Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scars and Love

​We just celebrated one year in Africa :) Africa has been quite the adventure. Full of ups and downs. Unfortunately due to my health, we are heading back to the States soon. I haven't written much because my health continues to decline and typing with numb fingers is a challenge. I won't give more details here but please pray for me. Africa has definitely left its mark on me. I mean this literally and figuratively. I am going home with physical scars from our time here. While the rainbow bruise is gone, almost a year later I still have my scar from the dog bite from Sam's dad. It reminds me of the miracle God did that day. So while perfect legs would be nice, I will enjoy my scar and praise God. I, also, have a scars from the impetigo. They are tiny and may go unnoticed but it is another reminder of what God has brought us through. The most difficult scars though are the ones left on my heart. We are leaving behind amazing people who are family to us. We love you guys. We are leaving behind two great organizations we were proud to be a part of. But the hardest is leaving the kids. Just like Mark and Kaitlyn before them, these nine kiddos have a piece of my heart. Their names are forever etched on my heart. My heart hurts but an amazing thing happens when you love- truly love. Even though you give and give, your heart grows instead of shrinks. My heart is full even in this pain. This life is about love. There is so much hate in the world today. Don't believe me- just turn on the news. That is not who we are meant to be. Shine your light and love today. As I think back on our time here I think of a quote by Mother Theresa. She said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." I did not do anything huge here. I did not leave my mark on Africa as it did on me. However, I did little things that I hope spoke of the love of Christ. I hope when those little ones remember Auntie they remember what I told them as I held them. "Auntie loves you and Jesus does too."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Don't Run

Fear and pain. Wow do I hate those. Yet so often they are intertwined. That's me right now. Most of you may already know and may be sick of hearing about it but I am battling severe pain. Still. Argh. Started before Easter and 2 months later is still here. Medicine hasn't helped. Still no real diagnosis. And I am tired. I am weak. And I want to give up. I feel like a failure. I keep hearing come home! I want to run. I want to run all the way back to the States- back to what I know. Back to what is comfortable. But I know I need to stand firm. In 1 Peter 5, Peter describes Satan as a lion on the prowl and tells believers to stand firm against him. Running from a lion while it may be instinct is exactly what you are not supposed to do. A popular phrase here and a great book is "whatever you do don't run." (The book is by Peter Allison) Instead you are to face the predator, get as big as possible, and stand your ground. Then the predator will hopefully see you as another predator and not as prey- and then it will back down.  In this journey called life from time to time a lion (or a bear, moose, water buffalo, you name it) will come into our path. We all have 2 options- run or muster up our courage and strength in the Lord (we can't do this on our own) and stare down that lion. Please continue to pray for Ryan and I as it seems like we are continually facing one of the Big 5 in our path. It is hard- but this is where the Lord has called us. I know He is using this to mold me from this shy, weak little girl into a brave, strong woman for Him.  Thank you for the encouragement and prayers. May we bring glory to God as we stand for Him no matter what lies in our path.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Saying goodbyes are always tough- especially when you don’t know if you’ll get to see them again. I still remember cradling a sleeping Kaitlyn in my arms one last time before handing her back to her social worker. I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks when the van carrying Mark drove away. Those moments still fill me with ache. With Vincent, I did not get an official goodbye and for a while that hurt. I came in and heard from the kids that he went home.  Even with the happiness for him there was sadness of separation. I see now I was spared a tough goodbye. Looking back on that last day- I wouldn't have changed it. We had school time and went to the playground. He was scared of the slide and would only go down if I held his hand. Then he would giggle the whole way down. We got to swing together and snuggle. I hugged him bye as I do with all the kids. He yelled out the window, “Auntie! Auntie!” I waved and he blew me kisses. I blew kisses back and went home. No pain- just a happy day. I rejoice over the reunification. That is the goal- family for each little one. More goodbyes are coming and with each a part of my heart goes. But instead of holding onto the sadness and self-pity- I choose joy. I choose to remember the good times. I am a part of these kids’ story. I don’t know for how long or short- but I am going to make it a good part. I cannot do that wallowing in what could have been. I must live in the moment and enjoy each day for the blessing it is. Goodbyes are coming- but so are hugs, kisses, laughs, dances…

