Bike Rides and Blessings

Our babies are growing up and doing big kid stuff every time we turn around.  Ava has been asking about riding a bike for awhile, since early in the summer actually.  We had a little bike that was given to us last year but I sent it to my parents house because it was too big for her and we had no room to store it.  This summer she rode it at their house in July while we were visiting and in just a few days, she was noticably better and more interested than ever before.  Just a few weeks ago she started asking about it again, bringing it up a lot and wanting to "ride HER bike" to the park :) We decided it was time to buy her one and begin teaching her, but in between the demands and events of each week, we just hadn't gotten to the store yet. 
(Insert my sweet friend E and her generous heart *here.* 
 THIS picture is for YOU!!)
As the Lord has so faithfully used her before, my friend E called me on a Monday morning (out of the blue) to tell me that she had a little bike in her car for Ava and could she leave it in Trav's office at Church??  She had no idea that we had plans to get her a little princess bike at Target that week, but as the Lord loves to delight us (both of us), I listened to her tell me that this was a purple princess barbie bike with training wheels and a matching helmet, and would that work for Ava?? 
 Ummm, YES!!!
I can't tell you how many things she has passed our way that have been PERFECT for our kids and have come at just the right time.  She is a huge blessing to us and our kids have reaped incredible gifts from her slightly older kids.  Amazing.
 We heart E at our house!!
  After she called, we didn't tell Ava about it, we wanted to surprise her.  I so wish I would have had the video camera out when it happened.  Trav pulled in after work one day and I directed Ava to the window to "see Daddy" and then casually said, "Ava, what is he getting out of the back seat??"  She leaned forward to really look and then shrieked (as only little girls can) "Is that a bike???  Is that a bike for ME???" 
 It was precious. 
I wanted to cry.  (I probably did)
She took off running through our house and out our door, waiting for the magical sight of her Daddy and the new bike.  She jumped for joy, told us she loved it and said to Travis "Daddy, did you get this for me?? Did you get me my bike I wanted?? Thank you so much for my booutiful bike Daddy, I love it so much!! Oh my, oh my goodness it's a PRINCESS bike!!"  Again, where was the video camera when I needed it?? 
I was too busy choking back tears over her joy and thanking the Lord once again for providing in ways we never expected,  to delight us AND our children. 
 I love that He cares about the big stuff in our life, but I also love that He sees and knows about the little stuff too.  And so often I think He uses the little stuff in life to see if we're tuned into Him or not.  Sometimes I've missed out on blessings He's had for me because I was too focused on the ways He seemingly wasn't answering the big stuff.  These last few years I've tried to really look for Him in the little things and I'm finding that His fingerprints are everywhere. 
Case in point: Here is Carter on his new, little bike, also a gift from E last summer. 
While Ava rejoiced over the new bike in her life, Carter enjoyed an upgrade too :)
Seriously, we are blessed!!!
This little guy is almost ready to ride it himself, but he still loves for us to push him.  I love him in his little hat and crocs.  That has been his classic summer look and I keep trying to preserve it in my mind's eye so I don't forget it when he's 18 :)
Miss Ava wasted no time getting on that bike and exploring her world as if it had just opened up to her.
She is our cautious kid in many ways, so she was never too far from one of us.  She didn't quite trust the training wheels and kept thinking she was going to tip over. 
It's kind of a new phase, transitioning from always having them in a stroller to their own little bikes instead.  It will be a good thing when we can lag behind and they can peddle and steer on their own :) But, as I walked behind everyone and took the whole scene it, I couldn't help but swallow that lump in my throat that is forming more and more these days as I watch them grow and mature. 
We were laughing at Ava who was very vocal about her thoughts and emotions as she "rode" :) :) As she would pick up speed and start to feel out of control she would say, "OH my, OH my, OH my!!  Mom, do you GOT me??"  It was so funny.  She loved it and it terrified her all at once :)
I can only imagine how Carter (our non-cautious child) will handle that next summer!  I don't think he'll be asking if we "GOT" him, I think he'll be peddling like a maniac and laughing hysterically while he crashes into anything and everything in his way. 
Just a hunch I have :)
 We're starting to resemble a circus now.  We're loud, there are several side shows going on at any given time and Travis and I are trying desperately to be the ring masters in the midst of it.  It's a sweet, simple season of chaos.  Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by it and sometimes I can't stop thanking God for the ways He's answered our hearts' cry.  They are precious and they have our hearts all wrapped up around them.  The day will come too soon when a new bike or a walk to the park will not be their idea of fun, but I am not longing for those days yet.  I want to freeze these moments in time and hear their little chatter and banter back and forth.  Life is their oyster right now :)
We need to pick up a helmet for Carter, but I think they are pretty set for some fall walks and spring bike rides, don't you?  Thank you, thank you, thank you to our dear E.  You are a blessing in more ways that we can count!!  Our kids don't realize what you have done for them yet, but we do.  And we love your generous heart and your willingness to let go of your "stuff" and share it. 
If you're looking for us, we'll be circus headed to the park, chaos and noise surrounding us the whole way!

