“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Aurora.1Sometimes the world can seem so vast. There is so much that we are not truly familiar with. And yet, we make judgement calls about the world all the time. Judges, meting out justice from the bench, are supposed to be using their knowledge of the law, and making a judgement based on the law. They are not supposed to make their own laws, but rather uphold the ones we have on the books. They spend years learning laws, learning ways to defend the law, or the person accused of breaking the law. Some people are called to be prosecutors, some defenders. It is a pretty black/white thing, taken in its pristine form. But, as with much of life, there seems to be ambiguity inherent with our law system. And opinion; one cannot forget opinion. Trust me; I have one, which is why I blog. I share my opinion, my thoughts, with those of you who are interested enough to actually read them.

Today I was confronted with attitude. From several different sources. I love that I was blessed to haphazardly find my way to Anthropology from my start as a pre-law major, morphing into history, and finally finding archeology. I learned to have a broader perspective about things, and I also learned to appreciate differences. To actually look for, and explore differences. I try to not accept things on the basis of the cover. I was accused of judging young ladies one of my sons was dating, simply by their clothing, tattoos, and wildly colored hair. And I admitted that I was prejudiced – in my head, a “normal” girl didn’t present herself that way. I was so wrong. I also have learned that there are so many things that are not truly known to me, or by me. The world is, quite honestly, more complex and varied than we think. There is such a variety in the way in which we approach things. There is such a variety in how God presents His world to us.

moon sky mountains

I was raised and lived in pretty much a 100-square mile area in Southern California. I know traffic. I know smog. I know crowds. I know the beach, the mountains, the desert. I can tell you how to get somewhere and the relative amount of time it will take you to get there. Malls – I know all the good malls in Southern California. I know where to get deals on pretty much anything. The good towns, the places to avoid, the amusement park deals. Parades and major league sports venues. SoCal is full of all of that, and more. I just never realized there was something more out there. I mean, who knew what seasons really were? I never understood the whole Fall/Autumn thing until we lived in Washington. Oh my goodness. Fall is glorious in the Pacific Northwest. I also found out I could plant and grow, successfully, my own tulips. I had no idea there were so many types of tulips. I did not get gourds (why do we carve pumpkins and devour pumpkin pies??) until I lived where they grow them. I never liked asparagus, either, until I could buy it fresh, for less than $1 a bunch and cook it in so many ways (I mean, garlic and butter pretty much makes shoe leather edible). Another experience was living in a snow state. It is a wet state (parts are considered rain forest) but it is also a snow state. I learned to drive roads that are almost verticle on all-weather tires in ice, and also learned to maneuver around all sorts of road construction in pretty awful weather. I LOVED it! And then we decided to have the adventure of a lifetime (while we were still young enough to do it successfully) and relocate out of the contiguous United States, to the very far north. I can honestly say it has lived up to my expectations, and outdone them in so very many ways. This land is something that I never expected, and something I will take the rest of my life learning about and appreciating.

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One of the things I have learned is that I DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING. (Hope those close to me, who know me well, didn’t just have mini-strokes, or heart attacks at that declaration!). And I love to experience new things. I am so interested in everything. I try to expose my mind to new things all the time. I try to not be closed off or to place walls between myself and new discoveries, knowing there is just a vast amount of knowledge I do not have. I’d like to chip away at acquiring more, the rest of my life. I want to constantly embrace new things and fill my mind, and my soul, with all the things I can learn. I am trying to leave words that hamper this desire out of my vocabulary (never, can’t, won’t, no). And I am working on not pre-juding people, situations, or even places and/or experiences.

I get frustrated when people say things like, “I would never…” or “I can never do…” when they have never ventured, never tried, never gone there (insofar as experiences). It is like a judge, who has the law before him, making a decision based on an opinion gained by reading the newspaper. We may think we have all the information we need, we may have dipped our toes in the water, but the ocean is not the beach. Saying all that, I KNOW I could never jump out of a plane. I can barely manage flying in one, let alone stepping out of one. My son used to do it for a living and told me, years afterwards, that he hated jumping, but got a kick out of landing, successfully. Adrenaline rush, etc. Not me. I am a scaredy-pants, just like my elusive cat, Rosie. So I do understand not taking certain risks, or do life-endangering antics, for the kick of it. And I do not judge those who are able to entertain those ideas, and even to act upon them. So, for the sake of my musings here, I am discounting that section of participants.

From the Book of Wisdom 7:21-25 (Douay-Rheims):

“And all such things as are hid and not foreseen, I have learned: for wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me. For in her is the spirit of understanding: holy, one, manifold, subtile, eloquent, active, undefiled, sure, sweet, loving that which is good, quick, which nothing hindereth, beneficent, gentle, kind, steadfast, assured, secure, having all power, overseeing all things, and containing all spirits, intelligible, pure, subtile. For wisdom is more active than all active things: and reacheth everywhere by reason of her purity. For she is a vapour of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God: and therefore no defiled thing cometh into her.”

I believe we all need to learn as much as we can. I don’t want to just grow older. I am praying that I also grow in wisdom. We need to make bucket lists and check those awesome experiences off, as we do them! I think we need to be brave, to embrace those roads less traveled and to not fear the new, the untried, the unfamiliar. Yes, there is danger around every corner. Sometimes there are no guarantees.

Looking back

I am the biggest chicken insofar as trying much that is new. I have the same clothes I have worn for the past ten years. I re-read the same books, over again, two or three times. I listen to music I listened to in high school. But about three years ago, as I was speeding down this very deserted highway (in a foreign country no less) at around 75 mph, on all-weather tires, on about a foot of ice and snow, I thought, “What are we doing?” My husband was trying to follow me, as I saw him through my rearview mirror, reaching out to manually wipe the accumulating ice and snow off his windshield. He was doing whatever he needed to do to stay wtih me. How blessed was I? Of course, he was also yelling into our walkie-talkie, telling me to “Slow down, woman!”  Ha-Ha. Good times. I doubt quite often the choices we have made. We plunge into things, thinking we’ve corned the market on all the possibilities. We try to really think things through, but inevitably, something comes out of left field that we had never expected. We got snow the week after we moved here – in June! I discovered icicles on my house and fell in love with them. (Now I totally understand icicles on Christmas trees, and those Christmas lights for your house that mimic real icicles!). What a bonus! I learned how to take out laundry in sub-zero temps. I can now cook moose and it tastes good! I can manage a sweater as my only cover in 20-degree weather. I have learned to make Ukrainian dishes for the different feast days. Me?! I am British, as in pot roasts and pots of tea! Ha-Ha!! I learned how to make Pascha cheese, in panty hose, in my shower (trust me – it really works!). But I am learning, still. I am experiencing new things. Still. I am trying to remove “no, can’t never” from my vocabulary. I am trying to not prejudge something I have no honest, direct, knowledge of. Please, let’s keep one another in prayer over the pursuit of Wisdom. Over the experience of the new, the unknown. The Lord has given this immense land to discover, filled with unknown adventures and a myriad of different people, traditions, and faiths. Let us approach these differences with an eye to this immense knowledge, and wisdom, of God. And let us at least try, one step at a time…

Babysteps

“…and will bring you into your own land.”

