beloved seeking beloved

“In the first place it should be known that if a person is seeking God,
his beloved is seeking him much more.”

— St. John of the Cross


(just some of the blueberries picked the other day / Julie Cook / 2018)

The other day I shared a tale about a lesson gleaned from within a blueberry bush.

I spoke of going full on honey badger after the abundance of plump berries.

An expression which means going after whatever it is one is going after with an exuberant
and high velocity of gusto and tenacity.

I likened such a fierce hyperfocus over the act of berry picking,
as small as it is in comparison,
to how God is to be viewed in His quest for and over us…
That He will go full on honey badger for the object of His affection.

A simplistic comparison but an earthly one that is readily understood in its
scope and depth.
A no backing down, no relenting, no walking away sort of approach to attaining the
quest.

And so yesterday morning, when reading the daily offering, the words of St. John of the Cross,
words echoing that same sentiment, I clearly began to see a trend of thought.

So since we’ve come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence…
only the Holy Spirit…
we know that this “thought” is being revealed for a reason…
A reminder, timely that it is, that we are being sought to such a depth of desire that it
far surpasses our own comprehension of what intent and reason actually mean.

If we seek our earthly desires with such a tunneled visioned steely wanting and precision…
what then of God for us?

So here is a reminder, an offering in the need in knowing, that God will not nor has not,
abandoned us…
A reminder from past to present that God remains steadfast in His pursuit
of both you and me.

A pursuit that has been gravely costly to Him but a pursuit that has never lost its momentum
nor waned nor diminished.

If we stop, just stop doing what it is we are doing, allowing our minds to grasp the very thought
of such a driven quest for such a desire…it is more than we can digest or phantom…
to grasp that we are the end focus of such a quest, such a goal…that we are
the end of His desire, His wants…

If we allow ourselves to ponder and ruminate over such a thought we find that such knowledge
is so very necessary and even crucial in this day and time of ours…

Yes there is a beloved…
and He his seeking His beloved…

and that beloved is both you and me…

amazing really…

“[The] ultimate end of man we call beatitude.
For a man’s happiness or beatitude consists in the vision whereby he sees God in His essence.
Of course, man is far below God in the perfection of his beatitude.
For God has this beatitude by His very nature,
whereas man attains beatitude by being admitted to a share in the divine light.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 119
An Excerpt from
Aquinas’s Shorter Summa

going full on honey badger

“Honey Badger don’t care”
Randall

Honey Badger.

Two words, one animal.

Honey sounds all, well, nice and sweet.

Badger sounds somewhat cute but perhaps not so nice.

But put the two together and you really have a situation on your hands.

Whereas a honey badger resembles an Amercian badger or perhaps even a wolverine in
its build, think short, flat, stocky and low,
they are actually more akin to the weasel family.

Thick, compact and mean, as in a polecat, and you have a honey badger.

A honey badger is tenacious, determined, fearless and relentless.
Thick skinned and thick-skulled while highly intelligent.

They will not back down from a fight and most other animals…
think poisonous snakes, lions, hyenas, even Africanized bees don’t deter a honey badger
as no animal is too keen to have to deal with a honey badger.

A honey badger takes no crap.

So if you’ve ever watched an episode of the American Pickers on the History Channel,
you may have heard the chief picker himself, Mike Wolfe,
exclaim right before he dives into someone’s barn full of old junk,
that he’s going “full on honey badger.”

And you’d probably be correct in your assumption that that meant he wasn’t about to
let anything get in his way on his quest to find a treasure amongst the junk.

Also if you’re any sort of football fan, you may recall hearing of the former LSU player
and current Houston Texan’s Safety, Tyrann Mathieu, referred to by his nickname,
‘the honey badger.’
Meaning that the guy is a relentless type of player who can take a licking but keep on ticking.

I’ve watched a couple of clips on honey badgers and they do not let anything stop
them or get in their way, especially if it comes to a meal.

