It has been a long while since I have posted anything here. I have been busy completing three years toward my B.A. in English and my senior year is underway. My current class (Creative Writing) has finally given me the space to take off the tight harness of academic writing rules, and it feels SO GOOD!! After reading my first assignment, Mom and Daddy gave it their thumbs up and suggested I make it a blog post, so here it is. It is my story and their story. It's a little longer than my usual posts, but as with everything I have ever posted here, I pray it encourages you to run "up the sunbeam to the sun" (C. S. Lewis).

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

I sat above them on the stairs. Looking down through the window-like openings in the partition between the living room and the stairway, I listened to the basketball players, football players, baseball players, wrestlers, track athletes, both the lettermen and the also-…

What to Do When the Sky Really Is Falling

Please bear with the length of this post--I promise you won't be sorry if you read to the end!!
This is the TRUE story of God at work in ways I have never seen before even though I always knew He could!

After stuffing ourselves on the 4th of July feast Hero Husband made that featured both fried and BBQ chicken with all the fixin's, Drummer Boy, She So Sweet, and I headed over to our favorite spot to watch one of the many fireworks displays in our area. (Hero Husband loves Independence Day, but prefers to relax at home and let us have our firework fun.)

We parked strategically to have an easy getaway afterward, gathered our chairs and my camera gear and had a pleasant walk to where we staked out our claim. Caution tape marked the line between the safe zone and the danger zone, and we set up our chairs about 40 yards deep in the safe zone.

I tinkered awhile with camera settings, absent-mindedly listening to the customary brother-sister banter between my kids. It was punctuated with gales of good-natured laughter as the people-watching provided "the show before the show."

Finally the real show began, and I happily went to work to capture the beauty of the fireworks with my camera. We ooooh'ed and aaahhhhh'ed with the rest of the crowd, and I thought to myself how nice it was to have the wind in my face to keep my hair out of my eyes.

"It looks like they're coming right at us," observed Drummer Boy, thinking it only an optical illusion.

Those flaming embers came closer and closer until we knew it was NO optical illusion. They were falling all around us, many of them large and still burning when they hit the ground! Just then, a piece of cardboard shrapnel that felt like a heavy rock smacked into my wrist and made me jump back. Thankfully, it was no longer hot, and fortunately it hit me and not my camera! No damage done, but now pebble-sized pieces were raining down all around us, and with more fireworks going off every few seconds, each one produced more fallout to be carried on the stiff breeze! Clearly whoever had marked out the danger zone had not accounted for such a wind!

"Don't look up! DON'T LOOK UP!" I yelled, herding my kids (as though they were still little) under the cover of nearby trees, hoping it would be enough. All I could think about was protecting our eyes from what was falling. This was the last picture I took from under the shelter of the trees:

After it was all over and we were safe, I was struck (ha!) by how unpredictable things can be, and how we could never have anticipated such an extra dose of excitement in our 4th of July fun. We brought home souvenir pieces of the debris to remember the story by, and Drummer Boy said it had the makings of a blog post.


Special thank you to Stephen's family for
permission to use this picture.
The next morning, I awoke to the terrifying and heartbreaking news on facebook that a friend's 23-year-old son, Stephen Shaffer, had inexplicably gone into cardiac arrest while on vacation with his family and that he was in the ICU fighting for his life. Quite the opposite of my instincts the night before when it only felt like the sky was falling, my heart shouted, "Look up!! Look UP!!" When my friend's whole world was falling, help and shelter could only be found in a loving and powerful Heavenly Father who can always be trusted to do what is best for His beloved children.

When a moment teeters between life and death, there is suddenly an unbidden guilt that comes with attending to the usual things, as though they have become profane. All I wanted to do was pray and check facebook for updates.

Over the last few days, we have waited with bated breath as Stephen and his family have been on a roller coaster ride far scarier than any they rode at Disneyland on Independence Day. Ups and downs, big scares and thrilling progress have played out before a growing audience looking in through the window of facebook. This godly family has responded with huge faith, grateful hearts, and trust in God's goodness no matter what. In this moment when the unthinkable has happened, when the sky really is falling, they have exactly the grace they need to walk through it in a way that glorifies God in a profound, and powerful, and world-changing way.

