With Hope and Because of Jesus

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope..."  1 Thessalonians 4:13

There is a gentle, quiet snowfall today that is blanketing my world in a beautiful, winter white.  With its' entrance comes a reverent stillness that a snowfall often brings, a welcome peace as millions of flurries fill the sky.  To behold the majesty of it, is to remember what once was brown and dead and longing, has gradually been made new and washed clean before our very eyes.  And unlike many projected forecasts, it didn't happen overnight with large fanfare and attention, but instead this winter transformation has been gentle and quiet, even sweet. 

Not only has this long anticipated snowfall been good for the earth today, but it's also been good for my soul... 

As I shared last week, we've been journeying with Dave and Jennie and Dave's family, while they stood watch over Dave's Dad this past week.  In an instant their lives were turned upside down by crisis and the past seven days have been a roller coaster of emotion as we pleaded for a miracle and believed that one way or another, Ron would receive the healing God intended for him.  Last night, that healing was delivered and with his family near, the Lord took Ron's hand and led from this life into the next.  Like a quiet snowfall, he took what was broken, what needed repair and He fulfilled His promises by welcoming him to his eternal reward.  The angels rejoiced as Ron and his Savior must have embraced.  The hope that Ron clung to, the urgency that drove him over this last season of his life, and the author and finisher of his faith finally and quickly became all to him, his reality forever altered.  It is a precious comfort to picture with our limited minds, the paradise that is Heaven and to know that just as quickly and quietly as a winter snow, all the troubles of this life and the broken hallelujahs we lift up with longing hearts can be answered with a breath that begins in this world and ends in the next.  

There is peace because Ron is healed. 
There is hope because Ron is with Jesus. 
 There is assurance because God's Word is truth. 
There is blessing because Ron's life was evidence of the life change that comes from someone who has been rescued from sin and death.   
There is grace in the legacy he leaves, in the priorties he had.
There is love because he loved hard and he loved well.

But even still...

There is hurt because he was taken home so soon, and without warning.
There is sorrow because he was a beloved husband, father, papa, son, brother and friend. 
There is pain because his smile was infectious and his charm undenying.
There is an aching because he was cherished and loved by many. 

So today, while the snow falls and things are made new, the bitter cold that comes with snow is a reminder that this world is not our home.  There is a reason we long for more and a reason death brings heartache.  We hurt with Dave and Jennie, with Wendy, Brooke, Braiden, Anne and John.  I am thankful that we will be able to be with them this week, to stand with them as we celebrate Ron's life.  I'm grateful that we will not forget Ron because he lives on in the lives of his family and in the impact that he made for Christ.  But more than that, I'm filled with hope because I know Ron is with Jesus and his healing is complete.  I will see him again, as will all who have also bowed their knee to King Jesus and who actively place their trust in his finished work at the cross. 

Death is many things to many people.  But because of Jesus and Jesus alone, it is wrapped in hope and life for the believer.  It is a promise kept, an inheritance secured, a foe conquered and an entrance into an Eternity with our Savior.  Death was all those things for Ron and because of that, we grieve not as the world does, but we grieve with hope. 

I think times like this are a gracious reminder from the Lord to make a decision today.  We do not know what the future holds or if our next breath will be granted.  Jesus himself told us,

"I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." 
 John 14:6

He also told us to,

"Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." 
Matthew 7:13-14

He's even merciful to give us a warning, so that we are sure we belong to Him...

"Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers." 
Matthew 7:21-23

Eternity apart from Him will be nothing short of horrific.  Death is a great time to search your heart and ask questions because while we've all escaped it thus far, one day we won't and God forbid that day comes and it's too late for us.  Ron lived passionately during his final season of life, making sure those he loved and knew were right with Jesus.  While his passion was clearly God given, now more than ever, he would want his death to not be in vain.  He would want us not to waste this opportunity to share the good news about Jesus and the hope we have because of his life, death and resurrection. 

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast...remember that at one time you were seperate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace..."
Ephesians 2:8-14

I would love to ask you to pray for Dave and Jennie and for their family.  This is a bittersweet time and the road ahead is uncertain and filled with great need.  But as they cling to the Lord, we know and they know, that He will be faithful to them.  He knows how they feel, He also grieved the horrific death of His Son, and He knows what they need before they even do because He is God and He is Shepherd of their souls. 

