Shining through…

Posts tagged ‘Alaska’

Wasillaversary!

You know how you go into things thinking you don’t have any preconceived notions, but then life happens and you catch yourself thinking, “Wait, that didn’t turn out like I planned,” and all of a sudden you realize how very preconceived notion-bound you’ve actually been?  Yeah…that’s been the last 12 months for me.  Which is why I disappeared from the blogosphere, why I spent many, many hours overwhelmed and crying, and why I’m so very glad for the changing of the seasons.  Let me give you some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you look at it).

Exactly one year ago, on a rainy afternoon, Lechuga and I pulled into Wasilla, Alaska, our new hometown.  And right from that very moment, things did not happen as we thought they would.  If you recall from an earlier post, the plan was for her to get an apartment, where I would stay until my boys got here.  Instead, we spent all our money on 2 weeks in a cabin, and then we moved in with a total stranger for a month.  That was July through most of August.

At the end of August, we finally moved into a rental, where we waited 3 more weeks for our stuff to be shipped across the continent.  And that rental — let me tell you about that.  It was a nice, fairly new house.  With a stupid, stupid layout.  In which you could hear virtually everything everyone else did from every room.  I’m not even kidding.  That home was never comfortable for any of us, and I know that was by design because the Lord told me it was a picture of what he was doing in our lives.  He wanted us transparent with each other, out of our comfort zones, and he wanted to expose things that needed to be dealt with. (Later in the year, he told me this was a year of establishment, so the ordeal in this house finally made sense — often, you have to tear down old to establish new.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

September:  M started his new school and got really lazy.  All of a sudden, he couldn’t remember to do his chores or homework, or even that he HAD chores and homework.  In retrospect, he was going through his own adjustment period, as well as picking up on the tensions in the house and not knowing how to handle them.  I couldn’t find a job.

October, November, December: More of the same.  Both Lechuga and J were facing (or avoiding, in some cases) their own issues, and there were times I felt like I had 3 children instead of 1.  There were also times I didn’t come out of my room for 2 or 3 days on end because I couldn’t deal with another minute of it all.  I spent much time on my face, seeking God, seeking wisdom.  And God had told me he wasn’t going to talk to me like he normally did for a period of time because he wanted me to learn to hear/see/experience him in new ways.  I, who am perfectly content not to exchange a word with another human for days on end, have never felt so very alone.  I still couldn’t find a job.  On the plus side, no job meant I could go aurora-chasing all night long whenever I wanted — and I did much of that.

January:  One morning, I awoke to the words, “I want a divorce.” (Note: I have full permission from the hubby to share everything in this post.) My husband, whom I love tremendously and look at as one of the greatest gifts in my life, was going through a very dark time of confusion.  In the 10 years we’d been married by this point, there were a few deeeeeep issues that he just didn’t want to see, and God put him on the spot in this house.  And it got horrible.  You know how a wound festers and hurts the most right before it busts open and begins to heal?  That was my marriage.  But I dug my heels in and said, “No, I won’t agree to that,” and God gave me wisdom.  I never, ever want to go through anything like the following 3 months again, but I will say that when the tide finally turned, it was beautiful and recognizable.  I still couldn’t find a job.

February, March:  These were the months where I learned to choose love when faced with an onslaught of bile, indifference, sarcasm, dishonor, and all the other ugliness that comes from not knowing who you truly are.  But the Lord told me he had an anniversary gift for me, and right around the 12th of March, J began to get his breakthrough.  All the yuck was finally torn down, and establishing of the new began.  It was a slow process, and even now is still going on, but there has been measurable progress, and that brings incredible healing.  In February, I had a job interview and then a second one with the State of Alaska.

