Moving to Africa: Embracing Life Outside My Comfort Zone

Moving to Africa: Embracing Life Outside My Comfort Zone

When I was 24 years old, my husband and I moved to Guinea, West Africa. It was a monumental life step for us. Flying across the ocean was a big, turbulent step. Packing all of our belongings into six large trunks was a big step. Learning French, saying goodbye to our families, and surviving those first days of culture shock were all really big steps.

Stepping off that plane and taking in the thick humidity, the vibrantly colored traditional outfits the people were wearing, the different languages swirling around, the reality that this was our new home – these were all part of an unforgettable, dramatic change. Life was suddenly very different! I no longer had the convenience of a Walmart down the street or the freedom to jump in my car and drive to wherever I wanted or needed to go. I couldn’t swing through Dairy Queen for a blizzard when the temperature climbed and I had a craving.

If I were to guess, I’d say that experience, that first-time-in-Africa, full-on culture shock place where I was for the first few months after we arrived, would probably rate at a 9 on the 1-10 scale. 10, of course, being the most dramatic change, the most difficult, the closest you can come to wanting to be sent back to mommy… and good American candy bars. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved those early hazy days in Africa. As picturesque as it may sound, I woke up under our mosquito net and I loved the feeling. We had arrived. We were finally in Guinea. The place we had been reading about, planning and preparing for, and even dreaming of. I woke up with a sense of excitement and adventure because I knew this was where we were supposed to be. But nevertheless, we were far from the home we knew, and the adjustment was not going to be easy.

Fast forward four months and we were evacuated out of Guinea in just a few days due to political unrest. What we couldn’t fit in our suitcases we left for our African friends that we had grown to love and respect. Leaving was harder than we could have imagined, and leaving under those circumstances, bullets flying and people fearing for their lives, was a heartbreaking and sobering experience.

One quick flight later, and we had arrived in Senegal, a neighboring West African country. We tried our best to quickly plant our roots, never having planned to live in Senegal. We continued with our French language studies, this time out of the classroom and around the kitchen table with a local language helper. After a few years of living in the capital city of Dakar, we moved to the southern part of the country commonly referred to as the Casamance region. We moved into a village to work with a small local church, teach English, and help out with a variety of community projects.
Moving is a big deal. Up to that point we had moved somewhere around 11 times in our young marriage. This move required us to board a 14-hour overnight ferry that would take us near the village we were moving to.

The boat trip was rocky and people were sick. I was petrified that we were going to capsize. With every wave I kept questioning, “Was that bigger than the last one?” Sadly in 2002 Le Joola ferry (different boat, same route) did capsize and 1,863 people died. That’s more casualties than the Titanic, and yet, not many people know about it.
The next morning my fears quickly vanished when I found myself eating a warm baguette and drinking café au lait while watching dolphins jump the waves alongside our ferry. It was breathtaking. It was exciting because we were moving to yet another home… and we were almost there. And we had survived the overnight boat trip. Something I felt very brave for doing.

Sitting inside our white cement village home, a half-completed house with an African family sharing the same courtyard, I was able to take a deep breath after our cross-country move and our adventurous tales at sea. As I caught my breath and took a look around, I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t know what to do or where to begin. I couldn’t unpack because we didn’t have any closets or shelves. I didn’t have any friends I could call to come help me. I didn’t speak much of the same language as my neighbors (my level and their level in French only took us so far) and aside from my husband, there wasn’t an American in sight.

Over the next year we slowly morphed into who we needed to be in the village. With time, grit, sacrifice, and the help of our previous experiences in West Africa, we adjusted. Our adjustment was beyond the physical longing for a cheeseburger and a friend who spoke English, and it was beyond us learning the local greetings and having to swallow a fish eyeball with onion sauce on it. We morphed into who we needed to be as friends and neighbors to those around us. We learned by watching and we learned by asking a child-like amount of questions about everything we didn’t understand. We opened our hearts and our doors even when it pushed us, yet again, outside of our comfort zone. We allowed our neighbor Yassine to adopt us as her children, and we tried not to shy away from being corrected when we crossed those cultural boundaries that were so foreign to us. We learned what community meant in that context and how to integrate into the local way of life.

