We walk by faith, not by sight.

From Michelle.  11 September, 2010 12 p.m.

Dear friends and family,

It has been a long week or so since my last post.  While we are engaged in mundane life, nothing has in fact been mundane.  All of the things we would have considered simple in the past now require a new routine and problem solving: getting a fork (only the one with the special large tube so Steve can grip it, please), how to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, how to wash hair, how to put on clothes, how to get out of bed, how to get someone’s help when you can’t get out of bed yourself to get them, when to put the boys to bed and also put Steve to bed on time (a whole routine in itself!).  And then the not so normal details: where to keep the many medical paraphernalia where people can best find it, how best to manage the dreaded bowel programs, which and how much medicine to take, where to dispose of the needles after shots, when stretches can best fit in, what is the best physical therapy regimen, how to coordinate the various appointments and the driving, childcare, etc that we need to do to get there, what pool is warm and has a lift for the handicapped to get in, who might make a good caregiver and what to pay them, and so on and so on.  While one day all of this will feel normal, right now it is new and requires effort.

There have been both tragic and hilarious moments.  Twice now I have left Steve in bed and become so immersed in the clamor of children and the flood of questions and details requiring my attention that Steve has yelled and languished helplessly, unable to get help or attention, a dreadful feeling.  On a more humorous note, I cannot seem to get wheelchair driving down.  In trying to direct it across the room, I am a train wreck, and Steve laughs at my clumsy efforts.  Hopefully no reflection on my car driving skills!

We have had tender moments of caregiving and moments of great frustration as Steve has to endlessly direct and request in order to do the smallest thing from taking a sip of water to turning over in bed.  I am developing some strange skills: I can now put on pressure stockings with the speed and alacrity of any nurse, administer a shot without flinching and efficiently maneuver Steve’s body and numerous pillows for the frequent turns throughout the night and early morning.

Steve has a far higher learning curve.  He must learn how to pay attention while trying to ignore the strange nerve sensations shooting through his body, or the odd feeling that he is sitting on a slab of ice.  He must focus on how to curve his fingers around a fork, lean to the side without falling, lift a leg or a hip with all of his might in order to assist a caregiver.  Psychologically he must fight discouragement when he cannot grip his hand to shake someone else’s or go to the bathroom or feel hot and cold in his body; he must learn to ask boldly for what he needs despite feeling like a burden; he must learn how to address the curiosity or discomfort or grief of others as they interact with his disability and his wheelchair.  I am amazed at his sheer dedication to getting up every morning, despite the fact that that process alone can take one to four hours, depending on how thoroughly we want to prepare him for the day.  But he rises, again and again.

Some of the highlights of our week have been the visit and help of our sister-in-law Laura, the increasingly more common sight of Steve practicing standing at the kitchen sink, Steve’s first therapy sessions with various therapists (everyone always does something new!), the boys blowing kisses from the school bus windows, happy to go to school, watching Zephyr’s delight as he zips around on his new scooter with Papa at his side, and, as always, various communications from all of you!

I have certainly been pushed to my outer limits this week.  Zephyr has been sick, and I along with him.  Because my body is tired, my patience is diminished and I feel my humanity and inability to do this alone.  As Steve faces so many challenges, I feel my inability to make it better for him.  While the details are slowly coming, and the long list slowly shortens, the details and unknowns remain many, and the list long enough.  On many levels and in many areas, I simply cannot do this in my own strength.  I am often reminded of an image I came across in a study I did with my Tuesday small group in Manila this past year.  It is an image of faith.  In it, a traveler comes to a deep chasm.  It is dark.  There appears to be a bridge, but due to the darkness, he or she can only see the first step.  There is the other side, beckoning, but no sure route to get there.  The traveler takes a step, not knowing how the rest of the bridge will look or how long it will take.  Not knowing many things in the darkness.  But knowing that a light beckons him or her onward.  I know there is an “other side” and I know there is a light beckoning me onward, but I don’t know how I will get there, or what the next step looks like.  I can only take the one step that I can see.  The rest is up to God.  And I trust Him.

