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In Our Life by Courtney

teamchristenson0Personal Blog.

Welcome. This is our personal blog, where we periodically write blog posts about what’s happening in the life of “Team Christenson”. We are a family of 4 currently living near Seattle, WA. We love to travel, experience new cultures and share in fun adventures together. We are passionate about living a meaningful and purposeful life. We’re grateful and thankful for the journey so far, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Read our story here, and follow along on our journey by keeping up on this blog (below).

We LOVE what we get to do for a living, but there’s more to life than work, so you’ll mainly see “life” happening here on this blog (travels, passion projects, photos, announcements, etc.). For work we do three things: photography, graphic design and advocacy. Learn more by clicking here.

Spring Has Sprung

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

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Here’s an update on where we’re at these days. The Spring here rivals the fall, so beautiful! The days are getting longer and the flowers and trees are blooming like crazy. Life somehow keeps getting busier and busier, but we’re still managing to get out and enjoy the area bit by bit… even with a lot of sickness for our family and late nights and very early mornings… I think we’re all a little “over it” at this point (finals weeks)… just so busy and scattered, but we’re only about one year from being done with Court’s graduate program, crazy to think about! Who knows what next summer will bring for our little family?!? Above & Below: Exploring the EMP building and the Space Needle.

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SUPing and beach bonfires on the Puget Sound… it’s a lake-like ocean… yah, kinda weird (where are the waves man!?!), but totally beautiful!

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Above: More van work :) basically me just learning from the master Jamie, all preventative maintenance at this point. Below: A quick trip to Whidbey Island with the family to eat pie and explore the island.

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Above: The Konzelman brothers have become good friends to us up here, showing us the good eats, playing good music and having some fun and adventures together. Below: Drew and Gary hitting up some Spring skiing.

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Sunset paddle boarding and fishing on Lake Washington (very close to our apartment). The weather is getting so nice now!

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Gary took a quick trip to New Orleans for business to visit a clients trade show booth (and marketing/product materials) he designed.

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More beach exploring, vanning, and hanging with friends.

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We took a weekend trip (sans kids) in the van to camp and hang with friends in the very NW corner of the USA. Yet another ferry ride (below) and then a long drive up and over the Olympic Peninsula towards Neah Bay & Cape Flattery… unbelievably beautiful country, worth the journey for sure.

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Above: It’s hard to tell, but Betty (our van) got a recent paint job on the front and sides (it’s a textured truck bed liner of sorts), and new dark rims/wheels, and bigger beefier tires… slowly but surely she’s getting more and more rugged and fixed up. Below: The life of a grad student… when theres downtime, she’s always working hard!!!

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Follow those vans to the campsite!

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Van shenanigans (offroading in 30 year old 2 wheel drive vans… you’d be amazed where these things can go) and some fun small surf with the boys.

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Birthday Man Trip

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

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If you haven’t caught on by now, we’re into giving experiences as gifts. So for my (Gary’s) birthday this year Courtney planned a weekend guys getaway on the central coast of Oregon. Before she headed off to her Thursday night class she handed me this note: “You leave at 6am tomorrow…” and a packing list. Game on! It was like a scavenger hunt, one clue at various stages of the trip.

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Stop #1 was an early meet up at my good buddy Ryan’s house in Tacoma (aka @poseidonsbeard) for breakfast Acai Bowls and coffee. At sunrise I opened the second piece of paper and it gave us an address in Oregon, so we hit the long rainy road all the way down towards Reedsport. The weekend forecast called for 100% chance of rain on the Oregon coast, but The Good Lord gave us a full weekend of great weather. Only a few thunderstorms quickly passing through. We arrived on the coast to my brother in law Matt (aka “Greenleaf”) and my other good buddy Matt (aka “Strubhar”) who had the dirt bikes unloaded from the trailer and prepped for shreddin’… so we got straight to it!

