Sending my love to Peru!

Well, I've made it through the half-way mark now and in just a few days Travis will be back home! I haven't been able to talk to him for the last few nights, because they are so busy and up so late at night...I just can't stay up that long to wait for him! Skyping him has been totally fun does my soul good to see his handsome face!

According to the updates, everything is going well and their huge rallies at night are bringing thousands of people to Christ, so I know this trip will be one Travis will never forget! I love hearing the stories of who they are ministering to and how God is's so good to remember that He is God of this world, not just the United States! His church stands all over the globe and I love imagining what it will be like one day when "every tribe and tongue" will confess that HE IS LORD!! I told Travis before he left that if he needed to rescue any little Peruvian kids and bring one home, I would be fine with that! I am not making any kind of prediction or anything, but I really would love to have an international family someday...I definitely see adoption as something we would love to eventually pursue, although I don't know how, when or where!! You can just call us "Brad and Angelina!!" Just kidding.

Well, one thing I'm trying to take advantage of while my night owl husband is gone, is going to bed early! I LOVE to sleep and I would go to bed by 10 every night if I wasn't married to a late night guy! So, while I've got the chance, I'm going to bed early tonight!! Ryley is right here with me and loves the idea too (I can tell!) so I'm going to keep this brief. Thanks for praying with me over this week, I know the Lord is answering! Blessings to you all, I really appreciate the sweet comments you have left for me over the last few days...thanks!


Chillin' with the Parents

I have had a fun couple of days now, just hanging with my parents while Travis is gone. It's so nice that we are only a few hours apart, because we're able to spend long weekends together much easier than when we lived on the east coast. We haven't had much of an agenda, which is also nice, because all three of us just needed a few days to relax!

Today we went on a great walk in the morning with Ryley to Caribou Coffee and then we spent literally all day at Mall of America, shopping and eating. Mostly eating, if we're going to be honest! It's been great! The perfect distraction. Tomorrow we're doing more of the same, which sounds downright Heavenly.

I don't know who's enjoying this schedule more, me or Ryley! He is THRILLED to have my parents here, especially my Dad. I swear that dog wakes up happy and goes to sleep happy, just because he knows his favorite playmate is here! And he sleeps on pins and needles all night, just waiting to hear my Dad make a sound! If he so much as rolls over (my Dad), Ryley is right there by his side, with his big dog head resting on the mattress! He can barely make it that long without getting to play with him!! It's very cute.

I have been incredibly blessed to have talked to Travis every night on skype. It's really been amazing. I just love being able to see Him and to hear first hand how he is doing. Sounds like everything in Peru has gone smoothly so far, although tonight I'm anxious to talk to him because they held their first big crusade this evening at this coliseum they rented, so I'm hoping it was a success! So far the major prayer request is for one of our high school students who lost her passport...ironically her dad is our mission's pastor, so I'm sure they are sweating over that one!! Please pray with us that it will be found and returned by Sunday, when they have to fly home...I don't really know what you do without one in a foreign country? I'm sure they've been working to figure that out!!

Anyway, I'm trying to keep myself awake so I can chat with Travis tonight, and I thought blogging would help, but it seems to just be making me more tired!! Hope you're all having a great week! I'm going to try and do some internet surfing to keep me awake!!


I love Skype!!

I had the best thing just happen to me, I am so thrilled I can hardly stand it! Before Travis left, we decided to download skype to my laptop, just in case we would be able to talk while he was in Peru. The odds of this whole thing working were incredibly slim, but I thought I should at least download it so we could give it a try. Let me give you some background first...

Lately our internet has been giving us fits and I've been shopping around, trying to find a better option. We have a wireless provider, but it's just been so unreliable and I find myself constantly fighting for a good connection. Recently we realized that we get the best signal out on our patio, which is fine, unless it's raining! But it also means that we can't get online while we're in our house...that's a pain.

Furthermore, we never get service in our bedroom, but tonight I was in bed, about to pray for Travis and his team when it occurred to me that I should go get my laptop and try to get on the church website for the prayer guide. I decided to do that, knowing that it would probably never work, and was shocked when I realized that I was actually getting a signal! So, I found the prayer guide and then went to my email and decided to send Travis an email, mainly to make myself feel better. I've been lonely today without him!

