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August 13.  A pretty momentous date in my mind. It marks one year since I moved in my little house in the woods. It may seem insignificant to have lived somewhere for only a year. Since moving to Alaska in 2012 I have moved 10 times and never spent more than 8 months in any dwelling. It’s hard to make roots, settle in, and make a place my own when I know I’ll be packing up again shortly.

Rewind to 2012. I had packed up all my belongings, gotten rid of anything that couldn’t fit into an 18-gallon tote, sold my car, said goodbye, and purchased a one-way ticket. It was an adventure, but I didn’t feel like I was going somewhere I might spend the rest of my life. One year full of tears, laughter, friendship, growth, and challenges…. I felt like I had a place here. But at the end of each season I would pack up, move out and put things in storage. Then I would move in with someone new at the beginning of each new season. There were always unknowns. Where will I go? Who will I live with? What will the dynamics be? Will this feel like home? Can I make it more inviting and comfortable than the year before? In so many wonderful ways I loved the unknowns. I could walk hand-in-hand with the Lord into those situations. I had to relentlessly trust that He would navigate through all the questions I had, excited to lead me since He already knew.

Then 2015 came along. Andrew proposed. Many more unknowns rose to the surface. Now where would we live? What would it be like to be married? How do you navigate differences when it’s a lifelong relationship? What will my role be? Will I be a good wife? Will he think I’m a good wife?  And the list could go on.

There weren’t any houses available in our town. None. Housing shortages are not something that I was accustomed to. I was trying to prepare my heart for living in a house where I would haul water, that wouldn’t be big enough to have guests, that would be sub-par in my mind, but adequate for living. But Andrew kept reminding me that God wasn’t stumped by our need. He owns it all and He knows are needs.  So regularly I would lay my need back in God’s hands and choose not to worry or fret, or even try to fix my need.

A few weeks later, I found myself walking through a house with Andrew. It was not just a house, but it was better than I could have imagined. It has two bathrooms,  guest room, storage, running water, and lots of character. It wasn’t so much the house that I loved the idea of, no, it was the idea of the things we could do with the house.

The Lord has allowed me to see dreams fulfilled in our home. We’ve been able to host guests, people in need, and small groups. We’ve had people sit on our couch and weep. We’ve laughed with people over meals, hosted game nights, and just had people here to rest.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to make our home a place of refuge. It’s a safe place for people to be real, to rest and be refreshed, a place to seek prayer and counsel, a place for quiet, or a place to come and rid yourself of loneliness. It’s a place where my husband can rest or get work done. I always dreamed of having my own home, but more than that my heart ached to mirror my Creator in being one who shapes the atmosphere of a place. I didn’t even know my heart longed for this role until I had it. It’s been one of the most fulfilling years of my life because I am doing something that I believe God instilled in my heart.

I have gotten to decorate, serve, love, give, host, cook, clean, organize, arrange, and all of it has been worship. I simply get to walk in the things that God has for me and I love it. Whether I am sweeping floor, doing laundry, getting the guest room ready, or feeding my chickens – I am the steward of this domain. My home is not my pride and joy, but it is my responsibility. I get to set the tone and I think that’s delightful.

I know that this will not be my forever home, but I do know that I will cherish the things that God taught me while living here. I will remember fondly the memories made and the opportunities it presented. I remember learning that I am a grower of things. It brings me great pleasure to grow flowers, vegetables, and my little flock of chickens.  But I also love to grow relationships and be used of God to help people grow. I believe the theme of this year has been of finding roots and of growing. I find it so beautiful how those things go together. The Lord gives good things and He takes great joy in watching us steward those things to His glory.

Documenting Life

Last summer Kathryn came out to Port Alsworth to help document Tanalian Bible Camp’s ministry.  She was finishing up a photography degree at the Art Institute of Colorado.  Not only did she work on photos and video for camp, but she invested in the lives of the staff members while she was here. Here’s some of her work for TBC
  The past two weeks she came back to help do the same for the Tanalian Leadership Center.  It has been so refreshing and encouraging having her here.  God used her creative perspective on life and wonderful suggestions for books to renew my heart and mind in several ways.  Everyday we’ve had conversations that direct my heart back to the Truth of who God is in my life.  One thing I will never forget her saying many times is, “Thank you God for always providing more than enough.”  It’s so true.  He really does. Over the past few weeks I have been truly reminded the He provides for what I need even when I don’t know what that is.  He also is faithful and gives me many things that I don’t need, but want.