My verse for today: “For while we are still in this tent we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always of good courage.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are away or at home, we make it our aim to please him.”  2Cor5:4-9.

Please continue to pray with me first and foremost that we would please him.  Please also pray for Steve’s healing.  While his legs gain strength, his shoulder ails him terribly and prevents much work on his arms.  His fingers seem to stiffen and have not noticeably improved of late.  His sensation remains highly compromised from the nipple line down.  At the same time, there is progress, in balance, in leg strength, in skill, and in core strength.  We do not know the next step across the chasm.  On an entirely different note, seemingly insignificant but also realistically important, our house remains on the market.  Please pray that it would sell, or that we would have wisdom in what to do with it.

We are, always and continually, deeply grateful for your prayers.


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  • Raallender

    Oh, Michelle, thank you for this update. My middle of the night awakenings have caused me to pray for the 5 of you. I cannot imagine the regiment that continues and that which lies ahead. Know that my absence is not a reality of my lack of wondering, praying and thinking of you all. I long to be counted as those who actually do show up and help. I am relieved to know that the boys have a school bus ride. I cannot begin to comprehend your exhaustion….or Steve’s exhaustion. I love you guys. Thank you for this update. Love, Becky

  • Cbsample

    I am so very grateful Michelle, as others must be, that you take the time to write. So wish I could be there in person, to do some work on Steve’s shoulder. Was able to do healing/energy/body work today for a woman in 70′s with severe fibromyalgia, with very good results, by grace. In the meantime I pray, with so many others, from a distance. Courage, peace, hope. Sarah Reid Hedberg’s friend Chris in Maine.

  • Kathleenpellegrini

    Dear Michelle,
    We continue to think and pray for you, Steve and your boys. Thank you so much for your honesty and willingness to tell the truth and trust at the same time. Sending you love , support, courage and strength!
    Also, thank you for the gift of seeing people in wheelchairs very differently now.
    Much love, the Pellegrini family

  • Greggfarah

    You guys are loved, admired, and missed. Thank you for the update. God IS well pleased with you. Can’t wait to see you all again. Praying with and for you.

  • Marilyn

    2Cor.4 :8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
    Just want to share my devotional reading for this morning… as I remember you and Pastor Steve. I know you know this by heart, but i am so encouraged and full of hope, “not losing heart for momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”
    “Suffering as Preparation”
    Maybe the Lord is allowing you to go through some difficult circumstances today to prepare you for something He wants you to do tomorrow. I realize that thought might not comfort very that much in your present distress. You may be thinking, “No, this suffering doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s meaningless. There’s no point to it.”

    Joseph might have thought that same thing at several points in his life journey. It’s certain that Job did! But the truth is, God might very well be preparing you to touch someone else’s life in a way no one else could.

    If someone just found out they have cancer and you are a cancer survivor, you have no idea how much encouragement and perspective you can bring to such a person, who might feel as though he or she has been handed a death sentence.

    You have no idea how much comfort that can bring. And it would be something that only you could say. No one else could say those words with the same kind of credibility.

    We once had a man named Brian Birdwell give his testimony at our church. Brian was in the Pentagon nine years ago, on September 11, 2001 when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many of Brian’s friends were killed that day. He survived, though he was burned over much of his body and had to go through multiple excruciating skin-graft operations.

    Afterward I had lunch with Brian, and we had a lot of fun together. He is very witty and a great pleasure to be with. In my opinion, he is also a genuine American hero.

    Before we finished our meal, I asked him if he wanted to do something with me that afternoon. He thanked me, but then said, “Greg, I’d love to, but I can’t. I have to go to a hospital.”

    “What’s going on?” I asked him.

    “Well,” he said, “whenever I go speak in some location, I always find out where the local burn ward is, and I go and visit the patients.”

    I remember thinking how wonderful that was. Who could have a more effective ministry to burn victims than someone who had been through the agony of skin grafts and burn treatments as Brian had?

