Mission Update

I realized this morning that all of the posts I have written recently are about me. Hopefully that hasn’t come across as totally self-centered, but I thought I’d change it up today and give you a little update of how things are going with the mission at Texas State.

Small Groups

We’ve started small groups and they are going strong so far. The Lord has blessed us with a great vision for unifying the groups this year. We are really focusing on the question: “Who is Jesus to you?” The leaders are facilitating discussions about faith and Christ by using the Starting Point or Follow videos from Andy Stanley. I’ve been following along and watching the videos for the Follow Series and have found them very convicting for myself so I am excited to see how they continue to impact students. I’ll write another post specifically about this material (and share some of the ways it has been challenging me). Please pray for the small groups here as students explore the way they know and follow Jesus.

Formation Program

For those students who have committed their lives to Christ, we run a program we call the Formation Program. This program is a way to continue to help students grow in what it means to be a mature Christian. This semester we are doing a course called Christian Personal Relationships. So far, we’ve heard talks on prayer, relationships in our modern world,  and using our speech to build relationships. This week we’ll hear a talk on conflict resolution and asking for forgiveness. These talks are paired with small groups so that students have time to talk about what they are hearing. My small group had a great conversation about how speech can upbuild or tear down a community and each of them set a goal for a way they want to improve in the way they speak.

I lead a small group of junior and senior women. It is such an honor to be a part of their lives and to hear how the Lord is working in their lives and hearts. Leading formation small groups has been a blessing over the past couple years (even before I became a missionary) because I find it so beautiful to get to know the awesome women the Lord has placed in my life through these groups. This year is no exception. I can’t wait to continue walking with them throughout this year and see the way the Lord leads them this year.

Women’s Events

A key part of building a Christian community is offering dedicated time to build sisterhood and brother hood. A cornerstone of SPO’s programming is men’s and women’s nights. We have had some awesome women’s nights this year and it has been awesome to see the sisterhood growing among women who didn’t know each other only two months ago. We had a small group kick-off that featured a series of goofy Minute To Win It style games, which was definitely a hit! Two weeks ago we hosted a fall party that featured decorating mason jars and making trail mix.

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p.s. These pictures are from last year because I don’t have many from this year yet!

 

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The Trip

Now that I’m blogging more regularly, I want to share a few stories from the last month. A lot has been going on, so there is plenty to share. I’ll start with The Trip. It earns capital letters because it was quite the journey to move from Minnesota to Texas. Last year, the journey from Minnesota to New Jersey was an adventure, but it was in a different category than this trip. Moving from Minnesota to New Jersey was more like going on a road trip with a very full car. We fit everything into the normal car that we drive, so Ben and I were able to drive together and switch off driving.

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The route!

Moving to Texas was a different beast all together. We started by packing up a 16-foot moving truck. Then we each drove a vehicle 1200 miles over 3 days. But, the story starts a little bit before that. A group of students from Texas were in Minnesota for SPO’s annual student conference and they had brought a trailer with them to hold their luggage. Earlier in the summer, we decided we would get our own trailer (we were starting to realize how much stuff we had). However, due to some last minute changes, the students didn’t have a second trailer hitch (and we can’t haul a trailer with our car), so that plan was out. Our next plan was to use that trailer to transport our big furniture and then fit the rest in cars (ours and 2 of our coworkers).

Three days before we were going to leave, we tried to fit as much furniture as we could in the trailer. It was tight, but we thought it would work. (Or maybe we were just determined to make the impossible possible.) Over the next 24-hours we thought about it more and more and realized that there was no way that the giant pile of boxes in my parents’ basement would fit in 3 cars. So, we totally changed the plan. We originally didn’t want to rent a moving truck because of the expense and the hassle of driving two vehicles all the way to Texas. But, we decided it was the only way to get our things moved. Thirty-six hours before we were set to leave, we went online and reserved a truck.When we picked up the truck, the company didn’t have any 12-foot trucks left, so we ended up with a 16-foot truck.

