Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Year Experiencing the God of All Comfort

II Corinthians 1:3-11Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

I feel that this passage is such a perfect summary of how we feel and what we believe.  For those of you who follow our story and pray so faithfully for us, this passage perfectly describes your relationship with us.  We are bound together in life through Christ.
We praise the Lord that He is the God of all comfort.  Although our year has definitely had its ups and downs, God has brought comfort to our hearts and lives in many ways, answering many prayers. We want to share with you some of the comforts God has given us this year.

Now 7 years old and in 2nd grade, David has experienced his first full year of good health without any bacterial infections since his surgery in September 2012.  He was able to successfully come off of his prophylactic antibiotic for the first time in his life in March.  His gastrointestinal system went into shock requiring a month-long course of antibiotics to get his healthy gut bacteria back under control, but now his system is working properly again on its own.  If all goes well this winter, he will be able to start the weaning process of his weekly antibody transfusions in the Spring. God continues to work in his heart and life.  We are excited to see his willingness to use his gift of music with the violin to glorify God. 

At 9 years of age and in the 4th grade, Joshua is thriving and successful in his new school.  We moved in the summer to get Josh into a better school district where he will be supported with his Autism struggles.  His new school has absolutely amazed us with all that they do for him.  As a result, Josh is happy and showing great potential.  While he still struggles with the ups and downs of his mood disorder, we have successfully kept him out of the hospital now for a year.  We have to take each day as it comes and heavily rely on God’s wisdom to make the right decisions for Josh.  He has a loving spirit and wants to understand his environment desperately.  He too has found ways to glorify God through music using his talents for the Lord.

I celebrated a year in November of dramatically improved health when it comes to my migraines as a result of taking Vitamin B-12 and Magnesium supplements.  I now can experience up to 3-4 days at a time of being pain-free, and when I am in pain, it’s mostly manageable only being severe 1-2 times a month.  My last MRI also showed that my brain lesions are stable and not growing, so now I can wait until 2015 before having another MRI. I enjoy having much more energy now that pain doesn’t daily consume me.  I am still a part-time special needs pediatric nurse, although this year I changed to a better agency.  I am now working for Bayada Pediatrics.

Tim is growing his financial adviser position at the Life Financial Group and has taken on a more complex role as a result of a training course he has been taking.  His tasks at home have increased significantly with our new home and large property that needs upkeep. On top of that, he is still trying to rent out our Pottstown house, and until he does, he has to maintain that house as well.  He has also enjoyed his role as a den leader for David’s den in Cub Scouts.  As if that's not enough, he continues his work as a deacon at our church all while being a huge help and support to me at home as we parent our children. 

Answering the Call
We have come to significantly know God’s comfort when it comes to His call on our lives to be missionaries.  We have struggled to understand what God is doing with our family since God closed the door for us to be missionaries in Bulgaria.  This year, God has showed us in many ways that He is using us for His Kingdom work on the mission field where we currently find ourselves.  We don’t have to live overseas to be used by God.  Yet, God has also showed us how we can still be actively involved in foreign missions.  We have stepped up our work in the Asia Minor Partnership we have been a part of now for over 6 years.  Tim took another trip to Turkey this past August.  We are praying about taking our whole family over there at the end of this coming summer. 

In addition, God has been opening many doors to missions through the special needs of our family.  Not only are we working to help our home church launch a special needs ministry, but we have been talking with some key people regarding training churches internationally to make the Gospel accessible to ALL – including those with special needs.  As a result, we might be making a trip to Bulgaria this year to help with a special needs seminar in some churches there.  We don’t know what the future holds, but we are excited about the ways in which God is working in our hearts and lives and using our family with all of our faults and struggles for His Kingdom work and His glory.

Thanks for sharing in our afflictions and comforts.  We get through each day on prayer and God’s grace.  We hope and pray that this next year will be a year in which each of you experience God’s unending comfort despite the circumstances in which you find yourself.

In Christ's love and grace,
Tim, Christine, Joshua, and David Russell

Monday, November 11, 2013

Doing the Ordinary

God has been working in my heart the past several months helping me to be content with where He has me in this life.  I just returned late last night from a 3-day Mission to the World Global Missions Conference in Greenville, SC where God sealed the deal in my mind that He has me right where He wants me, and now, not only am I content, but I am humbled and excited all at the same time.

