Smiley face leggings

Smiley face leggings

You can wear all the smiley face leggings you want, and if Jesus and love aren’t the center of your day/your thoughts/your motivation, you’re going to trip up on yourself and it won’t be pretty. You’ll fall flat on your face into a muddy pool of selfishness. You’ll be splashing around, making a mess and only seeing you and the mud and nothing else. The world tells us to live for ourselves, but that’s a dangerous place to dwell.
But, if you pair some (pink, $7) smiley face leggings with Jesus and love, it’s a game changer.

Sometimes happiness is found in hammock swings on the back patio. Sometimes it’s found in queso (it’s often found in queso tbh). Sometimes it’s found in the coldest moscow mule with lots of lime. Sometimes it’s found in early bedtimes, fresh eggs from neighbors, and the first rose from your rose bush. Sometimes happiness is found in deep thoughts and a moment to yourself, park playdates, hazelnut lattes on the drink menu, holding hands and heart rings, reading to your kids about the Sacrificial Lamb, couch cuddles with a 3 yr old, a night away in Texas Hill Country and staying in an old cabin, new gold Burks, handsome horse neighbors, kids in cowgirl hats, and a long-awaited rain shower in the desert.

Happiness comes and goes, all in a given day.

Unless, of course, it comes from Jesus. If it’s found in Him, it’s joy and it lasts no matter what the day holds and no matter what leggings you’re wearing.

On raising kids and being a Becky

On raising kids and being a Becky

You’ve heard of the Man Flu, but have you heard of Little Kid Flu? It’s similar, but the voices strike at a muuuch higher octave, there are more demands for blankets and snacks, and they can’t work the remote yet, which circles back to demands in that same high-pitched octave. Anyway, I’m a recent survivor of the Little Kid, Man, and ME flu (the most brutal of them all). In those times, it’s really hard to stay the course in raising kind, loving kids who obey and respond well. It’s hard enough on a good day to work through the TODDLERTUDEâ„¢ (yes, I google-imaged the trademark symbol and put it right there next to the word toddlertude bc I just came up with it and I gotta say, it’s genius).
In a world of ‘you do you’, we’re trying to go against the flow of our culture and raise kids in a way that’s honoring to God. But it’s HARD, man! And needless to say, the responsibility of this privileged mom gig, and trying to make good choices myself to model to our girls how to make good choices themselves (and not yell shit when they drive over a concrete parking block) has been extra challenging when such sicknesses (as mentioned above) strike our household.
Which is why, all that to say, I want to be Becky when I grow up.
Who is Becky? She’s the florist who gave my girls balloons for “listening well to mom” while we were in the flower shop earlier today. We weren’t in there for long, mind you, but if you’ve ever been around a 3 and 4 year old, you know it doesn’t take long for them to shatter a vase, pick all the pedals off a flower, or run wild out the door and around the building 25 times before checkout. Becky saw my attempts at making sure they listened and understood what was expected of them, and she rewarded them with smiley face balloons. Becky the florist didn’t know at the time what a huge encouragement that would be to me. She didn’t know we just survived The Whole Family Flu, complete with a lot of whining, sister fights, arguing, impatience, and sleepless nights. It’s times like that when everything flies off the rails and you feel like you have no earthly idea what you’re doing as a parent and you feel like your kids would be better off raised by Yoda. She didn’t know then that I was growing wearing in doing well (and/or attempting to do well). So thanks, Becky, for the balloons (even if they were hiding their grumpy faces with them awhile later). Thanks for acknowledge that, while they don’t always listen well, they did that time. (Yes, let’s be Becky and cheer each other on and hand out balloons!) It was good for them to be rewarded by a kind stranger, and for me to feel seen as a mom who is trying her best and trying not to grow weary in this hard/fun/exhausting/awesome 24/7 mom gig.

Moms, consistency is the absolute hardest thing. But it makes a difference. Keep at it. XO.

Ps- in a world of Karens, BE A BECKY.

To the friend fighting infertility

To the friend fighting infertility

Maybe right now you’re not just dog paddling through the current, you’re in the deep end fighting to keep your head above water. The grief is real and month after month just reminds you that time is passing and you’re floating down the river past growing families and happy announcements and frustrating “it’ll happen when it’s meant to” comments from your mom’s friends. But will it? Will it ever happen? Because God works in mysterious ways, they say, BUT WHERE IS THE BABY WE’VE BEEN PRAYING FOR?! Why does God have to work in mysterious ways when it comes to what we’ve been praying for, and dreaming of? Is God even hearing our prayers?! Does He even care?!
Oh man, I’ve been there, fighting those deep waters of infertility, and questioning, and doubting, and wondering if God is still good, still there, still listening to your prayers.

