we live in both dark and light

“The true diversity of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.
To diminish the number of dark, to increase the number of luminous,
that is the aim.
That is why we cry: education, knowledge!
To learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.
But whoever says light does not necessarily say joy.
There is suffering in the light; an excess burns.
Flame is hostile to the wing.
To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.
When you know and when you love you will suffer.
The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, be it only for the dark ones.”

― Victor Hugo


(prematurely fallen muscadine / Julie Cook / 2019)

See the picture above?

Look closely.

At first glance, you see some sort of greenish greyish orb perched in the middle,
amongst the debris of what must be some sort of woodsy ground.

However, upon further inspection, you will note that the right half of the green orb,
or rather a prematurely fallen muscadine, is the side with actual color,
as is the surrounding area.
The color of life and growth.

The left side appears to be rotting or rotten while the surrounding debris around the
muscadine is equally ashen and grey…as in decaying, rotting and dark.

It is a prime example of contrasting imagery between light and dark, life and death…
With the poor muscadine being caught in the middle.

And if the truth be told, that muscadine, my friends, is more representational of both you
and I then either of us can even begin to imagine.

Light vs dark…
life vs death…
While we are constantly suspended between the two.

It’s as if each one vies for our very being.
The endless struggle for mankind.

That struggle is much more active and much more real than most of us care to admit,
let alone contemplate…as the forces of both light and dark, life and death, continuously
wage battle over our very existence.

Metaphors, yes…yet also very much a reality.

I started an interesting book the other day, The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals seized control of
the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

“Ahhh”, you say rather knowingly…” one of ‘those’ types of books.”
A book that speaks of conspiracy and paranoia.
And so now you’re assuming that I am one of those paranoid loons or deplorables
we hear so much about—oh so lovingly nicknamed by Hillary Clinton…
all because I am a conservative individual reading a book that reads like
a Hollywood spy thriller.

Yet the book is much more than a tale of political upheaval, speculation and
finger-pointing.
The book actually, and perhaps unbeknownst to the authors themselves, speaks to this very
battle of both light and dark, life and death, that I previously referenced…
it’s just that they speak on a level that hits much closer to home than anyone might imagine
as it addresses our life here in America.

There is a great darkness growing in our Nation.
And it is both you and I who hang in the balance.

It is a life that is growing ever more precarious while we are perched between
both light or dark, life or death…
For we are living in some terribly strange times.

This book reminds me of a wonderful post I read the other day by one of my favorite bloggers—
Robert, Bobby, Kloska from Thoughts from the Side of the House.
Bobby is a former professor at Notre Dame who doesn’t
post as often as I or others would wish due to some tremendous health struggles
that get terribly in his way.

His struggles with cancer and the devastating outreaching effects have been an
amazing witness unto themselves.

I, for one, am most grateful that he continues to share both ups and downs.

This past week, for the fourth of July, Bobby wrote about what it is that is
at the root of what many of us believe to be a “crisis” in this Nation of ours.

“Life in America has never been perfect.
In every age, there have been injustices, conspiracies, and controversies.
This is not unique to America; it is part of the human condition.
Yet in America, because we had inherited these noble institutional mechanisms, hope remained.
So long as the republic contained within itself a critical mass of virtuous citizens
committed more to the common good than to privileging any particular sect, group,
or class, then the structures through which we grapple with self-governance could
still yield improvement.”

Today, I have my doubts.

We live in a country that in the span of only a few generations has suddenly lost
any kind of right understanding of objective truth –
as the founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence, “…
of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Today, the prevailing understanding of truth is that it is something purely subjective.
This is no small matter.

Today, there has emerged this new idea that you and I supposedly have some kind of
power to create whatever truth we want.
This, of course, not only opens the door to logical self-contradictions,
it very clearly contradicts objective reality itself.
You’re not George Washington even if you think you’re George Washington and
“claim this as your truth.” Simple people see this.
Grounded people see this.
People connected to the earth and nature really see this.

Sophisticates, distracted people, and afflicted people often do not.

