“..lead me to the Rock who is higher than I am…”

Today was nice. I met my daughter-in-law for breakfast. I enjoy our chatter and the fact we are friends, as well as the fact she is my daughter. I could not ask for anyone better to love my son. I am blessed with both of my DIL’s so far!! And the grandchildren they have given us are beyond amazing.

The photo was taken last summer when she literally held my hand so I could hike to a glacier. And I did it. I stood on a glacier. It was one of the most amazing things I have done. And I could not have done it without her help. I have purchased walking sticks for this coming summer and she and I are planning on doing lots of walking. We are blessed to live where right around the corner we have amazing vistas and places to explore. And we are both working on being healthier, so summer will be the perfect time for us to walk and increase our healthiness-factor. Below is the family as we stood on the edge of a glacier!!! How cool is that???

This year, my daughter-in-law is going to join me on my Lenten Journey. I am so excited she is willing to give this a try. It gives us yet another thing to bind us together – our time spent in Scripture. And I think she will really love this study. It is not overly time consuming, but it gets you into the Scriptures, and you reflect on them, and then she and I can chat about them. Yay! This will make Lent even more special.
A couple of years ago, she and I got the Inspire Journaling Bible. And we plan to journal and express ourselves during Lent. I also read a Psalter, and use this bible just to journal. I am also keeping a gratitude journal. It is a lot to take on, but gratitude is so important. If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it. Sylvia at Orthodox Mom suggested to me a few years ago to get one by May Designs. I absolutely love it.
I have not done a gratitude journal in a couple of years, but I ordered one ahead of time, to be ready. It is time! It is quick to do, but it sets you on a day of positive gratitude for all the things life throws at you. I am so excited this Lent. Because Lent is when I hunker down and focus on my relationship with God, and how this reflects on my relationship with other people. And this year, having my DIL do this with me will be extra special. Feeling pretty happy right now, I must say!! Bring it on!!! We got this! The Church in all Her wisdom knows we need this at least twice a year!! It gets us back to a beeline focus on God in our lives. Happy Lent, my friends!!!

 

“…in fasting and in sackcloth…”

Okay; I know with it being Ash Wednesday, and a day of strict fasting for many people, showing a photo of bacon sizzling is just flat-out mean. But I have to confess, I made my son bacon and eggs this morning, as he set off to his job site. He will be 4-5 hours north of us and working so many hours, we probably will not see him until well after Pascha. And it was important for me to send him off full and smiling. So we had bacon. Sugarless from Costco, and mighty tasty, but it is bacon. Sorry. But part of growing during Lent is ignoring what others have on their plates. So please don’t judge me. We are fasting from so much this year – and the company of my youngest son is one of them. And that is a hard, dark, fast if you ask me.

I also sent him off with this. Lysol wipes. Take note: they kill the human coronavirus in under 2 minutes on hard surfaces. And even though where he is going is probably one of the safest places he could be should this corona thing go wild, I wanted him to be prepared. He also has hand sanitizer! Purell in particular also lists the corona virus as one of the things it kills. So for me, I think it is smart to be prepared. Be smart, not in panic mode. We always prep because living where we do, the supply train can get blocked up by weather and other things. (In our case, the majority of goods come by barge or air, and weather really affects that). So we are never certain the grocery store shelves will be filled. We have dry and canned goods, as well as meals you can pack out in case you are camping and get stuck, etc. We have a generator because being without power after the earthquake last year was kinda scary. We keep extra water even though we have our own well. And we stock extra dog food, too. No one wants to have to try and make it to the pet store in a blizzard because you run out of their food! Each time I grocery shop, I buy extra to store for emergencies. It is just being prepared – just in case.

I also stocked my son up with things like Emergen-C. He loves the flavor and will actually drink it, so hey, why not? Costco sells it by the case! I sent him with a 2-month supply, leaving plenty on our shelves for us, too. It is a different mindset to live where supplies are not always readily available, and because of weather, getting to an ER or Urgent Care facility can be out of the question. I know that sounds weird if you live in a large metropolitan area, but living here requires a little forethought and planning – just in case. It changes how you look at the shelves in the grocery store, trust me. And the first time I walked into the store and there was absolutely not a single dairy product, I have to say I freaked out a little bit. LOL. We keep dry milk on hand, just in case, nowadays! Preparation is just part of our lives. Not crazy bunker people, just being smart about it. It staves off panic mode when…

And how does this all tie-in to Lent? Lent is preparation. Lent is when we get our spiritual houses in order. We prepare for the 2nd coming of Our Lord. We walk with Him along the path to Calvary. We join in His sacrifice and His suffering – for me. Because Christ would willingly DIE for just me; me alone. And that is so impactful. If we truly want to be prepared for a virus, how much more do we want to prepare for Our Lord? We have to always keep our eternity in front of us, guiding all we do. I tend to get caught up in what is happening in the world, and around me. I am not gonna lie, hugging my son and watching him drive away brought me to my knees and tears. He’s done this before, having worked away from home for weeks at a time, often in another state, while fighting forest fires. This time he is welding, but I know those things he is working on are tall and big and I’m a mom and I worry. LOL. It is what us moms do best – and trust me, even when they are all grown up, we still worry just as much. Age is not a factor! LOL!

