From Michelle. November 1, 2010.
Dear friends and family,
It is already November. The trees here are a riot of colors, and even the bamboo planted around our house is shifting shades to match this cold, wet season. Yesterday we carved pumpkins and went trick-or-treating with the boys, making the most of these American traditions, which are new experiences for their memory banks. Dressing now requires additional and unaccustomed layers of sweaters, vests and jackets. Zephyr still refuses to wear socks most days. Too strange a sensation for his previously unfettered feet. Tomorrow our firstborn turns nine years old.
Much is also changing in Steve’s body. During his therapy sessions, Steve now practices walking with crutches or a cane, as well as with the now usual walker. Upon occasion he has even walked without anything at all! After a mix up that forced us to try to get into a friend’s house up two stairs, Steve is now also practicing stairs in therapy. Stairs! Less dramatic but equally astounding is the progress in Steve’s hands. His thumb can now bend over to touch not just his middle finger but his ring finger, and almost his pinky. Strength, though elusive, is returning. His grip and pinch are getting stronger. Yesterday, for the first time ever, he bent his thumb ever so slightly.
As time wears on, the prospect of a plateau of some kind looms. Steve’s hope becomes ever more fragile even as the likelihood of its realization grows. Oh yes, he is walking! And yet each step requires all of his effort and concentration. While the rest of us cheer and are amazed, Steve soberly manages his hope under that oppressive weight of gravity. Steve looks to each day’s mountain and climbs it doggedly. To look too far ahead to the next peak is simply too much, both for hope and for sustainability. And so he gives thanks for the slight bending of a thumb and goes to bed fortifying himself for what the next day will bring.
I try to keep his pace. While the hope in me quickens, and I want to stretch for that finish line, I look over at him and slow to a more consistent gait – more appropriate for the middle stretch of a marathon. His perspective is better. I stop to imagine the parade of hours he faces, the weight he strains against in order to move the smallest finger or shift his hips, and the continuing humbling process of being washed and dressed by another. And I imagine that fragile hope he carries, that thirsty little flame that he must quietly, faithfully lay at the Lord’s feet each day.
Together we stop to drink from your prayers, from glowing reports of the benefit in Manila, from cards, thoughts and encounters with friends, from scripture readings. Then we move on, fortified.
The list of answered prayers grows dazzlingly longer and we pinch ourselves. How did we ever deserve such grace?! Of course, we didn’t or it would not be grace. But we drink hungrily from that sweet fountain! On the list: a house sold, sleep returned, fingers moving, walking without support, stairs! I keep readjusting my hopes for our anniversary further and further into the realm of what months ago seemed impossible! Gone are the few tentative steps I had imagined. Perhaps we will dance on December 30th, 2010?
Today I found comfort from Lamentations 3:19-24. After descriptions of terrible affliction, the prophet Jeremiah (we think) says, “…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “my endurance has perished; so has my hope in the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The phrase that caught my eye was inconsequential, perhaps: this I call to mind and therefore I have hope… this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Remember, o my soul! Have faith! Trust! Then I think of Steve’s gait, his very daily, very present practice. One step, one mountain. And I think, new every morning. Yes, the Lord is good and faithful and enough for each day. Steve puts on his daily faith and bends a finger and lifts a leg, and with each step, he is saying, “great is your faithfulness.”
We love you all!
PS Steve and I have been once again overwhelmed by the sweet fellowship, love and support of our church family, this time halfway around the world in Manila. By all accounts this was a spirit-filled, sweetly tearful but also beautifully joyous gathering, led by an amazingly talented set of performers who so generously donated their time to Union Church and to Steve and I. We are truly overwhelmed, and longed with all our hearts to join our broken voices with your beautiful ones! I hope to post pictures when I have them. In the meantime, thank you beautiful friends far off for joining in the chorus! We love you!