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The Steve Factor

 

Twelve years ago, Steve and I did the most ridiculous thing ever and bought a giant fixer-upper of a house. It wouldn’t be crazy for most people to do it, but it was crazy for us because we are decidedly NOT fixer-upper sort of people.  I mean, we can paint and do surface stuff, but anything more complicated than that is beyond our ability and happiness.  We consistently discovered that he would rather be golfing and I would rather be reading and so most of our non-essential home improvement projects stalled out somewhere between Home Depot and the next good book.

 

In spite of our reluctance to tackle upgrades, we’ve always loved this house.  It has five big bedrooms and an office that I adore and a big lot on a noisy street which I also love (is there any music more beautiful than the sounds of a city waking up?)  As our children began to grow and move out, other people’s kids moved in.  Family dinners and noisy Movie Nights and birthday parties and baby showers all found homes in our big, un-pinteresty home.  It has been the joy of my life to be a place where people gather.

 

When Steve was diagnosed, my future in this house grew murky. Many reasons exist as to why, but one of the biggest was the feeling that I could never take care of this place on my own.  I began to look around at condos and bungalows and quickly realized I didn’t have the emotional fortitude to face that idea just yet.  The real estate market in Bend is ca-razy and I have plenty crazy on my plate right now. So I settled into the home that I love and told Jesus I would trust that He had gone before me and would be there when it was time to figure out my next step.

 

And then, something crazy happened. I took a leave of absence in December and somehow I found a latent fixer-upper gene in my DNA! Turns out, all that time of actually being in my house and in front of Pinterest inspired me to do a few projects.  And you know what happens when you do one project? Landslide. Each improvement makes the rest of the house look worse, so the list keeps growing.  And soon the projects were moving beyond my skill level, requiring actual…power tools.  For so many years, I’ve convinced myself I couldn’t do things like this. I’ve even convinced myself I couldn’t create a home that looked the way I wanted it to look. But I was wrong.  It has been a lot of work and a a lot of asking for favors and a lot of watching DIY videos on You Tube, but now I know I can do it.  I can figure things out when I need to!  I can use a power drill! I can brave the aisles of Home Depot without feeling like they’re going to kick me out!  So far we’ve redone our living room, dining room, one bathroom (with another in the works) and laundry room.  I love this house more than ever and I also love the things I’m learning.  And my point in this blog post (even though it’s taken me 600 words to get here) is: Steve is to blame.

 

Steve is to blame for this change even though he didn’t help with anything.  In spite of the fact that he is unable to lift a finger, he is the primary human force behind every brave thing I do.  For thirty years, he’s been second only to the Holy Spirit in helping me tackle the hardest things. It’s not that he says all the right things, it’s that he is the right thing.  His belief in me and his unfailingly gracious response to my (million!) failures through the years has made me believe that I really can try anything.  I probably can’t succeed at everything, but I sure can try it, and if I make a terrible mess of it and everyone in this world thinks I’m a loser, there is one person who’s convinced I’m not.  One man, who wouldn’t want to be with anyone other than me.  I mean, it’s astounding to me still.  And his love has been my secret weapon for as long as I can remember needing a secret weapon.

 

Here’s another thing I realized this week:  for the past four years, I’ve been working in fast forward – trying to do all the brave things while I have him here with me. This has included things like traveling to Europe, writing books, reaching out in new ways to people who need me, Christmas tree shopping, learning to love running, going away for a night by myself and – yep – becoming a fixer-upper.  These things have been possible because Steve is in the background telling me I’m smart enough and strong enough and scrappy enough to do hard things.  To keep moving.  To live large.  It’s amazing to me that a man in a wheelchair can be the driving force for a girl who has all her muscles. But it’s true – for me and for countless others who Steve has encouraged and believed in during his pilgrimage here on earth.

 

Of all the things in all this world that I treasure and wish I could keep forever, the way Steve has helped me escape the prison of fear is The Most. The biggest. The best gift I’ve ever been given. When I imagine life without it, I have to remind myself to breathe.  And all of that gaping breathlessness has to be immediately turned toward gratitude or I will drown in sorrow.  So I force my thoughts and words to thank our dear Father that I have Steve now and to thank Him that He will fill the gaps in the future.  Already, I have a handful of friends and family who uniquely possess the Gift of Steve.  They are encouraging and inspiring and, while they will never take his place, I see God putting them in place as pillars in my life that I can lean on.

 

If you are blessed to have someone in your life who you know would believe in you no matter what, take a minute today and thank God for that great gift.  And maybe take a minute and thank them, too. Sometimes we assume people know how heroic they are, but then we discover that they’re as filled with self-doubt as we are.  I think we’re created to need each other to be our best selves in the best possible way. I hope I help someone else fly someday.  One thing is certain: I’ve learned from the best.

 

With hope,

Bo

February 28, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Deborah - Bo, you just made me cry. This was a stunningly beautiful post. My heart thanks you. I needed to read this.