And during Great Lent, preparation for eternity comes to the forefront of our daily focus. I am now at the tail-end of my life. As I have said before, there are far fewer years ahead of me than are behind me; I am way past the halfway mark. For me, people pass away around me all the time. Some are far too young; others have incurable illnesses and their bodies can no longer hold on. Still others are choosing to end their lives. Death comes to us all. As we prepare to accompany Our Lord on His walk to Calvary, I try to focus my mind more succinctly. I try to focus on my personal, salvific preparation. Just like making sure I have the tools I need to survive a natural disaster or a pandemic illness, I need the right tools around me, to help me prepare for eternity.

“..to banquet with angels…”

Lent is really here. Wow. In the West, tomorrow is the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday. I have friends visiting Venice, Italy right now and the costumes for Fat Tuesday are actually beautiful!! So many places really do Fat Tuesday in a large way!! (Which is today). Tomorrow, I am sending my youngest son off to a job site about 5 hours north of us, until the last week of April. I am going to miss that kid. He is funny, and is always so happy. We love having him around. So for his send-off I am making boneless ribs in my Instant Pot. If you do not have an Instant Pot, well, you could do it just fine in a crock pot. But I love the variety and convenience of my Instant Pot. Ribs come out amazing. Seriously amazing.

I bought the smaller one for myself and my girlfriend bought me the larger one (Black Friday sales!!!). Why do I need the larger one? Leftovers! LOL! When it is just my husband and myself, the smaller one is fine. What I love about the Instant Pot is you can sauté and prep in the same pot used to cook in the Instant Pot electronic shell. Less to wash. I put it all in the dishwasher, except for the large, outer pot with the electronics. But the inner pot, the lid, and the gasket for the lid all go into the dishwasher. Clean up is amazing! You can see in the photo above, there is a slight difference between the 6 and 8 quart size (I know, 2 quarts, but I am giving you a visual aid here). Soups and stews are incredible in the IP. I made this wonderful chicken dish with chicken breasts you sauté in the pan, deglaze it, place the chicken on the trivet, and add spices and broth and off you go! For the rest of it, you added potatoes and onions partway through the cooking. It was so good. So, as I type this, ribs are thawing on the stove top (I sit my frozen stuff there because I have a puppy. Sigh. He is so tall he can reach anything, except the very back of the stovetop!) and my son is gathering his supplies and washing some clothes; packing up his truck with his tools and things he will need (like his X-Box, games, and movies) and winter gear. Where he is going it is averaging about -1 or so, with night time temps into the the -28 range. Part of the fun of living and working in the Arctic Circle!!

My one-year-old Standard Poodle, Kolbe. He is so tall, he can literally eat off our dining table, the counters in the kitchen, the bathroom counters, the tops of our dressers, as well as a sundry list of other places. He is so smart, he figured out how to open our laundry hamper and sift through it for my husband’s socks. So now I have to place another laundry basket on top of it, upside down, to lock down the hamper lid. His breeder just had another litter of full sibling puppies, and for a brief second, I was tempted. Thankfully my sanity returned and I chose not to go for another one. He is the smartest dog we have ever owned. He does not shed, nor smell like a dog, even soaking wet. He gets wet a lot. He is the best guard dog and also wants to please. He loves training. Agility is coming this summer. I am excited for it. But he does hamper how I prep for dinners. And the Instant Pot he leaves alone. LOL. Thank goodness. Almost time to pop in some ribs!!! Fat Tuesday!!

This Lenten season, we are already fasting from so much, in the foods aspect, as part of our efforts to become healthier. And as I have shared over past posts, I think that giving up coffee or chocolate is fine; walking away from social media is great. It is a sacrifice for many that is really hard. I truly get that. But I have also learned that adding a discipline to my routine can also be a wonderful Lenten tool. I read more. I pray more. I dive into my journaling and prayer companion. I add more that is spiritually uplifting and challenging to my life. I attend more services that are provided during Lent. And hopefully, these added things can become a good habit to incorporate into my life, long after Pascha has come and gone. I know that reading the Church Fathers, the Saints, even some modern theological writings, puts me into a Lenten frame of mind. Availing ourselves of modern technology and listening to Podcasts is a wonderful way to incorporate more spiritually uplifting and focusing works into our lives. Think of the time spent commuting – switch from music on the radio to something like Patristic Nectar’s podcasts, or Father Andrew Stephen Damick’s podcasts, or Father Barnabas Powell, or one of the many wonderful podcasts offered through Ancient Faith Radio. Giving up food is just a part of what it means to prepare during Lent.

