It’s all in the roots, part 1

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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Unlocking my heart

I bent down to put the tracks away and melted into a puddle right then and there. I’d put these tracks away many a night but they were only ever out as a result of a meltdown or a half-hazard dump as Ely made his way through the toy bins and boxes, not slowing down to actually play with anything, his only goal to seemingly make a big giant mess.

But tonight was different.

I wasn’t putting away tracks that were sprawled all over my living room, thrown in anger or carelessness. They were pieced together in a uniform track with bridges on either side, an engine and two cars connected and resting at the bottom of one of the bridges. It was as if I had jumped back about 3 and ½ years in time and Titus had just laid there playing with them for 45 minutes, insisting I sit across from him and take my turn on half of the tracks each time the train came around to greet me, always with his “choo choo” as he passed it off.

I put each track away exactly as I have for years, still held in the same worn-down cardboard box they came in from Ikea and I feel a Holy Moment approach. I can’t quite define what it is, but somewhere deep within, my Abba Father is unlocking a piece of my mama heart. I can’t hold any of it in so tears flow, but not just because of my deep missing, but for the deep rejoicing too.

You see, tonight, Ely was the one who had insisted the train tracks get set up. And that I sit across from him and take my turn each time he rolled the train down the bridge and around to me. He passed them off to me each time with a soft “choo choo”. I’d kept these tracks out in the living room long after no one was interested in playing with them because they held such a sweet and tender memory of time spent with Titus. They have always frustrated the heck out of Ely so I stopped trying to put them together and drawing him in to play with them; as much for me as him because I got tired of dodging flying wooden tracks when he would scream and throw them. (It does not feel good getting pelted by wooden Ikea train tracks… just saying.)

And then suddenly he wanted to play. And play. And play. I was on guard because…. well, flying tracks! But none came hurling toward my head. The train would get derailed and I hurried to help him to avoid any eruption, but none came as he calmly tried his best to place them back on the track. We played, with soft “choo choos”, taking turns, saying “wheeee!” down each of the bridges and giggled when the trains derailed. Bed time came and I reluctantly paused to move on for the night.

As I cleaned up around the house and found myself on that floor in the midst of that Holy Moment I acknowledge the past several months have sent my heart into lock down. I know this already so it’s not a new revelation to me, but I didn’t anticipate a set of train tracks to be the tool to begin unlocking it again.

I don’t have to always stand waiting for the ball to drop, for the next emergency to happen, to record and observe all that is going wrong so I’m not caught off guard.

I can softly choo choo and giggle when things get derailed. I can breathe in those moments and allow my heart to feel them. He reminded me that right here is beauty. Right here He- my friend and companion- my God is here. And He just gifted me. I’ll take that kind of Mother’s Day gift any day and am so thankful I didn’t miss it this time.

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

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

I am a mom

What does mothers day hold for me exactly, as I live out bits of other moms’ greatest nightmares and fears? Honestly, mothers day for me has become a paradox. Confusing, too. The truth is that a part of me wants to pretend this day doesn’t happen and ignore everything in me that squeezes tight. The other part of me wants to climb to the tallest point and declare loudly my role as a mom. I am a mom!

I am a grieving mom.

I am a broken mom.

I am often a sleep deprived mom.

I am a grouchy mom.

I am a mom who battles against weight gain.

I am a mom who struggles to find balance.

I am a mom who snaps and yes, sometimes even yells. (I might even slam a door or two.)

I am a mom who grows impatient, feels insufficient and sometimes just wants to stay in bed.

I am a mom who has placed value in how well her kids are doing.

I am a mom who sometimes worries about what others are thinking as I parent in public. (And sometimes, I truly do not care.)

But… more importantly…

I am their mom. Titus and Ely’s.

 

 

I am a patient mom.

I am a caring mom.

I stretch myself to places I didn’t know I could go to be their mom.

I am an advocating mom.

I am a dedicated mom.

I am a mom who’s heart is torn apart and put back together in new ways as a result of being a mom… and it’s beautiful.

I labored for hours (and in Titus’s case – days) to be their mom, and that labor hasn’t stopped. It has just changed so I changed with it to be their mom.

I am the mom who kisses boo boos and apologizes when she gets angry.

I am a mom who searches for adventures for her boys to experience.

I am a mom who held her son through to his last breath and had the holy honor of ushering his spirit into the arms of Jesus.

I am a mom.

Moms,

We are patient, we are impatient. We are loving, we lash out in anger. We are teachers, advocates, coaches, therapists, fighters, and mediators for our children. We also are the first in line to show our kids how to screw up and treat others wrongly. And in turn, the first to show our children how apologies, forgiveness and grace operate in a broken world.

What a horrifying, painful, beautiful and fulfilling role to be placed in… mom.

