Cyber Sweat

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Dallas for my annual fitness conference, Dallas Mania. I always limp away from this weekend smelling of BioFreeze, but reminded why I love my job and just how important it is for changing lives. With your fitness and mine at the forefront of my mind, I thought it’s about time to take action…

Friends and family reach out to me often seeking fitness and nutrition advice. I am thrilled to help because I love my job and I believe health is paramount for living life “to the fullest.” I’ve created workout programs for dozens of friends long distance, and a few have even asked if they could pay–as a sort of accountability. By all means, pay me. ;) As my life gets busier with two children, a semi-full-time job and a husband whom I very much like to spend time with, I’ve decided to offer my advice/services to the online community, but for a small fee.

Cassie has lost 40 pounds in 4 months! Hard work and seemingly small daily choices lead to big results.

Cassie has lost 40 pounds in 4 months! Hard work and seemingly small daily choices lead to big results.

Although the website isn’t as professional as I’d like it to be and my headshots are 3 years old (I am no longer a blonde :( ), I figured it’s time to make this official.

I’ve created an online training website where you can purchase workouts (“training sessions”), general nutrition guidance and my own, tried-and-true healthy recipes. All correspondence will be via email or text message. Someday I’ll make fancy videos of movement patterns and have updated headshots taken, but this will have to do for now.

One exception: if you live within 30 miles of Tulsa, you need to come see me at Sky Fitness and Wellbeing. I am proud to be employed by this fantastic company and you will love the facility, its classes and amenities. Actual face-to-face training is much more beneficial and effective for accountability. I will not send workouts to local prospects.

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Personal training is no doubt a financial investment, and I believe your health is one of the most important investments you can make. I’ve had clients cancel cable services, decrease their amount of childcare, sell their phones, purchase sessions as their annual Christmas or birthday gift…all to continue training with me; because health is that important. That rewarding.

TRX fun with Edie

TRX fun with Edie

“It is a shame for a woman [or man] to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.” -Socrates

If you have access to a fabulous personal trainer, particularly my former fitness home, Next Level Fitness Studio, this is not for you. I can think of no better place for you to invest your money than with the professional trainers at that facility.

If you do not have access to a personal trainer, I hope you’ll consider using me as your online resource for improving your health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Please comment here or on my online training website if you have any questions at all!

                    ARMSTRONG ONLINE TRAINING WEBSITE

St. Francis Children’s Hospital, Room B2

Finn whispered, “Will you guys pray for me?” Joey, his mom and I started crying. Then we prayed over his sweaty little body; cheeks red and flushed, eyes closed.

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We called his nurse in for some Motrin and about 30 minutes later, he snapped out of it. The South Tulsa LifeKids team was visiting when Finn seemed to come back to life.

Stephen and Finn

Stephen and Finn

He was calling us “Poopy,” giggling and asking his nurse about the Avengers on her scrubs.

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Sunday evening, Finn refused dinner, said his head hurt and asked to take a nap at 5:00pm. Something was not right. We got him home from a family run at Turkey Mountain, where the kids had performed their first “rock climbing,” and Finn had a 102.9 fever–the highest we’d ever seen with him.

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After medication, we checked on him every 15 minutes and his temp was dropping, so we let him sleep through the night. He woke up Monday morning happy and ready to go to school.

School called around 3:00pm saying he woke up from his nap, said his head hurt and threw up. I picked him up and Joey and Paisley met us at the pediatrician. We were hoping it was the return of an ear infection he had a month ago. Nope; ears looked perfect. Our doctor said to take him to the ER…although it’s very rare, it could be a possible shunt infection.

Finn has a VP shunt behind his right ear. It’s a small device that regulates the spinal fluid pressure in his brain, caused (in his case) by Spina Bifida. It keeps him alive and was placed by a neurosurgeon three days after his birth. When it malfunctions, the shunt’s catheter gets clogged and CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) accumulates in his brain, causing him to feel very sick. Most often, it requires immediate surgery to fix. This has happened twice, but not since 2012.

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We spent about 6 wearisome hours in the ER at St. Francis.

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Joey’s parents helped with Paisley, friends brought us dinner, and Joey’s boss and his wife visited the hospital then took over for my mother-in-law staying at our house with Paisley.

