If Life Had a Soundtrack

If you're like me, you associate certain songs with certain events in your life or periods of time. I have lots of songs that I love and that take me right back to many different milestones in my life, some significant and some not. Right now, I am loving a new song that our friend Jason passed along to is so fitting and so appropriate for where we are. Both Travis and I love it. It's called "New Day" by Robbie Seay and it's very fitting for the way we feel. In fact, I am declaring it the "theme song" for our vacation this week! I put it at the top of my playlist on the right and I googled the lyrics for you too so you could enjoy them right along with me! It's the best!! Listen and let me know what you think!

However, I also want to know what your theme song is right now. What song captures the season you're in or the way you feel? We need some new tunes for the i-pod, so let me know what you're listening to! And have a great week Monday!!

New day by Robbie Seay Band

I'm gonna sing this song
To let you know that you're not alone
And if you're like me
You need hope, coffee, and melody
So sit back down
Let the world keep spinning ‘round
For yesterday's gone and today is waiting on you to show your face

It might not be
The prettiest thing that you'll ever see
But it’s a new day, oh baby, it’s a new day
And it might not look like
A beautiful sunrise
But it's a new day, oh baby, it’s a new day

I’m a pilgrim soul
I've traveled far and come back home
This land is hard and cold
For those who long to love
And I know it might seem
That the world is crumbling
But it’s me and you dancing in the kitchen at 2 am
And we're still alive

It’s the calm of the storm that comes blowing in
It’s the springtime saying I'm back again
The clouds that roll by
Crossing moonlight
Me and you love – everything's alright
Standing in the rain with nowhere to go
Laughing and we're spinning and I hope that you
Remember this day
For the rest of your life
Me and you love – everything’s gonna be alright

And it just might be
The prettiest thing that you'll ever see
It’s a new day
Oh baby, it’s a new day
If you look outside
To see a beautiful sunrise
It’s a new day


Prelude to a Vacation

I've been absent for a few days because I'm in Iowa for the weekend, dropping off Ryley for his vacation with Grandpa, Grandma, and aunt Jennie, and helping with some wedding stuff for my sister's wedding in June. I've already checked out from reality and started my vacation train of thought, which is dangerous because I still have to work a little on Tuesday, and I'm enjoying every minute!

Ryley is in Heaven when we come to Iowa...he loves my Dad and the freedom and space he has here. He has a much bigger yard to play in and constant activity to keep him entertained. He'll never even know Travis and I are gone, which is great because then I don't worry about him. I LOVE that we live closer to my parents and that they happily watch him for us...we'd be in trouble if they didn't!

I have to keep this short because I have a raging headache, due to the hours of invitation addressing that we did this afternoon. I have a spot on the couch screaming my name, but I thought I'd post a few pictures from our mini-vacation first. Yesterday I tried on my bridesmaid dress, which I love, and we picked out jewelry for the wedding party and for my sister. It's fun to have all this wedding stuff going on again this year (last year it was my other sister's turn) but it's time consuming and stressful too. Lots of details to wrap up at this stage in the game. However, my mom and sister are doing great, crossing things off their list daily. Jennie has her first wedding shower in a week and that's bringing me back to lots of memories 5 years ago, when I was the bride. What a fun stage in life she's in...anyway, enjoy the pictures, although I know you don't envy our invitation stress!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend...only 3 more days until I'm Florida bound with my cute husband!!! (It can't come soon enough) Now if only I could get rid of this headache...Happy Saturday Night!

Part One of a Four Part Wedding Invitation:The Bows...unfortunately, the easist part

Smiling at the start of a very long invitation-addresssing/assembling-session

The M.O.G. and M.O.B. (mother of the groom/mother of the bride) dutifully participating

The blushing bride with her wedding slaves! No one knows how much work a wedding is more than the moms!

Hard at work, tackling 200 invitations...ALL AFTERNOON LONG!

By the end, we all had to take some Excedrin, due to the splitting headaches we had from squinting, reading, and addressing 200 invitations.

Jennie and my Mom, relaxing over steaks at LoneStar Steakhouse

My Dad and I; post bloomin'onion and pre steak and salmon combo...a good place to be!


The Countdown Has Begun!!!

I dug up these pictures from our last visit together in Naples, three years ago. We went down for Thanksgiving and we haven't been back since...but that's all about to change in less than 7 days!!

One week from tonight, we will be on a plane headed for southwest Florida and next Wednesday, I'll be laying on a beach with my husband, leaving all this Minnesota snow behind! To say we're excited is the understatement of the year...we are giddy with anticipation around here!! I've been stocking up on some new shoes, new swimsuits, and warm weather clothes in's a beautiful thing.

Not only will we be relaxing next week, but we'll also be celebrating Travis' birthday (on Wednesday) and seeing some of our great friends and my Grandpa and Grandma. Can't wait. We've made our list of restaurants we MUST visit (for some amazing and fresh seafood) and we've been making phone calls planning our days and visits. We'll be able to go to our old Church, First Baptist Naples, where we met and served together in the college/career ministry. Lots of friends have moved since then, but we still have some sweet ones left and we'll be getting together for dinner after the Saturday night service...just like the old days.

