“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

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Spring cleaning, cleansing, planting….eternity

Spring

Today I read an article about Vitto Mortensen, the actor. (He was in The Lord of the Rings). He said that every morning, he wakes up thinking about death. He buried his mom last year (she had dementia) and he is at home, sitting with his dad as he prepares to pass away (and he also suffers from dementia). His vocabulary is peppered with lots of expletives, but one of the most interesting things about him is that he has pretty much not changed since he was a kid. He carries a flip-phone. He lives pretty isolated in Madrid most of the time. He goes home and eats at the local diner and no one bothers him. He drives a Ford rental car most of the time. He smokes like a chimney, and is planning to attend his 40-something high school reunion. And he carries a worn, leather journal with him wherever he goes, because he doesn’t want to miss anything. In the article the writer shared how he pulled over on the side of the road because he saw a gorgeous waterfall and wanted to stop and look at it. He’s a normal guy, and yet he is not. But I was drawn to his comments about aging and dying. He said, when he was a kid and realized he would die one day, “Who thought that up?” He does not want to die…ever. I don’t think any of us really want to die.

emojis
I took a class recently on emotional healing and our health. How our bodies are affected by our emotions. And I was given a health scan. It showed interesting results. Results I poo-poo’d until this week, when what I scanned for (an infection) showed up. In my stomach. And I have been giving myself gastric rest. What is that you may ask? Well, if you suffer from ulcers or gastritis, or even pancreatitis (which I have – twice), you learn that once in awhile our digestive process gets interrupted by bacteria and it attacks us. It has been proven that most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. And I know my emotions heap the acidic environment with lots more activity as I worry over things, or react to things that have happened in my life. I am a woman – we take things in. We put our arms around people and we love them. We mother them. (Those of us who tend to be motherly). To combat this, I give my stomach/digestive system a rest. I don’t eat. Anything. I drink water. For days at a time. For the past three days I have eaten 2 bowls of rice, several liters of water, and I shared a banana today with my two dogs (they love bananas!). All to give my digestion time to slow down, to ease off, to help fight this bacteria invading my body. But the pain and the hunger make me a little cranky, not to mention I have not had coffee the past 3 days (the headache was gone day #1). So basically I am doing a cleanse but without feeding myself much besides a little starch and some water.

Leaveswater

I have been introduced to essential oils. A lot of poo-pooing is going on about them and I am fine with that. But our lives have dramatically changed since we started using them. We have incorporated the philosophy of using little to no chemicals in our home, on our bodies, or in our bodies. We have a long way to go. But, I can honestly say I have removed cleaners and detergents from my home and I am way happier about it. I have been feeling like a huge weight follows me around (sometimes I know it is just my rather robust backside) and through clearing out the junk in our lives, we are feeling better. And it really started with essential oils. We use them rather than other choices, for many things. Each morning I start my day by diffusing a wonderful scent into the house, inspiring me to get up and move. I add oils to my water for a nice change and to assist my digestive system to keep moving. I cook with them, using a drop or two at the most to flavor our foods. In the evenings, I diffuse with lavender for a restful sleep. I wash my clothes with essential oil soaps. I use 100% wool dryer balls, scented with lavender or perhaps the blend, “Purification,” if the load is really stinky (fishing, gardening, teenage workout clothes). I have stopped using bleach because the soap I use is so good, my whites are still knock-out white. I wash my home with natural cleaners I make up myself, using essential oils. I made my own deodorant and face/body scrub, and face lotion using essential oils. I brush my teeth with essential oil toothpaste; I wash my hair with essential oil-based products containing no chemicals. It has been a long journey, to be rid of the chemicals in our home. And purging takes its toll.

So now I’ve been ill over a week with this stomach thing. But I am persevering through it, because I know I am moving in the right direction. I am cleaning up my act. I am getting closer to the dirt, as they say. An article I read about PTSD the other day noted that most of our culture is far removed from what it takes to run this society. We do not interact with those who provide our basics – farmers, electricians, trash collectors, fishermen – we shop at stores and we use the internet. We don’t realize what goes into keeping our world turning, and how at times, people actually sacrifice their lives to ensure our little worlds in our quiet neighborhoods goes on, uninterrupted. Part of our using these oils and products made from them, helps us to get down to a more natural, closer-to-the-dirt existence. We simplify a lot when we eat organic and grow our own veggies. In the long run, I would rather skip that $5 latte and buy $5 organic eggs. I buy organic coffee beans, grind them myself, and make my own lattes. It just makes more sense. And life grinds down to the simpler components, which makes breathing so much easier, and stress far less.

seedling
This year, for our garden, we are planting seeds cultivated to grow in this climate. They are heirloom seeds. We already brought in nutrients to the soil in our raised beds. We started our seeds in the house, in biodegradable pods. It was so fun to plant them with our grandchildren. My grandson (4) walked over to the table about an hour afterwards, leaned on his elbows, and stared at the dirt. He then proclaimed, “I think they’re growing, grandma.”  What joy that gave me. We face-timed a few days later and he saw the little seedlings popping up and then told me he would come over with his shovel to help grandpa in the garden! We love that we can share this natural and simple way of growing our food, and eating it directly from our garden, with our grandchildren. We love that we can grow what we want to eat, and nurture it along until harvest. It feels good.

