in the company of or separate from…

“It is in the company of Jesus that you work for the glory of God.”
St. John Baptist de la Salle


(the sedum begin to get a tinge of color / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Man was created for a certain end.
This end is to praise, to reverence, and to serve the Lord his God and by this
means to arrive at eternal salvation.
All other beings and objects that surround us on the earth were created for the
benefit of man and to be useful to him, as means to his final end;
hence his obligation to use, or to abstain from the use of, these creatures,
according as they bring him nearer to that end, or tend to separate him from it.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola,
p.18
An Excerpt From
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Don’t say it!!! Rather let us say thank you!

“The line between ‘normal’ and ‘neurotic’ begins to appear when
any activity becomes compulsive –
that is, when the person feels pushed to perform the act because
it habitually allays his anxiety rather than because of any intrinsic wish
to perform the act.”

Rollo May


(the roses are blooming despite our current quell of life / Julie Cook / 2020)

Don’t say it!

I don’t think I can bear hearing it one more time…

“new normal”

There is no such thing.

There is either normal….or there is its antithesis…not normal
‘New normal’ is not a thing.

We are either normal or we are not….end of sentence.

If I suffer a stroke and my current way of life is suddenly altered, I will work to make
it normal again—what I know to be normal.
I may struggle, things will obviously be altered but I will work toward normal.
I will not give up or give in–I will do my best to be what I know to be normal.
I may or may not make it—but I will strive for what I know as normal.

“New normal” is a compromise, a ‘less than’ sort of approach.
A settling.
Settling for something less and “other than.”

So to all those ‘powers that be’ who keep trying to tell us that we are to now live
a new normal…to accept life as a new normal…
I say NO!

We will not settle.
We will not settle for ‘less than.’

Rather we will strive for what we know to be normal.

And we will do so with wisdom, patience, and prudence…
we can and we will be normal again.

Our armed forces…those men and women who have bravely fought and also
sadly died throughout this near 250-year history of our nation…
those who have fought defending this great nation of ours did not give their all,
they did not offer up their limbs and lives, for a nation that simply settles.

They knew, just as I know, that we are an exceptional nation.
We will not accept “less than.”
They have taught us this on each and every beachhead, unfriendly sky, dense jungle,
tumultuous sea and savage battlefield.

And so today of all days, we owe a deep sense of gratitude to our veterans and
their valiant sacrifices—
We owe it to each and every last one of them to continue to strive to be ‘better than’
rather than ‘less than’.

So let us, this day, take the opportunity to thank those who have served and continue to serve…
thanking them for reminding us that we are indeed a nation worth fighting for!

These are challenging days and precarious times…and yet we have faced challenges before…
And each and every time we have faced the seemingly insurmountable,
we have risen to the challenge and we have overcome.

And we will do so again.

We will do so not by settling but by fighting for what we hold dear and cherish…
that being our liberties and freedom—the very ideals our servicemen and women have
sacrificed their very lives for.

Today, we offer our gratitude.
Tomorrow we move onward and upward!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

fruitfulness and provisions for the future

“The stillness of prayer is the most essential condition for fruitful action.
Before all else, the disciple kneels down.”

St. Gianna Molla


(a new season’s little figs to be / Julie Cook / 2020)

Man not only should possess the fruits of the earth, but also the very soil,
inasmuch as from the produce of the earth he has to lay by provision for the future.
Nature must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him.
And this stable condition of things he finds solely in the earth and its fruits.

Pope Leo XIII
from Rerum Novarum

the sound of silence…can break the heart

“In the silence of the heart God speaks.
If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.
Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness,
your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.”

Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers


(courtesy the web)

The school year has finally ended and thus our little extended family clan headed home
yesterday for good.

And I cried like nobody’s business.

There is now such a deafening silence that neither my husband nor I find comfortable.

No shrieks, no cries, no shouts, no laughter, no bumps nor bangs…

March 15th until May 22nd.
Holidays, birthdays, milestones, and seasons have all came and gone.

