the nagging issue of a name

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


(the crest for my maiden name, Nichols)

If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve written a good bit
about my adoption…and that of a quest.

It has been a roller coaster of emotions with the exhilaration of discoveries–
all of which have been met by the slamming of doors, tightly shut…
all the way to the bewildering opening of different doors, much more welcoming.

In all of this is a name…
or more aptly, two names.

A before name and an after name.

The ‘now’ name of Julie and the ‘then’ name of Sylvia Kay…

Two names for one person that were exchanged after only three short months.

The Julie side of all of this has had the staying power of nearly 60 years while the
initial Sylvia Kay side was used but for a short time…

The whys and significance of Sylvia Kay remain unknown but to one.

Albeit a brief name, it none the less has most certainly remained in the recesses of the
conscience of a certain 83-year-old woman.
She has slammed shut the door but none the less has obviously allowed this name to fester…
just as it has festered in my own thoughts.

Yet Sylvia Kay was the “before” name.

The name following, which was officially Mary Julia and shortened by Dad to ‘Julie’,
has been the ‘after’ name—a name that has remained for all these many years…
the name with the real staying power of identity.

And so it was this morning, as I was reading a verse from the Bible, that I noticed
the real importance of before and after names.

I read a verse in which Abraham was referred to as Abram.

I am obviously no Bible scholar.
I was raised an Episcopalian and we all know Episcoplains are not Old Testament,
let alone Bible, aficionados.

I noted that it seemed odd as I am more familiar with the name Abraham
but I figured it must indeed be a “before” name for Abraham.

A sort of ‘before God encounter’ name.

And it seems that I was more correct than I realized.

You’ve often heard me quote and share the teachings of a simple
Benedictine monk from Australia who is currently living in a monastery in England.
He is best known as Father Hugh—Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The good Father’s post from yesterday opened with a picture of the
Jerusalem-version lectionary used throughout England and Wales.
Father Hugh asks all viewers if they can spot what it is that is the glaring mistake…
a mistake that is actually used twice.

The glaring mistake is found in a name.
The name Abraham.

Because of where this name falls in reference to the before and after encounter
of Abram with God, it is indeed, incorrect.
Instead of the after name Abraham, the Lectionary should use the before name of Abram.

Before Abram encounters God, he is known as “exalted Father”
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Genesis 14:19-20

After his encounter and ensuing covenant with God, Abram becomes Abraham, “father of many nations.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said,
“I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,
“As for me, this is my covenant with you:
You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham,
for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your
descendants after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:1-7

Why does any of this matter?
What is the big deal about a before and after name?

Well, it matters a great deal…
For we see time and time again throughout the Bible, names matter.
Names have meaning…purposeful meanings.
And in this case, the case of Abram, it matters because of the implications
of a covenant.

A covenant being an agreement.

And this agreement between Yahewh and Abram has lasting implications for all
generations to come…of which include both you and me.

On the other hand, my little before and after names are much smaller in scope.
They matter really only to me…and perhaps one other.
Mine is a simple matter of why…
Abram’s before and after is a matter of the beginning of reconciliation which
in turn leads to the salvation of all mankind.

Yes, big or small, names matter.

Please see the link below for Father Hugh’s most excellent teaching post

What’s in a Name

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

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

Albert Einstein


(DNA test kit from 23 and Me)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So lets back up a tad…

I am adopted.

Many of you already know this little fact.

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

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

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

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

It was somewhat by happenstance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Later, the young adopted me struggled academically throughout school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so now we wait.

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

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

And it turns out he is correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for that, I am grateful.

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

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

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

His was a birth of extreme alarm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember—God affords man choice…

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

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

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

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

May we choose to live…may we choose life.

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

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

No getting around it

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the
intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke,
thoroughly used up, totally worn out,
and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

― Hunter S. Thompson

DSC00247
(image of Christ crucified, Rapperswill Polish Museum, Rapperswill, Switzerland / Julie Cook / 2012)

Death…
There is no getting around it.
No bailing out.
No avoidance.
No free pass.

It is the proverbial truism…
Death…
and of course those blasted taxes.

It comes to all of us, at some point in our lives…
Be it tragically, prematurely or thankfully…
One thing is certain, it will come.

Driving home from the store this afternoon I drove past a cemetery with a freshly dug grave
close to my line of sight.
Having recently buried my father-n-law, then having rushed a feeble dad this week in for IVs as he’s gotten himself in a dangerous predicament, death has been a frequent thought.

Death is certainly disrupting.
It disrupts obviously the one who it just whisked away…
and it disrupts those who are now without the one Death so rudely, or thankfully, took away.

Picking up the pieces is, more times than not, an emotional nightmare.
I’ve done my share of picking up and I’ve not much cared for it.
But haven’t we all….

There is such a finality to it all.
No reruns, no redos, no getting back.
It’s a done and done sort of deal.

It’s the ultimate in being robbed or stolen from…
And I don’t like that.

Yet if given the option of living forever, I would politely decline.

For life is hard.

Oh don’t get me wrong, Life is grand as well,
but overall, it can be hard.

Yet I feel an odd sense when pondering death…
something I really don’t like pondering…
as in, I’d rather not think about it.

