Putting All of Your Eggs In One Basket

Have you ever been in a situation where it felt like you were putting all of your eggs in one basket? A situation, where to the outside world, seemed like you were taking a really big risk? A lot of times, when we choose to put our trust in God we have to step out in faith and do things that really don’t seem to make sense to some people.

A few weeks ago, we FINALLY found out that Phil has been accepted into Loyola University’s accelerated nursing program!!

We were so excited (lots of jumping up and down, and hugging included :D). There were quite a few people who didn’t realize that Phil hadn’t already been accepted into the program. After all, we had moved the whole way out to Illinois. But also, maybe some people didn’t realize that there is only one program within reasonable driving distance that had the program that Phil needed. Where we previously lived outside of Philadelphia, PA there were about 6 different accelerated programs that Phil could have easily gotten to.

However, after we knew we were pregnant, we spent a lot of time praying and felt that moving to Illinois for school was the best decision. Phil already has a bachelor’s degree, so doing an accelerated program made the most sense, both financially and the length of time it would take. That also means he won’t be able to work. Having family available to help with the baby and allow me to work was necessary for us. They also have a small apartment on their property that they said we could live in during our time there (HUGE BONUS).

Considering all of this, it really didn’t make sense NOT to move.

It still was a huge decision, We needed to make the commitment to move before we would find out if Phil was accepted into the program. And then with the Coronavirus and other complications, we ended up not finding out until a month AFTER making the move to Illinois. Sometimes God speaks to people through dreams, other people, the Bible, etc. But sometimes, faith requires a bigger leap.

In our case, we prayed and prayed and then made the jump trusting God would catch us.

I recently heard someone share that many times throughout their life, they weren’t always sure what God was telling them to do or the direction He wanted them to go at the time. It was only OUTSIDE of the situation, looking back that they could see God’s hand all along. And I know that when I look back on my life, that has often been the case. In the moment it can be extremely scary. Sometimes He has made something very clear in the moment, and other times I thought I knew but wasn’t actually sure until later.

When I am in those scary moments, I have to reminded myself that God has never failed me & that He has ALWAYS provided.

A lot of people don’t understand certain decisions that we have made. And that’s okay. Some people don’t even understand why Phil decided to go back to nursing school since He already had a degree. But when you feel like God is leading you a certain direction, it often won’t make sense from the outside. It might not even fully make sense to you. And sometimes it may be a situation where there is a pretty big risk involved.

In a situation like ours, there may be only one outcome that would probably make sense, but you might need to move forward before all the details are worked out. When you hear the saying “…..put all your eggs in one basket” it normally starts with Don’t. But when you are following God, sometimes that’s what we need to do. Sometimes we need to follow God’s nudging, know that He will be there to pull us through. Are you willing to take that next step of FAITH? Will you put your faith in the God who has always provided and trust that He will CONTINUE to provide?

When we do take that step, there is so much more space for God to work in and through us. We are so excited for what God will unfold in this next chapter of our lives.

Our Move to Illinois

When I originally started writing this I was sitting in our last place, surrounded by boxes with our six week old daughter laying next to me on a blanket. It was our home for the last 15 months. Even with as busy as we were and how much we worked, we had so many memories there. It had become home. I won’t lie and say that I haven’t shed a fair amount of tears not just over leaving friends, but also over leaving our apartment. I definitely have a harder time with transitions and change then Phil does (thankfully, transitioning into parenthood was pretty easy for me so far, with all the other changes coming up). But it also may also be due in part to, the fact that this was my seventh move in five years-and that all my previous moves have been in the same state.

Even before that it was back and forth between school, various homes between mom and dad and other places that I stayed for short periods of time. I am in no way trying to complain, but it has been a lot. I will be so excited in a few years when we can fully settle down in a place of our own. At the same time, I cannot even express how grateful I am to God for our new home for the time being. Not to mention, getting to be so close to Phil’s parents and some of his siblings (I already love them, but am so excited to have more time with them). I know God will continue to challenge and teach me, but I have already learned so much through those difficult, unknowing, and in-between times.

1.) To quote the cliche saying “Home is where the heart is”; God has been teaching me how to make a home no matter where I am because He always goes with me. He has given me my better half, who has made the last few moves with me. And now we also have our beautiful daughter, to build our home with. It’s about our love towards each other and God that makes our home, not the actual location.

2.) These few years have been a huge reminder to me, that we are all just sojourners in this world. Even if we buy a home, decorate it, and live in it for the next thirty years, it is not permanent. God has used my moves to remind me that, my real home is not here and I need to remember not to get too attached to material possessions. And who knows….if we some day head out on to the mission field, this may just be preparation of what is to come.

3.) Over and over, God has shown me his WAYS are not our ways.  Things often don’t go as I have planned; and I have been reminded that what I think is best in the moment, is not what God KNOWS is best in the long run. He will ALWAYS provide for me (us). Sometimes it isn’t the way I have expected, but God never leaves me to drown. He always provides a way.

4.) One of the biggest blessings has been discovering how many people care for me (and Phil) and have given up space and privacy in order to bless us. I am SO thankful for every family that I have gotten to live with over the last few years. THANK YOU for allowing me to become part of your family for a short while. And now again, we are so grateful to Phil’s family for providing a home and childcare as Phil goes back to school. We will probably never be able to repay all of you…but it is my (and Phil’s) hope that someday we can pay it forward to other college students or couples.

