After spending 54 years from birth to 2008 living in Iowa I was presented with an opportunity to live in Fairbanks, Alaska. My blog is a diary of the adventure to get to Alaska, day to day life in Alaska, as well as facts for loved ones left behind in the Lower 48. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Church and packing

Today I filled the pulpit due to our pastor being out of town for our church's annual conference. She announced in church last week that she would be absent, and I would be preaching, so I figured that we would have a low turnout. Surprisingly enough we had a good crowd. I will really miss our Trimble congregation when we move to Alaska.

After church we met up with Camilla, Sam, and Tom and had lunch together. (Brian went to Aberdeen to visit his mother this weekend.) As seems to be the case whenever we're together we talked more about how things are going for the upcoming move. Camilla states she is making progress on getting the rest of her things ready for next Saturday's rummage (as are we), and has secured a trailer to pull behind her Jimmy. We also discussed the storage rental unit she had talked about renting some of their belongings. Now that we have leased our home we know that we will need to empty everything out that isn't needed by the tenants and to keep safe anything we feel is valued and definitely want back when we move back to Iowa.

Nate and I took a much needed nap this afternoon, then got back to packing. We spent about 5 hours on it again today. The crunch is on to get everything boxed up and ready for the rummage, as after that it's either donate or sell individually or pitch. As long as we have to get it out of the house anyway, we might as well try to make some kind of profit on it.

I had a nice phone conversation with my mom Saturday. She was telling me that there's a lady in my hometown that when she has rummage sales never prices anything. Rather she posts a sign for customers to make an offer, and finds that this is as good a method as any. I took well to that idea, and will be taking advantage of the tip. No more looking at an item and arguing in my head with myself about the sentimental value of it (I bought that when we lived so and so, or were on vacation at that place, etc.) and pricing it so that someone else who is looking at is as an item would be inticed to purchase it. The other benefit of this method is that I don't have to constantly be looking around for where I laid my price stickers and pen!

Well, will be heading to bed now, as have a big work week coming up and need to be well rested. For those of you who missed it, I'll share my sermon with you below. I was proud of myself, as I only teared up once, when standing at the front of the church during the doxology, after having placed the offering plates on the altar and looking up, for the last time, at the beautiful stained glass window of Jesus and the lambs. It will be quite some time, if ever, that I shall stand there in that capacity and feel blessed to have had such a loving, loyal church family, and a God that walks with me every step of the way.

As Pastor Martha indicated last week, this will be the last sermon I will be sharing with you for at least a year and a half, as I have accepted a challenge put forth before me, to transfer to the new Boys and Girls Home facility in Fairbanks, Alaska. I will share with you what this challenge has meant to me and what part my Christianity has in my decision and the journey ahead.

After being asked to consider moving to Alaska I was given 48 hours to make a life-changing decision. For just a moment, I’d like for you to put yourself in this situation. Here’s the deal: You have been asked by a human being to leave behind the comforts you know of your everyday life, to share your knowledge and work talents in a new location. You will obviously be leaving your home here in Iowa. You need to decide whether to spend thousands of dollars to transport your household goods or to pack up your clothes, kitchen and bathroom necessities in your vehicles. You will be leaving behind your family…and your friends…your co-workers…your church family…even the familiarity of knowing where the post office is, where to go to get the best prices for gas and groceries, a loaf of bread, and so on.

Fairbanks is a 50 some hour drive from Sioux City. Not only will you not know where the best prices are, you won’t even know how to get there. You will be living in a climate even more drastic than Iowa, where the average snowfall is around 90” and the average low winter temperature is -40 degrees. During the summer there will be no darkness for your slumber, and in the winter there will be only 3 hours of light.

Real estate prices of the average home there will tack on an additional $100,000 from Sioux City prices. There are no dollar menus…they are $1.50. Take a deep breath and consider how all of these will impact you. (pause) What will you do if you don’t like it there? If the culture and climate shock are too overwhelming?

Have I given you enough drastic reasons to NOT go? If I were to ask you to decide, based upon these things, if you are ready to pack up and go, I might guess you would give me a polite ‘no, thank you’!

What else is there to consider in making this decision? Well, where I work we treat adolescents with severe behavior problems, giving them the tools they need to make wiser choices, choose more positive friends, to stay in school, to live with others in a peaceful manner, to learn to care for others, and to take responsibility for their choices. The goal for these youth is to help them become functioning members of society so that they may live a productive, positive, fulfilling adulthood.

Currently there are hundreds of Alaskan adolescents who have been placed in treatment facilities in the “lower 48 states” because their behavior warrants it and because there isn’t any facility in Alaska that offers the services their serious behaviors need to reform them. The 120 bed unit Boys and Girls Home built will bring these children back to their home state, permitting them to live in the climate they are used to, be nearer their families for family sessions, visits and for reunification of the family. They also will be able to return to the laid back culture they have grown up in and are accustomed to. The children of Alaska will be given the same opportunity for rehabilitation as the youth in Iowa and Nebraska currently have.