Boarding the plane that first took us to Guinea, Africa served as a high speed time capsule into a world and a life that we will never forget. It offered us six years of life lessons on how to adapt, how to survive, how to make friends, how to dance to the beat of the drums, and most importantly, and the thing I’m most thankful for, it taught us how to embrace the challenges, the change in plans, and the unfamiliarity to find a full and vivacious life outside of the comfort zone we had always known.

*This is an essay I submitted for Real Simple’s Ninth Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest. The theme was “What was the most dramatic change you ever had to make?” While I didn’t win (sure would have been nice to win $3,000…), I sure enjoyed the opportunity to think through and write out my answer. I thought I’d share it here on the blog with you, so at least someone can read it! What about you? What would your answer be?

A sobering look back at IVF 1, 2, and 3

A sobering look back at IVF 1, 2, and 3

March 2013- I’ll never forget the first time we did IVF in Dakar. Of course everything was new: the treatment, learning the medications in French, and having Shawn learn how to give me shots. Getting to know our doctor was really special. (Even if we did have to wait 2+ hours in his waiting room some times…) He was Nigerian but grew up in Senegal. He spoke English which was nice and of course very helpful in the medical realm where our language abilities were limited. He so desperately wanted us to have kids. It was so sweet. We developed a friendship with Dr. Fayemi.

I’ll never forget the fear and anxiety I felt as I walked into that little clinic at dawn, knowing I was walking in for my first-ever surgery. I had no idea what to expect. I remember filling out the paperwork with excitement, hoping maybe this would be the answer to us having kids after nine years of hoping and praying. I remember putting on the hospital gown, laying in that African clinic, noticing the paint chipping off the concrete walls, beds lined up along the walls.  I had no idea how much pain I would be experiencing during the egg retrieval surgery, I didn’t know what anesthesia would feel like, or how I would react to it. Shawn wasn’t able to come back in the room with me and I felt very alone. I laid on the hospital bed with the uncomfortable crisp white sheets underneath me. I cringed as the nurse fumbled with the IV going into my hand. She had to start over more than once, and I fought with all my might not to lose it right then and there. I held back the tears because Senegalese women don’t always respond too well to tears, and I kept reminding myself that this may be the thing that would bring us a baby. After all, this was something we had never tried before. I remember praying out in desperation for comfort in that moment. “God, I’m alone and I’m scared and I have no idea what to expect. Please go with me.” And he did.

Once they wheeled me back into the OR, I laid on the table with three Senegalese men (doctors) standing around. It was an intimidating and vulnerable place for me to be culturally. We waited because the anesthesiologist was late (running on African time). I tried to breathe, reminding myself to keep my head in the game. But I was nervous. I started to wonder what I got myself into, and wishing so desperately that Shawn could be with me. But I knew God was there. I couldn’t see him or feel him, but he was there. Before I knew it, the anesthesiologist arrived and I was knocked out and waking up in the room with the beds lined up against the wall. I was so sore. But it was all done! I survived!

Soon my friend Kari was there, joking with me about some apparent selfie I sent her while I was still drugged. The fact that she came to be with me, to see how I was doing meant the world to me.

I remember Shawn treating me like a queen as he helped me to our borrowed-from-the-mission vehicle, making me lunch, giving me lots of time to rest as he managed the hectic demands of our guesthouse responsibilities.

I’ll never forget when our doctor told us with tears in his eyes that after all that we didn’t get any embryos that could be transferred. We were crushed for two solid days. Then he called with the news that one pulled through! I wondered if this would be our miracle baby. Two long weeks later, we collapsed on our bed, crying at the news that the one embryo that pulled through at the last-minute didn’t implant, resulting in negative results, and no pregnancy after all. It was hard to go on with ministry and daily life for a while after that. It was hard to see the sun shining. But with time, we did. We saw the sun shine again.

