when a great aunt comes calling…

“There is peace even in the storm”
Vincent van Gogh


(from left to right:
Aunt Blanche, Aunt Alma, my great grandmother Wiliford, and shy Mimi (Mary)
hiding behind their mom / circa 1917)

When I was a little girl, I had two great aunts who were still living.
Aunt Blanche and Aunt Alma.

Both women rattled my nerves…
or maybe it was more like they simply scared me to death.

They were the sisters to my grandmother, my mother’s two aunts.

Blanche had never married.
For as long as I could remember, she had lived with my grandmother,
having her own separate area of the house.
She always seemed old to me.

The story went that she had had a young beau who had asked for her hand in marriage…but…he was California dreaming and bound, hoping to make his fortune
in a bustling new area of the country.

This was a time of one century turning to another.
The thought of leaving home and family in Georgia,
setting off to a still newly settled West Coast, with a young man who had nothing
more than a dream… was simply more than she could bear.
She turned down his proposal and remained single until she passed away in her
late 80’s.

The other great aunt, Great Aunt Alma lived in Clearwater, Florida.
She and her husband had no children of their own and in my mind,
they lived to simply play golf with the other old people.

This pistol of a woman was as wide as she was tall.
At 4’11” she was truly short and truly round.
Her perfume filled the room with a sickeningly sweet scent that lingered in
one’s nostrils long after she was gone.
When first arriving she would always make a bee line for little cheeks…
grabbing both cheeks with her thumb and index fingers, giving them a hard tweak and squeeze before leaving brightly red lipstick mark imprinted on both now sore cheeks.

Whenever we were told of an impending visit by Aunt Alma, a deep sense of dread
descended over both me and my younger brother.
Yet as I aged and grew up, my great aunt who by now was widowed, seemed to
be more gruff and impatient…far from embracing or loving.
She no longer grabbed to pinch cheeks or smear ones face with lipstick
but was rather matter of fact and brusque with her greeting.
Plus she would cuss like a sailor in her impatience.

I kept both of these women at arm’s length as their personalities and lives were not
overtly open to young people. They were nice and always gave nice gifts yet there was
no mistaking the fact that they preferred limited interaction with their
young great niece and nephew.

And so now it seems as if we have a new great aunt arriving on the scene…
one who has announced the coming of a most wicked visit.

Her name is Irma.

Somehow I imagine that she too is rather brusque and very matter of fact.
As she is also very round and and exceedingly wide.
We’ve been told that she will roar into town making her presence known in a
most deadly fashion.

Just as I had a sense of dread as a child over the forthcoming visit of great Aunt
Alma, I now have that same sense of foreboding with Irma’s impending visit.

But the difference between Alma and Irma—Alma did love us in her own odd way as
she did enjoy giving us gifts… Irma I fear however cares only for herself…
Taking no prisoners and making no apologies before abruptly departing just as
rudely as she arrived…

Prayers for Florida as well as neighboring Georgia…..
as our prayers continue for Texas and Louisiana…

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

Psalm 107:29-30

out of chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved,
upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(another shot of the dead loon I found on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Loons are fresh water birds so to say that I was more than a little shocked
finding a dead loon, partially buried in the sands along the ocean’s shore,
is an understatement.

There had been a bad storm the day prior…
I could only imagine the bird flying over the surf from one of the nearby dune lakes,
having tired as it was battered by fierce winds and torrential rains,
and simply succumbing to the raging maelstrom…
or maybe it was just old and sick.

Yesterday, several times throughout the course of my day,
I ran into a word, along with its resulting concept.
It is a word and meaning that I really prefer not to dwell on as it can be
unsettling and troubling.

That being the word chaos.

The word crept up and into the forefront of my focus more than once throughout the day.

Again, I am not one to believe in coincidence or happenstance but rather the
working of the Holy Spirit….sometimes gently whispering while at other times loudly shouting.

The word chaos kept coming to light in my reading perusals through the day.
And not only was it sitting before me in the printed word,
I found that I had to actually admit that it has certainly been a very real part of my
own life for these past many months.
Much more than I cared to realize or admit.
Because aren’t I always in control of me and my life?

As that was part of the revelation.

That despite my attempts to ignore, push down and to quell…
chaos has been wickedly swirling in my life.

Not a visible chaos necessarily, but a raging internal swirling turbulence.

Yet it was on a fellow bloger’s post yesterday that I had actually read a quote by a
gal named Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The quote more or less just hit me in the face.
One of those times when you’re broadsided, from out of the blue,
getting literally knocked off your feet.

“Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

It was more than just a simple reminder or statement…
it was a signpost.

It’s that whole question of what does one tie life’s anchor to?
Something real, sound, secure…
or instead….
does one opt for no anchor while simply allowing all things to drift off towards
an expectant and hopeful ending?

What have I been doing?

Is it simply a matter of casting out, allowing the anchor to randomly sink, hoping it
will grab hold, to something to anything…
hoping to be kept secure and steady…yet not really certain.

Or does one rather tie off to something much more solid and sure?
Anchoring to something that will hold tight and fast?

It is not a matter of merely drifting happily toward the hopeful sunset.

For there found in the drift…lies the ensuing troubles…
No anchor hold to keep one from being tossed and battered…
left to drift off course into dire storms.

In my faith and in my life, I found that question being asked…

Am I holding fast to God and God’s word or am I more focused on the
outcomes of my journey?
Focusing more on me and my end down the road verses
His choices and directions for my life…

In wisdom have I anchored?
Anchored and holding fast to God and His desired outcome?
Because I know in the end that that’s the only thing that matters…
His outcome and His alone.
Nothing that is of me.

For I am constantly reminded that it is He who is Creator and master of my ship
as I am but the created…
I am reminded of my constant need to tie off to Him…
trusting and holding tight through all the storms…
Claiming and knowing that His desired outcome is far better than that to which
I’ve been blindly holding to and racing off toward.

Him being the only lasting matter of my life….or of anyone’s life.

As we must anchor to that which is certain and sure
verses our ignorant and arrogant choice to simply drift while hoping for the best….

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked,
“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

Lightning, thunder and tornados–Oh My!

Well I told you the weather was to be bad…and true to form, it was…
Lightning hit the yard early, knocking out the phones and the Internet.
I called AT&T on my cellphone—
speaking with two different reps in India who were named Daniel and Anna…

When your reps are not in the US, because you sub out your services, you give the reps American names to help the feelings of the Americnas who call as it helps to offset the fact that the Americans have a difficult time understanding the heavily accented broken English.

Daniel was a bit dry.
He asked for the details of the problem.
I explained that lightning had fried my phones and Internet.
“You need to unplug your modem for 10 seconds”
“I did that already”
“Well I must run some tests”

This little plug, unplug, test went on for an hour until the call was dropped.
When I called back I got Anna in India.
Anna was more pleasant.

Anna tried one little trouble shooting test and then explained she’d have a tech come out late afternoon.

The Tech came out around 4PM
The sirens were blaring.
The sky was ominous…
Yet the Tech worked in, out and around the house until 7.
He was unable to fix things…
so a new Tech will come tomorrow…

It’s is now 10:30 PM and it is still storming.
I think they’re saying 8 inches of rain fell
That’s why the yard looks like a river.
And now they’re reporting there was an earthquake.

On that note— I’m jumping under the covers as I’m now
waiting for the frogs and locust to fall from the sky—
Plus posting from a phone is none too easy…..

Until I can get back to my computer…
Stay dry, safe and watch for the falling frogs…

snowflakes

“The paradoxes of today are the prejudices of tomorrow,
since the most benighted and the most deplorable prejudices
have had their moment of novelty when fashion lent them its fragile grace.”

Marcel Proust

black-amp-white-flakes-photography-snow-snowflake-favim-com-286496
(image courtesy Favim.com)

There’s a lot of talk currently in my neck of the woods about snow.
In fact the “talk” is more like a warning of an impending National disaster.

Yesterday while driving into Atlanta to Dad’s…those matrix boards above the interstates
alerting drivers to accidents, etc. were all running the same ominous and foreboding message…
Winter Storm Warning

For much of this hearty country of ours, such approaching weather systems
are no big deal…
it’s just more of the same ol typical winter weather…
but in this tender southern state, those signs might as well have read:
THE END IS NEAR AND WE ARE ALL DOOMED!!!

So this morning, with all the local news forecasting the Apocolypse,
I figured that maybe I should run out to the store to grab another half gallon of milk…
Lord knows I’d hate to be iced in, snowed in or both,
without ample milk for my coffee or any sort
cake or recipe that I may want to whip up while being stranded and cut off
from all civilization…

The shopping center looked like it did a couple of weeks ago during the
Christmas shopping frenzy.
I had passed school buses running basically backwards…
as in they had just taken the kids to school
and now they were bringing them all back home due to the early dismals
in observance of the impending disaster.