February 28, 2015 - 8:12 pm

Karma Gingrich - Really loved this Bo! You certainly have a gift with words…. Always look forward to the email alerting me of a new post on your blog! You guys are in our prayers.

Where We Are; Where We’re Going

 

When I was young, my parents will tell you, I hated road trips.  Hated. Them. They did everything in their parental power to make them a cool experience (including, but not limited to, feeding us brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts) but their tricks only worked for so long. Which in my case was about ten minutes.  That’s when I would start asking “How long?” “How far?” “When will we get there?”  “When can we stop?” “Why did we ever leave home in the first place?”

 

I love home.

 

I hate long car trips.

 

This season of our lives is like the longest car trip I’ve ever been on.  I mean, really.  The longest. Ever.  And, as I mentioned in recently, it’s especially difficult to feel like Steve and I are in the same car but will arrive in different destinations.

 

Each morning, after I help Steve turn over and do the things that need to be done so he can gain a few more hours of sleep, I sit and soak in the quiet of the sunrise. I sometimes read my bible, but my capacity to focus on the amount and quality of sleep I’ve been getting is really limited right now.  So, instead I think.   And often what I think is: “How much farther?” And the answer is always: I don’t know. No one knows but God.  Sometimes I’m able to sink into the security of His sovereignty, but lots of times I fight against it. I whine and wonder and “Do You know how hard this is?” and “There are not enough pop tarts in all the world to make this road trip worth it.”  And when my words are exhausted and my emotions grow weary from the wild flailing, I land back at this truth: My Dad knows where we are, where we’re going and when we’ll get there.  He knows. And it’s in this truth alone that I am able to rest right now.  That’s not an overstatement: this truth alone.

 

Steve is having a rough week. He is in a lot of pain and we are trying to manage it the best we can. I won’t list all the obstacles we face in effective pain management, but they are many.  ALS is not typically a pain-producing disease – but the consequence of having no muscle to cushion bones and joints is first discomfort and stiffness, which has now become full-fledged, level 10 pain.  In addition, his breathing continues to weaken and grow more and more laborious. Sometimes I watch him and just wonder how he makes it through each day, but he is strong in ways I never dreamed.

 

I, on the other hand, have been having  a good week.  For no apparent reason, I feel secure and solid.  I feel held.  I am sticking close to this feeling because I don’t know how long it will last.  If you’re yelling at your computer screen right now that I should trust that this feeling can last ALL the time, I’m going to yell right back: seasons of sorrow and frustration happen. They’re part of the trip and I don’t think they are,  overall, connected to my level of faith.  I think they’re mostly connected to my love for my husband, extreme levels of exhaustion and my (in)ability to carry all the things that are in my world.  Even when they are connected to my level trust in God, they serve as an invitation for His comfort to meet me there (Matthew 5:4).  The good days don’t last forever, but neither do the rough days and this is a great hope to my little heart.

 

So, I guess, this is where we are. Hard week. Strong week. Faith. Frustration. Sorrow. Security. So many things swirling right now, but God is the God of them all. Of us all.

 

Thank you for your prayers and love. Thank you for sticking so close to us through the stormy seasons.  We love you beyond reason.

 

 

With hope,

 

Bo

February 26, 2015 - 10:01 am

Andi - Bo, you are an amazing person and I know you’ll immediately deny it, but you truly are. I feel very fortunate as I go through my own storms and struggles right now to have “found” your books, your site, and yes, your faith. Your honesty, humility, vulnerability, even your questions all make it easier to accept my own fights and my own questions. It may not always be such great comfort as you and Steve go through this journey, but you are being used in great ways by God. Random, unknown, striving hearts such as my own are finding your words and faith is being strengthened. I, among many, many others I’m sure, thank you. Prayers, my friend.

February 26, 2015 - 10:03 am

Dianna - Bo~ very moving and profound words. Your honestly and perspective always, always challenges and inspires me. Sets my perspective back where it should be. Our Father does know where we are and the length of the journey……Wow!

February 26, 2015 - 10:50 am

Jennie - Bo, your words are beautiful in the midst of pain. I wish I was near you to give you a hug and cry some with you. ALS is no picnic! One day Bo, one day sooner than it feels, we will be singing and dancing again with our Lord and Savior! Praise the Lord he came to rescue us from all of this pain and sorrow! Hugs to you and your family from the Epps!

February 26, 2015 - 11:12 am

Molly - Yes, Bo, you are strong, even when you don’t “feel” it and we are standing with you, especially in the times when you don’t feel it. Thanks for telling us the good and the hard……but you do know that you guys are making the same destination, right???? Just different time frame, but same destination!! :)
Love you so much and can’t wait for my turn to come hug your neck.

February 26, 2015 - 11:29 am

Dixie - Hi Bo. I have been praying for you, Steve and your family for quite some time. I had the honor of praying for Steve when you came to our church in Mac, New Horizons. Since then, I include all of you regularly in my prayers.