Shawn learning how to mix and inject my shots. Believe me, it hurt him every time he had to give me one.
We did shots every morning and every night. One time we ran out of a very important shot that was time sensitive, and we rushed downtown to a pharmacy with late hours, hoping they would have it. Thankfully we arrived just before they closed, and they had what we needed! Turns out they were the only pharmacy in the whole country who had what we needed. Phew!
This is a very raw picture. The shots hurt. I was tired of the needles. I was tired of the ups and downs, and the secrecy of our treatments. I was tired of insensitive comments like, “If you were a cow you’d be put down by now.” (Yes, someone really said that.) I like this picture because I was really crying. I thought that one day I might want to remember what we did, what we went through, what we fought for. And now, looking back, I’m glad I took this picture. It embodies the pain of IVF, the hardship of infertility, but also the drive to keep going. Although this picture is very personal, it’s one I wanted to share with you.
Downtown Dakar, recovering post- embryo transfer. We were hopeful we’d look back on this picture and know that that was the day our baby was transferred! (If there was ever a doubt this was in West Africa, there’s some wax print fabric to prove it.)

June 2013- I’ll never forget when they transferred three (3!) embryos during our second round of IVF in Dakar and wondering every minute of every day for two solid weeks if we would have triplets or not. Imagine knowing there are three embryos in your uterus, but having no idea what would happen or how many would implant and grow for nine months. WOW! You can only imagine the conversations that took place in our home during those two weeks.

After the burning shots, the egg retrieval surgery, the embryo transfers, and the emotional turmoil from IVF #1, I never could have imagined us doing that again. But with encouragement from our doctor, and our continued desire for a child, we decided to give it another try. We were not ready to give up. The doctor tweaked our care and my medication and we were ready for IVF #2. The fact that we got three embryos the second time, and not just one “last-minute survivor”, we were excited at what this cycle could mean for us. A baby, maybe? Sadly, none of the three implanted and we were back to the beginning, both of us grieving this peculiar loss of three babies. A loss that couldn’t be seen, but one that was very much felt.

Downtown Dakar again, post-embryo transfer. This time, there were three embryos!
Holy cow! There were THREE embryos in me! Would we have triplets?! Twins!? We would find out in two (very long) weeks…

 February 2014- We were in America this time, and we thought that after two failed IVF cycles, it would be a good idea to consult another doctor. He knew we were in somewhat of a time crunch with plans to return to West Africa in just a few months, so Dr. Hoffman recommended we jump right into another round of IVF. I never thought after the first time I’d ever be able to do it again, and I certainly never thought that after the second time I’d ever be able to do that again. But there we were, embarking on IVF #3. We were not ready to give up yet. Maybe things will be different in the US, we thought. Maybe having a new doctor with a new approach will be helpful. Around that same time we started to share a little bit more about some of what we had been through with past treatments and losses, and we started gaining some prayer, encouragement, and financial support. Friends helped us raise the money we needed to do IVF in Cincinnati, Ohio. We were blown away by their generosity. Friends brought us meals to our door, and sent flowers when the results weren’t (once again) what we were hoping and praying for. We’ll never forget that.

Friends blew us away with their kindness. *There aren’t as many pictures from IVF #3. There are a few, and one special one of our two blastocyst embryos, and one of us in our scrubs on transfer day. I think we were protecting ourselves a little bit more this round.

We made it farther than we had in Dakar by getting blastocyst embryos. We were hopeful this time, more than ever. We had good news and good results throughout our treatment, and friends were praying for us. It felt good to be open this time. But in the end, we were devastated when the two embryos that were transferred to my uterus didn’t implant, resulting in another negative result. We were crushed. it took us a long time to find the sun that time. We were busy with our return to Senegal, so I don’t know how well we grieved either. Grieving isn’t comfortable, so it’s not always something we want to encounter, or embrace head-on.

I think there was also a lot more to grieve that time around because that was our 3rd and final attempt at IVF. Or so we thought at the time. So not only were we grieving that loss, we were subconsciously grieving the idea that we would never have children. And that was a lot to process.