For those of you who have known me for a long time, you know that my heart has always been sold out to missions.  I had God's plan for my life all mapped out ever since I felt His call to missions as an 11 year old girl.  The problem was, once God gave me the call, I ran with the "how" it was going to all work out.  I eagerly looked forward to the day that I could go GREAT THINGS for God as a medical missionary.  I went to college on the fast-track to med school to become a doctor.  I was going to be a single missionary doctor and spend the rest of my life on a foreign field showing needy people God's love.

The problem was that I forgot to ask God how HE planned to carry out His will for my life.  God started working on that revelation when He put my husband Tim in my life during my second year of college.  Marriage upon graduation from college certainly put a wrench into my plans, but I was able to smooth things out deciding I could become a Physician's Assistant as a married woman and serve on the foreign mission field.  While waiting for Tim to finish college, I worked in a maternity ward and got the "baby bug."  At the same time, I was working as a certified nursing assistant, quickly realizing that the role of a nurse was so much closer to my desires of having a relationship with and being able to care for patients, so with the "baby bug" in full force, I quickly figured out that I could go back to school to become a nurse once my baby was school-aged.  That plan got more complicated when I got unexpectedly pregnant with our second child and then found out all of my Pre-Med college credits were expiring and that if I didn't start nursing school just after giving birth, I would lose 12 more credits on top of the 8 I had already lost from expiration.  I started and completed nursing school by the grace of God and became very excited about how God was going to use me to do GREAT THINGS for him.  However, through the years of nursing school, our family world was quickly becoming unraveled as we faced the realization that we had two children with significant special needs.  Despite that realization, Tim and I stepped out in faith that God would provide, and we pursued full-time foreign missions in 2010.

Tim and I quickly became excited how fast we were walking through open doors to finally do the work we felt God had called us to do.  As we pursued joining the missions work in Bulgaria, our world came crashing down, and in a few short months, we had our feet kicked out from under us multiple times from multiple causes.  The special needs of our children intensified, my health failed, and our relationship was challenged.  We felt as if we were collapsed on the ground, incapable of moving, with our heads spinning.  We couldn't believe how fast our lives had done a 180° turn.  The question in my mind: How am I ever going to do GREAT THINGS for God?

Now those of you who know anything about me know that I am a planner.  I like to know well in advance what to expect so that I can have all of my plans laid out in orderly fashion.  All of the sudden I found myself in a situation where I was clueless to what God was doing and where He wanted me to go.  It was a very unsettling place to be and has been since that time.  Even though I continued to trust God to work all things for good in my life (Romans 8:28), I was frustrated by God's choice to leave me in the dark regarding His plans for my life and frustrated about all of the time being wasted for me to do GREAT THINGS for God.  I chose to submit to God, but it didn't mean I was happy about it.

However, despite the sin of backhanded rebellion (I was submitting, but not happily or willingly), God started using me in the ordinary things in my ordinary life.  In different interactions with doctors, therapists, other caregivers of special needs children, etc., God started opening doors for me to share the Gospel through our story and struggles.  Sometimes, it was more my actions than what I said that stood as a Gospel witness.  I began to get excited about these witnessing opportunities.

In addition, with our increasing love for and participation in Asia Minor Partners, a partnership in our favorite country in the Middle East, I began learning the lesson of living in the moment and taking each day as it comes.  With the increasing stress of the issues my boys were facing, I was forced to have to take one day at a time.  My brothers and sisters in the Middle East, due to the instability of their environment and practices of culture, were great examples to me of not worrying about what tomorrow will hold but living for the day that God had given me.  It's not an easy or comfortable place for me to be, but it was necessary.

Now in 2013, our heads are spinning once again, but now for a different reason: God is opening many doors of opportunity for missional/Gospel involvement in ways we never envisioned or dreamed.  God is using the fact that we are stuck here in the States for the time-being to allow us to come along side and partner with mission works around the world.  God is opening doors for us to be a part of helping the Church love and embrace those with special needs helping to make the Gospel accessible to ALL.  God reminded us that we are on a mission field right here where He has us.