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They ran every test–blood, urine, swab for infection, strep, CT scan, and a shunt x-ray series. Everything came back negative for infection and the shunt seemed to be working properly; nothing was kinked or clogged. His inflammatory indicator was high, but white blood cell count was normal. We were baffled. They decided to admit him overnight to continue investigation.

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They gave him the same antibiotics as they would if he had spinal meningitis, not wanting to leave anything up to chance in case he had a shunt infection. Finn and I spent Monday night in the hospital, where they came in every hour for some test or IV check. Every 3 hours they pried his eyes open and shined a light in them. Fever was still pretty high. By mid-morning he was basically unresponsive for about 3 hours.

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We’d ask him to look at us and he wouldn’t turn his head; even when his eyes were open. We were scared and praying hard. This is when he asked us, “Will you guys pray for me?”

Tulsa recently got a new pediatric neurosurgeon, and she was on Finn’s case. She ordered a shunt tap–they stick a needle into the shunt and extract CSF to test it for infection. If it is infected, they will remove the shunt and replace a new one–a major surgery and two-six week hospital stay. The shunt tap was ordered at 10:00am, but no one heard from Neuro until 8:00pm that evening. By that time, Finn had rallied and was feeling so much better that we were playing catch with a foam baseball when she arrived at his room.

Daddy made a tent!

Daddy made a tent!

Cousin Ev, Tuck and Sully sent balloons!

Cousin Ev, Tuck and Sully sent balloons!

Gym friends brought a Miles of Tomorrowland toy!

Gym friends brought a Miles of Tomorrowland toy!

She decided not to risk the shunt tap since he was obviously feeling better.

He woke up Wednesday feeling great and even ate a donut!

He woke up Wednesday feeling great and even ate a donut!

We left the hospital around 6:30pm on Wednesday, still unsure of the source of infection but thankful for Finn’s improved health nonetheless. Perhaps it was a weird virus? God, no doubt, had healed him.

Our miracle boy.

Our miracle boy.

Thank you so very much for your prayers and encouragement during this difficult week for our family. We are blessed by the community you provide us. You are, quite literally, the “hands and feet of Christ” in our lives. Keep praying for Finn: that he would not relapse and that his shunt would continue to work properly.

Doing It

You know, doing life together. ;)

This is a phrase Christians throw around, referring to a community of people who interact outside of the church’s walls. We call them small groups. Or at LifeChurch.tv, we call them LifeGroups.

They might meet weekly or monthly to discuss the sermon topic, study Scripture or a book together, go bowling, run a 5K, share meals in each others’ homes, or provide comfort and camaraderie during difficult seasons.

If you’ve ever truly allowed a group of people into your lives, it can–and will–get messy. Because life is messy and we are messy people. Bob Goff, author of Love Does, says he stopped going to Bible Studies a long time ago. He realized that for years he was learning the original Hebrew or Greek phrases and memorizing a lot of facts about Jesus like who his mom was, how many ships there were in the Sea of Galilee, or the disciples’ occupations, but he didn’t really know Jesus. He still meets with the very same men, but now they have Bible Doings. They discuss what the Bible says and what they’re going to do about it in everyday life. Practical.

Joey and I are fortunate enough to have experienced many of these meaningful groups of people (Life Groups) in our short 9 years of marriage.

The first was our crew at Compass Wilderness, an outdoor adventure camp based in Durango, CO.

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Joey and I, along with about 10 other young people, led groups on rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking and rappelling trips.

sleep-deprived

sleep-deprived

We shared our struggles, our ultimate Frisbee strategies, told our life stories and prayed for each other daily.

Oh, Settlers...

Oh, Settlers…

It’s amazing how braving a thunder storm in a tent above tree-line or hanging off a rock face at the mercy of someone else will bond you for life.

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The second was our LifeGroup in Waco. This was a like-minded group of seminary students and their husbands and wives.

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We challenged each other spiritually in a way I haven’t experienced since. We took turns leading discussion weekly and shared our life stories over decaf coffee and chocolate chip cookies. One evening we found spiritual significance in 80’s classic rock lyrics. Thank you, Scott. We held annual murder mystery parties.

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We camped together.

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Argued over Spades tournaments. We each adopted a different candidate for the 2010 presidential election and held a mock debate. It was epic.

Strongly BentArm :)

Strongly BentArm :) does Cold Play

Several of these fantastic people are now career missionaries overseas, one’s an English professor, a few are serving in our local churches, and two of the girls are preachers.

