The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


December 26, 2013

A Christmas Story...

Makenna Shaffer’s saga is about faith, love and, believe it or not, fast food

In the sports world, there is often talk of miracles. We speak of immaculate receptions. We write about miracle shots. We wax philosophic about the titanic trade our favorite baseball team just pulled off.

  All of this is going on as the Christmas season, the holiday celebrating the holiest of miracles, is reaching its apex.

Michael Shaffer is no stranger to any of this himself as a freelance sports writer at the Star Beacon and a fan of sports. He has engaged in these conversations, told the stories of our local athletes. Perhaps he’s even pondered using the word miracle a time or two in describing a feat his eyes saw but his mind couldn’t quite comprehend.

Michael and his wife, Jeannie, might not be so quick in calling something a miracle, now that they, themselves, have been part of something many might call miraculous, even if the Shaffers themselves hesitate to do so.



Married for 10 years when August rolls back around, the Shaffers have two sons, Corban, 6, and Peyton, 2. They were happy and blessed to have their boys, but not entirely certain on whether a third child was in the cards . The couple, deeply convicted in their faith, were not actively trying to add Baby No. 3, nor were they trying to prevent themselves from welcoming home a new bundle of joy.

“I think a lot of people, because of our age (Michael is 43 and Jeannie is 39), our income level and some other things, thought we were done (having children),” Michael Shaffer said. “I wanted to leave it open to God. If he chose to bless us with another child, I didn’t want to take away the possibility.

“First, saying I don’t want more kids would demonstrate selfishness on my part because I wouldn’t get to go ballgames or play golf or do any of the things I enjoy (because we had more kids).

“Secondly, I thought it demonstrated a lack of faith on my part that God would not provide me the chance to provide for my family. The second I made that decision, Jeannie got pregnant.

“I was debating within myself probably every reason we should be done (having kids). For those two reasons, I decided I would leave it in God’s hands. God gives us free will. He lets us make the decisions we make. I made my decision and he decided to bless us with another child. I did not want to render myself unable to receive His blessing.”

Last spring, the Shaffers found out the stork would be making one more delivery into their lives.

“We had two boys,” Michael said. “I was 43 and Jeannie was 38 or 39. We were kind of leaving it in God’s hands. I wouldn’t say it was planned, but we weren’t doing anything to keep it from happening. A piece of me knew I wasn’t in the greatest of job situations, but I said we’d leave it up to Him, and if God gave us another child, we would accept His blessing.

“Sure enough, it happened.”

Many couples in the Shaffers’ shoes might be scared of what the future might hold. They’d certainly panic to some degree or another in trying to figure out just how they might afford another child.

Michael and Jeannie Shaffer were neither of these.

“I was excited more than anything else,” Michael said. “My wife and I are very involved in our church (Lighthouse Baptist on Carpenter Road in Ashtabula). Faith is at the center of my life. The Bible is something I hold very dear to my heart.

“One of the first commandments God ever gave was to be fruitful and to multiply. What could be more satisfying than to bring a child into the world.”

Though not fearful of the changes about to take place in his life, Michael admitted, as only a sports writer can, that some changes in defensive philosophy were in order while showcasing the sense of humor he carries.

“It’s a big change to go from having two kids to having three,” he said. “You’re not playing man-to-man anymore. You have to go to the zone.”

Turning serious, he also explains that there was no reason to worry.

“I mentioned my faith in God,” Michael said, while citing the passage that showed him the way. “For us to worry about those things would be displeasing to God. That’s showing Him we don’t have faith in what he can provide.

“I’ll give you a quote from the Bible. It’s first Peter, Chapter 5, Verse 7. ‘casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.’ ”

Though many facing the same situation would look at their plight and see it as a negative, Michael Shaffer can see his own personal silver lining.

 “From 2006-2010, I was a general manager at the restaurant at Flying J,” Michael said. “I was a GM in a Fortune 500 company. I was making really good money. Flying J filed what is called Chapter 11 bankruptcy and merged with Pilot, which is owned by Jimmy Haslam (who bought the Cleveland Browns little more than a year ago). The Flying J restaurant dissolved and it’s now a Denny’s. I ended up losing my job because of it. The last three years, I’ve done everything from sell auto insurance to driving a cement truck. Now, I’m a manager at Arby’s, I write for the Star Beacon, which is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and love to do, and I also deliver the Star Beacon.

“At Flying J, I was making more money than I ever had in my life and we only had the one child,” Michael said. “Back then, I was making twice as much as I am now, but things have worked out. God has provided for us.”

As is the case with most women, once Jeannie Shaffer had an idea she was pregnant, she took a home test and almost nonchalantly delivered the news to her husband.

“It wasn’t anything dramatic,” Michael said. “With the first two, she did something dramatic to tell me. This time, she got up from the dinner table, went to the bathroom, came back, waived the little indicator at me and said, ‘I’m pregnant.’”

Even in that moment, Michael Shaffer’s doubts never materialized.

“I don’t remember what the first words I said were, but your initial reaction is always to be excited,” he said. “Keep in mind, my wife and I have three children. With the price of daycare, my wife can’t work. We didn’t know how anything would work, but we said we’d figure it out somehow. Though you’re nervous, you k now it will work out. You just know you’ll do whatever is necessary. I was excited more in the anything (in that moment).”


Pink or blue?

Many parents who have two kids of the same gender will often tell you that in the abstract, they’d like their latest addition to be the opposite gender. For example, many parents who already have two girls will say they’d like a boy. However, they’ll very quickly tell you that it would most likely be easier to just have a third girl.

With Corban and Peyton roughhousing they’re way through the early stages of boyhood, the Shaffers truly wanted their latest blessing to be of the female persuasion, especially since there are so many male members of the family. There was a precedence set for what the possibility of avoiding a third son was.

“I definitely wanted a girl,” Michael said. “My sister had just had a girl right before we found out we were pregnant. I was the first child in my family. I have a brother and my sister is the youngest. My brother has two boys and my sister had two boys and she just had her daughter. I have four nephews and one niece.

“I didn’t have any aunts (other than by marriage) growing up. You could say boys dominate our family. If it had been another boy, I’d have been happy. You don’t complain when God blesses you as he sees fit, but I definitely wanted a girl.”

There were very good reasons the Shaffers wanted a girl.

“I wanted to have the experience of walking her down the aisle and giving her away,” Michael said. “I felt I could never have the full experience of being a father without also raising a girl.”

“I definitely enjoy my boys,” Jeannie said. “I would’ve been thankful if it were a boy, but I wanted to have that full motherhood experience. Girls and their mothers have a special kind of relationship and I wanted to have that experience.”

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