“Eternal rest, grant unto them…”

I won’t get into a deep post, because my brain is traveling a million miles a minute right now. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. My mother-in-law unexpectedly passed away last night. Our family is in a tailspin.

My in-laws are part of a greater sub-group in the Mid West and other parts of America. They are known as “Volga Germans,” “Germans from Russia, ” and so many other titles. But they all settled in the midwest of America, usually in northern climates. There are many in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, etc. All were escaping Communist Russia. And all the families had been brought into Russia by the Czarina, Catherine the Great. To sum it up, when Catherine, a German princess, was brought to Russia, she noticed how backward and simple Russian lives were. So she brought talented craftsmen and their families from Germany, to Russia, to modernize it. And that is where my husband’s family hails from. Along the Volga River in Russia, but originally from Germany.

For me, this pale-bread-British-girl, the colorfulness of this culture astounded me, and thrilled me. Brits can be pretty boring. But reading books about life on the Steppes of Russia was amazing. The hardships they endured, and the ways in which they adapted to life in Russia filled me with such pride, at marrying into this amazing group of people. And then learning the traditions they still held on to! Our wedding 34 years ago was filled with as many of these traditions as we could manage. The aunts did all the cooking. The food was all Volga German. We had mostly beer at the reception, too. The uncles took care of that. Our band was what I called an “umpa-pa-pa” band and they played only polka. My feet were killing me because I do not “Dutch Hop” and so my toes ended up under everyone’s feet who danced with me. My father-in-law was so patient with me. LOL.

After getting married, my husband would ask for dishes his mom made. I was not a cook. At all. The aunts had sat down with me around the kitchen table, with new index cards for me to write on, while we were in town for our wedding. I had tons of recipes that were all a part of their tradition. I felt prepared. But of course, the ones my husband loved, were not on cards. They were in the heads of all these women, who grew up making them. My mother-in-law would just sigh when I would call on a Saturday morning, asking how to make “sea-splinta” (still cannot spell or say it properly) or deep-fat-fried pancakes, or scrambled egg pancakes. Then there was “toad in a hole,” which is a family favorite. And all the dumplings I tried and failed over. My husband says they make good door-stops. LOL. So many times my mother-in-law would patiently explain recipes to me. She was a “just put a pinch of salt in it,” or “wait for the right consistency” sort of cook. I needed teaspoons and temperatures. LOL. She was so frustrated with me. But she reported instructions patiently until one day, probably about 10 years into it, it all clicked into place for me. LOL. Same ingredients in all of them – just vary the eggs, milk, and flour for how you want to use it. Measuring is meaningless. I got it! LOL!

My mother-in-law was not that happy her eldest son chose to marry me. But she was kind. She shared her faith with me, which meant a lot. I recall attending Church with my husband (we were just engaged at the time) and I sat there with his entire family, and took up a whole pew. I could have walked out at any time and none of them would have noticed, because their faith was that strong that their eyes were all on the altar. It was something I wanted for myself, too. She always played Christian music. I think I have remarked on this before. But when I asked her why, she told me it was because she was a poor Christian and keeping her faith alive in her music all day, kept her on track. I have never forgotten that, and now, I play pretty much all Christian music, too. She was right about that. We are what we eat, see, and listen to, as well as who we associate with. She inherently knew that.

She was a crafter and sewer. I am not. I often wish we could have spent time doing that together. When we visited I would often go to her sewing club, or quilting club with her, to keep her company. The art of quilting still amazes me. I loved just seeing all that talent and all the wonderful fabrics. But I just never got around to learning how to do that with her. I am sad about that. Her mother-in-law was an amazing crochet artist, and I often regret I did not learn that craft from her, as well.

My mother-in-law was a nurse. When I gave birth to my sons, she would be there. She would take care of all of us, so I could focus on being a new mom. It was invaluable and precious time spent. With our second son, I was ill with strep throat. I recall little of the post delivery, except waking up one time when she was placing him on my breast and her saying to me, “No matter how sick you are, he needs to nurse. Just sleep. I will keep an eye on him.” And I did. What care she gave us all.

