Life is a weird unbalanceable thing. There is good and there is bad, and there will never be balance between them. At one point something great will happen and then just around the corner is something, well, suck! As a Christian I suppose I should have the attitude that everything happens for a reason, but nope, F that. Somethings are horrible, and there is no good that comes from them, and trying to see them as things that build our character, strength and faith, does little more than make me angry at God and myself for not "growing" through those suck things. While those things may be true, it's hard to consider something like struggling through the death of loved ones, or illness, as "pure joy".
There is often no rhyme or reason to whether you get the good or the bad. Your own choices can affect it, and will, but there are a lot of things that happen outside of your choices too. So the challenge comes in living with the good or the bad. Being able to go through it, whatever it is, and still survive or perhaps thrive.
For two years our family has been bouncing between surviving and thriving. Just as we would get through one obstacle, another would come before us. Often with only a day or two of calm in between. Now contrary to what some people think, we DON'T LIKE DRAMA. We are quite willing to share our stories with others, because Val and I believe in being honest and living in community, but we don't derive pleasure from struggling. We enjoyed life very fully with the limited family drama we had up until the last couple of years. But here we were trying to process one bad news episode after another. There was good along the way, and there were GREAT friends that encouraged us in big and small ways. Some days we thrived mostly thanks to them, but for the most part we were just surviving. We weren't enjoying life, like we could, or should.
Alaska changed all of that, it hit the reset button for us. I went in being totally burnt out by conflicts and a lot of overtime at work, which was frying the rest of the family too. We questioned my calling and what the future held for my job. Then there were the string of other issues we had all endured together. Tired as we were though, Alaska let us get out of our space, get out of our heads, and enjoy life. We could revel in the beauty of creation. We could have fun spending time with the wonderful people we were traveling with. I could enjoy having my kids and my youth group "kids" together. My two families were together for two weeks, and it was awesome! It reminded us to make time to do that more often. There is never balance between work and family, but we need to tip the scales more toward family fun (especially for my flash and blood family) more often. We all enjoyed being in the presence of God and each other, and we thrived in that!
We worked hard, but it was FUN work. We built a mini golf course for a camp in a town a ferry ride away, taking Skagwegian youth with us. We had 50 kids at Vacation Bible School each day in Skagway, and ended up with about 20 youth at youth group over the course of the week. Three years ago we had two students show up. We were exhausted from all the programing we were running, but energized by the people we were serving. It was great to be with our Skagway kids, and to watch them grow. It was so much fun to work so hard.
We were blessed by a community of people in Skagway, AK, that wanted to pour back into us. They were grateful for our time and what we brought to their town, and they showered us with love. They did this through meals (even trying to cook tofu for the first time), expensive excursions normally reserved for high paying tourists, and lots of encouragement. As we walked through town in our team sweatshirts, people thanked us and told us that they valued what we were doing, and how much fun their kids were having. It was humbling, and encouraging, and we felt so underserving, but it was awesome. We rode on sleds pulled by teams of dogs, then got to cuddle puppies. Others zip lined high above the beautiful landscape. We all kayaked on a rare, and beautiful warm sunny day, on a lake high in the mountains. It was awesome to have love and encouragement, for the good things come pouring in.
We came away with joy and peace. We all had smiles on our faces and amazing memories to last a lifetime. I was glad that my family could share these memories with me this time. We thrived together! Valentine and I also, came away with a renewed sense that my job was what God had called me too, created and gifted me for. Good did not come from each bad thing we endured with friends and family, but good came.
The challenge now is too thrive like this all the time. How do we step out of survival mode when we are at home? How do we remember to enjoy the presence of God and each other? How do we give that gift to others? Maybe I need an Alaska flag tattoo now to remind me to be present and thrive, not just survive with God and with others...