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.

Friday, August 30, 2013


I’m going to be honest…fundraising isn’t the most fun thing to do on the planet.  It’s a lot of work.  You have to constantly be thinking up new, exciting ways for people to jump on your passion train…when they may not be passionate about the same things you are passionate about.  But most of the people I know…are passionate about their families.   So when the people close to us see our videos and read our blog posts, they have been jumping on our train, because family is important to them and they want to see ours grow too. 

We have fallen to the floor on several occasions when confronted with the generosity of those we love and those we don’t even KNOW.   Last week we were taking some time to rest at my parents house in Michigan after a LLOOOONNNGGG summer of paperwork, camp and fundraising efforts.  Our fundraising page had a lot of action the first few weeks and it was so fun to see the little green bar move to the right as the funds came rolling in….but then it tapered off for awhile and we had to rely on what God was doing.  During our week of rest in Michigan we prayed over our fundraising efforts and asked God what was next.  He answered our prayers sooner than we thought.   

We have had several friends, that work in ministry as we do,  give amounts we were humbled by.  I am still struggling to write thank you notes, not having the words for the gratitude we feel. 

We have had people that don’t even know us send us love and funds…one of the ladies in my Grandmas bible study in Florida sent us a check.  She was just touched by our story…

I will admit, I cry every time we get a donation…every time.  I am an emotional person and this experience has only heightened my emotions. 

I was a total wreck the day our 4 year old Goddaughter Lennon gave us her jar of coins and said…”this is for your baby.”  So precious.  Just the most precious. 

It’s in moments like these, God gives us the fortitude to keep fundraising, even though the legwork is not the most fun….the outcomes are so beautiful, humbling, and awe-inspiring that I know God’s hand is in this. 

So here’s the update on our fundraising…We are nearly halfway to our goal of 10,000 on our fundraising site, and some exciting news, we have been chosen as the next family to be featured on Give1Save1!  A blog that will put our story in front of a lot more faces and encourage people to give $1 to help our cause.  This is where we need your help once again.  Our family will be featured NEXT WEEK! September 2nd-7th We need to get that site in front of as many people as we can! So please share Give1save1 on your facebook/twitter/blogs starting Monday! Encourage your friends and family to give next week….even if they can only give 1$.  Every dollar gets us closer to our goal.   Feel free to post us everyday next week if you want!

We will be posting a lot next week, here and on facebook so you can track our progress. 

Thank you to everyone for your constant support and love.  We have to pick our jaws up off the floor with every gift and we are truly truly blessed. 

Much love and gratitude,
Jen and Tony

Here are the links! 

Use this one starting Monday!
Use this one all the time!!!!

                                                       Pure Charity

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's talk about Max

With so much time and energy going into the new addition…I wonder how Max will take to a younger sibling.  Every older sibling knows the feelings of being “forgotton” when the baby comes along… Being a middle child myself, I know the feeling of getting lost in the shuffle of big personalites.  (Of course I adore my brother and sister and will admit to having a big personality myself, but you know what I am getting at).  I also know the reward and fullness that comes with sibling relationships.     

Max has a sweet heart.  This is something I noticed early on.  When reading books, he is always concerned for the character that is afraid or small.   He always points them out with fervor.  “Mommy that kitty is scared of the doggy! He no like it. He need help mommy!” Whenever he sees me crying he innately knows that I need comforting.  He wraps his arms around me or sits in my lap quietly saying, “mommy cry, mommy’s sad.”  He is sensitive towards animals and people.  (Although he has no qualms about smashing a bug if it’s in the house shouting in victory “I killed him!”)   

I sometimes worry how the adoption will affect Max.  I obviously believe in the long run the adoption is best for our family and best for max as he grows into a man.  I have no doubt this adoption will be a part of his testimony someday as he recounts the trials and triumphs that came along with having a sibling from another country join our family.    What I worry about for now is the attention number two will receive when they arrive and how that will sit in little Max’s heart.  I want him to know he is just as special, just as loved, just as prayed for, just as sought after by his loved ones.  But I also want him to be sensitive to the feelings of his little brother/sister as they go through life dealing with the loss of their culture, the loss they may feel over having a family that doesn’t look like them, the loss of blood relatives.  I want our kids to feel they are special to us and special to God because of who God made them to be…not because of their status in the family.   I want them to gain their confidence from that.   

