About kaiserswest

A wife and mother to 3 amazing sons, and grandma to 6 (and counting) beautiful grandchildren. This is just a place where I can muse on things in my life and the world around me. I don't pretend to be a great writer or theologian, historian or blogger, but I'd love you to join me on this journey!

“…correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds…”


Evening Prayer

O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worshipped and glorified; who art long-suffering, merciful and compassionate; who lovest the just and showest mercy upon the sinner; who callest all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come; O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications, and direct our lives according to thy commandments. Sanctify our souls, hallow our bodies, correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds; deliver us from all tribulation, evil and distress. Encompass us with thy holy Angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may attain to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of thine unapproachable glory, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul and my body. Do thou thyself bless me, have mercy upon me, and grant me life eternal. Amen.

I try to pray this prayer at night, as I am going to bed. At the very least, I commend my soul and body to God. And sometimes I fall right to sleep. As I have gotten older, I can sleep in a minute in my recliner. Sometimes it is in the middle of the day! (Gasp! I am old enough to nap without knowing it!!). But there are days when, exhausted, I crawl into bed and nestle down into my new mattress and pillow, and just lay there. Wide awake. Ugh. I have been using essential oils for about 7 years now. And I love using lavender. I love wearing it, and putting it on my pillow, and defusing it. My dog hates it. Absolutely hates oils. (Except for the cedarwood/vanilla combo I got for my husband. Go figure). So instead of diffusing lavender, or using it at all, I now take “ImmuPro,” which is a supplement that contains melatonin (from Young Living Essential Oils). Yay! It helps, a lot. Most days. It just helps me drift into a deeper sleep, and builds my immunity, too (win-win). Last night, not so much.

As I laid there last night, there were so many things going on, that I could not relax. I get up several times a night anyway (another old lady thing) and last night it was accompanied by text messages. Sigh. I have an iPhone. On the app for your timer, you can set bedtimes and wake times. And when you set the bedtime, you get reminders to go to bed starting at about 15 minutes before your set time, and your notifications are held until your wake time starts. (And my alarm is birds chirping. I love it! No jarring alarm for me!). Last night, out of concern, I was checking texts that had been held for my sleeping time. Stupid me. LOL. Looking at a backlit screen does not induce sleepiness. And so, as I laid down for the zillionth time, I began to petition God for everyone who has asked me to pray for them, for people who I know are going through rough times, for happenings in the world (Kobe Bryant’s death, along with his daughter, Gigi, and 7 others was on my heart). And I thought of the Impeachment thing, and then all sorts of political issues came to my heart. I thanked God for President Trump’s words at the March for Life – they truly moved me. And then I started thinking of other issues, when all of a sudden, the Lord spoke. Loudly. And I stilled. I distinctly heard, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And then I started pondering that statement. I mean, what did that have to do with all my prayers? After parsing through it, it had everything to do with it.

What belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Are we giving justly to both? Well, and what is it we give? Time-treasure-talent are the three things mentioned consistently at Church. Am I giving all three to both areas? Well, I dutifully pay my taxes: I pay sales taxes and I pay income taxes. I pay all the taxes I am asked to pay. Do I offer my talent or my time to my government? Not really. I used to. I also used to work for the government. I used to be involved in politics and elections, even working the polls. I stumped for candidates. I held signs, had them in my yard, and attended gatherings, meetings, and fundraisers. I felt like I did my part and then some. To my God? I have volunteered for years. Volunteering is what brought me from an intellectual understanding of my faith to a religious understanding, and an emotional and direct commitment to God. My husband felt called to the diaconate and attended Seminary for four years. His ordination brought our volunteerism onto a new level; a new plane. We both reveled in it. Being that close to the altar on a regular basis is good for the soul.

As I thought more and more about rendering what is due someone, I thought about character and honesty. We were founded, in this country, on a central idea of individual freedom, freedom from religious persecution and imposition (the government may not impose a religion on its people, which is what “separation of Church and State” means), and to protect individuals from tyranny. The Founders were escaping tyrannical rule and wanted to protect American citizens from that same experience. We have developed laws, to protect people and institutions from each other, and for each other. We have the three branches of the government, so they keep an eye on each other and prevent one or the other from going rogue. The laws we operate under were developed for the good of the people. And in kind, it is our duty, as good citizens, to obey these laws. We are a representative republic, and there are safeguards against mob rule (the electoral college is one of those protections) and we elect people to represent us in governmental functions such as drafting laws. And then we ratify those laws. (I wish everyone would watch Schoolhouse Rock and their series on the government! Just thinking about them I am singing, “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”  And, “We’ve got a 3-ring government…” LOL).