Bug Spray

Last night I made my own bug spray using essential oils, witch hazel, and water. Around here, the joke is that the mosquito is the state bird. And they have hatched! To work in the garden means we will get bitten…they seem to love me. So I am using my oils to combat a pest. I am doing it naturally. And that feels good (oh, and it works, too! Bonus!).

All of this goes to the beginning thoughts of dying. I am dying. We all are dying. As our birthdays climb, and the years pass us by, dying is much more of a reality. It gets closer with each day. Am I ready? Am I spring-cleaned? Cleansed? Have I planted seeds for my eternity? Am I getting closer to the dirt? All of these thoughts have assailed me this year, through getting healthier, developing better health habits both for my body, and for my soul. I have read some amazing books, participated in some incredible “Bible Studies” that have moved me, and have met some wonderful people. Have things gone well? Not particularly. I have had “bugs” assail me, trying to knock me off my course. “Bugs” come at us all the time. What natural repellent are we using? Prayer? Silence? Fasting? Cleansing?

God up to something

I think that the more we try to get to the nano-cellular-level in life, to get down to what we called the “nitty-gritty,” then the evil one assails us. Mightily. We fight on so many fronts. But our God has given us the power to vanquish these assaults. He tells us to “rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…” (1Thess 5:16-18). God’s will is that we are victorious. That we stand with Him for eternity. Pesky things like illnesses, which cleaner to use, what food to eat, who to share our lives with, all play a part in our eternity. Listening to a periscope talk the other day, a woman said she had never just “given.” That she had helped people, was a good Christian woman, but that she had never just “given.” She tithed, she helped in her community, but she always took. She made sure she got what she needed, too. She never just shared Christ just to share. She felt blessed to have found Christ in her life, but she had never just shared, never just given, without expectation. And that struck me and stuck with me for the past couple of days. I realized that it is part of our personal Spring Cleaning, of cleansing ourselves, and planting for our eternity. We need to just give – of ourselves, of our God, of our time. We need to be present. We need to be simple. Get closer to the dirt of life. At least for me, it is essential to my bodily health, my emotional health, and my spiritual health to be simpler. To ease off the stressful, complicated part of life and get back to quiet, humble, simple. Make some sun tea on my back deck. Take time to plant. To play in the garden with my grandkids. To go fishing with my husband. To just sit in the sun and share my time with those I love. To spring clean my home, body, life, and soul. It is time.

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

 

 

“…She uses prayer.”

“Oola – a life that is balanced and growing in all the key areas of health and well-being. It can be a noun or a verb. It can be a definition or a feeling. It can be as complex as a life growing and balanced in fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun (the 7 F’s of Oola), or as simple as a sunset, a quiet book on the beach, or a special moment with a child. It is a place we all shoot for in life. The feeling we experience as we celebrate our successes along the way. In short, Oola is cool.”

Glenallen drive2

That is from the Chapter One intro to a book I adore, entitled, “Oola, Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl. They are pretty amazing. There is a Facebook page, a website. They do personal coaching. They are on the top best sellers’ lists and have gone international. If you want to do yourself a favor, get this book. Get in touch with the Oola lifestyle and you will not be sorry. I would say that it would enhance your life. It has mine. You can purchase the book on Amazon and on their website and they are always having specials. (If you click on any of the statement above, it will take you to their website; I think).

I love my faith and I love my family, and my life. But sometimes we get out of whack. Sometimes one area or another becomes heavier than normal and it can throw you completely for a spin. It happens regularly and some would say, “That’s just a part of life.” And they would be right. But for some people, it is hard to bounce back and find that balance again. Our world is a pretty demanding place. Finding our little section of the world and making it all work can sometimes be beyond our abilities, alone. And so we reach out. We also, at times, have to let go. And that is what I am dealing with – letting go of some things and people, and embracing through reaching out, a new life.

I know that community is something we need. We cannot live as an island (“No man is an island, entire of itself.” John Donne). We need people to make us human. There are those who shun humanity in search of a higher plane of existence with God – hermits of various denominations. They are called to that purpose. Those who choose to enter monasteries and live a life of silent service and prayer to God – they pray for each of us, believers or not. And, “We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost,” (Sept. 12, 2012; Pope Benedict). I do believe that we cannot worship in a vaccum, either. Some people say they have faith and do not need to go to Church. But few of those people live a life of faith, of prayer and sacrifice to others. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:38-40.

Having said all of that, my faith was rocked. Not my faith in God! Thanks be to God! My faith in others. In being treated honestly, and fairly. And after listening to an awesome podcast/video yesterday, it sort of hit home for me. I listened to Victoria Pavlatos and she has a Facebook page. She posted a podcast/video entitled, “Life in the Fishbowl.” She is the wife of an Orthodox priest and together they have 9 children. (She is an amazing photographer and her business is Tori Ava Photography – check out her website. She is amazing! There should be an imbedded link on the next word). She commented about what it was like to be the wife of a priest and how the scrutiny is pretty tough. She lives with constant comments about her children’s attire, their behavior, and expectations by their parishioners. I wish she lived closer to me!! Her words touched my heart so much. She asked that their community pray for her husband and for her family, before they judge them. Because when you are in front of anyone, be it a corporation, a group, a club, or the Church, everyone looks to you. And at you. And at your family members. We are not perfected, yet. We just chose to serve our communities in a very visible way. And some people are nastily vocal when we do not live up to their expectations of us. And some will say, “You chose that. It is part of the position.” Again, that is also true. However, you can still be wounded and hurt and sometimes it is enough to cause you to pause. And sometimes it is even enough to want to be done with the whole thing, and to walk away and let go of all of it.