So, after that long version of the story, we are back to packing up a 16-foot truck. With a ton of help from my mom, dad, sister, grandma, and students from both New Jersey and Texas, we got everything packed and ready to go. The moving truck was a blessing in disguise because we were able to bring a few extra pieces of furniture that have been very useful now that we’re here. After we packed up all the main furniture and boxes, my parents and sister took the truck over to my Grandma’s house to get the extra furniture that we didn’t think we’d be able to bring while Ben and I went to the closing banquet of the student conference.

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The truck before my parents and sister added the last of the furniture. We had a lot more stuff than we thought!

When we arrived back at my parents’ house the next day everything was packed up and ready to go. We had a delicious and relaxing brunch with them because we didn’t have a huge amount of driving to do that day. Our first day’s driving was from St. Paul to Kansas City, which is only about six hours of driving time. It was a very uneventful drive (in a good way). I drove our car and Ben drove the truck, so this was the longest I had every drove continuously. With a few podcasts queued up, it wasn’t too bad to drive for that long. It was an easy drive because we followed Interstate 35 from the whole way from St. Paul to Kansas City.

Day two was our longest day of driving. I got to get breakfast with one of my best friends (who now lives in Kansas City), which got the day off to a great start. We headed out after Mass to drive through Kansas, Oklahoma, and into Texas. We were headed to Ben’s aunt and uncle’s house in Dallas to stay the night. I listened to a lot of podcasts that day. Podcasts are much better than music for me while I’m driving because they give me something to think about, which helps pass the time. A new-to-me podcast called Limetown (http://www.limetownstories.com) kept me on the edge of my seat for many hours of the drive. Oklahoma was beautiful to drive through, so although this day was long, it wasn’t that painful. And, as a bonus, we stopped at a roadside stand and got fresh peaches as a snack (which was way better than stopping at another Arby’s).

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From morning sun to evening sun: photos of the road on day two. I took these photos with one click while my phone was sitting in the phone holder on my dash. So, no dangerous driving was done for the making of this photo.

We arrived at Ben’s aunt and uncles in Dallas in the evening and ate dinner with them before crashing for the night. In the morning, we left early because we only had a short leg left from Dallas to San Marcos (about 3.5 hours of driving time). This last day, with the shortest drive, was the most painful because there was rain, traffic, and construction the whole way. Up until this point, it had been pretty easy for Ben and I to stay together on the road. He would follow me and we were able to stay that way easily on the other roads. On this day with more traffic and more lane-changing (due to construction), we had a much more challenging time staying together.

When we arrived in San Marcos, we drove directly to our apartment complex to sign the lease. We got everything situated with the leasing office and got our keys! After hopping around every couple of days since our wedding, it was such a relief to have keys to a place that we were going to stay in for a long time. Before we unpacked we went and got lunch (we’ve learned not to do anything challenging on empty stomachs.) Then, during a small break in the rain, we moved everything from the truck to the living room.  It looked like a disaster at that point, but at least everything was inside!

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This is what our apartment looked like at the end of day three. At least everything is in the right state! Now for the work of making order out of the chaos.

That was the end of our trip across the country. It was actually pretty uneventful for a journey of that length, which we were really grateful for. I know you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the mess turned into ;). Wait for next week to hear more about moving in, getting settled, and starting the year at Texas State. Talk to you soon!

What’s been going on?

I haven’t written anything for this blog since June, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been going on! It’s been a crazy summer full of so many wonderful things. Here’s a little run down of everything that has been happening.

  1. Mission Leader Training

    In June (at the time I wrote my last post) SPO Missionaries came to Minnesota for a time of training to prepare for the summer and following year. We learned (or were reminded about) the mission of SPO so that were prepared to talk to mission partners throughout the summer. We also met our team for the coming year!
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  2. Ben’s sister’s wedding

    In June, Ben’s sister got married! It was really fun to meet his extended family (especially before I got to see them again at our wedding) and celebrate his sister and brother-in-law’s marriage.
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  3. Wedding planning

    One of the big themes of the summer was wedding planning! We did as much as we could in New Jersey, but there was a lot that couldn’t get done until we were back in Minnesota. The best parts were wine tasting, ice cream tasting, taco tasting, salsa tasting, and beer tasting–basically all the tasting! I also really liked practicing bouquet-making and figuring out all the decorations.

