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More Antarctica Photos

Alright, here are some more photos from the journey!

These are pressure ridges near Scott Base, Antarctica. The moving sea ice pushes ice against the shore resulting in these dramatic shards pushing upward. I was a tour guide for the Ross Island Trail System for the pressure ridges tour.

View from the top of Observation hill, near McMurdo Station. The cross is a memorial to the Scott team, the second ever team to make it to the geographical South Pole, but who perished on the return trip.

Mount Erebus in the background. Out at a NASA Long Duration Balloon facility during a routine cleaning.

View from Hut Point of the sea ice beginning to open up. It is mid-summer with temps in the mid-twenties to the mid-thirties on a regular basis.

The US Coast Guard Ice Breaker, the Polar Star, beginning to make its way to the harbor. They open a path for the supply ships to enter. Over the next few weeks, the McMurdo Station will buzz with activity as ships come and go. It is a round-the-clock effort to offload supplies and to reload cargo being sent off base.

With the water opening up, wildlife begins to arrive. Adelie penguins are a treat!

More Adelie Penguins.

An LC-130 plane. This version of the C-130 is equipped with skis to take off and land on the ice runways. There are only ten in service around the world. This is the type of plane that I took to the South Pole Station.

Inside the LC-130 on the way to the South Pole!

At the South Pole Station! This is the geographic South Pole marker. Since the base is built upon ice, and the ice slowly moves over time, the geographical South Pole marker is moved every January 1 to the actual geographic position. There is a ceremonial South Pole with a ring of flags, and that is where most photos are taken. But the actual geographic position moves from year to year. On the day this picture was taken, it was about -30 F with a windchill around -45 F.

View out the window from my dorm room on the back side of the base. The rainbow and sun spot is called a Sun Dog.

View out the back steps just off of my room at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

January Antarctica Update

McMurdo Station, Antarctica viewed from Observation Hill.

When I last wrote, I was healing from shin splints and the accident with my right foot while working at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. I am glad to report that my body has adjusted to the terrain, and the two toes have healed well. I feel stronger than ever. I am grateful. Currently, I am recovering from an upper respiratory virus that we call “The Crud.” I got it about a week ago. The virus moved into my eyes, and both eyes turned blood red like a zombie! Thankfully, I feel better than I look. I am almost completely healed. Unfortunately, viruses like this are common here. It is just part of the experience of living and working in a small, self-contained community.

Since I last wrote, we have celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day. In true McMurdo fashion, we shifted the dates to accommodate our work schedules, but we celebrated nonetheless. We feasted on Lobster tail and Filet Mignon for Christmas dinner and celebrated with Ice Stock, an outdoor live music event for New Year’s Eve. Loads of frivolity ensued, and I am happy to say I was in the thick of it. It was memorable.

The saying around the base is that Antarctica is harsh, and then it gets worse. The summer has been mild and, at times, warmer than winter in Michigan. We are enjoying the highest temperatures of the year. For the most part, temps have hovered in the upper twenties and low thirties. The warm Antarctic sun has melted the snow that accumulated over the winter. Outdoor stairwells that used to be covered in ice are now clear. On the warmest days, you can sun yourself on the loading dock for the store. Just throw down a blanket, put on some sunglasses, and read a book as if you were on a beach somewhere.

Dust and dirt are everywhere. I call the base McDurto Station. The dust gets everywhere. It coats everything. It filters into every crevasse indoors and out. The fine dirt is the one aspect of life in McMurdo that is a constant irritation. It is like a pebble stuck in my shoe. When I clean a bathroom, I am not so much cleaning toothpaste from sinks or poop freckles from toilets. Primarily, I wipe down the dust on every surface. And most of the time, the surface was just wiped down twenty-four hours ago. The amount of dirt we sweep off the floors of the highways in building 155 every day is astounding. Worse, the dust grinds into the carpet wherever there is foot traffic. It is impossible to get it out completely. Eventually, carpeted areas look like the floor of a barn. It is impossible to clean thoroughly. No matter how often I vacuum, I can never get it all out.

What ends up happening is that people stop trying to keep it clean. The standard is just to make it livable, not necessarily clean. And that is depressing. The fight to survive Antarctica has less to do with the temperatures. It is a fight to reject the status quo, to not settle for what is easy instead of what is best, to keep your head in the game, and not let the culture of McMurdo overwhelm you.

I wrote last month about the importance of controlling your attitude when everything else in your world feels out of control. If I am not careful, I can get beaten down by the culture of chaos in the administration and the culture of clutter in the living quarters. So instead of becoming irritated, I choose happiness and enjoy each day. I choose to love others, to love folks who may be beaten down and tired, to share a smile of encouragement saying, “You’re going to make it. It will be okay.” Little did I know how much this would impact my journey here.

All those little moments when I was just trying to love on people had been noted. Each small moment built upon the last until a widening influence had been realized. When I came to McMurdo, I had grand ideas about what I wanted to do in ministry, ideas based on what I had done in the past. I thought I could plant a small prayer gathering that might become a house church. But the Father God had other plans. I began to understand that all he wanted me to do was to express his love for kids who may not know him yet. Just love them. At first, honestly, I felt like a failure because everything I wanted to do for God had failed. But the Father God clearly spoke to me one day and told me I was doing exactly what he wanted me to do. Just love people. It was a disassembling of what I think ministry is and embracing the idea of a simpler version of ministry, one that is an expression of the Father’s love for his kids.

