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

I will always be…wherever you may go…

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol,
you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:7-10 ESV

God wants to walk with us, speak with us, share our hopes and dreams, bear our burdens and sorrows,
guide us, guard us, and lead us to our perfection in Heaven.

Mike Pacer
from Mercy and Hope


(the Mayor and Geoffery / Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor has come and the Mayor has now gone….home.

And so as I find myself somewhat lost in the now palpable emptiness and stillness…
much like any grandparent, the separation of missing those minuscule daily changes
of growing, and the impenetrable bonding of heart to heart…
I struggle with how things are meant to be.

Where is my solace?
Where is the consolation of my now eerily quiet life that was once just so full and constant?

In knowing that my heart will always be with her, no matter what, no matter where,
no matter the time nor the space of life or death…
It is because I know that God is forever mine and I am forever His…
and so… we are all of His heart.

“Let each of us accept the truth of the following statement and try to make it
our most fundamental principle:
Christ’s teaching will never let us down, while worldly wisdom always will.
Christ Himself said that this sort of wisdom was like a house with nothing but sand as its foundation,
while His own was like a building with solid rock as its foundation.”

St. Vincent de Paul

one day

There is only one day left, always starting over:
it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

Jean-Paul Sartre

One day, while you’re out and about simply minding you’re own business…


(pigeon waddling on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

As you’re merely caught up in the day to day business of living life while
pecking out an existence…


(a flock of plovers / Rosemary beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Yet without hardly noticing, life begins to grow a bit dark as things
just seem to grow harder and harder…


(sparrow / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Suddenly one day, and very much out of the blue, you find that you’ve face planted…
falling helplessly into the sands of life…
and you realize you’ve all but given up the ghost…


(a dead loon / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

The situation, having grown dire, hinges on just a matter of time…
For it is now or never…
Either you get up and get going, flying the coop….
or you succumb to the shifting sands…


(seagull /Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

And yet it is within the change in scenery…
that you slowly and most assuredly begin to find the solace,
along with the long sought healing,
all within the rhythmic motion of the tide…


(brown pelican / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

and finding your happy place…
you begin to feel a bit more like your old self…


(yours truly / happy in the chilly gulf surf / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Hygee

“Religion died, from various diseases, and humanity died with it.
Or perhaps it is truer to say that humanity died of great possessions,
of modern development, of the pace of modern life and so on –
and religion died as humanity succumbed.”

Alfred Delp

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(Sometimes all we need is just a sliver of Hope…
Deer Lake, Watercolor Resort, Julie Cook / 2016)

There I stood in one of the many long snaking lines at the grocery store early this afternoon.
I don’t care where you are, be it grocery store, the post office or a local fast food joint,
this time of year there will be long snaky lines.
That’s not mentioning the large discount stores, department stores or home improvement
centers where “snaking lines” pales in describing the madness currently taking place
at those spots…
but I digress….

As I made my way to the register and conveyor counter waiting to unload my cart,
only to have my items rung up, paid for, bagged and reloaded into my cart,
I noticed the array of magazines lining the shelves.
From tabloid to self help, from recipes to horoscopes….

There in all her blazing glory was an ever grinning Oprah appearing to levitate over
the Grand Canyon happily proclaiming that one and all should be living their grandest
life possible…as in living it oh so grandly and oh so largely.

“Easy for Oprah to proclaim” I hear my brain grousing.

I could live grand while levitating over the grand canyon rather than standing in
a long snaky, too close to Christmas line waiting to buy kleenex and chicken
if I had a boat load of cash, an entourage of folks
waiting with bated breath to do my bidding
all the while having no where to be or nothing particularly world altering to do.

Once at home, with said chicken and kleenex unloaded for the 3rd time today….
I sat down at the table in order to catch up on a few things.
Like considering addressing the few Christmas cards I just had to gather…
as in the few cards, according to my husband, that are essential that I send out….

With my small world derailing these days, Christmas and its more secular hoopla is
being held to a bare minimum…don’t ask where the tree is yet…I might get around to it.
As there is simply not enough time, energy, me nor joy lurking in my crumbling world.

My eyes wandered to an interesting little news article as I fought off the impending chore…

After reading the interesting little article I decided
I must be living under a rock.

Now mind you, I really don’t mind living under a rock…
as there is often a good bit of peace and solitude under said rock.

It’s when I read about some latest craze or word or trend that seems to have
“social media” or the internet, or the entire world for that matter all ablaze…
that I know I’m contently under my rock.

I really don’t miss hearing about or seeing those things that set popular culture on fire.
Those latest brouhahas in movements, foods, pastimes, clothing, music…
In fact I rather relish being left out of the hype.

Now I suppose that’s an age thing as there was probably a time I would have “died”
had I not been riding the latest band wagon….

So it seems there is this word…
“hygge”

It’s a Danish word pronounced either hyue-gar, or hoog-jar or hoo gah
maybe it depends on where in the country of Denmark you are from…
kind of like a regional dialect sort of thing.

Anywhoo, hygge is a word, or better yet, a state of mind,
that just so happens to be taking the UK by storm…
and it is predicted that very shortly that the very same world altering word
and blissful state of mind, will wildly descend upon life here in the States.

It is a word that describes the approaching, or perhaps better yet, the attacking of life
with a mindset of all things positive…
all the while as one embraces the enjoyment of everyday life experiences.

Hummmm…..a rather oddly familiar concept

Seems that the world altering events of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump has folks
all across this globe in a peculiar dither..
as in the masses are in a state of ‘inability’…a feeding frenzy of inability…
as in an inability to function, to embrace life, or to even appreciate life…
let alone finding the strength to simply enjoy living.

