The Story of Nine Years

Today, on August 1st, we celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary!  It's amazing how quickly the years go, I feel like it was yesterday when I put that beautiful dress on and walked the aisle to become Mrs. Armstrong.  It was a magical day, we loved every part of it...But then we blinked and a lot of life happened over the course of 9 years!  Four moves, 3 states, 4 churches, 4 homes, 7 cars (!!!???!!!), 1 dog, 2 kids and 9 years later...Wow!  I never would have guessed how exciting the adventure was that the Lord had in store for us.  It's been full of ups and downs, joy and sorrow, trial and error, laughter and tears.  But more than the struggles and the strain, we have been blessed as we've sought the Lord together and seperately.  He has been so gracious to us, we are not the same people we were 9 years go, and only by His mercy can I honestly say that we have a stronger marriage today than when we began.  He's been so good to us, so patient when we've blown it, so faithful to forgive, so tender to speak truth over us, so gracious to remind us of who HE is...It's only as He's shown us more of Him, that we've had any clue about how to love one another.  Our marriage is built squarely on Jesus Christ, rooted and grounded in His Word and bathed in His grace.  We have no idea what we're doing, most of the time!  He has been the only good in us, His wisdom has been the sustaining force.  We are forever indebted to Him and by His mercy, we will stay faithful to one another until we take our last breath and meet Him face to face.  These 9 years have not been perfect, but they've been pretty incredible.  And lest we try and steal the credit for any of it, I want to be quick to give Him all the praise for what has been and what will be.  In a world that devalues marriage everyday and snubs its' nose at the author and creator of it, we represent a minority of people who have stayed together and chosen to live according to God's word, to the best of our abilities.  And it has been worth it!! 

