let me tell you…

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring
momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them.
The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(our son and his daughter, the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

Let me tell you a little bit about our son…

He turns 31 later this year and would absolutely die if he knew his mother was
sharing anything about him on her blog.

Oh well.

I’ve written about him before, several times…it’s just that I don’t tell him that I do.

I’ve written about him not because he’s simply my son nor because he’s famous, infamous
or terminally ill…thank the Lord he’s none of those things but just our son.

I write rather because his growing up was not an easy journey…

It was a journey that seems oh so long ago and yet the memories of the difficulties
remain.

Despite that long and often difficult journey, we, his parents, are so exceedingly
proud of the man, husband, and father he’s grown into.

And that is what I want to write about.

But I also want to write, not so much about our son,
but rather about the very surreal time in history in which we are now
finding ourselves living in.

We are living in a dystopian culture that is playing fast and loose with
something so straightforward and simple as the obvious fact of biology and gender…
that being the exacting fact of male and female.

It is a culture that is trying its best to demasculate any and all males.
A culture that is shaming boys, young men, and adult men…for being just that, male.
A culture that allows children to “choose” a gender, with gender being
a fluid notion.

I, for one, believe in and very much want strong men.

I want strong men in my life.
I want strong male role models who know what it means to be a man…
I want men who know what it means to be a Godly man.
Mature men.
Men who understand God’s intention for them as husbands, leaders,
role models, fathers…

And these desires of mine do not equate me with being weak, dominated,
overrun, demure, belittled or abused.

Just shy of 40 years ago, my late godfather, an Episcopal priest,
sat me down right before I got married in order to share a few important
thoughts with me.
As my priest, but more importantly, as my Godpoppa, he felt compelled to tell me that
marriage was not going to be easy.

I think we all know that an engaged bride-to-be lives in a bit of an unrealistic fairytale
of fantasy.
There is a whirlwind of activities, details, and parties to attend to;
reality is not often found in the fanfare.

My Godpoppa told me that I was marrying a good man but a man who had been abused
both physically and emotionally as a child by a hardcore alcoholic father.
He told me that my husband-to-be had not had a positive role model of
what it meant to be a loving husband and father.

He wanted me to keep this all in mind as we prepared to embark on
a life together.
He knew all too well that there would be difficult times.

He already knew, up close and personal, of my own issues with adoption and
dysfunction within my adopted family— but in his wisdom, he knew that
two broken people were about to be joined as one…
as in two becoming one big broken person.

Not only did I have to learn how to be a loving, supportive, forgiving wife and later
a mother–of whom was also working and tending to the house…
but my husband had to learn how to be a good husband, provider,
and an eventual positive father—
the type of father he desperately wanted to be for our son.


(our son and my husband many moons ago / Julie Cook / 1995ish)

And my Godfather was right—marriage was and is hard—add work, bills,
life and parenthood to that and things can become dangerously complicated fast!

I read the following quote this morning from the author Tom Hoops:
People think of “the family that prays together stays together” as a quaint old saying.
But it was a favorite saying of Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta,
and the daily practice of Pope Benedict XVI’s family, according to his brother’s biographer.

I had to learn the hard way the importance of seeking God first and foremost when
it comes to one’s most intimate relationships.
It is imperative that He be in the middle of all we do because if He is not and
we substitute ourselves in the center, then we have a toxic equation for
stress and disaster.

It is Satan’s desire that the family fails.
If the family fails, Satan gains a greater foothold in our world…as all binding institutions
begin to crumble.

But I suppose I’ve deviated a tad from my original intention with this post…

Yet we need to understand that parenthood, like marriage, is often a learn
as you go experience.

And so it was with us—especially when our 5-year-old son was diagnosed
with a rather severe learning disability and a year later with ADD.

Life suddenly took a difficult turn.

He didn’t learn to read until he was entering the 3rd grade.
We spent the previous summer driving back and forth every day to a
specialized private school in Atlanta that focused on teaching kids with
dyslexia how to read.