I doubt there is a meaner animal on the planet..well maybe the hippo but at least they
don’t look all that mean.
Honey badgers are the epitome of ill-tempered on a chronic bad day binge.

When your diet snacks consist of scorpions, it’s a safe bet you aren’t the sweetest
thing out there.

So if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that each June is the time to
pluck the blueberries.

Each year as the bushes grow, their output of berries grows…
it is becoming a scope and size sort of issue.
The sort of thing that is getting almost too much for one person.
That one person being me.

Last year I was coming off my role as caregiver for Dad, followed with picking up life’s
pieces following his subsequent death, time was limited for much of anything, let
alone picking fruit.

I almost let the season of picking get past me so I had to work like mad
to unburden the bushes or simply let the fruit rot on the bush.

The birds help, but they still leave plenty behind.

This year since I’ve been a caregiver of a different capacity…
more like a traveling babysitter,
I’m finding that once again, the bushes have almost gotten away from me.

I have learned that if you can start picking a little each day as the berries begin
to ripen, you’re way ahead of the game…
But if you let them ripen and keep ripening without picking nary
a berry, well you’ve got an overwhelming disaster on your hands.

And so it was this morning that I was determined to go take care of business…
or more aptly go take care of berries.

I plucked in the hot humid June sun for nearly 4 hours, loading up 3 large containers.

As fast as I kept picking the berries kept multiplying.
Odd how they can do that.

Yet I was determined and relentless in my quest.

I had to go full on honey badger in that I had to make my way up, under and into the
interior of the bushes.
I had to push my way past spider webs, past spiders, past wasps, past Japanese beetles,
past unsuspecting birds, past things with weird bodies and multiple legs, just to get
at some of the better, larger and plumper berries.

As I continued reaching, pushing, pulling, swatting and peeling a wary eye out for snakes…
did I mention that they’re telling us that this is the worst copperhead season in ages?
I got to thinking…is this not what the Father does for me,
what He does for each of us?

Does God not go full on honey badger for us?

Is He not tenacious, persistent and always fighting tooth and nail for us?
Never backing down, never afraid, never willing to give up, fighting literally unto death
for us…
us, the focus of His love and affection?!

That there is One who is so relentless just for me…
such a thought is, well, terribly humbling.
Who goes after me, or anyone for that matter, fighting tooth and nail while I’m
simply going after mere blueberries???

Perhaps it’s time to shift the focus a bit…going after the One
who is going after me…with an equal sense of tenacity and gusto…

It’s time for a full-on Honey Badger!!!

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

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breadcrumbs to home…


(mom’s magnolia tree is in full summer to be regalia / Julie Cook / 2018)

Few things are more indicative of life in the South than the large white billowy blooms
of the Magnolia.

Well, maybe a few other things such as mosquitoes, heat, and humidity might also come to mind…
but if the truth be told, the Magnolia is by far, the best of the bunch.

The large majestic blooms are hailed as the state flower for both Louisiana and Mississippi.

These are not dainty, delicate nor demure flowers by any means…
words which are often associated and used to describe life here down South…

Rather these beauties are large, tenacious, enduring and oh so sweetly fragrant.
Words I prefer to use when I think of those native Southerners.
Words such as tenacious…think fire ant.

I’ve spent the better part of the week up in Atlanta babysitting and I am happy to report
that Mother’s magnolia tree is in full bloom.

While the grass was still damp with the morning dew and the air thick and heavy with the
lingering damp humidity from the day’s prior thundershowers,
I walked out into the backyard while holding my tiny yet curious granddaughter.

I know that this little girl will never meet nor ever know either of my parents…
yet their presence permeates her small world like the lingering smoke circling the
air from a smoldering brick hearth.

I was greeted this misty morning with a deep sense of satisfaction and great comfort
being able to point out to this wee one of mine those long lasting and enduring
breadcrumbs that had been originally and randomly scattered long ago by my own mom…

Breadcrumbs that were, at the time unbeknownst to Mother, being left as trail markers…

And after all these many years, these inconspicuous directional markers remain to this day,
firmly in place.