And now they are gone…

And there is still a Pandemic, a lockdown, a ‘new’ normal…
The silence isn’t helping…


(the attack of Da / Julie Cook / 2020)


(a warm spring day /Julie Cook/ 2020)


(snuggle bug siblings / Abby Cook/ 2020)


(a first hair cut / Julie Cook / 2020)


(the last morning with “mom” / Julie Cook / 2020)

ALMIGHTY God, heavenly Father, who hast blessed us with the joy and care of children;
Give us light and strength so to train them,
that they may love whatsoever things are true and pure and lovely and of good report,
following the example of their Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

1928 Book of Common Prayer

unconditional…

Intense love does not measure,
it just gives.

Mother Teresa


Photo by Olegkalina

So the idea of unconditional love came creeping into the forefront of my thoughts recently.

I’d say for various reasons…but no matter the reason, it got me thinking.

Unconditional love, is it not, a noble idea, or is that ideal?

As a Christian, I would think that we of all people, should grasp the concept a bit more so
than unbelievers, in part, because that is a fundamental building block to our faith.

You know that whole “For God so loved the world…”
and that He would “give” his son over for us…that He would love us so
unconditionally, given our often wretched, sinful and selfish responses,..
well it is quite the gift for a foundation.

So I got to pondering whether or not this noblest of attributes is
actually truly attainable to mankind…or is it simply unattainable?

I opted for a bit of research…and found an article from Psychology Today
regarding the notion of unconditional love and the real possibility that
humans could actually achieve such…or not.

The ideal of unconditional love is a noble one.
We want to be loved as we are, and perhaps we’d like to see ourselves as capable of selfless love.

Unfortunately, loving unconditionally may set us up for disappointment and shame
when our ideal doesn’t match the reality of how difficult —
or perhaps impossible — it is to love unconditionally.

Children need to be loved without conditions.
As they struggle through life, we need to be unendingly patient —
taking many deep breaths, and offering guidance repeatedly.
Embodying a consistently loving, accepting presence,
we create a climate for safe attachment. As adults,
we also desire and need safe relationships.
Opening our hearts, we want to trust that a beloved partner or
loyal friend will be there when we need them.

However, if we look too fervently and exclusively to one person to fill all our needs
(for acceptance, belonging, meaning),
we may be expecting something that one person cannot provide.
Taken to an extreme, we may echo the silent plea of the narcissistic child:
Love me and supply what I need …
despite how I treat you.

Clinging to a sense of entitlement,
we may fly into blame or rage when our partner’s needs clash with our own.
For better or worse, mature love can only thrive under certain conditions.
Just as a rose needs ample sun, water, and nutrients to survive and flourish,
we cannot expect love to thrive under sterile or hostile conditions.
There needs to be (enough) mutuality.

So the word egocentric came running to my mind.

Having been the chief caregiver of two, who are 2 and under, these past three months
has afforded me my fair share of egocentric encounters.

Me, mine and definitely not yours—even if it is yours.

Innate qualities that must be, like a wild pony, tamed.

We adults all know that, as children, we must learn to share.
And yet we, as children, want to be showered and caressed by our caregivers
regardless of our own actions.
And at 2 years of age or younger, who in the heck is rationalizing their actions??

Rather it appears that it is the reactions of those around us, reactions to our own actions,
that begin to shape us.
Be it stern words.
A rebuff.
A spanking.
Time-out.
Loss of something we want, etc…

All early teaching tools to the taming of self.

Because as adults, we know that in order to “get along” with others, we’ve got to learn to
let go of self and share.
.
As an educator, I certainly had my fair share of educational psychology courses and child development
courses…and as a parent and now grandparent, I have had my fair share of hands-on training.

Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not so much…

We have been told, by those who are in the know, that there are 7 definable types of love.

Now whether or not these are all innate or learned is debatable.

1.Eros–Love of the body
2.Philia– Affectionate love
3.Storge–Love of the Child
4.Agape–Selfless Love
5.Ludus–Playful Love
6.Pragma– Long-lasting Love
7.Philautia– Love of the Self

In his book from 1960, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis examines this notion of “types” of love.
but rather focuses on just 4 types of love—Storge, Philia, Eros, and finally Agape.