I’ll never forget the anticipation and the long two week wait(s), after which we would be able to find out if IVF worked or not. Talk about a mental mind game!

I’ll never forget the thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses, none of it covered by insurance. I’ll also never forget the amazing ways God provided the money we needed along the way.

I’ll never forget seeing Shawn in his scrubs, proudly holding a picture of the embryos we were able to transfer.

He says he’ll never forget the pain I went through for our family.

There are lots of things we will never forget. And yes, there is pain in looking back. I definitely cried writing out some of these memories, and looking at some of these pictures again. I’ll never forget those raw emotions. But there’s also some beauty there. We saw beauty in new friendships, friendships that were strengthened, laughter in the unexpected times, and beauty in our marriage which was taken to new levels of compassion and understanding for each other. A stronger bond was formed. Looking back we see God’s provision through prepared meals, chocolate-covered strawberries, and cinnamon rolls delivered to our door. We see it through generous friends who gave of their finances to help us out.

Today’s miracle, and IVF #4 are that much sweeter knowing what IVF 1, 2, and 3 were like. Thank you, God, for standing with us at every turn, every treatment, every injection, every drive to keep going, every loss, and now, every milestone with this growing baby that we’ve waited 11 years for.

 

Her first doll, survivor’s guilt, and timing

Her first doll, survivor’s guilt, and timing

When I wake up in the morning I’m still in awe that this is happening. Not in a gushy, “Oh my word, Shawn, place your hand on my stomach” kind of cheesy realization. It’s more of a deep and quiet thankfulness as I think about what has and is happening. Every week that passes is so exciting for us. Every milestone, every fruit-to-baby size comparison, every appointment, every thing that makes this feel so real (hearing the heartbeat, seeing my belly grow, calling her by name) is a dream come true. Again, not in a pastel-colored rainbow kind of way, but in a “we prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and he has answered” kind of way.

But there’s this awkward pull that I often feel, and all I can really contribute it to is something similar to survivor’s guilt. For so long we battled this disease of infertility. It hurt, it was hard, and it felt unfair. And now, here we are on the other side! After all those prayers we’ve been ushered into the realm of the blessed. (Still a statement that brings mixed emotions for me, because we were blessed then too…)
For so long we didn’t know what would happen. We couldn’t control or change our circumstances. To me the timing of it all is a difficult thing to wrap my mind around. I would watch the months and the years pass, looking ahead to a new year with excitement and wonder, “Could this be the year that we’ll finally have a baby?” And time would pass on by. This idea of dreaming about how our family would grow was so far beyond our reach.

If I’m being perfectly honest, in some ways it doesn’t feel fair that I’m pregnant. Why should I receive this blessing? It feels too good to be true. What about the others still hoping, aching, and praying for a baby? At the same time, it doesn’t feel fair that for all those years I couldn’t get pregnant and others could. Why did I have to wait, to feel that bitter sense of cultural isolation, and grieve through six different losses? Why were they able to plan their families, have children without struggle, and experience new life without knowing loss? These are questions that are often on my mind.

It’s hard to break away from living in-between two worlds. I lived there in that world of infertility, loss, and heartache for so long. But by God’s grace I’m not there anymore. But my heart still knows that old zip code. I can relate to the women who are watching the year go by, not knowing when their adoption will be finalized, or if / when they can afford their next fertility treatment. I know how it feels to wonder if / when you should give up, or stop trying, or stop praying. Does there come a time when you stop praying for the same thing over and over? I know those emotions all too well, and the ups and downs that come with them. It feels never-ending sometimes. It stung when someone said to me the other day, “I’m Fertile Myrtle without even trying! I wink at my husband and get pregnant.” Well guess what… that wasn’t the case for us. That’s not the case for a lot of couples. They hear these comments, and see families growing, and they wonder if / when their day will ever come.

