From Michelle.  August 2nd, 2013.

Dear friends and family,

After two months on the road, we are settling back into our lives in Manila.  Although we had an amazing time with dearly missed friends and family, I confess that it feels good to settle back into a familiar setting and routine, and especially to pick up once more the reigns of ministry, which will never cease to feel like an enormous privilege.

While we were away, we crossed the three year anniversary of Steve’s accident.  It passed with little fanfare.  In fact, I had to remind Steve of the date on the day itself.  This uneventful passing gave me quiet joy, knowing that the accident no longer defines us, though it continues to deeply mark us.  I had expected to stop writing by this time, especially as our lives relate specifically to quadriplegia, but too many people urged me to continue to record the journey, and so, here I am, three years in, still writing.

Looking back over three years, I am surprised to note that while our physical experience of life has been in decline, our spiritual trajectory has been one of growth.  I have written before that vacations underscore the limitations of Steve’s paralysis.  Before he joined us on our trip, the boys and I sailed, hiked, camped, fished and generally fed ourselves on the great outdoors.  Once Steve joined us, the circumference of our activities narrowed significantly, a shift more easily navigated by the sheer pleasure of having him with us.  However, living life in these narrower confines requires a different level of intentionality.  Energy and movement are not casually spent.  We have to be more creative in engaging our children and each other.  Relational interactions supersede the kind of gallivanting and adventuring we used to so casually hurl into our days.  While this is challenging when we are abroad, at home this pushes us into steady and predictable rhythms.  We pray more than we ever did before.  We pay attention because we are humbled.  We slow down because we must.

For me, both the slowing down and the humbling has meant more time in scripture.  Strangely, the Old Testament has been a source of endless challenge, delight and comfort.  Perhaps the vastness of the arc of time it covers, the mystery of its content, and the endless suffering in its pages puts the shadow of my own life in perspective.  More potently, the desert journey of the Israelites and the forefathers of the faith is more relatable, the great gaps of time between each miracle or manifestation of God more interesting, and the great battles more apt to reflect current spiritual realities.

Lately, the book of Joshua is where you will find me. It is the story of God’s fulfillment of a long ago given promise.  Until the people were ready to step into it, they wandered in the desert.  For decades.  Stepping into the promise required an enormous and active faith, entering into battle believing in victory though all of the physical evidence declared inevitable loss.  Three years into our journey, I am gathering myself up for that kind of belief.  Ironically, what fuels my courage is a greater trust in God’s goodness than I ever had before.

How can we walk through fire and yet grow in our knowledge that God is good?  Somehow, I have always known that God, though omnipotent, was not the author of this fire.  To the contrary, he bends gently toward us, the God of the universe drawing near.  It is difficult to describe how I know his presence.  Every glimpse surprises me, a combination of holy glory and tender kindness that is the exact juxtaposition we see in an infinite cosmos and a finite cross, something so large and mysterious and yet so humble and deeply connected to our humanity that it cannot ever be adequately rendered in human terms.  This I know: where God’s reign is complete there are neither pain nor tears. That is not here.  Like a scratched and roughened diamond in a glowing crown, this earth is ours to polish or destroy, and we make our bed with evil as often as with glory.  There is a greater setting within which we find ourselves, however.  It seems almost foolish until we look at the stars.

The book of Joshua is a story of faith fulfilled, of deliverance into a promised land, after a messy and needlessly circuitous journey.  It ends in victory, but it is replete with blood and gore, risk, sweat, pain.  Our lives are no different.  Scrawled on the mirror in my bathroom right now is the famous line from Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.”  This is what we have.  This is what we know, while everything else remains uncertain.  Glory resides with you and with me.  It never leaves but waits patiently for us to be ready to receive it.  Somehow, by grace alone, I am more ready than before to do battle for the promise.  I can taste the victory, though I do not see it. For I know more than ever before that Goodness is at my side.



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  • Sonya

    M: I knew when the email popped up saying there was a new post, I would be a treat. Thank you.

  • Melody DuBois

    In the face of a too-big responsibility, a friend recently pointed me toward Joshua. Another series of stepping stones has had me thinking about the stars and what we could learn about ourselves, God and His story by paying more attention to them. To find you contemplating some of these same things is a blessed joy along the path.

  • Barry DeShetler

    I think if the writer of Joshua were writing a text for your family he mind amend the text to say, given the confinements of the last 3 years, “God will also be were you don’t go too.” We pray for you often! Blessings, Barry

  • lulu ongkiko

    …to do battle for the promise… is from the Holy Spirit to your pen. If i believe, even with a little faith, i must fight it out with all my heart, mind, body, and soul, in good times or bad times, for the promises of Him who remains constant and true. Thanks, Michelle, for six words that bring about with certainty your last sentence – “for I know more than ever before that Goodness is at my side.”

  • Roger Bartholomew UCM

    We are so pleased to have you back amongst us, and from a purely selfish point of view, we are so pleased that you are having your messy and circuitous journey with us at Union Church. I doubt it the journey is really “needless”…. it’s just that we frequently do not understand what and why God is doing things in our lives. Today they don’t make sense, tomorrow when we look back God is saying “why did you doubt me”. Possibly the key to that verse from Joshua is “do not be discouraged” as this typically our response to our immediate circumstances – which we may not “see clearly”. Discouragement happens when our plans for ourselves do not come to fruition; encouragement comes when we see God’s plans being fulfilled and knowing that he has let us be part of them. Having said that, Joshua was definitely a remarkable man!!

  • Michael Unruh

    Michelle and Steve,
    Thanks for including us in your journey! We miss you and hope to connect with you again.

  • Sue

    Michelle and Steve,
    Each time I receive one of your posts, I am amazed and grateful for how powerfully your words speak into my life and the lives of so many others I send your posts to. Your writing is born from your experience with quadriplegia but it speaks into the flawed nature, the brokenness of each of our lives and our desire – no, our need – to hold tightly to God and to know him more intimately through the pain of our brokenness. So please – keep writing.

  • sue economides

    Constantly I am awed and overjoyed to hear your beautiful words reminding me how strong your faith is and what an inspiration you and Steve are in our lives. I’ve never met you but have known Steve and his beautiful family, for most of his life and I KNOW God had a plan when you and Steve married. Two devoted souls on an incredible journey……May God Bless you all. with deep affection, sue economides

  • Lenore

    Hi Michelle: I am a friend of Paula Haunschild here in AK. I am continually moved by your writings and challenged in my walk with Jesus. I am suggesting to you that you might write a devotional book using your blogs and other writings as you are indeed gifted by God in inspiring others as wells as writing. Blessings to you and your family.

  • lawrence

    Dear Michelle and Pastor Steve,

    You’re life is a living testament for me and for all of us. I’m so so blessed!

  • Wendy sale

    So happy you are still writing! We miss you guys so much and keep you very close in our prayers! We are in DC. If you guys ever come this way!!
    Much love,
    The Sale family.

  • Wendy sale

    So happy you are still writing! We miss you guys so much and keep you very close in our prayers! We are in DC. If you guys ever come this way!!
    Much love,
    The Sale family.