Swimming With Salmon in Alaska

There are many once in a life time type of experiences all around in Port Alsworth, Alaska. Some involve hiking in uncharted territories, skiing off glaciers, rafting wild rivers, Super Cub flights to a mountain top for an afternoon of skiing, and a simple picnic on Lake Clark at sunset is always memorable.

This summer, I had a the privileged of being the first to experience one of the unique adventures found in Lake Clark National Park. A few of us ventured up Lake Clark to the Kijik River to get a close up experience with the sockeye salmon run. We went swimming with the salmon! Hundreds of bright red sockeye salmon after they spawned and near the end of their long journey from the Pacific Ocean. It was so incredible.
Swiming with Salmon

I joined my friends Eric and Sarah with our friend, Peter Goodwin who just opened The General Lodge and runs Alaskan Ventures. He guides unique Alaska wilderness experiences. He is always dreaming up the best new adventures and his energy for them is contagious. It doesn’t take much to get me excited about doing a wilderness adventure.

He came to me and said, “Hey I want to do this trip…”

“YES. I’m in!” I blurted out. “What are we doing?”

“We were going swimming with the salmon!”


The group of us packed the boat and headed north on Lake Clark to the Kijik River. One of my favorite places on the lake for relaxing with a fly rod in hand or around the camp fire. From there we took the jet boat up the Kijik River, which is always a thrilling experience in itself. There are parts of Kijik that are called the aquarium. Crystal clear, rather shallow and full of salmon and greyling darting every which way. It’s unreal. I have decided that however long I live here the novelty and beauty of this place never gets “normal.”

Now this is Alaska, and the water never gets warm. I had never used a dry suit for the purpose of snorkeling, and it felt a bit odd at first, being able to just wade out into the cold water, with “clothes” on, but it was fine! No leaks and I stayed warm, which was an odd phenomenon when you’re floating in an Alaskan river for hours.

Snorkeling with Sockey Salmon

Sockeye Salmon in Alaska

Peter had picked out an area, set up a little camp with our lunch and warm drinks, next to a huge pool of red salmon. Sarah and I were anxious to jump in and go! The river did the work for us as we waded up and floated down with the gentle current time and time again. I had only ever watched these pools of hundreds of giant red salmon from a boat, but had always wondered what it would be like to swim among them. It exceeded my expectations!

At this stage in their life cycle, the salmon were brilliant red. No Crayola crayon has captured this color. Their bodies begin to get humpy and their heads are dark green with a hooked nose. They have all ready spawned and are close to the end of their incredible life. It’s amazing to think these salmon started their life in this river and were ending it here after an epic journey of hundreds of miles to and from the Pacific Ocean, through Bristol Bay into many other bodies of water before ending back home. It really drove home the reality of the uniqueness of this experience. I get to live at some of the headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon run where millions of salmon return home every year to ensure they are replaced. To float along at the top of the river looking down into their life was truly wild experience. I was amazed at the grayling mingling around them as well, their size and shimmering silver color.

I am awed at the vast wild beauty of the place I get to call home. The unique rhythm of life that takes place with our ever-changing daylight, the salmon runs, the bears hibernating, the tundra growing and the glaciers moving. It was a treat to be a tourist in this amazing place, but where life falls into a routine. I was able to glimpse at this place through the eyes of someone who’s never experienced it. It’s definitely on the top of my epic Alaskan Adventures! Come and check it out or one of the unique trips offered by Peter Goodwin and Alaskan Ventures.

Kijik River Alaska

When Fear Steals Our Purpose

Avery Hall always reminded me of a what a psych ward would look like. The blocky brick nondescript building with low ceilings and flickering fluorescent lights. Half of them seemed to always be burned out creating a depressing feeling when one walked through the doors. It was never inviting, but it was home to the English Department at my university.

I sat one day under the buzz of the fluorescent lights in front of my English professor and career counselor. I awaited the critical piece of information that would shape my future. As a sophomore it was time to declare my major. The room was filled with haphazard stacks of books making me feel claustrophobic. I shifted nervously in the cracking plastic cushion on the old rolling chair. Posters of literary heroes hung on the walls, curling at the corners, collecting dust. I remember it smelling like reheated soup.

