one woman, legislation, obedience…life and love

“to dedicate oneself as a Victim of Love is not to be dedicated to
sweetness and consolations;
it is to offer oneself to all that is painful and bitter,
because Love lives only by sacrifice and the more we would surrender ourselves to Love,
the more we must surrender ourselves to suffering”

St. Thérèse de Lisieux,

“God never inspires a wish that cannot be fulfilled”
St. John of the Cross

We can say,
‘It is what it is—now Lord, show me how to deal with it.’
St. Therese said she had no peace in her soul until she started her day with that orientation.
Then, trusting God to walk beside her,
she finished her journey as the woman four popes called the greatest saint of modern times.

Doug Lorig

In 1937, a pamphleteering psychiatrist claimed that the “Glorious Hurricane” (Pius XI)
unleashed by Thérèse was an infallible sign that the Catholic Church was in its death throes.
The universal exaltation of an insignificant “neurotic” was proof that a masochistic religion
was on the way out at last.
Fifty years on, today’s psychologists and religious writers know a great deal more about
Thérèse Martin and her world, and are quick to acknowledge the wonders wrought by grace
in the mind and heart of a child stricken by the loss of her mother when she herself was
only four and a half years old. Indeed, Thérèse’s path to sainthood is a source of
comfort and inspiration to countless victims of emotional or other crises today.
Sainthood is not reserved for “normal” people.

The “Little Way” is not some sleight of hand for getting to heaven on the cheap.
It is the modern realization of the Gospel injunction,
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into
the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18, 3).

On June 2, 1980, Pope John Paul II, the first Pope to make the pilgrimage
to Lisieux, put it strongly: “The `Little Way’ is the way of `Holy Childhood’.
It is a way which both confirms and renews the most fundamental and universal truth.
After all, which of the Gospel’s truths is more fundamental and more universal than this,
God is our Father and we are His children?”.
thelittleflower.org

“Sainthood is not reserved for ‘normal’ people.”
No, I would suspect it is not.

Nor is it for the faint of heart.
But for a young frail Thérèse, to serve, while in turn drawing as one with God,
was her sole goal…sainthood would merely become a by-product.

I’ve written about Thérèse before.
She is a bit of an anomaly really.

Nothing about this young girl should be the hallmarks of becoming not only a saint
but that of a Doctor of the Chruch.

Giants among theological and spiritual giants.

And yet here is a young girl.

Words that described her in life…

Obscure.
Sickly.
Frail.
Unassuming.
Quiet.
Young.
Almost shy and even quite childlike.

Childlike not in a sense of her maturity but rather in her approach to God.

A simple childlike faith.

One that consisted of love and love alone.

She was only 24 when she died a painful death from the ravages of tuberculosis.
And yet 4 separate popes have stated that she is the greatest saint of modern times.

High praise for a young girl who lived a simple life of a cloistered nun

“Conscious of her own weakness, but willingly trusting in God’s merciful love,
which finds its way even to the humble, she came to love her poverty.
Her offering of herself to merciful love begins with these words;
“God is asking me to do something, I cannot do it on my own, so He will do it for me”
(June 9, 1895). From this moment on Thérèse lived the daring surrender of herself.
A totally dependent child has no choice but to surrender itself completely
to its father’s merciful love.”

Again, Thérèse discovered the truth of Jesus’ words,
“If you do not become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18:3).
The way of “spiritual infancy” is Jesus’ own way as a son, the supreme son,
living only for his Father. Who is more fully an adult but Jesus or more fully a child?
From this point on Thérèse lost her fear of sin, of falling asleep during prayer
or any other imperfection; love had burned everything away.

Pope John Paul II reminds us when speaking of St Thérèse of Lisieux
That “God is our Father and we are His Children.”

The notion of God as father and we as children is not new.
It is something Jesus often reminded those who listened to him speak…
the importance of being like little children.

And it is the way in which Thérèse lived…

To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like little children.

So the importance of children is not lost on me when I read about
House Bill 481, the Heartbeat bill.

Nor is it lost on those who hunker down quietly yet steadfastly to hear God’s word.

