It’s all in the roots

On October 17, 2015,  exactly 11 months before we would say ‘goodbye for now‘ to Titus, I wrote a journal entry that I haven’t yet shared on my blog, until today. This has become quite a story, one that I will share in parts because it’s a bit long. Welcome to the first chapter.

What preceded this particular journal entry were writings that both cried out to God knowing my own strength and ability would never get me through; that I desperately needed him. And there were entries thanking Him for giving me beauty to behold, joy to feel. This was an intense time in our lives. On this particular day on October 17, I was in awe at how devastating a life we’d been handed and simultaneously how full of joy we were. It didn’t match, but gratitude spilled out of me and so did these words…

Wanna know why I can’t be plucked from the garden of joy? When that hand of hate, jealousy, anger, bitterness or selfishness tries to pull me out, my roots cling tight, dive deep, wrap around the other roots growing deep. One tries to pull my flower out, but they really have to contend with a mass of roots that have intertwined below.

This web of deep strong roots is a result of God’s love. He is deep in us and when we face a storm on the surface- my leaves and petals taking a beating no flower could appear to endure- he holds tight to my roots, weaves them through the roots of other flowers. As the storm goes on, I don’t wilt. I don’t become uprooted. I firmly stand my ground in the soil of LIFE. And others around me too! God has weaved us together and we will stand strong, united and beautiful in the storm. We will add radiant colors in the gray skies, sweet smells as bitter rain comes down because our roots are

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It doesn’t matter what happens on the surface – deep is where our roots are pulling nutrients. HE is providing everything we need to stay up.

But… we do look beaten.

Save us, Lord!! You see our plight and you cling tight. I might feel this unimaginable storm, but you keep together the most important part of me – my soul. When I, a summer flower, bloom in the dead of frigid winter, people wonder, How?

My roots….

My roots are held deep in love and warmth, surviving and thriving in unthinkable conditions. You give life that doesn’t make sense. It appears impossible to live in such a way, a bloomed flower in dead winter. Only a good, redemptive God can give that kind of life. Thank you for deep roots in you, God. For clinging to me deep in my soul so I can survive. Thank you for winding my roots around such strong, wise roots of others. You have won and will continue to win in my heart. Nothing can hold you back. So please Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves right to my new and beautiful bloom. Both simultaneously happening on one flower at the same time, demonstrating my broken stem as my weakness and a new bloom on a broken stem as proof that you take brokenness and make it SO beautiful. Thank you, Lord. I love you. Bloom beautiful in me despite my ugly broken stem.

And then I drew this picture next to my journal entry…. (disclaimer- I do not and have never claimed artistic talent. My art comes through my words, definitely not through drawing, but it’s part of the story so here we go… no judging! Ha!)

Journal drawing

This symbolism has stayed with me. As I have felt the faith community surround us, I picture our roots all held together. As I smile authentically, in a moment where perhaps fearful tears would make more sense, I picture my bloom. When I cry, curled in a ball on the floor unable to do one more thing that day, I picture my broken stem and beaten leaves. And then I remember my roots. And I get up and keep going.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might as or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21

To be continued…

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

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Just breathe

Ely was down for his nap. Successfully. That’s an important detail. I paced the parameter of the house. Lap completed, I began again. It was aimless. I was looking for my friends, Motivation and Inspiration. Two rounds through the house convinced me they were out and about and I would not find them here. I tried my hand at a fiction read. I made it through three short chapters before I realized there was nothing in me to even give this.

My mind jumped to my options. TV, Facebook, Instagram… Hmm…. Nope.

The house was quiet. Without even thinking about it, I found myself moving to the couch and curling up with Titus and Ely’s favorite Boise State Snuggy. I wasn’t tired, but then again, what would I call it? I had no energy to do anything. The desire and zest for any kind of project was depleted out of me.

It’s been an emotional few weeks for me. I’m not sure the trigger exactly. We have passed Titus’s one-year mark of going to be with Jesus. Around this time last year we were navigating Columbus travels and the clinical trial world with Ely. I know I have lots of reasons to feel deep emotions, but I truly can’t put my finger on what is happening in my heart and soul right in this moment. I laid down, closed my eyes. I lay still. Completely still. Which is impressive for me (ask my husband whom I drive crazy with my constant fidgeting). My eyes opened and fell on the canvas Danny had made for me for my birthday. An incredible gift; a beautiful family picture of Danny, Ely and I after Titus passed away, and photo-shopped in was one of my favorite pictures of Titus just before he had turned 4 years old. He fit perfectly between Danny’s arms and was slightly faded out, showing how close, yet how far he is now.

family photo 2017

How this has become my life, I’m not really sure. It just happened. I wonder at my evolving as a mom. And I feel a bit of a failure right now, if I’m speaking truthfully.

