Project 52 #51: Cold Snap for Christmas

For Christmas, we got snow and a cold snap, cold enough to freeze the bay solid all the way across. Some brave souls even ventured out and went ice skating on it for what they said was the first time in 30 years, though we were not quite that brave. The mail planes couldn’t get in, and they had to finally send over a box truck on the ferry to get us at least some of our Christmas packages. We’re still waiting for some, which is going to nicely extend Christmas. When I explained to the kids that some gifts were still on their way and wouldn’t be here in time for opening on Christmas Eve, Christiana cheerfully said, “That will just make Christmas wider, Mommy!”

The barge was able to get in, but you could hear the thunderous din of it cracking through the ice all over town. The tug went back and forth a few times after it dropped its load, working to widen the path it had made through the ice. It was like our own real life version of Scruffy in the bathtub, and we sat in the living room and watched with great interest through our big picture windows. Who would have thought we would ever get so much entertainment from a tug going back and forth? When you know the tug and its cargo getting through is the difference between fresh food on the grocery shelves or not, that’s when. Real life is so much better than a book or movie.

We counted down the days to Christmas with candles, and on Christmas Eve placed the manger in the center before we sat down to dinner. Later that evening, we joined with our other brothers and sisters in town to celebrate the wonder of Christ’s coming at a Christmas Eve service. I thought, as I stood there with a tiny flickering flame in my hand, singing about the weary world rejoicing, about what God’s people did for hundreds of years past, persevering in faith and hope, waiting for the promise yet to be fulfilled, counting down to a date they didn’t know, looking and longing for Messiah to come. We may simulate the waiting with our Advent candles, devotionals and countdowns, but how blessed we truly are to be on this side of Christmas, remembering together that we are no longer actually waiting, but are privileged, instead, to look back and rejoice in the fulfillment of the age-old promise.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation...

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth...

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect...

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, 13, 39-40, 12:1-2)

Project 52 #47: Hygge

With winter solstice approaching fast, I am truly enjoying the quiet, restful beauty of this season…

when candlelight is as lovely for breakfast as it is for supper,

when the night frosts restore beauty to every dying leaf,

when we can read a book to the cozy crackle of the woodstove warming the house,

and I can watch the sunset while I’m making supper.

Some of my ancestors came from Norway, a place very similar in latitude to where I live now. Over there, they have a word for what I’m trying to describe, a word that’s gotten a bit trendy in the United States in recent years. But trendy or not, I do think those words in other languages that we don’t have an exact equivalent to in English are so interesting and rather delightful. If you’ve lived anywhere where the winter nights are long, or the winter is harsh, you should appreciate the word “hygge”, a single word coined by fellow people of the north to describe the way we not only cope with but find true pleasure in this dark, cold season.

One article I read described it this way: “Hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy”, “coziness of the soul”, and “the absence of annoyance”, to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things”, “cozy togetherness” and “cocoa by candlelight”.”

I hope that, not matter where you are, you are enjoying your own version of hygge as we enter this winter season—or that you will take this as inspiration to make the time to cultivate some in the months ahead!

“God has given riches and wealth to every man, and He has enabled him to enjoy them, to accept his lot, and to rejoice in his labor. This is a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

Project 52 #46: Teamwork

My kids are so used to me always bringing the camera wherever I go and looking for potential photographs, sometimes they beat me to it. “Mom! You should pull over and take a picture of that spot back there. I see a good place up ahead to turn around!” That first photo up above was Talitha’s original idea, and a collaboration on everyone’s part, since there was no good pullout at the most advantageous spot, and it was a long ways to walk. They watched both ways and told me if/when a car was coming while I snapped my photo out the window. Just wanted you all to know that some of my photography is the result of some real teamwork over here—and I’m grateful for my team!

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you”…

“But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.” (1 Corinthians 12:15, 18)

Project 52 #36: A Tale of Four Fishing Trips

I am no stranger to fishing as a native of Minnesota’s northern lake country, and my grandpa made sure I knew how to bait my own hook and tie a good fish line knot before I was ten. If you had asked, I would have told you I grew up in a place where fishing was a big deal.

Alaska, however, has opened up a whole new world of fishing for me. I realize now that fishing was, for all its popularity, still considered by myself and many of my Minnesota friends to be merely a recreational hobby that fostered a great tourism industry, a way to relax on weekends, and a lot of meaning in life for retirees. Here, it’s all those things, but also much more than that. For many people in Alaska, it’s literally a way of life. They take their fishing seriously because it’s legitimately how they fill their freezers and pantry shelves, and feed their family for the year. The best part, of course, is that it actually IS as fun as it is rewarding—and so I present a few tales of discovering that for myself.

Tale #1: Someone told us the salmon were running along an easily accessible beach on their way to the river. Climb down the bank, cast out and you can catch salmon right from the shore, they said. I had never fished in the ocean. I had never fished by myself. But, I’d been dying to catch more fish, and I knew I’d be driving right by that very beach on the way to a dentist appointment. The way it was described to me, it seemed easy enough. I decided to try it.

Let it be noted that this was a very last minute idea and literally all I did was throw a pole in the back of the car before I left in a hurry for my appointment. I definitely didn’t dress for fishing (something I noted wryly as I clambered awkwardly down the steep bank), and I brought no net, pliers, or fishing tackle. I stopped in town to pick up an extra lure, just for good measure, dubiously guessing which one might be appropriate based on it’s popularity (the one that was nearly sold out ought to be a good one, right?).

But what I lack in planning ahead, (waders would have been nice) I assure you I make up for in determination. I nearly lost two lures to the rocks, but saved them by wading out across the sharp barnacles in my stocking feet.