Below: Supershaka from Ryan – it’d been the better part of a decade since he was working (and shredding) at a motocross park in SoCal (he broke his femur during a race and hadn’t really rode since), but he was pumped to be back on a bike (he is very good… as is Strubhar… Greenleaf and I mainly spent our time watching in awe as those two mobbed all over those dunes… it was pure enjoyment to watch them).

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That night we drank beer-soda and ate the freshest (and best tasting) charbroiled oysters I ever had… it wasn’t a perfect pairing, but was close ;) Throughout the weekend we tried to find some surf, but the waves just weren’t working :( We did find a skatepark though, which always excites Strubhar.

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We did some house boating and some vehicle drooling in Reedsport.

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We ended up doing 3 different dune sessions. Two near Winchester Bay and one near Florence. It was my first time riding on the sand so I wasn’t very good, but had a great time learning! Over the last couple years I’ve ridden a bunch in Central Oregon on the dirt, but the sand was a whole new ballgame. Challenging, but so fun… and soft… for all the times I went over the handlebars.

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Last but not least, we spent some time riding on the edge of the mighty Pacific. Thanks fellas (and Courtney) for a fun man trip! No broken bones, just good times.

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Winder Roundup

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

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Time is flying!!! Here’s a quick image roundup of our winter. First up, later in the fall we bought an old VW Vanagon and have been slowly fixing it up to be our adventure mobile for the great Pacific Northwest. It’s a finicky old vehicle, but it brings the party wherever we go :)

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Above: The girls have been liking all sorts of new foods since our move up north. We absolutely love it! Long gone are the days of chicken nuggets and quesadillas for every meal ;) Below: Courtney’s Cohort who are on the long tiring journey together (ICD Graduate Program), a rad group of world changers!!! … and below that, while the family is sleeping, Gary is out before dawn with some buddies trying to catch some salmon and trout!

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Ahhh, the warmth of a fire on a cold winter night ;) Here’s a glimpse into our apartment. It’s a small footprint, but it has everything we need (and helps us keep out what we don’t), so we’re stoked.

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After Christmas in Seattle we headed down to Bend, OR to spend some time with friends and family… sledding, skiing, beer-ing, hot tubbing, etc… you know, the usual Bend winter activities.

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Joelle and Charlies first time on skis. They loved it and did so good. I was a proud [bearded] papa bear! Many more ski trips to come.

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A quick biz (and surf) trip to SoCal for Gary.

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Below: On a random winter weekend we loaded up the van, took a ferry and met up with some friends for some camping on the Olympic Peninsula.

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It wouldn’t be a trip in a 30 year old VW without a little wrenchin’ to be done – which is the downside to choosing this type of vehicle for our adventure mobile, but thankfully we have an amazing community that helps each other out along the way – which is one of the main reasons we travel in packs, to rescue each other, haha. We really do appreciate the VW community up here, they are adventurous folk who are all about getting out and enjoying the area (surfing, beaches, mountain lakes, fishing, mtn biking, etc… not hippies, these folks are explorers and we love it).

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We hit up the Wild Animal park near Sequim in the vans – it’s a drive through animal park with bears, tigers, zebras, buffalo, etc. It was a ton of fun for the whole fam.

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I’m Back!

In Make An Impact, Our Life by Courtney1 Comment

Courtney_NWU_900(update from Courtney)

Ok. So. It turns out, figuring out what you want to do with your life and what you’re all about is fairly challenging. Who knew?

When we moved (seven months ago!) we had a very vague idea of what was going to come next and no long-term plans whatsoever. We just knew that grad school was the first step (or giant leap of faith…whatever) that we were supposed to take. Well, we still have no long-term plans whatsoever, but after feeling pretty lost for the last little while, I’m finally beginning to find a direction/discover my vocation/uncover my passion etc.

Now that I’m starting to figure it out, it actually feels incredibly obvious. In fact, I doubt that this direction will surprise anyone who knows me fairly well, but it was still difficult for me to figure out. I like to think that this is simply due to the fact that it is often more difficult to find the vein that runs through your own story than it is to identify it in others. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself…I prefer it to “I lacked enough self-awareness to be able to identify this part of myself earlier”.

