On March 7th, after a three night stop in SC, we headed to Georgia. Our first stop was lunch at the Floyds (Josh’s oldest sister’s family).
Then we drove on to Warner Robbins to spend four nights with our friends the Gottwals and visit Central Fellowship Baptist Church, one of our supporting churches. We’re all enjoyed our fellowship together.
Monday morning we headed to Marrietta to spend two nights with Josh’s Grandma.
That Tuesday, Josh and three three older kids went to Gainesville to have lunch with Great Uncle Ellis.
On Wednesday, the 13th, we drove to stay with Josh’s uncle & aunt. We had supper at a cousins’ home. Four out of five of his cousins in that family were there.
Thursday, the 14th, we started our two-day drive to Texas. Life is an adventure! Thankful for friends, family, and God’s protection.
We left Buffalo on Sunday, February 24, and drove to South Bend, IN to visit some friends for 4 days. They put us up in a lovely B&B. Between our two families there were 10 kids. We enjoyed our time together.
On Thursday, February 28, we drove to Indianapolis IN and had lunch with Dory’s family. Dory and I were friends at BJU. Two years ago Dory was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. As a family, we’ve been praying for Dory multiple times a day. It was very special to spend time with Dory’s family and for our kids to meet. (9 kids between the two of us!) Anna especially wanted to meet Dory, as Anna has very faithfully prayed for Dory.
After lunch we drove to Dayton Ohio to spend one night with my sister. It was great to see Aunt Emily and Uncle Daniel.
On Friday, March 1, we drove to Cincinnati Ohio to visit our friends the Lyons (9 kids between us both). We arrived right in time for home school roller skating. Our four older kids were excited about trying and we were so impressed with all of them. The next day we went to Jeremiah’s basketball game. We had a great time being with our friends.
Saturday, March 2nd, we drove to Lexington KY to visit our friends there for two days. We had a great time with all of them! There first night we were with then we made smores outside. Sunday we had snowfall.
Last Thursday we left Dover, PA to start our adventure visiting friends and family in America. Our first overnight stop was Syracuse, NY to be with my Grandma. We had a lovely visit. The kids enjoyed sleeping by the fireplace. Friday, we had an incredible morning sledding. It was a great hill that was icy! The kids and I had a blast!
Friday after lunch, we drove to Buffalo, NY to visit our friends the Simpsons. Our kids had a blast playing with the girls and we enjoyed our two days of fellowship with them.
This past Sunday was our last Sunday at our church in Saom Kaning until we return mid-August. We leave for our 6-month furlough this coming Monday night (actually the plane takes off at 12:20am Tuesday morning).
Sunday evening the leaders of the church had a goodbye meal for us with all the people who serve in the church. We were greatly encouraged by their show of love for our family. People who have never said a word to me were all teary eyed at our departure. For them 6-months is a long time. It’s long for us too, but we’ll be so busy it will fly by for us.
In some ways I feel like leaving our home here is harder than when we left the States to come live in Cambodia. We have grown to love these people. They are our friends. Our children have friends. This is our home. I’m so thankful we get to come back.
One of the sweetest things as we drove away that night was our kids’ love for our church. Isaiah put it like this, “If we could take our church to America, it would be the best.”
Thanks be to God that He has bound our hearts together with our Jarai brothers and sisters. How we will miss them. We have truly seen Jesus’ words, “
In two weeks Ezra will be 6 months old, so I guess it’s about time for me to record his birth story. Each of our children has a unique birth story (premature emergency c-section, scheduled c-section, scheduled c-section turned into a surprise VBAC, and bathroom delivery) – Ezra decided to join the ranks – forced admittance to the hospital and Water Birth!
I should start by admitting that this was not an easy pregnancy for me. Ok – starting out with a car accident, memory loss, and a concussion was not a great way to wade through first trimester. My concussion recovery, which took about 8 weeks, plus afternoon/evening sickness, plus taking care of our house (I didn’t have any house help until I was about 7 months pregnant), and being mommy and teacher to our four kids was exhausting. And then there was the varicose vein leg pain – for a while I couldn’t stand for very long to prepare food or do other tasks. I started doing most of my food prep sitting on the floor. And then there were the Braxton Hicks, which start for me before 20 weeks, occurring mostly during the night.
When we arrived in Thailand, I was exhausted and hadn’t even really had time to think about actually giving birth! We spent about two weeks in Thailand before Ezra was born. And they were two uncomfortable weeks for me, especially at nights. (I was probably actually contacting during several of those nights….but who knows.)