And now it has been 36 years since we met, and 34 years spent as her daughter-in-law, and now I need to step up and help with all the burial things, and the things surrounding her life and death. In many ways, my husband and I are now stepping fully into the shoes of his parents. It is something I can actually feel descending onto us. The next few weeks will be filled with tears, prayers, and arrangements. We now have to care for the business side of when someone passes away, let alone our aching hearts. This is hard.

May her memory be eternal and her name among the angels. Rest well, Mary, rest well. Joined in eternal slumber, Joe and Mary Kaiser.

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“…12 drummers drumming…”

We are almost to the 12 Days of Christmas. I am spent. LOL. The season can wear you out. When you think of the chaos of having all those things happen to you, if you took the song literally, over 12 days, it is exhausting. Of course, these are all Christian symbols, for which we sing the song. Thank goodness it is just symbolic, although I recall a story about some guy romancing his girl by gifting her all these things (probably a Hallmark Christmas movie plot). But for the first time in a long time, I am ready to take down my tree and get my house back. I am craving streamlined and simple. I am over extras I have to move out of the way just to put down the blinds in the living room. Or the stuffed cute things I have to hide from our grand puppy whenever she visits (I love that dog, so it is not her). We will be babysitting two dogs for our groomer next week, and I seriously want all this put away before then.

I have come to realize it is not Christmas that is bothering me, it is the clutter. I have become less tolerant of clutter. And as I look around our house, which most people think is sparsely decorated, I keep looking at ways to streamline it. LOL. I really hate to dust. I am not a fan of having to pick up all these little collectibles, dust around them, and dust them, and put them back down, only to do it again next week. I am blessed in that our house is not particularly dusty. It is well-sealed. A house we lived in, that we loved, was in a pasture. Literally. And it was in a wind-zone. I would have to – seriously – get bath towels wet and lay them on all the doorways and along all the window sills in our house. If I did not, there would be little piles of fine, fine dust at each one. I had to vacuum my window sills, my doorjambs, and my entry points all the time. I had to vacuum the ceilings regularly for spider webs and dust hanging off them. It was a farm and it was a constant battle between me, the elements, and the creatures, and I was determined to win. So I know about dusting. (Who are we kidding? It’s dirt. Good, old fashioned, dirt). And I am not a fan. So, to make it easier, I have very few of my collectibles out on shelves. I have very few shelves or tabletops for displays. And I like it that way. It is bad enough I have white carpet, but that discussion is for another post. LOL.

And I have collected some knick-knacks on my kitchen counters, as well as baked goods that have been pretty well picked over (you know, Christmas cookies, the fudge, the cakes, etc. you seem to collect on pretty Christmas plates with plastic wrap on them) and I am ready to toss the lot of it. I want my countertops back. And I am getting the Spring Cleaning bug early this year. I keep thinking of ways to de-clutter. And at the same time, I am fantasizing about new valances (don’t freak out, sweetheart), and maybe changing up the window coverings we use. Sigh. Ideas for the future when I can once again open my windows! LOL! And a foyer bench idea I would like to have. Like the one below.

Anyway, winter is fun, don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year. Enjoying a White Christmas is a special experience, and I know I am blessed to live where that is pretty much the norm. But I am ready to return to simple. And I know it stems from other things, as well. We are now preparing to enter a different liturgical season. We are going to be praying more, seeking closeness with the Scriptures, as we, even now, look towards Lent. And prior to Lent, we clean. Obsessively. Spring cleaning is about making way – for God in our lives, for action in our lives. We cannot move forward if we are holding onto the past. We cannot be tripping over the clutter in our lives, expecting to change ourselves in fundamental ways.

