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

Christmas Letter 2013

Linus from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
Linus from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

December 2013

Dear Family and Friends:

This past year proved to be another wild ride at our home, filled with adventures both good and, well, the other one!

Steve discontinued his Winter Shooting League commitments to be home with his beloved wife early in the New Year.  Two Fort Wayne event planning committees benefitted from Steve’s expertise running canoe and kayak racing competitions, held this summer.  His kayak racing (K-1 Unlimited) went well again for his fifth year racing in the U. S. Canoe Association circuit here in northern Indiana.  Participation in the USCA national meeting as a delegate and a respectable finish in the USCA Nationals were additional highlights this past year.  And while threats of layoffs continued at Exelis (formerly ITT), the Lord preserved Steve’s work again; it appears that the engineering contracts will continue for the next three years.  Yes!

Steve’s leadership and dedication to the Lord played out in continued work on the Missions Board at Harvest Fellowship in addition to weekly Bible and worship services.  I appreciated the weekly gift of a CD of the pastor’s message as my worship became more homebound due to the older conditions of our church building.  While I dreadfully missed the fellowship of our church home, I am grateful for the uplifting Bible teaching and first-hand account of all-things-Harvest when Steve came home with his play-by-play Sunday updates!

The biggest adventure of the year was the remediation of our home for mold between January and March.  We had just returned from seeing family and friends in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina in January when it became clear that there were mold spores throughout the house that were causing significant compromises of Julie’s health.  After extensive testing and prayer, we discovered that mold had developed in the air return area underneath a bathroom cabinet.  Julie stayed in a hotel for 76 days, most of them with our dog Elle while Steve ran back and forth between home/hotel/work.  Steve’s daughter, Christina, was finishing a furlough with us before returning to Thailand this Spring.  I thanked her for coordinating some of the clean-up efforts and navigating the flooring replacement project that included the entire house.  To say it was a major undertaking for all of us would be putting it lightly!  We are grateful for the Lord’s provision and guidance . . . and to be back home!  We are home except for Christina that is:  she is pursuing her work in linguistics and as an Intern Coordinator in Thailand.

Quick update:  Patrick and Kate celebrated Jackson Rees’ first birthday this past September at their home in North Carolina.  We unfortunately were unable to attend due to my illness but wait with great expectation for their return visit to Fort Wayne this Christmas.  Rebekah is now finishing her first semester at Vanderbilt University in Nashville; international education will be the focus of her Master’s degree.  And Daniel continues to thrive as a Corporal in the Marines, based down the coast from Patrick in North Carolina.  We are delighted to host him and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Posey, for some Christmas celebrations here real soon.

And for me, well check my blah, blah, blog for the hairy details!  (www.justjuliewrites.com)  I continue to battle the complications of a serious illness.  Recent new treatments are providing promising results and I must say that we see the hand of God guiding me and Steve through this often difficult journey – with some moments of sweet tenderness that probably could not have come any other way.  I am also grateful for two projects:  my online jewelry business (www.trinityjewelrybydesign.com) & eBook (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/371334) that have kept me sane when tempted to feel discouraged.  There is hope and I see it every day in the face of my Jesus and heart of my beloved Steve.

So we hope that you will be encouraged this Christmas:  the Creator King is on the throne and is ready for us to celebrate His birth in just a few days.  The love and hope of Jesus Christ makes the difference to hearts and minds surrendered to His care.  He does it for us.  How about you?

Merry Christmas,

Steve & Julie

Jesus is for the Wounded

In the wee hours of Christmas morning, it is.

My body isn’t happy and my heart feels a little smaller than usual.

I wonder when this or that will change:  when the prayers will be answered?

Sadly, some did not say hello when I made it to church for the first time in a month.

Crying could be in the cards tonight, or at least a little pouting.  And what would that accomplish anyways?

I have so much goodness in my life, outside of this illness and its related difficulties.  About these I have written time and time again.

Why is it so easy to forget the blessings?  The roller coaster of life when it gets complicated too easily pushes my focus off of what is most important again and again.

Put the robe back on, take it off, no put it back on again as the sweat episode comes and goes; am I hungry or is it low grade nausea this time?  Oh yeah, the tic attacks have started again.

There is no end to this kind of thinking in my own strength.  I go on about it here only to illustrate that even as a believer in Jesus Christ, I am tempted, taunted by the darkness of this world.  Perhaps the difference between me and someone who does not believe will be what happens next.  Others may attempt to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and cheer up with positive self talk.  Still more will use a substance or dark distraction to erase the reality that can be so difficult to face.  Those comforts will be temporary and fail to something else that must replace it eventually.  Well this Christmas morning, these will not be me.  I will turn somewhere else.

But wait, can a baby born in a filthy village to a teenage girl and out of wedlock possibly comfort me in my anguish?  Even if He spoke wise words, did countless miracles, and 500 people testified that he rose from the dead, does that have anything to do with me tonight?  What if His life, death, and resurrection were perfectly predicted 500 or so years earlier without the benefit of the internet, does that mean anything for me or for you either?  And if He was part of God, the three persons of the one entity that is “God,” does that mean that He had anything to do with me being created?  So if He did create me, did He have really some purpose or plan for my life that included allowing me to get Lyme Disease?

Guess what?  The answers are yes.  Jesus is for the “wounded.”  Jesus is for this wounded woman who doesn’t feel so hot.  Jesus is for those who do good and those who do not.   Jesus is for those who think they are good but can never really be good enough because of our shared human condition:  we are all flawed by sin.  Jesus is for the sinner and those affected by sin in this fallen, imperfect world.  Jesus is the answer now and always.  And when I lift my eyes from my limited life and fix them on He Who is infinite, seek His forgiveness, claim that He is Lord, my eternal life comes into view.  This trial of illness will give way to an eternity in heaven with Him:  and there will be no more pain, weeping, or sorrow.  Yeah God!  How do I know this?  He promised it in His Word!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-3)

The answers are all in the Bible and the Bible is God, one and the same.  How does that work?  Finding the answer to that begins in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Creator of all people, places, things, events, and spiritual entities.    Some go to His Word first.  Some cry out to Him before realizing Who is out there listening and waiting for them with perfect love.  Some find Him through a person who knows Him and draws a bridge to the heart of Christ by his or her actions, tenderness, words.  In the end, we can all find Him if we but seek Him.  Don’t stop with that spiritual friend or influence either.  He, she, or it will fail us at some point.  Trust God to be perfect; just love people (spoken first by my former Pastor, Bill Hybels).  Jesus will not, never, ever fail us.  Jesus is for the wounded.  He “knows” the cries of our hearts as He was also wounded physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually too.  He does care about our sorrows.  He came to save us from the consequences of the sin of this world.   If all this wasn’t true, He would have never left the heaven realms to be born into this world only to die a tortuous death on a cross.  Would you leave paradise for me?  Er, no.

Tonight my heart is transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).  Thank you Jesus for coming to save me (Luke 19:10).  Thank you for watching over me (Psalm121:5) and ensuring that the trials will not be wasted (Jeremiah 29:11).  Thank you for caring about me (1 Peter 5:7) and taking care of my true needs (Luke 12:22-30).  Thank you for Your gift of salvation and eternity with You (John 3:16).  One day I know that I will be well, whole, and rejoicing in Your presence!  (Psalm 30)

Merry Christmas indeed.