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:  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  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   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 (  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 (aka Pancho) 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…


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

Try a Gentle Approach

The late humorist Erma Bombeck published a book entitled, If life is just a bowl of cherries then why am I in the pits?  In her writings she had a lighthearted way of dealing with the unfair, confusing, satirical, unexpected, and simply crazy stuff of ordinary life and the people that can be responsible for it.  Oh to have the gift of humor!  Yeah that one eludes me a lot of the time these days when my world does not make sense.

Another author, Sarah Young encourages us in her book, Jesus Calling,  to let the Lord envelop our outreach to others when times are tough.  His love is infinite and transcends the strength and limited wisdom of our tiny brains, our earthly experiences.  This is a better approach and moves me in the right direction. 

But perhaps the place to find the best advice comes directly from God’s word.  The opposite of weakness is strength.  Searching for the word “strength” in the Bible yields 232 references!  Wow.  Finding this makes me realize that this must be something important to our God.  He must want us to seek Him first in dealing with the people and situations we face in our lives or He wouldn’t have inspired men to write it down for us that many times!  It makes sense:  as Creator of all things He is the ultimate source for the power to overcome the stuff of this world.  My favorite verse that helps me in my own times of weakness is Psalm 73:26:

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Today the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His power helped me to do what I could not have done by myself.  The task was relatively simple:  make dinner for my husband and his good friend.  After all, we had made most of the items yesterday and offered to have his friend over last weekend and it didn’t work out.  All I had to do was tidy up a bit, set the table, make a salad, and put it all together.  The only problem was that my husband called me to confirm that his friend was coming as I was waking up from a recovery nap just after noon.  Nope, I wasn’t at church again today.  I was feeling very beat up from a total of 11 hours of seizure attacks the night before that woke me up several times overnight and early this morning.  My brain was still numb.  The number of attacks were too many to count.  I had wrenched my back in the process of involuntary shaking; the headache and back pain were piercing my frame.   The last thing a gal wants to do when her face is swollen, brain foggy, body hurting and running through hot-n-cold sweat episodes is entertain!  But if I did say yes, it would get me out of bed and going for the day.  A voice inside me somewhere agreed to the plan.  What?

As it turns out, everything came together regardless of how I was feeling.  I got to have a normal experience after an abnormal, nightmarish one.  I called upon the Lord and He sustained me, strengthened me for the task at hand.  The food was great and fellowship meaningful.  There was time to rest afterwards and take a call from another dear friend who understands what this journey through chronic illness is really like.  After eating lunch and taking two Tylenols, I felt better by about 4:00 p.m.  Whew.  At least the whole day wasn’t wasted!

The “gentle approach” I usually need is the one I must take with myself.  I must gently lay myself before the Lord at His throne of grace and let his love and strength wash over me.   When I am weak, when I am unable, when I lack a humorous approach to cope, He is able.  He is my Lord this day and always, my Emmanuel.   I don’t have to control anything or make anything happen in whatever shred of strength I may have at any moment.  He goes before me and it is always good.  Today I could even taste it!


As an aside, today is Mother’s Day in the United States.  While many call it a Hallmark or greeting card holiday, it was actually signed into law after a woman wanted a woman in the role of motherhood to be recognized within her own family at least one day per year.  The Lord did not grace me with the role of “mother.”  Technically I am a step mother however that is not a title my husband’s adult children choose for me at this time.  They are adults and I am cool with this.  Recently I offered to adopt my husband’s grandchild as my own and was warmly received by the parents.  I am humbled and joyful for this gift of a grandson!  He now has five grandmothers and in time will see the benefits of the love and prayers of all of them.  The Lord guided me in not forcing the issue of being recognized as a step mother or grandmother.  Here we go again:  sometimes a gentle approach is best.  To Him be the glory in Christ Jesus when I do get it right.  I could not do it without You!