Glacier Reflections

It’s been a little over a month since I left Many Glacier, and I still cannot fathom all of the glorious blessings God has given me this summer. Sometimes in life, our trials can often seem like roadblocks; however, God showed me this summer that that isn’t always the case. This summer held many trials for me, involving my family, my friends, and my job. More often than not, it was some sort of combination between the three. But, I truly believe that God uses the people in our lives to speak to us. He puts us through certain situations and in certain places to show us different lessons we need to learn. For me, this summer in Glacier showed a plethora of things, but there were a few things that stood out the most:

Communication is Key:

Just like in any relationship or friendship, communication is key. Being able to have people you can talk to for one, but being able to be vulnerable and express your fears, doubts, and worries with people is so vital. And for me, this summer really showed me just how crucial it is for me to be around a solid group of people who are able to communicate well with me. Despite me being around so many people this summer, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so isolated and lonely. That’s hard for me to admit, because if you know me, you know that I can tend to bottle things up and not admit when something is wrong. And that’s what I did for the majority of the summer. I pretended as if everything in my life was fine, when in actuality it wasn’t.

Being introverted in nature, it can be hard for me to open up to people if I feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable in any given situation. Not to say I won’t open up, but it makes it harder to talk to people. In most instances this summer, a few people had to force me to talk about what was going on. There was one friendship in particular this summer that I really struggled with, and despite talking and working things through before I left Glacier, I couldn’t help but think on my drive home that maybe things wouldn’t have been so tense all summer if I had just sucked up my pride and stubbornness and had talked to them sooner. With this particular friend, this summer truly showed me the importance of communication. While it’s something I’ve always known, I realized that 99% of the problems we had this summer wouldn’t even have existed if I had just had spoken up and had been honest enough to put my feelings into words. Instead, I did the opposite. I felt as if ignoring the problem would magically fix things, but in reality, it didn’t. And when I figured that out, I began to “fix” the problem by trying to be a better friend without ever really communicating to them that there was a problem until it got to a point where we weren’t really speaking. Trust me when I say that, communication is so essential to any type of relationship you have. Having close friends who are like family require communication, because without communication, you have nothing. You need people in your life who aren’t afraid of communicating how they’re feeling, who aren’t afraid to be brutally honest with one another, and someone that, no matter if you get frustrated or angry with one another, is always going to have your back.

Authenticity Please:

As we grow older, we really just want people in our lives that are good to us, good for us, and good for our soul. We as humans crave genuine, authentic community; relationships that allow us to be ourselves, to have raw and honest conversations. We need people in our life who are going to hold us accountable, who will continually encourage us in every season of our life, people who will push us to be the best version of ourselves and not let the past hinder our future.

I’ll be honest. I’m starved for connection, not attention. I could care less if I’m the center of attention, because I dislike being in the spotlight. But in the in midst of my mainly unplugged summer, I felt isolated, and to be fully real with you all, I still do. I’ve felt like I can’t even talk to people who I have been friends with for years for fear of judgement. But let me tell you something: when it comes to having authentic relationships, It’s not our job to judge. It’s not our job to figure out if someone deserves something. Our job is to lift the fallen, restore the broken, and to heal those who are hurting. The thing is, when God puts love and compassion in your heart toward someone, He’s offering you an opportunity to make a difference in that person’s life. You must learn to follow that love. Don’t ignore it, act on it. Somebody needs what you have. Again, that’s where communication is so important, because if you can’t be fully real with the people around you, you can’t expect them to do the same. With this in mind, we need to be vulnerable and be willing to reach out and ask for help when needed. If we don’t let people see the real us, and see our struggles, how are they supposed to help us grow and get through all the adversities we face? We need to be honest with ourselves as well, not just other people.

Living in the Present Moment:

We sometimes stay so focused on what God has done for us in the past that we sometimes forget about the beauty of all that God has yet to lead us to. Don’t get me wrong, reflecting on the past can be a wonderful thing, but we’re not meant to live our lives there. Often like the mountaintop moments of our life, we’re called to live in the valleys, to grow from our experiences and to learn from one another.

I’ve found that we often cannot control our circumstances, but we can control out attitude and how we deal with it. This summer was vital for me and for my relationship with God; it showed me many areas of my life that I still need to work on: my lack of confidence in myself and my abilities, my communications skills, my attitude towards life and the people around me, and the importance of community. One major thing is that I have become seemingly more aware that I tend to dwell on the past a lot more often than I should. Looking back on everything, I think this started more shortly after my dad passed away. I’ve been thinking, quite honestly, overthinking, about all of the little things that I could have done to change certain outcomes in life. But, then I realize that If those events didn’t play out the way they did, I wouldn’t be where I am today; I wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people I worked with in Glacier these past two summers.

The truth of the matter is, life is too precious to waste. When we look at life from that aspect, we learn not to take certain moments, or people for granted. Quite honestly, that can be hard in the pro-technological world we live in. Living in Glacier for a second summer in a row showed me that we sometimes need to disconnect from the outside world and focus on what truly matters, the present moment.

