Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Freezer Full of Fish!


What's that saying about teaching a man to fish?

Well, no one taught us how to fish -- in fact, we tried but didn't catch a single one ourselves this summer -- but they sure gave us fish, enough that our freezer and pantry currently contain enough of it to feed us for the winter!

Such a blessing! We have such generous friends.

Last month, when a camp coworker gave us a couple of fresh-caught coho salmon, I got to try my hand at canning for the first time! Brett sliced up and de-boned the salmon, and I put it in the jars with a little vinegar and salt, then into the pressure cooker. Since then, we've eaten our canned fish a couple of times, in salmon dip and salmon patties. It's quite yummy!

 

We've been blessed with a lot of halibut, too, which we've been enjoying both baked and fried! Delicious!

God has really blessed us this fall in so many ways; the fish is just one example. I'm thankful He provides both needs and wants.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Moving Day and a New Season!

Hi friends, family, and other readers!
I guess it has been a while since I updated anything here. Thanks for still sticking around and reading the occasional update!

I've recently started a new blogging project over at BeStillWaitingHeart.com. The blog there is intended to be a ministry platform for women who are in the same seasons of life that I am or have recently been walking through -- singleness, relationships, engagement, and young marriage. It's really just getting started and I don't have many readers yet, but I'm praying that God will bless and expand it, so that it can really be used as a ministry. If you're in any of those categories, or you know someone who is, please feel free to hop on over there and take a look, or send someone the link! My prayer is to build it into a community and an outreach, a place of truth and hope.

In other news... today was moving day! While we (Brett especially) will still be out to camp at least once a week, today was the day we officially changed our "home base" from camp to Juneau. The last few weeks have been a crazy in-between phase where we've lived half at camp and half in town. It will be really nice to be settled in here in Juneau for the winter.

We've spent the day working on our new apartment that we're renting in Juneau -- cleaning, freshening the place up, arranging furniture, unpacking, etc. It will probably take another day or two to get everything situated and settled. We are excited about making it "home" for the winter and about hopefully having some friends over soon after everything is unpacked and organized. Now that we're done with the camp season and living in town again for a few months, it will be good to catch up and rekindle relationships with our friends and acquaintances here.

Speaking of winter, relationships, and such, I'm working on putting together a video that highlights what "winter ministry" looks like for us as Echo Ranch staff. Certainly our winters look different from our summers, but it's all one big picture. Winter Ministry can be difficult to explain to people, so I'm hoping this video will help portray it a little better.

Hope you all are doing well!
Keep in touch!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Be Still Waiting Heart

Hey girls,

I've just launched my new blog, "Be Still Waiting Heart."  It's designed for young women -- single, in a relationship, or married. There are just a few posts up so far, so it's still a work in progress. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Ashley

Monday, August 10, 2015

twelve weeks.

This week, I should have been 12 weeks pregnant. This week, I should be calling friends and family members who didn't know yet, posting cute photos on Facebook of my husband and me holding adorable ultrasound photos, and telling the world about our baby. 

Instead, I'm curled up on my couch thinking about what could have been, un-following everyone on Facebook who has a new baby because my heart can't handle seeing that, and coming here to remind the world... 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. 

image source

And though I have been "getting better," and I've felt much more alive and much more like myself over the past few weeks, hitting this 12-week mark has a lot been harder than I anticipated. When I would have been sharing our happy news, I'm feeling the loss all over again. 

So my message today...
  • If you have suffered a miscarriage, you are not alone. So many others share your pain and grieve alongside you. I know it hurts. But I promise there's hope. Don't be afraid to speak up about your experience -- you don't have to bear the burden alone. If you need someone to talk to, please, send me a message. 

  • If you know someone who has suffered a miscarriage, will you just let her know that you still remember her loss? Assure her that she and her baby are not forgotten, that her grief matters, no matter how long it's been. Please don't pretend to understand what she's feeling if you haven't been through it. Just let her know she's loved. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Where summer meets fall...

white caps on Berner's Bay
Today was the warmest, sunniest day we've had here in a couple of weeks. Outside in a t-shirt, sandals, and lightweight pants, it definitely felt like summer.

At the same time, there were signs of the soon-coming fall all around: The wind was blowing hard, making whitecaps on the usually-calm bay. The fireweed blossoms have turned to their final fuzzy stage before dying off. And I found a dead salmon on the beach. Yes, fall is coming, even on what was otherwise a very summery day.

