Sunday, May 22, 2016

We're Going on a Bear Hunt....

If someone had told my newly engaged self that in 10 years I would be a homeschool mom and Army wife, living in Alaska, hunting moose poop and bears and loving all of it, I would have thought they were nuts. None of that sounded like me. Much to my surprise every one of those is true. That last one - the bear hunt part, not the loving it all part - didn't become true until just yesterday.

My husband has always enjoyed hunting but hasn't done much of it since we married. Getting stationed in Alaska proved to be the exact push he needed to get back into hunting. Moose, caribou, bear, dahl sheep, and fish are all absolutely delicious additions to our table.

Going on a bear hunt
Well, ok, the jury is still out about how delicious the bear is but I'm willing to give it a try. Which is exactly why I found myself out bear baiting (which is not only legal but the norm here in AK) with my husband. He already had the stand set up and had taken both of our children as well as his mom out to check out the stand. In the perhaps truest Alaska-style date night we were headed out after my husband had finished work for the day to restock the bait station and check the trail cam to see what kind of activity had been captured. He was anxious to see if the momma grizzly and her two cubs that had visited earlier had returned or not (hopefully not!). The fact that it hasn't been getting dark until after midnight made a "night" trip like this not only doable but enjoyable, especially for a night owl like myself.

The nearly hour and half drive north was uneventful, other than some ridiculously slow service at McD's, but absolutely gorgeous. Once we finally arrived at the area we were going to park the truck before making the eight-ish mile trek on the four wheeler to the bait station. We'd nearly made it there when we came across another hunter on his quad. After chatting with him a bit, he told us his station was about 4 miles past our first one and very close to our second one, much to my husband's dismay. The hunter was rather colorful but seemed nice enough and we let him head out in front of us on the trail since he had farther to go.  Just a short ways up and about a tenth of a mile to the first bait station the hunter stopped his four wheeler and jumped off waiving somewhat wildly.  We pulled up behind him as he excitedly exclaimed "I saw a Blackie!"

My husband jumped off our four wheeler, grabbed his rifle and the two of them headed down the path tracking the black bear's prints in the mud while I trailed a safe distance behind. The fresh tracks were extremely exciting to see! About half-way down the trail the black bear's tracks veered off into the woods but we continued on the little bit farther to the bait station. My husband immediately checked his trail-cam to see if there'd been any activity at his stand.

Bear Tracks

My Foot compared to one of the bear tracks
From the trail cam
Not only was there bear activity, according to the time stamp, the first black bear had showed up a mere couple minutes before we did and was most likely scared off by the sound of us coming up the trail. It was also definitely not the same one the hunter had spotted. Our plans to merely bait the two stands and do a little work on the second stand changed very quickly! What had previously been a bear baiting tripped turned into a true bear hunt.

Up in the stand with the bait barrel behind me
I climbed up in the tree stand while my husband and the other hunter made their way back to the quads. The other hunter headed out first and my husband pulled up to the stand. He handed me the SD card from the trail cam and my computer so I could pull the pictures off while he restocked the bait barrel. As I sat there enjoying nature and the excitement of our change of plans I realized I was hearing rustling noises that were most definitely not my husband. I felt it was pretty imperative to get his attention, while not leaving the stand, and let him know. I had no idea if what I was hearing was a large or small animal so he asked me to be his eyes and ears.

This left me doing a combination of keeping an eye on my husband, fiddling with my computer to get the pictures downloaded, and checking the woods behind us for movement. The noise my husband was making dumping dog food around and into a metal can made it harder to hear movement so I was slightly startled to look up and see a black bear standing on the trail maybe five feet from the back of the four wheeler just watching us. Excitement shot through me and I began to whisper loudly, "Honey! Honey! Honey! HONEY!" Which did literally nothing to garner my husband's attention and the snapping of my fingers was just as ineffective. I did manage to catch the bear's attention and she glanced briefly up at me before averting her gaze back to my husband and the food he was distributing. I finally spoke a loud "HONEY!" while grabbing my phone so I could snap a picture of the beast that stood less than 10 yards from my safe haven. This time my husband looked at me expectantly.
"There's a bear!"

