My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


I was getting everything ready for my race last night when I decided to take my bike for a short spin to make sure everything was fine.  It wasn't. The tires were flat, so my Dad, Tony and I made a run to an almost closed Dick's sporting goods to buy tubes.  Got home... had the wrong size.  But Dad and Tony proceeded to work on the bike switching out tires on Tony's bike for the next hour and a half.

Just the thing you want to be worrying about right before your first triathlon.  We didn't go to bed until 12 a.m. and then...

I woke up almost every hour, on the hour.

3:00 a.m  I hope my bike works

4:00 a.m.  I hope my alarm goes off

5:00 a.m.  I hope I finish

6:00 a.m.  Max was crying and coughing (it's not always about me :)

6:10 a.m. Time to get up and go.

We arrive at Eagle Creek Park at 7:00 a.m. and join the mass of women and their supporters heading to the starting line.  Tony tells me to hop on the bike one last time to make sure the brakes work.

They don't.

I hit the pavement.  Chin first, in front of a bunch of hardcore women racers in all their gear on their expensive bikes. That's embarrassing.

Then I remember why I don't like sports...this always happens to me, and now my confidence is shaken.  I start to tear up a little as the blood drips down my chin.  Tony tells me to "get tough".  I think I could be tougher if I was riding a bike I knew wasn't going to hurl me face first into the concrete.

We get down to the starting point and find a bike technician, he tries to pump air into the tires and one goes flat...with less than 15 minutes until the start time.

Ok God,  I really wanted to do this race and it's looking like I won't get the chance.  I didn't want to let everyone down.  All this training....for nothing?  Please God, let him fix this bike.

And he does...with only 3 minutes until start time.  I race the bike over to the racks and throw on my swim cap and goggles. There's not even time to stretch.

The adrenaline is pumping so hard I can't even think straight...I am trying to calm my nerves so I can breathe through the swim.  I am almost to the front of the line.




I'm next...can't breathe...hope my bike works, this swim looks a lot longer than when I do laps in the pool...I hope the water isn't too cold...104....go!

The water feels great and I'm swimming fast, waiting for my adrenaline to slow down so I can breathe. I get into a rhythm and not many people pass me.   I can do this! I make the first turn of the swim and the sun is directly in my eyes...I can't see anything but the occasional far off buoy.  The right side of my goggle fills with water and now I can only see through one foggy side looking into the sun. So I somehow make it out of the water in 14 minutes and 11 seconds.  Out of the 388 that finished the race my swim was ranked 181.

I knew this would be the easiest part, I run out of the water to see Tony holding Max and my dad cheering me on.  I think about kids Max's age in Kenya that have a place to go now.  I start to run faster.  I am completely out of breath and a little terrified my bike won't hold up, I throw on my clothes and I am pedaling, slowly... Then there's my mom yelling something about Kenya...keep going.

Terrified to go very fast for fear of a tire explosion or brake malfunction, I go at a steady pace...soon wondering if my name is "on the left" because a LOT of people say that to me as they speed by me.   Ok, so I won't be getting a trophy today, but I think this bike just might make it the 10 miles.

In the bike race I ranked 360 out of 388...just about every racer passed me.  Ah well...I did it!

Then the run.  I figured this would be the hardest for me.  The first mile was.  After all that swimming and biking, I was tired.  This is where I started to pray.  A song I used to sing at camp as a little girl, popped into my head.  Maybe because I was thinking about being tested and a line from the song kept repeating in my head.  Tried and True. Tried and True.

"Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary for You."

I thought about the way we are tested in our lives and the way we react.  We can give up when we are tired, or we can finish stronger.  So I decided to finish stronger.  I picked up my pace.  And then before I knew it, the cheers were within earshot and the blue blowup finish line was within view.

In the run I ranked 292 out of 388, and overall the whole race I ranked 337.

I could hear my parents and Tony cheering me on as I crossed the finish line and I don't know if I have felt that good since they placed Max in my arms for the first time.  Because even though everyone was cheering me on, they were also cheering you on.  Because we did it! We raised well over the goal.  We raised $1,700.  And there are more of you who have told me you still want to give.  So it really doesn't matter where I ranked, it matters that I finished.  For you and for them.

So there is only one thing left to say,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pouring out Your Blessings

I knew from a young age that I was different from the kids around me.  When other kids were climbing trees and biting each other, I was asking my mom why there was money in the world, because I didn’t understand why so many people didn’t have it.  Why would there be something that would separate people based on how much of it they had?  Didn’t God make everybody the same?  Why then are there kids that don't eat?  This is what I was worrying about while the other kids were fighting over their toys.  When I said my prayers at night, I always asked God to take away the money so everyone could eat and go to doctors.   

As I grew up, I found other people like me that worried about the same things. There are so many people that CARE.  The last few months have solidified this for me.  There has been a flood of prayer and support for me and for this effort.  I can't believe how many amazing people in my life have texted, called, sent money, lent me a bike (thanks Katie!), or just asked me how my training is going.  This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life...and I haven't even raced yet!  

Last week, I was at my Grandma's sitting on her couch.  She had asked me to come pray with her.  Tears came down my face as she prayed for the kids in Kenya and for our family.  She reminded me that God always blesses more than we expect Him to.  She gave me this verse from Malachi:
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  "Test me in this", says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it."  When we hold on tightly to what we have, God cannot bless us in this way...When we open our hands and give to God what is already His, He will overwhelm us with blessings.   Thanks Gram, for that beautiful reminder.  

Guess what?!   I am at $1075! Only $225 more to go and I have just over a week to raise the rest.  God has certainly surpassed my expectations.  

Even though I am adult and I know it sounds stupid, sometimes I still pray that prayer.  "Dear God, please take away all the money so everyone can eat and go to doctors. Thanks." Love Jen     

Some more pictures of the kids we are helping!