Windy!
After lunch at the Dining Hall, I took a walk down the beach, camera in hand, and oh, it was beautiful. The sun on my back, the wind in my face, seagulls and bald eagles flying over my head, waves crashing on the shore. It was a moment that the world was breathtaking. It was a moment that made me happy to be alive.

What does that one line say? "Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss." That's what that moment was like. Pictures don't capture it, because there are no sounds, no smells, no feeling of wind in your hair in a photograph. But here it is, and I hope you are some fraction of as enamored with this day as I was.

The fireweed blooms turning to fluff is a sure sign of summer's end.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Help me choose a name!

Okay, ladies, I need some decision-making help! (if you know me, you know I'm one of the most indecisive people on the planet.)

I'm looking into starting a new blog/website specifically dedicated to writing for young women. The audience would primarily be
  • Single adult ladies
  • Engaged women
  • Newly married wives
                (note: all the life phases I've been living in for the past few years!) 

Topics might include: Devos and spiritual insight relevant to these chapters of life, pieces of my story, and practical articles about relationships, marriage preparation, single life, etc. I'll probably even write about our miscarriage experience to help other young couples who are dealing with that. 

It's still very much in the planning stages. However, what I'm debating on right now is a good name, and wow, what a tough decision! I do plan to keep this Dreams That Move the Mountains blog going for personal updates for family and friends. This potential new site is a totally different project. Just FYI :-) 

Okay, back to the name thing. Choosing a good name is so important, and a choice I'll have to live with indefinitely. I want something that will be appropriate to both single and married women...and no cheesy Christian-ese stuff! 

So, ladies, here's a list of potential blog names I've come up with so far. Will you help me out by voting on which is your favorite? If you have a different idea, feel free to suggest it in the comments! 


Which blog name is your favorite?

Grace and Becoming
Love and Longing
Be Still My Waiting Heart
Lovely Longing Hearts
Graceful Journey
Quiz Maker

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Love Will Get Us Through

A couple weeks ago -- just a few days after our miscarriage happened -- Brett came in from working, opened his computer, and said he had a song playing in his head that he wanted to listen to. He found it saved on his hard drive, a song from an obscure singer from Canada named Dan Powers. I'd never heard of him or the song, "Love Will Get Us Through," but as we listened to it, the words of the chorus wrapped around my heart.

It's not enough to love you

Oh I wanna hold you


Yes. Yes, those were the words my heart wanted to say to my unborn baby, my baby whom I love but never got a chance to hold. It's not enough.

~   ~   ~

These days -- nearly a month past the loss -- I'm doing much better. Most of the time I feel pretty much like myself. But going back to normal is kinda scary, and at times I almost feel guilty for feeling better. I don't want to just move on and forget about the baby. I don't want other people to think that's the case.

But I know the Scripture, "Can a mother forget her child?" (Isaiah 49:15, paraphrased) is a rhetorical question. I won't forget. But I also don't have to dwell in continual sadness for the sake of remembering. I am free to laugh with my friends and participate in life and embrace the joy of the Lord...while accepting the pangs of grief that arise at unexpected moments...and knowing that I will never lose the love I have for my unborn little one. It's okay to move forward. God's Word instructs me to:


"We do not want you to...grieve as others do who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

"Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on..." (Philippians 3:13-14)

"Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?" (Isaiah 43:19)

"Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy." (Psalm 126:5)




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sadness With Joy



First off, I want to say how grateful I am for the outpouring of love, support, and prayers from so many people, following my first blog post about our miscarriage. God has absolutely used all of your comments, messages, emails, and texts -- and for the ones here with me at camp, your daily hugs and check-ins -- to wrap His love around me and hold me up in this time of grief. Thank you for caring. Thank you for speaking kind words. Thank you for acknowledging the legitimacy of our loss. Thank you for praying. Thank you, those of you who have shared YOUR stories of miscarriage and infertility -- you remind me that this is a shared grief and I am not alone in it. Thank you all.

It has been 2 1/2 weeks since we lost our baby, and those days have been nothing short of a roller coaster. The physical after-effects and the insane hormones can drive a person crazy, if the actual grief wasn't enough. For several long days, I struggled with depression -- unable to get out of bed in the mornings, and a lack of desire or motivation to do anything except sleep and eat cereal (yes, I wanted cereal all the time, go figure). Thank God, that heaviness has lifted. Smiles and laughter are starting to come back, sometimes forced, sometimes genuine. I'm slowly easing back into "normal life."

"Normal life"...with an ever-present sadness. 

