Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flying Day

Here’s my latest song: Composed and posted in the air. Same tune as Moving Day (although I don’t guess you know the tune)

Flying Day

Flying day……..I’m feeling really sleepy
And that staring man is creepy
Hope he isn’t on my flight,
Flying day…….can’t wait to see some light.

Screaming kid…..there in the seat beside me,
I keep asking God, “Why me???”
Are we in international air space?
If I smother a child……..what penalty will I face?

Dozing off....dreaming of a Christmas tree
And getting home to my family,
Til the steward says, "More drink?"
Are we having fun yet?.........Let me think.

Lavatory…….not my favorite place to be
But sometimes you just gotta pee
Changing table hit my head
How do you flush?……Well, enough said.

Two layovers……Don’t let me do this again
My boarding gates were end to end,
I barely made it on,
Flying day……the day is almost gone.

That’s enough for now. Have a safe landing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reading


I stopped by Barnes and Noble on the way home from church to buy you a book for Christmas. I actually walked out with two. But they were both for me. So this year, your gift is a more interesting, diverse, well-read friend in Alaska. Does that work for you? Good!
I’m having an epiphany! I think God wants me to become a monk! Not a guy monk……a girl monk and that’s quite different from a nun. And not a complete monk….just monkish.
It all started with the books I’m reading. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell was always one of my favorites. When I first read it many years ago, I wanted to be Karana, the Indian girl who was stranded alone on the island and spent her days in survival mode (btw, I also wanted to be Tom Hanks in that movie where his UPS plane crashed and he survived alone). But in the last three years I have become very socially needy and I was rereading the book to try to discover what in it attracted me, and thus what part of myself I had lost. Does that make sense?
In some ways I feel like I’ve been changed forever by widowhood, but in other ways I want to get my old self back. I really liked the me that wanted to be stranded and never felt I could ever be lonely.
So I decided to delve into the book for answers, and I’m also reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (one of my very favorite authors) alongside it. This is an interpretation of the Biblical parable based on Rembrandt’s famous painting and is about “coming home” to the unconditional love of God. In a very unpredictable way, these two books are complimenting each other and speaking volumes to my heart. In the bookstore, I got two more books by Nouwen that further elaborate on these themes.
This is getting deeper than I imagined it would, but I think I’ve put my finger on what draws me to Karana. Her life is devoid of details. There are one or two goals each day, i.e. gather shellfish for dinner or dig the canoe out of the sand. And each task can take days or even seasons. She’s so simplified. She can think her thoughts without interruption and just bask in the details of her surroundings (and I can vicariously journey home to God). I can see how this appealed to me when I was raising two children, being a wife, housekeeper, teacher, worship leader, band member, etc. Many of you can identify. I just loved hanging out with Karana. She lowered my blood pressure. She still appeals to me but, now as I read, I sense her loneliness and no longer envy her. I want her to be rescued in the end.
Nouwen talks a lot about solitude. He has been a comfort to me through my grief though he, himself, lived much of his life in confusion and anguish. He helps me distinguish between solitude and loneliness, something I’ve struggled with for a while. When I went hiking through the snow this week, I didn’t see another soul all afternoon, but I was anything but lonely. That is a really good sign for me. I’m learning to be monkish, to commune with God alone, on His terms, accepting what He offers in relationship, asking for no more and being satisfied. And, by golly, I’ve even been reclaiming a little joy!
Like I’ve said before (in earlier posts), the fruit of the Spirit can become an illusion when your wants are being met and you’re swept away by the current of activity and social busyness. You can probably find time to read and enjoy Island of the Blue Dolphins, but you might not realize why you like it so much until you become a monk (or at least, monkish).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Generations

I talk a lot about how I'll spend the second half of my life. When my daddy was 50 he used to say he knew he'd live to be 100 because he felt half dead. Very funny, Paw-Paw. He didn't live that long, but he did get to know all his grandchildren, and they all have fond, if fuzzy, memories of him.
As I think about it though, life isn't really divided into halves. To me, it's divided into generations. Christmas time has brought this to my mind.
I'm remembering the childhood season when I was the grand recipient of every good thing. I had a very stable, middle class childhood which afforded me the luxury of dreaming weeks in advance about what Santa Claus would bring. We never called him just Santa. That sounded Yankee to us, like saying "fries" for french fries or "shake" for a milk shake. I guess we like a lot of words in the South.
Anyway, I also spent a lot of time blowing the tinsel on the tree from across the room, because it fascinated me that seconds would pass before my breath actually reached the tree. I expected breath to be instantaneous, like light. But it wasn't. Turns out light isn't either. I'll bet Einstein spent his childhood years blowing on tinsel on trees.
During those years, my parents were the center of my love life. If my mother even noticed me staring hard at a toy commercial, that whatever-it-was would appear miraculously wrapped under the tree. I was a princess and my throne room was every corner of my parents' castle. (of course, during the teen years they became despots and I was held captive in the dungeon with no food and water, but that's for another time).
Then I woke up one morning, freed from my chains, only to discover that I had become the next generation (not to be confused with Star Trek, The Next Generation which wasn't made yet). It seems like over night I had a new love life, a new family and I wielded control of Christmas memories for all of us.
I took it very seriously. We had Advent Dwarfs. I won't go into detail but will only ask, "What do you get when Snow White gets lost seven days before Christmas and her entourage takes the opportunity to teach Thomas and Leah lessons on the coming Messiah?" I thought it was brilliant. I loved being in charge of the decorations, the tree, the parties, the Warm and Happy Christmas punch and, best of all, the presents. My dear children spent endless hours strapped in their car seats on Saturday mornings so I could create magic on Christmas morning from garage sale finds. It was just fun! (for Greg and me, anyway).
The next "season" of my life is "Christmas yet to come" and will see me as the eccentric purple-wearing matriarch. I will be the "Grammy" (or some variation thereof). At this point I'm not sure if I'll be living in close proximity to the family or distant, like my parents did. There are so many ways I can visualize myself as a grandma; all warm, sentimental, and full of new love.
I honestly don't know what this coming era will look like. It will be a complete surprise and I'm glad. I anticipate it like an over-sized box with my name on it, wrapped in silver, reflecting the delicate tinsel on my mother's tree.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Iced In

It's my first Alaska ice storm. Just looks like a little frozen rain to me. I don't see what the big deal is. I was supposed to fly to the village this morning to work at the school and then have our first lady's Bible study tonight. I've been praying for this and looking forward to it for weeks. I called my bush pilots and they said "no way". The weatherman says every one should just stay home today if they can. According to him, it's "a doozy of a morning". I thought slipping and sliding was second nature to these people. What IS the big deal?
Well I'm either in the depths of serious depression or I'm starting to spiritually mature because....I just don't care. I'm disappointed, but I have given this whole year to the Lord and it's His show. He's the conductor and I'm just sitting in the back playing along with the orchestra...something like 10th chair. I'm trying to follow His direction, but if the symphony sounds a little dissonant, I'm sure He'll work it out.
Is this what peace is? I hope so. As we approach that time of year when we celebrate Christ as the "Prince of Peace" I can say I'm learning to access that peace by learning submission. For many years I've heard preachers preach, writers write and singers sing about the benefits of being broken before God and then rising from the ashes in total surrender. I've Amened and Hallelujahed but didn't have a clue what it meant. You can't have ashes without a fire. And fire is all-consuming. And burning hurts...really bad.
So here I am feeling at peace, not knowing the plan for the day or how the week will unfold (or how my life will unfold, for that matter). Having said that, I do realize that my paycheck isn't dependent on this weather, nor is my health, nor the well-being of anyone in my family. Weather peace is a "peace" of cake ( :
When I think about my good friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, I feel anxious and afraid. And I want to feel that way for her. She needs us all to feel that with her. I know peace can coexist with sadness and fear and all the other emotions that make us human. But it's elusive. I'm not sure you can find it without a little soot on your cheek.
Right now, I'm nibbling at peace but have a long way to go before I can feast on it. But at least, for me, it's out of the fire and on the table.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Late Morning Walk

I slept 11 hours last night. Don't ask me why. But when I finally got up I felt like a filly at the Derby gate. I needed to move, and move now!
There was a light layer of snow on the ground that was calling out for my boot prints. The last time I went walking, I carefully selected an appropriate wardrobe that was both weather worthy (the inflatable dummy) and somewhat stylish. You never know but maybe you'll run into Sasquatch in his snow shoes, and he'll be Mr. Right Sasquatch.
But this time, I didn't want to think that hard. Yet I really, very painfully badly, wanted to stay warm. So....I just threw on a bunch of clothes over my pajamas. I said a quick prayer that I would not be hit by a car and have to be stripped down to stop the bleeding. I grabbed this thing that looked like a toaster cozy for my head. Then I set off.
It was more like slipping and sliding than trudging, at least until I got some rhythm. It was cold and icy. I've learned to navigate my neighborhood pretty well, so instead of thinking about where I was, I could pray, feel awe at the snowy mountain peaks, watch the magpies chasing each other and breathe in the fresh air. The sun is playful this time of year. It rises, winks at you, then starts to set when your head is turned. So many photo ops.
The walk was glorious! I'm missing exercise around here. I have some weights and stuff, but an uncooperative shoulder is keeping me from my usual Pilates routine.
So I'm planning to walk a few times a week and walk briskly, even when I don't sleep half the day away. I'm sure I'll be re-evaluating this plan when the temp starts dropping. I'll likely be dropping along with it. Or maybe not.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Thoughts On Grief

