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So, now we’ve reached the installment of Journey to Motherhood, at least in the miscarriage chapter anyway, that I’ve been looking forward to: the Silver Lining(s).

I’ve always heard the term, as I’m sure we all have, but I wanted to Google it to see what the “official” meaning is.  According to Google, the phrase comes from a proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, and is defined as “a consoling aspect of a difficult situation”.

Miscarriage is difficult, for sure.  But, let me tell you, there have been silver linings all over the place.  And not just grayish linings that are reminiscent of something beautiful, but shiny, silver, glistening linings.  The kind that make you stop and take a deep breath in, and see the world as a bright and beautiful place again.

And that’s what I want Ellie’s short life to have been about.  Beauty, love, meaning, impact.

So, Josh and I decided that we wanted to start a YouTube channel to tell our story.  We wanted to talk through and process going through a miscarriage, and to be encouragement for others who have gone through the same thing.  We want to celebrate Ellie’s life by telling her story and remembering her, but we also want to celebrate life itself-and the everyday adventures that make it beautiful.

Here is the video in which I talk through a lot of the things that I was struggling to write about here.  I hope that you will enjoy it, and if you do, please subscribe so you can follow along on our journey to becoming parents.

 

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Journey to Motherhood-Part 4: The Physical Pain

This is part 4 of a series of blogs chronicling my journey from Jen-the-Wife to Jen-the-Wife-and-Mom.  It’s a journey filled with ups and downs, with most recently a huge valley to navigate through-miscarriage.

In this blog, I’ll be recounting the physical side of miscarriage, which for me was a huge part of it.  Before I had to go through the physical miscarriage, it was easier to be positive in spite of the sadness.  However, during the physical pain, I entered some pretty emotionally dark places.

I wanted to write this part of the series for two reasons: one-so I can remember the details.  A friend who has lost her son said that it doesn’t really make sense now, but one day I will actually look back with longing to the physical pain, because it was a time when I was still connected to her, physically.  And secondly, even six months ago, before I had any idea that I would be going through it myself, my heart broke for the women and families who go through this.  It is such a secret grief that is not talked about, maybe because some feel like they can’t, like it’s a taboo topic, because it relates to reproductive health and issues.  And I want to overcome that oppressive silence.

All of the research I’ve done on it, pre-and-post-miscarriage, has said that the key to healing is to talk about it.  Sadly, I read a story the other night about a woman who had a miscarriage before her two living children, and never told a single person about it.  Eventually, when her grown daughter had a miscarriage of her own, she finally told her daughter, and still felt shame about it.  She lived for decades with this secret grief, which only churned and multiplied inside of her, stealing away her joy.

So anyway, here is the story of my physical miscarriage.  Get ready for open talk.  (Don’t proceed if you don’t want full disclosure.)

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After learning the heartbreaking truth that our Ellie Hannah was no longer living, I spent the rest of that day in bed, crying, sleeping, and trying to figure out where to go from here.

The next day, Thursday, I was tired of laying around in bed.  I wasn’t ready to go out and be social, but I was ready to begin forward motion-even if that just meant leaving my room to go downstairs.

When Josh got home from work that afternoon, I was ready to go out.  We decided to go to a late lunch at my favorite restaurant-Olive Garden.  While there, I had my first soda in months, and although it was good, I still found myself wishing that I had a reason to abstain; I wished that I was still pregnant.  As we talked over our meal, I began to feel light cramps.  They weren’t anything that I don’t normally feel during my period, so I was able to continue talking.

After Olive Garden, we headed to Starbucks, so I could write and Josh could read.  Starbucks was packed, so we ended up taking the corner of a long table, across from a lady who was waiting for her tutoring student to arrive.  As I wrote, I continued to feel the light cramps, but they started to get stronger and stronger.  I had to go to the bathroom a few times, and I had the strangest poop I’ve ever had (and believe me, after traveling all over the world, I’ve had some strange ones).  It was bright green.  And I mean bright.

I Googled it when I finished in the bathroom, and it said that it sometimes happens in pregnancy, and can either be caused by eating something that has a high amount of chlorophyll, like leafy greens, or by eating something with purple dye, and it didn’t have enough time through your digestive system to turn brown.  I couldn’t remember eating any greens lately, so I figured it was my artificially dyed cereal I had eaten.

By the time we left Starbucks, to head home to see the first night of the Olympics, I was hurting pretty badly.  The cramps would come and go, though, and I was able to sit on the couch and watch the Olympics.  When I first walked in the door, I was greeted by Walter, my sister and brother-in-law’s dog, and he whined and cried more than he ever has when greeting me before.  I think he knew that something had happened, and that I was in pain, physically and emotionally.  As I sat on the couch, he sat on my lap under the blanket, and the warmth of his body helped to soothe the pain in my abdomen.

We finished watching the Prime Time Olympics, and Jay Leno’s final show came on.  There was a segment that showed a clip from a speech from President Obama, and they had overlaid footage of someone kicking the door in, making it look like Obama kicked the door.  It was hilarious, but when I laughed, the pain in my abdomen spiked.

After that, I figured I needed to go lay down.  I got ready for bed, and asked Josh to heat up the rice bag that we usually put by our feet, so I could put it on my abdomen.  After a little while, Josh went to bed, and the pain kept getting worse and worse.  The cramps eventually started spiking to the point where I had to remind myself to breathe.  I remembered my sister telling me about the Bradley Method a month or two before, a school of thought in natural childbirth that teaches relaxation and trusting your body to labor the way it was designed to.

As the cramps spiked, I would inhale and slowly count through it.  They would peak at 7, and fade away by 25 or 30.  I timed them on my phone, and they were occurring every three minutes.  When I realized that they were spaced evenly, I understood that my body was laboring, in a way.  In between the pain, I would try to distract myself by scrolling through Pinterest on my phone.

After several hours of this, it was the middle of the night, and the whole house was asleep, except for me.  I didn’t want to wake Josh up, because he had to be up early for work the next day, and there wasn’t really anything he could do to help anyway.  I felt utterly alone, and I was in a lot of pain.  I tried to adjust positions-on my side, on my back (that was the worst), even on all fours.  Nothing really helped.  Eventually, I woke Josh up, and asked him to reheat the rice bag, and to rub my lower back.  I was feeling the pain in my abdomen and my back, and it did help to relieve a little bit of the pain.

After a little while, I got up to go to the bathroom.  I realized by this time that I was bleeding-a lot.  Fortunately, the doctor had given me a little bit of an understanding of what to expect physically, so I wasn’t terrified by bleeding so much.  He had said that as my body passed what used to be the baby, I wouldn’t see anything recognizable, just large clots of blood.  It didn’t hurt to pass the clots-it was just a very uncomfortable feeling.

After laying back down, and continuing to time the cramps, they spaced to six minutes apart, then to nine minutes.  At some point, I was finally able to fall asleep, I think somewhere around 3 AM.  I woke up just before 5 AM, and the cramps began to come every 2 minutes.  I tossed and turned in bed, trying anything to relieve the pain.

At around 6:30, Josh got up for work.  “I wish I could stay home with you,” he said.  We both knew that he needed to work, and there wasn’t anything he could do to take the pain away, so he left for work.

