Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Look Back at 2009

It's amazing to think that at the beginning of 2009 we didn't have a clue what we would be doing right now! It's been a crazy but fun year. We started out the year living in Bend, OR, having only been there for a couple of months. We moved there in Oct 2008, after finishing our hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, interested in finding "fun jobs" that we could simply do for a few months while we determined which seminary we would be going to in the fall of 2009. We were sure we would only be living in Oregon for a few months, so we didn't think that local church ministry was an option for us at the time (who would hire pastors that would only be around for 10 months or less?).

Mark found himself as a snowboard instructor at Mt. Bachelor, and Jess eventually ended up as a Lead (a type of assistant Cafe Manager) at Barnes & Noble. We really enjoyed our time in Bend. Our friends Aaron and Annie, whom we met while working at Heritage Wesleyan Church were fun to hang out with and get to know better, and we also made some great new friends, Stephanie and Ryan, who are now serving in the Peace Corps in Mongolia!

In April, Jess got to go back to the Quad Cities for a fun weekend with friends who all came together there (can't find the pictures on my computer). In May we celebrated our 4 year anniversary with a weekend in Newport on Oregon's coast. These guys were just hanging out on the docks!

In June and July, Mark's parents visited as they drove through on their way to and from a SOWER's project near Portland. We did a lot of fun stuff, including taking the chairlift up Mt. Bachelor for lunch with a view!

Also in June, Jess' parents visited; it was their first time to the Pacific Northwest, and we had a blast walking in lava tubes, canoeing, seeing waterfalls, and walking on snow in June!

By this time we had become intrigued as we heard more about Indiana Wesleyan University's launch of the new MDiv program and Wesley Seminary. As we prayed and talked more, we decided that despite the fact that I (Jess) was already accepted to several seminaries, I would apply to IWU as well. The beauty of this program is that it is completely online (with the exception of 2 wks each August for onsite intensives), so you can not only live anywhere you want, but you are also required to be in local church ministry for at least 20 hours/wk. We began to think that this would be ideal for us and would open up possibilities for Mark to do ministry while I started school. So Mark began putting out his resume to different districts across the country (in the Wesleyan Church). The result was a church less than 3 hours away in Oregon that was looking for a pastor and seemed to be a good fit for us. In June we came to candidate (This equals an onsite interview with preaching involved), and we were voted in by the congregation the same day. They were interested in taking on Mark as a Senior Pastor and were open to my being on staff as an Assistant Pastor as well, so it worked out perfectly.

We got in one last hurrah (well two) in July by squeezing in a summit of South Sister and a week-long thru-hike of The Wonderland Trail that circles Mt. Rainier before heading back to the Quad Cities to load up a moving truck to really move out to Oregon (we didn't bring much with us the first time, thinking it was a temporary move). We packed up our apt in Bend, moved to Aumsville, and the next day I flew to Indiana for my first 2-week intensive that marked the beginning of my MDiv program.

Middle and North Sister from the Summit of South Sister.

Hiking the Wonderland Trail. Don't let the flat land here fool you. There is 20,000 ft of elevation gain and loss on this trail!

Mark and Dave loading up the moving truck in the Quad Cities.

Good Ol' Blackboard. This is how my online classes are done. Much time is spent here :).

We have loved our church so far. What a loving, supportive, encouraging, servant-hearted group of people! Mark has enjoyed learning what it means to be a Senior Pastor, and Jess just finished up her first semester of school (thanks to all those at Mt. View who gave me feedback for my assignments!). I look back and could mark this year as one of transition, however, it seems like so much of our life has been filled with what feels like transition and change. And while we have enjoyed that, we are excited for our time here, hopefully more stable, and we're excited for what this next year will bring!

The Gift that Kept on Giving

I did something last week that I haven’t done since before Christmas of 2004: I bought conditioner. I know it sounds a little strange (did you buy the really large value bottle at Costco?), but aside from the small bottle of Pert Plus when we were hiking the PCT, I truly have not had to purchase shampoo or conditioner since 2004.

My sister is an extremely talented cosmetologist who graduated from the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis, MN. One of her perks is a great discount on Aveda products, and so for Christmas in 2004 she sent me some Aveda shampoo and conditioner, which I was excited to receive. But here’s the deal: my hair is pretty thin and fine and it doesn’t take much shampoo or conditioner to clean it, so the next year when she sent me even bigger bottles, I had to say, “Stop! I love it, but I’ve barely put a dent in the first bottles yet!”

