Category Archives: Life Updates

Web of Relationships – A Farewell to Portland

Savoring time with family and friends has become all the more important to Emily and me since we accepted our invitation to the Peace Corps. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze in some pretty epic adventures before leaving for our road trip. Some highlights include:

Guy's Weekend at Hosmer Lake with my dad and brothers
Guy’s Weekend at Hosmer Lake with my dad and brothers
Friend going away shindig at a gorgeous cabin on the Klickitat River
Friend going away shindig at a gorgeous cabin on the Klickitat River
Sibling adventures at Tamarack Fire Lookout
Sibling adventures at Tamarack Fire Lookout

There were countless smaller, but equally savory moments, such as tuna poke at Uwajimaya, campfires at the homestead, farewell potlucks at church and work, pinochle with the parents, and good wings and better conversation at Fire on the Mountain, to name a few. With our impending Peace Corps service, these interactions have been imbued with an awareness of my place in a rich web of relationships. Although it is not a surprise that I have many friends and family in Portland, my home since age three, I was repeatedly overcome by a sense of gratitude for the presence of so many awesome people in my life.

This appreciation, however, was underscored by the reality that I would soon be voluntarily extricating myself from my social support system to move thousands of miles away. I have vacillated between the sadness of goodbyes, the fear of starting anew in Nicaragua, and excitement for the new relationships that I hope to form through my Peace Corps service.  Through all of this, though, my gratefulness to the people who love, support, and ground me seeps into my daily activities. Thank you for the hugs and well wishes. Thank you for empowering me to feel confident in my abilities to craft new friendships in a foreign country. Thank you for making me feel that I matter.

I will miss you all over the next 27 months, but will never forget that I am because we are.


Goodbye MRA – My Home Away from Home

There’s something going on at Molalla River Academy that speaks to the depths of what I believe is most important for our world. It has seeped into the school grounds so subtly it might have been missed. Yet it is also so apparent in all that the students, teachers, and community do that one cannot help but be inspired by it:

Molalla River Academy is becoming an intentional community of life-long learners who care about each other and the world.

A little background – Molalla River Academy (MRA) is a public charter school in rural Oregon that focuses on thematic studies through the arts and sciences. It has been my teaching home the past three years where I have laughed and learned with my 6-8th grade science and 6th grade Language Arts students. While the teaching and curriculum are unique, they are not what I find most inspirational about the school.

My personal passions and core beliefs have manifested in various roles throughout my life thus far. Whether you know me as a teacher or a pastor, as a mentor or a friend, I strive to be a part of creating intentional community in all aspects of my life. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s downright arduous, even painful. But I believe that when people come together with a shared set of values and strive to really get to know each other, the world becomes a little bit better of a place.

This drive to help create connection is why my husband and I decided to join the Peace Corps. We want to create safe spaces in which people can share stories and grow professionally.  We want to share our own stories and cultivate relationships. We want to be a part of building bridges between human experiences.

I have learned so much about creating and being a community through my time as a teacher at MRA. “Thank you” doesn’t seem strong enough to express the sincere gratitude I have for the students, parents, and staff who have helped mold me into the teacher and person I am today. I will carry their stories and lessons with me not only as I travel to Nicaragua, but throughout my life as a teacher.

Today was my last day at MRA. As hard as it is to say goodbye, I’m overcome today with gratitude for all of my experience there. I’m thankful for the challenges. For the growth. For the laughter. For the support. For the chance to learn myself what teaching and learning are really all about. I have as much hope for the future of MRA as I do respect for the current staff and community who have put their everything into this school. While my journey at MRA has come to an end, I will think of the students, staff, and community often and check in when I can.

May the process of becoming compassionate, responsible, life-long learners continue to challenge and inspire MRA, as much as it has me these last three years.

“We teach who we are.” – John Perricone

Jumping Together

big jump
Andrew – Pacific City, OR

I’ve always loved jumping pictures.

When I think back on good times with people I love, it amazes me how many jumping pictures I’ve taken. I think they show how much joy and excitement I truly get out of life. A good jumping picture, though, has to have some thought put into it. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page. Are we jumping on three or after three? Holding hands or striking a pose? Is the camera lady/gent ready? One…two…three…GO!

The past 5 years have been a series of jumping-picture-worth-events in my life.  I graduated university with my undergrad in Education.  I found and married an amazing, thoughtful, ridiculous partner.  After realizing I wanted to spend my life with said partner, I moved across the country away from my family and friends.  I completed my student teaching, taught for a session at an outdoor science school, and fell in love with a tiny charter school in rural Oregon.  I’ve  taught, laughed, grown, cried, struggled, and come so far.

Andrew has had his fair share of jumps, too.  While he moved home, he moved home with a fiancé and now spouse.  He’s shifted through changing friend dynamics, bringing a new person into his family, and entering the job world after college.  In a lot of ways, we have lived the emerging adulthood of the 20-somethings, even living our first year in Portland with Andrew’s parents as we yet couldn’t afford rent.

Transition.  Struggles.  Jumping.  Yes, jumps can be scary, but they can also be beautiful and freeing.


Andrew and friends – Columbia River gorge
Emily – moving to Oregon.
Nilsen Wedding Party
Mrs. Nilsen’s students – Outdoor School 2014

Like many other 20-somethings, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our lives.  While we’re no where close to figuring out all of those details, we recognized a few foundational truths: we love people and want to work on creating greater community and love in the world, we want to do some traveling before we settle down (house, family, etc.), and we want to embrace the adventures that life has to offer.  With all of these in mind, we applied to the Peace Corps last May.

After the long application, shifting and re-shifting our expectations, and the long hurry-up-and-wait-game (we’ll probably do a post on this whole process), we finally received our invitation!  We’ve been invited to serve in Nicargua as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Teacher Trainers with a leave date in August.  So we’re jumping again.  It’s what we do in life, right? We’d only been dating a month and we knew. We jumped. Who knows where this adventure will take us and what hardships await, but that is what life is all about.

“Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.” – Yo-Yo-Ma

Let’s do this.  Together.

jumping together
Andrew & Emily – Pacific City, OR