Truly remembering….

duckThis weekend was wonderful in so many ways.  We traveled two hours south on Saturday to see a glacier and walk in a “Sealife” rescue center. Being able to watch our youngest son as he discovered new things was such a joy.  It was compounded by being able to watch our grandson experience a new aspect of life on this planet, too.  His over-riding joy at seeing the “fish-fish-fish” was so heart-warming.  Seeing a glacier up close brought to mind how insignificant we are.  My oldest son said he contemplated the amount of glacier-melt it took to create these rivers we saw – “Imagine the little bit of water a melting ice cube produces,” he said, “and then imagine the amount of ice in a melting glacier it takes to create these rivers.”  It is pretty astounding to think about. The drive was delicious to a former SoCal gal…all that green in the mountains, capped by snow-covered peaks, and the glorious sunshine…it was a perfect day spent with loved ones.

Weekend2Sunday’s Divine Liturgy was so enjoyable, too.  The visiting priest welcomed us and instituted some traditions we are familiar with, and welcomed doing again. I love standing next to the Deacon or Priest as the Gospel is read, receiving a blessing afterwards. It just warms my heart to be up close and personal to the Word of God.  The children seemed to really enjoy it, as well.  My husband was asked to serve on the altar and we are thrilled he can once again wear vestments.  There are legalities to work out, but the gist is that this parish welcomed us, no questions asked, no hoops to jump through.  What a stark difference to our last experience.  It has helped to mitigate some of the trials we have been going through.  We feel blessed to have found this parish and look forward to the years ahead, serving this community.

Memorial Day 2013Yesterday was Memorial Day.  This is traditionally the first real Bar-b-Que day in America. Most American kids see it as the first hint that summer is fast approaching. Up here, the kids are already out of school for the summer, so it is very much the first summer holiday.  Traditionally, we always paused to remember our heroes, those who have served or are serving our Country, and then we’d play.  But yesterday was the very first time I was privileged to share the holiday with a veteran.  And he happens to be my son, so it took on a myriad of emotions for us all.  We went on base to the Military Cemetery.  There were so many graves, so many flags, and lots and lots of people.  The setting was gorgeous, with the majestic mountains in the background, beautiful blue skies, a wonderfully gentle breeze to keep us cool in that blazing sunshine.  We walked among the grave stones and our son was somber, quiet, contemplative.  We kept a respectful distance from he and his small family.  They came to a section where they remembered the father of a friend and brought flowers to his gravestone.  We then had to return to the main gate to gain access to the Memorials for my son’s unit.  We were finally granted access (do not even get me started on how poorly we treat our vets) and went to visit the memorial dedicated to the men lost in Iraq.  It was an incredible moment for both my husband and myself, and our 14-year old son.  As we wandered through the grave sites at the cemetery, I began to feel the weight of the sacrifice these soldiers had made for me…from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the recent wars.  I felt so unworthy and so insignificant.  When we arrived at the Memorial, and when I saw how deeply affected my son was, it caused so many emotions to well up within me.  First of all, as a mother, regardless of the age of your child, you want to help them and make their sadness go away.  I cannot do that for him and it makes me feel so very impotent.  It is also a very personal thing for him and I was privileged he allowed us to share those moments with him.  Standing there, reading their names and their ages, I again experienced my insignificance and that I felt like I had not done enough, or even anything, for them.  I also felt love for these young men who gave their very lives for our safety and well-being. I felt motherly towards them and offered prayers for them and their families.  I felt very unworthy, actually, to be there with my son, because it was truly something very private for him…and it changed forever, Memorial Day, for me.

We read things in news blurbs online; we occasionally see something on the TV news somewhere, mentioning the military still serving our Country and protecting our freedom, in Afghanistan.  We rarely hear about it, though, and very few of our children understand it.  We, in this country, have re-written history from a date and occurrence to memorize, to moments of political victory. The perspective of history has quickly undergone a profound change.  Our children do not understand why there was a WWII or a Vietnam, let alone the recent events in the Middle East; it makes me so sad.  And if my son had not been involved, I would be equally ignorant.

