when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

burdens and birth and a prayer

Christian prayer is not something you do.
Prayer is permitting the Trinitarian God to love you as you learn in childlike trust to acknowledge,
relate, receive, and respond within your heart to the Holy Spirit’s presence,
love pursuing you and desiring to communicate with you.

Fr. John Horn
from Heart Speaks to Heart

“Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women.”
St. Gianna Molla


(Francis Schaeffer)

Burden, defined by Merriam Webster is: something oppressive or worrisome

But what about a different kind of burden?
The kind that creates a deeply-felt heaviness and furrows our brow?
One that pulls at our thoughts and leaves us with the feeling that there’s
something that needs doing but as to what that is…we are uncertain.

Uncertain until the burden and the revelation collide

It is called a burden of the Spirit…
And according to Watchman Nee:

There is a difference between the burden of the spirit and the weight of the spirit.
The weight of the spirit is from Satan, and its purpose is to cause believers to suffer;
Satan uses the weight to suppress them.
The burden of the spirit, however, is from God.
Its purpose is to make known His will and secure the believers’ cooperation.
The weight of the spirit has no other purpose except to suppress.
As such, it is useless and fruitless.
The burden of the spirit is a burden from God, and its goal is to cause men to work,
intercede, and preach for God.
Such a burden is purposeful, reasonable, and profitable.
Believers must differentiate between the burden in their spirit and the weight in their spirit.

Genuine spiritual work is an assault on Satan and a travail in birth for the believers.

There is indeed no joy to this!
This requires one to die to the self in the deepest way.
For this reason, no soulish believer can truly participate in spiritual work.
Having a happy feeling all day long is not a proof of a believer’s spirituality.
The right kind of believers advance with God without caring for their own feelings.
Many times when believers are burdened in their spirit to fight with the enemy,
they prefer to be alone and cut off all fellowship with the world,
so that they can concentrate in their warfare with the enemy.
At the end of this warfare, it is difficult to find any trace of a smile on their face.
Hence, all spiritual believers should welcome the burdens from the Lord.

(full excerpt here:
https://www.ministrysamples.org/excerpts/THE-BURDEN-OF-THE-SPIRIT-1.HTML)

Ever since I first put the post out there about a unified and collective prayer, I’ve
felt a burden.
Well, if the truth be told, I felt the burden long before putting the post out there.

We’ve had some good thoughts, suggestions, and ideas…
but I’ve still felt something gnawing and nagging at me.

I pondered, offered more posts while seeking more ideas…
I even solicited others not here in blogland as to their thoughts.

But I still felt conflicted.

So there it was again last night, more news about the third term abortions…
Abortions, where a full term baby is not aborted but accidentally delivered,
as in something went wrong with the abortion…
only to be followed by an ensuing debate over “to let live or let die…”

Allowed to die, well that, in my world, is considered murder, plain and simple.

And yet we are watching this “practice” being embraced by the Democratic party.
As this is not the same Democratic party I knew growing up.

And so the gnawing sense inside of me began rising upward, again.

Following the news, I read Oneta’s post concerning abortion…

THE MAN WHO LOOKS ON AND DOES NOTHING

More gnawing.

I sent her this comment:
this is a topic in tomorrow’s post…
the more I think and ponder and seek direction…
I just feel this is the issue of our prayer…a prayer for those whose voices are being silenced.
sigh…

Her response:
I think, Julie, that every Christian has their own “means/ways” of entering into prayer
that often includes acknowledging God’s goodness, repentance, forgiving others.
I think that is not so much what you are looking for as specific needs such as abortion,
addictions, materialism, election results, sexual sins, gender issues, etc.
I agree that now is a time when Christians should join their voices against the sin of abortion.
The country will just move more into extreme such as infanticide, euthanasia, etc
if it is not stopped by the cry of God’s people.
If we were together tonight I would like to pray for the Trump/North Korea issue.
Too late for that, but these kinds of issues could be called as you see them approach.
The Venezuela situation also needs our attention in prayer.
I kept on too long even raising more questions, didn’t I?
Just throw a topic out and we will pray until you feel another topic is called for.
Trust Jesus who is placing the concern in your hands.
Love your concern.

I now felt tears welling up in my eyes.

The words…”cry of God’s people” and “Trust Jesus who is placing the
concern in your hands”

In my mind, that ‘concern’ is a burden which is being placed in my spirit by The Spirit…of which
is what prompted my initial question about a prayer in the first place.

