My birthday boy

Happy Birthday, my sweet Titusaurus!

My mind was swirling last night. So many memories playing like a roll of film from your first birthday to today. Titus, my heart… it aches. I remember you and I smile and even laugh, but then I cry. It’s complicated, this grieving and joy partnership.

I remember your first birthday so well. We had two celebrations that year. One just before your actual birthday so we could celebrate with the family in town visiting and the other was just you, me and your daddy. I slaved over these legit rubber ducky cupcakes. Man, they turned out awesome. (By my standards anyway… Ok, let’s just be real. That was actually the best “cake” I pulled off your entire life. It was downhill from there!)

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With a candle in the cupcake and all, your eyes lit up as you watched the rubber ducky cupcake in my hand sway closer and closer to your tray as we sang. You reached out for the cupcake and it promptly crumbled in your hands. Confused at first, you looked troubled at your hands, at the cupcake, at me. And then you started to cry. We are pretty sure you thought your favorite toy was broken. There was no going back from there. You refused to try the cake and I had to clean you up and get you down. Sorry buddy! (It was pretty hilarious, actually.) And then on your actual birthday, I decided you MUST try your birthday cake or it just wouldn’t really be your birthday. I took a few crumbs, yes crumbs, and set them onto the front of your tongue to just give you taste, sure that you’d be back for more as soon as you figured out chocolate was REALLY good! (It’s in your genes to love chocolate after all.) And in true Titus fashion, you delivered the unexpected. As you started to move it around in your mouth, you began to choke. Not because you couldn’t handle the few crumbs in your mouth, but because the texture of the cake really threw you off. I watched you smack your mouth trying to process the texture and then it happened. All my slaving in the kitchen making those homemade rubber ducky cupcakes was rewarded with a tray of vomit. Awesome. But you got those crumbs out, so you were good! Oh Titus, those are just the kind of memories that keep me laughing for years to come.

Your second birthday you discovered the joy of singing birthday cards. You had family surrounding you on this birthday too, everyone taking in your joy and wonder of the Mickey Mouse Hot Dog song coming out of a piece of paper. We laughed and laughed and laughed and you thought that was pretty cool too. And did you want any of your cake? Nope.

Your third and fourth birthdays were low key, but fun. We had friends over, played, and finally, FINALLY, you tried one of your birthday cupcakes. And you found that you do actually like chocolate cake. Whew! (Your silly brother still isn’t convinced.) I look back on those simple birthdays; I was never great at planning a big party. Most of the time, any plans that were executed were last minute. It was a good thing we had friends who were willing to fly by the seat of their pants and jump on those last minute invitations. I always had Pinterest-level intentions for your birthdays, but let’s face it… that is just not my gift. But fun was always had. For your 4th birthday, you got your first bike! You could’ve cared less about the actually biking activity, but you loved sitting on that bike and pushing the button making your Thomas the Train bike “choo choo”. I still remember standing out on the driveway that year as we surprised you with that bike. I can’t believe we only had two more birthdays with you after that.

Your fifth birthday was complicated. It was following your diagnosis of Batten disease. You had lost so many abilities you once had. But that morning you woke up so happy and energetic. You loved birthdays and found joy in calling your friends and family to sing happy birthday to them over the phone on their special days. I told you it was your birthday and you lit up. You couldn’t see much anymore, nor could you walk or speak words. But you felt the love. And once again, in true Titus fashion, you were one crazy, wild boy that day. You somersaulted, you flipped around in our arms screeching and laughing and begged for us to blow raspberries on you. You kept us smiling that day even though my momma heart ached that as you got one day older, that was one day closer to when I would no longer hold you in my arms. And that hurt.

Birthday number 6 held the same emotions. We had watched your body decline so much. Your birthday always falls on or near memorial day weekend and that day our church was holding a big picnic at the park. We knew it was going to be hard to take you out for too long, but wanted to give you two things you absolutely loved: being outside and being around people. When we arrived, there was an adorable cake decorated just for you buddy. Dinosaur and all. We laid out on the grass for a good part of the afternoon and enjoyed the company, the fresh air and the snuggles with you. You were so content and looked so peaceful. It was nothing extravagant, but it was good.

