the oddity of the necessity

God wills that I be an active secondary instrument in moving myself toward him.
God is always the primary mover, but he so ordains that we be active,
secondary instruments with him in moving oneself towards grace.
And so the necessity of the spiritual life.

FR. Wade Menezes


(the yard pond with crazy duck / Julie Cook / 2018)

So just around the corner from where I grew up, in a then 1950’s newly sprawling
northern Atlanta suburb…a place where the houses were all built by a single builder
and were all made as look-a-like cookie-cutter houses, there did remain one small
glimpse into of what was here long before urban mania hit the scene…
a peaceful meandering creek and a small hidden pond just behind this boomtown of houses.

It was a small remnant of what once was here in what was once considered “the country”
long before the boom of post-war urban sprawl had taken over.

Growing up, the extent of the “wildlife” that we got to see up close and personal consisted
of the random tadpole and crawfish that lived in the creek,
along with the occasional box turtle that I so desperately wanted to catch and put in a
shoe box while feeding it lettuce all in hopes of carrying it to show and tell…
and of course, there was an endless abundance of helter sketler gray squirrels.

In the past 4 months, having spent more time at my childhood home then I have in the
past 35 years since last calling this house home, I have been floored by the amount of
“wildlife” I’ve actually been privy seeing up close and personal.

Now this area where I grew up is a quickly shrinking quiet tiny blip of peacefulness
in the heart of a booming city.
All childhood landmarks have been long since been torn town making way for the
skyrocketing skyscrapers that have created a new type of tree to this
overgrowing modern-day forest.

Plus many of the cookie cutter homes have been bulldozed away making room for the
desired up and comers choice of mini McMansions….all of which actually are simply
giving way to a new cookie-cutter look of the haves and have-nots of money…
or more accurately that of all things debt, just depending on how one looks at it.

There is a deafening din of planes and helicopters all making their way across the sky
which only blends in with the shrieking sirens echoing off the main arteries
and thoroughfares.

And yet this small shrinking peaceful oasis of a neighborhood is nearly lost in a now
ever-expanding city that has an oddly amazing array of “wilderness”.

I have seen more “wildlife” in this city in the past four months than I have here at my
current more rural, out in the country home, in the past 20 years.

One early morning back in February, I watched a group of 5 deer meandering up the street.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched one of the largest snapping turtles, that
I’ve seen in quite a while, making a slow and laborious trek up a driveway.

Last week, while taking my son’s dog out to walk in the yard, she and I both spied a
red fox trotting in a neighbors yard…

And now there is this odd group of crazy looking ducks acting equally as crazy.

There is a corner lot on a neighboring street that has a low spot in the yard that
when it rains, fills with water…water that is slow to be absorbed or evaporate…
especially given with the amount of rain Atlanta has been receiving.

So to drive by, in the big city, watching a group of “city” ducks think that this
small spot of water in a yard is some type of pond is…in a word, hysterical.

These ducks make their way up and down the neighboring streets, waddling along the
busy main thoroughfare, digging along the curb turning up the collected leaves and debris,
in search of bugs.

Neighbors have taken to putting up “Duck Crossing” or “Caution, ducks at play” signs
all along the roadways.

And now I’ve actually witnessed these ducks taking to the “yard pond”—
tails up in the air as they dig with breaks down, in the shallows, looking for,
not the typical fish as they would in a real pond,
but rather it is a literally swallow quest for what I’d imagine being worms and grubs.

It’s almost pitiful watching a duck, beak down tail up, in a collected puddle of
rain water in a yard. The scene screams of lunacy, desperation or both.

Much like what it is we are currently witnessing around this country of ours.
Witnessing lunacy accented by a splash of desperation as the noose tightens around
the necks of those in opposition of the others…
others who cry for more and more diversity while at the same time they
cry out for zero tolerance toward anyone who is found to be in disagreement with
their often perverse take on life.

From the recent story of a restaurant kicking out a patron over the fact that the
owner and staff all happen not to like this particular patron’s boss to now a member
of the US House of Representatives crying for more of the same…as in threatening
the lives and safety of those who dare to think and or vote in what is perceived as
opposition…as in no longer a two party system…
but rather the system of one and one only…
as the shadows of both lunacy and desperation creep in from the past.

