Monday, July 21, 2014

A [Kid] by Any Other Name

As our kids have grown, we’ve been struck by how completely they’ve grown into the meanings of their names. We like names. We particularly like Old English/Gaelic-sounding names. I don’t know why; we just do. But, it was important to us to choose names that we not only liked but that also had neat meanings. We didn’t use Bible names, but there was always a biblical character or verse that the name brought to mind.

Tristan Lee Rude

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Tristan, our eldest, is our “David.” You can find all sorts of different meanings online for just about any name these days, but the one we saw and loved for Tristan was “lover, warrior.” Who else in Scripture but David fits that description? Our prayer has been that Tristan would become a man after God’s heart. That he would be kind and loving (minus the myriad women), but be a stalwart and fierce warrior for his King. He has always been a sweet-natured kid. To this day, at seventeen, he often hugs me goodnight before bed or first thing in the morning. Yet . . . he wants to be a Marine. He’s not overly vocal about his faith, but when you ask him, he offers surprisingly deep insights regarding the Bible and God. I’ll keep praying, taking nothing for granted, but he truly seems to be growing into a lover-warrior for his heavenly Father.

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Tristan’s middle name is “Lee,” after his paternal Grandfather. Terry Lee Rude is a remarkable man of faith whose heart for God has impacted thousands. Literally—and that’s a conservative estimate. He has spent most of his adult life studying and teaching God’s Word. (In fact, he was my Bible Doctrines teacher before I ever met his son!) We are immensely grateful for the heritage of faith that Dad Rude has passed down to his children and grandchildren. If Tristan Lee grows into even one of his grandfather’s shoes, we will be beyond thrilled.

Aidan Gregory Rude (That’s him in the middle, with his cousin and . . . his Grandpa Rude.)

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Aidan, our second-born, is our “Peter.” His name means “little fire or fiery one.” My mom, half-jokingly–half-seriously quipped, “You’re gonna regret that one!” when we told her his name. And . . . truth be told, his personality has been a challenge at times. But only because he feels things deeply; he’s pretty much all-in, whatever his mood. You know what, though? When submitted to the Lord, the passion and tenacity Peter displayed changed the world. Aidan doesn’t do anything half-way. (He’s like his Dad in that regard.) So we pray that the fire of his heart will be fed by a passion for his Lord and Savior, that nothing will hold him back or temper his enthusiasm for Life as a Christ-follower.

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His middle name is Gregory. We are blessed to have a God-fearing, God-loving, God-serving heritage on both sides of our family. My Dad and my Papa (Gregory) love/loved Jesus with all their hearts. I remember seeing my Dad on his knees in the wee hours of the morning, day after day, praying faithfully for those listed in his prayer journal. My Papa was a Christian businessman who’s motto was, “You can’t out-give God.” He gave of his time, his money, and his love in service to his Lord. (And he used to pay me a quarter for every Bible verse I memorized.) We pray the same heart for God will be evident in what Aidan Gregory passes down to his children and grandchildren.

Ashelyn Rae Rude

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Ashelyn . . . ah, Ashelyn. Her first name comes from the Irish name “Aislinn” (pronounced ASH-lin, hence our spelling—plus an “e” in case she ever decided to shorten in to “Ashe,” which so far, she detests the very idea of), meaning “meadow or dream.” Alone, it doesn’t have much significance—unless you know our daughter—but Rae means “doe or deer.” Immediately, we thought of Psalm 42:1, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Our prayer is that our imaginative, creative, free-spirit of a daughter will long deeply for the Lover of her Soul. We didn’t know before Ashelyn came into our lives that “hippie” was a DNA thing. Apparently it is. She is a flower child if ever there was one. To. The. Bone. She also has long, flowing, white-blonde hair. Go figure. But don’t be fooled; the child fits inside no box ever created. And, boy, is she a dreamer. But God knew that when he made her. Something we will never need to worry about with Ashelyn is peer pressure. She couldn’t care less what other girls her age are into. She’s too busy writing fanciful stories and poems, imagining new mythical creatures, and inventing games for her younger siblings and their friends. And yet, she is eager to please, loves Jesus, and has a sweet, tender heart. We can hardly wait to see what God has in store for Ashelyn Rae. One thing’s almost certain: the world probably hasn’t conceived of it yet.

