Letter #681: My Pleasure


Dear Chick-fil-A,

For years I have been a raving fan. Your food is good, but it’s the above and beyond service you provide that truly sets you apart. I took you for granted though. You were part of my hometown, college town and nearly every city I’ve ever visited. Then I moved to Branson where your nearest location was 45 minutes north.

You became a must stop restaurant, almost daily, as I traveled the country recruiting college students to work at Kanakuk. State after state, location after location, I began to realize there was something different about you. You weren’t just excellent in the few Oklahoma locations I frequented. After visiting 100+ locations in nearly 13 different states, I have yet to find a poor experience.

Eat Mor Chikin. Dedication dinner at the Keeter Center days before it opened. Chick-fil-A does a great job valuing it’s team members.

I was fascinated and impressed and desired to know more. As I declared stories of excellence in conversations, statements like this began to surface…”If Branson ever gets a Chick-fil-A, I’m going to work there.”

Rumor after rumor was squelched about your arrival…until fall of 2014, confirmed arrival!!! #Bransongamechanger

I remembered my statement…would I really be interested in getting a job?! After some thought, I said, “What do I have to lose, I’ll just call and see what happens!”

You see, I’m drawn to things that are different, things set apart by work ethic and integrity. I was fascinated by you. How did you manage to get thousands of employees to believe in valuing and serving people…it’s fast food for crying out loud?!

I was fascinated enough I didn’t want to just hear about your training program, I wanted to go through it.

So I called, chatted with the operator, explained my heart, told him why I was a terrible hire for him because I already had a full time job that relocated me in the summers and ended with why I thought he should hire me anyway. What did I have to lose remember?!

The paparazzi came STRONG on opening night!!! Snaps, texts and comments were flying around like crazy!!!

A week later we met and I was offered a job as a team member of your newest store: good ole’ Branson, MO!

March 5th, 2015, the newest chapter of my adventure more frequently called life began. And an adventure it has been! Balancing two jobs and maintaining excellence in both is going to be tricky, but figuring this out has already been worth the things I’m getting to learn.

Maybe I’ll post more of my takeaways later, but for now I’ll leave with this. I always knew you were different, but I had no idea you were this different. I’m not sure what I expected walking into the employment piece of you, but my thoughts of how you operate were pretty high. My expectations have been exceeded. Immensely. On every level I’ve been blown away…in the best of ways.

This will hands down be one of the craziest seasons of my life, but I am excited for the adventure and the lessons I am already learning.

Come to Branson, it’d be my pleasure to serve you,


Letter #574: Magical Christmas


Dear magical,

I don’t use you much, but there is only one way to describe Silver Dollar City at Christmas: MAGICAL. Last weekend, I finally got into the holiday spirit after visiting ‘the city’ in Branson! Four million lights. The highest level performances in Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmas parade. Roller coasters in the dark with the best view of the lights. Delicious food options. Seriously, I’m convinced it’s the most ‘magical’ Christmas destination in the U.S.!

Every street is lined with lights like this if not even more!
A Dickins’ Christmas Carol…seriously, Broadway level performances/some of the best shows I’ve seen in all of Branson!
My SDC exploration friends, Jennifer (check out her DIY blog here) and Susan!

Again, I don’t use you in my vocabulary, well ever, but you are the only proper description of the SDC experience. I also don’t highly recommend many things in life, but Silver Dollar City during the holidays is a MUST. Everybody needs to visit in their lifetime and celebrate the holidays in Branson! Plus, as long as I live there, you can come visit me too!!

Amazed at their boldness to elevate the true Christmas story of Christ in their park,

Advocate of Silver Dollar City

Letter #554: Weekend Roundup

Dear weekend,

Thanks for being a solid calm before the storm of chaos.

