pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

the heaviness of missing

“how anxiously I yearned for those I had forsaken.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man


(crab/ Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I have always wrestled with the notion of “good-byes”.
I don’t like them.
Never have.
Most likely never will.

There is an odd finality to it all…this business of good-byes…
or so it surely seems at the time of parting.

Perhaps it is the continuity of constancy and consistency that seem threatened
during the action of good-byes.

More times than not, I readily comprehend the cognizant reality–
meaning that my mind is well aware that I will indeed be seeing or be with whomever it is
that might be momentarily leaving my physical presence…

So in some regards, I feel almost silly for getting so worked up or sad.
My brain screams at me, telling me to suck it up, you’ll see them–again– soon–
For crying out loud!

Yet the pain in the spirit, soul, and heart is still very real
as I know that there are those good-byes that are temporary and those that are more permanent.
And it is the permanence of those good-byes that are indeed most bitter…
As all of us will eventually experience such on a very personal level.

I don’t know but I often think adopted folks feel partings perhaps a bit more deeply than others…

I am more than aware of the effects that a mother-to-be has upon her unborn baby in the womb—

There is a transference of emotions, hormones, sounds, senses…even down to the very things
the mother eats or drinks.

Throw in anger, sorrow, stress, fatigue, resentment…
all of that passes through to the one she carries.

A baby who is destined to be “left behind” following its birth…be that for adoption,
knows most pointedly on a deep subconscious level, for a lifetime, the pain of both
rejection and good-byes…

Be they simple, short and fleeting or be they bitter, lasting and full of forever loss…
a good-bye is deeply felt and understood.

And so it was with the parting of our grandchildren today, after having been with them
for the past three days, that my heart was weighed down by the stinging tears
associated with such a parting and loss…

Picking up the left-behind toys and the topsy turvy disarray of a house that only babies
and toddlers bring…
all the while battling with a personal heaviness of heart and stinging tears.

Silly emotions really, but the depth of sudden stillness can be physically unsettling
when just moments before, just before the fully loaded car pulled out of the driveway,
the level of endless energy had been deliriously exhausting as it filled the entire house.

In my particular case of loss, as my brain works tirelessly to tell me, will be blessedly short.
Yet all the while, I know that for others, some good-byes will be sadly lasting and difficult.

So I was reminded of all of this notion of partings and good-byes today when I read
my friend Salvageable’s blog post regarding his missing of a fellow blogger friend.

https://salvageable04.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-fading-and-disappearance-of-aurora/

Often in our lives, our experiences of missing and loss come because of the one we
long for, for whatever reason, opts to move on or perhaps move away…

There comes frustration in such losses because they are really out of our control,
as are most losses—and they come with no real explanation or reasoning.

One day they’re here, the next day they are not.
No words, no contact, no good-bye.

An open-ended loss.

Just as we experience with a death…
equally as difficult and hard to wrap one’s head and heart around…
for there is no control with the loss.

Most often, there is also no opportunity for farewell.

Either way, the after effects affect our whole being.

I offered my empathy to Salvageable as I expressed just how much I’ve missed my blogging
friend Natalie.

Much the same way that I miss my aunt.
Both became sick and yet I never saw either one of them during their illness.
In Natalie’s case, we had never met face to face.

One minute, we spoke over the phone, then there’s an illness that occurred, and then poof,
they were gone.

Just the other day, my daughter-n-law and I both lamented how much we missed “Aunt Maaaaaathhaaa”
It’s just weird that she’s no longer a physical part of our family.
We spoke on the phone on a Tuesday evening as I shared that she was to soon be a great aunt.
I had no visible bearing as to how sick she was as we chatted about my becoming a grandmother.
Her voice raspy but her mind was focused as she talked about getting some strength back.
A day later… on Wednesday, she was gone.

Similar to my friend Natalie, but our’s was communication via texts and emails while she was
in the hospital.
I told her that I was going to fly out to see her…a day later her daughter actually text back
that her mom was in ICU and for me to wait.
Four day’s later she was gone.

I liked what Salvageable had to say in his post about there being a designated place in Heaven for
Wordpress bloggers to finally meet…because there are so many of you I love dearly,
yet we have never sat together at a kitchen table and shared a face to face laugh or tear.

And such is this life of ours…perhaps it’s akin to being something like pen-pals.
One day, for whatever reason, the letters just stop coming.
Leaving us to always wonder as to what happened.