So, with just 6 days left, it's going to be a challenge to get anything done around here. We both feel like kids who are so distracted we can't concentrate...not good considering I have to get our taxes done before we leave!! I'm also getting some extra fun in this week, as I head down to Iowa for a few days this weekend to help with wedding stuff and drop Ryley off for his own vacation with Grandma and Grandpa. He's also giddy with excitement, as he adores my Dad and he loves their yard! In Ryley's eyes, a week with my Dad is the equivilent of a week of sunshine and the beach... and that is also a beautiful thing. So between Travis, Ryley and Stephanie we're not getting much accomplished but we sure are excited!!

Easter Recipes

I'm sharing two recipes with you that I made this Easter, because they are super easy and they were a big hit! The first one is a frozen fruit salad that my Mom makes and the second one is a no-bake chocolate/peanut butter bar that my Grandma Ferguson used to make. I highly recommend both!

Debby's Frozen Fruit Salad
1 can peach pie filling (21oz.)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained (15oz.)
1 can crushed pineapple, drained (20oz.)
1 can sweetened, condensed milk (14oz.)
1 tub frozen whipped topping, thawed (8oz.)
(You can add nuts, but the thought of that makes me ill, so I don't!)

Combine milk and pie filling in a bowl. Stir in oranges and pineapple and gently fold in whipped topping. Pour into 9x13 pan and freeze. Thaw before serving and cut into individual squares. Yields 12-15 servings.

Grandma Ferguson's Chocolate/Peanut Butter Bars
1 Cup melted margarine
1 Cup peanut butter
2.5 Cup powdered sugar
2.5 Cup crushed graham crackers
1 pkg. of semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz.)

Mix and pat first four ingredients in a 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate chips over low heat and pour over crust. Spread and freeze. Let it thaw before you cut it, so the chocolate doesn't crack when you cut it. Basically makes a giant pan of peanut butter cups...make sure you have people to share these with or your teeth will fall out and you'll put on 10 lbs.!! Don't say I didn't warn you!


He is Risen Indeed!!

Better than a chocolate bunny anyday, my very handsome husband and his love-struck wife!

Happy Easter! I hope you had a fabulous day, rejoicing in what Easter is all about. Bunnies and chocolate are fun, and family is even better, but I hope the magnitude and the miracle of Easter didn't pass you by. The agony of death on Friday, surpassed by the victory of the Resurrection on Sunday! Death conquered. Hope restored. Promises kept. A beautiful ending to the greatest tragedy known to man. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed and therefore we have hope...hope in a God who knows how to conquer death. As I was reminded, by a picture of a Church sign in North Carolina, "The Easter bunny didn't rise from the dead!" Jesus did!!

It is my prayer today that each of you would personally know that Savior who came to die in your place, who conquered death's power, once and for all. I count all these ramblings of mine worthless, if you never hear the truth of Jesus from me. Nothing and no one means more to me than Jesus. Without believing in his sacrafice for me on the cross, dying in my place to take the punishment I deserved, I would have no hope. His death brings me life. His salvation rescued me from an eternity apart from Him. My life has nothing to do with the strength of my character, spiritual maturity or any kind of wisdom. All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to Jesus.

It is simply by His grace and mercy that I am here and it is my heart's cry that you would know that. I truly hope in sharing my life with you, via this blog, that you would see my Savior's impact all over everything I do, in both success and failure alike. He is worthy of my best attempt at obedience, worship and love and with one foot in front of the other, and one day at a time, I'm giving Him all of me. Praise the Lord He isn't looking for perfection, it would never come! He simply wants my heart and yours too. Don't let this Easter go by without knowing where your heart lies and don't be fooled, it matters. Eternity is a long time to live with regret.

I love each of you...Happy Easter! He is Risen...He is Risen, Indeed!!

We had a fantastic day with my extended family at my cousin Amy and Joe's house...31 of us in one house! We had a ridiculous amount of food and a great time...we are very blessed to be in Minnesota with a wonderful family.

The Kennedys, after a mere 6 attempts to get this picture!

College basketball on a Sunday afternoon...they were captivated by one thrilling game after another!

This one was particularly captivated I think! He must have been contemplating how badly I am beating him in our bracket competition!!

3 of the best cousins a girl could ask for! Love 'em all...just missing Rhonda in this picture.

A few of the reasons why we accepted the job at Grace...some our former, current and future junior highers! It's pretty easy to love students when you're related to lots of them!!

The cute Rogness crew...I'm not sure what happened to my idea about taking pictures of every family! Sorry Lowes, Dahls, and Williams...I have no pictures of you!

