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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.

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

So Here is New

 

I have started and stopped and deleted posts about a million times in the past few weeks.  I meant to write about our Christmas and how I spent my month off of work, about Steve and his journey, about my shiny, new in-development GRANDBABY (eek!)…so many things.  But words felt slippery and pale. Any attempt to rope them together and form complete, cogent sentences was – and I do not overstate this – absolutely dismal. Not just in terms of the writing (though the writing was bad, bad, bad), but also in terms of how I felt as I trudged through the tunnel of emotions and angst that seems to lead from where I am right now to anywhere I want to go. Want to remember something good from the past?  Gotta go through the tunnel.  Attempting to dream about the future?  Tunnel.  Figuring out how to manage life in the here-and-now? Well, I think that part actually is the tunnel.

 

 

I’m not apologizing for not writing and I know nobody is wringing their hands, wondering what in the world is happening in my life. But I sometimes wish I was able to record this season more consistently.  Not for you, but for me.  For my family.  For a day when it won’t be as painful to look at.  But the fact remains, I didn’t. Not in journals.  Not on napkins.  Not on this blog.  There was virtually no writing in December.

 

 

Quick recap: Christmas was good. My time off has been…hard. New Year’s was…especially hard.  I’ve always loved the newness of New Year’s.  I love setting goals and dreaming dreams and making new, fresh systems which I probably won’t sustain, but it’s fun to create them. I’m a dreamer/planner by nature and I LOVE fresh starts.  Mondays and New Year’s were made for girls like me.

 

 

But this year it was sort of awful because this year, it’s just been really hard to dream. Reasons abound.  You can probably figure them out even better than I can, but I’ve felt very stuck in a land with no dreaming.  Right now, my family feels wedged in a narrow passageway between earth and heaven, unable to move forward or go back. People – countless people – encourage me to absorb every moment, to savor this time and I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m telling you: it’s harder than it seems.  It’s like labor. You know it’s leading to something so beautiful – fresh, new life – and you even know somewhere in your pain-addled mind that the process itself is beautiful, but had someone told me to relish every moment of those contractions I would have punched them in the eye.  Watching my beloved suffer as he is right now is…um, wow, I have no words. Watching his body betray him as he desperately tries to hold onto the things that make him real and alive and Steve is more painful than I have ever imagined anything could be. That’s not to minimize the grace that God has given us to endure this – it’s there and I can feel it –  but I would be lying if I told you there were no moments when I feared the grace would run out before the day was done. Many days, I fear it will run out before the day has begun.  Every  night, we are exhausted and thankful that we made it through another day.  Every morning, I beg for strength for the hours ahead. No drama here, I promise, just real talk from our real life.

 

 

All that to say: I felt fairly stumped as I attempted to establish some New Year’s goals or resolutions.  I read several blog posts from people I respect, some convincing me I should achieve more in 2015, and others telling me to do less and be more. Some inspired new fitness goals.  Some laughed calorie and carb counting off the to-do list.  None of them were wrong, but none of them were me. What did happen in reading other people’s resolutions, though, is a determination inside of me to flat-out refuse to live a life with no dreams.  Without vision, we die. We fall asleep with our eyes wide open.

 

So, I guess my first resolution of 2015 is simply the decision to dream again.  To look through the tunnel and into the future, understanding it is murky and muddled, but it is still mine and I am still alive and life is for living.  I’ve opened the door to vision that seems small (watching all of Friday Night Lights with Steve) and vision that seems big and impossible (spending some extended writing time in Italy).  I’m dreaming through prayer and my pinterest boards.  I’m dreaming with trusted friends who hold my heart and secrets safe.  And I’m dreaming with Steve, who knows me better than anyone and understands my need to toss some lifelines out beyond our stormy seas and onto the unnamed, unknown shoreline.  He more than anyone is able to help me weed out the flimsy, flighty stuff that sparkles on the surface but produces little and get through to the meaty and meaningful stuff that he knows will produce something eternal and deeply satisfying.  I am soaking in his wisdom and so thankful that I have it while I look out into the great unknown.

 

That’s my update. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

 

January 6, 2015 - 12:40 pm

Karen - “It’s not pretty” umm, well, maybe it’s not pretty but for sure it is gorgeous, brilliant, lovely. Every word you write fills the rest of us with hope.

Thank you.

January 6, 2015 - 12:45 pm

Pam Darling - You are such an inspiration my friend!

January 6, 2015 - 12:46 pm

Jenny - More beautiful than you can see right now. So, so, beautiful.

I will be praying for your year and for your dreams. Thank you for sharing. Always, thank you.

January 6, 2015 - 1:06 pm

Vangi - And…actually, I was just thinking last night…”I haven’t seen a post from Bo in a bit…” as I wondered if your nights were still sleepless and what kind of gut-wrenching road (or, hey, tunnel) you and yours are walking through in the latest part of the journey. Sigh. I stand with you in the truth of all the good that is God-breathed in the midst of this, while also longing for the day that it is finished. I have every confidence that ALS has not, and never will, win the day in the Stern household. You are dealing blow after blow to its arrogant, evil head. I’ve found, through being close to you guys, that I love to be friends with winners. Love you, my sister!

