Friday, December 21, 2012

Come, Jesus, Come!


Right before Thanksgiving Jen and I discussed taking the month of December off of blogging. It's been over a year of her and I writing together and it has really been fun. Writing has helped us both process the thoughts in our heads; it gave us a moment to pause and think about our feelings and beliefs.

During the week of Thanksgiving Jen found a lump in her breast. She immediately called the doctor because of the history of breast cancer in her family. We were hoping it was just a blocked milk duct but, after a whirlwind of appointments, found that it was cancer.

Everything happened very fast and of course the fact that she's at the end of a pregnancy had an impact on the decisions her, Levi, and her doctors had to make.

A couple of weeks ago she had a lumpectomy, putting off a mastectomy until the summer, once baby was born and chemotherapy was complete. The surgeon found that even though the tumor was small and in an early stage, it was fast-growing and there were precancerous cells left behind. She needed that mastectomy ASAP.

The baby will be born early, some time early January, followed by surgery and then chemo.

To say this is overwhelming is putting it mildly. There is so much to think about, and with four little ones three and under it is going to be an exhausting year. Both sets of parents will be coming to help. I plan to go out the last week of January. I know her church family is going to love them with meals and help. It's a time for Jen and Levi to receive.

In an e-mail Jen wrote to close friends and family she said:

Please pray for the obvious, that I will be cancer-free. That means a lot of things have to go right, but basically we just need me to be healthy. Of course as a mom my burden is the impact on my family. I know this will put extra pressure on Levi (who already gets bombarded every evening with 3 boys who are obsessed with his every move!), who never complains but already carries so much weight in our home. Our parents have generously offered to stop their lives and stay with us for some of these crazier periods, so we're beyond grateful for that. Unfortunately many of you know more than I do about what's ahead of me since you or your loved ones have gone through cancer with all its baggage. You especially will know how to pray.

Please pray for Jen and her family. This season of Advent is a time preparing for our Lord to come. June was born Christmas Eve three years ago and I followed the path of Mary and felt her anticipation of His coming. This year Jen's cancer has brought me to a new place of desiring Jesus to come. Not just anticipating Him, but truly wishing He would show up and bring us Home. It's a longing I've never truly grasped before. Please pray with me for Jesus to come in this situation and heal our Jen.

Love to you and yours,


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Trip to the ER


Today I write to you with no encouraging words but just to let you know how I am doing. I am exhausted and deflated. I was hoping my last post would detail the end of the hoopla of life hitting me but, no, it wasn't. I hadn't left the house from this past Thursday until Monday night. Here's why...

We left for Texas the Friday before Thanksgiving and came back that Tuesday. The trip was good, it was just all the traveling. Four planes, three kids, 1000 suitcases (ok so it felt like 1000), weird naps, 1,000 miles of walking (I might not be exaggerating on this one) random food, and the list goes one. My kids did amazing! I don't think there was one meltdown. They love being with their cousins so their favorite stuffed animal could be on fire and they'd be fine. 

Cousins at Sea World!
Wednesday, our first full day home, was going to be a day of rest. June threw up most of the day. We put sheets down randomly on furniture and the rug because you never knew when it was going to happen. The kid never even whimpered! Thanksgiving was a throw-up-free day but June kept complaining about her mouth hurting and started screaming when she ate. Since she is not a complainer I knew it was bad. I took her to the doctor who couldn't find anything wrong. We were waiting for a nurse to come in with June facing me when she got this look in her eye and she puked all over me. From the top of my shirt to the bottom of my pants. The nurse was taking a really long time so I started to yell "Help!" Of course, I didn't want to be too dramatic so I started off just yelling "Excuse me, I need help!" When no one came I just started yelling loudly! The doctor came running and saw me. I didn't want to stand up because I didn't want to get it everywhere. UGH! GROSS!

