Seasons of Life

The Army has taught me a lot of things over the years but one thing you never get used to is moving. It’s honestly not even the packing everything you own and starting over in a new place that is hard. It’s the friendships and family that you make along the way and have to leave behind.

We would have loved to stay in one spot and have the same group of friends for years to come and maybe someday eventually that will happen. For now though, it’s really hard making such incredible friends and saying goodbye so quickly. I like to say you make friends hard and fast by moving so much.

A part of you is tempted not to invest so much of your life and time in people along the way. Then you’ll meet the most hilarious, giving, selfless people that make you love them. Making these incredible friendships always leads to heartbreak when you have to move away.

I’ve learned to thank God when this happens because life would be so boring without them. These friendships help us grow and even if we just had you for a season of life, we are thankful. We are better people because of you. We love you guys! 😭❤️😭

Love,

Jenny

Photo by: Jodi Bodtke, @givingtreephotography

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2018. Brave.

I read an inspiring Instagram post about narrowing your goals for the next year into one word. I thought long and hard about this. How could I possibly choose just ONE word to represent my goals for the next year? After a day or two of considering what I would choose, I decided on the word brave.

Dan and I have a LOT of challenges in our near future. Not only are we moving internationally but we are also moving twice within five months. I’m essentially quitting my job and starting graduate school. It’s going to be hard. We will be making friends and finding community in a completely different city.

As I closed my eyes every night for the last few months I prayed “Wherever you lead me, I will go.” As crazy as that sounds, I know wholeheartedly that this journey is going to be full of uncertainties and unknowns but I also know its going to be so GOOD. That is the life we were promised to live. So BRAVE is my word for 2018. What word would you choose? I hope it’s something that scares you because the biggest dreams are often the most terrifying.

Happy New Year.

Love,
Jenny

ps. These are some of my favorite memories from 2017 because y’all know I couldn’t pick just nine.

Spain. Switzerland. USA. Portugal. Germany. Amsterdam. Italy. Formenterra. France. Austria and wherever else in the world life takes us ❤️

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Malta: When the Waters Rise

We had a long weekend of salt water and sangria on the beach. One of my very best friends from college, Sarah and her hubby Caleb flew across the world to see us… and I’m gonna apologize now (because it’s taken far too long to post these) #betterlatethannever.  Good thing she’ll love me anyway 😉 but seriously what an incredible trip.

Crystal clear salt water, beautiful views and sunshine are just a few of the amazing things about Malta. Although, sometimes it’s not the scenery that makes you happy. It’s the company you share it with.

We explored Malta with two of our favorite couples. We went hiking together, drank sangria together and got seasick together. Ok, so it was just Krissy and I getting sea sick. Honestly, it was worth it for those gorgeous Blue Lagoon views. It was refreshing visiting a place with English as it’s primary language. The driving is pretty crazy so I would recommend just taking shuttles or taxis.

In hindsight, I wish I would have packed my Dramamine the day we went on the pirate ship to the blue lagoon… but we can’t always be on our A game, Right?!? Anyways. These are my people. I love them so much.

Love,

Jenny

 

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When I’m standing on the edge of the world, I want to be standing next to you.

First Impressions: Lisbon, Portugal

As I’m sitting here drinking a breakfast beer, I’m reflecting on how much this new place has changed my perspective. First of all, #prost because this beer is DELICIOUS. Sagres Bohemia is absolutely my favorite amber beer I’ve EVER tried. Second of all…my plane leaves in 40 minutes and I have no idea which gate it leaves from. Dan or Marcie would be panicking right about now… but I am a low stress traveler. I’m perfectly content sipping this beer, people watching and writing this blog post.
Lisbon surprised me because the people here are so kind. Especially since my friends and I have experienced some not so friendly vibes toward Americans traveling Europe. The airport was bustling and crowded this morning. ALL of the chairs at the cafe were taken except one. It was at a table with a group of 5 gorgeous ladies speaking Portuguese. It felt like I was in the movie Mean Girls, trying to sit with the beautiful crowd. They saw me looking for another table and waved to me so I would sit with them. I think they were intrigued by my breakfast beer haha. Living in Europe I’ve learned that improv sign language is a universal language. I’ve also learned to ignore people staring at you. (And let me tell you they stare!). However, it doesn’t really bother me any more and if you ignore them eventually they stop looking at you.

So first impressions are important but my first impression of Portugal was doubtful. There was a lot of graffiti…A LOT. It was an old looking city with cramped streets and anxiety producing traffic. Marcie and I were looking at each other with wide eyes during the entire cab ride. The closer we got to our Airbnb the more charming the city became.

