average troubles and updates

“I am not more gifted than the average human being.
If you know anything about history, you would know that is so–
what hard times I had in studying and the fact that I do not have a memory like some other
people do…
I am just more curious than the average person and I will not give up on a problem
until I have found the proper solution.
This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life–
solving problems–and the harder they are, the more satisfaction do I get out of them.
Maybe you could consider me a bit more patient in continuing with my problem than is
the average human being.
Now, if you understand what I have just told you, you see that it is not a matter
of being more gifted but a matter of being more curious and maybe more patient
until you solve a problem.”

Albert Einstein


(Autumn is feeling better / Moppie Cook / 2018)

I’ve always thought my life was pretty much average.
I grew up average.
I lived in an average house.
I had an average family.
I went to an average school.
Average was good.
Average seemed safe…

Some folks think average equates to boring…

I rather like average.

Yet our life these days has been anything but average…

Things have been less than ideal for a couple of months now.
Less than average.

There have been high adulations and low dark shadows.

It started really last year with what I called the season of loss…
that was followed by the news of new life and hope.

But then our son had a massive job change the week before his first child was born.
Things were uncertain.

Next, this first child came into this world with tremendous concern and trepidation.
Yet joy pushed the worry aside.

Then it was a here there sort of life.

I was staying there, they were staying here…
As the new mom struggled through a couple of infections.

And so now we all stay here…

The two of us and the two cats have grown to three more plus a black lab.
The 3 four-legged siblings are not too keen on their new “sister”

Yet that’s all about to change again come tomorrow when our son goes back to Atlanta
to a position with new company—of which he is very excited….yet the excitement
comes with a somewhat heavy heart because his wife and young daughter will continue staying
here as mom finishes out the school year.

Blessedly there will not be the hair-raising commuting, but this new small family is now separated
while these imperfect grandparents try to make things as smooth as possible for all concerned.

Throughout all of our small world ordeal, I’ve thought a great deal about our deployed troops—
who are separated from their families for months at a time.
Worlds apart from all that is important and dear.
Our temporary imperfection pales to their sacrifices…

Which reminds me that nothing in life is ideal, is it?

To add insult to injury, during all of our transitions, our daughter-n-law had her
identity stolen.

We worry that it was actually while she was in the hospital.
It’s a top-notch hospital but if you’ve ever listened to Clark Howard,
he’ll tell you the medical field is the primary culprit when it comes
to identity theft…
and her troubles didn’t start until a day after her discharge….
when 4 iPhone 10s were bought on a plan in her name using her SS number
clear across the country in Seattle, Washington.

There were several other phone purchases and phone plan purchased in the same area.
She contacted all of the credit bureaus and had to file police reports in order to
have all the credit applications and purchases taken off of her reports.

The police explained that the phones are bought then shipped and sold overseas.

It’s been a very long story of sorting but hopefully, we’ve nipped it all in the
bud in the nick of time before too much damage has been done.

Next, adding insult to injury, the Social Security office sent out our
new granddaughter’s SS card, but it never arrived.
The SS office then told us they couldn’t track where the card went.
They sent it, that’s all they could determine.

Great.

We now have a new card…but wonder where the other one went…???
And what of a two-month-old’s identity now being compromised???

Next, our daughter-n-law got salmonella right before she was to return to work
from maternity leave.
We’d gone out to a rather nice seafood restaurant in Atlanta to celebrate birth,
life and to see if a new baby could handle public life.

After a night of being deathly sick…
she spent a day in urgent care followed by a day in the ER
The CDC even called…
This while a newborn was at home with an inept grandmother.

It wasn’t lettuce and it wasn’t E-coli…it was salmonella and it was at the restaurant.
I called the manager…he was apologetic.

Three weeks later, as you know, Autumn became deathly ill.
She spent hours in one ER only to be sent to Scottish Rite’s ER in Atlanta.
She too tested posted for salmonella.

