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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 https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm. 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!

 

2022 Giving Challenge

 

The 2022 Giving Challenge is almost here!

QUICK FACTS:

THE DETAILS

The 2022 Giving Challenge is an exciting 24-hour giving event taking place from noon to noon on April 26th and 27th. To strengthen giving, The Patterson Foundation will provide a 1:1 match for all unique donations, up to $100 per donor. All donations made during the Giving Challenge are unrestricted gifts to the ministry.

HOW TO GIVE

On April 27, beginning at noon, follow the link to the Giving Challenge website. You can check out the site in advance, but the option to donate is not available until the Giving Challenge begins at noon. The event ends at noon on April 27.

Click here to give with matching funds during the noon to noon window. Only donations made through the Giving Challenge link will qualify for matching funds.

Prior to and following the event, click here to support the ministry through our regular giving page. We appreciate your support all year long. Thank you!

MATCHING GRANT INFORMATION

The Foundation will double a maximum of $100 from each unique donor. If you want to give more than $100 and want to get the best donation possible for the ministry, then individual family members can each make a donation with different credit cards. A husband and wife could split a gift of $200, and each contribution of $100 would double. But the Foundation will only double a maximum of up to $100 of any unique donor’s gift. For example:

If you give $25 to the ministry through the Giving Challenge portal, the foundations will match your donation, and the ministry will receive $50. If you give $50, the ministry receives $100. If you give $500, the Foundation will match $100 of your gift, and the ministry gets $600.

The 2022 Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation.

QUESTIONS?

If you have any questions, feel free to email us at timothy@timothymark.com.

Antarctica, Book, Ministry Update

Antarctica Update

I am officially home for the spring and summer. I had my New Zealand Special Invitation Visa approved and was hopeful of getting the call to join the team with Cohort 5 in early January, but it was not meant to be for this season. My supervisor has been great throughout the process, even recommending me to other divisions, but in the end, I was not able to deploy for the 2021-2022 season. So now I set my sights on the fall. Lord willing, I will join the team for the 2022-2023 season, which begins around the beginning of October. I have re-applied for eight different positions from janitorial to administrative assistant. Next season, interviews for positions start in April, so I should know more this spring. I will keep you posted!

Book Update

Editing of Sitting on the Lap of God is complete. At this time, the focus is cover design and interior layout. Everything is on track to launch the book on June 13, 2022, the week before Father’s Day in the United States. By launch day, I plan to have three different versions of the book available – paperback, ebook, audiobook, and possibly a large-print version. I will be recording the audiobook myself. Production of the audiobook will likely take place next month. Lots to do!

I hope to get a lot of exposure for the book through interviews and podcasts coinciding with the launch. Early feedback on the content has been encouraging. Often I overthink things, strategizing, planning, and scheming ways to market and raise awareness. But in the end, God controls all things. I rest in his complete control.

Save the Date

The 24-hour Giving Challenge is April 26-27, 2022. During this unique 24-hour campaign, your gifts to the ministry up to $100 are DOUBLED by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with funding from the Paterson Foundation. I’ll share more details in the coming months.

Ministry Moment

The final cohort for the 2021-2022 summer season in Antarctica departed on January 4 for San Francisco for several days of Covid testing before flying to New Zealand and on to McMurdo. In the days leading up to the 4th, I had repacked my gear, ready to depart at a moment’s notice, still on standby, waiting for word to deploy. Two large duffels and a carry-on bag sat bulging on my office floor. For weeks, when the phone rang, a shot of adrenaline spiked as I looked at the incoming number to see if it was from the United States Antarctica Program. I checked email throughout the day, hoping for news. But as the day arrived, and still no word, it became clear I was not going to Antarctica this season.

When the finality of it hit me, for a moment, a cloud of disappointment settled on me. I gave myself a few moments to accept the reality. But almost immediately, I began to look forward to exciting days ahead. I am in an unusual situation where I have so many positive experiences going on in my life at the same time. The 2022 Giving Challenge is in April. The new book launches in June. In the fall, I will most likely be on a flight headed to Antarctica. How could I possibly dwell on not getting to go now? It makes no sense.

It took me a few days to shift gears, to realign my daily schedule with projects in the ministry and around the house I can focus on now. I gave myself a few days to unpack, storing the duffle bags in the back of the closet, putting away winter gear, filling the pantry with coffee supplies intended for an extended stay in a hostile, cold place. Yet, through every moment, a single thought saturated my thinking – the Father is so kind. It is the kindness of the Father that mystifies me so. That he is all-powerful yet kind is striking.

