20 10 2021

As I write this column, I am getting ready to drive to Upland, Indiana tomorrow. It is the beginning of Fall Break for the students at Taylor University and my youngest son Joel attends there. Joel is our youngest son and a true gift to my wife Terri and I.

Our oldest child Rudy was born in August of 1986. Today he is a Pastor in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife Lindsey and their three children Jude, Gideon, and Eden. Terri and I were married in December of 1982 and we both wanted children from the get-go. In the early days, we would hide the hurt when people prodded, “Why don’t you two have any kids yet?”  Unfortunately, Terri suffered not one but two miscarriages in 1983 and again in 1984. I remember the night when our second baby was taken so early and how I cried out to God in the emergency room of a Morristown, NJ Hospital. I can honestly say that as I brought all my “Why’s” to Heaven, I heard the Lord whisper back, “The secret things belong to Me and I’m going to need you to trust Me even when you don’t understand why things are happening as they are.”

You can imagine the immense joy that we shared when all was well with our first-born baby boy. I know I was singing that classic Motown song by Marvin Gaye, “Pride and Joy” at the top of my lungs! Our two daughters Leah and Abbie followed in 1988 and 1991. I have a very special relationship with my now adult girls. I not only got to walk them down the aisle at their weddings but turned I around and officiated the ceremonies.

But not all is sunshine, lollipops, and roses in the lives of those who follow God. In 1995, on April 5th, our Son Nicholas Paul was gone in a flash with no rhyme or reason. In 1999, it was déjà vu of the worst variety when Benjamin Phillip on March 7th, came into the world only to leave it before we even got the chance to blink. Terri and I were dazed and confused and felt like big chunks of our heart were ripped right from our chests. I never stopped believing in God. Without faith, what hope would we have to ever see our boys again? We did learn the lesson loud and clear that life is not fair and living here on earth comes with terrible trials and tragic happenings. There are very real holes that nobody and nothing will ever fill this side of glory. I just determined that I would cherish the children God did allow us to raise and look forward to the day when I would be reunited with those I only received a glimpse of.

You can imagine the shock when in late 2002, we discovered that Terri was pregnant again. The doctors all advised abortion as the only option. They showed statistics and expertly rationalized why it made no sense to put ourselves through the horror of yet another heartache. I have compassion for those who have been pressured into doing something that maybe now they regret. I just knew that Terri and I were going to fight for this little life until God declared the race completed. I am a Minister but my prayer that day I said in the Hospital Chapel in Cape May County was rated R for language. I poured out my gut to God and begged Him for grace, mercy, and strength no matter what the outcome might be.

On July 30, 2003, Joel Thomas Sheptock was born. Once again, I held my breath. Once again, I took nothing for granted. The only physical issue that night was that his body temperature was not high enough, but rather than put him in a machine, they gave him to me, and I held him as close to my chest as space allowed.  For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t need you to buy me any sweaters because I am a sweater! I run hot and hotter. I am the guy who sleeps with the fan on in February. I am the one who runs through the snow in his boxers in pure delight. Since I have been taking hormone shots to battle my cancer, the hot flashes have raised my heat to a whole new level. Joel got toasty in a jiffy.

Joel is 18 years old now and is studying to be a Youth Pastor and Worship Leader. He is 17 years younger than his older brother, but they remain close. When he came into the world, he didn’t just have 1 Mother but throw in his 2 older sisters and he had 3. I would tell him there was only one voice that mattered and that was the one who carried him through hell and highwater to get him to life safely. Joel amazes me constantly. He looks at an instrument and begins to play it as if I am listening to a CD. While I am only efficient at breaking things, Joel can put anything back together better than it was in the first place. He was in the top five academically in his high school class. I was in the top 100! What I am trying to say, while others might complain about having to drive 8 hours in the morning to become a chauffer for his child, I count it a privilege and can’t wait to spend that precious time together in the car. They said that he would never be, and we gave God the final word.

In the Bible, the man named Job once said, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He gives and takes away.” I know that song well. There have been some seasons when I could have authored another verse all by myself. There have been dark nights of utter agony on my journey with no guarantees of a happy ending. Yet, I am still here and going to get Joel tomorrow! That’s worth celebrating! Before I close, I have rested in another statement made by Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” Life may try to steal my joy and hijack my song, but there are lyrics that God knows are safely kept between Him and me. And long after the band of this world has quit playing, I will dance on to the tune that Jesus wrote just for me. Do you know the one He has written just for you?

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at



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