tis the season…to be giving

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
Charles Dickens

Tis the season of gifts…
buying, wrapping, giving…
Yet most of us know that not all gifts are those which can be bought nor wrapped.

By now I suppose most of the country, if not the world, is well aware of the major
power outage that afflicted the Atlanta airport this past Sunday—
an outage that caused a global and near catastrophic ripple effect.

There were hundreds of flights canceled in and out of Atlanta,
the airport touted as the world’s busiest, while other flights simply
had to be rerouted making final destinations more than complicated.
This lone power outage caused severe inconveniences for worldwide holiday and simply
regular travelers.

There were passengers stuck in planes on tarmacs as airport officials scrambled
what to do—deplane folks and shuttle them to the dark airport or what.

Thousands of folks were stuck in that dark and rather scary airport while others
braved walking miles along streets in an unfamiliar area in search of food, shelter or
a rent-a-car…of which there was nary a room to be had at any inn and no
transportation to be found.

The News did pan their camera over to a very busy Waffle House.

The individual stories were and are endless as now hundreds of pieces of luggage are
seen to be sitting in the Atlanta Airport hoping to find their way either
home or to the necessary point of destination…
all much to the chagrin and angst of their owners.

The news reporters were all on scene that night, in the dark, interviewing those
most inconvenienced passangers…with each person, each family,
having an individual tale….yet most of those interviewed seemed to be taking it all
in stride….thank goodness the snow storm had been the previous week.

Some reported that they had witnessed folks trying to “break into” vending machines
and food kiosks within the dark airport as it seems many folks were hungry….
I won’t even speculate about bathrooms.

There were the tales of exit doors being sealed due to no power.
There was a sense of being trapped or simply lost while thousands wrestled with
whether to stay put in the dark and wait, or venture boldly out,
if they could even get out, with or without luggage in tow,
in order to find some sort of plan B.

This is not to mention the thousands across the globe now finding themselves stuck
in airports or cities as their flights were being canceled or rescheduled by the droves.

Schedules and plans were now disastrous around the planet—
all because of a single power outage at a single airport, in a single city,
in a single state, on a single night…..
amazing how there is such a far reaching effect in such a single event…..

There are a lot of different directions a post could be written when something
like this happens…
notions that ‘we don’t need terrorists when we simply have ourselves….’
or perhaps a post about ‘how the tough get going when an inconvenience strikes
while the weaker among us crumble’

or maybe there are just the tales about human resiliency and resolve….

Yet despite the endless possibilities to write about,
I wanted to focus on the simple notion of giving….
wanting to keep our senses within the season of just that…giving.

I’m certain that there were a myriad of tales about the generosity of others during
this “crisis”….from the kind and gracious hotel and motel staffs,
to airport employees offering comfort to the panicked, to the average local citizen who drove toward to airport to see who they could help…..

But one tale in particular caught my eye.

Rather late on this particular Sunday night got, I received a local Atlanta news update
on my phone, alerting everyone that locally founded and headquartered Chick-fil-A was coming to the rescue by trucking in thousands of sandwiches, fries and drinks to those thousands of stranded passengers.

You might not think that such an alert was a big deal until you understand
that there is not a single Chick-fil-A store open nationwide on Sundays.

For you see, the late Truitt Cahty, the founder of Chick-fil-A who first began this
chicken sandwich business in Hapeville, Ga, right near this very airport
way back in 1946, was a very religious man.

Mr Cathy was often asked about his success and he always attributed it to God’s grace.
His go to manual of operation, he would explain, was simple his Bible.

He took God at His word.

If God said to rest and worship, keeping the Sabbath holy, then by gosh that was what
Mr. Cathy was going to do.

I myself am a firm believer that if you honor God,
God will in turn honor and bless you.
Mr. Cahty’s business success is testament to that very fact.

Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of flack in recent months, in part because of the
heavy Christian influence it holds as being a key part of its daily operations.
It has been picketed and protested because it does not condone same sex marriage.

