A Different Perspective

By the time this is posted, Easter weekend will have ended. All the eggs that were hidden will have been found. Leftovers will be stored in the fridge. And everything set back into place after friends and family have departed. Or perhaps this year was a little different.

Growing up in the Catholic Church, Easter always seemed to focus on Holy Week leading up to the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Palm Sunday and the entrance into Jerusalem. His final lessons in that week. The Last Supper. The betrayal of Judas. Peter’s denial. The stations of the cross. The death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For years, this is what I remembered about Easter.

His death for my sins. And the candy come morning.

It surprises me every year how many times I have to remind people that the cross is not the end of the story. The death of Jesus Christ is not what we celebrate. The grave was not the final resting place for the one who defeated death.

It didn’t really feel like Easter for me this year. I think part of that is the fact that the nights are growing longer here in the lands of ice and snow and Spring seems like a foreign concept when the dark of winter is slowly creeping upon us. The last sunset of the season is in a few short weeks and 24 hours of darkness is almost upon us.

Lent came and passed with barely a ripple as we began to settle into the winter season here on station. And instead of reciting the stations of the cross that led to that fateful day, I found myself surrounded by joy of His presence.

I walked out to Hut Point a few weeks ago and sat in the stillness with Him. In those moments of silence, with only the soft hum of the power plant echoing across the calm waters of Winter Quarters Bay, I praised my King for the relationship that was bought through the shedding of His blood.

Even with the oncoming dark of winter in the near future, I can’t help but praise the coming dawn of each new day because I know that my Savior has already embraced me in His arms. He has gifted me each breath that fills my lungs. His blood is the reason that I have been adopted by the Father above, who knows each of us by name.

I didn’t send the weekend thinking about His death on the cross. Instead, I relished in the knowledge that He is no longer dead and THAT is the reason I am able to have a relationship with Him. I praised His resurrection and the gifting of the Spirit that resides in each of us. And I found joy in knowing my Lord personally in those moments of chaos and stillness.

Yes. This year has been different. I’m down here in Antarctica. And the pandemic is still raging across the world. But it is still Easter.

But the story of Easter does not end there.

That’s the beautiful and wonderful part of our relationship with our Lord and Savior. The relationship lasts much longer than the three days spent in the grave. This is a relationship with the Spirit of God that now resides in each of us, through His sacrifice on the cross.

His blood has washed us clean, not just in that moment, but for all time, allowing us to be in that perfect relationship with the God who knows us. The God who forgives. Who comforts. Who is ever present. Who loves unconditionally.

Yes, it is beautiful to celebrate Easter and Resurrection Sunday. But don’t stop celebrating just because the weekend is over.

Your Best is Enough

Let us be honest about something: None of us are perfect. I know that I am not. Never will be. Don’t really want to be. I am all sorts of messed up and I have come to terms with that.

Like many others, I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes stress catches up with me. Sometimes the darkness of depression can be overwhelming and all the demons of my past seem to be trying to hold me back from the things I love.

I’m sure by now, most people have seen the Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. While I have never really followed the Royal Family, I watched the interview as it aired down here in Antarctica (via the Armed Forces Network).

What struck me the most was not the accusations of racism within the Royal Palace, but the candid honesty that both Meghan and Harry shared about their struggles with mental health. Two of the most well known people in the world shared that they have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Their courage to speak out and say that they sought help is a powerful weapon against depression. In the fight for mental health.

I know they are not the only people to struggle with their mental health. They are not the first ones to announce the very real fight against the darkness that is depression. And they will not be the last.

Everyone processes the trauma of stress differently. Some of us hold it within our chests, making it difficult to breathe. Others keep it locked away in their own heads, blinding their thoughts and dreams with fear. Some people allow this process to fuel their creativity, capturing it on the page, with words, or through photography.

But I have discovered that no matter how much you grow through this process, your trauma is always with you.

Almost ten years ago, I found myself in the debris field of Joplin, MO with several firefighters and AmeriCorps Members as they worked their way through the wreckage in the final sweep of search and recovery efforts. I can still smell the decaying garbage and filth. I can still recall every fearful thought of “what if…” that rang through my skull as we made our way through the wreckage. I still catch myself wondering if I missed something. The feeling that if I had just gotten out there a day earlier, would one of the missing be found.

