outreaches of a desert town…it was the Savior who born man that was
the hope of repair.

And so I thanked Tricia for reminding me that now, each year when I go to
decorate a tree, not only will I think of the stories behind each ornament…
of those I have loved and lost…of those whos and wheres of how each ornament
came to my tree…but from now on I will look at a handful of glued together bisque angels
and I will see their glue marks, their faults, and fractures and I will be reminded
of the absolute reason as to why I have a tree in the first place…

I will stop and remember that God sent His only son into the world to repair
the brokenness of someone like me.
And what profound joy is found in that revelation.

So thank you Tricia…thank you for reminding me of what this tree and these ornaments are
really all about…and a very Merry Christmas to you as well my friend!!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising
God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:11-14

Okay, you can’t see the glue right??

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
undesirable sentiment.
If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and
address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.
On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


(you can’t even tell, I don’t think / Julie Cook / 2019)

Well, guilt is a powerful tool.

At last, my moment of weakness arrived…so I must confess…
I have relented.

I didn’t lie to you.

My intention was certainly a BIG no to this year’s tree…
but…
there were those faces, those words, those insistent voices.

It was one of those things, as I started the day, that I had not even contemplated.
It never crossed my mind that I’d be doing “this” for the remainder of the day,
well past dark.

Yet I had gotten plenty of proddings from those both near and far…
And I suppose it was indeed a sense of something missing, as I’d peer over to an empty
spot that was the ghost space of Christmas trees past, that pushed me this morning.

I marched up to that dreaded closest and pulled out that dreaded tub of
broken angels and tiny little nutcrackers.
Old ornaments of all the Christmases past.

I pulled out my various glues and got comfortable at the kitchen table.

I sorted through survivors and the debris.

I next text my husband’s friend, unbeknownst to my husband, and asked if he could
come by sometime today in order to help my husband haul up ‘that tree’ from the
confines of the basement.

He giddily text back a triumphant “YES!”

Now I know I told you that I did manage to put up the outside lights.
That was an all-day affair on the coldest day of the year thus far.
All by myself.

The neighbors have always guilted me with that as well as they would go into
my husband’s business asking when were the lights going up.

What is it with people and the lights????

I had rationalized that if the outside of my world could appear as if Christmas
was alive and well,
no one would be the wiser to what was missing on the inside.

But yet, there were a few who were the wiser.
And yes…even I was wiser.

Be they here at home or now in their own home, I think it’s the comfort of knowing
“it’s” still there.
That home is still home.
And that all is right in the world of “home” is what truly matters.

“It” is always blessedly there whether we are, or they are, here or not…
It’s that sense that life is as it should be…carrying on as if everything is
forever a constant.

The constant of the happy warm memories of what was.
Forget the bad and painful.
Forget the negative or even the current.

It is to the warmth of fond memories that the heart of a child,
now locked deep inside an adult, runs to.

There is a sense of permanence, of rooting and of anchoring found in those types
of memories.
The true essence of how we came to be who we are…for good or for bad.
For it is of the kinder memories we cling to of how we came to be.
We seem to need them in order to be reminded of them.

And so today became the day that I gave up or rather gave in.

Today, the warmth of Christmas came home…
whether anyone is here to see it or not.

Christmas comes and they will always know.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4

Quick change of course

“Fortunately Jesus didn’t leave [the disciples]-
or any of us-without hope or direction.
Where we fail, Jesus succeeded.
The only One who as able to recognize and follow His purpose from the beginning was Jesus.
He alone was able to obey consistently and please God completely.
And His divine mission was to make a way for each of us to do the same.”

Charles R.Swindoll

I don’t know why I am still amazed…still amazed at how quickly our lives can
take a turn as our little worlds can quickly change in the blink of an eye.

This came to mind last night while watching the breaking news from Florida
when it was reported that there was a jewelry store robbery in
Coral Gables, Fl.

The armed robbers shot an employee of the jewelry store in the head,
took off from the store, carjacked a UPS truck, held guns to the driver’s head
and lead police on a chase that ended in a hail of gunfire.

The UPS driver and an innocent bystander were both killed.
The robbers were apprehended and both already had a laundry list of
past serious committed crimes.
I do not know how the store employee has fared.

As the wife of a man who ran his own jewelry store for 50 years,
we always thought about these incidents.
In fact, a few years before I had met my husband, he was shot in his store when
three armed men came into his store in an attempt to rob the store.

His body still bears the scar.

He was lucky.

I see a lot of UPS trucks out and about this time of year.
They actually come to our house a lot this time of year as I tend to
shop a bit more easily the older I get.

It’s a matter of a click and poof…
in a couple of days, a UPS driver rolls down my driveway.

So the thought of a man who got up yesterday to go to work and didn’t come home
last night tugged at my heart.

Then I think of the two shootings we’ve had on two of our different military bases
in the past two days…
People got up to go to work and didn’t come home because
of the evil intent of others.

So when I got an early morning call that The Mayor was throwing up
uncontrollably and they were headed to the ER of the Children’s hospital,
I simply got dressed and got in the car and made my way to Atlanta.

It hadn’t been my plan to make a mad dash on a Friday morning to Atlanta nor was it
our daughter-n-law’s plan to call into school and request a sub at the last minute.
Nor was it in the thoughts of a 22-month-old little girl to become suddenly
violently ill out of the blue.

But life happens…for good or bad.

I don’t know about you, but I pretty much take each day for granted.
Getting up, going through the motions of the day as I plan on doing the same
the following day.
I think we all do.

