Someday we’ll Wobble in heaven…

We spent our Sunday afternoon just like 99.9% of all Coloradoans– decked out in orange and blue, eating junk food, and glued to a TV watching Super Bowl 50.

SuperBowlHondaThe only real differences between the Broncos fans of Port Alsworth, Alaska and those in the Promise Land that is Colorado? Well, there’s the fact that my friends delicately delivered their TV to my bosses’ house on their 4-wheeler with their toddler strapped to their back… and that we occasionally had to keep a rambunctious child from bumping the rabbit ears and disrupting our one precious TV channel that we (barely) were able to pick up the game on. Oh, and as the people of Denver took to the streets to celebrate the Bronco’s victory, we piled onto Hondas and drove the village, screaming and shouting in joy. (Evan, my bosses’ oldest even painted a Bronco on his chest and ran the runway shirtless. In February. With a Denver Broncos flag tied around his shoulders. Ohhh the embarrassing photos that I have tucked away for his some-day wedding slideshow…)

We have a wild crew of fifteen or so Coloroadoans who have all miraculously ended up in Port Alsworth through different missions agencies for just a time as this. The pre-game trash talking with community members (all in good fun), mid-game cheering, and post-victory celebration were all glorious and made me feel right at home. Until I didn’t…

Until I started watching the post-game awards and highlight reels online, using my precious internet just to watch my dad saunter back DadElwayand forth behind John Elway like the intimidating stud of a body guard he is.

Until I saw the photos of my grandmother, aunt, step-mom, and cousin at the game and after-party.

Until the Snapchat videos of my friends Wobbling in the streets of downtown Denver started coming through my phone. (Oh, how I love a good celebratory Wobble…)

Until I started texting with my dad, hearing what it was like to be at Levi’s Stadium during the biggest American sporting event of the year.

Admittedly, my heart was suffering from some hardcore FOMO (fear of missing out), but that feeling quickly gave way to an unexpected, overwhelming flood of grief. The sadness that nailed me right in the chest was so much less about missing a silly football game and so much more about the sudden realization that if I choose to continue following Jesus’ call to the nations, I’ll likely continue to miss out on the big (and small) moments of my loved ones’ lives– moments that I would otherwise be present for.

It hit me hard as I walked home Sunday night that had I not followed Jesus to Alaska, I would’ve been with my family in San Francisco, watching my dad live out virtually every American man’s dream. I would’ve been able to cheer for a team I couldn’t care much about, but I would’ve been in good company with the people I love most—my Raider fanatic family.

Instead, I’m here. Don’t get me wrong—I love nearly everything about my life in the bush. I love my job and my students. I love my stellar team at TLC and at the Tanalian School. I love my Gospel Community, running in the mountains outside my house after lunch, and the soon-to-be-spring nine o’clock sunrises. I love the opportunities that I’ve had in the last week to sit and listen to the stories of strong, Jesus-loving Native women from the villages that surround us. I mean, the Lord is BLOWING MY MIND with what He’s doing every day in rural Alaska, and I consider it such an honor to have been called to live in a place that is in a season of such dramatic transition.HGTWgroupBut there’s always been grief in that calling also; I’ve known that since the morning Jesus first called me here during a church service last Super Bowl Sunday. Foolishly (or optimistically perhaps…), I thought I had passed through the majority of the grieving process. I’m realizing more and more though, that by choosing to dedicate my life to Jesus and His call to go to the nations, that the struggle of missing out on the things and people I love will involve a life-long grieving process.

Of course, no matter where I am I’ll continue to celebrate silly Super Bowls, birthdays, and the weddings and new babies of my loved ones, but there’s a good chance that there will be seasons where those celebrations will be from a far (and will probably look more like taking a celebratory victory lap around a village on a 4-wheeler, than being physically present); a bitter pill for a quality-time, physical touch, people-person like me to swallow.

It’s a constant struggle, this reprioritizing of my heart’s desires so that following Jesus is higher than my desire to dance in the streets of Denver where I’m comfortable and happy. And as my FOMO and sappy, weak heart reminded me Sunday night, I am far from mastering the struggle.

The cost of being away from the ones I love is great; Jesus never denied that. But being a part of someone experiencing the freedom and love of Christ for the first time? Or watching a “violent” teenager’s heart soften because He’s reading God’s word every morning in Bible class? Or standing next to a girl who’s had books written about the violence and abuse that she’s endured in the Alaskan wilderness, but listening to her sing praises to our King at the top of her lungs with tears of joy streaming down her face? That is, and always will be, worth anything I could live with or without.

