keep calm?

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows,
it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom


(my extent of “prepping” for our latest cirises/ Julie Cook/ 2020)

The market has crashed.
Our savings have suddenly taken a nosedive.
Our life’s savings have shrunk drastically, if not totally having disappeared.
All in the course of a few hours on a Monday morning.

Thanks to Russia and Saudi Arabia…

Italy is closed for business.
Forget the impending Holy Season of Good Friday and Easter.
Forget your favorite olive oil, pasta or historical wonders.
News flash, the Pope has a cold.

China…

Well, China is a bad word…in more ways than one.

South Korea and North Korea…typhoid Marys…

Delta is canceling flights left and right.
Grocery store shelves are reminiscent of an impending snowstorm,
let alone the ending of the world as we now know it…

But remember, you just lost your life savings in the crashing market…
therefore you can’t afford the grocery store’s price gouging on things you really don’t
normally need.

And whatever you do…
DO NOT TURN ON THE NEWS!!!!!!

Do you remember the days following 9/11?

We were told to prepare.

We were told to put together a “survival” kit.

We needed to fill a plastic tub with:

Duct tape.
Duct tape should be used to seal all windows and doors in case there was a dirty bomb.
Duct tape, as a saving grace from nuclear annihilation, who knew?!

Water.
Because our water systems would be targeted.

Freeze-dried foods.
If there was a run on grocery stores, supply would not meet demand —
Should a catastrophe ensue, our food sources would be targeted.

Cash.
Because there would be a run on the banks and the Government would
shutter the bank’s doors in order to protect the markets…in turn,
you’d not be able to get any of your money.
But remember, you don’t have any money because the markets crashed.

Flashlights and batteries as power grids would be targets.

Old fashion radios because communication would be limited due to destroyed
power grids.

Batteries– to power our now old school technology.

First aid supplies since we wouldn’t be able to leave the house should we need care.

A bottle of bourbon.

That was my addition—

So fast forward to today…
Each morning I’m blessed to wake up, I’m hearing more and more about doomsday reporting.

I’m hearing that hand sanitizer is now a rare commodity and so the DYI folks are
offering hacks to make our own.
Think alcohol and aloe vera gel.

So this morning was my typical morning to head to the grocery store for my
weekly shopping.

If I listened to the people, be they the news folks or just friends or neighbors,
I would need to go out and prepare for this latest plague and end of times crisis…

I would need to stock up on bleach, hand sanitizer, canned foods, bottled water,
iodine tablets, surgical masks, nitrile gloves, zinc tablets…

I would also need to grab my mail out of the box while wearing gloves.
All deliveries would need to be put down at the door while I retrieved them while
wearing gloves and a face mask.
And better yet, I should not order anything because chances are everything has
been touched by ‘the infected’.

And so that image up above, well it’s the extent of my gathering.

I saw the sanitizer wipes on an end cap on sale…what the heck, I’ll pick up a canister.
I use them when cleaning up around the cat box.

The bleach… well, spring and pollen are coming and I’ll need to be cleaning down the deck
following the onslaught of yellow powder that will settle upon our world.
Plus we’ve had so much rain, the deck is a giant piece of mildew.

The Oreos you ask??!!

Well, my husband will need something sweet to nibble on should he be stuck
inside a duct tapped domicile due to the impending apocalypse.
No better way to go then while munching on a few Oreos.

And whereas we should always take precautions, as we normally do when viruses or
bacteria such as the flu, West Nile virus, Ebola, Ecoli…
each run amuck, we also shouldn’t ready ourselves to climb out on
the latest window ledge to jump before we are taken out by the latest plague.

Be smart with your health but NOT a henny penny panicker who is listening to the
doomsday news naysayers…folks who actually want our nation to fail and fall apart…

Because yes, there are those who want our Nation to fail…
We need to stay calm while staying smart…

Oh, and by the way…I caught wind that toilet paper is becoming scarce.
Who knew???
Why in the heck there’s a run on toilet paper I have no idea, but supposedly some
shoppers in Australia got into a smackdown over the last package on the shelf.