Through speakers at the missions conference this week, I was reminded that God chooses to use ORDINARY people through ORDINARY means to do intentional KINGDOM work.  As I reflect back on the course of my life these past few years, I realize the ways in which God was working and using me.  He wasn't using me because I was GREAT.  He was using me because I was ORDINARY.  I am so humbled that God chooses to use me (just an ordinary person) to do His work.  It's not about what GREAT THINGS I can do for Him, but the GREAT THINGS that He can accomplish through little, ORDINARY me.  Now, I stand with excitement and anticipation, being perfectly content in God's will for my life--still not knowing what tomorrow will bring--but confident that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

An update on David's health issues has been long overdue, but a move and the usual crazy Russell household activity has kept me away from the computer.  I am taking a quick break from cleaning and trying to unpack decorations to update everyone on David's current health status.

The beginning of September marked 1 ENTIRE YEAR of no bacterial infections for David.  This is absolutely HUGE considering that his longest stretch ever in his life has been 5 months and his norm was at least 1 monthly.  We are praising the Lord for this improvement.  As I had posted earlier this year, David was able to successfully come off of his prophylactic antibiotic in March of this year finally being officially antibiotic-free for the first time since infancy.

However, after David came off of his antibiotic, within a few weeks he started having severe gastrointestinal (GI)cramping.  I started documenting the attacks to find a trend but came up empty.  The attacks got so severe, I took him to his pediatrician who quickly referred him to his Gastroenterologist who ran multiple tests throughout June and July.  We found out that the normal bacteria in David's gut has overpopulated and backed up through his whole GI system.  His doctor thinks that his body got used to having an antibiotic on board to control the population for all of those years, and stopping the antibiotic put his gut into a crisis not knowing how to handle the bacteria population on its own.  David is now currently on an antibiotic (Flagyl for you medical people) to get his intestinal bacteria to just below a normal level.  Once David finishes this 7 week course of antibiotics, we are hoping that his body will then kick into gear and control the bacteria population on its own.

If David's body is successful in controlling the bacteria in his gut, his immunologist is going to try decreasing his antibody transfusions from once a week to every other week.  This is a HUGE step for David and us, and we are excited to be at this point.  The goal is to continue to successfully wean down the transfusions with the hope that David's body will now be able to properly produce the antibodies needed to fight bacterial infections.  His immunologist is hopeful that David may be officially weaned within a year's time!  We couldn't be happier.

On another note, at David's last visit with the immunologist when we discussed this plan, we found out that David's lungs aren't functioning as well as they normally do, but his doctor isn't entirely sure why.  David also had strange rivulets of mucous going down the back of his throat.  He doesn't seem to be having any drainage from  his sinuses, so the doctor is not sure where it is coming from.  However, one suspicion is that David's reflux is severe enough that he is refluxing into his oral/nasal cavity causing the mucous trail.  In addition, the reflux is then going into his lungs (he is aspirating reflux) irritating the lining of his airway decreasing his lung function.  David's reflux is made more severe by the deformed artery he has coming off of his heart that pushes into the esophagus.  As a result, he is on a steroid inhaler daily to try to keep the inflammation down.  He will be re-checked in October.

So, yes, we are taking a major step forward with the weaning process, but with the decreased lung function and the GI struggles, we have taken 2 steps back.  However, we will not lose heart.  David is in the very capable hands of our mighty God who is the Great Physician.  We are excited to see God's continued work in David's life.  He's got some incredible plans in store for strong, resilient David.
David - 9/2/13 (2nd Grade - almost 7 years old)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

For the love of a child

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."        ~ Psalm 127:3 ~

What wouldn't we do for our children but to provide the best for them with the means that God grants us.  We were placed in a situation that required us to act for the good of Joshua, our oldest, although, all of us have benefited from it.

After several years of fighting the school district for proper Autism services and still not getting what would be best for Joshua and his well-being, we discovered that God was closing the door for our current living situation and pushing us to pursue other arrangements.

We started looking for houses in better school districts in the area praying that God would provide a house for us that not only would be in a better district but would also provide for the needs of our boys as they grow and become more active.  After several months of searching and two rejected offers on houses, the Lord provided us with a home situation better than we could have imagined in a school district that actually makes decisions based on what would be best for a child.  

Our life the last several months has been one major whirlwind.  We got a settlement in 30 days and began the frantic packing.  We settled on the new house on July 22 and moved in that week.  We are in the process of trying to find a renter for our Pottstown house to allow for us to wait until the housing market in Pottstown has turned around--praying that it eventually will--so that we can sell it.  