I don’t have it all figured out yet and I’m ok with that. You guys can help me figure out the rest of it as we go along.

Here’s what I do know:

  • I’m passionate about global gender equality and gender-based issues in general. I believe that women hold the key to ending poverty, oppression, and many other massive global issues.
  • Nothing can effectively change these problems except for the work of passionate individuals doing what they can to make difference. Once again, I think women are a key here.
  • I am interested in engaging and challenging our cultural acceptance of living for ourselves, or for more stuff, or for the perfect home/life/kids/wardrobe/car/trip/handbag/(insert your personal wishlist here…mine is the trip. And the wardrobe. Ah, hell, let’s be real- I wish I had all those things.) Life is more than stuff, fun and our own self-interest. Life is meant to be meaningful.
  • We ALL are called to contribute to something beyond ourselves, whether it is global or local, and it’s meant to cost us something. Giving out of excess isn’t really giving at all.

So what does this look like? I’ve got some projects up my sleeve….Some attempts to use the gifts/skills/networks that God has given me to make a difference in these things to the best of my ability. I would love for you to be a part of these ideas and projects as they unfold!

Your feedback, ideas, connections or criticisms would be appreciated as I process these pretty massive concepts. I need all the help I can get! These ideas aren’t going to go anywhere if I try to do it all myself.

You will be hearing more from me in the future (here on this blog and on our social media accounts). I hope you’ll consider joining me in discovering what we were each put here to do and how our lives can make a difference on behalf of the many oppressed and hurting people in the world, whether they are in our neighborhood or across the globe.

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First Fall in the PacNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

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Here’s where we’re currently at:

The Good: It’s Fall!!! Winter is starting to close in on us now, but up until a week or two ago the color, the weather, the activities were all epically beautiful for a solid few months. Fall lasts a really long time up here. It’s the best. Even now (late November) there are still colorful leaves in most directions you look. We’re soaking it up and loving the changing of the seasons! Some other good news: We’re FINALLY finding some sort of balance with school schedules, work, homework and adventure. And we’re meeting fun people and building some solid friendships. It’s getting there! Trying to be patient with how long it takes to start-over.

The Bad: It’s Fall ;) The time change always sucks… especially this far north, it gets dark sooooo early (around 4pm) and will only get darker! And compared to down south, it’s pretty chilly these days (Gary loves it, Courtney and the girls not so much). It’s been raining about 50% of the time. Some weeks it’s incredibly clear and beautiful (but cold) and some weeks it’s dreary, gray and dark… it’s not so much the rain or the gray that gets to us, it’s more of the lack of light.

What We’re Learning: That the issues of this world (and life is general) are messy and extremely complicated: Terrorism, refugees, war, poverty, oppression, political rants, religious views, ill-advised FaceBook posts… these issues are deep and convoluted and many don’t have answers, let alone easy answers. Some days it makes us want to throw up our hands and give up on it all. The more we learn, the more difficult it all seems but the more important it feels to do our part to make a difference. As a family, we feel the need to TRY to do something about it, even if our attempts seem small and insignificant.  So we’re learning and discussing and brainstorming how we can help those who need it (locally and globally). We’re very thankful for Courtney’s masters program. The topics, discussions, papers, books and research she is doing is very much on point with the major issues our world is facing today and have led to many excellent conversations about the future. We are eager to help and feel that we’re getting closer to something – someway to engage and help.

So, that’s where we’re at… below you’ll find some of the things we’ve been up to this Fall. First up, we met up with some good friends (Team Miller of Bend, OR) for a weekend away (sans kids). We headed to the east side of the mountains for a super fun Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, WA.

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We had such a great time with Conor & Michelle. We ate, we drank, we explored, we conquered… it was a perfect weekend away.