“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36)

0804-ss-glacier-1A year ago today we arrived in Alaska.  We were beat up.  It had been a long and arduous journey to arrive in one piece.  We chose to leave the “lower 48” for many reasons.  I loved living in Washington.  A trip to a local farm to buy pumpkins by the pound was one of our best times in Washington.  I loved wandering Pike’s Market and getting fresh flowers and a cup of coffee from the original Starbucks, as well as the deals on local cheeses and vegetables.  I came to love the season of fall in Washington.  One of our most memorable Thanksgivings was spent with dear friends and family just north of Seattle. Living in Washington was a preparatory move and very good for us.

wet pumpkinsBut we had decisions to make about our living and work situation and we missed, terribly, our children and grandson who lived in Alaska.  Our middle son was in the midst of getting married and setting up his household, not knowing where he would live, and encouraged us to get away and live closer to his big brother.  So, we packed up 30 years of marriage and memories into a 20+ foot U-Haul truck, loaded our pets and suitcases in our car, and off we went, into a very uncertain future.

Alaska.dirt roadI learned to drive on ice – on “all weather” tires, no less.  The AlCan Highway is truly an experience I will never forget – nor will I ever repeat it.  Our journey to Alaska was one that was charged with so many emotions.  The physical part of the journey was harrowing and nerve-wracking, and extremely tiring. I remember at one point asking our then-14-year-old if he thought we would see Alaska over the next mountain…all I got from him was a grunt.  (He was thrilled with the trip because he played his x-box non-stop!  I don’t think he looked outside unless I told him to).  Our U-Haul truck was full and heavy and ungainly on those snowy and icy roads.  Watching behind me as the snow and ice gathered on the windshield of the truck and Ed reaching out the window – while driving – to try and clear it! Scared me to death, but we were so afraid to pull over and stop because the terrain was erratic and we were not sure if we were on the road or off the road. These crazy truck drivers would zoom past our little caravan with no warning and nary a peek in our direction – talk about “ice road truckers”!!!! They would spray snow and ice all over us. I was shocked at how fast they drove on those harrowing roads. Learning later on that the roads are not even paved did nothing to enhance my memories!  Up and down, up and down, and around and around some pretty incredible curves on those mountains;  I am just glad it is done! I even bought myself a sticker that is on our refrigerator, “I survived the AlCan“! Ha! And I did.

Alaska2.2012When we crossed the Alaskan border, I cried.  We finally arrived!  We were in constant cell contact with our daughter-in-law most of the journey and we arranged to meet her and our little grandson for a burger before we followed her to our new home.  We were so thrilled to see a familiar face!  It also cemented for us why we made this amazing journey.  When we drove into town, seeing that Welcome sign that said we were home, I was never so excited to be “home” in my life.  Our little house, settled into its quiet corner of Alaska.  I think there are two stoplights here.  Two.  I love that I am far enough out of town to have the peace and quiet, and close enough to drive into it as often as needed.

I have learned so much about living in a snow state since moving here.  Things I never even thought of, growing up in SoCal.  And I have so many blessed memories packed into this last year, I am blown away.  While we have been here, we have seen the most incredible sights. This state is incredibly beautiful and still very wild.  We have had eagles in the trees in our yard.  We have had a moose lazily make its way through our yard, eating the leaves off the trees. The vistas here are simply breath-taking.  Every time we go out of our little house, we want to take photographs! We still feel like we are tourists. I am sure it will take years to feel like real Alaskans.

Alaska.sunSome of the amazing things we experienced over this past year only deepen our gratitude to God, as well as help us realize how blessed we are.  Our middle son welcomed his first child, a daughter, into the world in May.  What a blessing her arrival was!  I was thrilled to visit them in SoCal for her baptism and to spend some time with my mom. An incredible summer spent watching Andrew get in his glider and orientation flights with CAP.  And in October, our oldest son welcomed his second child, also a daughter, into the world.  We were actually here and were able to see her, hold her, and cry all over ourselves on the day of her birth.  What an amazing experience.  We’ve been here to celebrate holidays and birthdays with our oldest son and his growing family, which is something we have not been privileged to do in more than eight years.  We had Christmas with our grandchildren.  We have walked on glaciers.  We have seen the ocean, waterfalls, mountains, fields and fields of green, and gorgeous blue skies.  We have seen the wildlife here, just roaming freely.  It is truly amazing and I love it!

20140315--Dean-Biggins--U-S--Fish-and-Wildlife-Service-We left everything familiar behind us.  We left access to the “lower 48.”  We left friends of decades behind us.  We left adobe and tile roofs and they have been replaced with siding and downspouts that grow the most amazing icicles!  We’ve learned to shovel snow instead of dirt.  It is a simple life.  It is a quiet life.  We left the maze of freeways and highways and toll roads for a state that has no interstates and only 3 highways.  We have driven through some crazy snow storms, sliding all over the road, and barely able to see where we are going.  But we made it just fine.  My oldest son commented that I needed boots higher than my ankle for those “snow drifts” I may have to wade through. My return comment to him was, “I am the grandma. I have sons who will shovel or plow those out of my way for me.  I do not need high boots.”  He laughed when I reminded him that he was one of my sons! Ha-Ha!

water-cascading-from-a-bull-mooses-antlersWe have been exposed to one of the best homeschooling experiences I have ever had.  I have now homeschooled and/or had someone in school in three states and I can honestly say this is the best place to educate your child, hands down.  Over 60% of the state homeschools because of environment and location.  Because of that the materials and resources available to families is amazing.  In addition to receiving a top-notch education, our son has been reunited with a family we’ve been friends with for over 20 years, and their children.  It has been wonderful. He has been able to continue with his CAP involvement and is growing into an exceptional young man. He is making friends through CAP, through our parish community, and through our friends and outreach opportunities in homeschooling.  For our youngest son, this move was a blessing. He is looking forward to more hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and other outdoors experiences here.  Alaska is a place where you are constantly outside, exploring this wonderful place.