I have often heard that the Church is not for the well, that it is a hospital for the sick.

St.John C hospital

We all seek to reach that wonderful state of oneness with God we call, “Theosis,” in the east. It is when your heart is full of God and you feel the world fall away. That state is something to work towards, and each time we fall and get back up, seeking forgiveness, we are that much closer to God. Every once in awhile we are thunderstruck at the actions or words of others, in their judgement of us and we cannot seem to get past it. It is not that I have not forgiven people; I truly have. But I also know how they think, their processes, and I know what they think. Especially of me. And so I come to a point of not wanting to bang my head against that same wall, over and over again.

russian orthodox church 03

When I walk into an Eastern Church, I am literally dumbstruck. Speech becomes impossible and I always whisper, if I even say a word. The incredible artwork, the incense, the icons, the candles…it overwhelms your senses. If you have never been in one, it will seem overwhelming and beyond comprehension. Sometimes it is almost impossible to imagine attending services there, because it seems so foreign. For the western mentality, and what we are used to in our architecture, it is vastly different. But I find immense peace inside an Eastern Church. I love just standing before an icon, lighting a wonderfully-scented beeswax candle, and offering up prayers. The “smells and bells” get me every time. I could go into the whys of icons versus statues, but that is a history lesson for another time. Let me just say, my personal space where I type this has a very large (and I mean about 2 feet tall; okay, I measured – 27″) statue of St. Rita, my patron saint above me, on the top of my desk. There are smaller statues for each of our children, of their patron saints, on the top of our bookcases. But behind me, there are numerous icons (one for each of our children and some festal icons, too). I appreciate both. So I wanted that to be clear. However, after migrating east, I do not think I could return to the western style of worship. Which leaves me in a conundrum of where to go. For now? I am not going, at all.

prayer

For now, through spiritual direction, I am praying. I am reading. I am meditating. I am receiving spiritual direction online in a formal program. My faith life is not dead. But right now, it is not communal or corporate, either, and I miss that. I am working through what I am going to do, and I am still uncertain. And that is where “Oola” has helped me greatly. I need, I survive, with balance in my life. When one thing is out of line, it can throw everything else off. I have learned that there are these areas in our lives that we need to place a laser focus on and they are called the 7 Areas of the Oola Life. And I am focusing on them, as best I can. They are, “Faith, family, friends, fitness, finance, field, and fun.” And as I focus on an area, it tends to highlight another area and I work over there for a bit. It is like learning to juggle 7 plates in the air (read the Oola book!!) and I am getting better at choosing not only my plates, but how I stand when I am balancing.

beautiful woman

For me, prayer is essential. Without prayers, our souls slowly die off, in the sense that we lose our connection to God. It hampers our ability to give to others. And through prayers, and others reaching out to me, I have found an alternate expression of my love and faith and have been stretching a little bit. It has bent over, and weighed in on, and affected, both “field” and “finance,” enhanced with some wonderful new, “friends.” And all of those things run into “family” and I am now having to deal with “fun”! Through these new experiences, I have had so many hours of laughter and fun. This weekend, I am taking a road trip over some pretty high mountains, with a friend. I am ridiculously excited. And we have 6+ hours to gab to our hearts’ content (without our husbands sighing at us and being bored). The top photo is actually the road we will be driving! Gorgeous! Through my friendships developing, along with field (career) and finance, my fitness is once again coming to the forefront. I am working, once again, on being fit and healthy. For me, but for my family, finance, field, friendship, and fun! It is all interconnected. How cool is that? So very Oola. I must say that my dad’s quote from 40+ years ago comes to my mind, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.” I was adversely affected and it caused my attention to change focus, and opportunities are arising. I am blessed.

Climacus prayer

I will continue to seek Theosis and a greater union with my God. I will ceaselessly pray. I will contemplate where I belong in this huge world in which we reside. But I am doing it with a freer heart, and one that is becoming more and more “balanced, in an unbalanced world.”  God has blessed me; thank you, Lord. And, thank you, Oola Guys!

oola quote

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ghandhi

jumpingfish

Infinite possibilities twisted together with definite change. Life is about learning, growing, adapting. And being open to that process until your last breath. I have discovered that changing does not always sit well with those around us; those who have known us as we are. People get used to certain things, certain ways, certain habits from those around them. We are incorporated into others’ comfort zones and we become an integral part of how they identify themselves. Quite often when we are in a process of changing, we upset other people because we are messing with their comfort zone.

