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

A different kind of Christmas

Perhaps it is a sentiment of many Dayspring and Hallmark greeting cards to define Christmas as “the most wonderful day of the year.”  For a believer in Jesus Christ, the day is one of the most meaningful:  celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.  But perhaps the most significant holiday is actually celebrated on Easter Sunday as we recall the sacrifice that Christ made in dying on a cross for our sins such that we may have everlasting life.  No sentiments are implied or required:  the truth is that He came to save, the truth is that He is Lord of all!

Isaiah 9:6-7New King James Version (NKJV)

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

I can almost hear the victorious singing of Handel’s Messiah in the background as I read these words.  Such is the confidence that we have, the joy we know as believers in Jesus Christ!

Many days when my life is a “nothing burger,” these words are just about all that I have for comfort.  My Christmas and Easter in 2015 were not filled with either the people or activities of a typical Christian holiday.  There were no church services dressed in better finery, homemade treats enjoyed in the basement afterwards with the dearest of friends, or family dinners filled with laughter and much feasting.  The décor around here was the same as it is every day.  I could go on with all that was cut due to the ravages of severe illness but I won’t.  Perhaps you get the idea Gentle Reader?

I spent each of these holidays staring into nothingness for much of it yet also with nothing to distract me from seeking the face of my Lord.  My prayerful meditation was uninterrupted and peaceful.  Warm, loving glances came from my beloved Steve whose presence is one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for in my life.  Even our furry friend Elle is always a special delight with the gentlest of brown eyes, the softest of fur coats.  I did get somewhat of a break during the middle of the day on Christmas in which we connected with family via Skype and the phone, MacGyvered a tasty meal of sorts, and opened some sweet gifts for our eighth Christmas together as husband-and-wife.  Yeah God for special moments like these!

In two days we will continue and conclude as many of these traditions as we can in a gathering with my husbands adult children and their spouses.  They graciously will attend to the mold/fragrance-avoidance practices needed for me to host them in our home.  Since it may be my only time to see them when they are in town from their respective States and countries, I do pray that I may be able to participate in every moment available.  They are wonderful young adults and I do love them so!  I have simplified our menu and Steve has begun the preparations.  We have spent extra time finding special gifts that would be meaningful; one of them may even serve temporarily as a different kind of “Christmas tree!”  We’ll see.  I still have to pull that one together!  Eeeek!

So if you too have changed things up a bit for this Christmas season, know that you are not alone.  I understand completely.  It’s o.k.!  This holiday along with Easter in the Spring have nothing to do with Santa and the white bunny carrying chocolate eggs.  These special days have everything to do with a decision we each make in our hearts about Who we will serve as Lord over our lives.  Where have you placed your trust dear friends?  With a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will have a celebration that will never be limited to a date on the calendar.

Charlie Brown Christmas

Nothing beats a Charlie Brown Christmas message:

And with that decision made to follow Christ, every day will be a different kind of adventure that transcends the moment into all of eternity.  Yeah, I’m on board for that one.  Will you be along too?  JJ

My Other Dad

This past December we celebrated the 80th birthday of my father-in-law, Rees.  He is an amazing man:  retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, retired mechanical engineer, and now retired financial advisor.  He still bicycles many miles along the southern California coast each day to the beach, takes a nap in the sunshine then heads home again.  He keeps active in his church, as an avid reader, solving crossword puzzles with impressive speed, and keeping up with the latest in the lives of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  I am grateful to be his daughter-in-law in addition to being married to his wonderful son, Steve!

Camera 1 066Hey My Other Dad:  here’s a belated birthday present from our visit together in Austin, Texas.

Enjoy everyone else too!  JJ

It’s all I can do

Focusing on breathing today.  It’s all I can do.  The stress level is high as Steve and I anticipate travelling out of State to see my brother tomorrow.  Gratefully I report that it appears he is stabilizing after having had a severe stroke this past weekend.  My own struggles with illness and daily seizure-like episodes continues.  A new treatment for me didn’t pan out too well, increasing the severity of the post-treatment episode.  Oh well.  The Lord goes before me and all of us as we call upon His mighty name:  Abba Father!

Lord I need you now.

