I love so many things about growing up in the Pacific Northwest. I posted last week about my journey up the West Coast, and the past six days have been jam packed with uniquely Portland experiences. Monday, I spent time with Jen and Dave who have been huge champions of my personal growth and development not to mention my ongoing supporters in every way imaginable. Tuesday, I had margin for a morning coffee stop where two old friends showed up to catch up before dinner with the Stephens family. Some of my favorite kids in the world gathered around to recreate some of the best photos of their childhood with me – the teenage boy wasn’t interested in recreating the one where I held him on the day he was born. Julia is hanging out with extended family in the area, but she got to meet the Stephens family which was special for me. I also took her along to Insomnia and Longbottom and got to see an old high school friend as a bonus. That night I shared some laughs and Whole Bowl with family friends.

Thursday was a special treat as one of my former youth group girls drove me to Powell’s for a day of delightful conversation, Stumptown, and a stack of books. Tori is an absolute champ of a human, and I love having her in my life still. My friend Q was also flexible enough to meet me for dinner in the same place we hung out four years ago. This woman is such an encouragement in my life. I love that she’s always been willing to hang out with me and be a positive example of following Jesus and loving others. Friday morning, two amazing people went out of their way to find me, and I was delighted to spend time with Ray and Robin who have been some of my biggest supporters in life since I was a little kid. Ray used to loudly say I was a bad influence whenever he saw me walk into church, but when I’m not around, he’s advocating for me telling people about the good I’m overseas attempting to do. The rest of Friday was a MU filled day as I spent time with two of my closest college friends and their families. Both of them have added a kid since I saw them last, and I was so blessed to be a part of their family for a meal each as we talked about life and growth and God and loving others. Bonus: Heather and Jon made it possible for me to fulfil my four year craving for McMenamin’s cajun tots and Terminator milkshake. As a side note, I have incredible friends who say things like, “Mom, it was just outpatient surgery this morning; I’m still going to hang out with Laura.”

Saturday was the day my summer was planned around. I have spoken openly about the absurd number of plans that fell through as I prepared to get to America and visit people. However, as I manoeuvred different travel options around, the only concrete thing was that I needed to be in Portland for July 9th. I couldn’t guarantee how it would happen for quite a while, so I didn’t want to make any promises about it that might not happen. However, once I knew I’d be here this Saturday – and that it’d be my only Saturday, I made sure I’d get downtown to Saturday Market. Bonus: I managed to get Mishi to come along with me. Mishi is one of the basically two people I still talk to from elementary/middle/high school. I was incredibly grateful it worked out to meet up and adventure downtown together. I bought two more bridges for my bedroom, and I got a picture of me with my bridge tattoo in front of the bridge it’s based on.

But Saturday Market could have happened any weekend: Chayle and Chad were only having a wedding reception one weekend during my trip. Since Chayle and her whole family have now moved to Wisconsin, I knew I needed to make this happen to get to hug my mentor Tina in person, see my youth group kid being a dad, and maybe get to connect with a couple other Westport friends. This party did not disappoint. First of all, I’d been coordinating with Tina about coming, and she and Mark kept quiet, making my arrival a surprise for the bride. What a joy to hug this incredible young woman and hear her life update; I’m so proud of this kid I used to babysit. She’s crushing it at life, and I am overjoyed I got to celebrate with her in person. Plus my ride to the venue was Old Man Niebergall. God bless that dude who took all my jokes as a punk teenager when he was the ripe old age of 36. The man deserves a medal, and I promise you I will mark my 36th birthday with some kind of tribute to his old age.

This trip has been bookended with significant Westport people in my life – though I’ve also had hugs and hangouts with people from every season and section of my life. Though I’ve lived away from here for almost a decade, I’m a Portlander in some core ways that my Westport people tend to bring out. I just want to do the Jesus stuff. Jamie was reflecting on how sometimes we do more show stuff than Jesus stuff when we try to get people to church, but I’ve always seen his heart to just love Jesus that I know has only grown bigger over the years.

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