Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

IMG_0947Yakutat is a coastal village, population 650 according to the 2010 census, (that number has since declined considerably). It’s #7 in the world for surfing with several beaches to choose from for a day of fun.

Here are some things that are worth mentioning. I will probably have more as time goes on, but for now…

Driving: Everyone waves. Everyone. To everyone, whether you know them or not. Locals will even wave in the pitch dark. If you don’t wave, you don’t belong. And that is that. (We are still getting used to this and when Tim was questioned by Chelsie why he had not waved in the pitch dark he responded with, “I waved in my heart.”)

I occasionally get the peace sign or a hand wag, but for the most part it‘s 4 fingers straight up off the top of the wheel. This is hard to get used to because I felt comfortable with hand positioning at the bottom of the wheel near 5 and 7. I am now forced to keep both hands as close to the noon position as possible. Luckily, there isn’t far to drive. Ever.

Beaches: Just at the edge of the woods the sand becomes very fine and feels good to walk on with your bare feet. The ocean washes over the sand beautifully and draws up shells, drift wood and (if you’re lucky) sea glass. Once we found an old lantern.
The weather is often better out at the beach. Usually on a cloudy day, the beach holds a break in the clouds for the sun to shine through. But not always! The storm seems a more beautiful scene at the beach and we like to go out just to watch the waves build and break across the sand. The summer we stayed here, we drove out to Cannon Beach during a storm. I couldn’t wait to see the ocean! I wanted to know if it really was different in a storm or if the movies just made it look like a troubled emotion for effect. It didn’t disappoint me. It was very intense and I was glad we had the safety of the sandy shore to stand upon.

The wind is more intense at the beach as well and a warm jacket is good to have on hand even on a sunny summer day. Once I was told about a friend’s daughter who caught her long hair on fire when the wind blew it into the driftwood campfire. I am sure that was quite the experience, but I wasn’t there at the time. I saw the hair cut afterwards. Yikes! Lesson learned. Have the presence of mind to keep your hair up (if it’s long) when at the beach!

Popularity: We are the first family to move to Yakutat in some time. The reports of how often people move out is alarming. The last family moved out of town because Boys Basketball was terminated. The determining factor being that there weren’t enough boys with passing grades to make a full team.
There are two schools and a handful of very talented teachers. Most of the grades are combined reminding me of the private schools from “our old town”. Friendly and close-knit.

Water: The city owns two wells, although I am not sure if both are in working order. The water smells very strongly of chlorine and has even burned our noses when holding a glass up to our mouths to take a drink. After a shower, my skin is dried out, my hair smells like I’ve been at the community pool and is even starting to turn red at the roots! We were given a brand new Brita, which we use to filter all our drinking water. Berky was recommended as the water filter brand of choice among the locals and I’ve set a goal to own the largest one.
On the upside, I don’t have to add any bleach to the rinse water while doing dishes or laundry, it already has plenty!
Fishing: I wouldn’t do Yakutat justice if I didn’t mention it’s fishing industry. Fishing is Yakutat’s economic foundation. Most of the population are fishermen. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t fish. Some have jobs within the community and fish on the side. Others do what they want with their time and fish when it’s “worth it”. Hunting and trapping are also a big part of living off the land.

All these things are part of daily life in rural Alaska. It’s a blessing to be a part of such an experience.



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We have been in Alaska for 20 days now. It feels like we have always lived here. The skies are gray and overcast this morning. That used to make me feel tired but I think I am getting used to it. It’s strange how it feels to live here. Like nothing in the outside world matters. Like there isn’t anything else that exists. I felt that way before when we were out here for the summer. When we returned home, the feeling left and I wanted to stay outside in the bright, burning sun as much as possible.

It is beginning to get light out around 8am now and that helps me to feel like I have more of a day. When we first arrived it didn’t start to get light until after 9am! That made it hard to resist sleeping in! The darkness would return by 3:30pm. One could sleep till 9am and feel ready for bed again by 5pm. This was a minor adjustment compared to all the rest.

I haven’t felt lonely yet. I suspected that I would right away, but I honestly haven’t had time to think about it. A lot of what I do must be done simply. Thankfully we have a stove, refrigerator, washing machine, and dryer so that makes it easier. There is also an old T.V. I let Lottie watch Strawberry Shortcake while I do dishes and sweep the entire house with a push broom. (all linoleum floors!) I do dishes for 8 people plus pots and pans, three times a day (the kids help).