What we have is a crisis of truth.

In all human communities, freedom is built upon personal and collective
responsibilities.
These responsibilities always rely upon truth.
Our greatest problem today is not simply that we have lost any meaningful concept of truth.
No, it’s worse than that.
Our greatest problem is that 1) we don’t know that truth is something objective to be discovered;
and 2) we no longer have adequate tools to do the work of discovery.

Let that sink in.

We don’t understand that truth needs to be discovered…
and yet everything of consequence depends on this one thing!

The discovery of truth does not come cheaply.
It requires diligence, patience, nuance, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual
humility.
To actually discover truth and not merely “win” an argument,
it is enormously helpful to be able to presume the good will and sincerity of one’s
discussion partner. But today our public discourse is largely carried out on Twitter.
News and opinion media have become reactionary and overly polemical.
Even our so-called presidential debates take on the form of a cheap tv game show.
How helpful is that?
Complex questions cannot be answered in one minute sound bytes.
It is folly to even try.

A crisis of truth leads to a crisis of love.

The loss of truth has led to the particularly harmful notion that your disagreement
with one of my ideas is somehow disrespectful of me as a human being.
Tragically, in 2019 America, “disagreement” equals “hate” to a lot of people.

But what if you truly love me?

To love is to will the good of another person.
If I hold an opinion that is not rooted in truth,
then that opinion can be quite harmful to me and to the people I influence.
Isn’t the most loving act to help me discover the truth?
Yes, this might require a discussion, debate, or argument.
Prudence dictates that such discussions occur at the right time,
in the right place, and with appropriate people.
But the premise of these kinds of honest disagreements and discussions is love.
To neglect such conversations with people you supposedly love
(or even with the culture at large)
is to not really love and care about them at all.

At the end of this sobering and somewhat frightening discourse,
Bobby is quick to remind us that not all is lost.
This is not a hopeless situation…

Not hopeless because it is in our hopelessness that our real Hope is to be found.
For in that Hope, resides the One true Everlasting Truth.

The Main Crisis on American Independence Day in 2019

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

to spit or not to spit…to let live or to let die…

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein


(DNA test kit from 23 and Me)

To spit or not to spit, that is the question…
Or actually, it was my question.

I initially had a different post I wanted to offer today, but I caught a story on the news the
other evening that preempted my plan.

About a week or so ago I wrote a couple of posts referencing the Governor of Virginia,
Ralph Northam’s notion that legislation should be created allowing third-term abortions.

I won’t rehash all of that with you but if you’re interested, you can find those links here:

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/third-term-abortions-absolutely-not/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/please-do-not-turn-away-from-us/

And yet the irony in this is that the Governor’s potential questionable “racist” past has now
all but smothered his comments and views on third term abortion.
An observation that leaves me more than troubled with our culture’s priorities.

And whereas the Governor has since backed off from his initial wording used during
that fateful interview…it matters not…because more and more states are showing a keen
interest in such an “allowance.”

So lets back up a tad…

I am adopted.

Many of you already know this little fact.

I’ve written about it and shared tales about such since the inception of this little
blog of mine…
so this post is not so much about that…and yet partially…it actually is.

About two weeks back, a fellow blogger shared with me the fact that she had been adopted
as a baby.
She is a wife and mother as well as a wise Christian warrior here in blogville.

I shared with her the fact that I was adopted as well.

She continued her tale…
She shared the fact that she had found her birth mother.

It was somewhat by happenstance.

Her young sons were showing a deep interest in wanting to learn their family’s genealogy…
but my friend knew that her “tree” was rather incomplete.
She didn’t know her “true” heritage…
Her tree, like mine, was dormant.
So she really had nothing she could concretely share with her boys.
Let alone the importance of knowing their family’s true medical history.

And so my friend explained that she bought one of those DNA kits that are so popular
right now.
She decided it was high time to learn about her “real” roots.

Once receiving her results, alerts began coming her way.
The alerts were from folks “out there” who had some sort of genetic connection with her…
as in being related.
Alerts that one may opt to connect with or not.

