only one special opening for one special shape

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.
I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God,
I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing;
I thirst to be made more thirsty still.
Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.
Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.
Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’
Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland
where I have wandered so long.”

A.W. Tozer


(block set for sale on Amazon)

Every once in a while God will set a reminder before us.

I was made aware of that little fact yesterday when I resumed the daunting task of cleaning
out our basement and purging a lifetime of junk.

In one, of what seemed to be a million old boxes, I found a letter addressed to a much younger me,
written in very familiar handwriting.

It was such a familiar and distinct handwriting…
handwriting that has now been long not seen, such that I felt a sudden prick to my heart
and a watery warmth rushing to my eyes.

Tender familiarity can trigger such an effect.

The letter was addressed in January of 1985…shortly after I had turned 26.
It was addressed two years following when I had married and a year before my mother
would die prematurely.
It was also three years before our son was to be born.

Reading over the letter I could only imagine what I had written prior to receiving such a
lengthy response.

For you see, I had spent years writing to this individual…pouring out both heart and soul.
Writings that came from a youthful and angst-filled teen to a seemingly arrogant
know-it-all college coed to that of a young naive teacher and equally naive newlywed.

We had a common bond, this person and I—an intertwining thread that forever
linked us together…
For we were both products of adoption…along with all that that entails.

He was a good 40 years older than I was and had lived, experienced and learned from much
of what I was currently struggling to come to terms with.

It wouldn’t be until today…nearly 35 years after that letter was written that I would
finally come to a greater depth of knowledge and understanding—
along with a much-awaited peace…

If you know me, you know that this letter was written by the Dean.
The Very Rev. David B. Collins, the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip.
Or the man I always addressed a godpoppa.

This particular letter was written when he had recently retired after
nearly a quarter of a century as the rector to that large Episcopal church.

And like I say, there is no telling what I had first written to him to have received
such a lengthy response…but there is one part of his letter that I want to share because
it speaks to all of us, adopted or not…it simply speaks to us as children of a loving
God and Father.

“I just want to answer your last letter very directly.
Part of it I can understand as an adopted child–that set-up for rejection so that
no matter what is done (or more what is not done) is seen as one more rejection one more
proof that I don’t count, no one really cares, etc.

You must know that you have always had a special place–not only as a Goddaughter,
but as a dear and loved friend.
One of the difficulties I have (which you may not share)
is a problem relating to expectations laid on me in such a way that no matter what
I do or say–somehow it is never enough,
and therefore I have failed, been proven inadequate, etc.

The truth is that there is a real and caring relationship between us,
and a deep one that includes Ginny, too.
[Ginny was the Dean’s wife and who I considered my godmother]
But it can never be that closet, lovingest, caringist,
one that on the Lord Jesus can give.

Part of your heart must always be empty,
because it is an empty space in His shape and size.
All the rest, all the rest,
are going to fail to meet our expectations..

So in a nutshell—there is but only one certain space within our hearts,
a space within all of our hearts, that is only one particular size, one particular shape
that only one, and one alone, can fill…

If you feel empty, if you feel wanting, if you feel that something in your life
is missing…
it is because there is a space that is carved out in your heart in which only
one thing can fit—and that one thing is your God, your Creator, your father…
the only One who can fill that void.

If you don’t believe me…try and figure out why you feel so empty…
try to figure out why you keep working so hard to quell the rising
anger and confusion in your heart.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

speed bumps, potholes, obstacles

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are.
I don’t believe in circumstances.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look
for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

George Bernard Shaw


(ok, this is a speed hump, but you get the idea)

In a galaxy lifetime long ago and far away,
I was once a prolific writter.

Imagine that.

I use to actually write…

Not like I do here pecking away in blogville, but I actually used a pen and paper
and I wrote letters, cards, notes, journals…

A good many of those cards and letters were addressed to my godfather–
who in turn, wrote and sent letters and cards right back.

Over the years I saved every one of those pieces of correspondence.

They were the tangibles to our relationship.
I think we were each a tad freer when writing as expression and thoughts
flowed freely.

Those saved letters, notes and cards may be found in overstuffed bibles,
books, drawers, and any number of boxes from that past life of mine…

I recently found one of those letters.

At the time it was written, my godfather was probably just a little older than I am now.

In the letter, he made mention of some health issues he’d been dealing with-
adding that such was an ode to the aged.

Well, I kind of get that now.

I am now keenly aware of the obstacles, speed bumps, and potholes…
all of which are part of the distracting messes that get in our way,
while we attempt to move forward on that proverbial road of life.

As we age, the space between those bumps, potholes, and obstacles feels as if
it grows ever closer, more precarious and much more difficult to avoid let alone maneuver past.

There seems to be less road but only more things that force us to detour from our straight pathway.

I feel as if I’ve been riding those speed bumps, as of late, much like some sort of
downhill freestyle mogul skier.

There’s been a rising crescendo of health mysteries colliding into one another like
rouge asteroids out in space…bouncing me around violently like a ball in a pinball machine.

So last week, in between my running from test and test, doctor and doctor, I
actually had a long-standing scheduled routine mammogram.

No big deal right?
Well, right, it shouldn’t be ..but surprisingly it was .

The problem was, it became a big deal fast.

I went Wednesday morning for my scheduled appointment and by Thursday evening I received an email
that there was an ‘abnormality’—an abnormality that required a lengthy revisit with
some more intense testing.

Abnormality is never a good word.