I have come to believe that the grieving process is like a great work of art. Don’t roll your eyes. I thought about this lying in bed last night.
When my canvas arrived and my paint was fresh, I just stared at it. Some people get right to work: zip-zap, swish-swosh, just whip it out and get on with their lives. Not to minimize their pain, but they just face it head on.
I procrastinated. I think I was too full of baggage from the preceding three or four years. Those last two were particularly harrowing. It (the good grief) just wouldn’t take shape. But it was always deep inside me, clanging around like a clumsy ghost. Everything that had previously seemed meaningful (and fun) in my life seemed dull and uninspiring.
I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years. And I always loved Christmas trees so much. I never thought even Hell itself could purge the holiday spirit out of me. But grief-in-waiting distorted everything and made my world old and mournful.
This year I began painting. At some point I came to realize that the thing in my frame was a mirror and I just got tired of looking at it. So I got to work. I bought some books about grieving and, surprisingly, they were extremely helpful. I started praying on the floor. You wouldn’t believe the junk that came out (or the junk under my bed!) And I let myself just cry and cry whenever I felt like it.
Some days my grief colors are bright and bold, and I see recognizable images forming and starting to solidify. Other days, it's more hazy and smudgy and nothing seems to work that well. But after three years of unrelenting art lessons, I have slowly but surely added some exquisite detail to my work. I’ve learned to steady my wobbly brush by leaning back on God and allowing His hand to guide my hand as we create this masterpiece together.
I brought my grief canvas to Alaska. I packed it solid, not intending to leave it behind. Seeing the new landscape, physical and mental, is helping me put the finishing touches on my picture. On the outside I may seem like the daring, altruistic missionary, going where no Floridian has gone before (or would want to), but when the gallery closes, I’m telling you that painting hanging lopsided in the corner will be an undeniable self portrait.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Snowy Day


Guess.....what.....I.....did.....this.....morning!!!!! Hee hee. I went for a walk in the snow. When I looked out the window, the ground was white and outside looked like a Christmas movie. "Hello Uncle Scrooge. Won't you please join us for Christmas dinner this year? We're tired of that humbug line of yours." I digress.
When I had sufficiently disguised myself as an inflatable used-car dummy, I went trudging. Trudging is something we don't normally do in Florida. Our environment often requires shuffling (and you beach bums know what I mean) but not trudging. I trudged and trudged and followed some foot prints in the road that were about 18 inches long. Either I'm sharing the neighborhood with Sasquatch, or someone has snowshoes. Am I right about that? I should get some snowshoes. I'm excited about snowshoes!
I dropped in on a friend down the street and had coffee and by the time I left her house, it was rainy and slushy. Yuck. So I showered then went to Barnes and Noble for a bowl of potato/lentil soup (they have the thickest, creamiest soup) then grocery shopping.
When I left the grocery store (with my Starbucks venti latte in hand) it was seriously snowing again. I would call it a blizzard. The Alaskans seemed unaffected and would probably call it a light snow, but I'm sticking to the blizzard story. Everyone in Florida would concur.
I had a little trouble getting the groceries in the trunk while protecting my Starbucks from the elements. But I got it all done safely and made it home in the traffic. It's been a couple of hours and it's still snowing. I wish I could post pictures, but as you know, when I try to post pix on my blog, I get lines of gibberish. I'll put a picture on FB tomorrow. (later edition: photo added. Yay!)
Tonight I'm settling in to Lifetime Movies. Thursday is always "true story" day. Funny the things you learn when you're new in town and living alone. I'm not complaining. This has been a great day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back From The Village

Quiz: On what airline........

1. ...can you make your reservation 10 minutes before the plane leaves?
2. ...chat with the pilot while you're waiting?
3. ...drop your bags beside the plane?
4. ...sit in the copilot seat (move over, God)?
5....have a 10 minute layover (in Beluga) on a 20 minute flight?
6. ...pay when you get back?
It ain't Delta. Only four seats on the plane, including the pilot. I loved it! This is how flying should be.

I had a great two days working in the native village school. Here's something funny: When I first got there I was introduced to a teacher in the lounge. I asked, "What age do you teach?" He must have thought I said, "What grade do you teach" because he answered, "6,7,8". I told him I loved that age group and asked if I could visit his class. When I walked into his classroom my mouth dropped open. Sheesh!!!! Those were the biggest 6,7,8 year olds I had ever seen. I was thinking, Wow! They sure grow 'em big in the village. These kids were HUGE!! It finally dawned on me that they were in middle school. I started laughing at myself. Next week, I'm flying back over to sub in that class.
I came back to Anchorage to discover it had snowed in my absence. Now that's just not fair. I've been waiting a month for snow. I had to scrape it off my car to drive home. Now I'm snuggled up with my computer and TV, and tomorrow I'll frantically get all my paperwork organized to submit to the school system. I'm actually planning to sub Tues-Fri next week. And the district will be paying for my flight. Sweet.
Thanks for your prayers. God is listening.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day Before First Flight

It's Sunday. That's the day before Monday. Are you hearing me? I am so apprehensive about tomorrow. I called to make my reservation on Spernak, the bush airline. The guy I talked to was surely a biker in his other life. "Yeah, uh-huh, Mmmm, Naaaa." And he sounded BIG. So I'm hoping I know where I'm supposed to go to get on the plane. And hoping I don't end up skyjacked to Siberia, which can't be that far away (or much colder).
Then there's the arrival in the village. Will someone pick me up at the airstrip or will I walk to the school? Fortunately there is no snow yet and I have good warm clothes. Then what? I've taught school for the last straight 20 years but I've never been a volunteer. Hope I don't just feel in the way.
And what to take? I'm packing clothes, cosmetics and toiletries (but not enough to give the impression I'm too girly), sandwiches (roast beef and PB&J), chips, Starbucks ground espresso as a hostess gift for whoever hosts me (the principal, I think). I'm taking my netbook and a Sprint hotspot, so I may be able to blog and FB tomorrow night (otherwise I'll write in Word and paste it Tuesday night). As I'm writing this I'm thinking I should take a sleeping bag and not assume there will be a bed with linens. I know who to call to get one from GPM (global partnership ministries).
The sermon this morning was on reaching out to the various culture groups in Anchorage. There are 72 different spoken languages in this little city. Yagheli gheli (really good, Athabascan) I'm ready to go. No, I'm not. Yes, I am. No, I'm not. I'm going anyway!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State of the Union

Okay, it's Wednesday morning. I've been here three weeks. Time for a State of the Union address, i.e. my union with Alaska. I've been pretty busy getting settled, taking care of business, applying to volunteer and substitute in my little native village. I have reserved my first commercial bush flight there next Monday, returning on Tuesday. I'll be staying with the school principal and volunteering the two days. Am I out of my comfort zone? You just can't know!
I've been meeting some really nice people, finding social activities, attending Changepoint Church and going to new attender classes. My days are not boring but neither are they so filled as to be hectic.
So I ask myself, "How am I?" That's the question I get from a lot of you also. I think I'm feeling what everyone does when they move to a new place. A little lonely, a little homesick (for heaven, not Dade City), a little excited, a little restless. It takes work to assimilate into a new location. Part of me would really like to stay curled up in my little apartment all day, not see anyone, not go anywhere, just watch TV, write some songs, write some blog, eat and sleep. That part of me feels like caving in, calling it quits, admitting this was a bad idea, trying to make the best of it until I can get home. But that voice is honestly quite small.
The bigger, God-size voice in me tells me that I am on the journey of my life. The lessons I am learning about trusting God, letting Him lead, watching Him show His stuff have such an overwhelming hold on me that I am really feeling something like awe every day. I don't think I will ever be the person I was.
I think a lot (I have time to think) about the old me, the me who was leading a "normal", predictable, risk-free lifestyle. I always did whatever I needed to do to stay upbeat and positive, dodging the blues by always having new and challenging activities in my life. But I stayed very close to home, both physically and mentally. My family, my music, my teaching, all accessed that creative part of me that helped me define myself and feel a sense of affirmation and worth. I knew how to function in those places and it always felt warm, safe and fulfilling.
Now, some might say I'm searching for that same feeling through mission work. Perhaps that's partly true. But what I'm seeking by whisking myself away to the corner of the earth is a sort of throwing off of all the security nets. I'm free falling with only the Lord to catch me. And I believe it was He who called me to this. He seems to think it's time for me to learn to trust Him alone, to grow up, to experience the fruit of the Spirit in my life, not as an illusion brought on by circumstance, but as a spiritual reality: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Sheesh! I know I've never lived with those qualities in the deepest places of my soul. But I am so ready.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Buying A Car

I'm in the process of buying an Alaska car. It's a task I've been dreading since my decision to fly here instead of drive. I procrastinated as long as I could (borrowing a church van) then this week I prayed that God would remove this cup from me but He didn't (I even still have the thorn in my foot) so I just got down to business and started shopping.
I spent hours and hours looking at hundreds of cars on Craig's List and dealer inventories. I had flashbacks of buying my Nissan last year and almost threw up. Kelley, of Blue Book fame, and I became BFF's.
At first I was set on buying from a dealer (the comfort zone thing), then I just got braver and braver and decided there was no reason why I couldn't buy from a private owner and get a better deal. I finally settled on one car and prayed it was still available . It was! So I called and took her for a test drive then went back Tuesday and took her to a mechanic place and had them do a health exam on her (everything but a pap smear, ewe : ) She passed, I made the offer, they accepted. Okay, I'd like to say I made a great deal but they wouldn't budge from their asking price, but it was a fair price to start with (Did I mention Kelley?) There was still a lean on the car that should be resolved today or tomorrow and then she's all Mine, Mine, Mine.
So what kinda car is she? RED!......Of less consequence, she's a 2006 Subaru Sport Wagon, all wheel drive, with winter tires and summer tires, a block heater (so she stays warm when I'm not with her) and, get this, a remote starter that works up to a mile away!
Now I've been racking my brain for situations in which I would need to start my car from a mile away. All I can imagine is a bank heist, and a loud whistle, and my car rounding the corner by itself, flinging the door open for me, and then speeding me to the border as I duck on the floorboard and chant "I'm rich, rich rich!". Good girl!
Actually, I'm sure there will be some cold mornings when I'll be thrilled to start my car from inside the house (only a few feet away) and get her warmed up and ready to go. So kewl.
So let's hope this deal goes through, because today I'm investing in a new designer ski mask (and I DON'T SKI).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thorns and Pebbles

