“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”

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I am sort of all over the place today. My hubby is off on a business trip again. He is gone 2 weeks of every month. Lately he has chosen to take them back-to-back so he has more of a steady time at home. The house felt sort of empty this morning. Getting old is weird. Hormones are all over the place. Squirrel. My hair is gray. I am trying new products to tame the frizzes. I tried the method where you wash just with conditioner. Not pretty. Tried for a week and could not stand it. Discovered my hair needs keratin. Who knew? Conditioning today. We got 18″ of snow the past 3 days. We are using either our wood stove or floor heating and it makes the air so dry. And my hair flies all over the place. Lovely when you add wool scarves and sweaters. Not. See? All over the place.

I just reconnected with a friend from High School. She and I were so close, for so long. I am not sure why we stopped being in touch. Perhaps me getting married and having kids and she was seriously in school and having a career…and we moved away from one another, too. But it is so good to get connected via Facebook, and to relaunch our relationship. I was so excited!! It gave me a spring in my step today.

So I blow dried my hair and it is still so fly-away-ish. Had to re-apply the leave-in conditioner. We will see how this formulation works for me. Gray hair is so picky.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

My hubby and I have been dealing with issues regarding our parish and the practicing of the faith we have come to love (and were so well instructed in, by an amazing priest and many friends – priests and monks among them). And it has caused a little friction. Nothing like damaging to our relationship, but in our 34 years together, our faith journey has always been a joint one. Perhaps friction is not the right term. It’s more like there was a pea in our mattress and we just were not comfortable. We always walked together in faith. Our journey has amused many, and confused even more! And over the past 6 months or so, we have sorted of marched to a different drummer. And that is never good. I was always cautioned to not marry outside of my faith practices because people who are “un-equally yoked” do not work out. And I experienced it once, in a long term relationship. I was even engaged to him. He was Jewish. (Reform, not Orthodox, or it probably would never have happened in the first place). But eventually, especially after having developed such an amazing relationship with his rabbi and knowing I was firmly a Christian woman, his cultural adherence to many Jewish traditions, and me not fitting in well with his family, caused me to call things off. He was a great person and I did not wish him ill. I just realized we could never work. His rabbi and I remained friends, up until his death, often meeting for coffee and chats, long after my relationship had waned. I knew I needed a good, strong, Christian man in my life and was wise enough to call the wedding off. And when I met my husband, he lit up my life. And the more I got to know him, the more I wanted his faith. I wanted that relationship he had with God. I used to watch him pray, and while kneeling next to him, prayed that I could be like that. He has been good for me. I often tell him that he saved me from my worst self. He dragged me into a more pious life and I loved it. Over the past 6 or more months, that has waned. And I admitted to him that I miss it. At this same time, my husband realized our relationship with our faith practices needed to change. We spoke and realized we felt the same way about things. About some pretty important things. Whew. A good talk is sometimes all you need to realign your northern star – in my case, that is my piety and sense of faith permeating everything; my relationship to Christ and His Church.

 

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I have taught my kids that it is better to be that lone person, standing for what is right, rather than going with the majority. I believe that to be so in pretty much everything. You can apply it to your chosen career – be the best you can be at whatever it is you do, even if you are not a part of the crowd. In politics, for me, I rarely follow what the majority is calling for. I am conservative – socially, financially, spiritually, and pro life. Period. It permeates even the voting booth. In my faith, I prefer historically connected, profound, and deeply rooted worship. Throw in beeswax candles and icons, and I am there! I was raised next door to Russians, whose parents immigrated from Russia. They had such an interesting spin on life. From the father of the family, I learned to fence, using rapiers from the Royal Court in Russia. I learned to drink Russian tea made in a Samovar. And I learned about Russian tales and foods, traditions and history. I fell in love with Russia, reading everything I could find on it. The old, the traditional, the historically connected has always grabbed me. As an adult, I found myself learning all about my faith at a secular university, funnily enough. I converted to Catholicism as an adult. Coincidentally, about this time, I met my husband. (When I was dating my Jewish boyfriend, I was Geneva Presbyterian – until I converted to Catholicism at age 27). Over our 32 years of marriage, as we have journeyed through a very “orthodox” Catholic life, we discovered the Eastern Catholic Church. It was then that I truly began to breathe with both lungs. I was hooked. We moved over to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is culturally Arabic, but Byzantine/Greek in worship style. My husband became a Deacon, after attending the Melkite seminary. We made life-long friends we dearly miss, during this time period. I literally fell in love with Church. I was there 2-4 days every week. I helped with our homeless kitchen and soon found myself transporting donated food weekly in my suburban, dragging my homeschooled kids with me. I loved working in the kitchen with all the Arab ladies. We had so much fun. And they taught me Arabic traditions, histories, foods, clothing styles, and how they raised their kids and the many faith traditions they held precious. When we moved to Alaska, we discovered there was no Melkite Church up here. We have been adapting. Our youngest son found a youth group he loves, at the local Roman Catholic parish. We support him in attending their “young men’s bible studies” and trips, and youth group every week. (He is well-known in the local parish and usually brings up the gifts on Sundays at Mass. He’s quite the popular teenager. We joke that he knows more people in Alaska than any of the rest of us does). We attend there as a family and it has been good. It is not our beloved Eastern tradition, but it is Church.

