We're Texas Bound...

This morning Travis' Grandpa went home to be with Jesus! After a long bout with Parkinson's, he is finally free and completely healed. We are heading down to the Hill Country for the funeral and we will be back in a few days. Please keep Travis'family in your prayers as we get together to say good-bye. We are especially sad for Trav's Granny, who is now facing life without her sweet husband by her side. Of course this seperation is only temporary, but still hard on her. We are so looking forward to spending time with our Texas relatives and remembering Trav's Grandpa. I was thinking that Heaven must have had a "good-old-country" party this morning...maybe the Angels were doing the Texas Two-Step or the Waltz across Texas, now that Jack has arrived?? We are sure that there was some mighty fine rejoicing going on and we are comforted in knowing that our little lamb got to meet his/her Great-Grandpa today! Please keep us in your prayers as we drive down south this week...we'll be having some bar-b-que and some authentic Tex-Mex for ya!


Saying Goodbye is Never Easy

This has been a sad weekend in our family as we prepare to say goodbye to Travis' Grandpa. We got a call last week that his long struggle with Parkinson's and old age appears to be coming to an end. We've all known this day would come, but as you know, that doesn't make it any easier when it actually does. We are comforted in knowing that he is surrounded by his bride of 60+ years, as well as his kids through these final days and hours. We believe that Pa (as this Texas family calls him) knows Jesus and will be dancing in His presence soon! The pain will be gone, the weaknesses restored, and the confusion over. As we grieve our loss here, we will know that his "real life" is beginning and this seperation we feel now will one day be over. Aren't the promises of salvation especially precious and true in these hours? Death without hope is indeed devastating. Death with the promise of eternal life is only sad for a season. God is so merciful to give us every opportunity to choose life with Him...the urgency is to do that before it's too late. I'll leave you with a good look at growing old, from Ecclesiastes, and ask you to pray for Travis' family now as we walk through this valley in the coming days...old age and death is inevitable but hope reigns in the hearts of those who know Jesus as their Savior...then, and only then, is life eternal!

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (explanation mine)
"Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-
(before it's too late to turn back)
before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;
(A metaphor for our bodies breaking down)
when the keepers of the house tremble,
(your hands)
and the strong men stoop,
(your shoulders)
when the grinders cease because they are few,
(your teeth)
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
(your eyes)
when the doors to the street (your ears) are closed and the sound of grinding fades
(struggling to hear someone talk);
When men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint;
(waking up early, but lacking energy)
when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets
(getting tentative and afraid);
when the almond tree blossoms
(getting white hair)
and the grasshopper drags himself along
(physical limitations)
and desire is no longer stirred
(sexual limitations).
Then the man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him...
(before it's too late!)


All meat please...

I shared awhile ago about a Bible study that I'm currently participating in. If you remember correctly, I shared about the first night and how I broke down at the very end and totally cried in front a group that was mostly strangers...oh, the joy of forced humility! Anyway, since that night, I've not felt the need to cry during our meetings but instead I've wanted to stay and soak up what we're learning. I am so thankful for this particular study and how it's challenging me to go deeper. I've needed the challenge and the accountability. Anyway, I cannot get my mind off our subject last week and I'm finding myself encountering it all over the place!

Our subject was doctrine. Specifically, the nitty, gritty basics of salvation. Ohhh it's so good!!! Working through it and disecting it is like feasting on a big, juicy steak when all you've had lately is a salad. I do not say that, by the way, as a reference to our Church, I say that in reference to my own devotional life. I've been settling lately for the appetizers and now I'm consuming the main course with the kind of fear that my waiter is going to come and take it away from me! I guess it's so refreshing to me because I've been noticing how watered down our culture (me included) has become. I read an amazing article, from a favorite Pastor or ours, J.D. Greear...see the link to his blog on your left. We attended his church for awhile when we lived in N.C., before Travis got a ministry job, and we grew so much through his deep teaching from the Word. He wrote an entry in reference to a conference he attended and spoke at, at our Seminary, on the "Emerging Church." It was such a good look at where our generation of Christian leaders, specifically Pastors, is going and why. What are some of these movements based on? Like everything in life, there are always extremes, but what scares me most are those in the subtle middle. The ones that appear relevent and cutting edge, but upon deeper examination are cutting corners in their theology...that's scary because the Lord takes that very seriously. Leading people astray is not always obvious. I keep reflecting on this passage:

