dirty windows or smudges on a heart?

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


(a front door in need of cleaning / Julie Cook / 2019)

Life has certainly been busy has it not?

When I was still teaching, the two busiest times of the school year were the first month
as well as the last month of the school year.
Fall and Spring.

The opening and the ending.

Those were also the two most important keys to teaching…
it was not only critical as to how you started a year…it was equally as important
as to how you ended it.

So no surprise, this Spring has been a busy time in my tiny little corner of the world.

My little world has been so busy that blogging has actually had
to take a back seat…
Imagine that…life getting in the way of blogging!?
Who knew?!

Hence why my posts have become sporadic and my reading and commenting
have become fewer and farther between.

There have been recent days that I’ve thought, that after 6 years perhaps, it’s time to
shutter the doors in Cookieland…
but then I catch the latest episode of Anglican Unscripted
and I’m reminded that voices to the Truth need to continue sounding…

But more about that and the good Bishop’s words tomorrow as time hopefully allows.

But first, let’s get back to that picture up above…
that picture of a seemingly smudgy storm door.

It seems that my weekend company went home yesterday afternoon.

They came for Mother’s Day and they left Tuesday afternoon.

In and out right?
Short and sweet…

Throw in two cats, one awaiting leg surgery,
and a large dog who currently happens to be on a small vacation this trip.
Add in the 4 adults in the room.

The key players, however, were a 15-month old and a two week old.
Seems simple enough, right?
Two under two…with one being way under the first one who’s under two.

They’re small.
They’re simple.
They’re sweet.

Well, mostly.

Yet these two small beings come with a wealth of stuff and each one requires their own
fair share of stuff when and wherever they may roam.

They also require 24-hour a day constant care.

24 x 2 = 48
48 into 24 doesn’t exactly fit.

Things seem to appear out of nowhere
Things appear in places where they shouldn’t.

There are smelly things that happen.

Accidents, spills, “uh oh’s” and “OH NOs!”

Things are dropped that should never drop.
Things disappear…only to be found days, even weeks, later.

Too many bodies try sleeping in beds made only for two…
with one preferring to sleep sideways, while everyone else sleeps longwise.

There are fingers that end up in closing doors and drawers.
There are jealous cats coupled with jealous babies.

There are tears, screams, laughter, kisses, messes, and lots of chaos.

There are spills along with sticky, greasy smudges and smears…everywhere.

Smeary, smudgy tiny handprints all over the place…

Just as in that glass door pictured up above…

But here’s the thing…

Where most folks see a dirty smudged up window…

Those aren’t really dirty smudges…

Those are simply the marks etched upon my heart…


(the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)


(The new Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2019)

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Mother’s Day–happy and nostalgic

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain


(me and mom circa 1980 )

The fact of life is that we all have two parents.
A mother and a father.

If life is as we would wish it to be, we will know both of these parents.
They will love us and we will love them.

We will all grow together through both ups and downs.

Yet if life opts for a different path, we may or may not know our parents…
or we may not love them and they may not love us.

However, the fact of the matter remains— we all have had two parents.

And we all had a mother who carried us for, give or take, nine months.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that those 9 months can be joyous, fretful, painful,
jolting, frightening and certainly changing.

Most of us have one mother…
I, on the other hand, had three.

My first mother, my original mother, my birth mother, is unknown to me.

In early 1959 a 23-year-old woman became pregnant.
Plans did not go as perhaps they should have and this young woman up and moved away
from her home…moving to a large city where she could blend in and become,
for the most part, anonymous.

She never traveled home for those many months as her pregnancy was her secret to keep.

She gave birth to a premature baby girl and left the hospital shortly thereafter.

Leaving behind…me.

I eventually went into foster care until I was adopted by the woman who would become my
second mother, or what is commonly known as an adoptive mom.


(me and mom on my wedding day, 1983)

When I was a teenager I was sent another mother…a God-mother.
I say ‘sent’ because I honestly believe God sent in a pinch hitter because He knew
the turns my life would take and that I would need someone to catch me when I’d fall.

And I fell many times.

This third mother was the wife of the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip.
Both she and her husband designated themselves as my God-parents.
They were keenly aware of the fact that I was in desperate need for Godly parental guidance…
and it was at such a pivotal age.