We laid low on Friday when Friday evening Ada threw up. She had nothing left to give and dry heaved until 1:30am. It was so awful. Saturday she barely ate. I kept her hydrated but by Sunday morning I was growing concerned. Everyone was stir crazy so after two days of telling the girls we couldn't go cut the Christmas tree down Greg decided to take the two older girls and I stayed home with Ada. She would not drink anything. Ada would back bend and shove the bottle away. I finally called the doctor and since she hadn't peed in over 24 hours they told me to take her to the ER.

Searching for the perfect tree! (Photo by Greg Ehlert)
I'll spare you all the details of the ER (i.e. moaning man yelling profanities and policeman delaying an arrest) but let's just say four and half hours and 5 nurses trying to get an IV into Ada wasn't a trip to Candyland. At one point four nurses were each holding a limb tapping away at Ada's veins to find one. They failed four times and then called the pediatric nurse from another floor who tried and failed as well. We then started to give her Pedialyte and she actually took some. The took her blood and found she was dehydrated and her blood sugar was low. 

Ada sleeping on me in the ER.
As of Monday she still was having a hard time drinking anything. I am starting to use the syringe like the doctor suggested to get some liquid in her. She has peed some which is good. Please pray for Ada and pray for me in caring for everything. One moment I am great and the next moment I wonder how we are going to do it. Thank God for Greg who is a true partner!



I want to push the pause button for you! This is crazy. As if vacation doesn't throw off a family enough, now you have sickies.

Many prayers for Ada and I'm glad to hear that as of Tuesday morning she's eating larger amounts. It's so heartbreaking to have a sick child, especially a baby. Sweet girl.

Love and prayers,


Friday, November 23, 2012

Celebrating 3 Years


I wonder when a child's birthday stops bringing you right back to their actual birth day? On Thanksgiving we celebrated the twins' third birthday. Just thinking about their birthday sends me right back to that day--I can smell the hospital's hand sanitizer and taste the fear in my mouth.

On Saturday night, November 21, Levi and I went to the movies. That afternoon we'd purchased our final "major" baby item, our carseats, and gone to dinner. It was a great day together. During the movie I'd noticed some "cramping" and decided to get up and walk around the theater to see if they would subside. They ended up coming every 15 minutes. When we got home and they weren't slowing down, I called the labor and delivery unit as instructed, and they recommended I come in to get checked if they started speeding up, which they didn't. I was 34 weeks along and still believed I'd have babies on their due date: January 1, 2010.

The next morning I noticed more cramping as I got ready for church, and I even remember putting my friend's hands to my stomach after church to let her feel what a contraction felt like. I just figured I was on my way to bedrest.

After church Levi made us lunch and I took a spot on the couch, trying different positions to let get the cramping to subside. I figured I'd better start timing the cramps because if I had to call the hospital the nurses would certainly ask. After 10 "cramps" in an hour (I'd refused to call them contractions) I decided to call, which earned me a trip to the hospital.

On our way out the door Levi asked if we should grab our cell phones and I said not to bother. I was sure we'd be back in a couple hours, and the only change would be a prescription for bedrest for me.

When we arrived at L&D they noticed I was effacing and contracting, and after receiving meds to try and slow down labor I was still progressing. Babies were coming. Today. Now.

Since my first childbirth experience was also considered an emergency situation, the cloud of fear hung over that L&D unit for me. In fact since that experience I'd attempted visits to friends with new deliveries and I just couldn't. I'd make it to the sign-in desk and have to send a nurse in with my gift and apologies.

On that Saturday afternoon the doctor remained very calm but explained that Everett was breech (he was Baby B) so a cesarean was recommended. OK, fine, but were we seriously going to HAVE BABIES TODAY?

The moment she yanked them out of me the entire room full of scrub-dressed folks breathed an audible sigh of relief. For their age they were big and very responsive. Each baby weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces.

Levi at about 5 days old

Everett, also 5 days old

Since they were wheeled straight away to the special care nursery I didn't get to see them for many hours, but the kind nurses brought me printouts of digital pictures of my boys. I was in the thickest of fogs: fatigued, shocked, drugged, and elated.

