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An Update on Steve and all Things Stern

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I can tell it’s been too long since I updated on Steve because I’m getting lots of questions about that handsome guy. And I feel sorry for the people who ask me because my answer is usually a bit of a mixed bag of tricks and I’m sure it’s hard to know how to respond, so today I’m bringing the answers to the blog where you can read and process without having to figure out what to say back to me (though you’re always welcome to talk back in the comments!)

 

The hard.

Steve has had a tough time bouncing back following his feeding tube surgery in March.  While we’re so grateful – so, so grateful – that we went through with the procedure, it’s definitely taken a toll on his already-weak body.  This decline could be part of the natural progression of the disease, but it feels at least somewhat related to the surgery.  He is able to walk a few steps on his own, but uses a wheelchair for everything beyond that. He has increased his time using his breathing machine so his lungs can have a break. Leaving the house for any length of time is very draining and demanding – church is about the only thing that he tries to get out for, but that’s become a little hit and miss as well.   He needs help with most things that you and I are able to easily do on our own.  I do most of the helping and feeding, though we have a caregiver on Wednesdays and a dear friend who comes twice a week to feed him lunch so I can focus on work for those days (thank you, sweet Corlet!  We love you!)  He’s still talking, though I know he has to work very hard to be understood and I hate making him repeat things.  As I watch the disease progress, all I can really say is: it’s a monster. It dismantles a person piece-by-piece and when you think it’s taken everything, it keeps grabbing for more. It’s relentless.  But it’s also not winning.  Because good things are happening, too.

 

The good.

We are happy.  We really are.  I don’t even quite know how to explain it, but there is a grace on this season of our lives that I never could have imagined going into it.  We spend lots of time at home.  All our time, really, and that’s a brand new idea for us since we’ve always kept really busy. We laugh a lot.  We know who we are and why we’re here.  We know who we’re not.  We watch Love it or List it and make fun of Canada. Life is good and I really mean that.  It’s good in the strangest way because I want to call it “effortless” even though I’m not even kidding that I’ve never worked harder in my whole life.  Still…the happy part is not hard.  It’s not like we have to work it up or remind each other to cheer up – the things we love are right at the front of the stage and it’s not hard to remember to be thankful. In the beginning of the diagnosis, we each went through dark days and low seasons when we would tend to get snappy with each other and frustrated with life in general.  I think that’s pretty normal, given the battle we’re fighting.  However, I honestly can’t remember our last day like that.  And hear this well:  this isn’t us. This is grace.  We aren’t strong or smart enough to pull this off.  I wish we were, because then I could write a book about how to be happy in hard times and people would think I’ve figured something out.  But no. Do NOT be inspired by us – be impressed with Jesus.  He is filling the aching places with His presence and I just know it.  We have rough days and you’ll still hear about them here on the blog sometimes, but overall we are happy and more in love than we have ever been and I can only blame grace.

 

 

Our kids.

Are strong.  They really are doing very well and I appreciate so many people asking about them and praying for them.  Josiah just graduated middle school, Tessie is currently in Africa, Tori is a huge help to us here at home, Corey & Whitney are absolute ROCKS for us and Greyson lights everything up with so much joy and his over-the-top love for his grandpa (when he sees me without Steve, his very first question is “Where Papa go?” Cutest. Thing. Ever.)

 

Our summer.

Is quiet.  For Father’s Day, we made a lovely space for Steve outside with a fire pit and chairs, outdoor speakers and lighting and flower pots (he loves big flower pots and has always been the one to keep them watered and growing, so we’ll see how this goes).  It’s a place he can sit in the sun and have friends over to visit.  It’s a place where we make s’mores and share hearts and build dreams.  We’ll spend a lot of time there this summer.  We’re also working on a new book, he and I, and every time I talk about it I want to cry because it feels very sacred to me. I’ll tell you more about it when it’s further developed, but for now, we’re loving the conversations as he talks and I type his thoughts into words.   I have taken three out-of-town speaking gigs this summer and turned down everything else. These 24-hour excursions have given me the chance to get away for a quick road trip, have a little alone time and jump on a hotel room bed with no one there to judge me. Perfect.  I also have a new book coming out from Thomas Nelson in October and I’m writing some promo stuff for that and preparing for another round of book-PR this fall.

