in all of our tears… there rests the Divine

“A sense of the divine presence and indwelling bears the soul towards heaven
as upon the wings of eagles.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

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(ornamental cabbage / Julie Cook / 2017)

Obviously I am tired.
Not in a working-out sort of tired.
Not in the end of a really long day or week sort of tired.
Not in the sleep deprivation sort of tired.

I’m just weary.
And I am very tired.
And I am overwhelmed.

For such is the season of my life

And such is the life of a person who is caring for aging parents…
where one of the two is in the process of dying from cancer.

The daily commuting to and fro is hard.
The coordinating of the care, the medical issues, the groceries, the house…
that is all hard.
The lack of time for one’s own world and home is hard…

Life?
Who has one?

Friends?
What are those?

Clean house?
hahahahahaha……

Yet it is to the waiting and watching for the inevitable…
that is the hardest.
It is also the saddest.

For ever since mother died 30 years ago, it’s been pretty much, for good or bad,
just me and dad.
I took over the roll of parenting him when both mother and my grandmother died just
months apart.
I had just turned 26 at the time.
And despite his remarrying when he was almost 70, it’s really just been me and him.

Watching the body slowly failing and falling apart…
The moans and groans of pain…
The halting morphine induced thoughts and speech…
The sounds, sights, smells…
nothing good.
Especially when I’ve already done the same thing 30 years prior.

Add to that the now spouse…the one who suffers with the ever increasing dementia…
the one who has nary a clue as to who any of us are…
it makes things either really really comical or really really sad…
…and my money is on the comical.

Oh but I don’t want to waste our time here today bemoaning my life.
You really don’t want to hear about it anyway.
No one really likes a complainer…

Yet maybe we ought to try telling that to all those nutters out there who are currently
spending their time shouting, marching, demonstrating and protesting…
I bet they’re tired…
tired of fussing…
just as much as the rest of us are tired of hearing
and seeing it all…
but I digress….

I can’t even find respite in my sleep…
for in my sleep are the dreams of a mind that is over burdened.

In last night’s dream there was this scene of my mother’s funeral where my husband
decided to wear a Hawaiian shirt rather than a suit, rendering me mortified.

The reality is that my mom’s funeral was over 30 years ago and my husband doesn’t own
nor would he ever wear a Hawaiian shirt.

Or how about the other night when my husband had to shake me awake in order to get me to stop
“screaming” in my sleep…
all because I was dreaming that I had walked into the house that use to be our house years ago
and there were strange people, squatters, trying to take over the house…
I was screaming at them to get out.
A disconcerting moment at 3 AM when one’s spouse is sound asleep.

The reality was that I had flipped through the television and caught a bit of that alligator
Swamp People show…there had been a devastating flood in southern Louisiana last
year and one of the regulars on the show had to leave his home because it had flooded.
The episode showed him coming back to the house after the flood waters had receded…
leaving behind a house full of huge bullfrogs and a giant snapping turtle.

Or how about the other night when I was dreaming that I was trying to take my son,
who in the dream was a toddler but in real life is almost 30,
in order to seek safety because the planet was under attack by evil aliens…
space aliens, not the illegal variety…
and we were racing in a car, desperately trying to find safety as we were having to hit,
running over, the evil invaders in order to get away….

The reality was that I had flipped through, once again, the channels catching a brief
snippet of the movie Fury on the History Channel—
it was right when the Sherman tank, commandeered by Brad Pitt’s character,
went rolling over the heads and bodies of Germans in their fox holes, naturally crushing them…
I think that’s when I flipped it as I wasn’t up to the horrors of war that evening…
only to have them come flooding back oddly in a dream…sigh….

So not even in sleep is there a safe haven these days.

Yet…however…
no matter how bad things may be right now…
No matter how sad,
how heavy,
how hard…

I know I do not go this alone…
Despite often feeling very much alone.