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Therron Lewis Rude

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Therron, our third son, is our “John the Baptist.” Therron means “untamed,” and he is our little wild man—in a fun, crack-a-rib-laughing kind of way. He has always loved life and has kept us in stitches from day one. He has an incredibly quick wit and a jive that no white boy can fake. (We have NO idea where that came from!) Our prayer is that his zest for life and laughter will grow into a deep and dedicated joy in Christ that cannot be quenched.

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Therron’s middle name is Lewis, for C.S. Lewis. We love Lewis’s stories and his writings on theology. He pondered deeply about his God, seeking to understand more of His character and becoming ever more in awe of Him. That is what we want for Therron Lewis.

Teagan Laura Rude

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Teagan means “lovely.” Our prayer is that she will be lovely from the inside out. Now, color us biased, but we think she’s beautiful. However, Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” We want Teagan to understand that she is beautiful because she is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), regardless of her outward appearance, and that true beauty shines out of a heart and spirit that are pure and lovely before God.

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Laura was Paul’s maternal grandmother’s name. She was the matriarch of faith in Paul’s family—on both sides. She came to know her Savior as an adult, through a radio evangelist. She found a church, taught her own children and others by both word and deed, and prayed faithfully for her husband’s salvation for over fifty years. He came to Christ only weeks before his death. When her high school–aged daughter wanted to go out with a boy named Terry, she said yes—but only if he’d attend church with them. That is how my father-in-law came to know Jesus. She was a fireball and a woman of God. We would love for Teagan Laura to take up her great-grandmother’s baton of faith.

Brogan Edwards Rude

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We actually had a fourth son. Brogan was our fifth child, born between Therron and Teagan. He was stillborn. But though he never drew a breath in this world, I fully believe that his life, short as it was, had a purpose. We chose the name Brogan because it meant “strong, sturdy.” (Ironically, he squeezed off his own umbilical cord. It got caught inside his elbow, and his little fist got wedged under his jaw, clamping off the flow of oxygen.) “Edwards” was for Jonathan Edwards, that bastion of faith and grit who had such an impact on Christianity in this county and beyond. We hoped Brogan Edwards would be “[an oak] of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3). And he has been. Not through his life, but through his death. Through Brogan’s story, seeds of faith and hope have been scattered. We’ve been privileged to encourage other hearts throbbing with the pain of losing a child. And we have had doors opened to us, to share our faith, that might have otherwise remained closed.

I think names are maybe more important than our modern culture considers them. They were certainly given weight in Scripture. But whether or not our names—or our children’s names—were given any special thought beyond “Ooh, I like that one!” we have another Name that we bear if we love Jesus and have accepted His sacrifice and His lordship: Christian—“little Christ, child of God.” Are we growing into it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Talk

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Our oldest daughter loves cats. Any cat. But her favorite was a cat named Jasmine that we got when Ashelyn was three. They were best buds, and we often jokingly referred to Ashelyn as Jasmine’s human.

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One evening, we were sitting around the dinner table in Alaska, and our then eight-(ish)-year-old daughter asked, “How can Jasmine have kittens when she isn’t married?” Paul, in his usual take-charge way, replied, “That is a great question, Ashelyn. And right after supper, Mommy’s going to answer it.” Why, thank you, sweetie.

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Now, you probably need a little context to understand our situation. Because of where we lived, we had to have The Talk with our kids at a much younger age than we might have otherwise. Sexual abuse is rampant in rural AK, even among very young children, and we’d been warned that if we wanted our kids to hear the facts from us, from a healthy perspective, we needed to talk with them sooner than later. It was also important for them to have a clear understanding of what was good and what was not. So, we already knew it was time to talk to Ashelyn. And this provided a golden opportunity.

We have a beautifully and tastefully illustrated book on the subject, written for children and from a godly perspective, which we’d already used with our two older children. So, after dinner, I pulled it out for Ashelyn and we snuggled up on the couch to read.

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It begins with the story of Adam & Eve, talks about the gift of marriage that God gave them, and about the special gift he gave that is only to be shared between husband and wife. It then goes into a pretty clear explanation of where children—or kittens, for that matter—come from.

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We also talked about how for every good gift that God gives, Satan offers a counterfeit, often tantalizing us with its availability sooner, faster, better—only, in the end, to rob us of our joy and self-worth, the value of the real gift.

We closed the book and sat quietly. I, treasuring the mother-daughter moment of closeness and waiting for the questions I felt sure would follow—which I, of course, would answer with great wisdom and depth of insight. She, apparently, contemplating the relevance of the book.

