09/11/16
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Family Trees

Trees aren’t perfect. They have knots, sap, crooked trunks, branches missing, and some are just dying for lack of water and nutrients. Family trees are much the same. Some families are broken, cracked, and just plain dying. We may not have the family tree that boasts of wall-worthy ancestral pictures. We may not have the relationships that we hoped for and the fact is that we may never. At some point we have to learn to be alright with that, when we’ve done all that we can do.

We also need to know that our roots are not defined by the earthly family. Yes we were born into one, but what that family is or was to us does not define us. The Creator does. As the years go by I find myself more and more wanting to cultivate, nurture and feed the roots of my Spiritual family; That being first with God. He gave me life and breath. And to this day I breathe because of Him and no other. So it is my grateful privilege to give all my breath, life and energy back to Him.

Next, my Spiritual brothers and sisters require careful attention. More times than not, the body of believers has come through as family for me and I too must also be family to them. It is imperative we continuously remember we are rooted together in Him with love. We need each other. The body of Christ is family.

Every person walking and breathing on this planet has roots. Earthly roots and heavenly roots. When we’ve done all we can to help heal the earthly family tree and its roots but it will not revive, let us not grow forgetful of our Heavenly roots; our heavenly family. Multitudes of brothers and sisters around the world and in our local church body come together as family because of the blood of Jesus. Strangers in time become true sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers; because of Him, we are family. Not a perfect one, but a family just the same.

06/11/16

Gray, With Patches of Blue

The air is heavy with the fragrance of rain. The sky, mostly gray. Sunbeams shine down through the gray clouds as they slowly drift to the east, and patches of blue barely emerge with only a hint in the morning’s light.

The gray clouds, like the gray, dark times in life can feel heavy, and sometimes not hold beauty like a bright blue sky. However, when given a second look those gray clouds, and the gray times in life, offer a beauty like no other. If we can stop for just a moment and hear our Father’s voice saying, “I have you. This is no surprise to me. You are not alone. Take my hand and I will walk you through.”, then I believe the gray, dark times can be some of the most beautiful seasons in our lives. To know that the One who set the stars in the sky, who created all things, sees our brokenness and He is moved. He may not always change the circumstance to an outcome we desire, but we can rest assured that His design and will are perfect. That He is near. That He loves us. We can rest in knowing He is good and that what this broken world offers us as hurt God will make for our good and His glory.

Rejoice in knowing He is God of the gray and the blue skies. Hold on to the patches of blue in your dark times. They represent hope. Hope that brighter days are on the horizon and ultimately, hope that eternity promises never-ending skies of brilliant blue!

“The Lord is near the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

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01/13/16

One For the Books

It is not unlike me to take a look back and reflect on the previous year as I face another birthday. Last year at this time I was amidst a very difficult season in my life. Now that the year of forty-one has passed, flown by really, I sit in amazement of all that God did. I praise him for all that He saved me from. I fall to my knees when I think how many times He showered me with very tangible moments of His loving presence; Moments that will forever pale in comparison to any human interaction.

There were moments this past year that I could hardly breathe from the weight of all that I carried, yet my faithful Father again and again, bestowed mercy after new mercy each and every morning. There were many moments when no one in the whole world knew what I was dealing with or feeling. Not a single human soul. Yet God knew, and it was in those moments that I learned to lean on Him and trust Him in a way that I had never done before. He proved Himself trustworthy. More than that He proved Himself to be the Only One whom I can trust. He showed me that I am made to trust Him alone with all that I am. He showed me that in trusting Him I am free to love others with no strings attached. That I am to need people less and to love them more as I rely on Him for all my needs.

Sometimes our pain is self-inflicted, and sometimes its just life’s circumstances. Sometimes we make choices we deeply regret, but I am convinced that God does make beauty from ashes. However the pain was inflicted, He will restore. I am convinced that He is never done with us so long as we keep humbling ourselves to His gracious hand changing our hearts. I love God more now than I ever have before, but I had to walk a very dark and scary road to know that love. I would not for one second suggest we do things knowingly to test God’s love. But I will say that when we lose our way, when we think we have it all figured out and then wake up to our mess and realize we don’t, He will be there with loving arms wide open. He knows. He really does know all that we face and He sees beyond the tears and hurt to who He is shaping us to be.

I am in awe of God. I am in awe of how great He is not just for His great works, but for just who He is. That He shows His grace and mercy through loving brothers and sisters in Christ. I am in awe that He not only picks us up, dusts us off, polishes us up, but then still invites us to continue learning of Him. That He does not view our past when He sees us. He only sees the blood of His son. He sees what we were meant to be from the beginning and He continues to urge us on to become just that. This year goes down as one for the books. This year will be remembered for me as one of the most difficult, and most precious of all.

As I sit here tonight on the eve of forty-two, I start my second semester at Lincoln Christian University. This fall semester I took a couple theology courses and my eyes opened to a whole new world. (And they nearly fell out of my head from all the reading-Ha!) This spring I’m taking a world view class. As I read the pages of yet another couple of books, and learn of more ways to grow in Him, I’m ready to explode with excitement-what is He going to do with me now? I’m trusting. I’m surrendered. I’m waiting…I’m ready!

08/17/15

My Favorite Place on Earth

The cool wind whips through greyish-green shrubs as birds whistle their song in the distance. Far down in the meadow, cattle graze on sweet green grass, calling out their happiness with an occasional “moo”. Flies and bees buzz around my ears as wispy grey clouds float above me in the bluest of skies. The fragrant wild weeds with pink blossoms grace my senses, taking me deeper into this heaven on earth.
My heart is at home here. A precious refuge I have come so many times before-each time, my life being in a different place. I have wept here, rejoiced here, sat in awe of my Maker here, counted stars in the night sky here, played here, got stuck in the mud here, come here alone, come with ones I love. I have met God here. I could live here and I could die here.
Of all the majestic places in this great land that I have traveled to and seen, my heart is at home here-forever at home here in Grass Valley.

