“…and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.”

Another week, and more rabbit holes to go down. LOL. There is just so much out there on the world-wide-web. You could literally spend your entire day and not even touch the basics. It is overwhelming. Sometimes I think the internet is not really our friend. Electronics were supposed to ease our lives and make them simpler. I really find they take more time away from us. And sometimes our brains are not operating at their best when we just look at screens all day long.

This is, quite literally, outside my bedroom window. It is our strawberry patch. It is blooming from its winter slumber. Up here in the “Last Frontier,” Spring comes later. But when it comes in, it is glorious. The world slumbers through cold nights and days of increasing sunshine, until things just start popping. You will see a bloom or two on the trees lining the highway, and within days the entire forest is green. The leaves just pop open within 3-4 days of each other. It is pretty amazing how quickly it happens. And up here, Spring is not a long event. We usually hop pretty directly into those wonderful days of open windows, slight breezes, and lots and lots of sunshine. The plants here grow massively large. Flowers bloom over and over again. In rapid succession. We will have days where we have 20 hours of sunshine. For some, it is just too much sunshine. I, myself, prefer sleeping in total darkness. I always have. In CA I used to always wear an eye mask at night. I recall instances when my kids would come and stand next to me while I was sleeping. I could sense their presence. I would wake up and tell them, “Don’t talk to me. I can’t hear you. I have my mask on.” And they would giggle and say, “Mom, it only covers your eyes.” It was our morning funny.

This weekend my daughter-in-law and I did our annual plant hunting trip to the nurseries in the area. She had some trees she was looking for, and I am always on the hunt for perennials that are either full sun or partial shade – no inbetween in my yard! Ha-Ha. And the photo above was taken from the back lot of one of our favorite nurseries. I stood there and commented to her that I never want to take this land we live on for granted. I am blessed with views like this from our local nursery, which means this is a local view for me, too. How incredible is this? It is the Eagle River Valley and it takes your breath away. Look at all that green! There is still a little snow on the peaks, but we are barely past our last thaw and the green popping up. Give it a week or two and it will be green all the way to the top.

The photo above is from the same place, looking west. See all the homes nestled in those trees on the right? Yeah. Glorious place to live. This portion of our state is one of the most blessed. I am lucky to live here.

We spend so much time on our computers or in our cars, or just inside our homes and workplace, that we forget to breathe in the clean air and look at all the beauty that surrounds us. It takes discipline to walk away and walk outside. The temps here are finally getting to the point where a morning walk with the dog will work for me. And I am determined to hike some more trails this summer, and to work on my fitness level (which is severely lacking after a long winter’s slumber – I’m like the bears! LOL!). And right now we are in that phase of Spring where we get some amazing rain storms. The skies look incredible with the many types of storm clouds. And quite suddenly we will have a downpour. The day after a long rain, the plants have blossomed even more. The varied tones of green are incredible. The many wild blooms are starting to peek out from the long winter, too. Every day there is something new to see.

Psalm 65:12 “The pastures of the wilderness drip, and the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.”

I am trying to get to that place where I can distract myself from media. I know it is affecting my eyes, because distance vision is blurred so often. I read on my phone the usage report and I cringe. I justify it by telling myself, “Well, you don’t watch TV; you don’t use your laptop much, so it’s okay.” But is it? No, it is not. I do not think this much electronic usage is really very healthy. That might be the weirdo in me, but I think life was better when there was more paper and pencil and less of the iPhones and remotes. I get consumed with what is going on out there, and I need to focus closer to my own garden; tend to my own weeds. Both real and rhetorical…see what I did there? Ha-Ha. It’s my Monday!

I love to find flowers with intricate, tiny blossoms. This one above stole my heart. Well, it is purple. Ha-Ha. I was proud of myself this year because I grabbed a lot of other colors. I even bought some Dahlias that are not purple or pink, but actually yellow and one that is coral. I am diversifying the look of my pots and garden! And it is a lot of fun. Planting and potting and helping things grow does so much for our psyche. I think it is good to get away from the living room or desk and drink in some nature.

Tender blossoms need tender care. They need and require attention to survive. I only buy perennials, so they have to be able to stand temperatures of lows into the -40s. So even if these blooms seem delicate, they are pretty hardy plants! And when I see the handiwork of God in these flowers, my heart softens and I can leave the harsh realities of this world behind, even if it is just to water the garden or do some simple weeding.

