The Church at Angoville

(another re-post D-Day tribute…
May we always remember that the success at the invasion of Normandy,
and the eventual ending of WWII in Europe and later in the Pacific,
was not so much a matter of great men doing certain things great nor of making
great decisions but rather it was the matter of ordinary men and women doing
ordinary things that would become,
in the end, great things that continue to affect us today—
and we are the better for it and are a free people to this day because of those ordinary folks!)

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of
duty and humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the ancient slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks volumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

501st Aid Station in the church of Angoville-au-Plain

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

The Church at Angoville

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940’s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of duty and
humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines, is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the anceint slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks voulumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

http://klondikes.nl/wordpress/501st-aid-station-in-the-church-of-angoville-au-plain/

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

whew….finally back home

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”
Kate Douglas Wiggin


(flowers in the garden of Les Invalides / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Oh, there is so much to share, so much to tell and so much gleaned…

And yet there is so much to unpack, so much to wash, so much to sort, so much to put away…
and yet running over to see the Mayor today will have to take precedence.

Sleep you ask?
Going on a good 36 hours without any…well, that makes for being a bit giddy or
perhaps more like sloppy and delusional…either way it will come.

I wrote so many posts in my head these past 18 days.
God revealed so much.
But it will take some time to put running thoughts to paper…or more like thoughts to keyboard.
And it will take a few days to sort it all out.

So forgive me but it will take some time in order to play catch up!

But for now…I wanted to share something I read yesterday offered by C.S. Lewis.
Thoughts I found to be rather quite profound.

But I know, I know….what doesn’t C.S. share that isn’t profound…???

Yet this particular passage spoke most pointedly to my heart in a most humbling way…

Please enjoy and be blessed as I was…and know that I will be trickling back
into this blogosphere family of ours…

“Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.
He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on:
you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and
does not seem to make sense.
What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of –
throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage but He is building a palace.
He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C. S. Lewis

an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.
Plotting.
Planning.
Calculating.
Arranging.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…


(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

Yeah…
it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

woe to the nation that turns it back on God

But to dance in the streets because you had just given mothers the right to kill their
own unborn child is not civilized.
It is barbaric.
Rather than progressing into being a more tolerant,
open and respectful society,
Ireland has regressed over 1500 years into his pre-Christian pagan past,
where the weakest members of society are not tolerated and not respected.
They are destroyed.

David Robertson


(Lady’s view, Killarney National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s been almost four years since I went on my first and only trip to Ireland.

As it was my first trip to the Emerald Isle, I went with a deep sense of anticipation.
At the time, however, I wasn’t exactly certain as to what that anticipation actually was
or why I even felt it.

I am of Irish / Scotch descent and so trodding where my kith and kin once trod was of
course exciting.
My great-grandparents had long since departed this island nation and thus in turn set
in motion my own eventual homecoming…
a continuum of time linking generations of people who never had known one another,
and yet, who were forever bound one to another by a common piece of land.

And little did I know it at the time, but this would be the last trip that my aunt and I would ever take together.

So in hindsight, with both of us wandering about where other members of our family
had long since wandered, we had each received a special gift that was yet
to be fully appreciated.

At the time of the trip, my life was fractious at best.
I was in the midst of caring for both my dad and stepmother, each of whom was suffering
from varying stages of dementia. The trip was just a few months before Dad was to be
diagnosed with cancer…a diagnosis that would eventually take me to a very dark place…

And so I went on this trip before I was at my total breaking point but I was certainly
living in the rising crescendo of such a moment.
And so now I know that this was why God was calling me to this particular place
at this particular time.

It was because of all of this, as well as what I could not yet see that was waiting for me…
that this particular trip, along with three powerful words that I was to hear at the end
of the trip that would, in turn, be a turning point in my own life’s journey…

I had planned the trip a full year in advance before I ever knew how bad things
would be with Dad.
I had no way of knowing that when the long-awaited day finally arrived for our departure
that I would be more than a bit reluctant to go due to my caregiving duties.

I was worried sick about leaving yet grateful at the same time to be getting away.

I was running away and I was glad.

In my lifetime, I had traveled a good bit but for whatever reason, never to Ireland…
Yet unbeknownst to me at the time, it was to Ireland where I was destined to be.

Some would say it was just the perfect aligning of the stars, I would say God
was leading me right where He wanted me to be…leading me to a place in which I could
actually, hear Him speak.

As a history nut, I was excited to visit Ireland because I knew of her rich historic past
and Christian heritage.
That ancient intertwining of a rich Celtic tradition woven into the fabric of the
Chrisitan faith.
I also knew of the wealth of gifts Ireland had given Western Civilization through
her music, written word, song, and dance…

This once pagan windswept land, full of the last vestiges of both Viking and druid alike,
remains a mysterious land steeped in both legend and lore.
It is also a land that is home to more sheep than there are people.