"There's a bear!" I was back to whispering loudly as I pointed to just beyond the four wheeler. Surprise and excitement registered on his face seeing this magnificent animal that was both hunter and yet prey standing so close to us. He pulled his rifle, which was slung over his back, around, took a couple of steps forward, and took careful aim. The black bear turned as if she was going to go back down the trail, took a couple of steps and just stopped as though debating what to do. With a calm, steady hand my husband fired. The shot echoed through the woods and the bear took off down the trail. My husband told me to stay put in the tree stand, which I had no issue doing, while he cautiously approached the trail to see where the sow had headed. Within seconds we heard a sound that eerily resembled a sad Chewbacca cry and then silence.

My husband motioned to me from the trail and told me that it was safe to come down while the reality of what had just taken place hit me. Tears filled my eyes as I climbed down. I knew that the bear would serve a good purpose to fill our freezer and our table with meat but that didn't ease the sadness of knowing we had taken the magnificent beast down. I feel no shame for my part in her death but I also feel no shame in my tears for her either. Life is a beautiful thing and taking it, even needfully, is something that I don't take lightly.

When I caught up to my husband he immediately noticed the tears in my eyes.

"Are you crying?" he asked.

"Yes," I choked out. "This is why I could never be a hunter."

He smiled understandingly not chiding or teasing me for my emotions. "It's a pretty solemn thing."


Mercifully it had been a clean shot through the heart and the bear had passed within a couple minutes at most, not suffering long. There was an odd mixture of sobriety and exhilaration as we checked over the bear and brought her back the couple yards to the trail so we could load her up on the quad.

We headed back to the stand so I could finish up with the pictures while my husband loaded up the bear and finished unloading the bear bait. I checked time stamps of the pictures from the trail cam and from my phone camera and realized, to my incredulity that from the time we first saw the tracks to the time we took down the bear it had no more than 30 minutes. For a trip that had originally been planned as a Bear Bait Date things had taken a drastically exciting turn.

Checking out the pics
My husband eventually joined me in the tree stand to talk about our little adventure, check out the pictures, and figure out if we wanted to hang out for a while or go ahead and head back home. While we conversed we started hearing more rustling in the woods. We eventually figured out that it was a squirrel when I saw it scamper across the forest floor and up a tree. We shrugged it off until it started chattering angrily at something out in the woods. My husband cautiously descended from the stand with his rifle while I, once again, happily stayed safely in my perch. After doing a little scoping he looked back at me to tell me there was another black bear out there. He did a little zig-zagging in our station area but couldn't get a clear shot and the bear decided to retreat a safer distance from us. Which was ok because we hadn't come prepared to take back one bear much less two!

We finally decided to finish packing up and head back with our sow secured to the front of the four wheeler. The way the whole situation played out felt so surreal. It worked together for an extraordinary date that will last as a both fantastic memory and a phenomenal story for many years to come.
Getting ready to head back




So gorgeous here
Getting "Masha" loaded up in the truck



One of the amazing veiws






Thursday, April 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Cry That Broke Momma's Heart

April is "the month of the military child" and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not really sure what that means. Military child "appreciation" month? Military child recognition month? I have no clue. It usually passes virtually unnoticed. We made it over half-way through the month before I remembered. I initially shrugged it off until I was going through some old facebook posts and ran across one I'd almost completely (but not quite) forgotten about. I wrote it shortly after we had PCSd (military lingo for moved to a new location) to Alaska. The first couple months up here were a bit of a doozy for all of us, both physically and emotionally. And, as if adjusting to a new location weren't bad enough, October rolled around and Congress decided to play chicken with balancing the budget. Again. And, again, that meant because they couldn't balance the budget that military pay was threatened until they could reach an agreement. Before this gets to political I'd like to point out that both parties are responsible for this - it's like Social Security and military pay are their bargaining chips. The uproar would be enormous if the military didn't get paid (thankfully our bank has our back even if our government doesn't) so instead of protecting that pay, which has been proposed more than once, they use it as a tool. It never ceases to tick me off. So there you have a little background as to what was going in our lives and minds when I wrote this post.