Simply put: life becomes more meaningful when you realize that you’ll never get the same moment twice. And being someone whose emotional doesn’t make you any less of a person. Embrace it. Take advantage of every opportunity. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be authentic with those around you and let your empathetic nature shine through. Communicate with each other. Be honest and don’t let fear hinder your future. Someone once told me that I was beautiful because I let myself feel, and how that was a brave thing. I never understood what they meant when they said it, but now I do. It’s okay to show emotion, and to be true to who you are. Life affects people differently, but in the end, our emotions shouldn’t hold us back. Be messy, and complicated, and afraid, and show up anyways.

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In The Midst of the Storm

Storms.

That simple, yet monumental word just about sums up my summer here in Glacier, and my seasonal work isn’t even over yet.  This summer is definitely not how I thought it would go; you’d think I’d learn by now that we should never have expectations for what our future holds and that we should just trust God wholeheartedly that He’ll walk alongside us through whatever life throws at us.

A few Sundays ago, I opened to a random page in my devotional book, “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp. This devotional spoke to me in ways that I can’t even begin to describe.  Let me share with you what it says:

“Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. They have encountered an impossible headwind and angry seas. If you look at the time clues in the larger passage of Mark 6, you can see that they have been rowing for about 8 hours. They are in a situation that seems impossible, exhausting, frustrating and potentially dangerous. They are far beyond their strength and ability. As you read the passage, you have to ask yourself why Jesus would ever want his disciples in this kind of difficulty. It’s clear that they’re not in this mess because they’ve been disobedient, arrogant, or unwise, but because they have obeyed Jesus.

Jesus sees that his disciples are in this exhausting and dangerous situation, and He sets out and begins to walk across the sea. Yes, you read that right: He walks across the sea. Now, the moment He begins to take this walk, you are confronted with two things. The first is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord God Almighty, because no other human being could do what He is doing. But there is a second important thing to observe. The minute He begins to take the walk, you know what He has in mind. If all Jesus wants to do is relieve the difficulty, he wouldn’t have to take the walk. All He would need to do is say a prayer from the shore and the wind would cease. He takes the walk because he is not after the difficulty. He is after the men in the middle of the difficulty. He is working to change everything they think about themselves and their lives. Standing next to the boat as the wind still blows and the waves crash, he says “It is I. Do not be afraid.” He is actually taking one of the names of God. He is saying the “I am” is with them, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One whom all the covenant promises rest. It is impossible for them to be alone because their existence has been invaded by the grace and glory of the I am.

Why did Jesus send his disciples into that storm? He did it for the same reason he sometimes sends you into storms – because He knows that sometimes you need the storm in order to be able to see the glory. For the believer, peace is not to be found in ease of life. Real peace is only ever found in the presence, power, and grace of the Savior, the King, the Lamb, the I am. That peace is yours even when the storms of life take you beyond your natural ability, wisdom and strength. You can live with hope and courage in the middle of what once would have produced discouragement and fear because you know you are never alone. The I am inhibits all situations, relationships, and locations by His grace. He is in you. He is with you. He is for you. He is your hope.”

Tripp’s words hit a crucial part of my soul. I’ll be honest, I was outright sobbing after I read this. This summer has been nothing but trial after trial in the worst way. I’ve felt so lost and discouraged. I’ve been so emotionally exhausted that I almost up and left Glacier on several different occasions. But that would have been me giving up: and I’m no quitter. I’ve had so much time to convince and remind myself that God called me here for a reason, and while that reason is unbeknownst to me, I know that despite all the hardships this summer has brought so far, this summer is a season of growth. It’s a season of being uncomfortable in every possible way. I’ve said it several times to people here, and these words came back to hit me deep: “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to be comfortable IN Him, in spite of all the things going on around us, in spite of all the trials we continue to face.”

Tripp advised in the book to read 1 Samuel 17. In that passage, it talks about David and Goliath.  The one thing that stood out to me after reading this was that this summer, I feel like David when he’s fighting Goliath. I feel like I’m in the middle of this spiritual war, in a battle that I’m never going to win. I feel like my attention has been so focused on my problems and the world around me, that I haven’t been able to focus on the One who gives me strength and courage to face those battles. This world tells us what we need and when we need it, but I’ve been so focused on these worldly problems affecting me that I’ve failed to realize that the only thing I truly need is Jesus.

Our God is bigger than any battle we face and any worldly thing we’ve been chasing. He is our only true source of Hope. Like myself, you might be dealing with struggles yourself. I encourage you to lean into Jesus; He is always by our side. He’s always working in our lives, even if we can’t always see or feel his presence. We need that faith that David had when He was facing Goliath. All David had was five tiny stones; Goliath was a giant and David knew that this was an impossible battle. But David knew that God would be beside Him in battle. He showed us that it doesn’t matter how small of a stone you have, you just need to believe that God is always with you, and that things will get better if we are patient enough to wait out the storm.