Fall/Winter arrived, and I’m ready to go to the mountains in this!!! I also decided I like running in this 45-50 degree weather!
Attended my first live radio show at Grand Country…yes, that’s an “On the Air” sign! More than 2 million listeners will hear me holler this week!
The shelf Papa Roth built in my kitchen last weekend…thanks for doing this Pops. We have SO much more space! You’re the best!
The finished product sans microwave. The APT is lookin’ so fly!
Lunch at Mr. G’s with the Corvette Mafia!
Discovering Google hangouts’ awesomeness as it is allowing a portion of my summer small group to have discussions as they write their own belief statements! Leveraging technology for something of significance!
Diving into Proverbs 3 with my small group…thankful for community!

You were the perfect balance of fun, rest, completed projects/chores and reflection. Let’s hangout again soon.

Bring on the storm,

Weekend Appreciator

Letter #551: Branson Becomes Home

Dear Branson,

I forget how unique and touristy you are. At this point, you’re just home to me. I avoid the vacation side of you or find ways to capitalize on you for my own use. The Landing is where I run. The Outlets are where I get affordable clothes. The Strip, well, the Strip is avoided at all costs no matter the destination.

When I think of you, I think Shady B. I think of my job, my house, my friends, a few of my favorite restaurants. I think of you as a city of 11,000 locals rather than one with millions of tourists each year. It’s fun to make jokes about, but I don’t really think of you as Strip traffic, shows galore or the Christian Vegas. You’re just good ole’ Branson in my eyes. I love that we’ve made it to this point in our relationship!

This being said, Mama and Papa Roth came to town this weekend, and we went full out tourist! Silver Dollar City, Six, Big Cedar breakfast, Andy’s…while I don’t think of you as the tourist town you are, it sure was fun to have so many options in my own backyard!

I failed immensely in documenting our adventures. We were having too much fun!

Mama & Papa Roth do SDC…it sprinkled while we were there. Mom’s gonna kill me for using this picture because she thinks her hair was messed up, but I like it!

Attending Six, the best show in all of you in my opinion, did remind me of some hilarious pictures I had from my year at the Kanakuk Institute. Some of my friends and I went to the show that year. There happened to be six of us, so we took full photo advantage!!!!

Looking for female counterparts?!
Seriously, if you’re in Branson, add this to your must do list. They’re unbelievably talented, funny, entertaining and reasonably priced.

I love that you’ve become more than a tourist town to me. You’ve slowly but surely become home. ‘Home’ is way more fun to have visitors than just a capitalism mecca. Mama and Papa Roth, thanks for visiting. Always love time with you two. And thanks for the shelf and all the other projects we accomplished at the APT (pictures to come once I get it painted). You’re the best!

Shady B, glad we’ve arrived to this point in our relationship. Look forward to enjoying one more week of consistency with you before I hit the traveling road!

Home is where you make it,

Shady B dweller

Letter #473: Manager of Expectations

Dear expectations,

I’ve been living my life by a new saying lately. Mostly out of jest, but it’s played out in my favor multiple times now. I’m not convinced it’s a good life saying, but it is helping me to manage you better in certain situations.

“Low expectations rarely result in disappointment.”

Who said this you may ask?? To my knowledge, I made it up. It all started when I went to see ‘The Vow.’ I walked in with you being super low and walked out pleasantly surprised. Anytime I get worked up and excited about a movie, I’m disappointed. Thus, I’ve decided I’ll always go into a movie expecting nothing.

I tried lots of new restaurants and foods on vacation (more posts on that eventually…the tornado kind of threw off my plan!). Shrimp and grits: sounds disgusting, but I knew I had to order them while in Charleston. I walked in with you being zero and ended up ordering them at least four times!!!

I’m telling you, there are certain situations that surprise when you aren’t through the roof to begin. The tornado taking out my power for a day is a prime example of the opposite happening. As Americans, you run high in our lives. Ice, running water, lights, freezers and fridges are all normal and expected. When these are stripped away from us, you can almost watch frustration and panic ensue. We literally don’t know what to do. We can’t shower, watch the news, cook foods, make coffee, read at night. We are responsible to create our own entertainment and purpose rather than a rectangular box doing it for us. What will we ever do??