October 2, 2015

 "Last night I came in the room to find my son sobbing on his bed after bedtime.
  ' What's wrong?' I asked, fully expecting him to be upset about the music he was listening to or a missing stuffed animal, the blankets not being just right, or some such silliness that plagues the lives of small children. Instead my heart nearly broke when he whimpered, 'I want to go back to Tennessee. I miss my friends.'
  'I'm so sorry honey, I know it's hard.' I comforted.
  'No one here likes me, Mom, they all like Ana better!' And my heart broke a little more.
  Trenton is my 'hard to love' child...he's as cute as a button and momma's little snuggle bug but he tends to be extremely shy and standoffish with people he doesn't know. And he practically lives to shock and aggravate others. compared to his social butterfly sister he always comes up short. And as many times as I've reminded him that in order to have friends he has to be friendly, I think a part of his 5 year old little self just feels like it's too much of a struggle and that he just can't measure up to his sister. And underneath that tough, loner exterior he's truly a sweet and very sensitive child.
  So I asked him about the new friends he's made here and whether or not some of them liked him...he nodded a tearful 'yes' then followed that up with 'I just really miss my old friends.'
  I cuddled him on his bed and stroked his cheek while he fell asleep, promising that sleep would make it not hurt quite so much. But my heart has still not quite quit hurting for my baby boy. And it makes me angry with the flippancy that we, as a military family, get treated by those that should be most on our side. Our government is threatening our pay once again because they can't manage to balance the budget and rather than protect military pay (which has been proposed more than once) they use us as pawns. They say they pay us too much but force us to uproot our lives every 2-4 years sending us nearly anywhere on the globe of their choosing. No amount of money could ever compensate of having to comfort my hurting child or the amount of family time that we have missed and will continue to miss. When we're talking over $2,000 just for roundtrip airline tickets for a family of 4 to do down to the Lower 48, that makes seeing family a near impossibility for the next few years...but you're going to say we are paid too much? That we're overly entitled and money is being wasted on us? I'll be the first to say that there is a lot of waste in the Army but it's not being wasted in our pay...not with the sacrifices they are asking us to make. And to anyone that believes that it is being wasted on my family, say that to my face while I cuddle my children who are missing their friends and family after their whole little lives have been turned upside down again and while my husband does his duty for the sake of their freedom."


I still feel as passionately now as I did back then. The moves are hard on all of us. The uprooting, the changes, not being able to see family. My husband has missed the birth of one of his children, multiple birthdays, two anniversaries, and several holidays - and honestly, most of that is ok...it just goes with military life.

And we actually do enjoy the military life for the most part. It has it's drawbacks but it has it's really good points too. My husband thrives at his job; it's difficult and sometimes very emotionally taxing, but he's good at it. He's proud of what he does and so am I. We've been some great places and made some amazing, life-long friendships that we wouldn't have had it not been for these moves. It's forced me out of my comfort zone and made me a stronger, better person. So, yes, it is hard, but it's not all bad!


Leaving our friends behind is really difficult but gaining new ones? That's amazing. And we have. ALL of us. Ana, of course, was no surprise at how quickly my little bubbly extrovert made friends. Trenton and I both making really good friends within the first six months of being here is just barely short of a miracle. We have though, and it so wonderful!

Celebrating his 5th Birthday with his very first friend he made
A few more of his friends
Costume Practice for the Christmas play.
He was one of the wise men, I still haven't gotten over that irony!
Trenton and one of his buddies, chilling after having played...well, whatever it is that energetic little boys play!

Playing Legos at one of his favorite places with one of his favorite friends.



They love this place and these friends!




Going to see a movie with his "adopted sister" - or so he wishes. They get along about like siblings do!


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When Your Quiver isn't Full

I can still remember being a bright eyed pre-teen at my very first Ladies' Conference that I was finally old enough to attend (and not as my mother's prop!). I don't remember who the speakers were or the titles to any of the lessons or even who else was there. I just remember hearing God's purpose to my life. One that would be drilled into me over and over again at similar conferences and later blog posts throughout my teen and young adult years. I could do and be anything I wanted - within an approvable Christian realm, of course - but the greatest calling that any young Christian lady has is within her home. The greatest mark we leave on the world is the mark we make as a mother. And I knew at that very young age, no matter what else I did with my life, I wanted to be a mother.

As I grew older the lessons grew deeper. One recurring theme was based on Psalms 127.

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Those verses and the lessons and messages taught about them, coupled with being from a "larger" family (5 kids in total), and I just knew that my purpose was to raise a large, beautiful family for the Lord. Maybe not 19 Kids and Counting large but 4-6 sounded about perfect. I would surely find fulfillment in that. My quiver wouldn't be as full as some but it would be full enough.

