Monday, May 10, 2010

Closing thoughts about Alaska

So many great and terrible things happened to the Elston family while living in AK for the last 2 years and 10 months and 3 days.

With so many life events crowded into the first year of marriage it was bound to be one helluva ride. And, so it was. Marriage, moving, new job for Kristi, pregnancy #1, graduation, new job for Josh, 5 weeks in AL away from Kristi, packing, moving to AK, buying a first home, buying a first crib, painting a baby room and delivering baby #1 all thrown into year number one of marriage we thought we would never catch our breath.

I was busy learning my new job working many, many long hours when Lily came along on a dark, winter day, close to the shortest day of the year. It was -10F when we brought her home that first day. Then Kristi stopped being a nurse to be a full-time mom. Raising Lily for the 1st 9 months, with a tired stressed mama and a tired, stressed dad was probably one of the worst times of my whole life. Lily was miserable so, therefore, mama was. Mama was miserable, so, therefore, I was too. We hung on as best we could to God and to each other. We didn't find a church (and friends) for almost a year and a half. With no outlets for either of us and a sick baby, it all just seemed too much at times. We began to HATE Alaska and resent the beauty of it that we could only ever admire from our home window. With no energy to venture out with Lily, we just survived. Al the while, Kristi and I's relationship grew and grew. All for the better.

After Kristi took the time to figure out Lily's ailments things got better. Kristi found a lousy job, but it gave her time to talk and think like an adult, it gave Lily some time to socialize, and it gave me some peace of mind knowing that both were doing better. I won't tell the terrible stories of how we eventually found our wonderful nanny but I'm sure any parent could fill in the blanks about that, eh-hem, adventure. Peace came again, but only shortly, when pregnancy number #2 was bestowed upon our house. Just 8 months after Lily's birth news of #2 was already thundering down the halls. Suddenly, our house, and my paycheck seemed much smaller than before. Too shocked ourselves, we kept #2 quiet until halfway through the 2nd trimester. Baby two has to be different we thought. Easier to raise, no allergies, please God.

Reese Caroline came in the summer time, close the longest day of the year. She was born around 9pm but the sun was still out. God had been working on mom and dad while Reese was cooking so we both felt slightly more prepared. And, at least, we had a full wardrobe of pink clothes already purchased for her. Maybe my wallet can stretch farther than I thought. Reese is certainly mellower and less dramatic than Lily but also comes with food allergies. So be it. If we can deal with it with one kid, two shouldn't be too much. After all, buying dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free in bulk should be cheaper, right? Well, in Alaska it's not.

Today, we are more a family than ever. Kristi is the most wonderful mother. She's so loving, a wonderful teacher, a great discipline-er and still finds time to make a me a hot meal before I come home from work. I admire, respect, and love her with all of my heart. I love her more than when we left for Alaska, more than when Lily came, more than when Reesie Piece came, and more today than yesterday.

The Air Force was and has been very, very good to me. There's something intangible serving in the military offers me that gets me out of bed and off to work everyday. Most days I may even carry a smile on my face into work. God blessed me with the right job, the right boss, the right staff, and the right place all at the same time. Heading to CA, I feel quite prepared for my next position. And, I greatly look forward to the sun and a shorter winter.

Alaska is big. Huge. It's wonderful, majestic, and beautiful. You should come visit. You can't help but worship the Creator of such a place. Sometimes I think He made those mountain outside my front window just for me. Even though I saw the same mountain out my window everyday, I never grew tired of them. I never wished for another view. I was satisfied. What a rare feeling for me on this earth. But, make no mistake. It was never the creation that was amazing, it was only ever the Creator.

God is bigger than Alaska (which, by no small coincidence, is also bigger than TX). He's bigger than unplanned pregnancies and colicky babies. He's bigger than the 18 hour plane ride home to either TX or NC. He's bigger than school loans or home loans. And, best of all He's bigger than the struggles we've endured up here. Halelujiah, we've survived and, dare I say, even grown as a result of living in AK.

Kristi and I have grown closer than ever. Our kids have grown. I have grown a lot as a dad but am amazed at how slow my growth has been. Two kids and I still feel like I'm just figuring out how to be a dad, let alone a good one. I'm so selfish. But, I have learned one thing about being a dad so far- time is what matters most to kids. Their toys get old and they don't care about my money. But, they long for my time. My kids think I'm the coolest when I'm laying down in the middle of the floor with them, just being there with them, as if I were one of them. Jesus does the same thing with me. Cool.

I pray for blessings on blessings for the friends we have made up here. To the Wagners, The Rizer's, the Braquet's, the Schlei's, and the Wilson's...thank you. Thank you for going through our struggles with us; for consistently and lovingly offering to help us carry our burdens. Jesus used you to rescue us out of the miry pit (Ps 40). I learned how to love my wife better, be a better dad, and to know Christ and his goodness more because of you all, my friends. Thanks for sharing your love and your state with my family.