Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another Crazy Week!

Again, I've been terrible at posting! But in my defense, it's been a pretty crazy/traumatic week! Monday and Tuesday were great with the small exception that I've had a nasty cold since last Saturday. We went on a hike on Monday to a few lakes. I couldn't breathe well because of my cold, so I wasn't really concentrated on taking a lot of pictures! Sorry!

On Tuesday, we received two evangelism tools called Soularium and Perspectives. These tools provide a disarming way to start spiritual conversations and possibly transition to sharing the Gospel. If nothing else, it gets people thinking about what they believe, which in today's culture, is a big deal. The afternoon was spent playing kickball and volleyball as it was a beautiful day! I had almost forgotten how much I love volleyball. Our team ended up winning! That night we had men's and women's times, where the staff women shared a lot of their personal stories with us.

On Wednesday, things got interesting. Wednesday was the day we went white water kayaking. Now, if you know anything about Wyoming, you know that this is the time for Spring runoff from the mountains. So, we have watched the rivers swell with icy water for the past 2 1/2 weeks. I was really apprehensive about going, but everyone kept saying, "Oh it's no big deal. It's a lot of fun and it's really safe." So, I went. We got fitted up in wet suits and fleece jackets and a splash guard on top of that so we wouldn't get cold on the river. The wind started to pick up, so the rapids on the river were picking up with them. We got to the spot where we were going to start, and we practiced a little bit in a pond. My partner and I were feeling really confident, so when we got in the water and hit our first wave, I thought, wow there really was nothing to worry about. This is a lot of fun! So, we got behind our guide, and she hit the next even bigger wave. As soon as we hit it, I knew we were in trouble. We were tossed out of our kayak and plunged into the 40 degree water. It felt like it was forever before we surfaced, and we both struggled to get a breath.  I looked around and realized I was about 40 ft downstream from my kayak. My partner managed to get right back in, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get anywhere near it. I honestly thought I was going to drown there in that river. Finally, the guide got to me and they pulled me back in the kayak. I was exhausted and couldn't breathe. But, we went on. Not ten minutes later, I found myself back in the icy water again really far from my kayak. Luckily, another kayak was near me and they pulled me in their boat. I was terrified when we hit the next rapid, but we made it through without flipping. Eventually, we pulled off to the shore, because at that point, just about everyone had been flipped into the water and was a little shaken up. Four of us decided that we had had just about enough white water kayaking to last us a lifetime, so we waited there while the rest of the group finished out the trip. A few hours later, I started noticing that I was really sore, and by the end of the night, I couldn't turn my head to either side. The nurse here at the camp says I pinched a nerve, so I've been popping advil like candy (according to her advice!) ever since. It's loosened up a bit, but still tightens up at night. I also kicked a few rocks in my effort to swim to safety, so I've got a couple nice bruises on my leg and foot. Moral of the story: DO NOT GO WHITE WATER KAYAKING. EVER.

Thursday was much more tame, thank goodness! In the morning, we learned about heaven. I didn't realize how much I didn't know about heaven until we started learning about it! Lisa, one of our project leaders gave the talk. She is so incredibly knowledgeable and communicates so well that it is impossible to leave without taking some gem of knowledge with you. Then, we were supposed to have a picnic lunch at a famous barn, but the weather didn't cooperate, so we went into town and ate lunch there. In the evening, we talked about personal development followed by a night of reflection. It was an excellent time to think about all of the things that I've learned here and how I'm going to apply them to my life after project.

Yesterday morning, we heard from Pastor Don, the creator of the Bible college that is located here at the lodge. He is really involved in an organization called Answers in Genesis ( They are a group that seeks knowledge about creationism and teaches it throughout the world. He spent three hours with us talking about the background knowledge we would need for his talks on Monday and Tuesday. Friday night was the "Jackson Hole-lympics." We played dizzy bat, chubby bunny, egg toss, trivia, and volleyball. Because I've been a little dizzy from my sinuses messing with my ears already, dizzy bat was disastrous, but hilarious. My team wasn't even really mad that I made them lose because I went in the wrong direction because it was really funny. We lost every event except trivia and volleyball. It was a blast.

Today, the men and women are taking different paths. The men ate early and went to play paintball while the women slept in a bit and had brunch. Later, we will be having a tea and then going to an art museum. While I'm not really a girly girl, I'm looking forward to wearing something besides jeans and a t-shirt. Then, we are meeting the guys in town for dinner. Tonight we will be going to the rodeo! I haven't been to the rodeo in years, so I'm really excited! I'll try to make a few more updates before we leave on Thursday. Can't believe it's gone by so fast!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Moose Watch: Days....okay I've been slacking.

