How do you start over?

When life takes a wild and unexpected turn, where do you find stability?

After nearly eight years in tropical Brazil, sipping cold coconut water and sniffing colorful hibiscus flowers in the shimmering summer heat, we've gone the polar opposite. Literally. In our first week in South Dakota, as stars sparkled like mad fire in a black January sky, the temperature in rural South Dakota where we now live dipped to around fifteen below zero.

Wind whirled around the corners of our cozy lamplit house shortly after we arrived, gusting fallen snow. Branches scraped, creaked. Our propane heater groaned, threatening to fizzle out into cold darkness. We snuggled together under blankets. Wondered if the little cottontail bunny that frequents our yard would find enough to eat.

And we slept warm, with velvet-soft comforters pulled up around our ears. Listening to the soft, comforting hum of electric heaters, the orange glow spilling across the carpet like firelight.

We awoke to a glorious, snow-white dawn.

Awake, alive, and ready for God's new beginnings.

Even if they seem to be endings, losses, uncertainties, God spreads our path with beauty.

In a shockingly short time, we have tumbled nearly a hundred degrees from steamy tropics to freezing nights. Portuguese hangs in the back of my mind like a hazy memory, ghostlike - and I accustomed myself, again, to English signs and Wal-Mart ads and winter coats and boots. My Brazilian alien registration card sits unused, and I forget what it's like to order bottled water or peel manioc.

I sat in church on a cold Sunday morning, frost-dazzled, and thought of our Brazilian friends gathering for worship a continent away.

After a dizzying blur of immigration forms, interviews, plane tickets, and months of buying second-hand furniture and frantically calling propane and Internet companies, we are here. Winter has melted into spring, and into glorious summer - and soon snowy winter will come again. A thousand miles from the twining passion fruit vines and red-dusty blue Brasilia sky we once called home.

God opened the door, and we walked through. Never quite prepared for what we find on the other side.

And yet it is always, always good.

When life takes unexpected turns, we find our footing in His.

When He shakes out the rug from underneath our feet, starting over our life in one of the most unexpected places, we do what we have always done: lean on Him, step forward into new work and ministry and friends, and circle our family's heart tight. It is joy! Ethan played in the snow for the first time, laughing out loud as it fell in cascading whirls. Athos shoveled snow and hauled feed bags during the winter months, laughing at the wind, and in summery months he helps me pour heavy bags of potting soil for our burgeoning garden.

It is beautiful, all of it. Ethan brown-skinned from the prairie sun, and my swelling belly announcing a change in times and in seasons.

I dig on my knees in the earth, planting, tending my little tomato vines and apple trees with all my heart. Hiking and planning camping trips and learning to garden and can. And I write, head bent over the laptop that has been my friend and writing companion for nearly two years.

Change - the thing I hate the most - has brought with it inexplicable delights! The thrill of stepping out in faith - taking a leap - risking it all - and finding we have gained more than we ever expected.

We may learn and grow and change, but our hearts remain the same - but with more room to grow.

To feel.

To hear.

To see.

To step forward and seize this new life with all our hearts, forging a pioneer path into all the trodden roads we've left behind.

Carrying our dreams and memories with us forever, like treasures in our well-worn pockets.


  1. Sweet Jenny, It warms my heart to read this post. You three have been on my heart a lot lately and I've been praying for you during this transition period. It's so great to read of how He's answering our prayers. I am a little sad because I miss you so much, but I know we'll see you again soon. Lots of love, Vanessa

  2. Vanessa - you are so loved and missed! Thanks so very much for writing. We miss you lots and are sad, too, to be so far away from good friends like you. That's the one thing that couldn't transition to the U.S. with us. :) And then when we had to leave so quickly, I didn't even get to say many good-byes.

    Maybe that's better so that when we visit again, we'll pick right up where we left off. :)

    When are you coming to the States? We'll be waiting for you!

  3. Jenny,

    your words are breathtaking. Loved this quote: Carrying our dreams and memories with us forever, like treasures in our well-worn pockets.

    simply beautiful! God has so much good in store for your growing family.