But the jury is still out as to the source.
The doctors think the window between her mom’s outbreak and her onset had
actually been too long.
They questioned two new trial formulas.

Her fever was high.
The diarrhea was more blood than not.
As this tiny precious little one was weak and pallid.

She was hooked up to machines and had been stuck in both arms…while nurses searched
for tiny veins.
A difficult thing to bear when such small wee one is suffering.

She had a spinal tap.

The fluids were thankfully clear.

She received a powerful injection in the ER then another one the following day at her
pediatrician’s office.

We were then told we’d switch to an oral antibiotic while waiting to see what
the final cultures revealed.

As of Thursday, the hospital called and told us that nothing had grown from the cultures
and that they felt confident that the salmonella had not spread to the brain.

I spoke with my own gastroenterologist this week and he explained that salmonella
is a gravely troubling illness as it can spread rapidly throughout the body affecting
much more than just the guts…it can lead to a myriad of ailments including arthritis.

Autumn is so much better but not totally 100%.
We had been diligently working on getting her on a schedule and regime of both
eating and sleeping but this latest hurdle threw a massive curveball at all
of our best efforts.

Add to all of this my husband working toward retiring…bringing a 50-year career
in a small family business to a close…
which is an entirely different post unto itself…

Topsy turvy and far from average…a roller coaster of emotions…

So…
average is sounding pretty darn nice, doesn’t it?

We thank each of you for your prayers, thoughts and good wishes…
We couldn’t do any of this without your prayerful support…

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:24

Blessings in the busyness

“One of the most convicting things I have recently come to realize about
Jesus is that He was never, not once, in a hurry.”

Mark Buchanan,
Your God Is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control


(blooming lilly / Julie Cook / 2018)

It was Sunday evening after a long busy day—
7:30 PM, and I was sitting in my car in the Publix shopping center
in Atlanta near dad’s house, aka my son’s, waiting for my daughter-n-law who
had run in the store.

She had run in to pick up a few items for my son who would be staying behind
while the rest of us hit the road back home to Carrollton.

Ode to the logistics of our lives right now.

We’d spent the day visiting my dad’s side of the family…they all had wanted my
94-year-old aunt to be able to “get to know” her new great, great niece.

My aunt is in a word, a hoot.
She’s never met a stranger.
She is elegant and high class yet one of the funniest people you’d have the
pleasure of spending time with.

She still drives, solo travels, drinks… and yes…smokes regularly.

And has been a widow now for nearly 10 years.

She’s old school Atlanta and old school southern.
But not pretentious whatsoever.

She was my dad’s sister-n-law who had married, what I always said, was the better
of the two brothers.
She married the older and more “normal” of the two—and so we’ll leave it at that.

Growing up, I did feel a bit intimidated by her and their whole side of the family
as my parents were quieter, more subdued and not social whatsoever.
We were a more casual family, more simple and yet more splintered and dysfunctional.

Yet she always went out of her way to make me feel welcomed and a part of their clan
when I’d be sent off for weekends to spend time with my older cousins.

There are only two of my dad’s “people” who remain—his sister-n-law and his first cousin,
both now in their mid 90’s.

Today, it was my cousins and me who are now the grandparents…
Complete with greying hair, extra pounds, wrinkles, pains, and wobbles.

These are the days, these sorts of gatherings, of which are now both few and far between,
which only make me long for day’s long gone…

Yet as I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store, I grabbed my phone and pulled up
the latest homily offering by my favorite rouge Anglican Bishop.

It was a homily offered for the third Sunday after Easter and focused on the
Resurrected body of Christ and the Renewed Mind…

A comfort as I sat in my car, on a chilly, wet Sunday evening,
ruminating over the whats that once were, as I sat pondering those yet unanswerable whats will be…

best laid plans right?

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

‘To a Mouse’
Robert Burns

The Cross!
There, and there only though the deist rave,
and the atheist, if Earth bears so base a slave;
There and there only,
is the power to save.