April:  After a THIRD interview, I finally got the job.  But two days before I was to start, I had some kind of weird allergic reaction, and my face puffed up and turned red like I had sun poisoning, and my skin got flaky and gross and rashy and ITCHY all over…and I had to start the job looking like that.  I’m still not happy about that, and I’m still dealing with the rash, although the swelling went down after 3 weeks or so.  I’m headed to a naturopath next week because I’ve exhausted my knowledge for figuring out what’s going on.  I did a candida cleanse, put myself on a low-histamine diet for a month, took Allegra, slathered myself repeatedly with shea butter/coconut oil/essential oils, drank gallons of bone broth and ate copious amounts of gelatin gummies, and tried to alleviate as much stress as possible (ha!).  I’m out of ideas.

May:  My birthday and Mother’s Day came about, and the beginning of more family time, as people’s priorities began to realign.  The woman who took us into her home when we move up here passed away.

June:  And the establishing continues. We bought a house!  There’s a great story to be told, but this post is already over 1000 words long, so I’ll tell it in another one.  At any rate, the house is perfect for us, and I smile when I think how the Lord put it here 5 years ago, knowing we’d move up and fall in love with it. 🙂  Kudos to J for finding it, by the way.  I would never have even looked at it if he hadn’t expressed interest, and the moral of that little tidbit is that it’s easy to miss a blessing if you don’t look for it.

July:  It’s our housemate’s turn to come face to face with stuff that needs to go.  And because I didn’t get permission from her to share, I’m not going to say much, except that things are a little awkward right now, but it’s a necessary part of the process, and this, too, shall pass… M told me Alaska feels like home now.  And J told me, just two days ago, “Come hell or high water, I’m in this with you.”  He has never said such a thing to me before, and I felt something significant shift and click into place when he uttered those words.  Moreover, I believe him: we ARE in this together.

So regarding those preconceived notions I had?  Since it was such a BIG move, a BIG life change, I guess I thought we were going to get here and immediately start doing BIG things for God — big, GLORIOUS things.  The reality is that it’s been a very, VERY difficult year, and you can’t begin to imagine how happy I am to have it behind me.  I will state for the record that I still wake up every morning profoundly grateful to be here.  I still ooh and ahh over the mountains that ring 3 sides of this valley, for they look different and ever more beautiful each day.  I still dream and hope and offer myself for this lovely state and her people.  I still call this little town home.  And I’m glad to be established. 🙂

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The Cheechako Speaks

Cheechako is a Chinook Jargon word used mainly in Alaska.  It means “newcomer,” “tenderfoot,” or “greenhorn.”  I learned this word years ago from some kid magazine (Highlights for Children or Cricket or Cobblestone or some such — I had subscriptions to them all). Aren’t you impressed that I still remember it? 😉  Since moving here in July, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to apply it to myself as I’ve come to realize how very different life is in the Last Frontier and how much I don’t know.

It’s not that I expected everything to be perfectly smooth in the transition, but I did think it might be a little easier than it has been. Because it’s not just the people that are different, nor the physical and spiritual climates, nor the terrain.  It’s all of those things and more.  It’s my own perspectives needing to shift.  It’s letting go of things, even when I consider them important.  It’s trying to find my own little space in this vast, open land.

When we first talked about moving, there was such a sense of newness over it all.  Maybe a better way to say that would be that it felt like opening a new journal full of pristine pages and taking pen in hand.  And then sitting there, excited to write, but experiencing the mother of all writer’s blocks, well, that has been the reality.  Let me explain:

When Lechuga, our family friend who moved with us, and I rolled into town, we assumed she was going to get an apartment, and I’d stay with her until my boys got here a month later.  There was not a single apartment available, so we rented a cabin, brainstormed, Skyped with my hubby, and came to the conclusion that we should all get a house together until such a time as Lechuga meets her mountain man/love of her life and J and I buy property and build.  We found a house (the rental market is uber-competitive here), and the day we went to walk through it with the intent of signing a lease, the realtor got a call from the tenants saying they were going to stay for another month, which, according to the lease terms, is perfectly kosher.  That left us effectively homeless for that time because we only had enough money for the rent and security deposit.  But God, being in the details like he is, told us to pick a church, drive to it, and tell our story.  We did…and a perfectly lovely receptionist promptly offered the use of her spare room and her basement apartment for when the boys arrived.