We spent our afternoons fighting over homework and driving from tutor to tutor.

It all sounds so matter of fact now…but at the time it was anything but.

There was a father who was gone working 16 hour days, 6 days a week, a wife who
was teaching and commuting 30 minutes to and from work to home while shuttling a
child from school to tutoring to home, to homework, to Scouts, then back home again…

Throw in making supper, tending to the house, washing, cleaning, preparing
lessons for the next day…and life just seemed to get more and more difficult.

There was enough exhaustion, frustration, resentment, tears, fears and worry
circulating in our young lives to last a lifetime.
And there were many times I angrily raised a fist and questioned God.

Yet our son wanted nothing more than to be “normal” and of course we
wanted that for him.

But what was normal?

For him to be “normal” meant that there was going to have to be a great deal of
commitment, time invested, assistance, sacrifice and lots and lots of work.

But of course, you can read about all of that in the following linked posts written years back…
because today is not a day to dwell on what was but rather today is a day to look at what is:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/the-journey/
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/a-large-collective-sigh/

I actually had colleagues who openly voiced their skepticism over our son ever
going to college let alone being successful.

It wasn’t easy.
There were hurdles.
There were setbacks.
There were mistakes.
There were injustices.
And there was simply dumb rotten luck.

Then there came a girl.
And then came love.
And then came marriage.
And eventually, there came a degree.

Some very tough jobs followed—they came complete with low pay, poor hours,
dangerous conditions, a lack of appreciation, pounded pavement,
all the way to a shuttered company, a lost job, and then news of a baby.

When things were looking their lowest, a ray of light shone through.

Out of the blue came a new job.
New promises from a prominent company.
A new start.
Along with that new baby.

Yet hours remained frustratingly poor, pay remained minimal and frustration remained high
as the promises kept being pushed aside.

However in all of that remained something more important, something more instrumental,
something more exacting…that being…perseverance.

It was a desire and a will ‘to do’, not only for himself but more importantly the
desire to do, to be and to provide for his young family.

He wanted to be that man he saw in his father.

A man who made years of sacrifices of self for the betterment of his wife and child.
A man who was just that, a man who possessed both determination and a respect
for responsibility.

There was work, there was a growing family as baby number two appeared…
added to all of that was more college work for an additional degree add-on.
A balance of living life while looking ahead.

And just when life was looking overwhelming and growth was looking stymied and stagnant…
along came an opportunity for something different, something new and something that
seemed improbable, unattainable and most unlikely…and yet it came none the less.

After gaining a toehold in the door and with nearly two months of
interviews and scrutiny, the new job offer came last week.

I know I’ll be writing more about all of this change in the coming weeks…
but first, there are the necessary two weeks of finishing up one job before
starting another.

There will be the training, learning the adjusting…for not only our son
but for his entire small family.

Change is good, but it is also hard.

Yet the one thing in all of this that I know to be true is that our son did this on his own.
He earned the opportunity and sold himself as the best asset he could be…

There is God’s hand and timing in all of this.
And I can say this as I’m now looking back.

On the front end, things can look overwhelming and impossible…

Yet my husband toiled to become that man, that father, he so yearned to be…
and now his son is following suit…

Living the life as the man God intended for him to be.

A strong focused man who loves his family.
A man who works to lead his family and honor his wife.
A strong role model for both his young son and daughter.
A man who continues to make us, his mom and dad, so very proud.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul.

Proverbs 29:17

Missed opportunity

“During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”
― Winston Churchill

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(a very wet cardinal, seeking shelter from a spring downpour amongst the leaves of an ailing oak tree / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each day, as we wander about this thing we call life, we are offered a myriad of opportunities. Opportunities “to bless and to be blessed.”
Some may say it is an opportunity to be kind and to receive a kindness in return, while others may simply put it in a nutshell as “one good deed deserves another”. . .
How ever you choose to view the chances and opportunities offered to all of us on a daily basis, those chances to be nice, to be kind, to be giving. . .tragically are sometimes totally missed.