Kneeling Prayer.Orthodox Church

 

 

We’ve adapted to this culture up here. (It’s cold and white everywhere these days, because we have so much snow!!) We have become sort of bland. Ha-Ha! And I got pulled away from the practice of what I love, into a rather generic sort of Christian expression. Even in these posts, I was more inclusive, even of the photos I would use to illustrate my posts. I have stopped explaining about my faith practices, letting people just assume I am a generic “Christian” woman. Which I am, but I realized that I have been compromising myself. It is not all of who I truly am. I cannot please the public; I cannot continue to “pose” as something I am not. And I was caving into the pressures I had warned my kids about all these years. I was not being true to who I really am. I am an Eastern-rite Catholic woman. I love the smell of incense. I love the Divine Liturgy. I love chant. Not Gregorian, but old world, eastern chant. I love icons. I love being in a church where you can scent the incense from a previous Liturgy, and light the beeswax candles and be transported to a holier place; a place of oneness with God. It eases my soul. And even if I am “all over the place” and a tad bit scatterbrained today, I am also more at ease because I have realized these things about myself. And it comforts me.

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I realize that many of you do not worship this way, nor understand why people would. Our democratic ideals have permeated our styles of worship, and that is okay, if it sits well with you. I have always been a history-oriented person. I majored in Anthropology and minored in Biblical Archeology. History – church – faith. It has alway been a part of who I am. When I walked the parapets of a castle in Wales as a 16-year-old, I felt those walls speak to me. I would run my hands down them, marveling at how ancient they were and how connected to that antiquity I felt. I was walking the lands of my ancestors and I felt truly at home and very welcome, in among all the artifacts and tapestries, old walls and artwork. Walking through Churches and Cathedrals while we visited England, I constantly had a backache because I spent the entire time bent over, looking at all the engravings on the stones. I took so many rubbings. I felt rooted. I could really breathe at some of these places. It is the same for me in the way I choose to worship. I love tradition and the fact that I can historically trace my Church back to the Apostles. We have songs that are so old, there is no written record of them, just references to them by the Church Fathers, talking about how old they were back in the Apostolic days. Those of us who are Melkite like to tease our Roman/Latin Rite friends that we had St. Peter before they did, because he established the Church in the east before he meandered his way to Rome (wink-wink). And so I have decided that I am not going to hide who I am any longer. I am not going to water things down. I am not going to represent an American Jesus for the palpability of my newer friends. (And those in my business world). I believe in Jesus Christ and I do that in communion with them. However, I also believe in the traditions that brought Protestantism its lifeblood. We had the traditions long before they were put into a book – the Bible – the same one we all read, before all those pesky books were removed out of it. And we were an oral people – sharing our faith and our traditions with others through the practices passed on to us from the Apostles themselves. This is not a haughty or conceited viewpoint, nor is it meant to put people off. But it is the Church I choose to worship in; it is the tradition which gives my lungs breath. It is part of who I am.

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[By the way, my hair feels amazing right now. The blow drying has cooled and it feels like silk. Still gray, but not so much frizziness. Maybe this stuff is working!?!?! Keratin – who knew??]

And so my friends, from here on out, I will be sharing honestly about who I am. I will share through an Eastern lens, through the faith I practice. I am ecumenical because I believe we all hold the same God in our hearts, but I won’t apologize or hide that I prefer icons and a Jesus prayer, Divine Liturgy and incense, the iconostasis and beeswax candles, confession in front of an Icon of Christ the Pantocrator, and cantors with no musical accompaniment, to pretty much all the rest of it. It just fits me and I will no longer apologize nor hide it from you. It is part of what makes me, me. And it is part of who I am when I communicate with all of you, on this blog. I hope you will continue to read, if you do. I am still who I am! It’s just me going back to the me I was a few years ago.

May the Lord grant you many blessed years.

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“…God will have the last word.”

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I really should be doing something else. But my heart has been heavy for months now. I have piles of laundry and the dust boulders have slaughtered the dust bunnies (so sad). My kitchen overwhelms me right now. But I know I have got this. Or I will get to it. I am confident in that. So I am allowing myself time to heal. Not sure what to heal from, but it sort of feels like coming out of a cocoon. The funny thing is that snow is almost here. Which is odd because most people feel that pull from winter to bust out and celebrate the sunshine, etc. I have always been a little odd. So I feel like I am putting off summer, and everything from it, and waiting desperately for the quiet and peace of snow…pretty lights…fires in the wood stove…the scents of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am so looking forward to it.

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Some people say that there are things afoot that will happen this winter. There are all sorts of conspiracies out there. And some point to some sort of energy crisis, not accidental but on purpose, that wreaks havoc on the world. One of those blasts that stops all computers and cars and engines. Or perhaps Russia will get angry enough about Syria and send some bombs our way. Or perhaps there will be an uprising because of all the civic unrest in our cities over so many subjects. This presidential election has certainly been one of disgust in the caliber of those running. Dirt is flying all over the place. It is becoming more of a dirt-flinging contest than a “this is what I will do for you as your next President” conversation. Underlying all of that are the problems with the parties being disgusted with their own candidates. I will not judge. Are there things in my past I regret? Are there vocabulary words I wish I had not bandied about? Hey, I was in a sorority and a little sister at a fraternity. I know some pretty saucy drinking songs. That is not something to brag about. It is something to repent over. Have I made poor choices in my life, before becoming a wife and mother? You bet I have. Thanks be to God, He is there, helping me up each time I fall. Repentance is between the repentant and the forgiver. It is not for public consumption. And I cannot not, nor will I, judge another’s words or behaviors from decades ago. There is plenty of dirt flying around both camps that take care of that for me. But all of this weighs heavily on my heart. I feel like this is a precursor to much more to come.