Yet thankfully there is a takeaway in all of this melancholy chatter and that is actually
the of good news in all of this heaviness.

For it is here, where many of us join and come together, that we are brought together
by our shared love for Jesus Christ.

Even those who come here to counter our words and our posts…those ardent disbelievers and atheists
who come to argue, fuss, cuss and discuss our seemingly “disillusionment”–
all come because of Jesus.

And for those of us who believe, it is that love of Jesus that sustains all of our losses,
be they great or small, temporary or seemingly neverending.

Therein resides our Hope and our Grace.

For those of you who come to fuss, cuss, discuss or for those who come simply with their loss and sorrow…
blessedly and thankfully, we all have Hope.

For He is indeed the great I AM…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

well that didn’t go as planned now did it?

“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
Allen Saunders


( I snapped this little spine chart yesterday sitting in the exam room waiting on the doctor / Julie Cook /2019)

Pour yourself a cool glass of lemonade and pull up a chair, this may take a minute.

Yesterday I found myself sitting in the orthopedic’s exam room waiting on the doctor.
They were kind to work me in as I called on Memorial Day and they were closed.
During grandmother duty this past Saturday, something went awry in my back…
I knew when it happened…much like 3 years ago when I could be found in the same office.

Last time it was two herniated disks.
This felt much the same…sooo I knew the drill.

Shots in the back for now…we’ll see how that works before we pull
in the big guns as we did last time with an epidural and nerve block.
Sigh.

Things like back issues, bone issues…any medical issue really, in almost all cases,
have a hereditary leaning.

We inherit so much from our parents and from those even further down the line from previous generations.

That’s in part why our doctors are always asking us if we have a medical history for __________
allowing you and I to fill in the blank.

When you’re adopted, you almost never really know the answers.
You never really know a thing about any sort of medical history.

They don’t send home care instructions or medical charts with babies who are being adopted.
Well, they didn’t in 1959 when I was born.

So I usually tick the boxes on my doctor’s charts with an NA or an “I have absolutely no clue”

Every medical issue I’ve ever stumbled into during my lifetime has seemed to be an anomaly…
an out of the blue sort of occurrence.
Who knew this short person who has been relatively active her entire life would have bone
and back troubles?

I certainly didn’t.

I’ve written about my having been adopted on numerous occasions.
When I first began this blog 6 years ago, I pegged adoption to be one of my “discussion” topics.
We former educators always think along educational lines…so much so that when I started writing,
I was all about wanting to inform and educate…
Be it about cooking, art, travel or adoption…education was the impetus.

But in the middle of those 6 years, God redirected my words…
I found I wasn’t sharing much about those sorts of topics anymore but rather topics
God had lead me to share.
And who am I to argue with God??

But for whatever reason, I am back to revisiting the topic of adoption…
In great part, due to my concern over this culture of death we seem to be living in…
a culture that puts money, lifestyle and convenience over the sanctity of human life…
but I digress.

Adoption is a funny thing.

We adopted children are actually given a second chance at life.
Aborted babies, not so much.

Adoption is either a hard and painful choice for a woman or it is relatively simple.
It just depends on the woman.

Yet adopted children, those whose adoptive parents are very open and transparent about the adoption,
live with the knowledge that they, in essence, have two sets of parents…
a biological set and an adopted set.

It’s just that many fathers in the biological set may or may not know that they had ever fathered a child.
But that is not to be the pig trail for today’s discussion…we shall stay on topic.
Educators do try to keep the discussions on track…not unless they see a teachable moment taking
place in the diversion…today, we are on track.

A couple of weeks ago, before baby James got so sick, I wrote a post about my search for my biological parents.
Well, not totally an in-depth tale and not so much about my parents, but actually, a search for my mother.
Suffice it to know, things did not go so well.

The link is here:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/i-think-we-could-have-been-friends-and-i-do-have-some-really-nice-lamps/

However I want to back up a bit.

I was born in 1959 and adopted in 1960.

There was a little book put out in those early days for adopted parents to read to their adopted children,
a book read when the adopted parents deemed their adopted child was ready…ready to learn
the truth and could help explain the situation.

Dad read me the story when I was about 5.

I loathed that little book and I loathed the story.
Suddenly I felt separated from everyone I thought I knew as mine.

I then set out living my life,
while trying to keep the feelings of separation from that life, at bay.

I think we call that suppression.