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She paused for a moment, then looked up at me with a somewhat blank, somewhat confused, somewhat irritated look and said, “That had nothing to do with cats!”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mothers . . . May I?

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I could not WAIT to stay home with my first child. For starters, the teaching job I’d landed—teaching English, Public Speaking, and Theatre at a wrong-side-of-the-tracks public high school—was n.o.t.h.i.n.g. like I’d dreamed it would be. I had envisioned touching lives and making a difference through my winsome ways, through copious amounts of love & grace, through character-building & a firm hand. Yeah. Reality involved being cussed at, mocked, and ignored, as well as occasionally having to duck flying chunks of deodorant. Not even kidding.

So, when I got pregnant, I counted the days until I’d get to stay home with my sweet baby. (My rosy-view–prone nature had a smidgeon of reality to adjust to there, too, but that’s a story for another day.)

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AND . . . I didn’t even have to feel guilty about quitting! Because that’s what any good mother would do. Right? Good, godly mothers put their children above their careers. (Bonus if your career stank.) I embraced that lie with a full-on bear hug. Because that’s what I wanted to hear.

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But, wait. Let’s take a look at the rather precarious pedestal that lie is perched on. In which sliver of recent history has that option, as we know it, even existed? Until the advent of washing machines, crockpots, and self-cleaning ovens, stay-at-home moms in this country actually stayed at home—and worked. As in, physically labored. Now don’t go getting your drawers in a knot. I’ve got 5 kids, and I’ve been “at home” with them for 17 years. I know SAHMs work. But, truthfully . . . when’s the last time you hand-stitched a hem? Or darned a sock? (Finger cramps ain’t no picnic.) When’s the last time you used a washboard for your laundry? Or butchered and plucked a chicken for dinner? Or milked a cow? Those weren’t just hobbies. They were life. Every single day. Life at home used to be hard. Back-breaking, fingers-to-the-bone exhausting. Those moms weren’t playing Candy Land, reading books to toddlers, and taking trips to the zoo.

Beyond that, look at the women the Scriptures laud. The Proverbs 31 lady? Um, she was a business woman, straight up. Lydia, in the NT? A merchant (a.k.a. business woman). Sarah? Pardon, but she ran a pretty large domestic operation on the road. (Ever been camping?)

All that to ask, Where in the WORLD—much less the Bible—did we come up with the bogus idea that staying home (using a vacuum cleaner, washer/dryer, and a dishwasher) is more spiritual than a job outside the home? Seriously. Where did we? Women in the past had very little choice as to what they did, and they certainly didn’t have time to read or write about how sanctified their choice was. Frankly, they were fortunate if they had the education to read or write, period.

Wanna know what I think? I think God has uniquely gifted different moms with varied and sundry personalities, skill sets, levels of drive, sleep requirements, and callings. I think some are gifted to homeschool, some to run home businesses, some to work outside the home, and some to do a combination of all of the above as life takes its turns. I’ve known SAHMs who were fantabulous, and I’ve known SAHMs who were lazy and unmotivated and devastatingly poor examples to their kids. I’ve known career women who neglected their families in pursuit of advancement, and I’ve known successful career women whose children rose up and called them blessed. Being a “good mom” isn’t determined by the label a woman wears; it is determined by a heart resolved to do whatever her hands find to do as unto the Lord, whether that’s balancing a spreadsheet or baking cookies, teaching a class or tackling a mountain of laundry.

The truth is, nothing I do or don’t do is going to be my kids’ saving grace, anyway. Do I have a responsibility to make the best choices I can for them? Sure. Should I put their needs above my own goals and dreams? Of course. But their hope lies in Christ, not me. Thank God! Because I’m going to screw up, no matter what choice I make.

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I am immensely grateful that I got to spend so many years at home with my kids. If I had to choose again, I’d do it the same way. But I am blessed to have some remarkable women in my life who—before God and with their husbands—made different choices. And they are amazing. It makes me furious to hear them spiritually marginalized because they “put careers before their children.” I happen to know them and have seen first-hand how untrue that is. Have they done it all perfectly? No—and neither have I. That’s life. And that’s where the shimmer of God’s grace can blanket our mistakes. But right here and now, I’m standing alongside these women I love and saying Back. Off. They answer to God and to their families, not to some twisted fabrication of misapplied Scripture. 