Jesus himself said two commandments mattered more than all the others. In fact, he said all the other commands hung on these two. First, I was supposed to love the Father God with abandon in such a way that it eclipses everything else in my world. To love him with such passion that nothing matters outside of that one relationship. Out of that relationship, he fills me with his love. Somehow, the Father God lives inside of me. When I am overwhelmed by his love and filled with his presence to the full, then he loves everyone around me through me. I find myself loving everyone despite how they look, what they do, what they say, how different from me they may be. I love them because they deserve to know the love of the Father. This fulfills the second command to love others as we love ourselves. I ache for them to find what I have discovered, this unfathomable relationship with the Father God that has transformed my life. And the Father loves them so much he sent his son Jesus to pay the penalty for their sin so that he could reconnect with them again. He loves them even when they turn away from him. Shouldn’t I do the same? If the Father God lives within me, is there another way?

And so, for the past few months, this is all I have done. I have cleaned toilets and loved people. And it has been the most amazing few months of my life. I have fallen in love with the people at McMurdo.

When I left home in early October, I could never imagine the events that would transpire. I was expecting to pay my dues in McMurdo for summer and winter, hoping that, possibly next year, I could get a position at the South Pole Station, the crown jewel of the USAP.

In December, I made an appointment with one of the hiring managers, asking for fifteen minutes to discuss a path forward to eventually working at the South Pole and Palmer Station. The fifteen-minute meeting lasted forty-five. I left the meeting encouraged that I might find a path to the Pole someday. About a week later, the hiring manager contacted me and asked me to stop by his office. Leadership had created a new position to winter over at the South Pole. It was not funded yet, so there was no guarantee, but if I was interested, I could sign an Alternate Contract for the position. It was a combo platter job description, both production cook and steward. While there was no guarantee the position would be funded, I eagerly signed on the dotted line. Just the possibility of going to the Pole kept me awake that night. And in a shocker moment, the next day, the position was funded! Never in my wildest imaginations could you have told me I would enter the United States Antarctica Program as a Freshman and a Janitor, and three months later, I would be transferring to the Pole, as a chef no less, but that is precisely what has happened.

I still had to have a four-person panel interview to gauge my ability to handle conflict. Wintering over at the Pole is not for that faint of heart. Forty-four people live and work at the base over ten months in some of the planet’s harshest, darkest, coldest climates. It is so severe that there are no flights in or out for eight of the ten months. Planes cannot land because their hydraulic systems would freeze. The station is entirely isolated. Even the international space station gets visits monthly. At the South Pole, you are stranded for eight dark months. One year, a mutiny broke out, and two rival gangs formed. People were afraid to walk the halls at night alone without an escort. One engineer locked himself in his room with several days’ food supply. It can get that bad. Thankfully, leadership has gotten better at weeding out potential problems in recent years. But the reality is none of us know what eight months of complete isolation can do to our mental state. So I had the interview. It went well. The Primary Contract to winter over at the Pole was extended and signed. I was going to the Pole! I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it.

Now here is where it gets interesting. While I have the chef experience necessary for the position from years of doing private catering, it wasn’t my experience that led them to offer me the position. It was my attitude. Two leadership team members stopped me in the hall to congratulate me on the job. Both of them separately said that it was my positive attitude and the influence I had on the life of McMurdo that led them to offer me the position at the Pole. They felt I could have a positive impact on the staff of the Pole over the harsh winter months. Isn’t that interesting? Who knew that just loving on people could make a difference like this? And on my last day of work at McMurdo, I was surprised with a special award from the station manager for employee of the week for the love I have shown and for boosting morale across the base. All I had been doing, just loving people, had been noticed. It was humbling.

So I think I am on to something with this focus of simply loving people and letting go of what I think ministry is. I’m beginning to see that it has a wide-ranging effect. The love of the Father God is a powerful force more deeply felt than if I had done what I thought I wanted to do in ministry here. I’m pretty sure I impacted far more lives than if I had done what I used to think ministry was. It is a lesson that is profoundly affecting me personally. It is a letting go of what I think ministry looks like and embracing what the Father thinks is best.

Last Friday was my last day at McMurdo Station. I turned in my work uniforms and cleaned out my room. I packed everything into two thirty-eight-pound duffle bags. I had already mailed a couple of boxes ahead to the Pole. I packed my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather gear) and met a shuttle to take me to building 140 for passenger pickup. At 140, I changed into my cold weather gear and left the building to load up the van that would take me to the airfield. There, outside, waiting in a line stretched out into the parking lot, people from across workstations and all walks of life were standing in line, waiting to see me off. I walked down the line receiving a hug from each one, trying to hold back tears. One friend was seriously ill, but she bundled up and covered her face with a mask so she would not miss the opportunity to say goodbye. These were some of the people I had had the privilege of loving for the past three months, people that I treasure. I struggled to keep my composure. Some will stay lifelong friends. Other friendships may fade, but warm memories will resurface when I least expect them. My Jano team was at the end of the line, and their silly chants lightened the mood. These were the people the Father loved through me. This is my McMurdo family, whom I dearly love. Finally, it was one last wave goodbye as I boarded the van for the airfield and the flight to the Pole.

Our plane sat alone on the ice at Willies field, engines warming up for the journey. It was an LC-130, one of only ten C-130s in the world equipped with skis to land and take off on the ice. It is a relatively small aircraft with two prop engines on each wing. Inside, webbed seats and seatbelts lined the sides, and cargo filled the center from front to back. Four researchers, a physician, and I sat down the sides, and six Air Force personnel crewed the flight.

