I just returned from a five day spiritual retreat in Juneau, Alaska, which was the 50th state I have visited in America, and my first time here. This was on my bucket list and I am happy the Lord gave me the vision and resources to go.
Prior to leaving, I had been in such a dry, dead place spiritually, following a year of grieving my father’s death and a car settlement case with an attorney that had been so difficult. I so longed for some time away with Jesus, and to experience the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.
I chose Juneau as it had a retreat center and Shrine to St. Therese of the little flower Jesus, whom I had been named after, my given name being Teresa. It is an old gold mining town with the Mendenhall Glacier and tram up to Mt. Roberts, in the middle of a rainforest. I picked to stay at Grandma’s Featherbed Inn, in anticipation of the comfortable bed, which turned out to be like sleeping on a cloud, and the whirlpool bath. The owner, Mel, was so helpful, packing me a free lunch each day as I trouped out with my Lyft driver to the unknown.
I was first stunned how the clouds dance up and down over the huge wooded mountains and a layer of fog and mist rests upon the gray-blue water of the channel that Juneau resides upon. The St.Therese Shrine had a long walkway out to a wooded island. There I was alone in the chapel, where the Lord began to do a new work in my heart: Repentance, healing and deliverance all supernaturally occurred as I walked the beautiful gardens and sat before the sea, hoping for a whale to surface, or a bear to come lumbering along. I heard his voice so clearly in the silence as I munched on my delicious sandwich, with hardly a person in sight. I saw His majesty, His power, His love in the nature around me and in His tender healing of my heart. He gave me a new heart of flesh, from my heart of stone (Ezekial 36:26) and filled me with His love for others.
On a walk the next day to the glacier and Nugget Falls, along a path where a bear had been the day before, I stood under the pounding, loud waterfall and felt Him deliver me from many bondages in my life. Primarily to a bondage to self, which was keeping me from loving people. He pressed upon my heart to live a new life in holiness, like St. Therese, to follow her ways of simplicity and showing love in simple ways to others, and to sacrifice and do everything in love for Him.
Returning from the falls, and singing at the top of my voice to scare away said bear, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flurry of golden brown fur go by in the bushes off the path. I quickened my step but kept singing Yankee Doodle Dandy. You’d be surprised what comes out of your mouth when stumbling upon one. I became more brave while in the wilderness with Jesus, as I realized if I could trust him to protect me from bears, certainly he could protect me from all my fears and problems waiting back home.
One afternoon I spend the day wandering throughout the old storefronts of Juneau, marveling at the talent of the local artists, learning the story of the native people’s heritage through a museum mask display and old-time Indian trading post that carried pink suede moccasins lined in white fur, ivory carved polar bears, and fur pelts for any decor. I stopped for a nonalcoholic drink at the Red Dog Saloon, where I chatted with cruise ship tourists in dock for the day, in this famous 1840 drinking establishment serving gold miners on the last stop on the gold highway.
God restored my heart for sharing the gospel when he gave me many divine appointments, where I was able to share my faith and speak hope and love into people’s lives, especially the Mormon’s who ran and worked at Grandma’s Inn, and who showed me such love and kindness. I was able to tell them about my book, Becoming Miriam: A Life Transformed by God and give them my card to find it on Amazon.com. I hope they will read it and find the truth of who Jesus is and the free gift of grace and salvation He gives to us. Alaska is in my heart and I am so grateful to the Lord for gifting me this wonderful experience of seeing Him in all His glory both personally and in the beauty of nature.
I highly recommend a trip to Juneau and feel free to message me with any questions!