Still Here!

Hello dear blog friends! It has been a minute since I've stopped by here and poured myself some coffee while I sat at this keyboard to chat. I can't believe how time has flown and how life looks so much different than the last time I wrote. Like truly upside down, brand new, what is my life, kind of different!  God is so good and His plans for us over these last six months have been a rich exercise in His faithfulness and provision. These timely lyrics from an old hymn come to mind even now as I sit here...

"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine...Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed, watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love...This is my story and this is my song, praising my savior all the day long!"

All is certainly not perfect, it never is on this side of Heaven, but for sure this has been a season in our life of being filled with His goodness and I am anxious to tell you all about it! I really didn't intend to leave you with a massive cliffhanger like my last post here, but truthfully life just sort of got away from me in the upheaval that a move with three children brings and then I found myself doing lots of updating on social media instead of my blog, simply because it's much, much easier! BUT, I've had sort of a gaping hole in my person that has always been filled with the satisfaction of writing and getting my words out, and so here I am, attempting to find my footing again and tell a few more stories. I'm totally overwhelmed about where to start! The kids are growing like little weeds and even in the last few weeks, we have just looked at them with huge eyes and realized our babies aren't really babies anymore. They are all doing so well and they fill us with joy and pride, but they also wear us down! haha! My season of motherhood is shifting once again with TWO kids in school all day (WHAT?!?!?!) and I find myself taking a deep breath as I reinvent parts of me and embrace lots of new!

I don't think there is any good way to smooth over my absence from here, so I guess I'm doing a massive cannonball in the deep end today! If I had to guess, showing you our home might just be the best way to resolve the cliffhanger of selling the condo, am I right??  I have just a little time before I have kids getting off the bus, but I'd love to show you two of my very favorite spaces, our living room and our front porch. They are two of the most put-together spots in the house, I have spent most of my time on our main level for obvious reasons, but having outdoor spaces has been the biggest treat for both Travis and I. We ached for that for so long after making the most of our tiny condo porch and both our backyard space and front yard space have been the best reward for our patience! I went a little bananas with my flowers this year, mostly because I had YEARS of pent-up creativity and lots of "someday when I am in a house I will..." scenarios to play with. I'm sure the neighbors have wondered about me more than a few times! ha ha! I am having the best time nesting over here and of course I'm loving the change of seasons too. My mind is exploding with creative juices and a brand new (to us) home to decorate. I'll give you the back story of how we landed here in another post, but for today, here are some fun before and after pictures! 
 We took a few pics in the condo the night before we closed on it. It was emotional for me! I didn't think it would be but when you bring 3 babies home to those walls to experience all of their "firsts", it's hard to just walk away.
To think we moved here with a dog and no kids and we left with no dog and 3 big kids! Lots of life in those 9 years and lots of memories too.  Only in the last month or so have our kids started to call our new house, home. They missed the condo for quite awhile, even though they loved our new place too, but I think they struggled to let go of the "familiarity" and how comfortable they were there. It's so ironic, we longed to get out from under that condo for many years and when it came time to leave, we were all a little weepy saying goodbye!
 But we did move on and into a brand new reality! This is a picture from our first week in our new house, we were all so happy to have SO MUCH SPACE. We almost didn't know what to do with ourselves.  We nearly tripled our square footage in this move and not surprisingly, after we emptied our storage unit and garage, we quickly filled this place up.  I have been hanging onto many things for years knowing we would want them someday. I'm so happy our someday came this year!
All of my good before pics are on my phone and not uploaded so I'll just show you what I took with my camera for now. This was our living room on the weekend we moved in!
It is a nice big room with a fireplace that we loved, a mantle for me to decorate (YAY!) and wonderful windows that let tons of light in. I was super happy with the layout of this house and all the natural light. The only thing we did in the whole house before we moved furniture in, was to paint that wall that the TV is mounted on. It was cherry red before and I just couldn't wrap my mind around making that work! Thankfully the owner of our house was a-ok with us painting it and we had just enough of the original color left to cover it. I am so happy we did that! Did I mention that we are renting in my last posts??  I will save that story for another time, but in case I didn't mention it yes, we are renting and we are very thankful for the way the Lord brought us to this house. We signed a two year lease here and already we just love it!  Considering what's out there and the lack of control that renting can bring, this house was such a great fit for us and among many more important things, selfishly I was very thankful for it's neutral color scheme to work with!
I found this gem from our first few weeks here. Travis, Ava and I all celebrated birthdays within our first month here and I think that was a great way for us to begin making new memories. Already the kids look little in this pic compared to today! I'm glad that our living room has already held milestones and sweet times together. It is definitely our most "lived in" space!
After many arrangements and re-arrangements, this is what my living room looks like as of today! I just vacuumed it and picked it up while the kids were at school so that's why it's perfect! Please know that it almost never looks this clean, haha! By tonight the pillows will be strung all over the place and we'll be stepping over toys and backpacks like every other normal family. We love this room and are thankful for enough seating to pack lots of people in here. A few weeks before we sold our condo I found this couch and the chair/ottoman on Craig's List! It was a crazy amazing deal and almost brand new. We love it so much and I'm so glad it works in this room, we sort of took a chance on it but it's perfect for us. 
When the kids went back to school last week I let myself do what I loved while they were gone, including getting my Fall stuff out! The color scheme of this house was made for Fall and I was like a little kid in a candy store getting it all put together. Don't even talk to me about Christmas! I will likely pass out with excitement over decorating for that! 
Aside from our Craig's List deal and some new lampshades, I didn't really have to buy anything for this room. I've just made lots of our old things work for now and I'm happy that they do! I couldn't wait to get a gallery wall up and I love how it's all come together. Things always look a little different in pictures versus real life but the good news is, I like it a lot in real life! I picked up a couple pops of orange and gold to add in for Fall and I love the change up for the season. 
We kept our old TV cabinet solely for storage. It took a few moves to get it in its' permanent spot but I like where it landed. Besides, Travis said he will never, ever move that thing again so I have decided it's perfect! It's crazy heavy, I can't blame him! 
It's probably the designer in me combined with my extremely sentimental side but I love furniture that tells a story and it's been fun to use/re-use some of our things in this house. This little white table reminds me of my first post-college job! I bought it in Florida from the little Interior Design studio I worked for. Over the years it's been a side table in our guest room and then in Ava's nursery before it went to storage for a few years. For now it's in our living room and I have loved seeing it again! I didn't envision it in here but I have learned to shop my house before deciding I need to buy something. Many things have found new homes and new uses.

