Category Archives: Karlena Marie

Memories, A Medical Update and That Time I Talked About Health Insurance


So once again it has been awhile since I have had a chance to sit down and write. Lots has happened and I wanted to share a few of those updates! On Saturday we had our family pictures taken by a friend who has some crazy amazing talent. I have only seen some of the sneak peaks…but what she has shared so far has blown me away. Her name is Stephanie Werner and she can be found here on Facebook. Seriously, if you need pictures taken and live in or near Marshall, MN, call her. I can’t wait to see the final edited CD!!

We have had a few really crazy weeks with work, and we just had some of the carpet replaced in the office space that we lease so things have been in a bit of a disarray here. But as of yesterday, everything was moved back into its proper place and the carpet looks really nice.

I couldn’t help but think that my grandpa would have really loved to see the before and after pictures. He and my grandma really supported us when Dominic first started this business. They gave us the loan that made it possible to buy the furniture and supplies he needed to get going. When I was cleaning out my desk drawers before we had to move everything I came across the paid off promissory note that he sent back to us after we had paid off everything in full. A sweet memory.

Speaking of memories, yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of my best friend Karlena’s passing. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it had been 7 years. Sometimes that seems impossible. But then I look at my girl, her namesake, and realize that she will be 7 in 6 short weeks. I was organizing pictures on our shelves after the move in the office and many of them are of our family and you can see how we have all aged and changed. But the pictures I have with Karlena and I will forever be from 2010 and earlier. It is sad when you think about the fact that someone so crucial to your faith walk isn’t there for new steps. But her presence and memory are certainly felt and I will forever be grateful that I had the opportunity to love her and be her friend.

On October 19th I had a follow-up visit with my OB/GYN Dr after my surgery. The good news was that everything was healing well and the biopsy from both the cyst (which was the thing I was most concerned about) and the tubes was benign.

In addition to having those things removed, I also had an ablation procedure. I shared back in September that because of the way that my uterus is tipped they were unable to do a standard biopsy in the Dr’s office, so instead they had to do it in the operating room prior to doing the ablation. My Dr had talked to me that there was a small chance that if something showed up in the biospy of the uterine wall that was concerning, I may have to have a hysterectomy in the future.

At the time there wasn’t anything in my history that indicated that might be a concern so we went forward with the lesser invasive procedure. Unfortunately, when they did the biopsy of the lining there were some sections of concern. In medical terms, there was some focal glandular crowding, proliferative-type endometrium, and cystic dilatation….in layman’s terms I like to call this my angry uterus.

Right now my angry uterus is just that…angry. Ha ha!! It isn’t cancer but if left unchecked and untreated it could become more serious. She said that we could wait a few months and then if my cycles don’t quit completely (like they do for 85-90% of women that have the ablation procedure) she would recommend a hysterectomy. (For people without an angry uterus bi-annual biopsies done in office can be used to watch for any changes….mine would have to be done surgically)

I am 42, almost 43. I won’t be having children physically in the future and so from a medical perspective, I don’t need this darn angry, funny tipped uterus. The reason we didn’t just do a hyst right away is because it has a longer recovery time and more risks….we were both thinking that the biopsy would be normal and hoping that I wouldn’t have the need for any more surgeries.

Well then last week we got the wonderful news about our anticipated healthcare premium increases. And just so I am clear, this is our experience and I realize that there are many of you that have had different experiences. I don’t know what the answers are, I wish I did…but I want to share what we have gone through the last 6 years and what is happening now as a result.

Let me just be frank with you, Obamacare for our family was a nightmare. Our premiums have doubled, tripled, quadrupled in the course of 6 years. I was fortunate for many years to work in a corporate environment and so as a result up until 2011, had access to a large group plan that offered reasonable rates and low deductibles. We were involved in a health coaching group and kept accountable for our health needs. Except for some major unexpected things, our group was healthy because we as a whole exercised, ate healthy and went to the doctor when it was medically necessary.

When we moved to MN and I was no longer working with that larger corporation and Dominic started his own business, we were in the position to look for healthcare on our own. I was clueless to what it would cost and we were shocked at how much more expensive rates were than the rates I had paid through the bank. But in 2011, it was manageable.