Never mind that they will gladly and happily serve anyone, anytime despite a customer’s
beliefs or sexual orientation, it’s just that as a whole, the organization simply
does not condone the lifestyle choice…and that’s ok but….since we have become a
society that will not allow anyone to hold a view counter
to the madness of culture, places that choose to honor God and keep His word are
often maligned, sued and scorned into submission—but not Chick-fil-A—
it will honor God as it will continue to serve everyone and anyone,
albeit 6 days a week.

So when I read the update that Chick-fil-A would be providing food on this late
Sunday night—
meaning that folks would have to scramble to open restraunts, get employees on site,
fire up fryers and grills in order to quickly transport hot meals out to thousands of hungry and unhappy folks, I for one found tears of gratitude in my eyes.

Truly, it tis the time to be giving…

For the full story—click the attached link….

http://start.att.net/news/read/category/news/article/delish-chickfila_broke_tradition_and_opened_on_sunday_for-rhearst

what’s really real anymore?

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it;
but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal
which have been instilled into them,
and each time they come in contact with the real,
they are bruised and wounded…”

W. Somerset Maugham

Between the books I’m reading, the barrage of breaking “news” stories,
our caustic and even catastrophic political world..add to that those issues that
scream for our attention yet go woefully ignored….
throw in a good dose of life, seasoned with “this time of year”…
and something or maybe everything is leaving me a bit unsettled..

By all outward appearances I am going through all the proper motions…
I am saying all the right things while doing all the necessary things.
Nothing would lead anyone to suspect that anything was awry.
And yet something unseen continues to pull at my sleeve as I unconsciously try
pulling back….such that the unconscious is almost becoming conscious.

Am I just becoming Ebenezer?
Perhaps more Grinch than Scrooge?
Or am I simply now jaded beyond repair?

After thinking about the two posts I wrote earlier this week—
the first being about meat and potatoes vs purposeful yet empty noise and distraction….
with the second tale being about of the continuing saga of the annihilation of
the oldest, as in the very first group of collective Christians, I have found myself wrestling with what it is that we think we’re passing off as Christmas.

Whoa.
Sacred cow now being looked at sideways…

I’ve allowed this thought to ruminate as I’ve chewed the cud over it.

Christmas is for children….that is a certain absolute..as in for sure.
And I have loved Christmas–both past and present as I anxiously await
sharing it with a new granddaughter next year…..
but…..

Christmas, for me and mine, has basically been a joyous time of melding
tradition and custom with Biblical teaching.

But something is starting to really trouble me….
There are…
Advent wreathes with the lighting of candles while there are “Advent” calendars
counting down the days until Christmas—with more and more equating simply to
good food, family and presents…..

There is…
Santa Claus Christmas
and there is….
Jesus Christmas.

Hummmm….

I have Jewish friends who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles,
a menorah in the kitchen as they take the kids to Santa for pictures
and wrap up gifts and goodies in red and green paper to nestle under the tree.

I know nonbelievers who have decorated Christmas trees, stockings on their mantles
and presents wrapped in red and green under the tree…as their children, along with
those Jewish children, leave out cookies and milk for Santa.

Christmas.

Expectation verses Expectancy
Lights verses Light.
Gifts verses Giving…

Has it all gone too far?
Have we allowed it to go too far?
Have we been sucked into a lie?

I think that which is tugging at my sleeve is the Holy Spirit Himself.
I am being reminded that what I’m seeing as Christmas has nothing to do with
Christ’s Mass….nothing to do with the expectant waiting of the birth of Salvation.

And so I wrestle—where do we as Believers now draw the line?

Do we do so silently…or…a bit more loudly?
Loudly as in no longer just riding merrily along in the sleigh with everyone else
jing jing jingling into the oblivion of Currier and Ives… or rather do we say
a collective “hold up”…

First and foremost Christmas is about one thing…and one thing only….
and that is the birth of Christ…
So don’t try to pass this societal thing you’ve created off as anything
other than secularism masquerading as the Christmas of Christ.
You want your Yuletide but you don’t want the Christians to have their
Christ’s Mass…
You want your goodies and your holidays but you don’t want to acknowledge the
Savior of all mankind…..