Today, I struggle. I think of how this birthday would’ve been if we still had you here. I know you’d never be able to celebrate your life here like you are in Heaven. And for that, I’m relieved and thankful and filled with hope that you are fully healed. But my mind wonders at what it would’ve been like to have had you without Batten Disease stealing you away. To have celebrated your 7th birthday as a typical 7 year old. I wonder at what your interests would’ve been, what you would’ve requested for your favorite meal, who your friends could’ve been. And I really, really hurt over not being able to wake you up singing a goofy version of happy birthday and kissing your cheeks and tickling you. So many emotions run through me in a single space of time; anger, joy, sadness, confusion, hope, and lots and lots of love. We started the day with the movie Land Before Time. I needed some dinosaur noises in the background. I’m drinking tea out of my Lion King mug remembering how much you loved that movie even after losing your ability to communicate. You’d laugh so hard when you heard the opening note of Circle of Life.

You find a way to be on my mind all the time. And I miss you, all the time. I know, without a doubt, your adventures are great in Heaven. And each day that passes is one day closer to getting to feel one of your big giant-sized hugs once again.

Happy Birthday, Titus.

Love,

Your momma

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

The escape plan

I was sitting at a red light so I quickly clicked on my notifications to see what I might be missing or need to know. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the light turn green so I took my foot off the brake to slowly roll forward while I clicked my phone off and put it away. After all, I don’t text and drive, don’t ya know. Only when I’m at a red light. “Whoooop Whooop” rang in my ear, a quick blip of a siren. I looked in my rear-view mirror and realized to my dismay, it was intended for me. I sighed and my shoulders slumped as I pressed on the gas, turned through the light and pulled over noting the time. Yep, my son will be late to school today. And then began the pleasant conversation one has with a cop after being pulled over. You know, the one where he asks what business you had on your phone that you needed to do it while behind the wheel of a vehicle in drive. Ugh. Nothing important and it was just plain stupid. And I pulled away with an extra piece of paper when we were done. No tears spilled, although they were close, but my ego took a big hit. All day I’ve been contemplating this experience that started off this fine, sunny, beautiful Thursday. I dropped Ely off at school, jumped back in the car (feeling a bit grouchy about it all) and drove home. I pull up to a red light. I sit there for a moment. Geez, it’s quiet. Automatically my hand reaches for my phone! Like it seriously did it all by itself! I caught myself just before turning it on and threw it back in my bag. What the heck, Bekah?!

I had to drive that same exact trek 6 times today. Once to school and back for drop off. Then to school and back for pick up. Then to Ely’s occupational therapy and back (which is just down the road from his school). You’d better believe my phone stayed put inside my purse, but my mind went crazy. I made a couple phone calls on one of the trips (using hands free bluetooth of course!), the others I would turn on the radio. And I started to worry about my inability to sit in the quiet. The quiet can be a little bit scary for me. The undistracted can be an emotional abyss that looks dark and looming. So I look for an escape plan. One that takes me someplace artificial so I don’t have to deal in the real and vulnerable. And it’s become a bit obsessive. It doesn’t always look like Facebook, texts or phone calls. It could be a fictional book. Or food. Or TV. We all have our list.

In all my driving today, on my final trip home, it hit me. I’ve been looking for an escape plan through all this because my mind is pleading for a break. It’s begging to run from pain. My nervous system is operating at maximum sensitivity levels and it doesn’t take much to push me over the edge. This is my daily struggle. The one where I’ve become really good at pushing back the emotions because they might make me or someone else uncomfortable. Choosing the superficial and surface escape route is much easier. Oh how I grow tired of it. Even when I’m caught up in the act of distraction, my heart grows weary of it and yet I don’t stop. What might be on the other side if I do?