    Imagine being an individual burned over most of your body, and thinking, “My life is over.” But then a survivor comes along and says, “Look. I know how hard it is. I have been there. But I got through it! And here is what God has been doing in and through my life since I got out of the hospital. He can do the same for you!”

    Paul, who had his own serious issues with suffering, wrote: “He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5 NLT).

    God will give you that comfort—over and beyond what you can personally contain—so that you can share it with others.
    Pastor Greg Laurie (Harvest Ministries)

  • Bstalter

    Is it possible for Steve to have steroid injection in his shoulder for pain? Helped Bill and I with ours.
    Would ice packs help? Heat? Prayers for courage and laughter.. finding humor. For good rest
    and help with dressing etc. Understand your emotions and exhaustion.

  • Chit

    Thank you for this time you took to blog Michelle. You are an amazing woman. Just unbelievable what the new lifestyle you have to learn…just amazing how you go through your days. I wonder…I am sure you have thought about it if Manila could be an alternative …I was just thinking of all the caregivers available…both for Steve, your kids and for you to have a “time out” and still have peace that everybody is taken cared of….Just a thought….praying…praying…praying.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/KVXJMO6VUJE5MDRGIZU5SSIXJA Julie

    “When I called, You answered me, O LORD; You made me bold and stouthearted.”..Psalm 138:3

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PZLHORWAZ6NMJYHTNSHII3O2AA Amelita

    “Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil for you are at my side”
    Pray for you all the time.
    Your detailed story fills me with emotion. God love and bless!

  • Carole_madison

    Thank you for your update. We feel your frustration that could really be helped by a regular caregiver. I am an old nurse so know of some of the needs that you describe so well. We have been networking with friends in the Seattle area to see if there would be any caregivers available among our acquaintances. We continue to pray every night for you and are so grateful when you have a minute for an update.
    Blessings, Denver friends

  • JohnCarol3

    Michelle and Steve: May God’s love and reassuring comfort be yours in the difficult and pressing details of your lives. Thanks for your openness and vulnerability, and for the word pictures that help all of “us out here” share with you through this most unbelieveably difficult time in your lives. Steve, you were greatly missed at the ICI – Asia this past week in Tagaytay Highlands, and we lifted you all up before the Lord together as a group. John and I continue to talk to God about you many times each day. love, carol

  • baby

    DanChalmers homily brought tears to the eyes of manyas he talked about his visit there. We all sung the SteadFast Love.

    “Our prayers are with you. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness o Lord,great is that faithfulness.”

    We will persist in our prayers.

  • Jenny Warner

    Ongoing prayers and thoughts from acquaintances in the San Francisco Bay Area. Know you are held in prayer and we follow your story holding gratitude and hope with you and in the places and moments where you walk without it.
    May the compassion and love of our God-always-in-relationship dance around you,
    Jenny & Chris Warner

  • Roger and Helen, UCM

    As always Michelle, you are able to paint a picture with words that helps us see the unseeable so clearly. Dan Chalmers preached a wonderful sermon at UCM today that in places had the whole congregation in tears – for Steve, for you, for Steve’s brother, Steve’s parents – and filled us with wonder as to how the Holy Spirit moves; for truely it is in you. Telling the Truth in Love, is so hard, and yet each of your bulletins does exactly that. You and Steve and the whole family are an amazing blessing to so many people…. The very least we can do is continually pray for all of you, and for very specific things as you let us know the things that you need.