Jackson Hole just keeps getting better. I can't wait to put all the things I've learned into practice! Let me recap what's been going on over the past few days.

On Sundays, we have a day of rest. The Sabbath is something that modern Christians just don't appreciate as much as we should. It was hard to just slow down and enjoy the day. I always feel like I have to be on the run.

On Monday, we had a talk on seeing Jesus in the scriptures. It was a really interesting talk about how Jesus is written all over the Bible, even in Genesis!
Genesis 3:15 says: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Yeah, that offspring of the woman..Jesus! HE will crush the serpent's head. Can't wait until that day.

We also talked about the test of a true believer. This was a really hard concept to face for me. So many of the people I love aren't living a Gospel-changed life, and that tells me that the Gospel hasn't changed them. I don't want my loved ones to suffer an eternity separated from God. So why is it so hard to talk to those closest to us about something that's so important???

After a pretty intense morning of content, we took a tram to the top of one of the mountains. The view was breathtaking! We sledded on pizza boxes and had a snowball fight. There is still about 15 feet of snow on top of the mountains, so we all put on the warmest clothes we brought. While it was 50 at the top of the mountain, it was about 80 at the bottom, so we were all sweating on our way up. This sweating and then being in the cold has become a theme..and not a very good one! Here are some pictures from our trip:
 We went up to over 10,000ft.
 Tram that took us to the top of the mountain
 Beautiful view of the Tetons. The Grand is the tallest peak in the distance.
 It was fun to wear a t-shirt in the snow!
 It looks like I'm standing next to a cliff, but I'm not that brave!
 Snowball fight!!

Tuesday's content was about God's plan for relationships and using the Satisfied? evangelism tool. Satisfied? is geared towards people who are not satisfied with the Christian life as they know it. It seeks to tell people about living a Spirit-filled life. Then, we had men's and women's time.

Wednesday started out with a bit of a surprise. The weather looked nice in the morning, so we decided to go for a hike at a ski resort. It didn't look so bad when we got there, but as soon as we started, we realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought. It ended up being nearly a 2,000ft elevation change over a mile and a half (i.e. REALLY STEEP). It was the most physically challenging thing I've ever done, but I didn't give up! I made it to the top, and the reward was a beautiful view. After we got back, we finished up talking about God's plan for relationships.
 We started from where the town is!
 These are the girls who I hiked up with. We encouraged each other the whole way!
Most of our staff team
 Awkward Family Photo of everyone from the Northern U.S.!
Small group friends :)

Thursday's content was continuing on with a Gospel-changed life and also how to lead a small group effectively. After lunch, we went indoor rock climbing. While it wasn't really my strong point, I still had a lot of fun. I also became a certified belayer which means I was allowed to hold the ropes that prevented others from crashing down if they fell. The night wrapped up with an extended quiet time where we were able to go anywhere and just spend a few hours with the Lord. A wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Friday kicked off early, because we had a two hour drive to Yellowstone. It just so happened that I was in a car with everyone from the North, so we bonded over our lack of twang. If you've never been to Yellowstone, go. It's seriously amazing that all of the things that are there are God's creation. No man can take credit for the beauty. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:
 One of the hot springs near Old Faithful
 Old Faithful!
 Airth and Paul near the Solitary Geiser.
 The bison allowed us to get really close!
 Grand Prism
 Barrett, Paul, and I
 Crater Geyser looked like a warm beach.
The glorious lower falls in Yellowstone's grand canyon

As you can see by my pictures, I saw some wildlife. Bison, osprey, mule deer, a grizzly bear with two cubs that were wrestling, and......MOOSE! I saw a lot of them! We got about 50 yards from a moose with her calf. The whole day was incredibly exciting.

Saturday, we all needed a day to recover. So, we had a lot of free time which culminated in a Wild Game dinner and a Coyboys and Indians party. I was able to try moose, elk, and antelope. I think the elk was my favorite. We all dressed up for the coyboys and indians party. I was a cowgirl, complete with a hat that I found for really cheap at Kmart. There was line dancing, a Tipi made of TP (toilet paper), and lots of root beer and country music. It was a blast. I was even able to lead a dance! I'm not a huge dancer, so this is a big deal, but no one else knew the Cotton Eyed Joe dance, so I had to step up and teach everyone.

Finally, today was the Sabbath. We started out by watching a David Platt sermon on Biblical manhood and womanhood. Then, I ventured out to a coffee shop to write some postcards and work on my testimony which I give tomorrow. Tonight is praise and worship led by some of the guys on project.