But let me tell you something about God and our journey from infertility to IVF (x 4) to parenthood: God is good no matter what. He is faithful no matter our circumstances. And if you’re a friend crying over a negative pregnancy test, and wondering when it will be your turn, let me just remind you that YOU HAVE NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN. You are seen and loved by a good God. I don’t know why God does what He does, and His timing doesn’t always make sense to us. But if I can just encourage you, even now, to turn to God, get to know Him and who He is right here in this season you’re in, it will serve you in whatever season is next. You’ll never regret getting to know more about the character of God. Who is He in the wait? Who is He when a miracle comes your way?

I’m so glad I got to know these aspects of God’s character even when the journey was long and my emotions were tossed by the waves. And now, I get to see who God is to me as I raise these babies we prayed for! There’s hope in this story and I hope you can stop, right here in your season, and see that this God of hope is in your story too.

One of the blessings in my life lately is getting to help friends (and sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even met who reaches out through the blog or through a mutual friend) through their own struggles of infertility. I love answering their questions about IVF, where to start, when to start, and I love being a listening ear and reminding them that what they’re feeling is totally normal and valid. It’s ok to feel hurt/anger/grief when it feels like everyone else is getting pregnant before you, and it’s ok to not go to the baby shower because it’s too much to handle right now. It’s ok for you and your husband to grieve in different ways. You’re seen and valued right there where you are- waiting and hoping for a baby.

I hope our girls can be a testament to God working in big ways when we least expect it. Keep hoping, keep praying.
And please, reach out if you need a listening ear or if you’re in the deep end fighting to keep your head above water and you need someone to toss you a life raft and pray on your behalf. I’m your girl. I’ve been there, and I’m here to tell you, God is right there in the waters with you too.

12 years of infertility later… thank you, God for these answers to prayer!

I got you flowers

I got you flowers

I got you some flowers today because I know you really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but you did it! Your butler should have brought you breakfast in bed but he didn’t even show up to work. I got you flowers because you had a toddler wake up crying at 3am because they woke up and realized their door was cracked more than they would have preferred. I got you flowers because choosing to love and serve others above yourself all day, every day is hard. I got you flowers because you have to sweep the floors and wipe down the countertops a lot. I got you flowers because it’s a little cloudy today. I got you flowers because cramps hurt. I got you flowers because you struggle to access the patience that God offers and instead you try to do it in your own effort and fail. I got you flowers because it’s hard to teach kids to love, not fight, share, and speak with kind words when it doesn’t come natural to you either. I got you flowers because your eyeliner looks rough man. I got you flowers because your WiFi is slower than molasses. I got you flowers because you survived a week of taking care of sick kids. I got you flowers because there are rattlesnakes in your neighborhood. I got you flowers because you miss your mom, sisters, dad, brothers, friends scattered around the world, your in-laws, brothers and sisters in law, and 15 nieces and nephews. I got you flowers because you took a risk. I got you flowers for the times you remember to stop and sit with your girls, read to them, and hold them close knowing that tomorrow they’ll be another day older. I got you flowers because you made your bed. I got you flowers for keeping the kids alive another day. I got you flowers because you chose to walk by faith and not by sight, even when it was confusing. I got you flowers because you waved at a kid in line at the grocery store, played peek-a-boo, and made him laugh. I got you flowers for sweeping up that scorpion. I got you flowers for not just washing the clothes but for folding them and putting them away too. I got you flowers because your body grew and birthed two babies. I got you flowers because by God’s grace you’re a survivor of infertility. I got you flowers because you’re raising two daughters, a privilege you never thought you’d get to experience. I got you flowers because you stayed married another day (and promise to keep on going). I got you flowers because you apologized and it wasn’t easy. I got you flowers to remind you that love always wins. I got you flowers because you don’t deserve it. I got you flowers because you deserve hell and death and nothing else. You don’t deserve red gerbera daisies in a vase on the kitchen counter, but you’re not you, you’re a new creation by the blood of Jesus! You have Salvation, joy, a purpose worth celebrating even on a cloudy day when the girls are whining and arguing and your body feels weak and tired from the struggles of life in a fallen world. I got you flowers because you’re a daughter of the King and that’s something worth remembering every single day. That’s why I got you (myself) flowers on this cloudy Tuesday.