Jesus truly is better, and as the song goes, I need Him to make my heart believe that every. stinkin’. day.Girls(I suppose at the end of the day it helps alleviate my FOMO to know that one day I’ll hopefully be dancing with both my sweet Alaskan family and those I’m missing most on the streets of the New Jerusalem. And by George, we will celebratorily Wobble till we can’t Wobble any more…)


“But all through life I see a cross,

Where sons of God yield up their breath;

There is no gain except by loss,

There is no life except by death.

And no full vision but by Faith,

Nor glory but by bearing shame,

Nor justice but by taking blame;

And that Eternal Passion saith,

Be emptied of glory and right and name.”

-from Olrig Grange, by Walter C. Smith

To fly by faith and not by sight…

What does it look like to fly on faith, and faith alone?

That’s easy. Anytime you fly as a passenger in a plane, you’re flying solely on faith– Faith that the stranger at the controls isn’t an absolute idiot; faith that the plane had been properly inspected and is mechanically sound for flight. More than likely, as a regular person boarding a plane, you aren’t sure of either of those things. You’re hopeful… But you’re not one hundred percent sure.

Flying is all about faith, really.

You see, there are two different types of flying—VFR, where you operate by Visual Flight Rules and can see where you’re going, and IFR, where you are operating under Instrument Flight Rules. In layman’s terms—when you’re flying IFR, you can’t see where you’re going all the time. You have to rely on your instruments: your altimeter, GPS, compass, etc.

When you fly VFR, you’re not flying through dense cloud cover, excessive fog, or blinding snow or rain. You know and can see your surroundings. For many experienced pilots, flying VFR is a cake walk. (The key word there is experienced; the thought of flying as pilot in command period still makes my inexperienced pilot stomach flip a bit… But I digress.)

Lake Clark Pass
Lake Clark Pass in all it’s VFR, summer glory.

Last summer when I visited Port Alsworth, the VFR flight conditions couldn’t have been better (even though I didn’t know it at the time). As we flew over the wetlands outside of Anchorage on my first ever approach to Port Alsworth, the weather was perfect and clear. So clear, in fact, that I could see brown bears running awkwardly along the streams below us, chasing their salmon dinners. The glaciers we buzzed by in Lake Clark Pass were a crisp turquoise, reflecting the bright blue sky above and the teal hue of Lake Clark below. Oh, it was a sight to behold… A true VFR miracle for a first time bush plane passenger.

Flying into Port Alsworth this September, was a bit of a different story.

Alaska greeted me on September 15th with a slush/rain storm that made flight in a tiny two-seater airplane seem a bit more difficult. As I sat in the Lake and Pen Air office at Merrill Field Airport that morning, I stared out at the windy conditions and rapidly changing precipitation. I half-way expected my bush flight to be delayed, if not cancelled entirely. After all, even the giant Alaska Airlines plane that carried me to Anchorage had hit so much turbulence the night before that it seemed like we were going to fall out of the sky.

But sure enough, at a little after ten o’clock, my wild child of a pilot came bursting into the LPA office, announcing that I was the lucky winner of a one-way flight “home” with him to Port Alsworth.

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This guy… He is just one of my faves.

As we loaded my bags into the tiny plane, word came over a radio that a plane had just crashed in Iliamna—just 20 miles from our destination. Eeesh… not exactly reassuring… I thought as I grabbed Lyle’s hand and he pulled me up into our plane. I made some comment about bush pilots not being deterred by much, to which he simply laughed and told me that this flight was going to be an easy one.

We taxiied down to the end of our runway and I watched as my pilot punched buttons, radioed people I couldn’t quite hear, and then hit the throttle. Before I knew it, we were hauling down the runway, and then lifting into the headwind and the clouds above us.

FlyingIFR
My view (or lack there of) leaving Anchorage.

My view of Anchorage quickly disappeared. Convinced that I wasn’t going to see much for a while, I slipped my headphones inside of my noise proof earmuffs, turned on my favorite playlist, and grabbed my new leather bound journal from my bag between my feet. In a daze created by the combination of sleep deprivation, adrenaline, and raw change, I opened to the first page, and wrote:

“As I sit in this plane and watch water droplets from the melting snow roll past my co-pilot window, I am amazed with who You are, God.

