Few things remain.

From Michelle.  March 1, 2012.

Dear friends and family,

If January was a month of hope and of some reprieve, February was a challenge to those fragile gains.  As soon as I noted improvements in Steve’s gait, it seemed, he began to limp again.  As soon as I noted stability in his weight, he caught a stomach bug and lost several pounds.  As soon as we thought we had found a good therapy routine, a regular therapist announced pregnancy related sick leave.  These convolutions come as no surprise.  No path in life is truly straight, even when the general momentum is moving forward.  In a marriage course that Steve and I are facilitating, the instructors talk about the myth of the day when there will be more time.  Much the same, there is the equally alluring myth of a life where everything goes smoothly.  While such periods do occur and are sweetly precious, they cannot last.  The truth is, while we all long for that stretch of straight and level road, we are equally in need of the discipline of the unforeseen bend, the uphill climb or the downhill rush.  We shed more weight and gain more strength as we bend and scramble and sprint.  We dig deeper and find new reserves.  We lean harder and find God to be greater.  A good story always has an unexpected twist and a good dose of dramatic tension.  We all journey this way.

As we navigate the twists and turns, digging deeper over the miles, I find myself longing to shed more baggage.  The discipline of a long hike involves choosing carefully what to bring.  The longer and harder the trek, the more carefully we inspect the list of contents on our backs.  Each additional pound is costly.  I still have a great deal of flaccid weight and unformed muscle.  There is an urgency to both materially and spiritually simplify, to grow lean.  In an effort to mark the inner work, I create silly rituals of simplification.  For each item of clothing I gain, I must give away two.  I sort through the jumble of plastic bits and pieces among the children’s toys and throw things away.  Several containers overflow with other things I will not miss.  These seemingly trivial tangible actions function almost liturgically to also cleanse the spirit.  There too, I am sorting through the trash and discovering what is truly essential.  I can shed, little by little, pleasing people.  I can leave behind a few books and entertainments that don’t edify and a mass of parental guilt and a few pounds of looking good.  In my backpack I now have more room for prayer.  It doesn’t weigh anything.  I can breathe more easily.

I think back on our early days in Seattle, after the accident.  We arrived with two suitcases.  It was a gift to start fresh.  We did not miss our things.  There was a lovely spare quality to life.  The essentials had space to breathe, uncluttered by all of the extra toys and furniture, the empty entertainments and the unnecessary worries.  We even shed a house.  It was all too easy, however, to accumulate again and clutter up that freedom.  These lessons come slow.  First, we took on material things.  Later we added responsibilities, activities.  As Steve became more able, we grew less discerning of our commitments.  We grew more careless with our time and resources.  The gift of the uphill stretches is that they alert me that my pack has grown too heavy.  I must shed a few things to make it to the top.

And so, February’s gift has been that gentle reminder to simplify.  To shed a few things and enjoy a more nimble response to the next unexpected turn.  To make room in my pack for what matters and sustains.  As I get older, fewer things remain.  And in the end, only one thing: Christ.

After listing in great detail the tremendous faith of many of the protagonists in the bible across the centuries, the author of Hebrews notes that, “all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.”   No path of ease, no neatly delineated earthly passage lives among this list of saints.  The author continues: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run the race which was set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  We are asked to shed the weight and run, looking not for an easy finish but with the example of Christ before our eyes, who suffered greatly for our sakes.  The promise of ease does not arise in this life but in the next.  But what we can do is shed every weight and sin, so that we may run with joy.

I do this imperfectly.  My pack is always too full.  My hands are never consistently open.  My mind is easily cluttered.  I take comfort in the list of saints.  Their lives are flawed, their paths often circuitous.  And yet, by grace, they finished the race, running in the shadow of the cross.  And we, by grace, will do the same.

With love,


» Click here to enter your well-wishes for Steve in the Guestbook This entry was posted in General Updates. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Harold Sala

    Hi Pastor and Mrs. Ruetschle! It was a joy to be with you, Steve, on Sunday past! I will long remember your gracious words and, indeed, thank God for the marvelous progress you are making. Sorry I missed seeing you, Michelle, but Darlene said you were able to chat for a few minutes. I am confident that God will continue strengthening you. Marking progress is difficult but I was amazed at your strength–far more than I had anticipated. May the Great Physician keep you both in His strong grip.  Harold Sala

  • Cbsample

    You help me not to lose hope. Thank you again so much. Chris in Maine

  • Jtc_pacc

    “And in the end, only one thing: Christ.”… What a beautiful hope for the future!!

  • Betty Gutzwiller

    As always I am blessed and challenged! Thanks Michelle!  Hugs to all!  Betty

  • Peg & Paul Stuckey

    Profound and invaluable insights! Thanks much, Michelle. You’ve been a great teacher today.

    Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you and Steve.

                                                                                              Peg & Paul Stuckey

  • Deborahannegustafson

    thank you Michelle for the reminder that simple is beautiful a lesson i am still working on too. Thank you for the help you give to me in my journey towards simple.

  • Gary Robertson

    Great thoughts, Michelle!  I’m constantly trying to stay on this path – going on 30 years of it now…  

  • Gus

    you speak deeply to my heart dear friend.  

  • Chuck Dimond

    Wow Michelle.  Stunningly lovely.  As always, all our love and all our best, Chuck and Elizabeth

  • Chris Trautman

    Michelle…you speak so eloquently to the truth and invitation God has placed in my heart also.  May  His sufficient grace continue to carry us onward…you,Steve and the boys are loved.

  • Hartley Angela

    thank you for your reminder Michelle, so true, it is so easy to stuff up the baggage after minimizing it.  I am being encourage by your sharing to check my baggage again. 

  • sky

    once again you speak to me, Miche. thank you for what I can only read as a truly lenten word.  much love to you all.  

  • Lulu_ongkiko

    ‘And in the end, only one thing: Christ’, then, what you and I are going through, are worth it all.  I heard Pastor Steve at Victory Fort, and even if he did not speak in volumes, the message of the Cross became alive again.  Grace upon grace.

  • Bob & Carol Kuiken

    Thank you so much Michelle for your wonderful transparency.  We continue to pray for all of you as you sort through life and try to simplify.  Praying for God’s protection and healing as well.

  • JAYoder

    Hi Michelle.. You have eloquently described what I so inadequately try to say in my “Journey of Faith” Testimony.
    The “Luggage” we carry (or “Baggage we take on) has no weight when you consider what that “Faith” means – especially in terms of  the work we do for the Lord.!!

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

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us, Michelle. It is both an endearing and more importantly, inspiring trait of yours how you are able to let God’s glory shine through the cracks in your (and our) everyday frailties and failings.  

    The message about checking what’s in our pack for the uphill climb is a timely reminder for all of us who are often overwhelmed with the many tasks at hand and many roles we play at home, work, church, etc.

    May the Lord continue to bless you and empower you and Steve.
    All for His praise and glory,

  • Wendy Simpson

    As always, a beautifully written, transparent, hope-inspiring post.  I loved the line, “we lean harder and find God to be greater”.  May you keep leaning and find true rest for both body and soul as you journey together. 

    Praying for you all,

  • Georgia Perez

    Michelle, God is surely using your willingness to be transparent in your journey to inspire and bring hope to others. Many times your posts have reached into my struggles and completely helped me reset my thinking and feel both commiserated with as well as lifted.  I hope you know that your words have great meaning and provide huge comfort to those of us blessed enough to read them. Thank you!

  • Delores Topliff

    God bless you. I love you and family and think of you so often, praying and thanking . . .