A Feeble Attempt

I am going to give a feeble attempt at a post….in hopes that this will be in response to the endless e-mails, comments and texts we have received. I, except for those who have told me, have no idea who really reads this though – so I am praying that no one will be missed, as I just cannot respond to everyone right now. We cannot thank you enough for those e-mails, comments and texts, and the phone calls too. Your support right now is crucial. Please keep praying for us.

When I sit down to post on this blog what is usually first on my mind is my Dad and my Mom. This, and the weekly e-mail I used to do, have been my way of giving them a look into their precious grandchildren’s lives – and I know that my Dad truly enjoyed seeing the photos and reading the (sometimes detailed) stories of our life. I don’t overthink the things I share and write about here – I just share what is going on, knowing that this blog is our “family journal and scrapbook” as well.

This post is different, because what is going on right now is hard, and maybe something that should not be shared on a blog. My feeble attempt at this post will end with a feeble prayer that this will bring glory to the Lord I love.

I am holding fast to the Lord’s promises, knowing it was His perfect will for Eliza’s surgery to be moved up a week, which has me here with her instead of with my Mom and siblings right now – because without those promises I could drive myself crazy thinking about that fact. My Dad’s visitation will be tomorrow night and his service on Saturday morning. Just Blake and I hope to go there on Saturday and come back on Saturday, if we feel Eliza is stable enough. It is a five hour drive one way.

Eliza is doing as well as we could hope! We are using three pain medications around the clock, alternating them every three hours, but now only one of them is a prescription. The neurosurgeon certainly got the nerves working to Eliza’s bowel again, and we are playing a hard balancing game with doses of stool softener and keeping stool out of her open wound. We have been told, many times, in no uncertain terms, that getting stool into her open wound will give us an immediate trip back to Madison, because her wound will become infected if this happens.


We cannot leave our sweet pea alone at all, unless she is asleep in her crib. Eliza is not walking or bearing weight on her legs yet, but does wiggle her toes and move her legs freely. Praise be to God. We are not allowed to lift her the way you would any two year old, but she does have to be carried to move from place to place and her position has to be shifted constantly because she cannot do it on her own. We also have to roll her from side to side, as we are not allowed to lift her legs up like we used to, when we change her diaper.

I have been working with her to strengthen her core, and she will last almost ten minutes now in a sitting position without much support behind her back before she starts saying “Ow, ow!” When we finish this activity she says to me “Good job, Eliza!”




Right now I have a marathon of Curious George playing on our computer monitor, which is keeping Eliza very happy. We also find many ways to play together sitting side by side. She is usually running through the house with Lane, and I miss the pitter patter of her cowboy boots.






I realize by some of the questions we are receiving that most did not know that Eliza’s surgery was as big as it was, with as long of a hospital stay as we had, or as long of a recovery that we will have. Some of the things we are doing and not doing now, have to be continued this way for two months. But the surgeon did cut through muscle in her back, remove bone, and take skin out of her spinal column that was attached to her spinal cord – a pretty invasive procedure. They also had deep sensors in Eliza’s legs and head to assure the surgeon would not mess with nerves that should be left alone. Absolutely incredible when you think about it. We LOVE our neurosurgeon, and could not be more thankful for the awesome relationship we have already started to build with her. She is amazing.

One important thing happening here at home today is Chad’s birthday. Blake and I are doing our best to keep things as normal as we can, and we will be celebrating Chad turning eleven tonight. Addie has been working over time to fulfill his favorite meal choices….including a new recipe of chocolate donuts for breakfast!






The two bigs headed out for some driving time with their instructor awhile ago…..


….and our local caseworker will be here later for a post-placement visit for Eliza. After that, we will have a birthday dinner, gifts, and cake for Chad. David and Kayla are joining us, and they are like celebrities when they walk through our door!

So there it is. What is going on with us….Dad, I know you would have loved the photo of Grant and Addie in the driver’s ed car, and the one of Addie Mae filling that huge red stoneware pot just for it to be emptied again.

We are grieving here. All in different ways. Lane will run up and grab my leg and say something like “I am so sad Granddad died.” Addie is quiet, and keeping herself super busy. Grant spills his heart to me at the most unusual times….just like any teenage boy….and I always make sure I stop to listen. What a precious heart he has. Blake is quiet too, but calls home multiple times a day even as busy as he is at work. Chad is just like his Daddy in every way and has doted over me non-stop.

Please, please pray for my Mom. And for my heart that is aching to be near her right now.

Bless you if you made it all the way to the end.


  1. Kelly says:

    In tears we saw you sinking,
    We watched you fade away,
    Our hearts were almost broken,
    You fought so hard to stay,
    But when we saw you sleeping,
    So peacefully free from pain,
    We could not wish you back,
    To suffer that again.

    Steph it’s such a difficult time but we will see Dad again in eternity. He is no longer suffering. We must hold on to that.
    Love you.

  2. Tracy says:


    Thank you for sharing this post, even though it is so very personal. Emily called me Tuesday night to let me know, but Tuesday was the day Dad Spenst had surgery and I was in Grand Forks with him. I’ll e-mail you later. But know that even though you haven’t heard from us, you have been in our prayers and thoughts.

    May God protect your travels, give strength for your days, and grace in all you say and do. I love you.


  3. Lisa says:

    Steph, Thanks for the update. My prayers are constant for you all. Your amazing family is an honor to the Lord as you work together to pull this off. My heart is aching for you right now. I wish I could embrace you and help.

  4. ChelsyRenee says:

    this is a comment from Chelsy for all of the Bontragers….we are reading, and y’all are in our thoughts + prayers. We know just exactly what you are going through having been in this place just weeks ago. Our hearts hurt for you.
    May the peace of Jesus be near you during this time.
    with love,
    chels & the bontragers

  5. Connie says:

    Praying for comfort, wisdom, and strength, and miraculous healing. My heart aches for you and your family. May God hold your precious mom especially close. She knows your heart is with her. Love you!

  6. Forsters says:

    Thanks for sharing! We are definitely keeping you all in our prayers!! May God’s love and peace surround each of you during this time. God’s grace is sufficient!

    Sarah (for all the Forsters)

  7. Gail says:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your heart and all that is going on in your lives. May Jesus heal you, comfort you and give you peace. Eliza I continue to pray for a speedy and safe recovery.

    Love and hugs Gail

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