the year of the bull….crap

“What’s broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best
than mend it and see the broken places as long as I live…
I’m too old to believe in such sentimentalities as clean slates and starting all over.”

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind


(the running of the bulls in Spain)

I have just about reached my breaking point with this year.
For all sorts of reasons…
And my heart is heavy and is now slightly broken if not totally broken.

But a story has come to my heart…
and I know it is from God…

Long ago there was a young boy who lived in a small Spanish village.
This young boy had come to live with his grandparents when he was but an infant.
This was due to the fact that his parents had both been killed during the civil war.
He’s known no other family but his grandparents.

His grandfather, who was a man larger than life—was a man who this young boy adored.
Each year this grandfather would participate in the local running of the bulls.
It was a long-standing tradition in his village.
It was a rite of passage and a rite of position within the hierarchy of the village.
The grandfather was legendary for his exploits.

Tourists have since begun flocking to participate, but it has been to the local men
who this tradition has truly mattered.

The young boy looked to his grandfather, the only man he’d known in his life
as a father, was the closest thing to a superhero.

Each year in the spring, the grandfather would join the other men of the village
in the annual running of the bulls.
The young boy’s grandmother would simply roll her eyes and dismiss her husband’s foolishness.
She would fuss and cuss her husband’s folly.
But to the man, it spoke of his position in his village.
And yet to the boy, it was not foolishness, it was pure exhilaration and wonderment.
He longed for the day that he could join his grandfather.

The grandfather would tell his grandson of the single strategy for staying one
step ahead of the massive wild animal…
“The bull, the toro,” he would tell his grandson, “runs with fear…
you, you must run with confidence and vision.”

After many more years, the day joyously arrived, the boy would finally be allowed to
join his grandfather and the elders of the village.
He was joining the man he loved, the man who had known many years of wear and tear.
The years of both life and living had taken their toll on the old man…
however, as with every year, he was undeterred, he would run.
And the boy, now a young man, would finally run with his grandfather.

The old man coached his grandson…
“if you hear the pounding hooves, listen for the vibrating sound…
listen with your heart…listen with your ears.
If you hear and feel the sound upon either your left or your right.
If you hear or feel the pounding in your left ear, lean right…if you hear or feel it
from the right, lean toward the left.
If you feel the hot breath on your back, you must run faster, then jump either left or right
because by this time, it matters not, it could be too late.”

When the day finally arrived and the old men and young men were all assembled,
the nervous bulls were brought toward the crowd.
The bulls were always local bulls–well known by the local villagers.
Many were tended by the local farmers.

This year, however, there was a new and different bull brought into the fold of the local animals.
He was unfamiliar and even the local bulls were cautious.
He had a different look in his eye.
There was no familiarity.
He was massive for his size.
His muscles involuntarily reflexed across his back.
He was pure black, almost blue in the light of day but the magic
within this bull was not pure…he was very nervous.

There was an empty coldness found in his eyes.
He had not been nurtured by this village.
He had not been tended to by the local farmers…

He was what was known as a rouge bull.

The city’s bell tower sounded, the signal for the participants to start running
as the animals were released.

In the teeming melee of hundreds of participants, the boy lost track of his grandfather.
The throng of runners moved in a unified mass until the bulls began to penetrate the
mass one by one.
The mass began to diverge.

Bodies peeled to the left while other bodies peeled to the right…
many bodies simply fell upon one another…falling into a heap upon the ancient cobblestone pavers
as tons of massive sinew, muscle and hooves rumbled mercifulness over the mass of lost humanity.

Yet the boy ran.
He was listening, hard.
He sensed.
Bodies would suddenly fall by his side with a sickening thud.
Yet he couldn’t stop to assess the damage, his grandfather had taught him to run.

Suddenly, the boy heard the hooves but he couldn’t determine…
were they left or were they right?

He was running as the sweat poured from his brow.
The salt stung his eyes.
He blinked and inadvertently wiped his face.
He dared not turn his head lest he trip.

Suddenly, there was the sensation of a strange hot steam wafting into his nostrils.
It was both suffocating as well as acridly putrid.