My God is much too big and far too creative to have made only one acceptable role for all women to fit into. Look at the variety in his creation: in flowers, in birds, in foods, in sunrises. What, so he hiccuped when he created women and somehow made us all to fit the same mold? Of course not.

And you know what else? Godliness in Scripture is not measured by vocation—not for women and not for men. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). That’s what God is looking for. In me and in you. At home and at the office. I dunno about you, but I’ve got some work to do. Far too much to spend time finding fault with my sisters in Christ.

So let’s stop with the finger-pointing. The judging. The smug, self-righteous patting of our own backs. Good grief. We are all different, with different circumstances and needs and gifts. And, if we love Jesus and are doing our best to honor him and serve our families well, how ‘bout we start cheering each other on instead of kicking one another in the shins?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Promise & Beauty

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I enjoyed a remarkable walk tonight. So . . . I shall remark upon it. For starters, I decided to walk rather than attempt another walk-run-walk/C25K near asphyxiation. (C25K = Couch to 5K) I wanted to enjoy this outing, so I decided I was walking, hang it all! It was a brisk walk, alright? Anyway, it was well-nigh perfect weather, right at 70, with a gentle breeze. And the timing was perfect too. Sun still out, but low in the sky, casting shadows across most of the route. We live in an absolutely gorgeous area of the Black Forest in Colorado Springs. The roads near us are dirt, but well graded and wide. The houses are set back from the streets and most have multi-acre lots. There are wide lawns and trees and fields and fences and a pond and, right now, a gazillion wild flowers: various shades of purple, yellow, pink, orange . . . just everywhere.

I couldn’t help but think as I walked and soaked in the colors—including lush green—that a year ago right now, my neighbors were glued to TV sets and computers, trying to glean any information they could about whether or not their homes still stood. The devastating Black Forest Fire had broken out on June 11, 2013, just a couple of weeks before we’d make our move from Alaska. Days later, having been evacuated, they waited still. The fire ended up claiming some 14,000 acres, 511 homes, and 2 lives. It wouldn’t be contained for nearly 10 days. The section where our home is was untouched, but a mile north and a only half mile east, the fire destroyed acre after acre, home after home.

As I walked, listening through my ear buds to praise music, I thought how unpredictably things we take for granted can be lost. And I decided to soak in the walk, the beauty around me, the moment. Beyond the flowers and the golden light of pending dusk, were the animals. Gobs of different birds. And bunnies galore—including one who was sprawled at the edge of the road like a dog, flat on his belly with his back legs splayed out behind him and his front legs and chest resting on a slight berm alongside the road. He looked for all the world like he was leaning on a fence, talking to his neighbor. And he kinda was. Neighbor Cottontail took off as I approached, but Chill Bunny stayed right where he was—long enough that I began to worry he’d been hit by a car and wasn’t able to move. As I crossed behind him, though, he (I swear I heard him sigh) pulled his haunches underneath him one at a time and amble-hopped off. (If a bunny can amble, this one did.) And deer. The first was a doe who trotted off into some tall grass beside the pond when she saw me. The second, a buck, velvet-covered antlers barely topping the tips of his ears, watched me cautiously for a while before taking a few steps further away. As I passed him, I saw the doe emerge on the hillside across from me . . . with a little spotted fawn gamboling along behind her! So sweet. So beautiful.

Basking in the evening and it’s aura of tranquility, I couldn’t help but ponder God’s restorative power. The area I was walking in was unscathed, but every day of the school year I drove through a burned section of Forest. I saw foundations of homes and partially burned fences and the random, inexplicably standing garage. The devastation was astounding. This spring, though, the ground underneath the blackened trees is green again. Wildflowers bloom. And some trees, those whose crowns escaped the flames, are putting out green needles. The Forest is still charred . . . but it’s not dead.

My friend and neighbor, who experienced firsthand the horror, fear, evacuation, and uncertainty of those days, shared the picture above that someone took at the edge of the Black Forest on the one-year anniversary of the fire’s outbreak. The road in the photo runs right through the area where the fire began.

What beauty. What promise. What a gift.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hockey. And Other Deep Thoughts

130108-DSC_0305artsyI remember the first hockey game I ever attended. I remember thinking it was LOUD. And violent. All in all . . . rather obnoxious. Did the music really need to vibrate my seat—and my liver? And what in the world were they fighting over? I had no clue what checking was, much less that it was part of the game, but even I could see that throwing a punch (while appearing relatively futile given the amount of protective gear between the players) was not allowed. So WHY did they keep doing it? It was pointless and petty and absurd. Grown men acting like middle school boys! I thought it was the stupidest game I had ever seen.