St. Nicholas of MyraAnd we found a new church home, as well.  We have struggled with our new parish because it is so unlike anything we’ve experienced as Melkite Greek Catholics.  We are changing, and our parish is undergoing major changes, but I tell you, we have been more welcomed here than in any of the churches we visited while in Washington.  And I am making some wonderful friends. I am learning all about new cultures (as I detailed in my Easter basket prep saga) and learning to appreciate new and different ways of doing things (even at my age, I can still be taught!!).  I have had to turn inward more and more, because I don’t have friends who drop in for tea or who I can pick up the phone and gab with. It’s hard when you have had intense friendships for so long, to not have your friends around you. But I know this is where God brought us, and He brought us here for a reason. I feel so blessed to be here.

  “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”- Anatole France

I truly believe God brought us through so many changes, out of a place that was not feeding our spirits, and into a land that is hard and tough and requires us to change not only who we are, but how we see who we are, in order to make us better people. There is a philosophy I have touched on many times in my posts on this blog and it is called, “Theosis.”  Many people mistake this for man thinking he can become God.  But rather, it is the process through which man becomes like God.  We aspire to all those qualities that God has, and we try to incorporate them into who we are.  We become as He is.  Each day we take steps towards our final destination. Each day we are faced with choices that make us more like God, or our choices take us further away from Him.  I have imagined the days when Adam and Eve strolled through the Garden, deep in conversation with God.  But they were tempted by the Serpent and they chose to eat of the Tree of Life.  Once they were equal with God, He cast them out of the Garden: “And then God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3: 22-24)  So it is not for us to become the same as God, nor is it for us to become a God.  But rather, it is for us to strive to be like Him in all things.  And I know I am in this place because it gives me a simplicity of life.  An approach that is simple and sincere, saved from much that used to distract me from pursuing the best of the person God wants me to be.  Each day is a step in the direction I choose for it to be.  And moving so far away; moving to a place that is incredibly beautiful but at the same time harsh in many ways, is proving to be the place where I can be tested and formed and made in the likeness of Him who sent me here.  It all began one year ago today, as I unloaded that first box. God is good and we are so blessed with this new life.

alaska.2012

 

“…I am with you…”

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged.  I apologize to those who actually read these!  Ha-Ha!  Thank you for hanging in there with me.

These past months have been, to say the least, difficult.  There have been days (like today) when I am on the verge of tears so often, I almost just want to sit and cry and be done with it. Instead of giving in to a sort of despondency, instead I sat and prayed this evening, seeking the Lord’s guidance in our lives, in my life.  And I would formulate words, but then nothing would come from inside my head; words just would not come to my conscious mind. However, it felt like something was already there, just waiting for me.  And now I sit here, and I am smiling.  I felt such a peace, a serenity, and a presence of God.  I know He works for our best and has nothing but our souls in mind as He works all the little miracles we barely notice day-to-day.  He is working towards our eternity and we can barely see past the end of our nose!

Blessed SeraphimI had a wonderful conversation with a fellow parishioner this weekend.  It was so nice, sitting knee-to-knee and looking at one another, and really connecting.  And one of the things that came up was that I have learned so much over the past 4 years.  For one thing, I have learned that the world calls us and calls us to a certain standard and we compare ourselves all the time to the people sitting next to us.  But we miss the point.  God is also calling to us.  He is calling us to an eternity.  Not the latest purse or smart phone, house or car, but eternity.  We can choose to listen to the noise and chaos and all the emotions that come from that, or we can opt to close ourselves to it.  I have learned to let go; to let go of money, homes, the things we fill our homes with, and certain people and situations I filled my life with.

The other day, I could not sleep.  It’s been happening a lot lately. I read novels until at least midnight but am awake by 5 or 6 am.  It is finally dark in the mornings up here, as the days are gradually getting shorter.  I always walk to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee.  When we lived in SoCal, we got a Keurig coffee brewer.  It’s one of those coffee machines where you put in a little plastic “pod” and brew one cup at a time.  I love coffee, I should explain right off the bat. And I mean I love the taste of it. I love coffee candy; chocolate-covered coffee beans; coffee ice cream; coffee-flavored coffee cake! So for me, the sensual pleasure of brewing my single cup of coffee was pure bliss.  We relocated to the Seattle area and I learned so much about coffee. There is literally a coffee kiosk on almost every corner.  And I learned about roasting the beans and where to buy beans from and how the soil composition and elevation, temperature and rainfall all affect the beans. I went to the first Starbucks next to Pike’s Market, stood in ridiculous lines to have a cup from that particular location (with a dear friend who was visiting from SoCal), just to say I had done that!  I have tasted some amazing coffee from some amazing roasting companies. At one point I was having coffee delivered to my home on a monthly basis.  And then our Keurig broke.  We bought a regular, old, coffee brewer; the type that brews an entire pot at a time.  Nothing too fancy, but it is bright red, which is my salute to interior design!  I digress; I got up this morning and started to make a pot of coffee; it was about 6:00am.  As I grabbed for the can of Folger’s Columbian Brew, I got the giggles.  Folger’s?  Really?  In a huge pot, no less?  Where had I sunk to?  Ha-Ha!

A_small_cup_of_coffee

The thing is, once it was brewed and I tasted that first cup of coffee, I sighed with joy. It tastes wonderful.  And I followed it up today with a pot of decaf from a grocery-store, plain wrap can.  No brand name, at all.  And I enjoyed that, too.  I have learned so much from these moves. I do not need labels; I do not need much at all.

I was able to sit down this afternoon and pay our bills.  Next month, that may not be something I can do as readily.  But we have made it this far with prayers and help from friends and family.  We have had to ask for assistance from time to time.  We have had to tell people, “Thanks for inviting our family, but it is just beyond our budget right now.”  Things like that are very, very humbling.  But they are also freeing.  No, I don’t have much.  If thieves broke into my home, they would fine keepsakes and things that mean something to me, but not riches!  And people who know we are struggling have been incredibly generous, without making us feel bad, or less about ourselves.  It has been uplifting, for our hearts, heads, and souls.

We have been blessed beyond measure with family close by, a home that we love (small and humble as it is, we have found it really fits us so much better than any home we’ve lived in), and a parish community that is welcoming and filling some holes we had in our lives.  We are making new friends and establishing ourselves in a new community.  Our son is being blessed in friends, organizations he belongs to, and an incredibly amazing schooling experience he is about to begin.  We are blessed in ways we never imagined or expected – hoped for, of course, but they are unexpected because they keep cropping up and showing us the Presence of God in our lives in places we did not expect.

So I could choose to panic and worry, and not sleep. I could be crabby or hide away in my house, bemoaning our situation.  But I cannot help but smile; I have such a deep sense of contentment and peace.  We have no source of income in the ways of this world, but we are becoming enriched in ways that count, in ways that matter.  God is showing me that He is preparing my eternity and that I am to hold tight to His promises and His guidance for me and my family. He is faithful to us; we are the ones who wander off, on our divergent paths.  We are the ones who lack the patience to allow God to work in our lives, in His time!

