And as we made our way off our plane, after a day long trip across the country with our large family, there were hugs from our larger Alaskan family waiting for us as at the end of the airport terminal walkway.
Hugs from an expectant mother. Hugs from mothers with new babies in their arms. Hugs from a bride and groom to be. Hugs from a new happily married bride. Hugs from a new grandma and a seasoned one. Hugs from a babysitter and friend who is more like a sister. Hugs from a deacon.
Hugs from lots of littles...with taller bodies, more filled out faces, larger feet from the last time we saw them.
I wept tears of joy and GREAT relief, that they were all there.
They were all real.
He really does have the eternal friendship thing down.
In Juneau.. in my Southeast Alaska Atrium... I did the very big work of transitioning from a working mother in the Coast Guard to a full time stay at home mom of three girls under the age of four. I grew into my motherhood in Juneau. I had help. Help from Him in bucket fulls of Juneau grace and in deep abiding friendships.
The friends in my life were more than just women....they were catechists. They helped me grow closer to God...all of us mothers together in an Alaskan Atrium. Sharing the work. Sharing the Bread of Life.
We were each doing our own work. We learned to respect each others work. To offer smiles and hugs and coffee creamer. My love for Juneau is rooted in a deep comfort in knowing that in our Alaskan Atrium...we were each on our own journeys and yet doing our work beside each other. One mother was doing the work of having twin sons. Another raising teenage girls. One friend doing the work of being married and away from family and another doing the work of watching a son and then a daughter...and then another daughter... marry.
And as I witnessed each mother bravely go about learning the work in front of them...their virtue, their hearts, their beautiful devotion... helped me with my own work.
So we had our trip. We had our two week journey back.
I sat on the coastline with her dramatic tides.
We went to a wedding at the Shrine of St Therese to watch a bride and groom sing to each other.
And then we danced with that bride and groom.
We celebrated new baby girls.
And watched one baby born in Juneau learn about her birthplace...
And we needed the sunstars...
And the trees...
We needed to feel that glacier sized hug from our Father...
We needed to eat oysters in Anchorage with family made through the Sacrament of Baptism.
And I come back to sunny Virginia...and I have a great peace. I knew I needed this trip to my Alaskan Atrium, but I didn't realize how healing it would be. See, I thought this whole time I was "missing" Alaska but what I was really wrestling with...and as I write I feel hot tears in my eyes...I was really wrestling with the fears of being unwanted or forgotten by my Alaskan family. I wasn't missing...I was afraid.
And God shouted to me on this trip:
BE NOT AFRAID STEPHANIE!
I think the move from Alaska was so hard because I thought I was ripping up roots...but I see now that they were strong holy spiritual roots that don't get ripped up...ever. As soon as I hugged my friend Rebekah off the plane, I understood that goodbye last July...was not forever. I just didn't know that then. And I know it now.
So...I did still cry when I hugged my friends as the trip ended...as my May Atrium session ended...but it wasn't a hard suffocating cry. It was more joyful and sweet....and there was no fear.
And so TRUST TRUST TRUST.
I LOVE YOU!
Also....this was only a sweeping recap...I have more to write...it is in my head but will hopefully be posted soon. xxoo