Why the why matters

In our frequent travels back and forth between Ohio and California, I’ve run across many new faces. Sometimes we wind up conversing, other times not so much. In the conversations that do start up, it’s pretty much guaranteed that our story will come out. “Where are you all headed?” “Oh, you have family out there?” And so I begin to explain. “Rare, fatal disease. Travel for experimental treatment. Yes, its genetic. Oldest son just died from it.” (You know, it goes something like that, but with a touch of “Bekah” as my husband refers to it.) I can usually see the struggle and quarrel in their minds as they search for what to say next. Those questions are supposed to lead to small talk and I just hijacked the conversation and laid it all bare. As people process what to say, I hear a variety of responses. And I have been so blessed in these conversations, even though the other person often feels inadequate in the words they respond with. Honestly, I’ve been through it and I don’t even have adequate words most of the time.

But one such response that I hear often is, “I just don’t understand why”. And I’ve wrestled with that. Because, well, I know the answer. But it’s a monstrosity to tackle and it’s messy. And there isn’t this easy way out. But really, maybe we’ve got the why question in the wrong context all together. So… I guess I’m going there this time. And, by the way, I’m not going to pretend I’ve got this all figured out or that I have the depth of biblical and theological training to declare myself an expert in this field. So I’m praying God will be speaking through my words as I share vulnerably what I’m learning deep in my soul as I journey through brokenness.

So, a long time ago- okay, in the beginning of this world, God created Adam and Eve. He gave them so many incredible gifts, one of them being free will. God loved them deeply and created them in His image. He wanted them, in turn, to love him deeply and he knew the only way that relationship could be returned authentically would be if Adam and Eve chose to love him back. (Who wants to have to force people to love them in return?) So, he did what any good and loving parent would do and he established boundaries that held Adam and Eve safe in his love. Well, Satan, who had once been in the presence of God, turned against him and infiltrated the beautiful garden where Adam and Eve lived. He used deception to lead them to believe they could be better, do better, achieve better than God was allowing them to be. All they needed to do was eat some fruit from the tree of good and evil and their eyes would be opened. And so they ate. And their eyes were opened and their hearts were shattered. For God had protected them from the evil Satan wished to penetrate into them and what they had been protected from now ruled in their hearts and minds. They felt things they’d never felt before… Shame, brokenness, incompleteness, fear. And so, yes, they could see good and evil like God could, but they lacked one distinct disadvantage… They weren’t God. And so began this complicated world where good and evil battle and brokenness and sickness and pain and sorrow run rampage. And death… Yes, death happens. This world wasn’t supposed to have death. It was created for life! For joy! For pleasure, adventure, for community, for good! Not death.

This. Is. The. Why.

And how can I just settle with that? Be okay with that? And move on? And, not to mention, still love that God? The one who allowed this? When sin entered, death followed in and became certain. It touched my Titus. It touches everyone.

Everyone except one.

But wait… It actually did touch him. And in the most broken of ways. The very thing Satan eagerly planted in our hearts intending for it to grow strangling vines around us to suffocate, to cause our eyes to lose sight of joy and become lifeless grey- moving through the motions without really living, to feel pain and hit after hit from the circumstances around us; this very thing- brokenness- that Satan meant for eternal harm to our souls is the very thing God uses to reach us deep inside and pull us out.

Our God is so good. He didn’t bring this brokenness into the world, but instead of turning away, he became broken to be in our broken to help us find our way back to him even as we are broken. What the devil intended for suffering, God used for healing. He used the cracks in our hearts to breath life into places that would otherwise be barricaded and unreachable to give us the fullest of healing.