It amazes me that I’m in Alaska—in this plane. It amazes me that this little metal box is somehow flying through the sky… It amazes me that my pilot knows where we’re going because the snow/fog/cloud mix is so thick that I can’t see anything around us. My memory knows what this mountain pass looks like from last summer, and yet this trip is so different. There are no mountains or glaciers to ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhhh’ at; I can’t see anything running in the wetlands below. There is just here, and just now; just You and me (and this really funny guy named Lyle).

I don’t know where I’m going, God. (Literally, and figuratively.) I can’t see what’s happening around me. I don’t know what any of these buttons, lights, or levers in this plane do. But I know that You are God, and that You are Good. Oh, and that You are somehow holding us up, as if this plane was sitting in your hands… And if that’s the case, I love that you are keeping things interesting with this insane turbulence; I love that you always shake things up.”

When I wrote that, I didn’t understand that Lyle was flying IFR—by his instruments and not his eyes.

I didn’t understand the difference between IFR and VFR, even though I too was operating within my own type of IFR journey. After all, I knew that God was calling me to Alaska even though I couldn’t see why; I’d known that with every fiber of my being since that weird moment in church on Super Bowl Sunday.

I had spent the last seven months fine tuning my “instruments” through time with Jesus, setting up a “flight plan”, and learning who I was going to be on the journey with. I had been praying and crying and learning more and more what I looked like to walk by faith and not by sight.

I had plenty of people tell me (in not-so-many words) that I was a moron for leaving the life that I loved to follow Jesus to a tiny village I hardly knew. There were questions raised about practical things like “Do you really think that God is going to provide that outrageous amount of money?” regarding the raising of my own salary. Oh yeah, not to mention the obvious: “Why on earth would you go there when Jesus has so clearly been working through you in Denver? If God is ‘so good’ then why can’t He use you in a less dangerous place…?”

The questions were legitimate, and my answers hinging on faith often felt as if they weren’t. 

There were days (so many freaking days) when I doubted that God was Good—that He would provide… that He had a plan. Yet, even on the days when I doubted and I couldn’t see, I just tried to cling to Jesus and keep moving forward in faith. (Side note shout out to my roommates who laid in bed with me while I bawled on those nights and drug me back to Jesus in prayer, whether I wanted it or not. Y’all are the epitome of the church and the real MVPs.)

Yet because He is True to His callings and True to His promises, He provided in abundance financially, spiritually, and emotionally; even as I write this, looking out at the planes landing next to my house in Alaska, all I can do is laugh at how Good He really is.

He will never leave me, nor forsake me. (No matter how many times He has to reassure me of this.) He promises to be the Light before me, even when I can’t see more than a few feet in front of my face.

He has been my most reliable “instrument” as I have learned to fly out of my comfort zone with Him. His grace, His Love, His mercy; they are unfailing.

Even though it has been terrifying to blindly fly away from everything that I love, I have been unexplainably blessed by experiencing more of Him through it all.

That sounds cheesy; I know. But around these parts, it is so true. Because at the end of the day, when Bible class is over, our extra TLC programs and classes have been taught, the dishes are washed, and my girls are in bed, I sit in my house alone. Yet somehow I am not alone; I am with Him—experiencing more of His love in the silence and the darkness than I ever thought possible… Which is an answer to the exact prayer from Ephesians 3:14-20 that so many prayed over me as I left Denver…

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

It is terrifying to fly thousands of feet in the air, suspended by nothing but the faith that instruments will carry you on to your destination, and yet we do it all the time.

It is terrifying to be here alone sometimes, but by faith I maintain that I am not alone because I am with Jesus, my sweet Abba, and His Spirit.

And that faith? The renewed and deeper faith that kicks in when you are flying on faith in Christ alone? I can’t explain it. I don’t know how the heck God builds faith with faith. (It’s a pretty screwy system if you ask me.)

But what I do know is that flying by faith alone most beautiful, addicting feeling in the world and there is no place I’d rather be than here, in His Love. 

Where is He calling you to follow Him today? Will you choose to fly with Him, even if you can’t see what’s in front of you?

(Spoiler alert: you won’t regret it.)

Stinson

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are not away from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight.”

(2 Corinthians 5:5-7)

Meanwhile, in Alaska…

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Lyle (my wild child pilot) and I, taking off for Port Alsworth.

I rode my boss’ fat tire bike down the airplane runway Wednesday and laughed to myself as my new neighbors passed me in their planes. Every one who sees me in the village glances at me with their heads cocked to the side while clearly thinking, She’s not from around here…

It makes sense.