I had to step away from dispatching at Anderson County because I would have panic attacks just thinking about going into work. After listening to hundreds, if not thousands of callers experiencing the worst days of their lives, it started to wear on me.

Through all of these experiences, the thought that kept weighing me down was this: “Did I do enough?”

It came in many forms, but it boils down to the simple question of if I did everything I could. And then, the thought that follows is if I could have done more. Did I miss something? Did I do everything correctly? Did I save the call fast enough? If I had answered the call a second sooner, would that have changed the outcome? If I had gone out into the debris field a day earlier, would that have made a difference?

These thoughts can paralyze us. They open us up to second guessing ourselves in that next event, that next call for service. And they can stay with us for years to come, constantly dragging us down into darkness.

And let us be honest with ourselves: we cannot save them all. Sometimes CPR doesn’t work. Sometimes you do everything right, but it is too late. Sometimes you have to accept that your best is enough.

Your best is enough.

Go back and read that again. Your best is enough.

This was something that a teammate told me when our AmeriCorps team was back in Denver after leaving the devastation in Joplin. Your best is enough. Nobody is expecting you to exceed what you can do.

Over the past several years, those words have echoed constantly in my ears, every time I begin to second guess or doubt myself. As long as I know in my heart that I did everything I was supposed to, everything that I was trained to do, my best is all I can give. My best is enough.

This was not the beginning or the end of my personal journey with mental health, but it gave me the opportunity to address and begin to handle the stress that came with the experiences of disaster response and dispatching. It gave me the breathing room I needed so that the darkness of depression could not pull me back.

Sometimes our best is realizing that we need to step away and take care of ourselves. Mental health is not just about combatting depression and suicide, but also about dealing with stress and our personal demons, handling trauma and learning that we can only give so much of ourselves before we are the ones that need rescued.

By admitting that they have sought assistance for their mental health, Meghan and Harry showed true strength. Some battles cannot be fought alone. And seeking assistance is one of the best things you can do.

There will always be events and things out of your control. Things will go wrong. You may not win every battle you face. But as long as you continue to do your best, it will always be enough.

I’ll leave you with this: Your best is enough.

Ruts

A couple of mornings ago (my “evening” thanks to being a MidRat), I got the opportunity to head out on a recreation tour to visit the Pegasus Wreck Site. I’ve been out there on the ice shelf before, during my first season, but this was the first time that I have gotten to drive a skidoo (aka: snowmobile) in Antarctica. Or ever.

As we were heading out over the ice road that leads to Phoenix Airfield, then past it out to the remains of the aircraft, I quickly realized that I did not want to get drawn into the previous path of another snowmobile or other vehicle.

There were ruts all over the place. Some made by other recreation parties that have headed out towards Pegasus or Room With a View (which I have not gotten out to yet in the three seasons on ice). Others were made by the graders who maintain the ice surface of the roadway. Others were created by various vans, trucks, shuttles, deltas, and other vehicles that displaced the soft ice and snow to form small canyons and ridges across the surface.

Some ruts are harmless. Others will catch the skis of your skidoo and pull you wherever they wander. Some will jerk your skidoo violently to the side and if you aren’t careful, you can easily loose control.

This made me think of how easy it is to be drawn into the ruts of others and how quickly your path can be diverted because of someone else’s desires, experiences, and/or events of the world that are out of your control.

How many of us were jarred and thrown after COVID-19 ruined our spring plans for 2020? And then continued to force its way into our lives throughout the rest of the year because of the actions (or lack of actions) of others. How many plans were canceled? How many of our daily habits were changed?

But it can be much smaller than world changing events. Take for instance the reputation of a group of individuals you work with and how that reputation can be a rut that can trap you in expectations.

Years ago, I got pulled into the ruts of AmeriCorps St Louis ERT and the reputation it had of excessive parties and drinking, but also the elitist mentality that existed within the program. That reputation still pulls at my path when people hear that I was one of its members.

Or here on the ice with the Fire Department. Over the past couple seasons, the entire department has had to fight to repair the reputation damaged by a few individuals in the past.

But if you look even closer, you can see that it is as simple as personal relationships. A friend makes a decision and, even if you disagree, you are affected by it because of your relationship with them. A family member makes a comment and because you are related, you must deal with the fallout when your friends see what they have done.

I am a member of the Fell Company, a collection of artists and friends that make up a small part of Fell and Fair. People know that I am part of this. So when the decision was recently made to host events in the middle of a pandemic, other people look to me for answers. Friends from other LARP groups that I am part of me think I agree and support that decision even when I don’t.