If I render to Caesar, I am being a good citizen. I invest my time and talent into making my country better. I volunteer for others. I may even seek public office. But even that is largely volunteerism and should not be thought of as a professional career (we are supposed to be citizen-politicians, not professional politicians who never work for a living, except as politicians. It was never intended to be that way – yay for the idea of term limits). And we obey the laws on the books. If there is a law you disagree with, you work to have it rescinded. Roe v Wade comes to mind. Some of the tax laws definitely come to mind (yeah, I’m a flat tax person). But you never ASSUME someone else will take care of it. That is the very definition of being “sheeple.”

And we come to my experience of God speaking, loudly, to me. I mean, it stopped my wandering mind; it stilled my prayers. He wanted me to see where I need to place my efforts. I need to be equally aware; I need to participate, but I also need to let a lot of the angst over things legal, or civil, go. I need to trust in the laws, in the workings of the legislature. And knowing I have helped my government by my participation, then I need to sleep. And I need to give my fervor to God, and God alone. Yes, be a participating, good citizen, but be a Christian good citizen. Watch out for others with a Christian perspective (again, Roe v Wade and “Thou shalt not kill”) and protect those who cannot speak for themselves; who have no voice. Give those issues over to Caesar that belong there. But also, give to God what is God’s – my heart, my fervent prayer, my love, my actions. They all belong, ultimately, to God alone. If we all could figure this our for ourselves, everything would fall into place. The world would be much more peaceful. Perspective. Godly perspective. Pray on it; think on it; seek guidance on it. But be active with your due rendering.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)


“Something old, something new…”

Have you ever seen something and in your mind you are immediately taken to a memory? Well, it has happened a couple of times since we have lived in Alaska. I was raised in Southern California. To be honest, rain was a big deal. Wind was a big deal. Because pretty much all the days run together. There are slight nuances that tell you it’s fall or it’s winter, but generally, one day looks like the other, all year long. Those little breaks are huge and I was always laughing at this one particular news/weather show, on Channel 7 (ABC), with all the excited talk of its “Doppler 7” sensors and weather predictors. What did they need all that for? It’s sunny almost every day. LOL.

I was raised on classic movies. My mom could tell you the most amazing fun facts about movies and movie stars. She gave me her collection of Shirley Temple memorabilia and some original cartoon books of Annie from her childhood. She was an amazing resource about all of it, including who was married to whom, who was related to whom, and who was fooling around on whom. LOL She loved musicals. When I was a child she was in the local musical theater troupe and I loved spending days watching rehearsals and being back stage. It reminded me of Doris Day and “Please don’t eat the daisies”!! My 3 sons were raised watching the old classical musicals, too. The shot above is from “Singing in the Rain.” I adore that movie. In this scene, Gene Kelly flips switches and turns on fans and lights to create the perfect backdrop to sing to Debbie Reynolds. And then this happened:

Okay so it’s not pink but the way the clouds were, brought me right back to “Singing in the Rain.” It’s funny how our minds do that, isn’t it?

“Singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a beautiful feeling, I’m happy again…” (Are you singing in your head??). LOL.

Last night, I attended a meeting for local politics and politicians at the state level. We listened to updates from the Capital. It was annoying, at best. And I found myself swirling back in time to the past few days, and years past when I was active in politics, and all the attacks on common sense. At least to me, it’s common sense!

  • Don’t spend more than you earn. (Duh! Pass the budget!)
  • No taxation without representation.
  • The 2A protects us against governmental tyranny.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated. (Remember manners???)
  • Speak with dignity and respect towards others; carry on meaningful civil discourse.
  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he shall never depart from it.”
  • Abortion is murder and it is wrong. Always. “Thou shall not kill.”
  • Clean up your dog’s poop in public, and in your yard. Use a leash and carry bags!
  • Don’t spit. It’s so disgusting to see or step in.
  • Pull up your pants; tuck in your shirt; get a hair cut; shave. (I have sons).
  • Show respect to your elders. Offer a seat for the handicapped, elderly, or women.
  • Please follow the recipe. (For my family!)
  • Tell the truth always! Character counts.