And so it was in this land of my heritage of both myth and mystery that God spoke to me in
such a powerful and palpable way that I knew without any doubt, that it was Him
who had brought me here.

The words were bold and audible and I knew that even though the words were uttered by
another (thank you Paul), they were being spoken by God…to me.

So naturally, once I was back home,
I wrote about a post about hearing those three simple words…
“Be at peace”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/stop-theres-another-sheep/

And maybe it’s because I saw that glimpse of God around each bend of lonely road and had
actually heard His words riding on the winds, winds that come sweeping in from off
the ocean…that the recently passed vote in Ireland to legalize abortion is
breaking my heart.

Yet it’s just not the vote itself that is breaking my heart but its the way in which the
Irish themselves are celebrating the vote which is so heartbreaking.

Our Scottish friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson shares my dismay.

” Celebrating the right to kill children in the womb as though it were a football match…
we are the champions…’we are a better country’ and yelling at the pro-life people
‘choice, choice, choice’ (what choice does the baby have?).
This is the new regressive Ireland.

David offers a rich in-depth yet extreemly melancholy observational post regarding the
passing of the vote as well as to the reaction of the voters…
a reaction that seems almost far worse than the vote itself.

This once predominately Chrisitan and very Catholic Nation was rocked to her core by a
heinous betrayal from the very Chruch to which she, this nation, was so grounded and anchored…
And so I just can’t help but think that such a vote and ensuing celebration is in some sick way
how the people have sought out their own twisted sense of revenge.

Yet I know that God still breathes His life’s breath upon this land, her people and her unborn.
But I am also reminded that God will turn His favor from the nation that turns herself from Him…

And so all I can do is pray for Ireland.

In order to prevent this slide into barbarity Ireland needs a new St Columba.
Ireland needs a Christian revival.
Pray for those who are engaged in church renewal and church planting in that once great country.
Pray that the anti-abortion campaign will continue and that the Church of Jesus Christ
will continue to reach out and show compassion to those who are considering abortion
and those who have had abortions.
May Ireland flourish by the preaching of the Word.
How long, O Lord, how long?

Ireland Regresses; Sunday, Bloody Sunday

God does not take a vacation

“Stacking stones claims ordinary moments of life for God and invites those who pass by to
notice the holy ground on which they already stand.”

Jayne Hugo Davis


(a gull sits by a cairn or prayer stone stack found on the shore of Mackinac Island in
Lake Huron, Michigan / Julie Cook / 2017)

During these precious weeks of Summer…
as you make plans to scatter either here, there and yon…

Or if you’re merely daydreaming of doing such….

If you’re eagerly anticipating escaping your hectic pace and grind of an
often monotonous and even overwhelming life…

Simply longing to seek cooler climates, grander vistas, idyllic sandy shores…

Remember one thing as you eagerly unplug, unwind, let go and forget all the
burdens you wish to leave behind…

God never takes a vacation.

He’s always there…wherever you may roam….
always near…
and always reminding you that you’re still His number one priority….

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them:
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

DSC02774
(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all

IMG_1400
(my son and his wife toast a first anniversary with a “bushwhacker” / FloraBama / Julie Cook / 2015

DSC01521
(the infamous FloraBama sign / the state line / Julie Cook /2015

This is a tale of a little bit of bad leading to a whole lot of good.
And no, I’m not talking about anything scandalous, risqué, illegal, unlawful or even sinful—just barely on the negative side of the whole moral radar.

I visited the Rivera this past weekend.
And no, it wasn’t that Rivera.

It’s a long story which started out several months ago when my husband, the one who doesn’t seem to check calendars, schedules or much of anything else when he blindly accepts an invitation for an outdoorsman’s dream adventure. In this instance, it was a deep sea fishing adventure that was actually an invitation extended to both my husband and son.

Now such an invitation would naturally be quickly chomped at and swallowed by both these two outdoor loving enthusiasts. . .
Trouble was that the weekend scheduled for the trip out to sea was the same weekend that marked a huge milestone in our family—-it was to be my son and daughter-n-law’s first year wedding anniversary.

Being the sentimental one that I am, I just didn’t see any good coming from a One Year Anniversary being spent apart—especially when it was by choice for a pleasure fishing trip verses say, deployment overseas, work, or catastrophic illness.
The long and short of all of that is that my husband relented in the fact that the two woman of the clan “would have” to now tag along.
Not to fish mind you, but to tag along to say, the beach.