So there I am, emailing my heart out, when suddenly a screen pops up, saying I'm getting a call!! I didn't even know what it was because we never actually tried skype before he left, but suddenly I'm clicking on the "answer" button and before I know it, a live feed of Travis pops up!! I got to see him and talk to him for 15 minutes!!! That is like a total MIRACLE!! Remember I told you that our internet has been so bad lately?? Well during our conversation, I had a full signal and we could both hear each other perfectly! I am just so grateful to the Lord right now for that! I seriously can't believe that all just happened so perfectly and with no planning....God is so good to grant me a conversation with my husband when I needed it most. I am praising Him tonight!! Isn't that so cool?? I kind of want to scream and dance, but I think my neighbors might not appreciate that!! They all just heard my conversation anyway, since I ran with my computer to the porch while we were talking!! At least everyone will know how it's going in Peru!

Oh, and Travis is doing great! He looks handsome as ever and has had a great day! Seriously, he was so cute!! I think the distance between us just makes him hotter to me!! Sorry, back to business....everything on their prayer list was answered today and the parade that they had in Lima went off without a hitch. Keep praying!! God is working and doing amazing things already! I just had to share that story with you because I am so thrilled right now...I am going to lay my head on my pillow tonight after talking to my man all the way in Peru and watching him blow me a doesn't get much better than that!

Update from Peru

Travis and I at the Minneapolis Airport yesterday. He had the curb assignment, directing our team about where to go and check-in once they arrived.

I'm going to start a new feature on my blog I think, I'm going to call it..."Where in the world are Travis and Jason texting??" This is in the aiprort and I believe at this point they were texting some students who were late to see where they were!

So I just saw these prayer requests on our Church website and I would love to pass them along to you and ask you to pray with me. I have no idea how Travis is, I'm just trusting that they made it ok and all is well. He should be able to email me at some point during the week, but I know he's going to be busy from morning to night everyday, so I don't expect to hear much! But, I know that he is in the very capable hands of the Lord, so I can rest in that.

On this trip to Peru, our team of people from Grace (300) will be partnering with our sister church (The Callao Church) and their team (700) to blanket the city of Lima all day with lots of hands on ministry opportunities. We have street teams, medical teams, women's teams, prison teams, children's teams, legal teams, prayer teams, evangelism teams, and of course student teams that are out among people during the day and then each night we have a coliseum rented where they will be having huge outreach events. It's quite a production and obviously it requires a year of planning to pull it all off. Travis has been in meetings constantly for 6 months prepping for this and thinking through the logistics of each team. There are so many things to consider when you have this many people involved and so many responsibilities on the shoulders of leadership and team members. It's an amazing opportunity to be a part of this...our Church bleeds missions, so this trip has been talked about from the minute we arrived at Grace! The last one was so incredible in 2005, that the response and expectations of this trip are huge!

If you are interested, you can follow the trip with me through our Peru website here. There are daily updates, pictures, prayer requests, amazing stories, and even a place for you to send Travis an email that will be delivered to his hotel room at night!

Anyway, thank you for reading this so far! We would love your prayers for both of us over the next days. Here are the most recent requests from the website:

Prayer Requests:
- We must get the pacemakers out of customs for the Medical Team today by 12 noon! If we do not, we are going to lose a day or more of precious surgery time.
- For missing luggage to be accounted for and delivered to the hotel for 38 of our people.
- For Karin’s lost passport to be found and returned.

Praise Items:
- The Flom Family shipment cleared customs on 7/25! This was a very big deal for our Festival, as they had acquired some new items for the big stage at the Coliseum.
- 80 people received eyeglasses through Medical Team ministry today.
- The Lord opened up several closed venues for us after Callao Church Fasted and Prayed for 3 days. We can now work in. . .
* Ovalo Park all week
* Visit a large prison
* We were granted the permit to have our Parade


Drippy Morning, Drippy Wife

Today is a day I've dreaded for the last 6 months. I've been preparing for awhile and I've made lots of plans to keep myself busy, but this morning d-day finally arrived! I took Travy to the airport at 9:30 am so he could get on a plane to Peru...He and about 300 other people from our church! I haven't talked much about it because I didn't want to think about it until I had to and I was bummed that I couldn't go with him. It will be an incredible trip I know, but that doesn't make sending your husband overseas any easier!