Since I had only had ultrasounds and some basic blood work done before arriving in Bangkok, I was concerned that my doctor was going to make me go through a bunch of testing like she made me do when I met her for my first appointment before Clara was born. I was very thankful she didn’t make me do any extra testing, especially the glucose tolerance test (I always fail the 1-hour test and then have to take the 3-hour fasting test). She did have me take the StrepB test and thankfully it came back negative. My doctor’s main concern was that I was going to have a repeat Clara birth experience and end up unable to make it to the hospital. She even talked about admitting me to the hospital if I got too close to my due date (August 18th). My doctor did tell me that if I did come to the hospital soon enough I could try to have a water birth, if they had time to fill the birthing pool (but she said she doubted they would have time, since she expected me to go quickly.) I think she was trying to convince me to come to the hospital early!
On Monday, August 13th, I went in for my normal
weekly appointment. I took Anna with me for the outing, since I was letting
different kids accompany me on the doctors’ trips. When I complained about having
discomfort at night, my doctor asked to check me. I was dilated to a 4 – which for
me seemed like no big deal. I wasn’t in labor. But my doctor made a huge deal
about it and said she couldn’t let me leave the hospital and would admit me,
break my water, and then she promised me I would give birth that day.
This is not what I wanted to hear. I had my 4-year-old daughter with me. Our friend who was going to stay with the kids was coming the next day. I asked if I could take my daughter home and come back tomorrow. My doctor would not hear of it – and I’m not very good at insisting on my own way with doctors. So I found myself in a wheelchair (they wouldn’t even let me walk) with Anna riding on my lap. I felt ridiculous! I was trying to text Josh to let him know what was happening. All these people were staring at me and I wasn’t even having contractions. We were ushered into a very nice birth-room designed for natural child birth. And there I was left to wait. So there I was – with Anna – just sitting around – not in labor – being admitted to the hospital. Thankfully, Josh was able to get in touch with a very nice couple, Steve and Martha Wilson, whom we met at the guesthouse and had recently asked to be our “back-up plan” in case I went into labor before our friend arrived. Then Josh waited with the kids until the Wilsons came. At that point he came to the hospital and took Anna home and then came back (all this had to be done by taxi).
Meanwhile a nurse came in and told me that my doctor had
said I wanted my water broken. I smiled at her and said, “Do I have any choice?”
She just sympathetically smiled in return. Thankfully they agreed to wait until
Josh was back.
They started filling the birthing pool as soon as I got
there (probably around 11:30am). Every few hours they had to empty some of the
water and refill it to keep it at the right temperature. It was kinda funny.
I was very concerned about having my water broken. Lots of resources
on having a VBAC will tell you that the key to having a VBAC is staying out of
the hospital as long as possible. Once they break your water, you are typically
only allowed 24 hours until the baby must come out. If my doctor broke my water and nothing
happened, the chance of having a C-section would highly increase. I was quite
stressed about this. I was hoping that I would make good progress before my
doctor came to break my water, and thankfully she was very busy all afternoon
with her other patients down at the office.
Around 5:30 my doctor came and checked me again – I was at a 7 and they were amazed that I wasn’t having much discomfort. I didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. Around 6, she went to break my water – she couldn’t find it. She told me to go play with all the birthing toys. I felt so dumb – there I was playing on the toys but not feeling like I was in labor. She came back about 20 minutes later to try again and this time she found it.
My doctor was expecting things to move fast and just sat outside
my room at the desk – ready and waiting. I’m not sure about the timing, but
soon I started feeling stronger contractions. And very soon after that I knew
it was time. Josh went to call for help and people came fast. I got in the birthing-pool
and a few minutes later with just a few pushes out came Ezra into the water. We
lifted him up out of the water and I saw he was a boy – surprise! He had his
cord wrapped around his neck and I helped get that off. He was still covered in
vernix – that waxy white substance coating the skin of newborn babies – I ended
up having it all over my arms. I was so relieved and thankful for another VBAC
and found it amusing that it was another unique birth experience (forced admittance
to the hospital and water birth).
Time for another confession – I was not a quiet, controlled mother during labor. I had read that it was better to moan and groan during labor, versus tightening your muscles; and let me tell you, I felt quite free in expressing my discomfort. I think my favorite phrases were, “This Hurts!” and “I don’t think I want to do this!” Once those contractions hit – they are strong! I only spoke strongly once. My doctor kept wanting me to sit down on the bench in the tub – but I couldn’t. And that’s what I told her, “I CAN’T!” One thing that made it laugh during labor was the song that came up on my playlist. I had created a Labor/Delivery playlist with some of my favorite songs to help me remain calm. Somehow the Michael W. Smith’s Christmas albums got tagged on the end. So as I was in the last stage of labor, I heard Michael singing Christ the Messiah, God is with us, Emmanuel. How appropriate, I thought – I birth song.
