The Oregonian Adventure | A Forced Vacation

“This did not go as I planned.” That statement could be my catchphrase. I should not be surprised anymore when things do not go as I plan them. I had planned to fly from Anchorage to Portland with Girla (one of last year’s TLC grads) to get her settled into her dorm for her first semester of college. She’s attending Multnomah University in Portland and I managed to have enough miles to accompany her. I was ecstatic to take a trip with her, help her settle in, and get things ready for this new chapter of her life.

I went into Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon to spend a couple days of “rest” amidst a busy month. Winter Camp was just ending, staff planning retreat is next week, and then TLC starts immediately after. I knew I needed some down time. Promptly after arriving in Anchorage I was without a vehicle. A long series of events and two hours later, I was blessed by the use of a friend’s vehicle. I also ended up having a few unavoidable errands that became more time consuming and frustrating than necessary. This Anchorage visit was much more restful than it normal, but definitely not the “retreat” I had hoped for/planned.

Girla was scheduled to come to from Dillingham to Anchorage on Wednesday so we could fly to Portland together on Thursday morning. That afternoon I got a text from Girla asking for prayers because her flight was cancelled and she was on standby for a flight later that day, but all of them were full. All day we texted back and forth thinking she may make it, then more cancellations. By 10:00pm she was still in Dillingham with little hope of making it to Anchorage before our Portland flight. I still took my flight down and planned just to meet her later on Thursday. But for Girla, Thursday held more disappointment. We rallied people to pray along with us for her flight, but God had other plans.

I landed in Portland around 4pm, picked up my rental car (which I got a complimentary upgrade on because the man at the counter asked what brought me to Portland and I told him a snippet of Girla’s story), checked into my hotel room (which was way nicer than I imagined), and went in search of dinner. Up to this point Girla had been scheduled for a flight late on Thursday and then an overnight flight to arrive in Portland Friday morning. During dinner I received a text from Girla. Cancelled flight. Girla and I were both feeling discouraged. I texted the staff and asked for prayer. Immediately I got two called and was prayed with on the phone. I felt overwhelmed with peace, also a sense that I needed to make the most of this opportunity and see what God had in store for me.

So here I was. Alone in Oregon. Without a plan.

I took myself out for a movie and headed to bed thinking about what Friday may have in store. I woke up the next morning to the unfamiliar sight of the sun being up before 9am. I packed a bag, grabbed my GPS, and headed out the door. I decided to head up the Columbia River Gorge and see what Oregon had to offer. As I drove I had a lot of time to think and reflect. I turned off the radio, prayed, and enjoyed looking at the haze veiled hills. I pulled off at the first place on my list to check out, The Vista House. It was like a my eyes were open and something new was beginning. I began pondering deeper concepts…IMG_5683 IMG_5685 IMG_5687

IMG_5717I, the self-admitted worst vacationer (who feels the need to take care of everyone else and never truly rest), was beginning to enjoy this zero responsibility, no time constraint, do whatever experience. I was out in a rental SUV called freedom and I could stop to see whatever I wanted, I could hike to the top of the falls, I could keep driving just to see what was around the next corner. I was enthralled by this new found freedom to just live, be, and rest.

IMG_5740I had a small feeling in my heart of, “I wish there was someone here to enjoy this with me.” Then I just felt completely captivated by a deep Truth. I was not on this adventure alone. I was walking along this path with the Creator of these moss covered trees. I could take solace in the quietness of solitude, but not abandonment.

IMG_5704 IMG_5729I was able to have intimate fellowship with the One who knew exactly where every drop of the towering waterfalls would land. I could choose in that moment to praise in for this sacred moment. It was time to either dwell on the inconvenience of the day or revel in the calm, quiet whisper of my Lord’s love. I could allow the awe I felt in my heart at what I was encountering to be a conscious act of worship to give glory to the God who knows the delights of my heart. I was met in a new way by El Roi, my God who sees, along Route 30.