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03/3/15

Following the Sun

The sun is always to our south. Even during the longest summer months of the year when the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest, it’s path is southerly in route. Why do I concern myself with this you ask? Well, as a child whose bedroom window faced north, I rarely, except in those summer months, received direct sunlight into my room. I saw daylight, but the sunlight, in all its beams of glory, only entered my room from June to August. I remember as I child, (not understanding why at the time), how I would sit at the southern part of our house in the direct sunlight.
I didn’t realize until later in life after my diagnosis, how deeply this lack of sunlight in my room affected me. Once I understood my anxiety and depression, and the need for direct sunlight and its great value of vitamin D, I began to purposefully follow the sun.

My house as it sits, faces west in the front and east in the rear. A multitude of windows face south. When I am not at work, it is not uncommon to find me sitting on the floor directly in the sunlight where it shines through the windows. The heat of it’s rays directly on my face, eyes closed, soaking it all in. It is feeding my soul. My body craves what it gives. And in the moments as the light moves across the floor, I follow it, moving with it until it is no longer there.
I find myself more alive in the sun. As it feeds the physiological and psychological parts of me, my spirit is lifted.

And so it is with following the Son. God’s only SON. As I sit in His presence with His love directly gazing on my face, my eyes closed, soaking it all in. He is feeding my soul. My soul craves what He gives. And in the moments as His light moves across my day, I follow Him, moving with Him….but He never “is no longer there”,….this Son is eternal. I find myself more alive in the Son. As I follow the Son, my spirit is lifted. I follow Him always, wherever He leads me, knowing that even in the darkest of nights, His light and goodness always prevail. I am following the Son, for my life depends on His light and His love!

Psalm 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

02/28/15

A Smile in the Sunrise

Where does your first smile come from each day? I had never thought about it much until this morning. I was up very early with the start of sore throat, and could see through the window barely a hint of light in the sky. I could tell by how the dark gray clouds set atop the eastern mountains, that THIS was going to be an amazing sunrise. After laying back down for just a few minutes, and despite feeling tired, I went downstairs for the rocking chair. No, this is not something I do frequently but carrying the gliding rocker upstairs seemed the best idea, as to sit and behold the upcoming masterpiece, so I did! (I don’t recommend doing it either, but if you are home alone and want something done, just do it!)
I placed the chair at the perfect vantage point toward the sliding glass window, grabbed my phone and camera ready to take pictures and then watched… waited.
For several minutes a pale yellow sky held the backdrop of deep ominous clouds. But soon, it all began to change. As if He were painting me my own picture, God’s hand began to outline each cloud with bursts of pink then orange then bright yellow. Clouds higher in the sky held whispy pink shades melding into gray. Closer to the horizon He lit a fire behind the clouds and soon, sun beams shot through spaces in the clouds and blazed in the sky. The colors grew hotter and brighter until the sun itself peeked above the mountains and clouds, and there I found my first smile of this day!
I never took a single picture because I could not take my eyes away from His graceful and beautiful handiwork for one second. I sat, rocking in the chair and smiling at God. He is the only one who can make me smile this way. He does it often. Sometimes I’ll be staring out the window by the kitchen sink looking out at the mountains, and I’ll smile. It could be what I am seeing, or what I am hearing Him say to my heart, or both.
Does God make you smile? He wants to. He is, after all, our greatest joy! I am enormously blessed that He was the reason I first smiled today and that I found my smile in His sunrise.

12/21/14

The Ride

My brown boots and black leather coat are zipped. Sunglasses are on, and helmet is strapped and snapped. The deep rumble of his motorcycle echos in the neighborhood and invisible exhaust fills the air and my nose. It is time for a ride.
The distance between Jeff’s back and my chest is nearly a foot, so my choices in holding on are either to lean completely forward and wrap my arms around him, or to lean back on my seat back and pressure my knees around his waist. Holding on to his waist with my hands is pointless, he’s too far away.  We take off and at first I choose to put pressure on with my knees. The freeway was tight with rush hour traffic making it difficult to open up the throttle and really ride.

Soon enough though we hit the turnoff for Red Rock Canyon. The sun falls behind the shadowed peaks with just a yellow glow behind them. All at once I realize how I haven’t been holding on with my knees. I have let go. I’ve been so enveloped in the majestic views. The feel of the cool wind on my body and blasts of cold air pockets seep through my jacket. Somewhere in the midst of the ride, my shoulders dropped, my knees loosened, and freedom, surrender have taken over. I can almost fall asleep in this relaxed state.

We wind around through the scenic drive loop of the canyon, stopping at the lookout point. The eastern sky is painted with pink and purple hues. Our stomachs rumble along with the motorcycle as we hit the road again toward dinner somewhere.

Why is it that I can be so relaxed on the back of this motorcycle, where danger is really at my every side? One wrong move of another driver and I could be done. Yet I don’t bat an eye. As I watch the road move beneath my feet at nearly eighty miles per hour, while not really holding on, I’m at peace with where I am and with all the risk and possibilities. I trust my driver.

Why is it that I can’t seem to trust God that much? Why can’t I let go with God THAT much? Doesn’t He want me to be able to sit right with Him as He drives me through this life, with all it’s risks and scary possibilities, and be at peace? YES! Yes He does want that for me. He does want me to let go enough to trust that whatever I’m going through now or may face in the future I can be at perfect peace. But most times, I just don’t. At least not with the areas that matter most. Some places in my life it is natural to trust God and I don’t bat an eye. But it is not yet complete trust because it is not in every area of my life.