Now I confess that we hiked the PCT for 4.5 months (and so I wasn’t using it then), but I am just as surprised as anyone else that these bottles of shampoo and conditioner have lasted nearly 5 years. And it’s not because I don’t shower (I know you were thinking it). But these simple gifts were like the bottomless carpet bag that Mary Poppins carried around or like those faucets that seem to pour from the middle of the sky with a never-ending supply of water coming from who-knows-where. They were just always full. It isn’t everyday you get shampoo and conditioner that unexpectedly lasts for nearly 5 years. So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I say “Thanks” to Bethany for giving me a gift that was not only quality, but one less thing I had to think about, which is always a win in my book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

We Wish We Were Here...

Opening Day at Mt. Bachelor was Friday, November 20...this video was taken on opening day, and we are so jealous of all the fresh powder! Last year I only got to go a couple of times because of my work schedule, and the days never looked as good as this! Mark had plenty like this, and I'm pretty sure this powder is making him itch to get back on the slopes :). We are looking forward to spending some time at Mt. Hood and Hoodoo this winter, and hopefully we'll get a chance to head over the Pass and hit Bachelor as well. If anyone is up for a ski or snowboard day, let us know!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Church Events

Since being at the church we've had several events. The first one was called the Jumble Sale. It's a fundraiser that happens every year for our women's ministry. All summer people from the church/community donate stuff to be sold...everything from clothes to furniture and everything in between. It's a big rummage sale, but provides our women's ministry with funds needed for the year.

Around the same time our kids were in the local CornFest parade. Yes, I said Cornfest :). We moved away from the Iowa region, but ended up in an agricultural area. Reminds me of going to school in Indiana. But it was fun, and we got to eat free corn on the cob...yum! And since we were new, we were talked into dressing up with the kids and walking in the parade. I was in a poodle skirt and Mark had the classic white shirt and jeans. Our kids' float won "Best in Show" though!

We had a youth bonfire in September. It was a blast and it was a great way for students to connect and hang out.

This was at the bonfire. Apparently Mark found this in a closet huh?

We did an all-church trivia night that was really fun! Mark MC-ed and I, along with a couple other ladies, were the judges that counted up the points and kept track of the scores. It was a blast, and luckily everyone was kind to the judges :).

Our MC. Next time we need to get him a bowtie :)

Our second youth event was a Barn Bash in conjunction with two other Wesleyan youth groups - one from Salem and one from Portland. We had about 80 kids total and it was a blast. There was a hay maze, a corn maze, a hay ride, this slide (fun!), and candy. There was also a guest speaker. Luckily it didn't rain on us too much...just a light mist, which is basically like it not raining here.

Not sure why I am putting this picture on the internet, but oh well! We had a Harvest Party for the kids in our community on Halloween. There were different games and events in different rooms, where they could win candy and treats. There were door prizes and free espresso for adults. The reason I'm wearing this pretty peach dress is b/c the theme was Knights and Damsels, so all the women helping dressed up like "princesses." Thanks to a local thrift shop, and a little tag board and cloth, I was transformed (I think) into a "damsel." I got to be the barista and give away the free espresso drinks.

We've had a lot of fun times since being here; we've gotten to dress up in costumes a lot, and I'm sure it won't be the last time! It's been so great getting to know the people here and getting to see their hearts for God and for ministry (in the day-to-day stuff as well as the big events). We are excited about what's been happening so far and look forward to seeing how God will continue to work!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Keepin' It Local::Some Fun Stuff We've Been Up To In Our Area

Last week I went apple picking with my friend Julie. This is what happened to the apples I picked. I have a great recipe from my grandma for microwave applesauce (chunky or smooth), which takes a total of 10-15 min. to make. So I whipped up a few batches and took a shot at canning by myself (thanks google!). It worked perfectly, and was so fun to hear the "canner's music" (the lids popping as they seal). I only did about half the apples, so I will be doing the rest sometime this week. Yum!

Today was our day off, so we decided to head to Silver Falls State Park to ride the bike paths. Unfortunately we locked our keys in the car as soon as we got out and had to call a tow truck to come unlock our car. We were pretty lucky because we were there later in the afternoon and we have no cell service. Luckily there was still someone in the lodge to let us use a phone. We did get to ride for a little bit, although it wasn't as long as we wanted to. It was gorgeous, though, and we will definitely go back.

The leaves are changing...fall is here!

It was $8 for a 5-gallon bucket, so we split a bucket and got a variety of different apples.

My friend, Julie, lives in Portland. I know Julie from when we lived in Illinois, and it's really fun to have her so close! We've gotten to hang out a couple times now, and the last time we hung out we went apple-picking (and got coffee, which is why we are surrounded by cement in this picture).

I have always wanted to learn to can, and a friend from Church, Debbie, was canning tomatoes and invited me over to learn last week. It was easy and fun! I even ended up with quite a few jars of canned tomatoes, even though they were all Debbie's; all I did was help put some in jars! Thanks Debbie! Can't wait to put them to use!