January 6, 2015 - 1:31 pm

Lucie - I may not have been wringing my hands, but I have wondered about you and your family every day since your last post, and am glad you felt able to write again. No update ever has to be pretty; we just want to know how you are – good, bad, or ugly. Thankful that you are also still able to dream. Your comment about Mondays and New Years being made for girls like you made me smile, as I am much the same way. Wish I had some wise words for you, but even if I had, you have probably heard them already from someone much wiser, or that I lived closer and knew you personally and could somehow help in a tangible way. I look forward to whatever you share, whenever you share, however you share.

January 6, 2015 - 2:27 pm

Mary Ward - Dear Bo, Thank you for sharing your heart. My husband also has ALS. I can feel your heart in your words. Thank you for sharing with us.

January 6, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Jovi - Thank you for your words. I lost my sister to ALS on the 28th of December. It’s so hard to recognize what types of feelings I have. I wish us both dreams and nourished souls.

January 6, 2015 - 3:07 pm

Linda Gregoire - This I the real Bo , vulnerable and honest, so when you said it wasn’t pretty, I guess I would agree…. . The ALS journey is ugly most of the time , mixed with some amazing and beautiful moments you know are gifts from God. . To me it was beautiful that you are open and honest about the most difficult journey one family can face. Your love for each other is something to behold! Gods grace will always be sufficient , even when we fear it may not be. God knows what you need, He will never leave you without His love , comfort and peace. I’m sure that feels hard to believe sometimes( I know it is for me, sometimes) but an elderly friend , she is 90 , she lost her husband 10 years ago , she said, “you have not arrived at the moment you are fearing, when you get there, His grace will meet you” she knows, she’s been there, I trust her, I love you, I just had to share that and hope it settles in your heart. Love you both and always praying!!

January 6, 2015 - 3:08 pm

Mary Ward - After I finished reading this piece with tears in my eyes I looked out my office window and witnessed a beautiful sunset. It felt like God affirming his presence. Photography is my thing, it is what I do when I can’t find words. I’d love for you to have these two photographs. If you would like them please email me at maryhahnward@gmail.com and I will send them to you.

January 6, 2015 - 5:33 pm

Fred - Bo, I love your how real & transparent you are. You & Steve are an inspiration & some pretty amazing really models, on how God’s Grace is fresh & renewed daily. Thank you for being real. Thank you for being you.
One of my favorite memories of you guys, is when you & Steve sang Trina’s & my song(Everything I Do by Bryan Adams) in our wedding 17 years ago. It makes smile & even shed a few years that you two were a big part of our special day. Much love & respect for you guys.

January 6, 2015 - 6:41 pm

Theresa - Hi – I don’t know a single person with ALS and my main exposure to it has been watching the recent film You’re Not You but I happened to stumble upon your blog this evening deep in thought about some of my own issues…. I ended up finding inspiration in an unexpected place as I moved from a blog post you wrote about 6 months ago to the year before and then back to today. And it seemed so appropriate that your post was so new. I think my favorite part about your writing is that you do keep it real. This is something so personal, yet you are sharing it with the world. Thank you.

January 6, 2015 - 7:13 pm

Angie White - Dearest Bo & Steve, thank you for opening up a window into your heart. I hope you can both be in the moments as they come. I pray that writing is as healing for you as the reading is for those of us who have hurt through the same or similar tunnels. Asking God to continue to bless your whole family with His gentle strength.

January 6, 2015 - 9:04 pm

Michaela Evanow - That’s a perfect way of putting it. Labor. Contractions. You can’t enjoy the contractions because they are too painful in the moment. Whoa. Such revelation there, Bo. Thank you for your real. Thinking of you and praying so much.

January 6, 2015 - 10:22 pm

Gina W. - I’m blessed to pray for you and yours. God is with you; may His Presence give you strength for the moment.

January 7, 2015 - 12:30 am

Tamera Gardner - This may not come out right but I often feel like other women are super-Christian-mom-wives that float through trials and tribulations with hands folded and Mona Lisa smiles while teaching Sunday school, volunteering at the soup kitchen, home schooling 6 wonderful children while successfully breast feeding twins. I appreciate your raw honesty and vulnerability. Thank you.

January 7, 2015 - 10:26 am

Jacqueline Kennemer - Dearest Bo.

Today was the first time I ever read about your world. I am a Portland girl too. I am caregiving for my sweet Mom who has Alzheimers and my Father who has Parkinsons. One of my best friends was just given 6 weeks to live, she has advanced COPD and her breathing is getting labored. Your blog has been the first that truly grabbed me and held my attention so powerfully. You understand the journey of life and death. Not unlike the struggle of a butterfly before it’s birth into the world. The wrestling with what is and how these terrible and beautiful moments are shaping us, making us stronger. I want to thank you for writing. I have felt so lost lately. My heart feels vanquished. I am a dreamer and a creator and that part of me has gone missing over the past 6 months. I know she is there but I don’t have the passion to call her up right now. So, I want to thank you for being real and raw and available. Sometimes I feel so lonely. My faith is strong but my heart is weary. I hope you don’t mind if I lean on your wisdom through this season. I believe God created a divine appointment for me today, reading about “Oatmeal”. You are a breath of fresh air and hope. Be blessed in the coming season as you love deeply.