My heart still goes to bat for these women because I was in their shoes, and on their team for so many years. These comments, and the insensitive remarks are (still) hard to swallow. My heart will always be with these women because it’s a road I’ve walked. But it’s also a road I’ve survived. I hope that in some way, I can create a new path where we see and love the person. Not a mom, not an infertile woman, or a woman without kids, not a single woman, not a woman in waiting – just the person. I hope we can merge together on a path of acceptance, sensitivity, vulnerability, and hope. What’s it like for you? What are the challenges? What are the joys you’ve seen? Let’s point each other to a Jesus who cares for us as we are and where we are.

As I find myself on a new path, one we’ve prayed to be on, I feel this tug to want to tell everyone where we’ve been and how we got here. To me this isn’t just “any ol’ pregnancy” because it’s a miracle that it even happened in the first place. But as I’ve met people and shared here and there, I’ve realized that not everyone cares, not everyone will be sensitive, and I’ve found that it’s not very easy to explain in a casual social encounter the path we’ve walked. To even mention that we worked hard to get here, and that we did 4 IVF treatments, doesn’t really communicate the depth of where we’ve been. People don’t know the whole story. And it’s not really possible to jam 1000 thoughts into just a few minutes. And I’m trying to let that be okay. Not everyone has to know the whole story. At least not right away. But we know the story, we know what a miracle this is, and we know what God has done. And that’s what’s important.

My heart goes out to the women who are still waiting, praying, and hoping. At the same time, I decided early on that if this day ever came, I would be unapologetic with pictures, posts about the baby, etc. This is a day, a time we’ve waited for and it’s going to be celebrated at each and every step of the way, at each milestone that brings us closer to meeting our daughter. 

I hope that the sharing of our story dares you to hope, to dream, to keep praying, to keep climbing. May it remind you that your story is not over yet. May it show you that God is always at work- through the sweet and the bitter times, he is there, he is God, is able.

A friend sent us the cutest little ballerina doll for the baby. There aren’t even words for the ‘hugeness’ of this season. We’ve waited, and waited, and now it’s HAPPENING, YOU GUYS! Our hearts and minds have a hard time taking it all in some times. But God is with us on every path we walk in this life. He’s there to hold us steady when it’s rocky, and to rejoice with us when we see the answers to a long-awaited prayer.

Our friend Judith sent us the sweetest package of gifts for the baby, including her first doll. IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!? Although it’s not always easy to process where we’ve been and where we are now, we’re filled with great joy.
A daughter

A daughter

It’s with great joy that we share with you… it’s a GIRL!

One of the sweetest things about our fourth round of IVF, aside from the fact that IT WORKED (!!) is that because of the particular treatment we did this time, we got to find out on October 11th, 2016, (a day we’ll never forget) what the gender of our baby was! It’s crazy to think that we knew two months before we even did the embryo transfer, and 10 weeks before we even knew if I was pregnant or not what the gender was. How incredible!

Yes, we have a name!!! Woohoo! We’ve had a girl’s name in our back pocket for about five years, not knowing if we’d ever get to use it. We’ll let you know what the name is when the time comes. But, for the curious types (don’t worry, I’m one of you), I can tell you that she will be named after someone we met when we lived in the village.

One of the things we’re thankful for looking back over our four IVF treatments is that things were made very clear for us by God which way we should go, and at each turn along the way. We were never put in a place of having to make a hard choice, or to make a choice that we were never intended to make when it came to our treatments. We saw the Creator at work, and we were amazed at what he had planned out for us all along.

Including the news of this baby girl… arriving this fall.

 

Our circumstances, his goodness

Our circumstances, his goodness

I guess deep down I have an issue with the phrase, “God is good!” and I’m not sure why. Other than maybe the skewed way it’s often interpreted. The bottom line is that God IS good, and one thing I want everyone to understand is that his goodness has nothing to do with our circumstances.

After a long battle with infertility, we have the answer to our prayers: a lime-sized baby growing in my belly! It’s a dream come true for us as a couple and we praise God every day we wake up and realize in awe what’s (FINALLY!) come about for us.