Swimming Lessons and a Soccer Retreat

It's a beautiful Friday here in Minnesota, what's it like in your neck of the woods?   I'm playing a little bit of catch up this morning, actually who am I kidding?  I'm playing A LOT of catch up today, in just about every area of my life.  We enjoyed a *little* downtime about 3 weeks ago, but we are officially back to the grind now and our days and nights have been full.  Truthfully, I'm kind of exhausted.  But, I am editing as much as I can from our schedule, trying to keep it balanced and healthy.  Much easier said than done right now.  I'm not sure where I left of in my blogging, but here are some photos and updates from the last couple of weeks.  To our dear relatives who must think we've forgotten how to pick up a phone, or that we are not taking any pictures of "the stars of the show", these are especially for you :)
Did I ever tell you about Ava's swimming lessons?  She took a few days of lessons from one of our former students and it was so great!  She just LOVED it and she did so well.  I'm so glad we signed her up for this, it was good timing for her age and stage.  She seems like a natural water bug already! 
 We were blessed with fabulous weather and a little girl who couldn't wait to get in the pool every morning!
 Channeling her inner Michael Phelps :) Or Missy Franklin, right??  Weren't the US swimmers so fun to watch this year in the Olympics?  They were unbelieveable.  I think watching so much coverage helped get Ava excited too.  She told me that she was going to "touch the wall, Mom" and then we would "cheer for Ava!"  So funny!
 And cheer we did!  My parents came up for a few days to see us and to watch the water bug.  She had quite the cheering section and of course, we loved all of our time with them! 
 These two just keep growing and growing, both in stature and personality :) Life is pretty fun right now, although pretty exhausting too.  I keep thinking this (the physical nature of parenting) will get easier, but so far we aren't there yet!  They keep me on my toes ALL DAY LONG. 
I've never loved naptime/bedtime more :)
What really wiped me out a few weeks ago however, was this list above, in addition to 3 more just like it!  Travis hosted a 3 day soccer retreat for his JV and Varsity guys and the kids and I tagged along too.  Actually, I was the "cook" and they just came because they had too :) It really was a lot of fun, there were 27 guys and I brought along 2 high school girls to help me, plus a Mom who was there for the first 2 days as well.  Overall, no complaints.  The boys were so great, very appreciative and helpful but practically speaking, I am SO GLAD I only cook for a family of 4 on a regular basis!!  Cooking 6 back to back meals, plus snacks, for that many people is exhausting.  I think I just stood in the kitchen for the bulk of 3 days, prepping/cooking/cleaning/ and moving on to the next meal.  When we got home on Wednesday, I got the kids down for a nap and then spent most of the afternoon and evening in bed!  My legs and feet were so tired.  I am seriously getting old :(
One of the highlights for these two was seeing Daddy pull up to our house in a huge coach bus and getting to ride in it with everybody!  They have been begging to "ride the bus" since they first saw their Dad drive it at camp and finally they got their chance :) They had a ball looking out the windows and taking everything in.  They were silent for a really long time, totally thrilled to be eye-level with truck drivers and to see so much that normally goes unseen from their seats in our van.  Plus, they looked so darn cute in those car seats, I couldn't get enough of them either!
One of the meals I made involved this amazing dish from who else but...
The Pioneer Woman. 