January 7, 2015 - 7:47 pm

Joyce Hoffman - Bo,Since the initial diagnosis I have prayed for your family from my perspective but now because of your honesty I can pray for what I hear from your heart.
Father, guide this precious servant family through a tunnel fortified with love- your perfect love and the love of all of us who know them. Give each of their family members a secure vision to build on each day. Vision when the day is hard and when they need to find the greater strength to rest in you. Record in the corners of their minds a journal of the precious moments spent -not translated with the written word but the still small voice of the Holy Spirit for the day when they will need them. Finally Father,let all of their trusted friends and loved ones be amazing listeners and lovers of their hearts. Love you Abba, Amen

January 8, 2015 - 11:09 pm

Jewl - I hear your tunnel imagry, and I know it must be as apt as words can be. I’m from W. Michigan. I picture Tunnel Park. Small, not a park to boast about. Wretched graffiti words hang on the walls. The tunnel is dark, as tunnels are. But waiting at the “other entrance” are blonde sands drifted into wave ridges merging right into blue: long and really wide with hues of deep. Lake Michigan. They call it the pure state, but we know only Steve will experience true purity once he exits here and enters there. But you too will find peace even as the waves roll in. You will feel the sun on your face, you will build castles and play with your grandchild(ren!), and you will tell story after beautiful story of the legacy they received from a wonderful, wise, and loving man God called home–not too early, not too late . . . , and how no tunnel is so dark that you cannot find The Lamp for your feet.

January 9, 2015 - 7:28 am

Sheri - Bo, your words are cutting like a butter knife through butter, right down to the surface where all things are so real. Thank you for letting us into your truth – wrestled out each and every day on this suffering journey. And, thank you for reminding us that the death of “what is” always leads to the new life of “what is to come,” and that God gifted you with eyes to see that promise in this new year.

January 9, 2015 - 9:25 am

Kathryn Vai - Just wanted you to know that you and your beautiful family are in my prayers daily. HUGE virtual hugs.

January 9, 2015 - 9:51 am

Eleanor Stern - Sigh! Bo, your blog was absolutely awesome. i could be going through the same thing, but wouldn’t be able to tell it like you do. Your way of saying things makes us understand totally what you are going through, as well as the family. I don’t have much to say, except i wish that there was some way that I could change things. But, what I can do best, is to pray and believe that it won’t last much longer, one way or the other. i leave Kenya the night of the 12th, and will call you after I get to Florida. Sue and Jerry will pick me up in Florida. I will be there for awhile. At that point, we can talk about whether I should come out to see you all. My time here has been wonderful. I have learned to appreciate what everyone does here at KKV. So until I talk to you in the States, I will be praying for you all the time. Give my love and hugs to Steve. Love you much, much, much! Mom

Comfort and Joy

 

The hardest question I’m asked right now – the very hardest question – is “How are you?”

 

It’s not hard because my life is bad.  It’s hard because I’m just feeling...so many things.  The range of emotions I feel on any given day swings wildly from calm and grateful to confused and frustrated.  My family is blessed to be together on this road, but we are weary. Steve is weary. His body is used up and his spirit is struggling to stay comfortable in such ill-fitting skin.  It’s almost like the inner Steve is growing as rapidly as the outer man is failing and like a baby outgrows the womb, the real Steve is ready to breathe the fresh air of real life. The process is the most beautiful and brutal thing I’ve ever witnessed.

 

photo-9

This photo will always be precious to me because I know when it was taken. I know those smiles are as real as the tears that fell just moments earlier. I know that dancing happened immediately after. This picture is for me, a little preview of heaven.

 

 

We talk often and openly of heaven. In fact, we talk about it in ways that might make other people uncomfortable, but heaven is not a cheap consolation prize to us – it’s the best case scenario.  We talk about the people he can’t wait to see (his dad, my grandpa, Wendell Smith).  I talk about what the libraries must be like and how it must look right now, all decorated for Christmas, and he talks about the golf courses. Yesterday, as I was pouring yet another carton of vanilla formula through his feeding tube and realizing it’s been nearly 10 months since he’s tasted any food, we talked about how fun it will be to get breakfast in heaven.  We are not afraid of heaven.

 

Our home is almost constantly filled with people.  Hospice nurses, health aides, social workers.  The caregivers who work for us and take such amazing care of Steve so that I have some breaks. Friends and family coming to say deep words. People dropping off dinners and groceries and flowers.  I look forward to the day when my house is quiet and private again and I can be the one taking the casseroles and flowers to people I love, but until then I know for certain that we would be lost without this unbroken stream of support and sympathy.  Just so lost.

 

Our kids are exactly as you might imagine. Tired. Heartbroken. Hopeful. Strong.  They surround their dad like sentinels, marching as far and as long with him on this road through the Shadowlands as they can, knowing the path will eventually narrow and there will only be room for one. Until then, we march.  And we write.  And take photos.  And say the words we need to say to honor the life of the man we love the most.

 

 

photo-10

 

If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking, “She’s processing all of this so well.” False. I have never felt more weak, more inadequate or more overwhelmed.  Steve’s needs are immense.  The more care he needs, the fewer people there are who are able to give it.  And though we are surrounded by such a brilliant army on this battlefield, I realize that everyone can opt in and out of the fight except for me.  I don’t want to opt out, but there are moments when I am certain I will break beneath the weight of responsibility and the sorrow always bubbling like a pot of stew on the back burner. I am learning both how strong and how weak I am.  I am learning to receive help from those who can give it and make no apologies for the fact that I need it. I am learning to listen to the voices of those who have gone before me on this road without being defined  or confined by them. I am learning, now more than ever, to lean hard on the grace of Jesus.

