California Dreaming

So, I’m obviously reeeealllly behind on blogging. This trip happened almost a year ago now. Last January, my friend Lydia and I decided to escape winter and hang out with some friends in California. Escape winter we did. The sunshine and sea air were surpassed only by the company we enjoyed.

MKW_20170116_MG_7213© Meagan WanschuraWe spent the first few days down by San Diego

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La Jolla will always be a favorite place to watch a sun set

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After we left San Diego, we rented a car to drive up to LA. When we got to the rental agency, they told us they only had sports cars left. What are you going to do?

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LA traffic is everything people make it out to be. We probably spent half our time in the car, but we saw some pretty cool sights along the way.

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2017 In Review

2017. What a year.

9 States.
8 Countries.
5 Continents.

I watched the sun rise over the Indian Ocean. Ran on the beach as Pacific Ocean waves splashed on my feet. Dove into the Mediterranean Sea. I rode an elephant through a jungle in Thailand and a camel in a dessert in Morocco. There were flights, trains, road trips, taxis, and boat rides. Memories that will last a lifetime. Here are some of my favorite moments from 2017.

*P.S. I was horrible about blogging this year. Most of these trips will be further documented in upcoming posts.

1. Texas + California

9 Friends. 11 Days. Antiquing. Coffee shops. Ice Cream. Ocean Air.
The Pacific Coast Highway. Hollywood. Griffith Observatory.

2. Michigan Ski Trip

The whole fam. Road trip. Skiing. Late night gaming. Good food. Better company.

3. Disney

If the answer is palm trees, is it really even a question? First trip to Disney World with my nanny family. Rides. Swimming. Sunshine. Fireworks. Palm Trees.
*Side note, I’ve been with this family for five years now. I’m so incredibly blessed by their generosity.

4. Thailand

Media missions. House of Grace. Jutiporn’s Cooking. Mangos and Sticky Rice.
The Indian Ocean. Elephant Rides.

5. Philly

Philly Cheesesteak. Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell. Dear Friends.

6. Ecuador

Story Team. Transportation Troubles. Camp. Crepes & Waffles.
The Beach. Sweet Friends. Making Quimbolitos.
“But oh. You complete Your plans, with our broken hands, You have shown. I have seen Your work, raising life up from the dirt. You complete Your plans, this I know.”

7. Compassion Visits

Suwanni. Guadalupe. Genesis. Pizza. Chicken and Rice.
Chiang Mai Zoo. Pacific Ocean. So Much Love.

8. Year End Softball Tournament Weekend

Back to back championships. Dan Home. Come from behind victories.
Homemade pizza. Cornhole.

9. Wanschuras Hop the Pond Again

London. Spain. Morocco. Italy. Gelato. Street Music. History Everywhere. Train Rides. Jumping into the Mediterranean. Driving through Tuscany. Watching the sun rise from a hot air balloon. Riding a gondola.

10. Ohio

Volleyball. Fireside talks with friends. Kitchen Crew.

11. Lutsen Ski Trip

Fresh powder. The best company. North Shore. Betty’s Pies. Skiing.

12. Random moments that make life beautiful

Starbucks. Picking Blueberries. Family Dinners. Running. Trips to the pool.
Baseball Games. Lunches out. Life is Beautiful.

I started last year with three big goals.
1. Read more
2. Pray more
3. Run more
I’m happy to say that two out of the three definitely saw progress. Setting aside my drive time everyday to pray, has been a really good way to integrate it into a daily habit. I ran February-November this year, and completed my first half marathon in July. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I actually enjoy doing it. Unfortunately, I think I only read one book cover to cover this year, so that one’s staying on the list for 2018.

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According to Spotify, my most listened to song of 2017 was Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road. It was released in January, and the truths in the lyrics spoke to my heart all year long. “This desert’s dry but the ocean may consume, and we’re scared to follow You. So we’ll sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope, where He leads us to go there’s a Red Sea Road. When we can’t see the way, He will part the waves, and we’ll never walk alone, down a Red Sea Road.” Every year is full of thousands of choices. Some big, some small. Some are easy, some seem overwhelming. Heading into 2018, I’m still holding on to those truths…whatever stands ahead, we never walk alone down a Red Sea Road.