I'll try to be more faithful with blogging regularly, so my posts won't be this long! But, in the mean time, check out my photo site to see more of my pictures from the trip.

Have a blessed week!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Moose Watch: Days 3,4

More exciting times in Jackson Hole! Yesterday was a work day. Spent the morning learning about what a Gospel-changed life should look like. Heard some amazing stories about how the Gospel has transformed lives all over the country. Also learned a lot about how our country has accepted this lukewarm Christianity where people think that going to Church every Sunday is good enough. Christ did not die on the cross for us to live that way. Ended the talk by praying for people we know who we might consider lukewarm Christians. It was an incredibly powerful time.

After that, we learned how to effectively communicate our own personal stories of salvation. Writing out my testimony was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, and telling it was even harder. Luckily, I've got a week or so before I've got to give it in front of the group at lunch.

Yesterday evening, we had a photo scavenger hunt which was probably one of the most fun things I've done here so far. One of our tasks was to find a sleeping indian. Apparently, there is a mountain formation near here called the sleeping indian, but we didn't know that. Instead, we saw some traditionally dressed Native Americans in Jackson Hole and they were nice enough to pretend that they were sleeping on a bench! It was hilarious. I don't have the pictures on my computer, but I'll try to find them soon.

Today was a fun day. We started the day off by taking a horse trail ride through the mountains. We went up to about 8,000 ft to a ridge where we could see several different mountain ranges. The view was indescribable. Here are some pictures from our ride:

Also, saw an elk and her baby on the trail. Didn't get any pictures though :( Still looking for that moose!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Moose Watch: Day 2

Wow. These past few days have been such a whirlwind. This trip has been absolutely incredible so far. It never gets old to walk out of our bunkhouse in the morning and be standing right in front of the Grand Tetons. It's awe-inspiring for sure.

So, we went on a hike yesterday afternoon, and it was supposed to be a really easy hike with no snow. Well, apparently Wyoming has had a really snowy winter, so there were parts of the path that were covered in 3-4 FEET of snow. In July. It was funny to see all of the southern students play in it like little kids.

Let me side track for just a second. I don't think I mentioned that I am one of 4 students here not from the South. And I am the ONLY girl out of 18 not from the South. I've already picked up the accent. I catch myself almost saying y'all at least 5 times a day. It's gonna happen here soon.

So, back to the hike. The altitude makes it pretty tough to catch your breath at first, so we were all huffing and puffing our way up the path. Then, all of a sudden, we couldn't find the path. We were trudging through snow and over logs and all over the place. As I was stepping off of a log on what looked like a solid pack of snow, my leg fell through and went about 4 feet down under the log. My ankle got caught on the way down and I twisted it up pretty bad. Luckily, we didn't have to call the park rangers as I was able to hobble on it for the rest of the hike. It's still pretty sore, but luckily it's getting much better. We hiked in Grand Teton National Park which is about a 5 minute drive from our camp. Here are some pictures from our hike:

Yesterday evening, we started working with our small groups by giving our life stories. Hearing each girl's story was incredible and such a bonding experience. We noticed a few patterns in our stories. One major pattern was that until some point, usually in college, we didn't know that it was possible to have a real relationship with Christ. We hadn't seen people living it out before, and it made me think about how many college students or people in general just don't know what it looks like.

In our large group meetings we went over how to use the KGP (Knowing God Personally) book to share the Gospel. We also have been learning how to use the inductive Bible study method which has been incredible. Just reading the book of Hebrews has taken me over an hour and I'm not yet finished. There is just so much to look for in the text before you even begin to study it in depth.

Today we had a lot of unstructured time, so we drove into town and bought some roller blades for a staff guy's birthday at a thrift store. He was so appreciative even though we tried to tell him that they were only $7 and didn't even have laces!

I'll end on this note: No moose sightings yet, but there is hope! Saw a moose track on our hike:)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moose Watch: Day 1

It's official! I'm currently writing from my bunkhouse in Jackson Hole, WY! Yesterday was a loooooonnnngggg day of travelling. Got up at 4am eastern time to catch a plane at 7 to Denver. At Denver, I met up with a few really sweet girls who were also flying in to project. Then, we flew to Jackson Hole and got here around 1pm mountain time. Let me tell you that flying into Jackson Hole Airport was probably one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The mountains are completely snow covered and HUGE. I don't think I've ever seen anything so big.

We got to our lodge a little after and set up all of our stuff. After that, one of the leaders of our project asked us all if we'd like to take a walk. We walked 5 miles, which is usually no big deal at all for me, but with a combination of the early morning and the high altitude, I was exhausted when we got back. The high altitude kind of makes it feel like you can't get a deep breath, and it's something I guess we're all going to have to get used to.