5.)Being on the move a lot, has made minimalism seem more attractive….every time I move I end up purging a bunch of unnecessary stuff (by the trashbag). There is nothing wrong with having stuff, but it has definitely helped me to see what things are necessities to me, versus options.  Although, with this move we have by far the most stuff we’ve ever had-my goodness, babies need so many things (plus that closet full of diapers we brought along)!

Right now our apartment (or the Villa as we call it) is still under construction so we are staying in the main house with Phil’s family. We will make a “mini-move” across the driveway, in the fall when the villa is finished. As I sit in our current bedroom and dream of the memories to come, I am so thankful for what God has allowed me to go through. Because yes it has been tough at times, but it has allowed me to feel so much for others who have been in similar and worse situations. It has made me so much for thankful for our new space and reminds me not to take my blessings for granted. Homes are not just places for our things and a place to rest our heads at night…they are meant to be LIVED in and used to BLESS others.


The First Month

I can’t believe we already have a one month old! Time has flown so quickly and I’ve already cried a little, while holding Isabel and realizing how big she has already grown since the first time I held her. I try to take advantage of every second I have cuddling her or feeding her, of her little smiles, and how she stares into my face as I talk to her. In some ways quarantine has been a blessing; there are less distractions and more time to just savor the moments with our precious daughter. Isabel loves to sleep and cuddle and she enjoys bath time, her pacifier, and staring up at the wooden baby gym that her Uncle Chad built her. She already fills our lives with so much light and joy; she is truly a gift from God.

6619E251-DF53-4C56-8977-DE5431A22C97The transition home was a bit difficult, as we were already sleep deprived and Isabel started to struggle with feeding. We barely slept the first night and I ended up pumping and we spoon fed her to try and get some milk into her before leaving for her doctor appointment. That afternoon we were able to get a telahealth appointment with an amazing lactation consultant. Each feeding after that got easier and now she is pretty much a pro. We were also very blessed that my mom had been working from home and was able to come spend 10 days with us, so we were able to get caught up on some sleep as well. Isabel goes anywhere between 4-5 hours between feedings at night and does pretty well sleeping in her bassinet in our room. Just over the last week or so she has started to spend more time awake during the day and loves interacting and trying to talk with us. Phil has been working 3-4 days a week and while we do well on our own, we love having Daddy here.

The name is Isabel means God is bountiful. What an appropriate reminder and encouragement for the time that we are currently living in. I still find myself in awe, that God chose Phil and me to be her parents. After my eventful pregnancy and delivery, the last month has been rather peaceful. And we are so grateful for that. But it doesn’t mean that it also hasn’t been extremely difficult in other ways. Isabel’s first month in our world is not something Phil and I could have imagined or dreamed up on our own. I thought by now that my whole family would have the opportunity to meet and cuddle her, that we would have friends over, and that we get to take Isabel to church at least once. I hate that Isabel hasn’t met her village and while we are surrounded by an amazing community, “social distancing” has made this time feel so lonely at times.

9788462A-CBCA-4BF7-B107-D9BFD17B6787What makes this time even more difficult for us, is that in about two weeks (Memorial day weekend) we are moving to Illinois; over 800 miles away from where we live now. There will be many people that we won’t get to say goodbye to and many people who will not get to meet Isa for quite awhile longer. I long for her Great-grandparents to hold her, to make memories with friends and family, and to hug our loved ones goodbye. I wonder when things will ever change, when thing will start to get back to “normal”. This is definitely not an ideal time to be moving. It is sometimes difficult to look forward to our new adventure when we do not even know what that will look like right now. 

I know that there are so many other families in our position right now; many may be feeling even more alone in this. I see you Momma, I feel for you…the isolation and the loneliness, all the while adjusting to having a newborn around. Postpartum is no joke-especially in this difficult time. Please know that you aren’t alone. If it feels like too much to handle, reach out-don’t feel like you need to also be alone emotionally. Cherish those baby cuddles and sweet smiles; take advantage of every moment you have with your little one. Each time I look at Isabel, I am reminded that everything is going to be okay. I am reminded of how bountiful the love of God is for me, for my family, and for each one of us. So as I watch my sleeping baby curled up next to me, I take comfort in each wonderful moment that God has already given us and look forwards to each moment to come.

The Birth Story

On Tuesday, April 7th 2020 our little angel made her eventful entrance into the world. Isabel Grace Denner was born at 6:43 AM at 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. During my pregnancy, multiple people told me to have a “loose” birth plan, but to be prepared for it to go differently than planned. And in our case, that was certainly true. Originally, I had hoped to have a completely natural labor and delivery, but Phil and I had talked about the option of induction as the situation with COVID-19 began to grow more serious and affect many medical facilities across the nation. On Friday, April 3rd, I had an appointment with my OB and after talking with her and a few other doctors, Phil and I decided to go ahead with an elective induction. While I had originally wanted a natural delivery, it was more important to Phil and I that he could be there for the delivery and birth of our baby girl. My doctor and many others at our hospital were just waiting for the day when the hospital would change the rules and not allow a support person in the room. Since I was full term and baby girl was due on the 7th anyways, we decided this was the best decision with the current situation.

