Monday, September 24, 2012

Boundary Waters

The following was a paper I wrote for class on my Boundary Waters expedition two years ago...

I stood on the threshold of two worlds.  The flickering glow of the campfire competed with the unfolding blanket of the night sky while its smoke hung in banks and wisped over the water.  The moon appeared with an orange glow as it rose. Speckles of stars seemed almost within reach, when to my dismay I found what I was longing to escape from—civilization. Two blinking satellites disrupted the heavenly mood I had come to find. In today’s postmodern society some find solace in the technological advances of the newest video game, finest cell phone or top edition of the I-pod. Indeed the world is fast advancing and we are mere disciples who forget that the best things in life are those unseen or unheard. My story is that of the latter.  In a place with busy lives, the Boundary Waters is the place to find peace and quiet in a world so disrupted.
I paddle for an hour twisting through a lush swale of wetland spotting ducks, loons, a couple of beaver lodges, and even a bald eagle. The russet of the whispering sedge takes on a metallic sheen andwhite lilies on green pads dot the waterway. The riverbed troll hair is thick, and the current pulls it downstream.  My shoulders are tight and there is a burn in my neck, but this stretch of water refreshes my body and spirit. I leave the past in swirls of blue and gain memories of a world unfamiliar with time.  
We arrive at camp and build a fire.  As the group reminisces about the day I stare into the flames thinking of nothing and everything. 

“Kristi?” my friend Bridget yells, “Would you like some Gorp?” 
“No thanks I’m good.”
“Do you want to go explore and find the ladies room?”

Walking beyond the edge of our campsite, we search for the perfect rock to claim as the ladies room. Distant voices drift from the campsite but we hike away from them and pursue a low rumble. A few hundred yards later a waterfall is revealed. Bridget and I stand facing the glimmering yellow cast of the setting sun and watch until the last vestige of the glowing beam, disappears from the surface of the water. A bald eagle crosses above. So frequently spotted here they border on common, but to me the eagle's simple beauty elicits silent awe. I want to capture the moment and never leave but the return to camp is necessary.
Back at camp and the boys are found with no measureable catch, so we subsist on granola bars and Gorp. A partial moon appears above, casting a long v-shaped shadow on the lake’s surface. One by one the group leaves the fire and retreats to the comfort of a sleeping bag. I decide to stay up, on a rock by the water, listening to the waves lapping upon the shoreline. Looking, listing, waiting; unworldly voices whisper in the mist speaking of those who had passed this way before and those who may come later. I say a prayer “May the good company of my friends always last and may we always remember one other when we end up worlds apart”. The solitude of the moment rejuvenates my spirit. I am alone but not lonely. Is there something wrong with me that I don't technology? I gaze to the stars considering this and other questions, residing on the fact that I am seeing, experiencing, and feeling the world with fresh humility and honesty. I am immersed in the present, which requires my full attention. After a long silence I decide to retreat to the solitude of my tent, coil into my sleeping bag and drift to sleep to the song of frog and Loon.
I open my eyes in the morning, but remain motionless, taking in the smells and sounds of the wilderness. The frequent splash of fish jumping near the shore, the echo of Loons, and the distant purr of water cascading from the waterfall leaves me in astonishment. It’s surprising how one can go from dense population to deep wilderness in just a few hours. Departing from my tent, a show of pink and purple hues welcomes me to a new day. Today will be another great day to return to silent paddling in the unspoiled landscape of the Boundary Waters.

So much I now understand after seeing the best of both worlds. The escape from civilization proved that while being lulled to sleep by one’s I-pod melody is good, silence in an unhurried atmosphere is better.  We have lost so much by becoming accustomed to wireless connections, instant meals and fast paced transportation. If the world could learn to sit back and watch life from the unhurried pace of a canoe, perhaps we could realize all we have been missing for so long…the unseen beauty that comes without the need of flashy lights or bold sound, the beauty that God placed here naturally for all to enjoy, the beauty of silence.

Monday, July 2, 2012


Life is full of transitions. Transitions come in all shapes and sizes. But they all require us to change. move from one place to another. Or from one job to another. Or even from one relationship to another. Sometimes we think that staying in one place will give us the stability we crave. And sometimes it does. But only for a while. Because that's the way life is. Time moves on. And even if our geography stays the same, each of us will still face life's inevitable "passages." From one age to another. From one responsibility to another. From one stage of life to another. Each requiring a new way of relating, a new set of skills, and a new perspective.