They offered stability, encouragement and a clear Spiritual direction.
This Godmother taught me the importance of what it was to be a Godly woman, wife and mother…
despite all evil attempts to disrupt such.

She also taught me about Spiritual healing…healing that was crucial to my very survival.


(a grainy photo of Ginny Collins from 1978 / Julie ‘Nichols’ Cook)

Tragically, due to my brother’s mental illness, my adopted family was a caustic and dysfunctional mess.
It was an illness that took a grave toll on all of us,
but perhaps none greater than upon our adopted mom.

My brother and I were both adopted, five years apart, and we each had different biological parents.

Mother died very unhappy and prematurely at the age of 53.

My Godmother then stepped deeper into the fray of acting as a surrogate guide.
Her support and guidance remained a key part of my life until up until the time she died.

She died two years ago at the age of 94.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of life and of the two women, I eventually lost,
is my biological mother.
She is now 83 and is still living–but where I truly cannot say nor of what path her life
eventually took.

Maybe one day we will meet and I can tell her something very important.

Maybe I will be able to say to her “thank you.”
Thanking her for the selfless gift she gave me…that being the gift life.

Had she been selfish, putting her life and plans first, you and I wouldn’t be currently sharing
this moment together.

And I wouldn’t have my son or his wife or their two children in my life.

The choices we make in this thing we call life all have far-reaching and lasting effects…
be they negative or positive.

Life is positive.
Abortion is not.
My biological mother chose life rather than my death.

So today I want to thank all three of these women…
these three mothers who were, unbeknownst to one another,
intertwined in a single life..that life being mine.
Be it either briefly or for far much longer, they each gave me various gifts of love.

A love that now lives on in two precious little grandchildren…

And so on this Mother’s Day 2019, I want to say thank you to three women.

Firstly, thank you to my biological mother for the choice of giving me life.
I miss not having known you.

Secondly, to Mary Ann my adoptive mother, thank you for taking me into your heart and raising me–
a role that was no easy task—I have missed you terribly.

And finally to Ginny, my adopted Godmother, thank you for instilling in me the
importance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…thank you for teaching me
what it means to live, to love, to confess, to repent, to forgive and to be forgiven…
I miss your wisdom.

And lastly, I want to thank a fourth woman.

Thank you, Abby, my dear daughter-n-law…

Thank you for loving our son.

Thank you for opening your heart to us and our family…
and thank you for the gift of two precious babies…The Mayor and her new Sheriff…

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things
your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:9

The push for victory

“Do not be anxious:
go straight on, forgetful of self, letting the spirit of God act instead of your own.”

St. Julie Billiart


(vintage WWII rally flag / Julie Cook / 2018)

This year, back in May for Mother’s day, my daughter-n-law, son,
and new little granddaughter all gave me a most unique and oh so fitting gift.

Those of you who know me, know that such a gift, for me, could be none better.

My daughter-n-law scoured places and sites in search of something that she knew
I’d truly appreciate.
She pondered, compared and searched high and low.

Whereas my poor husband gave up years ago under the weight of the knowing how difficult
I am to buy a gift for, my daughter-law-remains true to the challenge.

This little fact alone is gift enough.

The simple act of exerting the time, thought and study all on my behalf…
the fact that to give a cursory expected gift, that proverbial tie for dad mentality
was and is not to be had—
her efforts have not been lost on my deep sense of appreciation.

But this gift…this gift was special and unexpected.

Anyone who knows me knows of my affinity over, for and with
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

I won’t reiterate all of that here as I’ve written a myriad of posts previously
on the man.

Vision, tenacity, and valor, coupled with a hardy dose of vanity and ego,
all aided in what we in Western Civilization enjoy today…
the bashing and abusing of our various democracies.

Had it not been for Churchill, my life and yours would most likely be very
different today.

But enough history for today, back to the gift.

My daughter-n-law found a vintage WWII rally flag located somewhere in the UK
that someone was selling.
It is very obvious that it was homemade as the single stitched black thread silhouette of
Churchill is plainly sown on a piece of now mildewed muslin cloth.
In addition, there is a small sewn sleeve opening on one side for the addition of the
long lost stick.
The flag is out of square and finished quite simply…
It’s not a fancy piece of highly polished embroidery but rather something made in a bit
of haste.