As if that wasn’t enough to hit my soul, later that night, my friend Kaylee played a song for me called “Tremble” by Mosaic MSC.  {For the full effect, feel free to give it a listen: I highly recommend it} In it, it quotes,

“Peace, bring it all to peace. The storms surrounding me, let it break, at Your name.  Still, you call the sea to still, the rage in me to still, every wave at Your name. Jesus, Jesus, you make the darkness tremble. Jesus, Jesus, you silence fear…Your name is a light, that the shadows can’t deny. Your name, cannot be overcome. Your name is alive, forever lifted high. Your name, cannot be overcome.”

Little did she know that this song was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed that reassurance that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is an all-powerful God who takes away our fear, and carries all of our burdens. Gods plans are always better than anything we can comprehend, and He knew exactly what He was doing when he brought this wonderful lady into my life. Kaylee is simply one of the people you need in your life; she’s on fire for God, has a heart of gold, and if you’re lucky enough to know her, you know she will defend you like no other person will. I know that she’s going to always be there for me, encouraging me to be the best version of myself and to chase God before any worldly thing. She’s taught me that storms, despite all the undeniably scary fears they bring, are necessary for our growth. She’s taught me that it’s in these storms where God allows us to change into the person he designed us to be. Change, I’ve learned time and time again, can be a scary thing. I’ve been constantly trying to find reassurance, to obtain some sort of self-confidence; but in the end, storms allow me to see that my life can’t change for the better if we don’t have a little setback in the process. Life doesn’t always happen the way we want it to, but sometimes the detours God takes us on end up being the best thing we never even knew we needed.

Moving On

“Know there’s a ticket with my name on it. Know there’s a plane leaving any minute. Know there’s a past that is full of fear; This ain’t a chance that I can forfeit. Movin’ On.” – Ciaran McMeeken, “City”

Change.

Some love it, and some are afraid of it. Change is inevitable. It’s a process that we all go through in life, minute by minute, day after day, year after year. Sometimes change is subtle; like a slow Sunday drive down a country back road. And other times, change is sudden, and forces you to rethink every moment of your life that led up to this point.

Someone once told me that, “When God gives you a new beginning, it always starts with an ending. Be thankful for closed doors, for they often guide us to the right one.”

You see, I’ve been learning that there is no rule book for life, nothing that tells us what is right or wrong or how to deal with all the adversities that life throws at us. But our mindset changes everything. Once I started having a more positive mindset and not allowing my past experiences to hinder my future self, I realized just how freer I’ve felt. It’s doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sadness or pain; on the contrary, there are days where all I want to do it sit and cry. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay. But at some point, you have to stop letting the past control your life. We all have so much potential, but when we focus on our past, on the experiences that have shaped who we have come to be, we lose sight of all the beauty of what we have yet to experience in life.

Lately, I’ve been faced with so many changes; none of which are bad. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need time to adjust to everything that seems to be happening all at once. One change that I’ve been looking forward to is my change of scenery. Since being back at Many Glacier, I’ve remembered how much this place has stolen my heart and been a place of renewal, healing, and joy for me. This place has a way of making you forget you had problems to begin with.

This next season of my life is a mystery to me, I have no idea what’s ahead or where I’ll end up come October, but for now, I’m going to make the most of this summer in Glacier. I’m going to embrace the messy, the chaotic, the glorious sunny days, and all the smiling faces I’ll meet along the way. Life never ends up how I wanted it too, but it always ends with how God meant it to fall into place. Every challenge I’ve faced along the way has led me to Glacier once again. Every situation we face, every person we meet; they all impact us in some shape or form.  Instead of analyzing every situation that has happened in the past, I’m choosing to be grateful for the good and the bad, for each lesson that I’ve learned and being thankful for all the friends that have become family to me.

To me, moving on with your life means that you’re slowly growing into the person you were supposed to be. Don’t let fear of change hinder you from experiencing all this world has to offer; every end is a new beginning. So, take a deep breath. Smile. Start again.

Advice from an ACMNP Alum

I remember last year, coming back from the annual A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) Training with a genuine excitement about what God was going to do up in Glacier National Park that summer. With me heading back up to Glacier for another summer with ACMNP, I am still longing for the mountains, along with the rest of God’s creations, and to be able to use my story as a living testimony that our God is good, sovereign, and forgiving to all of His children. I’ll admit, last year didn’t go at all as I planned, but I know that was how God wanted it to turn out. That being said, here are 5 things I wish someone would’ve told me before spending an entire summer living in a national park:

Don’t Have Expectations. Trust me on this one. When I got up to Glacier last summer, all of the expectations I had completely shattered within the first week I was there. It’s going to be tough, probably one of the hardest summers of your life, but the outcome is going to be worth it, and you will leave completely changed. The only expectation you should have is that God is going to move in big ways; it’s all in His timing, we just have to trust Him.