The life of Jesus was clearly marked by moments in time which transitioned Him from one season to another.  These moments allowed Him to assess and close the previous season which, in turn, opened the door to the new season which lay ahead. His dialogue with the religious leaders at age twelve, His baptism and His Father’s confirmation at the Jordan, the Mount of Transfiguration experience, His personal crucible in the Garden of Gethsemane… these were all significant moments that concluded a past season and opened a new season. At each moment we find Christ making a fresh consecration to the Father’s will and thus journeying victorious into and through the next season.

One of the most difficult things is life to do is to say goodbye. I’ve given my saga many times on how I don’t believe in goodbyes. I like to call them “see you latters” instead. One can take comfort in knowing that in our baptism and faith in Christ that if we do not meet this side of heaven there is the joyous reunion upon eternal life with Christ.

With that said, saying “see you later” is never easy. I think of all the military families in the congregation of Our Redeemer and how many of them makes moves ever 3-4 years some more often than that. It’s difficult but it’s also reality. I may not be military for the US government but I am a part of the Lord’s Army.

As one seeking full time church work there will be many more “hellos” followed with “see you latters”. It happens with each move, with each call with each place God sends Adam and I. It’s apart of this whole thing to bloom where we are planted.

No matter where life takes you, you have a choice. A choice to be sad, lonely, upset for not being quite where one desires. But you have a choice. When I was given the choice I jumped in and fell in love with dozens of people and a land that now holds a special place in my hear.

Leaving Alaska is difficult but I also know that I fulfilled the work that God placed for this year of internship. There are of course still tears shed. I was told by a wise man with several decades of ministry under his belt that tears are good “tears means you were invested” he told me. Invested! That is certainly true. Leaving Our Redeemer behind I know that ministry will continue. Lives will be lived. Hope and happiness and joy will be renewed. Ecclesiasts 3 tells us “…that for everything there is a season”. The word "season" by it's very nature indicates that it will only last for a time. For each of us, this season will be different. Some seasons may last longer than others. But somehow we become okay with the thought of a season coming to an end. 

Sometimes what we're not okay with is the "transition" part. Very often we dig in our heels and resist change with all our might. The transition to the scorching heat wave back home I am not looking forward to, especially since I have not experienced temperatures above 75*F in over a year. Nonetheless, we look forward with hope to what God has for us in the future.

For me the next year of my life is a crossroads. Finishing college, getting married, our first apartment seeking my first call in full time DCE ministry, and moving and transitioning once again to where God would lead. It’s exciting, it’s terrifying, and it is transitioning. As I write I’m cruising around 30,000ft I do not know exactly when I will return to Alaska or when I will see my family but I know that right now, at this 30,000ft moment I am right where I need to be in this transition.

 **I plan to add more photos but this in-flight internet is super slow

VBS 2012

What a week it has been. This past week was VBS here at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. The theme this year was Amazing Wonders Aviation based on Psalm 147:5 which says “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”

The whole point of this years VBS was for kids to recoginize God’s power over all things, trust that God is always in control and teach them how to rely on God’s power. The setting/theme for VBS was all against the backdrop of some of the world's most marvelous natural wonders.

Each day the kids would “fly” to Registration under the Northern Lights, Music at Matterhorn Mountain, Bible Study at Victoria Falls, Games in the Grand Canyon, Snack at Paricutin Volcano and crafts at the Great Barrier Reef.

Like last year, we were able to have our fantastic decoration coordinator Sami. She seriously is so creative and if you ever need VBS ideas you should really contact her. Some of the ideas included wrapping rope lights in green and yellow crape paper to create the Northern Lights. She also turned a piano into a volcano with burlap sacks and red streamers. She constructed the Great Barrier reef out of table clothes and cardboard and made a life like Victoria Falls with cardboard, paper and a fog machine for added effect.
Wrapping rope lights in crepe paper to create the northern lights
Black lights, stars, rope lights-it's awesome!
There's a piano under there. Burlap sacks and streamers work wonders!

Under the sea! Sami painted that by hand!
I should also mention the yummy and creative snacks; Some of the highlights included Paricutin Volcano pancakes, airplane cookies, Grand Canyon layered parfait, and Great Barrier Reef muffins.
Paricutin Volcano pancakes

Our snack crew!
Of course I cannot leave out the fantastic music leaders who were bold enough to allow the kids to play bells, and the craft leaders who busted out paper Mache and game front-runners who did shoe box skiing, parachute explosions and a flight school obstacle course. Needless to say our volunteers are fantastic!

Paper Mache
Northern lights sun catcher made from squares of tissue paper.
We were blessed to have an AMC crew from Peoria Illinois help lead VBS as we do not have the man power to do it ourselves. Coordinating long distance was an adding challenge for me in the planning and preparation but they were wonderful!

