My Daughter Gave Birth to Quadruplets!

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalms 112:1-2

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Love the Snow Reason # 1 / Love the Snow Reason # 2

Devon got a SNOW DAY!

School and basketball were canceled today, so we were snowed in with Callie and the quads. Cold weather always manages to create good family times. I often hear people complain about the cold weather, but I love the snow for two reasons. On snow days we eat homemade chicken and noodles, make snow ice cream, drink steaming hot chocolate, and break out the boots/gloves/sleds. Family togetherness is the first reason I love the snow.

Miss Isabella wants to play. She is happiest on her belly.

We are getting lots of Samantha smiles these days. My mom says that means she is a happy baby.

Landon follows us around the room with his eyes. He is quiet but content. He is getting a dimple like Eric's in his chin.

Jackson is very entertaining at 6 AM. He has the cutest crooked grin and a contagious belly laugh! Jackson has a dimple in his cheek and his chin.

Callie is having fun sledding with Daddy. She keeps reminding me that it's "six minutes to Christmas, Mamaw!"

Tom is getting pretty good at working on the IPad while entertaining two babies at the same time. Now if he will just learn to use his feet to jiggle the other two in baby seats at the same time, Sarah and I can have a break.

Callie and Tony Trimming Number Two Tree

We are looking forward to Christmas. Pictured above is Christmas Tree Number Two. Tree Number One is rogue. It tripped me, sent me flying, and I body slammed it flat on the ground. The impact hurt like crazy, but made the tree much easier to put back in the box. Sleep deprivation can be dangerous!

Snow brings a gentle hush over everything. Today, I went out to clean the snow off the cars, and I savoured the silence. After a big snow, I used to enjoy going out to the barn early in the morning to feed the horses. It would be so quiet, except for the rhythmic crunching of the horses chewing their sweet feed. Periodically they would shake their manes and snort in appreciation, sending bursts of steam through their nostrils into the frigid air. Horses make me calm. They don't worry about much except eating and running. I used to sit on a bale of hay to watch them. It helped me get a perspective about the time I waste worrying.

One snowy morning, I was tossing flakes of hay to the horses just as the sun was coming up. Rays of light filled the barn loft and hit an old rusty cage. Instantly, it was transformed. The inside of the barn began to sparkle as if it were filled with thousands of twinkling diamonds suspended in mid-air. I was intrigued, so I put down the hay and climbed up the homemade ladder to get a closer look. What I discovered amazed me.

Undisturbed for years, spiders had labored to fill that entire cage with intricate webbing. When the sun peaked in through the barn slats, it warmed the air, causing moisture to condense in tiny droplets all over the webs. The rays of light hit the drops turning them into sparkling prisms of light. It was a beautiful work of art, and the horses and I were the only ones to see it. I watched until the sun moved past the cage, leaving no evidence of the former display of light.

What kind of God takes the time to create such incredible beauty that is rarely--if ever--seen? Even in the quiet of the morning, a web-filled cage shouted of His glory. I walked out of the barn onto the blanket of fresh snow that was making everything clean and new, and remembered.

When I was seven, my widowed grandmother drove all the way to Michigan for a visit. She was on a mission. She came up in my room to tell me how Jesus had died on the cross so I could live with Him forever in Heaven. Together, we knelt by my bed while I asked Jesus to make my heart clean from sin for all the times--past, present and future--that I would fall short of God's plan. In little girl fashion, I pictured God sending a heavy Michigan snow to make my dirty heart perfectly clean.

I have never been the same. That is the second reason that I will always love the snow.

"Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7b

Thanks for praying,

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Three Months/Along for the Ride

I haven't had much time or energy to blog lately. I went to bed last night at 4 am and Callie woke me up at 8:45 am, so forgive me if I ramble.

We must be doing something right, because the babies are getting bigger. They are three months old. Here is what they weigh:

Landon- 10 lbs. 4 ozs.
Jackson- 9 lbs. 1 oz.
Isabella- 10 lbs. 10 ozs.
Samantha- 8 lbs. 4 ozs.

They are awake more during the day, and it is hard to entertain them all. We use molded foam Bumbo seats that support them so they can sit up for a change.

They are starting to smile and coo at us. Landon is the most alert and awake. Isabella is the sleepiest.