You know how the apostle Paul complained (well, we wouldn't accuse him of exactly complaining), but you know how he "commented' that he had a "thorn in the flesh" that kept him humble and that God would not remove though he had asked three times. His language was figurative of course and scholars have debated what his "thorn" actually was.
Well this week God has given me a thorn in the flesh. As He rubbed His celestial chin and thought about what it should be, he must have finally run out of ideas, because what He gave me to slow me down was just........a thorn in the flesh. I felt it when I stepped out of bed a few days ago. It's right on the bottom of my foot. It felt like a bruise at first but as the days have progressed a little knot has begun to appear, first deep down and every day moving closer to the surface. I must have stepped on something and it got imbedded in my foot.
It hasn't been so painful as it has been instructive; a little reminder that every day brings its own challenges and every step I take is only by God's grace.
Yesterday was Yahoo Big! Three of us flew to a little village and visited some native friends and the village school. I got a tour by the principal who thought me volunteering there (and substituting) was a grand idea. There are facilities there where I can spend a night or two to make the trip worthwhile. I am anticipating opportunities to get to know the village children and their parents. Everyone I met was so polite and hospitable. We held a little worship service in a classroom of the school last night but we were the only ones who came. Maybe there are women there who may be interested in something like that. They have no church there so anything might be better than nothing.
I walked on the beach with a woman who grew up there but left years ago and now lives in town. She told me stories of growing up there, swimming in the pond (brrrr) and being happy there.
The beach was not sandy but pebbly, totally composed of small smooth stones of granite, agate, jade, lava and other. And it's extremely wide. Tide ranges here average 25 feet. I've never seen anything like it. I saw my opportunity to fill my pockets as if the first Chinese Brother had swallowed the sea just for my indulgence. And I prayed that take-off would not be a problem later on.
What a terrible time to have a thorn in the flesh on the bottom of your foot. It didn't really bother me though as I limped along. I was too distracted listening to the stories and dreaming of what the next few months might hold. When we landed back in Anchorage it was sunset and for the first time since I've been here......I WAS COLD!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Idling

Okay, there's good news and bad news. The good news is.....I haven't had a bad hair day since I got here. What kind of miracle is this? It's been cloudy, even drizzly (not to be confused with "grizzly" which is a scary word around here). But my hair blow dries right into place and just keeps looking better all day, even when I go out into the wind. This is very kewl.
Okay, enough about me. Well, not really. I have to tell you the bad news.......I'm idling again. Not being idle, but idling, like a car at a traffic light. I first started idling when I got the news that Greg had a brain tumor. I would lay down at night and feel like someone had put a quarter in my motel bed. My whole body would vibrate. When I'd wake up, it was the same. I didn't notice it too much during the day, but when I was still.....I'd idle. I knew it was a stress reaction, completely beyond my control.
It took a long time to stop idling. I felt it was a major victory. I haven't idled for a year or more, but this week it started again. I guess that's to be expected. Adventure has its cost. I've been thinking about the apostles sailing away to new countries, away from friends and family, not knowing what to expect. I wonder if Paul ever idled. I'll bet he wouldn't admit it if he did. Come to think of it, didn't he say widows should marry again lest they become idle?? Maybe he knew!
I'm getting settled, checking things off my getting settled list. I bought a printer today and set it up (There were 11 steps. One more and I could have recovered from something). I rewarded myself by taking a scenic drive toward Seattle. The leaves are red, orange and gold (outside Florida, this is called autumn, right?) It was beautiful, the mountains were spectacular. When I pulled over to take a picture, I'm pretty sure it was just the car idling there for a moment. I felt perfect peace.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Settled

I've been in Anchorage two days and it feels like at least a week. I love my apartment! It's a two bedroom (so you can visit) in a basement in a quiet neighborhood near the port of Anchorage that has mountains all around and Cook Inlet down the side. Funny thing, when I first felt God tugging me toward Alaska I said, "Well alright, but I want a room with a view of a mountain". I've learned that I can pray demanding prayers and feel good about it. The worst God can say is "no" and He probably chuckles a lot at me. Anyway, when I heard about this furnished basement, it just seemed so right that I let God off the hook for the view. Well guess what? I was peering out of my ground level window today and just through some bare, skinny trees across the street I can just barely glimpse a snow covered peak WAY out there. It's so distant it probably wouldn't even show up in a picture. Not what I had in mind but a humorous reminder that God is listening (as if I needed a reminder).
My landlords, Jim And Beverly, are an older couple who are very sweet and are treating me like family. Every time I mention I might be needing something it literally shows up on my doorstep. So far I've received a new flat screen TV, new dishes, pots and pans, new silverware, knives, an iron and a toaster. Am I getting married? Yay! (Remind me who it is)
I had breakfast with Jim and Beverly yesterday and we got better acquainted. They'll be going to Arizona for the winter and I'll miss them, but then I can start blaring my music like I'm used to.
My greatest accomplishment so far is getting wireless internet! I hooked everything up myself (after getting a modem from the cable company) but it wouldn't connect. I was feeling bummed but when I called technical support they suggested maybe my cable was defective. I hooked up to another cable I saw sticking through my dining room window and Wallah (is that how you spell it?). I'm online. Now I have to figure out how to program my cable remote. That might be pushing it.
Flying to a native village next week to reconnect with some friends I met this summer. Wish me fair weather (I wonder does that make them fair weather friends? : )
More soon. Thanks for caring.

On My Way

I actually wasn’t planning to blog today, but I’m feeling so bright and sparkly on my journey here that I want to open up and express. I put all the finishing touches on my to-do list 10 minutes before I left home. That translates into realizing I should just throw away all my old spices and give Shelly one more kitchen cabinet to inhabit (or rather for her stuff to inhabit).
I should have been tired this morning because I stayed up until one packing and repacking. This time I have two large suitcases and they had to hold all my most necessary belongings for living in Alaska for many months. I kept zipping each one then stepping on the bathroom scale to make sure I was as close to 50 pounds as possible without going over. If you go over, there’s a hefty fee. If you’re under, you just shortchanged yourself. So one suitcase weighed 45 but the other 49 and back and forth, back and forth until finally, both weighed exactly 47 and a half. I might could have squeezed one more emery board into each, but I know tempting fate when I see it. When I checked in I asked the checker how much my bags weighed and he looked at me dubiously and declared, “49 pounds each.” Hallelujah! If only I could be that efficient with the important things.
The airport was a piece of cake (or rather a Starbucks and a cinnamon curl) then easy boarding and another great seat. Once again (if you remember my summer trip) I am by the window and the middle seat is empty. Yes! There’s a middle-aged guy in the opposite seat with his laptop out also. We have our drinks on the middle tray and it’s kinda like we’re in a cafĂ© sharing a small table. I like this.
I am reading a GREAT book! It’s Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I like it because my dear niece, Ellen, gave it to me to read. She knows me pretty well and thought I’d like it (She also knows what music I like and regularly gives me CD’s that introduce me to artists she likes). The book is subtitled, “Some Thoughts On Faith”. It’s fairly autobiographical and like Ellen warned me, probably not appreciated as much by the far right wing ultra-conservative Christians (the f-word appears more than once). I must be becoming more liberal these days because I love this book. I think the last five years have opened me up some, painfully like surgery, but the end result feels like healing. I accept and even appreciate things these days that in another life I would have judged or scoffed (But not to worry. I won’t be dropping f-bombs at the Vermeer family Christmas reunion).
Lamott’s style is so unpreachy, so vulnerable, self-effacing and humorous. She endured some enormous heartaches before emerging as a single mother bent on finding answers to life’s questions in the Christian faith. She reminds me of Connally Gilliam whose book Revelations of a Single Woman I read recently and also loved. I’m finding myself identifying with these single young women (okay you can laugh). We actually face many of the same struggles and certainly sip the same cocktail of hope, fear, and determination (I won’t be drinking liquor at the Vermeer reunion either so relax).
I’m going to close my computer now and keep reading and also batting my eyelashes at my unsuspecting date across the table. Wink Wink ( ;

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Song For You

I'm all packed up. Tomorrow I'll board a plane (I'm a flying fool now) and land in Alaska. Tomorrow night I'll be sleeping in a strange bed in a strange apartment that I'll learn to call home for a few months. I wonder if I'll be cold........please let there be heat.
Anyway, I wanted to write a song that expressed how I'm feeling (I'm sure at this point my kids are rolling their eyes and going "oh no, isn't the blog bad enough?") But hey, this is America so I can write a song if I want to. It's called Moving Day. I'm sharing it with you but no, I won't be posting it on youtube (good news for the kids).

Moving Day

It's moving day......
Filling up my boxes,
On the wall the clock says
Time is running down.
Moving day.......finally came around.

Cleaning out....
Tripping over memories,
In a way my heart grieves
But in a way I feel set free
On moving day....a big day for me!

Chorus:
I've been here way too long
At the bottom of this well,
Climbing out took some time.
Now Love has caught a breeze
And my ship is set to sail,
Sail away, sail away.

Letting go....
Of old dreams that held my heart,
Now it's time for a brand new start,
See what faith can bring
On moving day.....I'm gonna spread my wings.

I've been here way too long
At the bottom of this well,
Climbing out took some time.
Now Love has caught a breeze
And my ship is set to sail,
Sail away, sail away.

Moving day......
I'm finally feeling good inside,
I'm giving in to my braver side,
No more time for tears
On moving day.....where do I go from here?