My friend was now piecing her puzzle together slowly one piece at a time.
And one of those alerts, it turned out, was a person who my friend had the gut feeling
was actually her birth mom.

Through correspondence, her birth mother shared that she had always prayed for her
unknown daughter…praying that she would be raised up as a Christian…
of which she was.
A prayer answered and eventually Divinely revealed.

I told my friend that I’d email soon as I wanted to talk further about all of this…
I was curious because of my own questions.
But life, that being my current life, being what it is, we’ve not had the opportunity
to talk further.

But since our conversation, thoughts nagged and tugged at my brain.

I had never once considered my adopted parents anything other than my parents.
And yet, I’ve always had those nagging holes in my life’s story.
There has always been a feeling of disconnect with my “family”
Their heritage is truthfully not my heritage.
Their roots are not my original roots.
Their health history is by no means my health history.

Yet as long as my Dad was alive, I vowed I’d never search.

I feared, given our dysfunctional family mess with my brother who had
also been adopted, it would break my dad’s heart thinking he might lose me after having
lost my brother due to his angst, dysfunction, and inability to deal with his adoption…
all of which lead to family violence, my mother’s death, and his eventual suicide.
(I’ve written many a post regarding my troubled childhood in our
very dysfunctional family so now is not the time for all of that)

So along with the holes to my past, questions have always loomed large regarding
my health and that of my son’s and now that of my grandchildren…

I do know that my birth mother hid her pregnancy, moving to a city far removed
from family and friends.
She sought no prenatal care despite being a nurse.
She delivered her baby (me), a bit prematurely, and shortly following the delivery,
walked out of the hospital.

Later, the young adopted me struggled academically throughout school.

Those who read my posts often note my typos and mild dyslexia with certain words.
I was never diagnosed but I always knew something just wasn’t right.
Yet I persevered, I worked hard and yet I never felt any sort of peace of success
or accomplishment.

I imagine my son’s lifelong struggles with ADD, a Learning Disability, as well as Dyslexia,
are rooted somewhere in my own unknown genetic make-up.
He was diagnosed in both Kindergarten and 1st grade—early enough for us to seek help—
allowing him to work toward success.

He worked, struggled and persevered— doing more with his life now by age 30 than
many of his teachers ever imagined he would or could.

There have been medical struggles as well for both of us.
Discoveries that have come mostly by happenstance.

My thyroid disorder—Hashimoto’s Disease…which was discovered by routine bloodwork.
Migraines since I was 12.
IBS, as well, since I was 12, that was pegged as simply a “nervous” stomach.

Despite my realizing it, I even struggled with infertility.
We had our son 5 years into our marriage yet we never had another child…
it was something that just never happened.
Due to health issues, I had to have a hysterectomy at age 35—
doctors told me then that they didn’t know how we had actually ever conceived our son
let alone the likelihood that we never would have been able to conceive again.

It was after another routine blood test that I was recently diagnosed as a
hemochromatosis carrier—
a carrier of Hemochromatosis Metabolic Disorder who has bouts with Reynaud’s Syndrome.
Something passed on to my son and possibly
my grandchildren.

All of which points to some sort of autoimmune issues as the list of discoveries
continues to grow.

Knowledge is a powerful tool—especially when dealing with one’s medical history.
A tool I want for my son and his children…a tool I’ve never had.

So as my husband and I both worry about what we don’t know…
what we don’t know that could affect our son and his health and now the health of his
children, our grandchildren…I therefore finally made my decision.

Rather than reaching out to the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry,
paying a fee for some sort of search with a potential meeting, or perhaps worse,
a denial of any sort of meeting…should anyone still be living…
I opted for a more broad source of information…albeit actually a bit detached…
A benign pie chart of heritage and a litany of genetic health information.

I ordered the tests from both 23 and Me as well as Ancestry.

I spit in the collection tubes, sealed everything up and shipped them off.

And so now we wait.

