Off for the weekend!

Well, I am leaving my boys behind this weekend and heading north to Arrowwood Resort for our church's Women's Retreat. My mom is coming up this morning from Iowa to go with me and we're rooming with my cousins, Jenny and Rhonda...I'm so excited! In classic Stephanie fashion, I haven't packed anything yet and I have errands to run this morning, but I'm sure I'll throw something together! If you think of it, pray for me...I am leading a breakout session tomorrow morning on Hospitality and I'm doing some floral arranging demos for the women, but I'm just coming off of a sinus infection, and my voice has not quite returned. I'm on day 3 of my antibiotic today, so I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll be bouncing back! Hope you have a great weekend, I'm looking forward to mine!!

Oh Canada!

The fishermen returned safely last week and I thought you might enjoy the 5 pictures they brought back for me! Yes, they had a wonderful was a little chilly for a few days, (it is Canada) but that didn't stop them from catching 104 fish! For years my Dad has fished in Northern Minnesota, but not always with great results. A few years ago, he discovered this camp in Canada, where the fishing is amazing and they have gone back ever since. Apparently those Canadian fish are more gullible than Minnesota fish...much like the Canadian public in response to the government and their health care system! Whoops, sorry to my Canadian friends...can't help but point that out. Anyway, it was lots of fun for both of them and yes, they got along great all week!! Everybody wants to know that for some reason...however, I do believe they would like to recruit more fishermen for next year, so keep it in mind!


Home Again!

Well, I'm a happy girl again. My super-cute husband is home and all is well in the world! I didn't know when I married a Pastor, that I would be marrying a traveler too. We were thinking about all the trips Travis has been on this year and it's quite ridiculous! He's practically gone more than he's home...well, that's probably an exaggeration, but it's felt like that. It's a good thing we got a dog three years ago because I would not handle these week long trips as well as I do without Ryley! There is something about having a big 80lb dog with you when you're home alone. It's good security!

However, that "good security" was in BIG TROUBLE yesterday! 99.9% of the time, I have no complaints about Ryley, but occasionally that naughty .1% comes out and I want to give him away...yesterday was that day. I was on my way out the door before Trav came home and I decided to quickly take Ryley out to go potty before I left. As we were headed back towards home, Ryley took off running and immediately started sniffing at something as if it were his favorite smell...before I could even get there, he did the one thing that makes us so mad! He dropped his head/neck and began rolling in something. For anyone who has a dog, you know that means one thing: trouble. I don't know why, but God made dogs with some insane desire to roll in all things smelly...dead things, gross things, old things, etc. Well, this "thing" did not disappoint. I bent over to see what it was and quickly realized (to my horror) that it was human poop...and my big, hairy dog was now covered in it. Gross doesn't even begin to cover it. I also have no idea who on earth would poop in the grass, but of course MY dog would have to discover it. So, needless to say, I did not get to leave until I hosed Ryley off and then proceeded to give him a bath, by myself, all the while wondering why this always happens when Travis is gone??? I mean, seriously. This is so my luck.

So now Ryley is clean again and smelling good, Travis is home and I'm recovering from this virus that has left me with no voice. Nice weekend, huh? Oh, and the Hawkeyes lost last night. Sometimes when it rains, it pours! Story of my life...but at least my sweet husband is home to take care of that naughty dog's a good thing he was covered in poop, because I wanted to beat him but instead I couldn't touch him. I suppose he did that on purpose too!


A Shameless Plug

Ok, so I've been blogging alot today, but I'm home sick and Travis is gone until tomorrow night, so what else am I going to do? I'm also watching alot of's kind of nice.

Anyway, I've been meaning to do this for awhile, but I want to shamelessly plug my cousin Joe's new CD, Tell the Story! He just released it and it's so good. You can sample it and download it by going to his website or by finding him on myspace. We recently went to his CD release concert and got to hear all the songs live, as well as the stories behind each song. I love them all, but of course there are 4 that are very sweet because they are written for his wife and kids. In particular, I love:

13 Degrees Below (written for his wife, my cousin Amy)
Together We Learn (written for his oldest daughter, Emma)
Beautiful to Me (written for his youngest daughter, Betsy)
and the title cut, Tell the Story (written for his son, Cooper)

For all my girlfriends who have sons, you will love the song for Cooper. It's a precious song for a father and son. Anyway, please go to his site and listen to his latest songs...he's so talented and I'm very biased!! Enjoy!