Cutie Pies

We have had such a fun time lately with the three little guys that I nanny for. We had them last weekend while their parents were out of town and we had such a blast! They are "all boy", i.e.-loud, active, and physical, but absolutely sweet and totally fun. I really would love to be a Mom of boys. I have been with these guys for a little over a year now and I just love them. Travis and I have gotten to know their Mom and Dad pretty well, and of course the boys, and we are so grateful for the small role we play (and they play) in our lives. I just love all the activity and intensity they bring...who knew that about me? I always pictured myself with sweet little girls! Of course I'd HAPPLIY take EITHER if given the opportunity, but surprisingly, nannying has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of boys!

Anyway, we took them to Mall of America for the grand opening of the new Nickelodean Theme Park...crazy, but fun. I was the classic holder of all the stuff; the guardian of the stroller; the picture taker, and Travis was the one who rode the rides with them. We were exhausted by the time we made it home for lunch, but glad we went...they loved it. Anyway, here are some fun pictures of them. If I have to work (and I do) I really couldn't ask for a better job!! They make it easy to get out of bed and show up every week!

Aren't they cute?? I am smiling here, but actually sweating and starving...good practice for motherhood, right? Your needs always take a backseat to everyone else's!

Travis is the best! He jumps right in and does anything with these guys and they love him!!

Riding the "Big Rig" ride...if you can call moving at a snail's pace around a track, a ride!

Again, same drill, different "ride"...

The look Barrett gave me when I told him he didn't have to sit on the Easter Bunny's lap with his brothers! He previously gave me a look that said he was having none of that!!

Ben and Finn however, were all about the Easter Bunny this year.

Travis, waiting in yet another endless line, for a 30 second gotta love it.

At home playing "Police"...again, I love this about's all about the Police vs. the robbers, Batman vs. the bad guys, and my team vs. yours!

The cutest little ham in the family!


I haven't posted pictures of Ryley for awhile, so I thought I would share some of my favorites from the last month or so and tell you a funny story about him this weekend.

On Friday night, we bought the movie Enchanted and decided to have a movie night at home. We heard that it was a cute movie and one that we should have, so in faith we brought it home and got in bed to watch it. However, we started it too late, and half-way into it, we both couldn't keep our eyes open. We loved it, but we were so tired! So we stopped it and agreed to watch the rest on Saturday.

After a much needed good-night's sleep, we woke up Saturday morning (to 6 inches of snow-more about that later) and decided to just finish it before we even got out of bed. It was totally darling and definately another Disney hit, however due to one sweet little song, it left me inspired to start a desperately needed clean sweep. Here is a video of the song, for those of you who haven't seen it...

Cute right? So picture me, in my pj's (ok maybe don't picture that), dancing around our condo, singing my version of that song! Travis was laughing, I was singing and Ryley was jumping around like crazy, thrilled at whatever it was that I was doing. I kept telling him (Ryley) to join in anytime and start helping me, obviously not seriously. Travis was amused, but not enough to join in and help, so I began by myself, happily humming along. Imagine my surprise when 20 minutes later, I entered the room and found Ryley doing THIS:

Gathering all of his toys that were scattered around the room...

Lining them up, one by one, in a amazingly straight line (for a dog!)...

And bringing them to me!! "Them" being: Dinosaur, Hot Dog, Lamby, Hedgie, Froggie, and case you were wondering.

Of course I grabbed my camera and made Travis come look! Coincedence??? I think not. I think he was simply answering the call of the forest animals, obediently responding to my inspiring version of the "Happy Working Song"! For those of you who are thinking that I've just lost my mind, I'm just kidding...I realize that this was just another funny moment, courtesy of the world's cutest dog! Pretty good though, huh??

And just for fun, here is a picture of my dog, sweetly sleeping in the chair he's not supposed can I get mad at him when he looks so cute??? I mean his head is resting on the pillow!! What am I supposed to do with that???

That is a face, impossible to scold, easy to love!! What's a girl to do??


"It's the Most wonderful time of the year..."

I can't believe I forgot to mention that one of our favorite things of the year is finally here again...March Madness Baby!! We LOVE college basketball and we LOVE March Madness. We have been comparing brackets all day and trash talking around here...we are extremely competitive when it comes to our brackets. It's a good things it's Holy Week, because that will help keep our trash talking in line!! Of course my first love, the Hawkeyes, are no where to be seen, due to their less-than-stellar season, so my allegience will now go to...the Tarheels. I love Roy Williams and I think Tyler Hansboro is amazing, so I'm throwing my support back to our days in North Carolina and I'm crossing my fingers for a UNC victory from now until April 7, when we will be watching them win the championship in our ocean front condo!!

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

For a much needed change of pace, I have some very random things to chime in on today. For starters, I've been tagged by my friend Trish, to post 6 weird things about me. I'll get to that in a minute, but first, I must give you my two cents about American Idol...because I know you're all watching it too!

