“And even when I am old and gray….”

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

Have you ever just felt “blah”? I feel yucky. And in some ways I’m also excited. Life can be so weird sometimes. I don’t think it’s hormones! Ha-Ha. Most of those are asleep these days!

Jans 60th Cake

Yesterday, I turned 60. Now, I don’t think it’s old, or that I am old, in particular. I am feeling sort of cocky about it, actually. Like now perhaps people will somehow treat me as more mature, or wise? Even though I thought it was supposed to happen at 30, then at 40, and then even at 50! I am hopeful it may someday take hold! Ha-Ha!

I think I am depressed because my 90-year-old dad was going to be with me as I celebrated this milestone, but it just did not work out that way. I am relieved and sad, at the same time. I am relieved because he was bringing someone with him I have never met, something I realized after they could not come, had made me very uncomfortable. I am sad because my dad is 90 and this was the first time I would have seen him in 10 years, and he has never met my daughter-in-law or his great-grandchildren. He has only seen our youngest son once or twice. (Our son really has no memory of him, other than he has a beard). So I am sad he is missing out on that. And I am sad I will not have that father-daughter time with him. We have not had time like that in the 32 years I have been married and it would have been nice. And I think I am flat-out bummed because I had not realized how much it meant to me, to have him visit one, last, time, and for my birthday, too.

JerusalemCross

The cross above is called the Jerusalem Cross, or the Crusader’s Cross, or the Templar’s Cross. They might deviate a little, but it is basically this representation. The central cross represents Christ, and the four smaller crosses represent the Four Gospel Writer’s – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are other descriptions, but this one is the one most historians view as accurate. Historically, in Egypt and Northern Africa, people would have a small, Coptic style cross tattooed on their inner wrist, to symbolize to others that they were Christian, living in a highly Muslim world.

Coptic.colored cross.

Some of the more stylized versions of the Coptic Cross highly resemble the Crusader’s Cross. The smaller versions, usually in black, are tattooed on the wrist area, as a quick way to identify oneself to other Christians in modern times as well as in ancient days. In Coptic tradition, youth often wait until they are at the “age of reason” or their late teens to have their tattoos done. It is still popular in Egypt, even now, and among modern Coptics living in the USA.

The reason I shared all of that, is because I wanted to get a tattoo of a Crusader’s cross, on my wrist, about the size of a nickel, for my 60th Birthday! One friend thinks all tattoos are disgusting and had no interest in hearing my reasons or looking at my ideas…none of it. All tattoos are bad. Period. Other people say to go for it because you are who you are, you have control over what you do with your body, and why not? Others say I’m too old, my skin is too old, etc. Some of my kids think it’s pretty cool and are encouraging me to get one, but I think that is something more popular among the younger set. My parents would freak out if I got a tattoo…in their era only people in prisons or sailors had tattoos! But, even worse than that, I also wanted to add some purple to my gray hair! Ha-Ha! Just because. My hubby says to go for all of it, and just have some fun. It doesn’t bother him.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:31

I know that sometimes people hit a certain age and have that dreaded “mid-life crisis.” I don’t think this is a crisis, but rather an awakening. This is my last year having a homeschooled child. The journey I began in 1992 with homeschooling our children will be completed, with our last child graduating high school. And I will have my days to myself. And as my husband said, “You need to find something to do or you will go nuts.” I think he is also concerned that I will drive him nuts! Ha-Ha! And to get all that going, while turning 60, I thought a visit with my dad, a tattoo, and some purple highlights would get things off to a roaring start. And then, poof, all the air went out of my balloon!

deflated balloon

And so I am working on the positives from this. There is no visit, so the pressures of hosting people in our home is gone. I can take the rest of this weekend to prepare for the first day of school on Monday. I got a nice haircut, taking off 2 1/2 inches and no one noticed, which means it was a great cut and just looks better. No purple, but hey, the 60 days aren’t over, yet. And no tattoo, but I am not giving up. My sister told me a story of a friend who turned 60 and decided she was going to celebrate for 60 days. And that is my plan. Maybe I don’t have the purple, the tattoo, or the visit, but these 60 days are not over, yet! The Lord gives us what we need, when we need it. He had other plans for my birthday and the ways I will celebrate it.

Gods plan for our life

I will rest in His plans for my life, listening to His gentle whisper as I make my plans, hoping I make them in coordination with His will for my life. God will sustain me, He will carry me, He will rescue me – from myself! God is so good. And there is just so much on the horizon that sometimes I think these first 60 years were preparing me for what lays in front of me. I am excited to begin a new path, embracing new friends and new ideas, still learning and growing and becoming. Things did not work out the way in which I had imagined them for this particular day, but there were so many blessings nonetheless! I had my grandchildren, who practiced with their mom, sing Happy Birthday to me as I blew out my candles, and then we feasted on some pretty amazing cake! I have a future job and career ahead of me, and for the past two days, I have actually seen the sunshine! In Alaska as fall settles in, that is quite something! And so I will move on to tomorrow, smiling and thinking of where I want that purple streak in my hair and what size and color I want that tattoo!

life plans gods plans

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

This quote, by John Lubbock, spoke to me. We have had friends visiting from the “lower 48” this week and I know experiencing some pristine nature is never a waste of time. I have watched them visibly relax. I have seen the wonder on their faces and their joy burst forth when coming face-to-face with bears at the Wildlife Preserve, with watching the salmon jump as they climb to their spawning grounds at our Hatchery. I love sharing the blessing of where we live with people who do not get to experience it as often as we do. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, and I would not expect others to embrace where I live just because I do. I know it took me more than 40 years, once I first imagined this place, to actually live here. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7). It is amazing to me how close to God you can feel, immersed in nature.