Once again, I am sitting here with my heart brimming full of thoughts and emotions, I cannot believe how deep these emotions run. I would say that through this miscarriage journey, I have experienced every feeling possible, from one end of the spectrum to another. In recent days, I've felt like maybe this is getting easier, maybe I'm "getting over it", maybe the grieving is lessened...and then, like a fool, I am overcome by something and the floodgates open and the tears come all over again, with the intensity that I thought was gone. That seems to be my reality right now.

I started a Bible study last night that I've been anticipating for a long time, it's one of those studies and groups that you just know are from the Lord. It's a study on the disciplines of leadership and our role/calling as women in good, right? We talked about the gospel last night and how that must be of "first importance" to us because it is the hope of our salvation, the centrality of our faith. (1 Cor.15:3-4) And when I pondered that, or tried to comprehend again just how simply divine salvation is, I can hardly complain about the loss I feel in light of the sacrafice God made for me with His only Son...and yet, the pain I feel is real and the emotions I have reflect that pain, and God knows. In fact He gave me those emotions and He cares for me. Even though He knows just how I feel and His sacrafice was infinately greater than mine, He loves me, He created me and redeemed me, and I am His child...

As I sat there participating and listening, my mind was racing I could feel those emotions bubbling under the surface and by the end, I was sobbing again, in a room with 9 women I don't know very well. Good gracious. Will this ever end? I can't even tell you all that I am learning right now, about myself and about the Lord. It's as if I'm having those "lightbulb" moments constantly and the lights are flickering like a strobe before me. He is revealing so much to me I can hardly keep up.

In all of this, so many precious friends and family have prayed specific passages from the Word over me and they have shed light on so many truths and promises God has given me. But last night, a girlfriend of mine, opened my eyes to a new truth that I was describing to her but I'd never heard it confirmed in quite that way.

****Disclaimer**** This is when I need my Pastor/husband to be home, so he can help me research this and confirm it.(He comes home tomorrow by the way!) I have not researched this, I am just taking her word for it, so maybe all of my seminary friends can help me confirm this or correct me if I'm wrong here. Our commentaries are in Trav's office, so I haven't looked it up.

That said, I was telling her that I have felt such a double-edged sword of this season being the worst/best thing that has happened to me. I hate going through it, I hate the pain of it and yet, I know God is with me, this is for my good, and He will redeem it for His glory if I'm willing. I can laugh and sob in the same breath. On days when it seems so dark and as if the Heavens are pouring around me, I have amazing encounters with my Savior and I walk away renewed and refreshed, but at the cost of feeling so "poured out like an offering." It's so oddly rich with meaning. Anyway, as I was sharing this with my friend, she told me that in a previous Bible study she had done, in Isaiah, she learned that the phrase "the day of the Lord" has a similar meaning in Hebrew. The actual word for it, means something to the effect of the best/worst, or the good/awful. I think it's referring to the judgement day of the Lord and how that day will bring the best and the worst. The worst is our confrontation of our sin and the best when we realize he's forgiven it, it's been covered by the blood of Jesus for those of us who believe in Him. It's literally like our worst nightmare, the judgement of evil, and our best/perfect "rescue" ending! He saves! The blood of Jesus has made us white as snow and has wiped the record clean. I don't know if that speaks to you, but it was like a healing word to me.

I know there is healing in the moments and trials that confront us with the best/worst. Despite the disappointment of losing a baby that has been so wanted and prayed for, I have an amazing peace about God's plan and His sovereignty. I trust Him now, more than ever. I love Him more and I am more amazed by Him. My friend said to me, "if I had to paint a worst nightmare scenario for Stephanie Armstrong, this would be it...tasting the joy of pregnancy after so long and then having it taken away..." and she's right, this is the one thing I've begged the Lord to give me, however, standing on the other side now with my arms still empty I can truly say "it is well with my soul." I hate it and I'm thankful for it. I wish it never happened and I wouldn't trade it for the world. How's that for a dicotomy? I, by no means, have figured this thing out. I don't wake up and recite my rote "sunday school answers" to make myself believe, but instead I'm stumbling through this all over the place, needy and desperate for a touch from my Savior...and do you know, He's giving it to me? He's stayed with me and lifted my head when I could not and He's gently guiding me down this road and reminding me today to "Be still and know that I AM God." Know that "I have redeemed you and you are mine, and because I love you, you are precious in my sight." "I will never leave you or forsake you" and "I give peace, that is unlike what the world gives..."