God is using this hurt for His good purpose and His glory. I can already see that, and I rejoice in it. This has opened up doors for wonderful conversations, opportunities to share both sorrows and comforts with others who are grieving, and chances to "give a reason for the hope that is in" me (1 Peter 3:15). If Brett and I had to endure this loss, then I'm incredibly thankful to see God using it for good, to know that it's not being wasted. 

photo from Etsy
At the same time, we still have to wake up every day and remember that our baby died. I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I will never know my first child. I still have to see pictures of women with their pregnant bellies and newborn babies, and fight the awful feelings of jealousy, because I really am happy for them, deep down. I still wrestle with the fear of having another miscarriage. And I still wonder, every day, what our little one would have been like if he or she was able to be born.

Yes, there's a sadness that remains, but there's a peace and a quiet joy in the midst of it. God has a hope and a good future for us. I rest in believing our baby is in His arms. We are not of those who "grieve with no hope" (1 Thess 4:13). God is pulling us closer to Him and closer to each other as a couple. He has surrounded us with people who care. He is good, and we're going to be okay.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Held for a Moment, Loved Forever - Our Miscarriage Story


This is a difficult post to write.

Because miscarriage is a sensitive subject. People don't talk about it much. And honestly, there's part of me that really doesn't want the whole world to know it happened to me. But God has been teaching me this year about being real and vulnerable, and this situation should be no exception.  There's also a part of me that feels our story needs to be told; that believes that somehow, in sharing this, I'll do my part in breaking the awkward, painful silence that surrounds the subject of miscarriage in our culture.


I knew I was pregnant within a few days after it happened. We weren't trying to get pregnant, but we hadn't been very diligent in preventing it that month, either. Obviously, there were no definitive physical signs yet, but I just had that intuitive feeling. Before it was possible to know...I knew.

For a week and a half, I meticulously recorded all my little symptoms and counted the days until I could take a home pregnancy test. Sometime during those 12 days, a friend came out to visit for an afternoon with her 6-week-old son. I cuddled baby Elias, mesmerized by his tiny handsome features, and was in awe of the two babies I held at that moment. It was like a sweet secret between God, baby Elias, my baby, and me. No one else knew yet.

Finally, the day came, and there were two pink lines on the test -- positive! My heart pounded with adrenaline, excitement, and joy as I tiptoed back into the bedroom, woke my husband, and told him the news. We laughed, cried, hugged, prayed, and laughed some more. What a surprise blessing from God! For the next few days, we tried to let this big life change sink in and become real to us. One of my favorite memories from that week is lying on our bed one afternoon during our off time, talking about what we would name our baby. That weekend, we called our parents and siblings to share the news with them, and the following week, we announced our pregnancy at the weekly camp staff meeting.

The announcement photo we made to tell my family about our baby.
On Friday, June 26th, we went for my first prenatal appointment. I was six weeks pregnant, so it was too early for an ultrasound, but the midwife talked to me about how I was feeling, gave me advice about my diet, and took blood for the standard prenatal blood testing. We were given a due date of February 18th. We scheduled a physical and another meeting with the midwife, and planned for the first ultrasound in mid-July.

And then Saturday came. I was bleeding when I got up that morning, and the cramps began soon after. Realizing what was happening, I stood over the bathroom sink, forehead against the mirror, and sobbed. I told Brett, and he prayed with me. I called the midwife. By 1:00 that afternoon, all the horror was over. My baby was gone, and I was left physically and emotionally empty.

In the days since then, I have experienced a full range of emotions, from overwhelming sadness to anger to hopelessness, including at times feeling completely void of emotion. Tears come at random, unexpected moments. I feel like I don't know who I am anymore.

Because as any mother can tell you, from the moment you know you're pregnant, you are a mom. And it changes you. It changes your heart, your thinking, your priorities, your identity.

I became a mom at the end of May. And at the end of June, I became a mom whose baby died. That one month has changed my life.

Brett made this little memory box, where I can keep our announcement
photo, our baby names list, etc. It's a good tangible piece of closure for me. 
Yet God is carrying me through. In the midst of all the grief, there is hope because of Jesus. Scripture has been comforting, especially the Psalms, and so have certain songs. Our first dance song from our wedding was "You Are Mine" by Enter the Worship Circle, and the words of that chorus have been echoing in my mind the last couple of days. I think of it as our for better or for worse song -- no matter what happens, we're together and God's got us. My husband has truly been Jesus to me during this time, and it's amazing to see how God is growing both of us and our faith through this trial.