I have not enjoyed this season as much as I thought I would. It is definately not, in my humble opinion, the best season, like all the judges keep claiming. It's been a little boring and there have been lots of bad performances, but I'm hoping that will change in the next few weeks. However, if Kristy Lee Cook doesn't get voted off soon, it won't! So for the record, I love David Archuletta, Michael Johns, and Brooke White (I can't help but like her, she was a nanny you know). Thank the Lord that Beatles week is over...I love the Beatles, but the last two weeks have been brutal! Clearly they must be too young to pull it off.

We had a fantastic time watching the show on Tuesday night at my cousin Amy's house, with her musician husband, Joe. I've been wanting to watch it with them, because I always wonder what the judges mean by some of their comments, and why Simon almost always gives the only advice worth listening to. It was very entertaining and I learned some interesting things about the music industry from Joe. So, I'm still in it, but the performances better pick up now that we're in the top 10. What do you guys think? Who are your favorites?

6 Weird Things About Me (How can I only choose 6??)

1. I am extremely particular about the way my laundry is folded. Travis has attempted to "help" me before and while I appreciate it, I almost always re-fold everything he does when he's not looking. Sad, but true. I especially need my towels to be folded in just the right way. I don't know why, but I do.

2. I LOVE to clean my house. It's one of the most stress-relieving things I do. I have a system however and I don't stray too far from it. I can't prove this, but I sleep ten times better in a clean room than in a messy room. I've been known to get up at night and straighten things up in our room, just so I can go fall asleep. Can anyone say OCD??

3. I have a total obsession with thin line sharpie markers. I write everything with multi-colored sharpies. I do not like writing with a black, ball point pen and I never have. Lord help me if I have no other option but a ball point...please Jesus, let it be blue! Nothing, I repeat nothing, beats a sharpie. In fact, I asked for a new set of sharpies for Christmas! Easy to please. I just write better with a permanent marker!

4. I can't handle Travis writing or highlighting in my Bible or any book that I'm reading. I like straight lines and he is incapable of making them! He knows this and sometimes taunts me with threats like, "I'm going to highlight in your book Steph!!" It's mean. All those drafting classes are paying off Mom and Dad!! I was trained to draft straight lines and I can't stray from it...Heaven help me when we have kids!!

5. I can't swim in a lake. I CAN swim. Just not in a lake, or the ocean. I like to know what's in the water with me and the therefore I stick to chlorinated pools where I can see the bottom. This may be due to the fact that we used to vacation as a kid, on Leech Lake in northern Minnesota. Yes, I said Leech Lake. It's called that for a reason. Wouldn't that scar you too?

6. I don't like any movies, tv shows, or books that mention, describe, or portray torture or abuse of any kind. Including abuse to both humans and animals...don't get me started on Micheal Vick! I can't handle it. As a child, I was terrified of The Princess Bride, because of the life-sucking machine! I have to leave the room if I think anyone is going to be tortured...Travis has had to adapt to this "quirk" of mine and has learned to turn the volume down and warn me, so that I can run to the back of the house and cmoe back out when it's over! It must be due to my sweet, tender heart...I'm sure that's it!

So there it is, I'm officially weird. I know you didn't need the list...most of you have already figured me out! But just to make me feel better, now I'm tagging Holly, Jean, Kelly, and Rebecca. I can't wait to think, "she's so weird!"


"Our eyes are on you..."

"For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you..."

I cannot begin to convey all that's on my heart tonight, all the thoughts filling my mind. It's been a tough few days and while I've been longing to sit down and write about it, I haven't known how to. It seems as if I've turned a corner in this journey and somehow all the ground I thought I gained has suddenly crumbled underneath me. My foundation remains in place; Jesus, my rock of salvation, firmly gripping my feet, but the lush, soft earth I thought I once stood on, has been removed and replaced with a bed of rocks and thorns. It feels alot colder now and I'm struggling to stand. Reality has hit and try as hard as I might to turn away, I'm confronted with it on every side.

It's time now...time to face the truth and see this for what it is.

I'm not sure why, but after this weekend and yet another letdown, we've both come the realization that we are now 3 years into this infertility journey, and that's a long time. For 3 years we've held out hope and continued to believe that God was going to give us a baby. We didn't even consider the option of infertility at the beginning. With every year our "trying" got a little more focused, a little more intense. But under the advice of doctors, we just kept trying, and kept hoping. And then it happened for us, we got pregnant. And even thought we lost that baby, our hope increased with the pregnancy and we thought for sure, this was going to be the catalyst that would bring our dreams of a family to fruition. But 6 months later, it hasn't. And now we are feeling led to explore our options clearly and seriously. It's time to go down the road we've avoided and accept it as such.

On Monday I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment with their Infertility Specialist for April 11th, and I've become a puddle of tears ever since.