Thank you very much. Elvis.....er, Kim has left the building.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cleaning Day

Today was cleaning day. I've been going through drawers and cabinets, sorting, throwing away, the usual chores associated with moving. I tried to really make a decent path from the living room to the kitchen without having to trip over something. Hey, it looks pretty good in here. Shelly has unpacked most of her stuff and it's blended quite well with what I have remaining.
I know I'm over the worst of the cleaning by one landmark accomplishment: I did the dryer. My washer and dryer are, unfortunately, right inside the back door. I don't put stuff on the washer because it opens on top. But the dryer! It's my catch-all. It's responsible for all the change I've collected and rolled into a Keys vacation and now a plane ticket to Alaska. The box of rolling papers have always been there beside the change tub (that's coin rolling papers for all you who think you've just discovered why I'm spacey). Along with Tide, Clorox, Spray-n-wash and GooGone, you could also find some rusty nails, a whatever rag, Antkill, wasp spray and an unused flea collar. No pests disturbing the serenity of this clean place.
Perhaps my fondest memories of the cluttered dryer top will always involve the Christmas garland I bought two summers ago in Philadelphia. I think I just walked in the door, laid it there, and there it's been ever since. Every time I do laundry I look at it and wonder where I should put it. Maybe with the Christmas decorations? But they're out in the garage. I don't want to make a special trip all 20 feet out there, have to unlock the door, open the Christmas bin and stash it. I always imagined I would find a creative place to hang it while I patiently awaited the holidays. But no such place ever materialized. And during the holidays? I forgot it was there.
So today I dealt with the garland (btw, it's really an interesting string of stars that could realistically be used to decorate anytime). Can you guess where I put it? Honestly, I don't remember! It must have gone into a catch-all box.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moving Day

As I was reading at bedtime last night, I came across a passage in a book that talked about the need to move forward in our Christian lives and not be intimidated by circumstances. The author said that we spend way too much time saying we're waiting on God, when actually God is waiting on us. It cautioned against "turning back" after we have seen a vision for ministry or developed a passion for something new.
It was encouraging but I didn't feel it really applied to me at this time. I am terribly excited about moving to Alaska and don't feel any tugs to change my mind at this time.
Then here comes moving day! Not mine, Shelley's. Shelley is the friend who will be living in my house while I'm gone. We had agreed earlier that today would be the day she moves a lot of her stuff to storage, brings her boxes of necessities (and a few luxuries) over here and well.....moves in.
Yikes! Is it really happening? "What are those dishes for? What do you mean floral towels will look good with the shower curtain? What's that ratan table doing on my porch???"
It's still sinking in that I'm moving. I am absolutely delighted that Shelley will be staying here, but still feel that twinge of "am I doing the right thing?" Of course I am. God has been waiting on me long enough. Just a few more details to conquer, then I'm off.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dealing With Details

I don't think I'm wired to be a business woman. Or maybe I just haven't been programmed that way. Or maybe the programming is defective. Or maybe my business subroutines went offline at some point. WHATEVER! This is not what I'm used to. So many details to take care of before the big move. I'm tempted to scream. Aw heck, why not, *&%^$#@!*!!!!!!!!
Whew! That felt great! One of the benefits of living alone.
As if all this preliminary stuff were not enough, I am contemplating incorporating myself into a nonprofit organization. We'll call it "Kim's Whims". Seriously, since I spoke in church I have been offered FINANCIAL SUPPORT from various sources for my ministry in Alaska. How cool is that?????
I have retirement funds which I will be drawing from for my living expenses for the next 40-50 years (do you see a new Walmart greeter in your future?) But the ministry I envision and am getting excited about will need some support. If you've been following along you know that I am hoping to minister to women in native villages in Alaska. One village in particular stole my heart. But it's only accessible by air. I may be able to bum rides with bush pilots now and then but more likely I will be scheduling flights with the little commercial airline that flies in and out of there regularly. The cost is $150. a round trip. (Just how much does Walmart pay anyway?)
When my church family and certain generous friends found out about this, they did what they've always done when they saw a need: pitched in to help.
I am feeling tremendously humbled and affirmed. A missionary friend reminded me this morning that it's all God's work, not ours. He will be taking care of the details, thank you. (That's God, not my friend). He has no programming that can be scrambled and no subroutines that can go offline. He knows all the needs, from right this moment until the day I die, and it was all taken care of before the beginning of time.
Do I really believe this? Am I just another Christian Atheist who makes lofty claims but caves under pressure.
I'm definitely full of faith and definitely doubtful ("But honestly, God, I was just screaming at the cat") ( :

Monday, August 30, 2010

Preaching at church

Have you ever preached a sermon???? Put it on your bucket list. It looks so effortless when your pastor gets up there and just starts going on and on and you hang on every word (on a good day) and before you know it, it's been half an hour and you leave with things on your mind to ponder. At my church I always leave feeling encouraged and challenged.
My pastor, Juan, is a baby. I mean, I'm old enough to be his mother. English is his second language and he just got his bachelor's degree. But that man can preach! He has something to say and he says it with passion, conviction and eloquence (on a good day, that is). He makes it look so easy.
I've preached three different sermons since I've been at the church. Here's what happened:
Sermon #1. Juan was planning to be away and asked me to sub. Sure. No problaymo, Juanito. I spoke about Joseph. Not the father of Jesus, but the other Joseph, the one in the Old Testament who got sold by his brothers, thrown into prison, suffered way too much, then became the king's sidekick and ended up saving his family. It's a great story, hard to mess up. I wrote out my message, practiced in front of the cat, then spoke from an outline. I made it safely through but I can say without hesitation, I was scared to death and am sure few, if any, people walked away feeling encouraged or challenged (unless they were encouraged to know that Juan was returning the next week).
Sermon #2. Juan was away again and asked me to sub. I guess everyone had been polite when he asked them how I did. Anyway, I'm a career teacher so I know how to learn. This time I would not put myself through that same ordeal. I wrote out my sermon (and I think it was a good one, it was from my heart) and I read it verbatim from the pulpit. This worked much better for me because the chance of getting lost or rambling was greatly reduced. In the second service, however, my papers were out of order so I had to wing it for a while. But I knew what I was going to say and it was fine.
Sermon# 3. This weekend. Juan was NOT out of town but asked me to speak about my adventures in Alaska this summer. No problaymo, Juanito. I'll just write it all out, read it word-for-word and consider the congregation shared with. So I wrote it out, but something in me kept saying, "No, silly, don't read it. Tell everyone what you did. Tell them what you want to tell them." My three kids were there, and Juan. But I really wanted to just speak it. So I did. And somehow God calmed me (it may have been the xanax I took) and led me straight through it. It wasn't so hard and I'm REALLY glad I got to share my story. I think some people were even encouraged and challenged.
You really should do this in your lifetime. It will give you a whole new appreciation for your pastor (on a good day, that is).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going Home

I drove to Roswell (just north of Atlanta) on Thursday to see my sweet family. I stay with my brother and his wife and they always treat me like a princess. My niece and nephew come to see me with their significant others and my mother and her guyfriend are always over. I am spoiled when I'm in Roswell. But I'm starting to realize what really draws me back there more and more often: It's HOME!!!!!
So many times during the last three years I have felt like a homeless waif. I don't feel connected to Dade City, where I'm living. It was Greg's and my dream place, but we were only here a couple of years before he got sick. Although I have made some wonderful friends here, I don't feel rooted. St. Pete, our former home, holds lots of memories but few friends remain there. Thomas and Leah are out on their own and subject to moving as their careers carry them here and yonder.
Spiritually speaking, I know I belong to the family of God, but as my earthbound weak self, I'm suffering from a lack of a sense of belonging. I've been reading a good book by a single woman who laments that this is often characteristic of singles and we all deal with it differently.
I have always been blessed with many friends, and my circle continues to widen as I venture out of my comfort zone and discover new people and places. Nevertheless, I feel belongingless. Except when I'm in Roswell.
Though we don't see each other often enough, I am part of an extraordinary family of warm, fun-loving, creative and generous southern folk. We are a mishmash of interests, talents and philosophies, but we don't care much about how we're different. When we're together we spend most of our time laughing (usually at each other. It seems I'm always reminded that I had pinworms as a child). We don't argue, never criticize (well, my mother does but it's just about my makeup. She thinks I should wear more), we roll our eyes a lot, but never get mad. We go bowling (my mother, at 85, can loft that ball halfway down the lane), play and sing music together, eat Mexican food and sit around telling stories (the same stories that we've told over and over, like when Uncle Bub hit his thumb with a hammer and got so mad he dove head first into a water drum and almost drowned. We're all crazy.)
Someday, after Alaska and where ever else God leads me, I'm pretty sure I'll end up back in Roswell. My name is already carved on a headstone there, next to my father, aunts and uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, and yes, great-great grandparents.
I belong to my loving family and one of the greatest blessings of my life is going HOME.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Training

So I spent the summer in Alaska doing mission work, working with evangelists and learning the ropes of this new trade. Is that what it is, a new trade, a new job? Is it a calling or a much needed distraction? These kinds of questions weigh on me and I talk to God at length about them. I'm about to make a very profound change in my life. I'm calling my homeowner's company to make sure I can rent out my guest room, packing my life into a suitcase and moving way north, where it doesn't thaw until summer and you navigate the roads by starlight (and a lot of people call that "moon shine").
I was just talking to a friend this morning who's also going through a big life transition. I was trying to offer some encouragement but I found my tongue slipping and sliding around in my mouth and I'm not sure I was very convincing. We were asking why God puts us through these trials. We both are knowledgeable in scripture and know "the Biblical answer" but come on. He's God. Couldn't He find a way to accomplish His purposes that involved a few less human tears????
Then Matt appeared. Remember my damaged floor? I cried a bucket over that when I got the news, not knowing how to "fix it" from Anchorage and wondering what it meant. I think I wrote in an earlier post that there were lessons to be learned.
Matt is a young, nice-looking tatooed-up guy who got hired to do my floor by Carl, the guy I called. First, Matt called this morning to say he would be an hour late, then he got lost, then he realized he had forgotten his phone, and let's just say Matt was not having a good day and was fully aware that any future jobs might depend on this one.
When he finally got to work it was only a few minutes when he came into the living room looking clammy and shakey. It was not a heart attack but was probably just as bad for Matt. He said after looking at the floor he did not feel at all confident that he knew where to start and how to attack this job. Then he waited for my reaction and I could tell by the way he curled up under a table that he was expecting the worst.
I was very calm and understanding. Honestly, I'm in no hurry with the floor. I was very glad he was honest and up front rather than risking the one box of flooring I have left over from the original job. He agreed to finish scraping off the old glue and I went back to my email.
THEN...... (this is what I've been building up to and I know you're glad I'm finally there), SOMETHING or SOMEBODY moved me. I walked into the kitchen and said, "Matt, I want to tell you something." He started to dart under that table, then looked up at me. And I shared with Him what trusting God had done for me in the last four years. How I tried to let God direct my life and how He gave me peace whenever the unexpected came about.
He said he had been thinking about spiritual things lately... Just yesterday his mother had asked him to shave her head as she was beginning a much dreaded round of chemo.The kid had a lot on his mind. And now he has more to ponder and I believe with all my heart that it's because God is changing me and making me more sensitive to His Spirit. He has me in training for my new "job".
Before this summer, I don't think I would have bothered with Matt. And since I read stuff into stuff all the time, isn't it interesting that his name was Matt? I could have walked all over him.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Step Closer

