Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This isn't a sprint...

Steve and I often call this time of year "the sprint to the finish." There is always so much to do in these last few weeks of school: planning graduation, administering finals, finalizing the course schedule for next semester, the list goes on. I know that our students feel the same way- they are working hard to prepare for finals, and catch up on any missing coursework. Our kids are busy as well, wrapping up their spring activities and their school, while at the same time bringing home pamphlet after pamphlet advertising summer actives galore! It is easy to feel overwhelmed. 

This spring, I am trying my best to remember that although this may feel like a sprint, I am really taking part in a long distance "marathon" through life. You can only sprint for so long before burning out, and in ministry this happens all to often. We are doing our best to set our lives at a pace that we can maintain, establishing priorities that will keep our focus on the things that matter. We want to go the long haul, and to finish well. I have had Hebrews 12:1-2 on my mind: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Of course this is much easier said than done, but during busy seasons such as the final weeks of the semester it is important for me to remember. 

The month leading up to this busy time has been very full, but we had the opportunity to recharge a bit as well. We traveled to Arizona to meet with many of the people who partner with us here at ACC, and we also got to spend time with friends and family. 

Reunited with Nana after a long day of travel.
Whenever we fly out of Alaska, we always have at least 6 suitcases (gifts for friends and family, outgrown clothes to pass on, etc.) This time, we also had two large boxes of fish.  I was worried that our quick tape job in the freezing cold Alaska morning would not hold, but somehow the salmon stayed safely in their boxes. They were enjoyed with over 30 ACC partners at a bbq that Friday night. For those of you who think we are crazy for packing fish in a couple boxes, just be glad we didn't fly "true alaskan style" with the fish wrapped in newspaper, stuck into our suitcases with our clothes.

One of the things we try to take advantage of when we travel to AZ is the easy access to top medical care.  Alaska does ok when it comes to medicine, but for some things we prefer to stick with our established doctors. This trip Noah was able to see his Cardiologist, Dr. Stock, for his semi-annual heart check-up. I think this is the first echocardiogram and EKG we got through with no tears! Everything looks great with Noah's heart. Noah asked a lot of questions, and figured out that Dr. Stock was the one who noticed when his heart was shutting down as a baby and rushed us to the Children's hospital, saving his life. He gave Dr. Stock a huge hug and said "thank you for saving me Dr. Stock." It was very sweet, and everyone teared up a bit, including the doc.

 In addition to updating many of our ministry partners in AZ we were able to see many close friends that we consider family.  This visit, some of our best friends were visiting from Central Asia where they serve with the International Mission Board. Grace was ecstatic to be reunited with her best buddy Adeline, who she has not seen in four years. Now that they are old enough to use computers they have set up emails so that they can continue to email back and forth instead of relying on Mom and Dad to Skype.
Grace and Adeline 4 years ago, and now.
All of the girl "cousins."
 Nana Marsha was in 7th heaven with almost all of her grandkids in one place (Steve's brother and his family are still overseas, but we should get to see them this fall.) She re-introduced the girls to some serious shopping, took the kids to their first movie in a theatre (for the Central Asian kids) and first movie in a year (for the Alaskan kids), and hosted many Nana-sponsored get-togethers at her house.

Almost the whole gang, including the Alaskan grandkids, the Arizonan grandkids, and half of the Central Asian grandkids.
Nana with some of her kiddos
The girls didn't seem to mind the culture shock of the mall :)

 Steve and Noah found out that there is an ice rink close to where we stayed. They made it there multiple times over the week, and brought the rest of us along a couple of times. It was the first time on the ice for some of the family, and Noah made sure to coach everyone as much as possible, whether they needed help or not.

Mema and Noah hit the ice 
 My mom made it down from Prescott for several days, so the kids got to spend time with Mema as well! She was a huge help, especially when both Steve and I came down with a HORRIBLE case of strep throat. We didn't let a small case of apocalyptic strep slow us down though, and once we were declared non-contagious we were back to our week of re-connecting with friends & family. Some of our best friends & supporters, Bryan & Jamie Powers, even risked catching the plague from us so that we could spend Bryan's birthday night with him before we were fully through our first 12 hours of antibiotics. That's dedication folks!

The week flew by, and all to soon it was time to head back to the frozen (or not so frozen) North. The weather in Alaska has been gorgeous throughout March, and we have enjoyed the lengthening days, with more sunlight. Then April hit, and the temperatures dropped and the precipitation moved in. As I sit here typing this update snow is swirling outside my office window. It is weird to be preparing for the end of the school year, and upcoming summer activities, while staring at snow falling from the sky.

After returning from Arizona we jumped right back into campus life. How could you not miss these faces? (Serves them right for stealing my phone and taking pictures on it!)

The day before Steve's birthday we had an illusionist come to preform for the students.  They had just returned from traveling to the Aleutian islands to preform in Village schools.  After the illusionist performed, his friend shared his testimony which resonated with many of our students (and staff.) It was a very effective ministry, and our students loved the show.

Steve was tasked with tightening the straight-jacket

Some parts of the straight-jacket assembly were more awkward than others... 
Easter is such a great time to be up in Alaska.  It means the days are getting longer and warmer.  We got to celebrate the Resurrection in typical fashion - except the Easter egg hunting had to be done inside. :) Although if we skipped the dying of the eggs and hid them outside it could have mad for a very challenging hunt! As you can imagine, Noah threw himself into the egg-dying process with full gusto. There was dye from his fingertips to his shoulders... who needs to use those egg-holders when your entire hand works just as well?

As April came, so did the snowy cold weather. A few days ago we had a particularly hard snow-fall. The kids loved it, and we decided to take advantage of the spring snow and take a family hike down the trail behind our house.

The path in the woods behind our house parralels the bluff overlooking the inlet. On stormy days it is quite the view! 

That has been our spring so far. We have three weeks left of school for the ACC students, and then we get to celebrate as 4 more students earn their Associates degrees (2 in Christian Ministry, 2 in Paraprofessional Education.) We will have pictures from that in our next update. As you start to think about your own summers please remember to pray for our students as they head into summer internships, or head back home to their own villages and towns. It can be hard to leave the support system here at ACC, and while they are all looking forward to a break from school, many aren't looking forward to leaving for the summer. Thanks to all of you who partner with us here at ACC, and to our friends and family who check in with us through our blog!