“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

So, I did it again. LOL. I got another tattoo. At my age, with my grandma, crepe-y skin. It hurt. And it bled more than my other one. This one has colors. LOL. But it is still small. It’s on my wrist, just like my other one. I’m a tatted-up grandma. Cracks me up, just to say it, let alone be it!! LOL!  I find it so interesting how people look at you when they see tattoos. I know, because I was like that, too. Immediately judging a book by its very colorful cover. It is such a shallow view of life. Truly, it is. I had one of the best conversations on God, the Crusades, and modern faith with the man who tattooed my first one, a year ago. How people choose to decorate themselves is up to them. Some have different colors of hair, or hairstyles, each time I see them. There are those who pierce themselves (which just looks painful to me!!). Others have long, fake, fingernails in a variety of shades. Women wear all sorts of make-up. Then there is jewelry and clothing, the car you drive, the house you live in, the job you have, the church you go to. It is all adornment of some sort or another. Look at Matthew 6: 25-24 below:

Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto [a]the measure of his life?  And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

The Lord cautions us not to worry about our clothing (or any adornment) or the food on our tables, but rather, be concerned, firstly, about His kingdom and His righteousness. And don’t worry about “the morrow,” because today has all its own evils. My tattoo is an “omage”, if you will, to my family. I got a “Forget-Me-Not” flower surrounded by 4 hearts and a little swirling going on, all the size of about a quarter. The Forget-Me-Not is the state flower of Alaska. It is also the flower for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Both of my parents suffer from them. Our nuclear family consisted of mom and dad, my brother and me. So I got the 4 hearts for us. As my brother and I were chatting the other day, he said when he and I start going dementia on our families, and people comment on it, we can say, “It’s just normal in our family.” And we laughed. As I got tattooed yesterday, I died a little bit inside. Because that is the truth of it. We are losing our parents and more than likely, our families will lose us, too.

As I woke up this morning and saw this tattoo – after removing the bandage I wore all night – I noticed all the blue. LOL. I am not really a blue person. I tend more to greens and reds, and lately, purple. The swirling and hearts are purple. But wow, that is a lot of blue. There is even yellow in the center. LOL. Yellow. Yeah; not my color. And as I thought about seeing it all the time, I realized that it may make me uncomfortable, but Alzheimer’s and Dementia are not comfortable, at all. When my oldest son got a tattoo of the “crown of thorns” around his bicep, I cringed. It was ugly. His comment to me was, “Well, Mom, the crown of thorns was ugly. It is supposed to be ugly. If Jesus could wear it on His head and live through it, I can wear it on my bicep and remember that sacrifice.” Now, he wants to morph it into some sort of Celtic thing with his Spartan helmet for his unit in the Army. He sacrificed much for our country and he will be incorporating that crown of thorns into it. I get that. But when I first saw that gorgeous young man of mine with an inked arm, I actually cried. Because I had grown that baby in my womb and the Lord and I labored over making the perfect skin…and he inked it. LOL. I was not a happy mama! And now I have one more tattoo than he does! He was having a ball, giving me alleluia for getting a second one last night! The stinker.

We memorialize things in this world, to remind us of important events and feelings. The Islamists get this and they regularly destroy statues and memorials to history, because they want to erase it from our memories. “Out of sight, out of mind.” People in the South are tearing down memorials to the Confederacy. It seems stupid to me. The Confederacy is alive and well in all its descendants, as is all of our shared Christian history. Tearing down a memorial won’t erase those memories. For me, I have tattoos to remind me; to give me comfort. They are not for anyone else. They may assault the senses of others; they may cause others to look at me differently or perceive who I am differently…that is okay. If my new ink bothers you and you cannot see past it to see me, I am sorry. Perhaps we were not meant to be close friends, after all.