Of course, not all of these went through my mind – I threw in extras for your enjoyment. LOL. But the point is, there is so much going on in our governments – both locally and nationally. And it is not pretty. But very, very few people do anything about it. Even though the thoughts above ramble through our minds as we witness all this junk happening, everywhere. We write, we post on social media, yell at the TV, and maybe we might even vote. People call for term limits all the time. Someone pointed out to me that we already have term limits – it’s called elections! Quit voting in the same person over and over again. Vote them out! And as I sat around our meeting, that encompasses our quite large geographical area, I looked at 18 people. 18 people out of thousands of registered voters! My deja vu comes into play because I have seen these same faces around tables for the past few years. Same people. Meetings and meetings. And where is everyone else? Why is it we are not energized to help usher in change, when it is so apparent it is needed?

Today was the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and our President became the first sitting President to attend and speak. His speech stopped me in my tracks. The words he used normally do not come out of a politician’s mouth on the national level. Things like, “All life is precious, ” and, “We are all made in the image of God,” and, “Every child born in a family is loved…” and on and on his amazing words went, that I found myself weeping. For joy. For hope. For the babies who have no voice. And I prayed they were not just words. And I applauded with the crowd. Just look at the thousands and thousands of people who stood for the sanctity of human life. I am humbled. I am stunned. I am overjoyed.

If I only see 18 people, so be it. I am praying it can be, in a small way, like the fabled knights, who are willing to take on what comes their way. And we may not have the numbers who were in DC today, but we are showing up. If all over America, people would just show up. Especially in November, when the future of this country is at stake. The entire House of Representatives, all 435 seats, are up for election. Let’s make it a wave and take this country back. Stand for Life. Stand for our right to bear arms (2A). Stand for freedom of all speech – even if we disagree with what is being said (1st Amendment). So much is on the table. Honesty, integrity, character, faith. It is huge in our history. And if 18 people can help motivate an electorate to show up and cast their votes, yay for us!! And trust me, in a state as small (population-wise) as ours, every single vote counts. We have local officials who have one by a single vote – I am not joking. Remember when people lined up around the block to vote, and we had to choose a good time so we could get in before the polls closed? Remember anxiously watching returns? Remember the excitement when your candidate won or a law was passed you agreed with? Or people lost you wanted to lose, or a law was shot down by voters? We have the right, the privilege to vote. So many people in countries around the world do not have a say – they have no voice. You do. Do not let it be silenced by corruption or your lack of gumption to participate in the process. Please, just participate! And in the future you can remember that you let your voice be heard….

“It’s the simplest things…”

It’s funny to me how the simplest things can totally change your day. I have been planning to surprise my husband by making his mom’s green chili recipe. He loves it – I really hate it. I am not a green chili person. But I finally pulled it off. It is in the crock pot, doing its thing. I was able to get it into the crock pot in time for a 5-hour cook. Yay. I could have used my Instant Pot, but I wanted the scent to permeate the house, so he would be that much happier when he walked in and smelled it cooking. Now I just hope it tastes as good as it smells. (And it is Whole 30 compliant – win/win).

The next exciting thing is that I got a frother today. A frother? Yep. We are struggling through our first Whole 30 this year. One of the things we do not eat is dairy on this program (not to mention no sugar). Well, I am one of those people who like milk and sugar in my coffee and tea (my British roots showing) and I have been introduced to Nut Pods. Nut Pods? Little boxes of deliciousness disguised as non-dairy, fat-free, sugar-free creamers (you can even cook with them). Oh yasssss….so yummy. Now, personally, my favorite creamer is hazelnut. I love to eat hazelnuts. I like them in all sorts of concoctions. But the Nut Pods? Yuck. Tasted like coconut milk and my brain and taste buds were in shock. I also tried vanilla, and it was nice and smooth. I complained to a wonderful Whole 30 coach, who was the Whole 30 Coach of the Year 2019, Jacob Heath Henriquez (www.jacobheathhenriquez.com) and he suggested I froth it, and heat it, too. Oh my gosh. It rocked my world. I heated the plain Nut Pod, frothed it, and added it to my coffee! Bliss!!! Tomorrow morning, I will try the Hazelnut again, because it’s Hazelnut! I may have to graduate to one of the fancier frothers that heat your milk, too! (It’s on my list at Amazon! LOL! Plan ahead!). But also, with the plain Nut Pod, I did not miss the sugar! Little victory!!