So, when we woke up this morning to thunderstorms and downpours of rain, I felt that was fitting. We drove to the airport in drippy, overcast weather and despite my best efforts, I found myself getting a little drippy too! However, once we got there and were busy with all the chaos that comes with getting 80 students/leaders on a plane, I quickly got over myself! And now the sun is shining, I'm sitting at a coffee shop, and I just got a text message saying their plane for Lima is leaving Atlanta.

Ok Lord, here we go! Missions trip 08 is now in full swing!! Don't feel too sorry for me, I've got lots going on in the next few days, including a visit from my parents tomorrow, so I'll be fine. But please pray for Travis and our church team when you think of it. I'll be updating you this week on what they're's pretty incredible. I took some good pictures this morning, but I forgot my usb cord, so I'll have to upload them later.

I'm headed home to chill with Ryley and start my list of "projects" for the week. Last year I painted a bathroom and a hallway, but I do not think I'm that ambitious this year!! We'll see how it goes, but I do have lots I want to get done. Happy Friday to you all! If you've had a drippy day too, I hope that the SON is shining now and warming you up! It's amazing what that SON can do!!


A Midsummer Night's Dream!

We had a fantastic night on Saturday night because we got to participate in a wedding proposal for our dear friends, Ryan and Ellie. Ryan asked Travis if we'd help awhile ago and we were thrilled! We've been discipling each of them for a long time now and we knew this day was coming. Of course it was amazing and Ellie was very surprised and thrilled. We are so happy for them and honored to be a part of their big day. Thought you might like the pictures!

This gorgeous gazebo was the perfect backdrop to an exciting memory!!

A walk of joy, only two people who just got engaged can pull off!!!

Travis and Ryan....Trav has been discipling Ryan for a long time and was very smart to keep this whole thing a secret from me until the bitter end!!

My sweet friend Ellie has been waiting for this day for quite some time!!

Oh yeah, a gondola ride...that's romantic!

Ryan took Ellie on a scavenger hunt around this park...very nicely done by the way!

The hunt ended with Ryan waiting in this gazebo. Ellie had to get poems and clues from different couples along the way and we were her first stop. She was very confused to see us!!

Here's the group who participated, watching anxiously for them to step out of the gazebo and tell us if she said yes!! Although we knew she would!

Congratulations Ryan and Ellie! We love you and can't wait for God to complete the good work He's started in you!


How to LOVE my Husband WELL

Ladies, I have learned one of the secrets to my husband's heart. It took a little while for me to discover it and even longer for me to embrace it, but I have embraced it for some time now, and I have a very happy husband because of it.

Here's the secret: I LOVE ESPN.

I'm totally serious. I really, really love all things ESPN. I like the show, I like the stories behind the players, I like the sportscasters, I like the sports! And if you were to ask me what my favorite magazine is, I would shock you when I said, ESPN the Magazine! Travis will back this all up. When that magazine comes in the mail, and it comes like every 2 weeks (and it costs $10 a year) I immediately devour it! I love the satire in it, the sarcasm of the writers, and the drama behind every sport and most athletes. It's definately my favorite read! Crazy, isn't it?? I much prefer it to Martha Stewart or Southern Living, and I love those magazines too.

I think it helps that I played lots of sports, my Dad loves sports, and my Mom modeled how to be a good wife and watch them too! When Travis and I were first married, I used to get bugged by often he turned on Sportscenter at night. I could always think of several other things that I wanted to watch instead, but he LOVED getting caught up on all the days sports stories. So, we argued about it and one of us "won" but someone was usually irritated. I won't tell you who that was most of the time.... Anyway, it finally dawned on me one day to just shut my mouth and sit down and watch it with him. It wasn't a stretch for me because I really love college sports and I like watching NFL football, so I felt like I knew who they were talking about most of the time. What I didn't plan on was that I would become immediately hooked on everything else too!!! A new day dawned in the Armstrong house. We found something we could watch in agreement and in peace and that singe act of love has gotten me lots and lots of ground since then!!!

So last night, we came home from a mtg. and sat down to just unwind after a very busy and draining weekend. I saw that our DVR was recording something and then I realized the ESPY's were on! ESPN's version of a star-studded awards show. We turned it on and proceeded to laugh our heads off for 2 1/2 hours! Justin Timberlake hosted it and he was hilarious and incredibly talented at moving it right along. There were funny stories and lots of awards for things like "best upset", "best game", "best comeback story" and then several tear-jerker moments too! I seriously shed a couple of tears! If you have ESPN and especially if you have tivo or DVR, you should watch it. It was very, very funny!! I think you would love it and it might just be a road to your husband's heart!!