The flight to Pole lasted about 3 hours, covering eight hundred and fifty miles inland from McMurdo Station, which sits on the coast. It was cloudy, and I couldn’t see anything out of the tiny port lights that lined the plane’s side. It wasn’t until I felt a bump and the snow’s drag against the skis that I realized we had landed. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was at the South Pole.

I gathered my bags, tightened the hood of my big red parka, and stepped out onto the blinding white surface of the snow. On my way to the station building, two teammates met me holding a cardboard sign with “Welcome to South Pole, Tim” written on it with a black marker. I almost cried again. I just could not believe this was happening.

All of us who arrive have to isolate ourselves for a total of ten days to help stop the spread of Covid. The base has already had cases of Covid, but they are working hard to keep it from spreading further. So I am writing this from my room, where I will rest for the next ten days. For five days, I have to stay in the room except to get water, meals, bathroom breaks, or to go outside for recreation. After that, I have five days to begin assimilating but still with a mask on and social distancing where possible. All personnel rooms at the Pole are single rooms. They are tiny, with barely enough room to turn around once you enter, but it is your own space to nest in. I am enjoying it immensely. It reminds me of my tiny space when I lived on the sailboat.

The days of rest and isolation help me adjust to the altitude. The base sits at 9301 feet of elevation, but it feels more like 11,000 feet because of atmospheric conditions. Because the air is so thin, there is 30% less oxygen available. High Altitude sickness is common in the first few days. I am taking medication to prevent it, and so far, I am feeling well. Sitting around for five days is the best way to acclimate, so I am taking full advantage of that. I had a rough night my first night with a headache and insomnia, but I feel great today.

Oh, and the best part about the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station? There is no dirt outside! Ha! There are only nine thousand feet of snow and ice beneath my feet. This means there is no dirt in the station hallways or carpets. None. I am overjoyed.

Because the hiring process is such a roller coaster, I hesitated to say anything publicly until I knew the new job would go through. In fact, I still need my final medical clearance, and until that is complete, there is no guarantee that I will stay here for the winter. I expect to get approval in the new few weeks as I live here and begin working. I met with the Dentist this morning. He cleaned my teeth, replaced three older fillings with new composite fillings, and cleared me for his part. Next, I have blood labs on Monday and a chest x-ray. I am not expecting any issues, but until medical clears me, it is not a done deal.

I will live here at the base until November, a little over ten months. I will work as part of a team of three chefs preparing meals for 44 people through the winter. I will have some duties as Steward in the galley as well. For now, we still have sunlight 24/7. But the sun is already getting low in the sky, and it will dip below the horizon in a few weeks, not to reappear for six months. For six months, darkness will settle upon the continent, but a night that reveals unspeakable beauty in the galaxies with waves of aurora australis, Southern Lights, like green curtains sweeping through the sky. (Think of it as Northern lights for the Southern hemisphere.) Temperatures will average around -60 F before wind chill with occasional dips below – 100 F. The base is like a lunar facility, self-contained in one sprawling building. I will work and play inside for the most part, but of course, I will explore outside occasionally.

The good news is that these few days of isolation have given me the time and energy to bring you up to speed. There is so much more to write, and yes, I intend to write a travel memoir when this is all over. But for now, I hope this helps. Once I get back to work, there is little mental space to think about writing updates. So, again, thank you for understanding. I appreciate it.

Until next time, love the Father with abandon and selflessly love others.


December Antarctica Update

When I last wrote, it was October. I was nearing the end of an eight-day quarantine for testing positive for Covid. I had just arrived at the McMurdo research station in Antarctica after a chaotic week riding out hurricane Ian and spending a couple of weeks in Christchurch. It has been a blur since that update. My days are full. I usually leave my dorm around 6:30 in the morning for breakfast in the galley before work. I typically return to the dorm in the evening around 8:00 after the evening meal and conversations have settled. I’m generally in bed an hour or so later; before I know it, the day begins anew. Repeat this six days a week. Give yourself one day to recover before doing it again. Welcome to McMurdo!

Many describe McMurdo as a mining town combined with a college campus. In the 1950s, the United States government started building the base on the remains of an extinct volcano. The dirt is volcanic, dark brown, and the nearly constant wind lifts a fine dust that settles onto every surface inside and out. I wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from the jagged volcanic dust. Scratched corneas from blowing dust are common. I wear a stocking cap, hooded sweatshirt, and down hooded coat and gloves to protect me from the cold, and a base layer is a constant indoors or out. The sun, clouds, and wind are the three weather factors determining whether it will feel cold. It is always cold, but sometimes it feels warm when the sun is bright.

One day the sun was shining, and the wind was low. I had unzipped my parka and sweatshirt as I walked across the base. I took off my gloves. I told a friend how surprised I was by how warm it was. When we looked up the weather report, the actual temperature was minus 4 degrees F! The sun makes that much of a difference. If it is overcast with no sun and windy, then you bundle up tight. There have been days I’ve worn my full ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear and days I’ve gotten by with a sweatshirt. It is summer here, and temperatures have slowly risen since I arrived over six weeks ago. Early on, we had one day when the wind chill was -42 F. That was a cold one. A few days ago, it was 37 F and sunny. I didn’t even wear my stocking hat.

Since the station is built into the hills, I cover several miles of terrain adjustments daily as I hike between buildings for work. Janos clean all the public bathrooms on the base, so my job requires a lot of walking. After getting out of quarantine, I jumped all in with the new position. However, I could tell my body was struggling to catch up to the physical demands of the job. After a few weeks, I developed painful shin splints on my left leg. I could hardly walk and was limping everywhere I went. Finally, I went to medical. Since it is impossible with my job for me to quit walking around, they recommended physical therapy and had me switch out my composite-toe work boots for regular sneakers. I started icing three times a day and taking prescription-level Ibuprophen.