PalmerAK

I jokingly asked our visitors if they needed some time with asphalt and smog, with all this “nature overload.” And we chatted about how tired they are because of processing all that they are seeing, hearing, breathing, and tasting. It takes a lot out of you to travel to an environment that is so foreign to your daily routine. As we meandered along our coastline and mountains, we all remarked about how brave the early explorers were. We were imagining the native peoples making their home here, and the early explorers and then miners, making their way through these near-impenetrable mountains. There are places here that have never experienced the footfall of man. How remarkable that we live here, in among all the stupendous magnificence of a God who loves us.

Salmon ladder

Occasionally nature needs our help. In this state, we encourage natural activities and assist in raising the live birth numbers of many of our indigenous species. Most people who come here to sports fish would be sorely disappointed if nature was the only provider! Our Fish and Game Department is doing themselves proud with how they are helping our salmon spawn successfully.  There were approximately 6.5 million fish released into the waters of Alaska in 2016. Pretty impressive. We recently learned that an entire herd of Wood Bison, over 130 of them, were released successfully from our Wildlife Conservation Center. Wow! I love walking through our hatcheries, learning the stories of the many fish we have here in Alaska. At the Sealife Center in Seward, they work so hard to rehab the different animals back into the wild. In amongst all this nature, thriving here, you certainly feel humbled.

Aurora August 2016

One of the things that people always want to see is the Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights” when they visit us. In the summertime, that is pretty hard because it doesn’t really get dark enough. Last night we got notices through our news and weather sites that the Aurora possibility was a +6, which is high. We stayed up until 1:30am, and even got up again at 3:30am, but it was either too light or too cloudy where we are. The photo above was taken north of us last night. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24). When you see the magnificence in the heavens, where the stars seem to dance, you certainly feel small, humbled, and in awe.

The experience of nature, up close and personal, away from the noise, smells, and interference of thousands of people, can ease your suffering and your pain. It makes your spiritual connection strengthen. I know for me, when I go to Church and can watch the snow dancing on the windows, and the candles are burning brightly, I can feel God. Learning to be still and seek His presence can be difficult in the midst of asphalt, smog, freeways, and social insanity, but it can be done. I found God in the middle of Southern California’s rush hour lifestyle. But I was constantly seeking my peace elsewhere. My prayer is that more and more can experience God in the stillness of His creation. It is truly magnificent, humbling, and breaks open those walls we place around ourselves when we live in a crazy, crowded world. Prayer seems to come naturally, in nature’s wonderland.

Be Still

“…their fruit for food and their leaves for medicine…”

drop of oil into hand

I am often asked what type of perfume I use, because I always smell so yummy. I went to this meeting yesterday for my son’s schooling and I was a little nervous. It’s his senior year and all our schooling has come down to these last, two semesters! Arg! Stress! So I applied some of my essential oils. I wear a diffuser around my neck and have one for my wrist, as well. They are cute and I love wearing them. I placed several oils I love and asked the Lord to amplify His amazing Grace all around us yesterday. I do not apply oils randomly. I know the therapeutic uses of oils, but there is also our emotional/spiritual side of using oils. I was once told, “Never assume anything from oils, from medicines. There are chemical attributes associated with both, but always seek God’s blessings when using oils. Apply them with a prayer, or at least a prayerful attitude.” And I have taken that to heart. When I hear sirens in the distance, I always pray for all involved. The officers, the first responders, the victims. And in hospitals, I pray for nurses and doctors to use their skills at their highest quality, and to allow God to guide their hands in healing others. I don’t think anyone would be angry that someone prays for their health and wellness.

Spoken into existence

I come from a family who always relied on the standard medical practices in our lives. My dad worked in the healthcare field for most of my formative years. I was raised around doctors and hospitals. When my brother crushed his hand at my dad’s office, he rushed him – not to the local emergency room – but to specialized orthopedic surgeons he worked with at a hospital almost an hour’s drive away. Why? Because he knew their skill level, and he knew my brother would get the best treatment he could. In addition, they loved to experiment, and my brother was given a cast that the local high school football system accepted, so he could still play high school football, while wearing a specialized cast. The point is that I was raised to always look to doctors first. Always. I have been near death on two occasions wherein I was quite literally saved by modern medicine. And so my heart has always been with doctors and hospitals, learned from the inside out.