Prayer Request- Still not well. Full round of antibiotics and vitamins but still having chest pain, back pain, and occasional fever with chills. Taking the week to recover. Please pray that I can kick whatever this is and have my immune system functioning again. I miss the kiddos. Thanks :)

 First flight in Africa! :)

Friday, May 9, 2014


Happy Mother’s Day! I have been so blessed. My mom is amazing. I could write a whole blog post praising her for raising my siblings and me. We saw her beautifully fulfill her wedding vows of “in sickness and in health” as she took care of my dad throughout his battle with cancer. I love and miss you Mom. I, also, have Ryan’s mom who has blessed us so much. But beyond physical family- God has given me many women who have become spiritual mothers and sisters to me. Moving all over and being away from family is not easy. The Lord has been faithful though to give me family wherever He took us. Here in Africa he has already brought incredible women who bless me so much. But while I have so many- my heart breaks that there are some who have none. Why am I so lucky and they so unfortunate? How does this happen? I believe God is calling us to stand in the gap for those kids.
I love the movie Courageous. It is about men standing up to be the fathers God has called them to be. I watched it with my mom and she said at the end, “they need to make a version of this for the women.” I agree. It is time for us to nurture those we currently have in our life and to add others into the fold. I have been reading Nurture: Give and Get What You Need to Flourish by Lisa Bevere. (Wonderful book) The premise of the book is that it is time women start taking care of each other and the younger women. This world needs more women willing to be mothers to those who need one. You see it every day in the news. Stories about abortion, child abuse/neglect, violence… and we wonder what is wrong with this world. Sin but also that children are growing up physically but they are not being raised. When I did a research paper in college about foster care I could not believe the statistics linking foster children to drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, and crime. These kids NEED someone. You are probably reading this and thinking that’s great and all- but I already have my hands full with my own family. This crazy lady doesn’t have kids so she doesn’t understand why I can’t. I know I only had children in my home for a short time but I remember how hectic life was. I remember the days I did not have a moment to myself until I collapsed into bed late at night. I am not saying anyone should neglect their family to reach out to others. What I am saying is pray to see if God wants you expand your influence. Lisa Bevere wrote, “But the truth is none of us were created for maintenance, we were made for expansion. Daughter of the Most High, God wants to enlarge the life of each and every one of us. He wants to push us out over the brink of what we can control in our own abilities and strengthen and position us to realize the lives He has for us outside our neat and tidy packages.” This is not just about adoption and foster care. I know that is not for everyone. But there are other things we can do. Volunteer at your church. Pastors correct me if I am wrong- but I am pretty sure just about every children’s and youth ministry is looking for more volunteers. Just a couple hours a week and you can make a difference. How do I know this? I saw this with Mark. He LOVED going to church. This little boy with a hard exterior and a rough childhood melted in the safety of his AWANAs class. When I asked him who his best friend at church was- he said his teacher. Be a mentor. Be a tutor. Coach a sport. Find the lonely and invite them to lunch. Pray and ask God to show you the opportunities you have to make a difference. A new generation is coming up. They need our wisdom and our care. Let’s not let them down. So this Mother’s Day I am asking you to prayerfully consider inviting someone new into your life. Yes, it is time consuming and can be hard work- but it is worth it. I have now had to say goodbye to 3 little ones (one of my toddlers went home with their family). It hurts but I have joy knowing that I got to be a part of their story. Whether they remember me or not- I will remember them. See when you mother a child it not only changes them, but it changes you too. I have such precious memories of my babies. I am super sick right now (pretty sure its pneumonia but for a while we thought it might be malaria) but all I want is to be well so I can go snuggle with my little ones. Sometimes I feel that they bless me more than I bless them.

So my challenge to you is to pray. Pray that God would open your heart. That you would be willing to expand your sphere of influence.  Then follow His leading. He won’t call you to something that He won’t give you the strength to do. Albert Einstein said, “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Let’s start living.
My Kiddos