Trust has always been in the “doing” for me. I’m always trying to fix the situation and trust that God will work in my fixing. Aha!  I am not doing the driving of this motorcycle, I’m just riding and resting; Yes I need to make subtle adjustments to when and how I might lean or hold on at times, but for the most part a ride on the back is not in my doing but in my resting, and trusting…it is peaceful, so it should be with my life. I’m not the driver of this life, yet I act like I am all too often.

10/25/14

A Beacon of Light Toward Home

We went to Laughlin last week for our son’s football game. A place I’d never been in all my thirty four years of living here. I guess it was a place to bypass on my way to other destinations. The scenery was rugged as the mountains bounded down toward the Colorado River. I was glad to be there.

I spent my afternoon and evening with my family watching the game, but most of my attention was toward a precious woman who sat beside me. Our conversation was easy, as if we’d known each other for a long time, yet hadn’t learned all the facts. We asked questions about our history and journeys throughout this crazy life. In her questions I found myself answering over and again with a familiar theme. My life has been spent for the last thirty-four years wrapped up in a five mile radius. My school, all my homes I’ve lived in, church, jobs…seldom has anything fallen out of that area. She said it was eerie in a way, and well, it is. I never left for college. I’ve never left the country…(I’d never been to Laughlin!) We did try to move out of state before our youngest two children were born but God had other plans, so we set down our roots for good.

This is home. A town right outside sin city. But it’s the only home I’ve known. The place where my grade school is a block away from the private school where I teach. This is the town where all my childhood memories were made in. Where I learned directions not from a compass but from mountain ranges and the position of the sun. It’s where I learned to drive, had my first kiss. Where I met and married my husband. Where my three children were all born in the same hospital, just a couple miles from the house. This is home.
I never realized how grateful I am to be pouring back into this community until now. It is my heritage. It is the town where my children will have fond memories to look back on as well.

On the drive home from Laughlin, the road was long and dark. In the distance I saw light reflecting on the clouds and thought the moon was on the rise. But as the road turned and I drove northward I realized the light was my beacon home. The light of sin city and all it’s surrounding suburbs was guiding me home. I know, home forever isn’t found here in my town, I get it. I know the beacon of light toward home forever is in Christ. But I know beyond a shadow of doubt he’s placed me here, kept me in this town to be a light to point others toward Home in Him. There hadn’t really been much doubt but somehow talking about it made my calling all the more clear as I followed the beacon of light toward home.

09/13/14

Alaskan Adventure

Saturday–Day ONE(finding our way)

The day finally arrived….We dropped our kids off, (that was hard, but they would find their own adventures with Nan & Poppa, while Josh was busy with friends in Oregon), went to the airport and headed for our long awaited Alaska. Since our second or third year of marriage Jeff and I wanted to visit Alaska, and here to celebrate twenty years of marriage, the adventure began.  We arrived in Anchorage at 7pm, and set out in our little red Nissan Versa to find our hotel and some much needed food. After driving around we stopped at a hoppin’ place called the Bear Tooth Grill. When a parking lot is full, the food is usually really good. So at 9:30 pm we were eating our meal on a very bright night – the sun isn’t going down any time soon I’ve heard.

After dinner we trekked around town trying to find WalMart. At 10:30 pm still bright as day as we shopped. Finding our way back to the hotel was hilarious. It took us about 15 minutes to get back when really it was less than 5 minutes away. One-way roads are silly we’ve determined, and tomorrow we’d be ready to leave Anchorage.

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Sunday–Day TWO(the long day in the car)

We left Anchorage to head north to Denali National Park. It was a beautiful drive. The mountains are ginormous (that’s pronounced gy-nor-muss) with blankets of snow on their peaks. We drove through Wasilla and stopped there at a mini-mart for a drink, and I looked around for Sarah Palin…that IS her home town after all. At the height of her popularity I could do a Sarah Palin impression pretty well. I thought it would be fun to meet her, but she doesn’t hang out at mini-marts I guess.

Onward north we drove. After awhile we took a side road off of the main two-lane highway to the quaint little village of Talkeetna. Despite the overcast, drizzly late morning, the village was bustling with tourists just like us.  We strolled in and out of each small building that were each bursting at the seams with goods to buy, treats to be eaten and lots of people. We had a nice lunch there and I bought my first moose souvenir at one of the shops. We ate lunch outside at a bar-n-grill type place, Humpy’s Alaskan Alehouse. It was a little joint that was once featured on Man Vs. Food. The burger was to die for and as I sipped on my root beer, all huddled in a hoody, I still couldn’t believe we were in Alaska.

After lunch we walked to a river. It felt good to walk and stretch. The river was a cool gray much like the overcast clouds above us and its width stretched what seemed like a mile across, to my eye, but I’m sure it wasn’t. Its pace was swift and the water cold. Naturegirl was right at home here, but the rain started to come and we needed to move on.

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Back on the road we trekked along ever northward to Denali. I scoured the sides of the road for moose and FINALLY! Another car was stopped in the parking lane, so we figured they must see something. We pulled off to the shoulder and there they were….my first moose siting…50 yards from the road a mama and baby moose grazed in the tall green grass. I went snap-happy with the camera. They were beautiful. Chocolate brown over-sized horses they are for sure. I could have watched them for hours but we had to keep going and they decided to head deep into the woods away from the paparazzi.

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After many hours and millions of trees and beautiful peaks and lots of rain, we reached our bed and breakfast in Healy, Alaska. The Primrose. A white house planted on a gravel driveway in front and a large green lawn in back and trees closing it in all around. We were greeted with a warm welcome note and then soon by the owner Terry. She was kind and made her own home ours. We stayed in the downstairs suite that was inviting after our long day’s drive.