Their decision is like a rut that tries to guide me somewhere I am not going. If I am not paying attention, it has the capability throw me violently into conflict with others.

Or think even smaller and take a look at all the things you were taught to believe. You can see the ruts of racism, social justice, and societies expectations as clear as day, but what about your beliefs and faith? What about your feeling on history and current events? What about your opinions on other cultures and opinions that differ than your own? Can you see those ruts?

Think of how often ruts occur in our lives. But also, think about what ruts you leave behind you.

Not all ruts are hazardous. Some lead straight as an arrow, like parents teaching their children to love unconditionally. Some are gentle reminders of challenges ahead. Others are not dangerous when they diverge from the path you are on, but they are not going in the same direction.

At one point on the trip back from Pegasus, one of the skidoos in front of me veered suddenly as it hit a bump and almost went sideways. Sweets managed to keep control of the vehicle, but it could have easily rolled and flipped if she hadn’t have been paying attention.

Our journey through life is filled with dangers. But it is also accompanied by good people, great friendships, and families bound by the love we share with each other. So, yes, be aware of the ruts along your path, but do not be distracted from the beauty that surrounds you.

And remember to wear your thermals when riding out onto the ice shelf on a skidoo…

This New Normal

I understand that people want to get back to “normal” (read: how things used to be), but the stark reality is that the world has changed. We now live in the midst of a global pandemic that is fueled by misinformation, conspiracy theories, and those who don’t want to open their eyes to the proof of science. In fact, we’ve been living in this new concept of normal for quite some time now.

This idea of a new normal is not a lost concept, but something that I am familiar with through my time of disaster response. You can not go back to how things once were after your world is torn apart. This could be a tornado or a wildfire, hurricane or flood. And yes, even a pandemic like COVID-19. It’s impossible. You must relearn what normal is, now that things have changed.

A new normal is relearning what your life will be like now. What the world allows us to become normal because the normal that we once knew is gone.

Down here on the bottom of the world at McMurdo Research Station, this season has brought tons of change. Change that is not always comfortable. But change nonetheless.

We have a smaller population size, even if it is larger than what they told us it was going to be. We have extra precautions and procedures in place to combat the spread of this virus, going beyond each persons 14+ days of managed isolation prior to arriving on the ice. Following the arrival of any new personnel onto Ross Island (includes McMurdo Station and the Kiwi’s Scott Base), we enter Level Yellow for the following seven (7) days, which requires each individual to physically distance themselves and wear masks in shared spaces.

This new normal is difficult. But it keeps us safe.

And no matter how strange it feels when we are finally able to remove the masks and hug our friends when level green hits, it’s ultimately become part of our new normal here on station.

There will always be people who disagree with the decisions that management has put into place. There will be people who question these decisions and push back against them because they disagree or view things differently.

It’s a little different here on station, because we all signed contracts and agreements to follow said rules that are in place. It is part of our jobs. We either deal with this new normal or we can be on the next flight out. It’s that simple.

I watch the news and am thankful that I am down here on the bottom of the world, away from the hardest hit areas of the pandemic. And yet, my heart breaks for all those I love who are in the midst of the battle. My community and family.

I think it’s more difficult for me watching this pandemic from so far away than actually living in the midst of it. From here in Antarctica, we see a bigger picture of what is happening with the rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths being reported because we are so far away, instead of the limited ground level view that we had back home.

I understand people want to go back to going about their business like before. I understand that people dislike wearing a mask. People want to be with their communities and churches. People want to do things and live like we used to.

But we cannot cease to be vigilant. We cannot stop being diligent about wearing our masks. This pandemic is not over.

I repeat: This pandemic is not over. Stop acting like it is.

During our (sm)All Hands Meetings yesterday here on station, one of the leadership team made a beautiful point that I am going to repeat again and again. We are one of the only places in the world where COVID-19 is not present, which makes us able to enter into Level Green (like we will on Friday morning, after being in yellow for several weeks now due to the arrival of staff onto station) and interact with each other without the fear of COVID-19 being present in our community.

The rest of the world should be treated as Level Yellow (possibility of COVID in the community, take precautions) or Level Red (COVID confirmed in the community, take proactive measures to mitigate).