Growing up, as a teenager attending various Bible studies, it was Agape that spoke to me
as to that which is the epitome of unconditional love.

And it seems that some of these “loves” are much nobler than others.

And is that not what we humans should strive for…the nobler of loves?

Which brings us back around to unconditional love.

A higher and nobler love.

Loving without condition.

Loving the sinner and not the sin.

And yet, in the end, there does seem to be limits.

As in we may accept God’s unconditional gift, or we may choose not to.
Plus we must remember that we do not always offer unconditional love back to God–
nor do we offer it to one another.

He loves unconditional, but we do not.

A conundrum.

So I suppose I will continue to muse about this type of love…the
matter of unconditionality and Agape.

pandemics tend to do that…prompting us to ruminate over deep and often hidden thoughts.

So…unconditional love.
Something I want and something I would hope I could one day in turn offer to others.

Yet I fear this is to be a lifelong endeavor…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Romans 8:35

this will all make sense….

“Hands down, this is the best day of my life.
And quite possibly the last.”

Olaf (Disney’s Frozen character)

Over the past near three months, keeping watch of the wee ones, I have become
totally and completely ingrained, as well as a downright expert on “selsa” and
the movies of Frozen.

Olaf the snowman seems to have spoken to me…day in and day out…
over and over…

And so during these odd times of which we now find ourselves living,
I think Olaf’s song, “This will all make sense when I am older”
is more than appropriate as well as applicable.

Ode to the wisdom of a made-up and utterly odd little snowman.

choose life over fear

“Nothing in life is to be feared,
it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Marie Curie


(Two grandparents overun / Brenton Cook / 2020)

After nearly three months of going nowhere but to the grocery store,
the curbside pickup liquor store, occasionally to Target and most recently to a
Chick-fil-A drive-through…

After three months of being cooped up…caring for wee ones while others work from home…
Living life shrouded daily within a veil of trepidation, questions
and fear…today we opted for living life a bit more boldly and actually ventured
forth on Mother’s Day.

We took our small show on the road.

We drove southeast to a small quaint town, about 45 minutes away, in order to enjoy
a lovely alfresco Mother’s Day lunch.

Actually sitting outside, basking in the lovely May sunshine along with a
slight cool breeze, we couldn’t have been happier.
.
When we arrived, we were greeted by several gracious masked waitresses and waiters,
along with hand sanitizer at the ready…a familiar staff despite the covered faces.
Their twinkling eyes said it all…”Welcome back!”

It was finally a real sit-down meal away from our own kitchen of chaos.
A truly treasured moment.

Eating out has always been a treat and a diversion from the rut of the every day…
but today…today was different!
Everything seemed brighter, lighter.

This little restaurant is one we have enjoyed visiting over the years.
One we don’t mind driving to.

The husband and wife team who own the restaurant, where she is the chef,
have made the most of a farm to table restaurant with a relaxed french flair.

The host and husband of the duo, who I know, asked me, before we left if we had enjoyed ourselves…
my response was one of a long exhaled sigh of relief.

I told him that after almost 3 months of going nowhere…today was absolutely grand!
I could tell he smiled in satisfaction despite having a mask cover his face.
His eyes said it all.

They have provided curbside pick-up throughout the state’s lockdown but
today was their trial run for a “soft opening.”

After a delightful afternoon, when we were headed back home, satiated and content with
having enjoyed both a peace-filled afternoon and good food,
a small sign outside of a little country church caught my eye…
Choose life over fear.

Today on this Mother’s Day 2020…we chose to live life just a little bit freer
pushing aside the nagging fear of the past three months…

Here was to a Mother’s Day not to be forgotten but absolutely cherished
for all sorts of reasons…


(“mom” and The Mayor / Gregory Cook / 2020)


(Dada with his brood/ Abby Cook / 2020)


(mama with The Sheriff /Gregory Cook / 2020)


(Da with “Je” / Julie Cook / 2020)

“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine.”

Isaiah 43:1