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Part 2 of Plan A


Today marks the last day of the fourth month since Steve went home.  I have been processing by writing nearly every day, though I’ve only updated the blog a handful of times.  I’ve been reluctant to share this part of the journey publicly, not just because it’s pretty raw, but also because I haven’t really trusted my feelings from day to day. Well, no. That’s not right.  My feelings are my feelings; they don’t need to prove anything to be valid.  Even if those feelings don’t last all day, they are legitimate emotions when I feel them.  What I haven’t been able to trust are the conclusions I tend to draw from them because my brain has been so crowded with questions – the noisiest, bossiest questions I have ever faced.


Some are general living questions, like: What do I do with the house? How do I use my money wisely? How much should I travel and speak? Or manage my time in general?  Who do I call with questions about my sprinkler system?


And then there are intimate, edgy questions, like: When do I move Steve’s collection of golf hats out of the closet? How do I parent kids who are living through grief while I am also living through grief?  Who will take care of me when I get the flu?  Should I keep wearing my wedding ring indefinitely or not?


The first month was like living inside a ball of yarn, trying to punch my way out. The harder I punched, the more the tangle tightened. Around day 27, I finally reverted to the old technique for escaping a Chinese finger trap: Relax. Go limp. Stop fighting. Rest. Countless times, I have stopped a runaway train of thought by saying out loud, You don’t have to know right now, Bo. Just relax.


I’ve learned a lot in this season of waiting and resting and I’ve mostly been letting life happen.  If I feel like getting stuff done, I get stuff done.  If I feel like binge watching Parks & Rec, I do it. When cooking sounds fun, I fill my kitchen with my favorite food and people. When it doesn’t, I grab a kid or a friend and go out for dinner.   In my very short time as a widow (a word that I’m not sure will ever sound right), I’ve been to more movies than in the previous ten years combined. Instead of three miles a day religiously, I run…whenever I feel like it. It’s like I’ve turned into the anti-Bo, but it’s been really good. I will always look back on these 120 days as an oasis in the back country of the Shadowlands.  I’ve been kind to myself and I’ve learned that the questions don’t go away at the oasis, but they can wait.   This is not a season I would be anxious to repeat, but I will be grateful for it forever.


Having said that, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt the unmistakeable movement of a  turning tide.  It’s not that the season of grief is over, or ever will be (it helped a lot when I stopped expecting it to end.) It’s that I feel my heart moving from recovery mode to reconstruction mode.  I remember the first morning I woke up with a strange excitement bubbling beneath the surface.  Is there such thing as “solemn excitement”?  If so, that’s what I felt. I began writing down some new ideas and reminding myself of some old dreams. Then a few trusted friends posed carefully-worded suggestions that I knew were meant to nudge me toward the daring idea that maybe my future had not been buried with Steve.  Ironically, from the day of my husband’s diagnosis, he began telling me that no matter where the road took him, he believed my best days were still ahead.  It used to annoy me so, so much. I would sob and shake and tell him, “I can’t hear you say this right now. I can’t think ahead that far without feeling like my whole life is ending.”  He would smile sadly and pat my head and say, “But someday you’ll be glad I said it.”  And he was right.  I’m already glad he said it. Maybe someday I’ll also believe he was right.  I’m not there yet, but maybe someday.


So, today, on the threshold of month five, I am here to say that I am changing. I am growing. I have wrestled down answers to the immediate, essential questions (keeping the house! found the sprinkler guy!)  and am hearing whispers for those that will shape my future (hint: it involves tuition and tests and scares me a lot!)  I am rebuilding on this broken ground and grief is still very present here, but it’s partnered up with hope and they’re dancing – sometimes well,  sometimes super awkwardly – together.


Over the next few months, I’ll talk a little more about the answers to some of my questions and the plans that are forming as Part 2 of Plan A unfolds, but for now I want to close out month four with this promise from Jeremiah, which hangs over my desk and has become the only thing I really need to know:


I will give those who are weary all they need and refresh everyone who is filled with sorrow. Jeremiah 31:25


With hope for all we need,



November 17, 2015 - 8:36 am

Teresa - Excited for you and what lies ahead. (thinking about going back to school?) Will continue praying for you and the family. 🙂

November 17, 2015 - 9:27 am

Karla Jeltema - Love you Bo, been praying unending for you and the kids. I think our souls feel your pain and just want to gently rock you to sleep at night.
Be blessed

November 17, 2015 - 9:51 am

Rhonda Abellera - Thanks for your amazing words Bo! What an encouragement you are to so many! Many Blessings to you and your family!

November 17, 2015 - 11:44 am

Tamara Tennison - no words. just HUGS!!!!

November 17, 2015 - 3:56 pm

Susie Kay - I love you.

November 17, 2015 - 5:35 pm

Sue Powell - “Thank you”,Sister-Friend…for sharing this ‘hope-filled’,and honest ‘update’ on this part of your journey…*I loved the ‘visual’ of ‘grief and hope’,dancing together;’sometimes awkwardly! As I am a part of The Mundane Faithfulness Community on FB…So many Sister-friends dealing with the grief and struggle’s of cancer,treatment’s,losses,and ‘just showing up’ for others who are going through a ‘hard time’…the Book;”just show up”,by Kara Tippetts and Jill Buteyn,co-written while Kara was still living,is another extremely informative and ‘real’,’raw’,and ‘hopeful’book for everyone who long’s to ‘be there’ for a hurting loved one,*family member or friend..or whomever the Lord might bring into their lives…I know you are a busy lady,just wanted to suggest this for when you might have some ‘down time’,as I believe you will be blessed,*just as I,and so many others,were blessed by your books,written from your heart.You are loved,and I know that Abba will be ‘close by your side’,as you go forward,holding His hand,as He’ll never let go of yours.Sue4Him

November 18, 2015 - 11:37 am

wyvonea Allen - Bo,
be encouraged I can truly relate with your journey. I say to you my sister that you will grow even closer to the Lord than you ever imagined possible.
He has truly become my sole provider, encourager , and friend. I can remember when my husband passed last September 7th. I could not even see myself going on one day without him after 32 years of marriage. We were high school sweethearts.
Yet the Lord God has truly blessed me I now look back and know that it was only Him who carried me these last 14 months.
I too was blessed by the fact that my husband gave me his blessing of living life after he was gone home. I too said i don’t want to talk about it.
Thank you for your transparency i thought i was the only one willing to share, your blog is encouraging so many thank you.
One final thought I want to share with you I have been blessed by the Grief Share bible study, for lack of better words I tell people when talking about this group.That misery loves company, we are all miserably going trough grief but some how us all being together is brings us comfort and support.Through the help of the Lord he is healing our hearts one day at a time. I agree with you this is not a journey I would have chosen for myself, yet God saw fit to call me to it. I know He will see me through it.
Be blessed Bo as you join so many of us in this journey of God’s grace and mercy, truly they do follow us all the days of our life. God is a widow’s provider.

November 18, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Jody Collins - Bo, there is so much hope in these words…’re doing things just right, ’cause they’re just Bo.

November 21, 2015 - 11:06 pm

Jewl -

November 21, 2015 - 11:08 pm

Jewl - just a smile : )

Dinner for One


I am cooking tonight.


Cooking isn’t unusual for me – I try to cook dinner for my kids several nights each week, and we have our big family dinner every Sunday, so cooking is regular. But tonight, I’m cooking alone. Tori and Tess have things going that adult kids tend to have.  Josiah is at church.  I am alone.  And I don’t mind being alone – in fact, after a busy, people-filled day, the introvert in me is happy to sink into an evening filled with solitude and good food.


But, the thing is, I can’t stop my mind from running ahead.  It keeps racing out of the here-and-now, to a day not so far away, when this will be my normal.  Tess gets married in January. Tori moves into her own place in February.  Josiah goes to college in 2 & 1/2 years and is gone a whole lot even now.


I look at the six, fat bratwurst browning in the skillet and remember how my grandmother squirreled so many leftovers away in her fridge.  She just couldn’t learn to cook for one and I’m not sure she ever really tried.


I try unsuccessfully to deflect the feelings I’m unprepared to process.  I am fifteen years younger than my grandmother was when she was widowed. It seems I have a long road ahead, and that road is apparently filled with a lot of leftovers, which makes me wonder if I’ll hate being really and truly alone.  Almost as soon as that thought bubbles up to the surface, my mind starts racing for solutions which include, but are not limited to:  1) Have friends over for dinner  2) Have homeless people over for dinner 3) Stop eating dinner.


But I love to cook. It’s therapy for me.  And Steve loved to eat what I cooked.  It was therapy for him. I would give about anything for the chance to  keep making moussaka and curry and shepherd’s pie for that guy for the next thirty years. But plans change and people go and then we have decisions to make about why we do the things we do and what it would mean if we stopped.To stop cooking would be to hand more of my life over to the greedy abyss that is ALS and I just will not, cannot do it.  It doesn’t get to win this one.


Dinner is ready. Sausage, maple glazed butternut squash, roasted broccoli, and way too much of it.  But it is delicious and I feel warmed and fed in a world where so many will go to bed tonight alone and hungry.  The minute I lose sight of that, I’ve become the very thing I swore I would never become (starts with a v and ends with ictum.)  Again I’ll say: ALS doesn’t get to win this.  It doesn’t get to slap labels on lapels. Not without a fight.


So, cook I shall. For many or for me.  For life.  For love.  For Steve.


It’s just the right thing to do.


With hope,



October 21, 2015 - 10:32 pm

Katrina Monaghan - How about cooking dinner for other widows?

October 22, 2015 - 5:01 am

Debbie K. - I love to cook as well and use the leftovers for my lunches during the week. Love reading your post.

October 22, 2015 - 8:58 am

Kim - I remember several years ago when my life changed drastically, it felt so powerful to still claim what remained and what was my normal. And one of those was good ole southern cooking. I was a party of “0ne” but God blessed me with unexpected guests in all sorts of ways!! I once read that grief is just love with no place to go…. Pour that love in cooking and everything and everyone that remains in your life.

October 22, 2015 - 1:32 pm

Dani Meyer - Love this post and you Bo! You are welcome to come cook with me and help me wrangle these two wild toddlers at the studio anytime you like <3 <3

October 22, 2015 - 3:10 pm

Terri - Bo Your words again touch so deeply in my heart, and at the same time give me chills. You have such an anointing to write and share your journey with such truth and wisdom and grace. I have gone thru the valley of empty nesting, and it was a very Deep and Dark place for me. But God did some amazing work in me during that season~ mostly making me see that “He” is my all. I want you to know you encourage me and enspire me and have shown how God is there in the toughest of times. Blessings! From your sister in Christ ~Terri

October 24, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Jody Collins - Thank you for letting us in on your self-talk and your triumph, Bo.
Yes and amen.

October 25, 2015 - 11:27 am

Molly - I’m feelin you on this one. This is the exact post that I had seen coming from far. Praying grace, strength, courage, joy and hope for all such moments. I like the idea of cookin for others…..homeless or friends. Or cook away and then share with someone who is in a hard place in their life. I know that’s what I would do! Love you and thanks again for sharing!

October 26, 2015 - 3:15 pm

Shari Norris - I am relating to all you have written about eating alone. Since my Steve died of ALS 2 1/2 years ago, I have had my kids and their families living with me one at a time for various reasons. the 1st one for 9 months, then the next one for 4 months. Now my youngest daughter and her husband are buying a home and moving out. I will finally be alone for the 1st time. I’m not sure how that will be. I still cook for everyone every Sunday, 18 of us now, and I love it but what do I do during the week?

October 27, 2015 - 7:26 am

Meg - Your house always smells so good because of your cooking! If you find yourself with to many leftovers I’ll make the drive to your house and make astonishingly quick work of those leftovers. Moment of honesty here, it’s not even 7:30am and I’ve eaten breakfast twice. Praying for Jesus to fill your kitchen, and be present in the sights, sounds, taste, and scent of good food.

November 5, 2015 - 6:55 am

Debbie - Bo,

Your strength is amazing, I know the pain of loss. I was at a conference that happened shortly after Steve’s diagnosis and have followed your blog since then.

You have touched my live more than you will ever know. Your life radiates your love and trust in God.

Thank You, and may God bless every meal you make.

Two Months


Two months today.


Two months since Steve went home.


Two months of the deepest, darkest heartache I have ever known.  It has been a wonder and terror to me.  (Dramatic words, I know, but I mean them.)


Two months of groping through inky black nights of fear and strangely dim summer days.


Two months of miracles.


Two months of surprising discoveries, both internal and peripheral, that have awakened me to new angles on the character of God and the ways He has woven my heart together.


Two months of wondering if He would, again, today, be enough.  Be real enough.  Be peace enough.  Be provision enough.  Be close enough.


Two months of finding that He is the Yes to all questions of want.  He is always the Yes, even when my heart is no, or maybe, or prove Yourself first and then I’ll trust.


Two months and I am still standing and still astounded. In awe. Undone by His ways.


I ran into this prayer today and it sang my heart:


God of all our times:

We have known since the day of our birth

that our primal task is to grow to basic trust in You, 

to rely on You in every circumstance,

to know that You would return when You are away, 

to trust that in Your absence You will soon be present, 

to be assured that Your silence bespeaks attentiveness and not neglect, 

to know that in Your abiding faithfulness, “all will be well and all will be well.”  


We do trust in You: 

we are named by  Your name,

and bonded in Your service.

We are among those who sing Your praise

and who know of Your deep faithfulness. 

You, you however, are not easy to trust:

We pray against a closed sky; 

our hopes reduced to auto-suggestion; 

our petitions are more habit than hope;

our intercessions are kindly gestures of well-being. 



because Your silence and absence, 

Your indifference and tardiness are glaring among us. 

We are drawn to find lesser gods, 

easier loyalties,

many forms of self-trust…

that do not even fool us. 


On this Friday of remembered pain and echoing deathliness, 

We pray for new measures of passion, 

for fresh waves of resolve, 

for courage, energy, and freedom to be our true selves…

waiting in confidence, 

and while waiting, acting our life toward You

in Your ways of forgiving generosity. 


We pray in the name of Jesus who trusted fully, and 

who is Himself fully worthy of our trust.  

Amen.     {Walter Bruggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth}



With hope,



September 18, 2015 - 2:44 pm

Sue Bartlow McFarland - Grief is like swimming in the sea….sometimes, it’s calm and you feel like you can stay afloat…othertimes, the waves come crashing down on you and you’re not certain whether you’ll be able to rise back up to the surface…just keep yourself anchored to the Rock of Ages as He will lift you back up when your strength is gone.
God bless you as your travel on your grief journey.

September 18, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Sue Powell - “The Father is closest to the child He is carrying”…You.As long as you need Him to,and He won’t get weary or heavy laden,sweet sister-friend.Keeping you,Josiah and family,close in I see that in a few days,you will have a ‘First Birthday’,after the loss of your beloved Steve…praying for extra Grace for that day,as Kara Tippets said it so well;”Don’t imagine yourself in the future,because that is you without the Grace He will provide for that time and circumstance”…Love and Hope,Sue

September 19, 2015 - 6:38 am

Steve Merki - “We are drawn to find lesser gods . . . that do not even fool us.” Powerful . . . And true.

September 19, 2015 - 2:36 pm

anita - Bo, you’ve quoted from one of my favorite books of prayers and indeed to one of my favorite prayers in one of my favorite books of prayers 🙂 Over the past few years when my own words in prayer fail me, a written prayer read over and over will often return my voice to me.

You continue to be a daily fixture in my prayers…even when I don’t have words.

September 21, 2015 - 7:16 am

Shanda Wordelman - Bo, I am so sorry you have to go through this. I have been so blessed by your books and what God is doing in you and through you. I want you to know that you really are making a huge difference. Your pain hasn’t been wasted. I am praying for you right now.

September 22, 2015 - 12:55 am

Aida - Happy Birthday, to the BEST and Beautiful BO in the whole wide world!!!

It was a full day and I didn’t get online until after midnight…alas, this is belated!

I love you!!!!!

September 29, 2015 - 8:24 pm

Rachel Hallett - I was brought to tears as I read your past few blog posts. I took the summer off of reading all blogs, so everything hit me fast. I can’t believe what you have been through, and your unshakeable faith through it inspires me even on my worst days of being a caregiver for my husband. It is beautiful what love can do, and what it can pull through. I will keep you in my prayers.

October 8, 2015 - 8:58 pm

Jewl - Thinking of you. Saying a prayer for you. You’re in the hard. The adrenalin of managing crisis, even a long-term one, gives way to an even longer marathon, and the road seems to stretch endlessly before you, and you feel alone, so very alone, despite the so many who love you. This is where a lamp to your feet and a light to your path brings needed focus. To do the next thing. This is where your expectation that Steve will be right around the bend begins to blend with the rational thought: that bend is not here on earth! He’s really gone. And so many others seem to have gone too. How very empty. The old doubts and worries creep in, so you lean even harder, and find Jesus to be even stronger, closer. Take care. Jesus is watching over you. You don’t blink without Him taking note. You’re never alone. He understands it all. He’ll carry you through. He’s on your side, by your side. So REST.

October 15, 2015 - 11:55 am

Caren Taylor - Dear Bo,
I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile now, and have read your book, Beautiful Battlefields twice. I haven’t written you yet, but I pray for you often. When I got on here today, my first in about a month, and saw that you hadn’t written since then, I immediately cried out to our Father for you. I love you for who you are, sister, and I will continue to pray for His love and comfort to enfold you and for His loving arms to guide you through. Hang on, warrior. His armies are greater than the world’s and in the end, no matter what, we that are His will win.
Much love from an unknown sister/warrior.

Fall Into Peace



I have had a remarkable week.  It has been as full and beautiful as the preceding six weeks were desperate and ugly.  Some of the reasons are easy to identify –  I survived a minefield of paperwork and red tape, the administrative necessities that accompany death.  The headaches have finally been relenting. I went back to work, which I love. All good things, but not good enough to account for this stunning increase of peace.


Peace, I’ve discovered, doesn’t actually diminish grief and that’s okay because I’m not looking to be free of grief.  I think the Bible is clear that sorrow tethers us to the presence of God in a way that few other things can.  Grief is my journey right now.  It’s the weight that reminds me that I was the luckiest girl in all the world for 30 years, 5 months and 16 days. Healthy grief is good for me; I’m not going to pray it away.  I am, however, quite desperate to be free of fear – and that’s the power of His promise of peace.


Today I feel peace.  I feel beauty in the season and the weather and in the switch to a fall wardrobe and in my heart.  I’m not going to worry about how I’ll feel tomorrow. Today is enough for today.



With hope,










September 9, 2015 - 10:42 am

Sue Powell - “Don’t imagine yourself in the future,because that is you,without the grace that He will provide for that specific time and circumstance.” You are loved! Shalom and Blessing’s,dear Sister-Friend. Sue4Him :)xx

September 9, 2015 - 11:24 am

Susan David - Amen…peace in the midst of the storm is awesome and powerful!!! Love you Sis and so proud of you and who you have become. Greater things are yet to come!

September 9, 2015 - 11:48 am

Gail Orr - Grief honors that which was lost, it is a blessing to have had such a gift, such beauty, that to loose it breaks the heart and leaves a hole. How blessed we are that we have one that comes along side of us and tends to us so carefully, that He numbers our tears!

September 9, 2015 - 12:01 pm

Darleen - Love!!

September 9, 2015 - 12:20 pm

Debbie Strassman - Hi Bo….My husband John & I were baptized this morning & I saw you sitting there & it made me smile. We feel so blessed & loved to be a part of Westside & we couldn’t thank everyone enough for giving us the gift that we received today. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. Please know you & Your family have been in our prayers for quite some time & btw I absolutely love reading your blogs!

God Bless

Debbie 🙂

September 9, 2015 - 1:55 pm

Dianna Salciccioli - Bo~ so thankful you are feeling sweet peace. So thankful. 🙂

September 9, 2015 - 9:43 pm

Barb Krumwiede - So beautifully stated, as always.

September 17, 2015 - 8:54 pm

Jewl - This is so descriptive and right on: an older person’s take on grief: Blessings, Bo.

On Morning and Mourning


Last night was my longest night since Steve went home. Just the longest, hardest night.


Tossing and turning, reminding myself at 12:23 and 1:37 and 2:15 that the sun would rise, that morning would be faithful to break through mourning, that it could not be otherwise because it is the law of nature and the law of God’s mercy.


I’ve read a lot about people in grief who want to stay in bed indefinitely, but that’s not me. The dark silence is deafening, suffocating.  Not every night, just a few nights. But on those nights, the long term reality of Steve’s absence is palpable and powerful.


I keep looking for a strategy to avoid moments like this so that I can get on with this process and make some progress.  Then I remember: this is the process and this is progress.


This is grief.


It is weighty and consuming and it isn’t heavier than the love of God, but it’s the second-heaviest thing I’ve experienced.  I know that it can’t separate me from His love, but I do feel it pulling at my ankles sometimes with a strength that is surprising, wanting to drag me away with my hope. And if it were up to my muscles or intellect or emotional fortitude, grief would win without even breaking a sweat.


But, God.


He is strong and stronger still.  And every time I am rescued from the deep abyss, I am stronger, too – not necessarily in my ability to strategize and fight, but in my ability to rest and trust.


This is a big week ahead. I have a long list of things that need to be done and decisions that need to be made, and on Friday – the ALS Fancy Dance!  It’s too early to declare that it will be a great week, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that I’ll be stronger at the end of it than I am today.  That’s the ground in which I’m planting my flag on this Monday.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


With hope,



August 24, 2015 - 10:26 am

Celeste - I love you, Bo! I love all the ways God has shown his faithfulness to you and all the ways you have shown your faithfulness to him. The way you let us into your life and your journey has been a source of encouragement and challenge, hope and joy! I pray God’s peace for you in your new season. I pray that He will wrap you up in his arms and remind you moment by moment that you are his. I cry with you, but I don’t know your pain. <3 God Bless you, dear Bo.

August 24, 2015 - 11:16 am

V. Jean Godfrey - This so describes my feelings right now.

August 24, 2015 - 11:25 am

Julie - True words spoken here. It is a long journey to be sure. Hang on warrior you will make it. There is light at the end of this tunnel and joy on the other side. I promise.
There are a great many things in your life worth fighting for!

When my spirit grows faint within me it is YOU who watches over my way! Psalm 142:3

Much love!

August 24, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Donald Dunn - I am available to drive the van on Friday night. Just need to know where to meet and what time. Blessings, Don

August 24, 2015 - 1:08 pm

Nat Gitnes - It has been 3 years since my husband left this world. I can say that most days are good, but then without warning, Grief comes to surround me again. What I have learned…just abide in it knowing that Jesus is with me there and I will soon walk out of it with Him holding my hand and cheering (play on words) me on once again.

August 24, 2015 - 1:40 pm

laura - Bo,
I am praying for you right now in Greenville, SC. I am so sorry you had a sleepless night. You are so right though, it is the process. Thank you for sharing your journey. It means the world to this southern girl. You are an amazing woman!!! Keep your chin up and looking towards heaven.


August 24, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Angie - Hang in there, Bo. The Son is rising in your mourning. He always does.

August 24, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Christine - I haven’t had to traverse the same kind of loss, Bo, but can I tell you… you are a light for anyone going through the rough stuff of life… with your grace and honesty and full-to-the-brim-with-His-faithfulness-in-life words, even when it’s hard.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart…

August 24, 2015 - 5:59 pm

Cynthia Fox - You said it so well, “But God”. Continue resting in Him and Christ will continue to bring you through. Grief has it’s way to show up unexpectedly but we do indeed make progress as we continue this journey.
Your in my prayers continually.

August 24, 2015 - 10:55 pm

Kathy Gilbert - Like

August 24, 2015 - 11:17 pm

Edie - I’m praying for you dear Bo. You portray His faithfulness to the world with your faithfulness to trust in Him. Love you so.

August 25, 2015 - 12:10 pm

Tania - You are an amazing woman! I Pray God to bless And heal your heart.

August 25, 2015 - 12:24 pm

Molly - Yes, please do keep us posted. I believe HE IS STRONGER, and trust HIM to prove it to you.

August 25, 2015 - 10:13 pm

Jewl Westphalen - I’m so sorry, so sorry, for you in this. Such a profound loss…

Even still. Dance the night away on Friday. He’ll be cheering you on.

August 27, 2015 - 7:56 pm

Jewl - I’m so sorry, so very sorry for your profound loss. May the Savior show you how He is near, and may Steve’s love over the years carry you through the dance.