 

Our hope.

Is that we have many more summers together around the fire and under the stars.  But none of us know what’s around the next corner, do we?  So we’re living this one well and we’re giving ourselves permission to be happy.  Our hope is also that a watching world would see evidence of a beautiful God and that as they see His good work, they would not fear the next corner.  That’s our hope and our update and we love you.  So much.

 

 

Bo for Team Stern

 

June 18, 2014 - 8:21 am

Karla - Thank you, thank you for the update! I’ve wanted to know, but never want to ask. Still praying for all of you nonstop. So happy to hear that you’re happy. I have to say, the one thing that I loved reading is that Steve is a flower guy! He got that from our Grandma Ratter. My Dad (Uncle Al) used to say Grandma could grow a clothespin if she planted it. I think he was right.
Hugs to you all. Have a s’more for me and may the stars keep twinkling above you!

June 18, 2014 - 9:04 am

Brenda Stanton - Thanks so much for sharing your utmost thoughts Bo. I still remember you and Steve coming to Antioch to share the story. I’m praying for him and your whole family. It really warmed my heart to hear about the book you 2 are writing ~ how special. If you could use an extra set of hands to provide lunch I have free time on my hands and am ready, willing and able 🙂

June 18, 2014 - 9:25 am

brit - beautiful family. beautiful grace. beautiful god.

June 18, 2014 - 9:47 am

Claudia Gilliam - Bo,
I am not sure you remember me but I go to the
Church your Dad is in.
I ask him frequently how Steve is doing
I have been praying for Steve and your family
For awhile.
I am so thankful that you wrote about how
Steve is and the family! I appreciate your openness
And sharing of your heart!
God IS GOOD and I am SO ANXIOUS for
Your books to come out!! Especially the one
About Steve and you!!!

Claudia Gilliam

June 18, 2014 - 10:13 am

Adriel Booker - We see your beautiful God! We do! SO much!!

Thank you for the update. Here’s to a beautiful summer ahead – may it be the most beautiful you’ve ever had. xo

June 18, 2014 - 10:13 am

Jane Lellman - A young teenage daughter of a friend once observed to her that as people “got sick, or something bad happens to them” that they either get “sweeter or meaner.” Such a beautiful balance gets found between the difficult and the joyous when God is in the picture! I am grateful you so eloquently show that. It is sometimes a hard thing to express.

June 18, 2014 - 11:50 am

Arlene Hiatt - Thank you so much for the update. God’s love and grace are tangible in your words. We love you all and continue to pray in the Holy Spirit, our great intercessor.

June 18, 2014 - 12:17 pm

LincolnNana - Peace in the middle of the storm…..peace that passes understanding…..that’s what He promises us. Such a great post. Hard to be full of truth and grace….but you did it!
So wishing I was closer to you!! Much love coming your way from your family in Lincoln, NE.

June 18, 2014 - 12:57 pm

Judy Hinds - Inspiring words. Thank You for always pointing us to Jesus.

June 18, 2014 - 4:03 pm

Carol Linn - Thanks for sharing Bo. It gives me strength in knowing the joy of the Lord is our strength. God’s grace is beyond measure. Blessings to you and your family.
Carol Linn

June 18, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Kristy Haworth - You do inspire because you choose to walk in the strength of Jesus. Inspires others (me!) that I can choose to do the same everyday because we serve a faithful and loving God. Thank you for sharing your world with us.

June 18, 2014 - 5:38 pm

Pat Whitson - (I’m one of Jane Wms’ San Diego sisters… I read and LOVED your “Beautiful Battlefields” book, which I recently gifted to a friend of mine, whose husband is on the brink of getting “THE OFFICIAL DIAGNOSIS”… You, Steve, and your kids are an ongoing amazing inspiration to us all. And I sooo appreciate how you always are pointing your small and big successes and reasons for joyfulness back to our Lord and God, Jesus. Thank you for your generous and humble sharing.. Love and Prayers, Pat Whitson

June 18, 2014 - 5:47 pm

Phyllis - Thank you for sharing your journey. And thank you for the update.