As in Advent, we prepared the Way of the Lord in our homes and hearts, waiting on His birth. Now, we journey with Him through His life, His Death, His Burial, and His Resurrection. For me, not only do I need to have a “spiritual cleansing” to prepare for the Lord, I also need a physical one. We plan to change eating habits as we move towards Lent, waiting until after these 12 Days of Christmas. We all make resolutions to ring in the New Year – lose weight or stop smoking, or reconcile with people from whom we are estranged. All sorts of things like that. Then, in Lent, we offer to give things up, to help clear a path for the Lord. And Spring Cleaning is all that, and more. It is in the heart and mind, the soul, the stomach, and the environment. I don’t need much in this life, but those around me – I take joy in celebrating with family and friends, all the milestones that make up life. And I am also enjoying more one-on-one time with my husband. (Even after 34 years of marriage, he is the one I want to spend my time with). And neither of us requires much around us. We both prefer the simple to the overly decorous or too bright and colorful. Muted tones, muted decor – a place to sigh and relax, to unwind, to be quiet and simple.

I think God is moving me – again. Sometimes He uses a 2×4 and sometimes it is a whisper. I think this time, He is allowing me to see what I need. And I think I need to get busy simplifying even more. So for now, I am dodging the dancing ladies, leaping lords, and making room for the drummers to go right on out the door. Oh, and I plan to mute the pipers piping….Epiphany is Sunday! And then we move on and make a path….a simple, straight path, to the Cross.

“…and pondered them in Her heart.”

It was a tad bit nippy this year. But the snow sparkled. Which I love. We had one of the best Christmases on record. No arguments (I know, right??!!!). Presents given and received in love. Love in the air and around the house. Joy around the table. Picked up Mom and brought her with us to extended family celebrations and feasting. Even among strangers, she enjoyed the food, the noise, the kids, the conversations. Actually got home in time to watch a Christmas movie and relax before falling into bed. All in all, a truly blessed Christmas.

This year, we Nailed It! for Christmas. LOL! This show has captured my funny bone. We watched an episode while getting ready to head out to family yesterday. What I love about the show, “Nailed It!” is that people are trying. They are learning. And they compete in something they know, ahead of time, they are not particularly good at. But they try. And it provides some much-needed levity in life. We need to learn to not take ourselves so seriously. To not expect more than we are capable of. And we need to learn that sometimes our efforts are just not enough, and that we have not “nailed it,” and that we are okay with that. Life is the journey, not the destination.

As I posted in my blog about needing my weapon to be handy and ready, I realized that I had a lot of living left to do, and I was not ready to lay down and let someone else choose the end. My dash was still going on! If you are not aware, there was a eulogy given a few years back that became so famous. It spoke to the two dates on our tombstone, with the dash in the middle. The dash is the sum of our entire lives. And we need to be present in our dash, and make it count. And this year, we opted for a simpler Christmas. We chose to enjoy the moments and to live in them.

We spoke about how people were texting each other Merry Christmas wishes on their phones, and about how some people seemingly “go dark” from social media during Holidays. And I thought about that. And I thought it was a great thing. Because if we are off social media, it means we are present to the people around us, making the most of our dash. And today, as I was browsing the various social media forums, I noticed who did, and who did not, post a lot of photos. Some people had some magnificent photos of their Christmas feasts, decor, and gift giving. Some posted sayings and left it at that. Some posted pithy political junk that had nothing to do with Christmas. Others were not present on the media platforms at all. And it got me thinking.

The Birth of Christ is what Christmas is all about. Even our grandchildren were talking about Jesus’ birthday this year (miracle all on its own). And I was thinking about how quiet it must have been in that lowly manger. Just the stirring of the animals, the movement of the breezes, the light from the Star. And Mary and Joseph, knowing the miracle is upon them. My eldest jokingly referred to it as the “Holy C-section” as we believe Christ “emerged” from Mary without all the travail of a traditional birth. Some believe She suffered; others believe that because She was the Mother of God, suffering would be unknown to Her. The result is the same: Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

And the Shepherds, sleeping with their flock, are awoken by the songs of the Angels, directing them to the Manger where the Son of God lay, surrounded by His Glory and His Simplicity. It must have been frightening, and exciting, all at the same time. And they did not quarrel over what they had seen. They did not dally and ponder. They did not go back to sleep. They obeyed the Messengers of God and right away sought the Savior where He lay. In the book of Luke (Luke 2: 17-20):

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them.”