There are so many “first-person” video games out there, glamorizing death.  There are battles fought and won; lives are “re-generated” and players come back again and again, which is far from reality.  Sadly to say, many young men join the military today wanting to see if it is like these games they play; they have no real clue what war entails.  And I have been up close to war before, during Vietnam particularly, but never a direct family member, let alone my son. I learned a lot this weekend.  We had this amazing experience at the SeaLife Center, we saw a glacier, we worshiped at God’s altar, and we walked among the buried Veterans on Memorial Day.  What an array of experiences in three days!

On Sunday in Father’s homily, he talked to us about the Love of God and how God is touching us always…in little ways.  When a mother caresses her child; when we hear the laughter of our children; when we fall in love; when we have those inexplicable moments of faith…all these touches are the Love of God…His love for us.  As I saw all those grave stones, all those flags and felt the insignificance of my contribution to this world, I also felt God’s peace.  These warriors gave their all for me and I never really appreciated it before.  Raising all sons, we have a collection of war movies, action flicks, who-dun-its…and as I thought about a lot of them, it sort of made me mad. It is almost like taking and profaning the deaths of these soldiers.  It is so hard to explain fully how I felt.  These soldiers died protecting me, allowing me to sleep in safety each and every night.  Having someone act that out somehow seems shameful.  There were so many posts in all the social media sites over the weekend, each one trying to be more patriotic and touching than the last one posted.  And they all fell short, so short, of what I witnessed at that Cemetery.  The reality of the sacrifice they made for me really touched me.

After we visited the Memorial, we went home and my husband and I both cried for our son and how this has had such a ripple effect on him, his life, and his family.  We felt so proud of what he went through and what he lost for our safety.  And I respect him so very much more.  I believe this country can never do enough for our veterans.  We don’t do enough as it is.  These men and women will never be the same after their experiences and their families will not either.  The only peace I have is that God has all these souls in His Hand.  His love touched all of them and all their families.  And yesterday, they touched us in a very personal way. We later got back together with my son and his wife’s extended family and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of some amazing burgers and beans, salads and pies.  I hope that every Memorial Day is spent truly remembering those we miss, those who are no longer Bar-B-Queuing with us on this Holiday, and that we can then move on to making new memories of a day spent with family and friends…smiling, laughing, and burning some meat.  I know I will never forget Memorial Day 2013.


“..a thousand around us will be saved..”

Man before cloudsAfter the events this week in Oklahoma, following their devastating tornadoes, I am thinking of the gift of life. It is so precious and so very fragile.  A priest friend of ours used to always remind us, “We are not guaranteed our next breath.”  He is very right.  Each breath I am taking, I am feeling, noticing.  Watching the photos and video on TV about Oklahoma, speaking with family members who live there, and friends who have family members living there, makes you take a look around you at the blessings you have…God saw fit to allow you to wake another day.  Give thanks for that, alone.  But there is so very much more to thank God for each and every day.

Two days ago, our day was pretty amazing for us, on several fronts.  My husband was called for several interviews, and the companies are ones he would very much like to work for…so we are blessed that our future looks brighter than it did a day before that.  Also, we were sent several videos of our new grand daughter.  She was wiggling and cooing, and even sneezing.  I loved watching her smile and stretch her toes, and reach out for both her daddy and her mommy.  It was so wonderful to see her react when they spoke to her; she knows their voices.  It reminded me of John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”  And it also reminded me how instinctual it is that our children know us and willingly follow us, just as we know Our Lord and follow Him.  Sometimes not willingly, as we have that gift of free will, which habitually gets in our own way.  My grand daughter was adorable and pretty darn perfect.  Her sneezes were greeted with laughter and, “God Bless You’s” from her parents. It was a precious peek into their new lives as a family.  My husband and I both wept with the joy of it.

The other wonderful news for us is that our older son and his wife found out the baby they are expecting in October is a little girl!  We are all so thrilled.  In our family, there are few few daughters (they have usually arrived via a marriage!!) and it is nice to have little girls coming into our family!!  Having three sons was great for me.  God knew, in His infinite wisdom, I would fail miserably with all things girlie.  I cannot do hair, for one thing.  Which is why I think I was blessed with straight hair I could put in a pony tail or part on the side and have it resemble some sort of style.  Ha-Ha!  And I am not your lace-wearing, doily-using grandma.  I prefer t-shirts and jeans.  I always wear dresses to Church, but they are simple and have no frills. It is just not me.  However, I am excited to shop for two grand daughters.  I now have someone to leave my teacup collection to; my inherited jewelery to; my antique dolls to.  I am so excited to explore that side of me.