This was the first post I wrote about my adoption—
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/who-in-the-heck-is-sylvia-kay-and-what-have-you-done-with-her/

I didn’t want to talk about being adopted nor think about it.
If I did, then my neat and tidy little world wouldn’t be so neat and tidy.
Plus I fretted about my parents and their feelings…I never wanted them to feel hurt or
pain that I was really not theirs, but rather that I was someone else’s child.

The child playing a role far beyond her age, responsibility or capacity.

For you see their second adopted child, my adopted brother who was 5 years younger than
I was, was a mess.
His life with them and the life of us as a family was doomed…
because in essence he was doomed.

He did not handle being adopted well at all, and we all suffered grievously.

It is probably one of my better posts, despite the difficulty in writing it as well as the pain
in re-reading it of which adds to the re-living…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/

So I suppose we could say adoption has almost haunted me my entire life.

Once, when I finally became a grown woman with my own family, I wanted to learn more.
I wanted to be able to know things for my son’s sake.
Mainly medical information, but genealogy as well.

So 10 years ago, I was troubled by those nagging questions.
Adopted children live with questions.
That’s not a bad thing…don’t educators always say, no question is a bad question?
And I thought I’d seek a few of the answers.
I had always told myself, because of what my dad had lived through with my brother,
that I would never search for my biological parent—
I knew that the thought of possibly “losing” his only living child would be too much.

So rather than seeking the answers to the big questions, I decided to look for smaller answers.
But when I did find those “answers”, they only created giant gaping holes in the story
of who I was.

I reached out the Family’s First, Georgia’s Adoption Reunion Registry—
it is what the Atlanta Adoption
Agency, the place I came from, had morphed into.

For a small fee, they would provide me with my redacted case files—
no identifying cities, last names
or any hints as to people, states, cities or places.

But the story left larger questions.

Questions I would sit on for another 10 years.

Dad died two years ago.
I now have grandchildren.
I continue to look in a mirror wondering.
What is in me that is now in those grandchildren of mine?…and whose DNA is in them?

My doctor and I had talked about me doing one of those popular DNA tests so I could
find out some medical
information to pass on to my son.
She preferred 23 and Me as it provided the best medical info.

And so I did—I did so also hoping to find some sort of family.

I found a 1st cousin in Tennessee.
When I saw his information pop up on my computer screen, I felt my heart stop.

I nervously reached out to this man and shared the story of me that I knew.

That is an on-going story but he is my first cousin on my dad’s side of the family.
He is almost certain his second cousin is my half sister—but they are all still
working on that.

The story I shared added up.
Jobs, dates, etc.

I felt euphoria.
Which quickly faded as they have lives, they are busy and a long lost sibling is
not top on their radar…
but that is not to say that they have not been kind and helpful and eventually
want to meet and share pictures.
But they are younger than I am and are in different places.
My birth dad, one of the three brothers, their uncles, has since passed away…
so no reunion there.
And as I say, that is a story still in the making.

During all of this, however, I opted to reach back out to Families First.
I was ready to pay a larger fee for a full-fledged search for my biological mother.

The social worker told me they always start with the mother.
If she is deceased, then they share information and move on to a search for the father.

She told me that I was to come up with a top 10 list of questions I wanted to be answered,
as well as a letter is written directly to my birth mother.

At the time, I was feeling a bit disconnected…perhaps it was a protection mechanism as
I was almost stoical bordering on flippant in my going forward with all of this.
I was generic in my questions and really didn’t have a full 10.

The social worker told me that they enlist the aid of a private detective and don’t
be surprised if the search takes up to 6 months.

I then tucked all of this away on a back burner.

Yet I was actually becoming a bit of an internal emotional wreck.

But as life would have it, our second grandchild was born nad life quickened.
There were some complications and time was not my own.

I really wasn’t thinking about adoption searches anymore.

But then one day out of the blue I received a call from the social worker informing me that
they had found my mother and she was indeed still alive.

I felt an electric jolt of excitement–a smile filled my face.
Hope of sorts was entering my life’s quest.

The social worker now wanted those questions and that letter—
in hopes of giving them to my mother
when she reached out to her.

I wrote fast and quick…I didn’t want to overthink or reconsider.
I wrote without even reading over what I wrote—
a letter filled with gratitude and kindness
and well wishes…and lots of typos.

And then I waited.
And life got busy, again.

So it was not until the other week when my husband and I were getting ready to
walk out the door that my phone rang.

I immediately recognized the name of the social worker and I stopped dead in my tracks.
She had been good to keep me up to speed via email, but here she was calling.
I fumbled all over myself answering and offering pleasantries.

