Hiking in Arizona with my adventurous husband Kyle!
Change. Seasons change. People change. Jobs change.  It’s inevitable. And yet it's not something I’ve always enjoyed.

I can remember being asked by many a job interviewer: "How do you handle change?"

“Oh, me? I love change. Yes, I’m very flexible, really go with the flow.” Yeah, right.

Maybe I wasn’t completely honest, but who hasn’t put themselves in the best possible light in front of others? Easy going. Carefree. Peaceful. All things I strive to be and qualities I want to be known for having.

Instead, I've often been more familiar with less appealing words. Rigid. Planned. Stressed.

This week, we're interviewing Sydney and Ally Richardson, 13 and 12 respectively, who are headed to far-off lands for missions trips through Teen Missions International. They're giving up the better part of their summers off from school to do so, time that they would normally spend visiting family in Montana and North Dakota, getting visits from other out-of-state family members, hanging out with friends, and being in the outdoors.

What are you doing? Where will you be, and for how long?

Ally (left) and Sydney (right) Richardson
Sydney: "I will be in Malawi, Africa, for four weeks traveling to AIDS Orphans Rescue Units and villages where I will work with other missionaries as I distribute eyeglasses to those who need them. We will be sharing the Gospel to people who otherwise would not have listened. I will also have the opportunity to share the love of Christ to people who come in need of basic first aid. And every now and then we will have opportunities to go and evangelize through puppets, songs, and drama. Before Malawi I will be in Florida for 2 1/2 weeks of intense training, and afterwards, coming back, I will spend less than a week back in Florida to avoid culture shock and to learn how to go home and be able to share what I did (with) others."

Ally: "I will be in the Dominican Republic for three weeks at the CEF camp where I will be painting, pouring sidewalks, and landscaping. I will also be sharing the gospel and encouraging the children that go to the camp. I will also be evangelizing to them. Before the trip I will also be in Florida in order to get ready to go; I will be there for a little over a week. I will go back to Florida afterwards for 4 days to debrief."  

Esther with her husband Eric.
This week we are highlighting a dear friend, Esther Aspling, who is leaving her husband and six children at home this summer to go on a missions trip to Panama City, Panama to reach out to girls and young women who she believes she has much in common with. Here's her story in her own words:

What are you doing?

This July I will be going with a group of people (mostly women) to help put on a girls conference in Panama. The rate of abuse is high, and the availability of help is low. The conference will encourage, equip and empower the girls of Panama City on their faith journey to be all that our Creator created them to be! It will give the girls the tools that will help them succeed in every area of their lives and to overcome the difficulties that they face.

I will be going with the organization Bridging the Gap who are partnering with missionaries Garritt and Tara Kenyon. The main sessions will include Panamanian and international speakers that will hit topics such as; sexuality, physical and emotional abuse, self-esteem, body-image, education and more.

I am now 13 weeks pregnant, just finishing the first trimester (YES!!!) and feeling like an actual human being again. For the past couple of months I have felt nauseous, sick, and generally depressed the majority of the time. Kristin and Julie have definitely been picking up my slack. I’ve felt like I had nothing to write, not a lot to say. And on my worst days my posts probably would’ve sounded more like angry rants than inspiring and encouraging posts, so better we just let those ones die. 

But now, as the nausea and tiredness begin to dwindle, the sun begins to shine and I feel myself being revitalized, I’ve been contemplating how often as a mom we learn to just roll with it. If you had told me ten years ago that a little pee in the bathroom, jam on the counter, crumbs forever around my table, and fingerprints everywhere wouldn’t bother me, I would’ve told you that you were crazy.
But today, I can honestly say that for the most part, they don’t.

Courtney, Kate, Danielle, Nicole, Kate and Sara
This week we are highlighting Venture Expeditions' Run Free on our summer vacation series. 

And, this isn't just any run: these five friends (Sara Menning, Danielle Towner, Courtney Passa, Nicole Penner and Kate Rabago) are literally running across the state of Minnesota -- from west to east - to raise money and awareness about Human Trafficking.

Ahhh, summer. Now that winter has finally passed, with summer comes the hope of regeneration, new life, and new adventures. And this summer, we want to be inspired. We know that people all around us are doing amazing things. And we want to hear about them - before they happen - so we have the option of becoming involved, too. That's why, each Monday this summer, The Ruth Experience will feature an interview with someone who is using their time, talent or treasure to do something amazing for others.

This week, we're featuring Hope Hike. It's near and dear to all of our hearts - it's the main event for a charity called Katie's Club, created in memory of Kendra and Kristin's sister Katrina Stigman, who was also a dear friend of Julie - so it seemed like a good way to begin. With that in mind, we interviewed Tim Demery, one of the event's organizers (and speaking of amazing-ness, he's also Kristin's super-awesome-and-totally-handsome hubby. Not that we're biased.).

What are you doing?

On Saturday, June 22, we're meeting at Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, Minnesota, to participate in a charity hike.  

Who or what does the event benefit?

The hike benefits Place of Hope in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and Hope Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. All funds raised by hikers will be divided between these two organizations as a challenge match to their supporters. For many girls and women, these charities provide the warm meals, the chance to sleep in their own bed, freedom from drug abuse or physical abuse, or the chance to receive a quality education in a safe environment that they long to have.

How did your involvement in this event come about?

Tim and Kristin on a Colorado hike in 2008
Almost seven years ago, I was invited to a hike out in Colorado called the "Climb for Katrina."  It was a charity hike to raise money for a foundation called Katie's Club, which planned to give girls and young women opportunties in Christian environments that they otherwise wouldn't have the ability to participate in.  Katrina Stigman (the "Katie" in Katie's Club) had passed away that previous fall after a 5-year battle with breast cancer. On the hike I met my future wife, Kristin, who happened to be Katrina's youngest sister. We had a hike team raise money in Colorado for five years, then moved it to Minnesota. Two years ago, we started the Hope Hike with the idea that we would raise money directly for a handful of charities. Last year we narrowed the list down to two charities, Place of Hope and Hope Academy. Now other hikers and I raise money for Katie's Club, funds which will be used to match all donations that Place of Hope and Hope Academy can raise.

I have served several meals at Place of Hope, and it is an emotional, humbling, amazing experience. What is shocking to me is when you see someone wearing jeans and a polo shirt, like they just walked into a normal restaurant. But they are homeless. These are people that most people choose to ignore, so hearing how thankful they are to get a warm meal and see that someone cares about them is so rewarding! I have also heard Hope Academy's story several times, and visited their facilities once. The students are from extremely low-income families, but are able to get a Christian education through the generosity of others. The faculty and staff could be making a heck of a lot more money at other schools, but they chose to enrich the lives of these inner city kids. 

What can we do?

There are a few things you can do.
- Check out our website. It has a lot of the nitty-gritty details on the hike itself, what to bring, what to pack, why we do it, and who you can contact for more information (the contact form is available here).
- Consider hiking for hope yourself. To participate in the hike, those over 18 years of age are asked to raise $250 minimum. Additional members of the same family are asked to each raise $50 minimum. THIS IS A FAMILY-FRIENDLY EVENT! Beyond the main event, we'll have games and food available for all. 
- If you're unable to hike, we'd still love your support. You can also donate to the event online at our Razoo page.