Running the race.

From Michelle.  28 July, 2011.

Dear friends and family,

I have been trying to weave together a coherent whole out of the many disparate parts of the last six weeks with little success.  Truthfully, we have bounced around both outwardly and inwardly, state to state, friend to friend, emotion to emotion, home to home.  There are moments when I am able to hold it all, but frankly, I have been living a biblical truth out of necessity: do not worry about tomorrow for each day has enough trouble of its own.

Steve has, also out of necessity, departed from his strict regimen of exercise and stretching for the first time.  The absence of regular maintenance and rest makes for creaky joints and tight muscles and slow progress.  I sometimes imagine the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, unable to move without Dorothy’s frequent administrations of oil.  At times his movements are stiffer than I have seen in months: a rigidly awkward gait, his wave an unnatural curve of fingers that cannot flow and stretch, middle fingers always at half mast.  His sensation remains obstinately absent, his nerves a confused tangle.  The mundane, belabored tasks of moving – lifting boxes, shifting furniture – elude him.  At other times, however, Steve manages some crucial element of life so heroically – packing a suitcase, shepherding the children around a park, driving – that he seems almost normal.  Even I have not yet adequately been able to assimilate these disparate realities into anything approaching a rational whole.  Yes, we are still getting used to things as they are.

Our forced attempt to live normally only further impresses upon us both the very inability to do just that.  The parameters of life are different.  We want to say yes to so many things.  We still do.  And we pay.  At some point the cost will impress itself more firmly upon us and we will draw more definite boundaries.  We will say no more often, and with less regret.  A new form will emerge, a new life.  But we are not giving up the old configuration without some stubbornness, some unwillingness to let it go too easily, some faith.

We are, after all, only just past the halfway mark of our marathon.  We commemorated that halfway point with a visit to the site of the accident and the hospital where Steve first clung to life.  It was sweetly anticlimactic, an awkward attempt to fasten some meaning to a mere location, when in reality, every meaningful event has occurred in our hearts, and not in the dirt where Steve lay.  Still, we paused for a moment to hold hands and remember and pray and mark a year’s passing, amidst the clamoring needs of a three year old, and the ever pressing demands of time and space.  The discovery of an old water bottle, probably Steve’s from the accident, served as an unlikely talisman, the marker of the place life changed forever.

In reading about marathons, one article noted something about a concentration of will, a focus.  Our latest transition, the details, the goodbyes and the echoes of the empty house in which our lives still rang out somewhat morbidly these last two weeks have briefly distracted us.  Without the intention to finish foremost in our minds, we find ourselves simply running.

Strangely, the words that have beckoned my spirit these last weeks have been Paul’s: “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Perhaps it is his simple certainty that my soul longs to remember.  Paul’s focus is clear and unwavering, even as he writes from prison.  His center is Christ, whether in life or in death.  Certainly, no physical discomforts or emotional dislocations could distract him from his first love, God revealed in Christ.  I find myself longing for solitude amidst the clamor of these days.  I long to gaze long into the face of Grace and lay anchor there.  I know these other details to be charlatans, laying claim on my time and purpose.  Surely, the blessing of this discipline, this last year’s race, has been to focus our attention on the finish.  To complete is not just to run but to run with purpose and toward a goal.  And while the goal of physical healing remains deeply important, we both know there must be more that keeps us running.

We are forced to take some pause by the ocean this week amidst family.  And as I sought an anchor, I came across this prayer, possibly by St. Aidan, my son’s namesake.  It echoes my own heart, beating in the gap between two worlds, and two sides of the ocean:

Leave me alone with God as much as may be.

As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,

Make me an island, set apart,
 alone with you, God, holy to you.

Then with the turning of the tide

prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,

the world that rushes in on me
 till the waters come again and fold me back to you.



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  • Melody_dubois

    “Without the intention to finish foremost in our minds, we find ourselves simply running.” Yes. Oh, yes. And the prayer, too. Again, in the midst of your own chaos and “disparate realities” your sharing has spoken peace and meaning into mine.

    Know that many, many prayers — and thanksgiving! — are ascending to our precious Father for and because of you all. The anticipation of having you here again on this side of the ocean is palpable, electric… even as we realize (at least in part) that — for us all — the journey continues, with many adjustments to “what was before”. We will learn anew how to live together, in new ways and in God’s mercies which are new every morning. And for every circumstance.

  • Jody

    We continue to pray for you on this  journey and we are so excited to see you all in UCM. God bless you all the way.

  • Jim Truitt

    Pray for you daily.

    I look at my accident scene on my way home from work every day. Very commonplace now. I imagine going back to visit yours was much more poignant

    Hope the move was less scary than anticipated, but know God is with you through all travels. God bless my friend.

  • Bonnie Stalter

    I love the depth and meaning behind your well chosen words. They are penetrating and I see
    the desire to slow down and come restore by the brook and letting the ravens feed you.
    Come apart before ye come apart… preventing burn out from a year of so much effort.
    You have many unknowns and highways ahead.  Praying God will have some come along side
    to take care of your daily loads. Steve needs a pattern to his days… and for his routine therapy.
    traveling is a distraction but so many adaptions to place and people. We are so grateful he came
    and preached at Fairhaven.  The miracle looks like walking and talking but may more so be in the
    unseen mundane tasks.  May God bless in your private moments.. Slow down. Say No.
    just spend time intimately with your savior.. basking in His love.. abiding.. being..  not having to
    do..anything but loving Him back. blessings on your family.   prayers.