I, personally, was in the Bible Lesson session teaching the kids the Bible stories. I sometimes underestimate the intelligence of pre-schoolers. I was teaching the story of the Good Samaritan as I explained how the Priest passed around the hurt man, and then the Levite to which I asked “How many have passed can we count?” To which on 4 year old girl blurted “two! But don’t worry the third man will stop and save him”…she’s absolutely right, but how about we learn it all together.

One of my favorite moments was when I was talking about being afraid. I asked the group if they ever were afraid to which a little boy (Who I know very well and who’s dad is avid hunter/fisher/all around Alaskan) said “No, I don’t get scared but one time dad got out his shotgun and shot 6 magpies out front and they were afraid, so afraid they were scared dead!” Knowing his dad that probably happened but I just laughed. I love the honesty of children.

We had a record breaking number of kids this year as we surpassed the 50 from last year and reached 57! VBS was a great climax to internship and sadly the last task for me here in Alaska. It went so smoothly thanks to our wonderful bunch of helpers and leaders and I will always remember this VBS since it is my first of what will be many in future years to come.

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Many Lutheran's Does it Take to Fix a Mower?

The new DCE intern, Ryan has taken no time at all to jump in with both feet and dig in to all that Our Redeemer Lutheran Church can throw at him. Today Ryan helped out as we sorted out all the necessary supplies for each day of VBS.

We made piles labeled "Day 1", "Day 2" etc. and placed all the items in their corresponding places. Dice, rubber bands, buckets, and crayons all the necessities to preach, teach, and connect the kids who will walk through the doors to Jesus.

Each year a group from the Alaska Mission For Christ (AMC) comes to help lead our VBS. This year we have a crew coming up from Peoria Illinois. With VBS starting on Monday the first of the group arrived today. I received a phone call from Dave that he was hanging out at the hotel in Eagle River and asked if he could help with any VBS prep. Of course, I would not turn down the offer. He told me that he did not have a car and would need a ride. I told him that I would send Ryan.

I hung up the phone and Ryan asked "So who am I picking up and where am I going?" What a trooper! Ryan picked up Dave. Once back at church we all got to work. Dave painted our newly built puppet stage, and Ryan and I continued sorting the supplies.

Lunch time rolled around and Dave needed a ride to the Anchorage airport to meet another one of the Illinois group. Ryan willingly offered.

I stayed back at church, printing and editing the final VBS lesson plans. As things came up that were needed I texted Ryan "We need eyedroppers", " "Don't forget the curtain rod", "never mind I found eyedroppers you don't need to get them", "have you left the store? If not pick-up a poster board".

Meanwhile back at church Dave arrived back from the airport with reinforcements a guy named Del. With VBS prep done for the day and they willing to work I sent them out to mow.

We only had one riding lawn mower, and one working push mower. With the rocky, and steep terrain around the church I knew a weed whacker would be needed. I called Gaye, and she offered to borrow her electric and gas whacker.

My little car could not carry them so I called Ryan. He was on his way back from Anchorage and I asked him, yet again, to run another errand--get the weed whackers. I felt bad but he was open to getting them.
Meanwhile back at church, Dave fired up the mower only to find it was out of gas. We emptied the remaining drops of gas from the gas can into the mower. I grabbed the empty cans and piled in the car to fill them up. As I was leaving Dave took off on the mower only to be covered in clouds of black smoke and stench of burning rubber. The belt broke on the rider mower.

At this point Ryan arrived with the two weed whackers. I took the broken belt to run into town for a new one. I went to SBS, AiH, and Napa with no luck for a belt. Finally I found one at O'reilly's. Just then I recieved a text from Ryan that we needed 2 stroke mix for the weed whacker.

I arrived back at church and Dave attempted to put the belt on the mower but we needed tools. Ryan and I gathered what limited tools the church possessed (4 wrenches, a crescent wrench, and pliers). Unfortunately we needed some more extensive tools specifically a Torx (star) Screwdriver, in or der to remove the safety flap to get the belt on.

I called Terri and she passed the message to Chuck. Chuck has a few sizes of Torx and within a few minutes Terri and Chuck personally delivered them. With the belt successively on Dave and Ryan worked to get the hairpins back on and mower deck in place.
Yay Dave! What a blessing all the way from Illinois
With the mower back in one piece Dave fired up the mower again this time to find that rocks were being viciously thrown from under the deck. Upon further investigation Dave learned that the adjustable shoulder bolt needed, well, adjusting. Dave tried, Ryan tried, the WD-40 tried, but the nut on the shoulder bolt would not budge. Dave speculated that it had NEVER been adjusted since it was manufactured.