Staying still wasn’t doing anything for the pain, so I ended up walking back and forth across our tiny room, stopping to lean on the bed or nightstand when a cramp spiked.  Kneeling by the end of the bed worked for awhile, but if I stayed in any position for too long, it began to be too painful.

During this time, I had to make trips to the bathroom every thirty minutes or so, to change pads and to pass more clots.  At one point, I laid on the floor by the end of the bed, and I had reached my breaking point.  It was getting close to 12 hours of intense pain, every few minutes.

My body was laboring, and the worst part about it was that I knew that it was all for nothing.  I didn’t get that moment at the end when the pain is worth it all-when your baby is placed in your arms and suddenly the whole world is right.  No, this was a senseless, meaningless pain.  A pain that reminded me with every rise and fall that it was no longer me and my little one-just me.

I was starting to get lightheaded, so I figured I needed to eat something.  I knew I couldn’t make it downstairs, though, so I called Tyler and asked him to bring me some applesauce.  I figured it would be light enough for my stomach, but would also bring my blood sugar to where it needed to be.  He brought me one of Henry’s applesauce pouches, and asked me if I needed anything else.  I told him that I was okay for the moment, but I would let him know if I needed anything.

After another trip to the bathroom, I leaned on the counter of the sink outside the bathroom door as another cramp spiked.  I could hear Jess, Tyler, and Henry in the next room, and I stumbled to the door, and knocked.  “Jess, would you come sit with me for awhile?  I’m in a lot of pain right now.”  “Of course,” she said.

I made my way back to my room, and laid on the floor, with my pillow under my head, and covered by the heated blanket my Mom got me for Christmas.  Jess came in, and sat next to me.

“It’s just not fair,” I told her, “That so many people have babies and don’t want them, while so many people who want them so badly can’t have them.”  Tears slid down my face as I felt this injustice more than I ever have before.

Henry came in, and walked around our room, playing with the items that he is usually drawn to.  Jess brought the yoga ball upstairs, and I sat on it, resting my arms on the bed.  It relieved a lot of the pain, and I was able to talk to Jess and Henry.  She told me some funny labor stories, and I was able to laugh a little.

She went and got me some chamomile tea, and some cheese and crackers.  Henry stayed upstairs with me, and I was trying to teach him about having three items with some paintbrushes.  He knows when he has two items, and he always points it out.  “One, two, three paintbrushes!” I told him.  He was not interested though. “Cheeeese?” He said, pointing at the door that Jess had just gone through.  Cheese is one of his very favorite things, so of course that was all he was thinking of.

The tea helped dull the pain quite a bit, and I realized it had been about an hour since I made a trip to the bathroom.  As I stood up from the yoga ball, I realized that I had been putting a little too much pressure on myself, and I felt a rush of blood come out.  Talk about uncomfortable.

Jess and Henry had to go, and I assured them that I would be okay.  Tyler reheated my rice bag, and I laid on the floor on my side, and watched a few episodes of the Golden Girls.  I apparently fell asleep from exhaustion, and woke up about 30 minutes later.  By then, the cramps were dulling, and I could breathe more normally through them.

I was supposed to work from 11 to 3 that day, and I was just going to see how I felt before and let them know if I was coming in.  I got a text from a coworker a few hours before I was supposed to be in, and she told me that they weren’t expecting me to come in, unless I just really, really wanted to.  I responded that I was going to try, but it just wasn’t going to be physically possible.

I was also supposed to be going to a ballet that night with some friends from church, and I had been so excited about it.  We had gotten free tickets through one of the girl’s job, and I texted them that I was starting to feel better, and I might be able to make it that night.

I decided to take a shower, thinking that getting clean would make me feel so much better.  Halfway through my shower, the cramps got stronger again, and I looked down and saw that I had started bleeding more again.  It’s not a good feeling to look down at the water at your feet, and see it turning red.  I steadied myself to try not to get sick, and finished up my shower as quickly as I could.

I returned to the floor by the bed, and turned on some worship music.  I listened to some Shane and Shane, and then found a YouTube video of Misty Edwards doing a 2 hour worship set at IHOP (International House of Prayer).  As I laid there, listening to her sing Jesus, Lover of My Soul, the words hit me more than they ever have before.

“Jesus, you are the Lover of my Soul.

Jesus, I will never let You go.

You’ve taken me from the miry clay,

You set my feet upon a rock, and now I know.

I love You, I need You, though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go.

My Savior, my closest friend.

I will worship You, until the very end.”

Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how, in spite of it all, the Lord is still good.  It doesn’t seem to make sense, but that is one thing that I have been able to hold onto through everything.  I’ll explain more about this, probably in the next part of the blog series.

Josh got home from work, and found me on the ground, half asleep, half awake.  “How are you feeling, honey?” He asked me.

“This morning has been pretty awful.”

He stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, leaving my side only to keep reheating the rice bag for me.  Eventually, I remembered that I could lay on the bed (not really sure why I had forgotten that), and I was able to find a semi-comfortable position on my side.  As long as I kept the rice bag on my abdomen, I was able to relax my body enough.  Laying on my back was out of the question.  As soon as I tried to, the pain would spike again.

Unfortunately, during this time, the opening ceremony for the Olympics was on.  We don’t have a TV upstairs, and I knew I still couldn’t make it downstairs.  I tried to stream it online, but I couldn’t.  So that was a bummer.  I think I watched a movie instead.

I was able to go to sleep that night, from pure exhaustion.  I remember waking up the next morning, and thinking, “Wow.  I slept through the night.  Cool.”  As I laid in bed during those first moments after waking up, I didn’t feel any pain.  That was a welcome feeling after more than 24 hours of intense pain.  I was able to make it downstairs to get a bowl of cereal, but by the time I made it back upstairs, I was in pain again.

My phone rang, and I answered it.  It was an OB clinic that I had called a week and a half before, hoping to make an appointment for our first ultrasound at 12 weeks.  She asked if I wanted to make an appointment.  “No, I won’t be needing an appointment anymore,” I told her.  “So, you won’t be carrying the baby?”  She asked, not knowing.  How could she know?  “No.” I said.  After I hung up, I cried.  No, I won’t be carrying the baby.

I spent most of the morning in bed, trying to recover from my excursion downstairs.  Josh needed to get out of the house for a bit, so he went to get us some lunch.  He got Five Guys Burgers and Fries for himself, and Subway for me.

My friend Kayla came by after lunch, and talked with and listened to me.  It was such a comfort to see her and talk to her, and I’m thankful that she came by.  During the afternoon, I was still having some cramps, but by this time, they had faded to the strongest I would have during a regular period.  At one point, I was sitting on the yoga ball, with my heated blanket wrapped around my front and back, but I was able to have a regular conversation.

Kayla stayed for dinner, and during dinner, I said, “I feel so…human again.  I’m dressed, downstairs, eating with everyone, and I’m not in as much pain.”

After dinner, we needed to head back to the hospital, to have more bloodwork done.  They wanted to check to make sure my hormones were leveling out, and it needed to be done three days after the day I was first in the hospital.  We tried to check in, but realized we had forgotten the paperwork that had the orders for the bloodwork.  The receptionist sent a message back to the ER doctor who had seen me on Wednesday, but because it was Saturday night, the ER was full.  Josh went home to get the paperwork while I waited, and he returned with the necessary papers.