After visiting with Terry for a bit and learning that she drives 200 miles north to Fairbanks every week for groceries….(holy miles on the car batman!), we decided it was time to eat. With not many choices and a recommendation from the local, Terry, we headed to the 49th State Brewery. All I can say is…different, very unique. I really have no other words. We waited for a table outside the large white canvas tent. We were then seated at a table right next to the night’s entertainment….Ukelele Russ. We were highly entertained and had never heard anything like him, ever. He took songs from the beloved 80’s and knocked them out one by one on that little ukelele! Don’t believe me? Check him out on youtube….he’s hilarious, full of personality and the man can sing! It was fun, but we were exhausted…after our food we really needed to hit the pillows.

Monday–Day THREE(the long day in the green bus)

We woke to clouds and had little hope of seeing Mt. McKinley as we drove the few miles back south to the entrance of Denali. Once we parked the car we would take an 85 mile bus ride in and then back out of the national park. But first a quick call to the kids….we boarded the old school bus painted forest green bound for and named Wonder Lake. Our driver Ned was strict about the bus rules but had a job to do in getting us safely to each point and back again. We were charged by Ned to yell “STOP!” if we saw wildlife so he could stop the bus for pictures. Throughout the dusty 170 mile round trip loop we were greeted time and again with peaks and valleys, rivers and streams, tundra and taiga (spruce forests). The amount of green to behold here is a wonder for this desert girl! Many times my fellow passengers yelled stop and we gazed through our camera lenses and binoculars to find the Dall sheep and caribou (aka reindeer) dotting the steep, green mountain sides. And many times one lady in particular would yell STOP! and we’d all look only to see a large boulder on a hillside. She then would laugh at herself and we laughed with her. We were blessed with three grizzly bear sitings, five or six moose, one being a bull moose far on a hill difficult to see even through binoculars, but we could see his very enormous antlers. Stunning! Massive! Gorgeous! The bears were fun to watch too. One in particular was rolling around in the tundra, playing with his feet up in the air, and scratching his ears much like our dog. In a far off distance we also saw a wolf, which I understand is rare for most visitors. We saw a reddish fox scampering in and out of the bush at one point along the way. Very close to the road we saw a type of artic geese, three ptarmigan-the Alaskan State bird (the p is silent)- and one golden eagle was perched on a ridge beside the dusty road. A pica, an Artic rodent, with a mouse head and rat body was also playing on a ledge of rocks. He wasn’t my favorite.

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As we wound around the road through the mountains and valleys our driver Ned stopped at certain vantage points to see McKinley. We got lucky that day. The two peaks of McKinley poked through the clouds with grandeur and grace. It was a glorious wonder that was quickly taken away as we moved closer into the clouds until soon we were consumed by a heavy gray mist.

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Returning from the eleven hour bus ride exhausted we knew we’d experienced more than most at Denali National Park, as our driver noted to us most people do not see all that we saw in one day.

Spent, from the long day we drove toward “home”, our little bed and breakfast stopping only to grab a bite to eat at The Prospector. A delicious pizzeria with 49 drafts of beer on tap of which we did not partake.

Back at the B&B, we slumped down in a tired contentedness around 9:00pm. As tired as I was I still couldn’t sleep as I gazed out the window on a well lit night as if it were only 5:00pm.

Tuesday–Day FOUR(the really really long day in the car)

After loading up the red rental and a few snapshots of the Primrose B&B we headed to Homer. We knew it would be a long day in the car, but we are road trippers through and through.

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Driving the same road only a few days before I thought it funny how everything looked so different going the opposite direction in the morning sun light instead of the afternoon rain. The drive felt new. We wound through hills and forest and I looked for my bull moose. He didn’t show, but once again on the opposite side of the road shoulder another mama and baby grazed on wild flowers. Snappity-snap went the Nikon and ten plus pictures later we continued on.

Ever south we drove. We stopped at a wood-carving place on the side of the road that we’d seen on our way up. People are so talented. It was time to gas up in Wasilla, and grab lunch. Sarah Palin was still nowhere in sight, neither was Russia.

Back through Anchorage we hit the coastline of the Turnagain Arm. Wow! Seeing the tall peaks meet shoreline….breathtaking! For the next several miles my eyes went up and down. Up the grassy then snow-capped peaks then back down to the low-tide muddy banks. Soon the highway turned inland away from the water and snaked through narrow canyons. We wound our way through the majestic postcard scenery marveling at the abundance of rivers, lakes and streams here in Alaska. Water is to Alaska what dry dirt is to the desert. Miles upon miles, depths upon depths, wave upon wave. Each river and stream is named. There are so many! Who has seen them all to have named them all? Every creek, stream, river, lake, bay-every ounce of water has a name. Some are relevant like the Kenai River (pronounced Key-nye, as we were corrected ever so rudely by a persnickety local), which runs across the Kenai peninsula. But others were named oddly like a creek we passed named for the nearest mile marker. They must have run out of ideas for that one. Nevertheless, the green, the water, the peaks, the wildlife put this Naturegirl on sensory overload in a good way. At times my neck craned so high to see the mountain tops, I felt like I was in The Sound of Music!

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Mile upon mile the hand of God was evident. I truly thought I’d seen it all until we pulled into the town of Soldotna. As if the heavens opened and beams of light came down, I beheld the greatest sight of all…a moose-themed bakery and gift shop!  Whaaaaat?!?!? There’s a good chance I could have stayed right there in Soldtona the rest of our trip but after a good thirty minutes of browsing, oodling, smelling and buying, I got a hint we should move on. Many dollars, many moose items, and a sticky bun later we rolled on down the scenic highway toward Homer. “I’ll be back,” I muttered to The Moose Is Loose bakery.