Now I'm no perfect wife and I have my moments when I tell Travis, "Ok, I need a break from all these sports!" Usually that comes after a playoff series or the super bowl, and then we watch some terribly girly thing like The Bachelor or something! Oh yes, he's realized that a it's a two way street too. For all you husbands who lurk on this blog, let that be a lesson to you too!
However, I'm just saying, maybe you should give ESPN a try!! Unless of course you married someone who doesn't like sports, and then I have no idea what you do with that. That concept is so foreign to my world, I wouldn't begin to give you advice!! But, if you married a sports fan, you will rock his world if he comes home and finds you watching a little ESPN!! Or reading the magazine, I bet you'd discover that the sports world is filled with drama, inspiring stories, unbelievable achievements and lots and lots of humor. I realize I may have just created a point of contention for you, so I'm going to leave it at that. But seriously, try it! You won't be the only female who likes Sportscenter!!!


Beth Moore!!!

I had the greatest time this weekend because Beth Moore was in town and I got to go!! I have to tell you first, that I LOVE Beth Moore. Not in an unhealthy, idol-on-a-pedestal way, but in a balanced and respectful way. I just have grown so much through her studies and I really credit her with inspiring me to love God's word more. I have lots to say about this weekend, but no time right now. In fact, it was so great and just what I needed to hear, so I am still processing it and wrestling with it. I will share some details when I can sit down and spend some time on it. I will say, if you EVER have the chance to go hear her, please do. You will not be disappointed and you will most assuredly hear a word from God. What I always love about her conferences is, that I drove home yesterday still loving Beth Moore, but loving Jesus and His word even more. And that's a great thing and worth every penny!

I went with my two sweet friends, Darla and Lisa. We had such a fun time together!

Our seats were amazing, just a few rows from the stage!! I was like a little kid the whole time, so excited to be up front!!!

"The Love Shack, Baby Love Shack..."

Last weekend, when we were in Iowa, I went over to the newlywed's house, which we've affectionately titled "The Love Shack" and helped Jen do some decorating. Dave was gone at work, so we went to town re-arranging and finding homes for their new stuff. Jennie did a great job, but it was fun to help her put some finishing touches here and there. Their little place reminded me of our newlywed days, trying to make a "home" with lots of used stuff, wedding gifts, and a few new items! But we loved it and so do Dave and Jennie. Their house is made of tin, yes TIN, and it's circa 1940's....they were manufactured homes that were designed for WW II vets to come home to and there are some still left, scattered all over the country. It was a great rental they found and it will be perfect the love birds! Thought you might like to see it!

Mrs. Knapp and her first front door!! Exciting Stuff!

The metal love shack at night picked up a reflection from my camera flash...we thought that was funny!

Jennie and Dave's cute little living room! We have big plans for that strange, wooden alcove!

They have a fun screened in porch in back, which Jen had looking cute.

My Mom and Jennie chillin on the porch on a hot summer day.


Worth Waiting For

Several times, while I was reminiscing with old friends and thinking back about my life 10 years ago, I kept thinking about how much time I spent worrying and thinking about who I would marry. I think that is a common thing most girls consume themselves with. I even hear our Junior Highers talking about it a lot. I made list after list about what I hoped "Mr. Right" would be like and what his name might be. I don't think I ever came up with someone named Travis, but I do remember wondering if "he" was someone I knew or someone I would meet later. While I was reflecting back on all of that, I was reminded of how good the Lord has been to me, bringing me the man of my dreams and then some! Travis is such a great answer to all my prayers and the one I never would have found on my own. I'm very grateful for the way we met and for how he's changed my life. !0 years ago I never would have dreamed I'd marry a handsome Texan, but God always knew.