Diamond watches and German food

Diamond watches and German food

Our first Valentine’s Day married: we were dressed up and in a little German restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s where we were living at the time. Well, we were in Waukesha which wasn’t too far from Milwaukee. We were still getting to know each other even though we had been married for six months by then. We had only dated for about six months and had never even lived in the same town (or state) as each other before we moved in together as Mr. and Mrs. DeAtley. (I guess you now know why my mom audibly screamed when she saw my engagement ring and realized that we were engaged… and it all took place the day after she met Shawn. Yeah, I guess you could say it was fast. But when you know you know.)
We were sitting at the table in the German restaurant where Bob Hope once sat. We didn’t have smart phones so I couldn’t Google who Bob Hope was. And there certainly weren’t QR codes to take our eyes off of each other and onto the scroll of a menu. The menus were paper, and we learned that the schnitzel was delicious. We didn’t know that we’d get to go to Germany a few years down the road and eat “real schnitzel”, and that we would also be eating fish eyeballs in Senegal in the not-too-distant future. We didn’t know a lot of things about what was to come. We didn’t know that we would ache for years for a baby, that there would be so many thousands of shots that we would never once regret. We didn’t know that we would spend months in Guinea before evacuating to Senegal, where we would spend the remainder of our years in Africa as missionaries. We didn’t know that we’d love living in the frozen tundra of Quebec where the language and the radio and the tv channels and some of the items in the grocery store (horse meat) were so foreign to us. We didn’t know that Shawn’s gift that night (a diamond watch) would be a joke every Valentine’s Day from then on, because maybe he shot a little too high, that maybe he raised the bar just a little too high starting out with diamonds that first Valentine’s Day. We didn’t know that the watch, along with my engagement ring, and two gold coins from a grandpa, would stay in a safety deposit box for years because we didn’t want to bring them overseas with us where corruption was just a part of it. We didn’t know that just owning a veggie peeler would set us apart from our Africa neighbors (because some of them, at least in the village, had never seen one before). We didn’t know that night when we dined on fine German food that one day it would be possible to long for two homes at once, to be homesick for both, the here and there, our home in Africa and our home in the United States. We didn’t know how culture shock, and grief, and love, and meeting the most incredible people along the way would shape who we are today, the people we are today, the parents we are today. I’m glad we didn’t know that night at the German restaurant, the good and hard, the sweet and sour that was to come. Because it all makes up the story that is today. We lived that day and the next, and by God’s grace and love, we handled what came. Even looking back now, it’s the miracles and grace and God’s leading in our lives that stand out the most. As I’ve said before, God isn’t just good when the story ends well, when you’re happy and settled, when you finally see two pink lines on the test, or find where home is. He isn’t just good when you have a quiet date night for two, eating German food and wearing a new watch on your wrist. He’s good because He’s God. He’s the author we can trust.

Still wearing that watch
Mid-January ramblings & pics

Mid-January ramblings & pics

I am obsessed with Shilo’s voice. It’s so cute and slightly raspy and she’s trying out all the big words like “decorations” and “Corduroy” and “definitely”, even if she mispronounces them.

She’s talking a lot lately, and both she and Noella are full of constant conversation and observation. “Mom. Hey mom. Remember when we rode on the airplane, and we stayed in a hotel and the elevator had lots of buttons and daddy let me push one?” “Hey mom. Mom. Hey mom, why are there three birds flying above that house and not four birds?” “Hey mom. Daddy drove his truck to work not our car. Because we will be the ones to drive in our car.”
I field so many questions (SO MANY) in a given day, that I’ve started mixing up my responses just to entertain myself. My go-to is “you’re kitten me right meow.” It’s ridiculous and Shawn thinks I’m ridiculous but one day he tried to mock me and he said it in response to something I said to him, but ended it with an actual meeeeeow, and I almost fell right off the couch from laughing so hard.

Noella lives and breathes baby dolls. She takes such good care of them. If it’s cold outside she zips them up in her coat so they can stay warm. She has such a sweet heart. But also, if I have to dress one more plastic baby doll I may pass out.