  • Barry

    We continue to hold you all in our thoughts and prayers.  Barry DeShetler

  • Deb Thompson

    Oh, Michelle!  What a beautiful prayer/poem.  My heart has known the place where you are living right now, and I wish I could hold you and give you peace, rest, comfort… a break.  You have come so far! (all of you have) and yet there is still so much ahead for you.  That’s the good news and the burden.  God is SO faithful.  He will keep you whole, and sustain you as you learn to protect yourself within boundaries and limitations.  And you will.  Love, peace, rest, and comfort to you and yours in the ever-surprising power of Christ. I have no doubt that He holds you in His hands.  Deb

  • Carla Chalmers

    Dearest Michelle and Pastor Steve,  We’re praying still more,  the days ahead are STILL all in the hands of an awesome God.  I love to read about your our rest in HIM. Ever in Jesus, Carla

  • Jayoder

    Steve & Michelle…
    Stand Tall & Firm knowing you can do ALL things that strengthen you… Because Jesus Christ IS our Saviour.!!Philippians 4:13

  • Jayoder

    Steve & Michelle…
    Stand Tall & Firm knowing you can do ALL things that strengthen you… Because Jesus Christ IS our Saviour.!!Philippians 4:13


    I love this prayer Michelle and it is one I wake each morning on my heart although in different words. It would be delicious to stay alone with spirit and I have been gifted much of this time this last year. But it is now time to slowly step out and sparkle God’s love out in the physical world more. May there be many quiet moments for your heart each day to breathe with God and center you to run with the life that calls you forward. You are thought of with love every day … thankyou for sharing your beauty and truth. Much love .. JaSmEiN  xxX

  • Roger Bartholomew – UCM

    1 Corinthian 13: 12 says in the KJV “For now we see through a glass darkly” and I almost equate this with normality and the image of normality. However, the beauty of this verse is that it goes on to say, “but then face to face”. We try to do too much, to the point where the “good” can stifle the “best”. We are all dearly and eagerly waiting to see you back in the Philippines and to hear Paster Steve preach. Boxes of tissues are being provided by the ushers!! Reading your beautiful reflection and prayer and the phrase “the world rushes in” gives that strong message that you will need to guard your time fiercely and keep the regime going, otherwise there is a danger of the good stifling the best, and we may see Paster Steve only “through a glass, darkly” and not “face-to face”. Your last reflection talked about “breathing”….. I think that is still a wonderful insight, especially when breath and breathe alludes to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Having said all that, we can’t wait to see you back.

  • Mkfeller

    Dear Steve and Michelle,
      We can understand how you feel as there have been a lot of demands upon your time, efforts, and talents  which would make it difficult to maintain your usual work and workout schedule.  We know God has been there lifting you up and guiding you along the long way to you goal, even though it may seem that you are not progressing as you would like.  We are sure that when you arrive back in Manila, God will be there at you side to guide you and the others who will surround you at that time.  Listen to Him and you will be safe.
    We both enjoyed our visit with you and your family again, and will cherish those moments always.
    Have a very safe and unencumbered travel back to Manila and allow rest to receive you there.  I know you may think this is wishful thinking, but He will permit it to happen.
    Our love to you and your boys goes with you,     Allan and Mary Kay


  • Roger and Jerri Oliver

    Dear Michelle,

    Once again,  in the midst of  “organized chaos”, you speak eloquently of the trials and tribulations that go along with the forward movement of life..  While  joyous in many respects, it  is also a time of reflection and some remorse,. along with thanksgiving for the miracle of healing thus far.  The marathon  has been long and well fought in this year of tremendous challenge and change.  Your (Steve’s and yours)  spirit has been remarkable and and inspirational. 

    In this moment, let me share with you our joy upon meeting you, our admiration of Steve and his amazing  and inspirational message  we were privileged to witness at Fairhaven, and the precious little Ruetschle boys who are so endearing.

    We pray you will be buoyed by the waves of love, care and support that we here at home are sending you as you begin the next phase of this marathon.  We know you will be received in Manila with the same love, care and support. 

    Roger and I continue our prayers without ceasing for your continued strength, Steve’s continued healing, and your family’s joyous journey in God’s light and love.. 

    With love and prayers,
    Jerri Oliver

  • Diazi

    Dearest Michelle
    I’m amazed. So honest are you about the days that become our lives. You and Steve give new meaning to the word LOVE. A great example for any marriage that wants to endure.
    Best wishes
    Irene Diaz

  • Omi Diaz

    Dear Ptr. Steve & Michelle,
    My sisters and I were in the front row last August 13 to welcome, not only your family physically, but most especially to “borrow your faith” as we are grieving over the loss of our father in January.  This miracle could only come from God.  It is awesome to think what God wants you to do being a living miracle for His people to see.  God bless you more and more and more as you are a very big blessing to others.  We shall continue to pray for your physical restoration.  There is not doubt, the Spirit remained steadfast.  We love you.  Praise God.  All glory and honor to His name.