“expecting different results…”

 

Fireweed lake

(Fireweed blooming in Alaska)

I adore the summertime weather up here. Yesterday, it was actually 98-degrees about 4:00 pm.  For this part of Alaska, that is just over-the-top-hot! I was melting. It’s so hard to explain to those who have not travelled or lived this far north, but the sun is very different. When it is on you, you definitely feel it. And the sun is not in the place I would expect it to be when I look up, having lived south most of my life, at the times I look for it. 9:30-10:00 pm look much like 2:00 pm back in Southern California. It is still weird to wear sunglasses at 11:00 pm.

 

Midnight sun AK

(Midnight sun in AK)

Today I have been puttering in my yard. It amazes me how fast things grow with all this sunshine. We have just experienced a week of gloomy, rainy weather and the grass got so tall. The amazing thing, too, is that after we have no rain for a day or two, our plants are falling over, dying. So today I have been pulling off the dead leaves and flowers and soaking everything. My basil was so pretty about a week ago, but today its’ amazing purple blooms were just sagging and I thought I might have lost it. But I pruned away and soaked it, then put it in a sunnier spot, and after the past few hours of sun-worship, it looks amazing. Whew. And I sit here, after playing with our vegetables, in a completely different outfit, with hair dripping wet. Me and the hose had an altercation. It did not want to stay where I wanted it to, pointing where I wanted it to point, watering what I wanted it to water! We argued, it soaked me, but I finally balanced it so it is watering almost our entire raised bed vegetable garden.

yard sprinkler

(My 1950s era sprinkler head!)

I was determined to win! It is an old fashioned way to spray water on your garden, but you know what? It works amazingly well. There is something to be said for the old and true ways of doing things. Our ancestors spent eons thinking this stuff up and we are constantly trying to “improve” on their ideas, when sometimes the original was amazing and perfect, and still works the best.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 2and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. This quote is also known as the “Great Commission” wherein Christ instructs His Apostles to take what He has taught them, and to teach others. And to make disciples of “all” nations. This was the original request Christ made to his Apostles, and they in turn have requested that we, too, do the same. It dates back to Biblical times and it is still true today, perhaps even more so.

Runner-Bean-Flowers

(Pole beans in bloom)

As I played with our pole beans, which are flowering and reaching for places to climb, I wove them along the wires my husband strung around our garden for them. I had to be extremely gentle with them, as when they are in this phase of growing, they are so fragile. And I thought of me and how I have guided my children, in all their growth-phases and when they were their most fragile, and their strongest. And I know, deep in my soul, that my heart was in the right place. I want to spend eternity surrounded by the Grace of God, and being with family and friends who also chose to follow Christ and His Word in our lives. However, if I am being honest, I know there have been opportunities where I have missed sharing my faith, and where I have perhaps not lead my children as well as I could have. And it weighs on me.

Success sharing faith

Just now, I had to go back outside to move the sprinkler so I could get the end row of our vegetables. I argued with that darn sprinkler, but I got it to water just the plants I wanted it to water. I got a little wet, but I approached it smarter this time! The plants back there are the ones who also see the least sunshine during our long days. But I am determined, that through working with them, weeding, watering, and paying attention to their needs, that I will reap a harvest. This is just such a perfect analogy for our struggles in life, and with those who we love who do not walk the same path we walk. We can look around us and see those who we know are struggling to survive in this crazy world. Some get no light given to them at all, walking through life in relative darkness. Some are not tended to regularly, nor do they receive adequate watering. But having struggled with my sprinkler of choice (my chosen faith expression) I know sort of how the sprinkler works, what I can expect from it, and how to approach it to make it work the best for my garden. We who claim to have faith in Christ all know this. We struggle, we wrestle, we sometimes get soaking wet and have to change and start over. But we learn and know more or less what to expect.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

This quote is broadly credited as having been said by Albert Einstein. And the man would have experienced this in his quest for scientific knowledge! Today it aptly applied to my struggle with my sprinkler. I could not approach it as I had at first, or nothing would be watered but me! My hair is still wet and it helps remind me of failing, but learning from that failure, and not repeating it. I have tried and failed, but got back up again over and over again in the past 31 years of parenting. Raising children, and witnessing our faith to them, is more about how we live our lives, rather than memorizing religious dogma or facts. Don’t get me wrong, we used the Baltimore Catechism with our kids. However, I truly believe that our children are sponges. They soak up everything about our lives as a family, while growing up. They see how we treat them and their siblings, and how my husband and I treat each other. They see how we interact with others. Right now, one of our adult children and family have neighbors with lots of children. These neighbor kids are constantly looking over the fence or coming over, and they are parroting things that are obviously being said by their parents. These neighbor children have asked my adult children if they are Catholic, and then asked why they don’t go to church. And that’s from their 8-year-old! They question and say things that are not from a child’s mind. Their parents purport to be very strong in their faith, and they homeschool, and they attend Church very regularly – all the hallmarks of good kids. But what they are teaching their children by their actions and their words are completely undoing all that homeschooling and church-going. And it is a horrible example to my family, who struggle mightily with everything to do with faith, most especially those who act all holy and perfect, but are far from it. It does nothing but make my adult kids less likely to pursue church attendance, nor to teach their own children about the faith.

neighbor fence

I have learned, over the years, that approach and first impressions are so very important. If we crash and burn when trying to share our faith with others, well, we need to get back in there and repeat, repeat, repeat. We cannot give up or stop, but we can repeat in a myriad of ways, too. I leaned today how to maneuver my hose so that I could control water flow, and the position of that darned sprinkler. I had to get soaking wet, first, though. But in the end, the Lord controls the harvest. I have to eventually trust in Him to touch the souls of those I lead to Him. My children are making adult choices these days. I can no longer claim responsibility for their choices. They are on their own in this world, and before God. The majority have children of their own they are raising. Our youngest is almost 18 and is starting to make choices – he is planning his future and making decisions about his career path, as well as friends and socializing opportunities. Yes, sometimes I am a nervous wreck. But that being said, I have also shared my faith with him by living it out in front of him. I have struggled and he has witnessed that struggle and we have talked about it at length. He shares his view on things and so I am really loosening up on those motherly apron-strings. I pray that I have shared what he needs to hear and see and learn with him, before he goes out among the wolves of this world. But all I can do, as a parent, is pray. “God has got this!” as Mark Hart the Bible Geek would say.