And that is when he felt the jolt.

A searing sharp pain pierced his left flank.
In what seemed to be a moment of slow motion, his chest seemed to simply deflate
as his body was lifted almost magically into the sky.

He was floating, effortlessly.
It seemed like a lifetime…floating, flying, no effort.

And yet the crash was heavy.
There was a shattering thump.
Searing pain flooded his consciousness.
A broken torso.
Disrespected by hundreds of thousands of pounds of hooves…
hooves disregarding what lay underfoot.

The boy lay upon the dirty but cool ancient pavers.
His body now a twisted and contorted mass–unnatural in position.
A dark black liquid pooled against his cheek.

At some point, he remembers not when, he was lifted upon a litter and carried
to the local hospital.

His grandfather, what of his grandfather, he implores with barely an
audible breath.

“Your grandfather is gone.” the medic replied stoicaly.
The toro pierced his heart, in one fell blow…
but it was not before the locals shot the bull to stop his rampage.
It is why you are still here, your grandfather diverted the bull at the
the very moment he attempted to gore you.

The moral of the tale…

Remember, the enemy runs with fear.
We, on the other hand, must run with confidence and vision.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…

“I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.”
Sophocles


(The very unhappy Mayor and Sheriff with a wary poor Santa)

Have you ever seen such a terrible sight…
…as two miserable Christmas tykes?
(think three blind mice tune)

Given that this year is 2020…
and since we’ve now all learned the hard way, all too often, that if it can go wrong, it will…
my daughter in law got on the ball early and found a most wonderful photographer,
along with his trusty sidekick Santa, for both the Mayor and Sherrif to visit.

And given that none of us really know what visiting Santa will look like this year,
she went ahead and booked a time slot a few weeks back.

I think this Santa / photographer duo was smart in getting a jump start on the season…
what with a global pandemic and the perils of social distancing and, Heavens forbid,
a “shut down” of Santa—and so for our small clan, it was full-on HO HO HO time!

It was time to throw caution to the wind…
Forget Halloween.
Forget Thanksgiving.
Forget Black Friday (yes, please forget Black Friday oh ye consumer-driven)
Heck, forget Labor day…

Santa Claus is coming to town…or so we hope!

Yet despite all the best-laid plans…
The Mayor and Sheriff just weren’t having it.
And Santa was feeling the pain.

However, like many of us this year, I think they each finally resigned themselves that
this too shall pass…or so we hope!

Kudos to both this Santa and photographer…
I heard there had been a set of infant triplets just before our
‘oh so happy’ duo that were absolutely horrified over the whole prospect of visiting Santa!

Yep, this too shall pass

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

Isaiah 65:17

**(all photos copyrighted)

thin black line, 6th Ave Heartache

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

An odd thing happened two nights ago.

Now you need to remember that I was taken off my HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
about 7 weeks ago.
Hormones, I’d been on nearly 30 years.

Sleep has never been great, but take away the hormones and things immediately went
from bad to really really bad in literally a single night’s time.

However two nights ago, despite battling the need to breathe while living
with a sinus infection along with poison ivy, I was actually asleep.

How do I know?
I was flat on my back.

I’m usually a side to stomach sleeper yet at some point or other,
when I’m really asleep, asleep—
I’m always mysteriously flat on my back.

At 1:30 in the morning, I became aware that I was itching.
Groggily I started scratching at my poison ivy now spreading across my torso.
Suddenly in my head, I was hearing a song that I know I had not heard playing that day
as some sort of background music in a store.

Clear as day, playing lyrically in my head.

It was a song I’ve always liked..a 90’s sort of song…Why I’ve always liked it,
I don’t know, but it has always made me feel a bit heavy-hearted and melancholy.
Again, I’m not sure as to why.
Although it’s an older song, it seems to still be quite relevant.

Rousing my brain to full awake mode, I opted to get up and head into the bathroom
in order to slather on some more anti-itch medicine— all the
while that song kept ringing in my head…

“And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in…”

I crawled back into bed now restless as my thoughts were racing.
All the while still itching and listening to non-existent music playing.