We had a little free time to take a short snooze before dinner, and a lot of us took advantage of that. Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs and we all devoured it like we'd never eaten before. After that, we had a meeting where we kind of got an outline for the week. The disclaimer is that everything depends on the weather. It is so crazy up here that it will be sunny and 60 one day and 32 snowing the same afternoon. So, if we have a talk scheduled and it gets sunny all of a sudden, we will go outside and take advantage of it!

Today, we are going to have a few talks after breakfast and then go on a hike. I can't wait to take some amazing pictures on this trip. I've already gotten a few! I've been told that I will definitely see a moose on this trip, but I didn't see any on the trip in. Saw some buffalo, but no moose. So, today is officially moose watch: day 1!

I'll try to keep you all updated on how everything is going, so check back if you can! P.S. this is my front yard for three weeks!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All of Creation..Sing With Me Now!

It's officially summer. At least, it is in my neck of the world. Wanna know how I know? Today, we planted the garden.
You might not know about our garden, so please, if you have a few minutes, let me tell you why this place is so special to me.

Every year for as long as I can remember, my dad has planted a garden. So did his dad. So did his dad's dad. So did a lot of people in my neighborhood. I thought it was something that everyone did.  It seemed so natural to use the soil that we had to grow food for our family. When I went away to college, I learned that this wasn't necessarily the case..

Growing your own food? That was almost unheard of--and also a waste of time to a lot of people.  Why grow your own when you could go to Wal-Mart and get all the fruits and veggies you want washed, waxed, and ready wherever and whenever you want? I bought into it. I did the Wal-Mart thing. I got whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. Indicative of our generation? Yeah, I think so.

Then, one day during the Spring of my sophomore year, I got the urge to grow something. For several years, I had helped my dad plant his garden. It was hard work, but it was fulfilling. I knew that spending that time out in the hot sun would produce something wonderful that we would be able to enjoy well into the winter months. I'm pretty sure it's in my blood. So, when March rolled around and the long State College winter started to relent, I knew I needed to grow something.  I went out to Lowe's and got a small herb window garden. I was so excited to get it back to my dorm to start my plants.  There was only one small problem..our window did not get any direct sunlight. Hmm...ahh! The bathroom right across from our room had a window with a huge sill that got plenty of sunlight! Perfect!  Faithfully, I would take my plants into the bathroom every morning and bring them back to our room every night. One evening, I went to get my plants, and they were gone. The people who cleaned our bathroom had thrown them away. I was so angry. My plants that I had nurtured and cared for were gone. Maybe that's when I realized how much having a garden meant to me.

There's something absolutely amazing about placing a small seed in the earth and watching God turn it into a giant plant that produces delicious food for us to eat. Every part of creation points back to God.  It can be something as majestic as the mountains I'll be living in for the next few weeks on my summer project in Wyoming or as small as the box turtle my dad found in our yard today. Every part of creation tells us something about a part of the creator. It's kind of funny to think about what that small box turtle tells me about the character of God. He was kind of timid and always had a cross look on his face. But, he was pretty funny when you picked him up and he stuck his neck out really far. I named him Joseph.

Every Spring when the danger of frost has gone and Dad's tomato plants that he started inside from seed look like they're going to just pick their roots up and jump out the window if they don't get in the ground soon, we know that it's time to start the garden. It's always a sunny day. It's almost always hot, and even if it's not, we end up sweating. After Dad tills everything, we stand at the end of the dirt and plan out our map. Three rows of sweet corn in the upper right. Tomatoes below that, and at the very bottom, the lettuce and radishes that have already gotten a head start. Make sure you don't put the beans too close to the zucchinis because the vines will be sprawling out. The freshly turned dirt looks like a canvas, and both of us stand at the edge imagining the lush green life that will be covering it in a month or two.
My Dad and I don't spend a ton of time together, especially since I've been away at college. He's not a huge talker or philosopher, and I can understand that. He's a simple guy, and probably one of the smartest men I know. We don't have deep, intricate conversations while we're up in the garden, but sometimes I think there's something deeper. This is our tradition. As we work alongside one another like a well oiled machine, there's an understanding that it wouldn't be the same if the other wasn't there, and for me, that's enough.
The first thing to come will be the lettuce. Want a salad? Who needs Wal-Mart when you can walk right up the hill and pick fresh lettuce still wet from the morning dew? Then come the zucchini. Mom will be in the kitchen grating, mixing, and baking until we have enough double chocolate zucchini bread to feed the entire town. After that comes the green beans--bushels of them. Now, it's time to dust off the canning jars, set some water to boil and grab some help. Snapping the ends off of green beans is tedious work, I can tell you that. But, I can also tell you that it's a thousand times less tedious when you have someone to do it with. My grandma is usually my partner. I suspect she will be again this year, as her favorite gardener, my grandfather, passed away in December. He loved gardening, and he dedicated a large part of his life to caring for his plants. Like I said, it's in my blood.  After the beans come the cabbages, which are gigantic. My dad grows 22lb. cabbages. Don't ask me how. And don't ask him. He doesn't really know either.  Next are the tomatoes. Second only to old Christmas ornaments, the smell of tomato juice slow cooking on the stove is my favorite smell in the world. It finds its way into every part of the house. I think the smell of it just reminds me of being in the kitchen with my mom and dad, laughing, joking, and working. It's a good memory. Sweet corn comes late in the summer, and all of the silk goes to the neighbor's cows after we shuck it. They'll eat it right out of your hand like candy. The last things to remain into the crisp nights that signal the beginning of fall are the indian corn, gourds, and pumpkins.