We got this.  Philippians 4:13

 

I submit Mike's left-sided weakness to the Lord who strengthens us all.

I submit Mike’s left-sided weakness to the Lord who strengthens us all.

 

 

You have made a difference!

I am grateful for the love, care, and support of some special folks who have helped me make it through nearly two years of serious illness.  I am also sad for those who have left my life or misunderstood this time in my life.  Hardship is not contagious folks!Mom's 75th B Day Party

First, the good stuff.  The person nearest and dearest to my heart is my beloved husband, Steve.  I am amazed when I gaze into his blue eyes at the sincerity of his love for me and for the Lord too.  When he comes close and holds me through a tough episode, cradling my neck in his hands to comfort me and minimize the trauma of various noxious symptoms, I am humbled!  There are not many people on the planet that would do this even for a loved one two years “down the road.”  Many would become exasperated, angry, indifferent, or worse by now.  Thank you Lord for this amazing man.  Thank you for my “Jesus with skin on.”

The next group of folks closest to the fire, so to speak, who have helped me to survive are my Lyme Literate Medical Doctor and our local Lyme disease support group (who are largely his patients).  You understand!  You get it!  And you believe me!  When my Doc calls me on a Saturday with the name of a pharmacy where I can get a medication almost $100 USD cheaper, I am grateful!  When it’s my turn to share at our monthly Lyme group meeting and my tummy is happy from the yummy snacks we bring that fit our special dietary restrictions, I feel loved!  And then when we exchange text messages or Cindy, or Roberta or Diana offers help with a special task, I am humbled.  Oh how I pray I may serve you too in your time of need.

A few dear friends and family members have witnessed and endured much of the past 10 years of this incredible journey of transformation.  I love the kind of relationships that go on no matter what life brings, picking up when we meet again as if no time has passed.  I hope my brother Mike, Brenda, Deb, Kinsey, Patrice, Mary, Judy, Maria, Tami, and a few others feel the same way?   Now that my parents and grandparents have passed away, I appreciate even more my extended family including my Other Mom, Other Dad, Uncle Dave, Aunt Lori, Aunt Patty, and Aunt Shirley.  I love you and thank you for investing in my life.

There’s a special place in my heart for the online community.  Whether I met you on a Facebook Lyme forum, your blog or when you commented on my blog, I credit you with keeping me sane at the odd times of day when no one else cares!  Thank you for your “likes,” for following this blog, for your comments and suggestions, for your time.  The greatest gift from a friend is a gift of his or her time.  When you reach out to me I know that I am not alone.  While the internet can be a ruthless place, I am grateful for it’s goodness, especially when I am awake in the middle of the night.  It’s pretty cool that my buds in the UK or West coast of the US are online when I am!  Please let me know how I may return your kindness.

I’ll save the best for last.  In the interim, I’ll briefly state my sorrow for those who have chosen to leave my life.  He or she will not be reading this so I won’t waste much white space gushing this or that emotion.  I am grateful that when I have endured hardship in the past, I learned the importance of letting go of the people, places, and things that leave my life at these times.  Perhaps saying goodbye makes room to welcome the blessings that are to come?  Thank you for all that you have taught me.  Godspeed, dear ones.  I’ll be here if you want to stop by for a chat or walk around the block in the future.  As for the things, well they are just things.  So long.

And now for the best:  the One who knew me and my frame before I was born, fearfully and wonderfully made by Your guiding hand.  (Psalm 139)  I love you Lord and thank you for saving me from my path of destruction as a young woman.  I praise you for crafting the incredible events of my life to bring me more blessing than I could have ever imagined in the middle of my journey on this earth.  While I do not fully understand the sorrows that have come, I am convinced that You hold my tears in your hand, counting and caring for each drop, every pain.  I have never felt alone.  Thank you Jesus for bringing me to Your throne of grace where I may dwell in Your presence now and forevermore.  Grow my trust in Your promises, Your plan for my life, Your will for me all that is around me in this world that is troublesome.  Come soon my Lord!

So for all of you and you and you and you and You who have made a difference in my life, I give thanks.   If I have screwed up somewhere, please let me know and consider forgiving me.   I want to make it right if I can.  And if any good comes from me, these blogs, or anything else, to God be the glory.  He is worthy to be praised!