Steps.

From Michelle.  11 May, 2012.

Dear friends and family,

You may have noticed that I have been at a loss for words.  Sometimes, the journey offers little that seems remarkable.  One merely sets one’s face forward and keeps walking.  My own character is tested the most when there is neither exhilarating progress nor troubling setback to cause an adrenaline-induced response.  Each day is, rather, a resolute choice to keep moving.  In the absence of circumstances that force a reaction, there is an unsettling silence, a broad range of possible avenues creating an awkwardly open space.  At times I find myself merely sitting, staring at the wide horizon.  To choose a direction in the absence of any emergent circumstances or clarifying conditions simply takes too much energy.  Like drawing the first line on a blank canvas, there is a rashness, a courage, a creative flush of hope in the finished product that is required.  Like any artist, I am brewing in the silence, waiting for that flash of folly or inspiration to drive me up into action and life.

Ironically, this silence, this open space directly follows exactly the kind of comforting clarity-of-purpose, circumstance-driven adrenaline rush that I now realize I crave.  March and April brought waves of activity to our family, with much coming and going. I had the privilege of attending the Hillsong Women’s Conference in Sydney, Australia called Colour, three days of amazing living water for any thirsty soul.  Steve and I spent a rich four days in Chiang Mai, Thailand together exploring themes of loss with a couple who are both therapists and friends.  I took my mother and stepfather along with the three children to Borneo in Malaysia for a wonderful few days on the beach.  Finally, Steve traveled to the United States to attend the West Coast Presbyterian Pastor’s Conference, and spend some valuable time with the excellent physical therapists at Project Walk, one of the foremost spinal cord injury rehabilitation facilities in the country.  There was an obvious schedule to follow, and numerous circumstances to either experience, enjoy or overcome.  Whether we liked it or not, the path forward was clear.  The disruption of our daily routines served only to amplify God’s presence and voice, as strange surroundings offered new spaces to listen, new voices to hear, and new lessons to absorb.  While our bodies were weary with all of the travel, our souls were deeply refreshed and enlivened.

After so much noise, the silence that has followed has been especially glaring, the daily routine especially dreary.  How does one translate the emotional highs created by those experiences into lasting progress in the daily drudge?  Without the driving circumstances, what direction will I choose?  Sometimes, the answer is simply to get up and walk.  Just as it takes courage to draw the first line, it takes courage to take the first step.  But if the path I forge does not appear fruitful, I can always turn to the right or left, or retrace my steps.  The open space cannot be known until I explore it.  What seems a predictable direction may in fact lead to some amazing adventure or result around the next corner.  In the meantime, faith may mean simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Here is what I do know about what lies ahead.  I do know that I am committed to believing that Steve can heal further.  Project Walk has given Steve an excellent routine that gives weight to that belief, grounded in a daily regimen, one day after the other, building toward a future hope.  I also know that at this time, there is no further progress in Steve’s ability to feel from the shoulders down.  I know that hot and cold are still entirely absent sensations throughout most of his body.  I know that he cannot yet rise early and walk the children to the bus, or play the guitar, or throw a basketball.  The variations of hope and acceptance, progress and setbacks, miracle and reality, desire and despair are infinite.  But the image is not yet set.  The road behind us is still short and fresh, and the possibilities ahead are endless.  When the infinite variations get overwhelming and I don’t know where to go, I’m going to take just one step into the day.

I keep circling back over old lessons, taking them in more deeply.  Repetition, while frustrating, is necessary.  And so the verses that sink ever deeper into my soul are those I often quote from 2 Corinthians: So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. The eternal weight of glory is the certain end to which my every step will lead.  While the variations are infinite, the end is sure.

Such truths do not unfold in spectacular ways, but rather quietly, etched over and over, ever more deeply into the heart.  As its reality unfolds, the question becomes not so much which direction to take, but where to look.  As for me, I will set my eyes to the horizon, broad enough to catch every path or circumstance, no matter how far astray it will lead.

With love,
Michelle

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  • Jtc_pacc

    God’s comfort is sufficient in affliction. I’ll keep on praying with and for you & your family, dear Michelle….Julie/UCM

  • randy working

    Michelle, your reflections are such a gift, a real word from the Lord for us.  May you see Jesus clearly in your life these days.  Blessings to you, Randy Working (and Evelyne)

  • Roger Bartholomew UCM

    Hi Michelle – reading this I am reminded of a famous play by Samuel Beckett where Estragon says, “I can’t go on like this – I’ll go on”. Looking back does have many positives, not least to reflect on whether in August 2010, had you been given the vision of what you have today, would you have accepted it….? Edgar Allen Poe in Fall of the House of Usher reflects on how normal everyday living impacts some people, and then portrays an alternative. As such you comment that “the variations of hope and acceptance, progress and setbacks, miracle and reality, desire and despair are infinite. But the image is not yet set”, is a wonderful statement. God wants only the best for you, and it is clear that the best is still to come. He did not ask us to live our lives in mediocrity! I think the rollercoaster is boarding passengers, but this one only goes up……and further up and further up. You will be hearing God’s voice telling you to hang on.