Maybe it's the reality that something is most likely wrong, maybe it's the disappointment in our unanswered prayers, or maybe it's the fear of the unknown. I don't know what "it" is, but I know that I am feeling very sad and very lonely right now. I have pleaded with the Lord and begged Him to just give me a baby the "easy/normal" way and now I see He's clearly chosen a different ending for me. I'm not having a crisis of faith, I know He's there and I know He's in control, but instead I'm having a crisis of "me." I don't want this. I never did. It's the one fear I've had for years...the fear of not having children. I know I haven't been given that diagnosis and I know this is a premature thought, but I can't help but entertain it. Let's face it, it is a possiblity at this point. They put me down for an "Infertility work-up", which is an accurate title because I am very "worked up" over it. I recognize that this will probably give us some answers we've been needing, but the fear of what those answers could be is paralyzing me.

I take great comfort in this passage from 2 Chronicles tonight...we truly do not know what to do, so we're fixing our eyes on Jesus. We're praying about this appointment and asking God to prepare our hearts for what we learn and for what lies ahead. Going through tests of all kinds stresses me out and I'm having a hard time finding peace in what I can't control. God has a plan for us and I know this battle is not mine to fight. I'm called to walk in obedience and at this very moment, I'm finding that to be a monumental task.

So in this latest valley, I'm asking for your prayers for many of you have been faithful to encourage us, to love us, and to pray for us and I'm hoping that you won't stop. We are less than 2 weeks from a vacation that we so desperately need and I'm so thankful. I just really sense the Lord preparing us for something and I'm anxious to get away from "life" for awhile and spend some time with Him and with Travis. This is not an easy thing to walk through in marriage...I can feel the stress of our frustration and high emotions take its toll. But we're in it through the good and the bad, regardless of the outcome. For the last 6 months I've prayed for a heart that praises the Lord regardless of circumstance. My love for Him does not depend on whether He puts a baby in my arms, but I also know that right now, nothing hurts more than to find those arms still empty and still longing. But He is faithful and He is Sovereign and we are trusting in that tonight...

"For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you..."
"All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives and their children. Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the Lord came...and He said, "Listen, all Judah...thus says the Lord to you, "Do no fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God' need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you. Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord." 2 Chronicles 20:12-18


Hidden Gems...

Hello all...Happy Sunday evening. I remember when I was still in school, I hated Sunday nights. Mainly because I was a procrastinator of sorts and I was usually studying or doing some project that I had put off all weekend, with an extra dose of stress because of it. I also dreaded that fact that Sunday night meant my weekend was over...Monday morning loomed over me like a dark cloud.

In a way, I'm still like that. Although I no longer feel that way about Sundays. Now, I love Sunday nights. No more homework, no more stress, and no work on Monday! Sunday nights are actually one of my favorite nights of the week. But I still struggle with the dread of something looming over me. Usually it's when I have to get up really early the next day, when we have some big hurdle to climb at Church, or when I know that Travis is leaving the next day on a trip...or more recently, when I know I have to get out of bed and face another day on this current road. It's dark under this cloud and I long to escape it, but like a Sunday night, Monday morning is coming and there is nothing I can do about it.

So I cope. Just like I did in high school, only on a bigger, grander, more spiritual scale. One of the best ways I've learned to cope lately, is through the encouragement of other people who are facing or have faced a similar road.

I'm amazed at how God has ordered my steps in this last year and how He has brought me people, some of whom I've never met, in a variety of ways to speak truth and love into my life. Two of those new people, were just introduced to me this weekend, via the world of blogging.

My sweet friend Holly, sent me a link to a blog that she thought I might enjoy, because of the infertility struggle that "Kelly" is also experiencing. So of course I went to her blog and was so touched immediately.

Turns out, we have a lot in common. Like us, she and her husband have been married for 4 years, have experienced a very similar miscarriage, and are the "parents" of a furry child, a dog. I liked her already.

Amazingly, she also had one of those devastating days on Friday, when she also discovered that once again, she wasn't pregnant when she thought that this time, she was. How did I know that? She wrote an amazing post about it here. I commented immediately and she wrote me back. Can I just tell you that I don't even know her, but she means so much to me because we serve and love the same Jesus and she knows exactly how I'm feeling. I read her thoughts and wept because it was as if someone had read my heart...although she was much more eloquent than I was. She was a blessing to me.

Yesterday, she extended my circle a little further, when she posted a link to another amazing sister in Christ, who is facing a situation I cannot even imagine. Long story short, she and her husband are expecting their fourth little girl and they just received word from her doctor that her little body is not complete and she will, according to the wisdom of modern medicine, not survive childbirth. Can you imagine? They are faced with a mountain that I would be terrified to climb. How do you live, knowing your child will die, while trusting your Savior to reign over it all? This woman is new to me, although most of you would know who her husband is...he is the lead singer of the group Selah. His beautiful voice is very recognizable. Her blog is amazing, not just because of her gorgeous pictures and her writing ability, but because of her beautiful heart and her honesty. You can find her story here and I know you will be touched by her deep thoughts on trusting the Lord in the midst of unspeakable pain.

These two hidden gems, sisters in Christ, have touched my soul because they have cried out in honest despair and decided to place their broken hearts in the very capable hands of Jesus. Not sure of what the future holds, but determined to trust Him with it. Through their honest blogging, they have brought hope to my soul by pointing me right back to the one who made me...fearfully and wonderfully. I NEVER could have predicted that our paths would cross and I NEVER would have imagined how.