Change

I have resolved, over the past few months, to become a completely different person. I am learning so very much. One way in which I am changing is that I am open to learning things that, for most of my life, seemed out of my range – definitely out of my comfort zone. I am incorporating a chemical-free life in our home. I am learning to “eat clean.” I am learning to listen to others, who have experience and knowledge I do not have, and am open to adopting some significant changes in my life. This upsets some of the people around me, and for that I am apologizing. But deep in my heart (or in the “nous” as the Orthodox would say) I am certain that God is letting me know I am on the right pathway. And I just do not see that turning back is really an option for me.

Quite often we are led to change because external things exert an action upon us, and unbeknownst to us, they bring change with them. It can most certainly be the actions of others towards us, the words of others spoken to us or about us, or even a geographical change. But nonetheless, we become a changed person. The impetus for me was learning about a healthy lifestyle. Exerting changes on my own perspective and realizing choices I was making (and had made) were not healthy for me or my family. That, coupled with an amazing learning experience, caused me to shift my views on things. Several other things happened to coincide with this movement within me, to cause me to abruptly stop actions I had been used to making. Stopping habitual things abruptly, changing from one day to the next. I was stopped in my tracks. Literally, and figuratively.

SilenceGodSpeaks

And out of this stopping cold in my tracks came a wonderfully peaceful silence. I do not need to respond to others. I do not need to add my voice to the cacophony of sounds in this world. I will keep Holy Silence with my God, Who comes to me in those quiet moments when I have come to a complete stop. Those times when I let no other distractions interfere with our communication. And I take His lessons to heart. And I rejoice in the fact that I can still learn and incorporate new paradigms in my life. I can affect change in others’ lives simply by living mine, as an example. And when asked, by sharing what I have learned with others. And I don’t have to play in the same sandbox any longer. I can enter other playgrounds and make new friends. I can grow and move into areas that perhaps I would not have gone a year ago. What a blessing some actions of others can be. Things I had thought were painful have become instrumental in moving me forward. A year ago I would not have chosen to take on an online class or open my home to strangers, sharing what I have learned. And I would not throw things away simply because I have learned how bad they are for me – I would have used them up and not replaced them. But now, I toss them out. And it feels wonderful. I am stretching and growing and becoming. And it does not allow me to keep looking back and thinking, “What if…?” because it is no longer germane to the person I am becoming.

Dontlookback

Musing on this, I realize that God certainly is not done with me, yet. I am learning. I am moving on in my life to be a better me. I have 4 (so far) adorable grandchildren I want to be around to enjoy. I am improving my health, my mind, and my soul. I may not be the person I was last year, but I think that is a good thing. I am placing priorities in order. For me, it is faith, family, and friends. There is a great book called, “Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World,” which I have mentioned before. In it, there are 7 areas in which we can strive for balance and they are faith, family, friends, fitness, finance, field, and fun. I am working hard on learning to find that Oola Balance. When we try to find balance, we are occasionally working with several plates in the air on sticks, and it can be tricky. I am prayerfully moving forward, hoping to balance all these areas well. But I am prone to error and hope I am not leaving others behind, or becoming exclusionary, either. Growth involves learning. We sometimes stumble our way through, but I am determined to keep picking myself up, and working on that balance. Change can be painful for those who are used to our “same old selves.” The person I am leaving behind is not the same person you met even 12 months ago. Be patient with me. And if I happen to move on and you can only see me from a distance, perhaps that is God’s way of urging you to move on, too. I think being stagnant and accepting the “same old thing” is a form of slowly dying. And I am not doing that any longer. I am excited and embracing a new life for me, and for my family, too. I am blessed to be married to the best person in the world for me, and he is fully on board with all of this. God is so great and put two unseemingly-compatible people together for life and we feel blessed to have found one another. It has been working for 31 years of marriage and 33 years of relationship and we are moving forward, together. I am also striving to move forward in wellness, purpose, and abundance in all areas of my life. Yes, I am different. Yes, I am still growing and changing. Yes, I have adopted a different lifestyle and I have moved on spiritually, socially, and emotionally. God is not done with me, as I said before. And hopefully I will continue to become the change I hope to see in the world.

wellness

 

 

 

“Words left unsaid…”

Wordsleftunsaid

And that, my friends, is why I blog! I have had several incidents happen to me and I have been mulling these things over in my head. The words are screaming in my head, so here goes:

A faithful friend

The past few weeks have been transformative for me. And my journey is not over. I have been involved in a leadership training course (along with significant time management training) and have evolved as a person so much. I have made fundamental changes to my life. I have altered habits I have had for years and years. I have changed how I manage my time. And I have been evaluating the circles of friends I have, who surround me like ripples in the water from a thrown pebble. Every once in awhile, it is healthy to re-evaluate who gets the lion’s share of our time. And in addition, who gets the emotional energy required to maintain these circles of relationships.

When you think about it, you are involved with all sorts of people, from disparate backgrounds and situations. We have work friends, neighbors, church friends, friends we have had since kindergarten, high school friends, college friends, friends we have as a couple, friends we made while single. Friends come from all the journeys we have been on in our lives. And some of them we keep, some we have lost, some we have discarded.

Seat at table

I’ve spoken to not allowing everyone to have a seat at your table in previous posts, and I am so firmly entrenched in that process – letting go. Sometimes it is hard to let those go who are toxic to you, but I know that energy/emotion vampires are just not healthy for me. I have learned that there are people out there who smile and shake your hand, but who are not your friend. And to be honest, that is fine. Not everyone we meet is meant to be a friend. Many are meant to solely be an acquaintance; someone who passes through but whose soul does not take root with yours. In a way, that realization is rather freeing.