Then came 2012, 2013…and so on and with it extreme increases in premiums and out of pocket deductible costs. In 2011 we were paying approximately $400-450 a month for our family of 6 with maybe a $2000 deductible. Today we are paying $1600 a month and we have a deductible of over $7000 out of pocket. If we stay with our current group plan for 2018, one that we were lucky to get because we work together at the business….one that we were grandfathered into last year, our premiums will be almost $2100 a month.

$2100 a month just to have insurance. Our plan used to have a $40 co-pay, so at least when the kids got sick we could justify the expense of going in and getting checked out. In 2018 our co-pay will be eliminated. In addition to the $2100 a month, we would have to pay 100% of all medical costs per person up to $2300 each before any “insurance” would kick in.

Dominic and I work very hard for a living. We are fortunate, we know that. We make just enough that we do not qualify for any subsidy programs. Our cost of healthcare is fully our own. I know that we are not alone in this. I am friends with other families, many of them also self-employed, who have found themselves in a similar situation.

How is this “affordable healthcare?”

Last year we researched the options available to us in regards to the various Christian Health Sharing ministries. Fear kept me stuck in the what-ifs. Dominic was more ready to make a switch than I was but with promises of “reform” all over the news last November….we decided to ride out one more year in hopes that change was really going to happen.

Clearly that change isn’t happening anytime soon. The insurance companies continue to increase rates, decrease benefits and lesson the available networks that the plans work in. When my health care premiums are more than my mortgage payment each month, something is wrong.

So, as a result, two things are happening. One, we are looking into all of the options and companies out there that are considered Christian Health Sharing Ministries. I have spent hours reading and researching the differences, asking for input from friends that are using each plan, and honestly in prayer for wisdom and discernment over our decisions. I can’t live in fear of the unknown. When we get to that place where we have made some decisions I will share the whats and whys here for anyone that is interested.

I still have some questions and am hoping to get those answers soon. I am saddened that this is the state of our affairs and that we have to make these types of “between a rock and a hard place” decisions. But I am trusting that God will guide our choices and our steps.

And two….I have been back in contact with my doctor to discuss and schedule a hysterectomy (one that leaves my ovary intact!!) for the very end of December. While having another surgery in 2 months isn’t on my list of the best ways to end 2017 and ring in a new year, I can’t afford to risk waiting and having to do the surgery in early 2018. If there is a drastic change in my cycles in the next 6 weeks, the surgery could be canceled…but at this point, it looks like for many reasons, it is the best option for me.

I thought the week-long recovery of the last surgery was tough. This one will challenge me even more I am sure. But Dominic has been incredibly supportive and we will just have to schedule our workload very light in early January as a result. We have some pretty incredible clients and I know they will understand.

And sometime in the next 6 weeks I need to come up with about 10 freezer meals that I can make and freeze in advance so that I don’t have to worry about cooking. I won’t be able to lift anything over 20lbs for 6 weeks for sure, no laundry, no vacuuming….seriously what will I do?! Haha!

But joking aside, can I tell you that I have such a peace about all of this?! When my doctor said it might be something we would have to do it was like “ok…I can deal with that.” All the fear and anxiety I felt over the last surgery is just gone. Praise God! I know that having come to that place with Him, trusting that whatever the outcome, He would be there….that truth has carried me through today. It can only be explained by Him. He has given me a peace and I am so grateful for that.

So I do covet your prayers as we make final decisions about our health care situation and for December 28th and my surgery. It could be so much worse, I know that….so I just move forward seeking to get to the healthiest place that I can for myself and my family!

And if you are using a Christian Sharing Ministry and want to share your experience please do! What do you love, what works…what doesn’t, would you go back to traditional insurance? What questions should I be asking…give me all your knowledge!

Where Grace and Suffering Meet

Karlena 2Today is a special day as it would be Karlena’s 40th birthday. And I am pretty sure that her 40 and fabulous party in heaven isn’t anything like we would be having here.

But I miss her. And I wish that I was celebrating with her in person.

Today at church I am leading a song for worship team. (Please pray as you read this because it still TERRIFIES me.) Anyhoo….It is called At the Foot of the Cross.

I have listened to the song over a hundred times in the last 4 days and the words have sunk in deep, covering my soul with the reality that is the dance between suffering and grace.

The video I am attaching below is one where they show clips from the Passion movie. The scene where Jesus is being raised up on the cross and his beloved friends are at the foot of the cross watching.

I understand the pain they must have felt at that moment. Their friend and companion, their teacher and example was dying and they would never be the same again.