This is a controversial bill which actually passed the Georgia Senate this past week.
It will now travel to the House for a yay or nay…. and if the yays have it,
it’s off to the Governor’s desk for final approval and signature.

This is a state bill that if passed, will limit when an abortion can be performed in
the state of Georgia.
The bill reads that six weeks is the “magic” number and time when a doctor can hear a heartbeat…
the telltale sign of an entity living separately from the mother…
meaning that there are two hearts now beating in a woman’s body.
Her heart and that of the child she carries in her womb.

I see this bill as a victory for those who have no voice of their own.
A victory for unborn children.

Others see it very differently.

Many protestors outside of the State Capital this past week have dressed up as characters from
the Hulu show and popular book The Handmaid’s Tale.

These women march in an odd macabre mass of unity protesting a baby’s right to live
while somehow viewing the notion of life rather than murder as abhorrent.
The Salem Witch trials seem to come to mind when I see their images.

Various female members of Georgia’s House Democrats have been very vocal in their dismay
of the passing of this bill.
They argue that this bill is a setback for women at the hands of male legislators.

While on the other hand, many female Republican legislators are ardent supporters of the bill.

Kind of like me…a woman, who just so happens to be in favor of this bill.

Allysa Milano, a very outspoken hashtag sort of Hollywood actress, in light of this bill,
is now calling for filmmakers to boycott Georgia.
She just so happens to be shooting a film here in Georgia.
Lucky us.

The movie industry has become big business for Georgia.

This is not the first time a controversial piece of legislature has brought out those who
attempt to tighten the screws on Georgia’s economy…that is if Georgia opts to go in an opposite
direction from that of what Hollywood or other giant business marketers think…
if the state steps out of line with a progressive liberal culture’s mindset,
then it’s lookout Georgia.

There is the “religious liberty” bill that was recently re-introduced…having been
previously introduced and reading much like a similar national bill that happened
to have been signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

This more recent bill is a rift on a 2016 bill that was nixed by then Gov. Nathan Deal
when the LGBTQ communities sounded a very loud and very vocal alarm that they sensed some sort
of potential discrimination—never mind that such a national bill passed in 1993.

Yet even the owner of the Atlanta’s Falcons and Atlanta’s Soccer United teams, Arthur Blank
chimed in—he told a reporter that he disagreed with the Governor and thought
that such a bill would be bad for Georgia—as he saw the potential for dollar bills to
quickly disappear from state coffers if advertisers and others pulled out over such a bill.
He didn’t word his disapproval as such, but that was his bottom line unspoken reasoning.

The NFL, NBA, etc had already threatened to exclude Georgia from consideration as a
potential host city should such a bill come into effect.

Advertisers and the entertainment industry were also making their loud grumbles

How ever would dear Coca-Cola, aka Coke, make it if her home state
took a step backward, or so thought all of these big shakers and shifters?

And so now with The Heartbeat bill set to become a possible law, the same loud and
money ladened voices are beginning to sound.

And thus it is that I am reminded of a demure St Thérèse of Lisieux—

Despite such giants of opposition…be they physical or institutional,
Thérèse never wavered or backed down from her faith or of her desire to love.

She was simply obedient to God…to His commandments and to His will.

She fixed her eyes on God and God alone…allowing for all things to fall into place.

And so now we the faithful must also be obedient.

We can get behind a bill that protects the lives of unborn children…who indeed
have their own heartbeat by 6 weeks, or we can allow Hollywood, a plethora of
‘communities’, and those who throw their money around as their weight
to determine what is best for Georgia and its unborn children.

Sadly we continue seeing how these things play out.

However, we remain—
Obedient in prayer and to what we know to be God’s will…

Life and Love.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Mountains, mole hills and this elusive Spring

It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive. Why should it exaggerate? There is that which should be destroyed and that which should be simply illuminated and studied. How great is the force of benevolent and searching examination! We must not resort to the flame where only light is required.
Victor Hugo

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”

― W.B. Yeats

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(a spring rain drips down the soon to be budding maple tree / Julie Cook /2015)

Quick!
Did you see it?
Ohhh darn, you missed it.
It was right there in plain site. . .I promise!
Just as you turned your head, poof, it just disappeared.
What a shame. . . .

