Project 52 #27: Ferrying

Those of you who live here know: we may live 40 miles from Ketchikan as the raven flies, but unless you own a boat equipped to handle the bigger waters of Clarence Strait and the weather happens to be fair, or want to pay the higher price to take a float plane over, it takes a good deal longer than 40 minutes to get there. The most economical and sure (voyage cancellations are rare compared air travel) mode of travel is by the daily ferry. A day trip to Ketchikan via ferry involves over an hour drive to the ferry terminal, a three hour voyage, about four hours to do what you need to do in the city, then another three hour voyage back, and another hour plus drive home.

I find the ferry ride to be very enjoyable. Unless the water is particularly rough, it’s a relaxing, slow-paced ride. The boat is roomy, and the seats are comfortable. The galley food is good, and there’s almost always someone you know on the ferry, or at least someone who knows someone you know. Conversations are easy, and they all start with either: “Where are you from?” or “Where are you going to?” From there, our unique mutual connection to a remote island in southeast Alaska is all the common ground necessary for a full-fledged conversation.

And if there’s no one to talk to, or you don’t want to talk, it’s beautiful to just stand out on the deck, staring over the edge at the foamy waves rhythmically peeling away from the hull of the vessel, or watching the misty island mountains alternately appear and then fade into the fog, or the sunlight play chase with the clouds across the vast and wild panorama of the Inside Passage. Maybe you’ll see a whale or two; certainly you’ll feel the ocean wind in your face.

Once you’re chilled by that, there’s the $3 bottomless cup of coffee waiting to warm you in the galley inside, or more if you missed breakfast in the rush of a 5:30 AM departure or didn’t have time to grab some lunch in the Ketchikan while you were trying to get as much shopping done as possible in your limited 4-hour window of time (that was me this week).

There’s a gift in the slowness of the journey, more the feeling of being a part of the land and the sea instead of speeding through it, of having time to breathe, finally start the stitching project you bought the pattern for five years ago, have a long conversation with someone about homeschooling, buy a banana split and take an hour to eat it, play a game with a friend who brought cards, maybe even be lulled to sleep by the steady drone of the ship’s motors and the rhythmic shifting of the waves.

On this particular voyage, I was out on the deck taking pictures. A man who had also been quietly gazing out at the landscape nearby noted me using my camera and commented enthusiastically, “”It sure is beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is!” I agreed heartily.

Is this your first time here, too?” he queries.

I smile. “No,” and the words that come out my mouth next still feel both wonderful and foreign to me, “I live here.”

“And you’re still taking pictures!” he said, approvingly. “But if I lived here, I think I’d still be taking pictures, too.”

“Others went out to sea in ships, conducting trade on the mighty waters.

They saw the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.” (Psalm 107:23-24)

Fun fact: Three pictures in this post were taken on our trip through Ketchikan in January, the rest were taken this last week in July. Can you guess which ones are which?

Project 52 #25: Swimming With Jellyfish

There are some capsules of time that are just sheer beauty and wonder. They’re the kind you always remember, the kind where you don’t even have to close your eyes to remember…

the wonder and delight of tiptoeing along through the water with the jellyfish swirling magically around you and purple starfish at your feet…

the way the waves of a passing cruise ship wanted to lift your feet right off the sand…

that exhilarating moment of plunging all the way in and listening to your children laugh in delight and come piling in after you…

the way your body tingled when you came up out of the cold ocean into the hot sunshine of a rare southeast Alaskan heatwave, and the way that feeling lasted for hours afterwards…

or the way the beach peas were trailing wild over the bleached driftwood when the sun sank to the treetops and you clambered down the pebbly bank to go home.

I think that those of us who live in the places where summer is fleeting are less likely to take it for granted. In some ways, I am grateful that it’s fleeting, because the beauty of it isn’t lost on me and I am not afraid to stop and savor it before the days slip through my fingers like sand, give way to autumn and winter, and are gone forever.

P.S. Yep, we’re swimming in our clothes. When you feel like swimming, but didn’t think to bring your swimsuit, one of the great delights and freedoms of life is that you don’t have to let that stop you.

Also—the clear jellies pictured here are lovely and harmless, but don’t worry—we kept our eyes open for the stinging varieties!

“There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Psalm 4:6-7)

Project 52 #24: Fawns, Saltwater, and Thimbleberry Blossoms

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath…

keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart…

…But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You…

The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him…

to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.” (excerpts from 1 Kings 8, Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple)

About the pictures: This is a Sitka blacktail doe with her tiny fawn, the first mama to kindly pose for me (after trying to get a shot of a pair all week to no avail). They are more diminutive than the whitetail deer I’ve been familiar with for most of my life, almost goat-like, and those babies are about the cutest thing you’ve ever stopped your car to take pictures of.

We celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday at the beach, and the waves were wild, big and wonderful!

The thimble berries have such showy flowers, they’re the equivalent to bushes of white wild roses around town! But this is not to say that the roses themselves haven’t been beautiful.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #23: Hello, Poppies!

When we first moved to our little rented farm in MN, one of the first things I envisioned was a row of bright red giant Oriental poppies along the white milk house, and I began working towards this goal immediately.

Unfortunately, it proved an elusive goal. I bought plants, and they died. I planted seeds and they didn’t germinate. Then some finally took, only to be mostly obliterated by the chickens. A well-intentioned soul thought they were weeds (poppies do look a little like thistles at first) and weed whacked them. A couple summers they struggled between the weeds because I was too pregnant to do anything about it. After awhile, I got one plant to grow, then finally two. But the full row of plants that I had at first envisioned did not successfully grow and splendidly bloom until a good seven or eight years after I began trying.

They were a symbol of perseverance for me, and the pleasure of success was all the greater as a result. When I knew we were going to be moving away, even though it was a little thing in the grand scheme of things, I mourned leaving my hard-won row of poppies behind.

But one of the biggest mind shifts God prompted my heart to when we were contemplating a move, was shifting my focus from what I might be losing to all the things I might be gaining. He convicted my heart with a quiet, “Has it occurred to you what good, beautiful and amazing things I may have in store for you there?” It was indeed a matter of trust. I had to relinquish my limited understanding, and leave room for God to surprise me.

Incidentally, one of things He surprised me with was….you guessed it: POPPIES…in my new front yard.

When I realized that there were giant red poppies getting ready to bloom in abundance in a row right next to my new home, all I could think of was the stunning magnitude of God’s love for me.

It was the tiniest little glimpse into this truth: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
(Psalm 84:10-12)

The other life lesson here? Always plant something for the people who will come behind you.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #22: Memorial Beach

Memorial Beach is a remote beach at the very northern tip of the island, a good 4+ hour drive away from Thorne Bay. We’ve been wanting to go up there for a while, but we knew we wanted to spend the night and have some time to enjoy the place if we drove that kind of distance. The options of places to stay were 1) bring a tent, or 2) be lucky enough to be the first one to claim the one and only first-come, first-serve three-sided camping shelter. That’s it. In other words, it needed to be decent weather for tent camping, because there was no guarantee of securing the shelter.

When the forecast popped up with two days straight of sunshine with zero chance of rain (a bit of a rarity here in a rainforest!), we made some fast plans and went for it. I’m so glad we did. The weather was absolutely perfect, and we were fortunate enough to have the beach completely to ourselves for most of our stay—including the coveted camping shelter, complete with bunks and a tiny woodstove!

Prepare yourself to scroll through a lot of pictures!

It’s hard to accurately depict scale in photos sometimes, but the first shot below of Zach walking on the beach gives you some idea of the size of the old growth forest that surrounded us. These were BIG trees, and the forest floor beneath them was the loveliest place to walk.

There were some really beautiful and unique rocks at this beach, including marble. We also saw sea lions, sea otters and seals in the distance, and found the beautiful sea anemone pictured below. Our little camping shelter was situated perfectly to watch the sun set—what a treat to have nothing on our agenda but to sit there and watch it go down. We savored the beauty and silence of this place so much, and we only wished we had brought enough water and food to stay longer!

What I’ve been reading and thinking about this week:

“[The Lord] sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”
(2 Samuel 22:17-20)

So very, very thankful for this truth!

Project 52 #21: A Heart of Worship

“So David went and had the ark of God brought up from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David with rejoicing. When those carrying the ark of the LORD had advanced six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf.

And David, wearing a linen ephod, danced with all his might before the LORD, while he and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sounding of the ram’s horn.” (2 Samuel 6:12-15)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of worship lately. Perhaps that’s why those aspects of the story of David, sweet psalmist of Israel, have especially stood out to me as I’ve been reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel. David was very human (a fact that the Bible certainly doesn’t gloss over), but in spite of this it is his clear understanding of worship that consistently stands out and seems to mark him as a “man after God’s own heart”.

The definition of “worship” reads: “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. Worship is not necessarily music, or even words. Broadly, worship is simply anything that is deliberately done to bring glory to God. As Paul encourages: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God!” (1 Corinthians 10:31). It kind of seems like you can’t go wrong if your purpose is right.

