Summer Vacation...

You're probably wondering what happened to me, after that last post? I was pretty sick the last time I blogged, but I am happy to report that I am feeling much better! Since I last wrote, my husband is home again...yeah!! He got home last Wednesday morning, and we left for vacation that night. We are currently in Iowa, seeing family and friends, but mainly just resting and relaxing. I ended up with a sinus infection, but I got some antibiotics and I'm feeling lots better. Montana was wonderful and Travis had a great time...although he was just exhausted when he got home!
I'll post some pictures and more details when we get home this weekend. We are finally getting lots of time together this week...sometimes we just stare at each other and say, "it's nice to see you!" Don't ya just love vacation?? We are also celebrating our 4th Wedding Anniversary this week...we were married in Naples, FL on August 1st, 2003. Hard to believe how quickly time flies. I promised Trav this would be quick...we're enjoying vacation and so glad to be away from home and work!!


The God who sees...

Sometimes I am totally stopped in my tracks by the Lord...warning, this is long! You know those moments, where you just pause and your heart overflows with praise because of something the Lord did for you? I'm typing this while I'm in the middle of one of those moments. Just when my spirits were low tonight, I decided to take Ryley out and get the mail...maybe my People magazine would cheer me up?

This has been a long mission's trip for some reason; I'm just really missing Travis. Unfortunately, last night I got very little sleep and that didn't help. I've had a slight sore throat this week, but last night it became more than a sore throat and I found myself coughing, sneezing and aching all over...yuck. So, I dragged myself to the minute clinic and it turns out that I have an upper respritory infection. Double yuck. Of course this stuff always happens to me when I'm home alone, and out of communication with my husband. So, I pouted a little this morning, mostly because my ears hurt and I can't breathe, and I sort of felt sorry for my lonely, sick self. But, God saw me and he heard my plea and all day he's been giving me doses of grace.

I didn't anticipate hearing from Travis until Monday night, because they headed to the mountains today to backpack for a few nights, and obviously there is no cell phone service there...however, of course he found a random spot with service and he called this morning while I was in the shower, so I missed it. You have to understand that when Travis is gone, I carry my phone next to my ear the whole time...I HATE missing a call from him. I need to hear from him. So, to miss that opportunity this morning, I started my day in tears. I knew this was going to be a long weekend! But God saw my tears and while I was getting my haircut this afternoon, I missed another call from him...I was on the verge of crying in the mall when I decided to try him, knowing he wouldn't answer. But guess what? He did answer and we got to talk for 15 minutes, which suddenly made my day and made me feel that much better. Thank you Lord! I needed that.

So this afternoon, I walked around the mall a little bit and picked up my prescription and was totally I headed home. Since then, I've been laying (lying?-whatever) in bed, feeling worse than I did this morning, with a fever, by myself. I'm bored of tv, I've been on the internet all day, and my dog is staring at me because I've basically ignored him. It hasn't been my best night. But, like I said, I got motivated to get up and take Ryley out, and I figured I'd just get my mail too. Again, God graced me.

I found a white envelope, addressed to me, with no return address in the stack of bills. It didn't look at all familiar and it's not really close to my birthday, so I opened it with no idea what to expect. Inside I found this letter:

Dear Stephanie,

Here at LeaderTreks we wanted to express our appreciation to you this week as your spouse is out on a trip. We understand the sacrifice that you must make having your spouse in a leadership position in ministry and away from your home. Thank you for supporting the work that God is doing in the lives of the students and the community they are serving. We understand that it may get difficult at times, carrying on at home and not out on an adventure, but the support you provide your spouse is admirable.

We simply wanted to thank you and bless you. Please treat yourself this week by using the enclosed gift card. It's our small way of showing appreciation for all that you do throughout the year that many times goes unnoticed in ministry. Thanks for allowing your spouse to make an impact on the Kingdom this week and focus on the development of students. We hope that your week is enjoyable for you, too!

God bless,
The LeaderTreks Staff

Along with that letter was a $25 visa gift card. Can you believe that? I share this because I know that most of my friends who read this blog are walking in my shoes, being the wife of a youth pastor. While it brings such rewards and lots of joy, there are real times of discouragement and lonliness while your husband is out ministering and you're home working or taking care of the kids. I cannot tell you what those words have meant to me tonight. I still feel bad, my nose won't stop running, and I look awful, but my heart is touched and sensitive to what I read. I truly believe the Lord uses things like this to reach down and put his arms around us, and remind us that He sees us. He knows the long days, the one-sided chores, the lonely nights, and the longing to be thanked, acknowledged. And while he doesn't have to recognize us, because we're so unworthy in light of him, he chooses to delight his child and walk with us hand in hand. I'm in tears at the thought of my Savior caring so intimately for me tonight. He wrote those words for me and he knew I'd need them tonight. I haven't gotten the mail for a couple of days, so it's probably been sitting there, but I needed to read that tonight, right now.

I hope that lifts your hearts and I hope you can claim those words for your own long days. It's a privilege to be a child of God and I want to praise Him before you, our El Roi, "the God who sees."


One of those special days...

Today was a great day, one of those lifetime milestones in fact. It seemed like just another Thursday until I got a call this morning from my very best friend...telling me that she was holding her brand new baby girl!!! How fun is that? There is something totally great about sharing life's big moments with lifetime friends.

I suppose I need to share a little background here. We go so far back, even before we were born actually. Our parents are the best of friends and when they were growing up, my Dad led her Dad to the Lord, which changed their life and family forever...that's history. Since we were born, we've been inseperable. Through all of our school days, college days, weddings and now babies we have stayed so close and we see each other as often as we can. It's so special to know that she's happy and that God has given her a beautiful little girl named Ella Grace. She and Tim have waited a long time for this day and I'm so thrilled to know that God made it worth their wait! I am so truly happy for them and I love that my friend is holding a baby tonight...I cannot wait to hold her myself. It's surreal to picture your friends with kids, but it's another rite of passage that I'm so thankful we can walk through together.

"Take the last train to Clarksville, and I'll meet you at the Station!"

So hopefully you got my Beatles reference...they didn't actually go to Clarksville. Here are the pictures I promised of the big departure at Amtrak! When we took this picture, I was just on the other side of a total stressful classic youth trip fashion, one of our chaperones was totally late and she made the train by LITERALLY 2 minutes!! Can you believe that? Welcome to my world. The train was set to depart at 10:50pm and she showed up at's a good thing this was a train ride and not a plane ride or she never would have made it. So this smile on my face says, "thank God her rear-end is sitting on that train because I want to hurt her!!" It was the most stressful send-off we've ever had (or hope to have for that matter)...but it's over and they made it...and I went home with a headache!


Day 4 of 10...

Well, it's Wednesday, which means that Travis will be home in less than a week now! He arrives on Tuesday morning at 7:30, but I feel like the rest of the week and the weekend will go schedule has become pretty busy. It's been sweet to have so many people ask me how I'm doing or if I want to come over for dinner. That makes me feel good. It's easy to hide out at home, but that's only fun for like a day or two. After that you need to see people! I haven't heard much from Travis because he doesn't really have any cell phone coverage there, but he can call me when he goes into town, so we have a phone date tonight at 11:30...I'm excited! We have lots to catch up on.

I've been wanting to paint my hallway this week but lacked the motivation to do it, until this morning. I'm such a goofy painter, I only do it when the mood strikes, which is usually late at night or early in the morning! Now I have three walls that need a second coat and trim work, and 2 walls that need a different color. It's looking good though, even just a little color makes a big difference. Travis is so much better at painting the big spaces and I always tackle the ceiling and the trim, it's kind of a drag to do it all by myself, but Travis is so tired lately that I don't want to ask him to spend his free time painting. He'll be surprised and relieved when he comes home and realizes he didn't have to do it! Once I'm done, I'll post pictures of the hallway and the bathroom, which are the same colors. After that, we only have our bedroom and bathroom, and the guest room to do. I don't know when I'll tackle that!

Poor Ryley is looking at me with his sad eyes...which means he probably needs to go to the bathroom! He never barks or whines, he just stares at you with a pathetic could you not love him??? When Travis is gone like this, I am so thankful for Ryley. Even though he's not a human, he makes me feel safe about being home alone...and that's worth all the dog hair in the world!


Missing my man!

well, I'm on day one of ten without my husband. I took him to the train station last night, yes-train station, to take off with some of our junior high students on a mission's trip to Montana. When he was looking for airfare months ago, he discovered a train route that took them right where they needed to go for half the price, so for the first time, we went to an Amtrak station last night and it was quite the experience! I don't know what I was expecting, but it was better than I thought. I actually think it was better for the parents who were sending their kids off for the first time...we all got to get on the train and help them settle in their seats and put their bags away. Obviously when they fly, we have to say good-bye at the door practically, so I think it made the moms feel better! They ended up being in their own "car" which was great because they could have fun without bothering anyone. They were on the train for 16 hours however, but it was overnight so they slept and then had pancakes for breakfast in the dining car. Not too bad for a mission's trip. I recall traveling across the country in an old church van with 10 square inches to myself, sometimes with no a/ things have changed! I took some pictures last night, but I haven't loaded them yet on my computer. Anyway, I'm home watching Pretty Woman, missing my husband already! I think I'm going to paint my hallway to keep myself busy this week!


Fourth of July on the St. Croix River!