My life as of late, as you all well know, has not exactly been my own.
Stress and worry simply do not do justice when describing life with Dad these days.
Getting away did not seem prudent, practical nor wise.
Guilt and anxiety actually dug deep.
Yet something buried way down in my psyche screamed GO! For Heaven’s sake, by all means GO, and don’t look back!!!!

Now this fishing trip was to set sail from an area known as the “RR” or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney, “the Redneck Rivera”
Not being a fan of country music nor of things denoted “redneck,” this would not exactly be a place I’d jump to visit as I am one who prefers the subdued, the quiet, the classic and the serene.
When I think of Rivera, I think of sophistication, charm, elegance and “haute” this or that . . .
Throw the word “redneck” out front and suddenly the sound of dueling banjos streams through my brain.

Upon arrival, to our home away from home for the weekend–which by the way was a very nice and stylish condo perched on the beach with little to nothing having to do with “redneck”- the sound of some rather loud music, emanating obviously from a live band jamming out somewhere nearby, filled the air.

I had heard strange tales of a local establishment and of its most infamous concoction, a Bushwhacker, in the general vicinity of our stay.
A den of iniquity of sorts linked to all things college and debauchery is what I had imagined and as it turned out, my imagination wasn’t far off course. . .

IMG_1419
(a wooden clad honky tonk situated on the Alabama / Florida line–perched in-between high-rise condos and parking decks)

The FloraBama, circa 1975, is a mecca for that whole “party on the beach” mindset of the young and often dumb—With the clientele of this particular establishment being not all so young, yet all equally lacking in better judgement.

Never one to miss a famous local attraction, I was game for a little look see. . .as well as a sampling of the oh so famous beverage!
There is a reassuring picture of President Obama sipping a Bushwhacker when he once visited this “business” no doubt on some sort of campaign adventure—so my rationale being, what’s good for the President, must be good for me as well, right???”
What’s the harm in a little chocolate, coconut, frozen medley with a few other added ingredients, served up like soft serve in a disposable cup topped with a cherry? Harmless enough right??

Well I won’t bore you with the details.

I won’t belabor the exploits of the young men and middle to upper aged woman, I watched from afar, stumbling along the beach as I simply shook my head.
Nor shall I understand the site of the older woman dressed as purple and gold Mardi Gras bags of beads, hung over their shoulders by suspenders with feathery boas cascading from their heads, as they paraded along the beach–participating in some sort of odd contest. . .
I won’t bask in reliving the happy thoughts of spending countless hours simply bobbing up and down on my blue noodle just like a lost little cork adrift in the placid Gulf
(note—noodles are for kids and I’m not proud)
I mustn’t speak of my now extra crispy red skin despite having sprayed—yes it hurts.
I shan’t rattle on about all the lovely fish that were caught–very tasty.
I won’t relive the image of my jaw dropping and mouth hanging agape as I entered into this haven of indulgence as my two younger protégées were left wondering if I hadn’t just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck. My college days having long since passed.
I shan’t confess to going barefoot for two solid days, traipsing in and out of the ocean, the beach, the “entertainment establishment” for a few Royal Reds (aka the best shrimp on the Gulf) over and over.
I shan’t expound on how good a trip, albeit it quick, sans shoes, worries, cares, agendas. . .can be for the spirit and soul of the weary. . .

But I will gladly extol the tastiness of a bushwhacker. . .

And may we all remember that obviously what happens on the Redneck Rivera, stays on the Redneck Rivera. . .or so say the Mardi Gras ladies. . .

I love you so much. . .I gave you my cookies

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

DSCN8198
(a nibbled box of Sprüngli Amaretti cookies / Julie Cook / 2014)

About two years ago I took a little trek along with my two traveling companions, my aunt Martha and long time friend Melissa—a journey that became known as the Grand Retirement Trip–whereas they had each been retired for several years, the trip was to mark my rite of passage of catching up with them– prompting the adventure.

We kicked off the trip by spending two days in Zurich, Switzerland. While in the picturesque Swiss city, we wandered into the most delectable shop known as Confiserie Sprüngli—a part pastry / part snack shop complete with its very own confectionary store right next door. You and I may not be familiar with the name Sprüngli, but we are familiar with Lindt Chocolates—of which are actually, one in the same. The Sprüngli side maintains the pastry confection part of the business while Lindt is strictly the chocolates. Sprüngli remains in Switzerland while Lindt is in the US.

And of course I had to buy some goodies to take along for sustenance during the extensive trip. One item in particular caught my fancy. It was a small package of about 3 little cookie stacked on top of one another packaged in a cellophane wrapper with a pretty light blue bow and burnt orange tag. They were called Amaretti, an almond like macaroon, and of what I now know to be similar to the Italian treats by the name Amaretti di Saronno. The Sprüngli version however has a creamy cherry kirsch center covered in a delectable bottom layer of decadent rich dark chocolate

I stuffed them in my travel bag, wanting to save them for when I finally made it back home.