But let one thing be crystal clear: God is not just good now that we have this miracle we’ve hoped and wished for. He was good THEN and he’s good NOW.

God is not just good now that we have this lime-sized miracle we’ve hoped and wished for. He was good then and he’s good now.

I guess it’s just hard for me to hear, “God is good!” in response to this joyous news because while it’s very, very true, it makes me think about the years we cried and struggled. What about those years? Was God good then? What about season after season that the answer to our ongoing prayer was, “No”, or “Not yet”? What about the times when we were drowning in grief after another loss, and standing in church, we saw young families and soon-to-be-parents singing praises of God’s goodness? From the outside looking in, it seemed like God was good to them. Did he forget about us? Where was this ‘goodness’ in our lives then? This goodness everyone was standing up singing about. What about the road that taught us that God is good, even then? Even when we don’t understand, even when we question, even when we doubt, and even when hardships of various kinds come, and our circumstances don’t “feel” like the gifts of a good, good Father. Did we have to walk that road to learn these lessons about God, to see him up close in that way? I don’t know, but I hope we never forget how that felt and what we learned along the way. I hope we never forget that awkward, steep climb that taught us that God is who God says he is. Our circumstances don’t change his character, his heart, his plan, his purpose, or even his goodness.

I also think about those who are learning what the goodness of God means in spite of life-altering news and devastation. What about them? How does this common phrase impact them? What about those suffering day in and day out with a disease doctors haven’t really been able to diagnose just yet? Is God good then? If so, what does that look like for them? Are people still telling them, showing them, reminding them that God is good, or are people, is the church, waiting for a miracle? For a happy ending? It takes a level of faith that doesn’t come easily to trust that God’s goodness is there, and real, when the hard times come, and especially when they come and stay for awhile.

Circumstances – good and hard – come into our lives and we can’t always change them, or control them, or explain them. It can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve come face to face with your circumstances + questioning the goodness of God. May these circumstances stretch our faith, albeit uncomfortable at the time, to better trust God and his character. May we be able to see him in a new light. Maybe through the dark days his goodness is evident in the form of a deep compassion that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see. Maybe his goodness is shown in a new light as he wipes the tears from your eyes and heals your broken heart. Maybe his goodness is there in the form of provision when you’re at the end of your rope. Even then, our God is able. He’s present. He’s good. That’s something we saw then and something we’re seeing now. May we never forget it.

Grace for right now

Grace for right now

When there’s been a big life transition, such as hearing on a Tuesday that you’re moving to Texas, and leaving the following Monday, things packed and loaded, goodbyes said in a fast and furious manner, and the next steps unknown (housing, friends, community, what we’ll think of our new town), there’s a lot to write about. I don’t even know where to begin.

But as I scan over our life right now, the move down here, our first few days here, these past few weeks and months, one word appears over and over: GRACE.

(For the record, the bed bug bites I have all over my body, no thanks to our hotel, and the incessant itching do not fall under this category. They are just plain miserable.)

When I look around our living room and see pictures on the walls, and dishes in our kitchen cabinets, I see God’s grace. The fact that we found a place to live day 2 in San Angelo is nothing short of grace. We prayed, and we hoped that we’d find something right away, but we also didn’t know what to expect or what would happen. Not only did we find a place, we found a place with a backyard, a patio, a fireplace and a mantel, and all in a nice neighborhood. I see grace there.

Yay! I’ve always wanted to have a house with a mantel to decorate.

There are two ultrasound pictures on our fridge now. We didn’t know if we’d ever see the day. But here we are: seeing and experiencing a miracle.

These pictures bring us great joy.

To be honest, it’s almost too much to take in on some days. The grace in it all. We’re used to God’s grace in the hard times, in the loss, in the disappointment. It’s a sweet grace, but it’s different. It’s more of a help you through, “I am here for you”, a “you will survive this with my help, my love, and my presence” kind of grace. But now we’re experiencing this grace in the form of a gift, in the form of an answered prayer, and it still feels so surreal. It’s this dream come true after such a long road. We fought hard and prayed hard to get here, and the beauty in it all is that God’s grace was always there for us. It was then and it is now. They just look very different.