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“Woe to the shepherd who misled and scattered the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered the my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23: 1-4

I cling to Scriptures like this when I get all depressed about our world and our country, even our church or local faith communities. And I realize that there are much greater things going on than we can see, from our little perspective. We sit in our homes, our cars, our churches, at our jobs, and we make huge proclamations about the world and life. When those in power make a decision, we decry their idiocy. I do it, too. Sometimes when the Pope makes a statement, I actually cringe. But I don’t sit where he sits. When some dignitary makes a weird statement, I try not to argue back at the TV. I’m in a little town in Alaska. How can I judge the world-wide stage from some little backwater place?

God, however, has the ultimate view. He sees it all, from the inception of the world (“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3) to its bitter end (“Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with Me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelations 22:13). And I know He is keeping an eye out for us all. He promised so much to those who believe. He said to Peter (and to us), “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on the earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”… (Matthew 16:18-19). He has set his guard around His Church and not even Hell can destroy it. Some people believe there is evil in this world and it is afoot and doing its best to bring about total chaos, the total rejection of religion, and even a one-world-government. Some even say that a certain Democratic candidate has it in for the Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic Churches in particular, which are seen as the enemy. Why? Because we stand for the basic biblical principles this nation was founded on, in the words of our founders (please take a minute to read this. It is crucial we all know what we are up against):

Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

At times it is okay to say “enough is enough” and to clean house and get a fresh start. Sort of like me, with my piles of laundry and dust boulders in my hallway. Sometimes it is okay to just say “enough” and start again, renewed with vitality and strength and purpose, because we are just tired. Tired of how it is and where it is going. Our country is getting to that point where we need to just start over. Not abolish what was established by our Founders; not at all. We need to get back to that foundational culture. We’ve swerved so far out of our lane, we’re close to crashing into others. (Like Russia, or the various  powers of the Middle Eastern terrorists, ISIS, and others who would see this country forever altered). I am not in fear for our Church. No country, no ideology, no government, will change our beliefs. The Church survived years under the communists in Russia and is once again thriving. It survived because mothers and grandmothers kept praying and teaching their children – they would not bow to communism in their homes. On the surface, yes, they capitulated so they could have shelter and food on the tables for their families. But in the night, behind darkened windows, they shared the Truth of God with their children. And now the faith has once again seen the light of day, it is flourishing. In the USA, at present, a certain candidate thinks there is power in going against the Catholic Church by getting subversives in there. That is such wrong thinking. It is the ROMAN Catholic Church…not the American Catholic Church. If that person wants to change the Church in America, then they would have to visit the Vatican. It isn’t happening, regardless of what those 3% of dissenters want. If they want change, they can find it in a different Church. Evangelicals are also not going anywhere. They hold fast to the Truths found in Scripture. The Right-to-Life, ProFamily stances on marriage, sexual Identity issues…they hold to the Biblical principles on all these issues, as does the Catholic Church. We are united in defending these principles. How do you think Target is doing with their bathroom stance and the boycott? Christians are starting to wake up and realize that they are in the majority. We can do this. We can take our country back, and return it to the country we all love. And we can clean the House and Senate, even our local legislators can be changed. This vote is pivotal. The Supreme Court will forever be changed this election cycle. Think about it.

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And so it is almost winter. Things are happening. Yes, things are moving at a breakneck speed. Some of it is really, really ugly. Some of it is tolerable. Some of it is just a plain joke. And some of it is disgusting. However, change is always hard. It is always requires some sort of sacrifice. It always demands we hunker down and push through whatever it is that is causing us to sink, or whatever it is we need to rise above. I read a blog post recently, and I have searched and searched for it and I can’t find it again. But that post stuck with me. One of the sentiments the author shared was that in our world, in our country, at this moment, we don’t need more of the same. We don’t need another lapdog who takes food from the hands of those with the most tasty power. What we need now is an attack dog that will not take no for an answer, and who will get the job done. An idiom often quoted is that the right person comes along when they are needed most. Was Winston Churchill a pleasant man? By most eyewitness accounts, he was not. He spoke harshly and used profane language, had a wandering eye, and loved his drinks. But was he right for the world during World War II? He certainly was. Another man is General Patton. His antics are legendary, as is his temper. There are countless stories about him, in the field of war and in the arena of politics. He really did not like politicians. He would not suffer idiots or do-nothings. His vulgar language and some of his habits made the news worldwide. But was he the right man to lead our troops in World War II? He certainly proved that. If we look at pivotal moments in history, we, as a culture, were not guided by limp or weak people. And sycophants who bow to foreign leaders, and do not stand in their presence in defense of our country, cannot be tolerated at this moment in our history. In the past, we were guided by guard dogs, who were intent on protecting our way of life. And that is what we need now. America needs strength in leadership so this world will know that we are strong. We have to repair our feckless image on the international stage. We also have to work to become a solid people once again, to love one another regardless. To put away our petty differences and celebrate our unique place in this world. We need to re-establish the America I grew up in, where we did not lock our doors, or worry when the kids were out after dark. We need to get back to that idyllic time when life was safe. I have no blinders on my eyes, but I know there is better than what we have, and where we seem to be headed, should we choose the wrong path.