I went to bed feeling very weighted down about what we are now witnessing in
this nation of ours…not only a push to kill babies in the womb, that which we call abortion,
but to what we are now seeing as the plain outright murder of live births.

Then the next morning there was Citizen Tom’s post…
Another tale about this same issue…

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL

More gnawing…growing into a cresendo…

And then finally our friend Vincent reblogged a post from the Logos folks—
it was a letter written by Francis Schaeffer in 1954 to a friend.

I’ve actually read Shaeffer’s books since high school.

In that letter, I found more clarification for my “burden of proof” in one particular paragraph

“Events since we have seen each other make me more sure than ever that the Lord
is calling some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ and the indwelling
Holy Spirit should mean to us in this present life.
Increasingly, I believe that the Devil fears this above all else.
Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important,
but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship—and not as
ends in themselves.”

“that the Lord is calling some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ
and indwelling Holy Spirit should mean to us in this present life.

I believe that the pain you have felt, and I have felt, is not the pain of death,
but the pain of birth in a day of blessing,
as the whole body is made more ready for the Bridegroom’s coming.
Surely the birth pains mean little if such a result is born through our dear Lord’s grace.

Not a pain found in death, but a pain found in birth…birth in that ‘of our dear Lord’s grace’

And yet it is an odd juxtaposition of thought in that where there is pain in childbirth
that pain pales when we consider the pain experienced by those babies whose lives are being ended
in very real and literally horrific ways…through abortion.

And so it was in Mr. Schaeffer’s letter that I fianlly decided God has spoken…

The answer to the burden…I am to pray over and for the lives of those who cannot speak
for themselves…
Praying for the lives of those who are being litterally taken before they
even have the opportunity to live.

And it is for the children of not only abortion that I will pray for
but it will be for the children born, following a botched abortion.

You may join me if you like.

Below is Mr. Shaeffer’s letter—- however, before you read his letter, I’d like
to offer one more reminder about a book I read a few years back that is
actually the tale of an abortion gone awry…and in turn, the life of that now grown woman…

You Carried Me
A daughter’s memoir

by Melissa Ohden

The book came my way from our friends at Plough Publishing House.
It is a very powerful read…
Here’s the post regarding the book

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/adoption/

And now for Mr. Shaeffer’s letter…

Francis Schaeffer: Will Today’s Pain Lead to Death or Birth?

Faithlife Staff | Wed, February 27, 2019

Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) was an evangelical missionary, theologian, and writer,
best known for founding L’Abri with his wife, Edith.

After studying at Hampden-Sydney College, Westminster Theological Seminary
(where he studied under Cornelius Van Til), and Faith Theological Seminary,
Schaeffer pastored churches in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

In 1948, Schaeffer moved to Switzerland and founded L’Abri,
a community where people discuss philosophy and religion.
Thousands of people have passed through L’Abri,
and it has expanded into several other countries.

In the following excerpt from Letters of Francis Schaeffer—included in one of
several Schaeffer collections currently in Pre-Pub—we find Schaeffer reflecting on a
challenging season of his life and the earthly cost of entering into deeper
communion with God.

***

The Pain of Death or the Pain of Birth

[Written shortly after the Schaeffers arrived back in Champéry, Switzerland.
The person to whom the letter was written is not known,
though evidently he or she was close to the Schaeffers,
as is suggested by the last paragraph and the tone of the letter as a whole.]

October 11, 1954

Chalet Bijou

Champéry, Switzerland

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your note of September 20. It encouraged my heart.
How lovely is the Lord, and how wonderfully He is always waiting for us to come to Him
and know His peace and joy.

Yes, the time has been difficult, and yet the peace we have known through it makes
it exceedingly precious.
Since writing to you from the boat, our son, two years of age, has had polio.
He began it on the boat, but we did not know what it was.
His left leg is affected, but the doctor now gives us good hope that he may return to normal.

Events since we have seen each other make me more sure than ever that the Lord is calling
some of us indeed to learn all that the blood of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit
should mean to us in this present life.
Increasingly, I believe that the Devil fears this above all else.
Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important,
but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship—and not as
ends in themselves.