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Along the way God answered many of my prayers. He allowed me to feel refreshed, to learn to find rest amidst my plans being foiled. He met my heart right where it was and showed me a portion of His endless love for me. He also showed His love in two small messages:

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Girla would be arriving in the morning. It was later than I planned, but not a second later than HE planned. God knew that my heart had a huge lesson to learn. I have been trying to learn it for a while – I just needed to stop and be forced to rest in order to learn this lesson. God is so patient with me. He has a plan and it is perfect. Will I choose to trust Him?  Will I choose to remember to walk with Him?

I ended my day with a quick trip into the Pearl District and yes, I did pop in. It was lovely. Overwhelming and larger than my town most likely, but lovely nonetheless.

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Thanks[giving in]

It’s that time of year when facebook is inundated with daily posts of what they are thankful for. I have toyed with the idea of doing the same thing (I just don’t have the dedication to share something each day).  So here I am giving in. Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I desire to live grateful for how wonderful my life really is. God is so good to me in ways that I struggle to express in words.  So I have decided that I want to write out 31 things that I am thankful for this year.  It will be set up as my remembrance point of the incredible things God has allowed me.

1.  A breathtaking place to live that screams the glory of it’s Creator every day.

2.  God’s endless grace that desires my heart and the option of repentance even when I feel like I’ve utterly blown it.

3.  Friends who speak truth to me, give me grace, and allow me time to grow.

4.  The people who faithfully offer to do grocery shopping for me just because they want to serve and support the ministry where God has placed me.

5.  Laughter – especially when we’re laughing so hard that we can’t remember what started it in the first place.

6.  God’s Word – For God seeing fit to reveal Himself through it, how it seems new every time I open it, and it’s deeply life changing power.

7.  Village Bible Church – my extended family there and the way that they individually and collectively support me in many ways.

8.  My parents – for raising me, loving the Lord, and quietly challenging me to follow Him.

9.  My two wonderful nephews who make me laugh, remind me how to love and just enjoy life.  (and for all the other children that I am privileged to be the aunt of, even though not biologically.)

10.  Snow! – it’s beauty, source of fun and adventure, and just all around greatness!

11.  God’s peace – I am so thankful for that peace that doesn’t make sense but calms my soul and reminds me that I am exactly where God wants me and that I should/can continue to trust Him.

12.  A warm bed to rest in every night. I am not sure what I would do without it!

13.  Handwritten notes that seem to arrive on the day that they’re most needed.

14.  The ability to travel – to see new places, experience different cultures, and make lasting memories with wonderful friends.

15.  Long hikes in the woods.

16.  Working internet so that I can keep in touch with friends and family that are miles (and even oceans) away.

17.  God’s provision – that God chose to use many generous people to meet my financial needs, and that is a reflection of all the other needs that He willingly meets every day just because He loves me.

18.  Music – because it just makes life a little better.

19.  The Routh family – their desire to make me a part of their family, teach me how to truly rest, and encourage me.  For the ways that Kayden makes me laugh even when I don’t want to, melts my heart, and his “nickname” for me.

20.  Ice cream – I don’t know who invented it, but they should receive an award.  That stuff is just amazing!

21.  Tanalian Leadership Center (& Tanalian Bible Camp)- I am humbled to be a part of this incredible program and I don’t even know how to praise God enough for it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see each of the students (who become very dear to my heart) and staff (who are pretty great too) grow as we seek the Lord together.  I am thankful for the way that SO MANY people see the value of this ministry and partner with us.  God has worked here in so many ways and it’s a tremendous blessing to see it first-hand.

22.  The Wardell Family – They really love me.  They mentor me, help take care of me, and just desire the best for me.  I am so thankful that they’ve been here to walk through this season of life with me and I look forward to continuing our friendship for years to come.

23.  Rest – even if I battle against it on a daily basis, I am thankful that God brings true rest and that I work with a group of people that values truly resting in the Lord.

24.  Lifelong friendships – the kind that pick up right where they left off even if I haven’t see  the other person in many years.  Those kind of friends are just good for my soul.

25.  Wool (and other winter gear) – I just really like being warm and it can get really cold.  I enjoy the simple pleasures in life 🙂

26.  Prayer – the ability to share my heart with God, thank Him for all He does in my life, intercede for others, seek His will, gain wisdom, confess my sin, and know that through all of it He hears and understands me.