And although suffering a miscarriage can be a very lonely and isolating experience -- many people are uncomfortable and don't know what to say, so they simply avoid or ignore the situation -- still, God provided a handful of people who have been a great help, a comfort, and sometimes simply a breath of fresh air to my hurting heart. I am thankful for those people who aren't scared away by the pain but are there to embrace me in the midst of it.

I rest assured that -- as one sweet friend reminded me -- death isn't God's plan. We're not meant to understand or accept death, she told me, because it was never how God wanted the world to be. Death and heartache happen because the enemy is in the world, and someday Jesus will redeem it and wipe all of our tears away. In the meantime, I can continue to trust that He is good...and trust that He will use this story and our baby's short life for His glory.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm still alive, and here are some photos to prove it.

Okay, y'all, so I'm literally sitting down and forcing myself to write something on this blog today. It's been about 3 weeks since I've posted anything, and if I want to stick with my goal of "blogging regularly" (that's obviously loosely interpreted), I need to post something today while I have the time.

The only problem is, I don't really have anything brilliant to say today. So instead, I'm going to give you a few pictures of life lately. Here we go.

This is what a bunch of baby campers in the rain looks like. Aren't they adorable, in their colorful little rain jackets?!?! I just love them.

 This is a panorama I took at the Mendenhall Glacier. You can see Mendenhall Lake, a glimpse of the glacier in the right corner, and Nugget Falls to the right. Sorry, I can't remember the name of that mountain. 








And this is just a cute picture of me and my sweet hubby. Love that guy.


This is what a 4am airport run in Alaska in the summer looks like. Yes, sunrise was about 3:45 that day. We took a group of people to the airport, came back to the dorm, closed our thick curtains, and went back to bed.

This is me eating a halibut burger. DE-LI-CIOUS.

And that's my photographic summary of life lately! :-)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Things I Learned in May

Things I Learned in May

I'm joining Emily at Chatting at the Sky today for her "What I Learned in May" link-up.  Check out Emily's post and the other ladies' links, too!
Here are a few things, in no particular order, that I've learned in these past 31 days...


  • Weed-eating isn't as fun as I used to think it was. 
I used to love running a weedeater back when I worked at Camp Ba Yo Ca, so the other day I enthusiastically volunteered to help my husband out by doing so. Turns out it's not so enjoyable -- getting pelted in the face and arms with flying pebbles and grass? No thanks.


  • After a month of sun, I'm ready for rain.

Let's be honest, us Alaskans don't know what to do with this much sunshine. It's fantastic, don't get me wrong! I love the sunshine more than the rain, for sure. But a whole month with only 2 days of rain? Seriously, are we even in Southeast Alaska? The dust and the flies are getting ridiculous. Never thought I'd say this, but... time for a few rainy days.

  • Condensing your life story into 5 minutes is hard.
During Summer Staff Orientation here at camp, we each shared our testimonies and were limited to about five minutes each, since there were so many of us. Yeah. That's challenging. I feel like I left out lots and lots of important stuff.

  • When you live at work, time off isn't really a real thing.
Even when we're "off," we're thinking about work, talking about work, and often, actually working instead of being off. It's a tricky boundary. 

  • Hubby and I can eat a whole bag of these in one sitting.
                                      
Seriously, if anyone wanted to send us a bunch of these in the mail, we wouldn't be very mad ;-) 

  • Marriage really is challenging.
People always told me the first two years of marriage are the hardest, and I never believed them. I always thought, "Nah, the first years would be the best, right? Honeymoon phase!" But you know, there's a lot of adjustment, learning, growing, compromising, and stretching involved in these first months. All of that is amplified when you live in a Christian community bubble and work in full-time ministry. It's all good, it truly is! Definitely not easy. But good. 

  • The valley is still my favorite place at camp. 
                                  

What have you learned this past month? 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Glorify HIM, not me!

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 5:16, my emphasis)

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."  (Matthew 6:1) 

This is a good reminder for me. Really, this is something I need to be slapped in the face with, just about every day. Especially here at camp. Why is it so easy to get into a mindset of performance? To think that I deserve recognition or thanks for anything I do?

The good works that my Father has given me to do (Ephesians 2:10) are meant to point people to Him and give glory to Him...not myself. Never myself! If I never get recognized for my service, it's okay. As long as my heart is pleasing to the Lord and people can see Him reflected in my good works, I must be satisfied and joyful in that.

