"Oh, There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays..."

We knew when we moved to Minnesota that one thing we would have to put up with was snow and the occasional snow storm. We also knew that we were going to love being so close to my parents as a drive to Iowa was no big deal, a mere 3 hours away. So imagine our dilemna last Sunday, when we planned to drive to Iowa and all of the sudden we were hit with a pretty good snowstorm. We didn't think it would be a big deal and the radar kept showing improved conditions in Iowa, so we jumped in the car after church, with my sister and brother-in-law, and we headed south, anxious to get "home for Christmas." By the absolute grace of God, we made it but not without some major stress and patience. Our normal 3 hour drive turned into 6 hours due to the horrible driving conditions. It was snowing pretty heavily and the wind was blowing very hard which makes for very icy roads. We managed to avoid an accident but we passed more than 30! About 15 of those resulted in cars flipped over in the median or at the bottom of was very scary. We were going about 30mph most of the time, so we avoided much of the trouble, but there were several times when the visibility was so low, 10 feet or less, and we could see nothing but white. Praise the Lord for keeping us safe and getting us home. By the time we got there, we were so stressed and tired and giddy from being couped up in a car for 6 hours with too much luggage and too many presents! We laughed our heads off most of the way and I laughed so hard I developed a killer case of the hiccups! Oh, the memories! Anyway, we made it!!

December Reflections

This December had us running all over, doing all kinds of things! Between work, home, friends, ministry, and family, we were busy!! Here are a few pictures of some of the things that kept us on the go!

These are the little girls that we spent all of last week with, Nancy (5) and Kelsey (8). We had a great time with them, but they kept us on our toes!! We had lots of "glimpses of parenthood" over 8 days and let me tell you, we went home exhausted after it was over!!

The girls and I found this cookie decorating kit one day after school, so we bought it and did it when we got home. It was fun because the cookies were made and iced with designs printed on them, so all we had to do was color them in with edible markers...I do love a craft!!

Kelsey and Nancy and I made a gingerbread house one night while Travis was, but messy. The girls loved it however and when it was done, it was quite cute.

Finn and Barrett and I had lots of fun during this Christmas season...we did lots of Christmas stuff everytime I came over, but they both loved to play in their living room where the tree, the stockings, and all the PRESENTS were! It's nearly impossible to get a picture of them both smiling and looking at the camera, but this was our attempt one day!

This is a picture of Finn and I with his family's new Christmas puppy, "Sid"...isn't he the cutest little thing??? I came home from work that day, convinced that we need another dog! Travis quickly squelched that thought, but he hasn't seen Sid yet...he'll think twice about it I promise you!!

Travis shocked me this year when he announced that he wanted to make Christmas 4 years of marriage I've never heard him say that! So, on a Monday afternoon, when we both had the day off, we watched Elf and made sugar cookies...Ryley kept a VERY CLOSE EYE on those cookies from start to finish!!

Here are some of the finished product...note to self: next time invite other people over to help...decorating 48 cookies takes FOREVER!!

We had a "red and green wacky, tacky Christmas Party" for our junior highers and they did not disappoint!! If there is anything middle school students love, it's dressing up! Anytime we plan anything that involves costumes, they're all over it!! Even our leaders! We had a great time.

My friend Ellie and I, spreading some "tacky" Christmas cheer!!

Merry Christmas from the Armstrongs(in all our "tacky" glory)!! Does anyone want to borrow my beautiful earrings??

Video Fun...

We have been pushing our Airband competition for a few weeks now, trying to get the students excited for our New Year's Eve Blast...each Wednesday night we've had a "performance", starting with Travis and Jason's group, and I've been meaning to put these on here for your viewing pleasure! They have been hilarious...can't wait to see what the students come up with!! Enjoy!

Here is another great staff video of our Program Director, Jed and His wife Sarah, along with two of our other volunteers doing their best performance of Good Charlotte's "I Don't Wanna Be in Love"...I think Sarah is a wonderful wife, don't you??

This fun video, "One Girl Revolution", is courtesy of our Senior girls with their leader, Amanda...nice dancing!


The Hustle and the Bustle....

It's been awhile since I've updated this blog, but I've had literally no time to catch my breath lately, let alone blog! We are "parents" this week and thus incredibly busy! We're staying with 2 girls from our Church, while their parents are on a cruise. They are in Kindergarten and Third Grade, so we are having alot of fun with them and are doing our best to keep them on a schedule and us too! We're also working this week and oh yeah, it's the week before Christmas...could it be any busier?? I am so late this year on my Christmas cards and on shopping, but each day I'm trying to check something off my list and finally I seem to be making some progress! My sister Jennie was also in town this weekend with her boyfriend and her friend, so we got to spend some time with them and on Friday, Stacie and Jesse fly into town also, so we're looking forward to picking them up too. This is the time of year when I feel like I need a housekeeper and an assistant just to keep my sanity!! Wouldn't that be great? Someone to delegate my "stuff" to?? Unfortunately I have no one to delegate too...Travis is busy enough and Ryley just looks at me and wags his tail. So I delegate to the "air" and close my eyes, hoping that when I open them, someone will have heard me and done exactly what I asked. Wishful thinking, I know.

We are definately looking forward to Christmas next week. We're going to Iowa and we both can't wait to stop and be still for awhile. That's what gets me the most right now. These days are flying by and they are jammed packed from beginning to end. I just don't feel like I'm getting any time to "savor the season" and remember what Christmas is all about. That's the trick every year, right? Keeping Jesus before everything else, taking time to be still and dwell with Him. I am trying, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to take 5 minutes here and there to just quiet my heart and be thankful for what God gave us 2,000 years ago when he sent his son as a little baby. Just the realization of that tends to put everything in perspective and keeps me from getting stressed out over things that aren't important. Try as I might to keep my Christmas from becoming "commercialized", I find it sneaking in. We are so blessed with everything we need, tons of stuff we want and more than we could ever use. So why do I find myself making "wish lists" for even more?? I think that is probably the cry of most hearts who know it's better to give than to receive, but it doesn't come easy and if definately goes against all things cultural. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-presents at all, but I just want so badly for my heart to be right this year, for my "wants" to be in check. We don't even understand what it means to "need" in America because we have so much in comparison to the rest of the world. But we do know how to give and we do have plenty to give. So, that's been our hope this year. We want to "out-give" before we get, first to the Lord and then to people in our life. The Lord doesn't "need" our money, He's the Creator of the Universe and He can do anything He pleases with or without us, but he "wants" our hearts. I'm not saying we're there yet or that we're doing it perfectly this year, but we're trying to do it better than we've done it before. I want to walk away from Christmas this year, not feeling guilty for all that we spent or all that we're taking home, but instead thankful for the best gift we've ever received, Jesus; thankful for the resources God's entrusted us with and thankful that we've honored Him with it.

Whew....having said that, I'm off to spend some time in the Word, start my day, and finish lots of things on my "to-do" list. Tonight is another busy Wednesday night and we'll be soon caught up in the chaos of kids, Church, schedules, etc. But for now...I'm doing my best to be still, to look out at the beautiful landscape covered in snow, and to praise Him for all that He is.

"For unto us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace..." Isaiah 9:6


Labor of Love

I want to share my new, favorite Christmas song with you. I'm not sure what it is about this song that is resonating with me this year, but I cannot get enough of it. I discovered it on our soundtrack to The Nativity and it makes me cry everytime I hear it. I was looking for the lyrics the other day when I discovered it on You-Tube. The video is a beautiful reminder of what that night might have been like...if you haven't seen the movie yet, you definately should!

I have to admit, I am struggling a little bit with Christmas this year, because of our miscarriage. I have very mixed emotions from day to day. Anyone who knows me, knows that I truly love Christmas and obviously, I love Jesus, but I think I was just hoping it would have been different this year. Have you ever felt that way?
I was hoping to still be pregnant; hoping to be buying gifts for a little one's arrival; hoping to dream with family; hoping to have a little life to look forward to meeting; hoping to be a mommy and Trav a daddy; hoping for something more.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's ever wished that. To some extent, I think we all do at different times in our lives. Sometimes our hope is well placed and sometimes it is in vain. I think I like this song so much, because it makes me wonder, I bet Mary was hoping that night would have gone differently too. Not the fact that she gave birth to Jesus, but perhaps the circumstances in which she gave birth. Can you imagine the loneliness she must have felt with no Mother around or friends to help her?