Since this was the winter of the H1N1 flu, only Levi and I were allowed to hold our babies, who never saw a room outside of that nursery. Even family who visited could only look at them through a 6 inch-wide pane of glass, that was by sneaking them down a back hallway to the staff entrace.

I remember being discharged on that Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, driving home without babies. I don't mean to be melodramatic, but to leave a hospital once again without babies was excruciating. The twins were not ready to come home, and we were told it could be a month or more before they were eating well enough and stabilized.

I went to the hospital twice a day for that week a half after my discharge, snuggling and feeding the babies who I was convinced had no idea I was that mother. The cold wind hitting us every night as we left after the 9pm feeding was a cruel reminder of our babyless house. For some reason I just could not believe that a day would come when everything was fine and we would have a house full of screams and dirty diapers.

Boy, was I ever wrong. (Levi is on the left in all pics except where noted.)

Everett (l) and Levi (r)




Way to go on getting me all teary eyed! Love these boys and I love remembering with you the day they were born. It was scary to say the least but it was so relieving the day they came home from the hospital. Happy 3rd birthday Levi and Everett! I love you!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012



We haven't even hit Thanksgiving yet and my mind is reeling. It's been quite a few years since I felt this way. I make a conscious effort to be done with my Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving so that I can just enjoy the Christmas season and all the events that come with it, but this year has caught up with me. Lately,I can only think about one week at a time, which doesn't allow much for planning ahead.

We've celebrated Advent since the beginning of our marriage but even more intensely in the past five years. Advent means "coming" and we focus on preparing our minds for Christ's coming. When I miraculously was pregnant with June it was amazing to walk in the footsteps of Mary. June's due date was Christmas day so we could follow her journey closely. Greg and I felt deeper emotions that year about the coming baby and reading about Mary.

This season has become a time of reflection and worship on the One we are aiming to live for. I hit a crazy wall last week with stress. I tend to take things in stride. When my phone broke and after five long drives to the store and crazy outrageous stories of why I couldn't get a phone which then left me without one for four days, I was calm. When the roofer said he'd be done with our roof by Monday and Thursday came around and they were stilling pounding during nap time, I was calm. When Greg decided to fix the light in our kitchen which turned out to be a bigger project than expected, I was calm. When someone backed into my car so I could no longer get out my door, I was calm. When I received a bill for Ada's echo-cardiogram that happened this past January along with the bills from her birth, I started to feel the pressure. And then when we received five party invites for the same week all on different nights, I started to freak out!

What will my Advent look like? Will I experience peace? Will I experience the anticipation of His coming? Will I deepen my belief and revel in joy? 

I am going to chose to spend our Advent focused on Him and most likely we are going to have to say "no" to some really great things. Hopefully I will take the time to share more about how we celebrate Advent. For now I ask for your prayers. That we would truly celebrate this upcoming Advent season and that we don't give in to the busyness that this season can bring.

He is coming!




Prayers indeed.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving me a break


So in our lifetime of friendship have you picked up on the fact that I'm a bit hard on myself? Well this week I had a little revelation. Here it is:

Give yourself a break.
Stop thinking that
has eternal consequence.

That seems contrary to what I'm told in faith-based resources, but since the author doesn't know me personally, it's my job to take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Since I am SUPER literal and serious, I have GOT TO CHILL OUT if I want to remain a healthy person while I raise these little guys.

Case #1: I'm starting to recognize and accept that some things are for a season. I mentioned to you the other day that I'm in a season where the boys are hard to take grocery shopping. I feel like a lazy mom if I shop without them, and I feel like I'm witholding a good learning experience from them, so I try to just suffer and bring them. But all of a sudden it's occurring to me that I DON'T HAVE TO SUFFER. We can work on this skill later, or in small doses, or who knows when! Sorry to yell but this is a huge weight lifted.

