Washington DC

In May, we had the honor of going to a conference for Pastor's and their spouses, in D.C.  It was such a privilege to be there and we were so excited to have a few days away together! We hadn't been away together for almost 2 years, so we didn't hesitate at the invitation! When the opportunity arose a few months back, my Mom graciously agreed to watch our kids so that we could say yes. That was no small thing, she had her hands full with all three, and by herself for a couple of days before my Dad could join her. But we are so grateful she gave us the green light to go. It was an incredible time for us! 
A very generous donor from our Church made this trip possible for those of us who could attend. While it seemed like just a few, random days in May it actually came at such a needed time. The Lord perfectly orchestrated this time for us to be refreshed when we needed it so. I am continually blown away by His care for us and this trip was another reminder of that!
The icing on the cake was time with friends, too! Melanie and I were loving the time to catch up and enjoy time with our husbands. We laughed and laughed and stayed up way too late every night, but it was so worth it! 
It was also such a fun excuse to get dressed up and enjoy the full D.C. experience! I loved being in a room full of men and women who were like-minded and who have also been called into full time ministry. It truly was a privilege to sit with and pray with hundreds of Pastors and spouses. We were treated with amazing speakers and encouraged by all of them as we all navigate a culture that is growing increasingly hostile to Jesus and those of us who hold fast to the authority of His Word. It's an interesting time in our nation and this conference felt (and feels) like a timely prompting from the Lord to remain steadfast in who He is, believing what He says and not fearing man or the consequences our faith may bring. 
A great picture of Peter and Mel! So thankful to serve alongside them, not to mention the many couples we have been privileged to know over these last 12 years in ministry.  I am humbled at the way we've been blessed by so many friendships and how we have learned through the examples of others who have gone before us or who serve in different capacities. It's not an easy job and I wouldn't expect anyone to understand unless you've been in these shoes. However, it is an honor to love the Lord and serve His Church for as long as He allows and in the way that He chooses. I loved being in the company of so many Pastors and of course, their wives! 
When we didn't have anything scheduled to attend and before the conference began, we made the most of every single minute we were in D.C.! We got up early every day and stayed up late, cramming in tons of sight-seeing and great conversations to process it all. It had been years since Trav and I had been to the nation's capital and never together, so we put our walking shoes on and took it all in! There is so much beauty in Washington and obviously so much history!
And of course, I'm a total sucker for all the architecture and details! 

You just forget the magnitude and size of these amazing monuments until you are in front of them in person! Ava had just finished studying Washington D.C. in school and we had strict instructions to take pictures for her! As if she had to ask that of her mother  :) 

I had forgotten how gorgeous the Smithsonian Castle is. 

What good men they are! Enduring our picture stops and food requests! 

I told Melanie it's common for Pastor's wives in the South to be referred to as the "First Lady" of the Church, so we couldn't pass up this photo op! Ha ha! I mean, we fit right in there with them don't you think?? 
We giggled at this sign, knowing full well the pressure we feel sometimes as a Pastor's wife... Women have always been criticized and scrutinized for what they wear or how they look and the First Lady of the United States is not immune! And speaking of the First Lady, look how gorgeous Michelle Obama's inauguration gown was. It was incredible in person, just so beautiful and she looked stunning in it! I see why she chose it! 
The biggest dollhouse, ever! Oh my goodness were Peter and Trav good sports to let us see all this before we sat for days in a conference  :)  I'm not sure this would have been at the top of their list!  
Ironically, the presidential china pattern I loved the most was Hillary Clinton's! Not sure she's ever been my style choice, but she picked a gorgeous pattern. Loved it!
The highlight of the First Ladies exhibit had to be when I spotted and recognized one of my beloved Hawkeye basketball players on a bench, waiting for his girlfriend or family member! Ha ha!! Who would have guessed!!! He was probably mortified to be spotted there but I did not waste the opportunity to say hi, tell him how much we love the Hawks and then ask him for a picture! I also thanked God for helping me sovereignly choose to dress in black and yellow that day!!!  How good of Him, haha!  Thanks Jarrod Uthoff! 
We got a taste of the incredible restaurant scene while we looked for the perfect lunch spot!
Trav and Peter were on that job while Mel and I decided to relax in this cozy spot! What a cool place! We decided on that particular day, it was a rough life being a Pastor's wife, wink wink! 
We arrived in D.C. very early in the morning and spent a full day taking in the sights, but our first scheduled event was a private Spiritual Heritage Tour in the U.S. Capitol, sponsored by some congressmen. I was very excited to do this, when would we ever have the opportunity to do something like this again? It was a gorgeous night although I wish the dome wasn't under construction! Bummer for us!  
Still, the scope and the beauty of the Capitol is incredible!
My camera lens and I could not take it all in fast enough. Everything was just gorgeous and we happened to be there on the most beautiful night with a gorgeous sky, just before sunset. 

Loved this shot of the Washington Monument in the background! 
After we made it through the extremely tight security, we went to the rotunda and this is a shot looking straight up at the construction they are doing. 

We were hosted by Congressman King, who is from Iowa, so of course I had to get a picture! 
It was really just an amazing night, we got a tour of many places in the capitol and were able to hear about the spiritual history of many men and women who founded our country or were instrumental in key battles and government. It was a throwback to my Christian school days when we learned about so much of our nation's spiritual history and how the founders designed our government according to Biblical principles. We enjoyed it so much and felt very honored to be there. 
The highlight for all of us was standing in the middle of the rotunda as a group, singing and praying for our country and its' leaders. We were led in a powerful prayer by the President of the SBC and it was one of those amazing moments when the gravity of our country's current drift from the Lord was so starkly felt and yet, we were so encouraged to hear about the many Senators and Congressmen/women who diligently seek the Lord and work tirelessly to make a difference. There is a weekly prayer meeting in the Rotunda and we were honored to be there to witness it and participate with many other Pastors. You can imagine the special time that was and how incredible to hear the voices of many Godly leaders all seeking God's face on behalf of our country. Regardless of which way the wind of government blows, the Lord is still Sovereign and in control of all nations and His Church and His people aren't going anywhere! We need to take heart in Him!
I was doing my best to listen and pay attention to it all but of course I was distracted by the beauty all around me!

