A first child, a debut album, and a life-threatening disease…
[notice]Andrew Ehrenzeller is a worship leader/songwriter from Jesus Culture Music who passionately invites others into relationship with God. Ehrenzeller has recently released his first album, ‘Children of Promise’, amidst being in and out of hospitals after a life threatening illness suddenly attacked him. Here is his story.[/notice]
Change happens. It’s inevitable. Some people embrace change better than others. Though it seems most of us prefer to keep the status quo and not disrupt the comfortable routine of familiarity. Not if, but when change happens we prefer it to be in smaller doses. Little did we know that everything would change for me and my wife that Friday morning. Walking out the door we didn’t have a clue what was ahead. We were the ones about to be changed.
My wife Kat was due to deliver our first child, a boy we named Liam, in about a week or so. Making the most of our free time was a no brainer. Frequent day dates were the usual. That day we went to one of our favorite local spots with plans to catch a matinee of the new Noah movie afterwards. But our plans changed (as they often do). Decision time was upon us.
‘I’d been having some minor health concerns…’
See I’d been having some minor health concerns for a few weeks. I took a hard fall on a fishing trip a few weeks earlier and thought maybe concussion symptoms were lingering. We wrestled with the decision, but the symptoms had gotten to the point where I just couldn’t ignore them any longer. If we were going to investigate, now had to be the time. Standing there in the movie theatre with tickets in hand, I had to make a choice. Of course, I would much rather sit through a visual storytelling of the biblical epic than spend way more money to sit in the emergency room for a few hours. That would have been a mistake, however. So I listened to the voice of God speaking to me through my wife and agreed that we should go. Peace of mind is far too great a virtue to give up so frivolously.
From the theatre, my wife and I drove straight to the hospital. Walking into the ER at Boca Regional all the stares were pointed in her direction because when a nine-month pregnant woman goes anywhere, the husband is irrelevant. Asked what the issue was, I sheepishly responded: “I’m actually the one who needs help.” I explained my situation and filled them in on what I thought was wrong. They fashioned me a wristband and asked us to wait for the nurse to escort us to our room.
‘Then the moment of truth came’
Then the moment of truth came. A couple of blood tests and CT scan later we were confronted with the gravity of present circumstances. The doctor who was warm and welcoming at first came back into the room with a much different look on his face than before. Hurriedly, and with a sense of panic, he proceeded to tell us that not only did I have major swelling in my brain, but that the CT scan also showed two lesions, one that was sizable and virtually untouchable. Life changed.
As you can imagine, the fear in the room became very real. My wife and I immediately burst into tears and reached for each other. And it was in that moment I had another choice to make. A choice presented to me many times before. I had to choose whether or not I would allow the information I just received to have power over my life or would the Spirit of God? My reality was “I AM SICK.” God’s reality is “I AM HEALER.” In that moment, I had to decide from which reality was I going to live. My reality or God’s? The realm of the natural or the supernatural? The realm of fear or faith? The realm of man’s word or God’s word?
Immediately we sent out word for people to begin interceding for us. My thoughts were a tempest. A hundred different scenarios began to play out in my mind. I wasn’t so concerned about myself. My thoughts were of the well-being of my wife and my soon-to-be-born son. With so much to live for, with so much promise on the horizon, the timing of these circumstances just wreaked of the devil.
Within minutes, we had two good friends by our side bearing witness of God’s faithfulness. These friends spoke life and encouragement into us. One shared a vision she’d seen as soon as she got to the hospital. She said she saw in the spirit a fortress surrounding us, that we were safe in God, and that nothing was going to harm us. This was especially encouraging because the first song I wrote after my wife and I got married is a song called “Mighty Fortress.” As I was writing this song, the Lord promised me that my entire household would always know Him as a mighty fortress, One who is safe and secure, One who can be trusted.
After officially being admitted to the hospital, I was taken to the ninth floor, the neuro ward. I felt special in my own private room with a beautiful view overlooking south Florida. People pay big money for that kind of treatment. My room number was 912. This was significant to me because I had specifically been praying Psalm 91 over my family for the past few months in preparation for our huge life change. Not only was our son going to be born that April, but Jesus Culture was about to release my record, Children of Promise, on their label the very same month! I remember Kim and Skyler [Smith] calling us to share the good news about how the record was being received. Distributors from around the world were getting a hold of Children of Promise and having encounters with God in their offices. Over the phone Kim and Skyler took time to pray for us and bless us, and to remind us that God is faithful to His promises.
Room number 912
Jesus taught us that “he who has ears let him hear.” Seeing that room number 912 almost made me laugh because immediately I could remember what I’d been praying so fervently for my family…
“I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!” Ps 91:2
God was speaking and I was listening. A promise is a promise. And to see my wife in her most vulnerable state so filled with the strength and confidence of Holy Spirit encouraged me greatly. She said right from the beginning, “Andrew, the only thing the devil is permitted to do is set a stage for God to reveal His glory. That’s it.” Such wisdom flowed from her. Such peace.
So, for the next five days, I went through a series of tests. The doctors poked and prodded me more times than I care to remember, attempting to find some semblance of what was ailing me. My vitals were checked constantly. They were looking for cancer, but they couldn’t’ find any. It was baffling. And yet during this time there was such an outpouring of love from the body of Christ, such a sense of God’s peace in that very room that nurses and even doctors would come by and linger for a few moments. I sensed they felt at home in that atmosphere of hope. In the midst of the storm there was Jesus completely at rest right there with us. We truly felt covered.
Liam’s birth was only days away, so the doctors really had no choice but to release me. That was on Wednesday. Liam was going to be born on Friday of the same week, at the same hospital. My wife moved the scheduled C-section back to Monday, April 7th, to give us a few extra days to recover. So I came home for the weekend and we pressed pause on the issues I was facing so we could direct our attention to Liam’s arrival.
A beautiful baby boy
Liam Valor was born at noon on April 7th, 2014. Kat was a champion and my hero. Liam, he was perfect. The first time I saw him, our eyes met and I saw heaven right there in front me in this beautiful baby boy. To try and describe it in detail would only fall short and cheapen the moment. What I can say is that it was truly a spiritual experience.
We spent four days in the maternity ward of Boca Regional. Those days were surreal. Emotional. After the week we just had, being surrounded with the sights and sounds of new life was the best medicine. While in the hospital, “Band of Sons,” the first single off my record, was released. The main line from the chorus, Time will tell what you’re really made of… the dust of earth and revival fire, was a prophetic cry to my own heart. While holding our newborn, we had the evidence right there in our hands of God’s faithfulness. Now it was time to go home as a family and begin our new life together.
But the storm hadn’t completely passed.
Back in hospital
An hour after we came home from the hospital I had to abruptly return to the ER under the suspicion that I could possibly have a blood clot. Lying around for two weeks in a hospital can do that to a person I guess. And my doctor was right. So now I’m back in the place I began. This time sequestered in room 925.
“How great are Your doings, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep.” Ps 92:5
I welcomed change passionately. My circumstances were beyond my control. All I could do as I sat in my hospital bed, alone again, was worship. None of this made any sense. My wife and newborn son are at home and I’m here in the same hospital on the same floor hooked up to another IV. All I could do was worship. I grabbed my guitar and looked out the window, this time I’m facing north and I began releasing a song of praise…
Death has passed over my house forever
We have been covered by the blood of the Lamb
Death has passed over my house forever
My cup runneth over with the Spirit of God
As for me and my house we will serve You Lord forever
‘…the waterfall of God’s presence was washing over me…’
Over the next few days I encountered the love of God in that hospital room like never before. I’ve never really used the word “portal” to describe an experience with God until this moment. It was as if something opened up over me and the waterfall of God’s presence was washing over me right there in my weakened state. My spirit man was so alive in God. Song after song kept coming to me. All I had to do was catch them. In the span of 48 hours I wrote 14 songs. Death may have been knocking on our door, but the Spirit of the Living God was answering. All I could do was worship. I thanked God for every moment and for every breath. Being faced with our own mortality brings the days of our lives so clearly into focus. We see them for what they really are, gifts from God.
