Adventures in Dallas

 Our trip to Dallas was so great!  We've been back for a few weeks now, but I wanted to write a little bit about what we did.  And of course, I have a million pictures :)
Beginning with my little cuties driving into the sunset with my Dad!  We were all worried thinking they would be sad to say goodbye to us, even though we'd prepped them for a few days.  Hah!  I was totally wrong  :) They jumped in my Dad's car so fast and Carter was telling me, "Bye Mom!  Close da door!" Stinkers!
After that easy goodbye, I took my sad tears and turned them into happy tears pretty quickly!  I waved goodbye and headed straight for the nearest Caribou before I hit up an outlet mall too!  I had no plans to waste my new found alone time :)  After meeting my Dad, I drove back to the cities and met Trav so we could go out for dinner.  In our first 3 hours without kids, I packed in coffee, shopping and a dinner date with my husband!  And we came home to a QUIET house.  Wow!  What just happened??
We had a gift card from an amazing restaurant that we love and of course, after a fabulous meal we ordered dessert...Banana toffee pudding!  I never would have chosen that but I would have missed out because it was so good!! 
The next morning we met our friends Jason and Greta at the airport and got on a plane for Dallas.  It was pretty odd to travel sans children, but a thousand times easier too! 
When we landed we took them to Babe's Chicken for a Texas staple, the chicken fried steak of all of our lives!  It was and is, the best chicken fried steak, almost as good as my Grandma's :)
We were in Dallas for a National Youth Worker's Conference with thousands of other youth workers.  We stayed at the Sheraton, where the conference was, in a beautiful room...with no kids!!  Do I even have to emphasize how wonderful that part was??  :) :) 
We got to our room knowing we had 4 uninterrupted nights ahead of us...For parents of small children, is there anything more glorious than good sleep???
We woke up every morning to a beautiful view of the downtown Dallas skyline. 
And a giant billboard for the ipad mini. 
Guess who wants one after that??
And every morning we ate breakfast here...Along with hundreds of other youth workers standing in line for lattes and yogurt and granola parfaits before the morning sessions began.  We were all sick of it by the end of the trip but actually, they had great coffee and we would have been up a creek without it!
We came a day early to the conference so we could all participate in some intensive classes.  I signed up for a class on mentoring and it was great!  It was 6.5 hours of training on building a mentoring culture within youth ministry and I'm so glad I went.  It was full of helpful teaching that is very relevant to what we're doing or would like to do.  Apparently the way to get youth workers to sit for that long and pay attention is to throw candy at them.  At every turn there were buckets and buckets of free candy and I won't lie, I may have visited them a few times!  You can't work with students and not have a healthy appreciation for sugar :)  And caffeine.  
There were tons of breakout sessions all day long, on a variety of topics (too many to choose almost!) and then big group times too.  They had some good worship artists come and we heard from some good speakers, but the breakouts were my favorite.  
And in a hotel with thousands of youth pastors, workers, directors, volunteers, etc., THIS youth Pastor was my favorite.  Also, the most handsome. 
We hit all of the places we don't have in MN, like In-N-Out Burger! How could we as youth workers not support anyone with John 3:16 on their cups??  :) :)
We also made a stop at some of the locals favorites!  This burger place was amazing and we had a gorgeous day to eat outside even.  Probably one of our last opportunities to do that for awhile.
2 youth Pastors and mouths full of big, greasy burgers!  These two are pretty good connoisseurs of burgers I think, they tend to eat a lot of them while out for lunch during the work week :)   And I think they gave the Twisted Root Burger a big 2 thumbs up!! 
BTW, loving the Corona light box all front and center.
It held the condiments people, nobody go spreading any rumors!!
We were officially the "wives" all week :) At every session the question was usually asked, "How many of you are full time youth Pastors?  Part time?  Volunteer leaders?  Spouses?"  We were in the minority, but thankful to be along for all the fun!
Aside from sessions on mentoring, I went to several on marriage and family.  As in, how to balance marriage and family with ministry.  They were all very good, and gave me some needed confirmation about boundaries and healthy choices we are trying to make on this journey.  Like every job, it's very easy to get too busy or too wrapped up in things that are good, just not the best for your marriage or your kids.  If we aren't intentional now, we will regret it later.  And that's not a position we want to be in.  Travis went to a couple with me and we had some great discussion about some things we want to change or start doing.  I'm really grateful we had this opportunity to go to this conference!  
However, while we were having lots of fun away, we were also missing these little people!  We were able to face time a little bit and loved seeing smiles, they had such a great time with my parents and Jennie and Dave!
Carter was unfazed, he was the one we were worried most about :)
But after a few minutes on one of the last days away, this little girl got some watery eyes :) Poor baby!  That will rip your heart out quickly! 
Overall, we so enjoyed our time away to rest and rejuvenate and just spend some time together.  The conference was fun, we had a great time hanging out with Jason and Greta, and thankfully all of our kids did well with the grandparents while we were gone.  One thing I really appreciated while we were there, was our Church.  After sitting with lots of different youth workers and hearing their stories of some of the struggles they face with their leadership or volunteers, it made me appreciate how blessed we are at Grace and how thankful I am that God has given Travis and I like-minded hearts for ministry.  That's not to say our Church is perfect or that Trav and I always agree and see eye to eye, but I have no doubt that he has been called and gifted as a Pastor and that we are where God wants us for now.  There is no perfect place to serve because we are imperfect people, serving imperfect people!  But I'm grateful to love where God has us, knowing that we have to hold it with open hands!  Who knows what the road before us holds, but as the old saying goes, we know who holds it.
So glad we get to enjoy this journey together :)
Travy, you're an amazing youth Pastor and an even better husband and daddy. 
You do this ministry juggling act well and I'm proud of you. It's hard to believe we have 10 years together of serving shoulder to shoulder.  It's been an eventful decade but I wouldn't trade it for the world!  The Lord has shown Himself mighty and faithful to us, over and over again.  What joy to serve students with YOU while we try to stay young! 
I loved this time away with you...
Let's do it again soon??

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