It’s a season of learning to embrace God’s grace. It’s here, it’s happening. These ultrasound pictures are not fake. I didn’t print them off of Pinterest. They’re ours! That’s our growing strawberry-sized baby. And that’s a grace we’ll never take for granted. One we’ll never stop being grateful for.

There’s the (unexpected) grace of my dad deciding to take a road trip and come visit me, right when Shawn left town for a week of meetings (the company is putting him up at a resort in Florida, don’t feel too sorry for him), and during a time when I was really dreading being alone in a new town by myself.

I’m thankful for the grace for Shawn in his new position, in a new store (it’s a Furniture Row here, so there are about three stores in one big building, and he loves it so far. He works with some great people.)

Shawn doing some work in the warehouse.

I see grace in the transition of being new in town (again). I want friends, a community, a go-to coffee shop, a church family, a friend I can text about nothing and everything … and I want all of that RIGHT NOW. But I know these things will come. There’s grace in the waiting, grace in the newness of a fresh start in a new city (which we really like so far).

Two things we like about living here: the warm weather and the friendly people.

There’s grace in this brand new chapter. One that includes a fresh start, the adventure of moving to Texas, and a long-awaited baby.

Wherever you find yourself, there’s grace available for you. If it’s the hardest time of your life, God’s grace can see you through. You can trust him, you can walk with him, you can cry out to him and let him be your sufficiency. He is able even when we’re not.
If this is a sweet time in your life, and prayers have been answered and it almost feels too good to be true, the same God is walking with you. Open your hands and allow his grace to overwhelm you in the best possible way. That’s where we’re at and we’re so grateful. We’re grateful that no matter life’s path, his grace is sufficient.

Texas it is y’all

Texas it is y’all

And just like that, we’re moving to TEXAS! (Should I have inserted a y’all in there somewhere? Did I just break an unspoken rule? I guess I’ll cut myself some slack since I’m sitting in my living room in Wyoming, far removed from the culture of when and how to insert the word “y’all”…)

In some ways, this move is not a surprise to us because Shawn’s been working really hard towards a promotion. We’ve been praying often for God to guide our next move, these next steps of our future, and the timing of it all. We’ve prayed specifically for the right town, with the right community, with the right friends for us, and the right place for us to get involved in whatever God wants us to get involved in. We had told Denver Mattress (now with 111 locations across the USA) that we were open to moving anywhere they wanted us for this next step / promotion with the company. That really opens up the map of possibility. But we prayed for GOD to place us where he wanted us for this next move. Even though DM had a hand in choosing where we’d end up, we wanted to walk by faith and ask God to choose for us. We knew that if we asked, he would guide us, as he has so many times in the past.

In many ways, Cheyenne has been our temporary “hold” and we knew that. It’s one of the only places we’ve ever lived where we knew moving here that it would be temporary, but we just didn’t know how temporary. So, as you can imagine, it’s been really hard to get out there, make friends, get involved in church, in the community, etc. It was hard because “our next, more permanent home” was always somewhere on the horizon…

So while in some ways this move isn’t a surprise to us, things are still moving really, really fast, and our lives are suddenly changing! Once everything was officially official, we got about a week to move (we leave on Monday!). Wowza! Good thing we know how to pack a house in record time. To offer a little back story, Shawn got a call to consider two locations to promote to in the span of about a week. One location was offered to someone else, and then a few days later he had a phone interview for the San Angelo, Texas store. The next thing we knew, the district manager flew to Cheyenne to have lunch with us (Mmmm, hello Rib & Chop House!), to interview us, to let us ask any questions, etc. (We love that Denver Mattress always consults the spouse to make sure they’re on board to relocate. They really care about family, which is a respectable thing to see in a company.) Then it was a few days of waiting and wondering, and then on Tuesday we got the call that made it official. And the next thing we knew, we were pulling out the boxes and embarking on move number 15.