Normally, alarm bells would be sounding.
The C-word would be swirling in a mind now on overload.
Imagined scenarios would be playing out in a now panicked mind like a
melodramatic soap-opera.

I read the note to my husband who suddenly looked stricken.

My response was atypical.

I laughed.

I laughed because it was an ‘are you freaking kidding me?!’ moment.

I suppose I could cry over the one more erratic pin suddenly being jabbed into the voodoo
doll with my name on it…or…I could laugh.

And so yes I opted to laugh.

It was about 18 years ago that I had had a scare following a routine mammogram.
Back then, the questioned concern was found within my left side.
I was told I would need to have lumpectomy…
And blessedly, pathology proved the scare to be benign.

All these years later, it was the same side…again.

And so I went today for my marathon re-do.
Plan on 2.5 hours they told me.
But they assured me that I would have all the results before leaving.

Was I nervous?

Somewhat because the unknown can always be scary.
I told my husband I wanted to go to the appointment by myself…
to be lost in my thoughts I suppose.

Our new fancy-schmancy medical complex is a sleek modern sterile facility.
Gone is the once warm and fuzzy homey feel to the Women’s Center…
Today’s further testing seemed rather void and cold leaving me feeling
detached…of which might have been a good thing.

I had two intense procedures in the course of my time today at the center.
And the final word was there were only cysts showing within the normal range.

Whew!
Speed bump cleared.

So now it’s time to gear up for the next obstacle…stutter-stepping in order
to clear the next hurdle life throws up my way.
And how do we gear up for such you ask???

We take the hand of the One who has long asked to travel this journey with us.

He even offers to carry us when we really grow weary…

So I think I’ll take Him up on His offer…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Dear God,

I told you that I would thank you.

That I would thank you here, on the most public platform I have available.

For you, oh Lord, have blessed us, this small family of ours, beyond measure.

You have heard our petitions and our cries, all on more than one occasion…
You have heard our groanings and our anguish…our pleas and our laments…
and You have always been faithful, even while we were undeserving.

You know my heart oh God.

You know exactly for what it is that I am offering you my thanks…

And yet…for today…I will simply let these two small little people represent
the outward symbol of our family’s gratitude…the deep offerings from my heart to Yours.

I thank you for their presence in our lives.
I thank you for their wellbeing.
I thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to be a part of their lives.
I thank you for the joy they bring…to all of us…

Be that when they are awake and happy…


(the Mayor and her new Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2019)


(the new Sheriff enjoying a bath / Julie Cook / 2019)

Or when they are blessedly asleep, both at the same time when I’m babysitting!


(a moment of blessed peace when “Biya” aka Mopie comes to babysit/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Thanking you even for this…reasons some of us get hand, foot and mouth disease while thinking
we’re just being silly and playing a game of “don’t do that”
and then wonder why later we don’t feel so good.


(the Mayor thinking she’s being funny rather than gross / Julie Cook / 2019)

But most importantly God, I thank You for hearing our small family’s prayers and for
answering those prayers…

Sometimes You answer in ways we see and understand and sometimes You answer in ways that we
do not nor cannot see let alone comprehend…

And yet, no matter what, You hear us nonetheless.

Please continue in Your guidance as I continue to learn gratitude…

Love, Julie

a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

Song for the innocents

A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing.
Elizabeth I

The Righteous person must suffer many things; but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34

DSC00465 2
(field sparrow / Julie Cook / 2015)

Broken hearted,
like a bird’s broken wing,
a soul far too weary, before its time,
longs to lift its voice. . .

Tears freely flow for the innocents,
those who are not so free,
savagely taken in a dark world
now grown callous and cold. . .

Who are these people who gleefully seek
the spilt blood of the Lamb?
Who relish in death and scorn life,
Who long to take rather than give. . .

What is the point in this latest battle?
Consuming each and every life until
there are no more lives to give?
This, as the parents weep
and the Nations grieve. . .

You and You alone hear our anguish,
and You see the captive’s pain.
You stand beside the brokenhearted mothers and fathers,
as the news is delivered. . .
Where does the savagery stop?

Our hope, Oh Lord, is in You and You alone,
as we dwell within a dark and fallen world. . .
Battered minds seek nothing more than to be numb,
burying themselves in things other than the actual,
Thinking that what is not seen or acknowledged,
will all simply disappear. . .

Those with purpose are quickly called. . .
The innocent and clear of conscious,
who ready themselves to do battle. . .
to offer compassion where there is none
To offer hope to the hopeless. . .

When will the just say no to injustice?
When will the children be saved?
When will the captives be set free?
When will the darkness scatter?
When will this madness end?

Our trust is found in Christ, Jesus
The One who overcame death.
The body may perish,
Yet the soul will not be silenced.
As the battles wage on
and evil rejoices,
while the faithful exclaim. . .
“O death where is thy sting”

Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing, but rather bless, and know that you are called to do this, so that you should inherit the blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

****Here is a link to the BBC story featuring the single letter Kayla Mueller, the young kidnapped American, wrote her parents regarding her time in captivity as a prisoner of IS (ISIS). She sent the letter out with fellow prisoners who were released as she was the lone female prisoner kept behind. Kayla turned 26 while in captivity. Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek, Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting. Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids, as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found. She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world” –then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them. . .her response was simply to cry along with and for the children. . .Prayers for the Mueller family and all the families globally who have been affected by IS —her family noted that Kayla “lived life with purpose”—may we all live with such purpose. . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31376933