Someone has to be the first to apologize in your marriage relationship. When we were first married I’d wait for it to be Shawn, growing frustrated that he wouldn’t make a move toward some kind of reconciliation. But of course I wasn’t making a move either. We were both stuck in selfishness. Now I know that someone just has to make that first move and the faster someone says sorry the faster you can mend the hurts that took place. It’s okay to be the first to say you’re sorry.

We decided to have a fancy dinner on Sunday, consisting of grilled waygu steak, scallops, casesar salad, and what I call “rich people carrots” (we managed to find them on clearance, but you know the ones, long and skinny with the long flowy parsley-looking greenery at the top?). It was fun and of course the meal was divine. I set the table with cloth napkins which is when you know we fancy (but not like Applebee’s on a date night).

We flew a kite the other day with the girls and it was so miserably cold and the string got all tangled and I had to chase our horse-dog down the street when he escaped but I guess memories were made??

Sometimes I play referee all day and it is the hardest thing ever. Other times, they play happily after church wearing matching heart dresses and I melt.
Cloth napkins that have moved all over the world with us. (Kristen, remember when you bought these for me at Market Street Cafe?)
Home. The good, the hard, the gratitude, the candles, the kisses, the memories.
Shawn and his butterfly kite: a memoir
Delightful dinner documented
Ear muffs, CO hats, and tongues sticking out
Hoarder status: strong Cute status: STRONG
Trimmed off the long flowy greenery and made a carrot bouquet
Baby Meg zipped up to stay warm.
Horse-dog hugs

There’s no real point to this blog post, other than to stop and remember the big and little things we have to be thankful for, and to note the fun/busy/cute stages our girls are at. Thank you, God, for cooler days, kites, scallops, grocery carts full of stuffed animals, and this family that you crafted just for us.

The gifts of 2021

The gifts of 2021

The highlight of my year can be summed up in what Noella told me yesterday. She said, with complete honesty and sincerity, “Mom, I love you more than cheese.” WOW. Have you ever known a love like that? So beautiful. Also, cheese is heaven and everyone knows that, so to be loved MORE THAN CHEESE? That’s a mic drop on the whole year, honestly.

Our year began with a dusting of sequins throughout the house as two little girls dressed in their princess dresses, complete with tiaras and wands and those death-defying little plastic dress up heels, where you’re just waiting for someone to slip and break and ankle. Seeing Shawn’s “enthusiasm” in trying on their tiaras as a girl dad who grew up with four brothers was pretty epic as well. I gotta say, he can really rock a pink unicorn princess tiara with feathers on it.

Another highlight of our year was the arrival of Shawn’s long-awaited and much-researched wood fired pizza oven. It even came in one of those giant wooden crates that baby elephants come in in the movies, so that was fun. Your circle of friends will grow once word gets out that you have a pizza oven, but we’re not above buying our friendships with food. And be forewarned, the toppings can be somewhat obscure at times, but that’s how we like it. If you’re local and want an invite to our next pizza party, just like the link to this blog post. Leave a comment and we might even serve you dessert. But no promises!

This year we went to the beach with friends and even merged our last names into a new last name. Like when Ben and Jennifer became Beniffer. Something like that. Btw, traveling with little kids is so hard but so worth it! And if you go with friends you get to wake up with that look of solidarity like, “You sleep well? Nope. Me neither. Want some coffee?”

On the way home from that beach trip, we got the hookup from a friend who works with the penguins at Sea World to go behind the “employees only” sign and meet two baby penguins! It was the most magical, fluffy, high pitch squawky, and unforgettable experience. The girls each got a penguin stuffed animal and Noella wanted to hurry out to the car so she could turn the AC on for her penguin. Awwwwwwwwwwww.

Shawn gave me a ginormous bouquet of flowers on the day that would have been the due date for our girl/boy twins. It was such a meaningful gesture. That was a big loss and we circle back to it from time to time. That’s how grief works. As Kacey Musgraves says, “healing doesn’t happen in a straight line.”

It was also the year we lost grandma Joan. But our loss is heaven’s gain, and those aren’t cutsie words, she’s in paradise and we celebrate that. Even though we miss her here. The trip out to Colorado was a big one, a 12-hour drive one way, on a whim when we heard she wasn’t doing well. I’m so glad we went when we did. We knew it was to say goodbye and that made for a tearful but such a meaningful journey home. I cherish those last conversations with her, and that time with uncles, cousins, parents, and siblings. If you love someone, tell them, thank them for who they’ve been in your life. I’m so glad I had those opportunities with my grandma, and I want to carry that into 2022. Speak love, don’t hold back on telling someone they matter to you.

