Saturday, November 25, 2006

Growing up Fast

On Thanksgiving day my beautiful young grand-daughter, Kaylie Sierra, turned 12 years old. I am amazed by what a lovely young woman she is growing up to be.

Because I live many hundreds of miles away from Kaylie, I do not get to visit her near as often as I would like to. But I have pictures of her and her siblings all over my house and in my office at work to help me remember them each and every day. They are never far from my thoughts.

Kaylie has had some big challenges in her 12 years. Her parents split up when she was just a baby and it has been difficult going back and forth between mom's house and dad's house, trying to figure out what was truly "home". Also, she has had to move more times than I can count, between Michigan, Oregon, North Carolina...too often having to say goodbye to special friends. Looks like there may still be more moves yet to come. I know that is hard for her.

Recently she faced the challenge of new family dynamics as she gained a step-mom and four new siblings with her dad's recent marriage. That can't have been easy.

But through it all, Kaylie has developed a wonderful personality, has lots of talents and is genuinely one of the nicest people I know. (of course, proud grandma that I am, I'm not one bit biased!) Honestly, even if she were not my grand daughter, I would be proud to know her just because of the fine person she is. She's smart as a whip, has a wonderfully curious mind about the world, and is just plain fun to be with.

So happy birthday to you my dear Kaylie. Know that even though I'm far away, not a day goes by that I don't think of you and that I love you very, very much!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giving Thanks

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am feeling very grateful for so many things. Blessings that come to mind in no particular order include:

Clean running water that is safe to drink.

A husband who is kind, gentle and generous, and supremely patient with my unconventional ways that sometimes go beyond his comfort zone.

High speed internet .

A refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom - I honestly don't know why they are made any other way!

Rich relationships with siblings, cousins, friends, children, grandchildren.

The gift of literacy.

Fresh tomatoes from our garden, picked green before the frost that were wrapped carefully in newspaper and stowed away in the basement. LOVELY to have such yummies just now getting ripe in chilly November!

The new PalmPilot I got for my birthday from my brother. Thanks Wayne!

But most of all, of course, is the knowledge that I am a child of God and that He has a plan for me. I'm still trying to figure out what that plan is, but I've learned to trust that ALL things will ultlimately work out for good as I trust in Him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Miracle of Manna

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve heard the stories of Moses leading the children of Israel through the wilderness and how they lived on something called Manna. More recently, I’ve studied the life of St. Mary of Egypt and pondered long and hard the lessons she had to teach me. But all of that was done with the mindset of the word “desert” or “wilderness” being interpreted from my own cultural experience. I grew up in Arizona where we have desert that is lush with cactus, wildflowers and other plants. A variety of birds, reptiles and mammals roam the land. I could well imagine someone surviving there. Granted, it would be difficult and painful at times. But it seemed possible to me.

Now that I’ve seen the Sinai, the whole concept of wandering in the wilderness takes on a whole new meaning for me. I am in awe that anyone could stay alive in that land. The miracle of manna holds a whole new sense of the miraculous. For miles and miles there is nothing but sand and rock. On first impression it seems like utter wasteland not even a lizard would claim. But after being there a while, I truly could sense why it would be the perfect place to let the soul grow quiet and learn to put absolute trust on the Lord.

Choosing the Sacred

One of the places we visited in Egypt was St. Katherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai. It was an amazing experience that touched my soul in ways difficult to express.

One of the things that was reaffirmed to me there was the importance of choosing to acknowledge the sacred in all of life, and to give special reverence to those places I know to be holy.

Bus loads of tourists come to see this place. In a few areas it was quite crowded with people from all over the world pointing, gawking, aiming video cameras and the like.

As I approached the chapel of the Burning Bush, I had to very willfully put out of my mind the crush of people all around talking and taking pictures so that I could go quiet inside to pray in this sacred place. I closed my eyes and opened up my heart as I repeated the Jesus Prayer for each of my Orthodox friends back home and then turned my spirit to more open communion with my Heavenly Father to seek repentance, to seek council of the Holy Spirit, to lift my face to the sky as a daughter of God.

In that moment it really didn't matter how many tourists were there. All that mattered was that I knew some powerful truths were being revealed to my mind if I were willing to accept them.

So it is each day - even here in my small town in Oregon. I can allow myself to get caught up in the busy events of daily life and focus on the problems of the world. Or I can choose to keep an eternal perspective, allowing myself to be open to the teachings of the Spirit day by day. The choice is mine. I don't have to go half way around the world to seek inspiration. While it was indeed a significant privilege to visit this holy site, I know that God can come to me in all times, in all places, if I will but go quiet inside and seek him.

Foods of Egypt

One of the standard foods in Egypt is Pita bread. Every few blocks we would see street vendors like this one selling bread from their carts. Sometimes we'd see veiled women walking with huge platters stacked high with bread carried on their heads.

There were also lots of fruits and vegetables. We passed by fields where they grew the most giant cabbages I've ever seen. The land around the Nile delta is very fertile, and much valued for the agriculture possible there, which is important since so much of the country is harsh desert where nothing grows at all.

In the suburbs of "New Cairo" there are shopping malls with supermarkets very much like what you would find in the United States, but in the old city most everything is sold by street vendors or small shops specializing in one thing - meat or fruit or bread or what have you.

Most of the meat we ate was beef, chicken or lamb. I was told that camel is quite tasty and would have been willing to try it, but alas I never had the opportunity.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back in the USA

My husband and I have just returned from a 10 day trip to Egypt. It was an amazing journey. For me, this was a true spiritual pilgrimage. While I enjoyed seeing the ancient monuments and the museums, the most significant experiences of this trip were the times we spent in holy places. I spent much time in prayer and pondering. I read my scriptures. I considered all the things I have been taught as I looked into the faces of my brothers and sisters who are the children of Egypt. I asked my heart many questions about what I know to be true. I had some truly sacred experiences during this journey. I will be forever grateful to the Egyptian people for the sincere welcome they offered. In the coming weeks I hope to find time to post more of the pictures and thoughts I had about this trip. I'm thinking long and hard about what it means to me to be an American, a woman, and a Christian in light of the things I saw and felt in the Middle East. I am so deeply grateful for the experiences I was blessed with. At the same time, it feels awfully good to be home.