In the meantime, upon learning of my offering up a little spit, aka DNA,
my son was actually more reserved rather than excited.

“Mother you have just put the family’s DNA out there for every Governmental
agency to access…”

And it turns out he is correct.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/using-dna-databases-to-find-your-distant-relatives-so-is

However, my word to him has been… stay on the up and up and it’s all good.
And I suspect once we learn our true course of both past and future…
he’ll be a bit more curious.

But what does my adoption issues have to do with my worries over third term abortions
and of those who are thinking that such actions would be a good choice to offer…

It is the very fact that I was not aborted.
It also runs counter to my Christian faith.

Despite my biological mother’s obvious angst and crushing strain that she was
to then live with…
she still opted to give me life…despite this heavy burden carried alone.

She afforded me the gift of life…the gift of loving and being loved…
The eventual gift of my precious granddaughter and soon-to-be grandson.
Relationships and connections that may never have been…

And for that, I am grateful.

So the other evening while I was doing the dishes I heard Fox New Host Martha McCallum
talking about the latest state who was showing interest over third term abortions.

I put down the dishes, turned off the water at the sink, grabbed a dishtowel while
drying my hands as I raced into the den to hear her story.

She was interviewing a young man named Daniel Ritchie.
Ritchie was born without arms and has become an outspoken opponent to the
idea of abortion, especially third-term abortions.

His was a birth of extreme alarm.

He was delivered without arms and without actual vital signs.
It appeared he would not probably survive and since there was such deformity,
the doctors began explaining to his parents that to just let him “go” would be best.

But his parents, to the surprise of doctors, did not think such a decision was wise nor right and
thus encouraged the doctors to do their best to revive their son—of which they did.

Man might think he knows what is best based on clinical observations and deductions…
however, none of us can tell the future with any real certainty.
Our hypotheses of life can be, more or less, whittled down to nothing more than a 50 50 crapshoot.

Ritchie shared with Martha his challenges growing up learning to do everything with
his feet rather than what others were doing with their hands and arms.

But Daniel told Martha that it was at age 15, that pivotal age in adolescents,
that the real turning point in his life arrived…he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

The choice to live with bitterness over a life of challenge, difficulty, stares, and rejection
or the choice to choose something bigger and greater than self…to seek a life even greater
then what he currently knew.

Daniel came to understand that God had a plan…
a bigger plan than he could have ever imagined.
A plan that would never have been had his parents opted to follow the doctor’s
suggestion in that delivery room that fateful day…
the medical suggestion to allow their newly born son,
a son without arms, to die.

Remember—God affords man choice…

A choice to allow a baby to live or a baby to die…

Despite our smug arrogance, man’s earthly vision is limited—
what we see as a burden, hardship or hindrance often has far-reaching and
unseen reverberations—
reverberations that have the potential to change the lives of those we have yet to meet.

Hear and read Daniel’s amazing story.
Meet his wife and children…and hear his testimony to God’s amazing Glory.

The choice to spit or not to spit pales in compariosn to the choice to live or not live…

May we choose to live…may we choose life.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/why-being-born-without-arms-is-just-about-the-best-thing-thats-ever-happened-to-me

https://insider.foxnews.com/2019/02/12/pro-life-author-daniel-ritchie-late-term-abortion-push-judging-value-life-dangerous

ripening in order to bear fruit

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of one poor little person
to save a multitude of others,
redeemed like her at the price of His Blood.”

St. Therese of Lisieux


(a slight blush begins on the persimmions / Troup, Co Georgia / Julie Cook / 2108)

Therese of Lisieux, known as ‘the Little Flower’, was only 24 years old when she died
from tuberculosis.
Despite her sweet and tender disposition, her Chrisitan spiritual impact was to be
tremendous as she today is known far and wide both inside and out of Catholic circles.
Next to Saint Francis of Assisi, Therese is the second most popular Catholic saint.

Therese lost her mother to what is thought to have been breast cancer when Therese was
only 4 and a half years old.
An older sister stepped into the role of surrogate mother to the young Theresa.