My husband has had a quad. Bypass, aortic valve replacement and kidney transplant, with many side effects and other ongoing issues. His arteries are plugged again and there is nothing the docs can do because his veins and arteries are shrivelled. His new kidney is also going downhill. I tell you this simply to let you know I understand the life of total dependency on our Father God. Ralph, unlike Steve, can still function on his own so I do not know the pain, frustration and lonliness you are experiencing on that level.

I do know, however, that there are days that even living “one day at a time” is overwhelming and totally exhausting. I am so thankful for the ever-loving presence of God that gives us the ability to survive one more day and live on. Why hasn’t Steve been healed? Why does your mom continue to suffer with her back? I don’t know. No one on earth knows. We know sickness and disease were conquered by Jesus’ death and resurrection and we know countless people have been healed. Why some and not others? Great question and no ready answer.

I just know this one thing. Jesus loves me. He loves you, Steve and your family. Though He slay me, still will I trust Him. I don’t know what today will bring but I know He is with me all the way.

I have a friend who just lost her daughter. Cancer. It was a horrible blow for many people, including me. All we can do is continue to believe, trust God and have so much faith in Him that it defies logic and definition. I know that is what you do.

Strength and peace to you, Bo. So many people are standing with you. Keep on keepin’ on. We’re keeping on with you.

Praying for a better day!
Dixie

February 26, 2015 - 11:32 am

Eileen - Praying for you! Thank you for so very honestly opening up your lives and your journey to the rest of us.

February 26, 2015 - 1:04 pm

Debbie - Bo, praying for you and your family. Sending love and hugs!

February 26, 2015 - 1:45 pm

Leigh - Just prayed for you, and will keep doing so. You and Steve are heading to the same destination, it just seems that you might be arriving at different times. And I believe you will each be walking hand in hand again one day (no more sorrow, no more pain.) Will keep praying for peace, strength, endurance and comfort for the journey. I pray God enfolds you and your family in His comforting hugs in the best way He can.

February 26, 2015 - 2:34 pm

Doug - Bo,

I love your messages. As one who has ALS, I hurt for my wife as I am sure Steve hurts for you. I love your honesty with the fears and the hardships. I absolutely love your faith and seeing how you work it our through fear and trembling. You and Steve encourage me in so many ways, thank you.

I did not choose this but am thankful God has allowed me to share our faith through this trial and to come across your blog. You are blazing a trail for us to follow and grow from.

Thank you and God Bless,
Doug

February 26, 2015 - 2:47 pm

Debbi - Bo, your willingness to be authentic and vulnerable is inspirational. I’m sorry for all you and your family are going through. Through your sharing I find hope.

February 26, 2015 - 7:23 pm

Steffy - Bo, it is honestly so refreshing to read about the things you’re processing and the vulnerability with which you relate them. I feel so weary and so guilty in my wondering, “How much longer?” sometimes….but you remind me that we are on a course pointed Home and that it is natural and even beautiful to sometimes crane our necks to see if we can glimpse the home stretch. Oh, to hear the words “Welcome Home, good and faithful servant…” The thought of it for Steve makes all of the suffering with/in Christ richer. Blessings and God’s warm mantle of comfort pulled over you, my dear friends.

February 26, 2015 - 8:59 pm

Christine Duncan - You remain articulate and open, and when I read your heart there on the screen, I feel honoured to have heard your story, and how God keeps providing His goodness throughout.
It’s hard and inspiring all at once.
You can be sure you have our prayers and our hearts, even just screen to screen.

February 26, 2015 - 11:32 pm

Yvonne swarbrick - Hi bo ,
I am a carer of my hubby ray . He’s. Had MS for 30 yrs . I understand how hard it gets sometimes . Your words resonate with me , I go through all these emotions regularly . It’s so hard at times . But like you I know The Lord and would be dead without Him . I am feeling exhausted at the moment , weary of the illness . Have come away for a few days rest at a retreat house . I have been saying to The Lord this week “How long Lord ” I feel as if I can’t go on another minute when I get like this , and then He comes and gives me more grace . I have raged and screamed and cried many times . I have had many days of joy though as well , joy I never thought possible in my situation . Bless you , I would love to be in touch with you so we could encourage each other
Godbless you both Yvonne x

February 27, 2015 - 6:06 am

Chera - LOVE this, and you! Your path is yours and while others might have great intentions and thoughts for you, only God knows all the answers and how to lead you best.

Huge hugs, my friend! So proud of you!

Because Valentine’s Day

It was Valentines Day 1984 when I found a red-enveloped card in my mailbox at Portland Bible College (which I shared with Bob Metcalf and Mami Masaka and Elisa Morelli and all my other M buddies). Steve and I had been flirting with flirting…dancing around the edges of dating, without really taking the plunge into the dangerous, “do you really wanna?” conversation. I had hinted with him that I felt not-quite-ready for a romantic relationship. Maybe I needed more time to grow up, to discover myself, to consider other options instead of racing in to date the boy from Illinois. In my heart was a desire to focus on my last semester of school and a stubborn determination to defy the Bible college Ring By Spring stereotype.

 

But then, this card. It was sweet and kind and tender. It was not at all cheesy or Hallmarky, but it ended on a fairly dramatic note and it was this: I will wait as long as it takes.

