It's not that simple

There's something we need to talk about, and it's not going to be easy. It's a topic rarely discussed, probably because it comes with a lot of really hard emotions and, honestly, a degree of shame. But this is something I've been wrestling with and I know I'm not alone. I hope you'll read my heart in this.

Y'all, this subsequent pregnancy after a loss thing? It's hard. It's a type of hard impossible to understand completely without living it. I hope that by making the incredibly difficult decision to share something so vulnerable, I can help you understand why I seem a bit detached from the congratulatory hugs. That it might make some sense as to why I've not purchased a single baby item yet. That it might explain why I'm in a daze most of the time.

I have spent every single day since that positive pregnancy test in an internal battle with a fear so deep, I can feel it in my bones. I live with that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach (and no, I don't mean morning sickness). I don't sleep too well these days. Worst of all? I have actually felt faith shamed for my fear, to the point where admitting what I'm dealing with has been really dang difficult. After all, I should just trust God. Just choose faith over fear. Just relax. Just. Just. Just.

It's not that simple.

I trusted God and praised Him with my first pregnancy. I had full faith that we'd be welcoming our first child on Nov. 19, 2017. My heart and world shattered that March day on the ultrasound table and I have never been the same. A part of our family is missing. That's no small thing. I have so many questions about why, but I also know that I have to accept that no answer would be good enough or simple enough for my human mind and heart to comprehend.

From the moment we found out that we're expecting a second time, my anxiety has been through the roof. It's a constant thought that if we lost one, we could lose another. You guys, I'm flat out exhausted.

Were you aware that research shows that 40 percent of women who suffer a miscarriage have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder three months after the loss? This stuff is no joke.

A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't cure the pain. A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't replace the child(ren) lost. A subsequent healthy pregnancy doesn't erase the past.

Every day, I give thanks for this new life growing. And every day I beg God to protect that life. To allow that life to grow and to flourish. To allow me the honor of earthly motherhood. I pray that the Lord would calm my heart and mind. I pray for bigger faith. I pray for the ability to let go of fear. I pray. And I pray. And I pray.

He has been faithful to send empathetic ears and the right words at the right times. And empathy is exactly what I've needed. My mom has it mastered. My closest friends have it mastered.

I'll never forget the day when a friend said this to me: "It's okay to be nervous. I'm praying for peace for you, but also not guilt if you feel nervous too."

Oh, sweet grace. The heavy weight of shame over my fears was suddenly a little bit lighter.

So what's my point here? It's simply to offer a glimpse at the emotions associated with loss and life. It's to ask that when you encounter a momma in a subsequent pregnancy, that you offer her empathy and grace. That rather than questioning her faith or telling her she "just needs to trust God," you pray fervently for her aching and anxious heart, and for her growing child. Trust me, she wants to feel joy. She doesn't want to be living this way. She wants to feel calm. She wants to enjoy everything about this pregnancy. She really, really does.

It's just not that simple.

The best birthday yet

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
___________

It was a chilly morning. I rolled out of bed somewhere around 5:15 am, stumbled through the dark and managed to find my gym clothes. By 6:05, I was at the local YMCA questioning my life decisions while a buff little fitness guru kicked my rear into smithereens. I'll admit it was miserable, but I was 34 now and this was hopefully my last round of high-intensity interval training for quite some time.

The nerves that morning were indescribable and continued in the days ahead. The birthday texts and Facebook posts flooded in as we drove the hour to Indianapolis. I knocked back my water, ate my Valium tablet and waited. And waited. And begged the nurse to let me go tinkle. Twice.

Speaking of Valium, why do they make you take that before you sign the consent forms? Nothing like signing your life away when you're high as a kite, am I right?

Finally, in came the doctor. "Are you ready?" she asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be," I said.

Into the procedure room we went. Up first: A stop at the embryology window. Name. Date of birth. Number of embryos. 

One. One little embryo. Our future as parents hinged on a microscopic group of cells we were already madly in love with. If I didn't know for certain that there's a God who holds my future, I'm not sure I would have had the guts to try this again after the nightmare of the first round of IVF. But I believed God had led us down this path after years and years of praying and asking Him to either grant us a natural miracle or show us what to do. He knows the desires of my heart. After all, He put them there. I believed that one way or another, He would fulfill this dream, whether via this embryo transfer or another journey He hadn't yet revealed. And so we proceeded, not knowing the plans He had for us, but knowing that He did have plans.