The couch smells like pee and I am not sure how to clean it because it’s leather. I don’t even know if it’s real leather…? Probably not real…although, this is Alaska and you never know! There is a old recliner that is also pretty grungy with a drip of white paint on it that looks like bird poo… yeah, um… my guess is it came from the dump.

By the way, anything at the dump is FREE game. If you have anything you don’t want, you take it to the dump. Even if it’s in good condition, because no one wants to waste the time to find someone else who would want it. Plus, they have to ship all the big garbage out of town on the barge to be dealt with. So the more you come and take, the better for the city. You also don’t pay to drop off your trash.

A good example of how this works is this: When we got here my brother-in-law gave us a Jeep to borrow until we could go back to Washington and get our own. I am not sure where it came from, but it had an electrical fire in it and the blower motor didn’t work. There was an identical Jeep out at the dump and the guys ran out there to pull the blower motor out of it and put it in ours. Viola! It works! Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Right?


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Part 3

Chelsie has a friend who moved away just before school started this year. I will just refer to her as Sadie. She came back to Ephrata to visit us during winter break and stayed until we left. She’s 13. She was my biggest helper when it came to packing. She knew exactly what to do. She was very positive and kept encouraging me when things got overwhelming. I was so thankful she was there! Tim was often out of the house so I was doing as much as I could, alone. When winter break started, the kids were out of school all day and it felt like chaos had exploded. I took a short video of the evening we were supposed to be leaving. Pretty sure it’s going to show up sideways. (I will try to be careful when I video next time and see if I can get it to post straight) We still had furniture in the living room that was supposed to be put into storage before we left.

We didn’t have our plane tickets. We knew we were going to leave. But we had no set date. We didn’t just have the funds to buy 8 plane tickets, but we also knew that the Lord would provide the way if he wanted us to go. So we prayed, and we waited. And we waited some more. That wasn’t stressful one bit! Okay, yes… yes, it was. But through wise words of our pastor‘s sermon, God’s voice spoke to us. “God is never too late with too little.” We had experienced this over and over in our lives, yet when we are faced with an issue that is too big for us, we wonder, “Hey, God! What’s the deal? Have you forgotten us? We’re still in this mess, by the way, and have no way to get out without your help…Hello?”

There were times when I would look around at the mess in my house. Books, toys, laundry, dishes. A perfect tornado zone! All to be packed and stored away…I would be so overwhelmed and hear my own heart cry a little, “What am I doing?” Suddenly, my heart would be peaceful as I would focus my mind on trusting in The Great Unseen and his love. “He never sleeps. He sees me. He knows better than I do. This too shall pass and with God’s help, this time next month I’ll be relaxing in a cabin in Alaska.”
Our friends and family constantly asked when the big day would happen. We didn’t have a date to give them. Vaguely, I‘d respond, “The end of the month.” and this was always a shock. Which would have been fun, if I had enjoyed seeing the sickening look of shock on peoples faces. I tried to get used to it, believe me!

Tim and I were beginning to get depressed. We told everyone we were leaving, and we were packing, but we did not have the means. A flicker of hope sprang into our hearts when a donation was made as “seed money”. We couldn’t believe it! Although we had been asking God for a miracle, when it started happening, we couldn’t believe the generosity. The money continued to come in and 3 mileage tickets were donated. What a blessing! We were able to buy 5 tickets and in faith prayed that there would be 3 more seats available on the same flight so we could travel together. Guess what! … There were! Are you surprised? All 8 tickets, on the same flight! Thank you, God. Moving Day: Dec. 30, 2015!

Another concern… We bought a St. Bernard puppy at the beginning of the month. BEFORE we knew we were moving to AK. She was growing fast! We called the airlines. They said their last available live animal space on our flight was just enough room for the smallest dog crate (19” x 20” x 27” weight limit 25lbs). We weighed her. 25lbs! Immediately we started to sweat. With only a week until departure, she couldn’t grow another ounce! I wondered if I should stop feeding her until we left… before you get ready to hang me from the nearest tree, please be advised, that was only a passing thought and nothing more. (Turns out that the weight limit was for the crate rating and the airlines were fine taking her at 27lbs. She could stand up and turn around comfortably. The crate was perfect!)

We did not have a dog crate. I checked Craigslist. Nothing, unless I wanted to pay $75 and drive 3 hours in to pick it up. Checked Walmart.com with no success finding one the right dimensions. We talked about leaving her with family or friends until spring when we hoped we could return to bring our stuff up from storage. She was only 12 weeks old. She would do a lot of growing before spring and wouldn’t know us when we came back. We couldn’t bear to have that happen. We decided to trust God in this aspect as well. He had been so faithful to take care of everything else. Why not see him flex his muscles a little?