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...His words bring life to my aching body and my grieveing soul and today, that's worth every tear!

Amber and Ella...

I went home last weekend for several reasons, one being a baby shower for my best friend Amber and her new daughter Ella. I know I've mentioned this before, but Amber and I have been the best of friends since we were newborns, literally, and we've walked through life together ever since. Her family is really an extension of my family and vice versa. So, it's been so fun to celebrate this new season in their lives and to welcome little Ella! We had a great time at her shower and later my Mom and I spent some time with Amber and Ella, her parents Joan and Kirk, and her sister Jessica, who is also pregnant with her first! As I was driving into town last Friday, I was just thinking about how different are lives are now and how we both share so many memories from growing up. We both had so many dreams about who we would marry, when we'd have kids, what we'd be's amazing now to see all of those dreams come true and to know that they're even better than what we dreamed of. Little Ella is hopefully a precious start to our brood of children between us! Anyway, it was great to see them again and to get some sugar from Ella...all weekend, She killed me with those chipmunk cheeks!!! What a sweetie!


Ancient Words, Ever True...

I find it interesting that in times of trial and heartache, nothing soothes the soul like the word of God. It seems our dependence on Him opens our eyes and hearts to His promises and to truth. A friend sent me a card that said something to the effect of, "we're praying that you don't believe and give in to the lies of the enemy..." How I appreciated that from them. It's so easy to believe things that aren't of God, things that aren't true and come straight from the father of all lies. It's very easy in the midst of despair to fall prey to fear and anxiety and bitterness. But we believe we don't have to live in defeat and we don't have to attain perfection. Our refuge is in the Lord and our hope is in His word. I have spent much time in Psalm 31 through this last week. I want to share it with you because it's ministered to me and I know it will to you...

Psalm 31

"In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead me and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth...I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set me feet in a spacious place. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief...But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me...How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord."

Be blessed today...


Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I love flowers and anything to do with them. I can't tell you how many arrangements I've made for other people over the years...thousands and thousands of orders have been in my hands...birthdays, anniversarys, funerals, random "I love you" bouquets, and everytime I made one, I thought about the person on the other end. What kind of day are they having? Will they appreciate this? Will they like it? Will this make their day? I loved being a florist because I got to influence other people's lives on a regular basis. Some of my favorite days were when I got to work with families who were grieving and needed flowers for their loved one's funeral...I can't tell you how many people I've hugged and cried with over the years. God gave me the gift of mercy and it seemed to pour out of me in those situations. Other co-workers hated the funeral work, but I loved it. I loved it because I knew I could offer more than just a pretty casket spray. I had hope in my heart and peace from my Savior that the world can't offer and so when I got to share that hope and express my genuine sorrow and concern, I knew God was using me for his glory in the middle of someone's grief.

After this last week, the tables were turned. Those were my flowers. Someone gave me that beautiful bouquet and I'm sure my friend told them "she just had a miscarriage, so make it bright and cheery." I'm sure that's why the designer chose the flowers she did and why my friend gave them to me...and I loved them. They did make my day and I totally appreciated it. Even though my heart was breaking, God gave me hope in the middle of my grief and these flowers were just one example of how He ministered to me through other people. He's been so tender to me and you, my friends and family, have been so kind as well. Thank you for your flowers, your cards, your emails, your hugs, your phone calls and your prayers. I am so very aware of how precious you are to me and how blessed I truly am.


The Week That Was...Saying Goodbye to Our Baby.

It's been awhile since I've written and it feels like our life has been turned upside down. My silence over the last 2 weeks has come for a variety of reasons, but it hasn't motivated me to share anything, until tonight. This blog has been such a blessing to me over the last few months. Not only because of the ease with which I can communicate with sweet friends and family, but because I've needed this outlet. I've discovered how much I love to write and it's been very theraputic for me on many occasions. Tonight is no different. I need to share where we're at and what we're going through purely for selfish reasons. I apologize now if it's more than what's necessary, but my heart seems to be swelling with thoughts and words and emotion and I want to be honest with you about this journey we're now on.

