indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

degree of separation

“We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men;
and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes,
and they come back to us as effects.”

Herman Melville


(the fist pickings from the 3 container tomato plants / Julie Cook / 2017)

It has been said that the citizens of planet earth are separated, one from another,
by a mere 6 degrees…
or what some researches refer to as “the small world phenomenon”

“If you just take a look at the numbers,
the six degrees of separation idea seems pretty plausible.
Assuming everyone knows at least 44 people,
and that each of those people knows an entirely new 44 people, and so on,
the maths shows that in just six steps everyone could be connected
to 44^6, or 7.26 billion people—more than are alive on Earth today.”

(excerpt from an article by Fiona McDonald for Science Alert / sciencealert.com)

full article link here:
http://www.sciencealert.com/are-we-all-really-connected-by-just-six-degrees-of-separation

We’ve seen the notion of this “phenomena”,
and it’s original test of theory dating back to the 1960’s…
as it has morphed over the years into a movie, a college drinking game and even to a
broadway play…as it appears that the notion that we are all so closely connected,
seems to hold a deep fascination with the citizens of the globe.

And yet we wonder as to the responsibility that might come with such a
close connection of kinship…..

The idea that we actually know one another by some interwoven intertwined web of
acquaintances apparently holds us captivated.
The notion that we are each one connected soul, connected to other souls,
souls of which we hold on to tightly in our own little circle of souls,
is seen as eerily soothing.
Just one big happy globally dysfunctional family.

And yet the irony found in our desire for unity is that we also clammer for separation.
We want everything about our lives compartmentalized…separated….
while at the same time we painstakingly seek a global connectivity while also
demanding equality for all and a toleration of every
imaginable choice out there…
except for those who choose the Omnipotent.

So our connectivity and toleration and inclusiveness is actually limited despite
the lies we continue telling ourselves to the contrary.

We vie to find our connectedness…one to another…
while at the same time we vehemently fight to sever our, and everyone else’s,
ties to the Creator…

We fight tooth and nail to separate Him from every aspect of our very
independent secular lives..
While at the same time patting ourselves on our backs for an overt
pride found in the general connectivity and the false unity we think we’ve created…
For we claim inclusiveness in our broad reaching connectivity while at the same time
demanding that any notion of a connection to God be erased from thought.

This fickleness of ours will indeed be our undoing….
for we cannot be connected to everything and everyone while pretending
to disconnect our being, our soul, our own, our all from the very One
who knitted us in our mother’s womb….

For we cannot run nor hide from His knowledge and omnipotent presence,
no matter how far we go or how hard we try….
and until we are able to see and understand and acknowledge that He is a part
of even the very air we breathe,
then we will simply continue this petty exertion of our energies while
puffing up and inflating our trite egos of self,
in this endless ongoing emptiness we find so very fascinating and captivating….

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For thou didst form my inward parts,
thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:7-13

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Smallest of the small

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.
C. S. Lewis

DSCN8687
(a tiny shriveled seckel pear / Julie Cook / 2014)

Christmas.
Is that Christmas with a big C or a little c?
Depends on who’s asking and who’s telling.

If it happens to be those special interest groups wishing to do away with any and all Christian religious attachment to the word, then if so, it’s merely just a time of year we offer a “winter break” which happens to have a huge helping of buying, spending and giving thrown in just for good measure.
It’s a time of “winning one for the economy” you know.
So therefore it must be the commercial Christmas of the consumer driven economy, right?
What with all that Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and SALE, SALE, SALES. . .
As economists, financial folks and marketing giants are either ho ho hoing or bah bah humbugging all the way to Wall Street.

Is that Christmas with all the trimmings?
The Christmas of the glitz and the glamor and the Hollywoodesque productions?
The thousands of trees–real and fake, the miles and miles of lights all woven, strung and assembled in Communist China. . .you know the place, the country where there is no religion but the leader. . . The stockings hung waiting for baubles and cash as the boughs are all decked by folks who began this show known as Christmas as early as October, bypassing tricks and treats plus the joining of a Thankful Nation all in order to be the biggest and the brightest because that’s what we’re all about in this country, bigger and brighter.

Or is it the Christmas of the tiny and the small?
The less and not the more.
The forgotten and the overlooked.
The soft and not the garish.
The time of quiet reflection.
The time of recalling, recollecting and remembering.
The time of arrivals and not for massive departures.
The time for a wee tiny babe to be born in a dung filled, hay scattered stall in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere Judea–not to a rich and famous, big named, trendsetting mover and shaker couple, but rather to a poor, overlooked, hungry Jewish couple just trying to do the best they can by their soon to be born child?

A Christmas when it is a mere baby who brings hope and salvation as opposed to the more obvious big, loud, showy and ultra powerful.
A Christmas when we witness the God of the Universe, the Creator of all that was, that is and that which will be, descend upon a withering, riling and agonizing planet–coming in the form of pure innocence and vulnerability—-reminding us all that indeed there are great and powerful things found in the smallest of the small.