One thing I've taken for granted all these years is that I always imgined Joseph was with her during the birth...I recently learned in Church that he probably wasn't. It wasn't customary for men to be around during a birth because it would have been unclean. Also, Luke is very specific to say that "Mary gave birth to a son and SHE wrapped him in cloths and SHE layed him in the manger." Wouldn't Joseph have done that or helped her do that if he was right there? I'm sure he was waiting outside, but I never pictured Mary, all by herself, in labor, with no one to hold her hand or comfort her through it. She must have been scared and drained of strength and yet, she did it. But I bet she wished it could have been different. She probably never would have imagined giving birth to her firstborn, in a stable, all alone.

Recently, I've just been dwelling on Mary and her simple obedience to the Lord. Although it wasn't what she planned and certainly not how she planned, she said "yes" to the Lord and he gave her a blessing that no other human would ever receive...she got to be the Mother of Jesus. I'm struck by that for many reasons. For one thing, she didn't do it for the reward, she did it because the Lord asked her to do it and told her not to be afraid. Secondly, she obeyed despite the obvious shame she must have received from everyone who didn't believe her, including her own family. Thirdly, she wasn't given a bed of roses for her obedience. She was given a dark night, in a smelly stable, on a cold ground, all alone. The birth God promised her, with a son that would be like no other, was not a glamorous event in any stretch of the imagination. And yet, she still obeyed. And because she obeyed, I see the riches of her choice in the One who would come to save me and to save her. She never could have known the Lord would ask that of her, or that it would be so lonely, but He did and when He did, she obeyed. Amazing. Challenging. Humbling. Definately a Labor of Love....

Labor of Love (featuring Jill Phillips)

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love


For all you OFFICE fans out there...

For those of you who are in total "office" withdrawl, due to the writer's strike, this video should help. This is a promo video for our new year's eve event that really has nothing to do with new year's's captures the complete randomness that is "the office." It features most of our youth staff, with some funny dialogue between Jason and Travis. It's not the real "office" but it's close and it's filling our deep void for more episodes! Enjoy!

Our Christmas Tree...or Christmas Shrub

We put our Christmas tree up this week and I have to tell you, I'm not loving it. We got a free tree this year from our realtor, which is great, but I keep calling it the Christmas shrub because it is severely lacking in height and it is rather "round" towards the bottom. I don't really like it to tell you the truth. I love our ornaments and the smell of a fresh tree but, had it not been free, it would not have come home to my living room! Oh well, I'm deciding to be thankful and enjoy it anyway but without that star on the top, I don't think I could have stomached it all season!! Also, I've decided that it needs like double the amount of lights we have on it, but neither one of us feel like tackling that again, so there you have it! The Christmas Shrub is here to stay!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

What a beautiful week we've had in Minnesota...we are surrounded by tons of snow and I must say, we are loving it! It seems very fitting with Christmas just around the corner to wake up to a winter wonderland everyday. Ryley is in Heaven...we have huge "mountains" of snow all around us from the plows clearing our parking lot, so he goes crazy when we take him outside, jumping and bounding around in it! In March I promise I'll be singing a different song, but for now I LOVE snow and I LOVE Minnesota!!


Last weekend I had the great privilege to go back to North Carolina and visit my sister Stacie and her husband Jesse, and to see Charlie, Annette, and my first baby...Olivia! What a fun and long overdue visit it was. I wish Travis could have gone with me, and so did Olivia who asked about "Trav" all weekend! We had the best time catching up, playing and just being together. Stacie and Jesse only live about an hour from Raleigh, so they came and stayed with me all weekend at Charlie and Annette's. Olivia is of course, darling...I'm totally biased....and she had us all in stitches the whole time. I am very proud of her and very thankful that we've maintained our relationship from Minnesota. Not only do I miss her very much, but I also miss her parents and it was so fun for us to spend some time together. Annette and I have become great friends and we had so much fun pulling out our scrapbooking stuff and staying up way too late laughing and talking! It was also great to laugh with Stacie and Jesse. We went out to eat at a restaurant Travis and I used to love, which was fun, and Stacie went with me to our old Church on Sunday and to see the house we used to live in! It was a great, whirlwind weekend and I am so glad I could go. Isn't Olivia the cutest little thing you've ever seen?? I'll tell you one funny thing she did all weekend...she's always been into books, I'm sure because we all read to her constantly and still do. Because of that, her vocabulary is quite something for a 4 year old and I found myself stunned at some of the things she would come up with. My favorite however, was the answer she kept giving us whenever someone would ask her a question that demanded a response. When I said, "Olivia, would you like to read this book with me?" she answered with this: "Yes Stephie, that would be ABCDelightful and stupendous!" Can you stand it??

