“…the kindness I sought…”

Today is one of those days when this saying came springing itself into my mind. Some days, all we can do is pray. Have you ever had the feeling that you are standing next to a damn that is about to give way? Or near a complex set of dominoes someone made into a design, and they are about to all tumble? Or rocks, just starting their landslide, which you know you need to get out of the way from?  I am feeling that pressure more and more as each day passes by. When will it start? When will that little pebble holding the damn have enough pressure to give way, and the wall of water will come raging down the ravine in my life?

This past winter, the state of California saw more water than it has in years. The deserts are gloriously green. The pastures are blooming. But the damns are not doing so well. Apparently, every 100 years or so, California gets an abundance of water. And this was that year, according to some pundits commenting on it. I recall growing up in California and we always had enough water. I have memories of Saturday mornings with the smell of fresh cut lawns, the sounds of mowers in the distance, and the sounds of the sprinklers all popping up and spreading moisture over those hungry, grassy, front yards, coming though open windows – with no screens. Ah, the joy of those mornings. (Until the 70s when we learned about rationing gas, and water. Not sure why they coincided, but they did). And now the damns that have needed upgrading and repair are desperately trying to hold back this “100 years” of water.

I can hardly wait until Spring is well and truly here. I long for these mountain vistas and having our windows open; the smells and sounds of springtime in a mountainous region pouring into our stuffing, winterized houses! And trust me, living where I do, Spring and the joy it brings is a real thing! And it is Holy Week, meaning Easter/Pascha is sneaking right up on us. And in the back of my mind, I struggle with this impending doom; a sense that all the dominoes are about ready to fall.

And so on a day like today, I am trying to surround myself in prayer. Because “I called to the Lord with my mouth; praise was upon my tongue….But God did hear and listened to my voice in prayer. Blessed be God, who did not refuse me the kindness I sought in prayer.” Psalm 66:17-20 And I also read today, “Blessed be the Lord day by day; God, our salvation, who carries us.” Psalm 68:20  I know the Lord holds my heart in His hands. That God has what is best for me always in His heart. I trust God completely. And so to ease this sense of things beginning to happen (that will pick up the pace a tad bit) I cling to these Psalms, and to the Scriptures. Today, I read about the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet in the book of John, Chapter 13, verses 1-17. In this reading, I grasped onto some sentences that I had not noticed before: “Not all of you are clean” and “Amen, Amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master…” and the one that really stood out for me was, “I have given you a model to follow.”

This model is not just one of service to others, which it is mostly used to illustrate. For me, I saw it as a total way of going through life. We truly need to serve others; no slave is greater than his master. But we also need, at least to me, to see this model for more than just Thursday’s service during Holy Week. I need to work on following the model Christ has left for me – in all things. And so when I am stressed and worried over dominoes crashing in my life, or that damn breaking and my life being flooded in so many ways, I must always, always, look to Christ as my model.

Christ accepted, willing, the Cup from His Father. He knew what was coming; the pain, the heartbreak of being betrayed. He willingly accepted His Father’s Will for His life. That is the model He gave us to follow. And so, with the things in my life seeming so insignificant in light of Christ’s sacrifice for me, the very least I can do is to model my life on his example and to accept the Cup offered to me. And God will get me through it. All of it. Because He promised me that He would never leave me, ever.

“..a thousand around us will be saved..”

Man before cloudsAfter the events this week in Oklahoma, following their devastating tornadoes, I am thinking of the gift of life. It is so precious and so very fragile.  A priest friend of ours used to always remind us, “We are not guaranteed our next breath.”  He is very right.  Each breath I am taking, I am feeling, noticing.  Watching the photos and video on TV about Oklahoma, speaking with family members who live there, and friends who have family members living there, makes you take a look around you at the blessings you have…God saw fit to allow you to wake another day.  Give thanks for that, alone.  But there is so very much more to thank God for each and every day.

Two days ago, our day was pretty amazing for us, on several fronts.  My husband was called for several interviews, and the companies are ones he would very much like to work for…so we are blessed that our future looks brighter than it did a day before that.  Also, we were sent several videos of our new grand daughter.  She was wiggling and cooing, and even sneezing.  I loved watching her smile and stretch her toes, and reach out for both her daddy and her mommy.  It was so wonderful to see her react when they spoke to her; she knows their voices.  It reminded me of John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”  And it also reminded me how instinctual it is that our children know us and willingly follow us, just as we know Our Lord and follow Him.  Sometimes not willingly, as we have that gift of free will, which habitually gets in our own way.  My grand daughter was adorable and pretty darn perfect.  Her sneezes were greeted with laughter and, “God Bless You’s” from her parents. It was a precious peek into their new lives as a family.  My husband and I both wept with the joy of it.