But my God is big and He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. He knew creative ways to speak to me and He knew just who to connect me with. The body supporting the body or Romans 12 in action..."rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn..." Such a privilege to be adopted into the family of God isn't it?

I'm also reminded that Jesus is even more familiar with my situation, with my suffering. Isaiah 53:3 says, "he was a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." He is very capable of seeing me through and I'm doing my best to let him.

So be encouraged tonight, that no matter what you face, you are not alone. We have a Savior who knows what it is to suffer and He longs to have us trust Him with our pain. He knows it all and He sees it all. It won't always be this hard. One day, He'll wipe every tear from our eyes and this life of pain will fade away like a forgotten memory. He's also given us some hidden gems along the way...people to share in our sufferings, to pick us up when we've fallen and to walk hand in hand with. Our God is so good...


The Roller Coaster of Pain

More than 10, less than 20. That's how many pregnacy tests I would estimate that I've taken in the last 3 years. More than 10 times, I've really been convinced that I am indeed pregnant only to discover that actually, I am not. The tell tale symptoms that seemed so glaringly obvious to me slowly faded away and left me feeling betrayed. My certainty grew into doubt and my hope turned to despair. The pregnancy test only confirmed what I already knew...I wasn't pregnant...again.

Except once. Last September. That time I finally saw what I had been longing for so desperately...2 pink lines. Of course those 2 lines meant more than just the obvious. They immediately changed me. In just an instant, they opened new doors to new emotions and gave me new feelings that I cannot describe. Those 2 pink lines represented a long desired answer to our prayers, a new chapter, the fulfillment of our family plan, a new life. However, as the story goes, that life wasn't meant to be lived on this side of Heaven. It wasn't meant for me to have, to hold or to love. Not now, only someday. It was simply a truth confirmed, a love I would have to demonstrate by faith. So we mourned, we grieved, and we picked up the pieces to move on. I knew from the wise counsel of others that it would never leave me and that I would carry it more intensely than Travis because I had lived it so intimately. I knew all that...but I wasn't thrilled at the idea that I now needed to live with it.

I imagined that it would be difficult to start trying again and I was correct. I struggled with a divided heart, saddened to be back in this season of waiting and yet hopeful that we had finally seen a successful result after a previously long season on trying. As the new year began, I was constantly mindful of what might have been and as spring began knocking on winter's door, I cautiously prepared myself for the emotions I held just under the surface. May 6th was my projected due date and that day was suddenly getting alot closer. How would I cope with the other babies I knew that were to be born around that day? What about the reality of my empty womb compared with the promise that pregancy test brought for a full womb? How could I march on with my schedule, my life and my world when I so hoped it would all look differently? None of this was what I asked the Lord for, but apparently it was what He asked me to endure.

Now that I've known the joy of a positive pregnancy test, it seems harder to accept the devestation of another negative test. But that hardly matters now. Now I am once again faced with the reality that although I was convinced this was happening again, it didn't. Though I had worked hard to protect my heart and prepare for the worst, I couldn't. It simply is what it is. Another Friday, another negative test, another day of hope deferred. I suppose I'm getting better at living with disappointment, of masking it and moving on. I've certainly had the practice. But even still, it hurts. Strangely, although this new cycle of ups and downs is beginning over again, I am not devestated as once before. We are searching God for more wisdom, more patience, more grace. We are exploring options and praying for guidance. And although I'm marking another month off the calendar, I am trying to rest in the peace that comes from believing the Lord and trusting His character...even on the hard days, even on the negative-pregnancy-test days. My God is faithful and I am choosing to say, "Blessed be His name."



Yes, that's my car thermometer said we hit 51 degrees!!! Amazing. I'm waiting for it to now snow tomorrow..that's our luck around here. Hopefully not, but I can hardly imagine 2 nice days in a row! For the first time in months, I drove around with the windows cracked open and I opened up our slider to the balcony when I got home...spring must be coming, I think I can feel it!


Feed My Starving Children

So last night Travis and I had a fun time with each of our D-groups (discipleship small groups). He leads a group of 7th grade boys and I co-lead a group of 8th grade girls. We took our groups out for dinner and then on to a church in the area to participate in an incredible service project. Feed My Starving Children is a local ministry that began in Minnesota and is headquartered here. By creating dried food packages, they are literally helping to feed the world. Some Minnesota scientists created the individually packaged, nourishing meals by combining specific amounts of soy, rice, dried vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. Feed My Starving Children volunteers package and send over 40 million meals a year to more than 50 countries all over the world. We got introduced to this ministry by people at our Church who told us about it. It's a twin cities favorite and something lots of groups can do together.

