I rode my boss’ fat tire bike down the airplane runway Wednesday and laughed to myself as my new neighbors passed me in their planes. Every one who sees me in the village glances at me with their heads cocked to the side while clearly thinking, She’s not from around here…
It makes sense.
The way they look at me, that is… I mean, my blue hair and the flowy hippie skirts covering my wool tights aren’t exactly the normal fare around here; but I guess I’ve never been great at “normal” anyway.
This week has reminded me that “normal” is all relative. Normal is dictated by culture, and lucky for me, I have half of a semi-useless Master’s Degree in studying culture and language.
My first week here in Alaska has been full of observation and laughter. I’ve loved keeping a running log of the hilarious and foreign things that the locals here say. But I think I love watching them re-experience their culture through my fresh eyes even more. We become so used to our “normal” that we forget to laugh at how incredulous our lives are sometimes. We all do it… it’s not just those living in rain forests or remote villages.
A few of my favorite quotes from the week?
- “Well, I keep a 45 under our mattress and we took the screen out of the window just in case I see a moose or a bear in the backyard.” –Megan, a fellow TLC employee
- “The smaller the grizzly, the better it’s gonna taste. Also, make sure you get a berry fed bear; the fish fed ones smell kinda funny…” –Steve, a new friend and local pilot
- “So, in about a week you’ll want to stop by the veterinarian’s house, if she’s in town. She can take your stitches out.” –Wayne, the random Minnesotan ear, nose, and throat doctor that we roped into stitching my finger back together after I sliced it open working in my kitchen. (Nope, I couldn’t even do anything cool to necessitate stitches on my third day here.) But poor Wayne… He doesn’t even live here; he was just visiting for the week and was the closest sucker with a medical degree when I sliced my finger. (Mind you, the veterinarian quote was said about 5 minutes after he made an Uhhhh…uh oh noise before nervously laughing and saying, “Do over!” while re-threading a suture through my finger and asking me to assist him.) It’s always an adventure around here, I suppose…
This new normal is an adjustment, but it is far more of a gift than a burden. Yes, getting used to my severely rationed internet and sketchy phone service going out during rain/sleet storms has taken some getting used to. And yes, carrying bear mace in the pocket of my Mountain Smith makes me a little uneasy at times… Oh, and trying to find recipes for the tongue and leg of the moose that I butchered yesterday is an odd challenge. But I couldn’t feel more blessed to live in this beautiful place, and I know 100% that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.
I am meant to be here, “off the road system”, figuring out what to do with bear meat—just in case the guys bring one home from their hunting trip. (How often do you get to write that sentence?)
But in all seriousness, I am just here, in the wilderness, preparing for the group of girls I will disciple and live with. This time feels like the calm before the storm (because it is) but it’s been nice to take some time and learn my way around the village by bicycle.
This week has has been full of simple pleasures like bike rides, learning to order everyday items like lotion and Qtips off of Amazon Prime (thank you Jesus for free shipping!), eating dinner with the sweet families of Port Alsworth, and stealing away for quiet mornings with Jesus in my hidden attic loft.
As I sit in my loft on the chilly days or in my hammock on Lake Clark when the sun is out, I can’t help but feel a little bit like I’ve moved to paradise. I mean, the scenery on my flight into the village on Tuesday brought me to tears at the Goodness of God. (That could have also been a reaction based in extreme sleep deprivation too… But I’m gonna go with the fact that it was a Jesus thing.) But no matter how many times I look at the snow capped mountains around me, I am constantly reminded that this is not paradise. No, it’s beautiful, but it’s not paradise because it is not completely saturated with Jesus.
Not yet, at least.
The breathtaking beauty around me (that I could easily mistake as the “main event” here) is meant to stir a longing in my heart for the one who created it all. I should long for His coming; I should long for His presence in the same way that I long to run down every dirt path in town. I should long for people to know Him and experience how truly lovely He is.
And so today, that is where I am trying to reside—in longing and anticipation of His great story.
I’m in excited anticipation for the day when these mountains resound with the sound of the Native Alaskan people (and the rest of the world) singing His praises. I look forward to the day when my Denver Street School and Park Church and biological and Scum of the Earth and Port Alsworth families will sing of the goodness of God for what He did on the cross. And by-George, we will be together and not separated by 2,500+ miles.
Until then, I’ll be singing worship songs, canning moose, and preparing to love the beautiful kiddos He has brought me here to do life with.
(P.S. My students will be arriving in Port Alsworth on October 5th! I would really appreciate prayers for them and our team as we all prepare to come together for the school year! In the words of United Pursuit band, “It’s gonna be wild; it’s gonna be good; it’s gonna be full of Him!”)
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight.
For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for You. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
(2 Corinthians 5:1-7, 13-15)
(P.S.S. If you’re interested in learning more about my work here at the Tanalian Leadership Center or about how you can join my team through prayer or finances, click here.)
All of my Alaskan love,