She and I are becoming like blood relatives.  I practically refer to her as if I know her because I make her stuff, watch her show, read her blog, etc. so often!  This is her Baked Cinnamon French Toast, with blueberries :) Ironically, she just made it on her Food Network show last Saturday!  And I felt so proud of myself while I watched her, thinking I knew every ingredient she needed before she rattled them off.  No, it doesn't take much to excite me these days.
I lined up plate after plate, meal after meal and it always amazed me that after all that hard work and planning, those hungry guys had it demolished in about 10 minutes!
I did manage to get about 20 minutes one afternoon on the porch swing, but aside from that I barely stepped foot outside :) It was SO great to have the girls with me though, they basically took care of my kids for me and I quickly realized how valuable it was to have cute girls around...their presence alone brought me so many "helpful" guys, constantly asking if they could help us out or do anything for us??  It was hilarious.  I knew exactly what they were after, but I was more than happy to let them help us!  Mental note, always bring girls with me on these trips!!  Ha ha!!
Our little readers, enjoying some books on the drive home.
They were two tired little people and so were their parents!
I just love those little chubby feet :)
Sidenote, I have no idea what's happening here with Travis' face.  Stress??  :) :) :)
You might be a Youth Pastor's wife if...
-Your husband rolls up to your house in a coach bus. 
-Your kids think it's normal to ask, "Is Daddy driving the bus today?"
-You know the best way to pack a bus, as if it were just an extension of your minivan :)
Honestly, I can not imagine what our neighbors are always thinking about us??  We must be the topic of some very odd conversations, considering so many elderly people live where we do and they just cannot wrap their minds around what Travis does and better yet, WHY He does it!  As we were sweating and loading up 3 shopping carts to haul our stuff inside again, I can only imagine we had quite an audience :) It's times like this one that I get so frustrated with living in a condo and yet I end up in fits of giggles because NOTHING is seemingly normal about our life :)  It is definitely an adventure!  We always have an audience when we are coming and going and inevitably the kids end up running around, making too much noise.  Which usually ends in someone getting hurt or Travis and I panicking over how many neighbors we're most likely annoying at once.  Good things the kids are cute.  I believe that often makes up for all the volume we produce!!
After we got back, the next few days were filled with lots of this.  Chilling out and watching movies or cartoons.  I was good with it, but better still, they were good with it!  They love to get in our bed and because they are so active, whenever they initiate the opportunity to be still, we take them up on it :) 
I caught this sweet moment one morning as we were walking in to Church.  Carter held out his chubby little hand for Ava to grab and she did!
And even better, I whipped my iphone out to capture it!
It's moments like this one that give me hope on the hard days.  Hope that they really do love each other, hope that our parenting efforts are working, hope that they know how to be kind :)
Someday when they are at each other's throats, I'm going to show them this picture and remind them of the day when they were buddies. 
And honestly, I hope that is always the case no matter how big they get! 
We are grateful for the little friendship that is budding between them.  We are so thankful to God for the gift of siblings and the way He saw fit to give them to each other. 
 Friends for life...that's our prayer!