There is a madness now taking place in this country as those who are considered
conservative, or a supporter of the president or simply a Republican…
folks that are now each viewed as one who is to be publicly shunned, shamed,
removed, not served, harassed and now… whose very lives are to be threatened.

There is a sinisterness afoot in all of this that is so utterly un-American that it is
frightening.

We the people have always possessed the right to disagree with one another…
since way back in 1776…

And yet we are oddly and sadly finding ourselves living in an Orwellian trend…
a time of calling for a type of “open season” as the cry is sounding
“they’re all fair game” rings across this land which was once yours and mine…
meaning that half of this Nation of ours is fair game to be harangued, abused
as well as publicly lambasted for simply taking the other political path…
a time that is in a word, ludicrous.

Are those who beat their chests as drums for all things uber tolerance and
diversity actually so intolerable and divisive that they dare deem all other
belief systems to be a pariah but that of their own?

We the people know better than this.

Yet in the grand scheme of all that is…Father Menezes reminds us in our
day’s quote of that which is our true aim.

The necessity of a spiritual life as we actively work at seeking His Grace…

A grace that does not harass, harangue, threaten, abuse, hate, demean, ostracize…
but rather sees the necessity in seeking that which is beyond self, beyond man’s
small mindedness.
Putting away all malice, anger, and hate…setting oneself on the Spiritual path
of Truth and not the earthly lies of he who walks in the shadows pitting
mankind against itself…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”

Second Timothy 2:15-16

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…

disrespect found in a den of iniquity

Discourtesy does not spring merely from one bad quality,
but from several–from foolish vanity, from ignorance of what is due to others,
from indolence, from stupidity, from distraction of thought,
from contempt of others, from jealousy.

Jean De La Bruyere

jeopcollege2017group_990x557
(the 2017 Jeopardy college championship, with our little friend from Stanford on the far right)

Disrespect….

I’m pretty certain that I’ve rambled on about this little topic before…
and here I am finding myself, once again, addressing the whole
notion of respect vs disrespect, morality vs immorality…
as I caught a little story in the news this morning that has left me troubled…

And it seems as if the story centers on, of all things, the college
championship competition on Jeopardy…
as if sadly, nothing is currently off limits…
particularly when it comes to this notion of respect…
even the benign bastion of all things related to trivia being apparently fair game…

Disrespect, which actually walks hand in hand with it’s first cousin immorality,
as in each are the mirror effect of respect and morality,
are two negative human traits that if left unchecked, unaddressed….
two actions that left either ignored or simply tolerated,
are two of the key undoings of any society.

For disrespect, and its cousin immorality, lead directly to the erosion of civility.
The erosion of civility, in turn, is the undermining of any civilization…
all of which leads directly to anarchy.

Throughout much of the history of humankind, it has been the youthful ones
who have had the most trouble with these two notions…
that of both respect and morality.

There is a time in all growing up when these two choices, or perhaps more aptly put,
decisions in behavior, come powerfully and dangerously into, well, jeopardy.
Be it testing the waters with a devil may care lifestyle,
the growing pains found in a struggle for independence or simply part and parcel
of growing up… that time period between late adolescence and early adulthood
is a murky pool swarming with defiance, emotional roller coasters and lots of
poor choices…

In times past, society had done well to nurture its angst filled youth through these
troubling waters…
today however, we are witnessing a dangerous anomaly taking place on
college campuses all across the country….
An enabling of the molly coddling coupled by a dangerous ideology of a liberal manifesto
found not in what was once considered to be the bulwarks of higher education but rather
now found in places that are considered nothing more then dens of iniquity.

Society now not only tolerates the anger filled intolerance of the self-centered youth,
it is embracing it and them with a heinous zeal while affording these young people the
luxury of living a Peter Pan type of lifestyle…as in never having to grow up and
accepting responsibility for the poor choices of their negative actions.

