luck of the draw

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for counting
When the dealin’s done

The Gambler
Kenny Rogers

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(my husband trying the make the most of Tropical Storm Colin’s arrival when all others ran for cover/ Watercolor Resort, Santa Rosa, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are many days that I am pretty certain that I’m married to Job.
You know, the Typhoid Mary of the Bible…
That lone figure everyone avoids like the plague as it seems God’s got it out for this poor lug.
He’s the Bible’s idea of a bullseyes,
while Satan enjoys a fun little game of darts…
As God’s watches silently in the distance…

Yet, one must wonder, is He all that distant…..?

And you know that expression…
if it wasn’t for bad luck, there’d be no luck at all….?
Well that sums up my husband’s life in a nutshell.

And not only did I marry a very unlucky man,
I bore him a child who has followed suit to a T.
As my husband resignedly notes that our son’s luck is just as bad, just as unfortunate and just as typical as his—that being abysmal.

If it can go wrong, it will.
If it can get worse, it will.
In a 50 50 shot on calling it, theirs will always be the wrong call.
What are the odds?
What is the luck?

And yet…
I for one do not hold on to such a notion…
despite often feeling the sting of a mother’s and wife’s frustration…
I am constantly reminding any and all gloomy Gus’s in my path that in Christianity,
there is no such thing as luck!
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has been left to chance in God’s book concerning His children.

When I was young I never liked reading or hearing about the Book of Job or even Revelation.
I found in both of those books everything and anything other than that
“peace which passes all understanding.”
Rather I found heartache, trials, turmoil, death, loss and
even the final separation of those fateful sheep and goats.

Both Books, both stories, scared me.
I didn’t want to know that side of God.
For in my young immature understanding, God was simply love and merciful,
end of sentence—
None of this wrathful, cold, distant business.
He was not this exacting God who could, in my opinion, turn His back and allow pain,
suffering and calamity.
God was love, right?
And love doesn’t let bad things happen….right?

Lord knows, I have seen my share of heartache and calamity these near 57 years.
Any one who has ever lost a loved one to a ravenous and non discriminating illness,
which seems to gleefully and eagerly snatch away prematurely those we love,
understands all too often the anger that can follow suit against this so called “merciful” God…

I shamefully admit to having had one too many defiantly angry fists raised,
more times than I care to mention, to God when I, as mother, wife, daughter, friend…
witnessed the catastrophic unfairness, when indiscriminate illness and or death,
or any other of life’s unfairnesses, had come calling.

Yet the key piece to this unsettling and often unfair and ironic puzzle is actually to be found in that very odd tale of our poor friend Job…
That single key piece being human understanding.

It is easy and quite human to rile in anger when we witness unfairness, pain, suffering, heartache…
Especially when we know that there is a God, as Father, who loves His children…as we are even told that if we who are “evil” parents know how to give good things to our children, then how much more can the God of heaven who is pure goodness and love give…..
yet here is this loving Father demonstrating anything but love…
But what we don’t get, don’t understand…He’s not the doing these things…

As we live life in that role of helpless witness, time and time again, to the sadistic unfairness of this thing we call life….as our anger, resentment, frustration and even defiance continues to mount against an unseen God who we so wrongly blame for all of life’s tragedies, as the dust settles, we begin to see that our friend Job slowly, mysteriously and miraculously understood…
He understood that which we are currently blind to see…
for Job once stood where we stand now—in that place of helpless victim to the tragic luck of life.

We sit in our towers of self-righteous human knowledge presuming to see all and know all…
that is until something catastrophic throws us the guaranteed monkey wrench.
Tragedy strikes and more often then not, we wrestle with its presence and devastating aftermath.

But what we must know, must claim, is that it is God who sees and knows, not us.
He sees endlessly out before us, long into our futures.
Just as He has seen our past and our present.
He sees into the lives of all involved and into the lives of those who are to each be affected despite our having no knowledge of their involvement…yet.

His is the grander picture.
The greater and far reaching picture.
The vision that eclipses both time and space—of which we are permanent prisoners.

So no…there is no such thing such as luck….not with God.
Rather just Life lived in a fallen and broken world.
Just as there is also our hope, our grace and thankfully….
our salvation….