When you looked over my article in London for the Reformation Review I remember you said,
“They will not like this.” I replied that I knew,
but I did not realize how deep a wound I touched.
I find I am being pursued into my work here, and that a determined and successful effort
was made in Philadelphia to turn some of the Europeans away from these spiritual matters,
and to make them fasten their eyes on loyalty to the external machinery and human leadership.
I am sorry.
The personal may rest, but I grieve for the work of God.
Yet the Lord has given me many wonderful encouragements also;
and I do feel that He is calling many of His own into the place of deeper communion.

Would there ever be a time when you could come to Switzerland to meet with others of
like mind—to fellowship in the quietness of the Alps with a small number as we did
together that night in your home? We would like to entertain you in our home.
I believe that the pain you have felt, and I have felt, is not the pain of death,
but the pain of birth in a day of blessing,
as the whole body is made more ready for the Bridegroom’s coming.
Surely the birth pains mean little if such a result is born through our dear Lord’s grace.

With warm greetings in the slain and risen Lamb,

Francis A. Schaeffer

https://blog.logos.com/2019/02/francis-schaeffer-will-todays-pain-lead-to-death-or-birth/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LogosBibleSoftwareBlog+%28Logos+Bible+Software+Blog%29

Thank you Oneta.

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

taking one last hit for the team in ’17; looking forward to ’18

Keep Calm and Carry On….
words seen on a WWII British motivational poster


(why do I think this sad little persimmon is a reflection of myself? / Julie Cook / 2017)

You didn’t think I could let the year end without having one last ‘hit for the team’
and not share it did you??

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!!!

But first let’s take a wistful look back to last year….
Or more accurately…back to yesterday afternoon.

Remember, I still have a hole in my head, stitches in my mouth and an annoying
space where there once was a tooth…still swollen, still uncomfortable,
still having trouble chewing without dropping things randomly from my mouth.

Kind out like our cat Percy who lost most of his teeth as a kitten….
He drops his food from his mouth all the time, right in mid bite,
but unlike a dog, he just lets it sit and moves on to a new bite.
I just try to be a bit discreet…..

Anywhoo…..

So here it was New Year’s Eve day—we didn’t really have much to do…
my tooth, or lack there of, had put the kibosh on any sort of plans….

It was a day that the coldest temperatures of the year were descending,
yet thankfully the weather folks had backed off of any sort of snow event,
So…. what better way to spend the day than to head out to wander
through the woods?

I was well layered…
turtleneck, sweater, vest, waxed barn coat, jeans, trusty lined LL Bean boots,
gloves, earmuffs and a scarf—I had my trusty camera in tow and was excited
to be out, breathing in fresh air, up off the couch from nursing the hole
in my head and ready to take some lovely pictures in which to share…with you…

The woods are so open this time of year, allowing yearning eyes to take in
a quiet vastness.
And there is such a palpable stillness.
The only sound one hears is the crunch of leaves underneath wandering boots.

I had hoped to find and capture a few little surprises here and there–
for despite most things being long dead, hibernating or in a state of waiting..
the woods still have much to offer.


(drying and dying persimmons linger on the limbs / Julie Cook / 2017)


(lingering ink berries / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a hooked bush…where a buck deer has rubbed its horns / Julie Cook / 2017)


(a large gall on a tree / Julie Cook / 2017)


(hidden little deer moss / Julie Cook / 2017)

I was lagging behind my husband, as I kept stopping to take pictures.
We had made our way deep into the woods, finally stopping at the creek.
At this juncture along this meandering creek there happens to be an old fallen
tree bridging both sides of the creek.

I’ve told my husband 100 times, I can’t balance like I use to and I’d rather look for
a different place to cross where I could slide down the edge of the bank,
hop across a more shallow area of the creek, while scooting up the
other bank on the other side….

It made perfect sense.

But he kept insisting that I cross the tree as I’ve done it before…
agitated pondering what in the heck was wrong with me today???

And whereas, yes I have crossed it before, still with trepidation, but that was when
the weather was warmer and I was not layered like a chunky eskimo
with a camera slung over my arm, while being full of codeine.

I had been feeling like a fuzzy slug, so at this particular moment, while staring at a precarious tree spanning a creek in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere,
a little voice said “don’t do it”….

Did I mention it was 36 degrees?

“You’ve done it before, just reach out for that limb…”
my know-it-all husband instructs.
Easy for him to say, that limb is dangling over the water and he is a
bit taller than I am.

