"Peace" Through the Journey

Shafer & MommyAfter months of resisting to blog, here is my first official entry!

First of all, let me express my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the entire Daves family—Kevin, Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, Shaw, Shafer, and myself—for all of your prayers and encouragement through your thoughtful emails, cards, visits, phone calls, financial support, and many other kind acts of generosity. We truly do feel your presence in our spirit when we are away at Vanderbilt for surgeries and extended hospital stays. We are simply blown away by the unconditional love we have been shown during this journey. Our faith has grown immensely through your love for us.
 
Shafer is doing exceptionally well since his surgery last Thursday. By far, this is the best he has done post-op. His strength and stamina continue to amaze us. He's such a little fighter. His sweet spirit and radiant smile are incredibly contagious. My heart overflows with joy that I get to take care of him. Thank you Lord for choosing me to be Shafer's mommy!
 
Time is quickly moving us toward transplant. Our medical team is planning for May (2011), but everything will hinge upon Shafer's health. I am scheduled to be approved by the transplant board on Monday, April 4th. Please pray that everything will go smoothly and I will officially be the living donor.
 
Wow...just trying to get my mind around all that is coming up is a bit overwhelming. It's a mixed bag—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—that I am getting ready for one of the biggest events of my life. And I am so excited to be the vessel God is using to extend Baby Shafer's life (just to think that God equipped me supernaturally to be the "perfect match" for my son's kidney—how miraculous to have this privilege). All I can say is "Praise Be To God!"
 
What a turn my life has taken over the last year and a half. My whole mindset is different as I now live with a completely new set of priorities. My goals for each day are really simple...care for Shafer and my other four children, live in the moment, "Be Still" and convene on a real level with God each day, and show greater appreciation for my precious husband, Kevin. And believe it or not, managing this short to-do list consumes my day. I just can't figure out how I used to fit the other 25 things I did into my days.
 
Yes, life has changed 180 degrees for me, but I have not only adjusted, I'm embracing the "new normal," as my husband calls our lives now. This is where God has placed us for this season—for He has anointed and appointed us to be here for a reason and we must be found faithful to praise and serve Him, despite our difficult circumstances.
 
I wish only God's best for each of you reading this blog. I hope that in some small way Shafer's story can inspire you on to greatness!
 
Much love,
Shafer's Mommy
 
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8
 

Spring Fun Has Begun

I hope you have been enjoying the beautiful spring weather as much as Shafer has. His favorite new “ride” is his sisters Barbie jeep. He wakes up wanting to go outside as he loves the outdoors.

Another favorite ride is his new Radio Flyer wagon that his Nana and Papa bought him after falling in love with it at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. They surprised him as he returned from his surgery a couple of weeks ago. Now, all of this makes me have visions of future rides such as motorcycles, go-carts, 4-wheelers, skateboards, and ultimately a car! Can time really move that fast?

Shafer is doing good right now. He had his 2nd post-op visit with the surgeon on Tuesday (4/12/11) at Vanderbilt. The follow-up tests showed that the surgery was successful and the doctor was extremely pleased.

Now, on to transplant. We will be back at Vanderbilt to consult with the transplant surgeon on Friday, April 22. Have you heard the “God-wink” story about the surgeon’s name? If you’re not familiar with the term God-wink, I suggest you make a quick trip to your local Dollar General Store and pick up a copy of the book, “When God Winks at You,” by Squire Rushnell—no, actually, clear the shelf—they usually only have a few copies, and at $3 each, you will want to introduce your friends and family to this treasure. Anyway, Shafer’s transplant surgeon’s name is Dr. Shaffer, and if that’s not enough to let you know that God truly is in control of the details on this journey, my doctor (the nephrologist from Vanderbilt who did my medical work-up to be the living donor) is Dr. Schaeffer! Of all the unbelievable things we have experienced, and the crazy string of God-winks, this has to be at the top of the list. Something this bizarre and unusual could only be orchestrated by God Almighty!

We should have a date for transplant soon. They are making plans for early to mid-May in order to allow Shayli and Sharayah to get almost finished with school. We will be taking the children with us and leaving our home and Shadow (our black, cocker spaniel) in very capable hands with family.

We will be away for at least one month if everything goes as expected, and longer if needed. Our dear friends (Dr. David Thompson, his wife Treva and daughter Leah) will be providing much of the care for our other four children. We praise God for this friendship and their sacrificial hearts to assist in such an enormous way.

I’m sure we’ll learn many more details as a result of our meeting with Dr. Shaffer and the transplant coordinator next week. Stay tuned as more information will be forthcoming.

Thanks again for your continual love and support. We have lots of exciting things in store for the next four weeks until we leave, so check out the “Activities and Events” section of this website to stay in the loop. We hope to see you at “Shop 4 Shafer,” “Skate 4 Shafer,” “Sing 4 Shafer,” “Eat Mor Chickin 4 Shafer,” “Supper 4 Shafer,” or at the golf tournament on May 10.

Keep praying and believing God for continued miracles,
Shafer's Mommy

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” —Psalm 31:14

Spring Fun Has Begun

SDC11836.JPGI hope you have been enjoying the beautiful spring weather as much as Shafer has. His favorite new “ride” is his sisters Barbie jeep. He wakes up wanting to go outside as he loves the outdoors.

Another favorite ride is his new Radio Flyer wagon that his Nana and Papa bought him after falling in love with it at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. They surprised him as he returned from his surgery a couple of weeks ago. Now, all of this makes me have visions of future rides such as motorcycles, go-carts, 4-wheelers, skateboards, and ultimately a car! Can time really move that fast?

Shafer is doing good right now. He had his 2nd post-op visit with the surgeon on Tuesday (4/12/11) at Vanderbilt. The follow-up tests showed that the surgery was successful and the doctor was extremely pleased.

Now, on to transplant. We will be back at Vanderbilt to consult with the transplant surgeon on Friday, April 22. Have you heard the “God-wink” story about the surgeon’s name? If you’re not familiar with the term God-wink, I suggest you make a quick trip to your local Dollar General Store and pick up a copy of the book, “When God Winks at You,” by Squire Rushnell—no, actually, clear the shelf—they usually only have a few copies, and at $3 each, you will want to introduce your friends and family to this treasure. Anyway, Shafer’s transplant surgeon’s name is Dr. Shaffer, and if that’s not enough to let you know that God truly is in control of the details on this journey, my doctor (the nephrologist from Vanderbilt who did my medical work-up to be the living donor) is Dr. Schaeffer! Of all the unbelievable things we have experienced, and the crazy string of God-winks, this has to be at the top of the list. Something this bizarre and unusual could only be orchestrated by God Almighty!

We should have a date for transplant soon. They are making plans for early to mid-May in order to allow Shayli and Sharayah to get almost finished with school. We will be taking the children with us and leaving our home and Shadow (our black, cocker spaniel) in very capable hands with family.

We will be away for at least one month if everything goes as expected, and longer if needed. Our dear friends (Dr. David Thompson, his wife Treva and daughter Lacey) will be providing much of the care for our other four children. We praise God for this friendship and their sacrificial hearts to assist in such an enormous way.

I’m sure we’ll learn many more details as a result of our meeting with Dr. Shaffer and the transplant coordinator next week. Stay tuned as more information will be forthcoming.

Thanks again for your continual love and support. We have lots of exciting things in store for the next four weeks until we leave, so check out the “Activities and Events” section of this website to stay in the loop. We hope to see you at “Shop 4 Shafer,” “Skate 4 Shafer,” “Sing 4 Shafer,” “Eat Mor Chickin 4 Shafer,” “Supper 4 Shafer,” or at the golf tournament on May 10.

Keep praying and believing God for continued miracles,
Shafer's Mommy

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” —Psalm 31:14

A Mother's Day to Remember

Img_6823_Cropped.jpgWhat a blessing this Mother’s Day was for me. I was able to enjoy worshiping and praising God with my entire family. Yes, even Baby Shafer made a surprise visit to hear our journey of hope and healing at North Pointe Community Church in Nashville, TN. It was an honor and divine privilege to speak from the depths of my heart about the challenging road we have been on the last eighteen months.

The Lord moved in a powerful way as a result of the service. I stand amazed at how truly wonderful our Lord really is. He provides just what we need right when we need it. I was so encouraged by the love and support from so many people. My heartfelt thanks go out to each person who has played a role in Shafer’s story. There are no words to adequately express our family’s deepest thanks for every prayer, card, meal, dollar given, and other numerous acts of kindness. Our cup runneth over with blessings from you—our extended family of friends.
I cannot tell you how hard, yet precious this journey really is. While I would not have chosen our present circumstances, I wouldn’t take anything for the priceless lessons and memories we have experienced. All praise and glory goes to God for blessing us in ways we could not imagine possible.
We are looking so forward to the upcoming BIG day. What we have earnestly prayed for and anxiously anticipated is now right around the corner. Yes, it’s “Transplant Time in Tennessee” (apologies to my husband, a die-hard Georgia Bulldog fan). June 6th is the life-changing day for me and Shafer. My surgery is expected to begin around 11:00a CST and last approximately 5 hours. Shafer will head to surgery about an hour later, and his will last approximately 5 hours as well. In addition, if things go as planned, Shafer’s urologist has reworked his schedule to be in the surgery room during transplant in order to complete what he calls “Phase 3” of Shafer’s urological issues. This is an added blessing because it will keep Shafer from having another surgery down the road.
Img_6833_Cropped.jpgMy expected hospital stay, if everything goes well, is 4 to 7 days. However, Shafer will be hospitalized much longer—anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks—depending on his kidney progress and overall general health. We will then live in nearby housing for a few weeks in order to be seen several times a week, and then eventually released to go home.
So, we have a big summer ahead—lots of challenges—but lots of blessings in store. We ask for your continual prayers, especially for our other children who are very concerned about baby brother and mommy. Pray for peace and comfort to their little hearts as they walk this incredible road. Also, I ask for you to remember Kevin as he leads our family through these swift waters. God has ordained him captain of the Daves ship and trust me, he’s doing a fantastic job managing the crew throughout this storm. How I praise God for His faithfulness to have given me such a wonderful partner to share life with. Kevin is a treasure and he is truly the rock of our family.
Thanks again and again to each of you who have loved us unconditionally and provided for our every need. Let’s continue to trust God for great things ahead.
All our love and prayers,
Shafer’s Mommy

Thinking of Shafer

 Just wanted to leave a short note to let you know that we are praying for Shafer and you during the time of change. Praying that God will give you both peace and joy and healing fast. Talk some with your mother and she is so awsome I love her and you so much. My heart is breaking for all of you but I know GOD can do wonders. 

Love 

Lisa and Fred

 

Post-surgery Update

Img_8361.jpgSorry for the belated update, but things have been a bit busy the last week. The transplant surgery was a success and Shafer and I have gotten off to a good start for the long recovery ahead. I was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, June 28, and now sharing time caring for Shafer in his room and spending time at the rental house with the other children.

 

Img_8322.jpgThere have been a few bumps along the way. Most importantly, Shafer is fighting off a dual blood and urinary tract infection and has started an antibiotic that should take care of it within 10 days. He seems to be responding well to the immunosuppressant drugs and is gaining strength every day. He has even enjoyed a couple of trips outside to see the fish and play with his siblings at the facilities provided by the hospital.

Img_8368.jpgMany have asked how Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, and Shaw are doing. They have really done well, considering the circumstances. We have had some dear friends and family members come to Nashville and stay with them at the house and treat them to lots of fun activities. Shaw had a special day as he celebrated his 4th birthday today (June 29th). So, they have some wonderful memories from their time here!

Img_8375.jpgWe so appreciate all of your prayers, emails, cards, flowers, visits, financial support and other gifts you have so freely given to support our family during this time. Words cannot adequately express our sincerest thanks for how you’ve blessed us!!

May God richly reward each of you for the generosity and kindness you have shown us…

Shafer's Mommy

The Road to Recovery

Just a quick update to let you know how the Lord is orchestrating our miraculous road to recovery!!!!

Img_8881.jpgI am doing better day by day. I am up and going and engaged; however, I'm definitely operating at a slower pace, and by the end of the day my abdominal pain starts ramping up. I still have restrictions on what I can lift and I'm not cleared to drive yet, so that limits my greatly in terms of doing my "normal" things. Fortunately, I've been able to work around all of this with the help of many.

Img_8460.jpgShafer is doing exceptionally well! He is toddling all over the place and saying more words than we can count. That million dollar smile is bigger than ever and he seems to be throwing out more sugar pops than before. His urine output is amazing, so the kidney is working out well. We're still having clinic appointments twice a week, and this week we have additional 1-month follow-up appointments with his transplant surgeon and urologist. As a point of prayer, his liver numbers are significantly elevated again which can be due to medicines, but until those numbers level out, his medical team will have to keep a close check on him.

Img_9169.jpgOne final note -- The Tennessean did a fabulous article on July 10 called "Siblings of Sick Kids Need Their Own TLC" (http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110710/NEWS/307100069/Siblings-sick-kids-need-their-own-TLC). It really highlights Shayli's role as the leader in the family. It was great information and a timely reminder that this is a difficult time for all children who have a sick brother or sister. In addition, The Polk County News (my hometown newspaper) ran a great story a couple of weeks ago (http://www.polknewsonline.com/2011/07/06/Local_News/Doctors_stunned_at_Daves'_progress/9914.html). Both of these can also be found on www.COTAforShaferD.com, so feel free to check there often for recent media clips.

Img_9209.jpgThanks for all the continued prayers and support. You have blessed us with your love and given us the strength to carry on in the midst of hardship.

You mean the world to us...

Shafer's Mommy

If I Had Only One Hour to Live

_dv17490a.jpgIf you haven’t read Richard and Kristine Carlson’s book entitled, “If You Had an Hour to Live,” I highly encourage you do so. This is an inspiring book that will create an urgency with you to make some needed changes in your life. It’s not just a feel good book, it is a good book about feeling life in a new way. It causes you to give pause and to rethink why you are doing what you are doing. For me, it served as a simple reminder that life is but a vapor and we must live our lives on purpose every day.

 

Img_9091.jpgWhat a joy it has been to relish Baby Shafer and his newfound energy since transplant! We are simply amazed at how much better he feels and his daily routine proves that you must be in pretty good shape to keep up with him. All of a sudden he seems like such a BIG boy. He shows so many more emotions now. Literally, everything has taken on a new sense of beauty—pee-pee diapers, stinky feet, and even temper tantrums. This is the stuff life is made of.

 

If you’re waiting for things to be perfect or fixed or better or modified from your existing state before you really experience contentment, it will never come. Our humanity will never be satisfied…it’s always another problem or mountain to climb. It’s like trying to get Shafer to stop eating M&M’s (or Emmies as he calls them) after only 3 or 4. No, he screams for more and I reluctantly give in and refill his cup until moments later he starts the cycle all over again. He will not reach a point of satisfaction even after consuming an entire pack. I have to finally stop the vicious cycle and redirect him to healthier choices, even though it is coupled with kicking and him saying repeatedly, “Mad…mad.”

 

_dv17312a.jpgUnlike a baby, we as adults have the control to put a halt to bad choices and get ourselves in better shape physically, psychologically, and spiritually. But, it takes a new code of discipline to adapt to new behaviors…and time to wait on the Lord to mold us into what He wants for our lives.

 

The journey we’ve been on the last 21 months has taught me many things. Most importantly it has shown me that I need to spend more time “being” instead of “doing.” Learning to rest in the Lord even in the midst of tremendous difficulty and challenges is a tall order, but with help from above, can be life-changing.

 

Img_8972.jpgI now think so differently than before. It’s as if I’ve had eye surgery and new lenses have been implanted. I see the world entirely from an alternative view—a better view—than before. My life goals are entirely focused on relationships now…not accomplishments from works. I listen more intently, am slower to speak, and take life as it comes. I fully realize that I have absolutely no control over anything—God is completely sovereign and will not put more on us than we can handle. He will and does work all things for His good, even when I want to put my hands over my ears and scream, “I am very familiar with the verse, please don’t quote it to me for the umpteenth time,” as my dear Christian friends and family members try to comfort me with these words.

 

I am learning more and more about being fully present. Living in the now has always been difficult for me as a Type A all the way personality. But, God is slowly growing me up in this process. And He has used my children to assist me the most in this area. My firstborn is entering 5th grade and it seems like yesterday she changed our family forever with her arrival. The realization of the brevity of time we really have with Shayli and our other four children has caused me to wake from my slumber. You and I have got to be in the moment with the blessings God has entrusted to us. Every conversation, every meal, every field trip, every bedtime story and prayer, every kiss, and every anything has got to take on a new and fresh meaning in our lives. The dishes and laundry can wait, work projects can delay an hour or so, and I promise you the news will be the same in just a few hours. You can catch up after they go to bed or whisk away with their friends…but for now, stop and relish every possible precious moment by unplugging technologically and plugging in tangibly to your children.

 

Life is to be lived, not dreaded. The good, the bad, the hard, the sad, the playful, and the serious all have a vital role in the big picture. And we’re finding that the hardest parts of our lives can yield the greatest lessons…

 

My challenge for each person reading this blog is to take a moment to apply the brakes to your life. Somehow pull yourself away from the craziness of your family, work, and other responsibilities to “Be Still” and let the Lord breathe a fresh spirit within you. Relax in knowing that God is God and regardless of your present circumstances, He has not forgotten or forsaken you. Then, ask for His divine direction on how you need to adjust or readjust your life to align with His purpose for the remainder of your days. Then, make a commitment to live as if you only had an hour left…

 

All God’s best to you and your family,

Shafer’s Mommy

Home Sweet Home

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Shanel, Sharayah, & Shafer
enjoy our first brunch back home.

After seven weeks of being in Nashville, we are finally settled back at home in Chattanooga so Shayli, Sharayah, and Shanel could start the school year. What a blessing to reacquaint ourselves with home and to see Shafer doing so well.

It is hard to believe the surgery is over and now we are well into our recovery. We are making weekly trips to Nashville for regular clinic visits and labs to keep a check on everything.

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Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, Shaw, & Shafer take a break at sunset on the walking bridge in downtown Chattanooga.
 

We have updated the website with several new media clips and pictures on the blogs. The most exciting piece is Vanderbilt Medical Center’s premier publication, House Organ, when Shafer made the cover story! Click here (http://www.jadadaves.com/myfiles/House_Organ_8_11.pdf) to read the entire 7 pages, and you may want to view the accompanying video at www.youtube.com/embed/M245ngWr-5U. Both of these can also be viewed on the Media Appearances page at www.COTAforShaferD.com.

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  Shanel & Shafer at Grandma Daves' country church in Morganton, GA for the annual family reunion & decoration

We want to express our sincerest thanks once again for the unbelievable outpouring of love and support from so many. It blows our minds at how God has used friends, family, casual acquaintances, and complete strangers to bless us! God has gone before us in every situation to provide exactly what we need just when we needed it.

Wow…the occasional cool breeze in the late evening has gotten me excited about fall, my most favorite season of the year.

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Shanel walking out the door for her first day of kindergarten  

I am invigorated and energized by the cooler weather, the colors of the beautiful fall leaves, craft festivals, the season of “thanksgiving,” and football. What great times to share with family and friends!

At this time, all is well with Baby Shafer and the entire Daves gang. We are certainly relishing the homecoming of our little miracle and looking forward to what lies ahead for us.

We love each of you dearly…keep us in your continual prayers.

Shafer’s Mommy

A Dream Vacation Come True

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Magical. Amazing. Happy. A Dream Come True. Just a few words that keep coming to mind as I reflect on our recent trip to Disney World. Who would have ever thought that on the incredible journey of caring for Baby Shafer that we would be given a dream vacation?

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The Lord continues to astound us with crazy good in our lives, along with the crazy bad. A dear friend of ours made contact with some pastor friends of his in Orlando and God impressed upon their hearts to gift our family of 7 park hopper passes to Disney.

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Then only days later, our same dear pastor friend in Nashville emailed us again and said that a couple from his church wanted to provide our accommodations for the week at a nearby resort. Then, a family from the school our children attend came up to my husband the day before we left and provided the resources to assist with our gas and food expenses.

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To say the least, we were simply blown away. How can mere strangers, casual acquaintances, and relatively new friends provide for us in such a profound way?

It was God and God alone who worked out all the details for our family to experience the joy of receiving such gifts.

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Yes, God divinely orchestrated every last detail even though we encountered a few near misses/scares during the weeklong festivities.

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  Shafer looking at his Mickey sticker to complement his mini G-tube (thus, Mickey & Minnie)

The morning we were to leave, Shafer woke up with a 103 temperature. So off to the doctor we went, not knowing if this would completely halt our plans. Hours later, we were cleared after labs leaned toward a virus. We left armed with all the necessary paperwork just in case we needed to go to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children while in Orlando. The fever lasted 4 days, yet Shafer was a trooper and showed no outward signs of feeling bad.

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Shafer on his favorite tea cup ride with mommy  

After a great conclusion to our time at Disney, Shafer awoke on Saturday morning with his feeding tube (G-tube) completely pulled out of his stomach! We clicked into emergency mode, called Vanderbilt, were given directions to head straight to the emergency room, and again God watched over us as timing played on our side and they were able to reinsert another tube without surgery.

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  A few of nature's friends coming for a visit on the patio of our villa

Then the rains poured in for the next three days. But, God had another surprise in store.

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We were able to meet up with some of our good friends from Atlanta who were rained out of the Magic Kingdom and enjoy some great time. We have literally talked about going somewhere together for years and have never been able to make it work with our schedule, but the Lord allowed us to collide at Disney.

I really can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard or had as much fun. Again, just another example of how God has made good out of all things.

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There were numerous highlights on our trip, yet Shafer was mesmerized by the parades. After each one ended, he would repeatedly say “again…again” as if we could rewind and cause Goofy, Donald, Mickey, Minnie, and the gang to dance right back down Main Street!

Every minute of every day, every show (the kids favorite by far was the Festival of the Lion King), every meal, every encounter with the Disney characters, every ride, every everything was truly magical. I now fully get their motto, “Let the Memories Begin.” From the moment our toes touched the property, we entered into a land of make believe and dreams.

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Happiness exudes from Disney…and it is contagious. It beckons you in and takes you on a magical journey of remembering days gone by of enjoying childhood memories to fast-forward you into the reality that now your children are where you once were.

This vacation was a dream come true for us. It somehow lifted the load of the past 2 years and gave us a renewed sense of hope for the future.

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“Tomorrowland” is a mystery for all of us, yet if we trust the Lord and cling to Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”—we can approach each day knowing that God will take good care of us.

Love and blessings to all,
Shafer’s Mommy

A Tribute To Our Medical Team

Gratitude. Our hearts are overflowing with an immeasurable amount of joy for all that our medical team has done to assist with our care. God has used Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to provide hope and healing to our family. The skilled doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other support staff have been the human vessels that have given Shafer an extension on life.

Chief_of_the_Medical_Staff-5x7.jpg  
The Great Physician  

All praise and glory goes to our Great Master Physician—Jesus Christ. As the picture depicts, He was the One guiding our committed surgeon’s hands as they worked on Baby Shafer and me. This picture is such a beautiful representation of how God not only watches over us, but carefully guides and provides protection in our lives. We always taped this picture to Shafer’s bed so it would serve as a reminder to all his caregivers that God was ultimately guiding their hands. What sweet memories we have of praying bedside with various surgeons, anesthesiologists, residents, and nurses before Shafer was whisked away to surgery. Thanks be to God Almighty for his ever-present hand on Baby Shafer as he has endured so much physically and been cared for spiritually. Our faith has certainly carried us on this journey…when our strength was gone it was the Lord who gave us exactly what we needed to carry on. What a privilege to be called a child of God. We thank you Father for giving Baby Shafer another chance at life. We willl trust and praise you all the days of our lives…

  Dr. Kathy Jabs - IMG_9101.JPG
  Dr. Kathy Jabs

Dr. Jabs, Shafer’s nephrologist and lead physician, has walked every step of this journey with us. We met her in the early morning hours in November of 2009 when Shafer was only a month old. Her kindhearted nature, attention to details, and vast experience in the field of pediatrics brings a level of unprecedented trust to our relationship. Our open dialogue regarding Shafer’s condition has provided us the opportunity to learn and grow in many ways.

Dr. Mark Adams - IMG_8861.JPG  
Dr. Mark Adams  

Dr. Adams has been on board as our urologist since the onset as well. He is a master surgeon as he has successfully operated four times on Baby Shafer. His calm demeanor and personal care for our family has been amazing. His entire staff is extremely friendly and always exudes professionalism. Thanks, Dr. Adams, for all you have done. We truly love you, and consider you part of our extended family!

  Dr. David Shaffer - IMG_8863.JPG
  Dr. David Shaffer

On to Dr. Shaffer (and his very impressive resident, Dr. Smith). Who could have ever imagined in a million years that the surgeon we would entrust Baby Shafer to for this lifesaving surgery would have the same name? This is just another neat part of our story. A piece that really confirmed he was the vessel God would use to bring healing and renewed life to our son. Wow! What a blessing he was to us. His attention to detail, kind manner, and years of expertise proved to be the perfect mix for a successful outcome. We can’t thank you enough for the gift you have given us. You are one of God’s angels on earth...

Dr. Douglas Hale - IMG_8866.JPG  
Dr. Douglas Hale  

And to round out our surgical team, my surgeon, Dr. Hale. As I try to find words to express my feelings, a big smile is covering my face. Every time I think of the surgery, I am overcome with an outpouring of gratitude for Dr. Hale. What an incredible role he played in harvesting my kidney while being careful to put me back together properly. Even though June 22 was just “another day at the office” for him, the results were life-changing for us. Dr. Hale is a miracle-worker who the Lord has allowed us to know and love. We are incredibly grateful for all he has done and will do as he provides my follow-up care.

And a special thanks to the other surgeons who have placed feeding tubes, dialysis catheters, and performed various routine procedures on Shafer. Every resident who assisted in Shafer’s care, every nurse, care partner, and every other support staff has deposited life into our son. We are especially thankful for the anesthesiologist team who assisted with all of his surgeries because they are a BIG piece to the puzzle of his ultimate recovery.

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  Dr. Lisa Smith

The list would not be complete if we did not mention a few of our surgeons and doctors from our medical team in Chattanooga. Dr. Lisa Smith performed the critical life-saving surgery on Shafer’s congenital diaphragmatic hernia when he was only 12 days old at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital. Her confidence and experience let us know that she was the one to do this time-sensitive surgery. And what a blessing she was…God used her to encourage us in ways unimaginable. Thanks “Lisa” for all you did to encourage us during some of the hardest days of our journey.

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Dr. Marvin Hall  

The entire team in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in Chattanooga will always be dear to us. All of the intensivists were incredibly encouraging as Shafer struggled to hang onto life.

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  Dr. Greg Talbott

But I want to especially thank Dr. Talbot and Dr. Hall for their personal touch to us as a family when things were extremely critical. I will never forget the cup of cold water Dr. Talbot offered me as Shafer was being taken out of the unit headed to surgery. It reminded me of something Jesus would do…so kind, so thoughtful, so tender…and the words of encouragement he spoke to me bedside one day as I struggled to make sense of our situation: “Jada, you know that God gives special babies to special families. God knew that Baby Shafer would be loved and unconditionally cared for by you and your family, so he placed him with you for a special reason.” The comfort those words brought me that day…thanks, Dr. Talbot, for your priceless gift of encouragement.

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Dr. Kourtney Santucci  

And when we finally moved to the floor at T.C. Thompson’s, Dr. Santucci and her team took exceptionally good care of us. Dr. Santucci walked with us when tough decisions were being made about Shafer’s long-term care and her supportive role as a listener and mentor proved invaluable to us. There are no words to express our heartfelt gratitude for the genuine love and concern you have shown our family…

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  Dr. Tony Friddell

And last but not least, our faithful pediatrician, Dr. Tony Friddell, and his nurses, Elizabeth and Kassie (and the entire team at Pediatric Diagnostics). You have been so much more to us than your job descriptions require. You have cried and prayed with us bedside in ICU, visited us in the hospital, checked on us after hours, and provided top-notch care for us on this 2-year journey. We love you more than you will ever know and your constant support has helped us stay the course. God certainly blessed us with you as our primary care providers, but the sweet friendship that has formed through the years has been the greatest gift of all. For all you’ve done and will continue to do…we express our sincerest thanks.

With much love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Thumbs Up!

 Lately I was so occupied with essay writing for custom research papers but this post just made my day. Truely doctors are the angels sent by Almighty God who save lives of His creatures.

Celebrating Shafer Turning Two

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One of my favorite songs has always been “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang. The music has a way of pumping me up and creating a mood of excitement and fun. And boy did we celebrate on Shafer’s birthday at the milestone of him turning two.

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Approximately 70 friends and family attended his day of adventure at Mystery Dog Ranch. We had a big grill out, hay ride, rode horses, and fished. Even Shafer circled the lake twice on a horse by himself! We couldn’t believe he kept saying “again…again.” He couldn’t focus on opening his gifts for wanting to ride the horse over and over.

The day was full of thoughtful reflection. Several people commented, “It’s hard to believe the difference a year can make,” or “He doesn’t even seem like the same child as this time last year.”

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Yes, we have seen our son go from ICU in complete kidney failure with the odds stacked against him to months of dialysis, to having a kidney transplant and recovering to laughing, playing, dancing, and experiencing life almost like any other 2-year-old.

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The range of emotions sometimes weighs heavy. I cry tears of joy quite often. I find myself praising God continually for all He has done to heal Baby Shafer. Then there are days I cry tears of sadness as I ponder why He chose to allow our son to live, when other children have perished. I feel a deep sense of loss for those families and the situations that are far worse than ours.

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I am thankful for every visit to clinic and every hospitalization at Vanderbilt. It reminds me of the sickness that abounds with thousands of children. It causes me to yearn and struggle and want to ask, “Why do so many children have to suffer?”

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Yet, God talks in Ecclesiastes 3 about there being a season for all things. There is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to mourn and a time to dance. We are in a season of celebrating and rejoicing over Shafer’s successful transplant and miraculous recovery!

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There is a time to laugh and a time to cry and we have spent time on both ends of the spectrum. We will rejoice now in this season of bountiful blessing!

Not only have we celebrated Shafer turning two, we had his baby dedication service at our church on September 18. As parents, we vowed before God and our friends, family, and fellow church members that we would raise Shafer according to biblical principles in a Christ-centered home of love.

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What a wonderful reminder to cherish the priceless gift we have been given in Baby Shafer!

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The service included a video overview of his precious life and the entire family sang “Through the Fire” as the finale.

It was simply beautiful seeing Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, and Shaw sharing their testimonies through song at such young ages. It was a meaningful celebration to cherish forever…

In His love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Thank You Much

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Wow…the impact that 3 little words from a 2-year old can have! When Shafer first responded with “thank you much” after I handed him his sippy cup of milk, I was deeply moved.

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Then he said it again and again after kisses, after squirting lotion on his hands, after wiping his face, after giving him his Mickey blanket, and the list goes on. I began to ponder his sweet sentiment even more. I know I didn’t teach him to add “much” on to the basic response of “thank you” that we taught our other 4 children.

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And Kevin assured me he didn’t teach him the phrase, so I knew where Shafer had learned to say such a tender thing.

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The Lord continues to speak to our whole family through Shafer. He delights our hearts time and time again with his big smile and words that string together in unbelievable ways.
At this special time of the year we are especially thankful to be at home relishing these memories with Baby Shafer, Shaw, Shanel, Sharayah, and Shayli. Enjoying the holidays outside of the hospital is sheer euphoria! The sights and sounds of the season are better than I can ever remember. Thank you much, God!
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Our trip to Vanderbilt last week resulted in good labs and a great visit with Dr. Jabs.

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He has almost reached the 50th percentile for both height and weight, so we are overflowing with gratitude for this significant milestone. Please pray for Shafer to stay healthy over the next few weeks so he can truly enjoy Christmas!

We love each and every one of you. Your love and prayers are nourishment to our souls.
Happy Thanksgiving,
Shafer's Mommy

 

Christmas Blessings

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What a joy to celebrate Jesus our Savior at home with Shafer and the family! Words cannot adequately describe the miracle of seeing Shafer being fully alive as a 2-year-old enjoying the sights and sounds of the season.

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From seeing Santa and the lights at Opryland Hotel, to visiting Mamaw and Papaw’s farm, to putting the ornaments on his own sports Christmas tree, to wrapping (and unwrapping) gifts for friends and family, it was nothing but fun for Shafer this year.

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As happy as I’ve been, it seems I’ve shed lots of tears this Christmas, but they flow as a response of being completely overwhelmed at all the Lord has done in the life of our precious little one.

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As I reflect on all that has happened over the last 26 months, I stand amazed at what a loving, wonderful Heavenly Father we have who cares for us and carries us through our deepest pain.

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As I prayed for strength, God continued to allow us to experience pain to make us strong. Then, I heard Collin Raye’s song, “I Get What I Need” and was stunned.

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The words were exactly what we had lived and I found refreshment and delight in hearing the beautiful music coincide with the lyrics that were the story of our lives. I now have it on my “favorites” CD so I can listen to it every day as a reminder of God’s goodness and watch care over us.

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Shafer is talking ninety miles a minute and loves to throw kisses (especially at girls). He is such an angel and his big smile keeps my spirit in check when things seem to be going wrong or I’m having a bad day.

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The love of his life is Mickey Mouse, and Santa sure did have lots of Mickey treats for him to enjoy.

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I praise God for all of you who faithfully pray for us and stay up-to-date with his progress through this blog.

Merry Christmas to all,
Shafer’s Mommy

Love You Much

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Ah…sweet Shafer. What a bundle of love he is! After weeks of talking with others about his phrase “thank you much,” (see November’s blog) he has surprised us again with a new saying. When he first took my face in between his little hands and looked me square in the eyes and said “love you much,” I thought my heart was going to come out of my body. In that moment, I was deeply moved as my 2-year old expressed such gratitude to his mother.

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After all, we have been through a lot together, but how could he possibly know how to express his love in such a profound way?

God continues to speak through Shafer to provide the hope and healing we need to not only survive on this journey, but to thrive.
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The Lord is faithful to give us just what we need every day, regardless if it is financial assistance, extra prayer covering, a meal, card, text, email, phone call, visit, or a three-word phrase that is more soothing than anything can provide.
 
As we reflect on love this month, I want to challenge each faithful blog reader to go forth with Shafer’s “love you much” sentiment and share it with others.
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It’s as if you are saying I love you with a hundred exclamation points written in all caps. Think of that special someone you can share “love you much” with and see if it doesn’t deepen your relationship.
 
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I can honestly say that I love caring for Shafer. God knew I was capable of taking care of him long before I did. It’s simply amazing at how God lifts us to a level above what we think we can do. He provides the extra strength and encouragement to face tasks that we could not do alone.
 
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I want to express my love to each of you who continue to pray for Baby Shafer. He is such a delight! I just wish each of you could have seen him perform his first karaoke song “Celebration” on Saturday night at our church valentine banquet.
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He was hilarious as he grabbed the microphone and repeatedly said, “C’mon…C’mon…celebrate.” Kool & the Gang have nothing on Shafer when it comes to energy and confidence to perform this classic song! What a blessing to see him up and dancing and celebrating his first Valentine’s with his new kidney! Who would have ever known the “life” this vital organ could give to a little boy?
 
I want to spend the rest of my days in total praise for all God has done!

Happy Valentine’s Day with love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Happy New Year

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2011 will forever be one of the most significant years of my life. As I ponder all that has transpired over the last twelve months, I am brought to tears. What a mixture of sweet sorrow and unexplainable joy! I wasn’t sure if I was going to avoid a heart transplant from the heaviness I seemed to be carrying—at times the tension, stress, and worry seemed too much. Due to the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father, He lightened the burden and carried me when I was all but done.

The lessons are many…too many to recount in a short blog. But, I will say that the greatest overriding theme that God has continually put before me on this journey has to do with “timing.” I am learning that all things work perfectly in God’s divine timing. For He has the master “grandfather clock” and until it strikes the right hour to chime in His will, seconds and minutes continue to click by. But in that significant hour, when the stage is set for the Lord’s “hands” to provide for our specific needs, things will happen…even if it seems to be at the eleventh hour when we feel forgotten.
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We can rest in God’s promise found in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave or forsake us. Even in my darkest moments when I could have been defeated by fear of the unknown and the scary road ahead, the Lord washed peace over me. He has taken me to a new level of trust…to a place that I never realized possible.
Even though I still wrestle with the Lord at times, I am learning more and more, day by day, to rest in what He has for me. This continues to be a stretch for my personality type, but I can admit that it is good to be taken out of your comfort zone. Dealing with Shafer’s illness has brought me to a new place in life. I now live with much less expectation. I’m not trying to achieve earthly rewards anymore. All the degrees and professional accomplishments have lost their luster. Now I’m wondering what “having it all” really means. I’m not so attracted to the power suit and overloaded schedule.
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I have found a new normal in the daily pursuit of caring for my son and other four children. I have come to embrace domestic life and even enjoy the simple pleasure that I had forsaken of cooking meals and building towers with blocks.
Even though I must get back to helping my family financially, I will never forget what I’ve learned as a result of this memorable year. The media has lauded me a hero of sorts for giving Shafer life again through the gift of my kidney. And no doubt, this is a beautiful story. But the amazing paradox is that I’ve been the one healed through Shafer’s sickness! It has truly been a dual miracle of healing—his physical and mine spiritual and emotional. As I said before, it’s all about God’s timing in our lives. He knows exactly what it will take to bring about His will in our lives…
I don’t know what you are facing right now, but know that God is bigger than any problem or challenge that lies before you. Place your life—your entire life—down to the very last detail in His hands and watch Him do a work in you. Be patient and steadfast believing for a miracle and God will work it all for His good.
Blessings for a great 2012,
Shafer’s Mommy

March Madness

Shafer loves basketball. The Daves are a basketball-loving family as we’ve spent the last 6 months consumed with the game. My husband, Kevin, and I coached Shayli’s 5th grade basketball team at Brainerd Baptist School. Kevin also coached Sharayah’s 3rd-5th grade community league, and Shanel and Shaw’s K-4/K-5 team. Every morning Shafer would wake up and say, “Going to ballgame today?” He fell in love with the sound of balls bouncing, sights of pretty girls, and smell of fresh popcorn popping—not to mention dozens of people doting on him since he is not out in public very often.

These last few months have been rich with memories as we have been together as a family sharing recreational time. I have missed this part of life more than anything. Nothing is better than laughing, playing, eating, and doing things that everyone loves. These moments are priceless…and I am relishing every single second.

Shafer’s health continues to be good. His kidney is functioning well and his labs have been staying in the normal ranges. He is holding his weight steady as he remains on his feeding tube for 9-10 hours a night to receive the added nutrition and fluid needed to properly regulate his adult organ.

We celebrated Kidney Month and World Kidney Day on March 8th! I was the guest speaker for a women’s conference in Cleveland, TN, and they honored Shafer by wearing green ribbons to mark the occasion. I was simply blown away that God orchestrated the timing of such an event to share our story when we were totally unaware of what a special day it was. Thank you, Lord, for reminding us that you are in all things…even down to the smallest details in our lives.

Thanks for your prayers and the many other ways you have shown your support to us during this time. We praise God from whom all blessings flow for your heartfelt love.

Shafer’s Mommy

March Madness

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Shafer loves basketball. The Daves are a basketball-loving family as we’ve spent the last 6 months consumed with the game. My husband, Kevin, and I coached Shayli’s 5th grade basketball team at Brainerd Baptist School. Kevin also coached Sharayah’s 3rd-5th grade community league, and Shanel and Shaw’s K-4/K-5 team. Every morning Shafer would wake up and say, “Going to ballgame today?” He fell in love with the sound of balls bouncing, sights of pretty girls, and smell of fresh popcorn popping—not to mention dozens of people doting on him since he is not out in public very often.

These last few months have been rich with memories as we have been together as a family sharing recreational time. I have missed this part of life more than anything. Nothing is better than laughing, playing, eating, and doing things that everyone loves. These moments are priceless…and I am relishing every single second.

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Shafer’s health continues to be good. His kidney is functioning well and his labs have been staying in the normal ranges. He is holding his weight steady as he remains on his feeding tube for 9-10 hours a night to receive the added nutrition and fluid needed to properly regulate his adult organ.

We celebrated Kidney Month and World Kidney Day on March 8th! I was the guest speaker for a women’s conference in Cleveland, TN, and they honored Shafer by wearing green ribbons to mark the occasion. I was simply blown away that God orchestrated the timing of such an event to share our story when we were totally unaware of what a special day it was. Thank you, Lord, for reminding us that you are in all things…even down to the smallest details in our lives.

Thanks for your prayers and the many other ways you have shown your support to us during this time. We praise God from whom all blessings flow for your heartfelt love.

Shafer’s Mommy

Shafer Meets “Gaifer”

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Oh my goodness…what a month this has been! Shafer finally got to meet one of his favorite people…Bill Gaither! Our good friend, Gordon Mote (pianist for the Gaither’s), arranged for us to personally meet “Gaifer” (as Shafer affectionately calls him) right before he took the stage in Chattanooga for the Gaither Homecoming concert. It was a magical moment to see Shafer meet such a legend that has impacted his love for music in a profound way. Shafer has been a fan since he was only weeks old as the beautiful music would lull him off to sleep at naptime and bedtime.

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Shafer loves music and loves to sing. As he goes about his daily routine, you can hear him sing “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “The B-I-B-L-E.” And when he is ready for his afternoon nap, he will say, “Sing I Am a Promise” as he drifts off before I can get to the song’s end.
What a joy it has been to see Shafer learn to do so many new things. He has a natural affinity for music, and then came dancing! Move over John Travolta and Justin Bieber…you have nothing on Baby Shafer.
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When he hears a beat, regardless if it’s “Hot Diggity Dog” on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or if it’s driving in the car and his favorite song, “Breakthrough,” comes on, or if it’s playing “Just Dance” on the Wii, he lights up with a big smile and his arms, legs, and body begin to move. What unexplainable joy to see Shafer feel good enough to dance! As the Scriptures teach us in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to dance…so we are dancing! We are celebrating the beauty of simply living. Does it get any better than this?

So many other exciting things have filled our month. We started with a bang as Kevin and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary on April 2. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Broad Street Grille as we reminisced about all that the Lord has done in our marriage.
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I can honestly say that I love Kevin more now than I ever havehe is such a wonderful daddy to all of our children. And seeing him care for Shafer day-in and day-out administering medicines, preparing and putting him on the feeding tube, bolusing his fluid every few hours, taking him to the doctor, on top of the basics of feeding, bathing, and changing diaperstruly a servant of the Lord and to our entire family.

Then came Easter. We were able to attend church as a family this year and Shafer loved getting to participate in worship.
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After opening up their goody baskets and getting a group shot with their bunny ears on, we all headed out to celebrate the reason for the seasonChrist our Saviour and his miraculous resurrection. We hosted lunch and then a fantastic “Easter hunt” as Shafer called it. What a joy to see the kids have so much fun!

And last but not least, I celebrated my 42nd birthday on April 15th. I feel more alive and healthier than I have in years. Even though I have more physical ailments presenting in my forties, I am energized like never before. I praise God from whom all blessings flow for allowing me the opportunity to give Shafer a kidney.
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There are no words to describe how this journey has transformed me...Praise the Lord for His miraculous provision! We had a small get together with family, but I am saving my “party” for a bit later. I’ll blog more about the details when the time comes.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude and thanksgiving for all God has done in our lives. I’ll leave you with the lyric from the song “Thanks” (sung by Marshall Hall) on one of our favorite Gaither Homecoming Series DVD’s:
Thanks, thanks, I give you thanks, for all you’ve done
I am so blessed my soul is at rest
Oh lord I give you thanks
 
Thank you lord for the strength you give
Simply carry on thru life’s toils and tests
The worst and best you never left me alone
You’ll always ride beside me and hear me when I pray
And since I first began you’ve been my dearest friend
I give you all my praise
 
Thanks, thanks, I give you thanks, for all you’ve done
I am so blessed my soul is at rest
Oh lord I give you thanks
 
I give you thanks for this moment
And I will continually
For each day I live you’ll praise to give
I’m blessed abundantly
I can’t forget this moment when in my life you make such change
And since the spirit came I’ve not been the same
I just wanna give you thanks
 
Thanks, thanks, I give you thanks, for all you’ve done
I am so blessed my soul is at rest
Oh lord I give you thanks

Shafer’s Mommy

Make a Wish

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What a marvelous blessing to receive the news that Shafer will be an upcoming “Make A Wish” recipient! We are in the process of setting up our home interview with the dream committee assigned to Shafer’s case. How exciting, yet surreal, to think that we are now one of those families that I used to read about.

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God continues to put us in unusual places. Our lives are still overflowing with crazy good and crazy bad. When the Lord is at work, Satan works overtime throwing his fiery darts to thwart all the goodness that abounds. So, we ask for your continued prayers as we travel this slippery slope.
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We have lots of things to celebrate this month. Shanel, our 6-year-old, accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and was baptized on May 6. I was honored to be the guest speaker for two mother/daughter banquets and the girls—Shayli, Sharayah, and Shanel—provided the special music. This was their first time to sing publicly, outside of our church, and it was beautiful to see the Lord use their testimony in song. I am certain that God has something in store for “The Daves Sisters.”
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Mother’s Day this year held special meaning as Shafer and I celebrated with shared kidneys!
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The depth of my love for him is unexplainable…it just reminds me of how big and wide and deep and endless the love of God really is. All of the children provided such beautiful gifts…many were handmade and creatively written. Thank you, God, for blessing me with five precious angels…Mother’s Day could not have been sweeter.
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Shanel graduated from kindergarten and Shayli from 5th grade. I just can’t believe her time at Brainerd Baptist School has come to a close. Sharayah finished 3rd grade and it is official that I will be homeschooling the children next school year.
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Shaw will start kindergarten, Shanel will be in 1st grade, Sharayah in 4th, and Shayli in 6th…and I’m sure little Shafer will get plenty of K-3 instruction!
Shafer continues to do amazingly well. His labs are holding steady and he is now in the 75th percentile for both height and weight.
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Dr. Jabs is pleased with his progress and is very encouraging at our monthly clinic visits.
Even though life is incredibly complex right now, I feel God’s presence and protection like never before.
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In the midst of our weakness, the Lord’s strength is readily available to go beyond our need and work supernaturally in ways we could never imagine possible.
All our love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Blessed

So happy that things are going good... you have such beautiful children and I would love to hear your girls sing. Congrats on being chosen for Make a Wish, hope you guys have a wonderful time. Remembering you all in prayer.

Kim Brown from VEC Crossville

 

Summer Fun is Finally Here!

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Shafer started out the month with a mini vacation to our friend’s lake house for a few days of swimming, fishing, boating, and making smores by the fire. Shafer definitely took to my love for the outdoors. We had lots of fun spending time with family as Mamaw & Papaw (my mom & dad), along with my brother John, Aunt Zina, and Hannah, joined us on the trip.
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We had lots of celebrations this month. First was Father’s Day with Kevin and all the children. What a blessing to recognize how special Kevin is to all of us. He is by far the best husband and daddy in the world.
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Next, we had a blast at Shaw’s Cosmic Bowling party as he turned 5 years old. A big crowd of friends and family joined in the fun at Pin Strikes in Chattanooga. Even Shafer was able to put his ball on the rack and push it off over and over again. Even though it was Shafer’s first time to go bowling, he absolutely loved it!

Then, we were able to visit Shafer’s only great grandparent, Frances (Nannie) Floyd, on her farm in Canon, GA. It seems likely that Shafer will be a farmer as he loves cows, horses, chickens, and riding four wheelers.
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We had a wonderful celebration a few weeks ago as we relished the 1-year milestone of Shafer’s kidney transplant. It seems like only yesterday that we were saying goodbye to the kids and other loved ones and beginning the journey on June 22, 2011 of joint surgeries connecting us in such a miraculous way! I still get cold chills every time I stop and really think about the incredible gift I was able to give to my precious son. What an amazing God we serve who loves us so much that He allows such miracles to transpire in our lives!

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At the very moment we were praising God for Shafer’s year of good health post-transplant, we had other reasons to celebrate. On Friday, June 22, 2012 (on the exact one-year anniversary of Shafer’s transplant) we drove off the lot of Economy Honda with a beautiful, in excellent condition, 2009 Honda Odyssey. An amazing family responded to the news of us being involved in a serious car accident when we were hit head-on and our van was totaled on the way to church. They began to pray about how to help us at our exact point of need. The Lord impressed upon their hearts to purchase the van and in doing so provided a much newer and nicer vehicle than we had before the wreck!!! We are still stunned at their outpouring of generosity and humbled at how the Lord works in the lives of His children. So, in the midst of great loss and pain, we saw another huge miracle on the journey! All praise to God our loving Heavenly Father who cares continually for us and provides multiple “God Winks” along the way to reassure us that He is in control of every last detail in our lives.
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In case you haven’t heard, Shafer has been named a “Make a Wish” recipient! We had our home visit from the dream makers and they asked Shafer to draw a picture of his “Mickey Mouse Tree House” wish. They are looking to set things in motion sometime in September. We will keep you posted as things progress.
Also, Shafer has been the buzz around Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as he is featured in the newest edition of “Hope” magazine in a full page color ad. And he is going to be the face of their annual fundraising campaign which raises millions of dollars. I just smile when I see the caption on the piece, “Help us give children like Shafer the best possible chance at a healthy life by supporting Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.”
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Shafer’s labs and check-ups continue to go well. His entire medical team is thrilled with his progress. It is such a joy to watch him sing his three song set of, “This Little Light of Mine,” “Jesus Loves Me,” and “The B-I-B-L-E” to his doctors (and to anyone else who will listen) then close with, “Let’s Pray!!” As busy as their schedules are, they are kind enough to stop and listen to Shafer’s sweet little mini-concert and closing prayer. What a testimony he has and the lives he has touched as a result of his zeal for living in the midst of sickness.

And last, but not least, mark your calendars for November 8, 2012, to attend a very special fundraiser for Shafer’s COTA (Children’s Organ Transplant Association) account to help with medical expenses. “An Evening of Inspiration, Music, & Comedy” will be held at the beautiful Tivoli Theatre in downtown, Chattanooga. We have an incredible lineup of national talent to included Squire Rushnell (best-selling author of the God Wink series and former ABC executive) as our inspirational speaker, along with his wonderful wife, Louise DuArt (Broadway Actress and comedic celebrity impressionist), and Gordon Mote (Academy of Country Music Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year, solo artist, and Gaither pianist)! This is going to be a night you don’t want to miss as we celebrate Shafer turning 3 and the miraculous life he has been blessed to live.
What a busy month this has been…overflowing with God’s incredible goodness! Our heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you who so faithfully pray for our family. Your love, support, concern, and friendship mean the world to us.
Shafer's Mommy

Greatly Blessed

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  Me & mom in ICU - Day 5

We moved the family to Nashville for my mom’s open heart surgery and recovery which took place on July 2, 2012. She had rare complications in surgery as her heart ruptured (atrioventricular dehiscence) and they could not stop the bleeding. About 30 friends and family gathered in the waiting room of Vanderbilt University Hospital and cried out to God to save mom’s life. The surgeon told us several hours later that whatever we did worked, because this has happened only 4 times out of 2,700 surgeries, and the other 3 were fatal. In his words, “The Lord sure did bless your mom!”

After 8 days in ICU, and several days in the step-down unit, we moved mom to our rented duplex in Brentwood. Day-by-day she built up strength and then we took her home to Benton. She is making lots of progress and Shafer has played a key role in her recovery. Shafer loves his mamaw so much! He has been a huge dose of medicine for her during this long, hard month.
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Night before surgery with Mamaw  
I can think of no other song to share than “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored” (written by Larry Gatlin and made famous by the Gaither Vocal Band) as my heart overflows with gratitude for God’s goodness to extend the life of my precious mother, Wilby Ledford:
Chorus
Greatly Blessed and Highly Favored
Imperfect but forgiven child of God
Greatly Blessed and Highly Favored
Imperfect but forgiven child of God
Verse
Standing upright on God's good earth
Count my blessings, great things He has done
Fighting the good fight with the blessed assurance
That the battle is already won
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  Sweet Shafer & Shaw at the duplex in Nashville
What a paradox that last summer we lived in Nashville for Shafer’s kidney transplant, and this summer we found ourselves back again in rental housing to care for my mother. Even though I sometimes struggle with the ways of God, I never cease to be amazed at His never failing provision. There are days I really feel sorry for folks who haven’t had lots of storms and problems in their lives. What a joy to see the hand of the Almighty lifting us up to a level above what our feeble minds and bodies can comprehend. Praise the Lord that I have to live by faith…it keeps me at the foot of the cross.
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Shafer enjoys his new friend Marcus at Vanderbilt  
So many lives continue to be touched by precious Shafer. There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t hand out “prayer pictures” to new friends he meets at the grocery store, clinic, the pool, etc. (in case you are wondering what a prayer picture is, it is a beautiful photo of Shafer that has “Shafer Daves…Follow my story at COTAforShaferD.com” imprinted on it). Everywhere we go, the Lord opens up the door for Shafer to share our journey. I am stunned at the supernatural power of a sick little boy and his ability to draw people into his community of prayer warriors.
Once we moved back home, it was on to homeschool planning. Yes, we have made the decision to homeschool our children—and the kids couldn’t be more excited! I spent 2 days at the Homeschool Curriculum Fair and the Lord ordered my steps to what I believe will be a fantastic year. Even little Shafer will be getting plenty of K3 instruction, and will enjoy having 3 “big sisters” as reading buddies.
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  Cooking at Mamaw's house before surgery
If there’s one thing Shafer loves as much as Mickey Mouse, it’s horses. All day—every day—he wants to go see the horses that my dear friends, Mrs. Treva and Mr. David, took him to see while we were living in Nashville. I just wish you could see his face light up and hear him speak with such energy and animation about his horse adventures! He loves to tell everyone that horses like to be fed apples and carrots.
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Dad & the boys on the carousel at Opry Mills  
Shafer is sure he wants another horse birthday party, so we are doing an exact repeat of last year. We will celebrate our little man turning 3 at Mystery Dog Ranch with real horses, a grill out, fishing, and a hayride! Life on the ranch is Shafer’s favorite and big sister Shayli has volunteered to make horse cupcakes (“pony cakes” as Shafer calls them) for the big day coming up in October. Stay tuned for more details and photos…
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  Shafer enjoys picking & eating cucumbers from Mamaw's garden

The Lord continues to blow our minds with the opportunities He opens up for us. On July 25, I had the privilege to be a guest on American Family Radio’s flagship show “Today’s Issues” with Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. God used this 40-minute segment in such a meaningful way to provide hope and healing to the listeners. Some of the emails we received after the show sent goose bumps up and down my spine. What a mighty God we serve that He could use a sick little boy to touch so many lives.

Shafer’s labs are holding strong and the only medical issues we have had this month are an ear infection and a UTI (urinary tract infection), both of which required a round of antibiotics. We ask for your continued prayers for Shafer and his mamaw. Our entire family feels the warmth of your love and support.
Shafer's Mommy

 

So happy that you still have

So happy that you still have your mother. I lost my mom to a massive heart attack and she was only 54 years old. I miss her everyday. The Lord sure is working double time in your lives. Excited to get to see you again at VEC.

Crazy Good, Crazy Bad

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Happy Times at Cross Country Meet  

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  In Hospital Bed at Vanderbilt

“Rockin’ Roll ercoaster” was the answer my

8-year-old daughter, Sharayah, answered to her Classical Conversation home school tutor when asked to give an example of an alliteration. Mrs. Vest smiled and affirmed Sharayah that her answer was a great one. What she didn’t know was that her answer went far deeper than a grammar illustration…it was an accurate phrase to describe our life.

Yes, even our kids get that our life is full of highs and lows. And on many days, we have a mountaintop experience followed quickly by a plunge into the deepest valley. But isn’t that everyone’s story to some degree? Life truly is a mixture of crazy good and crazy bad, and this month has been no exception.
 
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Ultrasound of Kidney at Vanderbilt  
Shafer has battled one UTI after another, and we’ve administered multiple rounds of antibiotics to try and combat the infections. It has been hard seeing Shafer have such a long road of sickness…struggling with high fever and multiple extra visits to the doctor. Finally, the decision was made to schedule a urological surgery to investigate the possible cause of the back-to-back infections. So, on Friday, September 14, our little miracle will have a cystoscopy to hopefully help us understand the underlying cause of this reoccurring problem.
 
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  First Day of School
We are now in our third week of our inaugural year of home school. Shafer is loving his preschool activities of ABC’s, coloring, art, and getting to go on field trips.
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First Homeschool Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch  
Even though the adjustment was hard in the beginning, we are now on a manageable schedule and enjoying this new model of learning together.
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  Kevin's Birthday
We make a big deal out of birthdays in our family. Kevin celebrated turning 45 with a party in the neighborhood playground. His favorite gift by far was his Georgia Bulldog golf umbrella. Shafer especially loved singing “Happy Birthday” to the best daddy in the world…
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Family Reunion  
The Daves family reunion was also a big event for Shafer to attend since we were unable to go last year due to the transplant. Everyone was blessed to hear an update and to see him looking so happy and healthy!
Tickets are now on sale for Shafer’s big fundraiser (“An Evening of Inspiration, Music, & Comedy”) coming up on Thursday, November 8, from 6:30 – 9:30p at the beautiful, historic Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga, TN. We are fortunate to have such an incredible lineup of national talent, including Squire Rushnell (Inspirational Speaker, former ABC TV executive, and New York Times Bestselling Author of the God Wink Series), Louise DuArt (Broadway Actress and Comedic Impressionist), and Gordon Mote (Academy of Country Music 2011 Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year, Solo Artist, and Gaither Pianist). You can purchase tickets online at www.ChattanoogaOnStage.com, charge tickets by phone by calling 423-757-5050, or purchase at Memorial Auditorium Box Office Monday - Friday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm (Tivoli Box Office will open on Day of Show at 10:00 am).
Shafer and I look forward to seeing you at this very special celebration!
All my love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Praying for ALL of you.

Hate to hear that Shafer is having complications and I pray that you will get the answers you need after his surgery. I sent you an email today for a special gift for Shafer. Check it out and see what you think. I am planning on coming to the fund raiser in November. I think Connie and Patty are coming too.

I Don't Want to Miss It

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Enjoying Shafer and his love for horses  

Days now have extra-special meaning. I am learning to live in the moment. I’m really there in mind, body, and spirit for my kids, husband, other family members, and friends. I’m not just physically in the same room…I am “in”volved, “in”gaged, and fully “in”vested. My kids are growing up fast. They are now 11, 9, 6, 5, and almost 3. Seems like only yesterday that our oldest, Shayli, was born.

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  My two sweet boys

It saddens me to think all I’ve missed due to being stressed out, worried about the future…letting my “Type A all the way” tendencies control every facet of my life. I now live differently. I don’t want to miss anymore of the life God has for me.

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Arrival picture at vacation house  
Even though most of us experience a mix of crazy good and crazy bad, the key to balancing all that a day brings is to claim Psalms 46:10 every morning…“Be still and know that I am God.”
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  Our yearly beach photo...love it!
Saying this verse out loud soothes my whipped body and reminds me that I am not in control. In my previous life, I was wrapped up in the “doing” side of things. Now, I’m coming into the “being” and realizing more and more why this is God’s best for His children.
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Wow...how far we've come...  
Being a good mom…taking time to listen to my children, spending time bedside to pray, share, and watch them drift off to sleep, letting the dishes sit half-washed in the sink while I make the choice to sit on the couch and watch a television show, pulling myself out of the office and away from view of a screen (computer, iPod, iPhone, etc.) to have face-time for fun, laughter, and play!
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  Shafer preparing to build a castle
Being a devoted wife…making couple time a priority, respecting the amazing gift God has given me in a spouse, admiring his leadership of the family, and thanking him for being a hard worker to provide for our needs.
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Seeing Shafer play on the beach is such a miracle  
This new focus has caused me to realign my priorities and treat each day as a special gift to be cherished.
And to think, God used a special baby named Shafer to teach me all of this.
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  Shayli celebrating her 11th birthday
Shafer will turn three on October 15th. It’s hard to believe all that has transpired since the conversation with our doctor when he was three-weeks old and barely hanging on for life—“It might be in the best interest of the family to just keep him comfortable…we have an excellent facility to care for him.”
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Sharayah celebrating her 9th birthday  
While we have an exceptional medical team, had it not been for the hope and healing provided by the Great Physician, we would not be enjoying the beauty of Shafer’s life today. I am still amazed that my left kidney now resides in Shafer’s tiny body, and that God in His amazing love for us, sometimes allows organs to be shared. Modern day miracles do happen.
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  Sharing a special moment with Shanel
We are only one example, yet the Lord has used this to encourage many. Shafer reminds me daily to savor every kiss, every smile, every laugh, every trip to the potty, and even the hard things…every trip to clinic, every surgery, every bolus, every dose of medicine, and every hookup to the feeding tube. Yes, there is beauty on the difficult side roads of life.
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My three beautiful daughters  
All of us have a story. While our stories may not be on the nonfiction bestseller list, we are playing out the details in our everyday lives. Your plot might not be health issues, but broken relationships, financial difficulties, job concerns, or a number of other crisis situations.
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  One of my favorite memories with Shayli
And in the midst of your struggles, I want to encourage you that this season of trial and testing comes only to make your faith stronger. James 1:2-4 states “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
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God's amazing glory...  
Don’t let the enemy derail you. He comes only to steal your joy and strip you of all God wants to present you with on your Divine walk with Him. Take in a sunrise…look for rainbows…bask in His creation and be overwhelmed by it. Hug your kids tighter tonight as you tuck them in bed instead of sending them to bed.
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  His promises are always true!
Take a special moment to look your spouse in the eyes and tell him or her what a difference they have made in your life. Call or personally sit your parents down (and in-laws if you’re really brave) and thank them for their unconditional love and care for you and your family.
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Shafer practicing for Bright Night with T-Ran  
Make it your goal each day to do a random act of kindness for someone who can never repay you.
Life is never easy. As Bethany Hamilton said in the movie Soul Surfer, “I don’t need easy…I just need possible.” I couldn’t agree more. I want to be found faithful as a beloved servant of the Lord regardless of the circumstances in which I find myself.
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  Shafer and Dr. Gandhi..."Be the Change!"

And no matter how dark the night, we can rest in the promise that “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

Now that’s a life I don’t want to miss!
All my love,
Shafer’s Mommy

 

Christmas Memories

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Shafer & Shaw early Christmas Morning

 

 

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Shafer all smiles with Santa

Once again on this chilly Christmas day, our hearts are warmed by the outpouring of love and support you have shown our family. What a joy it has been to see the children relish the sights and sounds of the season! Our greatest gift this year is being home together as a family celebrating each other. We praise God for these precious memories and are so thankful that Shafer is doing well at this time.

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Little feet began to pitter-patter down the stairs about six-thirty this morning. Wishes were fulfilled from 5 well-thought out Santa lists. Sharayah realized her dream of a surfboard (the movie Soul Surfer and Bethany Hamilton have stirred a passion within her), Shafer finally got his own iPod, Shanel was thrilled with her
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Pandora bracelet and underwater camera, Shaw loved his Razor Flash Rider and Hot Wheels Race Track, and Shayli is now updating her bedroom with her new sheets and Poof Chair! Stockings were overflowing with Ghirardelli caramel chocolates and lots of other surprises…
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What a blessing to see the kids have so much fun! It seems that each Christmas just keeps getting better and better. It is such a joy to watch the children play together and run from toy to toy.
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Then, to listen as they pray and thank God for the real meaning of Christmas… The Gift we were given long ago in the manger.
Now that we are three years into our journey with Shafer, there is greater appreciation for every day…so Christmas was especially grand. Even though I wouldn’t have chosen our new normal, I wouldn’t trade lives with anyone.
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My heart dances with excitement just to watch Shafer, Shaw, Shanel, Sharayah, and Shayli drift off to sleep and know that life breathes in and out of each of them! Oh, how I cherish the little things I once took for granted…

We invite you to view our Christmas 2012 e-card by clicking on the following link (www.jadadaves.com/myvideos/Christmas2012.swf) (download time will vary based on your Internet speed).
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We felt the most fitting song to highlight our year was “Christmas Is All In The Heart,” performed by our dear friends Gordon & Kimberly Mote.
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We pray for peace, love, and joy to surround each of you at Christmas and always…
Shafer’s Mommy
P.S. Shafer’s story was featured in Bill & Gloria Gaither’s Homecoming Magazine this month (http://www.homecomingmagazine.com/article/when-parents-have-faith-god-winks) and in Squire Rushnell’s newest devotional book, “Godwink Letters.”
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The Lord continues to broaden Shafer’s territory as He uses his miraculous story to touch the lives of many.
P.S.S. If you’d like to watch previous years of the Daves’ Christmas memories, click on any of the following links:

From 3 Weeks to 3 Years…

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Shafer celebrated his 3rd birthday with friends and family on October 15, 2012 at Mystery Dog Ranch in Ringgold, Georgia. Our little cowboy enjoyed riding horses, fishing, a hayride and lots of cake and presents. The blessing of the day overwhelmed me…

I’m realizing more and more how much sweeter life is. Every day is a cause for celebration. Baby Shafer reminds me of God’s goodness even when times are extremely hard.
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Life is short…for all of us. The scriptures remind us in James 4:14 that “life is a vapor.” We are only here for a brief season. We must be more intentional to relish every moment in every day.
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Regardless of what you are presently going through, it won’t last forever. So, if you are on the mountaintop and life is overflowing with good things, savor every second. The tide will turn and there will be a period in the valley. If you are just barely holding on right now and you are in the middle of your midnight, know too, that this will pass. However, I want to challenge you not to wish your life away. I think it is only human to want life to be good (isn’t that the slogan, “Life is Good!”), yet I have seen the Lord do more miracles around sick beds and prison cells than celebratory times of accomplishment and/or wedding bells.
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God meets us in the hard places of our lives so He can provide peace and comfort to soften our hearts and soothe our souls.
As I reflect on those perilous days when Shafer was withering away, I am drawn to the devotional entry, “The Hardest Lesson,” from God Calling.  Here’s an excerpt from my journal writing on that day, when he was only 3 weeks old:
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“O God, my heart is broken and is aching right now. As we wait to see how things are going to turn out with Baby Shafer, my soul is in anguish. I’m trying hard not to question why this is happening. I’m trying hard to resist the urge to become angry and withdrawn. I want to be found faithful, Father, but I am struggling. I want some encouragement that I will be able to feel joy again. I want to know that at some point I can look forward to what a day holds instead of being scared of it. I want to feel the constant strain and pressure from my chest removed.
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And I’m trusting you, God, to perform these miracles in my life. But most of all, I’m asking you for a miracle to heal my son’s kidneys. God, you are able to touch them and reverse this process. I am thanking you in advance for what you’re going to do. Use Shafer and this condition to show your power and glory in a mighty way. I want you to show us your miraculous daily plan.”
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What a journey we have traveled since that fateful day when the doctor encouraged us to place Shafer in comfort care. Has it really been three years since we were given very little hope of our precious son surviving this horrible disease?
Shafer’s birthday celebration was another reminder of how fortunate we are to still have our sweet little boy. Psalm 33:20 states, “Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield.” How true these words have played out in our life.
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We also had an extra special Halloween this year. Shafer wanted to dress up like Jake (as in Jake and the Pirates) to go trick-or-treating. After I found his adorable outfit, he wanted the rest of us to become his pirate family.
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Never in a million years would I have imagined us heading out to the church festivities in the community all dressed up in pirate attire! Everyone was more than surprised by our fun treat.
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Living with Shafer has loosened me up. I now exude a spirit for daily adventure that was not evident before. Shafer’s love for life is infectious and I’m better because of him.
As we prepare for the holiday season, I just can’t wait to experience all that God has for us. Stay tuned for more…

Shafer’s Mommy

What a Bright Night…

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Shafer at the Tivoli for Bright Night  
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  Sharing a moment with Gordon before the event

There have been many highlights on our 40-month journey, and Bright Night served to remind me of the miraculous side road we have been on with Shafer. The music, the message, and the memories from November 8, 2012, will forever reign in my heart. What a  gift Gordon Mote, Squire Rushnell, Louise DuArt, and T-Ran Gilbert gave to Shafer as we celebrated his precious life and raised funds for transplant-related expenses.

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Shafer & Gordon  
Shafer continues to amaze us with his progress. All of the directives from the physicians that he would be small for his age, have some developmental issues and possible learning difficulties have not come to fruition. While we have lots of physical challenges due to his syndrome, we praise God that we have been blessed to avoid these other problems thus far.
We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving by celebrating at my mom and dad’s farm. We also visited Nannie’s (Kevin’s grandmother) where the children loved petting the miniature horses and riding 4-wheelers.
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On stage with Shafer
at Bright Night
 
We got the Christmas season off to an early start by taking in the sights and sounds of Opryland hotel while in Nasville for Shafer's clinic visit. This is a yearly tradition for our family now. The children are absolutely stunned by the magnitude of lights and all the excitement that comes with the excursion.
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  Shafer getting a big hug from Lorrie Morgan
This year we had a neat Godwink occur as we met Lorrie Morgan. After her show in the grand ballroom, she was signing autographs and we “just happened” to be walking by around 11:00p.
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Shafer on the Farm  

We stopped to see what all the commotion was from the gathering of people and Shafer went around the rope and stood a few feet away from her.

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  4-wheeling fun!

She immediately looked up and said, “And who are you…you adorable little angel,” as she scanned the crowd to find a mother. I said, “Hi Lorrie, this is Shafer," as I briefly shared his story. " He just wanted to see what was going on.”

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Headed to church at Nannie's  
Lorrie then asked if she could hold him for a picture, and Shafer proceeded to get a prayer card to give her. So here we are sharing hugs and smiles with another music star while being loaded up with product, including a beautiful Christmas ornament. The biggest blessing was Lorrie’s assistant coming out to have a special prayer with Shafer before we left.
What a joy it has been to be a part of all the opportunities the Lord has provided for Shafer in the music business!
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Shanel, Shayli, & Sharayah all smiles  

There is a theme here…and Shafer walks around the house singing non-stop all day long.

Who knows, little Shafer may find himself in the industry one day.
Every experience with Shafer and the rest of my amazing family is a divine honor. The spirit of Christmas is in the air and we are going to savor every last minute of it!
Lots of love,
Shafer’s Mommy

Getting 2013 Started...

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  The Daves Family Motto 

I’ve always had a hard time of getting started in the new year. I never want the excitement of Christmas and all the festivities to end. So, this year we extended our holiday celebration by leaving up our decorations an extra 3 weeks and doing some post holiday things, like visiting the Enchanted Lights at Rock City. It had been several years since we had put this on our local excursion priority list. It worked out perfectly one evening since all three girls were invited to a sleepover, and we took the boys for a fun-filled, yet chilly, adventure. We had a blast trekking up, down, and all around while listening to Christmas carols and sipping on steamy hot chocolate. The boys’ favorite, by far, was the light up “blinking” cotton candy. They had so much fun eating the sticky, gooey stuff while lighting their way down the paths. We had lots of photo opportunities to remind us of our stargazed night.

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Mommy and
Superstar Shafer
 
We also included an ice-skating trip to our after Christmas activities. Even though we were unsure if Shafer would try it, we suited him up and he loved it!
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  The boys enjoying the lights
at Rock City
Our biggest challenge was getting him off the ice to take a break. So, now we add ice-skating to the growing list of new things Shafer enjoys…
Our second part of the school year seems to be running even smoother than the first. Since we are new to homeschooling, it has been an adjustment getting use to this new way of doing school.
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Cotton Candy Memories  
The kids absolutely love being homeschooled. They have begged to continue doing so next year, so we are making plans at this time to do so. Even though I was the skeptical one, I am now a huge fan.
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  The girls LOVE
to ice skate!
I see the tremendous benefits that we have garnered as a family and I praise God daily for allowing us to have this season of life. It has been especially gratifying to watch Shafer learn right alongside his siblings as he fosters a positive attitude toward educational development.
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Shafer and Daddy
on the ice
 
Also, the Make-A-Wish foundation and their committed team of volunteers broke ground on Shafer’s Mickey Mouse Tree House this month. Every day, he looks out his window with anticipation for upcoming days of playing outside in his adorable dream playhouse.
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  Ground breaking for Shafer's
Make-a-Wish treehouse
Progress is a little slow due to the rainy weather, but we are excited that it is coming together. Our hearts are filled to overflowing with gratitude for the amazing passion that the Make-A-Wish foundation has for children like Shafer. Stay tuned for more updates and photos…
I hope your 2013 has gotten off to a wonderful start. I feel certain this is going to be a year full of miracles and blessings!

Shafer’s Mommy

We Love Basketball!

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Team Daves  

By February of each year, our lives are fully saturated in basketball. All of our children (except Shafer) play on organized teams now, and Kevin and I coach the Elementary and Middle School Chattanooga Lady Patriots. So, life is overflowing with basketball practices and games.

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  Shanel
Shafer is falling right in line with our family’s  love for the game. He dribbles non-stop on the sidelines as he cheers for big brother Shaw and sisters Shayli, Sharayah, and Shayli. He always looks forward to halftime when he can get on the court and “practice.”
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Shaw  

I just wish you could experience his big smile of achievement when one swishes through the net! Regardless of age, there is a fascination with the game and a love for scoring.

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  Shayli

My favorite thing about basketball season is the a mount of time we spend together as a family. Even though there is not a spare moment, our days are fun-filled and we are all getting more exercise than usual.
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Sharayah  

And our children are learning important life lessons from being on the court. We have always taught our children that we want them to be CHRIST-filled players…and we lay that out by teaching 6 principles to guide their behavior as an athlete:

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  Double Trouble

·        Character
·        Hard worker
·        Role model
·         I nitiative
·        Sportsmanship
·        Team player
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Warming up at Miss Sally's  

Even though there are times we miss the mark, our goal is to reflect a Christ-like attitude even in the midst of being a fierce competitor. 

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On the lake at
Camp Hidden Hollow

We had a wonderful season and celebrated with two award ceremonies to recognize all the players for a job well-done.
What a blessing to be a part of seeing children learn and develop while building friendships and learning skills that will benefit them for life!
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Shafer loving the outdoors!  

We also celebrated another special occasion this month as Shanel turned seven on February 2.

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  Shanel's 7th Birthday

She and her sister, Sharayah, have recently become “surf-lovin’ girls,” so Shanel chose a birthday cake to fit the occasion. All her friends had a blast at her sleepover that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

They finally awoke when we all began screaming, “It’s snowing!” I found it funny that her surf party concluded with playing out in the snow!
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The boys loved taking a hike with mommy  

Valentine’s Day brought lots of special treats! We attended our annual church banquet where the girls
performed the songs, “It’s Your Life” and “Walk on the Water” from the Soul Surfer soundtrack.
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  Sharayah all smiles as the Jelly Bean winner!

The food, fun, and fellowship made for an amazing night. Sharayah even won the gigantic jar of jelly beans and a prize pack for being the closest guess to the correct number, with Shaw coming in second place.

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With Love, from Shayli  

Last but not least, we were invited to go on an exciting field trip to Camp Hidden Hollow in Chickamauga, GA. Wow…I’m not sure we knew where we were going, but the kids did not want to leave once they experienced the vast beauty of the lake, swinging bridge, horses, cabins, chapel, and acres of open land.

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  Heartbreaker Shaw

Miss Sally sure does know how to recruit summer campers! They all left with an application and are begging to go back and experience all that Camp Hidden Hollow has to offer.

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 Valentine's love for Shafer  

As you can gather from my blogs, there is never a dull moment. Life with Shafer, Shaw, Shanel, Sharayah, Shafer, Kevin, and the dog Shadow is a thrill-seeking ride!

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   Sweet Shanel

Yes, we have our share of crazy bad, just like most of you, but we focus on the crazy good side of life and trust the Lord with the rest.

Love to each of you,
Shafer’s Mommy

"Hoppy" Easter from Shafer

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This month was full of blessings, as Shafer enjoyed doing so many things he loves. We had a wonderful photo shoot at Barry Aslinger Photography with live bunnies and captured some amazing photos of the children. Shafer really likes rabbits, so we had a hard time getting him to leave the studio.

 

 

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We celebrated a wonderful Easter together as a family. Shafer was even able to go to church and hunt eggs with his cousins, following a nice lunch. It was so special for all of us to be in worship on this important day to remember the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
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  Shaw getting baptized by Pastor Uncle John
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Shaw on day of his baptism  

Another big event in the Daves household was Shaw becoming a Christian! One night while we were having “boy talk” before bedtime, Shaw asked Jesus into his heart. I just wish you could have heard his sweet prayer! I will never forget that moment…Shaw was baptized at Spring Creek Road Baptist Church by his Uncle John (who is a pastor) on March 24, 2013. I am so proud of Shaw and stunned by his excitement for the Lord! Thanks, son, for being such a good example for mommy…I love you so much…

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  Hi Ho Silver...Away!
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Shafer & Sharayah horsin' around  

Shafer’s clinic appointment this month at Vanderbilt went great. He is still getting taller and gaining weight. His labs proved to be good once again, so we are very thankful. We are praying the 2nd round of medication for C-Diff has cleared his little body of this terrible infection. 

 
 
 
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Giddy up...I'm ready to ride!  
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  Shafer hanging out at the Mystery Dog Ranch

While in Nashville we were able to have a little fun and go to The Factory in Franklin. We enjoyed a great lunch at Stoveworks and a creative shopping experience. They always have lots of great places for photo opportunities, so we kept the camera clicking.

 

 

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Shafer showing daddy how to skate!  
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  Shafer reaching new heights!

Shafer never passes up a chance to experience a new adventure. March brought several birthday invitations, so he had a blast at our friends’ roller skating party. He loves the excitement of being out there with daddy and the other big kids. I’m amazed at how well he does on skates. Now we’re just not sure which one he likes best…roller or ice skating. Shafer also had a great time at Mystery Dog Ranch for his friend Sarah’s birthday party.

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Easter break in Nashville  
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  Has anyone seen the Easter Bunny?

He would rather be around horses than eat when he is hungry. The only thing I think he loves as much as horses is Mickey Mouse! I praise God every day for extending our time with Shafer. It is such an honor to care for him. I love taking care of him and seeing all the progress he is making on a daily basis. I so appreciate your continued prayers for our little angel.

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Honey...I shrunk the kids!   Shafer & Mommy getting a photo op during the Easter Egg hunt
Love always,
Shafer’s Mommy

 

Mickey Mouse is in the House

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After several months of excited anticipation, on Monday, April 8th, Shafer cut the ribbon for his Make-A-Wish reveal party. His dream of having a Mickey Mouse Treehouse was now a beautiful reality. The weather was absolutely perfect for his special day. The East Tennessee chapter of the Make-A-Wish foundation provided a Mickey cookie cake, balloons, and lots of decorations and surprises inside for Shafer to enjoy with his sisters and brother. It was one of the most memorable days of my life…filled with many tears…representing both the joy of the gift to our miracle child and sadness from the realization the he is in fact diagnosed with a medical condition that qualifies for a wish.

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Many thanks to the Make-A-Wish team  
We are so incredibly thankful for the entire Make-A-Wish team, Aztec Industries who sponsored Shafer’s wish, the Strauss Company who managed the building project, and all the other organizations, retailers, and subcontractors who so generously gave of their time to bring this to fruition.
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Days now begin and end in the Mickey Mouse Treehouse. Not only does Shafer love playing in his dreamland, his brother, Shaw, and sisters Shanel, Sharayah, and Shayli equally enjoy it. They really look forward each week to Sunday afternoon naps in the loft and they have spent many days doing their homeschool work there.
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We’ve had lots of celebrations this month. On April 2, Kevin and I reflected on 19 wonderful years of marriage. It is hard to believe that we have been married that long. As the old saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” We were able to enjoy an evening out to dinner and great conversation. It is refreshing just to have a chance to share my thoughts with Kevin and to think out loud about our future.
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How blessed we are to have the privilege of raising five little angels! Even though we loved the first 7 years of our marriage flying solo, we can’t imagine ever going back to that now. Life is now full of nonstop fun and chaos. We are both in agreement that our children have made us better.
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And marriage has definitely made me a better person.

I praise God daily for allowing me the honor to be Kevin’s wife. He is a wonderful husband and even better daddy to our children. Watching him care for Shafer and all of his special needs has deepened my love for Kevin exponentially. While many men fly the coop under the adverse circumstances that dealing with a sick child brings, Kevin’s love and attention to our family has only grown stronger.
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He has tirelessly administered medications and boluses multiple times a day, primarily taken care of setting up and handling Shafer’s 8 months of dialysis, his nightly tube feeds, ordering and picking up all his medications from various pharmacies, on top of bathing him most of the time and changing thousands of diapers!

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Words cannot describe my appreciation for my precious husband, my soul mate…my best friend.

On April 15, I turned 43! Yes, I am a tax baby, so it’s always a double celebration each year when the day arrives. I just love to hear Shafer say, “Let’s get this party started!” He so enjoys decorating with balloons and getting to eat cake and open the presents. It really doesn’t matter whose party it is or what’s being celebrated, Shafer thinks it’s his party and he wants to tear into the gifts.
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What priceless memories of the kids and Kevin surprising me with a beautiful bouquet of roses and balloons this year as I came in the door from a business meeting. It is truly the little things that make life have such special meaning.

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As I’ve said over and over through this blog, our lives are filled with crazy good and crazy bad. We were having such a long span of good health for Shafer…and then on April 23, everything suddenly changed. He began to run a fever and it continued to climb to almost 105.

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  Treehouse with the tube slide added!
Over the course of just a few hours, Shafer was unable to sit or hold his head up or even open his eyes wide. Vanderbilt wanted us to get him to the hospital immediately, and after a few hours at T.C. Thompson’s, the diagnosis was clearly seen on the chest x-ray—bacterial pneumonia. We were shocked. It had not crossed our minds that he could have pneumonia, since he had never had it before.
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Happy 43rd Birthday to Mommy!  
It was hard to believe that he was given this diagnosis only a few hours after getting the call from the pediatrician that his 3rd C-Diff test was positive.
It’s difficult to deal with one infection, much less two incredibly serious infections at the same time. IV fluids and antibiotics were administered and over the course of the next two days, we saw Shafer come back to life.
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  Shafer at the Pumpkin Patch on Signal Mtn
We praise God for modern medicine and lots of prayers that provide hope and healing time and time again for our little fighter.
We have an exceptional team of physicians who care for Shafer, but if it were not for your faithful prayers, Shafer would not be with us today. He is truly a miracle from the Lord and we are so indebted to each of you for your love, concern, and support.
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Shafer hospitalized for bacterial pneumonia & dehydration  
Thank you, thank you, thank you from the deepest part of our hearts for all that you have done and continue to do…
Shafer's Mommy

The Joys of Being a Mom

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Mother's Day Blessings  

I L.O.V.E. being a mom! There is no greater blessing in my life than seeing my five children do anything and everything that children do. I love clipping a hundred little fingernails and toenails every couple of weeks. I love watching each one develop and grow. I love to hear them say their prayers before meals, at bedtime, and various times throughout the day, and I love being their homeschool teacher. I could go on for pages listing all the joys of being mom to Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, Shaw, and Shafer, but I’ll just summarize by saying that it is the hardest, yet most rewarding thing about my life.

 

 

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Having lots of fun with mommy!

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Scavenger Hunt Finds

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My mom (Wilby) and me

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Shafer hangin' with Mommy

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Shafer taking a break from his scooter

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Shafer all smiles with Daddy

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Shafer's BIG catch

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Home Sweet Home at Harrison Bay State Park

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We all celebrate with Shaw

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My precious Shayli

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Shanel & Mommy

We had a wonderful Mother’s Day lunch at our house this year with my mom, dad, brother, his wife, and their daughter. It was such a blessing to attend church together and capture a few great photos after the service. I always love it when Mother’s Day rolls around each year, because it provides a special day to remember all those amazing women in our lives who have mothered us or our children in some way. I recall to memory nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, school teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, and church and family members who have sacrificed their time and resources to nurture our lives.

We surprised the kids this month with going on a camping trip! We got a little creative and planned a scavenger hunt team activity to reveal the news. There were 13 clues and items that they found in various areas in our backyard. Then they had 10 minutes to figure out what the message was from the exercise. It was so much fun to see them read a clue, then search for each item which then had another clue attached to it. It took about 30 minutes in all, but they ended up with a stack that consisted of a flashlight, toothbrush, matches, bug spray, Bite/Sting kit, a bottle of water, a pack of Hershey’s chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, fire sticks to toast marshmallows, a Bible, fishing bobbers, etc. I thought wrong when I thought it would be an easy guess that we were going on a camping trip. They guessed everything but that…go figure.

They screamed with excitement when they thought they had finally nailed it—“We are spending the night in the Mickey Mouse Treehouse!” Then we said, “Good guess, but no!” At the last minute, the word camping emerged and we told them. They were shocked! Even though I had grown up camping throughout my childhood, Kevin’s vacations did not include such excursions. What an adventure this was going to be to spend 5 days with 89 other people from families in our new Chattanooga Classical Conversations group (homeschool co-op).

