“…and it was very good.”

Our summer.

This past weekend, well, the past 4 days, we ventured into God’s country. It was actually so beautiful and overwhelmingly so, at one point I literally wept! I think we take for granted this amazing place we all call home. The earth was created by God for His children to enjoy. All the plants and all the creatures are here for us. Well, I do question some of the bugs and reptiles, but overall, it’s an amazing place.

Kachemak Bay, Alaska

We headed down to the Homer Spit south of us for 4 days with our son and his family. I hesitate to say this, but it was one of the singular, most enjoyable 4-day weekends of memory. It was truly a wonderful time. So much love and laughter, grandkids, dogs, and nature. It was so fun. As we headed down there, it started to pour. The rain was insane. And then we’d hit patches of glorious sunshine. The drive is a little over 5 hours in total. And we were towing our trailer, with our dogs. What could go wrong?

On our back window…

We reached camp, and we got settled in and set up, all in the pouring rain. We ate dinner – pizza – in our kids’ camper and then we scurried off to bed, dodging raindrops. The dogs were afraid of the wind and pouring rain. There were so many strange sounds, but for me, it was like white noise and I crashed. Except when the two large poodles decided they were afraid enough they wanted to sleep between us. Sigh. After a rough night of barely any covering, we woke about 6am to people walking by gabbing their heads off, laughter included, and waking our dogs, who barked. And then wanted outside. I rolled over to discover the mattress was soaking wet under my husband’s pillow – the window leaked all night! So that’s what that dripping noise was?!?!? Ha-Ha-Ha. Window was calked later that day.

We greeted our day with glorious sunshine, our coffee maker on auto, and the dogs happily enjoying their breakfast after a romp on the beach. Our weekend “combat camping” was off to a good start. If you do not know what combat camping is, have you heard of “combat fishing”?? That is where fishermen line up in the pristine wilderness after the elusive salmon, making their way upstream. Fishing season in Alaska is no joke. Most of the campers parked alongside us were there for fishing. So for them, lining up their campers in row upon row, in black silt and rocks, was no big deal – they were there for the fish. I am a little more of the “let’s get back to nature” sort of camper. This was definitely not that. This was on a spit out into the bay – not a bush or tree in sight. Just black silt, and rocks, and driftwood. Did I mention rocks? I grew up in Southern California, which had miles upon miles of sandy beaches. Squishing your toes in the warm sand is a particular pleasure. That does not happen along the Spit in Homer. Flip-flops at a minimum! Hubby wore his water-proof boots all the time. The campground was at capacity…even tents dotted the rows of camping spots. Fish on!

Combat Fishing – Russian River, Alaska

The good thing was that most of the people camping were there to fish. So the Spit itself was relatively empty. We could walk our dogs and the grandkids could play in the water and hunt for those elusive shells. Beach combing has become an art form with my grandkids! LOL! They walk, head down, looking for shells, for literally miles. We hiked over 5 miles of shoreline in one day. This grandma was beat. I retreated to the camper, took some Tylenol, and had an afternoon snooze. Five miles on the beach in flip flops, at my age. LOL. Whatever was I thinking? Oh, I brought my hiking boots and poles, but somehow forgot I had them and left them propped up in our trailer’s shower. I plan so well…it’s remembering the plan that gets me.

The Homer Spit. We camped way out at the end. Surrounded by ocean.

The camping was all about the experience with our family. Being right on the ocean with the waves and the boats, even large ferries and tour boats, was amazing. The sounds of the gulls flying overhead. The sounds of the dogs running on the beach. Our grandkids laughing or yelling, “Grandpa, come here and see this!” These were the times we live for. We played cards with the kids and taught them the art of shuffling, gin rummy, and various forms of solitaire. No electronics in sight! We walked miles and miles of coastline, soaking it all in. And like I stated before, I think this was one of the best weekends we have ever had. We relaxed, we just experienced. No agenda. No timelines. We planned meals but also allowed ourselves to eat out and enjoy a meal on picnic benches overlooking the docks, with the sun rising and the day warming up. Experiencing some amazing biscuits and gravy, with outstanding lattes, that I did not have to make for myself – epic! The grandkids wondering why their pancakes tasted weird, so we all sampled them. Who would have thought to flavor flapjacks with orange?! LOL. Then we chose to head out to Anchor Point. Oh my. Just oh my.

Eagles on Anchor Point Beach, Alaska

I don’t want to ever take this place for granted. (Nor the photographer who took this – it was not me). I was literally a couple of feet away from wild bald eagles. I was in awe. At one point my son says, “Mom, are you crying? You are crying! What is going on?” My reply? “Son, I was raised in Southern California where everything is in a box or a cage. These are wild animals, an arm’s length away, in nature, doing natural things. Right in front of me. I am in awe and so very grateful I get to see this. God is amazing and I am humbled.” There were literally 4 bald eagles around us. They were sitting in the trees behind us and on the beach in front of us. Along with dozens of seagulls. They were all vying for the fishermen’s cast-offs. And seeing an eagle fly overhead, carrying a halibut carcass, was so incredible. The eagles defending their food from the gulls. And allowing photographers up close so they could capture these moments. It was a core-memory-making event for me. I will never forget the sound, the smell, the sight of all that nature. I am blessed.