Before we got married, I was home, looking through boxes of old stuff when I found something that I couldn't get over. On April 2, 1998 I wrote a prayer in one of my journals, asking the Lord to bring the right guy for me in the coming years. I was about to graduate from high school then, so my future was heavy on my heart and I knew the next few years were going to be full of important changes. I wrote about some things I hoped he'd have, like a kind heart, a love for the Lord, a sense of humor, a love for sports, a love for my family and of course, a love for me. I asked God to give him wisdom in the choices he was making, to keep him pure, and to protect him. I read that 5 years later and thought it was sweet, because of course I had met him and was about to marry him. I realized that God answered every thing on that list and then gave me a million more things to love and be thankful for too. But then I saw something that I hadn't seen before. I thought back to that April day and I realized, April 2 was just another day for me, but it was a big day for Travis. That was his 24th birthday and he was about to graduate from college. In just a few weeks from that day, he would be looking for a job and someone would lead him to the job waiting for him, in Naples, Florida. That move would change his life forever and just 4 years later, it would change mine too. We would eventually meet in Naples and of course the rest is history. I love that story because it is such a great picture of God's faithfulness to meet and provide the desires of my heart and it shows me how clearly He was working to do that, when I didn't have a clue. He saw the big picture and was ordering both of our steps to complete it. On the birthday of my future husband, God prompted me to pray for Him, knowing that I was oblivious to what that would mean, but realizing that one day it would give me such great hope. I think about that story often when I wonder where God is. When it feels like He's not answering my prayers or moving in my world, I remember that He is, I just might not be able to see it right now.

10 years later, I have to say that meeting and marrying Travis was definitely worth the wait, not only because he is the man of my dreams, but because He is a visible reminder of God's love for me... a very handsome reminder!! Isn't God good??

Lost Island Water Park

When we were home last weekend, we spent Saturday afternoon at a great water park in Waterloo. Travis and I went with my sister Jennie and we met my friend Amber, her husband Tim, and their daughter Ella. It is incredibly hot and humid in the midwest right now, and we could think of nothing more refreshing than a day in the water. However, the day we planned to go, it was cloudy, windy, and not hot. Of course. But, we decided to go anyway and I'm glad we did. It was fun to be in the water anyway and we made the most of the day. Mostly it was just fun to catch up and hang out together. Ella was a champ in the water, she loved it! Travis and Tim talked us into some scary things, mainly a huge "toilet bowl" thing that spit you out on a raft at an alarming speed, so we screamed our heads off and then laughed like crazy!! My favorite two things at a water park are the lazy river and the wave pool and we spent time in both, so I was a happy girl when we left. And of course the next day, the day we left, was hot, sunny and humid. Just to taunt us I'm sure...

Tim, Amber, Travis and I, trying to warm up after freezing on the water slides!!

We made the guys brave the cold water first, in the wave pool. Turns out it was the warmest pool there!

Ella, looking so darn cute with her ponytail and loving the water! For some reason the water in the baby pool was the coldest water in the park! But she didn't really even notice!

Cute picture of the the face Ella is making!!

The new bride and I, Mrs. Armstrong and Mrs. Knapp!

My very own Baywatch Hunk! I'm sure he'll love me saying that!!


Reunion Re-Cap

Here are a few of my pictures from our picnic on Sunday...they won't mean much to you unless you are a classmate of mine! My lame camera battery died and thus I only got pictures of a few people, but for my classmates who couldn't come, these will still give you a glimpse of who was there!

Emma and her husband Tim....Emma works for John McCain now, on his political team!

Justin and his wife Wendy with their two cute the screaming pose!! Justin is the AD of a small Christian college now and coaches a few sports there.

Doug and His wife Corissa. They adopted three kids last year and had a baby! And Doug is a police officer now.

Charlie (somehow I didn't get a picture of his wife Amanda) lives in Minneapolis near us! He's a lawyer now and he helped with our reunion. Travis and I have met Charlie and Amanda for dinner before and plan to do so again!

Amber and her little girl Ella. Amber and Tim live in Mt. Pleasant where Amber is a P.A.....isn't Ella cute!

Amber and I have been best friends since birth...literally. Our parents are best friends too!

Jeremy, holding Doug's baby, is a worship leader now and tech guy at a local church.

Bryan, one of my great friends in junior high and high school, works for John Deere now and Matt is back in school, working on I don't know what!

So, I'm just going to apologize upfront, for my lack of pictures this weekend. I did take some, but not nearly enough. So, for all my old classmates reading this, I'm sorry, for your sake and mine! Our reunion consisted of dinner on Friday and Saturday night and a worship time/picnic on Sunday. I brought my camera to both dinners and each time was disappointed by how dark each restaurant was (although the food was fabulous and the evening tons of fun) and I was also distracted by how weird/great/unbelievable it was to see friends I hadn't seen for 10 years!! So, I wish that I had thought to photograph each couple/person that came, but I didn't. I did bring my camera to our picnic however, and I managed to take some pictures there. But again, due to lack of planning on my part, my battery had about 12 minutes left, so I had to take pictures quickly! It's ok though, I couldn't possibly re-create the whole reunion, you had to be there, so I'm letting myself off the hook! Here's what I do have however, I hope you enjoy these!