Why was this song stuck in my head—especially when I was good and asleep??

The following morning, after grabbing my coffee, I googled the song.

According to Wikipedia , The lyrics are based on Dylan’s (Jakob Dylan)
own experiences while living in New York City, in particular, the story of a homeless man
who would sit outside Dylan’s window and play the same songs every day.
One day, the man was gone, but his things were still there,
until gradually people started taking them.

Well, that seemed to make it all feel even worse…doubly more sad than before.

So I kept digging a bit further.

What did the Bible have to say about a black line??

As I kept looking, I was constantly being redirected to the mark of Cain.

Hummmm.

Remember, being raised a poor illiterate Episcoplain kid, the breadth and depth
of Bible study was never my forte.
But I was now intrigued.

I knew Cain and Abel…really the very first tale of humankind’s lowest moments.
Or actually, that might have been their parents…but either way, we humans weren’t off
to the best of starts.

Choice…we never seem to have mastered choice…but I digress.

Why would God want me to think about all of this at 1:30 in the morning?
I know, I know…time to God is irrelevant but to a woman who hardly ever has deep
sleep, as in REM, I was just a tad frustrated.

There were (are) a lot of articles on the web about the mark of Cain
and many of them have some sort of racist connotation.
Naturally…it always goes back to race.

It seems race has been with us since the beginning of time and we still don’t know how to
deal with it—- gees…!
But again, I digress.

So after reading, I managed to find an interesting article on Bibleodyssey.com
written by Eva Mroxzek, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Indiana University.

She hit on the whole good mark, bad mark thinking…
Cain killed his brother and God marked him for life.
The question…was or is…. was or is the mark a mark of shame or a mark of protection?

Was it leprosy?
A ‘keep your distance’ sort of mark?
Did God turn his skin a darker color?
Did God have a horn grow out of Cain’s head?
Did it have to do with circumcision?
Did God give Cain a dog?
Huh???

Did God have mercy on Cain and forgive him for having killed his brother…the first
recorded murder in human history only to followed by the greatest act of forgiveness??

But wait…was that the greatest act of forgiveness or was that actually
during Good Friday…
digressing again…

So, was the mark a mark of forgiveness…

On and on the so-called wise ones have debated this issue for eons.

And yet oddly here it comes visiting me at 1:30 in the morning by way of a 1996 song.

Ms, Mroczek notes at the end of her article…
“But the most striking interpretations rely on a later meaning of the Hebrew word oth:
a letter of the alphabet.
A midrashic text suggests that God inscribed a letter on Cain’s arm as a mark of protection
(Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 21).
Thus, the mark of Cain becomes a sacred sign.
In another midrash (Tanhuma Genesis 10),
it is the word Sabbath that is inscribed on Cain’s face—after the personified Sabbath day
itself begged God to forgive Cain’s sin.
And a targum—an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—
identifies the mark as the holiest sign of all: God inscribes on Cain
“the great and honorable name of the LORD,” namely the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter name of God (YHWH).

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/mark-of-cain

So the jury is still out.

Why the song?
Why the direction toward Cain?
And is this a message of foreboding or passage of forgiveness.

I’ll let you know what happens when the next hot flash rouses me from
what little precious sleep there is…I’m sure God will have His say…
I just wish I was wise enough to figure out where He was taking me.
But if I knew that…there’d be so many answers to so many questions…

Heartbreak does seem to be happeing on all sorts of 6th Avenues across this Nation…

Sirens ring, the shots ring out
A stranger cries, screams out loud
I had my world strapped against my back
I held my hands, never knew how to act
And the same black line that was drawn on you
Was drawn on me
And now it’s drawn me in
6th Avenue heartache
Below me was a homeless man
I’m singin’ songs I knew complete
On the steps alone, his guitar in hand
It’s fifty years, stood where he stands
Now walkin’ home on those streets
The river winds move my feet
Subway steam, like silhouettes in dreams
They stood by me, just like moonbeams
Look out the window, down upon that street
And gone like a midnight was that man
But I see his six strings laid against that wall
And all his things, they all look so small
I got my fingers crossed on a shooting star
Just like me just moved on

Justice for what???

