do not lose courage

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.
Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections,
but instantly set about remedying them, every day begin the task anew.”

St. Francis de Sales


(a lovely red zinnia / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Let us not fancy that if we cry a great deal we have done all that
is needed—rather we must work hard and practice the virtues:
that is the essential—leaving tears to fall when God sends them,
without trying to force ourselves to shed them.
Then, if we do not take too much notice of them,
they will leave the parched soil of our souls well watered,
making it fertile in good fruit; for this is the water which
falls from Heaven.
I think it is best for us to place ourselves in the presence of God,
contemplate His mercy and grandeur and our own vileness and
leave Him to give us what He will, whether water or drought,
for He knows best what is good for us;
thus we enjoy peace and the devil will have less chance to deceive us.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.147
An Except From
Interior Castle

Built on such strong rocks, your castle can never go to ruin

“Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword;
wear humility rather than fine clothes.”

St. Dominic


(desolation in the countryside / Julie Cook / 2021)

“Do you know what it is to be truly spiritual?
It is for men to make themselves the slaves of God—branded with His mark,
which is the Cross. …
Unless you make up your minds to this,
never expect to make much progress,
for as I said humility is the foundation of the whole building and
unless you are truly humble,
Our Lord, for your own sake,
will never permit you to rear it very high lest it should fall to the ground.
Therefore, sisters, take care to lay a firm foundation by seeking
to be the least of all and the slave of others,
watching how you can please and help them,
for it will benefit you more than them.
Built on such strong rocks, your castle can never go to ruin.
I insist again: your foundation must not consist of prayer
and contemplation alone: unless you acquire the virtues and praise them,
you will always be dwarfs; and please God no worse may befall
you than making no progress, for you know that to stop is to
go back—if you love, you will never be content to come to a standstill.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.209-10
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

God will not abandon us

“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.”

St. Brendan


(St Teresa in Ecstasy, Gian Lorenzo Bernini/ Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome /
Julie Cook 2007)

“Do not suppose that after advancing the soul to such a state God abandons
it so easily that it is light work for the devil to regain it.
When His Majesty sees it leaving Him,
He feels the loss so keenly that He gives it in many a way a thousand
secret warnings which reveal to it the hidden danger.
In conclusion, let us strive to make constant progress:
we ought to feel great alarm if we do not find ourselves advancing,
for without doubt the evil one must be planning to injure us in some way;
it is impossible for a soul that has come to this state
not to go still farther, for love is never idle.
Therefore it is a very bad sign when one comes to a standstill in virtue.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p.99
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

spirit of compassion

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people,
and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(double headed yellow head Amazon parrot / Parrot Mt and Gardens/ Pigeon Forge, TN / Julie Cook/ 2020)

This picture of a double yellow-headed parrot reminded me of a time ages ago when I
was charged with caring for a similar bird…

Way back in the day, when I was probably in about the 8th or 9th grade,
my family had traveled up to north Georgia in order to visit my dad’s brother…
my aunt and uncle.

It was late fall in the north Georgia mountains, so it was cool and wet.

Out in my aunt and uncle’s garage was, of all things, a parrot.
A tropical bird in a place that was anything but tropical.
A yellow-headed parrot living life in a large cage in an enclosed garage.

It seems that my cousin, their only daughter, was now living life away as a freshman
in college, and had left behind her rather exotic pet.

Back in those days, regulations were obviously lax…
my cousin had brought the bird back home following her senior trip to the Bahamas.

My mother and I had both felt so badly for the bird that we asked my aunt if we could take
it home.
My aunt was ecstatic…as in please, YES!

So the parrot, Horatio, came to live with us in Atlanta.
This was at some point in the early ’70s.

Horatio was a smart bird.
He, she, it would call our dog by name…reaching out to grab the dog’s tail when
he’d walk past the cage.

We’d let the bird out of its cage in order to hang out with us in the den.
Horatio loved peanuts and would climb up on my mother’s arm, reaching for her
thumb while attempting to “crack open” her thumbnail as if it was a peanut.
That was a bad trait.