I've had a fun time looking back through some old photos from all of our anniversaries.  I didn't choose our best pictures of each year, but tried to grab the photos of what we actually did on August 1st (or around there) for the last 9 years! 
I hope you enjoy this little walk down the halls of our history together...
August 1st, 2003 in Naples, Florida
We said "I do!!"
Best. Day. Ever!!
We got married, went on our honeymoon, moved to North Carolina and Travis started seminary.  We left our jobs in Florida and started a brand new chapter together.  It was wonderful, it was hard, it stressful and it was sweet.  We were newlyweds and had enough money to eat and that was about it!  It was a challenging first year, but God was faithful to us and He knit our hearts together as we grieved the thousands of miles we were from our families.  It was so lonely at certain times that first year, but we learned to cling to the Lord and to one another.  It really was a foundational year in so many ways and we have so many fun memories of our first apartment, first arguments (ha ha), and all the adjustments that come with living together!  Thankfully, by the time that first year ended we were more in love and incredibly thankful for what God was doing in us. 
August 1st, 2004
The Biltmore at Asheville, North Carolina
We celebrated our first anniversary with a little mountain getaway in beautiful Asheville.  We made the most of living in North Carolina and took advantage of many opportunities to go to the mountains and the beach!  God was so good to us in that second year, He answered our lonely hearts with friends!!  Lots of them!! We had such a FUN year with a big group of seminary couples that we hung out with constantly.  It was sort of like the college years, only better because we were all married.  We really grew as a couple, started to put some roots down in North Carolina and grew to love our life there.  We had a little love nest that we rented on an old, acreage and it was right up my interior designer alley!  Travis started serving part time at a little Church as their youth Pastor and we began picturing ourselves in North Carolina for years to come.
August 1st, 2005
Franklinton, North Carolina
When our second anniversary rolled around we were busy!!  We were in the trenches of youth ministry and loving it (most of the time), I was still nannying for a precious little girl and developing a deep friendship with her parents, and our social calendar was FULL!!  We had a puppy and our home was full, all the time with friends.  On our actual anniversary, Travis was in the mountains at camp with some of his students and I was home working.  I got in a car accident the next day and ended up in the ER with a totaled car!  Crazy!  Travis was doing great in Seminary and enjoying it, and we were very happy.  But as some of our friends started announcing pregnanices and growing their little families, a growing ache filled us too and we began praying about our own little family and trying to trust the Lord's timing.  It was growing harder by the month to believe that He knew what He was doing!  By Christmas time I had like 9 girlfriends who were expecting...everybody in our group, except me.  Not easy.  The Lord was beginning a deep work in me, but I wasn't too thrilled at welcoming the lesson.  Just as it grew harder and harder for me to maintain joy in the wait, He turned our world upside down and brought a job opportunity out of nowhere for Minnesota.  We were only 2.5 years into our marriage, finally feeling "settled" and thinking we would be on the East coast for at least a few more years.  Clearly the Lord had a different idea!  As it all unfolded, we were so excited to make the move and for Trav to move into full time ministry.  We took the leap of faith and packed all of our things into a huge u-haul and headed north...
August 1st, 2006
Shakopee, MN
We celebrated anniversary #3 as Minnesotans!  We spent that anniversary with a hundred students and leaders at summer camp, I believe.  As we would soon find out, our August anniversary falls right in the middle of summer activities and for many years to come, we will have the privilege of celebrating it with students!  Ha ha!  Our first year was a blur of activity.  Trav went on staff at Grace, a huge Church in the suburbs of Minneapolis and we were in over our heads!  The Church was going through some major transitions at the time and although he was hired to be the Junior High Pastor, just 2 months later the High School Pastor left and suddenly the entire student ministry fell into his lap with all of his 2 months of experience!  It was a stressful year in many ways.  Things were not easy at Church and we were experiencing lots of the aches and pains of moving and starting all over again.  We were lonely and the ache for a baby was only growing.  Especially when we came on staff as the only couple without kids and had to answer the question a million times over, "So when are you going to have kids??"  Not easy.  I was trying to find my footing and figure out my role in this new chapter.  I enjoyed some time just being a wife and adjusting, then took a job at a big floral design company in the cities.  It was a great job and I loved it but it was grueling.  Majorly stressful and pressure filled, but I was excelling at it. We were struggling to figure out how to do life and full time ministry and yet, we were loving the challenge!  It was God's grace that we didn't have kids yet because we poured ourselves into ministry that year.  Travis worked a lot and I was at his side as often as he wanted me to be.  By the end of that year, I was back to part time nannying and enjoying the BEST thing about our move, the flexibility to see my family!  It was so nice to be only 3.5 hours away and we all took advantage of our new proximity.  My sister Stacie got married this year and I was so grateful to be close enough to really be a part of all the fun.   We were thankful!
August 1st, 2007
Lake Beauty Bible Camp, Long Prairie, Minnesota
Yes.  On our anniversary we were dressed as pirates.  At junior high summer camp :) Classic! 
This year was all about student ministries (and another wedding, my sister Jennie!)  We were busy, overworked, committed and investing in students and leaders.  Again, it was tons of fun but our longing for a baby hit some low, lows this year.  The Lord was trying to teach me some things that needed to change but I was so busy I don't think I wanted to see it.  We had a growing number of people praying for us, asking the Lord to give us a child and loving us through it.  For the most part we were quiet about this struggle, sharing only with a few people but it began wearing on both of us more and more, me in particular.  I think in many ways, when the hurt grew deep, I found more ways to be busy.  It wasn't healthy and it wasn't long before the Lord confronted it.  But not in a way I EVER expected. A few weeks after our anniversary, we were at the Minnesota State Fair.  It was hot that day and I was not feeling well.  I assumed I was just tired and overheated, but I was nauseous the next day and the day after that.  On a total whim, the night of our student ministries fall kick-off, I bought a pregnancy test from Target.  We were so busy that night I totally forgot about it!  When we were going to bed and I was still feeling weird, I remembered I bought it and took the test around 11:00 that night.  To our SHOCK and JOY, it was positive!  I was pregnant and felt an immediate sense of relief and gratitude.  We were so happy, so exited.  Finally our wait was over! 
But our joy was short lived.  For reasons only the Lord knows, almost as quickly as He gave us that little one, He took them home.  At 8 weeks I miscarried and in a matter of hours I felt like my whole world collapsed.  It never, ever crossed my mind to worry about a miscarriage.  I was so sure that this baby was the answer to all those years of waiting that I never considered the chance that the Lord might ask us to walk this road.  I was devestated beyond what I ever imagined.  It was dark road for a long while and my patient husband hung in there and loved me through it.  In so many ways, this year was the hardest one we'd ever experienced.  There were several things that caught us off guard and broke our hearts, but more than anything, this was the year that the Lord got a hold of me in a big way.  He walked that dark road side by side with us, with me, and brought me to a place of intimacy with Him that I never knew.  He used my heartbreak to draw me closer to Him, to give me empathy for other women facing a similar loss, and to just remind me that He is God and He is always good, no matter what.  He also used this blog for the first time to really reach a whole community of women I never would have known.  I wrote extensively through that time and God healed my heart through lots of what I wrote.  I look back on that time, on that year, and I am so grateful for all that He did in us and through us.  I ache for that baby still, but am comforted at the thought that one day we will meet our little one and we'll know in full what today we only know in part. 
To Him be the Glory...

