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.