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Oh, how I don't want that to be true of Travis or myself. I am just impressed/burdened with the responsibility of knowing what I believe, down to the nitty gritty so that I remain pure before the Lord with the gospel He died for. Sadly, to do that, I must get serious with the reality of who I am, apart from Christ. And that is not pretty. There is a reason we needed saving right? Because we're stinkin full of sin and we cannot do anything on our own to change that. Wouldn't you agree that lots of people don't like that part? They want to believe that we are innately good, not born sinful, and therefore capable of somehow being "good enough" to earn their way into Heaven. The problem is, sound doctrine...that is doctrine straight out of God's word...refutes all that.

Here are the beautiful details...Through atonement we receive payment for our crime; through redemption we are bought back with a randsom; through propitiation God's wrath and anger are removed from us forever; through reconciliation we are brought back to Him; through expiation our guilt is removed; through justification our status before the Lord changes; and through sanctification the Holy Spirit helps us become more like Jesus...I could go on and on, but don't you just love all these "...ation" words??? They are so precious to our faith and rich in meaning. I just keep dwelling on them or as my friend Heidi says, I'm "marinating" in them and letting the truths sink in. Can I challenge you to do the same? To examine what you believe and more importantly,why? Is it rooted in truth or myth?

I want to share with you the lyrics to a song that I am loving right fact, let me copy a friend and plug the newest cd by Shane and Shane, called Pages. I'm calling it my "miscarriage cd" because the truths in their lyrics have been so soothing to my soul. I could probably write a discourse on every song and why it ministers and relates to me, but I'll spare you. For now, read these telling words and get on i-tunes to buy it for your's a doctrinal gem!

Embracing Accusation

The father of lies coming to steal, kill, and destroy all my hopes of being good enough. I hear him saying, "cursed are the ones who can't abide." He's right. Hallelujah, he's right. The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed. That I am cursed and gone astray. I cannot gain salvation, embracing accusation.

Could the father of lies be telling the truth of God to me tonight? If the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine. I hear him saying, "cursed are the ones who can't abide." He's right. Hallelujah, he's right. The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed. That I am cursed and gone astray. I cannot gain salvation. Oh the devil is singing over me an age-old song....that I am cursed and gone astray. Singing the first verse so conveniently, he's forgotten the refrain.

Jesus Saves!


Ramblings from the Armstrong house...

Hi friends! It's been awhile...again. I've been a little convicted lately about how much time I spend on the internet, although most of that time is spent blogging and/or catching up on all my friend's blogs! I think that's sort of time well spent? Anyway, I'm trying to limit myself, so my updates have been a little behind.

There aren't too many things happening at the Armstrong house right now. We are in the swing of things at Church and in student ministries...this last weekend was our annual volunteer training retreat. My friend Holly asked me how many retreats I've been on this year and so I decided to count...between Travis and I, this last weekend was #12! Add a week of junior high camp, family camp, and a mission's trip and now you know why I feel like we live out of our suitcases! It's amazing how many retreats our Church has...I think it must be a Minnesota thing? I guess all those lakes and cabins and retreat centers are crying out for weekend trips. It's apparently what we do to make up for our long winters and short summers?? We plan loads of long weekends instead.

