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!!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the Armstrongs! As you can see, Ryley was a black widow spider this year...oh, how he loves it when I dress him up! I swear to you that I get such a kick out of putting my dog in a costume, it almost scares me a little bit. But, this is Ryley's 4th Halloween and he's been a pumpkin, a construction worker, a dinosaur, and now a spider...don't you think I need some kids now to dress up??? Spare me from this insanity and pray with us for another baby Armstrong!