I find that saying goodbye to some foods in my diet, to control the portions I do consume, and to be mindful of my plate, helps me develop more of a laser focus on what is important in this life. We cannot afford, for our personal salvific process, to be concerned with what others do for Lent. If someone shares that they gave up caffeine, support them. Those headaches when you choose to be rid of caffeine are no joke! Offer prayers for those who you know are struggling during Lent. Pray for a transformative Lent for others. Sometimes Pascha arrives and we are ho-hum. Sometimes it just becomes another long service we get through. Sometimes it is not even a different or special time for us. My mom, the last time we took her to Church, had no idea where we were, who Jesus was, or had any sort of relationship on a conscious level, to God. And it broke my heart. She has Alzheimer’s and my prayer for her is that her heart is right with God, even if her mind is failing her. For so many people we know, their minds cloud the purity of their hearts. And we cannot judge the quality of someone else’s Lent. Our culture has become so hedonistic, that the idea of giving something up is pretty foreign to people. So if they make any effort towards growth at all, it is time to celebrate for and with them. And always, keep our Christian brethren in prayer, holding one another up in these days of trials. And most especially during Lent.

When we fast it enhances our experiences. And when we end our fast and we begin to feast, it is the most incredible thing you will experience. I recall one year in particular. The boys teased me almost daily, “Is that tofu again?” We followed every dietary fasting requirement we were given. And trust me, in the Eastern Churches, fasting is serious business. And it is for each and every of the 40 days of Lent, not just Wednesday and Friday. So this particular year, we prepared for Holy Saturday. We helped clean the Church, we cooked meat dishes galore. Our priest said he would personally throw any vegetable he saw into the trash! Ha-Ha. The scents coming from the hall as we gathered in the Church were driving us all mad!! We use lots of incense in Church, and most especially on Holy Saturday at midnight. It is so much we have to open windows to breathe. We all love it, though, because our hair and clothes all smell so wonderfully “Churchy” afterwards! The scent of the angels! And this one year, one of the men snuck out early and bought up dozens and dozens of In and Out hamburgers. He had made arrangements with the local location and they had pre-made them for him. When he put those in the hall, we all knew exactly what was waiting for us. And trust me, it was the most amazing feast. Everyone was joyously sharing the Resurrection, with hugs and cracking of eggs, and toasting and eating and singing and dancing. Our son, who is leaving tomorrow and is now 21 years old, was a small child at the time. I think he was about 3 or 4. He was sleeping soundly next to our table, lying on a pile of blankets and jackets. We celebrated until after 3:00 am! Glorious feasting after a long, 40-days of fasting and prayers and almsgiving. And we had grown so much over each of those 40 days. Each day brought its trial and each of them added together, brought us to the magnificent feast of Pascha. Happy Lent, my friends!

“…take from me the spirit of sloth…”

I’ve been so dry with some sort of inability to type, and I have words floating in my brain. Ideas here and there. But nothing has been germinating. So much going on in the world these days. Trying to hide from it, but it seeps in. Trying to avoid it all, but somehow I get sucked back into that vortex. Ugh.

I cleaned out my pantry this weekend. Because I have neat pantry fantasies. Does mine look like this? No, it does not. But I feel better about what it is I have in my pantry. I have lots of things in glass. I am trying to rid myself of plastic storage (BPAs leaching, etc) and the use in general of plastics. It is hard. They surround us.

It might seem weird but this is a positive thing. It is solid dish soap and a brush. I am replacing my usual Dawn blue. I will keep it around for particular stains (I have white carpeting and a puppy) but this is working out so well. I bought it in a lovely lemon scent. You can use it to wash your hands and scrub pots and pans. It is working out so well. I have ordered stiffer brushes for pots, but this one is working out just fine, so far. I even scrub my sink with it. The soap has no icky chemicals – all natural and made with essential oils. The brush is renewable bamboo. I am using less and still getting a great clean! It makes me feel good to get rid of the chemicals. They are good for some things, don’t get me wrong, but I am loving a simpler, natural approach in caring for my home. And it is not costing me more money to change over, so that’s a win!

Like I said, we cleaned out the pantry. We got rid of all sugars. No white flour. No starchy, sugar-laden side dishes in a box. No pasta or white rice. My pantry and freezer are Whole 30 and Paleo friendly. We have some Fairlife milk in the fridge, and some pepper jack cheese for my son. But hubby and I are going clean. We are taking our health back.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.…” I Corinthians 6:19-20

We have let convenience and convention rule for too long. It is easier to drive through or microwave or add water and boil. But it is not the healthier alternative. Living closer to the dirt, as they say, is healthier for your body. Cooking from scratch. Eating well-rounded meals. Portion control. Lots of clean water. Shy away from processed anything. Rediscover the joys of cooking for our families, and with our families. It used to be sacred – dinner time, at the very least. I remember being a kid and living in the greater Los Angeles area. About 4pm you would start hearing moms calling their kids into the house to “wash up for supper.” We had to be spic and span when Dad came home. Quiet, clean, and speaking when spoken to. Gotta love the 1950s. TV was relatively new and I remember when mom got TV dinners! What a treat that was! LOL! Because TV programming was so sparse and short. I remember seeing the old symbol come on and everyone was off to bed.

We would groan but there was no alternative – no videos or tapes, CDs or DVDs. We would be off to bed to read or sleep. LOL. Life was quieter and simpler. Food was simpler and there was not as much of it. People ate far less. We did not carry water around, either. If you were thirsty, you drank something. LOL. And I felt great. Of course, I was much younger, too. But I long for the ease of simplicity. You can often do far more, with far less. I have blogged about the KonMari method, or Marie Kondo. She is wonderful and a friend showed me a drawer today she cleaned after watching Marie on TV. It spurred me on and I cleaned out my bathroom drawer. I can survive much simpler, with much less.

