time for reflection

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
William Shakespeare


(moi in 2013 / Julie Cook)

What are the types of things that happen to us in a year’s time?
What sorts of things take place to and or around us during the course of a year?

In my world, there were milestones, fieldstones, capstones and stone weights.

The greatest being a baby turned one as another baby came into the world.

And there were, for this small family of ours…

stress tests
epidurals
CT scans
MRIs
X-rays
ultrasounds
bloodwork
surgeries
healings
shots
medicines
waiting diagnoses
dental implants
additions
trips
trips to an ocean
trips to the mountains
trips to the city
family gatherings
quiet time
accidents
demolitions
updatings
hope
despair
surprises
growing
pruning
anniversaries
multiple ER trips
multiple Urgent Care trips
viruses
infections
food poisoning
haircuts
lost hair
purchases
sales
trials, literally
tribulations
disappointments
discoveries
tears
anger
laughter
solace
peace
good news
troubling news
bad news
sad news
happy news
new friends
old friends
new family
found birth parents
lost birth parents
welcomings
shunnings
new decades of life
frustrations
blessings
reflections…

And so here is to reflections…
May there be many more… that both come and go, in the next decade of living…

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV

Lobsters, tears, steroids, redos—the tale of distraction

“The life of the body is the soul;
the life of the soul is God.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

I don’t cry…often.

Well, there are some commercials that can get me to shed a tear or two.

The Toyota commercial that ran during Christmas with the mom
going off the bring her husband home while the son was busy enlisting the
help of all his friends in the neighborhood to make a row
of snowmen, lining the road up to their house, all saluting his returning veteran dad…

The camera pans to the dad who sees the saluting snowmen.
The mom pulls into the driveway where the snowmen are saluting alongside a saluting son.
The dad gets out of the car, stops to salute his son before engulfing him in his arms…

See…
tears as I type.

That is the kind of commercial that “gets me”

Other than that, I’m pretty stoic.

I cry usually when I am totally and utterly exasperated or when I’m really really sick.

Let us recall my little predicament from last week.

Last week I had a root canal that went awry….not away but awry.

Over the weekend, the endodontist called in a different antibiotic after the
original prescription appeared not to be working.

Clindamycin.

I took the first pill Saturday.
That evening after showering, I noticed I was itching on my abdomen and noticed a
red blotchiness.
Hummmm.

I took the next dose right before bed.

By morning’s first light, I looked like a freshly boiled lobster being pulled hot from the pot.

From head to toe, front to back… I was a giant red itchy rash.
And my root canal tooth…well it was throbbing so badly that I started scouring
the house for a pair of pliers.

We went to breakfast with our son and daughter-n-law and the Mayor.
I didn’t feel much like eating but I’ll never miss being with the Mayor.
My face was red as a beet but given our location, my daughter-n-law slyly noted
folks will just think you’ve had a facial peel.

Calls to the endodontist, the clindamycin was quickly discontinued.
Up the Motrin, use the pain meds, and get some Benadryl to counter the drug reaction.

I don’t usually take Benadryl but I took one and then dozed off during the
poor play calling against the Saints.

Which from what I hear was best.

I tried writing my post for the following day but it was as if I had been drugged…
I couldn’t type out one word without it being a mishmash of letters.

I dozed some more.

My daughter-n-law text asking how I felt.
I sent back a scathing text of woe…but somehow I sent it to the endodontist instead of my
daughter-n-law…

Oooops

Profuse apologies followed but at least he understood, in no uncertain terms,
that I was in a bad way.

I dozed again.

The Saints lost, the Patriots won, I was red, itching and had a throbbing head.
Sunday was tough.

So back to the notion of crying.

This morning I felt so bad, I had had so many meds that were meant to help…
feeling so so bad such that I almost passed out, twice.

I fell onto the bed and broke down in tears.
Tears of frustration and hurting, tears of feeling bad and tears of knowing
how busy our lives are soon to be while thinking that I need to be 100%.