V is for Victory is stitched below the silhouette.

This is the type of flag someone would have used during a morale-boosting parade,
something to wave on the streets had the Prime minister come to inspect damage after a bombing
or even waved following the celebration for Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945.

It was a perfect gift.

And now this tiny piece of history proudly graces the wall in my den…
a wall that is more what some might call a shrine.

All in tribute to one man who made a difference for our freedom.

And so with all of this talk of Churchill, I’m reminded that we must always be
prepared to fight the good fight no matter what the cost to self.

And we also must know what it is that is truly worthy and lasting in which to fight for.

And so it is, in his latest offering, that our friend the Wee Flea reminds us of
this same very mindset and of the importance of maintaining a steadfast and focused
clarity in what we are fighting for.

In an observation, that at first glance seems mundane, something that would be
a mere blip on the news, of which the good Pastor actually acknowledges…
this latest puff of smoke rising on the horizon is something that David actually
sees as far more troubling than what most folks would imagine.

I am reminded of the years that Churchill rang the clarion bell to the rising concern
of what was taking place in Germany in the early 1930’s yet no one wanted to hear
or acknowledge what he had to say.
Instead, they ignored him or simply thought him daft…
he had been out of public service for nearly 10 years and here he was still trying to
make waves.

There is a small story happening in the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway
which tells us a great deal about what is happening in the UK today
https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/968942/bibles-bedside-hospital-christian-leaders-galloway-royal-infirmary

At first glance it just appears like a minor spat that is hardly newsworthy at all.
But the story and how it is reported is revealing of the current state of the culture
and the church in the UK.

The basic facts are that Gideon Bibles were due to be placed in every room in
the new state of the art Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary.
But one person complained that this was giving Christianity preferential treatment
and therefore should be stopped.
The NHS board agreed and so the Bibles will not be placed –
although patients are free to request them if they wish.

So what does this tell us?

Atheist secularists are able to impose their views on the whole of society because those
who are the decision makers in our culture lack both reason and courage.

In what possible world can it do any harm merely to have a bible placed in a room?

It is not reasonable to claim that it gives one religion an advantage.
The vast majority in that area of Scotland profess some kind of Christianity or
are non-religious.
It is offensive to other religions to imply that they would be offended at bibles
being made available.

When I am in a Muslim country I am not offended at the Koran being available.
When I fly Malaysian airways I don’t get upset when the TV unit tells me where Mecca is
so that I can face the right direction when I pray.

It’s called tolerance.

The trouble is that our militant secularists have no concept of tolerance and cannot
conceive of a world in which their every diktak is not followed.
They use the excuse of multi-faith to ban any expression of faith
(and especially Christian faith) in the public sphere

And ‘civic society’ permits this pettiness.

The article continues and you may read the full article by clicking on the link
I provide below, but David closes out the article leaving us, his reader,
with more of a warning than a closing…

“The hospital bible ban demonstrates that we are well on our way to becoming
a Godless culture,
policed by militant secularists and opposed by a gutless Christianity.
It’s sad that those lying in hospital sick and fearful,
won’t be able to read about the great healer,
the one who calls all to come to him and receive rest.
The words of Christ as he wept over Jerusalem are surely apposite for the UK today.
We share in his tears.

And in a final aside at the end of the article,
David notes that this blog posting was actually an article he had written for
Christian Today…a publication in which he’s been writing twice-weekly article for
now going on over a year…yet suddenly the magazine had informed him that due to
financial restraints, they are no longer going to be able to continue needing his
services nor will be publishing his column…

An odd happening that…

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said,
“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—
but now it is hidden from your eyes.”

(Luke 19:41-42)

Banning the Bible in the NHS

mothers…it’s complicated

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”
John Steinbeck


(a bluebird nest with two remaining eggs that never made it / Julie Cook / 2017)

Perhaps it does indeed Mr Steinbeck,
perhaps it does take courage…..