 

We didn’t go on a date that day or any day for another month. No kiss. No commitments. And yet, that Valentine’s Day changed the course of my life in the most remarkable way.

 

We got married on February 2 so Valentine’s Day has never been a huge deal for us. We’ve acknowledged it, but have focused more on making it fun for our kids. So, I really thought this year wouldn’t be weird for me. Given the magnitude of everything else in our lives right now, bemoaning not being able to go on a date on Valentine’s Day seems beyond silly, right?

 

And yet…

 

Here I am, up against this milestone of a memory and stuck beneath the weight of present suffering and wishing for all the world that I could relive just one Valentine’s Day. I love that everyone posts pictures of their fun dates and flowers on Facebook (I really do – we should always celebrate love!) but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting just a little. Truth-be-told, it’s been a hard week. Sadness has been pushing in around me like a flood and all the sandbagging in the world can’t keep it from seeping in a little.

 

Maybe next year I’ll have the energy to quiet the sadness and turn up the beauty. Maybe I’ll sink my teeth into doing something for people more sad than I. Perhaps I’ll write a blog post that answers all the questions about how to gracefully navigate the loving-and-losing dance.  Next year, I’m pretty sure I’ll have the answers to all of life’s problems (ha!), but this year is this year. My plan is to go for a run and thank God that I can. I have legs that work and a caregiver who takes wonderful care of Steve for a few hours on Saturdays. I will paint a bathroom and read a book and just generally keep…going. Because sometimes that’s what you’ve got. Sometimes, it’s the only plan. And if that’s the plan you’re living on this holiday-of-love, know that you’re not alone.

 

But as I keep on keeping on, I will be mindful that I am loved and have been for a very long, very beautiful time. And that’s what counts.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

February 14, 2015 - 10:33 am

Cheryl Hammond - Thank you for being so “real” Bo. I pray God will give you an extra measure of peace today.

February 14, 2015 - 10:46 am

Molly - Yes, Bo, you are a good example of NOT living by FEELINGS……and that is ALOT of what this holiday is about…the Hollywood idea of love and what it means….but you are living out the true meaning of love….making this holiday look much too cheap for the rest of us. We love you and keep admiring that deep love,an inspiration to us all. Keep fighting the good fight. Gods grace to the finish line.

February 14, 2015 - 9:49 pm

Cathy - Dear Bo,

I love you. You and Steve, both separately and together, have been the goodness of God in the land of the living, running the race set before you with such determined faith…for those of us privileged to be your surrounding cloud of witnesses. You have kept on keeping on, even in the teariest hardest moments.
In the middle of the night darkness is when I pray for you, knowing our Daddy God is holding you both so tenderly in his arms of love. And holding you up when the weariness comes. Keep holding on…

Tori’s mom

February 21, 2015 - 9:22 am

Liz - Dear Bo,
My heart hurts for you right now. I am so sorry that you are sad. I am praying that God will invade your heart with love and the endurance to keep going.

I discovered your blog and books after you spoke on Focus on the Family. My husband was diagnosed with ALS a few years ago. It has been tough as you know. My husband believes in Jesus, but his faith is nonexistent. We have been unable to walk through this battle together in faith. It makes me so sad, but God is working and I trust in him.

Daily I am confused, torn, and at His mercy. When this all started I ran to God because it was the only thing I knew to do. He has been so faithful through this whole situation. God has put people in my path to guide and encourage me along the way. I do at times look around at others and wonder why doesn’t he give us what they have. At those times I have to remember his purposes for my life are eternal. I hold on for the eternity that HE has promised us.

I love the story about Steve’s missionary parents in your most recent book. Having an 11 year old girl and a 14 year old boy, this story gives me hope. I pray that through this they will see me hold onto God for dear life. If they learn that one thing, to trust God in all things, this battle will have been worth it.

Thank you for your gift of writing. Your book is making me feel more normal. It is helping me to see God’s purposes and love for me and my family.

Praying for your family daily.

Much love,
Liz

Marriage and the Great Pearl Hunt

 

Next week Steve and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary.  It looks nothing like I thought it would, but I am learning that while expectations feel realer than real in my heart, they contain very little in the way of actual substance when life kicks in.  Expectations – especially those that deal with love and romance – are often airbrushed beyond recognition. And maybe that’s good.  Many of us would never bite the bullet and say the vows if we could see clearly into the future, and one thing I’m more certain of than I have ever been:  God loves marriage.  He loves happy marriages that shoot fireworks and fairytales all across the night sky.  And He loves hard marriages that dig deep and grow through faithful, stubborn, hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth because we just can’t let go while there’s still a heartbeat determination. Please know and know it well: Steve and I have lived both. Sometimes we’ve lived both in the space of one day.