William Cowper


(Wood mouse image by Andrew Everhale)

The best laid plans of mice and men…..

Ok…. so first Lent seems to have come and almost gone…
Mainly because we had a baby come Feb 17th with what started as a panic but
eventually turned thankfully to joy…

Next it was nearly 3 weeks there, then they all came here.
Then back there…
There is still very little sleeping when it’s dark…

Lent…hummm…

We managed to get a sweet little Easter dress, a little monogrammed sweater, an Easter
basket that is good to go…

Then the first of this week there was a trip to the Urgent Care for mom–

I was there to watch the baby while my son and daughter-n-law dealt with what was
thought to be food poisoning.

I’ve been around long enough to know I usually know more than Urgent Care…
what older mom, and now grandmother, doesn’t trump Urgent Care?!
My diagnosis….not any ol run of the mill food poisoning.

So I’ve brought the baby back home with me while the young parents spent a day in the ER
as my daughter-n-law got morphine, and an IV and multiple tests run…
then it was home with prescriptions and time left to wait on labs…

So as this has been anything but a typical Lent for this family…
as Easter weekend, complete with a brand new first Easter dress and a first visit to
mom’s small family church is all very much up in the air…
and with this little world of ours being somewhat upside down…

Today is still Good Friday.

We are still entering the holiest week of the Christian Faith.

Saturday will still be Holy Saturday…

And Sunday will still be Easter…

So despite all that life and this world throws our way…those best-laid plans of both
mice and men, moms and grandmothers…
Jesus still vanquished Death!

Alleluia!!!

To a Mouse
BY ROBERT BURNS
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785
Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Sleep Deprivation or brainwashing

“My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching,
but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of
all I might have learned at home by myself.”

George Bernard Shaw


(Oh to sleep like a new grandbaby / Julie Cook / 2018)

The older I’ve become the more I’ve found that the notion of a precious night’s sleep
is not only alluding me but has become a fleeting fancy.
Meaning, it just seems to be a dream rather than a reality.

And how poetic that the inability to sleep should be but a dream…

Being able to finally fall into a bed of something that is somewhat welcoming and inviting–
providing a bit of respite and a place to temporarily sever the maddening ties of the day…
is the hope and desire of most human beings.
For we were wired to rest and to sleep—a time period given us in order to repair
and replenish ourselves.

Yet as we age, falling asleep no longer comes readily.
Staying asleep seems impossible… so much so that waking is a near depressing event as in
it signals another passing night of weary failure.
They chalk it up to age, stress, hormones and life…
sigh…

Enter the new grandchild.

As all new parents and grandparents know,
tending to a new baby that has decided to be an owl,
meaning that said newborn prefers to sleep during the day while choosing to be wide-eyed
at night, is an exhausting affair for all involved but the new babe.

A sleep-deprived brain has been compared to the same as if a person is intoxicated.

Poor choices, poor coordination, poor processing…
A dangerous mix.

Many an enemy combatant has opted to use sleep deprivation as a means of “torture” on their
captured prisoners in order to break the will while hoping to glean a few loose lip secrets.

So today, in a bleary-eyed state, when I read the latest offering by the renegade Anglican
bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding cultural brainwashing, it reminded me of my own sleep-deprived state.

In such a weakened state of brain fog and fatigue, it’s really quite easy to yield or to succumb
or to simply give in to all sorts of notions…

Anything anyone says we readily agree to, adhere to or adopt as our own as we are simply too tired,
too weak, too lacking…to resist.

So it would behove us, the Faithful, to be vigilant and to hold fast to our faith as the
current cultural trend is to brainwash the masses into accepting and eventually believing
a wealth of lies and falsehoods…

The following is an excerpt of the Bishop’s latest take on the current leanings of brainwashing
a gullible society…brainwashing both Believer and non-believer into accepting that which runs
counter to the natural and Holy intentions of a Divine Creator…

“The death of Billy Graham reminded me of how terrified I had once been of
being brainwashed.

