21 years ago today, I woke up early in the morning. A dim light was on in my closet shining down on what was to me, the most beautiful dress in the world. My wedding dress.

I love this day for it is my anniversary. It is our 21st wedding anniversary. Making it a total of 24 years that I have been blessed to know my very best friend on earth: Derek.

We didn’t have much back then. Derek built the arch we were married under. Fresh lilacs filled the church. For they were free and smelled amazing.  We raised our wedding money by getting scrap wood from a dumpster and Derek built amazing things from it. Sold his creations and raised $3000.  Derek’s mom made our cake, Alex’s dress and all the flower girls dresses. (See where he gets his creativity from?)I wrote a song and played it on the piano. Couldn’t afford to hire someone.

And yet, it was the most beautiful memorable wedding.

How fitting it is for me to take time this morning to write about his update on such a special day. In fact, I scrolled down my blog, looking at the online journal I had created over the past couple of years. Tears streaming my face as I watched with my own eyes this miracle unfold. Dspic

Last year for our 20th anniversary I took a month, and reflected daily on what made our marriage successful. Researching marriage, I wrote the blog, “The Real Dirt on Marriage.”  Since then, I have had many people around the world tell me that they use that blog, my top ten list to encourage young couples getting married. Or share it with marriages that are struggling. It has been a simple guide to encourage them.  Humbled by these comments, and at the same time actually makes me laugh. Because I fought within myself to even write that blog. To share personal details is incredibly hard for me to do. If you don’t believe me, ask my pastor or sisterhood of prayer warriors.  It took Derek fighting this dreaded disease almost three years before I finally went public. They will tell you how I fight in my head all the time about sharing such personal things.

As I do not have all the answers for a positive marriage,  please don’t think I’m selling the ‘happy marriage pill’. Not at all. It’s just that we are happy. And a year ago, I chose to write down what we both had to work on to make our marriage what it is. May this bless your marriage as it has ours. I reread this blog, early this morning. Cried reading it too. Because it’s all true. Every single word. Our marriage took us to become WARRIORS. To fight for marriage. To willingly sacrifice out of LOVE an HONOR for one another. We have made a lot of mistakes in life.  It wasn’t about the mistakes, but what we learned from them.

May this encourage you….


Now on to the update:  Derek

We met with surgeons Dr. Gopen and Dr. Yang who were both thrilled when Derek walked into his office.

The fact that he could walk into their office and hear them was a miracle.

Can’t write this without crying. Yes, I’m the biggest Hallmark sap in the world who cries during really good commercials.ucla1.png

It was awesome to have the Whitney and Gavin meet the surgeons. They were incredibly gracious to our children. These two Doctors are miracle makers and give God the glory. The initials M.D. stands for ‘Making a Difference’ to these two surgeons. What a privilege for our kids to meet the men who took the great risk with their Dad. This picture will be framed and one day hang in our home,(wherever that is) and I want to write on this picture:

Greater the risk, greater the reward.

There are GOOD people in this world.  We need to encourage our medical professionals to adopt the hearts these two have.

It would change the face of the medical world.

They mirror image the heart of Dr. Michelle Massa and Dr.John Li in Jupiter Florida.

One day I plan on thanking Dr. Oz for sharing these amazing surgeons on his show.

They were thrilled at how amazing Derek’s incision looked and removed his staples. No signs of infection and Derek physically looks like a million bucks for just having brain surgery.

The sound of Derek’s voice isn’t screaming at himself anymore. He told the surgeons, “It’s been 4 and 1/2 years since my voice has sounded normal to me.” We all just looked at each other in awe of what this poor man has endured.

He can’t hear the eternal sounds of his neck moving anymore. Both of these symptoms were horrific. It’s early in the game yet though. As the days are passing by he is hearing some of the sounds again, but we think its coming from the left side now. Regardless,  this is very promising. Driving in LA traffic and the almost two drive from our campground to the hospital he handled it way better than we thought he would. Which was incredibly exciting and hopeful.  UCLA

However, due to the remaining swelling and fluid yet in his ear, it will take time to heal, so it is masking the real results. Derek is only three weeks today from surgery. If Derek was dealing with SSCD and no damage, it would be one thing. But Derek has a lot of damage on the left side. We must remain patient.