So there we stayed for a month, and maybe I’ll write more about that in another post.  On the 23rd of August, we got into the house, and then a week after that, the money showed up to pay the movers and the movers showed up with our stuff. Well, most of it.  They lost two boxes and a deep freezer and damaged our TempurPedic mattress, a hutch drawer, two bookshelves, and a dresser.  To make a very long story short, after the Austin movers passed the buck to the parent company and the parent company passed the buck to AK Terminals, they’re not replacing the freezer because the movers neglected to list it on the inventory list, and they gave us 60 cents per pound of damaged items because we didn’t take out full insurance.  And instead of fighting, I have let it go.  Why?  Well, back to the writer’s block analogy.  I expected certain things to be written on all those beautiful, blank pages, and instead, I haven’t been able to make the story say what I wanted it to say.  And frankly, I’m tired.  I have felt like so many things from our “old” life grew tentacles and grabbed at us, trying to hold us back.  I want the newness.  And if that means old, damaged or lost stuff doesn’t get replaced, then I will wait for the new to come in its time.  If I carried ideas or assumptions from my life in Texas into this new place, and they don’t fit, then I have to set them down.  If the story takes a different direction from what I imagined, I need to write it as such.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense.  I mean, EVERYTHING is different.  EVERYTHING:

  1. People aren’t rude, exactly, but they don’t use the pleasantries I grew up with like “excuse me” or “thank you.” They don’t even really look you in the face; nor do they hold doors open or give you the right of way.  I have made a point to do these things for them, anyway.
  2. I did notice that their driving got less aggressive when I put Alaska plates on my car.  There’s a love/hate relationship with tourists up here.  Tourism dollars are a HUGE part of the economy, and Alaskans know it, but they also have definite ideas about when it’s time for the tourists to go home.
  3. Non-Texan friends have teased me all my life about how much Texans love Texas.  I just need to tell y’all that Alaska’s pride puts Texas to shame.  I have never seen so many businesses with the state name as a part of the business name as up here.  EVERYTHING is “Alaska This or That.”  People have Alaska decals on their cars.  They wear all manner of Alaska-themed t-shirts and hoodies.  And Alaskans love to make fun of Texans, too, which was all the more reason to get those Texas plates off my car.
  4. Even the way I go shopping is different.  Pretty much everything my family uses is available up here.  It’s just not ALWAYS available.  You buy it when you see it on the shelf because it may not be there tomorrow.  This goes for groceries, clothing, toys, household goods, and all.
  5. 70 degrees here is WARM.  Even 50 degrees is warm when the sun is out.  And it’s not from the humidity because it’s super-dry.  I can’t figure it out, but, as a dear friend said, I have found my people.  Shorts and flip-flops and a sweatshirt?  Yes, please.  It’s almost the uniform here, at least for now.  I just need a pair of Bogs, and I will be indistinguishable from the “real” Alaskans.
  6. There’s a lot less happening spiritually here than in Austin.  I expected this, but it’s been interesting trying to acclimate.  That said, we know that’s part of why we were sent here.  My own relationship with God and the way I hear him has certainly been stretched.  This is, at times, painful, but it is always good.
  7. I have been introduced to the wonders of the HRV, or heat recovery ventilator, system.  I’m still not totally sure how to use it, though, like do I leave it on with the heater, or when it rains, or just all the time?  Someone clue me in!
  8. Speaking of rain, August-September is the rainy season here, if, by “rain,” you mean “kinda misty with a few big raindrops every day, several times a day.”  The Alaskan idea of a hard rain is one that you can hear hitting your roof.  As someone who adores Texas thunderstorms, I can only shake my head and laugh a little. 🙂

Last night, I wanted to go watch the northern lights.  But as I drove up into the mountains, I became less and less sure of myself.  It was pitch black, I was alone at 3900′ elevation, had no cell service, no gun, no bear spray. The thought of car trouble or meeting some maniac – animal or human – was enough that I turned around and drove home, frustrated with the realization of how unequipped I was to take care of myself in this great land. I have so much to learn, and very little of my Texas upbringing applies. Even so, I have awakened every morning with a profound sense of gratefulness that I get to live here.  I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I am home.