Be Authentic and Intentional. This is one of the most important aspects to your summer. God has called us to a specific park for a reason, and it would be selfish to not share Him with those around us. In order to do this, we need to build relationships. Not only with our teammates (because you do need to have some type of relationship with them and know them on a deeper level than just who you spend your Sundays with), but with your co-workers and other employees who are living in the park.  They are real people with real stories and struggles, most of whom don’t know the God we love and serve.  Most of the people that come to work in the parks are trying to heal, or run from something. Last year, I came into my ACMNP season a couple months after my dad passed away and had used alcohol as a way to cope. When I was in Glacier, I was forced to see that I was idolizing alcohol and putting it before my relationship with God. With the help from one of my friends in Glacier (and God), I became sober, and my friendship with them is one of the deepest ones I’ve ever had in my life. My friend isn’t Christian, but they support what ACMNP does because I took the time to get to know him, show him my struggles (which in turn I found out that he had gone through a similar situation a few years prior), and allow Him to be able to reciprocate that.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (MSG) says, “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”

Be bold, be yourself, and get to know people on a deep level. I wish I would have done more of this last year, because I know that I could have had a lot more impactful conversations. And that’s the thing, we never know who our testimonies are going to impact.

Take Soul Breaks.  There will come a point in time where you will get tired and feel burnt out. When that happens, well, it will be differently for everyone. My first piece of advice for this, pray daily, whether it’s by yourself or with your team. Have constant connection with our Lord and Savior. My second piece of advice, do something by yourself. Go hiking, take a nap, go for a long drive, play your guitar or whatever your heart so desires, do something that allows you to refresh and nourish your soul. As I said before, this summer is going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.

Get Outside. You may be thinking, isn’t that obvious? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to explore the creations around them. You get to live in a national park for 3+ months; most people who visit stay for a week tops. Take your co-workers hiking, sit by the lake, explore the area around you. Each part of the park has a different story or lesson waiting for you to stumble upon, don’t waste your opportunities to make memories and create new friendships.

Be Thankful. As Andrew Bellisle told us at training, we need to Be ORBS. We need to be the light of Jesus to those around us. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “Be Thankful in ALL Circumstances”. Believe me, it can be so easy to be negative and complain about how stressful our jobs can be, because they are indeed stressful. However, whenever life throws us curve balls, and it will, we need to choose to be thankful, to be a positive light in a negative world. The thing is, we can’t always control our circumstances, but we can control our attitude and how we deal with it.  Don’t let tough situations bring you down. Your co-workers see how you deal with pressure and interact with others. Choose to be thankful. Choose to bring joy to those around you. Your positive and joyful attitude may be the only positive interaction your coworker may experience that day. Be the person who brightens their day with a simple hello and smile, because 9/10 times, someone is going to ask you where your joy comes from, and that is when you get to tell them all about Jesus.

All in all, there is a reason God is bringing you to where you are going this summer. I implore you, if you feel like this summer is hard and you can’t do it, stick it out, because God is going to reveal that reason after that last hurdle. If you give up, you won’t know what’s on the other side of those mid-summer blues. Give all your worries to God, and trust that this summer with ACMNP is what you are meant to do. Embrace the unknown. Be true to yourself. Change can be utterly terrifying, but I learned that change doesn’t require us to take giant leaps of faith in hopes to have the results we want right away, all we have to do is trust God and remember that His plans and timing are always better than what we could ever imagine.

~ Sara

Finding My Sense of Self

Once upon a time, I was a little girl with big dreams that I promised myself one day I would make real. I was a girl who didn’t have a care in the world, and who’s only worry was what cereal I was going to eat the next morning. There was an innocence that the world couldn’t seem to take away. As time passed by, and I started my college years, I was still that little girl with big dreams, but I knew that innocence wasn’t going to last forever.  And like an uninvited friend, inevitability showed  up.

When my dad unexpectedly died, my life seemed to do a complete 180. And the way I like to phrase it, I was just a kid who had to grow up way to fast. Suddenly, I wasn’t a little girl anymore. I became something that a 21-year-old shouldn’t have to be right off the bat. It’s hard to try and deal with something so sudden and tragic, when everyone expects you to be strong. And that’s what I was. I was strong for my family. I had to be. I didn’t ask for it, and I definitely didn’t want to be strong. There were countless times where I would be there, for my mom, my brother, my sister, and later at night I would cry myself to sleep trying to fathom or comprehend how this happened. It seemed like I was strong for others but no one was strong for me.

As someone who is still in college, it’s also hard to have stability in your life, and it’s hard when you have all these constant pressures of people who expect you to have your life together. What are you doing when you graduate? When are you going to settle down and get serious about finding a husband? When are you going to get a real job? Why can’t you be like so and so?

