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)

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.


[[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.

I know this isn't easy for you either.

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My dear husband, I don't know about you, but I had envisioned this Father's Day differently. I was sure I'd have a little round belly and you'd be the anxious dad-to-be wondering what in the world was about to hit him. We'd be impatiently waiting for the impending gender scan to see who was joining our family. You'd be anticipating taking a little mini to your favorite fishing spot and eventually the Indy 500. We'd be visiting home improvement and decorating stores every single weekend, because you and I both know we can't make a decorating decision to save our souls.

I know this isn't easy for you either.

You're the strong silent type. The even-keeled one. A calming presence. You're the one who quietly serves and loves others so well. The reliable one. The one everyone calls when they just need someone to be there because they know you'll drop everything in that selfless way you always do, asking for nothing in return. You're not the type to let your emotions show or to express your thoughts in words. Your love language is acts of service and you've served me well as I've grieved.

I know this isn't easy for you either.

I've seen the way you love your nieces and nephew. I know that look of adoration in your eyes when you're playing yet another round of horsey with that spunky little niece of yours. I know that look of joy on your face when your twin niece and nephew get to giggling at your silly antics. I've watched as friends' children have been drawn to your sweet demeanor. I joke that you're the kid whisperer. We all know it's not actually a joke. You're going to be such an awesome dad one day!

I know this isn't easy for you either.

Every day, you lace up those work boots, throw on that grease-stained baseball cap and head back to the plant where you spend a good 55 hours a week busting your tail so that we'll have the money to put toward the high cost of fertility treatments. You're tired. This world isn't made for third-shifters, let alone those who are working 6-7 nights a week. But daily you tackle it to provide for us and our future little.

I know this isn't easy for you either.

You have always put others' needs ahead of your own. Especially mine. You support me in my whims, lift me up when I'm down, give me the space I want when I just need to cry. You mow the lawn, clean the house and put dinner on the table each night so that I have the time after work to hit the gym -- my time to burn off the anxiety that so often plagues me. You've given me countless progesterone shots in the rear cheeks, and somehow managed to make that ridiculous experience humorous. You didn't even judge me when I melted down before that first shot. You stayed up for more than 24 hours to be with me during an emergency procedure, then took such good care of me in the aftermath. You'd have given anything to take the pain away and you'd do anything to make my dreams of motherhood a reality.

I know this isn't easy for you either.

This Father's Day doesn't look the way we planned or pictured it. You're the dad of dreams gone too soon. And while the world worries about bereaved moms on Mother's Day, but often forgets the dads who go along with them, I want you to know that I see you. I picture you holding the sweet little baby I believe God is going to allow us to raise and I smile.

Hold tight, my love. Our turn is coming.

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

Am I bitter or better?

"'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

It has now been 5 years since I burst into tears in that doctor's office as he told us that IVF, at $20,000 per cycle, was our only hope of ever having biological children, and that the odds of success are 65 percent at best.

It has now been 8 months since we made the decision to take that chance.

It has now been 2.5 months since the day it felt like the world stopped turning, if only for a moment. Two-and-a-half months since I had to call Mom and tell her that her promotion to grandma would have to wait. Two-and-a-half months since I couldn't bring myself to leave my bed, get a deep breath through the sobs or force myself to eat.

It has now been two months since the passing away of a dream.

Friends, it has been a journey and I can say with certainty that my heart will never be the same.

But as I was reflecting on this path, a thought came to my mind: At this point in the journey, am I better or am I bitter? Have I willingly allowed God to work in my life and use this wait, these trials and these tragedies as part of my sanctification? Have I fixed my gaze upon Him? Or have I become bitter?

As much as I don't want to admit it, the answer could have gone either way at times. But here's what my moments of reflection remind me: God has used this time to do so much work in my life (often in spite of me).

In the 5 years before IVF, God called me to Honduras three times with Living Water International. Honduras forever changed my life, my perspective and my understanding of who He is.

These precious kiddos in Rio Piedra, Honduras now have clean, safe drinking water.

In the 5 years before IVF, God granted me the professional dream of a nomination to, participation in and completion of a prestigious two-year industry leadership program. It took me to Washington DC, Panama and Colombia alongside some of the most amazing classmates who, over the course of the program, stretched me and challenged me to grow.

Planting pineapples at Verba Odrec in La Chorrera, Panama.

Learning about biofortification of cassava at CIAT in Valle de Cauca, Colombia.

In the 5 years before IVF, God lit my heart on fire for the plight of the trafficked and enslaved and the work of the International Justice Mission (and allowed me to visit one of their field offices in the Dominican Republic last summer).
The 2017 Run for Justice at Calvary, which raised $26,000 for the International Justice Mission.

