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.

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.

Thrift Store Bowling

This past weekend all the students and staff of the Tanalian Leadership Center packed up to head into Anchorage for a weekend.  The idea of going to town was pretty exciting to the students.  Town means coffee shops, stores, restaurants, and riding in cars.  I was a little apprehensive about going into town.  For me, town means traffic, crowds, and a headache.  However, we had a game plan going into the weekend and I think it went pretty well.

On Sunday, after church and lunch with some friends, we headed over to Value Village.  We drew names and were given $10 to buy an outfit for the person whose name each one of us drew.  This would be the outfit your chosen person would wear that evening to the bowling alley.  This was probably one of the most fun and bonding times I have ever had.  Shopping was hysterical, but the actual event was even better.  I’ll let you be the judge of which was the best outfit based on the photos.

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Roadtrip Part 1: The Wedding

It can be hard for me to sit still, but lately it’s gotten a little ridiculous.  Last summer at Tanalian Bible Camp I met so many wonderful people and we made grandiose plans of visiting each other and in my cynical mind, I thought it would be something we talked about, but never did due to distance, time and money.  However, two weeks ago I was proved wrong yet again.

I flew to Denver on Friday, July 13 to meet up with Katie and Whitney.   I arrived at 7:20am which gave us plenty of time for the days plans  – which would begin by loading the car up in Fort Collins (Colorado), drive to Thermopolis (Wyoming) and check out the hot springs there, and continue on to our dear friend Faithe’s house in Cody.  We were hoping to arrive about the time she and her family would return from her rehearsal dinner.   We had our snacks packed, all our camping gear stowed, CDs and iPods ready, and were set for our grand adventure.  We jumped in the car so excited to start this road trip and even before we left Fort Collins we were in a slight fender bender.  At a stop light a HUGE, rusted out, jacked up pick up with skull trailer hitch backed into us at a stop light.  I reached over from the passenger seat and slammed on the horn as I saw the ominous truck approaching, but she hit us anyway.  After driving about 6 blocks she finally pulled into a Walgreen’s parking lot and Katie was able to get her information.  It gave us something to laugh about during the roadtrip – not that we needed anything else to make us laugh.

So after the slight set back we were ready to get on the road to Wyoming.

Welcome to Wyoming

   

We made it to Thermopolis without any other incidents.  We spent some time in the hot springs.  The smell was a little overwhelming, but we had fun nonetheless.  There was even a water-slide and a sauna that looked like coral was growing in it.  After about 45 minutes we looked outside and a huge storm was heading our way.  We decided it was time to get going anyway.

It was wonderful to get to Cody and see Faithe and Liz.  We were able to meet their family and see some other familiar faces from Alaska last summer.  Right after the greetings sleep called our names, so we all turned in.

In the morning Whitney, Katie and I had the privilege of heading out to the wedding site and getting the decorations put up.  We didn’t really have room in the car for all the flowers, but we made it work.  We had a blast getting things set up.  Especially when we realized that we had no way to drive the dowels (that were supporting draped tulle and roses) into the ground… good thing I had a pair of wedge heels that stood in as a hammer.

  The wedding was out on the side of a mountain about 9 miles outside of Yellowstone. The “chapel” were the ceremony was held was about a 15 minute drive from anything.  Including a bathroom or place to change.  So Katie, Whitney and I tried to budget in time to go find someplace, but ran out of time.  So we used ingenuity and ended up finding cover to change in and did our hair on the side of the road using the car windows as mirrors.

It was a wonderful ceremony and Faithe was radiant.  It sprinkled for a bit during the ceremony, but the sun came out in time for pictures.

The reception was a blast and we made some new friends and caught up with old friends.  We danced the night away, enjoyed ice cream cake, lit sparklers, prayer with the bride, and then headed back to the house.

 We sat on the porch and talked with Liz for a while before turning in.  It was refreshing to be out in the crisp air and just sit for a while with good friends.  We headed to bed a little later than we should have, but figured it was worth it.