He's not been here a week and Ryan is fixin' the mower like a boss!
Dave removed the whole shoulder bolt but could not move the nut. So I called Len knowing that he would have a vice that would allow for more tork. I brought the whole piece to Len and after three attempts got the nut to move.
Len can do anything!
I returned to church with the shoulder bolt and it was adjusted to new length and put back on. Dave tried again but this time the mower was cutting EXTREMELY short on one side but normal on the other. Upon investigation Dave found the left mulching blade was badly bent probably due to one of the many rocks around church.
Here is a mowed strip. The left side blade is fine but the right side is...short!

With evening closing in (although daylight still in great supply) Ryan offered to take the old blades and run into town the next day. So the riding lawn mower is still not up and running, BUT the majority of the steep and rocky terrain has been weed whacked and mowed with the one working push mower. Pick your battles. Tomorrow is a new day.
Much improved. The VBS kids will certainly appreciate grass shorter than them
Cudos to Ryan for being an awesome new intern and taking everything in stride. Cudos to Dave and Del for weed whacking, and push mowing all the tough spots around church, and cudos to the Semmler's, Len, and Gaye for making the advances in ministry possible. Yes, I say ministry even if in this case it looks like mechanics, tools, weed whackers, and sweat. It's all for the greater good of the cause and you are all much appreciated and I cannot say thank you enough.

 You know what they say..."It takes a village to fix a law mower"...or something like that haha 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hiking Matanuska Glacier

When I arrived in Alaska a little over a year ago I jumped right into my role as an intern. With VBS just a week after I arrived I was quickly introduced to the people of the congregation and region of Chugiak, Alaska.

 Pastor so graciously took me to all the typical tourist places and one of the first places I went to was Matanuska Glacier. At 27 miles long by 4 miles wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. Its terminus (snout) is the source of the Matanuska River. Pastor and I did not walk on it but seeing it from afar was amazing.

Fast forward two months and my fiancé Adam arrived. I took him to Matanuska Glacier to share with him my fascination as we paid the park fee to go hiking on the glacier.

Now, more than a year later I wanted to see the glacier one last time before I leave Alaska. The new DCE intern Ryan arrived here Friday. When Monday rolled around I offered to take Ryan to see it because, well it’s the Alaska experience and it's quite something to see.
Mile 49.9 of the Glenn Highway

The drive there is half the beauty. North, past Palmer is several scenic overlooks with spectacular views. Once on the glacier we hiked our way past the dirty, silt covered ice onto the beautiful white and glacier blue ice mound. As we hiked further onto the glacier we crossed more and more little streams of melting ice.

We reached an impasse at a wide stream of glacial water. We couldn’t jump over it so we had to backtrack. We discovered that we could not take the easy trail as it lead to the stream. So we did what any explorer would have—we broke out the crampons (ice cleats) and Yaktrax to gain traction and hike not on the flat easy trail but up and over a steep peak upon the glacier.
Each of those peaks are upwards of 50-100 feet tall. It's deceptive in the photo.
Walking on the glacier
Look at the people for perspective and comparison.
One foot in front of the other and we made it. We saw a little ways in front of us an ice waterfall. It seemed like a great site so we decided to hike over to it. The waterfall on its own was beautiful but the pool of glacial water below was stunning. The color combination from the reflection of the sky above and the ice around blended a mix of blue, gray, and green. I joked that all we needed was a polar bear and it would be an “All-in-one Alaska photo”.

We took pictures and Ryan lost one of his Yaktrax in the process. He was going to retrieve it too, but doing so would have meant a sharp decent down 7 foot of ice toward the icy water below. Even if he would have gotten down i'm not sure he could have reached it as it sank to the bottom.

Ryan's Yaktrax at the bottom of the icy pool of water.
Waterfall (look closely to the left it blends in with the ice)
Love the color of the water.
My shoes are not untied-those are the straps from my crampons
With our destination complete we made our way back to the car. As we jumped over the streams of ice water, and crevasses of ice my water bottle fell out of my side pouch and landed in the water below. It was rapidly rushed down stream before Ryan or I could grab it. I feel terrible and it was not my intention to "trash Alaska" but like Ryan's Yaktrax there was no way to retrieve it...not to mention it continued down stream and is probably halfway to Palmer via the Matanuska River.