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We need to get back to worshipping and loving God, and loving one another. This election is sticky…all of us are cringing about some part of it. But in the long run, if we honestly face where we have come from and what is looming in our future, for a free people, we need to unite behind one of these proposed leaders. [Side bar: I cannot, in good conscience, support anyone who is not pro-life. It is my line in the sand. Can’t get past that. For me, it determines character. To take innocent life so easily frightens me. It is callous and selfish. It is not about a woman’s right to choose. It is about allowing that human being who has been shown to have a beating heart at 16 days, to live. If it is not convenient for you, you should have thought about that before engaging in the type of behavior wherein the outcome is pregnancy. There is no excuse for abortion – ever. Go ahead and line up your data on saving the mother for me. There is none. As the mother of 9 children and only two of them breathing, talk to me about high risk pregnancy. Nothing you can tell me will change my mind.] Only one of them can be our president. I would suggest reading the Scriptures, reading the Church Fathers on some of these issues, consulting with your clergy, and praying about it. Each of us has their part to play in the outcome in November. The life of our country as we know it, and our world, depends on our participation. We need to do some house cleaning…

I am now going to attack my dust bunnies and laundry piles…

dustbunnies This and that…woman-on-laundry-pile

 

“..I will bless you with food..”

 

“You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness.” Exodus 23:25 (NLT)

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I started off my day with my favorite coffee blend. Well, favorite right now. I usually prefer a hazelnut latte, but today, it’s my “bullet-proof coffee,” which I blend up in my NutriBullet blender using African Organic Coffee, Organic Coconut Oil (1 tbls) and Organic Butter (1 tbls). It is pretty darn tasty! And it keeps you satiated for hours. You see, today we are taking our health into our own hands in a serious way, surrounded by careful consideration and drenched with prayer. I wanted to document it, so it helps keep me accountable, in a public way. I am also sharing it with others who are on this same journey, and the camaraderie is pretty amazing. They are supportive and praying for our success. And I thought I would share our journey, as we progress, on my blog. We are implementing the Whole30 program. I would say “diet” but that just connotes so many negative things. This is not a negative thing. The idea behind it is to remove things from your diet that could spark a reaction throughout your body (the most common reaction is some sort of inflammatory response. For me, that is acute and painful arthritis). And remove these things for 30 days. The Whole30 program has narrowed the “things” that most commonly bother us into pretty simple categories. After the 30 days, you slowly, if you want to, add them back in to see what impacts your body in a negative way. A lot of people I have spoken with never add some of these things back into their eating regime, as they find they are happier without them. I am excited to learn about that for us, too.

To clarify, this is not about denying yourself pleasures and not enjoying food. Not at all. The recipes I have found so far have been amazing. Butternut squash soup – marinated steak – Greek salad. Things look mouthwateringly yummy!  People have commented, “Oh, you’re going paleo.” Well, yes and no. Whole30 is not concerned with the historical data about why our ancestors ate what they ate (and the anthropologist in me loves all that information, trust me!!). They are more concerned with how our modern dietary choices are killing us. So, to prepare, we “carbed out” this weekend, at the suggestion from others who have already completed Whole30 more than once.  And ate lots of sugary stuff we don’t normally eat. We even had ice cream – from Cold Stone!! Mexican food with the beans and rice and cheese and sour creams…and the sopapillas for desert!! And pizza. Pizza Hut was so good this time! The cheese and ice cream made my husband cough…it is a link we are exploring. And that is hard for me because I love all things dairy! Ha-Ha! Ice cream, cream, butter, sour cream, cheeses of all kinds…you name it and I like it. But even more than having something I love like dairy – I am tired. Tired of hurting. Tired of being overweight. Tired of not being my best me. And that is the crux of why we are attempting this 30-day journey into better health.

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, Who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)

clarified-butter

I am excited because this process incorporates clarified butter, which is the same as Ghee. It is quite simple to make, but plain and flavored Ghee can be found in health food and ethnic stores. (You can also find clarified butter, but it is pretty pricey!). Basically, you cook butter in a pot, on the stove, to melting. When it foams, you remove the foam with a spoon. The foam contains the dairy fats you can live without; the remaining fat is still quite tasty and has lots of nutritive value, and is far better for cooking and baking. In warmer climates it will look sort of like corn oil. Up here, it looks like fairly solid butter. Yay! I can slather it over my potatoes or on my veggies. I found some amazing sauces that I will be trying that have clarified butter as their foundation, even for steaks! Many prominent chefs prefer clarified butter because it doesn’t burn as easily and you can use it at higher temperatures. So my love of dairy will get some help…and I can still make my bullet coffee.

