Stop having a love affair with the couch….ouch!!!

Palmer June 2016

One of the best things about living in a large state that is sparsely populated is that you get to meet some of the most interesting people, and see some amazing sights. This is a photo of a small town in Alaska by the name of Palmer. This was taken facing east, from the Pavilion in their downtown area. Downtown area. Full of traffic. Yeah, right! This is still something I am getting used to – a different definition of “downtown.” The wind was blowing (typical for that area) and we were attending their Master Gardener’s Annual Spring Plant Sale. My hubby and I had a date for the afternoon. We had so much fun talking to the gardeners and learning about what plants grow in what zones (how different it is from our last home in WA state, or before that in sunny SoCal).  One character was named Rex and he commented that his wife is the brains, he just lifts heavy stuff! I liked him immediately and after talking to him, we got two red raspberries for our yard, and one for our son’s yard. I love fresh berries!  We also purchased an Alaskan Tundra Honeyberry plant. If you love blueberries, you will love honeyberries!

Alaskan Tundra Honey Berry Plant

It is so interesting to learn new ways of doing old things, like planting, and harvesting. It is also great to stretch your taste buds now and then. I have come to adore Halibut. I can honestly say that cold water fish are a delicacy I had never really known, until I sampled fresh, Alaskan fish. I have developed a love of Halibut, even though I find the fish themselves to be gross. And it does not help they are bottom-feeders and have both eyes on one side of their heads. Ugh. But man oh man, when my daughter-in-law batters and fries that with some broccoli and cauliflower (also battered and fried) with her home-made honey-mustard sauce (I don’t like honey mustard anything, but I adore her sauce) and we sit down to feast with a locally brewed craft beer, it doesn’t get much better than that! Alaskan summers at their best! Thank goodness for fishing charters because at $30/lb in the stores, you don’t want to waste a morsel!

Fried Halibut

Another of my favorite things about summers in Alaska is the wildlife and the fishing (my hubby could fish daily, if he could figure out how to make it work!!! Ha-Ha). We have had black bears stroll down our block; we’ve already seen a mamma moose have a calf at the local Lowe’s parking lot; and the long days of sunshine. The wildlife, yes, is amazing, but so are the many gorgeous views of green everywhere! There is simply no better place, in my mind, than Alaska in the summertime. It is stunning. Flowers and wild berries, trees of so many shades of green. And if you have a hankering for water, well, we have over 1 million lakes! There is water everywhere! We live across the street from a creek and less than a mile from a river, and less than 5 miles from two lakes. The area below is less than 10 minutes from my house.

Eagle River Nature Center

I can get in my car and drive 10 minutes, and just 10 miles, up the road and gaze at this. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to call this place home. And I readily share it. This year, we are expecting quite a few guests, some of whom will be back-to-back. The furniture stores seriously have these sales around Memorial Day where they promote “guest sleeping options” with sales on blow-up mattresses, futons, fold-out couches, Murphy beds, bunk beds…you name it. So many people have Alaska on their bucket list and I am more than happy to show them around our beautiful state. Below is a photo of the local Reindeer Farm. You can go there and pet them, feed them, and look at all the babies. It is such fun! I firmly believe everyone should visit here at least once in their lifetimes. You will not regret it. Promise!

Reindeer Farm.2016

There are upsides to a small community; there are downsides. This state is the largest in the union (sorry Texas) and has one of the smallest populations. We are rated 47th in population, while being #1 in size. And that is good, but also hard. We have hamlets (villages) of people across the state, but many are accessible only by plane or boat. My son recently worked on an island for two weeks, accessible by boat or plane. They flew in, but their food/supplies had to be barged in. The island is inhabited by seagulls, sea lions, and puffins. No people. That is not uncommon in a state like Alaska. The fact of the matter is that it is a hard place to live in. It is nothing like the home we had in WA – on the 14th green of a golf course. In CA, we lived in a variety of places, even on farms. But there was no wild. But it was hard to find true wilderness in such a heavily populated state. There was no real weather danger, either. There were stores 10 minutes away. We have stores within 10 minutes here as well, but oftentimes the weather is too severe to get to them. This life is not for everyone. I get that. I still love it.

monkimage

The same thing goes for how we choose to worship. My daughter-in-law described it to a neighbor by saying that we preferred a more “European” sort of Church. I guess that is true. But it is a little more than that. We love our Melkite faith. It is a different expression of Christianity. It is a much smaller community than say Roman Catholic or Pentecostal Christians. We are fewer in number and the form of worship is so very old and has not changed, nor adapted to more modern ideas of worship, making it as not well spread or known as others. (It is also historically an Arabic Church, from the Middle East). But the essence of it, and the root of it, is rich and full of our beloved Scriptures. In the early years of the Church, only the Holy Men of the Church could even read. To read was not something the common man could do. And that is one of the reasons the Icons in the Church became integral to people’s faith. They told stories of scenes from the Bible, and shared the lives of the Saints who went before us. And I love to share it with others. We have icons all over our home, and at times, it makes people uncomfortable because it is so different. It is like some of the road blocks I experience when sharing Essential Oils with people. They smell good, yes they do. However, their origins are ancient and the use of them is older than recorded history. But it makes some people uncomfortable, because it is different and people think it is a fad, or the latest thing. And it requires you to think differently about common practices in our homes and in our lives.

