And therefore I have hope…

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!

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  • Jeri and Sara

    The concert was more than magnificent! It was family gathered in the very best of ways. I went with an Irish friend who works with poor women up in Pampanga. She was undone. As was I.

    We sang your Scripture from Lamentations when we were in Afghanistan living daily with guerrilla warfare in the city and Russian bombing runs going out from Kabul into the provinces. Every new morning along with the bombers that droned overhead, were the mercies of God to those whose only hope is in Him. There are few realities in this world that we must cling to. God’s steadfast love is one of them.

    All is well here. Halloween was duly celebrated…the kids going though our darkened, and, I hope spooky house by candlelight until they came to bedroom doors behind which lurked Mormor and Auntie Sara….the old hag and the witch. Great fun. This year we had a skeleton (Auden), a “living dead” (face whitened with diaper rash cream…Aubrey), and a bejeweled princess..Bernadette. Our snack supper was totally strange. Cooked squash (it’s orange), and deviled eggs…looking sort of like least that was the intent.

    You are large in our hearts and prayers. Be strengthened. Jeri and Sara

  • Researcher55

    Dear Steve and Michelle, we rejoice with you! May you continue to see progress each day, strength returned, mobility increased. We love you. Geri and Harry

  • Carole_madison

    Dear Steve and Michelle,
    We look so forward to your awesome reports and strength that you draw from the Scriptures. We continually to pray for you all almost every single day. We leave tomorrow for a month in Asia, this time bypassing Manila but carrying on and watering seeds sown in China. We truly are one family and we look forward to a time when we can meet you face to face. Your Denver prayer buddies.

  • Fred Davis

    We remember people telling us how great it was that “I was well” because I was walking. People just don’t see the dogged determination, the pain, the frustration and the sagging hope of returning to a former semblence of self and ability. Keep running the race with perseverance. Keep remembering God’s mercy. Lean on each other. Know that we love you and pray for you every day.
    Fred and Judy

  • Roger and Helen – UCM

    I can never read your “devotions” without tears in my eyes. At the concert in Manila, as Steve’s video was shown, the words, “Steve’s back” were being whispered around the auditorium. The love, the care, the passion, the belief, the intimacy with God, the praying for us when we thought we were praying for him – truely the Pastor Steve we know and love was back! An answered prayer, most assured, but that is not all that we have been (and still are) praying for. We have been praying for his fingers – very specifically – and to walk without support – and now we know what to pray for again….. a dance at Christmas. This is a “Living Hope” and living hopes happen. With you by his side, and his boys loving every minute of having their father with him, the Living Hope is becoming a reality – for you and Steve, painfully slowly – for us, with incredible speed!!!! A dance for Christmas, an unaided walk to the pulpit for August 2011. God’s timing is always perfect, his compassion is endless, his promises are true, and his ability to heal is perfect. It’s just a case of which dance to pray for……. We love you all.

  • Chips Guevara

    Dear Steve and Michelle,
    We miss you both very much in Manila. Akiko and I pray unceasingly for Steve’s complete recovery, and pray one day that he will walk down the aisle at Union Church to preach again. These seemingly small improvements are actually giant steps towards total recovery. It is very exciting to watch Steve walk!!! Akiko and I also pray for you Michelle, for strength through out all this.
    We send our love, and daily prayers.
    Chips and Akiko

  • Joe_dodson


    I never knew you had a gift for writing. I look forward to each update. The scripture in your letters has become a refreshingly new perspective to my devotional for those days that you have the time to write.

    I hope you also find it fulfilling; a chance to reflect or to request; to share and to celebrate; a catharsis or a care; a time for unloading and a time for uplifting.

    After reading your update as I put on my jacket to venture out, I often find myself humming a song that was my granmother’s favorite…

    “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses

    … and the joy we share , as we linger there
    none other, have ever known.”


  • Jayoder

    Michelle & Steve…>
    Before Pastor Steve left Manila (and his unfortunate accident happened), He prayed for a “Miracle” to come into my life and Union Church.!! Little did he know that HE would be that “Miracle”.

    So, when I read your detailed reports, I just can’t help but be reminded of those words and the “Miracle” that is taking place in front of our eyes.! Each step of the way along this path and Journey of Faith, both you Pastor Steve continue to demonstrate the strength & extent to which our Lord keeps his promises. Praise the Lord.!!
    Jerry & Carmel

  • Baby

    Yes, the steadfast love of God never ceases. And we persevere in our prayers with a BIG BIG HOPE that Pastor Steve and the family will be back at UCM. There were tears of joy as we watched the Broadway babies singing and dedicating their song to Steve.