 

So, I can’t really remember what I thought my 30th anniversary would be like. Those dreamy days are pretty far in the rearview.  And it doesn’t matter anyway because we’re here and this is now.  This year of our life has not surprised God. He knew our 30th anniversary would be spent in the valley of the shadow of death. He knew our home would be filled with caregivers and hospice professionals and machines and meds that help Steve live as comfortably as he can in this season of the battle. He who lives outside time and space, knew how this moment on the timeline of our marriage would play out and He has already equipped us to face it with faith and not as victims of a cruel disease. (Brief aside: He knew what your marriage would look like right now, too.)

 

Last week Steve asked me what the traditional gift was for year 30.  I can’t remember him ever asking that before, so I immediately googled it and found: pearls.  Pearls are the gift for year 30.  As silly and commercial as the traditional lists of gifts are, this information has stuck with me because of this one verse:

 

The kingdom of heaven is like a jeweler on the lookout for the finest pearls. When he found a pearl more beautiful and valuable than any jewel he had ever seen, the jeweler sold all he had and bought that pearl, his pearl of great price.  Matthew 14:45

 

We who take the leap and say the words and promise our lives to another frail  human are also like jewelers on the lookout for the finest pearl. We believe that, though it will cost us everything, there is treasure inside that person…there is untold, unseen beauty and it will be worth everything we have to spend our lives finding it.  We know somewhere in the deep places that it won’t only be beauty, but we are willing to take the sad with the happy and the hard with the good, believing all the ledgers will balance in the end and we will find ourselves the proud owner of a pearl of great price.

 

This marriage, this life, these three decades have been the most difficult, exciting, amazing, rewarding, frustrating treasure hunt. Steve and I have both had to sift through a lot of junk in ourselves and each other.  We’ve had to fight and love hard.  I’m not proud of how we’ve done everything, but I am proud of this: we know the value of the pearl. In spite of how much the past four years have cost, I know that I am the big winner here. The treasure inside of Steve Stern shines more brightly than ever before. His love for me is my hidden portfolio, my offshore bank account, the cash buried under the mattresses.  Knowing him has made me richer, stronger, smarter and more secure. Serving him has made me softer, safer and more compassionate.  Loving him has made me happy.  And these things that have grown inside of me are treasure in themselves. I am better because of the battle and brilliance of marriage to the man of God’s dreams.  And I am thankful.

 

Happy 30th, Steve Stern.  I love you madly,

 

Bo

 

 

 

 

January 27, 2015 - 8:25 am

Teresa B. - Bo, Congratulations to you and Steve on your 30th! Last summer a friend and I were having a discussion about marriage. She talked about many of her coworkers were getting divorced and why wouldn’t they want to work on it? Only those persons know the reason but we said that we would do whatever it took to stay with our husbands because divorce is not an option. By keeping Christ in the forefront of our marriages, it helps keep us stronger. There are some who are continuously looking for the more rare and precious “pearl” that they don’t see what is right in front of them. I admire those that have stuck it out through thick and thin because they have the most precious pearls of all: Their life partner given to them by Jesus Christ.

January 27, 2015 - 8:27 am

Angie White - Sweet Bo & Steve, Tim and I celebrated our 30th in November 2013. We, too, recognized the symbolism of the pearl anniversary. The making of that pearl in our marriage fits so well.

This is quoted from a commentary on James by Kent
Hughes.
Making Pearls
Life on earth would not be worth much if
every source of tribulation were removed. Yet
most of us rebel against the things that irritate
us, and count as heavy loss what ought to be
rich gain. We are told that the oyster is
wiser; then when an irritating object, like a
bit of sand, gets under the mantle of his shell,
he begins covering it with the most precious
part of his being – and he fashions a pearl.
The irritation that it was causing is stopped
by encrusting it with the pearly formation.
Imagine that – a pearl is simply a victory over
tribulation.

Here’s to your victory, sweet brother and sister-in-Christ.
With love & prayers,
Angie
P.S. I got a beautiful pearl ring surrounded by 30 tiny diamonds and I got Tim a beautiful pearl-handled pocket knife for our 30th anniversary. And Tim sent me a bouquet of beautiful purple roses, my favorite color. Tiny treasures to remember the love and laughter of our life together before he went ahead of me through the pearly gates in 2014.

January 27, 2015 - 10:50 am

Annette - airbrushed beyond recognition…that’s good. We really, really love you.

January 27, 2015 - 8:53 pm

Rachel Hallett - Wow– THANK YOU for sharing this. My husband is a triple amputee, and I am his caregiver. I’m sure your challenges are more difficult than mine, but your post spoke the the depths of my soul. Marriage is absolutely hard, and one can only hope to have as much courage and strength as both you and your husband have had. YOU are a pearl; priceless and beautiful in every way! Keep it up! Happy Anniversary :)

January 27, 2015 - 10:12 pm

Jenny - Thank you for this beautiful post. You make me want to find the pearl within my own marriage. Praying for your lovely family.