I have been hoping that we would have a reunion for several years, so I was so glad when we finally decided to do it! I think I mentioned before, that I went to a small Christian high school and I graduated with a class of 48 people! Travis thinks that's hilarious, the 48 people part, because he graduated with close to 700 or something. I, as a new bride, dutifully attended his 10 year reunion (5 years ago) and got a little taste of what some reunions are like. His was a grand affair, they hired a company to do the whole thing and it was filled with dinners, cocktail parties, and lots of people. It was fun for him to see a couple of his close friends, but for the most part, he didn't know or recognize the majority of the people there and let's just be honest, it was hard to because so many of them were totally drunk! But, I was glad we went and I was also happy that he could have some fun re-living those days again and reconnecting with some people he had lost touch with. I think we would both say today, that it wasn't really worth all the money we spent however! But, life isn't always about money, sometimes memories are way more important. Anyway, I digress.

When it came time to think about my reunion, I knew ours would be drastically different, for a variety of reasons! I was very happy to find out that lots of people were planning to come (about 20 out of 48) and some would be there with spouses and kids. I was trying my hardest to erase lots of previous stereotypes and pre-conceived thoughts about what 10 years might do to some of us and just trying to enjoy seeing my classmates with a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective. That proved to be a good idea! I was totally unprepared for how incredible the 10 year stories of everybody were.

What I loved about the weekend, was that I never felt the pressure of exaggerating my last 10 years to compete with anybody else. I never heard stories about how much success anyone had achieved or how much money anyone is making, just lots of stories about what they've learned and what God has done. Some people have had a really great 10 years and truly have achieved much. But others have been dealt some difficult blows and today bear the scars of the pain. I think it was no accident that at my Bible study last week, our topic was compassion. What a great thing to dwell on before a reunion! I recognized some people who are hurting and still searching for something, and others who are deeply satisfied and walking closely with the Lord. I would be the first to say that it's impossible to truly know or "label" anyone after only a weekend, but having gone to school with so many of these people for 13 years of our lives, I don't think I'm too far off the mark. I was very encouraged to hear the endless ways God has re-captured hearts and is completing a work He started years ago. I loved meeting spouses and thought several times about how true it is that there really is "somebody for everybody!" And to see all the kids was very fun too. Especially the kids of some of the's a surreal thing to see "boys" that you grow up with, turn into men and become fathers. I loved that. Of course I also love seeing my girlfriends become wives and mothers too, but something about a guy you thought would never grow up (I'm totally writing from a girl's perspective here-they could say the same about us too!) holding a little baby, that is just down-right sweet! How fun.

I know some of you are wondering if it was hard for me to go back and answer the same question over and over again, "So do you guys have any kids yet?" And truthfully, on some levels it was. But, one thing these last few years have taught me is, I cannot let a circumstance keep me from living my life and living it well. If I only dwell on what God hasn't given me and I make that an idol I will not let go of, I will miss the countless blessings He has for me in the waiting. Sure, I wish I could have gone back with a baby, and had I not miscarried, I would have had a cute little 2 month old to pass around. But God has other plans for me and I'm really glad He helped me "get over myself" this weekend and go anyway. I had a GREAT time and was able to hear some sweet encouragement from some other classmates who have walked a similar road, so see...isn't that sweet how the Lord does that? He helps us in the hard things and then blesses us for our obedience. Too bad it's taken me 28 years and some real heartache to catch that lesson!!

I am so thankful we went to my 10 year reunion. I am renewed from seeing the faithful hand of God, alive in my friends' lives and I am inspired to pray for those who are hurting or have walked far from God's protection. If you weren't able to make it, please know you were missed! Thanks to all who wrote an update and let us know what's going on with you. I say we break tradition and plan a 15 year reunion too! It was a blessing to see so many of you again, thanks for taking the time to come. I'm sad I missed talking to a few people...I'll catch you at the next one, or maybe on facebook!! Thank the Lord for's so fun to see everyone's pictures! I'm calling this reunion a success and I'm glad to be a part of the class of 1998...even if that makes me old!! And thanks Amber and Charlie, for all your hard work and planning...we owe you for a great time!


