Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I’m Fine

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Ever just feel . . . off? Nothing’s really wrong. Just off. You don’t want to complain. And there’s nothing you can put your finger on if you did. Besides, you should be able to handle this. You’re a Christian, right? You trust God, right? So you answer, “Fine,” when asked how you’re doing. But you’re not. Not really. You’re struggling. And you don’t even know what you’re struggling with.

I don’t know if it’s having moved 3200 miles, or settling into a new home, or figuring out new schools and myriad schedules, or adjusting to city living, or missing dear friends, or all of the above. But I’m there.

Words to describe my many and mixed emotions: displaced, overwhelmed, excited, exhausted, antsy, lonely, eager, conflicted . . . . So now what?

When we arrived in Colorado Springs, we were warned that we need to drink lots of water. Water prevents dehydration. (Yeah. I figured that one out all by myself.) What I didn’t know is that your lungs lose water vapor faster at higher altitudes. What appears to be altitude sickness is often simply dehydration. So, between the altitude (our house is at 7400 feet) and the climate (dry), we really need water! Turns out, the same is true of Living Water. We need it on a regular basis, yes. But when you’re climbing life’s mountains you really need it! One of my biggest challenges during the move—if not THE biggest—was finding a quiet time amidst the chaos. My soul was parched!

I love the book of James, so that’s where I started when I realized that Spiritual dehydration was taking its toll on me. James talks about counting it all joy when you face trials of all kinds. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of trials as the “biggies” of life: death, illness, persecution. But it says “trials of many kinds.” Leaving a life we loved was tough. Saying goodbye to friends was painful. As I read, it dawned on me: I’m in a trial! It’s not death or illness or persecution, but it’s hard. And somehow, simply acknowledging it as a trial made it easier. Perhaps because it gave me permission to recognize the difficulty of the transition, rather than just telling myself to get over it.

Also, James reminds me that trials are always for a purpose. God wants to grow me through this. So I don’t need to “get over it.” I need to learn through it. I need to feel the hurt and the loss. I need to grieve. And I need to lean hard on my Savior. Because He wants to do something special in me: He wants to make me stronger, more resilient, more mature.

Another thing that jumped out at me was the repeated warnings throughout the book of James regarding the tongue. Oops. Guilty! When I’m out of sorts, my default mode is to find someone to blame. Paul’s pushing too hard. The kids’ squabbling is driving me crazy. If I could just have 2 minutes without someone needing something from me! Whatever. But James says, “Don’t grumble against each other.” Humph.

Instead, I need to follow the advice of James 4:7-8. It tells me to resist the devil (not my husband or my kids or even my feelings). And—twice—it tells me to seek God. Something tells me that’s the key.

  1. “Submit yourselves, then, to God.” Emotions are from Him. I need to allow Him to do what He wants with them.
  2. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The fight is against the enemy of my soul. He can turn my emotions into a cesspool of self-pity—if I let him.
  3. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” That’s the answer! Whatever I’m feeling. I need to take it to Him.

I’m getting back into a sort-of routine. The emotions haven’t vanished, but they’re not as overwhelming as they were. I’m choosing to trust that God has a plan for them. Sometimes that’s a day by day choice. Sometimes it’s a moment by moment choice. But it is a choice. “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.” So very thankful I don’t have to do it perfectly!

Monday, July 29, 2013

AK 2 CO: The Whole (Slightly Edited) Story

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MONDAY July 15, 2013 ~ THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. UM, WAIT. HOLD THAT THOUGHT.

3:00 a.m. Finished loading the U-Haul, admired a rare, summertime Aurora Borealis display (felt like a gift directly from God on our last morning in Alaska), crawled into sleeping bags on the floor of our empty house, and posted a Facebook Status: “And the adventure begins.” I had no idea…
8:00 a.m. (Paul was up around 6.) Crawled—surprisingly painlessly—out of sleeping bags; packed up last minute bedding, pets, overnight bags, sundry “oops! almost forgot this” items; ate breakfast; picked up Papa (my Dad, our primary U-Haul driver); gassed up vehicles; and took a final walk around the property as a family, ringing the Chapel bell to commemorate our departure. Our neighbor, an older lady who tells me she loves me when we chat on the phone, walked over to hug us goodbye and tell us how much she was going to miss the “best neighbors she’s ever had.” Yes, I was bawling.
12:00 p.m. Ignition started, seat belts clicked, gear engaged, and Paul said, “Show me the folder with the passports and animal tags.” I hauled the bag of Important Papers onto my lap and pulled out the “Passports” folder. As expected, I saw 5 passport books and 2 cards. (Backstory 1: In order to drive through Canada, we got the oldest 3 kids passport books, and the younger 2 passport cards. Paul & I already had ours. That’s a total of 5 current passport books and 2 passport cards. Backstory 2: Between the 2 of us, Paul and I have 5 passport books. Two are current; three are old.) Just to be safe, I opened the 1st passport. Wow, Paul looked young. My heart started pounding. I opened the 2nd passport. Paul looked even younger! My lungs began to clench. Rather than 5 passport books & 2 passport cards, I was staring at 3 old passports, 2 new ones (Paul’s & mine), and sundry loose papers, border crossing info pamphlets, and “if you lose your passport” instruction cards. Full blown panic set in. I began digging frantically through the sack of Important Paperwork. Paul put the van in park and said quietly (too quietly), “The filing cabinet is in the very front of the U-Haul.” I ran back into the house, and looked desperately in every remaining drawer, cabinet, toilet tank, and appliance and on every shelf and countertop. No passports. Oh. My. Word. I did not do this. But I did. We drove to my parents’ house to begin unloading the U-Haul. I sobbed the entire way. The sweet, beautiful, lovely thing is that when we arrived at my folks’ house, every single one of my kids and my husband hugged me and told me it was okay. They still loved me. I sobbed even harder.
2:30 p.m. Found the passports. In the filing cabinet. In the front of the U-Haul. My poor husband, sons, and Dad had to unload 2/3 of the truck to get to them, but we had them. Then they had to repack it—always the harder task.
9:00 p.m. Finished reloading the U-Haul. (They took about a 2 hour break for a power nap & supper, but worked steadily besides that.) The menfolk took showers, Mom & I washed their dirty, sweaty clothes, and I enjoyed one last short visit with Mom & Dad.
11:00 p.m. Fell into bed—an actual bed—at my folks’ house. Listened to our dog whine and whimper all night.