Ely’s bedroom door creaked open at that moment and I hear a sweet “Hi” float down the hallway. I returned a sweet hello back, beckoning my son to come out to the living room. His feet pitter-patted down the tile floor and he slid between the couch and recliner to get to where I was still laying snuggled under the blanket. My little one, he understands the need for a good cuddle. Without hesitation, he spotted his place next to me and burrowed in. I brushed my fingers through his hair as we both quietly laid there just being, him in his world, me in mine.

I thought of how I used to plan monthly themes and lessons for my boys. One month was “Goodnight Moon.” Titus loved that book. His first year of preschool, they had a program where they could borrow a book over the weekend from the library. His first weekend after school started, he brought home Goodnight Moon. It gave us all a good chuckle. He obviously missed the point of bringing home a new reading adventure. We read from the school copy all weekend, sent it back on Monday, and continued reading it over and over again with our copy at home in the months and years that followed. I did my mommy duty and pinned all the good stuff to teach language and comprehension from Goodnight Moon. We had a yellow chart I hung with pictures from the stories. We played matching games, made a storyboard, and practiced our words.

Ely interrupted my remembering as he hopped down from his snuggle-spot and ran over to the stuffed animal basket to grab “snake”. You might like to know we also have “duck”, “doggie”, “neigh”, and “Dumbo”. But “Snake” is kinda special. You see, I’m terrified of snakes. I downright can hardly even look at them! My brother knows this about me and has plagued me with images, videos, even real snake skin to watch my fears flood out of me in tears, screams and quick sprints away from the scene of danger. I’d like to say he’s grown out of this and that he’s matured now that he’s in his 30’s.

He hasn’t.

But I have grown in tiny steps to conquer this fear. Perhaps to some of his credit (Thanks, Brad). But also to some of the credit of having boys.

It was Titus’s second trip to the zoo. We went into the store at the end, knowing we’d likely buy something for him. I was thinking something cute and furry. He had other ideas and went straight for the snakes hanging down the far wall of the store. I felt a shiver and chill go down my spine. No joke. I tried to detour him to the penguins, or perhaps a cute fluffy lion. But he had his eyes on a green and black snake with yellow eyes, his favorite color, of course. After an inner dialogue that I needed to be the adult and this was truly a stuffed, fake animal and was not going to suddenly come to life and eat my whole family in the middle of the night, I said ok. Titus sat behind me in the car and all the way home he threw the snake at my head pretending it was attacking me. Lovely. What a boy. But it made all three of us, Titus, Daddy and I, laugh.

Ely climbed back up next to me, snake around his neck, the remaining part stretched out down next to me and again I wonder at my growth as a mom. Today didn’t feel like growth. I felt stale, depressed. I cuddled that snake and that cute little boy of mine in close. One tear fell down out of the corner of my right eye and I wondered at how it escaped without company. Perhaps it was just enough to remind me that I could still feel. I was still here. And yeah, this life still hurt. Deeply.

So much missing. I should clean the bathrooms. But I can’t. Nothing will work, hardly even my mind which is normally going a million miles a minute. I breathe, Ely breathes. I feel him, hold him tight. I used to feel Titus next to me this way. Right up to the moment he took his last breath. How I miss him. My heart aches and yearns to see my two boys together again. I can’t wait to see the two of them play and adventure in a pain-free, joy-filled place.

These days here feel so permanent. Hard. Like swimming through mud, they can be dark and difficult to move through. And yet I keep remembering that this is all so temporary. Sometimes that helps. Other times it feels like the voice reminding me of this truth is Charlie brown’s teacher and I can’t understand a word.

There is a resolve in me though. And knowing my current state and condition, I know it’s not a resolve of mine, but of the One who is greater than all this pain and heartache. I’m held. Just as I am gifted the moment of holding Ely. I breathe. My Abba – my God Almighty who fights for me, breathes through that breath and gives me courage to take another. We repeat. I’m not conquering anything today. But I’m doing great soul work in just being.

This is hard. Breathe.

This is painful. Breathe.

I’m not alone. Big deep breath.

It’s okay if all I can do is lay here next to my son. And just breathe.

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

Schlumpy, much?

I have been consumed lately with what my heart looks like. I am overly perceptive of how I react to things, mentally putting the information away into my file cabinet of “interesting” to go back through later. My reactions are wide and varied. My son fell off the bed a few weeks ago and hit his head straight on the tile floor. There was nothing I could’ve done in this particular incident to stop the fall except to prevent him from getting on the bed in the first place. (Which is now a rule… that gets broken repeatedly.) As I rushed to his side, surveyed the possible damage and held him close rocking him, I was alarmed at the reaction I was forced to shove down through deep breathing to maintain sanity. The anxiety, the sweating, the heart pounding, the hands shaking, the tears close to pouring over the rims of my eyelids… all of it came on in a matter of seconds without a choice. My brain was hijacked by the memories of previous traumatic experiences with my boys and their disease and the adrenaline fed the fear and high emotional reactions. It took a long time to calm back down and get back to a place where I didn’t feel so out of control.

