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On the Potter’s Wheel   1 comment

What Life Events Shaped You Into Who You Are?

If you could think about all the events that unfolded in your life, which ones shaped you into who you are now?

ALL of the events? How about just the highlights? I suspect I am shaped even by the minute interactions I have with people in the grocery store line … I’m just unaware of it.

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When I was six years old, Fairbanks Alaska experienced a 100-year flood. It’s such a big deal here that people still date things as pre-Flood and post-Flood. A lot of us spent a couple of weeks living out of the backs of cars and eating WW2 K-rations salvaged from the flooded bomb shelters. My parents struggled with housing after that due to a string of rental houses with ruined furnaces and I ended up spending the winter with a friend of theirs who had a bunch of kids and a working heating system.

Image result for image clay on potters wheelThat experience taught me a lot about being tough to get through something because the water will eventually go down and your parents will eventually stop moving and you’ll get to live in a house with a bedroom again. But it also taught me to not really trust that this reality will be permanent and good. It won’t be. Rivers can raise again. Don’t get too comfortable. Keep some food in reserve and be ready to move what you care about to higher floors. Borrowing from a blog hop post a couple of weeks ago … winter is coming. Be prepared.

When I was 11, a teacher made me write a story for a class assignment. I HATED it. It was way too regimented for my tastes. But it set something off in me that made me the writer I am today. It certainly didn’t turn me off writing. It made me want to do a better job. Maybe I would have become a writer anyway, but I count that as a formative event.

My dad died when I was 12 and my mother promptly remarried her ex-husband. Earl had always been around. He was my brother’s father and Fairbanks was a small town. My dad tolerated his woman’s ex. I have a photo of them sitting on the bleachers at a baseball game. I guess they were friends … sort of. My brother says my dad was his model for being a stepfather … not bad considering he never lived with us. Earl had just moved back to town and happened to have his trailer parked in our back yard when my dad died of a stroke at a young age. He was supportive during a tough time. He still loved my mom. She may have felt she needed a man in her life. He wasn’t a bad guy … mostly. But I swore to myself that I would never be as faithless as my mother had been. I didn’t hate my mom for her decision. I didn’t hate Earl. I simply didn’t agree with their actions in that area and that meant that I have been much more careful in my relationships than they were. I noted their path and have tried very hard not to walk it.

When I was 16, I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. It wasn’t something we did as a family. I started going to church on my own and my parents thought I’d lost my mind when I tried to tell them about it. More than anything else, this changed my perspective on the world and my life choices. I’ve skipped a lot of rough roads that were options for me because I would pause often and ask if this was something a Christian ought to be doing. It has shaped many of my choices in my adult life.

I chose to work my way through college rather than take out student loans. My parents came from a debt-adverse generation. My father turned 16 the year the Great Depression started. My mother was six. They were careful with their money and only took on debt for houses and even then, the longest mortgage they ever took out was 10 years. They saved a little bit for me to go college, but I had to pay 75% of it. When the high school counselor was talking about student loans, I felt this big lump in my chest … like a lead weight threatening to drag me to the bottom of a deep, dark ocean. I decided to get a job and work my butt off to pay for college. I had help from Pell grants, but mostly, I paid my own way, either working while I was in school or working 2 or 3 jobs seasonally so I could concentrate on school during the winter. Except for two years when my daughter was little, I’ve been gainful employed since I was 14 years old, sometimes with more than one job. There is a great deal to be said about paying your own way and understanding your own value. It has a lot to do with why I view the world as I do.

I married Brad when I was 25. He makes me laugh until I can’t breathe and almost wet my pants. He has also made me cry … a lot. When our daughter was little, her dad and I went through a very rough time in our marriage when we decided it would not end in divorce, but we were separated for a while. I learned that you can’t change someone, but you can change your response to them so that, if they want to be with you, they will (sometimes) choose to change themselves. And if they don’t, then the choices you make won’t be fun, but God will be with you even then.

My life is not a field of clover today. Life will always hand you challenges. My daughter is a gypsy bluegrass musician who appears to be hiking through Canada with low-lives. It’s not my choice and I wish I could step in and intervene, but my own past teaches me that I can’t. People have to learn on their own and a long walk through Canada is maybe just what my little vagabond needs to grow up. She needs her own formative experiences. I have to trust God that He has a plan in all of this and I’ll understand it next year or a decade from now. Or maybe Bri will in 30 years.

We are the sum total of our experiences. God is the Master Potter Who has tossed me on His wheel and is shaping me to His purposes. “A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn’t he? He can make something for a special occasion or something for ordinary use from the same lump of clay.” Romans 9:21

These are My Pillars   3 comments

So we’re supposed to write a pillar post. I’d somehow missed this as a “thing”. Maybe you should go check out my fellow authors to see what they’re writing.

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Okay, a pillar post is an article that defines the brand of your blog. Well, I write pillar posts all the time. It may not be how other authors do it, but it’s what I ended up doing because writing about writing exclusively just bored me to tears. I would have blogged every few months and probably quit a long time ago if I’d taken that route. And it turns out, blogging about some of the things I blog about are good marketing techniques for the audience some of my books are written for.

So instead of writing a pillar post (which is an everyday occurrence here on Aurorawatcher Alaska), I decided to tell you what my pillars are … you know, in case you haven’t figure it out yet.

So there are four pillars to my blog.

Image result for image of four legged stoolPillar #1 is writing. I’m a writer, so that makes sense. I write about my books, I write this blog hop series, and sometimes, when I have something to say that I deem worthwhile, I write about writing. Oh, and I offer author interviews — to pretty much anyone, so long as you aren’t X-rated. You can usually find this pillar active on Mondays and Wednesdays.