It’s the season of lent. The season where we pull back, we sacrifice, we take away, we re-evaluate, we pray more, we become aware of ourselves and our need for God. We stop turning to our own escape plans and turn our full attention and focus on THE escape plan. The one where God sent his son Jesus to this earth to sacrifice his life in order to save ours. That escape plan.

So what will I find on the other side of distraction and faulty escape plans?

I will find a God who heals. And, yes, while I believe God can heal physically, well, the truth is, that hasn’t been my personal experience. I’ve watched so much death happen. Even right here in my living room. But I have to be a person who is willing to remember! Remember how He has carried and continues to carry me through. To remember the fullness of life experienced right smack in the middle of the most broken of times. To allow the healing work he is doing in me to sink into my soul and be a healing balm to my wounds… ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

My eyes tear up when I see another family with needs like our own. And that distraction tugs. The uncomfortable sensor goes off like a siren! But I want to say, so what? That reaction is God’s heart in me. Let it be.

I feel the jerk of my heart beating like it’s reminding me how very alive I am and how gone from this earth my son is. There is that sensor! Distract! Distract! But I want to say, so what? That is a momma’s heart, each heartbeat is a heart-bleed because I loved and still love big. But instead of clotting off that heart-bleed with distraction, I must let it run. For it is his blood that first ran to give us freedom in His love and grace. It is his broken body that made us whole. And it is my broken heart, bleeding all red and love that is finding healing.

My healing doesn’t look pretty. You should hear me in my therapy sessions when I start crying. I choke things out, sometimes my breath comes into my lungs super constricted and wheezy. But I am reminded that in Jesus’s most broken state, all things were made new and He was beautiful. He did not distract from His mission. A mission to rescue his most dearly beloved… you and me.

So…

I’m going to put down the phone, yes even at red lights. I’m going to get comfortable with silence. I’m going to cry when I feel like crying. I’m going to hug someone when I feel like they need it. I’m going to walk into brokenness knowing I’ll want to run. And I’ll run to Him.  And I know I’ll be able to do it because it is HIS strength in me, reminding me that all is not lost or broken. And in fact, redemption is here and it is for all. Because that was His ultimate escape plan for us. 

Thanks for listening…

Bekah

The lost factor

 

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My beloved Titus,

I hope you are well. I miss you. And thats not a light-hearted sentiment… thats a soul-stirring, gut wrenching “miss”. Nothing feels like its in place now. You have gone away and now a big piece of me has too. I’m making it through the days, but many with tears just beneath the surface. So much of me is feeling incomplete, uneasy, always alert… like I’m in search of something thats missing because of the nagging feeling that I’ve lost something. Or someone. And I have… I lost you.

I know, I know… not entirely. Your memory, your joy, your eternal life… those things are not lost. They are alive and well. I’ve had glimpses of you through others. One person shared she had a vision of you playing with a lion, skipping across rocks in a river. You were having so much fun! You made your way back to your home where a feast was waiting for you and Jesus was your dinner guest. Hearing this from someone else made me so emotional. I took peace in it but it was also weird. And so unnatural to not be a part of your life now. To not know what you are up to. To not get the daily report from your teacher or brief paragraph of the day from your nurse. To not be by your side every moment, close enough to take care of every need as it comes up. To not be able to take in your laughter, your smiles, your bundle of energy. That was all so much a part of me, Titus. And its all still so ingrained in me, but you are inaccessible. This incompleteness in me makes me incredibly aware of my brokenness and as a result, so aware of the brokenness around me. It’s heavy. There is too much hate in this world, too much death, too much pain and sickness. And none of it is okay in my heart. All of it needs to be reconciled, but it feels too deep. Lets just be as honest as it gets… I am lost. I feel like a soldier returning home from war attempting to make sense of civilian life under a new me. So I stand here wondering whats next then?  If I, if we, must live in this pit of brokenness, what is next for me, for your dad, for your brother in that pit?

Titus, you made me smile so much. I still look at your photos all over our home and see old videos of you and I laugh and smile, feeling so much pride and joy! You are my son! And then it hits me that I can’t turn around and see you standing or sitting behind me. And honestly son, that still takes me aback. Because I truly can’t believe that soul of yours, that crazy ball of energy, was snuffed out of life here on this Earth. It doesn’t seem possible.  I left the house this morning because it was too quiet. Inside me the jagged edges of my heart were screaming for attention. I found myself beside a quiet bubbling stream, having a cup of coffee and writing this letter to you. It’s not very eloquent, but it’s all that is screaming inside coming out. It’s my honest search for the re-building I hope and pray God will do in me as I stand lost and broken, knowing and trusting that in this pain lies His power and love and grace.

I’ll end with this… a glimpse into the amazing memorial service held for you, son, just a few short weeks ago. These are the words God gave me to share in your service. I love you, son… And I’m so proud to be your mama.

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My baby has been gone for nearly six weeks now. I still hurt so bad. I miss him and have never felt so unable to fix and heal. My arms were meant to hold him, comfort him, love him and now they are empty. And the ache is worse than anything I’ve ever felt. I don’t understand why. There is so much conflict in my soul.

The relief that Titus doesn’t have to battle anymore.

The agony to not be able to hold him again.

The joy when I picture his huge smile and hear his infectious laugh up in heaven.

The gaping wound in my heart that will be open for the rest of my time here on earth.

The anger that my child had to even fight such a battle in the first place and had to face death at 6 years old.

The gratitude I have and pride I feel to have been his mom all of these 6 years.

“Dance with Jesus, my sweet boy…” those were my last words to him before they took him away.
I’m jealous. I would’ve loved to be right there with him, to see him transform whole again. To watch his ushering into eternity. When I think about Titus departing this world and starting life in Heaven, I don’t imagine my son waking up in front of a pearly gate with chubby baby angels flitting around. For some reason, I always imagine a huge train, operated by a Tyrannosaurus Rex engineer, pulling up beside him. The train is full, my gramps, my grandma, perhaps other kids who fought a similar fight, all on board to welcome Titus. And as the train stops in front of Titus, the train conductor steps out. His eyes, his voice, everything about this man is familiar to my son because he has been with Titus through his valiant fight here on earth. And before the words “all aboard!” can slip past Jesus’s lips, Titus runs (yes, runs!) headlong into Jesus’s arms. Jesus even perhaps cries happy tears as he sees my son restored to wholeness again- exactly as he was meant to be. Titus’s face mirrors Jesus’s own joy, his smile taking over his face, eyes sparkling alive and blue with a patch of brown on the left side. And just before he flings himself into Jesus’s arms, Titus does a celebratory somersault, effortlessly rolls back up to his feet and jumps into the arms of Jesus. Titus and Jesus jump onto the train where big Titus-sized hugs are given out to the community of love surrounding him. The t-rex takes them on a wild train ride, one that might resemble Roger Rabbit’s ride in Toon Town and Titus’s reaction being similar to what it was in that ride, clapping, stomping his feet and cheering at the top of his lungs with a vibrant smile on his face.

I have learned so much through my son. A few years ago, I decided to start writing a letter to my boys. I thought I’d add on to it as the years went by and when they graduated, they would have a letter of Gods story at work through them. I thought these letters would be for my boys… little did I know that through the letters I wrote to Titus, God would remind me of his redemption of all things broken.

In one letter, long before Batten entered our lives, I told Titus, “life hasn’t been easy for you. But even through your struggles you demonstrate pure joy! I keep using that word to describe you because I can’t explain my little Titus any other way. You are joyful! Titus, I want you to remember this… the joy you demonstrate daily to us, is God in you. We don’t have this joy out of nothingness. It comes from God and he is so good to give us this gift through the good and the bad.”

My next entry came after Titus started having seizures. We did not know what we were dealing with yet but we knew his road was difficult. I shared, “I want you to know, son, that even in the midst of your trials, you don’t have to wait until you feel better or things are all going normal to shine or succeed. You’ve already proven to us that perseverance is totally worth it and we can’t stop living life just because different issues come up. God is using your story to teach others about strength in HIM and to open my eyes to the brokenness around us.”