The way they look at me, that is… I mean, my blue hair and the flowy hippie skirts covering my wool tights aren’t exactly the normal fare around here; but I guess I’ve never been great at “normal” anyway.

This week has reminded me that “normal” is all relative. Normal is dictated by culture, and lucky for me, I have half of a semi-useless Master’s Degree in studying culture and language.

My first week here in Alaska has been full of observation and laughter. I’ve loved keeping a running log of the hilarious and foreign things that the locals here say. But I think I love watching them re-experience their culture through my fresh eyes even more. We become so used to our “normal” that we forget to laugh at how incredulous our lives are sometimes. We all do it… it’s not just those living in rain forests or remote villages.

A few of my favorite quotes from the week?

  • “Well, I keep a 45 under our mattress and we took the screen out of the window just in case I see a moose or a bear in the backyard.” –Megan, a fellow TLC employee
  • “The smaller the grizzly, the better it’s gonna taste. Also, make sure you get a berry fed bear; the fish fed ones smell kinda funny…” –Steve, a new friend and local pilot
  • “So, in about a week you’ll want to stop by the veterinarian’s house, if she’s in town. She can take your stitches out.” –Wayne, the random Minnesotan ear, nose, and throat doctor that we roped into stitching my finger back together after I sliced it open working in my kitchen. (Nope, I couldn’t even do anything cool to necessitate stitches on my third day here.) But poor Wayne… He doesn’t even live here; he was just visiting for the week and was the closest sucker with a medical degree when I sliced my finger. (Mind you, the veterinarian quote was said about 5 minutes after he made an Uhhhh…uh oh noise before nervously laughing and saying, “Do over!” while re-threading a suture through my finger and asking me to assist him.) It’s always an adventure around here, I suppose…

This new normal is an adjustment, but it is far more of a gift than a burden. Yes, getting used to my severely rationed internet and sketchy phone service going out during rain/sleet storms has taken some getting used to. And yes, carrying bear mace in the pocket of my Mountain Smith makes me a little uneasy at times… Oh, and trying to find recipes for the tongue and leg of the moose that I butchered yesterday is an odd challenge. But I couldn’t feel more blessed to live in this beautiful place, and I know 100% that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

I am meant to be here, “off the road system”, figuring out what to do with bear meat—just in case the guys bring one home from their hunting trip. (How often do you get to write that sentence?)

But in all seriousness, I am just here, in the wilderness, preparing for the group of girls I will disciple and live with. This time feels like the calm before the storm (because it is) but it’s been nice to take some time and learn my way around the village by bicycle.

This week has has been full of simple pleasures like bike rides, learning to order everyday items like lotion and Qtips off of Amazon Prime (thank you Jesus for free shipping!), eating dinner with the sweet families of Port Alsworth, and stealing away for quiet mornings with Jesus in my hidden attic loft.

As I sit in my loft on the chilly days or in my hammock on Lake Clark when the sun is out, I can’t help but feel a little bit like I’ve moved to paradise. I mean, the scenery on my flight into the village on Tuesday brought me to tears at the Goodness of God. (That could have also been a reaction based in extreme sleep deprivation too… But I’m gonna go with the fact that it was a Jesus thing.) But no matter how many times I look at the snow capped mountains around me, I am constantly reminded that this is not paradise. No, it’s beautiful, but it’s not paradise because it is not completely saturated with Jesus.

Not yet, at least.

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Lake Clark and Mount Tanalian looking absolutely stunning

The breathtaking beauty around me (that I could easily mistake as the “main event” here) is meant to stir a longing in my heart for the one who created it all. I should long for His coming; I should long for His presence in the same way that I long to run down every dirt path in town. I should long for people to know Him and experience how truly lovely He is.

And so today, that is where I am trying to reside—in longing and anticipation of His great story.

I’m in excited anticipation for the day when these mountains resound with the sound of the Native Alaskan people (and the rest of the world) singing His praises. I look forward to the day when my Denver Street School and Park Church and biological and Scum of the Earth and Port Alsworth families will sing of the goodness of God for what He did on the cross. And by-George, we will be together and not separated by 2,500+ miles.

Until then, I’ll be singing worship songs, canning moose, and preparing to love the beautiful kiddos He has brought me here to do life with.