Cautiously I step out onto the tree, putting one foot boot in front of another.
Making my way to the middle where the tree narrows.
That dangling branch was no where near my grasp.

Suddenly, and for reasons I know not, I begin to list to the left—
the left is where the tooth is missing, the left is where the camera dangles,
the left is where there is a deep murky water hole.

SPLASH!

Suddenly I am chest deep in a cold creek stuck amongst a maze of gnarly limbs and vines.
Plus my left foot had sunk deep into the muddy bottom all the while as I’m flailing
my arms trying to get to the bank.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, there was a thankfulness that all snakes were
fast asleep.

My husband had obviously raced back across without thought and was desperately
trying to yank me up the bank but my left foot, as it’s always the left,
was mired deep in the muddy bottom.

At this exact moment of panic, an image crosses my mind and no, it was not my
life flashing before my eyes, but it might as well have been.

Have you ever watched that show Life Below Zero on NATGEO?
That show about those hearty, perhaps more like fool hearty, souls who live
alone in the middle of nowhere Alaska, totally off the grid???

One sentiment rings true with each of those survivors…
‘if you get your feet wet out here, you’re as good as dead.’

Well, not only were my feet wet, I was immersed up to my chest in dark brown tannin
stained water, a maze of limbs and vines, with my left leg stuck deep in
the silty mud.

What seemed like an eternity was probably more like 2 minutes at best….
I got to the bank while my poor husband was trying to pull up a wet,
stuck, dead weight, mad as hell wife….
suddenly I realized my camera was now totally underwater.

I hear an out of body voice shouting.
“I TOLD YOU I DIDN’T WANT TO CROSS THE TREE!!!!!!”

Finally with my foot free from the mud, I keep telling my husband to let go and quit pulling and yanking cause he was crushing my head.
“LET GO, I’M OUT! I’M UP!!!”

And there I stood along the bank—
dripping like I had just popped up out of a refreshing summer pool…
a soaking wet dog in need of a good shake.

Water was now sloshing in my boots as I took a step.

My husband, now in a panic, just knew pneumonia was instantly setting in.

“Now he worries…gees” as I’m still muttering words I shan’t share here.

It was almost a mile back to the truck.

As he stands there just staring at me, I hear my own commanding voice
“Just start walking to the truck.”

Did I mention is was 36 degrees?

The only thing dry on me, if I may be candid, was my bra and head.

Once back at the truck, my boy scout of a husband thankfully had a towel
in the truck in case of emergencies.

And here was our emergency.

Right there in the woods, I began peeling off the layers of sopping wet and very
cold clothes as I no longer had feeling in my legs.
Bear Grylls voice was now drifting in my head…and thankfully I wasn’t going to
have to eat grubs or drink urine to survive…
but a nice camp fire would have been welcomed.

Boots
socks
pants
coat
underware
vest….
all shed as I wrapped the towel around me like a moo moo.

Did I tell you it was 36 degrees?

My husband is still just helplessly staring and sputtering…certain
I’m about the die immediately from consumption.

“Just get in the truck and drive” I grouse.

It was an hour or so drive home.

“But wonder if something happens or we get stopped and you’re just, just, just
sitting wrapped in a towel….???”

One look from me was enough to spur him back to reality and action.
Into the truck we got… with the heat now blowing just a fast as it could blow.

Thankfully we were not stopped and I got home in one piece to a hot shower with all the
muddy wet clothes going directly into the washer.
The camera, well, it is mostly like DOA

The moral of this little tale you ask?

Well, if you hear a little voice telling you not to cross a log,
don’t cross the log.

If you have a hole in your head and codeine in your system and see a log,
don’t cross the log.

And maybe, just maybe, a certain husband will one day actually listen when
the wise one speaks….

Oh, and always keep a towel in your vehicle, maybe even a change of clothes..
a bottle of bourbon wouldn’t hurt for those emergency and medicinal purposes…
since there was no St Bernard coming to my rescue…

Have a safe, dry, warm and happy New Year’s Day—-
I think I’ll just sit on the couch and watch a few good bowl game….
GO DAWGS!

a family’s erosion

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.”

George Bernard Shaw


(should not the day a new baby comes home be one of joy? Try telling the little girl on the
right / 1964)

It seems that even at the tender age of 5 I was gifted with intuition…
as in knowing something is a bad idea from the get go.