Everyone but Samantha is taking more formula, which means we go through about 10 cans per week. They also moved up on the diaper size, going from preemie to newborn. Samantha and Jackson still fit in their preemie clothes, but the other two are in newborn.

Doctor visits keep us busy, sometimes two or three per week. We don't mind because we get out of the house. If we weren't so sleepy, we would probably find our departure preparations amusing. We try to time everything between the three hour feedings and diaper changes.

First, we pack enough blankets, bottles, diapers, wipes and spare clothes to last. Second, we bring the car seats inside. Third, we warm up the car. Fourth, Samantha needs her oximeter alarm and portable oxygen tanks. (We bring a spare tank in case we get delayed.) Fifth, we need snow suits for all. Sixth, we need four clean pacifiers and straps to attach them. Finally, we are ready to strap the quads in their seats. While we are making trips to the car, it is hard to keep anyone happy. By the time we load up, Sarah and I are worn out. To make it worse, Sarah's quadruple pregnancy was very hard on her feet. She has been in a lot of pain since she delivered the babies.

All appointments except for the eye doctor involve undressing the babies and dressing them back again, while keeping an eye on Callie. She keeps us entertained while we work.

"Look Mamaw! I'm makin' vegetable soup."

"What are you putting in your soup?" I murmur distractedly.

"Ummm...Yucky stuff. And crackers!"

We had our regular visit to Good Sam. We were excited when the neonatologist turned down Samantha's oxygen. Later that day, however, Samantha ate only half of her bottles and cried most of the night. We turned her oxygen back up and called the pediatrician. A blood test showed that Samantha's white cell count was up, so the doctor sent us to Children's right away. With her history, he wanted to rule out meningitis. We were very worried. It brought back so many bad memories.

My mom, family and church all began to pray for Samantha. I was especially touched by the prayers and encouragement from my extended family members in Florida because my fifteen-year-old cousin Britton had just passed away from a brain tumor. In spite of their unbearable grief and the agony of funeral planning, they stopped to ask God to heal little Sammy Jo. Their faith is immovable.

Britton Ballard (1995-2010)

At Children's, Samantha's blood was drawn and she had to be catheterized to rule out a urinary tract infection. Before the tests began, I gave the nurse the third degree to make sure he had experience with small babies. He assured me that he has worked on babies Samantha's size and smaller. He gave me the "honor" of holding Samantha down while he worked. It turned out that he was very good and the procedures went smoothly.

I was supposed to return to the doctor's office to wait for the results in case antibiotic shots were necessary. Before I made it back, the doctor called with good news: no meningitis and no UTI, so it was probably viral. She started to feel better almost as soon as we got home and had a good night.

Two days later, we loaded up the quads for the next doctor appointment. Samantha and Jackson had another eye exam. Prematurity and oxygen can cause premature infants to have damaged or lost sight. (Musician Stevie Wonder lost his sight to retiniopathy of prematurity shortly after his premature birth.) The quads are at risk, so they have regular check ups. We like the eye doctor and nurses, but we dread the exams. They are such an ordeal! Once we arrive and get settled in a room, the nurse comes to put the first of two sets of drops in their eyes. Then we have to sit for half an hour to wait for their eyes to dilate. Keeping four babies and a three-year-old quiet during that time makes 30 minutes seem like an eternity. Somehow, we always manage to bump into feeding time, which adds to the challenge of keeping everyone happy.

The exam itself is uncomfortable, even though the nurse gives numbing drops. The doctor has a spring-loaded prong thingee that holds their eyelids open while he examines their eyes with a very bright light. Obviously, the quads resist the procedure. For some reason, the eye medicine makes them very crabby for a couple of days. The doctor doesn't know if the medicine irritates their eyes, or if dilated pupils irritates the babies. Either way, it's rough for 48 hours.

The appointment before last revealed that Isabella's and Landon's eyes had finally matured. Jackson's and Samantha's were still at risk, with Samantha's worse than Jackson's. This time Jackson went first. His eyes were mature, so he was released until next summer. Hooray!

Samantha was next. We held our breath while she was examined, hoping she had at least improved a little and had not hemorrhaged. She is the most at risk due to her trio of eye-affecting problems: prematurity, septic shock and extended oxygen use.