  • Margaret Sutherland

    You express so well what many of us feel sometimes, Michelle, even though our challenges may not be nearly as daunting as yours! Thank you for sharing so honestly, and for encouraging us to keep putting one foot in front of another and looking up, knowing that the eternal weight of glory is our certain end.

  • Mariaelenabartholomew1

    So moving Michelle and a great reminder when we lose sight.  Thank you and God bless!
    Helen 

  • Ally Coyle

    Dearest Michelle,
    Thank you
    for your comments. I think the Lord got me up put of bed early this morning to
    read His and your words. Lately, I have had a tremendously hard time picking up
    one foot and placing it down with a heart that God holding in His palm and
    renewing afresh every morning verse a heart crumbled by the schemes of this world.
    Thank you for you words and courage.  Blessings, Ally

  • Kikomnl

    it is so good to hear your voice again michelle, missed it :) akiko

  • Gary Robertson

    Both Jennifer and I are constantly thinking of the both of you.  Our best wishes and we’ll all have to meet up again somewhere around the world!

  • Ashliemike

    Michelle and Steve,

       We remember you often as you live life with your family there!  Thank you for your words, and your hope in the “not yet”.  We miss you both, believing that our journey through this life has been blessed by your continuing story of faith, trust, and redemption.    Michael and Ashlie

  • Alexaronis

    Wonderful words of life (and wisdom).  Our prayers and love continue with you both.
    Alex and Carol

  • Wendy

    Thank you for the update! As always keeping the entire family in prayer!

  • Baby

    The long silence from you has not let me down in keeping you, Steve and family in my prayers.  God has his own plans for each of us and we just have to focus on that.  You and Steve are well loved.

  • Deb Thompson

    Dear, dear Michelle!  I so wish that I could give you the break you need.  Mostly what I have to offer you is heartfelt advice of a maternal nature.  I think you are (must be!) exhausted – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and every other way possible.  The exertion required of you through the past couple of months, for all of the rich offerings, has necessarily taken a toll.  The ongoing challenges of the “daily drudge” are always more daunting when one isn’t well rested, the more so when special challenges are built in to the routine.  

    When you speak of brewing in the silence “like any artist” it makes me think of times as a writer when I can not write.  So frustrating!  In those times I try to calm my fears of “running dry”,  having nothing to offer of value or interest or beauty ever again, by thinking of it as a time to lie fallow.  I try to imagine that, contrary to appearances, much is happening and needs to happen beneath the surface.  There is recuperation, processing, a gathering of oneself and one’s experiences, percolating actively beneath the soil.  Enrichment and healing are happening as you “sleep”.  And it all requires lots of energy. 

    You are accustomed to being a very strong woman.  You expect a great deal of yourself, pretty much all of the time.  All those who know and love you, and who you love so dearly, are accustomed to expecting the same.  It brings tears to my eyes, because I can relate.  It is not always weakness to need a break, or selfishness to carve out time for your own needs.  Sometimes it is wisdom.  Sometimes it is necessary if your eyes are on the bigger picture and the long haul.

    Much love, hugs, and every blessing to you!   Deb

  • Lolason

    As always, thank you for so generously sharing your journey, Michelle. One foot in front of the other – so true! Thanks for the verse. It speaks to me personally, and will be my words of prayer for you all. Sending love to you, Steve, and the boys- xoxo

  • Roger and Jerri Oliver

    Dear Michelle,
    I’ve missed your voice, your profoundly beautiful writing.  Tonight, though’ I am wishing I could give  your beautiful, loving weary self some strength and energy for all that continues to require your time, energy and attention.
    We do keep you and Steve and the children in our prayers and know that there is someting wonderful ahead.

    Much Love,
    Roger and Jerri

  • Andwesale

    Michelle,
    You are a wonderful writer and your words and journey are so inspiring. Our thoughts and prayers are with you guys!!! 

  • Lindaraz77

    Amen!

  • Tessacastillo

    Michelle, thanks for putting into words my exact sentiments. It was great meeting you and Pastor Steve. I asked my sister if she can buy me a copy of the book, “The Brain That Changes Itself”. Till we meet again…

  • Greggfarah

    Love you guys!

  • Caroline Quinn

    God does not stop the train wrecks.  But He does  provide all that we need to get through.  Your blog is one of those gifts that encourages my heart.  We will pray and wait for easier times.  All is well.  I will be praying that your writing is published and made into a movie.  It would encourage so many in their faith walks as we all take one day at a time and lean hard into Jesus knowing we can’t make it on our own.  Hugs and hope and prayers for us all.  It was so good to see you at Kari’s.  Keep shining brightly.As we were saying good bye, Steve told us that you were the real story….you were the miracle.
    I thought you would want to know.  Blessings always!!!!

    Caroline Quinn