And yet I see so many people back home acting like it isn’t a concern. We see celebrations erupting around the country with little to no physical distancing and lots of people without masks. We have events returning without masks being mandatory for participants. Hosting events in general where you cannot ensure proper physical distancing. Communities gathering without keeping one another safe.

I understand that we had a massive breakthrough with a possible vaccine this week, but it is still going to be months before it possibly becomes available. And between now and then, we need to act to combat the spread of this virus.

Every single person should be wearing a mask and maintaining proper physical distancing, unless every single person they come into contact with has been in isolation for two weeks (and every person that they interact with and so forth). If we did this, our nation would no longer experience the 100k+ new infections each day and a record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths reported every day.

Unfortunately, not everyone pays attention to science or common sense. Some people are in a rush to get back to how things used to be. But we must all learn how to live in this new normal.

Is it going to be rough? Absolutely. It may even be uncomfortable. And difficult. But until there is no chance of COVID being present in our communities, we cannot allow ourselves to enter the mindset of level green.

We must learn to deal with our new normal.

Titles, Respect, and Unconditional Love

I got into a discussion the other day after someone here on station mentioned that they would refuse to use the desired pronouns of a friend back home. Actually, it wasn’t much of a discussion. It was closer to an argument. I may have called said person an [edited].

I don’t do that often. I promise.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine confided in me that they were not the person that everyone assumed they were. Their whole life, they had been referred to as a male because, as they put it, they were born with something that defined them. They knew it was a lie.

I grew up in a world of “Ma’am” and “Sir.” As a Army Brat, I was taught to respect each person on base, those who were the commanding officers and those who served beneath them. It didn’t matter if they wore a uniform or not.

Over time, my faith taught me to respect all life and each person individually because, as Followers of Christ, we believe that each person is made in the perfect image of God. And as much as I cherish this idea and belief, I have learned to respect people even more because I know that each person, every life deserves to be treated with dignity and cherished with love. Unconditional love.

When we respect someone, we reveal that we value them, love them for who they are. Not as who we think they should be.

Over the past year, I have had several good friends come out to me as members of the LGBTQ+ community. They came out as non-binary and transgender, lesbian and queer.

The moment they asked to be referred to as a specific pronoun or name, I had the choice of loving them through respecting their decision or withholding that respect I have for them as individuals made in the perfect image of God. As children of my Father in heaven above who knows each of us by name.

Yes, there are times when I mess up and get their pronouns and/or names wrong. Habits are hard to break.

But if I willingly and purposely choose to use the wrong pronouns, how can I claim to love said individuals unconditionally as my faith calls me to do? And if I choose not to love them in this way, I am willfully and purposely choosing to disrespect them personally. Not just the choices they made, but them as individuals.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or not, if you choose to refuse to call someone by their preferred pronouns and/or name, you are choosing to disrespect them. You are refusing to love them. And you are an [edited].

It’s that simple.

Would it be simpler if I wasn’t a follower of Christ? I don’t think so, but it depends how you look at things. It still comes down to respect.

Today is 11 October. For a majority of us it is just another date on the calendar. But it is also the annual LGBTQ+ Day of Awareness. It is National Coming Out Day. So, today, when someone who trusts you enough to reveal their true selves, I pray that you love them unconditionally. I pray that you respect them.

And from that moment on, may you continue to make the choice to respect them. To shower them with love. Every moment.

And when they tell you their desired pronouns, make every effort to use them correctly. Because if you choose not to, all you are doing is being an [edit].

And to all those beautiful people out there who are struggling with their decisions, with telling family or friends, with being accepted for who you are, know that there are people here who love and support you, always.

Thoughts on Hugs…

In a little less than 24 hours, McMurdo Station will move out of our Level Yellow protocols and the entire town will erupt in unfiltered physical contact as friends and coworkers hug, high five, and come within 6 ft of one another without masks for the first time in almost two weeks. Level Green is within reach. It’s going to be wild.

I am already predicting at least one hug related injury on Friday afternoon.

I was talking with my suitemate the other day (who happens to be my roommate from last season) and came to the realization that, besides my parents and immediate family, I have not hugged anyone since I left the ice in February. Over seven months. And no physical contact.

Let’s be honest, this whole COVID-19 thing sucks. As much as an introvert that I am, I love and crave human touch. I love hugs. I love being able to interact and talk with people without any boundaries.