The embryo thawed perfectly and transfer was flawless.

Hurdle #1: Cleared.

The 10 days between transfer and beta #1 were painful. When my phone rang and the clinic number came up on caller ID, I felt like I couldn't breathe. Sweet nurse Janet on the other end of the line could hardly contain herself: 338! 

I'll be brutally honest here: I had to stop myself from blurting out a curse word in her ear. My first beta with my first pregnancy was only in the 70s. This 338 was huge! 

Hurdle #2: Cleared.

My second beta followed 48 hours later. The numbers needed to have doubled at that point. Well, at 892, they had done more than that. Praise God!

Hurdle #3: Cleared.

The fourth hurdle brought the most anxiety of all. The first ultrasound is the time when we found out that our first pregnancy wasn't viable and that I would miscarry. I went into the ultrasound this time around feeling as fearful as I can ever remember. Immediately, the doctor shouted, "HEARTBEAT!" I, of course, cried. Jake sat behind me in silence staring at the monitor. There was a baby in there! 

Hurdle #4: Cleared.

The first trimester has not been a walk in the park. Anxiety is a beast born of Satan. As any subsequent pregnancy momma will tell you, there's a fear that lives inside of you that reminds you of the past and makes you wonder if this one will slip through your fingers too (a topic for a different post). I've had to wrestle with a minor complication early on that did nothing to calm my fears. And, like most pregnant women, I have been walking around sporting a lovely shade of green and trying not to ralph everywhere. But, it's like I told a friend: I'm super happy to be feeling crappy! 

The pitter patter of tiny feet is on its way to our home. Now at 12 weeks, baby will be joining us sometime around late June.

It's hard to express just how faithful God has been throughout this entire journey. He was with me when we suffered our greatest loss back in April and He is with me now as we pray expectantly for the safe arrival of the most precious and miraculous gift we could have ever hoped for. 

It matters

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as
faithful stewards of God's grace in various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10

____________


It was a Friday. The family had gathered and we knew that the time Pops, my maternal grandfather, had left with us was short. Jesus would come for him soon. As the daylight faded to evening in that three-bedroom ranch house, Mamaw sat at his bedside, her hand in his. Quiet conversations among loved ones and the whir of the oxygen machine filled the air.

Hospice had already checked in for the day. Over the course of several days, loved ones who also call professional nursing their chosen vocation, had been rotating shifts, volunteering their time, hearts, talents and expertise to care for him. Their respectful and kind words and actions would prove comforting for the family at such a tender time.

[Serve others. It matters.]

Somewhere in the midst of the evening's confusing mix of both chaos and deafening silence, Mamaw's sisters hopped in the car and headed up the highway. They returned an hour later to fill the kitchen with groceries and make a pot of chili. Mamaw's brother had come earlier in the day with homemade cookies, and my paternal grandma came to drop off fresh baked goods and groceries of her own.

It might sound silly, but there's a certain level of comfort in a ham, cheese and potato chip sandwich with mustard on fresh Sunbeam, a bowl of chili and a warm brownie.

The next day's comfort was a pot of veggie soup. In the days to come it would be a casserole from a lifelong friend, groceries from a neighbor, a pulled pork and macaroni and cheese meal from Mom's fellow church member, and homemade desserts from my parents' friends. Not having to think about meals or eat another supper from a sack was priceless.

[Take the meal. It matters.]

Pops met Jesus in person in the early morning hours of a peaceful Sunday. I know every family member processed it differently, but for me it was an odd feeling of release knowing he was healed, coupled with grief over losing him and my thoughts of "What now?"

The days ahead felt surreal to me. The family had come together well to care for Pops in his final earthly moments and now we'd spend the week making arrangements to honor his life. My cousin, also Pops' granddaughter, works in the funeral industry and has experience guiding grieving families through the process of celebrating life. In her own grief, she led the family well. Each family member took on a role that week and the resulting service was a beautiful tribute to a life well lived.

[Love your family well. It matters.]

Pastor had visited with Pops just a week before his passing. With family gathered around from as far away as Arkansas, we spent the day sharing stories and enjoying what we all secretly knew but didn't want to accept was probably Pops' last good day.

He'd wanted to be in church so badly that day, but the pain had stolen that from him. He requested that the rest of us go and that the church hold hands while singing "Blest be the Tie that Binds." Sing they did. There wasn't a dry eye in the House of the Lord that day. I know I saw a tear in Pops' eye too as he watched the video.