I discovered alternative ways of looking at my health years ago. One of my college roommates dated (and married) a man being trained as an osteopathic doctor. And their training teaches them to take into account the whole person. They are not focused on just one aspect of healthcare. It was my first close-up exposure to other types of medical care. Then I was exposed to Chiropractors and Acupuncturists. Learning about eastern medicine opened my eyes to how much we miss in our western practices. The introduction of herbs and supplements came to me in college. Especially vibrant in the sports world, supplements have taken on a whole universe of their own! My parents did not fully understand my interest in alternative medicines. Especially since my mom got breast cancer while I was still in college, and went the traditional route for treatment. The fact that I would melt an herbal tablet on my son’s aching gums when he was teething was something my parents laughed at. Of course, when I was young, they rubbed whiskey on my gums! I guess that would serve two purposes, wouldn’t it? Ha-Ha.

hylands tablets

Now I have a home that is chemical-free. I am using all natural products to clean simply everything. From my windows and floors, to our showers, bathtubs, toilets, dishes, and clothing, I have all plant-based products in our home. I have not purchased dish soap from the grocery store since February of 2015. And none of the products I use have MSDS data sheets, warning about poisoning. The worst offender (dishwasher powder) says to give lots of water to help with the flavor. But there is no poison control number. There is nothing that can harm my grandchildren under my sink. And I cannot tell you how that warms my heart. I was able to remove the baby lock from my kitchen cupboard, under my sink. And the peace of mind is just one aspect. The other aspect is that these things work. And they work just as good, if not better in some cases, than chemically-laden products. In addition, they are financially much easier on my pocketbook and our budget!

oils herbs pestal book

Historically, alchemists were looking for ways of creating gold out of nothing. There is a lot of lore about how they accomplished their goals (they did not, or that would be obvious…no gold ever created from plants) and the stories of witchcraft and other tales were woven about them. However, when humanity was still living simply in villages, the local chemist, or often, mage, was sought out for remedies. Some of these remedies were the basis for our modern medical treatments. Some became wive’s tales and we all chuckle at them. One interesting one is how during the plague, old Russian babushkas would cut up onions and place them in the rooms of the sick. The time spent sick was often cut down measurably. I learned of this and can tell you it seems to help. We use it when someone is sick and has an airborne, coughing sort of sickness. There’s another story from the plague about these robbers who would go into the homes of the ill and dying (or the dead) and steal everything they could get away with. When they were finally caught, they were asked why they were not getting sick. The thieves told of how their grandmothers would slather them in a variety of oils, to protect them from sickness. Out of this sprang an oil used today called “Thieves” oil. It is diffusing in our house right now, because my teenager has a bronchial infection. The scent is amazing and it helps our bodies fight these darn infections. Our bodies are equipped to fight their own battles and most of us do just fine, but occasionally we need a boost. And that is where the natural approach to healthcare comes in. I’ve never been one to rush my kids to the doctor over sniffles or simple coughs…I let their immune system do the fighting for them, making them stronger for the next time. And now I add the assist of essential oils.

drop oil bible

Oils have been used since before even biblical times. There were oils to anoint, oils to feed, oils to bless. “Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.” Ezekiel 47:12 And here is another one: “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.” Mark 6:13  And in his book, “Healing Oils of the Bible,” Dr. David Stewart says,

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” John 12:3

“This anointing that Mary lovingly gave Jesus was in preparation for his death. The essential oil she used was spikenard, a very precious and expensive oil. It is harvested by the crushing and bruising of the root of the plant to squeeze the oil from it, and then the oil is used for healing. This is significant, the oil used to anoint him prior to his death was crushed and bruised in order to be obtained for healing. In the same way, Jesus was bruised for our iniquities and our chastisement was on him so that our spirits could be healed and given new life.” (See photo of Spikenard seed below). At a class last night I learned that this Spikenard, in today’s dollars, would have been in the thousands of dollars for a hundred pounds of it. A “Kingly” burial, indeed.

Spikenard seeds

To me, it is almost as if our culture is coming full circle. Our intelligence has helped us to create a pretty amazing world. Our technology has brought us riches, an easier life, and in many cases, improved health and longevity. There does seem to be, however, a little backlash along with the benefits. We are much more sedentary. We are more obese than ever before (think fast foods and boxed mixes and side dishes) and I am guilty here. I also think that computers have helped, but also complicated our lives and made our work so intense and detailed, our hours in front of them has grown ridiculously long. Our world is insanely fast moving. And we are so very divided. We are hurtful and angry with our neighbors. And using more natural ways of healing, eating, living brings us to a more simple, natural level. It slows us down to apply an oil and say a prayer, rather than popping a complex chemical pill down our throats on the run. Simple, historical, and effective.

An interesting point made at the class I attended last night (which I loved so much) brought up the point that our ancestors, especially in biblical times, were not as backward or primitive as we may think. The presenter related that they had created a way of making roads out of the sands in the desert. Roads and pathways that are hard and still usable, and our scientific community has not been able to replicate them, using the materials on hand in those times. We lost so much knowledge and skills during the Dark Ages, or Early Middle Ages (5th to 10th Century) where much was not written, and even destroyed, following the decline of the Roman Empire. Many areas were not affected by this period, and in fact flourished, but for the areas of the Middle East it was a time of scarcity and little written knowledge. And skills that were passed down from father to son were no longer recorded in any way. We are now catching up to what our ancestors knew, and used.

