Advent remembering.

From Michelle.  December 12, 2011

Dear friends and family,

As we approach the end of 2011, I am vividly reminded of where we have been and the ground that we have covered.  Perhaps because last Christmas was so very unique, the memory of it is sharp.  As I sit today in shorts, debating whether or not I am hot enough to justify turning on the air conditioner, I remember a house tucked away in Edmonds, Washington, a real pine tree at its center, and a cozy fireplace sheltering us from the winter winds outside.  It was a wheelchair accessible home, and we still needed that then.  Steve could walk from one room to the other with a cane or walker, but he still spent much of his time in a chair, and could not drive himself, or clean himself.  He was not yet independent.  We still hitched up the wagon to the wheelchair for outdoor fun with Papa, a blanket draped over Steve’s legs to keep him warm.  We still had small goals – could he make it around Trader Joe’s?  Would he be wiped out if we tried a bigger store?  Costco’s was still out of the question, last December.

In the Christian faith, thanks in large part to our rich Jewish roots, we are good at remembering.  If we are faithful, we remember the manger at this time of year.  But every part of the year is carved out to remember something, some ancient act of mercy, some rescuing drama, some promise of redemption, some song of hope.  Over and over again, each year, we remember and contemplate God’s goodness throughout history, told in a setting of sorrow and suffering easily mirrored today.  If we are smart, we allow the rituals of remembering to flow over into our own personal histories.  My life, though broken, is marked at frequent intervals by similar though less dramatic godly interventions.  And crowded into the last 18 months are a lifetime of such moments, equally worthy of remembrance.

Christmas is a sentimental season, so I have allowed all of this remembering.  In the Philippines, Christmas begins long before Thanksgiving.  We were on the late side when, the week before Thanksgiving, the Christmas tree went up, along with the pine scented candles, the Advent calendars and the Christmas stories under the tree.  Perhaps because of the overlap, and certainly because of the remembering, this Advent season has been marked for me by thanksgiving.  It is a sweet fruit born of my deliberate meanderings into the past.  It would be easy to look ahead and become discouraged.  But in looking back, I can only give thanks.  For how could one not rejoice over a house with stairs now possible to negotiate, though still difficult?  How could one not bend a knee before a husband working again, though tired?  How could one not weep tears of gratitude over wheelchairs gathering dust, though still waiting in the wings?  I do not have enough Christmas cards to thank all who deserve our gratitude this year.  But each card that I write is more of a thank you card than a nod to the season.

One way to remember, one way to give thanks has been to tell the story.  We do not do it to draw attention to ourselves.  But while it bears fruit for those who hear it, we will gladly tell it, as a monument of thanksgiving to the One who carried us through.  It is our ritual of remembrance that bears the fruit of thanksgiving, and we are glad to share it with anyone hungry for its sweet nourishment.  Two weeks ago, Steve walked onto a stage before a packed stadium to remember again and give thanks.  The blessing came, as it has time and again, through the faith of one person, who believed and followed and made it happen.  We simply allowed ourselves to be carried along on her faith.  And as a result, thousands cheered and clapped and laughed and cried and ultimately praised.  This was our very best Christmas present.

So in this season of remembering the miracle of God come down, of a babe born to heal the nations, and of miracles witnessed by the meek, we too remember God’s good miracle to us.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!  Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!  …  Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually!  Remember the wondrous works that he has done.  1 Chronicles 16:8-9, 11-12

May your season be replete with thanksgiving, remembering His grace.

With love and gratitude,

Michelle, Steve, Aidan, Jude and Zephyr

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  • Bonnie Stalter

    How awesome to hear how you all are NOW.. in the present.. not looking back or forward. just appreciating what IS.  and His will for you.   savor the moments..  

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    Blessings on you and yours this Christmas season!  The Lord continues to bless you, and you continue to be a blessing to so many.  Much love, Deb

  • Ammiarmas

    Praise God for the wonderful opportunity Steve had to bless thousands at the Saved concert! i am sure many were in tears

  • Roger & Helen Bartholomew

    Remembrances – what a beautiful thought. It’s no longer a case of nostalgia isn’t what is used to be, but a realization of what God means when he says that he is an unchanging God, yesterday, today and forever. Two very different Christmas; one never-changing God; awesome and humbling all in one breath. We continue to pray daily that next Christmas for you will be just as special, the path of progress just as fulfilling, and the memories just as poignant. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  • Sharon Chen, Seattle

    Praise God, for His amazing love and miracles!  Thank you Michelle and Steve for sharing your faith, your struggles, and your story of God’s work in your lives, with all of us, who read your blog updates, and on stage to a packed stadium.  Your words and lives reach out, and bless, so many, and also guide us on how to pray for you, and what to praise God for.  Blessings this Christmas.