What had begun as a rather low key nonchalant search of curiosity now had turned into
something much more…
It had grown into the notion of me seeing all of this as a second chance…a second chance
with a crucial relationship in life.

Yet I’ve known of family horror stories—those who were seeking, just as I was,
only to find disaster.

I was well aware of the risks—yet I was willing to take those risks…
because I wanted to know who made me who I was…who I am…
all those nuances that are simply the by-products of personal shared DNA.
Who looks back at me in that mirror every day.
Who has helped to build this wall inside of me?

The social worker started the conversation with,
“Julie, I heard back from your mother today through her attorney…”
I swallowed hard and stammered “attorney”…as in “oh, ok, well that says it all does it not?!”

I felt a sicking weight hit my guts.

The room shrunk in around me and I felt as if I might suffocate.

My family has had enough dealings with attorneys as of late due to
deaths and wills…here we were to go again.
Nothing with an attorney is positive.

She continued—she wants nothing to do with you…” you were from the past and
that is where you are to stay.”

Hot tears now formed in my eyes.

I wanted to yell into the phone that “you tell that attorney and that woman
that I am a good person. A kind person…
a person who I think she could be proud of…”

But I didn’t.

I was the baby she bore prematurely, without any prenatal care.
The baby she fled her family over, moving out of state.
The baby who she ended her relationship with my father over—
a man who had asked her to marry him.
She was 23 and he was 28—yet she said some things and things went too far…
and she ran—she ran from everyone and everything…and she ran into hiding.

She was a nurse who didn’t seek prenatal care.
She delivered under me using an alias.

Even a different hospital then what is on my legal birth certificate.

She gave birth and left the hospital that day.
But the social worker at the time noted in the files that twice she was called back
because I was sick
She was worried and had tears in her eyes when returning to the hospital.
The social worker noted that she was still very much emotionally attached to my birth father
despite his having moved on and becoming engaged.

So many questions.
Such a sad past.
And that was where I was to stay…in her sad past.
A past that could have had a happier ending.

The social worker told me that because of this, she was unable to share my
questions and letter.
I half-heartedly laughed telling her it was a letter chocked full of grammatical errors and
typos as we both laughed.

I asked if she could, perhaps clean it up and send my letter to this attorney.
I even almost found myself asking for the attorney’s name before I thought better—
knowing all of this was such an anonymous process, protecting her identity.

In the state of Georgia, one’s adoptions records remain sealed under the court of law.
They may only be opened by petitioning the court and the reason better be pretty darn good.
Curiosity and the answering of questions are not good enough reasons.

And so that is why I wrote that post the other week.

Tomorrow I will post the letter I wrote to my mother.

I figure what the heck.

The social worker was having to send some sort of affidavit to the lawyer for my
mother to sign—
I suppose a paper to put in my file that states she is not to ever be contacted
and my records…may never be seen.
Despite the fact that they are also my records.
As in mine and just as much mine as hers.

I told the social worker, to again, please assure this attorney that it had not my intent
to invade into this woman’s life.
I also told her I figured this would be how it would end.
“Why is that Julie” she inquired.
“It’s just my luck Stacy”

After writing that post the other day, a dear blogger friend, Dawn Marie,
in Pennsylvania offered this comment:

I am so sorry, Julie.
But even sorriest for the woman who opened her womb to you, but not her heart.
I will pray for her.
And I would ask you to consider perhaps this “rough” ending was put in place by God
to protect you & not harm.
He revealed, through her calloused legal action, a lot about her –
perhaps sheltering you from further harm.
May you be at peace.
A warm hug sent your way to uplift you.

I’ll add a few more words tomorrow when I share my letter.

After I hung up the phone I dropped my head like a small child might do,
and sobbed into my husband’s arms.
A double rejection.
The grown me, the grown 60-year-old woman, crying like a small child whose
own mother had rejected her…again.

But as Dawn reminds me…God is in the midsts of all of this
just like he was when in 1959 when I was conceived and born…
and later in 1960 when I was eventually adopted.

When we opted to go down to the beach for a few days last week, I thought it would be
a time that I could ponder, contemplate and make sense of things…
and to natually lick my wounds.

Yet God thought differently—no time for self-pity…
He called us to race home to be with our grandson who was rushed to the hospital.

See…life, my life, does go on.
It goes on in three blood relatives…
My son and his two children.
Of whom mean the world to me.
They are mine and I am theirs.