The two of us in her very pink bedroom with a pink elephant I gave her

Can you believe her beautiful, brown hair? She is not the little girl I left!

Annette and I...after 15 shots at least!! We're picky scrapbookers for sure!

We had a tree-trimming party, which Olivia loved, and we did too.

Olivia came into my bedroom every morning to wake me up...I loved it!

Jesse, Stacie and I at Kanki in Raleigh...after a very yummy meal!

Youth Ministry at It's Best...

So, if you're in need of a good laugh, watch this video! We have a huge event coming up in a few weeks for New Year's Eve. We host an all-night party for student ministries at Grace and we're always trying to think of fun, crazy things we can do to make it exciting. It's always a great night, although a long one, but this year we are adding some incredible things that I think the students are going to love! One thing we've added this year is an airband competition. In order to create a buzz and in order to act like teenagers again, Travis and Jason (new High School Pastor), along with 2 of our D-group leaders, formed their own airband and performed for both junior high and senior high on Wednesday was hilarious! Of course Travis loved it and watching him act like a kid reminded me of why he loves student ministry! He's definately cut out for it!! Anyway, enjoy the laugh...I can't wait to see what the students come up with!


Feet to the Fire....

Sorry for the leave of absence I've recently taken from this blog. It's been a crazy and stressful week since Thanksgiving and I've hardly had time to breathe, let alone blog. I'm really getting tired of saying that...I feel like it's the story of my life, or at least this year! Apparently the Lord decided to test me after I wrote a blog about being Thankful for all that He's blessed us with...ironic? I think not. While we were in Iowa, on the day we were to head home, my car refused to start and decided to "die" in the land it came from. We knew this day was coming but we weren't prepared for such horrible timing! Needless to say, my feet have been held to the fire over the last few days as we've had to become a one car family while shopping for something else. Word to the wise, don't shop for a car 3 weeks before Christmas! It's not good on the cash flow! Anyway, add that challenge to an already stressful week and you'll know why I've been absent. I have lots of things to blog about but currently no time to do it! One of these days I'll catch you up with photos and descriptions, but for now I am desperately in need of sleep. Hope December is off to a good start for you! Can't believe Christmas is 3 weeks away??? I'm trying not to think about all the stuff I need to do between now and then...I think it might interfere with my sleep if I dwell on it! Happy December!


Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm sitting at my parents' computer, so full from a wonderful day of eating! I LOVE Thanksgiving and I LOVE a good, traditional meal. There isn't anything I love more than stuffing however...maybe mashed potatoes and stuffing...I try so hard not to eat anything all day so that I can fully enjoy my meal in all its glory and this year I'm happy to say that I succeeded! I hope your day was a great as mine and your meal as wonderful as ours.

We came to Iowa on Tuesday night and we've been relaxing and enjoying ourselves ever since. What is it about going home to your parents that just makes you feel like a kid again? For some reason when I'm home, I don't worry about anything and I forget about our "real lives" back home and any stress we left behind. It's the greatest thing. I just savor my time at home and I find myself laughing alot and feeling pretty carefree...what a blessing I guess, huh? I don't want to take that for granted because I know I won't always have this feeling as the years go by, but for tonight, I'm really loving it!

Since we've been here, it's snowed for the first time this year! Yesterday we got about an inch of snow on the ground and we were so excited! It was one of those snowfalls that came just in time for the holiday and produced the biggest, most beautiful snowflakes. We sent Ryley outside to play in it and he proceeded to run around like a crazy dog trying to eat all the flakes as they was pretty funny. My sister Stacie came home from North Carolina today which was great. It's so weird not to be the one flying in and out and especially from North Carolina, but I'm happy to pass that torch to her and be the one who only has to drive 3 hours. I'd much rather deal with a drive home than a flight home. Tomorrow we're planning to tackle some shopping and I think maybe some Christmas decorating! Fun. I am such a holiday girl...I love this time of the year!