They transferred us to the labs where they do bloodwork, and they brought me back.  I was really nervous about getting blood drawn again.  The phlebotomist asked me if I have gotten dizzy or passed out when having blood drawn before.  “No,” I told him, “but I really don’t like it, so I might cry.”  “That’s okay,” he said.  Josh held my hand, and I was surprised by how much easier it was than having an IV put in.  My arm is still bruised from that stupid IV.  I even got a sticker for being so good.  I picked out a baby cheetah sticker to give to Henry.

After leaving the hospital, we stopped by the grocery store to get some Ben & Jerry’s as a reward.  We headed home, turned on the Olympics, and I ate my Phish Food.  I still had some cramps, but they were manageable.

My sister asked me, “How are you able to stay so positive?”  “I’m just so ready for the bad part to be over,” I told her, “I’m ready to make good things out of it.”

It has been two days, and I am still having some light cramps and light bleeding.  Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever go back to normal.  I went back to work today, and I was okay for a few hours, but eventually I started hurting from standing for so long.  We did a little switcharoo in positions, and I was able to finish out the day with a job that allowed me to sit on a stool every few minutes.

So, there is my story, so far, of the physical miscarriage.  Like I said at the beginning, it was the hardest part, because of the physical pain, but also because it brought me to dark emotional places-places where I felt like I had no hope.  As the pain has eased, I have been able to release some of the darkness, and to do what I want to do-to make the best out of what has happened.

I wanted to tell this part of the story to bring to light the physical difficulties of miscarriage.  It is a significant medical event.  Women should not be expected to just get on with their lives after experiencing a miscarriage.  My body went through 24+ hours of a labor of sorts, and subsequent days of discomfort and soreness.  Every time I look in the mirror, I see a flat belly, where it had been rounding before.  It is now flat, partially from my empty womb, and partially from the weight I have lost from an appetite that has been lost.

So, if you know someone going through a miscarriage, be there for her, not only through the emotional pain, but the physical as well.  She needs you.  I am so thankful for my family and friends that have been there for me.  And I am so thankful for the Savior who has never left my side, even when the pain clouded my mind and convinced me that I was alone.  He has never left me, and never will.  And that is beautiful.

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Journey to Motherhood-Part 3: The Loss

I know that I skipped Part 2 of Journey to Motherhood, and I do plan on writing it, it would just be a little too painful right now.

I wanted to go ahead and write Part 3, because writing is a huge way that I process, and sometimes I don’t even know how I feel about something until it comes out of my mouth, or until my fingers find the keys on the keyboard and the words appear on the screen in front of me.  I also want to share with you how I am doing, in a deeper way than I could even in conversation.

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On Monday night, February 3rd, I was hanging out at a birthday party for one of my best friends.  It was a wonderful night, filled with good conversation, laughs, and delicious food.  The time came to leave, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  I thought about waiting until I got home, but I had to go too badly to last for the entire 30 minute drive home, so I headed down the hallway to the bathroom.  As I went, I looked down, and saw blood on the toilet paper.

It was strange-at first, I just got that annoyed feeling you get when you realize you have started your period.  But then it hit me-I should not have a period at all.  I was 11 weeks pregnant.  My heart started beating faster.  Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.  This is not happening.

I walked back down the hall, to the kitchen, where my friends stood, chatting before they left for the night.  “Ummm, I’m sorry to interrupt, but would you guys mind praying over me?  I just went to the bathroom, and I had some bleeding…” I said with tears starting to run down my face.

My friends gathered around me, and began praying.  They prayed for peace over me, and for the life of the baby.  When we finished praying, I was still shaking, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive home while being so distracted and worried.  I called my sister and Josh, and told them what was going on.  I thought about staying the night with a friend who lived around the corner, but the next day was calling for around a foot of snow, and I didn’t want to get stranded half an hour from home.

I decided to go ahead and drive home, and I spent the whole time praying, listening to worship music, and crying.

By the time I got home, the bleeding had pretty much stopped.  I was relieved, but still cautious.  I felt like it was a good idea to take it easy the next day, so I called my boss, and she told me to do whatever I felt was right.

I spent the next day resting, trying to prevent anything else from happening.  I had been told by several people that spotting happens many times in completely healthy pregnancies, so a little bit did not necessarily mean I was miscarrying.  That day, however, the bleeding started again, and continued through most of the day.  I went to bed that night frustrated and scared, praying that it would stop.

By Wednesday morning, it had tapered off again, and I headed to work, hoping that it was almost over.  Most of the roads were still covered in a layer of snow and ice, so many companies were closed or opening later, including Chick-fil-A.  I started off the morning at work in a good mood, as we worked to open the store in record time on a minimal staff.

After I had been at work for about an hour, I went to the bathroom again, and the bleeding had resumed.  At this point, I was starting to get really worried.  It wasn’t a flow like a normal period, but the length of time it was lasting was really worrisome to me.

A coworker walked up as I was stuffing kid’s meal bags with toys, and asked if I was okay.  “No, not really,” I told her.  I explained to her that the bleeding had started again, and that I was starting to get really worried.  I hadn’t been to the doctor yet, because we were waiting on Medicaid approval to be able to visit an OB/GYN.  I tried to make an appointment, but I was told that without insurance or Medicaid, we would have to have to pay $500 just to walk into the appointment, which was just not possible for us at this point.  Josh and I had talked the night before, and decided that if my bleeding was still happening during the day on Wednesday, I would go to the ER after work.

I talked to my boss, and she encouraged me to call Josh, and head to the hospital to get checked out.  Josh came to pick me up, and we headed to the hospital down the road.  I let family members know that I was going to get checked out, and we checked into the ER.

They called us back, and led us to one of their emergency rooms.  It was strange to be in the ER-my first time ever.  I went through a big Grey’s Anatomy phase a year or two ago, and I was thinking about the dramatized version of the emergency room, and hoping that no gunshot victims would come in while we were there.

The nurse led us to room 10, and gave me a gown to put on.  This is serious, I thought.  I put the gown on, and soon another nurse came in.  She told us that she was going to put in an IV and take some blood for labs.  If you know me, you know that having an IV in is one of my biggest fears.  I know it is ridiculous, but it is just a big fear of mine.  Josh held my hand while she put it in, and tears streamed down my face.  It’s worth it, though.  It’s worth it for the baby.

She let me know that she would turn in the sample to the lab, and a doctor would be in soon.  Not long after, the doctor came in, and began asking me questions.  I told him why I was there, and how I had been bleeding for the last day and a half.  He told me that he would go get the ultrasound machine, and he would see what he could find.

As he wheeled the machine in, I told him with a tentative smile, “This will be my first ultrasound.  Well, my first one for pregnancy, anyway.”  I actually had an ultrasound a year ago, in Malaysia, to try to figure out why I was having intense abdominal pain.  I was worried that I had ovarian cysts, but the gynecologist could not find any, and it was determined by a gastroenterologist that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

As he moved the wand around on my belly, he didn’t say much.  I was watching the screen, but I wasn’t seeing anything.  “I’m not really a sonographer,” he said,  “And I’m not really seeing much, but that doesn’t mean anything.  We’ll see if we can get you downstairs for an ultrasound tech to take a look.”

