Perseverance beyond the finish line.

From Michelle.  September 27, 2012.

Dear friends and family,

Each time I sit down to write to you, I wonder how to put more words to the same thing.  The landscape looks the same as it did last month and the month before that.  There is no rain on the horizon, and the sun beats down on the desert floor.  I wonder, are they not as tired as I am of this place?  Surely, every rock has been examined, every patch of shade explored.  What more is there to say?

A change has come upon me lately, however, a weariness unlike what I have felt before.  It has only recently dawned on me that this shift coincides with the end of our two year marathon.  The shift has come almost exactly 26 months after Steve’s accident.  What I am finding as I cross the finish line is that our marathon is far from over.  In fact, my time frame was all wrong.  Months cannot frame this journey, but rather years.  I stumble through my artificial ending and look out over the seemingly endless road ahead, and just like that, in year three, two years, two months and two weeks after the accident, I run out of steam.  I have come to the end of myself.  And it looks different than it did before. What do you do when you come to the end of a race that has taken your all and find you must keep running?

We are in such a rush to get well.  But the eternal timeframe requires more patience than comes naturally to us, who dwell so viscerally in months and days and hours.  The bible, however, is rife with waiting.  Moses and the Israelites wandered around the same patch of dry and inhospitable earth for forty years before reaching the promised land.  Sarah waited ninety years to conceive.  Jacob waited fourteen years to marry Rachel.  The book of Hebrews praises Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who waited until the end of their days and never saw the fulfillment of what was promised.

Even in our modern context, we are reminded of the imperative of time.  Steve and I have been obsessed lately with a documentary series about the American presidents, all of whom faced and surmounted incredible hardship.  Of course, the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt was especially personal and moving.  FDR took six years off following his paralysis before stepping back into public life. In a four day counseling intensive last year, the counselor said to us, “Of course, it will be ten years before you can make any sense out of this.”

There are many comforting words in the Bible, many verses about love and compassion and rest.  But there are other metaphors.  Words like “battle” and “armor” are also used to describe our earthly passage.  As I have sat with God, I have sensed equal parts comfort and exhortation.  The verses that mark this section of road are not the ones I want to see as I stumble past the finish line.  They say, “persist.”  They say, “keep going.”  They say, “do not give up.”  My sign posts are as follows:

Galatians 6:9-10: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Romans 5:2-5: And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Habbakuk 3:17-19: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

To be honest, I am not comforted.  My soft spiritual muscles resist this training.  I am, however, obedient.  So, on days when I have nothing left, I reach down into the dryness of my spirit and offer up my dust and ashes, my rocks and even sometimes only my dirty, empty hands.  The Lord receives my paltry offerings with tenderness.  He reiterates his promises.  He extends his mighty hand.  But ultimately, what there is for me to do is steel my shoulders and keep running.

Years can overwhelm.  There is a better way to manage the seemingly endless road.  It seems, in our broken and temporal state, that we are best equipped to manage the long stretch of years day by day.  Do not worry about tomorrow, we are cautioned, for tomorrow will take care of itself.  For the Israelites wandering in the desert, provision was measured in daily increments.  Each morning the manna came.  Whatever was kept beyond 24 hours rotted.  Waking and sleeping are the natural brackets to what we can handle.  Slow down, my soul.  Endure this hour and the next.  Run only this short distance.

Some days I am impatient.  I do not wait quietly.  On those days, this verse from John 16:33 swims up into my spirit: In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. It is the long view.  It is the faith perspective that stretches beyond what we can grasp into the leaping heart of hope.  Every now and then, it pays to lift the eyes beyond the daily portion and gaze into that limitless expanse.  Both awe and humility can be powerful motivators.

These many scriptures are my manna.  Daily I take them in.  I put them on like gym clothes and stretch my spirit to their injunctions.  At times, I cry out petulantly for rescue and relief.  And it will come.  In the meantime, however, there is work to be done.  Some days, I need to be a soldier, not a child.

In Lamentations 3, David writes an endless list of complaints.  He is hard pressed on every side.  He is weary beyond reckoning.  And yet he ends his lament this way:  Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.