27.  Hot beverages – I just love them. Tea. Good Coffee. Apple Cider. Hot Chocolate. Yum.

28.  Port Alsworth’s Community – I just love this quirky little village that has so much personality.  There’s always something interesting happening. I have grown to love the people here and what an example they are of love, joy, and trusting the Lord.

29. Planes, boats, snowmachines, & Hondas – they’re necessary sources of transportation, but also a source of fun.  I am just really grateful for the ways they make life easier.

30.  Jesus Christ  –  For His deep love, perfect life, demonstration of love & sacrifice, atoning work, resurrection, and hope of His return.  He is the reason that I live and have hope for the future.

31. Growth – I can’t praise the Lord enough that I am not who I was a year ago.  For the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and the ways He convicts me, fights for me, and reminds me I am never alone.  Thank you, Lord, for the work you are doing in me!

As I wrote this I realized that 31 is not very many.  I could keep going on and on, but I need to limit this.  God has done so much in my life and I hope that I never stop seeing what God has done.  It’s been encouraging to reflect on this year and see how truly blessed I am.

The Parable of the Northern Lights

A few weeks ago I was completely awestruck while walking home with a friend by an incredible display of light in the sky.    The Northern Lights that night were mostly green with the occasional bursting streak of red.  I stood there giddy, watching the lights dance in front of the stars and then sneak back behind the mountains.  All growing up I had wanted to see them and I was definitely not disappointed.  No matter how many times I see the sky lit up, I feel that same sense of wonder and excitement.  This last view was no different.

IMG_5305editAs we were walking standing watching the lights I wonder aloud, “How in the world does this happen?”  The reply, “Do you really want to know…. or should I just let you continue to be amazed?”  I was startled at first, not realizing I had spoken my thoughts.  Then I thought about it for a minute and decided I did want to know.  This is one explanation I am so glad I asked for.  The basic gist of the answer is that the sun releases gaseous charged particles that head toward the earth and as they collide with the poles they run along the atmosphere at different depths.  If you want to read more about it…. here’s the scientific answer that was given me.  Basically, all I got from that is that we’re being protected from super harmful gases from the sun and it looks incredible.

IMG_5300EditWhile I was deeply pondering the coolness science of this spectacular display I was struck with an incredible thought.  God is protecting us and His power looks beautiful.  The conditions need to be just right for us to see the lights, however, this is actually happening way more often than it’s visible to my eyes.  Sometimes I even miss it when it’s right outside my window or above my head because I’m distracted, or something is obstructing my view.  Nonetheless, God is allowing me the opportunity to see just how beautiful His protective hand is. He has brought me to a specific place where I get to glimpse at His creativity and brilliance in a new way. I took this thought to the next level (I know, what else is new?).

What if everyday, in a spiritual sense, these things are happening too?  Spiritual warfare is real.  But what if it’s just as glorious in the eyes of God?  What if God’s eyes are attuned to see an absolutely stunning display of His power protecting us and I can’t see it and neither can other people??  All around us there are prayers ascending in a dance to heaven, angels are warring endlessly on God’s side for our hearts, minds, and souls.  What if that divine battle rages with an even more spectacular light show than our eyes can even begin to see and our minds can never comprehend?

IMG_5304editI know an Almighty God is protecting me physically, but He cares even more for my soul.  I would imagine that protection would look even more brilliant than anything on this tarnished earth.  Now I take even more delight in those splendid lights that God placed in the sky just to teach me something about Him.

Summer Highlights

Each season in Port Alsworth brings about new experiences and things to learn.  Each time the seasons I change I find new reasons to love this place I have grown to call home.  I have definitely kept busy this summer, but have found time to play and enjoy the abnormally warm and sunny weather.  You’ll get no complaints from me about the 80 degree days and clear blue skies!  Here are some of my favorite moments and events from the summer.

GRACE: Several weeks back there was an unexpected visitor in Port Alsworth that quickly won the hearts of many.  Her name is Grace and was a 3 week old baby beaver.  I think you can see why she was a hit!

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You can read more about Grace’s story and see pictures on my friend Kathryn’s blog. (Photo credit goes to Kathryn Bronn)

TANALIAN HIKE: I have done a good amount of hiking this summer, but one of my favorite hikes was with 3 lovely ladies that I met because they came out to work for Tanalian Bible Camp.  We had a wonderful time sharing what God has done in our lives (despite the high winds and temperature changes along the way).  I was disappointed when I realized I never took a pictures of us together, but here’s a shot from one of our stops along the way.