We waited for a few minutes, and nurse came in.  She told me that we were going to wait for the bloodwork to come back, to see what my HCG levels were at.  If they were within a certain range, what would be expected for an 11 week pregnancy, that would be a good sign.  If they were lower, it would point toward a miscarriage.  She told us that it would probably take somewhere around 30 minutes.

While we waited, we watched a marathon of American Pickers on the History Channel.  We watched the minutes tick by on the clock, and after about an hour and a half, the nurse came back in.  She said my HCG levels were around 20,000, but that didn’t really mean anything.  She told me that they were going to get me downstairs for another ultrasound, this time for a trans-vaginal ultrasound.  Then, she dropped a few bombs.

First, since we were in the ER, and since I was bleeding, they were going to have to put a catheter into my bladder.  Second, my blood type is O-Negative, which means that in future pregnancies, if the baby happens to also be a negative blood type, my body would see that as a toxin, and would do it’s best to fight the toxin, endangering the pregnancy.  To combat this, they would have to give me a shot, and I will have to get the same shot every time I get pregnant in the future.  “Well, this just keeps getting better and better,” I muttered through my tears.

She put the catheter in, which can I just say, SUCKS.  She took some urine samples, just in case they ordered them, and said the ultrasound tech would be in in a few minutes to take me downstairs.  However, Josh would not be allowed to come, because they’ve had security problems in the past, whatever that means.

It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes, but it felt like forever.  The catheter burned, and I just wanted to find out what was going on.  Eventually, the ultrasound tech came in, and wheeled me out.  As we went down the hall in silence, I thought, I never imagined that I would be wheeled down the hall of an ER, alone.  As she turned my bed around and backed into the elevator, I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the security camera by the ceiling.  It was a very surreal feeling.

She wheeled me to the ultrasound room, and I was comforted to see heart stickers on the door.  She attached my catheter to a bag hanging from the ceiling, containing fluid that would fill my bladder to make the ultrasound more effective.  That was definitely the most physically painful part of the day, to have your bladder filled to its highest capacity.  As I winced in pain, the tech said, “Just calm down,” which wasn’t calming at all.  Needless to say, after that, I wasn’t her biggest fan.

She began the exterior ultrasound, and it seriously felt like forever as she typed on the keyboard, and the machine beeped as it took pictures and measurements.  I craned my neck to see the screen, desperately looking for the flash of a heartbeat.  A few times, she turned on the sound to try to hear a heartbeat, and there was one that showed up, but it was only mine.  I knew it was mine because I could feel my heart beating quickly, to the same time.  Eventually, without a word, she ended the ultrasound, and drained the fluid from my bladder, which was a relief (pun intended).

She left the room, and came back with the probe for the internal ultrasound.  “Did you find anything?” I tentatively asked her.  “Not that way,” she said.

She began the internal ultrasound, and again, I watched the screen, looking for anything.  She didn’t say anything.  More clicking and beeping.  My heartbeat again.  Eventually, the ultrasound was done, and she didn’t say anything as she finished up.  As she wheeled me back upstairs, she asked me if I had to work in the snow, and I told her that I had taken the day before off, but that I had gone into work that morning.  She asked where I work, and I told her Chick-fil-A.  She returned me to my room, and left.

Josh asked how it went, and I told him, “She didn’t say anything.”  I knew in my heart, but I didn’t want to say anything.  I didn’t want it to be true.  We spent a few more minutes waiting, and eventually the nurse came back in to remove the catheter.  After that, the doctor came in, he leaned against the counter.

“The ultrasound tech was not able to find anything.  Unfortunately, I am 98% sure that this pregnancy is not going to end the way you want it to.”  As he explained everything, I just felt numb.  I think I had known for a few days, so it wasn’t really that much of a surprise, especially after seeing the ultrasounds.  He told us that the next step was to have a pelvic exam, so they could see if my cervix was open or closed.  If it was open, they would have to do a D&C, a process that (please forgive the graphic details) would basically scrape out my uterus.  I did NOT want to have this procedure done.  At all.

As we waited for the OB/GYN to come in, I laid on the bed, watching the TV, but not watching it.  I can’t believe this is happening.  At that moment, I needed my Mom.  I called her at work, and told her the news.  We cried together over the phone, and she told me that if I needed anything, to let her know.  Then I called my sister, then Josh’s parents.  Telling people you love is only slightly less heartbreaking than actually experiencing it yourself.  My sister asked, “What can we do?”  “Just pray that my cervix is closed.”  It was the only thing that I could hope would go right that day.

Eventually, the doctor came back in to give me the pelvic exam.  Jesus, please let it be closed.  Please, let it be closed, I prayed.  “It’s closed,” the doctor said.  What a relief.  I didn’t think I could take much more that day.  He explained to me that this doesn’t make me high risk for future pregnancies, and that was a relief, too.

After that, we waited for a few more minutes for a nurse to come back in to give me the shot, and to remove my IV.  It was a hip/butt shot, and I was thankful that I was only flashing two female nurses in my hospital gown as I laid on my side.  As she stuck me, my body tensed and jumped in reaction.  “Sorry,” I said.  “That’s okay,” the nurse replied.  After the shot, one of the nurses massaged the injection site, to make sure the shot was circulating.  She had her hand kind of around my hip, and she felt me tense up.  “Sorry,” she said.  “No, it’s okay.  I’m just really ticklish,” I laughed.  “Oh, sorry about that,” she laughed, too.

They removed my IV, I signed some paperwork, and we were free to go.  I have to go back in to get more bloodwork done on Saturday, and for a follow-up appointment once they get my results back.

We walked back out into the bitterly cold wind, got in the car, and headed home.

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I spent the rest of the day in bed, not really feeling like seeing anyone or doing anything.  Even though our stay at the ER had caused us to miss lunch, I was not hungry for dinner at all.  I never understood why grieving people didn’t want to eat until that day.  First of all, I just plain wasn’t hungry.  Second of all, the slight hunger pangs, as strange as it sounds, felt almost good.  It was like it was helpful to have some physical pain to match the emotional pain that I was feeling.  But don’t worry, I have been eating.  I don’t have my usual appetite, but I’ve been trying.

After awhile, Josh laid down next to me, and we talked for a bit.  I told him that even though we never got to officially find out what the gender was, I always knew she was a girl.  I had been keeping that to myself mostly, and when people would ask what I thought we were having, I would tentatively say I thought the baby was a girl, but I would follow up with, “But I could be totally wrong.”  You know, just in case we got to the ultrasound and found out it was a boy.  But, I always knew.

“I think we should name her.  It just feels like we need to honor her with a name.  Make her more of a person.”  Of course, she was a person to me, one of the most important people in my life.  But, I wanted everyone else to know her as a person, too.  I think it was just a week or two before, Josh and I had narrowed it down to two names: one for a girl, and one for a boy.  They weren’t our concrete names, but at the top of the list for now.  We had also already discussed a possible middle name, and it was actually decided on before we figured out a first name, as long as it was compatible.  The middle name, if the baby was a girl, was going to be really significant.  Josh’s mom had always wanted to have a little baby girl, but was blessed instead with four boys.  She had a name for her girl, but never got to use it.  We thought it would be a wonderful way to honor Josh’s mom by giving our little girl that name as a middle name.

So, we decided that our little girl that we lost was named Ellie Hannah.