Be it the tiny tea rose bush Mother never knew would live let alone thrive now decades later…
to a stand of currently runaway and run amuck monkey grass…
to this now stately and massive magnolia tree…
A tree I vividly remember planting with my mom and my grandmother when I was
just a little girl.

A tree whose blooms will, for this new generation, act as a polestar as to how to
recall finding one’s way back to “home.”

And whereas we all have that place we hold in our mind’s eye as to what constitutes the notion
of home, be it a fond treasured memory or rather a memory preferred to be long forgotten,
we each have that place.

Yet what many of us never truly realize is that that place of which we all oddly
so long for despite often already thinking we are there, is not to be found here
among the trees or buildings, fields or roads…

Home, that most sacred place we often seem to ache for despite often being physically
in the place, we think we call home, is not to be found here on this earth…

And so as we are left to navigate our way to this place where we will know
without doubt that we are indeed truly Home, we remain continually seeking those
often overlooked breadcrumbs left to us by the One who has come, gone and will come again…
breadcrumbs of hope and salvation, of which will rightfully lead us to that place
where we finally can claim that we are Home.


(the four stages of a magnolia bloom / Julie Cook / 2018)

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling,
because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened,
because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our
heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God,
who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home
in the body we are away from the Lord.For we live by faith, not by sight.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home
with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him,
whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body,
whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

it takes more than a resolution, it takes a tenacious faith

There is nothing wrong with bringing resolution and courage to the new year,
but life is precarious. And dealing with the death of friends,
tragedy striking unexpectedly and bits of one’s body giving up,
needs more than just well-gritted teeth.

Gavin Ashenden


(a Norwegian wolverine demonstrates tenacity, grit and a fearsomeness)

Life is indeed precarious.
None of us know where it will take us next.
I dare say we all have some sort of notion of where we’d like to go,
even as to how we’d like to get there…but again, there are no guarantees.

Bishop Ashenden, in his wanderings and wonderings over the notion about new years
and their resolutions, has a bit of a lesson for each of us.

Now first we must note that we are a number liking people—-
just consider the fact that we are all about stats and numbers,
especially if we are wanting to justify or clearly define that with is unjust or undefinable.

Statistics show that they, being stats, are stacked against resolutions.
This we know.
Numbers don’t lie right?

Just yesterday I read some headline stating that by February, 80% of every New Year’s
resolution, is simply scattered by the wayside…
discarded and forgotten.

I don’t even bother.
I learned years ago that resolutions are simply short lived—
somewhat feeble attempts of being a better/ healthier person.
It takes more than just a resolution for those two things to take hold.
And when push comes to shove—the resolutions get shoved.
And it is that very reason, the good bishop notes,
a resolution will simply die…
Because Life simply has a different plan.

Life will put up a brick wall and all resolutions not to mention stamina, mindset
and determination quickly head out the back door.

Yet for many of us, a new year becomes some sort of giant reset button.
A time to review, remove, rewrite, renew….
And that certainly has its merit….
that is, up to a point.

Yet what the good Bishop is reminding us of is that as life has a way of
steamrolling over our best of intentions and plans, so much so that when that happens
as it eventually will, it’s going to take a lot more from within to survive
the steamrolling…
much more than a resolution or even gritted teeth that are grinning and bearing
can endure.

Life is hard.

It is not fair nor is it often kind…

And yet….we always seem to think that with some sort of twisted finagling,
we can beat it and actually win.
And we might actually do so but only for a while…for eventually,
Life in the end will have its way and that is when we in turn call it calamity,
sickness and even death.

And so the good Bishop looks to one who has gone on long before us but yet lives
on in her writings….
St Julian of Norwich (1373).

Julian had a tenacious belief in God.
She was what was known as an Anchoress….or one who literally attached
or anchored themselves to a church.