I think I will go heat up (E-gads! Yes, in a microwave!!) a cup of decaf and settle on the loveseat with my two doggies, and enjoy an evening of quiet.  I am blessed; I am very much at peace, and still smiling!  And the Lord walks with me.

Isaiah 41-10

“…nothing will be impossible…”

salt Mark 9-50“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

We moved, as most of you (my friends and family) know.  For those of you who do not know, we up and moved 3,000+ miles from pretty much all we knew and came to the “Last Frontier” and are endeavoring to make a new life for ourselves.  At our ages, it has been a hard decision and for the most part, difficult.  We have run into so many roadblocks, it seems pretty amazing we can still smile.  Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed in ways beyond measure.  We have our faith and our family and a roof over our heads.  And I know I am blessed in more ways than many people I know.  God is good.

All that being said, it does not mean there has not been, nor does it mean it does not continue to be, a struggle.  All change is a struggle.  But if salt looses its saltiness, it is no longer good for anything and must be thrown out.  Our lives were like that.  They needed to change! And speaking of change, I giggled as I typed that because I was thinking of something my mom told me once, “Always hold on to your clothes, because eventually everything comes back into style.”  She isn’t far off.  I now wear what we called “peddle pushers” or “clam diggers” when I was a kid.  I grew up in the 50s and 60s and we also had all the “flower power” styles going on and lots and lots of them are back (I love my longer “broom” skirts for instance).  Hair styles – long, short, colored, permed.  Been done.  Make up…the Egyptians had the “kohl-eye” thing down centuries ago. Story telling, marriage, family, society…it is in a cycle that repeats itself over and over again.

Basically, it is we who have to adjust to change.  It is not change that is unusual.  There is a series of history books that make an interesting statement in how they are put together.  There is all history prior to the Birth of Christ in one book, and then there is history that has occurred since the Birth of Christ in a separate book.  And history since the Birth of Christ changed; man and his experience on this earth, changed.  God changed us by giving us His only Son.  How we act and react to that singular event in the history of mankind determines how we live our lives, and how we adapt to and take part in, change.

Personally, I am frustrated some days. I wish things were like they were when we lived in our first dairy house.  Our boys were small.  Life was very simple and very quiet.  Well, with young boys, as quiet as that can be, while living on a farm.  It is hard to believe we have been married almost 30 years.  Time has just flown past and quite often I have a hard time grasping really where I am. I just had another birthday.  I am getting to the point where I am fine actually skipping them.  We can just celebrate those other milestone dates and forget the ones in between!  But then I see the faces of my sons, my grandchildren, and I know I am blessed to be where I am.  I have had days recently where I just stood next to my husband, with my forehead resting on his chest.  Standing there, wishing things were a little different, frustrated because they are not, but also so blessed at where we are.  Life is such a confusing mix some days.

When you relocate in such a drastic way, it can be hard because you have nothing familiar.  No friends around for my son, no familiar clerk at the grocery store, streets whose names I forget and driving down I tend to get lost in, and new things everywhere. Your senses get assaulted.  Oftentimes, I look around and because I am in a new city, I am totally confused at where I am, and I actually feel carsick.  My natural points of reference aren’t there (in Southern Cal, the mountains are in the north and the beach is in the south!  The mountains are in the east, and the beach is in the west!).  But still, I know that for some reason, I am where I am meant to be. So I ask directions and find my way.  Our Lord is the beacon that guides through our confusion, bringing us home.

The professional community or the working world here is also very different; it is NOTHING like it is elsewhere. And when you are older and have been taught to do business a certain way, climbing out of that pattern of behavior is very hard to do.  And it is frustrating to step out of our comfort zones to try and make things work, to get work!  I feel bad for my husband and he is pretty much getting to the end of his rope, too.  It is weird, because our lives are so blessed in all things but working.  We wonder where we need to make further changes and what Our Lord is asking for us to do. We search for those changes we still need to make, to have our lives ironed out.

Changing to Holy Silence is hard in a world of distraction, but we both feel called to centering ourselves and also digging in and making this work.  We know the Lord wanted us to come here.  We both prayed about it and talked about it and took our time making this decision, and nowhere along the road did we feel we were making the wrong choice.  Until we actually got on the road.  We have hit so many roadblocks to reach where we are (do not even mention Canada to me) and yet, we can still smile and know we are still blessed. I see my family, that little smile on the face of my grandson, and hear his voice yell, “Gaga-Gaga-Gaga” (his name for me) and I know I am where I am supposed to be.  Continuing this process of change, well, it may make us stretch in ways we never knew we could, but we are already blessed far more than we would have been, had we stayed put and let the world change around us.

We react differently because the world irrevocably changed 2,000+ years ago, when Christ walked, lived, preached, and died among us.  He changed the world.  I can work hard to change just little, old me.  If I work to be still and listen to His Word for my life, I can move mountains.  (He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20).  It is now that we have to dig in and put our “backs into it” in order to be successful and move some mountains in our lives.  Change is not for the meek or the weak at heart; it is necessary, though.  Christ changed the world; I just need to work on being the best me that He wants me to be, wherever I am.

mustard seed mustard seeds

“…When you enter the land that the Lord has promised…”

back porchWell, we are here.  We arrived 1 week ago today.  The social media blackout that accompanied our move was not all that bad; I learned to live without the internet and my cell phone.  It has given me time to ponder and muse over the various experiences and people we met, as we made our way to Alaska; the Last Frontier.  We’ve taken a leap of faith coming here, going off to find ourselves and a life we hope for.  We missed being among family and it is so good to know my son and his family are about a mile away; we can actually walk to one another’s homes.  We’ve enjoyed meals, cups of coffee, pizza, and just being with each other since we arrived.  What a joy to have my grandson discover grandma’s pots and pans! What a racket he makes, but what joy it brings to me.  His smile and his laughter light up my life.  Grandchildren are truly a blessing in our older years; God is smiling on us!

Our journey here was an arduous one.  The AlCan Highway, or Alaskan Highway, is a treacherous drive and not for the unprepared or feint of heart!  (If you try it, use Milepost Magazine and do it during warm weather!!). We often drove for hours without seeing another vehicle or sign of life, other than the vast forests we were driving through, on roads covered in feet of snow and ice.  I think this old California girl did pretty good, driving 2400+ miles on some of the roughest roads she’s ever experienced!  My 14-year-old glanced up now and then from his X-Box to enjoy the scenery, but was totally oblivious to the dangers around us (which was actually a good thing).  We had Bison cross the highway in front of us and walk alongside us…what a sight! They are massively huge and their shoulders came well above the top of my windshield.  We saw Red Fox scatter across the roadway and into the treeline as they saw us approach; saw Bald Eagles fighting Ravens over a kill; and saw Moose, casually walking through a small town we happened upon.  It was humbling, to be sure.  This is a land where nature is still very much in charge.  We have not tamed the northern Canadian wilderness, nor most of Alaska.  It is un-nerving and exciting, all mixed together.  And it is exhausting!  This Grandma is pooped out!