Some reasons in life we know,
some we do not—
The best we can do is to always pick ourselves up when we fall and move one foot in
front of the other–
always moving forward…and never back.

The letter tomorrow.

Third term abortions, Absolutely NOT!

‘Abortion’ “[the] anticipated murder to prevent someone from being born”
Tertullian

All this is causing a profound change in the way in which life and relationships between people
are considered. The fact that legislation in many countries,
perhaps even departing from basic principles of their Constitutions,
has determined not to punish these practices against life,
and even to make them altogether legal,
is both a disturbing symptom and a significant cause of grave moral decline

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995


(a puny pigeon sits at the breaking surf / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2019

I am simply beside myself.

So gravely upset.

So much so that the words will not come.

And the words that do come, are not the right words…not for this…not right now.

Third. Term. Abortions.

I need to gather my thoughts, feelings, and words carefully before I can write
the type of post that is deserving of this latest issue of absolute madness.

My initial response is not only absolutely not, but more like, Hell NO, Absolutely NOT!!!

I have never believed in abortion.

It eludes me as to how a civilized society can somehow convince itself that abortion is ok.

The matter of simply a choice.
A yes or a no.
Somewhat reminiscent of a Ceaser offering a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Simple as that…life or death.

I consider abortion the taking of a life and I think when I last checked, the taking of a life
equated to murder…and murder is a capital offense, plain and simple.

I am adopted.
Not aborted.

In 1995 Pope John II wrote an encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life—
a treatise regarding the sanctity of human life…all human life…
as well as the responsibility that the Chruch has to protect that sanctity and that of life.

His words address the threats to human life— capital punishment, euthanasia, sterilization, murder,
and abortion.

He begins his encyclical with the scripture from Luke—reminding all of us about the importance of
birth and salvation…it is the proclaiming of the good news and that of great joy which is to
all people…’for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…”

The Pope is reminding us that our hope comes in the form of a birth of a baby…

Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, is Catholic.
Yet she supports abortion.
She knows the teaching of the Chruch and yet her choice is to disregard this teaching
regarding the sanctity of human life.

And now we have the Governor of Virginia and several legislatures thinking full-term
pregnancies..that being the delivering of a living, breathing baby to not be tended to or
cared for but rather to be set aside, like a wet towel after a shower,
while the powers that be in the room decide whether or not the
baby may be “allowed” to live or simply die.

When I went to sleep in 1995 on a night when the Pope was putting his thoughts to paper,
I was a 36-year-old mother of a 6-year-old little boy.
I was also a wife and a teacher.

I had already lost my own mother (adopted) to cancer.
My brother (adopted) to suicide.

I was not a perfect mother or wife let alone a perfect teacher.

I was well aware of my own shortcomings and sinfulness.
I was also aware of the sanctity of life.
As well as the forgiveness of sin as found in a Savior who had come into the
world as an innocent child.

I knew other people who also believed in the sanctity of life.

My church, The Episcopal Chruch, at the time, believed in the sanctity of life.

That is not so much the case these 24 years later.

Politicians, clergy, educators, news personalities, entertainers and just average folks like wives,
husbands, college kids, high school kids…
all these 24 years later…more and more people think abortion is ok…

And now, we have the notion that a full term birth…an actual living and breathing baby may
in turn, be killed if those in that delivery room deem it so.

So until I can put my own thoughts together in some sort of coherent, common sense sort of order,
I will offer the following words from Pope John Paul II, taken from Evangelium Vitae,
with a link following the quote to the full encyclical.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news:
“I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).
The source of this “great joy” is the Birth of the Saviour;
but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth,
and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment
of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says:
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
In truth, he is referring to that “new” and “eternal” life which consists in communion
with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the
Sanctifying Spirit.
It is precisely in this “life” that all the aspects and stages of human life
achieve their full significance.

The Church knows that this Gospel of life…

58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life,
procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.
The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an
“unspeakable crime”.54

But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become
progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour
and even in law itself,
is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense,
which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil,
even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation,
we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call
things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the
temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is
extremely straightforward:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20).
Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology,
such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to
attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a
symptom of an uneasiness of conscience.
But no word has the power to change the reality of things:
procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is
carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence,
extending from conception to birth.

The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize
that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved.
The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life.
No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be
considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor!
He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence
consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears.
The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman
carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother
herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated,
and who then goes about having it done.