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death.
And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them?
Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(a buckeye butterfly rests on a noodle / Julie Cook / 2020)

Enjoying a bit of quiet reading and reflecting with some of my favorite folks out in
blogland this afternoon, I stopped by to see what gems of wisdom our friend IB had
to allow this fine Friday in June.

It is fine, isn’t it?

I don’t know…maybe it’s not.

It’s Juneteenth, so says my phone’s calendar and now, so says thousands
gathering in the streets of Atlanta, as well as across this nation, peacefully
marching and celebrating.

It seems we’ve all received a quick tutorial on the significance of Juneteenth.

And so we hope all things remain peaceful.
But we really must wait until the sun sets and then we shall see
if the peacefulness carries itself through the night.

Their voices now rise in a crescendo chant of “justice.

But what is this justice for which they cry?

Our friend IB mused over the very same notion.
What is this justice for which these crowds so long?

Perhaps it is what I too long for—.

IB was actually writing a post about having seen a movie that was a bit of a
soothing balm when this idea of ‘what is justice’ popped in.

I’ve not seen the movie, so I can’t say…but it moved IB and thus a post
sprang forth.

I honestly don’t know what makes me cry more, happy things or sad things?
There are lots of both in this movie and it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.
I mean, it’s not good for your heart to be shattered, broken, for you to be wounded, right?
Except, if that’s how the love pours in, through all those cracks,
if that’s how the Lord moves into your life and brings healing,
well then, thank God for broken hearts.

Thank God when we are wounded, willing to feel the pain, rather than hardened.

It was a really validating movie too,
because I’m looking around at a world that often doesn’t make any sense and trying to talk
to people who are totally tone deaf.

I feel a bit like a broken record sometimes, always talking about meth, fentanyl,
and heroin addictions, in an area that is so pro-drugs, so pro-addiction!
People are out on the streets right now crying out for justice, but justice from what??
And what does this “justice” they crave even look like?

I spend half my life trying to forgive addicts whose behavior does nothing but steal,
kill, and destroy all that is good, and the other half of my time trying to forgive
those in leadership who have enabled and condoned the whole situation either through
their incompetence or their corruption. It’s really painful, it’s really frustrating,
but it’s not a bad thing at all, because it is all about learning to love others as
Jesus loves us

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown.
But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Both Matthew and Mark take note of the fact that this is the gospel,
that this truth, the reflective nature of grace, is so vitally important that,
“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

“Healing River” did a really good job of capturing the essence of that truth.
When we have been forgiven much, we love much.

We have been forgiven much.

https://insanitybytes2.wordpress.com/2020/06/19/healing-river/

And so I too think about this odd innate need for justice—
this thing we always seem to cry out for—

And this justice of ours seems to be whatever perceived notion we might be feeling at the time,
It springs from deep within our being—and there is indeed a longing.

A longing in each one of us.
We often can’t put our finger on it.
We think with our heads, trying to figure out our heart…
but we most often misread those inward groanings.

I decided to go explore the Healing River’s official site.
It is a faith-based film that sounds extremely powerful.

One reviewer noted that “the message of redemption, forgiveness and mercy
coming from and through our Lord Jesus Christ in this movie is one of great importance,
especially in our troubled world hungry for a message of hope and courage.
Well done!”
Fr. Patrick McMullen, St. Therese Catholic Parish, Cincinnati, OH

And so I now think I know what this cry is.
What it is we always seem to turn to when life seems overwhelmingly
unfair, unjust, and simply undone…
It is not so much for justice that we cry as it is for mercy.
It is not so much for justice as it is for forgiveness.

Sadly there is not a whole lot of forgiveness or mercy running about these days…
days which are so full of protests, anger and violent riots.

Yet those two elements are the key to quelling the painfilled groans within our beings.