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Over the past couple weeks we’ve had both grandmas come down for various trips to help us out. The kiddos are always in heaven when the Grandmas are in town :) We’re thankful to have such awesome and supportive families during this crazy time in our life!

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For Halloween the girls dressed up as The Kratt Bros (from a kids show called Wild Kratts).

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Piles of leaves and leaf fights!

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Gary grew up in Montana hunting and fishing and eating wild game. He once harvested a moose at the age of 12! So now that we live back in the land of plenty (when it comes to natural resources and the outdoors) he was able to get out this Fall and try to fill our freezer with (organic, local, free range, gluten free, fair trade, no GMO, cage free, etc.) meat before the long dark winter. He didn’t have much luck (it was more a season of learning the area), but had an awesome time in the great outdoors with his Dad chasing deer and elk throughout the high mountains of the Cascades.

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Mt Rainier (above), we see it often as we drive around our immediate area. It’s actually an active volcano!  Below: Poo Poo Point. Where the paragliders take off. We need to do this at some point!

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Above: as Joelle gets older, she’s loving staying up later and reading from her top bunk. Below: Apparently you don’t mess with Owls up here, haha. And this is a drawing from Charlotte of an elk riding and dolphin…or somethin’ – amazing! So funny. Thanks for checking in with us! We hope you’re doing well and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Discovering Dad Podcast

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

GaryHollywoodJust incase you’re not getting it, the above image is obviously a joke – although, I am kind of a big deal ;)

I (Gary) had the opportunity to have a nice long chat with some really awesome fellow dads. We talked about life’s messiness, dad-hood, the backstory of Courtney and I’s move, the catalyst that sent us down this path, my role as a husband and father, and what life looks like for us now in Seattle (the struggles and the joys). I really enjoyed my time with Josh, Zach, and Chad (thanks for having me on fellas!) You can find more info about Discovering Dad here.

I hope that other new or used dads can listen in and be challenged and encouraged. The fact is that none of us really know what we’re doing as husbands and fathers, but during this podcast we had some really genuine conversations, heartfelt concerns, and tough questions to answer about what we’re all striving to become – an actively engaged dad and a loving husband (with a bigger story to tell). Hope you enjoy:

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Sailing to Sucia

In Our Life by Courtney1 Comment

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We are lucky enough to have some very awesome extended family who live up here in the PacNW. Gary’s Aunt Nadine and her husband Greg recently upgraded their sailboat and were kind enough to take us out on the water for a long weekend. The plan was to sail from Blaine (a border town with Canada), cross the Straight of Georgia and anchor in a protected bay on Sucia Island (a beautiful state park surrounded by other islands in the Puget Sound).

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Above: Nadine. She’s amazing. So fun and full of life. She captained the boat most of the time – very impressive sailing skills! Below: Greg. He’s basically the man, such an inspiration. He is an expert adventurer and has had incredible experiences and stories from around the world.

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Above: one for the ocean, and one for the crew – to ensure a safe voyage at sea :) Below: Our girls basically just snuggled and slept during our long sail to the islands.

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We had quite the adventure when sailing across the Straight of Georgia. After a while the wind really started to pick up and we were cruising! It was fun, but challenging. It must have been the beginning of crab season b/c there were literally hundreds of crap pot buoys to try and dodge while sailing across. One buoy in particular got the best of us. It got wrapped around our propeller making it impossible to use the motor (which we needed to direct ourselves into the bay once we reached Sucia Island). But not a worry, because Greg and Nadine are sailing pros :) We tacked and sailed our way right up into the bay like champs. It was stressful and hard work, but with Greg and Gary as her crew Nadine brought us in safely to the protected waters of Fossil Bay. We set the anchor and took a sigh of relief. We made it… but at some point we’d have to address the line caught in the prop if/when we wanted to leave :)

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Above: fishing during the sunset. Below: the sunrise next to Mt Baker.