I remember deciding to go on a quest to discover if Christianity was true or not and walking
into an Anglican Cathedral to hear an evangelist talk about Jesus.
His day job was being a vicar in York.
He wanted to help people examine who Jesus actually claimed to be.

“What if they try to brainwash me” I found myself thinking?
Someone, at some time, had managed to plant that thought in my head and it had stuck.

What I didn’t know was that these mild Anglicans were the last people on earth to want to
do any brainwashing, but that other people and other ideologies would be along shortly
who would be much more likely to try.”

In Bristol this week, some parents fought back against the brainwashing of their children
in infant school. The national campaign to destabilise childrens’ understanding of their
own sexuality has now reached down deep into our childrens’ childhoods.
Drag queens have been recruited to do workshops on gender identity for our 5-10-year-olds.
‘Diversity’ is the propaganda cover mantra.
Confusion is what the parents fear.

Christianity- the antidote to cultural brainwashing.

‘So remember what you have received and heard;
and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up,
I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
Revelation 3:3

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

God’s work

The spirit and the soul are two totally different organs:
one belongs to God, while the other belongs to man.
By whatever names one may call them,
they are completely distinct in substance.
The peril of the believer is to confuse the spirit for the soul and the soul
for the spirit,
and so be deceived into accepting the counterfeit of evil spirits
to the unsettling of God’s work.

Watchman Nee
March 8, 1933


(Gulf fritillary butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

God’s work…
that is what this is all about is it not?
That being this thing we call life….

Watchman Nee (1903-1972) was an ardent Chinese Christian Church leader.
He was also a profuse author.
I was first introduced to Watchman Nee and his books when I was in college
by a friend who was a bit older and had lived and weathered more of life than
I had up to that point.

Nee is not easy to read, for me at least,
In part because of the sheer depth of his faith.
as well as because much of his work spans the course of a century
that was full of great change.
It is as if one is reading the words of a mystic.
Deeply spiritual, deeply profound.

I have ebbed and flowed over the years with Nee.

Nee’s words have resurfaced recently in my life…
at a time when such words have not only been needed but most certainly
welcomed.

My road as of late has been difficult as I’ve watched my already small family
shrink even smaller. Losing the shoring piers to a heart that is being
battered and tested.

I remain consumed by what all it is taking to get dad’s life, post dad,
to a place of management.
The legal and financial aspect is simply daunting.

Add to the loss of dad, coupled by this organization and bureaucratic nightmare,
the untimely death of my aunt…a death seemingly so sudden.
Granted we knew she had been gravely ill,
despite the doctors saying “not to worry” give the meds time…”
As her body could simply no longer hang on.

My husband and I will be driving the 10 hour journey southward at the
end of the week in order to attend the memorial service.
We will remain for a few days sorting through what made Martha’s life her own.

On top of all the sorrow and frustration we are dealing with the early news of
becoming grandparents…as we worry over our son and daughter-n-law as they are
in the midst of job changes, long commutes and a bit of uncertainty.

So there is certainly a great deal of emotional overload…both up and down…
both good and bad.

That is why the words of those such a Nee are ever so important.

A wise friend of mine…
as I am fortunate in that I have many friends who are indeed wise,
recently shared with me his thoughts on my latest stand of sorrow and worry.
He told me that…
“Only when we realise that we can not do it all [alone]
(whatever the it might be in our lives)
we then cry out…
I believe God is so close to you at this time because you are crying out to him…”

I too believe that when we cry out, God draws ever closer despite our feelings
of isolation…
for it is in the isolation of loneliness…
when we are stripped bare of all distraction and false protection.

In 1949 when China became a Communist Nation, Nee was imprisoned—
He had refused to stop preaching, speaking, writing and sharing the Word of God.
A practice counter to all things communist.
An underlying theme in Communism is that it is important, if not essential,
to create false accusations in order to arrest, impression or even execute
those who speak Truth against the atheistic beliefs of the Communist state.