Stephen's mom holding her boy's hand,
vigilant, prayerful, and so grateful!
Amazing things are happening! Scary things have happened too. It is still too soon to know what Stephen's full prognosis is, but while we wait to read the rest of the story God is writing in this young man's life, in addition to bringing him back from the edge of death, God has been doing something else that is truly God-sized in our midst! I have seen unity in the Body of Christ unlike anything I have ever witnessed before in my life! The prayer on Stephen's behalf has zig-zagged from friend to friend, family to family, coast to coast, across borders, oceans, and maybe most difficult of all, even congregational lines to bring  thousands of people together to touch Heaven as they continually pray for Stephen's life and complete healing. It has been a true gift to feel part of the FAMILY of God!! That is nothing short of miraculous!

We live in an unpredictable world. We really do.

The safe zone and the danger zone are not always clearly or accurately marked.

Sometimes, like Henny Penny, we are tempted to panic when we only
think the sky is falling.

No matter the unpredictability, we cannot worry about every frightening thing that
 might happen, nor should we. Some of us try anyway, as though by worrying we can head it off at the pass, or at the very least, keep from being caught off guard. 

It doesn't work. 
I've tried.

Worry does no good, in fact, it does us great harm, which is one reason Jesus said this:

“'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, . . .'"

To be fully present through the days and happenings of our lives, we have to assume that everything will go as expected. Otherwise, we would be frozen by fear, unable to move or live life, unable to laugh or enjoy the fun of a vacation, and certainly unable to fulfill our potential. We know that disappointments sometimes happen and unexpected detours appear, but we also know that God's grace pours in just when we need it! We must possess the optimism and confidence to expect that everything will go well. We also must recognize that this life is priceless and fragile, and we must never take it, or the people we love, for granted--every minute is a miraculous gift! Somewhere between the push and pull of these twin truths is the sweet spot where we can live in holy gratitude and make every glorious moment count! 

God is faithful!! Trust Him always!!

And if ever your sky really is falling . . .

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him."Psalm 28:7 NIV

P.S. Stephen's mom is demonstrating a mind-blowing level of gratitude and "hard eucharisteo" grace-counting in a situation where many would see nothing to be thankful for.  Here is what she wrote early this morning as she waits to get the results of tests to determine whether Stephen has brain damage from the time his heart was stopped:

"God, You are faithful. 
We asked You to start Stephen's heart, and his heart began to beat again. 
We asked You for good care for our son, only to find out that he is in a famous cardiac care hospital with state-of-the-art equipment and world renowned doctors. 
We asked You to give us strength to help us get through this, and you really outdid yourself Lord!! You blessed us with amazing family who extended what used to be their Newport beach vacation to be our rock. Other friends and family drove down, drove up, and hopped on planes, just to give us strength to get through this and to be there for Stephen. We have been blessed with beautiful beach house accommodations, every meal has been provided. Big HUGS to the Bob and Paul Shaffer family who take food orders for lunch and bring in healthy food (Chipoltle!) and make arrangements at local restaurants each night (for at least 15 hungry mouths) for us to dine together AND they will not let us touch the bill. They are amazing!!! Kudos to the Oranje fam who brought a jug (yes, a jug!) of hot Starbucks coffee and bags of cookies and pastries plus hugs, love and encouragement to us all in the ICU waiting room! Our family and friends have nurtured us so that all our focus could be on Stephen and on looking to you, Lord, to care for Stephen. 
We asked You to calm Stephen's erratic pulse, and You calmed it. 
We asked You to balance his potassium levels, and suddenly his body is holding potassium. 
We asked You to help us proclaim Your glory, and You laid it on JC's heart to start a prayer page that is being followed by thousands of people around the world. Some of the people following this story do not have an intimate relationship with You, Lord :(. It makes me ache for them because they are missing such joy, such power, such a rich, full existence here on earth and an eternity with You! I pray that Stephen's story will touch their hearts and cause them to seek You and put their trust in You. You are EVERYTHING. 
Today, my Savior and the Savior of the world, we ask You to answer a HUGE prayer. We ask that test results reveal NO brain damage! This is a huge request for someone whose heart stopped beating for a while but no biggie for You. It does not come down to You being able to do this, and we fully know this is easy-peasy for you; it comes down to your plan for Stephen's life. Oh how we pray that our prayer for Stephen aligns with Your plans for him. Our favorite thing about Stephen is his brain, which controls his personality. Stephen is such a crazy combo of being wicked-smart and crazy-fun!!! We have always been in awe of his ability to understand complex things with his brilliant mind and yet still be the prankster who duct-taped his little bro to the ceiling at church camp. We just don't want to let that part of our Stephen go. We selfishly want his brain, Lord! Please, please let the results be good!! But, if they are scary-bad, we will trust You. We will do our best to be strong and still shout Your name. You are ---- too many words are jumping into my head because you are SO MANY things --- our Savior, our Redeemer, Giver of Life, etc... So I will end this simply with You are.
You've got this Lord!![Emphasis mine]

Please join me in praying for Stephen and his family!
If you would like to send them your Scriptures and words of prayer and encouragement in the comments, I'll make sure the Shaffer family receives them!!

Sunday, 4:00 PM PDT Update: It's been a very scary day for the Shaffer family. Stephen is hanging in there, but he has many obstacles. Stephen's mom is asking: 
"Pray that his blood pressure stabilizes. 
Pray that they can remove excess water from his system.
Pray that his kidneys start functioning.
Pray that his pneumonia clears up. 
Thanks again for your faithfulness!"
Monday, 6:30 AM PDT Update: Stephen has been stable through the night and is on very slow dialysis to reduce excess fluids--please pray for no more trouble with the machine, and for his heart and blood pressure to stay stable through this process.
Monday, Noon PDT Update: "Lots of praises to report! First off, that testy dialysis machine is alive and kicking. Please continue to pray it runs well today. Stephen is doing really great my friends! They put him on this odd breathing cycle that forced his lungs to expand. By doing this, it pushed all the excess fluid out of his lungs allowing him to breath better. Praise God!! I can't believe how delicate and intricate our bodies were created. One small change can completely head Stephen in the right (or wrong) direction!! God is definitely is the details! Praise God that his oxygen requirement went from 100% to 50%."

Monday, 7:00 PM PDT Update: THIS IS AWESOME!!! From Stephen's mom: "Okay Prayer Warriers, hope you have your shoes on because I am about to knock your socks off!!! God showed up mightily and answered so many prayers it is mind blowing!!

You prayed that Stephen's dialysis machine would behave today and guess what?? It didn't get testy until 4:30 this afternoon!

You prayed that Stephen's kidneys would start functioning and guess what?? They are now functioning at FULL capacity so it was NO biggy when the dialysis machine went kaput. 

You prayed that Stephen's blood pressure would stabilize and guess what? He was just weaned off his 4th blood pressure medicine!! Only two more to go!

You prayed that the excess fluid (50 lbs worth!) would leave Stephen's system and guess what? He no longer looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy! He was soooo bloated yesterday that his puffy face was unrecognizable. Today he is my handsome boy again! 

You prayed for all the water to clear out of his lungs and guess what? The doctor took a chest X-ray today and could not believe what he saw. NO WATER -AS IN NONE!! He could not believe it. His pneumonia was completely gone!!

You prayed that I would have an opportunity to talk to Laurissa about her faith and guess what?? Today I read her the posts that people wrote under the picture I took of her! She was so touched!

You prayed that his fever would leave - it is gone!

You prayed that his breathing would stabilize - He is back on a normal breathing pattern and HE BREATHED ON HIS OWN FOR A MINUTE!! (they only wanted to let him breath on his own for a minute, but he did it!) Tomorrow they will begin to ease him off the ventilator. 

God is in the business of answering prayers!! Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for praying for our son. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt, encouraging words. Thank you for the wonderful Bible verses. Thank you for sharing beautiful praise music. Thank you for sharing videos that encourage us. Thank you to all the Bloggers Who are sharing Stephen's story. As we wait in the ICU waiting room, WE READ YOUR POSTS OUT LOUD and share your encouraging words with each other. 

Please know that I have no doubt that a miracle has happened today and YOU are part of this miracle. Praise God!

P.S. Whoever said that living a Christian life was boring needs to get their head examined. Seriously, God is rocking our world right now :)"

Tuesday, 12:30am PDT UPDATE: Ready for MORE AMAZING?!!  "Hey all you insomniacs!! Tonight is a good night to be awake and Facebooking because I just got some more crazy-good news!! I called to check on Stephen just now and asked his night nurse, Winsome (such a cool name), how Stephen was doing and she said, "AH-MAZING!!" Happy dance time! She went on to tell me all about his progress. 

First of all, she weaned him off another blood pressure medicine, so now he is down to using only one! Thank you Lord. 

Stephen also responded to commands like, open your eyes, squeeze my hand, etc... But the neatest thing Winsome said he did was this: Winsome walked to the other side of his bed and asked Stephen to look at her. She said he opened his eyes and turned his head toward her, but did not make eye contact. Then she said, "Stephen, I need you to concentrate and look me in the eye," and Stephen looked right into her eyes!! We are so hopeful that he did not sustain any brain damage when his heart stopped. Thank You Lord!

Lastly, his kidneys are still functioning and working efficiently to rid his body of the excess fluids all on their own! It looks like he won't need that cranky old dialysis machine tomorrow. Thank you Lord!

I am exhausted after a day of experiencing an abundance of God's mercies and am forcing myself to say goodnight to all of you!! Our God Reigns!!

Love, The Shaffer's 

P.S. Did you remember to tell someone you loved them?? 

P.P.S. Did you remember to tell the God of the universe, the one who gave you life that you love Him??

Tuesday 7:00 AM PDT UPDATE: Gloria (Stephen's mom) writes, "We have witnessed a MIRACLE!!! I just got off the phone with Winsome and Stephen is FULLY CONSCIOUS, looking around, reading his poster, moving arms, legs, torso, etc... Winsome said, "Our staff is blown away, this NEVER happens, he is a miracle". A MIRACLE HAS HAPPENED PEOPLE!!!

Yesterday Stephen's old youth Pastor, Dion Brooks came and prayed over Stephen and anointed him with oil. You can read about practice in this in James 5 in the Bible (below). It sounds kind of hocus-pocus-y, but our family experienced a very holy moment as Dion anointed Stephen with oil and cried out for a miracle! The oil holds no power over death, WE have NO power over death. The God who raised Lazarus from the dead is the God that has power over death and he is the God that did a MIRACLE right before our very eyes!! 

We are heading to hospital. Can't wait to hug our son and tell him about what God took him through. I am also going to do a happy dance right in the middle of Stephen's room!!

The Prayer of Faith - James 5
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
Miracles happen people!" 

Tuesday 1:00-2:00 PM PDT Update: ‎(This never got posted because i must have lost focus when the nurse said they were removing Stephen's breathing tube - duh!!) I encourage you to read it now and see what our God has done. God answered all these prayers by 2:00 pm!!!)

1:00pm UPDATE: How can I begin to describe the magnitude of this miracle? 
[Referring to July 5th, the morning of the heart attack] Stephen's heart stopped beating on its own for (our best guess) 40 minutes and now he is fully conscience, just chilling with with Phil, AJ and me. 

Now that Stephen has regained consciousness, our next hurdle is for him to breath on his own so they can remove the breathing tube and take him off the ventilator. 

As I am typing this, he is BREATHING ON HIS OWN and doing just fine!!!!! I think our God deserves another "Shout Out!!". Thank you, Heavenly Father, for answered prayers!!

If Stephen continues to breathe on his own, they'll remove the breathing tube. This will probably happen later rather than sooner. The breathing tube is one of the last things to go, especially with a patient who was barely alive 48 hours ago. 

They must be pretty confident with his condition because the nursing staff, that is usually fawning all over him, is actually hard to find right now. They left for lunch and asked me to, "keep an eye on him."

Prayer Requests:

Please pray that Stephen can breathe on his own so they can eventually get that nasty tube out of his throat. DONE!!
Please pray that his gag reflex will subside. Every time he moves his head, the tube in his throat triggers his gag reflex. This is SO hard to watch. His face has that "I am dry heaving and I feel like I am going to throw up" look to it, and I feel SO BAD for him. DONE!!!
Please pray that his kidneys continue to function and rid his lungs and body of excess fluid. DONE!!!!!!

Mark 10:27

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

We believe this verse in the Bible with all our hearts. God has shown us that ALL things are possible and NOTHING IS TOO BIG for our God. Thanks for your prayers!! Our God Reigns.

Tuesday 3:30 PM PDT Update: We just heard from Gloria that the paramedic team who did so much to keep Stephen alive that scary morning stopped by to see the one they're calling Wonder Boy! He greeted them with a huge smile and a handshake!! She says they were "BLOWN AWAY!!!" Yeah, we kind of know that blown away feeling!! There is no God like our God!!

Wednesday12:00am 7/11 UPDATE: 

Where do I start??? Oh my 
goodness people, we are just completely overwhelmed and so thankful for the MIRACLES we witnessed today. 

First off, I would like to share with you (in order) all of the medical staff that looked us in the eye and said, "This is a MIRACLE"

6:45am: Stephen's night nurse, Winsome, said that Stephen regained consciousness and was so stable that she took him down to only one blood pressure medicine. She said, "This is a MIRACLE."

8:00am, Stephen's day nurse, who had cared for him on Thursday, could not believe Stephen's improvement! She said she had NEVER seen someone so gravely ill return to consciousness so quickly and this was a MIRACLE. 