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Exploring Sucia Island. There’s no roads or homes or anything, just hiking trails, camping spots and beautiful beaches to hang out on.

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Above: the Coast Guard boat happen to be anchored in the same bay, so we called them over to see if there was anything they could do to help us out. After a few attempts at pulling on the rope from various angles, they couldn’t make anything happen either (b/c it was more than just a rope caught in the propeller, the buoy was wedged in there making it impossible to get a full rotation on the prop). So, the only thing left was to have Gary suit up and dive into the frigid water to cut the tangled mess of ropes from the prop. Luckily Gary has lots of experience free diving (he can hold his breath for over 3 minutes and dive down to 80ft deep on a single breath), so it only took one quick dive to cut us free from the mess.

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What a fun and beautiful adventure! Big thanks to Nadine & Greg for having us along. We love you!!!

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Change is Hard

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment

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We haven’t been good about blogging since we moved, and I (Courtney) would like to tell you all a bit about why that is.

When we moved, we changed nearly every aspect of our lives. Not every, because Gary kept his job with Big Deal Branding, we kept our children, and we stayed married. But other than those thing, we essentially changed every aspect of our life.

Turns out, that’s a difficult thing to do. I went from being a full-time mom to a grad student/full-time mom. We went from being a homeschooling family to a public school and preschool family. We went from two cars to one. We went from owning our 4b/2b house to renting a tiny little 2b/2b apartment. We went from a beach family to a mountain family. We went from a super flexible and casual lifestyle to a very busy schedule to maintain. Gary and I went from doing nearly everything together to doing nearly nothing together except a couple evenings a week and the weekends (like normal people).

And it’s hard. It’s GOOD in many ways. But it’s hard.

I love that I’ve got a thing that’s mine. I love that I’m not homeschooling (and so does Jo. And so does my husband.) I love being in school. I love what I’m learning and who I am becoming. Gary loves the area. He is taking full advantage of hunting, fishing, exploring and is already making plans for the spring/summer. The kids are stoked on their schools. They love our new apartment because we have neighbors with kids their ages, a playground about 20 yards away, and a soccer field outside our backdoor.

These are all good things, and the changes they are bringing are making us into the people we want to become! They truly are. We feel like there is so much more out there for us to do – places to go and people that we might be able to help… that are in far off places that aren’t easy or comfortable to get to. There’s more to life than just living in comfort and establishing a normal/safe routine. There’s more to life than just working more so that you can pay more bills. There’s even more to life than having fun BBQs and chillin’ at the beach every weekend (like we’ve done for the last 5+ years) – those are amazingly great things, but there’s still got to be more to life than that! We became a little too complacent and a little too comfortable in Southern California over the last couple years, so we chose to mix it up, to stretch, to change and to grow… but the growing pains SUCK!!! Big time. I miss my husband, and he misses me. I have a built in community at school, but Gary doesn’t. He likes to do stuff (surprise, surprise) and between the kid’s school schedule, my school schedule and homework, I’m not very available to do all the fun things he wants to do together which is super hard for him. There’s been a lot of miscommunications and discussions about balance.

We’re not quite nailing it yet. But it feels like we are making some progress. I think. Maybe.

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Summer Wrap-up in the PNW

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

We spent the last part of the summer trying to pack in as much fun as we could before our crazy school schedules began. We had about 6 weeks to explore the area (take a few work trips back south), unpack from our move, and get acquainted with our new life… you know…  learn the area, get lost a lot, find grocery stores, find good beer/breweries, DMV stuff, schedule tuition payments, unpack our little apartment (we still had way too much stuff – even after getting rid of most of it back in SoCal), find a church, make friends, etc. But more importantly, before the loooong, dark, rainy winter arrived we (Gary, aka Capt’n Adventure) felt very pressured to get out and explore the area before hibernation set in… so, we were off!

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So much time playing in the lake. The girls LOVED jumping off the docks and playing around on the SUP.

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Above: visiting beaches on the Puget Sound and discovering local waterfalls. We love the diversity of this area! Below: Making new friends.