I went to St. Pete Saturday to spend some time with dear friends AND to see if Richard was still in the apartment (see post from early this summer). I was sure he was. A friend told me his car was still in the driveway. As I approached the place, I felt butterflies in my stomach and wished as strongly as I can wish that I didn't have to have this confrontation. I didn't know if I had a key that fit the lock. Greg left a big bowl of keys that weren't labeled. I knew it was probably one of them.
I was picturing myself knocking on Richard's door, getting no answer (he's done that before) and then trying each key to try to get inside (I had to know for sure he was there). Then I imagined him calling the police to report someone breaking into his apt. and the sheriff arriving and handcuffing me and carrying me off to jail.It's so unfair.
Well God is good. The third key I tried fit the lock, and the apt. was vacated. Hallelujah! I was jumping for joy. Now just need to get both apt.'s cleaned out and on the market. I know I'm going to make no money on this place at all after real estate fees, taxes and cleaning help. But I'm still jumping for joy! And one step closer to Alaska!
btw, it also gave me great joy to have his run-down car impounded, although I'm sure he left it as a gift.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home Again

So I've landed back at home. Practically no jet lag after the first day. I've made a list of things to get done, with the hope of returning to Alaska by the end of September. One by one, I'm checking stuff off the list.
Although I've returned home, this doesn't feel like home. After two and a half years of trying to get used to being here alone and reclaim the joy that this house once brought me, I find I am no closer to that goal than when I started. A friend trying to comfort me some time ago related the story of a widowed friend who found peace and contentment in keeping up the property she once shared with her husband. She nurtured their plants, walked their paths and enjoyed basking in her memories.
That hasn't worked for me. I feel very strongly that God is calling me to something very different and challenging. Being home is confirming that even more. I'm not going to miss this place. And that's a good thing. Remember Isaiah 43? "See...I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?" Yes, I do perceive it.
A teacher friend came by to look at the house today. She wants to rent the downstairs and.....she has offered to keep Daffodil. The new thing is falling into place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jet Lag

I’m in the Philadelphia airport on my way home. My desktop picture is Denali. I miss Alaska. Is it time to go back?
Speaking of time, who is crazy enough to book a 7 hour flight that leaves at 9:10 PM? This was yet another first for me. The flight attendants are calling the shots and manipulating you into the routine. After passing out drinks they remind you of your pillow and blankey, ask you to close your window, they turn out the lights and put on a video. It’s a long, skinny sleepover in the sky. Now sleep, people.! Most of us tried to. By the time I finally dozed off, the lights came on, a “light” breakfast was announced and served. People began milling around and chattering, the sun came up and it was a new day. NOT!!! Are you people nuts???? It’s 3 AM! I don’t care what they’re telling you, it must be a conspiracy because I taught first grade for 20 years. I can do a clock. 9:10 plus 6 hours equals 3:10. You have to know that to get to second grade. So why is everyone acting like it’s morning??? Wasn’t this a Twilight Zone episode? I looked out the window to see if a little man was standing on the wing? Then they carried me off kicking and screaming. I need coffee. Or maybe I’ve had too much. Jet lag is going to be murder.
The coherent part of my flight was very pleasant. I had a wonderful seatmate. He was a retired 6th grade teacher and, thank you God, a Methodist. After my Southern Baptist summer, I wasn’t sure there were any of us left. I’m still wondering if we’re going to heaven.
I don’t think I’ve written about my experiences in the native village last week. 21 of us white folks slept on the floor of the tribal hall, chopped and delivered wood to the elders by day and had an informal church service at night. This particular village lies 25 miles off the nearest paved road, over two mountains and in the middle of nowhere. The natives own almost a million acres here and it is breathtakingly beautiful. On Saturday after the wood was chopped, we were taken by fishing boat along a meandering path to a gigantic lake. I’ll post the pix on face book. I may get to go back this fall with a native group of Christians who are going in to conduct services.
The night before we left, an old guy named Roy showed up and played guitar and sang some old gospel songs, some in the Athabaskan language. I took out the fiddle and we jammed for a couple of hours. That was a real highlight of my summer.
Scott told me about a bush missionary gathering in October at a remote, fly-in only, location. He goes every year and takes a group and I’m signing up. So I’m setting a goal to be back in Alaska by the end of September. Need to get the floor repaired, find someone to watch my house, evict Richard, get the apartment on the market, and hopefully find a home for Daffodil.
Dr. Phil would be proud of me. I’m excited about my life! (Now I know just because I said that something else is going to break or go wrong. Just remind me that I said life is good, okay?)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Testing

What is this testing business? I'm barely retired from teaching and I'm already confronted with what could be interpreted as a test. I've just committed to a stay in Alaska doing some mission work when I get word a pipe has sprung a leak in my Florida house and my things are floating away.
I don't usually attribute bad things to the work of Satan. I think we have enough evil and stupidity inside us to guarantee plenty of bad outcomes, without the help of a meddlesome demon. However, I have noticed in my short life that bad things seem to happen at the most inopportune times and it's quite often just when we've committed to something productive or worthy. I've experienced this over and over. In fact, I've come to expect it.
The day after I retired I was driving east toward the mountains on 6th St. when the thought occurred to me that I should expect something bad to happen very soon. No kidding, I really thought about it. I even prayed that God would give me the determination to follow through on my commitment and not be seduced by fear or conflict or any trials I might experience.
Then comes that disastrous call about my house. Really???? Even though I had anticipated something like this, I was still taken by surprise and felt a surge of panic.
But God has turned it all upside down. Everything fell right into place to avert disaster and put me at ease. Now, instead of being discouraged, I realize I have an army of friends who will always be there when I need them. I hope I can be a good friend back to them when they need me. I realize that God will not leave me helpless but will use circumstances to teach me more about trusting Him and living in faith moment to moment. And, like I wrote earlier, I'm confronted with losing the "stuff".
I also realize that in the scheme of things, my "disaster" was not a disaster at all. I hope when real disaster hits (as it has so many) I can take a small lesson from this week.
"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing this: that the trying of your faith works patience..." Book of James
So did God allow Satan to put me to the test??? I'd say there's a good chance. I'd give me a B- on this easy one. But I definitely need to study harder for midterm exams.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Letting Go

The floor....I don't know any more about it today. I tried calling Gary, dear husband of my dear friend, to go take a look, but they are gone for the weekend. I'll try again tomorrow. If I can't reach Gary, I have other folks I'll call. I'm very blessed with menfolk in my life who step up when I need them and keep panic at bay.
Floors have a symbolic place in the narrative of my life. If you asked my children if their parents ever fought, they'd say, "Only about floors". I can remember three different times (no, four) when a pretty floor was my highest priority and my lust for floor perfection ended in conflict and frustration. What's with that anyway???
Yesterday I was talking on the phone with someone who might want to rent part of my house while I'm in Alaska. It sounded like a good deal until she said she had a dog. Ewwww....I told her that might be a deal breaker because I had really nice wood floors and wouldn't want anything to mar them. I felt the floor lust rising inside me as we spoke. Greg and I had those floors laid with the money I inherited from my Uncle Harry. They were a tribute to his generosity and satisfied me like no other floor ever has. This floor and I have been really good together.
Just a couple of hours later came the infamous call that my treasure was wet and buckling. It hit me like a baseboard. I told you I cried and cried. But I also prayed and prayed and asked God for some perspective and peace.
Now it seems as clear as a good polyurethane: God is teaching me something here. "Let go of the STUFF. Still connected to that floor (and your other little treasures)? LET THEM GO!!!!!!"
If this Alaska missionary thing is going to work out, I've GOT to learn to trust God WITH EVERYTHING and shake off the old life of material STUFF. This is going to be hard for me. I guess I'm starting on the ground "floor" ( :

The Challenge Begins

So how is it I have gone from first grade school teacher on a summer mission trip, to middle aged retiree moving to Alaska? I prayed diligently (and I mean on my face like a raving lunatic) for God to open a door of ministry for me. I begged as if it were for my life, because it was. As I’ve written before, I was sensing that change was imminent, but I didn’t know where He was leading.
Then a door opened and, like Lucy with the wardrobe, I stepped in…..and kept walking. This summer has been a steady hike, not just to glaciers, but toward my destiny.
Why Alaska? I have no idea. At first I was sure God had me mixed up with somebody else. Historically, I have NOT liked cold weather. I whine in the freezer section at Publix. But very clearly God led me here.
I don’t want to sound too philosophical but here’s my take (don’t laugh):
I’m thinking that moving to Alaska in some ways mimics the widow journey. Alaska’s state motto is “The Last Frontier”. Isn’t that what I’m facing? You know, exploring the unknown, battling extremes, testing my stamina, going where no man has gone before (oops, digressing into Star Trek again. Delete that last line). If I can survive an Alaska winter, I can survive anything, right? I’m excited to see what I’m made of, physically, spiritually and emotionally. This is my climb up Denali. I’ve been at base camp for two years just staring up, wishing, wondering and hoping. Gotta reach that peak and stand up and declare my freedom. Bring on the snow and the subzero temperatures and the frostbite and the sunless days and the isolation and………..I’m staying in Florida. No I’m not, yes I am, no I’m not, yes I am, NO I’M NOT!!!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!!!! (I told you not to laugh)