Missed opportunities.

I am ashamed to say, I totally missed one today.
In a big way.

Long story short, as I was cruising down the frozen food aisle, during my weekly grocery pilgrimage, while looking for frozen peaches for the blasted daily smoothie regime, a young woman pushing a shopping cart, with a cute little boy sitting in her buggy, comes up behind me. We’re the only two buggies on the aisle.
I hear a question being posed somewhere from behind me but it was such that I couldn’t tell if it was being directed to me or perhaps it was a phone conversation.

I turn slightly, looking over my left shoulder, acknowledging that someone is coming up right beside me. Sure enough, the young woman was talking to me.
“hey, can I ask you a question?”
I stop pushing my cart, smiling.
“I remember you, you’re a teacher at the high school. Do you have any money, maybe some change, some pennies?”

Whoa. . .What?
I’m knocked totally off guard—and I didn’t recognize this person telling me she recognized me.
Who asks for money on the frozen food aisle??

She had a lean cuisine sitting in her buggy. The little boy, who I assumed was her son, was cute and smartly dressed. Upon observation I could see that her teeth were not in the best of shape and she looked a bit ragged but was bubbly and quite personable. I was so taken aback that I stammered, telling her I just had a debit card.

She continued chatting. “You still teaching?”
“No” I replied, “I retired almost 2 years ago.”
“Retired?” she retorts incredulously, “you old enough?”
“Do you miss it?”
“I miss my kids but I don’t miss the hassles” I offer.
“Oh I miss it. I miss school a lot.”
This said as she scoots on down the aisle chatting and laughing.

I follow along behind her, working my way to a check out lane. Attempting to see in which direction she headed, as I now had had enough time to process what had just happened, I looked down in my bag for my change purse–wanting to offer her what I could find—but I couldn’t figure out where she went.

The checkout lanes aren’t that massive, but she wasn’t standing in one.
Hummmm.
I actually knew the lady in front of me at the check out lane who was in the process of putting her groceries on the checkout counter. Telling her quickly what had just happened, she helps me to scan the area as well, but couldn’t spot the young lady.

Missed opportunity.

I’m not a super quick thinker. Nor terribly fast on my feet when it comes to “confrontations”–always coming up with the perfect response after having had time to think about it all. . .
I actually had a little cash in my wallet, but was wanting to use it for the next stop of the day at the dry cleaners.

I felt terrible. I should have given her the cash. Why did I have to think about it first? Why couldn’t my response of giving have been immediate, one without thought or reservation? Why didn’t I offer to buy the lean cuisine?

No, I had to rummage in my brain as to why she’d be asking for change or pennies for a lean cuisine.
I had to ponder the potential for scams as the nightly news pounds that into our brains.
I had to be reserved, pulling inward, rather than letting go of self and flowing outward.

I dropped the proverbial ball.

What had I learned form Lent, from Easter and from all that I hold to profess as my faith–
Sadly, obviously, very little.

What I do know, is that we are to give, unabashedly.
We are to offer all we have.
The Pharisees gave greatly because they had greatly to give. . .but the poor widow had but pennies and gave all that she had. . .she didn’t think about it. . .she didn’t ponder whether she’d have enough for the dry cleaners, she didn’t worry about being scammed, she didn’t have to know the person. She didn’t have to have proof that the money was going to what was professed.
She simply gave.
No thoughts.
No waffling.
No holding back.

Missed opportunity.

Now I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind.
I whole heartily recommend that one should take in the surroundings and circumstance before digging into wallets and pockets, all before handing over any money to strangers.
I certainly suggest using some common sense.
But I am hoping that for the next opportunity presented my way, that I may step up to the plate a bit more readily, without wrangling in my head and weighing the pros and cons, the shoulds and the shouldn’ts—being more giving than reserved.

Here’s to learning from a missed opportunity.