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  • Baby

    Michelle, you and Steve are in my daily prayer.  I am inspired by your tenacity of spirit and when faced with difficult times, you and Steve become my inspiration.  God is good.  I know something good is in store for you.

  • Carolyn Schott

    This hit home. I am not good at waiting. I want to dive in and fix things or make things happen. Keeping an eye on the distant horizon and waiting faithfully is so hard when faced with the day-to-day demands of life. A verse a friend sent me yesterday seems appropriate “Be still and know that I am God.”

    As always, you and Steve and family are in my prayers.

  • john dettoni

    people are called to run a sprint race; others are called to the marathon.
      Runners usually choose; in this case the choice was made for you.
     Your honesty is refreshing: no platitudes, no “spiritualizing”
    of the pain — just plain, straight, unvarnished truth of heart and soul
    Many people want instant victory: a marathon run in a few seconds, not hours;
    they want everything to be made right within a few hours or days.  But the
    Lord measures time differently.  Why are you so “chosen?”
     That’s a question to ask when you are face-to-face with the Lord.
     Of course, when you do see the Triune Godhead, you will not be interested
    in answers to questions from earth.  You will see unlimited glory.
     But until then, we with veiled insight seek to understand the workings of
    the mysteries of God.  Your submission to His will is amazing — and your
    truthful comments are well understood by all of us who walk and run, or crawl,
    that marathon of life.  Our love to you.  Keep up the race!!


  • Bstalter

    just saw Joni Tada at True Woman ’12 conference in Indy.
    check out Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him web sites..
    She chooses to sing hymns to avoid being depressed.
    She has 13 to 15 caregivers… who assist her with her daily living.
    She is honest with God .. and takes her complaints  to Him.  talking
    to Him as her friend.  No one chooses this path..
    conference taught. breath grace in and breath grace out..
    our lives have a beginning and an end.  what happens inbetween
    is God’s will concerning us.. for our good and His glory.  His choice
    for us for His strength to be visible.. not ours. He is our source of supply.
    Humble yourself. .so that He may lift you up..  Let your light so shine before
    men that they may see Him… in you.  Phil 4:13…
    love your writing and your way with words.  such a rich vocabulary.
    are you writing you book yet?   Get ye apart and rest awhile. slow down.
    from commitments.  Be attitudes. not do attitudes..
    He is Lord of all. get help… 

  • becky busby

    Michelle, thank you for your words. I think I will save this post and reread it many times.  Your words so echo my feelings about our struggles with Jordan and I have tried to express many of these same thoughts, but am not nearly so articulate or eloquent as you.  I know you have the support of many friends and that I don’t know you well.  But know, that there is someone on the other side of the world who totally understands your weariness and the long haul of the battle.  Continue to put on the armor, you are most certainly on the course to win the prize.
    Becky Busby

  • Linda Radach

    Oh, Michelle! Across the pond there is another soul weary from the battle, worn down by struggle and time. The circumstances are different, but the sense of having being out of steam even while the days stretch out endlessly to an undiscernable horizon.

    You have quoted all my scripture touch points; sometimes comforting, but they often fall on a hallow heart that wonders at the meaning of such promises for the endless and unchanging landscape of my life. So today, I will get up and do today what needs to be done today. Tomorrow has to be left to itself and the hands of God.

    At times I am reminded of the great cloud of witnesses that Hebrews talks about. There is encouragement to keep running even when drained of resources knowing that doing so causes the saints and angels of heaven to rejoice at my tired expression of faithfulness. So know that you are not running alone. Shaking off the dreariness, as I claim the faithfulness of God’s Word for my dry and dusty path, I claim the same endurance in hope, persistence in faith, and confidence in trust for you.

  • Glenbraden

    You guys continue to be in our prayers. Thank you for your honest words. They are both refreshing and help break down the mundane wall-like lies we live in. Bless you in this ultra marathon. May God continue to provide people to run along side you, giving you nourishment and companionship.
    With love,
    The Bradens

  • Bob & Carol

    How we continue to pray that God will be your encourager.  What do people do without Him?  We love you and we pray in the long haul.  Bob & Carol

  • Joe_dodson


    I came upon HIM  as I was walking thru the woods on a warm summer day. It was late in the afternoon.  But it was still hot from the bright sunlight streaming down through the tall native fir trees that grow to 50 feet or more in the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

    He was tall, well over 6 feet.  His arms were long and his rippling muscles strained at his sleeves of his shirt to break free. His forearms were as big as any I’ve seen on a man.  He gripped a big buckle saw in his calloused fists. Using all the strength he could muster he jerked the saw blade forward.  The blade  squeeled from the strain as he pushed it forward through the wood.  He didn’t stop. He  just kept pushing and pulling, puussshhhing and pulling, PUSSHHHING and PULLING…

    “What are you trying to do?” I asked.