And so it is, ode to the ongoing elusive dance between Winter and Spring.
Warm, temperate and dry has been few and far between.
Frustratingly wet and chilly are proving to be more the norm.

Yet slowly and doggedly surely. . .
Little by little
a wee bit of color here
and a wee bit of life there,
each easing onto the scene.

And as with any time of transition,
there are to always be those herky jerky periods of stops and starts–
those glorious moments of wonder and those awkward spells of turmoil

Life certainly mirrors our seasons does it not?
At times there are the magical moments of marvelous ecstasies,
the slow dormant quiets of loss,
with each being traded for the tumultuous trials of transition.

Springtime, this spectacular time of passage, is certainly a time of clashing forces.
Warm air masses begin colliding with cold air masses.
Angry storms abound as a reluctant Winter battles to hold on to power.
Each season, each time passage, vies for control.

This time of yearly transition affords the random observer to be privy
to the passing of one realm to the next.
The proverbial passing of the torch from one reluctant monarch to the next.
Death and decay giving way to the expectancy of birth and renewal.

And as with any birth, as magical as it is,
birth exacts a certain amount of pain.
Marvelous, precious and delicious does not come without labor, toil and work.

And so it is with human nature.
We often see that the well intended can either deal with things honestly and straightforward,
tackling one thing at a time, or we can witness the misguided going off willy nilly,
making mountains out of molehills.

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(an image of beginning renovations and renewal of a worn torn yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(two different victims of some sort of foul play / Julie Cook / 2015)

As far back as the 16th century it seems people have been making mountains out of molehills.
The expression was actually recorded in 1660 in an English lexicon of idioms. A similar expression was recorded even earlier, in 1549, using a different visual reference but still with the same meaning.
Therefore marking our history with an age old conundrum. . .that mountains and molehills appear to be an ongoing human condition.

There is no doubt that you know the expression. . .
the whole taking of something seemingly small and insignificant and in turn blowing it up until it is almost an unsurmountable trouble.

Sadly it seems with some folks that such an undertaking is simply how they choose to operate on an ongoing basis. The taking of a simple task, situation or issue. . . turning it and everything around them into a disproportionate crises. Hopelessly preferring to stir up everyone and anyone in their wake. Leaving the likeminded and team-players mystified, frustrated and dazed.

It is during such times of battling, clashing and climbing that we must remember that good things can and do come from bad. That the obstacles placed before us, either by happenstance or by the misguided and malcontents, can either be approached and dealt with, depending on how we decide to proceed, or can fall victim to the perceived mountains produced by the lowly molehills.

I for one prefer to step, perhaps even stomp on the molehills, avoiding the ensuing mountains and make for the pretty flowers of Spring. . .that we could all be so like minded. . .

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(blooming tulip flower / Julie Cook / 2015)

Which obstacle to tackle first?

“For our path in life…is stony and rugged now, and it rests with us to smooth it. We must fight our way onward. We must be brave. There are obstacles to be met, and we must meet, and crush them!”
― Charles Dickens

“For the person who has learned to let go and let be, nothing can ever get in the way again.”
― Meister Eckhart

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(sticker bushes, barbed wire and a bull / Julie Cook / 2015)

The brambles
The barbed wire fence
The bull. . .

Three daunting obstacles. . .
One more focused than the other
Each one more formidable than the one before it.
Yet. . .I suppose it really doesn’t matter does it. . .
You’ve simply got to push through it all—regardless.
One
Two
Fifty. . .
An obstacle is an obstacle. . .it matters not the number.
The only question remaining, do you tackle all three at once or one at a time?

Do you race through the first foe, then immediately on to the second, all willy nilly as you continue racing onward to the final hurdle, practically falling on your face in order to get there?
And by the time you do reach that final obstacle, you’re all busied and bloody. . .wounded and winded, you’re really no match for that final foe now are you?

Slowly
Deliberately
Thoughtfully

First and foremost you must exercise a little restraint and caution as you make your way ever so carefully and delicately, picking your way through the lethal stickers.
Gingerly step up, over, around, gently pulling and pushing. . .slowly as not to become entangled.. you must call upon finesse.