While I was making my way through the maze of shopping carts frantically filling up
with survival foods such as chips and sodas…
I debated about picking up something different for supper.

The chicken section was almost empty with only a few errant packs of thigh / leg combos.
When did chicken make the list of the typical disaster foods besides bread and milk?
Of which I am happy to report that the milk section was fully stocked…
or should I make that restocked…

Next stop, the bank.

Fridays are never a good day to go to the bank as everyone is getting paid and
in turn, heading to the nearest bank.
Add impending doom…
and shades of 1929 come racing to mind.

While standing at my teller’s counter there was a couple in their mid 20’s at the teller next to me.
They were loudly lamenting to the gal behind the counter,
and everyone else in line, that they were “tired of being adults.”

Really? ( thought in a monotone of sarcasam)

I chuckled and turned to look at this forlorn lamenting duo.

They continued on about how they were ready to trade in their “adult cards” wanting,
I suppose, to return to the Land of Nod and innocence.
“How,” had they known, “that if life would be like this,”
whatever “this” may have been,
“would have squandered more of their money while trying to “enjoy life” …

I kid you not.

I offered, rather bemusedly, that it doesn’t get any easier…
which certainly didn’t offer any comfort to their sense of gloom and doom…
but then again I am a realist and one who is a believer in the phrase
“aging is not for sissies”

Later back home,
I stumbled upon the reference of snowflake being used with regard to this
same mid 20’s aged group, twice!

Once on a news program discussing the impending inauguration being akin to another
type of apocalypse to many, and that colleges are providing their tender charges
places of calm and comfort, in hopes of soothing their mounting fears.

Another reference came while I was reading the blog of a Scottish pastor waxing on
about today’s colleges which are providing warnings (trigger statements)
to students that biblical studies will have graphic imagery regarding the crucifixion and
veterinary studies will have to discuss such topics as dead animals,
while the forensic students will be seeing, wait for it, dead bodies.
Obviously things all too gory and disturbing for these tender “snowflake’s” sensitive likings.

They are a most fragile lot are they not?
And will certainly melt at the drop of a hat…

Or so it seems as many adults, especially those in higher institutions of learning,
fear as they race to coddle their youthful charges.
And so it is as I am now hearing it first hand with my own ears, while at the bank…
That many of these snowflakes are actually already tired of the real world and
simply want to go back to being “irresponsible kids”….

Hummmmm….

This coming on the heels of the news of that now infamous and most heinous viral Facebook
story coming out of Chicago…
the story about those 4 young people who were arrested for kidnapping, beating and torturing
a mentally handicapped young man.
Ranting on and on at him about F’ing Trump and F’ing white people while cursing him,
cutting him, taunting him as he was tied up and had his mouth duct taped shut….
They filmed their antics while boasting that they wanted this recording to go viral…
they wanted the world to see what they were doing while laughing all the while doing it.

Chicago’s police chief said that these sorts of horrendous incidents from young thugs would,
in the future, only escalate.

Here we have not so much snowflakes, but rather icicles…
cold and dangerous youth living without
regard for the sanctity of human life.

So maybe those interstate signs should read:
“Warning and Shame”
“We’ve let our youth run amuck and now we are left trying to pick up the pieces”

As our same Scottish pastor laments that the Church herself is as much to blame as anyone for
the wailing of these youthful generations as she has dumbed down Christianity into
a Disneyesque sort of happy fun thought…
where things like sin and death…that whole ransoming of our sins with payment coming
in the form of death on a cross,
being just all too much for this up and coming youthful generation
who are either too sensitive or too callous for the reality of life, death and faith.

Shame indeed.

Here’s to the impending snow storm…
may we have enough milk, bread and now chicken, to survive….

Snowflake Theologians Given Trigger Warning about the Crucifixion

the cure

“Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard”

lyrics by Paul Simon

DSCN4303
(they say it help / Julie Cook / 2015)

Probably not the image you’d expect seeing on a Sunday morning.
And no, this is not an advertisement for Corona or beer or anything along those lines…
and the truth be told, I don’t even much care for beer.
I’ve always been a bit more hard core but this is not about that….

This is actually the image of a suggestion…
or rather the recommendation of a curative…

And if the truth be told, there has been more than one well meaning
family member and friend who has wholeheartedly and
even joyously made this recommendation.

For some, this is more of an excuse hidden within a recommendation…
For me it’s a last ditch effort of relief from misery.

Part of this is most likely my own fault as I have always been more camel than human.

