The first couple of days here were the worst. When we landed in Fairbanks it was -30ish Fahrenheit, and it was like nothing I’ve ever felt. We were as prepared as we could be, but there’s only so much you can do when it’s that cold. It’s colder than the inside of your freezer, colder than anything you can imagine. When we got up the next morning and were getting ready to leave the hotel in Fairbanks, we found out what happens to hot coffee in -40 degree temperatures:
It freezes before it hits the ground–it turns to vapor when it hits the cold air all spread out. It was amazing.
The other thing was the air itself. It’s so cold, breathing is…different. It feels strange to breathe; the air is that cold. It didn’t quite hurt, but if you had any moisture at all in your nasal passages you could feel it freeze, and that’s a really strange sensation. You wear a face mask because of the cold, and it gets ice crystals on it because of the moisture from your breath.
After those first couple days, it wasn’t so bad, temperature-wise. I think it was easier to acclimate to cold than it was to get used to the heat when I came to Yuma. I didn’t expect that at all. The other thing I did not expect was how beautiful everything was. My Goodness, I’d never seen anything like it, and probably never will again. It reminded me of the beginning part of the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe–ice and snow everywhere. It was like being inside a snow globe, but infinitely colder. Just look at some of the things we saw. And this is only some–if you want to see more of the pictures, just look at my Facebook page.
I also went ice fishing, and that was way more fun than I expected. I got to use a giant auger to drill holes in a frozen lake, and I even caught a few fish, all about the size of this monster here:
I had a moose burger, too. One of the test officers here said her sister had killed it not to long before. It was really good. Nicely seasoned, and freshly barbecued. Awesome beans, too:
The thing I was most worried about was keeping myself together spiritually. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to get to a church, and I was right. There was nothing nearby, and I didn’t want to drive around Delta Junction looking for one when it was all icy everywhere. Plus, I get lost going to the bathroom.
At first, it was really hard to maintain my spiritual discipline. We got up pretty early, so it was difficult to read or pray or journal early in the morning (much like it is at home). And I didn’t feel much like doing any of that when we got back to the hotel, either. So I mainly didn’t do anything in the way of devotional time.
Another problem was that one of my past…problems or…addictions as a single man was to look at certain types of things on the internet. I knew I’d be here with no one to hold me accountable but my own conscience, and that’s not really enough. So I messaged quite a bit with Zeb, and he mentioned this online MMO he played as a good way to kill time. I downloaded it and it pretty much did the trick. If I’m not watching a movie or doing homework on the computer, I’m usually playing Star Wars, the Old Republic. It’s pretty fun, even if I am not particularly good at it.
Still, I was having trouble reconnecting with God–and I fully knew the problem was me. God had not gone anywhere. Then there was this one day where someone had to stay with the test item while the soldiers went back for chow, and I told them I would do it. So it was that I was all by myself at this OP where there was nothing much around at all. I had a warmup room, so I was sitting in there on this little couch when I just started to pray, and ask God to show me something so that I could know he was there even if I wasn’t talking to him at that time. I needed to know that He was still God, was still on the throne. I hate that I got to that point, but it happened.
It wasn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. So I prayed, and I listened to some worship music on my phone and then I got the sense I was supposed to go outside. It had just started snowing kind of softly, and it was about 2 degrees above zero. I looked around for a little bit and it just smacked me upside the head. God had not gone anywhere. He hadn’t moved at all. He was everywhere around me.
After that, things got better. Not perfect, because nothing is perfect. I just found a time and place where I could be alone with God for a little while when I got back from work. It wasn’t first fruits, but it was all kinds of better from what it had been.
The main struggle then was just missing these people:
I’m usually able to speak to Jen and the boys maybe once or twice a day. John called me this morning, as a matter of fact. Jenny said he grabs her phone and says “call daddy.”
Man, I can’t wait until next weekend. I miss them so dang much.
The thing I’ll most take away from this place isn’t the pay check, or the leftover per diem. It’s that one day at the OP when I realized that no matter where I was and no matter what was going on, God was still God, and always would be.
There’s no way I can look at those places–or even those images of them–and think they could have been made by anything but God.