Once past the stickers. . .
You must climb.
Lifting one leg up, being careful where and what you grab hold of. . .being very thoughtful where you place your other foot.
Balancing oh so carefully, as you push and pull yourself up and over making certain you clear the barbs. . . applying both skill and great concentration as you traverse this unsteady hurdle.

Eventually, in one piece, you feel somewhat triumphant as you now stand on solid ground on the opposite side, past the first set of troubling obstacles.
Yet
here
You finally come face to face with your greatest obstacle of them all.

A herculean giant to battle
A massive stone wall to scale
A seething ocean to cross
A terrible foe to defeat

The odds seem stacked against you.
You are tired and frustrated, battered and bruised,
as you’ve already journeyed so far and through so much just to reach this point. . .
this single point of now or never.

Exhausted and fearing defeat. . .
Part of you screams “give up!!
Yet the other half screams fight on!!!

You stare your enemy in the eye
Resolute
Determined
Relentless

As it all now seems to come slowly into focus
And that’s when you hear, from some cavernous place within your head, a tiny voice that grows stronger with each beat of your heart. . .
“Beloved, be not afraid”

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When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Deuteronomy 20:1-4

The Journey

“Sometimes it’s the journey that is more important than the end result—“
quote by Julie Cook and countless others who have voiced a similar observation

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

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(McKenzie Pass Lava flow Oregon / Julie Cook / 2012)

(I’ve written about our son before and of his struggles in school.
Today my thoughts are of him as well as with him on this particular Saturday and of a potentially life changing test.
Today I am transported back to a life, many years ago, and to what it has taken to get us all to this particular day. . .)

I have had, in the back of my mind, the intention of writing a certain post one day. . .a post in the not so distant future. . .a post that is to come most likely, hopefully, in a couple of months, a little later down the road. . .
. . .and yet. . .
It is today in which these thoughts seem to be percolating up to the surface and laying claim to both my thoughts and my heart.

One thing I’ve learned during the course of my life is that if you’re thinking and or feeling things–those internal nudgings, pushing’s and tiny alarms which sound deep in the recesses of heart and soul, it’s best not to put them off, not to push them aside until there seems to be sufficient “time” in which to address them—it is important, perhaps even dire, to address, examine, act and embrace such thoughts now, today. . .

Come December, our son will turn 26.
That in itself is difficult for my aging mind to comprehend.

He arrived in this world a week earlier than predicted—thankfully.
“They” had given me a due date of Christmas day. At the time the thought of having a baby born on Christmas was overwhelming for all sorts of reasons. I certainly didn’t want to be in a hospital on Christmas, I wanted to be home. My mom had passed away three years prior so I was a bit afraid of entering motherhood all on my own with little to no advice or direction. My husband owned a retail business. Christmas was his busiest time of the year. Would he even be able to enjoy the birth of his first born (and unbeknownst to us at the time, our only born). I certainly didn’t want our child’s birth to be overshadowed by business, nor by the madness known as the marketing of, by our consumer driven Society, of Christmas.

Our son was born with a slight case of jaundice which later was oddly attributed to being breast fed.
He also had a difficult time keeping any nourishment down without vomiting.
By 3 months he was admitted to Eggleston Children’s Hospital for extensive tests.
From the onslaught of constantly vomiting, he had developed internal bleeding and an ulcerated esophagus.
He was prescribed medication along with a specialized formula that was thickened with oatmeal in order to help “keep it all down”

His eating habits, to this day, are picky at best.
Other than those early struggles with nourishment and being on the low end of the growth chart, he appeared happy and relatively healthy.

By the time he was a year old, he had developed those growing life skills parents thankfully tick off on the long list of growing accomplishments.
He smiled.
He cooed.
He laughed.
He rolled over.
He sat up.
He cut teeth.
He uttered little words (“da da” was the first word—why that is, after all the work done by the mother, the first word is “da da” is beyond my soul, but I digress)
He crawled, fist on his belly, then up on all fours–
However those precarious teetering first steps to walking were yet to be seen.

We fretted when he didn’t walk until he was 15 months old.
Naturally we were concerned because all the other babies his age had been walking, many, for several months. Yet thankfully that skill eventually came to fruition much to our relief.