Since it wasn't meant to be for Pops to see church that day, Pastor came down to the house to visit and pray with the family. His prayers, the prayers from the people of the congregation, and the prayers from loved ones were heard. God's grace would abound in the precious moments, the hard days and the grief. And it abounds still today.

[Sing the song. Pray the prayers. It matters.]

Overcast skies gave way to bright sunshine that crisp morning. Dressed in our best, we headed to that beautiful country church Pops and a few generations of my family have called home. A driver from the florist arrived carrying the most breathtaking bouquet. It was from my husband's mom, his siblings and our nieces and nephews.

Friends and family came to call, to say they cared and to pay their respects to a man who had impacted countless lives. Among the callers? My father-in-law and his beloved who drove an hour and a half to be there and who stayed for the entire service.

Loved ones sent cards with heartfelt notes. Many made donations to worthy causes in memory of Pops and his legacy. One friend sent a pot of zinnias knowing I'd mentioned them being his favorite flower, another sent a Grandfather Willow Tree figurine and yet another a bag of chocolates.

[Mail the card. Make the donation. Attend the service. Send the flowers. Give the gift. 

Honor the memory and acknowledge the grief however you can. It matters.]

In the last several weeks, I have learned so much from the kindness and compassion of others. Pops was a man who gave freely to those in need (but always so quietly and humbly), and every person who served him and our family in the last several weeks in any form or fashion has honored him in such a fitting way. You've also taught me so many lessons about how I can serve and acknowledge others in their times of need and grief.

So thank you. I sincerely mean it when I say it matters.


***
Please note that there are many, many people who served our family well over the last several weeks and this blog is nowhere near all-encompassing. The town I call home these days is 1.5 hours from my family, so there were too many days when I wasn't able to be there and didn't get to see all of the people who were pouring out kindness on my family. I also can't possibly list every individual floral arrangement, donation, prayer, or service attendee. But every one of you was noticed and every one of you has made a difference.

Please know that my heart's gratitude is for all of you. 
*** 

In a thousand lifetimes, yes

"Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate." Mark 10:9

_____________________


They say it's bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony on their wedding day. Well, I don't know who "they" are and I've never believed that luck had much to do
with marriage anyway.

I'll never forget the moment you walked into that empty church sanctuary for our first look. You were so handsome in your perfectly pressed tuxedo. For a moment, you and I were the only two people in the world and I'm certain time stood still.

In that silent sanctuary, your presence said more to me than words ever could. The past no longer mattered and you were there because you chose me, scars and all. I remember the butterflies in my stomach like it was yesterday. I remember feeling my face get hot and the lump forming in my throat. I remember the tears of joy starting to fall. I knew I was safe with you.

It's hard to believe that was seven years ago.

What a seven years it's been. We've seen so many things in that time. We're not the same people we were that day. We've grown up. We've gained a little wisdom. We've built a life. Triumphs and tragedies have changed us. Our hair is a little more grey. Our wrinkles are a bit deeper.

You still have buff arms and those charming little dimples. I still have a booty that rivals a Kardashian. Some things never change.

The years haven't all been easy. I know you remember year five. It was a test, but I'm proud that we gutted it out. Here we are at seven, stronger than ever.

We've seen some amazing places. Remember Tulum? That was one of my favorites. Or how about Punta Cana? Those beaches! The Christmastime boat parade in the marina at Key West was definitely a highlight. Oh, and I can't possibly leave out the hike to that mountain restaurant in Costa Rica where we saw Babe the Pig's severed head sitting on a garage table while they butchered the rest of him. I definitely ordered the chicken that day.

We've roadtripped a lot just to eat some fantastic meals. Those Indiana Beach tacos will probably always top my list. Giordano's and Weber Grill aren't far behind, though.

We've seen two nieces and two nephews enter this world. Could you have imagined that such tiny little people could capture our hearts like that? I know I had no idea.

We've been through some stuff too. You've had to wash my hair in a bucket and help me to the bathroom after a double knee surgery. We've cried together from thousands of miles apart when you lost your hero and I was on another continent. You've had to hold me while I sobbed so hard I thought I'd never catch my breath after the doctor told us we wouldn't be meeting our baby on this Earth.

It's been a winding road.