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Finally. We made it to Homer, AK ten hours after we stared from Healy. The ride was fun (even though I hadn’t felt well the whole day) and now we’d made it. Our first order of business-a rest stop. So the first building we came to, a gas station and ice cream shop hailing twenty-four flavors of soft-serve, I ran in and NOW we could move on.  We pulled in, that bright warm (and when I saw warm I mean not 53′ more like 64′) summer evening, at the “Welcome to Homer” sign and Kachemak bay viewing area. The next part of our journey was about to begin. What would Homer have in store? We were going to be here 6 nights, we were eager to find out.

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We arrived at the cabin house, The Waterman. It was just like the pictures- beautiful! We plopped our bags and like hungry bears went back out to find food. Visiting the only grocery store we could find in town thus far -Safeway- we grabbed frozen dinners, (because there’s only two fast food joints in town and neither of them sounded appetizing) went back home to heat, eat and sleep!

Wednesday–Day FIVE(the much needed R & R day)

We woke to rain and were still quite sleepy and decided a long morning in our pajamas was long over due on this vacation, and quite needed.

Later that afternoon we drove to the spit, Homer Spit, to check in for Jeff’s Halibut fishing trip the next day. (The spit, is an arm of land that juts off the coastline. It is where the harbor is, as well as rows of shops, restaurants, and even a camp ground is found.) We checked him in, bought our fishing licenses and then walked up the spit browsing shops in the light rain.

Next stop, back to Safeway to get food for the week. We had our list, checked it twice and bought other stuff too. While checking out we wondered if we’d eat it all, just the two of us. I hadn’t cooked for just the two of us in 14 years! Back at the Waterman House we put it all away, made salsa and our first home cooked meal in days. It was good to eat something not fried.

I found going to bed a difficult task in Alaska. Tired as my body said I was, the light outside at 10:30pm beckoned my eyes and told my mind I might miss something if I went to bed. So most nights during the whole trip I stayed up way later than usual gazing out the windows on the mountains bounding down to the bay.

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Thursday–Day SIX(expectation, disappointment, transition, and FUN!)

Up early for Jeff’s Halibut excursion we drove to the spit in the rain. I stayed in the car, listening to the rain plop down, waiting for a thumb’s up before I would set out for a day alone. I looked up through the windshield to a thumbs down. Minutes later he returned to explain that the rain we were having was a big storm at sea causing large swells and the halibut trip was cancelled. Buh-mer!

Somewhat deflated, we drove toward the house. With no other plans we took a drive out toward the Kilcher Homestead-you know those people on that Alaska -The Last Frontier show. I was sure I’d seen the Charlotte lady driving an orange Subaru the day before. We never found the homestead but enjoyed our scenic drive anyway, stopping here and there for a picture of the many glaciers across the bay, flowers and views.

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On the way back to the cabin we talked about what to do the rest of the day, since it lay before us like a blank canvas, and decided to see about catching the ferry to Seldovia across Kachemak Bay. We scurried here and there around the spit looking for the ferry boat ramp. In the nick of time we bought our tickets and boarded the big warm ferry boat.

To my surprise and delight there was seating inside! For some reason I had it in my head that a ferry was an outside kind of boat, like a floating flatbed truck. I had pictured myself half froze to death upon arrival in Seldovia, but I guess people ferries are comfy with seats and warmth and complimentary coffee and tea. (What does this desert rat know about ferries?)

The ride over to Seldovia was about forty-five minutes. It was bouncy at times, like a drop in your stomach kind of feeling as the big boat caught air on the waves and slapped back down, but it was fun. The sea otters floated on their backs as we went by. Their hands and feet sticking straight up in the air.

The drizzle continued as we exited the ferry onto the dock but I was completely distracted from the wet and chill by a beautiful flower petal looking jelly fish bobbing in the water near the dock. (With every creature, mountain peak, and flower I’ve seen I’m still in awe that people don’t know our creator.)  We walked not even another fifty feet to look up and see an eagle perched on an awning. I stood on a taller plank of the dock’s railing to get a better angle with my lens but was told through a loud speaker-“please don’t stand on the dock rail!”

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Moving on we went to the Seldovia welcome center and museum. Seldovia is a tiny village on the south side of Kachemak Bay. Home to about two hundred people year round it is rich in history of the natives who lived there. During the summer months, May through September, like Homer, it is hoppin’ with tourists. But not today. The rain must have kept them away.

We walked about the little town and made our way to the Otterbaun Trailhead. This trail would lead us to tide pools where the sea otters play. A pink sign posted said the boardwalk was “closed” in need of repair so we wouldn’t make it to the otters but we decided to hike anyway, maybe they fixed it.

The trail led into a dense forest but not typical of the ones we’d seen so far. It was more like a rain forest, showcasing ferns, drooping trees and plants with unusually large leaves, called Devil’s Club. And when I say big leaves I mean as big as my whole torso sized leaves, with thorns underneath. There were wildflowers all around too and as we walked we slipped on the muddy trail trudging up the hill, all the while I watched for bear or moose. Underneath the cabana of green and the drips of rain plopping on the leaves beside us, we made our way to the broken boardwalk.  We decided to sit on a small bench, and listen to the ocean crash as we unpacked our lunches. I secretly hoped the bears wouldn’t smell my salami and cheese sandwich and come eat me for lunch.

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We passed salmon berries as we headed back down the trail. They look like raspberries but are the color of salmon flesh. Jeff picked one and almost ate it, but not being a risk taker he decided not to eat it and I decided that was good idea, because if he dropped dead of salmon berry poison (which we didn’t know if they are poisonous or not) there’d be no way I could get him back through this muddy rain forest trail alone, and I didn’t want the bears to help me. So we left the berries for the bears we never saw, and made our way to the beginning of the trail, but not before passing a pair of men’s Hanes underwear in the woods….hmmm.

We walked through the rest of the village and parked our buns on a park bench carved with eagles on each side. Chuckling only a little at their humorous city parks -by city parks I mean, each included one picnic table, a bench and colorful blooming flowers, all in about a 500 square foot area. The largest park we saw in the village had a tiny playground. It was cute, quaint, and charming.