January 28, 2015 - 4:47 am

m thomas - Hi Bo,

I heard you speaking on Focus on the Family this week. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You said a few things this morning that moved my spirit and the Holy Spirit nudged me to find your webpage. I intend to read all of your books because my family and I are currently in a battle. But after hearing your testimony, I told the Lord, God thank you because my situation could have been worse. But He is tugging at my heart right now and your story gave me hope. God is calling me and I am afraid. My family has been torn apart and in the midst of this storm, God said now is the time for you to step out on faith. I felt your heart when you said that through our suffering God is making something beautiful; and that suffering and joy can coexist together. Thank you for that! I am praying for you and your family. My grandmother passed away in 2005 from ALS. I watched her life change right before my eyes. She had been healthy all the days I knew her. All of a sudden she was diagnosed with ALS and we had to pull together as a family to care for her. I personally know what you and your family are going through. I pray that one day I will be able to personally speak with you. I want you to know that, I care about you and your family. I will pray every day without ceasing. Thank you for your obedience and strength. Please know, there are people out here that have been blessed by your obedience to share your experience with us. Thank you.

January 28, 2015 - 7:00 am

Jean Sheard - Greetings,

I just finished listening to your second day on Focus on the Family and I am rejoicing that you were able to do that program.

I am a volunteer in an ALS Clinic at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. My daughter is the OT in the Clinic and we both serve the Lord and our patients in that setting. What a blessing it was to hear how you have approached your caregiving to your husband by putting Christ at the center of your thoughts and actions. It is so hard for us when we are confronted with pa;tients and their families who have become so bitter because of their diagnosis and the sometimes long period of caregiving. To hear your honest explanation of how hard it is to serve your husband brought tears to my eyes – it gave me a better perspective of what our families go through – and yet you brought it all back to serving Jesus. Most of our patients and families are not in a right relationship with Christ, and I can see how it would be easy to become bitter. We do, on occasion, have a chaplan in Clinic, but most of them do not evidence regeneration. However, one of the chaplans was one of the best ones we have had (being a state run Clinic, at the university level, most are very liberal). I heard her one day visiiting with one of our patients who was going on about “having her house in order”, and the chaplan told her that was fine, but “what about living”. Your comment about making memories with your family was exactly what the chaplan was talking about. How I wish we could have opportunities to share the gospel with our families! For now, we are trusiing God to use our gifts and our compasions to testify of Jesus.

Thank you for your openness in sharing your journey with ALS. We have added you and your family to our prayer list. I pray God will bless your ministry in the ALS community.

Because of Christ,

Jean Sheard

January 28, 2015 - 9:14 am

judy - Thankyou so much for for sharing this. It is a precious gift to read today, our 37th anniversary. I completely agree with everything you said, it is all so true, and amazing that God gives it, costume designed for each marriage. Bless your hearts.

January 28, 2015 - 11:01 am

Sue Hughes - I just heard your story on Focus on the Family and wanted to share a site/link with you that I received from a friend from the 700 Club. My husband passed away with leukemia and for the last 2 years of his life, except when he was in the hospital, I gave him all of his care, also except for the wonderful Hospice people who cared for him. We had the same kind of experiences, that as he got sicker, all the problems we had been dealing with over the years just didn’t seem important and we grew much closer and our marriage became much more precious.

This report from 700 Club talks about how coconut oil has healed so many people of a variety of very serious and deadly conditions: Parkinson’s, diabetes, als, ms, alzheimers, etc. This has not been laboratory tested, but has worked for so many people. If someone had told me about it, I would have tried it for my husband. Here is the link to the report:

Alzheimer’s Doctors Taking Note of Coconut Oil

Video:
The most popular CBN News story of 2012 showed how coconut oil helps some Alzheimer’s patients. Now, some heavy-hitters in the medical community are noticing. <a …
http://www.cbn.com/tv/2079641150001

I will keep you in my prayers. I have found that you can actually feel the prayers of others. My heart breaks for you, but God is surely with you through this trial.

God Bless You-All,
Sue Hughes

January 28, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Sue Hughes - Bo and Steve, I got so busy telling you about the ‘cure’I heard about, that I forgot to wish you a Happy Anniversary. So Happy 30th. You know how to appreciate each other even through this very difficult time.

I wish I had journaled through losing my first husband (I’ve lost 2, but they aren’t lost when you know where they are.) He had surgery and we were making plans (don’t stop dreaming) for when he was home and well again, and POOF, he was gone. I couldn’t wrap my mind around him not coming home from the hospital. God gave us time together for him to help me through my grieving process, even though we had no idea he would be gone. I think the planning/dreaming helped a lot, but God gave me that peace that passes understanding. It is still as real to me today, nearly 29 years later, as it was then.

You are Pearls of Great Beauty. You do need to treasure these moments you have together. Time will pass and you can clean the house later or write that letter to a friend later. Everything else will keep, but you only have this special time NOW. God Bless You

January 28, 2015 - 3:18 pm

Pam - I just listened to your interview on Focus on the Family…..I immediately thought what a blessing it is that you both have that long goodbye…..and how most assuredly, the Lord will bless you in the days that follow with the memories of the special moments you shared. May peace permeate your souls in the days to come. Thank you for sharing!