The Before Project: Thailand 2017

 

I promised myself that before I left for Ecuador I would write about Thailand. Well here I am, leaving the country tomorrow, and I’m still don’t feel like I have the right words…

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Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me. Every winter we wait. Through long, cold, dark days. And every spring it comes. Budding trees, grass shooting through barren ground, the sun once again shows its face. A yearly resurrection.

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Redemption. It never gets old. I think that’s why House of Grace holds such a special place in my heart. In the mountains of northern Thailand, you can see it playing out before your eyes; this beautiful redemption story.

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My first time at House of Grace we focused on telling their story. And what a grand story it is. That trip we spent nearly all of our time in Thailand inside the secure boundaries of House of Grace.

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This time was different. Our purpose in going back was to show people what the girls at House of Grace are being saved from. Less than 24 hours after landing in Thailand, I found myself walking the streets of Bangkok’s red light district. It is a sensory barrage. Noisy, humid, flashing lights, club managers approaching the guys in our group trying to sell services. If you were a casual observer strolling through, you might think that everyone there was having a good time. The girls lined up outside the clubs were friendly, smiling, flirting with the scores of men walking by. But we weren’t there to casually observe. We sat down at a table outside one of the clubs and watched carefully. I saw how the girls would engage men walking by. How they would giggle, and grab their arms. And then I saw their faces after they were done interacting. I watched the smile immediately fade. I saw hurt, despair, and rejection. I saw fourteen or fifteen year old girls sitting at tables with old men. I saw a little girl, no more than seven or eight years old begging right around the corner from the red light district. I wanted to scoop them up and run away as far and fast as possible. But I couldn’t. I could only bear witness to their stories. We spent three nights walking those streets, and what I saw was haunting. I can’t imagine living it day in and day out, with no hope of anything changing.

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Our team was exhausted when we left Bangkok. Emotionally, physically, mentally spent. Someone asked me how I dealt with seeing the darkness of the red light district. To be honest, I don’t know that it’s something you “get over” seeing. I wrote a little bit about that side of things here, but truthfully, I don’t know how I would have coped with what I saw in Bangkok if we hadn’t gone to House of Grace right after. Sometimes it takes the darkness to realize just how beautiful the light is.

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Grace. Redemption. Love. Beauty. Light. Laughter. Life. When I think of House of Grace, that’s what I think of. You see it on the faces of the girls as they worship. You hear it in their giggles as they play games in the courtyard. You see it in quiet moments when an older girl takes a little girl by the hand. It’s as refreshing as the clean mountain air. Ask anyone who has been there. I can guarantee you that they won’t stop using the words “love” and “joy”. It’s one of those rare places that you can walk into for the first time and immediately feel at home. These girls will take all the love that you can give them, but you don’t leave feeling drained. You leave filled, because love is brimming to the top in this place, and if you stick around for just a little while, it will spill over, and your life will be changed.

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My Thailand adventure could be summed up a hundred different ways. I could talk about driving to mountain villages in the back of a pick up truck or racing (literally) through Bangkok on tuk tuks. I could talk about the amazing food we ate there – believe me, there was load of it – from mango sticky rice to Pad Thai, to milkshakes from Chus, to cheese nan, and just about everything in-between. There were rooftop pools, and $12 massages. There were team brain storm sessions, times we all wanted to pull our hair out, bubble tea breaks, and so, so much more.

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But I think that for our team, Thailand will always be about the little girls. The ones that don’t have to beg on street corners, or engage men outside of nightclubs. The ones who are safe and loved. The ones who are free to be little girls. Who can throw their heads back and laugh, because they are care-free and innocent. Those little girls who are growing up with big destinies.

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And finally, to the team I was lucky enough to call mine, there are no words. I can’t thank you enough for the hours of hard work you put into this project. Each of you poured your souls into your work, and it was a beautiful thing to watch. For the sweat, the tears, the laughter. The inside jokes and photoshop jobs. For the deep conversations and knowing when to keep things light – thank you guys. There’s nobody else I’d ask to go halfway around the world to tackle a project like this with. Keep being crazy enough to think you can change the world – because you can.