And I wept, thinking about how my parents will be forgotten themselves, as they, too, forget. Neither of them wants a gravesite. Neither wants any sort of memorial service, either. Both asked to be cremated. My dad is donating his body to a medical school in Texas and when they are done with it, they return the cremated remains to the family; my mom is donating her brain to the Alzheimer’s Association and once they remove it they will cremate the rest and return it to her family (me). So I will have no memorial to visit for my parents. And if I somehow am lucky enough to be gifted with Alzheimers and/or dementia, when my family sees my tattoos on my wrist, I hope they will remember the struggles my parents had, and I had with them, and be gentle and kind to me. That they will see my tattoo of the Cross of Jerusalem and remember how fervently I loved God and fought for my faith – to keep it and witness it to them. My personal “Crusade,” fought and lost and won, for them and for me. That when they see this little flower all wrinkled upon my body, they will recall I waited until I was 61 years old to get it, and that I got it for my parents and for them, too. So none of us will forget each other, as we wade into the uncertain future.

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Sensory and informational overload, God and a fern…

I know, another photo of the beauty up here. But I can’t help it! This weekend we were privileged to tour a national park and it was so amazing. The couple we shared it with made the weekend even better. But, sometimes I get overwhelmed with input. You know how sometimes you can just get sensory and mental overload? I got that. My brain was blurring what I was seeing. Too much nature over too long of a time. LOL. It sounds awful, doesn’t it? That I saw too much beauty and my brain shut down? Sadly enough, it did. Perhaps if I lived in a completely different area, it would seem different or fresh. But it quickly became “more of the same.” Yes, it is stunning and amazing and beautiful. But when you drive in a bus for 8 hours in a national park, your brain starts to rebel a little bit. I had to fight to not take a nap!

Have you ever felt overloaded with information? I know that my kids have complained about it while studying for exams, and I recall the feeling in college, too. You actually look forward to the test, in some perverse way, to spout all that information you have been cramming inside your head, just to get some relief. When you study for the test, cramming just gives that information temporary residence. Once you take the test and spew it all out, most of us retain very little of it. And I was worried about that this weekend. I was seeing so much beauty and nature, I was concerned I would not (a) appreciate it to its fullest, or (b) retain my memories.

Sometimes when we are around something too much, we forget the beauty and the incredible part it plays in our lives. Sometimes we even forget we live among beautiful things, because we have had it all our lives. I’m going out on a limb here, but sometimes it reminds me of former smokers or drinkers, who love to talk about how life is better now, while you sip that glass of wine. Or, worse yet, converts. To whatever it is you already belong to, a convert’s joy and fervor almost drives you away. Ha-Ha. Unfortunately, I am a former smoker and a convert. So I have been teased and teased again for my excitement and fervor.

This weekend, I met some people traveling by cruise ship, who were bussed and took the train to where we were visiting. We had a nice chat. One lady was from Los Angeles and the other had retired to Tennessee. They meet at this hotel each year and go on cruises together, with this national park as their starting point. Their perspective on the state I live in was interesting. They love looking at it, but “could never live here.” Too much sun in summer, and not enough in winter. Although they did say they loved the long, summer days and mild temperatures, the winters scared them.

And I found myself listening in my head to all the things I had heard and seen this weekend, and some thoughts came to me. It made me sad that others loved where I lived, but “could never live here.” How often do we become lax and cynical about our faith, because it has always been there? For those of us who are new and discovering our faith (I’ve been learning and discovering for over 30 years now) we seem to notice all the little details and nuances, because we are learning. When it becomes old hat or repetitive, we need to take a look inside. Just like I was dismissing all the grandeur around me this weekend. I had to mentally slap myself in order to amp up my excitement and joy over what I was experiencing. I also knew I was cramming a lot of information into my little brain, and I desperately did not want to lose any of it. I quickly did a photo album on my FB page, to share with others, and I am posting photos here, as well as thinking about all of it. I am hoping it will stick!!