I can’t make dad better, I can’t even make him feel better right now.
As this is now all pretty much out of my hands…

Yet I know that neither Dad nor I are alone in this.
Despite the naysayers cries, those non-believers who scoff
at the purported “fairytale” which is to be found at the center of all of this…
There is a Hand moving much deeper in all of this…

For this particular moment in time is but fleeting…
despite the seemingly never ending and endless melancholy
merry go round we now ride…
For there are blessings, there is Grace…
and there is the Divine…
the very hand of God…

“Rejoice in the Lord,’ said St Paul (Phil. 3 : 1).
And he was right to say, ‘in the Lord’.
For if our joy is not in the Lord, not only do we not rejoice,
but in all probability we never shall. Job, as he described the life of men,
found it full of every kind of affliction (cf. Job 7 : 1-21),
and so also did St Basil the Great.
St Gregory of Nyssa said that birds and other animals rejoice because
of their lack of awareness, while man, being endowed with intelligence,
is never happy because of his grief.
For, he says, we have not been found worthy even to have knowledge of the blessings
we have lost. For this reason nature teaches us rather to grieve,
since life is full of pain and effort, like a state of exile dominated by sin.
But if a person is constantly mindful of God, he will rejoice: as the psalmist says,
‘I remembered God, and I rejoiced’ (Ps. 77 : 3. LXX).
For when the intellect is gladdened by the remembrance of God,
then it forgets the afflictions of this world, places its hope in Him,
and is no longer troubled or anxious.
Freedom from anxiety makes it rejoice and give thanks;
and the grateful offering of thanks augments the gift of grace it has received.
And as the blessings increase, so does the thankfulness,
and so does the pure prayer offered with tears of joy.”

St. Peter of Damascus

It’s all good…

Even if I know I shall never change the masses, never transform anything permanent, all I ask is that the good things also have their place, their refuge.
Richard Wagner

God will bestow on you the good and eternal rewards which are laid up for those who keep His commandments.
St. Columba (Columcille)

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(an afternoon of refreshments, Adare Manor / Adare, County Limerick, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)

There are those moments in life in which time seems to stand still…

In a good way…

The outside world is far removed as it is unconsciously, yet blissfully, forgotten…
Events and circumstances that, just a minute prior spun heavily around your head,
are now oddly light years away…
You feel yourself drifting lightly away to elsewhere…
Somewhere else that is much like that place between sleeping and waking…
that time and place where all is still, quiet, peaceful and good.

It is to a place where there are…
No worries
No pulling of this way and that
No demands
No places to be, no people to see, no fires to put out…
No looming deadlines, tests, procedures, appointments…
No screaming headlines of the bad, the sad, the scary…

For your bad, sad and scary are momentarily and mercifully put on hold.

It’s not that you pretend it’s not all there.
Not that you’ve turned a blind eye…
Not that you are foolishly disregarding the obvious and apparent…
It’s not that you have turned callous, empty or too consumed to notice…

Or…. maybe it is because you have been consumed, overwhelmed and nearly beaten down…
Because you have nearly reached your breaking point…
the point of the almost and alarmingly place of no return…

You have been spared for just the slightest and briefest of moments.
It’s as if your brain has been clicked off, and rather than churning out a litany of thoughts, frets, worries…you are still, quiet…and actually dare it be said, content.

It is a place and time of quiet reflection spent with or without company…
It is a place that is elsewhere, that is other…and for right now, all you know is that other…is good.

It is a taste, a small minuscule taste dancing across a tastebud, momentary yet distinctly detected…a taste of the very Divine…
A moment frozen in time when you have fallen into the arms of Love itself.
And yet you don’t even comprehend nor realize that’s what it actually is…
For it is so delicious, so intoxicating, so welcomed yet equally foreign and so very alien that you just can’t put your finger on what it is or from whence it came…

For all you know, with any sort of certainty, is that you’ve been granted what feels to be a momentary reprieve, a respite, a miracle of a mystical embrace….
all of which has you yearning for more….with the knowledge that you had been transported to a moment of the Holy and for that one tiny moment, everything is all good….