June 18, 2014 - 6:51 pm

Vangi Taron - Thank-you, Bo. For the update and the inspiration. “…impressed by Jesus…blame grace.” Oh ya, baby…preach. LOVE YOU!

June 18, 2014 - 11:57 pm

nansee bruce - Bo, You and your entire family are such an inspiration to us all. Your strength and weakness coupled with transparency are above and beyond…impressed by Jesus and thanking grace. We love you guys!

June 19, 2014 - 7:09 am

Jac - His peace is always available and always prevails.

June 19, 2014 - 9:08 am

Michaela Evanow - I understand so many parts of this update, Bo. *sigh*
I love how you put it: “Do NOT be inspired by us – be impressed with Jesus. He is filling the aching places with His presence and I just know it. ”

Feeding tube insertions do place some stress on the body, at least that’s what I think. But in the long run, they help so much. It’s just another step that leaves a lump in your throat.
Very excited for the books you have in the works and set to be released. I don’t know how you do it!!

June 19, 2014 - 9:49 am

Debbie - Love to the Stern family. Can’t wait to read the books :O) One of them could be titled, “Blame it on Grace”

June 19, 2014 - 11:25 pm

Christine - Great to see your smiling face Steve! you guys got this!!!!!! The Becoming real part….like in The Velveteen Rabbit. thank you ….for all of it.
Love, Tim and Christine

June 21, 2014 - 5:22 am

Molly - Yes, thanks for the update….have been looking and hoping to “visit” your hse. Glad y are able to slow down and enjoy summer a bit……and I THANK our Father, Dad, for GIVING you the grace….and a bit of happy.
Always love you,
Molly

The Secret to Weight Loss (and maybe everything else)

I’m about to wreak havoc with the rules of blogging. Especially the one that says, “stay in your niche”. That’s right. My turn signal is on, and I am alerting everyone in this section of the information super highway that I am detouring out of my cul de sac for a day or so. The reasons? 1. I’m not entirely certain what my niche even is, and 2. I want to.

 

I recently spoke to a group of 800 women on a topic I’ve never tackled before: shame. As I spoke, I felt goose bumpy with the certainty that it was landing in the hearts of those sweet women. Shame is a thing with us, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much tearful feedback after any message. Im sure men deal with shame as well, but I think it’s uniquely debilitating for women. I shared five areas where I feel we need to shatter shame in our lives (you can hear the message in the media archives from February at www.westsidechurch.org) but the one that has been most significant for me in the past few years is appearance.

 

We live in a culture obsessed – and I do not use that word lightly- with appearance. Specifically, size and shape. Maintaining my weight was very easy for me for forty years. After that, it got more difficult and I was consumed with career and family and didn’t pay enough attention as unwanted lbs were finding a home on my person. I mean, I knew it was happening but I didn’t think it would be a problem to lose them (clearly the mindset of someone who hadn’t ever had to before). In the three years after Steve’s diagnosis, I put on another ten pounds without even really realizing. I was mostly thankful that my weight gain coincided with the flowy shirt trend.

 

As Steve’s condition declined, I realized how out of shape I was and it began to wear on me. I knew my family needed a healthy mom more than ever, but adding a fitness routine into a life that already seemed too hard and too busy seemed impossible. The problem, though, is that I couldn’t ignore it. My weight and unhealthy lifestyle became an area of shame that wrapped around my heart like a tourniquet, cutting off the flow of a healthy self image. I researched gazillions of diets and fitness plans, even considering some very extreme and unhealthy options “just to drop the weight – then I’ll maintain it through good habits.” No matter how much I planned or how strong my intentions were, I was absolutely paralyzed. I couldn’t even make myself get out a take a walk (something I’ve always loved.) And the more stuck I became, the more obsessed I became about my body. I hated the way I looked and compared myself to other women at Starbucks and wished I could find a magic pill to erase the eight years of doing nothing so I could feel good about myself again.

 

And here’s an embarrassing confession: I often watched videos of myself speaking, hoping I didn’t look as overweight as I felt. I was always disappointed and felt like a failure again but no amount of self-loathing could get me to move.