Father, remind me daily that I deserve nothing. I am not my own, but You have bought me with the price of Your blood; therefore my life's purpose is to bring You glory! May my heart be joyful, willing, and humble as I serve, and may people around me see Your light reflecting in me-- for YOUR glory, not mine. Amen. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Good Weather, Healthy Choices, and Such

Y'all, it's been so warm and beautiful here in Southeast Alaska lately!  We had a week of sunshine, followed by one or two days of rain and clouds -- which is the norm for this area! -- and then right back to sunshine again!  This is such an unusual blessing for us.  This afternoon, we've moved the camp office outdoors -- two of the other staff girls and I are sitting on blankets in front of the office, getting a bit of work done but mostly soaking up the sunshine!  Living in a rainforest like we do, you never know when it's going to start pouring again for a week straight.

I started making green smoothies this week.  We were able to go into town to the grocery store a few days ago, and I bought some spinach and a bunch of fruit to make smoothies (I have a cool single serve blender). I just drank my second one, while sitting out here in the sunshine today, and I'll just say today's tasted better than yesterday's!  If any of you have any delicious smoothie suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

I guess I'm on a bit of a "health kick" lately -- smoothies and other healthier food choices, natural homemade detergents and such.  Really, it's a combination of wanting to be healthy, save money, and live simply.  I've always been aware of those things, but I think being married puts it all in a new light.  I'm not just taking care of myself anymore.  There's a husband and, someday, children to think about (don't worry, that's not happening anytime soon!).  That's giving me a new perspective of the lifestyle I want for myself and my family -- and the best time to start is now, right?!

The other news around here is that camp is in full swing!  Today our 4th retreat group of the spring season is here.  We have a couple more retreats before Counselor Orientation begins, and then it's full speed ahead into summer camp season!  Soon our summer staff (counselors, wranglers, maintenance help, etc) will be arriving from all over the United States.  I'm excited to meet everyone!

And on the topic of summer staff.... we're still in need of a nurse for the month of June, a couple of girl counselors, a videographer, and a girl wilderness camp counselor.  Please contact me ASAP if you know anyone interested in serving in one of these roles at a Christian summer camp in Alaska!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

DIY Laundry!

Okay, y'all, I think I'm getting addicted to the DIY Natural Homemade Things.  One day a while back, in the midst of perusing Pinterest boards, I found a recipe for homemade laundry detergent, and it didn't sound too terribly difficult.  I decided to give it a shot, and before I knew it, I was sitting on my living room floor making homemade dryer sheets, too!  Just the other day I bought supplies for reusable makeup remover wipes, and I think DIY liquid hand soap may be in my near future.

I'm telling you guys, this stuff is addicting!  It's exciting to make something myself, with simple, natural ingredients, so that I'M in control of what I'm putting on my (and my dear husband's) skin, and actually SAVE MONEY in the process.  And it's not hard!  I'm so stoked about this.  Can you tell?  ;-)

Alright, so on to the recipes.  Since the laundry detergent and dryer sheets are the ones I've actually made so far, those are the ones I'll share this time around.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
from diynatural.com

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda
1 bar of soap, grated*

Grate your soap into a bowl and mix with the other two ingredients. Store in an airtight container and use 2-3 tablespoons for a large load of laundry.  That's it! 

*The soap you use is totally up to you -- go super organic and natural, or go scented and colorful.  It all depends on what you want to put on your skin.  I used a bar of Dove Unscented, because my husband has very sensitive skin and this is the kind of soap he uses daily, so I knew it wouldn't cause him any trouble.  

Homemade Reusable Dryer Sheets
from ViewFromtheFridge.com

Several squares of fabric (I cut mine about 6"x6" from an old t-shirt, but you can use any fabric scrap)
1/2 cup vinegar
8-10 drops essential oil*

Mix vinegar and essential oil in an airtight container.  Fold up your fabric squares, place in the vinegar mixture, and replace the lid, letting them soak.  When you are ready to dry a load of clothes, take out a few of your dryer sheets (I use about 3-4 per load), squeeze out the extra liquid, and toss them in the dryer.  When it's done, just fold your little squares back up and put them right back into the vinegar mixture.  So easy!  My clothes were soft and static-free - and no, they don't smell like vinegar!

*Your choice of scent. I used lavender and tea tree, because that's what I had on hand!  You don't need the expensive essential oils for this project; something cheap will suffice because it's only for scent. 




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Becoming God's plan for me.


A few nights ago, I stood on the front beach at camp with my husband, my XtraTuf boots in the edge of the lapping water, watching the sun set over the Chilkat mountain range, casting a fishing line out into the bay in hopes of catching our dinner. 