young-living-eos

When you have a treasure, you want to hoard it. Protect it. Savor it. Like Rumplestiltskin and his golden thread. But there comes a time when you have to open the doors and share. There are so many instances when the small communities we all belong to become warped and sick, and doors need to be opened, the air refreshed and new blood needs to be allowed in. And then there are times when you need to move on, to experience a new treasure; opening your minds, hearts, and souls to something that is “other” to your norm. Like making a bucket list of places to see. And for me, I am wanting to share. My home, my faith, my oils, my life. Is it scary to share? It is!

dog on sofa closeup_26205

I’ve been challenged lately to stop having a love affair with my couch. Now, realistically, I’m not in love with my couch. It’s okay, but not my dream couch. But I love being at home. I do. I have been a stay-at-home mom for most of my 31+ years of marriage. I have also homeschooled all our kids (our oldest son is 30). I am at home a lot. And I like it there. I got comfortable being at home. I am, by nature, gregarious. But as I have aged and been at home, I have discovered I like being alone a lot, too. More and more I enjoy the quiet of living in a more rural environment with the sounds of the winds in the trees all I can hear. Or being inside on a blustery, and very snowy day, with just the crackling of our wood stove to listen to. And to share what I want to share with others, well, that means I have to leave my house. I have to operate outside of my comfort zone. I also have to step outside of the small community I have developed for myself and stretch my social skills muscles. And it makes me uncomfortable…

get uncomfortable

There are groups that I need to get away from and out of, and that is also taxing. I am developing new contacts and learning to turn on those social muscles more. But I have to tell you, living where I do, it is sooooooooo easy to become isolated. So easy to see no one except my family on a daily basis. However, there is so much I want to share with others. I want to share this state with friends who have never ventured this far. I want to share my faith with those who have questions, or perhaps do not understand my Byzantine mindset. We are growing our vegetables from seeds in a raised bed garden! I would love to share that journey with people. And I very much want to share my healthier lifestyle since I have discovered Essential Oils and the many products I use, based on Essential Oils and the science behind them. I live pretty much a chemical-free life in what I use to clean my home, my dishes, my clothing, my teeth, my face, my body, my hair…all because of Essential Oils. Why would I not want to share all of this? Because it makes both me, and the person I am sharing it with, uncomfortable. Look, I don’t want to make money off anyone. I truly do not. So for the oils part, I just want to share how it has impacted my life for the better and how I have incorporated them into every aspect of my life. As for my faith, that, too, makes many people uncomfortable. I do not want to take your faith from you, nor do I expect you to “come over” to my way of thinking. It is just fun to share information and history and styles of worship. It’s fun to share new ways of doing old things…even eating freshly grown vegetables out of your own garden. The lotion you use – I make my own, using Essential Oils! Would you like to learn how? It’s time…I need to start…

comfort zone

Would you care to join me?

 

 

 

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“…Place your rest in Him.”

2Thessalonians3-3This morning, our youngest son is off to do some service hours, more than likely lasting all day, working with his Scout Troop at a Salvation Army Food Bank.  This year it is falling on Holy Saturday.  Normally, in our family, we keep from Good Friday through the Easter Vigil, a quiet, contemplative time.  We try to keep the quiet, somber mood of Good Friday going, until “Christ is Risen!” is shouted late into the night on Saturday night (really, Sunday morning!!).  This year, however, is slightly different.  Our focus is different, and our practice is different.

We will be attending Divine Liturgy, and the community here celebrates the Resurrection tomorrow morning, whereas we are used to a rather robust all-nighter at our old parish.  It sort of fits with our lives right now.  Yesterday was a major step in faith for our family, in that we formally announced that we are relocating. We have set dates and we have made plans….we are moving on in our lives, totally relying on the promises of faith.  We are striving for a better life, a better environment for our family to thrive.  But it is mired with risk; much risk.  We are willing to take that step, however, because we all feel God is calling us to this decision.  It has been many years in the making.

The service our son is doing today, on what would normally be a quiet day for us, is emblematic of the direction in which we are going – we are stepping out of our comfort zone to make a stand in faith.  It is uncomfortable to take a stand.  It means being different.  It means being risky.  It means doing something that people like us never do!  We always plan everything. We never just go for it. Until now.

All Merciful Savior Vashon Island

All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery

Abbot Tryphon wrote another wonderful blog this morning. He titled it “Hopelessness; When you feel Hopeless” and this is what he said:

“It is easy to resist taking care of yourself if you run at full speed as though you are the only one who can get things done. We all need to set priorities, making sure we focus on Christ and not let that which is transitory rule our lives. If you pay attention to your health, family and spiritual life, everything else will take care of itself. Don’t let your life be so full of work that you don’t have time to focus on the things that bring you joy. Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.