It wasn’t long after that time that Theresa’s two older sisters each left home as they
sought to join the cloistered community of the Carmelite order.

Carmelites are a religious order founded in the 12th century near Mt Carmel,
hence the name.
It is a religious cloistered order known for a contemplative lifestyle—
that being a life of prayer.
Community, service, and prayer are their central focus.

At first, Theresa was devastated as she had first lost her mother and now was
losing her two sisters who had taken her mother’s place in her life and heart.
Theresa was known for being a bright child who excelled in school yet was very
sensitive and was often the victim of vicious bullying.

Soon she developed what doctors labeled as “neurotic attacks”—
uncontrollable tremors, a result
as her body’s way of dealing with frustration.

Her oldest sister would then write letters of encouragement to Theresa speaking to her
of faith, Jesus, and mother Mary.

“Christmas Eve of 1886 was a turning point in the life of Thérèse; she called it
her “complete conversion.”
Years later she stated that on that night she overcame the pressures she had faced since
the death of her mother and said that “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up
in an instant…
On that blessed night … Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me,
saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood”.

(Wikipedia)

And so at the age of 15, Theresa left home to also join the Carmelite order.

She leaned heavily on the writings of two Spanish Carmelite mystics,
St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

Theresa was fervent in her desire to draw ever closer to God.
“In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish
heroic acts, or great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God.
She wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?
Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers
and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the
least actions for love.”

Wikipedia

And so Theresa had learned one of life’s most difficult yet important lessons…
that in order to accomplish big and great things,
these things must be accomplished in small and almost insignificant ways in order to have
the most lasting and powerful effects.

It was this humble yet steadfast approach of hers in developing a deeply intimate
relationship with God, Jesus and even Mary and in turn offering that intimate relationship
to others, that seems to have drawn so many admirers, both Catholic and not,
to this simple young nun.

In her short 24 years, she made such a tremendous impact on those who had known her…
so much so that it was just 28 years following her death that she was declared a Saint
as well as Doctor of the Chruch.

Another small yet giant of a woman, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, would eventually borrow
the name of Theresa, taking it as her own when she professed her own vows as a nun…
that woman was Mother Teresa.

And so it is with our ripening little persimmon which helps to remind us of the wisdom
of the little flower, St. Theresa.
We are all waiting, in some fashion or other, during our own individual time of ripening and
growth—waiting for the right time when we can finally bear the strong and powerful fruits of
a heart rooted in the belief and wisdom of Jesus Christ—

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing
in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:10

a large collective sigh…..

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein

RSCN3812
(my giddy, degree holding, son)

Did you hear that?

That sound of exhaling?

That whooshing sound Saturday morning…
the sound of a large collective, slow released, heavy sigh?

The sound of years and years of the breath held by two parents, their son…
and now a young wife…
along with a myriad number of friends and family…

A sigh that has actually been held for….
A lifetime.

DSCN3845

See this young boy?
This picture was taken on a balmy Friday night in May of 2007.
It’s the image of young man who had just graduated high school…
standing on the edge of a well anticipated future…

Yet what he, in his delirium of conquering the one mountain failed to realize that carefree night,
was that he was not yet finished climbing…
For looming in the distance, just beyond the horizon of his youthful exuberance,
lay a mountain range far more challenging than what he had just conquered….

That exciting evening, so long ago, indeed marked a successful passing….
The passing of a 12 year long struggle…

Yet the magnitude of the struggle to which I speak is most likely lost on those who have never
experienced or lived through a child who has had to struggle academically.

And whereas I have written about this struggle before…
That of his particular struggle and of our particular struggle as a family…
The massive weight and enormity of it all came rushing back to the forefront of my heart and soul
this past Saturday morning while sitting in a crowded gym of a southern university.

From that fateful day his first grade teacher called me, a fellow educator, telling me she had a concern…a concern that something just wasn’t right…
to finally sitting in a college gym waiting for a commencement ceremony to begin…
our road has been painfully long and arduous.