Since Horatio’s cage was positioned on our sun porch where he, she, it could watch TV,
he, she, it would sing the theme song from Flipper…the show about a dolphin…
this due to the fact that the bird was watching what I was watching each afternoon.

“They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning,
No-one you see, is smarter than he,
And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder,
Flying there-under, under the sea!”

We had the bird for about two years until one day the bird came down with a cold.
We learned the hard way that parrots, birds in general, do not fare well with colds.

We carried Horatio to a vet, way across town, who specialized in exotic animals.
Back in the day, exotic pets were not keen on the radar of local vets.

We administered the required meds.
Monitored our beloved bird while we hoped and prayed…
However, on Thanksgiving morning of all mornings, Horatio succumbed to his, her, its cold.

The irony was not lost on any of us.

Animals come and go in our lives…and I always believe we humans are the better
for their presence in our lives.

So here’s to Horatio and the exotic parrots and birds at Parrot Mt and Gardens up in Tennesse.

When we visited this bird sanctuary about two weeks ago, it was a rainy day
in the Tennesse mountains.
My daughter-in-law called the park to ask if they were open due to the weather.
The lady told my daughter-in-law that these were Tennesse birds, they knew weather.
So off we went.

So let me just say, the birds made the Mayor very nervous.
Maybe it was the very loud and raucous calls of all the birds.
Maybe it was when we posed for a family photo with about 10 birds on our arms, shoulders,
and in our hands.
Neither the Mayor nor Sherrif would have anything to do with the birds.


(the Indian pheasant is off the mayor’s shoulder perched on the ground in the enclosure)

Despite her hesitancy, I am glad that both the Mayor and Sherrif could see up close and personal
a different type of animal.

We are better for animals.
We are better for nature.

“When uncertain about God’s will,
it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me,
there are always others that I know for sure and can invest in without any risk,
knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing
the essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided:
finding ourselves in darkness about God’s will on an important question…
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day,
like being faithful to prayer, maintaining trust in God,
loving the people around us here and now. Lacking answers about the future,
we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

Let us pray…

“Keep to the ancient way and custom of the Church,
established and confirmed by so many Saints under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
And live a new life.
Pray, and get others to pray, that God not abandon His Church,
but reform it as He pleases, and as He sees best for us, and more to His honour and glory.”

St. Angela Merici


(St Peter / St. Peters, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“Once, while I was wondering why Our Lord so dearly loves the virtue of humility,
the thought suddenly struck me, without previous reflection,
that it is because God is the supreme Truth and humility is the truth,
for it is the most true that we have nothing good of ourselves but only misery and nothingness:
whoever ignores this, lives a life of falsehood.
They that realize this fact most deeply are the most pleasing to God,
the supreme Truth, for they walk in the truth.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p. 175-6
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

I’ll wait until October….


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

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

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HA!

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

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

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Alistair Sim

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

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

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

Questions and the spirit of God

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness
of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit
of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(The Sheriff slumbers / Julie Cook / 2019)


(The Mayor profiling / Julie Cok / 2019)

Firstly…The picture of the Sheriff above is when his parents bring him to me before they
leave for work.
This is a pre-sickness shot.

I will usually put him in my bed and let him wake on his own time since this week he
was free from the dreaded daycare while in recovery mode.

So after visiting the Pediatrician yesterday, it appears that the Sheriff has basically
the croupy crud—
of which she believes he got when he went to the hospital on Friday for surgery.

Don’t you love going to a hospital well, relatively, and coming out like Typhoid Mary?

There’s not much to do but wait it out.
And that’s hard when it comes to babies.

When they are miserable and we, those entrusted with their care and well being,
are helpless to make things all better, we grow anxious,
worried and agitated…and quite miserable ourselves.

Moments, such as feeling helpless while watching the innocent suffer,
most often envoke a bit of ire with our Creator—if not sheer anger.
In other words, we get mad at God.