So far, paring down in clothing and things makes life lighter, simpler. And paring down in what and how we eat also makes life cleaner, simpler, and somehow lighter. Every year, the Church tells us what we need to be doing, and it seems like it falls into place with my own natural rhythms. Maybe it’s because I’ve been fasting during Lent for so long, somehow my psyche and my body knows it’s coming. And I love fasting in the eastern Church’s traditions. It makes SO MUCH SENSE! First, we have Meat Fare Sunday. This is where we give up all meats. Then comes Cheese Fare Sunday, where all dairy is given up. And before you know it, Great Lent has begun. SO excited.

You must be wondering why I love Lent so much. Well, Lent calls us to a greater reflection of who we are and what we project into our world. Do we reflect the Love of God in all things? Or do we reflect back the world to those around us? Meat Fare is also called the Sunday of the Last Judgement. We prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. We prepare our hearts to meet Him, Who is the Redeemer of the World. And on Cheese Fare Sunday, we seek forgiveness from everyone, entering into Lent with a clean heart. And during Lent, we seek ways to stay in closer communion with God by enhanced reading, attending services available at Church, and increased prayer and almsgiving.

So cleaning out my cupboard, cleaning up what we eat, and being organized is leading me straight into Lent. And it is laying the foundation for a Lent filled with growth and potential. In the Eastern Churches, it is not so much what we give up, because our fasting is pretty darn extensive, but rather, it is what else we can do in our Walk with Christ to Calvary. So very excited!!!

“O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother, for Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.” Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim, the Syrian.

 

“…how can we know the way?”

So I have the flu. It has not been fun. My son, God bless him, went and got me some meds for my symptoms. I have used DayQuil liquid caps before and they worked great. Felt a lot better quickly. I asked for a cough suppressant and he got confused (even with it written down, but it has been fine) and brought home liquid DayQuil. I cannot believe how much this knocks me out. Not only can I NOT function, I fall asleep. This is supposed to be the stuff that is NON-DROWSY. Thanks be to God I do not have to leave the house. But I cannot imagine having to work through being sick and taking this stuff and trying to function – on the road or in a job of any sort. I have been worthless. The dishwasher is full from Monday, with clean dishes in it. There are only a few things on the sink because I have not really eaten since Monday. Chicken broth, some steamed rice, a little applesauce. The weird part is I am not even hungry. Hubby is out of town. I told him not to expect much when he gets home because this round just knocked me down. I am finally realizing I will once again be a whole person, but shoot! I was holding my phone and wondering what the ringing sound was. I was seriously confused and then said, “Oh, my phone is ringing!” I do not think I could ever abuse drugs…I just don’t have the stamina to get high. LOL. I ended up promptly going to sleep and l and had to call my son back. Luckily it was my son, and he just laughed at me.

My mom and I are so blessed that we were able to find a gerontologist for her. It has been life-changing for us both. I knew I wanted someone who was sensitive to the elderly, and the issues surrounding their care. I just did not fully appreciate how lucky we are to have found one, one who accepts Medicare/Medicaid only as payers. Rare, trust me. The quality of my mom’s care has been stellar. I don’t think she has ever had someone be so comprehensive in her diagnosing her by getting her to specialists and rooting out causes, all while coordinating her care with them all. She is a hands-off doctor, believing people should be living happy and healthy lives with as little interference as possible. And she understands how drugs affect us differently. She has mom off all unnecessary medication. What a relief. And I thought of that as I was coming out of my latest DayQuil fog. Medications affect us all differently. It is wise to take that into account when putting anything into your body.

Knowing where something comes from can help you understand its affect on you, and can also explain a lot of your questions. When we lived on dairy farms, I was amazed at how few people knew where milk came from. Most people do no think about where their water comes from, they just turn on the faucet and there is water. Or who bakes your bread? Where is your phone made? Your clothes, where do they come from and who sews them? Who established the regulations that ensure it is all safe or that you are getting equal quality for your money? There’s a cute red basket on the table next to my husband’s recliner. His brother got it for us. It was hand-made in Africa and some missionaries brought it back for him, and he got us one, too. He also got me an apron. I love that I know it was hand made in Africa. I have a piece of pottery a friend’s daughter brought me from Peru. She bought it from the man who crafted it. I have trivets that are round pieces of wood with hand-tatted covers I use for coasters, that my great-grandmother made. My great grandfather cut the pieces of wood for them. I love knowing the origins. And the source of things makes so many other things, make sense. It is like the pieces all fit together.