TUESDAY July 16, 2013 ~ THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, TAKE 2.

5:00 a.m. Woke up to a pancake breakfast cooked by my Dad (a.k.a. Papa). Very nice.
6:00 a.m. Wheels rolling. The good news is that I was all cried out. Blinked away a little bit of moisture, but no more bawling. Whew! There were some pretty impressive frost heaves between Glennallen and Haines. (Frost heaves are nature’s speed bumps, caused by permafrost heaving the ground—and road-bed—up.) Thought the pick-up truck behind the U-Haul was gonna bounce clear over the front of the truck a couple of times. Poor Bailey! (Our dog was in the bed of the pick-up, under the truck cap.) Ended up going 35-40 mph for a bit. We got tickled when the stuff in the cab of the pick-up shifted forward and turned on the flashers. Got even more tickled when the horn started beeping every time the trailer bounced. Stress relief, maybe? I dunno, but we found it hilarious.
12:00 p.m. Extremely smooth border crossing into Canada at Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory. Tristan was amused when the border agent locked himself out of his booth. He’d come around to look in the back of the van in order to confirm kids’ identities. T said he couldn’t hear him, but saw him mouth a bad word when he pulled on the handle and realized the door was locked. I asked him if it was “French.” He grinned and said, “It was!” We crack ourselves up.
1:00 p.m. Got slapped with sticker shock over the price of gas in Canada. We’d been warned, but  wow. Oh, and our credit card was declined. Because we were in Canada. Have never had to share our travel plans with Visa before, but that’s apparently how things are done now. Thankfully, we had enough cash between us to not have to leave a child behind in payment. Papa, the primary U-Haul driver, pulled out of the gas station—with the back of the U-Haul wide open. We had visions of our freezer full of fish & meat (which was right at the back so we could plug it into the generator) catapulting out, and the monstrous pile of antlers over and behind it shattering onto the pavement. Thankfully, Papa (finally—it seemed like an eternity) saw our flashing lights, blaring horn, and wildly erratic driving and pulled over before the freezer worked its way more than a couple of inches out the door. Whew! I think we got our aerobic workout for the day in approximately 20 seconds.
11:00 p.m. Found a pull-out stacked with RV’s and started setting up a tent, arranging kids in various vehicle seats, and kenneling pets. (Who are traveling remarkably well, btw.) The mosquitoes were demonic.
12:00 a.m. Crawled into the tent with Tristan, Teagan & Paul; Papa slept in the U-Haul; Aidan in the front seat of the van; Ashelyn & Therron on the 2 back seats.