As a big sister, I'm looking foward to being home with them and hopefully providing some much needed sunshine through two little people I know.  I know we'll cry and we'll reminise and we'll be blessed as we hear the stories of how the Lord was already preparing them for this day and how he used Ron to bring glory to His name.  Bittersweet...

With hope and because of Jesus, the sun will come up tomorrow and we'll see Ron again...


All About Carty Boy!!

Now that I'm out from under the pressure of doing monthly updates, I decided that it was time to fill you in on all things Carter!  He is so much fun at this age and full of life.  We get the biggest kick out of him, I am so thankful that the Lord gave us Carter.  I can't imagine our family without him! 
At 16.5 months, he is a big guy.  We've been to the doctor a lot lately, so I know that he weighs 26 lbs and he's 33.5" tall.  That means he is tall and lean, which is where he's been most of his young life.  He's so tall (93rd percentile) that most people automatically assume that he and Ava are twins now, which isn't too out of the question considering they both weigh the same and are only about 2 inches apart. 
When we were recently in the pediatrician's office, she watched him for all of 30 seconds and then looked at me and said, "Well, I can tell he is BUSY and I'm guessing he's a climber??"  BINGO!! 
I'm not sure a better description has ever been given :)
Except maybe, happy too! 
Carter is a monkey to his core, always looking for things he can scale and unlike his sister, he is basically fearless.  He LOVES to torment Ava and throw her "sleeping babies" off this little bunk bed, so that he can climb up and get to his ultimate destination...
...her bed!
He basically hurls himself over the frame and dissolves into an immediate fit of giggles and smiles.
Many, many times a day this is where I find Carter.  Or this is where Ava informs me he is, after she tells me about the way he "throwed da babies, mama!!!"  It might help his cause if he looked even remotely remorseful, but this is all we ever get.  A big GRIN :)
And speaking of that grin, check out all those teeth in his mouth!  At my last count, I think I found 12.  It's great for all the eating he wants to do, but the poor little guy certainly paid the price for each of their back to back entries.  He's had a rough couple of months.  I'm sure hoping he gets a break!
Carter is always up for anything that sounds or looks like fun.  He's an easy sell for a sing a long or dancing or some kind of action to follow.  It's fun to see him recogize some familiar songs we sing or to watch him hear music and start to groove.  He and Ava are big fans of a dance party so it's not unusual for one to break out at any time! 
I love this picture of him because he looks like the little Swede that he is, right down to his nordic sweater and pants :)
It's also the picture that confirmed how badly he needed a hair cut!!
 I took this picture last Sunday because I hadn't taken a sibling pic for awihle and because I loved their little outfits.  It's nearly impossible to get both of them still, but at this particular time in our lives, Carter is the cooperative one and Ava is the stinker :)
With all the illness we've had lately, we have spent tons of time at home and I have a pretty good idea of a few of Carter's favorite things!  He's finally reached a season where he will sit still and look at a book now, which is fun.  We've read books to him for awhile but he's never particularly liked them or lasted for more than a page or two.  However, just recently he's starting to bring books to us or sit and look at them on his own.  I've become an incredible speed reader just to get through a whole book with him!  I'm also good at just summarizing most of the pages, and thankfully, Carter is good with that :)  
We do like to joke that at this stage, Carter has NO coping skills.  When things don't go his way or he even thinks that they aren't going to, he starts to whine or cry or make some kind of noise that gets our attention.  He's famous for wedging himself in tight spaces and then crying because he's stuck.  He keeps us on our toes, that kid!
Carter loves this rocking chair and it's hilarious to watch him climb up into it.
He manages though!  I love to see him just sitting there, or sometimes, standing there.  We've proved over and over that Papa made this chair VERY sturdy.  We've had no accidents yet but Carter has pushed his luck more than once too :)
At 16 months, these are Carter's favorite books, his "go-to" books.  He LOVES that number hunt book more than anything.  It's got lots of "lift the flap" pictures that he likes to look at over and over, but this week he's taken a greater interest in that trucks book.  That is IF I can get it out of Ava's hands :)
He's also into this little people thing we bought him for Christmas.  He's getting better at putting the cars on the tracks but like a typical boy, he goes to great lengths to do it the "uncoventional" way!
This basket is full of cars and trucks and is also part of his daily routine. 
As is playing at this little kitchen in his room.  Maybe he'll be a chef? 
He likes these cars too and often he and Ava are racing around or chasing each other on them :)
Scout is also a favorite toy of Carty's...
...but nothing, NOTHING, compares to his beloved "giraffey"
A few months ago, it became his security blanket and he takes it anywhere and everywhere.  He sleeps with it and doesn't get out of his crib when he wakes up, until he grabs his giraffe and his paci.  Lately he's taken to holding it by the tail and when he's tired, he strokes the tail with his thumbs.  It's so darn cute, we just love it.  I have no idea what we'll ever do if he loses it...and no, we don't have another one. 
We just love this little guy so much.  He is really starting to talk to us now, although lots of it is just very animated babbling still.  One of our favorite things is that he calls Ava, "Ada" and it's so fun to hear him call for her or ask for her when she's still sleeping. 
We've been trying to help the two of them learn to be kind to one another and to forgive one another, so we recently realized that if we tell Carter to say he is sorry to Ava, he will go over to her and sort of lower his head and nudge her.  It's similar to a dog but so cute because it's his way of trying to apologize and give her a hug. 
And naturally, it works every time.
How could this face not make you forgive him????
Life with Carter is all about keeping up with him and keeping him out of too much trouble.  He is an explorer to his core, just like his Daddy, but also so happy and tender hearted.  I just love this stage with him and I'm so grateful that he is still a great napper and sleeper at night...believe me, we need the break to stay on top of him!  I love having a little boy in our family and I'm so glad that little boy is Carty.  I have no idea what the next stage will bring, but if it's anything like all the rest, I know I'm going to love Carty and learn to like all the challenges and adjustments that come! 