And these past several months have been rough.

I’ve come to realize that I just need a hug. Like a long embrace. Nothing overly aggressive, please and thank you.

But here’s the weird part: I’m so used to the new normal of social distancing that not wearing a mask and being in close proximity to people, let alone physical contact, will just feel wrong. It’s going to be super awkward.

I even had a dream last night where I had forgotten how to hug properly. And I woke up wondering why my brain forgot how to hug.

But really, can one forget how to hug?

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow when we go to level green!

I Survived Managed Isolation

After forty days, the waters receded and the ark came to rest …. woops! Wrong story! But really, 41 days in hotel rooms and I have finally made it back to the lands of ice and snow. Yes, that would be McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica.

This is my third season here on the ice and one of the most interesting deployments to date. With COVID-19 raging across the U.S., we knew it was gonna be a little difficult to fly through New Zealand on our way South for the summer season. It’s one thing to do the physical distancing thing back home where most people don’t believe in wearing masks, a whole other to be in managed isolation in a country that has managed to keep the pandemic at bay while locking its borders to those flying from the U.S. But, diplomacy and mutual agreement of science prevailed and began our journey to the ice.

Let’s be honest: Hotel living sucks. Even if you can wander the halls and go out onto the patio or into the back lot to get fresh air, there is a feeling of being trapped in place. Some people love it, others go crazy.

Even before we got into New Zealand, we started the process of isolating. It wasn’t very pretty. It was rocky. There were things the program learned for the next group (not sorry, main body folks). But those of us in the WinFly group arrived in San Francisco and began our journey south. But not before our first COVID test (and getting a stick shoved up not one but both nostrils because “why not?”).

Two weeks of Managed Isolation and then a flight south, right? Nope. Not even close!

So, we get to New Zealand. After a very long flight from San Francisco to Honolulu to refuel and then directly into Christchurch. Which was new for us, as we usually fly through Auckland before jumping down to Christchurch. And it takes forever to unload 130+ people from a plane ten at a time, because New Zealand has its mess together and knows how to keep the physical distancing thing real.

It took me an hour to get off the plane, and I was half way to the back. I feel sorry for the suckers in the back row. Okay, not really. But we were all glad to be off the airplane we thought was gonna fall apart mid-flight (it was making some noises no airplane should ever make).

Everyone freaked out about the idea of Managed Isolation. Honestly, it wasn’t bad. It was boring at times, but not bad. Morning Yoga through Zoom. Tablet Weaving. Watching all of the Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels. More yoga. Waiting for food to be delivered (I felt like a cat waiting for my meals). Semi-daily temperature checks (I may have been skipped a couple times?). And another two COVID tests which is basically like getting our brain stem tickled through our nasal passage.

But lets take a moment to talk about food: EVERYONE complained about the food. How it wasn’t enough food. It was bland. It wasn’t very good. Well, I actually didn’t mind the food. Did I eat all of it every meal? Absolutely not. But I wont complain about food that I don’t have to pay for that is delivered to my door (even if I have to put my mask on to open said door and snag said foods).

Basically, any time you opened your door during Managed Isolation, you had to be wearing one of them fancy blue medical masks that the New Zealand government provided. Yes, the nurses would get upset if you wore your pretty, hand made mask. I support that decision. Wear your mask. Especially when they provide them.

We did have a small area outside to wander around in, but I didn’t really feel like walking down three flights of stairs to explore an area that was just bigger than my hotel room. Maybe it was a little bigger than that, but I didn’t really want to find out.

So, fourteen days go by and we are ready to escape down to Antarctica. And what happens during WinFly and, usually, the first couple flights of Main Body? Weather. Weather happens.

So we move to a new hotel, one with smaller rooms, while McMurdo got slammed by the storm of the century. Like literal tons of snow got dropped off around town and buried the airfield. And I really don’t want to be on the C-17 that attempts to land on snow drifts that cover buildings.

So, we didn’t fly. It happens.

Instead, we gained a little more freedom to run around the hotel. We had access to several conference rooms with TVs and games and actually had to leave our rooms to locate food, which was served in the lobby of the hotel. We got to socialize a little more, while still attempting to maintain our physical distance and wear our masks any time we were not physically eating or drinking something.

I still hid from almost everyone, only venturing out to get meals. But, lets talk about food again, shall we? Why does New Zealand have some of the best food?! Like, beautifully delicious food. It was amazing. Whoever says otherwise can go eat sand.

