The afternoon Thanksgiving Service at Emmanuel Reformed Church was blessed with a Jesse Tree experience. First, our son-in-law Pastor Dirk Gieser encouraged us to weave thanksgiving into every part of our lives so that we could experience the deep peace of God (see Philippians 4:5-7). Then he asked each of us to inscribe on paper the things for which we were thankful. After we had quietly written out our thanks, we went up to the Jesse Tree and hung them there. The result was a beautiful copper tree filled with leaves of thanksgiving ranging from forgiveness to family, and beyond.
This got us thinking of this year’s blessings, and what we would share with family and friends of the good word of the Lord upholding our every move – His grace woven into every part of this life.
When we arrived here in Castleton On Hudson, New York, in February, the weather was very cold and we were adrift without the heart-warming friends and places we had enjoyed in Oregon for 22 years. We were westerners moving into the East and tempted to be apprehensive about everything from storing our large truckload of stuff to how we might be received by those with whom we wanted to take up life.
But then, we took a deep breath by God’s grace, put one foot in front of the other, and now nine months later can smile at the many hurdles we leaped across with the help of His Spirit and His people. We can certainly testify to the truth in Dirk’s words that the deep peace of God is tasted now as we give thanks for all that we’ve experienced in the transition.
Breathing by grace
Julia has IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis), an irreversible disease that causes lungs to die over a two to five year span. She is living now, 1½ years after being diagnosed with slightly less than half of the lung capacity she would normally have. The good news is that she has lost very little capacity to breathe since arriving in New York. This major answer to prayer coincides with the gift of a very expensive ESBRIET (pirfenidone) medicine she receives that doctors believe slows down the lung degradation. Speaking of doctors, God has directed us to those extremely knowledgeable and encouraging. The grimness of diagnosis and daunting lifestyle change proposed in Eugene and Roseburg has given way to the gentle hopefulness of lung specialist Dr. Judson of the Albany Medical Center. Our flannel wearing primary care doctor is also a teaching doctor at the Albany Medical College. Wow!
Julia has done a marvelous job of weaving thanksgiving into every adjustment we’ve had to make because of IPF. The persistent lack of energy, hard coughing, headaches, sleeplessness, and shortness of breath (especially when exercising or bending over) demand changes, and Julia has embraced the challenge brilliantly. Her grateful heart again and again has breathed God’s peace into her husband’s soul.
Breathing in family by grace, receiving peace
What is better than seeing your daughter’s beautiful smile when leading worship, or being grandparents on Grandparent’s Day? Not much I’d say. This year, for the first time, we’ve often had these and so many other wonderful experiences first hand with our children – as a part of the normal rhythm of daily life.
We’ve enjoyed Jashton’s school plays and amazing ability to tell puns, reveled in the afternoon soccer and evening concerts of Tobiah, watched Corban’s first basketball practice, laughed through movie nights, birthday parties and meals around the pool, and talked long through walks in really old cemeteries or down country lanes. Of course, Jennifer’s Rhodesian Ridgeback Leo loping alongside our own Shi Tzu Winston made these times even better. These times with family have been a major life-giving breath for us. We’ve prayed so often that we could be near the kids and now we are. When the difficult days come and we wonder why we transplanted all the way across America, we look at these wonderful kids and say “thank you Lord!”
Breathing out house by grace, receiving peace
God knew we needed to be at 15 Chestnut St. in Castleton. And when the huge mountain of work and very large amounts of money needed far exceeded our abilities and strength of soul, God came again and again just in the nick of time to move us forward. There is no “Egad!” in our view of this home. Now every day there is an “Ahhh…”
The people God has used to accomplish this miracle of grace are many. Dirk & family have been the major help, with Dirk the driving force behind renovation of the bathroom, installation of flooring in every part of the house, and so much more. Dirk and Jennifer’s wisdom and optimism are the foundation for all that is being accomplished. In the first two months when we had no home, Dirk’s parents Chuck and Sally Jo shared their home with us in Delmar. Sweet times of fellowship, great food and a warm bed did much to keep us focused on God’s grace during those early days here. Aren’t God’s people amazing!
Over the months, craftsmen from outside have been very good at what they’ve done also. They’ve rebuilt the foundation & flooring, kitchen and bedroom infrastructure, and replaced the roof, gutters and boiler. Friends stepped in to help with the siding and mudding of the sheetrock, and to provide a loan when we had no more money to keep us going. We hope to have a kitchen by Christmas and pray the master bedroom will be completed sometime next year to complete the major renovations.
Breathing in community by grace, receiving peace
We would love for you to take a country drive with us to get groceries, or go for a walk kicking up leaves. We miss the Pacific Ocean very much at times, but God has replaced the beauties of Oregon with many other beauties here. God’s goodness and greatness is on display everywhere! If only we’ll look and see.
Loving neighbors surround us! This past week a neighbor showed up at our door with a turkey, and later blew leaves off our yard. Another called just this morning to warn of black ice and to suggest something for the slippery porch and patio. And God is blessing our presence here. When a new neighbor moved in a couple weeks ago, she told David “Oh, you’re the preacher with the God-box!” Word is getting around that we love the Lord and many are aware that we have a small mailbox up outside for collecting prayer requests from the neighborhood. One of our great surprises on this street to which we’ve been called is the mailman. Shawn is an ardent follower of Jesus Christ and has witnessed consistently to God’s grace along his route. We’ve become very good friends and often pray together for a movement of God here in Castleton that will help turn New York back to God.
Breathing out ministry by grace, receiving peace
The Emmanuel Reformed Church under Dirk’s care has embraced us as one of their own. We’ve been invited to be a part of people’s lives at some of the most meaningful moments. The first areas in which God gave us an opportunity to help were in missions and prayer. But we’ve also been able to lead a small Encounter group and help out a bit at church dinners. David has been designated as a “Ministry Resource” for the church and helps out in the choir. Julia has been leading a morning Bible study for women and together we’ve been able to provide some pastoral care in hospitals and a nursing home.
A new unique opportunity is beginning the third Sunday in January. We will be traveling about 40 minutes away to Mountain View Evangelical Free Church in the village of Voorheesville. Their pastor is moving to Florida and David has been asked to preach until a regular interim pastor can be found. The Free Church has a program that brings in an interim for a time to help a church get from point A to B, but it takes a little while for that to get set up. God is already blessing this new relationship and we wait to see what He will accomplish through it.
Breathing in blessing, breathing out blessing, receiving peace
We would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and very Blessed Christmas!
Beloved New Hope family and our wonderful extended family, and other far flung friends, we so wish we could sit down for a cup of coffee and a long conversation. You have all brought such wonderful blessings to our lives and we don’t have enough words to tell you how very dear you are to us.
We want to close with a favorite blessing:
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
May your meals be merry and the Source of your joy be known throughout the earth!
Picture above: Jashton (16), Dirk, Tobiah (13), Jennifer, Corban (9), Dave, Julia
Address: 15 Chestnut St., A, Castleton-on-Hudson, NY 12033
Home Phone: (518) 336-4171; Dave’s cell: (518) 732-5008; Julia’s cell: (518) 732-5020