We love you Carter!!


Plan B

Whew.  What a week. 
We have been hit with a few punches this week and not the kind that are easy to roll with.  Tonight, we are finally feeling like we've returned to the land of the living, after dealing with a NASTY bout of the stomach flu.  On Tuesday night, Travis told me he wasn't feeling well before we went to bed and unfortunately for him, that was the beginning of an awful night.  I have never seen (or heard) him be so sick before, it was an all night affair that kept both of us awake.  We started Wednesday off with about an hour's worth of sleep and Travis feeling so sick that he couldn't sit up or get out of bed.  I also felt badly but one of us had to take care of the kids so I limped through most of the day until late in the afternoon when it hit me like a truck and I started getting sick too.  Ava woke up that morning having thrown up in her bed, but thankfully that was all that happened for her.  Carter steered clear of everything except for some recurring diarhea.  Last night I was the sick one and Travis limped through taking care of the kids. 
We agreed that there is nothing like having the stomach flu and still having to take care of kids to make you LONG to live closer to the Grandparents!  We were dying for some help but we managed to make it through.  My good friend brought us some groceries last night so the kiddos could eat and so that we could start sipping on sprite and saltines.  Poor Ava and Carter, I'm not sure what was running through their minds but they had to wonder what happened to their Mommy and Daddy??  We did lots of "parenting" from the couch or our bed, often with our eyes closed.  But today was a new day and thankfully, Travis was feeling much, much better and I started to turn around this afternoon.  We tried to make up for our lack of involvement and play with the kids today, while doing at least 6 loads of laundry and lots of cleaning and disinfecting.  I'm a happy girl to be in bed tonight, with a shower and clean sheets and pillows.  It's amazing how a fever and some kind of nasty bug can just wipe you out.  We both feel like we were hit by a truck but thankfully I think we've reached the end.  We're both eating again and tonight will be the first night that we climb in bed without a bucket next to us :)
It's the little things that make us smile these days!
I suppose it's ironic that I started reading this book on Saturday night, because it's been a theme this week.
Sadly, the hardest part of our week had nothing to do with the flu.  On Sunday morning we got a call from my Mom, who told me that my sister's father in law had suffered a massive heart attack.  As the hours unfolded we learned that they were able to save him and that his heart has sustained no damage, but due to an extended period of time without oxygen to his brain, he also showed significant signs of brain damage.  It's been a heartbreaking week as we've waited for signs of improvement and news of any kind.  His story is not mine to broadcast, but I can tell you that there has been no change and with everyday the odds stack up and the agony deepens. 
I spent Monday and Tuesday keeping myself busy, but also just having to go back to scripture to make sense of the whole thing.
I had several Biblea laying around the house while I went back and forth, reading and praying and wrestling with the "whys and hows" of the whole thing.  It makes me so sad, he's so young and his family so young too.  But it's also gut wrenching to know my sister and especially my brother in law are hurting so greatly while they are walking this hard road.  It's been another reminder about the fragility of life and the importance of knowing where you'll spend Eternity.  In an instant, life can change forever.
I found hope in Psalm 73 this week and found myself camped out in this passage.  If we've trusted the Lord and call Him our Savior, He says He is always with us, holding us by the hand.  He guides us through life with His counsel and even escorts us into Heaven when He's determined that it's our time to come home.  When we're faced with life and death situations, it becomes much easier to put things into perspective and remember that only one thing matters and that is what we choose to do with Jesus.  Because when our hearts and flesh fail, which they will, He is the one who gives us strength and He is the inheritance that we look forward to. 