CIMG2117FOURTH OF JULY: On the 4th of July we had a major picnic that everyone in town was invited to.  It was a blast to celebrate with so many people under a giant tarp hung over a playhouse and bulldozer.  It was wonderful just eating and chatting with friends.  I realized how much I love these ladies and am grateful for the different ways that they each enrich my life.  I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly fortunate I am to have them.  I am not sure I would have made it through this last year without them.IMG_2234TANALIAN BIBLE CAMP:  I ended up spending a couple weeks in the camp kitchen and really enjoyed it.  I got to know some of the summer staff pretty well and made some great friends. I was refreshed because I got to spend time building different kinds of relationships, catch up with old friends, and intentionally mentor one of the girls on staff.  After sharing my testimony one night at camp, a girl on staff for three weeks asked me to meet with her.  I am not sure whether it was more beneficial for her or for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I will and do miss many of the staff members that came through this summer.  I am so glad that they got to experience camp and a small taste of Port Alsworth and look forward to seeing many of them back again.1016928_10151724027957629_1559481594_n

CONTINUED MENTORING:  This summer IMG_2251has also been time for me to continue mentoring in a different way.  Our friendships are growing stronger, but there has been a marked shift in how we relate – in a good way. It’s always a treat to spend time with Sophia and Girla (TLC students who have stayed in Port Alsworth for the summer).  I love them more each day and am certain God has amazing things in store for the two of them in the future.  They impress me with their maturity and faith whenever I spend time with them.

CAMPING WITH VALOR:  Another one of my favorite highlights was going on a camping trip with some girl cadets who came up through Valor, a ministry of Campus Crusade. I was asked to share my story with them.  I was told that I had up to two hours to share about what God has done in my life.  It was incredible how many of the things God has taught me struck a chord with each of them.  I also had the opportunity to facilitate a low-ropes Team Adventure Challenge Course day with them.  It was a blast spending time with those lovely young ladies.  An added bonus was one of the staff members happened to be a college classmate I hadn’t seen in 5 or so years.  I also thoroughly enjoyed trying out my “cozy” two-man tent with Sarah.  We stayed up way to late chatting and laughing.  It is not a night I will soon forget.

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PICKING THE NET: I have also learned some valuable skills this summer.  One thing that I have been waiting to do since I moved here was establish residency so I could go out and pick the gill net.  Well, my time has come.  I was able to go out and pick the net with Eric and Jon.  However, later in the day neither of them was around to drive the boat.  So Sarah and I, completely undeterred by this decide that we can go out in a canoe.  It was slightly awkward, but we got the job done even with Ellah, our extra little passenger who thought we were going to tip and freeze to death.  All the salmon and lake trout were then vacuum sealed and the preparations for winter are started.

EVEN MORE SUMMARY: To fill in some gaps in the summer, I also checked off three more Alaskan towns; Kenai, Soldotna, and Fairbanks. Summer is a great time to go hiking, kayaking, and just adventuring with others.  As much as I have enjoyed the activities of the summer the best part has just been making friendships with the wonderful people of Port Alsworth and growing in the relationships I already have.  I may not be rich, but my life most definitely is.

North to Fairbanks

Last week I took an actual break and went to Fairbanks!  A dear friend of mine, Raena, invited me up to visit her and her family and made it happen.  It was wonderful to step outside of my normal life and just enjoy.  My week consisted of playing with her wonderful kids, going to Chena hot springs, riding the train at Pioneer Park (and being a part of a two-year-olds’ monkey themed birthday party), shopping at the farmers’ market, Silver Gulch Brewery dining, blueberry picking, creek splashing, photo shooting, ice cream eating, picnicing, musk ox viewing, great conversations with Raena, and a whole lot of laughs.

I was definitely spoiled all week and I definitely felt loved.  It’s always good to go and experience someone else’s world for a while.  I miss telling her kids bedtime stories and being invited to play with trains.  Post nap snuggle times are not a norm in my life, and I do miss Raena’s energy and planning.  As wonderful as the week was, it is good to be home.