                                                       My Mom and me (circa 2006)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I have had a lot of quiet time to ponder this week and God has really been working on me. In Bible study we talked about the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 2:6. It was about seeing things from a different perspective - a heavenly perspective.
2 Kings 2:16 says, “And Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
So that has been my prayer lately: Open my eyes Lord.
I have also been pondering dreams. A close friend of mine has been pursuing her childhood dream of being a figure skater. Ryan is finally flying which is an achievement of his childhood dream. For me my dream has been to be a mother and to have my own orphanage. Ryan and I have been praying for a child for almost six years now. But we’ll get back to that. Tuesday I came home stressed. I had a meeting and was asked to shake up the orphanage preschool program. To “make it my own.” That is a lot of responsibility and I was overwhelmed at first. I voiced my fears to Ryan and his response was exactly what I needed. He said, “Jen, you have always said you wanted your own orphanage - looks like you got it.” He got me back on the right perspective. In my alone time this week I have been praying for the program and continuing to pray for a child of my own. It is then I heard in a small whisper “Take care of the children I have given you. You keep asking for a child but I have already given you 8.” I may not be a biological mother or legal mom but just like my former foster kiddos were my babies - I am accepting these little ones as my own. It may not look how I saw my dream growing up but I think it is even more beautiful. As I think of those kids my heart is full of joy. I could yammer on about them all day.  If I am on the floor there is always one in my lap and another trying to crawl on. Or there is another little one (or two or three) doing my hair. Oh how they love to play with my hair. There is dancing and playing and learning. I am Ma Jenny or Auntie. Instead of one or two kids, I have been blessed with 8. I do not care if they are mine biologically or legally. I think of Mother Teresa and Amy Carmichael who had hundreds of children but none bio/adopted. I wonder if they still ached for one of their own or just appreciated the motherhood given to them a different way. I want to say that the ache is gone and will stay gone. That I will be content in mothering the children of others. Right now that is true. I have a peace and a joy that fills that ache. In “Dancing Upon Barren Land” Lesli Westfall urges infertile women to plant seeds of character and talent while on the infertility journey. I hope I am doing that. God is changing my perspective and opening my eyes to see my dreams through His eyes. I pray that I continue this way and do not let hormones or bitterness blind me.
When I was 17 praying for this future I did not envision it this way. (I, also, don’t think Ryan saw his dream being fulfilled like it is right now). However, I don’t think I would have it any other way. It is not always going to be pretty. I know heartache will come when I have to say goodbye. I went through that in Alaska and my heart was torn into pieces. But when goodbyes come I believe God will give me another quiver full to love and look after. Such is our messy beautiful life - to love and let go. So pursue your dreams. Pray for what is on your heart. But also be prepared for God to work it out HIS way.
I would love to share pictures of my babies with you but due to confidentiality reasons I am not allowed to take any. So instead I'll share a picture of me on an adventure enjoying my new peace and joy. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


As many of you probably already know in Africa they drive on the other side of the road than they do in America. So you sit on the other side to drive, the gearshift is on the other side of you, and the windshield wipers and turn signal are on opposite sides. It takes a little bit to get used to driving differently. As I was driving to pick Ryan up at the airport I realized there were several similarities between driving in Africa and my infertility journey. For starters as I just mentioned it take some getting used to both. I don't think anyone goes into trying to conceive expecting problems. Once you hit infertility challenges you have to make some adjustments. Eventually you get more used to it but it still feel weird. When I turned on the main road I had to fight my instincts. I kept wanting to switch sides and had to remind myself that I was already in the lane I needed to be in. I was thankful when I saw another car and could reassure myself that I was doing it right. I have to do that with this journey as well. I want to go my way but I have to stay on the path God is leading me through. Then there are the difficulties on the roads: huge potholes and animals crossing the road.  Only going a few miles I had to stop twice for herds of goats and once for a donkey. The animals don't care if a car is coming. If you have read my blog at all you already know that infertility has many difficulties. The hormones and health aspect but just as bad is the emotional side. If I am honest I can tell you I get bitter, angry, jealous... on a regular basis, especially the months that I skip a period and start to hope. Those are my potholes that I have to pay attention and swerve to miss. Only by God's mercy and a lot of prayer can I get through.

I know I have just hit on the negatives but there are positives to both as well. I love being in Africa. It is an amazing experience. Where else in the world can you camp with lions, elephants, and hippos outside your tent? From desert dry salt pans to lush deltas, the scenery is vastly different and beautiful. Infertility is part of my journey and without it I may not have had some of the great experiences and be the person I am. So as much as I wish I could erase infertility from my life- it is a part of me. I have to embrace it and try to enjoy the ride. Whatever life throws in your way be it goats, cattle, donkeys, or something much crazier- trust God and just keep driving. He will lead you where you need to be.