The nurse wrapped Samantha's arms tightly in a blanket and held her down while the doctor went to work. Samantha's crying made the oximeter go off, which made us even more nervous. The exam seemed to take a long time.

"She's finished," announced the doctor as he switched on the light. "I don't need to see her again until she is one year old. Her eyes are mature!"

Sarah and I stared at each other, totally speechless. We asked him to repeat himself, not sure we'd heard correctly. We had.

As we pushed the strollers out to the car, I wondered when God had actually healed Samantha's eyes. It could have been a gradual process that happened since the last appointment. But I doubt it. I choose to believe that there were so many prayers going up for Samantha's illness that God let them spill over onto her eyes, too. Apparently, He has plans for Miss Sammy Jo. I'm just glad to be along for the ride.

Thanks for praying.

"I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!"
Psalm 116:1-2

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving


I am spending the day quarantined with five kids-- Callie, the quads, and Tom. It is the first time that Eric has been away from us on Thanksgiving. He is in Hawaii playing basketball, so I don't think he misses us too much. I have a turkey in the oven, two babies in my lap, Callie playing at my feet, and Tom feeding the other two babies. We have so much to be thankful for this year. God bless you and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Room with a View

Pearl Harbor

Thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Filming/Bigger Corner

(If it seems like I am writing this in my sleep, it is because I am. )

We filmed Part 2 of the documentary this week. It was so much easier than the first one since the quads are safely here. This time seemed like a celebration. The first one was more serious since we didn't know what the outcome would be. The producer said that he and the film crew were very somber when they left the first interview with Sarah's doctor, since none of the doctor's statistics were promising. I couldn't even watch the doctor part of the documentary at first. Thank goodness for fast forward.

Part 2 is supposed to air a couple of weeks before Christmas. Please pray that God will use the documentary to change lives and give people hope. In addition, please pray for my son Eric. He is leaving tonight with his team to play basketball in Hawaii. It is the first time he has been away on Thanksgiving, and we will miss him. Please pray that they will have a safe trip.

The quads had their check up and one half of their first set of shots. We had trouble carrying four pumpkin seats into the doctor's office, so we put the girls in one stroller and the boys in another. Samantha objected to her traveling arrangements.

Landon was content to do whatever we had on his agenda, as usual. Jackson stored up energy for his regular loud protest at the doctor's office.

Landon is 9 pounds.

Jackson is 7 pounds.

Isabella is 9 pounds.

Samantha is 7 pounds.

The doctor is pleased with the progress the babies are making. He said that the older three are amazing for quads of their gestational ages. Samantha's progress is more what he would expect for a quad born at 33 weeks. We are encouraged.

The days continue to run together in a blur of feeding, laundry, bottle-making, and diaper changing. Feeding takes place every three hours. Jackson is first. Landon is last. The girls are in between. We change diapers before a feeding and afterward, if necessary. The quads are still "leaking" when the eat because they don't get a good suction on the nipples, so they each soak a burp cloth every time they eat. When we add in the clothes and blankets, we end up with a lot of laundry! We already wore out my poor old washer, so Tom surprised us with a new one.

Bottle washing and formula making takes forever. Each baby takes a different amount, so we use different bottles to help keep things straight. They get a bottle of breast milk and vitamins each day. Sarah is trying to give them antibodies as long as she can. There are so many dirty bottles! We keep them in buckets to make them easier to store and wash.

Samantha's tank has sterilized water attached to it. We have to be careful. If it tips over, which can easily happen since it it top heavy, water runs up into her nose through the cannula. Mass panic immediately follows. Every day, we have to refill the oxygen tanks. There are two machines. One takes room air and converts it to pure oxygen. The other one pressurizes it and put it into the tanks. Both tanks have to run for about 7 hours to fill up one tank. There are three that we have to keep full. The machines really heat up the room.

In the meantime, it is rare for everyone to be happy; a baby is usually fussing about something. Isabella does not like to hear Jackson wailing. It makes her angry. She wants to be touching someone at all times. Sarah can fool her with a pillow, which is helpful. Jackson is less easily fooled. He just wants to be held. Once he gets upset, it is difficult, if not impossible to calm him down. Samantha is frustrated about the oxygen in her nose. It is cold, dry and uncomfortable. She calms down when she is held. She is still nervous about being touched. Since she is my primary responsibility, she gets a lot of attention. When I had to run to the store yesterday, Sarah took charge of her. Samantha cried most of the time because did not like being sent to "daycare" at all. She thinks she is a singleton. :) I guess you could call it "Quad Denial."