And in that peaceful moment, I realized something about where life has taken me:

This is unfamiliar, but familiar.
It's not the home I've known, but it's home.
This is not who I've been, but this is who I'm becoming.  
I never imagined this life...but I can't imagine life any other way. 

How amusing it is -- that God saw me as that shy little ballerina girl who hated getting dirty, was scared of the dark, and would much prefer to stay inside reading and playing dolls, and He planned to someday capture that girl's heart with camping ministry, marry her off to an outdoorsman, and set her in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.  He saw and He knew and He planned.  He loved me as I was, but had better things in mind.  

So now here I am, becoming an Alaskan, becoming a wife, becoming what I hope is a better and stronger person.  Still growing, still overcoming fear.  And thankful every day for this life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blog Lovin!

Hey friends!  I just joined Bloglovin to find more blog friends to follow!  You can follow my blog through them and get updated when I post something new...and find more great blogs to follow, as well.  Here's the link:  Follow my blog with Bloglovin
 

Monday, March 9, 2015

our friend the hitchhiker.

My friend Courtney and I were driving around town the other day in a minivan plastered with Echo Ranch Bible Camp decals, visiting local churches and schools to hang up posters for summer camp.  As we drove through one particular neighborhood, we came up on a lady walking, who desperately waved at us to stop.  We were a little apprehensive, but Courtney pulled the van to a stop and rolled down her window.  The woman was dressed in baggy clothes and looked like a wreck.  Her face was blotchy and tears were streaming down her cheeks.  Her demeanor said she was probably on drugs.  In a raspy voice, she pleaded, "I'm really sick and I can't walk far. Can I use your phone?"

Courtney dialed in the number for her and handed over her iPhone. After a brief conversation, the lady returned the phone and, still crying, asked if we could give her a ride.

And there's where faith becomes real, y'all.  There's where the love of Jesus means something... something besides crosses and Sunday school and Bible verses and camp posters.

So we let this hurting stranger climb into the back seat of our minivan, with her sniffling and coughing, her tears, and her cigarette smell.  She told us where she needed to go, which turned out to be just on the other side of the highway.  The short ride there was silent, other than quiet introductions.  We asked her name and told her ours.  Then we were there, in a dump of a trailer park that reminded me more of a third-world country than rich America.  I jumped out of the passenger seat to open the sliding van door for her from the outside.  As she got out, mumbling a thank you, I blurted, "Can I give you a hug?"

Probably not the wisest choice.  She was dirty, she was sick, and she smelled bad.  Who knows where she'd been?  But I felt like I had to do something, say something, before she disappeared.  Somehow I wanted to infuse life and love and Jesus into her life.  So I opened my arms and asked to give her a hug.

She gave me a self-conscious half smile, then said, "I don't want to get you sick" and walked away.  And that was it.

I hope and pray that somehow she saw Jesus, that in some way she felt loved, and that one day she might look  back and see, not two women picking up a hitchhiker, but Jesus meeting her needs through those two uncertain girls in a minivan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sunshine at the Right Time

I live in Juneau, Alaska, where the average annual rainfall is 62 inches (but can be up to 92), and it rains, on average, 230 days of the year.  This is pretty common:


Well, I'm here to tell you that out of the 135 days of sunshine we can expect here this year, we've seen 5 or 6 of them, consecutively, in the past week!  And oh, has it been glorious.  Here's a panorama I took from our front porch the other day:


Sunshine and blue skies 5 days in a row, stars out every night, and even a beautiful display of the Northern Lights on Sunday night.... you don't take this kind of stuff for granted when you live in Southeast Alaska.  Rain and clouds are the norm; sun and stars are exceptional blessings.  

And my Heavenly Father knew exactly the right time to give me a week of beautiful weather.  Because, I'll admit, this past week didn't find me in the greatest place emotionally.  A few days ago, if I'd sat here in my living room, looking out the window at gray skies and dreary rain falling, it would have matched my mood and dragged me down further.  My Abba knew the sunshine would help lift my spirits during those days, and it did.  He is SO very gracious!  

So today, I'm sitting here in my living room, looking at gray skies and dreary rain falling.  Juneau is back to its more normal look.  Today, my heart is at peace, and while sunshine is still my favorite, today I find the rain familiar and cozy.  And I'm thankful.  

   
(PS: For ladies...you know about those days of emotional fragility.  This is something I've been learning about recently -- how our femininity affects our emotional patterns all month long, not just that one week :-)  It's really eye-opening, and I think I'm finding it to be true.  Maybe we aren't as crazy as we sometimes feel!  Check out this web page for more info.)
  