It was at this point in my life, June 2015, that I turned to alcohol. Whenever I was stressed out or sad, I would drink to numb the pain. Because I didn’t want to deal with it. Did I acknowledge my dad died? Yes, but mentally and emotionally I just wasn’t ready to deal with it.  1 drink turned to 2, which turned to 3 or 4 a night…every night. I hid it very well, which wasn’t a good thing, but those societal pressures were  constantly being thrown at me time and time again. My drinking became a habitual thing, one that was a constant routine in my life, and like most routines, it was at the point where I didn’t even realize how big of a problem it was, until June 19, 2016. Father’s Day. During this time in my life I was out in Glacier National Park, serving with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks and working in the kitchen at Many Glacier Hotel as an EDR Cook. A few days prior, I had become friends with one of the most influential people in my life to date, whether he actually knows it or not. I had a conversation with him, mainly about my dad, and for some reason told him about my dependency on alcohol, and how I used it to deal with my problems. I don’t remember most of that conversation, but I do remember him saying that being sober was one of the best things he ever gave himself, it freed him in a sense that he didn’t need to rely on alcohol to have fun. He left me to myself after that, and as I thought it over and prayed, I knew that in order to truly deal with my dad’s death, and to start healing, that I would have to stop drinking… for good. It wasn’t easy, being sober in a place where the majority of the employees’ drink and party every night, but I knew that the outcome I wanted from this situation wasn’t going to be.  I had to fight for it, every single day I was there.

In these past few months since I got back from Glacier National Park, I’ve had a new perspective on life, and in a way, it has been life-changing. And when I say that, I’m not saying that I’ve gone off on some crazy or extravagant adventure.

I’ve been in Wisconsin. Waukesha, Wisconsin.

I have the same routine: Wake Up. Go to Class. Go to Work. Sleep. Now a consistent schedule is hardly what I’d call life-changing. However, there were particular moments where I would find myself in silence. Those quiet moments, which people might find awkward or uncomfortable, but for me, it reminded me of the peace I felt while sitting upon the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake.

It’s in those quiet moments that I ask(ed) God to give me clarity. Now, back to what I said. These past few months have been life-changing. How can that be exactly?

Well, while I haven’t done anything extravagant, I’ve had a lot of time by myself.

A lot of time to think about how much I’ve grown. I’ll admit, about a year and a half ago – I lost my sense of self. When my dad died, I entered into one of the darkest seasons of my life. My hope. My confidence. My self-esteem. They all seemed to be nowhere in sight. As I mentioned earlier, I turned to alcohol to numb the pain, to make me forget that I ever really had a problem to begin with.

Now leading a sober life, I’ve had a chance to see the other side of this dark situation that I was forced into.

Life is too ironic to fully understand it. It takes sadness to know what happiness is. Noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence. I can’t even iterate how true this is. We take things for granted all the time… our friends and family being one of them. In this millennium day and age, when we hang out family and friends, we’re constantly on our phones, engaging in social media, or playing the newest game because that’s what we’ve been influenced to do. But I’m making it a point to do the opposite. I’m not saying I’m deleting social media, but I’ve made it a point to be more intentional with my friends and family, to set the phone down and really be present. You see, it’s fine to get a few pictures here and there, but to really engage, to be in community with those friends and family members, that’s the real treasure. That’s where you get to be vulnerable, to share your fears, your heartaches, your struggles. You can share your dreams, goals and aspirations. It’s important to make time for the people who you care about.

But you see, it’s just as important to know your worth. When someone treats you like you’re just one of the many options, help them narrow down their choice by removing yourself from the equation. Sometimes you have to try not to care, no matter how much you do (believe me on this, it’s easier said than done). Because sometimes you can mean almost nothing to someone who means so much to you. It’s not pride. It’s SELF RESPECT. Don’t expect to see positive changes in your life if you surround yourself with negative people. Don’t give part-time people a full-time position in your life. Know your value and what you have to offer, and never settle for anything less than you deserve. Some people will talk to you in their free time, and some people free their time to talk to you, and you have to recognize the difference.

You see, it takes a level of self-love, of dedication and determination to live your greatest life. So, look within. Look at every area of your life and ask yourself these questions: Am I on course? Am I growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Anything that is blocking that, anything that is preventing you from living your greatest life, make the tough decision to let it go. You need to surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart and nourish your soul.

I’m not the same individual I was a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago, I’m always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. I finally understand that some of the hardest times we go through in life are where we are transitioning from one version of ourselves to another. I’ve been hard on myself, but I’ve had a moment to take a step back and marvel at my life: at the grief that softened me, at the heartache that made me wiser, and the suffering that strengthened me. Despite everything, despite all the bad days and mean people, I still believe in good days. I still believe in good people. I still grew, and for that, I’m really proud of myself.