When we happened upon the Canadian border crossing, so much of what we thought we knew and what we believed was radically challenged.  It was a 5+ hour ordeal (the whole process of crossing into Canada) that I would not wish upon anyone.  And from that experience I learned so very much.  We have mindsets we have developed through our experience of life and the world we live in; the mores and values of the country we are raised in.  We learn lessons that are given to us by our environment and our perspective is developed from our collective histories, as well as the input we receive at the knee of our parents.  I come from a family of immigrants. And I was taught to love America and the ideals espoused here.  I think many in other cultures, especially our Canadian neighbors, dislike Americans because they think that we think that Canada is just an extension of the USA.  They are ‘so much like us’ that we ASSUME our cultures are the same.  They are not.  The basic freedoms we take for granted are not extended to us when we cross an international border.  We have NO rights and are at the mercy of the Country we are visiting.  I learned that the hard way.  Aspects of being an American were totally wiped away at that border crossing.  I won’t go into detail because this is not the forum for that, but just know our freedom was challenged and my world was turned upside down.  It worked out, as we were finally allowed into Canada and through Canada to Alaska.  We met many wonderful Canadians along the way and they made the experience at the border lessen in its severity a little bit, but I cannot fully express to you the joy and relaxation I felt at driving over that line in Alaska!!  God Bless America.

A portion of that experience is, however, germane to my blog and I wanted to post about it.  As things were spiraling out of control at the immigration office in Canada, I sat with my head between my knees (partially because I thought I was going to pass out or throw up or both) and I prayed.  I pleaded with Our Lord; I asked for the intercession of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, and patron of families.  I asked the Lord for His Presence in that place. I asked for the softening of the hearts of the people around us, and those dealing with us.  I prayed the Jesus Prayer over and over again, throwing in a few Hail Marys along the way.  The Lord’s Prayer was recited over and over again, becoming more and more real to me.  And I found myself so lost in prayer, the world around me disappeared. I was completely transported and I found God, sitting in a detaining area at the Canada border. He was with me and He pressed down His peace upon my fluttering heart, and I KNEW, totally KNEW, everything would be okay.  And I believe that the place I found within my heart is that place of the soul, the place where Our Lord dwells, and where my heart is at peace.  And He dwells there at ALL times and through ALL things.  I truly discovered the reality of that, sitting there, hoping I did not pass out or throw up.  I learned a lesson that my faith in God is the thing that flutters, but God does not.  I come close to Him at times, and at times I find myself not as close to Him.  It is all within ME…He is constant.  He is always there; my pains, my trials, my woes…those are all MINE.

Bible well read

I listened to a CD recording a dear friend of mine has been asking me to listen to for a couple of years now, this morning. My husband and I listened to it together.  We prayed and we wept together. It was a sublime moment in our marriage. This CD summed up this realization that I came to, that God is always present in our lives.  The theme of the talk on the CD was that God is testing us, but His tests are given to us after He has thoroughly prepared us  (“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”  Jer 29:11) and that His tests are open book (our thorough knowledge of the Bible) with our tutor (the Holy Spirit) whispering in our ears the answers.  His goal is for us to pass these tests and through the passing of them, we have our test-imony.  I love that.  We are tested each and every day, but only after He has thoroughly prepared us.  We were tested in our national beliefs and we came to appreciate what we have here in the USA.  We were tested in our faith and the peace that came from deep prayer was amazing.  We are being tested right now, because our pathway is so unclear and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  But God did promise us a “future filled with hope” and one that is filled with “peace and not disaster.”  All He asks of us is to be faithful to His word and His promises.  We are the ones dancing around the May Pole; He is standing upright and firm and is present in all days, in all ways, with His children.  Thanks be to God.

Didache

“…a whisper of the Divine….”

Warriors of Christ fite best on kneesI love this photo.  Roughly translated it means that the “Warriors of Christ fight best on their knees.”  What a thought!  Someone commented that there is a lot of black in their vestments.  Yes, there is.  But it is worn as a sign of mourning or sadness, during Lent.  And I love how beautiful the entire thing looks.  I long to be there…instead of….

My house!  I am decidedly going crazy right now, with the hectic pace of our moving looming over everything.  My husband has 5 or so days left on his job, then we seriously pack up and move.  We have one room upstairs almost totally empty; our poor son has no dresser or night stand in his room, and his bed is going soon, too.  We have odds and ends to be rid of and we are all about cleaning out to the bare bones.  The hectic, chaotic mess of a house torn apart, well, it really gets to me. I did not realize how much I like having everything in its place. Not necessarily white-glove clean, but neat.  Having to step around and over things is getting to me.  Right now, all my dishes (and I mean all) are on our counter top, waiting to be packed or sold.  I cannot move in my kitchen.  The bathrooms are great, so that is a place to hide away! Ha-Ha!  My office is in total chaos and I still have to either pack or burn all the papers in there.  We are trying to get rid of a large oak roll-top desk, so I need to empty it.  So much in process; much done, but oh so much left to do!

And I find myself looking for solace and peace.  The opening post photo is exemplary of what I need to be doing…fighting this battle on my knees.  All of this is in God’s hands and I need to stop taking it back from him. Surrendering in prayer is what I need more of, not struggling with these things I need to pack, choices I need to make, and space bags to fill and flatten.  I am not disposing myself to complete surrender, to just sit and wiggle my nose like Jeannie on the old TV show, and expect that everything will magically be packed and we will be on our way.  It is more of a surrender to the Will of God in all things.  This move included.  All things.

Elder Sophrony1Spending a few moments in prayer is worth all the chaos that may arise because of being absent to the chronos of life, and spending some kairos time with God.   And those moments when you hear “a whisper of the Divine is glory beyond compare to all the content of a life lived apart from God.” This momentary interruption to having things in their place, and the quiet and contentment of living in your home where you feel like it is your place of solace, are all worth living in the light of God’s Will for us.  Life is not about those years we engrave on our tombstones, but rather about the life in between those dates.  A little chaos now and then makes the peace that much more sublime and rich.  And as my kids keep reminding me, “Keep your eye on the prize.”  Today, I am living that…God’s truly got this!

“…always be kind, gracious, and wise…”

St. John of Kronstadt.8

Details, details…they are what bog me down.  We are planning to relocate north of us, about 2600 or so miles, within the next couple of weeks.  I look at all the things I have gathered into the living room and I think, “This is not gonna fit on a 14-foot trailer.”  What do I get rid of?  What do I ship up separately?  Are we going to “be” moved or are we moving ourselves up?  When exactly do we pull out of this driveway and onto the road?  Will my husband get the job he wants?  Will they realize the treasure he is and hire him? Soon?  So many details.

