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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Training

A few weeks back I went to Soldotna and participated in a week of intensive ministry training geared toward missionaries in bush villages in Alaska. I wasn’t sure what to expect and left feeling like I had been presented with an overwhelming amount of material to ingest. We discussed important things like native culture, the history of the church in Alaska, spiritual warfare, and how to build boundaries in ministry. However, I felt as though I was prepared to grow more deeply in my walk with the Lord. I made connections with other vocational missionaries whose stories of God’s faithfulness through their mistakes that gave me hope.

CIMG2039I was blessed and encouraged by women who barely know me, but love me and have continued to invest time in and be vulnerable with me. I value my relationships with these women and know that I want to be that kind of model of humility and honesty for others. Not to mention that one of them made it her mission to makes sure that I got ice cream every day that I was on the road system. Don’t worry, the mission was successful.

Roadtrip Part 2: Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and back again

We started out at about 8:00am on Sunday from Faithe and Liz’s house.  Our plan was to drive from Cody out to Yellowstone, stop at various places (suggested by Katie’s dad who used to work in Yellowstone), head to Montana for lunch (so I could cross of my 30 and 31 state in one trip), then drive down to the Grand Tetons and camp for the night.  It was sad to say goodbye to Liz, but we were looking forward to exploring God’s creation together.

We headed into Yellowstone ready for adventure.  I don’t know if I was prepared for just how big and different Yellowstone was from anything I had ever seen.  I was in awe of God and just how creative, details, vast, and powerful He is.  Seeing this only just begins to scratch the surface of who God is.

 

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We also had some pretty normal and unique animal experiences in Yellowstone.  We were about 30 ft away from a buffalo enjoying the hot springs, but the site that topped it all off was seeing a black wolf eating an elk.  It was crazy to actually see that happen in the wild.

(When I posted this it deleted a large chunk of the post.  I will update the rest of this post at some point in the near future.)

Sisters’ Roadtrip

Last week my sister and I decided to do something we’d never done before.  The two of us took a fairly impromptu trip down to Mayfield, KY to visit our grandma.  The two of us have never taken a trip with just the two of us before.  It was definitely one of the most fun trips I have ever taken though.  We left home at about 7:30am and began driving almost the entire length of Illinois.

We talked, laughed, took pictures of things we found humor (or attempted to and things didn’t quite turn out), and sang 80s and classic rock songs most of the way to Mayfield.  In quite a few spots along the road there are small, low to the ground signs that start a thought and continue it on several signs to follow that are spaced about 20 yards apart.  I began reading these aloud along the way. Our favorite groups of signs went like this, “If you want peace… prepare for war.”  “For safety at home… guns even the score.”  For some reason it just struck us as very funny.  I think because it was placed in Amish country.  Or because I thought it might have something to do with Jesus from the first line of “If you want peace…” since several before had been about Jesus.  Or maybe because it was nice to break up the monotony of Illinois…

We crossed the Ohio River at about 3:00pm and headed into Kentucky.  We decided to act like tourists (even though we used to live in Kentucky) and stop at the Welcome Center just for the fun of it.  I think the mostly because we were tired of being in the car.

 

We were both pleasantly surprised by how nice the welcome center was.  We signed the guestbook, looked at maps, and then headed toward grandma’s house.  We went to small group with her and then went out for dinner.  Grandma’s order got taken and so for the wait her steak dinner was free!  It was so good to catch up with her and just have fun together as adults.   Katie and I ended up going to bed by about 9:00pm and that became the routine for the 3 nights we were there.  We filled our days with funny family stories, episodes of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, good food, lots of laughter, and a grand tour of Mayfield – complete with a stop at Tractor Supply, Dick’s Sporting Good (where they had never heard of cross-country skis), Lowe’s, the two-screen Princess Theater, the Mayfield Football stadium, and the cemetery (there are pictures of all these things on my facebook if you’d like a tour too).

We left Mayfield and headed back for Illinois on Wednesday morning.  We laughed again at all the crazy and wonderful events of the trip.  It was an uneventful trip back, but we were very glad for three things in particular.

