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

The letter

“The act of writing itself is like an act of love.
There is contact.
There is exchange too.
We no longer know whether the words come out of the ink onto the page,
or whether they emerge from the page itself where they were sleeping,
the ink merely giving them colour.”

Georges Rodenbach


(image the web)

In yesterday’s oh so long and convoluted post, I told you that I would share
the letter I had written to my birth mother, had the agency found her
and found her willing to be contacted, she would have received the letter.

However, as we know, they did find her but she made it clear, through an attorney’s
office, that there is to be no contact whatsoever.
And therefore, no shared letter.

She is 83 as I am soon to turn 60.
Yet there is no room for contact.
Odd given our ages.

I thought I’d simply post the letter here because maybe, one day,
it might make its way to her…or maybe even better, it might
make its way to someone else who may need to read it.

You may ask why would I even bother, especially when my birth mother is so emphatic
as to not wanting to have anything to do with me or that part of her past.

There is currently an odd phenomenon sweeping our nation.

State after state is voting on and passing right to life bills or heartbeat bills.
Bills that “infringe” upon open abortions.

Something I am finding hope in.

Hollywood is going nuts over all of it—clamoring to boycott Georgia
if our state’s bill stands.

What is it about the making of movies that has anything to do with abortions or not
to have abortions???
This knowledge simply eludes me
Yet the Hollywood scene seems to think it very much does affect movie making…who knew?!

It seems there is a real fear among many progressive liberals and members
or this culture of death, that has its grasp around our nation’s neck,
that the legal manifestation of abortions, Roe v Wade, will be overturned.

That, in the minds of many with a henny penny doomsday verbiage, will send us all stepping
back into the dark ages of coat hangers and hidden alleys should such a thing actually happen.

And yet state after state is voting, Governors are signing and change is in the air.

And so I was intrigued when I read of the tit for tat between two our Supreme Court
Justices…Justices Ginsberg and Thomas.

Thomas has made it clear that it is time that we as a nation and court revisit Roe v Wade,
while Ginsberg is openly opposed.

With Thomas being the conservative while Ginsberg is the liberal, their positions
are not surprising.

The fact that the late Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsberg were on polar opposite
positions on many court proceedings, but were still dear friends, was oddly a comfort.

People who couldn’t agree politically or legally yet who could still be civil and enjoy
one another’s company was a sign that we could still hold onto human decency, discourse
and civility despite our feelings or views.

We had hope in that alone for our humanity.

Yet sadly now…opposition rarely, if ever, will be civil or cordial, let alone sit at
the same table and commune with opposing human beings.
It is part and parcel of their manifesto…and yes, it is a manifesto.

Thomas and Ginsberg are currently in a bit of a war of words…
and it has to do with the use of a single word– “mother”

When Thomas stated in a lengthy response regarding states and the
rise in these “right to life” bills while using wording that “a pregnant woman or mother” etc…
Ginsberg bristled back not over the point being made but rather over the single word…
that a pregnant woman is NOT a “mother”.

I find that lone word to be a crucial concern and the pivotal lynchpin in all of this
current hysteria.

The concern that many people can view a woman as pregnant…as in yes, a mother to be…
compared to those in opposition who want to divorce the idea of mothering from pregnancy.

For years, we have heard that just because a man could help make a baby did not
necessarily make him a “father”—as in, impregnating didn’t go hand in hand with parenting…

We see that, do we not, in the hundred’s of thousands of single women households.
The lack of male role models in the lives of so many children.

And so now we’re looking at pregnancy as a condition of burden and inconvenience
rather than one of hope and anticipation.

And it is in this vein of motherhood, that I am reminded that pregnancy
is about mothers and fathers and children…end of sentence…
no matter how we try to redefine it…

And so I wrote a letter to a woman who was once a mother…and chances are
was a mother later on in life…
A letter from a child to a mother
A letter from a woman to another woman…

Maybe my non-delivered letter will provide a little comfort to someone else who
is finding themselves at a perplexing crossroad…because God can see
the bigger picture that I cannot see…and so I yield to the Holy Spirit and share…

More on this Roe v Wade and heartbeat bills later…

Hi, My name is Julie Cook—-but you most likely know me as Sylvia Kay—-
as that is the name that I learned was on my original birth certificate.