And, yes, that one person I’m talking about who was untouchably touched by death is Jesus. The one whom death conquered. Who was broken apart. Whose very life was suffocated out of him. Did he have to go there? No… But, remember, God is love. God loves you. And if you lost your child in a terrible storm, you’d go right through that storm to get them back to safety. And so, God sent Jesus, his son, to earth to rescue us in the middle of our storms of brokenness. And when he came here he brought life and hope and joy and promise and redemption. And then he showed us the great lengths he would go to save us… Yes, to even die. And then, 3 days later, he showed us the even greater lengths he would go to save us. Yes, even conquer death which is brokenness in its very final and depleted state. Even there, he would rescue us. Brokenness, because of his grace, was made into the most powerful tool for heart transformation and for good. Brokenness flooded Jesus’s soul because he wanted us. He loves us. And he was willing to go there for me, for you, for my sweet Titus.

This is why. This is why sickness and death happened to my son. But this is also why I’m not afraid to go there… To broken places and to live broken.

Just some of the blessings in the broken

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Passing on joy to other kids at our children’s hospital
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Our family has been so blessed!
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Family trip to Disneyland… choosing joy after a devastating diagnosis
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ONU Volleyball supporting us!
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CUI basketball T4T&E game
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CUI track and field T4T&E meet

When we hurt, the deepest need we have is for someone to be there for us. When Titus took his last breath here and in turn got to run to the arms of Jesus, we were left on this side ripped to shreds. We called our friends, Steve and Cathi, to come be with our family. Steve and Cathi ran into our brokenness. They held us and sobbed with us. They recognized the pain and let their hearts break too. They weren’t afraid to be cut by the razors that had just mutilated our hearts and they willingly stood with us and felt it all. This was love. This was the spirit of our God with us – feeling our brokenness. And in that moment, we had good brokenness. The kind that gave abundance. Gave joy. A deep, love filled brokenness. Look at Jesus’s scars.  Reflect on the cross that was carried and died on for you. And the scars on his body remained even after death was conquered and he was raised back to life. Why? Because he wanted you to know there is a great gift in brokenness and that is him and his deep abiding love for you. For you.  That is really the why… Why I will run full on into my broken where I know I will indeed break free.

Thanks for listening…

Bekah

Truth.

Hi Friends. It’s been quite the couple of months. Our Christmas celebration was absolutely incredible, but I had to recover. To be completely honest, it’s been hard as new things have begun to pop up in my mind of plans we will need to consider for Titus in the future. And, as much as I’d love to say I’m always kind and loving, my selfishness and defensiveness have gotten the best of me because it hurts to let my guard down when it means I might not ever get it back up. Ever get to that moment where your brain just goes on overload and then quits working all together? Pretty sure I’ve been there emotionally and spiritually. And then yesterday morning, God met me, like He does… as I sit to listen knowing full well my ears are plugged and I doubt I’ll hear a thing. And instead of speaking to me through my ears, He speaks straight to my heart. So I needed to share…

I know truth. It’s in my head and usually in my heart, but how steadfast is it? Does truth flee as soon as my anger flares? My physical needs aren’t met? My fears come alive?

I’m led to Matthew chapter 3- the temptation of Jesus. He was alone, hungry- like 40 days and 40 nights fasting kind of hungry, just in the beginning of His ministry, and along comes Satan tempting him in vulnerable places. I’ve read this passage of scripture so many times. I am always in awe of Jesus and His ability to say just the right thing back. This time though, God allowed me to see something new. Truth. The steadfastness of Jesus’ replies- He zoned in on the lies so fast and answered back with resounding truth.

I have so many days of being worn down. Might be the result of a sleepless night, too many doctors appointments in a week, not eating right, arguments with my husband. Or sometimes all I can say is that I’m spiritually exhausted. I’m run down. Satan has been beating me down little by little and there are days when the truth minimizes and my selfishness maximizes. Truth becomes the unfocused background in my picture of life and rather than turning my lens to see truth clearest, I focus on self. On my needs that aren’t being met. And then I start getting angry. About life, about the disease, about all that has come upon our family. But rather than turn to God to be filled with truth, with hope, with peace, I turn to my bitterness to be filled with depression, anger, and joy sucked away. The way I go about my day begins to feel lifeless. All I can muster the energy to do is watch the clock tick by. My God given gifts are frozen in time, something locked away that I can’t fathom accessing… too much energy, way too much. My boys get a shell of me. Going through the motions- detached because, well honestly, right now, to truly attach and feel takes more energy than I have and it’s too hard. What has become of this joyful spirit in me? Where are you now, God? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? I’ve yelled this so many times.