It should come as no surprise that no matter whether you’re young or old,
Republican or Democrat,
Christian or Muslim,
Jew or Baptist,
liberal or conservative,
black, white, brown, red, yellow…
alive or even dead…
the one single thing that I think is safe to assume for every last one of us,
a matter in which we may all find common ground…
and is surely a topic which we can each unite upon is…..

the single fact that we have all have had a mother!

Oh we’ve had a father too, but since today is earmarked for all things mothers…
mothers shall be the focus.

Mothers and motherhood…

It’s complicated.
Ask any mother….

And getting more and more complicated with each passing day I fear.
Because that role, that contribution, that definition is now morphing faster
than I can blink my eyes..

There was a time in history when more women died from complications with childbirth
than from anything else.

So it would be safe in assessing that birthing is not a piece of cake.
Then there is the raising…

Some of us are better at the whole motherhood thing than others…
Pintrest being probably the current best portal into
the realm of successful mothering and of those who are up for the current year’s awards.

Yet we each must admit….that during the course of a lifetime….that we have…
loved our mothers,
hated our mothers,
loathed our mothers,
divorced our mothers,
disowned our mothers,
liked our mothers,
acknowledged our mothers,
ignored our mothers,
not claimed our mothers,
never known our mothers,
been angry at our mothers,
been embarrassed by our mothers,
cried over our mothers,
missed our mothers……

but in the end…
we each must admit…for good or bad, we had a mother…

And petri dishes and test tubes aside…

Some of us are good at mothering and nurturing and loving….
and some of us, not so much.

Some of us want a boatload of children while…
some of us give away the only child we had.

Some of us “mother” children who we did not birth,
as some of us choose our children….
while still others are given the children they are to raise.

Some of us mothers are actually fathers who have had to take on the role of mother
for a variety of reasons…

So yes, this one simple fact of a mother, mothering, motherhood…
is complicated.

I am not a Catholic…so no one can accuse me of bias or blindness…
but there is one thing I know for certain, that being the example we have been given as to
what a tremendous job mothering can demand…
an example is found in a simple woman named Mary.

Oh we all have some notion about Mary–something akin to a fairytale really.
An image of a benign gentle face, adorned with white shroud with blue tunic,
hands tenderly folded as her unblemished face looks lovingly down upon mankind
from atop some heavenly throne as the stars dance around her head….

And that may very well be how things are for her now…in Heaven….

But I actually think of a young dark haired, olive skinned Jewish woman who’s hands
are calloused as her feet are dusty…
She is neither fair haired nor do flowers adorn her beauty.

Oh she is indeed most blessed among women, but she is also greatly burdened.

She carries in her heart a burden none of us shall ever know.
We may glimpse her burden, her pain, her hidden anguish…but we will not know
exactly her magnitude.

I see her the day she is angry at this strange yet gentle son of hers who speaks with
adult leaders as though he is one of them…

I see her when he becomes lost to her for days during a family trip.
Literally lost, as in gone.
He is young and seemingly naive to the ways of a dangerous Palestine under Roman Occupation.
Panic has taken hold of her as she and her husband desperately search.

Has your child ever been out of your sight for even just a minute or two
and for those moments of uncertainty, did you not feel that nauseating hold on time,
the feeling of drowning without being under water…?

And I see her releasing both relief and anger as she finds him comfortable and selfishly lost
in his own time with no apparent concern that perhaps his family had been anxious
during the three day search.

There were no phones, no Amber alerts, no police who would aid in the search.
And yet, he is among the elders, teaching.
In his mind, a perfectly normal place for him to be
but so frustratingly odd for her….

What does the mother of God do?
Does she yell, punish, reprimand, perhaps even ground him…
or…
does she bite her tongue as he speaks to her words that come from some place else.
As she is pondering, wondering, bearing the burden hidden in her heart.

I next see an older woman, hair greying, the lines on her face run deep.
She is no longer young or vibrant, but tired.

She stands in the middle of an angry crowd.
She is hot after standing for hours in the midst of this pulsating mob
as her nostrils burn from the heaviness of both sweat and dust mingled
sickeningly together.

The shouts from these people, some she actually knows, pains her but pales in comparison
to the sight now standing before her.

A man striped of clothing, no dignity remaining, naked, bloody and bruised
head lowered in exhaustion.
He is bound, bleeding profusely as he is the image of a man who has
been savaged.