   My Frother and the Nut Pods!

Now I know it might seem weird to have frothers, nut pods, and green chili get me all happy, but on top of that, a print I ordered arrived. And I was able to frame it (planned ahead), set it on my table next to my chair, and have my frothed coffee, all in one afternoon!! I can pray in some sunshine (rare because it’s been snowing for two days) and smell the green chili surprise for my husband. Sometimes life is just that good, simple, and full of blessings!!

“…despite every disfigurement…”

The snow is gently falling. It has been just fluttering snowflakes all day long. It is almost impossible to capture on my iPhone. The flakes are big and are just wafting like feathers to the ground, slowly accumulating into little drifts here and there. I cannot fully explain the peace and quiet of a snowy day. It calms my soul.

I recently joined a Book Club here in town. A friend invited me and the first book was, “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance. I finally finished it today, in time for our review on Saturday. We will be meeting at a lovely little place called, “Crema Coffee House,” which happens to be so close to my own house, I am looking forward to it. It looks like a French Chalet and they make everything from scratch. Their coffees are amazing! It is a wonderful gathering place in our community.

Today as I contemplated my reaction to “Hillbilly Elegy,” I also pondered my life and what I see in my own “rear view mirror.” The weird part for me is the author was born in 1984 and could be my son. His memories are of my generation as his parents, and my parents as his grandparents. I totally related to his place and time, insofar as what he was experiencing, when. HIs auto-biography takes place in Kentucky and Ohio. He was the first in his family to go to college (the Ohio State), and the first to go to an Ivy League school (graduated from Yale Law School) and he is now a practicing attorney. We diverge in our memories from almost the first paragraph. It was an interesting read from a social anthropologist’s point of view, but I found his suppositions and conclusions often hard to accept. The book created a pall of misery around me and I was very glad to close the back cover this morning.

For my own memories, we diverge because our parents came from such different places and my timeline is considerably longer. His interpersonal relationships with family members saddened me, especially with his mom (and lack of dad, for the most part). I have such strong memories of joy in my life and childhood. It was when I grew older and had children of my own that I realized much of my childhood was staged for the photo-op, much like my parents marrying in the Church of England, because it would make a good photographic backdrop. Yeah. My parents divorced when I was 21 years old, after 26 years of marriage. The day my dad left is a day I will never forget. Ever. And as JD Vance explained in his book, he never wanted his children to experience all the ugly parts of his life. He does want them to know that even if there is ugly, family is family and they’ve got your back. HIs family is huge – filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, in full hillbilly style. They all parent each other’s children and he drifted from one relative’s home to another; most of his life living with his grandparents – Memaw and Papaw. Me? My parents immigrated here from New Zealand. Both are only children. I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. My paternal grandparents made the move when it was announced I was on the way. My maternal grandparents visited once, when I was 16, and stayed for about 5 months. (It was wonderful and I am so glad I got to know them – it explains my mom so much!!) But my life was starkly different from his.

As the snow continues to waft down (and yes, it is already dark and that view is out my front door), and my laundry is dutifully running in the room next to me, I keep thinking about how God works in each of our lives and how divergent we all truly are. I was speaking at length to my HS buddy, Beth, today. We’ve been friends since we were 14 years old. And we were talking about her life, and all the negative things she has suffered through. Trust me, they are real and she has every right to be angry and unforgiving – to a point. I understand it and as I was listening to her, I kept going back to JD Vance’s epiphany of sorts when he realized the myriad of emotions surrounding his mom did not include forgiveness. He was holding on to so much. Beth is, too. And I once was, as well. But I learned I needed to let it go, or it would eat me alive.

And at the heart of it all is how we treat others. In my memories, as a child, I feel only happiness and joy. I experienced life-lessons and times of heartache, as we all do, but the over-arching emotions are happiness and joy. As I reached adulthood and marriage and parenthood, I came to understand why my brain chose those emotions to relate to my childhood. I now understand more of what my parents were all about, and I chose to let it all go and allow my mind to settle on those emotions. Realization is harsh; reality usually is harsher than fantasy. Children often create happiness where there is none. And I am okay with that, as an adult. JD Vance is still juggling plates as he wrestles with his present while trying to reconcile his past. And to some degree I have days when there are too many plates in the air. I tried to let my friend see that holding on to some of the poorer aspects of our lives colors the here and now. Why allow others who hurt you in the past take up space in your present? It is a useless endeavor.