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Above: A very quick work trip down to San Diego (wedding in La Jolla), we had one free evening that we spent at the beach with good friends (and fun surf and warm water) that we will truly miss. Below: Another work trip (wedding) in Yosemite for a quick weekend. Yosemite was very hot and smoky from all the summer fires. But we still were able to find some water and ditch the heat.

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Daddy daughter weekend on the Oregon coast with Team Strubhar.

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On a rainy weekend our family visited Mt Rainier National Park, and per usual, the girls were all about filling out their Jr Park Ranger packets.

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For some reason, we got sick a lot after the move (probably b/c this climate is so different… and new people… new germs, etc), but the first couple weeks of Sept were VERY INTENSE with sickness and class assignments and juggling all the different school schedules.

All three Christenson ladies started classes in September… Charlotte started preschool, Joelle started 1st grade, and Courtney started her grad program…. and Gary started fishing for salmon ;) and working like crazy of course (editing photos & designing).

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This is Lake Washington, we live very close to it and loved spending time in/near it this summer. Already making plans for the area for next summer! The options are endless for fun and adventure. If you wanna join us, hit us up and lets plan something fun together!

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Olympic Peninsula Camping Trip

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

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Hopefully this will be one of many trips to the Olympic Peninsula while we’re living here in Washington, it’s a crazy amazing place! Ocean, lakes, beaches, mountains (with glaciers) and rainforests… so much beauty packed into one relatively small place! Above: Lake Crescent on our way to the coast. The lake has unbelievably beautiful clear and bright blue water. When we were driving around it and looking down into little coves it seriously looked like the Mediterranean – minus the pine trees around the waters edge of course :) Below: Our camp site for the long weekend near Rialto Beach. The forests here are magical looking. Oh, it’s also where they filmed Twilight, so there’s that, for all you fans out there… eh hem, Carly ;)

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Above: Visiting the Hoh Rain Forest. So much greenery and life everywhere! This area receives over 150 inches of rain a year! That’s a crazy amount of water! So everything is lush, dense and beautiful. Below: Fishing the Hoh River. It has a really cool milky color to it – from the glacier silt that feeds into it upstream.

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Our happy place. The beach!!!!

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Moving from SoCal to Washington

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment

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The move is behind us… phew, what a stressful time in life. Crazy, but good! We got rid of the majority of our stuff to make the move as easy and cheap as possible, and make our new life in our small apartment much more manageable. The best moving solution we found was to rent a trailer that you paid by the foot for (and then they’d drive it up and drop if off at your new place so that you could unpack). We ended up fitting all of our belongings into the first 7 feet of the trailer, which ended up being half the cost we budgeted for! WIN! Once the moving trailer was on it’s way up north, we sold our other vehicle, did our walkthrough with our new tenants for our house, packed up our other car and hit the road! We took our time driving up and stopped in the Bay Area for a few days, and then up to Central Oregon, and ultimately the greater Seattle area. Here’s some images from our long road trip north.

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We wanted to show the girls Point Reyes National Seashore outside of San Francisco (we’ve been before, but they haven’t), so we took a bunch of small hikes/walks all over the area… there was epic amounts of whining from the girls (especially since Joelle’s leg was still a bit sore and recovering from breaking it earlier in the summer), but we made the most of it and it was incredibly beautiful. If you get the chance, you should check it out!

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Fueling up (above) for an epic nap (below).

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Above: On our way from the Bay Area to Central Oregon, we stopped at the Jelly Belly Factory. Sometimes you gotta take a break from all the nature AND get roughly 900lbs of jelly beans for the long drive ahead.

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We arrived in Bend, OR and stayed in Gary’s folks tiny-house / cottage they recently finished. We basically just played in the water and camped with friends while in the area.

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Above: Sparks Lake: We’ve made, dedicated and celebrated many major life decisions here. It only seemed right to do the same for this one…with a jar of champagne. Obviously.