In the meantime, we are in the midst of boxes working hard to settle into our new home.  Josh was allowed to attend ESY (Extended School Year, summer school that helps children not have regression in behavioral or educational goals) for social skills/behavioral help in our new school district, the Owen J. Roberts School District.  He was invited to start attending before we even officially moved into the school district.  I have been fighting our previous school district, the Pottstown School District, since Josh was in Kindergarten to get him into ESY but was never successful.  Josh has thrived in ESY this summer and has been granted a great leg-up to success for his upcoming school year.  He will be allowed to have the necessary supports in the classroom to build him up for success rather than setting him up for failure.  We are thrilled to death about Josh's new school and the attitude of those in charge of the special education department.  

What we had to go through to get to this point of living in our new home has been really difficult.  It has taken its toll on each person in our family.  However, we firmly believe it was all worth it.  It was the least we could do for our son.  Our heavenly Father has done so much more for us.  We praise Him for His provision.

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"   ~ Matthew 7:11 ~

Friday, August 2, 2013

Silence on the blog front explained

Well, I have been silent long enough, but not without excuse.  A lot has happened in the Russell household since April's last post.  The biggest change is that we are in a new house.  God has been stretching our faith and providing in unbelievable ways the last few months.  I am eager to share these things, but stacks of boxes waiting to be unpacked await.  Check back in the next few weeks for an account of how God moved us to a new location, an update on David's health, new school news for Josh, and ways God is directing our family in the area of missions.

In the meantime, we would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for our family!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. (Psalm 40:5, ESV)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Total Submission

In March, I was struck by the example of Christ in His submission to God, His Father, while He lived here on Earth as I sat in our monthly church's ladies' Bible study discussing a chapter on submission and godliness from Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barabara Hughes, the book we are currently reading.  I was severely convicted by the ways in which I fail to truly submit to Christ my King.

Barbara writes: "The message of the Bible is clear: Jesus Christ is Lord!  It's a fact.  Bringing our lives into submission to His will in everything is the key to being a godly woman.  It is also the path to joy."  Later she also writes: "It is the love of God that motivates us to follow Christ's example and enables us to loosen our grip on our plans for our lives, placing ourselves squarely under God's loving rule each day.....We can fully entrust ourselves to our Father's beautiful plan for us."

As I read those words, I realized with frightening clarity that I don't submit to God's will in EVERYTHING and that I have a strong grip on my plans for my life and that I really don't FULLY entrust myself to my Father's plan for me.

The last few years have been especially frustrating for me.  I have such a deep desire to serve God through overseas missions.  I firmly believe that He has called me to be a missionary and that is His will for my life.  However, when we made plans to apply through Mission to the World to go into full-time foreign missions and pursued serving in Bulgaria a few years ago, we felt as is our lives came crashing down around us forcing us to come to a screeching halt in our application process and abandon all hope of going to a foreign field any time soon.  David's health had worsened to the point where he required weekly antibody transfusions.  Josh's struggle with Autism and a newly developing mood disorder made him quite unstable.  I was bedridden for 3 straight months with a migraine doctors could not control or figure out which also led to the discovery of a brain lesion.  Tim had his own battles.

Needless to say, my trust in God was shaken.  God had been slowly leading us along this missions path for years, and finally the doors were wide open.  We found ourselves walking through them frighteningly fast only to get through several and have the next door slam in our face.  How could God do this? Why was Satan winning this battle? In my desire to have answers and get to God's plan for my life, I picked up the pieces of my life lying around me and tried to manipulate circumstances, details, people, and ultimately God to make things work.

Obviously, my efforts got me nowhere closer to my end goal, but God used that time to teach me volumes of truths about Him.  Satan wins only if I lose all hope in God and my desire to serve as a missionary.  God is not finished preparing me for foreign ministry.  I am a missionary right where God has me and in the midst of life's struggles and THROUGH my struggles.  Now three years later, I finally come to the realization that God's ULTIMATE will for my life is for me to live in total submission trusting Him in all things.  It's been a hard lesson to learn but so important.

After that Bible study in March, I began seriously praying asking God to change my heart and help me release my grip on my life and live in total submission abandoning all hope in myself and my abilities and fully relying on Him and Him alone.  As the weeks have passed, I have felt weights fall off of my shoulders.  I feel light enough to soar like an eagle.  I have a greater joy in my heart than I have felt in a very long time.  I don't feel as stressed nor do I feel as anxious.