But interestingly, there’s an incident from David’s life that illustrates that worship is not to be offered carelessly, even if we mean well. Previously to the grand triumphal entry I quoted above, David had made an attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem that didn’t go quite so well.

“And [David] and all his troops set out…to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name—the name of the LORD of Hosts, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on it. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart, bringing with it the ark of God…David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of wood instruments, harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.” (2 Samuel 6:2-5)

Seems pretty good so far. But then—

“Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen had stumbled. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there beside the ark of God…That day David feared the LORD and asked, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”” (2 Samuel 6:6-7, 9)

David’s intentions were great—but he had hastily overlooked some of the basic rules God had outlined for the transportation of the ark (it was to be carried by hand, not wagon). Uzzah had overlooked them even further, and put out his hand to steady the ark—and was struck dead for his irreverence. As the son of a priest Uzzah should have known better, but it’s also a fact that if the ark had been transported properly, there never would have been occasion for this calamity. Great intentions in worship do not negate God’s laws of order and holiness.

However, within the parameters of God’s law, there is beautiful freedom and flexibility for how we express our worship.

That’s evident in the story above, when on the second (correct and successful!) attempt to bring the ark up to Jerusalem, David, led the procession, dancing with joyful abandon before the Lord. His own wife watched him do this, and despised him for making a fool of himself before his people. It is key to note here that he was not dancing to entertain or impress. He obviously did NOT impress Michal. He wanted the entry of the ark to Jerusalem to be about God, not himself. He could have chosen as king to be dressed in his richest robes, conducting himself with pomp and circumstance, but instead he chose to humble himself to the level of the common people. In response to his wife’s disdain, he replies:

“I was dancing before the LORD, who chose me over your father and all his house when He appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel. I will celebrate before the LORD, and I will humiliate and humble myself even more than this.” (2 Samuel 6:21-22)

At another point in David’s life, he writes: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:15-17) This was a different type of worship—that of contrition, or recognizing his sinfulness in comparison to the awesome perfection and holiness of God—but it was again a position of humility. Interestingly, he went on to say “…THEN You WILL delight in righteous sacrifices, in whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.” (Psalm 51:19) It was not that God didn’t want the sacrifices that He Himself had instituted, but that they were meaningless to Him if they were not offered out of a heart of humility.

Humility,

coupled with awareness of God’s instructions for order and holiness,

is the key to worship that aligns our hearts with God’s.

Project 52 #20: Summer Approaching

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storehouse or barn; yet God feeds them. How much more valuable you are than the birds!

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned 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 furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!

And do not be concerned about what you will eat or drink. Do not worry about it. For the Gentiles of the world strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added unto you.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:22-34)

I’m just going to leave this passage here, because I think it speaks for itself quite well without any commentary from me. But I will say that I was both convicted and encouraged. I hope you are, too.

About the photos: Spring is starting to transition to summer here, our view of the sunset has completely shifted from one side of the bay to the other, and we are doing our best to soak it up, sometimes literally.

I’m not really sure if the ocean ever warms up, but that definitely hasn’t kept people from going swimming!

Someone learned to ride her bike literally overnight, and is about as wild and crazy and pleased about it as she looks in the picture.

And we said yes to a dog. Please send help.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #19: Treasures

This day was a gift. It was warm enough for short sleeves and bare feet at the beach (really the first day like that this spring!) and daddy was content to kick back while watching the kids in the water—so I hiked out on the point in search of low tide treasures.

Sometimes they’re the kind of treasures you tuck in your pocket, sometimes they’re the kind of treasures you tuck away in your camera…and sometimes they’re the kind of treasures that don’t fit in your pocket or make it into your camera. You’ll have to use your imagination to add the slap of the waves against the rocks, the distant echoes of children’s laughter and the warmth of the sun on skin. Insert a furry creature (mink? fisher?) too quick for my camera and an otter making ripples in the sea too far out for my lens to capture. Slow it all down to the speed of picking your way delicately along the uneven surface of rocky crustacean and seaweed covered tidal zones, each step a test and an experiment.

Then you’d about have it about right.

What I’ve been reading: This week, I started the book of 1st Samuel, which, coincidentally, went right along with my husband’s recent Mother’s Day sermon on the story of Hannah. I especially loved the way Hannah praised the Lord, giving Him all the glory for His working in her life and acknowledging His supreme control.

“The LORD brings death and gives life; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. He seats them among princes and bestows on them a throne of honor.

For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s, and upon them He has set the world. He guards the steps of His faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness…”

And my favorite line: “…for by his own strength shall no man prevail.” (1 Samuel 2:6-9)

May I never forget the joy of answered prayer in the moments of waiting, and may I always remember that all the good things I enjoy are the result of His abundant mercies rather than my own merit.