My doctor pretty much let me labor and push at my own speed. Once Ezra’s head was out she asked me to push one more time. Besides that she let me be in charge and I let my body be in charge. (For those of you who are wondering, I was the only one in the birthing pool – everyone else was standing outside.)
And there he was – I drew him out of the water. Our second son. Ezra Emmett Jensen.
And one last confession – my doctor was right…I probably
wouldn’t have made it to the hospital. I would have waited too long until I
felt like something was actually happening and then it would have been too
late. So I thanked her for making a good decision for me (though bathroom
babies are really exciting!).
Josh was a great support during the entire birth. I was so
relieved once he got the kids settled and got to the hospital. He brought
Subway sandwiches, since I had missed lunch. I was so hungry. We were so
thankful are kids were very happy with Steve and Martha Wilson and so thankful
for their help to our family. Josh did his best to help pass the waiting time
away – as I was stressed and didn’t feel like doing much at all. Josh was able
to rub my back during the water birth and be a wonderful support during the intense
labor. So thankful for him!
So thrilled with Isaiah’s reading progress! He finished All About Reading Level 2 this month. We always have a party to celebrate whenever our kids finish a level of reading. Isaiah chose to play games. Then we had brownies with Hershey’s chocolate syrup on top. Isaiah was given his first ESV Bible. It’s so fun to hear him reading it at night!
This Sunday our happy little boy turned 5 months old! He continues to be a sweet and easy boy – and very, very happy! He loves smiling and laughing. He loves playing on his tummy and has started grabbing things. He doesn’t stay still long and turns himself around on his tummy and inches forward every once and awhile. He is irresistible!
Ezra is very interested in what others are doing or eating. He likes to play and be around all his siblings. Clara is teaching him to to wrestle.
So glad this precious little boy is ours!
And now for the 5-month comparison pictures. Note that I used Becca’s 7 month picture to adjust for her preemie size.
Christmas is a very special time for the Jarai Christians in Cambodia. Since Christmas is not an official holiday, it’s not celebrated in homes. The only place Christians celebrate is in the church. Many churches schedule their celebrations on different days so people (especially the youth) can attend each others’ Christmas events.
Our church began their celebration Friday night, December 21. They set up everything outside, since they knew the building wouldn’t hold everyone. There was a meal, sermon, and lots of singing. The next Saturday morning, December 22, our church met together for their morning Christmas celebration. The children’s group sang three songs I wrote for them – two of them were verses from Scripture that Josh translated with his team.
We helped the youth do a simple play. Two readers read Matthew chapters 1 & 2 while the actors preformed the story. The Jarai Bible Translation team had just finished translating those chapters in Matthew, so it was neat to see them put into immediate use.
Josh preached a sermon in Jarai from Matthew 2. Afterwards we had a meal together.
I made a pinata for the children, which they did after lunch was over. It was really fun to watch people participate (adults too). Josh and I laughed so hard our faces hurt.
A big thank you to the Pawleys who took many of these pictures, while I was up front helping.
Our family celebrated Christmas on December 24th and 25th. On Christmas Eve Josh took each kid out to buy Christmas presents at our local market. (Becca bought hers the week before when we were in Ban Lung.) Most of my Christmas Eve was spent baking and prepping food for the evening and the next day. Around 3PM we went out and delivered fruit and brownies to our neighbors and the families whose kids attend our Bible club. Afterwards we had our annual Christmas Eve dinner of Tacos, followed by drinking hot chocolate while we watched The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Christmas Day we had breakfast and then the kids did a Christmas play for us, directed by Becca. Afterwards the kids gave out their gifts. One of the highlights of Christmas for the kids is their buying/giving gifts. They are so excited!
Late morning, Om Puimeng came to visit with us. We had invited her for lunch. Before lunch we ate cinnamon rolls and sang Christmas carols and after lunch we played a game together.
Christmas dinner we had a buffalo roast with mashed potatoes and carrots. Afterwards the kids decorated their giant gingerbread person.
Becca performed her annual Little People Christmas Play. She quotes straight from Luke 2 and Matthew 3.
We finished out the evening with gifts from us to the kids. And
of course, singing carols and lighting the Advent candles. Merry Christmas!
We had a lovely day celebrating Christmas. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll post about all our Christmas happenings. It’s a very full time of year for all the Jarai churches. and by the end of the season we’ll have attended over eight different village church events.
