From the Brink

Well, it's summer! Officially it's mid-July and we are enjoying the heat wave to prove it.  Thunderstorms, humid fronts of air, lazy afternoons in a swimming all feels so right!  A common refrain for most Minnesotans is that we have to work so hard for our summers (enduring winter) that we do not waste a minute enjoying them!  Lakes, cabins, trails, parks and pools, they all factor in to our weeks and are grateful.

I have been spinning my wheels since May really, just trying to keep the ship afloat and everything straight on our calendars.  It's been a good summer but most of it just a whirlwind so far.  I personally have had 5 weddings to do this spring/summer with 1 still to go; Trav has been hopping with a boys summer Bible study, weekly Wednesday/Sunday stuff and lots of prep for JH summer camp and an upcoming mission's trip.  The kids have endured a million grad parties, a week of swimming lessons, a week of VBS, a week at Grammy and Grampy's, a visit from Texie and just normal day to day stuff.  We sort of feel like ships in the night, coming together when we are able to and then just each of us finding our place week to week.  There is a sweet spirit of teamwork between Travis and I, lots of give and take these days.  I share that not because we are to be commended but simply because it's the only way we are able to  take on what we do and still remain married!  He is such an encourager of me and this little side business that seems to keep multiplying.  Whether taking care of the kids, or helping me deliver and set-up for a wedding, he's always the one who keeps me from freaking out and endures my waves of panic the night before a big job.  There is always some bizarre thought that attempts to rob me of sleep and often, it's Travis and his steady presence that calms me and speaks reason to my anxiety.

I get to be the same voice for him, the one who runs the details of our home, takes on the burden of single parenting here and there, and listens to the last minute requests and complaints he's dealing with from parents, usually the night before camp! This year for the first time in 5 years, we left our kids with my parents while we went to camp together.  It was a little sad, but mostly a huge blessing.  As only The Lord could have known, we had a great week serving together, but also had some significant challenges that would have been much more stressful had our kiddos been along.  I was able to really just stand by my man this year and be a support to him, something I haven't been fully dedicated to since having kids.  It was a great week away, albeit exhausting, and I came home a little early to jump right into another wedding!  By the time Trav wrapped up the details of leading 190 some students and volunteers and I set up and delivered a huge wedding, we placed the last centerpiece on the last table and then collapsed at our favorite restaurant...So tired of working, so exhausted from being with people, and so hungry!  We sat there barely able to get a spoon in our mouth, but so delighted to be with each other and satisfied after two jobs well done.  Sweet and kind of indicative of our summer so far!

We have had pockets of time we've gone to great lengths to protect and enjoy, days to just be home with the kids or enjoy some downtime away at my parents.  We enjoyed a great water park in Iowa together, which was such a treat for the kids, we had a blast!  We also have benefitted from the generosity of some friends at Church who invited us over to swim and then opened up their pool to us while they've been on vacation.  It sounds so simple but in the blur that is summer ministry, those pockets of time are truly priceless.  As we floated in the pool yesterday, just the four of us, laughing and playing with the kids I realized what a gift every quiet moment is.

I was away for a few days at the beginning of the week, on a retreat with my dear friends, the Pastor's wives at our Church.  We go on an annual retreat and this one was special because it was the first one for three of my sweet friends.  It was a wonderful time away to just unwind with each other, laugh, sharpen each other and share our hearts.  One common thread we all share is that we each know what it's like to be in the spotlight and to be "on" quite a bit.  That isn't necessarily a complaint, it sort of goes with the territory, but it does require a great deal of constant reflection.  It's so easy to slip into a performance based existence or always trying to please other people or even live up to our own unrealistic expectations.  It was so refreshing to encourage one another in the ways that we are challenged, keeping our main priorities the main thing, and living for an audience of one.  I just love each of those women and so many of the others who have been in my life for previous seasons of ministry.  It's a joy to be married to a Pastor and there are definitely wonderful things about it that I wouldn't trade for any amount of money or career success.  However, it's not easy to live this life well or to find joy in the many unique challenges along the way.  Truly no one understands what it's like unless you've been there too.  The older I get the more introverted I am becoming and it seems many of my friends too.  I think there is a real toll on being in a public role of serving people.  In order to stay healthy and joy-filled I realize more and more how much I need time alone and time with my little family to refuel and protect what's been entrusted to us.  This season of our kids at home is ultimately so short!  I want so much for them to love Jesus and love the Church when it's all said and done and when they are free to make their own choices.  So as busy as we are with Church stuff and weddings, we are careful to plan lots of fun in there for our kiddos and time just doing family stuff...walks after dinner, treats at DQ, pool time, bike rides, etc.  We haven't had as much friend time as I imagined but I just haven't had the time or energy to host or plan.  Someday the friend thing will be a huge part of their life, but Trav and I are in no rush to get there!

In the remaining weeks of July and August there isn't much let up in our schedule.  I wrap up one more wedding next weekend and then we enter a new season of challenge.  Travis has a few more trips and camps before he starts coaching soccer but I will be shifting my focus entirely to our housing situation.  We are on the brink of some changes, hopefully we will be getting our condo on the rental market in the coming months and looking for a place for the four of us to land.  It's been a journey that we didn't necessarily see ourselves on but The Lord keeps opening doors and leading us in that direction so we are following Him.  It's a bit of an unsettling feeling, not knowing exactly where our next home will be or how the timing and transition will go, but we are trusting God completely and really looking for Him to open doors we can't see.  I told a friend that He seems to be giving us just enough light for one more step so we keep taking those steps in faith, believing that His plan is the best one for us.  In the mean time, we are doing a ton of updating and some remodeling that will be keeping me extremely busy in the coming weeks and months.  It's exciting and terrifying and will be the source of some serious sanctification I'm sure!

So there you have it, summer is off and running and we are doing our best to hold on for the ride!  The kids are well, Travis is having a great summer and I am so enjoying my role as wife, mama, florist, and overall keeper of the schedule and manager of our home!  I wish I could say I'm handling it all beautifully and have encountered no bumps along the way but of course, I'm only human!  Some days are better than others and some weeks we're just glad to have survived.  The Lord is so good though and He is teaching me many incredible lessons and helping me where I fall glad it's sanctification He's after, not perfection.

I pray this has been a sweet summer for you as well!  I'm missing my blog but I know as things change from one season to another I'll be able to invest more time here and even get some pictures and updates posted!  But for now, the Armstrong's are well and enjoying life...a full, busy and blessed life.  Happy July friends!!

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