And I think He was standing in Anchor Bay…

I wanted to save all these words in my head because it truly was a remarkable weekend. We got to see the Spit in the summer, during fishing season. What a difference from our first visit during a snow storm in the wintertime! There were so many people. But you know what? Everyone was there to enjoy Homer in the summertime – we were, too. So you have to deal with humanity. LOL. Our next camping trip with our children is already on the books…next stop? Valdez, Alaska.The home of a fishing fleet, waterfalls, glaciers, and hiking. I’ll let you know…

Valdez, Alaska

“…you are the witnesses of these things…”

Today I sat and reviewed the past two weeks of Lent. Hard to believe it has been 15 days already! I re-read my Gratitude Journal. It is amazing how my words have changed, and yet my prayers are still directed towards the same goals! My goals? “To rekindle and return to the life I led that was far more faithful in the past. To be more simple and quiet. Being centered on God’s word, and to wean myself off social media.” Those were taken right out of my journal. I find it interesting that this Lent has been so instructive, and at the same time, has kept me striving to become better and better, in pursuit of the goals I set for Great Lent 15 days ago.

The impact of giving things up, for me, has been to add so many other, and far more fruitful, habits. It is nice to have a silent home most of the day. It is nice to not worry about the most recent posting or status of someone on Facebook. Guess what? Millions and millions of people exist quite happily with no social media accounts. Funnily enough, people who make their money on social media usually do not use it for themselves, and severely limit it for their own children. I wonder what they know? Perhaps they understand that those platforms greatly invade our privacy, and that too much interaction on media platforms is not healthy for our minds or our psyches.

“…you are the witnesses of these things…” Luke 24: 46-48

We see so much happening around us. We hear so much. There is sometimes just too much input. We need to take a break, away from the world. I love that Spring is approaching and we can slowly see the sun more often and longer, and that the skies are an incredible shade of blue. Soon, plants will begin emerging (it may take awhile up here – we have over 7-feet of snow on our front yard!) and birds will be singing. I envision times with family, away from the crowds. I cannot wait to hang out with my husband while he chases those elusive salmon. And I sit with him, as he struggles with his gear, on the quiet of a river bank. I am in the quiet of nature and am often overwhelmed by the beauty around me. I can be there in mere minutes, from where I live, and not hear another human or any sound that is not from nature. And it fills my soul.

I know that I am growing and that this Lenten study is helping me to grow. I am relying on my morning prayer time to center my days, rather than the latest status or posting on social media. I am reading the Bible every day. I am ingesting the Word of God for His people and am learning more and more. I am feeling a warmth and love, a buoyancy in my heart, that I did not have before this. Reading the Psalms every day has lifted my spirit more than I ever thought it would. And I feel blessed. So very blessed.

Sometimes we can allow depression to get the better of us. I know I have. It is my first full winter in Alaska, when sunshine was not seen for months, and we have had weeks and weeks of daily snowfall. I never fully understood the effect of darkness on the psyche. I happily chew my Vitamin D3s every day, but I can assure you, being able to open your drapes and see sunlight is amazing for your mind! But I allowed depression to affect my daily routine. I became despondent in the fact that I was not hopeless, but in the definition of despondent, I do believe I lacked courage. Courage to face the things that were/are lacking in myself. Things that need to go, or things that need to be added. Lent is a blessed time we are given to allow us to dig in and make these changes. I know that for me, even in my “gratitude” journal, I have been able to note the things that need to go, or things that need to be faced and dealt with. I am still nowhere near where I should be. But I faced these things. I wrote them down. I decorated the pages! And I am chipping away at my many and myriad faults, trying to become a healthy and worthwhile Child of God. I know nothing I can do will make me worthy; my faith is a gift. My works do not guarantee a spot on the winning team, but I also know that works done with heaven in mind, and with salvation in mind for those I am working with or for, is loved by God. He appreciates our efforts. He loves our struggle. Read the Book of Job. That details struggles most of us could never imagine. But God rewards perseverance. He loves a heart that gives itself to Him alone. And I am learning more and more as I age, and as I persevere, that God’s choices for us are not the world’s choice for us.

Being “woken up” during Lent, to further work at our faith life, is such a blessing. We, as Christians, are not perfect; only forgiven. And it is a further blessing that each time we fall, the angels themselves are there to help us up again: “For God command His angels to guard all your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12) I know my guardian angel has his hands so very full. But I also know that I can rest and trust in the Word of God for my life. And I am finding such a deep peace, even rest, residing in His Word for me. I may be depressed and have worries; we all have them, but I also know that God has totally surrounded me with His angels and His saints, protecting me. And sometimes, He protects me from myself. Which is probably where I need the most help. I know that turning off, and turning away from, the world, has helped immeasurably. God is so good; He brought this Lenten Study to my attention and in a moment, had me push all the right keys so I could be a part of it. His blessings sometimes blow me away!!

And on this, St. Patrick’s Day, may you always be blessed with faith, friends, and family!