  • Sonia Andraous

    Dearest Steve and Michelle,

    Praising God for the strength and determination He poured into your hearts, every new day a small move to move your giant mountains.But as you said , His mercies are new every morning, Our Awsome God is ABLE TO DO EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDUANTLY, He is ABLE to do beyond the beyond.
    You are in our prayers daily and I Believe nothing is impossible ,waiting to hear of your victorious dancing sooooon ….

    With Much love.


  • Deborahannegustafson

    We continue to pray together with you for the hope that comes in the morning. We love you.

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    Hang in there, Michelle. Hang in there, Steve. You are both doing amazingly well with all of these profound challenges. The Lord will continue to bless you and keep you, whatever the future brings in terms of miracles and plateaus. Rest in Him. Much love, Deb

  • Jean Mangayayam

    Dear Pastor Steve and Michelle,
    Rod and I are so happy to hear of all the progress in Pastor Steve’s recovery and healing… I’m so happy especially hearing from Rod’s description of how well Pastor Steve is doing… I wish I had been with him. I joined him at SF last Oct. 25…Our prayers for God’s aboundant blessings for you all…Rod and Jean

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    P.S. Seems to me that one of the most difficult challenges before you is this crazy balancing act between grief and celebration that each of you has to deal with in his or her own way, with only small increments of time and energy to process it. Then to try to stay in sync with each other… It strikes me that you are already dancing with your husband, and the two of you are making a beautiful job of it!

  • Amyheckman23

    You are inspiring and you continue to minister to those of us that are “with you” on this journey!!! we are sending love and prayers to you daily !

  • sandra

    I must say, going through a recovery of some sort of paralyzation was definitely one my most humbling experiences. One memory stands out the most for me while I was at the UW Medical Center’s Stroke unit. (I had transferred from Harborview to the UW since my OB team was at the UW.) My friend was visitng me one day and I had to use the restroom REALLY bad. My mother who usually helped me with this “chore”, who was staying with me in the hospital, visiting from Hawaii where she lived, was given a much needed break from my friend. I buzzed for the nurse…and just couldn’t wait any longer. I looked completely embarrassed towards my friend and she jumped up to help me. “What do you need me to do?” I sighed and said, “I need help to get out of bed, support my left side and on to the commode (which was set right next to my bed.)” Without any hesitation, she said, “Ok let’s do it.” THEN…when I was through, I needed help to clean up and this part was the MOST most humbling part of my story. Again, without hesitation, she helped to clean me up as if I was 2 years old…then while I was picturing this as an outsider watching this ordeal…I started to blush and laugh hysterically…saying, “I can’t believe that one of my BEST friends just helped me to wipe me up clean after going potty!” And we still talk about it today…although along with the laughter, I cry in disbelief of what a wonderful friend God has blessed me with.

    Also, before my stroke, I was a very proud independent woman. My husband knew this from the moment we started dating. I always had a “I can do it on my own” kind of attitude or…”I don’t need a man’s help.” You know? So when this happened, it was REALLY difficult to have to go to him and ask him to bathe me, go to the bathroom (#1 or #2!), help me with my clothes, putting on deodorant, brushing my hair…EVERYTHING. I was now DEPENDANT on the man that I had at first was to proud to prove my independance to. Funny how God opens your eyes to some things, huh?

    I know this is a bit long…so I apologize…but I felt I needed to share my humbling experience with you both.

    Also…I had come to realization that everyone who helped me wouldn’t have helped me if they didn’t want or desire to…and without their help I wouldn’t be as mobile as I am today. There is a little residual nerve damage from my head to my toes on my left side, but I’ll take it. It’s far better than not feeling anything at all, that’s for sure!!!

    Hang in there. You both are doing such an amazing job trusting in the Lord! Steve with his P.T….SUPER AWESOME!!!

    I always have to have my box of tissue when I read your updates…God is so AWESOME!!!!

  • Elizabeth Chua

    As we go through each trials and hardships we experience God’s grace and mercy in our lives. We experience also God’s greatness that can never be phatomed in normal setting. We get to appreciate the many blessings God is showering us every single day. How great really is our God. Praise be to our Abba Father. How He loved us even in our weakest point. May God continue to watch over you. Yahweh Yireh. The Lord provides.

  • Johnandnelwarner

    to dear Steve and Michelle,
    My husband John and I were in Manila (fortunately ) to attend the concert- we have enjoyed it so much and was really touched by all the love shown by all the performers-esp Gary Valenciano.
    Please let us know when you intend to be in Manila-we will try to be there as well !
    We missed you and our love and prayers are with you always.
    John and Nel Warner from the UK

  • Joykarsevar

    Praise the Lord! He is truly so good! So thrilled and grateful for Steve’s great recovery – he walks and even does stairs!! YES!! The Lord performs miracles in this day and age!!!
    We love you – thank you so much for sharing with us – you are such a blessing to us!!
    Joy Tomacruz Karsevar and family
    PS – Love the video. Thank you!