My professor was not an enthusiastic man. His demeanor was rather vanilla, and I wonder how many students he’d taught in his tenure. I was yet another young soul in search of making a dream come true. I was his 1:30 appointment. I remember him gazing up through his oversized 1980’s glasses from the English Career brochure asking, “So what do you want to do with your English major?” I shared my desire to write. I had loved creative writing since I was younger. Something deep inside of me was drawn to write. It was the only thing that keep coming to mind when I thought of what I wanted to focus on in college. I knew what I did not want to study or were my talents did not lie and creative writing was what stood out.

View from Homer Spit

Ocean engulfing Extratuffs

He laid before me several options within the English Department: Business English, Teaching English, Technical Writing and Creative Writing. I pondered… which one equalled a job? I wanted to pursue creative writing but how did that equal a job? I shared my dreams with him but he said creative writing is more of what a person does on the side, for fun. It did not equal a job.

I remember thinking, I’m supposed to be coming to you to find out what I can do with my dream. It was dashed. Hope spilled out of me onto the brown tile floor. My only choices seemed then to be technical writing. Technical is the opposite of creative, no thanks. Teaching, laughable, not a natural talent of mine. Business… sounded so dry and lifeless.

I looked over his shoulder out the window at students walking through campus. Everyone searching for their dream or beginning to live it out. I remember the distinct feeling at that moment that my dreams of writing were unattainable. Writing was something just for fun, not a reality for me. It did not equal provision for my future. A career. My longing for a chance to write freely, fully was met with a “try something else that will be more secure in life” response. I had to settle for something less than. It’s all I was worth.

View of Kechamek Bay

Feather on the seaside

I walked out of the office that day controlled by the fear of how would or could God ever provide for me if I followed that dream. I was ashamed I’d even dreamed of writing for a career. What a foolish thing to want. I saw others who were pursuing their dreams and longed to do the same, but fear and hurt pushed my dream into the dark. The big fat liar, the enemy of God’s purpose in my life, planted some nasty lies that day. My dream was a bad dream. I’d never be successful in it so why try? God would never provide financially in that dream. God messed up by giving me that dream. I should just go find something else I can do and pour my efforts into it, hoping it would fulfill.

I let fear come in and stole my dream. Fear kept me from following one of God’s purposes in my life. Living out of a talent He’s given me.

We can choose to live in fear and miss living out of God’s amazing purposes in our life…but God doesn’t give up. He can’t undo the way He’s wired us each individually. I can keep suppressing the desire to write my entire life, but the drive and dream of writing will never leave me because it’s something God’s wired into me. And what He plans He purposes. One of the enemy’s’ missions is to keep us from living out God’s purpose in our life. He succeeds if we are rendered ineffective in fear, comfort, pride, complacency or striving.

When I pay attention to the areas in my life seem to be surrounded by fear, where the enemy makes the most fuss, the more I see that God has an exact purpose He wants to fulfill through me in that area.

Field of Fireweed

View of Glaciers in Kechamek Bay

I do believe God has given me the ability to write and a desire to write. I don’t think I “messed up” by choosing another major. God has used it in incredible ways and I’ve enjoyed learning and growing through the opportunities he’s provided. God has gently showed me the reality of this fear. He has invited me to confess living out of fear. To confess I didn’t believe He was big enough to make my dream a reality. To confess I believed the big fat liar about my talents instead of believing the truth that God created me perfectly. To confess I have been ashamed of my writing, which means I’m ashamed of God’s purpose and talents in my life. The enemy’s purpose to keep me in bondage in fear no longer holds ground. I choose to live in the freedom of  God’s purpose and recognize and reject the lies that will still come about my writing and this process of living out in God’s purpose in my life. Not in my strength but in His.

God has been faithful to draw me to Him in this season, twelve years after I invited fear to control my future instead of surrendering my dream to God and walking out in belief that my God is big enough to accomplish more than I ever could dream or hope. So I plant my flag now in this belief and ask God to reveal to me what he wants to show me about my purpose in writing. I’m excited to see my God do things I never could have imagined!