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” And I realized something profound to me: we were so busy truly living in the moment and joy of Christmas, we forgot to take photos! We have no family poses. We have no photos of our grandkids with us, or our dinner conversation around the table, or photos with my mom. We forgot. Because we were living in the moment. Our dash was full and growing. How amazing is that? And today, I thanked God for the blessing of this Christmas. And for the moments with family and friends. And for excited joy on the faces of those we loved, as they received the gifts we chose for them. For the moments of revelation when conversations were life-filled and love-filled. For the moments of no-conflict, even with disparate people gathered around a table. Even though we were not with our entire family, because of distance, we treasured moments with them of conversation and loving wishes given and received. We were so very blessed this year. So blessed.

And today, as the world returns to its rhythms and its chaos, my prayer for everyone is that we recall the simplicity of the moments in the Stable. When Mary rejoiced in Her Newborn Son, held lovingly in Her arms. When Joseph looked lovingly at His Wife and the Son He would raise to become a Man like no other. When the Shepherds arrived, after having been instructed by Angels – a choir of Angels – singing, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, Goodwill and Peace among men.” All in the quiet of a December night, so long ago. And as you gaze lovingly at the spent remnants of a day sharing with family and friends, smile for a moment, thinking of the Birth of the Son of God, Who came to save us all.

“Let me sit with you awhile…”

My post about self-defense is the single, most read post, I have ever written. Well over 1,000 people have read it. That feels so weird to me. I am not sure if I even know 1,000 people. But I am prayerfully optimistic the post may bring people back and they can read other posts, and that may lead them to taking on a loved one’s total care, and it may also lead them to think about their faith a little more, as well. Which are some of the many reasons I post on this blog, from time to time.

So, winter is really here, up in the Last Frontier. All our gifts are wrapped and/or mailed out. We spent a wonderful evening with some friends last night and on our way home, we noticed the temp in the car said 2 degrees. So I was not surprised to see -10 this morning. Yeah; a tad bit nippy! But – we are having a White Christmas and I love that!

We have been blessed with enough snow so that it is sticking around for awhile (not melting off) and increasingly low temperatures. People are snow machining and ice fishing, and skiing, and enjoying the winter wonderland that is Alaska. Having been raised in Southern California, I always longed to experience real weather patterns. I had always hated being hot and sweating. I recall, a few years back while still living in SoCal, laying on the bed completely drenched in sweat, the A/C was blasting, and a ceiling fan was whirring overhead and I thought to myself, “If I can ever get out of this, I will jump at the chance. Lord, help me get away from this awful heat.” I remember the feeling and I really did not like it. I was miserable. And a few months later, an opportunity came to relocate to Washington State, to the town of Maple Valley. It was a dream come true. And we both jumped on it. What an adventure that was. Our first winter outside of SoCal and we are living in a hotel during a huge winter snow storm. I remember trying to figure out how to do Christmas, birthdays and New Year’s Eve in a hotel with a pre-teen son, one home from college, and both a dog and a cat. LOL. We pulled it off. A couple of months of hotel life until we got moved into our house. I actually have fond memories of that Christmas.

The following Christmas, we had the most wonderful tree we cut down ourselves. It was gorgeous. Massive, too. LOL. But it was so beautiful. And then in January, before the decorations had even been put away, we were offered an opportunity to relocate once again, to Alaska. Things just presented themselves and we chose to shoot for the stars! We packed up our 3,000 square foot house (after much purging) into a 25-foot U-Haul and drove to Alaska. One of the most horrible road trips of my life. I hated it almost daily. LOL. Never want to be in Canada again, either! But we made it to Alaska and we were stunned at the beauty. As we made our way into the state, the topography really changed. And the closer we got to our meeting place with our daughter-in-law, it seemed like the faster I drove. LOL. But we pulled into the driveway of the little house our kids found for us (it was just 1,080 sq ft) and we felt like we were home.