frankinsence nuggets

For years, we have had Frankincense nuggets or resin in our home. Because my husband is an ordained Melkite Greek Catholic Deacon, he fell in love with the scent of Frankincense used on the altar. Some parishioners gifted us with a small bag of Frankincense from Israel. We also had this amazing lamp to burn in it and the scent would often waft through our home. Over the years, we fell in love with other aromatics and would often burn them in our home. An interesting fact about Frankincense is that it is referred to as the “cure all.” In ancient times, it was burned in the Sanctuary as an offering. It was used to anoint in its oil form. As a resin it was used to actually ingest. In many medical researches today, they are finding that Frankincense can be used to assist in curing cancers. And this is one of the gifts of the Holy Magi to the Christ Child at His birth….and as I learned last night, one of the most valuable given to him. “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh…” in order from least valuable to most valuable. In our world, we value gold. In the ancient world, they valued the curative and spiritual properties of the plants the Lord gave us above the material wealth from gold. How appropriate for Our Lord.

frankincense removal from tree

Frankincense is still removed by hand from the tree. And there is only one source legally able to export pure Frankincense and I love that I can access that source through my essential oil company. We can use the oil and the resin itself. What a blessing! And as our science catches up to our history, I am so grateful for these moments of clarity and peace. I know I am using things that have been used for centuries, are safe, and are effective. And they do not harm the environment or my body, nor my family.  “In all instances of healing with oils it was through praying over people, confessing their sins, and anointing with oils.” We need to get back to that simple application and process. We take for granted our scientific, godless approach to medicine. Not that those who practice medicine are godless, but the science of it has become so. What a world we could have if science and God walked hand-in-hand and His blessings to us of these essential oils were incorporated into every practice, and every home, around the world. Of course, many hurdles in this country will have to be jumped for that to happen. But I can rest peacefully and emotionally, knowing I am reverting back to my ancestor’s practices, but also moving forward by sharing this knowledge of “wellness, purpose, and abundance” with everyone I know.  If you want to know more, contact me. I am blessed and want to share my health and wellness with whomever is interested. I want to share this abundance of knowledge with a broken, and spiritually starved world, hungry for the Word of God, and His immeasurable gifts to us in this world we find ourselves living in. Blessings to you and yours!

tree.lavender

 

 

“…devious talk far from you…”

incline your ear

My son is entering his senior year of high school. He is our last child out of the nest. And bookkeeping, or maintaining his records, has become paramount because the next step is college/trade school/academies. He plans to become a fire fighter, we just are not sure which route he will take to get there. So we have to be prepared for any avenue he may choose to take.

I took this personality test, as I posted about before, and I am called an “Advocate.” One of the traits it spoke about was having a hard time choosing a career path, because I can see 7 of them in front of me. I chuckled at that because I changed my major in college 4 times and have had careers that are so disparate that you would not think the same person did all of them. And I admire my son for choosing to become a fire fighter. Once he chose this path, he has not wavered from it once. And now that we are looking forward, he is choosing the same path, but finding alternate ways of getting there. Me? I would have gotten all caught up on the many options, many pathways. But he is singular in that he sees his goal; his pathways all take him to the same place. Mine have had me all over the map.

light to my path

The one thing that has been consistent for me is my unfailing faith in God. I have meandered through methods of worshipping Him, but my faith has been steadfast. My path has been lit with faith since I was young. I sought Him out in my life, on my own initiative, since I was in grade school. I have been to so many denominations and faith experiences. It has made me who I am. My favorite (and enduring) major in college was Forensic Anthropology with a minor in Biblical Archeology. I learned the holistic approach to looking at peoples and cultures, and then I learned the physicality of our rich biblical history. As a people of faith, we are so blessed by our history, and the physical records of where we have been, as a people, as humanity.

Jonah's Burial place Bombed

The bombing of so many biblically important sites in the Middle East just breaks my heart. I do not need them as a proof of my faith and its history, but I cry each time one is destroyed. The photo above is of the aftermath of the bombing of the burial site of Jonah from the Old Testament. There are fewer and fewer sites that are intact and this strikes at all of our humanity, not just our faith. This was a record of our growth as people; it is part of the history of mankind. And it has been reduced to rubble.

I work diligently to be sure my children’s school records are accurate and complete. I may lag behind a few moms in turning my quarterly and year-end samples and grades in, but I am thorough and my teachers/advisors know they will get it and it will be complete. They have yet to have to badger me. I have been schooling my children since 1992 and I have gotten fairly decent at it! Records are important. Recently our son had his property surveyed. Survey lines determine how much we own. We know where we can plant trees or put up fences, or dig that pool. It also determines your property tax liability. Records are important. One of my many jobs was working for the County Auditor-Controller/Recorder in the Recorder’s office. It was so interesting. And keeping everything in pristine, exacting conditions was a requirement of my job. It was awesome to see titles and deeds dating back to the early 1800s, still being kept on record, and a reward of diligent record keeping.

wordsimage

Records matter. What we say, matters. We can offer opinions and we can claim expertise, but we cannot/should not speak untruth about anyone, at any time. Choosing to live your life a certain way, always keeping to your path and the path of Truth, protects you from slander or libel.  Gossip can be such a hurtful thing, especially when it is repeated in the public square. Quite often there is a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it is so obsfucated by the flotsam and jetsam of lies, we cannot even glimpse it. Nowadays we record everything using our cell phones. The cameras in cell phones are much better than the stand-alone camera in my desk drawer – which is why it is in the drawer. We can record our voices and email them or text them to people. I love to sing Happy Birthday to my grandkids and send it via text for their parents to play for them. We can video chat with people thousands of miles away. We can record events happening in front of us. There are often thousands of photos of the same event, thanks to everyone whipping out their cell phones. (How did we survive before them???). But keeping things neat and orderly, keeping our records safe, has been something we have been doing for one another for thousands of years. Gossip and slander have been with us since man was created; it came right along with our free will. And the record of it began in the book of Genesis, in the Bible:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6)