Seagulls dancing


Designed to Recreate

A year has gone by since a significant transition in my ministry took place. A year marked by considerable growth.

It’s been a year of finding increased freedom, deeper joy, and being blown away by understanding that there can be incredible true heart peace amidst the chaos. How is this possible? I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in future posts.

A year ago another full-time job was added to my all ready full life, one that is more draining than filling. Days of my brain feeling like mush have become normal. I’m content to hold this torch until the next, right person takes it over, but I’ve begun to realize it’s been draining the creativity right out of me. This drain on creativity coupled with being overwhelmed by how to start writing about the new changes in my heart has created quite a writer’s block. Writing about it still feels a little like walking out on the ice and being unsure if it’s safe to skate forward with confidence. But I’m starting. I’m starting by reclaiming my creativity.

Flowers on Kontrash

I’m on a journey with my friend Kathryn, a fellow creative soul, to get “unstuck” from our creative blocks. I have missed being alive inside and letting creativity flow from me and am excited to have it back.

I’ve been reflecting on the truth that creativity comes from the Almighty Creator. I only have to look outside to see I live in one of the most creatively inspiring places on this planet. Surrounded by creation, the Creator speaks and inspires. The Creator made us in His image thus we are creative beings. We see creativity birthed in a million different ways in people.


Canoeing Kontrash


Sunset Kontrash

It’s no epiphany to realize that enjoying creation inspires creativity. It gives life. It heals the soul. I see tourists every year drawn to Lake Clark and find their souls refreshed. It’s a big part of why I stayed in Port Alsworth. Being in the vast expanse of this wild country brimming with colors and breathtaking scenery quiets my soul and fills me with creativity.

God created us to re-create.

How can we re-create when our tanks are running on empty? Running on 60 hour work weeks? Overfilled with people, family, computers, whatever, just go, go, go…

God wants us to recreate. To play in His beautiful creation! He delights in it. And while there are many other activities that bring people rest, there is something unique and specific to the recharging that takes place in nature. In the wilderness. In creation. To find time to be still and watch the waterfall, to see the sunrise, to walk in the rain, to fish a mountain stream… whatever it is that gets us away from our busyness to unwind and quiet our souls so they can be refilled with refreshing living water that refills us with an ability to pour out.

Tanalian Falls

It’s never hard to convince me to be outside. Most days after being inside or on the computer I bolt out the door to recharge. Fresh air! It’s something I found vital to my life when I moved here and I have fought hard to spend as much time in creation as possible. It’s addicting to be outside, because then I’m  refilled with creativity, which is life for me. This last year I’ve been knocked off kilter in this area and now I’m trying to rebalance my life. I recognize I am a creative being and am most satisfied when I’m creating. As I take this journey of restoring my creative self, it will involve much needed time in the wilds of God’s creation.

And I’m pretty sure I live in a great place for it…

When was the last time you found yourself in a picture like this?

Canoe Kontrash















Go! Recreate! God wants you to enjoy his creation. He is inviting you to rest in His creation to be filled up so you can re-create.

Kontrash 1

Rainbow Kontrash

The Journey of Contentment

Surveying opportunities for adventure

Do you know what your heart deeply longs for?

Are you willing to skim off you surface junk and get to the core?
Get to the stuff that might make you realize something’s missing.

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Genesis 18:10-15

Sarah lived in a culture where much or all of a woman’s worth is tied up in her ability to bear children. Her heart must have ached for a child. The early months and years of her marriage must have been lived in expectation and hope. Then when she could not get pregnant, came the feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, disappointment, fear, anger and so many more. She became familiar with shame. A shame that said there was something wrong with who she is at her core. A horrible lie began to define her.

Her life circumstances had left her heart longing for more, longing for fulfillment in a child. Her whole life she had longed… at some point I have to know she became afraid of even the longing. “After I am worn out and my Lord is old, shall I  have this pleasure?” It had let her down before. It was too good to come true. Hope no longer sustained her. Doubt crept in.