I have been told by the Family First Adoption Reunion Registry that I must first include a letter
written to “my birth mother” prior to any formal contact made by the agency.

The form asks me to include 10 questions that I am most interested in having answered….

When I initially thought to begin this search,
I felt more of a disconnect from such questions and very generic in my approach…
but throughout the past several weeks that I have known that the agency has been searching for you,
I have found my thoughts and feelings shifting to some degree.

Firstly and foremost, I do want you to know that I “turned’ out ok—-
I am happy, healthy and well adjusted.
As I will be turning 60 in November, I can look back and say, yes, this has
been a very good life.

I taught for 31 years at Carrollton High School.
I was the Visual Arts Instructor as well as the Dept. Chair of Fine Arts.
It was a very fulfilling career —-one that I “retired” from in 2012 in order to begin
more focused care for Dad who had been diagnosed with dementia and was beginning to really struggle.

When I moved to Carrollton from Atlanta following my graduation from the University of Georgia,
I met my husband on a blind date.
We married in 1983.

We have one son, your grandson, who is now 30 and a father himself.
He has a 13-month-old daughter and their son James is to arrive around the end of April/
the first of May.
Of which makes you a great grandmother—but of which you may already be.

I have always considered my adoptive parents as my parents.
My mother died at age 53 from lung cancer…I was 26.
Dad basically fell apart at that point and I found myself in the role of parent.

He eventually re-married 10 years later following mother’s death,
but that was not an ideal union.
Dad passed away in 2017 from cancer.

I had always told myself that I would not “search” for my birth parents until
Dad had passed away as I never wanted to hurt his feelings…
I never wanted him to feel that he could possibly lose me.
And of course he wouldn’t——but it was just something I had always told myself——
that if following his death, there remained a possibility, I would then, and only then,
peruse such a quest.

Always being a part of a loving and accepting family never,
however, made me forget that I had another family somewhere “out there.”

I was a history major before I ventured into education.

History has always been very important to me.
And the funny thing was/is that I never truly knew my own history.

Once I became a grandmother, I knew that I wanted my grandchildren to know their
true genealogy.
Where they came from?
Where were their true roots?
As well as what was their real medical history?

That is also something I’ve also wanted for my son.

Doctors have always asked me about my health history and yet I could never
definitively answer,

I am a deeply committed Christian and I have a very strong faith.
So I want you to know that I have no regrets or animosity regarding your decision of
having put me up for adoption.
Questions, yes, but regrets, no.

There is, of course, the natural curiosity and those ‘whys’ can be nagging.

I’ve always told myself that I have been a good person and was the type of child
that anyone would love to have had…I’m just sorry you missed that.

And yet I also know that God’s hand has always been leading my life, leading me,
even when I never truly realized it.

I don’t know if you will ever agree to open your heart or life to me, and that’s ok.
That will be your decision.
And I will honor that decision.

I am certainly not looking for some sort of fairytale Oprah type of moment.

I would, however, love to meet you—the person who carried me for nine months and made a very
selfless decision to offer me my life…with the best possible way you knew.

I have pictures I would love to share with you—-pictures of me as a baby, shortly after
leaving you, then pictures throughout the years as well as pictures of your grandson
and now great-granddaughter.

I look forward to possibly meeting you.

With love—-Julie (Sylvia Kay)

How do I contact you in Heaven?

If you tell God no because He won’t explain the reason He wants you to do
something, you are actually hindering His blessing.
But when you say yes to Him, all of heaven opens to pour out His
goodness and reward your obedience.
What matters more than material blessings are the things
He is teaching us in our spirit.

Charles Stanley


(my godpoppa and me on the day of my wedding–with Mother looking on,
he was the priest who presided over my wedding in 1983)

I use to write letters.

Real letters with a real pen and real paper.

Real words.

Real scratched out mistakes.

Numerous misspellings.
Typos.
Grammatical errors.

There was no spell check—only a dictionary.

Sometimes your letters were typed, sometimes written by hand.

Mine were always by hand.

I use to write you so many letters.

You use to write to me as well.

I still have a box with so many of those letters and cards.

If the truth be told, we really meet through a letter, you and me.
In 1975.

I still have the card you sent.