  • Erlynnbcampos

    Steve and Michelle – God’s wonders never cease! What an awesome sight to see that you are standing on your own, upheld by God’s will and never failing presence. I have not been sending my notes often enough but I have seen your progress almost weekly and am in constant prayer for both of you. I am now a new grandmother! Kylene and Anton, whom you married 2 years ago, now have a baby boy. They live in Singapore and I have been ther twice already. I suspect I will fly there for any excuse. But as I hold my grandson in my arms, Iam reminded of our Father’s love for us, for both of you.
    Isaiah 49:15 assures us, our Father has not forgotten you and never will – “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
    Neither will we forget you, Steve and Michelle. We continue to walk by faith in God’s promises for you, for us, and for UCM. We know we will see you at UCM again.
    Love and prayers,

  • Nomerbernardino

    Hi P. Steve and Michelle,

    This is Pastor Nomer Bernardino from Bread From Heaven Community Church in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. Just to let you know our whole church prayed for P. Steve yesterday during our 10am service. I have met only P. Steve once (with P. Tanchi and Jay Kyle) at Podium when we discussed about Redeemer Church Planting Program. My son Zuriel and I attended the 6 weeks Intensive Church Planting Program Training at RCPC last Sept-Oct 2008. I was also the former pastor of Nelson and Lucy Dy, who officiated their wedding too.

    Last Friday, with my wife i also visited Union Church because my son invited us to join him as he spoke in the Young Adults fellowship being led by an ATS alumnus. We will continue to include your family and P. Steve’s healing in prayer. Looking forward to meet P. Steve again sometime in the future.

    By the way, if you have not heard yet, Dr. Luis Pantoja, the 63 year old recently retired Senior Pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship went home with the Lord last Monday while attending a Leadership Retreat at kota Kinabalu Malaysia.

    Shalom! P. Nomer and Sylvia Bernardino

  • Carlac

    Dearest Michelle and Pastor Steve, Barb and Larry were with us to watch the walking and leaping (and Praising God) at the kitchen sink. For us to see it is glee! We prayed immediately AGAIN together for you, with your requests carried in our hearts. Boldly in the name of Jesus we ask for much much more. Michelle, how poignantly your writing speaks of your love for God. Oh that we could be standing alongside of you there for even one of the needed helps. Love, Carla and Dan

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    Dear Michelle, in times of intense transition the most difficult things to maintain are often the most basic. I want to urge you to move three things to the top of your list; rest, nutrition, and exercise FOR YOURSELF. Just like pre-flight emergency instructions when parents are told to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting their children, you must prioritize your own health and well-being. So many depend on you, and you are carrying so much on your shoulders. Your family cannot afford for you to forget your own most basic needs. My heart is with you and my prayers, with groans that words cannot express. PS – have you found Amazon Fresh home grocery delivery yet? I think it would be an essential convenience for you right now.

    • Marana

      Michelle-I love this! Listen to this woman!!!

  • Laraba

    I continue to pray for you though don’t know you personally. I can’t imagine the fatigue you are all under, nor can I fathom the discouragement of struggling to do things with a body that doesn’t cooperate. But I thank God for the progress that has been made…it was wonderful seeing the video of Steve standing! Michelle, I too encourage you to pray for wisdom about what needs to be done and be willing to set aside those things that can be dropped during this season of life. I’m guessing you already are dropping many things, but I know as a mom I sometimes try to do more for the family than I should when I’m not physically well, and I can’t recover as quickly then.
    Is a monitor in Steve’s room a possible help for him? I think some have multiple receivers and perhaps you could set some in various rooms around the house so you could hear him better when the noise level fo the kids gets high. Just a thought.

  • Christine Mantlo

    Hello sweet friend!
    Your words, your heart,your faith, your love, beakons us all to keep going on the journey the Lord has for each of us.
    I am praying for a God picked care giver for your family. I wish that I lived next door and I could be the hands and feet that serve you all.
    You are deeply missed here. I think and pray for you all often. May this scripture bring you encouragement today! “This precious treasure, this light and power that now SHINES within us- is held in perishable containers, jars of clay, that is our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.” 2 Cor 4:7 NLT Glory to God!

  • Tracy Cameron

    Hi Michelle and Steve! Thank you for sharing in such a deep and open way. I can catch a glimpse of what your reality feels like… So, it felt like a ton of bricks hit me over the head when I realized our sons were in the same class together at school! We are looking forward to knowing Jude more :) I am very optimistic for Steve too! Thank you for showing what it means to REALLY trust and lean on God. your new friend, Tracy Cameron :)