Callie is trying her best to get used to all of her siblings. She helps wash bottles. She also takes care of her twin girl baby dolls. At night, when Jackson's crying hurts her ears, she comes up to our room. The babies take so much time and attention. It has been hard on Callie. She has been acting out lately, so she has been spending some time in the corner. Today, I was looking at that corner and looking at the quads, when it occurred to me that before long we are going to need a bigger one. I am so glad that we will need a bigger corner. God has blessed us beyond words.

Thanks for praying.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
you children of his servant Abraham,
you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

He is the Lord our God.
His justice is seen throughout the land.
He always stands by his covenant—
the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Princess Callie/Prayer Request

Callie was a princess for Halloween. She didn't like the scary costumes, but she LOVED the candy. She told me that the moon comes out so that the cows will go to bed. :)

Eric carved a pumpkin with extremely large teeth.

Pirate Devon's Bible Study group had a costume party.

Callie loves the Merry-Go-Round. She doesn't understand waiting in line, though. It's a good thing Papaw lets her ride as much as she wants.

Jackson is enjoying a rare, laid-back moment.

Miss Sammy Jo is sleeping and getting stronger.

Tom can hold two babies and carry on a conversation, complete with hand motions.

Tom and Isabella sleeping while the oxygen tank refills for Samantha.

We have given up all hope of sleep. Sarah and I are starting to get loopy. While Sarah was changing Landon's diaper in the middle of the night, she panicked because his boy parts were missing! She focused her eyes and looked closer. She had grabbed Isabella instead of Landon...

We are filming Part 2 of the pro-life documentary this week. Please pray that we can make a difference in the lives of people who have lost hope.

Thanks for praying!

Who can be compared with the Lord our God,
who is enthroned on high?
He stoops to look down
on heaven and on earth.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
even the princes of his own people!
He gives the childless woman a family,
making her a happy mother.

Praise the Lord!
Psalm 113:5-9

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two Months Old/Quite a Love Story

Quads—Two Months Old

The quads are two months old. It is hard to believe they have been here that long. This summer is still fresh in my mind. I never thought that I would miss the long drive to the hospital, but sometimes I do.

Since we live out in the country, I am used to driving at least one-half hour when I go somewhere. I normally use that time to clear my head, turning my worries into conversations with God. Now that I am home with demanding children (as well as Callie and the quads), I have to create time and space alone. Eric’s room would be a good place to hide, but it makes me sad to go in there. Outside is good, weather permitting. Right now I am at the kitchen table with headphones on. You do what you have to do.

A Love Story (Part I)

When I held Sarah in my arms for the first time, I wondered what God had in store for her. She was so fragile and precious. I knew God had a plan because it was a miracle that we had her in the first place. I had toxemia and was on bed rest for several weeks. I didn’t feel sick; I just had to rest on one side. When I finally went into labor, the doctor told me he wanted to do a C-section. I was disappointed. I felt like a failure. But I had been praying for the doctor and decided to take his advice.

After she was born, he told me that I was very “lucky.” Apparently, there was no way I could have delivered Sarah naturally. Also, the cord was wrapped around her neck several times, so a normal delivery would have killed her. God knew, so He protected her.

Right away, Tom and I began praying specifically for every area of Sarah’s future. Those prayers included the person she would marry. I kept a list for her future spouse in my journal. I prayed for his family, his health, his purity, his salvation, his protection and his location. I even prayed that I would have a part in helping to raise my future grandchildren. I asked God to decide how many there would be. We didn’t know who Sarah’s husband would be or what he would look like, but we knew he was out there somewhere. So we prayed.

A Love Story (Part II)

Hundreds of miles away, a young woman was living in Boston. Her parents had named her Cathy, a fitting name that means “pure.” Sensitive and trusting, she was a pretty wisp of a girl, with long black hair and dark eyes. She was part of the hippy generation, but in the purest sense of the word: a beautiful flower child who was searching for love.