We have grown up just having these things. We almost don’t know how to operate without them. I came home Wednesday afternoon covered in fiberglass and insulation after picking up pieces of house the tornado had blown away. I’d love to say I was super gracious, but the reality is the second I walked into my APT I was annoyed. All I wanted to do was shower immediately. I didn’t have water. A friend offered to let me use her shower, so I packed all my stuff including pounds of frozen meat to salvage. I was thankful for her hospitality, but I was more annoyed that I had to leave the ease and comforts of my own home.

By the time I made it back to my APT, the power had returned. It wasn’t even out for 24 full hours. Not a big deal at all, but because I expect to have power and water I was frustrated. My immediate thought was, “I could never make it in Africa.” The reality is, I would never expect the same things from Africa as I do America. I could make it in Africa. Honestly, any of us could make it without these things in America too, but it’s simply about managing you.

Lord, forgive me for my entitled attitude. Continue to teach me to manage what I expect in a healthy manner. Not that I would settle for less but that I would have realistic perspective.

Striving to have low expectations in some areas and high in others all while figuring out the proper place for both,

Manager of you

Letter #472: Branson Tornado

Dear February 29th,

You were one for the books. The day that doesn’t normally exist couldn’t have been more random. A 5:45 wake up to go on a run resulted in confusion to my lights not turning on and no water. Rooms quickly informed me the power was out and a tornado had swept through. Hmmm….good thing I sleep in a basement because none of us woke up!

I quickly read my Twitter feed to figure out what was going on, realized everything by us was fine, that it clearly wasn’t safe to run and went back to sleep. If you know anything about me, when this girl sleeps she sleeps! From 6-7, I didn’t hear any of my phone calls. When I woke up, I had four missed calls from sweet Mama Roth. At this point I think I realized the severity of the Shady B tornado. She knew the Branson Landing had been hit which isn’t too far from my house and was worried about me. After an hour of not hearing from me, she put a Facebook status up requesting people to let her know if they had heard from me. I immediately received too many calls and texts and had to get her to take it down. Lessons learned: 1) A mother’s worry never ceases. 2) Who knew sleep could create such panic?! I stinkin’ love my family!

Power at work was out, and everyone was banned from coming to the office. Snow days in a Branson February are not uncommon, but a tornado day?? Weird. Rooms and I enjoyed the morning with the Houston’s (the family we are the basement dwellers of) with pancakes on the propane stove, hilarious conversation and explanation of what a tornado even is and lots of book reading. I love this family!

Time for exploration. What ensued was shocking. I’m still blown away nobody died with so many power outages, lack of information on the storm and it happening in the middle of the night. Here’s a glimpse:

The Hilton Convention Center....this is problem the most visibly shocking damage that I saw. Looks like a bomb went off.
The cemetery by Sunfest. Trees annihilated but more shocking was that the tombstones were blown over and broken.
Part of the Strip near Wal-Mart.
Branson at it's finest...not sure which building this dinosaur came from but this pretty much sums it up. Also, note the rock scattered everywhere. This was one of the more interesting things to me. I think flower beds along the Strip were filled with rock. After the storm it was like they were dropped from above and evenly scattered everywhere like marbles.
The worst house I saw. This is right next to my church. Entire roof gone. Steeple of the church ripped off. Trees everywhere.
Some of my friends and I helping out with the clean up near the church and in the neighborhood.

Amazingly enough, Kanakuk Kamps (where I work) went untouched. Such a blessing. Power is back at my office and  house. Destruction is still prevalent, but buildings can be rebuilt, trees replanted and things replaced. I’m thankful people are safe.

During you, I went to help with some of the clean up. When I showed up, there were already more than a hundred people, just volunteers, picking up debris in just the place I chose to serve. Great tragedy always brings hard times, but it’s always eye-opening to see the response of people in the process. Generosity is shown. Assistance is granted. People are loved. Hopfully, prayerfully, the Lord is glorified.