 

My breakthrough moment came in the strangest way. I don’t remember what led to it, but one day in my devotions, I asked God an important question: what’s stopping me? Why can’t I do this? The answer was clear and immediate: fear and shame. I really haven’t dealt with a lot of shame in my life, so I had to start figuring out what it was and where it came from. Because, doesn’t it seem like shame should motivate change? It seemed that way to me, but it was clearly doing the opposite in my life. (And I get that many people struggle with much greater levels of weight and that my problem may seem insignificant to those who have fought the weight loss battle their whole lives, but my point here is:shame weighs the same on all of us.)

 

My realization was this: I have never once laid awake at night, thinking about a friend who is struggling with weight like, “how could she let herself get there? Doesn’t she know how her clear lack of discipline is impacting her credibility as a speaker and a believer and a human?” I mean, I never would think that about anyone else because I don’t see my friends as just bodies with no souls. I see my friends as talent and character and goodness and strength – wrapped up in a temporary flesh-and-blood container.

 

When a man uses pornography, he separates the woman’s appearance out from all the things that make her her. He feasts on one part and discards the rest like yesterday’s trash. It’s called objectification and I hate it. But I was doing the very same thing to myself. Focusing on one part as the main thing – even dressing that obsession up in some virtuous language, but still caught in a shame cycle that felt endless. Suddenly, the lights were going on inside my brain: I realized I was afraid to start trying to get fit because I was afraid I would fail. And thinking there was no way out was easier than thinking “I can fix this any time I want – I just don’t want to yet.” The key for breaking the spin was this big, big idea: I am loved either way, so I can’t fail.

 

Seriously, that’s the simple truth that set me free to begin a journey toward what I believe is my best level of physical health and strength in my whole life: I’m loved either way.

 

Once I disconnected the idea of getting healthy and strong from the idea of getting skinny, everything changed. Shame had no more strings to pull. Love is always, always a better motivator. Always. So I let love for my family and for Jesus and their love for me become the focal point of my fitness goals. I switched my diet to primarily Paleo, downloaded the Nike Training Club app and I was on my way. Six months later, I’ve discovered a part of me that I never knew existed. I love trail running. I love setting goals and beating them. I love feeling strong enough for the challenges ahead. I also lost the weight, but that is an outcome, not the goal (I banned myself from the scales for the first two months – and now I only weigh myself every couple of weeks because otherwise, I feel the subtle shifting of my focus and I hate it. Shame lurks behind those dumb numbers on the scale.)

 

I wanted to tackle this topic on the blog because I feel passionate about women feeling loved and whole. Many have asked me recently what I’ve done to lose weight and it’s important to me that they know this all started with a heart change. Sometimes we underestimate how much change a spiritual adjustment can have on our physical bodies, but I like to think I’m living proof of that. I do recommend healthy eating. I do recommend working out. Those two things offer so many physical and emotional benefits. But we can diet and exercise til our bodies are tiny and tired, and still feel inadequate and unloved and ashamed. And an obsession with being skinny is no healthier than an obsession with being overweight. We cant make it through the grocery aisle without being bombarded by younger, more beautiful, more fit women and comparison always breeds shame, unless we’ve done the core work first. Spiritual Pilates: “I am loved at any size and any shape, I am the right age at the right time, I am not a failure because I’ve grown older. I am the right me.” Once that powerful mindset is in place, I believe just about anything is possible.

 

You are loved,

 

Bo

 

PS: I have a pinterest board of some of my favorite things that have helped make the journey to better fitness a wonderful one – it’s called Strong is the New Skinny and you can access it by clicking the Pinterest button up in the right corner,

May 30, 2014 - 12:25 pm

Angola McCormack - I currently have nearly 300 followers for one board on my Pintrest Page. I named it “Skinny Mom”. I really only pin things that are useful and encouraging. Things that a Mom of a toddler or a mom of a 25 year old CAN accomplish. However, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to change the Board title. I can’t wait to brainstorm new and encouraging titles for my little board.
I loved being encouraged by this post. So good!