Forgive.LesBrown

And now I am working on letting go – and that includes my disappointments and unfulfilled expectations, my heartache and feelings of being let down. But I have learned that forgiving others when they let you down allows you to heal and move on. I know not everyone I meet is my friend, nor meant to stay, as I said above. And I know that I am not perfected – God still has a great work left to do in me. Because of this immense transformation and learning curve I am on, I realize that working on myself takes much effort. And I may let other things slide while I engage in this work of bettering myself and growing. But I cannot become who God wants me to be, sitting on my couch, hiding behind my books and feeling sorry about myself. I cannot get better physically, or spiritually, or emotionally by waiting on…well, waiting on what?

I am so happy and excited to be taking myself in hand and working on all these myriad issues I have. It is a good work. In the meantime, people in my life either support me and what I am doing, or they do not. If they do not, they will no longer be included in my circle. That “block” button on Facebook will be getting a workout in the near future. Don’t judge me for that comment. There comes a time in our lives when we need to cull those we allow close to us. Some of the people who have taken root in our lives are not healthy for us; they are not “life giving” but rather drain you. In addition to that, my time on social media is declining and it is a good thing. I am reading good things. I heard a great quote, “Don’t fill your head with another person’s trash.” Ponder that for a moment. That is the written word – in books, movies, music, news outlets, and all forms of media. Whose trash are we letting in? For one thing, I have disavowed politics. It makes me too angry and an uglier version of myself. It is gone from my electronics. Just flat out gone. I have no clue what is going on right now and it is a peaceful thing. I removed all my gaming platforms. Stupid way to be a sucker of my time – it can literally suck hours away I will never get back. Done. And I am evaluating my reading material. This is the hard one! I belong to so many book clubs and read such a variety of literature. My bible is getting a workout, and that is a great thing!

During this time of personal renewal and growth in this leadership/time management class, I am also embarking on a study with a couple of friends. We are using this amazing book entitled, “The Holistic Christian Woman.” (The author is Cynthia Damaskos, CHC. I purchased it through Ancient Faith Publishing, but it is also available on Amazon). Here’s a little taste: “Even being concerned about people’s real or perceived perception of you and your life can be subliminally stunting your joy. Are you afraid to be yourself? Are you afraid to be different from what people expect, in a culture of excess and cookie cutter expectations? These perceptions can lead you to say “yes” to too many requests, or “no” to many changes that should be made. For me, these were also self-imposed boulders that were also blocking my way.  There may be a big boulder that you need to move before all the rocks fall into place.”  And that’s just the intro! I am only 2 weeks into that book and I am fundamentally different. It is flabbergasting to me that I can be so affected in my 50s by two disparate things, coordinating together so flawlessly. Through our faith, we know there are no coincidences, just occurrences that God has construed for our good. I am so blessed.

Livingforothers

So I am moving forward and through this movement, I am finding that I cannot stay how I am, where I am, or who I am. It just does not work any longer. For me, or for my family. It is wonderful to undergo these sorts of things with the full support of your spouse. He is reaping the benefits of my learning curve and my becoming a better me. We are both starting to move some boulders, allowing the rocks to fall into place. We are seeking our joy in places that are new for us, and we are happy. Growth is a wonderful experience.

One of the things I just cannot tolerate any longer are those who purport to be friends but who fundamentally are not on the same page I am on. One area of belief is the equality of all people.

“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.” —The Declaration of Independence

This is a fundamental view of Americans. We are all equal. Women have the vote! African Americans can sit on the same buses and drink out of the same water fountains, attend the same schools, work at any job they choose, and marry anyone they choose! All races have the same rights! We do not allow discrimination based on age, race, religion, creed – these areas are sacrosanct. That word means that this thing we hold, this belief, is so sacred, it cannot be altered or interfered with. It is inviolable! (That means it cannot be infringed upon). But there are still people out there, that when it gets right down to the nitty-gritty of life, do not believe everyone is equal. They just do not accept it. And I will pray their souls are opened to the Grace of belief, and of truly loving their fellow man. We are all created in the image of God. All of us. Not just some of us. And some of the change I am going through is being less tolerant of those who are intolerant, if that makes sense. They just don’t need a seat at my table. “If you can change, everything will change for you.” That was in a speech by Jim Rohn, a wonderful speaker. I am changing and I am affecting change in those around me.

KeepSilence

Even though I am thinning the circles around me in some ways, I am keeping a Holy Silence. I am giving these things to God, Who is far more equipped to handle them than I am. I am still such a work-in-process that I cannot really judge others. I can feel the pain of their poor choices in words and attitudes, and I can feel the pain of disappointment. Those are valid things. And I can wallow in it. I can. It is perfectly acceptable to wallow sometimes. But what exactly does it get me? What am I waiting for? Apologies that won’t ever come? Growth and change from people so entrenched in their ways of thinking, they are walking back and forth in ditches so high they cannot see out of them? No. I am moving onward and I am turning inward, working towards a better self, a stronger self.