Typical mom thinking.

My husband is not used to this.

I am the little rock.
I am the chief caregiver.
I am the take charge and ‘it’s time to get rolling’ member of the family.

And so…he did what most husbands do when given such a predicament, he panicked.

“We’re going to the ER” he exclaimed.

Yet his better option appeared to simply pace the floor back and forth in front of me—
which in turn was making me a nervous wreck.

Crying and husbands, a true difficulty.

I told him I’d just call the doctor when the office opened.

I called both my doctor and then the endodontist.

My doctor could see me at 10:45
The other at 2 PM

When the nurse called me back, with one look, she said what we always say down here
in the South when things are bad…
“Bless your heart”

The doctor walked in…”Oh my gosh!! Bless your heart!!! You ARE a red mess!”

I could only muster a feeble “help me…”

She countered with a resounding “You need a good slug of steroids.”

She proceeded with two shots–steroids and B-12— as my B-12 levels were way low
according to last week’s labs.
Then there was a prescription for oral steroids.

Next, it was off to the endodontist’s office.

He proceeded to do a redo root canal.
Working basically backward…undoing what he did then
redoing it all over again.

As I type, the novocaine is still lingering.
The throbbing remains at bay.
The steroids have kicked in.
The red is slowly dissipating as the itching is lessening.
There is indeed a small ray of sunshine…

No, literally the sun is shining… we haven’t seen it in a while.
So that’s a good thing.

But this tale is really just a tale of distraction.
A distraction from the pressing matters that need addressing.

Issues like some young boys from a Catholic school who have become the
latest fodder for all things social media and wrongful reporting.

Issues like the obvious hypnotizing from the new Marxist left of the general populace.

Issues like showing any support for the current sitting president equating to hate.

Issues like a fetus being considered not a human being.

Issues like the billboard that I recently caught while buzzing down the interstate at warp speed
that read:
“IN THE BEGINNING, GOD CREATED.
(Call xxx-xxx-xxxx for more information)

But that’s it right?
That’s the bottom line.

God Created.

End of sentence.

And so now the question remains, what shall we do with the stewardship we have been
given over that creating?

That is the real question and the real issue…

So as soon as things clear up on this end, we’ll get back to what’s really the issue at hand.

God Created.

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

1 Colossians 1:16

she had nothing to give…yet she gave the very best

“May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out.”

J.R.R. Tolkien


(image courtesy Rachel Uretsky-Pratt, an elementary teacher in Washington State)

I have a small confession…
When it comes to cereal, of which I rarely eat, I love Lucky Charms.

I’ve loved it ever since I was little…
or rather ever since the cereal’s inception in 1964.

And if the truth be told, I’ve been known to secretly buy a box every now and then,
when I should have been buying something like Multigrain Cheerios or some other healthy
cardboard nuggets.

It’s okay, let’s all admit it…who doesn’t love those colorful little
crunchy marshmallows?

And another confession…

Have you ever eaten a bowl of Lucky charms, as the milk
turns an odd swirling muddied color from all those magically melting delicious marshmallows…
in turn, turning up the bowl while finishing off that last bit of sweetened milk?
Mmmmmmmmmm

My mother, for reasons beyond my soul, would never buy the cereal I wanted, that being
Lucky Charms or Raisin Bran.
She claimed the Raisin Bran upset our stomachs…something about too much bran
but back then the thought of fiber was not a thing and as far as the Lucky Charms
was concerned, to this day, I don’t know…
she just always tried appeasing my brother with that awful Captain Crunch.

So when I saw the following image of a tiny bag of Lucky Charms marshmallows being
offered as a humble Christmas gift, my attention was piqued.

And by the time I finished reading the story, my eyes were so full of tears that I could
barely see from crying almost uncontrollably.

The newsfeed popped up after a young elementary teacher’s FaceBook post went viral.