It’s different for me this year, as Titus’s transition to Heaven as left a big hole in my role as mom. But as with everything in life these days, my heart approaches mothers day with grief and hope holding hands. My pain is held within God’s promise… a promise to redeem. 

To redeem not just my son’s disease, death and our separation as a result, but to redeem all the ugly parts of me, the places where I’ve failed as mom, wife, daughter and friend. And because of His promise, I enter my day knowing we experience redemption right here, right now. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do this… write and tell our story. It’s a link in my redemption story.

So yes, I am a mom. So are many of you… maybe even in ways that don’t look “traditional”. You are still a mom. But even more importantly, you are a redeemed and loved daughter of our God –  a king who will one day make everything complete and right. In the meantime, He wraps us up in hope and joy filled blankets as we hold pain and grief, failure and loss in our hearts… because we are moms.

And you, my dear friend, are a beautiful mom.

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

No time like the present

I walked into my living room after laying Ely down for nap and it was a disaster. My couch was all torn apart, pillows on the floor, everything in every toy basket seemed to be emptied all over, bringing the risk factor of navigating my living room to somewhere between high danger and impending doom zones. Blankets were slimy, wet and smelly and a stench of “poop” hung in the air.

Normally, I huff, take a breath and begin the clean up process knowing that in an hour or two when the little guy gets up from his nap, this is going on repeat. I know, I know… I should ask my son to help with the clean-up. I mean, I do…. Sometimes. It’s just not his gift. Titus, my oldest, now he could clean! That kid would clean up after me! And if I put something in the wrong place, he’d correct it. It didn’t take much to convince him to clean up. Ely, well… his gifting is to destroy things in Guinness Book of World Record fashion. Don’t get me wrong. I still try to instill these housekeeping values in him and encourage him to help mommy “ea up” as he says it. But there are days that takes more energy than the actual clean-up process itself. So today, I walked into this catastrophe lone soldier style. I took a look around to survey the damage and assess how long this would take. Those “nap minutes” are precious to me.

In my pause to look, I felt something well up inside me. Was that really what I think it was? Yep, thankfulness. Maybe it was because just a few hours ago, I was reminded yet again how little we are really guaranteed in this life and how dependent I’ve become on the hope and grace of Christ to be my enough. A text had come through on my phone from my dear friend who has begun the end of life stage with her sweet 6-year-old son, navigating painful, horrible and precious moments. I was rocked back on my heels of emotions as I replayed that very stage I just walked through with my 6-year-old son Titus, just a short 6 months ago. The disease ripping her son from her arms and requiring a far too early goodbye wreaked havoc in my household as well and we are learning to live in this place of pain and missing, yet holding on to the hope of redemption, wholeness and the promise to see him again someday soon.

“How long, Lord?” I asked out loud staring at the mess. “How long do I get to clean this up day after day?” I miss so much the mess Titus used to make. Yes, he helped clean up so that made it nicer, but really…. The dinosaurs meeting up with the trains on our ottoman, the cars lined up neatly in a row all facing the same direction ready to play out whatever imaginary adventure he had prepared in his mind. Duplos… everywhere. The bowl of cereal there to snack on that wound up getting crushed into the rug more often than not (oh wait… that still happens). Those moments with Titus are now just a memory and gosh, I miss them. So, I stared at the couch cushions resting haphazardly on the floor, the blanket that had been sucked on leaving sopping wet corners to hang. The stuffed animals sprawled everywhere, the dinosaurs hiding beneath the blankets, waiting for me to step on one of their spikes, and the other odds and ends that seemed so random. I’m not sure they even had a purpose for being out except as collateral damage in the 3-year old’s wake.

I stood up on the aforementioned ottoman and snapped a couple pictures. Yes, I want to remember this. My 3-year-old, Ely, isn’t guaranteed a long life either. I mean, who is really, but most of us expect it. But Ely is plagued with the same fatal disease that took his big brother at the age of 6 years old. And I know I’m given a gift because I can’t afford to take my days for granted; to huff and puff about cleaning up toys and messes. I embrace it because it is my son’s presence. He’s living and breathing here in my life right now and I don’t want to miss that. I would never wish this pain on any other mama. Ever. But I do hope and pray that my story helps others see the gifts in their lives that are wrapped up as inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected stops. I don’t want to give anyone a guilt trip. I want to provide an avenue for a perspective shift. I almost sit down among the mess and let it be. But I don’t. I clean it up and every breath breathed holds a prayer for both my boys, for my husband, for me, for my friend. Such fragility, this life and yet, so vibrant that I can feel His spirit moving in me allowing me to glimpse His kingdom in the midst of such mundane things. Joy carries my soul, hope lifts it, and grace allows me to embrace. May we all be stirred in such places as our living room, among stinky, slimy blankets and sharp weapons disguised as children’s toys.

Thanks for listening…

Bekah