You may have brought Shady B an unexpected beating, but it’s definitely not down for the count. Be encouraged by the hearts of people amidst the destruction. Seek the peace and hope only the Lord can provide among the storm. What began as a weird day didn’t necessarily end any differently, but you did provide neat opportunities to serve on a day that doesn’t normally exist.

Thankful for the safety of my town,

Leap Year 2012 Recorder

Letter #417: Winter Arrival

Dear winter,

You have officially arrived! This morning I woke up and snow was among us. What a fun surprise! Now this is what keeps going through my head…

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

Thanks for the sweet reminder and picture of how the Lord covers my sinfulness like snow covers the earth, making me white, clean and new. Lord, thanks for Christ and the fact that we get to stand blameless before a holy God only because of Him. I pray you, this Christmas season and the Lord would reveal this truth more clearly than ever to those who do not know the hope that lies within Christ.

Resting in my sin being washed clean through Christ,

Thankful sinner saved by grace

Letter #351: Iron Man Amazed

Dear Iron Man,

When I was driving home from church on Sunday, my entire route was detoured by you. In the midst of being re-routed I decided to take my own detour and watch you for a bit. You see, this is the second year for Branson, or Shady B as I like to endearingly call it, to host you. You are a triathlon including a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. 70.3 miles. Are you kidding me??

I planned to watch you for a few minutes then go on with my day. I was completely enamored and ended up watching for an hour and a half. These people are unbelievable. Certifiably insane, but unbelievable at the same time. It takes the average person around six hours to finish you. The winner finished in less than four. I can’t even run for an hour straight. The physical shape these people had to be in is phenomenal. Hours upon hours of training for months on end. The craziest part is that some of the people participating weren’t crazy fit. Some of them looked like this was part of their weight loss goal. Others looked like they could pose for a fitness magazine. It makes sense that there were staunch differences. You host professional and amatuer brackets.

The outfits your people rolled out in were intriguing as well. Spandex, dry-fit and, well to be honest, skin, were flying everywhere! Of course the one picture I attempted to take gets the guy in the awkward Speedo…he was only one of two I saw the whole day! These people could have cared less about what they looked like. I think once you’ve been going for 50 something miles, you’re just hot, tired and have zero cares about anything. I know I would.

Mother Nature decided to throw a bit of a curveball on you. Around noon it started to rain. When I say rain, it poured. Pelted. It was crazy, but the people continued. If I had trained for months on end, you would’ve had to drag me off the course kicking and screaming because I would have forced myself to finish!

The truth of the matter is, I’ll never train to do 70 miles of anything. A 5k…sure! A 10k…ok. A half marathon…maybe. You…never in a million years. I have zero desire. You still amaze and challenge me. You actually made me feel quite lazy. The next day, I went out and ran a mile and a half. I’ll never do anything dealing with 70 miles in one day, but I will strive to be somewhat fit.

Iron men and women, props to you and don’t wear speedos. Self, be motivated by these people,

Iron Man amazed

Letter #214: Dancin’ in Branson

Dear Branson,

You sure did show off this weekend! Flooded walking trails and camp. Rainy, damp and cold. You brought out your A-game! Regardless of your flaws, you provided the best weekend for reuniting friends!

Bria, one of my best friends from college and life, flew in from Memphis on Friday for our first legitimate weekend to hang out since college. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was -10 degrees and snowing, we would have made the most out of you. Friday night, we went to a local favorite, Danna’s barbecue, for dinner. Then, Bria was a trooper and spent hours at an engagement party with me where she knew nobody. Now this is a good friend! She did get a glimpse into the community I live in and is now convinced I live in a village…gotta love the K-World! Late night conversation just like old times ended the night…if only we’d have had two twin beds in the same room like our days in the annex?!

