Thursday, November 7, 2013

Miscarriage and Cancer - Opening My Hand

Well…it’s been a roller coaster.  In the past few weeks I turned 40, found out I have skin cancer and experienced the miscarriage of our 4th child.

I am learning how to open my hand to the gifts He gives - to see them as gifts...even when I don't like the wrapping paper.

Please watch this VLOG (video blog) for some VERY HONEST talk – the pain and the joy of this loss.  I share about what it was like to experience a miscarriage, how we have celebrated his life and other "gifts" I was not willing to see as "gifts."

Also, we felt our child was a boy and named him David Paul.  We had a memorial service for him on November 2, 2013 and asked our family to join us. Here here are some things each person shared:

For David Paul: A Poem From Mama

Every night
I spoke to you in hope
Cradled dreams
A life without scope

I loved every finger
Each tiny toe
Your heart was beating
So fast...then too slow

I carried you
Wrapped in the darkness of my womb
But now He carries me
You're wrapped in the lightness of heaven's room

I know your smile
And see your face
The road seems long
But I feel His grace

My true joy
Is in the empty tomb
Death has not won
We will meet soon

So Good Bye for now
My David Paul
The pain is deep
But this is not all

A thousand years
From this Day
We'll sit on that celestial shore
And marvel at His Perfect Way

- Your mama

Scripture from your father

A note from your sister Jensen

Thoughts sent from my brother and his family (living in the Middle East)

Jaden: I know you will be waiting in heaven to meet all of us. We can't wait to meet you.

Jett: I think you would have been a wonderful boy and I would have been your friend.

Ava: The Lord loves you and your baby. You will have a great time in heaven. I'll see you there later.

Alea: I will hold you in heaven.

A Letter from Aunt Erin:

Dear David Paul, 

These days I find myself getting through the day by imaging what heaven will be like. Lately, I've been imagining what it will be like to have our entire family together heaven...with no goodbyes. Goodbyes are my least favorite. I can't wait to all be together, as one family, in heaven, never again needing to say goodbye. 

I can't wait to meet you and learn about your personality. Please know that you are so loved. We will have many adventures together! It's very special to know you are in heaven waiting for your family to arrive. We love you so much and can't wait for the day when we are united for eternity.

Love you!
Aunt Erin 

Psalm for David (written by Uncle Ken)

The Lord is my guide, my storyteller,
Who helps man to see in the dark,
Who gives understanding in chaos,
Peace, in the valley of the shadow,
He paints His wonders on the Earth,
Making beauty from dust,
And glory from the void.
He lifts my spirit with His Spirit,
From the womb He bore me,
Up on the wings of Eagles I flew,
He carried me from the land of the living,
To the Kingdom of warming light,
Where men dream Gods' dreams,
And walk once again in the cool of the day,
Unafraid, while the dew is till on the roses. 
He places his arms around me, in His lap,
On His knee I sit, still with awe and wonder,
Listening to His Great Story, and,
Waiting for end of the age,
When I will see them, hear them, hold them,
My dear ones, the Lord's anointed,
Face to face.

- Uncle Ken

A letter from my father (Bompa)

A letter from my mother (Grammy)

Scriptures from Karl’s mother (Mimi)

Scriptures from Karl’s father (Ppop)

We put everyone’s letter – along with our precious baby in a tiny casket Jensen decorated – in this jar and buried him in my parent’s back yard.

We love you, David Paul!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Motherhood – the good, the bad, the ugly

Here is my tell-all about real Ostrand life with three fabulous little girls.


It’s life is exhausting. Probably not any more than another mother in this stage...but let me just say I LOVE our 7 pm bedtimes for all 3 girls!  You heard that right (6:45 on occasion...don’t judge me!).

My current highlights:

Adison Rose (17 months) - is more active and more “into everything” and more “I need my mother now” than my other children two combined. Oh my soul!

ADI ROSE- SHORT VIDEO CLIPS (click below title to view):

Emme (5 years) – her favorite phrase that she must say at least 40 times a day is “I need help.” (we are so proud she has a 3 word sentence now!).  

She knows about 200 signs with words and loves to choose someone to “teach signs” to.  She will carefully select a person, climb up on their lap, and start by signing “friend.”  She also loves to sing but does NOT want...