 

So, that’s a little update from our world. I hope it breathes hope, because we really do feel that so much of the time.  And the fact that we feel it any of the time during this fierce fight is nothing less than a Christmas miracle.  Jesus, Emmanuel, came to our sad and broken world to bring endless, eternal hope. This is why our weary world rejoices. This is why we’re still able to dance in the kitchen.  His love brings comfort and joy, and we are drinking it in this season and always.

 

 

Oh, how we love you,

 

Bo for Team Stern

 

 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:9

December 10, 2014 - 8:11 am

Megan - I love you, Bo. Your honesty is courageous and your strength – even when it waxes and wanes – is SO inspiring to me, and to others. When I picked up my signed copy of “When Holidays Hurt”, I was fortunate enough to chat with Steve for a few minutes. I’ll include this in my blog, but HE was able to offer more comfort and solace to ME… rather than I to him. Thought his body was weak and frail, underneath his tired eyes there was a glitter. And I swear to you, I could literally feel a palpable warmth and love come from him. It was comforting to be in his presence. He sure is a special guy. In sum, all I know is when I stepped out your door and down your ramp, I was changed. For the better.

December 10, 2014 - 8:33 am

Trudi Burner - Praying for you mightily as you walk this narrow path…..I feel, share your pain as I lost my mom to ALS in March 2012….I cared for her for six months prior to her final journey….the trials and tribulations are heartbreaking, the reward of seeing her again one day keeps me going….knowing she like your sweet, dear husband, is feasting from HIS table….and the tastes…are incredible….sending you loves, hugs and prayers sweet sister!

December 10, 2014 - 8:45 am

Teresa B. - Beautiful family photo. I wish I could say words to help you through but I’m sure you hear so much from our Father. It makes me think of the end of “Footprints in the Sand”

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

He is carrying you, ALL of you. :)

Peace and Love,
Teresa Brown

December 10, 2014 - 8:50 am

Carol Smith - I can only imagine what it is like to walk in your shoes because you have dared to let us into your world with your raw honesty and compelling words. I’m sorry I can’t adequately express the heartache for your suffering and admiration I feel for your family. I’m faithfully praying your remaining days together on this side of eternity are graced with sweet moments you will carry as eternal treasures. Thank you family Stern for your legacy of hope.

December 10, 2014 - 8:51 am

Phil - Bo, all of your writings have touched me but this one really struck hard. The emotions on every page are a real part of life but not many have tom deal with them in a given day. As one of Steve’s two brothers and sister, it’s hard to articulate into words how I feel today, so I find myself praying for a full measure of God’s amazing grace upon you ever hour of every day. It seems like a cliché to say “God’s Grace is sufficient” but we all know it is and will be for every step of the way.
Looking forward to this weekend,
Phil

December 10, 2014 - 8:58 am

Janelle DeCelles - I can’t help it. I read your words and I feel you emotion and I weep. I weep with sorrow and I weep with hope and believe that somehow, in some amazingly supernatural way, my tears are helping to carry a piece of your burden. Yes, this weary world rejoices because we know what our Savior did and we know what awaits us. Thank you for being JUST you……

December 10, 2014 - 9:21 am

Sherri Gragg - Beautiful, Bo.

I am loving you and praying for you every day from afar.

I remember a line from one of Anne Lamott’s books…It was during the season when she was losing her oldest friend to cancer. Her friends’ doctor told Anne to “pay very close attention to her” as she walked through the shadowlands because as she did, she was teaching Ann “how to live”.

This is how I feel after reading your post today, as if I have witnessed a powerful example of how to live.

December 10, 2014 - 9:39 am

N. Fisk - You just expressed exactly what my Aunt has been telling me about my Uncles battle and her feelings and I understand so much better now. Thank you for sharing.

December 10, 2014 - 9:45 am

Jeanne Bullock - Precious words.

December 10, 2014 - 10:15 am

Karen C. - I started following you on Facebook when my husband was diagnosed in 2013. He has already passed away, for his ALS form was an aggressive one, so all said and done his was 10 months. But that’s not why I decided to write today. I decided because reading your posts is like reading my life during those 10 months. A life that is not spoken too much, but it is people like you that is bringing the life of an ALS family to light. Nobody knows what it is like, unless you have been there and are living the life. They can read, but they will still never understand what it means to watch your husband wither away. It is a sight I will never forget.
You talk about all the people in your house, I don’t think a day went by we didn’t have a visitor. Then the week of his funeral the house was full of family but the day after his service, EVERYBODY left! It was just me and the kids. The house was so quiet it was numbing. Its been 7 months now, and we are finding our new life. I encourage you to take part in the aftercare Hosparus offers. They have been amazing with me, the kids and family group sessions. You are NOT alone. You may feel weak,inadequate and overwhelmed but as a friend would constantly remind me, God would NOT give you, what you cant handle. You are strong, you will survive. Take Care.

December 10, 2014 - 10:19 am

Julie - Asking God’s presence to be real and surround your family today.