Happy Dance

Last week I came home to TWO fun deliveries I had been (not so patiently) waiting for. 
Yes, I documented the whole experience on my iphone so I could share it with you. 
Although I have neglected you recently, I do love you my blog peeps, are you getting excited??
Get your cup of coffee/tea/diet coke and get ready. 
It's that good...
This was the scene outside my front door. 
Not a bad way to come home from the grocery store, right???
(I spy little toes, do you?)
I was excited about all of it and I did in fact *celebrate* with a little happy dance that might have involved some squeals and clapping.  Who doesn't love an Erin Condren box on their doorstep??? 
Even the box and the packing inside is ADORABLE!!
These are my 2 new treasures I ordered a few weeks ago!
I had a great voucher from my birthday to spend so I finally redeemed it and got a great deal on these. She doesn't do many deals, but when she does they are usually half-off and I was thrilled to scoop this one up last Spring.
No, this is not the 2012-2013 Life Planner, I don't need a new one yet.  This is their notebook, which is kind of like a mini-planner.  I wanted it for some new design projects I have in the works and already, I love it!
 But THIS item has stolen my heart. 
I do LOVE a good visual form of organization!!  Although our kids are still young and we haven't even begun to schedule lots of activities for them, our schedules are more than enough for us to keep up with.  This Fall is crazy busy at our house and when I saw this online, I knew it would be helpful for us.  One or both of us is always asking the other, "Do you have anything going on tonight??"  Usually we can't remember and we are not electronic calendar people (Yet-we're holding out) but we both appreciate a good paper calendar.  SO, my plan is to fill this out every Sunday and put it on the fridge for us to reference all week. 
 And this is what my fridge looks like this morning! 
I am in love with this product already.  I'm using it for keep track of activities, but also for meal planning.  I ama visual girl and a write-it-down kind of gal, so this speaks my language well.  Plus, it's terribly cute to look at, isn't it??  I love that you can personalize it too, we chose to put Proverbs 16:9 on there, reminding me that no matter what "our plans" are, the Lord's will always prevail!  I can tell you that the 20 minutes I spend filling this out every week will be a happy 20 minutes :)
After I got done rejoicing over the contents of that box, I moved on to these! 
My second order that was a total treat to buy.  I'm in a BIG organizing, de-cluttering, purging mode over here right now and one thing that I've been targeting is my kitchen.  After 9 years of marriage, I have accumulated lots of stuff and I'm realizing how much of it I don't use.  So, those items are on their way out and I'm trying to only keep what I actually like and use regularly.  I am a dish girl, I like to entertain and I've always loved pretty dishes.  I like to mix stuff around and I have a basic set of ivory Mikasa dishes that I registered for when we got married, but I also have several other sets that I've used with them for all kinds of seasons and occasions.  Anyway, they've been great but I'm sick of them.  They aren't amazing dishes, they're from Wal-Mart and Target, but they have been great over the years.  I was online last week reading emails when I stumbled on one, alerting me to an online flash sale from Dayspring.  It was a 4 hour sale and it was a big one.  I decided to browse it and I was THRILLED to see the dishes I've seen before and loved were part of the sale!!
They are so "me" and they go with my stuff beautifully!!  These are the bowls, they say "grateful for his grace, grateful for his goodness, and grateful for simple blessings" and I LOVE that! 
Cute mugs that say "grateful for the gift of hope" inside.  Love the butter color!
 Dessert plates
 Salad plates
All the plates :)
I know, this is riveting stuff!
 I ordered 4 place settings that were 60% off.  It was such a great deal and I was very grateful that Trav gave me the green light when I called him and basically begged him, ha ha!  I sold him on it because they will easily mix and match with my plain ivory dishes and some of my chocolate mugs and serving dishes.  I like to recommend that idea to people, especially new brides.  Invest in some plain, white/ivory dishes (8-12 place settings) that will last you for a long time and then supplement them with cheaper "decorative" dishes (4-6 place settings) that add some color and pattern and allow you to mix and match, but aren't a long term investment that you'll regret in 10 years.  I think the idea of fine china is kind of out the window for a lot of modern couples.  It's just not practical anymore and so many people have fine china that they NEVER use or they have no room to store it, in addition to their every day stuff.  Not everybody cares about dishes, but for those of who like that kind of stuff, I'm always looking for ways to create a look without breaking the bank or always buying new stuff.  It's been 9 years and I'm happy to be swapping out my older blue dishes with these! 
Seriously, aren't they cute??  I like tying gratitude in to our everyday dining and I'm always looking for more ways to incorporate scripture and the Lord around our house.  I liked these the first time I saw them, months ago, but I like them on sale even better!  The surprise bonus is that they match my kitchen perfectly!  They look good with my countertops and my flooring and they make my paint color pop on the walls :) I know, who even notices that stuff??  Someone with an Interior Design degree, that's who!  Ha ha! 
So there you go, sorry about the week long teaser on twitter!  My life has not been my own for the last few weeks (read: we have been WAY TOO BUSY.) 
In the middle of the chaos, it was fun to get some sunshine delivered to my front door. 
The Fed Ex guy is my new best friend!! 
Two fun places for you to check out on this Monday morning:
Hope you have a blessed day!  Enjoy!! 