Part II, aka, “The Details, or, at Least, as Many of Them as I Know”

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On 29 May 2013, I stood near this marker and looked out over the roaring Little Su River, just outside Wasilla, Alaska.  As had happened many times already, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the place, nearly to tears.  I texted the hubby something about how incredible it was, and he responded, “I guess we’d better move there.”  Now, anytime I travel, he says things like that to me, but this time was different.  I had found myself constructing a whole life for us in Alaska, mundane stuff like, “If I lived here, I’d drive such and such a car.  I’d go to such and such a grocery store.”  But I hadn’t said anything to J because while I was fulfilling a 30 year-old dream, he was back home in Texas working crazy hours and bearing full responsibility for our child.  I didn’t want to rub my joy and freedom and exhilaration in his face.

But it dawned on me that this was the fourth time he’d texted or said this to me during this trip.  And something clicked.  My heart started beating faster, and I prayed for a phone signal.

Me: You keep saying that.  Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

J:  Do you want to live there?

Me:  Yeah…kinda.  Yeah.  Do you?

J:  Yes!  Let’s do it!

Me:  But you haven’t even seen it.

J:  I don’t care.  Let’s do it.  What do we have to lose?

Me:  Nothing, that’s what.

Both of us (and God – I heard it very clearly): WHY THE HECK NOT????

I mean, what do you say when God asks you something like that?  We started talking details, and J wanted to move right then and there.  But I felt like there was a timing to it all, so I made it back to Texas a few days later, and we began to plan.

Ah, plans.  The fun-to-make, well-thought-out, just-makes-sense framework for all that is good in the world.  Yeah.

From the start, not one thing turned out the way J and I planned it.  We sent out resumes.  We went on interviews.  We priced houses and U-Haul trucks and plane tickets.  Resumes went unperused.  Interviews got to the “you’re one of two candidates” stage and fizzled.  U-Haul was not the way to go – anyway, who wants to drive a huge moving truck 4096 miles, over mountains and on gravel and tar-based highways (did you even know there was such a thing?)?  God made it very clear to us that HE was going to be the one to make this whole thing happen, and it has been an unnerving, faith-stretching-to-the-breaking-point process.  He’s called us to take one step at a time and promised that each step would open up the way for the next step.  Translation:  we haven’t known much of anything for the better part of a year.

J can do his job from anywhere in the world, so there’s that.  But we didn’t have the money to ship our stuff, which is what God told us to do.  In fact, we still don’t have all of it.  But he has promised us that he does, indeed, finish what he starts, so we’re shipping it.  The resources will be there.  The same goes for a place to live, a school for our son, a job for me — he’s going to provide.  That kind of faith looks like utter foolishness to most of the world, but we can do nothing else.  We know and believe what he said.

This last year has been a year of purging and reassessment.  The Lord made it very clear to us that nothing old is to go with us into our new lives.  (This even includes some things we’d consider “good.”  They just don’t fit the picture anymore.  S-T-R-E-T-C-H.)  We’ve made 6 trips to the Salvation Army to give material items away, and there’s at least one more trip that needs to happen.  I think the most fun giveaway happened a couple of weeks ago, on a perfect last day at the beach.  M and I had decided to leave our boogie boards on the sand with a sign saying, “Moving to Alaska!  Don’t need these!”  But we happened across 2 young girls and their parents, so we just handed them over.  And then we asked if they wanted our pop-up shelter and three beach chairs.  It turns out the mom leads an area Girl Scout troop, and they just started learning about camping, so these things were definitely useful to them.  We left the beach with huge grins on our sunburned faces.

Did I mention that along the way, a friend of the family decided she wanted to move with us?  So she’s gotten to go through her own faith-stretching, and “family” has been redefined in a brand-new way for all of us.