This is her son.

The once young, gentle naive boy who spoke of things she did not quite understand.
Her mind flashes to holding him, cradling him, soothing him as she now longs to do the same…
wishing to not only kiss away the hurt but to wash his bloody and torn skin
while shielding him from the abuse—
yet she is frozen and paralyzed knowing there is nothing she can do.

A mother who bore Salvation.

So yes, mothers, motherhood and mothering is indeed complicated
as it does indeed demand courage…from every last one of us….
Mary should know…

So on this springtime Sunday in May,
may we each remember the mothers in our lives…
with love, with forgiveness and with hope…

Happy Mother’s Day….

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:33-35

Mother’s day

Thou hast made us for Thyself,
and we cannot find rest until we find it in thee.

St Augustine

RSCN3042
(new, albeit late, peach blossoms / Julie Cook / 2016)

Whether you approach this day for Moms and Mothers everywhere with….

Appreciation, gratitude, a spirit filled with joy…

or

You find yourself feeling a sense of melancholy, sorrow or even dread…

No matter….may you simply find peace in your heart….

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

Mother’s Roses

“Even more than the time when she gave birth, a mother feels her greatest joy when she hears others refer to her son as a wise learned one.”
― Thiruvalluvar

“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues — faith and hope.”
― Charles Dickens

IMG_1338
(Mother’s tea roses / Julie Cook / 2015)

Mother was never much of a gardener.
She worked in the yard but it was more out of necessity rather than joy.
The mindset was, if you had a yard, you needed to keep it up.
Dad cut grass, mother cut the bushes and did everything else that needed doing. . .
Going through the motions of doing, merely for the sake of necessity.

I don’t remember exactly when or how mother first came about the small tiny tea rose bush.
I don’t know why she opted to plant it by the corner of the carport.
But I do know that she was proud of the tiny rose bush.

I think she planted the bush when I was away at college.
Most likely I acknowledged the little bush, during my comings and goings,
with nothing more than a half interested glance.

Upon graduating college, I immediately moved away, with little thought of the
small bush remaining behind, perched alone by the corner of the carport.

Within two years of my independence, Mother was sadly gone.

After mother’s death, the little rose bush faded.
Dad became gravely fretful over the health of the bush,
almost frantic that the little bush not die.
Each year upon year he watched, watered, waited.

29 years have since passed.

Now with each trip back home, Dad takes me to see the bush.
No longer do I have a mere casual interest in this little plant
but rather my interest is one of keen observance,
as I have become a silent cheerleader of the now lush vibrant bush. . .

Mother would be so happy to see so many blooms. . .
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. . .

IMG_1337

IMG_1340

Ode to all the types of mothers

“In the book Soldiers on the Home Front, I was greatly struck by the fact that in childbirth alone, women commonly suffer more pain, illness and misery than any war hero ever does. An what’s her reward for enduring all that pain? She gets pushed aside when she’s disfigured by birth, her children soon leave, hear beauty is gone. Women, who struggle and suffer pain to ensure the continuation of the human race, make much tougher and more courageous soldiers than all those big-mouthed freedom-fighting heroes put together.”
― Anne Frank

DSCN4769
(miniature rose / Julie Cook / 2014)

A happy day of remembrance to all the mothers out there.
To the biological mothers.
To the adopted mothers.
To the sisters who play the role of mother.
To the fathers who play the role of mother.
To the teachers who are mothers to so many.
To the friends who play the role of mother.
To the grandmothers who play the role of mother, again.
To all of those who love,
who work,
who cook,
who clean,
who work some more,
who dry the tears,
who pay the bills,
who bandage the cuts,
who bandage the hearts,
who know to say no,
who yell and scream,
who whisper “I love you”,
who pick up the pieces of the broken lives
who lie awake night after night wondering. . .
wondering where you are,
wondering how to pay the rent,
wondering how to pay your tuition,
wondering how to pay for your uniform,
wondering if you’re safe,
wondering if you’re happy,
wondering if you’re in trouble
wondering if they made the right decision. . .
To the hearts that hold your heart
To those who pray for you each and every day.
To all the mothers in our lives. . .
Thank you.