When I was raising my sons, we spent an entire year homeschooling using a themed curriculum – it was Medieval History. We built castles, moats, trebuchets, swords, coats of arms and armor. We participated yearly in family hunting and all of us went to Hunter’s Safety and have our own shot guns.  (I got a bottle of perfume and a new shotgun on my 40th birthday! How cool was that?!?).  My sons played hockey and were very rough and tumble boys.  And now those sons are becoming fathers to little girls.  What a change they are in for!  Already we see their softer side emerging.  Our oldest son, upon learning they were having a girl, exclaimed, “Bring on the pink!”  I love it. Of course, he is thinking pink cammo and Carharts! Ha-Ha!

God has blessed us over and over again.  We get an opportunity to start over in a new state, doing new types of work (St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us).  We are living in a new place near our children.  And we are open to new things, experiencing new aspects of life.  On a little field trip our daughter-in-law arranged for us, we visited the Knik River and felt glacier melt up close and personal.  The mountains felt close enough to touch and moved me in ways I cannot fully express.  Next, we saw fishing sites my husband and son have visited, off-roading favorite places, and then we went to an actual Caribou Farm!  How exciting to see.  My son and I were able to feed the young Caribou right out of our hands.  We saw babies frolicking with their mamas out in the fields.  We saw (and smelled – ugh!!) Elk in their state of molting off their winter fur (all the animals are molting these days), met Dolly the Bison and Denali the Moose.  I was overwhelmed at the size and manner of these exotic creatures.  I need to keep reminding myself they are native to this land and I am the newcomer!  They live here, too!

Caribou Farm2Today we are praying for the intercession of St. Rita, patroness of the Impossible, to help us in our time of need.  We appreciate so much the gifts from Our Lord.  We have these amazing gifts of life all around us.  Christ has told us not to worry, that He provides for us and we firmly believe that.  Matthew 6:25-34 tells us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  We do, however, take responsibility for our part and we pray and try to keep our minds clear and our thoughts on God.  In the book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” Elder Thaddeus tells us,  “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”  Abbot Tryphon told us in his post today, ‘Saint Saraphim of Sarov said that if we “acquire peace, a thousand around us will be saved,’ for having been created in the image of God, and we are part of the Divine thought that was made material in time and space. We not only influence those around us with our thoughts, but we even influence the cosmos. If we focus on the negative, those negative thoughts impact everyone around us, and even the whole world. The Elder Thaddeus tells us we can be either very good, or very bad, depending on the thoughts and desires we breed.  There is a lot that is wrong with the world, but it begins with us. If there is to be peace in our world, it must begin with me. If hatred, anger, envy, lust, and spite, are to end, it must end with me. When we allow destructive thoughts to destroy our peace, the peace around us is destroyed. We can not blame the world, or even those around us, for that which happens around us, radiates from us. Blame for all that is wrong with the world, can not be placed beyond our own hearts.”

Today I opt to focus on the positive, on the gift of life in amongst the angst and trials of living in this crazy world.  I choose to keep my eye on the prize – eternity with God.  He promises us that if we focus on our souls and our love of God, everything else will fall into place.  I think I will take Him up on that…the glass is very much half full!!

Knik River.AK

“…strength in every storm.”

Mothers Day Tulips

It is amazing how one small thing can put life into perspective.  Our grand daughter arrived, healthy and happy to two wonderful parents and adoring family and friends.  She is pretty much perfect.  What a day that was, full of waiting, wishing, praying and finally, thanksgiving!

We have been struggling over our choices and decisions to make this monstrous move.  We have many regrets and are second-guessing some of our choices right now.  And we are firmly in panic mode. That does not mean that we are not trusting, or we are not praying.  We are praying almost constantly.  I was showering this morning and praying, and I realized how much supplication I had been doing, with very little thanksgiving. And God likes us to acknowledge our many, many blessings, in amongst our trials. And I received the most beautiful photo from our son…a picture of his daughter’s feet! (The photo below is stock; it is not the photo my son sent…but it is pretty much the same).

baby-feet8When my husband and I looked at our grand daughter’s adorable toes, being cradled in her mommy and daddy’s hands, it made us stop and look at one another.  We are so very blessed!  We then had this amazing conversation, with tears running down our cheeks, about the gift of life; the gift of family.  And how our grand daughter chose her perfect time to come into this world and lift the spirits of her grandparents.  God gifted us with the joy of her birth, in amongst all this angst and trial.  What a glorious blessing; God is so good.