The final entry I wrote to him followed our move from Illinois to California. It was a huge transition getting all things medical, work, school, etc… re-established. But once again, God was so faithful and I needed Titus to know how much he was loved. “Titus, you are SEEN by God! He loves you. You have never been lost on him. We are nearing our 1 year anniversary of your first seizure and I am in awe of the way we have been carried through this time by God. God has created you to be amazing Titus and he will always be faithful to carry you through.” I was in awe then at the tribe that rose up around us and I continue to be in awe.

The countless ways we’ve been loved by God through all of you and thousands of others…. It’s so humbling because… well, really, who are we to receive such unconditional love? And it makes me wonder, why? Why are so many people joining us in this story? One of such pain and heartbreak?
God has shown me that Titus’s story is about so much more than a little boy fighting a Batten disease battle. It’s about all of you, too. Being invited into Titus’s story invites us into something so much bigger than ourselves. It’s being invited into brokenness. And, oddly, everyone craves that. Because that’s where we can be real. When we are willing to recognize that we are ALL broken, walls are torn down and the real work begins. This is the common ground on which all of humanity can meet. Brokenness under the shadow of Gods gracious wing can be life-changing, transformational. Healing.

Healed…. That’s what my little boy is today. And so, as his mom, I’m not going to get stuck on the why question, but rather I’m going to ask “what next?” God gave me the gift of being mom to an amazing little boy and he will be a part of our lives as much in the future as he was in our past.

Thank you, Lord, for this gift. Let us run toward this heartache and pain opening it up for you to breathe into as we watch you redeem. Turn mourning into dancing, ugly into beauty, and allow us to carry on the legacy Titus left behind of strength, perseverance, love and joy only found in you.”

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

Yep. There it is. Grace.

 

Gut wrenching cries wracked my body. I couldn’t hold it in. “You are dreaming,” I told myself. But it didn’t matter because when I woke up, the dream transferred to a very real reality. A reality that told me this dream, or rather, nightmare, was in my future. The one that looked like a life without Titus. I wanted to stop the deep emotion and sorrowful cries, it really hurt to feel so big. But I couldn’t. It had taken over. Danny leaned over me, calling my name over and over. I felt his arms come around me, holding me, telling me it was ok. This is how I began my day today. A day that holds an anniversary I’d rather forget or pretend doesn’t exist, but with everything in me, I can’t forget. I tried to spend the better part of my morning as if all was normal, but tears were near the surface at all times because truth is, I remember. I remember the anxiety I felt the night before this day last year knowing we’d be marching in to the doctor’s office the next morning to hear the results they had discovered. And I remember the shock, grief, and loss that struck us immediately when we heard the word Batten for the first time on April 7th, 2015 at 11:45 in the morning.

Oh… what a year. My calendar year has been changed. No longer does my year start over in January. No, my year becomes complete on April 7th. On the first day we heard the word Batten. All year, I’ve looked back each day and remembered “a year ago today, Titus (fill in the blank)”. So many milestones gained and then lost. This has been the year of loss. The year Batten took over. Soon my “a year ago” comparisons won’t look so drastically different from the present, the now. It breaks my heart. I marvel at the way it is already April 7! How has this nightmare continued for so long? I should’ve woken up a long time ago to find my boys wrestling in the front room. To hear them singing in joyous chorus together. But that cannot be our life. Oh, how have I survived?

The other night I listened to Danny play a video of Titus. His little voice and dinosaur roar pierced my soul. I smiled on the outside, choosing to remember with fondness. On the inside, my soul was bleeding through the pierced hole, crying with pain. What a gift, this video, but what agony and… will I always have to feel that?

I mean really, guys, how have I survived? And more, thrived?

Is it because I’ve turned into a super hero able to rise above all emotions and circumstances- plowing through each day as necessarily as I must? I think we all know this answer… um, No.