There was more travel this year which felt especially rewarding after a year of lock-up where we couldn’t even go to Dollar General. We went to San Antonio just the two of us, toured the river walk, ate some A+ tex mex, and met some fun 50-somethings who were on a girl’s trip from Phoenix, and we ended up hanging out downtown one evening. It’s so fun meeting strangers. I got to go to my home state of Colorado by my SELF, see my family, enjoy a night away in the Rockies with my sisters and cousin, and meet my new baby niece. Just the airport experience alone is relaxing when you’re alone. No one was begging me for snacks (except me, I was begging me for snacks), and you get to sit alone with your thoughts as the clouds pass you by. We also went to Fredericksburg just the two of us, walked the little German streets and enjoyed the shops, had a good Hefeweizen, and star gazed from the Airbnb hot tub. We alsoooo, finally managed to meet some of our dearest Ohio couple friends in Cancun, Mexico! We ate lots of fresh fish tacos, and swam, and lounged, and laughed, and it was just the best time. Again, traveling with kids is hard but worth it, and on the flip side, travel without kids is heavenly and so much fun. But it takes about 200 years of planning and prep and finding the right person you trust to stay with the kids, and 1-2 novels of instructions for while you’re gone, but again, doable and so worth it. You just have to make it a priority to have time together alone as a couple. Coffee dates or big trips, it’s up to you what you want to do, but just do it!

I was having a hard day one day this year and Shawn was out of town, and low and behold, there was a knock at the door, and he had had a local company deliver a charcuterie board to me! (Which, I should say, Shawn calls them “shitshiterie” boards because he’s Shawn and sarcastic and has a name for everything – like Hobby Lobby is “Hobster Slobster”) It’s a lost cause to apologize on behalf of Shawn, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. (Also, I’m so grateful for a thoughtful man in my life. Shawn is the thoughtful man, btw. In case you were confused.)

We moved this year! We weren’t looking to move, good grief, we’ve done enough of that to cover a few lifetimes. But this beautiful house came on the market, and we put in an offer sight unseen while we were on vacation, from our balcony at the beach… oh, and this house is in the same neighborhood where we lived before. We have some more land and we’re in a cul-de-sac, and the arched doors were love at first sight. We’re so so thankful for this gift we didn’t expect. We also gained some awesome neighbors on this street. We logged a lot of hours in the driveway this summer with Mr Fred and Miss Sandy and the girls on their bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk.

We joined a community pool this summer and that filled many of our days with fun. And sunscreen. And floaties. And lime La Croix. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Texas gets hot in the summer.

Shawn hit some personal goals at work this year and looked good in a tie at the same time.

Some family came from Ohio for a visit (Shawn’s oldest brother and his family) this summer and we had the best time out on a boat, and hiking at the state park, and enjoying a double date for the adults at our fave place in town.

We read 34,550 ish books to the girls this year. I love that they love to read and play pretend. It’s a beautiful part of childhood. My favorite is when Shilo will sit and “read” out loud to herself, making up the story as she goes along.

I had a big birthday bash this year on our new outdoor patio! Friends, live music, candles, karaoke, food by Shawn, make your own bouquets-to-go… and my dad and sister surprised me and came all the way from Colorado! The phone call saying they’ll be here in an hour was a super, super special part of my year.

I got a new tattoo. Shawn nailed his home roasted coffee. We went to Ruidoso, New Mexico with my sister and her family and stayed in a cabin with a VIEW. The girls played in their sand box. They wore a lot of fun shaped sunglasses and had a lot of dance parties. There was love, learning, and living and we are so grateful for the gifts of this year.

Wishing you a 2022 cholk (chalk?) full of joy and happy memories.

Love story tattoo

Love story tattoo

(Just because I have a love story tattoo and then wrote a blog post about it does not mean we’re perfect or are even close to having it all figured out. Just two nights ago we got into a fight (over nothing) and he spent the evening on the patio smoking a cigar and I spent the evening enraged-cleaning the toy room and we didn’t talk until finally someone said those words that are simple but so incredibly hard to say, “I’m sorry.” You should know that marriage is a lifetime of that: being rude, selfish, and then finding the words to say you’re sorry, and beginning again. And that’s what we’re working on. It’s hard sometimes because we’re all jerks by nature and it’s hard to choose another person over ourselves, every day, forever. But with God’s grace, it’s possible! You can know we’re fine now because Shawn has since chased me around the house with the shock collar and tried to buzz me and I screamed. Flirtatious little school boy. That’s when you know it’s good.)

Okay, here’s the background on the tattoo on my arm:

That little airplane at the top is the 5-seater Cesna that we flew in over the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, South America (where we met) on our way to a tribe in the Amazon jungle. Our whole team flew over, five at a time, and Shawn (21, from Ohio), and myself (16, from Colorado) ended up on the same trip into the tribe. I was petrified to fly on such a small plane, but it ended up being a thrill. Takeoff felt like we were speeding along in a go-cart, until we were suddenly higher, so high we could almost swoop down and touch the snow that frosted the grand peaks of the Andes. That view left me speechless. The mark of a Creator was evident there. There’s no way those things just happen, just form themselves at will. There’s no way we would “just so happen” to meet on a trip like that, meet primitive Indians and buy their bows and arrows, share those life experiences, and eventually marry and continue the adventure. It was God who brought us together, an answer to a young Jenn’s prayer for a someday-husband, and an answer to Shawn’s prayer for a someday-wife.

The 1/3 and the envelope both symbolize the three-page love letter that landed in my mailbox years after we met in Bolivia. It also happened to arrive on Valentine’s Day… a detail Shawn never considered but God had a hand in. The letter was gutsy and asked if a guy like him ever had a chance with a girl like me. I sure am glad he took that risk and sent me that letter.

The rose is from the day Shawn proposed, only I didn’t know he was going to propose. I didn’t know when he gave me a ride from where I was living in Wisconsin to my home in Colorado that he had sold his shotgun and had a diamond ring in his pocket the whole time. We had only been “calling each other” for three months, we didn’t even live in the same state. But nevertheless, he didn’t waste any time. (Thank goodness.) I’d later learn that’s the Shawn DeAtley way: go big or go home. So it wasn’t until later in the day after he proposed at Glenmere Park (my favorite park in my hometown) that the dozen roses he had given me earlier that morning were roses of significance. He and his older brother had made a pact to never give a girl a dozen roses until the day they were going to propose. Lucky me, the first to get a dozen roses from Shawn.

The love letter also represents the Bible, the greatest love letter ever written. If you’re not sure, stop listening to those around you/the culture/podcasts/even the pastor, push your preconceived notions aside, and read it for yourself. We deserved death and hell, and Jesus provided a way. There’s no greater love story than that!!

Here’s a blog post on my first tattoo: hope on my arm.

Love bridging two worlds

Love bridging two worlds

I walk around and I’m really two people (or maybe more…). I’m then and I’m now. There are so many different experiences that make up who I am today, who I am now. But how do I live in the today when the yesterday is so vivid and real to me, but maybe not relevant to the situation at hand? A simple balloon popping makes me jump, fireworks send my heart racing, and generally those around me don’t think much about it. It sends me right back to where I was hiding in our little tiled bathroom (where we didn’t even have a flushing toilet) in Conakry when military drove up and down the street, shooting into the air and herding people like cattle. There was a mass shooting at a stadium just down the street from our apartment, and the capital was in absolute chaos. We would soon have to evacuate the country and head to another West African country, leaving behind friends, our church, our African host family, and many of our possessions, along with our hopes and dreams to set up and live there long-term as missionaries in a nearby village. Day in and day out, I feel torn between the culture we live in now, the culture we were born into, and the Guinean and Senegalese cultures that became our host cultures for many years. It can leave me feeling isolated and lonely to feel like I don’t fully fit in either culture.
I also feel at times like a stranger living this life as a mom but also unable (and unwilling) to forget the many years of negative pregnancy tests, negative blood tests, and failed fertility treatments we experienced. I’m a mom who didn’t think she’d ever be here, but can also relate to the struggle before me and my mom friends as we try and grasp the magnitude of the responsibility of raising these little souls.
I can relate to the frustration of your local store not having your grocery store pickup item, but we also lived with friends (who are still there) in landmine territory. How do I relate to the here and now while all along I can’t escape the realities of where we lived and what it was like? I can relate to a bruised and swollen belly as you go through your 3rd or 4th fertility treatment, but I also relate to the overwhelming day in and out of teaching, training, correcting, responding to, changing, buckling, tucking, and feeding kids!
I don’t really know how to live in between so many worlds at once. I guess all I can do is continue to be grateful for the lessons learned through those experiences and take hold of the lessons I’m learning now as I look back on what was, on what made me who I am today. In these lessons I never want to stop looking and listening to others in their here and now. What have they gone through? What are they going through? What are they trying to say? How can I relate in some way? Do I pull from the experience of this season I’m in or the season I’ve just come out of? And it all makes me wonder, what was God’s plan in allowing me to go through that season, meet that person, survive that thing, or see God in that way? And if I can’t relate, how can I love and respect them and listen to them in their “was” or “is” life situation?
The beauty is that the pain of isolation, the heartache of grief, fear, PTSD, and struggles can translate across cultural boundaries and even across various seasons of our lives if we let God’s voice be what guides us as we interact with others. Let His grace and compassion be what ties our hearts to the couple struggling to get pregnant, let our grace and generosity be evident as we interact with those living in poverty. I don’t want these experiences to make me feel isolated, even though that can happen when two worlds collide. I want, instead, for love to be the central theme between the various worlds and lives that make me who I am. I want love to be the bridge.