All seemed well.
He attended preschool seemingly happy to be with other children, as he was an only child.
He was sweet with a gentle spirit accented by a vivid imagination. I think children who have no siblings and do not live in a neighborhood alongside constant playmates tend to develop a wonderful sense of creativity and keen imagination.

It was’t until he entered kindergarten that a red flag was hoisted up the pole of a parent’s fear.
His teacher called us in for a meeting as she wanted to let us know that she had some concerns—
She had decided that there was one or two things going on. . .either our child was “gifted” as his vocabulary and verbal skills were off the charts— yet, he wasn’t reading, his writing was not on par with his peers nor was his ability to spell simple words— she therefore sensed something was a rye.
She recommended we have him tested.

We took our son to a child psychologist for a battery of tests. Time will not permit me to elaborate on the worries which clouded our world during this time. The short of this long story is that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in written expression, a slight case of dyslexia coupled by ADD with the area of contention being an inability to stay “focused”. Plus his fine motor skills were slightly impaired.

As the psychologist explained, she did not think our son would ever be able to participate successfully in team sports due to the trouble with his fine motor skills, my husband had tears streaming down his cheeks–not because he was disappointed that his only son would most likely not ever follow in the steps of his own athletic prowess, but rather that he felt his son would perhaps miss out on so much of what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself, that of a team working toward a unified and single goal.

Yet it was for our own small team, our small family of three, to work toward the goal of getting him reading plus finding a place of success in school.

I racked my brain over what I had or had not done when I was pregnant. What had I perhaps done inadvertently to our child? Lots of unfounded guilt coupled with lots of worry for an unknown future engulfed us for many years.

The struggle and climb were both long and arduous.
There was the summer spent driving back and forth daily to a special school in Atlanta that worked specially with kids who had dyslexia and learning disabilities.
There were the countless tutors, the endless meetings with teachers, the tears, the frustrations, the long nights working for tiny and minuscule gains, the isolation of working day after day, night after night, alone all under the worried and weary eyes of a mom and dad.

Our son had to pour all energies into his studies, there was little time for anything but school. No fun after school with friends, no time for sports, no time for leisure. . .there wasn’t much time for the building of close bonds and friendships.
He grew tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and burned out.
We too grew weary and frustrated, yet we continued working and pushing–often moving 2 steps forward and 5 steps back.
This all before entering high school.
Exhausting.

Yet he continued to have goals.
He had dreams.
He had aspirations.
Those things, thankfully, never waned.

Even though I was an educator who was realistic, I was also a parent who was determined that he should be given every opportunity, just like everyone else who dreams of a successful future, of being afforded the things necessary to make him successful.
Success to us was simply to pass.
We rejoiced over C’s.
We cried.
We often felt defeated.
We got angry.
We worried.
We made ourselves sick.
We grew tired.

In 2007 our son graduated high school.
That was a wonderful day.
He didn’t wear cords or medals around his neck.
He didn’t have stoles draped over his shoulders.
He wasn’t highly ranked nor did his name bear any honors.
Yet he was standing on a stage, receiving a piece of paper many thought he’d never hold.

College, which was indeed in his plans, would not be easy.
Nor has it been.
He is in his final semester–we hope.
Others his age have long since graduated, some with multiple degrees.
They are working, making their way in their careers and life.
Our son is weary.
He has felt discouraged.
He has suffered multiple setbacks.
At times he’s been his own worst enemy.
He is stubborn.
He is hard headed.
Sometimes I think unrealistic.

However I am not the one who has been told time and time again that I couldn’t do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. There is a certain determination in constantly being told “no” or “never”. . .
Our son, thankfully, has always possessed certain inner strengths which have worked to compensate and offset the heavy deficiencies.

Today, after several miscues, he finally took a long anticipated test.
He took the LSAT.
That in-depth lengthy test those aspiring to attend Law School must first successfully pass before moving forward.
There’s a lot riding on the results of this test.
He’s been in school for the majority of his life.
It has taken a grave toll on him physically.
We want / need for him to work toward financial independence.
His well being wants him to be finally independent.
His new wife worries.
The future is still uncertain.