Yesterday my youngest son and I went to visit my daughter-in-law and grandson. We spent a playful afternoon, just enjoying each other’s company and the love of family.  The men arrived later on and we all had dinner together.  My husband romped with his grandson and the pure joy in that little boy’s laughter brought a tear to all of us.  My oldest son said, “This is all I have ever wanted; to watch my dad play with my son,” as a tear went down his face. And then, my youngest son whispered to me, “Isn’t it weird, Mom, to see Dad so happy? He’s laughing!”  And it brought me up short to think our youngest son, the only one still at home, is seeing up close and personal how we handle the stress of relocation and job-searching.  And somehow, in some ways, I think we are being miserable witnesses for him of the power of prayer; the perseverance of a life lived with faith; and the complete trust in God.  We have short-changed him in many ways, because he feels the stress and he knows what is happening.  On the other hand, we are also showing him that we can hang in there, through these rough times, and still find moments of pure joy and laughter, and love. And we also are continually praying and demonstrating that when it does get rough, we resort to and rely on our faith, and our family.

Every storm

“…believe in miracles…”

handsToday we anxiously await the birth of our first grand-daughter, and second grandchild.  It is a wonderful part of getting older, to witness your family grow with your children becoming spouses, and then parents. It is a God-given thing to share with them,  welcoming new life into the world, and sharing in creation with Our Creator.

When my husband and I married, I was hearing my biological clock tick very loudly and so we opted to welcome children as soon as the Lord blessed us with them.  Our oldest son was baptized on our one-year wedding anniversary!  That year, it happened to fall on the Feast of the Holy Family on the western calendar.  Each of our sons has been baptized on that same date, as we felt so blessed to be a family and wanted to share that feast day, and our Wedding Anniversary, with our sons each year.  We lost many children along the way and we mourned each miscarriage.  Sad to say our oldest son knew what miscarriages were by the tender age of 4 years old, having sat with me in emergency rooms while I lost yet another child; more than four by that time.  I have lost seven children to miscarriage and I believe that my love of this miracle of life comes from experiencing these losses.  Many women I am now close friends with became my friend over our shared losses.  We have held each other up through this loss of life and through each subsequent gift of life.  I have never felt so close to God as when I was pregnant, experiencing the emerging life within me. It is a feeling I will never forget.  As I lost each baby I did lose, I could also imagine the grief God felt over the loss of even one life He created, but most especially the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son.  And I admired all the doctors and nurses who tried to save our babies, working medical miracle after miracle on our behalf, and on behalf of our unborn children.

I have a family member who lost a child due to the side effect of a medical procedure.  As she lay there, loosing her baby, there was a woman brought in who was screaming at the botched abortion she had gone through and the immense pain she was suffering.  They had to try and save her life after she had killed her baby, who happened to be the same gestational age as the baby of this family member.  A nurse commented to her how hard it was to have the two of them as patients at the same time.  With my family member, they were working so hard to save her child, while the woman next to her had just killed her child and may now forfeit her own life over it.  As it turned out, my family member did lose her baby; it was a daughter and they were able to hold her, name her, and then bury her.  The woman next to them was saved but she was never able to have children after her botched abortion.

Our Lord has gifted us with this amazing ability to give life.  I never, ever take a single life for granted.  Each pregnancy I had was a blessing in and of itself.  My two biological sons have 7 siblings surrounding the Throne of God, praying for them, and their children.  My adopted son is with us because he was saved from an abortion attempt.  God is good and never gives us more than we can handle, and He blesses us abundantly.

Today, our family is increasing by one.  We believe it is a girl and we are all so very thrilled.  Our other daughter-in-law is also pregnant, and we are going to find out the baby’s gender in the next month or so.  We will be blessed regardless of the gender, because it is another life being added to our growing family.  That baby is due in the Fall and we are thrilled to be able to share this journey with them, as we now live nearby.  Today I am reflective of the process of giving life, in all of its glories and pains.  The only way giving birth is truly painless is through medication; it is a fact of life.  But it is a pain that is accompanied by great rejoicing…the pain that gives life.

