Little Girls Who Love to Swim!!

Today Ava and I went to a fun little water park in my hometown.  It was perfect for her, not too big but still lots to do.  The best part is that we went with Aunt Jennie and my best friend Amber, plus her two little girlies.  It was a beautiful summer day, perfect for a water park day!!
2 things I learned from this picture:
1. I am in desperate need of a hair cut.  Must schedule that ASAP when we get home! 
2.  I hate the color of my hair, i.e.-my natural color!  I have been letting it grow out, one less thing to maintain, but so far every picture I see of myself is confirming what I thought...I need some serious highlights!!!  With every pregnancy my hair keeps getting darker and more "dishwater" like.  That is a bummer. 
My friend Amber and I.  We've been friends for 30 years now, that's crazy to think!  We were born just a few weeks apart and have been the best of friends ever since.  So fun to hang with "our girls" now!
Aunt Jennie and Ava
Amber and her youngest, Brynn
Amber's oldest, Ella.  This was as close as she wanted to get for a picture :) 
Playing with Brynn, these 2 are just 1 month apart.
All the girls, plus a new friend Ella made!
Stopping to check out an airplane she heard, one of our new things we like listen for!
So glad to have Aunt Jennie with us!!  We had a really fun afternoon and great time catching up.  I love days like these in the summer.  Nothing like blue skies, sunshine and the pool!  


Over the River and Through the Woods....

...To Grandmother's (and Grandfather's) house we go!
We are having a delightful time at my parents house while Travis is working.  It has been such a nice break for me to have so many extra hands and of course Ava is in hog heaven with all the attention.  She only comes to me for her basic necessities right now because she clearly wants Grandma or Grandpa instead!  I love that and so do Grandma and Grandpa.  I'm pretty sure I've only changed her diaper once or twice since we've been here!  Not that I mind doing it, I don't, but a girl can appreciate an extra hand when she gets one!!  
After Ava woke up from her nap this morning, she snuggled in with my Dad and sat on his lap for at least 20 minutes.  Not only was it sweet, but so unlike her!  Our Ava is NOT a cuddle girl by nature, but apparently she can be when she wants to be :) 
After she perked up a little bit, we took her to a perfect little park at the preschool my sister runs.  The weather today was AMAZING and even a little cool, so great for being outside.  This little munchkin quickly found some things to keep her busy!
Grandma helped her remember her sliding skills, which have become second nature to her, and we all laughed while she showed off her stuff!
Big girl!
Chillin at the end of the slide because really, who doesn't???
Playing peek-a-boo through the bars with Grandpa.
Trying to sneak a kiss :) 
Love that little prisoner!
Grandpa showed her how to ride on the little airplane...While Mommy had nightmare flashbacks from our last airplane experience...
But once she figured her balance out, Ava was quite proud of herself!
If only a real airplane ride was this pleasant...
Grandpa's girl all the way!
Every night my Dad has been taking her for a walk with him around the neighborhoods.  She loves it, but whenever they turn the corner to come home on their street, she insists on getting out of the stroller and walking the rest of the way.  
My Mom and I were laughing tonight when they came back because my poor Dad was pushing the stroller with one hand and holding Ava's hand and her blankie with the other!  She would not walk without her blanket in one hand and her juice in the other, but she's so little, it was practically more than she could handle :) But of course, because she rules the roost here, she got what she wanted!  Totally funny :) 
After dinner we played some more in the back yard, because it was just too nice to be inside.  
What lucky ducks we are to be getting spoiled from Grandpa and Grandma!  I laughed last night because I hopped on facebook to discover that one of my girlfriends was also counting down the days until her youth Pastor husband was coming home!  I left her a comment and before I knew it, 3 more of us were in the exact same boat!  All of our husbands gone on ministry trips or at camps and all of us surviving/waiting with the kids back home :) The funniest part was that all of us had also gone to our parents houses to pass the time and get some help!!  

Hmmm....You might be a Youth Pastor's wife if your summer is spent at Grandma and Grandpa's, counting down the days while Daddy is working!!  
Good thing we all love our parents (and they love us)!!


Summer Splash!

We are having a fun time at my parents house this weekend, while Travis is gone on a Mission's Trip.  I've been able to talk to him a little bit and things are going well for his team.  They are ministering to teens and kids on an Indian Reservation and it's been a very eye-opening experience.  There is a lot of darkness and brokenness for the kids there, so some real opportunities to show the love of Jesus and the hope He alone can bring.  We miss him, but it's been a blessing to be at my parents too.  I've been able to sleep longer than normal and rest while Ava is getting constant attention from Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Jennie and Uncle Dave.  So glad for that...
Anyway before Travis left, we got to spend an afternoon together at the Splash pad, soaking up the sun!
She looks so cute in that hat!!  I love it on her!
Travis took her to the the fountains and water works area and she loved sticking her hand in the streams of water, trying to lick every drop she could. 
So fun on a hot day!
Of course she wasn't totally thrilled about keeping her hat on, but she did pretty well.  Her skin is so fair like mine, I just hate the thought of her getting sunburned!
I thought all the water in her face might scare her, but no so much.
She must have loved the relief from the heat!
In 90% of all my pool pictures, her tongue is always sticking out.  
Apparently we don't give her enough to drink and she feels the need to catch every drop she can at the pool!! 
Adventures with Daddy
We are LOVING summer and all that goes along with it.  It's so fun to experience all the joys of childhood with Ava.  Can't believe that next summer we'll be bringing 2 kiddos to the splash pad!!
Maybe that's when my nanny will report for duty, right??  Ha Ha :) 


Dreams I've Dreamed

This past weekend, I participated in a girls weekend for our junior high and senior high students.  I spoke for the final session about God's love and how it changes us.  As I was prepping for it last week, I dug out some of my old journals that I've kept over the years.  One of the things that our staff impressed on the girls, was the discipline of journaling and what that looked like from many different perspectives.  You know from my last giveaway that journaling is right up my alley, so I really wanted to incorporate how God has used that in my journey with Him in my talk.  I found a series of entries, 7 that I chose, from my journey to praying for, meeting, falling in love with and marrying Travis.  I read each of them to the girls and then drove home the point about how much my life changed when God brought Travis into my life and when I knew that he loved me.  I went to Florida a single, college grad embarking on my first "real world" experience and I left over a year later, married with a new calling, purpose and role because of the man I met and his love for me.  In a similar way, when you experience the love of God in your own life and begin to believe His word and His promises, one of the most telling ways to know if you are believing God and what He says about you, is in the way that you love Him and others in response.  Authentic heart changes always manifest themselves in real, authentic life changes.  It was a fun thing to share with them and I think they got a kick out of hearing my love-struck entries about Trav! I was totally head over heels in love with him then and I'm happy to say that I still am today! 

But, as I was flipping through my old journals, I ended up spending a considerable amount of time reading as many of my entries as I could.  It was such a fun and reflective thing for me to remember so many of those emotions and the ups and downs of what God was showing me at that point in my life.  I found a particular entry that was almost unbelievable to me and I thought it would be a fun one to share with you.  

I'll spare you the sappy opening, but basically it was a letter that I wrote to Travis about the dreams I had for our future.  We weren't at a point in our relationship where we were talking about "our future" but we were very, very close.  I was waiting for Trav to initiate that conversation, but it didn't stop me from dreaming every day about it!  Rather than jump the gun and tell him what I was feeling, I decided to journal about it instead :) Good move on my part!  I think I might have freaked him out with all my details!!  Anyway, here's what I wrote on March 6, 2003.  We were dating but not yet engaged and having lots of talks about what we thought the next 10 years might hold for each of us...This is what I hoped it held for both of us....

"I want you to know what my dreams are and what I think about when I think of us.  These aren't expectations, just thoughts and desires I think the Lord has put on my heart....I imagine us being at a Church, serving the students there- high school or college.  We live in an apartment or condo that we keep as open as we can to have people over as much as we can.  Of course I am cooking for lots of people all the time, but I love it because that's one of the ways I show my love.  You are spending time with kids, both one on one and as a group, challenging them, discipling them, encouraging them and most importantly, loving them.  I imagine us going to games and plays and concerts and activities that those kids are involved in.  I know they're excited to have you there and thrilled to know that you're interested in them.  I hope we stay "young" and "cool" by surrounding ourselves with students, but I really hope we are spiritual leaders in their lives and I hope they see us as a source of love and wisdom and truth.  

I want us to work together as a team.  I hope to support you first and to satisfy you in our marriage and at home so that I can do my part in allowing you to be who God's called you to be.  I see us spending time together everyday, placing the health of "us" before the health of our ministry.  I hope that we spend time together in prayer and in the Word as often as we can, lifting one another up to Jesus and placing a great value in our relationships with the Lord above all else.  Travis I see us strengthening that friendship all the time.  Hard times and struggles will come, but we'll cling to the Father and to one another to weather the storm together.  