“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:2, 5-6

You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

Job 11:18

Skill, Intuition, or just plain ol luck

“In sandy soil, when deep you delve, you reach the springs below; The more you learn, the freer streams of wisdom flow.”
Thiruvalluvar

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

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(your’s truly with the luck of the cast / Wedowee, Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Those with skill. . .
Who have spent their years immersed deeply in laborious study and arduous practice, . .
Those who have invested time and energy while honing their patience amongst the coy sirens of empty promises. . .
Are they then more likely to glean the prize before all others. . .

Those with intuition. . .
Those more mystical seekers who are gifted with the intrinsic sense of time and placement. . .
Those who just “know” where and when, how and why.
Those whose vision of the quest comes naturally. . .
Those who just know the hows, the wheres, the whys by the given gift of the 6th sense are they more apt to zero in on prize before all others. . .

Those with luck. . .
Those unsuspecting naive souls who just happen upon the right place at the right time. . .
Those who have invested neither time nor blood nor sweat. . .
Those who merely show up, stepping into the elusive prize without ever realizing the pure dumb luck of it all. . .are they then worthy of the prize. . .

Then suddenly, as if out of the blue, while catching everyone by dumbstruck surprise, enters Hope. . .

Those with Hope. . .
Those with Hope know that regardless of skill, intuition or luck their’s is the one true constant.
Despite the hardships and the emptiness of the those that got away, the better luck next time, the day in and day out of coming up empty handed, the sting of defeat and loss. . .
The Hopeful know that regardless of the negative, theirs is the positive.
The Hopeful do not know defeat.
The Hopeful face every challenge, win or lose
They realize and openly admit that they may lose a battle, perhaps a string of battles. . .
They accept that they may not be the most skilled or the one filled with the depths of intuition. . . yet the Hopeful rest in the knowledge, not of luck nor chance, but rather in the knowledge that the war has long since been won and that they have indeed followed the only true Victor to the one true prize Eternal. . .

For in this hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what he sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:24-26

No time for chickens. . .

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
― Mother Teresa

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(portion of a 19th century oil painting by H.A. Bossir which was my grandmothers)

Have you ever heard the expression “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”??
Well oddly enough, for almost the past 32 years, that little expression has pretty much been the mantra of my little family. I say 32 years because that’s almost how long I’ve been married and it was just around that time that this bad luck / good luck ying and yang thing started. I’m rather confident my husband would own up to being the lightening rod but we won’t hold that against him.

And of course there’s that whole “best laid plans” thing which also rears its ugly head in my neck of this world. . .

So I don’t know what possessed me to even begin to think that my happy little bucolic dream of having my beautiful chicken coop complete with a bevy of beautiful layers, hunting and pecking to their hearts content, foraging in the beautiful vegetable garden next to the coop while I, Mrs Farmer Brown, tended to my small piece of idyllic country living would actually come to fruition.
What was I thinking?

What came over me envisioning Country Living wanting to come do a photo shoot of my city girl meets farmer girl world? Why did I picture myself naming the girls. . . Marigold, Clementine, Petunia, Coq au vin, and Lady Poulet? What possessed my husband when he had a coop custom made for me last Christmas?? A coop that now just sits forlornly in the backyard, empty and alone.

And what of the large vegetable garden we have each year? What of my squash, my zucchini, my myriad of heirloom tomato plants, my wax beans, my bush beans, my eggplants, my okra, my 4 varieties of corn, of my peppers. You remember, the garden that was decimated last year by the herd of ravenous deer that nearly ate me out of house and home?? And of my Irish Spring deterrent??
What of that???

Sadly, none of that is to be this year.

Time has come calling and has put the kibosh on all my hopes and dreams. . .
well. . .maybe not all my hopes and dreams, but those of the immediate moment such as chickens and gardens and a peaceful summer.
There just simply isn’t time in the day to be bucolic while spending the majority of the week on the road driving to and from Atlanta to Dads. . .

Sigh. . .

And speaking of Dad. . .

I had not even gotten in the shower this morning when the care service we’ve enlisted, in the daily care of the blind leading the blind, calls.
“Hello”

“Hi Julie, just thought I’d let you know your dad called us this morning canceling tomorrow’s service”

“WHAT?”