In our culture, we are pretty hedonistic.  We want what we want, when we want it.  We don’t want to wait, nor do we want to sweat overmuch for it.  It is the era of instant everything – certainly instant communication.  And we have raised a generation that is not used to sticking to something unto completion.  They want it done – now.  Sometimes childbirth can literally take days!  Not to mention lengthy pregnancies.  And then there is the process called “parenting.”  If anyone tells you that your responsibility ends at 18, when your child becomes legal, they are lying to you.  And if you think being a parent gets easier as your children get older, that is another misconception.  Life only gets more and more complicated and intricate as we all grow older, bringing the next generation along with us.  I pray for my children every day.  I pray for my grandchildren every day.

My grandmother, in her late 90s, apologized to me for the world she left to me and to my children.  She said they had gotten it wrong.  She told me a story of how she and my grandpa put all their belongings into and onto their Model T and drove to Canada, in search of work, during the Great Depression.  There were no hotels, no mini-marts, and very few gas stations along their way. They made tents nightly off their car and my grandma, who had brought some sourdough starter with her, managed to bake bread every couple of days, over an open fire. My father, born in 1926, was a small baby at the time.  They made it to Canada and made a life for themselves.  Along came WWII and my grandparents, living in New Zealand by then, suffered deprivation yet again.  They vowed to not allow my dad to feel the pinch,  as they called it.  And they continued to support him through much of his adult life.  They continued in their support of me, paying for my college tuition (as long as I maintained at least a “B” average) and parts of my expenses, always willing to give me $20 when I needed it.  Grandma apologized, saying to me that unless people really work for it, they do not appreciate what they have, and constantly look for more.  And they do not know how to sacrifice for something or someone; they have no work ethic.  She believed her generation had brought us troubled times ahead because of their generosity; I think she was right on many things.

Choose words wisely

I tried to instill a strong work-ethic in my sons, through demonstrating my work at home as well as when I did work outside the home. My husband has been an incredible example of a Christian man, struggling for his family. His sons adore him for that and much more.  My prayer today, in light of the birth of our grand daughter, is that our children and grandchildren will be proud to work and proud of their accomplishments.  That they will not mind sweating to get what they need to provide for their families.  That they will appreciate intellectual, as well as physical, labor.  That they will reach out and help those in need, keeping an eye on family members and their neighbors, too.  That they will not mind sacrificing to save another person, another life, and to assist in protecting the lives we are blessed to have. But first and foremost among these things I pray for, is that my children and grandchildren will live a life ordered on love of God above all else.  If their love of God is not celebrated formally, but is quiet and not obvious, I am okay with that, as long as they cling to their core beliefs. I believe that if we love and honor God first and foremost, the qualities of a believing Christian will spill into all the other aspects of our lives.

And today becomes a special day for us; the birth of our first grand daughter.  It is a day to celebrate with God the gift of life.  Praise be to God….another miracle!

Miracle baby toes

“..that which we live…”

Abba AseniosI have been accused of being chatty…a chatterbox, someone who talks a lot, verbose, loud-mouthed…you get the picture.  Recently I was accused of being tense, even of creating tension.  I take exception to most of these titles and I wanted to share why…because it caused me pain and I had to reflect on this.  Hence, the post!

When I was younger, I was a real gabber, often speaking because of the joy of it, without anything of merit to really say.  I have always loved talking.  Quite often, I have had people not want to read emails or answer their phones because they just don’t have the time to chat with me, or read my long emails.  I tend to write as much as I like to speak, because it is a way to communicate. And I have been told since I was quite young that I should be a writer. Quite often I feel like I do have a lot to share, and a very limited audience.  Hmmmm….dichotomy.

St Ambrose

I personally feel that I have completely changed from being a chatterbox.  I may write a lot of words, but readers have the choice to stop reading the written word; it is much harder to walk away from someone in a one-on-one conversation, or to get off a phone call that is getting too long.  I have worked hard at practicing Holy Silence throughout my days, as well as choosing to speak less and listen more.  I contemplate more, speak less.

We recently, as many of you know, relocated a great distance from our familiar turf.  In the past three years, we have relocated more than 3,500 miles from our home in Southern California.  For someone who loved to chat, being that far away from close friends took a toll.  It is, in part, the reason I have become a person of fewer words; there’s been no one to talk to.