1) for you to sing along with her - don’t think it’s your voice – she only likes her own or a professionals - or maybe it IS your voice :-) 

2) you to video her singing (this always ends in “No! No! No!)

EMME - SHORT VIDEO CLIPS (click below title to view):

Jensen (7 years) – Lost her first tooth, loves riding the “special needs” bus with her sister to school and has decided she will stay in America while we go back to Africa.

 I said, “But darling...won’t you miss your mother?”  She said, “Don’t worry mom...I can write you letters!” (when has she ever written a letter in her life?)

JENSEN - SHORT VIDEO CLIPS (click below title to view):


Sometimes hard things happen to our kids. No one wants to play with them at recess, the teacher scolded them, they didn’t get invited to the birthday party, their friend didn’t want to play the same game they did, they tried their best but still failed the test, etc.

As moms...we wonder how we can comfort our kids – while at the same time speaking truth about how they can overcome this particular challenge.

I heard about a technique that works well for war veterans who are victims of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), but can work for anyone who has gone through something difficult. It’s called “mirroring neutrons.” I tried it on Jensen and was amazed!  (Source: Sapphire Leadership Group’s PTSD – Restoring Dignity and Hope )

The concept is that someone who has gone through a similar difficulty and overcome it...can actually help you build new pathways in your brain to overcome your pain – in ways that you could not accomplish on your own!

The chemistry in your brain can actually change – pulling you out of PTSD faster – or helping your 7 year old de-tangle new emotions about having a sister with Down syndrome.

Here’s an example and steps...
          1.  You are war veteran severely depressed because you lost your leg
          2. Find a person  willing to sit down with you for coffee who has experienced a severe loss and overcome the pain. This could be anyone – the loss does not need to be similar and does not need to be someone you know really well (just need someone willing to help you out!).  For example, it could be a mom in MAD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving) who lost her teenage son 10 years ago and has worked through that loss.
          3.  Tell your story about the loss of your leg until you feel she has connected with your pain and understood your feelings on a deep level
          4. Listen to her story of loss and hear how she worked through her feelings and overcame her pain. Look her in the eye and connect with her emotions and story.

As simple as that works!

So I tried it!  Jensen came to me a few weeks ago, distraught for the first time about having a sister with Down syndrome.  

There are so many great things about Emme – that I don’t think Jensen was ever faced with something that deeply bothered her about it. She had been hanging out with her cousin Ava (her age) and noticed how easy it was to talk and communicate with her younger sister (3 year old Alea).  Jensen was shocked to see how someone else’s little sister, Alea, could so easily communicate, play house or even hold hands and skip across the street.

Jensen and Emme play so well together – that I often forget how different it is for Jensen than playing with other typical kids.

Jensen tearfully said that night, “But mom!  Emme can’t talk to me and it’s hard to play games together.  She doesn't understand me!”

I listened to everything Jensen had to say and encouraged her tell me more – until I felt sure Jensen sensed I really understood her pain.

I didn't try to change the subject, or tell her to get over it or look on the bright side.

Then, when she had told me everything, for the first time I told her my story of when Emme was born.

I said, “Jensen, when I had Emme in my tummy...we didn't know she had Down syndrome.  We were so excited to meet our baby girl!  The doctor seemed concerned that she was small, but mama wasn't worried.  I thought those doctors were being silly (those doctors were actually close to labeling me “non-compliant” in my medical file because I really did think they were being way too dramatic)

Then they had to take her out so fast by cutting open my tummy a whole month early...because her heart wasn't working so good.  The nurse told daddy that she had Down syndrome.  Daddy was so surprised he almost fainted!  One of Emme’s legs was as white as paper and the cord was wrapped around her neck three times.  We were worried!

When mommy was in the recovery room waiting to see Emme, she told her nurse (good friend Sara Nylin). “I’m just worried the kids at school will make fun of her!” Then I cried really hard! I was so sad!

That night I was in the NICU – a special place for babies who need nurses to take care of them.  I was sitting by Emme’s little bed and I felt Jesus come over sit beside me.  With an excited smile he said, “How do you like your gift?”  And from that moment on....I knew that no matter what happened and even it was going to be hard – Emme would always be an amazing gift to our family.”