On this particular Jeopardy episode, three kids from various colleges were competing
for the college championship.
During the brief meet and greet portion of the show, Alex asked each student
a question allowing them a brief time of explanation.

One nice looking young man from Stanford was asked a question about his major.
While answering Alex’s question, this young man was, it appeared, to be not only
talking with his hands as he responded to the question,
but one hand was actually raised while he was coyly shooting a bird for the cameras.
For roughly 10 seconds, this kid talked while shooting a bird on national television.

I actually saw this particular episode and never noticed.
But why would I….
why would I think a competitor would want to act like a fool on a national platform?
Alex apparently didn’t notice either.
But Twitter noticed.

Someone tweeted out about the incident with the student quickly responding,
“damn right I did”

Really??

Now why pray tell would some kid, who is sporting the sweatshirt of his college,
proud to be representing his college in a national televised competition want to
show his butt by shooting a bird while casually explaining his college major
to the host of the show?

Rude comes to mind.
As well as selfish.
Selfcentered.
Arrogant…
Disrespectful…

I was angry.
Mad at this blatant act of total disrespect to not only Alex the host, but to
the crew, this student’s fellow competitors, his parents, the audience..
both in the studio and those of us at home.

So now, as a society, do we decide to tolerate this cheeky kid’s behavior?
Do we choose to ignore his disrespectful behavior?
Do we opt to laugh it off as merely brash?
Do we simply chalk it up to youthful ignorance?
Do we shrug it off as just a kid being kid…?

Or do we say enough.

Do we say grow up kid.
Man up, as it were.
Step up to the what it means to be and act like an adult.
Do we respond with a “you think you’re so smart, then act it?”

Maybe his winnings should be forfeited for his disrespectful behavior…
Maybe Stanford should be reminded about the type of “ambassadors”
they’re sending out as representatives of their fine institution of all
things educational.
Maybe it would behoove all of us to recall that actions, all actions,
have consequences…
instead we’ve chosen to turn a collective blind eye to
poor behavior….

Having a lack of respect leads not merely to the obvious opposite of disrespect…
but rather it leads to contempt…
contempt of both one’s self as well as others…
eventually leading us all down the chaotic path to the loss of soul
found only in anarchy.

http://nypost.com/2017/02/24/jeopardy-contestant-gives-trebek-the-finger/

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’
You blind fools!

You snakes!
You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:13-17,33)

bats in the belfry

“The devil gets up to the belfry by the vicar’s skirts”
Thomas Fuller

“If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it
in order to make ourselves happy”

Blaise Pascal

8065436450_80c05623a1
(a surreal image borrowed from the web)

Let’s deviate today to a little humor shall we…
obviously from this tale, it has been needed…

Growing up I attended the Cathedral of St Philip…
the Episcopal Cathedral in Atlanta.
“St Phil on the hill,” as it has always been lovingly called by both member and local Atlantan alike,
has sat perched atop this particualr hill in Atlanta, acting as a sentinel and beckoning lighthouse looking out majestically over Peachtree road toward downtown Atlanta, since 1960…
The current very English, very Anglican gothic church replaced a small gray stone church that had moved to the present location in 1933 with the original St Philip having been erected in downtown Atlanta in 1848.

At the time, to my youthful mind, this church of mine, with that towering bell tower,
sans any bells, had to be full of bats, right?

When I was in high school and active in the youth group there at the Cathedral, a group of us decided to dub ourselves The Bats in the Belfry, or BITB for short.
Our hijinks and innocent shenanigans were well known to the reigning clergy at the time as we would often decorate the parking lot and various rooms, offices and the parsonage late at night..
or we’d leave little notes, balloons, confetti in and around the church grounds proclaiming our nighttime presence at church.
Given what we could have been doing during those disco psychedelic days of the early 70’s, I think the clergy was more than grateful that we wanted to “hang out” on church property….

ls
(The Cathedral of St Philip / Atlanta, Georgia)

It became a personal quest of ours to figure out how to climb up to the bell tower,
up to the very tip top…as bats always needed their bell towers…

To finally put to rest our / my persistent clambering about the bellower, bats and why were there no bells in a church bell tower, one of the priests, with permission of his superior, my godfather the then acting dean of the Cathedral, took us on a late afternoon climb. A feat most likely impossible today given insurance regulations and safety codes…
but this was in the good ol days of ignorance….