WEDNESDAY July 17, 2013 ~ DAY TWO

5:30 a.m. Paul woke up and roused the rest of us. Loaded up camp.
6:00 a.m. Drove a short ways down the road to an empty pull-out with permanent outhouses. Used facilities, dug out Pop Tarts, longed desperately for coffee, ran the dog, fed the critters.
6:30 a.m. Headed down the road, hoping for a less “adventurous” day.
10:30 a.m. So far, so good. Saw porcupines, rabbits, black bears (three separate ones!) & bison so far. Quite a few bison. Man, those suckers are BIG. Landscape was much gentler. Still mountainous, but smaller and tree covered. Reminded me of the Smokies.
11:00 p.m. Alaska Time / 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time (Figured it’s probably time to start moving our watches forward.) Arrived in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Found a hotel, but they were full–except for the $500-a-night suite on the top floor. Yeah, we weren’t doing that. They sent us around the corner to another hotel that might have rooms. Paul told Papa to stay put in the U-Haul at the first hotel (with 2 sleeping kiddos) while we drove the back roads to the other and made sure they had room for us. We found the other hotel, and Paul went in to see about rooms while Tristan, Aidan & Teagan (who was also sound asleep) stayed in the van with me, parked on a side street alongside the hotel. It took him a few minutes, but he came out with room keys. T, A & I hauled Teagan and a few overnight bags into the hotel while Paul drove back to get Papa. Got Teagan settled and left Aidan with her, while Tristan & I went out to meet Papa & Paul. Papa was just pulling in as we came out the door, and I noticed this man walk up to his window. I didn’t pay much attention because Paul drove up then, as well, and as he got out of the van, he asked, “So, none of you noticed someone stealing the gas cans off the back of the van while I was in the hotel getting us rooms?” (We had five 5 gallon gas cans with us; they were strapped onto a hitch rack on the back of the gold van, some of which we were using to run a generator to keep our freezer of meat frozen. At that point, we had four full cans and one almost empty one.) I looked over at the back of the van, and sure enough, four gas cans were missing—the four full ones. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us at the time, the culprit was borrowing Papa’s cell phone, trying to find someone to come pick him up. He called one “friend” who didn’t answer. He called another, and started giving him directions about where he was. I overheard part of that as I woke Therron & Ashelyn up and got them out of the cab of the U-Haul to take them inside. I didn’t really pay much attention, other than to notice that the guy was clearly plastered, and to think how nice it was of my Dad to let him use his phone. Turns out, after I walked away with my stumbling, bleary-eyed young-uns, the guy concluded his phone call, and asked my Dad how far we were traveling, and did that U-Haul chug a lot of gas?, and hey! he just happened to have 20 gallons of gas he’d be willing to sell him. Now, Papa knew our gas had been stolen. He had noticed the missing cans and the dragging straps when Paul had come back to get him. Papa called Paul over to talk with the guy, and the minute he saw Paul, he started back-pedaling, verbally and physically. The van was parked out of his line of sight, so he didn’t know who Paul was, but Paul was big, irritated (at having to deal with a drunk), furious (at having had his gas stolen), and tired. And he wasn’t about to be snookered. All of the above was apparently . . . apparent, because the dude wanted out of there! Suddenly, he didn’t have quite that much gas, and well, it wasn’t right there, and he wasn’t gonna mess around with them. He threw out some tough guy talk (because any guy who can fling the f-bomb must be super tough) and walked away. Fast. Paul & Papa went inside and alerted the desk clerk to what was going on. He called the police. Papa pulled up the two numbers the guy had called on his phone, and the desk clerk related those to the police, as well. (Interestingly, the first guy called Papa’s phone back later. But, when Papa answered, he didn’t speak. Hmmm.) Not too much later, Paul got a call from the police that they’d found his gas cans. Still full. Tucked in some bushes not far from where they’d been taken. We figured they had to be nearby. That’s like 140 pounds of gas! No way he was gonna carry them far on foot. But it was dark, and there were lots of back lots of closed businesses. Not places we really wanted to search for ourselves at 1:00 in the morning. Thankfully, they were recovered, and—after locking them securely in the back of the U-Haul—we finally collapsed into bed around 2:00 a.m. Why, oh, why did I ever use that word “adventure”?

THURSDAY July 18, 2013 ~ DAY THREE

2:00 a.m. “Collapsed into bed.” (See Day Two)
9:00 a.m. Woke to eat breakfast at the hotel.
10:00 a.m. Went back to rooms to bathe younger kids (they were too far zonked to do so the night before, but they were in desperate need!) and to pack up while Paul and Papa tried to get a couple more hours’ sleep. They were the primary drivers, and they’d had less sleep, by far, than any of us. Papa didn’t end up sleeping, but Paul got a good hour in before we started loading up to hit the road again.
12:00 p.m. Checked out of hotel. Walked dog. Fed & watered critters. Cleaned out guinea pig carrier. Argued over seating arrangements. And finally pulled out close to 1:00 p.m.
12:00 a.m. Technically, we had an uneventful day, but . . . we were still driving at 12:00 a.m. And the night was not over. (Funny comment of the day: Teagan, as we passed Papa to take the lead on a freeway, “Dad? Why is Papa backing up?!”)