I've been on a major creative bender since sending the kids back to school! I think all of my creativity from this summer has been bottled up inside me and was dying to come out. I basically managed children for the last three months from sun-up to sundown and it has been kind of fun to do a few projects now that I have a little more time! I made this sign last week and I found a home for it on my mantle. It may migrate to the porch but right now it lives here! Welcome to my never-ending carousel of re-arranging. It's one of my spiritual gifts! Ha!
That basket of mums used to be my Mom's but she passed it on to me a few years ago. I always loved it in her house! I remember when she bought it, believe it or not. I would always get excited when it came out every Fall and then sad to see it put away until the next year. I love that it lives in my house now! And as a bonus, it also fills a really odd/challenging space next to our fireplace. Score! 
I've got a thing for pumpkins and by "a thing" I mean, an obsession.
It's a problem. A problem I have no intention of correcting.
This is our cute little porch! Last week I cleaned up my summer pots and traded lots of them for Fall mums and some ornamental kale. I loved the summer look with lots of bright colors out here too, but this feels like a great change up. It's definitely one of my happy places!
I also made that gigantic welcome sign because, well, pinterest made me do it! It's a little big, but I think I like it! You cannot accuse me of not being welcoming, haha! 
I have also had that porch furniture from my single, Florida days! It too has been in storage for awhile but I think we are both happy to be reacquainted again. It's the perfect size for this porch and being out here is one of my favorite places to be! Ava and I like to call that plant on top of the bistro table, the Rapunzel plant! We planted a little fairy garden in there and over the summer it has grown and grown and grown! The trailing leaves remind us of Rapunzel's hair!
I traded in my bright summer cushions for a little more muted color scheme out here...I know, I know, who cares?? Well, I do! Those are the sorts of dumb things running through my head on a daily basis. Welcome to the crazy! I'm waiting to add a fun throw and some more pillows (because you can never have enough of either!) from my sister in Iowa as soon as I see her next. I love to read out here and drink a little coffee while I wait for the bus. It's also been a fun play spot for our kids and all the neighbor kids too... I loved sitting out here this summer to chat with friends and watch our kids play. It still feels like the best surprise every morning! I hope I always have a front porch! 
Oh Fall and all your colors, how I've missed you! 
So there you have it! Two of my favorite spaces and a clumsy return to blogging, but a return nonetheless! I've missed it here and I look forward to stopping in a little more frequently. We are truly so grateful and thankful to the Lord for what this year has brought. A new address and other new adventures as well, but mostly for His faithful and steady provision for us. We would never have dreamed this one year ago, in fact we had never even driven through this neighborhood back then! But that's what I love about the Lord! He always knows what's best and His timing is perfect. If I have learned one big thing this year, I think it would be that our God is so trustworthy. When the road ahead seems dimly lit or completely foreign, that is no indication of whether or not God is present or actively involved on our behalf! He is present and we can trust Him completely with what we don't know and can't see. He has never let us down or failed us and life with Him in the lead is more than we could possibly ask or imagine!  He is the grand adventure of our lives and we have been reminded in this whole move to leave our anxiety in His very capable hands and in the most gracious act, to trade our worries for his peace. He is so good like that and He delivers every. single. time.
Thanks for being excited about what He did for us this past year! It's not the end of the story, He's still doing a lot, but it sure was a sweet page turn in our book! 