This was not an exception in the case of Nee.
He was falsely accused of crimes he never committed, arrested and sentenced to
spend what would be the last 20 years of his life in a forced hard labor camp.

His final words where found scribbled on a sheet of paper that had been tucked
beneath his prison cell pillow…

“Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and
resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe.
I die because of my belief in Christ.”

Watchman Nee

So what we must come to understand, as hard as it often is, that this life
that we claim as our own, is not for our benefit and glory but rather for
that of God’s…it is for His work, and His alone…
as we learn that we both live and die because of Christ Jesus….

“The greatest advantage in knowing the difference between spirit and soul is in
perceiving the latent power of the soul and in understanding its falsification
of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just last night I was reading what F. B. Meyer once said in a meeting shortly before
his earthly departure. Here is a section of it:
‘This is an amazing fact that never has there been so much spiritualism outside
the church of Christ as is found today…
Is it not factual that in the lower part of our human nature the stimulation of
the soul is quite prevailing?
Nowadays the atmosphere is so charged with the commotion of all kinds of counterfeit that the Lord seems to be calling the church to come to a higher ground.’
Today’s situation is perilous.
May we ‘prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5:.21)
Amen”

Watchman Nee
March 8, 1933
(forward from The Latent Power of the Soul)

won’t let nobody hurt you….

“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me.
Of course we will hurt each other.
But this is the very condition of existence.
To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter.
To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


(two plovers wandering for a meal / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Songs always seem to just pop into our heads do they not?
Current songs, past songs, songs from childhood…
Songs for singing, humming, shouting…
As it seems that songs, as well as music in general,
is a very real emotional part of what makes us…us.

Walk into any grocery store and there is music being piped in throughout the store.
Elevators, restaurants, stores all serenade us with background music and song.
As there is some really powerful psychological magic taking place with those
songs and music choices…what they say about us as consumers and what they say
about us simply as people..is perhaps that they showcase how we are actually wired.

So for whatever reason, the Pretenders song, “I’ll Stand By You” popped
into my head as I was just getting my first cup of morning coffee.
I was having to travel over to Atlanta to met with the nice gal at the cemetery
as it seems that in my overwhelming and chaotic time since Dad’s death—
I forgot one little detail.

I forgot to pick out, and of course pay for, a grave marker.
Or actually I thought I had just told her that I’d take something matching
the other family members already there waiting on dad….
but it seems it does’t work that way.

So there I was grabbing a quick cup of coffee before jumping in the shower,
I was focused on Atlanta…
why suddenly the song?
I was dreading the mind numbing morning commute to a city paralyzed by a closed interstate
when this song just suddenly rings out in my head.
“I’ll stand by you…won’t let no body hurt you…I’ll stand by you”

Sometimes, for whatever reason, it is very clear that God directs what I’m to
write about for a post.
He can be very specific that way.
And no, I don’t buy into the notion of coincidence or happenstance.
I believe things are connected and there are reasons beyond my understanding
and I believe in the nudging of the Holy Spirit…

So back to the song.

The sentiment is wonderful and heartfelt.
Something we as parents, grandparents, guardians, friends all adopt
for the people and animals we care about and love.
We want to love, honor, protect and defend those in our care and those whom we cherish.

Any parent will tell you that they try their darnedest to protect and defend
their children….sometimes that means going way over the top…
But any parent who has been around the block once or twice will tell you—
accidents will happen, sickness will happen, bad things will happen
and no matter how much you, as defender, may protest…hurt will happen.

We cannot protect those we love from being hurt in life, no matter how hard we try.

Skinned knees, broken bones, broken hearts…all rites of passage.

The worst being the unforeseeable accidents, illnesses, tragedies that just happen.
The automobile accident, the freak accident, the cancer, the random act of violence.
They all sadly happen.

Does it mean we failed to do our jobs?
…that we could have somehow done something superhuman in order to prevent
the unthinkable?