  4. Apartment hunting in Texas

    At the end of June we took a trip down to Texas to look for an apartment. It felt like we were on an episode of House Hunters. We worked with a real estate agent and apartment broker to look at several condos, houses, and apartments. We saw 9 places in 2 days! The hardest part was choosing a place after we had seen them all. It came down to a cute little house with a 25-minute commute or a basic 2-floor apartment with a 10-minute commute. We ended up choosing the apartment and were able to apply to live there before we left. It was a huge relief to have a place ready to move in to when we got here in August.

  5. Mission Partner Development

    Throughout the summer both Ben and I worked on inviting more people to be mission partners as we continue to work with SPO. It was a blessing to get to meet with people we don’t get to see very often and share our missionary work with them.

  6. Bridal Shower

    My aunt, cousin, sister, and mom threw a me a bridal shower a few weeks before the wedding. I loved having so many friends and family from different parts of my life in one place at one time!

  7. Wedding

    Of course the highlight of my summer was getting married! There is way too much to say about the wedding than I can fit in one little caption, so I’ll write a separate post about it (complete with photos when we get them back from our photographer). I will say, though, that it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful wedding day!
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  8. Honeymoon

    Ben and I traveled to North Carolina for our honeymoon. We kayaked, ate amazing food, sat on the beach, toured a historic house and battleship, walked around boardwalks and a cute town, and visited antique shops. It was a very relaxing time in the midst of a crazy summer. We highly recommend visiting the North Carolina coast if you’ve never been there.
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  9. Packing

    When we got back from our honeymoon Ben and I worked on getting all of our things packed into boxes for the move to Texas. After our honeymoon we weren’t living at my parent’s house anymore, so we were able to pack everything except our suitcases. When we were done we had one giant pile of boxes in my parent’s family room that were ready to load up for the move.
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  10. Mission Team Training

    At the beginning of August, the SPO missionaries gather again in Minnesota for another time of training and preparation for the year ahead. This training was focused on preparing for the school year so we got to work with our Texas team a lot and plan for the coming school year.
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  11. SNE

    After MTT, SPO students from around the country join the staff in Minnesota for a week-long conference called the School of the New Evangelization. The goal of this time is to train and equip students to share their faith on their campuses. The theme verse of this year’s SNE was John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
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  12. Traveling to Texas

    After SNE we packed up a moving van with all our boxes and jumped on highway 35 to head down to Texas. I drove our car and Ben drove the moving van, so we each had to drive the whole way. I’m pretty proud of the trip because I had never driven that far by myself before. We stopped in Kansas City and Dallas on the way to break up the trip and see family and friends. P.S. Don’t worry about the photos below. I used Siri to take them from my phone mount on my phone so my eyes were on the road the whole time.
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  13. Unpacking

    When we got to Texas the work of moving wasn’t done yet. It was a weirdly rainy week when we arrived, but we got the boxes out of the truck and into our apartment between showers. We’re still working on unpacking the last of the boxes, so it’s been quite the process, but it’s been awesome to finally set up a home that we’ll be in for a while.
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  14. Household Retreat

    Last week we had retreats for the Men’s and Women’s households at Texas State. We spent a few days talking about the vision and practicals of living in household and getting to know each other. It was great to meet all the women and men and kick off the year with them.

  15. Setting up a new apartment

    As we’ve been settling in, Ben and I have enjoyed setting up and decorating our space. We bought a mattress online (which felt a little crazy, but worked really well), made a big trip to IKEA, shopped flea markets, and have assembled a ton of furniture. We’re not done yet, but we’re getting closer!

  16. Starting work at Texas State

    Last week I got to meet the other staff that work at Our Lady of Wisdom (Texas State’s University Parish) and settle in at my new desk. It’s good to finally have a place to to work (it’s so expensive to work at coffee shops all the time) and to meet the people that I’ll be working with. We’ve already had a few opening week events for new freshman.