I've been thinking about her a lot today.  Remembering her tear filled eyes locked into mine.  Her weathered face, her slow limp, her shame worn all over her small frame.  We might never have crossed paths if I hadn't said yes that night, but we did.  Me a fair skinned suburban Mom, busy with kids and church and a schedule that always fights for more of me...she a dark urban Mom, with kids and heartbreak and need, on the streets, fighting for hope.  In almost every way, she leads an opposite life from me, or what I know of it at least.  She walks slow, alone, a mom separated from her kids, a wife without her husband.  Her days aren't busy like mine are, but they are hard and filled with stress, the kind of stress that takes years off a life.  And if I hadn't said yes on that night, a night when everything in me wanted to say no, I might never have seen her. 

There is so much that the Lord has been working out in us over the last 2 years.  So many times I've wanted to sit down and flesh out what He's doing and yet, no words ever came that could do this work any justice.  I still don't know what the Lord is truly up to or why He is leading us so strongly to the streets of Minneapolis, but He is.  For two years He's had Travis' whole heart, but only recently did I finally give Him mine in this call.  He's been so patient with me, bringing me back to His Word, putting people in my path, books in my hands, and opportunities to taste and see.  When my husband first came home and told me he was taking some students, junior high students, to the streets of our city, I'm pretty sure I laughed.  That sounded like a stupid idea, frankly.  Stupid because we serve in a suburban church with suburban kids and suburban parents.  "They'll never let their kids go there" I believe I uttered under my breath, and seriously, "Why would you even risk that??"  I couldn't imagine that would ever work, nor would it be safe.  "You don't know what could happen, they are homeless and desperate and probably dangerous.  Seriously babe, it's a bad idea." 

I'm nothing if not honest.  Honest and supportive of course. 

Despite my attempts to do everything to talk him out of it, he went.  He took a few students the first couple of times, in the dead of a Minnesota winter.  They went downtown with our security guy to serve some food and share Christ.  Knowing he was with an armed friend did make me feel slightly better, but as he left for hours at a time, I was home alone with a newborn and an 18 month old.  Honestly, there were nights when I was more dangerous and desperate than anyone he possibly could have encountered.  I remember clearly being irritated and worried as he bundled up with wind chills below zero to stand on a street and hand someone some gloves and a hat.  While I held my babies, fed them from cupboards that overflowed and folded more laundry than our drawers could possibly hold.  One of us was really sacrificing on those nights and truthfully, it always seemed like me.  To my shame and conviction, I rarely stopped to consider what another mother and her babies might be doing on that cold night, without a home or food or clothes.  While I complained and took note of all my inconveniences, I never thought of her. 
Only me...
Always me. 