May 31, 2014 - 6:18 am

Deloys - Same thing happen to me. I was out of shape big time. Term FAT fit me much better. I started taking a life skills class about
a year ago and was reading the word of God thru the intense six months, which became 9 months class. At almost the end of the class God gave me a new revelation from his word. Love me with all your heart mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
The AS YOURSELF stood out in BOLD LETTERS. I started thinking, do I love myself? Have I really received God’s love for me? I began to change and 73 pounds later, I AM HEALTHY!!!! Glory to GOD!!!! HE IS!!!!!

May 31, 2014 - 7:28 pm

Phyllis B. - Thank you!

June 1, 2014 - 9:30 am

Kim Langer - Just reading your blog…my friend and I went for a long walk, chatting up a storm the whole time. We spoke of this very thing and both said “Bo must have been on our walk with us!” Love your words…thank you for sharing. Hugs, Kim

June 1, 2014 - 9:46 am

Shannon - Hi Bo! Firstly, let me say I love you and your blog and appreciate you even daring to talk about one of the most controversial topics in and outside the church- weight! I am one who has struggled with weight my whole life. The only way I keep within a reasonable weight, and we are talking size 12 or 14, is to do liquid diets and run everyday- basically be obsessed. This doesn’t seem freeing, actually it feels almost the same as the burden of the weight itself, switching from beating myself up because I’m fat, to spending 100% of my mental energy to keep “some” weight off because it never comes off to the place that I am as thin as the “other girls”. Even more sad, I have seen very few, if any, Christian women getting this weight battle in balance- from the women’s retreat I went on where the pastor’s wife, size 6- talked about how fat she was- as I looked down at my size 14 frame that I had just worked so hard to achieve- to women being obese and not even trying anymore. I know we are the temple of the Holy Spirit so it is our job to keep our bodies up to our best ability, but I am just feeling disillusioned. As our culture moves more and more to outward appearance, I don’t think I’ve seen a women’s speaker in the church who isn’t beautiful and looks perfect. I sort of leaves me feeling like if I don’t look good I really don’t have anything to offer. I just wanted to share my perspective, and if you have any gentle thoughts to share with me on this (believe me I’ve been beat up over this) I’d love to hear them.

June 12, 2014 - 9:34 am

Our Sons Are Watching Too - Transparencies of Motherhood : Transparencies of Motherhood - […] where the main speaker was the talented pastor and author, Bo Stern. Recently Bo also wrote a blog post discussing one of the main points that she spoke of at the conference. To summarize, both were […]

Living on the Right Side of However

 

I am discovering the power of one little word. It’s a conjunction and if like me, you were raised on a steady diet of Schoolhouse Rock, you will now have that song stuck in your head indefinitely. Sorry about that. But you’ll also remember that a conjunction is the little word that connects two phrases or thoughts and makes them one. However is unique In that it usually joins two opposing ideas. When we see however in a sentence – and certainly when I see it in my life – it signals a change or a turn. Is the change good or bad? I think that depends on which side of the conjunction we choose to set up camp.

 

It may seem odd, but so much of my peace, joy and sanity in life right now hinges on how I view the howevers I face. Last week’s vacation is a great example.

 

We were able to get away to our favorite spot on the Oregon coast, however the wheelchair van broke down on the way home.

 

True story. Accurate sentence. But what actually happened is that it broke down just two miles out of town so we could go back easily. My brother-in-law was able to come with a trailer and pick it up. We had enough room in our other vehicles to get everyone home that day. The delay enabled us to spend a sweet afternoon with my sister, Lila, which also enabled Steve to rest before tackling the rest of the trip home. The however wasn’t a good one and I’m not pretending I’m glad for a car repair – but many good things found their way into the equation and all of us felt it. We felt grace on that whole however situation.

 

So the sentence is better written (and better lived):

 

Our wheelchair van broke down on the way back from vacation, however all the details worked out and we made it home just fine.

 

Here are others:

 

Our family had to deal with the reality of Steve’s condition while we were away, however we made the most beautiful memories and we all became stronger and grew closer through it.

 

It is very difficult navigating a wheelchair on a sandy beach, however it was the most we’ve laughed in a long, long time.