And in May 2013, just barely unpacked, we had our first snow storm. LOL. We thought, “Oh no, what have we gotten ourselves into?” Because May in SoCal, or even WA, was all about flowers and spring and getting close to summer. And here we were, shoveling snow and driving in snow – in May! LOL. But it was just a random storm and when the snow melted, the green arrived. In abundance. Oh my word. It was a revelation of the beauty of God in this world. Truly. We saw things we never thought we would.

I was asked just this morning, “Do you like living in snow? Do you like winter?” And it took me back to these moments of discovery. Of learning about a completely different way of life and looking at life. I still get excited when I hear the crunching of snow underfoot. I stand in awe as the snow falls and flurries fly around us. The glistening of the snow when it gets down cold enough – when the snow re-freezes with ice on top of it. It is amazing and looks like someone threw glitter on it.

And I realized that I adore winter. I really do. It makes the fall holidays just so much more than they ever were. All the references to snow and glistening in the many carols of Christmas make so much more sense, now I live in a place with winter over half the year. I totally understand Spring Cleaning! My windows. Oh my word. When the sun starts to come back and stay for more of the daytime hours, it reflects on all the places you thought you had cleaned but where the dust bunnies own the real estate! LOL! So many things I chuckle at, that make so much more sense, now I live where there are real seasons.

The gorgeous pinks of Alpenglow really do render the landscape to this ephemeral look and I find such great peace in the quiet of a snowy day. We are blessed to live where we do, and I am thankful for it every day. I miss my family and friends in the lower 48, but I know God brought us here for a reason and we are all working out our salvation where we have been placed. And I am thankful for the beauty that only enhances my walk with the Lord, bringing home feelings of comfort and home and hearth and family. I feel so blessed and am so thankful that Christmas is upon us. And that these feelings of peace and good will I have, will endure throughout the year. I prayerfully hope for each of you, that you find the peace, the home of Christ, in your hearts this year and all your years.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year

 

“…because you gave it to us…”

So, it’s Christmas. We are down to just one at home. Our main focus is on our grandchildren, for major Christmas shopping. And as we think of each one (we have 6 so far) we just smile and get all excited!!! We set off, determined to please each child.

We are not Icelandic, although it is the sole place I am dying to visit – there is even a cruise you can take through Iceland. Bucket list!! Anyway, there is this amazing tradition we adopted a couple of years ago, called Jolabokaflod! Or, Book Flood. And we decided that, as grandparents, our kids can provide toys for their children. We will provide books and chocolate. I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate?? LOL. And we can add to their reading library. So much of the joy of giving, is to hunt for that perfect thing. My husband and I found ourselves up against it because of his work schedule. And we chose to do a shopping marathon prior to his flying out and being gone for a week. And we sort of had fun. It is like our date night, only it began after Church and a visit with mom in the Assisted Living home, and lasted through into the night. We even stopped and had coffee and cookies, to just take a breath.

Scanning through kids’ books is an exercise in patience. Especially at a bookstore, at Christmas. Kids running all over, frazzled parents, staff trying to make everyone happy. And then, a staff member walks up with coupons for free cookies with coffee. Well, this is not our first season as grandparent-shoppers! We jumped on that coffee/cookie thing! LOL! And we came home, excited and happy with our choices. And today, grandma gets to do the entire wrapping thing.

The fun part is finding books that we know each grandchild will enjoy. We look at them, and we think of each child, one at a time. And we try to match selections with their personality. This year was no exception. And as we proceeded to go through our choices, we were feeling more and more confident that we chose the right thing for the right child. Giving brings such joy to us, especially when we picture each child receiving what we picked for just them. This summer, when we visited our granddaughters in Southern California, nothing brought us as much joy as a granddaughter walking up with a book, asking us to read it to them. The icing on that cake was them telling us, “We love this book because you gave it to us.” The fact that they know we chose the book for them just warmed our hearts. Did they recall the chocolate with each book? Nope. They loved the book – which is the point. The chocolate brings sweetness to enhance that reading experience, all cuddled up with a book. And I love that the feeling of cuddling and reading with grandma and grandpa had endured throughout the year.