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The real killer for us is sugar. In any of its forms. Even stevia at this point. We need to learn to live without it in our lives. Sugar is in just so many things. We have been reading about it in the Whole30 books (“It Starts with Food” is one of their amazing books). I have to tell you, as my husband and I shopped last night to stock our Whole30-compliant pantry and refrigerator, we became label-readers. And it had such a huge impact on us. (It was also a rather long shopping trip, because we read every, single label. My husband was texting with one of our sons, who was offering his sympathy! Thanks, my son. He was at least laughing while we shopped!). There is sugar where you would least expect it. Not only that, there is wheat and other grains in things you would not expect. Why, for example, is there wheat flour in hash browns? Sugar? Isn’t it just shredded potatoes? Apparently it is not. Why is the first or second ingredient in any kind of sausage or bacon sugar?? Why? Why is fructose or corn syrup the  #1 or #2 ingredient in most drinks, even things you drink that you think are healthy for you? Why do they add sugar to cream??? I love good, old, plain cream! Cream! Spaghetti sauce is loaded with sugar!! Our tastebuds have been trained to want sweet everywhere, in almost everything we eat. We are missing out on the savory side of eating. Of enjoying spices for their inherently wonderful flavors. Or, for example, enjoying coffee for the taste of the coffee…not the syrups and sweetness-products that are added to it. “Double white mocha, extra sweet, with added whipped cream, please” is an order I have heard more than once. The thought of it makes my fillings ache! And so we are stopping ALL SUGAR, in all its forms, for the next 30 days. That includes all forms of alcohol, in beverages or additives in foods. Pray for us!

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And then there are those culprits above. Man oh man do I love pasta and bread. Slathered in butter, warm from the oven, bread is pretty much heaven for me. No need for anything else but bread and butter. Add a cup of tea and that is my comfort food. When I was a little girl, my mum would say, “Are you okay? Would you like a cup of tea and some bread & butter and we can just sit here and relax a bit?” Heaven. My kids love any sort of pasta, cooked and warm, with butter and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on it. (I would throw in some vegetables to make it seem like a healthy lunch! Ha-Ha!). One of our favorite meals is Shrimp Alfredo. (For my middle son, make that Chicken Alfredo, but for the youngest could you please add some scallops?? Ha-Ha!). Of course, with warm garlic bread! Hey – and a salad – most of the time! I have a wonderful memory as a child, of walking through the village at Lake Arrowhead, California and coming out of the Dutch bakery (where they made the absolute best tasting sourdough bread I have ever eaten) carrying a warm, fresh loaf. We would walk back to the cabin and make tuna sandwiches on that fresh bread and sit and look at the Lake from the deck. Even the crust of that bread was good! Pretty much a perfect memory. But, it has to go for the next 30 days. No carbs from wheat or grains of any kind. No legumes of any kind (no refried beans! no chili with beans!). Gone from the pantry. Gone from the house. Well, except for my youngest son’s tortillas…he just cannot survive without them. My husband and I will be avoiding what we have come to call, “His Drawer” in our refrigerator. It has all his cheeses and tortillas and other things we are not eating that need to stay cold. Luckily they all fit in a small drawer!

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What you can have, however, is unlimited fruits and vegetables, within the right categories. For the first part of our 30 days, we are going to avoid a lot of fruits so we can purge that sweet taste a little more. We are eliminating corn and peas and some others, but pretty much eating what vegetables we want. We are also trying some new vegetables. My grandmother adored Brussel Sprouts. I never did. They always tasted so bitter to me. However, I am open to ideas and found some pretty tasty sounding recipes incorporating Brussel Sprouts. And I am going to try them. I am also trying things like butternut squash and kale and steamed spinach (which I love but the family is not that fond of). And I have come to love asparagus – so that will be eaten. So many things to explore and try. So many spices I have never had, too! I am excited to learn to cook in a new and different way.

meat

As a dedicated carnivore (sorry if that offends you) I am thrilled to have become familiar with our local butcher shop, Mike’s Meats. They are the nicest people and I have yet to have a bad piece of meat from them. The other nice thing is that all their meat is local. Even their eggs are local. And on this regime, meat and eggs are your friend. Yay! Tonight I am marinating some steak, using my own marinade from the Whole30 recipe list. I am excited. I am also hard boiling eggs, which my husband loves. We have some amazing meals planned. Another thing I am learning how to make is all our own sauces and condiments. First up? Mayonnaise!!! Got a set of Ball Jars to begin today!! So excited! And for an added note (and perhaps incentive) when we did all this shopping, our final tally was far below what we normally spend. Who would have thought that eating healthy is actually costing us less money? Most of the time, when I would try to add organic or healthier options, it seemed like I spent more money than I could afford. But leaving out dairy, breads, pastas, rice, buying extra stevia, and even packaged foods, cut way down on our bill. I’ll let you know what I think of coconut milk, by the way.

ball-jars

And so why, might you ask, are we doing this, and doing it now? Well, we can get in a good 30 days before the holiday season is here. We have lots of birthdays coming over the next few months, and that is another reason to start now. We also needed a clear 30 days on two calendars, with no events planned (we are ignoring Halloween, as usual). And we would like this way of eating in place and fully adopted as we face the sugary holidays with all that wonderful baking and cooking and eating. We are both overweight (dare I say obese???) and we want to be around a lot longer to enjoy our kids and grandchildren, friends and extended families. We want to be in better shape to enjoy the countryside we live in. There is so much to do, all year long. I want to try cross-country skiing. There is no way, in my current shape, I could do that. So it is my goal to learn to cross-country ski before I die a fat, old lady!  I am replacing her with a cross-country skiing grandma!!

