The most surprising thing in 2013?

Denali Mt. McKinley photo by Chad Risner Alaska Summer 2013

Chad’s clear view of Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) this summer on the train; it is the highest peak in North America at 20,237 feet, AND rare to see it this clear!

“What’s the most surprising thing that happened to you this year?” Chad asked me on Dec. 31. We spontaneously stopped for some of our favorite warm pretzel bread, which we accompanied with red sangria in our cozy corner booth.

My first thought was laying by the schmancy pool at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires – I was in disbelief that I was even there, period…let alone for work (with The Way Women Work)…less than two months ago. How in the path of my life did THAT even happen? It almost seemed fake, or like a joke. I could have never imagined that scenario!

Then, fast forward to a few months earlier when I excitedly and naively agreed to go backpacking for the first time in the nation’s most pristine wilderness – Denali National Park in Alaska…

Denali National Park backpacking wilderness

Photo credit of the remaining Alaska photos to John Whitaker & Matt Kempf.

backpacking in Denali National Park Summer 2013

Me The Backpacking Virgin (I only lasted 24 hours), and the rest of the experienced crew – Rachel The Fearless, John The Trailblazer & Matt The Calm.


To say I was underprepared mentally is an understatement. Only 24 hours, three best friends, 500,000 mosquitoes, three grizzly bears, two storms, a million hip-high brush-bushes, a never-ending soft tundra that sucked my legs in one step at a time, some tears, anger, high-alert, one MRE, and a missing bear canister lid later, I knew I was in way too deep.

bears in denali







Fast forward a few months previous to that, and I was planning a wedding in a three and a half month time span, while living in the Kansas country with my aunt and uncle. and looking for a place to live in Anchorage. We had a plane to catch only five days after we wed! AND we got married (video below)!


Peppered in those 12 months was a my first time to Seattle, a work trip to Brazil and Argentina, a honeymoon in Jamaica, travels all around Alaska, visits from my parents and eight other dear friends, the worst loneliness of my life sprinkled with newlywed time when he was home from his travel-y job, pushing myself physically to new limits in biking, hiking and kayaking; making new friends and exploring a new city; working remotely, learning to cook scallops, Copper River salmon and fresh halibut tacos! (That Alaskan seafood melts in your mouth!)

Then there has been the adventure of marriage, of moving, selling possessions, selling our cars, finding a new car, settling, transitions, visiting family, family hardships, life-changing books, death of loved ones, and professional growth.

And when I write it all out, in my disbelief it sounds like fiction. THAT is the most surprising thing to me about 2013 – that all of that happened! Such extremes – from luxury travel and hard work, then bare bones camping in the wild unpredictable wilderness…and I was really there. Ha! Inconceivable!

I believe 2014 will also hold more than I can imagine, because that seems to be what God has up his sleeve, each year that passes if our hearts are open.

Chad and I are excited to each pursue our individual creative goals (for him, his art and web comic, for me, video, photography, and my viola) and just have fun together along the way.

Speaking of fun – I haven’t really shared this yet! Our wedding video, by my talented friend and videographer at World Vision, Nathan Shain:

All the love to you! So thankful to take this journey with you.

What will be in your 2014?


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