I've been looking at the last pictures I posted, of us at the State Fair, and it brings tears to my eyes. I see such a glow on my face, a smile that was deeper than what seemed on the surface. I was pregnant then and I didn't know it. If you would have asked me over the last 2 1/2 years, what I wanted most in this season of life, I would have immediately answered with the words, "a baby." On Wednesday of last week, we finally had our moment...that perfect situation we had dreamed about when we discovered I was pregnant! I can't tell you the rush of emotion, excitement, and pure joy that filled my heart. In just 5 minutes, my entire world changed. Suddenly that baby I have been praying for and longing for was growing inside of me and I couldn't have been more thankful. I've been reading and re-reading my journal from that night because I already feel like I'm forgetting the joy of that moment. It was such a fun night and I didn't sleep at all! The next few days were such a blur of dreaming and planning and falling in love with this little life inside me. We loved every minute of it.

That was last week. This week began the same way and then it changed forever. Monday afternoon I unexpectantly miscarried our first baby. Looking back on that day now, I don't think it ever crossed my mind that a miscarriage was a possibility. I was immediately shocked and devestated. Before we made it to my OB for an ultrasound, I had a sinking feeling that I can't describe come over me and I knew that my baby was gone. I kept thinking it had to be a mistake, this wasn't happening to me and somehow that day was just a nightmare that I was going to wake up from. But there I was in that ultrasound room, hearing the technician tell me that my uterus was empty and there were no more signs of pregnancy left...I don't remember much of the next 30 minutes, but looking in the eyes of my sweet husband and seeing his pain too, I knew this was the road we were being forced down and everything in me was longing and fighting to go back.

This week has been such a roller coaster. I've spent much of it in tears and Travis has spent much of it consoling me and letting me vent. My anger raged in me at first, followed by deep resentment and some bitterness. Slowly some of that has faded and I've let my anger melt into acceptance, my resentment into grief. But I think it's safe to say this has been the worst week of my life, thus far. I share this because I've never felt so low and I've never been touched this personally before by loss. Even though my baby was just a few weeks old and I never got to see him/her or hold his/her little body, I felt that connection that a mother does. I dreamed dreams for my baby, I imagined what my baby was going to look like, I prayed about his/her little life and told the Lord that I would be the best Mommy I could be with this gift he was giving me...I praised the Lord continually for what He had done.

Unfortunately for me, I don't have my happy ending like I planned...but I'm learning that my plans are not God's plans and my ways are not His ways. I can't say that I feel thankful for this, but right now I'm choosing to thank Him for it. He is ministering to me in untold ways and with such tenderness and love that I can hardly stay angry without remembering His promises to me and seeing them being manifested through other people. His word is so alive to me through this journey, everyday I find new treasures to seek and I receive such healing for my heart. I know more than ever that my Savior loves me and He cares for me with such intimate concern. I am so comforted that my baby is safe in His arms now, free from the pain this life brings and the disappointment he/she may have felt in the mommy and daddy chosen for him/her. Today I prayed and asked the Lord to do for me what I could not do for my baby. I asked Him to hold our baby and tell him/her how wanted they whisper soothing words in those little ears and to delight that little heart with things that were beautiful. I asked Him to introduce our baby to the family members and friends we have walking the streets of Heaven and I asked Him to tell our baby that one day his mommy and daddy will join Him there and will finally hold him and see him face to face. I know that my prayers will be answered and I know that my baby has no fear now and no confusion about this life. Our baby is free and living a life that we long for too, and we'll see that sweet baby one day and we'll praise our Savior for this gift again.

That is what I'm holding on to and that is what the Lord has shown me through this. In no way have I packaged this heartbreak up and figured out the "why" that nags me, but I'm letting go of the need to do that. I'm trusting in Jesus being enough for me and I'm asking Him to heal me and prepare me for another baby in His timing. I have no conditions to that prayer, it may or may not happen for me. But if this was the most of motherhood I'll ever taste, it was sweet enough to thank him for and I will remain forever changed by the baby I was given. I posted pictures from the night we discovered God had blessed us with a baby because I want to remember the joy on our faces and in our hearts over this life. God is holding our little lamb in his arms and is tenderly guiding us...He is so good.