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #18: Loving Your Enemies

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… 

If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well. 

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what is yours, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 

If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 

And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return...

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

I’ve been thinking about this passage from Luke ever since I read it this last week. This goes so against the grain of our culture, and frankly, our human nature. We are so programmed to fight for our rights. But do good and lend, expecting nothing in return? And not only that, but do it for the people who don’t like you or treat you badly? Why? It doesn’t make sense!

But Christ’s kingdom isn’t just one more democracy or republic on Planet Earth, and neither are the laws that govern it commonplace or ordinary. It’s so otherworldly that it literally is upside down to everything we’re used to here. It’s so completely contrary to everything our culture and our flesh tells us, there’s no way to fuse the two together and have the “best of both worlds”. It requires a complete mind shift, a transfer of allegiance from the kingdom of this world to heavenly kingdom of our Father, a transformation from darkness to light. It’s called being heavenly minded instead of earthly minded, being visionary instead of short-sighted, realizing that success and “winning” according to God’s standards has a whole new definition, and recognizing that the rewards of heaven will far, far surpass the fleeting pleasures of this world.

That’s a lot to think about when a bully is making fun of your child, or someone treats you unfairly, or that neighbor wants to borrow something yet again and you’re pretty sure you won’t be getting it back if you agree. But I wonder what would happen if we were all brave enough and radical enough to respond 100% according to God’s ways? I don’t know for sure, but there’s a clue in Luke 6:35:

Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

About the photos: This is a mix of shots from a hike we took up One Duke Trail, and a few from the gardens around our house. The white flower pictured is a new-to-me wildflower called Mountain Marsh Marigold, which I was delighted to discover along the muskeg when we were hiking. The pink flowers are a gorgeous domestic flower that someone planted in the gardens by our house before my time. I don’t know what they’re called, though—can any of you tell me?

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!

Project 52 #17: On Salmonberries and Friendship

The forest here is really beginning to burst with color and life, and I am loving watching it all. With so many different and unfamiliar kinds of plants in this wet, coastal climate, it’s like getting to know a new friend.

Already a few favorites are developing, like the lovely and prolific salmonberry bushes. I’ll always remember when we met the salmonberries for the first time last July, on the evening of our arrival in Alaska. It was the girls’ first day to see our new home, and they were full of excitement and curiosity. Before we knew it they were picking salmonberries with the neighbors, giant sparkling jeweled berries that grew wild and free along the streets. We were instantly charmed. You could say we and the salmonberries hit it off right away. We picked more in the next few weeks while the berries were in season and made some treats with them. I might have told you then that I was now familiar with salmonberries.

But then, we watched the autumn frosts touch their leaves, that eventually fell to the ground. We watched the canes dripping bare with November rains, weighed down with December snows and January ice. We waited for spring to slowly, slowly wake them up. One day in March, I overheard one lady exclaim delightedly to another in the store: “I saw the first salmonberry blossom today!” I walked out of that store and promptly went looking until I found a bush along the waterfront, studded with twisted buds on the verge of bursting open. I was surprised and delighted to discover that they were a vivid shade of brilliant pink. Now they are open everywhere, as pictured above, studding the leafing branches with punches of color. It yet remains in the next couple months for us to watch the petals fall and the berries to develop before we come full circle. I realize now that it takes more than a great first impression and having a little fun together to build true familiarity.

Friendship is like that. Even if you hit it off right away, the development of a true, lasting friendship takes time, weathering all the seasons of life, the good and the bad, each shared experience another building block in the process of developing a relationship with anyone. Like the world of nature, friendship is organic. It can’t be forced or rushed, but it can be encouraged and nurtured. And sometimes, something truly beautiful comes of it, the kind of friendship that people write stories about.

The book of Ruth is one of those kind of stories. Ruth starts out the story as a foreign heathen Moabite woman, brought into relationship with Naomi by marriage to her son. The death of Mahlon, their mutual interest, could easily have separated them, but instead drew them closer. By the end of the story, Ruth has become better to Naomi “than seven sons”. These women grieved together, journeyed together, went through hardship together, solved problems together, rejoiced together, and, most importantly, grew in their understanding of and trust in God together—and the result may have been one of the loveliest mother-in-law/daughter-in/law relationships ever recorded.

“Boaz replied, “I have been made fully aware of all you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and how you came to a people you did not know before.  May the LORD repay your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have taken refuge.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

“Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a kinsman-redeemer. May his name become famous in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” (Ruth 4:14-15)

P.S. If you’re new here and wondering what “Project 52” is all about, you can go here to read more!