We had to climb up a back set of stairs leading to the back upper choir loft…next through a hidden door in the paneled wall leading to the organ pipes for the small adjacent chapel.
Then it was through another hidden door in the rich wooden panelling into a tall narrow opening complete with metal ladder welded to the long shaft.
Upon climbing the ladder we reached another metal door attached to the stone wall that our priest and guide had to unlock with a key

Finally clamoring out of the shaft we found ourselves standing in the vastly
expansive and very empty bell tower itself.
But our journey was not yet over.
Along one wall of the bell tower was another long ascending metal ladder.
Briefly forgetting my fear of heights, one by one, we began climbing upward.
At the top of the ladder, high above the floor of the empty bell tower,
we reached once again another metal door.
As our priest and guide unlocked this final door,
our motley crew emerged out into the balmy Atlanta night sky.

We had finally reached our destination.
The very tip top of the Cathedral’s towering bell tower—
as we were rewarded with a beautiful vista of a 1970’s something glistening skyline of Atlanta…

Now let us fast forward 40 years or so to last night in my den.

You remember that story from a week or so ago about the bat right?

The bat that decided to make my back deck his daytime bedroom?
The post retelling how I had to wait for the bat fly out in search of a nighttime meal..
all the while as I sprayed said bedroom with hornet spray…
just so he’d decide not to come back….

Well it worked.
He didn’t come back.

So back to last night…
Here it was, about 10:30 PM last night…
My husband was dozing sweetly in his recliner,
as I was perched on the couch watching football…
One cat nestled placidly on my lap as the other lounged on the back of the couch.

I was in mid debate as to whether or not I should head to the shower and then off to bed…
as it had been a very long day with Dad and the CT scans and our son’s apartment….
when suddenly Percy,
my oh so faithful watch cat,
swivels around in my lap, cocking his head upward at a 90 degree angle.

Thinking he’s spotted an errant wasp that often escapes from the fireplace having come down the chimney,
I cast my gaze upward.

Our’s is a den with a cathedral ceiling…with a brick fireplace and chimney that reaches the
full height of the room.
Way up on the top where brick meets moulding sat a brown object…
hunkered up tightly between brick and moulding

Immediately I hear a familiar voice screaming
“GREGORY THERE IS A BAT!!!!!!!!!!!”
as in it was my voice…

My husband who has now been jolted from his peaceful snore-laddened slumber,
thinks there’s been a home invasion or the start of WWIII…
He jumps up looking for intruder or war…

“IT’S A BAT!!!!!!”

What???

Are you sure???

“HELL YES I”M SURE!!!!!!”

This as I’m scooping up two wide eyed cats and throwing them in the bedroom slaming shut the door,
keeping them locked away from what I’m assuming is rabies with wings gracing my den….

DO SOMETHING!!!!!!

I hear myself scream as my husband just stands there mumbling something about
“how in the world did that get in here?”

Whereas I am not concerned with the hows of the moment,
I am however more concerned with rabies and parasites and bacteria, and poop,
and sharp little teeth flying down on my head.

I flip on every light in the house—they hate light right?

I’M GETTING THE HORNET SPRAY”
I hear myself shout.

No you’re not!
You’re not spraying a can of poison all in the house.

“BUT IT SHOOTS 20ft”
I again hear myself scream.

GUN!!!! GET A GUN!!!!!!
again with the out of body screaming.

“Gun?”

“Shoot it in the house?”
I hear my incredulous husband ask.

“HELL YES”
I continue hearing panic controlling the situation as I think we are all
about to have to endure $50,000 rounds of rabies shots that insurance will not cover.

My husband goes to the basement to find my grandfather’s century old 22 rifle
while I grab two crab nets…
You know the nets used to grab crabs…

DSCN5889
(yours truly a couple of summers ago at the beach examining my crab net)

I also grab the BB gun…just incase.
I did teach riflery at a girl’s summer camp 100 years ago….