FRIDAY July 19, 2013 ~ DAY FOUR

1:00 a.m. Continued driving. Paul was driving the U-Haul; I was following in the van. He had Tristan riding shotgun; I had Papa & the rest of the gang. The goal was to get through Calgary at night, so as to avoid daytime traffic. Fabulous. Until . . .
2:00 a.m. I saw a spark shoot out from under the trailer behind the U-Haul. Then I saw more sparks. Almost continuous sparks. Called Paul & told him what I was seeing.  He’d just started to feel something “off,” and was trying to figure out what it was. He pulled over onto a wide shoulder, just past an off ramp. The trailer has two wheels, in the center (one in front of the other), on each side. The front right one was absolutely shredded. As in, hanging from the rim in ribbons. And there was no spare. Oh boy. We could see a Comfort Inn just down the off ramp, the start of which was behind us about 100 yards. If they could just get it off the freeway, and down to the hotel. Paul, Papa, Tristan, and Aidan grabbed headlamps, wood blocks, and some straps and went to work. They had to use the jack from our van, and, as is prone to be in a situation like this, it wouldn’t work. At all. (Incidentally, we have had to have this jack replaced before by Chevy. We love Chevy. But that’s another story.) As they strapped and shimmed and finagled, trying to get the axle high enough to not damage the rim for the drive down to the hotel, a police cruiser pulled in behind us. The officer was very friendly and as helpful as possible.
2:20 a.m. I called U-Haul’s roadside assistance number, and the officer helped me communicate our location to a somewhat taciturn U-Haul associate. I figured she probably expected me to be grumpy, so I made an extra attempt to be sweet, to communicate clearly, and to even joke a bit with her. She had no sense of humor. Whatsoever. Granted, I may not have been as funny as I thought I was, but come on. When you’re dealing with a broken-down customer, at 2:30 in the morning, 1500 miles into a 3000 mile road trip, be a tad friendly. It helps. I may have been a tad slap happy, but at least I wasn’t cussing her out. Anyway… The Unfriendly U-Haul Lady told me she had my location on a map, and she’d call me back within 30 minutes to tell me when to expect a repair technician. Wonderful. The menfolk kept tinkering, the officer bid us adieu, and we waited. And waited. And waited.
3:30 a.m. Finally, we decided to just lock everything up, and head down to the hotel. Put the dog in the van with all eight humans, both cats, and the guinea pig and backed up to the head of the off ramp. We’d barely made it to the bottom of the ramp when we saw someone pull in behind the U-Haul. Didn’t look like a repair truck, but someone got out with a flashlight and started walking all around the rig. Visions of our gas can fiasco immediately flashed in our heads. Oh joy. Paul threw the van into park, hollered for me to drive to the hotel and get rooms, and he and Papa started hollering, waving, and jogging up the side of the hill toward the U-Haul. Don’t know if the guy heard them or not (there was a lot of traffic, much of which was semis, so it was loud). By the time they got to the top of the hill, he’d pulled away. We really think he was just a concerned motorist, stopping to see if we needed help—we’d left the flashers on, and he wouldn’t have been able to tell from behind whether or not someone was in the cab of the U-Haul without getting out and walking up to it. That’s basically all he did, but by now we were more than a tad gun shy. Paul left Papa in the U-Haul while he hiked down to the hotel to meet up with me, the kids, and the critters. Meanwhile, right as Paul and Papa charged up the hill, the Unfriendly (but, thankfully, helpful) U-Haul Lady called back to let us know a repair tech would be there in about 45 minutes. I pulled up to the hotel, kicked Aidan out to walk the dog a bit, and I went in to inquire about rooms. They were booked. Groan! The clerk was very sympathetic, and showed me on a little map where to find a couple of other hotels, just up the freeway an exit. Paul walked into the lobby just as he finished explaining the directions to me. He repeated them for Paul’s benefit, we called Papa from the van to tell him what we were doing, and we headed back up Hwy 2 to the previous exit. There were 3 hotels off that exit. Paul had just exited the first with a “they’re full too” report when Tristan pipes up from the back seat, “You know we left Aidan at the first hotel?” Ahh! We did!! With the dog. Back down the freeway we go. Of course, Aidan’s phone was in the seat beside Tristan (dead, we later learned). Thankfully, it wasn’t far, and Aidan was right there when we pulled back in. Not too traumatized, either. (We did, however, have a little chat about staying put if you’re left behind. He’d just begun walking up the street toward the off ramp and Papa.) Okay. Back up the highway to check the other 2 hotels. Both were booked. Turned out, there was a gymnastics tournament—do they call them “tournaments” in gymnastics? I have no clue—going on in town. No rooms to be had. The next town was 10 minutes past where we’d left Papa and the U-Haul. We headed back that way and stopped to tell him what was going on. By that time, the Even Less Friendly U-Haul Technician had arrived and was assessing what needed to be done to get the trailer fixed. I’m sure it stinks to get a repair call at 3:00 in the morning. It does. But, really, dude. We’re not exactly having a party here, either. And we’ve had less sleep than you have.
4:45 a.m.—ish (I’d stopped really watching the time by this point.) We headed down the road and turned off at the first exit we came to that looked like it might have hotels. Nope. Lots of shopping and dining, but NO hotels. None. We pulled over, Paul pulled out his iPhone, and did a “hotel” search using Google Maps. That showed us a Best Western just a couple exits further down. He called the hotel, confirmed that they had rooms available, and we followed the wonderful little Google Maps flashing blue ball right to the front door. Sometimes technology is marvelous. Paul went inside, and I called Papa to give him directions to find us. He said the U-Haul guy had just finished, and he’d call me right back. Paul came back to the car. Empty handed. Oops, they didn’t have rooms after all. I mean, they did, because the people had checked out, but they hadn’t been cleaned yet. So the computer showed them as available for that day, but they weren’t. Yet. Until the maid service came later that morning. The clerk felt really bad and sent us just down the road to yet another hotel. It was called Acclaim. Never heard of it, but they are now our favorite hotel. If there’s a chain of them, they have won customers for life.
5:30 a.m. Paul went inside just as Papa called for directions. Paul finished checking us in, and Papa pulled up just as we were hauling kids and bags and a dog out of the van. Not only did Acclaim have side-by-side rooms for us, they gave us a “day rate” of almost half price. We had the rooms until 3:00 p.m. And they were really nice rooms. Jets-in-the-shower nice.
6:00 a.m. All kids in beds or on sofa cushions. Pets safely tucked in the van with fresh food and water. Ahhhh. Not sure I’ve ever crawled into a bed that felt better than that one.
12:30 p.m. Paul woke up and went to check on the pets. Good thing. The van was in direct sunlight, and even with the windows cracked, the poor animals were about to expire. He moved the van to the shade, cranked up the AC for a bit, and gave them all fresh water.
1:00 p.m. Woke to the sound of Paul re-entering the room. Figured we should get up and get showers and try to navigate through Calgary between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. if we wanted to beat rush hour traffic. Most of us took a turn enjoying the jetted showers, and Teagan took a dunk in the deepest tub she’d ever beheld. You shoulda seen the wonder on her face. After she got out, she said, “Can we just stay here instead of moving to Colorado?”
2:00 p.m. Loaded up and headed south.
6:30 p.m. So far, so good. I thought the previous night’s adventure should be enough to take us through the rest of the trip.
10:00 p.m. Pulled off for gas in Great Falls, MT. Looked over and saw an awfully welcoming Best Western sign. Decided to call it a night.
11:00 p.m. Lights out. And everyone got a bed!