After almost three weeks on the road, we finally arrived home. Upon unpacking I sadly realized my once beautiful cookies had gotten sandwiched at the bottom of my backpack leaving me with a sufficiently crushed bag of crumbs.
No matter. . .I tore into the bag, savoring each delectable morsel.
Ooooo, I had to have more.
I went online to the Sprüngli website. Yes, I could order a box or two and they would indeed ship to the US, but. . .I figured it all up, the cost to ship the cookies would far exceed the cost of the cookies themselves. How was I going to rationalize this little spending spree?

Needless to say, I wasn’t. I decided that the only way I’d get any more of these lucious little treats would be if I ever found my way back across the ocean, landing in Switzerland. And that wasn’t happening anytime too soon.

Fast forward to last weekend.
My husband has a really good friend who was born and raised in Switzerland who now make his home in Florida.
It just so happens that this friend travels back home at least once a year to visit family and I just happened to know of his latest trip’s plans. . . I asked that if he happened to wander by Sprüngli’s while in Zurich, would he be so kind as to pick me up a box of the cookies. . .

Long story short, our friend came to visit us last weekend with my box of cookies in tow!!!
Wooowhoooo!!

DSCN8196

Delicious and delectable!
To be savored with deliberate patience, one by one—spreading out the consumption over time, slowly so as not to hurriedly eat them all up. . .as who knows when, if ever, I’ll ever have such a treat again.

I hesitantly offered one to my husband, pretty certain, praying, he wouldn’t like them.
His palate is a more Oreo and Chips Ahoy sort of palate and not the delectable cream cherry kirsch filled almond macaroon leaning of a more patient and delectable palate.
Thankfully, he made a face after his first little tentative bite, putting the remainder of the cookie back in the box.
Whew!
I and my cookies were safe. . .or so I thought. . .

Later that evening, as we were sitting, well after supper, watching Monday Night Football, he gets up from his chair heading for the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” I nonchalantly ask.
“No where” comes the response.
No where?. . . my mind muses, hummm, odd. . .
When it hits me like a ton of bricks. . .
“Tell me you’re not getting my cookies!!!!” I shout toward the kitchen.
He re-enters the room holding something clutched in his hand, the hand he’s trying oh so hard to just hold by his side as if nothing is there.
“YOU DO HAVE A COOKIE, DON’T YOU???!!! I practically scream.

Now mind you it’s not that I don’t want to share my cookies with him, but you must understand, this is a man whose idea of a cookie is a handful of about 5 or more and not the single little special savoring variety cookie that only happens into one’s lifetime once, maybe twice if one is so lucky.
“AGGGHHHHHHH” I scream jumping up as he pops the whole thing in his mouth as he closes with a huge grin.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO—YOU DON’T EAT THEM LIKE THAT!!!
He’s poised to pop another in his mouth when thankfully sanity regains its hold on him.

With a triumphant smile on his face, he offers me the now melting remaining cookie.
Ugh, I hang my head.
“Go ahead, you can have it” I sheepishly mutter.
Again, popping the whole thing in his mouth, he grins
Oooo the agony of it all. . .

Now that he has sufficiently tormented me, he proceeds to munch on the handful of Fig Newtons he had originally gathered. Who can follow delectable wonderment with a fig newton??!!
See what I mean??

Hours later, as I crawl into bed, with my husband fast asleep and snoring like nobody’s business, I wonder, as well as marvel, how in the world he can be in the bed no more than 5 minutes and he’s already sound asleep, I turn out the light.

Situating myself under the covers, through the darkness I utter a soft “I love you” as I’m certain he’s sound asleep.
Suddenly I hear a very groggy muffled, as if far away, “. . .love you too. . .”
I counter with my familiar “love you more”
again a groggy “no you don’t”
“oh but I do”. . .I whisper, “I love you more because I gave you my cookies”
And with that the heavy snoring resumes as I contently smile in the darkness.

As I lie there in the dark staring up at the ceiling, pondering the thought of what it means to love someone so much so that you’d give away special cookies, I am suddenly struck by the enormity of what has been done and given to me in the name of that same Love I casually wrap myself in like a warm blanket.
Giving and Sacrifice, each on a massive scale.
My thoughts race across time to an ancient form of torture and capital punishment, a cross with a lone figure hanging by 3 piercing iron nails—first in agony, then limp in the utter and total betrayal of loneliness and isolation, cut off from any and all.

With a sudden rush of tremendous clarity, I am overwhelmingly struck by what “loving someone more than” is really all about. . .

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

Loving and being loved even more than a box of cookies. . .