I majored in Forensic Anthropology and Physiology with a minor in Biblical Archeology. And even though I had been going to Church my entire life, in the labs and chaotic hallways of the Anthropology department is where I encountered God. And it is where my faith became a tangible, living thing. I have always been a digger in the sense that I always want to know how and why. I always want to get to the gist of something so I can understand it. And if I can touch it, all the better. I have also learned that things can have a different affect on people, just like DayQuil. I loved this one exam where we were handed a box of bones. We had to determine gender (bones only see two, by the way), age at death, cause of death, and if it was female, how many children, and how far apart. (And even if our box contained human remains or not!! One student had chimpanzee bones). One of our classmates rose from her desk, and ran out, covering her mouth. This was our first time with the reality of death in front of us. And I think lectures had not made it real for her, but that box of bones certainly did. She never returned to our class. Because death affects us each differently. Mom’s doctor is walking us both towards her death, holding both our hands, so that my mom can die the way she wants to die. And I love her doctor for that. Her doctor also keeps a firm arm around my shoulder, holding me up when I need her to do that for me. She is a medical and personal treasure.

As I delved deeper into man and history and the physical treasures we have to support our faith, I could not figure out why everyone was not a Christian. We have solid artifacts that show exactly what we believe. It is a real thing. I don’t think the University sought out to evangelize me, but they succeeded. And that is what I am getting at. The source matters, the connections we make matter, and it affects us each so differently. I came away, with that sort of major, a stronger Christian. Most would have gone off into the junk science about social justice or us coming from apes. I can so justify my beliefs in light of, and because of, science. True science and true faith are part of the same belief. Most people just haven’t gotten to that point, where they can see those origins and embrace them.

“Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6-7

So for me, I think back in time to my origins, and I think to choices I have made that have brought me to where I am. And even with all the bumps in the road, crazy switchbacks, and potholes, I give thanks to God for bringing me here. And for me, it is so simple and quiet, and clear when I go to the source of all. I pray for those who do not see the way, or hear the voice of God in their lives. Even some who’ve walked with me, by my side, for most of my life, who do not share my faith. We have all been affected differently, and for them I pray especially hard.

 

 

“This is the day…”

We have 20-degrees and blowing snow. You know you got a fair amount when you cannot see the dog’s gifts in the yard. LOL. Hubby tries to stay on top of them because spring thaw can be disgusting with two dogs in the yard. No joke. I never knew about this issue until we lived in a snow state. There are companies who come around and deal with it for you. Entrepreneurs…always finding that need and filling it! LOL!!

My husband and I have been married for 35 years. It truly has gone by so very quickly. To have married kids and grandkids is still a surprise some days. When did that happen? Just yesterday my grandma was scaring our oldest child, at four years old, while driving down the road – she took out her dentures and told him that’s what would happen if he did not brush his teeth! And he’s married, now, with two kids. It has sped by. And we are starting to really enjoy our time as a couple. Our first child was born within 10 months, and then baptized on our first Anniversary, so we don’t really know marriage without kids. And this has been sort of fun. Eating foods we want to eat, that one of the kids hates – but they aren’t here. Or watching episode after episode of CSI. Going to breakfast together on a whim. It has been lots of fun. Our youngest technically lives here, but it is mostly just a place he sleeps and showers and does his laundry. And he is getting ready for a job 5 hours north of here, until at least April, so we will be an empty nest for a bit.

We always planned on kids and it was our focus for so long. We homeschooled, so that is pretty intense with your kids. And then came the day when the last one graduated high school and I stood there, so proud, but thinking, “Now what?” And it has sort of worked itself out. My youngest cannot understand why I don’t get a job and I have explained that I had one, since his oldest brother was born, non-stop for 35 years. And I must say, it is nice to not do lesson plans or worry about grades, or even plan my year around the school year. Yay! I joined a Book Club and, not to brag, but they are reading my selection this cycle. Yay again! These are ladies from around where we live, so that is nice, getting to know neighbors. Trust me, in Alaska, a neighbor can be within feet or miles, it doesn’t much matter. It’s different, and nice. Recently, one of my friends and I went to Michael’s craft supply. It was so windy and it was -10 degrees. We had decided to make wreaths for our front doors. Here we were, in -10 degrees, wind blowing, carrying flowers that were getting somewhat scattered by the wind. But we were determined to have something for spring. I finally finished mine and it is up. In 20-degrees and blowing snow. But I know Spring is coming…just not sure when…

So purple is my color. LOL. Our house is white with white trim and brown doors. Pretty plain wrap. So I decided to add a splash of color. Yay. Watched a you tube video for the bow. Easy! Have glue gun will travel! LOL! And I only burned 3 fingers. I am the most un-crafty person you will ever meet. My craft is reading. LOL. One of the reasons I am sharing this is because we have to constantly adapt and change, and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to continue to grow. Our circumstances constantly change. And we need to rise up to meet them. Some days, that means we climb out of our comfort zone and reach for that uncomfortable, new horizon. For us, that’s an empty nest. It’s rediscovering why we said, “I Do,” and why we chose each other. It’s a new adventure and I’m not gonna lie – kind of exciting!!