People are people and they are not perfect. Carrying around the past as something that is negative, affects everything in our present. JD Vance has a lot of baggage. He works to do good for others, and to help others who are considered less fortunate, or who are hillbillies just like his family is, and was. He reaches back into his past to enlighten his future and I think because he is so aware of who he is, he will ensure much of his misery stops with him. I think that is a lesson we can all learn from. Still and all, with the pall of sadness that was this “Elegy,” it sorted of ended on a happy note with his wife, a new home, and their baby son. But the overbearing misery and desperation made this such a hard read. The next time, I would like to suggest something much more fun! Choices of reading material may color my book club membership in the future! LOL! What JD Vance shared will stay with me, I think, for awhile. And I will always try to be forgiving, and letting God handle the really hard stuff.

“A place can’t save you…”

We are now at that place, mid-winter. We have had some major snow storms. We have had winds that have literally made my eyeballs hurt when I have walked outside. It was -21 on our back deck and with the wind chill, we set a record for -51! Good heavens. (I know it is not as bad as a friend I have in the UP of Michigan. They get SNOW. They make us look like wimps. And this is Alaska! LOL). The sight above is about 10 miles south of where we live, and one of my husband’s favorite places to fish. That look is accomplished with sub zero freezes. And it is so glorious! I truly love the look of a deep freeze. It makes grocery shopping and pumping gas a little tricky! We have not really suffered too much, to be honest. But we are getting weary of the cold, Alaskan winter! People are all talking about how many more hours of sunshine we get everyday!

You have to be different to live in environments that do not have sunshine and roses all year long. Especially when daylight is limited, or in over-abundance! My life, until well into my fifties, was spent in sunny Southern California. I grew up close enough to the beach to walk to it, when I was a child. We slowly moved inland and south. But the beach was never too far away. In my teens we could take the “Beach Bus” down to the shoreline daily for $5 round trip. Something that we took for granted. My grandparents had a house up on a hillside in Englewood. You could smell the ocean on clear, sunny, breezy days of summer. They never needed an air conditioner. We would just open the windows and the breeze cooled us off. And there was always their swimming pool! Paradise to a kid! But somehow, it was not enough. Green, wild, mountains, nature was always calling to me. Ironically, when I got my first job, I signed up to give a portion of my income to “Save the Whales” complete with bumper sticker and coffee mug. I’d get regular reports from Alaska. I was 16. Who knew?

And although a Pacific Paradise was fun to grow up in, it just never fit me. I have so many friends who cannot ever imagine the climate in Alaska. Their bones would ache; they would hate the dark and the cold. I get that. My mom grew up in New Zealand and I was always drawn to how green it was. She often commented, “And it rains all the time! You have to pay for that green somehow.” And I often relate that to the summers here in Alaska. They are glorious. And we get them from all the water we get during the winter, in the form of snow. So when we are up to our knee caps in snow, I try to think of the summers.

And we live for summer. LOL. The sun is up for hours upon hours – so many hours that we have black-out shades and curtains. Our plants grow insanely large. Have you heard about the State Fair here in Palmer every year? They have pumpkins that weigh thousands of pounds or 30-lb cabbages. I kid you not. I have started growing Dahlias and I am so hooked on their complicated, and sometimes very simple, beauty.


There is the Tartan on the left, and the Richard’s on the right. Those are just two examples of some amazing Dahlias. I love the variety that is all things Dahlia. You get the tubers, which are labeled, but the surprise comes when they bloom. The labels quite often are wrong!

All of this is helping me work through the season. The dark side is winter; the light side is summer. But together it is our full year. Up here we have very short springs and falls. The longest sections are the most extreme. And funnily enough, it is a template for our lives, too. I have spent the longest portions of my life in extremes; extremes in weather, in faith, in life. And this portion is by far my favorite. I can breathe. I can relax. I can focus. Just visiting my old stomping grounds gives me stress! I realized, as soon as we pulled up to our new home (7 years ago) that I was home. It took me 56 years to find it. My prayer for you is you find your spot, too. Sometimes we compromise for the wrong reasons. My husband and I always wanted to leave California, but stayed for so many reasons. Once we chose to leave, it was so hard, but at the same time, the right decision. A long time coming, but for us, perfect. And when you realize you are where you belong, the pieces all fall into place. But don’t forget, you are who you are!!!