Then I met and started dating the man of my dreams. HIS idea of a quiver-full was two because those little arrows are time consuming and expensive...and messy and noisy and a little too chaotic for his OCD life (seriously, the arrow analogy only goes so far!). Despite knowing this while we were dating I married him anyways because I just *knew* he would come around to my "Biblical" way of thinking. After all, I had the Bible on my side, right?

That was mistake number one...not in marrying him. That was not a mistake at all, but rather in going into marriage believing I could change his ideology on something like that. Sometimes I wish I could go back and slap my 21 year old self upside the head and tell that self that if I can't be happy with my man the way he *is* then I need to do some serious rethinking. I probably could have saved myself from a LOT of arguments with my husband had I come to grips much earlier with the fact that my husband means way more to me than the amount of children we have; that I'd rather have my husband than have any children at all.

Two children later my dearest love was jokingly questioning if we had one too many. Oh, he loved our little, beautiful heathens but they were everything he had known they would be - expensive, time consuming, messy, noisy, and chaotic in his OCD life. Having another wasn't necessarily out of the question but it was very questionable! It took a year and a half but I finally managed to talk, and slightly guilt, him into agreeing to try for one more. Our "happy" compromise (while I prayed really hard that it would be twins).

I was beyond thrilled when I discovered we were expecting a November baby - the exact month I wanted another child. And beyond devastated when just a few days later we lost the baby. I consoled myself with the thought that we would have another...the fertility rabbits run rampant in my family and we had conceived our other children without hardly trying. Our rainbow baby might not be born in the month I originally wanted but at least we would have another.

Only, we didn't. Month after month I waited with anticipation to see that positive sign on my pregnancy test and month after month all I got were negatives. It didn't take too long for me to realize something was wrong but the question was what? And then a year later we finally found out what...and that there was a very strong possibility that we would never have more children conceived naturally again.

The question turned from "what?" to "why?" Children are a blessing - our heritage; the fruit of the womb is God's reward. So why was He withholding this blessing from us? This was my purpose. I was supposed to find fulfillment in raising children for God. Was I not doing a good enough job? Was God punishing me for guilting my husband into trying for more children when he really wasn't sure he wanted them? I know I'm not a perfect Christian, or even a very good one...but I'm trying. Trying to do right and to raise my children right. So why would God deny me this?

Months turned into years and despite tests, treatments, supplements, and a surgery, we were no closer to our rainbow baby than we were two months after losing him. In those three years I have grappled with over and over the question "why?" Have I failed God? Is this punishment? Is this testing? Why would he allow a single gal living in sin to conceive but deny me? He's the Great Physician...so why wouldn't He just heal the issue? I struggled with anger and depression. Sometimes finding peace and acceptance only to be pulled back into the vicious cycle when I would find a tiny glimmer of hope just to have it dashed. Over and over I have handed both my children and my hopes for more children to God...only to find that somehow I wound up with that surrender not being quite so surrendered as I had hoped. And not knowing how to truly let go of that desire. It is, after all, a Biblical desire and God promised to give us the desires of our heart, right? And my husband was finally on the same page, not just wanting another child because he knew it would make me happy but really and truly wanting another child. So why would God keep saying no? I just didn't get it.

Honestly, three years later I still don't get it. Along my journey I've met so many wonderful, sweet, Godly ladies that desire children and have none at all. And I don't understand. I'm not sure I ever will.

But somewhere in the last eight months as I struggled with a depression so deep I felt it consuming every part of me God began to bring something to light. For more than 15 years I had believed that my purpose in life, my fulfillment was in being a wife and a mother. I was failing miserably at both. People tried to tell me that I wasn't but - as much as those that said it believed it - they were empty platitudes. I knew I was failing and in more ways than one. I was falling so far short of the mark there were days I didn't even try to make the mark. I'm just not a super-wife or a super-mom. And I never will be. Even more importantly, I realized that for so many years I had failed in realizing what my true purpose was and where my fulfillment lies.

You see, there's another verse in the Bible, one that's well known but often glossed over. I don't remember it ever being talked about at any of the ladies' meeting I went to. I know I heard it but somehow I missed it and it's meaning for my life.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure
they are and were created ~ Revelation 4:11

I am created for Him; for His glory, His honor, His pleasure. I got so caught up in what I was doing that I forgot why I was doing it. And in many ways I was never really doing it for the right reasons. Oh, sure, I was trying to raise my children for God, but I wasn't focusing on bringing glory to Him. My little quiver of arrows had so become my focus that I forgot about bringing that glory to God.