12:00pm The respiratory nurse turned off the ventilator to see how long Stephen could breathe on his own. An hour later he was gagging and fighting the tube so much (and his oxygen levels looked great) that the ICU doctor said , "If he's fighting it so much, just go ahead and take it out." The therapist said she'd never seen someone come out of a coma and a cool down and recover like this. She said it was a MIRACLE!

3:00pm. A nurse who worked on him in the ER heard the news of Stephen's recovery and came to see for herself that he really was alive and kicking. She said, "He is a Miracle."

3:30pm. The paramedics who worked on Stephen's heart in the beach house and all the way to the ER (and never did get his heart beating) came to see Stephen. We thanked the Captain up and down and sideways for trying to save our son's life. He looked at Stephen, who gave him a big doped-up smile and held out a weak hand to shake and said, "This is why we do what we do." Then he said it was a MIRACLE he was alive. 

7:00pm. The night-shift nurse, Kim, who cared for Stephen on Friday night came to care for Stephen tonight. Her eyes welled up with tears as she told us that in all her years working in the ER, she had only seen one other patient who recovered from such catastrophic circumstances like Stephen. She called Stephen's rapid recovery a MIRACLE!!

9:00pm. A nurse who was working on the ICU floor on July 5 and July 7 popped in to say that she just had to see this MIRACLE named Stephen. She went on to say through teary eyes that Stephen was the "talk of the town" in the ICU and that everyone on the floor was pulling for him. They fell in love with our family and wanted "so bad" for Stephen to live. Oh my goodness folks, she hugged me and was crying and I had NEVER met her!! This is the impact that GOD'S MIRACLES have on people!! 

9:30pm. Dr Green, the Head ER doctor, came to see our wonder boy. (By the way, the nurse said he NEVER comes up to check on his past patients. He is ALL business) He told us that he had never had to work that hard to get a healthy 20-something boy's heart beating. HE TOLD US HE WORKED OVER AN HOUR to get his heart to beat!!! We had NO IDEA they worked that long!!! Praise God he didn't give up. Anyway, when we introduced Dr. Green to Stephen and told him that this doctor had saved his life, Stephen was full of tears and emotion. He said , "Thank you," with his raspy trachea-injured voice and extended a shakey-weak handshake to the doctor who worked tirelessly to get his heart to beat. God worked through this doctor to save Stephen's life and it was frustrating that he didn't even know it!!

There is no doubt that God uses people to accomplish His purposes. Dr Green was one of these people. I pray for all the doctors and nurses who witnessed our MIRACLE today. May they be spurred on to desiring a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We pray that people following Stephen's story will be impacted by these events and be drawn to a personal relationship with Christ. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Our God Reigns.

Good night peeps. Today was a good day. I am overwhelmed by God!! He just keeps on rocking my world. He is just simply amazing and i am in awe of what He has done today.

Thank you so much for your prayers!! This story is ongoing, and God is still working!! Stephen has made a miraculous comeback, but he still has some challenges ahead of him and the prayers are still very much needed. If you would like to continue to follow along with his story you can send me a message on facebook to add you to the Praying for Stephen Shaffer facebook group, or you can use this website, updated by Stephen's family with all the same updates:

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

Counting my next 1000 Gifts, joining Ann in The Joy Dare--like a scavenger hunt for graces, gifts and glory!! Wanna come along?  I dare ya!!

The continuing JOY DARE: 
#1548-1568 (July 1st through July 7th)

1. 3 Gifts Loved
Hero Husband
Drummer Boy
She So Sweet
2. 3 Gifts Read
Michelle's post: The Wind In My Face
The verse she shared, Psalm 125:2, ". . .the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore." 
Amber's post at Ann's: When You're Somehow Missing Your True Homeland
3. A Gift in Faith, Family, Freedom
Hope for a world gone crazy
"As iron sharpens iron . . ."
The sky's the limit!
4. A Gift in Red, White, and Blue
Red trails of fireworks that echo back to "the rockets' red glare"
The extremely useful glow of the flashlight app on my iPhone
The comforting dusky glow of the night sky behind the fireworks
5. 3 Gifts of Persistence
Unceasing prayer for Stephen Shaffer
Getting school assignments done despite having a difficult time concentrating
Hero Husband, Drummer Boy, and She So Sweet--each of them persistent in their own way
6. 3 Gifts of Enthusiasm
Increasingly hopeful updates  from Gloria as the day goes on!
The incredible swell of love and prayer that is gathering around Stephen and his family!
Seeing the family of God so unified!
7. A Gift of Challenge, Conflict, Change
The challenge to stay ever-aware of choosing in the direction of my goals
That we don't have much!
That the changes in Stephen's condition keep moving in the right direction!

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