But in a thousand lifetimes, I'd still say yes to the handsome man holding that gorgeous ring tied to that single white rose. In a thousand lifetimes, I'd stand in that empty sanctuary with you. In a thousand lifetimes, I'd walk down that aisle and take your hand. In a thousand lifetimes, I'd walk this winding road by your side.

God knew what He was doing when He brought us together and He knows what He's doing now in our hearts and in our marriage -- on the mountains and in the valleys.

Thanks for choosing me. I choose you too. Then, now and forever.





You win this round, Amazon

I suffer from a strange phenomenon known as FOMO (fear of missing out). I hear it's fairly common, so maybe you suffer from it too.

My latest flare-up happened two days ago when all of the people on Planet Earth started ordering Instant Pot pressure cookers on Amazon Prime Day. If everyone else needed one, then surely I'd be needing one too. And besides, at just $89 for the 8-quart model, it was a bargain. Look at all of the money I saved by buying it!

If you know me in real life, you know the irony of this purchase and are probably laughing hysterically by now. If you don't know me in real life, then I should probably tell you something about myself before we go any further:

I don't cook. Ever. In our house, my better half is the resident chef so that I can go to the gym after work. I mean, I have some pretty good baking skills, but I haven't even used those or my poor Kitchen Aid stand mixer since probably Christmas. If my husband isn't cooking our dinner, a restaurant is. That's about the only perk of city(ish) living.

I digress, but as you can see, I clearly needed another kitchen gadget.

Looking on the bright side, I don't much care for boil-in-bag rice and the Instant Pot has a rice button.

All of Jenn's friends are getting an Instant Pot. ✔

The Instant Pot has a rice button. ✔

Jenn buys an Instant Pot. ✔

My logic abilities are sometimes astounding -- and not necessarily in a good way. But, wait. They actually managed to get worse here.

As wisdom would have it, I decided it would be best to have the Instant Pot shipped to the Amazon store on the campus where I work so that I could hike over to pick it up and hike back carrying it, then hike it to my car at the end of the day -- rather than allowing Amazon to conveniently deliver it to my house.

Were you aware that the Instant Pot comes in an awkwardly sized cubic package that weighs exactly 22 lbs.?

Guess it's a good thing I gave up cooking to spend my evenings at the gym.

You win this round, Amazon.

Just 22 lbs. of awkward hiking cargo.

Humor me here, friends: What kinds of deals and steals did you rock on Prime Day?

Fight Song Friday: Hard Love - NEEDTOBREATHE

Music is my go-to for all sorts of emotions (and probably yours too) -- when I need a pick-me-up, when I want to celebrate, when I need motivation, when I'm lacking inspiration. I can't sing worth a lick, so I try to make sure I only belt out songs at the top of my lungs when I'm alone and the risk of damaging others' hearing is fairly low. This song, Hard Love by NEEDTOBREATHE, is one I've been rocking out to lately when I just need something to remind me that the fire is refining me and I won't be consumed.

NEEDTOBREATHE's Josh Lovelace had this to say about the meaning in these lyrics:

"It's a fight song for the long journey between trials and redemption. It's about appreciating the wisdom and maturity that comes from hardship. Sometimes our ideas for what we think we need and what God knows we really need don't line up. We've been through situations we didn't think we'd make it out of, and this song is an encouraging message about what's ahead for us."

YES.

So give it a listen. Maybe it'll pump you up and be your Friday Fight Song today too.

Trading punches with the heart of darkness
Going to blows with your fear incarnate
Never gone until it's stripped away
A part of you has gotta die today
In the morning you gon' need an answer
Ain't nobody gonna change the standard
It's not enough to just feel the flame
You've gotta burn your old self away
Hold on tight a little longer
What don't kill ya, makes ya stronger
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
You can't change without a fallout
It's gon' hurt, but don't you slow down
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
You know the situation can't be right
And all you ever do is fight
But there's a reason that the road is long
It takes some time to make your courage strong
Hold on tight a little longer
What don't kill ya, makes ya stronger
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
You can't change without a fallout
It's gon' hurt, but don't you slow down
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
When the wolves come and hunt me down
I will face them all and stand my ground
'Cause there's a fire burnin' in me
They will see my strength in this love I found
Oh
Hold on tight a little longer
What don't kill ya, makes ya stronger
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
You can't change without a fallout
It's gon' hurt, but don't you slow down
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
It's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love
Oh, it's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love
Oh, it's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love, it's a hard love
Hold on tight a little longer
What don't kill ya, makes ya stronger
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
You can't change without a fallout
It's gon' hurt, but don't you slow down
Get back up, 'cause it's a hard love
'Cause it's a hard love

Songwriters: Nathaniel Rinehart / William Rinehart
Hard Love lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing


I'm afraid.