Sold!! {Part Two}

Even before any thoughts of selling our condo came to be, Psalm 37 was my refuge for the last year. During so many days of wondering what the Lord was doing with us or why we couldn't put our finger on what we were experiencing, He spoke the same few things over and over to me as I kept going back to Psalm 37. 

Vs. 3- 7 "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, do not fret..."

Again and again I was being reminded to trust Him. To wait patiently on Him. To let Him act and to just keep doing the right thing, even when there were no immediate answers or change of circumstances. If I'm honest, I often struggled to put this into practice and my own frustration over what I couldn't control frequently robbed me of sleep and certainly of peace. But the Lord called me right back to Him and kept telling me in His word to wait patiently on Him. I had no control over a housing market and there wasn't any way we could rewind 9 years and undo a purchase that at the time, was a huge blessing to us.  God worked a real surrender into me and helped me focus on just dwelling in the land He had given us.  Loving our home for what it was and not wasting the days away in regret or despair.  This past Fall, we simply did our best. Life was busy with ministry and soccer and school and the daily everything. We took each week as it came and had plenty on our minds to occupy us. 

And then on one ordinary day, at the end of November, an email landed in my inbox from our friend who is a realtor. Over these last five years he was fully aware of our scenario and desire to sell as soon as we found out we were pregnant with Carter. He's been a great source of input for us, checking in annually to let us know where the market is at and how that might impact us. We've sort of laughed together over the past few years at how "stuck" we really were and how God just kept giving us enough creativity and determination to make it work.  But as I read this email, something was different. This one had a critical element we hadn't had for years, a missing piece to the puzzle. This one had a little hope woven through it. Maybe the market was finally close enough? Maybe this time of year would be beneficial to us in selling? Maybe we were ready to just take a way out and escape with our necks just above water? It sort of stopped me in my tracks and I read it with the same kind of defensiveness that kept me detached when I've entertained thoughts like these before. Sounds great, but I'll believe it when I see it. 