And so today, as I begin my week in full, I am choosing to focus my energy on the things of beauty in this life. There is enough ugly to fill eternity (down below, where it belongs) that I know the Lord would prefer my thoughts be on Him. And so I am praying; I am tending to my home; I am turning away from my phone and computer and letting the joy of this season encase my heart with joy and peace and God’s love for us all. I will take note of His handiwork that is growing all around me. I intend to enjoy all the sights and sounds of this land He prepared for us. I will focus on creating that “white space” in my home, my yard, my mind, and my soul – allowing me room to grow and maneuver. Giving me the space for God to enter into all things. Clearing the clutter and Spring cleaning is something we all need to do. It is amazing where the cobwebs hide in our lives. Where the clutter in our hearts, minds, and souls resides. We have clutter in our homes and clearing that will also help us clear our lives of the unnecessary. Of the flotsam and jetsam of life. Just like cleaning up those corners where the dust bunnies live! I am still aware and in tune, but not laser focused on all this chaos around us.

There is a distinct advantage to living in the “Last Frontier.” It is quieter. Remote. Insulated to some extent. Fewer people and distractions. Nature all around you. Clean, fresh air. Lots of elbow room. Cooler summer temps. Glorious blooms and sights everywhere. It has helped me in my walk with God, to be able to be more focused. It is sort of forced upon you when the weather is nasty or you live miles from people. It has been so good for my soul. I think I’ll stay. Peace be with each of you in the glory of Spring, and this time of growth and the renewal of life. It is a glorious time to be alive, my friends.

 

“..the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

You know, it’s wonderful when, as we age, we realize we know so little. I have book learning – lots of it. My mind loves to travel and unravel, discover and learn, on lots of subjects. I am reminded of this saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That’s me. I learn enough of something to feel satisfied but certainly not all-knowing or expert. But I like that I know a little about a lot of different areas. It has helped me grow as a person. And I love reading. It is one of my favorite pastimes. One of my favorite places is a library or bookstore.

Someone asked me recently how many jobs I have had. Dozens. Maybe more. But only 1 or 2 career jobs. The others were paychecks and time fillers. Places where I was learning – I would learn a skill and move on. So let me see: In high school, I did ROP. That acronym means Regional Occupational Program and what it allowed you to do was work in positions to expose you to careers. Like candy stripers to see if you want to be a nurse. Well, I worked in the ER as a nursing assistant and that was incredible. I was allowed to massage a beating heart in a patient who was dying. It ended up being incredible because he was actually saved! (Not by me). I was a physical therapy assistant. That was the best. We gave each other hot packs, ultrasounds, and massages after shifts. Even sat in the hot tubs. Loved that. My most memorable assignment was to do range of motion exercises on a guy who was 2-3 years older than me, and who attended the neighboring high school, who had been in a car accident and was comatose. It was surreal. They kept his room quiet and dimly lit, with the same temperature, which was warmer than the hospital in general. I was then assigned to a professional football team. I did that job off and on through college. I would tape ankles, help with therapies, wrap sore muscles, and the like. It was pretty fun. Then I also was a hostess and waitress at the local diner (Fiddler’s Three Restaurant). I worked at a floral/gift shop. I then signed up with a temporary agency and began my careers in business. I trained to type and file and answer phones. I was taught accounting and became a certified cost accountant. I was a certified receptionist on those ancient cord-boards for telephone systems (dating myself a little here). I also worked for my dad off and on until my mid-twenties doing office work and sales. I did professional presentations with slide shows and material demonstrations at hospitals all up and down the coast of CA, OR, and WA. I worked as an intern for the county coroner’s office, learning my Forensic Anthropology skills and practicum. I worked on anthropological digs in CA, NM, Arizona, and Mexico (Teotihucan was one site). I became a customer service rep for American Express, working with the businesses who accepted the card. Even going on sales blitzes in CA, AZ, and NV. I then worked for TGI Fridays as a management trainee. I learned the kitchen, the office, and all the details on the sales floor. My favorite thing was bartending. I think that job fit me probably the best. I could gab all night and get paid for it. LOL. I used to make more than $300/night in tips alone. I then went to work for Beckman Instruments as one of their pool cost accountants. I then promoted into the manufacturing side and was the secretary to the production manager. But the best was in the chemistry division. I loved it so much. And by this time I was married with one son. We decided I should stay home. So I quit and became a full time, homeschooling, stay-at-home mom. I did that until our middle son started high school, and our youngest son began kindergarten. Then I went to work for a county in our state, in the Recorder’s office. I worked with anything you could record – lots of titles and deeds and even was deputized to perform marriages. I did only a couple of them and hated it so much, they allowed me to not do that rotation. I then transferred to the welfare department, where I was the supervisor of an entire building of clerical staff, as well as the people who kept it clean, our security staff, and a day care center. I only lasted about 2 years because it was killing me. The time it took with all the personnel and their paperwork, as well as working with the public, required me to work on my days off. I had to get out and applied for a salaried position. I then promoted into the Human Resources department and there I oversaw all the EEO cases handled by the HROs. I assisted in record keeping and scheduling. I attended meetings upon meetings. I recorded and prepared union contracts and forms for state and national EEO programs. I sat on two County Commissions as staff. It was fun but exhausting. It was a salaried position, so the benefits were good. The company I kept was great, and I loved my boss. I finally quit to stay home with our youngest son to homeschool him, and am still here, at home. He is now 21 years old, and has embarked on a career as a welder. He is a 2nd year apprentice and doing very well.

