Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Journal Entry #3

Truth be told, we hate flying. And, lucky us, as we were ready for takeoff on our 3.5 hour flight from Seattle to Anchorage, the pilot announced that there would be "extensive turbulence". 
Great. Our favorite kind. 
I had a little quiet on-flight mini prayer revival right there. I cannot handle all that mid-air bouncy-bouncy stuff, people! I just can't. I texted my mom to pray, my dad to pray...and if the flight attendant had not called for electronic devices to be turned to the OFF position, my prayer chain would've been much, much longer than three links.

We arrived in Anchorage just in time to catch sunrise. It was 10:30am. (So weird.) The next step in our journey was to hop on a small "puddle jumper" to Kenai. (A 22-minute flight vs. a 4-hour car ride.) I could handle that. We were over all this travel stuff, especially after all the lines we waited in at SeaTac. Ugh.
The Kenai flight was THE coolest. The plane flew at a low elevation, so we got to see neat stuff. Mostly the textures of the faraway landscape. And the Mr. sweating beads in the aisle across from me. (He gets nervous flying, which makes him hot. The layers start coming off. So by the time we landed in Kenai he had a pile of laundry ready for washing.) 

I'm finding out that we're pretty lucky to have our stuff arrive as soon as it did. It took 13 days for the Conex to leave our duplex in Richland, WA & arrive to Nikiski, AK, which was just two days after we landed. It traveled many miles upon the ocean. (There's even a vehicle in there!) We had SO many hands to help us unload. SO many! Quite a contrast to the day we packed up this giant container in Washington. We had 3 friends help, which I am so thankful for. But we also had to resort to paying strangers to give us a hand too. Haha! (No. Not funny. Quite depressing, really.)

The last item off the container was my piano, which belonged to my great-grandmother Unzicker. That thing is so heavy. Every time we move, the Mr. begs me to leave it behind. I cried some tears when it wouldn't fit through the odd angles of the entryway in our new Alaska home. But then someone got out a saw & took care of that problem. Yay!
There's a whole life lesson in there somewhere...
"Don't cry, honey! Let's remodel!"
"Obstacles shmobstacles! Sawzall to the resuce!"
"Don't let nuthin' stop you! Cut things away from other things!"
Or something like that.

Random facts during our first week here:
•Moose sightings: Zoey-2, Pazely-2, Me-1, the Mr.-0 (Yes, this is a competition.)
•I failed the written exam to get my Alaska driver's license. So that story will now follow me for the rest of my life. Which is fun. (The Mr. failed too. Hahaha!)
•I cried myself to sleep the first few nights in our house. So. Cold.
•When people say they are "going into town", I think that means they are going anywhere that is not "Nikiski". From what I gather.
•I had my first experience shopping at a food bank. I am very grateful for gracious establishments such as this. And to get over any pride I may have (although I honestly don't think I have any) I am telling myself: This is your season to receive, girlfriend.
•The Mr. has learned to wear appropriate Alaskan-winter foot attire. He made that decision after repeatedly running errands in the snow, in his flip-flops, & not being able to feel his toes. (Which looked rather pink & painful.)
•We continue to experience so much generosity. (In fact, we attended our church Christmas party, where we were told to bring a $10 gift for a gift exchange. After munchies were eaten & games were played, we all gathered in a circle with the gifts we all brought for the gift exchange. Someone looked at us & said, "We pranked you, Scott & Nikki. There IS no gift exchange. All these gifts...are for you." And then we opened envelope after envelope of gift cards to local grocery stores & Home Depot & Walmart!! We were so surprised! What a welcome from our Aurora Heights church family!) 

Oh, & that flight with "extensive turbulence"? There was zero turbulence. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We're in Alaska

Outside the snow twirls. Puffs of white appear as winter blows by. Bouncing branches shake off their dollops of snow. I stand at the window, watching the winter scene from inside, with a hot cup of tea. "I wonder why you need us here, God," I say. I'm not being saucy or sarcastic in my conversation with Him. 
I just wonder, that's all.

When I announced our plans to move to Alaska on social media, a friend posted a sweet comment, referring to us as a "Magi family".
I love that. In the Bible, the Magi (or "wise men") were guided by the Star of Bethlehem on a mission to find Jesus.
Our little family's journey to follow Jesus has led us here, to Nikiski, Alaska. It's always about the following, the seeking.
Because, without exception, that's what Jesus wants you to do: find Him.

It is Christmas Eve. We have lived in Alaska one week. And it feels odd that we are actually here. Like, HERE. Miles & miles away from previous contentments. All that I was accustomed to & familiar with no longer existing in a comfortable close-reaching radius. Which is fine. But, for whatever reason, right now it feels like I am just going through the motions. This doesn't feel like my life. I don't know, it's weird. I feel nothing. Maybe this is God's way of protecting me from overload, from feeling overwhelmed. He certainly knows what my sensitive little heart can handle.
Zoey often takes my face in her hands & looks at me with wide eyes, "Mom, we are IN Alaska!" She says it with equal parts shock & amazement. But always with a little smile.
That is my gift this Christmas: that she & her sister are willing to take the journey.

The girls & I decorated Christmas cookies, baked in an oven big enough to fit two pans at a time. This makes me happy. (It's the little things.) This year I cut the recipe in half, hoping it wouldn't be such an overwhelming task. It was still overwhelming. And it went down the same as it does every year: me telling the girls to stop licking their fingers, Pazely eating way too many sprinkles, & Zoey abandoning us halfway through.