  17. Welcome Week!

    This is the first week of school so we have a bunch of events coming up. I’ll post more about them as they happen (and as I have pictures), so you’ll have to wait and see next week. 🙂

Thanks for sticking with me for this really long post. I promise, now that the school year has started, that the next post will come much sooner than this one did (and be much shorter). Coming up, I hope to share about SPO events, what it’s like to move to a new state (again), pictures of our new apartment, and much more about missionary life in Texas. Talk to you again soon!

Texas, here we come!

Good afternoon!

I’ll give you a little background before I get to explaining the title of the post. I have been serving as a campus missionary for the last year at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Saint Paul’s Outreach has chapters in seven states across the country. Each year, missionaries are sent out to work at these different chapters. Some missionaries return to the campuses where they went to school. Most missionaries embark on an adventure to a school that they have never been to before. It’s an exciting, but often scary, proposition: will you move across the country to serve at a school you’ve never been to and with students you’ve never met?

This past week all of the SPO missionaries have been gathered together for our first training of the year. We are learning how to raise funds for our mission work and how to explain what SPO does to those who will be partnering with us (both financially and spiritually) in the coming year. And, for new mission leaders, training is the time where they find out where they will be serving the next year. Individual mission leaders find out where they are going personally throughout the week, but we do not learn who we are serving with until the team announcements on Tuesday. It’s a time of great excitement and hope as everyone learns who they will be serving with for the next year!

And now for the big announcement…drum roll please…

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Ben (my Fiancé) and I will be serving at Texas State University this coming year!

We are sad to be leaving Seton Hall, but excited to serve with our new team and meet all the students in Texas!

Here’s the story of how this came to be: We had a great year this past year and I met a ton of amazing people. In January, Ben and I prayed about whether God was calling us to continue working in college ministry with Saint Paul’s Outreach. We got a resounding yes from Him and planned to continue for another year at Seton Hall. But, God sometimes has different plans for us than what we expect.

Around Easter, our supervisor came to us with a proposition. They needed a Mission Director and an administrator at Texas State University this coming year. Ben had served at Texas State the previous year, and it would be beneficial for them to have someone who had been there before lead the team. So, they asked us if we were willing to move.

Through a lot of prayer and conversations, Ben and I decided that if the Lord was asking us to step outside of our comfort zone and move to a new campus, we wanted to say YES! to his call. It was a difficult decision to make because we have so many friends at Seton Hall, but we know that the Lord has great things in store for those who follow where he leads. We will definitely miss Seton Hall and our team from last year, but we know that the upcoming year will bring great blessings and abundant grace.

This post is the beginning of another great adventure. We will spend the summer raising financial and spiritual support for our mission work, getting married, finding a new apartment in Texas, preparing for the year ahead, and moving. It will be a busy time, so please pray for all the transitions coming up. I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us!

Catching Up

Hello!

I had no idea it had been a month since my last post until I logged on to write this one and saw that it had been that long. I apologize for the silence. So much has happened in the past month! Here’s a recap:

The SPO NJ Benefit banquet went splendidly! The event ran smoothly, the speaker was phenomenal, and we reached our fundraising budget. There’s a ton more I want to tell you about this event, so I will be dedicating another post to that soon.

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Dr. Robert George speaking at the SPO New Jersey Benefit Banquet.

Ben and I went on a Marriage in the Holy Spirit weekend to prepare for our wedding this summer. It was a beautiful weekend filled with wisdom, wonderful examples of marriages, and time for conversation. It was definitely a blessing to our preparations!

The end of the school year was filled with goodbye and end-of-the-year parties. There was a pool party, a good-bye-to-the-missionaries party, a Campus Ministry year-end lunch, and many other smaller get-togethers to say goodbye. It was sad to have to say goodbye to so many people we have gotten to know over the past year. Leaving sure is hard.

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End of the year pool party for the students involved in our Formation Program.