So I guess I have done a lot. I am sure there are jobs here and there that I have forgotten. None of them meant much to me, when compared to schooling our boys and being a mom. And the ability to be me at home, coffee cup in hand! My father was annoyed I did not complete my degree (although I have enough credits for a master’s degree, but not enough in one area – which is hilarious to me) and become a doctor. He told me I was wasting my time, raising my kids, when I could be saving lives as a physician (his dream for me; not mine). And you know what? I think he missed the mark completely. The most fulfilled I have ever felt is when one of my kids learned to read. Or when we could discuss some point of history or science and I could see light bulbs going off in their heads, and I witnessed actual learning. It is like seeing your baby take his first steps. I got to do that every day with my three sons. I feel fulfilled and blessed as I watch the men they have become and the families they are raising. It is a blessing from God. Truly.

So yes. I have had lots of jobs. I have followed my intellect where it has taken me. And it has been varied, to be sure. Sometimes it has been drudgery. Sometimes it has been exciting and I have looked forward for my work day. But nothing, absolutely nothing, beats being at home with my boys. As I look back in my mind, I smile. So many funny memories. The boys tell me their favorite year was the one when we did a unit study for the entire year on the medieval era. Even as adults, married with kids of their own, they fondly recall that year and tell me it was their favorite. Everything we did was about knights and castles. About battles and the growth of technology. We made castles out of sugar cubes. We crafted trebuchets out of popsicle sticks and glue. We made swords. We went to museums. Our math was oriented towards life in a castle. They dressed as knights to sit around the table and learn. It was glorious.

I may know a lot of fun facts. Sometimes my family uses my brain like google or something. But I love how varied what I know is. Now I am learning new things. So many new things. And I am having to unlearn things that were fed to me, that I now know to be false. “History belongs to the victor,” as they say! Science marches on and some of the “facts” I was taught are now found to be erroneous. I sometimes think I am owed a return for all the stupidity I was forced to memorize in high school and college. It’s often hard to reconcile it all. And sadly, I passed some of this false history on to my boys, thinking I was sharing facts and authentic history. Some of it is good and will stand the test of time. Some, not so much. But it is okay. We become set in our ways and rigid when we cease to embrace the new, and to learn new factoids. I do not want to be caught in a rut. Many things will pass me by. Technology is one of the things that is racing by me. Labs and such I once knew no longer have some of the machinery I was used to. I am out of date about so much. And I am uncovering so much. It’s good to be fluid!

I think above and through all of this, I have tried to follow that small voice inside my heart, the nous, or center of where God and I chat and commune; where He speaks to me. And I do feel that I have done what jobs I have had, worked with who I was given to work with, and gained the skill set I have gained because God led me to where I am now. He allowed me time with my sons. He has graced me with a husband who let me do all these things. And I know I am blessed beyond blessed. And am still learning. God is good. We are all on a journey from dark to light. We can allow it to happen daily, and not wait until we are facing our mortality. Keep learning. Keep walking, from dark to light. Do not be afraid of the light.

 

“…and rest in your holiness…”

Even in the midst of this “pandemic,” there can be spots of joy. I am doing a 6-week program online and in this first week, I was asked to focus on liberating truths, and to understand my “why” in pursuing the goals of the program. Well, I thought about my why. Why do I want to do this? It’s because I want more years with my husband, and I want to be there for my sons as they progress in their lives. I want to share their achievements, their joys, and their sorrows. I want to be the grandma my grandchildren love visiting and hanging out with. One who enjoys life with them. And I want to share their landmarks in life – as my eldest grandchild is only 7 years old, I really want to be around for a lot longer. Am I sick? No. I am actually very healthy. But I am overweight and out of shape. Part of this program is to leave “white space” in your life. Enough space for movement and for relaxation. And these white spaces are in the areas of your health, in your faith, and in your homes. Today, the reality of keeping white space in my head has made me want to share this with you. My brain feels like it is exploding! I am looking forward to all of it – tackling all these areas of my life. One of the things we were asked to do, is when we visualize our why, to get something that represents this why and put it where you can see it. So I printed this out and it is on my refrigerator:

These are most of my reasons for my “why.” My husband and grandchildren. My family. I think we all know that as life progresses, we start to hone in our focus to smaller and smaller groups. Our friendships shrink to just a handful. The older we get, the closer to home we seem to stay. We were never overt partiers. Even when we could stay awake past 9:00 o’clock – hahaha.

This pandemic brought our family closer in lots of ways. We are the crowd we don’t mind hanging out with. Our kids from the lower 48 came for a week and we just saw one another. No sightseeing. No going to places with other people. It was glorious. We walked, we played in the house, we had the kids use chalk on the driveway and paint rocks for our garden. We had special cereal and dishes for the kids and they loved it. We bar-b-qued and we baked. We had lots of art projects for them; things to keep 4 little girls occupied! Let me share that having your granddaughter want to sleep with you is just priceless. Having 2 of them in your room each night is beyond grandparent heaven!

Watching cousins interact was so precious. I loved the relationships that were strengthened with this time together. When it comes down to it, our time here is limited. Someday, my husband and I will be gone and we will not be the glue holding our family together. They will need to hold onto one another. And it is a beautiful thing to see it developing.

They were looking at our fairy garden from last year, playing with all the little features we crammed into those pots. And even though we are barely past the thaw this year, it was great to see them in the sunshine, playing together. My heart was so full. And I am counting blessing upon blessing to have this family. I know God gives us trials to strengthen our faith, but He also abundantly blesses us.

And today I am a little reflective. I have been doing so much research and diving down some radical rabbit holes online about so many subjects. And I re-read Revelations in its entirety today. I have been praying with prayers upon prayers; supplications for myself and my family and friends. And as I contemplate all this new reality, I recall the sound of little feet in the house and my heart swells with love and gratitude to God, for this gift of family. When you start spreading your intellect out into this viral world, it can often sweep you away. And then you just sit there, in stunned silence. And looking at these faces grounds me, it gives me impetus to be the best me I can be – for all of them.

My kids give me the grace to pursue the best me, so I can be there for them. God knows my struggles. He does. He provides me with a foundation. In all things, #godwins. He knows where I am and he knows my heart. He guides me where I need to go. He also holds my hand. “Word of God, Speak” is a great song by Mercy Me. And as I listen to the comforting words, I know all I need is to be with God:

“Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak”

I may seem maudlin but I am quietly at peace. I wrote prayers to God, seeking His mercy for my family and for my soul. Because the world is insane. And so much is about to change. So much upheaval and our “new normal” will be something none of us ever envisioned. But, God has got this. All of it. He holds our world in His hands and with that, He holds our souls.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:12

And so I pray, seeking forgiveness for the deeds I would rather not come to light, and for a hedge of protection for the souls of my family and friends, country and world. I ask for mercy, for grace, for tomorrow.

John 5:28-29 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out – the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation.”

I guess you could say I am contemplative today. And I am listening to a mash-up of music while I type. Mercy Me is one of my favorite groups. I have all their music on my computer. And I am so thankful for their lyrics; so many times they have brought me to tears and I have to pull to the side of the road and just let it out. (Most of the time while I drive alone, they are playing on my stereo). “I can only imagine” is one of my all-time favorites. It can still bring me to tears in the right moment. And because I have so much of their music on my computer, songs keep coming up. I think this one is helping me so much right now, that I will leave you with the lyrics. Blessings. Always.

 

“Flawless”

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing grace No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough Then Like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to grace grace
God’s grace No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless No matter what they say
Or what you think you are
The day you called His name
He made you flawless
He made you flawlessNo matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

“Children, be obedient to your parents in all things…”

Colossians 3:20: Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s – graduating HS in the early 70s. It was a far different time. We walked – a lot. Mom always dressed nice – even her “working clothes” were nice. She always had on make-up and I remember her wearing toilet paper pinned around her head so her hairdo stayed nice all night. LOL. Neither of my parents ever owned “dungarees” or blue jeans. It took me until my sophomore year in HS to get my parents to allow me to wear them, especially to school. The image above pretty closely resembles my family on a weekend or vacation. However, my parents are weird. And our family is weird. And it all hit me today. LOL.

