Christmas Letter 2016

Steve and Julie’s Christmas Letter 2016

Our celebration this year may be described as one of humility, gratitude and perspective. So here ya go from the perspective of each of us here in Indiana:

From Elle, the Dog

I must say that they have treated me pretty well and the all-natural dog food is great! All I had to do (don’t tell them) was continuously lick my paws until they were nearly raw then BINGO (!) along comes fancier cuisine and a Greenie chew bone every couple of days.  We all know who is in charge over here as I near my 8th birthday . . . the gray hairs on my jowls now bring distinction as Chief Pup.  My favs remain:  chasing radio-controlled airplanes and cars in addition to rabbits & geese!

From Julie

Holy cow, I’d like to say that I have been cured after 5 years of serious illness but that would not be the case. Lots of things are better as I continue in awe and gratitude for so much including having married the most loving husband in the world!  I am now treating chronic Lyme disease with IV antibiotics and working with a brilliant Naturopathic Physician/Genetic Coach.  For more details please see: http://www.justjuliewrites.com  Lord willing, I am going to get well!

We have been able to travel with the “Tin Can Ranch” 5 times this past year to the: panhandle area of Florida and Fort Rucker, AL; Silver Dunes area in Michigan twice; Air Adventure at Oshkosh, WI; Steve’s United States Canoe Association Nationals in Northfield, MA.  Our trip to Texas for Thanksgiving was cancelled; we hope to figure out another way to see Steve’s family this winter.  When in AL, we got to celebrate Steve’s son Daniel’s wife’s graduation from the Army as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, followed by an enjoyable tour of the area in a civilian copter with Elizabeth as the pilot!  Lord willing we will see Patrick-n-Kate and our 2 grandsons when in NC in January.  With Christina in Thailand and Rebekah (and Pancho to join soon) in Spain, Skype connections are our norm around here.

Our gardens flourished in their 9th year with the clumping bamboo finally making a showing and the blackberries deciding to produce in their 5th year.  Just gotta’ be patient, right?  We enjoyed a cute kitchen herb garden (on the covered porch), peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, radishes, and lettuce too.  Tis a good thingy that Elle doesn’t miss her outdoor pen that has been turned into our “Secret Garden” now that she is an inside dog!

From Steve

It’s been an active year, with many good things and a few “firsts.”   Julie has been the most incredible wife, supporting me and helping me in all my endeavors, in spite of dealing with significant illness.  I couldn’t ask for a more loving wife or a better partner.  God is good! J  Julie has covered most of the travels with our camper and kid activities, but I want to accent a few of those.

I’ve long wanted to see the Oshkosh airshow – the world’s largest – and with a change in my company’s vacation policy this became the year it was possible (Julie gave the trip to me as a birthday gift – can you say “awesome wife”?!?). What an incredible show!!!  The airshows were phenomenal, the number and types of aircraft were mind-blowing, and if you have any aviation inclinations at all there was probably something there for you.  On the down side, it seems to have reignited the bug within me to finish those flight lessons I never completed so many years ago.  And the thought of building an airplane…  All of which may be behind the radio control model plane getting a bit of a workout lately.

Paddling has been a huge part of our life in many ways these past number of years: I race kayaks and outrigger canoes, Julie and I produce Canoe News Magazine for the US Canoe Association (USCA), and I have a side business (River Bear Racing) selling Stellar Kayaks & Surf Skis (and supporting gear). We were blessed this year in each endeavor.  In spite of some physical challenges that somehow seem to come from aging, I did well in all my local races and managed a 3rd place overall in outrigger canoe at the USCA Nationals this year (don’t ask about my kayak race – that fell apart!)  River Bear Racing roughly doubled in sales this year, turning a profit and allowing me to add in some additional products to the lineup.  You can see our website at www.riverbearracing.com.  And Julie and I were able to produce some well-received editions of the magazine (always a good feeling after all the work that goes into producing a magazine).  See the magazine at http://www.uscacanoe.org/canoe-news.   But the biggest blessing of all was getting Julie out a few times to paddle this year, both in one of our newest Stellar S16S surf skis and in our old favorite Huki tandem outrigger canoe.  With Julie stuck in the house so much due to illness, it was a real blessing to be able to get out on the water together at those times.  And one of those times was at a church marriage retreat on Lake Wauwasee – something she wouldn’t have been able to attend the last few years.