Being a wife is being a partner, a helpmeet, a better half, a friend.  These roles are supreme, coming before motherhood, in my perspective. If my husband and I are not united firmly in our commitment to one another, the family falls apart.  And so I have tried to be there for my husband, supporting him in everything he does, and everywhere he opts to move us.  We make these choices as a team, so he does not arbitrarily move us to another state.  We talk, we confer, we pray, we contemplate, we weigh and ponder, muse and discuss some more before we choose to do anything.  But ultimately, the choice lays with my husband, as he is the head of this family.  And I support him 100%.  Being accused of being tense and creating tension in the home really got to me.  I see myself as the peacemaker, the one who smooths the ruffled feathers, calms the fears, and bolsters sagging egos; I do not see myself as the “pot-stirrer” in our family.  And so this accusation really hit me today.  And I contemplated it while browsing the grocery store aisles, looking for bargains and fresh broccoli.

Intent to reply

We are who we are. Sometimes we are completely different than the people we were in childhood.  Sometimes we are just taller or older than that awkward kid we once were, with all the awkwardness intact.  Maturity does not necessarily come with age; sometimes all we are is older.  We have people come into our lives in many ways and circumstances.  They have a perception of us and they cling to it.  Years of living apart, both in mileage and life experience, can bring a certain expectation; that they assume you are who you once were…and perhaps therein lies the misconception.

I have been holding it together pretty well, I thought, keeping my frayed nerves under control; my worries buried deep in the wounds of Our Savior.  I read a tale about St. Christopher the other day. He was a huge man and used to carry people across this deep and treacherous stream.  He saw himself as strong and a protector. He was asked by a man to carry him across this treacherous stream and as St. Christopher waded further into the water, the man got heavier and heavier.  He asked the man about it and He explained that He was the Lord; His weight was so great because of the burden of our sins He carried.  St. Christopher offered to carry the weight of our sins, and Our Lord, across that stream.  He is a Saint; we are not, although it is our goal, to become Saints. We are not meant, however, to be St. Christophers, or Christ-bearers. It is the opposite; Christ bears our burdens.  And I firmly believe that. I firmly believe that, as Mark Hart the Bible Geek coined, “God’s got this.”  And I know that if I did not have Christ to lean on and cling to, I would have sunk in that treacherous stream of life long ago. I also learned to honestly, and truly, give to God what He can handle, and what I cannot handle, without Him.

I believe that anyone can change.  And that once we do, it is up to us to share that change with others.  We are to bear Christ, but in our hearts, not on our backs. Being a Christian is a freeing thing.  It comes with responsibility and some rules, but it frees us from so much burden, it is eternally worth it.  I thrive in my faith and prefer that to floundering in the world. I think those who accuse me of being certain ways, after having known me for their entire lives, should take a step back and really see what is happening.  Perhaps they would catch a glimpse of the Divine in action; of the Holy Spirit working in our lives; of the immense trust we have placed in God to bring us to this place.  There will always be tension, especially since we’ve taken this immense risk and are worried sleepless about mounting bills and the lack of income.  But there should also be evidence of trust in God; that our lives are in His hands.   If that is not apparent, or is lacking, that is a fault on my part.  I can believe what I want, but I need to be what I believe. My beliefs need to be who I am…and that should be visible to everyone.

Gerontissa Gabrielia

“…a way of escape…”

St Nikon of Optina

If you have read my posts before, you know we recently relocated as far north as you can live and still be in the US of A.  We are slowly acclimatizing ourselves to this new environment.  And we promised ourselves that with this immense change in location, we would try to become better, different people.  It is a rare opportunity to leave aspects of yourself behind and to start over; a clean slate.  We have tried, and are still trying.  St. Nikon of Optina says, “A place cannot save you because there is no place where you can flee from yourself.” And it is amazing to me that even though we acknowledged who we were beforehand, those odd little ticks and habits we wanted to leave behind us, we  came here, aware, but with all our baggage seemingly intact.  I read a cute saying today that stated something to the effect that, “A glass 50% full of water also has 50% air, so technically, it is 100% full.  My husband and I are opposites in that I always tend to look on the bright side, and prefer to think of my glasses as half full, whereas my husband is the half empty kind of guy. He told me yesterday that he sees the glass half empty, because that is the reality of it, but then he looks to see how he can fill that glass.  He is a practical person, whereas I am sort of a dreamer. I tend to believe in things unseen, whereas he is more like St. Thomas, wanting to place his hands in the wounds of Christ.  (Sorry for using “whereas” so much, but it seemed the perfect word!!). For the past 30 years, it has been a winning combination.  We are up against the wall once again in our lives, and our personalities are playing a role in how we approach these days.  Once in awhile, we feel battered and bruised, and flat out scared; but we forge ahead.