I began the difficult process of telling friends and family beyond our immediate families.  I asked our parents if they would tell the grandparents.  Made phone calls and wrote texts to best friends.  Eventually, I wrote a status to let the public know, and shared it on Facebook.  It was good to share, to get everything off of my chest.  I felt a little selfish, because in a way, I felt like I was just spreading the grief around, but the more people that knew, the lighter the load felt to bear.

Eventually, I fell asleep, my head pounding from a headache caused by so much crying that day.  When I woke up, Josh had fallen asleep next to me, and the light of afternoon had given way to the darkness of evening.  For just a moment after I woke up, I felt peaceful.  My headache had subsided, and my grief and the events of the day were momentarily forgotten.  But then I remembered, and new tears slipped out as I thought about the void that now existed in me.

I decided that I wanted to watch a movie, and I chose P.S. I Love You.  It seemed fitting-a movie about losing a loved one, and the process of grief and learning to live with your loss.  I don’t really like the term “moving on”.  It implies that you can get over the person that you lost, and I just don’t think that is the case.  Their existence, and subsequent departure from your life, had an impact, and to say that you are moving on diminishes that.

After the movie, I went to sleep, hopeful that the next day would continue to bring healing and peace.

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Part 4 coming Soon.

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Journey to Motherhood: One Year, Four Countries, and Two Pregnancy Tests

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Josh and I are embarking on the next Great Story in our lives: parenthood, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Almost a year ago, we celebrated our five year anniversary (dating+marriage).  We celebrate this every year, because it is on Valentines Day, and it’s fun to think back over the time we have been together, and to see where the Lord has brought us, and the adventures that we have had together.

So, almost a year ago, we were on the island of Penang, Malaysia, with our World Race team.  We were doing several different kinds of ministry-Josh was working with a homeless ministry, I was working with a creative arts ministry, other teammates and squadmates were raising money for a hospital.  We were living, along with another team, at a YWAM base, and it was really fun.  We decided that for Valentines Day, Josh and I wanted to get away for a few nights and stay at a hotel, thanks to some wonderful friends and family that donated to make this possible.  I was excited, because I love staying in hotels, and Josh was excited that he would get some introvert time away from the team.  We found a hotel that was about 45 minutes away by bus, was on the beach, and was fairly cheap.

We got to the hotel, and headed down to the beach.  Unfortunately, signs reading Beware of Jellyfish were everywhere, so we were too nervous to go more than ankle deep.  We went back up to the hotel room, and decided to order a pizza.  I think it was Dominoes, and we were excited to get a little slice (pun intended) of greasy, American cheesy goodness.

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As we sat on the bed, eating our pizza and watching TV, I got up the courage to ask a question that had been on my mind for awhile.

“So…I was thinking that maybe….sometime after the Race….we could consider having kids?”  We had never really talked about specifics before; it had always been something that was in the future sometime, but there were other things, like traveling and missions, that were more in our immediate future.

“Yeah,” he said, “I think that would be fine.”

“Really?!” I was excited at the prospect of fulfilling a dream that the Lord was growing in me more everyday-to be a mom.

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Fast forward to three months later-we are in Uganda, and we had just gotten back from volunteering at Sanyu Babies’ Home, an orphanage for babies to four years old in Kampala.  The desire to be a mom was growing bigger and bigger, and spending the day with beautiful Ugandan babies had only made that part of my heart long even more for it.  It didn’t matter to me whether my baby would be one that grew inside me or if he or she would be placed into my arms at an orphanage.

After returning from the orphanage, the Lord gave me His word that He would fulfill this dream.

“And, for the icing on top of the cake, tonight as my team and I were doing listening prayer (prayer where you sit and listen for what the Lord is saying rather than just talking at Him), He spoke to me about babies.

As I was listening, my mind was wandering a bit, and it wandered to the babies, and how much fun and how natural and at home I felt with them.  Before the question had even formed in my mind, I heard Him say, “You will.”  As in, you will be a mom.

And my heart was at peace.” (From my blog Bebe Fever Part 2)

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Fast forward to the next month, and we were in the mountains of Swaziland, working at El Shaddai Ministries, a childrens’ home for orphaned, abused, or neglected children in Swazi.  There were several different ways that our teams were helping at El Shaddai, but the only ministry I wanted to do was to work in the baby house.  Every morning, a few of the other Racers and I would walk up to the baby house, and spend the day playing, cuddling, feeding, and hanging out with the kids.  Most were preschool aged, but were far behind physically and emotionally due to abuse or neglect at their previous homes.

While working at the baby house, a little four year old named Musa caught my eye, and my heart, and we spent every day playing on the swings, reading books, and every day without fail, right before lunch, he would get too tired to play, and just wanted to be held.  I would carry him into the bedroom that he shared with several of the other children, lay him in his bed, and sing and rub his back until he fell asleep. (Read my full story about Musa here.)

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It was so hard to leave him at the end of the month, but again, God was growing my desire to be a mom more and more, and Musa, along with a few other kids that I met around the world while on the World Race, were teaching me how to open up that part of my heart that I had been saving for that unknown day in the future.

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Fast forward one more time to Christmas 2013.  We’ve been back in the States for five months, and we are spending Christmas Eve with Josh’s extended family.  It is one of my favorite things all year-all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins’ babies, all get together for what is affectionately called “Two Many” (long story).  There are usually somewhere around 25 people there, and in a few years I’m sure it will be closer to 30.

Josh’s cousin Monique had just had a baby a month before, and he was being passed around to be held by several members of the family.  When I was holding him, he was getting hungry, so Monique made him a bottle, and handed it to me to give to Braylin.  As I gave him the bottle, Monique asked, “Are you guys going to have a baby soon?”

“Yeah, probably.”  I said, at the same time that Josh said, “Uh, I don’t know.”

Monique laughed, and soon, it was time to go, so I gave her Braylin, and we headed out.

The next morning, after opening up presents with Josh’s family, we left to travel to my family’s house.  After all of the rest of us had finished opening up all of our presents, my 1 1/2 year old nephew, Henry, still had tons of presents to open up from the grandparents.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if Henry had a cousin to help him open all of these presents?” My sister playfully asked.  We all laughed, and I thought, yes, yes it would.

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We got back home after visiting our families for Christmas for several days, and it was really late.  I had to work the next day, so I pretty much went straight to bed.

The next morning, I woke up before my alarm went off, and I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  As I thought about it, I realized that it had been awhile since my last period.  Was it the week before Thanksgiving?  I don’t know why, but I decided to take a pregnancy test.  I remembered that we had one in the cabinet downstairs, and I took it, not expecting anything.  If I was pregnant, I doubted it would be able to tell so soon.

I put the cap on the test, and set it on my lap to watch it.  As it went across, I realized there was an extra vertical line.  As soon as I saw the line, probably of medium faintness, my heart started beating faster.  However, the line in the control panel was faint, and I told myself that there was a possibility that it was an old test, and therefore not accurate.

I went out into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and leaned on the counter to think, my heart still beating like crazy.  I decided to go to Walgreens and buy a new test, and to take another one.  I put on a jacket and some shoes, grabbed some Christmas money, and headed to Walgreens.

When I got back, I took a second test, really not expecting anything this time, especially since I had just downed a huge glass of water so I could pee again, and it would not be my first morning urine.  As the test went across…BAM, there was the line, dark as could be.  There was no doubt about it this time.  I was pregnant.