I get this great blog in my email and it is called, “Hands of Mary/Heart of Martha” through the Smart Martha web site.  Today the article I honed in on right away was called, “Cleaning out your closet?” and it had some wonderful wardrobe hints from the “minimalist” movement.  Their suggestion was to take your wardrobe down to 10 items.  Well, looking at what I have and what I NEED, versus perhaps what I have and what I WANT…I know I could cut down on so many things.  This suggestion is one that has caused me to ponder…and blog.

There are so many “things” we cling to in our lives.  Exemplary as it may be to prune and purge our things, there are some things we just cannot let go of.  I have been dragging a couple of things with me since my childhood and I am not sure if I could ever get rid of them.  My dad once told me that clinging to things is selfish in a way, because perhaps if you gave it away, someone else would have the joy or practicality of owning it.  His comment has stayed with me, and it has helped me to let go of things.  In addition, when you look to some items, they may mean something to you, but no one in your immediate family will want them, once you have gone.  What else do we cling to?  A lot of misconceptions!

When I have mentioned our move to people, they immediately think we will be living in igloos and wearing muck-lucks.  They do not understand that the modern world has stretched to cover the entire North-American continent.  There are housing developments, shopping centers, movie theaters, and heaters!  It is also not snowing all year, neither is it dark all year.  And yes, there are more animals than people, but not reindeer.  What other misconceptions do we cling to?  Well, for me, in my blogging life, I have had to fight many misconceptions. The biggest one I know of, although have not addressed until now, is that the “Immaculate Conception” refers to Mary not having marital relations with Joseph, to conceive Christ.  Not so.  Oh, that happened, Mary did conceive Christ without “knowing” Joseph, but that is not what the “Immaculate Conception” refers to.  That “misconception” has spawned numerous jokes and sayings down through the centuries, but it is completely incorrect.  It refers, instead, to the conception of Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) and the fact that she was conceived without the stain of sin, or the results of the sin of Adam.  Christ chose His Mother before time (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God;  all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1: 1-6) and He chose a perfect vessel to carry Him into this imperfect world. I heard a priest once explain the Immaculate Conception by saying, “When you have the perfect rose, you want the perfect vase to place it in.  How much more so for the Son of God to be born of the most perfect womb?”

There are so many misconceptions that we have all come to accept through the years as truth, without bothering to uncover the veracity of the very things we say we believe in.  The misconceptions I have run across have caused division between countries, friends, and within families.  There are also misconceptions about faith, that abound in cultural mythology.  Being an anthropology major in college, I was given the privilege of being taught to look beyond what we see, and what we assume we see.  Very often, beneath the surface of what we surmise, is a very different reality.  We see that throughout history, the uninitiated saw practices they did not understand and made assumptions about them. From those assumptions spread rumor, which became misconceptions, and in time, beliefs.  In a study done years ago, well-meaning health professionals traveled to countries unfamiliar with modern medicine.  They presented some very primitive peoples with all the items they would need to ensure a lower birth rate – birth control pills, condoms, and other items.  They gave presentations and instructions to these peoples.  When these same professionals returned years later, the population had maintained their same growth patterns.  Some anthropologists were invited to participate and what they found was the science being imposed on these peoples was so foreign to their practices, they instead had set up altars and placed the items on them, thinking that by praying to them they would not conceive children.  The anthropologists brought in natural family planning experts who explained the Billings Method, using farming terminology.  The people took to it very easily and childbirth rates were not as progressive.  The scientists were very ready to tell the world these people were far too primitive to understand modern science; from the outside looking in, perhaps they were, through assumption.  But in reality, they were a farming people; their culture revolved around the cycles of the moon and planting seasons.  They were highly intelligent and a very evolved culture, but our modernity dismissed them out-of-hand.   The opposite was true and the scientists learned a valuable lesson – they had to remember their audience and to teach and share with the idea of the receiver in mind.  This has a twist to it, as well.  Quite often, because we have heard something from someone, we make assumptions and we also assume the information as our own “fact.”  This study showed scientists – and we can extrapolate from this experience, they show all of us – that we cannot assume our words and instructions have been received in the way in which they were intended.  We need to be sure what we are sharing is heard by the head, and the heart.  The Word of God is immutable; it is eternal.  We can be taught by, and we can learn by, investing the time and the prayer in pursuing those eternal truths left to us by our Lord, through His Church, the Church Fathers, and all those traditions formed over the centuries – either a big “T” tradition or a small “t” one.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2: 1-5

Colossians

When we enter into dialogue with those who patently disagree with our viewpoint, sometimes it is difficult to express ourselves to them clearly, because not only are we fighting opinions, we are fighting opinions based on misconceptions.  I have experienced this exact thing over the past few months of my blogging history.  And this Lent has been a time of vigorous discourse, as well as intense learning, laced with emotional turmoil.  In other words, “What a Lent!”  The fruits of suffering, however, are a more intense relationship with our Lord.  We know the steps we are taking are through His guidance and that He is leading our journey.

Isaiah 41-10 As we come closer and closer to the end of Lent and I ponder all that has taken place to date, I am in awe of my God.  I have been shown that silence is a blessing; that Our Lord waits on us and is always there for us; and that when there are those who disagree with us and prefer to live in their misconceptions, that we need to, and are called to, pray for them and to love them in all things.

A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart – love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love – how good will conquer evil. A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.”
—St. John of Kronstadt, “My Life in Christ”.

St. John of Kronstadt.Icon

“…against beasts in the form of men…”

loose interpretation

Well, the big push to sort of “corner” or “corral” my stuff is upon me.  A very dear friend, and the godmother to our youngest son, is flying in tomorrow to spend the weekend with us before we relocate “outta” here.  And right now, as I explained to her, there is not a single room that is neat and tidy.  There is nothing on the walls any longer, but what was once there is stacked against them.  The bed she will be using is stacked with things off the dresser and the wall, as well as all the linens that go with that bed.  I have been trying to get a handle on how much “stuff” I really have, so I know what will fit and what has to either go or be shipped.  And I really have cut down on things, but there is still a lot around.  And I am one of those people who can deal with clutter for a time, but then it gets to me and I scour the place spotless.  My youngest son, while always dealing with his ADD tendencies, leaves part of himself all over the house.  During the best of times, this may be lego-creations here and there; airplanes of one type or another laying around; a stray book or art project here and there.  He just sort of forgets where he sticks things.  And he then walks away.  His new jacket for rain and snow has been missing for about two months (take note of which months it has been missing…yes, that would be the ones with rain and snow) and he found it two days ago…underneath his scouting pack for ice camping, stuffed into the back of his closet.  It is amazing what you uncover when you start packing and tossing things.  And sometimes when my nose is right in it, I ignore the chaos or step around it.  Today, I am determined to corral the chaos!