We recently got together with two of the couples at my parents’ house on the lake.

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Hudson Lind and Finn

It was so fun to catch up and laugh comfortably despite the six years that passed between us. Joey and I were reminded that these friends ask the best questions.

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The third we experienced in Slovenia. A girl named Katy and a guy named Josh and Joey and I ate just about every meal together, hiked through the Alps,

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went canyoning (basically jumping waterfalls), rafted the Soca river, held a local VBS, and shared the love of Jesus with locals in coffee shops.

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We watched episodes of Seinfeld on a Dell when we were homesick.

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We didn’t know each other prior to that summer of 2008, but we felt like family when we left in August.

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We learned from the best local climbers

We learned from the best local climbers

The Slovene couple who owned the campground where we stayed befriended us and even came to visit us in the U.S. the following Christmas.

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Tijana and Vasja Kovac at their campground, Kamp Kovac

Tijana and Vasja at the Truett Christmas banquet!

Tijana and Vasja at the Truett Christmas banquet!

Nothing like a foreign language, foreign culture and foreign pizza to unite four young Americans.

The fourth was our small group at First Baptist in Norman. This group of people welcomed us with open arms and helped us build the community that we didn’t realize we’d need so desperately once Finn came into our world in 2012.

Scary movie night at the Wright ranch

Scary movie night at the Wright ranch

Minus a lot of people but this is the best I've got.

They brought us meals to the NICU, left gas cards and encouraging notes on our doorstep, and were “the Church” for us when we needed them most.

The fifth grew out of that small group I just mentioned. It became a close knit group of four families. You’ve heard about each of them throughout these blog posts. We celebrated every birthday together, walked to Starbucks together with our families on Saturday mornings, had girls’-night-outs and boys’-night-outs.

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We made meals for each other when life got out of hand. Swapped hand-me-downs for the kids. Watered each others’ flowers while on vacation. We even vacationed together (minus the Hagers) in Mexico this summer.

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Although we never officially sat down for a Bible study together, this group of people “did life” with us and showed us Jesus more than any other group of people we’ve known.

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They saw us at our worst and at our best. They prayed with us. Confronted us. Laughed with us. Advocated for us. Brought us onion burgers to the ER. We experienced true friendship with these people and we miss them dearly.

God is already creating community for us here in Tulsa and I pray these friendships flourish in time.

Joey is so passionate about fostering this type of community that he is the LifeGroups and LifeMissions pastor at LifeChurch.tv Broken Arrow. He loves helping the big church feel smaller by connecting people and encouraging them to experience life together. If you need community, plug into one of these groups at your church. Or come to my church, LifeChurch.tv ! There are about 20 of our locations across the country.

God is Three. Jesus chose twelve. Man should not be alone, so God created Woman. Because life was intended to be communal.

Salty

I purchased more salt today. Coarse Kosher salt is my favorite for cooking. I can always tell when Joey has used it because it’s strewn all over the countertop. He likes to sprinkle it high above his plate because it makes him feel chef-y. Gramma Mary taught me to use celery salt for boiled eggs. I had two of them for lunch. I’ve had chili salt on my rim in Mexico. And the Diefenderfers (friends from college who own Cuppies and Joe in OKC) use Pink Himalayan salt on their smashed fingerling potatoes. They eat the coolest food on the planet, so of course I purchased some PH salt. It sits in my cabinet, pretty and pink, but full to the brim. Not sure what to do with it.

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Salt accentuates natural flavor. It can take a dish from alright to life-changing. It’s the little black dress that plays up your best parts.

Jesus tells us to be salty in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

His followers should bring out the best flavors in people, and if they don’t, they’re “good for nothing.” I should make you better; empower you to be the best version of yourself. My character and personality should bring out the best of yours. I’ve had friends before who did the opposite. I didn’t like who I was around them. My ego was tripped; my selfishness and quick temper tested. It’s like their sin invited my sin to play. I’m certain I’ve unfortunately done the same for others.

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Joey brings out the best in our kids!

I think some people feel this way about Christians in general. They are negative–always against something instead of for something. If we’re not careful we can bring out the worst in our co-workers, kids, spouses, employees, and neighbors. Jesus wants us to add depth of flavor and deliciousness to his people, inviting the world to His table to taste and eat of His goodness, grace, patience, kindness, acceptance and love. Yummy things.