Anger and rage are exhausting.
They steal one’s light, peace, joy, hope…

Mercy and forgiveness allow us to finally exhale and finally rest from the fight.

he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear** him;
Psalm 103:10-13

**remember the word fear often translates to respect

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

time for reflection

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare


(moi in 2013 / Julie Cook)

What are the types of things that happen to us in a year’s time?
What sorts of things take place to and or around us during the course of a year?

In my world, there were milestones, fieldstones, capstones and stone weights.

The greatest being a baby turned one as another baby came into the world.

And there were, for this small family of ours…

stress tests
epidurals
CT scans
MRIs
X-rays
ultrasounds
bloodwork
surgeries
healings
shots
medicines
waiting diagnoses
dental implants
additions
trips
trips to an ocean
trips to the mountains
trips to the city
family gatherings
quiet time
accidents
demolitions
updatings
hope
despair
surprises
growing
pruning
anniversaries
multiple ER trips
multiple Urgent Care trips
viruses
infections
food poisoning
haircuts
lost hair
purchases
sales
trials, literally
tribulations
disappointments
discoveries
tears
anger
laughter
solace
peace
good news
troubling news
bad news
sad news
happy news
new friends
old friends
new family
found birth parents
lost birth parents
welcomings
shunnings
new decades of life
frustrations
blessings
reflections…

And so here is to reflections…
May there be many more… that both come and go, in the next decade of living…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV

Please do not turn away from us

“If JESUS cannot control you, HE cannot save you.
And if HE cannot control ALL of you HE cannot control any of you.”

A.W. Tozer

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

Fyodor Dostoevsky


(lone starling waits / Rosemary Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2019)

My heart was so grieved last night when I finally crawled into the bed—
I had thought I’d read a bit but then thought better of such a notion and opted
to just turn out the lights.

Sorrowfully, I blankly stared out into the darkness until finally squeezing my eyes shut.

The words, ‘Third Term Abortions’, swirled in my brain.

Abortion is horrific.

And yet we now have those who wish to make it even more horrific…if such was possible.

We have been greeted with the news this week of those who now callously think that a live birth,
a living, brand new baby should be allowed to simply be left to die—
that that child may not be allowed to live, to thrive, to grow, to love, and to be loved…
it was, it is, more than my heart could or can bear.

What world do I live in?
What nation is this?
What century is this?

Educated we brag.
Highly evolved we boast.
Egotistical we are.
Humble we are not.

I found my mind imploring…
Please God, do not turn your back to us.
Please do not leave us..
Do not leave us to this…

But this is what I know…God will leave man to his own devices.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have
been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God
for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading
of their bodies with one another.
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.
Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,
so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.
They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;
they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death,
they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-32

throw it out and start all over

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.
Meister Eckhart


(harvest time, in the dead of winter, go figure / Julie Cook / 2018)

Here in northwest Georgia, we are currently in the midst of our typical dreary Georgia winters…
grey, damp, misty, rainy and utterly foggy…
all of which gives way to just a sunless chilly dampness that gives way a heavy case
of the “meh’s”…
Not depressed but not joyful.
Not sad but not perky.

Yet despite this damp dreariness, believe it or not, all the citrus trees, that have been
moved to the basement for the season, are now bearing a plethora of fruit…
go figure!

So when life gives you an abundance of lemons in the dead of winter…
I suppose one gets busy making
something lemony.

Of which I did…today (yesterday by the time you’re reading this today)

I was going to look up lemon recipes that require a good bit of juice but I was
in the process of “migrating” again my old computer to the new computer.
It seems that the 5 hours required the other day was not enough,
I needed to add two more hours today in order to complete the “migration”…
I don’t think it takes geese that long to migrate!

Computer migration meant I wouldn’t be looking for all things lemony on the computer anytime soon
so I would be doing so with my phone instead. Sigh.

Searching, reading and squinting, I found a recipe for a lemony loaf cake that needs 1/2 cup
of fresh juice.

Perfect.

I headed to the basement in order to pluck what lemons were ripe…6 for now.
3 limes and 2 tiny calamondins.

I zested three lemons and juiced them while the butter softened.

My phone screen kept closing so I kept having to find a clean finger in order to touch the screen
and click back on the recipe.