The girls & I think it's pretty cool that right outside it is snowy & white & icicles hang from the roof all around our house.
"We're IN Alaska!" Zoey says again.

Yes, we're in Alaska.

I have paused in the unpacking to make space for Christmas. Five days is all I have to wrap presents, set up & trim the tree, bake, partake. But I make it happen. We all do. There is a small corner of my home that has been made into a cozy scene: couch + blankets + rug + piano + candles + Christmas tree. No cardboard boxes are allowed. It is my retreat. And I hide away here often.

I open the blinds every morning at the first hint of daylight, not arriving until well past 10am these days. But it's a different sort of daylight, covered in grey & shadow. Despite the sky's lack of a shiny, warm-colored glow, I am learning to love this light nonetheless. The days are just now starting to get longer. And pretty soon there'll be so much day. I am told that in the winter we rest, in the summer we play. How lovely that we have arrived during the season of rest. I am excellent at resting.

So, I feel like we have accomplished Step 1 in the plan: Go. That's huge, right? It still boggles my mind that we are here.
We're in Alaska.
I love that we have arrived at the onset of a brand new year. Everything is new: a new home, a new church, a new town, a new state. New ideas, new plans, new adventures.
(I love new things!)
And what comes next? I have no idea. Here's to the surprise, the "why", & the wonder!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The first blog post...

Our family recently talked about the idea of pastoring a church in Alaska. 
I gave my immediate input: 
NO. ----->(Picture a super bold Elephant font with a lovely italic tilt.)
My reasons for not wanting to go? My reasons?? I didn't need reasons. 
Because...I said so. 
That's why. 

My simple 2-letter decision didn't have anything to do with the population of the town: 4,327 (at the 2000 census). We'd once left our current home in Washington to pastor in a town of 1,500 in Nebraska. So I'd learned a thing or two about small towns. (Such as: Stop lights? We don't need no stinkin' stoplights. Seriously, the first time we ventured from the small town into a big city, & our two little girls saw traffic, they thought it was a parade.)

I don't know why I was so adamant about not wanting to go to a place where my parents weren't right next door, where coldness could literally freeze your face off (I hate the cold), where a different country would separate me from the rest of my homeland (hello down there!), where I'd have bears as neighbors & moose as lawn ornaments, where I'd basically be living in a giant snow globe (I hate the cold), where teeth chattering is a local sport (so I hear...or maybe I made that up), where the nearest Target is a 3 1/2 hour drive away (so I'd basically have to get a hotel for the night if I wanted to shop at Target), where I could, if I wanted, (but I wouldn't, 'cause I hate the cold) build a 9-foot snowman from a small patch of snow in the backyard, & where I'd be closer to Russia than to my own mother. 
And in case you don't get it: I. HATE. THE. COLD.

So, I have some news to share: We're moving to Alaska!!!
(And those aren't regular exclamation marks. They're sarcastic ones.)

And I'm scared. Because every time I tell people "We're moving to Alaska," they gasp real loudly. Like, if I were to tell them I'm moving to, let's say...Ohio...they would just be like, "Meh." But when I say the "A"-word, they gasp. Every single time. No joke. Or they wish me luck (with major amounts of pity oozing in their voice), or they'll touch my shoulder & give me a wordless expression with watery eyes, or they say a quick prayer to Our Father in Heaven, thanking Him for not sending them to that wilderness.
Oh my gosh, people. You're not helping.

But I'm OK with going. Really.
And, honestly, it was quickly after I said "No" (if 2 months is considered "quick") that I was fine with saying "Yes".
Our girls, Zoey & Pazely, (a teen + an almost-teen) were giddy from the start. Which surprised me. And I think it surprised them too.

We met some people, we had some talks, & at the end of October we all flew to Alaska for the first time to visit Nikiski & the folks at Aurora Heights Worship Center. All the while I kept thinking that it just seemed like a perfect fit. Who we are: all our giftings & talents & personalities, combined with what the church was looking for & what the church needed, seemed to be the ideal match. Either that, or we were simply the first candidates to not say "No". And I'm pretty sure it's the latter. But oh well. The deal is done. Russia's neighbor, here we come!

I do hate the cold. So there's that. My first journal entry during our initial visit there, reads:
Alaska is freaking cold.
One morning, during our stay there, (after the sun rose at 9:30 am)  we went to "the beach" to hunt for agates. It was so cold. And windy. And even raining a tiny bit. I was worried about how frozen my kids were. Zoey was bundled in a giant blanket, nose pink, lips numb. After hunting for a while, & not finding any agates, Zoey came over to me & exclaimed, "This is SO MUCH FUN, MOM!!!" 
What a sweet little confirmation that was for me.
Yeah, we're gonna do this.
I feel so happy to have made every step of this decision as a family. And my kids are getting to see how God works out the details in this story of their lives.

*Probably the most random thing of all is that we will be living just several miles from where my dad grew up! I will have tons of family living nearby that I've never met, + a few I have.*

We are pretty sure we're crazy & nuts for doing this—which, to me, oddly solidifies this as the definite next step we should take in our lives. I am certain God is up to something. I am positive we are about to embark on one of the best adventures of our lives. And I can't wait to see how God uses each one of us, in our church, in the lives of our neighbors, & in our community. 

I want this space to document all the adventure. I want to write. And take oodles of pictures. And share all the things we see & do, all the places we go. I want it to be a space full of thoughts & heart & inspiration.
A journal of our journey.

P.S. You may now refer to me as "Nikki from Nikiski".