It seems that Rachel Uretsky-Pratt, who is an elementary teacher in Washington state,
received a rather unusual gift from one of her students.
But rather than just being an unusual gift, the small present was about the most genuine,
selfless and sincere form of giving that I’ve seen in a very long time, if ever.

Uretsky-Pratt posted on her FaceBook:

“You see, 100% of my school is on free/reduced lunch.
They also get free breakfast at school every day of the school week.
This kiddo wanted to get my something so badly, but had nothing to give,” she continued.
“So rather than give me nothing, this student opened up her free breakfast cereal this morning,
took the packaging of her spork, straw, and napkin, and finally took the time to take
every marshmallow out of her cereal to put in a bag – for me.”

Here is the full FaceBook post followed by the link to the news story:

To help put your life into perspective:
Today was the last day before our winter break.
We will have two weeks off to rest with our families and loved ones over the holidays
then head back to school in 2019.

With it being the day before break and Christmas right around the corner,
most teachers bring their kiddos something such as books or little treats and occasionally
in return receive something from their students.
Today I received some chocolates, sweet handmade notes, some jewelry,
but these Lucky Charm marshmallows stood out to me the most.

You see, 100% of my school is on free/reduced lunch.
They also get free breakfast at school every day of the school week.
This kiddo wanted to get my something so badly, but had nothing to give.
So rather than give me nothing,
this student opened up her free breakfast cereal this morning,
took the packaging of her spork, straw,
and napkin, and finally took the time to take every marshmallow out of her cereal
to put in a bag—for me.
Be grateful for what you have, and what others give you.
It all truly comes from the deepest parts of their hearts.
Happy Holidays.
💕

https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/washington-student-teacher-marshmallows-christmas-gift

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting
money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.
And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.
And he called his disciples to him and said to them,
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are
contributing to the offering box.
For they all contributed out of their abundance,
but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

when do we know love becomes stronger than hurt?

“Dad’s genuine contrition took the fun out of holding offenses against him.
In choosing weakness, his love became stronger than my hurt.”

Joshua Rogers


(daddy’s idea of fun / Julie Cook / 2018)

When does one first know that they are a daddy’s girl?
Is it in the womb?
Is it in the delivery room?
Is it upon the very first face to face meeting?

Is it when he looks down and sees not only himself or his wife, but his own dad
in that tiny new face staring back up at him?

Is it during that first visit to the doctors when tears are first really shed?
That he reaches to hold you, comfort you, to protect you?

Is it during those early on sleepless nights?

Is it when daddy is left to babysit and dresses you in your first crazy outfit
unbeknownst to mom…are those Mardis Gras beads?

Or is it when daddy watches his own father who once cared for him when he was your age,
who is now taking on a new role in both of your lives?

Or is it when daddy shares the Mickey Mouse show with you,
just as his grandfather had done with him at that very same age?

No matter when it is…when that first moment registers that this is the man who is charged
with your care and protection…
the man who has been given the most important role of watching after you,
caring for you, providing for you, training you, teaching you, instructing you,
having fun with you, having to correct you…
exemplifying all this it means to be a father…
just as God is Father to us, in turn, entrusting our earthly fathers to be that
same living embodiment of God Himself…

We all know that living up to such a trememdous role and responsibility is a monumental task.
It is not for the faint at heart.
For there will be joy, but there will also be gut-wrenching heartache.
Because to love is just that…
an uncontainable joy matched with unrelenting pain…

There will be those who will fall and those who will, at times, fail.

It is with all of this in mind, my son’s first Father’s day, my husband’s first Father’s day
as a grandfather, that I came across a most sobering reminder of the power of both love
and forgiveness within the complicated role of parent and child.

How both love and forgiveness far outweigh anger and resentment.