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As many great pictures as I got from the weekend, this one is near the tops of favorites.  Although I was unhappy to follow the last rule on the sign.

Christmas at the Kirkland House

This year was slightly different than most Christmases,  but definitely a good one.  I went over to my parents’ house after church and we all ate lunch together.  We moved to the living room and opened stockings and gifts.  My mom and sister and I opened our gifts from grandma and what should we find?

Yes, that’s right – matching Snuggies.  More amazing pictures to follow.

The guys all got MagLights.  I think we were a little more enthusiastic about our gifts.

A Thanksgiving to Remember

It all started a couple months back when a friend I met at TBC, Katie Russ, came up with the brilliant idea of a summer staff reunion.  The idea sounded crazy at first and definitely too idealistic to actually happen.  But then plans started to form and the idea became reality.

On Monday, November 21 the festivities began when Jacob and Abby (and a cardboard cutout of Anne’s head) arrived from California at about 1am (Thank you buy one get one free Starbucks holiday drinks!).  Scott joined the party Tuesday evening and then we sat and waited for the “roadtrippers” to arrive.  Faithe and Liz left Wyoming early Monday morning and made a stop in Fort Collins, Colorado to pick up Katie and Whitney, spent the night, picked up Rachael in Topeka, Kansas and then continued the long drive to Chicago (with a short detour to Missouri).  They finally arrived at approximately 2:35am on Wednesday.  Needless to say, I have wonderful friends. It was a joy to catch up, laugh, stayed up way too late, reminisce, and make new memories.

Wednesday was a pretty low-key relaxing day.  We slept in and then ate breakfast all together (once the guys came over from the house they stayed at across town.  Thanks Wood family for the use of your house!)  However, a camp reunion wouldn’t be complete without a Skype chat with James (the TBC director), Sharon (his wife), Eric (the director of TLC) and Sarah (Eric’s wife).  It was great to all be “together” again and talk about life.

Thanksgiving Day was when my world’s collided.  My entire family came over for Thanksgiving dinner – my parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law and nephews.  If you did the math that’s 16 people – in my house – for Thanksgiving dinner.  My issue with food amounts (mentioned in the previous post) took over again and we had enough food to feed twice that many people.  It was delicious, there was just way too much. Who knew a 25lb turkey would have that much meat?  We had all the traditional goods and more: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, an hors d’oeuvres tray (with pickles, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, etc.), rolls, fruit salad, pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, sparkling grape juice, and cranberry apple crisp!   When I write it all out it sounds like a lot, but when I was planning it seemed completely reasonable.

Somehow after eating all that we managed to go out and play at the park with my nephews and run off some energy.  My family, especially my nephews, loved spending time with these camp people that they had heard so much about.  All in all, it was a fabulous day of being Thankful for my family and for my friends who have become like family.  I think Scott put it well when he said that the summer staff chose to be family and put up with each others’ shortcomings.  Rachael, being her creative self, brought a “Thanksgiving Tree” and we all made leaves and wrote what we’re thankful for one them.

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Friday morning we all decided to head to Chicago for the day (minus Abby who had to fly back to CA that morning).  Scott and I did a whirlwind tour of the city including Moody, Giordano’s, Oak Street Beach, Cloudgate (aka The Bean) & Millennium Park, the Signature Room (96th floor) of the Hancock, the Watertower, Ghiradelli & the Hersey Factory, the Art Institute, and even a ride on the El. When we got back to my house I completely crashed, especially after seeing 3:30am three out of the four previous days.

It’s hard to sum up the week but it was capped off with a couple games of Four on a Couch, a poetry reading by Scott, playing frisbee, taking pictures with Anne’s face, a musical performance by Whitney, a competitive game of Quelf, some humorous rounds of Truth or Truth, sharing what God’s doing in our lives, a trip to Jalapeno Nacho, a couple trips to Elmhurst, a crazy game of Pilgrim’s Progress, trying Nutella on different types of food, several trips to Midway, and countless pots of coffee.

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite of mine, but this one has got to top all the rest!