So on Monday night, around 8pm Phil and I headed with our bags to the hospital. The plan was at I was to arrive at labor and delivery at 9pm, where I would then be hooked up and monitored and given a small dose of cervidil. The purpose of the cervidil is to help finish ripening the cervix and I was supposed to receive increasing doses every four hours until my cervix was fully effaced and then on Tuesday morning I was going to be put on Pitocin to start contractions and my OB doctor would be there during the day to (hopefully) delivery the baby; although the process could potentially take longer than that. Throughout the day I had been having some contractions, but they weren’t very strong and I just thought they were Braxton hicks. But before even taking medication, the monitors were already registering my contractions at every 5 minutes. After giving me the first dose of cervidil, the doctors left the room so that Phil and I could get some sleep.

Or at least that was the plan. It didn’t take long for my belly to start feeling crampy (which was normal) but then my contractions got stronger. Phil did get a little sleep, but I don’t think I ever did fall asleep. By 1am when they came in to check on me and I was already 3cm dilated. I never did need a second dose of cervidil.  At this point I still was hoping not to get an epidural, but was becoming more open to the idea of it. By 3am I was having contractions every 1 to 2 minutes and most contractions were lasting for more than a minute and a half and I was 6cm dilated. I felt like I could barely catch my breath before the next contraction started and they were getting increasingly painful. I still thought that I wouldn’t be delivering until later in the day and I was absolutely exhausted, having not slept since 7am on Monday morning. I didn’t know how many more hours I could go and also be able to push. So I finally caved and decided to get an epidural. The doctor had already warned me that it would probably be close to an hour after asking for one until I actually would get the epidural.

They started me on an IV and began prepping to have us moved down to a delivery room. I have no idea how I would have made it through the next hour without Phil. He held my hand through each contraction and helped me to breathe through each one. At one point while Phil stepped away to get our things together, I felt like I could barely concentrate to get through on my own. The walk down to the delivery room felt like it took hours. I think it was only a few minutes after I got in the room that the anesthesiologist came in and prepped me for the epidural. I was really nervous, but it went in without a hitch and before long I felt so much relief. The doctor said that we should be able to get some rest now and I began to feel really relaxed and we dimmed the lights. Much time hadn’t passed though, before the doctor and nurse came into check on me and helped me change positions. My blood pressure had dropped a bit, which is normal on an epidural, but the baby’s heart rate was dipping down after each contraction, which was a concern.

Every 15 or so minutes they would come in and have me change positions.  I can’t exactly remember when, but at some point they broke my water and around 6:30am I was 8 and ½ cm dilated. Throughout this time, they continued to keep a close eye on the baby’s heart rate. Right after checking how dilated I was they told me that we were going to start prepping for a vaginal birth. I remember Phil laughing and saying “Well I’m guessing your OB won’t make it here in time for the delivery!” I felt so ready to meet our little girl and couldn’t wait to start pushing. And then only about 5 minutes later (or maybe less) 3 or 4 more nurses and 2 more doctors were suddenly with us in the room. Phil heard them saying, “Do you have the consent form for her to sign?”, but I didn’t realize what was going on until my doctor came up to me and said, “Lauren we are going to go ahead and do a c-section.” Everything after that was a blur. I remember starting to cry as I signed the papers and not wanting to let go of Phil’s hand as they lifted me off of the bed and rolled me out of the room.

I remember praying over and over, “God please let Isabel be okay.” I didn’t know until later why I was getting an emergency c-section and only knew that something was obviously wrong.  I never realized just how QUICKLY a c-section could be performed, but like I said earlier they had decided to prep me for a vaginal delivery at 6:30 (Phil had checked the clock) and our sweet little girl was born only 13 minutes later. Things seemed to move even more quickly after I got into the operating room. I remember looking around and being able to count at least 11 people in the room with me and only seconds after getting the blue sheet up to block my view I could feel hands yanking around at my stomach. And then I felt myself being sliced open. And it HURT. The anesthesiologist by my head asked if I could feel pain and after saying that I did it was only a few seconds before I felt the pain go away; but I could still feel what was happening. I couldn’t see anything though, and it felt like an eternity until I finally heard the cry of a baby. Within a couple of seconds of that cry I felt a hand holding mine and without even looking up I knew it was Phil.

I learned later that as they were wheeling me out of the delivery room, a nurse had told Phil that he could join me in the operation room after he was dressed and they gave him PPE (personal protective equipment). Right after getting everything on a nurse returned to walk him over and he thought that they would be prepping me for the c-section. But as he walked in to the operating room, the first thing he saw was me, open, on the operating and the doctors pulling our baby out of me. After being ushered over to me and holding my hand for a few minutes, he went over to Isabel where they were cleaning her up and giving her oxygen on the warming bed. I was able to see her around the blue sheet, if I strained my neck enough. Each time Phil came back to me I asked if she was okay and finally they wrapped her up and gave her to Phil. He brought Isabel over to me and I was able to reach out and touch her face. She was so beautiful and opened her eyes to look at me as I talked to her. I wanted so badly to hold her in my arms, but after another minute or so they had Phil leave the operating room with Isabel.