My husband climbs the stairs to our second floor where he positions himself,
with trusty century old gun, up against the opening to the den below
in order to steady his shot.
He is now just slightly below said bat…yet at a slight distance.

This is were the PETA folks must turn away—
if there had been any other alternative,
I would have sought it as I don’t like hurting any living creature—
but the thought of bats and rabies in my house with both my husband, me and our cats…
left no other recourse….

BAM

mortar shards shoot outward as a brown lump drops like a brick to the floor below.

THUD

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
I hear coming from somewhere out of my mouth….

My husband yells for me to throw the net over it.

I survey the victim and it appears to be sufficiently deceased.

My husband scoops it up using my two nets asking where I want it.

Are you freaking kidding me????

OUTSIDE!!!!!

Take it outside to the other side of the driveway in the grass at the pasture.
I can carry it off to the woods tomorrow or maybe a coyote will find it tonight.

What about your nets? my husband asks.

I’ll spray them with Clorox and leave them out ’till morning.

So…..

Early this morning, as my husband was about to leave for work, we walk over to where
the body of the victim was to be found…
yet, we find nothing.

My nets were still sitting in the driveway but there was no body, there is no bat.

“I bet he flew away” I hear my husband grouse.
“No, no” I counter, that thing was dead as a hammer.

As my husband goes to get in his truck, I amble over to the side of the driveway
to take a gander over at my lone potted tomato bush when something wiggling
by the side of the house in the pine straw catches my eye.

“GREGORY ITS THE BAT!!!!!!!!”
I hear myself scream.

Bless its heart, that bat scampered 50 feet from one side of the yard all the way back to the house….
and was now baring its fangs at me.

“GET THE NETS!!!!!”

I hear myself scream.

“Knock it in the head” I hear my husband holler.

Knock it in the head????
Are you freaking kidding me?
It’s not a bug!!
I’m not about to club anything in the head.
That would be cold blooded murder….
Oh…
Wait,
I think we already tried that murder thing.

I scoop up the bat gingerly into the two nets as my husband readies a box.
My head is turned as not to see this unsightly sight.
I throw bat and both nets into the box and slam the top shut.

“What about your nets?” my husband asks.
“I don’t want them…”
“Now will you please take this box, bat and nets to the dump” I hear myself calmly demand.

This as I now wonder how I ever had such a fascination for bats….
as find myself somewhat relieved for this latest slight diversion to my otherwise crazy life….

hanging on by a thread

Oh, I am not redeemed by corruptible things
Not by silver, not by gold and not by aimless tradition
But by the blood of Gods sacred son Jesus
Oh, You alone are my living hope and my inheritance is incorruptible

Watermark, Incorruptible lyrics

God has ordained that Satan have a long leash with God holding on to the leash
because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations,
struggling with both the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring,
more of God’s glory will shine.

John Piper

DSCN3232
(Georgia box turtle ambling across the driveway that has nothing to do with today’s post, I just like him / Julie Cook / 2016)

I am tired.
spent,
worn out,
frazzled
and frayed.

I don’t think I’ve even realized how stressed I’ve been until just recently.

It really started to ramp up with Dad and my stepmother over a year ago…
Their failing bodies, minds and health…
Caregivers coming and going, nurses leaving,
frantic calls, frantic racing to the rescue….

We added my father-n-law to the mix..
Then came his sudden death.
And now a wealth of woe comes with attempting to settle his affairs…
A legal nightmare really.

There’s been the worries parents still have over their grown children…

There’s the business and the agony of retail…

There’s all of that and even so much more….

It’s as if an all out assault has been coming in on all sides…
a blitzkrieg of attacks.

Nerves raw, emotions reeling…as one works to hold it all together…

Take care of yourself they say—
Well, that’s all fine and good but the main person charged with all the caring can’t
just runaway…
however there are days that such a thought is more than just a little appealing…

I think I’ve lamented the fact before…
I spend more time these day’s in a five mile radius of where I grew up
than I do here at home in my own community.
I’ll also be the first person to tell you—DON’T move to Atlanta…
or any other major metropolitan city for that matter—they are just too blasted big…
chalked full of people and their cars that they cannot drive.