But I knew pretty early in my blogging career that I couldn’t just write about writing because I don’t see myself as a writing guru. Even if I mixed formatting and publishing into it, I’d run out of topics really quickly and repeating myself seemed like a boring idea. If I was going to blog on a consistent basis, I was going to need to find topics that interested me as much as they might interest readers.

Pillar #2 is political philosophy. I do NOT mean politics. I’m reaching the “I don’t give a crap about the election” attitude, so politics may never darken my blog again. I mean political philosophy. Why do we vote the way we do? What is important to us? Education on history and economics comes in there. Discussions of the logic of voting the way that we vote. I’m talking the philosophical underpinnings of our government and why we vote the way we vote and whether it is even worthwhile to vote.

Pillar #3 is faith. I do NOT mean religion. If you want to know how to perform acts of contrition or what religious guru you should listen to, go read another blog. I have mentors I admire, but they’re human and as such fallible. The only Person I will ever point to as someone to emulate in all things is Jesus Christ. I try to base what I write on His book, the Bible, and my experience with Him, though occasionally I find a human-written book worth highlighting.

Pillar #4 is Alaska because Alaska is my home and it is a unique place that most people don’t know much about. Alaskans have a unique perspective on the world and on the United States because of our own history.

Image result for image of four pillarsThis does not mean that I don’t occasionally wander off from my pillars for a while. I’ve posted sourdough bread recipes and explained the finer point of waterless bathrooms in Alaska. I’ve told hiking, bear and fishing tales. I’ve also done a fair bit of linking to the articles of other sites because they say things better than I could.

Whenever my research as a writer opens up a new topic, I may wander in that field for a while. But you can rest assured that I will probably return to my pillars in a while just because those are what I’ve built my blog upon.

So how did I select the pillars of my blog? By the way, the numbers have nothing to do with order or priority. They’re interchangeable and that’s really how I ended up with these four pillars.

The most important thing in my life is my faith. There is nothing in my life that is not touched by what I believe and my relationship with my Savior. I know there’s a contingent in our country who believes that Christians should leave their “religion” at home except for Sunday morning church, but I can’t. It’s like my skin. It’s got to come with. I carry it with me everywhere I go. My coworkers may not realize that the good service I give is a direct result of Jesus in my heart, but it is. It just simply makes me the person that I am.

A part of my faith is a strong belief that a person comes to Jesus alone. We don’t accept Christ as families. We can’t drag our spouses or our children kicking and screaming to the same place we are. We can scatter breadcrumbs. We can point the way. We can pray. We can discuss and even sometimes debate, but ultimately, we stand before Jesus alone and give our own hearts to Him. That belief translates — as it did with the anabaptist believers in the Reformation era — into a strongly held philosophy of non-force toward others in all things. I’m not responsible for you. I can discuss and debate with you, I can pray for you, and I can point the way in the right direction, but I can’t force you to do anything.

And, therein is my political philosophy. Others who came before me gave it titles like “classic liberal”, “libertarian”, “anarchism”, “the non-aggression principle”. I appreciate those philosophers and thinkers. I don’t agree with them entirely. I think Christians are held to a standard by God and that the churches have a duty to support that standard within our congregations. I take a different view outside the church. If you aren’t a Christian, so long as you’re not demonstrably hurting anyone else …. I’ll pray for you to see the light, but I don’t want to make laws to force you to open your eyes. Conversely, I’ll resist strongly any attempt on your part to force my compliance with philosophies and activities God has said Christians must reject.

See how those two pillars are interwined? All of them are really. If you look at my stool picture, you’ll see that there’s a rail that binds all four pillars to one another. Because that is how I view it. None of them are separate. They are all important and interwined.

Being an Alaskan is also something that seems to exist on a DNA level. There are people who live here for decades who never really seem to espouse “Alaska” and then there are people who “get” it the day they get off the plane. A part of Alaska is that rugged individualist mindset. Alaskans learn to do things for ourselves and do them our own way. There are times when there is simply no one around to help us, so we have to know how to do things on our own. That practical mindset leads to a penchant for individual activities. Alaska’s longtime Senator Ted Stevens famously declared “I fish alone, I hunt alone and I vote alone.” That’s pretty much the Alaska mindset in a nutshell.

This is not to say that Alaskans aren’t good at community. We’re very helpful to folks who need help. We stop for motorists who are broken down. We’ll catch your loose dog and pen him up in our yard so Animal Control doesn’t take him away to dog jail. We’ll swap that green birch you’re trying to burn with some of our dry birch firewood so that you will stop smoking us out. We’re actually very giving.

These are subjects where there are others laboring to educate the world, but there is room for more people to present their views. And, I hope, that some of my efforts fall on fertile ground and that people consider that there are different ways to do things than we do them now.

So, then there’s Pillar #4 or, er … writing. They say “write what you know”. And these are things I know. Someday, I might base a book in Alaska, but for whatever reason, I’ve never felt that calling. My Christianity and political philosophy find their way into my books, however. Writing is something I’ve done since before I could write. I’m a natural-born storyteller. I find it so much easier to communicate in writing than to stand in front of crowd and speak to people. So, of course, while I’m improving my craft, I will share that and thus the writing-related posts.

So, not exactly the definitive “pillar” post, but since I do those all the time, you can now know what to expect on the blog more often than not. These are my pillars.

Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   Leave a comment

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It’s a travel blog this week. Come check it out.

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Posted October 9, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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