She was literally sealed up into a cell attached to the church of St Julian’s
there in Norwich, hence her name—as we really don’t know her actual name.
(here’s a bit of history lesson concerning this dear woman:
http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/norfolk/norwich/st-julian.htm)

Julian spent a lifetime devoted to God and ministering to those who would come
to the window of her cell seeking solace, prayer or wisdom.

Julian experienced visions and wrote these visions down—
as the writings eventually became a book, Revelations of Divine Love.

Tenacious and unrelenting—the only way Julian would extol that one should or could
best live…and that was to be anchored to the Divinity of the Creator and to the Love
He offered as in the tangible being of His Son…..

Bishop Ashenden notes that “it’s this belief in God that offers the kind of
affirmation for us that equips us best to deal with uncertainty,
and even tragedy, as we face the future remembering the disturbing
uncertainty of the past.”

The good Bishop relays a story of one of the many visions that Julian
was so famous for having–visions of God as Divine Creator.

Delusions of a mad or even physically ill woman some would claim….
but a gift of visions is what the faithful know….

So when Julian witnessed God taking the planet Earth and holding it in
His hand she responds by asking Him about its now seemingly smallness…..

‘It is all that is made.’ (God replied) I marvelled how it might last,
for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness.
And I was answered in my understanding: “It lasts and ever shall,
for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”
Julian of Norwich

Throughout her visions she was taught that God could and would bring good out
of evil and because of that there was no need for anxiety.
Her motto and mantra became,

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

and perhaps Julian gives us the best of resolutions…to know that all shall indeed be
well when we rest in the Divine Love of God which is found incarnate in Christ, Jesus.

Belief in Christ brings the affirmation needed to strengthen our resolution.

If necessary for years, if necessary alone

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo,
and it’s worth fighting for.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I indicated a fortnight ago as clearly as I could to the House that the worst possibilities were open,
and I made it perfectly clear then that whatever happened in France would make no difference to the resolve of Britain and the British Empire to fight on,
if necessary for years, if necessary alone.”

Prime Minster Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons / June 4, 1940


(Winston Spencer Churchill)

Sometimes the most unlikely individuals step into the crosshairs of history…
and when they do— we and the world are never the same.

Winston Spencer Churchill was just such an individual.

He was an unlikely candidate to ever be immortalized by anyone–
be it on the stage of his home nation or the stage of greater world at large.

And large he was—large in personality, determination, resolve and grit.

The type of leadership one seeks when finding oneself in the clutches of
a menacing death grip.

Yet he was actually greatly despised by many—by his fellow MPs as well as by a
few world leaders….both Hitler and Stalin to name but a few.

He was often brusk—often lacking the more refined social filters.
He suffered from a life long speech impediment.
He had performed poorly in school, often disappointing his famous father.
He was considered arrogant.
He was half American…a black eye in British aristocracy.
He came across as pompous, a braggart and a loud mouth.
He both drank and smoked entirely too much for most of the more genteel of company.
He loved to talk…most often in excess…and most often about self….
He was thoughtless with his finances, teetering constantly on ruin.
He was often selfish and self-centered and a poor keeper of time,
his as well as others.

And yet he was brilliant.
He was tenacious.
He had humor and he had heart.
He was a visionary who both clearly saw and deeply understood…

And he was a man accused of war mongering by those who I suspect would not
have minded living under the dictatorships of tyranny.

He was a wordsmith….
Gifted with both the written and spoken word….an orator for the ages, Churchill
used both to his keen advantage to rouse a frightened, sagging and crestfallen
nation.

He was shrewd and calculating,
despite being considered often half cocked and ridiculously unreasonable.

And he was the the single undetered force that stood between democracy and death
when no one else was left standing or when those who were still standing, stood quiet.

I saw a trailer for a movie—
a movie for which I’ve not seen any advertisement over….
No commercials, no billboards, no star studded endorsements…..
No hype nor hoopla of which is afforded to those other movies boasting of
fantasy, fiction or filth….