We are praying for a miracle for Dave's Dad and trusting that no matter where his healing comes, on this side of Heaven or the other, He knows the plans He has for us.  He is Sovereign God, He is near to the brokenhearted, He will never leave us or forsake us and He is the hope of glory!  We ache for Dave and Jennie and their family.  There are no easy answers and a probably a difficult journey ahead.  This week has been a tough one and yet, one that reminds us of Who is truly in control of our lives and how much He loves us, even in our darkest hours. 

This is the link to the Caring Bridge for Dave's Dad.  Please join us in praying for a miracle and for peace and comfort for their family while they watch and pray. 

I hope you have a blessed Friday, friends. 
More importantly, I hope you take the time to hug your loved ones and make ammends where necessary.  You just don't know what tomorrow holds, but if you know Jesus, you can take great comfort in knowing that HE holds tomorrow and because of who He is,  He's all we really need to know.


When God Writes Your Love Story

I love the Lord because He has been good to me...
He wrote a love story for me that I never could have predicted or orchestrated on my own.  When I waited for the man He had for me, He brought me one who blew every expectation and desire out of the water.  Travis, you were exactly the man I always wanted to marry, but better than than, you are SO much more. 
10 years ago today, you told me you loved me and my life took off in a new direction.  It's been a wild ride, but one that I wouldn't give up for the world.  I love our life together and I love the story God is still writing for us, now with a precious little girl and boy to love too.
Although these two little people have a way of consuming our day, it's you that makes my heart stop and it's you that I can't wait to see walk through the door each night.  I love the time we find to carve out for each other and I adore closing out each day with you by my side. 
I'm grateful for the way you love me and honor me and take care of me.  I'm also grateful for the way you do the same for our kids.  Nothing makes me fall harder for you than to see you with them. 
There isn't anything magically different about today but I do love Valentine's day because of what it means between us and because it's always a good thing to stop and consider why I love you and what it is about you that makes me grateful.  I've only scratched the surface on this post, I'll give you my real list tonight :) But I can say that you have changed my life and I am a very happy and contented woman who is proud to be your wife. 

Happy Valentine's Day, baby!
You are the one my heart loves, rich or poor, in sickness or in health, for better or for worse.
I wouldn't choose anyone but YOU if I had to do it all over again. 
I love you so much...



I'm finding myself in a bit of a funk today, not really motivated to do anything.  Tomorrow is Valentine's day, which I typically love, and as of right now I've done absolutely nothing to prep for it.  I made the mistake of looking back on the blog last year to see what we did and now I *officially* feel like a loser.  Last year I made a big themed breakfast, I had gifts for everyone, we got a babysitter, went on a date, exchanged gifts with each other, etc., etc.. 

But this year, with one day to go, I've got nothing. 

We've got Bible study in the morning and Carter has an afternoon well-check appt. at the pediatrician, but that's about it.  I don't know what I'm making for dinner, I have no gifts for the kids or Travis and shock of all shocks, I haven't made a single sugar cookie. 

Can you say, lame??? 

The worst part is that I'm tired today and completely uninspired.  I hate it when that happens. 

So, I have a few options. 

-I could forget the whole thing and just act like it's another day. Kisses and hugs for everyone, but that's about it.
-I could get on pinterest, get inspired to step up my game and come up with something special to redeem the day.
-I could drag myself out to Target tonight, to get supplies and groceries for afun/romantic night in tomorrow.


I could sit here and do nothing.

Which is what I'm currently choosing to do. 

I need some holiday help...