When we finally arrived, we walked up 5 flights of old stairs (the first flight was marble 😍). When we got to the top we were really impressed. The lighting was perfect and this two bedroom apartment didn’t disappoint. The owners even left us a bottle of local wine for our stay.

We dropped our bags and went exploring. The first day we wandered into a craft fair that was selling sangria. We sipped sangria from the market and enjoyed the music of the city. We leisurely walked through the city and plazas. Occasionally stopping to shop for summer dresses, swim suits and coverups for summer. I loved shopping with Desiree and Jaden. They make me laugh constantly. We worked up an appetite shopping, since we were starving and missing home so we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon. That comfort food hit the spot!

The second day we got up ridiculously early. This is the easiest way to get the best photos. We honestly just got up early due to the time change. We planned our first stop, Comercio Square. I snapped a picture of this tram and then realized it was the one we were supposed to take to see the Bélem tower 😳 so we sprinted to make the tram. A nice older man stuck his cane in the door to prevent it from shutting. We laughed as we sat down. Running before 7 am is not the norm for me on vacation. We thought it would be a long ride so we weren’t paying attention and got off on the wrong stop. However, we got to see the Jeronimos Monistary and the Monument to the Discoveries. It was so beautiful watching the sun come up. Believe it or not the silence of the mornings brings me so much peace. I talk wayyy to much for the average person so we just enjoyed this slow and quite morning. Eventually we walked down to the Belem tower and had breakfast.

After breakfast we used our navigation skills and with the help of Google maps we figured out the public transit system. We took trams, trains and buses in order to get to Cintra. It was a beautiful place and I loved how everything was covered in multicolored tile. EVERYTHING. Including the window for the guy selling train tickets! I would highly recommend going there if you’re ever in the area.

 

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This is the moment I realized I was taking a picture of the tram we were supposed to take!
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This picture reminds me the most of Lisbon. Bright colored buildings, Laundry drying in the breeze and blooming purple flowers.
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Pena Palace, Sintra
 

After a doubtful first impression, I have to say that Lisbon was a very charming city. The kindness of the locals made an impression that will stay with me forever.

Love,

Jenny
Ps. A special thanks to Marcie and her family for the friendship and love we share. I’ll miss you dearly 😭 but I know our paths will cross again. 💕💋

 

Mothers Day: Pregnancy, Love and Loss

A few years ago I was in Georgia on a hot and humid spring day. I was single at the time and sitting in the back row at Cascade Hills Church on Mother’s Day. As the service opened the pastor began with the speech I had expected. He acknowledged the amazing women and mothers within the room. They all stood and received a flower. What I wasn’t prepared for was what he said next.

He continued “For all of the women in this room sitting down right now that have been hoping and praying for a baby or have lost a baby, God sees you too and is with you in this moment.” That’s when I saw multiple women start to cry. I’m not going to lie it even made me tear up hearing his words, despite that I was not one of those women.

Two years later.

My husband Dan and I were in North Carolina on leave when we unexpectedly found out we were pregnant. We were on leave because he was preparing to leave for deployment. We were ecstatic, surprised and I was slightly terrified too haha.

As the weeks went by, I became extremely sick with nausea and vomiting. One morning I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was on the bathroom floor on my knees crying as Dan held my hair and rubbed my back. He sat on the floor with me and held me as I swore I never wanted to do this again. He smiled and assured me we could talk about it later.

When I wasn’t sick, I was constantly sleeping. I would sit down on the couch to pet the dog and I would fall asleep for 2 hours. The combination of being sick and constantly sleeping was my reassurance our baby would be healthy, because I felt miserable.

On the day of our first ultrasound, I woke up and ran errands because I was starting to feel better. I was emotional to say the least. Dan was leaving in a week for deployment and this was the only appointment he could attend. He was almost late because he left work to make it to the appointment. I joked that because he was running late we would definitely have a girl. He made me laugh in the waiting room. He always makes me laugh. We were incredibly happy and excited to see our sweet baby for the first time.

The moment she put the ultrasound probe on my stomach I knew something was wrong. The baby was far too small to be at 10-14 weeks gestation. As we took a closer look, the baby had no heartbeat. My heart sank and silent tears began to fall down my face. Dan couldn’t tell right away but I saw the happy smile and color leave his face when he realized what was happening. Our favorite OB doc came in and confirmed our fears. He hugged us close and prepared the paperwork for a D+C.

As they prepped me for surgery, the tears continued to fall. When I woke up in PACU the first thing I said was “I feel like I’m waking up from a bad dream.” Dan was incredibly loving and supportive. He held me close and let me cry. He assured me that today, it wasn’t ok but eventually it would be. He reminded me that God’s timing is always perfect.