There was a time when I loved Atlanta.
I missed it when I was away at college.
I missed it when I was away working during the summers at camp.
I mourned it when I graduated college and moved away taking my first job.
After I married, I finally said good-bye to that hidden thought of one day returning…
to live….

Silly me.

I now neither miss it nor mourn it.
In fact, I now loath it.
As it is no longer the city I knew growing up.
Sadly I believe they call that growth and progress…
I call it a mess.

Dad still lives in the same house they bought when I was 3, way back in 1962.
The area around it however, the neighborhoods and that small community feel, is shrinking.
It’s as if the walls are closing in, but rather than walls, it is entire neighborhoods.

Entire homes are now either demolished and rebuilt into those so called “mcmansions” or they have been entirely obliterated, making room for mega office towers or shopping complexes, along with the resulting urban sprawl.

At the top of the main street, a main artery that Dad’s little street runs into, there once was a condominium complex. It had been there since I was in high school–a good 45 years ago.
Many of the unmarried teachers who worked at my high school actually called it home.
Not that the complex was pretty or particularly nice–but it was low rising, only two stories and the site was lush and wooded, offering a secluded feel in the midst of the city.

Over the years the clientele has changed, as has the whole area.
And once again progress steps in.
A couple of months back, the entire complex was totally demolished as the massive corner of rolling acres was clear cut, graded and leveled.
A new live, work, shopping community is going up.
All this about a mile up the road from Dads.

As I was heading back home this afternoon from Dads, I noted the hive of construction now taking place.
There was a gigantic crane lifting sheets of concrete high up into the air so effortlessly that the massive concrete slab being fit into the massive parking deck like a puzzle piece, appeared suspended like a mere piece of paper swaying gently in the breeze.

Here was a multi ton slab hanging in the air by a single thin cable…dangling from a huge crane.
The construction workers below, donning their hard hats, watched as the crane operator easily maneuvered both crane and slab, angling the concrete sections into place on the ever growing massive parking deck.
Piece of engineering cake.

Yet I knew that with one snap of that cable, all those men below would be crushed out of site.

“Such faith” I heard myself muttering to no one in particular.

It was amazing really.

Those men had such a trusting faith in that crane operator and more importantly in that single thin cable…

A cable of faith…

Much like the same sort of cable that holds me…
As I am suspended between this life and an omnipotent God.
A cable that links me to an unconditional Love.
A faith that holds all that I am, extended from all that He is.

It is knowing that He is holding on, not letting go and that I am tethered…
Attached to something so much bigger and so much greater…
That cable of faith, linking both created and Creator, is my unbroken connection
to the one true Hope
It is knowing that nothing on this earth escapes Him…
His knowledge, His vision, His Love..
That I am His and He is mine…

And just like the construction workers working beneath the crushing slabs of concrete, I too can go about my business with the weight of the world hanging over my head knowing that everything is going to be ok because He is totally in charge and will not allow me to be crushed….

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Luke 12:6-7

Ironies and anniversaries

“Don’t underestimate the value of irony—it is extremely valuable.”
Henry James

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(a lone gull on the shore of Henderson St Park, Florida / Julie Cook / 2015)

32 years ago yesterday I got married.
Blessedly, I’m still married. . .to the same fella—loving him more today than I knew how to love back then. . .funny how that works—but Praise God it does!!
Fine wine and hearts do indeed seem to get better with time—or in my case they have, thankfully.
And yes, I know, it was a “dad day” yesterday but sometimes going over to take Dad to the doctors trumps a circled date on a calendar.

Traffic was a nightmare, which in turn put me in panic mode thinking that I wouldn’t / couldn’t get to him in time and we’d miss the appointment for sure.
But as luck would have it, or as I like to think Divine Intervention, we made it at 10:15 on the dot. Never mind we waited about 40 minutes until we saw a doctor. . .he, we, by George, were on time!

The follow-up was good, staying the course with the meds. His weight is still way down but he is back on his chocolates so maybe things will improve. Frail, pale and craving anything chocolate–could be worse.