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What is Rest?!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rest in several ways (I took some liberties with scaling down definitions and taking out part of speech, etc.  So this is not verbatim out of the dictionary, but bear with me).

1 : freedom from activity or labor  (but I like to have activity in my life)

2 : a state of motionlessness or inactivity (sitting still feel lazy and I don’t feel rested)

3 : the repose of death  (I guess that’s one way I could finally rest)

4 : peace of mind or spirit  (I like that idea and I think for the most part I have peace of mind)

5 : something used for support

6 : to be free from anxiety or disturbance

7 : to remain confident – trust

8 : to be based or founded

I have been struggling to learn what rest is for some time now. I know that I need it, but I am not sure exactly how to feel rested, receive rest, etc.  I don’t like to sit still and I don’t feel rested after lazy days and people tell me I need to rest and take care of myself, but I never truly got what that meant.  I suppose that’s because I saw rest as the first 4 definitions (and you can see my arguments to each) and I never took into consideration the last four.

Over the past few months God has completely revamped me outlook on rest and the importance of it and how it truly does apply to my life.  I read Hebrews 3 and 4 and was struck again by the concept of rest that is found there as well.  I don’t know if I would have grasped the depth of it’s meaning if, by some chance, I just happened to end up teaching that section of Scripture in Bible Class.  I grappled with the concept of what true rest looks like.  Verse 11 in chapter 4 really confused me at first,

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience”

How can I strive for rest?  That doesn’t seem to make any sense.  Then I realized that rest always entails trust.  Maybe that’s why I struggle with resting.  Do I trust people?  Do I trust God?  Do I really believe that I can let go of control and just relax?  Maybe not. God has wrecked my world a little bit over this concept.

Definition five is “something used for support” and I have learned that resting is being vulnerable and allowing close, godly women to support and encourage me.  It’s not always easy and it doesn’t come naturally, but it’s glorious.  Sometimes I feel most rested after those deep conversations with ladies where I allow them to support me and pray for me.

The sixth definition is “to be free from anxiety or disturbance.”  Do I truly follow Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” and allow myself to rest in the security that I don’t need to worry.  God is in control, I’m not and that’s a beautiful thing.

I struggle most with the seventh definition, “to remain confident – trust.” I think this is where “rest” is most closely tied in with Hebrews 4. Unbelief is the only thing that can separate me from God’s rest.  Do I believe Jesus died and paid it all for me?  Do I place my trust in Him?  The answer is, yes!  Then I don’t need to work to secure my salvation, to please God, to be good enough, and the list goes on.  I just need to simply trust and rest.  My life has been paid for and I just need to follow Christ and walk in the works He has already prepared for me.  Anxiety and worry should be gone.  I have confidence and faith in the rest giving Savior of my soul.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Which leads to the final definition, “ to be based or founded.” I am rooted, founded, and based in truth when I soak in God’s Word. The Holy Spirit gives me insight and understanding into His Word.  This summer I have learned how to rest in a new way. God is teaching me so much about how to rest in who He is and have confidence in who He says I am.  Rest is so much easier when I understand what it means.

Being Four

Summer in Port Alsworth started out differently than I expected.  It was warm and sunny for weeks on end. I was able to spend lots of  time outside, go hiking, get tan-lines, and enjoy some rest. CIMG2096I also had some visitors, four-year-old twin boys, join me for some fun in the sun.  It was hard to get both of them still enough for a picture with me, so we had to settle for one.

Having the twins come out was wonderful for me in several ways. I got to laugh quite a bit and I learned about life from them. Most people would automatically think I must have learned patience (and I did) or about discipline (which I did too), but it was much for than that. They live so unconcerned about anything but the moment they’re living in. They freely love and express their love to others. I can’t count how many times one of them stopped and just said, “Megan, I just really love you.”  or, “Megan, you are beautiful.” They truly meant what they were saying. They do everything fully. If they’re going to get in the icy water, they commit to it. If they’re going to play, they use every toy in the room. It’s refreshing to see such wholehearted enjoyment and commitment to whatever is happening.

CIMG2112P.S. I never thought I’d have to tell children to stay in the water between the float planes.