Manger Change

“It’s hard to believe it’s all real”, she said as we finished reading the nativity story yesterday morning.  

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s easy to understand why someone would have trouble believing the Messiah would come in the form of a baby, born in the filth and stench of a stable.  

We’re thinkers in this home and I raise them to question. To dig. But also, to look for the hidden-good underneath and in between the folds of chaos.

Ever since their dad died, we’ve had to formulate a practice of this.  A practice of looking for the good amidst all things. Some think this approach is a complete denial of reality. I’m here to tell you it’s not.

It’s not an escape from chaotic reality — it’s simply a hope-filled way to approach it.

In our world, sometimes the chaos looks like never-ending mountains of laundry and sometimes it looks like seasons of deep grief — especially during Christmas time.  This year, the chaos looked like a pandemic that threatened to slam our household with death for a second time in the past three years.  

My kids struggle with feeling different than most much of the time.  You can imagine their relief when we read that in Mary’s world, her chaos looked like an innkeeper slamming the door in her full-term and far-from-home pregnant face, forcing her to find a barn to sleep in. 

So back to this Messiah.  This Immanuel supposedly born of a virgin, wrapped in rags and laying in a manger. 

Thank God they didn’t ask me what a virgin was…

If he was in fact the savior, why did God choose to send him in this lowly way? Through the back door so-to-speak.  So incognito, that only stars, angels and wisemen knew where to find him. 

There does seem to be some manger-discrepancies here (pun-intended). I could see the wheels turning in their heads, as they licked syrup off their fingers.

Answers never come easy but maybe they were never meant too…

Could it be that the Creator chose to give us the gift of himself right smack-dab in the middle of the chaos so when we’re in the middle of ours, we’d know hope isn’t lost? 

Could it be that He chose to reveal the location of himself using signs and wonders (like big stars in skies), so the brokenhearted looking for him through broken spectacles could see him more clearly?  

So maybe the history books are off a bit and maybe the scholars aren’t always correct.  Maybe the Ancient Alien theorists do make valid points and maybe the Christian creation account does parallel to many other world religion creation accounts.  Maybe the translations have become jumbled over time and maybe there was a mean solider or two who held a sword to the scribe’s throat. Maybe the local church left you miffed and you’ll never go back. I’ve been there…


Maybe ALL the above is somehow part of “the mystery” we’re told about over and over in the scripture writings. What if God somehow used it ALL to set the stage for his incarnation? 

The longer I live the more I realize there are hundreds of “maybes” and attempted answers to the “whys”. But maybe the maybes still don’t justify us washing our hands of it all (kind of like Pontius Pilot did) just because we don’t have a full, complete and accurately proven play-by-play that satisfies our own reasoning attempts. 

So, what if you believe and what if you don’t?  

What if we decided that we’re ok with Jesus being God? That we’re ok with entertaining (or maybe even accepting) that the Creator of all things, chose to send a human version of himself right down in the dirt and mess with us so when we’re dealing with our own dirty mess, we can still find him.  

What if we remembered that Mary and Joseph understood ALL about government mandates, seeing as how they were mandated by Caesar Augustus to travel back to their hometown?

What if we remembered that a full-term, pregnant Mary rode a donkey for miles and days in order to obey the governors command and that Joseph was required to hang a “closed” sign in his carpentry shop window for compliance?  

What if we remembered this journey they didn’t see coming was already being watched for by wisemen afar and this lowly birth so many find hard to believe, had already been predicted hundreds of years before? 

What if this season, we decided to look past the masks and the mandates and instead looked for the manger hiding in this covered-up, coronavirus-exploded world?  

What if we remembered that our current realities are simply just that current? Not permanent.

What if today, this Monday before Christmas, we sat aside our phones, turned down the media and looked for the manger?

What if tonight we took our children outside like the Magi did and looked for the star? The one they call the Star of Bethlehem.  The phenomenon they say hasn’t been seen since 1226 and pointed to the manger all those years ago.  

And after this Christmas season is over, what if we decided to keep on looking for the manger despite all the “manger-discrepancies” and what if we found ourselves hopeful, hope-full and hope-filled?  

So maybe things won’t go back to the “normal” we knew after this pandemic subsides. And maybe there will be major changes from it all.  But don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t just quit. And above all, do not allow the changes made by COVID-19 to overshadow the “manger-changes” made by Christ.   

Because after all, COVID-19 may be contagious but so is Hope.

Whether you believe or whether you don’t, hope isn’t gone. Hope isn’t hiding and hope isn’t masked.