Now I am sure that reading thus far, you are thinking this is a post about moving woes and the woes of the mom of a 14-year-old son who leaves his things all over the place.  But no, it’s not; but it is illustrative of something on my mind.  Thinking about all the chaos and how close I am to the chaos, made me think of authority figures and people who are “in charge.”  This could be corporate presidents or CEOs, pastors of large (big box or densely packed) churches, mothers of homes with lots of kids and/or things to organize.  And I thought of how we view our Church, our faith.  We view it from where we stand.  We stand inside our parishes and look at the icons on the walls, the altar at the front, and those standing with us.  It is from our little, community perspective, tucked away someplace in the USA.  And many of us view our faith from an even tinier perspective…specifically about how we feel and how we interpret our belief system.  Some of us have developed these perspectives without the benefit of a spiritual father to guide us, and have come up with personal interpretations we heartily defend.  When I quoted Cokie Roberts in a previous post about her wanting the Cardinal to be sure to “represent” the American Church to the Conclave, I was sort of thinking along these lines.  She is seeing a Church of billions of believers, from her spot on the pew; from her American perspective.  The Pope, on the other hand, he is seeing things on a global scale, which is a completely different scale.  And the issues facing our Church are global, not American.  Christ told his Apostles to go out and baptize “all” the nations; he did not tell them to stay in Jerusalem and mourn their loss of Him.  All nations is not American; it is also not purely a Roman perspective, either.  And it is certainly not from my pew.  The Church is for ALL people, of ALL nations.  Abbot Tryphon wrote today about the Orthodox churches accepting newcomers and not being cultural or private clubs. Some ethnic Byzantine parishes are most definitely private clubs; their emphasis is not in welcoming newcomers, but rather ensuring nothing changes from the “old country” and their traditional ways.  And to a newcomer, especially one raised in the Latin, or “western” mindset, it can be a little daunting.

My point is, however, that I can easily see how these disagreements about so many things happen.  When we look at things from a global perspective, more often than not, we can see where something would make sense.  For example, when I stand on the landing of my staircase, I can see where the boxes need to go and what needs to go inside what, but when I am standing amongst them all, I just want to throw my hands up in despair of making sense of the mess.  And sometimes our disagreements about faith are just like that – we are in the middle of the mess and cannot see with the same perspective as the person we are disagreeing with. I told someone recently that their perspective was limited and that although they felt well-informed about things, as well as having “heard it all before,” they had not been privileged to be introduced to other perspectives and/or a spiritual guide of some sort; they were the ones off on their own tangent.  Therefore, from where I was sitting, their statements were limited in their scope and they could not (would not) see my point of view.  It’s like former smokers and converts – they can be so annoying in their enthusiasm for their new-found freedom from an annoying habit or new knowledge, that they thrust it upon you all the time.  I am, unfortunately, though the years, both!  I think I tend to be annoying in that way, because I am discovering all sorts of new things, and I have been where that other person once was.  I feel that I have grown and learned, and I am pursuing, actively, my salvation, and they have not been blessed to be introduced to the eastern philosophies or theology – and I know I have just dipped my toe into it all and that much more awaits me. This new-found enthusiasm and my blogging about it,  is creating great friction between us.  Now, however, rather than respond in kind (or my normal behavioral pattern), I took a page from Elder Thaddeus and took a step back and just breathed deeply and prayed for them.  In one of the posts I authored, I said that we do not have to interact with those who hurt us; I still believe that.  In a post this morning on Facebook, there was this:  ‘I guard you in advance against beasts in the form of men, whom you must not only not receive, but if it is possible not even meet, but only pray for them, if perchance they may repent. . .’  St. Ignatius of Antioch. One of my friends responded to this post with this: “Wow. I always assumed we had to be hospitable to everyone, regardless of what they believed or how they lived. I’m glad to know that we can just pray for them from afar and not get into any conflict with them.” (LB).

I think that perhaps dealing with things that are personal and hurtful by looking at them from afar, even if they are people, is “putting on Christ” (Galatians 3:27 and also used as the Pascal refrain in Eastern rites and in the Orthodox Church).  Christ knew what He was doing when He sent his Apostles out into the world.  He wanted the world to know Him and He was fully God, so He knew what obstacles there would be, and are, in sharing His Word with the world.  Oftentimes sharing the faith does not go well.  In the Bible, Christ told us: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” (Matthew 10:34-36).  And for most of us, it is not a surprise.  I know of a few families who are totally intact in their relationships and in their faith; all their children practice and all their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.  But those types of families are rare.  The world tugs us all in many directions and the pull is very difficult to fight. We can “forearm” our children and then we can just pray and be there for them in their struggles; the same holds for friends and other family members.

The interesting thing for me is that I am being pulled back into a more devout mindset and outlook, and a far more eastern-perspective.  I find it refreshing, rejuvenating for my faith-life, and peaceful.  My journey, however, has engendered others to look at me in askance, not understanding where I am going, nor why.  And so, rather than “attack” in a way of defending myself, I am letting the air out of my own balloon and emitting a long sigh…and then I am praying to God for them.  Elder Thaddeus showed me a glimpse of the peace that awaits me and I cannot wait to get it back by re-focusing myself.  I know that God wishes for us all to find Him, and we cannot look to our brothers to do it for us; each of us must journey on our own.  But as we look over at our brother’s journey and their personal struggles in life, I am hoping we can all take a more “universal”, “holistic,” or “global” look at where they are coming from – when we “put on Christ,” and not be angry nor judgmental, but rather more prayerful for them and on their behalf.  Sometimes avoiding the conflict is actually winning the battle!  Perhaps all we can do is plant the seeds and allow the Holy Spirit to do all the work.  It may not be something we see in our lifetimes, nor may it be a fruit we get to enjoy on this earth, but that eternal happiness is worth the planting and worth the step back, deep breath, and prayer.

“We all have to die, beloved brethren, and it will be hard for us if, while we are in this world, we do not love each other, if we are not reconciled to our enemies, whom we have offended, and if one has grieved another, if we do not forgive him. Then we will not have eternal blessedness in that world, and the heavenly Father will not forgive our sins.
(St. Peter of Cetinje, Letter to Radulovichs, 1805)
St Peter of Cetinje 1805

“…when things unforeseen occur…”

Cross sunlight rocks

“Thou hast raised me from bed and sleep, O Lord; enlighten my mind and heart, and open my lips, that I may praise Thee, O Holy Trinity: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God. For the sake of the Mother of God, have mercy upon us.  Grant unto me, my Lord, that with peace in mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me grace to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will. Instruct and prepare me in all things for every hour of this day. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept them calmly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy holy will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonable toward every member of my family and all other human beings, that I may not cause confusion and sorrow to anyone. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day and to bear my share in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love. Amen.” (A small portion of the Orthodox set of Morning Prayers).