December 10, 2014 - 10:19 am

Dona Holland - I have ALS. I know all these feelings, as do my family. This is do beautifully stated and lately I have been composing in my head the answer to “how are you” which is so often ask of me and my family. Hopefully I can write my own feelings but untill then, will share these words that have come from your heart.

December 10, 2014 - 10:24 am

Jill Shelby - Asking God for peace, comfort and joy this holiday season for your family. For it to surpass any understanding. Thanks you so much for sharing your journey. You are loved in Washington.

December 10, 2014 - 10:36 am

Lori McCabe - Bo,
I want to first hopefully spark your memory as to who I am: I fist met you at my home church (Beaverton Foursquare), having earlier missed hearing you speak at our women’s retreat due to a at stint in ICU for chemo related complications. It was such a blessing to meet you and to put a voice and a face to the woman I had been praying for. You so graciously took your time to send me EVERYTHING that I missed from the retreat and I devoured it all. Four of us girls used your Beautiful Battlefields book and the DVDs you sent as a kind of book club as meets Bible Study. It was just what I needed, what we needed. I say all this to become yet another voice, assuring you that your story matters. That it is making a difference. I feel an inner need to do the same, to make this fight worth something. I won’t insult you by suggesting that my battle has been as difficult, now way. But with 5 Cancer related surgeries, two of them on my lungs, a chemo that nearly ended my journey and “coding” in front of my dear sweet husband Michael after the last surgery, I feel I can scratch the surface if only just a bit. All of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, I find myself relating. I write this as I sit up at OHSU, preparing to once again step on my battlefield. 5 days here to administer the most toxic chemo they could find. It will either work, or it won’t. Simple as that. My prognosis isn’t good, not in human terms. So I find myself drifting between prayers for healing, or maybe just sustainment and the prolonging of the inevitable, to Jesus just please, please use this for something!! All of this pain, this suffering just cannot be for nothing!! But, I trust Him. Beyond the emotions of the day or hour or minute. I trust Him. And I just wanted you to know, that a girl from Hillsboro read your book(s), reads your blog, and says “Yes! Amen and Amen! I am with you! You are unknowingly pouring my heart out too as I read and I suspect are doing that for more women and men than you could ever possibly Imagine. Bo, I am continually praying for you and Steve, your girls and extended family. You and Steve have most certainly fought the good fight. I am honored to fight with you in some small way.
Love, Lori McCabe

December 10, 2014 - 10:56 am

Nicole Provo - Words… as usual, they fail me. Just know that we are praying for you all along with the rest of your wonderful army–though we cannot be present with you physically, we are present in spirit and believing for His supernatural strength to carry you all.

December 10, 2014 - 10:58 am

Tara - Beautiful, raw, real words. Thank you for opening your heart, your home, your strength and your weakness to us. Because life doesn’t come wrapped up in perfect, shiny paper. But tossed, turned, full of journey. And in it all… in the real human experience and the real touch of our Creator and Redeemer’s Hope is the beauty.
Thank you.

December 10, 2014 - 12:07 pm

Terry S - Dear Bo,

Thank you once again for sharing your heart. I remember when my brother and best friend was diagnosed with ALS in August of 2013 he told me he wanted to learn more about the spiritual aspect of things I always talked about. I told him that no, I would be learning far more from him as we took this journey together. I never had anything that forced me to admit powerlessness like my brother’s disease. I also never had anything cut through the petty BS of this world and show me God’s love either. As his body was slowly taken away God was preparing his soul. He was the bravest man I’ve know and came to know God through his affliction. He went to Jesus on Sept 29 2014.I held his head, told him I loved him and would see him soon as he breathed his last breath. The moment was so powerful. I can only compare it to seeing my children born.
I continue to keep you, Steve and your family in my prayers. Your latest book has been so helpful in the wake of Tim’s death.
May God continue to bless us all- Terry

December 10, 2014 - 1:56 pm

Doug - As one who, I hope and pray, is early on in my walk with ALS I love your site. Your view of Heaven is wonderful. We have also been talking, praying and anticipating Heaven. I pray for my wife because she can’t opt out – you said it so well. I get encouraged by you and your family. Thank you.

May God continue to use you and bless you.

December 10, 2014 - 3:33 pm

Jane Lellman - I was thinking earlier today about how difficult it is to head into the Christmas season without my precious Santa Jim. But I have snapshots, both real and in my mind, of that last Christmas with Jim and I find when I cannot feel my feelings or touch the joy of the season, God brings one of those snapshots to mind! Then I can rally around the joy preserved from an earlier time! Thinking of and praying for all of you.

December 10, 2014 - 6:06 pm

Debbie V - Bo,
This was an incredibly written note that has stirred me to even more respect for you and Steve. We are praying and believing. Thanks for allowing others to see true Christianity, our weakness for His strength!
Blessings,
Debbie and Gary Vogel

December 10, 2014 - 6:14 pm

Debbie - Dear Bo, praying for your wonderful family.

December 10, 2014 - 6:30 pm

Dianna Salciccioli - Bo ( and family) we love you all so much and our hearts hurt for you. Eternity and “healing” there are not only a hope but a reality-and yet there is sadness…….we pray for you, love you, and continually ask God to carry you in this season.

December 10, 2014 - 6:55 pm

Zig - Bo, I often think of your family and of a time both you and Steve ministered to Teresa and me, sharing a prophetic word that all of our kids will be in heaven. You brought us such peace. Thank you for following after God with all your might. Of battling and wrestling to keep you faith real and for it to not just be a word that we utter.