Our staff evaluated and celebrated the past year at our spring staff days. We left campus to stay at a gorgeous lake house and evaluate our successes, growth, and areas for improvement. We also had the opportunity to honor one another and share how the other people on our team are awesome people!

Ben and I took one last trip (for now) into New York City and finally saw Les Mis. It was an incredible show and I would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to see a musical. We also traveled into Brooklyn and visited a marked called Artists and Fleas that I’ve wanted to see all year. We finished off our trip with a dinner of delicious fish tacos. Despite all of it’s craziness, it has been fun to have the opportunity to visit New York City many times this year and we will miss being so close to it.

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Last meal in New York City!

After all the year-end fun, it was time to pack all our belongings back into my Prius. Let’s just say that it was exercise in efficiency, patience, and teamwork. We got most of our things packed up and only had to send a few things back to Minnesota with a few of our teammates. We used every square inch (including the glove-compartment, under the seats, and in the cup holders) to pack our things.

Then, it was time to embark on the adventure of driving half-way across the country back to Minnesota. We stopped in Columbus, Ohio and stayed at two of the households there. I had never been to Columbus, but it was a cool city to visit. Then we drove to Appleton, Wisconsin, where I dropped Ben off at his parents’ house. We unpacked Ben’s stuff and then I made the last leg of the journey back to Minnesota on my own. It was a long time of driving, but I made it back just in time for…

My sister’s graduation! Laura graduated from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) and I made it just in time to see her walk across the stage. I am so proud of her and all she has done. Her next step: applying to graduate school to be a Physicians Assistant.

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Laura’s Graduation in Northrop Auditorium

The next weekend my sister and one of my bridesmaids hosted a camping-themed bridal shower for me. It was so much fun and I loved getting to see my Minnesota friends again. It was a blessing to get to pray with friends and share this special time with them!

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Great friends at an awesome bridal shower.

They day after the bridal shower, my parents and I headed to central Wisconsin to meet Ben’s parents. We’ve been trying to plan a time for our parents to meet each other, but it hadn’t worked out before this. We grilled and had a picnic and are happy to report that everyone got along splendidly.

I have hit full-blown wedding planning mode. I’ve been making pocket squares, planting centerpieces, scouring thrift stores for vases, practicing making bouquets, designing the programs, sewing alterations to my dress, shopping for bridesmaid gifts, and the list goes on and on. There’s a lot to do in the next few weeks, but thank goodness for Asana, my to-do list app, so I know exactly what needs to get done each day.

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Going to the farmer’s market (one of my favorite places) to buy cut flowers to practice bouquet making.

And now, I’m off to pick Ben up from the bus station because he’s back in town for the first of two SPO staff trainings this summer. Training doesn’t start until Friday, but we have a little bit of wedding planning to do tomorrow.  It’s been a busy month, and today, June 1st, starts another crazy one. But, I’m excited to kick off another year of mission work at training and meet all the new Mission Leaders. Stay tuned for more of my adventures from training!

 

Prayers for the Banquet

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Last year’s banquet

Saint Paul’s Outreach New Jersey’s Annual Benefit Banquet is coming up this week. I am finishing up many last minute details for the event, so this week’s blog post will be short because there’s a lot to do before we greet guests at the banquet hall. This week is full of printing, organizing, picking up last-minute supplies, and coordinating with all the vendors. Your prayers are greatly appreciated as we approach the big event!

We can use prayers for

  • the guests to understand and have passion for the mission of SPO,
  • all the details of the event to go smoothly, and
  • the generosity of the guests of the banquet.

I am coming up on the end of the school year at Seton Hall, so next week I will share more about the end of the year and all the events we have for students as we approach the summer. It’s been a full but blessed time as things wrap up.

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Last year’s banquet

 

Guest Post: Mountain Men

My fiancé Ben is also a missionary for Saint Paul’s Outreach. A few weeks ago he took a group of men on a hiking trip to Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He wrote a blog post for the SPO website about his trip, so I asked him if I could share it here. Enjoy!