After they finished stitching me up, I was taken to get xrays to make sure everything looked good (although I honestly don’t even remember getting them) and then they finally took me back to Phil and the baby. Phil gave her to me to do skin on skin and I never wanted to let her go. It was then that I learned that Isabel’s heart rate had been continuing to drop way too low, which is why they decided to do the emergency c-section. It was then that they realized that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck so as I was contracting and she was moving further down into the birth canal, the cord was tightening around her neck. Even towards the end of my pregnancy I didn’t think I would be getting induced and definitely didn’t plan for a c-section. It wasn’t at all a part of our birth plan, but once I held Isa in my arms and knew that she was okay it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that God had protected me and our little girl and brought her safely to us. In the end, it was such a blessing that I ended up getting induced and choosing an epidural, because they spent more time monitoring Isabel’s heart rate and were able to see what was going on. Also, because I had an epidural I didn’t need to go under general anesthesia, so I didn’t miss the birth of our baby and my recovery wasn’t quite as difficult.

Because of getting a c-section, the hospital normally keeps patients a few extra days, but because of COVID-19, I was told that if the baby and I were doing well we could leave on Thursday (2 days after delivery). We were all taken up to a postpartum room, where none of were allowed to leave until leaving the hospital. Phil even was able to order meals with me. We also had to wear our masks whenever other people were in the room with us. The nurses and staff that worked with us were absolutely phenomenal. We felt so supported and taken care of. On Tuesday afternoon, my OB came into see us and the first thing she said was, “What the heck?! That was NOT the plan!!” We all planned. Yes, that definitely was not the plan. My doctor was only supposed to work Tuesday of that week but ended up there the next two days and was able to check in on us each day. We were both absolutely exhausted. I don’t think either of us slept for more than 2 hours at a time before leaving the hospital. Even when Isabel was fast asleep there were techs or nurses coming in to check on one of us and administer meds, etc…

As time went on, I was increasingly grateful to have Phil there with me. Before the delivery, all I had thought about was how much I needed his support during labor; I had never considered how much I would need him after. I don’t know how I would have survived alone in the hospital for the next few days. From exhaustion, emotional tears, to adjusting to breastfeeding, and processing all the information I was given-having him there to hold my hand and walk through everything with me. As amazing as everyone was, it didn’t take long for us to both feel stir crazy and claustrophobic. With having a c-section recovery would look about different than if I had a vaginal delivery. Each time they checked on me they said that everything was looking great; they told me what warning signs to look for when getting home and that I wouldn’t be able to drive or lift anything heavier than the baby for 6 weeks. The first time I stood up, I was in extreme pain even with the meds and it was with much difficulty that I practiced walking around the room (like they had told me to).

Everything still seemed so surreal; every time I held her or looked at her, I just couldn’t believe she was ours. I know Phil felt the same way and even now it still seems surreal at certain moments. I can’t believe that God chose us to be her parents. This beautiful little angel is actually ours! When they finally gave us our discharge papers, we were so excited to get Isabel home and start life as our little family. Nothing about the delivery or hospital went the way we thought it would (and if you know me, you know I don’t always do well when plans change). But as we held her and snuggled her, none of that mattered. All that mattered was how God had provided for us and brought Isabel safely to us. All of this is just an incredible reminder that we can plan and plan and plan for what’s ahead, but ultimately God is in control and I can rest in that fact as Phil and I continue this journey as a family of three, with our Isabel.


My Pregnancy: Car Accident & COVID-19

As exciting as finding out you are pregnant is, it is also completely normally to have some anxiety and concerns about things that could go wrong. Besides having morning sickness during the first trimester and dealing with some anxiety over the unknowns, God blessed me with a very healthy pregnancy and it started off quite uneventful. Of everything that I was prepared to encounter, the two big events that have affected my pregnancy are ones that I never foresaw. At the end of January I was in a pretty bad car accident, in which my car was totaled and I ended up in the hospital for over 26 hours. The following weeks consisted of working through pain from injury, as well as anxiety and unexpected responsibilities. And then secondly, the last few weeks of my pregnancy have been amid the global pandemic of COVID-19 and currently life as we knew it has ceased to exist. Both of these events have challenged me and given me an opportunity to trust God and place my life more fully in his hands.

I was on my way to work at 8am on a Thursday morning. I was in the right lane of a four lane road (two lanes going each direction) and there was a car in the left lane trying to make a left turn. The car behind him decided not to wait for him to make the turn and merged into my lane. There was a cement building on the other side of me and I had nowhere to go. The other car hit me hard on the front left side of my car (up by the tire in front of the driver’s seat) and ripped the front part of my car off. I was wearing my seat belt, but with the impact, my chest and top of my belly hit the steering wheel. I was able to get myself stopped, but then sat there in shock not even knowing what to do. Thankfully, Jesus sent me a guardian angel in the form of the driver behind us. He pulled over and came to check on me right away. He made sure I would be able to get out of my car and then offered to call 911 for me. I was already feeling pain and was working hard to hold back tears.

I called Phil right away (he was at work), and miraculously he happened to have his phone on him. He normally doesn’t have it with him except on break and as they had just changed locations, I had no idea what his new work number was. He answered right away and was able to leave work within 5 minutes. He took care of calling my boss and my mom so that I could talk to the police. It wasn’t long after, that they arrived. Everything still seemed like such a blur and it was such a blessing that the guy behind me had stopped because he had witnessed everything and was able to tell them what had happened. The police sent for an ambulance and came to check on me and then went to talk to the man who had hit my car. I was in quite a bit of pain, but mostly concerned because while I was driving the baby had been moving a lot and I hadn’t felt a single movement since being hit.