I did later read it to Trav and we agreed to look a little deeper and have a conversation with him. I remember driving on the 1st of December to Ava's school, sitting in the carpool line when my phone rang. It was snowing gently outside and I was mentally thinking of all the things I needed to get done before Trav's Mom came to visit later in the week. It was our realtor and he wanted to chat a little more about that email.  We had a hopeful conversation, lots of "maybe you could think about this and that" and then at the end of it he added, "You know, I just might have someone who may want to take a look at it. We've been looking at things in a different suburb but I wonder if he'd consider yours? Do you want me to ask him?"  I didn't really need to even think about it, I had zero expectation that it would amount to anything so I just agreed and we hung up the phone. I do remember having the distinct thought afterwards, wouldn't it be just like the Lord to come out of nowhere, as quietly as this snowfall outside and just sell this thing? I almost dismissed it as totally wishful thinking, but there really was a thread of wonder in my heart that held onto that thought. Why would I think the Lord couldn't or wouldn't do something like that?? 

An hour later, an email buzzed on my phone and I almost dropped it as I read it. Turns out, yes, this guy was interested in taking a look and how did a showing in 6 days sound? 

I. Know. Right???? 

What in the world was happening??? A showing??? We hadn't entertained that as an actual possibility at all and HELLO, if you could have seen the state of our house at the time, you would have laughed your head off at the irony! It was a disaster! And just for fun, freshly decorated for Christmas...certainly not ideal for pulling off a "spacious and orderly" vibe! I called Travis in a nervous panic and he laughed. He laughed at me but also because he just doesn't panic, ever. He was genuinely impressed with the Lord and at the timing of all this.  A new job in the works and his Mom about to arrive, "she can help us" he added cheerfully, at which I about died. His Mom was coming too!!  Good grief! I was simultaneously thrilled for the same reason and overwhelmed because I had to get ready for her first and I didn't want her visit to become a work trip.  I think I sat down and put my head on the table, muttering things like "this is nuts, maybe we should cancel, it's not that hard, we could just stay here forever. It's easier." Again, my level-headed man laughed and calmed me down, helping me see this as a good thing and reminding me to breathe. And then just like that, we spent the next 6 days doing the deepest clean/purge we could. Trav's Mom was a HUGE help and without her there that firs time, I could never have pulled it off. I mean that sincerely. It looked so nice in here and I felt so good about putting the best foot forward we could. Our potential buyer saw it and then we entered phase one of the great moving drama, we waited. The first feedback we got was good, he liked it and was surprised by it. The cleaning woman in me felt validated and the designer in me felt appreciated. He was probably not expecting a baby suite in the master closet! haha! The mom in me just felt tired :) 

Next came the whirlwind that is the holidays and we didn't have much communication other than an affirmation that he still liked it and was still interested. We were in no hurry really, we were traveling to Iowa and juggling all that Christmas brings with it and then the great sickness of 2016 hit us on New Years Day. January ushered in pink eye for 4 of us, a double ear infection for 1 of us, a stomach bug for 4 of us, an upper respiratory infection for 1 of us, laryngitis for 2 of us and stitches for 1 of us. So it was, you know, quiet and peaceful around here.

In the midst of all that drama, we were wondering how he still felt and should he want to move forward, what in the world would we do? This was still a completely shocking scenario to us and truthfully we didn't know if we should put any stock in it or if we could trust the roller coaster emotions that come with buying and selling. Should this happen, where would we go and how would that all come together? I like to refer to this as phase two, the what-if dreaming phase. It's basically grounded in sunshine and rainbows with key pieces of information missing, namely reality and actual numbers. I think I hate this phase most of all.  It's still coupled with the waiting phase so it seems like an actual exercise in futility, guaranteed to waste all your time and energy. But at least it was a distraction from the pharmacy that our kitchen had become. And it did help us formulate a plan and have conversations we needed to have.  

In early-January, we hit a snag. Because of our potential buyer's type of loan, our condo building needed to meet certain guidelines, a process with a considerable cost attached to it. We got that call and I thought it was probably our answer. He would need to back out and the Lord was surely shutting this door. I felt some relief but also some sadness.  Moving was really starting to grow on me. Thankfully God gave our realtor a great idea and before he could even finish throwing it my way, I was sending it to our HOA board with a giant ask of them to approve it and pay for it. Basically it seemed like a long shot with several likely meetings and endless discussion before it could ever be approved. Picture the episodes of Seinfeld, when Jerry's parents fought the HOA...We braced ourselves for at least a few weeks of waiting and lots of pleading our case. 


