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. 🙂


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.

The Summer of “Whaaaaat???”

So…it’s the 15th of July, and my summer has not been even remotely what I thought it would.  What it HAS been is a series of lessons in adjusting my thinking and my response time.  Timing is everything, you know…

First, I had planned on taking the summer off from school (1st break in 3 years) and starting to write my book.  Then I found out that the 4 classes I needed in order to graduate in December were all being offered on the same days in the same 3 time slots, which meant that if I took the summer off, I’d have to go one semester longer for a single class.  Uh, no thanks.  So I signed up for 2 classes this summer – one of which meets at 8 in the morning on SATURDAY, 50 miles from my house.  Yay!

Second, God began to challenge me to rethink everything I ever thought I knew, which I’ve identified as the running theme to my summer.  Through a series of very cool events which I’ll probably document in another blog entry at some point, He showed up in my house in a major way and basically left the door open.  I’m not kidding – people walk into my living room and get overwhelmed by the presence of God.  I’m – we’re – learning how to steward that well, and it’s the reason for all my “best-laid plans” going wonky.

Third, the plans I had to keep my son occupied fell through.  The thought here was to give him something to do for a few hours while I wrote my book…and then while I did my summer schoolwork, too…negatory, Ghostrider.  Instead of him participating in a summer homeschool program my friend started, he’s been home with me all this time.  I was pretty concerned about this arrangement at the beginning (gonna be reeeeeally transparent here) for several reasons.  One, I am definitely not the stay-at-home mom type.  I realize many women are, and God bless ’em, but the idea of coming up with fun little activities we could do together (sock puppets!  dance party!  locking myself in the closet!) sets my teeth on edge.  Two, my son and I are so, so much alike that I thought we’d drive each other up the walnuts, as he says.  Three, my tolerance for Star Wars is exactly 1/276,0000th of my child’s enthusiasm for it.  But what God told me changed my perspective a good deal (well, that, and mandating “No Star Wars Days” from time to time).  He told me that the summer was all about training up my child in the way HE should go – because M and I share very similar giftings, the Lord wanted him to spend a lot of time with me, just watching me live day to day interacting with people and with Him.  And curiously, our being so alike has actually been beneficial.  It turns out my kid wants his alone time just as much as I want mine, and he understands completely when I need to disengage for a few minutes.  He also still likes to take naps or lie quietly reading or drawing for hours at a time, so I’ve not felt tons of pressure to come up with things to do.  We’ve grown closer, and we’ve discussed topics ranging from the Dark Ages vs the Renaissance to Democrats and Republicans to why different denominations believe different things about the same God.  All topics brought up by the 7 year-old, I might add.  It’s kept me on my toes.

Fourth, we were given a word that now was the time to make some decisions.  Well, let me tell you, I’ve had a whole list of topics that I knew were going to need some attention, but I didn’t know immediacy, priority, etc.  And of all the ones to start with, I’d have never picked the one that God did…but isn’t that usually the case?  So the latest is that we’ve been feeling like M wouldn’t continue at the private school he’s gone to for the last 2 years for much longer.  We did think he’d go at least one more year.  Today confirmed otherwise.  We – J, M and I all – have clear direction that he is going to the public elementary school in our neighborhood for 2nd grade.  And I have this strong sense (which has been confirmed by a trusted friend) that all the other decisions will fall into place, contingent on this one.  My friend said she saw the Lord placing a bunch of dominoes very precisely, and when He was through, I got to flick the first one down, which set off the chain reaction perfectly.  I don’t think He could have gotten much clearer. 🙂

Fifth, one of the very biggest things that has happened this summer came from out of the blue.  I started having all these people speak words of creativity over me, again and again and again.  These were people who know me as very logical, precise, and organized.  What none of them know is that early in my life, I painted and drew and wrote constantly and never went anywhere without my beloved Canon A1.  But some years ago, I set all that down.  Life required too much logic and precision just to get by, and I guess I got used to moving within those parameters.  The creativity got stuffed in a dark closet somewhere.  But then a couple of weeks ago I began to feel that there’s a series of paintings the Lord wants me to do…and I kind of freaked out.  I really don’t move in a lot of fear or intimidation as a rule in my daily life, but in this area, I was definitely not my normal, confident self.  All I could think was, “What if it’s no good?  What if I can’t get it out of my head and onto the canvas?  What if I’m fooling myself and I really suck at this stuff?”  Ad nauseam.  And that in itself was completely annoying because I KNOW better than that, but I was still thinking that way and couldn’t seem to help it.  So I made myself accountable to an intercessor group I’m part of…and the next thing I knew, they were all tossing money at me to sow into this series of paintings and my giftings.  The gesture blew me away, and I figured that the 30 or 40 dollars would buy a couple of canvases and maybe a few brushes.  Except that the 30 or 40 dollars ended up being $235.26, and I was promised a French easel as well.  HOLY TOLEDO COW MOLEY FRIJOLE!  I joked that I guessed God was serious about this, and then I went shopping!  And do you know that all of what I bought cost 47 cents less than what was given to me – and I got every single thing I need to get started???

So now I’m at a place where I’m just watching to see where the dominoes fall.  We’ve got one decision crossed off the list, and I have no idea which one will be addressed next, but I know it’ll be ordered of the Lord.  I’m good with that!  And I’m not making ANY more plans this summer (did I mention I was hoping to travel before school started back up?  Sigh…).  So if you happen to call to see if I want to go do something, you might have to be happy with a “maybe” for your answer. 🙂

How’s your summer going?