I recently read a piece from Smith Wigglesworth. It reads,

One of our workers said to me at Christmas time, “Wigglesworth, I never was so near the end of my purse in my life.” I replied, “Thank God, you are just at the opening of God’s treasures.” It is when we are at the end of our own, that we can enter into the riches of God’s resources. It is when we possess nothing, that we can possess all things.

Bo, I pray that Wigglesworth’s words are found true for you. That you and your family are finding God’s treasures and the riches of His resources at this time when you are all at the end of your own.

December 10, 2014 - 10:16 pm

Socorro Alonzo Hughes - Beautifully written you absolutely express the journey that those of us who have been there know. It is sadness, hope, joy, why, and love. I lost my husband in 2010, he was diagnosed in January 2009. Our children rallied around him, and we came together as a family supporting each other. He was brave and he provided comfort and hope for us when we were weak he was strong and he made me stronger with his love and his wonderful outlook on life. He lived life to the fullest despite how hard it must be. It cannot be easy to live in a body with ALS, he made it look easy. My hero no doubt. God Bless you and your family. I fully understand…..

December 10, 2014 - 10:18 pm

Marj Bollman - Steve and Bo, Mom asked me to send you a message to remind you of how much the Troyer family cares for you all. We are all praying for your strength and peace. Much love, Marj

December 11, 2014 - 7:17 am

Deb - Bo and family
You have shone the Heart of Jesus through out this life changing time. May the miracles and peace of this season bring you strength.

December 11, 2014 - 11:31 am

Cindi Dunn - Oh, Bo!
I new on Sunday…THE VERY MOMENT I asked how you were doing that I shouldn’t have…and thought to myself how thoughtless it was of me, and WHY couldn’t I be more creative when greeting you! I have meant to message you all week, but a trip to Eugene yesterday and a variety of “the urgent” kept me from doing so until now…Please know from the bottom of my heart that I love you and DO NOT want to put more pressure/stress on your already maxed out heart! Large hugs, and prayers for you and your family today, and most nights! I wake up thinking/praying for you VERY often…the night watches continue! Amazed by His Presence….cindi

December 11, 2014 - 7:56 pm

Mike Briski - Praying for your family.

December 12, 2014 - 2:31 pm

Sherry Coleman - Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I don’t know you except through your blog, but I appreciate the insight you provide. I thought of you today when I read a post from Bill Elliff, a college friend of mine who is now a pastor in Arkansas. His 97 year old father passed away this morning, on the same day that his son is graduating from seminary. Bill wrote a longer blog, but I love these paragraphs, especially the C.S. Lewis quote–

“Early this morning, on Josh’s graduation day, I received word that my Dad had graduated too! Passed the final exam and moved into the work he had been prepared for since before the foundation of the world. He will now do his real life calling. C.S. Lewis spoke of heaven as that place where “the creative functions of man, now freed from the clogs of matter, begin to try their wings.” Dad will now discover that his brief earth-days were simply preparatory for that which he was designed to do.

And what a joy to see those he loves! To be released from the bondage of his body that was filled with pains. To completely shed the heavy weight of guilt and regrets that we all carry. To be gloriously reunited with previous graduates. And to gaze directly on the Blessed Face of the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb at His right hand!”

December 13, 2014 - 12:44 am

Laura - Blessings on your family! You are in my prayers daily, and have been for over 2 years now. As I was reading this entry I couldn’t stop sobbing, honestly I’m not sure what it is all about, but my love for your family has never wavered and never will! Even from a distance. Blessings on your family abundantly through this season. My heart is with you.

December 15, 2014 - 8:46 am

Jewl - Singing for you all a prayer of blessing, of hope, of joy, of peace . . . right in the middle of the pain, the losses too many to count, the confusing emotions, the overriding chaos, and the heartache so hollow and deep that you don’t know where to land with it, except that you do know, and you do it: you bank on the shores of the God who knows each of you best — again and again and again. Praising Him for dances in the kitchen and a God who gives minute by minute the strength and doggone fortitude to persevere . . . and do it one more time.

On worry for your kids: 39 years ago yesterday, on a Sunday just as yesterday was, the Lord took my mom swiftly as she readied for church. Whoa! What a service she experienced! : ) I was 15. It’s too much for you to foresee 39 years from now, but, just know, (despite what some of my peanut gallery friends may say ; )–I turned out as a person : ) I lost so much that day, but I gained still more through the years since!! Just like Abba provided manna in the desert, the Lord will EVERY DAY supply EACH ONE of your needs according to His RICHES in glory!

December 17, 2014 - 7:29 am

the messy, salty glory: on holding my breath during the holidays. - […] me, friends are receiving hospice care, others are calling 9-11, and some are receiving troubling […]

December 31, 2014 - 10:24 am

Deb Stewart - Bo, I am so deeply moved by your grace. And while I know that you may not feel graceful or poised in most moments, it is most certainly shining through your words and your faith. Thank you for your honesty, which is both “beautiful and brutal”. ALS is in my family also, and it has been devastating. But the Blessings that have arisen from the suffering have been countless. I will continue to pray for Steve’s comfort, your children’s peace, and your strength. I think you are a beautiful and remarkable woman. Your story honors us.

