“You’re doing what?!”
“I didn’t know you two were even thinking about this.”
“Is this you submitting to your husband or is this what you actually want to do?”
“He has to realize it’s unreasonable to expect you to do that!”
These were the responses I got when I told family, friends, and strangers that I was moving to Fairbanks, Alaska. It seemed that to the average person, moving to Alaska was preposterous on practically every level. I wasn’t surprised that people thought I was crazy. I did too!
I had spent my entire life adhering to “The Responsible Woman’s Guide to a Successful Life.” I always strove to know where I was going and how to get there in the most comfortable way. I was taught that’s what respectable, middle-class people do. They work hard in high school so that they can attend the best university. This enables them to obtain a desirable, well-paying job with growth potential, and someday soon they are able to live the comfortable, predictable life for which they’ve worked so hard. Despite my minor detour to attend film school, I was on that path. But nowhere in that plan did the unknown, adventure or Alaska fit in!
So how does a Southern girl from suburbia end up moving to Alaska? She marries into it.
Not that it was discussed pre-marriage. In fact, Alaska wasn’t even a blip on my radar until four years after I wed my Alaskan husband, Dave. By that point, we were living in Pasadena, California, in a spacious apartment with enviable views of palm trees and mountains. We both had good jobs: my husband was a cinematographer on independent films and commercials while I was the director of process improvement at a university. We had great friends, a strong church family, and limitless shopping, restaurants, museums, and amusements. It seemed like we had it all.
Yet, my husband and I got to the point where something was missing. We agreed that we wanted to raise children in a place where they could play safely outside. We both dreamed of owning a house with a yard and a garden. And after three years of life in the big city, we longed for simplicity and adventure. To me, that meant we were ready to “settle down” and live the suburban, white picket fence, 2.5 kids dream life complete with adventurous European vacations. Perhaps we’d move to a suburb of San Diego, Portland, or Seattle. I was open. To my husband, the life we wanted could be achieved in one place only: Fairbanks, Alaska. OK, I wasn’t that open.
However, upon further reflection, I realized that I too craved adventure beyond that of European vacations. When I didn’t let my fear of the unknown and uncomfortable control me, I eagerly anticipated photographing and writing about the daily adventures I would have in Alaska, satisfying the unfulfilled creative desires of my heart. I imagine it was what Julia Child felt like when she moved to Paris. So in spite of my expectations for my life and all the practical reasons for a cinematographer and his wife not to move to Alaska, we did it for the life we felt God was calling us to lead — one with more adventure.
In most cases including our move to Alaska, I believe the call to adventure is inseparable from the call to greater faith and deeper knowledge of God.
‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD,
‘and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am He.'” (Isaiah 43:15)
First, we need to believe God is the Lord and therefore able and willing to be with us and take care of us through adventure. My husband likened our move to that of Moses leading the Israelites back to the Promised Land. We were leaving our comfortable, secure life and heading into the unknown. Like Moses, we were scared even though God promised, “‘I will be with you'” (Exodus 3:12).
Despite our best efforts to prepare for the move to Alaska, there were so many uncertainties. Would God provide work for Dave in Fairbanks? Would it be production work or would all Dave’s training as a cinematographer go to “waste”? Would I be forced to work and not be able to stay at home with our (future) children? Would I ever be happy?
Second, adventure enables us to experience and know the nature of God in new and deeper ways. As I write this, I’ve been in Fairbanks for four months. Every day has presented small or big adventures in which I’ve had to trust God and in turn God has more deeply revealed Himself to me as Jehovah-Jireh (Provider), Good Shepherd, Emmanuel (God With Us), Creator, and Lord God Almighty.
God has faithfully provided production work in Fairbanks including documentaries and clients who want “Target-esque” commercials. These are opportunities my husband and I never expected to have up here, despite my lifelong preparation to produce a Target commercial!
God also led us to a church plant where we can be stretched in new ways — like hosting and cooking for a group of blue-collar men with hearty appetites and very different backgrounds from mine. My Good Shepherd never leaves me. He’s always there to lead me to safety when I’m out for a run in the woods and get terrifyingly lost or when my old Explorer stalls in the middle of an icy road because I can’t figure out how to use the four-wheel drive.
The Lord reveals Himself as Creator and Lord God Almighty through the beauty and grandeur around me from the majestic moose to the turquoise glacial rivers to the towering, snow-covered mountains, which I’ve enjoyed on hikes, four wheeling excursions, and road trips. I’ve climbed rocks I didn’t think I could climb and endured temperatures I didn’t think I could endure so that I could marvel at and revel in God’s creation which He made for us to enjoy not only by viewing it, but also by getting out there and playing in it!
I still have moments when I succumb to fear, though, and say “no” to adventure. One morning, my husband and I went grouse hunting. When Dave asked me to take a turn shooting, I declined because I was afraid of the loud noise the gun would make and didn’t want to be cold; I preferred to stay in the warm car and read.
The next time we went grouse hunting, my husband assumed I wouldn’t want to shoot and let our friends shoot the two birds we spotted. When I saw the exhilaration in my girlfriend’s face after she successfully shot a grouse and the pride in her husband’s eyes, I unhappily realized I missed an opportunity for adventure. I won’t say “no” next time. I can only imagine what adventures await me this winter: snow machining to a dry cabin in the middle of nowhere, learning to cross-country ski … maybe even ice climbing!
God is with me through every challenge and adventure. I know this for a fact, because much of the time there’s no way I can do it without Him. A life of adventure and stepping out in faith depends on God.
An extreme place like Alaska isn’t the only place to to experience adventure, though.
The call to adventure and greater faith is all around. It’s saying “yes” to big and little opportunities like a two-week missions trip to Africa, ballroom dancing lessons, exploring a new neighborhood street, trying sushi for the first time, or accepting an invitation to spend the summer with a relative. Adventure means saying “no” to fear, letting go of expectations, and stepping out of comfort zones and into the unfailing hands of God.