But really, I hid for the most part. Yes, I came down and socialized over meal times and caught up with friends from previous seasons and first-timers. I handed out my “When do we fly?” stickers I made for WinFly. But, there was part of me that was not comfortable hanging out in close proximity with people. Because the whole physical distancing thing. And COVID.

Eventually, people started getting bored and fed up with being cooped up in a hotel. People complained about everything from the food to the lack of entertainment to the fact that there was a weather delay. And there was another delay after that.

We had several higher up people in the hotel with us (NSF Representatives, Station Management, etc.) that took care of us as best as they could. They got the back lot expanded so we had more room outside. They set up a crafting room for us. They organized a “field trip” for us to spend several hours at a semi-local military base so we could lounge around the rugby practice fields. They set up a grab-and-go and supplied snacks for the between-meal and late-night muchies. They convinced the hotel staff to bring in their personal pets so that we could play with puppies and a giant rabbit. They took care of us.

NOTE: When I say “they” this includes multiple people in isolation with us, not just on the Station Management level, but also supervisors, returners, and the wonderfully amazing Kelly Swanson, who just happens to be the best Recreation Coordinator McMurdo could ask for. We love her.
END NOTE.

Here’s the thing about Managed Isolation: everyone eventually gets bored. Some of us are better at keeping ourselves busy, but there are just so many movies one can watch before the screen is no longer your friend. I broke out my mandolin several times. I filled several pages in the ole sketchbook. I took several training courses. Had Zoom chats with family back home. Read a little bit. Watched TV (New Zealand and BBC have some of the best shows). Played video games (If you haven’t played Rimworld, I would highly suggest it). Slept in. Even then, I did get a little stir crazy at times, so I would walk up and down the flights of stairs at the hotel.

After three days in San Francisco, fourteen days of managed isolation, and an additional twenty something days of weather delays we finally woke up super early to find our majestic fleet of shuttles waiting to ferry us to the Antarctic Center, where we checked in and waited to board our flight further south.

Boarding the C-17 is always exciting. This year, even more so because we were leaving the world of COVID behind. Kinda? We still have to maintain social distancing guidelines and mask etiquette for a week following each and every inbound flight bringing new folk to station throughout the entirety of the season.

As much as everyone hates wearing a mask, I understand why we need to protect everyone down here on the ice. We need to remain constantly vigilant to ensure that COVID-19 does not have a chance to show its ugly head in Antarctica.

So, with that, I’m gonna go enjoy another day of dispatching in Antarctica! Stay safe. Stay sane. And wear your mask!

Why I hate “Social Distancing”

We’ve all heard the orders, suggestions, whatever you want to call it these days. Everyone needs to keep a minimum of 6 feet distance between individuals when outside your home. Some places have stricter guidelines. Only leave your house for essential services. Only go outside if you are exercising. Only to get food. Only if your life depends on it.

Someone coined the term Social Distancing. And I think it is the stupidest combination of words to describe where we are at in the world.

First, let me settle everyone down: I respect and have been following the guidelines put in place by the CDC and the state of South Carolina. I only leave home to snag food or other essential items. Yes, I still ride my bike, but I’ve come to avoid trails because people are idiots who don’t understand the concept of staying six feet apart (or more for those of us who are on the move).

I dislike, no, I hate the term Social Distancing. I think it is an awful description of the situation that we find ourselves in.

Every day for the past month, I have jumped onto multiple live streams and videos with various people on Instagram and Social Media to catch up and see what they are up to (specifically the folks and guests over at Fell and Fair). My group messages have been muted because it’s a constant, non-stop conversation that I can’t keep up with most of the time. Apps and programs like Zoom and Google Hangouts have allowed me to video chat with my family who is spread across the nation and my community group here in Greenville on a constant basis. I’ve also jumped in on some video chats with members of my LARP family and friends scattered across the world. I’ve talked on the phone for hours to catch up with people.

Yes, it’s difficult to remain isolated at home physically separated from those you call family and friends, but through the presence of social media, I have become even more social than before.

This is why I seriously dislike the term Social Distancing. We do not have to be anti-social. We have tools available to us to allow us to get through this together, even if they are different than we are used to. Even uncomfortable at times.

Instead of Social Distancing, I’ve been referring to this period of time as Physical Distancing. Because let’s be honest, we are social creatures that have been advised to keep physically away from one another.