Other times, it’s just little things that happen that make me reflect on what is truly going on deeper down inside me. I’ll be trying to have a conversation with someone and I simply just can’t. I can’t think of the right words, I can’t think of  a complete thought, I can’t process what they are saying. It’s awkward! And then there are the moments where I find myself defensive for absolutely no good reason. Still other moments, I actually feel a bit normal and able to function without having to think too hard about it, which believe it or not, throws me for a loop too.

On a daily basis, I seek to really live (meaning, I’m present) despite all the reminders around me of our pain and grief and missing. My emotions go from joy and creative passion to absolute dread and exhaustion. And in between is this numb sort of place where I do most of my living. I numbly work, I numbly exercise, I numbly take care of my family, I numbly interact… but wait, am I really living then? I call it “schlumpy”. Is that even a word? I guess it is now!

As I sit in my schlumpy-ness, I wonder at the state of my heart. Is it too hard? Is it becoming stone with thorns surrounding it? Is there beauty in there somewhere still waiting to be discovered or have I used all that up and am doomed to be ugly and broken for the rest of my life? What shape does my heart even hold? Like a broken nose that never grows back quite straight, I imagine my heart has been broken enough that it cannot look normal. Is it twisted and ugly or has it taken on a new refined, yet wild natural beauty? Maybe yes to both is the right answer. How can it not show the scars and the damage it has endured in this broken world? Yet there is a living being in that heart. It’s the Holy Spirit; God himself taking up residence in me. How He can find my heart to be a perfect home, I have no idea. But what I believe to be true is through the vines of the thorns that have grown around as a result of disappointment, hurt, selfishness, anger, loss, and pain, is a light. A pure, full spectrum color, dynamic light that beams around and through and inside out. It puts a spotlight on the brokenness, but not in the way I would expect it to. Prisms of color I have never seen before as a result of the light hitting cracks and awkward angles, bursts out. As those colors beam brightly, I see that growing amidst the thorns are actually beautiful roses. Without the light, I wouldn’t be able to see them, the darkness camouflaging them, trying to snip them off the vines with the scissors of nonexistence. But nonetheless, there they are. Growing. Beautiful. And I’m left to wonder what in the world to do with them. Am I uncomfortable with them being there? Those roses are a signal of life still at work. That death has not won and there is still life to be lived; missions to accomplish. Do I snip them off and say, forget it? Tending to these roses takes work… too much work. I would have to feed them, water them, provide them with sunshine and plenty of room to grow. It would require pruning and caring for new growth. And that is hard. Really hard. And right now, I’m schlumpy.

But I’m reminded, with a gentle prodding, that there will be a time to care for those roses, but there is also a time to sit back and allow the joy found in these beautiful buds to just be, simply because. Not because I did something to earn it, deserve it, or make it be, but simply because joy gets to exist in the presence of my God… the one who lives right inside of me. It’s one of his many characteristics, one of the deepest and most profound for me. Joy and schlumpy can actually exist together for a time, but then joy gets to win. Is it happiness? No. So what is joy in the mess of this heart of mine? What is it in the mess of this broken world and the complicated back and forth that is living in between broken reality and hope of redemption?

Joy is not a what. It is a “who”.

Who is my joy?

My joy is Jesus.

Jesus who loves beyond brokenness and faults, gives peace throughout this journey and redeems the in between and now, but also the future forever. Joy does not mean I carry a happy flag around. It means I look to Him for strength, for hope, for sustenance. It means his love reflects in and through me. And when life gets schlumpy and weary and I-just-can’t-do-this-anymore, I know my joy is not lost, because He is not lost. Jesus has never left my side and will always be there as my hope and joy no matter how dark this reality can get. Am I blind? Am I romanticizing this too much? How can Jesus really be enough when I feel the dark depths of depression and the wild ride of anxiety creep up on me?

I guess you’d have to know and believe the end of the story. The one where Jesus has conquered the very darkness that has settled in a dark cloud over our household… death.

Death… so separating, so lonely, leaving me to grieve the finality it is for all of us here on earth. Yet, only in this world is it final. Jesus has the final say. When he went to work and went to the cross and died for us, the very resurrection of his life showed the victory he holds over death and ALL things evil. His death and resurrection reflects across the brokenness of my heart with one big loud “I LOVE YOU” and “You are worth this sacrifice” and more, “You are worth this VICTORY”. Death, hate, pain, grief… all of it is redeemed – made right- through this great love story. All he asks is that we believe him! That we believe he really does love us. That he really has won. That this brokenness is redeemed and someday, we will never experience this pain again. For now God gifts us with hope and joy, also known as Jesus, in our shaded, fractured, damaged, despairing, gaping wounded hearts. Mission accepted… even in my schlumpy state, for my heart longs for all that you are, Jesus.

These are my hope and joy gifts…

 

 

Thanks for listening,

Bekah