SATURDAY July 20 ~ DAY FIVE

8:00 a.m. Sometimes getting a solid 9 hours of sleep only makes you realize how much sleep you’ve missed. Saturday morning was that way, but we got up anyway. Took showers, ate a yummy, sit-down breakfast, and hit the road. Montana is quite pretty. We took back roads through lots of farm country, both cattle and crop. Gently rolling hills, wide fields, Ponderosa Pines, and the Rocky Mountains silhouetted against the horizon. Saw lots of deer and antelope. And cows. Interesting note: Teagan’s Alaska heritage shows up in her use (or non-use) of plurals when  referring to horses and cows. “Look! I see some cow!” We realized that, with the exception of bears, every critter we ever hunted, saw, or ate in AK was referred to the same, whether singular or plural: moose, caribou, bison, sheep, salmon, halibut.
1:30 p.m. Pulled over in a turn-out to let kids & the dog stretch their legs, and to plug the freezer into the generator. The generator wouldn’t start. Papa—whose generator it had been before we traded him fishing gear for it—concluded that it needed oil.
2:00 p.m. Pulled over into a rural gas station to buy some oil for the generator. Put the oil in, and Paul yanked on the cord of the generator. It broke off in his hand. Without starting. Good grief. The menfolk took it apart, and turned out, it was shot—even if we could’ve gotten another pull cord for it. We were about a hundred miles from Billings, so we decided to head on down the road, and maybe buy a generator there.
4:00 p.m. Stopped in Billings, but the temp on the freezer was low enough that if we could just find a place to plug it in for a few hours, we could avoid buying a generator. Making Colorado Springs sometime Sunday morning was looking like a good possibility, so a few hours was all that was needed to ensure the meat stayed frozen until we arrived at our new home. We decided to continue on until time to eat, and then look for a place to plug in.
6:00 p.m. Found a nice rest area to cook Mountain Houses (freeze-dried camp food), eat, throw a frisbee, and run the dog. Had a place to plug the freezer in, too, so we spent an hour or more there. Decided to try and make it to Cheyenne, WY if possible. Papa started out driving the U-Haul, with Teagan for company. The rest of us piled in the van with Paul driving it.
10:30 p.m. Switched drivers. Paul took the U-Haul, and I took over the van.

SUNDAY July 21, 2013 ~ DAY SIX
12:00 a.m. A semi pulled in between Paul and me. I let it ride there for a while, but finally decided I should probably go around him. Unbeknownst to me, he’d passed Paul, too, and when I went to pass “the semi,” Aidan said, “Mom’s gonna pass Dad!” Oops. I dropped back, but Paul thought I was signaling that I needed to pull over, so he took the next rest area exit. Was probably good, cause I was starting to see cross-eyed. (The U-Haul really does look like a semi from the back at night, though!) Tried to find a plug-in for the freezer but couldn’t. There were signs forbidding camping, but there were RV’s and semis everywhere, so we found a corner, put the two oldest boys in sleeping bags, on air mattresses, on the ground behind the van; the 3 younger kids on the bench seats & floor of the van: Papa in the U-Haul; and Paul & me in the front seats of the van.
1:00 a.m. Attempted to sleep. Scotch (one of our cats) began to meow. The seats began to get hard. Scotch meowed more. Paul threatened to throttle a cat. We rolled our windows mostly up, and I let the cat out of the kennel. The cat crawled on my lap, purring. Loudly. I scratched his chin and rubbed his back. The cat crawled on Paul’s lap, purring. Paul smacked him with his hat. The cat hopped back on my lap, and commenced to purring obnoxiously loudly again. Paul grabbed the cat and deposited him in the cab of the pick-up truck.
4:00 a.m. Paul, having slept barely any, kicked Aidan out of his “bed” and took his place. Aidan climbed in the driver seat of the van, slightly disgruntled.
5:00 a.m. Paul gave up trying to sleep. Woke up the older boys. Deflated air mattresses & stuffed sleeping bags. Dumped cat litter. Returned yowly-cat to kennel. Fed guinea pig. Crammed 2 big boys in the U-Haul cab with Papa. Left 3 little kids zonked where they were.
5:30 a.m. Hit the road. Only 3 hours to Colorado Springs!! (That’s less than a drive from our house in Copper Center to Anchorage!)
6:30 a.m. Stopped just shy of the CO border to get gas and breakfast at McD’s. Woke 3 sleepers in the van, and took them inside to use the restroom and order food.
7:00 a.m. Back on the road. Enjoyed oohing and ahhing over our new home state’s vegetation, critters, landscape, traffic, and flag—and the Denver skyline, as well: pretty impressive for a bunch of hillbilly Alaskan kids! The closer we got, the greater the excitement built.
9:00 a.m. Arrived safely at our new home, and 6 days of bottled-up energy exploded from the van. Picture Mentos dropped in Coke-a-Cola. Fun stuff. Thank you, Lord, for traveling mercies! We love our new home. And . . . something tells me the adventure is far from over.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Man of My Dreams

Twenty years ago, I married Paul Alan Rude. It was a magical day, and I was madly in love. However, I did not marry the man of my dreams. Oh, I thought I did. But . . . alas.

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You see, the man of my dreams would wake me every morning with breakfast in bed and a foot massage. He’d cook and clean as well as I do, and he’d routinely surprise me with dinner dates, cruises, and spa appointments. He’d love to shop, watching patiently while I try on outfit after outfit, tell me how beautiful I look in each one, and then insist on buying me all of them—accessorized perfectly, of course, with new shoes, jewelry, and purses. In other words, the man of my dreams would pamper me. Adore me. Spoil me rotten. All while looking like a Greek god and having the patience of Job. Sigh. I definitely did not marry the man of my dreams.