Double Rainbow on Lake Clark

Then the Lord comes with a promise that spoke directly to her heart, a promise to fulfill her deepest heart longing. A child. It’s unthinkable in her age. Quite impossible, really. And to let that hope ignite again…what would that feel like? It shook her. It scared her. Some One, the Mighty One, had spoken directly into her heart and said He knew her and would not only give her heart’s desire but bless her beyond what she or her husband could imagine. He gave a promise that would change the world.

But she laughed in her heart.
She was afraid of her longing.
She was afraid of the hope.
She doubted her worth.
She was afraid of the Lord’s love.

Shimmering water

The Lord revealed he knew her heart. He knew the fear, doubt and the shame that had too long shrouded her life. He brought to light the doubt in her heart. She was in awe and I believe wrestled at that moment with choosing doubt or belief. Her husband lived in belief; she certainly had seen it acted out in their life. Perhaps she longed for it but was too wounded in her heart to be able to let the Father’s love heal her heart.

Then God’s loving kindness and mighty power were offered when he said, “Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?” And he affirms the promise.
Affirms that she is chosen.
Demonstrates his love for her.
Gives her a chance to walk in belief.

Surveying opportunities for adventure

God revealed this story to me in a new light last fall. During a time when I realized I too was afraid of the longings in my heart. The longings God gave to me and everyone, to be deeply known and loved. I long to be married. I too had experienced a shame, which told me I am of no worth and beyond even the love of God.

But my heart healing had begun and the Lord used this story to show me that even Sarah was afraid of her longing, yet the Lord pursued her, chose her and met that longing. Not only met it but exceeded it and blessed a nation because of her. Despite her fears and doubts.

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

What a comfort. What a promise. What a chance to BELIEVE.

He wants me to find contentment in Him alone. Only he can fill my heart longing and desires to, but it’s bigger still. He has chosen me for a purpose. Contentment in Him is a radical thing. Radical to this world of self. A life changer. A faith builder. It means choosing each day to live in belief. It means living for eternity, living for the unseen.

In Hebrews after the list of those who lived by great faith, it says…

“These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God’s] promises, only having seen it and greeted it from a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

They lived focused on belief and on eternity, not focused on, “hurry up God, give me that promise now. Please?”

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

The morning after I got Heart Naked, the Lord took me back to this story. The promise he gave me when he looked directly into my heart and said, “I know. I love you more than you can imagine.” He took me back three times in a week. Three different angles that all point to the promise that contentment is found in Him, not in being married. He knows my longings and I believe has promised he will bless them, but my deepest needs can only be met by Him. Finding contentment in Him takes a world of BELIEF but gives me a world filled with peace and hope. Nothing like three powerful times of truth pointing me to His promise. Rock my world? Yes. I think so.

Is anything to hard or too wonderful for the Lord?

No. Nothing.

“But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery (perdition) and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe [who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by faith preserve the soul.”
Hebrews 10:39

Reflection on Lake Clark

Heart Naked

Heart Rock

We sit around sharing our hearts, asking for prayer. Eight women joined together journeying through life together in our small, remote Alaskan village. Connection is the ingredient for survival in the harsh climate of “bush living.” Together drinking in the streams of Living Water.

Everyone shares. I’m last. Each a wife, a mother, a business partner… many with multiple children from babies to teenagers all demanding of their time day and night. The never-ending sacrifices of being a wife and mother. We share our hearts; we share the load. We give it to our Heavenly Father.

Heart Rock

The comparisons in my mind start to add up quickly. I become very small and insignificant stacked up to these women. I am single. The glaring comparison is always smack infrontofmyface. I have no one to directly care for, no one who demands of my time, no one to pick up after school, no screaming baby to drive me mad. I have my computer, my to-do list… and ummm…laundry is done in a two hours? Oh and I had a four-hour outdoor adventure on Saturday. And Sunday. *wince* Don’t hate me?