I've had to several times stop and think about what I'm doing. How I'm handling things. In my relationship with my husband, am I bringing pleasure to God? am I honoring Him? In my relationship with my children, am I reflecting God to them? am I bringing glory to him? In my grief, am I showing God's greatness? His goodness? His power? His glory?

If I'm not, then I am failing in my purpose, my calling in life. Everything I do should be pointing others to God; it should all be to the purpose of bringing pleasure, honor, and glory to God.

I am so, so far from that.

I was so enamored with my own little world that, even though I was "living" for God - faithful to and involved in our church, reading my Bible, praying, teaching my children about Him, talking to others of Him - it really wasn't about Him. It was about checking the boxes and doing "my best" to follow the Bible, to be a "good Christian." And yet I always felt like a failure. My best never really felt quite good enough. It never really was quite good enough.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around "new" concept of what my true purpose is. And I'm still failing more often than not. But on those days when all the "why's?" hit me hard and I break down I pause to ask myself if I'm focusing too much on my own pitiful self and not enough on His glory. I don't have to understand why. I just have to trust Him. Trust that He is still good in this and that He truly wants and knows what is best for me. Even if that best isn't what I would have chosen. I am still coming to grips with the fact that not only is it probable that we will never have anymore children, but we also may never understand why God has chosen this path for us. And I'm still struggling with truly surrendering it all to Him. But when I do...there's this balm that soothes the hurt, that helps me feel not quite so broken inside. When I remember that *He* is so much bigger and greater, that He is always good, and worthy of all honor and glory, then I find peace and even contentment in my heartache.


'Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating,
but it is ridiculous to think that we have the right to limit God
to something we are capable of understanding.

The point of your life is to point to Him.
Whatever you are doing God wants to be glorified
because this whole thing is His.'
~ Francis Chan

Thursday, February 18, 2016

And I Thought I Loved You Then

Valentine's Week - the week of love and hearts and romance. Some people say that it's a "Hallmark Holiday" that's all about the money and while that may be true, I still love it. I'll take any excuse to be sentimental.

First picture as an "official couple"



This was our first year in a new location and, as is typical with any relocation, we were asked about how we met. It's a story we love to tell. We've been together as a couple for almost eleven years now (ELEVEN!!! how did that happen?).




Engaged!
We met at college but didn't start dating until after I'd already graduated and moved. We went from emails to phone calls, all long distance, before we "officially" started dating. By the time we made things official I already knew that I loved him and he was already much loved by my family
- a first for any of my relationships. A year later we were engaged and the year after that we married. With each of those events my love just grew and grew. The day I walked down the aisle and saw the way he looked at me I didn't see how we could possibly love each other more. Now I look back and think about what babies we were and how we barely knew what love was.

Just Married
Fast forward two years and I was sending my husband off to basic while pregnant with our first child. My heart was breaking and we had no clue how bumpy the next three years would be. Where our first two years of marriage were filled with absolute bliss with a few little spats here and there, our next three years of marriage would be a roller coaster of emotions with far more downs than ups. Days when I even questioned if I loved my husband romantically anymore at all. Sometimes I think that the only things that saved our marriage were the fact that my husband was one of my closest friends, that my husband loved me unconditionally, and a whole awful lot of God's grace.

Deployment was the real kick in the seat for me. I realized that our marriage simply could not survive the way we were going and it was up to me to do something about as my husband was already giving all he had to give to it. I set out to find the love and the romance I had once felt for my husband and, lo and behold, it was still there. I still remember seeing him in the airport when he came home for R&R and for the first time in two years feeling butterflies at the sight of him.
First time in his arms in 6 months!
I'd like to say that the past four years have been a lot of highs but that wouldn't be true. Our love has grown by leaps and bounds though. I still get butterflies at times when I look at him. He still takes my breath away when he kisses me (and not because he's sucking it all out of my lungs either!). He knows how to make me angry and how to make me laugh and how to scare the ever loving daylights out of me - hey, he's not perfect after all! He knows how to irritate me and how to cheer me up when I'm having a bad day. He knows how to make me feel loved and important and special. 