Loosing that baby was like loosing someone we never knew but already loved. 

The first week I felt like I was drowning in grief. I cried all of the time. I cried myself to sleep. I prayed and prayed, and prayed for peace and healing in my ever so shattered heart. No one really talks about this kind of pain. I needed to, so I did. Dan is not the best at keeping secrets. So a lot of our close friends and coworkers knew about the pregnancy. I’m not sad we told people, I’m just sad it didn’t end up the way we thought it would.

Dan deployed and I went back to work. The sadness and anger took a long time to fade. One day before work I was sitting in my car reading a blog post from a close friend. It was about her experience with loosing a baby. It made me ugly cry, rivers of tears poured down my face. I cried so many tears I needed a Kleenex but all I had was the dirty shirt I ran in that morning. I didn’t care, I used it anyway. After reading her post, it gave me hope that maybe someday we would have a sweet little miracle baby.

To the women that were sitting down in church that day and to the women that have experienced this kind of love and loss, You are not alone. Your pain is real. Your tears are real too. Let them both come, holding them in will only prolong the pain. We may never have the answers to why these things happen. However, even as I cried myself to sleep multiple nights in a row and even as I said goodbye to my husband I knew in my heart, God has a plan for us. In our vows, we promised that our faith would always be the steady ground we would stand on. So I decided I had to live up to that promise I made. I would stand on that steady ground and I would smile through the pain, tears and heartbreak.

To our friends, coworkers and family, thank you for your outpouring of love, support, prayers, kind words, warm hugs and beautiful flowers. 

Thank you Vera, for your silent sweet hug as you prepped me for surgery. Thank you Mindy, for sharing your heartbreak with me, so I didn’t feel so alone. Thank you Gina, for the beautiful flowers. Thank you Grace, for sending me Trauma Life oil, I diffused it when I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Thank you Marcie, for bringing me pink cupcakes with lemon frosting, you always know the way to my heart. Thank you Dan, for your kindness, friendship and love. Forever will never be long enough with you.

There are never really words to say in moments like this in life. However, the words of that pastor echoed through my mind that day and for weeks to come. “God sees you too in these moments and is with you.”

Love,
Jenny

 

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The picture above was the first morning I woke up and wanted to drink a cup of coffee. Most of my friends know how much I absolutely love coffee, espresso and cappuccino but while I was pregnant I had an aversion to coffee. As I sat outside with the dogs that day watching the sun come up, I knew there would be healing and so much grace to come.

 

Ireland: The Ring of Kerry

Raise your hand if you’re habitually late to everything in life (except work)….. you are the ones that understand my struggles. However, I want to preface this story by saying this time…it was not my fault. I was working night shift the day before we were supposed to leave for Ireland. My hilarious, beautiful and also chronically late to everything friend Abby was supposed to be our designated responsible person for getting us to the airport. Let’s just say we left quite a bit behind schedule. 🙂

Luckily we were flying from a small airport and the security lines were pretty short. We breezed through security and made it to our gate with approximately 11 minutes to spare. Now if I had my husband with me he would have had a heart attack. Abby on the other hand just laughed and said, “See…. we still have time for coffee!” I love that about her. She is carefree and fun to travel with. We were also meeting a mutual friend Marcie, her family and friend Vera. Marcie is our “on time” friend and had been sitting comfortably in a chair close to the gate for quite some time. She also planned and organized the trip so all we had to do was book our flights. HOW easy! This made it a very relaxed weekend away. Marcie is always game for adventure, which is why I enjoy her company so much! Abby and I laughed as we watched her singing along with her headphones while waiting for the gate to open. Despite being early (or late) we all made it and boarded the plane.

When we arrived in Ireland we picked up our rental cars. FYI you have to pay extra for insurance that covers you in Ireland. If you have ever driven the curvy back roads of Ireland on the edges of cliffs, you’ll understand why. They also drive on the left-hand side of the road. Abby was amazing and picked up the left vs. right-sided driving really easily (and we didn’t have to use the expensive insurance we paid for). We rented a house via Airbnb. It was in the hills near the Ring of Kerry. On our way to the house, we stopped in Killarney a beautiful little town with a massive church. There was an outdoor wedding at the church the day we arrived and it was gorgeous. We shopped at a few stores in town including a little Irish jewelry store. The jeweler told us all about the Irish Claddagh rings. They contain hands, a heart, and a crown. She also explained how they represent love, loyalty, and friendship. Married men and women wear the heart facing toward themselves and the opposite if you’re single. We left the store and had lunch at a cafe across the street.

