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Summer Blessings

2020 has been a crazy year. All one has to do is turn on the news or check social media to see chaos, uncertainty, division, and fear running rampant. It has become so easy to see the scary, the worrisome, the fragility of humanity. Thus it has become harder to remember that we are constantly being blessed by God, through His everyday servants. We have to consciously look beyond the negatives in our paths and chose to seek out and acknowledge the beautiful mercy and gifts that are everywhere. Whether it is in the unexpected rainbow, the smile on a strangers face that is obscured by a mask, the handing out of free lunches at parks so kids have something to look forward to, God is in all the details.

Today we were blessed with a full shop as our only employee, Presbetera Anastasia Howell, brought her children with her to work. Her assistance in the shop one day a week is a huge help for Alex. We prayed for years for the right person to bring into the Holy Archangel Candles family, and her assistance with ordering, organizing, and packaging orders has been such a blessing. Presbetera bringing her children along is a happy bonus for our children who adore them, and look forward to each Tuesday with enthusiasm.

This Tuesday brought the added bonus of Father Matthew Howell stopping by to look over vestment designs. While here, he blessed the entire shop, including all the stock and the children. Lit candles, singing, holy water, and prayer in communion with friends, just another chance to embrace the grace, joy, and hope that God sends to all of us.

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Miracles Amongst Mayhem

We would like to wish all of you a blessed Feast of the Annunciation. On this, the eve of Holy Archangel Candles’ feast day (Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel), we received an answer to our prayers that our shipment from Russia would actually arrive.

Back in September, Alex placed a large order with our Russian suppliers. The order took a while to assemble and was then delayed, and did not leave Russia until February. It finally made it to JFK International Airport where it then sat in customs for eight weeks awaiting an itemized inspection. Once the corona virus hit New York, we accepted the possibility that we would never receive the shipment.

Our family along with many priests from across the country have been patiently waiting and praying for this shipment to arrive before Pascha. Thanks be to God, the entire order made it to Anchorage yesterday and with the help of Deacon George, to our shop this afternoon. Thank you all for your prayers and understanding as you waited with us. We will begin unpacking and sending out your orders on Thursday. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birthdays of two of our daughters, the feast day of our son Gabriel, and Holy Archangel Candles. It will truly be a day of celebrating all our blessings.

A very relieved Alex inspecting the long lost shipment.

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We are called to be the Church even when the Church doors are closed.

It is in uncertain and frightening times like this, that we all need something good to believe in. We all need hope for the future and peace for the present. For those of us who put our faith in God, an especially difficult consequence of this pandemic is the closing of our churches to only the priests. We cannot gather together to worship and lift each other up as a community. We have turned to online service and worshipping at home. But family prayers just don’t feel the same as Divine Liturgy with other believers.

Alex and I wanted to hold on to whatever we can of the church at this time. With no visitors and no employees, we have decided to use the Holy Archangel Candles shop as our chapel. We can’t give our children a priest, communion, or their friends at coffee hour. But we can give them the daily prayers, candles, incense, and our faith. Someday when the world has survived the corona virus and the Churches are able to open their doors, we will all cry tears of joy. But I pray that our children will look back and remember that this was not a time without faith or hope. I want our children to realize that we and all the faithful, are the Church. Our connection to God, the light of Christ, cannot be shut up behind the closed doors of buildings, it resides in each of us, and will flourish even in the darkness.

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Holy Archangel Candles in Hawaii

The beautiful islands of Hawaii are a paradise that many Alaskans try to escape to in the winter. If we could, we would love to drop everything and fly to Hawaii every year from January through February. Alas, that is only a dream. But this winter we were able to send a little bit of Alaska to Hawaii.

Fr. George Gray of St. Juvenaly Mission on the Big Island ordered a hand painted Golgotha stand for his church.

Thankfully we had a beautiful one in stock and were able to ship it right away. Today we received word that it had arrived on the island safely and in plenty of time for Holy Friday.

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Moose Everywhere!

This winter has been great for moose watching. They are everywhere. We spotted 15 on the way to church a few weeks ago, after dodging two to get to the vehicle. A week later, a momma and her baby stopped by to sample our beeswax that had just been delivered. They found the wax rather tasty and would not be intimidated by our shouting and throwing things in their direction. We finally had to drive the Expedition up to the wax to physically block them from it so we could bring it in to the candle room. We have been curious as to why they are out in such numbers this year, especially around our house. Then we discovered our kids like to throw snacks out to them. Apparently, moose really love pickles….and beeswax.

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The Joy of Extended Family

One of the great blessings to come from supplying candles and church supplies has been the opportunities for Alex to travel all around Alaska. In so doing, he has created amazing bonds of friendship and extended our family to include so many wonderful people. When Nadia was born, she was welcomed and loved not just by us, but her family from the villages. Today, Nadia received a beautiful kuspuk and booties from Fr. Stephan and Matushka Anna Heckman of Pilot Station, in honor and remembrance of their mother, Bibisaqk.