Click on the following link to read one man’s story of his own relationship with a man
who had spent a lifetime letting him down, but in the end, taught him about the
most important lesson a father can offer…
that in forgiveness, there is power.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/06/16/my-dads-stunning-response-when-told-him-off.html

Happy Father’s day to the two most important men in my life….
from the one little girl whose hearts of yours, she has captured now forever.

wrestling and waiting

“Father, teach us all how to wait.”
Andrew Murray


(shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2017)

I must confess that I’ve been in a prayerful desert as of late.
Meaning I have been petitioning God long and hard…
yet it seems that my pleas just fall upon a vast emptiness….
as in…deaf ears.

However I know that I am not alone in my frustration or perplexity
of this seemingly one way spiritual conversation.

I am not the first nor will I be the last to beat upon the gates of Heaven
only to hear…what is perceived to be…..nothing.

Yet on and on I pray with little to show for my diligence.

Or so it seems…I go unanswered.

There are tears.
There is anger.
There is frustration.
There is indifference…
and there is a sense of hopelessness….
until….
It all begins all over again….
As a determined penitent rolls up her sleeves, continuing on, unabated.

It is because I will not be deterred…
not by the whispered doubts and naysaying….
not by the one who would like nothing more than for me to quit,
give up and walk away in disgust and frustrated anger.

And the truth is that somedays are indeed much harder then others…

And so today, as I was continuing to walk through the desert,
focused and imploring….
I actually stumbled upon a small respite of wisdom.

For I learn just how old my plight actually is….
As the wisdom of those who have trod this path before offer me a cup
of refreshing living water….

My child, hear about another delusion.
There are also other monks who work on all the virtues together,
and trust in their works. And when they pray and ask something from God,
they do not seek it with humility, but with insolence and pretension,
as if they have obligated God with their toils and therefore He owes it to them.
When they are not heard and the Lord does not do their will,
they are troubled and greatly grieved.
Then when the Devil our enemy sees them with this ignorance,
he attacks them with twisted thoughts and teaches them saying,
“See? You are struggling so hard even until death to work for Him,
and He doesn’t even listen to you!
So why do you work for Him?”
Then he pushes him to blaspheme the name of God,
so that he may enter inside him and possess him,
and then people bind him with chains….

But you, my beloved child in the Lord, since you are obedient,
and confess everything openly, do not be afraid.

excerpt from Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast.
An Epistle to a Hesychast Hermit. Chapter XII.

For the full reflection see the post:
https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com

There are times when our prayers seem so one sided.
On and on we pray, beseeching and imploring and yet….we hear no movement..
we see no results.

We often expect, or if the truth be told… we actually demand,
that after we’ve demonstrated an unrelenting persistence of time, energy and focus…
then surely God will move Heaven and Earth in order to show us how much He cares
and just how well He listens and just how much He agrees with each
and every component of our prayer…never mind if there are others involved in
said prayer…

As it is all just so utterly frustrating when we believe that all we see and hear
is merely empty silence.

No movement, no shifting, no little glimmer that things are working in the direction
of our desire, need, hope, want….

And for many, it seems almost cruel…this silence.

Yet we are told that no prayer goes unheard.

I once heard it put that God answers prayers in one of three ways….
Yes
No
Not now….

And more often then not, it is the ‘not now’ that is most vexing.

And so we pray on…

Because He knows and He sees and He is listening…

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end,
so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Hebrews 6:11

punctuating the ordinary

“On the single strand of wire strung to bring our house electricity,
grackles and starlings neatly punctuated an invisible sentence.”

―John Updike


(grackles on the line / Julie Cook / 2014)

I imagine it happens to all of us at some point or other…
and it’s always out of the blue…

It catches us totally off guard— when we least expect it.

Suddenly a lump is forming in our throat as we find the words catching, cracking and breaking as we can barely whisper along.

And just when we frustratingly focus on the fact that no sound seems to be
coming from a voice attempting to speak, stinging tears now form in our
eyes, rendering us both mute and almost blind…

Mute and blind with raw emotion.

We blink hard and swallow hard…as we hear our brain pleading “not here, not now….”