I’m still trying to find my sense of self again, but I’m learning to accept that it’s okay to not know who I am right now. It’s okay to learn new things about myself, to experience new things, and to go places I never thought I’d go. The sun will rise and set regardless of what we do. What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us. I was scared, afraid that If I tried to move on with my life, that I would forget my dad, and all of the wonderful thing he’s taught me. But that simply isn’t true. Change can be utterly terrifying, but I learned that change doesn’t require us to take giant leaps of faith in hopes to have the results we want right away. It’s okay to start where you are. To start with fear. To start with pain. To Start with doubt. To start with hands shaking and your voice trembling, but to start. To start and don’t stop. To start wherever you are in your life, and with whatever you have…just start. Because change is always messy, but it’s always good to take the scenic route, to be reminded of how far you come, and how much further you have left to go. Finding my sense of self is a journey in itself, and I’m ready for the endless adventure to begin once again.

Dad, Thanksgiving Isn’t The Same Without You.

​Dad,

Its been a long year and a half since you’ve  gone to be with the Lord, and with every day that passes, I miss you more and more.

With today being Thanksgiving, its hard for me to not be emotional. Like anybody who has lost a parent, its natural to feel empty inside, to feel like something is missing from this day, from every day really. I should be happy, but all i feel is sadness, that you’re not here to celebrate with us. In reality, its like this void inside me that I know will never be filled.

It seems like just yesterday we were making cinnamon rolls early in the morning while we watched the Macy’s thanksgiving parade.

It seems like it was just yesterday that we would set up our Christmas tree and hang up the rest of the Christmas decorations while some NFL football game is on in the background.

As it is Thanksgiving, I will say that I’m thankful to have had you to share holidays with for as long as I did. I’m thankful for every second. But missing you hurts. Spending them without you hurts. It’s another day that I have to be reminded that our time together was cut short. It’s another day I have to be reminded that we won’t get to spend holidays together ever again.

Its just not the same without you dad.

I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. But most importantly, I miss you. I love you Dad, and I really wish you were still here.

Hitting Rock Bottom, So To Speak

My entire life can be described in once sentence: it didn’t go as planned, and that’s okay. I’ve had to deal with a lot of things growing up. I’ve had friends die, people who have come in and out of my life. But the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, and still currently trying to deal with, is my father’s death.

I’ve come to learn that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. In fact, we all grieve differently, and that is quite alright. There isn’t a correct amount of time to get over something, nor will you ever “get over it,” but you’ll eventually learn to subside the pain and move on with your life. It’s just fine to feel a little heavy, and it’s just fine for me to sit here and catch my breath, and it’s just fine to be a mess at times. Just as it’s fine to be relatively normal. It’s just fine to miss them, to yearn for a conversation, for just a few more moments with that person. It’s just fine to let it all hit me, surrounding and succumbing. But most importantly, it’s fine to remember that grief has no rules, and that really, it will in many ways last as long as love does…forever.

Being 126 days sober isn’t something that’s been an easy battle. It’s something that I’ve had to fight for. Every. Single. Day. There are days where I want to give in to the temptations, and use alcohol as a means of distracting myself from all the problems I don’t want to deal with, but I don’t. And every day I thank myself for not doing something that will only make my health problems worse. Being back in Wisconsin, I’ve had more time to deal with the problems I pushed aside due to my alcohol addiction. And finally dealing with those problems, as well as talking to some very close friends on a daily basis, I’ve learned an important lesson:

Sometimes you have to deconstruct something, until you hit rock bottom. So that, piece by piece, you can rebuild it into something better. Something stronger.

Now let me explain. The quote above could be applied to a lot of different things, but the “something” I’m referring to here is myself. When My dad died, I became the person I promised myself I wouldn’t ever become. I broke all of my rules and allowed my alcohol addiction to control my life. Being sober has given me the opportunity to find who I am without the alcohol influencing my decisions or feelings. When you start over, you have the chance to make something better, something stronger. It’s a day to day process, but slowly and surely I know it gets better. What makes it even better is that because I allowed myself to deconstruct, to hit rock bottom, I was able to reprioritize my life by putting God first and foremost.  You see, life is not the mountaintops, but the walking in between. It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.

Each day of my life brings something different, some are better than others. But on particularly rough days, when I’m sure I can’t endure any more, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100%, and I think that’s pretty good.

Every End Brings A New Beginning

Four months ago, Dave Degler told me and roughly 40 other people at the May ACMNP training that this summer would be the hardest, but also the best summer we would ever have. Now, if you asked me four months ago that I’d be ending my season at Many Glacier dreading to pack up my things and head back to Wisconsin, I probably would’ve laughed, shook my head, and called you crazy. But things don’t always turn out the way we think they’re supposed to, and that’s okay.

About a week ago, I gave a sermon on the idea of New Beginnings. One thing I thought was cool was that one of the worship songs that Ellie had picked out, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), was a song that I haven’t sung since my father’s funeral a year and some months ago. This past season of my life has been something that I’ve considered to be a growing period, not to say that we don’t grow otherwise, but I think that there are certain times in our life where we grow more. To have that song end my time here in Glacier, gives me hope of the new beginning I’m going to have come 2 days from now.