We were tired, driving home through the snowstorm amongst all the people in the ditches and spun out on the highway. We got home safely after a few slips and slides ourselves, pleased with our day. And now, I cannot stall any longer – my wrapping table awaits!

Think about changing things up this year…give the gift of books, reading, cozy and warm Christmas Eve’s in quiet firelight and the sound of pages turning!! Happy Jolabokaflod!!!

 

“Where the feminine and firearms meet”

This post may not be appreciated by some people. But this is a part of who I am, too. Please give this a read, and some contemplation. So, as many of my friends know, I belong to a wonderful organization, “The Well Armed Woman.” This group has taught me more than I ever thought I should know, about protecting myself. All by myself. And it has also given me the confidence to protect myself, all by myself.

A little over two years ago, even after noticing them on Facebook and other places, I was invited to attend a TWAW meeting. It changed my life. I met women who have become good friends of mine. I was enthralled by the lessons. But I did not shoot a gun. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting. I grew up with weapons in the house. My dad hunted. I was comfortable around long guns. For my 40th birthday, my husband bought me a shotgun and some perfume! LOL. We owned hunting dogs and regularly went bird hunting with friends and family. So I have been around the culture of guns and hunting my entire life. But self-defense and handguns, when carried on your person, were a completely different ballgame.

I wanted to learn how I could protect myself. It came to roost, in a serious way, one day when I was walking to the grocery store with my elderly mother. We had parked our car a ways out, because the lot was packed. As we were walking to the storefront, I noticed this man heading right towards us. He looked like he was high on drugs and he had a menacing air about him. One of the amazing things about the sessions at TWAW meetings was that I had been taught about “situational awareness” – always keeping your eye on your surroundings, so you do not become a victim. And we also were taught to carry ourselves confidently, so we didn’t look like victims. I squared my shoulders and looked at this man, straight in the eye. I placed my hand in my purse, signaling to him I was armed. As he approached me, I said, “Don’t even think about it.” And he literally turned right and walked away. And I realized I was all that stood between me and my mom. I was her sole protector. (She is 89 and has Alzheimer’s, and is 4′ 10″ and 120 lbs. on a good day). And I did not even know how to protect myself. (Other than how I project myself).

I decided I really did need to learn how to shoot and how to carry a weapon – safely. I had shot handguns in the past, but I did not feel like I knew much about them. I had been joking around that I wanted a pretty “Tiffany” gun – all silvery and blue and fancy and looking cute for my purse. But when it came down to it, I chose to purchase a black, simple, gun that felt good in my hands and that I could really use. My personal choice was a Smith & Wesson M&P Pro and I really like it. It is big, but there is no recoil. It fits my little, arthritic fingers and it does not hurt to shoot. It took me more than a year to choose a weapon, trying everything my instructors shared with me. And having hours and hours of discussions about which weapon would work for me.The instructors at TWAW (who have since become dear friends) never lost their patience with me, but were so positive and encouraging. Never did they push me to do anything other than what I was comfortable doing. And that even included taking more than 1 year to choose a gun to own! (You know who you are – and I thank you for that).

In the year I have had this weapon, I have become more and more comfortable with it. I have also been eyeing other brands and styles, for different reasons. They do say once the bug bites, you want more and more guns to shoot with. For anyone who is afraid to shoot a gun, there is a TWAW chapter near you. And they instruct you and inform you and help you grow in confidence and expertise. It is amazing. And the camaraderie of shooting with a group of women is something I cannot really explain. You just have to try it. And their color is purple! Who doesn’t love purple, right???