We get mad over all sorts of things but when it comes to watching our little loved ones suffer,
things can get out of hand frighteningly fast.

I know I felt it when our son was a baby and was sick and had surgery at 3 months.
Just as I know my son and daughter-n-law feel much the same now with the Sheriff…
as well as with the Mayor.

Throw in exhaustion as you sit holding a baby who can’t breathe, and coughs nearly continuously,
upright all night…
and you, my friend, have a toxic breeding ground for damaging negative emotions…
Of which set up a hard barrier between our Heavenly Father and ourselves.

It is at such moments when we lose the blessings He wants to offer because we
have essentially turned our backs.

And so after reading the day’s two quotes, I found them rather appropriate for just those
very moments…the moments when we find ourselves questioning what we don’t know or
understand regarding our God…which mind you can be so very vast.
But it is at such times that we must cling to what we do know.

Questions are always fine…but questions mixed with anger and resentment are spiritually
debilitating.

May we continue, as children, to learn trust while reaching our hand out to a loving Father who
longs to hold that outstretched hand.


(silly faces before we both got sick / Julie Cook / 2019)

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me, there are always others that
I know for sure and can invest in without any risk, knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing the
essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided: finding ourselves in darkness
about God’s will on an important question…
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day, like being faithful to prayer,
maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future, we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

power found in prayer, humility and truth

“Keep to the ancient way and custom of the Church,
established and confirmed by so many Saints under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
And live a new life.
Pray, and get others to pray, that God not abandon His Church,
but reform it as He pleases, and as He sees best for us,
and more to His honour and glory.”

St. Angela Merici


bearded iris / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Once, while I was wondering why Our Lord so dearly loves the virtue of humility,
the thought suddenly struck me, without previous reflection,
that it is because God is the supreme Truth and humility is the truth,
for it is the most true that we have nothing good of ourselves but only misery and nothingness:
whoever ignores this, lives a life of falsehood.
They that realize this fact most deeply are the most pleasing to God,
the supreme Truth, for they walk in the truth.”

St. Teresa of Avila, p. 175-6
An Excerpt From
Interior Castle

fervent determination

People often ask me:
What should we do?
When division threatens, it is necessary to strengthen unity.
This has nothing to do with a team spirit as it exists in the world.
The unity of the Church has its source in the heart of Jesus Christ.
We must stay close to it, in it.
This heart that was pierced by the lance so that we might be able to take refuge
there will be our house.
The unity of the Church rests on four columns.
Prayer, Catholic doctrine***, love for Peter, and mutual charity
must become the priorities of our soul and of all our activities.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent


(detail of the intricacies of a web /Julie Cook / 2019)


(the intricacies of the spider /Julie Cook / 2019)

Given the surge of sins in the ranks of the Church,
we are tempted to try to take things into our own hands.
We are tempted to try to purify the Church by our own strength.
That would be a mistake.
What would we do?
Form a party?
A movement?
That is the most serious temptation: the showy disguise of division.
Under the pretext of doing good, people become divided, they criticize each other,
they tear each other apart.

And the devil snickers.

He has succeeded in tempting good people under the appearance of good.
We do not reform the Church by division and hatred.
We reform the Church when we start by changing ourselves!
Let us not hesitate, each one in his place, to denounce sin, starting with our own.

Cardinal Robert Sarah
from The Day Is Now Far Spent

****Whereas Cardinal Sarah (1945 Guinea) is a prominent
Catholic prelate, as a non-Catholic, I can still read and take heart in his words.
In this case, I consider ‘Catholic’ to mean the global Christian family, just
as I consider ‘the Chruch’ to mean the collective Christian family…

wants and fears

“You are asking for something that would be harmful to your salvation if you had it—
so by not getting what you’ve asked, you really are getting what you want.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(black-eyed susans / Rosemary Beach, Fl / 2019)

What really hurts is not so much suffering as the fear of suffering.
If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow.
It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly,
makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor.
Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective,
defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom