If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. - 2 Timothy 2:21 (ESV)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Giving Thanks

This year, the arrival of Thanksgiving has not been overlooked at our house. It has in years past for various reasons, but not this year. People have been asking over the last couple of months "How are you doing? Tired?" The answer in my head is always:


Yes, 5 kiddos 7 and under are exhausting.

Yes, I'm fearful of the next round of testing for Shane's cancer in January.

Yes, I have no clue when Reeve's fever is coming back and if it will include a seizure and that stresses me out.

But, oh, I am thankful. All of that pales in light of the deep gratitude of where our family is at right now.

I have my best friend still by my side, without having to go through chemo.

I have 5 beautiful, (mostly healthy) rambunctious kiddos who point me to Jesus, bless me, and bring me great joy.

But most of all, I have a Saviour, who sits at the right hand of God, who has redeemed me from the pit and loves me so intensely that He pursues me in every corner of life.

Giving thanks during the hard things of life reminded me of a book I'd read awhile back, One Thousand Gifts. In it, Ann Voskamp quotes Psalm 50:23 "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."

She goes on to say: "Thanksgiving-giving thanks in everything-prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ. The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God-even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion-this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him."

Also, I'm probably the last one to the party on this, but did you know that Thanksgiving became a national holiday during the civil war? Shane was prepping for his Sunday School lesson last week, and stumbled upon Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation. Inspiring. During the midst of blood, war, and all that is ugly- a Thanksgiving Proclamation. Love it.

Last week was communion at our church, which paired nicely with the BSF study I am in right now that is going through the life of Moses and how each facet of the tabernacle points to Jesus. Before heading out the door in a rush to get there on time, Liv says "Mom?" I hurriedly, impatiently bark back "what? I gotta go."

"remember Jesus."

I was stopped in my tracks as yet again, I'm reminded to just slow myself down long enough to sit under the wisdom of being with Jesus. All else in life really does pale in comparison. I couldn't stop the tears from flowing as we ended the communion service....

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

May God be praised during your Thanksgiving for both the hard and good things in your life.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Beginning the New Normal

The twins prayed the first night home. Or so it seemed. We were able to come home Thursday afternoon, August 7th, after a three-night stay at the hospital. Stef's mom, Shari, was watching the older three kids and decided to stay Thursday night to help Stef with the twins. While getting Sylvia and Sullivan ready for bed and within minutes of each other, the twins both perfectly interlocked their fingers together in front of their chests as if they were saying a prayer. Stef said she never saw a newborn do that. It was as if they were saying, "Hey Mom, we know what this is all about." I guess that only makes sense. The amount of prayers that have been uttered for them and their family these past months have been innumerable. And that's only counting the times people have told us they're praying! We know there have been so many prayers whispered and spoken for us that we don't even know about. Among all the things that have transpired recently in our lives, this fact remains in the forefront.

On Monday, August 18th, the twins will be two weeks old. They are doing great! There was a little bit of concern that Sylvia lost too much weight initially, but she's gained since then and she's been eating very good.

As far as how crazy it is around here with twins, well, there's two of them. That's really the best way to explain it. Sorry to be so obvious, but it's like taking care of two babies at the same time. Stef is amazing (which I already knew.) I mean, that's why I married her and why I'm the luckiest man alive, but she never stops amazing me. She is recovering quickly and figuring out innovative ways to make twin-rearing efficient. She's always loved babies, so she's soaking in every moment and enjoying having newborns around. It's fun to see their personalities come out already. Sullivan is very laid back and just kind of chills. Sylvia is a little more rambunctious and moves a lot. She is the fussier of the two, but she loves snuggling with her mama.

As for me, I returned to work this past Monday. I'm mainly doing office work as I am on lifting restrictions. I'm feeling good. It's been good to get back into work as things get back to normal at home, well, the new normal.

I keep telling people it's good to be on this side of things. We're through the surgeries, the twins are here and healthy, and Reeve has remained healthy. We are continually praising God for his goodness!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

To Witness A Miracle.

I only peeked over the "beach shield", as they call it, one time. Once was more than enough. The rest of the time, I willingly allowed the blue sheet to block my view of the surgery field while the doctor performed the C-section. As I sat beside my beautiful wife with my left hand holding hers and my right hand gently squeezing her shoulder, we soon heard a cry. Puddles began to form in Stef's eyes. It's impossible to keep tears from coming as new life enters the world. I don't see how anyone can deny the existence of a creator who's ever witnessed the miracle of birth. Not long after the first cry, we heard another. The babies were quickly swept away to an adjoining room and cared for by a team of nurses. I didn't count, but I'm guessing there were 15 people in the operating room. One nurse called it a birthday party. Another nurse quipped "good job on the human-making." I kind of felt like saying "we had nothing to do with it." Stef might feel differently as she just carried these two little beings inside her for 37 weeks, but she would understand what I mean. God has done this! We just witnessed a miracle!
In the Operating Room.

And Praise The Lord! Mama and babies are doing great. We may be able to leave as early as tonight (Wednesday, the 6th).



Sylvia Kay 5lbs. 4oz., 18.25in., born 3:51pm, 8/4/2014
Sullivan Ray 5lbs. 7oz., 19 in., born 3:52pm, 8/4/2014

Sylvia on the left. Sullivan on the right.

Some interesting facts:

My Grandma Nola Wuethrich's birthday is 8/4
Cay is Mom's (Connie's) middle name. (We changed the spelling slightly.)
Ray is Dad's (Steve's) middle name.
My Dad, my two brothers, and I all have the initials S.R.B. Sullivan (the youngest of the Shane and Stefanie clan) will continue this tradition.
Elliott Bahler (Stefanie's sister Marissa's first child) weighed almost as much as the twins combined when he was born! He was 10lbs. 6oz.; the twins combined for 10lbs. 11oz.

"So you were the one kicking me!"
Seven vessels.
Proud big brothers and sister.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The body.

Quick Update:

First of all, we are rejoicing and praising God about the news that the cancer was stage 1 and I will not need chemo. I will get periodic check-ups annually for the next five years to make sure the cancer is not returning. If no more cancer appears during that time, I will get check-ups every five years.

Second, we go to the hospital tomorrow for Stefanie to get a C-section and deliver the babies. We get to meet the twins! Please pray for God's presence to be in the delivery room, and His hands to be on the babies and Stef.

The Body That Works When There's a Body That Doesn't:

Surgery recovery = no shaving :)
Today, August 3rd, is my Birthday. I'm 34. My body is aging. Fortunately, I get to continue to age. This past month has made me reflect often on what it means to have a body. And never has it been made more evident to me that our bodies are vessels. Empty vessels that somehow God fills with "us" (our soul), and then wants to reside there with us and make us His temple. But as any earthly temple, our bodies will eventually decay to the point of destruction and will no longer hold us. This morning, I read John Piper's Solid Joys devotional, entitled Why You Have A Body. Once again, I am reminded of our ultimate purpose. We have bodies so that God may be glorified. We will some day get new bodies because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Never to get cancer, never to get diseases, never to get unexplainable syndromes, never to decay again. And with our new bodies we will forever worship and glorify the Lord!

But for now we live in a fallen word, and bodies do decay. Bodies get cancer, bodies get disease, we get syndromes that even the most intelligent of minds can't explain, chromosomes are missing, hearts fail. We fall apart, our bodies don't work right. Even the very cells within our bodies will sometimes disobey the order that God has put in place and choose to go their own way.

Despite this, there is a Body that does work here on earth... The Body of Christ. What a blessing to get to experience this first hand! And oh, the dreadful thought of going through something like this and not have the Body of Christ to support you.

Our family has been the recipients of such an amazing outpouring of the Body of Christ in action. It is difficult to put into words the gratefulness in our hearts. The cards on our mantle says it all. We've received so many encouragements through cards, notes, handwritten letters, texts, emails, facebook messages, gift cards, and gifts. Some, from people we barely know. And whether it's mowing our yard, changing the oil in our van, bringing us delicious meals, watching the kids, grocery shopping, coordinating help, filling our water softener with salt, getting pizza delivered to us, lining up a cleaning lady for us, etc, etc, it's all been so helpful and so humbling. The brothers and sisters of the Leo
Apostolic Christian Church have been such a presence and an example of Christ's love to us. And family and friends everywhere have been so supportive and encouraging.

But above all, the prayers. The prayers of those we love! The prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ! We know there are congregations across the nation and loved ones across the world that have prayed for us; that have petitioned God on our behalf. We know God is listening. There is no other way to explain the peace we have felt as we have gone through this journey. God is real and He hears our prayers!

We thank you. May God be praised!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Count it all joy.

Before I sat down to write this post, I was listening to worship and then decided to open the "Desiring God" app and read John Piper's daily devotion. Once again, I was hit right between the aortas. Read it here. The verse was James 1:2-3.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

This verse is very similar to the verse that popped up on Stef's "Bible Verses" app while she was in the waiting room during my second colonoscopy. The verse was 1 Peter 4:12-13.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Speaking of John Piper and suffering, this song by Shane & Shane along with the excerpt from John Piper has been of much encouragement to Stef and I. We've listened to it over and over in the days leading up to surgery:


We met with the surgeon again on July 9th, the day after my second colonoscopy. He explained the test results. He found no more tumors and the CT scans looked clear besides a spot or two on my lungs that he strongly believed were not cancer-related. (I guess most people have a spot or two on their lungs from previous illnesses.) So, it was not Stage 4, but there was no way to tell if it was stage 1, 2, or 3 until the tumor was removed and analyzed. He drew a picture to describe how he would do the surgery and what he was planning on removing. He would do the surgery laproscopically and remove the section of colon that had the tumor along with all related tissue and lymph nodes. He would then reattach the colon. I would not need a colostomy bag, although my bowels would probably take awhile to adjust. 

He scheduled the surgery for the following week, July 17th. We hoped the twins would not decide to come at that time, but decided if they did, Stef would already be at the hospital so as far as convenience goes, it'd work out. When we told our kids about the possibility of Mom going into labor at the same that Dad was having surgery, Olivia seemed to think it would make sense to streamline our hospital stay. "Well, why don't you just do that?" she asked.

I couldn't eat anything beginning Monday at midnight. I also had to "clear out" my digestive system with a laxative regiment. Not fun, but this being my third time in about 3 weeks (counting the previous two colonoscopies), I guess I was getting used to it. Thursday morning came around. We had to be at the hospital at 5:00AM and I had to get up early to take a shower with special pre-surgery soap. We got to the hospital and before long, they were prepping me for surgery as Stef stood beside me. The nurse looked at my wife and said, "OK, I'm going to give him a relaxer, so now would be a good time to kiss him goodbye." She did and the last thing I remember is her saying "God's got this, honey" as they wheeled me off.

Ris and Stef in the waiting area during surgery.
The surgery started at 7:30AM and was over in two and half hours, but I was in recovery until about 1:30PM. Stef, her sister Marissa, my mom Connie, my uncle Rick, and my grandma Wuethrich all waited in the waiting room during this time. Marissa had to leave, but the rest came to see me after they moved me to a hospital room which would be my home for the next three nights. The surgeon came in to report that the surgery was a success.

After surgery.
I was totally out of it Thursday afternoon, often falling asleep mid-word. The anesthesia and pain meds were doing their work. I don't remember much about that day. Everything seemed like dream. A dream that I would come in and out of many, many times. But, I do know my wife stayed faithfully beside me.

I will spare you the details of recovering from surgery, but I will tell you it is filled with pain, tiredness, sleeplessness, incoherence, nausea, restlessness, waiting, uncomfortableness, and uncertainty along with a lot of button-pushing...turning the TV on and off, calling the nurse in, adjusting the bed, and pushing the button for on-demand pain meds every 10 minutes. Sometimes 10 minutes did not come soon enough.

I was able to go home Sunday morning. It's now been two weeks since the surgery and I'm feeling much better. Today, July 30th, we go to an appointment to get the 17 staples removed from my 6 incisions. We also will find out what stage the cancer is in and what the plan will be for me moving forward. I covet your prayers!

Speaking of prayer...a couple quick updates:

Reeve's fever was short-lived (only 3-4 days) and the highest we recorded it was 103.5 degrees! After I posted the blog about him and asked people to pray, his fever immediately decreased and only spiked one more time! Prayer was answered!

Stef has been hanging in there and we have a C-section scheduled for Monday afternoon, August 4th! She says that she feels prayers are the only thing holding the babies in at this point! Again, prayer has been answered!

Two more songs that have recently been an encouragement to me:

"O Lord, to know my answer is You."

"In the good things and in the hardest part, 
I believe and I will follow you."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

God writes straight with crooked lines, Part 2.

I barely slept at all that night. The night I found out I had cancer. I went from believing that we caught it early enough and I'd live a long life to panic that I only had a few months to live. There were other reasons I couldn't sleep. I had a bad cough that was causing sharp chest pain and it seemed to be getting worse. I pulled a muscle in my back earlier that week and was still feeling some soreness from that. I had a second round of bug bites all over my abdomen that were itching like crazy along with an unrelated rash on my ankles that itched the same. I couldn't help but feel a little like Job, although my family and belongings were still in tact and my wife was not telling me to curse God and die. So I had nothing to complain about.

The monster.
Reeve woke up crying around 1:00AM. I went to his room and knelt down to talk to him. He said he was scared of the monsters. I laid down beside him, but he would not calm down. As I laid beside him, trying to console him, I looked at the bookshelf and noticed that one of the fabric bins with a face on it, looked very much like a monster. I got up and turned it around. Reeve immediately calmed down and soon fell asleep. I went back to my bed, laid down, and began to weep. My wife was up, too, as she could not sleep either. I said through the sobbing, "I can't leave my family. Who will take care of the monsters?"

Not being able to sleep, I got up early the next day and went into the sun room to talk to God. I begged God to speak to me. I opened the Bible to 1 Kings 9 were God tells Solomon, "I have heard your prayers and your request. I have set apart this temple you have built so that my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it and care for it." Those words jumped out at me. I felt the presence of God surround me as if being hugged by a cloud. "Thank you, God! Thank you!" I cried. God goes on to tell Solomon to follow Him with integrity and godliness and it will go well, but God also gives him a warning to not turn away. I felt like God was telling me, "Walk with integrity, Shane. I got this." One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 128. I had written it on a note card a few years back as a theme for my life. The note card fell out of my Bible.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine with your house;
your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children's children - peace be on Israel. Psalm 128(NIV)

I felt an overwhelming peace. I went to work for a few hours to help out where I could. It was weird walking around knowing I had a cancerous tumor growing inside me. No one at work knew at that point except for Lynn Stieglitz, Joe Beer, and Beth Stieglitz. Lynn and I talked briefly about it.

Stef and I went to the appointment with Dr. Elhassan, the surgeon. While in the waiting room, Seth, my brother, sent me a voice memo message on my phone. He recited Annie Johnston Flint's poem, "He giveth more grace." I realized it was the same poem that had given me much comfort when I heard Ravi Zacharias recite it in "Questions of a man in agony, part 1." I told my mom about this later that day and she said it was one of her all time favorite songs and she used to always announce it during singings in Milford.

Dr. Elhassan
Dr. Elhassan was great. He came in the room with a big smile on his face. He clearly explained everything to us and was hopeful that he could remove the tumor with possibly no chemo. After he was done explaining everything and answering our questions, he stood up, shook our hands and said "Enjoy the coming twins! You are going to live a long life." Tears welled up in our eyes as he said these reassuring words and we said, "Thank you, Doctor, thank you" as we praised the Great Physician in our hearts.

I had a round of tests that afternoon. CT scans, blood work and and an EKG. They took all afternoon. We continued to get a flood of texts and messages. So many people were praying and offering to help. It was overwhelming to see the body of Christ respond in such a powerful way. On the way home, Stef and I talked about having Molly Steffen organize the help for us. Later, when we got home and talked to Mom, she told us that Molly was already doing it. Praise the Lord and bless Molly.

The fourth of July weekend was relaxing. We spent the weekend at Mom and Dad Beer's. It was nice to enjoy time with the kids, talk to Mom and Dad, and kind of "get-away" from everything going on.

On the evening of July 6th, just before bed, Stef was feeling very anxious and overwhelmed with everything going on in our lives. We still had not heard back about the test results and I was awaiting my second colonoscopy to see if there were any more tumors. We felt the prayers uplifting us and knew God was in control, but still felt an inescapable tinge of underlying anxiety. I reached over and grabbed the devotional book that my Grandma Wuethrich had given us called "Bedside Blessings" by Charles Swindoll. I was looking for some comfort. I turned to July 6th, but immediately noticed July 5th. I read it out loud. As I read it, Stef said, "You're making this up. It doesn't say that!" as she reached for the devotional to disprove my words. I said, "Honey, if that's not clear words from Jesus, I don't know what is." Here is what it said: (I've added parenthesis.)

Fears lurk in the shadows of every area of life. Perhaps you've suddenly discovered that an unexpected addition to your family is on the way. Don't be afraid. God can enable you to handle four (or five) kids just like He helped you handle three. You many be uncertain where your job is leading. The future may look very threatening. You are uneasy about what's around the corner. Or perhaps you have a doctor's appointment pending and you are afraid of what the exam might reveal. Jesus says, "Stop being afraid. Trust Me!"
Psalm 22:8 Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver...

Friday, July 25, 2014

God writes straight with crooked lines, Part 1.

Numbers 3, 4, 5, & 6 show where the mass was found.
I woke up during my first colonoscopy, on June 30th. Not a pleasant experience to say the least. My stomach hurt terribly. I must have pointed to it or moaned something because they asked me if my stomach hurt, and then I must have nodded or grunted "yeah" because I soon fell back asleep. But before I did, I remember looking up at the screen and seeing the mass inside my colon. I remember thinking, "Well, looks like they found something." I then heard one of the nurses say with pity in her voice, "Oh my goodness, he's so young." Not a phrase you want to hear in the middle of an exploratory procedure. When I came to in the recovery room, I was totally out of it. My poor wife. The doctor sat down with her before coming into the recovery room and was very concerned. He told her he thought it was cancer and we needed to get it looked at right away. They took a biopsy and we would get results in 2-3 days. He asked if she wanted to tell me or if she wanted him to. Her head was foggy. She asked the doctor to tell me thinking I might have questions, but she didn't know how loopy I was. The doctor explained it to me. After he left, I "joked" with Stefanie, "Well, I'm glad I got life insurance!" I seriously thought it was probably benign. My mind wouldn't travel to the point of even considering I had cancer. My wife, on the other hand, took it a lot harder. She was in tears the next few days, thinking she was going to lose her husband and become a widow raising five children on her own.

The tumor.
The next day, July 1st, I went to work. I had Chris Tomlin's "Angel Armies" going through my head all day and really for the whole week. The kids sang it at the VBS program the Friday before (thanks Molly Steffen). The lines "I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is alway by my side" and "nothing formed against me shall stand, You hold the whole world in Your hands" kept playing in my head over and over. That night, I looked it up on the internet. There is a clip of Chris Tomlin explaining were the song came from. See it here. A couple in the middle of the night full of fear and anxiety opened to 2 Kings 6 where Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to reveal the blazing angel army protecting them. It reminded me that we don't see what God is doing. As Stef and I watched it together, we held each other and wept.

On July 2nd, I woke up early to sit in our sunroom and listen to Ravi Zacharias's "Questions of a Man in Agony, Part 2." (I had listened to part 1 earlier when we learned about Reeve's diagnosis.) What an encouragement! It was as if every word formed to make that sermon was meant to encourage and uplift me. Hear it here. Ravi shared a story of a POW during the vietnam war. Under unfathomable circumstances, he wrote a poem about Mary at the feet of Jesus on the Cross:
Her face showed grief, but not despair
Her head though bowed, had faith to spare
But even now she could suppose
His thorns might somehow yield a rose
A life with him was full of signs
That God writes straight with crooked lines
Dark clouds can hide the rising sun
And all seem lost, when all be won!

I was in tears all the way to work reflecting on these words. Later Stef told me that when she woke up and did her devotion, she was encouraged by Deuteronomy 30:20 (NIV): "and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers..."

At work, I updated the milan center team about the tumor. Joe Beer reminded me of my wife's words spoken just a few weeks back. We were talking about another person who was going through some tremendous trials in his life and my wife said, "God must really be refining him."

Later at work, I overheard a conversation that Kathy Baumert, Milan Center Office Manager, and another lady by the name of Pam were having. They hadn't seen each other for a long time and were catching up. She was a colon cancer survivor and was doing well. I couldn't help but think I overheard this for a reason.

I received a call at 4:30pm. I was scheduled to work until 6pm. The voice on the other end said, "the biopsy showed malignancy". I was alone. I sat down and my head started spinning. I began to shake uncontrollably. I knew I had to get back in the mill and finish the day. I turned off my phone because I didn't want to tell Stef over the phone. I stood up, pulled myself together, and got back to work, not allowing myself to process what I just heard. I just started praying, "God, don't take me. I can't leave my family. God, please don't take me."

I came home from work and told Stef. We talked and hugged and wept. We felt peace. We knew a lot of people were already praying about it. Stef said, "I can't wait until we're 80 years old and saying remember that time when..." We chuckled imagining that, but we hoped.

Soon after that, Rusty Gann was driving by and felt he should turn around and stop in, so he did. I told him that the tumor was malignant. It was nice to have him around for awhile.

We called my immediate family. Mom wanted to get prayers going, so she shared it with Lynn Stieglitz. Lynn shared it with the Leo church at Wednesday evening services. We immediately began to get a flood of texts, encouraging and uplifting us.

Joe and Jan Beer stopped by after church and later Lynn Stieglitz did as well. The reality of the truth was becoming more and more real, but we felt the prayers lifting us and we felt at peace. To be continued...

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Reeve Russell. Buddy. Booger boy. Reevey-poo. Whatever we call him, he's our little man. He's always been small for his age, but probably the most healthy of all our children so far. So when he got his first fever, it did not alarm us at all. It would spike at night and pretty much go away during the day. We kept thinking it was over. It never got extremely high, he had no other symptoms, and for all intents and purposes he seemed totally fine. We let it run it's course and didn't take him to the doctor. The only thing abnormal to us was that it seemed to linger for about 10 days.

His second fever came a few months later. This time, it didn't go away during the day, but he had no other symptoms that we could see and he seemed otherwise normal. We took him to the doctor after the fever had stuck around about a week. Our pediatrician was not in, and so another doctor saw him. She was concerned by the long-lasting fever and had a strep test done. She wanted Reeve to get bloodwork done if the strep test came back negative as she was slightly concerned at the possibility of leukemia. This was obviously a blow to a mom's heart as Stefanie walked Reeve over to the lab to get the strep test taken. The quick strep test came back negative. The full test would take 48-72 hours.

Stef called me while I was at work and told me what the doctor had said. The thought of our child having leukemia rocked our world. I was distracted the rest of the day as I played out this scenario in my mind, praying and pleading with God that this would not be the case.
Super Bible Man! Yes, that's a pocket New Testament in his left hand.
In the coming days, as we waited to hear the strep test results, Stef and I battled with the thought of having a child with cancer and the gut-wrenching thought of losing a child to cancer. Our hearts were suddenly filled with compassion for the many families that have heard this kind of news and have tragically lost children. We were not trying to get ahead ourselves and realized that we were far from a diagnosis, but we couldn't stop our hearts and minds from traveling to these thoughts. With much prayer and comfort from God, we were reminded of the truth that children are a gift from God. And they are His to do with as He sees fit as it glorifies Him. We are put in the charge of them, and of course we love them as our own, but ultimately, each is a child of God and in the hands of God, we and our children. We laid our worries and fears at the feet of an all-mighty, loving, and gracious God as best we could. Once again we found ourselves brought to a place of surrender. Around this time, Needtobreathe, one of my favorite bands, released a song called "Multiplied". In it, one of the lines says, "God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to your design." It challenged me in the coming month. Have I? Have I truly surrendered to God's design.

The nurses called and said the strep test was almost complete and was likely negative. Of course, this only heighten our concerns. But later, they called back and said strep showed up at the very end of the test. They said this was rare. So, they put him on antibiotic, but by this time, the fever had left. Things still weren't adding up. At this point, our pediatrician suggested we wait to get blood work done and see if the fever comes back. We hoped this was the end of it.

I was awakened by the terror in Stef's voice like I've never heard before as she tried to wake me up out of my deep sleep. I jumped out of bed and was about to reach for my Easton aluminum little league bat I keep under the bed to fend off intruders (thanks Jarod Steffen) thinking my wife heard something downstairs. As my eyes focused, I realized she was handing me Reeve. (She had been up with him when he started acting strange and then fell back and began to shake). I still remember the blank look on his face as if his mind was off in some far away land. His eyes slightly rolled back and bubbles coming from the corner of his mouth. I held him in my arms and kept saying his name, my heart about ready to burst from my chest. "Reeve! Reeve!" He was burning up and shaking. Stef was getting ready to call 911. I told her to wait a second. We were in total freak out mode. We were helpless and terrified. Finally, after about half a minute, his eyes looked up at me and I could tell he was back. I laid him on our bed and we began to dab him with a cool, wet cloth. He was very lethargic for several minutes, just laying there not moving. We hugged him and kissed him. He seemed to be coming around. We called the on-call pediatrician. She said it was likely a febrile seizure, a common fever-induced seizure in toddlers. This was the second night of Reeve's third fever, June 14th.

Four days later, June 18th, Reeve's fever hit 105.5 around 8 PM. We called the on-call pediatrician who highly recommended we take him to the ER. Now the ER is not a fun place to be and it's a terrible place to take a 2 year old, but Parkview North ER was great and Reeve, bless his heart, did great. They even had a pediatric doctor there. The worst part was that they told us they'd need a urine sample after we had already taken Reeve potty about 3 times. He couldn't go anymore, so they had to do a catheter. This is traumatic for anyone, but much more for a 2 year-old that has no idea why these people keep poking him as his Dad and Mom stand by him and tell him it's OK. Hard thing for a parent to watch. They ended up not finding any reasons for his fever. The gave him ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and a powerful antibiotic, then after what had been about 5 hours, sent us home.

Two days later, we ended up seeing a specialist who temporarily diagnosed him with PFAPA syndrome. A rare syndrome that unexplainably shows up in toddlers through periodic fevers (among other symptoms such as tonsillitis) and can last throughout their childhood, but eventually will be grown out of. The doctor said some families can even predict the day their child will get a fever, usually every 4 weeks. We were thankful to have a diagnosis. We were relieved and rejoicing that it was not more serious. But, we realized this could be life-altering for our family.

Tonight, as I write this, Reeve is on the second night of his fourth fever. He's had some other symptoms like a cough, but we went to the doctor today and nothing was conclusive as far as a reason for this fever. It is appearing more and more that the PFAPA diagnosis is correct. Please pray for sweet, little Reeve. And may we surrender him to God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Twice the Blessings

I am the oldest of three kids and Stef is the oldest of five. As I looked at our family with our three wonderful children, I was very content and saw no reason to have any more. Stef, on the other hand, still felt like our family was  incomplete.

At Disney World.
So, we compromised. We decided that four kids would be a a nice number to land on and so we agreed to have one more if the Lord so blessed us, but we were not in any rush and, quite frankly, weren't really trying.

We had received our foster care license after "retiring" from  five years of house-parenting at Gateway Woods and were excited about the prospect of filling our house with children in need of refuge (we were approved to have 2 foster children in addition to our 3 children). We were also this year's Gateway Woods Auction Coordinators which was scheduled to be August 2nd, 2014.

So it was with some surprise when Stef first realized she was pregnant. We wondered how that was going to fit with our recently acquired foster care license, but thought that we could still make it work to have one extra child in our home even after a forth of our own. We also wondered how that was going to fit with the Gateway Auction because the due date seemed to be landing on the first week of August, right at the time of the GW Auction.

Imagine my surprise when I came home from work after Stef's first doctor's appointment and she handed me the ultrasound image. (She was going to wait until the kids went to bed, but just couldn't contain herself.) I stood dumbfounded and speechless as I stared at the two little peanut-shaped figures on the black-and-white image.

At 12 weeks.
I was, for a few hours, in denial that this was actually happening. But after the initial shock wore off, an excitement and almost giddiness overtook me as a realized the miracle that was unfolding before our eyes. I now tell people... "I wanted three, she wanted five, so we compromised at four. But, of course, she figured out a way to sneak an extra one in on me and get her way."
At 16 weeks. 

Olivia's version.
As for foster care, we now knew that would not be a possibility in the near future anymore. We wondered why God had put that desire in our hearts and why we went through the whole training process to not use it. We had to trust God and put our desires at His feet and walk the path that He put us on. We were disappointed by the thought that foster care was out for now, yet filled with joy at our rapidly-expanding family. As for the Gateway Auction, we still wanted to be as involved as possible given that we might be having babies during it.

In the coming months, as Stef and I talked about having twins in our family, we were filled with peace, calm, and excitement. We felt honored and blessed to be the recipients of a double miracle. Our hearts were filled with awe and amazement all over again at the miracle of creation, of birth, and of life as we had during the three previous pregnancies. But this time... times two.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is just crazy.