I imagine they must have wondered how any beauty could ever come from something so painful.

But it is at the foot of the cross, the very tool used for extreme suffering, that we find just that.

Beauty from ashes.

Hope in the midst of suffering.

Light in the darkness.

The cross is the very reason that the loss we all experience is not the end.

We have been given new life when we accept Jesus as our Savior. And that new life offers the promise that death is not the end. And while I would rather celebrate this special birthday with Karlena in person, I rejoice in the fact that one day we will be reunited.

And oh the party that will be.

I don’t know what burden you are carrying this morning.

Maybe it is the loss of a job, or a struggle in your marriage. Maybe your arms long for a baby of your own. Maybe you are carrying the weight of a sickness or the struggle with anxiety or depression.

Whatever it is, I encourage you to lay it down. If you have to physically do the act of setting it down, do that. Set it down at the foot of the cross.

We weren’t meant to carry it on our own. Jesus came to do the heavy lifting. But for some of us it means we have to first let go.

There is freedom found in trusting God with everything. We might not always understand the trials we face, but we can walk confidently knowing that He will make beauty out of all of it.

Happy Birthday Karlena. You are loved and missed but I rejoice today in your complete and total healing. Until the day we celebrate together…I love you friend!

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The Most Unbelievable Birthday Gift

Birthday BanditsI can hardly believe it, but I am sitting in the Minneapolis airport waiting to board a flight that will first take me to Chicago and then shortly thereafter, Houston, Texas.

On Thursday night around 8:30pm I got the surprise of a lifetime when I came downstairs after painting some more and sat down to send an email….I opened my computer and inside was the letter pictured above.

As I started to read it my eyes filled with tears, Gabriel had been in the room and he grabbed it from me and started reading it aloud. Dominic apparently at this point was taping me with his phone…. (The video is hilarious and I sound like a freak – if we are friends on FB you can see it there!)

On Saturday I was to report to the Minneapolis airport and would be flying to somewhere unknown for a special early birthday weekend.

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that someone would do something like this for me and to pull off all the details….amazing.

My second thought after “are you serious, how can this be??”, was “yikes, I haven’t painted my toenails in weeks.” What can I say, vanity has been a struggle for me! 😉 Because I didn’t know for sure where I was going (although I had a strong suspicion) I wasn’t sure exactly what warmth of clothes I should pack.  But the reality is that most of the south right now is dealing with cold weather themselves, so anything I would wear during the fall/early winter should work.

So that night I packed what I could, tried to get Dominic to tell me ANYTHING, which he would not…and proceeded to walk around for the next day and 1/2 with a silly grin on my face.

This is too much.

On my route to MSP this morning I got a call from Gindi and she finally confirmed where I was headed. She said that back in December Delonna had started a secret vox chain with her, Gindi and Christine. They wanted to plan something super special for my upcoming 40th birthday.

These women are such an unbelievable gift to me. To think that just a few short years ago we were all strangers…oh God brought them into my life for such a time as this.

God knew…

Just 4 years ago in November I lost my best friend Karlena. A few months before she passed away I planned a secret trip to go and visit her. I worked with her husband and her MIL to arrange all the details and travelled to see her for the weekend. I was pregnant with our girl and Karlena had been so sick the few months prior that I just wanted to cheer her up.

It was a wonderful time, and the last time that I saw her  alive. I will always cherish that weekend.

Losing your best friend leaves a hole….and it was one that I didn’t expect would ever be filled again.

But God.

Oh those 2 words that seem to define so many of the remarkable moments in my life.

But God knew, and somehow a group of 99 women were chosen for a book launch, and then several of us broke off to encourage one another in a mastermind group, and finally a God-sized dream was birthed and a website was born.

And from that group, friendships were born.

From across the miles, voxer has kept us connected. Life has been shared, tears have been shed, cheering has ensued. These women are have filled my life to overflowing, and this…this birthday surprise?

It is the gravy.

Christine and Delonna weren’t able to to join us in person, schedules, work commitments etc., made it tough to find a way for all of us to be together. So instead, Gindi is hosting me for a weekend full of SO MUCH.

Seriously you should see the agenda, I am almost speechless.

But the fact that these three women worked so hard, schemed, planned and made arrangements with my husband, got ideas from my mom….it is just so much.