We recently watched the movie, “Life of Pi.” What a beautifully photographed (cinema-graphed?) film.  The scenery was amazing.  Some of the portions filmed at night on the open seas were just short of spectacular (and please don’t ruin it and tell me they were all CG!!).  The protagonist of the story, Picene, is beset with tragedy and the story is how he copes with it.  He is in a shipwreck at sea and his entire family drowns.  They are transporting some of the animals from their Zoo in India to a new location in Canada.  Several of the animals survive and are on a rescue boat with Pi.  He tells of his adventure at making his way to becoming a professor in Canada, through the re-telling of his adventures at sea.  And he tells the author listening to his tale that when he hears it, he will come to believe in God.  It struck me that through adversity, we turn to God and we lean heavily on what we have been taught and come to believe in.  Pi was an interesting young man growing up and was all-at-once a practicing Hindu, Muslim, and Christian.  His explanation of why was wonderful, with his belief that all religions tells bits and pieces of the reality he wanted to share in his story; that there is a God.

Life-of-Pi-WhaleWhen you visually see God in action, as in the story of the Life of Pi, your faith is cemented and you find peace.  Picene uses his beliefs to help him get through something that defied rational explanation, something that was difficult for him to face. His entire family drowned at sea and he was just a young teenager at the time.  He survives 277 days on the open sea, with just a “tiger” as his companion.  His faith allowed him to reach that Mexican shore, where he was finally rescued, and where the tiger, Richard Parker, just walks away into the jungle. The story leaves us, the reader or viewer, with a choice of which version of Picene’s adventure we choose to believe in. Along with the writer he is speaking to in the story, I like the animal version best – that version gives me God, and hope, and the strength of spirit I sometimes need when I have to move forward. I recommend the movie and the book!!

The timing of this movie was perfect for me.  I realize that the joys I find along the way mitigate any sorrow or difficulty I might encounter.  While we were working today on applying for jobs, our daughter-in-law dropped by with our grandson and some decaf coffee from our new favorite coffee shop, Jitters.  The moments spent with his grandson on his lap gave my husband a reprieve and infused him with a reason to keep plugging away. God promises us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13).  The temptation to despair is one that God does not want us to face: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)  Our Lord gives us glimpses into His eternity; moments of pure spiritual bliss. These moments are there for us to cling to when all else seems lost, when we question the whys and wherefores of our days and our choices, when we feel despondent or despairing.  And we can cling to, and long for more of, the peace that only comes from God. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

And when that bouncing baby grandson smiles up at you with those amazing dimples, you know that all will be right in this world.  God works in us and in His time.  “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)


“…When you enter the land that the Lord has promised…”

back porchWell, we are here.  We arrived 1 week ago today.  The social media blackout that accompanied our move was not all that bad; I learned to live without the internet and my cell phone.  It has given me time to ponder and muse over the various experiences and people we met, as we made our way to Alaska; the Last Frontier.  We’ve taken a leap of faith coming here, going off to find ourselves and a life we hope for.  We missed being among family and it is so good to know my son and his family are about a mile away; we can actually walk to one another’s homes.  We’ve enjoyed meals, cups of coffee, pizza, and just being with each other since we arrived.  What a joy to have my grandson discover grandma’s pots and pans! What a racket he makes, but what joy it brings to me.  His smile and his laughter light up my life.  Grandchildren are truly a blessing in our older years; God is smiling on us!