When I went away to college, I use to sit at the bus stop writing feverishly before the bus arrived,
whisking me off to yet another class miles across campus.

I’d sit in the park, back propped against an ancient oak tree, writing.

I sat up late on the night before my wedding, writing.

We wrote one another long before there were computers…
ages before there was texting.

We wrote on paper and cards.
We put stamps on envelopes and we put letters in a post box.

We would each excitedly spot that telltale script…written and addressed
with our name—
it would arrive in the day’s mail.

I checked my box at least twice a day.

Wonderment and even excitement filled our thoughts.

We’d each steal away…to a quiet private place as we’d tear open the postmarked envelope.
Savoring the “Dearest Jules” or the ‘Dearest Godpoppa”

Apprehensive and anticipatory wonder mixed with anxiousness…
coupled with a deep sense of joy…
accompanied the arrival of each letter and every card.

What was the word?
What was the news?
What was the need?
What was the advice?

We wrote for nearly 40 years…back and forth…just you and me.

The subject matter growing often hard and difficult with time.

Those letters…the writing and the receiving.
The intimate words shared between a surrogate father and his adopted goddaughter.

The pouring out of the most sacred and secretive thoughts from the novice to the wizened
sage.

Confessions.
Encouragement.
Idle chatter.
Hope.
Love.
Compassion.
Warnings.
Advice.

You were born in 1922
You were adopted in 1923.
I was born in 1959
I was adopted in 1960

Lessons taught and lessons learned.

And yet now, now when I need to hear from you the most, how do I write to Heaven?
How do I address such a letter?
What would you tell me now…how do I proceed?
What should I do?
What would you say?

I’ll be waiting…and I’ll be listening.
Somehow I know you know.

“Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

Deuteronomy 4:36

God shed His grace on thee…

For happily the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean
themselves as good citizens…
May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land,
continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants.”

(excerpt is taken from a letter written by George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation
in Newport, Rhode Island)


(Washington before Yorktown / Rembrandt Peale 1824)

Okay—long story short…
I began this post day’s ago…when I caught a news story about a letter from,
a soon to be President Washington, expressing his belief in God…
or who Washington so often referred to as “Providence” (’twas the times).

It coincided with the news story regarding Representative Ilhan Omar’s disparaging remarks
concerning Israel and Jews.
Shame on you Ms. Omar….but more to you later.

I have many other choice words to say to our new dear darlings of the House,
as well as some not so new senators and congress folks, those who are jumping on the intolerant bandwagon
of antisemitism, anger, and ignorance all while hiding under a Mr. Rogers-like engulfing sweater of all
things equitable, fair and tolerant…those who flock to the altar of Socialism while pretending to
be all things welcoming, inviting and dare I say, American.

They do not ask “would you like to be my neighbor?”… preferring rather to eradicate any and all who
continue to cling to and adhere to the tenants of a Judaeo/ Christian culture—that which our
Nation was actually built upon.

I will save those choice words for another day.

However, with all the current talk and a seemingly nefarious push to eliminate our
Judaeo / Christian foundation by an uber progressive radical culture, finding
a letter by a soon to be President Washington praising God for the ratification of our constitution
was uplifting.

Wednesday evening I sat down to finish the original post.
I wrote all evening until it was time for bed.
I saved everything and thought I was good to go.

The following day there was no finished post but rather only the original post…
sitting there as if I’d never touched it since I started it.

It wasn’t in my history on the computer or in WP.
Odd…to say the least.
So I’ll try to recall what I had to say…maybe it will be better.

Plus this is not to be an in depth thesis on the “faith of our fathers” but rather
a tantalizing morsel to whet your whistle.

There has been a growing debate for years concerning the religious beliefs of our Founding Fathers…
A debate now rapidly growing and gaining in interest as many folks now wish to expunge all
references to God from our founding documents, our pledge, our historical architecture,
our books, and even our currency.

It appears that many non-believers and progressive provocateurs look to Thomas Jefferson when they wish
to begin an argument about God’s presence, or lack thereof, in this Nation of ours…
as Jefferson’s personal beliefs have always been a bit grey and convoluted given his keen interest in science
as well as theism and deism.