A great church in Edina is currently hosting their second annual Feed My Starving Children drive, attempting to package 1 million meals this week! They ask people from their Church and the community to sign up for a shift and help them reach their goal. We participated last year and loved it, so we signed up again this year. We chose the 9:30-11:30pm shift and brought our d-groups with us to spend some time serving together. It was a blast! For 2 hours we were packaging as many meals as we could, laughing and singing to the GREAT mix of music they were blasting! What I love the most about it is, after you are done, they give you all the "stats" about what you just did and then you pray over the boxes that are being sent and the food that will hopefully nourish another life somewhere in the world. So powerful and such a great tangible example for all of us to see what compassion in action looks like.

In those 2 hours last night, we packaged more than 62,000 meals (almost 500 per person) which will feed 171 kids for a year! That brought the total to 862, 000 meals for the week so far, but with the shifts still going all day today, they were anticipating a grand total of 1.25 million meals!! Amazing and totally worth it. Although this ministry is headquartered here, they have mobile stations that go all over the country. If you're ever looking for an incredible service project for your Church or students to do, consider this will leave quite an impact on anyone who participates!


The Countdown is on...

We only have a few weeks and days until we're in Florida! I have to say that the Lord is so good, because after a winter like this one, I have never NEEDED a vacation and a break from the cold more! It has been a brutal winter this year...lots of toying with our day it's a balmy 23 and sunny and the next day it's 8 and grey out, with a fresh dusting of snow covering the ground. Yuck! They tell us that we're going to hit 40 next week, but I don't believe it, because they've told us that a million times before. I think the weather people just say that so people don't send death threats and such, then they conveniently act shocked when a "cold front" blows in...uh huh. I'm not buying it anymore. Basicially I just want them to tell me what the weather is RIGHT NOW and then don't make any predictions because I can't take the emotional roller coaster anymore! Now I say all that and I hope that I haven't offended any meteorologists out there...but whatever, I don't even watch the weather anymore! I just wait for Travis to take Ryley out and tell me what kind of coat I need to wear. It's just better that way.

So again, praise the Lord that He's set Naples in front of us to look forward to! I don't even remember what it's like to wake up to sunshine, every day, and to wear shorts again! Which leads me to my next terrifying white legs in shorts! It's shocking just how pale we are (all Minnesotans really) so we are racking our brains for how to solve that problem as quickly and effectively as we can. Our next issue can be wrapped up in one word. Swim suit. Enough said. We are in an absolute excercise frenzy over here, working out as much as we can in a quest to "firm" things up in a hurry! Which is a sad commentary on my motivation for excercise. We joined our local community center in November and my husband has faithfully attended ever since. I, on the other hand, just got my membership ID picture taken, 2 weeks ago! I had very little desire to work out over the holidays and on cold winter days...however, mention the word "swim suit" and I'm a total gym rat! Now I'm there constantly, working out like a crazy person! What does that say about me? I'm apparently soley motivated by pride. In any other cirmcumstance that would worry me. However in this case...whatever works. I'm off to the gym!


Thank you Jason!

I owe Jason, our high school Pastor, a huge thank you for the deep belly laugh I had this afternoon when I saw this video he had posted on his facebook! If you've ever volunteered or been on staff for a student "overnighter", you'll appreciate this more than the average person!! Can I just say, this is me EVERY YEAR when Travis tells me that we have one of these...let's just say, New Year's Eve takes a huge amount of PREP on my part to get PYSCHED UP for 12 hours with students!! You'll also appreciate Rhianna's "Umbrella" song stuck in your head, only instead of singing "umbrella, ella, ella" you'll be singing "overnighter, nighter, nighter..." Enjoy!!


The Body is Not Made Up of One Part, But of Many Parts

So, if you watched this amazing commercial, you would be interested to know that it is totally real. It was done by a group of engineers (go figure) who took a really long time to think it through, put it together and make it work. I was introduced to it last weekend by our camp speaker and I was totally captivated by it in the shower this morning...does that ever happen to you? Sometimes I get on bizarre trains of thought while in the shower...I don't know if that's weird or not, but it happens to me. Some of my greatest thoughts have come while shampooing and conditioning!

Anyway, I started thinking about the Church, the body of Christ and how we're often like the parts represented in this commercial. Seperate, we're all unique, expertly crafted but designed to play a very specific role. By ourselves, we're valuable, but not nearly as valuable as when we're using our gift, working in tandem with the rest of the body. Although we try to do something great as indiviual parts, without the eye of the master designer, we end up in a line of slow moving parts. It's not entirely our fault. We weren't meant to see the "big picture", we can only see the "little picture", what's right in front of us. So what do we do? We walk in obedience with what's in front of us and we trust the master designer with the bigger picture, with what we cannot see. If we fail, we risk the failure of the body. But if we succeed, we play a part in the success of the body. What was once a line of parts, suddenly becomes a moving car. And the Designer is not surprised. That's what He intended all along. Just as a new car wows and surprises us, all the praise goes not to the individual parts, but to the Designer. And conversely, when it fails, so does the Designer's name.