Always,

Always,

Always, my heart is wrapped in a quiet presence. I break. I’ve been standing “strong” for so long, but really that version of me is a hardened empty shell that symbolizes strength in the world’s eyes, but not in My God’s. My God is okay with emotion. My brokenness welcomes Him, it does not deny Him.

And his response to me?

“What do I ask you to put on each day, daughter?” Of course. I turn quickly to a scripture that has impacted my life over and over again. Ephesians 6:10-18. The first part of that scripture? “Put on the belt of truth…” I whisper. I feel the gentle reminder that I have forgotten to put mine on.

Truth: I am loved. Still. Always. Even in my ugly selfishness. Even in my drowning depression. Even when my smile doesn’t meet my eyes. Even when I check out of life and check onto Facebook. Even when I say hurtful things to my husband simply out of my own insecurity. I am loved! I let that take root in me. When I remind myself that I am loved in those moments, lies cannot weave around my heart.

Truth: He is faithful! I can look back in my life, even to yesterday, and tell you how He provided exactly what I needed to get through. How He continues to do as He said and has given me new perspective, a heart that feels deeply for others hurting, a love for my family that goes beyond love we are capable of on our own. He amplifies all that is good! I see my son do a silly dance in my own eyes and yes, it’s funny and sweet and I love it. But when I see through His love in me, my joy in that moment is bigger, more satisfying. And yes, there are usually tears (and I’m far too guilty of holding them back more times than not… I wonder where we’d be if we allowed ourselves to fully feel). But they are from amplified emotions because I see God in it all. He reminds me that He is here. He never left. He is good. He is redemptive. These are all promises that He faithfully keeps.

Truth: This world is not all there is! We fight a very real physical battle against Batten Disease in our life. It’s easy to focus on the disease, the constant care, the fact that my boys are not getting better. When I forget the truth that we are here temporarily, I get so caught up in the fear of death, of loss, convincing myself that if I’m not fighting for my child to survive in this world, I’m not surviving either. But what we experience here on this earth is not a temporary spiritual experience. It is a temporary physical experience because there is more! So much more for my Titus! For me! For you! And that is truth! Our reward for fighting the spiritual battle here is not death… It’s the crown of life! Life with no pain, no sickness, no depression, no anxiety. No Satan- you cannot have your way with me here. My son- he will gain when he leaves this world. That fear you are using to grip my heart even now, in this moment as I write, telling me I won’t survive his loss, I won’t have anything left, I’ll be an empty shell… well, you’ve tried that already. And, as tears begin to fall again, I’m telling you to back off and get out, in Jesus’ name! He has continued to prove that what you think ought to break me down has in fact done the opposite.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4

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My little bundle of joy in the face of many hardships

Truth: I am not living these hard days to survive in this world. What reward is there in that? There will always be hardships. Always be struggles. I live in this world to discover more about my Father, His love and to love others as a result. And life we will gain! All of us!

When there is absence of truth in my life, I’m at the mercy of whatever my circumstances and emotions feed me. There is no strong foundation to filter them through. I am up, I am down. I have no control- no, in fact- they control me. No more. Hold on to truth! I am loved! He is faithful! There is more than this broken world! So, today, let my belt of truth glisten strong! Let my experiences today be seen through the truth of love, faithfulness, victory! I pray truth for your life as well, friends.

Thanks for listening…

Bekah

Fear Overwhelming

I sat upright in bed, springing forward with fearful power, my body drenched in sweat, and in my semi-conscious and confused state I had to take a moment to decipher what was in fact reality and what wasn’t.

Reality: My husband and both boys are tucked safely in their beds.

Reality: All is well. Time to go back to sleep.