This summer, my expectations were blown away, and I finally understood what Dave was talking about. You see, there were a lot of things I expected to happen this summer.

  • Did I hike? Yup.
  • Did I Stay Up too late stargazing? Of Course!
  • Did I run ACMNP worship services? Absolutely.
  • Did I make some amazing, lifetime friends? Without A Doubt.

While all of this is dandy, let me tell you what I didn’t expect.

  • I didn’t expect to feel isolated the first couple weeks.
  • I didn’t expect that I’d run an entire EDR (employee dining room) during one of my shifts.
  • I didn’t expect my faith to be put to the test on a daily basis.
  • I didn’t expect to fall in love with this park.

Let me be vulnerable for a second. As I write this, I’m 76 days sober and it’s almost a year and a half since my father passed away. This whole summer, I’ve been fighting change, trying to delay letting go of certain people and places I’ve loved. You see, I thought that letting go meant that I’d be trying to forget them and the impact they had on me. But after multiple heart to heart conversations with a few of my close friends here in Many Glacier, I understood that letting go doesn’t mean you have to forget, it just means you aren’t going to let it hold you back anymore. And sometimes that means you don’t get the closure you so dearly hoped for, you just have to move on. Letting go doesn’t mean you forget, it doesn’t mean you don’t think about it, or ignore the things that have happened. It doesn’t leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go isn’t winning, and it isn’t losing. It’s not about pride, and it’s not about how you appear, and it’s definitely not obsessing or dwelling on the past. Letting go isn’t blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts. It doesn’t leave emptiness, hurt or sadness. It’s not giving in or giving up. It’s also not about loss and it’s not about admitting defeat.

Letting go means to cherish the memories, to overcome the obstacles, and move on. It’s having an open mind and having confidence in the future. It’s about accepting, learning, experiencing, and growing. To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and made you grow. It’s about all you have, all that you had, and all that you will soon enough. Letting go is having courage to accept change to keep moving forward. It also about growing up and realizing that the heart can be the most potent remedy. But most importantly, letting go allows us to open a new door, set out on a new adventure, and be welcoming of the future.

One thing I’ve realized is that in order to appreciate the good, we have to go through the bad. In order to get to the mountain top, we have to trudge through the valleys. We’re not called to live an easy, perfect life. Persevering through the trials is what makes the climb worth it. No matter how scary it may be to start over, or how terrifying it is to not be in control, God’s plans are ALWAYS better. Our most painful struggles more often than not grant us the most necessary growth, and what may seem like the “end of the world,” let’s be honest, isn’t. Inevitable things happen, people die, friends part ways, relationships fall apart, but at the end of the day, we’re alive, and we get a chance to start over again. God grants us that chance, because his mercy and grace is abundant, and his love for us is even greater. God will often lure us into experiences we don’t understand so he can give us comprehension we’ve never had before. I still don’t understand why my dad had to die, and maybe I never will. But I do know that if my dad hadn’t passed away, I never would have gone to Urbana. I never would have met the amazing directors of ACMNP. I never would have applied, got accepted, and spent an entire summer living, serving and working in the Many Glacier Valley. The people I can now call some of my closest friends, well, we wouldn’t have met if it wasn’t for that single catastrophic event that turned my whole world around.

I’ve changed so much over the past three months, heck even the past year, but honestly, I’m choosing to be thankful despite all of the things I know that I could be complaining about. I think one reason people resist change is because we focus on what we have to give up instead of what we have to gain. We have to stop spending our time asking God why certain doors have been closed and start praising him for doors that have yet to be open. I’ve found it takes courage to let go of the familiar and embrace the new. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” My strength to move forward every day is not all my own, and I’m incredibly lucky to have a God who will give me all the strength I could ever need.

Many Glacier has become like a home to me, but I’ve found that home isn’t a particular place, it’s the people who I’m with, and where I feel happy. There’s no doubt that Glacier has made me the happiest I’ve been in a long time, but I also know that there are people in Wisconsin who are home to me as well. Maybe it is true what my dad used to say, that our hearts can be in so many places at once and still function to the best of its ability. But honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way. So long Glacier, here’s to my new beginning back in Wisconsin and wherever God leads me on this unknown path I walk along.

Until Next Time,

Sara

The Fragile Life We Lead

People try and people die. I’ll remember their names; I hope somebody remembers mine. – Ethan, one of my co-workers in Many Glacier