If you focus only on the things that haven’t been done and ignore the little things that bring joy to your life, you’ll find yourself in a rut. If you are constantly thinking of where you’d rather be living, or the job you’d rather have, or the work that still needs to be completed, you’ll wake up one day and realize all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have.” (Abbot Tryphon, All Merciful Savior Orthodox Christian Monastery; Vashon Island, WA).

This commentary on modern life sums up almost perfectly the conclusions my husband and I have come to, which in turn motivated our step-out in faith.  My husband realized that he has been missing life; it is passing him by; we both stopped and realized that so many years have gone by and we somehow feel like we missed something along the way.  When we relocated to the Pacific Northwest, so many of our friends were concerned for us because of the different weather pattern, most especially all the days of darkness and wetness.  My husband noticed no real changes.  He told me that even in SoCal, weather really wasn’t a factor in his life.  He never noticed missing the sunshine.  He said he would drive to work in the dark, and drive home in the dark – up here or down there, it didn’t make much difference.  And that gave us both pause to think: why did he not notice there was no sunshine in WA?  He worked so many hours, he rarely saw it anyway!  Because he was missing the sun, what else was he missing? What were we all missing?

Both of our older sons’ wives are expecting babies right now.  One of their wives is due in May, the other in October.  For our older son, this is his second child.  Our youngest son, aged 14, came downstairs the other day and we just stopped what we were doing and looked at him.  He had just showered and shaved and he looked – well, he looked a lot older than he had the day before!  When did our 5-week preemie grow up to be a father, expecting his second child?  When did my curly-mopped blondie become a college graduate, married man, and expectant father?  When did our 14-year old start regularly shaving?  Time passed has us by and we did not notice.  Our lives have been “so full of work, that you don’t have time to notice the things that bring you joy,” to quote Abbot Tryphon.

We have allowed the ‘busy-ness’ of life to interfere with living our lives.  We’ve created this bubble around us of habit.  Early mornings and late evenings, living the demands of life.   And we are sort of grabbing onto the shirt-tails of our youngest son.  Don’t misunderstand, our children’s younger days were a joy. We homeschooled both our older sons until they went to Catholic High Schools, and they have been involved in Little League, and Ice Hockey leagues, High School sports teams, and even Rugby.  So we did a lot with them.  We used to go hunting with our Springer Spaniels regularly; we had many wind surfing weekends and times spent traveling across states to spend vacations with extended family members.  Our youngest son is still homeschooled and he is involved in Scouting as well as the Civil Air Patrol, so we do a lot with him, as well. It is just that when you finally do stop and re-evaluate your life, it is surprising to realize that it has been 30 years, the kids are grown and wait a second – we want to slow this process down a little!

Now we are taking deep breaths, praying, and we are moving 2600+ miles to be near our oldest son and his family.  We want Sunday dinners and grandchildren running around the front porch.  We want the chaos an extended family living nearby brings.  We want more hours of the day invested in these last precious years we have with our youngest son at home.  We want to take the time to know our adult children as adults, to enjoy their company, and to relish those moments of being grandparents.  We want to slow this ridiculous pace down and be able to languish in the long coffees we share with our children, and the cookie-making-moments with our grandchildren.  We want to hold onto and relish life, realizing that “all you’ve needed for happiness has been right in front of you. Don’t wait to enjoy what you already have,” as Abbot Tryphon is warning us.

And so we’ve prayed and begged God to give us direction and if He has to employ a 2×4 to get our attention, to please do that.  We believe our prayers have been answered, as so many things are falling into place.  There are some major gaps, but that is where we step out in Faith.  The Holy Fathers posted this quote today, “You cannot learn to see just because someone tells you to do so. For that, you require your own natural power of sight. In the same way, you cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer. Prayer has its own special teacher in God, who ‘teaches man knowledge’ (Ps. 93:10). He grants the prayer of him who prays. And He blesses the years of the just.”
(St John Climacus)  We firmly take hold of the promise that, “He grants the prayer of him who prays.” and we step out in faith, clinging to Our Lord.

The next few weeks, we will be outside of our comfort zone.  We will begin this new era of life by changing how we celebrate Holy Week and we will move on from there.  My husband is with our son, at the Scouting event, sharing time with him.  It is one tiny step in faith towards a life lived, keeping these words in the forefront, “Pay attention when the Lord is calling you to slow down and place your rest in Him.”  We rest in His promises and we move forward in prayer. I think it’s good to shake things up a bit now and then; and I am eager to explore this non-comfort-zone part of our lives and see where it leads us. As we prepare to shout, “Alithos anesti” “He is Risen”! “Haqan Qam”! “He is Risen”! we also prepare to take a step out in faith.

Joshua 1,9