Chipmonks

We jokingly say in our family that the eldest plowed the road, the middle one paved it, and the youngest is just skating on through. Those can be seen as stages in how we learn, as well. Sometimes we struggle, but hopefully we grow and learn. We may, in the middle of life, back slide and slip up, but getting back on track and cruising along again is a good thing. We learned a lot from raising our kids. We got wet so often…we moved that sprinkler over and over again….we had to keep moving it and re-arranging it as the years went by. But now, we have a garden that is reaping an amazing harvest of wonderful grandchildren we adore, we have some pretty awesome adult kids, and the future is still ahead of us.  We are blessed, but we are not sitting back and just allowing the weeds to take over – even if our children are adults. We still wrestle with that sprinkler! We live our faith, we strive to be good examples, and we constantly pray and nurture those we love. God has blessed our efforts and we pray our family tree keeps growing, resting in the love of God.

family gathering

“…a way of escape…”

St Nikon of Optina

If you have read my posts before, you know we recently relocated as far north as you can live and still be in the US of A.  We are slowly acclimatizing ourselves to this new environment.  And we promised ourselves that with this immense change in location, we would try to become better, different people.  It is a rare opportunity to leave aspects of yourself behind and to start over; a clean slate.  We have tried, and are still trying.  St. Nikon of Optina says, “A place cannot save you because there is no place where you can flee from yourself.” And it is amazing to me that even though we acknowledged who we were beforehand, those odd little ticks and habits we wanted to leave behind us, we  came here, aware, but with all our baggage seemingly intact.  I read a cute saying today that stated something to the effect that, “A glass 50% full of water also has 50% air, so technically, it is 100% full.  My husband and I are opposites in that I always tend to look on the bright side, and prefer to think of my glasses as half full, whereas my husband is the half empty kind of guy. He told me yesterday that he sees the glass half empty, because that is the reality of it, but then he looks to see how he can fill that glass.  He is a practical person, whereas I am sort of a dreamer. I tend to believe in things unseen, whereas he is more like St. Thomas, wanting to place his hands in the wounds of Christ.  (Sorry for using “whereas” so much, but it seemed the perfect word!!). For the past 30 years, it has been a winning combination.  We are up against the wall once again in our lives, and our personalities are playing a role in how we approach these days.  Once in awhile, we feel battered and bruised, and flat out scared; but we forge ahead.

We recently watched the movie, “Life of Pi.” What a beautifully photographed (cinema-graphed?) film.  The scenery was amazing.  Some of the portions filmed at night on the open seas were just short of spectacular (and please don’t ruin it and tell me they were all CG!!).  The protagonist of the story, Picene, is beset with tragedy and the story is how he copes with it.  He is in a shipwreck at sea and his entire family drowns.  They are transporting some of the animals from their Zoo in India to a new location in Canada.  Several of the animals survive and are on a rescue boat with Pi.  He tells of his adventure at making his way to becoming a professor in Canada, through the re-telling of his adventures at sea.  And he tells the author listening to his tale that when he hears it, he will come to believe in God.  It struck me that through adversity, we turn to God and we lean heavily on what we have been taught and come to believe in.  Pi was an interesting young man growing up and was all-at-once a practicing Hindu, Muslim, and Christian.  His explanation of why was wonderful, with his belief that all religions tells bits and pieces of the reality he wanted to share in his story; that there is a God.

Life-of-Pi-WhaleWhen you visually see God in action, as in the story of the Life of Pi, your faith is cemented and you find peace.  Picene uses his beliefs to help him get through something that defied rational explanation, something that was difficult for him to face. His entire family drowned at sea and he was just a young teenager at the time.  He survives 277 days on the open sea, with just a “tiger” as his companion.  His faith allowed him to reach that Mexican shore, where he was finally rescued, and where the tiger, Richard Parker, just walks away into the jungle. The story leaves us, the reader or viewer, with a choice of which version of Picene’s adventure we choose to believe in. Along with the writer he is speaking to in the story, I like the animal version best – that version gives me God, and hope, and the strength of spirit I sometimes need when I have to move forward. I recommend the movie and the book!!

The timing of this movie was perfect for me.  I realize that the joys I find along the way mitigate any sorrow or difficulty I might encounter.  While we were working today on applying for jobs, our daughter-in-law dropped by with our grandson and some decaf coffee from our new favorite coffee shop, Jitters.  The moments spent with his grandson on his lap gave my husband a reprieve and infused him with a reason to keep plugging away. God promises us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13).  The temptation to despair is one that God does not want us to face: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)  Our Lord gives us glimpses into His eternity; moments of pure spiritual bliss. These moments are there for us to cling to when all else seems lost, when we question the whys and wherefores of our days and our choices, when we feel despondent or despairing.  And we can cling to, and long for more of, the peace that only comes from God. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

And when that bouncing baby grandson smiles up at you with those amazing dimples, you know that all will be right in this world.  God works in us and in His time.  “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Life-of-Pi-Ending-Explained