As it sometimes happens, Cathy found herself pregnant at fifteen. Scared and confused, she turned to her parents for help. They took her to get an abortion, a traumatic event that changed the fragile girl forever. She spent the next few years in a blur of bad relationships, becoming pregnant once again. Now that she was older, she took matters into her own hands and gave the child life. The baby was adopted by a loving couple. Still, the decision haunted her. She felt so lost, so alone.

A deep-thinking, complex man with brown curly hair and a contagious smile was the next person in Cathy's life. He was a gifted athlete who had once made the Celtics try-outs. He was packed with personality, strength and potential; he made her smile. He seemed to be the one she was searching for, but he was too good to be true. Tragically, he was addicted to drugs, and he introduced Cathy to the numbing force of heroin.

For years afterward, Cathy lived with her lover and her drugs. Soon she was expecting again. This time she was determined to keep the child, in spite of her addiction. Conceived with love, her sweet baby boy was born in the spring. With brown, curly hair and a contagious smile, he looked like his father. She named him Antonio after his dad, but called him “Tony.” She loved him more than life itself.

Life in the projects was not easy for a child of heroin addicts. Overdoses and ambulances were routine for the little boy, who experienced the unspeakable. Tony was an intelligent child, so he learned how to survive. In the midst of all the drama, however, some things were normal. He developed a close relationship with his grandpa, who made him a devoted Red Sox fan. Like other children his age, he played, he learned, he laughed, he cried, he grew, and he loved.

The plans that Tony's dad had made for their future would not come to pass. One miserable day, the little boy learned that his father had overdosed on heroin and died. Tony and his mother were alone. Tony was only six years old.

Fortunately, Cathy was a survivor. She was stronger than anyone knew. The whole time she had been searching for love, God was watching, keeping, caring. He reached down into the dark places of Boston, surrounded her, and drew her out.

God brought a good man into her life who loved her strong but gentle spirit. He also loved her son. They married. One day they learned that God sent His only Son to die on the cross to make them pure and save them from their sins, so they gave Him their hearts. Everywhere she went, God went before her to shield her way. Now nothing could ever separate Cathy from the love she had been searching for her whole life. No longer bound, Tony’s mother was beautiful and free, both inside and out.

Cathy's husband adopted Tony and raised him as his own. A job transfer brought the growing family from Boston to Ohio. They moved into a farm house that was down the road from mine. I met Tony and his parents when they attended the homeschool support group that I was leading. I was in awe of their beautiful testimony of God's redeeming love, but I had no idea that I was part of it.

Tony started working for Tom. It became obvious to all of us that he had fallen for Sarah. He called one day for permission to court her. My first instinct was to refuse; Sarah was only sixteen. Before the words could leave my mouth, God cautioned me. “You have prayed for the person Sarah will marry all these years. Now it’s time to trust Me.” I went up to my room and took out my prayer journal, slowly turning to the page about Sarah. I ran my finger down to the place where I had requests for her future husband. Next to the entry I wrote “Tony.”

Tony and Sarah were inseparable all through high school. Tony went away to college in Florida and lasted exactly thirty-six days before he came back home. After that, Sarah and Tony attended the same college here in town. When Tony proposed, Tom told Sarah that she should wait until she graduated to marry. She did. She married one week afterward.

A Love Story (Part III)

Sarah was born to be a mother. When she was little, she took good care of her brother and sister. Naturally, she was eager to have children of her own. After two years, she started to get worried. She and Tony went to the doctor for advice and tests. The news was heartbreaking. Tony’s difficult past had come back to hurt him. Heroin damages unborn children. It especially affects a child’s reproductive organs. There was not much hope.

They followed the doctor’s prescription, and then waited and prayed. One month later, Sarah learned she was expecting a child. The doctor was amazed. Callie was born in the spring and had curly hair, just like her father. She is a beautiful picture of God’s restoring love for His children. How could we ask for more?

When Callie was almost three, Tony wanted to give Callie a brother or a sister. They went back to the doctor. This time, things didn’t work out. Month after disappointing month, the news was the same: no baby. They knew they should be thankful that they had been blessed with one child. It just seemed like their family wasn't complete.

The doctor visits were expensive and uncomfortable. Eventually, Sarah faced the possibility that she was only meant to have one. She surrendered her desires and decided that God knows best. When Tony wanted to try one last time, Sarah agreed. They went back to the doctor and waited.