January 28, 2015 - 6:08 pm

Mark and Susie Warren - My husband, Mark, and I heard you on Focus on the Family today. We don’t expect you to reply, for we know something of what your days and nights are like. Less than 1 year of marriage and Mark developed ALS. That was back in 1983. Exactly 5 years to the month, Mark went into respiratory arrest and having previously made the decision to use artificial ventilation, is still by my side today. We are into our 31st year with ALS, and 26 years of ventilator dependency. But, by God’s grace alone, we do experience the joy of God’s strength. Thank you for your testimony of love and devotion! Bless you both and your family.

January 28, 2015 - 7:48 pm

Karen MacKenzie - Yes pearls. It is through stress and irritation that they are made. I love to wear mine. Very appropriate for a 30th anniversary. May your time be filled with love, joy and peace.

January 29, 2015 - 7:27 am

Jim H - Hi Bo and Stern family,
I heard part of your story on yesterday’s Focus on the Family broadcast. I hope you hear might heart on this. If you have tried everything else, I have one suggestion where to look. Maybe you are familiar with Andrew Wommack? His ministry has recorded testimonies of modern day miracles of people who were sentenced to die by the best medical minds of our day, yet these people did not die but lived and recovered from what was not supposed to be recoverable from. I would encourage you to take a look, there are many testimonies at his site. But I would encourage you to take a look at this one:
http://www.awmi.net/extra/healing/niki

January 29, 2015 - 10:12 am

Lori Jackson - Happy Anniversary to you and Steve! I heard you on Focus and am encouraged to hear how God is faithful to reveal Himself to you; and so generous with His strength and mercy. He is a God who is near and not far away. I heard you say that Steve listens to worship music. It made me think of other things he could listen to. Have you discovered Sermonaudio.com? There are hundreds of sermons that he can hear there. My current favorites are messages by Sinclair Ferguson and Eric Alexander. Also, Librivox.com offers out-of-print books read by some good readers (and some not so good). Many of Andrew Murray’s wonderful books are read by excellent readers. Also G. Campbell Morgan has a couple. Hudson Taylor’s wonderful commentary on the Song of Solomon is also there. Also, Biblegateway.com provides audio versions of many translations of the Bible. I pray that he will find something in these sources to bless his mind and soul!

February 4, 2015 - 7:29 pm

Becky Aylor - Exhibit S

I don’t have words of wisdom, nor websites for hope. I simply want you to know you and your family are in the forefront of my mind and thoughts and that I pray for you so very often throughout my day. XOXO- B

February 5, 2015 - 9:01 am

Dani - Thanks for sharing your heart and being vulnerable. Your grace is mentoring me and I am grateful for it!

February 6, 2015 - 3:47 pm

Jewl - 30 years! What a gift to have had that. All gifts passed through the Potter’s hands! Thank you for standing by each other through the mountains and through the valleys, including this most shadowy one. Thank you for giving God the glory through riveting sunsets and while grasping for the rock through stormy seas, always reaching for the pearl in it all and in each other. Thank you for loving God and each other, even when so much of it looks different than you expected. We cheer for you both as the finish line draws near. With prayer.

February 11, 2015 - 2:07 pm

Bob Bolton - Congratulations to Steve and Bo as they celebrate 30 years of marriage. The strength, sacrifice, compassion, courage, commitment and love you have shown one another, and most especially during the past 3-4 years as you struggle with challenges most of us will never comprehend….is a testament to the GOD focused lives you have led, and been stewards for your family and thousands of others.
May GOD bless you and may his face shine upon you as you celebrate what HE “has brought together”.
Love you,
Bob

Dear Josiah

 

 

Dear Josiah,

 

On this, your 15th anniversary of life in our world, I have things to say to you.  I’m pretty sure that doesn’t surprise you, since you’ve been with me this long, so I’m going to launch right in.

 

Thing #1: Your life is not normal. It was very normal for awhile.  Maybe even boringly normal.  But at year 11, your life took a turn and you have lived every day since inside a fishbowl with sad faces looking in and sad voices asking, “So, how is your dad?” You have handled it brilliantly.  Valiantly.  Without complaint and nearly without a hitch. You’ve learned to respond to those questions with kindness, and without saying too much. You’ve learned to be in charge of things like mowing the lawn and hauling the garbage and scraping car windshields on frigid days.  You’ve learned to use a feeding tube and a suction machine and you’ve faithfully learned to care for the dad who used to care for you (and still does – but in other ways.) This is big and impressive, but it is not normal. And in the midst of all the absolutely-not-normal circumstances, come absurdly normal things like Spanish tests and field trips and the way your mom forgets to give you lunch money for so many days in a row. Sometimes the normal and the abnormal intersect at the strangest points and everything feels incongruent and upside down to me…but not to you.  You’ve learned to weather the waves as they roll in, you’ve learned to shift your weight and stay standing through it all.  It is a great skill, but it is not normal.

 

Thing #2:  Your life is not small.  It is giant. You are an overwhelmingly abundant gift to me, to our family, to your dad.  You are important to us in ways I can’t package into words well enough. I don’t know what I would do without you.  Your smile is real and ready. Your heart is tender as the day is long. You’ve learned compassion in the crucible of suffering and you will be an enormous gift to a grieving world.  Enormous.

