Catching breath


This spring/summer has been interesting so far. Both of us have been struggling with depression. I got a chest cold that turned into several weeks of chest tightness, with what feels like asthma flareups but may only be allergies. Regardless, it has inhibited our activity level. Vacation is coming up and we are both eager for it, for a break to finish regrouping and refreshing in the sun. At least, we’re praying for sun!


Even with the emotional lows and the energy lags, this time has been good. Good conversations with friends and family. Good rest together. Good time in the sun, when it’s out. And of course, Crab Fest!  


We’ve been working through thoughts on various minor and not so minor things. Hurting for aching loved ones. Starting to form plans to move (hopefully next summer). Buying a used car (because our Kia was falling apart). Talking about adoption again (now that our student loans are almost gone). Praying for our church’s pastoral search and wrestling with conflicting thoughts and feelings during the candidating process. 


Good things, hard things, encouragement and apathy. And then somehow it is June, vacation is coming, the island is turning green, the days are longer. We were surprised and blessed by a visit from my uncle. And we are still in good hands, still anchored fast, in this time of rest as in the time of stress. 

Taste of Kodiak

image

What is Kodiak like?  Like anywhere, you have to be here to understand, but here’s a brief picture.  We have a diverse population.  Lots of Coasties (Coast Guard) come and go, with some Navy folk.  Those military folks come from all around the country and have an ever changing influence on our community.  There are many fishermen, both locals and out of towners.  Some are here longterm and some come for a season, or a few seasons.  Fishing means canneries and Kodiak has several. They have increased our diversity, bringing in a large Filipino population.  There are also El Salvadorans, Samoans, Mexicans, Japanese, and periodically small groups of Ethiopians or Somalis or other nationalities.  Next there are the Alaska Natives, from several tribes.  The rest of us trickle in for a variety of reasons.

So cultural diversity, which usually means religious diversity.  And we have that.  Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and a variety of Protestant churches.  Many churches and church leaders actively cooperate with each other, and people from these diverse backgrounds work and play together.  One of the most beautiful things about Kodiak is fellowship that is shared between groups in the community. 

The town is small and the population is largely transient, so people form quick relationships and the community quickly welcomes and integrates newcomers.  They are plugged into jobs, church groups, local organizations, and the friendships help compensate for being far away from family.  It is a laid back place, where people commonly where Carharts, sweatshirts and Xtra-Tuff boots.  Habits from the lower 48 disappear quickly.  And since this is Alaska, people tend to be fairly independent, helpful, and outdoorsy.  Very outdoorsy.

It’s hard not to be outdoorsy here, the island practically begs you to get out and explore.  Small coastal mountains give way to larger mountains in the island’s interior.  The mountains hug the coast and are surrounded by beautiful forests.  There are birds and animals everywhere.  On a given day, you might see sea otters, Kodiak brown bears, bald eagles, orcas, sea lions, grey whales, and much more.  Our bears are large and scary, our deer are tiny and cute, our salmon run in every waterway, nature here is always awe inspiring.

People here may love hiking, hunting, fishing, kayaking, hocky (on a rink), but one way or another they are likely to be active.  And to spend time in boats.  We have a limited road system, most of the island can only be reached by boat or float plane, though one village is on the ferry route.  People often fly to Anchorage for medical appointments or shopping, or ferry to Homer then drive.  Both modes of travel are expensive, but at least you are off island for a bit.  This matters more for some than others. Kodiak inspires love or hate, few people think it’s just “okay.”  I certainly dont.  Kodiak is our home now and I love it.

Surprise! An Update!

Pic of kids All of my siblings together!

For those of you who were afraid we had dropped off the planet, never fear! We are still here! And much has changed since our last update. I am not sure where to start, or where this will end. It may end up being a series of updates. We will see.

I will start with February. In a three week period, we had a series of answers to prayer. Fred got a raise at work, which was very helpful, and he continues to learn and grow a lot in his job. I got a job on the medical-surgical floor at the hospital (didn’t start until April though). We found and moved to a cheaper apartment with wonderful landlords (we were blessed by our first landlord also). We found out that we were pregnant.

At the same time as these blessings were poured out, the hard things of life continued. My mom had a series of seizures in February, caused by high blood pressure from a cancer medication, that sent her to the neurological ICU for several days. She had been declared cancer free for the second time on Christmas Eve, 2012, but was on a cancer inhibitor to try and prevent further relapses. This backfired when the seizures occurred in the spring and it took a couple of months to get her blood pressure consistently into safe range.

May came, bringing relief from the nausea of pregnancy, an increase in energy, sunshine and longer days. I was loving my new job and learning more every day. Then I started spotting at 12 weeks gestation. Five days later we lost the baby, I bled too much and had a D&C on the first morning of week 13. Two days later we celebrated Mother’s Day. I continue to struggle with the hole left by this child that I never really met, but God has held us through this and continues to demonstrate His goodness to His children.

May was also the month when Mom started to have abdominal symptoms again. After six weeks of not being able to keep food down, after losing around 20 pounds, June brought a diagnosis of yet another return of cancer. Our hearts plummeted. She has a bowel obstruction that will most likely never resolve. She is on chemo again, a new-for-her chemo that she receives once a month. TPN (total parenteral nutrition) was restarted and Mom gained some weight back. Then, after two rounds of chemo, the pain began to get worse again. Mom was sent to the emergency room and we received a call that she was dying. Soon. This was two weeks ago. Fred and I flew down and family gathered. Thank God, her crash appears to have been caused by a urinary tract infection that is responding well to antibiotics. However, her oncologist has said that she probably has only weeks to months left to live. Fred is back at work in Kodiak. One of my brothers and his wife are leaving tomorrow for work on the east coast. I am planning to leave later this week, depending on how Mom does in the next few days. Our family is still trying to process our new reality. Dad is the primary caregiver and is running on empty. My youngest brother and sister and about to start their sophomore and senior year of high school. Since they are home schooled, I will help Dad get their curriculum in order before I leave. Today we are talking to hospice. Though this is an exceedingly difficult time, we continue to be blessed by the love and prayers of many people here and elsewhere.

One summer highlight was a visit from Fred’s parents. Unfortunately it was cut short by Mom’s crisis and our abrupt departure. Even with the shortening, we had a good visit and enjoyed showing them around the island, introducing them to our friends, and just resting together. The stereotypes about in-law problems do not apply at all to our families! It is a joy to have two sets of parents who love us both dearly and are wholly supportive of us.

Currently we are functioning on a day-to-day basis. The future feels even more unknown that normal, as we are reminded just how little control we have of life. Even in the uncertainty, there are smiles and laughter. God has blessed us with an inordinate amount of sunshine this summer in Kodiak and Port Angeles. Time with family always means time of music, games and laughter. Fear lurks on the edges and tears are always just below the surface, but “I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.” There is comfort in the knowledge that our days are in His hands. God holds me, but He also holds my mom and dad, my siblings and grandparents. Even as the hard times roll over us like storms on the ocean, we are still in good hands. May you be filled with the same assurance as you go through this week!