“I’m still learning…”

Enjoying my morning coffee. I heat and froth my nutpods and enjoy the moments. I pray, and read, and just get my batteries slowly up to speed. Slow starter – I am not a morning person. So, if you do not know what nutpods are, you are depriving yourself of sugar free, dairy free, gluten free taste heaven in coffee creamers. Oh man. I will be honest, my first try using them stunk. Got the hazelnut and it tasted like coconuts to me. Ugh. Not that I dislike coconut, because I love coconut, but my brain expected hazelnut. LOL. I was given the advice to heat and froth. World changing advice. I am now sitting and enjoying the dark chocolate. I don’t know how they got the taste this right, without me missing sugar. It is so beyond good, I even like the aftertaste! LOL! I am doing an extended Whole30, trying to beat back that dang sugar dragon. I have no carbs in the house except for things I am donating to the food bank. I just cannot live with carbs and sugar. It is not good for me. My body does not do well with them in my life. But breaking the habit is beyond hard. Do you know how many common food products contain sugar as one of their main ingredients? Hash browns from the grocery store. Frozen hash browns. Sugar is a main, and almost first, ingredient. Even before potatoes!!! The Whole 30 plan is just 30 days. It is an elimination and re-introduction program. It helps you find what foods work for you, and what do not. It gives you guidelines for healthy food choices, for a lifetime. Well, that was supposed to end on January 31st. I am still at it. I have slipped and when you slip, you start over.

But one of the biggest take-aways for me is that I am learning. I am learning that what I put in my mouth matters. It affects my life. It affects my health. It affects my family. And the second thing I am learning is that I can still learn. I can still take in new information, chew on it, and absorb it. And then use and implement it in my life. Yay for me! I am not a stubborn old woman, yet. LOL. And so each bite is a choice. Each drink is a choice. And I can choose to get better and better about those choices. And when I accomplish that, I find myself healthier and happier. A huge thing for me, too, is I don’t ache as much. I am so tired of aching. So many things increase body-wide inflammation and exacerbate my systemic arthritis. It is not fun, at all.

As a public service announcement, and just so you know, you can order directly from nutpods online, find them with the non-dairy creamers (or in the health food section) at your local grocer, or even get them from Amazon. I like ordering them directly from nutpods. And if you get their emails, they have specials all the time. I get free shipping to Alaska, my friends! That is huge. They are stored in your pantry until they are opened, and then you refrigerate them. I’m telling you – check them out. (Oh, I am  not paid or anything for this. I just found them and am in love! LOL! Just trying to help out my friends!!). Nutpods are Whole 30 approved. They are Keto. They are so much more than you would expect! Give them a try!!

My lesson is I am still learning. I have not stopped and I think it is a good thing. I recently joined a book club. I shared our first book in an earlier post; it was a hard book to read. Completely outside my comfort zone. But comfort zones are just that – comfy. It’s like flannel pj’s all the time. Slippers instead of dress shoes. No make up and hair buns instead of bothering to clean up and blow dry. It is like saying “I’ll pray for you” and not doing it. Stop not doing. We need to be more uncomfortable and go where we normally would not dare to enter.

I often find myself stalled, or in a state of “ennui.” That is one of those words I love to toss around. But it sort of explains it better than “outright boredom.” Because I am certainly not bored. I am just unable to get into a forward motion of some sort. Momentum is sorely lacking. And I am certainly not running like I am on fire! LOL! This year is the year I chose to tackle me in increments. Find simple things I would like to change, and start on them one at a time. As a couple, my husband and I opted to deal head on with our diet. We need to make changes. We have 6 adorable grandchildren we want to keep up with. We have a 1-year-old ginormous puppy we want to do agility training with! We have goals. And we need to be healthy enough to reach them.

I have a friend in a hard situation, where she is experiencing frustration and the continuous feeling that no one is listening to her, and where her wishes are not taken into consideration. Because of that she has panic attacks. And we tried to discuss it, to come up with a strategy to help her cope. We discussed using a scent whenever she starts to panic, which is the basic essence of aromatherapy. I suggested lavender, because it has relaxing attributes. But she was too upset to take it in. So, I began to pray. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I was praying for her, for her peace and calming, for her peaceful acceptance of the things that are. I think it moved her, because we started to talk about it, but physically therapy arrived and off she went. One of the things I am dedicating myself to is more prayer time. Oh, this world is an angry, chaotic place. It is filled with anger, divisiveness, and so much noise and chaos. (I guess I was a little repetitive). But there is also joy to be found, and peace and tranquility, and other people who love us, and those who need our prayers. And our prayers become a buoy in all this messiness we call life. They are often even a life raft for ourselves, because no prayer is ever wasted, but also a bulwark for those we are holding up in prayer. It feels good to pray for people. Lately, when I see a random prayer request for someone I do not know, I love taking that exact moment to pray for them. And it lifts my own heart to new heights.

How do I tie all this together? Well, my days start with coffee and creamer and prayer. And I try to work through my meals by being judicious at what I choose to eat and to serve my family. I am working on being a healthier, better me. I sometimes have difficulty getting to it, and I am working on kick-starting myself. And the biggest, most important thing, is that I am learning and growing and becoming. I have not stopped. And I believe that is what God intends for us all. To not stop growing towards eternity with him, in joy, and peace, and love. One day, one life, at a time.

 

 

 

 

“…and a future.”

 

Sometimes the way ahead is unclear. There is not enough light to see clearly. Are we the light? What can we do to make a difference?