We eventually made it back to the car and back safely to Chugiak. It was a great day and a perfect bookend to my Alaska internship. With a week left and my days numbered I take comfort in the fact that I have gotten to spend a year in this great state. I am ready to be reunited with my husband-to-be, but will still miss this place and these people. I love this place!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Climbing the Butte

Today I decided to take a hike. The place was another unexplored area for me called the Butte. The Butte is located just south of Palmer. I took the dog Jorge with. We left min-afternoon and drove north to the trail head.

The beginning of the trail is considerably steep. It is also covered with very fine glacial silt. The silt is so fine and so light that simply walking one cannot help but kick up dust. The silt combined with the pitch provides and added challenge as traction becomes more difficult. Nonetheless,  Jorge and I made it past the first part.

The steep beginnings (click for larger image)
After 200 or so feet of the steep silt portion one walks from under the shaded region into hot beaming sun as the terrain becomes more rocky preventing tree growth. This portion of the hike is juxtaposed with the grazing area for a nearby farm. Within 10 feet there is giant rocks and grassland quite the contrast.

You can see the edge of the graze-land pasture to the right (outlined with barbed wire fence)
Pioneer Peak, steep contrast with the pastures below.
The next portion of the trail was very tame—Rolling hills and grassland. The silt once again became the prominent trail covering. I appreciated the break but the sun was rather hot (yes it gets hot in Alaska).

We've come so far, but have farther still to go...
We marched on right up to the face of a rocky ledge. This was the most challenging part of the hike because my hiking turned into rock climbing. I had brought Jorge along with me and although he has four legs it is not easy for a dog to climb almost 100% vertically.

I was thoroughly impressed with how Jorge handled the climb. I unhooked him from his leash so he was able to maneuver up as well.  

This is the vertical rock-climbing I'm talking about

Jorge is doing the mountain goat pose. He took it like a champ.
After the strenuous rock climb there was a long plateau. It was well received as Jorge and I took a break amongst  a patch of daises. The view here was stunning. Pioneer Peak was directly in front of me and off to the left was Knik Glacier and the town of Palmer. I watched the reindeer at the reindeer farm below graze freely and the farmer move a round bale of hay with his John Deere Tractor. It was surreal with Pioneer Peak so prominent and the reindeer, cars, and buildings below so small. It was like looking into a snow globe (minus the snow, of course). I wonder if that what it's like for God to look down upon us.

You know Dasher, and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen...
“For the LORD your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the LORD your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.” (Deuteronomy 2:7)

God keeps careful watch over His People even those in pursuit of freedom who are struggling to find it. His Compassion and Mercy provides for you as you work your way through the wilderness (or mountainous hike) of life searching for something more or someone to satisfy your heart and soul.

God watches every step we take just as I was watching fellow travelers on the trail below. As I gazed upon those marching up the steep trail below I couldn't help but feel compassion for them. I had been in that exact spot just moments before. Sweating, and climbing in pursuit of the same destination.

Now I am not suggesting that I am God, but I believe this does paint a good image for what Christ did. I understood where the people where coming from (in a physical sense). With that said God knows what you are going through. Financial struggle, health problems, depression, He knows and understands the pain. Regardless of your current struggle God provides what you need to be successful. Success with God is not defined in attaining physical prizes or earthly glory but instead by learning to walk in righteousness, holiness and love to the Destiny that He has prepared for you.

There is the goal! The top of the Butte
With Jorge and I rested and re-hydrated we made the final push to the top. The last part was another steep and sometimes rock-climbing adventure. There was no stopping now so we acceded to the top of the Butte for the final 150 feet.

Final push
 Once on top there was a flat and rocky plateau awaiting our arrival and a million dollar view. I was surrounded 360˚s by mountains. Pioneer Peak, Lazy Mountain, Matanuska Peak, Mt. Susitna they were all accounted for. Additionally there was a stunning view of the town of Palmer and in the distance the Knik Glacier.
On top of the Butte--with the Knik glacier in the background
Panorama-click for larger view
On top of the Butte looking towards the valley
I made it--Pioneer Peak in the background
Some random guys I saw at the top-the pic. puts things in perspective
Palmer and the Knik Glacier
Knik Glacier
 Of course the journey was only half done as Jorge and I still needed to make our way back down. This is not as easy especially since we would have to climb back down the rock wall. Once again I was impressed with Jorge's ability to jump, climb, crawl down the rock wall.

I'm happy to report that we made it back just fine. My socks were solid brown with silt. It reminded me of my socks after rock picking back home. Dust and sweat made for a great tan, that sadly washed away when I arrived home. Ah well, it was still worth it.