Otherwise, work is going well, and the new owners (Harris) seem to be doing good things for the company. I’ve been able to get in a lot of cycling this year, particularly appreciating the long, warm Fall we enjoyed in Indiana in 2016. Church is a very central part of my life, and it has been a huge blessing to be part of an excellent Bible teaching church (http://www.harvestfellowship.us/).  I planned on teaching some additional classes this year at church (I periodically teach classes on parenting, firearms safety, and paddling), but I had to lay a bit low this year.  We’ll see what 2017 brings.  Whatever comes in the new year, I am always thankful for the salvation of the Lord and the life that He has given me!

Kid News

Somehow we managed to drive the kids pretty much to the farthest corners of the earth; no worries about “boomerang kids” here! Christina continues to faithfully serve the Lord in the far flung land of Thailand (a long paddle past CA) and seems to be doing well overall.  Rebekah was my relatively close child, living with her husband Daniel in the foreign land of Chicago, but her youthful wander lusts got the better of her and off she went to Spain to teach English.  Husband Daniel will follow this December after he finishes his master’s degree.  The boys are both theoretically in the USA, but being on opposite sides of the Continental Divide and on opposite coasts, they might as well be on different continents.  Patrick and Kate continue to enjoy the east coast life in Newbern, NC, raising sons Jackson and Warren.  I did get a chance in the Spring to drop in and play grandpa for a day – something that’s quite a rarity for me.  Daniel and his wife Elizabeth, heeding the words “Go West, young man,” followed the advice quite literally and settled in Tacoma, Washington on the western coast.  They’ve found Washington State to be a strange place, but they’re gradually adapting, learning to chase the homeless heroin addicts out of their cars and such…

Wrap-up

No matter what our perspective may be, the most important view at Christmas is the one that brings us closer to the person of Jesus Christ. We stand in awe of His sacrifice for us that brings unspeakable joy, knowing Him as Lord and Savior over all.  He loves His own more than words can say:  the best Christmas gift of all.

Love to you and your family,

Steve, Julie, Elle

I was made for you

You looked at me with the bluest of eyes and said that we were going.

The ugliness of illness that had proceeded that moment held the rest of the day in the balance —

Obligations awaited us yet all the precautions, procedures, special preparations, and planning getting to this moment made no difference.

I could not move until you moved closer towards me and spoke into my moment of sickness.

And in a scene borne out of love that many will never find,

You gently lifted me to the edge of the bed so that I may dress, may push the mangled hair from my own eyes.

As if time itself breathed slowly from one moment to the next, I became able to sit up on my own again.

We chose the adornments to fit the occasion; we got me standing then walking forward.

I drank some water from a bottle nearby.  My brain moved more quickly and the next tasks came alive.

And as if what would be horror to a fly on the wall just minutes beforehand,

You tenderly called to me our next steps as we prepared to go meet the rest of our day.

We both had a bite to eat, groomed ourselves, and moved closer to the door:

The events of getting ready now no different than what has become the routine of trials endured many times before.

But this time it was your love that called me forth, moved me on; yes your tender words alone helped move me on.

And when we were along down the road a ways ready to meet the others,

I sat in awe of the life the Lord had crafted for me, for you.

Never would we have asked for heartache and sorrow that looked like this

Yet in a dreamy place would we have designed a magnificent love made just for me, just for you.

It doesn’t matter how we “getter done” when the Lord sits with us at His table

When His grace transcends the stuff of life, when I am carried by redeeming grace from both of you.

So when the happy couple says their vows at their own marriage supper in a day,

May they somehow come to know what true love lives like:  He looks like you dear one:  the Father of the Bride.

I love you Steve.