And yet, the mere fact that my child has actually arrived at this very day, the day of simply taking a test, is monumental.
I know he will be most anxious over the results.
I, on the other hand, have no angst over results.
It is quite to the contrary— I have an odd sense of peaceful satisfaction.
There was a time when colleagues and friends thought we were unrealistic in our aspirations for our son. There was a time when we all wondered if we had not bitten off more than we or he could chew.
I’m sure we will still have those days.
But for today, I may exhale.
I think he may actually exhale.

So whether or not he does or does not eventually attend Law School. . .
Whether or not he clears this latest hurdle or stumbles. . .
Whether or not he puts this goal aside and works toward a different goal, a Plan B goal. . .
It is, to this one mom, the mere fact that her child has actually made it to this day—this actual day which has witnessed his carrying a single admittance ticket through a door, to finding his place once again at yet one more classroom desk, to the taking of one more test in the long list of tests, all taken during the course of a long hard fought career spent in school–it is to this day, a day of an amazing accomplishment, that I can finally see a glimmer of peace.

It is therefore my heartfelt belief that it is not so much the end of a journey which matters in this thing we call life but rather it is the path along the long and arduous journey which matters most. There will always be the bumps and curves, the mountains and cliffs which we will happen upon during the course of the journey which will work in tandem for and against us, all helping to form the “real” person which resides within each of us–as we are all tried by the fires and furnace of life.
My son is testament to such a journey.

“Success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
― Booker T. Washington

Odds not looking too good?

“The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He’s got to have some inner standards worth fighting for or there won’t be any way to bring him into conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That’s all there is to it.”
Clark Gable

Frankly Scarlett, the odds looked stacked against our little friend.
Two giant Goliaths against our little David the Crab.

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And suddenly the odds seemed to even out a bit, as it was now at least one against one.
Yet, sadly, the odds were still looking to be going against our small friend’s favor.

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Never being one to tolerate the picking on or bullying of those who are smaller or less than, and not too keen on how Mother Nature was wanting to play her hand out against this little guy this particular morning, I moved in, making my presence known—with the result sending the bullying gulls scurrying down the beach in search of other troubles and meals—all the while one lone crab remained, having seen, literally, better times.

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It was my hope that the little crab would be able to make it with the one good remaining eye. . .with that thought passing through my mind, a wave gently pulled our small friend back into the water, away from hungry gulls, but into what new troubles and foes which may be lying in wait, in the depths of the sea, I simply knew not.

With this small microcosm drama, playing out on a lone stretch of beach, I was suddenly palpably aware of our own plights of struggles and peril when life appears to stack the odds against us.

There will be many times throughout our lives when we will play the part of David–perhaps young and naive, or perhaps ill prepared while facing a foe bigger than life. Our Goliaths may not be actual giants but rather something more sinister, deadly or seemingly insurmountable–be it a dreaded illness, a chronic illness, a death sentence. . . the loss of a career, the death of a spouse or child, a divorce, a loss of home, a failed test, a lost savings, a move—giant odds, difficult odds, challenging odds, deadly odds, unbeatable odds. . .

It is not necessarily a matter of our winning the battle, or of our beating the odds. . .but rather it is the fact that we have what it takes–the courage, the finesse, the desire, the hutzpah, the moxie, the will, the tenacity, the stubbornness, to reach down and pick up that rock—because if we don’t bother to pick up the rock, the odds will win, every time.

Watch out for the stump holes

“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.”
Heraclitus

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(image of a “stump hole” or the remains of a decayed tree / rural west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

And no, this has nothing to do with moonshine.
There.
I knew that’d get your attention.

A stump hole, by best definition, is the hole which forms once a tree has died and decayed.
Legend has it, as there is probably more truth than myth to this story, moonshiners / bootleggers would use these “stump holes” to hide their jars and bottles of illegal liquor–resulting in what is known as stump hole whiskey.
The woods are full of such.
They are not easily seen, hiding under the leaves and debris, and can be the bane of anyone trekking though the woods.
I should know.

It was mid afternoon, just the other Sunday.
Finally a decent day–no rain, snow, ice or howling wind–simply a nice day to be outside.
It was still chilly as it was the end of February, but the sun was in its full regalia and I was happy.