It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother,
insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for
purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain
important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the
other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live
in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place.
Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic,
can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the
death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame,
not only when he di- rectly pressures the woman to have an abortion,
but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone
to face the problems of pregnancy:
55 in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community
of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”.
Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family
circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure
that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case
moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged
her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible,
when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved
abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter,
on the administrators of the health-care centres where abortions are performed.
A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged
the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood,
and with those who should have ensured-but did not-effective family and social policies
in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial
and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which
reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations
which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.
In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the
harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension.
It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people
who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. As I wrote in my Letter to Families,
“we are facing an immense threat to life: not only to the life of
individuals but also to that of civilization itself”.
56 We are facing what can be called a “structure of sin” which opposes human life not yet born.

60. Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception,
at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life.
But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized,
a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother;
it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth.
It would never be made human if it were not human already.
This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation.
It has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme
of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic
aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization the adventure of a human life begins,
and each of its capacities requires time-a rather lengthy time-to find its place and to
be in a position to act”.57 Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be
ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on
the human embryo provide “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason
a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life:
how could a human individual not be a human person?”.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

And as we, the pilgrim people, the people of life and for life, make our way in confidence towards
“a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1),
we look to her who is for us “a sign of sure hope and solace”

Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)
1995

the power to give…or not

“If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor.
If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without
waiting for them to ask you.”

St. Thomas of Villanova


(an olive dries on the tree outside of St Peters, Rome, Itlay / Julie Cook / 2018)

“It is undoubtedly true that each of us, men and women, irresponsible and thoughtless as we often are,
hold within our hands the happiness and sorrows of others.
We cannot help it or escape from it.
The power is in us inalienably almost from birth to death—in us,
because we are persons—and we are responsible for the use we make of it.
Indeed, so mysterious is this power that the very presence of a person who does not realize his
responsibility is often the source of the keenest pain of all…
The failure to exercise the power to give happiness to others is not merely negative in its results;
it is the source of the most positive suffering of all.
Thus there is no escape from the responsibility involved in the possession of this power.
Not to use it where it is due is to destroy all happiness. Strange power,
indeed, to be committed to such weak and unworthy hands;
yet there could be but one thing worse: that none could interfere with the joys and sorrows of others.
We might envy their happiness and pity their sorrows, but we could not help them.
It would be a world of isolated individuals wrapped in inviolable selfishness;
each must take care of himself and the world must go its way.”

Fr. Basil W. Maturin, p. 149
An Excerpt from
Christian Self-Mastery

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot


(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

This is a post I wrote the first year I had started blogging.
It was actually written the day after Christmas but I think the sentiment
is still very much worth sharing and most timely…as I think such thoughts might
be best remembered now instead of in a few days when things are being packed
up and put away…remembered as we stand on the cusp of a most joyous
and sacred time.

I am amazed at how much our lives have changed in these few short years since
this post…
changed for both sad and joyous…
There have been deaths, loss, gains, marriage, babies…
the very visible continuum of just one family.

It is my wish for all of us that we may each remember how precious our
lives are and of how important it is to spend the allotted time given to each
of us wisely and lovingly…
Please enjoy….
And I wish for each of you a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of
it all is now but a mere blur.
People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—-
then they departed.
Now more people are coming today. . .
where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving,
eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing some time next week.
Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going,
I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas.
My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year
so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away
all before New Year’s Eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–-boxing up, packing away, hauling up and
down steps, carrying out to the trash…yet another Christmas.

As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down,
I become a one-woman demolition team.
It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down
with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating
for a holiday.
I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree),
I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–-
even as I lugged all of the ornament boxes, once again, out of the attic–
spreading them out all over the floor. No wonder they call it boxing day…not really
but it works for me.

I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree.
Our tree is a hodgepodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a Sunday school class
in 1963 when I was a little girl—-
the ornaments create a bit of a timeline, moving forward through college,
on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby
then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament.
There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries.
There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the
cherished ornaments from friends…

It seems each ornament has a story.