Twenty years later, I have three boys playing the game. Avidly. I’m not sure exactly where the switch is that gets flipped: I send well-mannered, respectful, (mostly) sweet young men into the locker room, and out step The Avengers: Attitude, Fire, and Touch-Me-And-Die.

Now, I’ve learned a few things about hockey in the past 10 years. For one thing, I now understand checking. (As well as any non-playing hockey mom can understand it, anyhow.) I know that intimidation—physical and psychological—is a huge part of the game: If you get knocked on your can, you better get up, fast-and-fierce, to show you are not cowed and you ain’t takin’ it! Better yet, knock the other guy on his can. As soon as possible. Harder. Legally, if possible; if not . . . well . . . do what your coach tells you.

I read something a while back about why competitive sports have developed into such massive empires in the civilized world. The premise is that males are, by nature, warriors: born to fight, to grapple with a foe, to win the day. For eons men and older boys had to fight. For survival. To eat. To provide. To protect. That—for the average, Western male—is no longer required. Sure, there are career paths, like the military and public safety, that involve such elements, but they are chosen paths, not inevitable ones.  (Which, let me be clear, in no way diminishes the sacrifice they make. If anything, it makes it even more laudable. They choose to serve, and they honor the rest of us with that choice.) War, though, for most men in first world cultures, is now reduced to video games and sporting events. So, they “battle” on the court or the field or the ice.

Feel free to quibble with that logic. (It’s not mine.) But, it makes sense to me. Just watch two little boys at play. I don’t care what you give them to play with, they’ll turn whatever they get their hands on into swords, guns, shields, bows-and-arrows, bombs, and whips—i.e., weapons. No lie, they’ll sword fight with a Barbie doll. And if they have nothing to play with? They’ll wrestle. (Truthfully, they’ll most likely wrestle whether they have toys or not.)

Which brings to mind a funny story from my childhood. My brother and his little friend got into a tussle, apparently the equivalent of a scene from Rocky-in-Preschool. The appalled mothers rushed to yank the two hoodlums apart, gave them stern what-fors and then, holding them firmly by the shoulders, faced them toe to toe and demanded, “Now. What Do You Say?!” The two miscreants looked at one another in quasi-abashed silence for a moment. Finally, one muttered, grudgingly, “Thank you,” and the other dutifully replied, “You’re welcome.” Ironically, there’s truth in that response—for sure, a lot more truth than in a forced “I’m sorry”! Boys love to play rough-and-tumble, king-of-the-mountain type games. Mine do, anyway: hockey, airsoft, paintball.

And, I think, it’s because they DO have warriors’ hearts. And, I’m convinced that for the Believer, that heart is a tremendous advantage. We’re told that our Enemy seeks to devour us. I, for one, want some fierce men battling on my side of this warfront.

So I’m all for my boys playing hockey. They are learning to defend the vulnerable. (Just watch what happens when a teammate, especially a goalie, takes an unfair hit.) They are learning not to back down from bigger, more aggressive players. They are learning to be aggressive—but smart. (My oldest isn’t a big guy. He can’t take on a 6’5″ defender and win. But he can outmaneuver him.) They are learning to be tough, even when it hurts; to work hard, even when the scoreboard says it’s over; to get back up, digging deep for control when a competitor is playing dirty. To FIGHT. Not over petty stuff. It still bugs me to see fistfights on the ice—it’s against the rules, and it only hurts the team when a player gets sent to the penalty box. But to grapple. To overcome. To win.

Those are life lessons I like.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

God Is Good

I guess the truth of the matter is . . . I’m not a blogger. Not really. Not that I’m entirely sure what a blogger “is,” exactly. It just seems that those who do it well, do it a lot. I don’t. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I find that if the words don’t flow, I quit. I don’t mean I’m not willing to wrestle through the word smithing, through the task of getting my thoughts from my head to my screen in an engaging way. That’s the fun part; I’m totally willing to do that. What I mean is, if the words won’t come, if I’m not just bursting to say something, then why in the world take time to write it down—much less hope anyone will read it?

