July, in short, was a wild ride. It was packed to the brim, not just with activities but also with emotions. It was crazy and definitely one for the books.
Let’s start off at the end of July with some of our craziest happenings: We moved back to Alaska! Yes, this is as crazy and as unexpected as it sounds. It wasn’t even a full month ago that Ben interviewed and was offered a job up here. And, yet, I am writing this blog post from America’s 49th state. Life is like a box of chocolates.
If you want the whole spiel:
This whole year has been filled with uncertainty. When Ben wasn’t accepted into any of the programs to which he’d applied, it really threw off our balance. We’d discussed for so long whether or not we should have him do a PhD and it seemed so right. So as he applied, I think in the back of my head I knew that it was possible that he wouldn’t be accepted. But I also knew that having him apply felt right. It felt good. So as he applied, I thought, “just have faith and everything will work out.”
A couple months ago, in the midst of our trying to figure things out, Ben made the comment that faith is painted as this beautiful thing but that really faith is ugly. I think I know what he’s saying. When Ben applied for PhD programs, I thought I had faith that everything would work out. Looking back, I think I only had faith that he would get accepted. In my mind, him being accepted was the only way that “everything would work out.” There was no alternative option. But Ben was rejected and suddenly the thing I was supposed to have faith in (him being accepted) was no longer a reality. I felt frustrated mostly in myself. Why had I felt so strongly that this was the next step for us? And if I was wrong about that, how could I even trust myself to interpret the spirit correctly?
At this point, I felt like I had two ways to perceive my reality. I could say that I’d been wrong, the spirit hadn’t guided any of my decisions and wouldn’t be guiding any future decisions. Or that I had felt prompted to support Ben in applying for PhD programs for some reason and that Heavenly Father had a plan for us and that I just didn’t know what it was yet.
I decided to go with the latter, which isn’t to say that it was easy. In fact, it was really, really hard. I thought and hoped that our answer was right around the corner. Hey, so Ben’s about to graduate…maybe we could get some guidance over here? And Okay, well I’m sure you know that Ben graduated and the thing is we still have NO idea what we’re supposed to be doing. But explaining to Heavenly Father that I was past due on my expected timeline didn’t seem to make any sort of difference.
I feel like going so long without answers made me question my ability to interpret the spirit. I felt like I could justify any inkling that came into my brain and make it out to be divine intervention. It became a very real battle in my mind, trying to figure out what was inspiration given by the spirit and what was just me, making things sound better or worse than they were.
Over the course of many months, Ben applied to several jobs. He was offered a couple and even accepted one in Idaho but none of these came with any sort of spiritual confirmation. Of course, I would talk myself into any of the potential jobs and then work to convince myself that maybe I was listening to the spirit. But I think deep down I knew that it was a stretch and that what I really needed more work on was having patience.
Rewinding a bit, when we were still in Flagstaff, I encouraged Ben to apply for jobs in Alaska (can you imagine that this was my idea? Ha! It still seems crazy to me, but it’s true). In a complete reversal of roles, when I made this suggestion, Ben was not at all excited or motivated. But he found an expo for teachers in Alaska and dutifully sent in his resume.
After accepting the job in Idaho, Ben mentioned to me that he’d been emailed by a couple of school districts in Alaska. The fact that he was even telling me about this made me feel like it was something he was considering. Why mention it at all if he wasn’t? He hadn’t signed any contracts with the school district in Idaho so I told him that if he was interested in pursuing it, I supported him. We talked about what it would mean to move to Alaska. We considered what the rest of our summer would look like. Getting ready for bed that night I stopped to consider what a good day I’d had. In a rush, I realized that the goodness and happiness and light that I felt, that was the spirit. That’s what I had been waiting for.
Everything after that happened in a rush. The pieces of the puzzle started fitting together and before we knew it, Ben had a job offer. This time he accepted it and we both felt excited and happy.
The truth is that I don’t know why things had to play out how they did. I’m not sure why we had to wait so long to know where we were going. I don’t know why Heavenly Father let us struggle and question and hurt.
I do know that we have a Heavenly Father and that he cares about what each of His children are doing. I know that He is invested in us, interested in our lives. He does have a plan for us. I also know that the spirit speaks to us in a specific way so that we can understand. I feel like this experience was important for me to realize that I can understand the spirit. I spent months wondering if what I was thinking was the spirit. But when it finally actually was the spirit, I knew.
My sister has this mantra that she says: “If it’s meant to be, it will work out perfectly.” And in our case, it was just so. Things fell right in to place as we planned our crazy move, even down to the girls’ birth certificates arriving the very day before we left. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
Ben got a job here as a high school Spanish teacher. The town we’re living in is about 40 minutes outside of Anchorage. I’ve been telling people, “Don’t worry, it’s on the road system,” which I’ve come to realize is completely meaningless to anyone who hasn’t experienced the Alaskan Bush. Basically, though our town is fairly small, we won’t have to go without any conveniences like we did when we lived in the Bush. We have schools, doctors offices, Walmart, Target, Panda Express, etc., etc., all within less than 10 miles of where we are living.
Since announcing our move, the number one question I’m asked is if I’m excited. I think people might have the idea that Ben drags me around to all these crazy places we’ve lived. While he usually can be pegged as the mastermind behind all of our exotic (it’s relative) moves, this time the blame is on me. As a result, I actually am really excited and happy to be up here.
The second most common question we get is how long we plan on staying. This is a question I feel incredibly ill prepared to answer because if life’s taught me anything it’s that you can’t plan on anything for certain. The most honest answer is that I think we’ll be staying at least for a few years. But we’ll see.
We drove up here (!!! if you can imagine!) and it was quite an adventure. I hope to do a separate post on the drive soon!
In Other News…
As if this post isn’t long enough, here are a couple of other July happenings:
Wendy Bird has started talking a lot more and it has been so incredibly fun. Watching her progress brings so much joy and shameless mama pride. She started whipping out words and before we knew it she was forming itty two word sentences of things that were happening right in front of her (“Poppy shoe!” when Grandma’s dog, Poppy, started eating Wendy’s shoe 😂). But she’s started talking about things that aren’t right in front of her and we’ve been able to get a glimpse at how her little mind works (“Cheekies, Nana, nice.” And, “Connor, Becky, fun.” Reminiscing about the good times she’s had with family.). Of course her words aren’t perfect and there’s a certain amount of frustration for both of us when I don’t understand what she’s saying but it seriously just makes my day to hear her sweet little voice say things like, “thanks, mom.” ❤️
Greta Bean has been growing so fast which has been a huge contrast to Wendy. She’s rolling both ways now and on our big long drive to Alaska, my dad couldn’t get over how sweet Greta was. And she is pure sweetness, hardly every complaining. I’m interested to see what personality traits stay with these babies of mine because right now Greta is pure patience through and through. She also loves snuggles and is actually very ticklish which is super fun.
Family time: What a blessing that we were able to spend our last month in the lower 48 with family. Despite all the craziness everyone was handling, we were still able to enjoy quality time with our siblings and parents. We spent many a nights eating Chinese food and staying up way too late but looking back now, I’m sure glad I let that happen.