Instead, I married a man who’s idea of cooking breakfast is flipping the switch on the coffee pot and pouring a bowl of cereal. He doesn’t do dishes or laundry. (In fact, shortly into our newlywedded bliss, he stood, dumbfounded, in front of a sink full of dirty dishes and—I kid you not—said, “What do I do?”) He can cary 200 pounds of quartered moose on his back for miles, but the instant he steps foot in a mall, his entire body begins to ache. Unbearably. Speaking of moose . . . He’s much more likely to bring dinner home in meat bags to be packaged up for the freezer than to take me out to dinner; he’s far too driven to be naturally patient; and we’ve never been on a cruise. Unless you count rafting. Oh, and . . . well, have you ever once seen a bald Greek god?

Sometimes I ponder on this man I married who is so drastically different from anyone I ever imagined. I wonder what would have happened if I had, indeed, married the man of my dreams. Here’s what I’ve concluded:

I would most likely be a petulant, needy, self-absorbed woman. I like being liked, and I love being adored. I am a people pleaser, and I’ve no doubt that if I thought I was the center of anyone’s universe, I’d be quite happy to stay there. Being adored. As my feet were rubbed. Instead, I have a man who does nothing halfway, whether it’s writing, speaking, hiking, hunting, fishing—or seeking hard after God. A man who lives life all out, works harder than anyone I’ve ever known, and holds his family to a high standard of excellence across the board. A man who does rub my feet—under compulsion–every great once in a while, but whose hands are rough and callused from chopping wood and hauling salmon from the river and whose mind is constantly challenged with how best to encourage folks to seek God with all they are and all they do.

I’d undoubtedly be consumed with stuff and up to my professionally coifed hair in debt. I love to shop. As in, I LOVE to shop. I like pretty things to wear and pretty things to decorate with. And I have an addictive personality. My husband is much more experience-driven. He’d far rather do something than buy something. When it comes to stuff, he’s a minimalist. And he’s incredibly responsible financially. Just ponder that combination for a moment. Neither, alone, bodes well for the shop-a-holic; together, they play taps.

I’d probably be significantly overweight. ‘Cause I like food almost as much as I like shopping. (Remember that addictive personality?) And I detest exercise. Ponder that combination! Yikes. My man believes taking care of one’s body is simply good stewardship. He is an avid outdoorsman, he runs, he chops wood, he packs meat and hauls water, and . . . he wears the same size clothes he wore when we got married. He enjoys good food, but he’s got more self-discipline than anyone I’ve ever met. Because of him, I’m encouraged to make wise(r) choices when it comes to diet and exercise.

I’d live a cushy, predictable life, and I’d have missed out on the adventure of Alaska and all that God has taught us here. I’d have stayed in my citified comfort zone and never seen a grizzly bear on the side of the road or a moose in my yard. (I doubt I’d even know what a caribou is.) And I’d never have met the wonderful friends I’ve come to love so dearly here.

No, I didn’t marry the man of my dreams. Instead, I married the man God knew I needed. A man who would challenge me and stretch me. Who would love me passionately while giving God his heart. A man who has brought incredible depth and insight into my life. Who wants nothing more than to see his children grow up to love and serve God—in whatever capacity He’s gifted them to serve. A man I deeply respect and gladly follow. I may not have married the man of my dreams, but I did marry a man who was “far more than I could ask or imagine.” I love you Paul Alan Rude. Thank you for being God’s man for me.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summertime in Alaska

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How do you know it’s summer in Alaska? You just . . . sense it.

SCENT: That magical, blended aroma of sweaty kids, panting dog, and . . . bug dope. For the uninitiated, that’s whatever mosquito repellent you can find that is primarily composed of DEET. We should buy stock in DEET. Yes, I know, DEET is bad for you. But, so is sharing needles—or proboscises, as the case may be.

TASTE: You’ve not tasted anything until you’ve had fresh-from-the-river grilled sockeye salmon, cooked over charcoal. But, keep your mouth closed and hold your breath while applying your bug dope, or your salmon might also have the faint taste of DEET.

SIGHT: Walls and windows decorated with . . . polka dots? Oh. No, those would be smashed mosquitoes. Mmhmm. It’s lovely. Incidentally, toothpicks work really well for poking dried mosquito guts out of the holes of your screens. It’s a good thing. Just call me Martha.

FEEL: There are several “feelings” associated with summer in Alaska. One is the infernal itching of mosquito bites. (How is it that 2 square millimeters of one’s body can overwhelm all conscious thought?) Another is the slight grit in your eyes from sleep deprivation. This happens, in part, due to the never-ending daylight. (It’s hard to go to bed when it’s still light out. What?? It’s midnight? Already? Kids! Come inside, and go to bed!!) Another contributor to summertime sleep deprivation is that mosquito you can hear buzzing around your bedroom at 2 am (right after you actually go to bed yourself), but that you can’t find. And you keep “feeling” it on your cheek, or your arm, or your neck, so you jolt awake, slapping frantically in order to get it before it gets you, only to miss. Repeated 487 times until you finally drift off too deeply to care. At which time, your husband, who’s been out hunting grizzly bears all night, crawls into bed, and your mosquito bites start to itch. (You were right! There was a mosquito in the room.) Your husband’s elbow is in your ear, the sun is fully up, the house is quiet (a rarity), and you decide to just get up. Hence, the grit in your eyes.