Throughout Holy Scripture, mountains have been used as a physical location where man comes into contact with God.  In Genesis 22 God commands Abraham to take his only son Isaac upon one of the mountains and offer him as a sacrifice. In Exodus Moses came to the mountain of God at Horeb where God revealed Himself through the burning bush. In the New Testament, Peter, James, and John follow Jesus up to a mountaintop where Jesus is transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah, and where the voice of God reveals Jesus to be His beloved son. It is at the intersection of God and man on the mountain that we see transformation happen. Abraham’s faith is put to the test, and after proving his faithfulness to God, he enters into a new covenant with God. Moses encounters God’s heart for his children, and is given the command to set the Israelites free from slavery. Peter, James and John are convicted to stay and pray on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. In all of these stories, man is transformed by encountering God in the heights.

Therefore, due to their significance in Scripture, mountains make a great place to plan a camping trip with students. And that is just what we did here at Seton Hall. On the weekend of April 2nd, we took a group of 6 students to New Hampshire to attempt a summit of Mount Washington. Now if you aren’t familiar with Mount Washington, it is important to know that it is considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the United States. It isn’t the tallest mountain in the states, but it currently has the world record (yes, that’s right, I said world) of the highest recorded winds on the surface of the earth. On April 12, 1934 (about 82 years and ten days before our trip) wind speeds at the Mount Washington Observatory were recorded at 231 miles per hour! On March 30th, just 2 days before our climb, there was a gust of wind recorded at 135 miles per hour, about the same as a category 3 hurricane. Aside from the wind, Mount Washington is covered in snow and ice from September to June and temperatures can drop to -30 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite knowing all of these dangers, we checked our gear, packed up our van, and drove 6 hours overnight to arrive at the base of Mount Washington at 6:30 AM. We were ready to make the ascent.

Well, I guess we weren’t completely ready…although we had packed our warmest and most waterproof hiking gear, we were missing the most important piece of equipment – crampons, or ice climbing shoes. Mount Washington was completely covered in ice and snow, and we were missing the one piece of equipment that would allow us to overcome the ice and reach to top of the mountain. But we attempted anyways, not knowing when or how the ice and weather would turn us back. Sadly, on our first attempt we were about a mile in when a large sheet of ice flowing into an icy river in a ravine proved to be too dangerous to cross. But hope remained as we made our way to a different trail.

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The second trail we attempted, called Jewel Trail, proved to be the better of the two. For the first hour of the ascent we encountered almost no ice, and our hope was that this would continue to be the case the higher we went. We weren’t lucky enough, and encountered a half mile of the trail covered with a sheet of ice. There was no river, no ravine this time, just trees on both sides of the trail. Since the only apparent danger was slipping and falling on the ice, we continued slowly up the trail bouncing from rock to rock like a frog on a pond and using the trees to support ourselves. Finally after about 2 hours we made it to our first major checkpoint – treeline. From treeline we could see the summit of the mountain off in the near distance, and a successful summit attempt seemed more real than ever and we were confident we could get there in an hour and summit before 11 AM. If you have had any experience climbing mountains, you know that the summit always looks much closer than it really is from treeline. Turns out we were actually about 2 hours from the summit. As we got closer to the summit the wind blew harder and the ice on the trail got thicker. A few days earlier when I was talking about the trip with a  few friends, one of them said, “When Mother Nature antes up, it’s time to fold”. And unfortunately Mother Nature anteed up, forcing us to fold. By this time, it was below freezing, the wind was blowing pretty hard, the ice was too thick for us to safely go any further, and fog limited our visibility to less than 200 yards. With less than a quarter mile to the summit, we posed for a group photo and turned back.

Despite the blow to our pride, failing to summit the mountain did not break the trip. We overcame some very difficult conditions with less than ideal gear to even get with a quarter mile of the summit. What we learned is that we could overcome the challenge of summiting the mountain with the right conditions and equipment. We also left Mt. Washington with a greater sense of brotherhood because we fought together to climb the mountain. Each of us left that mountain being transformed in some way through the experience, whether is was an encounter with God, with brothers, or with self-realization.