This does not mean that we can’t or are not able to be social, it just means that our normal view of socializing has had to adapt, to change.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will never like the term Social Distancing, and I am trying to eradicate from my vocabulary (and yet I’ve used it numerous times in this post). Instead, I have replaced it with the better description: Physical Distancing.

And we will keep doing the Physical Distancing until it is safe to embrace one another once again. And at that time, even the introverts will need hugs (just respect their space and let them make the first move, because not everyone likes hugs).

A Reminder to the Rescued

I’ve been watching the clouds and the bands of snow roll across McMurdo Sound over the past couple days, bringing with it a beautiful mix of blues and grays that obscures the mountains of the horizon.

It’s a bittersweet view, knowing that in a few short days I am scheduled to fly off continent and return to the lands of plants and flowers and grasses. So I soak it in from the window in Dispatch. MacFire. Whatever we are calling this room in BL165 these days.

With over 900 people still on station, there are plenty of people that are unhappy with the flight delays that this weather is bringing. While I may not share the same feelings (I want to be delayed until the 21st so I can watch the first official sunset of the year), I can’t blame them for being upset. If the planes can’t fly, we cant go home.

The other night, right after the inbound C-17 boomeranged back to Christchurch due to weather (turned around without landing), one of the Kiwi Fuelies that I’ve gotten to know over the past couple weeks jokingly stated that they would never be rescued.

That night, I finished the last chapters of the Circle Series by Ted Dekker, a beautiful reminder of how much our Father pursues us, especially when we feel like everything has been lost.

When Thomas, the main character, cries out to Elyon (God) in desperation. For rescue. He receives a simple and powerful answer:

I see you
I made you
I love you

Sometimes, we forget that our Father in heaven sees us and watches over us. Sometimes, we forget that Lord has crafted us into perfect images of His being. We forget that our Savior sacrificed everything so that we may know His love. We forget that our King has already rescued us from death.

There are times where I feel distant from God. When my heart is heavy with loss. When the darkness threatens to consume me. When I feel like I am not good enough.

Sometimes we need a little reminder that we have already been rescued.

I love you
I choose you
I rescue you
I cherish you

Over the past couple hours, the clouds have begun to clear and, for the first time in several days, glimpses of blue skies are peaking through. And while I know the storms of this life are far from over, I can find beauty in the stillness of the freshly fallen snow as I watch the mountains reveal themselves in the distance knowing that this is only a brief moment of beauty compared to what is to come.

No matter what your storm may be, remember that you have already been rescued. You are chosen. You are loved.

On Being Your True Self

Several weeks ago, one of my coworkers and an amazing friend recommended that I read the book Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. It is a beautiful book about courage, the strength of vulnerability, and over coming shame in our lives and culture. I’ve been taking my time reading it over the past several weeks because each section and chapter is like a sledgehammer striking true.

If you’ve never read it, I suggest you go out and purchase a copy for yourself (or borrow it from a friend).

Today, while reading at lunch, I came across a passage that was speaking about the differences between fitting in and belonging. Her words say it best:

One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is all about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

She asked a group of eighth graders to come up with differences, and, like her, I am floored by some of their definitions.

Belonging is being somewhere where you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere where you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.

Looking back, I can see that I fit in almost everywhere that I go, but there are very few groups in which I feel like I actually belong.

These groups in which I find belonging, they are my community. Eliakim. Fell and Fair. My family back home. My Ice Family here at MacOps and around McMurdo Station. These are the people who I don’t feel like I need to put a guard up when I’m around them. I can live and love freely and be the real me. No masks. No shields.

The truest self.

It’s terrifying to let others see who you truly are. We are accustomed to shielding ourselves from judgement, from shame, from fears. To let go of all that weight can be extremely freeing, yet vulnerable.

That’s what Daring Greatly is all about: Vulnerability.

There are many places that I go and people that I interact with that, as the eighth graders put it, don’t care one way or another if I am there. And that is okay. I know that I will not belong everywhere, but this year, my focus will be on remaining true to myself and stripping off the mask, no matter who I’m with or where I find myself.

Perhaps this will be a chance to see the world in a new light, without the filters of defenses and masks to hide behind. Perhaps it will be terrifyingly beautiful in ways I could never begin to imagine.

The only way to know is to be one’s true self.