Some of us are suited to small, intimate gatherings and crowds just don’t cut it for us. We can relate one-on-one, but could never speak in front of a crowd. Sometimes we get what is called “over stimulated” and cannot wait for quieter, simpler interactions. I spent 8 hours on a tour bus peopled with complete strangers, with a wide range of personalities and excitement levels, not to mention traditions, cultures, and even languages. It was a good experience for me, but I could not wait to get back to the quiet of our little car and just the 4 of us in our party. I felt so full of voices and sounds and sights…I needed quiet. So off to our hotel rooms we went, to rest up before dinner. We had some down time and then enjoyed a patio dinner before rushing inside to avoid the rainstorm! What a memorable trip with some really fun traveling companions!

Do you ever attend Church at a new place? Like when you are on vacation? And you don’t fit in, or you stand out, because you are different? We stopped at this little town on our way home and went to the most amazing little place, the “Roadhouse.” What a great experience we had. It is a family-style restaurant and hostel for people who are going to scale the large mountain we had just visited. The place is not fancy in any way. And I loved it. They had chairs and benches, lots of old photos and flags, telling the stories of people who had scaled the mountain, and those who had lost their lives attempting their climb. I enjoyed the best Mushroom/Swiss Quiche I have ever tasted. They are not afraid of mushrooms! And we all tasted some raspberry/rhubarb wine that was divine. I even brought home some hand-made cinnamon rolls we had for breakfast this morning. It is a place I will gladly return to again. But did I fit in? Not really. In some ways, yes I did. But one of the funny things is that I truly didn’t care. I just took it all in and found enjoyment where I was. We ran into people we know, whose daughter lives in a small town in Northern California, where dairies are around every turn in the road, and we know people in common. How random and how perfect for our weekend!

How often do we become “sensory blind” and not notice what is around us? How often do we miss little joys like a fantastic mushroom quiche served in a building that has been there since the 1800s? How often do we miss the nuances of life because we have become inured to them and don’t notice?

This can happen in our faith life, too. Every once in awhile I have an amazing experience where God physically and emotionally touches me, and makes me know He is truly here with me, in person. But for the majority of time, I trust. I have faith that He is here. I don’t worry about finding Him at each liturgy I attend. Some people look and if they do not see Him or “feel” Him, they leave. They want an “authentic” experience each and every weekend. And sometimes looking so hard overloads their input….like I experienced this weekend at the national park. We have to be conscious of our surroundings at all times, looking for the gentle whisper of God everywhere. I experienced that this weekend, imbuing myself with nature and the grandeur in which I live, learning to appreciate this all over again. Each and every time we pray, we read Scripture, or we attend Liturgy, we need to renew ourselves and our faith. And quite often, we will find something unexpected, like a fern growing so far north…

“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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“Lord, wrap your arms around those hurting today…”

In a roundabout way, I want to address the election, but on the other hand, I want to steer clear! Conundrum! Weather on! We are all in this together.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

I attended an evening of prayer and worship that was hosted at a movie theater, and was hosted by Kirk Cameron, of TV fame. I spent over two hours with other people, listening to Christian leaders talk about our country, where it was, and where it could go. We sang, we prayed, we listened. It was an amazing evening. And it was very worth my time. Being staunchly pro-life, I use that as my chalk line. As most of you know, that is an issue I do not, and will not, budge on. That being said, I could not vote the Democratic ticket. But neither am I a good Republican. I am too conservative for either, and find myself leaning more towards a Constitutionalist, rather than an Independent, although that is what I am officially called. But this time, I was in that “drain the swamp” mode and wanted a clean slate, from top to bottom. I don’t think either side truly represents me, nor the people of this country. Both sides are corrupt, with the exception of a few. But I also felt that it was time for a bull-dog business person to clean things up; to look at our country with a business eye. I certainly am not allowed to operate my household budget like D.C. has done with the Federal Budget. Oh my. How can you donate millions for war or earthquake relief when you cannot pay your own country’s debts? When you cannot pay for the basic necessities of your people? Why send billions overseas when there are needs at home? I do not advocate isolationism, although I am thinking that we live in a glass house and should not be throwing stones. We are not the world’s babysitter. We do, however, affect the entire world by how we manage our own affairs.