  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Little Girl Baby Shower

Pink and purple. 
Ballerinas.
Teacups. 

What do these things have in common?  A very girly shower for a sweet mommy and baby girl!

Last spring, I gave a shower for my sister when she was expecting her first child and my first niece.  After many hours perusing Pinterest boards, I compiled many lovely ideas into one little party.  Here are a few photos:

The buffet table with a lace tablecloth.
The Menu:
Bite-size tortilla chips and homemade cheese dip
Pink wafer cookies
Cinnamon-sugar chips
Crackers and cheese
Bakery cake from local grocery store  

We found these paper lanterns and fluffies at Party City and hung them from the chandelier above the buffet table. 


This was a free printable I found online.  It says "She leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes."  I placed it in a white frame from Walmart, and gave it to my sister to use in the nursery after the shower.  We paired this with a vase of pink roses for the table centerpiece.


We made this banner to hang in the living room where everyone sat and my sister opened her gifts.

To make the banner:
1) Decide how big you want your letters to be.
2) Create a new document in Microsoft Word, click the Insert tab, and insert Word Art.
3) Type the words you want to use, separating each letter with a space or two.
4) When you've got your words typed, right-click on the Word Art box and select Format Shape.
5) Select 3-D Rotation, and put 180 in the box labeled X.  This should flip your words around so they are mirror-image.
5) Change the font color to a light gray.
6) Print your letters, then use scissors to cut out each one. 
7) Cut circles out of sheets of various colored or patterned scrapbook paper.
8) Use a hole-punch to make a hole at "10 and 2" on each circle for threading your ribbon.
9) Flip your letters over so they are white and facing the correct direction, and attach them to the circles using glue or scrapbooking stickers (warning - glue tends to wrinkle up your paper).
10) Measure how much ribbon you need to thread through the banner and hang.
11) Cut ribbon and thread your banner pieces on.


We also made little paper ballerinas, using paper snowflake patterns and a ballerina template we found online.


My sister and her husband had not yet decided on a name for their daughter, so I decided to include a name suggestion jar.  I cut 4" squares of pink and purple paper and hole-punched them with a flower-shaped punch that I already had.  This was an activity everyone enjoyed, and my sister got a good laugh from some of the suggestions afterward!


This was another free printable I found online, and we used it for a shower game.


For the punch table, I collected a bunch of pretty teacups.  Some of these were contributed by our moms and grandmas, and I bought several others fairly cheaply from thrift stores around town.  It was a very unique and pretty way to serve punch.


The other activity we offered at the shower was "Wishes for Baby."  I created a Word document with a pretty pink border and title, then added a list something like this:
I hope you learn ___________
I hope you love ____________
I hope you become _________
I hope you never forget ______
I hope you grow ____________
I hope you aren’t afraid ______
I hope you receive __________
I hope you know ___________
I hope you laugh ___________
I hope you always __________
Each guest filled out one of these sheets for the new baby and signed her name at the bottom, and mommy took them home as a keepsake.  Then when Baby Girl is older, she can read all the loving wishes that were written for her.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hospitality and Guest Rooms

On our recent road-trip across the U.S., we stayed almost every night with people in their homes.  Out of three week on the road, I think we were only in a hotel 5 times.  The hosts we stayed with were a mix of people -- relatives, old college friends, people who have come to Echo Ranch on mission trips, etc.  Some of these people we knew well, others we barely knew at all, but each of them were welcoming and hospitable, inviting us to make ourselves at home in their home.  

One of the things that struck me as we sojourned with each of these people was how they willingly and generously offered to us whatever they had to give.  I wanted to share these photos below with you because I want to encourage you -- no matter what kind of housing or amenities you have, YOU CAN offer rest and shelter to someone who needs it.  From the perspective of newlywed traveling missionaries, Brett and I can tell you that we are incredibly grateful to each of our hosts, for each bed we slept in on this journey.  

We slept in really nice guest rooms.  We slept on an air mattress on the floor.  We slept in an 8-year-old boy's tractor-themed bedroom.  We slept on futons.  We were "the least of these," a way for people to love on Jesus by loving on us and giving us a place to stay for a night or two, whatever they had to offer.  We were blessed.


 
 













So I challenge you to consider -- whether you have a big house or a nice guest room or not -- how can you offer love and hospitality to someone in need or transition?  Something to think about!

Friday, January 30, 2015

almost home!

"You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways. 

You have encircled me;
You have placed Your hand on me.