Jefferson was a devout theist, believing in a benevolent creator God to whom humans owed praise.
In an early political text, he wrote that “The god who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;…”
He often referred to his or “our” God but did so in the language of an eighteenth-century natural
philosophy: “our creator,” the “Infinite Power, which rules the destinies of the universe,”
“overruling providence,” “benevolent governor,” etc.
In 1823, he wrote to John Adams referring to
“the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore” while denouncing atheism.

Jefferson said that Christianity would be the best religion in a republic,
especially one like the United States with a broad diversity of ethnicities and religions.
“[T]he Christian religion when divested of the rags in which they [the clergy] have
inveloped it, and brought to the original purity &; simplicity of its benevolent institutor,
is a religion of all others most friendly to liberty, science, & the freest expression of the human mind,”
he explained. It was a “benign religion…
inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude and love of man,
acknowledging and adoring an overruling providence.”
Based on these understandings, Jefferson demonstrated a deep, even devout, admiration of Jesus,
“the purity & sublimity of his moral precepts, the eloquence of his inculcations,
the beauty of the apologues in which he conveys them…

It was in this context that Jefferson said that
“I am a Christian,” a quote which is often repeated or referred to without context.
What he said was “I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he [Jesus] wished anyone to be;…”

Monticello Organization

And speaking of John Adams…probably my favorite president as well as favorite Founding Father,
it seems we glean much of our knowledge of both Adams and Jefferson, along with their feelings and thoughts
regarding the Christian faith, from their correspondence between one another.

Much of what we know of Thomas Jefferson’s religion comes from letters he wrote from 1811 to 1826
to John Adams. Much more of what we know about John Adams’ views on religion comes from
his letters to Jefferson.
Religion was important to John Adams

“From early entries in his diary to letters written late in life,
Adams composed variations on a single theme:
God is so great, I am so small.
Adams never doubted who was in charge of the universe,
never viewed himself as master of his, or anyone’s destiny.”

There was a strong Puritan strain to Adams’ morality even when he strayed from Puritans’
religious precepts:
Adams wrote at 21 “that this World was not designed for a lasting and a happy State,
but rather for a State of moral Discipline, that we might have a fair Opportunity
and continual Excitement to labour after a cheerful Resignation to all the Events of Providence,
after Habits of Virtue, Self Government, and Piety.
And this Temper of mind is in our Power to acquire,
and this alone can secure us against all the Adversities of Fortune,
against all the Malice of men, against all the Operations of Nature.”

Like Jefferson, Adams was a child of the Enlightenment.
The future president brought to religion a lively interest in science that he developed at Harvard.
Steven Waldman wrote: “Like [John] Locke, Adams believed that since God created the laws of the universe,
the scientific study of nature would help us understand His mind and conform to His wishes.

Like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams believed in the utility of religion even when he had doubts
about religious beliefs themselves:
“Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.

Lehrmaninstitue.org

So as we turn our sights to Washington and his personal views…
We know that the General and future President remains a bit of an enigma when it comes
to our understanding anything truly personal within Washington’s true beliefs.

Washington remains a larger than life figure in our Nation’s history
and yet he was a very private man…
probably more so than his fellow fraternity of Founding Fathers.
The Lehrmaninstitue offers this: George Washington worked hard to keep separate his public and
private views on religion.

History tells us that Washington’s life-long love was his dear Mt Vernon, farming and family…
Following his departure from office, disappearing into obscurity at Mt Vernon was most welcomed.

In most later paintings of Washington, we see an often dour man…particularly emotionless.
Some historians credit chronic mouth pain due to, yes, wooden dentures, to Washington’s pained and
stoic portraits.
At the same time, we know that Washington had been raised an Anglican.
Anglicans by nature, both then and now, are characteristically reserved when it comes to their faith.
They are not as demonstrative nor vocal regarding their belief in God or that of their faith.
I know because I was raised under a similar umbrella.

The Mount Vernon Organization shares a private insight with us…
Looking at Washington’s theological beliefs,
it is clear that he believed in a Creator God of some manner,
and seemingly one that was also active in the universe.
This God had three main traits; he was wise, inscrutable, and irresistible.

Washington referred to this God by many names, but most often by the name of “Providence.”

Washington also referred to this being by other titles to infer that this God was
the Creator God.