(P.S. My students will be arriving in Port Alsworth on October 5th! I would really appreciate prayers for them and our team as we all prepare to come together for the school year! In the words of United Pursuit band, “It’s gonna be wild; it’s gonna be good; it’s gonna be full of Him!”)

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight. 

For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for You. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that One has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

(2 Corinthians 5:1-7, 13-15)

(P.S.S. If you’re interested in learning more about my work here at the Tanalian Leadership Center or about how you can join my team through prayer or finances, click here.)

All of my Alaskan love,

Kacy Lou

You are my Treasure

It had been a long, emotionally-charged week and it dawned on me that somehow it was only Tuesday evening.

At that point, the majority of my belongings were already packed and I was sitting on a sofa that wasn’t mine in a house that I have considered my home for well over a year.

The mixed emotions of leaving and staying, investing and moving on, packing my home while I unpacked my classroom for a month more at the Denver Street School were making me even crazier than I usually feel. I tried to quiet my mind and focus on spending time with Jesus, but my brain continued to eavesdrop on my roommates’ conversation about some tv show in the front room. I pulled my headphones out of my bag, shoved them in my ears, and flipped open to a new page in my journal, fully intending to word-vomit at the foot of the Cross– something I’m a professional at.

As I traced my pen around the edge of my journal, my brain spun in a different direction.

Two days before, we had read Psalm 50 in church, and as I sat with my Bible balancing atop my knees, I heard verses 10-12 in my pastor’s voice ringing in my head:

“For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine.”

“There is no sacrifice that you could give God that He needs. He does not require anything of us except an offering– a sacrifice of thanksgiving, verse 14 tells us.” I replayed Brian’s sermon yet again in my mind.

Lord, I know you don’t require my sacrifice, but I want to give it all for you. I mean, I’m leaving everything here in Denver to follow you. Do you even give a rip?? What kind of God would call someone to follow them and then say that they need nothing? Not even my love? What does sacrifice look like if it’s not something I tangibly give up? Is that even a sacrifice at all?

I sat on the couch and scribbled furiously in my journal as wave after wave of confusion and emotion washed over me. A conglomeration of this summer’s Psalms sermons all came to mind at once.

He doesn’t need our sacrifice; He doesn’t need our love. But not because He is uncaring, no. He doesn’t need our love or admiration because He is already complete. He is all powerful. All knowing. He is the God that delights in us– the one who sings over us and mends the broken hearts that we bring and sacrifice to Him.

As I sat and wrestled, unsure of what sacrifice looked like– in my life and just in general, my Spotify shuffled and Adoleo’s new song came on.

“My God, I seek you; I solely thirst for you. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. Like a treasure in the field, I’ll sell everything. To find You, to find that You’re worth everything. For you are my treasure and none compares with you. Your love is greater than all else I run to.”

As I took in the lyrics and haunting melody, I flipped to Matthew 13– “The Parable of the Field” that Emily was singing about in my headphones.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

(Matthew 13:44)

Lord, I’m selling everything. Well, technically I’m putting it all in storage.. but You get the point. What are You trying to show me with this? I am sacrificing for You, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I feel like there’s something else that I’m supposed to see here…

I sat in semi-annoyed silence, my pen paused on my journal. And from the weird, deep Spirit place inside my brain, it came:

I am the one who sacrificed for you. You are my treasure– the one I sing over– the one for whom I am so jealous that I gave up everything I had and came for you– dying on the cross. I gave up my throne. I gave up perfect unity within Myself and I came for you. And not only did I come for you, but I came in Joy and bought you at the highest price. Because I love you.

After a week of meditating, wrestling, and praying through the way the Lord flipped this parable on its head for me, I have realized that it is true.

My sacrifices are not in vain; no, He see’s my sacrifice and He sings over it. Not because He needs it, but because He acknowledges my paltry offerings as the most that I think I can give and He loves them because He loves me. Unconditionally.

He sees my heart that is breaking as I say my good-byes and pack my favorite belongings back into boxes to be put back into storage for the umpteenth time in the last eight years.

He sees me and He sees you.

He knows what sacrifices we are making and yet even in the midst of those sacrifices, He reminds us– begs us to remember that all He wants is our hearts: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a repentant heart. O Lord, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

May we lay down our hearts today as we lay plans and dream dreams because God will not despise or shun our hearts if we are offering them up to Him.

He knows we are imperfect; He knows we will probably always strive to please Him and be caught up in the web of trying to work out our salvation in good deeds and sacrifices. None of that surprises Him and none of that could cause Him to look down on us or stray from His steadfast love.