Anyway, It's been a little over a month now since our miscarriage, and we're still humbled at all the cards and emails and phone calls that keep coming our way. What a blessing you all are to me and to Travis. I am so thankful for this time and the way the body of Christ has come around us. It really is a privilege to be a believer isn't it? As my mind tries to wrap itself around all these lessons I'm learning and the truths that are standing out among the lies, I can't help but be heartbroken for those who don't know the Lord and for those who don't have the support of other Christians. How do they walk through dark days? I can't tell you how many people have hugged me and loved on me at Church...people I honestly don't really know, but because of our bond in Christ, we have a true connection. I've received cards and emails from people I've never met, and yet their words mean so much to me because I know we share a common hope in Jesus. Isn't that amazing? In no other "organization" is that possible. Only in the Church, only because of Jesus, can we experience true community. Different members doing different things all with the goal of edifying the body. What a beautiful work of the Lord. We're so privileged to be reaping the benefits of that right now...the Lord is so faithful to us.

The most common question I'm getting right now is, "So how are you REALLY doing?" It's a thoughtful question that doesn't seem too perplexing, but nonetheless, one that I'm struggling to answer. I have this gut reaction to just say, "I'm doing very well" but I also have this fear that I'm deceiving myself and that I'm doing a good job of just being distracted. It's still hurts and I still wish I could change it. I still wanted that baby and I still struggle to believe that it happened to me. So, how do I gauge how I'm "doing?" Is by the decreasing number of times I think about it? Is it by the passing of the days and weeks? Is it by my ability to hold back the tears? Is it in my composure when I talk to someone face to face? What if I don't really know how I'm doing? Is that an answer that I'm allowed to give?

I have come to the conclusion that there is no "playbook" for this journey, just like there are no "rules" for the hard times in our lives. Bad things happen to all kinds of people, every single day. In my flesh, I want to cry out for reasons, for an explanation, but I know that even that won't change anything. Yet, I have so many questions, so many "what if's" can get overwhelming if I dwell on it. A good friend, who has walked this road, said to me, "you know, you'll never get over will always stay with you and it will become part of you." At first that freaked me out, like it was going to be this dark cloud that would haunt me until I died, but then I started thinking about that. If I believe that God is Sovereign (in control)and I do, then I have to believe that this miscarriage was not a suprise to Him. It was allowed for me, in this season, for a reason or reasons I may never know. Sometimes God opens our eyes and let's us in on His plan and sometimes He doesn't. Through this latest journey, I am learning to believe God in what I know and trust Him in what I don't. Some days are easy and some days are hard. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I suceed. But it's not about me. It's about the Lord. For every part of me that falls short, He is ready with a sufficient dose of grace and strength for the day. If I step back and let Him lead me, we do well. If I brush past Him and go ahead on my own, I falter and He remains. Will I ever have all the answers? No. Will I ever be able to explain this loss? No. Will I continue to trust Him anyway and let Him show me the things He wants to teach me? Yes. Has He proven Himself faithful to me before? Yes. Will He do the same again? YES, YES, and YES!!

Despite the pain, despite the loss, depsite the heartbreak, He is good and He is worthy of my praise. Even though I don't understand, I will choose to trust Him and I will choose to bless His name and in return, He will love me, and heal me, and delight in me because He has redeemed me and called me to Himself. So if you're wondering how I'm doing, thank you for your sweet concern. I am learning and growing and I'm very thankful...thankful for this trial, thankful for our friends, family, and Church and thankful for God's grace. I have the best husband in the world...I can not imagine living life with anyone else. We are filled with hope and excitement again and we believe that God will answer our prayers for another baby. Life is slowly marching on again in our house and we are emerging as the walking wounded, but we know the great physician and we have 24/7 access to His throne. I am so humbled by how you've all blessed us with your love and concern, but I'm curious tonight about how we can encourage you in return. I'd hate to walk through these days with no more mercy than we started with or no more compassion than we had to begin with. I know a blog is not the face to face connection that we all need, but it's a start. Please, please, please email me or call me if you're hurting. Let me me pray for you or love you as you've loved me. I've got some battle scars to share with you and I'd be honored to walk alongside you. Thank you for walking alongside us through our blog and for letting me ramble and share with you. Have a blessed week and remember to believe God in what you know and trust Him in what you don't!