Traipsing behind my husband, as he was surveying some property in the middle of nowhere Georgia, I was following close behind as we made our way through some uncharted woods. Of course I had my trusty camera in hand, snapping images as we dodged the thorns of sticker bushes and saw briars, all while ducking under limbs and vines— suddenly, and rather violently, I found myself knee deep in a stump hole.

The hole, which was covered up with the remnants of years of fallen leaves and sticks, was just waiting for an unsuspecting victim. The hole was about 8 inches in diameter, just big enough for my boot to rapidly descend downward–or sucked downward if you’re into that whole middle earth thing with creatures lurking about in order to pluck downward unsuspecting earthlings, but I digress.
With one leg suddenly sunk to my knee as the other leg remained firmly planted on terrea-firma, my entire body violently lurched forward, with me now being oddly askew, as my face planted nicely in the leaves and muck.

My husband, hearing a muffled yelp, turned only to survey his wife sprawled face down flat on the forest floor. Knowing the danger of such holes, which have left many a would-be woodsman with a broken ankle or leg, he was relieved to see no protruding bone.

Aggghhhh, I moaned as I pulled my leg out of the hole. My jeans muddy with a now widening area of red moisture seeping down my pants.
I brush myself off.
As I pull up the leg of my jeans, I see that most of the skin is no longer on my shine bone.
Great.
Otherwise I quickly surmise that I am in one full piece. Lest we forget our little broken cookie last spring, eh?

Since my husband is old school, he reassured me, as he called out over his shoulder while he continued onward, “you’re okay, let’s go.”

Are you kidding me!?
My jeans are not only muddy but now bloody, plus I have a gash on my shine and a giant goose egg growing out of my leg.
“No broken bones, you’re good”
“You’re lucky you know, those holes can be nasty. . .”
“Ya think” I simmer in my head.
“Humph” I snort as I continue to bush myself off.

My husband is of the school of thought that one should just “get up, rub a little dirt on it, spit on it and go on”
This coming from a man who played high school and college football, in the late 60’s, with a helmet whose padding consisted of stings and rope.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with him to this day, but I digress, again. . .

Long story short–
My jeans washed up nicely, no rips thankfully.
My leg is now turning a lovely shade of yellow green from the black and blue of two weeks ago and there is of course a moral to my tale. . .

The moral of the story is first– one should indeed be cautious and watchful while out walking in the woods, but secondly and more importantly, we must all be mindful that when we least expect trouble, trouble will usually find us.

As inconvenient as it is to be blindsided by most anything, it is the fiber of our inner being which will always see us though such moments. Life does not promise us anything but death and, for most of us law abiding folks, taxes. The pitfalls along the way, and there will always be pitfalls, are the fires to the furnace in which our “metal” is tried, tested and forged.

If we breathe, we will eventually find ourselves stepping in, or even being pushed into, a stump hole.
It may be an accident, it may be an illness, it may be a job loss, it may be a death, it may be a divorce, it may be a break up, it may be a move, it may be devastation—but no matter what it is, there inside each of us lies an inner strength. We may never have known the strength to be there, but there it is—simply waiting to be called upon to do battle with the crisis at hand. It is how we handle landing in the stump hole which eventually defines us as a person. The politically correct among us will call this character.

To have faith in something greater than ourselves, indeed helps in those times of crisis–as we find ourselves knee deep in the stump holes of life.
God, the Creator of the Universe, does not promise an easy path free of stump holes as we, simply put, live in a fallen world.
This fallen world of ours is marked by a sea of stump holes, which often seem more like deadly land mines, scattered strategically throughout our journey.

What God, the Creator of the Universe does promise us however, is to always be by our side, to love and to care for us as long as we travel this earth. He does not say that it will be a painless or easy walk.
And much like my husband, He’ll tell us to pull our legs out of the hole, to get up, to brush ourselves off and to hurry along in order to continue our walk with Him.

No, we are not guaranteed a neat clean journey, nor will it be free of trouble, but it is a journey never taken alone.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

what’s your mountain?