This aspect of his belief system is central to the argument about whether or not
Washington was a Deist.
His belief in God’s action in the world seems to preclude traditional deism.
Washington believed that humans were not passive actors in this world.
However, for Washington, it was also improper to question Providence.
This caused Washington to accept whatever happened as being the will of Providence.

Notably, Washington did see God as guiding the creation of the United States.

It is also possible that Washington felt he needed to discern the will of Providence.
These facts point to belief in a God who is hidden from humanity,
yet continually influencing the events of the universe.

This does not illustrate conclusively that he was a devout Christian, however.
Washington never explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus Christ in
private correspondence.
The only mentions of Christ are in public papers, and those references are scarce.
However, Washington’s lack of usage may be due to the accepted practice of his day;
Jesus was not typically referenced by Anglicans or Episcopalians of Washington’s generation.

Mount Vernon Organization

And whereas each man had his own personal and private thoughts and feelings regarding a Divine
Omnipotent Creator…each man, however, was very much convinced that this Creator was pivotal
to laying the foundation of the new fledgling nation.
He was intertwined within her birth, invited to play a key role and intentionally injected into
each part of her birthing fibers.

History teaches us that each man agreed that God and the Christian faith were vital
to the birth of the young nation. A unifying base.
And each man demonstrated a unique humility with regard to that which was greater than themselves.

These Founding Fathers provided us with a foundation as well as a guidepost.
It is my hope that we will not depart from the very foundation that our earliest architects
found necessary to our survival as a viable and functioning nation.

May we continue to humble ourselves to the one true Creator who is far greater than ourselves
and may He continue to shed his Grace on us all.

https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/george-washington-and-religion/

https://www.foxnews.com/science/george-washington-letter-on-god-and-the-constitution-surfaces

the direction of bricks and mortar

Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good,
and melt at other’s woe.

Homer

DSC00070
(Julie Cook / 2015)

Currently feeling most grieved over the latest madness sweeping across this
great nation of ours…
what with the divisiveness and hateful discourse bombarding our daily lives…
Of the recent marches and demonstrations…
with now high school kids adding to the mix…

My thoughts shift to relationships…
meaningful and significant relationships…
To those components of mortar and to the building blocks…
to all that builds and creates a base
a community…

to those footings…
to the foundations…
and to the resulting communions we build…

Thoughts shift to those who have crossed my own life…
to those who imprinted and imparted upon me…
a betterment,
a lastingness,
an endurance..

where would I be without such…

Today I ran across a post I’d written 2 years ago…
oddly it was just sitting out there on the internet…
under a particular search word…

It seemed rather timely so I decided to borrow a portion it for today’s post…
because it recounts the importance of a life that helped to form my own life.

For I now see that our youth currently need individuals in their lives who are strong…
those who don’t mind taking time…
those who aren’t afraid of taking a risk …
Those who want to help…
to mould,
to shape,
and to guide.

For our kids need to hear the words “don’t” and “no”…
as well as “good” and “job well done”
they need to be loved and nurtured…
not ignored or simply turned out…
they need to be disciplined and held accountable
not left unbridled or excused…
they need to be given directions…
but not carried…

Because they will seek out those individuals…
that communion and community..

the concern will be to whom and to what….

excerpt–original date Jan 12, 2015…

Being able to express myself was always important.
I most often found that freedom in the process of simply writing.
First, as a young girl, in the form of a journal / diary,
then as I grew older,
it came through the writing of letters.

It was in the writing of letters where I allowed myself to fully express my thoughts.
It was the one place my often frustrated brain could and would be allowed to soar.

In the days before computers, emails and word documents…
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–
especially the letters I’d write that bordered more along the lines of epistles,
those lengthy and meaty tome like lettes to my godfather–a long retired Episcopal priest.
He passed away late December at the age 94.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in many a previous post.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words,
despite the large dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought… as I would think much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without a judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement or warning,
lessons or simply the “if I were you”…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman,
where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.