Old ideas, old beliefs, old ties and relationships – especially toxic ones – all of these came under scrutiny, too.  It’s been intense.  But I don’t even know if I can explain how this move feels – it’s like not only is one chapter done, but the whole book is closed, and a new one is opened, full of blank pages just waiting to be written on.  There is such a sense of life about to start, like everything up to now has just been a shadow of what’s to come.  I am more excited about this than I’ve ever been about anything  in my life.

So…in approximately 8 hours, my friend and I will be on the road.  We’re taking 10 days to make the drive, and J and M will follow us on the 1st of August.  Our stuff should get to us a few weeks later, at which time we will hand the movers a check, and they will be paid in full!  For my Facebook friends, I’ll post as often as I can, but I’m pretty sure internet access will be spotty once we get into Yukon Territory and such.

Squeeeee!  Onward and upward!  North to the future!!!!!!

PS — Did you catch the significance of the “shift” happening on top of an active fault line????

We Have a Big, Gigantic, Humongous, Enormous Announcement

success-really-looks-likeI’ve been mentally writing and re-writing this blog post for about 6 months now. Why? Because when the hubby and I had our big idea a little over a year ago, I just knew how the whole thing was going to play out. We would make the decision, agree on the details, and move forward with executing the plan flawlessly. The story would be sequential and VERY entertaining. My narrative practically wrote itself…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Ahem. Sorry.

It’s just that not a single thing has happened as we envisioned. Our end goal is still the same, but the getting there has been all kinds of “not what we imagined.” Really, I should have known better, because in our household, God is not only IN the details, but he writes them. And our best-laid plans gang aft agley because we still haven’t learned just to go with the flow and trust his process.

[Side note: The Lord has been teaching me about the difference between dreaming and imagination, and what his giving us the desires of our hearts REALLY means. It’s not about “if we want it, he’ll give it to us.” It’s actually about one who knows us better than we know ourselves and offers a dream – a desire – he knows we’re gonna love. When we say yes, he gets to work making it happen, but the deal is that it’s like writing an outline. We “dream” – come up with the idea, or more accurately, discover what he’s put in our heart. We say yes. Those are the Roman numerals in the outline. We get to choose what goes there. But the little abc’s are the details, and if we have truly given him authority over our lives, those letters are not ours to fill in. When we do, THOSE are imaginations, and they’re most often in vain. I realize this seems to be in direct contradiction to all that stuff we’re taught about going after our dreams, making them happen, etc. But years ago, someone told me that if I could accomplish the things I dreamed without God, I wasn’t dreaming big enough, and I took it to heart. Dreaming, in my mind, is the single biggest way to deepen my trust in the Lord. And that is very much what this season has been about.]

Okay, so the announcement:

We are moving to Alaska at the end of July. Yes, the 49th state. Yes, for real. Yes, we know it gets cold up there.

I’ll give y’all the details in Part II, which, in and of itself, is exactly 0% how I thought I’d break the news. But there it is. And we are super-excited like you wouldn’t believe. We just have to see a few more things fall into place, and then I can tell you everything. But for now, I need to go cook supper for my family, which will be served on paper plates, as all my dinnerware is packed. 🙂  Until next time…

I Dreamed a Dream in Times Gone By…

Les Miserables is my all-time favorite musical, so it was with some trepidation that I went to see the latest movie version.  None of the past versions have ever captured the passion inherent to Victor Hugo’s story the way the musical retelling does, so I wasn’t expecting much of this one.  Seeing as this post is not intended to be a movie review, though, I won’t tell you what I actually thought, except for one little bit:  Anne Hathaway nailed it as Fantine.  She made me cry, like, tears-running-freely-down-my-face cry.  Twice, in fact.  If I did hashtags, I’d say #notafluke.  Ms Hathaway eschewed the typical portrayal of Fantine, which tends to be wistful, kind of wimpy, like that horrible “Foolish Games” song in the late 90s.  Her Fantine was real.  Ragged, broken, ugly, utterly without hope.