When I visited my local grocery store today…I’m happy to report that the
shelves were full and there wasn’t the slightest sign of scarcity…
I did, however, pick up a package of toilet paper…
just to be on the safe side…

Because like Kathy over on atimetoshare noted, the Sears catalog has since long come and gone…

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

speed bumps, potholes, obstacles

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are.
I don’t believe in circumstances.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look
for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

George Bernard Shaw


(ok, this is a speed hump, but you get the idea)

In a galaxy lifetime long ago and far away,
I was once a prolific writter.

Imagine that.

I use to actually write…

Not like I do here pecking away in blogville, but I actually used a pen and paper
and I wrote letters, cards, notes, journals…

A good many of those cards and letters were addressed to my godfather–
who in turn, wrote and sent letters and cards right back.

Over the years I saved every one of those pieces of correspondence.

They were the tangibles to our relationship.
I think we were each a tad freer when writing as expression and thoughts
flowed freely.

Those saved letters, notes and cards may be found in overstuffed bibles,
books, drawers, and any number of boxes from that past life of mine…

I recently found one of those letters.

At the time it was written, my godfather was probably just a little older than I am now.

In the letter, he made mention of some health issues he’d been dealing with-
adding that such was an ode to the aged.

Well, I kind of get that now.

I am now keenly aware of the obstacles, speed bumps, and potholes…
all of which are part of the distracting messes that get in our way,
while we attempt to move forward on that proverbial road of life.

As we age, the space between those bumps, potholes, and obstacles feels as if
it grows ever closer, more precarious and much more difficult to avoid let alone maneuver past.

There seems to be less road but only more things that force us to detour from our straight pathway.

I feel as if I’ve been riding those speed bumps, as of late, much like some sort of
downhill freestyle mogul skier.

There’s been a rising crescendo of health mysteries colliding into one another like
rouge asteroids out in space…bouncing me around violently like a ball in a pinball machine.

So last week, in between my running from test and test, doctor and doctor, I
actually had a long-standing scheduled routine mammogram.

No big deal right?
Well, right, it shouldn’t be ..but surprisingly it was .

The problem was, it became a big deal fast.

I went Wednesday morning for my scheduled appointment and by Thursday evening I received an email
that there was an ‘abnormality’—an abnormality that required a lengthy revisit with
some more intense testing.

Abnormality is never a good word.

Normally, alarm bells would be sounding.
The C-word would be swirling in a mind now on overload.
Imagined scenarios would be playing out in a now panicked mind like a
melodramatic soap-opera.

I read the note to my husband who suddenly looked stricken.

My response was atypical.

I laughed.

I laughed because it was an ‘are you freaking kidding me?!’ moment.

I suppose I could cry over the one more erratic pin suddenly being jabbed into the voodoo
doll with my name on it…or…I could laugh.

And so yes I opted to laugh.

It was about 18 years ago that I had had a scare following a routine mammogram.
Back then, the questioned concern was found within my left side.
I was told I would need to have lumpectomy…
And blessedly, pathology proved the scare to be benign.

All these years later, it was the same side…again.

And so I went today for my marathon re-do.
Plan on 2.5 hours they told me.
But they assured me that I would have all the results before leaving.

Was I nervous?

Somewhat because the unknown can always be scary.
I told my husband I wanted to go to the appointment by myself…
to be lost in my thoughts I suppose.

Our new fancy-schmancy medical complex is a sleek modern sterile facility.
Gone is the once warm and fuzzy homey feel to the Women’s Center…
Today’s further testing seemed rather void and cold leaving me feeling
detached…of which might have been a good thing.

I had two intense procedures in the course of my time today at the center.
And the final word was there were only cysts showing within the normal range.

Whew!
Speed bump cleared.

So now it’s time to gear up for the next obstacle…stutter-stepping in order
to clear the next hurdle life throws up my way.
And how do we gear up for such you ask???

We take the hand of the One who has long asked to travel this journey with us.

He even offers to carry us when we really grow weary…

So I think I’ll take Him up on His offer…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

what comes from the Spirit

“The adorable Heart of Jesus is our comfort, our way, our life.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


(a winter treat blooms / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2019)

“The experience of the Church and the saints demonstrates a general law:
what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit,
gentleness, simplicity, and light.
On the other hand, what comes from the spirit of evil brings sadness, trouble, agitation,
worry, confusion, and darkness.
These marks of the good and the evil spirit are unmistakable signs in themselves.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe

Questions and the spirit of God

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness
of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit
of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(The Sheriff slumbers / Julie Cook / 2019)


(The Mayor profiling / Julie Cok / 2019)

Firstly…The picture of the Sheriff above is when his parents bring him to me before they
leave for work.
This is a pre-sickness shot.