ylsupplements

As part of our overall health over-haul, we began incorporating Young Living’s various supplements into our lives and cannot believe the difference they have made. When I was doing my research into supplements in general, it amazed me at how many unneeded additions were in over-the-counter options! Sugar is one of the unneeded additions, along with wheat and soy, and all sorts of things you can neither spell nor pronounce. At Young Living, they take such care in making sure everything is pure and unadulterated. Their “Seed to Seal” guarantee also holds true for their supplements, and is not allocated to just their amazing Essential Oils. They test and retest all along the way, until those containers are sealed, with a guarantee of purity for each of us. If you want to add a great morning supplement to your regime, and want to feel good, just try drinking 2-4 ounces of Ningxia Red juice every morning! I adore it. We are making sure our bodies are getting the best we can give them. I use Essentialzyme and Thyromin every day, ensuring my pancreas and thyroid are getting the support they need to function at their best. I also use Mind Wise, which gives me all those amazing nutritive ingredients to keep my mind sharp and me on my toes. With parents and family members having had different cancers and Alzheimer’s, we feel we need to be on top of our health and adding these supplements is giving us peace-of-mind.

auroracurvedsky

As we begin this journey, we do so looking to God and Heaven as our final destination. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.” (Romans 12:1)  We want to be the best we can be, body and soul. And eliminating food groups to become healthy seems like such a simple thing we can do. And it seems so small in light of eternity. If this gives us more time with our family and friends, I guess the local ice cream shops, pizza parlors, and bread stores will just have to survive without us! More later…

whole30books

Here are some sites for you to research, about what I have written in regards to the Whole30 program, as well as Young Living’s products:

http://whole30.com

http://www.youngliving.com

If you are curious, there are some wonderful supplements available from Young Living. I am thrilled to represent such an amazing company, as well as use all of their products myself. We use them in almost all aspects of our lives from cleaning our clothes and our home, to brushing our teeth and washing our hair, to some amazing Essential Oils and nutritional supplements helping us to maintain a healthy, and chemical free, lifestyle. Please drop me a message if you are curious. Here is my member number, should you like to order through me: 2523813. Thank you!

“They began to go away, one by one…”

morethanwhatyousee

Many years ago, my then-teen-aged son admonished me for making snap judgements about a girl he was seeing. I did not think she dressed very well. She looked, to me, to be “easy,” to put it in words from my generation. And I have never forgotten that conversation. He will be 31 next month, he’s been married for 10 years this week, has a wonderful wife and two kids. And that admonition came to the forefront recently. Judging a book by its cover!

“But Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger. When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.’” John 8:7

I have always loved that passage. Christ taught us in that moment that we are not all how we seem. If we take a moment to explore that passage, I think it is interesting to note that the Pharisees were trying to trip up Jesus, and he caught them at their own game, reflecting their accusations back on them!

dirty-hands

There is a saying that goes, “Remember that when you point at someone with one finger, three more are pointing back at you.” And lately, more than ever, I have noticed judging. From me, yes, and towards me, yes.

“When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” And again He bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard this, they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there.…” (John 8:8-10)

I find it interesting that when the “pebble meets the pavement” there is not much left. When people yell and shout, most often they are the ones with dirty hands. When I criticized the young woman my son was seeing, I now realize I was seeing me in her. When I was young, having parents from England and New Zealand made my teen years interesting. “Dungarees are for farm workers. You will not wear those kind of pants.” They were talking about jeans. Took me until my junior year to be allowed to wear them. I recall days of pants worn so low, I had to be careful my backside did not hang out (hip huggers! LOL!) and how my parents would not allow me to wear that style of pant with crop tops. At the time I thought they were being stuffy Brits, not used to American culture. But they were concerned for the image I was putting out there. And I just did not get it.

Image. Perceptions. All this relates for me, to the issue of tattoos. As I said in a previous post, I was considering getting one for my 60th birthday present to myself. And I got one! I will show you a photo later in this post. It did not hurt. It is healing nicely and looks amazing. But not everyone is pleased by my choice. I had someone tell me that I have “defiled the temple of the Lord.” This person was so upset, they could not continue our chat, getting off the phone with “I love you” and such, but still quite upset. Another person close to me said, “Welcome to the world of the stigma of having a tattoo.” And that really got me thinking. And since I now have one, I see tattoos everywhere. And I am noticing the stigma.

sun-in

Tattoos were what “merchant marines,” sailors, and military had. It was what bikers and prisoners had. Good girls did not have tattoos. They were a sign of loose morals in all areas of your life. Pierced ears! Wow! Those were only allowed after I was a teenager. And only one piercing per ear, and no dangling earrings. Those were what strippers and dancers wore. Coloring your hair? Well, we could use lemon juice or “Sun In” on our hair, but no dying your hair. Only old ladies dyed their hair, and it usually turned purple. And if you did dye your hair, no one was supposed to know it. And you never had roots (they call it “ombre” now!) because that meant you were not keeping up on your personal hygeine! Tacky!