African sunset


Goats in the road                                                                 Driving

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

I want to start off by sending out a huge thank you for your prayers. I am doing much better. No more wraps or being contagious. Best of all I can hug Ryan and the kids at the school. I have been back at the preschool and got many hugs and heard the chants of "Teacher Jenny" before I even got to the classroom. Such a blessing to be healthy again.

While I am physically healthy again my emotions have been a roller coaster the last few weeks. I guess that goes along with the infertility struggle. I have been crying and begging God for a miracle. Not just a miracle in us being able to conceive but a miracle in us being able to foster or adopt here. They do not do foster care here- correction they DIDN'T do foster care here. The government just approved an organization here to start a foster care program. The pilot (first) foster care program for the whole country. It is completely unheard of until right now. Up until now they have believed if the family members won't take the children in (kinship foster care) then the best place for them is in an orphanage. Now social workers are being trained next week and in March they are having parent training. Precious children are going to get a family. The little girls from the orphanage we visited on Christmas who begged me to take them home will get a home. My heart is overflowing with happiness. We had a meeting on Monday and are officially on the "potential foster parent" list. We have had our documents from Alaska e-mailed to us to show we have had training and been approved in the States. Now we just pray and wait. Nothing may come of this for us. While I'd be heartbroken, I will still be thankful they gave the children a family. However I can't help but believe that God brought us here and now for this. (See Esther 4:14 "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?") That it is Him intervening on our behalf and on the behalf of our children. Maybe that is just the cry of my heart. I am praying: 

Psalm 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families" 
Psalm 113:9 "He settles the childless woman in her home
    as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord."

Even if it is not for us. Let them have a family. 

Today is Valentine's Day and I can't help but look back on last Valentine's Day. I am a crazy nostalgic person. Speaking of crazy, last year it was one of the craziest days of my life. We had M and K. Between getting them to school with valentines and treats, teaching, hosting a party for my class, conferences for my students, and then 4 appointments for the kiddos- I was wiped out when I got home. But then I got hugs from the kids and valentines. My heart melted and it was one of the best days. We have the valentines in our safe because they are so special to us. Wow, how I miss those kiddos. 

Thinking about M and K I can't help but think of other children who are in foster care or don't have a family. Please say a prayer for them. Today is all about LOVE but what if you don't have anyone who loves you? Jesus loves all of us but what of those who don't know Him? As we celebrate love let us be thankful for the love of Christ and the people in our lives who love us. Let us also remember to lift up the lonely. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Mummy Diary

i'm going to try to write a post. if you could see me you'd understand why i said try. my arms are wrapped up like a mummy. my fingers are bandaged together so i am doing the point and peck method with my thumbs. oh and i am wearing sunglasses because my eyes are swollen and light sensitive. so please excuse typos and non capitalization. i should be sleeping but the thoughts in my brain won't stop swirling til i write them. so here we go.

i got a terrible contagious skin rash. probably one of the worst medical conditions i've had and i have had a lot. i find myself empathizing with Job in chapter 2 where he takes broken pottery to scrape his skin off. his pain is so bad he wishes he had never been born. ouch. he also asks 'why' a lot. i find myself doing the same. any time we suffer i think we question it. i'm all woe is me and Lord why am i suffering when i am doing what you called me to do?  i just want to be out of pain and i consider living in a bubble for the rest of my life so i can't catch anything else. i focus on what is temporary and not what is eternal. this pain will pass. this life will pass. eternity will not. i can be angry that someone made me ill or i can continue loving the people God brings me into contact with. living in a foreign country is not without risk. chances are if i continue what i am doing i will catch something else but is that enough of a reason to stuff doing what God has called me to do? I got this quote in my devotions this morning and i love it:

"we are created by God to do great works. He invites us to outlive our lives, not just in heaven but here on earth... may you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life." max Lucado, out live your life

i want to leave a legacy. the kids i serve now will become adults someday and they will impact others. its the whole ripple effect. i can't do that if i stay stuck in my suffering or if i hold back out of fear. this life on earth is hard- but it is temporary. and the best part is that we don't have to walk it alone. right now no one will touch me- not even my husband- but Jesus will. I know He is holding my hand guiding me down this road. i can't say i know what you are going through. some of you are walking through things harder than i am. all i can say is Jesus is with you and keep chasing His will. If you do that then you will outlive this life.

                                                                     All wrapped up.