In the 5 years before IVF, God led me to a little church in the middle of Villa Faro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where the people taught me what selfless service in the name of Christ looks like.

The evening session of EBDV (Vacation Bible School) at
Templo Biblico Villa Faro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In the months of waiting between loss and another chance, He is leading me back to Villa Faro.

Y'all, in the waiting, He has been so good to me!

Yes, I have had my moments of bitterness, jealousy and anger. My human flesh is a mess. But what have I gained from it? Nothing. I've come to realize I have to let go of the bitter so that He can make me better.

What is it that you're waiting on? Maybe it's a relationship, that dream job, more money, a new house, healing, or another answer to prayer entirely. Whatever it is, just know that God is in the wait. When we refuse to be bitter and, instead, fix our eyes on Him, He is faithful to make us better.

Let's all fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)


Read more encouragement from Hebrews 12:1 and Hebrews 12:2 from Caroline Harries over at In Due Time and be sure to check out her 60-day devotional book by the same name (hint: it's for everyone, not just moms in waiting). And no, she's not paying me or rewarding me for promoting these. They are just so good that I want to tell everyone about them!

A slight freak out

I had a slight freak out this week.

Don't believe me? Just ask Jilian. Or Nicole. Or Donna. Or Joanna.

Yes, I unloaded it on all of them, because dragging four other people into your nuclear meltdown is just one form of "sharing the love." I'm sure they felt loved.

Anyway, back to my freak out. You know what caused it? Zika. Sometimes people who suffer with anxiety don't exactly make sense. I think this one could maybe be a tiny bit rational, though, so bear with me here while I explain.

I'm scheduled, paid and booked for a mission and learning trip to the Dominican Republic next month with 12 friends from our church. The DR holds such a special place in my heart after a team of us traveled there last summer, but I hadn't planned to return this year because I was pregnant. After our loss, I decided I needed a break from treatment and time to heal, so approximately two seconds after a miscarriage, I signed up for the trip (and by two seconds, I mean two days, which is basically the same thing in the middle of insane grief).

Might I just suggest that you not make big decisions when your heart is in shambles and your head doesn't know which way is up?

I didn't think it through. I didn't pray about it. I didn't consider Zika or what it could do to future fertility treatment plans. I just decided I needed an escape and "doing God's work" seemed like the way to go.

Maybe some other time I can blog about misguided motivations.

A plan for the future
In early May, Jake and I sat down with our doctor and talked through the options for the future and crafted a plan. I told her I was headed to the Dominican Republic in July and she factored that into the plan: I'd be tested not once, but twice upon my return -- once for the virus and once for immune response. Perfect!

There's just one slight problem here: The tests aren't perfect and it's not uncommon for them to come back with false positives.

Just typing that, I'm starting to get a knot in my stomach again. Maybe I'm not over this freak out yet.

Even so, after that appointment, I felt confident and peaceful about that plan. I felt God's hand in it, and I felt that my heart and mind were in the right place for the trip (read: motivations corrected). Then, last week, the Zika freak out.

Here's the reality, though: My doctor isn't worried, Santo Domingo isn't much of a mosquito habitat, and I have plenty of proper gear for protecting my skin. Plus, deet is pretty easy to come by (and probably won't kill me in a week). *Deep breaths*

'Common Hero'
This morning's sermon was part of a new series called "Common Hero." We're looking at the life of Peter and how a common fisherman became a disciple of Jesus Christ. From common man to Kingdom warrior who believed he could change the world (and he did). From common man to BFF of JESUS CHRIST. Let that sink in for a minute.

Good news: Jesus can use us too. We can be Peter! It's up to us to be willing. It's up to us to believe that Jesus can use us to change the world. It's up to us to see that the people around us are worth loving and taking a risk to share the Gospel. It's up to us to realize that a bunch of kids in the middle of a tough neighborhood in Santo Domingo are worth fighting for.

Could Zika happen to me? Technically, yes. Is it likely? No. Let's be rational here, Jenn.

Could loving on the kiddos and teachers at VBS in Santo Domingo change their lives? With Jesus, a resounding yes. Is it more likely to change mine? Of course. After all, my teammates and I aren't there to save anyone. We're just there to show our love and the love of Jesus Christ. Nothing more and nothing less. Those kids and teachers have so much to teach us too!

So, while I took a bit of a winding road to figure it out, I believe it is God's will for me to be in the Dominican Republic in July, and I trust Him to protect me from Zika.

I'm still going to pack pants, long-sleeved shirts, a mosquito net and plenty of deet, though. After all, God also gave me a brain.

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand." -Isaiah 41:10

How could I resist returning to Santo Domingo? I mean, seriously.