We spent the 4th in Stillwater, MN this year with our high school students. We always have the afternoon and evening off from Family Camp activities on the 4th, and the students love to hang out in Stillwater. We took them to movies in the afternoon, Transformers and Evan Almighty, and then we went into Stillwater. There are thousands of people out, with live music and food vendors, sitting along the river (some on the river in their boats) waiting for the fireworks. We love going there just as much as the kids. It's a beautiful town with lots of fun shops and the most charming Starbucks I've ever been to...I know, seems like an oxymoron to call a huge commercial chain like Starbucks charming, but this one is in an old historic building loaded with character. I should know, I was there 4 days in a row! There's not much to do if you don't want to shop...

We totally enjoyed being with our kids all week. They are a funny, quirky group that we've grown to love. For example, while we waited a few hours for fireworks, our students played round after round of some game called "Egyptian rat slap" and "UNO"...who knew cards could provide so much entertainment for high schoolers?? We staked out a big spot on the edge of the river and we had several people comment on the behavior of our kids. It throws people to see such a large group of kids who aren't smoking or swearing constantly...a compliment, but it's sad how much they stick out just for being "good" and "appropriate." Anyway, it was a good time and the second year in a row we were in Stillwater. One of my favorite parts of the fireworks show is when they play the song "Proud to be an American"...even though it's slightly corny, it always makes me realize, I really am proud to be an American...and I like that everyone cheers when the line about Minnesota is sung "...From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee..." That's a great small-town-America moment! I really like the 4th of July. I don't remember making such a big deal about it when I was growing up, but maybe in light of our world and the chaos all around us, I'm cherishing the freedoms in America while they last? I wish I thought that my kids will someday grow up in the same America that I have, but sadly, I don't think that will be the case. Have we ever needed revival more??


Recovering from Family Camp...

We're back from Family Camp and trying to's amazing how wiped out we both feel. We had a great time, but we definately didn't get enough sleep all week! We stayed up late most nights talking and hanging out with adults and, but exhausting. I have tons of great pictures, but I'll post a few tonight and maybe more tomorrow. We had great high school students as counselors and they made our week easy! Here are some pictures of them, of us at "the beach" and us in front of the beautiful St. Croix river! We love Family Camp and we plan to make this part of our summer, even when we're not being paid to be there! I'll post more about it later...right now, I've got to get in bed!

Lifetime Friends

A few weeks ago, one of my girlfriends was in town with her husband and her son, and I meant to post pictures of our time together, but I forgot! Kim and I have known each other from our church nursery days...she was born in November and I was born in April and we have been friends ever since! We went to school together for 13 years at Walnut Ridge and we both graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2002. She's been married for 3 years now and my friend Amber and I flew to Las Vegas for her wedding, which was super fun....she lives there by the way, they didn't go to Vegas like everyone else does! Anyway, she and her husband Frank were in town visiting her parents, so of course we got together so I could meet her little boy, Austin! He is adorable and looks so much like Kim's side of the family (I think) so it was fun to finally hold him in person. They came over to our house one afternoon and we had a great time catching's such a blessing to have those friendships that transend time and circumstance. I have several close friends who have known me, basically my entire life, and I am so thankful for each of them.


Summer schedule...

I thought I was going to be so much better at blogging this summer, but it seems I've taken a turn for the worse! We're just so stinkin busy that I am always too tired to sit down and write anything, but after reading some updates from my friends, I got inspired to update ours.

My traveling husband just returned last night from another weekend away, this time at a cabin with our junior high leadership team...he had a great time and LOVED every minute he spent on the lake, but I missed him. I would have gone with him, but my sister Jennie came to visit me this weekend and we had a great time! We ate, shopped and watched movies...a great way to spend a weekend! Trav and I seem to be the definition of two ships passing in the night right now, but hopefully this next week will help us re-connect. We are heading to Wisconsin for a week of Family Camp with our's fun, but we are "working" while we're there. We are in charge of all the high school counselors, so it's not hard, but it's not exactly a vacation either! We had a good time last year, so we are looking forward to it...I'm just happy to be away from Church for a week so I can have fun with my husband everyday! I always come home thankful after these camps...thankful that this is our life and Trav's's nice to get paid for having fun and building relationships!

Jennie left today and took Ryley with her. She is taking him to my parents for "camp Grandma and Grandpa" this week because we are leaving tomorrow for Wisconsin. I love sending him to my parents because he has a wonderful time playing in their yard and with my's so nice to send him to Iowa, I never have to worry about him! We do miss him tonight's too quiet around here. We were both a little sad when we came home tonight as no one ran to the door to welcome us! He is the BEST greeter...he's never sad to see us, in fact he's usually freaking out with excitement!! Anyway, I miss him.

I have to wrap this up and feels like I'm taking our whole house with us! I like to be prepared, which really means "over-packed!" I don't think I'll get to update this until we come back, but we hope you have a great 4th of July and a fun week! We'll be quite tired at this time next Sunday, but I'm sure we'll have made lots of great memories too...nothing says summer like a week at Family Camp, right?