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Of Sunsets and Life Lessons

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I watched the sun set today. It was an unexpected gift. Normally when I get off work it’s dark outside. Today I got off early. Puffs of purple and pink lilting their way through the sky. Andrew Peterson’s voice breaks through the sound of my own thoughts. “This is not another song about the mountains. Except about how hard they are to move. Have you ever stood before them like a mustard seed that waiting for some proof?” The drive home is windy, and the view through my rear-view mirror is beautiful. “I say faith is a burden, it’s brave and bittersweet…” The sun sinks lower. If you’ve never seen it glowing through bare trees that are awaiting the promise of Spring, you’re missing out. “Hope is hard to hold to…” It’s the middle of winter. January just turned into February. We’re all a little sunshine-starved these days. But tonight, on this drive, I felt like it was all just for me. To remind me that He is there. That He is still working and speaking and guiding. He is still swirling sunsets, and still making paths through our red seas. In my devotion today, I was reading the story of the transfiguration. I’ve read it numerous times before, but this time something really stuck out to me…in the story it said that Peter was afraid. I imagine he didn’t know why he was there or what he should do. Why was he there? What was the point? The point was to know God more. To walk away from that experience understanding God in a deeper way than he had before. Why am I here? What is the point? To know more about God through my current life situations than I’ve ever known Him before. “Till there’s no more faith, no more hope, we’ll see your face, and Lord we’ll know, only Love remains.” The sun sets. Winter will turn into Spring. These bare branches will bud. And the point of everything that happens on this whole spinning world is to know Him more.

**here’s a link to Andrew Peterson’s “No More Faith”**

Michigan: Take Two

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In mid-October, I flew out to see Dan for a weekend. It was the first time I visited him by myself, and we had a great time exploring together.

Dan just got a new apartment, and he was looking for some plants to put it in, so we visited this super cute little greenhouse. Oh, and that poster? I really, really thought about buying it, but resisted the urge. Guess what he brought home for my birthday?

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We hunted for some fall colors. The Michigan landscape did not disappoint.

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mkw_20161015img_2108-meagan-wanschuraAlways fun to hang out with you, bro. Thanks for the fun weekend.

 

Lake Michigan: Camping Trip

lake-michiganRight after Ecuador, my family took a road trip out to Michigan to camp with Dan. Here are a few of the weekend’s highlights.

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Almost there!

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Dirty feet at the end of a summer day means the day was a success. And pop and blow pops are the result of going to the gas station with Uncle Danny.

When you’re camping, but Michael Phelps is swimming in his last olympics…

They sure love Uncle Danny time

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“Hobbit Houses”

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mkw_20160814img_8793-meagan-wanschuraLake Michigan – the ocean of the North

2016: Looking Back

A few weekends ago I started the process of cleaning “2016” off my computer and onto external hard drives. I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis who said “isn’t it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”

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As I looked through memory after memory, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the year that was. Memories of family times at the cabin, or just on an ordinary Thursday. Memories of adventures to see friends, of breath-taking landscapes. Memories of literal mountain-top experiences, foreign countries, and little faces I will never forget.

So without further ado, here are my top 12 memories of 2016. In chronological order, because to rank them in any other way would be nearly impossible.

1. January 2016 {Starting the new year in Ecuador}
A New Year’s I will never forget. I remember our team was in Casa del Padre playing a game of spoons, when we heard the fireworks start. We went outside and the whole valley below us was being illuminated with fireworks and floating lanterns. We spent New Year’s Day shopping at the market in Otavalo, drinking coffee at one of my favorite coffee shops, and playing volleyball. The next week we camped in Southern Ecuador and ministered in a small village. Being able to encourage the Pastor who is doing a remarkable job of reaching a largely unreached group of people was a blessing.