Derek’s balance is quite off, which is expected and will take time for his right side to kick in like it should have all along with the destroyed left side. Vestibular therapy will begin soon. Therapy is grueling for him,  but sometimes in life you have to do what you don’t want to, to get to where you want to go. Just the way it is. Derek’s attitude amazes me. He never complains.  Mindset is 100% of the battle.

The past few weeks were tough. A lot of migraines. Due to swelling and coming off all the meds he was on in ICU. But those days are now behind us. He is off all meds. Just a lot of supplements that aid in reduction of swelling. Believe it or not, Omega, Vita C, Alfalfa and Vivix (resveratrol) are making a huge difference with reduction of swelling. Migraines are gone. Thank you Jesus. Only occasional headaches now that we are able to control naturally.  Whitney cannot believe the difference in him from when she first got here almost two weeks ago. We are thrilled and so grateful for her presence here during this tough recovery. She made a huge difference. Her smile is healing him as well.

The not so good part is this. The pressure still remains strong in his head. Sound sensitivity hasn’t left.  Sounds of trucks, commotion at the hospital and public places still make his skin crawl. Swelling isn’t helping this. We are all in agreement it’s just to early in the healing process to really tell yet. We remain hopeful. Keep the prayers rolling in.

Derek has  admitted to me that he feels they will need to explore into his left ear to see what the damage has really created and if there is anything that can be fixed.  This is what we will explore in the weeks to come as the swelling comes down. And time will tell us if we decide to do this surgery on the left side too. He will also go through more hearing tests to see if he gained more hearing on the right side and will need new hearing aids.

Though the road is long we are incredibly hopeful that in the days to come, Derek will only get stronger. Better. And his miracle will continue to unfold. The question so many of you have asked, is what is the next plan? How long will you be in California?

The answer is simply this. We are here to get a job finished. We will stay here or close to this area until this job IS finished. Quite frankly, we have absolutely no idea. We are pioneers blazing a new trail. Pioneers don’t have end dates. They stick it out till the trail is blazedimage2.

Yesterday, Derek had life back in his eyes and wanted to see the ocean. The kids and I drove him through the beautiful country side of the Santa Monica Mountains and the site of the ocean, is a humbling reminder of God’s presence. It was Snickerdoodle’s first time seeing the ocean. And she was in love.

Pioneering this new lifestyle has had its up and downs.  We love our fifth wheel. The blessings of living in a small space have graced us with simplifying our lives. It has taught us to play more games. Not video games. But family games. Uno lately has been a favorite. I ride bikes with the kids, take them swimming in the afternoons. They read more. Notice more. In this season of exploration, I have realized that I want to encourage all family’s to slow down. Make more meals together. Take more walks. It’s ok if your kids aren’t in every single activity. When our oldest daughter was in college and her friends would come home and visit us, they would reminisce on memories of childhood. Do you know what they remembered the most? It wasn’t all the hustle and bustle of activities. It was campfires. Camping. Family vacations. Running around playing ghost and the graveyard with their friends. Creative play. Barn dances. Potlucks. Family gatherings. That’s what meant the most to them.

Our encouragement to you is make time for God and family. Get back to church. Instill faith into your family. Without it, life is a whole lot harder. Surround yourself with others who think outside the box. A great example is our church Abiding Shepherd in Cottage Grove. Gavin was the first virtual confirmation student. An empty chair was amongst his class to represent his presence. Gavin Facetime into the live service and was confirmed virtually. This picture says it all. Thank you to our Pastors  who pioneered confirmation with us.confiration1