My stepmother was in bed on a self imposed day of being in the bed—there have been a good many of those as of late. . .so I got them both lunch and went back to my old bed room the office to sort through the latest stack of mail and bills.

Sitting at the desk, the desk that was actually his as a little boy, a desk I never particularly liked when I was little as it was made out of wormwood—a hot commodity in the antique world these days but I thought it terrible to have furniture in the house worms had eaten. . .of which now sits in the room where I “grew up,” a room I found as both refuge as well as grossly claustrophobic. . .

I was suddenly struck by the irony of the moment. . .

August 13, 1983 was a summer’s day with a brilliant blue sky. There were no clouds as the humidity was surprisingly low yet it was still hot as hell as it was August and it was Atlanta for Heaven’s sake, so there were no surprises there.

Early that morning, I was in my room gathering the last of my things in order to schlep them over to the church so I could finish getting dressed. The room had been pretty much stripped of every and any remaining vestige of my having spent the last 23 years in that room as everything had been dismantled and boxed, with a good bit being moved to the house that I would soon be calling my own—a good 75 mile drive away–at the time, 750 miles would have suited me.

I was getting married at noon, to a man I had not dated very long—much to my mother’s and godmother’s chagrin—each had their reasons but the chief number one bother was that neither of them knew this young man, not to mention that he was 10 years older than his bride to be. . .

I’ve written about all of that before so I won’t bother with retelling that story. . .rest assured however, it’s had a happy ending.

My family had been the epitome of dysfunctional and I was quite happy about the prospect of getting the heck out of Dodge, so to speak. All I ever wanted to do was to find “Mr Right,” get married, and have a family of my own—- getting my very own chance at making that whole marriage and family thing right as my family had been the poster child of everything a family probably shouldn’t be.

There was no remorse in walking out of the room, no sense of nostalgia that had me linger while wistfully thinking back over life.
I was ready to go.
To move on to the next chapter of my life.
No looking back longingly with that familiar tinge of melancholy. . .
It was onward and upward with no regrets. . .
I was happy and resolute—time to get this show on the road, as in literally!

And anyway, it wasn’t like I was still living at home. I had taken a teaching position in a small town about an hour away, so I had already tasted independence. . .
Yet. . .
there was a very deep need within me to shake the dust from my feet. . .free from that room and from that house.

So here I was, finding myself 32 years later to the day and time, back in that same room and in that same house.
This time I had my 26 year old son in tow to help me with getting dad to the doctor’s office.

The dysfunction is still there, it’s just that now it’s different.
My mom has been gone almost 30 years next month. That in itself is hard to grasp.
I’ve also written about that tale before. . .about having to go to the house that fateful evening—of how I had to spend the night back in my room, while I began helping Dad in the very long, decades long, chore of putting the pieces back together. . .

Dad has since remarried.
Sadly their lives are now currently topsy turvy. . .

And oddly there I was. . .right back in that same room I had tried to shake from my feet, sitting at a desk I once never liked, paying bills and attempting to manage the lives of those other than my own–

Thomas Wolfe once wrote that we can’t ever go back home. And to some degree he’s right.
We can’t go back to what was and who we were. . . for good or for bad. . .
Life and time changes all of that—
Yet the thing is– we can go back sort of. . .We can go back different than who we were before. . .
we can go back changed, older, wiser, better.
That’s the thing about time—it dims the mind, the pain, the memories—and that whole Life thing helps in procuring focus—focus on what really matters, what’s really important. . .
all of which is all sprinkled with a hearty dose of maturity. . .

However there is one pivotal factor which allows us to return back to where we often began, it is the most changing of factors–the one that provides both healing and forgiveness, courage and hope. . .
that being Grace. . .

The Grace I received from the Holy Spirit.
The Grace that has allowed me to go back, to the beginning, to the place that wasn’t always good or happy to a place that continues to have trouble, and do what I need to do—demonstrate that same Grace in like turn. . .

So as my thoughts turned toward time and even fine wine on the day of milestones. . .as in there’s just nothing like that fine bottle of wine. . .I thought of life, my life and how both need to be equally well aged. . .