As I was waiting, I heard the other driver trying to blame me for the accident while talking to the police. He hadn’t even come to check on me to see if I was okay (I’ve been in a few fender benders in the past and the other driver had ALWAYS been approachable and we always checked on each other) and had purposely avoided coming over near me. I think that added to my shock and tears and it certainly upset Phil when he arrived and realized what was happening. Phil arrived right after I got my things out of the car and right before the ambulance arrived. Phil talked to the police briefly and got information we needed to follow up about the accident. And then the EMTs checked me out and were going to take me to the closest hospital, but since I was stable Phil was able to drive me to the hospital where my OBGYN practice is.

I called my OBGYN to see where they wanted me to go when we arrived and they said to go up to the labor and delivery ward for monitoring. During the drive my pain continued to increase in my chest and just as we arrived to the parking garage I felt a small movement from baby girl. I was so relieved, but also still really concerned. They put me on an IV and did an ultrasound to check on the baby and make sure that the placenta had not detached from the uterine wall. If it had they would need to prep me for an emergency c-section (I was only at 32 weeks, so we were praying hard that this wouldn’t be necessary). I was having contractions, but luckily I wasn’t bleeding, the ultrasound looked good, and baby girl’s heartbeat was strong. Since I continued to have contractions they wanted to keep watching for awhile and took some blood samples. Throughout the day, baby girl’s movements got stronger and more frequent and eventually I was cleared to go down to the ER.

We spent the next few hours in the ER where I got an EKG (to monitor my heart) and Xrays. The xrays showed that I had a small fracture in my sternum (hence all the pain) and because of the baby we decided not to do a CAT scan; Instead they decided to keep me overnight for more labs and to do an ultrasound on my other organs to make sure nothing else was punctured. They had us go back up to labor and delivery for the night and they continued to monitor the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. We were able to leave mid morning, the next day. During the time that we were at the hospital, our pastor visited, one of my friends spent 5 or so hours in the ER with us, other friends dropped off food, and many people were praying for us. Phil and I were also pleased with the care we received from my OB, the labor and delivery unit, ER and trauma team; we were so thankful how God provided for us.

It was so clear to us how God’s hand was throughout the whole situation and how he watched over and protected me and our baby girl. The accident could have been much worse, but as we settled back in at home I began to experiences many emotions and deal with increased anxiety. I was in a lot of pain; I could barely get out of bed or turn over during the night. Phil would wake up each time I would to help me get up or adjust. Sneezing, coughing, and laughing were almost unbearable. Even though, the other driver had completely been at fault and was ticketed by the police officers, when Phil and I started to sort through the details of car insurance and medical bills and we realized we would need to hire an attorney just to be able to cover remaining medical costs and hopefully make up some of what we lost from our totaled vehicle. The first few times I tried to drive I was so anxious, not to mention in a lot of pain.

I also found myself growing increasingly frustrated with the driver who hit me. What was supposed to be an exciting time preparing for the baby to come was now marred with physical pain, added emotional stress, and many extra responsibilities dealing with insurance, our attorney, a tightened financial situation, and searching for a new vehicle. I had absolutely no control over anything that had happened and it was really tempting to grow angry with the other driver and to question why God would allow any of this to happen in the first place. It just didn’t seem fair and it was so easy to start feeling sorry for myself and get wrapped up in everything that was going wrong. It took a lot of prayer and reminders from Phil and others, that God is sovereign and control. Sometimes I had to choose to forgive the other driver multiple times in one day and remind myself of all the ways that God was providing and how much he had protected me (and baby girl) from.

It took a month or so for both the physical pain and everything else to get easier. And then just as I felt like things were getting back to normal, suddenly the whole world started changing. Before I knew it I was stuck at home 24/7 just waiting for the baby to come. I had so much extra time on my hands and while I wasn’t extremely worried about Phil or myself getting the corinavirus, I was concerned about the children we sponsored in vulnerable areas, about our immunocompromised friends, and for all of the people who were economically at risk from everything that was happening. And things seemed to escalate pretty quickly, because then suddenly there were articles going around about hospitals not allowing a support person in for labor and delivery; even my doctor and the practice were concerned that our hospital was heading that direction. I found myself growing increasingly concerned that I would need to delivery the baby alone and that Phil would miss out on the birth of our daughter.

Just like with my car accident, I realized that it came down to control. Or lack there of. I felt like I had no control over what was happening and I was letting that fear to control me. God convicted me that he is not ringing his hands over this situation, neither is he just watching for a distance. He cares about each and every one of us. I’m not saying that it is easy or that it makes sense to us, but God’s ways are often beyond human understanding. And when we focus on what the WORLD is telling us, YES it is terrifying. But when we focus on God and WHO God is, our perspective changes. God is steadfast and God is love and “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (John 4:18). And with that in mind, I no longer am filled with fear…but I have so much peace knowing that has go me (and us) in his hands. When I let myself be filled with his LOVE, everything takes on a different perspective and I know that he will take care of all the little details. 


The Past Few Months (Part 2): Showered with Love

Phil and I feel beyond blessed by all the love and support that we have had surrounding us throughout our entire relationship, and especially now as we enter into this new phase of our lives. As I shared in our Christmas post, Phil’s family threw a baby shower for us in Illinois while we visited. Then at the end of January my mom and dear friend, Amanda, threw a shower in Mount Joy for my family and friends from that area. And in March, there was a third baby shower, hosted by Maki (my friend and the mom of the twins that I’ve nannied for the last year and a half) for our Philly friends and church family.  Even now I am almost tearing up by how blessed I am so have so many people care for Phil and I and show us their love in such tangible ways.