One special Christmas tradition we have is singing carols every evening after supper. Each night a different child gets to light and blow out the candles. Typically everyone gets to choose a carol to sing. It’s one of our favorite parts of the season.
This week Josh was gone Monday-Thursday to Phnom Penh, so we had to find some extra things to do! Monday night the kids had a big sleep-over next to the Christmas tree. (The tricky part is putting up mosquito nets.) Ezra and I slept in our own beds, but I did stay up and participate in all the party activities!
Last Sunday we had our Bible Club Christmas party. We started off with cookie decorating. Then we did singing and the Christmas story. We finished the event with three different water games. Everyone was very muddy by the time we were done! (Pictures taken by Jeff Davis.)
Today we celebrate Ezra’s 4 month birthday. Right after Ezra’s 3 month birthday, he started sleeping through the night. This has been a sweet gift to me, since the extra sleep is a great help for my daylight hours. Part of Ezra’s sleeping is due to his love for sucking his fingers…or hands. He just loves sucking on his fingers and it’s so cute so watch. He sometimes gags himself as he tries to get as many fingers as possible in his mouth. (After I wrote this post, Ezra decided to stop sleeping through the night. He’s been up at 2am every night this week.)
Ezra has started laughing and I could just listen to it all day. He usually ends by spitting up, very much like Isaiah did when he was a baby. It’s always amusing to see what he finds funny. The other day he kept laughing when I was practicing speaking Jarai to him. When I called Josh in to try, Ezra stopped laughing and listen very intently. I guess that tells you something about my ability to speak Jarai!
Last Friday we decorated for Christmas. We all had a fun time and the kids were so excited to put everything put. Clara got the honor of putting the star on the tree.
We took the kid’s picture in front of the tree. Josh told everyone to “make a Clara face!” I’m sure you can figure out which picture that is. Clara is the master of making grumpy faces during picture taking.
Ezra here – Daddy has been gone this week teaching at the Pastors’ Bible School and I’m here to report what mischief has been taking place. Most things are going on as normal, but some of the older kids are being more helpful than usual. However I don’t understand what’s been going no at nights.
Monday night Anna and Mommy stayed up while everyone went to bed. From my bed, I could smell nail polish and popcorn and I heard a lot of pages being turned. Later Anna slept on Daddy’s side of the bed. In the morning I saw no evidence of that anything unusual had taken place.
Tuesday night Isaiah and Mommy stayed up late while everyone else went to bed. Again, I heard popcorn, but this time it sounded like they were buying and charging each other rent. I also heard talk of going to jail. Whatever happened it sounded like Mommy ended up with all the loot. This time Isaiah slept on Daddy’s side of the bed – guess they both escaped jail!
On Wednesday night Becca and Mommy stayed up and did the popcorn and jail thing. I think Becca took all of Mommy’s money for I heard loud weeping from her before bed. Then Becca came in and slept on Daddy’s side of the bed.
Clara has been up early with Mommy and I think this morning they put cocoa powder in the coffee. I don’t think Clara or I will be sleeping on Daddy’s side of the bed. He’ll be home soon and I think Mommy looks pretty worn out from all the extra evening excitement. I’ve been making sure she gets up at 4am to give me detailed reports of the evenings!
On August 8th (5 days before Ezra was born) we took a trip to Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World. We visited this aquarium when Clara was born last time we were in Bangkok and everyone was looking forward to going again. We were able to use Christmas money to sponsor our trip. Thankful for people’s generosity.
We had a great time seeing all the fish and other sea creatures. A highlight was the shark tunnel, where we walked through the shark, sting ray, and other large fish tank in a glass enclosed tunnel. The place where we could walk on top of the same area was a highlight as well.
What a special treat for our family, especially since we don’t have access to these kind of things in Cambodia. I love watching our children get so excited seeing everything. We love that we can visit special places while here for Ezra’s birth – it’s a special treat!
A few weeks ago while studying ancient Greece, we decided to hold our own Olympics. The kids each made their own flags to represent their countries (Becca – Unicorn Land, Isaiah – Zebra Land, Anna & Clara – Panda Land).
We had an opening and closing ceremony and had two days of events with medal ceremonies after each event (the kids made gold, silver, bronze, and “Clara” medals).
One of the things I love to do is write tunes for Bible verses to help Khmer and Jarai children memorize Scripture. So far we’ve put together 14 new verse songs and written two original Jarai songs. Anything I’ve done with Khmer is easy, since I just use a Khmer Bible translation. Anything we do in Jarai we translate first – Josh works with the Jarai Bible translators to translate the verse.
Above is our Jarai Romans 5:8, song by a group of young people who came to our house to learn the song.