The next few days we spent driving around the Ring of Kerry. We had lunch at a country club that let us pour our own Guinness. After lunch, we continued our journey around the ring. We stopped at a few beaches and listened to the waves of the North Atlantic come crashing in. This was such a peaceful place. It was even more enjoyable because none of us were in a hurry to leave.

One of my favorite places we visited were the cliffs just north of the Ring of Kerry. I love seeing places like that, off the beaten path. You can travel the world and see all of the popular places the majority of people see or you can just enjoy the experiences you run into along the way. This trip was one of my favorite trips so far because we did exactly that.

We visited the Killarney National park and took a carriage ride around the grounds. Most of the rest of that day we spent at the beach sitting on massive rocks and soaking up the sunshine.

On our last day, we stopped in Killarney again! This time to purchase crystal wine glasses we saw on the first day. We also had some of the BEST waffles I’ve had yet (I thought they were better than the ones I’ve tried in Belgium). I’d be lying if I said I only had one.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Guinness prior to this trip but I loved it in Ireland. I encourage you to try it if you ever visit. Cheers my friends to another country, another adventure and to Abby for driving on the wrong side of the road!

Love,

Jenny

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Ps. I loved the Cappuccinos at Noelle’s.

Birthdays and Princess Castles: Neuschwanstein

I’ve wanted to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle since I first moved to Germany. It reminded me of all the princess castles we watched in movies growing up. It looked so perfect in photographs and I wanted so badly for it to be that beautiful in person. Unfortunately, King Ludwig II died before it was completely finished. The castle was opened to the community and millions of people visit this incredible piece of history every year. Aunt Karin and our cousin Jenny helped us plan a trip to Neuschwanstein the weekend of my birthday to celebrate our marriage.

We were up late the night before at the local Octoberfest celebration. We woke up later than planned and started our road trip. To be honest, Dan started driving and I napped gracefully in the passenger seat. He was so sweet to snap this picture of me…

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We finally made it to Aunt Karin’s house. She made a delicious homemade breakfast and fresh coffee —> we definitely needed that! As we got back into the car to continue our road trip, Aunt Karin talked us into taking the scenic route. We agreed immediately. The fall weather was warm and sunny. The gorgeous German countryside was well worth the extra hour to get there.

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When we arrived we scoped out the castles and did some shopping. We stopped for pizza, beers and of course cappuccino! I loved the atmosphere of this chill little restaurant named “Relax” in Fussen, Germany.

We were exhausted from a long day of travel so when we finally made it to our hotel on the border of Austria and Germany we slept so hard. The next morning we woke up to a delicious European breakfast including freshly baked bread, rolls, meats, cheeses and fruit. We had such a great experience at this hotel!

We went back to the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castle. Dan and Aunt Karin were waiting in line to get tickets. I was picking up cappuccinos and hot, freshly baked pretzels. What an amazing breakfast! We didn’t end up getting tickets to tour the castle. I remembered reading blogs saying we should buy tickets ahead of time but I forgot to! oops! We didn’t want to delay heading back home (It’s football season! The Eagles were playing at 7pm Germany time and Dan wouldn’t miss a game).

We took a carriage ride up to the castle and toured the exterior and the courtyard. The views from where the castle sits nestled into the mountains were breathtaking. It was everything I could have ever hoped it would be.

Thanks for spending my birthday with me Aunt Karin!

Love,

Jenny

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It was already dark when we arrived to the hotel but we woke up to these views!!

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Watching the sun rise

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Hot pretzels and cappuccino for breakfast #2 🙂

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The view from the castle

 

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Until next time my friends… I’ll be sipping cappuccino and dreaming of where life will take us next.

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Norway: Chasing Waterfalls Part 2

It was a sweet morning. We spent almost an hour sitting on the docks like this waiting for the express boat from Luftus to Eidfjord, Norway. Once again, I was cold. Dan held me as we watched the sunrise. The sun hit the water just perfectly as we talked about the snow covered caps of the mountains across from us. I wanted to press that moment in time into my memory forever. No matter how cold it was, I loved this place. I loved the freedom, the serenity, the quiet spaces I never allow into my everyday life. It reminded me that life shouldn’t always be fast and furious… that sometimes the best moments in life are the slow, lazy mornings like this one.