Death is one of those inevitable things that happens to all of us during our lifetime. While it’s definitely not something we usually look forward to, it’s always nice to know that we have some time with the people we love before they die. I’ve dealt with death a time or two, and it’s always different each time around. We all deal with death differently. More often than not, we forget how valuable time truly is, and how often we take it for granted. We forget to fully live in the moment and be present with the people around us because we think we have all the time in the world, when in reality, we don’t.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had two close friends from home pass away unexpectedly. Not once did it cross my mind to text or call either one of them because in all honesty, I figured that I would see them come September when I would travel back to Milwaukee. It’s hard, being away from my family during times of struggle, but my friends out here in Many Glacier have been more supportive and encouraging than ever. A few days ago, Maxx, one of my best friends out here, told me, “The thoughts in your head run your world.” While in retrospect, I knew this to be true based on past experiences I’ve encountered in life, but today, as I found out my friend passed away, it really struck a chord with me. It’s so easy to let fear control your life, to let the sadness and the grief consume you and leave you feeling tired and depressed. But for the first time in my life, I’m choosing the harder route: to have hope that things will soon be better, if not today than the next day. We’re not guaranteed to live to tomorrow, and the more I thought about the conversation Maxx and I had, the more I agreed with him. For so long, I’ve been fighting these negative thoughts, thoughts about my dad dying, thoughts of me not being good enough (in terms of respecting myself), of people not liking me, etc. But what’s the point of living your own life if you’re too busy caring about what other people think of you and letting all the negativity get to your head.  One of my problems is that with each person I meet, no matter how long I’ve known them, they make an impact on my life. And when something bad happens to them? My heart breaks for anybody who knew them. I love everyone I meet, whether it be for their bubbly personality, or their contagious laugh, and I can usually never imagine life without them. But then, the inevitable happens, because that’s just how life works.

Matt Maher has a song that talks all about the value of time. In the song Borrowed Time, he sings, “Well the clock is ticking, are you gonna start living? Cause you really only got this life, yeah we’re living on borrowed time.

I think when bad things happen, it can also be a blessing in disguise. It’s not like we wish bad things to happen in our lives, but without the bad, we can’t understand the good. Death always gives us that chance to reevaluate our lives and our priorities. This summer, sobriety has given me my life back. While this newfound road I’m walking down isn’t easy (especially when trying to grieve the loss of a loved one), I’m embracing this season of growth, this season of change. I’ve come to realize that I’m at this season of my life where I’m not sure who I am anymore. Not my identity in Christ, but all of the little things that make up me. When I look back on the past, I’ve noticed that some of the things that I used to enjoy doing, are things that I rarely do anymore. But there are some things, like painting, hiking, and writing, that I’ve started doing more of in the past couple weeks and it’s given me a drive to live again, like really live. Of course there were people involved, people who have inspired me to live life without fearing the future, but most importantly, it’s my faith in God that allows me to keep going. He alone is my rock, my strength, my protector. He never gives me more than I can handle. In the bible, it tells us multiple times that we will face trials, and they will put our faith to the test, but if we give all of our worries to God, he’ll allow us to get through anything.

The choice in life is a simple one: do you live and let God take care of your worries? Or do you let life’s temporary materialistic fixtures run your life?

 

Trusting The Process

Coming out to Glacier National Park wasn’t something I ever intended on doing, but if it’s God’s will, there will always be a way.

I’ve been here for almost a month now, and it’s starting to feel a bit like home. It’s still kind of surreal that I get to live in this beautiful park that God created. I’ve made some new friends, and I get to run these really cool worship services with ACMNP that allow me to interact with the guests that visit! And let’s not forget about my job as an EDR (Employee Dining Room Cook). My co-workers are really fun to work with, and they come from all over the world, including places like Taiwan, Jordan, and Russia!

While all of this seems like I’ve been having a blast, well you would partly be correct. Life here in Glacier (like Dave told me at my ACMNP training), has been anything but easy. Getting outside of my comfort zone is hard, like really hard. If you know me, I’m as introverted as they come, I’m selectively social, and definitely not a party person. At lot of the people here life to drink, and that puts me in an uncomfortable situation when trying to do relational ministry.

As of today (July 2), I am 13 days sober. It came on father’s day, when I was struggling hard core to grasp onto the little hope I had that day. With my father passing away only a year ago from a heart attack due to alcoholism, it was something I had thought about many times before. And after having a wonderful conversation with my friend Maxx, my choice was definitely strengthened. While this decision gives me less opportunities to talk to people about my faith, I’m choosing to trust the process that God has placed me in. He’s already given me so many cool opportunities to talk about my faith due to choosing not to drink, and even in the midst of chaos, I try to bring a positive atmosphere to work.

There are days where I wish I wouldn’t have come out here, where I was really tempted to give up and quit. But I didn’t. Because God has me out here for specific reasons, and no matter how tiring, stressful or frustrating this summer may get, I’m choosing to trust God. Because if my faith is all I have, it’s all I’ll ever need. The past day was the most relaxing I’ve had in weeks, mainly due to my lovely Canadian friends up in Waterton (S/O to Benjamin, Brad, Sydney and Issac!!!!), but God is just truly amazing. Even when I’m feeling discouraged or broken down, He’s always placing these cool opportunities at my feet and giving me a chance to soak in His creation and his marvelous wonders. The time spent up in Canada today allowed me to see that I need to spend more quality time with Jesus and to strengthen my relationship with Him.

Here’s to the next month and all the wonderful things God has in store for me, until next time, God Bless.