My turn comes. Bummer. I’m very aware of the battle raging in my mind. The flaming arrows of the enemy trying to take me down hard and fast. But I choose freedom and life! I expose the liar and the false claims. I share exactly the battle in my mind and what’s stirring in my heart.I listen to the lie that I’m nothing and lead a worthless life in comparison. That I’m worthless because these women have all been “chosen,” they are married and I am not, thus there is something inherently wrong with me. The biggest fattest lie of them all. The liar tells me I shouldn’t even be in this group. I give ground to the idea that if I share, I’ll assume they’ll think… “Well, isn’t that nice. I don’t know when the last time was that I had a free, quite moment to myself!” I believe it will divide our friendship. I believe they will be jealous and reject me. I start hoping they forget me and we move into prayer time. My eyes turn inward, my heart spiraling downward. The Deceiver cloaking my heart with ugly lies and unbelief.

Winter birch branch

Getting heart naked is hard sometimes. But healing healing and freedom in confession to another soul is thirst quenching. I have recently experienced this healing and freedom on a grand scale and it has changed my life, and I determined not to go back to the darkness. That dry and arid land.

I drink the water of truth. I know I am of great worth. I know God’s purpose in the now is singleness. I know my heart cries are valid. I know these women love me. I know they are not judging. Most importantly, I can be heart naked because I know my identity and worth is not rooted in all of these and so many more lies I have been hooked with before.

As I share, it brings up the root of self-worth, the ugly comparison that is a slow death. It strikes a deep heart longing. My desire to one day be married and have a family. The struggle of being one of three single women in Port Alsworth among a sea of families is sometimes overwhelming. 

A sister loves me boldly enough to speak into my heart. I fight it at first, but truly I’m grateful for it and let the exposure bring healing. They cover me up, affirm me and accept me. I leave free and deeper connected to my lifeline, my sisters. Reminded my identity is not rooted in a worth I can contrive, “the lack of” or in fear of in being judged for sharing. My identity is rooted in Jesus Christ, the soul quenching Living Water.

Tanalian Falls in March

There is such freedom in being heart naked when I know my heart roots are planted by streams of Living Water. A freedom newly found and newly lived and full of rejoicing!

“Cursed is the strong man who trusts in and relies on frail man,
making weak human flesh his arm,
and whose mind and heart turn aside from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub or a person naked and destitute in the desert;
and he shall not see any good come,
but shall dwell in the parched places in the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord,
and whose hope and confidence the Lord is.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters
that spreads out its roots by the river;
and it shall not see and fear when heat comes;
but its leaf shall be green.
It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought,
nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”

– Jeremiah 17:5-8

Ice Biking on Lake Clark

Ice biking on Lake Clark

I can’t quite describe the joy that comes to my heart when Lake Clark freezes over and opens up an entirely new playground. My heart sings and I’m like a helium balloon being tied down to my chair, waiting to be released.

Maybe it’s like when I lived in Seattle and would go to Nordstrom and slip my feet into a new pair of red patent high heels *squeal.* The exploding joy!

Really, my feelings would be best described in an interpretive dance.

Lake Clark ice pressure crack Lake Clark ice formation from pressure crack

These amazing formations come when the ice cracks, pulls apart and comes back together again. Tectonic plates-esk action in real life. There are several big pressure cracks that will go from shore to shore. As the ice warms, it thaws from below and will crack and separate, creating more pressure cracks as it breaks up. It creates some beautiful formations! This year the ice only 6-8 inches thick. The “Epic Year” (at least in my four short winters) we had 3 feet of ice.

Lake Clark frozen solid

The nights have been hovering around zero and with the marvelous march sun’s rays are finally heating the days up 20-30 degrees. This causes the lake to heave, pop, groan, ping and sing. It’s the most amazing thing to hear. All day it was loud and a little unnerving when it reverberates right under your front bike tire and you watch a “crack” form as you whiz along. No, I’m not an adrenaline junky. Why do you ask?

Ice biking on Lake Clark

Ice biking on Lake Clark Studded tires for ice biking

This particular Sunday afternoon, we rallied the troops and headed up the lake for some woodcutting, bonfire, s’mores, and some good ole Alaskan fun. I somehow managed to get out of the woodcutting and ride my bike. Getting out of work? Weird…must be a youngest thing… Either way it was a spectacular way to spend an afternoon! Can’t beat the March sun!

Group woodcutting photo Woodcutting on Lake Clark