Tim went to Monday night “men only” bible study on the 28th. He came home beaming from ear to ear. He had told the story to the guys. Treven said, “Hey! We have one you can have!” They measured it. Guess what! It was the EXACT dimensions the airlines had specified. (Talk about God having huge muscles! *sigh* I totally felt loved and taken care of.)

We were running into another problem. The amount of luggage we needed to bring was more than we could afford. What is a necessary amount always seems to grow larger when you know you are going to the bush. Everything is brought in on a barge or is flown in by plane. You can’t just run to Wal-mart and get it. Should we take bedding and how much? Pots? Pans? Flour? Sugar? Toilet paper? All these things are heavy or bulky. One piece of luggage can weigh only 50lbs. Each costing $25. We had about 12 totes at that point and we hadn’t even packed bedding. We prayed about it again.

God answers prayers, people. He parted the Red Sea long ago for the Israelites, but it seemed like we were backed up against that sea (figuratively, of course) time and time again during this whole process. And time and time again, He got us out of there on dry ground!

I got this text, “Sign up with Club 49. You can get your bags for free!” What?!?! What is THAT? We called the airlines right away. We signed up that day! The day before MOVING DAY!! (Because we were moving to Alaska we were able to get 2 bags each for FREE.) From $400 to free in 10 minutes… God blessed us with that. I am sooo thankful!

Our tickets were set to fly out of Seattle 10:40am Dec. 30th, 2015. The weather had been unusually bad. Very cold and snowy. Snoqualmie Pass was closed off and on all the week before. I will admit I was worried about road conditions after hearing several stories of friends who had to drive it at only 10 mph and watching other cars slide off the road. I prayed for good weather and good road conditions and we decided to leave the night before (10pm) just in case the roads were icy and we had to drive really slow. This was a bit excessive given that in good conditions, drive time is about 3 hours.

We realized about 7pm that we were down to the wire and were not going to make it out that night. We called our friends who were taking us and driving our van home that the plans had changed. There was still so much to do!

I ran to Wal-mart and grabbed a box of 40 black flex garbage bags and we just started throwing everything that was left inside of them. Then we threw all the bags into storage. It took some time. My friend, China, came over with her 3 kids to help us. And Tim’s friend, Treven, helped him put the furniture into storage. We got as much as we could done by 11pm with only 4 hours left to sleep.

We slept on the floor with minimal blankets and pillows. We were only taking what we could carry on the plane. The fire in the woodstove was dying out and we were too tired to make it hotter. We lay on the floor shivering and uncomfortable, unable to sleep. The night seemed to drag on and on like when driving the freeway across Montana. Finally, I got up. The big girls had been cold too and they were putting a little wood in the woodstove. I decided to help them but they had it under control all on their own. We sat, warming our outstretched hands. Some time later my cell phone alarm rang. It was 3am! Time to get everyone ready and in the bus! (We call our 15 passenger van the bus so it doesn’t get confused with our minivan) Sadie called her brother and we all piled in. We got out later than anticipated and went all the way to Everett to deliver our guests to their own home. The roads were bone dry and the weather was good the whole way. What a blessing!IMG_0908

Back to Seattle! We were cutting it close for time and just made it to the airport at 9am. It was packed! I had never seen it that way before. However, whenever I needed to fly in the past I would make sure my flight was the redeye. We snuck into a unloading space nearest the curb and felt extremely blessed to have it open right as we neared the unloading zone. We piled our 16 pieces of luggage (mostly tote boxes), 8 carry-ons, 8 “personal items”, and one dog inside her crate on the curb and waited for our friends to come get our vehicle. Tim found a luggage cart that was just standing there and moved all our luggage inside two at a time. With such a crowd pressing in, 3 lanes out, unloading passengers, I was worried we might get towed for just sitting there “parked” while Tim moved everything by himself. I stayed with the huge pile and sent the a couple of the kids at a time to go with him to wait with our stuff on the other side of the doors. What relief when our friends arrived! They parked our bus and waited with us in the check-in line. We said goodbye just as we made it to security. I checked the time. We had 20 minutes until our flight started boarding. There was a huge line! We could hear a security guard shouting at the front of the line that he was making everyone wait because a lot of people were not following the rules. (trying to bring full water bottles through security, not getting anything liquid or electronic out of their bags for inspection before the check-point) On top of all this, Charlotte began to cry and whine. She was in bad spirits from not sleeping well and she was fighting a cough and sore throat. She kept asking me for water. There was no way I could get out of line and there was not a drinking fountain anywhere nearby or in front of us. I was at the back of our party so turned to check behind me for one, and was overwhelmed by the staggering amount of people behind me. It had only been a minute or two since we had entered the check-point area and already a throng of people surrounded us. There was no going back. We waited and waited. It was long and obnoxious. The kids were troopers. Except for Lottie, and she cried and fussed until it was our turn. I knew we had to be quick when it was our turn. I checked the time again. We now only had 20 minutes until our plane left!