Jensen listened carefully to my whole story and asked a few questions.  But I could tell it resounded with her spirit.

My take-away for moms?  I guess this is what we moms have always known - but now science confirms it. When your child comes to you with deep pain – listen well to every detail.  Make them feel understood. Then reach back and tell them your story.  Be honest with how you felt with a similar pain and how you overcame it. You will physically change your child's brain’s ability to deal with life that can be harsh!


Confession #1: It’s true. Adison Rose broke her leg and it’s entirely my fault due to a should-definitely-know-better-rookie-mistake. 

I wish I had a better story.  I was changing her diaper and I could hear Jensen in the other room, screaming and on the verge of waking up my friend’s sleeping son (in my book – nothing is worse than waking a happily sleeping baby...except now maybe breaking a baby’s leg. Doh!)

Without thinking, I ran to the door of the room and yelled, “Jensen! Quiet!” In that 5 second time period, Adi rolled off the edge and landed with a thud on the carpeted floor.

She only cried for a few moments, and I counted myself very lucky she was OK.  However...the next day...when she still wouldn’t let me put her down without screeching in horror, we knew was something was wrong.  The doctor confirmed our fears...a broken leg.  She was in a hot pink cast for 3 weeks and walked around quite enthusiastically...thumping her little cast as she trotted along like a pirate.  She’s unstoppable!

The worst part?  Everywhere we would go people would wonder (and often ask) what happened.  Of course I had to confess and relive the shame of some serious shady parenting

Confession #2: None of my girls drink milk.  Not whole...not 2%...not skim.  Shhhh!  I tried at first with all of them...making way too chocolately milk several times a day for Jensen.  It was more like chocolate syrup with a dash of milk.

After one or two pathetic attempts with Adi – I switched to a no sugar veg/fruit juice with flax seed oil added (for the fats that are supposed to help with baby brain development).  Many people are disturbed by this.  I used to be a tall-glass-of-milk-with-every-meal kind of girl till I realized dairy could kill you.  Despite my secretly held beliefs in the perils of dairy, it’s  very embarrassing when Jensen goes to her friends houses and proudly informs them, “I don’t drink milk.  My mom says it’s bad for you.”

What kind of mother could think milk was bad for you? Obviously the kind who lets her baby break her leg!

Confession #3: My kid is the one who told your kid there is no Santa Clause.

In my defense...we decided to go with the whole Santa Clause thing and it was quite fun for a few years.  Then last year out of the blue (and no where near the Christmas season), Jensen says to me, “Is Santa Clause real?” I say, “What do you think?” She says, “Yes!” I say, “Well there you go!” “Is he really, mom?” And this went back and forth for some time.

Then she says that same afternoon, “Is Jesus real?”

Now I had a problem.  There are some serious similarities between Santa and Jesus in the mind of a 6 year old.

1). You can’t see them
2)  Both have important roles at Christmas
3) Both “can see you when you’re sleeping...know when you’re awake...see if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”

She was connecting the two and I honestly didn’t want her questioning Jesus.  So I told her the truth...quickly to follow was the fall of princesses, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy.

I’ve made her promise not to tell a soul and I’ve seen her play along with the fun in front of her friends.  But let me say it now...I’m so sorry if she tells your kid!  I have become THAT mom!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

America – 5 New Things

Ahh...America the Beautiful! A lot has changed in America since we were here 2 years ago.  For example...

1.      Plastic Bottles.  What happened to all the plastic?? I’m guessing there has been a massive campaign to save the ocean by using less plastic in general (admirable) but now my plastic water bottle is very crinkly. VERY CRINKLY. Although I am an ocean lover...may I be so bold as to say, “Not that into it.” Jensen has been known to wake up Emme in the middle of the night trying to take a stealthful sip of her water.  She inadvertently crinkles that bottle a little bit too much (by simply holding it!) and startles her sister out of dead sleep. Is it me...or do these wispy bottles sound like a massive rain storm in your hand?

2.      Plastic Bags (at the grocery store).  I know...I know...I should be using canvas totes! But I really need the bags for the massive numbers of disposable diapers my two children use every day (my apologies to the ocean, once again).  All that to say...I’m not even sure this pseudo tissue-paper bag can even be categorized as actual plastic.