I knew that there was no way I could keep it a secret from Josh for any period of time, so I decided to go upstairs and wake him up and tell him.  I was excited, but I was nervous that he was going to get stressed out about the details right away, and forget to be happy and enjoy it.

I took a deep breath, put my hand on the doorknob, and went in.

Part 2: Coming Soon!

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Confession: I’m a Millenial, and I Love the Internet

I don’t drive in the snow.

After two accidents (neither of which were my fault), I drew the line.  I don’t drive in the snow.  I either have Josh drive me, or I get a ride from a friend.  So, last night, Josh picked me up from work, and we headed home on the slushy roads.

Josh had been listening to the sermon station, and since I usually dictate where the radio stays and goes, I decided it was only fair to let Josh have a turn.  The speaker was discussing with another person the changes that our society has seen in social interactions in the last several decades.  He lamented the fact that we don’t interact with one another anymore; it is very uncommon for a person to grow up and live their entire lives in one community, with their lives intertwined with others in their neighborhood.  We spend so much time in front of screens, that we forget to interact with those around us.  Millenials have lost the ability to make meaningful social connections and to gauge appropriate social reactions.

Truthfully, I’m kind of tired of hearing this.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard similar opinions, and the scapegoat is always the same: technology.  I don’t think that Millenials don’t know how to do community because we carry the internet around in our pockets-I think we just do it differently.

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Once, I was perusing the shelves of the library, and I just couldn’t find anything that looked good.  So, I took out my phone, and texted a friend who shares a similar taste in books, and lives several states away.  She recommended several books, and as I checked out one of her recommendations, we continued chatting via text.

Last May, when Josh and I were in Uganda on the World Race, we had the blessing of staying at the office of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, and we were able to use their internet anytime.  One night, I saw that my Mom was on Facebook, and I sent her a message, asking if she wanted to Skype.  We spent the next hour catching up.  I showed her KCM’s pet monkey, told her about our ministry, and even made her laugh as I clutched my precious can of Dr. Pepper (the first I had seen in several months and several continents).

A few years ago, a group of fans of Ryan Kelly, a singer in the group Celtic Thunder, decided to make a Facebook group as a prayer group for his recovery after an accident.  Over the course of time, these fans have built a community founded on prayer, their love of Celtic Thunder, and even deep friendships.  A former coworker of mine is a member of this online community, and during our World Race, she would share our prayer requests and blog updates with the community.  They were such an encouragement to Josh and I, and I am thankful for their support.

Instead of shutting out community with our iPhones and Facebook, we have found a way to stretch the reaches of our communal impact.  I can talk to friends in the Philippines in an instant, send an encouraging message to a hurting friend who is States away, write a blog that will be read by and impactful for thousands of people.  News stories about shooters on the loose can go viral in a community, and as a result the shooter is apprehended and no one hurt.

I would argue that because traditional community is not as easily experienced among our generation, we work harder for it.  Lingo such as coffee dates, house church, and community groups has become common among many Millenials.  The emergence of countless intentional communities and other shared housing arrangements all over the country also speaks to our desire for deep social connections.

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However, I definitely think that our generation can often forget to reach for those meaningful social connections, whether in real life or through the internet, which can leave us feeling empty and lonely.  I have often found myself laying in bed, zoning out while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed.  While that is not exactly healthy in the area of community, sometimes I need that vegging-out time, and I am not going to beat myself up for that. 

Over the last couple of years, I have learned a lot about the way I function, how I process information, and how I contribute to community as a whole.  One of the things that I have come to understand about myself is that while I am a high extrovert, I do need a tiny, itty-bitty, little bit of alone time.  Sometimes, I do find myself alone at home, but that rarely happens when you share a house with your husband, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.  When that doesn’t happen, sometimes my “alone time” means surfing the internet, while tuning out Jess and Henry playing in the next room.  And if that means that I will be recharged and ready to go for other social interactions, then that’s okay.

So, let’s stop regretting that things are not the way they used to be, because, as my brother-in-law Tyler said earlier, “Like it or not, technology is here to stay.”  Instead, let’s recognize that the world is not black and white; technology has not stolen our ability to socialize properly.  The world is full of an amazing array of colors and possibilities.  Let’s seize the tools that we have available to us, whether that be an iPad or lunch with a friend, and do the best that we can to be Light and Life to the world around us.

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Ode to 2013

I had plans for New Year’s tonight…then I got sick.  So, instead of celebrating with friends, I’ll be celebrating with Josh, my carry-out Olive Garden, and Phish Food Ben & Jerry’s.

But that’s okay.  I was really disappointed not to hang out with my friends, and thinking about how lame this New Year’s was going to be compared to last year’s.  Last year, Josh and I were in Thailand, (he was in Phuket, and I was in Chiang Mai), and I brought in the New Year with the ladies of L Squad.  We hung out in downtown Chiang Mai, set off our own floating lanterns to join the thousands of others in the sky, watched fireworks, and as my first act of 2013, I had a Nutella Banana Roti from a roadside stand.  It was a magical night, for sure.

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Especially on New Year’s, when the night is all about looking back over the past year, and anticipating what is to come, it is hard not to dwell on the past.  I try not to do this, especially now that all of the “a year ago today, I was in ______ , doing ______”s are happening. 

However, I think 2013 was one heck of a year.

I rode elephants in Thailand, for the SECOND time in my life.  So awesome.

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Josh and I celebrated 5 years together (dating + marriage) on the beach on Penang Island, Malaysia.

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I watched the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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I absolutely fell in love with a place and a people in Maasai Mara Kenya, where we took a safari.

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I used my love of writing to tell the story of Allan, a little boy we met in Uganda who was a victim of attempted child sacrifice, and through my writing, donations were made that enabled him to go to Australia to receive much-needed reconstructive surgery.

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I fell in love with Musa, a 4 year old Swazi orphan, and seriously considered adopting him.

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We said a bittersweet goodbye to L Squad, the brothers and sisters we traveled with for 11 months.

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I celebrated my 25th birthday with my family at Olive Garden.  Yay for the mid-twenties!

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Josh and I moved in with my sister, Jess, brother-in-law, Tyler, and my nephew, Henry.

 

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I started working at Chick-fil-A, and have met a ton of wonderful people there.

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I was so blessed to spend the holidays with my family, and Josh’s family.

 

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So, yeah.  2013, you were great.  As great as you were, I have a feeling that 2014 is going to be even better. 🙂

Cheers, and a Happy New Year!

 

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Thanksgiving Snapshots: From Nicaragua to Missouri

Ok, I know we are now in full swing Christmas-season, but I wanted to take a moment to share about our wonderful, low-key Thanksgiving this year, and recap our unforgettable Nica Thanksgiving last year.

We spent last Thanksgiving in Nicaragua, and considering we were living at a childrens’ home on a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, we were able to make it a pretty fantastic day.  A few days before, several of our teammates took the ferry to the mainland and traveled to a nearby city to go to the grocery store which would have many of the items we needed.

The morning of Thanksgiving, Brittany, Tiffany, Angela, and Robert, an American who lives at the childrens’ home full time, and I began preparations in the kitchen, as some of our other teammates played football outside, played with the kids, or did other random ministry jobs around the home. 