When it was time, Sarah took the pregnancy test. It was negative. She called me, sounding resigned. “I’m not pregnant. I guess that’s it.” She didn’t need comforting, but I tried to make her feel better anyway. I wanted her to trust God’s plan, even if it wasn’t hers. I reminded her that we had Beach Waterpark passes. It would be a fun summer.

Two days later Sarah woke up feeling incapacitated by nausea. She took another test. This time there was no question--Sarah was pregnant! Before long we learned that the couple who couldn’t have children was expecting not one but FOUR babies. Quadruplets!

The book of Joel says, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.” With each of Sarah's pregnancies, God overcame sin’s destruction. In a sense, the quads have changed Tony's history. In a way we couldn’t foresee or imagine, God created an impossible legacy that restored what drugs had taken away. And if that wasn’t enough, God used a pro-life documentary to encourage people all over the world to pray for the quads. Overnight, God gave Tony a praying Christian family that takes the rest of us generations to acquire.

I often wonder-- if Tony could find his father’s family, what would they think of his story? I imagine that somewhere in Tony’s past, someone was quietly praying for the dark-eyed beauty and her brave little son.

Cathy had a heart for God from the time she was small, but she didn’t know how to find Him. So God came to her. He watched over her and Tony the whole time that we were praying for Sarah’s future husband. God went before Tony to protect him and guide him. All that time, God was loving Cathy and making a way to give her the desires of her heart. She had finally found the purest, most perfect love there is. Now that’s quite a love story.

At The Cross
(Darlene Zschech)

Oh Lord You've searched me
You know my way
Even when I fail You
I know You love me

Your holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now

You go before me
You shield my way
Your hand upholds me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where Your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

And when the earth fades
Falls from my eyes
And You stand before me
I know You love me
I know You love me

At the cross I bow my knee
Where your blood was shed for me
There's no greater love than this
You have overcome the grave
Your glory fills the highest place
What can separate me now?

You tore the veil
You made a way
When You said that it is done

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another Visit to the Eye Doctor/ Learning to Trust

Great-Grandma Stella has no problem holding her grand babies. I can't wait to watch her trick for feeding and changing all four. Maybe I'll learn something!

Great-Grandpa Bob is happy to hold just one at a time.

With oxygen going in the house, we had to go outside for Devon's birthday candles.

When (and if) the babies are occupied, it is "Mommy Time" for Callie.

Jackson went back to the eye doctor. Jackson hates the eye drops and the procedure to check his eyes. The whole thing is very uncomfortable. After the last visit, his eyes stayed dilated for two days! His eyes are maturing, but aren't there yet. The doctor is hopeful that he will do well, as long as he doesn't get sick. If he does, his progress will likely regress.

Samantha has to be seen next. She is at risk for ROP (Retaniopathy of Prematurity) because of the oxygen and being septic.

We heard good news yesterday! Samantha is approved for the monthly RSV shots through the entire cold/flu season. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the #1 cause of hospitalization in babies under a year of age in the U.S. The reason the shots must be repeated monthly is that they are not vaccinations. They are medication that reduces the severity of RSV. If preemies do get RSV, the shots should help them just get cold symptoms that full-term babies get instead of winding back up in the hospital with life-threatening respiratory distress. The shots are terribly expensive. We are hoping that insurance will follow the NICU's recommendation and cover the other three babies as well. So far, they are only approved through January. Please pray that they will be approved.

Lack of sleep and demanding babies has lulled us into a mind-numbing routine, so we forget how dangerous the common cold can be to preemies. We are trying to follow the doctors' advice, but it is difficult. There are so many decisions that have to be made daily. For example, Callie is not supposed to be around groups of children in order to avoid exposure to illness, but she LOVES going to church. She has had to miss several birthday parties, which she also loves. I keep telling myself that we are all making sacrifices, but it is hard to know what is best. I have a hard time balancing faith and action. I know God is in control, but I also know that I have to discern His plan for me each day.

Years ago, I learned an interesting lesson about faith, and I learned it from--of all things--a dog. I was in a weekly Bible study with a friend who had a beautiful female boxer named Whitney. Since my friend and her husband worked long hours, Whitney spent her days in a cage. When she came out of her cage in the evening, she had energy to burn. In spite of that energy, every week that I sat at the table for the study, Whitney would come sit beside me and put her head in my lap. Apparently, we had a connection. I was raised with a boxer, so I am partial to the breed. For some reason, Whitney was partial to me.