I read over what I needed, what the oven needed to be set on and scanned over the step by steps–
in between the on and off screen…

I creamed the butter with the sugar, I added the eggs, I shifted the flour,
I measured the baking soda, baking powder, salt…
WAIT
was that 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder or
was it 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder???????

It was too late, I had gone with the first thought…
that being the full teaspoon of the baking soda and
the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

When I clicked my phone from black back to the recipe, I read I had reversed the two…
I tasted the batter…yuck…definitely too much soda.
The lemon juice seemed to make it start growing in the bowl.
Now I’m no chemistry major, but there was certainly a reaction beginning to react…

But what the heck, what’s 1/2 teaspoon too much??

I poured my “growing” batter into the pan…oddly it was now right at the rim and seemed
to still be growing…
I fretted what would happen when it hit the heat????

I shoved a sheet of foil underneath in case it opted to spill over.

I set the timer and quickly grabbed my phone now with two dirty hands yet full attention.

I quickly googled what happens if one adds more soda than what is called for.

All of the listed articles might as well as have had a nuclear warning sign as a header
as each one read of disaster.

The batter will taste bitter and soapy. Check
The batter will expand beyond capacity especially if an acidic base is added. Check
The batter will flow out of the pan once it’s placed in the over. Double check,

Solution…

Throw it all out and start over.

One article did advise that you could possibly double the flour, butter, eggs, sugar
and make a double batch but I wasn’t going there.

I yanked open the oven door and grabbed the now overflowing pan and headed straight to the trashcan.

I started over.

This time being careful to get my soda and powder measurement right.

I threw out 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 stick of butter,
1 Tbl of lemon zest…a huge waste but the only salvageable option.

And so as I started over from scratch on this now seemingly costly cake of mine,
I was reminded that we are currently perched on the tossing out of one year
as we prepare to start fresh on a new year.

I can honestly say that I am happy, for many reasons, to be tossing out this past year.

It’s like my batter with the too much soda, it just needs to be thrown out and started anew…
despite the seemingly lost cost.

On a personal level, this past year was a blessing in that we had great joy with the birth of this
first grandchild of ours…and the news of another one soon on his way…
As well as with the successful retiring of a 50-year business.

Yet I can’t help but think about this country of ours and of our global community.
The uncertainty.
The hatefulness.
The sinfulness.
The anger.
The turning away from our Judeo / Christian heritage.

I can only pray that God, in His Mercy, will continue to afford us His Grace…
And that He will indeed remain gracious and merciful to his wayward children.

I pray that we can hold onto a continued sense of hopefulness while we look forward to a
fresh beginning…because Lord knows, it’s time we get a brand new fresh start!
Just like my cake…that finally turned out a great success.

Here’s to a hope-filled successful new year for us all!!!

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

a little more empty during a tough year…

“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not;
and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


(The Very Rev. and Mrs David B. Collins–David and Virginia “Ginny” /
Julie N.Cook / 1981)

In this grainy old photo you see two people who were very much in love—

…and those two people were two individuals who I loved very much as well.

He had been a Naval Officer during WWII and she a staring actress in the original
production of Carousel on Broadway—and yet they somehow met, fell in love, married
and loved one another well into their 90’s….

And they had each loved me.

The year of the photograph was 1981 and it was taken during an evening
a group of us had met up at our favorite British Pub in Atlanta.
The Churchill Arms.
One could have walked into this pub and felt magically transported across the
proverbial pond to a different place and time.

I think both young and old in our group that night wished we were all in England–
during a different time.

Back then, back when I was young, at that pub on Thursday nights,
the Atlanta Bagpipes and Drums would hold court and practice.
There were the nightly dart competitions.
And on Friday and Saturday nights, a dear older lady would play the piano
as everyone would gather around to sing rousing renditions of Waltzing Matilda,
Keep the Home Fires Burning, Over There, etc….
all the while enjoying a pint of Whitbread, Guinness or New Castle….

Funny thing thinking about a bunch of late 70’s college kids singing Waltzing Matilda
and actually knowing not only the words but what the song was about and when it had actually been popular….