The Very Holy Now

 

Life is funny, you know? It’s funny in ways that make me laugh and cry and hope and hurt. It’s just funny. For several Christmases we have navigated the murky waters of this ALS storm. We have been treading water as we try to absorb the beautiful moments while anticipating a difficult future.

 

This year is different.  This year, the difficult future has invaded our present. Steve’s condition has rapidly declined over the past couple of weeks and he will be placed on hospice this week.  We are grateful for the resources and support hospice provides.  We are grateful for our kids and our friends and our home (which currently feels more hospital than house.)  We really are grateful, but we are also weary and heartbroken. And while I’ve sometimes been able to wrap those emotions into hopeful words, right now I feel surrounded by a sacred sort of silence. It’s not bad.  It’s just quiet here in my heart, where so many memories and dreams are swirling.

 

I am taking a leave of absence from my job for the month of December, so I can focus on Steve and my family during this important holiday season.  I will write when I feel it and I won’t when I don’t.  Today, I don’t.  But I do have something wonderful for you and it is this update from my friend, Michaela.  Remember her baby, Florence, who is Steve’s comrade on the neuromuscular disease battlefield?  Well,  Michaela’s baby, Teddy (Theodore Brave!),  is here and you should read this for a beautiful start to advent.

 

I hope your season is unfolding with grace and I am thankful for so many of the notes I’ve received to let me know you haven’t forgotten us and are still praying.  We do not sorrow as those without hope.  Especially at Christmas.

 

Because of Jesus,

 

Bo

December 3, 2014 - 10:53 am

Joyce Strong - Thanks for the update Bo. It’s good to know what your family is experiencing so we know how to pray.

December 3, 2014 - 11:18 am

Kristen Lunceford - Crying & praying for you while these lyrics play in my earbuds…

“Oh, the mercy our God has shown
To those who sit in death’s shadow
The sun on high pierced the night
Born was the Cornerstone
Unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is born

He Who is mighty has done a great thing
Taken on flesh, conquered death’s sting
Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame
Holy is His name

Now my soul magnifies the Lord
I rejoice in the God Who saves
I will trust His unfailing love
And sing His praises all my days”

Counting on him to shatter even this darkness,
Kristen

December 3, 2014 - 11:30 am

Tracy Paul - Heart ache

December 3, 2014 - 11:36 am

Jillian Jeppsen - My heart is heavy-laden. Not because I don’t know who’s in control, but because I can only imagine what your going thru. I cry out to god for you bo and your precious children as you walk such a vulnerable place. I will be praying for you and Steve as God holds each of you in his arms carrying you thru this!

December 3, 2014 - 12:22 pm

Teresa B. - Thinking and Praying for you and your family during this time. Sometimes silence is best to hear Jesus. Tony and I may be in Redmond but remember we are here for ALL of you. Call us, text us, email us if you should ever need an ear…..or ANYTHING. :)

December 3, 2014 - 12:29 pm

Jane Lellman - I have no words but the hands of my heart are clasped in prayer….

December 3, 2014 - 12:45 pm

Shell Wells - Bo-
My heart is heavy for you all. Sending you prayers of peace and comfort as only our Heavenly Father can. Know that so many are lifting you up in prayer. Hoping you feel it. Xoxo
The Wells Family

December 3, 2014 - 1:05 pm

Katie - Have been following your blog since this summer. Just wanted to reach out at say that I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what you are going through.

My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

December 3, 2014 - 1:18 pm

Joan Zeller - Love you Bo and Steve.

December 3, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Phyllis B - Prayers and love being sent your way.

December 3, 2014 - 1:29 pm

Steph Carmichael - Bo – Our hearts are with you as you navigate this path of ALS. Peace to your heart and mind in the midst of it all. We will keep praying for you, Steve and your family. Love and blessings,
Steph C.

December 3, 2014 - 1:39 pm

Jan Burkey - Oh Bo – my prayers are with you all! Praying for the Lord’s presence to bring you peace. Love you and sending hugs from the DR! Thanks for sharing! Give Steve my love too. Jan

December 3, 2014 - 2:36 pm

Ross & Patty Sisson - You and Steve are two of our favorite Spiritual heroes. We have never met either of you, but we have heard you both speak and read all of your blogs. How we handle attacks from satan is probably our most effective testimony. Your testimony is HUGE.
Thank you, and know that we are praying for your whole family.

December 3, 2014 - 2:39 pm

Kathryn V. - Continued prayers for you, Steve, and your family. I know it can’t take away the pain, but know that prayers are offered on your behalf every single day. May you be enfolded in His Presence and Love. <3

December 3, 2014 - 2:48 pm

Erica - I have followed your blog for years, Bo, and have cherished your words that often inexplicably intertwine hope and sorrow, joy and sadness. My heart aches for you and your family. I am so sorry, and I will be praying for you all.

December 3, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Karlee Strickland - Bo, we Stricklands are praying for you, Steve and your family. Praying for peace that surpasses understanding, for an abundance of hope, for strength in Christ, and for many really special joy-filled moments for all of you this month. We love you!

December 3, 2014 - 3:08 pm

Bev - Praying even now, and am so very confident that God hears the heart when there just are not words. Loving you…and your family.

December 3, 2014 - 3:22 pm

Wanda Stewart - Bo,
God Bless you and your family in this season!