Being a person who likes to plan ahead and know what to expect and have control of circumstances (yes, I can partially relate with Josh in his own struggles with this due to his Autism), this has not been an easy thing for me to do.  I pray for help daily to place myself "under God's loving rule each day."  Some days, especially when the stress increases, I start to reclaim the grip on my life.  That's when I pray harder asking God to help me keep my hands off of His responsibilities.
There is no better place to be than in total submission of my Maker, King, and Father.  No matter the circumstances around me, I have joy, peace, and God's blessings.  I pray that God will continue to help me live out this important lesson.
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:7-8

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism Awareness and the Gospel

Joshua is on the far right of the picture
Once again, our family is doing everything we can to raise awareness of Autism in light of April being Autism Awareness Month.  April 2 is Wold Autism Awareness Day where many buildings and people light it up blue.  We participate in these activities in honor of our precious son Joshua (8 years old) who has Autism.  He has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), which is a moderately-functioning form of Autism.  A year ago, his diagnosis was changed from Asperger's Syndrome (high-functioning Autism) to PDD because of concurrent mental health issues he now struggles with which decreases his functionality.  If you are not familiar with what Autism is, please see the description at the end of this post.

I have been very burdened to pull the Gospel into Autism Awareness.  Too often, we look at the deficits those affected by Autism have rather than seeing them for who God made them to be.  God has made each person PERFECTLY - He does not make mistakes!  If there is any doubt, read these verses:
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13-14a,ESV)  
"Then the LORD said to him [Moses], 'Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?'"     (Exodus 4:11, ESV) 
"...bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." (Isaiah 43:6b-7, ESV)
God made my son and others with Autism exactly the way He had designed and intended.  Josh's Autism is not a mistake.  It is God's design to show the glory of God in a lost and broken world. Joshua is VALUABLE.  What some may see as a weakness, God deems IMPORTANT.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31, ESV)
"On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable..." (1 Corinthians 12:22b, ESV)
"But he [the Lord] said to me [Paul], 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9a, ESV)
Joshua is NOT Autistic!  He has Autism!  He is not defined by his developmental disorder!  It is simply a characteristic that God placed in Josh's life to proclaim God's glory!  Joshua is an image-bearer of Christ, a child of the King.  His sins have been forgiven and washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by God's grace through faith, Joshua has an eternal home waiting for him in God's eternal presence where Joshua will some day have a perfect body without any limitations where he can continue to glorify God for all of eternity!

God has some incredibly big plans for this young man!  We feel overwhelmed yet honored at the task God has equipped and entrusted us with in raising this child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord for God's honor and glory!
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
The next time you hear about Autism or see a person with Autism, don't forget to look at them through the lens of the Gospel!  Praise God for His handiwork!

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder are the umbrella terms for a range of developmental disorders that cause difficulty with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors and often, many other struggles as well as some special gifts.  These difficulties present in varying degrees in different people.  I heard the saying once, "If you have seen 1 child with Autism, you have seen 1 child with Autism."  That statement is so true!  Each individual with Autism is uniquely themselves with their strengths and weaknesses.  The disorders under the spectrum classification of Autism from lowest functioning to highest functioning are:  Autistic disorder, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger's Syndrome.  For further information, check out the Autism Speaks website or see my previous blog posts linked below.

As of last year, 1 in 88 children in the United States have Autism making it an epidemic.  It is our responsibility, especially as Christians, to raise awareness and help these children and adults alike know how important they are and to help them feel accepted as Christ accepts us!

Past blog posts about Autism (most recent to oldest):

Russell World Autism Awareness Day 2012

The Impact of Autism

Lighting it Up Blue for Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness Month

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After the Winter comes the Spring

The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the bones.
(Proverbs 15:29-30 ESV)
After praying for 6 years for God to heal David of his debilitating Primary Immune Deficiency Disease, we are seeing God finally answer those prayers "yes."  We are refreshed just like the earth is refreshed after a long winter at the good news that has unfolded before our eyes!