Our journey here was an arduous one.  The AlCan Highway, or Alaskan Highway, is a treacherous drive and not for the unprepared or feint of heart!  (If you try it, use Milepost Magazine and do it during warm weather!!). We often drove for hours without seeing another vehicle or sign of life, other than the vast forests we were driving through, on roads covered in feet of snow and ice.  I think this old California girl did pretty good, driving 2400+ miles on some of the roughest roads she’s ever experienced!  My 14-year-old glanced up now and then from his X-Box to enjoy the scenery, but was totally oblivious to the dangers around us (which was actually a good thing).  We had Bison cross the highway in front of us and walk alongside us…what a sight! They are massively huge and their shoulders came well above the top of my windshield.  We saw Red Fox scatter across the roadway and into the treeline as they saw us approach; saw Bald Eagles fighting Ravens over a kill; and saw Moose, casually walking through a small town we happened upon.  It was humbling, to be sure.  This is a land where nature is still very much in charge.  We have not tamed the northern Canadian wilderness, nor most of Alaska.  It is un-nerving and exciting, all mixed together.  And it is exhausting!  This Grandma is pooped out!

When we happened upon the Canadian border crossing, so much of what we thought we knew and what we believed was radically challenged.  It was a 5+ hour ordeal (the whole process of crossing into Canada) that I would not wish upon anyone.  And from that experience I learned so very much.  We have mindsets we have developed through our experience of life and the world we live in; the mores and values of the country we are raised in.  We learn lessons that are given to us by our environment and our perspective is developed from our collective histories, as well as the input we receive at the knee of our parents.  I come from a family of immigrants. And I was taught to love America and the ideals espoused here.  I think many in other cultures, especially our Canadian neighbors, dislike Americans because they think that we think that Canada is just an extension of the USA.  They are ‘so much like us’ that we ASSUME our cultures are the same.  They are not.  The basic freedoms we take for granted are not extended to us when we cross an international border.  We have NO rights and are at the mercy of the Country we are visiting.  I learned that the hard way.  Aspects of being an American were totally wiped away at that border crossing.  I won’t go into detail because this is not the forum for that, but just know our freedom was challenged and my world was turned upside down.  It worked out, as we were finally allowed into Canada and through Canada to Alaska.  We met many wonderful Canadians along the way and they made the experience at the border lessen in its severity a little bit, but I cannot fully express to you the joy and relaxation I felt at driving over that line in Alaska!!  God Bless America.

A portion of that experience is, however, germane to my blog and I wanted to post about it.  As things were spiraling out of control at the immigration office in Canada, I sat with my head between my knees (partially because I thought I was going to pass out or throw up or both) and I prayed.  I pleaded with Our Lord; I asked for the intercession of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, and patron of families.  I asked the Lord for His Presence in that place. I asked for the softening of the hearts of the people around us, and those dealing with us.  I prayed the Jesus Prayer over and over again, throwing in a few Hail Marys along the way.  The Lord’s Prayer was recited over and over again, becoming more and more real to me.  And I found myself so lost in prayer, the world around me disappeared. I was completely transported and I found God, sitting in a detaining area at the Canada border. He was with me and He pressed down His peace upon my fluttering heart, and I KNEW, totally KNEW, everything would be okay.  And I believe that the place I found within my heart is that place of the soul, the place where Our Lord dwells, and where my heart is at peace.  And He dwells there at ALL times and through ALL things.  I truly discovered the reality of that, sitting there, hoping I did not pass out or throw up.  I learned a lesson that my faith in God is the thing that flutters, but God does not.  I come close to Him at times, and at times I find myself not as close to Him.  It is all within ME…He is constant.  He is always there; my pains, my trials, my woes…those are all MINE.

Bible well read

I listened to a CD recording a dear friend of mine has been asking me to listen to for a couple of years now, this morning. My husband and I listened to it together.  We prayed and we wept together. It was a sublime moment in our marriage. This CD summed up this realization that I came to, that God is always present in our lives.  The theme of the talk on the CD was that God is testing us, but His tests are given to us after He has thoroughly prepared us  (“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”  Jer 29:11) and that His tests are open book (our thorough knowledge of the Bible) with our tutor (the Holy Spirit) whispering in our ears the answers.  His goal is for us to pass these tests and through the passing of them, we have our test-imony.  I love that.  We are tested each and every day, but only after He has thoroughly prepared us.  We were tested in our national beliefs and we came to appreciate what we have here in the USA.  We were tested in our faith and the peace that came from deep prayer was amazing.  We are being tested right now, because our pathway is so unclear and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  But God did promise us a “future filled with hope” and one that is filled with “peace and not disaster.”  All He asks of us is to be faithful to His word and His promises.  We are the ones dancing around the May Pole; He is standing upright and firm and is present in all days, in all ways, with His children.  Thanks be to God.