“…burst out in songs of thanksgiving…”

SOOOO much going on!! We are in escrow on a new house. Always seems to be a few bumps in the road. Trying to be organized and diligent. But sometimes my stomach just cannot handle the stresses assailing us right now. And today, it is not happy – my stomach that is.

Yesterday, our youngest graduated from High School. We homeschool but use a system here that is amazing, and is called IDEA. They put on a very nice graduation, combining three districts, which means we had 110 graduates on the stage. Some of these students had to FLY in to be here. We have a large state. Coming from a public school background myself, I know that 110 students is not a large number; I think we had 300+ in my class. But they do something really cool – they have the parents award the students their diplomas (the fake ones) and each student gets to say a little something if they want to. Then the family poses for photos. This was done at our performing arts center downtown. On a stage. With 110 students. Yeah. It was over 2 hours. The speeches were short and sweet; the musical performances were amazing; the student’s receiving their diplomas was …. long. Even the Master of Ceremonies (the Dean) was ready to get that show on the road! LOL! My stomach had been upset as we were rushing out of the house to get there in time for rehearsal (they do it before the ceremony) and to find a parking spot. I still get lost going downtown, much to my family’s amusement. I had a map the school provided with me, so that helped, but I am still not used to where I am going. Once we parked, all my nerves settled. I wasn’t even that nervous going up on the stage. As I went up, I reminded myself the hard part was over. We completed 12 years of schooling and he was done! All that was left was a hug and handing him that fake diploma…and photos. LOL. But it wreaked havoc on my system…the nerves, then eating out and far too much, and now this escrow hiccup this morning…my tummy is letting me know enough is enough. And I need to listen. Sometimes too much stress is NOT healthy.

“The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:7

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews 10:35

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

I found these quotes in a lovely article on the Proverbs 31 site by Linda Evans Shepherd, the author of, “The Stress Cure.” She has a blog, too. And her thoughts were great. And then, as I read in my Proverbs for today, “A house is built by wisdom.” (Proverbs 24:3) and then I read…“If you fall under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10). And these verses spoke to me. And to my stomach. I keep trying to rely on myself. And with so many things up in the air right now in our lives, I am letting the evil one whisper in my ear. And I need to shut that down and focus on God’s promises to us all.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13).

That quote is where we get the adage, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” And I know I am tempted to give in to the negative, which is what my stomach is trying to remind me of. I cannot rejoice in my blessings if I am constantly focusing on the minor things going awry in my life. The way out that the Lord gives me is my faith. And to trust in those around me, working for my good. Rushing to appointments and getting lost in traffic, or not being able to get a parking spot, those all things common to everyone. And the Lord did not let me down and I believe that is where my peace came from. As soon as I pulled into that parking spot yesterday, my soul was at rest. Today, as my stomach roiled against me and I had to fight the urge to actually throw up, I was able to calm myself by reaching for my faith. And for me, it is currently the Book of Proverbs, and my Bible Journaling. And guess what? The Lord did not let me down, again. He is always there to buoy us against the “wickedness and snares of the devil”….

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle,
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil;
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into hell
Satan, and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

I am not alone. The angels and the saints are doing celestial battles for me. I have prayer warriors all around me, that I can call on to pray for me. And when I focus on my many blessings, I realize how foolish I am to get myself all worked up about things. I certainly have far more blessings than trials. And it is almost turning my back on God when I allow my stresses to override my sense of well-being and blessings. That, my friends, is our stupid free will inserting itself into our lives. It is a blessing, to freely think for myself, but my head often gets in-between me and my faith. I need to reign it in and rely more on my inner heart, or the nous, the place where God resides within me, to lead the way.

“Mind is invisibly engaged in battle with the mind––the demon’s mind with our mind. And for this reason it is needful for us to cry out of the depths at each moment to Christ, that He will drive away from us the demon’s mind and give us the prize of victory, as He loves men.”  Hesychius of Jerusalem, Writings from the Philokalia On the Prayer of the Heart, p 289

And so I am declaring myself to be a “stress-free” zone! I am choosing to focus on the Word of God for me, and not that other guy…the bad one who only seeks to destroy. The future is God’s…the end of the story is that God wins. I need to remind myself of that and just relax in His promises for me, for all of us who believe. Won’t you join me?

“…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