10 Years Ago....

I know I've been a terrible blogger as of late, but the truth is, I can hardly keep my head above water right now! We are in the madness of summer, that is "youth ministry's version of summer, and we are so busy! I seriously haven't been home this past week for more than a few minutes each day, not including the hours I'm sleeping. It's been one of those on-the-run kind of summers and sadly, there is no relief anytime soon. We're having fun, but the truth is, I'm exhausted!!! So, couple that excuse with the fact that our internet server has been down this week, and now you know where I've been and what I'm doing!

This morning, I am blogging from my parent's house in Iowa, because we're in town this weekend for my 10 year high school reunion. Yes, that's right, I've been out of high school now for 10 years. And that makes me feel old. It isn't too depressing, but a little shocking when I think about it. I was looking through my senior yearbook yesterday and reminising about so many memories, and people I lived life with. It seems like those years are a lifetime ago, so much has changed for all of us. I looked at pictures of myself and I hardly recognize who that girl is. Obviously I know who I am, I haven't had any plastic surgery or anything, but who I am today is not who I was at 18. Physically I've changed, emotionally I've changed, and spiritually I've changed. In good ways I think, but also due to pain, mistakes, and lessons learned. There is no way I would want to go back to 18, I see the immaturity in my eyes, the struggle of finding my self-worth, the uncertainty of my future...all kinds of emotions resting on the shoulders of a newly graduated 18 year old...

And it makes me wonder, what would I have done differently if I could go back to those days, 10 years ago? What decisions would I have changed if I could have known then, what I know now? Obviously the temptation is to say that I would change lots of things, but you know what? I'm not sure I would. The pain of a broken heart, the devestation of a deep loss, the anxiety of big decisions, the inner fight for self-esteem, the search for faith in the midst of confusion...all those things have contributed to who I am today and they have shaped me and molded me like only hard things can do. And I'm grateful for it. Yeah, I look at my senior picture and I wish I could whisper a few warnings to my 18 year old, "don't waste your time on that guy, hold that friendship loosely, listen to the wisdom of your parents, spend more time with family, and trust the Lord with all that you fear, get to know His word and believe it." Those things would have helped, but in a way, it would be like cheating. I think I'm glad that I didn't get the "cliff notes" on these last 1o years. I needed to live them in my own way, mistakes and heartache included, so that I could discover who God is for myself, and who I am in response to Him. No one can do that for you. Lots of people can help, and I look back at so many people who did, but ultimately what you believe and discover about life, is a product of the journey you take. I love that I didn't know how my story would go 10 years ago. I never could have painted the picture that I have today. God has taken me on a wild ride, answering my heart's desires, teaching me His desires, and loving me all along the way. He has been unbelievable faithful these 10 years, even when I have, especially when I have not. He hasn't let go of me and He truly has worked "for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). 10 years of living on my own, 10 years of God loving me as His own. It's a big milestone weekend for me, and I'm processing it deeply. I don't want to miss the significance of what it represents.

Last night we had dinner with some of my classmates, tonight we'll do the same. I'll take some pictures and fill you in on what we've done and learned. I'm walking such a weird road this weekend, trying to blend who I am now, with who I was then...maybe a little like our immersion in Heaven? Minus the Heavenly body, the presence of Jesus, and the mind that sees and knows in full, of course. But still odd. I hope you have a great Saturday! Think of me and my trophy husband, Travis!! He's such a great sport about weekends like this, he participates with a smile and a warm heart...makes me love him even more. I have to go now and brush up on my facts from 1998, I'm in charge of a little trivia game for tonight's activities!! Do you remember what the world was like 10 years ago?? I think I may have to brush up with a little google and wikipedia help! Have a great day!


Wounded By The Church

Can I just say that I love OUR Church? I also love THE Church. But, I fear that THE Church is greatly misunderstood and therefore OUR Church takes a hit for that general misunderstanding. Let me explain that thought.

Just two weeks ago, our church voted to call our next Senior Pastor and we approved the candidate with an overwhelming majority, 99% of our present members voting "yes!" We were/are THRILLED about that news for our church. We have been seeking the Lord for our next Senior Pastor for over a year, and the Lord has answered us in a wonderful way. Pastor Dobbs is going to be a great fit at Grace and we as a congregation and staff are excited and extremely grateful for what lies ahead. There is truly a spirit of anticipation in the air at our church right now and we are sensing the Lord moving and working among our body. These are good days at Grace.