As an infant, David's doctor's determined that he had an "immature immune system" explaining his continued battles with ear infections, bronchitis, and a bout of pneumonia.  After the doctors operated on 2-year-old David putting tubes in his ears and draining his current ear infection which had been resistant to 5 different antibiotics, we saw a sudden decrease of ear infections only to see a nearly-monthly battle with sinus infections.  Despite the drugs to treat his sinuses and nose and prophylactic antibiotics (antibiotics given at lower doses daily to help prevent infection), the sinus infections continued.  David's doctors then decided to take out his adenoids almost exactly one year after his ear surgery.  After the surgery, we saw a slight decrease in the number of sinus infections but a huge increase in tonsillitis infections.  At this point, with the continued prophylactic antibiotic use mixed with the full-strength antibiotics for active infections, David had built up a resistance to 2 classes of antibiotics.

When David turned 4, the age that kids with "immature immune systems" turn the corner and improve, David's conditioned only worsened leading to many more tests which led to his official diagnosis of Primary Immune Deficiency Disease.  David's body was barely producing IgG antibodies (those which fight bacterial infections).  Just before his 5th birthday, David's immune specialist decided that we had done everything we could to fight this immune disease and with his worsening infections and continued antibiotic resistance, the only other option was to give him infusions of antibodies taken from the blood of 70+ donors and given to him weekly subcutaneously through a pump.  Once the infusions began, we did see a huge improvement in his health.  He set a new record of being infection-free for 5 months.  At that point, tonsillitis infections and sometimes sinus infections on top of that began to take vengeance on David's body.

In a year's time, David had suffered from 11 bouts of tonsillitis despite always being on an antibiotic.  In September 2012, we were faced with the decision of allowing David's surgeon to perform a tonsillectomy on him despite the fears of what removing yet another immune organ would do to David not to mention his trend of having the infections move to another site, which at this point would only go to his lungs.  We bathed David in prayer asking that God would allow the surgery to be more successful than we could ever imagine.  God heard our prayers and answered them in the most incredible way!  Since his surgery, David has not had 1 bacterial infection making his new record of being infection-free at 6.5 months!!!!

In discussing David's continued progress with the immune specialist this past Friday, the doctor has made the decision to take David off of the prophylactic antibiotic and see how David's body responds with only the weekly antibody infusions.  We are thrilled beyond words!  As we see the ground and trees around us start to show signs of life after the winter, we feel that Spring for us has truly come, and the darkness of dealing with this Primary Immune Deficiency Disease is starting to be made light through God's amazing work.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
(Psalm 30:11 ESV)
Tonight, as David prepares for bed, he will NOT be taking an antibiotic for the first time in a year straight!  We are continuing to cover him in prayer asking that God would allow David's body to fight without the antibiotics.  We are praying that the next step in the goal--decreasing his antibody infusions to every other week from weekly--will be able to happen this summer as a result of David's remaining infection-free!  We know that this can happen only through God's power and will.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;
he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;
who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid...
(Psalm 112:4-8a ESV)
We invite you to praise the Lord with us for his continued goodness in David's life and continue to pray with us that God would continue to bless David with good health.
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
(Psalm 97:11-12 ESV)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Testifying to the Good News of God's Grace

I have been completely refreshed and encouraged by my recent personal study through the book of Acts in the Bible.
  • I was reminded anew of God's amazing sovereignty over people and events.  It truly is amazing to read about how God moved people to be in certain places at certain times to have providential meetings with others so that the Gospel can be shared and God can be glorified in and through it. There truly is no such thing as a chance meeting, for all meetings are orchestrated by God!  
  • It was encouraging to see that God rescued His saints when He felt it was necessary, but He also allowed them to face various and often difficult trials as well.  In the end, it was all for the furtherance of the Gospel.  Many times, it was the persecutions and hard times in which the Gospel went forth in a greater way.
  • I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about the places Paul traveled throughout the region which is now Turkey, knowing that I probably walked on the same soil on which Paul walked so long ago.
The blessings of Acts helped to renew my fervor in keeping the faith, continuing the race, and keeping my eyes on the finish line of life.

I was struck anew by Paul's view of his purpose in life and His fervor to do what God had called him to do no matter what difficulties he faced until the Lord was finished with him:  
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace."
~Acts 20:24 NIV~
This verse has become a new life verse for me as I remember that no matter what struggles and difficulties I face in life, all I need to do is complete the task that God has given me: 

Testify to the good news of God's grace!

If I can do that until God calls me home, then I have been successful and nothing else truly matters.  

Taken from

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blessings of the Russell Family Nov. 2011- Dec. 2012

Here is a video summary attesting to God's goodness to our family even through the trials of this past year plus.