 

For so many years, I lived on the wrong side of the word. I squashed every happy with a sad. Eventually, that evolved into including even the possibility of sad. My schedule is good today, however something will probably go wrong at work. This constant slant toward the negative produces anxiety, frustration and, if left unchecked, bitterness. So much changed for me when I began to let Jesus steer me toward a new perspective.

 

It may sound like a fancy way of saying, “look on the bright side”, but it’s bigger than that. Though both sides of each situation are true, one side is the stronger truth because it’s redemptive truth.

 

My flesh and my heart may fail, however God is the strength of my life and my portion forever.

 

They took Him down and buried Him in a tomb, however God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

Do you see how redemption follows and swallows the despair in those sentences? Both sides are true, but they are not equal truth because – and this is the kicker – the despair is temporary and the rescue is permanent. Isn’t that the coolest thing? It is. Because sometimes in the darkest nights of life, finding the upside can feel like looking for the Mona Lisa at a garage sale. But when we can’t see a single speck of redemption, salvation enables us to push our vision out beyond the horizon of our timeline and peer into the promises of a world with no howevers.

 

My husband has ALS, however his life is hidden with Christ who stole death’s sting, bought Steve’s freedom and dries every tear.

 

That’s the right side of however for me. I’m trying to learn to live there.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

P.S.: Portland friends: I’ll be in your lovely city this Sunday speaking at Horizon Church. I’d love to see you there at 8:15, 9:30 or 11:15!

May 27, 2014 - 8:43 am

brit - so well said. i cringe at the sound of silver linings and bright sides but how you explained the stronger side of however gives me the wiggle room to see the light. thank you.

May 27, 2014 - 9:08 am

Jane Lellman - I miss the however!

May 27, 2014 - 10:50 am

Donna Jameson - Wow! Thank you for this word today, Bo! It’s just what I needed.

May 27, 2014 - 7:27 pm

Beth Yancey - Can’t wait to see and hear you at Horizon Sunsay.

May 27, 2014 - 8:19 pm

Teresa B - Love this. I will be thinking about my “howevers” from now on!

May 28, 2014 - 10:47 am

Debbie Lewis - Dear Bo, Thank you for sharing from your heart and mind. I was reminded today of how important the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our mind are. Then, I read your wonderful blog and it was a confirmation of the same thing!! Wow. I never thought of “however” in this way. It is time for me to speak and think in this way – that God is our Peace and our Answer for everything needed.

Please know that you and Steve are in my prayers for every good thing. Bless you, dear and please keep writing. You are a true inspiration and I always feel closer to the Lord when I read your words. xo

June 18, 2014 - 8:32 am

Melissa - Thank you for this. People keep asking about our wedding day. There was drama with his family and I have let that totally take over. Instead of saying it was an absolutely beautiful day, I have been jumping right to the negative and it is not doing good things for me, him or our new marriage. I am going to work on my however statements. I appreciate your words!

What Happens on Vacation

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I haven’t written much lately, which is sort of like not eating for me. Writing is my inhale/exhale. It’s my therapy, my sanity, my way of tunneling through the weights of life that inevitably pile up and block the light. I don’t know why I haven’t been writing, really. Likely reasons lurk in the back forty of my subconscious, the the loudest and most obvious being that I don’t really want to unpack all that’s happening and look it in the eyeballs.

 

For 39 months now, I’ve been connecting the dots and forcing myself to come to healthy conclusions, and I think maybe I’m as adjusted to this new normal as Im ever going to be. And by adjusted, I mean I can stay upright and functional while desperately longing for the old normal. I don’t know if deeper levels of “acceptance” are possible and I would probably question the credibility of any counselor who tried to suggest otherwise.

 

We, my husband, my family and I, are living in this weird, mostly-silent coexistence with ALS, which is a little like trying to do your grocery shopping while handcuffed to a serial killer. As long as he doesn’t impede your immediate progress, you’re just glad to be able to get something marked off the to do list. It’s not impossible, but it’s also sort of exhausting, and there is literally no moment when you don’t fondly remember the sweet, unshackled life you once lived.