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2. March 2016 {Wanschura Family Vacay}
It’d long been a dream of mine to take a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway in California. My family had taken a California vacation when I was 5, so my memories of it were very limited. The beauty of that stretch of our country didn’t disappoint. From watching the sunset at La Jolla Cove in San Diego to my first glimpse of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, it was a perfect family time in every way.

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3. April 2016 {Roomie Reunion}
The worst part about making friends all over the country is that it makes hanging out on a Friday night kind of impossible. Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles, long weekends, and a bestie who says “don’t worry about packing much, you can just use my stuff”. Hanging out with the Emrich girls (I’ve now officially roomed with all of them of various occasions) was a blast. Outlet shopping, Sight and Sound Theater, trying (and failing!) to take “candid” photos, exploring Gettysburg, and just hanging out.

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4. June 2016. {Leah’s visit + Canada Trip}
That whole part about friends who live all over the country? Going and visiting them is cool, but it also makes you feel pretty special when they come and visit you. Leah and Aaron came in June and we did all the Minnesota stuff. Ate at Cossettas, went to Lego Land, went canoeing on Lake Calhoun. And then we took an 8-hour road trip up to Canada for Andrew’s wedding. Fun stuff.

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5. June 2016 {Dad + Mom’s 40th Anniversary weekend at the cabin}
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…it’s arguably my favorite weekend of the year. Boat rides, tubing, late night games, laughing, reminiscing, my favorite people. This year, a surprise visit from Dan and celebrating Dad and Mom’s 40th. What could be better?

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6. July 2016 {Ecuador: Take 2}
It’s hard to believe I actually got to do it twice in a year. The summer trip was hard – long days, rambunctious kids, getting sick, and working through team issues. But it was also really rewarding. Little moments when God would encourage you, prayer time with my roomies, seeing camp kids from last year, and coming away with some friends, who by this point, feel basically like family.

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7. July 2016 {Meeting Guadalupe}
A special blessing of the summer Ecuador trip. Seeing that tiny little person in real life, who you’ve only known through letters and photos.

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8. August 2016 {Camping trip to Michigan}
We introduced Ella and Whitney to road-tripping this summer. Lots of bathroom breaks, snacks, and books on tape were involved, but we made it out to Michigan to camp with Dan for the weekend.

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9. October 2016 {Andrew and Rachel’s Wedding}
It isn’t everyday you have a brother get married, so this was kind of a big deal. Their day was perfectly beautiful in every way, and getting to hang out with family + having one of my best friends fly in to photograph it, was simply fabulous.

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10. October 2016 {Michigan: Take 2}
I got to fly out and spend a long weekend with Dan after the wedding. It was in the middle of my super busy season with photography, so it was so nice to be able to relax a little bit in the midst of that. Plus, we got coffee at cool shops, did some shopping for his new apartment, and he took me to some of his favorite haunts.

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11. October 2016 {P4C Reuniting}
I’ve attended P4C three years now. The teaching is always a great encouragement, but if I’m being perfectly honest, a big reason I go is to reunite with friends.I staffed in the kitchen this year, so it was fun to see the other side of it. Volleyball + Nutella parties + late night chats + some of my favorite friends. I think that’s the definition of the perfect weekend.

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12. 2016 {Random, life moments}
If you’ve followed my previous blog, you know I’m a fan of the little moments. So number 12 goes to those Saturday morning races, or Monday night softball, or Friday afternoon lunch. Those little moments that we often take for granted, but are in reality, the stuff that most of our life is made of.

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2016. Another year. Another folder full of memories tucked away on a hard drive. Another 365 days of experiencing God’s faithfulness. Because He is always faithful. He is always good. He is always working. As sure as the sun will rise, His mercy will not end. 

This Is Life: 9/11/16 6:56 PM

“To all the secret writers, late-night painters, would-be singers, lapsed and scared artists of every stripe, dig out your paintbrush, or your flute, or your dancing shoes. Pull out your camera or your computer or your pottery wheel. Today, tonight, after the kids are in bed or when your homework is done, or instead of one more video game or magazine, create something, anything. Pick up a needle and thread, and stitch together something particular and honest and beautiful, because we need it. Thank you, and keep going.” Shauna Niequist