Sunday, June 12, 2016

Alaska...You Restored Me

Was it really only two weeks ago that I was blissfully cruising through Alaska's Inside Passage, having spent the prior week exploring Denali, Kenai and more?  ::Sigh::  It was a dream come true, long held and never imagined, and yet there I was.  Colorado on steroids is what I called it, Alaska is the single most beautiful landscape I have ever been privileged to experience.

The trip was a blessing on every level, and I returned home with many an insight, 1500+ photos, and an incredibly grateful heart for this wonderful, unexpected gift.  Turning 50 years old this coming August, this excursion was an early once-in-a-lifetime birthday surprise from my best friend, and honestly, the time together was more than enough, let alone the adventures we shared.  However, what made he trip extraordinary were the many ways in which God showed up...from having our lunch secretly paid for the very first day we arrived by a lovely couple we met on the street, to being among the few who get to clearly see Denali's full splendor, to having repeated opportunities to visit with a wonderful older couple we met onboard and share rich, deep conversations with them.  The weather was stunning for this time of year, we wandered around in shirt sleeves for the vast majority of the trip, often enjoying 70+ degree weather as we viewed snowcapped peaks and meandered through Skagway, Juneau, and Haines.  Without further ado, here are a handful of images from our trip.

Being away from home and hearth for 18 days allowed for enough time, really for the first time in my adult life, for me to "detach" from it all.  About 7 or 8 days in, I finally felt like I was able to tuck the financial stresses and emotional work of others away for just a little while.  I was free to think only about myself, a luxury that would seem easy enough to grab but has seldom been part of my life in recent years.  Concerns about the future for our kids, work worries for Dominick, homeschooling, being attentive at all times, and trying to discern best paths in multiple directions were, for a couple of weeks, not part of my daily agenda...neither was laundry, meal planning, curriculum research, medical and dental appointments, nor robbing Peter to pay Paul when Paul is pretty much broke!  I was able to unwind for the first time in forever, and everything was handled for me, so I didn't have to think about a single thing, nor did I have to make decisions for anyone other than myself.

Heavenly.  Tranquil.  Laughter filled.  Soul restoring.  It was all of this, and much more.

I came away from this time of reflection and relaxation with a better sense of myself, and a desire to make some changes in my life to help me keep my head above water when at times it feels like the Titanic is close to sinking.  I really spent some time in prayer and did a little inner work, as the setting was so conducive to it, and I am at a time in my life when I really needed to sit back and examine a few things.

Resolving to do things like limit Facebook time, read more fiction, find ways to include more music in my lfe, and remind myself that I need to "play" more were helpful and are already shifting me to a more relaxed place.  Letting myself admit that my life is hard sometimes, is important as well.  Sometimes, because I love living in this family so much and there is a beauty to it that surpasses just about anything I could have imagined, I blow right past how hard it can be for me, because I am still so very grateful and happy for what envelopes me.  It denies my heart the chance to feel the pain,  to also grieve the losses, and to deal with the frustrations inherent in spending my days with kids who work so hard to overcome enormous challenges...difficulties that didn't have to be part of their lives if someone had stepped in earlier, avoided alcohol, or simply cared enough to feed, clothe, and hug them.  Sometimes, I manage to do a little of that work for myself here on the blog, but that is not always enough for the heart heaviness I sometimes feel.  The financial pressures are very real for us as well, more so than they ever have been but we work around and through them with a great sense of abundance most of the time. The mystery of how it all manages to get covered still eludes me, as at the end of each month I look back and whisper a quiet "Whew!  Thanks, God!".

I am blessed to live in a family that recognizes my role as important, and also encourages, nurtures and supports not only the youngest among us, but myself and Dominick as well.   The kids "see" me, something I think doesn't always happen for a lot of moms with kids this age.  Everyone was excited for me and pulled together to keep things going smoothly at home, with some outside help from dear friends as well now and again.  I was sent off with the blessing of the most beautiful letter and a significant amount of spending money from Kenny, the contents of which I will not reveal but which was the single most humbling, precious expression of love I have ever received.  Literally sobbing as I read it, which I had been instructed not to do until I was far from home, I was more moved than I have been perhaps in my entire life.  The ways in which all our kids are so willing to express in word and deed their care for those they love blows me away.  At times, what I do day in and day out feels lacking, as the world doesn't exactly lift up stay-at-home moms, and the homeschooling piece is often met with ridicule or eye rolling, as categories are applied to us that really don't fit at all.  There are moments though, like when I held Kenny's letter in my hand, when I understand in my deepest places that no outside job would ever matter as much as what I do at our kitchen table each and every day.

Spending every night of the trip playing games, listening to music, laughing at comedians, and watching magnificent sunsets helped me step out of my "real life" for just a little while.  I think we all need that from time to time.  The true blessing of the trip, though, was having time to talk and talk and talk with someone whose life has mirrored my own in some ways, whose love of God is palpable, and whose heart is open, honest and fully accessible.  Many people had teen years and early twenties during which they really kicked up their heels.  Neither Candi nor I have had much opportunity to "play" in our lives, and once you get to a certain age, that part of yourself can be fairly well buried beneath layers and layers of responsibility and just plain old life.  The older you grow, the harder it seems to tap into that younger part of yourself.  Some of us never had the opportunity to allow the lighter hearted sides of ourselves to develop in our youth, as family pressures and pre-mature adulthood were thrust upon us due to circumstances sometimes beyond our control.  The safety of being with someone who accepts all of who you are, and likes you anyway :-) helps those long dormant desires to laugh and play to be gently tugged at and encouraged to emerge.

By the end of the cruise, the person who looked back at me in the mirror had a completely different, more relaxed, more "whole" look to her.  We boogied and played trivia, we held sled dog puppies and giggled at the silliest things.  We let go of cares about children, spouses, and the future and for
once...just once in my life...I was able to live fully in the present and just appreciate what was before me.  Standing on deck as vast, open vistas were on display, watching as pods of Orca whales happily danced their way through the waves, quickly shushing everyone on our raft as we spotted a moose and drifted close enough to catch photos as it lazily nibbled on the grasses near the shoreline, I felt held by God in a way I am not sure I have ever quite felt it before.  The Spirit was everywhere on this trip, almost tripping over itself as if to say, "See?  Here...lookie lookie!!!  Life is SOOO GOOD!!!  And I love YOU!!!"

Returning home was renewing in itself, as I was excitedly greeted at the airport and reminded that I matter to those who love me, that they need me and I need them.  Roses in hand, Dominick offered me the best early 50th birthday gift ever in simply handling it all and letting me go guilt free, encouraging me to have a wonderful time, and being warmly attentive in listening to the tales of my Big Adventure.  We laughed together as we realized that though this was something we had talked about doing ourselves through the years, he would have been miserable as we were so often on various boats and he really dislikes water and is quite uncomfortable on boats.  Whale watching with heavily leaning smaller boats would have freaked him out!  We determined that rafting, speed boating, and even the cruise ship itself would have had him sitting out much of the adventure.  Handing out the small souvenirs I managed to pick up for everyone, I couldn't help but smile as their reactions far outweighed the value of the small tokens.

The first two weeks back hammered home my need for breathing breaks, as we had more happen financially, medically, and life-wise than most have in a year.  It was actually unbelievable how much happened so fast, and we couldn't help but laugh out loud about it when we weren't busy stressing.  But this too shall pass, I am committed to a few little things that might make a big difference, and we will work through it all somehow.

Ahhh...Alaska, how I miss you! Hahaha!


Anonymous said...

Aww so happy for you!
What a beautiful present.
Teresa F

Carrie DeLille said...

So happy you got this much needed respite