He would never say “yes” or “no” but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance,
of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

And so as I currently find myself surveying a sea of rising national angst..
My thoughts now wander to those meaningful and significant relationships that we form…
those unique and timely bonds offered by the mentors and the role models amongst us…

To what direction are they now pointing…
To what sort of guidance do they long to impart…
To what sort of mortar and foundation do they wish to use…
and does anybody really still care…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for human masters…

Colossians 3:23

(The Very Reverend David Browning Collins 1922-2016)

written words from a father…

DSC01114
(an early blog pic / Julie Cook / 2013)

“[you have] demonstrated beyond refutation your slovenly happy-go-lucky harum scraum style of work.
If you cannot prevent yourself from leading the idle useless unprofitable life you have had during your schooldays and later months, you will become a mere social wastrel, one of the hundreds of the public school failures, and you will degenerate into a shabby unhappy and futile existence….”

These words were penned by a distant and aloof man who found no merit or worth in his eldest son.
His son had proved to be a miserable student which was of great embarrassment to the likes of this most well-do-to and one of the day’s most notably recognized politicians.

The boy’s school marks were so low that his father stated that he was “too dimwitted” to peruse a career as a barrister (lawyer), an assumed career path for a boy of his family’s social status, but rather was relegated to following a path towards a military career.
His father hoping for a bit of redemption in the boy, convinced himself that if the boy could succeed as an Infantry officer, all would not be lost.

However the embarrassment and disappointment only continued as the boy scored so low in school and twice failed the entrance exam to the prestigious military academy that his father all but gave up on the boy. On his third and final attempt the boy finally received a passing score, yet it was still considered too low to qualify for the revered infantry training…leaving the boy the only route of choice…. becoming a calvary man, much to the humiliation of his father.

Yet this emotionally harangued young man was undeterred by his father’s lack of affection, obvious disappointment, acknowledgement and support.

The father had always been bigger than life in the eyes of the young boy.
A stranger and hero to be worshiped from afar.

All of this even as the boy pined away homesick in boarding school…
With news that his father had actually come to the same town in which the boarding school was located in order to address a political function, the boy was devastated learning that his father made no attempt to visit or call upon the boy.

Crestfallen the boy wrote immediately to his father—yet rather than showing his very real pain and disappointment as one would expect, the boy merely states that he doesn’t understand why his father couldn’t visit yet in the same breath states that he knows him to be a very important and busy man.

The father, who had become quite sick while the boy was away at boarding school, died rather prematurely at the age of 45.
This sudden death of his father only heightened the boy’s sense of hero worship in a man who had remained distant at best and blatantly detached.

The boy would grow to be a man who always kept his father at the forefront of his thoughts and actions. His life’s goals and ambitions were always focused on following in the footsteps of his father.

One would only think that such words and actions by a man so detached and so vocally dismissive from his son would simply breed a seething loathing within a growing boy…allowing the seeds of resentment and hatred to fester.
Yet within this particular young boy turned man, anything could have been further from the truth.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, the particular boy in question, grew to be one of the West’s greatest men to have lived.
He had a long prolific, heroic and stellar career as a soldier, writer, artist, painter, statesman, historian, cabinet member, Prime Minister, world leader, husband and father.
He never cowered at the painful rebuffs of a man he idolized…never allowing the continued hurt and detachment of Lord Randolph Churchill to deter his quest to succeed at the things in which he tried his hand.
He always wanted to make his father proud…
dare we say, he most assuredly did…

Happy Father’s Day to all the men in my life who have overcome the obstacles in their paths in order to forge a life worthy of praise….

Editors and signposts

“Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C. S. Lewis

DSC00070
(tools of a trade / Julie Cook / 2015)

Many years ago when I was early on in my college career, I can vividly remember telling
my mother that I thought something was wrong with me–with the way I learned, or better yet,
the way I didn’t / couldn’t learn–that which today is referred to as a learning disability.

Often frustrated that learning, which seemed to come so easily to others,
did not come easy for me.
By all outward appearances I was quite bright and articulate, excelling in some areas,
struggling to merely get by in others.

Nevertheless, I mustered on often battling extreme frustration and disappointment.
Constantly studying, seeking out tutors, practicing, staying after class for help…
only to come up frustratingly short–
failing or nearly failing tests I just was certain I could pass.

We now know that not all learners process information the same as others.
It often takes a keen educator, who constantly observes and accesses their students,
to be able to present material, using a variety of delivery methods,
while hoping to tap into each students strengths.