Sadly, my friend was getting a divorce and moving. She asked me to take Whitney. I didn't want another dog, but I couldn't say no. Whitney joined our family. She was a typical boxer--spirited, protective, loyal, energetic, strong and smart. She could catch a football mid-air and play keep-away. If someone ran from her, she would take him out at the knees in a hilarious Boxer tackle.

She loved being turned loose on our mini-farm. She would chase the horses, antagonize the goats and run as if her life depended on it. We hated leaving the house because Whitney would find a way to break out. Tom had to replace several windows after she crashed through them to escape. She didn't run away. She would just wait at the end of our gravel driveway for us to come home. She would chew on the windows sills, scratch the doors, and bite the doorknobs. Even ropes and chains couldn't hold her. She would break them like they were made of string. After life in a cage, this dog wanted to be free.

After much trial and error, we thought we had finally secured the house. We left for church, and returned to find her sitting in the driveway. We couldn't figure out how she was escaping. It was a mystery that our neighbor finally solved. One day, he stopped by in his pick up truck and said, "That's quite a dog you got there. Never seen one that can do what she does."

"What's that?" I asked.

"Jump off the roof. Seen her do it twice."

It was true. Whitney was going behind my bed, pushing out the window air conditioner, climbing out on the roof of our front porch, and jumping off. Incredible.

As a teacher, I am somewhat partial to my difficult students. I assume it is due to the amount of attention those students require. The same is true of my dogs. Whitney required lots of attention so she became my constant companion. I loved her.

One day we left for a family birthday. We returned late that night, expecting to find Whitney waiting by the driveway. She wasn't. We went inside and saw the answering machine blinking. The message was from our vet. Whitney had been hit by a car in front of our house. The speed limit was 55 mph.

I returned the call right away, even though it was 11:00 pm. Things were bad. He said, "Whitney's head is swollen to the size of a watermelon. Her eyes are completely dilated and she is sneezing bones out of her nose. She had a huge seizure, fell off the examination table and has been unresponsive ever since. I'm sorry, but she's brain dead."

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the door frame. "Why?" I wondered. "Why did I bring her home in the first place? Why couldn't this have happened months ago, before we became so attached?" My kids were anxiously watching my face, waiting for me to get off the phone to hear what had happened.

"Are you going to put her down?" I managed to ask.

"I don't think that's necessary. I'll save you the money." He was a farm vet, and he didn't mince words. "She isn't in any pain; she won't last through the night. Just call in the morning, and we'll decide what to do with her body."

I hung up the phone and delivered the bad news. Devon immediately burst into tears and ran over to Whitney's quilt, hugging the worn football. I sat down on the couch next to her, defeated.

After a few minutes, Devon sat up straight and asked a very interesting question. "Mom, why can't we ask God to heal Whitney?"

I looked at Tom. He shook his head and said, "You can handle this one." Devon was staring at me.

Stumbling over my words, I tried to explain. "Well, we can ask, Honey, but you need to prepare yourself. The Whitney we know is already dead."

Angry now, Devon cried and pleaded with me. "But Mom, you always say that God can do anything! You said that we are supposed to ask Him to help us and that He can move mountains. Why can't we ask God to heal Whitney?"

I took a deep breath and sank into the couch. It was bad enough that I would have to bury my dog in the morning, but now I would also have to explain difficult spiritual areas to my children that I barely understood myself.

It was late. I was so tired. "Okay," I relented. "Let's ask Him to heal Whitney."

We prayed together as a family, a simple prayer asking God to heal Whitney. Devon smiled, wiped her eyes and went to bed. So did I, but I didn't sleep. I was dreading that phone call in the morning.

As soon as my alarm went off, I called the vet. "Should we come now to get her body?" I asked.

Sounding puzzled, he answered, "Well, I'm not sure why, but Whitney is still alive. Let's just give it a few more hours before we put her down. Nothing has changed since last night."

"Okay," I replied. Then I asked, "Can I come see her for a few minutes?"

He reluctantly agreed. "It's not pretty," he warned.