“Let evil be…”

This was posted to my Instagram feed by Draw Near Designs. If you have not discovered them yet, please check them out. They are a group of 3 moms doing amazing things! (I will give you the link here). But my post is all about what was said. I cannot get this out of my head. And I am so grateful that my new Prayer Companion (link here) has a section entitled, “Things I never want to forget.” And that is exactly where this quote is now written.

Sometimes, especially having a writer’s heart, we attach ourselves to a set of words and just cannot erase them. It is like what happened when my HS girlfriend mentioned “Sponge Bob Square Pants” yesterday – I was singing that stupid song for hours. And I let her know I was not happy about that, too! LOL! And even though this is completely on a different plane, this happened to me when I read St. Porphyrios’ quote and it has stayed with me all day and all night. Why?

“Let evil be.”

For me, that is why. It goes back to sayings like, “Why poke the bear?” Why are we consumed with all the evil in the world? Goodness knows it certainly is more prevalent and in your face than in times past. I am not saying the “sky is falling” but I am saying that we need to be aware that we are not chasing after the right things. “Look towards Christ and that will save you.” With all the insanity out there, we sometimes lose our focus because the icky stuff shoved into our faces grabs our attention away from what we need to focus on.

What will your year look like? What will be your focus? Personally, I am loving the #bloginstead idea. I am also rededicating myself to intense prayer – daily prayer. I am trying to focus on an “attitude of gratitude” this year, as well as one of humble petition. I am trying to not look at the evil around me, but instead to look towards Christ” as my first and only vision. As my filter on the rest of what goes on around me. Am I holier than the next person? Oh my word, not in the least. It is why I know I need a new focus. A new way of orienting my days, because our days add up to years. And those years add up quickly to our lifetime. Do I want my lifetime to reflect the evil around me? I think that if we ignore the evil and focus on the saintly, we take the power from evil. We put the power and emphasis on what is truly important:

“What makes a person saintly is love.”

So I cannot stop thinking about this and I think that is a good thing. I was asked what my phrase would be for this year, and I don’t think I want to parse this quote down to a single phrase, but rather memorize it, and never forget it. Because what is at stake is the salvation of my soul, and the souls God has entrusted to me. Everyone I come into contact with deserves my better outlook and my striving towards holiness. I am so happy to have found this quote. I am saving it in my Prayer Companion so I can look at it daily, and I ordered a 5×7 print from Draw Near Designs! Going to frame it and display it! Vision of the holy keeps me on track! Icons all over. Holy cards stuffed into everything. It works for me! And I am determined to make this start to 2020 the best, ever, for me.

“..grant that the Holy Angels may enter in with us…”



As a writer/blogger, I often get ideas and they swirl around inside my head until I feel like I have given them the curtesy of a full review. And when I think I am done thinking and have reached an internal consensus, I usually start writing. And if I am honest, it is at the keyboard where these ideas fully germinate. As I stated in my bio here, I do not claim to be an excellent writer, or historian, or theologian. I am just a mom, a woman, musing on things in her life, and sharing them here. And sometimes these ideas take a long time to reach the keyboard phase because I am thinking thoughts that are not particularly popular. But, oh well, here goes:

My journey to my here and now has been rather circuitous. I have become a woman of faith while running from it, at the same time. I spent my childhood being taken to various Christian denominational Churches. Each time we would move denominations, we would be baptized again – our entire family. I have been baptized seven times, including my infant baptism. My parents married in the Church of England – in the “high Church” rite. I supposed it was because that is what we were – Church of England. When my parents immigrated, they chose the Episcopal Church, because it was the closest thing they recognized. I was baptized at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in 1956, in California. I believe my brother was baptized there as well. But strangely enough, I discovered through my paternal grandparents that the family was actually Methodist, although I never attended a Methodist Church during my parent’s Church journeys. My grandparents on my dad’s side were staunchly Methodist. My mom’s parents did not attend Church, to my knowledge, and neither did my mom. I do not recall my mom ever being baptized, but she probably was. (Not sure as what). My parents married in the Church of England because everyone thought the photographs would look amazing. I was so let down. Ha-Ha. Spent so many years of my youth being proudly British and Church of England – High Church no less. In my adult life, I spent years going from Church to Church, denomination to denomination. I even spent time I fondly refer to as my “let’s be Jewish” phase. I loved those courses and the Rabbi and I had some wonderful conversations. We would meet for coffee outside of my class time. He eventually told me he loved how learned I was in the OT, but he knew I would never convert! LOL. (My minor in college was Biblical Archeology). Eventually I officially associated myself with Geneva Presbyterians. Of all the rites in Christianity. But to be honest with you, it was the church structure and the materials used to build it that held me there. It literally smelled like an old-world castle, and had the same feel of them on the walls. The pastor was great and I became affiliated when I was asked to teach an adult women’s bible course on archeology and the Bible. How far I have roamed since my 20s.