True Love's Kiss



It's like the more bumps in the road we face the more determined we are to hold on to each other and grow our love stronger rather than let it tear us apart. We've hit some pretty big bumps in the road; life took us a different direction than we had dreamed. As hard as it's been I'm grateful because it increased our love that much more. And sometimes I look at my husband and think how blessed I am that he's mine and I wonder how I could love him more than I do right now. But I look back at how many times I've thought that before and I know that the love I feel right now is just an inkling of the love I'll feel for him down the road.



I can't think of anything that describes how I feel better than these song lyrics:

"Now you're my whole life, now you're my whole world
And I just can't believe the way I feel about you girl.
Like the river meets the sea, stronger than it's ever been
We've come so far since that day,
And I thought I loved you then

I can just see you, with a baby on the way
And I can just see you when your hair is turning gray
What I can't see is how I'm ever gonna love you more
But I've said that before

Now you're my whole life, now you're my whole world
And I just can't believe the way I feel about you girl
We'll look back some day at this moment that we're in
And I'll look at you and say
And I thought I love you then..."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Something To Talk About

It's been almost 3 years since the last time I posted. I've sat down to post at least a dozen times. I'll start typing but it just has never felt right. I've never been able to quite gather my thoughts enough to post them. And the longer I went without blogging the more difficult it's been to pick it up and start again. So much has changed; we've been through our share of ups and downs, multiple moves, loss, many new adventures, way too much to name in one little blog post. Some of my highest highs and lowest lows I've experienced over the last three years.

The last time I blogged my husband was just over a month away from coming home from a year long deployment. For the very few possible followers that I may have that are not also Facebook friends, I'd like to report that he did make it home safely. I'm fairly certain I've never been quite so happy as I was seeing his face for the first time in months at that Homecoming Ceremony. It was torture to have him so close but have to wait to just touch him, to hug and kiss him, while they did all the ceremonial procedures. Having him home was amazing; reintegration was a bit of a beast but we worked through. I am not a woman of few words so we'll save that story for another day. For now let's suffice it to say that those struggles and our "fight for our family" attitude made us stronger as a family.

When my husband came home we were stationed in Washington State. From there we went to Ft. Campbell, KY...a much desired duty station as his family lives just a few hours away. While there we began our homeschool journey which I have loved far more than I thought I would! And we bought a house and began renovations. Nothing super major (unless you consider completely gutting and refinishing a bathroom major) but we had lots of goals. Again, more stories for another day. We loved our little house and it's location.

And then we got the news...a good two years before we expected to PCS (Permanent Change of Station, which basically means a really big move, for those not savvy in military lingo) we found out that we were going to PCS. To Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Near the "large" thriving metropolis of Fairbanks. I didn't even know Ft. Wainwright or Fairbanks existed before we got those orders. I'm gonna be honest here and admit that I cried. As a matter of fact, I spent the rest of the day crying. I had lots of places I wanted to be stationed, Alaska was not on that list. Fairbanks, 6+ hours north of Anchorage and 6ish hours south of the Arctic Circle (SAY WHAT??????), did not come anywhere close to being on my list of desired places to live. I'm pretty sure, had I known of it's existence, it would have been on my "where I never want to live" list. Within 24 hours I made the decision that I was going to look at this as an extended vacation opportunity; the adventure of a life time. We were going to be living in North Pole! Not the actual North Pole, of course, but still, North Pole!!! How cool is that? There were a lot of really supportive people and a lot of negative Nelly's about our move and there were a few times where my "this'll be fun" attitude deserted me for a "I cannot move that far away from my family and everyone I love" attitude. But this Army Life with all it's moves is the life we chose and that means sometimes making the best of a hard situation...as the unofficial Army motto goes "Embrace the Suck." So I did.

The journey up was an adventure in itself - so many stories, so little time - but we finally made it all together and in one piece. Alaska was not particularly kind to us our first month here but it has more than made up for it in the convening months. By November my father jokingly accused me of being a living advertisement for Alaska. The shopping leaves a little to be desired but the other perks of the locale more than make up for it. A mama moose and her two babies in our backyard...way cool. The food - moose, elk, caribou, Alaskan king salmon, halibut - all absolutely delicious. And for a gal that has always hated winter, these winters have made me fall in love with this place. The winters here can be frigid but the winter landscape often makes me feel like I'm living in a postcard and the view of the sunrises and sunsets with the mountains from our back window is beyond gorgeous. The winter nights are long (and really mess with sleep patterns) but getting to see the Aurora Borealis for the very first time? Spectacular! Words could never describe the beauty and absolute awe I felt seeing them dance across the sky. Better yet, we welcomed the New Year in with Fireworks set to the backdrop of the Aurora Borealis making for the best light show ever. In all the history of New Years celebrations that I have been a part of, I have never, ever experienced a better one. I was literally in awe.

