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


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!

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., Kim has left the building.