This was when I began to seriously believe that God just might be about to deliver us from this condo after all.  One hour after sending that email, our HOA board unanimously agreed and committed to funding it. No questions, no delays, no hesitation, no meetings.  Just a quick response that essentially said yep, we'll do it.  And just because the Lord likes to dazzle us with His goodness, He really showed off when the paperwork was completed and submitted the very next day for the govenrment process to begin.  It was almost crazy how quickly this "huge bump in the road" felt like maybe it was just a pebble in our shoe.  It all got sent off and we were extremely happy about it on both sides, but we still expected several weeks of waiting because it was the government we were working with after all.  If I haven't convinced you yet of the Lord's faithfulness in every detail, then here is one more evidence of it. Eight days from the first mention of this problem, we were officially government approved and the process over. His loan was now able to proceed and it cost none of us a penny.  EIGHT DAYS is all it took and there was not literally one issue from start to finish.  I think we took one giant deep breath and we seriously began to smile, jaws dropped, at each other.  I even uttered the words, 'God is totally going to do this isn't He?!?!?!"  That day, on the 14th of January, I felt a real shift in my excitement level.  I let myself entertain the idea of an actual move in our future and I began pouring out every fear I had to the Lord, asking Him for one big thing.  I really did not care where He took us next, but I wanted this whole process to be a marker in my life when He actively helped me take every thought captive, not giving into fear and anxiety over the unknowns but choosing to trust Him and wait for Him instead. I started asking friends to pray specifically for this.  More than concrete plans and more than wild dreams coming true, I so wanted to have victory in this area and to not be a stressed out mess.  I wanted His word to come alive to me in this process and to ground me every hour of the day. I knew my own  weakenesses and I knew this could really create a perfect storm in me if I wasn't careful.  And so I began bathing in Philippians 4, Matthew 6 and Matthew 7.  

A second showing was scheduled at the end of January and we were the top contender in our buyer's mind. Again, our excitement was growing but we were trying to stay cautiously guarded too.  It was especially fun to consider a sale because we knew our buyer.  Long before this began we had been praying with the kids at dinner for the Lord to move us in His timing and for this condo to be a blessing to the person who would buy it next. This was not because we had any inclination about moving, it just seemed like a good conversation to start with them. We especially prayed for our neighbors to also be blessed by the sale someday, it kind of made us sad to think about leaving them with just anyone. We began praying with the kids in the Fall about moving someday, because we wanted to give them the chance to see God actively working in our family. We anticipated at least a year or more of this, we had no clue really, but God had other plans! He hand delivered us a buyer we knew from Church, someone who was a great volunteer in student ministries even! Of course He did that!  All along we thought that was so amazing, but we truly wanted him to feel zero pressure from us and we really prayed that God would shut this whole thing down at any point if it wasn't the best move for him and for us.  We kept that detail to ourselves and just prayed a lot.  We got ready to show him the house again over Martin Luther King Jr weekend and then held our breath for a few days while we waited to hear back.  That was the start of phase three, tortured breath holding and subsequent Oreo eating.  

After a few long days later we heard he did indeed still love it and that he wanted it. On that note, we got the suggestion from our realtor to begin making tentative plans in pursuing our next move. There aren't really words for how that felt!  After 5 years of waiting and 2 years of hard-pressed living, we thought we were going to die from excitement.  Hope is a powerful thing. Without hope it is hard to dig deeply for joy and apart from the Lord, it's impossible to maintain it.  But since He has always been our hope, we knew we could still have joy even if this all fell apart.  Our joy has never rested in a bigger house or an eminent move.  God graciously helped us anchor our hope in Him but now it seemed He was breathing new hope into our circumstances too and that felt like pure delight! 