Fast forward a few years and what once began as an opportunity here and there with a few kids, a pastor and a security guy, has now grown into a full-blown ministry.  Well, sort of.  It's a monthly event with it's own name, even a small budget now, but it is in every way a ministry that shouldn't work.  My husband named it Covert Ops in an attempt to keep it under the radar and not a call for praise or show.  It's organized via text messages and dominated by junior high and high school students who show up at the church to prepare food, sort clothes, make hygiene kits, and pray.  Before there is any effort to minister on the streets, there is a ministry of the heart that has to take place.  A plea for the Lord to go before us and to prepare hearts and help us love the unlovable.  For truth to penetrate darkness and real hope to be offered, not empty words.  In all ways, we hope to leave our selves at the Church and make Christ known on the streets.  Every month there are 25-30 kids who come, several adults who go with us and lots of ministry that takes place.  Every month is different but we bring food, clothes, Bibles and people who long to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  It's not perfect, there is no way to predict the temperature on the streets or who shows up, but as we pull up and get set up, in the blink of an eye several hundred people come to our station, every single month.  Travis and his team of staff and students has been faithfully going for such a long time now that they've developed relationships and a trust with the community there.  We go onto their turf, on their street and they welcome us.  It's a novelty for them to be served by teenagers, not mocked or ignored or dismissed.  To hear a 13 year old boy say, "Can I get you something to eat" or "how can I pray for you?" is not a common occurrence in their world.  Or in my world.  No one expects much out of teenagers. 
Except maybe the Lord. 

As the months have turned into years, my heart has softened considerably.  I've started to take my eyes off my own self and my "inconveniences" and started to pray for the people Travis encounters.  When we send Daddy out the door for Covert Ops, I try not to mourn him leaving us again, but try to explain where he's going and have the kids pray with me for what he'll be doing.  It's our way of participating in a season when our kids have needed me home with them.  And I assumed that was OK for now.  But this summer I've been rocked to my core by three books and the message of Isaiah 58.  I cannot believe the ways He's woven a new tapestry in me, opening my eyes to a world I didn't see.  A world I didn't expect to love.  But that's whats beginning to happen within me.  I'm starting to really hear the Holy Spirit prompt me, to wrestle with injustices I've previously noticed from a distance and to start putting my feet where only my mouth has gone.  Twice now, I've been able to join Travis in our city and twice I've thought I might be ready to pack up our belongings and move downtown.  I'm not saying that's a rational thought or one we should act on, but crazy things run through my head right now and suddenly I'm finding myself questioning things I've taken for granted or simply not seen before. 

Like her. 
I stood behind a container of used clothes, a jumbled mess of cotton and polyester, rayon and wool, fumbling for something to fit her.  She didn't say a lot at first, but I could tell she was looking for something specific.  I tried to prompt her to tell me if I could help her look, help her get what she needed.  "Something for her kids" came out of her mouth, although I couldn't quite hear her.  I leaned forward to ask her "How old are they?  Girls or boys?" and she told me they were girls, one who was nerdy and one who was stylish.  She smiled at the thought of them and before I knew it, I was digging for gold, determined to get her something they would like.  I found a couple of things I knew suburban teenagers would wear and offered them to her.  She gasped as if we hit the jackpot and then said, "My kids, my kids...clothes for school!"  I wasn't expecting her joy, she was so stoic when we first met, but I joined her and kept digging.  "Here are a few more things, would these work?"  She didn't answer me, but she nodded and then whispered, "I never have anything to give my kids, I never have school clothes for them."  My heart sank for her and as I walked from behind the bin to her side, tears welled up in her eyes and began spilling out.  "I'm sorry" she said, "I never cry, not about my kids, not out here..." I didn't know what to say, I could tell she was about to break open, so I put my arm around her and said, "That's OK, I'm a Mom too..."  In that moment I realized, the streets hold so much pain and the people more pain still.  So many souls bottle up their emotions there, what good does it do to compare stories?  Everyone has heartbreak that follows them, but who are you to suggest yours is worse?  I choked back my own tears and looked in her eyes, asking her to tell me about her kids.  It was then that I realized she had no teeth, no wonder it was hard to understand her :) But she told me about her girls and I think I caught about every third word. 