But maybe we, me, you all need to be a bit more reflective,
a bit more thought-filled.
Maybe we need to consider our lives a bit more reverently.
Considering it as a fragile gift that is to be savored and cherished.
Reveling in those who are nearest and dearest rather than the cursory hi’s and byes
as we pass like ships in the night.
Relishing, rather, in those brief moments we can spend together at home.

Maybe it’s the time of year, maybe it’s my age, but the revelation that life is fleeting
is felt more keenly.
And so the divisiveness eating away at our country, I find to be such a terrible waste
of time and energy.

God.
He is good…
and yet…

We are living in a time that has the lowest number of people attending a
Church or Synagogue.
We have the lowest number of people who consider religion as an
integral part of life.
We have the highest number of people who doubt the existence of God.
And yet we have some of the highest numbers of depression, suicide, addictions,
and a large number of the population that has a deep dissatisfaction with life.

I recently read that the traditional religions of Christianity and Judaism are
both being replaced in younger generations with an odd mix of yoga, self-help,
and meditation.

I saw the same thing happen in the early ’70s just as we were coming out of
the tumultuous ’60s along with a war, as people were looking desperately for some sort
of numbing agent. Self-help books were flying off the shelves.

But what is the first place we turn in the face of disaster?
We look to God.

A perplexing quirk and fickleness of humankind.

In our world, a little girl got medicine and got better.
In the world of others, they are trying to put to pieces
back together without their loved ones.

May we take this season of all things holiday to reconsider the
importance of our lives and of those in our lives.

Cherish those closest to you.
Hold them a bit longer, hug them a bit tighter.
Linger in their presence.

For both time and life are fleeting…


The Mayor and Moppie or Biyah or Ba easing back to better health / Julie Cook / 2019)


(The Mayor managing to eat a Pedialyte popscilce / Julie Cook / 2019)

Be strong and courageous.
Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.
He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

what comes from the Spirit

“The adorable Heart of Jesus is our comfort, our way, our life.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(a winter treat blooms / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The experience of the Church and the saints demonstrates a general law:
what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit,
gentleness, simplicity, and light.
On the other hand, what comes from the spirit of evil brings sadness, trouble, agitation,
worry, confusion, and darkness.
These marks of the good and the evil spirit are unmistakable signs in themselves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe

a solemn reminder

Time and tide wait for no man.
Geoffrey Chaucer


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Perhaps this is an odd place for an early morning stroll but Colonial Cemetary in
Savannah is both a peaceful and serene place to wander…
Not only are there tabby lined paths that weave throughout this rather massive burial
place, but there are also beautifully majestic ancient oaks veiled in the otherworldly
ethereal Spanish moss which cast dancing shadows across the landscape of an otherwise eerily
still and silent place …
All of which adds to the allure of this surreal and tranquil place.
It is a place steeped in centuries-old history.


(tabby path / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The stories and lives of the known as well as the unknown.
Folks who had come from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Poland, Germany…
Most of who had come pre-Revolutionary War and who have since each found a resting
place in this protected piece of land, in a country they would each come to call home.

A Declaration of Independence bears many of their names just as do state counties.
State colleges have named buildings in their honor as we remember both the heroic and the notorious.


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(historic marker / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

From Today in Georgia History:
August 2, 1776- Statewide
Georgia joined The United States on August 2, 1776, the same day that Button Gwinnett,
Lyman Hall, and George Walton signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

The declaration was approved on July 4, but signed by only one man that day, John Hancock.
Fifty other delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress signed on August 2.
Later that year, five more brought the total to 56.

Eight of the signers, including Gwinnett, were foreign-born.
One was Roman Catholic, a handful were deists and the rest were Protestants.
They all went on to lives of public service in the republic they founded:
there were two future presidents, three vice presidents, two Supreme Court justices,
and many congressmen, diplomats, governors, and judges among them.

In 1818, 14 years after Georgia’s last signer died, Georgia named counties in their honor.
Charles Carroll of Maryland, the last of all the signers left, died in 1832 at the age of 95,
but their revolutionary idea of a self-governing free people lives on.

The experiment they began remains unfinished, as it was on August 2, 1776,
Today in Georgia History.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

The cemetery, no matter how many times I find myself wandering, affords me new discoveries
hidden amongst the trees and mostly ignored by the abundant squirrels who call this
park-like cemetery home.

Numerous tiny graves now protect the innocent… some who are named, some who are not.
Eternally protecting the mortal remains of those who were born only to quickly pass away—
as they were born during a time when both birth and death walked hand in hand


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

Some grave markers are elaborate—hand carvings which are each works of art
while others remain plain and simple.
Some markers offer kind and poetic words while others have lost all legibility
to the passing of time.
Names, dates, and lives seemingly washed away from both time and the elements.

It is said that despite the iron fence that now encloses the cemetery,
the buried actually extend yards beyond, extending outward into the city they
called home.
The city paved and built over many graves long before a permanent fence
was erected.

Even the office of the Archdiocese of Savannah is housed in an old colonial building
that undoubtedly was built upon the graves of the unknown as recording details of
those buried was not always a priority.

Yellow fever victims are in a mass grave in a far corner of the cemetery while
unknown Confederate and Union soldiers now spend eternity side by side.

It is said that this is one of the most haunted places in the city…
but yet this city boasts many an otherworldly spook and specter.

I like to learn of the lives who have all gone before me.
Those who lived in a time much different from my own and the
similarities of lives lived are more alike than different.

For we all live, love, hurt, suffer, laugh and cry…and each eventually die.
Not so much different as we are still very much alike.


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)


(Colonial Cemtetary / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

And the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV