I saw a movie once where a man’s leg was trapped beneath a fallen tree on the shore of the ocean while the tide was coming in. My stomach knotted as wave after wave closed in on him and he sat desperately, hoping for a miraculous rescue, trying to survive the increasing onslaught of the water until finally the ocean won.
It was horrific, but it is also the closest thing I’ve ever seen to living with ALS.
My courageous friend, Patty.
While you know many people would love to rescue you, none of them know how. So you sit and wait and try not to be afraid. Your friends sit and wait and watch, feeling helpless and inadequate, trying to make your trapped-beneath-a-tree life more comfortable and distract you from the nearness of the waves.
My courageous friends, Brian & Jenny.
My sweet friend, Jane, who often comments here on my blog, lost her husband on Monday to the final wave. And I was…bereft. You’d think we’d be immune to that sort of grief…that we’d get used to the dying. You’d be wrong. Every time a friend dies, I feel my head go under water too.
Our courageous friend, Pastor Jack Louman
So, I’m here today to be a voice crying from the shore, reminding the world of what we already know: people are stuck and we have no way to get them out of harm’s way. Finding a way will cost money and I know that money is very tight. I know we need it for lots of things. But changing the world does not come cheap, and this level of rescue is worth every penny.
Bravehearts: Akhil and Steve
Here’s my speech from the ALS Gala. I hope you like it, but mostly, I hope you’re moved to make a difference for those who are trapped in failing bodies and their families who are desperate to build a life for them in the rising tide.
Almost two years ago, I wept at my computer while writing this post about my cousin Michelle, who lost her mom and her unborn baby within days of one another. I told the story in the book as well, because Michelle has been to me such a clear example of someone who grows more beautiful in the most difficult battle.
When their sweet baby, Layla, was stillborn, they said sad goodbyes and buried her in the arms of her grandmother. Layla was the second baby they had lost that year.
In Romans 8:28, we are promised that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him. That verse does not actually say that He works everything out for those who love Him – but that He works them together to make us look more like His own dear son.
I’d like Him to fix everything. To fill all the empty places. To repair all that was lost. But the promise is that He will fill us and repair us. He works sorrow into beauty inside of us, even when the circumstances don’t seem to agree. Even when our dreams seem to be delayed or denied. He is at work.
He is building and creating and weaving His purpose into our lives and sending rain to our thirsty hearts.
Sometimes, however, His work is not the way we hope it will be…it’s better. It’s exceedingly, abundantly, outlandishly more beautiful than we could ever have scripted it. Sometimes, in fact, His work is so good, that we experience a great rush of relief that He never let us hold the pen.
Look what was born onto Michelle & Kirk’s battlefield this fall:
Welcome, Miss Andrea. You are a long-awaited miracle.
If you or a friend have suffered the pain of losing a child, I highly recommend the book, See You in a Breath, by my friend, Stephanie Nelson. It’s just $2.99 on Kindle and it’s filled with raw truth and real gold mined from the shadowy valley.
How is He turning beauty to ashes in your life today? I’d really love to know.
I have great respect for healthy debate and I deeply appreciate the work of the early apologists and theologians who fought for sound doctrine. These pioneers of the faith toiled long and hard in the salt mines of theology to sift fact from fiction and spirit from flesh. I am in awe (and a little envious) of such skilled intellect.
I’m not under the illusion that the debates of Athanasius and Augustine were a lot more elevated than those of today, but they were at least a little more contained, lacking the viral capabilities of our rapid-fire technology. Now it seems that disagreements fueled by facebook and You Tube devolve into Christian WWF matches by the time the second comment is posted. Maybe these disputes are necessary to keep truth clear and strong, but I wonder why it seems we enjoy it so much. Then I remember my own nature, which brings me to confession #2.
Confession #2: I love being right.
I have in the past trolled books and blogs, looking for error rather than common ground, maybe even subconsciously searching for stones to throw and splinters to pick with my Truth Tweezers. It’s bad behavior, but it uses big words and wears a very fancy hat.
Confession #3: I don’t think I have the stomach for it anymore.
My theology over the past two years has grown increasingly simple and increasingly strong. I used to have an opinion on everything. Everything.
But now I know a lot less about most things, and a lot more about a very few things. I no longer have the energy to defend my opinions – but bigger than that, I no longer see them as being at risk. If what I believe is really truth, then it will stand whether anyone agrees or not. And one of the greatest truths I could ever communicate is the truth that God is – of all things – kind*. My own opinions sound to me like the bells on Christmas morning, but to others I’m sure they have often been clanging cymbals, crashing over the sweet song of His kindness.
And I feel pretty done with that.
I don’t think He needs me to defend Him; He’s asked me to demonstrate Him. A real-life display of His goodness is a much more difficult gig than dancing on bully-pulpits that make us two feet taller than our opponents, but still a million miles short of the heart of God.
So, what’s a girl to do, then, with the theology she loves to study? Use it to become more and more in love with Jesus, that’s what. And if I can manage this trick of loving Him better than I ever have, I think the odds are good that I will also love more like Him than I ever have.
And love never fails.
That’s all for today.
P.S. Congratulations, Krista Dowding, you’ve won a ticket to The Well Conference in May! Shoot me your email address and I’ll get you signed up!
One of my favorite speaking gigs last year was at a conference called The Well, right here in my very own city. The crowd was young and vibrant and fiercely in love with Jesus. It was exhilarating! This conference combines an awesome worship experience with transformative teaching and specialized clinics. Last year, it was primarily for worship leaders; this year it’s for all leaders.
I’m so excited to be speaking a main stage session for The Well again this year (along with Andrew Palau, Phil Wickham and my favorite band, Elliot), but here’s my favorite thing ever: I’ll also be leading a ministry track on Friday called Preach Like a Girl. This 2-session clinic is for every woman, young or old, paid pastor or support staff, overworked or underutilized, who feels the Word of God burning like a fire in her bones. These sessions will cover topics like:
Respect: why giving it always precedes receiving it.
Opportunity: find out why so many women feel called while it seems that so few are chosen.
Essentials: mastering the dance of leading while submitting.
Resources: learn the most effective communication strategies and study tools for preaching, teaching & writing.
Skills: craft a good message without losing your mind.
Pitfalls: discover the things men can get away with from the platform that women cannot.
Turn Friction into Traction: stop fighting for your right to be heard and start using your voice to change the world.
Don’t do this: enjoy hearing the stories of Bo’s top 15 ministry mistakes.
Teaching on this topic has long been a dream of mine and so I hope that…someone shows up. I know this isn’t something usually included in conference teaching, but I think it’s really important so we’re rolling the dice, believing that there really are women out there with these questions brewing.
I love the vision behind The Well and I love that it’s the most affordable conference of ANY kind I’ve ever seen ANYWHERE. Just $35 to attend the whole shootin’ match! Are you kidding me, Bo? No, I’m totally serious! Three general sessions, three incredible worship experiences and the leadership track of your choice for three Hamiltons and one Lincoln. Brilliant.
I want to give away one conference ticket today. If you’d like to win a ticket to The Well (even if you don’t want to attend the Preach Like a Girl track – there are six other fantastic tracks to choose from), just leave a comment here with an answer to the question: what is the best conference you’ve ever been to?
I would like to share with you five facts from my weekend and then I would like to ask three questions. You may or may not be interested in this line of thinking but I am pleading with you to stick with me because it’s Monday and because you’re the kind of person that doesn’t abandon a girl at the second paragraph.
Okay…so the things and the questions:
Fact #1: My grandson is, quite simply, too much. Oh, how I love him. He turned one on Saturday and his mom and dad threw him a Luck of the Irish birthday party. Here’s the dapper boy now:
I made little Shepherd’s Pies in little green top hats and my co-grandma, Cathy, made corned beef sandwiches. It was a feast fit for a bow-tie-wearing boy and 30 of his closest friends. So fun!
So, question #1: Ethnic food. What’s your favorite to eat and cook? I feel in a bit of a rut and I need to be inspired toward more exotic cuisine. Extra points if you link a recipe.
Fact #2: I did several radio interviews last week for the book and they were, in a word: terrifying. Seriously, you guys, I speak to lots of people in my regular life, but there’s something about speaking to lots of people over the phone that makes my stomach react violently while my knees shake. All the hosts were just delightful and professional, so they are not the problem. I am the problem. I and my radio-related anxiety disorder. However, I think I’ve found a good trick for staying calm and the trick is: pacing. I pace when I preach (the camera people usually hate me by the end) and so it makes sense to pace when I talk on the phone to a broadcast area of six million people (gulp.) Here’s a link to one of the interviews with the amazing Nancy Turner (thank you, Nancy!) at the incredible Moody Radio in Chicago so you can listen and send me tips and helpful hints and such. Just kidding. I think tips and hints might increase my anxiety.
Fact #2: James Bond/007 was an orphan. I had no idea! Skyfall also taught me that you can kill a man by squishing him with your leg while also treading water. Amazing.
Fact #3: Still on the subject of Skyfall, I’m pretty sure there’s never been a creepier villain than Javier Bardem.
Question 2: Who (whom?) do you think is the creepiest ever movie villain? (Aw, man, I’m watching this while I’m blogging and I don’t want to spoil anything but…it’s sad.)
Fact #4: I read this blog post on social media etiquette and it resonated. In fact, it made me want to clap and wave a flag and dance a little in the privacy of my own home because…yes. Just yes.
Question #3: What is your biggest social media pet peeve?
So that’s it. My little weekend update. I hope yours was fantastic. I have a whirling dervish of a week ahead which includes three speaking gigs and a chance to wear a sparkly dress and dangerously high heels (oh, don’t you worry – there will be pictures!)
Have I mentioned recently how thankful I am for you? Your emails, messages of hope and life and funny jokes? You, friends, are lovely, and I would squish a villain with my leg while treading water for you. Truth.
Sometimes I post a “How’s Steve?” update here on this little blog so that the people who love him and those who just watch our story from afar (but definitely would love him if they knew him) can stay in the loop. I can tell it’s been awhile because people have been asking a lot lately.
I have resisted updating because…well, I don’t really know all the reasons behind the because, but I know that my reluctance is about more than time constraints or too many blog posts to fit one more in. I have avoided it because it’s the most emotional terrain and it’s easier to veer towards other ground, but now the time has come.
Truth be told, it’s been a tough month. The past few weeks have dealt some physical blows that only a disease with the size and sweep of ALS can deliver, and those setbacks are usually accompanied by some significant emotional wallops as well.
For Steve, traveling is more difficult than it’s ever been. Eating is more difficult. Speaking is more difficult. Sleeping in the constant confines of a breathing machine mask is difficult in both physical and psychological ways. Things that used to be easy are hard and things that used to be hard are impossible. Life for him, in general, requires superhuman strength to keep moving. That’s how Steve is doing.
For me, leaving the house is more difficult than it’s ever been. Getting everything done is more difficult. Living in the moment without fearing the future is more difficult. That’s how I’m doing and I share that because it’s also a part of how Steve is doing. He’s still very much the husband in this relationship: protective, brave, compassionate – and he still feels responsible for my happiness even though there’s nothing he can do to fix this for me.
We work really hard to stay stuck like glue to God’s goodness and to our commitment to each other, but if I’m honest I have to admit that there are days we fail spectacularly. Some days we buckle beneath the weight of frustration and fear. Our nerves fray and our words land hard instead of soft. Some days we are both quite certain that we are the wrong people for this big job called Suffering Well.
So in the honesty of our post-February 2011 world, I will say: Wow, ALS is not for the faint-of-heart or weak-of-knees (pretty sure that’s in the Bible somewhere.) But I will also say: we are well. We truly are. Our kids are strong and heroic. Our friends are a stunning example of love that doesn’t let go. Our family fights fiercely for us in every way.
We are rich in all the ways that matter most.
We are healthy in the most important places.
We are in love.
We are doing things that matter.
It’s amazing, really, to be in this spot in our lives where so much seems to be falling apart, but so much is flying fast and free. Ultimately, we’re learning that when all else fails, love doesn’t. It sticks and stays and heals and builds.
And that’s how Steve is doing.
We love you,
P.S. Hey bell2356 – you were the first to tell me that Sandlot was the movie of forrrrevvvverrrr fame. Send me an email and let me know where to send your book!
Oh my word, you guys – it seems like I have been gone forrrrrrevvvverrrr (name that movie – winner gets a signed copy of Battlefields sent to whomever they so desire!)
So perhaps you know I’ve been in Nebraska, celebrating the life of my dear father-in-law. We had an amazing and miraculous week with all of Steve’s family and – side note – I have eaten my weight in home-cooked food brought in by the ladies of Lincoln City Church. I decided this week that nothing makes you feel so securely and totally loved as finding a friend holding a casserole dish on your porch. It’s just beautiful.
My book at Barnes & Noble at Bridgeport in Tigard, Oregon. (Except I turned it face out.) (And I put it in front of Ann Voskamp’s book.) (Because she seems nice enough to give a new author a break, you know?)
While I was gone, my new book (aka: my fifth and neediest child), Beautiful Battlefields, has been warmly welcomed by the world, which is clearly wrestling with the deep and difficult issues of life. I cannot tell you how blessed I’ve been by the response to our story. I have cried real tears over it all. I told you ages ago that I tried to write the book I wish I could have read when this big Goliath showed up in our lives. So I was excited that the book has been number #1 in its category on Kindle for a few days now and even went to #8 overall. But to hear that the book is helping friends – known and unknown – grapple with the deep questions that come along with a fierce fight is beyond wonderful. This is why I wrote it. This was my mission. I am amazed to see it happening. Here’s an example – an email I received from Karen, who got it on Kindle this week when my publisher generously offered it at the wonderful price of $free:
I got your book today for free for my Kindle. I finished it in almost one sitting. I then went online and ordered four copies. One for me to have to write in and three to give away. Chances are, I will be buying more to give out. This book, well I have no words to tell you how much it has affected my walk. I will probably never meet you this side of heaven, but I want to thank you for writing it. Thank you for sharing your battle and most of all, thank you for teaching me how I can get through the struggles I face. Thank you for making my life better. May the Lord, bless and keep you and give you the desires of your heart.
Again with the tears (and I am not a pretty crier.) Rankings and ratings can take a flying leap – these stories are why this project was worth every minute (but I also like the ratings and rankings as they currently stand!) (And also? Dear Karen – I hope I DO meet you this side of heaven!)
Someone else told me that this book is her new “get well/sympathy/I’m praying for you card.” Instead of paying $3.99 for a Hallmark card, she’s stocking up on copies of the book for just a few dollars more and feels good that she’s offering her friends real hope in the hardest moments of life.
So, that’s where the book is at. And where I’m at is: home. I’ve been gone for one week and Steve has been gone for two. We had a wonderful time with all of his family, but truly there is nothing like coming home.
If you’d like to get a copy of Beautiful Battlefields for your Kindle, it’s still free but I don’t know how long this offer will last (I really don’t know how long – this isn’t a cheap sales trick). Grab it today because we here at Casa de Stern want the message to go out far and wide so that many who are in the fight of their lives can find hope for something beautiful.
And speaking of messages, I spoke at Lincoln City Church on Sunday. The message was on how to respond to bad news, taken directly from the life of King Hezekiah. If you’d like to give a listen, here’s that link.
Finally, I’ll be doing a live web cast on March 12 and oh, how I would love to have you there! Seriously, you guys, this is weird, foreign territory for me and I could sure use some friendly faces at the party. Also, my publicist (hi, Litfuse!) will be doing some awesome giveaways during that web cast (I mean seriously awesome, not just semi-awesome). So, here’s the link to that whole situation. Please save me by coming and asking funny questions like, “How do you make your baked ziti so delicious?” Okay? I neeeeed you and I’m not ashamed to say it.
Okay, that’s it from me. What’s happening in your world?
Yesterday I spent ten hours in the Denver Airport, hoping to outsmart a storm in the midwest and get to Nebraska for my father-in-law’s funeral.
Airports are interesting, especially on days when many people are being disappointed and re-routed. Patience wears thin. Nerves fray. Colors show. The airport is a spin of people and voices and conversations, and after a few hours, I began shamelessly eavesdropping. Let me let you in on some things that I heard:
One woman called her husband to tell him her flight had been delayed and that she missed him. She told him exactly when and where to pick him up when she returned home. Her voice was warm and sweet; their conversation was intimate.
Next, she called the person she was on her way to see. Her voice was friendly, but distant. ”Looks like I’ll get there around 10:00 tonight,” she said. Long pause. ”Oh, no – don’t bother picking me up. I’ll just take a cab.”
A man paced through the seating area in our terminal, connected to his blue tooth, trying desperately to work out a botched business deal. He tried to stay calm, but the panic in his voice was undeniable. I wondered how much might be riding on that deal.
A family raced to the gate, having sped through security in a record 12 minutes, fearing they would miss their connection, only to find it had been cancelled. Rather than being angry or frustrated, they shared laughter and warm camaraderie. They were together and that was all that really mattered.
Seven people nearly missed the last call for their flight to London. They weren’t on a late connection, they just spent too much time soaking up their very last minutes in our very beautiful country.
Many people, many words, many emotions all swirled together yesterday to remind me of this one, prevailing truth: relationships are everything. In business, in love, in life, the success we experience revolves mostly around the quality of our connectedness to the people God puts in our worlds.
I’m in Nebraska, watching this principle play out as we celebrate the life of a man who put relationships with first. It’s beautiful.
Thank you for all you’ve done to help launch this little book in a big, big way! We are so excited about the response – blown away, really, and beyond grateful. I’ll tell you more about that next week.
Finally, we have CUPCAKE winners! And they are…Tori’s Mom (who loves chocolate and coconut!) and Meaghan (who can’t get enough of Toffee Crunch). If each of you could email me at email@example.com with your address, Georgetown Cupcakes gift cards will be on their way to you ASAP! Sorry it took so long to announce this – last week was deep water.
Thank you so much for your love, patience, prayers and such kind thoughts on the homegoing of Steve’s beloved dad. We are so grateful.
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