When we reached the front of the line, the security guards were so kind. They saw all the kids and asked us about our travels. We explained that we had 6 kids and were moving to Alaska. In the hurry, I forgot to pull out all the liquids I had in the diaper bag. They didn’t question us at all, they let us go through. They complimented us and suggested we hurry. We still had to make it onto the train and get to the N gates. We pulled on our shoes and grabbed all we could carry and practically ran to catch the train.

On the train, a lady who worked at the airport suggested we have one person run ahead and hold the plane for us until we could all arrive. Tim volunteered. He ran up 3 escalators and got to the gate just in time! The kids and I hurried as fast as we could behind him. I was checking around me constantly to make sure I had everyone. We boarded and they shut the door behind us!

Our seats were in the back of the plane. Pretty sure anyone sitting in an aisle seat was thoroughly smacked in the face with our “personal items”…

Tim grinned as he gave high fives all around. We were sweaty and relieved. We had made it! Whew!IMG_0912


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Part 2


With only 3 weeks to pack an entire house and plan an across country move we had no time to lose. We got started right away. I purged as much as I could from each room starting in the kitchen. I was overwhelmed most of the days just by the amount of junk we had accumulated over the 8 year period we had spent in that house. When friends came to help me pack I really didn’t know what to have them do. We would sit and visit instead. I know that wasn’t the best choice, but it happened.

I didn’t feel sad to leave the house behind. I had been ready to move out for years. The house was cramped with only 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom shared by a family of 8. To make it worse, we have been remodeling one of the bedrooms for about 4 years and it was unlivable in that condition until recently before the move. I’m talking recently, like a month or two before we even talked about moving. All our kids were sleeping in one bedroom on two sets of bunk beds, a toddler bed, and a crib. Like in all situations with close quarters, the kids got along great! No, I’m just kidding. Haha They had their good and bad days.

Although I wasn’t sad to leave the house, I was sad to leave the community. All my friends, the friendships I had even just begun. All of that was to be put on hold. I was going to a place where I would have no cell service, internet is very limited, and the mail is flown in by plane except for in bad weather. At least, until we were able to switch to Alaska’s very own cell service provider. Since I am an avid texter (if that’s a word) and a big fan of Facebook, this was/is a huge adjustment.

Every friend I told had a similar but different reaction. Their response seemed to depend solely upon the varying degrees of friendship. The closer we were the harder it was for them to take and the harder for me to break the news. I decided that putting up a public Facebook post to make the announcement was the best way to deal with uncomfortable confrontation. The response was overwhelming. A lot of well-wishers and a lot of disappointed friends. The most common question was one that I had not anticipated.

“What are you going to do with your house?”
I had expected something more along the lines of, “Why Alaska?”

I felt even more sad and it was harder to continue with the packing job feeling like a crumby loser who was taking the brunt of all the negative emotions exuding from uncontrolled tongues of my “friends”. I was also irritated and felt that all the questions anyone asked was actually none of their business and I wasn’t required to answer any of them. So a lot of times, I didn’t. I just let them say what they wanted to say.
Tim, on the other hand, was getting “Congratulations!” “Alaska or bust!” “Bon Voyage!” and from those a little on the jealous side, “Good riddance!” Which kinda made me want to slap his smug mug… anyhow.

Moving is tough. I do it if I didn’t feel it was absolutely the right thing to do. I wouldn’t even think of moving across country unless I had God’s blessing. I had been against it for a long time. I liked Alaska at a distance and that was good enough for me. That’s the way it was going to stay. Then something happened. Something like only blind faith can help you see. That being out of the will of God is the most unpleasant place you can ever be. You think you’re ok. You bounce and flounder around and wonder why your life is so hard. Tim and I have pondered over a particular passage in the bible where Israel was undefeated in battle. Not only undefeated, but not a single man was lost. That is amazing and something only God could do. Then, after their first loss, they lost several men. In the thousands, if I remember correctly. They came home and said, “Who sinned?” and turns out one person had. One person! Out of the whole nation. It matters that much. They were out of God’s will. That man had disobeyed God. There are many more examples of this in the bible, but you can go read them for yourself. The point is, I don’t want to be out of God’s will.