From the hard diagnosis of a crippling learning disability…(most likely inherited…)
later compounded by a diagnosis of ADD…
It was double indemnity that was sadly to be our unfortunate lot.

There were many hurdles, impossible hurdles…
And there was testing..lots and lots of testing.

There were the years of refusal to take the medications that were promised to help make things easier…
to finally relenting…
Then only to live with the ill effects of those medications on ones body…
Eventually going back to life without medical help.

There were disappointments…
and failures,
and lapses,
and anger,
and frustration…

There were tears…
lots and lots of tears…
from both child and parents.

There were tutors, reading camps, repeated courses, more tutors…
There was working, studying, studying longer and harder then others
There was the staying after, long after others were gone…
There were sacrifices…

And…
There were a few rare triumphs…
The acceptance letters…
Along with the…
changing of schools…
The changing of majors…
The sitting out…
The waiting…
The continued waiting…
The nos,
The not yets,
The not nows…
The too bads…

Yet there were hopes and dreams.
Always hopes and dreams…
Hopes and dreams that would never fade or go away…

And there was a determination to realize those very hopes and dreams…
just like anyone else who has hopes and dreams…
anyone else who was “normal”….
because wasn’t that what so much of this was all about…
just wanting to be normal like everyone else…

Knowing that you were not stupid…that you were not slow or dumb…
as they would whisper behind your back…
Knowing all the while that you were smart and that you could learn…
that you could excel…
that you could be like everyone else…by God!!!
And by God it would be….

You wanted to prove that you were normal…
Normal like those who didn’t have to struggle, didn’t have to work so very hard…
You wanted to be like those who made the good grades, who didn’t have to expend the energies…
You wanted to be like those who just made school seem… easy…

However today is not that day…
It is not to be that day for the retelling of the very long and hard fought journey of ours…
It is not the day for rehashing and re-living the difficulties nor for the recounting of all the struggles…
And it is not a day to expound upon our seemingly misfortunate poor dumb luck…

No…

Today is not that day…

Rather…

Today is THE day to rejoice…
It is a day to soak it all in.
It is a day to exhale.
It is a day to smile.
It is a day for tears.
It is a day of HOPE.
It is a day of DREAMS.
And it is a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude….

DSCN3836

The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:9

finding a faith stone through the dark times

“…in our willful desire to live independently of God, we have severed the lifeline that flows from the source of all life”
Billy Graham

DSCN0438
(Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough National Park, County Wicklow, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

There are no exemptions in this life when it comes to difficulties, struggles, trials and conflicts.
Some are self imposed, some are random and some, for the believer, can be most vexing…
for it can often feel as if God has…
walked away,
deserted us,
or…
is proving to be more stubborn than ourselves.

Some periods will be more severe than others and there is certainly no clear window as to how long or how short such episodes will each last.

There will be times of great dryness…a rough patch of road that leaves one feeling empty…
or better yet, feeling nothing at all, as in void of feeling or emotion…
A sense of isolation, depression and emptiness…

Other times there will be the feeling as if the rug has been pulled out from under foot …
As one is left wondering if facing one more moment, let alone one more day, is even possible…preferring simply to throw in the proverbial towel while gladly giving it all up.

Maybe it’s seasonal…
What with these long cold winters of shortened days, limited light, constant gray, heavy clouds, cold rains, blanketing snow and a never ending feeling as if one can never get warm.

Maybe its the long hot summers of endless days, excessive heat, dry barren ground that becomes brittle to the touch..leaving one and all the only option of slowing down to a crawl in order to preserve energy while hoping to sweat a little less while praying for a cooling breeze to quench the fire .

Maybe life has simply dealt a wicked hand.
Tragedy has struck,
illness prevails,
and loss is paramount.

Or maybe it’s as if one has been left to simply bam ones head against a wall…as in the wall isn’t budging and neither are we. Frustration has taken hold and we are stuck in our dead-end tract of never-ending madness.