Strongwoman

Life throws us curve balls now and then, but life also throws us opportunities. And I have been given one that I was not ready for a year ago. But I am now. And it feels like I am re-awakening to that “other” woman I was, before I stayed home. I am not saying that being a stay-at-home-mom, a homeschooling mom, was a bad thing. It was my vocation and I loved every moment of it (and I miss the days when we lived on farms and I had muddy boys in muddy boots, messing up my kitchen floors). But I started to hide. I was not out and about, affecting my community. I was not growing as a woman, outside of my growth as a married woman and mother of faith. My faith has been my saving glory in this life. I am so blessed. But I also know I have so far to go. And I am now moving. I am in motion. I am reading; I am learning; I am growing. I hope everyone comes along for the ride, but I am already noticing the circles growing thinner. And that is perfectly okay.

Processofchange

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 in 18 – seriously??

Every once in awhile, things begin to get out of sync in life. And when you are working towards getting everything balanced, you really notice them. We, as a family, have grown tremendously in recent months, even in the past week. We are working towards getting balance in our lives, in all areas of our lives. One area has been fitness, which I detailed in a previous post. Another area is faith, which we work towards consistently. The other areas of focus are family, friends, fun, field, and finances. Those are the seven areas we are targeting. They are all a part of a philosophy called “The Oola Life.”  Oola is defined as “the art or state of being awesome.”  I know that sounds funny, and it is a very recent term that was coined (hence the use of the word, “awesome”).  But don’t let a word turn you away from it.  They are some pretty profound things to be found in an Oola life.

Of those 7 areas, “field” is an interesting one. This refers to your work, your career, things you do outside of the other areas. I put my homeschooling in this category. It is my chosen career, rather than working outside our home. For me, being aligned in a healthy way with God’s will in my life, and for placing my priorities in order, homeschooling is an important area for me to consider. Each family has to choose how they will educate their children. Most of us firmly believe that how we choose to do that should be our choice, as parents and responsible adults. Unfortunately, we are not given blueprints for being parents. There are books galore out there that can help us, but most of us read them AFTER we have kids and are experiencing issues in raising them. Education is something we, as parents, should be in complete control of. We need to keep education close to home, and local. It is one of the reasons we have local elections for School Boards. It is one of the reasons we have local school districts and elementary schools in every neighborhood. Education should be personal, local, and not federal.

For our family, homeschooling was introduced to us as a concept at the same time that calculators were being required in school for our 2nd grader. Calculators were put in place of learning basic math facts; the teacher told me that he didn’t have time to teach them with their curriculum’s schedule and testing each year. Kids would just have to catch up and calculators made that possible. This frightened me so much. The teacher told me he was pulling his kids out of school and between he and his wife (also a teacher) they would school at home (they had vastly different schedules). I had met some people who have remained friends since this time (1991-1992) who homeschooled their children with great success. They homeschooled because they did not like the curriculum choices, especially in regards to family life courses being required; they were morally outraged at what was being taught in elementary school. We opted our child out of these “family life” courses, but like one of the moms said, “You can opt them out all you want.  Guess what they talk about on the playground?”  Ha-Ha. She was right, of course. I chose to homeschool for curriculum choices (and calculators), and then it became about moral choices. We also went up against vaccinating against STDs when our kids did not socialize with others who had them, nor did we expect them to make poor choices. But high school, summer camps, and the military soon over-rode our objections and they were all vaccinated, eventually. Where I did not compromise was in the areas of curriculum or morals. If I felt either was compromised, we pulled ourselves home. In the course of time since 1992, we have homeschooled using religious programs, homeschooled doing “our own thing,” public schooled, private schooled, unschooled, charter schooled, and recently, public schooled at home (our state offers a variety of homeschool options as about 70% of kids are homeschooled here). We are now educating our last child, and only have two more years of schooling left. It makes me sad, but I am also tired and ready to be done with all of it. Because the world is creeping in and it is scary.

The world of Bill Gates and Common Core has stuck their noses into our little world.  And we all need to be duly frightened. It’s not so much that Common Core is mediocre (it is) but rather that once again the federal branch of the government wants to tell state and local entities how to do what they do. In other words, they want to tell us how and what, even when, to teach our children. They have aligned all 50 states and want the same materials taught using the same format and exact same materials, at the same grade levels, across the country. If you take federal money for schooling in your state/district, you are obliged to be in compliance with federal statutes and guidelines on testing. They want each district to use “their” tests when annually testing the kids. One irritant for me is that this is once again a money trail. Where does the money go? How does the money flow? There are publishers involved (who write, publish, and sell textbooks aligned with Common Core), there are testing corporations who write the tests and also control the grading of them. Tests that no one is allowed to see beforehand! Results that are published sometimes 6 months after taking (our tests are done in April/May and results are not provided until October). The tests travel out-of-state for scoring, not within a local district or even same state. Most companies who do the testing are asking for only online testing, so they can track them easier. And I’m not even getting into data mining of our children. The new legislation wants scores and school documentation to begin in pre-school and follow students through to the workforce, up until and when they are 20 years old. They insist they want to track the preparation the students received and their ability to enter the workforce. To me, if you wait from 3 years of age until 20, there are millions of kids who will be poorly educated and not prepared for the workforce (if the curriculum is poor or does not fit workforce requirements.  And how many workforce requirements are rigid for 20 years?) if we review after 17 years of using Common Core. There are specific reviews along the way, I know that. But still and all, it is an excuse to obtain a lot of data on our families. Legislation shows that they (the Feds) want to coordinate census data, tax returns, healthcare choices, loans and financial information and align it all with educational data once protected under FERPA legislation.  (They plan to align Social Security Numbers with Student ID Numbers). One huge, overwhelming and over-reaching grab of information about each one of us.  I’m not a conspiracy nut, nor am I an “off-the-grid” proponent (how could I download books onto my Kindle if I went off-grid?) but I am a concerned citizen. With the age of the computer and how freely and blithely we enter data online, it is no wonder someone smart enough hasn’t figured all this out before. The sad part is – they have. It is just now coming to light. And very few people even realize it, or are paying attention to it.