I was seeing steady improvement and was grateful for the relief. Then, one day while helping the store with beverage stocking, I pulled a cart loaded with several hundred pounds of product over my right foot, crushing two toes! I felt like such a klutz. I told my friends I was just trying to keep everything in balance. Now I was limping on both legs. The irony was rich. If I had been wearing my composite-toe boots, they would have protected my foot. In the evening, I iced my left leg then switched the ice to my right foot and repeated. The good news is that both issues are almost fully healed. I am grateful.

McMurdo is a difficult place in many ways. It is challenging physically and mentally. There are few things you have any control over. Often, it feels chaotic. Physically, aches and pains heal slower for some reason. And the climate is determined to kill you if you give it a chance.

Chaos seems to run rampant through the administration level as well. Decisions made in Denver and Washington have significant consequences for the team here, often without any input from us. Sometimes, it feels like logic is non-existent. Leadership makes some decisions because of political issues, which makes sense since they receive funding from the government, but it is confounding nonetheless. These decisions can drive you to the edge if you are not careful.

Despite this, I have chosen to guard my attitude carefully. It is possibly the only thing here I can control. I don’t control what time I show up for work, what task my supervisor gives me, or what I eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I don’t control when the hot water runs out in the shower. I don’t control if I get shin splints. I don’t control where I live or who my roommate is. (I’ve changed rooms and roommates twice.) I don’t control the Covid policy, whether I have to quarantine for five days or eight or when and where I must wear a mask. I don’t control if the wind will close down all activities, if we are in condition one, two, or three, or if fog shuts down the airfield. I don’t control if my pager goes off in the middle of the night, waking me from sleep. There is almost nothing I control except my attitude. And that, I guard with all my might.

For example, we are currently under a mask mandate, and we are required to wear masks in any area where more than one person is present unless we are eating or drinking. Currently, there are no cases of Covid on base. Yet we still wear masks. Grumbling commences. I told one friend, “They can make me wear a mask in the shower, and I will still be the happiest guy here.” Why? Because I chose to only think about positive things, things that are good and kind. I choose to be the most positive person here. It is the only thing I can control, so I guard it carefully. I wear blinders on my mind, blocking out the white noise on the peripheral.

I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the early church in Philippi. In the letter, he wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That’s good advice for working in Antarctica or living an everyday life anywhere else. We get to choose what we think about. It may be the only thing you can control. Choose wisely, my friend.

One day, I walked into our business office to get some supplies. I was grinning from ear to ear. One of the staff members asked me, “Why are you smiling?” I didn’t know what to say. Finally, I said, “I don’t know. I just chose to be happy today,” and walked out of the office. There was no particular reason to be happy. I was just happy to be here. I was delighted to walk from my dorm into work that day with the Royal Society Mountains gleaming in the Antarctic sun across the frozen Ross Sea. I was happy to feel the icy wind battering my face as I pulled my hood tighter around my stocking cap. I was pleased to have made many new friends – wonderful, kind, adventurous souls. I was happy for a hot cup of coffee in the galley. I was happy.

I love it here. It is everything I hoped it would be. It is a grand adventure full of ups and downs. Every great story has some sort of trial that the main character overcomes. It is no different here. But the people here are astounding. Truly the best part of being here is the people. With few entertainment options, I spend hours every evening hanging out with friends, hearing their stories, sharing their struggles, and sharing my love for the Father while introducing many to him. I feel so full of the love of the Father from the time I spend with him on his lap. That love overflows into many lives. That relationship with the Father is the one constant in my life. As he fills me up, I pour it out. It is such a privilege.

So, my friend, I hope this finds you full of joy, full of peace, and full of love. As the chaos of Christmas descends upon us, I hope you choose to guard your mind, to focus on the good and the kind as this world spins out of control.

I will try to get another update out soon. There is so much to tell, and I have little time to focus on sending updates. Thank you for your patience. I appreciate it.

McMurdo, Antarctica Photo Gallery

Here are a few pics from the journey so far. Captions below the photos share details. Enjoy!

Above: View of Mount Erebus while driving to the airfield from McMurdo Station. One of the perks of being a Jano is that I get to drive a four-wheel drive truck off base to other facilities to clean. This is on the way to NASA’s Long Duration Ballon (LDB) facility and Williams Field airfield.

Williams Field, (Willy for short) one of two airfields on the ice, with views of Mount Erebus in the background.

One of the firefighting vehicles at Willy Field. Note the “wheels.”

A C-130 Aircraft parked at Willy Field. The runway is an ice runway with packed snow on top.

Ice pressure ridges at Scott Base, the New Zealand base just down the road from McMurdo. I got trained to be a guide for pressure ridge tours. The ice fields press ice from the Ross Sea unto the sloping shoreline causing the ice to crack and then rise up in shards. So beautiful.

More pressure ridge shots.

Helping with the installation of the Observation Tube near McMurdo Station. The tube is about twenty feet long. A hole is drilled through the ice in the Ross Sea, and the tube is installed through the hole. The tube has plexiglass inserts in the bottom. You climb down a tight ladder until you reach the bottom. Then the top is closed back up, making it dark inside. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, the beauty of the sea under the ice comes into view.

Climbing down the tube.