As a step parent I gained familiarity with the stresses placed on families when raising a stepchild who required treatment and placement outside the home, from the age of 5, so have firsthand knowledge of the difficulties families face having a child placed out of the home, the need for employers to allow working parents time off work and on siblings to attend family session after family session.

When considering the opportunities that are being given to these youth to make life-long changes to their lives, how could I be selfish and stay in my own comfort zone, sleep in my own bed, wake up to enjoy the flowers I’ve planted to enjoy in the summertime, the wildlife strolling through our back yard, and worship in the same pew Sunday after Sunday with all the loving people here at Trimble?

So where does God and faith come into all this? In today’s scripture we read “4For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 5He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. God’s word and God’s works are upright.” As God’s people we are all called to do our work in faithfulness. Faithfulness to the company we work for, our families, and our church. The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. (repeat) The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. The same God that watches over each of us in Sioux City watches over the Alaskans and everyone else in the whole world.

When considering whether or not to go on this journey a human being asked of me, I prayed about it, asking God to guide me in my decision, and thought about it a WHOLE lot. After contemplation and prayer I had a peace about me that reminded me that God will be going with me every step of the way. He will guide us every mile of the drive across Canada, in downsizing to living in an apartment, in becoming acquainted to a new town with a drastic climate, and the challenges of working in a new location with additional job responsibilities. As life’s challenges face us we need to be mindful that we are not walking alone on the journey, whether here in Sioux City or miles away. God is always alongside us, wherever we are, ready to support us when we have disappointments, uncertainties, and challenges that seem too big to handle.

28 years ago God had a plan for Tom, Sam, Camilla, and I when we moved to Sioux City. We knew what OUR plan was (for Tom to finish nursing school and then move out of this BIG city), however obviously God had other plans. His plans brought us to Trimble, where we became acquainted with all of you. His plans kept us in Sioux City and found us jobs that kept us here. When you think of it, if we were to map out everything in our lives, wouldn’t that be overwhelming, and take a whole lot of effort? I’m sure, too, that it wouldn’t turn out to be as complete as God’s plans.

As human beings the familiarity of our comfort zone is something we hold onto, feeling that it is safe there. When Phil Dicks was pastor here he told of a story of how hunters captured monkeys so they would have something to eat. They would hollow out dried round gourds or coconuts just large enough to permit the monkeys to insert their “hands”. Inside the gourds the hunters placed seeds the monkeys like to eat. Monkeys would place their hands inside the gourds to get the seeds and hold onto them, not releasing. (make fist) They had a grip on what they wanted and there was NO WAY they were going to let go. This prevented them from being able to get their hands or the seeds out of the gourd. They would hold on, literally, for dear life, to the end of their life – their fate left in the hunter’s hands. We, too, as humans, sometimes hold onto what we want to the point of harming ourselves, not willing to let go regardless of the price we may pay.

As Christians we frequently fail God when we fail to remember that his steadfast love and guidance walks the same path, by our side. If we can let down our humanness and pride, let go of the tight grip we have on what we think is best for us, God will lead us on the paths he has prepared for us. As Christians we need to let God be God and do his work through us.

Being a part of the Trimble congregation has been such a blessing to us. Having grown up in a small town I am more comfortable in a small-town church atmosphere. The love and caring shown here at Trimble is incomprehensible. Our congregation is welcoming and nurturing to all, regardless of our life circumstances, past or present. The friendships we have formed with all of you at Trimble will go with us I our hearts, minds, and prayers, to Alaska.

Several of you have shared with me how greatly I will be missed here at Trimble. It gives me pleasure to realize that God has been working through me to glorify him as I taught Sunday School, gave children’s messages, assisted with music, served on various committees, decorated the church with flowers or for the holidays, or preached sermons. With me no longer here to do God’s work he has challenged not only me out of my comfort zone, but you as well. God is now calling others to fill the gaps. He is calling you to do your part. Preparing a children’s message, sermon, or Sunday School lesson puts God in the forefront of your every though as you prepare for them. It forces us to take time from the busy-ness of our day to day duties, and focus on the impact God has in our daily lives, from the mundane to the special times. The more we focus on God in our daily lives the more prevalent he is in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We grow in our faith and Christianity.

God challenges each of us in different ways. How we choose to respond to his call is up to us. We can stand back and say (crossed arms) “sorry, God, I’m really quite comfortable right here where I am” or we can look to the cross, remembering Jesus’ life, reaching out to others to share the Lord’s work, and the sacrifices he made for our benefit.

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