With every move comes a whole mix of bittersweet emotions: excitement for the next step, sadness because we’re leaving friends and coworkers (and this time, our family just an hour away!!!), it’s a hectic time with a lot of mini freak outs (on my part). Mainly because in the span of about 6 days we’re packing up our life, driving 12 hours, moving to a place we’ve never been before, where we don’t know a soul! It’s overwhelming to say the least.

But we’ve prayed for this next step, and for God to guide us.

We’ve always been the “go big or go home” type, so maybe Texas suits us…

Thank you for your prayers as we begin another big life adventure and transition!

s&j

 

 

Worth it

Worth it

The first three IVF cycles we went through (March 2013, 1 embryo transferred, June 2013, 3 embryos transferred, February 2014, 1 blastocyst embryo transferred) each held their own level of pain, anticipation, excitement, and in the end, grief. We cried and we mourned the loss of each embryo, each baby, each new dream. And there were eight years of prayer, hope, and three IUI treatments that led us to the point of even trying IVF in the first place.

And now, with a little blueberry-sized baby DeAtley growing in my belly, we are standing in a place of grace we had wondered if we’d ever get to experience. It’s hard to communicate what it feels like, after all these years, to have this dream, this 12-year prayer for a miracle unfolding into a reality.

The shots aren’t over yet. There are still about 6 more weeks of 2/day shots, but we know that they’re worth it this time. The pain, the questioning if we should move forward or give up, the pokes and prods, the tests, the expense, the travels to and from out-of-town appointments, the fear of the unknown, the recovery, the surviving on hope, the fight to keep going, the ups and downs, the disappointments, the determination, the throwing up on the side of the highway because of side effects from meds, the isolation, the emotions, the surgeries, the prayers, the struggle, the tears, the needles, the wait, the risk … it’s all worth it now.

A picture of our embryo at 5 days of life, sitting next to a month worth of shots. In our 4 IVF cycles, I’ve had this amount of needles times about 20. By God’s grace, it was worth it this time. It’s all by God’s grace.
The miracle

The miracle

We have no words. No words but a tearful THANK YOU, GOD!

We are walking in a surreal dream. We’re amazed, thrilled, grateful, speechless. Nothing about our journey has been typical. Including the sharing of this happy news at just 6 weeks of pregnancy. But you know what? We couldn’t keep it to ourselves any longer! We wanted to share with our faithful friends and readers that God has answered your prayers! He’s answered our prayers, the prayer we’ve prayed over the past 12 years. The prayer for a baby.

We have no words. No words but a joyful THANK YOU, GOD!

Hold on tight, we’re climbing higher

Hold on tight, we’re climbing higher

Shawn has told me so many times throughout this treatment that I’m the strongest woman he knows. That’s so thoughtful of him to say, and it means so much to me. He’s my rock and I couldn’t do any of this without him.

But I can’t be strong anymore. At least not today. The unknown and the waiting have taken their toll on me. And every morning for the next 10ish weeks, Shawn has to mix and inject the DEVIL shot (progesterone) into the muscle in my butt (#romance). It’s a slow-moving, thick oil, and it’s awful. And it hurts. And my muscles ache. I’ll be right here crying on the couch if you need me. (With this huge stack of Christmas cookies…)

I’m so grateful for how far we’ve come, and the journey isn’t over yet. But that’s just it – it’s not over yet. There’s more to come, and I’m tired of the roller coaster. I hear the harder the climb the better the view, but the climb is wearing me down and on some days, I’m struggling to keep walking. What will the end result be? Will all of this be worth it in the end? My mind loves to remind me of our 3 previous failed cycles and what it felt like, how terribly bad it stung, deep in our souls, to hear that our embryo(s) didn’t make it. We wondered if we’d ever have children.

And here we are, still wondering. But we’re closer than we’ve ever been. So we try to keep our hopes high and our prayers frequent as we continue the climb, strap ourselves into the roller coaster seat, and hold on tight as we ride into the unknown of another day in our IVF treatment.

We try to keep our hopes high and our prayers frequent.