It is a movie that is actually already out in theaters as I also suspect having long
left others.

It is a true story.
A real story.
A story of courage in the face of what appeared to be unavoidable demise.

It is a movie about a man who many know by name only…as that is all they know.

This current generation, so lulled by the complacency of materialism and of the
falsely perceived angst over matters of little to no consequence, have no idea
the gratitude they actually owe this enigma of a man.

Yet this man, who this movie portrays during a particular dark period in time,
is the very man who sacrificed everything within his power just so that you and I
today could enjoy the comforts of our lives….

Theses are a few links to previous posts I’ve offered on behalf of
this legend of a man…..

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/written-words-from-a-father/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/what-he-knew-and-others-chose-to-ignore-deja-vu-or-simply-a-continuum/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/authority-vs-power/

a tenacious lot

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Harper Lee


(ice and snow encrusted Camilla / Julie Cook / 2017)

Remember the picture of the yard sign I shared on Friday??
That ‘Southern State of Mind’ Georgia Bulldog yard sign??
A yard sign that was quickly accumulating snow?
Well this is what it looked like once the snows ended Saturday…..

We Southerners do like our “weather.”
And we love to both fuss and cuss it….
Be it good or bad.

All kinds of weather.

We will complain about the heat.
We will lament about the humidity.
We will run and hide, with good reason, at the first sign of a tornado.
We will grumble about the lack or rain…
Just as we will grouse over its abundance.

But throw a little sleet, ice or snow our way and it’s all but
Katy bar the door..

We will get practically giddy at the first mention of anticipated snow…

As visions of serene images of Currier and Ives dance like magical
sugarplums round our anticipating heads.
Horse drawn carriages gliding effortlessly through the snow, as bells merrily jingle
while both adults and kids alike race joyously to build snowmen.

Children and teachers alike sit glued to weather reports, praying the Weatherman
will grant that ever so hoped for wish…the announcement of No School..
as everyone races for a homemade sled…mother’s favorite cookie pan….

However all of this wonderment quickly dissipates the minute the roads ice over,
the pine trees bend to the ground and snap under the heavy weight of all
the frozen precipitation…as the temperatures dip in to the teens, transformers blow
like popcorn, and the lights all go out…

as in out for days….

For suddenly there are no more fun and games as all things have
jumped to drastically frightfully serious in the twinkling of an eye…

Yet under all that frightfully messy winter…
Just like our much maligned yet prevalent Kudzu….
we remain…ever tenacious…

It’s what we do…
We might wilt a bit, panic a tad, slip slid into every ditch imaginable…
but we will always come back strong….
Just wait until April to see just who’s looking good!!!!

For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for
you against your enemies to give you victory.

Deuteronomy 20:4

indebted

“I don’t know who my grandfather was;
I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Marcel Proust


(the cousins circa 1966 )

Family.
A difficult and delightful hodge podge and conundrum all rolled into one.
For good or bad…we all have family….

Do you see the wee awkward one there, the little one in green sitting in the
middle on the couch in this grainy old family photograph?

That would be me.

Little did I realize then that the two cousins, brother and sister, sitting to my immediate right and left would eventually come to be two of the most important people
in my life.

The age difference is 5 and 8 years respectively.
Enough of a deep and wide chasm to keep the young cousin at, what was hoped to
be, a safe distance.
Being just that, I was the little cousin who was to be endured during holidays,
for what was hoped to be only for a day at best.

The only catch was the fact that the two girls were also just that—
the only two girls in a sea of boys with a doting grandmother who had raised
two boys yet always yearned for a girl.
Of which forced these two mismatched girls to spend more time together than either
one particularly cared.

So should it come as any surprise that the older of the two girls tried twice to do
away with the younger one?

How was the fact missed that when these two cousins were once visiting their
grandparent’s farm, deciding to go out for a ride on the horses,
the older one opted not to secure the younger one’s saddle, leaving her dangling precariously between a deep raven or a bed of overgrown brambles…
with the only choice of survival being the brambles….