The steadfast love that caused Him to give His life for us– to call us His treasure.

You are His treasure. I am His treasure.

Do you hear that?!

He came for us, died for us, and in His unbelievable power raised Himself from death to come back for us once more.

May we remember that today and live out of the truth of Love.

Focus or fall

OFCBandanasThere’s this leadership activity we do whenever we take our DSS students to the Outfitters for Christ ranch called the “Broken Body Game”. (Don’t worry– it’s no where near as morbid as it sounds.)

For this activity, the OFC staff hikes our students and their teacher chaperones a few miles into the woods and creates a tragic and extravagant hypothetical situation that usually goes something like this:

Last night, all ten of us boarded an airplane bound for Hawaii. On our way over these mountains, a bird was sucked into one of our engines and the plane went down. Tragically, all of the OFC staff and interns were killed on impact and the rest of you were severely injured in some way. The rescue helicopter has spotted you, but can’t land here due to the dense tree cover. The helicopter has landed in the pasture next to the ranch house, but you have to make it to them to receive medical care, as they won’t be able to find you on foot before night fall. You have to make sure that your whole team makes it to safety because if anyone is left behind in the woods tonight, they likely won’t make it to morning.

The OFC staff then takes out their infamous blue bananas and ties them around the “broken body parts” of the survivors.

Some have bandanas tied around their mouths signifying that they can’t speak. Some can’t use one or both of their legs or arms. Some have broken backs or hips and therefore must be carried to safety.

Or if you’re “lucky” (as I almost always am) you’re the sucker that gets blindfolded so you can’t see to help lead the team out of the woods.

The only rules of this game? You can’t use the body part that’s been injured and you must make sure your whole team makes it out of the woods alive.

I’ve played these OFC “reindeer games” several times and since I’m usually blind, the game is fairly simple for me; I usually just take the hand of someone whose arm is “broken” but who can verbally lead me out of the woods, and away we go.

A few miles and the occasional spill over a fallen tree, and I’m usually back to home base, safe and relatively sound.

This summer’s round was different though…

True to my normal “broken body game” status, my glasses were taken from me and replaced by a thick blue bandana.

As the students around me were given their “injuries”, I backed myself up to the fallen aspen I had been standing in front of and took a seat. After a few minutes, I heard the OFC staff shout, “Go!” I stood to my feet and felt someone grab my hand.

“Who are you?” I laughed, dramatically swinging my arms around, trying to distinguish who was grabbing me.

“It’s Mr. Clawson,” one of the seniors shouted back toward us. “He can’t talk.”

The mute leading the blind… Coooooool, I’m definitely gonna die. I thought as I started asking questions like an idiot.

“Do you know which way the road is?”

Silence. Right… He can’t talk.

I wandered forward with my arms extended out in front of me, cupped in Clawson’s hands. “Can you somehow tell me if I’m about to eat it?”

He shifted his hands from their cupped position, putting one of them in front of my fists. I stopped, confused. Just then I felt his other hand tap my foot.

“Step up?”

One tap.

“Does that mean yes?” I laughed.

Another tap.

“Okay, one tap for yes. Two taps for no. Sound good?”

One tap.

We walked like that, through thickets of wild rose bush, over fallen logs, across a small stream, and even under what I’m assuming was a giant tree branch just waiting to decapitate my very blind self. We communicated only in questions and faux Morse code. (And the occasional burst of nervous laughter.)

Our communication system was slow, but as long as I kept my full attention on the way Andrew’s hands were moving over and in front of my fists, I knew that we were gonna be fine. After two years of working on the same teaching team as Clawson, I knew I could trust him and I knew that we solved problems well together– with, or evidently without words.

At one point, we were doing so well with our very quiet communication that we caught up with two of our students– Jack, who didn’t have use of one of his arms, and Ricky, who was just as blind as I was. As we moved closer, I could hear Jack leading his classmate through the bushes.

“Okay, Ricky. You’re gonna take three small steps forward and then you’re going to pick up your right foot to climb over a small fallen log. You can steady yourself on my good arm. One… Two… Three…”

The temptation to listen to the directions ahead of me became too great for my little brain and as Jack said “Three…” my right foot unconsciously raised and slammed back into the flat ground in front of me. Andrew, worried that I was going to fall, began furiously tapping the front of my hands, warning me to stop.