Because it is Thanksgiving and because I've been reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for, I will leave you with a reminder of a parable that Jesus gave and one that Travis shared with some students, at a Chapel service he spoke at on Monday. It's the story of the 10 lepers, from Luke 17. If you remember correctly, there were 10 men, of all different races and cultures, living together and suffering from the same disease. They were outcasts from their own communities, seperated from family, unable to enter the temples to worship, and alone. Their lives were nothing short of tragic I would imagine and I'm sure it seemed as if healing would never come, hope would certainly disappoint. Until one day, when a Man passed by them and they mustered up some courage to beg for mercy...something about this Man was different and they knew it. The Bible says they called him "Jesus and Master" believing He had the power to do something about their situation. To their utter amazement and probably to their shock, He did have the power to do something. In fact, He saw them and He told them to do something they couldn't do. He told them to go show themselves to the Priest. I can only imagine their initial irritation when he said that...they must have wondered, "What is he talking about? We can't go to the Priest?"

And then it happened. They looked down. They looked down and caught a glimpse of a different body. They saw the disease that had robbed them of life was suddenly gone. Lifted. Taken away. Can you imagine their surprise? Can you imagine the well of emotion that must have suddenly come alive? Can you picture the smile that must have been on Jesus face? I have no doubt that they must have run as fast and as freely as they could, to show everyone what had happened and to reclaim the rights they had lost as lepers. I'm sure they were thankful, probably incredibly grateful. But they got caught up in the moment and they left. They returned to their lives and they left the One who had changed it all and given them life again, in the dust. Except one. One man turned back and in a total act of worship, he fell at his Savior's feet, praising him and giving thanks. How sweet that must have sounded to sad that he only heard it from one voice instead of ten.

I've been thinking today about all that I continually take for granted. How often the Lord moves in my life, usually to bless me, and I "feel" thankful, but I often get caught up in my busy world and I neglect my Savior of the praise and thanks he's due. I know He doesn't hold that over my head and I know He loves me regardless of my selfishness, but I can't stop thinking of all the praise that I hold back. All the delight that I could have brought Him but chose not to. I'm challenged tonight to lay some praise before the Lord. To turn back and give thanks for the blessings that are too numerous to count. It's all "gravy" as they say...blessing upon blessing.

I hope that you've had a wonderful Thanksgiving today like I have, but more importantly, I hope that your Savior gets to hear some praise from His people tonight and tomorrow and every day after. Don't you just want to cry sometimes when you consider all that you've been given? I do. In fact, I think our tears are as sweet to Him as the notes we sing and the words we speak. The form matters not, but the heart matters greatly. Happy Thanks-giving and Happy Praising! I am so grateful for all of you and the encouragement you bring me...we truly love each of you!


A Manic Monday Laugh...

So when I posted pictures of Ryley in his Halloween costume, I caught some flack for the priceless look on his face that seemed to say, "I can't believe she's doing this to me again." Although I only dress my poor dog up twice a year, on Halloween and Christmas, most of the year I over-indulge Ryley with whatever he wants! When we chose a Golden Retriever, our breeder told us that because they are "bird dogs" and they have a mouth designed to carry a bird, they often like toys that are large and soft. He told us to give Ryley old towels to carry around, socks balled up, and stuffed animals. Of course I jumped at the suggestion for stuffed animals and thus we have created a dog that loooooves to carry his little animals around! Anyone who has been to our house knows that as soon as Ryley has greeted you, he immediately returns with one of his animals in his mouth to "share" with whomever will take the bait! Travis would say that I am the one who thinks this is totally cute, but often when I am getting ready for bed, I hear him say to Ryley, "Come on Ryley...get lamby, we're going night-night!" (I know, try to read that sentence and NOT laugh!!!) The real truth is that we are both equally crazy about the joy Ryley and his animals bring us. Not every animal that I've brought home has been a hit. We've learned that he definately has his favorites...usually anything that's round and just a little bit larger than his mouth can handle. With Christmas just around the corner, I can't wait to look for the latest addition! So for anyone who needed a laugh today, here are some fun pictures of Ryley with his "top friends!" That list would include...Lamby, Hedgie, Dinosaur, Fishy, and Christmas Doggie...of course the names were all chosen by me, but they really are the toys he runs to get and often when we get home we find them in a pile next to him. Don't even try to tell me that's not adorable!! Anyway, on a gray and dreary Monday, I hope you get a laugh from my doggie...who is currently laying next to me, with lamby in his mouth!