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I’m not sure if this was the hand of God, or if the silent majority woke up and wasn’t going to stay at home any longer. The working man, who shoulders the majority of the burden of financing this country, decided that complacency wasn’t working any longer. That most of us were tired of political correctness. We were tired of paying more for everything and having something like 90 million out of work. And having so many of those even stop trying to get a job. Or the fact that Obamacare does not work and it is costing more than we have. It is cheaper in some cases to take the IRS fine than it is to pay those premiums! Or that we have had Common Core foisted upon us, and if the recent days of rioting by college students, and even high school students, is any indication, it is not working. We have been subjected to more than 40 years of the ideology of socialism and communism slowly seeping into our thought processes, that we did not even notice. Until this election cycle. Until Wikileaks. Until the media was shown to have lied to the people and been a part of this vast manipulation of our thoughts and actions. I do know that we were offered, time after time, the option to pray with others for our nation. We were offered olive branches from conservatives, across the aisle, only to have them slapped out of their hands. There is no camaraderie between the political elites and those of us who actually pay their salaries. They forgot who their bosses were – the American people. And we rose up and chose an alternate route. There are those who will say, but without the Electoral College, the other side would have won. But you know, watching all those polling places and the thousands of complaints about voter fraud, I’m going to err on the side of caution. I do not think the popular vote landed where they say it did. I think more votes will come in and need to be added. It takes months for the final count to be tallied. And I believe in our process. I believe in the Electoral College system. It truly works. Thanks be to God that New York or California cannot dictate to me, an Alaskan, what I can or cannot do. The time for the popular vote to count, for President, is in the caucuses and primaries. It is when we choose who will represent us. The popular vote only counts down ticket for federal and local representatives and issues we face, locally. We are not a democracy! We are a Democratic Republic. We select representatives who vote for us, who represent us in Washington. I wish people understood the process, because if they did, I don’t think they’d be rioting and burning the flag.

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Sort of off-topic, but really not, is the issue today I stumbled across. Make up. Yes, cosmetics. Why do young women spend so much time, effort, and money on make up? They do it when their skin is at its best. Why cover that up? Why not be who you really are? You don’t wear it as a girl; I don’t bother with it as an older woman. What is the point? Well, it is to present our best self for the selection process. Not just for a mate. But we do it for jobs, for our friends, for peer pressure. We pretend to be who we are not. Red hair? Green hair? Covering our gray? Colored contact lenses to change our natural eye color. Then there is plastic surgery and tooth replacements. We wear wigs. We get “human hair” extensions. We pluck, we wax, we color. Why? Why not just celebrate who we are? I have a friend who always wears at least mascara. We became friends our freshman year in high school. I never saw her without make-up until college. It was un-nerving. She looked so innocent and young and beautiful, but she still doesn’t think so. Even at 60, she always has a full face of make-up. And then there is chemical enhancement. We are too nervous to be ourselves, so we take a drink to relax around others. We smoke pot. We drop pills. Anything to improve who we are and what we are doing. I think our country just learned what it is like to rip off the wig, the make-up, the false picture that was painted for us by stump speeches and op ed pieces and false data. The country has been laid bare and I don’t know about you, but it’s un-nerving and this is far more than mascara. We are a mess, my friends. Truly a mess.

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This image is a few years old, but it meant a lot to me. Priests walking with the cross in amongst rioting in eastern Europe. Trying to bring sense to the situation; to bring the peace of Christ to a people who were starving for it and did not even realize it. What is America starving for?

I think we are starving for a place where we feel safe. Where each person is appreciated for their unique gifts they bring to the world. Where we can care for those among us who cannot care for themselves. Where we can offer a fair day’s wage for work. Where we can return dignity and love to places filled with gun shots and hatred, drugs and gangs. Where we can know the preciousness of each life, from a natural conception to a natural death. Where we can work with our hands and produce goods we can be proud of. Did you know that we, as a country, spend more on imports than on exports? We had $189 billion in exports as of September 2016. We had $225 billion in imports for that same period. So we bought more foreign goods than we sold to other countries. Again. Why? Well, it’s cheaper to produce products out of country than in. The costs to do business are so high here. Ask a small business owner. Ask them about Obamacare costs, and unemployment insurance, and minimum wage costs. We need to get back to some basics in our country.