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We enjoyed the quick boat ride to our next destination: Eidfjord. Dan was nervous because our bus connection was 5 minutes after our arrival. We made it without any difficulties. The bus driver looked at us funny as we showed him our passes and boarded the bus. I didn’t really think much about it at the time, maybe because I’m used to people staring at us in Germany Haha (more on that later). We were headed to the most famous waterfall in Norway,Vøringfossen. We stopped at a museum halfway to the waterfall. Despite the wind when reached our destination the sun started to shine, You’ll see my crazy windblown hair below. To be honest the pictures of the Vøringfossen waterfall didn’t capture the magnitude of its beauty. The hundreds of gallons of water pouring down the mountains… you just have to see it for yourself.

As we boarded the bus and headed back down the mountain, Dan looked at our book of tickets and realized we were supposed to go on this tour the next day. OOPS! No wonder the bus driver looked at us so funny! We were still too early to check into our hotel room. So Dan sat on the dock and watched me work out while we passed the time until check in. (In all fairness his arm was still broken).

They let us check into the hotel around 3pm  and the receptionist said there were a lot of nice restaurants in the area but the Thai food street vendor was her favorite. SAY no More! We absolutely love Thai food. Lets just say we ate there more than once…. No shame in our food game.

I honestly can remember if we took a bus or boat but eventually we ended up at the train station in Voss that was supposed to take us back to Oslo for our flight home the next day. Let’s just cut this story short…. Basically, we misplaced the tickets 9 minutes prior to departure…. And Dan raced down the stairs/under the tracks and back to the train station store to purchase more tickets… only to realize they were sold out. It was a FIVE-hour train ride back to Oslo and if we didn’t make this train we were missing our flight the next morning FOR SURE.

Never in my life have I been stressed while traveling (just ask Dan… this personality flaw makes him crazy! Haha). However, I was stressed in these moments as I tore apart all of our bags and finally found the tickets. Dan had set them down across the aisle and two rows up from our seats as he loaded our backpacks in the overhead bins. I asked the people next to us to watch our stuff… as I raced off the train and after him. Dan didn’t have an international cell phone plan at that time… so I had the choice to run and find him or leave on the train to Oslo without him… and just have him figure out his own way back to Germany. I thought going after him was a good plan until I heard the 2-minute warning for the train leaving. Right about then I realized we had all of our important documents in my backpack because we just got married in Denmark prior to our Norway trip. Meaning…….I left all of our PASSPORTS, Birth certificates and SS cards on the train. —->NOT the brightest decision I’ve ever made. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I was panicking at the time.

By the grace of God, I made it back to the train. I stood at the door continuously opening the doors… Praying Dan made it back in time. He did. Thank God. 30 seconds before we took off (<—–I’m not exaggerating). Once my tachycardia subsided… we started playing blackjack and laughed about how we were just talking about how we flawlessly pulled off a complicated trip (3 flights, 5 water taxis, 4 bus rides, 1 ferry, 1 train ride and 5 different hotels). We had obviously spoken too soon. There is a picture below of Dan exhausted… and these sweet little girls across from us that were traveling alone on the train back to their home (it’s a much different world here), you’d never see that back in the states. They were much better behaved that Dan and I. We were laughing, playing cards, writing postcards and sealing them with a kiss. The last part was me… rather than Dan. 😉

I love places that leave me in awe of the beauty this world holds. I’m willing to travel as far as it takes to see places like this because they change you and your perspective of the world.

 

Love,

Jenny

 

Loftus, Norway

 

Our express boat

 

 

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Eidfjord, Norway

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Eidfjord, Norway

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Voss Train to Oslo

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When we finally arrived at the Oslo airport… we had delicious waffles and cappuccino.

The Culinary Beer Hike: Landstuhl, Germany

It started out as a typical fall day in Germany. Cold+Grey skies+Rain. We didn’t let that stop us. We bundled up with scarves and warm socks, put on our rain boots and hit the trails. 

The beer hike started at the Berg Nanstein castle. We bought tickets for 8 Euro each, which included our glass and discounts on all of our beers along the way. 

We grabbed a beer for the hike and started walking. At the second stop we ate smoked BBQ pulled pork and fresh German bread. We refilled our beers and we were on our way again. 

At another stop we tasted the smoked salmon, grabbed a cappuccino (Espresso is always necessary) and dessert. It was some sort of delicious cherry coffee cake. AH-may-ZING!!! Thankfully my friends didn’t give me the option and I had to share…because believe me, I would’ve eaten the whole thing ;). We even had a group skype sesh with friends back home at this stop. 

We kept walking and it kept raining. Overall we had a wonderful time and thanks to my hunters and my umbrella, I stayed completely dry. I definitely learned something from our Norway trip! Waterproof is the way to go 😉 

In Germany, every activity includes beer. Prost! 

Love,

Jenny

It rained and rained and rained…

These two jokers never quit!

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