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Robert made some kind of fried flowers from the garden, which sounds weird, but they were actually really delicious.  Here I am, sampling some of the flowers, and I always find this picture amusing because I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops.  When I am shivering from the cold this winter, I try to remember that I was wishing for cozy sweater weather last holiday season.

Our Thanksgiving cooking crew were able to make everything pretty much just as we would have in the States, with a few exceptions.  Fried chicken instead of turkey, and ayote instead of pumpkin.  When dinner was served, it was funny to see the kid’s reactions to our American holiday staples.  Stuffing was not a hit among them.  🙂

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(The Thanksgiving meal cooking crew, right after we finished cooking.)

During dinner, we all went around, Americans and Nicaraguans, and shared what we were thankful for.  After the meal, we set up the projector on the wall outside me and Josh’s room, and watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving with the kids.  It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I am so glad we got to spend it in such a unique way.

This year, we decided to go to my family’s for Thanksgiving, because it had been almost 2 years since our whole family had been together.  It was long overdue.

We set out on the road after I got off work on Wednesday night, with Walter (my sister and brother-in-law’s dog) in his crate in the backseat.  Jess, Tyler, and Henry had left a week before to spend time with Tyler’s family, and I was anxious to see them, and to hear Henry greet me with, “Eh Jee!” (Aunt Jen) again.  During the 3 1/2 hour drive, we were freezing, because my car had a radiator leak (I think?) that caused the heat to not work well.

We finally made it to my Mom and Dad’s, and I was greeted at the door by Hemi, my family’s elderly black lab, and by the smell of my Mom doing some preparatory cooking.  One of my favorite things about coming home is sitting on one of the barstools at the kitchen island, and talking with my family as they cook or hang out in the kitchen.

The next morning, I went in and woke up my sister Shelby to come watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with me.  This is a concrete tradition for me.  You HAVE to watch the parade.  And not just any parade.  The Macy’s parade.  Anyway, we watched the parade with my Dad, while my Mom continued cooking.  Can I just take a moment to point out how much work my Mom put in to cooking a whole Thanksgiving meal, pretty much by herself?  She had a little bit of help here and there, but did almost everything.  She has such a servant’s heart, and I am so thankful for her.

We thought we were going to be eating Thanksgiving lunch, but there was a scheduling miscommunication with Jess and Tyler, and they were not going to be able to make it until later that afternoon.  So, we decided to change it to dinner, with the hopes that the timing would coincide with my brother Drake’s break at work.

While we waited that afternoon, we got the table ready to go, so we could eat as soon as Drake got home on his break.  We put a long, fold up table next to the regular kitchen table so there would be enough room for everyone to sit around the table, and I laid some table cloths down, and made a pretty centerpiece, which was definitely Pinterest-worthy, if I do say so myself.

When Drake got home, we pretty much ran down stairs, somehow squeezed everyone on the couch, and took our family Christmas card photo.  The last time we got one with the whole family was two Thanksgivings ago, the night that Jess and Tyler told us that they were going to have a baby.

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(A picture of me and my sisters from the family photoshoot two years ago.  One of my favorite pictures of us.)

After the pictures, we headed back upstairs, and finally had dinner.  It was delicious, and even though it was not long before Drake had to go back to work, I was happy that our family got to gather around the table and have a meal together.

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(The only photo I got of the table, right before we cleared it.)

Our times together, especially all together, are few and far between, but that just makes our times together even more special.  I guess it’s just part of growing up; your family gets bigger as spouses and babies are added, and it is harder to all get together.  But when you do, even if for just a moment, it is magical.

Enjoy your families this holiday season. 🙂

 

Aside
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The idea for this post was born out of three things: a) my desire for a new blog post about something-anything-during a time when I feel like I have so many things swirling in my head to write about, but nothing comes to fruition, 2) My love of fellow World Race alum Stephanie May’s feature on her blog, The Lipstick Gospel, called the Loveliest Things, and d) the recent Facebook fad of posting a number given to you by a friend of random facts about yourself. (P.S. I use a lot of Home Alone references this time of year).

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite things:

Favorite Things

1. Space heaters.  Yes, they rank in my favorite things.  When you live in an old, drafty house, these things are life savers.  The soft orange glow, coupled with the comforting hum of the warm air is just what I love on a cold winter’s night.

2. Looking at Christmas lights without glasses or contacts.  The picture is pretty true to how I see them, except there are more beams that star out from the lights rather than being so rounded.  They are beautiful anyway, but when you look at them from a different perspective, you see their beauty in a whole new way.

3. Maasai Mara, Kenya.  I think about this place probably daily.  We lived with the Maasai people in April of this year, and they stole my heart.  Just picture the African bush where people take safaris, and that’s where we lived.  I’m not joking, the reserve where people take safaris was right around the corner from where we lived.  Josh and I lived in the Pastor’s house, and our team’s days were filled with visiting people several kilometers away in their traditional mud/cow dung houses, drinking chai and eating chapati, preaching and/or dancing at church, teaching at the school, and helping to give vaccines and mosquito nets at the clinic.  I dream of going back some day, and I hope that that dream will one day be realized.

What are a few of your favorite things?  (I bet Julie Andrews is setting up camp in your mind right now.  Your welcome.)

Aside
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Last Friday morning was the first time since arriving back in the States three months ago that Josh and I found ourselves at an airport.

We had been invited by my friend Pat to come spend the weekend with him in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  I was so excited to see him, because it had been over a year since the last time we saw each other.

After a busy Halloween, working at Chick-fil-A, then coming home to go with Jess, Tyler, Henry, and Josh to Trunk-r-Treat, we watched Hocus Pocus, and I called it a night.

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In classic Jen fashion, I figured I would pack my suitcase the next morning.  (Pack. My suitcase????  Home Alone, anyone?)  I woke up at 5 AM, and spent a lot of time that I should have been packing sitting around, staring at my open (empty) suitcase, and checking Facebook on my phone.  Anything but packing.  You would think that after having done it dozens of times in the last year, I would be past this, but I think it’s just gotten worse.

Anyway, after I finally packed, Tyler drove us to the airport, and as we went through security and got to our gate, I was reminded of how no-nonsense the Kansas City airport is.  You just simply check in, then walk about twenty five feet to security, go through, and you are right at your gate.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes on a bad day.

Being in an airport for the first time since my Mom, brother, and sister picked us up in St. Louis three months ago at the end of the World Race was really nostalgic.  It felt weird to not have fifty other Racers lounging around the gate, with all of our electronics charging in the single outlet, random instruments being played, and various colorful purses and daypacks sitting in chairs.  I did feel at home, though, as I propped my feet up on my roller suitcase and applied my makeup.

When we boarded the plane bound for Denver, it felt just as normal as going to the grocery store.  Josh had the aisle seat, and I was in the middle.  There wasn’t anyone in the window seat next to me yet, and I was really hoping that no one would arrive so we could stretch out.  After a few minutes, though, this tired looking hipster guy squeezed past our legs, sat down, and promptly went to sleep.

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I decided to try to sleep during most of the flight, because I had woken up an hour earlier to do what turned out to be nothing.  Anyway, I was trying to sleep with my head leaning on Josh’s shoulder, but that was almost impossible with the ridiculous angle of the seatbacks that passengers are forced to endure until that blessed moment when the flight attendants make the announcement that you can now recline your seat and use approved electronic devices.  After I was able to recline my seat, I adjusted to leaning on the other armrest, and fell asleep.