Just Julie

It was the Lord’s decision

O.k. let’s loosen up a bit first for a funny story that my beloved told me today:

Steve was having his hair cut by an older stylist who shared with him a little something about back hair.  Yes, Steve already “knows” about back hair and somehow his stylist found out about it too.  I’ll call her Mabel to increase my comfort level with another woman musing about my husband’s body hair.  (My apologies to anyone named Mabel out there!)

Mabel said she had a client one time that wanted her to trim his back hair.  You see, the furrier gentlemen types can have hair that sticks out of their shirt collar horrifying the fair skinned, younger female crowd for sure.  (I’m thinking of Steve’s daughter here who usually helps Steve out with this kind of thing when she is in town.  It’s some kind of daddy-daughter thang.  Yeah, no problemmo.  Keeps me from having to do it!)  So Mabel did her duty and trimmed up the guy only to have him ask her to do a little more please.  Then he must have asked for the shave to go further down his shirt because the story goes that she had to profess, “If I go any lower sir, you are going to have to tell me your middle name and buy me a drink!”  Tee hee.

Steve and I cracked up for a long time after he told me this little ditty!  Then my intended beloved confessed that his chest hair was getting a little long.  I reminded him that his daughter would be visiting in a couple of days.  Nuff said.  Besides, I already know his middle name!  Lol.

There’s no clear segway from here to the topic on my heart tonight.  Today was Mother’s Day and technically I am not a mother of anyone.  Steve has four adult children whom I all met when they were becoming independent adults so the step——- term never seemed appropriate.  I was left in an awkward ambiguous role of “my dad’s wife” as if I was an expendable associate to whom they would have to be polite until one of us went away again.  They are all well-trained young adults in politeness, avoiding difficult topics, and loving their dad just the same even after their parent’s divorce.  The silence was still deafening, the emotional distance between us palpable.  In time I would discover that the fact that I never had children would be one of the reasons their respect for me would remain superficial for a long time.

Only the Lord knows why I did not become pregnant when every indication at one particular moment in time suggested that a child would be in my future.  Conception never happened.  Four months later I discovered that my husband at the time was having an affair.  The affair had lasted almost a year before I found out about it!  If we had conceived a child at that time, the precious new life would have been dragged through a painful divorce process and horrific life challenges that I ended up enduring in addition to the divorce.  In my humble opinion, both that little life that was never born and I were spared a multitude of heartaches.  Surely if I had gotten pregnant the Lord would have provided and guided our lives, taking care of important details like finances, medical care, and a place to stay.  The stress would have been unbearable for me, however.  At times I did not function very well at all for a couple of years just taking care of me.  My spirit was so broken . . .

The Lord knew what He was doing when He placed me in another “broken” family with a Godly father with four children four years later.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;  Psalm 68:6-7a

Over and over again I have witnessed the special role that the Lord intended by my presence in Steve’s family, my family.  Those musings may rarely if ever be spoken to the children.  I will not say more about that here lest they read this one day.  I am honored and blessed to be here in this family.  And when the grandchildren started coming, I was delighted to be welcomed as “Grandma!”  So sweet.  So worth navigating the older kid’s awkwardness that came in gatherings during of our first seven years of marriage.  Grandkids are fun!

Tonight I decided to post a message on my Facebook a message that speaks to my heart this Mother’s Day.  Many of us come from broken homes, broken marriages, childlessness, or the loss of children in our lives for some reason.  Love is like that sometimes.  Things don’t go right and it hurts terribly yet I hope we still choose to love again anyways.  I can tell you this night that I am glad that I did not give up too soon.  I hope that you do not give up too soon either Gentle Reader.

The Lord never blessed me with my own children then he blessed in other ways instead. I count it all joy to be related to Christina, Patrick and Kate (Jackson and Warren), Rebekah and Daniel, and Daniel and Elizabeth. Know that I pray for you often, whether it’s in the shadow of your amazing dad or trying to find my way when I do get to see you. I think I now understand a mother’s heart. She just loves. Me too. Hope your day was meaningful . . . :J

dad, father, father of four children, divorced dad, adult childen, Christian father, Christian family