Just look at that all-knowing face captured on the day the new little brother was
adopted and brought home.
The younger me must have had a premonition that none of this was going to end very well…

and I was correct, it did not.

As most of you who know me recall—
I have written at length in past posts about both my adoption as well as the
dysfunctional life my family suffered at the hands of the mental illness that
engulfed and eroded my brother…

In his erosion, my family eroded.

Today it is not my desire to rewrite any of those posts but maybe today’s post can be a
bit of an addendum…

(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/
and
https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/mr-mole-continued-forgiveness-and-grace/ )

The reason for this heavy revisiting is due in part because I happened upon a letter
that I’d found in a box that has been buried deep within dad’s basement for many years.
It was in a box tucked away in a forgotten back corner, under a table,
left to the spiders and whatever else lurks in a dark 65 year old basement.

The letter was written, or more accurately typed, in 1986.
It was a letter from my dad to my brother.
Wednesday was the first day I had ever seen the letter.

I want to share the letter with you and I’ll explain why after you read the letter:

September 2,1986

Dear Ed,
As you know, your mother is seriously ill and will probably die within the very
near future.
Because of that I am under probably as much stress as I have ever felt.
At the same time, it seems that our past problems have come to a head and are causing
me more stress than I can handle.
I had hoped that we could continue to relate as father and son, and to live in the
same household.
That has become impossible, so I have had to ask you to move out.
I hope you understand that I take no enjoyment from all of this.

I realize that you have some personal property in the house and will make it
available to you if you will just call me and set up a time to pick it up.
I cannot, however, consent to you coming and going if I am not present,
so please do not come to the house without calling.
If you don’t have any place to store your things I will help you with a mini
storage warehouse for a couple of months.

I want you to have the bank account your mother and I set up for your education,
and hope you will use it accordingly.

When we talked last Tuesday you said I couldn’t make you leave, and you refused to return
your house key: so I checked with my lawyer to see just what our respective right are.
He said that technically I could ask you to leave the house, or not return, and have
you arrested if you come back. I sincerely hope this never happens, but you must understand
that I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my sanity and to be sure I can be supportive
of your mother during her illness.
I hope you can understand how I feel and that I still want to help you to whatever
extent I can and feel justified, but cannot have you living at the house any longer.

Please let me hear from you and let me know what you want to do about your belongings.

Love, Dad
(the typed letter was signed personally)

And now a little background if you are new to this history of mine…

My brother and I were 5 years a part in age, with me being the oldest.
We were both adopted and not biologically related.
Even in the beginning Ed was different from me, mother and dad.

He was very fair complected, burning easily rather than tanning and he was covered
in freckles where we were not.
His hair was much lighter than our darker hair.
Despite my not being biologically related to mom and dad, no one could
tell it by just looking at us..
Ed however was different….and he always sensed it.

Even his head was more elongated than ours.
He cried incessantly as a baby.
He wet the bed long past when such was considered “normal”
He was considered hyper in school long before there was ADHD.
He struggled academically but soared in the area of physics.
He loved music, didn’t play sports and had a difficult time “fitting in”
He ran away when he was a senior in high school and was found in Texas,
driving Mother’s car, on his merry way to California, “to watch the moon and the stars.”
He fought dreadfully with all of us as his temper was dangerously violent.
He had threatened each of us at different times by promising “to blow our brains out”
Dad tried to get counseling but it was to no avail.

He eventually attended Ga Tech where he excelled in science with a keen interest
in aerospace engineering.

During this time Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer at the tender age of 53, only
to die within a 9 week window from the initial diagnosis.

I know without a doubt that death was mother’s blessed release as she had lived 15 years
of abusive hell at the hands of my brother—
who was especially vindictive to her despite her unending kindness.
He succeeded in eventually breaking her spirit.
Cancer and death were her ticket out.

I know now that his “abuse” to her was the misplaced anger he had so wanted to direct
to his own biological mother.
He was full of rage and simply could not live with that initial rejection.

During all of this time, my brother had actually begun a quest into his adoption and to
finding his birth parents.

I had long since gone off to college, graduated, moved to what I hoped would be far
enough away from the madness, and eventually married.
I had promised myself to “get out” and out I did.

My brother was the first case in the state of Georgia to have an adoption annulled—
my dad wanted to do whatever he could to help this troubled son of his find the peace
he so desperately sought…as is evidenced in his letter written prior to the court case.