When I was a kid, we went to school at 9 am and were out again at 3 pm. No longer. Kids go in about 7:30am (some places earlier) and some do not get home until 5 pm or later. Our local high school does lunch at 10:30 am. Lunch! Weird. Recess? Short. About 2 a day for 15 minutes each. Not enough to still wiggles in kids. So we medicate them. Yeah. Been there; done that. Had a child drool through two years of school until I just said no and brought them home. We are producing children who are not able to think for themselves, nor are they able to function in the cutthroat world of business. When you get a trophy for just showing up, it is hard when the real world tells you no. Look at our city streets the last couple of days. Millennials were finally told no. And they did not take it well.

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When it comes to the elected officials, they will not affect how our children are raised. That is our job. How our children perceive the world is on us. Our families need prayer now more than ever. Our country needs prayer more than ever. If I saw a video on TV of college students rioting, and saw my child burning our flag and marching shouting the profanities they are shouting, I would weep at my own failure. Why would I think my child would react that way? Being upset about how things turn out is a part of life. Rioting takes this into another realm of unhealthy reactions. I wept when my candidates were defeated over the past two election cycles, but I did not burn my flag. I love my country; I just increased my prayers for her livelihood and safety. I did not threaten to leave (and not follow through on my threats) but I chose to stay and work to make things better. My children learn by my example, by the example of the adults in their lives. I share stories of heroes from history and scripture. I share stories of the martyrs for the faith; of those who gave their all so I am safe in my bed at night. I allow them to witness and experience dissent, but I never allow disrespect nor outright violence against others. I remember once when our eldest son was playing high school baseball. He got so angry at a poor at-bat that he threw the bat. His own coach kicked him out of the game. He told him that he needed to have respect for his teammates, for the game itself, the equipment he was given to use, the officials and their calls, and for himself. The error was his own fault. It was a wise lesson. It affected more than my son – everyone there saw and heard his discipline (he also realized that football, rugby, and ice hockey fit his personality much better). But he also learned to control his reaction to things. It’s something our hedonistic society has not taught our youth. And with so many parents partaking of the “me” generation, they think providing them with stuff and working, rather than being a parent first, is developing their children. It is not. Ask a teacher. We need to get back to family-first and times solely spent with our children. We need to reinstitute reasonable curfews and keep kids at home, rather than wandering the streets. We need to bring our faith back into our families. If you have not prayed for or with your children, or left the Church long ago, God is open-armed and waiting. Praying is nothing more than directing your thoughts to God. He is always listening.

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We’re in a storm. That is evident. But we can be at peace. We can choose to be at peace. Each morning, when we rise, we choose how our attitudes will be. Start with a grateful heart (you woke up! That’s a plus!) and then move throughout your day, just saying thank you for the little graces thrown your way (the guy who lets you meld on the highway; the coworker who says good morning and means it; the short line at the grocery store; a parking place not too far away in a snow storm; a safe journey home at the end of the day; the family and home you have waiting for you). We can choose to become a part of the solution, or we can remain outside, and a part of the problems we are all facing. We have choices. I would say that America chose on Tuesday. How you choose to proceed is up to you. Choose wisely.

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“If not us, then who? If not now, when?”

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This week has been fraught with issues dealing with honesty, character, integrity. For me, character truly counts. There are people who constantly feed you lines. I saw a “meme” that says, “Being honest never hurts anyone; being a liar only hurts you.” Boy, I wish that were emblazoned on the buildings of our government, and in our schools, and sadly enough, even in our churches.