I don’t feel like I deserve it, but I am marveling in the lavish love that God has for me that he would place these women in my life so that in the month of my 40th birthday I would be treated to a surprise weekend. Something only the #birthdaybandits could do.

Ok, I probably should stop writing now because just thinking about it is bringing me to tears and the other people in the waiting area at the airport are going to start giving me the crazy eyes. 😉

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough…and I am sure that I will have more to share as the weekend unfolds, but for now, as I wait to board my flight I want to just say thank you. Gindi, Delonna, Christine, Dominic and my mom….for everything that you did to make this weekend possible, I am humbled by your gift.

Speechless (almost) and overwhelmed. I wasn’t really depressed about 40…but now, this? I am entering into this new season full of joy and hope. I love you all!

You Are Brave

Karlena and Elijah 2

This is a picture of Karlena with my 3rd son Elijah (who just recently turned 5). She was so excited about him when he was born…oh how I know she would have loved meeting our girl, her namesake as well.

Karlena has a son who is a couple of years younger than Isaac. So a teenager, which is tough enough, and then add that you are going through some of your most difficult years without your mom.

It makes my heart hurt.

I had a chance to talk to his dad for a little bit online a few days ago. I worry about them. I know how much Karlena wanted them both to be happy after she was gone. They deserve that.

But it is hard.

Grief is tough and it sneaks up on you at the strangest of times.

I say this from my experience, I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be if it was my mom.

They are making some big changes and moving to a new home, a new community soon.

The change will be tough I am sure – but necessary maybe?

I am sure their house holds so many memories. Karlena got progressively sick in that home, and passed away there as well. The last time that I saw her in person alive, I knew as I left that I probably wouldn’t be back there to visit her. I just had a feeling.

It is hard to leave, leave the memory of her…but time and time again she told me that she wanted to see her family happy and thriving after she was gone. They have so much life left to live. And sometimes change is tough, but necessary for growth!

I know that when we moved to Marshall, Isaac was the same age as Karlena’s son and it was hard. When I was thinking about it I was overcome by the thought that Kaleb was just so brave.

He has had a say in this move and those are big choices for a teenager to make. Ultimately I think he knows this will be good for him as well…a tough but so very brave choice.

If Karlena were here today, she would be so proud of you Kaleb. Even on those days that you feel like you have failed, or you question your choices. I believe it completely that she is just so proud of you.

Because you are brave.

Don’t forget that!

Embrace the new adventure that is in front of you and know that as you do I am praying for you. I will keep praying for you too. Karlena was an amazing prayer warrior on my behalf and now it is my time to return the favor.

Kaleb, you are brave. These changes won’t always come easy but I think they will continue to shape you in to a man of drive and purpose and I am excited to see where God leads you brave one!

Five Minute Friday – Grace

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Linking up with Lisa Jo again -this week to participate in Five Minute Friday.

Today’s word is  Grace – ready, set go –

Karlena 2

Karlena you taught me so much about grace.

Today I remember you even more as we celebrate your 3rd “birthday” in Heaven.

This time of year is especially hard because of that and while I continue to praise God that you are healed and worshipping in His glory…..my heart continues to ache because you aren’t here.

Karlena had a spirit of grace.

Knowing that her life would take a very specific path, in what would be a short amount of time, she chose to live her life with faith and grace.

When friends turned away because they couldn’t deal with the changes that were happening to her, she loved them anyway. She understood how it might be difficult for some and she showed them grace in its purest form.

While I was angry for her and felt unforgiveness because I knew her heart was hurt – she modeled grace in a tangible way.

Karlena loved well.

To love well we often have to be willing to extend grace, and she did that. With her family, with her church friends, with me.

When I didn’t call often enough – she offered grace. I always felt like my call, my presence was so important to her, no matter the distance of time between them.

She knew God was calling her to live well and love generously because her life was short.

But all of our lives are short aren’t they?

What an example to spend your days being a picture of acceptance and grace towards God’s plan for your lives even when it hurt.

She challenged me to view life from her perspective. To be brave. To walk in the path that God has chosen for me in faith.

In 2008 I went to a Women of Faith conference with Karlena and the theme was Grace. I wrote this post in honor of her then. It seemed fitting to share today on the anniversary of her passing.

I love you friend. I can’t believe another year has passed but your memory and legacy is still alive and well here. Thank you for showing me how to live graceously.

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