“Yes, their regular caregiver has a doctor’s appt. tomorrow–we were going to send a replacement for the day in but they decided they didn’t need anybody.”

“Really. . .”

“Let me call Dad and I’ll call you right back”

ring, ring, as a warbled voice answers. . .

“hello”

“Dad, the care service just called me, they tell me you’ve canceled service for tomorrow–what’s up?”

“Well our regular girl says she won’t be here so we decided we just don’t need anyone.
And anyway do you have any idea how expensive this service is?
(his voice raising to a crescendo of stricken shock and panic)
This is going to break me! I don’t see why we need any of this care business anyway.
Why do we need all day service for seven days a week. . .”

“Well Dad, you know you both do like to eat and since you all aren’t up to really cooking, it’s nice having someone who can prepare your meals,plus someone reminding you, you know, to eat. Someone there helping with the chores, making certain you take your pills, making certain ya’ll don’t fall as walking isn’t what it use to be. . .yada, yada, yada. . .”

(with an odd sense of clarity)
“Well since you’re coming tomorrow (I am??), you can be here and we’ll be fine.
(Great)
But you don’t need to stay long because you’ve got to get on the road before the traffic hits. . .”
(ugh)

“We’ll talk more about this tomorrow Dad while we see how you two do without your “helper” for a day.

Oh and did I mention the CPA called miraculously out of the blue this afternoon asking about dad’s taxes?
You know, the taxes dad seems to think will magically take care of themselves.
The ones he’s suppose to have been taking care of for the past two years but hasn’t.
The ones I’ve threatened him within an inch of his life to take care of ASAP, as in ASAP two years ago.
The ones that are still sitting in a pile on the floor in the office, aka my old bedroom.
(albeit a neat pile since I hit that room hard 5 weeks ago)
The ones I’ve pleaded with him to let me tend to. . .only to have him defiantly dig in his heels fighting me tooth and nail over.
“Ok Dad”, I’d tell him, “they’re going to haul you off to jail.”
He’d hang his head, setting that jaw telling me, “fine, they can just take me to jail”
Great. . .
All because he has refused to let go and give it up. . .

And it dawned on me one low day last week that the reality of him actually having to let go, giving it all up is what so much of this entire ordeal and fight has been all about–the difficulty of relinquishing a role he’s played for my 55 years of life.
He knows he’s not been doing a good job for years now but something deep inside of him won’t let it go. How does the dad, the one whose charged with the care and well being of his family, turn lose of that role. . .
He’s 87
He acts like a kid, a child. . .at times.
He forgets.
He’s confused.
He likes quiet, his cat, his simple little routine.
Yet he’s still my dad.
It’s his house.
He’s been in that house for 53 years.
He lost my mom while living there.
He lost my brother while living there.
He had a grandchild enter his life in that house.
Who are these people now invading his house, his world?
And when did this daughter, this kid who couldn’t balance a check book. . .
Who had champagne taste on a beer budget, who just had to have cotton candy pink shag carpet,
who was defiant, who preferred GI Joes to Barbies,
who went to Georgia to his beloved Georgia Tech. . .
When did she become the person who is now charged with
his care,
his finances,
his life and well being,
who now dares to tell him he cannot go down the basement stairs in his own house. . .

So it is now official. . .
The inmates are running the asylum and I’m charged with picking up the pieces.

What’s in a number?

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
C.S. Lewis

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
Sophia Loren

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(milage sign taken from the web)

To be defined by numbers or to define those numbers?
That is the question this November 13th.
Which by the way, in 1959, was on a Friday.
Bad Luck?
Nope, not at all.
Only good. . .as in it’s all good.

A rite of passage
No passage
Enter
Do not enter
Admittance
No admittance
Legal
Not legal
Speed limits
No limits
The sky’s the limit
Wisdom
Folly
Too old
Too young
Too much
Too little
Too late
Retirement
Medicare
Blood pressure
Cholesterol
Weight
IQ
Height
Birth
Life
Death

To define numbers
or
To be defined by numbers
a choice
or
a restriction
a significance
or
just another day
either way. . .
it’s all good

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Psalms 90:12