99.9% of that answer is a resounding NO!
Nothing could have prevented the unavoidable hurt.

And so now, in that unpreventable hurt, we in turn now hurt.
As some of us will never get over that hurt.

Which in turn leads me to think about God—as Father.

That we have a God, who we are taught, loves us as His children.
And yet there has been many a soul who has raised a clinched angry fist heavenward
cursing and blaming this “loving Father” for the hurt…

Our hurt is indeed His hurt.

And to assuage our hurt, He offered the ultimate hurt…

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;
and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin,
but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28

“I’ll Stand By You”

Oh, why you look so sad?
Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now
Don’t be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through
’cause I’ve seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you
You don’t know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you

So if you’re mad, get mad
Don’t hold it all inside
Come on and talk to me now
Hey, what you got to hide?
I get angry too
Well I’m a lot like you
When you’re standing at the crossroads
And don’t know which path to choose
Let me come along
’cause even if you’re wrong

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you

And when…
When the night falls on you, baby
You’re feeling all alone
You won’t be on your own

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you

I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you

Before they were Pop and Nany or Daddy and Mama….

. . .they were Paul and Anne. . .

DSCN2608

During each of my weekly pilgrimages to and from Dad’s, it is a guarantee that I’ll be leaving Dad’s with more than what I brought. Be it some sort of item from either my childhood or his, it is all slowly tricking out of that house. Gloria seems most determined to empty that house of not merely things that were my mother’s or grandmothers, but of most things in general. It seems she is truly of the mindset less is more. . .much to Dad’s chagrin.

Last week it was the dinning room chandelier (nothing large or garish, but it was Mother’s) and two side chairs. The week before that it was 4 dinning room chairs and a clock. Before that it was a side table and a corner cabinet. I have thought that perhaps I need to open some sort of antique store as I cannot continue bringing home so much “stuff”. . .I cannot house the things that are essentially coming from 3 separate households!

This week was no different.
“You’re taking the hall painting this week right.” Gloria tells rather than asks.
“I thought that you were putting it back up after they finished painting the hall?” I ask more than state.
It’s a beautiful large early 19th century English landscape painting that was my grandmothers. It is something I’ve always loved but it has hung in our house for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t believe Dad was letting her “dispose” of it so easily as he’s always loved the paintings that Nany had procured over her long life.

It wasn’t the tables or chairs however that caught my eye this week, but rather a box of very old photographs and mementos. I’m a sucker for old pictures as they tell so many stories— long time forgotten. They are the physical and tangible evidence of the lives once lived by individuals who have long since departed this life–of those who have gone before us. They hold the key to so many mysteries and secrets and yet often create more mysteries than those that they solve. They are also visual links to our past—my past.

Once home I eagerly sat down to open the box–not knowing what wonderful treasures I’d find. It was an old box that was a precursor to a Harry and David’s holiday fruit box. Obviously it was a box of pears Nany and Pop had received years before I was even born as the post mark read 1955. Inside the box, inside this cardboard time capsule of my world before I ever was, was a treasure trove of very old photos, cards, announcements, report cards and newspaper clippings.

I don’t know why but every time I find something such as this, a box full of someone else’s lifetime, I find myself growing a bit forlorn, enveloped in a blanket of bitter sweet sadness. More questions arise and there is simply no one around any longer who can answer the growing queries. Who was this handsome young man? Whose children were these? Where is this house–does it still exist? Who’s that in the uniform and of which war was he sent? Endless questions which are now my present frustration.

Then suddenly, buried under the yellowing envelopes and fading memories, I spy a small, over exposed, little black and white image of a young couple in what appears to be a small canopied boat of sorts as the hint lies with the young man’s right hand resting on a throttle.