I wasn’t the only one crying.  All around me, I could hear people sniffling, guys and girls alike.  I especially noticed all the men who, truthfully, probably got dragged to this movie by their significant females and then found themselves reacting on a gut level to the raw emotion on-screen.  Probably a bit uncomfortable for most of them, I’d say.  Several actually walked out for a few minutes.

I think we all reacted because everyone has a bit of Fantine in him or her.  She couldn’t possibly have known that kind of despair, had she not once been sure that life was hers for the conquering.  And maybe we haven’t found ourselves selling our bodies to make ends meet, but we’ve all had beautiful dreams and ideas of how things were going to work out.  Except that years later, they didn’t.  So we fell into depression, becoming shells of ourselves.  Or we got bitter, alienating those around us and resenting the ones who did realize their dreams.  Some of us turned to various substances to help us forget; some of us just chose to forget and went on surviving.  We decided not to hope because it was too costly, too disappointing.  We pledged not to feel so we could never get hurt.  We laid those dreams down, comforting ourselves by chalking it up to “putting away childish things.”  Coping mechanisms, all.  And Fantine cracked the shell just a little.  For a moment, we felt all the hurt, the disappointment, the pain that is the hallmark of unfulfilled dreams.

I’m willing to bet that many of you reading this can’t even remember what you used to dream of doing or being — you’ve been on autopilot for too long.  I was there – and not even that long ago.  But awhile back, God began to speak to me about dreaming again.  He wanted me to revisit the things I’d dreamt of long ago.  I tried and tried, and I finally had to tell Him that I couldn’t remember any of them. So God, who can be pretty insistent, began to help me.  Suddenly, I was recalling all kinds of things – little, tiny ones and big, audacious, gonna-take-a-miracle ones.  There was genuine laughter and pleasure in His voice as he said, “The last lyric of the song does NOT have to be ‘Now life has killed the dream I dreamed’ because I AM the Resurrector.  Give Me your dreams – because I first gave them to you – and watch what happens!  This is a season for dreaming with Me!”

What has happened so far is that I have begun to live from a place of hope again instead of a place of just getting by.  I’ve begun to trust that He’s got it all taken care of.  I’ve begun to believe that my dreams have already come true because He sees the end from the very beginning.  It’s only a matter of timing, now.  And I have to say, this is a MUCH more fun way of doing life.  It feels like the night before Christmas as a kid.  Remember how you just KNEW those presents were going to show up under the tree (the right place) on Christmas Day (the right time), and they were going to be AMAZING?  Yeah, it’s like that times ten thousand.  And by the way, God always picks out the perfect gifts.  How do I know this?  Because I always dreamt of traveling as a child, and He has given me trip after trip over the past couple of years.  And He hasn’t stopped giving!  I am going to Alaska at the end of May, which has been on my “WANT!!” list ever since 3rd grade, when I did a report on Seward’s Folly and promptly decided I MUST go there one day.  He just gave me that one yesterday, and I am so excited!  I want to jump around and dance like an idiot and yell and scream because it’s just SO COOL! 😀  And you know, it’s not just the traveling that’s so cool.  It’s that this came up seemingly out of the blue – 3 days ago, it was still a 29 year-old dream in the back of my mind.  But HE never forgot, and He put it together and just sort of casually gave it to me, and it’s awesome because it’s not like going to Alaska is a life-or-death deal for me.  But I’ve wanted it, and He gets such enjoyment out of giving His kids good gifts.  So He gave it.

If you’ve forgotten your dreams, like I had, I want to encourage you to ask the Lord to help you remember them.  If you feel like your dreams are dead, rewrite the lyrics because they are SO not.  He will breathe life back into them for you – LIFE.  Joy, abundance, enthusiasm, giggles, beauty.  FUN.  Poor Fantine didn’t grasp this, but you can. 🙂  Because hope IS high and life IS worth living.

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