 

We’ve come to the Oregon coast this week; running for refuge to the place we’ve vacationed for years. The shoreline of the pacific ocean is vast and largely unknown to us, but this stretch of it is our sand and these are our waves. We’ve travelled every inch of this tiny hamlet, eaten at every restaurant, and over time watched bookstores become wine shops become art galleries become bait and tackle shops and back to bookstores again. Oregon coastal towns are not hip or fancy, but this one fits us like a glove. We needed to bring Steve here. We needed to be here together again…to feel the sand in our toes and the wind in our hair and to maybe for a minute fill our lungs with the fresh air of life-as-it-once-was.

 

And we have. We have come and we have had some beautifully refreshing moments, but also some so poignant and painful I’m not even sure I have a compartment to put them in. More than any other time, I have had to fight to stay in the present, corralling my fears about the future and questions about vacations to come into a fenced-off place in my heart where they won’t run roughshod over the here-and-now. This is harder than it’s ever been because the future is closer than it’s ever been.image

 

But we are here and this is now. Today, we live. And we trust the God who guards our days to fill each one with hope. Because hope does not disappoint. It is a daily, sometimes hourly, decision for me to say, “into Your hands I commit my hope and heart and husband. Into Your hands, I even commit these handcuffs, and I won’t use them as a reason to stop living or dreaming or loving well.”

 

That’s what I’m learning on my pre-summer vacation.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

May 22, 2014 - 9:52 am

Kristen - I’m so glad you were able to venture to the beach, and I’m so glad you wrote. Tears and prayers for you and your family today Bo.

May 22, 2014 - 9:53 am

Joyce - Your words are encouraging to each of us and so beautiful.

May 22, 2014 - 11:08 am

John Gregoire - Hope never disappoints…indeed! Savor every minute. Hugs to the whole gang <3

May 22, 2014 - 11:19 am

Garris Elkins - Your writing brings a peace. Thanks, Bo.

May 22, 2014 - 7:23 pm

Molly - No words this time…..thanks for writing…..I have been looking for you and wondering what was going on….wish I could hold you right through the pain…..since I can’t, I TRUST Him to.

Finger Painting for Grownups


I’ve been studying a message on being wholehearted and it has me thinking about my own core values and how wholeheartedly I live them. Here’s my problem, though:

 

  • I long to see the world; and I long for the comforts of home.
  • I long for greater levels of organization and planning in my life; and I long for spontaneity and creative chaos.
  • I long to write books; and I long for life with no deadlines.
  • I long for a spotless house; and I long to binge watch The Good Wife.
  • I long for credibility and I long for anonymity.
  • I long to slim down and I long to carb up.
  • I long to work hard and spend my last breath telling the story of those affected by ALS and I long to never say those three dumb letters again.

 

I am a murky stew of dueling desires. And the older I get, the more I suspect that in the end, the way we feed or deny the longings in our lives will make all the difference in the mark we leave on our world and the happiness we enjoying while leaving it.

 

But it’s hard. It’s hard to know what deserves my focus at any given time. I have a grid I like to run things through and it’s this: Am I doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason? It tends to weed out a lot of silliness for me, but it’s only a grid – a tool for helping decide how to invest the minutes in my day. It’s still up to me to choose and choosing requires muscle and discipline and a level of grownupness I don’t think I’ve yet attained. Maybe I never will.  Because this idea about being wholehearted is big and it defies common logic or dispassionate maturity. I’m discovering that sometimes, believe it or not, a little time in the world of The Good Wife is the very thing that fuels me to go back to my life as an ALS wife. Traveling the world is sweet because it reminds me home is sweeter. A well-placed carb helps fuel a River Trail run and the River Trail run inspires creative thinking that leads to more-organized systems.

 

The thing is, this minute-by-minute decision-making about right things and right reasons? It’s not a science. And it’s not even theology. It’s a messy, mixed-up art. It’s finger-painting for grownups. It’s starts with the question, “At the end of my life, how do I want my picture to look?” Then we go about the business of sticking chubby fingers into puddles of color, letting a design take shape that may or may not, but probably, definitely won’t look exactly like our beginning vision. Sometimes it turns out differently because our fingers can only do what fingers can do, sometimes life dumps a color onto the page we weren’t expecting and we have to choose whether we crumple the picture or ask the Great Artist of Romans 8:28 to incorporate that spill into the grand design. It’s hard. It’s work. It’s fun. It’s life.