Or what of the time the older one was told to prepare the younger one something
for supper…and so, what was dubbed a cannibal burger, was quickly served…
simply being a raw hamburger patty that perhaps was hoped served as a last meal….

The teenage boy you ask??
Well he simply had no time for any such foolishness, opting instead to spend
time his own way…away.

And little did any of us know that on that picture day so long ago that
two in the photo would leave us far too soon.

I lived in the family of the younger of the two brothers.

A quiet lazy man who called Atlanta home.
Ours was a small family of four.
The other and older brother lived with his young brood up north in a rural
city in the same state.

The distance often limited the times spent together as “family.”

The oldest cousin in the photo was soon to move states, off to college,
where he would eventually go on to medical school,
marrying and forging his life there, away,
as it is to this very day… so his presence now is of little consequence.

Add also to the photo the fact that two in the picture had been adopted…

And so it was with my having been one of the two adoptees.

Such was that I always had felt a deep void in my heart.
I always felt a disconnect from my cousins…
as if I really wasn’t related and therefore I was always an outsider,
not really related.

We all shared the same last name,
but at some point prior, I actually had had a different last name.
Different family traits, different everything.

Of course today my grown mind knows better and that such a thought never crossed
the minds of my cousins. Simply put, I was just the little cousin…
Yet in my mind I always felt separate from what made the family just that,
a blood bonded family.

As time passed all the cousins went their own separate directions…to school,
careers, marrying and forging lives of their own.
All except for the two youngest boys.

The youngest cousin there on the floor was only 3 years older than me.
We were very close growing up, as our ages dictated that we were the two
relegated to spend the most time together.

We were the best of friends, growing very close over the years as we each dealt
with our own varying family dysfunctions, that was until he was tragically killed
in a car wreck at the age of 23 while at age 20, I was left to pick up our pieces.

My little brother, the youngest of all the cousins would eventually commit suicide
as he could never reconcile himself to having been “given up” and then in
turn adopted…despite the fact that he was always loved and cherished within
this family.

There would always be the occasional wedding or funeral that would bring everyone
back together….
but time, age and distance had placed a divide in the family,
creating a group of strangers rather than bonded relatives.

My family of 4 eventually became a family of 3, then it was down to 2 and
this past March, it became only a family of 1.

Their family of 6 eventually became 5, resting now at an original 4.

But as theirs was the greater in number, it only made sense that their family’s
numbers would grow exponentially…
blossoming to the current total of 31 while mine is up to 4 with a
5th on the way.

But oddly and blessedly enough, time would be kind as it always has a way
of coming around full circle.
It has allowed for the bridging of the chasm of both age and distance…
in turn rendering all of the divides no longer relevant….delightfully
null and void.

Each cousin has lived through, as well as survived, their own life’s tumults…
And the realization and acknowledgement of such has provided a bonding effect.

Those two cousins who sat on either side of me all those many years ago,
along now with their spouses, swooped in to take my small brood of
a family under their care when it was most needed.
And when things became really difficult, they merely intensified their care.
And that care continues as I continue putting the pieces of loss back together again.

No longer was I just the little annoying cousin but I had become more
like the younger sister…
a sister who they each knew would need their love and support.

Family, as we most all know, is a complicated affair.
Never perfect, never what we hold in our minds.
However we are blessed when we realize that our adversities can actually provide
a unifying factor.

Despite having known these people my entire life, I don’t think
we actually got to truly know one another until we became adults.
And since neither of them read this blog I don’t think they’d mind
me telling you how very lucky I consider myself having been “stuck” in the
middle on that couch so very long ago…

Family, for good or bad, we usually all have one….
and how so appreciative I am that this adopted child was blessed by one
with such a tenacious zeal.


(both of my cousins with their mother, my aunt, my now 92 year old aunt,
almost 3.5 years ago in Savannah at my son’s wedding / Julie Cook / 2014)

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their
own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8