View under the ice. So beautiful. Note the feathery ice crystals at the top. At the bottom, you’ll see the sea floor rising up near the shoreline. The light that is filtering down is from a crack in the ice, a small pressure ridge of sorts. If you are lucky, you may see a seal swim by. I didn’t get to see any seals, but did hear them calling to one another. There are also small fish and jellyfish in the area, which I did get to see.

Hiking on a “warm” day, hut point looking toward McMurdo Station in the background.

The Journey to Antarctica

After a stop in Tampa for the night with dear friends, I boarded the flight to Houston. From there, I flew to Auckland and finally to Christchurch, New Zealand. It took twenty-four hours of flights and layovers to reach Christchurch. The next day I was in training all day, with Covid testing, zoom meetings, a stop at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to get fitted with all my extreme cold weather gear, and more meetings. I was scheduled to fly to McMurdo the next day. I was exhausted and still dealing with the stress carried over from the storm. I was going through the motions. I felt like I was still on high alert. When I learned the flight was postponed a day, I was so relieved. To have one day to rest was a gift.

Flight delays to McMurdo are common. As one supervisor said, “Antarctica is easy. Getting there is hard.” One veteran employee told me the shortest time he had spent in Christchurch waiting for the flight was twenty-one days!

The American Airforce C-17 we were scheduled to fly on had mechanical issues, so our flight was postponed day after day until finally, on October 10, we boarded a Royal New Zealand Air Force 757 and started our flight south. Three hours into the four-and-a-half-hour flight, the pilot announced we were turning around and returning to Christchurch due to a mechanical issue. This is known as a boomerang flight. So I laughed out loud when the flight attendant announced, “Welcome to Christchurch.”

I had more downtime to enjoy Christchurch. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. We continued to test for Covid every 72 hours. I got so much rest. It is Spring in Christchurch, and everything is in bloom. There is a beautiful botanical garden. I bought a New Zealand bird book and spent hours in the gardens watching birds, adding to my life list. I had a bit of seasonal allergies kick in, but nothing major. On other days, we went hiking on beautiful trails up and down seaside cliffs. My body ached a little from the hikes, so I took some ibuprofen and Tylenol. I felt like maybe I was getting a cold.

Finally, on October 17, I passed the fever scan at the airport and boarded an Australian Airbus A319 for McMurdo. Finally, after almost two years of planning and preparation, my flight landed at the Phoenix Airfield at McMurdo. I stepped onto the ice for the first time, smile beaming, eyes moist from the blistering -18 degree air and from pure joy pulsing through my veins. I was in Antarctica!

Once on base, I was immediately ushered into training, got my room keys and bags, and settled into my room. By 7:30 the next morning, I was clocked into work and met my teammates. I was in training all day. My cold was still bothering me, and I wanted to get some decongestants from medical. As it turns out, I did not have a cold. I had Covid and likely had it for a couple of days before I flew down. What I thought were seasonal allergies were probably the beginning symptoms. Since we were tested for Covid within 72 hours of our flight, somehow, I got it between my last test and my flight. And since I had taken Tylenol for my aches, the meds had likely hidden a fever when I was tested at the airport.

So, within 24 hours of landing in Antarctica, I landed in quarantine for eight days of isolation. I am enjoying a room with a fantastic view of the Ross Sea and the Royal Society Mountains in the distance. And for those wondering, yes, I was fully vaccinated and double-boosted with the multi-variant booster. I will not go down that rabbit hole, but you are welcome to draw your own conclusions. But yes, since this is a government position, we follow all the CDC guidance.

I called my supervisor and told her the news. I volunteered to clean the bathrooms in the quarantine dorm since I am a jano (janitor), and I feel fine. The only thing that was missing was the mop and mop bucket. My supervisor said she would bring one over at 11:00 am. At 11, there was a knock on the exterior door, so I masked up and headed down the hall. The door opened. There, to my surprise, was my supervisor and four of my co-workers in masks bringing in a gift bucket! It was the mop and bucket I had requested. But it was wrapped in a clean bag, filled to overflowing with bags of cookies, a pot of artificial grass (my favorite item!), coffee beans, food bars, drink mixes, and a pair of jano coveralls. Then they presented me with a huge handmade card signed by everyone on the team, wishing me a quick recovery. It was awesome. I was overwhelmed. It was such a nice gesture. It almost made me cry. It is going to be an incredible experience to work with these folks.

Here is the location of the building where my dorm is. The quarantine building I am currently in is the next building over to the left. Pro tip: the blue tank on the right with the NSF logo is an easy reference point when looking at McMurdo images.

McMurdo photo

You can view this image of McMurdo and see real-time weather conditions on the USAP live webcam. Go to The image defaults to the Arrival Heights cam. Click on the tab at the bottom of the image for the Observation Hill cam, and you will see the image I used above. Below the picture is the weather report for the day.

Fun fact: I did laundry here in the quarantine dorm. I split my washer load into two half loads to separate colors and whites. I put the first load into the dryer to hold until the second half of the load was finished. When I put the second half of the clothes into the dryer, the first half was frozen stiff. In the dryer. Welcome to Antarctica.

There is so much more to tell. But this should get us caught up for now. In the end, I see the Father at work in so many details. His care is astounding. I am grateful. I am so grateful for how I see the Father taking care of me. He is so kind.