Saturday, Bria finally got her first experience of Kanakuk and you. Because of the flooding we didn’t venture out to K-West, but we walked through the Branson camps. I told way too many camp and Institute stories, and she graciously listened as I shared one of my favorite aspects of my life. I think she might understand me a little better after six years of camp!

The afternoon began with Rubylena’s Tea Room. Love this place, but girls, it’s not really a boy kind of place…there were only woman and we were the youngest people by decades! Of course we had to hit the outlets, but not without driving down the Strip! We got tons of laughs from the eccentric nature of you. Highlights: indoor waterpark and the amount of go-cart tracks, the ridiculously large number of tattoo joints, King Kong on the Wax Museum and our newest restaurant with the largest chicken in the world! Again, Bria finally understands the reality of my stories!

Saturday evening, in my opinion, is the epitome of a night on the town…remember it’s Branson! Pizza by the Chef, the best pizza, and Noah the musical…it just doesn’t get any better! Bria was impressed with her first, and hopefully only the beginning, of your shows! Noah really is solid. Visually stunning. Quality talent. Theologically sound. Live animals! I’d recommend it for sure!

In front of the theater...

You were dreary on Sunday, but we made the most of you. A little church, Starbucks, Chili’s to watch the Thunder game (rough showing), Branson Landing (the water’s receding!!!) and a trip to Harrison, AR in the midst of a storm to Seaport Airlines made for a great day…8 passenger plane in a storm?! She made it alive, and I guess we can’t really complain for the $100 roundtrip flight you provide!

All in all, you were a blast. We probably could’ve sat at a Starbucks’ table the entire three days and still had fun. We were just excited to be in the same place, laugh a ton and have great conversation. Bria, thanks for coming…Can’t wait for my Memphis debut! Seaport Airlines, thanks for cheap flights! Friendship, thanks for lasting a lifetime if we work at you.

You’re a funny place to show off, but I love ya,

Thankful for solid friendship

Letter #200: Silver Dollar City

Dear Silver Dollar City,

You are fun! I remember going to you once as a kid, but I have had the opportunity to visit you five or six times in the last two years. Living in Branson is an interesting  anomaly, but one of the perks is getting local discounts! You have phenomenal deals for your community members and for that I’m thankful.

I don’t know the history of you and I really don’t need to, but I do know your marketing scheme is genius. You attract every age to come be part of the excitement in the city. It’s honestly brilliant. The old people love the shows, shops and food you provide. Rides, play areas and food entertain the young ones. People my age love you, and parents love that they can enjoy things right alongside their kids and their parents. You have done a wise job of developing over the years.

Mack and Dru Dolloff measuring for the kiddie roller coaster...fun for all ages!
Leadership Weekend adventures at SDC!
Silver City Saloon girl turned out to be an elementary school friend!

You also create different experiences for your customers based on time of year. You just finished “Worldfest’ where you bring people from all over the world to perform in the shows…the Russian circus, Trinidad fire and limbo dancers, Austrian yodelers. Buildings transform into “Tastes of the World,’ and you can choose what ethnicity of food you want to eat. The entire park is decorated in flags, and everywhere you look a various culture is highlighted. This was my first “Worldfest’ experience, and I can’t wait to visit again!

SDC with a hint of Worldfest!
Trinidad people limboing under fire...impressive!

My favorite time to visit you is probably Christmas. You shower the entire park with four million lights, completely transform shows into the holiday spirit and Christmas cheer abounds. This is a must-see during the holidays…get your rears to Branson people!

Picture with the saloon girls after the show...duh!
Riding the swings in the children's area waiting for the nighttime train ride through the lights!

I’m a huge fan of you. You epitomize the Branson experience, and I honestly appreciate you’re part of my town. How many people get to go to an amusement park whenever they want?! As neat as you are, you seem to do things right as well. Your employees are kind. Your park is clean. Your material is appropriate for any age. Thanks for being a great part of the Branson community!

Love the experience you provide,

Advocate of the SDC