Some things I love about who Max is right now:
He is energetic
He loves his Buzz and Woody dolls
He loves broccoli and yogurt
He loves to be up high (and will climb on whatever will get him there)
He loves to hit baseballs in the yard
He will repeat something a thousand times if people are laughing at him
He would live at the zoo if I let him
He knows where Africa is on a map
He loves to sing and “dance” (mainly jump)
He’s afraid of bees
He’s attached to his mommy J
He thinks Tony gets to camp on an airplane ever since we dropped him off at an airport
He can make just about as many faces as me
He closes his eyes real tight whenever we pray
He is best buds with his grandpa
He loves to play in the rain and screams at the top of his lungs when he gets to
He loves to read by himself in his room (whenever he gets quiet that’s what he’s doing)
He loves “helping” with laundry and vacuuming
He smiles really big when his daddy gets home (definitely a smile reserved only for that occasion)

The other day, out of the blue, Max said, “They’re coming mommy…” (I know creepy horror movie stuff right?) I said “who’s coming Max?” He said, “Little brother sister coming!” (relieved) I said “yeah Max that’s right,  your little brother or sister is coming!” He said, “from Africa!”  Me, “Yeah from Africa buddy.”  I can't believe he is already processing this in his little mind and heart.  

Here's a new video of our sweet little Max man:

And now a shameless attempt to get people to donate:

I want someone to play with!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Anger issues

I’ve been struggling this summer. I use the term “struggle” loosely realizing there are people who’s struggles warrant the use of the term far more than mine.   But struggling in my own way nonetheless. 

I am realizing I am still new to this mothering thing.  I have to remind myself of this every time my two year old decides to assert his own will.   I don’t have all the answers.  I have NO IDEA what to do when he starts hitting and biting me.  Being a mom came so naturally when all I had to do was respond to his needs.  He’s hungry, I feed him, he’s sick I give him medicine or hold him, he’s dirty I change him.  Then one day he wakes up and decides he is no longer on my schedule and I am absolutely clueless.  Yes I know he needs boundaries.  I know he needs stability and discipline.  I know. But knowing and doing are two entirely different entities. 

This summer has been a struggle as a mother.

Anyone who works in camp ministry knows the hours can take a toll on a family…Tony has continued to be so supportive in the midst of long days without him.  He never forgets to tell me what a great mom he thinks I am, and how proud he is of me for taking care of things while he works.  I struggle to do the same for him, I take for granted that he KNOWS that I am proud of him for the long hours he puts in to support our family.  I want to be a support to him in the way he is a support to me.

This summer has been a struggle as a wife.

Sorting through the feelings of my mom having breast cancer I have come to the realization that life is completely unpredictable when for so long it was predictable.  Cancer comes out of nowhere and can beat you down if you let it…but my mom didn’t let it.  Maybe I did. 

This summer has been a struggle as a daughter.

This Sunday, our pastor talked about anger.  I guess I didn’t realize until he said it that I was struggling with it.  I was angry that my mom and brother in law have cancer.  I was angry that I was doing a lot on my own this summer.  I was angry that my son doesn’t do what I want him to do when I want him to do it.  And my anger was manifesting itself in all sorts of ways.  Tears. Silence. Busyness. Impatience.

Honestly- it’s hard for me to admit how angry I have been.  Because I want to put on a smile and let everyone think I am a great mom, wife, daughter…when in reality I am a complete failure on my own. 

The good news is I am not on my own.  God says he is with me and if I call upon him he will answer.   As I prepare to be a mother of two I am acutely aware that I will not be able to continue on the path I am on.  It is no longer possible for me to rely on myself in any capacity. 

So here is my resolution

When Max bites me …call upon the Lord
When cancer scares me….call upon the Lord
When feeling alone….call upon the Lord
When feeling overwhelmed…call upon the Lord
When swimming in adoption bills….ask for more money- just kidding –call upon the Lord

We sang this song on Sunday and it rang so true to my heart’s cry

Lord I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without you I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart

Lord I need you oh I need you every hour I need you
My one defense, my righteousness oh God how I need you

When sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
Where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

TEACH my song to rise to you,
when temptation comes my way
When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you,
Jesus you’re my hope and stay