 

Thing #3:  You are only just beginning.  You live in a home that is currently focused on endings.  But you are at the very start of all you will become and experience and dream and create and achieve.  The future stretches out wide in front of you, as big as the mountains that surround our city. You will launch and love just that big, because you are just beginning.

 

Thing #4: This is the big one.  The most important one. You are not a victim. Your days have been planned with purpose by the God who loves you more than life. Our pain does not take Him by surprise and our struggles do not sideline His strategy.  In fact, if we’ll let Him, I believe He will use the game-changing circumstances of life to work beyond our dreams.  The pain in your life has made you strong and sensitive.  It has made you one who will fight for justice and for the dream of His kingdom coming to our right-now, right-here world.  You are not a victim.

 

Thing #5: Near to my heart is this last Thing.  You are not fatherless. Sometimes throughout our journey, I’ve cried over the things you have not been able to experience with your dad, because I know how badly he’s wanted to be everything you need.  Sometimes, I’ve tried to step in and be that or to send in a substitute, but then I realize: you don’t need us to be your substitute dad because you have a real dad who loves you beyond reason. He can’t take you golfing, but he can (and does) spend long hours praying for your destiny and not very many sons can say that.  And you also have a Dad – the eternal One who shepherds your heart and directs your steps. You are not alone and will never be. Not ever.  Because you are not fatherless.

 

So, on this big and beautiful day, I celebrate your life – the fifteen years that you’ve packed away and the decades that are to come.  May His presence be your reward as you pursue Him with a vengeance.

 

I love you more than words and bacon,

 

Mom

January 13, 2015 - 9:25 am

Stacey Novak - Bo,
Thank you for being so transparent and loving. I long to meet you one day and hug you and thank you for the blogs you’ve shared that have hit home for our family, but also show us that we are not alone in our struggle ALS and teenagers.

Happy birthday, Josiah!! You have incredible parents!

May God bless you all mightily, above and beyond what you can ever think or imagine!

Stacey Novak

January 13, 2015 - 6:15 pm

harriet hetzel (hh) - Happy Birthday Josiah! Your moms words are so true. I am truly touched by what she said. Our children mean more to us than anything on this earth. Our son and 2 daughters are in that fish bowl with you- trying to live a ‘normal’ life. Our ALS battle is entering the sixth year and our son is now 18. His name is Douglas. At times- I feel the hurt and pain for you and him the most. Being the ‘only boy’ I am sure you can relate. I know Douglas’ dad wanted to teach him the greatest game on earth and play golf with him, too. He wanted to hug him when he got his drivers license and stand up for him when he marries, but we know now that our lives have taken a different path. Your mom said- you aren’t fatherless- and neither is Douglas. You both have a wonderful, loving man in that fishbowl with you. I hope you have a great year full of exciting and happy events. Hang in there Josiah. May God bless you all. Harriet Hetzel

January 13, 2015 - 7:58 pm

Susan - Beautiful

January 13, 2015 - 8:08 pm

jacquelyn strayer - I am privileged to live in your town, go to your church,to read your books,to send your books to my friends who are struggling, to see you here and there. To hear you say “Hello” to me, to be inspired by your courage. I am privileged.

January 14, 2015 - 6:31 am

terri - Happy 15th Birthday Josiah!
Thank you Bo for sharing your heart with us. What a wonderful letter to your son, it really touched my heart. Words can’t express how this changed me today.
God Bless you all.

January 14, 2015 - 9:20 pm

Jewl - Hi, Josiah, birthday guy. I love your name. It’s weird to get a birthday greeting from a stranger, and not only that, but one as far away as TN, and with the kicker being that I’m an old mom, but your mom already told you you’re not living a normal life, so this fits after all ; ). Interestingly enough, my daughter turns 16 on the 16th of this month, and since it’s so big and so golden, we’re thinking lots about birthdays around here. She’s sad to leave 15. For bigger reasons, you’re probably sad to leave 14. I just wanted to say that you’re going to make it through this. That’s all. And to your classmates, I’ve been where Josiah is. I recommend you give your bud a place to talk about his dad and death and dying and sad … or to not talk and just be do and be as always.

January 17, 2015 - 11:49 pm

Joni Thurber - Dear Bo,

I love that you pointed out to not only Josiah, but to everyone reading, that Josiah is not fatherless. We know he is loved by his heavenly father. But on earth, the foundation that Steve has laid for Josiah is stronger than many foundations of Josiah’s peers. Boys and girls, young men and young women who yearn for their fathers fully capable with strong bodies and minds, but have not built the foundation that will sustain their children. These children have a heavenly father who intervenes. But for many, an earthly father of strength is a wish on a star. Josiah is fortunate for the gift of your husband, a father, who the minute Josiah was born, began building a foundation, and with his prayers, he continues to give Josiah something that will not crumble. Your loss is beyond words. The gift Steve gave your children is also beyond words. Blessings,
Joni