My husband and I go around and around on this because it is called the Sin of Adam, but he insists that Eve is the one who listened to the evil lies and acted on them. But the Church fathers always point out that Adam was the head of the family and the first one created by God; he had been with God a long time before Eve was created. He did not lead her; he followed her. So his sin was in that he did not say no to evil, but allowed evil to become a part of their lives, and consequently, our lives. Because of listening to lies, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  When we listen to lies, share lies, and allow evil to win, we are sinning against God. And each and every time, we also sin against our brother. We can lead one another into a sinful state, a state wherein we exist outside of God, just by allowing evil to win.

Records are important. Our words are important – the records of our words are important. Our words define who we are. The recorded words we speak or write give our record to others for eternity. Think about that for a moment.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The cross-reference in the New Testament is: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned;” which is found in Matthew 12:37. The corresponding commentary says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue – This may apply to all men. Many have lost their lives by their tongue, and some have saved their lives by it: but it applies most forcibly to public pleaders; on many of their tongues hangs life or death.”

power of words

The power of our words can assist us, or it can deter us from our goals. We have a record that remains even after we become silent. As many politicians know (public pleaders, as in the commentary above) and have known for ages, our words can kill our career, our public life. Records can be blown up, as many of our historical records have been. But God sees all of this. He is waiting for us to choose a path that leads straight to Him. A pathway filled with love, determination, honesty, and goodwill. He asks us,

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27

proverbs meme

Quiet Extrovert….

know ourselves

Today I took a personality test. It is free and online. (16personalities.com). What an eye-opener. I do think it is the first time I have participated in one of these where I felt like I was accurately and succinctly described. It sort of threw me for a loop. Today became a benchmark day for me, because I learned so much about myself. Well, I know myself, but someone who doesn’t know me accurately put into words what I think about myself. And that can be a tad bit unsettling.

Most people presume that I am an extrovert because I am a good talker. Ha-Ha. I love to chat. For hours on end. And I have an ability to strike up a conversation pretty much anywhere I am. However, I can be superficial about it, too. I can talk weather, or sports, or social media garbage all day long. And then I can leave it at that. And although I can participate in society at that level, anything more can leave me completely exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. When I feel like I can connect to someone on a deeper level, I will extend my emotional feelers and delve into deeper subjects. But that doesn’t happen too often. As I have aged, it happens less and less.

ereader

I am an avid e-reader. I will read a traditional book off and on, but my Kindle Paperwhite goes with me everywhere. If I have a spare moment, I am reading on it. I take it to bed every night and read until my eyelids have gravel in them and it is hard to focus. I prefer, more and more, books to social situations. I prefer a certain genre and through this personality test, I understand why I love the genre I love. I have found that I can go entire days, if no one else is home, without sounds coming through iTunes or the TV. I can be silent. I can tap-tap-tap on my laptop (which I love so much. It’s a new MacBook…with a delicious purple cover – thanks to my DIL!) and that can be the only sounds in my home, aside from my snoring dogs. But I am still communicating, like now, only it is still being a “quiet extrovert.”

Another thing that this test showed me was what is important to me insofar as relationships and career/workplace needs go. I realized that I blog about issues important to me. And most often, there is a spiritual connection. Spirituality and morality are the most important attributes I seek in friendships and workplace environments. Boy, I wish I would have learned this sooner in life. I had it in me, but this test laid it all out so nice and concisely. My nature is to be diplomatic when I can, but I also will not compromise my beliefs. I am always seeking authenticity from others – quality trumps quantity every time.

blcoked on social media

Why do I address this? Well, today several things happened. Someone got through a “block” I had for one of my social media accounts and somehow was able to put a call through to me. And it took me by surprise. My safety net has a rip in it somewhere. So my sense of quiet and alone was attacked and I found out I really don’t like that. And secondly, I learned why so much of what is going on in the world insofar as violence and this ugly, ugly election process truly bothers me. Why I prefer ignorance about some of it. The process for delegates to the convention? Who knew all that? Who knew votes could be disregarded? Who knew prominent party members could opt out of the convention? Who knew there could be so much disregard for human life that simply shooting police officers purely because they are police officers is seen, by some people, as a viable option to fix their situations???? And I realized this bothers me because deeply rooted within my personality, I have a need to contribute to humanity on a personal level, all the while valuing honest, integrity, and morality above all else. Where are those attributes in this political climate or in the culture of violence we see out there even today? And it hurts me, on such a deep level. It is almost like I am realizing I am too soft in some ways, to deal with it. Which I also realized today is another reason why I prefer my Kindle time to socializing, more and more.

kindness

I think that just a little kindness is needed. I posted yesterday about touching people, one soul at a time, one person at a time, just person-to-person. We need, I believe, to shut down all this noisiness and spend some time thinking about our neighbors. Our neighbors who may not exhibit kindness to us, but to whom we need to always be kind. This can be quite literally the person next door to us, but it can also be the idiot who cuts us off on the highway and who we realize needs way more driving experience. It can mean the clerk who is rude to us, or a waiter who messes up our order. It can be some jerk on the TV we see who obviously needs some attention or care. We need to show kindness to “the least of these” –