The last few weeks of the process were tough to live through. We were pulling triggers and waiting for dominoes to fall into place. Our buyer was living through his own journey too as this was his first home purchase and that is overwhelming for anyone to experience. All along we have felt so blessed by the Lord to have escaped the rollercoaster that is putting a house on the market with three little kids and a husband adjusting to a new, busier job.  We knew that would be a massive gift the from the Lord to escape that and yet, toward the end we felt like we needed to prepare for it, in case we needed a plan b.  We went to bed on a Tuesday night feeling a little discouraged and wrapping our minds around the thought and cost of listing it officially that next week.  Again we asked the Lord to just make  it very clear about what we needed to do, we really didn't want to list it, and we fell into bed exhausted from this whole thing. At the same time, I had a bad bout of laryngitis and had spent the previous two days with absolutely zero voice.  I do not think that was poor timing.  It kept me from picking up the phone and complaining or trying to formulate a plan on my own, apart from the Lord.  I had two full days of forced rest and time to pray, without the ability to talk to anyone.  I know the Lord allowed that on purpose.  It was good for my soul and kept me from trouble with too many words :) 

The next morning as I was about to drive Carter to preschool, I looked at a text that said, "Guess what? He is ready to move forward and get this done!" from our realtor.  I couldn't believe it. I sent it to Travis immediately and thankfully we didn't have to wait long for the official news. One hour later the offer was being written for full asking price and a closing date that was perfect for us.  Boom! Just like that, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed at the clear answer God had given us.  In a 12 hour swing we went from discouragement to praise! And in two months we went from not a real thought of selling this condo in our heads to signing the official purchase agreement.  Only the Lord could have done that! Only He could have known that we would need a push from Him to do this and that our changing circumstances would make the timing of this so right.  We are still so awed by Him and thankful for His faithful care. I am thankful I can even say that one week later, we now have a place to go, a great house that is just right for us. I will share that story in another post, sorry this is turning into cliffhanger city but I have to get some actual things done today! 

We praise God for this fun story and this chapter that is closing, 9 years in the making! I have much to say about that and I will say it soon, but for now I will leave you with this...more truths from Psalm 37 that grounded me and held me every step of the way. It is still surreal to say that we SOLD our home, but we are so grateful and so very excited!! Thank you for sharing our joy!! 

Psalm 37:23-28, 39-40~

"If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones...The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him." 


SOLD!! {Part One}

This is going to be a fun post to write. 

Since my last check-in at Christmas, when I went on a blogging spree in an attempt to catch up from the year, our entire life has been turned a little upside down! For starters, my computer stopped working, as in the power cord will no longer connect or register as discoverable, meaning as the battery life drains from the computer I have no way of powering it back up again.  I did manage to get all my pictures off the hard drive and I've saved just enough battery life to grab a couple of documents too, but the end is near and therefore the blog is at a standstill. It's an old computer, they can't service it any longer at the Genius Bar and it's time for a new one, but as you'll soon know, that purchase has just been moved to the very back burner for now.   In the meantime, I'm thankful to be coming to you from the Blogger app, via my iPad, so all is not lost! I am sad to not be attaching pictures to this post, by now you know my LOVE for the pictures, but no need to hand me a violin, I have more than enough good news to share with you today! 

If we are Facebook friends or real life friends, then you already know the bullet points of this post; 
-Travis has a new job (same Church, same department, new title, new role!) 
-We sold our condo! 
-We are moving into a great house in April!! 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like those three statements are just amazing movements of God, each in their own right, and worthy of a little pause to throw all the praise hands up in the air before I even begin!!!!!!!!!!!
What in the world???  Life happens fast! 

Yes, those are the all caps headlines, but as I promised and as the famous Paul Harvey used to say, "and now, for the rest of the story..." 