I'm afraid.

At times the fear paralyzes my heart. I feel my chest tightening and that knot in my stomach forms.
Flashbacks flood in so vividly that I can almost feel the physical pain all over again. My mind races and takes me to a dark place of faithlessness. A place where I forget to trust my unknown future to an all-knowing God. A place so deep in the caverns that I can no longer see the light.

"What if this round of treatments doesn't work?"

"What if we lose another baby?"


"What if I have to make that hysterical phone call to Mom all over again?"

"What if I can't bear the grief a second time?"

My heart is racing, my stomach feels sick and tears are forming just typing those questions. It's a heavy burden. I can't let myself dwell in the darkness of fear for long because, if I do, I'll never have the courage to walk back through the doors of that fertility clinic.

Honestly, I don't have the courage on my own anyway. The closer we get to resuming treatments, the harder fear pounds on the door of my heart and mind.

I know I'm not the only person struggling with fear. It's not limited to my situation. The unknown health issues, that scary diagnosis, the uncertainties of the future, that first ultrasound after treatments, that next deployment, the ailing parents, that singleness is forever, the financial burdens, that the depression will never subside, that the abuser will come back -- the list could go on forever.

Friend, I want to share with you some truth and encouragement that has been a sweet salve for my soul as I've been wrestling with this unrelenting anxiety. God doesn't want us to live in fear. How do I know? Because He says so.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord our God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

God doesn't say, "I'm with you sometimes," or "I'm with you when you're on good behavior." No. He says, "...for I am with you ..." "...wherever you go." Wherever you go. 

He is with us in that fertility clinic.

He is with us in that oncologist's office.

He is with us now and in the future.

He is with us during that ultrasound.

He is with us on the front lines of battle.

He is with us as we care for sick loved ones.

He is with us in the season of singleness.

He is with us when the financial burden is debilitating.

He is with us in the depths of our darkest depression.

He is with us when we break free.

He is with us.

When the fear grips my throat and threatens to steal my breath, my joy, my hope, I have to decide to fight back. To pray. To give my fears to God. As of now, that hasn't been a one-time release for me. Maybe it will be for you. For me, I have to decide every single moment to be intentional about giving my fears to Him -- especially in this particular season of life.

Right now, friend, can you and I decide to fight back? Together, can we pray and seek His face? Can we give our fears to Him? Can we moment-by-moment focus on truth? Can we spend more time reflecting on who He is and how He cares for us?

Yes. We can and we must, lest we allow the darkness of fear to gobble us up. Cling to Him, cling to hope, cling to joy in all circumstances. Trust Him to lead us, comfort us, and make beauty from our ashes.


"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6

We killed the buggy in paradise

We killed a car in Florida. My aunt, uncle and grandma's shared Florida car, that is. Nothing like having to get a hold of your uncle and say, "Thanks for letting us use your car and condo! By the way, you're going to need a tow truck." 


Apparently the drive from Fort Myers to Key West and back was just a little too much for the throttle positioning sensor on the buggy (as it is affectionately known) and it went kaput. If you're not familiar with that particular sensor, when it goes bad, the ABS and traction control flip out and there's zero throttle. It goes into limp mode.

Here's the beautiful and God part of this story: We had zero car problems on the entire road trip. We made it back to the condo safe and sound, went inside for a few hours to rest, then came back out to go to dinner. Dead ride. Yes, the very next time we started the car after returning from a 600-mile road trip, it wouldn't run. Did I mention that a large chunk of that road trip was along a highway called Alligator Alley through the Everglades? Have you ever been to the Everglades? Cool as heck, but there aren't too many places to stop along the way.

Thank the Good Lord in Heaven that sensor held on until Fort Myers!

Fast forward a day and lightning hit the airplane we were supposed to take home, grounding the aircraft and delaying us by 3.5 hours.

Moral of this story: Don't let us near any vehicles you want to work.

But in all seriousness, we had such an amazing trip and wonderful time of much-needed rest! Plus, we were able to check off a bucket-list item of driving the keys. I'll let some photos do the talking. After the photos are some reviews of places we stayed and restaurants where we ate.