I was referred, through my courses at Geneva Presbyterian, to other Presbyterian parishes in the Southern California area and had quite the full calendar, all while attending school and working full time. I happened to teach a course at a parish in Placentia, CA. As I was exiting, with a group of women my mom’s age, I noticed a group of young adults at the church next door, having an awful lot of fun. They were at the Catholic (gasp!) Church. I bravely walked over and introduced myself. They welcomed me and asked me to join them, as their evening was just beginning (ahhh…to hang out with my own age group!). And that began a leg of my journey that has ultimately led me east…always east. I did end up converting to Catholicism, much to the chagrin of my ostensibly Methodist family members, and that was in 1983. We married in 1984 and discovered we were not really your typical mainstream Catholics, at all. We were far more conservative and were not really appreciative of the folk music and lots of Eucharistic Ministers (most of whom were women), and we preferred male altar servers. It was a progressive thing because we were reading, going to conferences, and becoming knowledgable Catholics. We were not what you call the “incense” Catholics who only go on Christmas and Easter, or only for the major sacraments, who attend “regular” Christian churches in the meantime. We were devoted to our faith.

We came across Catholic homeschooling and that really changed our lives. The people we met, the priests we confessed to and learned from, would greatly alter our faith. For me, it became deeper, the more we dove into it. And it became an every day, all day, part of our lives. Daily morning mass with little children was no trouble because of the graces I was receiving, just being there.

We gravitated to the old ways of doing things. We reveled in incense and altar boys and the priest who had confession before every mass. The priest who stood before us, also facing the altar. The wearing of dresses and veils. The solemnity of holy Mass. We were drawn to monasteries and monastics. My favorite retreat, hands down, is a silent retreat. And as a person of many words, I can tell you that a silent retreat is the most healing thing I have ever done. The first one I went to, I went with a gabby friend. We both felt rejuvenated and refreshed and ready to climb back into the trenches (at the time, it was homeschooling our kids).

We finally landed in the east. One of the things about this journey of mine (of ours as a couple), is that I have tried to step back to see what it is that has drawn me, or driven me, eastward. One of the things that strikes me is this: when I was ostensibly Protestant, whichever denomination it was, I felt like Church services were an outreach of a lecture hall. We would come in, be seated, sing a couple of songs to get us feeling united and one, and then we would have a lecture or talk on a subject. Afterwards, we would pray perhaps, and depending on the denomination, we would share communion of some sort, and then leave again. The center of the entire service was the lecture. It was not Christ’s presence in His people, in His Word, or His Real Presence in the Eucharist. It was the man in the pulpit. (And at one nominally Catholic parish we attended for just a few months, the priest was too tired and so the nun/principal of the school always gave the homilies. Ugh. Not a fan.) What happened is this – we were drawn to a more communal worship where the priest led us towards God. Christ’s presence in His Word was honored equally with His Presence in the Eucharist through actions (incensing, standing, processing). And we were led by the priest into this mystical relationship with Christ. We were not lectured first and only. We prayed. We chanted. We bowed our heads and were incensed. We were led into battle in this crazy world. We had a man, who was truly manly, lead us. He did not look at us and have us mimic his movements. He prayed for us, and we prayed together. His ordination was honored and his hands are holy, because he brings us God. God! Not a symbol, but God Himself.