Lately, I’ve not been bursting. So that begs the question, “Why not?” And that’s what I don’t know. If you know me at all, you know that sharing my thoughts has never been a problem for me. I can talk to a shoe about a dress. (And sometimes I do, but that’s another conversation.) These days, though, it’s as if the well has dried up. I don’t really care to say much of anything. Which sends me back to Why? There are plenty of things I care deeply about: marriage—good, solid, Christ-and-the-Church-reflecting marriage; parenting well (notice, I did not say “perfectly”); modesty born of dignity and confidence, not suppression or guilt; living life in authentic community with other believers—I mean, real, honest-before-God transparency and interdependence and struggle in this walk we call Christianity . . . .

You know what I think my problem really is? It’s feeling stifled. I’m suddenly in a position where sharing my heart can be problematic, and I’m no good at pandering. The reality is that life has been tremendously uncertain since we moved to Colorado. My husband is a staff pastor in a mega church. A mega church with—(gasp!)—problems. Shocking, I know. Because no church, ever, of any size, has problems. But I can’t talk about them, not openly and honestly and straightforwardly. Those problems weigh heavily on my heart—in part because their resolution directly impacts me and mine, and in part because this is the Body; when it hurts, I hurt. But I can’t talk about it. I can’t talk about what is huge in my life right now. So . . . I don’t. But I can’t fill the void with other stuff, either, because that’s not where I am. I have to write from where I sit. Or stand. Or struggle. If I can’t . . . then I won’t.

But, that said, I’m—we’re—doing well. We really are. We’re learning that God can, and does, give us times to just be. To enjoy his gifts. So, we’re dong that. We have five healthy, (mostly) happy children. We have a strong marriage. We have dear friends, far and near, who care about, who pray for, and who encourage and admonish us. We have four active, healthy parents who make our friends look like flakes. We have great neighbors. We are part of a fantastic-if-not-perfect church, full of people who love God with all their hearts. Life is good. God is good. And we are just going to bask in that for a bit. Because we have no doubt that life will not always be good. There will come times when it stinks and our hearts ache. But if we drink deeply enough of him these days, maybe, when it all hits the fan, we will remember, down in our marrow, that God is. No matter what. He. Is. Good. Praise his never changing, always loving, ever wise and holy and powerful name.

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

Picture 9

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: Driving through Canada requires passports; 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 to pound. 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 Papers. 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 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 bawled 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 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 my 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 I was all cried out. Blinked away a little 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 (on a trailer behind the U-Haul) was gonna bounce clear over the front of the U-Haul a couple of times. And poor Bailey! Our dog was in the BED of the pick-up!! (Under the truck cap, with her dog house, no less.) Ended up going 35–40 m.p.h. for a ways. 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 out and around to look in the back of the van 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  ouch! 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, driving the U-Haul, 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 a generator) catapulting out, and the monstrous pile of antlers, stacked 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, 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 van’s two 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 the 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 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 (and presumably the gas cans) up. He called one “friend” who didn’t answer. He called another, and started giving him directions. 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’s the one who’d noticed the missing cans and the dragging straps when Paul came to get him. Papa called Paul over to talk with the guy, and the minute Sneaky Thief saw Paul, he started back-pedaling, verbally and physically. The van was 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 that 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 blankety-blank, he wasn’t gonna mess around with them! He threw out some tough guy talk (because anybody who can fling the f-bomb must be super tough) and walked away. Fast. Paul & Papa hurried inside and told the hotel desk clerk what was going on. Desk Clerk called the police. Papa pulled up the two numbers Sneaky Thief had called from his phone, and the desk clerk relayed those to the police, as well. (Interestingly, the first guy actually called Papa back afterwards. But, when Papa—not Sneaky Thief—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! They were tucked in some bushes not far from where they’d been taken. We’d figured they had to be nearby. That’s like 140 pounds of gas! No way Sneaky Thief was gonna carry them far on foot. But it was dark, and there were lots of back alleys. 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 of sleep. They were the primary drivers, and they’d had less sleep, by far, than the rest 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 sparks shoot out from under the trailer behind the U-Haul. Then I saw more sparks. Almost continuous sparks. Called Paul & told him was sparkling.  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 was one of those with two wheels, centered (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 happen 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 3200 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 pinpointed 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 flashed in our heads. Oh joy. Paul threw the van into park, jumped out, 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 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, and we called Papa from the van to tell him what we were doing and 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 the rooms 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 it’s 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 like that, 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. (Think lawn mower.) The crank cord 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 into 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, and 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 (which, in our humble opinion doesn’t hold a candle to either the SC flag or the AK 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

Mosquito-600

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.