To get to the Keys from Fort Myers, you have to drive through the Everglades along Alligator Alley. There are a few lookout points and rest stops with neat views!
A recreation stop in the Everglades where you can put your boat in the water.
Robbie's on Islamorada is a kitschy little tourist trap where you can pay to feed these giant fish (aka Tarpon). They leap out of the water and take the bait from your hand and, yes, they have teeth. This was a fun little stop along the way.



There are 42 bridges between the tip of mainland Florida and Key West. This is the famed 7-mile bridge.

The original Seven-Mile Bridge was railroad. It has now been turned into pedestrian bridges on both ends.

View from the southern end of the Seven-Mile Bridge.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

I don't actually know what exactly this is, but you can see it from the Southernmost Point on Key West.
After a nice bike ride to the Southernmost Point.


Sunset on Long Key. It was the most glorious sunset of all time.

Reviews

Cantina Laredo
Fort Myers

Cantina Laredo is a chain, but one we don't have in Indiana. It's one of our favorites in South Fort Myers and we hit it every time we're there. It's a higher-end Tex-Mex restaurant so the prices are about $15-$20 a plate. The warm salsa is my favorite, but beware: It's spicy!

Sun Harvest Citrus
Fort Myers

This is a favorite stop for us in Fort Myers as well. They make their own fresh fruit juices in-house and if you go during the day, there's an observation window where you can watch them make juice. They also have tasty ice cream. My personal favorite is the orange/vanilla twist, while my husband goes for the key lime/chocolate swirl.

Sunburst Cafe
Naples

This was our first stop at Sunburst Cafe and I hope it wasn't our last! This small, family-owned restaurant is a gem with an impressive and delicious coffee menu and fantastic breakfast. The prices are extremely reasonable. Definitely worth a stop!

Sunset Pier
Key West

Sunset Pier is a happening little outdoor restaurant next to the cruise ship port and, as the name suggests, is a great place to catch the sunset. They have live music in the evenings and a tasty Cuban sandwich. The prices here (much like all of Key West) are insanely high and if you go too early, you will bake in the sun.

Key Lime Pie Co.
Key West

Delicious key lime pie and if you go earlier in the day, they have an observation window where you can watch them make pie.

Old Town Bakery
Key West

This is a must do! Old Town Bakery has the most delicious baked goods. My personal favorite is the peach cobbler danish, but the croissants are amazing too. The bakery is tiny, so there's no indoor seating, but don't let that stop you. Stop in, grab a cup of coffee and a pastry, and find a spot outside to enjoy!

The Florida Boy
Long Key

The Florida Boy is a brand new restaurant and is one of the only options on Long Key. That's okay, though, because the food is delicious! We had both lunch and dinner here. The fish tacos and the chicken wings and fries got our stamp of approval, as did the pizza we ordered for dinner. This restaurant has a menu that ranges from casual bar fare to higher-end dinner entrees.

Fairfield Inn and Suites
Key West

Our preference in Key West is the Island City House near Old Town, but because we planned our trip so last-minute, the Fairfield Inn on Roosevelt was a more affordable option. The Fairfield is comfortable and clean and has an excellent tiki bar/restaurant and resort-style pool. The location is pretty far from Mallory Square (close to 3 miles) and many of the other happening spots on the island. Fortunately, there's a bike rental shop on-site where you can rent a nice cruising bicycle for $15 for 24 hours. A taxi to Mallory Square runs about $15 each way. Hotel staff are friendly and attentive and this is a great place to stay if you don't mind biking or driving around the island.

Lime Tree Bay Resort
Long Key

The location of this resort is pretty fantastic. The water in the bay is calm and you can see to the bottom. Guests can check out paddle boards and kayaks for free and the resort is right next to The Florida Boy restaurant. The sunsets here are phenomenal and breathtaking. Unfortunately, the rooms are very small and have a slight musty smell to them. Long Key doesn't offer much to do other than the ocean, which is great if that's what you're after. If you prefer to be more active on vacation, it would be easy to get bored pretty quickly here. Also, the pool at this resort was hot -- as in, hotter than a bath. At 90+ degrees, the air temperature was cooler than the pool water, which was at least 100ยบ. Not awesome. The resort does offer lots of hammocks, a giant chess game and a nice pier to walk out to swim. It was a good place to stay for a night, but we agreed we wouldn't plan an entire vacation here.