GTY_camel_jtm_140822_16x9_992
(image courtesy of ABC)

I’ve never been one to consume those 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day.
64 ounces is a lot of liquid to have sloshing around in ones stomach.
I don’t usually drink anything while I’m eating,
waiting I suppose to wash it all down,
after the fact, with a swallow of whatever has been offered.

I’m bad to nurse a bottle of water on and off for most of the day.
Sometimes I finish it, sometimes I don’t.
I probably run on more dehydration than I do on hydration.

Yet I do know the importance of keeping hydrated—
it flushes out the kidneys, ridding the body of toxins…
it keeps the blood flowing smoothly, the skin nice and plump
and it keeps the brain running smoothly—

So think plum verses prune.

They told me in the ER to drink, drink, drink…

So far today I’ve already finished all of these…

DSCN4304

2,480 ounces thus far, add to that one 12 oz beer and I hope I’m drowning any and all kidney stones
stuck in this body of mine, causing me all this tremendous pain and suffering.

Is it bad that I’m drinking a beer while sitting propped up on a heating pad?

I am however currently watching my beloved Bulldogs playing against UNC, so I suppose
it’s in keeping with the spirit of the game…..

I’m however still putting my money on the disc causing most of my woe…

Yet with all this talk of cure alls, curatives and snake oil treatments….
this business of drinking lots of beer in order to flush out the stones…
It’s all gotten me thinking…

So often in our lives, the cures are often worse than our ailments—ask any cancer fighter who has endured chemo, radiation and radical surgeries all in order to either cure or prolong life…
Chances are that they will tell you first hand that if it doesn’t kill you, those potential cures and helps…those things indeed to help….may or may not help you in the end, but it, whatever it is, will make you stronger…
if you survive it….

We fight hard when told our very lives, health and wellbeing depend on it,
we find ourselves willing to do and endure almost anything for the sake of living…
Despite our not having always tended to those very things we should have early on…
which, more often than not, could have prevented or avoided a bit longer the
precarious health predicament we may be currently finding ourselves in….

Yet what of our spiritual lives and our spiritual health?

More often times than not we live our lives with very little thought to our
spiritual health and well being–
that is until we find ourselves facing a crisis of unsurmountable proportions…
For despite what the critics will say,
we are spiritual beings—
spending the majority of our lives, most often unconsciously, searching for that reunion with our Creator…

It is only, for the majority of us, that when we find ourselves scared or in a tight fix,
that is when we turn our thoughts to God, Jesus and our very salvation…

When we feel backed into a corner, helpless, defenseless and hopeless…
never mind that the majority of time when life was foot loose and fancy free,
that our thoughts were on living life and far from anything “other than”…
We had no need, no urgency to keep our spiritual health in check because we were…
busy…
living…
life…

And isn’t that what life is all about…. living?
Leaving any and all thoughts of spirituality and that of a spiritual need to those in need..
those who are sick or dying…..

And there was Peter, full of Peter, living in the moment of desperately wanting to come met Jesus out on the water—despite the raging storm—
and yet it was that very raging storm that diverted Peter’s attention as he took his eyes,
his faith and his trust off of Jesus…
turning instead to face a fierce and consuming storm…
At which time, he began to sink, crying out for “salvation”

It is exactly when we are happy, healthy and full of life that we need
to tend to our full being—
both the physical as well as the spiritual.

We take our cars in for regular maintenance, check-ups and oil changes because they
are a huge investment and we know that maintaining them prolongs their “life” and performance…

Yet the question begs…
why don’t we do the same for ourselves…?

Here’s to another bottle of water….

But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’
declares the Lord,
‘because you are called an outcast,
Zion for whom no one cares.’

Jeremiah 30:17

waves and ripples

“A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.”
Stephen Crane

DSCN3339
(Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

In the blink of an eye, a seemingly glasslike sea,
rippling and lapping gently against one’s boat,
can turn angry, vicious and deadly.

The calm and peace…
the solitude and the seamlessness of being one with the sea…
will change…
is changing…

Will you be ready?
Are you ready?
The winds have shifted…
The current has quickened..
And the storm is nigh…

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Look! Disaster is spreading
from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
from the ends of the earth.”

Jeremiah 25:32

He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107:29

just another day in paradise…

“I know paradise has many gates, just as hell does.
One has to learn to distinguish between them, or one is lost.”

Henning Mankell

DSCN3348
(Watercolor 30A, Santa Rosa, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;
Revelation 22:1-3

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DSCN3349