Having seen all there was to see in this tiny village with an hour and a half left before the ferry would take us back to Homer, we parked ourselves again at a picnic table under a newly built wooden cabana that still smelled of freshly cut logs. We kept dry from the drizzle but after cooling down from the hike I was chilled to the bone, so we headed to the ice cream shop to see about some hot cocoa. Yes, I said hot cocoa in an ice cream shop. While others were getting cones with scoops in the fifty degree drizzle I got a very hot cocoa. Just what these desert rat bones needed to break the chill.

Speaking of ice cream, Alaskans love their ice cream. Ice cream and Subarus. There’s an abundance of both. Ice cream shops dot the roads and streets every few miles no kidding. Its the coldest place ever and they eat ice cream even in their fifty below winters. As for the Subarus, well if I saw one I saw two hundred. From the new bright orange one that I think Charlottle Kilcher drives to a rusted out 70’s model parked at the Homer welcome spot. I saw hundreds of Subarus these past ten days, so many that I might talk myself into one someday-they grew on me. Every time I saw one I’d chime “Su-ba-ru” in a sing song kind of way. It got to be so often though that I had to quit, it kept interrupting our conversation.

And while on the subject of notable things in Alaska, specifically Homer-the halibut fishing capital of the world- there are a ton of fishing boats. In the harbor, in boat yards…everywhere fishing boats. But I decided that some fishing boats are creepy boats. They’re old, rusty and just sitting there looking creepy and I’m waiting for a creepy clown to pop its head out of a creepy broken window! I shutter. Yes there are many boats, not all were creepy, but most were creepy, like an old man sitting on his porch drinking a beer in his skivvies kind of creepy. Well if I had to live with them creepy boats for a week, I’d just put my head down and not look.-shiver, shiver, shiver…

But back to the hot cocoa in the ice cream shop in Seldovia. We visited with the shop owner for a while until it was time to board the ferry. Alaskans are a rare breed. It takes a special person to live there year round. And perhaps they would say the same for those of us who live in the desert year round with 115′ summer days. The range between 50’below to 115′ leaves the interpretation of being cold and hot on a very relative scale. I’ll take the heat.

We boarded the ferry for Homer. On the way back we were blessed to site a sperm whale in the distance. Our captain stopped for a brief photo op should the whale decide to surface again. When it did, we could see him blow the water from his top. Difficult to catch, we only managed a picture of its large tail before descending to the depths of the ocean. Then on our way we soon returned to the spit to end our ferry trip.

From it’s disappointing start to it’s grand, whale-top blowing finish, it was a splendid day indeed. Funny how when you allow what’s meant to be take over what you wish it to be, it turns out fine in the end.

Friday–Day SEVEN(the very very early morning)

Two AM came quicker than we’d have liked having gone to bed at ten. But our early morning fishing day arrived. Out the door by 2:30am we headed for the spit to meet our fishing guide, Gary of Silverfin Fishing. It was nearly dark. Not quite pitch black, but close. It would only be that way for an hour or so and then daylight would be upon us once again.

We met up with our guide and group to gear up in our not-so-very-sexy, thigh-high waders. They sure kept my legs warm though. We walked to the lagoon and Gary pointed out the height of the tide at the moment by placing his cooler at the water line. As he taught us about the use of fishing with a fly reel, he reminded us to look at the waterline. The tide had moved three feet within just a couple of minutes. It was rushing back out and where the lagoon water rushed back out to the bay was where we’d catch our fish.

We walked outside the lagoon and over to the rushing current. After listening carefully to all his directions, we cast our rods, and waited. It wasn’t too long before the first fish was caught, then the second, then the third, by the others in the group. There were six in the group all together and as the daylight grew brighter and brighter behind gray clouds I was still the only one without a fish. I was casting right where they wanted me to, doing all they showed me to do, but still I had no fish. Now, if you know me and know me well, you might still be surprised by me should we ever fish together. Something of a competitive side comes out when I fish, to some it might look like I’m angry, but I’m not. Irritated that I haven’t caught yet, maybe, but I like to call it determination and focus. So the guide, who was gutting the fish already caught,  had his assistant with him. He sent the assistant over to me for a little extra coaching. He kept telling me where to stand, where to cast. I could see the current moving, and I could see the wake of the school of silver salmon moving about. One last cast and bam-o! Because we are using fly reels, we don’t just snag and reel it in. They taught us to let the fish fight and tire him out some. Even though he wasn’t a huge fish, I think by the time I got him to shore I was way more tired than it was. But it was pretty. They wanted me to smile but I was still so focused and ready to catch more all I could muster was a thumbs up for now.

The water had now receded out of the lagoon to a point where now there were fish stuck in the lagoon that we could fish from. I was ready. Jeff had caught three to my one. I wasn’t quitting now even though our time was about up. We agreed to pay for more time, and began fishing in the lagoon.

The lagoon proved to be a more fruitful site for me. The others from the group were gone and I was focused. After baiting the hook and adjusting the bobber, (the guide does all that for you, so nice!) I began casting. The crazy thing about these fish is the way they swim. Unlike the fish I’m used to fishing for, these silver salmon or coho salmon swim very close to the surface in their school, you can see the wake coming toward you like jaws coming, except without the fin and the creepy violin music. So as I watched the wake come toward me and could see the very direction they were moving I learned to wait and cast my bait right in front of them or the midst of them. Yep, that proved to be very helpful indeed. Two more fish.

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Our time was up. I tied with Jeff. We each caught three. But the best part was knowing we would take all this very yummy salmon home to fill the freezer. Whoo-hoo! In the midst of our excitement, we received a call from our friend that was keeping our dog, Archie wasn’t doing well. He would know more later from the vet.