Next day:
“I’m excited to see what I’m made of”. Did I write that????? Apparently I’m made of jello. Before I could even publish this post, I got a call from home that I have a leak somewhere and my wood floor is flooded. Really? I fell apart. I had already been feeling a menopausal urge to cry all day. Not sure why. Could be seeing all the happy couples up here doing ministry together. My dream, as yet unfulfilled. Could be the emotional impact of retiring from a 34 year career. (At one time I had planned to be the oldest working teacher in the US. Not long ago my pediatrician was on the cover of Parade Magazine as the oldest practicing physician in the country. I think she was 99. I knew I could best that.)
But God had other plans for me and now I’m in Alaska feeling energized, adventurous and totally surrendered. But when I got word that my beautiful house was buckling, I just cried and cried. I called a friend who spent three hours on the phone trying to talk me down. I feel better this morning and will start making calls to do what needs to be done. I had just postponed my return to Florida by a week so I can spend time in a tribal village (earlier post). I still intend to do that. But I’m so being humbled.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, but as myself, I’m just jello.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Cool Things Happening

The retirement decision was BIG! Did you see it coming? I'd been thinking about it and praying about it for months. This is really cool: Since I faxed the letter to my principal all of three days ago, a whole bunch of incidental things have started falling into place. I have some leads on having someone watch my house in Florida, I have two new Russian orthodox friends in Anchorage who are anxious to get better acquainted and talk about "religious" things, I have been invited to join a church team going to another remote native village (with no church) and chop wood and have a church service (so I'll be a little late getting home in August), my pastor, Juan, asked me to bring the message at church when I finally get back home (and I have a great message to bring), a new friend, Denise, offered to let me stay with her when I return to Anchorage and am looking for an apt., and when I cranked up the Puffin (old Olds that I'm driving)the radio blared out a song that said something about beginnings and endings that was just what I needed to hear. I think the song was actually about being drunk and getting sober but I applied it to me anyway.
Well that's the latest. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big News!!!!!

So I was in the Word this afternoon....... the Word is the name for the staff's secret napping spots up by the baptistry at the church. There's two of them, the Old Testament and the New Testament. So when you disappear for a while to rest and don't want to be called a slacker, you can say, "Hey, I was deep in the Word and lost track of time." (btw, the New Testament became Tom's new bedroom because of the crowd this week, but nobody told me (Remember Tom, the older gentleman I picked raspberries with?) So yesterday Tom walks into his room and finds me asleep in his bed. I wondered why we suddenly had a pillow and covers. This has been a hard one to live down.)
Anyway, I'm dozing in the Old Testament this afternoon when my phone rings. It was Mike from human resources at the Pasco school system returning my call. When the chat was over, the deed was done. I am now, after an illustrious 34 year career as an elementary school teacher................RETIRED! Yikes!!!! I called my principal and gave her the news. A few paperwork formalities and I am officially unemployed.
I feel the weight of the world off my shoulders... but that could be an illusion. What if I've made a big mistake? No I haven't, yes I have, no I haven't, yes I have, no I haven't and THAT'S FINAL!
I fly home next week and start making my plans to move to Alaska..... temporarily, that is. Maybe for a few months. We'll see where God leads from there.
Tomorrow night I'm leading singing at the Anchorage Rescue Mission. Just a matter of time until I fit right in.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thinking Adventure

"Naturally we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing....Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; Gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation." Oswald Chambers

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Missionary Me

Me, the missionary. I guess that's technically what I am this summer. It's funny how this all came to be. It was quite unexpected and almost planned itself. Having been here a month I'm starting to remember a time in my life when I longed to be a missionary. When visiting missionaries would speak at church I wanted to stow myself away in their baggage and journey along with them. When I went to Ecuador years ago, I didn't want to come home.
I always thought Greg and I would make a powerful missionary team. He could teach the natives in some exotic land how to grow their own fish and I would feed their souls with the Word of God. He wasn't interested though, so the dream slowly died. Or so I thought. Now widowed for two and a half years, I find myself dreaming again. With so many options, I'm overwhelmed.
I have the privilege this summer, not only of serving mission teams in Alaska, but of interacting with some highly experienced and successful career missionaries. Scott has a PhD in missions and has been living his missionary dream for years. He's able to answer so many questions and tell me things I wouldn't have thought to ask. This guy, Larry, is on the team I'm hosting this week. He was on some international mission board for years and has been on too many trips to count. I've been picking his brain as well. He tells me of reaching people groups in Africa that have never ever heard the name of Jesus. He told the story of one guy who said he always knew from observing the heavens that there must be a creator but he never knew His name.
What I hear repeated over and over from these seasoned veterans is "Don't be afraid to take risks. When you feel compelled to leave your comfort zone, just do it."
A missionary spoke at Lebanon Baptist Church when I was about 14 years old. I'll never forget her talk. She said when God calls you to do something JUST DO IT! That has been stuck in the deepest part of my mind and emotions all these years. JUST DO IT! What does that mean for me now, a single, middle aged, soon-to-be-retired school teacher who has always valued routine, predictability and safety. Sheesh!
What does God want me to do? There's a bend in the road ahead. I can see that clearly. But what's around that bend is still out of sight. With every step I get closer. But just as with a curve in the road, I expect it will seem to straighten as I approach it. I'm thinking in a few years I'll be looking back and wondering, "What happened to that bend I saw in the road?" I will have negotiated the turn without even realizing it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Week Beginning

It's Sunday morning. I had yesterday off which was a good thing. I really needed the rest. I slept in then Jody and I went to brunch, then flea market shopping, then Target, then more rest, then dinner at Taco King, then more rest, then bedtime.
Today I got up at five to leave at six to have breakfast served for 50 at 7:30.
I'm sticking around the church here for the service. I haven't been to a service here yet (at Calvary where we are headquartered). Then I'm scheduled to co-lead a team from Texas that will be arriving at Eagle River in clumps all afternoon and evening. I'm driving there after church to help get things ready for them.
Eagle River is a little community about 10 miles from here. The Texans will stay at a church there and Emily and I will be hosting them. This will be my first "away" mission. We will have our own cook, do our own chapel services and have our own ministries in that area, although I will still drive back "home" each night and sleep in my own bed.
Later this afternoon I'm driving back to Calvary to help cook a late dinner for the teams arriving here. Sundays are transition days with last week's teams leaving and new ones coming. Lots of chores to be done, email addresses to exchange, hellos and goodbyes. Sound like summer camp??? Well... it is!
Did I mention I called my new Indian friend, Annabelle, to thank her for her hospitality in the village? She said I could come back anytime so I said, "How 'bout next week?" We're going to walk on the beach.
So now the logistics of getting there. We have a team of men flying to the village this week to stay and do service projects for the elders. They have to be picked up sometime, right??? So I'm arranging to fly over Friday with the bush pilot who goes to fetch them. There won't be room for me to fly back so...hmmmm.... I'm going to have to actually book a flight with Spernak, the commercial airlines that flies in and out of there. I'm told the planes only have six seats so I'll have to book early, i.e. tomorrow. I asked Scott how I would get to the landing strip from Annabelle's house and he said, "walk". So walk I will. Honestly, this is just too much adventure for a person who spent her last meaningful vacation at fiddle camp at a college where I never left the same hundred yard radius all week and the biggest challenge was playing a solid G# with my pinky. To say I'm stretching is an understatement. Remember the analogy of spreading out onto the extra seat on the plane? God is really making peanut butter out of me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back From Tyonek

The trip was surreal. I felt I was in a dream or a player on a stage. The four of us, Scott, Jay, Joe and I, crammed into the tiny plane full of excitement, anticipation, and fishing poles. This was a trip I'd been hoping for but wasn't sure would happen. We were headed to a native village to meet Scott's Athabascan friends and fish.
I don't feel it would be appropriate to relate the details of the day in a blog. We were guests, after all, and I want to be respectful of that. I would extend the same courtesy to you if you had me over (and some of you need to have me over in August so start planning).
I will say our native hosts were very hospitable and excellent cooks. (They were watching Rachel Ray on TV. That should shatter some stereotypes). I hope, hope, hope I get invited back.
As for the fishing, we only caught one salmon that we could keep and eat. I tried to show them how it's done, but they were too proud to listen to this white woman.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bigger Adventure

Okay, this has got to be quick! Sunday I talked to Scott about the possibility of going to one of the remote villages and seeing what God might have in store. I want to minister to women and I'm praying for direction.
At 11:00 today, I'm playing fiddle tunes for the dementia patients at Pioneer Center when my phone in my pocket rings. I say, "excuse me" to my audience but the expressions don't change. I was just about the turn off the phone when I noticed it was Scott. So I answered. He says to be at the airport at 1:00 prepared to stay in Tyonek for the night. Some guys are going fishing over there and something about something else, but all I really heard was be at the airport at 1:00. I quickly pack up the fiddle (still no expressions change) and flagged down a nurse to escort me to the third floor where the rest of the group was playing bingo with the bingo crowd. Then I had to beg for a quick ride back to the church to get the Goose (my van)and drive home and pack up.
So here I am packing, charging my camera battery, wondering what to wear, and getting this down quick. I have no idea what to expect but I am tremendously excited.
And btw, I am also excited about returning to the dementia ward. I could make all kinds of jokes right now (you're probably thinking of a few) but I was honestly touched by the experience of entertaining (if that's the word) these seemingly vacant, nonresponsive old people. There was just enough light shining through to brighten my day (even if Scott hadn't called).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Down From Denali