***

Thank You

Huge heartfelt thanks are in order for all of the people who made this vacation possible for us. Fertility treatments have a way of straining the budget, so the generosity and kindness of family members made this trip a reality.

Aunt L., Uncle D., and Grandma - Thank you for letting us use the car, the condo and offering us the house so that we didn't have to rent a car or pay for lodging in Fort Myers.

Mom B. - Thank you for watching the fur kids so that we didn't have to pay to board them and for giving us the peace of mind of knowing they were in good hands.

Mom S. and Brother M. - Thank you for the airport rides so that we didn't have to pay for parking.

Y'all are amazing and awesome and we love and appreciate you so much!

P.S. Thanks also to Southwest Airlines for the free flights (their credit card is awesome if you have the self control to use it and immediately pay it off) and the $100 travel vouchers per person for the Saturday night flight delay!

Prayer's Precious Power

This post originally ran as a guest blog on I am Fruitful.

We navigated it largely in silence, like a dark shameful secret we were trying to hide in a closet hoping no one would open the door. We fielded the innocent questions of the well-intentioned who wondered why our home was void of little feet at the exact same time that we were enduring endless appointments, tests, hormone injections and procedures.


“It’s so personal,” we rationalized. After all, it’s not like infertility and the gory details of fertility treatments are common dinner party conversations.

It was in the pain of miscarriage that I realized we had needed the support and prayers of our family and friends all along. We were exhausted, then came the grief and in the midst of it, we also had to come clean to family and friends about the secret we’d been keeping. It was almost unbearable. In that time, I realized we had robbed ourselves of the sweet gift of others’ prayers and we had taken away our loved ones’ opportunities to pray over us.

In the days and weeks following our loss, we slowly started sharing our story – first with family and close friends and eventually publicly on my blog. We had no idea what to expect from sharing our story. What we got was support and prayers from hundreds of fellow believers.

Those prayers changed everything.

When our loved ones hit their praying knees and stormed the gates of Heaven on our behalf, a sense of peace and hope came over our home and hearts in a way that can only be explained as coming from Jesus Christ himself. In the moments when I struggled to know how to pray, our friends and family made sure our story was continuously whispered in God’s ear. What a gift!

Do you remember the story of Jesus healing the paralytic after the man’s friends lowered him through a roof to get him to Jesus? If not, check out Luke 5:17-25. In this particular Gospel story, a paralyzed man was completely healed because of the faith of his friends. The man literally stood up and walked home because his friends knew that if they could get him to Jesus, he would be healed.

How’s that for power in our loved ones approaching the throne on our behalf?!

As healing has taken hold in my own life, our prayer warriors have now shifted their prayers to our future. They’re joining us in asking Jesus to grant us direction in the decisions we have to make and peace in His will. They’re believing with us for the miracle child we so long for. There is so much joy and hope in knowing others are petitioning God for the desires of your heart.

Friend, maybe you’re the me of a few months ago – the one hiding and hoping no one sees your burden. Oh how I remember that weight. I hope that today you’ll realize that you have nothing to hide. You don’t have to carry this alone. I hope that, even if you’re not in a place to go public with your pain, you will think of at least a few people you can allow to go to Jesus on your behalf.


The prayers of fellow believers have changed everything for me, and they have the power to do the same for you.

Photography: The Farm

"You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth." - Psalms 104:14 (ESV)
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Most of you know that I come from a farm family. Farming is one of those professions that goes well beyond just making a living. It truly is a way of life for the entire family. The long hours, the prayers for rain, the prayers for sun, the endless paperwork, the equipment maintenance, the sleepless nights worrying about crops and livestock -- it's not a 9-5 and forget it kind of job.

Even so, agriculture is a beautiful thing.

So today, I wanted to share some of my farm photography and let God's handiwork speak for itself.


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[[Do not copy, use, reprint or publish these photos without my written consent.]]

Dew on the corn leaves. Needham, Ind. June 2017.

Soybean harvest. Shelbyville, Ind. October 2016.

Soybeans at sunset. Shelbyville, Ind. October 2016.

The wheat variety that started the Green Revolution. Texcoco, Mexico. October 2015.

Morning dew drops. Needham, Ind. June 2017.

Cornfield at sunrise. Needham, Ind. June 2017.

Corn leaves hug the sun. Needham, Ind. June 2017.

A super cool dragonfly on the concrete. Needham, Ind. June 2017.