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A shot of yours truly in one of those happy good places, munching on a handful of dried cranberries, sitting on a giant rock, in the middle of quiet mountain stream, thankful that for a brief moment in time, life is indeed… all good.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

A small respite of peacefulness this Saturday with the swans

Now, if you notice how the swan, putting its neck down into the deep water, brings up food for itself from below, then you will discover the wisdom of the Creator, in that He gave it a neck longer than its feet for this reason, that it might, as if lowering a sort of fishing line, procure the food hidden in the deep water.
Saint Basil

“Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.”
–Saint Jerome

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(the swans at Ross Castle, County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the swans at Ross Castle, County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the swans at Ross Castle, County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the swans at Ross Castle, County Kerry, Killarney, Ireland / Julie Cook /2015)

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(the swans at Harvey’s Point Lodge, Lough Eske , County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the Swans at Timoleague Friary / County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the Swans at Timoleague Friary / County Cork, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What’s in a tree

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear,
To lean in joy upon our father’s knee.
And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.

William Blake

Trees that, like the poplar, hit upward all their boughs, give no shade and no shelter, whatever their height. Trees the most lovingly shelter and shade us, when, like the willow, the higher soar their summits, the lowlier droop their boughs.
Edward Lytton

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(the shaded canopied walk toward the fountain at Forsyth Park / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2014)

It beckons in a silent way,
Proudly open and inviting.
No designation for rich nor poor,
For all are welcome here.

Come rain or shine as shelter’s sought
Underneath a canopy still
For creatures both great and small
A respite is now calling

Sweeping wide its open arms
Both young and old accepted
“Come up, come under” it whispers sweet,
Our time is just now started

Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:5-6

Indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

Psalm 121:4-6

confession of silence

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
― Elbert Hubbard

“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. . .”

Opening line from poem Protest by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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(Fra Angelico, Christ Crowned with Thorns, 1440 / Livorno, Santa Maria del Soccorso)

Frustratingly this week, my time has not been my own as I have been back and forth to Dads–Dad is still sick with what I’ve thought to be little improvement but the doctor today tells us otherwise. He seems to think Dad is showing slow gains.
Really??
Well, slow it certainly seems to be—and I suppose slow is better than stagnate.

Dad’s question to the doctor “can I eat fried chicken and chocolate?” Hopefully he didn’t intend to have that as a combo meal. . .
My hope is that he might have something a little more solid, sans fried chicken. . .of which will still be quite sometime as we’ve had to switch up meds hoping for greater improvement. . .

All of this has left me with little to no time to put together a thoughtful, or thought provoking, post as of late. And that is in part why I have yielded the past few days to the wisdom of my friend, Pastor Bonhoeffer.
Of which I must do again today as the past couple of entries from my devotional book have spoken deeply to my heart.
His words race across the chasm of time and place.
It is as if I am reading an observation from our own sad world. . .
May we, the body of the Church, no longer remain silent. . .

The Sin of Silence
The church confesses that it has witnessed the arbitrary use of brutal force, the suffering in body and soul of countless innocent people, that it has witnessed oppression, hatred, and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways of rushing to help them. It has become guilty of the lives of the weakest and most defenseless brother and sisters of Jesus Christ. . . .
The church confesses that it has looked on silently as the poor were exploited and robbed, while the strong were enriched and corrupted. The church confesses its guilt toward the countless pople whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation, and defamation. It has not condemned the slanders for their wrongs and has thereby left the slandered to their fate. The church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Ethics 139-140

(the above image of a painting by il Beato [the blessed one] Angelico known as Fra [brother] Angelico of the Christ Crowned With Thorns is one of the most moving Renaissance images of Christ that I have ever seen. I actually saw the image at the Convent of San Marco in Florence, Italy on a card in the gift shop. San Marco is the convent in which Fra Angelico lived as a monk. Each of the monk’s cells are painted with various images depicting the life of Christ, as painted by Fra Angelico, intended for each monk’s contemplation—a beautiful contemplative respite in the tourist ridden Florence)

Hallelujah

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
― Pope John Paul II

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(tiny redheaded woodpecker / Julie Cook / 2015)

And on this January day,
as the sun rose high into the crisp blue sky,
all of Nature could be heard rejoicing. . .