August 1st, 2008
The Melting Pot, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Oh what a difference a year makes!!  Travis spent our anniversary in Lima, Peru while I missed him in Minnesota.  He was actually very sick on that day, from something he ate, and we were able to skype because he was sick in his hotel room with wifi.  When he got home just 3 days later, I was anxious to take him out for dinner so we could celebrate!  Not just our 5 year anniversary, but...
...our baby on the way!!!
In His faithfulness, the Lord blessed us again...actually surprised us...with another pregnancy!!  We were enrolled and ready to begin an infertility program but before our first appointment arrived, He created a little life inside me and I discovered it while Travis was in Peru! From that moment on, we were cautiously thrilled.  We let ourselves get excited, knowing that we would trust the Lord no matter what He gave us or took away.  And thankfully, He gave us Ava Page Armstrong on April 17th of 2009!!  Our world was changed forever and defnitely for the better!  This was such a fun time in our lives, we were amazed with every step of my pregnancy, and then blown away by the miracle of her birth.  It was incredible and new and of course, hard!!  Newborns are darling but they are not all easy :) We loved this year and drank in EVERY SINGLE OUNCE of JOY that Ava gave us.  Travis learned to balance a new role as Daddy, in addition to Husband and Pastor and he gave me the gift of staying home with our new baby girl. What a sweet year it was...
August 1st, 2009
Camp Shetek, Slayton, Minnesota
Continuing in our tradition of celebrating at junior high camp, this year we had Miss Ava with us to ring in our 6th anniversary!  Was she cute or what????  It was quite an experience to have our first baby, such a joy-filled one, but also a life changer.  That year was all about Miss Ava and experiencing all of her firsts.  We had lots of visitors and went on some fun trips to show her off to the relatives :) We were so busy with her that I never really noticed some growing symptoms in me!  After a really long bout with a flu bug that just wouldn't go away, it occurred to me that it might not be the flu after all?  After almost 11 weeks of not knowing anything different, I discovered that God had a great sense of humor.  We tried for 3 years to get Miss Ava and we had so much fun with her, that we never noticed He decided to give us another bundle of joy that year!!!  In a SHOCKING turn of events (ha ha) God gave us grace upon grace with another sweet baby on the way!!  It was amazing and terrifying and humorous to think we were going to do this all over again, almost back to back. 
But we were sure excited!!
August 1st, 2010
Camp Shetek, Slayton, Minnesota
With baby number two on the way and only two months from my due date, we packed up and headed for camp again!  To celebrate our anniversary, of course :)
It was Aftrica-hot that week and I was majorly pregnant (read-miserable) but we were anxiously anticipating the arrival of our little boy!!  On October 10, 2010 Carter Travis Armstrong made his big entrance into our family.  He was precious in every way and huge!  His delivery was less than ideal and I was recovering for weeks.  My plate was incredibly full with an 18 month old and a newborn, facing a long winter and busy husband.  It was overwhelming in every way but our joy was also doubled.  I don't remember lots of that year, other than changing a million diapers and revolving every waking hour around someone's nap schedule.  Including my own!  We grew into a little unit that year and started to find our way as a family of four.  Travis took on some extra responsibilites, like coaching a high school soccer team, and for the first time in our marriage, I had almost no time and very little energy to offer him much more that what he needed at home.  I missed most of his ministry events, which was hard for both of us, but part of this new chapter in our lives.  I spent a lot of that year at home, taking care of babies and trying to keep all of us fed and clothed.  It was wonderful!  And exhausting.  But I was so grateful and overwhelmed at what God had done that I couldn't imagine life without all of this new chaos!
August 1st, 2011
Lima, Peru Bound!
Travis was in Peru for our 8th anniversary and I was in Iowa at my parents house, with the kids.  It wasn't much of a celebration :) I do think we managed a phone call that day, but we were both too busy to do much else!  Our BIG gift for one another came after Travis got home.
This 8th year of marriage ushered in the new era in our lives, the year of the mini-van!  We caved and took the plunge into parenthood with this purchase, but we were thrilled and grateful to do so!  We loved it and still do! 
We decided to celebrate our anniversary by taking the new minivan and our two small children...camping.  Because also, we are stupid.  Or just sleep deprived!!  It was fun, in some ways, but also a giant lesson in what we are not quite ready for yet :)
Which is kind of what this whole year of marriage has been about.  Trial and error as we learn how to parent, how to roll with unexpected changes in our life, how to be flexible in ministry, how to grow in our marriage and how to keep Christ in the center of it all.  This past year has been full of all of the above.  Lots of living life in an uncertain world with an unchanging God.  It's been a good year, but it's been a year that has made us press into Him more.  We are trusting Him in a housing scenario that is less than ideal and at times, depressing.  We are looking to Him for daily provision as our kids grow and as we evaluate their needs, often realizing we've got nothing to offer them apart from Christ in us.  This year has not been a glamourous one, but it's been rich.  A year of deepening our roots in Christ and enjoying our kids and one another.  I am grateful for all that 2011 held!
Which brings us to 2012!

August 1st, 2012
Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Ok, so this isn't how we spent today, but it is where we went on a date last week!  Today was spent in our favorite way...serving our kids and other people's teenagers!  We barely had 5 minutes together today, but that's ok. We got a great date in last week and we'll get some good family time this weekend.  In our 9th year of marriage, we've learned a thing or two!  We are blessed beyond what we deserve and we are humbled at the journey we've been on together.  No matter what this year holds, we have 9 years of God's faithfulness to us to draw upon.  I am so in love with the father of my children, as Shania famously crooned, "he's still the one!" 
We realize almost everyday that we have plenty to learn, we are in no way experts on anything!  But we do know the One who knows everything and has an answer for anything that comes our way. 

We have been blessed over these 9 years and we look forward to a lifetime of years to come, if the Lord would choose to give us that.  It's been an adventure being married to each other!  But I wouldn't trade any of it for what we've learned and how our story has shaped each one of us.  Marriage is not easy, it takes work to keep it strong and more than that lots of patience, forgiveness and grace for each other.  But it's so worth it and I'd marry you, Travis Armstrong, all over again in a heartbeat!  I love you...Thanks for 9 amazing years!!

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