How blessed we have been this year to be on this journey of life together, and what a year it has been!
Our middle grandson, Tobiah, graduated from high school a year early and spent the past three months in Guatemala learning Spanish, working with Food for the Hungry, and exploring the country with Juan Carlos, Jr., a young man who was an exchange student here a few years ago. Jashton, our oldest grandson, is graduating from St. John’s University this month as an illustrator, and he did his senior project teaching art in a high school for the past semester. Corban, our youngest grandson, has been learning about how God does unexpected things in our lives, hard things, but gives us His strength to grow and triumph. He has been plagued by migraines for the past three years, but he has found God his strength. Jen is teaching Spanish at the high school across the street from their home and Dirk is learning to pastor a church in completely uncertain times. God has proved Himself faithful to them over and over.
We survived a hot, muggy, rainy summer that turned into a glorious fall. I ended up with another acute exacerbation of my Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and ended up in the hospital during the first week of November. It was a scary time, as we weren’t sure I would be able to make it through. Again, God was gracious to us. My oxygen needs have risen again, making life even slower and harder, but we are adjusting fairly well. Our latest event was David needing surgery the first week of December, leaving him unable to lift my oxygen tanks, push my wheelchair, or drive the car for a time. God provided a huge blessing in that Kevin and Kim Matthews our very good friends from Oregon came to help us out for a few days while David worked at recovering his strength. Just as they left, Tobiah returned from Guatemala in time to load my wheelchair into the car and push me around so his grandpa can heal.
This fall we enjoyed a visit from my nephew Justin and his family and after I was released from the hospital, my brothers Harvey and Jerroll and sister-in-law Karen came for a visit. How we enjoyed spending time with our extended family!
We’ve been slowly working on our memoirs. It has been such a blessing to look back over our lives and see the way God has shown Himself to be so very real to us. We discovered there is one major event that shaped us, laying the foundation stones upon which we built the rest of our lives. I’ve included it here as a teaser for you in case you want to read the rest of our story!
May your Christmas be blessed and may God grant you His joy and peace for the coming New Year. We love you. Thank you for being in our lives. Merry Christmas.
Grace, Gratitude, and Glory
With a tremendous roar, the wave crashed into the rock outcropping, sending an explosion of white foam and a saltwater spray two hundred feet toward the sky. As it hit its pinnacle it seemed to stop in midair for just a moment before it came crashing down, sending a salty mist over us as we sat tucked into the stunted tree at the top of the hundred-foot cliff. It was winter at Shore Acres State Park just outside of Charleston, Oregon and David and I had rushed to the coast to experience a ferocious ocean storm. The cliff one hundred feet above the Pacific was the perfect location to watch the majesty of God’s creation show off it’s glorious, savage power. As the waves erupted like grand fireworks over our heads, we marveled at the glory of God’s creation and at His grace that allowed us a front row seat to this incredible performance. The verse from Jeremiah 5:22 came to mind as we marveled at the grace and power of God. “’Do you not fear Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal limit, and it will not cross over it. Though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; Though they roar, they will not cross over it.’”
As we sit down to record our memoirs, this picture of the wild Pacific Ocean seems a fitting backdrop to the work God has done in our lives. It is wonderful to sit by the ocean on a quiet day and visit with friends, watch the children play in the sand, or just let the quiet soak into your weary bones. But the quiet can lull you. I remember one of our first explorations at Shore Acres. We followed paths that wound through the ravines, gloried in the tide pools on Simpson Beach, and climbed down the rocks to get as near the water as we could. The day was so restful and refreshing . . . until . . .David stepped out from behind a large rock and a wave hit him. The force of the water almost knocked him over but even more powerful was the under-currant that tried to drag him out into the ocean. It was terrifying as his thought was “Oh no! I’m going to die!” It wasn’t until we experienced the fierceness of the waves and we began to understand the incredible power they contained that our love of the ocean really began. We became enthralled with its power and developed a deep respect and awe for its magnificence, whether it was showing us its tremendous intensity during a storm or healing us with its restorative calm. No matter what the occasion or whether the weather cooperated or not, the greatness of the ocean always led us to praise of our incredibly creative God who gave it its power and beauty.
An important thing about storms at the ocean is that there is usually time to prepare for them. Shutters are closed, campgrounds empty, and gale warnings are posted. We’ve learned that God often does that with storms that come into our lives.
The first major storm preparation we encountered came two months before our fourth anniversary. We, with our infant daughter, Jennifer, were living in Omaha, Nebraska. David had graduated from Bible college two years before and was working as a telephone line splicer while we figured out what ministry God had for us. We found it. We accepted a place with T.E.A.M. Missions to run a camp for them on the island of Aruba. Now came to task of getting ready for that transition. We had lived near my parents in Nebraska since before we were married, so we wanted to be near David’s parents in Washington for a while before we moved out of the country. We sold our car and purchased a used farm pickup—complete with a stock rack—to carry all our stuff to Washington. Since summers are terrible in Nebraska—hot and humid—and since the truck did not have air conditioning, we decided to drive at night when it was cooler, and sleep during the hottest part of the day. We loaded everything we owned on the truck, even leaving down the tailgate and piling stuff up on it. We must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillys going down the road! We left Omaha around 10 PM, heading west toward Washington, traveling on Interstate 80.
Our family tradition is to pray as we begin to travel, so I prayed. I thanked God for the cool evening and thanked Him for the lessons He was going to teach us as we drove. God heard that prayer and answered, “Oh, you want to learn something as you drive? Well here is the lesson for the trip.” (Of course, in hindsight, I’m just imagining that’s what He thought!) About 75 miles down the road, one of our back tires blew. David pulled the pickup to the side of the Interstate and jumped out to change the tire. He couldn’t. Our load was so heavy that the truck sagged, and David was not able to fit the jack under the truck to raise it up so he could change the tire.
Nebraska can be pitch black at night, especially on the road between towns and away from farm lights. David did not want to walk anywhere for help and leave me and our infant daughter alone on the Interstate, so we decided to pray. “Father, make someone stop to help us,” was our prayer. Four hours later, our prayer was getting frantic, “Father MAKE SOMEONE STOP TO HELP US!” Then the lessons began that were our biggest preparation for all the storms that came latter in our lives.
Preparation Number One: Never demand that God act or tell Him what to do.
I can’t really say it was an audible voice, but David and I heard it at the same time. God answered our prayer by declaring, “You are telling Me what to do.”
We looked at each other in shock! That had been the exact motivation of our hearts—our utter helplessness and obvious need caused us to frantically insist God help us in the only way we could see an answer coming! Joining hands, we bowed our heads and asked God to forgive us for demanding He make someone stop. Our prayer changed to this: “Father, forgive us for our attitude of believing we could command You to act. We are here with no ability to help ourselves and know You see us and love us. Please help us in any way You choose. Thank You for Your care and love.”
As we said “Amen,” a sheriff’s car, a state police car, and a semi-truck pulled up behind us. David jumped out the truck and met them saying, “Do you know you’re an answer to prayer?” They helped get the tire changed and we got back on the road.
The next town was York, Nebraska, so we pulled into a station to get the tire fixed. They informed us that the two back tires were not strong enough to bear up under the huge load we were carrying, so we purchased two new tires. The sun was just coming up as we pulled back on the Interstate to get on our way. As we drove down the road, David turned to me and asked, “Do you think we can trust these new tires to get us to Washington?” I happily replied, “Yes.” Bang! One of the new tires blew! Preparation lesson number two had begun.
Preparation Number Two: Only God is trustworthy.
By now we could see farms along the road, and since we were near an exit, I walked to the nearest farm to phone for help while David stayed with the truck and Jennifer. I admit I’m a slow learner, so as I walked, I prayed, “Father, make them be home so I can use their phone to call for help.” Of course, they weren’t home.
I began walking to the next farm, scowling and kicking at loose stones on the edge of the road. I once again heard God’s voice: “Julia, what are you doing?”
“You know exactly what I’m doing,” I grumbled. “You didn’t answer my prayer, so I have to go to the next farm to use their phone.”
God’s answer came in His sweet, loving voice, “Trust Me.”
Humbled and embarrassed by my so easily forgetting what He had done for us just hours before, I turned around and headed back to the truck on the shoulder of the Interstate. With the rhythm of each step my heart echoed His tender voice, “Trust Me, trust Me, trust Me.”
As I approached the pickup, David came to meet me. Before I could say a word, he declared, “I know. God said, ‘Trust Me.’” Moments later a man stopped to help us.
Back in York, they discovered a flaw in the innertube of the new tire. By the time the tires were once again ready to travel, it was midday and hot, so we found a hotel room and slept. Twenty hours after we left Omaha, we had traveled only 80 miles. By this time we knew this would not be an ordinary journey.
Preparation Number Three: If God doesn’t solve the problem, He gets you through it.
About three in the morning, we stopped for gas. When it came time to leave, David pushed and pounded on the gear shift, but it wouldn’t budge. We were at a dead stop with our tremendous load and stuck in fourth gear.
Just the week before in our Sunday school take home paper there had been an article about a mission team whose bus broke down in Mexico. Far from any garage, the kids surrounded the vehicle, laid their hands on it, and prayed for God to heal the bus. He did, and they drove merrily on their way. We decided to try it. David and I placed our hands on the shifter on the floor between us and we asked God to help us get it into first gear so we could get moving. He answered us, so on we drove. By the time we stopped to sleep for the day, however, the transmission would no longer go into first, second or third gear.
By the middle of the next night our gas tank showed empty. We were in the middle of Wyoming where exits are few and gas stations are even fewer, especially those open for 24 hours. When we came to an exit, we drove up the ramp, scanned the road either way for a promising sign, and when there were none, we proceeded down the exit ramp and back to the Interstate. After we started back to the highway after our eighth exit, I spotted a lighted gasoline sign. David stopped the truck and attempted to move from fourth gear to reverse, but the transmission would not respond. We could not get to the station. As we drove back onto the Interstate we prayed, “Father, we are leaving behind the only open gas station for a hundred miles. We need gas, but as You taught us, we are trusting You. Please get us through.” Thirty miles down the road, the next exit had a gigantic lighted sign we could easily see. Not only was the station open, but they had a restaurant so we could have a good breakfast and our eleven-month-old daughter could toddle around and get some much-needed exercise. By the way, our gas tank held seventeen gallons. We put in seventeen and three-fourths gallons into it at that station. Even our gas lines must have been completely empty!