"Loving Well" Women's Retreat

My Mom and I with my cousin Jenny

Proof that women can sucessfully parallel park without our husbands...go Rhonda!

My Mom and I on our balcony on a windy, fall day

The beautiful lake view from our room...Northern Minnesota at its finest!

A bucket of gorgeous fall flowers from my hospitality breakout session

Part of the demo table from a floral arranging demonstration

I thought I'd post some fun pictures from the women's retreat I went to recently. It was a much needed break from my everyday routine, although it was sort of stressful because I led a breakout session. Our theme was "Loving Well" so I was asked to put together a session on the ministry of hospitality and how to make your house a home. The session(s) went very well, but it was alot of work to pull it off. I had to take tons of dishes and accessories and all of my floral tools, etc., so it made for a wicked packing adventure! Oh, and I was sick with a sinus infection! However, it was a fun way to use the talents God has given me and my years of floral design, not to mention my degree, for a godly purpose. It awakened some old desires in me to do more with the gifts God has blessed me with. More fun than all of that however, was that I got to go with my Mom and with my cousins, Jenny and Rhonda. We had so much fun laughing and being together...that's what makes a retreat so worthwhile! We also were so blessed to participate in a weekend designed by Beth Moore and her team. I love sitting under her teaching and I left with so much insight and a challenge to "love well." I'm kind of amazed at the timing of this was a little difficult to prepare, knowing and feeling like I was so empty, but I've also wondered if God didn't plan it that way? I think we often serve Him best when we're broken and completely dependant on Him. That's the blessing of tends to prompt your heart toward God's strength and not your own. I'm so happy that I was able to go to this retreat and I am already looking forward to the next one!


Happy Endings!

I thought I'd leave a quick post because it is late on Monday night, but I have the happiest husband on the block I think! We just watched an amazing comeback by his beloved Cowboys and Travis is running around like a little kid, with a grin plastered on his face! I love the pure adreneline rush from a good's so fun when your team wins and especially when it's wrapped up in the drama of an old-fashioned comeback...makes me think that God's heart must expand everytime one of his kids has a comeback too! Hope your week is a good one, maybe even a comeback if you need one...and don't we all???


Updates Coming Soon...

So, I've taken a little leave of absence lately, not just from this blog but it seems from life. Do you ever just have a day or a week that just gets away from you? One of those times where you just look back and think, "what just happened?" I think I've been thinking that for the last month. This morning during our worship at Church, I just had one of those reflection times where I was squarely confronted with so many "things" that have happened in my world and the realization that I've handled some of it well and some of it I've wasted. Do you know the feeling? I feel like I've had extreme joy and pain, real ups and downs, hard days and good days, sweet times and devestating times, and the very real sense that I've just been totally overwhelmed by it all. I found myself so humbled in the presence of the Lord and once again amazed at His unbelievable patience and mercy over me...His unwavering love when all I seem to do is waver. How is it possible? I wanted to laugh at how silly my emotions are with Him and then cry about how I feel like I've failed Him...again. Isn't that just how our human hearts deal with grace? We can't believe the simplicity of it and the magnitude of His love and yet we can't grasp the gift of it without our guilt creeping in. And God doesn't want that. He doesn't want us to wallow in guilt and shame, He wants us to leave the sin behind and celebrate His grace that allows us to do that! So I'm trying that tonight. I have so many things I'm still processing, but I'm focusing on the one thing that ultimately matters...Him! His grace. His sacrafice. His love. His goodness. His patience. His kindness. And I'm not letting Satan consume me with my shortcomings and my drama. And I pray that for you tonight too. I've got lots of pictures to post and things to update you on, but not tonight. Tonight I just want to love my Savior more than I did last night, and I think that's a worthy use of my time.