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed.’ Matthew 25:40

I do not want to be separated from the love of God, ever. Some theologians say that hell is not some hot place with demons attacking you, but rather it is the knowledge that God has removed Himself from you, and the absence of the love of God for eternity is what hell truly is. To come to that point in your personal salvific story line to realize there is a God, and that you did not believe nor accept Him, and He has removed Himself from you for eternity. Wow.  We come to many realizations in our lives, and my continued prayer for others is that they will come to acknowledge God in their lives and accept His will for them. I do not want anyone to be without, or stand outside of the love of God. And I see that lacking kindness towards others (we need to always struggle to be kind to everyone), to be fearful for your own safety, and to want to retreat away from others is sort of something that leads to a further decay of our culture. Those of us who recognize the shortcomings around us are the only ones who can affect a positive change. We sometimes have to fight our inner selves in order to help our society. Yes, I might have to pay attention to this ugly election thing we have going here, where no one tells me what they can do for me, but they sure can tell me what the other guy cannot do! I have to keep myself current in order to be a participant in the process, although I would love honesty and forthrightness within our political climate. As for the violence, I think that will only change when we fundamentally change how we all view the sanctity of all human life. When we can so easily abort the unborn or kill the sick and dying, people will not value one another. When we extend kindness to others, with no expectation of recompense or deservedness, but purely to be kind, we teach them that they have value – that their lives matter – that all lives truly matter.

sanctity of life

One of the traits this test showed me was that I need to feel like I am constantly improving myself, and am inspiring others, convincing others to passionately and altruistically improve the world around them, on a personal level. And to me, that means I need to touch someone positively each and every day, to be sure I am contributing. Right now, I am blogging, and hoping to share with more than one person, so perhaps they will be inspired to reach out, too. I have comforted another person today, and that makes my heart sing. I am trying to make it a personal goal to touch one other life, each and every day. Together, we can reorient this culture before it becomes so warped, no one would recognize it. Together we can grasp one another’s hands and literally pull each other towards a better tomorrow. Yes, I am a quiet extrovert, but even I can affect change.

Flag people

 

“…do it alone, person-to-person.”

Saint_Innocent_Orthodox_Cathedral_Anchorage_Alaska

This is Saint Innocent’s, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Anchorage. There have been some amazing stories about the influences here in Alaska from the Russian Orthodox Church. There are gorgeous onion domes all over this state. We just celebrated the wonderful, “Seward’s Folly” anniversary in March. The United States paid Russia $7.2 million in 1868.

Holy Assumption_Kenai_Church

The oldest Orthodox Church is Holy Assumption in Kenai, pictured above. It was built in 1840. I love that! And it is still in use today. We have so much to thank the Russian Missionaries for, here in Alaska. The combined Orthodox and Native cultures are such a blessing here. I love learning new things and have thought of learning a native language…just not sure which one I would choose, as there are over 20 of them to learn!

Alaskan Native Map

Our Alaskan heritage is rich, in both culture, foods, and also in faith. There are so many differing faiths in such a relatively un-populated state. There are more than 36 denominations of Christian churches in Alaska, which include the Orthodox. But there is no list that contains other faiths, such as Jewish or Muslim. The variation is amazing, considering this state only has about 600,000 year-round residents in 663,300 square miles. The population density, if it were to be placed in Manhattan, would have 14 people living there. Ha-Ha! Conversely, if Alaska had the same population density of Manhattan, then there would be 40,843,544,807 people in Alaska. Or approximately 5.8 times the current population of the entire world. It is fascinating to me that a state as large as Alaska, with as few people as we have, expresses itself so diversely. We have the top three most diverse high schools in the entire NATION. It is really interesting.

StAndrewsEagleRiver

Why bring this up? Well, we have started attending (fairly regularly) a parish, pictured above, very close to home. And yesterday, as I looked around the Church, I noticed this diversity. It was not only in race, but in gender and age, too. There were several families with handicapped children of various ages. There was this one couple where the husband struggled with his wife’s wheelchair, commenting to us, “Thank goodness the way back to the car is downhill!” One of the men helping to organize the upcoming Mass asked our son to assist in bringing up the gifts (something he’s been asked to do more than once before). And as they walked in with the gifts, I noted the diversity of those walking up. Two boys, two girls. One hispanic, one black, one white, one native. How cool was that?

And so we worship as a family…all of us gathered under that roof. We knelt as one body, in worship of Our Lord. The Russian Missionaries came to this land, not able to communicate with the native peoples living here, and yet they brought many to the Church. Our local parish offers us anonymity and yet allows us to share and be a part of something larger than ourselves. We come together, sharing a common faith, sharing at a common table. We come so very damaged, in search of the Divine Physician. Our souls ache with all the disparity and violence in this life, seeking a commonality with like-minded believers. We struggle, each of us, with our personal salvation. Each of us, when it comes right down to that last breath, have a personal salvation we need to work out. Each of us approaches our Lord a little differently, and He is there for each of us, in our differences and in our likenesses. But He encourages us to seek one another, to share in our life of faith. He encourages community, because “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” (John Donne).