3.      Iphones.  Since arriving back in the US this year – it seems everyone I know now has an iphone. This is pretty great.  Instagram (my all time favorite photo app) is becoming popular and iMessaging is FABULOUS.  On a side can text us for free in Africa with iMessage (only a 7 hour time difference).

4.      Online Commercials.  Serious bummer.  It used to be if we watched a show from Hulu or a major network (aka. – the commercials were about 30 seconds and you could choose to skip them.  Now the commercials are several minutes and no option to skip.  Booo Hisss!

5.      Hot Spots.  I used to think “hot spots” was popping your hood on Dodge (yes...I know...SO 20 years ago) or all the tweens hanging out at Village Pointe. But WOW!  How cool is it that you can now take the internet with you anywhere?  Love mobile hotspots from the cell phone carriers. Thumbs up, America!

What I absolutely love the most about my country is that Americans are creative, bold and love to think outside the box.  And even though we sometimes severely over-estimate our own talent (aka the singer on American idol whose doting mother should have been a little more forth-coming in directing her praise away from a performance that would enrage Simon Cowell in front of millions of people), I sure do love Americans...even when we can’t sing.

Now I just need to figure out how to get my Hope-tions bunting featured on Shark Tank!

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I just cannot resist a good party. Even when the skies turn dark and the road seems relentlessly long...we choose celebration.

Celebrating Birthdays

Adison Rose recently turned 1 years old!  She is on a mission. She has places to go, people to see, parties to attend. 

Emme turned 5 years old. Emme’s favorite thing to do in the whole world is listen to music – particularly worship music.  So for her 5th birthday....friends joined us for a time of singing worship songs and praying over her.

Celebrating God Creating New Life - Boy or Girl?

One of my Ocean View girls is having a baby so we did one of those “Gender Cake Reveal Parties” (where you find out if you are having a boy or girl by cutting into the cake – the frosting inside reveals the gender of the baby – blue for boy and pink for girl).

Celebrating Down Syndrome

We visited Jensen’s class and explained what it means to have Down syndrome.   We talked about how Emme is a gift, God’s princess, and talked about princesses.

Celebrating Life in the Midst of Cancer
We are back in the states right now spending time with Karl’s mom as she battles cancer.  We are celebrating life together as a family and the goodness of the Lord in the midst of life’s difficult times.

Did you know there are 59 parties referenced in the Bible?

Jensen is the girl in our family who loves parties the MOST!  We believe God has put a love for parties in her heart – so I am going through the process of recording all the scriptures about feasts for her to listen to.

Note: For Emme we are focusing on music and for Adi on movement.

I've been surprised at all the party drama in the Bible!  Especially in the first 5 parties...

1st party (weaning) – The first party recorded in the Bible was the one Abraham threw when Sarah weaned Isaac.  I’m sure it was quite the event! Sarah was 90 years old when she gave birth – and weaned him a few years after that. 

The party drama was that Ishmael  - his older half brother who was around 16 or 17 years old started making fun of his 2-3 year old brother.  Sarah was pretty mad about it and made Abraham send Ishmael away – into the desert with his mother and one bottle of water. Seems a little harsh. God took care of Ishmael though and promised to turn him into a great nation.  Ishmael is the father of Arab nations – most of whom are Muslim. (Genesis 21)

2nd party (for out of town guests)–  Isaac was hanging out with the Philistines and they were pretty nice to him.  They let him have land and the Philistine king even told everyone not to touch Isaac’s wife (apparently she was incredibly beautiful). Eventually they got jealous that God had blessed Isaac’s land and flocks so much- so they sent him away. 

After a while though they came and found him and said, “So...uh..yeah. We know we sent you away but that was probably a bad idea because it’s obvious you’re one of God’s favorite people and He blesses you. So will you please promise not to hurt us?"