Ryley and his longtime favorite toy, Hedgie (the hedgehog).

Our newest and current favorite, Lamby (and a Red Lobster giftcard he gave my Dad).

One of Ryley's old toys, that lives at Grandma and Grandpa's house now, Fishy.

The Barney look alike and a gift from Grandma this summer, Purple Dinosaur.

My personal favorite and last year's Christmas gift, aptly named...Christmas Doggie!


New Look??

So, I spent some time yesterday updating our blog and changing the look a little bit...what do you think? I was kind of getting sick of my "Larry King" dots background, so I like this one for now. I think my re-arranging bug has now moved from my home to my blog!

Travis and I had a great day yesterday, sleeping late and just chillin' for most of the day...I love those days because they don't happen very often. You can't beat a day in your jammies, sippin coffee and reading. I love the cold weather for that very reason! I try hard to make our home cozy so that it is a place we both want to be when we're "off." I even tried really hard yesterday to get Travis to agree to put up our Christmas decorations...but that may have been a little extreme. We have been listening to Christmas music since Thursday, when we discovered an all-Christmas station. We both Looooove Christmas music and we are like little kids every year when late November rolls around...we have it on constantly! So, it wasn't a total stretch to suggest decorating for Christmas?? Anyway, he didn't go for it, so I decided to try again in a few more days. How about you? Are you looking forward to the Holidays as much as we are? There truly is just something about this time of year....hope you have a great rest of your weekend!


Christmas Card Madness is Here...

Well, I'm officially in that season of looking for the perfect "Christmas picture" to send this year....poor Travis has to put up with my constant pleas for "let's just take a quick picture honey" about everyday! Here is a picture that we took in Texas, in front of the river that runs behind his Uncle Ron and Aunt Peggy's house...I like it, but it's not "the one." I have an idea in mind of what I want, it's just a matter of getting my boys on board with me! Of course I love to have Ryley in the picture with us, but that usually requires LOTS of patience on Travis' part as I insist on taking "just one more" because Ryley was looking away...does anyone feel sorry for Travis besides me?? I know I'm alot to deal with in this particular area and I freely admit it, but there is just something about a Christmas card picture that makes me slightly neurotic! I like to think I make up for it by being especially sweet and good-natured the other eleven months of the year...right?? (No responses to that statement are necessary!)


Thoughts From My Bed....

I find myself in the spot I've spent lots of time in this year, my bed. I'm here because I'm sick again. I started feeling bad on Tuesday, went to the doctor on Friday, made it through a crazy busy student ministry "Road Rulz" weekend, and now I'm totally unable to speak. I actally cannot say anything above a whisper. My doctor doesn't really know what's going on with me...I've been getting sick about every 6-8 weeks since April. Alot of my sympotms are the same and so he referred me to an Allergist, whom I'll see on Thursday, to try and determine if this is some kind of chronic allergy or just a virus that I've picked up and can't get rid of. Either way, I have to tell you that I'm very weary of being sick. Of course I say that knowing that many, many people have it worse than I do and are dealing with much bigger illnesses, so I don't compare bouts with strep, ear infections, sinus infections, and the flu to any of that. However, it is not fun to be sick, no matter what it is and especially when it happens repeatedly. I stayed home from Church today and have been sleeping or resting all day but I have to tell you that I'm feeling pretty weary of all this tonight.

This fall has certainly been an interesting one. I have been very happy and very sad; very busy and very tired; very encouraged and very discouraged; very inspired and very confused. Despite that however, God has remained very near. I haven't always remained near to him over these last few months, but He has faithfully stayed near to me. At first the pain of pregnacy/miscarriage was so great that I knew I had to remain near to God. The time in His word flew by because it was so healing and my faith and dependence came so easily. I just couldn't face a day without strength that wasn't of me. But as time goes on, the pain lessens, life happens and reality sinks in. I got busy, I tried not to think about what had happened and I tried to move forward. Somewhere in that equation, I began relying less on the Lord and more on myself. So I've had to bring that train to a halt, turn it around and spend some more time with the Lord, asking him to break me of my independence and make me dependent on Him again. It's crossed my mind a time or two that maybe that's a reason for all this sickness. It's hard not to "look up" when you're laying down. But to tell you the truth, I'm not sure that I want to learn anymore lessons through affliction! I'd really just like a postcard or email from the Lord with bullet point tips on what I'm doing wrong and what I need to change...wouldn't that be easier? Maybe not...I'm sure my mailbox and inbox would be forever full.