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On our final leg of the journey, we stopped for a quick hike to a waterfall somewhere in Oregon. It’s blowing our minds how green it is up here and how much water there is compared to California.

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With the help from friends and family, we successfully moved into our super duper tiny little apartment without any real problems. Below is one of the sunsets that welcomed us to the area (viewed from our back patio). We’re incredibly excited to be here and start our new life in the great PacNW. It’s going to be 3,000% nuts with school schedules and upcoming adventures and travels, but we’re game for it!

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So Long SoCal

In Our Life by GaryLeave a Comment

DCIM100GOPROWell, it’s super bittersweet, but it’s time for us to say goodbye to our sunny and beautiful little beach town and make our way up to the PacNW. We rented our house out, got our stuff packed and we’re ready to rock ‘n roll. We don’t know what the next couple years will hold for our little family, but we’re excited to be on this journey together. We’ll do our best to keep this blog updated with what’s going on. For now, here’s what the last several months of our remaining time in SoCal has looked like:

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23_So_Long_SoCal 24_So_Long_SoCal 25_So_Long_SoCal 26_So_Long_SoCal 27_So_Long_SoCal 28_So_Long_SoCal 29_So_Long_SoCal Joelle broke her leg during our last month in town :(

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42_So_Long_SoCal 43_So_Long_SoCalSo long California. We love you and will miss you dearly!

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

In Our Life by CourtneyLeave a Comment

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Gary is constantly singing that Rolling Stones song “You can’t always get what you want…You get what you neeeed!” to our children when they whine about [every little] thing. We have made a commitment to share our experiences and journey over the next several years in a very honest way so, in light of that, here is a post about the fact that finances are limited and that the Rolling Stones were totally right.
Some of you may know that we bought an RV a couple months ago. We have wanted an RV for a very long time for obvious reasons:
  1. RVs facilitate adventure
  2. RVs let you go places affordably
  3. RVs are fun (duh)

When we started discussing the possibility of moving to the Pacific North West it made us REALLY want an RV because that area is so beautiful and a motor home seemed like the perfect way to explore it. I had been stalking RVs online for about a year just so I would know when a good deal came along and in February, it did. We got an insanely great deal on a little 22 foot 2002 Minnie Winnie. It was the perfect little adventure mobile for us. The kids were stoked out of their minds and so were we!

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However, even though it was an insanely great deal it was a lot sooner than we were actually planning on buying an RV. We hadn’t had time to save up the amount that we wanted to and it was still a big stretch for us financially… doable, but a stretch. About the same time we found out that I got into grad school, there were some sudden repairs that needed to happen to the RV, and before we knew it we were further in debt and stressed out about the upcoming costs of moving, school tuition and the other normal unexpected costs that seem to come along anytime your finances get a little hairy.
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We had a decision to make. Was it worth it? Was the dream of exploring and adventuring in an RV with our family worth the stress and financial burden? Was having that vehicle more important than being able to confidently pursue the calling that we feel on our lives? Did God provide the money we have so that we could spend it on this awesome THING? Or did He provide it so we could spend it doing the things He has asked us to do?

It was a hard decision. But in the end, keeping it and spending our money (and emotional resources) in that way, at this time just wasn’t consistent with how we want to live.

So we sold it.

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I thought I would shed a tear. I thought Gary might be bummed out for a week. I really thought the kids were going to be beside themselves. But when it drove away last weekend I felt relieved. We were back on track. As we walked back inside after it drove out of sight I heard Gary humming “You get what you neeeeed….“Amen, Rolling Stones. Amen.
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A Season of Change

In Our Life by Courtney16 Comments

OsideSunsetWe want to let you all know about some changes that are happening around here. There are some major shifts taking place in our family…Mentally, spiritually and physically.