Maybe we’re just sitting on the couch…
Maybe we’re walking down the aisle at the grocery store pushing a cart full of
paper towels and cat food…
Maybe we’re sitting in the middle of traffic, stuck…
Maybe we’re sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting….

It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing…it happens…
and it happens when it wants to…never mind what we want.
And there is always some sort of trigger…
as the ordinariness of life is punctured like an over inflated tire…
our breath begins to release as we are helpless to hold it in….

It comes suddenly out of the blue..
Out of nowhere…and there it is…
A familiar sound, a familiar tune, a familiar voice…more oldie then goldie…

For me this time, it was Wichita Lineman and it wasn’t even Glen Campbell
singing the song but rather someone else…

Yet it mattered not—it was still that same melodious memory drifting in on
the passage of time… swirling down on the currents until settling sweetly, yet
painfully, in the recall of memory.

My mother loved Glen Campbell.

What woman in those heady days of the late 60’s didn’t?

Dashing boyish good looks…dimples, perfect hair, sculpted nose,
laced with a velvety voice.
He wasn’t Country, he wasn’t Gospel, he wasn’t Pop…
he was simply the complete package.

I can remember sitting with mother in 1969 on that old tweed couch
watching the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour—
This was a time when children could actually watch television without fear of hearing
or seeing things that children shouldn’t really see or hear emanating
from a television….

The line is iconic…
“and I need you more than want you….
and I want you for all time….
for the Wichita lineman is still on the line…”

…as heart tugging violins finish out the notes….

About two years ago, give or take,
Glen Campbell and his current wife (I say current because he had had four marriages
with one in particular making for tabloid drama) gave what was to be Glen’s
last public interview.

Glen Campbell was suffering from Alzheimers.
A disease that actually claimed his life earlier this year.

The selfish disease was robbing his family of the husband and father they loved
while robbing a man of the one person he’d known best his entire life…
that being himself.

He was asked about singing and his songs— what song had he loved the most….

A question I would think somewhat difficult for any musician / singer,
who had had such long careers, to answer—
As songs and melodies ebb and flow with the times—
Because it’s hard to compare what was a career starter with what came about
during one’s peak moment throughout such a lengthy career…

But he answered quickly and at first very effortlessly…
“it’s really the best line of all time in a song you know…. isn’t it???”
as he then turned to his wife with that lost look of one battling with a
memory-robbing illness, when he sadly and poignantly realized he didn’t
remember now what line he was talking about.

His wife offered a small airy couple of notes with the first word, which allowed
Glen’s mind to grab hold as he finished the stanza himself in beautiful A cappella
fashion.

And it is an iconic line.
A beautiful line.
A line that has for me, over time, changed it’s meaning.

Songs, lyrics and melodies all have that effect on us.

So much so that I think I’ve written about this before—and about this very same
song for most likely the very same reason—

It simply caught me off guard.

It reached out through the abyss of time grabbing hold of my arm while pulling
me to a bittersweet place I don’t often like to go.

The hot tears formed as I attempted to utter those familiar words….but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even speak the words because they had stuck in my throat…
as they achingly cracked coming from my mouth without sound…

And then slowly…the recesses of a memory came into focus,
I was seeing the one who had first loved that song long before I had.
She had her own personal reasons, her own personal recollections…

Things that, at the time, were unbeknownst to me.
Something that caused an overwhelming sense of melancholy…
Something that had left her with words which had no sound,
something that had left her eyes wet with warm tears…

I had no way of knowing then…no way of understanding…
for I had not lived yet what she had lived…

Yet sweetly and even oddly in that bittersweet moment of hearing that single song
with that most iconic simple lyric, I actually understood what she had known
all those many years ago…as warm tears filled my eyes and the words coming
from my mouth had no sound…I was transported one day closer to understanding
the woman I had lost so long ago…

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.