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One of the definitions of integrity is choosing thoughts and actions based on values, rather than on personal, material gain. Another says it like this, “Wisdom is knowing the right path to take; integrity is taking it.” And I am reflecting on that based on this past week in my little world. I have watched our news stories and the strings that are followed by people on TV and in social media. Amid all the 9/11 remembrances we had, we somehow lost our focus from remembering those who had suffered and died, and instead we focused on football games and football players. Before someone jumps all over me, let me get this out there – I am against the players standing with fists raised or banding their arms together, or even sitting during our national anthem. I am sorry. I love having free speech and I exercise that on my blog. I will defend the athletes’ right to raise their fist during the song commemorating the freedoms hard won, which allows them to do that. I will. But I do not have to agree with it, nor do I have to like it. Personally, I get angry when men do not remove their hats, or people talk through it, or walk while the colors are being presented. We are not teaching our children to have respect for anything or anyone, other than themselves and their momentary glories. The whole “participation trophy” mentality of the millennial generation. It sickens me. We are entitled to nothing. We must earn everything.

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Our country has been going downhill for years, now. I refused to participate in leagues that gave trophies to all the kids when our kids were young. If they won something, that was given the attention and reward that was merited. The recent disrespect of our National Anthem and our flag by NFL teams and players, as well as some high school football teams, is demonstrative of this whole entitlement attitude. So many mouthpieces out there, cluttering up the airways. And the disrespect to our veterans, and to all those who lost their lives, especially on the anniversary of 9/11, made my family turn off the TV and ignore football. You have no idea how hard that is. We are a football family. We have shirts, blankets, jerseys…we support our teams. My daughter-in-law made me a blanket that has both of my teams on it – one on each side – so I can wrap it around myself while watching whichever of my teams is playing, while wearing a matching jersey! Turning off the TV was more difficult than I thought it would be. I ended up online, earning all these virtual tanks of fish by playing this silly aquarium game, and then feeding them and decorating the tanks on my Kindle Fire! Talk about desperate for entertainment – I then moved on to Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds 2, Angry Birds Star Wars…it was sad. My husband rolled his eyes at me more than once, and he even went outside to stack firewood…he was desperate, too!

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And the fact that in amongst all this angst I was feeling about the NFL, I was asked to go to the office of someone running for political office. I had read his bio and read up on who he is as a man. But politics is messy and I was hesitant. It is so hard to explain what happened in that office. It was like this huge light bulb went off in my head. It was sort of like, “Oh. This is what it is like to walk and talk with like-minded people. Wow. It is so peaceful. It is so uplifting. I like this. A lot.” And I cannot get that out of my mind. Especially when faced with so much anger in the world. So much angst over behaviors. I lead with showing memes about honesty and speaking about integrity…then I went off on a seeming tangent to football players and disrespect. It is all intertwined. These players are entertainers. They hold no sway over me. In fact, in a roundabout way, they work for me. They provide me with entertainment. What happens if we all stop going to games? If we all turn off our TV on Sundays? What happens if we just say, “No!” and actually mean it? Their profession withers and dies. Sports figures, entertainment figures work for us. We can choose to put them out of a job. That is where our money and efforts come in to play. They do not function without someone giving them their hard-earned wages. Some movie stars think that because they played a character in a movie, they are now experts on that subject. I laugh at that. I read an article about the ice caps. It does not make me an expert on the issue of global warming. But for some people, one article does that. They go through life using a “cliff notes” approach. And they are asked to speak before Congress. (*Fist slap on forehead*). When you do not have to work for the result, the information floats in and out of your head at the speed of the next article you read or movie you choose to act in. They are entitled to their opinions. Agreed. But when did theirs become more important than mine? When did we allow the minority to hold sway over the majority?