So as I'm shampooing and conditioning, I'm I serving where I'm gifted? Am I using what I was gifted with? If not, what part of the body am I compromising? While it may seem that my obedience (or lack thereof) only affects me, I'm reminded that it affects more than just me. It hurts the body, and ultimately it hurts the Lord. So as I'm examining the needs of our own Church, I'm asking myself, do I just want to be in the line of individual, slow moving parts, or do I want to cruise down the highway with the body, making a difference and bringing praise to my Designer? Good question, huh?

All this from a slick commercial and a hot shower...pretty good for a Sunday morning!


Back to where it all began...Naples!

Our favorite wedding shot from our big day! We have this one on canvas in our living room.

As soon as we moved outside to do those shots, it started pouring, in typical Naples can see the sheets of rain behind us!

I love, love, love this guy...I remember standing there, looking at him and wondering, is this really happening???? Am I this lucky? I'm happy to say, yes!

So I'm feeling incredibly nostalgic this year, because as of August 1, 2008, we will have been married for 5 years already! I can hardly believe that's some ways it feels like yesterday that we met and started dating in Naples, Flordia. Now here we are, 5 years later and 2 major moves later, and we're living in Minnesota...where I always hoped I'd end up. Funny how things turn out. Anyway, I'm so sentimental right now because in just 30 days from today, we will be on a plane, headed for Naples!!

We decided about a month ago, that we desperately needed an escape from this endless winter that we're having. Last year we didn't do that and we quickly realized, that was a big mistake. So this year, we mulled it over in our minds for a few days and then the Lord totally blessed us with some unexpected money and we took that as a sign that we were supposed to go! So, fast forward 2 weeks, and we're thrilled to have the tickets but we haven't figured out where to stay yet. When we go, we always stay with our friends, Forrest and Karen Head, because Travis used to live with them and they are dear, dear friends and mentors of ours. They make it very clear that we'll always have a room at their house whenever we we want it, and we've taken them up on that over the years. However, the particular time that we chose to go, "our room" was going to be occupied by Karen's sister, so we were going to have to call some of our other friends or my Grandparents and look for another option. No big deal, as we still had plenty of people we could call...we just hadn't done it yet.

Well on a Sunday morning at Church, just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine found me after the service and wanted to ask me something. She and I co-led a Bible study over the summer last year in women's ministry and her oldest son is one of our 8th graders. We didn't know each other at all before last summer, but we really hit it off over the course of our study and we kept in touch all year as our paths crossed at Church. So, she tells me that her family was talking about Spring Break and the condo they have in Marco Island, and her 8th grader (whom we'll now love forever!)said, "I really think we should ask Pastor Travis and Stephanie if they want to stay there sometime...", so my friend and her husband agreed (Praise the Lord!!) and she told me they had been thinking of us and really wanted to offer their place anytime we went down to Naples. Well, I was able to tell her that we just booked a trip there and that we were struggling to find a place to stay, so we would LOVE and totally APPRECIATE a stay in their condo!

So, to make a long story short, we are headed to Naples, from April 1st until April 8th, to see our sweet Florida friends and to stay in an ocean-front condo in Marco Island!!! YEAH for us!!! We are also taking this opportunity to celebrate our 5 year anniversary, since we will be in the very place we met, fell in love, and got married. To say we're excited is the understatement of the year. We are thrilled! And we're also counting down the days as the long, cold, and gray winter in Minnesota rolls on...I'm not sure we'd survive without an escape 2 years in a row!!
We are very grateful for the way this trip has fallen into place. The Lord has been so good to us and we know it, and we're doing some serious praising in return! Here are some pictures from the best day of our lives...I've fallen in love all over again just looking at my groom and remembering what an incredible gift our wedding day was. I love Travis more today than that day, but I loved him that day a whole lot too!!

The brand new, totally overwhelmed, and blissfully happy, Mr. and Mrs. Travis Armstrong!

Our friends, Forrest and Karen Head, and their boys Daniel, Ben and Jonathan. Travis lived with them for about 2 years...they did our marriage counseling and Forrest married us...we love their family dearly.

My Dad and I taking that big walk down the poor Dad had been dreading this day since I was born I think! But, I know he was very thankful to have Travis standing at the end of that aisle.

My girlfriends, my sisters, and our niece, Chloe...I love this picture because I did all of the flowers at my wedding and I think this shot shows them off nicely.

Travis and his guy friends, with his cousin, our nephew and little Jonathan Head.

One of my favorite wedding shots...we look like royalty because of the club we were in! The Interior Design firm I worked for in Naples, did this club, so I spent the entire month of November, 2002, here, putting it all together. This was in the private dining room...that club was beautiful and we got it for next to nothing for our reception, because I worked there. It turned out wonderfully, but I have lots of funny memories from all the drama that went down there while it was being built and completed. Quite an introduction into the design and construction industry!

Travis and I with Daniel and Ben Head...I see food on our plates, but I can't recall eating a single bite!

Kissing after we cut the cake...again, I don't remember eating it, but apparently I did get one bite in order to have this picture!