I remember a cute saying that goes something like, “If you want God to have a good laugh, just tell Him your plans.”  And I try to keep that foremost in my mind as I plan, not just the day, but when we are planning our future.  I have had so many conversations with parents recently who have shared that their children are still dependent on them, in so many ways, even though they are perhaps married themselves.  With the new Obamacare, children can remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26 years old.  Some of our friends have children who have their own lives, are married, and live in other states, but whose cell phone is still paid by the parents, because they have a “family” plan and it’s cheaper for everyone.  Still other children, married and on their own, have their car insurance or portions of their rent, covered by their parents.  I even have friends my age, whose parents still send them the occasional infusion of cash, because for lots of us, we live pretty close to the “edge.” The cost of living is climbing at a pace that many young people, just out on their own, cannot afford to live without some assistance.  This has happened with our sons in differing degrees, and I do not begrudge them a cent, and feel happy that we can help them as they establish their independence.  It just seems like it is becoming the norm, as much as living with your parents when you are first out of college or newlyweds.  “Back in the day” people did not leave the family home – they enlarged it to encompass their children’s spouses and the grandchildren.  Large families, all living together, were the norm.

Today, I am re-arranging my head and my processing of our future, because we had grandiose plans (that’s God you hear laughing) to relocate to another state, thousands of miles north of us.  We have been purging and taking down the quantity our “things” to try and fit onto a 14-foot trailer.  I have been giving things away and selling some things. Nonetheless, it has been a process of purging.  It’s been feeling good to have less, but “icky” at the same time.  We are still relocating, and still relocating to the same place, but God has given us more to deal with than we originally had on our plates.  And each day I pray that I can successfully deal with whatever God places in my life, and it has been no exception over the past few days.

I always try to picture things in my mind, ahead of time.  There seems to be a certain order to life….birth – life – death.  Sometimes we make assumptions about the order of things.  One assumption is that we will live with our own, nuclear, families and we will see our extended families from time to time (aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc).  Quite a few years ago, when all three of our sons still lived at home, my paternal grandmother became unable to live on her own.  I had been her custodial caregiver for years and was accustomed to running over to her place on a moment’s notice.  The time eventually came in her life when she could not longer care for herself, and she came to live with us.  God had blessed us with a home in the same town, that was large enough to house all of us, with a bedroom and bathroom for my grandma on the first floor.  It was good for my children to live with an elderly person, and to see their great-grandmother on a daily basis, in her time of need, and at her most vulnerable.  Up until then, my grandma had been a “force of nature” in all our lives.  My sons stepped up and were wonderful.  (My middle son still has nightmares about cleaning her dentures, but that is for another post! LOL!)  We all gathered around her as she passed from this life to the next, and it was a beautiful thing; something we shared as a family and have never forgotten.  And now we are going to relocate, and at the same time, incorporate an aging parent into the mix.

Bringing an aging parent to live with you is something most of us never had expected to do.  This morning, I was drawn to re-read the Scripture verses about worrying (Matthew 6:25-34): “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  These verses give me comfort; I will not worry about the million-and-one details about how we are going to pull all of this off (my parent lives in a different state; we have to sell their house, their car, their things and then get them up to us) but instead think of the blessings this will bring our family.

Once again, my children will be a light to an aging relative. We still have a teenager at home and my oldest son and his family will be living very close to us.  They will bring energy and love into the house, where an aging parent of mine can siphon-off some of that, to keep them aware and enjoying life.  My grandchildren will get to know their great-grandparent.  In this day and age, how many children know their great-grandparents?  I was blessed to know and love my paternal grandmother’s parents…they were a joy in my life that I feel so very grateful to have had.  My grandchildren will be able to learn to love someone like me, but also someone older than myself, who also is part of our family.  My plans have altered a little bit, but I am looking at the blessing of having an elder member of our family present every day, not just on holidays.  My daughter-in-law and I had plans to sight-see this summer and now it will be even more important, as we also take my parent along with us, to introduce us all to our new homeland. She and I also chatted about sharing this responsibility together, and I am blessed that she is looking forward to it!!

hands

I am putting a positive spin on this, because I am also feeling a tad bit overwhelmed.  You see, this parent of mine also suffers from Alzheimer’s, so there is quite a lot of this tandem-future of ours, that is a little cloudy right now (no pun intended).  The overwhelming experience of loosing a beloved spouse affects any person’s mental well-being, but most especially someone with Alzheimer’s.  The importance of assisting my parent, as their surroundings are going to change several times, until a familiar room is created with memories on tabletops and walls, to ensure there is some place they can call their own.  My heart is breaking with love and tenderness, because God has blessed us with this disease in the sense that there is no anger or hostility, but instead a kinder, gentler personality has emerged, with a quiet and peacful resignation (some Alzheimer patients are angry and difficult to be around).  For me, growing up with this particular parent was not an easy thing; I moved out the week after I graduated from high school and we do much better living apart.  Coming together could have been cataclysmic, but God has seen this coming (I believe) for years, and has been preparing us both for a future together.

This Lent has turned out to be quite a Lent for me.  I have been struggling with keeping peaceful thoughts and emptying my mind, as well as dealing with relocating so drastically, and the impending death of a dearly loved stepfather.  Now the implications of taking in my parent after so many years of living separately….added to the fact that this parent of mine dislikes “weather” and prefers the calm, sunny, days of Southern California!  There is a huge pile on my proverbial plate, but God is good. He does not give us more than we can handle (yes, that’s me, looking up to God and signalling a time out!!) and He also promised us that He would be with us always (Matthew 28:20 “…And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”).  So I choose to cling to those promises and seek His assistance, as we face an uncertain, but never dull, future.  Easter Sunday should be quite interesting; I wonder where I will be and what God will have in store for me.  Stay tuned.

after the rain

“For though a righteous man falls seven times….”

Icon Corner.candlesLooking at the icons helps me to think and pray.

Today, I felt God truly touching our lives.  I was blogging in the morning about my stresses and struggles.  And now I am off to sleep with a clear head and a smile on my face. And so many wonderful quotes are going through my mind, from the Saints and Holy Fathers, and Words of Scripture…and the cacophonous sounds of praise in my mind make my heart flutter with love for God.  I know all the wrinkles, all the details have not been fixed; I know there is still more to face and still more to decide.  I know those things, and I also know that only love of God can give you true peace; I know that even if I fall, I will get back up again.  And I know Our Lord is working in our lives – I felt it so strongly today. “Praise be to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our God….now and always and for ever and ever.” Amen.

Proverbs24-16