This was a story of two loving people who simply wanted to have a family and because they
were unable to do that on their own, they turned to adoption.
And this is a story of a family member who suffered for years without
understanding what was wrong with him.
Life in a family where one member has a severe undiagnosed mental illness….

For those of you who don’t buy into the fact that much is happening in utero with a
fetus except for the physical development….
Let me tell you that there is also a great deal happening as far as mental,
emotional and cognitive development is concerned.
I am a firm believer in the transference of both positive and negative emotions
from mother to forming baby…
that there is much in the way of a lasting impact from mental and emotional miscues
just as there is with the physical miscue.

The long story is that my brother was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he
did eventually locate his birth mother…moving states to be near her…
However she resoundingly rejected him again.

The adult rejection was more than he could bear, and so in his rejection he found no
alternative but to end his life.
He shot himself.
He was only 30.

I don’t write about this to make you sad or upset or to discourage anyone hoping to
adopt a child…
I share this story because I want to hopefully bring awareness…

I am the sole surviving member of my little family of four.
I am an ardent advocate for adoption as I am gravely opposed to abortion.

Yet there are those who would callously argue that had my brother’s birth mother sought
an abortion or had it been in a time when an abortion was legal and “acceptable”
perhaps years and lives suffered in misery, with an eventual suicide,
could have all been avoided.

Yet murder is never truly justifiable now is it?

I also know that despite the tragedy, the heartache and sheer madness—
God’s hand was alway there for me…guiding, steadying, leading….
but I also know that He is not a manipulator and will not
stop folks from doing what seems to be on their inevitable radar…

Yet He can bring goodness and light from both the bad and the dark.

I believe this, because I know this.

I simply write this because I want others to know that there is now help more readily
available for those who suffer mental illness than there was even 30 years ago.

Sadly my dad had also became broken in the loss of his son—
for he lost this boy he had loved on so many different levels,
only to find the loss unbearable.

For my dad was not a strong man who could bear up under tragedy.

He went to his grave just two months ago still feeling guilty over ever having to have
written that letter, for “kicking Ed out of the house”
He had rationalized, unjustly so, that somehow he too had contributed to my brother’s
rejection—
and no matter how hard professionals and loved ones tried to convince him over the years
that he did what he had to do in order to perserve the safety and sanity of his
remaining family, he carried that painful guilt with him to the day he died.

So this little story which is all about adoption, rejection, mental illness, suicide
and even survival is just as much a story about Grace…

For I have seen and lived both the dark and the bad and had it not been for God’s healing Grace…
this sole survivor of 4 might not have been here today to share her story.

So everyone who has ever been touched by tragedy, sorrow, heartache, darkness, cancer, suicide,
mental illness…must know that even in the darkest dark, there is always HOPE!!!
Because there is help…on so many different levels!!
And no matter how bad things often seem…God is always God and He has overcome the darkness
so that we may find our way to the Light….

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

red tape

“The atmosphere of officialdom would kill anything that breathes the air of human endeavour, would extinguish hope and fear alike in the supremacy of paper and ink.”
― Joseph Conrad

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times,
He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon

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(side door at St Ann’s Church, Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2016)

Number 45 flashes in bold bright red across the suspended matrix box perched over the counter as a monotone voice calls out “Number 45 to counter number 6, number 45 to counter 6…”

After an hour and a half of waiting you have pretty much tuned out the monotonous din of chatter in the very aseptic, yet somewhat dingy, waiting room which has all but swallowed you whole.
A television protruding awkwardly out of the wall, way too close to the ceiling, runs a slew of continuous infomercials concerning the very agency in which you currently find yourself…
As those around you cough, sneeze, hack and shift in the uncomfortable metal chairs as others chat incessantly while still others scattered throughout the cramped waiting room are being entirely too loud on cell phones…while the signs posted strategically around the room glaringly display a cartoon cell phone with a giant red circle and slash with the words “no cell phone use in the waiting area…”

Suddenly, as if jerked back to the land of the living, it registers in your consciousness that you are holding ticket number 45.

Eagerly and a bit bleary eyed you hop up while looking overhead at the various signs hanging over the long line of counters, scanning the corridor for counter number 6 which is now serving ticket number 45…
Finally you feel as if it’s your lucky day…

Who among us hasn’t found ourselves, on any number of occasions, in this same sort of scenario…be it at the DMV, the Social Security Office, the IRS, a health clinic, the VA, a court house, a hospital, a records office, a government agency…as the list is almost endless.