This is how my mom made toast, because this is how her mom made toast. You place that directly on your stovetop and let the bread get all toasty/crusty. The darker the better for my mom! LOL! As I was toasting a muffin this morning, my brain whooshed me back in time. A time when toast was not served warm or buttered, either. The occasional use of Marmite. My folks are from New Zealand and England and they would occasionally use Vegemite, but since that is the Australian take on the goo, they preferred Marmite. All I can say is it is gross…to me. As a kid I would almost vomit when mom put it on my toast. Yuck. I tried it as an adult and it did not improve its flavor. LOL. Another thing the British do is they do not butter their toast right away; nor do they serve it warm…not even close to warm. It is served in a toast stand.

The one above is as close to what my mom had as I could find. I wonder what ever happened to it? LOL. I am sure it was tossed for a more American use of toast, like a warm, buttered stack of toast. Yum. So you would get this cold toast, which basically is a large crouton (that idea cracks me up) and there would be toppings available to choose from.

The photo above reminds me of my youth so much. Cold toast, softened butter in a dish, and some sort of jam or preserves. I grew up loving orange marmalade, especially when my great-grandmother made it. And I have always loved preserves with the seeds from the berries still in it. My favorites are the dark berries – blackberries, for example. And my mom could do 3-minute eggs so well. (My father-in-law would spoil me and my sister-in-law with 3-minute eggs, too. It was so wonderful). What is a 3-minute egg? Absolute heaven.

I adore them so much. And this morning as I was toasting my muffin, I looked across at my stove and just smiled. This is on top of the stove:

My grandma’s 3-minute egg timer. Oh the memories. And it was not until we were teenagers and mom had sort of adopted American ways of doing things, that we had pancakes from Bisquick or cereal. Most of the time it was tea and toast and an egg or two. And that is just kind of weird, but in such a wonderful way. It harkens back to when breakfast was a meal taken with time and family to start your day out. We were all dressed and ready to head out the door; mom was in her dress with her apron and stockings on; Dad would be in a suit with his briefcase nearby, and then she would throw a table cloth on across the center of the table and serve us breakfast like in the photo up top. We would chat about school or dad would share a little about work (what he could share – he worked on the Space program and most of his job was top secret stuff), and then we would take our books and sweaters and head out to school. School started at 9am and was done by 3pm. We had time for breakfast.

When these cereal boxes came out, that changed everything. Not only was it enough for a kid, you did not even have to get a bowl dirty. Mom adapted well to America! LOL! But our family was still weird. We had 3 sets of clothes. One for school and only school. One to play in after school and on weekends. And Church clothes. I think they all started as Church clothes or school clothes and as they wore out, they became play clothes. But we were not allowed holes in anything or to wear anything torn or raggedy. My mom was strict about what we wore. And she ironed EVERYTHING. And I mean EVERYTHING. (Yes, underwear and sheets; even towels were ironed. I learned to iron by practicing on my dad’s undershirts and our sheets and tablecloths). Her entire family had been tailors. So clothes were a big deal for her. After school we had to change and put on play clothes. We could play until 5pm when we had to clean up for dinner. We had to change into clean clothes for dad to come home and us to eat dinner. Then it was shower/bath, pj’s, and bed. By 7:30pm at the latest. Sigh. We did not have a lot of clothes, either. But what we did have, well, it had specific purposes and mom never allowed us to deviate. God forbid you wore school shoes to dig in the dirt or ride your skateboard!! LOL!

Exodus 20:12:  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

My brother and I love our parents, but we do laugh at the odd way we were raised sometimes. I remember things he was too young to remember and he recalls things I have forgotten. (There are so many other examples of British/New Zealand oddities, but I thought I would stick to just a couple of them). Our parents eventually dressed like everyone else (except for the jeans thing. That did not happen until they were both retirement age! LOL!) and they lost their accents. It used to be so funny to hear my mom call us into the house for dinner, “Mark, Jan, dinner!” but all our neighbors heard was, “Mock, Jahn, dinnah!” because of mom’s accent. She could not pronounce a hard “r” if her life depended on it. Now that they are both over 90 and are suffering from memory issues, the accent is returning. Mom is still a NZ citizen and our “resident alien,” refusing to give up her NZ citizenship even after almost 70 years in the USA. And Mom, when she talks about her childhood, she is often thick with her NZ accent. I like hearing it again. And if I am honest, I like that we were sort of weird; it’s kind of cool. But I also realized that I prefer my toast warm and with lots of melted butter. And I also prefer coffee…shhhh….