We went to the Stayton Library book sale a couple weeks ago. It was three days long, and on the last day, it was $5 for a grocery bag full of books! We went expecting it to be really picked over, but there were still tons of books to choose from. We got a varying array of books that range from some outdoors-focused books, some faith-focused books, some novels (steinbeck, mischner, and some other randoms), and some cook books (yay!). We had no problem filling two grocery bags. Now the problem is where to put them...we need some more bookshelves!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Defense of Food

I read this book a few months ago, but just recently found the notes I took while reading it. It wasn't a completely new idea and thus, didn't transform the way I eat or think about food too much. The one thing it did do was challenge me to eat less meat and more vegetarian. The book starts out telling you in 7 words what the rest of the book is going to be about:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

I had a friend in Bend who was basically a vegetarian, and that, along with some other reading I did while there, began to challenge me on the health benefits of eating less meat and more veggies. I am not sold on a completely vegetarian way of life (I just like meat), but both Mark and I are really interested in having more vegetables in our diet (beyond simply being a side dish). The bonus of living where we live now is that everything grows here and everyone has a garden, which has resulted in us being on the receiving end of the overflow of veggies that people can't finish themselves. Here are a few other thoughts from the book that I liked:

*Don't eat anything your great-grandma wouldn't recognize as food.

*Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than 5 in number, d) include high fructose corn syrup (these indicate foods that are highly processed and may no longer be what they purport to be).

*Get out of the supermarket whenever possible (farmers markets, CSA's, your own garden).

*eat meat as a condiment to veggies, not the other way around (less than 1 serving/day).

*The diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the quality and healthfulness of the food itself (have they been injected with growth hormones? Are they eating nutritious food themselves?).

*If you have the space, buy a freezer. Freezing produce, unlike canning, doesn't significantly diminish the nutritional value of produce (I still want to learn to can though) :).

*Don't look for the "magic bullet" in the traditional diet: in the same way that foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts, dietary patterns seem to be more than the sum of the foods that compromise them.

*How a culture eats may have as much a bearing on health as what a culture eats (i.e. snacking, eating alone vs with others, etc.).

*We tend to believe that the portion served to us is the proper amount to eat (i.e. in restaurants). Often the serving is much larger than we should actually eat.

*eat until you are 80% full, then stop. Consult your gut: stop when you're full!

*the less we spend on food, the more we spend on healthcare.

*do all your eating at the table (not at the desk!).

*Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does :).

*try not to eat alone: we eat more when we're alone. Eating with others is also a cultural act and forms community.

These were just a few of my notes (I had about 3 pgs). It was an interesting and worthwhile read and it will definitely challenge or remind you what it means to eat actual "food" vs. some of the stuff we buy in the stores. I know that I find that as I eat more and more real food, I notice a difference in how I feel and my energy levels when I eat more processed food. It's not totally unavoidable, but we do our best to eat decently without breaking the bank. I challenge you to try to find some good vegetarian recipes as well. I have found several that I love and that taste just as good rewarmed up as leftovers. Best of luck! Cheers!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Random Update...

A good chunk of my time is spent here these days. Good ol' Blackboard. I have fallen into a schedule of working at the church in the mornings and doing school in the afternoon, which seems to work out pretty well. If you would have asked me a year or two ago if I would enjoy doing an online school program, I would have said no. But I really am enjoying this format and the freedom it brings to the schedule.

This is my "garden." Basil and Rosemary. They started out so tiny and have flourished. It's so fun having fresh herbs. I had them outside, but Oregon has these wonderful slugs (that we first met when we were hiking) and they apparently like to eat Basil. So, once I figured that came the plants :).

Everyone here has a garden. We were having lunch at the home of a couple that goes to our church, and we discovered that they grow corn, summer squash, tomatoes, green onions, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and grapes. There may be more, but that's all I can remember. I am summer I am going to try and have a garden of my own...maybe less extensive to start, but I definitely have my pick of what to seems like everything grows here!

mmm....triple chocolate scones. I got the recipe from a fun blog I found that has tons of great recipes. These are super easy and quick. If you want something yummy for dessert or just enjoy baking...give these a whirl. Of course, you have to like chocolate :).

Other than these few things, we have been spending our time getting to know people at the church and in the neighborhood, getting the house organized and settled via craigslist, and discovering what our new area has to offer. Did you know that we live an hour from downtown Portland? There is also a great array of fun date places for less than $10 between the two of us. We are really enjoying it here, although we are continually being warned about the rainy winters, which we have yet to experience. Something to look forward to :).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Whirlwind

For reasons unknown to me, the blog just doesn't want to let me write above this picture, so Aimee and Elijah get to be right at the top :).