“How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end – to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared. . .
Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished. . .
Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . .
and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . .
fulfilled a destiny. . .
To struggle and to understand – never this last without the other; such is the law. . .”

George Mallory

DSCN0995
(Image of Mt Hood, Orgegon /Julie Cook / 2013)

The above quotation is in regard to the scaling of Mt Everest. Mallory, one of a threesome of British Mountain climbers, disappeared while en route to the summit in 1924. His body was not discovered until 1999. It is not known for certain whether he ever reached the summit before his death on Everest.

I cannot speak as a mountain climber.
Whereas I love mountains and trekking about them, I do not, however, seek to do so if I’m required to carry ice picks, crampons, oxygen tanks, snow goggles, ropes, or to have a Sherpa by my side. I will simply stick to my enjoyment of trekking verses climbing. Yet that is not to say that I do not fully comprehend nor duly appreciate both the physical as well as the psychological preparedness required for such adventure, nor is the strong alluring “call of the mountain” lost on my more timid personage.

We all have our “Mountain” or “Mountains” to climb. My mountain these days happens to be a continuous 30 minutes each morning on an elliptical machine. Complete with incline and resistance. Not that the elliptical is the “Mountain” of my life but rather, it is what I hope the elliptical will help me ascend to—that of better heart health, stamina and not to mention the added benefit of hopefully shedding of a few pounds. For a female, at 54 with a bum thyroid, not to mention that whole hormone thing, the overwhelming weight and health issue is the proverbial Pandora’s box—nothing but a big bunch of bad all mixed together.

If we breathe and live there will inevitably always be mountains in our lives requiring us to climb— as well as conquer.
For some of us it is the issue of weight and health. For others it may be the Mountain of an addiction to drugs, gambling, alcohol or sex. For others it may be the Mountain of debt, poor finances, poor health, illness, depression, illiteracy. . . as there is breath in our bodies, there will always be something that each one of us must climb and conquer during our lifetime. . .

These mountains are not easy to climb . . .
—leading many to rethink the journey.
With each arduous step upward, there is often something catastrophic sending us backwards by 5 or more steps.
We slip, we grasp, we fall. . .
Tired, weary, sore. . .
We ask to stop, just need a breath, just need to rest, just for a little while, “I’ll start again soon, I promise”— we bargain with ourselves, God and the looming Mountain.

Do we think that God is oblivious to our struggle?
Do we think that He is some sadistic malcontent who manipulates the Mountains, sickly and twistedly watching us struggling and stumbling backwards through our tears, frustration and feelings of defeat?

He is not that.
It is He who sheds the tears and feels the frustration alongside us . . .
With the one difference being, however, that He does not know the defeat.
In Him only rests an ending of Victory.
The journey and climb to that Victory, however, is always through a battle with Death.
Regardless of whatever each individual’s Mountain may be, the climb is always the same.
The Mountain will always be the Death of Self.
It is the Mountains of self which we must climb which ultimately lead to the Victory.

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Mark 11:23

Our world will always have its mountains as we sadly live in a fallen world.
There is no perfection, no Utopia.
A world simply hiding under dark wings of Death.
Dreams will come and go just as the tides ebb and flow.
Struggles will constantly dog us while endlessly nipping at our heels.
What is the option if the climb does not continue?

Yes, the journey is arduous, as the task remains daunting.
The days will often be filled with frustration, sorrow and pain.
There will be days of defeat.
Two steps upward, 6 steps back.
“I quit”
“I give up”
“I can’t”
. . .so exclaims a dejected climber. . .
yet all the while, Victory remains open armed and waiting. . .

It’s always looming you know, that Mountain.
Despite decisions to abandon the climb, the Mountain never disappears.
Anyone who attempts to walk away simply lives the remainder of life in a frustrating dark shadow.

Yet this need not be a signal of a defeated end.
As there is light each new morning, as there is breathe each new day, the climb is never over.
For each new morning offers the new hope of another try.
Another chance at the Mountain before us.
Another chance to try again.
Another step upward.
Again, another opportunity to work toward the top.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Isaiah 41:13

The climb, the conquest must always begin with just one step upward.
No Victory is ever reached without first taking a single step.