However, they haven't always been that way recently. We have walked a long road, a road marked with several bumps along the way. We have been put "through the fire" with several challenging situations, but we know He is refining us for His glory as a church body. It's been a painful process, but a beautiful one too. We are emerging with wounds and scars, but they only represent a greater work that He is doing and therefore they are worth every hurt they represent. That is where we've been, but this is where we're going. We know that God has now provided a leader to walk us through the next season. We believe without a doubt, that God is calling us to re-capture our first love and our passion for Him. And we're excited about it!

But not everyone shares that excitement. I stumbled on an article tonight, written about our church and our new Pastor, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was a fair article, talking about how we found our new Pastor and where he's coming from. The writer described our history in the twin cities and some of the facts about our church. I read this online and saw that 78 comments had been left about the article. Naturally, I was interested in what people had to say, so I decided to read them. As I began to pour through them, let's just say that my mouth hit the table and I sat at my computer in utter disbelief. So many hate-filled people. So many off-base comments. So many out right lies. I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Somewhere, somehow people have gotten the wrong idea about OUR Church and that's when I realized how many people have the wrong idea about THE Church. In other words, at some point in their life, they've obviously been wounded by THE Church and therefore have an uninformed view our OUR Church. Life has disappointed them and therefore God has disappointed them. They've encountered THE Church and been hurt by what they've found. And so they spew hate toward all that is "church" and God. Sadly, the one who's hurt the most isn't them, but Jesus. His name has been smeared by our shortcomings and He is dismissed as flawed, untrue, and non-existent.

But the hate remains. So many comments were left about how big our church is, how extravagant our building is, how "white" we are, how hypocritical we are, and how wealthy we are, etc., etc., etc. Most of what was written was incredibly untrue and not at all correct. It made me mad to read it, because it's very unfair and obviously uninformed. However, even more than feeling mad about it, I felt really sad about it. I was just simply struck by how differently the world sees THE Church and how despite our best efforts, we still fail them. I was also reminded that we're never going to meet the needs of people. No matter how great our ministries run, who our leader is, or what we do, nothing can satisfy the longing of all men. Only Jesus can. And He told us not to be surprised when the world hates us because they're really hating Him. His gospel is offensive and His truth cuts deeply to our hearts. Either we believe it or we don't. But He did tell us how to treat those who hate Him and in my case, those who blog with hate towards Him and HIS Church. I'm challenged to pray for those who live in our city and who don't know the hope and peace that Jesus gives. We can't change the way people think, but we can plead for them before the ONE who changes hearts.

Father, help me love as you love, see as you see, and act as you act. Pursue those who don't yet believe in You, with your unconditional love, and heal their wounds. Help us be THE Church YOU want us to be."

"You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Matthew 5:43-48


Happy 4th of July!!

Part of the fireworks finale in Stillwater, MN, on the banks of the St. Croix River

Travy and I sitting by the river, waiting for the fireworks to start. This was our third year in Stillwater with the Family Camp high school counselors! It's a tradition we love!

We always stake our claim to a spot by the river early in the day, and then spend several hours trying to pass the time while we wait. Card games are always a good diversion!

Ellie and Ryan came with us to Stillwater and we ended up getting caught in a terrible traffic jam on the way back to camp!

One of our high school students brought his violin with him to pass the time and ended up playing for the crowd and making $35! He is an amazing musician and a really fun kid, so it was hilarious to see a crowd watching and clapping for him while we all waited!

Our High School Pastor Jason and his wife Greta...and my pink purse. I can't explain that.

Goofy Youth Pastors doing goofy things...Jason and Travis are so alike it's scary sometimes....and great too!

Jason and Travis, doing what they do CONSTANTLY, texting! Greta and I laughed when we spotted this, because it's a sight we both see often!!

Greta, Jason's wife, and I....waiting in the sun and laughing together!

One of my favorite friends, Julie, our Children's director at Church.

Look at the big bug! Yuck! Leif pretended to eat it, much to our horror! Thank goodness he did not.

Our friend Leif found this bug and then let it crawl all over his face while the women and children (including me) squealed and screamed!

Travis stole that Uncle Sam hat from one of the kids for this picture! He later gave it back!

Me and the some sweet junior high girls!

Our crazy friend Leif! He is a great guy, but you can't turn your back on him! He's always up to something!!