December 3, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Edie - My love overflows for all of you, but words fail me – again. Mark and I are praying with deep groaning, which God understands, thankfully. Love and peace and strength and everything you need, in Jesus’ name.

December 3, 2014 - 4:12 pm

Gwen - I cannot imagine what you are going through. I am so sorry. Words a friend recently suggested when you don’t know what to say – but want to say something. (Thank you xo)

Loving you, and praying too.

December 3, 2014 - 4:21 pm

Phil - so very sorry. Love and prayers for you, Steve and family.

December 3, 2014 - 4:39 pm

Nan Christensen - Oh dear Bo, It is hard to say much of anything. We knew this day very well might come, but desperately prayed it would not. I do know that Hospice will help you all out tremendously. Team Stern has been so very strong (I think you might differ but it is true)Team Stern will continue to be strong long into the future. One time our son Sam (who is now 25}told me that Steve was the best pastor/teacher that he ever had. He said ” Besides Dad, Steve has had more influence on my life than any other adult ever did” Wow that is profound! I’m not sure if he ever told Steve or not, but share it with him please,I know it will bless him. Loving you all in Christ, and lifting you up in prayer Nan xoo

December 3, 2014 - 5:03 pm

Cathy Wood - Oh Bo…no words seem enough to express the cry of my heart for you and Steve and family!! Psalm 121:7b-8…”he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. You once said you were preparing for heaven or healing…honestly still hoping for healing!!!

December 3, 2014 - 6:18 pm

Laurie - We are lifting your family in prayer Bo. hugs and Love to you all

December 3, 2014 - 6:22 pm

Kym Brown - Dearest Bo, Steve and family ♥ I will remain in prayer for your beautiful family throughout this season. With my love and hugs.

December 3, 2014 - 6:33 pm

Stacie - Please know that our family is keeping you in our prayers. Steve and Stacie Vogelsang

December 3, 2014 - 6:50 pm

Marsha Briggs - So need to let you know You Are All in our heart of His heart and our prayers. He Is able to make all grace abound as You continually reveal thru the updates.Thanks

December 3, 2014 - 7:47 pm

Angie White - Precious Bo, how wise and brave you are to take a step back and take the time to just be in the moment. Hold each other…sing…smile…laugh…cry…rinse and repeat.

One of the songs my son shared as we were letting go of our own ALS hero, Tim, was called Just Breathe. I can’t tell you how much music ministered to my heart. Especially when I had no words, God spoke to me through the words of others and the melodies carried us to a special place of intimate peace and sweet comfort. I pray the same for you and Steve and all the loved ones you both hold dear and near to your hearts.

December 3, 2014 - 8:22 pm

Barb Krumwiede - You are in my heart.

December 3, 2014 - 10:16 pm

Helen Campbell - Words spill out from many to comfort you, but yet fall short. Only the peace of Christ can help heal the woundedness.My prayer is for your warrior. May He see Christ in His sufferings and grow in hope that God will not forsake Him.May he rest in our Lord. I am so sorry.

December 4, 2014 - 3:05 am

Angela copley - We are new to westside but so appreciate your ministry of teaching and your transparency. We will begin to add our prayers to yours and your support network.

Angela

December 4, 2014 - 7:27 am

Kathleen - I am so sorry for your family. No matter how long the battle, the end is always hard. I lost my husband to ALS 18 years ago this month. You and your family are in my prayers.

December 4, 2014 - 10:26 am

Lisa Glenn - Bo -I can’t imagine this place, this season you are in. Our family lives in Woodland Hills, and we are part of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church community where I was also the Preschool Director (I resigned this month). In February 2014, my wonderful husband was diagnosed with ALS, now only having 49% Vital Lung Capacity. My sister, who lives in Oregon told me about you, your writing, and your website. I am sorry for the pain this type of journey causes, but grateful that we are both serving a loving God who is beside us and within our moments daily. You have inspired me, and I thank you for sharing so much about these years with Steve and your family. In the midst of your pain,it has been a gift to me to remember how close God is to us even in these days of trial. Blessings to you—Lisa

December 4, 2014 - 11:18 am

Julia Damazio - Prayers from Vancouver wa! Hugs!

December 4, 2014 - 7:06 pm

Debbie - Praying for your wonderful family.

December 5, 2014 - 4:07 am

Arlene - Praying the Holy Spirit envelope you, Steve, and your family in peace and comfort and strength.

December 5, 2014 - 1:36 pm

Jennifer Heacock - Prayers for the Stern family. My heart aches for you all. I am sorry.

December 5, 2014 - 3:56 pm

machelle tillery - Hello Bob, my name us Machelle and I want to tell u how I admire u and your husband! I am reading your book, “Beautiful Battlefields” and gave found my strength and purpose through your journey. My prayers are with u and your entire family and may God grant u peace and place a special supernatural deposit in you. Now in the name if Jesus I pray for tomorrow for YOU.

December 7, 2014 - 8:36 am

Sally - This post took my breath away. How did you get to this place so soon? I am so sorry

I too am a caregiver for my husband who has Early Onset Alzheimer’s The week before Thanksgiving I had to place him in a memory care facility. My heart is breaking.

May God surround you with His peace and mercy as you walk this unbearable path

December 9, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Hailey Hoiland - Oh Bo I’m so sorry. I am praying for you and yours.