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?

If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
even there Your hand will lead me;
Your right hand will hold onto me."

Psalm 139, excerpts - Holman Christian Standard Bible

It's hard to believe this journey is almost over -- the 3-week road trip across the country.  It's been a long month, but at the same time it seems to have flown by! Every day new places to see and new people to meet, and almost every night a new bed to sleep in.  So, 24 days, 15 states, and more than 4,000 miles later, here we are in Bellingham, Washington.  We and our packed little Honda have made it all the way to the west coast, and in a few minutes we will board a ferry for the last leg of the trip to Alaska.

Coast to coast in our first two months of marriage!
Top: South Carolina, November 2014. Bottom: Oregon, January 2015.

Moments from the trip....

Something that was hard: Extraordinary amounts of socializing, and very little alone time for us as newlyweds, still figuring out marriage while living on the road.

Something that was funny: The Indian hotel owner who started out trying to rip us off, but ended up giving us a discount rate on a suite with a Jacuzzi.

Something that was cool: Seeing parts of our country that I've never seen before, including 6 new states.

Something that was a blessing: Hanging out with several young married couples, which was a fairly new thing for us as a couple. Makes us look forward to doing that more in Juneau. 

Thank you all for following our crazy journey and liking all our pictures on Facebook :-) Please keep us in your prayers on this final leg of the trip, through the waterways of southeast Alaska. I'll try to keep sharing photos! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Road Trip Update #2

Road Trip Update #2! 

So far we've driven from Tennessee through Virginia, West Virginia, and a corner of Maryland to Pennsylvania, and stayed in Pennsylvania for 6 nights at 3 different houses.  We then drove across Ohio, stopped for lunch with a camp friend there, then continued on to Indiana, where we stayed for 2 nights in 2 different houses.  Leaving Indiana, we drove up to Michigan, and -- thankfully! -- we will be here, in the same house, for 4 nights.  

We have been in a lot of places and talked with a lot of people in the past week and a half.  I'll admit, some days it's totally exhausting.  Being the introverts that Brett and I both are, some days we just want to hide and not socialize with anyone!  But at the same time, it has been really good and interesting to see different places and connect with so many people.  I've been blessed by how gracious and giving all of our hosts have been.  People we know well, and people we hardly know, have opened up their homes to us, cooked us food, let us do our laundry, sat up late talking with us, and prayed for us. God is so good to provide everything we need on this journey, including time outside of our comfort zones :-) 

One of the nights we spent in Pennsylvania was with some friends of ours who were counselors at Echo Ranch my first summer there.  They just got married this past spring and are settled in their adorable little first house.  It was so fun to reconnect with them -- us girls chatting about newlywed life and homemaking, while the guys exchanged hunting stories.  

Another really enjoyable evening was our second night in Indiana, when we had dinner with several of Brett's great-uncles and great-aunts.  What a fun group of people, with so many outrageous and hilarious stories!  We spent a lot of time laughing that night! 

A quick update on our support-raising -- we're currently at 22% of the monthly amount we need to raise.  We spoke at a church in Pennsylvania last Sunday, who took up a wonderful offering for us, and we will be speaking here at a church in Michigan this coming Sunday.  Most of the support, though, has come from individuals who love us and believe in the ministry -- what a huge blessing!!  

I just gave our support-raising website a makeover today, so check it out! www.kilmersinak.weebly.com

Enjoy the day, wherever you are, and stay warm! :-)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Day One.

The northward journey has begun.

I’ll be honest – the past 7 ½ weeks since we got married have been a total whirlwind!  We honeymooned, we attended camp staff conferences, and between those two things, we were on the road for a month.  We returned to Tennessee and settled into our first home, which we stayed in together for a total of about three weeks.  We began the process of learning how to live together as husband and wife.  We spent Christmas and New Year with my family.  I spent a couple of weeks sorting, prioritizing, and purging all of my worldly belongings, and yesterday we packed – or more like crammed – all of our things into our little Honda for the move across the country.  We officially moved out of our apartment last night, and this morning we hit the road. 

Tonight we’re at our first stop of many along the journey to Alaska – a relative’s home in Pennsylvania.  We’re taking nearly a month to get back to Juneau, visiting lots of people along the way.  It’s the journey that counts, right?

Yes, it’s been a whirlwind, and it will continue to be for the next few weeks…months…maybe years!  But the whirlwind is full of blessings and good times, too, as well as craziness and exhaustion.  It’s all good. 

Please be praying for us as we travel, and stay tuned here for road trip stories!