We are less than three weeks away from being in Alaska for 6 months. For the first time we've got a duty station that is actually making us want to stay and plant roots. I don't know that we will (it's way too soon to be making those decisions) but the fact that we are even considering it is kind of crazy. All I know is this place has stolen my heart and I want to share it. After nearly three years of not blogging I've finally found something that has motivated me to write again. Something to break through that writer's block barrier. Something that I have to share.

So, welcome to Alaska, dear readers. I hope you enjoy the journey as we endeavor to share our adventures with you.
Welcome to Alaska!

Meeting Santa at his "workshop" in North Pole


Neighborhood Moose Family


First Snow!!!!
Baby, It's Cold Outside!!!!

The Aurora Borealis as seen from our street

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thursday: He Is Enough

I sat on the bench watching my children play. So many emotions were going through me. Fear. Sadness. Acceptance. Excitement. And guilt. I had just found out my husband was deploying and there was a part of me that was glad and I felt so guilty about that. But the past year had been so hard on me. I had such a love-hate relationship with our duty station and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want my husband to deploy but I was ready to be out of there. I was ready to have friendships. To have "girl dates." To not feel like all I was was a mom 24/7. To have people love me and support me. To not just say "let me know if you need anything" but never actually offer to do something...to actually feel like they wanted to help. I was ready to not feel isolated and alone anymore.

I look back at where I was just a year ago and feel a sadness. I don't like who I was back then. I was so dissatisfied with life; so discontent with what I had. I had so many blessings but I was too self-centered and bitter to see the beauty in the life around me. I wanted more, more, more. And, yet, I didn't appreciate what I had. I already had so much more than many people are blessed with. I had two beautiful and perfectly healthy children. I had a husband who loved me more than life itself and would do anything to make me happy...if he could only figure out what that anything was. I had the security of a steady income that, while not making us anywhere close to wealthy, paid the bills with a little left over and allowed me to be a stay at home mom.

Of course, those are not truly past tense things. I still do have all of those blessings. I've just finally come to realize that they are gifts from God, even if I didn't see it at the time. I was so blessed and yet so blind.

This last year has challenged me in ways that I could not have imagined. I've said it before and I have to say it again. I have been humbled. I'm naturally a self-centered person. But for so long I have used that as an excuse. Just been accepting of it. I don't want to be that person anymore. I want to be a bigger person. A better, more grateful person. One who can see the blessing in the hard times. I want to be the kind of person that I would enjoy being around.

Over and over in this last year God has been gently reminding me that He knows where I am. That He knows what I need. For the first few months after my husband deployed I stayed with my family in Wisconsin. There I was blessed with friendships I was so badly craving. That I had so sorely missed in my move to Washington state. It was like a balm to my aching spirit. To be taken in and loved and emotionally supported by more than just family. To have friends set up "play dates" and "mommy dates." To have them "drag" me in and get me involved in church activities. To have them love on my children and treat them as one of their own. It was what I had been missing and wanting so badly for more than a year. I soaked it up. And God whispered to me "See? I haven't forgotten you."

Then I spent some time in Tennessee with my in-laws. That could be another "Thankful Thursday" post all its own. I am beyond blessed with in-laws who love me like a daughter and treat me like royalty. I know that we don't always see eye-to-eye on everything but they are so supportive of me and the life my husband and I have chosen. I just can never be grateful enough for what wonderful, kind, loving people they are. Of course, it was while I was there that I got the surprise news that my husband would be home for Christmas. Once again God whispered to me "See? I know what you need."