And so while wrestling with this gnawing notion rolling around in my thoughts
and heart, I caught the latest offering by the Wee Flea Pastor
David Robertson….talk about reading my mind…

It is the tale of fake news verses real news…..

Is Christmas Christian?
….But what about as a Christian festival?
It can be argued that Christmas becoming a secular/pagan festival is just
returning to its pagan roots.
It was the Church that took over the midwinter festival and turned it into a
celebration of the birth of Jesus
(who was not born on December the 25th – more likely to have been a day in April).
Was this a bad thing?
Some of our ancestors thought so –
and famously refused to celebrate Christmas.
Even in living memory there are those who can recall Christmas just being a
normal working day – with New Year being the main festival.
Most Free Churches still do not have a Christmas Day service
(unless it is on a Sunday) but we do have a New Years Day.

It’s not wrong to celebrate Christmas,
and its not wrong not to celebrate.
Let each be persuaded in their own minds.
What however is wrong is to turn the birth of Jesus Christ,
into an orgy of commercialism, greed and drunkenness.
The idea that people will get themselves into enormous debt to buy things
they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of the one who though he was rich,
yet became poor, for our sakes, is grotesque.

We are able to use our building to proclaim the good news of Jesus,
as opposed to the ‘fake news’ of the secular Christmas.
In that respect I love what the angels told the shepherds as they looked
after their flocks
“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news that will bring great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David,
a Saviour has been born to you.;
he is the Messiah, the Lord”
.
(Luke 2:10-11).

Great Joy for all the People – The Christmas Record

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

it’s that time of year again….

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, ‘It will be happier.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson


(Nany’s plant is blooming again….)

****It’s that time of year again…or so that’s what they keep telling us.
When you’re husband runs a local retail business, time and life ‘this
time of year’, is not your own….those of you who know me, know this….
And so my posting may be a bit more “lite” verses hefty and plentiful….
But I’ll do my best…..

This Christmas lily, which just so happens to be currently in bloom,
the one in the above photo, was my grandmother’s… Nany.
I’ve written about Nany’s lily before.

There is a tale of tenacity in this lily.

Nany died in 1986 and therefore I inherited the plant.
How and why I was the recipient, I don’t recall…
perhaps it was because mother had just died three months prior and poor ol dad
had no idea as to what he’d do with a plant…only to throw it out….
Having none of that, I “volunteered” to take the lily.

It was early on in our marriage and I was young…
more like stupid now that I look back on my younger self…
but I suppose we all were back then…..

I had left the plant out one night when there was a frost.
The plant died….
or so I thought.
Oh well.

Yet my husband brought the pot back inside the house, despite it being just now
a pot with a frozen brown mass of mess drooped within.

I pruned away all the dead parts and just kept the pot with it’s dirt.
Then a few weeks went by with little to no thought of the plant…that was until I walked past it one day and low and behold…a green shoot had begun to make it’s way upward…
the rest is history.

Nany probably had the plant 10 or more years before I inherited it—
making the plant…roughly somewhere between 40 to 50 years old….

Yet the plant had never bloomed.

I just thought it was a big green leafed plant that was until one year
right around Christmas.
Our son was little and we were still living in our first home,
the house before this house.
A shoot in between the midst of the large green floppy leaves magically appeared
bearing one cluster of three blooms.
It was like some kind of miracle to me.
Who knew this was a flowering plant?!

Probably everyone other than my dumb younger self.

Talk about fragrant.

So now every year since, this plant sends up a lone shoot,
during sometime each December…making it a Christmas Lily.
A small miracle taking place each year in my kitchen, where the plant now lives.

Except this year…..