At the end of January, I went back to Lancaster for the weekend and on Saturday Phil’s mom and the younger girls came into town! I was so excited that they were able to travel so far to come for the shower. To make it even more exciting our Sandy Cove family (super close friends the Lewis and Holsinger families) came from New York and Virginia for the shower as well. On Sunday, my mom and my friend Amanda Lewis hosted the shower at the church where I grew up and the Denner girls, my aunt and other friends helped them.

I was blown away by how beautifully they decorated from the colors, to the succulents on the tables, to the balloons and food table. I almost cried when I saw so many friends and family there to celebrate the coming of baby girl! There was a beautiful table of veggies, fruits, hummus, caprese salad, chicken salad (my favorite), and other fun snacks. One of the cutest things was a table that they had set up with wooden blocks and paints for each guest to decorate! I enjoyed having some time to walk around and see everyone and of course eat the delicious food.

After a bit we played a few games; guess the baby animal names that went with the mama animal, Baby Shower Bingo (during gift opening), and a team game where each table had to race to pass a pacifier around the table without using hands and only the straws in their mouths. It was so funny to watch! After that there was a time of prayer over, Phil, the baby and I. And then it was time to open gifts. We got so many things we needed, some beautiful hand made gifts, sweet clothes for baby girl, and a lot of wonderful books. Phil came while I was opening gifts and got to help with some and see a lot of the people that had come out to the shower.

On Saturday, March 7th Maki hosted my other shower at her house and a few of my good friends helped with planning and decorating. My mom and Grandma came to town for the day and after lunch we headed over to the shower. There were many church friends, girls from the youth group, school friends, and even moms and girls that I’ve babysat for that came to the shower. Once again, it was such a blessing to be surrounded by so many people that I love and that show support for Phil and I.

When I arrived, everyone was mingling throughout the house. There were beautiful balloons, flowers, and decorations, including a super cute diaper cake. They had a table set up with three different stations; where people could fill out advice for the new parents and/or Baby bucket list ideas for the first year that were then put into little books. And then a time capsule box where people could write letters for baby girl to open on her 18th birthday. It was one of the most thoughtful ideas they could have done for us; and both Phil and I teared up later while reading through them.

We had a time of mingling while we ate and I had the opportunity to talk to everyone. The food and snacks were so delicious; there was chicken salad again (they know me so well), two different types of salad, sandwiches, french toast, fruit, a variety of cookies, and strawberry & mocha cupcakes. Some of the food was from the Apple Walnut Cafe in Broomall, PA and my mom made the cupcakes. After awhile we had a time of prayer over Phil, the baby, and I. I cannot fully express the love and support I felt from Maki, my friends, and church family.




And then we played a few shower games. First we played the Baby Music game; This is where every song has the word Baby in the title and after listening a clip from the song you got one point for getting the song title and two points if you knew the artist of the song. Then there was the balloon game where you sat on the balloon to pop and had to gather the letters to spell BABY from inside the balloons. Finally, they played a game where guests put a piece of paper on their forehead and had to try and draw a baby while holding it there and then I had to pick the funniest, craziest, and most artistic drawings. It was so entertaining and fun to watch all the games.




They also did a diaper raffle where anyone who brought diapers or wipes was entered into a drawing for an Amazon gift card. It was such a neat idea and Phil and I will not have to buy diapers for months…our closet in the guest bedroom is now full of diapers! At the end of the shower guests were given the cutest party favors: chap-stick and hand sanitizers (quite appropriate with the current pandemic) with cute labels on them. I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable afternoon and time to spend with everyone celebrating baby girl!




The Past Few Months (Part 1): Trip to Florida

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written; the past few months have been so busy and crazy. I have really missed writing and have so much on mind lately to write and share, but first an update on the last couple of months. I have started my maternity leave now, but previously Phil and I both were busy with our jobs, working with Young Life, our church, and preparing for our baby girl (sometimes stressful but mostly fun).  The biggest events were our trip to Florida for my brother-in-law’s wedding, the car accident that I was in at the end of January (there will be a separate post on that later), and my baby showers.

Phil and I had been looking forward to his brother, Tim and his fiance, Faith’s wedding, in Florida for months. However, we didn’t actually know if I would be able to go until a few days before our flight was supposed to leave. Phil was in the wedding and so he planned on being there no matter what, but as I was entering into 32 weeks at that point I needed to wait and be cleared by my doctor. We had already been strongly advised against driving that far, so we bought plane tickets with insurance and prayed I would be able to go. I was cleared on Friday and on Tuesday evening, February 11th we headed to the airport.

After arriving that night, we stayed with friends of Tim’s and then slept in and relaxed the next day, while waiting for more of Phil’s family to arrive. Phil’s mom was able to find a beautiful 9 bedroom vacation home in Celebration, Florida. So not only were all siblings and significant others able to stay there, but we also had space for both sets of grandparents, and their aunt (without even filling all the beds). The home also had a pool and hot tub and a large room upstairs with pool and foosball.

