Hi friends and family!
It's been another year full of adventures, laughter, tears, and community for me here in Montrose, CO. I'm approaching two years here, and I couldn't be more grateful for the wonderful people I've met here and the opportunity to serve God by loving and caring for teenagers experiencing mental health and family crises.
Our program at Seeds Wilderness Therapy runs seasonally from around April to September/October, so during the winter, I found a nice balance working at a bagel shop part time and picking up some graphic design freelance work part time. It really helped me grasp that I still love design work, I just don't love sitting behind a computer for all 40 hours of my week.
Last year, I moved into a shared house with several of my coworkers from Seeds, and I was really thankful for my decision to make this my year-round home. Funnily enough, the house we share is owned by friends of my parents from their church in Spokane in the 80s! Their daughter and son in law (Claire and Caleb) have both worked for Seeds and live in a tiny house parked behind the main house. My housemates and I enjoy game and movie nights, meals, and having people over to our home frequently.
In February, I took a 10-day Wilderness First Responder course in Estes Park and earned my certification at the end. It was a really empowering experience to gain all that knowledge and hands on practice. Some of those skills I'd later have to use throughout the summer.
I made a trip home in March to visit with my family and friends and meet my new niece.
I headed back to start training at the end of March. We welcomed new staff at orientation, and once again got snowed on at the end of the week 😂
I mainly worked with our girls' group this season. My shift runs 8 days on, 6 days off, so for essentially a week at a time, me and my co-staff live with the kids in the woods, typically hiking and moving camp every other day. We teach both hard wilderness skills, and soft therapeutic and communication skills, and the wilderness and group setting is a natural place for kids to face stressors that reveal our patterns of behavior and necessitate putting those skills into practice. Living outside without the comforts of life back home is hard!
We had a lot of tough weeks this summer. Group dynamics were really difficult, and the level of intensity for me was definitely higher than my first year. But looking back, I'm extremely proud of the way our students faced their problems and the transformations I saw during the season. There are families that were hopeless that now have hope for good relationships with their teens, and that always makes it all worth it.
Off shift days always fly by, and after a couple rest days, I found that going on little adventures really helped me feel emotionally recharged. Trips to Crested Butte and a hiking trip to Ice Lakes with visiting friends Bekah and David were awesome!
On one of our students' graduation trips, my co-staff Catherine and I stayed up late around the fire talking with a student's mom and just crying with her over how much their family has been through over the past year. I felt so strongly in that moment the presence of God in the way we shared that moment of deep sadness with her. And the next day ended in a family embrace and happy tears - such a gift.
We finished our season with a debrief campout and then a 3 day rafting trip on the Colorado river to celebrate.
"Seeds Prom" was our end of year banquet theme, and I officially leveled up to Senior staff.
My friend John took us on some great outings in his Jeep at the end of the season. It's such a blessing to live close to so much beauty! And it definitely helps my soul bounce back from the emotional heaviness of work.
Before getting back to work at my winter jobs, I chose to take some time this fall to travel. (Perks of seasonal work, for sure!)
My good friend from college, Melissa, asked me if I'd like to take her wedding elopement photos in Iceland in exchange for a free trip! Uh... YES!
I rented some wedding-quality camera gear and flew to Reykjavik before driving to the Westfjords, a more remote area where fjords and waterfalls abound. The experience was incredible - honestly I'd happily love to shoot more adventure elopements like this! I've wanted to go to Iceland since seeing the film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". So thanks Melissa and Nathan for making one of my dreams come true!
I had also been wanting to visit my other college roomie, Charlotte, who lives in Peru, and I finally had enough saved up this year. I spent the first week with her in Lima, and then spent the second week hiking the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu! The trip was awesome, minus the last few days when I got sick and my flight home got cancelled. But it can't all go perfectly every time 🤪
Coming home from these incredible places to Colorado felt so good - instead of a vacation let down, I was really happy to be home. I always miss my Midwest friends and family. And at the same time I also think that living here has been a really good choice for my health and growth. It can feel hard sometimes to be so far from people I love, but know that even if we haven't talked in a while, I say a prayer of thanks for you when God brings you to mind.
I pray that wherever you are reading this, that you find peace and joy in the hope of God with us, Emmanuel. I also pray that you live this next year in love instead of fear, and with the courage to live into the person God has created you to be.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Isaiah 9:6