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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(female Flicker looking skyward / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(female sparrow nibbling a branch / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(both Peaches and a lizard enjoy a respite from the cold rains / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(closeup of someone who should still be hibernating up on my sleeve / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(small bed of moss / Julie Cook / 2015)

And as the beautiful sun settled downward in the distant western sky,
at the ending of this beautiful January day,
all of Nature could be heard whispering . . .

Amen, Amen, Amen

DSC00054(Day is done as the sun sets in the western sky / Julie Cook / 2015)

Boxing Day–A day of giving, remembering and recouping

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.
Saint Teresa of Avila

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Today the boxes, the ribbons and bows, that were just 24 hours prior, tucked neatly and gloriously adorned under the shadows of a festive tree, now lie discarded, being all but forgotten.
The tremendous crescendo of the dizzying frenetic days which lead up to the collision of the cosmos of family, friends, the sacred, the secular, the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking, the traveling the sharing, the tolerating, the worshiping, the singing, the giving, the taking, the buying, the selling, the ordering, the joy, the reflection, the reverence, the mystery. . .
All sadly over in the blink of an eye.

Today we trudge like automatons through a sensory overload of the leftovers from a frantic month long pace, literally picking up the pieces of family, friends, and of a season now spent. Weary and bleary eyed the skip in our step and the joy to the world on our lips are each suddenly slowed and silent as we find ourselves slowly exhaling.

Tired, we begin to re-pack the treasures and mementos of our lives, back into the dusty musty boxes, sending them back to the tombs of attics and basement and storage for a 3 season hibernation with the hope of returning next December. Yet the echoes of keeping Christmas in our hearts all through the year, for many, will slowly grow all but silent as we transition from the old to the new.

And yet as we prepare to hunker down for the remainder of a long, cold and silent winter with the thoughts of now warmer brighter days toying with the shadows of our dark somber moods, we must lay claim that despite the waning excitement from an advent of long anticipation, the triumphant delivery of Joy, and the passing of old time to new, ours is not a solitary journey.

Yet, as we find ourselves on this morning after, feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost as we sift through the debris of yet another year’s season of festivity– we are awarded a single small respite and an opportunity to suck in a much needed second wind. For today is Boxing Day. A needed day of transition. Below I’ve added a brief history behind this day of deep English tradition or for those of us of the Western Church, the day St Stephen’s Feast. . .

(Information taken from wincalander.com)
Boxing Day History
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas in Britain. It’s history dates back to the Age of Exploration. The priest would place a wooden box on each ship and crew member’s would drop coins into in hopes of ensuring a safe return. The box would remain on the ship, upon it’s return, the priest would say a prayer of thanksgiving and in return receive the box and its contents. He would safeguard the box until Christmas, where he would then open it and share the contents with the poor. The “alms box” is a similar tradition observed in many churches still today.

Boxing Day Facts & Quotes
1.In the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of large estates would practice Boxing Day. They would do this by boxing up leftover food, clothing and other household items. These items would be distributed amongst their tenants and workers the day after Christmas.

2.For Boxing Day, many charitable organizations practice a form of giving boxes to the poor. Operation Christmas Child is one such organization.

3.December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day for the Western Church. The Feast of St. Stephen honors the first Christian martyr. Stephen was stoned to death outside the walls of Jerusalem, shortly after the Crucifixion.

–Boxing Day Top Events and Things to Do
–Clean out your closets and donate to a local charity.
–Donate to a local food bank.
–Prepare a Christmas box for a charitable organization.
–Donate money to a church or other community group which cares for the poor and elderly.