Having been up since two in the morning and it was now 9:30am, we went back to the house to shower and devoured a very delicious late morning breakfast, and slept the afternoon waiting for a phone call.  Our dear friend took Archie to his vet where it was determined that Archie had a stroke. The prognosis was a seventy percent chance of recovery but the next forty-eight hours would be critical. It was a waiting game. With our kids not knowing, us not being able to be there for the old boy, my heart sank.

Saturday–Day EIGHT(home alone and halibut)

We were up early off to the spit as Jeff had rescheduled his halibut fishing trip with another guide company, and I would have the day alone. I dropped him off and took a drive around town. The stores I had wanted to stop in were not open yet so I went back to the house to write, straighten up and start laundry. Yes I said laundry. When I’m on vacation I love doing the laundry. I love taking home a suitcase full of clean clothes!

Later in the morning I left the quiet cabin for the quaint little book store I’d wanted to visit. I loved it in there. I found books, journals and postcards, some with moose on them. It was relaxing just to browse by myself. There was a tiny coffee bar and tables in the back of the store. A few local ladies sat at the tables knitting and chatting about life’s troubles. Yes…Homer was quaint indeed but not as I’d first expected.

After leaving the bookstore I went to a very large gift shop off the main road. Wow! Moose moose and more moose, and bears, and t-shirts and Elvis stuff too! Everything you could possibly think of was in this gift shop, including…..wait for it……yes, an ice cream shop. Actually it was just a freezer displaying the twelve or so buckets of ice cream and the same lady who would ring you up at the gift shop counter, would come over and scoop your ice cream. I made a few purchases and headed for home to wait for Jeff’s call.

In the afternoon he called. He caught two 12lb halibut. That was more fish going back home with us. I’d never eaten halibut before but I was ready to try it. I’m not a fish person really and it took me well into adulthood to even like salmon, but he caught it, so we’ll eat it. He said it was a fun trip. The boat was loaded with 16 other people and everyone caught. A successful day I would say.

We relaxed the evening away, watching the moon rise over the mountains across the bay in the 11:30pm daylight. Still so strange. We’d heard only a little update on Archie that he was the same, and it was still too soon to say what would happen.

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Sunday–Day NINE…(kayak anyone?)

Our last full day in Homer arrived quicker than we thought. We thought a fun way to spend the morning would be to kayak, and so we did.

Neither of us had ever kayaked before so while on the boat taxi over to the other side of the bay we decided we’d paddle together in one kayak. (The one and only thing I regret of our whole trip.) After a few small instructions from our young whipper-snapper guide, we got into our teal green two seat kayak. The tide was at an extreme low as we paddled from shore.
Our guide, Kenny who was incredibly knowledgeable about sea life, was able to tell us all about the different sea creatures we were seeing plastered to the rocks. He explained that at the extreme low tide such as we were seeing, the sea anemone, sea stars and other creatures do not like being exposed out of the water, but it was to our human advantage they were. We saw so many things. We paddled along and he pointed out jellyfish, types of kelp, we saw bald eagle, puffins. It was yet another credit to the creator. As we paddled out to gull island, which is basically huge rocks poking out of the water, we could smell the birds and their after math. They don’t call it gull island for nothing.

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The sun was beaming for the first time in days. Our guide shirtless with a life vest, and I was bundled in a hoody and beanie cap, same as I’d been all week. While I’d grown a little warm from paddling, 58′ is not my idea of warmth. I was happy to have stayed bundled as the sun quickly hid and the drizzle began. As we chatted with our guide we got to talking about the reality TV craze of Alaska. He confirmed my suspicions of seeing Charlotte Kilcher in an orange Subaru, it was her! And Atz Sr. frequents town for his coffee. He shared some other truths which really spoke of the great lengths the producers go through to convey what they want….interesting!

An hour and a half later or more as we paddled back to the dock the tide had already risen twenty plus feet and everything looked so different. The starfish we’d seen clinging to the rock sides were now happily submerged below. Yet another guide told us we were fortunate to have seen all that we did. As for my regret…I let my fear of thinking I couldn’t do it alone keep me from being adventurous. The kayak was simple and I totally could have done it by myself.

The water taxi took us back to the spit with complimentary hot cocoa. We still had half a day before us. We made a few stops and headed back to the Waterman house to accomplish some laundry and packing. An update on Archie said that he was eating and the doctor was growing more hopeful. We would be home late Monday night, so we’d pick him up Tuesday morning. We kept praying he’d make it.

By late afternoon I was having a hankerin’ for ice cream. I knew where to find it. That place we’d first stopped on the way in. They had twenty-four soft serve flavors! After debating for twenty minutes, we decided to head out for the ice cream and to take that picture in front of the welcome sign before we left Homer for good. At the ice cream place, the lady at the counter said I looked like Tina Fey and did I get that a lot? I said no, but I get that I look like Sarah Palin often….Tina Fey does a Sarah Palin thing,…so I guess its all the same.

Accomplishing both the ice cream and welcome sign tasks and seeing a few more bald eagle, we decided to drive around. We’d wondered about how to get to the crest of the hillside that sits above Homer. We knew there had to be a way. One road led to another, and another turn led us to the ridge. We drove along with a bird’s eye view of the bay. We came to a spot where we could see the Homer spit near perfectly, except for a big bush in the way. We took a few snapshots. I even sat on the roof of the car trying to get a better shot. It was pretty good and we were satisfied. We got back in the car and drove not even a quarter mile only to find a photo viewing pullout that overlooks the spit with an unobstructed view. HA!  So he got out the tripod, set the timer and viola! An even better group of pictures of the spit. (I just love our adventures.)