And that, my tired friends (if you read all the way through this) brings me to the news topic of yesterday, and partially today as well – the new book supposedly by Pope Benedict and Bishop Sarah (questions are being raised about who really wrote it) about the need for celibacy in the priesthood, and how it also speaks to the position of the priest in the community. With the book was brought up the subject of the priest facing the people or leading the people. It seems to me like it is all intertwined. In the east, there is no question about the many issues facing the Latin church, and it is so refreshing. However, as Rome is tending to lean more and more to the liberal left in all things, this bears noting.

ad orientum or ad populum are the terms used by the Latin Church to describe which way the priest faces – towards the traditionally placed tabernacle behind the altar, or towards the people (literally turning his back on God – which is one of many reasons most Catholic Churches moved the Tabernacle off to a side chapel or sometimes to its own building [a parish in the Chino/Ontario area of Southern California is one example of that]). And when the Church, mostly from erroneous interpretations of Vatican 2 documents, started to protestantize (a new word) our Catholicity, I think that began a great undoing. It is one of the reasons there is a Pope Francis, who allows the Pacha-mamma thing to get out of hand and allowed actual tree worshipping at St. Gregory Lateran in Rome. It is one of the reasons the youth, and many of us adults, fled the Church for eastern pastures. And it is one of the reasons that celibacy is not the answer to all things Catholic Church.

In the eastern-rite Churches, and the Orthodox world-wide, most priests are married. They bring such a different vibe to a parish. There is much more emphasis on children and families. Rectories are filled with the scent of home-cooked meals and children running around. It is a home, shared with a parish. The entire Divine Liturgy is completely different. The priest is leading us in prayer and towards the apex of Divine Liturgy, which is Communion. It is not the homily. It is not a band up on the altar leading people in folk songs, many of which should not be sung in Church. It is Divine Liturgy, where the mystical gates of heaven open, the angels descend and worship around the altar with us. It is mystical and divine and deeply human. Most eastern Churches, and most Orthodox, do not have pews. We stand around our priest. We watch as he reads the Gospel, looking at the book from which Our Lord comes to be amongst us. We are surrounded by scent and sound, vision and touch, of the Mystery of Christ. And as Communion comes to us, we drink and eat the Mystical Body of Christ among fellow believers. It is something I wish everyone could experience at least once.

A priest maintaining his state in life in a chaste manner means he honors who he is and where he is at this moment. I do not believe marriage gets in the way of a priest leading his people in prayer and the sacraments. He is one of the people, chosen by them, to lead them. My husband sought the approval of our parish, which is traditional, before he began his road to ordination as a deacon. The parish stood and applauded his request. Unanimously. The role of the ordained deacon in the east, and certainly in the Orthodox Churches, is far different than in the Latin Church. And the role of the deacon’s wife is also so very different. I was asked for my permission for my husband to be ordained. The Church recognizes that the couple will be serving together. My husband, more often than not, gave the homily. The deacon is responsible for educating the people in the faith. The priest is responsible for pastoring his flock, seeing to their problems and helping them develop in their faith. He brings them the sacraments, whereas a deacon only assists with them. Together, the married deacons and married priests provide a strong and solid foundation for a parish. And it is not taken lightly, but is a vocation for both husband and wife. Like I said earlier, it is a totally different vibe. And it is 1000s of years old.

Francis Chan, a famous evangelical pastor, recently preached on the real presence in the Eucharist. He came to this by studying the early Church Fathers. He also learned about the position of the priest and how the Protestants took the idea of the pulpit from the Catholic Church’s ambo (the ambo of St. Peter’s in Rome is above). He did not know that the focus of all worship was on Christ in the Eucharist and it was only in the last 500 years it changed. And the position the priest faced changed at relatively the same time. It is all intertwined. He lamented the change in focus from sacrament to sermon by the Protestant churches. He began the Cornerstone Church in his living room. But he left that church because he was fleeing “that celebrity thing.” In his sermon, he spoke about how the “Church is more divided now that ever before….and that once upon a time, no one, no one disputed the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” It was quite a moving sermon and you can easily google it.

The world is awakening. There are primal questions of our faith, for all Christian denominations. And those questions are being asked around the world. The fact of which way a priest faces, where the Tabernacle is located (or even if you need one), and whether or not priests can marry, are basic questions. They are questions the world is looking for answers to. I only wish I could help them face east. There are answers there, that have been there, since the Apostles established Churches around the world, just as Christ commissioned them to do. Perhaps that circuitous route I have traveled is a personal journey all of us need to travel, on our own.

Right now, the world is in a chaotic scramble for power and place. Christians usually end up with the scraps from the table. Now, more than ever, Christians need to be seated at that table. And those of us who have looked, journeyed, tried, and tested our faith, well, we have found Truth. We have found Home. And I have to say that I believe it is further east than many dare to look. And that can make so many people uncomfortable.