In the book of Galatians the Apostle Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit. The context helps us understand that if we are true believers, God's Spirit will live within us and manifest Himself in us through certain "fruit": Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. For the last two years I have perceived a serious withering of the fruit within me. I have prayed often and sincerely for God's Spirit to awaken within me and once again produce a harvest.
Recently I have felt my prayers being answered. It started happening a few months ago when I stopped trying to manipulate God, conceded His Lordship over me and submitted (to the best of my weak ability) myself into His sole keeping (My soul keeping).
On the field trip to Denali, I came my closest yet to feeling the reactivation of the fruit of the Spirit in my life.
Love, joy, peace all welled up within me standing on a mountaintop. I know many of you have had this "mountaintop" experience and know what I'm talking about. Feeling small and insignificant at the same time you feel integrated into God's enormous imagination is both humbling and affirming. The fruit of the Spirit is fraught with paradox.
Any road trip involving seven diverse and colorful personalities (including you, Emily and Karen if you're reading this) will tap into your patience. It's either that or harikari.
Gentleness, kindness, goodness have been evident on the surface these last few years, but they haven't been too heartfelt. I've been too preoccupied with myself. An elderly gentleman named Tom drew them out of me as he confided some personal struggles he's faced recently. His eyes were sad but trusting and I wanted to pray with him and offer the comfort that I have received in such abundance. He picked me some wild raspberries on the side of the road as we walked together. It just felt good and right.
Faithfulness: Bouncing along the road, sharing songs, telling jokes, oooing and ahhhing at the sights, scrambling for the best shots, silence on the mountaintop, dinner with new and interesting people in Fairbanks (members of the Christian pilot's association), all renewed my faith in the goodness of God and His promise to "satisfy my desires with good things..."
It was a lighthearted trip for the most part and I had a wonderful time.
And about self-control: that just wasn't a problem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last Blog Til Sunday

This is such an easy week compared to last. There are only five people here doing GraceWorks ministry. There are other teams stationed around the state, but I am not involved with that. So a few of us staffers are leaving around 3:00 to drive to Denali National Park. We are kinda camping in churches that we have prearranged with. We're taking inflatable mattresses and linens, an ice chest with sandwich stuff. Not really roughing it, but adventure never-the-less. They say the drive up is very scenic and I'll have my camera ready to hang out the window.
I'm praying hard about the ministry here. There are villages accessible only by air that do not have a church and have little or no exposure to the gospel. Scott has told me that I can help develop the ministry there if I.........move to Alaska.
Yikes! I wonder if God is leading me in this new direction. Can you see me retiring from teaching, packing up Daffodil and moving to the cold country? So many things to consider. Until now, dressing in layers meant wearing a tank top over a cami. I'd have to invest in a real coat. And get bear spray!
Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg (very funny). The real challenge would be assimilating into a new culture, establishing a new support circle, rebudgeting (which would seriously affect the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed), and really starting a whole new life. You'd have to get a plane ticket to visit me.
It would mean ending my days as a teacher and beginning a new life as a missionary. Because I wouldn't want to move here just to move (I'd never pick Alaska). I have to feel a sense of calling and purpose and really get excited about it.
I'm just thinking about this now, so please don't call Momma and say we heard Kim's moving to Alaska for good. If I make the move, she's to believe I'm still in Florida, okay? On the phone: "Kim, what's that sound I hear like teeth chattering?" "Why, Momma, that's just a woodpecker on the roof."
So pray along with me about this.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Eve

I am very tired. But not from working. I had today off. My fellow mission worker, Jodie, and I went exploring. We found a hiking trail about 20 minutes from town that we had passed on our Saturday glacier trips. We decided to check it out. Wow! The trail paralleled a beautiful waterfall and shoal. We kept walking and found ourselves halfway up a mountain. It's bear country so we were very careful to make a lot of scary people sounds like cocking a rifle. No bear encounters today, but yesterday we saw two at the glacier (I didn't get pictures because I was driving. Darn!)
I will post a new photo album on fb tonight or tomorrow. The views were breathtaking. Better than fireworks on this Fourth of July (I don’t think they have much fireworks here because fireworks in the daytime would be like eating chocolate with a stuffy nose. What a waste!)
Jodie is in charge of the VBS portion of the GraceWorks ministry. We have had some stimulating conversations this weekend about childrens ministry and specifically evangelism. When a team arrives from the lower 48 (to stay a week), they are supposed to come equipped to conduct VBS with unchurched kids at a city park. WHOA! That’s a tall order. It’s very different from VBS at your local church where most of the kids already have exposure to Bible stories and Christian-speak. Some of the teams come well-prepared and the week flows smoothly without much fuss. But sometimes the team members have no experience with street urchins and it can be a bumpy ride. Even after one week I am starting to feel protective of “our” kids. I’m sure you’ll hear more on this as the weeks progress.
Small group this week. I will not be leading a team. Some of us staff people are taking off for Denali National Park on Wednesday. We’ll do a safari through the park then some errands in Fairbanks. Return on Saturday. I'm just certain I'll have some bear pictures to post by then.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One Week Down

First Conflict (not to be confused with First Contact which is a great Star Trek movie): The Arkansas Travelers were struggling with VBS in the park and the VBS director here had to confront them. Hurt feelings, embarrassment, anger, resentment all converged in a "debriefing" yesterday. I was just a spectator (praise God) and learned a lot from how it was all handled. I think diffusing these issues before they become divisive will be part of my job description as a team host.
Tuesday evenings are free time. I did some gospel singing with the Arkansas folks and stayed up way too late. I'm not getting good sleep. There are breaks in the day (like now) but not enough time for a nap. In fact, I've been interrupted writing this by folks who need help preparing to lead chapel tomorrow. I hope I can continue to blog even if my entries get shorter.
Last night after singing (when I should have been going home to bed) I helped skin fresh halibut that some team members caught earlier this week. Today's lunch was a feast of halibut (prepared two ways) and fresh salmon. It was SOOOO good.
In a little while we're off to a park party where we grill hotdogs, play music, play games, make contacts and try to generate interest in a neighborhood Bible study. The philosophy of GraceWorks is that God doesn't call the world to come to church. He calls the church to go out into the world. That's what we spend our time doing. It may look clumsy and poorly executed at times (like the VBS this week), but the hope is that God will honor our efforts and spread the seeds in spite of our shaky hands.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beginning the week

The sun is shining in the window as I write this. And it's 11:00 PM. I'm shaking my head.
Today has been a study in diversity. You're probably expecting me to write about Eskimos or Aleuts. But I'm talking about the team I'm leading this week: from Arkansas. I mean DEEP in Arkansas. Deeper in Arkansas than I am from Georgia. It takes some getting used to. They are as nice as they can be, but man are they southern!
Tonight we went to an interdenominational worship service called Native Life. You're probably expecting that to include Native American songs and traditions. That's what I was hoping for. But apparently the natives prefer old time country gospel. Just one more verse of When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.
So I came all the way to Alaska to spend a day in Appalachia. I'm still shaking my head.
Actually, I think today was the best day yet. I have wifi at my house, I got my pictures to upload on my camera, and I have wheels (and I even know two ways to get across town to the church). I'm owning this place. I still can't get pictures to upload to the blog, but it's only a matter of time.
Here's something: I talked to my mother the other day and told her about the great adventure I'm having, the friendly people I've met, the ministry we're doing. After listening patiently to all that, she asked if there were any "available" men. I said "no" and changed the subject real quick. You just don't want to go there with Momma.
Well I talked to Hal (my brother) yesterday and he said that Momma said I was very disappointed in Alaska and wished I hadn't come. I'm still laughing about this. I shared it with Scott, my friend and fellow minister here (not to be confused with marine biologist Scott that I had dinner with Sat. night). Anyway, Scott informed me that the men far outnumber the women in Alaska. Not hard to figure out why. The huntin' and fishin' are REAL good here and there aren't any good malls. Plenty of mountain men with big beards and stinky coats. The way I see it, my odds are good, but the goods are just too odd ( :

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Still here

It’s Sunday morning. I slept in until 8. That felt great. I’ve been so busy learning the ropes. Basically each work day is about 13 hours long. I have to be across town for breakfast (we’re sharing cars, so there’s not much choice) at 7:30. The day ends at 8:30 on most nights, but Monday and Tuesday are flexible (sort of, because we’re sharing cars).
Yesterday I got a crash course in being an Alaska tour guide. I know you’re all hating me at this point, and well you should. We took four van-loads of teams to Portage Valley to play in the snow, look for wildlife, take a boat ride for close-ups of glaciers, you know, the things Floridians dream about in the summer. It was drizzly and pretty cold all day but no one seemed to care. Actually, I can’t remember myself whining even once.
The snow-capped mountains are spectacular. I’m sure I won’t be able to capture the majestic quality on my little camera, though I’ll try. When I tried to upload my pictures last night to my computer, it wouldn’t work for some reason. Maybe God is trying to give me a message. Stop worrying about the pictures and just breath it all in. I’ll be going back to Portage soon and I hope the tourist in me will succumb to the deeper side, and the experience will be new with every visit.
After the hiking, boating and sightseeing, I came “home”, cleaned myself up and went out to dinner with Scott Van Sant. Scott is a marine biologist friend from UGA days. We went to University Church together. He lives and works in Kodiak and just happened to be passing through Anchorage this weekend after weeks at sea. And I just happened to be off duty last night. He took me to one of the best restaurants in Anchorage for fresh halibut and salmon followed by chocolate decadence (this is another place where you get to hate me). I loved seeing him again and hearing his story. I think it’s been about 25 years since I’d seen him.
Lest you think all is perfect with me, there are some challenges. For one thing, I’m going through internet withdrawal, big time. I’m writing this in Word to paste later when I get back to the church (headquarters). But when I’m there I’m on duty so there’s very little time for fb or email and no time at all for Google (and I really need to know why my pictures wouldn’t upload). I feel disconnected from all of you who have been my lifeline the last four years. I pray that you will continue following me through this blog and know that I’m missing you, thinking about you and am very sorry that I can’t stay in personal touch.
There’s also a sort of independence withdrawal. I’m sharing a bathroom, sharing cars, can’t come and go as I want, (don’t know my way around town anyway), can’t have my music blaring as I dress. I think as the days wear on and I get more comfortable with these routines, I’ll feel much better. When I spent two weeks at a camp in Ecuador years ago, I didn’t feel this way. Maybe it’s because it was so short term, or maybe aging has made me more set in my ways, less adventurous and less flexible. A scripture passage that has really encouraged me in recent years is at the beginning of Psalm 103. “God……satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. “ Hey, I saw an eagle yesterday. But this renewing business might be as grueling as climbing an Alaska mountain.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting in the Groove