These last five months, however, have been the most challenging (in a good way). I've spent them with my sister and her family in North Carolina. Here I have been attending a church that has blown me out of the water. I'm an MK (Missionary Kid). I've been to churches all over this country and in a couple other countries too! But I've never, in my whole entire life, been to a church like Morning Star Baptist Church. I've certainly never been around people more grateful for there salvation than they are here. And you can't attend a service without knowing that they're excited about what God has done and is doing in their lives. It's like camp meeting every service. But it's not just talk...they actually live it. They're excited because it's real to them. It's a part of their everyday lives. And I was ashamed. Ashamed that I've known the truth of the Gospel since I was a small child, ashamed that I had accepted Christ into my heart as a teenager, and have never been anywhere close to as excited as these people are. I've never been so grateful for the life that God has blessed me with - my health, my salvation, the lack of true heartache - I've never given thanks the way that they have. I've never praised Him the way they do here. I've never felt the fire the way they have. And it shames me.

It's so easy to take God's blessings for granted. Too easy, when the only life I've known is the one in church, to forget how much God has given me. God was trying so hard to teach me a lesson. He was trying so hard to tell me that He is enough. That the blessing that He has bestowed on me are enough. I have two beautiful and healthy children. I have a husband who loves me more than words could ever describe; the kind of man most women don't know even exists. A man that is more than just my husband, he is my friend. My best friend. I have the security of a steady income and good health insurance and a roof over my head. But, most importantly, I have a God who loves me. A God who sent His Son to die for me, for my sins. A God who cares about me. Who knows where I am no matter where I live. A God who provides for my needs. I'm ashamed of the blind selfishness that I have lived in most of my Christian life. And I am amazed and so thankful that He has been there through it all. That He has never given up on me. That He has loved me when I've been just a luke-warm and unfaithful Christian. And God whispered to me "See? I am all you need. Am I not enough?"

My biggest fear with leaving here is that I'll lose the fire that I have caught. That I'll forget the lessons God has taught me and once again become the ungrateful, complacent Christian that I have always been. I don't want that. Let me never lose this closeness to Him, the realization that He has blessed me beyond measure. Let me always be able to hear that still small voice whispering in my ear "I am enough."




"I'm Amazed" by the Ladies Trio at Morning Star Baptist Church
(sorry it was shaking so much...I was trying not to cry as I was filming it. And it was taken with my phone which is hard to keep steady anyways!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Blessings in Disguise

It's easy to be thankful for the good things in life. Health, family, sunny days, well-behaved children. But recently I was reminded to be thankful for the harder things in life. The things that don't seem like blessings. Things that are annoyances. Things that are hurtful. Things like a deployment.

I think most military wives would be in agreement with my saying it's difficult to find things to be thankful for in a deployment. It's an emotional time. Frustrating, painful, heartbreaking, life altering; these are all words more commonly associated with deployment. Thankful and blessing are, well, just not. It's hard enough to make it through a deployment emotional intact. Thankful for it? Are you nuts?

But, oddly enough, I am. I am thankful for this deployment. It's been hard. It's been painful. It's been a life altering experience. And I am thankful for it.

Despite the pain and frustration, there are so many good things that have come out of it. Things that we, as a family, never would have gained without it. Things that really are a blessing.

Spending the year as a "vagabond" has helped my children to become friendlier and better adjusted to change. They have benefited from it not being basically just mom 24/7. And having them get to know family better is a huge, huge bonus for which I can never be grateful enough. I love the way their little faces light up when they see a beloved family member. The excitement and joy that emanates through them as they get to spend time with Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunties, Uncles, and cousins. It makes my heart so glad.

Then there's the changes in me. I have changed so much through this deployment. I have grown so much spiritually. I've been humbled and challenged in my spiritual life and it has benefited me in my personal life. It's shown me my weaknesses and help me to grow stronger. To become less dependent on my husband and more dependent on my faith in and relationship with God. Which, as odd as it may sound, is making me a better wife and a better mother. It has strengthened my relationship with my husband; made our marriage stronger.

And that, a stronger marriage, could have a post all its own. Going through this deployment has taught me to value my marriage in a way I never have before. My husband is far from perfect. He'll be the first to admit that. But he is perfect for me. And he is so far ahead of "the pack" when it comes to other men...it's impressive really. He is patient, loving, kind, faithful (ask any deployed spouse how important that is), trustworthy, hard working. The list could go on and on. He's had his bad moments but I can't help see the good in him that has come shining through in this deployment. I've come to appreciate his character more than ever.

God has been so good to me. Even in the hard times I can say that I am blessed beyond measure. I have so much to be thankful for. And because of this I can say that I am thankful for this deployment. I can also say that I'm thankful that it is almost over!



I Have Been Blessed