I plan to be pretty busy with camp this summer as well as working part time at the new General Store in Port Alsworth. Sometimes I get discouraged and just choose not to even dream up the things I’d like to do. This summer I have lots of things that I want to do.  I have laid all those things at the feet of Jesus.  I don’t know what this summer holds, but I know that God wants me to ask for the things I want.  I just can’t put my hope in those things.  He’ll provide everything that I need, but I am excited to ask for the frivolous things I want. It’s up to Him what actually happens.  This summer will be wonderful no matter what it holds because all the good and perfect things that it will hold are gifts from Jesus.

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.

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!

GracetheBeaver3      GracetheBeaver8

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.

Learning New Things

At 26 years of age it’s odd to feel like you’re stepping into the first day of kindergarten.  Feeling full of curiosity and wonder at a world full of things to learn.  Wanting to know the right answer, but not truly knowing many things.  It’s a time to learn, to make mistakes, and to ask seemingly infantile questions.  This has categorized my first two weeks in Alaska.  I have made leaps and bounds of progress in the learning curve, but there’s still so much to learn.

Here are some highlights of the first two weeks here:

  • I now have an Alaska driver’s license and passed my test on the first try.
  • Having a fantastic day in Anchorage with Heather and learning new things at the Native Heritage Center.
  • Going to the Alaska State Fair (seeing native sports, the lumberjack show, the Native Public Radio show, and so much more)
  • I am now the proud owner of a Costco card.
  • I have helped butcher two moose (and can sort of tell the difference between different cuts of meat).
  • Meeting some wonderful new friends
  • Handwarmer Mugs
  • Learning to like black coffee
  • Boating to White Sands Beach and meeting with the TLC staff.
  • Jet boating on the Kijik and catching a two red salmon.
  • Meeting with TLC staff on the banks of the Kijik.
  • Hiking to Tanalian Falls with Anna and Andrew.
  • Spending time with the Wardells.
  • Learning the quirks of different wood stoves.
  • Helping make jam.
  • Eating moose, dall sheep, and salmon. (There’s nothing quite like Alaskan meat)

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There are so many more things to learn and so many things I don’t even know I will learn.  I am so thankful for the people I’ve spent time with my first two weeks here and know that my lower-48-midwestern mind may not always know what questions to ask.  I am looking forward to many more days of learning.

Some things I want to learn this fall/winter (or even beyond that):

  • How to make a fur hat (looking forward to getting my beaver pelt)
  • How to make moose jerky.
  • Proper animal skinning protocol
  •  Fly Fishing
  • More about Alaska plants and their uses
  • More about Yupik culture and language
  • How to make a kuspuk

Life here is just beginning, but I have a feeling Alaska and I are going to get along just fine.

 

A Day for the Books

Today is a monumental day.  I’m not talking about Chic-fil-a, even though I did enjoy standing in line for an hour and a half with about 500 of my closest friends in the blazin’ sun.  I’m talking about the day that I booked my one way ticket to Anchorage, Alaska.  It’s such a crazy feeling.  I’m nervous, excited, anxious, relieved, slightly overwhelmed, and so many other things simultaneously.

It feels like August 29 is so close and so far at the same time.  There’s so much to do before I go, but in this moment it hardly seems to matter.  I know I’ll have to say a lot of goodbyes over the next few weeks, but there will also be a lot of hellos.  This moment has had so much build up and I’ve prayed for, worked towards, and dreamed about this day for months.  I don’t want to forget the complete sense of unworthiness and gratitude I feel.  So many people have sacrificed their time and money, prayed for me, and been such a huge encouragement in my life and it’s all led up to this moment.  God has been so faithful and provided in ways I never could have imagined.

I knew that if I didn’t write this down I would forget what this moment felt like.  I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of expressing what I feel, but I know that I did nothing to deserve this.  I couldn’t have possibly planned this new chapter of my life.  It’s too wonderful and has worked out just right.  The only author is God.