A Storm Tests Everything

My home is one mile from the Gulf of Mexico. I had covered all the windows with plywood. Two hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall, I evacuated to a friend’s condo a few miles inland on higher ground in a new development with hurricane-rated windows and doors. As I drove away from my home, I looked at the house, wondering what damage it would sustain as the Category 4 storm approached. It wasn’t a question of if the home would be damaged. The question was how much damage it would receive. Would there be so much damage that I would have to cancel the contract with the Antarctica program to repair or replace the home? After almost two years, my deployment was just days away. Would I need to call my supervisor and quit?

For almost 7 hours, 120 mph winds battered us. Ian was basically an F3 Tornado that was 37 miles wide. The eyewall hit us directly, stalled, and then moved eastward. As a result, we took the eyewall from two directions. My friends and I sat in their condo as roof tiles on the new build condo peeled off, crashing down onto the lower level roof like bowling balls. Water came through the window seals and under the front door. Finally, the winds subsided, and in the morning light, we surveyed the damage.

By now, you have seen images on the news. Trees were down everywhere. Homes were destroyed. There was no power, no street lights, cars creeping along on flooded streets, and some cars bobbing along where they were abandoned in the height of the flood. We had received 18.5 inches of rain in 24 hours. My friends and I slowly worked our way back toward my property to survey the damage, but we were turned back a mile from my home, where the flooding was too deep to pass.

The next day I got word from a neighbor that my home had survived. There was extensive damage to exterior structures, but the roof had held. The home was intact. The floods had not reached the house. The garage door had held. Unfortunately, many garage doors on my street failed, resulting in extensive damage within their homes.

As we attempted to reach the house on the second day, we were still shell-shocked from what we had experienced and what we were seeing now. My friend commented, “A good storm tests everything.” It struck me that this was true of hurricanes, houses, trees, and life in general.

A good storm tests everything. Our foundations, our defenses, our security, and our trust are all tested by a storm. Storms come into our lives in a variety of ways and often with little warning. We get fired from a job. Death snatches away a loved one. The doctor gives us an unexpected diagnosis. The storm winds blow. The rain comes down. We are shell-shocked as we survey the damage. We cry. We look with side glances at the face of the Father, wondering if he is aware, if he is really in control.

I am grateful for the grace of God in such moments. He understands my humanity. During the hurricane, 80% of the time, I was resting on his lap, content in his embrace. The other 20% of the time, I was quietly anxious, squirming to get off his lap, wondering if I would have to cancel my contract to work in Antarctica to stay home and repair or replace my home. A good storm tests everything.

In the end, we were finally able to reach the home. The roof was intact, with only minor shingle damage. The only damage to the home’s interior was from wind-driven rainwater pushed around the front door frame and under the wood floors. Days later, I noticed water damage on the baseboards twenty feet from the front door. But that is minor damage in the grand scheme of things. My home is intact. I have a home.

I have friends lined up to house-sit for me for the year I expect to be in Antarctica. They are the same friends I rode out the storm with. They walked through the property with me. The exterior was a mess. The privacy fences were blown out, and the screened lanai was damaged but standing. The gardens were hit hard, with four coconut palms toppled over. But the house was intact. My friends told me to go to Antarctica. They would oversee repairs. I cannot describe the relief of knowing I could leave the home in their care.

I would not have to cancel the contract. Two days later, I left for Antarctica.

Do You Trust Me?

Ministry-wise, I have been seeking direction on what my life and ministry will look like in the days ahead. For some time, I have prayed a simple prayer. “Father, is this the end of a thirty-three-year career in ministry, or is this the beginning of a new season of ministry?” Over the past few years, God has been winding down the itinerant ministry. Then the pandemic halted the live events. Behind the scenes, I was weary from living on the road for over thirty years. I was tired and ready for a break. I poured my heart into the new book, sharing my story of failing my way into an intimate relationship with God. But the question remained. Is this the end or the beginning?

I sought counsel from the Ministry Board and other Godly friends. I looked into the lives of characters within the story of the Bible. I spent countless time in conversations with the Father.

Recently, I felt the Father clearly answer me. And his answer was, “Yes!” Yes, it is the end of a thirty-three-year career in ministry, and yes, it is the beginning of a new season of ministry. Yes, God is suspending the itinerant ministry as I know it. God reminded me of the story in the Bible of the Father leading Abraham to sacrifice his son, a laying down of something beloved, a surrender. The story spoke to me about laying on the altar the ministry as I’ve known it for the past thirty-some years.

Then the Father reminded me of the passage in the Bible where Jesus states that you do not put new wine into old wineskins, a principle that looks forward to the ministry the Father is preparing for me in the days ahead, a new thing. God will likely build the new season of ministry on a new foundation. I suspect it will be a new season of trust and reliance upon him. I imagine it will be a new type of ministry focus. So yes, God is beginning a new season of ministry for me, as yet not revealed, somewhere over the horizon.

So where does that leave me today in the in-between? For now, I am resting on the lap of God. I enjoy the presence of the Father with me day to day as I let go of the past and look forward to the future. He is giving me a grand adventure in Antarctica to fill the gap between the past and the future ministry. I am grateful for his care. And for me, ministry is not a career. It is a lifestyle. I continue to build relationships with those who do not know the Father, loving people, meeting needs, a ministry unaffected by my career or where I live, whether at home or in Antarctica.

I continue to focus on the simplicity of my intimate relationship with the Father. In quiet moments alone with him, I hear him whisper, “Do you trust me?” It is a consistent refrain, echoing through the halls of my life. Over and over, he whispers it to me as I go about my day. I smile when I consider his words, for often I trust him fully, resting in his care, confident of his love and grace. Yet, at other times, I find myself wrestling with him, not fully trusting, squirming away from his embrace, wishing I were better at the simple act of trust.