    “Ain’t it obvious son?” he said pertubed by my naive question.

    “Looks like you’re trying to saw down that tree.”  He didn’t look up he just kept sawing. “You look exhausted. ” I said. 

    He squinted at me and narrowed his bloodshot eyes.

    Hesitantly I asked.”How long… ah … how long have you been at it?”

    “All day.” he said, “and its getting harder and harder.”

    “Well why don’t you take a few minutes to sharpen your saw?” I said. ” I’m sure it would be easier and go faster.”

    “I DON”T have time to sharpen the saw.” He said emphatically.  “I’m too busy sawing!” “*


    How often do you break and take time to shapen your saw?  

    I know it’s hard to do. There is so much to do! And so little time.

    When the cancer struck, it forced me to slow down.  I had to. I had no choice.  I felt exhausted from the tread mill of life.  And, felt guilty!

    But you know what?  I beat the cancer.  It had been slowing me down, but I didn’t know why until the biopsy.  It slowed me down.  It forced me to take the time.  Time to fight it.  Time to recover from it.  And, time to heal  before going back into the fray…  I ben cancer free now for over 6 years. I came back stronger.  Re-energized. Like the Eveready Bunny   > :)

    The epiphany came for me when in the middle of chemo.  When I read the story of  David and his men at the  Brook Besor (I Samuel 30: 7-25).   I know how they felt.  TIRED.  WEARY. I’m sure their arms and legs were aching from the many miles they had traveled and battles they had fought.  I prayed to God.  Crying becasue I felt I had let him down. 

    But he said to me the same thing David said to his men.  Do not feel guilty.  Your salvation is not conditional.  Get some rest Joe.  Then join me and help serve in a new way in the next phase of your life. 

    I strive each day to be worthy of his faith in me.  He has given me a second life ( the cancer is gone.)  And a third one – a story to be told on another day.  But, you and I  ( like David ) must have faith that Jesus will be there to hear our  plea and the Holy Spirit will be there to see us thru whatever bumps  may lie in the road ahead. 

    Michelle. Cool you feet with refreshing water like that at the brook Besor.  Take some time to resharpen the saw!  You’ll feel better.  And when you are renewed you will be ready to move forward, to strive, onward and upward to that great reward that awaits those who wisely serve the Lord.

    May it be so. Amen.

    Joe Dodson

    PS:  Pass along my best to Steve.  Dianne and I miss you & Steve and think of you both.

    * My vesion paraphrased from the 7 Habit of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

  • Margaret

    Wow, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing truth so honestly. It is obvious you are “keeping your saw well sharpened” with God’s word. Thank you for your hope in the Lord, for seeking Him and waiting for Him, and for loving Steve and caring for him as only you can do. Our love and prayers-

  • Barry

    Dear Michelle and Steve, you might find C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed” a good read.  It is the diary of his grieving over the death of his wife.  While this is not a physical death, this change for you is a death of sorts – a death to a previously loved way of life for a time.  I remember one of his entries comparing each day seeming like another without change or progress.  He compared it to traveling by car through a mountain valley – every turn seeemed to present the same view, nothing ever seemed to change dispite the fact he knew the car was moving forward.  But the road, the trees, the view always looked familiar.  But occasionally upon a turn there would come before him a beautiful horizen he had never seen before.  He knew he was moving forward towards God’s good plan.  We pray such horizen’s come your way soon. Barry, Christ U.M.C.

  • Matthew

    Thank you mish for the reminder about the scope and scale of our journey. We do so often want to make it something we work through in days, or weeks, but it is measured in seasons, and years.