This might sound incredibly boring to you. Who cares about where all of this stuff comes from? Who cares about how it's made? Who cares about how long it takes to grow? Well, I think that God cares.  He gave this gift to my family.

Through it, he teaches me lessons about waiting. That corn I planted today won't be ready to eat for about another 70 or 80 days. That's a long time! I can't just decide one day that I'd like some corn. I don't want to just run to the store and get some. I have to be patient. Sometimes I expect God to be like Wal-Mart. Give me what I want when I want it. At the right price. That's not who God is. I've stopped shopping at Wal-Mart.

He also teaches me about spending time with the people I love. I'm slowing down. I'm working with them. We're working together. We're talking. We're laughing. We're in community with one another. "For where two or three are gathered.."(Matt. 18:20)

So there it is. That's my garden. That's why it's special. Can I give you some unsolicited advice? Wait for something. Spend time with people you love. Grow a garden. Thank God for every seed, every rock, every plant, every weed, every fruit. He created them all because he loves you.
It might seem silly, but I couldn't help but laugh at the juxtaposition of seeing dirt washing over my metallic purple painted toenails today. I always work barefoot when we're planting. I'd take rocky Pennsylvania soil over sand in my toes any day. I think God laughed too.

God Bless.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One small step for giant leap of faith for me.

I'm not saying that I'm the only graduate who is freaked out by the future.  I know that I'm not the only graduate this year without a job lined up. But it's SCARY. Really scary. On Saturday, I officially graduated from college.  That's right. I now hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from The Pennsylvania State University. Woo hoo! But now what?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about my summer so far.  After student teaching was over, I traveled back to State College to spend the last few weeks of the semester with the friends that I've come to love over the past four years.  We had amazing adventures and some really chill times too.  Campfires, a day on the beach, disc golf (at which I am horrendous and Tim is amazing), and a few trips to the dollar theater all with some awesome people helped to make our senior week something that I will truly never forget.

Tim says that State College is like Neverland.  It's not the real world here. And I'm beginning to see that he's right.  This place that I've spent my last four years has been like a dream.  It's where I met my best friends, Tim, and most importantly, it's where I truly met Jesus.  Now it feels like I've come to the end of a beautifully paved path and am about to embark onto a trek into the jungle.  I can't see anything past where I am now, and I'm really frightened about what challenges I'm going to face on my new journey.

I don't have a job yet. I have no clue where I'm going to be living. I'm leaving everything I've ever known behind, and the scariest part is that I'm doing it alone.  I'm leaving my community, my friends, and Tim.  But the consolation that I have is that I don't have to leave God.  It's true that I'll be leaving Cru, Calvary, and all of the other groups and places where I got to know Him, but those places are not where he is.  He's in me. And he's in you. Pretty cool huh?

Another place we'll (God and I :)) be going this summer is to Jackson Hole, WY on a summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru).  I could not be more excited about this opportunity! I get to spend about a month in a community of believers who are on fire for Jesus learning about how we can defend our faith and have a better ministry through our lives.  The cost of this project all said and done was about $2500, and I had to raise support for it.  That meant sending letters out and asking people to give me money for basically nothing in return from me other than a thank you card.  It was terrifying.  I feel so uncomfortable asking people for money. But the Holy Spirit has been so faithful in providing.  I am still about $400 short of my goal, but I am relying on God to provide the rest, or at least allow me to have the funds to provide the rest myself.

Could you do me a favor? Could you please pray for my future? Please pray that I will have the faith to trust God to take me where he wants me. And if you need me to pray for something, please let me know! It would be a privilege :)