SOUND: Pretty much all activity is punctuated by the slapping sound of mosquito hunting. It’s open season, baby. No license required and no limit. Kill them suckers. No, really. Kill them. They suck.

Ah, yes. It’s summer.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Change

57108064-600Change. Some people love it. I am not one of those people. Seriously. I don’t even rearrange my furniture. I figure out how I like it, and I’m good. (For, like, a decade). And, yet . . . life is full of change. From aging, to schooling, to jobs, to styles, to tastes, to kids growing up. Life is full of change. Some change is expected and even enjoyed: as much as I may bemoan the fact that my children are growing up on me, it’s thrilling to watch their young adult personalities emerge. Some change is excruciating: the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the rending of a relationship. Whatever the reasons, change is inevitable.

Our family is moving. We’re leaving a life we love for a new one. New job, new home, new schools, new city—um, make that a city—that alone is a massive change for kids who’ve grown up in rural Alaska.

So, what’s a girl to do? Kick and scream and wail and moan? Nah, that would freak my kids out. But inside? Well, yeah, that’s my inclination. At least at first. But then I stop and remind myself that every single time God has changed things, He’s done it for my good and for His glory. Every time.

I realize I’m not guaranteed a cushy life here on this earth, and I’m not saying there haven’t been—or won’t yet be—difficult times, but God has only given me good gifts. I dreaded moving to Alaska, I really did. I am not an “outdoorsy” sort of gal. But I’ve loved it! (Well, except for this past weekend when our well pump went out, and I had to do my business in the woods behind our house. Not then, in that moment. But overall.) Alaska has been a tremendous gift to our family.

God does, indeed, know how to give good gifts to His children. But sometimes, they are only for a season. Will I pitch a fit when He says, “Time to let go”? Will I rail at Him when He says, “I have something different for you now”? Has He not proven Himself good and faithful and loving and generous? He has. And I trust Him. I choose to trust Him: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

And you know what? A funny thing happened. When I quit fighting against Him, God gave me an excitement and an eagerness for this change. Sure, there’s sadness at leaving people and a place that I love, and there are still unknowns that feel a little scary. But, suddenly, I have this uncharacteristic longing to see what God has in store. I can hardly wait! That, my friend, is God . . . ’cause I don’t like change.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

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I saw a headline yesterday: Six Sexy Ways to Blow Dry Your Hair. Seriously? At first I just laughed and shook my head and made a funny facebook post about it. But I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I don’t like soapboxes; I really don’t. I dislike confrontation, for one thing. But besides that, soapboxes are generally vitriolic and hateful, demeaning and judgmental. I feel strongly about a lot of things, but “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love . . .” Well, I’m not being a Christian, a little Christ.

So, while this might be termed a “soapbox post,” if I know my own heart at all, I’m coming at it from the perspective of love. Love for my children and love for those I interact with on a daily basis. Love for my girlfriends and respect for their husbands. I see us all in danger because we are being fed a lie. Most disturbing of all? Those who claim the name of Christ are opening their mouths wide—or, even worse, they’re ones holding the spoon.

The lie is that to be beautiful or valued, one must be sexy.  “Sexy” is used to describe everything from cars to underwear these days. But what does the word really mean? Miriam-Webster defines it, first and foremost, as sexually suggestive or stimulating; erotic. And erotic means of, devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire; strongly marked or affected by sexual desire. Sorry, but that is not the way I want my 6 year old described. Or my 12 year old. Or my 16 year old. Shoot, I don’t want to be described that way! Not by anyone but my husband, anyhow.

Yes, I know the word sexy has a non-sexual definition: generally attractive or interesting; appealing. But in a culture saturated with erotic ads and entertainment, which definition is more likely to be assumed? My beef isn’t against semantics. It’s against a mindset that doesn’t even blink at the semantics. It’s against the choices that flow from the semantics.

Do I want to be attractive? Yes. Do I want my husband to be proud to be seen with me? Of course. But do I want other men to look at me and be sexually aroused? Uh . . . no!! Do I want boys at school to be lusting after my daughters? Not on your life! Nor do I want my teenage sons to be “strongly marked or affected by sexual desire” all day long. People, what are we doing? What are we doing to our children, and what are we doing to each other?

Men are visual. We all know this. Teen boys are riding a wave of testosterone. We know this, too. And yet we dangle our eye candy in front of them, then call them perverts when they want some of it. That is so unfair. My heart cry is to make this battle easier for the men in my life, not harder. I want to honor my husband, and I want to honor my friends, both male and female. From this position, I reject “sexy.”

I have 2 daughters and 3 sons. I love them desperately, and I am fiercely defensive of them. I want my girls to be valued for their sweet spirits and sharp minds, their passion for Christ and their dynamic personalities and unique gifts. Not their sexiness. I want my boys to be drawn to girls who are godly and smart, witty and engaging and lovely. Not sexy. There are many lies the world would have us swallow. This is one of them. Well, this is me, picking up a shield and sword and swinging for all I’m worth to protect the ones I love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

When is Knowing EVER Enough?

Why would we ever think that understanding and agreeing with Scripture is all that is necessary to live a God-honoring life? That idea doesn’t compute anywhere else in life.