I don’t like thinking about being separated from those I love…
Me from them and them from me.
Of things moving merrily along without me.
I would be so sad.
Yet is that not our ego…thinking we just need to be here, in the thick of it all…
Or fretting over what we might just miss…

And then there is the wondering of exactly where might I be headed.
Up, down, all around….

I like to think I’m headed in the right direction…
Being a follower of the Resurrected Christ.
Having confessed, and confessed some more, those egregious actions and sins of mine…
and then trusting in God’s promise and Holy word…

Yet what human, no matter how much they profess, claim, proclaim and believe…
isn’t plagued by questions?
If you’re not, nor haven’t been, your’e a far better person than I…

Yet I do know that the Prince of Darkness loves to whisper in the ear of the faithful
all sorts of gobbledygook, lies, half truths and falsehoods…
Inserting and sowing doubts, worry and fretting wherever the ground seems fertile.

Then I worry about being alone…
as in left alone
Not in the book series but rather here by myself all alone…
I don’t like that.

Yes there is indeed lots to ponder when Death happens upon our door…

Do you remember when you first learned to swim?
I almost drowned at the age of 5 during that process
but that is not my point here….the point is remembering the process.

Chances are you stood on the edge of the pool or on the boat dock
or at the edge of the lake or up on the sand at the beach…
A parent, or older trusted individual, was below (or standing in the surf)
treading almost effortlessly in the water, arms out stretched, waiting for you
while they coaxed, encouraged, implored or even pleaded with you to jump…
waiting patiently for you to come to them….to their strong open arms…

It was an overwhelming feeling.

Big and deep, murky or clear, cold or warm, the vast body of water waited along with a loved one.
There was a bit of excitement, of wonderment, a sense of mounting adventure.
Yet there were also the nerves, the worry, the anxiety, the predisposed need for survival percolating upward from some deep recess of your hypothalamus (that part of the brain responsible for fight or flight).
The internal struggle of should I or shouldn’t I was raging in the span of just a few minutes.

Some of us may have needed to run through this routine a couple of times before working up our nerve or building our trust.
We may have had to run to mom, or someone perched on dry land who could reassure us that it was going to be ok.
We’d work that nerve up again, and again…facing that great challenge,
all the while knowing that we weren’t really going this alone because there was that person who wanted to love us and protect us, who was waiting for us in that water…

Learning to swim is not just something done for fun…
it is a true life survival skill.
A skill our parents and loved ones want to instill in us.
There is the benefit of swimming for fun and pleasure, but don’t let that fool you, it is a survival skill plain and simple.

I kind of like to think Death will be a lot like learning to swim.
There are the nerves and the trepidation.
The fear of the unknown.
But then we see Jesus, with His arms outstretched.
I see the wounds in His hands as He stretches out His arms towards me…
There is peace in His eyes…
He voice is calm as He beckons…

It’s going to be ok,” he reassures…
I’ve already done this, so don’t you worry…..”

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
John 14:1-4

collision course

Our epoch is a time of tragic collision between matter and spirit and of the downfall of the purely material world view.
Wassily Kandinsky

Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
― Albert Einstein

DSCN0934
(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each morning that we are so fortunate to wake…
given one more day of opportunity, setting off to what we think, dare assume, is the planned, the scripted, the designated, the intentional agenda of the day…
chances are we will fail to ever grasp the utter significance of the path we choose to take for that particular day’s journey.

Each day, each journey, each encounter, be it planned or happenstance, is known but to One and to One alone.
We cannot begin to claim to know of the journey’s experience, just that of the journey itself.
We cannot imagine the outcome as we are merely left to assume it will be the typical business as usual kind of day, time, life.

DSCN0946
(somewhere along the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

We depart each morning to school, to work, to the gym, to volunteer, to coffee with friends, to meetings, to appointments, to trips…
We imagine the flow will be routine.
Nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary, just the same ol same ol.

Some of us won’t come home…for there are accidents and ill fated moments.
Certain chance encounters, all equally unplanned and unimagined.
Everything oddly, sadly, cut short…or so we rationalize in our finite minds.

Those of us afforded the continuance of our day, a day which is assumed to be of “our” time and of our time alone, move simply about the routine of life—the routine of a day in and a day out existence.
Yet what we often fail to see, to realize, to comprehend is that there are moments, encounters, meetings during those daily habitual tasks which are anything but random.

For there is nothing random to the Omnipotent Creator of time and space, heaven and earth.

We meet a stranger or a friend…
We utter a word or offer a sentence…completely innocent, nonchalant, just an average thought expressed…

And yet there is nothing random, nothing innocent, nothing nonchalant–for in the very words, the sentence, the verbal thoughts offered, to whomever it is we are conversing, the words, the utterance the offering is anything but idle chatter or casual conversation.
For in that sole conversation something monumental is heard, heeded, digested…

And unbeknownst to either individual the morning that each one woke, readying for what was to be just another day of work, of school, of meetings and appointments…each was on a collision course with what was to be a tiny moment within the vast sea of The Divine…where no one is to ever be the same…

Be at peace…

DSCN1902
(stained glass window, St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.”
― C.S. Lewis