The basic news (for those of you who don’t want to invest in reading the rest of this post) can be boiled down to this: We are moving to the greater Seattle area later this summer so that I (Courtney) can pursue a masters degree in International Community Development at Northwest University. Some things are also staying the same – We will still be operating our photography and design businesses out of Seattle, so if you know anyone in the area who needs some photo or design work have them hit us up. We’ll also be making many trips back to CA for the weddings we already have booked for the summer and fall of 2015.

Ok…so how and why is this all happening? Let me start by saying that it’s been a very strange year that, in hindsight, feels a whole lot like a year of preparation.

God has been bringing Gary and I side by side through a journey of seeing what we HAVE been living for versus what we SHOULD be living for.

WhatWereReadingOver the last year, while being prompted by various books, Bible studies and relationships, we both started asking the same questions at the same time: What are we doing here? What is the point of our life? As Christians, we hear (and say) a lot of things about how we are supposed to live for “something greater than us”…and we heard and said those same things. But it didn’t actually effect how we lived very much.

Which is exactly what we are now trying to fix. We’ve felt called to a global mission of some kind for a very long time. It got put on hold for several years due to the children being so little and being in “survival” mode, but now that they are older we both feel newly awakened to our calling and prepared to take the first steps in that direction.

During the last six years of being a full-time mom and this current year of being a homeschooling mom, I have felt like a fish out of water. I love my children so very much and truly love being a mother. But I feel called and created to do my mothering in a different way than what I’ve been doing it. Not better. Not worse. Different. Parenting in a different way where I can also pursue the passions that I believe God is asking me to pursue.

I feel like I was created to work on behalf of marginalized and vulnerable people. I’m particularly passionate about gender equality and gender-based issues. The problem is that I’m not qualified for any of the positions that I would love to have. So step one is to become qualified to go and do the work I feel created to do. And thus…Grad school.

Gary has always had a wanderlust and also the need to do something significant. Adventures are great…but the idea of combining adventure with something eternally significant gets him so excited.

Here’s the loose plan so far:

Rent our house in Oceanside, move to Kirkland, WA sometime in July or August. The elementary schools are fabulous up there so Joelle will attend a school down the street. We are hoping to live in student housing for families which seems like a really great situation. My degree is a two year program so I will be finished in the spring of 2017. After that, we have no idea what we’ll do. We will go wherever the Lord calls us. If it’s back to San Diego, we’ll come back here. If it’s stateside, we’ll be stateside. If it’s overseas, we’ll go overseas. He hasn’t given us that information yet, so we are just taking one step at a time.

I feel like I’m making this sound like it was an easy process or like it was simple for us to come  to these conclusions.

Let me clarify: It has not been easy. We came to these conclusions after facing a major financial crisis due to an accounting error (which has since been corrected), several major personal crisis (one day in January I felt so frustrated and powerless that I cried for 12 hours), an educational/parenting crisis (I now feel comfortable saying that I am not cut out to homeschool…and neither is Joelle), hours of confused conversation between Gary and I, lots of prayer, therapy (for me), many more tears of both sadness and excitement and endless amounts of wishing God would just drop a roadmap of the next 5 years into our lap.

We (although, I should mostly just say “I”), still have many fears about this impending change. What will all this change do to the kids? How on earth am I going to have time for freakin’ GRAD SCHOOL? What if it’s too much? What if Jo hates her new school? How are we going to afford all of this? Our girls are very close to their grandparents and the thought of moving them away from those relationships makes me super sad. But in the midst of all these worries, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God has for us, so I know that He is in control of all of it.

Our life is about to change radically. We are expecting to learn many things, but mostly we are hoping to learn more and more how to live a life fully abandoned to the will of God. Each step made in full obedience to Him.

IMG_9901_SeattleWe are planning on blogging regularly about all of our experiences in an extremely transparent way so that others can see how beautifully messy life is in the midst of trying to live in a way that pleases God. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to other people whose lives are filled with messy real-life sort of things. If that’s you, we hope you’ll join us and maybe shoot some encouragement back every once and while. Lord knows we all need it.