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In the next couple of months, we will choose the direction this country will go in. And it is frightening. We saw played over and over again on social media and in the news, the story about Ms. Clinton passing out. Whatever your take on her politics, we should all be afraid of her declining health. Have you ever looked at photos of presidents taking their oath of office, and compared them to the day they leave office? Being the leader of the free world demands everything from our President. I do not think she is capable of leading our country. I am just concerned about her ability to physically sustain the office of President, leaving the character discussion for another time. Aside from all of that, it is incumbent upon us, the voters in the USA, to actually vote. We have the power to elect this woman to the highest office in the free world, or not. We can just say, “No.” Statistically speaking, roughly 50-60% of eligible voters elected this governing body who currently rule over our country- the president, congress, etc – into office. That means that another roughly 50% of eligible voters stayed home. Why???? Do you want all those others to choose your next president for you? Do you want to allow the USA to sink further into the miasma of lies, lack of integrity, and character? Do you want to affect a change by the actions you take? Do you want to take a stand for honesty and truth, and character and integrity? Not raising your fist or sitting out on the sidelines while the National Anthem plays, but making a real difference in our nation? You can do that, with a simple action. Sitting down, linking arms, raising your fist – those are advertisements, not actions for change. That is simply sharing your over-inflated opinion in a very visible way. It’s like an advertisement and not making a change. It’s making people angry and causing people to disrespect the game, and to actually tune more and more of those people out. I think it is sort of back-firing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

There is just such a huge lack of integrity in public office these days. Our athletes, our actors…very few show integrity and character, but most are very wealthy. Some are stellar, don’t get me wrong, and are wonderful people, doing wonderful things with their fame and fortune. But those are the ones who see very little press coverage, and so the role models for our culture are those who are taking it down by their loud and corrupt actions. I have spoken before about clothing and modesty, lack of character and honesty…there is just so much trash on the TV (and in the movies) and that is what our families are exposed to (should we allow it into our homes to begin with) and is what our modern world is eating up. It is what they base their decision making on.

Romans 12:2 tell us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Also, in Galatians 1:10 it says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” John E. Lewis said, “If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?” vote

Participate. Find a candidate you can get behind 100%. Knock on doors, man the phones, pass out fliers, put signs in your yard or on your car (or both). Wear buttons on your shirt. Be a part of the solution. If no one tells our athletes, our actors, our politicians that what they are doing is wrong, or that what they do offends our sense of right and wrong, and goes against our character, they will keep on doing it. And more and more people will think it is okay to behave that way, to think that way, to vote that way, and work to coerce others to follow them, too. We need to teach that character truly counts; that integrity is the way to act – in all forums, at all times, in everything we do. We need to ensure our youth know and believe that truth always wins out. We can begin to take this country back. We can begin to re-instill the values our founding fathers fought long and hard to give to us in this amazing place we call home. I enjoyed so much meeting people in my community who think like I do. We do not all live next door to one another. We do not attend the same churches. We do not have the same educational levels. We are not of the same race. But it was life-giving and uplifting to hear others mirror what is in my heart. It made me realize that pockets of us are out there, trying to make a change and a difference in the direction in which our nation is going. We believe that right is right and wrong is wrong, and no amount of “political spin” can change that. The sheep can smell the wolf, in all its fake fur. So go out, commune with others who are like-minded. Let’s get a ground-swell going in our neighborhoods and bring this country back to what we knew when we were young, and know it can be, again.

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

“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.

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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.

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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

“…devious talk far from you…”

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My son is entering his senior year of high school. He is our last child out of the nest. And bookkeeping, or maintaining his records, has become paramount because the next step is college/trade school/academies. He plans to become a fire fighter, we just are not sure which route he will take to get there. So we have to be prepared for any avenue he may choose to take.

I took this personality test, as I posted about before, and I am called an “Advocate.” One of the traits it spoke about was having a hard time choosing a career path, because I can see 7 of them in front of me. I chuckled at that because I changed my major in college 4 times and have had careers that are so disparate that you would not think the same person did all of them. And I admire my son for choosing to become a fire fighter. Once he chose this path, he has not wavered from it once. And now that we are looking forward, he is choosing the same path, but finding alternate ways of getting there. Me? I would have gotten all caught up on the many options, many pathways. But he is singular in that he sees his goal; his pathways all take him to the same place. Mine have had me all over the map.