Case #2: Remember when Hayden was a baby and the twins were...well...babies, too? I had trouble taking them anywhere that didn't offer a cart. I recall taking them to a doctor's appointment and calling you crying afterward because it was so hard. Once we were in the room it was fine, but getting a newborn and two 14 month old babies from the car to the waiting room put me over the edge. You asked me if there was anyone who could have helped me and I remember saying "They are my responsibility." I can't recall your exact response but I think it was something like, "You are stupid and stubborn and I want to choke you. ASK FOR HELP."

I'm sure to the casual observer the obvious lesson here seems to be just that (help), but first I had to work through the belief that they're always my responsibility. Of course they are technically, but it doesn't make me negligent to ask for help for ONE APPOINTMENT. (More yelling, sorry). It doesn't mean I'll need help forever, it just means that for that moment, in those circumstances, I needed more hands. Period. No big deal.

I know these seem like small revelations, but I'm starting to recognize the not-so-healthy tapes playing in my head and figure out how to turn the channel. This onceisn't 100% there for me, but I'm definitely making progress!




This is very good news to hear! I am so glad you are recognizing the need for help in situations. Asking someone to hold the door for you while you try to get three kids into the door of a building is not asking a lot. Yes, I'm referring to the time you took the kids to the doctor by yourself and I'm being sarcastic about how ridiculous you can be. So glad I don't have to yell at you because you seemed to be doing all the yelling (Heh, heh).

It is humbling to ask for help and humbling to receive it. I can say from experience that, although humbling, so many people are longing to be a part of something. I know that you allowing them to help you would bless them and bring a sense of purpose to them. Even the person just holding the door for you is going to feel a little good inside for helping the crazy women with the four kids under three and under. God has called us to love Him and love others but what if we don't allow others to love us? What if we won't receive the love that is being offered?

I definitely will continue to pray that you find out more why its hard to accept help. If I could give you anything it's that. I always wish I lived close so I could help you. I wouldn't wait around for you to ask. I'd force it on you. 

Soon one of your blessings of a friend will be leaving for another state. I know she's been a great help to you and the boys love her. I'm praying for that void to be filled with others around you and that you'd learn what you need for help and how to allow others to do that.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today's post is written by a good friend of Ann's named Melissa. They meet regularly to discuss Jesus and their struggles. Recently, they have been discussing the fruit of the Spirit and in particular self-control. Earlier in the year the Lord showed Ann through the book of Jonah that food had become an idol to her. Although this revelation was fascinating it didn't take away the desire for food. This post sums up a lot of what Ann is learning. We are grateful for Melissa's insights she has received and her willingness to share them.

Life has been kickin' since coming home from South Africa in August. I have been go-go-going with work and church and life and friends and volunteering. It has been great, but my time in SA was not nearly as full of tasks and I spent quite a deal of it in my head--learning about myself and about my God. And that was really great.

It has been a struggle to transition back into the warp speed of "The West." I find myself savoring every spare moment of solitude. (Please note: coming from an extreme extrovert, those words carry a great deal of weight!) Though a To-Do list looms and days roar by, it is the moments of introspection and prayer I am able to squeeze out of my schedule that drive me. They are all the more precious now.

I have been contemplating a couple major themes in these times alone with my Savior. There seems to be a boulder in my path. A lump in my throat. A pebble in my shoe. No matter where I turn, some information or reference to these issues is before me.

One of these major themes is Self-Control. I am probably the only person who struggles in this area, so just bear with me for the rest of this blog post. ;) I share as a glimpse into what God is doing in me, but maybe, just maybe, it will speak to what is going on in some of your lives as well.

A couple weeks back, these were the insights flooding my mind, journal pages, and correspondence with confidantes:

I have been realizing that I don't believe God is in my ability to control myself--it baffles me that it is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. I can't believe that when you have the Spirit in you, you are able to display better self-control. It really grows as you allow the presence of the Holy Spirit do its work in you? Crazy!

My response to controlling my behavior has always been two-fold: I either think it is entirely my job and God has nothing to do with it (and he has nothing to do WITH ME until I can get myself under control) OR I try to hand complete control over to God because it is too hard to do on my own and then I can blame Him when things go wrong.