How do I reconcile this with my balancing act of my 7 areas of the Oola life? How do I responsibly homeschool my child, while keeping to my moral values? How do I protect my son’s right to privacy, and still allow him to receive a good education? Do I hide? Do we fly under the grid and unschool once again? Do I pull out or continue on? We only have two years left!! I am praying like a mad woman, in between bouts of tears of frustration. But, God is good. He never lets us down. We just need to seek Him in all things.  As I started to type this post, God interceded for me and I received an amazing phone call that changed everything. I took some time to actually cry in relief. I took some time to chat with my husband. I feel, once again, like I can balance my life in the area of “field.” I can continue to offer my son a quality education, wherein he is learning and retaining information like he never has before. I can continue to enjoy it as he explores more and more the world at large and becomes ready to strike out on his own. As my oldest son loved pointing out to me yesterday, my baby will be 18 in a mere 18 months. Wow. Time certainly flies when you are balancing life.

This does not change the issues at large: Common Core being forced on all school districts. Tests being written, and scored, by private companies in it for the money. Local districts and states not being allowed to develop curriculum for their own students and make choices and decisions outside of the federal guidelines. Data and information being gathered on everyone in alarming amounts and detail. States’ rights being eroded, not to mention personal privacy being invaded. We all need to be aware. We all can affect a change. We can opt to not play. We can opt to say no to governmental hijacking of our local educational programs. We can say no to programs that do not reflect the local electoral results. When a state chooses, via ballot, to not use Common Core but unelected people somehow make it the norm for the state, we should be contacting all our officials and letting them know this is not right. Some governmental positions are jobs – they are not elected. Those people, even the electeds in my point of view, work for me. They work for the “people.” We people need to take our government back and just say no to some of this. America was not created to be a nation of “sameness.” One of the beauties of this country is it’s diversity. Why would we change that now, after all these years? If we are all the same, where is the creativity we need to explore space, the oceans, medicine? Who is going to take us into the next century, leading the free world in science, math, engineering, the arts, the social sciences? If everyone learns the same exact thing, no one will even know how to think outside the box, because they won’t even realize they are in a box.

Pray, think, vote, contact your local representatives.  We need to be sure our children are educated to be the best they can be.  I do not believe Common Core or national education and testing is the way to go. And I am at peace.  For today.  18 months until 18 – so much can happen.  Teens keep us on our toes!

Spring has sprung… I think.

ItsSpringMinions

 

Well, it supposedly happened.  Spring sprung.  Up here, near to the Arctic Circle, things happen a little slower.  But truly, our winter was so very mild, in comparison to friends on the East Coast of the USA, in the “lower 48,” as they call it.  We are all happy to see longer days and more sunshine. I find it so humorous that because we now are getting longer days, that people assume it’s acceptable to whip out their shorts and flip-flops.  I did have to wear sunglasses, because the sun was so bright, but it was only 10-degrees outside.  Still, I saw a man wearing his shorts and flip-flops as he ran into the store.  Determined that it was Spring!  Ha-Ha!

ItsSpring.Nope

We were told to not get too excited with the sunshine, and that the weather pattern is changing, again.  Two weeks ago we all got blizzard warnings on our phones, warning of 15″ – 17″ of snow overnight.  We barely got a covering of frost.  So people don’t trust the TV weather people too much. Over the next 10 days, we are supposed to see a change from our 20s and sunshine to 40s, clouds, and rain.  Oh bother – just when I wanted to take down my Christmas lights! Ha-Ha!  They are some days not frozen to the roof, but most days they have been.  It’s interesting, living in the Last Frontier… weather is certainly never dull.

LakeMountains.AK

I am blessed to live in one of those places where honestly, I think God stood on the 7th Day and said, “It is good.”  The views here are truly breath-taking. The sun moves in a cycle that we can actually watch.  It is so different than anywhere else, it is hard to explain. I can watch the trail of the sun as it rises on the east side of my house, is over the hills to the south around noon or so, and goes down to the west of us.  It is never over my house, regardless of the time of year, nor is it ever in our front yard.  Ever.  Which, growing up in SoCal with the sun over your head all day, is a little disconcerting.  We can actually watch the moon move across the skies, too.  It is pretty amazing.  Up here, we can see the curvature of the earth.  What a blessing.