Isaac agreed not to hurt them and threw them a little “friendship party.” (Genesis 26)

3rd party (wedding) – This is a pretty famous party...a wedding actually. Jacob had worked seven years in order to marry the outrageously gorgeous Rachel.  His father-in-law tricked him and disguised the not-so-beautiful older sister as the bride.  He didn’t realize till after he "sealed the deal" that he had married Leah instead. Doh! (Genesis 29)

4th  party (birthday party) – Just as Joseph had dreamed, on Pharaoh’s birthday he threw a party for himself and gave the chief wine taster his job back (but decided to hang the chief baker).  That party eventually led to Joseph’s release from prison and position as Pharaoh’s right hand man. Parties come in handy!  (Genesis 40)

5th party (family reunion) – Joseph threw a party for his long lost brothers.  Then he hid his silver cup in one of his brothers’ sack of grain and accused him of stealing. A bit of dramatic end to a nice little family reunion. (Genesis 43)

We can learn a lot from parties in the Bible!

      1.   It’s really not nice to make fun of people at their own party – it  may get you thrown into the dessert with one bottle of water
      2.   When God blesses you, even your enemies notice and want to get invited to your parties.
      3.   Double-check to make sure you have the right bride (so many implications here)
      4.   Dreams do come true
      5.   Try not to leave the festivities with any party favours that aren't yours

I believe it’s very powerful to read (or record) for our children stories from the Bible based on their passions. God has made each of our children different!  Sowing God’s word into their hearts will have a large impact on the rest of their lives and how they use their gifts.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Power of Generational Legacy

Many people have asked my father how in the world a school teacher from Nebraska (who is not much of a world traveler), ended up with both his children serving God overseas.

Read this blog at the risk of altering the course of your life (legacy is irresistible), your children’s lives, and the lives of the kids around you. You WILL see a world changed forever...

How do you change the world?

Destiny Words.  

Spoken one at a time. Year in and year out. Over and over. They get under your skin and seep into your blood.

I’ve stood in awe of three generations of men who know how to speak the language of destiny.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  It’s powerful. It’s a force that cannot be stopped.

My grandfather was born in 1901.  As a teenager, while his brother was at boy scout camp,  he’d work all summer long on a dairy farm to earn $50.  At the end of the summer, his entire earnings went to pay for shoes for all the kids in his family.

Christian Jensen (20 years old - 1921)

One summer he discovered that one of the cow’s milk dried up.  No one could figure out why...till my grandfather found the boa constrictor that had been drinking the cow’s milk all summer. I’m trying not to picture that!

He was the first among his friends to save up enough money to buy a car...a black Ford Model T.  And he was COOL!  As the only dark haired Danish boy, attending a church of blond Swedish girls...he was quite the catch.

My grandfather married my beautiful grandmother, and he took a job with the Union Pacific as clerk.

To me, this is where the story gets really interesting.

Cecil B DeMille’s film “Union Pacific” came out in 1939, and the railroad brought in the film’s celebrities for the ”Golden Spike Days”– a 4 day event celebrating the film’s premier.  The president of the Union Pacific asked my grandfather to put together a drum and bugle corp of the employee’s kids for the event.  It was such a success, my grandfather was asked to continue the corp.

For many years he passed up promotions for his clerk day he could keep directing the corp (accepting a promotion would have meant working on Saturdays...the day of band practice, so he declined).

For over 30 years he led the corp...and became like a father to many of the kids. Kind and generous, he mentored the boys, taking them on camping trips...where he made cabin stew, showed them how to build fires, and spent time fathering them.

Chris Jensen (first row...far left)

To him it wasn’t about money or titles – it was about inspiring and loving kids. 

He had so much favor with the Union Pacific presidents (because their kids were in the corp), that when he stepped down, his "clerk's retirement package" somehow reflected all those promotions he refused to take.

The UP Drum and Bugle corp was a special place, not just for my grandfather, but for my parents.  In fact, this is how they mother was a baton twirling 14 year old and my father was the 17 year old drum major.

Paul Jensen - Drum Major

Dorothy Freeman (center) - baton twirler

The drum major and baton twirler -
almost 50 years later (they clean up good)

Which brings me to my father.

When I’m back in Omaha, Nebraska – invariably we will be out to eat at a restaurant with my parents.  I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times kids have come up to my father and said,

“Hello, Mr. Jensen, How is your day?  And how are you, Mrs. Jensen? And can I have my Bonus 2?”