The Father reveals his kindness to us in a multitude of ways. Most notable is the gift of forgiveness he lavishes upon us. He gave us his Son to pay the penalty for our sin “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7, ESV). The Father’s kindness to us is displayed at the cross, but it doesn’t end there. It is manifested a thousand times a day in our lives.

I am aware of the Father’s kindness in the smallest details in my life. A thrift-store find of the perfect item makes me think of his kindness to me. The sun streaming through the window, warming me to the core, draws me to contemplate his kindness to me. A text from a friend initiating a laugh reminds me of his kindness. The way the morning sun strikes the bloom of an orchid in my garden prompts thoughts of his kindness to me. Making my bed, conscious that I have a home and a place to sleep while many go without, fills me with an awareness of his kindness. Over and again, a thousand insignificant moments are elevated to moments of gratitude through the mindfulness of his kindness to me.

This is why I feel it would be criminal to pout over not going to Antarctica this season. I have too much to be grateful for, too many reminders of the Father’s kindness in the past, and too much to look forward to in the days ahead.

We often struggle because we forget to factor in the kindness of the Father in the situations we face. Lost expectations are sure to occur. Disappointments will surely come. It is a natural part of life. Our nature is to focus on the negative, what we have lost in the trial. Often anxiety consumes us, filling every waking thought until our lives come to a halt, paralyzed by the challenge at hand.

It is in these moments that it is helpful to pause, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves of the kindness of the Father. Yes, my friends, he is kind. He shows his kindness to us a multitude of times a day. Look for those moments. Relish his kindness to you.

So I look forward to the year ahead with great anticipation. And if the Antarctica adventure is postponed for a time, I choose to focus on the face of the Father.

He is so kind.

 

Merry Christmas!

Christmas TreeMerry Christmas to you and your family. I trust this finds you well. Warm greetings from my home in Southwest Florida. I’ve just spent a few minutes in the gardens cleaning up after a freak wind storm on Tuesday. The high winds displaced many of the larger bromeliads. The Tom Adams Bridge, about a mile and a half from my home, recorded a wind gust of 86 mph at the peak of the storm. Of course, I loved the adrenaline rush. I am grateful I had minimal damage at home. Welcome to a tropical Christmas!

Here on Christmas Eve, my Christmas tree is in the corner of the living room with an old surfboard propped up on the wall behind it. Afternoon temps are in the mid-70s. As I go about my day, a YouTube video of a fireplace on my television fills the house with Christmas music. And this Christmas, I am filled with joy and peace over how I see God at work in my life.

I marvel at the gift of God’s presence, not only at Christmas but throughout the year. In the highs and lows, he is here, with us. Emmanuel. God with us.

Recently, I read through Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. When the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds, announcing his birth, the Bible says a multitude of the heavenly host suddenly appeared saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (See Luke 2:14, ESV.) What a scene that must have been!

In the midst of this breathtaking experience, the heavenly beings declare peace on earth. Peace. Such a needed quality in their world and our world today. Peace. Harmony. Accord.

It is easy to forget the culture into which Jesus was born. The government mandated that everyone register for the census in the town where they were born. No exceptions. No religious exemption. Just make it happen. For Mary, seven months pregnant, ready to give birth at any moment, walking or traveling upon a donkey must have been a misery. Bethlehem was around ninety miles from Galilee, a trip that would have taken between four to nine days. Then, arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary discover no rooms available to rent. The only accommodation, a cattle stall. How would you feel? Think about it, Mary and Joseph, teenagers, exhausted from the trip, far from anything familiar, giving birth for the first time, in a barn no less.

It is into this climate the heavenly host declares “peace.” In the midst of the chaos, peace.

Seems fitting for today as well. Wouldn’t you agree?

From that fateful moment in Bethlehem, God came near. God gives us peace through his presence with us. Emmanuel. He stands with us in the midst of the storm, protecting, surrounding us with his peace. Peace that cannot be taken away despite any government decree. Peace that cannot be removed by circumstances seemingly out of control. Just peace.

And so this Christmas, as I sit and enjoy the warm glow of the fake fireplace, I am grateful for peace. Peace that comes as a result of the awareness that the Lord is near. Peace in spite of a year that often felt out of control. Peace despite circumstances. Peace.

My wish for you this Christmas is the peace that passes understanding. May it be yours in abundance today and in the days ahead. May you be aware of the presence of God with you. Despite your circumstances, may you have this precious gift of peace.