 

The conclusion of the matter is this: if there’s one area in which I want to be truly, deeply wholehearted, it’s in trusting God with the minutes and months and miracles that fill the page and staying closely connected to His voice as He lets me pretend to be an artist too.  He makes everything beautiful.

 

 

April 21, 2014 - 10:01 am

Dede Miller - Bo,

Thank you, thank you for these words this morning. I’m right in there with the whole giant messer-upper feeling these days. Yesterday I ranted. I vented. I cried. To my husband…to my Mom. And then to the Lord. Wow did I ever get that order of venting wrong. Tired of treatments…not knowing if it is going to work…feeling stuck in a sink hole and so far away from Romans 8:28. You are so right that it is a minute by minute choosing of the right things…choosing of having the right heart on matters…choosing to live and breathe Romans 8:28. And remembering the unfathomable love of the “Great Artist” as He lovingly sweeps His brush over the ranting and venting days to include those in the picture. He truly does make ALL things beautiful, doesn’t He?

April 21, 2014 - 9:55 pm

Kelly Collver - I am a child some days, wanting to break free of the things that keep me moving through adult life: my work, my routines, my organized thoughts, the patterns that allow me to function. “They are holding me back!” I say, like a petulant 3-year-old. If God could see it from my point of view it would be different. But He has. And he has said, “Not my will, but Yours.” I will take time to finger paint! I will take moments to dream, or to record in a photograph something that leaves me breathless. Trusting, believing, seeing that He is in charge no matter what color of mud I have made on the page makes all the difference… Thank you for sharing your heart…

April 22, 2014 - 7:04 am

Cathy Denney - Oh Bo!! This so very deeply speaks to me! It seems I’m at constant odds with many of the things you mentioned. Even watching “the Good Wife” 🙂 And I also, find myself content to settle most wholeheartedly into the arms of the Lord. There I see more clearly the beauty of the dance between the rest and the run, being home and away, the carbs and the fast and the perfect plan and the chaos! He does make all of it work together, doesn’t He? I love Him for that!! God bless you and your family today! Thank you for sharing your heart with us!

April 23, 2014 - 7:45 am

Annette - I like you Bo. 🙂

April 26, 2014 - 4:17 am

Daniela Martin - Dear Bo,

I love reading your blog and the comfort it brings. Thank you for your candidness and passion. I write to you because for the past nine months I have been co-teaching an eighth grade math class with Steve a man also afflicted with ALS. I started with him in October and have watched him go from a limp, to cane, to walker, to mobile scooter where he can barely pick up his feet all in a span of nine months. What’s crazy is last year this time he was doing trail work in the mountains of Colorado. What baffles my mind even further is that he found out about this illness less than a year ago, coincidentally by a fall he had up in the mountains. He often tells me of other teachers that ask to pray for him and he scoffs and laughs while I remain silent. The truth is it’s been difficult to sit there quietly holding my tongue (something I don’t do well) knowing God wants my restraint. To see his cynicism toward people who think they can heal him through prayer is difficult. This is something I have struggled for the past nine months can God really heal anyone from any illness? We read scriptures that tells us we have the same power in us that raised Christ from the dead, but it doesn’t feel like it most of the time. Can I really pray for him and his ALS go away? This has really stirred my faith and pushed it into a box of what God can and can’t do. I know I can’t rationalize God but every fiber in me needs to, in order to make sense why some cancer patients are miraculously healed why can’t someone with ALS be miraculously healed. It is so difficult Bo, to say that God my all powerful God has a will for everything, regardless of how horrible.We have spoken about life and he often tells me how he is agnostic and doesn’t believe in religion. My fear is that as we wind up to the last four weeks of school I won’t be able to pray with him the most important prayer not of physical healing but of life.

With a troubled heart

Daniela Martin

May 16, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Jess - I’ve probably read this post 8 times since it’s original post date. Everytime it sinks a little deeper and really resonates with my internal struggle of what I want my life to look like. You’ve worded this so well and with so much truth! I actually simultaniously feel more at peace with the way my life looks, and driven to make it look better.
Thanks for the life giving wisdom!
Stay class,
Jess