We are finally in Oregon for good! It has been SO busy since the beginning of summer, but very fun. Right after our hike on the Wonderland Trail, we landed back in Bend for two days, and then headed to the Quad Cities to pack up the rest of the stuff we had stored in Mark's parents house. Most of it was still in boxes from when we moved out of our apt in Rock Island, so it didn't take nearly as long to pack it all up, but we did put in a good amount of work packing the U-Pack trailer that we went with to move out to Oregon. It's pack it, they drive unpack it. It's a LONG drive from IL to OR, so we were glad to put in a little work in order to have someone else drive it for us! We got to hang out with a bunch of great friends while we were there (and all the babies!). My parents also drove down from WI which was a nice added touch to the time there.

After IL, we landed in Bend, had two days to pack up our apt there and we moved over to Aumsville. We landed here on Friday, and Saturday I flew to IN for the start of my MDiv program through IWU. After a week there (and some GREAT time with Christin and the Summers'), I was back in Aumsville and ready to dive into the church and unpacking. So, you can see why updating the blog didn't really happen for a few weeks!

It's been great so far. The people have been awesome at helping us settle in, and we've gotten so many fresh vegetables! Everyone has a garden here on top of the fact that it's a huge agricultural area. We even got to do U-Pick blueberries today. Yum. I can't wait to have my own garden next summer!

Virginia and Oliver

Jess and Amber

Jamie and Oliver

Thad and Will...sorry Steph...we didn't get you in the picture too!

Steve and David

Jess and Liz

Jess and Lincoln...I just love the look he has on his face!

The fam

Mark after the trailer was all packed up and the walls in place.

Silver Falls State Park...just 15 minutes from our house! Mom, you'll love this one! Lots of gorgeous waterfalls to see when you come visit!

We had the great pleasure to drop our friends Paul and Kerry Kind off at Elk Lake. They are doing a section of the PCT this week. We got to spend a couple days with Kerry touring the Salem area as well. They are walking an incredible section of trail!

We picked 7.5 lbs of blueberries! Yum!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Wonderland Trail

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. The Schmerse's (the in-laws) were back in town for a few days on there way back to IL, and we got to spend some fun time with them sighseeing. We headed down to Crater Lake, which was very fun and beautiful. We also got to see Smith Rock State Park, Tumalo Falls, and we took the ski lift up to Pine Martin Lodge at Mt. Bachelor to take in the view. Mark and I also climbed South Sister and headed over to Salem for a day to connect with Carmen, the senior pastor of Mountain View who is leaving. We had a great time getting to know him and his family, and he was more than helpful in showing us around and filling us in on the inner workings of the church (technical and otherwise).
Soon after the Schmerse's headed home, I finished up my work, and we headed out for a week to hike the Wonderland Trail that circles Mt. Rainier. It was a beautiful trail, but a lot of work. There is a lot of elevation gain and loss (20,000 ft total!), and we spent the first two full days in a cloud with misty rain. Most of the week was gorgeous, and the views were amazing!

The trail was well marked at each junction, and every once in awhile a sign showed up in places where there was still snow that helped reassure us we were headed in the right direction.

Beautiful wildflowers!

Hiking up Emerald Ridge in a cloud.

Most of the time there were bridges over the creeks, but every so often they hadn't gotten one fixed yet, and we would have to walk a big log. Many of them wash out each year and need to be replaced. Luckily we only had to ford one creek!

Misty, cloudy, forest.

Ipsut Pass.

There were two large suspension bridges that crossed over the Carbon River and Tahoma Creek. They are both glacial creeks...this one is the Carbon Creek Bridge.

The end of the Carbon Glacier. It was really cool to hike up next to the glaciers, because you could hear them popping every so often and see rocks falling off the end. It reminds you that it really is moving.

Close up of the Emmons Glacier.

Cooking in camp. Boy was I happy to have a tent on this trip! It was so nice to be able to get in and not worry about the bugs if I wanted to keep my sleeping bag open a bit at night. Also, the mosquitos weren't bad in too many places, but it was so nice to be able to get in and know they weren't coming under the tarp!

Heading up to Panhandle Gap. One of the few places I used an ice axe.

If you look closely at the snow slope (zoom in!) there are mountain goats!

The snow fields past Panhandle Gap and headed toward our camp at Indian Bar. You can see our tracks through the snow behind Mark and down to the right.

Mark hanging our food bags on the bear poles. We only saw a couple bears the whole trip, and those from a distance. We never had a problem with them in camp.

Martha Falls. The spray from this falls felt like air conditioning as we hiked by. It was 80 degrees or so and we were climbing, so we just stood there and soaked in the spray!

Rainier and Reflection Lakes.

Here we are in the Nisqually River Basin a couple short miles from Longmire and our finish of the trail!

A celebratory burger at the Copper Creek Inn. We ate here after our attempt at climbing Rainier a few years ago, so it was fun to return to a familiar place!

We were one of the first groups to finish the whole trail this season, and had a great time doing so. Now it's time to start packing up...moving time soon and then I'm off to IN for school!