The other wonderful news for us is that our older son and his wife found out the baby they are expecting in October is a little girl!  We are all so thrilled.  In our family, there are few few daughters (they have usually arrived via a marriage!!) and it is nice to have little girls coming into our family!!  Having three sons was great for me.  God knew, in His infinite wisdom, I would fail miserably with all things girlie.  I cannot do hair, for one thing.  Which is why I think I was blessed with straight hair I could put in a pony tail or part on the side and have it resemble some sort of style.  Ha-Ha!  And I am not your lace-wearing, doily-using grandma.  I prefer t-shirts and jeans.  I always wear dresses to Church, but they are simple and have no frills. It is just not me.  However, I am excited to shop for two grand daughters.  I now have someone to leave my teacup collection to; my inherited jewelery to; my antique dolls to.  I am so excited to explore that side of me.

When I was raising my sons, we spent an entire year homeschooling using a themed curriculum – it was Medieval History. We built castles, moats, trebuchets, swords, coats of arms and armor. We participated yearly in family hunting and all of us went to Hunter’s Safety and have our own shot guns.  (I got a bottle of perfume and a new shotgun on my 40th birthday! How cool was that?!?).  My sons played hockey and were very rough and tumble boys.  And now those sons are becoming fathers to little girls.  What a change they are in for!  Already we see their softer side emerging.  Our oldest son, upon learning they were having a girl, exclaimed, “Bring on the pink!”  I love it. Of course, he is thinking pink cammo and Carharts! Ha-Ha!

God has blessed us over and over again.  We get an opportunity to start over in a new state, doing new types of work (St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us).  We are living in a new place near our children.  And we are open to new things, experiencing new aspects of life.  On a little field trip our daughter-in-law arranged for us, we visited the Knik River and felt glacier melt up close and personal.  The mountains felt close enough to touch and moved me in ways I cannot fully express.  Next, we saw fishing sites my husband and son have visited, off-roading favorite places, and then we went to an actual Caribou Farm!  How exciting to see.  My son and I were able to feed the young Caribou right out of our hands.  We saw babies frolicking with their mamas out in the fields.  We saw (and smelled – ugh!!) Elk in their state of molting off their winter fur (all the animals are molting these days), met Dolly the Bison and Denali the Moose.  I was overwhelmed at the size and manner of these exotic creatures.  I need to keep reminding myself they are native to this land and I am the newcomer!  They live here, too!

Caribou Farm2Today we are praying for the intercession of St. Rita, patroness of the Impossible, to help us in our time of need.  We appreciate so much the gifts from Our Lord.  We have these amazing gifts of life all around us.  Christ has told us not to worry, that He provides for us and we firmly believe that.  Matthew 6:25-34 tells us: “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.”  We do, however, take responsibility for our part and we pray and try to keep our minds clear and our thoughts on God.  In the book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” Elder Thaddeus tells us,  “Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”  Abbot Tryphon told us in his post today, ‘Saint Saraphim of Sarov said that if we “acquire peace, a thousand around us will be saved,’ for having been created in the image of God, and we are part of the Divine thought that was made material in time and space. We not only influence those around us with our thoughts, but we even influence the cosmos. If we focus on the negative, those negative thoughts impact everyone around us, and even the whole world. The Elder Thaddeus tells us we can be either very good, or very bad, depending on the thoughts and desires we breed.  There is a lot that is wrong with the world, but it begins with us. If there is to be peace in our world, it must begin with me. If hatred, anger, envy, lust, and spite, are to end, it must end with me. When we allow destructive thoughts to destroy our peace, the peace around us is destroyed. We can not blame the world, or even those around us, for that which happens around us, radiates from us. Blame for all that is wrong with the world, can not be placed beyond our own hearts.”

Today I opt to focus on the positive, on the gift of life in amongst the angst and trials of living in this crazy world.  I choose to keep my eye on the prize – eternity with God.  He promises us that if we focus on our souls and our love of God, everything else will fall into place.  I think I will take Him up on that…the glass is very much half full!!

Knik River.AK