So many thoughts swirling in my head. So many things are coming. Do you ever get that feeling things are beginning to happen? That some things are right around the corner?

Some days our worries get us down. We cling to the Lord’s promises, but still we worry. We are only human, right?

Life has its ups and downs. It has ebbs and flows. I know all of it in my head. It’s putting all of that into practice when you’re helping your 90-year-old mom with her walker, as she shuffles into the doctor. I am sure the doctor will tell us there is nothing she can do. Or better yet, she will look at me and ask me what I want to do. Alzheimer’s is a great thief. It steals the mind and the body a molecule at a time. And there is no gaining ground. There is only watching, comforting, and waiting.

“We are not guaranteed our next breath.”
Abouna Justin

“…within thy wounds hide me…”

Sometimes decisions, even if they are the right ones, can hurt. Years and years ago, when my kids were just little children, I tried to share with them an image of a stick in a fast, flowing river, standing against the tide. Or a fish, swimming the opposite direction of all the other fishes. Living in Alaska, we are blessed with so much wildlife all around us. We have had moose in our yard over and over again. A momma moose tried to come up to our front door, but could not fit on our deck (which I thought up until that moment was quite large!). We have had a flock of baby ducks waddle across our yard, dutifully following their momma back into the wilds. We get to go to these special places where we watch the salmon trying to get back to their spawning grounds. They are all working against the norm. And what does that mean to us? Well, sometimes we need to make decisions that go against the tide…or against what is commonly done.

When our boys were young, we had no TV access. So we augmented their viewing by having videos of popular Disney movies. And then, my husband and I started to note a trend in these story lines: Rebellious kid knows more than parents; parents caution kid not to do X-Y-Z, and they do it anyway; kid apologizes to parents because they realize their parents were right all along. In varying degrees most of the themes of these movies were off-spring going against their parent’s values, learning the hard way that values are good things, and finally embracing them for themselves. For us, these movies exemplified, glorified, and supported, defiance in all things parental. That is not a lesson we wanted drummed into our sons’ brains and hearts. Unfortunately, or not, depending on your viewpoint, we opted to crush or destroy all our Disney movies on VHS (all there was at the time – the 80s/90s). Our kids were mortified. A movie, not Disney, that we particularly did not like was, “Fern Gully.”

It was not the fairy aspect, because we love fairy tales. It was the entire “destruction of the rain forest and industry is bad” theme. Now please do not misunderstand me. I am all for taking care of nature. I believe in CONSERVATION, not PRESERVATION. And I want our lands here for future generations. But there is a vast difference between the two!! So we opted to toss that one on the destruction pile, as well. And these choices were not popular. Not with our kids, and with many of our friends; even our parents thought we were nuts. But a friend said something I have never forgotten, “Why, instead of boycotting something, why don’t we put our money behind things we believe in and support?” (Thank you, Mary). And a light bulb went off. What a great idea!! So instead of Disney, we opted for wholesome, family entertainment.

We opted for different stories for our children, and different sorts of heroes. We focused on good literature and stories that pulled them in and captivated them. One of my fondest memories is reading, every night, the Narnia series, aloud to our boys. Were we made fun of for removing Disney from the lives of our sons? We were. But then it sort of caught on in our homeschooling group and before you knew it, lots of our friends had these heroic, and clean, sorts of books and movies for their kids (this was before Veggie-Tales and other options…remember 1980s). And for my husband and myself, it changed our world. It made us think about lots of other things, from a different perspective. We went from boycotting to focusing on our support. We got a list, through the recommendation of a friend (many thanks, Pam), of all the corporations who support Planned Parenthood, from Human Life International (they are a wonderful resource for all things pro-life). And we shopped all around that list. We avoided giving our money to PP by spending it with vendors who do not support PP. We did this in all areas of spending including clothing, food, and even replacement of things like refrigerators and vehicles. And when it came to our retirement funds, we would only allow investments into “clean” funds. We chose to live out our faith as much as we could, including groceries and cleaning products, as well as restaurants and theme parks. Out of this experience, we came to love supporting the local, small, vendor and trying to avoid chains of any sort. It is harder than you think. And we have failed miserably at times because it is just less stressful, or easier, to go to Best Buy or to eat at QDoba. We are wrong when we let our convictions slide like that.

As a 13-year old in 1969, I discovered this athlete, and his name was Otis Taylor. For whatever reason, he impressed me so very much. My brother and I would play football in the yard and he was always Joe Namath and I was always Otis Taylor. I began to follow the Chiefs and have been a fan ever since. About 7 years ago, when we lived in the Seattle area, I fell in love with the Seahawks. Mostly because I had never lived in a place where there was just one team for each sport. And so I began to follow them, too. My daughter-in-law made me a blanket that has the Chiefs on one side and the Seahawks on the other. I have jerseys for both teams, with my favorite player’s numbers. And then the game got political. And I stopped watching it. About that time, we chose to get rid of cable and just stream what we wanted to see. So the Super Bowl was on yesterday, with my beloved Chiefs playing, and it was missed by me, a fan for 50 years. I admit I watched Twitter Live to keep up with what was going on, while spending a quiet Sunday afternoon watching movies with my husband. But I was able to be so detached from it, honestly, and I found I did not really miss it. Not watching football was a hard decision, but it was for the right reasons, for me. And today, all over the Twittersphere and Instagram, we have the half-time stuff from yesterday. Personally, displays like that of Shakira and JLo, to me, put the women’s movement back decades. It was so sexually charged and I was personally embarrassed. JLo is 50 years old, for heaven’s sake! Shakira is 47. Where is their modesty? Certainly not at half-time! I get the cultural angle, and I understand wanting to share Miami culture and dance and the Spanish language, but the dance moves and attire were far too suggestive and unwarranted for a family football event of that scale. So glad I watched it this morning, so I could see for myself what was being discussed.