I find it easiest to trust him in areas of finance, for I have decades of experience of his miraculous provision for me. You simply cannot explain my life apart from the idea that God loves me and has provided all I have needed as I have waited on him. In fact, his provision for me is far above what I have needed.

However, I struggle to trust him with career plans or how to market the book. I want to be in control. I think I have it all figured out. I bring my clever strategies to him for his approval. Then he stops me, takes me by the shoulders, and turns me toward himself. He looks me in the eye and says, “Do you trust me?”

It has been a constant refrain as I have worked through the process of deploying to Antarctica. It is a constant as I consider the future of my life and ministry. Over and over again, I hear his voice asking me to yield to him. At the heart of each dilemma is a yielding of an expectation that I know what is best, a surrender to the wisdom and care of the Father. But submission is not easy! After all these years, I still wrestle with giving up control.

Now, I am grateful for clarity and the answer to the question I have posed to him. I am excited about the grand adventure that awaits in the Antarctic. And I rest in his care for me as I wait to see what lies in the distance. I will certainly keep you posted as together we yield to his embrace.

Book Update

I am excited to see the new book, Sitting on the Lap of God: Discover the Father You’ve Always Longed For, impacting many lives. I am so excited about the feedback I have received. There are about two hundred copies in circulation so far. In many ways, the book is the culmination of thirty-three years of ministry. In the story, I detail my journey to discovering an intimate relationship with the Father God. It is a journey of highs and lows, of faults and failings, and most importantly, of a Father who pursues us no matter what we have done.

Sitting on the Lap of God is available anywhere books are sold. Click here to see the book on Amazon.

Antarctica Update

Everything is on track to deploy to McMurdo, Antarctica the beginning of October. I am currently waiting for an Elevated Background Investigation (EBI), required for anyone with access to Government systems and computers. And I am expecting travel documents from the Travel Department in the next few days. I have a Primary contract to work in the Lodging Department as a Steward for the Austral Summer, October through February. Austral Summer is the season where most of the research takes place. My role provides lodging for the researchers. In addition, I have a second Alternate contract to be part of the skeleton crew that stays for the winter. This “Winter Over” crew cares for the facilities over the long, dark, cold winter season, February through August. At this time, I am planning to stay for the winter, but I do not have to make the final decision until I am on base. Once I get settled on base, I can decide if I want to take the second contract. If I choose to winter over, I will be in Antarctica for almost a full year.


Progress, Not Perfection

View of the right side of the backyard garden from the lanai.

Few things bring me more joy than spending the morning in my gardens. My home sits on a small village lot. When the back garden overflowed a few years ago, I removed the grass in the front yard to make room for more plants. Now, the gardens engulf my home on all sides like a tropical flowering mote separating me from the cares of the world. It is an oasis. There is no grass on my property. The tropical garden fills the entire lot. Narrow paths, topped with crushed shells, meander from the front around the sides to the back.

When I am puttering in the gardens, I do not think of my schedule for the day. The office is far away. Worries fade to a blurry background as I focus on tending the plants. Usually, I begin at sunrise while the heat and humidity are lower. I putter for an hour or more. Then, at the moment it starts to feel like work, I head inside for a cup of coffee. This way, I never have to work in my gardens. I putter around until the enjoyment fades, and then I call it a day. And yes, I’m aware that puttering officially makes me an old-timer.

Now, a garden is never finished. Never. For just when you think you have it perfected, you discover a weed peeking out from behind a bromeliad, hoping you will not notice it until it has a chance to spread its seeds far and wide. There will always be one more weed to pull, one more wandering vine to corral, one more palm frond lying on the ground patiently waiting to be collected and hauled to the street in bins. So I’ve given up trying for perfection. I’m content with progress.

This morning, a fresh flush of Crinum lily blooms perfumed the air with a sweet fragrance. I paused, breathing in the scent, relishing the quiet as the low morning sun backlit the flowers. As I stood there, it occurred to me that a garden is a lot like my relationship with the Father, a work in progress, never quite reaching perfection, but blessed with the fragrance of his presence always near.

We will never reach perfection in our relationship with the Father. Not in this life. Like a garden, there will always be one more issue to address, one more area to tend. It is the nature of being a child in a relationship with a father. And if our focus is on perfection, we are frustrated by our inability to achieve it. But the goal is not perfection. The goal is progress.

The old hymn, “In the Garden,” beautifully describes this relationship with God in the context of a garden. Here’s what the author wrote:

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me, and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that he gave to me
Within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me, and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

Words and Music by C. Austin Miles, 1912.

Join me in the garden. The Father is waiting to spend some time with you there. Give up striving for perfection. Instead, celebrate progress in your relationship with him. Pause to consider the ways you’ve grown. Consider the kindness of the Father on your journey. Rest in his grace. Rest in his care.

Focus on progress, not perfection.

Ministry Update

The new book, Sitting on the Lap of God, officially launched last Saturday. I celebrate this important milestone. I am grateful to reach this point. What now? I am working on the audiobook version and expect to have it available sometime in July. Then it is a process of slowly getting the word out through social media, podcasts, book clubs, etc. I expect to focus on this resource for at least the next two years.

You can help by leaving a review on the Amazon page. If you could take the time to leave a review, it can help others to discover the resource. Click here to go directly to the Amazon page for Sitting on the Lap of God: Discover the Father You’ve Always Longed For.