What a privilege! We will never forget being there!
The rest of our time at the conference was equally powerful. We were able to hear from many leaders, pastors, and believers who have faced increasing pressure and penalties in this season of hostility. A Alabama judge who was removed from office for saying he believed in the Bible, a fire chief who was fired for writing a book about God, the florist in Oregon who is likely losing everything for declining to do flowers for a gay wedding, the Pastor from Houston whose sermons were seized after a radical mayor was elected and many, many more. We were there before the Supreme Court vote and yet we talked about what that might mean for all of us and our Churches if that is passed. We know now that it has indeed passed and I am certain we will begin feeling the ripple effects sooner than later. It will likely impact us in a very real way. That is sobering. And yet, I was so encouraged by the reminders of who our God is and how He takes care of His people when we stand for Him. We were challenged to go back to our Churches with bold confidence in the Lord and the truth of His Word. 

One of my favorite speakers was the former Fire Chief in Atlanta who recently lost his job after writing a book for Christian men about the Fatherhood of God. He has faced tremendous criticism on a public scale as well as the loss of his job and income and yet, he gave such encouragement about standing firm. He shared so openly about the ways the Lord has drawn near to him and how the Lord has prepared his family well for this road. We have nothing to fear when we stand for Christ, what can man do to us? I will admit, sometimes I panic about what might face Travis someday as we choose to obey the Lord and His Word above all. I don't know what the road ahead looks like but I do know our God is faithful and He will see us through and bless us if we stand for Him. This conference has been a blessing to me in the last few weeks even as I've reflected on the changing climate of our culture. Our God is Holy and Righteous and True. He will never leave His own and He will strengthen and equip us for anything that is ahead. 

We were able to spend the last evening on our knees with hundreds of Pastors and spouses, crying out to the Lord on behalf of our country and but also for believers in the middle east who are being persecuted and brutally murdered at the hands of ISIS. It was unbelievably gut-wrenching and powerful to hear stories of families being eliminated in horrific ways, when they refused to denounce their faith. I truly wish I hadn't heard them, it made me sob thinking about my own children and how those parents are facing agony I couldn't imagine. I swear the room was thundering with the voices of such Godly leaders praying, and many weeping as well.  For reasons only the Lord knows, we are not yet facing persecution, torture and death here, but our brothers and sisters in the middle east are. It is really an insult to them to say we are being persecuted, we are simply feeling increased pressure and political discomfort but we don't even know a taste of what they are facing on a daily basis. It was a privilege to pray for them and a reminder to not forget the persecuted Church! The Lord has certainly not forgotten them. 

I was so struck by my love and affection especially for the many grey and white haired men and women in that room. Those who have been at this much longer than we have and have stayed faithful to the Lord and committed to sharing the Gospel with the people God has entrusted to them. I could cry now thinking about it. It's a sacred calling to serve the Lord and shepherd His people and no one sees the countless hours of prayer and heartache and daily faithfulness that mark so many Pastors. I'm convinced that the unseen private times with the Lord are what make a Pastor effective for the long haul. It's one thing to command a room or give a stirring "speech"in front of the masses, but to lead wisely, consistently and faithfully is the product of being led daily by Jesus.  I loved that time more than anything else and I was honored to be with my favorite Pastor in the whole world. 
Before we all flew home, we squeezed some more sight seeing in! We hadn't seen the WW2 Memorial the last time we were in D.C. and it was amazing in person. 

Peter with the great photo-bomb!
This made me laugh, once a youth pastor always a youth pastor! A class of students were trying to rub the names of some veterans on paper at the Vietnam Memorial and one girl couldn't reach so Trav stopped to help her  :) 
We flew home just a few days before Memorial Day so the decorating at many monuments had begun and was touching to see. 

We really wanted to make it to the White House and we were there for about 3 minutes before we were yelled at loudly by the capitol police to get off the sidewalks and clear the area. They were not playing around! 
Thankfully I had my long camera lens and I was able to snap a quick pic before we had to leave!
We cleared the area with hundreds of other people and finally found an acceptable place to stand. We could tell something was going on so we decided to stick it out and see what it was. 
We waited probably close to 45 minutes but it was totally worth it because we ended up getting a front row seat for the Presidential motorcade and yes, POTUS himself!  We watched the helicopters circle, the police form barricades, many, many decoy cars come through with the secret service and then finally, we got what we waited for! 
Two limos waving the flags, this one coming first...
...and then this one following with President Obama! 
He is in the back window and he even waved at us! So fun to experience that!! 
And here are the Secret Service snipers to make sure none of us acted up! Ha! 
We were on our best behavior :) 

It was an amazing, whirlwind trip with so many treasured memories and fun times! We are so grateful we could go and we thank the Lord for all that He taught us while we were there and even after we've been home. We do pray for our nation and for our leaders, those who fear God and those who don't. We are saddened by the recent changes and legislation that disregards Biblical truth and yet, we love this country and we have nothing to fear! Our God is on His throne and we ask Him to help us stand boldly for truth with a sincere love for all people. These are not days to panic but days to trust God, speak up and love big! Our hope is not in America succeeding, but in the Gospel that has given us a great salvation! 

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