Regardless, I find myself here now, in some ways walking down old roads and straddling new ones. We're back in the world of waiting for a baby...trying and waiting, trying and waiting...we know this road well by now. It's so hard not to get completely consumed by the calendar, counting the days, searching for symptoms...getting disappointed. All the while, Church and work march on, making the time so short and our weeks so busy. Family life continues, friendships need attention, and oh yeah, our marriage needs some time too. I have sensed and continue to sense that the Lord is calling me to something that He hasn't yet revealed and I do believe this might be a season of working my faith out so that I can walk in the way He leads. But I'm tired. And I'm sick. And tonight I just don't want to be what I feel I cannot be. But there is I lay in bed this morning, very tired of the crazy and I do mean crazy TV evangelists I kept finding, I found comfort in two things.

#1- The story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20.
In the face of a battle that the nation of Israel could not win, this very wise king rallied his people to gather and seek the Lord, because he knew their strength could not come without Him. He prayed an amazing prayer before the people, to the Lord and he uttered one of my favorite lines in the Bible..."For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." So simple, so profound. He sandwiched that honest plea between two thick slices of praise and worship and God answered His people through Jahaziel by saying, "You will not have to fight this battle, take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you."That story brought me much encouragement today. I feel pretty lost right now, like I can't find my true purpose and I don't know what to do with my life...I say that in loose, general terms...bringing Christ glory is my purpose, I am happily married and serving alongside Travis, but I am waiting to see what He's calling me specifically to and the wait seems long.

#2- The song "Held" by Natalie Grant.
I love to have the radio on Sunday mornings because it fills our house with praise and worship and this morning this song spoke to the condition of my heart and to my circumstance. Her are some of the lyrics to that song...

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

I can say with full confidence that I have been held. Despite my unpredictable feelings and emotions, God is good and He has been very good to me...even though I'm sick, again, I will choose to praise Him through uncertainty and pain and I will wait on Him because I know the battle is His and He will deliver me in His time.

The Beauty of Hawaii Mom tells me I would love all the flowers all over the island, like these hibiscus flowers behind them.

This makes me laugh, like teenagers writing in the sand..."Steve plus Debby"

I can't imagine beach weather right now...just looking at that water makes me want to jump in!

The classic Hawaiian greeting when you land...leis for everyone!

Isn't this soooo postcard perfect! I LOVE palm trees!!!

Seriously, could this water look any prettier???? And no, that man is not dead, floating in the water...just snorkeling!

I meant to post some of these pictures a few weeks ago, when my parents went to Hawaii with some friends for a much deserved vacation and a belated Anniversary celebration. This was their first time there and they had a wonderful time! We got to see them before and after they left because they flew out of Minneapolis, so that was fun. I am very glad they took a great vacation together in paradise. Everytime I look at their many pictures, it makes me wonder...if something this breathtaking exists on earth, how can we even imagine what Heaven will be like??? We can't! I'm just planning to ask the Lord for some beach-front property, if He's taking requests!!