Whatever the reason, life is…
hard and difficult,
frustrating and tiresome,
sad and often unbearable…

I was offered some wise counsel yesterday from a dear friend—which I hope he won’t mind that I now share…
In our conversation my friend offered up an interesting perspective as to when we find ourselves in the midst of struggle and suffering…

“sometimes its better to go back to the last place you encountered God in a mighty way
in your life and use it as a marker….
When Moses parted the red sea and the children of Israel crossed over, the first thing they did was build a stone altar there and gave thanks to God for their deliverance…
So it is with us….
When God does something in our lives and we know it was Him, it is a marker…
A faith stone that repairs our hope in troubled times.
It is good to remember that place and a good starting point to carry on….”

For me that moment, that mile marker , when I knew that I had encountered the Omnipotent I AM, was during my fall trip to Ireland…I think we all have a myriad of moments throughout our lives, but for whatever reason we may simply miss the significance, write it off as mere happenstance, or we may have felt so dreadfully barren for so very long that perhaps it feels as if it were the only real true encounter we have ever experienced….

So my marker, my road of Damascus moment, was one September evening in Ireland.

Yet to literally re-vist that very moment in order to restudy, review, re-live that exact moment in time is impossible, impractical and far from feasible…

It is impossible for me to fly back over, gather those 3 particular friends together again on that lone September evening, at that exact restaurant table up in County Donegal…it is impossible for me to have that exact same conversation which lead to the words being spoken that shot into my mind and heart like a hot arrow piercing my very soul…unleashing the overwhelming sensation that time was standing still and I was suddenly alone with God.

It was all of a second, maybe two, for those words to be uttered and in turn to be heard…
however it seemed much longer as each word reverberated throughout my entire being…

Whereas I may not be able to actually re-live that amazing turning point, it’s not impossible to recall those three life changing words….
“Be at peace…”
“Be at peace with your God”….

Yet it was the first three words of that simple sentence that knocked me and my current world upside down.
Yet…the words were not for that night…not then…

Those simple words which were offered over dinner were not intended for that moment…not for a moment that was indeed peaceful as four friends enjoyed a good meal and drink, with good conversation in an ideal setting.
For that particular moment was of peace itself…

It was to be later when I would need to revisit those words.

As I have needed to do so this very week.
As well as last week and mostly likely next week and the many weeks which lie ahead.
Life is that way.
Life has a way of sucking out the very life of one’s being.
It can be hard.
It can also be joyous as well…
yet frustratingly those joyous times are often forgotten as one is wading through the hard with the muck of madness clinging to one’s boots.

So yes… it behooves me to remember my marker.

Three words….

Be at peace….

Thank you my friend for reminding me to find my marker, my faith stone and to return to that place where God had made His presence known….

peaks and valleys

Life is supposed to be a series of peaks and valleys. The secret is to keep the valleys from becoming Grand Canyons.
Bernard Williams

“As the valley gives height to the mountain, so can sorrow give meaning to pleasure; as the well is the source of the fountain, deep adversity can be a treasure.”
William Arthur Ward

In the mountains, the shortest way is from peak to peak: but for that you must have long legs”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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(somewhere on the road in Gleann Cholm Cille in County Dongeal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I’m sorry.
You should know.
For what good it is, I’m not sure.
Yelling and screaming with the full force of fury– into the nothingness of air…
At you…
You who remain so silent and painfully elusive.

You who are up there, out there, somewhere high above the clouds.

Do you see through those gossamer layers way down here…to me…?
To me who was knocked to my knees in overwhelming frustration?
The me who continues to claim, to speak and hold on to all that is…
all that is of you…
While you continue to remain so oddly distant and so painfully silent.

Persevere,
Forge the path forward
Fight the good fight
Have faith
Be bold
I hear you
I see you
I know you
I will answer you….

Words that trail off into the frustration, the sorrow, the pain, the heartache of all the ages combined…

We have always lived our lives in hopes of being bourn upward and aloft…
To be able to take wing, as the birds, soaring heavenward…
high amongst the peaks, riding the wind while looking down…
Always with the knowledge that ‘up there’ is so much better than down here.
For high up along the tips of those peaks there are no worries nor concerns.
The air is cool, crisp, thin, yet dangerously exhilarating.
The perspective is massive as all the woes and trials of below seem tiny and insignificant.
And it is up among those peaks where you reside…seemingly without me.