The first option: it's impossible. I can't control myself on my own. I am powerless against the pull of sin on my desires.

The second option: God refuses. He will not take over control of my life. I am not a robot. I have free will. He will not call all the shots for me. He wants me to realize we are in this thing together. He isn't going to take over for me. He knows I will just blame Him for whatever happens--He knows, because even though He doesn't have control now, I still blame Him!

So, where does that leave me? How does God's presence in my life result in self-control? Who is in charge, which duties are mine and which are the Holy Spirit's? I think it goes back to "We are in this thing together." Yes, it is true that I have to hand over SOMETHING to Him--I have to trust Him. I have to trust that He wants to live intimately with me. I have to trust that His wisdom will guide me in the right directions. I have to trust that He loves me unendingly.

Click here to read the rest of this post on Melissa's blog.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Til Death Do Us Part


Do you ever have those moments that seem fairly mundane but you know they're being seared into your memory, sure to mean something later?

When Levi and I were dating we went to the theater and saw "Dead Man Walking." There's a group counseling scene with a married couple discussing the death of their young daughter. She'd died years before and their marriage was suffering because they were dealing with the grief so differently. Details are fuzzy, but at one point they stop and ponder over the line in traditional marriage vows, "Til death do us part." Levi and I both let a "woah" fall out of our mouths, and then we looked at each other and said it again, shocked that we both had the same reaction. Little did we know how that statement would similarly impact our marriage.

During the time we waited for Elisabeth to come and in the months immediately after, Levi and I were very much in sync. We preferred to use the same language and tone when referring to her life and death, and we desired to keep most of our feelings between us.

As time passed, it was clear we were grieving very differently. Neither was doing it right or wrong, we were doing what felt like healing for each of us. But in the moment you do feel like the death is parting you.

Last week we recognized the anniversary of Elisabeth's birth and death. To recognize her short life, the first three years we participated in a charity walk for a nonprofit that helps families dealing with neonatal and infant death. This year we couldn't make it, but I still took some time alone around "her" date. Levi is very supportive about doing the charity walks, though I know he'd prefer to skip them. He also encourages me to take that time alone every year, and even listens lovingly as I have my annual outpouring of emotions, though I know he'd prefer to skip that, too. It has taken me a long time to realize that his way is healthy, too. He's not verbal like I am, and he also doesn't find it healing to relive pain. Makes sense! (I don't see it as pain, though, and that's partially why I find it healing.)

Actually I asked Levi to read this message to you and he had some pretty profound things to say:

I agree, I don't want to talk about our experience in depth or detail. My moments of reliving happen alone, where I feel like I have control over how long and to what degree I want to go down the road.
When we are going down that road together I feel like I am on a tandem bike and I want to stop, so put my feet up. But because you're still peddling, we continue down the bumpy road that I know leads to a pool of tears. Once we are on the road I feel badly because of my resistance and my lack of commitment of getting to the end, but I'm a control freak when it comes to my emotions and I don't want to "go there." So this journey feels unnatural to me, but I am often jealous of the ease with which you venture there. My biggest fear in going down this road is that it will bring me back to the day that it happened--the worst day and one of the best days of my life. A day where the pull of emotions was so intense it made me physically ill. On one hand we had a daughter that I wanted to hold and love, but she was not meant for this world and our short time with her seemed just that--too short.

Obviously he is still grieving too, but you can see how complicated it gets when you're trying to do it in tandem.

My heart breaks for people who encounter these types of situations and I can understand completely how it can become a wedge in a marriage. I think it will be a lifelong work, and I pray we can continue to respect one another's paths to health and healing. 


Jen and Levi,

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Elisabeth's story. All three of you have taught me so much about faith, hope and love. Your lives truly reflect His glory and I will continue to pray for your marriage as well as solicit continued prayers for mine. Looking forward to the day where you both can ride tandem the way you would like to.