I had, yet again, a nightmare about losing track of my boys when they were around a large body of water. And my nightmare always ended with me desperately trying to save one or both of my boys as they succumbed to the deep waters they had shown no fear to and it swallowed them whole.

And I repeated the nightmare. Night after night after night. We had just moved to California. Living near pools and the beach were a new thing to me. Playing in the water with my two young boys was a new thing to me.

Truth was, in the day, our playtime in the water was some of the best family fun! But there was always a fear eating away at me. Don’t let go! Don’t take your eyes off them. They could die under your watch and you are here to protect them!

The nightmares slowed down as winter came, the air cooled just enough to make trips to the water not as appetizing and we moved on to other activities. But for months that nightmare haunted my sleep, taunting me that I couldn’t protect  my kids enough, that no matter how alert to them I would be in my dream it was strangled out by a nightmare as my sons were drawn to dangerous waters and swallowed up again. Over and over.

Danny noticed. I was restless and tired during the day. I continually asked myself, why this intense fear of losing my boys and not being able to protect them? Even with my eyes full on them. In these nightmares, my voice never worked, my legs always moved too slow. I couldn’t save them. All was out of my grasp, my control. And it devastated me night after night, week after week.

Fast forward a few months to April 7, the day were were hit with a new reality. Our son had a disease that we couldn’t control and it would take his life somewhere between 6 and 12  years of age.

Fast forward another few months to June 25. Our youngest was delivered the exact same diagnosis.

Reality: My boys both have a genetic neuro-degenerative disease that cannot be cured or, at this point, stopped.

Reality: I cannot save my boys and they are dying.

Nightmare brought to life. Fear that disables. Depression that overcomes. Security uncovered as an illusion.

This disease has ravaged through Titus’s body. Quicker than we could’ve seen it coming. How did I miss it… the last time I’d hear him roar or see him tackle his brother? How do I live courageously, still the mama, the protector? But with no control?

Fear seizes. Fear cripples. Fear blinds. I can’t be here. Fear kills.

It kills beautiful moments. It kills the ability to see those moments in harsh reality. It kills moments of closeness in relationships. I can’t be here, fear. Take my place setting away. I’m leaving. 

I can’t sit in a complacent tolerance of auto piloting to fear.Yes, it’s the easy response. But it’s the cowardly response. And it’s not of God. I heard a new-to-me song a few months ago. On a day when the symptoms of the disease were coming out strong in Titus. A result of the degeneration happening as a result of bad genes that we can’t fix. Here’s the words to the chorus:

When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move

When you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through

When you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you

I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

-Lauren Daigle

Today I will protect my boys by knowing full well who my strength lies in… who my trust lies in. And I will not return to fear today. I will look to Him, the one who knows exactly where this is all headed and promises goodness. And I will walk this path with Him no matter how brutal this world feels. Because today love and joy get to win. And we find beauty, not fear, in Him.

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Living in the beautiful moments no matter the circumstances
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Some of our beautiful moments where fear will not rule!

Thanks for listening…

Bekah

Oh the anticipation…

I’m sitting here wide awake at 2:30 am. Frustrating… because sleep has been evading my son for a while now and just when he finds it, I lose it. I’ve been on the verge of panic mode, that’s why I can’t sleep in these wee hours of the morning. Usually I can shove the fears out of my mind and replace them with truths, but right now they haunt me. And I realize I need to take them on. To allow each one a platform so I might be able to deal with them individually, to deliver a sentence that lasts instead of turning around finding one or more of them have retrieved a ‘get out of jail’ card and are wreaking havoc on my life.

The truth is, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to do this. What happens if this is true? If I most certainly crumble and there is nothing left of me but an empty shell? What if, despite all my efforts to evade depression and grief, sorrow and heartache take over and they are all I’ll ever feel again?

What if… What if the only thing I will have left is you, God? All else is gone. My whole identity of who I am in this life, my dreams, my everythings.

What if? Because there are days it feels entirely possible.

I keep mulling that around in my mind. I’m terrified by it, to be honest. That road feels too painful. I cry… that classic ugly cry. I beg for Him to change things. I can’t do this… I can’t give Him everything and allow Him to take away if that’s what He chooses. I can’t. How would I live in such an empty shell of life? No breath, no sustenance, no control.

But wait…
There is still YOU, God.

And in that moment, all I will be able to see is You. Nothing else to filter you through, nothing to hold as leverage, nothing to put blame on or put my faith in. It is only you.

And because I believe You love me and have great plans for this pain my family endures, I know in my heart I wouldn’t just be surviving. I’d be thriving. A flood lamp beaming deep into my soul, through every part of me, only You. Your goodness, your love, your peace, your “fully enough”.

I find myself reminded once again how small I am. When I start to grasp this concept, I start to live and breathe in the very fullness of Him. If I try to live in the means of my physical body, my control, I will surely suffocate and succumb to despair, depression. But if I can live within the means of His Spirit, working in mine, my very lungs expand when all around me says they should be constricting. I’m pulling new breath in places I shouldn’t be breathing at all.

It occurs to me that this might sound heartless. How can I so easily write off all that fills my life now and accept that even if all is taken, I could still be full?

It’s not an easy write off at all. My heart has been filled with so much love – because of my boys, my husband, my family and friends. And that love source comes from God. He is love. He doesn’t just have love… He IS love!

I have two choices, the way I see it. First choice, I could choose to grasp tightly to my worries, my fear and need for control, which in turn is really putting two hands around my throat and squeezing tight…

Or…

I can accept this incredible gift of love God has poured on me. And when the day comes in my life when all that’s left is Him, I still have love. I have not lost. And I know the same promise of love is extended to my sweet boys, my husband. I could never provide that kind of everlasting, thirst quenching, joyful kind of love to them out of my own means. It is of Him. And so I find myself waiting in anticipation

Anticipation is a funny thing. It can be exciting or it can be anxiety kingdom! We just recently planned a trip to go see some dear friends. Originally I was going to make it a surprise, but my anticipation of the trip was so big, I couldn’t hold it in. I had to share. In turn, I gave them the gift of anticipation. We anticipate things all the time! I just learned about a term called anticipatory grief. It’s a term attempting to define a complicated combination of emotions. For those of us caring for terminally ill loved ones, we grieve daily at what has been lost while simultaneously trying to leave room for living in the moment, enjoying the now, taking in whatever we can before all is gone. And we do that all while we wait for the end to come. It can become quite the merry go round. I need something, someone rooting me… A firm foundation in the midst of the crazy cycle. I need anticipation of what God will do.

He doesn’t expect us to live these lives, full of hard, with no promise of redemption. No! Rather, he uses all things for good, redeems it all! What anticipation I have of what God is going to do through our story, through our sufferings.

So I come back round to my fear – the one of losing all. And I’m reminded that we won’t lose at all… In fact, we will gain! The day Titus leaves this physical world, he will be in the arms of Jesus! I imagine Jesus meeting him with a big, black, shiny train engine and letting him drive it and pull the horn. I can see my son, able to run, dance, talk, shout with joy! I love to imagine my Gramps and my sweet Grandma Naomi there to greet him, perhaps getting in on the train ride themselves. What anticipation I have for what God will do.

I imagine embarking on a journey to fight Batten disease and, along with many other amazing families, joining the fight to find a treatment or cure. Could God use us in this way? Oh the anticipation I have for what God will do.

I imagine lives who feel dark and lost stumbling upon our story and seeing truth shine through and love broken free. Perhaps they would see just how loved and treasured they too are by our God. Oh the anticipation of what God will do.

Let me tell you, I wouldn’t have written our story this way. But I’m here to say again, “Yes, Lord. I will go…” Wherever there is. Thank you for this gift of being Titus and Ely’s mommy. As fear rises and my perceived control slips away, my throat constricts and tears run hot, may I be reminded that I will always have You and I can wait in great anticipation for the wonderful, good things you will do.

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Thanks for listening…
Bekah