Recently, I was cooking dinner.  I leaned against the stove to stir the pot on the back burner, and I noticed that my used-to-be-a-baby-bump chub squished against the handle of the oven door.

My first reaction was one that I’ve had many times over the last several months-frustration, embarrassment, longing for the body of my college days.  But that passed quickly, and it was replaced by something else that I hadn’t experienced in relation to my recent…ahem…higher BMI.

I felt pride.

A few days before, I had been hanging out with some friends, and I noticed my friend’s belly.  She is in no way overweight, is actually quite petite, and has had kids.  I found myself longing for what she had-a badge of honor, a token of motherhood.

It wasn’t until I squished my belly while cooking that I realized that this pudge that I had been looking at so begrudgingly was my own badge of honor.

I lived in Africa for four months-something that many people only dream of.  Somewhere between the carbs on carbs diet, and hitting 25, my body decided it wanted to start storing.

Maasai Mara

I lost a little bit of Africa weight when we returned to the States, but then I found out I was pregnant right after Christmas.  We didn’t have a scale, so I don’t know if I gained or lost any weight during the pregnancy, but I do know that my belly was growing.



Then, I miscarried at 11 weeks.  I remember thinking, “What’s the point in eating?  I’m not taking care of anyone else anymore.” For a few days, in my grief, all I ate was a bowl of cereal here and there, and a few bites of meals.  I remember looking down at my stomach, and seeing it flat again.  I laughed bitterly and thought, “Well, there’s nothing in there anymore.  Might as well have a visual reminder.”  When of course, I would have given anything to have a life still inside my womb.

After the not-wanting-to-eat-anything period came the wanting-to-eat-everything period.  And I gained it all back again, including the belly chub.  Since then, most days, it has been the thorn in my side.  But not on this day.

I smiled as I thought about how I walked miles in the African bush to meet with villagers for Bible study, and how they gave us chapati after chapati to eat.  I thought about how even though I’m not pregnant anymore, I supported a flipping life inside of me for months.  I have had almost 26 years of rich, full life, and I have the privilege of having a few physical reminders of that from this body that has carried me through them.

So, I still look up a ton of different workouts and confuse my cats when I do them in the living room.  I still try (and fail most of the time) to turn down the free Chick-fil-A employee meal on my break at work.  I still find myself wishing for the days of old when I felt confident in my body, but I’m also trying to remember that I am lucky.

I get to carry my badge of honor with me.  I am a missionary.  I am a mother.  And I definitely wouldn’t trade either one of these for a flat belly.


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.




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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.

IMG_20131102_143738 IMG_20131102_143226

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.


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.


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.



(I wrote this blog a couple of months ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting it.  African internet is…difficult, lol).


Today I got to stand (actually kneel and stick my head out the rails) on a platform 145 feet above the Nile, and photograph my friends bungee jumping. It was so fun, especially since I love capturing the moment to remember forever.

Jen Bungee Photo 2 Jen Bungee Photo

Although it was so fun to see them freak out, and ultimately conquer their fears all in the name of adrenaline rush, it was also kind of hard. See, bungee jumping and rafting the Nile at Adrift in Uganda is kind of a World Race staple. Ever since Josh and I signed up for the Race over two years ago, I’ve been reading blogs about this very opportunity.

As much as Josh and I wanted to do it, we just can’t afford it. A jump and rafting cost $100 each, and multiply that by two for both of us. It just wasn’t going to happen. So, I settled with watching my friends jump, and being the photographer.

I’ve realized that I have the dreaded disease called FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. It can strike at any time, any day. It whispers in your ear that if you are not at the forefront of what is happening, if you don’t get to experience everything to the fullest, that you will miss out on the most important thing, interactions, and adventures that will ever happen. Or, that if you are somehow not able to do whatever or be wherever, that you are less than those who are.

I had a great time up on that platform. But, as soon as I came down, and saw the faces of my friends that did jump, I realized what I had missed. Then, I got depressed. I’ve been fighting it all afternoon. (It probably doesn’t help that I am also tired from a rough night of sleep last night. It’s crazy how much that makes a difference on your body).

But, the Lord reminded me of something that the dad of one of my squadmates said at the Parent Vision Trip in Kenya. At one of the worship sessions, two of the cooks sang some hymns. First, the woman singing the melody sang, then the other woman joined in with the harmony. Their voices harmonized beautifully.

Later, the dad said something that I thought was incredibly profound. He told the group that he had always felt that because he was more of a quiet, reserved person, that he was somehow less important to the big picture. He said that when he heard the first woman singing, it was definitely beautiful. But, when the second woman joined in with the harmony, it was even more beautiful; it was complete. He realized that the “background” people are just as important as the ones who are front and center in the action. They are the ones that enrich it.

This is such a beautiful concept to think about. God uses us in every role: the preacher, the hearer of the Word, the introvert, the extrovert, the writer, the talker, the missionary, the office worker, and on and on. Some may be more on the front lines and more visible than others, but every role is necessary and important.

So, I don’t have to worry about missing out, because even if I am not “in the action”, it is just as awesome. I got to experience this firsthand when most of the rest of my squad went white water rafting the Nile, and Josh and I, along with a few others, stayed behind. I ended up going kayaking with a few of the other girls at sunset, and it was absolutely perfect.  FOMO conquered. (For now).





Here are a couple of my favorite shots from bungee jumping.