There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died.
I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a
beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas–-
Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament,
gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place
in the ornament box—-
thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”—
unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my
stepmother recounted through tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys
this past week—-thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–-
but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use…

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood.
They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees
and of my life today.
There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads
I have to glue back on year after year.
There are even the little glass Santa snowmen with the googly eyes that were actually
my grandmothers–then there are the painted Easter eggs that belonged to my
other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years.
As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being
transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the
gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented.
It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts which in turn
makes each received present truly special and one of a kind.
I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in
high school.
I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me.
He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a
remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me
following the death of my brother.
There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand-carved birds from Vermont…
And there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite
cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who,
at the time, I did not know.
She had decided to call it quits mid-year in 1982.
She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the
history teachers.
She had decided to leave mid-year in order to go back to school at the
University of Georgia to further her degree.
I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as
the replacement.
Eventually, I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys
should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7.
One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some Lego kits.
In order to make some spending money, she had him make Christmas ornaments.
After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his
tongue depressor snowmen.
I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy,
whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”—
I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer.
She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much.
She departed this life leaving behind her then-teenaged sons and their dad,
a very distraught husband and father.
A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague,
her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor
his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree.
With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me.
That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree,
I am constantly reminded of what was—-for happy or sad.
I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story.
There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a
constant continuum–-with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas,
there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended
for a future tree.
These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of
drawers and cabinets gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets,
doodads, figures, and balls—–all adding to the continued story of a single family who
travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad,
inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to
be continued by those who follow suit.
The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .

There is never coincidence, not even in the dark of night

“And I saw that truly nothing happens by accident or luck,
but everything by God’s wise providence …
for matters that have been in God’s foreseeing wisdom,
since before time began, befall us suddenly,
all unawares; and so in our blindness and ignorance we say that this is accident or luck,
but to our Lord God it is not so.”

St. Julian of Norwich


(Pieta in The Cathedral of Notre Dame / Paris, France /Julie Cook / 20118)

“Many of the saints tell us that these times of God-ordained ‘desolation’ or dryness
are very important times of growth if we persevere through them by exercising a deeper
faith, hope, and love.
It is particularly important, they tell us,
not to give up our spiritual practices but to remain faithful.
God in His wisdom knows how long and how deeply we must be tried in order to come closer to Him,
and we should patiently trust Him during the trial while persevering in our practices.”

Ralph Martin, p.174
An Except From
Fulfillment of all Desire

With God, there are no accidents.
Never.

Even when, in our thinking, a near-irreparable tragedy, of which is a true accident and is
nonetheless horrific and simply unbearable…leaves both our lives and bodies shattered…

We are reminded that God is still very much present.

Yet such a reminder, to those who are living in and with the aftermath,
rings often empty and even bitterly insulting.

Our pain and our anger are both agonizingly palpable.

Yet such moments, more often than not, send even the most staunch religious
and spiritual among us into the depths of deep darkness.
A wasteland of sorrow, loneliness, bitterness and yes, a gnawing and seething anger…

The wasteland can last, for what can seem, an eternity.

Or…on the other hand…perhaps there was no accident…no tragedy…

There was no particular impetus for a sudden wandering into the wasteland of an empty soul…

We simply find ourselves, our souls, suddenly and oddly empty and cold.

At best, our faith remains shallow…
At worst, our faith seems lost forever…

However, we are reminded to hold fast.

To hold on.

Words, which to the hurting, the lost, the lonely, more often than not,
echo of emptiness and even the trite.

It will take a conscious act of totally emptying oneself to all that is.
It will take a complete letting go of all that we know and hold dear.
It will take a blind leap of faith.
It will take a willingness to trust in that which we cannot see while we cling to
a promise given to each of us long ago.

We have a choice…
we can choose to remain lost, bitter or angry.
Or we can cling to the one promise we have…

Be not afraid…

The tragedy, the accident, the sorrow which could not, cannot be prevented…
nor that of the painful results, while one seems to remain caught in the vicious cycle
of pain both physical and spiritual, that results from such situations…
is ours to either keep and hold on to or to let go of while we figure out how to find our way back…home

That is our choice, our conscious decision.

There are no accidents with God, no coincidence.
And when in the desert, He remains steadfast despite a perceived silence.

I say all of this as I am in the midst of reading a book that is a tale
of the horrific, the unthinkable, the unimaginable and yet a tale
of the hope, the healing, and the Saving Grace…
of which far outweighs that of the Evil.

More on this story as time allows.

It does indeed seem empty to say to those who suffer the unimaginable that they must simply
hold on and hold tight…
but that is exactly what we all must be willing to do…
and to “will” ourselves takes a conscious act…

Something Beautiful Happened
A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil
by Yvette Manessis Corporon

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

Isaiah 41:10-13