Racial hands prayer

When we chose to adopt outside of our race, we knew many on both sides of the issue would have problems with it. Most who did, had the problems because they were (1) unfamiliar with interracial adoption, or (2) had never interacted with someone of another race on such an intimate level before, or (3) were afraid it would not last and the child would be rejected because of the interracial communion within a family, or even (4) could not imagine one race wanting a child of a different race. Of course, for us, it was all unfounded. I love the son of my heart like I love my sons of my flesh. I forget he is of another race, because he is just my son. He shared that all this “Black Lives Matter” thing is messing with his mojo. He said people are afraid to talk to him, thinking he’ll get upset or something. And he says it is hurting the mixing of races, which is something he has never had a problem with until recently. He also told me, “Mom, we really are not different races. We are just the human race. The rest is just dressing.” We talked about how under the skin, we all look the same. All our parts are in the same place; surgeons don’t learn different procedures for different races. So why is there still so much separation? Anger? Hatred? Distrust?

Mother Theresa

It’s funny that the organizations that purport to want racial equality are the very ones who are inciting unrest and violence. They are not fomenting peace when it is so desperately needed. They are not protecting the “least of these,” but rather further the disintegration of the society they are supposedly trying to save. When the Russian missionaries came to Alaska, they did not wait for someone to tell them what to do. They saw a need and they fulfilled it. Mother Theresa was like that. She did not wait for the government to act. She took children off the streets and cared for them. She took people no one else would touch, and washed their wounds and fed them, giving them her undivided love and attention. She did not care who they were, what their creed was, or where they came from. She cared for everyone equally. The communities that are the most downtrodden have the most violence. There is the most unrest where there is the least work. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” was a saying derived from Scripture: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece. An evil man sows strife; gossip separates the best of friends.  Wickedness loves company—and leads others into sin.” Proverbs 16:27-29. Perhaps we need to encourage all that brain power that goes into organizing protests, into organizing their communities. Perhaps organizing clean ups or job fairs or child care options. Helping each other out of the conditions they are in, and making them better. Mother Theresa established her missions in the poorest areas of the world, and started by just picking up a broom.

Broom

We all need to stop pointing fingers, as I sort of was above, and put our shoulders to the wheel, as they say, and doggedly pursue peace and love throughout our communities. We cannot wait for leadership to show the way. We need to reach out, quite literally, to the people who live next door. I ashamedly met my next door neighbors this weekend. We have lived next to them for over three years, but quite honestly never see them. They had a garage sale and we went over, introduced ourselves, and purchased a couple of goodies from them. What a shame we wasted all this time, because we enjoyed them so much. It’s wasted because they are putting their house up for sale, and will soon thereafter move away. What could we have had, these past three years, had we met them sooner? We had an amazing soup kitchen, homeless program at our old parish. We were told it could not be done. So many in our own church told us it could not be done. It has been going on every week for over 10 years now, reaching out to the people who live around that little mission church, feeding them, bringing them in from the rain, counseling them, and being a presence in that very poor neighborhood.  It has to happen, one person at a time, one prayer at a time, one choice at a time. We cannot wait for directions on how to do this, we all just need to reach out…one soul at a time. Person-to-person.

one person at a time

“expecting different results…”

 

Fireweed lake

(Fireweed blooming in Alaska)

I adore the summertime weather up here. Yesterday, it was actually 98-degrees about 4:00 pm.  For this part of Alaska, that is just over-the-top-hot! I was melting. It’s so hard to explain to those who have not travelled or lived this far north, but the sun is very different. When it is on you, you definitely feel it. And the sun is not in the place I would expect it to be when I look up, having lived south most of my life, at the times I look for it. 9:30-10:00 pm look much like 2:00 pm back in Southern California. It is still weird to wear sunglasses at 11:00 pm.

 

Midnight sun AK

(Midnight sun in AK)

Today I have been puttering in my yard. It amazes me how fast things grow with all this sunshine. We have just experienced a week of gloomy, rainy weather and the grass got so tall. The amazing thing, too, is that after we have no rain for a day or two, our plants are falling over, dying. So today I have been pulling off the dead leaves and flowers and soaking everything. My basil was so pretty about a week ago, but today its’ amazing purple blooms were just sagging and I thought I might have lost it. But I pruned away and soaked it, then put it in a sunnier spot, and after the past few hours of sun-worship, it looks amazing. Whew. And I sit here, after playing with our vegetables, in a completely different outfit, with hair dripping wet. Me and the hose had an altercation. It did not want to stay where I wanted it to, pointing where I wanted it to point, watering what I wanted it to water! We argued, it soaked me, but I finally balanced it so it is watering almost our entire raised bed vegetable garden.

yard sprinkler

(My 1950s era sprinkler head!)

I was determined to win! It is an old fashioned way to spray water on your garden, but you know what? It works amazingly well. There is something to be said for the old and true ways of doing things. Our ancestors spent eons thinking this stuff up and we are constantly trying to “improve” on their ideas, when sometimes the original was amazing and perfect, and still works the best.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 2and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. This quote is also known as the “Great Commission” wherein Christ instructs His Apostles to take what He has taught them, and to teach others. And to make disciples of “all” nations. This was the original request Christ made to his Apostles, and they in turn have requested that we, too, do the same. It dates back to Biblical times and it is still true today, perhaps even more so.