Psalm 102:18-22

bits and pieces

In designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.
Pope John Paul II

You can’t sacrifice truth because some people will suffer because of the truth.
Ben Shapiro


(shelf fungus deep in the woods / Julie Cook / 2017)

Slowly a Nation is learning the bits and pieces of the unimaginable horrific puzzle that now makes up the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.

A town shattered…along with families shattered…
as a Nation shatters just a little bit more.

The stories of a madman now percolate to the surface as fact is sifted from fiction.

People have raced to conclusions—be they true or false, mainly because people
want to validate their own thoughts, fears and notions of the hows and whys.

But as I said yesterday, the real how and why is simple.

Satan.

Satan, Evil, demons exist and it is all very much real…
all because you and I live in a fallen world.

So believe and argue as you may, there is no other rationale or
understandable explanation but for where we fall into the world of
the Creator as His created.

Evil is evil and will perpetuate itself throughout the course of all of time
while human beings walk this planet…until Salvation returns….

Yet people will blame everything and anything else, the this and that of things
because they refuse to accept that the root of all the blame is simply Evil’s
product…with that being hate.

Hate for people…
Hate for self.
Hate for God.

The Scottish Pastor David Robertson offered his own take yesterday in an article
written for Premiere Christianity:

In June 2015, when Dylan Roof, who was a militant racist, killed nine church members
in a church prayer meeting in Charleston South Carolina,
there was justified outrage which highlighted the continuing poison of racism in
US society and even led to the removal of several Confederate monuments throughout the nation.

So when a professed atheist goes into a church and kills 26 Christians,
why is that not even considered as a possible factor?
Where are the demands to remove all memorials of famous atheists?

….I have already seen several comments which mocked Christians who have prayed for the situation. “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”
Even the BBC news report on it this evening signed off with a snide gibe that Americans seem to think the answer is in guns and God.

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-Texas-Christian-Massacre-and-the-man-who-committed-it

Hate.
It was a word growing up as children we were told never to use.
We were taught that ‘hate’ was not to be a part of our language,
let alone a thread in our fiber as a human being…
If you were good and decent, you didn’t hate…rather you cared for, you loved,
you were empathetic, you were compassionate…you were to be anything but ‘hate’

And yet we subconsciously saw and heard it in its nuanced guise hidden behind our
fears, phobias and our sense of both right and wrong…
and when those bad unimaginable things happened,
we allowed ourselves to finally speak and feel the full fury of the word..
as the full level of our hate was unleashed under our own sense of self righteous
indignation.

Just as we now see how easily it rolls out of our mouthes and emerges ever so freely
from our own actions.

As the one glaring fact remains…that hate indeed begets further hate.
As in a perpetual state of a hate filled continuum.
And it is a continuum that we have bought into and adopted as our own.

Yet our Faith constantly admonishes us…Do Not Hate.

But how hard, how difficult that all is when Evil kills children at point blank range.

My thoughts and tears are now there in Sutherland Springs for the Holcombe family
who lost 8 family members Sunday morning to Evil’s hate.

Sons, daughters, husbands, wives, unborn babies….all gone, all taken…
as prayers were being said and hymns had been sung.

In his book Lessons in Hope George Weigel shares the tale of his personal
time spent over the years with Pope John Paul II—
Weigel recounts the assassination attempt on the Pope’s life by the assasin Ali Agca.

“In salvation history—that inner core of world history in which God’s purposes are
worked out through the action of divine grace on individual lives—there are neither happenstance nor coincidences. Rather, what appears to be sheer happenstance or coincidence is an aspect of Providence we don’t yet grasp.”

So here we now are…feeling alone, vulnerable and reeling from what seems to be
an endless march of madness against humanity….
We are left grappling with our own emotions and fears and lack of security.
We are left struggling while sorting out our disbelief, denial, acceptance,
forgiveness and even our hate…

All the while we wrestle with what is to be our reaction to Satan

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,
cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love
their brother and sister.

1 John 4:20-21