Is it because I must have just been made for this sorta thing? This story, these circumstances? The ones that so many use to deem me “mother of all things they themselves could never survive”? I just naturally fit the role? Yeah…. No.

Is it because I must be in denial and stuffing away my feelings and emotions, refusing to face the truth? Yep, you guessed it… No.

I can explain my survival through one word.

GRACE.

Period.

That my superior God looks down at inferior me and chooses me- gives FAVOR to me!

That He allows my heart to open, not close. My eyes to see, not burn. Love to be experienced and felt, not shut out.

That He gifts me laughter, perspective, joy! Not bitterness!

That He holds me in the dark rather than hide from me.

That He allows me to see gifts all around.

In the twinkle of my son’s eye- there it is! A gift!

In the giggle that begins deep in the throat and explodes out, face lifting to the sky (because that’s the proper way to fully laugh with abandon)- there it is! A gift!

In the warm hug that holds me even after I’ve spoken bitter words, tried to drive it away. There it is. A gift.

In the teachers, nurses, and therapists who embrace my boys with love and one-of-a-kind care, giving it all they’ve got. A gift!

In the many Team 4 Titus & Ely events that have popped up over the year. The stories of people changed, loving BIG, allowing God to work through the boys and through others’ generosity. There is is! A gift!

In the calming, centered peace given at my kitchen counter as I sip on a cup of tea and talk to my God. There it is. A gift.

In the encouraging words on cards, scrawled out beautifully, giving us glimpses of authentic love. Yes, a gift.

In the community of love and pledged journeying together – a commitment to do life with us… No matter the cost. There it is. A gift!

In the tender snuggles and endless giggles. Yep, a gift.

The way I can fall apart mentally and still rise brave. A gift.

Yep. There it is. Grace.

It is all a gift of GRACE!

In no way did I, Bekah, do anything majestic or astonishing or particularly breathtaking to deserve acts of such unbelievable grace.

Who does that? Who extends grace like that? We selfish and limited mortals? Do we, on our own, create that kind of power? Of freedom? Of Love?

We could never… not on our own. We are only conveyors of God’s grace.  God’s grace centers me, grounds me. And I don’t want to miss it, this gift of grace. I could fool myself into believing the reason I have His favor is because of how much good I must do. That I’ve earned it. But let me tell you, I can’t even begin to live under that pressure. There is no amount of good deeds I could have done to earn what my God has given me in love, grace, mercy, wisdom, perspective. There is no ability for me to make enough good choices and to be nice, kind or giving enough to change the situation we live in. I cannot redeem this junk, this disease. I can’t. I can’t. But my God can. My God lives in an economy of grace!(Thank you Pastor Steve!) He works in an economy that looks like this: You owe, Bekah. It’s your heartbreak, Bekah. It’s your problem, Bekah. But… I’ll pay. I’ll redeem. I’ll hold you. I’ll stand beside you in the raging current. I’ll listen to you whether you praise my name or curse at me. I’ll be there to celebrate with you. I’ll be there to mourn with you. I’ll pay, Bekah. I’ll pay. 

For those who might think faith is just a part of my life and that perhaps it falls under the extra curricular or extra credit category, let me challenge you for a moment. It’s not just a piece of my life. It’s not a check mark on my to do list. It’s not a back-burner consideration. It’s everything. His grace is what gives me the ability to smile. It’s what keeps me in check when I say something against my fellow human. It’s what causes me to feel, deeply. It’s what gives me strength to keep getting up each day. It’s what gives me bravery and courage to encounter whatever is dealt out. It’s what brings me back to

love

thankfulness

joy.

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Experiencing a wonderful Egg Hunt for kiddos with special needs and their families! A gift!

This gift of grace is for me. And, it’s for you. And, on this difficult anniversary, where I cling to hope and redemption of all this pain, I pray you also feel the love of a good, good Father who loves you and me. I end with the face of my sweet firstborn and the blessing, or life verse, I pray over him every night.

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Titus, may the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. -Numbers 6:24-26

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