It would be almost impossible to sum these last few months up without some context. Really the whole last year, actually. If you would have asked me to write this a year ago, I could have imagined some similar bullet points, I just would have predicted completely different circumstances. It's been my experience that as the Lord orders our steps and His will for us unfolds, there are major hinge points in our story that He uses to shape and direct us and most of the time, they are completely unsettling and unknown as we walk through them. Times in our life when we sense He is up to something but for the life of us, we can't figure out what or why and in our darkest moments, we aren't really even sure if He's on our side. Do you know those seasons? They happen to all of us at one point or another and of course His Word tells us that He is on our side and He's always acting for our good, but they aren't easy, in fact they are often the exact opposite of easy.  They tend to be full of character building, walking with one-foot-in-front-of-the-other times, that come hand in hand with sleepless nights and exhausting days. That's sort of what this past year has felt like for us. Tons of unknowns, feeling like this was a hinge year for us and yet not knowing what on earth it might look like or mean. 

It's no secret that the Lord has indeed been stirring and moving at our Church this past year too.  In many, many ways He has been turning the page on a new season and writing a new narrative for His plan with His church. That's looked like many tough goodbyes to many ministry partners who have all started new chapters of their own, in new places and continents even! Each of those transitions are always hard, even when God does a beautiful thing in the process and faithfully takes care of each family. Ultimately it's change we struggle to embrace. And who loves change at the beginning??  But life with Jesus is an adventure and serving Him full-time as a vocation means you sign up for the adventure to be your "normal." So as only He could do, and with perfect timing as only He could orchestrate, we found ourselves on the roller-coaster this year, only to be called to stay right here, in the same Church, with the same people and students we love. After nearly a decade of Travis specifically being a junior high pastor, he is now turning a new page as pastor to all students, overseeing both junior high and senior high. We are thrilled about it, thankful for it and very humbled to have the opportunity. Travis would say his best way to describe the joy of what this means, is that instead of being able to shepherd and invest in a student's life for just 2 years, he now gets to do that for 6 extremely transformational years. And we both consider that such a privilege and a delight. 2015 wrapped up for us with this new change in the works and it's been a joy to experience the change and just in the last two weeks, for it to finally be announced and set into motion. We are thankful for the way He answered our prayers and for the gift of being able to stay and to continue putting our roots downs here in Minnesota. In hindsight, we now see the fruit of so many of those hard days and we are able to trace His hand as we look back and see how He was preparing us and protecting us and guiding us all along, even when we couldn't have known or seen what He had in store. We learned wonderful lessons, helpful not only in ministry but just in life. And maybe the biggest blessing of all, is that He used this stressful year to grow us closer and to keep us on the same page. I consider that miraculous grace. Somehow as we navigated this season, our marriage has been strengthened and we know that is simply grace from Him.  We were completely surprised with this new role and we praise the Lord as we anticipate new, exciting days ahead. 

In the midst of all of that, we had not one thought about this condo, except that with each week it seemed to be growing smaller and smaller as our kids grew bigger and bigger. But as you who have been faithful blog readers know, that's the same song and dance we've been singing for about 5 years now.  I won't re-hash the whole story or detail all the circumstances again, I have plenty of old posts that do that. I will just remind you that we bought at the peak of an inflated market 9 years ago, with no kids and a big, sweet golden retriever. As God grew our family, He blessed us with three darling kiddos in 7 years, all while our square footage shrank and the value of our home plummeted. It wasn't a story unique to us, many  families have found themselves in similar situations, but it has been our reality and it hasn't been easy. By the grace of God we've made 1200 square feet work for us and truly, there have been more blessings than we could have ever imagined here. I've detailed those before too and I've thoughtfully put together list after list of what we can thank God for about this condo, in my quest to fight for Godly contentment and daily joy. I have poured out my sorrows and struggles to the Lord and faithfully, He has walked with me through each one and has taken such great care of our family in the process. We have not been abandoned by Him and we do not believe for even a second that He dropped the ball for us. We could not have known what an unpredictable market fall would look like, or how it would feel so crushing for our first home purchase. Life is not like that. We don't get a crystal ball or a map of what lies ahead. I have always known in the depths of my heart that this season of waiting and struggling was part of His plan for us because it was building godliness and character into us as we quite literally worked our salvation out, here.  