Runner-Bean-Flowers

(Pole beans in bloom)

As I played with our pole beans, which are flowering and reaching for places to climb, I wove them along the wires my husband strung around our garden for them. I had to be extremely gentle with them, as when they are in this phase of growing, they are so fragile. And I thought of me and how I have guided my children, in all their growth-phases and when they were their most fragile, and their strongest. And I know, deep in my soul, that my heart was in the right place. I want to spend eternity surrounded by the Grace of God, and being with family and friends who also chose to follow Christ and His Word in our lives. However, if I am being honest, I know there have been opportunities where I have missed sharing my faith, and where I have perhaps not lead my children as well as I could have. And it weighs on me.

Success sharing faith

Just now, I had to go back outside to move the sprinkler so I could get the end row of our vegetables. I argued with that darn sprinkler, but I got it to water just the plants I wanted it to water. I got a little wet, but I approached it smarter this time! The plants back there are the ones who also see the least sunshine during our long days. But I am determined, that through working with them, weeding, watering, and paying attention to their needs, that I will reap a harvest. This is just such a perfect analogy for our struggles in life, and with those who we love who do not walk the same path we walk. We can look around us and see those who we know are struggling to survive in this crazy world. Some get no light given to them at all, walking through life in relative darkness. Some are not tended to regularly, nor do they receive adequate watering. But having struggled with my sprinkler of choice (my chosen faith expression) I know sort of how the sprinkler works, what I can expect from it, and how to approach it to make it work the best for my garden. We who claim to have faith in Christ all know this. We struggle, we wrestle, we sometimes get soaking wet and have to change and start over. But we learn and know more or less what to expect.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

This quote is broadly credited as having been said by Albert Einstein. And the man would have experienced this in his quest for scientific knowledge! Today it aptly applied to my struggle with my sprinkler. I could not approach it as I had at first, or nothing would be watered but me! My hair is still wet and it helps remind me of failing, but learning from that failure, and not repeating it. I have tried and failed, but got back up again over and over again in the past 31 years of parenting. Raising children, and witnessing our faith to them, is more about how we live our lives, rather than memorizing religious dogma or facts. Don’t get me wrong, we used the Baltimore Catechism with our kids. However, I truly believe that our children are sponges. They soak up everything about our lives as a family, while growing up. They see how we treat them and their siblings, and how my husband and I treat each other. They see how we interact with others. Right now, one of our adult children and family have neighbors with lots of children. These neighbor kids are constantly looking over the fence or coming over, and they are parroting things that are obviously being said by their parents. These neighbor children have asked my adult children if they are Catholic, and then asked why they don’t go to church. And that’s from their 8-year-old! They question and say things that are not from a child’s mind. Their parents purport to be very strong in their faith, and they homeschool, and they attend Church very regularly – all the hallmarks of good kids. But what they are teaching their children by their actions and their words are completely undoing all that homeschooling and church-going. And it is a horrible example to my family, who struggle mightily with everything to do with faith, most especially those who act all holy and perfect, but are far from it. It does nothing but make my adult kids less likely to pursue church attendance, nor to teach their own children about the faith.

neighbor fence

I have learned, over the years, that approach and first impressions are so very important. If we crash and burn when trying to share our faith with others, well, we need to get back in there and repeat, repeat, repeat. We cannot give up or stop, but we can repeat in a myriad of ways, too. I leaned today how to maneuver my hose so that I could control water flow, and the position of that darned sprinkler. I had to get soaking wet, first, though. But in the end, the Lord controls the harvest. I have to eventually trust in Him to touch the souls of those I lead to Him. My children are making adult choices these days. I can no longer claim responsibility for their choices. They are on their own in this world, and before God. The majority have children of their own they are raising. Our youngest is almost 18 and is starting to make choices – he is planning his future and making decisions about his career path, as well as friends and socializing opportunities. Yes, sometimes I am a nervous wreck. But that being said, I have also shared my faith with him by living it out in front of him. I have struggled and he has witnessed that struggle and we have talked about it at length. He shares his view on things and so I am really loosening up on those motherly apron-strings. I pray that I have shared what he needs to hear and see and learn with him, before he goes out among the wolves of this world. But all I can do, as a parent, is pray. “God has got this!” as Mark Hart the Bible Geek would say.

Chipmonks

We jokingly say in our family that the eldest plowed the road, the middle one paved it, and the youngest is just skating on through. Those can be seen as stages in how we learn, as well. Sometimes we struggle, but hopefully we grow and learn. We may, in the middle of life, back slide and slip up, but getting back on track and cruising along again is a good thing. We learned a lot from raising our kids. We got wet so often…we moved that sprinkler over and over again….we had to keep moving it and re-arranging it as the years went by. But now, we have a garden that is reaping an amazing harvest of wonderful grandchildren we adore, we have some pretty awesome adult kids, and the future is still ahead of us.  We are blessed, but we are not sitting back and just allowing the weeds to take over – even if our children are adults. We still wrestle with that sprinkler! We live our faith, we strive to be good examples, and we constantly pray and nurture those we love. God has blessed our efforts and we pray our family tree keeps growing, resting in the love of God.

family gathering