  • Brother Mark

    Thought you might enjoy words from a book I am reading about tests of leadership.
    The Impossible Situation:
    Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
    Where in spite of all you can do,
    There is no way out, there is no way back,
    There is not other way but through?
    Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
    Till the night of your fear is gone;
    He will send the wind, He will heap the floods,
    When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
    In the morning watch, ‘neath the lifted cloud,
    You shall see but the Lord alone,
    When He leads you on from the place of the sea
    To a land that you have not known;
    And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
    You shall no more be afraid;
    You shall sing his praise in a better place,
    A place that His hand has made.
    by Annie Johnson Flint

  • Deborahannegustafson

    Thank you for painting an amazing picture off dry, emptiness. And your response of obedience. Love you 5 so much.

  • Heather

    Weary, yes. If depressed, that’s ok too, and there is help for this circumstance if you need it. Know that I wish I could bring you a cool drink in the desert, and pray for His Spirit to draw close to you.

  • Roger and Jerri

    Dear Michelle,
    Once again you are so eloquent, even in your pain.
    We lift you up, daily, in prayer…for strength, for rest, for peace and for joy.
    Our love to you and to your entire family.

  • Ann M. Thomas

    Dear Michelle and Steve,

    Catching up through archives this morning. Jaw-dropping, raw faith and perseverance in every posting. Praying for more and more strength, more and more power, more and more joy in God’s service.

    Ann Thomas

  • Georgia Perez


    Though my wish for you and Steve would be to never have faced this particular challenge, I cannot help but give thanks that God is able to use your words to inspire and encourage others. I have been beset with my own painful struggles and feeling as if I fail God when I cannot find the joy in whatever my circumstance. Guilt soon follows, as if somehow my 40 years as a christian should mean I am not easily rocked. Your words: “So, on days when I have nothing left, I reach down into the dryness of my spirit and offer up my dust and ashes, my rocks and even sometimes only my dirty empty hands. The Lord receives my paltry offerings with tenderness”, remind me that God receives me in whatever state I am with love. I am not alone in my struggles, not only because God himself has said He will never leave me or forsake me, but also because there are others who also walk this path filled with challenges who encourage me to go on. 

    Thank you!

  • Georgia Perez


    Though my wish for you and Steve would be to never have faced this particular challenge, I cannot help but give thanks that God is able to use your words to inspire and encourage others. I have been beset with my own painful struggles and feeling as if I fail God when I cannot find the joy in whatever my circumstance. Guilt soon follows, as if somehow my 40 years as a christian should mean I am not easily rocked. Your words: “So, on days when I have nothing left, I reach down into the dryness of my spirit and offer up my dust and ashes, my rocks and even sometimes only my dirty empty hands. The Lord receives my paltry offerings with tenderness”, remind me that God receives me in whatever state I am with love. I am not alone in my struggles, not only because God himself has said He will never leave me or forsake me, but also because there are others who also walk this path filled with challenges who encourage me to go on. 

    Thank you!

  • Laura

    Your blog postings always call me to Truth. Thank you. I am sorry it has been such a long and difficult road. I hope for some rest for you.

    I love that verse in Lamentations. This past year our family was having a particularly dark and hard time. One day as I was driving over the 520 bridge, my anxiety was washing over me, we had received more bad news. Meanwhile, my almost 2 year old and 4 year old are in the back seat, my 4 year old requesting I replay the same instrumental piece of music over and over. As I drove and was engulfed by fear and anxiety, suddenly that same verse came to mind, clearly and sharply. “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed…his compassions never fail . They are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.” I felt the Spirit’s presence wash over me.  A few minutes later, my 4 year old says from the backseat after sitting quietly … (completely unaware of what is going on in me).  “Mommy, when I hear that music and look into the clouds, I can see God, I can FEEL him.”  … I remember being in awe of her little spirit sensing God’s presence in the car with us, and it felt like an extra confirmation, just incase I was doubting his presence with me.  A moment I will remember.

  • Betseyhb

    Dear Michelle and Steve,
              I check monthly for your updates for your inspiring words and to remember to keep you all in my prayers . Thank you for honesty with wonderful scripture to encourage me to take a step of obedience for the waiting.

     Christ’s blessings to you,
       Betsey House Baker