Signs of Hope

Surprisingly, this has been a good week.  Although I wouldn't wish for my kids to be sick, there has been something really sweet about just being home this week and doing nothing.  They are doing much, much better and we are grateful.  We're not totally back to normal but we're getting there.
It's fun to just watch them play (and sometimes fight) in their jammies all day.  Carter loves to push Ava's babies around and walk around with her strollers.  I'm not sure how, but we seem to be raising kids who are obsessed with pushing strollers??  Ava asks me daily for another stroller for her babies.  We already have a fleet, but apparently that is not enough :)
With each day this little peanut has been getting more and more life back in those eyes.
He has been my little shadow this week, which has been good and exhausting.  I do love all the extra snuggles but when he goes down for a nap or to bed at night, I won't tell you that I'm not glad for the break!
See what I mean about the stroller??  Here's my little shopper, reading magazines in bed with me and telling me what she'd like (today) for her birthday, which is in April :) Oh she makes me laugh!  She's been a little nut this week, I've loved watching her play too and realizing how quickly she is growing up.  I just about had a breakdown in Target today, realizing that she's almost 3.  I just game to grips with her being 2, how can I possibly embrace 3??  Before I know it we'll be talking about kindergarten and that very thought made my eyes well up with tears.  I'm not ready to send her yet!!
Thankfully we still have some years to go and some milestones, but we've also turned a big corner this week too.  Because we were home so much and it finally seemed like the right time, I jumped into full time potty training, this time with her big girl undies :) We've been doing pull-ups for awhile and she's done great, so it was time to make the move.  I got official and made her a chart...
...moved her potty into it's new spot...
...and promised 2 jelly beans for every successful time she went.
"Beans" as she calls them, also what she calls m&m's.
We had a few minor accidents yesterday but overall she is doing so well!!  We are terribly proud of her and almost shocked at how well she is doing.  I'm trying not to set myself up for thinking we won't have any relapses or big accidents, but I'm glad we waited until now to go full boar.  She does seem to be ready to do this.  
Of course now that she's potty training, she's also lobbying for her ability to drive.
And she has her sights set on Mexico, I think :) 
Her aunt Katy is getting married there in a couple of weeks, we all wish we were going!!
While I was vacuuming one afternoon, I came back to Ava's room to find her lined up on the floor with all of her babies.
I asked her what they were doing and she said they were going to "watch a movie."  Since there is no TV in her room, she actually asked me if they could listen to her "Booty and da Beast musik?" and of course I said yes.  She laid there and sang along to the soundtrack for awhile, it was pretty cute.
Meanwhile her brother had a little tea party...
...and used her baby's bunk beds to climb up into her bed.
But it didn't bother this little dreamer.  She was lost in the land of princesses.
I got inspired to bake this week, mostly because I was home so much and I have a horrible sugar addiction at about 3pm everyday :) I had some bananas that were going bad, so I found a recipe for some Martha Stewart Banana Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting.  Let me tell you, they did not disappoint!
We ate them for breakfast (without frosting) and for dessert too.  Kind of a fun alternative to banana bread.  They were so moist, I'll definitely make them again.
This is Carter's familiar pose when he is getting sleepy.  He just walks around the house with his paci in, holding that giraffe by the tail and stroking it.  I LOVE it and I will miss it when he's too old to do this.  He is looking like and acting like such a big boy these days, so when I see him like this I get a glimpse of my baby again :) 
Last night was when we really knew that Carter was officially feeling better.  He's had such a low appetite for the week and it's been a struggle to get much food in him.
Until last night when he ate 2 heaping bowls of spaghetti, by the handful.
Although it was a disaster of epic proportions, it did our hearts good to see him happy to eat again.
Today we've done more of the same and this is how Ava's chart looks tonight!  I'm crossing my fingers but so far today, we've had no accidents.  I can't believe it.  My baby is handling this rite of passage better than her Mama :) 
And finally, after my post about my home and trying to keep our room free of clutter and our bed made everyday...I thought you'd appreciate seeing exactly what it looked like today.  Although it is my goal to keep it picked up and for our bed to be made, I do live in reality!  Somedays it just doesn't work out and today was one of those days.  I never want to give the impression that I'm not who I say I am :) There is some freedom in just keeping it real, right??

Thanks for your kind comments on my last post and for all of you who have checked in with us this week.  We are on the mend over here and enjoying the "forced" break that unexpected illness brings.  
I hope you have a blessed weekend!  Really glad it's Friday!