It was so good to all be together and we spent a lot of time outside in the pool and hot tub and on the porch. Aside from an occasional rain shower, the weather was warm and beautiful all week long. Having so much space was nice because it allowed us to host other friends as well. Phil’s family has known Faith’s family for years (through Sandy Cove) so seeing everyone was like a family reunion for all of them. Her family is even bigger than Phil’s (11 kids excluding in-laws and grandbabies) and, in their words, even louder than his family haha. Thursday morning, both moms took Faith, all of the sisters, and sister-in-laws out for brunch at an adorable tea house. On Thursday evening, when the guys went out for Tim’s bachelor party, the rest of Faith’s family came over to our place to eat dinner and spend time together.

Friday evening was the rehearsal dinner and since Tim loves “Lord of the Rings”, Mom Denner decided to use it as the theme. We had the rehearsal dinner at a church with a beautiful courtyard and fountain. The whole Denner family went over early to help prepare. Phil has such an artistic and creative family and his mom is a natural at hosting and pulling off whatever ideas that she comes up with.  We decorated with lanterns, greens and moss, and a grazing table for the meal (see photos).  After everything was set up and decorated, those of us that weren’t in the wedding continued to help in the kitchen while the others rehearsed. Afterwards we enjoyed a fun dinner and evening together.

Tim and Faith’s wedding took place at Clearwater Beach (about 2 hours from where we all stayed) late Saturday afternoon. It was warm and breezy and the sun was over the ocean water. Faith’s dad walked her down the aisle, but also officiated the wedding (he is a pastor and her parents and sisters are missionaries in Bolivia). After the ceremony the bridal party took pictures and then we took a family picture; which was an adventure in itself as there were over 30 of us! We all then headed over to the church for the reception where we enjoyed appetizers and a light dinner, dancing, speeches, cake, and more photos! We ended the night with a beautiful sparkler send off.

Sunday was a relaxing day and Phil and I had the opportunity to see my dear friend, Yoelmys, from high school and meet her family. We also spent time with our siblings and some of Faith’s siblings at the clubhouse pool. We ended the day out on the porch, with the family, before packing and heading off to the airport. It was so hard to leave the warm weather and Phil’s family, but we also felt so refreshed upon returning to Philadelphia and work the next day.

Christmas in Illinois

Our lives have been very hectic over the past few weeks, and I know I’m posting about Christmas super late, but I figured it was better than not posting at all. My husband and I were so happy to have the opportunity to spend an ENTIRE week in Illinois, with his family, over Christmas. We haven’t been able to see his family very often because of the distance and our crazy work schedules. So we were very excited when all the details came together to allow us to go. Phil comes from a family of 9 kids (one brother and soon to be sister-in-law weren’t able to make it for the Holidays) and I absolutely love the traditions and family time that we were able to partake in. We enjoyed a few different fun events, but also spent a lot of much needed time just relaxing and hanging out.

The day that we arrived, Phil’s mom and the rest of the family threw us a beautiful baby shower in their new home. It was co-ed and so fun to see friends and family. We felt so loved and were so excited to receive so many things for our little sweet pea!

On Christmas Eve, we all dressed up and Phil’s parents took us all out to eat at a little Italian restaurant in town and then we went to Christmas Eve service that evening. Each year after the service it is a tradition to open one present-our Christmas pjs-and then wear them to watch Christmas movies while eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. This year we watched White Christmas and Holiday Inn and some of the younger kids slept in the living room.

On Christmas morning we all slept in a bit and then gathered to open Christmas presents. Each year all of the siblings (and in-laws) do a name exchange and then we each get gifts for the name that we have; Christmas stockings are also a tradition, as well as Mom and Dad getting us all books each year. The rest of the day was a mixture of relaxing and playing games…and then in the late afternoon, Phil’s sister took us to do a “maternity shoot”, which was really a cover for his brother Matt to ask Bekah to marry him!!!! She said yes of course, and we are all so thrilled to be gaining another sister in June!!

The rest of the week in Illinois was very laid back. We spent time outside, played games, and watched more Christmas movies. The day before we left we had a mini-Italian feast (Phil’s family has a tradition of having a HUGE Italian feast the Sunday before Christmas each year, but because of the timing this year we did a less extravagant feast with just the family) and spent the evening all together. Phil and I headed back to the airport early the next morning, and as usual it was hard to leave everyone and say goodbye, but a little less difficult knowing we will all see each other again in February.

My 27th Birthday & Houses of Hope

Wow! I cannot believe that I am already 27 years old. The last 26 years have passed by so quickly. Adulthood has been such a journey of discovering what God has called me to do. Calling is a funny thing. So many of us, as Christians, think we need a specific call like a dream or hearing God’s audible voice. And while God does sometimes work that way, we often forget that if we are a Christian that God has already given us specific calls that we can start following. One that God so often reminds me of comes from James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means airing for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” It is very clear that we don’t have to wait around for a specific call, but that caring for the orphans and widows are our responsibility if we are following Jesus.