I woke up a few minutes later when Tired Hipster Guy put his entire arm along the armrest, making full contact with mine.  In my half asleep state, I didn’t know what to do about it.  It was awkward to touch a stranger like he’s your bff, but I couldn’t exactly push his arm off the armrest either.  What is the protocol here?  Do I surrender and move to the other armrest?  Do I claim it as my own?  Do I pretend I don’t notice?  I went with the last one and went back to sleep.

As we descended into Denver, I was excited.  I couldn’t wait to see Pat, and I knew we were going to have a great weekend.  I had to go to the bathroom before we met up with him, though, so I stopped at the ladies’ room not far from our gate.  Of course, there was a line for the stalls, so I waited patiently.  When it was my turn, the first open stall was the handicapped stall, but there was a long line behind me, so I took it.

While in the stall, I took my time, confident that there were plenty of other stalls opening up for the other ladies in line.  When I was finished, I unlocked the door, and found that there was no longer a line.  There was, however, a woman in a wheelchair waiting for the stall that I had been taking my time in.  Oops.  I didn’t say anything, I just wanted to get out of there, haha.  That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.  So embarrassing-taking up the only stall that she could use.

After a few minutes of walking around the airport and having no idea where the heck we were (Denver is kind of a confusing airport), we finally found him near the luggage carousel.  We made our way out of the airport, and Pat took us to lunch in downtown Denver.  It was delicious, but I was reminded that this was not the South (or the Southern Midwest trying to be the South), when I was met with a confused reaction from the waiter when I asked for sweet tea.

We also hit up the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and it was awesome.  I was giddy as we waited in line for our tickets, and I was brought back to some of my favorite childhood memories-when my Mom would take us to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  I just really love museums.

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The next day, we lounged around in the morning, and went to eat at a vegetarian restaurant.  Josh and Pat, thanks for taking one for the team, meaning me, haha.  It was awesome to have so many menu options.  After lunch, we headed to Horsetooth Resevoir, a lake on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  It was beautiful, and so quiet and relaxing.  I also never thought I would get to see the Rockies, so that was awesome.

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We also took a tour of Fort Collins Brewery, and Josh and Pat got to sample the different flavors.  I’m not a fan of beer, so I took one for the team on that one.  It was cool to see how it was made, though, even if I don’t like how it tastes.  Afterward, we went back to downtown Fort Collins, and ate dinner, then headed home.

On Sunday, we lounged around again in the morning and watched Portlandia, and we intended on going to brunch.  The place we intended on going was apparently super trendy, because it was overflowing with people, and there would have been an more than an hour’s wait.  We decided to go somewhere else, and ended up at this tiny barbeque joint.  Josh was in heaven with his brisket and cornbread, not to mention football on TV.

After lunch, we headed out on bikes around the neighborhood.  It was so surreal that I was riding around on bikes with my husband and my best friend, among the beautiful fall trees, with the Rocky Mountains in the distance, and the sunshine on my back.  It’s probably one of my favorite memories from the weekend.

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We also had the chance to meet up with some other friends, Robyn and Andy, who used to live in Springfield, but moved to Colorado after we left for the Race.  We met them at their house, and got to catch up and hang out for about an hour.  I was really glad we got to see them.

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Afterward, we hopped in the car, and made the drive back to Denver, to be dropped off at the airport.  I was really sad to be leaving.  I felt like we had just gotten there, and I was sad that our time with Pat was coming to an end.  We said goodbye at the curb, and Josh and I headed into the airport.

As we waited for our flight back to Kansas City, I realized that airports are simultaneously places of happiness and sadness for me.  I am happy and excited to be traveling to wherever we are going, and to be meeting up with a treasured friend or family member, but by doing that, you are also leaving behind other people that you love.  I had spent several weeks looking forward to this weekend, and before I knew it, it was over.  But, I am confident that I enjoyed and took advantage of every minute of it.

Although it is hard to have so many people that I love all over the country, not to mention all over the world, I think that it makes our short times together more meaningful and special.  We look forward to those few, short days, enjoy them while they are here, and treasure the memories when the days are over.  Those times make the heartbreaks of the “see you later”s totally worth it.

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A Year Ago I Was a Missionary in Honduras…Today I Served Chicken Sandwiches in Suburbia

I’ve been needing to write for awhile.  And not like the I-feel-obligated-to-blog-every-so-often needing to write, but really needing to write.  But for some reason, I just haven’t really been able to do it.  Every time I sit down at my computer, motivated and ready to write, I close the WordPress tab just as quickly as I opened it.

The problem is, this Great Story I’ve been trying to live hasn’t felt, well, quite so great anymore.

By that, I mean that it is not as exciting as my life was several months ago.  This time last year, I was living with Josh and the rest of our team in a small concrete room in the back of a church in Tablon, Honduras.  Our days were filled with walking around the rural mountain town with Pastor Jesus, meeting with and praying for people in the community, gathering at Duma’s house with her family as they prepared corn tortillas, rice and beans for us, bathing in the river (in swimsuits of course), hand washing our laundry and hanging it to dry (for days and days as they got extra rinse cycles from the rain), and going to bed on our sleeping mats on the floor and in our sleeping bags at 8:30 because it was dark and there was just nothing else to do.

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Today, I woke up, ate a bowl of cereal and said a quick good morning to my nephew Henry, went to work at Chick-fil-A, hung out with Henry a bit, ate dinner at my sister and brother-in-law’s church, and hung out with Josh at a coffee shop.

My life is SO different than it was a year ago.  But, I’m realizing that different is okay. 

My sister has been doing a 31 day blog challenge, and every day, she writes about a particular lesson learned.  Today, she wrote about cultivating gratitude, no matter what your situation is. 

I’ve been thinking about this topic for the last few weeks, and even though my life after the World Race is definitely different than I thought it was going to be, even just a few months ago, here are some things that I know I am grateful for.

I am thankful that I get to spend this season with my sister who is my best friend, my brother-in-law who always makes me laugh, and my sweet nephew Henry who I am convinced can do no wrong.  The best part(s) of my day is when his face lights up and he says, “Aunt Jen!” when I enter the room or get home from work.

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I am thankful that Josh and I have been welcomed into the Central Baptist Church Kansas City family.  This church is an amazing body of believers who love to love you.  They are incredibly diverse, and almost if not every person has been an international missionary or involved in international and domestic missions in some way.  Cheers to having people who understand what it’s like to choke on Cambodian dust while riding in a tuk tuk, or to hear, “Mzungu! Mzungu!  How are you?” every day in Africa.  🙂

I am thankful that the wonderful people at Chick-fil-A Liberty decided to take a chance on me, even knowing that I might not be around in a few months when we (hopefully) move to Georgia to start a new chapter working for Adventures in Missions.  It’s been awesome, humbling, tiring, and an adventure every day.  Not to mention that it’s very nice to have a paycheck after more than a year of not getting those exciting pieces of paper every two weeks.

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So, life might not be traveling-the-world-exciting-Facebook-status-worthy right now, but I am grateful for what it is-a season full of love, rest, expectancy, and of course, pumpkin spice chai.  🙂

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