We had a blast at the Harrison Bay State Park Group Camp! Not only did we meet lots of new friends, we had an exceptional week of weather and spiritual renewal. The kids absolutely loved the entire experience, especially all the bike riding. Even little Shafer fared well as we took an air mattress for him to sleep on and his regular feeding tube supplies and medications. We were so thankful there was an outlet in our screen window cabin. Even though it was rustic, it was one step up from tent camping!

The day we got home from our trip, we quickly unloaded the van and car (I still can’t believe our van held 6 bikes, a scooter, coolers, food, bedding, recreational toys, fishing gear, etc…Kevin is a master packer...) and began preparation for Shaw’s graduation party. Since Shaw was homeschooled this year, we didn’t want to take away the experience of participating in a K5 graduation like his three sisters were able to do. So, we created our own little memory with a short ceremony with friends and family. What a big boy Shaw was for his special night! After receiving his diploma, he recited the Presidents of the United States and closed our time together with the sweetest prayer. I couldn’t be more proud of Shaw for a fantastic first year of school.

The next day (Saturday, May 18), Shafer began to complain of severe abdominal pain. He began to spike a fever, so after several hours of monitoring, Vanderbilt made the decision to have him seen. We know this drill well. We proceeded to pack a bag and arranged for the children to be cared for and off we went. After five hours of X-rays, ultrasounds, labs, IV fluids, and antibiotics, Shafer was admitted to T.C. Thompson’s hospital due to a kidney infection. So, here we were with a second hospitalization less than a month apart.

The memories of days gone by flooded my heart and it was a difficult stay. But, in usual Shafer style, he began to make a strong recovery. His pain levels lessoned and we saw marked improvement as God’s people continued to pray for his healing. The urine cultures came back and identified the specific bacteria causing the infection. We were discharged to go home with the proper oral antibiotic and with a smiling, eager boy wanting to see his siblings. Shafer seems to still be doing well. We will go to Vanderbilt for a follow-up visit in June, so pray for good labs and a great report.

We have officially ended our school year and thank the Lord for such a blessed year together. Even though I wouldn’t have chosen to homeschool, the Lord led us here through the sweet spirit of my daughter, Shayli. I am so grateful for her attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine what we would have missed had it not been for her discernment and leadership to guide us here. We are going to go another year with this plan, and are looking so forward to all the great experiences in store for 2013-2014. Until then, we are going to take a much needed break from school and enjoy some other things this summer. 

My prayer is for God to surround each of your families with love, peace, and comfort as you make it a priority to fully be in the moment with your children. There's no greater calling than to be a mom, so do it well. Your rewards will be great in heaven, and your heart will overflow with unspeakable joy while you are here on earth...

All my love,
Shafer’s Mommy

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Mother's Day at Church

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Hangin' with Daddy

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Shafer + Shanel = Best Buddies

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Shafer loves riding his scooter

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Wading with his sisters

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5 little campers in the camp tees

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Shaw's K5 graduation

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Our K5 graduate

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Awards Day for our Classical Conversations Homeschool Group

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My big boy, Shaw

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Ray Ray & Mommy

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Shafer & Mommy

 

A Busy, Exciting Summer

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After a very productive first year of homeschooling, we were all ready for an extended break over the summer. We kicked everything off with cleaning out closets and gathering items for our neighborhood’s annual yard sale. We used this as a time to clear out some clutter and raise funds for Shafer’s medical account. The kids got involved and wanted to help raise even more money, so they baked some homemade goodies and made some fresh squeezed lemonade. Shafer especially had lots of fun as he greeted customers, delivered product, and thanked them for their business. It was such a blessing to watch him hand out prayer cards and ask numerous people to “Please pray for me!”

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We enjoyed a wonderful week on Monteagle Mountain at our friend’s beautiful lake home. This has become our annual getaway with my mom, dad, brother, and his family for a time of relaxing to include fishing, canoeing, grilling out, swimming, hiking, playing lots of games, and sitting by the fire eating s’mores till the early morning hours.
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Next, we headed to Atlanta to the Mark Price Basketball Camp for Shayli and Sharayah to improve their shooting. The girls learned a lot and were so excited to meet an NBA All-Star and sit under his teachings. Their skills certainly improved while they met many new friends and had lots of fun! The week ended on a hard note as Shafer had to be hospitalized at Emory University Children’s Hospital at Egleston. The Lord provided great friends to care for our other four children while we were with Shafer for three days as he received treatment for another severe UTI.
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We arrived home just in time to celebrate Father’s Day with the world’s best daddy…Kevin! I cannot say thanks enough for all he does for our family, especially all the extra duties as he plays nurse, doctor, nutritionist, and lab technician for Shafer’s ongoing daily care. What a blessing it is for our children to have such a loving, engaged, caring, and hilarious father. Happy Father’s Day, KK (as we call him). We love you to the moon and back!
Our next destination was Nashville for Shafer’s monthly labs and clinic visit. Labs confirmed that his kidney function is now down to approximately 50%, due to the repeated urinary tract infections. It is so vitally important for us to try and figure out what is causing the reoccurring infections in order for his kidney function to improve.
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Despite getting some bad news on Shafer’s labs, we had a great trip as we stayed a few extra days to do some fun things in Nashville. We had a blast at Wave Country, went trail riding on some amazing horses, and visited the Nashville Zoo! I just wish you could have seen the big smiles and loud giggles as Shafer oohed and aahed as he watched the flamingos run through the water and as he chased the goats to brush them.
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We capped off the month by celebrating Shaw’s 6th birthday on June 29th. He went golfing with some buddies, had a sleepover, and a family party! He received lots of great gifts, but his favorite was his new bike. Shafer loved helping big brother tear into his presents, and eat his yummy chocolate chip cookie cake.
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We thank God for all the special memories we’ve shared, despite Shafer being sick. Just to look at him, you would never know what is raging inside his little body. I’m reminded more every day to cling to Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding…”
All my love,
Shafer's Mommy

Christmas Highlights 2013

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As the clock is ticking down the last few minutes until the day we are all so anxiously awaiting, I can think of no better way to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas than to share a few precious memories that highlight God's divine blessings in our lives. Shafer is doing remarkably well right now...he seems to have completely recovered from his difficult battle with viral meningitis. Thanks for your many prayers and continued concern.

The Lord is so faithful to provide strength through our friends and family. While we are so blessed to be home for Christmas this year, our hearts go out to many of our dear loved ones who are in the hospital at this time. Let us remember to pray for others who are hurting and dealing with incredibly hard life circumstances during this season of celebration. Let us remember always that life is hard, but God is good. And sometimes it takes time to see the goodness and find God's plan in the midst of extremely intense seasons of our journey. I hope that everyone will take time over the next 24 hours to reflect on the true meaning of why we consider Christmas such a special time. My eyes were opened wide this year to the realness of Mary and what she was commissioned to do at such a tender age. My daughter Shayli had the privilege of portraying Mary in our church Christmas program. Mary became real to me in a way I had never felt or seen before. As I watched my twelve year old precious child bring to life the beauty of bringing the Christ child into this world, my heart was jolted. I will never look at the nativity in the same way. What reverence, what awe...this night is symbolic for the miraculous event that transformed the world!! I praise God for the privilege to freely worship and praise the Lord of the universe who has supernaturally worked modern miracles in our personal lives time and time again. Every day is a Christmas celebration in my heart...this is just a great day to all come together and recognize the giver of life eternal!! We love you all and to all a good night... 

Christmas Memories - 2014

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Dear Friends & Family,

Once again on this blessed Christmas, our hearts are warmed by the outpouring of love and support you have shown our family. What a joy it has been to see the children relish the sights and sounds of the season! Our greatest gift this year is being home together as a family celebrating each other. We praise God for these precious memories and are so thankful that Shafer is doing well at this time.

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We invite you to view our Christmas 2014 e-card at the bottom of this blog. Enjoy the beautiful words of Matthew West’s hit song, “The Heart of Christmas.” I also encourage you to watch the movie, "The Heart of Christmas." It will serve as a simple reminder to keep the many families in your prayers who are dealing with intense sickness and loss.

We pray for peace, love, and joy to surround each of you at Christmas and always…

Jada, Kevin, Shayli, Sharayah, Shanel, Shaw, & Shafer 

Christmas with The Daves - 2015

 

What a wonderful year this has been! The children have relished the sights and sounds of Christmas with love in their hearts and songs bursting forth in praise to our Lord and Saviour. One special memory was caroling to spread joy to some dear folks. Being able to minister to others is what the season is all about! We are so thankful to be home once again this year for Christmas, as we were able to visit my parents’ farm and to enjoy Kevin’s family. 

There are no words to express our love for your continued support and prayers on our journey! We thank God for the chance to share these precious holiday memories over the last few weeks. This beautiful song by Darius Rucker, “What God Wants For Christmas,” touched our hearts as it reminded us of being at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital during this time of the year (check out his official video to see what I mean…). I hope this serves as a reminder to remember the real reason we celebrate…

We are blessed by your friendship and pray for God’s protection, peace, and goodness to overflow in each of you at Christmas and always…

Easter 2016

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We had such a wonderful weekend celebrating Easter! The Lord blessed us with getting to see Eli Williams (a dear child who continues to survive and fight the odds of his medical challenges) and his family after Saturday night service and allowing us to worship on Sunday at my hometown church as Kevin played the beautiful Gaither version of "Because He Lives" on the saxophone.

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Both experiences were amazing and served as a timely reminder of why this holiday is vital to our faith! Yet, it is the daily miracles that prove over and over again who God really is...a loving Father who continually cares for us by providing protection and peace even on our most challenging days. He is alive and real in a way that I can't fully explain...I can only share what the Lord has done and continues to do in my life. I have never felt the need to "push my beliefs" on anyone...there is no reason for that. God reveals Himself on a personal level in different ways and our only responsibility as Christians is to share our stories with others in love and leave the results to the Almighty. As the little girl in the movie, "Miracles from Heaven" says when questioned about her beliefs..."Not everyone is going to believe. That's alright. They'll get there when they get there." This was probably my favorite quote in the movie. It was hard to remember all of the ones I liked since it was such a surreal experience. All seven of us were taken by several of the scenes and storylines...exact words that were spoken and similar scenarios from our journey with Shafer. As many of you enjoy this week with your family, please be mindful to cherish every moment. Life is such a gift.

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Things can change in an instance and normal will never be the same again. Don't wait to lavishly love your children or delay getting things right with someone...there's never a "right time", the time is right now. If there's one thing that walking the last six years with Shafer has taught me, it is to allow love to guide you instead of fear. Forget what others may think...respond to the leading of your heart because your path may provide footprints for someone else to find their way...Much love...

Thanksgiving 2015

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As I sit quietly on this beautiful Thanksgiving afternoon and soak in God's goodness, I am drawn to this promise in the bible...Lamentations 3:22–23, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

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What a blessing to know that our lives are a faith walk! Through the valleys when we think we can't hold on...that's where we are tested and we have to dig deep to the very core of our spiritual foundation.

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On the mountain top, we can take a moment to soar and breathe easier for a time of refreshment. But, God uses each season to teach us valuable lessons so we can relate to others in the midst of their journeys. I challenge each of you, regardless if you are in the valley or on the mountain, to thank God today for where you are. Learning to give thanks in all things is a difficult task. It requires a perspective that only comes from the Almighty. Even though we just got word that Shafer's immunosuppression levels are extremely low and we have to significantly increase his medication...we are thankful.

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We are thankful for his medical team that provides continual care for him. We are grateful for his medications and that we are able to buy them each month. And we are so incredibly thankful that he looks and feels great, despite the disease that is inside his little body.

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Yes, life is hard, but God is good. He is worthy to be praised. Every day...all day...regardless of our circumstances. I pray for each of you to have a blessed Thanksgiving, knowing that God is faithful in all things...

Shafer & Mom Receive Inspirational Leadership Award

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Saddened to hear the news of Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson's passing...Shafer and I were honored to share a special memory with him only a few short months ago. We received a prestigious inspirational leadership award from The University of the Cumberlands and met Senator Thompson as he was the keynote speaker for the event. It was an incredible blessing for me to address the attendees for the VIP Banquet held prior to the ceremony.

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Shafer's story truly touched Senator Thompson as he tenderly referenced us in his endearing remarks to the audience. He spoke to us after the event and offered much encouragement for our fight ahead. Since he had suffered through the loss of a child and battled cancer himself, his words had power and meaning to my heart. I thank God for allowing our paths to cross in such a timely way...

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