I could see the fish jumping a few yards out, but I was struggling to cast out far enough and having lost one lure and gotten wet over my knees rescuing the two others, my enthusiasm was dwindling. I’ll give it ten more minutes, I decided. A few minutes later, I had a fish on the beach.

There was no one there to witness my success but God and the seagulls. It was not very big, too small to keep. But it was my first of it’s kind, and I had caught it all by myself. I snapped a quick picture, then slipped it gently back in to the salty waves to go back and grow bigger.

Tale #1 will stand in somewhat interesting contrast to Tale #2.

A few days later, I went fishing again. This time I had waders, but more crucially, this time I had a pair of fishing guides, some dear friends who had been regaling us all year with tales of fishing the Klawock River during the salmon run. When word came that the fish had arrived, Zach insisted on staying home with the kids so I could go.

My first clue of what was to come was when we had to work to find a parking place amidst a long row of vehicles, a rather unusual problem for here. From there, we grabbed our gear and took the short hike down through the forest to the river bank. The first thing I noted in amazement as we came out into the open was that the flowing water was literally boiling with fish. The second was that the banks were lined with fishermen, nearly shoulder to shoulder. There were large, beautiful coho salmon being landed at a constant rate, people graciously moving aside as needed in an unspoken code of fishing etiquette. Everyone was intently focused and in high spirits.

This was not so much a place as it was an event. I was excited and intimidated all at once. I was timid to cast out, afraid that I, in my inexperience, was going to hook some hapless fellow human in the eye. And so, of course, being timid, I caught nothing at first.

Now, I’m just going to say right here that it’s fantastic and tremendously character building to learn by trial and error and teach yourself.

However, it’s infinitely better if you just have a Glen and Rose.

They were the best teachers, tirelessly demonstrating the techniques to me as they proceeded to smoothly land a limit each in short order, kindly critiquing and patiently coaching my faltering rooky efforts. Glen taught me how to tie their home-cured fish egg bait on my hook in such a way as to survive a vigorous cast, and then Rose showed me how to cast it out there like I meant it. When I finally got a fish on my line, they coached that beautiful big fighting silver all the way up out of the river and into my delighted possession, rejoicing with me in the prize. And, as a sign of true friendship, they waited for me to catch my entire limit myself when they could have probably caught it themselves in half the amount of time.

I am still smiling at the memory of this day, even now as I write this. And here we are, in all our water soaked, fish slimed and scaled glory.

Tale #3: One sunny Saturday morning, Tim and Rita invited me to go out in their boat for my very first chance to try ocean fishing. Susanna came along, which is a good thing, since she was the only Ender in the boat to catch anything. I got not even so much as a bite, which, I assure you, is no reflection on my fishing guides’ expertise. But, as my grandpa used to say, a true fisherman must learn to enjoy the trying as much as the catching. And I was truly grateful for the chance to try.

It was a bit choppier than we expected, so we couldn’t get out to Tim’s favorite halibut spot, and I had to work intentionally to ward off seasickness. But I loved getting to see the mouth of the bay for the first time. Thorne Bay is long and narrow, and curves around before it opens up into Clarence Strait, so even though I’ve been out on it in a kayak or a friend’s skiff a few times, I had never been quite far enough to see the big water around the corner. It was beautiful to see how the mountains met the sea out there, and the way the waves crashed on the rocks. I learned how to bait a double hook with herring for halibut, an entirely different technique from the egg bait I’d learned to tie on for salmon earlier in the week. We cheered when someone landed a flounder and laughed when our lines got tangled in the flurry of pulling it in. I thought I caught a mega halibut, only to discover with great disappointment that I’d merely caught “the whole world” (aka, the very much immovable bottom of the sea). Back at the docks, I recovered from a light case of sea legs, then took Susanna’s cod home to become fish tacos for supper.

Tale #4: “Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.” (John 21:5-13)

(Just in case you needed proof that the love of a good fishing tale is entirely Biblical.)

I am so grateful to all the various friends here who have generously given of their time to teach us how and where to fish the waters of our island home—and I’m looking forward to many more fishing tales (and fish) ahead next year!

Project 52 #35: Sunset Over the Marina

As you can see, we enjoyed some epic sunsets out in front of our house this week!

One of my daughters adopted three(!) fuzzy caterpillars, named them, and faithfully fed them fresh leaves for several days before they escaped one too many times in the house and it was decided to return them to the wild. Pictured above is Fuzzy, living his dream life eating thimbleberry salad for lunch.

“From the rising of the sun to its going down The LORD’s name is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3)

Project 52 #32: Salmon Moon

Here in southeast Alaska, I’m told the Haida call the full moon of August the “Salmon Moon”, and the Tlingit call it “Berries-Ripe-On-Mountain Moon” (Incidentally, the Haida July moon is “Ripe Berry Moon” and the Tlingit July moon is “Salmon Moon”!). Both names certainly make sense! This week, we were blessed with night after night of clear skies to watch the moon rise. The thimbleberries were at their peak of ripeness, and my fingers were bright red by the time I’d picked enough for a batch of jam.

The streams were full of spawning pinks, and with my Alaska fishing license hot off the press (yep, I was cheap and waited until I could pay $5 to fish in Alaska instead of $100!), I landed my very first one. It was a male humpy, past the stage of good eating, and we released him, but it was still a thrill to land my first salmon! Lord willing, it will be the first of many.

We drove down some new forest roads, and hiked down some new trails. Though many of the wilderness places pictured here are without official name, the very last picture is of Hatchery Falls, where we got to see salmon jumping up the falls. It was amazing to see their determination and strength!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

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 #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!