And I have come to this conclusion – we deserve what we are willing to put up with. What we allow on the TV, to come into our homes, is what we deserve. It’s what we are willing to pay for. I watched a special on Netflix about Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide at 27 years old (he played for the Patriots). Long and involved story. But there was a comment made by a fellow player. Paraphrasing him, he basically said that “football is in the business of selling violence.” (What is usually attached to violence? Yeah, raw sexuality). And if you think about it, they are pretty much imaging the old Coliseum games when lions were eating Christians. And look what happened to Rome!

In addition, we have to consider how we allow ourselves to dress. Are we maintaining our personal modesty? Do we encourage modest behavior in all things? I admit it, I am wearing leggings right now. There has never been anything invented more comfy, other than my sweats or my flannel PJs!!! They are ridiculously comfortable. But it is not the best look for me. As I once saw in a meme, “Leggings are not pants!” LOL. True. I now keep them for home wear, to keep the hubby happy (he prefers me in jeans! LOL!), and to keep myself in check. I have to always be sure I am modeling the behavior and choices my faith sets before me. I am sometimes the only Jesus someone will ever be exposed to. Do I want to be dressed like Jennifer Lopez was yesterday, at that moment? More than likely not.

One of the shows I really, really, really, dislike is the View on ABC. I have not watched them in years. Whenever something controversial on the show comes up, I will watch the clip to see for myself, but I avoid them. Whenever one of their hosts makes comments that are horrifically inaccurate or incite further division, I ask myself, “Why do these women get the air time?” “Why do we listen to them?” If we changed the channel and stopped shopping at their advertisers’ businesses, maybe the network would reconsider them. I do not give people like that space in my world. That may sound narrow-minded, but it is also a protection for my battered heart and aching soul in a world that is daily leaving God out of everything. And that sort of media is what I am referring to when I say we deserve what we get. “Normal values” of faith and family make up 90% of America. But we allow the other 10% to ride roughshod over media (news, TV programming, movies, even books). We are allowing 10% to tell the 90% how to live. And it is not right. Yes, be aware of the minority, but also pay attention to the MAJORITY of this country. We need to draw that line in the sand and just say, “No. Enough is enough.” We need to take this country back. I was speaking with a young mother who was commenting on poor behavior from some children and my comment to her made her stop and look at me. I told her, “Kids like boundaries. They feel safe in them. And they like it when “no” really means “no.” We are doing them a disservice always allowing the “gray” areas be the norm in life.”

This crucifix was hand-carved by a man who specialized in carving ducks. He won numerous local, national, and international carving competitions when he was asked to carve this for the local Catholic parish. Whenever we attend Mass there, we try to sit on the left side (as you are facing the altar) because that crucifix mesmerizes me. It makes me think. The corpus is so realistic. And I am humbled and reminded to keep God before me always. There is a prayer I love, the Anima Christi, and this line just attached itself to my heart years ago: “Within thy wounds hide me…” and I take comfort in that. I imagine myself safely tucked away near His heart, safe in my hidey-hole of security within Christ. (I know it’s weird).

And I have been thinking about where people feel safe. At home. Heads in the sand. Tsk-tsk-tsking what they see that bothers them on television. Still at home, safe behind their locked doors. Hurrying up and changing the channel when it gets so abhorrent they do not want their kids to see it or hear it. Or like us, disconnecting cable and just streaming; what we can stream may not be the best example for others, either. How do we slow or stop this eroding of our culture?

At Mass on Sunday, the deacon gave a great homily about living in a “post-Christian culture.” And it has not left me. Does “post-Christian” meaning we are past it? What is ahead? If we are past Christ, what is laying in wait for us down the road? Personally, Christ is not past in my life. I think too many of us are allowing our culture to become devoid of the Christian principles it was founded upon. (With Brexit and other happenings worldwide, I do believe many others are noticing their lack of decisiveness). Too many of us are complacent and allow our Christian world to go down that rabbit hole of hedonism and chaos. Of division and hatred. I think there has to be a better way to combat all the evil that is around us. A Christian way….

There is a way to save us, to ensure we are not a “post-Christian world” my friends. Some things can only be driven out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). We all need to rededicate ourselves. We need to proactively ensure Christ wins…always. He has promised us that “upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” in Matthew 16: 17-19. And we can rest in those promises. However, we still need to do our part. Our children and grandchildren depend upon it.