  • john dettoni

    You wrote, “My life, though broken…”  Remember the Humpty Dumpty theology?  “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; HD had a great fall.  All the king’s hourses and all the kings men couldn’t put HD together again…..BUT THE KING COULD AND DID!  Broken?  The great Mender of broken pieces is the one who puts them back together again.   “I will restore to you the years taht the locust has eaten, the cankerworm….my great army which sent among you”(Joel 2:25).  Restore — to even more fruitfulness.  From broken to mended to be stronger than before; from broken to restored to more effective service than before; from broken to deliverance; from sorrow to joy — to see the Lord God Almighty’s hand in all this!  This is faith in action.  And you two have seen, tasted, and handled the very acts of God in your lives as individuals and as a family.   May your words and life continually demonstrate that when God breaks us, He puts us back together again in ways we never could ever have imagined.
    Have a Great Celebration of the Mystery of the Incarnation!!
    john dettoni, Dec. 11, 2011

  • Barry

    We give thanks for all that God is doing and has done in your lives.  Our best witnessing is done not simply by sharing Christ with people, but by sharing what Christ has done in our own lives.  You have a winsome and powerful story to share this Christmas.  Blessings, Barry DeShetler, Christ UMC.  Kettering

  • Mary

    Oh, what joy to hear news of what God is, and has been, doing with you both in Manila. It is good to look back and remember. We remember the agony of being far away and helpless- and now again have joy, but are still too far to rejoice and hug in person. Your story is compelling and many will hear and have faith and hope. It is the story of love, compassion of others, grace unbounding, and a vision given from on high. Along with the humanness of daily determination and thanksgiving and sheer grit and lots of tears of joy as well as sorrow. We love you both, and wish again that our paths were closer knit. But again, I am reminded that “my lot has fallen in pleasant places.” Love, Mary and Larry Caldwell

  • Mary

    Oh, what joy to hear news of what God is, and has been, doing with you both in Manila. It is good to look back and remember. We remember the agony of being far away and helpless- and now again have joy, but are still too far to rejoice and hug in person. Your story is compelling and many will hear and have faith and hope. It is the story of love, compassion of others, grace unbounding, and a vision given from on high. Along with the humanness of daily determination and thanksgiving and sheer grit and lots of tears of joy as well as sorrow. We love you both, and wish again that our paths were closer knit. But again, I am reminded that “my lot has fallen in pleasant places.” Love, Mary and Larry Caldwell

  • Baby

    I have never ceased in praying for Pastor Steve and your family.  For Pastor Steve’s continued recovery, for you to be given strength physically and spiritually to hurdle the challenges that may come your way.  Your updates are truly inspiring.  Thank you so much.

  • Sara Whitlock

    Hi Michelle,  Beautifully written.  As always.  We, too, are remembering last Christmas.  We did not know if the treatments were working.  I wondered if it would be the last Christmas I would see with my family.  This year we are so thankful.  Thankful for a clean PET scan last week.  A Christmas miracle for sure.  It does not mean the end of treatment and we do not know what the future holds.  But for this day we are thankful.  Amazed at his mercy and his grace poured out over our lives.  Knowing that He is faithful to continue the work He has begun.
    Merry Christmas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=683059114 Debbie Vizcarra Simsuangco

    Thank you Michelle for continuing to share with us your journey, and the powerful ministry that it has become. You, Pastor Steve and the boys are constantly in our prayers…and I rejoice with you in leaping and praising God for answering those prayers, specifically and purposefully. I consider it one of my life’s best blessings that I was witness to the miracle that is Steve’s healing and recovery.

    If I may share a more personal note, this is a very trying season for us as we brace ourselves for spending our first Christmas without our dad. Even as I was praying for Ptr. Steve and your family last year at this time, we were also earnestly seeking God’s favor to extend my dad’s life just so we can have our last Christmas and New Year with the family. God was faithful and heard our prayers. He called Dad home January 9th, barely 3 months after we discovered he was ill. 

     I am both humbled and blessed by your message. Thank you for reminding us that there is a reason for hope and much rejoicing, even for the brokenhearted.

  • Jtc_pacc

    Thank you Michelle for reminding us not to forget, but to give thanks for all the circumstances in our lives. God is truly faithful & loving, generous, compassionate & merciful. He molds our character through sufferings and pain and many other trials, like He has continually refined you and Pastor Steve. I thank God for Jesus and how He has taught to have joy in suffering as showcased in your lives. Thank you!..Julie/UCM

  • Wsale77

    As always your letters speak great truth. We are so inspired by you both!! We keep you close in prayer and are ever awed by God’s reflection in both you and Steve.  Merry Christmas to you and MAy God continue to Bless you and heal you!! much love, Anderson , Wendy, Mason, Tanner, Skyler, Maggie,and Tatum!!

  • Wsale77

    As always your letters speak great truth. We are so inspired by you both!! We keep you close in prayer and are ever awed by God’s reflection in both you and Steve.  Merry Christmas to you and MAy God continue to Bless you and heal you!! much love, Anderson , Wendy, Mason, Tanner, Skyler, Maggie,and Tatum!!

  • Roger and Jerri

    Thank you again Michelle for always reminding us of the great goodness in all of life’s experiences, even the hard, challenging times.
    We continue to keep your family in our prayers and thank God for his guidance and healing in your lives.
    Merry Christmas to you and God’s blessings in the the new year.

  • Greggfarah

    thanks for new post and great pictures. Love the line about our “rich Jewish heritage.” We remember!