The culture is different out here. There are many lessons we have learned. Things we love and things we don’t like. The traffic is like nothing I have ever seen. The roads are like cattle herds of cars. Sometimes to drive 8 miles takes over an hour. You get excited when you reach 10 MPH.  I don’t have a dishwasher. So I created one and called it a chore. Laundry is done at the laundromat.  Sometimes you have to wait in line to wash clothes. I learned from a 75 year old woman how to chop off the head of rattlesnake with a metal shovel, by showing me the one she just killed at her campsite next to my campsite . Just when I thought we had our air conditioning  working in the heat of the desert mountains, I realized it’s not working quite right.  When I signed the lease for one month at this campground, and finally made the comment, “At least I will know where I’m living for a month,” I ate my own words.  This campground is infested with drugs. To the 55 year old gross man who offered drugs to my kids by the pool, you are a loser. Get a life.  He got attacked by a momma bear pioneer and didn’t have a chance. The idiot messed with the wrong family. To my kids, you make us proud. You made a the right choice. The sheriffs were wonderful to us and gave us direction to much safer campgrounds.

In life, cheap isn’t always the way to go. I have learned, there are somethings you can save money on. But there are somethings worth paying more for. Don’t buy generic parachutes, brain surgeons, your food and supplements – for you are what you eat, and campgrounds. Not worth the savings. So, as soon as Derek is able to move, I will move the covered the wagon to a new destination. The good thing is, this move is a lot easier than selling our home and moving.

The reality is life will always have losers and problems no matter where you live. Parents, be involved and stand up for your children. Drugs are every where. Kids, make good choices. Life is too short and if you need alcohol and drugs to have a good time, you are missing the point on life. Come hang with Derek and I for awhile. We will show you how to get drunk off  laughing.

I want nothing more, than to see Derek’s great suffering leave. To see my sweet little Scarlett grow up. To attend my son’s 8th grade graduation. Have dinners with ALL our children. But God has a different plan right now. I humbly accept HIS plan and trust that one day this will be all behind us. And Derek and I will have quite the stories to write and share with future generations that will make people laugh till they cry, sitting around campfires.

Until then, we appreciate every single card. Every prayer. Blessings that come in the mail with words of encouragement. You know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Every time I want to stop writing, get frustrated, or Derek feels frustrated, every single one of you pick us up. Super natural strength runs through us fueled through your prayers.

Gavin’s class sent him a card that a sweet young girl in his grade orchestrated that he barely knows. Vivian, you are a strong young girl with a golden heart. Your kindness built ds2Gavin up more than you will ever now. Kindness matters. To Gavin’s classmates: Keep encouraging one another.

May Derek’s illness bring your class together and may you unite and be better together.hopstial1

Derek and I have always worked hard and made our way in life. It’s really a struggle for us to receive.  But God is humbling us in everyway. WE want to personally thank each and everyone of you for all the support towards Derek’s medical bills. I cannot write this with out tears. You taught us all that when you TRUST, God will provide. And provisions just show up when you don’t expect it. We fought so hard and long privately. To not lose everything. And in the end, God had it all along.

Here is the best news. HE will provide for YOU as well.  Do NOT worry. Just trust. Believe. Expect a miracle.

It will never be as you imagine,

it will be so much more.

And the adventure continues.

Sarah Hein the Pioneer

4 thoughts on “21 Years… AND COUNTING”

  1. Happy Anniversary! 21 years, unbelievable. I remember your wedding day so well. It was beautiful. About your marriage not all the beautiful trappings that go along with all weddings. Love ❤️ coming your way along with blessings and prayers. Lynn


  2. Twenty one years ago, we were blessed to witness the commitment of Derek & Sarah to love, honor & cherish each other forever. I don’t know that I know any other couple who have so fully lived out those promises made that day. We pray God gives you many more happy & healthier years together. We love you!


  3. Continued prayers for strength, endurance, love, healing, encouragement, safety, trust, faith, health and so much more coming from the Pitzners!


  4. Just reread your touching words in this blog Sarah! I too get tears every time I read one of your blogs. It’s wonderful to read how God is leading you as you ask for His help. I will continue to lift you, Derek & your family up in prayer.


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