This year, for the first time since I’ve had the plant, two shoots have emerged.
I don’t know if it’s some sort of sign or some sort of fluke—
I’d like to think Nany is looking down and is happy knowing she will have a great
great granddaughter in February.

I was named after both of my grandmothers…and my son and daughter-n-law are now
using my maiden name for our soon to be granddaughter’s middle name—-

Both Nany and Dad would be pleased…..

My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.
Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in the cause of truth, humility and justice;
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad.
Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.
Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
The city of Tyre will come with a gift,
people of wealth will seek your favor.
All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.
Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.
I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:1-14

the small gift of the holidays— or when a cousin comes to visit

“It’s an universal law–
intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.
An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience,
whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(the cousins on the couch resting after the big meal / Julie Cook / 2017)

With the arrival of this almost two month long “holiday” season–that time
prior to Thanksgiving, of which usually is now ushered in just following Halloween,
with the big lead up to feasting and fellowshipping—
all the way to just after New Years, with its big exhale and let down…
many of us will experience the comings and goings of family and friends
those who come home to roost or those who are simply passing through.

Perhaps it’s us who are the ones doing the visiting…
making those often precarious trips here, there and yon

Either way…all sorts of folks are coming and going.

College students return home.
Schools shut down for the holidays
Work schedules become erratic.
Vacations begin…
Things just become topsy turvy… for what was once just a couple of weeks
to something now which has morphed into almost a 2 month celebration.

As a kid, do you remember having family come visit for the holidays…
or maybe you were the one traveling with family to do the visiting?

Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, cousins…. folks you wouldn’t have seen but
maybe once or twice a year,
but folks who your parents would read you the riot act over….
Strongly reminding you as to what it means to being kind, patient, polite
and not to grouse when having to share your toys, your room, your time,
your space–or to, in turn, tolerate having to be the recipient of perhaps
the not so most hospitable relative.

Older great aunts who would pinch your cheeks, kissed your face with bright red lipstick
as their extra strong perfume lingered cloyingly in your nostrils….
Or of that very loud and very obnoxious uncle who just made for awkward conversation…
yet would always slip you a dollar when no one was watching.

You could see your dad biting his tongue, your mom “playing nice” and you’d figure
if they could handle it, you could handle the little cousin who constantly
followed you around the house while your older cousin hid your favorite stuffed animal while having to sit by that aunt who insisted on your trying her best pickled ham casserole.

Family…friends…visiting—it’s what the holidays bring.

And therein lies the hidden gift of the holidays…

I thought about all of this today when I finally sat down,
exhausted from the days of lead up cooking and the few hours of cleaning
for what amounts to about a 20 minute meal…
when looking at our son and daughter-n-law’s dog, Alice the grand-dog, who had jumped
up on one the end of the couch, making herself at home,
home on the end that one of our cats, Peaches, stakes out as her own.

Disgusted, she left the room.

Percy however was not to be displaced.
He loves his mother and doesn’t want to share her with his usurper cousin….
so he jumped up and settled in right by my side—

17 pounds of cat verses 85 pounds of black lab….both wanting, needing, to be
by the one they look to for food, comfort and security.
Yet not particularly caring for one another.

And so they tolerate one another…they share their space, albeit it precariously.
They “play nice” to coexist in close proximity because they are “family”—
like it or not.

Alice is here until Monday.
Percy is here for the duration.
Yet they will make the best of this not so favorable situation of time
because this time of year, these holidays just bring out the better, the kinder,
the more generous in us all.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting
to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great,
and you will be children of the Most High,
because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

comings and goings

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
Deuteronomy 28:6


(the road leading Tremont Great Smokey Mt Institute, The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

During this season of holiday travel may we all remain safe during the
journey to and from our various destinations….

“The love and affection of the angels be to you,

The love and affection of the saints be to you,

The love and affection of heaven be to you,

To guard and to cherish you.

May God shield you on every step,

May He aid you on every path,

And may He hold you safe on every slope,

On every hill and on every plain;

On earth and on sea until you are home again.”
Irish Blessing

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