Smoking is pretty much a social taboo these days. I used to smoke, as did my husband. When we were in high school, there were designated smoking areas! In high school! My husband took up smoking while he was active duty Navy because smokers got breaks! He had to stand in a painted circle by a trash can, but he got a break! I started smoking when I was around 21 or so.  As I melded into the workforce in the late 70s, I smoked because I was so stressed (accounting) and everyone in my office smoked. Later on, after I was married and our oldest kids were still not quite teens, I was smoking a cigarette one time outside our home and a neighbor’s daughter came up to me and said, “You smoke? But you go to Church!” That really made me stop and think about the image I was projecting. I haven’t had a cigarette in almost 20 years, partially because of her comment, which reflected her view of me. “Out of the mouths of babes,” as they say!

We look at styles, fashion, social trends and we see all sorts of things that were not permissible when we were younger, but seem okay now, and visa versa. I am not trying to justify my choices, at all, I am just noticing things because I am now forced to, because of those choices. For example, smoking is certainly one of those things we used to think was okay. Science finally caught up to our habits! Hairstyles…we go around and around with our son. In my youth, hair was long. Sometimes too long. Now it’s all over the map. But how we present ourselves still matters. And it is sad, because we are not often who people see when they look at us. Perceptions are so fascinating and I am as guilty as the next person of prejudging others based on the image they present to me, or their attitude in my presence. I still struggle with weird or too numerous piercings, but that is on me. And now I am seeing this stigma happen towards me. And it is for many reasons, not just my tattoo. Being a part of the aging population (so many people think my youngest son is my grandson because I do not cover my gray hair!!!!). Being overweight. My license plate that announces I am a grandma, and the looks while driving down the road. Preconceived notions are everywhere.

judging-others

And I get it about tattoos, I really do. “You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” This is from Leviticus 19:28.  And it is the quote many Christians will whip out when confronting someone who has tattoos, or recently got one. The chapter quoted was in regards to the process for preparing the dead, “cuts in your body for the dead,” and reflected the pagan rituals around marking one’s skin to show to whom you had an allegiance. People would cut and tattoo themselves at the death of a loved one. Slaves were marked for their masters. They would also tattoo images that would be considered pagan, and the passage is warning those of Israel to not participate any longer in these pagan rituals. The same passage also forbids shaving your beard and other practices that are now commonplace. There are literally dozens of articles discussing this passage on the internet. An apologist, Jimmy Akins, writes, “There is no reason why one cannot color one’s skin, which is what tattooing amounts to. One can apply color to one’s skin by make-up (as is common among women), magic markers (as is common among children), press-on tattoos (as are common in Crackerjack boxes), or with real tattoos. The mere fact that the ink goes into the skin in the latter case does not create a fundamental moral difference.”

fingerpointing

And so what are we to do? Keep on judging one another? Selectively eliminating those we feel do not reflect well upon us from our circles of friends and family? As in pointing our fingers at others, while not seeing the three fingers pointing back at ourselves?  Remember that when the Pharisees were convicting the woman of adultery, that when Christ admonished them with, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her” that they all slowly walked away because they all had sins? We all have sins. Some of our sins are visible for all to see and comment on. Gluttony is visible on my body. My sin that I carry around in my grandma jeans and big shirts. And now I am adding a tattoo to that! Ha-Ha! I must be a glutton for punishment. Many Christian theologians caution against permanently marking your body because of the witness to others. It taints their opinion of you and perhaps you are not being the best witness of the faith. Which is interesting, because it is a reflection of our upbringing and prejudices that we have been taught. Trust me, when my oldest son accidentally showed me his first tattoo, I was not happy with it. It was a crown of thorns, and an ugly one. To which he said to me that the crown of thorns was indeed, ugly, because the Crucifixion was ugly. But, it reminded him of his faith, and he liked it. And now, my perceived witness to others is something I am grappling with, every day, now that I have gone ahead and permanently marked my body. I have to keep reiterating that it is permanent, because so many of those who know me are in such shock over this, and keep thinking I am pranking them. I am not pranking anyone. It is real. And here it is…

jerusalem-tattoo

When I went to get the tattoo, the tattoo artist had a long and wonderful conversation with both my husband and myself. Don, the tattoo artist, said that people will negatively comment, and some I have known a long time will not understand and be upset with me. He has experienced it for years (he had more tattoos on his body than I had ever seen on a person, in person. Seriously). And when I showed him the photo of my desired tattoo, he delightfully commented, “Oh, it’s a Jerusalem Cross! On my many pilgrimages to Israel, I saw a lot of them.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. Then he said, “Now I’m not a religious guy, but I’ve been to the Holy Land more than once, and if anyone gives you grief, use it as an opportunity to teach. Share with them the meaning of the cross. And quote them Revelations 19:16 – “He has a name written on his cloak and on his thighs, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” If it’s good enough for Jesus Christ when He comes again, I figure a tattoo is okay for me and you, too!”