A pinch of salt can completely change a dish. A believer of Christ has this power to change a community.

Getting Away

When life is hard, I go somewhere else in my mind–some fantastic place I’ve been before. This is the magic of vacation: the carefree memories last beyond the holiday. They get us through the arduous days and nights that follow.

I think about Colorado: Cascade Falls north of Durango and waking up in our tent beside Lime Creek.

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I go poolside in Mexico with my hottie husband doing a crossword puzzle at my left. I am climbing a rock face in Slovenia, slurping linguine in Florence, exploring ancient cathedrals in Rome. I’m bike riding up to a castle in Salzburg, on the dock with my family at the lake, canoeing in the Boundary Waters or whale watching in Alaska.

Getting away forces me to rest, breathe a little deeper and separate myself from the people and things that produce the most stress. But it also helps me appreciate those very things. With some distance between us, I am grateful for a home to clean, children to feed with butts to wipe, and a job with oftentimes too many clients to manage.

Most recently, we spent 4th of July weekend at my parents’ home in Bella Vista, AR.

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These two are something else!

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We watched fireworks over the dam, water skied, swam off the boat, and played games when the kids went to bed.

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Chad surprised us and drove up from Dallas to join the fun!

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This is going to be one of my new favorite traditions.

Last week, Joey and I left Tulsa on the earliest flight in the history of aviation, met our Norman friends in the Dallas airport (and two more met us in Mexico!) and continued on to Cancun.

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We were celebrating Dustin’s 40th birthday and our 9th anniversary.

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We stayed at Secrets Playa Mujeres.

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It was a new, all-inclusive resort with beautiful buildings/decor and really yummy food. I felt like Lady Edith, dressing up each evening, choosing anything I wanted off the menu and letting someone else do the dishes.

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We spent a couple blissful days at the spa.

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Anytime I get a massage, I pray…just so grateful for a moment to be pampered; a complete luxury. The masseuse would think I was a weirdo if she heard my inner monologue: “Oh, thank you Jesus. You are just so good. Always good…” :)

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LOVED this book! Thanks, Leah!

We had never traveled with friends before, and to be honest, I was a little nervous I wouldn’t get enough time with Joey, but it was perfect. We loved sharing meals with our friends each evening, laughing over the mariachi band’s lilting vibrato and tasting each others’ gourmet dishes. I miss the everyday-ness of our friendship with them. They are good people. Life-long friends.

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After day 4, we were missing our kids like crazy and ready to get home to our food, our workouts, our bed. We came home with a new appreciation for the regularity of our little life; ready to tackle parenthood head on.

Thank you, Mom, Dad and Chad for taking such fantastic care of our babies while we were gone. We can only travel like this because of your sacrifice.

Tuesday, Finn was diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home from school, then Paisley spiked a fever too. Yesterday, after hours of simultaneous crying and whining from my little loves, I took myself back to the relaxation room in Mexico. White robe. Cucumber slices on my eyes and eucalyptus in my nostrils. Breathe deeply. It’s going to be okay and it can always be worse. Dear friends are struggling with much worse diagnoses these days.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to get away but even more grateful for the opportunity to come home.

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We made it, Paisley Dawn; you’re ONE!

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We’ve come a long way, sweet girl.

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There were days and nights when I wasn’t sure if you and I would survive. (see post: Hear Her Roar)

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I see remnants of your angst and ferocity every now and then, but you turned out to be a fun, happy little woman.

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Baby woke up with a double ear infection for her birthday party! :(

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Pedialyte for the party.

You are so strong. I blame those quads and calves on your Papa Mike, but wear them proudly, darling. It is a miracle to watch you take your first steps (five steps just today!) and witness your tiny body functioning as it should. Use your physical gifts to inspire and help others.

Though she be but little, she is fierce. -Shakespeare

Snuggles with Daddy

Snuggles with Daddy

You are so beautiful. Your long, dark lashes, crazy curly hair and feminine face are a gift from above. As your momma, I promise to speak well of my body and of yours, leading you by example to care for your body but not obsess over it. It is more important to be lovely on the inside than the outside. (But I can’t wait for our first pedicure together!)

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You are so smart. I love to watch you calculate problems and observe new situations. You are quick to learn. It is a powerful weapon to be beautiful and smart. I pray that God would make you humble and kind, sensitive to those who are different because of your love for your brother.