Those of us in the valleys far below are constantly looking upward, wondering, wandering, wishing and hoping to be high and up above. The weight of the world does not seem to weigh heavy on the backs of those high above…not as it does on us here below.
Those of us here below who feel the full heaviness of the crushing gravity of every iniquity, every misdeed ever committed…for we are nearly crushed under the weight of all we bear…

Yet it is here, down in the valleys, where the scars are forged and the skin is thickened.
For it is down here in these valleys low, where the trials by fire reside. Where mere mortals are tried and tested true…annealed in the furnace of an ever fallen, broken world.
Hard fought, arduous and painfully endured.
Products of all the damnation that ever was, is or will be…which is found within an imperfect fallen world.

And yet…
It is you and you alone who knows of our yearning and desire to be among the peaks…
You who knows of our desire, dare it be said desperate need, to reside with and where you are. Our hopes and dreams to be bourn aloft and carried far far away from the sufferings, the agony, the mere frustrations endured down here… down within these valleys of our lives.
And it is You….the One who sees, the One who knows and the One who longs to have us up, among the clouds with You…where the weight of all that is…is simply no more…

And so He comes…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn…

Isaiah 61: 1-2

I’m just asking for this one thing. . .

Praying, we usually ask too much. I know I do. Sometimes we even demand. I think I am learning to ask enough for the moment–not for the whole year, utterly veiled in mystery; not even for the week, the month ahead; but just for today.

Jesus said it all when He told us to pray: ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

That bread is not only material, it is spiritual; in asking for it, we ask for a sufficiency of strength, courage, hope and light. Enough courage for the step ahead–not for the further miles. Enough strength for the immediate task or ordeal. Enough material gain to enable us to meet our daily obligations. Enough light to see the path–right before our feet.”
― Faith Baldwin

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(tiger swallowtail feasting on the butterfly bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both of my grandmothers always had a good response when any of the grandkids began rambling off a list of wants—to what must have seemed like a never ending and ever growing list of wants.
And as the children, as in me, my brother and cousins grew, the “wants” exponentially became grander and more expensive–

The response from my mother’s mother was her dry “your wants never hurt you” with the response from my dad’s mother being her famous and very flippant singsongy “too bad, too bad”.

Now it’s not as if these two ladies were not doting grandmothers—they certainly were as they lavished their grandkids with a great deal–it’s just that some of those lavished items were indeed wanted and giddily accepted while some things were certainly not wanted nor had they even been a thought on the list.

New clothes and affording an education to a private school, if and when the need arose, was gracious and welcomed no doubt in the eyes of parents, but in the mind of a growing grandchild, the more pressing issues were for more fadish items or candy, ice-cream, the circus, concert tickets, bikes, horses, etc. . .these were the real items to the list of wants just waiting to be filled.

Both of these ladies were born at the onset of a new century–one in rural middle Georgia the other in rural Texas. They each lived through two world wars, a great depression and a myriad of other wars, police actions and the ebbing and flowing of the security of the world. They each knew difficulties and suffered loss while growing up. They each worked hard for what they had albeit in very different fashions.

To this day, I can hear my grandmother’s “too bad, too bad” ringing in my head every time I hear myself lamenting “I wish I had a [new] _________________________.
Filling in the blank with anything that is not necessarily essential to survival.

So it is on this once again hot and overtly humid day, which is just another day in a long and never ending string of hot and humid days, that I am heard to lament. . .
“I wish it was cooler.
I wish it was Fall.
I wish the weather would change.
I wish it wasn’t so hot.
I wish it wasn’t so humid. . .”
on and on ad infinitum

And somewhere in the back of my brain, I can now hear one of those two ladies amusingly replying, “be careful what you wish for missy, you might just get it. . .”

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