I can still remember Mother simply shrugging, telling me that I was fine.
Yet today as I have watched my now grown son struggle throughout his entire life with an
early diagnosed Learning Disability and Dyslexia…
as I’m pretty certain I know from whence his troubles originated…

Math was my nemesis, as it remains so much to this day–
I made certain that I would pursue a career path which did not require Algebra or Geometry,
let alone something as obscure as Calculus.
Science, although I was intrigued by Science,
did not fair much better in my brain.
The Biology side of the Science world was more readily digested then that of Physics or Chemistry.
There were formulas, numbers, symbols and equations–
all things my brain just wouldn’t or couldn’t seem to unwrap.

Thriving however in the study of History and the study of the social sciences,
otherwise known as social studies,
I found myself enthralled by the endless stories which make history History.
Not necessarily with each and every aspect of history,
nor of the history of each and every culture,
yet for the majority of study,
history was the area in which I became a sponge.
I was equally intrigued with the political aspect of human history.
Throw in Theology and the history of the ancient faith of Judaism,
as well as that of the later emergence of Christianity,
and I was all ears.

English was ok but there were problems there as well.
Spelling was an issue, as those of you who read this blog well know.
Between spellcheck, autocorrect and my brain,
not all words in the blog posts are correct—
of which I greatly apologize.
And to my defense I never received a good foundation in sentence structure or grammar.
For whatever reason,
I never had a class or teacher who really taught grammar usage and writing as it
should have been taught.
It seemed that I usually ended up in a class where it was a given that all learners
had already been steeped in the basic foundations.
Sadly, I was the one learner in the lot who was not so versed.
Yet I did enjoy the literature aspect of English—with myself,
yearning one day, to be able to express my thoughts and ideas through writing as well.

Being able to express myself was always important. I found that writing,
first in a journal / diary form as a young girl, then as I grew older,
through the writing of letters.
It was in the writing of letters where I was finally allowed to fully express my thoughts.
It was a place my often frustrated brain could and would freely soar.

In the days before computers, word documents, pdf files, jpg images…
I alone helped to sustain the United States Postal Service by keeping them busily in business.
I loved buying and sending cards.
I would spend hours writing letters–especially letters that I would write,
more like epistles, to my godfather–
who is now 92 and a long retired Episcopal priest.
I have often referenced him and his influence in my life in previous posts.

The letters were often written with a myriad of misspelled words despite the large
dictionary by my side.
There were gaping gaps in the written thought as I thought much faster than I wrote.
The letters were laced with outrageous sentence structure,
which in turn would make any english teacher cringe,…
yet they were letters written with passion, honesty and humility.
And despite the holes, the poor sentence structure or the youthful angst,
my godfather would receive each letter expectantly, happily, and lovingly…
all without judgement of content or the editing of grammatical structure–
this from a man who made a living writing and speaking.

Our correspondence began when I was around the age of 15.
My early letters were laced with the pangs of innocence and adolescence.
Yet as I aged and matured those letters became more complex,
even troubling, as I fought my way, often with fraught emotion,
through the often tangled jungle of life.
I wrestled with my faith and beliefs.
Life was not always easy nor kind.
There were obstacles, illnesses, deaths, disappointments, poor choices, grave mistakes,
coupled with a few triumphs, glimpses of joy and moments of contentment.

Always with love and often, no doubt, with great frustration,
he would offer words of either encouragement, warning, or mere advice…
yet his words were always laced with love.
It was here, within the correspondence of a young girl, now grown woman, where I learned about unconditional love.

I never filtered my words or emotions yet perhaps today, looking back,
I see that it would have behooved me to have used a bit more restraint—
yet he never faltered or expressed disappointment.
My Godpoppa, the busy world at large Anglican leader,
would never specifically tell me what to do,
despite my often desperate queries.
He never would say yes or no but rather he’d offer wisdom woven with advice all of
which he hoped would allow me to eventually find my own way.
He was a signpost of guidance, of the miles thus traveled and of miles yet to be traveled.

So on this new day of this new week, in the early days of a brand new year—
do you need an editor or do you need a signpost?
Are you in need of direction or correction on this journey of yours known simply as life?
Or are you like most of us, simply indeed of both—
sometimes needing to be pointed in the right direction while receiving a bit of
much needed revision to your plots and plans…
May you make the most of the guidance, advice, love,
direction and assistance you receive along the way and may you be blessed,
as I have been,
with more signposts than editors.