And leave it to the Danes, those same northern folks who have been voted time and time again
by all things travel to be the happiest folks on the planet,
to perfect that very state of happiness into a new global phenomenon….
while all the other poor souls who are still languishing in the events of the past year,
seek some sort of solace from their woes.

Enter hygge…

Yet…
Despite this latest feel-good phenom making the most of the empty cultural voids…
this latest and desperately sought after placebo for an ailing populace…
is actually a state of mind that’s been around for quite some time…

Or perhaps, better yet, it’s really more of a command as to how one should actually live…

And as for me…
it is a very timely reminder….
that despite my overwhelmingly imploding small world…
I have long known the secret to a contented life that goes far beyond the
limited understanding of this oh so jaded and self centered world…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

And that my friends is God, in Christ Jesus, our very own hygge….

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

seeking solace

The sea is his,
for he made it…

Psalm 95:5

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(Gulf of Mexico, Santa Rosa Beach / Julie Cook / 2016)

There are those who have Lourdes…
Others have Fatima
For some it is Medjugorje
and for others still, it is Guadeloupe.

There are places all around this world of ours that pilgrims have traveled
for centuries in hopes of…
a healing,
a miracle,
or merely peace…

for me…it is the sea…
It is to and for the sea that I yearn…
when I feel most in need of soothing…

Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.

Jeremiah 5:22

Therapy amongst the mint

“All of earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see take off their shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
Anne Frank

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(a clump of freshly pulled mint mixed in a pile of roots / Julie Cook / 2015)

The air was punctuated with the pungent aroma of mint and basil mingled with a heavy dose of loamy moist dirt.
I had taken pruning shears with me, but put them aside in favor of my two gloved hands.
My intent was to simply cut it all back but instead I opted to hopefully rid my yard and life of the invasive mayhem.

The growing green mass had covered the whole front corner of the bed by the garage and was set to cover up Mimi’s ancient cement bench if something wasn’t done and done soon to stop this almost giddy encroachment.

My heart has felt much the same in recent days, overrun and over burdened with and by the onslaught of the grim global headlines.

The now burgeoning sickly yellowish green patch is usually the first thing in the yard to show its tender new verdant foliage during those sleepy hopeful wee days between winter and spring. It’s what gives me hope that life, rebirth, regrowth and Spring will indeed vanquish Old Man Winter while ushering in welcoming warmer days.

As I wondered about how best to tackle the latest infestation of overgrowth in the shrub bed, my thoughts wandered a world away to what or whom would or could now vanquish the sweeping global sorrows that were entangling both my heart and soul.

Come late Summer. . .when life is dried out and burned out, just as the seasons prepare to knock on the door of Autumn, the leggy gangly masses have become a truly unsightly tangled mess of tired and spent. As in I’m just ready to cut it all away, rid my life of the jumbled mess and happily welcome in some cool crisp colorful order.

I wish I could easily do the same for our hurting planet.

I’ve always found solace in working with my hands.
The more manual the labor the more productive and alive I feel.
There is a cleansing honesty in working with one’s hands.
Never mind that my back has been giving me fits, never mind the heat index is still in the triple digits, I will gladly get down and dirty, as the sun continues to bake the world, for working hard in the yard is good for the soul, the mind and often literally the heart.

Oh that it could be so easy with this greatly burdened world of ours.

As a true Southerner I’ve grown up with mint sprouting from every yard I’ve ever called home. What better accompaniment to one’s tea or julep, depending on your preference, than a sprig of fresh mint? Anyone will tell you mint is easy, as in it grows itself. In fact it’s just a little too easy, as in too eager and way too invasive. It’s more like a weed gone wild then a treasured herb. Plus everyone who does any work in a garden will tell you, any novice can grow mint— it offers instant gratification to the more hesitant would-be gardeners among us.

But my mint patch has been on the run and I had to stop it before things got anymore out of hand. Rather than cut it back, just for it to sprout right back to this same spreading madness within a few days, I took to pulling it up, by the long lanky root full. Even poor ol St Francis had to be laid on his side just so I could get to what was running under my favorite saint’s feet. I don’t think he was much bothered by the intrusion.

As I yanked and pulled, buried just under the top layer of straw and soil, was a criss crossing network of an eerily bone white root system stretching for what seemed to be miles. With each tugged, pulled and unearthed jumble of lanky roots and dirt, earwigs and beetles alike scurried helter skelter, madly seeking a dark cloak of safety in the damp compost soil.

The more my thoughts drifted over the latest mounding national and global turmoils, I pulled harder and deeper. Sweat trickled down my face, pooling at the tip of my nose before dripping and disappearing into the blackened soil. The sweat seemed to reach across the globe mingling with the tears of those thousands of people now walking hundreds of miles in search of asylum and safety.

As the morning turned to afternoon, I had finally pulled up the last of the mint. The piles were now all raked up, the walkway swept and the pine straw smoothed as the shrub bed now had a delightfully clean and fresh look.

I still had no grand revelations as to how to help the ever growing global crises sweeping across our lives nor how to ease the lingering tensions within our own Nation. I was hot, tired and weary of body, but there was oddly a refreshing clarity of thought.
No longer did I feel totally overwhelmed or at a loss.
Still not knowing where to even begin to help, I gratefully no longer felt as defeated as I had.
There’s just something about physical labor, with it’s overwhelming beginning and productive ending, that gives hope to the overwhelming obstacles of life. . . hope that we can indeed tackle and eventually overcome the litany of misery facing our current global family.

I trust we will be able to do so. . .
for only in God, comes hope to the hopeless, and strength to the weak. . .

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:10

“Let me arise and open the gate, to breathe
the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.”

Violet Fane

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the façade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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