If eagerly anticipating the due date of twins to be born into your family (taking the head count from 5 to 7) isn't enough to make you ponder in your heart God's mysterious ways, hearing that your two-year-old son has a rare syndrome and you have cancer within a few weeks of that due date certainly will. My wife and I have looked at each and said "This is just crazy!" many times over the past several weeks. But, we've said it with peace in our hearts; confident that God is in it all. I am compelled to share the events of our lives these past several weeks as well as share how God has made Himself near through it all. I decided to start this blog to share it for those who are interested. So here it is; the recent events of the lives of Shane (33), Stefanie (29), Gavin (7), Olivia (4), and Reeve (2), and of course our two little ones yet to be born.
The family.

In this first post, I will outline the dates of our lives over the past month or so, and later I will break it down and share how God has wove Himself through all of it.


(The twins are estimated to be due by the end of July.)

June 13 - Reeve gets his 3rd unexplainable high fever in the past few months.

June 14 - Reeve has a fever-induced seizure lasting about a minute in the middle of the night.
June 16 - Appt. with Dr. Bollier, our pediatrician. Nothing evident to explain Reeve's fever. They did Strep test; final results take a few days.

June 18 - Reeve gets 1st round of bloodwork done and chest x-rays.

June 18 (later that day) - Shane has appointment with family doctor, Dr. Dearth, for loss of hearing in his right ear and for a terrible itchy rash from unknown bug bites. Nurse removes a wax plug from Shane's ear. Doc prescribes ointment for bites. While at appointment, Shane mentions that he's had blood in his stool off and on, so Doc checks for hemorrhoids. None found, Doc refers Shane to a GI specialist.

June 18 (evening) - Reeve's fever hits 105. We take him to Parkview North ER. They treat with acetaminophen and ibuprofen and send him home with no explanation of cause.

June 19 - Appt. with Dr. Bollier for Reeve again. Strep test was negative. Reeve still running a fever with tonsillitis, but no explanation of a cause. Doc refers us to a specialist. 

June 20 - Appt. with pediatric infectious disease specialist, Dr. Robyn Schmucker. She diagnoses Reeve with PFAPA Syndrome for the time being. Reeve gets 2nd round of bloodwork.
Sharp-dressed man.

June 20- Stef appt. with OB/Gyn Doctor, Dr. Blackmon. Everything looks good!

June 25 - Shane appt. with Gastroenterologist, Dr. Dejenie, who suggested a colonoscopy.

June 27 - Reeve gets 3rd round of bloodwork at hospital. Reeve's fever ends. Now we wait to see if it returns.
Shane and Reeve.

June 30 - Shane gets colonoscopy done by Dr. Dejenie. He finds a tumor just inside the colon. He is concerned that it is cancer. He took a biopsy and refers Shane to a colon surgeon.

July 2 - Shane got a call at work around 4:30pm that the biopsy of the tumor was malignant. He has colon cancer.

July 3 - Appt. with Colon Surgeon, Dr. Elhassan, who is hopeful he can remove the cancer. Shane gets several tests done including CT scans of lungs and liver to see if cancer spread.

July 8 - Shane's 2nd colonoscopy, this time by Dr. Elhassan.

July 9 - Meet with Dr. Elhassan. Rest of colon looks good, CT scans look good, surgery scheduled for July 17th.

July 11 - Stef appt. with OB/Gyn Doctor. Dialated to 2.5 cm and the water sack bulging. Doctor puts her on modified bed-rest. We had planned to take our family to Michigan for a two night get-away before the babies came, but Doctor said we should not go. We cancelled those plans and got a hotel in Fort Wayne for one night, the 13th.
Hangin' out.

July 13 - At hotel, Stef was uncomfortable most of the time and concerned that she was going into labor.

July 14 - After checking out of hotel, we drove to hospital. Stef was admitted to be observed and nurses confirmed that she was not in labor yet.

July 17 - Shane's surgery to remove the cancerous tumor in his colon.
At Gma Schwab's during Dad's surgery.
July 20 - Shane discharged from the hospital.

July 21 - Stef appt. with OB/Gyn Doctor. She is dialated to 3 cm. If babies do not come on their own in the next 2 weeks, we'll likely schedule a C-section on August 4th.

And that brings us to today, July 22nd. Shane is recovering from surgery at home. Stef is resting as much as she can. Reeve has not had a 4th fever yet. We praise God that he has brought us to this point. More to come...