Book update

We have completed the final edits of Sitting on the Lap of God: Discover the Father you’ve always longed for and are moving into the design stage. My goal is to have advance reader copies available in March to begin the pre-launch marketing. At this time, everything is on track. I expect to launch the book the week before Father’s Day in June 2022. It is a joy to see the project moving along.

Antarctica update

Still no firm news from the Ice. Recently, I received instruction from the USAP to apply for the Special Invitation Visa from New Zealand. I have now received the approved Visa. This vital step clears the way for possible deployment in early January. I am still waiting for an official word from my supervisor. Most of the team departs Antarctica for home in late February, so this would be a speedy trip if it does work out. However, it is still possible it may not work out for this season. With the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, I imagine there may be cutbacks similar to when the Delta variant surged this past summer.

It has been almost twelve months since I first applied for the team. What a roller coaster of a year it has been. My theory is that every great adventure has some adversity. The adversity is what makes it memorable. So I am grateful for every bump, turn, high, and low over the past year. I remain hopeful to be part of the team supporting the ongoing work of the National Science Foundation in Antarctica, whether this year or next.

End of Year Giving

Several folks have inquired about end-of-year giving. Some businesses also do matching gifts. Check with your employer if you are interested in this giving opportunity. Most companies will need to know that Timothy Mark Ministries is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and our EIN is 65-1054004.

Again, Merry Christmas to you and your family. I am looking forward to what God has planned in the year ahead.

Gratitude

The other day, I put my bed back together after laundering the sheets. It was a routine task. But as I pulled the top sheet tight, tucking the bottom edge under the mattress, suddenly I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was grateful to have a bed. I was grateful to have sheets. I was grateful to have a washer and dryer so I could wash the sheets at my convenience. I stood there in silence with the bed half-made. The Father’s kindness swept over me. It was so odd. I stood there thinking about his love, his care for me, worshiping the Father. Making the bed had become an act of worship. Imagine!

Most of the conversations I have with the Father revolve around his kindness to me. I am aware of his blessings in my life, his presence clearly felt, even in the mundane moments. The Bible says that in his presence, there is fulness of joy. I experience this. I hope you do as well, for it changes the way we see the little things in our lives.

Gratitude is the gift we give back to the Father for his gifts to us. He showers us with kindness. We give gratitude back. Back and forth, the giving continues.

And so this month, as the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, I wonder if we are grateful? Are we aware of the small things we often take for granted? Are we aware of how blessed we are?

I am grateful for the years of ministry behind me, for the hope of many years of ministry before me, for freedom in my schedule, for the privilege of sharing with so many my life and relationship with the Father.

I am grateful for the opportunity to join the team supporting the work of the National Science Foundation in Antarctica, whether that day comes this year or next, for the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows during the process of pursuing this adventure.

I am grateful for close friends, for short gaps between long conversations, for the cherished gift of their time and presence, the moments together more valuable than any trinket I could buy.

I am grateful for a home, for a place to retreat from the pressures of ministry and life. I am grateful for air conditioning in the sweltering days of summer and for heat when the occasional cold front passes through in winter.

I am grateful for the scent of French roast coffee first thing in the morning while the house is still dark, for silence, for contemplation, for an easing into the day with expectation and joy.

I am grateful for the tropical gardens that encircle my home, for the bromeliads, the Coconut palms, the yellow Allamanda blossoms smiling at me as I survey the grounds in the soft light after sunrise, coffee in hand.

I am grateful for flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Snowy Egrets, and Glossy Ibises, for their piercing greetings as they circle and descend while morning mists awake and rise from the lake.

I am grateful for a growing understanding of the love of the Father God and his presence with me, for time spent in silence on his lap, for his embrace, for his listening ear, for his patience, for his grace and the countless times I have received it.

And I am grateful for folks like you who encourage me to keep keeping on, who support me in my crazy adventures, who pray, who write, who share. Thank you. I am grateful.

Antarctica Update

At this time, I am still in a holding pattern to deploy to Antarctica. However, I am in regular communication with my supervisor. She is currently on base in McMurdo overseeing the Lodging Department. We spoke recently, and there may be an opening to join the team in January. I am optimistic for more news to share in the next few weeks. I am hopeful to be part of the team this season, but if not, then I will look forward to next year with great anticipation.

Book Update

My editor has finished the primary edit of my new book, Sitting on the Lap of God. We are moving forward with various reviews for grammar and theology. A designer in Toronto is currently working on the cover artwork and interior design. At this time, everything looks like it is on schedule for a launch in June of next year.

In all, I am grateful.