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Back at the Waterman, we zipped up the last of our bags and left out only what we needed for the morning. It was already time to go….those six nights felt like an eternity when I was missing my kids, but went so fast now that it was time to leave. We enjoyed the deliciousness of our catch. Grilled salmon and halibut with a side of salad and rice. A perfect ending.

Monday–Day Ten…(on the road again!)

It is a good thing we don’t mind driving in the car because this trip was a lot of that. Anchorage was about 5 hours back up north, and that’s where the airport is.

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We loaded up and hit the road about 6:00am stopping at the fish place to pick up our box of fish. It was all cleaned, vacuum sealed in packets, frozen and ready to head home on the plane with us. We needed plenty of time to get to Anchorage including another stop at that amazing moose bakery….The Moose is Loose!  Oh I was looking forward to that more than words could say.

Pulling out of town we talked about how well it turned out despite some of our disappointments, and the town not being what we’d thought it would be. Homer was a good place. A place we’d love to visit again. Not because we were impressed at first but because it grew on us. We had to find our adventure despite the things we didn’t expect, and in that we found an amazing week together.

On the road, we looked for my bull moose and dreamed of the sweet goodness that lay ahead in Soldotna. Sign after yellow sign said “moose crossing” but they were in hiding. Except for one last siting we had. Another mama and baby moose literally on our side of the road chopping on grass. This was the closest we’d get. A few more snaps of the camera and onward. We decided that since the mamas and babies were all about, we’d only stop for a bull moose photo at this point. We did have a plane to catch after all.

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Some time later, an hour and half or more, we were approaching Soldotna and the moose mecca. We’d both wanted a sweet treat, and I’d saved just enough money for one last moose something or other to bring home. On our side of the road we stopped for gas then headed across the street to The Moose is Loose. What?! What is this? The parking lot is empty….we pull up….the sign says CLOSED ON MONDAY. You’ve got to be kidding me! It was a small death. The best place I’d ever been I could not visit again. Uugh! Sigh…sniff. We agonized over not having a donut or something for many miles after that. I was so sad, so very sad. Thankfully we’d seen it the first time around and so, I’d be happy to unpack those fun things I bought when we got home.

River after river, creek after creek we crept closer to the Turnagain Arm and Anchorage and our time to leave. Outside of Anchorage we found a place to stop and walk. There are boardwalks built over a marshy animal preserve, set up with viewing scopes in every direction. We scanned for a bear and a moose, my last chance, as the airport was moments away, but none were found. It was a beautiful place to stop and I noted if I lived in Anchorage I could see myself coming here to write, often. (But that wouldn’t happen because I couldn’t live in Alaska as beautiful as it is, its just too cold.)

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After a quick lunch, we returned the rental car that now looked like it had been through a mud storm, and made our way through security. On the other side lay a welcome sight….more shops. One in particular was called Moosellaneous. While I didn’t purchase anything in there it was fun to browse.

A quick call to the kids, we soon boarded our plane. From Anchorage to Seattle we’d fly coach again as we had on our way up. But the last leg from Seattle to Las Vegas we upgraded to First Class, something we’d never ever done before! But after 20 years together we thought it was well deserved and it was worth it….warm cookies, roomy seats, attentive service,…aaah! Now THAT was fantastic and a perfect way to end our Alaskan adventure!

Home was grand. Darkness. Heat. My family. It was good to be home. But this portion of my life, these ten days in Alaska will live with me forever.

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Epilogue

We picked Archie up from the vet. It was a sad sight indeed. His hind end was very week and he staggered and stammered about as if he’d drank a few bowls of beer. But he hadn’t. The doc said that this may be the best he ever gets. Back home our hearts broke as he could barely walk without bumping into chairs, walls, etc. Could we watch this the rest of his life? The doc said he wasn’t in pain and he didn’t realize he was sick like people do, so it was just a matter of a new normal.

He didn’t eat all day Tuesday. We changed his food by Wednesday and got him to eat an egg. Late afternoon Josh returned from his adventure and with all of us finally back together under the same roof Archie did a 180′. By Friday he was near eighty percent back to normal, eating, smiling, wagging his tail. The haze lifted from his eyes and the twinkle was back!

We were together. We loved on him together and we loved each other exchanging stories from all that we each experienced. They say home is where the heart is. That has never been more true for me than that week coming home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08/17/14

Stained With Grace

How to suffer graciously….a concept I’ve never bothered to ponder before. But since going under the knife, this thought keeps coming back. What in the world does it mean to suffer graciously and why would I even think about doing it? It kind of sounds like an oxymoron. And the thought of suffering in and of itself would make me want to run…until now.

Being gracious during hardship or heartache is not a character trait I’m known for. I mentioned in the previous post about wrestling with God, digging my heels in. I desire to obey Him in my heart yet in my flesh I still want what I want. That, if you’ve ever had a front row seat to watch, is NOT a gracious sight to behold. When suffering, I’ve been everything but gracious. And this is not said as to be hard on myself, ( I hear my accusers -wink wink), but to merely state the facts.

Much like an old piece of furniture that desperately needs refinished, it must first be stripped of all its layers and years of paint coats, and stains. It must be sanded down over and over and over until finally it has reached its barest form, smooth and clean. Then and only then can the grainy lines and knots be seen and it is ready to accept its new stain and finish.  You could say that’s just where I am since the surgery of my heart.  As I’ve continued to convalesce with thoughts that are not my own,  this gracious suffering has hooked me and so I am on a quest to find out what it looks like, what it means. I am ready for the new stain and finish that God desires to apply to my heart and life. I’m ready to follow him wherever He takes me, to give up the deepest longings of my flesh, to live only for His love and to learn to suffer graciously. The way Jesus suffered for me. I want to be stained with His grace and with that l must remember that He does not promise me a life of earthly happiness, but in whatever I suffer He does promise me an abiding joy found only in Him. Thank you Jesus.