I mean, take cleaning: My house is, at this moment, a pig sty. Seriously. My windows are grimy, my floors are revolting, and my bathrooms are gross. (Well, one bathroom is only half-gross, because I thought I had a friend coming over this morning. So, the toilet and sink are clean. The shower, however . . . well, isn’t that what shower curtains are for?) And then there’s the never-ending mountain of laundry, the pile of filing/correspondence on my desk, and the suitcases and groceries still waiting to be unpacked from this weekend’s trip to Anchorage. Ugh! I see it. I know it. But acknowledging it—even putting it in writing—doesn’t move me one iota closer to having a clean, orderly house. I can meditate on it all day long, but until I start scrubbing, folding, unpacking, and vacuuming . . . my house will still be a mess.

Or, take exercising: Everything I read concerning good health says I need to exercise. My heart needs it; my muscles need it; my lungs need it; my jeans need it. I know that I should exercise. But reading about it, thinking about it, buying work-out DVDs, and moaning about it with friends . . . none of that does me any good if I don’t DO it.

Then, there’s eating: I can understand the ramifications of eating well versus eating poorly. I can fully comprehend and recite the value of ingesting whole-grains, healthy proteins, and fresh fruits and veggies. But until I exchange my french fries for carrot sticks . . . my arteries aren’t going to benefit. Not even a little bit.

So, I ask again: Why would we ever think that understanding and agreeing with Scripture is all that is necessary to live a God-honoring life? If head knowledge alone doesn’t benefit me in the rest of life, why would it gain me anything as a child of God? Until my knowing affects my doing, my knowing is a waste. A complete and utter waste. “Faith without works is dead.” Lord, I need you. I need you for the knowing, and I need you for the doing. Awaken my mind, encourage my heart, and motivate my backside. I want to LIVE for you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Real, Live Princess

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I used to think how wonderful it would be to be a princess. A real, live one. Who lived in a castle. And got to wear beautiful gowns and jewels all the time. And had servants to do all my chores for me. I would be kind and benevolent to the peons around me, of course. But I would be The Princess!

What I failed to realize in my childish imaginings is that a true princess doesn’t have much say in how she lives her life. Sure, she may get to nibble choice morsels at dinner, and she may wear the most beautiful clothing in the land, but . . . she is ultimately nothing more than a pawn in the massive chess game of power being played in the kingdom. Her father, the king, can order her to marry anyone he deems most helpful in forming a necessary alliance. He can choose to put her in the tower if he thinks she’s becoming too big for her bustle. He can send her to a foreign land as a gift to another monarch. In short, he can do whatever he likes with her. She is a pawn. To be used or discarded as the king sees fit.

Ideally, of course, she is also a cherished daughter. So the arranged marriage or alliance would be carefully selected not only for the good of the kingdom, but also for the good of the beloved princess. But history tells us this was not usually the case. Simply because the two things were often incompatible. How rarely would what was good for the land also be what was best for the princess—much less what she herself desired?

How wonderful that my God is King of kings! He is the one ruler who can—and does!—orchestrate all things to work together for His glory (the good of the kingdom) and for the good of his beloved child (the best for the princess).

For, you see, I am a princess. A real, live one. My gowns and jewels are the most beautiful in the land—because I’m clothed in the splendid, priceless righteousness of Christ. The most heinous (and impossible) task imaginable, that of scrubbing out my own sin, has been done for me by the Holy Son of God, who became a servant on my behalf. I am God’s Princess. And He adores me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Terror of my Pride and Complacency

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Ashelyn was 4, Therron was 2, our van was covered with fresh snow, and we were running late for “Tots Time” (a preschool group made up of moms desperate for other-mom interaction and the use of vocabulary words beyond “potty?” and “no-no!”). Ashelyn was within sight, but Therron had toddled around the corner of the house. I called after him as I began brushing the snow from the van. He didn’t answer, but I didn’t think much of it. He was only two, and I knew he was mesmerized by the snow. I just assumed he was playing nearby. He’d barely been outside for 5 minutes—how far could he be? As I finished with the van, I hollered for both kids to load up. Ashelyn came running, but not Therron. I looked around the yard, but he was nowhere to be seen.

That was when I noticed that his little footprints led, not around the house, but past the van and down the driveway. Our house sits at the top of a hill. The driveway is fairly long and enters the road on a blind curve. Therron was nowhere in sight. My chest clenches even now as I remember the raw panic I felt as I raced down that driveway, following his footprints—thank God for those footprints!—still clenching the snow scraper in my hand and calling his name over and over. I ran and ran, simultaneously astounded at how far he’d gotten in such a short time and horrified that I’d allowed him to do so. I finally saw him, nearly a quarter of a mile from our house, tromping along in the snow, heading back toward me—from the direction of the river. I think my heart might have actually stopped for a beat when I realized that he may well have been on the bridge over that river. It’s an icy river, even in summer, glacier-fed and one of the fastest in North America. Had he fallen in, we’d have never found him. I don’t know if he got that far. He could have, but I didn’t look to see if his footprints went there. I didn’t want to know.

I began to shake when I got him back to the house, and I shook for what seemed like hours afterward. Certainly, the trauma of knowing what could have happened rattled me, but the knowledge that it was utterly my fault was horrific. I, experienced and capable mother of four, had been so neglectful that my son could have died. I couldn’t believe I’d been so careless. I was revolted. Physically ill. Even worse was that only a few days before, my husband had expressed concern about me allowing the two little ones to play in the yard without being right there with them. I pushed back, arguing that I had been doing this for a few years now, and he needed to trust my judgement. FrankIy, I was insulted.

I don’t much like to think of this story. But when I do, I’m reminded of how foolish I can be. Of how quickly experience can slip into pride and capability into complacency. Pride and complacency. A potentially fatal combination.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Psalm 100

 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.