“Sorry, I was focusing on Jack. My brain just couldn’t help it.” I admitted, embarrassed as I apologized to Clawson and he urged us forward.

For the next quarter mile, as we tailed Jack and Ricky, I struggled to keep my mental wires from getting crossed.

Focus on what is right here. Focus on what you’re being told now… I told myself every time I began to listen to the directions ahead and started to stumble.

~

With only five weeks until I leave for Alaska, I feel the tension of that mountain side in my heart everyday.

I’m here in Denver now. But I’m leaving soon.

I have to focus on what I’m doing here, even though my brain continuously tries to focus solely on the what lies ahead of me.

With every fundraising e-mail, item packed, and date ticked away in my journal, I’m walking toward Alaska. And most days I’m okay with that– I know I’m following Jesus. In fact, I can almost feel His hands over top of mine, guiding me quietly through this season of transition.

But some days, my mind wanders to the future and I stop focusing on the quiet (sometimes seemingly too quiet) direction that God is giving me everyday.

July 6th was one of those days when my lack of focus caused to me to fall.

It started just like the majority of my summer mornings did this year– with a quiet coffee date with Jesus on my front porch.

Quiet coffee soon turned into me realizing I was late for work, which turned into rushing through my work day, only to fight through rush hour traffic to make it to a dinner appointment with a supporter, barely on time.

Over Chipotle (Oh, how I’m going to miss Chipotle this next year), I sat and told a dear friend all about the call to go to Alaska. How clear it has been. How excited I am to go. How gracious God has been throughout the fundraising process.

At the end of it all, I looked down just in time to see my phone buzz, reminding me that I was going rock climbing with friends that evening.

Julie and I prayed, said our goodbyes, and I flew back out the door to my car.

And in that car ride on my way to the climbing gym, the tears that I didn’t realize I had been holding in all throughout dinner came pouring out of me. I had just finished rehashing Alaska for the umpteenth time, but suddenly something seemed so big and different.

All of the individual days of fundraising e-mails, prayer, quiet preparation, and packing had added up without me realizing it. Suddenly Alaska was only two months away and I felt like there was no more time left here in Denver.

My brain had launched itself into September, October, and November over the course of dinner with Julie, and suddenly I couldn’t help but worry about the directions and questions that lie ahead of me:

What will it look like to live with 5-1o teenage girls that I don’t know? What will it be like to never “leave” work? Am I cut out for this? Will I be a good enough teacher? Will I be able to relate to them? What the heck will I cook for them when all I know how to make from memory is Mexican food? Will they even like Mexican food? How on God’s-green-earth am I going to survive in a village for a year with minimal contact to the “outside world”?

My mind became so intensely focused on the future that I started tripping and stumbling all over the place– literally; I’ve never had such a rough go at rock climbing in my life. By the end of the night I was frustrated and embarrassed after falling from route, after route. Every time my fingers slipped off a hold and my body fell off the wall, I was instantly transported back to that first stumble on the mountain side during the Broken Body Game.

I bawled my eyes out on the highway driving home that night, only to get home, sit on the sofa with my roommates, and cry yet again.

I can’t go. I can’t. It’s too much. I can’t see what’s in front of me. I’m feel like I’m going to fall. I feel like I’m going to fail. I’m terrified. I sobbed into my hands while Amy sat with her arm around me and prayed.

Focus on Me. I’m telling you what is coming, but you don’t need to worry about that right now. Just focus on Me, here, now. I heard the Spirit, deep in my soul in between dramatic, heaving sobs.

Nearly a month later, it’s still an everyday battle to be here in Denver, in a season of mass transition, and to be here with Jesus. But that’s nothing new. Heck, before I even knew I was going to Port Alsworth, I struggled to be present and still where the Lord had put me.

But even as I struggle to be still, I praise God for the people that he has put next to me.

Thank you to those of you who constantly grab my fists and lead me back to Christ (and the realization that I’m still in Denver). Thank you to those of you who are walking this tension between the present and the future with me. Thank you to those of you who have sacrificed so that I may go, and simultaneously learn to stay.

While this season is definitely making me aware of just how broken my body and my heart may be, it is also a season of Good and Grace. And for that, I am incredibly thankful.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

(Psalm 46:10)

(If you’re interested in learning more about Port Alsworth, the Tanalian Leadership Center, and what my work will entail during my time in Alaska, click here. Or, if you’re interested in supporting my mission financially or in prayer, you can click here to learn more.)