I'm still a little bit jet lagged. I was very sleepy at 10:30 last night and fell right to sleep, but woke up at 3 AM and felt like I should start my day. I managed to doze and dream for three more hours and that felt good, like sleeping in.
Yesterday's schedule was much as I expected. I went with a team to a city playground where the teams have established relationships with certain children. They played with them, introduced new games, then had a Bible story time.
Last night was my first "park party". Hotdogs, music, bouncy houses for the neighborhood kids and introducing ourselves to the parents. In the process we invite them to a Bible study which will be held in one of their houses. There is a park party every Wed., Thurs. and Fri. at a different park, but the same parks are revisited each week. Relationships are established and so many opportunities to meet needs and share Christ.
I've only been here a day and a half but already I'm feeling really humbled by it all. I tried not to have any expectations before I came. Now seeing how all these "staff" members from all over the country have come together to share a common passion of sharing their faith through giving, is remarkable to me. I know this is happening every day all over the world through "mission" projects. I'm very glad to be a small part of such a big picture.
The teams who come here weekly from the lower 48 seem to be having a wonderful experience also. I'm sure they come for a million reasons, all personal and legitimate. Serving them as they serve the community is a privilege that I am grateful for. This just feels right.
As the official music person, I'm off and running. I hooked up the sound system last night at the park party and we ran the music from someone's ipod. That someone is leaving tomorrow. I have my ipod, but I hope to enlist some community musicians to volunteer their time with us. And next week I'll be meeting with teams on Monday to set up a schedule for our chapel services in the mornings. I'll be a pro with that sound system by then. Not.
btw, breakfast this morning included reindeer sausage. Kewl.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Travel Day

Okay this post is prerecorded because I want to write but I don’t want to try invoking the internet from the airport. I tried it and it said, “no” so I’ll just let it sleep and I’ll do Wordworks. I’ll paste this in the blog tonight.

Question one: Why am I the only person wearing a coat at the airport? There are no more questions at this point.

Later: I’m on the plane, or a plane anyway. Surely they would have flagged me if I’d gotten on the wrong one. I noticed that my carry-on bag was a little (no, a lot) bigger than everyone else’s. Actually, my violin is my official carry-on. So my “personal” other bag had to hold everything else, the operative word being “everything”. I started to get nervous boarding. There was that little platform that says if your bag won’t fit on here you’re screwed. As I passed the boarding man, I held my violin high, smiled a big, confident smile, and tried to conceal the other bag behind my back. Well it worked. I’m here on the plane with all my good stuff.
They announced at the gate that the plane was full, but there appears to be just one vacant seat. It’s next to me. Now placing a widow next to an empty seat is just plain cruel (or plane cruel). Why not just make an announcement on the speaker, “This is your pilot, we have some altitude, if we crash you’ll float, and btw Kim, sorry you’re flying alone?” It’s that missing airman out of formation feeling that’s a little saddening.
Oh well, this trip is about spreading out, so maybe the empty seat is a symbol. Right now it’s tray is holding my coffee, my snack, my book, my glasses case and my trash. Sweet.

Later still: I’m on the second leg of my flight now. The plane is chilly. Now who wishes they were all wearing coats? I’m fed and watered and quite comfortable. In a few hours I’ll be landing and facing the adventure. No turning back at this point (without a pretty stiff prison sentence).
I brought a couple of DVD’s to watch but at the last minute I put them in the violin case and it’s out of reach now, stuck behind suitcases in the overhead. Guess I’ll doze and read and pray. I’m good. Everything is good.

Landed: Got picked up by Scott, old friend from high school I haven’t seen in nearly forty years. Great reunion. I’m sharing a house with a couple who graduated from Iowa State, Greg's alma mater. He’s a pastor in Cedar Rapids. Get this, Joanne, Her sister lived at Pammel Court. Such a small world, but it sure has big mountains.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'Twas the night before traveling....

I haven't been out of the house. This day was dedicated to one noble cause: packing. Even so, I didn't think it would be so exhausting. For days I've been putting things in groups. You know, the carry-on here, the stack of clothes there, the cosmetics over there in the BIG pile. And all my supplements in a baggie. What does it mean to travel light when you're 50-something? I'm sorry but I can't do it. I AM leaving my soy powder behind though. It does a great job of controlling hot flashes, but I think I might really appreciate having hot flashes in Alaska.
I packed and unpacked my suitcase three times. The first couple of times it was just poor planning and I had to take stuff out to make room for stuff that didn't belong on top (like the mirror). But then I COULD NOT find the cord that connects my camera to my computer. I figured I must have packed it. So I completely emptied my suitcase but it was not to be found. I had looked twice in my carry-on but the third time, there it was, right with the cord that charges my ipod. I have five cords in all. They are securely in my carry-on at this time.
Rhoda will be here at 8:30 in the AM to take me to the airport. I'm actually thinking about changing my mind. No, I'm not. Yes, I am. No, I'm not. Yes, I am.
Stay tuned.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Three days and counting

This morning I announced my Alaska plans in church and asked for prayer. Everyone was very excited for me and asked me to stay in touch. I haven't told them about the blog yet. I'm waiting until I'm sure about the name. I've changed it about five times. I think I'll stick with Better Than Laughter. It's from Ecclesiastes: "Sorrow is better than laughter and a sad face is good for the heart." I can't say my heart is exactly sad right now but somehow it seems to fit. I've certainly had my share of sadness, but good is emerging and I'm feelin' it.
Before I left church a friend who travels frequently reminded me (among other things) that I'll need a quart-size ziplock bag for my carry on toiletries. Darn! I knew I didn't have any bags at home. Another trip to the store? When I got home I opened the door to the linen closet for something (don't even remember what) and right there on the shelf was a plastic ziplock with the label "this bag meets all requirements for airline carry on." No Way! Have no idea where that came from. THEN, as if that were not perplexing enough, I took another peak in the closet and found another bag with "US Airways" printed on it (That's my airline!). I felt a surge of confidence that Someone was definitely watching over me and will meet me in the details. That's just cool, I think.
Tonight I shared Rhoda's homemade soup with an old friend who drove up from St. Pete to have dinner and spend the evening. He has been on two recent mission trips and shared some photos. What great timing! I'm getting more excited by the day. Think I'll start packing tomorrow. Now what did I do with those ziplocks?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Off On Adventure

I am a first grade school teacher, which is a very good thing to be if you're a widow. Children have a way of reminding us that life is good, that innocence is real, that the Kingdom of God is all around us. When I count my blessings (how many times have I been told to "count your blessings" in the last two years?), I regard the privilege of spending my days with little children way up there on the list. My own children were already grown and out of the nest when Greg died. I know having young children to care for alone must be incredibly dfficult. But the benefit of that company, a snuggly someone who didn't meow and jump away, would have been nice.
I've spent my last two summers in long distance relationships with all that entails such as skyping, texting, talking on the phone til midnight. It was exciting and kept me from being too anxious or depressed. But actually I was both anxious and depressed. I tried to make it feel right but I knew it wasn't. But both summers I could not let go. I was terrified of being home alone day after day with only my grief to keep me company. Like I've said before, dating too soon was a bad idea.
Now I'm beginning my third summer. But I've been planning ahead this year. This Wednesday I'm heading to Alaska, to join the staff of a mission organization for six chilly weeks. I've only flown alone one other time and that was way back when someone could walk you to your gate and point you to your plane, then someone would be standing there as you walked off the plane to walk you out. I'm not a baby, but I am really nervous about flying alone. Murphy's Law comes to mind. Yikes! I'll be blogging my way through this adventure. (And I'm not even thinking about actually getting there and what I'll do then).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Takin' Care of Business

I spent a while last night in the woods behind my house lopping and hacking. Greg and I had lived 20 years in a medium-sized city and raised our two children there. When our baby boy graduated from high school we fulfilled a dream of moving to the country. It was completely orchestrated by God himself. Greg was offered a job in the middle of the boonies (at a fish hatchery which is what he did, take care of sick fish) and I got a job teaching second grade (which is what I did). We found our dream house on seven spectacular acres replete with native vegetation and a spring fed creek. There were no paths through the dense underbrush but we planned a course and chopped our way through. There were so many exciting surprises, like little waterfalls in the creek and chunks of fossil coral dating back to when Florida was under water.
In the last two years nature has reclaimed what we tried to civilize. The paths have blended back in with the wilderness. There's a certain mocking feeling I sense when I'm in the woods now. Like it's rolling its giant, ancient eyes and thinking, "Here we go again."
I have sweat like I've never sweat before the last couple of weeks. The 'feels-like' temps. have been well over 100. Sheesh! Why am I doing this????? More on that later.
For now I can say that as I was hacking and lopping last night, I was pretending it was Richard. He's the guy who rents the apartment I still own in the city we left. It's a tiny little duplex that Greg and I bought ages ago for extra income. When Greg died, Richard apparently saw an opportunity to quit paying his rent. It's the cheapest place in town and I pay the utilities, so we're not talking a poor guy who got in over his head financially. He is intelligent, healthy and skilled. He just stopped the payments.
Last year I called him and said I had been distracted by grief but now I was "one angry widow". He resumed payments but still owes me 10 months back rent. I went by the place yesterday and asked for June's check which hadn't arrived and he said he didn't have it. I drove away feeling duped, then turned around, knocked on the door again and told him this wasn't okay. I asked him to be out by the end of July. I'm selling the place.
So all of that brings me to this: What in the world has been stopping me from dealing with this issue? I'm an intelligent, capable adult. I'm not afraid of Richard. I know my rights. I have read all about eviction (and most of it doesn't apply because he's month-to-month). I could have kicked him out at any time. I could have threatened court. My friends and family have been hassling me to stop letting this man take advantage. All I can say about it is, it's complicated. It's part procrastination, part anxiety, just not wanting to deal with it.
But now I'm going to. I think that's a very good sign for me. Not so good for Richard, though.