Isaiah 40:11
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart: He gently leads those that have young."


Rockin the State Fair!

Since we both had the day off today and because we haven't had too many of those lately, we decided to head out to the Minnesota State Fair and experience the "Great Minnesota Get-Together"(that's apparently the slogan). It was the last day of the fair, so we anticipated some big crowds and decided not to drive there. We decided instead to do the park and ride thing with metro transit, which proved to be a good decision.

We've heard that this fair is the 2nd largest in the country, second only to Texas of course, but I'm not sure that I believe that. It didn't seem much bigger than the North Carolina fair. We had a tradition of going to the fair when we lived in was one of our favorite things. We always got a roasted turkey leg and I drug Travis through every horticulture and home design exhibit there! It was great.

This fair was also fun, although incredibly hot. We arrived around lunch time and immediately went searching for lunch. In Minnesota, the big draw at the fair is anything on a stick. They have cheese-on-a-stick, sloppy-joe-on-a-stick, hot-dish-on-a-stick, candy-bars-on-a-stick, etc. We heard that walleye-on-a-stick was a must have, so we searced and searched for it. We never did find it, but in the Northwoods section, we did stumble upon something that came close. Travis chose walleye fries, (walleye deep fat fried), and I chose a smoked salmon wrap...they were incredible. Afterwards we went to all my favorite places, the fine arts building, the horticulture/agriculture building, the education building, and the market square...I have a really great husband! To make up for it, I promised Travis we would find the one thing he was craving...a bucket of fresh baked cookies from Sweet Martha's and ice-cold milk from the Dairy Association. Yummy. The cookies were very good and worth the wait in line and the milk was also tasty...$1.00 for all you could drink! That's a bargain!

Anyway, we walked, we ate, we got sunburned and we got hot! It was the perfect day at the fair!

A Face Only a (doggie) Mother Could Love

Seriously, who couldn't love this face??? Isn't he just the cutest dog you've ever seen? It was so nice out this morning when we got up and Ryley was just chillin on the balcony, so of course I took his picture! It's alarming how much I love this dog!!


A Day Worthy of Praise

Happy Saturday! I am sitting here and typing this on one of those picture perfect days, with a wonderful breeze blowing on me, and I'm looking at a sky that's brilliantly blue without a cloud around. What an incredible day! We have been so blessed this week with gorgeous weather...I can even feel the crispness of fall in the air. There is just something about fall that I starting, leaves changing, cool weather, holidays on the horizon, new beginnings...I just love it all. I am not wishing away what's left of summer, but I have decided that I am a 4-season girl!

When we lived in Florida, I genuinely missed the seasons. Even winter. But only for like a moment! They are so reflective of our lives and all the changes we undergo. I'm reminded of a friend who is definately walking through a stormy season that just won't cease in bringing rain. She knows it's bringing fruit and helping spur on growth, but it seems so gloomy and she's longing for the "Son" to shine through. So she and her family are hanging on, with hope. Hope for sunny days again, for relief from the rain. God is always faithful, like the seasons, and that brings such peace.

We had such a fun night on Wednesday with our student ministry. We have so many great parks and lakes in Minnesota and we're in that time of year when the weather is very condusive to being outside. So, we hosted a combined high school and junior high worship night at Staring Lake in their outdoor ampitheater. On Tuesday it rained all day and night, but on Wednesday, from the moment we woke up, it was gorgeous. Perfectly still and oozing with beauty. More than once I imagined the Lord smiling at the thought of his children setting aside time to worship and I wondered if our day wasn't special ordered for the occasion? Maybe not, maybe it was just a "lucky" break, but the thought that it could have been created just for us
makes my heart swell with gratitude and praise. And speaking of praise, what a night it was. We were surrounded by the majesty of creation, staring at the trees and the sky, watching the sun set around us, while we offered up our best to our Saviour. Is there anything more worthwhile than that? Seeing students moved, hearing their voices, and watching their hands reaching for the Heavens?

Like a perfect soundtrack, our home is filled right now with the sounds of David Crowder singing "O Praise Him"...and I can't think of a better way to put it.