Steve & Heather

Over Labor Day weekend I had the privilege of going down to North Carolina to a wedding of some friends of mine.  It was nice to take Friday off work and make a four day weekend out of it.  I rented a car, got my own hotel room, and got some time just to relax on Friday and Saturday.  I hung out with several of Heather friends from Toronto and we explored town.  We went to Waffle House and Sonic because we wanted to do some very southern things. While exploring we came across one of the most unique stores I think I have ever seen.  The pictures don’t even do it justice, but I had to share. That’s right.  It was a pet store, music store, and collectible doll store… all in one.  Mixed in with all the music and doll paraphernalia there were fake animals posed all around on pet beds and in kennels.  It was definitely one of the most unique stores I have ever been in.

The wedding wasn’t until Sunday and I was honored and humbled to be able to be there.  I haven’t known Steve and Heather for very long, but they have become fast friends and I consider them dear friends. I have had some of the deepest conversations with them and always come away encouraged.  I enjoyed getting to know their families and friends a little too, since I only know “Alaskan” Heather and Steve. Most of the out of town guests congregated at Steve’s parents house.  It was beautiful out there, especially early Sunday morning when thick fog hung over the horse pasture.

On Sunday I was up early and helping prep for the wedding and it was such a blessing to be a part of the festivities.  The service was beautiful and very Christ-centered.  It was definitely not a traditional service at all.  It showed their hearts and personalities and it was a joy to attend.  Pastor James came down from Alaska and officiated the wedding and I was able to spend a good amount of time talking with him and hearing about what God is doing in Port Alsworth and the surrounding villages post camp.

All in all, it was a terrific weekend and I look forward to fulfilling our dream of being neighbors sometime soon in Port Alsworth.

My Heart’s All Over the World

This time last year I was in full swing of getting things lined up for summer mission trips at my church (I am the administrative assistant to the pastor who oversees missions). We had a powerful Mission Conference in January and I was so excited to see God at work in so many different culture, languages, and areas on the map that I had only seen in my imagination. I had every intention of going on a mission trip last year. I was hoping for Uganda.
As things progressed, I sincerely felt God saying no. It was not the time to go, but rather to rest. I had been going non-stop in so many directions and was honestly not taking great care of myself. I was working quite a few hours, but that wasn’t what was causing my need for rest. It was something more. So instead of going on a mission trip, I took my week off and headed up to Lake Ann, Michigan as a driver for the campers from my church. The week was exactly what I needed. It was a time to clear my head. I was able to spend time with Christ and just rest.
I was not prepared for what came next. I was dropping off the Uganda team at the airport and they were the last team to leave for their trip, and as I drove away from O’Hare the tears began to flow. I didn’t realize how much it was effecting me that I was not going. I had developed such a desire to get to know other cultures, to share Christ with hurting people, to get involved in missions…. and yet I was still in Illinois.
It was during the time that the team was in Uganda that a missionary my church supports talked with me about the idea of teaching at an international school in the middle east. I would have the opportunity to teach English and Bible to junior high and high school students. This was not something I had ever considered, but the idea thrilled me. It was what I thought I had been waiting for! It was God calling me to something greater. As I prayed, I got more and more excited about the idea of seeing new places, learning a new language, engaging in new cultural experiences, spending time with the missionaries, eating new food, and investing time in students’ lives. It all seemed to perfect. For several months I pursued that path. I even met with the mission board, and was starting to plan. However, in early December I started to feel unsettled about the idea. There was no peace. The excitement was dwindling, but I still had a desire to go, but it was definitely not the right time.
Slowly, as in over two months, I began praying differently about the entire situation. I kept feeling more and more uneasy and just not right about it. I couldn’t make myself fill out the application and move forward with the process. I talked to a few people and they too had an uneasiness about the trip. By mid January I was fairly certain I was not supposed to go to, but then what?
I still had a desire to go. It was not that I could not be content here, or that there’s not work to be done for God’s kingdom in Illinois. That’s not it at all. There was just no peace about staying. There is someplace that my heart was being called….. I just didn’t know where.