“What is this?” I hear myself inwardly whispering. “Nooo” I softly breathe as in disbelief. “Is this really them?” The year is around 1921, the year they married. I can see the ring on his hand so I know it is 1921 or a year or so later–no children yet, so it is before 1923—perhaps it’s from the honeymoon. They are but 25, the same age my son is today. . .a surreal image I grapple to digest.

On first glance I see a young couple, very much together. Then I begin to “study” the image. . . It must warm weather, most likely hot and muggy as the image is taken somewhere here in the deep south. He’s wearing what appears to be white pants and an unbuttoned loosely fitting white shirt as his sleeves are rolled up. He seems a bit shy and boyish but yet comfortable and in control in the “captain’s seat.”

She is shadowed, peering from behind, almost concealed in the background, something which will most certainly not be her style later in life. She looks cute and casual, almost tomboyish in the hat which covers her head. She’s wearing knickers with striped knee socks. Her round face always distinctive, which is how I quickly recognize her, yet I can’t make out the unmistakable clef of her chin–both telltale distinctive facial images–and yet there are no glasses– something they both were never without in later years.

She is holding, almost embracing him and resting her face gently against his shoulder. He is open armed as if he could or would simply turn to embrace her. She did not have a father growing up as he was killed in a distant war when she was only four—was this now the masculine figure she had longed for to fill a void in her heart that she never realized she had need of until now?

Never before have I seen, in photographs or in my memory, any sort of demonstrative display of tender affection such as this nor had I witnessed such in the time I had known them–nothing as tender as what is visible in this brief snapshot of time. I am deeply touched as I feel the warm tears filling my eyes as being privy to this seemingly intimate moment is very moving.

He died well before he should have. It was 1967 and he was but 66. She lived much longer, and sadly without him, dying in 1983 at the age of 87. I was 7 when my grandfather died so I did not know them as a couple for as long as I knew her as my grandmother alone. She had a terrible time the year following his death. We wondered if she would survive.

Ours was never a demonstrative family. We did not hug, we did not say “I love you” —that was all shown differently. Why was that I now found myself wondering as I stared at this picture. This pictures speaks differently. When did things change?

I never knew her to own a pair of pants as she was always in a dress and always impeccable. But in this picture there is a casualness that she never showed during the time I knew her–when we were kids, we were not allowed to wear bluejeans when visiting her. Prim and proper was the only way to describe her–a bastion of southern genteel society. But in this picture I see a young woman most comfortable and easy going–happy and content. Hummm. . .

In this photograph lives a time long before the long life which would lay ahead for each of them and of how it would eventually play out. This is a moment of “before.” A moment in time when they had no idea of what lay ahead–of where or of how life would take them. Nor that 92 years from the day their picture was taken that a granddaughter would come to meet them.

The photograph is tenderly sweet–they are such a young couple obviously very much in love. As this is the moment of “before” they have no way of knowing what it is I know today—I know how the whole story turned out and yet the couple in this picture has no idea. It is all so amazing–life and of its stories–the now and the thens. A single moment frozen in time, before a life time of a legacy was to take hold.

There would be two sons, two daughter-n-laws’ she outliving one of the daughter-n-laws; 6 grandchildren, two who tragically did not survive past thirty and again, she outlived; 8 great grandchildren and now 6 great great grandchildren. And so it goes. .

It totally blows my mind as I gaze at this couple who lovingly and mysteriously gaze back at me, their granddaughter. I am happy that I did know them together, albeit it briefly—I wish it had been longer, much longer–as there are now so many questions.

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving. I must give thanks for so much more than the obvious things–those tangible blessings. I want to offer thanks to Paul and Anne, who loved one another. Who had two sons, both of whom they loved as well. Who would claim me as their grandchild even though I was adopted. They claimed me as theirs, always. They did for me as much as they did for the biological grand children. I was theirs and they were mine. . .and for that, I will always be thankful.

The link this image has to my life today is as mysterious as it is joyful. I must take nothing for granted for it all is a gift, no matter how small and distant.
I leave you with the moving words and thoughts of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. . .

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

― Thomas Merton