rev-19-16-2

I feel good about my tattoo, because it is part of my journey to my faith. Not everyone understands why I would choose to do this at my age, but that is okay. I am a good person. I believe in the Lord, and I try valiantly not to lead a life of sinfulness. Occasionally I will fall. That is the beauty of our faith – it allows us to get back up again and work at becoming better than we were yesterday, more committed to living a life pleasing to the Lord. Each time I put my organic coconut oil and Young Living’s Melrose Essential Oil on my tattoo, I reflect on it. I see the central cross, symbolic of Christ. I see the four crosses in each corner, symbolizing the four Gospels. There are other interpretations, but I love that one the most. And it reminds me that this cross was created when the Church, when our entire Christian faith and very way of life was under attack. It is one of my favorite times in history to read about. The Medieval era was one of growth in learning and architecture, and exploration and discovery, of gallantry and knighthood, damsels in distress, and one of so many saints. Don’t get me wrong, I realize horrors were perpetrated on the innocent, on both sides. But I also see it as a time when the world was galvanized to stay strong in the faith and defend it, to the death. They defended it at home and on foreign soil, against incursions by those who would deny Christ and opt to wipe out His memory and those who would not forsake Christ. They were not looking for converts, but rather were focusing on conquering the western world. And I feel it is still a battle we all need to wage, one person at a time, one family at a time, and one neighborhood at a time, until we take this land, and our faith, back. And so I witness that on my wrist. And I will share all of that when asked why I did this, and why that particular Cross. It’s not for everyone. Not everyone will understand. But between me and the Lord, I am feeling excited, almost giddy, about my new tattoo.

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“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass…”

Symbolism is so much a part of what we do and how we live. We I am scrambling to be sure we have our “spirit wear” all ready for the homecoming game tomorrow. It’s important to show team spirit by wearing our school colors! We clang cow bells painted the right colors and are sure to sit in the booster section, where we can yell without embarrassing our other children! Ha-ha! But we cannot wear colors that are from our opposing team, because that doesn’t show support to our players and cheerleaders. We have to have all the right symbols.

Football

I was recently in a discussion about wearing our wedding rings on the right or left hand. In the west, people wear them on their left hands. People in Eastern European cultures (and Russian Orthodox and other Orthodox Churches) all wear them on the right hand. But in America, it confuses the average person if you wear your wedding set on the right hand with people thinking you are divorced or widowed. The symbol isn’t right; it does not fit into their notion of how things should be. It can unsettle people, seeing the wrong image in the wrong place.

There are logos and symbols all around us. If you give most people quizzes on company logo recognition, they can name many corporations just by seeing their logos. That means their marketing team has been doing their jobs and doing them well!

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There are some images that people enjoy and some that make people uncomfortable. Some images can evoke such strong emotions. If you see something that reminds you of your childhood, it can bring back happy memories, or bring you to tears. Other images are quickly forgotten and we don’t give them another thought.

crucifix-2-flash

When many Christians see a crucifix, the image of Christ hanging the cross, they get very uncomfortable. I have had people say that it is like looking at photos of a murder scene over and over again. I can see that. I can feel that sort of emotion. For most Catholics, the crucifix reminds them of the mercy of God and of His great sacrifice for us. It evokes feelings of safety and comfort. There is a prayer called the Anima Christi that is often prayed while gazing at a crucifix:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Permit me not to be separated from Thee
From the malignant enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That with thy Saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever
Amen

It makes looking at that particular symbol not as gruesome as some would think. There are other symbols and ways of representing the Cross of Christ. And I have been pondering these symbols recently. It is easy to have a symbol mean something to you, but when others look upon it, they see something very differently. There are all kinds of crosses out there, and each means something to the culture they are associated with. For many of us in western society, these crosses confuse us, because they are not what we are used to seeing, when we associate them with our faith. This is a wall hanging I have in my home:

images. wall crosses.

I like it because it shows all different ways of looking at crosses. It’s made of metal and 3D. It has engendered many conversations. And some Christians do not have any crosses in their homes, nor do they display paintings or statues. Very few have icons. We are probably the odd-man-out but we have all of it. We have statues, paintings, crosses from all over the world, and icons. We have lots of icons. We have very little secular art, actually.

I have been pondering symbols in other ways, as well. Permanence is something that is not common in the corporate world, although many older companies are very recognized just by their logos!

apple microsoft  pepsi flag2

Each of these logos is very familiar and we all have an opinion about each of them. One of them is not a logo per se, but a symbol. There is a difference. A symbol is a representation, a pictogram, whereas a logo is a trademarked corporate identity that may contain a symbol. Like Apple’s logo with it’s iconic symbol of an apple with a bite out of it, and symbol of our homeland, the American flag.

The cross, of course, cuts through all the corporate hype and is not owned by one corporation or church. It is a universal symbol. For many it evokes comfort and peace, and for others it is a sign of divisiveness. For me, it symbolizes a part of who I am and what I believe. And my faith does not waiver, it does not fade, it does not change. I am a Christian woman. Where I choose to worship, the style of how I worship, may change. Those are externals. But my belief does not change or waiver. So the symbol of my faith, the cross, does not waiver. Which is why I am considering getting a tattoo of a cross for myself, for my birthday. It’s not really for anyone else. It is something that would remind me, each time I look at it, what I believe. But which representation, for me, do I choose? It’s had me up nights, because inking is permanent. Which is why it has also taken me this long to even consider it. And I have pondered this whole issue of logos and symbols, recognition and the emotions they evoke. And I am thinking and praying, and searching my heart. Who knows? Maybe it will be a new purse. I’ll let you know.

Tattoo

 

“And even when I am old and gray….”

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

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

Jans 60th Cake

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

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

JerusalemCross

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

Coptic.colored cross.

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

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

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

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

deflated balloon

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

Gods plan for our life

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

life plans gods plans

“Be still…”

Mirror Lake

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

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

PalmerAK

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

Salmon ladder

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

Aurora August 2016

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

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

Be Still