Preparation Number Four: What God says is true, even if the evidence seems to say the opposite.
Once we were in the hotel room that afternoon, David and Jennifer slept, but I was hit with a fever, complete with vomiting and diarrhea. It was miserable! David’s parents had sent us a booklet called, “Jesus Wants You Well” several months before. (It is not a book I recommend, but it was fresh on my mind.) Again, I called out to God. I asked Him to heal me, and I gave him a list of reasons why I thought He should answer my prayer. The final reason was this. “Father, if You heal me, I will tell others about it, and they will give You glory along with me.”
Once again, I clearly heard him speak. He said, “You are well. Wake up David and tell him I healed you.”
Immediately my stomach felt as if it were twisting and boiling. Instead of waking David, I went into the bathroom and threw up again. Obviously, I hadn’t really heard from God.
But God wasn’t finished. Just as I settled back into bed He spoke again. “You are healed. Wake up David and tell him.”
This time I argued back, “I am not healed. I still feel awful.”
God stopped me with these words, “What are you going to believe—Me or your symptoms?” I could no longer argue with God, so I hedged and said, “I’ll tell him as soon as he wakes up.” David immediately rolled over and looked at me. Reluctantly I mumbled, “David, God just healed me.” He closed his eyes and rolled back over. Relieved, I went back into the bathroom to throw up once more, hoping he’d forget I’d said anything. It was evident I hadn’t really been healed.
A few hours later David woke up. The first words out of his mouth were, “Were you trying to tell me something?” I took a deep breath and mumbled, “God said He healed me.”
“Great!” he responded, “then let’s go get something to eat.” We woke Jennifer, dressed, and went to a restaurant. I’ll never forget what it looked like. I ordered fried chicken with three extra pieces of meat because I was so hungry. By the time we left, not only was the flu gone, but also a cold I’d had before we’d left Omaha. God had truly healed me.
Preparation Number Five: God can do the impossible!
We drove up and down two mountain passes with our transmission stuck in fourth gear, carrying a tremendous load beside the weight of the truck. That in itself is a huge miracle. But we made it to David’s parent’s home in Startup, Washington and unloaded our stuff. The next day we drove the pickup into Snohomish, Washington to the place where David’s dad got his car serviced. The man looked at the engine and asked, “How did you get this here?”
“We just drove in from Startup.” David answered.
“No you didn’t,” he said. “How did you get this here?”
“Well,” I chimed in, “we actually drove it here from Omaha, Nebraska.”
“No you didn’t.” he insisted. “This truck is not drivable. The engine parts are welded together.”
David and my eyes met and together we stated, “Well, we thought we did.”
I chuckled because I knew we both had the same picture in our heads. Whenever we left on a trip my grandfather, and now also my father, would pray, “God, place Your angels in front, in back, and on each side of their vehicle to protect them as they drive. My father always added, “And put one underneath and another on top.” What I knew we both pictured was us sitting in our pickup thinking we were driving it, but the reality was angels were carrying us along.
Preparation Number Six: God gives us opportunities daily to trust Him.
While overhauling our vehicle, they discovered the dealer in Nebraska had used regular motor oil instead of transmission fluid, so the heat of driving had, in fact, welded the transmission into an unmovable mass. The dealer helped pay for repairs for the truck. But even after it was fixed, it often stuck in fourth gear. We learned that whenever that happened, we had to lay our hands on the shifter and pray. It would immediately come out of fourth and work properly. We said we should paint “Faithmobile” on the side of the truck.
The problem came when we wanted to sell the pickup. We couldn’t just put an ad in the paper. Someone had to buy it who believed our story and would pray over it to make it work. We found someone—a friend of a friend. About six months after we sold it, I met the woman at a friend’s Tupperware party. I asked about the truck. She told me the Saturday before she and her daughter had stopped for groceries and when they came out, it wouldn’t come out of fourth gear to back up out of the parking lot. She was shoving and slamming the shifter when her daughter said, “Mom, what do you expect? We haven’t prayed yet.” So, she said they prayed and drove home.
The rest of the story:
We never made it to Aruba for God had other plans for us. However, the lessons He taught us on this trip prepared us for the storms that would come our way. This preparation was the groundwork for the rest of our lives. We have learned to ask and not demand. We’ve trusted Him when it looked impossible, when the circumstances told us we were being foolish, or when we had absolutely no idea what to do. All these years later we can testify that He has never failed us. We’ve seen Him do impossible things in impossible circumstances. We can truly say His ways are always best.
As we tell you this story of our life, may you come to see God’s words to us are true for you as well. He loves you and can and will do the impossible for you as well. Trust Him.