I dream about us starting a family together, raising kids in a stable, Christ centered home.  I dream of several little ones in our own little family and I see us giving them back to the Lord to be used by Him.  I see our family as our priority over ministry.  I want to provide a loving, stable, Godly home based on a strong, Christ honoring marriage.  I see our marriage as the best gift we can ever give them, next to the truth about Jesus.  I imagine going on vacation as a family, spending time with our friends, getting together with our extended families and just doing life together day after day.  

The best part about my dream for us, is waking up and going to bed next to you, every single day, ready to take on whatever God sends our way..."

I read that on Saturday night and was amazed at how closely my dreams of 7 years ago have mirrored our current life today.  Only the Lord could have put those specific dreams on my heart, all those years ago, already preparing me for the life He has designed for us.  Not all of it has become reality and we certainly have a ways to go before we hit all those goals, but the overall dream remains the same.  He was preparing me for a life in ministry as a love-struck 23 year old and helping me realize what that lifestyle would bring.  I laughed that even then, I didn't set myself up for dreams of a big house or rambling property :) Just an apartment or condo!  Looks like that dream came true!  I thought we'd be in college ministry, not junior high, but the nuts and bolts of our heart for students remain the same.  I love the dreams of family life and how the Lord is faithfully growing our little brood!  I still pray for those same aspirations, to keep the Lord as the center of our home and to put our marriage and our kids before ministry.  And certainly, I want to raise my kids with open hands, knowing that ultimately they belong to the Lord and not to us...But as a mother now, I realize that is much easier said than done.  

After I read this, I thought it would probably be a wise goal to take some time to dream and seek the Lord about the next 10 years of our lives and the dreams and desires He has for us.  I love how faithful the Lord is in every season, to weave our hearts and days together when we seek Him above all else.  I don't fear the future, although I have no idea what it holds, simply because I know WHO holds my future and I've seen Him time and time again care for my every step along the way.  I put more value in God's word than in my dreams, but what a blessing to realize that in these last 7 years, He has truly given me the desires of my heart!  

"Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:4


Summer Nights

I spent some time this afternoon writing up a new blog post, with lots of pictures from our night at the park last night, but as I hit publish for some reason the entire thing was lost.  IRRITATING!!  I haven't had the heart all day to go back and fix it, so I'm adding a few pics before I go to bed, with a couple of comments :) I'm too tired to do much more than that!  Maybe tomorrow I'll actually write more than 2 sentences at a time, but don't hold your breath :) 
Oh how I love her.  
Even though she hates to have her picture taken with me.
We taught Ava how to navigate the slide all by herself and she loved it!
Such a big girl now.
She got tangled up a few times, but it didn't take her long to figure it out!
She was grinning after every trip down :) 
In addition to a million trips down the slide, she also played lots with Daddy.
Did I mention how glad we are that he's home??
Running down the hill to play tag, until she decided it was too steep for her!
Little Carter at 23.5 weeks!  Guess he's not so little anymore and neither am I...
Life is pretty good for this little diva, don't you think??
Living on the edge with Daddy...
Gotta love the wild abandon of childhood!
And finally, her new thing.  She likes to bring us books to read to her, as she drapes herself all over us :)  Sometimes she tries to climb on our laps, or sometimes she's content to just lay her head on any body part she can reach.  I LOVE that she's into books.  Lately her attention span has definitely increased and she is more and more interested in hearing us read stories.  Of course it always helps when we decide to do it in an animated way and no one is better at that than her Daddy :) 
I loved watching this!  She loves this little Bible storybook and insists on us reading it to her lately...We're always happy to accommodate that request!  I find her a lot around the house with that book, flipping through it herself and babbling in a very low and serious voice.  It makes me giggle everytime!  She must know it's our most treasured book, right??  :) Or maybe she can tell that we read it in a different voice...Who knows??  We get a kick out of it and love to hear her little voice, chatting away.  Can't wait for those days when she's really talking with more and more words and sentences.  I think she's going to be a big talker if her babbling is any indication!

Ok, my back is aching and my eyes are getting heavy, so I'm off to bed!
Day 3 of VBS will be here before I know it and the last 2 mornings have been brutal getting out of bed.
Am I pregnant or something??
Ha Ha :)  
Have a great Wednesday!!