We jump through hoop after hoop to deal with so many aspects of our lives or of the lives of those we’ve been entrusted to care for…our loved ones…
Only to become overwhelmed, discouraged and simply worn out by the system that we now deem has been put in place to simply break our will….

We have to gather up identifying document after document…photos, social security numbers, voter registration numbers, account numbers, passports, registration cards… chasing each and every last one down as we phone, e-mail, write, shuffle to and from as we seek and search…
While at the same time being required to make certain that each piece of paper, photo and number matches and is current, up to date as well as recognized as 100% legal…
and if not…if one letter, number or identifying marker varies from one to the next,
then it’s back to the end of the line and back to square one.

We call, we wait, we push buttons, we wait some more, we listen to music, we listen in silence, we plead for a representatives, we push zero, we yell at robot voices, we try to enunciate our english, we get call backs if we’re lucky…
We have countless pieces of important papers, we wait in long lines, we shuffle from one office and building to another as we wait to take care of whatever very urgent, gravely important and time sensitive issue happens to be currently dogging us or the loved ones we are charged with caring for.

We have created a bureaucratic nightmare…
and there is absolutely no end in sight.
No fix.
No solution.
No easy answer.
No politician, no matter how much they promise that they can eliminate or make it all go away…can help…
Like it or not we are simply entrenched in the red tape nightmare we have created for ourselves…

Created through all of our agencies, our offices, our lawyers, our layered system of life, our “move um in and move um out” livestock mentality….
All the while more and more agencies and offices are being imgained, formed and created in order to help streamline the maddening chaos…
Which has all been put in place, in the first place, to deal with the general populace…ie…you and me.

No wonder there are countless television shows allowing those haggard, bleary eyed souls, overloaded and system beaten victims, opportunities of watching those who “survive” off the proverbial grid or the shows that allow all the sad sacks to wonder and hope what to do when the grid is finally so totally overwhelmed that it self-destructs…leaving life as we know it a forgotten memory…

And then it hits us..
Smack dab between the eyes…
God has never issued numbers!
He has never once put us on hold.
Never have we had to jump through hoops in order to reach Him.
He has no mountains of entangling red tape snarling the path or journey to meet Him.
He simply and quietly is there…or here…or wherever we may find ourselves….
waiting..
waiting on us…
not the other way around with us endlessly waiting…
but rather it is He who waits…
waiting for that time when we finally decide we’ve had enough and we simply need to vent about this thing called life….

God waits for you to communicate with Him.
You have instant, direct access to God.
God loves mankind so much, and in a very special sense His children,
that He has made Himself available to you at all times.

Wesley L. Duewell

What are we to do?

“Make up your mind,” Moab says. “Render a decision. Make your shadow like night – at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees.”
Isaiah 16:3

DSC02486
(a morning glory found deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)

Both Lucy Lipiner and Gerda Weissmann Klein have a tale to tell. . .

Each woman weaves a story steeped in the sweet innocence of childhood which is suddenly and unimaginably lost in the midst of unspeakable horrors. . .yet thankfully theirs is a tale of eventual survival and of small yet victorious triumphs.

There are a few differences between these two woman of which create two very individual stories. . .
Differences such as their age and the fact that they were each born in different small towns.
Yet it is to the similarities between them that inextricably binds them together for all of eternity.
I am pretty certain that these woman do not personally know one another nor have they ever met, but I somehow think that in many ways they have known one another very well for a very long time as they have both survived the unimaginable stemming from the same wicked source. . .

Each woman was born in Poland and each woman was born into a Jewish family.
Whoever would have imagined that those two seemingly insignificant factors would mark these women for the rest of their lives by placing them in the valley of the shadow of Death. Had they been born say, in America or Canada, or England, their stories would certainly have been less then memorable. Lives lived as mostly anyone else’s.
But because they were born in a country lying in the path of a very hungry and vicious animal, tragedy was to be their lot.

I have finished reading Lucy’s tale and have now begun Gerda’s equally gripping story.
As I waited in the dentist office yesterday, reading until I was called back, I had tears flooding my eyes as I read the story of an individual family, like my own family or anyone’s family, being ripped apart as they stood by helpless to prevent the rupture.