As I stood there with her, I heard the ache of a mother's heart who longs to do better for her kids.  She noticed my wedding ring and told me that she longed for her marriage to be restored, she asked me to pray about it.  I strained with everything in me to catch every word, to know how I could pray, but what I missed in translation I caught in emotion.  One of her daughters was 8 months pregnant, with a little boy who would be named Christian.  She was also in a shelter, but it was Christian based one and my new friend C, had hope that this would be the dawn of a new day in her family.  A new legacy.  I told her that reminded me of King Josiah from the Old Testament because he too was a cycle breaker at a very young age.  She listened intently to that and I tried to explain it, told her I thought that was a wonderful thing we could all pray for our kids...that they would break the family cycle of sin and be a generation that did better than their parents.  As we locked eyes and chatted, suddenly we were interrupted by her friend who told her the shelter was about to do a bed check, and she needed to go.  I hugged her tightly and prayed quickly for her...I asked her to tell her grandson that someone named Stephanie prayed for him before he was ever born, praying that he would be like King Josiah in their family. 

And just like that we parted.  She limped across the street and I looked around, taking in all the needs and the ministry that was colliding on that street.  There are no fireworks when we go there, no one asking for applause or anything more than a few thank yous.  But I am certain that the Lord is there and when we look into the eyes of those who are down and out, enslaved to addictions, scarred by injustice, and left to fend for themselves...When we look with love first and offer the gospel as hope, we are often looking into the eyes of the Lord. 
To serve them is to serve Him. 
To love them is to love Him. 
To see them is to see Him.

I don't know what God is doing in my heart, but I know He is messing some things up in my life to get my attention right now and after He swings that wrecking ball, what I keep beholding is her face.  The face of the forgotten, the abandoned, the poor and the homeless.  It scares me a little bit to realize how much I love those faces and how much compassion is welling up within me.  More than that, I'm having a hard time reconciling what I feel in my heart with my comfortable, wealthy life.  And I'm kind of bothered about that.  It's a lot easier to be blinded by excess than to be horrified by it.  And I am horrified.  We both are.  The very thing we work hard for is something we are growing to hate.  But not always yet, we're still human, we're still Americans and a need for "bigger and better" seems to be bred in our DNA.  But rather than just go with the flow, we are finding ourselves in the midst of a struggle as we flesh this work of the Spirit out.  It's gotten so intense in us, I recently texted my friend and basically begged her to go to a Nursing Home with me and our kids, because I knew the Lord told me to do it and she was the friend He put in my head.  How is that for guilt induced friendship??  It shouldn't have surprised me at all when she told me that she had been "randomly" thinking about nursing homes that very day!??!  OF COURSE she was.  Because who doesn't when you're 30???  I told you, the Lord is not messing around with us.  I have no idea where we're going from here, other than back to the streets in a month where we can love on some people who haven't been loved on in awhile, with some incredible students who love Jesus and aren't afraid to love like Him either. 

Here are 3 books I DON'T recommend, unless you want to become undone.  Then by all means, go ahead and make it a party.  I read two of them in 2 days and Travis and I are fighting our way through the 3rd one, stealing it back and forth from our respective nightstands. 

Don't say I didn't warn you. 
These will mess your life up.

