It’s all in the roots, part 2

There is a story I must finish telling, although, I laugh as I write that because the story is far from over. A couple months ago I shared with you all the vision God gave me of a blooming flower back in October of 2015. (Missed it? Click here to read it.) This wasn’t just any blooming flower though. This flower had a stem broken near off, holes beaten through the leaves. An obvious worn and tattered life had broken it down. One would expect this particular flower to wither and die, but the most miraculous thing was happening on the end of the dangling stem. The flower was blooming bright, full and yellow singing to the world of its glory… no, rather of God’s glory. And that glory-proclaiming was deeply rooted in the system of that flower under the ground, weaving it’s roots through others’ and holding it down in a place of nourishment, stability amidst chaos, hope in the shadow of death and redemption in the here and now and to come. There was beauty happening in the midst of the ugly and this bloom demanded others passing by to stop captivated by it’s impossible strength. This… this was the picture God gave me for the life we were journeying.

As I held on to this very clear vision, I found life in it. I knew we were blooming when it didn’t make sense and I felt a sense of joy through our days with Titus. We dove deep into learning to love big and live intentionally in each and every moment. We built and nurtured relationships because that was most important to us. Our community = our roots.

In November of 2016, just 2 short months after Titus went to adventure with Jesus and an entire year since God has inspired me with that vision, Ely came home with a pot of dirt from church. Of course, it spilled on the way home in the car and, of course, I had the worst attitude about it, huffing and scooping the dirt up, throwing it into the pot vowing to toss it when I got inside. Danny, our plant whisperer, told me to set it out on the patio and he was going to see if anything would grow. I set it out there, dusted my hands off and moved on.

Nothing happened those first couple weeks. It appeared Danny was watering dirt. Just dirt. Then one day this tiny little green bud popped out. Danny was so proud (he really can make just about anything grow). We watched this flower grow and grow until it opened up into this gorgeous flower. It’s color? Yellow. What a sweet treasure as we thought of our yellow-loving boy Titus every time we looked at it. It bloomed proud and perfect. Until one day Danny was out chopping wood for an upcoming camping trip. A splinter flung off to one side and chopped that bloom right off. We were so sad. We really grieved this poor flower’s sudden death. The beauty on our patio diminished on that day.

Fast forward to another passing Sunday, my sister and I inside having coffee and conversation, Danny and our brother-in-law Michael outside working on patio projects. We hear a knock on the back door and see Michael’s hand waving us over as he’s holding up a flower pot, face in the window. At first, confused I looked at him trying to figure out what he’s holding, but as I got closer, I felt God wrap me up in a giant bear hug as he whispered, “you are still beautiful because you are my child.” In Michael’s hand was that poor flower who met the death of splintered wood, but it looked different. It’s stem was broken so much it was dangling, and the leaves were a bit beaten up, but hanging at an angle just like the flower in my vision, was this incredible yellow bloom. It spoke through it’s beauty to my heart saying, “You can’t steal my joy.”

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I was in awe at this gift. For God to have reached down in such a way to plant such deep symbolism in my mind in 2015 and then actually create such a scene in my back patio in 2016… Wow!

I thought of all we’d journeyed through in that time. A brand-new, heartbreaking diagnosis for both our boys. The steep learning curve of learning to advocate. The fight to give my child freedom as Batten disease stripped it away. The firm grasp we held to living in the moment and adventuring as a family no matter what the conditions were. And then the “lasts” with Titus. The last time we’d celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, his birthday with him. The last time we’d hear him laugh or see him smile. The last time we’d take him to school. The last time we’d watch him take a breath… a breath that was a last here on Earth, but was a launching pad to Jesus. Then planning a memorial service and celebrating Titus. And then our firsts. Our first chance at fighting against this disease and taking Ely to Ohio for surgery and infusions. All this, and so much more took place between these two events- my vision in 2015 and God’s creative outpouring of glory on my back patio in 2016.

And all this time, I’ve been so very aware of two things.

My brokenness.

His redemption.

And really, aren’t we all broken? When you look at this flower, you know what your broken stem and beaten leaves are. We all have them. But at the end of that broken stem is a redemptive bloom. One that reflects the unchanging beauty of Christ that is in ALL of us. Perhaps, when we look at the bloom, our stems and leaves become (dare I say it?) inconsequential? Not because they don’t hurt anymore… oh they do! But because we can see beyond it and know that hope is always worth holding on to because redemption is coming – and in fact – is already happening here and now.

Oh friend, may you see your bloom. May you know deep in your soul just how much Jesus loves you. I mean, really, really loves you. And, my friend? Hold on. Hold on to those hope filled roots, God’s strength and victory always before you, beside you, under you, and all around you.

Thanks for listening,

Bekah

PS. If you want to hear more of the story, I had the opportunity to speak at our home church in California. Click here to have a listen. I pray you feel Abba Father’s Great Love for you.

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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!)

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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

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

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