In this environment, it is not a good thing to be unhealthy or out of shape.  In fact, for people who are heavy, there are very few places to buy winter gear.  I guess the manufacturers just assume fat people (a) don’t live here, or (b) don’t get cold.  It cracks me up.  I love Amazon Prime!  So many of us live with Amazon because the shopping selection for some things is not the same as the Lower 48.  And with winter gear for us “fluffy” people, that is the case.  And I also have a hard time finding jeans.  Just jeans. I mean, come on!  All of this was starting to really annoy me.  When we lived in WA, this feeling was started.  Not because I could not find fat-lady clothes there, but because I wanted to be out and about, moving in the beauty that surrounded me. And I tried and totally blew out a knee.  The doctor told me I needed to loose weight before he could recommend knee surgery.  Then I had heart palpitations.  Went to the ER and then was sent to a cardiologist.  All sorts of expensive tests were run.  I am, and seem to always be, healthy as a horse…. I am just overweight.  The cardiologist told me I would die of complications from being overweight before my heart gave out on me.  And those experiences began an internal nagging.  One I am finally listening to.

Minion.EOSMy family and I were introduced to Essential Oils. I cannot fully express to you what a change that has wrought for all of us.  My son now uses a special blend on his forehead when he does school.  It is really helping him.  My husband had a bad shoulder, he is now able to hold his grandchildren.  I was having recurring chest colds and bronchitis… and I am now cough-free.  We diffuse them in our home, we apply them to our skin, we ingest them with carrier oils, we drink a drop or two in our water.  I even cook with them (the basil oil made amazing spaghetti sauce).  They have become an integral part of our lives.  And through the exposure to EO’s we have been introduced to a more natural, healthy way of living.  We are slowly replacing cleaning products with natural ones.  We are now using natural deodorants (that truly work) and I am using a natural face cream.  Slowly but surely we are detoxing our bodies and our home. And it feels so good.

Iworkout

We have finally made the ultimate step.  Our family has changed from one that reads, to one that now works out.  We joined a family health club.  I have worked out twice and I can honestly say I am excited to keep doing this.  I was not at all intimidated because the staff was so very nice.  Even though I am clinically obese (sounds horrid, doesn’t it?) I wore my sweats and a t-shirt and tried all the machines. I found several that I really liked. I could feel my spine stretching and it was awesome.  To be honest, I feel like I am waking my body up from permanent couch potato status.  And after a couple of times of working out that induced sweat, I am a little achy.  Okay, it hurts.  “But it’ a good hurt,” right? Ha-Ha.  Who are we kidding? It flat out hurts.  But because it does, I am feeling; I am getting in touch with my body after a 30-year lag.  It took me that long to get this way, so I know it will take time and effort to improve.  The secret for me to want to keep going back is that I am doing it with my entire family, including my married son and his wife.  She and I work out together and quite honestly we have laughed so much, it has made the pain and sweat not so bad.  For example, on our first attempt at working out using an automated leg press machine: “You want me to put these legs up there, in that machine?”  And then we tried.  Oh my goodness, we laughed so hard.  A very nice gentleman was across the way and was laughing so much his head was red.  He walked over and kindly showed us how to move the seat, so getting my legs up there was actually possible! Leg presses used to be so different in the 1970s when I last used them! Ha-Ha!  My married son met my husband and our 16-year old at the club this morning at 5:00 am.  They all worked out together.  And my son actually started school by 8:00 am.  You have no idea what a victory that is (try homeschooling a night-owl teen boy and getting him up and moving before 10:00 am!!).

In addition to all of that, we are trying to eat better.  We are making better choices with our food.  We are adding more smoothies.  We are eating fewer carbs and more protein and vegetables.  We feel better for it.  Stimulating our bodies to move, adding in better nutrition, helping to stay healthy with oils, and preparing for Pascha – it all fits in with our Lenten journey.  For our family, this Lent has been life-changing.  We have not attended an over-abundance of Pre-Sanctified Liturgies.  We have not added many extra hours of prayer.  We have not fasted as strictly as we have in the past.  But we have gone through a reformation that we are mostly not even aware of.  As I type, my shoulders ache, but I am in touch of where that ache comes from.  I am diffusing Citrus Blend and the air is alive with scent, and it gladdens my heart.  I am reading a stimulating book entitled, “The Oola Life” and it is spurring me on to get my 7 F’s of Oola in order (check it out online under Oola Life or on Facebook).  Simple ways to get your life aligned in 7 areas that affect us all.  And Fitness and Faith, Family and Friends are right in there.  And it seems to fit.

LupineSpringAnd so we wait, here in the North, for the Springtime to actually bloom.  This year, we are actively preparing for the warmer weather by getting ourselves and our house in order.  We are actively waiting for Holy Week. I cannot believe it is just two weeks away! So many eggs to prepare, bread to bake, and baskets to get ready! Ha-Ha!  But I am smiling. I am feeling so good about how we are looking forward to the Resurrection of Our Lord, and the promise of Eternity in Christ.  We are first preparing our hearts, then our bodies and minds, and finally our homes.  It will be so wonderful to have an open window again – which reminds me that much Spring Cleaning awaits me!

Prayers for a holy and happy, healthy and uplifting remainder of Lent.  And for a gorgeous Spring!