Meanwhile, as I’m meeting with God tucked away in the “cleft of the rock” of my hospital room, Jesus Culture is releasing my two latest singles All On Fire and Meet You There. And I wasn’t angry with God. I was mad as hell at the devil. But I wasn’t angry with God. I just kept remembering what Kat had told me from the beginning, “The only thing the devil is permitted to do is set a stage for God to reveal His glory.” To know that people were enjoying the fruit of my relationship with God and yet unaware of my current condition seemed appropriate. It wasn’t news. It was process. The songs may have been written. The record may have been released, but the testimony was still being written and God was about to reveal His glory here at the very end.
I received a phone call from a dear friend of our family. He called to tell me about a dream He had the night before. It was an elaborate dream. He was driving somewhere in his car but had to stop because a house was right there in the middle of the street. He couldn’t drive around it so he had to get out of the car, and when he did an old man invited him into the house. While following this old man through the house, a telephone rings. The old man answers and says, “It’s Andrew calling for you Donnie.” Donnie picks up the phone and says, “You’re calling to tell me you’ve been healed, right?” I was on the other end with tears of joy telling him that God had indeed healed me.
The day before the scheduled biopsy was April 14th, which was actually Passover. Months before Kat and I decided we want to have Liam circumcised on the eighth day. Not for religious reasons but because we’d learned that Vitamin K was released in a baby’s body on the eighth day and acts as a natural coagulant, which makes the circumcision less painful. Leave it to science to prove that God know what He’s doing, right? So my wife and son, some close friends, and the medical staff all gathered back down on the third floor in the maternity ward for this special moment. At this point, I hadn’t seen my son since we left the hospital. Me in my gown, with guitar in hand, sang my song of praise over him. “As for me and my house we will serve You Lord forever.” This was another holy moment for us.
Brain biopsy called off
And it was after this that my doctor came back into the room to deliver his latest word. The brain biopsy had officially been called off. The reason being that the last MRI showed such a dramatic decrease in the size of the lesions that they couldn’t even do a biopsy any more. Not only that
, but all the swelling was gone. As soon as he left the room, I immediately heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I told you so.” Lying in bed I just burst into laughter and began to thank God for His great doings. I was released from the hospital a couple of days later and asked to come back in a few weeks for a follow up visit. A few weeks later I was even better than before. Death had passed over for good this time.
So much more happened during the month of April I don’t have the time or space to put into this article. Can you count the drops of a waterfall? I guess if you could, it wouldn’t be a waterfall. No, you just stand beneath its flow and experience the majesty. God once told a man named Abram to count the stars if he could or even count the grains of sand on the beach. God promised that man long ago his descendants would be just as numerous. God encountered that man and as a result his circumstances changed drastically. Even more so, the man Abram was changed and Abraham was born. I can relate to this. As my son Liam was being born, I too felt a rebirth happening in my own spirit. God was taking something away from me, but He was giving me something so much greater in return. His promise fulfilled.
Change comes us to all. Sometimes we ask for it. Sometimes we’re ready for it. Other times it comes upon us like a thief in the night. No matter what though, I am more confident than ever that what God is really after is not changing our circumstances, but transforming our hearts. And He is relentlessly pursuing for the sake of knowing His heart. He is good. He is kind. He promised us heaven and earth if we would only trust and obey Him like a little child. Free from the bondage of having to explain everything in order to feel in control. That’s the essence of belief. That’s what Abraham learned. That’s what he became. In the end, knowing God is what truly changes us.