Cheers to 32 years and going. . .

Growing up

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― J.D. Salinger

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.”
― L.M. Montgomery

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(Guinea Wasp among the flowers / Julie Cook / 2015)

When did you know that you were all grown up?
Really grown up. . .
As in no longer childlike but rather the designated, tag you’re it, authority of all things known and those things yet known. As in you are now the expert, the one everyone has decided to turn to for help, advice, strength, guidance, knowledge, direction, responsibility. . . the one who had now been taxed with the hard decisions, the tough choices, the yeses and the nos. . .??

For some of us it was perhaps a catastrophic event early on in life. A harsh reality thrust upon us far too early and much too soon.
For others it seemed to come at the cold uncaring hand of fate, the economics of our world, the poor choices of others.

Some of us mark the milestone in much the same way as certain ethnic tribal groups who have ceremonial rites of passage. The hoopla of a 21st birthday, the last hooray of a bachelor or bachelorette party before one’s impending nuptials. Some of us know the passing of the torch occurs the moment our first child is born. . .

I thought my moment came at age 25 when my mom died and I had to care for a father who was suddenly a lost child, readily foregoing adulthood while wrapped in his utter grief. I was pretty certain it hadn’t come at 23 when I married—as I was still so green and terribly wet behind the ears back then.

I think it also happened again when my son was born. I had to put my wants and needs aside as I was now responsible for the well-being of another. Resposiblilty should equate to growing up, should it not? There was just something about losing a parent and then becoming a parent. . .
Surely that was it, the time. . . the time of losing a parent and becoming a parent that signified life as a grown up.

At 55 I figured I was pretty grown up.
No doubt about it, grown.
I had retired had I not?
One has got to be pretty old to be able to retire right?
One would think.

My son got married last year.
I have a daughter-n-law.
My hair is turning rather silveresque.
My bones are a bit more brittle.
My eyesight is eluding me.
My mind may not be exactly as sharp as it once was.
My husband keeps reminding me I’m not as young as I once was.
I’m not keen upon hearing that.

Yet events of recent weeks have once again reminded me, that I’m still not totally grown up. . .
not by a long shot.

It slowly dawned on me, as I sat splayed legged on the floor of my old bedroom, of which now acts as Dad’s office, sorting through a myriad, or more like a mountain, of unpaid bills, forgotten tax information, past due this and that, a plethora of saved junk mail, folder upon folder of the years past all while spending countless hours on the phone sorting out the disaster he had slowly created when, on the fateful day we can’t seem to recall which was which, that he woke up and his mind decided it no longer wanted to be the grownup mind of a dad, my dad.

It may have come when I began writing countless checks, signing my name where his name should have been. When I called the numerous insurance companies seeking help. When the nurse came from the insurance company to evaluate his needs. When I called a care service. When I had to tell him NO or YES to his insistence that there be no care service, that he indeed needed “help”.

Maybe it was today when we sat filling out the healthcare questionnaire for the new doctor. The personal, oh so personal, questions I had to ask, had to listen to his answers. Questions you never imagined asking your dad or having to have him explain. Maybe it was when I had to explain to him about how he had to work the blood occult test kit as he politely told me, “no thank you, I don’t want to do that.”

As he now looks to me, or rather at me, for reassurance, for direction, for help, for rescuing, with questioning rummy eyes, which now look while pleading and searching for answers. . .answers I don’t readily have. The same eyes that were the ones I looked to when, as a little girl, I would call out each night for the various stuffed animals elected to guard and protect me throughout the night, as he’d throw them to me from across the room from their daily resting spot, thrown to my excited open arms in order for me to catch them, one at a time, as we performed our nightly ritual. . .

We all know parents aren’t exactly human. . .they’re a lot like the teachers I’ve spent a lifetime alongside–superhuman, not like mere mortals. They don’t have the same ills or issues as others. They are invincible and beyond the ordinary.
That’s their role is it not. . .?

Theirs is to provide, to guard, to protect, to lead, to guide, to always be there. . .

. . . as now the child reluctantly finds herself becoming the parent,
the lonely role of grown-up. . .

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6