I grabbed Whitney's quilt and my keys, threw the dog blanket in the back seat of my car, and drove to the vet. I'm not sure why I went. I guess I just didn't want her to die alone in a vet's cage. Maybe I wanted her to know that we loved her. I regreted that I hadn't kept her safe.

The receptionist looked up at me with sad eyes and took me to the back of the building. It was a pole barn that contained large shower-like stalls. Whitney was about four stalls down. She was unconscious and sprawled awkwardly on a rubber woven mat on the cold floor. Her head was swollen to twice its normal size. There was blood and brain fluid running from her nose and mouth that made a long trail to a nearby drain in the floor. "I'm so sorry," murmured the receptionist, patting my arm. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she walked away. She closed the door and left me alone with Whitney.

Slowly, I sank down on the floor and carefully covered Whitney with her quilt. There was no response. I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. That's when I realized I wasn't alone in the building after all. God was speaking to me. He said, "Ask me to heal her."

Angry now, I opened my eyes and blinked back tears. I didn't want to ask God to heal this dog.

To be honest, every time I thought about asking God to heal anyone, I felt cold. My dad had been sick since I was sixteen. He had suffered terribly. In spite of my fervent prayers, God had not healed him. As a matter of fact, Dad kept getting worse, living with pain that would have broken most men. Dad never complained. He just kept serving God and encouraging me to do the same.

"I am NOT going to ask You to heal a stupid animal when I have been begging You for years to heal my dad!" I whispered as I rubbed my sleeve across my nose.

Patiently, He said it again. "Ask me to heal her."

I exhaled deeply. I knew better than to keep arguing. I am a first-born, after all. I placed my hand gently on Whitney's back and clenched my teeth. "Please. Heal her," I asked. The instant I spoke, I felt something melting inside of me, just like a large block of ice under a heater. There had been something cold inside of me, and I hadn't even realized it was there. But God did.

Whitney hadn't moved a muscle. I wasn't even sure that she was breathing. Emotionally spent, I stood up, walked out, and drove home.

Early the next morning, the phone rang. It was the vet. "You might want to come see this," he said. Tom and I jumped in the car and rushed over. We couldn't believe what we saw. Whitney was sitting up in her stall. The vet said, "She's blind and deaf and her face is crushed, but she's alive. I don't get it." I told him about Devon's prayer. He said, "All I know is that this is a miracle."

While the vet was talking to Tom, I was watching Whitney. Each time Tom spoke, she jerked her head around trying to find his voice. She could hear, and she recognized his voice.

Every day after that, Whitney got a little better. Even her sight returned. After a week, we brought her home. The kids were so excited. "Whitney!" exclaimed Devon when she saw her. She ran over and hugged the dog for a long time. "See Mom? I told you God could heal her."

Whitney kept improving until we had our horse-chasing, runner-tackling Whitney back. She went on to live a normal lifespan. The accident left her with teeth that were crooked from her swollen head. I think it was a reminder so I would never forget what God had done. He not only healed a brain-dead dog, but He also healed a long-dead place in my heart.

God had a lesson for me to learn: He could have healed my dad in a heartbeat--just like He healed Whitney--if it were part of His plan. But it wasn't. His plan for my dad was different and greater than anything I could imagine. I just needed to trust Him.

My dad also went on to live a normal lifespan. After living his life as a hero of the faith, he died on February 26, 2008. Devon and Eric sang this song at his funeral:

I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman

God My God, I cry out
Your beloved needs you now
God be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt
Your kindness is what pulls me up,
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the maker of the mountains
I can't climb
I will lift my eyes
to the calmer, of the oceans
raging wild
I will lift my eyes
to the healer, of the hurt
I hold inside

I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to you

God my God let mercy sing
her melody over me
God right here all I bring is all of me
Your kindness is what pulls me up,
your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes
to the maker, of the mountains
I can't climb
I will lift my eyes
to calmer, of the oceans
raging wild
I will lift my eyes
to the healer, of the hurt
I hold inside

cause you are
and you were
and you will be forever
The lover I need to save me
Cause you fashioned the earth
and Hold it together
God so hold me now

I will lift my eyes
to the maker, of the mountains
I can't climb
I will lift my eyes
to calmer, of the oceans
raging wild
I will lift my eyes
to the healer, of the hurt
I hold inside

God My God, I cry out
your beloved needs you now

Thanks for praying.