Despite the fact that these two lady’s stories took place over 70 years ago, I have been struck by the similarities of the worldwide current plights now littering our news.

Each was a young girl when The War broke out–when Germany marched forth seizing Poland as its own.
Each girl came from a prominent family within their respective towns. They were loved, nurtured and happy living their lives as innocent children.

I think it is Lucy’s story that I have found to be most relevant to any story I might read in today’s paper—that of any number of families fleeing Syria or Egypt or Turkey or Somalia or Tunisia, or Eritrea, etc.— each seeking refuge from the unspeakable horrors of the upheaval of what was an average life.

Lucy’s family was on the run for almost 10 years. Starting when she was 6 years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939– they became just another statistic of families in the throng of the displaced as they sought refuge in the Soviet Union and later Tajikistan then briefly back to Poland and ironically to Germany and eventually to the US.
There was death, violence, sexual abuse, grave hunger, incapacitating illness, loss, sorrow, separation and near madness.

They had been a family like any other family–they had a nice home, nice clothes, nice jewelry. They went to Temple. They enjoyed their extended family. They attended school. They had jobs. They played music as they lived, loved and laughed—-

Suddenly life took a turn beyond their control and they lost everything–they became hunted, like animals. They were reduced to wearing clothes turned to rags as there was no longer choice. They lost weight. They were hungry. They were infested with bugs, inside and out. They ate rotten trash and drank fetid water to quell an endless hunger. They were dirty, they smelled. They were sick both physically, spiritually and mentally.
They were shells of human beings.

Miraculously the family remained intact but it came at a tremendous cost to each member of the family. They survived in part due the kindness of those strangers and individuals encountered along the long and arduous journey who were willing to offer aid, shelter and comfort, as meager as it was. . .to dirty and seemingly unsavory subhuman individuals who were considered enemies of every state simply for being Jewish.

Yesterday’s news ran a story about the discovery of a lorry, or tractor trailer, abandoned on a road in Austria containing at least 70 dead bodies of migrants, or refugees, who were on what they thought to be a journey to freedom.

Today there was the story of another capsized ship losing possibly 500 individuals–men, women and children drowning while on their way to freedom.

There have been the stories of the Chunnel being overrun and shut down, day after day, by the thousands of migrants in Calais seeking asylum and freedom.

There was the story of an arson attack on a migrant shelter in Germany, as Angela Merkel was booed by those Germans not wanting to see Germany overrun by the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking safe haven.

It is said that the current influx of migrants from both Africa and the Middle East is the largest exodus of people since World War II.

A humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The worry– how will the small European Nations absorb the millions of people running away from tyranny, abuse and horror. . .how will they be able to provide for all of these “other” people as they continue providing for their own. . .?

These refugees are different–culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Later I read a story about the marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The story told the tale of how one group of New Orleans citizens did not want the “other” New Orleans citizens, those who were the evacuees coming from the more disadvantaged areas, to cross the bridge bringing them into the more affluent neighborhoods.

These citizens were afraid of being overrun with what was thought to be unsavory individuals bringing with them drugs, crime and violence—those citizens coming from the areas which were known to be rife with such—
And I suppose some of those feelings may have been justified after we heard the stories of the rapes and murders taking place within the Superdome when it was opened to those evacuating the lower 9th ward.

Is it fear that keeps us weary, holding our arms outward not as arms offering a welcoming embrace but rather as arms pushing away and repelling those who come seeking aid and assistance?

How can we take on an endless sea of people in need–economically absorbing the astronomical costs for healthcare, housing, education, employment and assimilation?

What of the hidden terrorists among the masses?

Are we not told to be hospitable and welcoming–offering sustenance and aid to our fellow human beings who are in desperate need?

Would we not want someone to do the same for us?

One country closes its borders.

Is that fair to the other surrounding countries?

How do we feed them all?

Where will they stay?

What of those who are criminals?

What of the illness and disease they bring with them?

What of the myriad of language barriers?

What will happen to our own way of life when it yields to the incoming masses?

Do we lose ourselves, our identity, while giving of ourselves to the “other?”

I don’t know the answers to these hard questions and I don’t think the rest of the world knows the answers either–
yet I simply keep hearing these words. . .

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40

Lusia’s Long Journey Home
A young Girls’ Memoir of Surviving the Holocaust
by Lucy Lipiner

A Memoir
All But My Life
by Gerda Weissmann Klein