Happy weekend! Ha ha :)
Love, Me



Happy Monday!  We have been busy this weekend and happily enjoying our last week before Travis starts coaching again.  Soccer beckons, but before it starts we are having some fun together.  We took the kids out for breakfast on Friday and Ava told me to "Take my picture wif Daddy!"  So I did and my girl who typically won't look at the camera and does anything BUT cooperate, pulls this little smile out!
 She is quickly falling hard for her Daddy.  He hangs the moon in our house and especially in Ava's eyes.  I love watching their relationship unfold and grow.  I love my Dad so much and he loves me and I want the same for Ava and her Daddy!
 Not to mention, for this little guy!  He LOVES his Daddy and especially when it comes to playing, but for now his heart belongs to MOMMY :) :) :) He still wants me and I'm happy to deliver, ha ha!  He and his Daddy are sharing a new joy together and that is an appreciation for the kind of "noises" that boys specialize in.  Yes, I'm talking about those noises.  When one of them starts in, the other falls into hysterics, laughing.  Surprise, surprise...
Even though our anniversary fell on a very busy day for both of us, my sweet husband walked in the door at 10pm with flowers and a card.  I was SO ready to extend lots of grace, knowing he didn't have time to even think about that, but he surprised me :) My kitchen has been full of sunshine ever since! 
 The bunk beds are still a hit, for all of us :) We started to have some issues with Miss Ava waking Carter up to play or setting a bad example and teaching him to climb out and play after we closed the door...those little stinkers!  BUT, a sweet friend of mind gave me a wonderful idea to help curb that and it's been working like a charm.  She told me when her boys did that she decided to sit in their room with her Bible or a book and read quietly until they fell asleep.  Her presence alone stopped their antics and helped keep them in bed and "on task!"  Plus, it gave her boys a sweet memory of their Mom reading and praying for them every night.  I've been doing it for a week and guess what, it's worked!  They just love it and Ava asks me every night if I'm going to read my Bible til she falls asleep?  I've been sitting in the rocker in their play room, out of their bunk room but within eyesight. They like to look out at me and giggle, but a few "shhh's" later and they settle right down to sleep.  I thought I might get sick of doing it but actually, it's such a nice time to relax and I'm getting so much reading done!  Who knows how long it will last, but so far so good!
 On Saturday morning we decided to go watch some bikers, including Daddy, on the Tour de Tonka.  It's a popular bike ride that went right by our street this year.  Travis rode 65 miles and we met him at a rest stop near our house.  Believe it or not, it was cool enough to have light jackets on and rain boots!  It rained a lot the night before and was a little damp, so my kids jumped at the chance to wear their beloved boots :)
Classic Carter look. 
I'm guessing this was right before he told me "NO!!"
Good thing Ava is generally pleasant to counterbalance her brother's march toward the terrible two's! 
They waited and waited for their Daddy to arrive...
While I enjoyed my perch on the blanket.  Seriously, it was one amazing morning! I'm so ready for Fall!!
We found him! 
Carter had to try his "hat" on...
...and so did Ava.
Good job Daddy!!  In classic fashion, Travis has not spent one minute on his bike this year but decided to jump in this ride and bike a casual 65 miles.  He is unbelievable to me!  His friends chose to go on to the 100 mile ride, but thankfully for us he wrapped it up at 65. 
 Are those boots hilarious or what???  He was so darn cute!
 Daddy's girl!
 He is one lucky guy!!
Today we kicked our week off with Ava's first swimming lessons!  I can't believe we are embarking on those years, but here they are.  She has been SO excited about it, I think the Olympics have given her a new love for swimming.  She told me this morning that she would swim in the pool like this (making wild arm movements) and she would touch the wall and I would cheer for her!  Ha ha :) I told her she could count on me cheering no matter what!
Big girl
I couldn't resist a picture of those skinny legs and that backpack!
Waiting for the previous lesson to end so she can jump in!
One of our former students teaches lessons at her house and we are so thankful that she had room for Ava this week!
She's definitely not ready for group lessons yet, so the one on one thing is a good fit.
We go back for three more days this week and Miss Ava can't wait!  Tomorrow she's even getting an audience for her lessons :) Grammy and Grandpy couldn't help themselves and are coming up from Iowa for a few days to see us, ha ha!  Ava is very excited and of course, all geared up for them to "cheer for me!"  :)

We've got a packed week ahead of us but a really fun one, doing all the things that summer allows in Minnesota.  I am also trying to squeeze in a couple of design projects I have in the works, plus a wedding!!  The Armstrongs are not sitting around twiddling our thumbs these days :)

Hope you have a great week!!  Are you watching the Olympics??  I haven't even told you that we are CRAZY for them!  We're sleep deprived in fact, watching every night and soaking it all in.  We love a good back story and the opportunity to watch all these sports!!  I do not know how we will survive without them.  Football, I guess??  Bring it on! 

Have a happy Monday and a wonderful week!!