I will usually put him in my bed and let him wake on his own time since this week he
was free from the dreaded daycare while in recovery mode.

So after visiting the Pediatrician yesterday, it appears that the Sheriff has basically
the croupy crud—
of which she believes he got when he went to the hospital on Friday for surgery.

Don’t you love going to a hospital well, relatively, and coming out like Typhoid Mary?

There’s not much to do but wait it out.
And that’s hard when it comes to babies.

When they are miserable and we, those entrusted with their care and well being,
are helpless to make things all better, we grow anxious,
worried and agitated…and quite miserable ourselves.

Moments, such as feeling helpless while watching the innocent suffer,
most often envoke a bit of ire with our Creator—if not sheer anger.
In other words, we get mad at God.

We get mad over all sorts of things but when it comes to watching our little loved ones suffer,
things can get out of hand frighteningly fast.

I know I felt it when our son was a baby and was sick and had surgery at 3 months.
Just as I know my son and daughter-n-law feel much the same now with the Sheriff…
as well as with the Mayor.

Throw in exhaustion as you sit holding a baby who can’t breathe, and coughs nearly continuously,
upright all night…
and you, my friend, have a toxic breeding ground for damaging negative emotions…
Of which set up a hard barrier between our Heavenly Father and ourselves.

It is at such moments when we lose the blessings He wants to offer because we
have essentially turned our backs.

And so after reading the day’s two quotes, I found them rather appropriate for just those
very moments…the moments when we find ourselves questioning what we don’t know or
understand regarding our God…which mind you can be so very vast.
But it is at such times that we must cling to what we do know.

Questions are always fine…but questions mixed with anger and resentment are spiritually
debilitating.

May we continue, as children, to learn trust while reaching our hand out to a loving Father who
longs to hold that outstretched hand.


(silly faces before we both got sick / Julie Cook / 2019)

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me, there are always others that
I know for sure and can invest in without any risk, knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing the
essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided: finding ourselves in darkness
about God’s will on an important question…
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day, like being faithful to prayer,
maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future, we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

Be silent and worry not

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you,
remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

St. John of the Cross


(a blooming gardenia / Julie Cook / 2019)

“Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute
to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest, having entrusted them to God,
try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them.
Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust
more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the
measure of the graces you will receive.
Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”

St. Claude De La Columbiere, p.46
An Excerpt From
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence

It only takes a sign

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14


(James / Julie Cook / 2019)

So the past couple of weeks have been absolutely crazy as well as exhausting.

We had another bit of a scare yesterday morning with our little fellow concerning a
potential liver disorder…and so another trip to the pediatrician has us
thankfully monitoring for the time being rather than doing something much more serious.

This little brother is proving to be a far cry from his big sister…
as he is just more fragile and not as seemingly tenacious…

And speaking of The Mayor, she is none too keen having this new usurper in
her midsts.


(first outing for the Mayor and new sheriff—pizza for the family / Julie Cook / 2019)

I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks in Atlanta with a drive or two home
for a day of rest and regathering.
Nerves, for all of us, have been both frayed and raw…
Fatigue, exhaustion, and worry have dominated our days and nights.

So since I have been driving back and forth over these past many weeks,
two small rural church signs have caught my eye…

The first sign:
God is speaking.
Are you listening?

The second one:
I Am is coming

Both signs piqued my tired soul’s interest.

The first sign offered a good wake up call.

For despite my willy nilly running around all frantic, coupled by a self-absorbed burden of worry…
I fear I’ve not been listening…I’ve not been listening to anything around me let alone
listening to the Great I AM.

Secondly, when I initially saw this second sign, I had to do a quick double take…
because grammatically I was a bit perplexed…

I.
am.
is.
coming.

I am is…??

Huh??

And then it dawned on me….ahhhhh….

The great I AM is coming…

And it was in those two statements that I found a sudden rush of calm along with a sense of
great humility.
Because it was twice the Great I AM spoke to my weary soul.

The One who is greater and bigger than any burden or worry I may have on this earth.
He sees.
He knows.
He hears.
He is listening.
And He is present.

Sometimes it only takes a sign…or two.

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12