Granny and Trav

This is a special picture of Travis and his Granny, after he had the privilege of doing the funeral of his Grandpa. Many of you have asked about the funeral and how it was very sad for everybody to say goodbye, but it was also a wonderful celebration of a life well lived. Travis did a wonderful job with his message and he gave a very sweet tribute that would have made his Pa proud. One precious lady came up to us after the service and gave him a compliment that brought tears to my eyes, she told Travis that as she listened to him and as she watched him speak, she kept thinking that she was looking at a young Jack, Trav's Grandpa. His Granny was very thankful for the words Travis shared and she told me she couldn't have asked for anything better. Travis was able to spend some sweet time with Granny when we got there and ask her about some special memories she had from their 61 years of marriage. She told him that she loved many things about him, specifically that he was a man of his word, that he worked hard for their family, that he loved spending time with his family, and that he never said a bad word about anyone. I think Travis might resemble his Grandpa in more ways than just his looks. He also was able to look through one of his old Bibles and he found some precious things that Pa had marked and written down. I was very proud of Travis as he ministered to his Granny and to his whole family that weekend. So often we give our time and our hearts to other people, but what a privilege to use the calling God has given us to bring comfort and truth to Travis' family and to honor his Grandpa's life in the process. Death can be so overwhelming without the hope of salvation, but it can be so sweet when you know your loved one is with Jesus! Our hearts still ache for Granny as she learns to live life without of my favorite things about watching these last few years of their marriage together, is that their love for each other flourished and grew despite illness and constant limitations. That is such a beautiful picture of a faithful marriage, isn't it? I can't stand the thought of life without Travis someday, but I hope the same can be said of us when that day does come. I'm reminded to cherish these days we have together and keep making those memories that mean so much once our days on earth have ended. Thanks for praying for us and for Travis' family while we were gone. We felt the strength of those prayers and we are very glad we made the trip.


Nothing Like Time With Family

Trav's Family in Utopia, Texas

Travis with his MeMaw (I have no idea how to spell that!) and Granny

Trav and His Mom at the Visitation

Trav's aunts, Sue and Peggy

Travis and PawPaw (again, no idea how you spell that...and I was told I can't pronounce it correctly either! I'm too much of a yankee apparently!)

Travis' cousin Ian, with his son/our nephew, Henry...2 months old and adorable!

Trav's uncle Ron and his granddaughter/our niece, Lily...whom I love! She is one cute little girl who is full of stories...just like her daddy I hear!

Although we were in Texas for a sad occasion, we were so thankful to be able to spend some time with's hard for us to get to Texas often, so when we are there, our time together is precious. We were able to see aunts, uncles, cousins, Trav's Mom and Stepdad, his sisters, and his Dad and Stepmom. Even though we were there to grieve and say good-bye, we were also there to comfort one another and laugh together and celebrate a life well-lived. We are so thankful we went.


We Love the Sheltons!!

We could not let a trip through Dallas go, without seeing our Seminary partners-in-crime, the Sheltons!! Mike and Holly are such great friends of ours and we were so excited to see them. They've just moved from North Carolina to Dallas a month ago, when Mike accepted a job at Watermark Community Church as their High School Pastor. We toured their new Church and loved's so good to see them and to know they are in a Church that they are well-suited for. We also got to see Ellie and Anna, who we have not seen for such a long time! Ellie was just a brand new baby when we saw her last and this was the first time we got to meet Anna. They are both darling and little Sheltons for sure and we loved staying with them in their new house. Of course a trip to see the Sheltons would not be complete without some random Mike and Travis moments! We spent some quality time catching up and laughing our heads off, but we also got down to business and found a great bar-be-que place in Dallas to have lunch. We were reminded of so many of our famous "seminary days" and all those great memories we makes me wonder, if we can have this much fun on earth with our friends who love Jesus, how much more fun will we have in Heaven with our friends and Jesus??? We decided that we hope our Mansions in glory are close to each other so the parties will never end!!!

The Mother of All Road Trips...

As you know, we have been gone for a week, attending a funeral in Texas. We left last Wednesday afternoon and we returned yesterday afternoon. Seven days of being gone, 4 days of driving...needless to say, we are sooooooo sick of the car! We would have loved to fly down, but it was just too expensive so we sucked it up and decided to drive instead. 3,000 miles later, we don't regret that decision but we don't plan on doing it again anytime soon!! We did break our trip up and we tried to make the most of it by seeing family, friends and tourist attractions along the way! One stop we made was in Dublin, Texas...A.K.A., the original site of the first Dr.Pepper plant, also the only place today where they make Dr. Pepper with Imperial sugar cane. If anyone knows Travis, you know that Dr. Pepper is one of the great loves of his life, mostly because it is made in Texas! He was very excited to stop in this tiny little town to get a case of Dr. Pepper and a T-shirt to prove he was there. Despite the many, many, many hours of driving, we had such a great time in Texas and we are so glad that we went. We just really don't want to spend any more time in the car!!