God at work, even then

God at work, even then

We moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming fresh from our years of living and working in the very colorful and social culture of West Africa. It was a culture where it was considered rude to just pass by someone you knew and casually toss out a hey/smile/nod/how’s it going. You stopped, shook hands, you would always shake hands, ask how they were, how their morning was. You wouldn’t stop there, you’d ask about their family, children, how their job was going, you’d ask about their home, their rice meal, and even how the grandparents, and garden were. “Not too many weeds?” “How was your rice last night?” “Did it sit well with you?” “And grandma? How’s she?” You never really ever stepped out of the house without a handful of conversations or social greetings and interactions. There’s not much privacy in a culture like that. Even I, a social butterfly of sorts, felt overwhelmed by it. Sometimes I just wanted to walk to the boutique down the road and buy matches and eggs without a million conversations. But then fast forward to living in America again and it was like, “WHERE THE HECK IS EVERYONE?” We went from feeling like we lived in a fish bowl where everyone knew everything about our lives, comings and goings (especially in the village), observed how we lived, ate, talked, and what we did, to pulling down our street, opening the garage door, and going inside without seeing a soul. It was lonely. It was too far the other direction. I hated not seeing a familiar face who at least knew my name, and I theirs. So what did we do? We started praying for community wherever God would lead us next. We knew Cheyenne wouldn’t be where we’d be for long because, well, we’re nomads, but also because we knew Shawn would soon promote and when presented with that option, we’d accept wherever that position was. When they said, “How about San Angelo, Texas?” We said, “Sure! WHERE IS IT.” And here we are, four years later, with friends enough to come celebrate at a karaoke birthday party, watch your 2 year old at a moment’s notice because your baby is fighting for her life with RSV in the hospital, and friends that know they’re on call for the day a rattle snake appears in your yard and your husband is at work. Here we are with friends and neighbors who help you fix your garage door when your husband is out of town, friends who watch your kids when your flight is delayed and you have no babysitter lined up for that afternoon, friends who check in, friends who ask how your daughter’s class trip to the pumpkin patch went, and friends (framily) who go to the beach with us.
If we hadn’t known loneliness in Cheyenne, would we have even prayed for community at all? If we hadn’t experienced loneliness, would we even look around at these friends and neighbors and see that God picked them as a gift for us? If we hadn’t known the heartache of infertility, would we have ever known the goodness of God in the story he brought our way, even if His timing wasn’t our own? If we hadn’t known infertility, would we be able to relate to and have compassion on those who are suffering in silence? If we hadn’t ever experienced grief, would we have ever been able to fully experience the comfort of God, His embrace that surrounds us in a supernatural way?
Don’t forget that God’s at work even when things don’t look like you think they should! If you’re feeling rejected, discouraged, lonely, lost, grieving – God is still at work, even then. But I also want to remind you to not forget to turn around and see how far God’s brought you. If, dare I say WHEN the situation is better, when it’s what you’ve prayed for, I hope you see that it was GOD who saw you through, answered your prayers, provided a way. He always provides a way. It just might be a path you didn’t foresee, His leading might take you right next to the edge of a cliff, or up a rocky, slippery slope. But He’s working, He’s leading. It’s what He does. Ask for eyes to see it and you might be pleasantly surprised.