Ahhh....the famous Bonus 2.  My father has been a math teacher for 40 years this year...and he has a running deal with his students.  If they see him out in public and can properly greet him and my mother...he will give them a math problem that, if solved correctly, can earn them 2 bonus math points.  I’m not sure exactly how far 2 bonus math points will really take you...but I will say these kids look like they’ve won the lottery.

Which reminds me, a few years back Warren Buffet gave my dad $10,000 – for winning the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award.

That’s pittance to what my father is worth as a teacher.

Kids adore him.  He is arguably everyone’s favorite teacher. I’m pretty sure this has little to do with the Harley Davidson songs he makes them sing, or the endearing nick-names he gives every one of his kids (if they haven’t received their Mr Jensen nick-name yet...they hassle him till he comes up with something they both like), or the games they play in and out of class.

I’ll never forget being in my bedroom as a teenager and seeing one of his students dart past my second story window – ready to drop a water balloon on my dad.  He had some kind of contest going about who would get soaking wet first.  I’m sure there was some kind of math problem worked in to that?

My dad and his grandgirls

For thousands of students, he has somehow made math painless, called destiny into the lives of every student, and left each one with a sense that they should “Not Fit in, But Stand Out for Jesus.”

Of course this is what my father did for my brother and I every day of our life – spoke God’s destiny into dinner conversation and car rides. My mother whispered it into our ears at bedtime. 

My mom, brother, me and dad
(2011 trip to US was the last time we were all together)

When my brother was applying for college, he spoke to the guidance counselor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She said, “Oh...your dad is Paul Jensen?  We’ve heard of him.  So many students have come here to study teaching because of your dad.”

And that brings me to my brother.  He’s number three in this generational legacy.

He is a science teacher at an international school in central asia, attended by the children of political leaders and world shakers.

I’m sure you can guess. He is everyone’s favorite teacher. He makes science come alive, while he weaves in stories of freedom, sacrifice...and I’m sure you know what I’m going to say...destiny.

One day in Physics class he paused from the lesson and said, “Dream big for your country!” The class respond by saying they had never had a dream for their country. He threw the physics lessons out for the rest of the week and the kids began to plan, write papers, and share their dreams for their country with each other. 

Another time in Chemistry class, he challenged his students to finish school, go to college, and then return to help their country. The kids responded saying "No Mr. Jensen, security will never be good enough to live in this country. We will finish school and leave."

Then and there he gave them the call of a lifetime.  He told them, “I predict 2014 will be a year of peace and if I’m correct, I challenge you to return to this place and help build a strong, solid, country.”  This was 5 years ago when no one could have guessed that that next year would be likely to be peaceful.

At the end of the class, nine brave students signed a contract that hangs in my brother’s office...stating they would return under those circumstances. Many of those students are in college now, watching to see what 2014 holds....poised for action.

My brother in his classroom

My brother’s students today are their nation's leaders tomorrow.  The destiny of a nation has been altered.  And as we all know too well...what happens all the way around the world with heads of state...affects us all.

To those children who know only of war, corruption and retribution...his words and stories bring grace and freedom.

God’s destiny – when spoken over a lost generation – is water to a thirsty soul, balm over wounds, light in the darkest place.

As I look down my family line, I see that the world is altered for eternity when a father speaks destiny, life and vision....even to those children who are not his own.

Generational Legacy has a domino effect that I am convinced, when spread out over time, will affect hundreds of thousands of those who feel fatherless.

I have begun to think about generational blessing in a new way. 

Every night, Karl prays for our girls, and after my children have gone to sleep, I slip into their room and speak words of God’s blessing and destiny over their lives.

Emerson, Jensen, Adison

I tell them, “God has put you in this family for a very special reason.  There are things for you to do that no one else in this world can do.  You were born for a very important purpose and God has given you many gifts and talents. Do not be afraid.” The message alters, but the essential meaning remains the same.

It’s interesting, since I started doing this several weeks ago, Jensen’s nightmares that have plagued her for years and fears in general have totally disappeared. Huh!

Destiny Words spoken in the bright light of classroom or whispered in the moonlight... matter for all eternity.

This world WILL shake when we call our children’s God given destiny to the front! 

As I heard someone recently say, “May our ceiling be the floor our children walk on.”