It is winter. Darkness comes about 3:30pm. This sort of total darkness. The sun in winter does not mess around with pretty sunsets…it is just gone! LOL! And this week, I am home alone. My husband is business traveling and our youngest son, who is a firefighter, was called to some shifts at the station. So it is me and our 13-year-old Springer, Poca. Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard this banging sound. It sounded like someone was trying to get into our garage from the side of the house. I realized I was totally alone. So I went to get my weapon. It was in its bag, empty. Surrounded by empty ammo boxes. I had been lazy and not cleaned my gun, neither had I removed it from its range bag and refilled any of the magazines. My gun was empty and I did not see any rounds. Well, my husband shoots, too. He is in a sharp-shooting course with our eldest son and he shoots with him every Thursday. I dove into his range bag. No ammo. So I went to where we keep our ammo and found out we just had some really pretty Winchester Full Metal Jacket rounds. So I grabbed a box and went to load my magazines. I hear “bang-bang-bang” on the walls again. So I hurry and look for my loader. Not in my bag. It was in hubby’s bag (guess what Santa is bringing him this year???). I started loading. I realized that by this time, I should be dead, if this was an intruder. So I loaded my weapon, cleared it, and had one in the chamber. And I set out to clear every room in the house, as I made my way towards the sound. Now, we live in Alaska. There are big animals here who wander around at will – like moose and bears. So I am thinking perhaps a moose or bear was dipping into our trashcan outside the garage. I am making my way towards that side of the house when I see our dog, Poca, chomping away on a new bone. “Bang-bang-bang” as she flips the bone over and it hits the floors. Yep; it was the dog the whole time. LOL. (That is her below, chomping on a bone on her bed by the fireplace).

I learned something from this. I realized I depended on my husband to be the protector in our home. Not me. And I realized I had no idea how to unlock his gun safe (I know now – a day later). And I also realized that I am enough. I can protect myself. Once my gun was loaded and that round was in the chamber, I relaxed. I respected my weapon and I also felt confident that I could protect myself using it. Because it is the bad guy, or it is me. And I realized last night that I am not ready for it to be me. I still have a lot of living left to do.

So, if you feel frightened in your own home, that is not a good feeling. It is the one place we need to feel safe. When our doors are closed and locked, and we are inside, we should not have to fear intruders. They have no right to be in our homes if they are not invited inside. And last night I realized that through the past two-plus years of attending The Well Armed Woman courses and events, that I had been lectured to. I had been instructed. But I had never been called upon to use any of what I had learned. Up until last night. And I am so pleased and proud to say I can take care of myself, no problem. It felt really good to take control of my environment. (Whether or not I hit the target is for another post, but I know I could save my own life). And as an older woman, alone, it feels pretty darn good. In addition, I am less fearful of carrying concealed (I already have my CC permit, having taken the course and passed the tests) because I realized that when something frightened me, I was up to the task of protecting myself. As I get more prepared, I feel better and better. I am planning to continue my education in firearm use and safety, as well as learning more and more through The Well Armed Woman. If you haven’t considered it, as a woman, I think you should! It is so much fun; the camaraderie is fulfilling; and the experiences are priceless. It truly is an amazing organization. Below is a photo of me, heading out to the range for a day of learning and shooting, in my TWAW purple! And if you decide you want to learn more, please find a TWAW Chapter near you. I promise you will be glad you did!!!

 

 

“…But you don’t really care for music, do you?…”

I have hesitated so long in writing about this. And it is something that really bugs me. A lot. You know that song, “Hallelujah” that is in Shrek? The one EVERYONE is making a cover of? (Even the Shrek version is a cover). That is NOT THE SORT OF SONG YOU WANT TO SING IN CHURCH, PEOPLE! It is not a worship song. It certainly does not qualify as a hymn. It has a beautiful melody, and is haunting at times, but it is not about loving God. It is about a relationship gone bad. And the writer used Biblical examples of relationships gone bad. His point, per the biographical articles I have read, was to show that all sorts of Hallelujahs are valid, if we are crying out to God. Even the bad ones. Even moments of extreme joy found in the arms of the person you love (and are hopefully married to) are forms of an Hallelujah to God. I have seen post after post, and release after release of this song as part of Christmas programs or albums. It is NOT a Christmas song, my friends! Have you actually read the lyrics????? One part supposedly refers to the moment of the Immaculate Conception when the Holy Spirit covers the Blessed Virgin Mary and Christ is conceived. Yeah. That particular moment is a sort of Hallelujah, too. You can stretch it to mean you are worshipping God, but it is set in a carnal sense and does not suppose to reach the ecclesiastical heights of a Church song or hymn. It is couched in sexuality and to stretch it to the spiritual is, indeed, a stretch. Here is a peek at the 4th verse:

“There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah”

Yeah. That is not something I want my kids or grandkids to learn for the Christmas program at Church! There is a huge discussion online about why this song has become so popular. Leonard Cohen, who wrote it, was interviewed and one of the articles said this: “The word ‘hallelujah,’ he teaches us, is a refrain worthy of times of celebration, of mourning, of regret, of catharsis, and reconciliation. The original song is the story of broken love, true love remembered and mourned, guilt, and penance, and of finding peace in the vicissitudes of brokenness — themes with a myriad of applications and dimensions. The song, reflecting the diverse substance of its own lyrics, has seen a lot of life, and death. It’s for this reason that the significance of Hallelujah isn’t likely to wane anytime soon.”

There has been so much controversy over songs and lyrics this holiday season. “Baby it’s cold outside” to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” One meme I saw cracked me up because it said, “Everyone is upset about Baby being cold outside, but no one worries about Grandma being run over by reindeer. Grandmas Matter, too!” Ha-Ha-Ha.

We really are what we eat, listen to, watch, and read. We are who we associate with. It impacts our hearts and souls. So, what do the lyrics of the songs you listen to speak to your heart about? Many, many years ago, while visiting my mother-in-law, I asked her why she constantly listened to only Christian music, piped through the house. And her reply stunned me, “Because I am not a very good Christian, I need to listen to this to keep me on track.” She would also record sewing shows and sports. And that is pretty much all. She really controlled what she saw and listened to, and who she associated with. I learned much from her. And in this day and age, when there is just so much junk food thrown at us in the guise of entertainment, we must really guard our senses.

I was asked about fasting the other day. I explained that intermittent fasting is medically proven to enhance our immune system. But one of the benefits of fasting within our faith traditions is that we not only find focus and clarity, we find an increase in the practice of prayer. And prayer enhances our lives. It helps us focus on God, and not what we eat. It shows us again how we should monitor everything we take in, be it food, songs, movies, etc. And so it is, at Christmas time. We are in a period called, “Advent.” This is the time where we fast and prepare to welcome the Christ Child, into that lowly manger, on that cold night, thousands of years ago. We work so hard to prepare to have the best Christmas ever, every year. But are we fasting from the things of this world, to invest our time in preparing for the coming of our Savior?

Well, the lyrics of the song, “Hallelujah,” are certainly not lyrics that bring us closer to the Manger at Christmas, or to Christ, most days of the year. It is shrouded in beautiful music and tonality, taking us away on another plane as we listen. And yes, there are all sorts of Hallelujahs and all sorts of ways to praise God. But this particular song, to me, just does not measure up. I have seen memes complaining about the song, “Mary, did you know?” because they all say, “Yes, she knew! Of course she knew! She accepted the promise of an Angel, and she knew she was carrying the Son of God. She knew! Stop it already!” And I get that. It is still a lovely song. I recall looking longingly at my newborn sons, wondering what their lives had in store for them. And although Mary knew her Son was the Son of God, I am sure the details were left to unfold as He grew in age and wisdom (“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52). So what do we do with all these aberrant songs and lyrics? I think we need to really look where our money goes. Do you buy those records? (Forgive my age – downloads or CDs?). Give them airtime? Like them on social media? I was asked to like a version today, and all I could comment was, “Interesting version.” I cannot condone the symphonic treatment of it, in all that pomp and circumstance, for Christmas fare. I do like the sound, although the version was not my favorite.

I just wish people who get upset over these lyrics about when “it’s cold outside,” would realize there are far worse examples. And that some of these songs are not Church hymns, nor are they appropriate for Christmas programs or children’s programs. Some schools are actually changing the lyrics of traditional songs, to be more inclusive. That is the subject for another blog post!! So, which is your favorite Christmas Carole and why?

“…I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”