I think the pub is still there…where it was back in my youth…
But it’s now a modern trendy sort of place sans all the typical Anglophile
paraphernalia.
No longer does it harken back to a better place and time.
As it beckons to the cutting edge millennial…with it’s more otherworldly
bar atmosphere of the 21st century.

It was probably an odd place for a group of college kids to gather along with their
parish priest, the current Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St Philip…along
with this vicar’s wife…..but the church was no small parish,
he was no small church vicar and we were no average lot of kids.

There was very much a homey feel here, there was a fire place, lots of wood—
a place we, a bedraggled little extended “family,”
could all gather to enjoy one another’s company.
A place we could chat, catching everyone up on life at our various colleges and
hear what we had missed at Church.

The drinking age at the time was 18 so we were all good and by the time this
picture was taken, I was well into my early 20’s.

I’ve written about both of them before.
For various reasons…be it because of my adoption, my faith, my family, my life…
as they each had had a prominent role in my small corner of the world.

They each taught me a great deal about life, love, living, dying, fighting,
believing…. as well as lessons about Faith, God, hopefulness, healing and Grace.

They each saved me, more times than I care to recall, from myself.

They each knew of the failings and egregious actions of my life yet
loved me none the less.
As I certainly worked hard at testing that love many a time.

I am who I am to this day because of them.
Better because of who they were.

They actually laid hands upon my head, several times, as they prayed for healing.

Not for a physical healing but for a more profound and more important healing.
A deep spiritual healing.

He was adopted, just like I was.
We shared that—just as she shared us.
She knew the importance of deep healing.
And she knew how important such healing was for both of us and to our pasts—-
to the two people she loved.

They had 4 children of their own…
and then there was me—the surrogate 5th.
They claimed to be my Godparents…by proxy really…for when I was baptized
as an infant, our paths had not yet crossed.

The relationship was set in motion in 1966 when they first moved to Atlanta
in order for him to take the over the position of dean at the Nation’s largest
Episcopal Cathedral.

They are not my parents yet my own parents knew of the great importance and role
this couple played in my life…and where there was jealously there was also
a knowledge that the relationship was necessary for all of us….
Just as their children knew that they were sharing their parents with me
and yet they often spoke in terms of me being “the truly good child”.

Over time, I learned, as I grew and matured, that they needed me just as much
as I had needed them…
life has a way of teaching us such things.

The end of the year will mark a year since he’s been gone.
Her passing was on Tuesday….
And now they are Home, together.
This I know.

Yet that doesn’t make me less sad.
Doesn’t make me feel less lonely.
Doesn’t stop from reminding me that all my parents are now gone…
along with an aunt and uncle, a brother and cousin along with all grandparents.
That all are gone…but me.

Odd how that makes one feel.
Even at almost 60 years of age.
Good-byes are never easy.

There was a time when I could not have weathered this tremendous amount
of loss I’ve experienced this past year…
but I now have a deep knowledge and understanding of Grace.
I am saved by that Grace.
They taught me that…and then some…

the Grace of Thankfulness

“There is so much in the world for us if we only have the eyes to see it,
and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it ourselves-
so much in men and women, so much in art and literature,
so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful for.”

L.M. Montgomery

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;
but the thankful heart will find, in every hour,
some heavenly blessings.”

Henry Ward Beecher


(Aunt Martha’s prized antique bronze turkey / Julie Cook / 2017)

As we gather together around this table of ours, to offer up our grateful hearts…
I am keenly, poignantly and even sadly aware as I take notice as to who is not
physically with us this year at our table….

Yet despite our losses and our sufferings, we continue to offer up our thankfulness
and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that was,
for all that is and for all that will be…

For it is from Grace that we have each received so very much…
that which far exceeds what we have ever deserved….

May each of you, despite life’s current circumstance, find time to whisper or shout
your words of thanks…..
for each of us, despite this current moment in time, can indeed find
something in which to be grateful…..

Blessings and Peace to all who read these words….

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion)
endures forever.

Psalm 136:26

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks always for all things in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Ephesians 5:18-20