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The one thing that has been consistent for me is my unfailing faith in God. I have meandered through methods of worshipping Him, but my faith has been steadfast. My path has been lit with faith since I was young. I sought Him out in my life, on my own initiative, since I was in grade school. I have been to so many denominations and faith experiences. It has made me who I am. My favorite (and enduring) major in college was Forensic Anthropology with a minor in Biblical Archeology. I learned the holistic approach to looking at peoples and cultures, and then I learned the physicality of our rich biblical history. As a people of faith, we are so blessed by our history, and the physical records of where we have been, as a people, as humanity.

Jonah's Burial place Bombed

The bombing of so many biblically important sites in the Middle East just breaks my heart. I do not need them as a proof of my faith and its history, but I cry each time one is destroyed. The photo above is of the aftermath of the bombing of the burial site of Jonah from the Old Testament. There are fewer and fewer sites that are intact and this strikes at all of our humanity, not just our faith. This was a record of our growth as people; it is part of the history of mankind. And it has been reduced to rubble.

I work diligently to be sure my children’s school records are accurate and complete. I may lag behind a few moms in turning my quarterly and year-end samples and grades in, but I am thorough and my teachers/advisors know they will get it and it will be complete. They have yet to have to badger me. I have been schooling my children since 1992 and I have gotten fairly decent at it! Records are important. Recently our son had his property surveyed. Survey lines determine how much we own. We know where we can plant trees or put up fences, or dig that pool. It also determines your property tax liability. Records are important. One of my many jobs was working for the County Auditor-Controller/Recorder in the Recorder’s office. It was so interesting. And keeping everything in pristine, exacting conditions was a requirement of my job. It was awesome to see titles and deeds dating back to the early 1800s, still being kept on record, and a reward of diligent record keeping.

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Records matter. What we say, matters. We can offer opinions and we can claim expertise, but we cannot/should not speak untruth about anyone, at any time. Choosing to live your life a certain way, always keeping to your path and the path of Truth, protects you from slander or libel.  Gossip can be such a hurtful thing, especially when it is repeated in the public square. Quite often there is a grain of truth in there somewhere, but it is so obsfucated by the flotsam and jetsam of lies, we cannot even glimpse it. Nowadays we record everything using our cell phones. The cameras in cell phones are much better than the stand-alone camera in my desk drawer – which is why it is in the drawer. We can record our voices and email them or text them to people. I love to sing Happy Birthday to my grandkids and send it via text for their parents to play for them. We can video chat with people thousands of miles away. We can record events happening in front of us. There are often thousands of photos of the same event, thanks to everyone whipping out their cell phones. (How did we survive before them???). But keeping things neat and orderly, keeping our records safe, has been something we have been doing for one another for thousands of years. Gossip and slander have been with us since man was created; it came right along with our free will. And the record of it began in the book of Genesis, in the Bible:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6)

My husband and I go around and around on this because it is called the Sin of Adam, but he insists that Eve is the one who listened to the evil lies and acted on them. But the Church fathers always point out that Adam was the head of the family and the first one created by God; he had been with God a long time before Eve was created. He did not lead her; he followed her. So his sin was in that he did not say no to evil, but allowed evil to become a part of their lives, and consequently, our lives. Because of listening to lies, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.  When we listen to lies, share lies, and allow evil to win, we are sinning against God. And each and every time, we also sin against our brother. We can lead one another into a sinful state, a state wherein we exist outside of God, just by allowing evil to win.

Records are important. Our words are important – the records of our words are important. Our words define who we are. The recorded words we speak or write give our record to others for eternity. Think about that for a moment.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The cross-reference in the New Testament is: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned;” which is found in Matthew 12:37. The corresponding commentary says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue – This may apply to all men. Many have lost their lives by their tongue, and some have saved their lives by it: but it applies most forcibly to public pleaders; on many of their tongues hangs life or death.”

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The power of our words can assist us, or it can deter us from our goals. We have a record that remains even after we become silent. As many politicians know (public pleaders, as in the commentary above) and have known for ages, our words can kill our career, our public life. Records can be blown up, as many of our historical records have been. But God sees all of this. He is waiting for us to choose a path that leads straight to Him. A pathway filled with love, determination, honesty, and goodwill. He asks us,

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27

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