In the book, I explain how my growing relationship with the Father has come about. It is the most transparent I have ever been about my failings and struggles as I sought healing. I believe that by sharing my struggles, many people will find encouragement for the challenges they face. Ultimately, the love of the Father utterly transformed my life, and this is what I want others to discover as well. This hope of introducing the transforming love of the Father to a new generation is why I wrote it. And this is why I hope you will read it and share it with others. The Father longs for each of us to know him, to experience his transforming love in our lives.

Antarctica Update

I enjoy meeting via Zoom with other team members who will deploy to McMurdo, Antarctica, this fall. It’s fun to meet the people I will work with and share life with on base. I am in the final stages of getting PQ’d (Physically Qualified) for medical clearance. I’m waiting for the medical staff who oversee the Unites States Antarctica Program to review my test results. PQing is an essential step in the process of working in Antarctica. I had no problem PQing last year, so I am hopeful I will be approved this year with no issues. I should know more in the next week or so. I will keep you posted. If all goes through, I expect to deploy at the end of September to work October through February at McMurdo.

Thank you again for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for the new book. You are a blessing! Remember, if you have time, please leave a review on Amazon. Thank you!


Launch Delay

We have a slight delay with launching the new book. Everything looked like it was ready to go. The finish line was in sight for a launch on Monday. Then on Friday, during a final review, Amazon rejected the cover art. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. The cover art is already approved for distribution worldwide for all distributors except Amazon. We’ve already been through multiple cover art revisions with multiple printed proofs to ensure everything is correct. At each step of the process, Amazon has approved the cover. But yesterday, Amazon said they would not print the book with the existing design because the design trims off the letter “d” on the right side of the cover. No appeal. It doesn’t matter that it is designed intentionally to be trimmed off. I spent an hour and a half trying to get someone at Amazon KDP to approve it to no avail.

Our cover designer has already fixed the issue. We simply brought the word “GOD” within the parameters of the front cover. Unfortunately, the launch is delayed until we can upload the new files, request another proof, and finally move forward. I expect it will likely be delayed a week to two weeks.

Previous Cover

New Cover

In the end, God is in control. One of the images I write about in the book is the idea of sitting on the lap of God as he holds me with one arm, and with his other arm, he swirls the universe with his finger. Right now, I rest on his lap. The book’s launch is swirling with the universe, also in his complete control and care.

This morning, I had an epiphany while making a cup of coffee to start the day. So often, I overthink things, stressing out over minor details, carrying a lingering anxiety in my gut. As I took a sip of coffee, the thought occurred to me, “No one else cares.” I nearly spit out my coffee! I stood there in the kitchen belly laughing. It wasn’t a negative thought. It was a freeing thought! Often, what I think is important actually is of little consequence. No one else cares about it to the depth that I care. If this is true, then I am free to let go of overthinking. I am free to release anxiety. I am free to lower my level of concern to the same degree as everyone else. And it is likely that no one else cares.

I will let you know when we have a new launch date. Thank you for your excitement surrounding the book and your understanding as we finally get this launched. I can’t wait for you to have it!

How Love and Trust Work Together

I’ve been waiting for weeks to let you know about my job placement for the upcoming season at McMurdo, Antarctica. I was looking forward to serving the base but waiting for the official confirmation of my position. Yesterday, I learned that my job had been changed, most likely due to budget issues. In the end, I am excited to be part of the team in any capacity. But humanly speaking, it was a loss of expectation of working in a specific role. When the dust settles and everything is confirmed, I will let you know what my job is. For now, suffice it to say that I had to process the loss of expectation. It was a bummer.

This morning, when I was spending some time with the Father, I thought about how love and trust work together. Specifically, I was thinking about the way I process disappointment or trial in the context of my relationship with the Father. The key is to have overwhelming confidence in the love of the Father. Then, when I understand his love, I can trust him when life doesn’t work out the way I expected. If I am not entirely convinced the Father loves me with abandon, then I am unable to trust him fully. Trust naturally follows when I am awash in his love, overwhelmed by his embrace.

This does not mean we will never have moments of disappointment or trial. Nor does it minimize human emotions related to lost expectations, injury, or insult. We are human, after all. God created us with emotions. We don’t have to minimize our humanity. But when we experience these emotions, we can turn to the embrace of the Father to comfort and console. We settle in on his lap. We snuggle into his embrace. We show the Father our hurts. We look up into his eyes, gauging whether he understands. Finally secure in his love, we relax, tension easing, breathing slowing. Though we may not understand the circumstances surrounding our hurts, we can trust that he has every circumstance fully in his control. Our Father is God, after all.

Often, we try to trust God outside of the context of our relationship with him. But the two are intimately intertwined. Trust is woven together with love to form a blanket of protection for us. This is why an intimate relationship with the Father is critical. I cannot trust God if I do not fully embrace his love.

The Bible says that loving God with abandon is the most important commandment of all. Why is this? Because everything in our lives is affected by this one thing. Everything. This is why I am so passionate about the idea of sitting on the lap of God. This model of relationship with the Father has profoundly transformed my life. I can trust God because I have an intimate relationship with him as a toddler sitting on his lap. Of course, I may get hurt occasionally. Expectations may evaporate like morning dew in a hot summer sun. But through it all, I can trust him.

2022 Giving Challenge Update

Finally, thank you to everyone who gave so generously during the 24-hour 2022 Giving Challenge last month. With matching grants, the ministry will receive almost $4,000 to provide free ministry resources sharing the message of hope and healing through an intimate relationship with the Father. I can only imagine the impact your giving will have on thousands of lives. Thank you!