But what does that mean for me? What does that mean for us? I have often found myself feeling (as I’m sure many other people do)  frustrated and overwhelmed with all the needs and not really sure where to begin. Over the last year, specifically, God has been teaching me to be more present and with that, opening my eyes to opportunities that he puts right in front of me. In November Phil and I found out that an orphanage that he helped to start, Houses of Hope, was running out of water and in dire need of funds to dig deeper wells. I felt such a burden for those kids, whose pictures had become so familiar to me. And I knew quite quickly that God placed them on my heart for a reason so I decided to do a birthday fundraiser to work towards getting the rest of the funds needed for the well. Sometimes all it takes is being open to the opportunities that God puts right in front of you. And since I haven’t personally been to Houses of Hope yet, I wanted to hear and share Phil’s experience (italicized) and why it means so much to us.

My experience with Houses of Hope and African Leadership Development began back when I was in my early teens. Dr. Bill Rapier, the president of ALD, moved into my neighborhood and my family quickly became friends with him and his family. This was when I was introduced to the work he was doing in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

I was able to get involved with ALD by helping Bill collect items such as building materials, books, and computers to send in 40 ft containers over to help with the development of an orphanage in South Africa and as well as the development of people of all ages to help them gain computer skills and knowledge.

When I was 16 I finally got the opportunity to go over to Africa with a friend and with Bill to help with beginning construction on a new orphanage, to be located in Whunga, Zimbabwe. It was an amazing experience getting to go to a place where there was so much joy despite how little they had. There was no running water, no plumbing, no electricity and it really opened my eyes to the world outside what I had grown up in. We started the building of an orphan home and a church that would be supporting the orphanage.

Since then I have been able to travel back two times, although the middle trip I ended up sick on the flight over so I wasn’t able to make the trip to the orphanage, but the third time was in January of 2017 when I went with three of my siblings and one of my good friends. On this trip we helped with expanding the living space for the orphanage as well as a covered eating area for the kids. During this time I was really impacted as I saw these kids live their daily lives, be loved by the pastor who runs the orphanage and love on each other and us. It truly gave me an appreciation for what I have and for what it truly means to be joyful and thankful in any circumstance.

I know that for Phil and myself, and probably everyone else reading this, the concept of running out of water is completely foreign to us. Even if our water is shut off or if a pipe bursts, we can easily go to the store or someone’s house for drinking water, to do laundry or dishes, or to take a shower. But for the kids at Houses of Hope this is the reality that they are currently facing. And it breaks my heart to know that, through no fault of their own, they don’t have parents or family that can care for them and advocate for their needs, as Phil and I will for our own daughter. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help provide for and advocate for these kiddos and their basic needs. It might seem funny to you that this is what I choose to write about for my birthday; but Phil would tell you, that for me, it’s really normal. This is so much of our life and I wanted to share a little piece of my heart with you today ❤

The kids at Houses of Hope would be so blessed by your prayers. And if you would like to partner with Phil and I in helping to get the rest of the funds need to complete the well projected; we would be grateful and honored to have you be a part of what God is doing in the lives of the orphans at Houses of Hope, Zimbabwe. Whether it is $5 or $10 or a much larger amount, it will come together to have a huge impact on them! I have included the facebook link to our fundraiser, but if you do not have facebook and still would like to participate, please reach out-I have both Venmo and paypal as well.

Houses of Hope Well Fundraiser


With Love,

Lauren Ashley


It’s a Girl!!!

The other Friday, we went in for our 20 week anatomy scan and ultra sound. I was excited, but also pretty nervous. It’s at this appointment that you can learn the gender of the baby, but also see full scans and learn details about the health and development of the baby. I did not know quite what to expect by this ultrasound, but continue to be amazed about the technology that was used and the development of our sweet little babe! The farther along I get in this whole “growing another human” process, the more I am amazed by God’s design and human development.

I think I had tears running down my face for over half of the appointment as we saw detailed videos of every part of the baby’s body, from blood pumping through the heart, to the brain and spine, to the little hands and feet moving around. The technician laughed and said that we have a very active baby! We weren’t even able to get a 3D photo because she was moving around so much. At this point everything looks great and right on track for development. Before we left, the tech handed us the envelope, holding the much awaited for news!

We had a gender reveal planned for Sunday, and my mom went with us to the appointment since she wouldn’t be able to be there. I was so excited waiting for Sunday and couldn’t wait for everyone to arrive! We love hosting and haven’t had a lot of time for that, so we were also really excited to have so many people, that we love, come celebrate with us. We used confetti poppers outside and it was funny because it was windy AND i wasn’t strong enough to pop it on my own so I had to turn to look as everyone was yelling out and seeing the color PINK! Phil and I were both sooo excited!!


We had done a vote the day before and it was somewhere around 38% guesses for a boy and 62% guesses for a girl. I honestly thought it was a girl for the majority of the pregnancy; I had a pretty vivid dream of our baby about a week we found out that we were pregnant and the baby was a girl in our dream. After that I was waiting to have more dreams, but I didn’t have anymore and as time went on I started to picture a girl when we talked about the baby and just started to have a feeling. Although, I did begin to second guess myself as we came closer to the appointment.

Lately, I have been feeling a lot better, just a bit more tired than usual. And now I am starting to feel more movements (I have anterior placenta, which means baby girl is behind the placenta so movements are more muted and I’m more likely to feel movement at the side of belly then the front at this point) and now also knowing that we are going to have a little GIRL, makes her feel so much more real to me. I seriously can’t WAIT to see Phil as a girl daddy and hold our precious little one! Phil and I feel so blessed by this little one that God has handpicked to be our child.

Please join us in prayer for Baby girl Denner as we continue into the 2nd half of our pregnancy<3