I had been praying that God would reveal his will for our lives to us. I had been praying that God would give us a vision. I had been praying for Tim and his ministry. I had been praying. When I felt like God had answered my prayers (and Tim and I talked about this very thing) and it was an answer that we didn’t like or didn‘t expect, were we going to be like Jonah? Were we going to run from God? Did we want to be out of God’s will and shove our family out into the unprotected and hope that things were going to be great, just the way we wanted? When we know that God loves us so much what he has planned for us could only get better and better. There would be no pleasure in running. Only in seeking him first is there ever peace. Doing his will is good. Always an adventure! Not easy. Fulfilling.

So… I answered the question that I was expecting people to ask.


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Part 1


Sitting at the dining room table in my new home, I sip from a rainbow striped mug full of white hot chocolate tinted pink from a handful of Red Hots and reflect on the blast of recent events, (now that everything seems to be settling down a bit). The kids who stayed home with me this evening (Shelby, Timmy, and Charlotte), are all within my line of sight. One reading in her room, and two watching Puss in Boots. Can you guess which is where? The other three went to bible study with their daddy.

I can’t believe I’m here. If you would have asked me a month ago where I would be living next year I would have answered you, “In Ephrata. Of course!”

Even though I was sure that if Tim wanted to continue commercial fishing in Alaska we would eventually have to live there, after 3 seasons of fishing I was still not ready to make the commitment. Until one fateful day in December…

Previously, Tim had undergone a period of about 3 months of some serious soul searching and became aware of 3 things that he felt would make him happy and that the Lord would have him do. Woodworking, making and restoring instruments, and helping people in need. He gave up his job and started ministering to the people in our community by doing odd jobs, mainly for the elderly or physically impaired. He was enjoying his ministry so much and was still able to be at home with the family and work on his guitar and piano repairs. We had been in constant prayer and been seeking God’s will for our lives when the decision to live this way was made. And just because we followed God’s will doesn’t mean it was easy and certainly not everyone agreed. Most of the time we came across well-meaning Christian people who felt it was their duty to share with us that God would certainly not want us to live this way (by faith) and that Tim needed to have a job, “for the children’s sake”. Once this was especially offensive coming from a missionary’s wife. I had expected that she of all people would have understood choosing to live by faith in this day and age and how hard it is. How many people (let alone families) do you know, who are letting God provide mana for them every day? Now be fair! Making the choice is different from circumstances beyond your control. Anyhow, this is where we are. Here. In the “alone phase” of living by faith. We have not found many people who truly understand. I am concerned that no one does. There has to be someone…
By and by I noticed that Tim seemed gloomy. I knew he was feeling stressed over the ministerial work that seemed to pile up like laundry on a rainy day. I prayed over him and asked the Lord to please have one of the Holcomb boys talk to him because they had such a way of cheering him up. However, they all live in Alaska and we resided in Eastern Washington. I knew there was no way that we would see them anytime soon, but the Lord had answered me before when I prayed for motivation for my hubby. He had sent him Curt when I had prayed that motivation like the stuff he gets from Nick (my brother-in-law) would somehow be applied. This time as I prayed for motivation I also prayed for a vision and asked the Lord where he wanted us to be and what he wanted us to do.

Not long later we received a phone call, actually we received three. My brother-in-law and his 2 brothers called us. One right after the other, over a 24-hr period, each not knowing the other had called. By the third phone call we were starting to believe the Lord had a hand in it and started discussing the subject that had been brought to our attention: Moving to Yakutat, Alaska and taking a job with the fuel company in town.
We prayerfully considered this. It seemed like all the ends added up. This was the next logical move. The logistics were daunting. No money. No income. No resources. We kept praying. Only God could make this miracle happen.

We started packing. Tim contacted the fuel company and asked about the job. After his phone call he wasn’t sure that it was indeed the job he was to pursue but we still felt it was God’s will for us to continue packing to move to Yakutat. We began telling people we were leaving so that it wouldn’t seem like we up and moved in the night. Our tickets were not paid for which meant that we didn’t have an exact date, but our plan was that we were to be out by the 30th of December 2015. Only 3 weeks away!

To be continued…

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