Finn made us pray three times for the birthday girl. :)

Finn made us pray three times for the birthday girl. :)

You are so funny. You’ve had an uncanny sense of humor since you were only a few months old. You giggle easily like the Armstrongs, a trait I love in you. Your brother makes you smile and laugh like no one else. I pray your friendship with him grows to be something deep and true.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
 Proverbs 31:25

Still able to laugh and clap even though she felt awful.

Still able to laugh and clap even though she felt awful.

You are a blessing. Your daddy and I are so grateful for you. You complete our family; you’re exactly what we needed. I can’t wait to get to know you better in the days God allows us to have on this earth. Thanks for refining me. I promise to savor every last diaper change and middle-of-the-night snuggle. Fleeting gifts.

All the people around this table LOVE you!

Birthday brunch with family.

Happy Day, little one! We celebrate you.

Men

I know the story reads differently for many other women, but the men in my world are real-life heroes. Princes on steeds. They are strong, kind and brave. This is because they love Jesus.

Gramps

I’ll never forget a time I was struggling in college. I confessed to him my issues at their Arizona home one lonely Spring Break. He told me it was no big deal. We all mess up. Gotta move on, for Cripe’s sake. I am so hard on myself–a recovering perfectionist. His grace washed over me like healing balm.

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He taught me how to organize a garage, play Cribbage and count cards. He loves old western movies and he’ll rob a bank for a back rub.

Bopp

No one loves his wife’s cooking more than my dad’s dad. He is gentle and loves each of his many grandchildren the same. His eyes fill with tears when he talks about his family. Years of hard work on the farm make him appreciate the little things in life, and there’s no place he’d rather be than fishing with one of his grandkids.

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Dad

This man loves God and has a reverence for His creation like no one I’ve ever known.

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He taught me how to spot a deer in the field, listen for loons on the lake and bait a hook. He is kind and sincere in the purest way. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch him when he’s goofy. He is immune to the demands of American materialism. He’s not above it or below it, he’s just outside of it. And he listens more than he talks–I want to be like that. He tells me he loves me in the sweetest, sappiest ways.

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At the end of every run, he points his finger to the sky and thanks God for the gift of breath and movement. One-of-a-kind.

Chad

This kid (okay, he’s 28) is chalk-full of integrity. It’s in his bones. He is not satisfied with mediocre living or shallow relationships. He calls family meetings at holidays to ask how he can pray for us. And then he actually prays for us.

Teaching the Word at the Sea of Galilee!

Teaching the Word at the Sea of Galilee!

Silly and loud, he could never sit still as a child. He’d stand in front of the TV or circle the dinner table until we all went insane. He’s intentionally busy but learning how to rest. All will be right with the world when we find him a woman. A really really special woman.

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Joey

He is home for me. In his arms I feel safe to be myself. He’s seen me at my worst and held my hand anyway; he’s seen me at my best and is publicly proud of me.

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He cares deeply about the marginalized, the lesser ones. Annoyingly good at everything he does and devilishly good looking, I’m still so in love. He makes me laugh every single day and there’s no one else I’d rather share the ups and downs of life with.

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Finn and Paisley won the jackpot with Joey as their dad.

Terry

He’s my father-in-law, but I feel like he’s just my dad. He has big ideas, reads big books and has an even bigger heart. Lumber beware: he will craft you into something beautiful. I’m forever grateful for the dad he was (is) to Joey. I believe kind, empowering, godly dads are what’s missing from our society. Thanks for being one of them.

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Finn

When I was pregnant with my little boy, I felt like God had forgotten him; made him incomplete somehow. I was so wrong. God spent so much extra time creating Finn. He has more personality and spunk than most adults. He speaks better than most adults too.

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His perspective on life will be so fantastically different than mine. I believe (and pray) he will know Jesus in a more intimate way than I ever will. The confidence he has to wheel straight through a crowd of staring people–with a smile on his face–is a gift from above. I am so blessed to have a front-row seat for his little, important life.

Father God

He pursues me with relentless love. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. He knows my name and cups my face in His hands, calling me Daughter. He disciplines me and makes me terribly uncomfortable when I need it. My Redeemer and Provider. I crave time alone with Him, especially in the mountains. Sometimes He’s silent, but if I’m quiet and humble, I can hear His voice. Despite my circumstances, He is good.

Happy Father’s Day! You are so important, Dads. Keep leading us with courage and love.