Probably 4 years ago, the Lord in His mercy helped me change my prayers from "please get us out of here" to "please help us not waste these years here."  He opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe us being stuck in this financial pickle, really wasn't all about us.  Maybe this season of living in this condo was so that we could be used here to love our neighbors and share Jesus with them in tangible and real ways.  I began praying that way and as I did, the Lord did shift my perspective and He gave me thoughts and scriptures that were life to me as I tried to obediently be a Gospel blessing to our neighbors.  The fruit of that has been one of the greatest joys we will take with us from this chapter of our life and it's also what makes leaving this condo very bittersweet.  We have made dear friends here, our kids have so many extended grandmas and grandpas here, we have been able to share the Gospel and have wonderful conversations with many neighbors, we now go to Church with a neighbor down the hall from us, and we have tried to use every opportunity we've been given to bring honor to the Lord.  As much as we are able, we speak very boldly and freely about who He is to us and how He has taken care of us.  Our sweet neighbors know how hard this has been and we have been able to share openly with them about what Jesus is teaching us and now, how He has provided for us.  I could cry remembering a day when I broke down before the Lord in total frustration, weary of living with little ones in such close quarters with no end in sight, and as I prayed with a broken heart before Him I can remember telling Him, "if we need to stay here, please don't let us stay without making an impact.  Please let this be for something greater than just a really long season.  If and when we do go someday, I hope we will have made such a difference that our neighbors will be sad to see us go." 

I genuinely meant that and it has been something that has sustained me over these last few years.  While our incredible neighbors have been so good to us and so understanding, when Walker entered the picture things got harder. We couldn't love our Walker more and he certainly was/is a gift from God to us. But three kids in a 2 bedroom condo and the days of middle of the night feedings, crying for no reason (x's 3!!)  early mornings and now the throws of toddlerhood have translated into a very stressful situation. Walker was born with a megaphone volume and he exercises his lungs on a regular basis! We have been living with so much stress in an attempt to keep him quiet for the sake of our neighbors, that it has turned home from being our refuge into our greatest challenge.  Carter and Ava have also continued to grow (as kids do-wink, wink) and they have needed space to run, freedom to play, permission to make noise, etc. and all of those things have been hard for us to give them.  There have been some hard days and nights these last two years and we have fought to not lose hope or our joy as we faced a market that still had not quite rebounded enough for us to make a move.  We pursued renting it out multiple times and even then, the Lord just firmly closed one door after another.  We just knew He was asking us to hang on and stay until He made it clear that we could go.  We have had to be very creative and on the go a lot these years, trying to help them get their wiggles out at a park or a gym or wherever we could find freedom, before we'd come home and try to stay reasonably quiet.  Truly this last year of job stress was a great distraction from the stress at home! We both resolved to not worry about home for awhile and to just thank Him for whatever we could here because at least we had a roof over our heads and food on our table.  And so, with this condo an afterthought, wouldn't you know that is exactly when the Lord stepped in and began to move on our behalf...


Apple Orchard 2015

I will be the first to admit, there are far too many pictures in this post. I'm breaking all the laws of blogging I'm sure but here's the deal, this orchard is in my top 5 family traditions every year and I just can't help myself. Both in the taking of a million pics and in the posting. There is no rational thought involved, I just see everything through a camera lens when we get there and all I can think about is how they've each grown and changed year to year. Travis is a saint, he fully embraces my desire to keep going back, to take a million pics and yes, to wear whatever I choose for our family look...I'm always thinking "Christmas card material" while we are there! So scroll through or don't, I won't bore you with a million lines of text, I think they are pretty self-explanatory, except that every now and then I can't help but add some detail I feel compelled to share  :)  You're welcome, words are my love language. 

Seriously, they were just in the double jogger stroller!?!?!  Now they are practically giants with long legs and grown up faces. I can't take it. 

Man, I love him. 
I love both.
But especially him. He still makes my heart race. 

Every kid should feed a kid. 
Top pic of the day in my opinion. 
I love this so much! 

Hipster pose and he doesn't even know it. 

Taken by Carter! 

It's too bad they have no fun with their Dad.
I wish he'd lighten up.

Sweet little apple, sweeter little boy. 
Thanks for enduring the Apple Orchard tour of 2015!