Hope IS here.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

We’re All Just Walking Each Other Home

It was sign 9″ x 6″ sign gifted to me on what would have been his 45th birthday.  A sign stuck in the corner of a flower shop, waiting patiently to be purchased and laid in my hands. A sign purchased by someone who has helped me walk many a mile when I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I’ve had many days like this the past five years or so.  Maybe you have too.

Days when I couldn’t fathom putting my feet on the floor.  Days when brushing my teeth seemed like an enormous task. Days like when my four-year-old walked outside, looked up at the sky and yelled, “God!  Are you there? Hey God! God if you’re there will you please bring my daddy back?”  Days where walking really is ALL you can do.  That is, if someone walks next to you.  Holding you up and helping you see through the tears.

It’s one of the beauties of our human condition—our need to know someone is WITH us. That someone sees us.  That someone cares.

Maybe it’s lawn work, house work or mechanical work. Maybe it’s a visit, a casserole or a card. Or maybe  it’s a gift, a call or a text. Sometimes all we need to survive is a loving heart and hand lent down in our direction, letting us know we won’t go it alone.

Maybe you’re the one knee-deep in the trenches of major struggle or maybe you know someone who is.  Maybe you know what it is to lock war-torn arms with someone or maybe someone has locked arms with you.

In whatever season you find yourself now, maybe you can dig just a little bit deeper.  Maybe you can trudge just a little bit farther. And maybe, just maybe,  you can band together, locking arms with someone incapable of doing it alone.

You don’t have to be belong to the same political party.  You don’t have to sit on the same board.  You don’t have to attend the same church.  You don’t have to believe in the same God.  All that’s required is one raw act of human kindness, human togetherness and human compassion toward another.

Because after all, aren’t we all on the same journey—though our paths may look different? And aren’t we all headed to the same place—though our roads aren’t alike?  And since it seems we’re all just human beings, trying to get through this thing called life—aren’t we all just war-torn refugee’s trying to get to this thing called safety?

So right now, right here, we might as well halt our stance, link our arms and band our hearts. Because it stands to reason that the flower shop sign was right all along.


—We are all just walking each other home.

Dear World: What Wombs, Blooms and Tombs All Have in Common…


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Late winter.

It can be my most difficult time.

Before the new greens of spring and first blooms are born, comes the barren pallet of winter —a season desolate, dreary and dark.

Because dark always comes before light.  

It was late winter when we found out her daddy had ALS.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Two-five year life expectancy—he made it a little past three.

She was three-years-old when she found out the man who chased her around the yard would soon lose his ability to eat, drink, walk, talk and breathe. By the time she turned four, he was a sole-tube-fed, quadriplegic. And by the time she turned five, the only thing he could move were his eyes.

And with the return of snow that year, he died.

It was the morning of December 30th, 2017, when he made his journey home. As his new lungs inhaled all the elements of heaven, the sky’s exhaled steady, white flakes of snow.

The creator sent a beautiful, white blanket to cover the cold, fractured soil lying just outside the walls of our home.

I suppose he also sent this beautiful, white blanket to cover the cold, fractured hearts lying just inside the walls of our chests.

The snow fell quietly that morning, covering the tops of everything in sight—including the white azalea bush by the front window.

The azalea he’d planted when we first moved into our home.

It was the morning after he died when she burst past its branches, knocking snow from its limbs. She marched inside, immediately realizing something was different —immediately realizing he was gone.

It was her first major heartbreak and I dare say the worst. A heartbreak no five-year-old should ever experience. A heart-sting every widowed-mother desperately pleads to relieve.

Because the only thing worse than your grief, is helplessly watching your child’s. It’s a double-blow to the heart and a double-weight to the bag.

The bag I carry always —it holds my grief and theirs.  

The entire first year after his death, felt like a slow emergence from a coma. And to be honest, most days, I felt dead inside too.

You see, this dark season of winter, literally and figuratively, almost did me in.

For three years prior we had went through the unthinkable and even with the assistance of others, I had functioned in the red for far too long. These others were like life support to me and learning how to function without them was the equivalent of coming off a ventilator.

You have to relearn everything—including how to breathe.

This was it. Our new “normal”.

I was a newly-widowed and completely overwhelmed mom doing her best to care for the hearts of her children.

But slowly, I learned the Father was using them to care for mine.

It was Mother’s Day 2018, just five months after he died. We were headed to the car when I noticed my white azalea in bloom. I flung open the car door, tossed my bags inside and noticed my then five-year-old daughter heading straight for me —white azalea in hand.

With her daddy’s huge smile she said,

“Mommy, I picked this flower for you for Mother’s Day. It is SO beautiful like you mommy.”

Then, with the wisdom of a thousand King Solomon’s she said,

“Mommy look close. I know it still has the dark stem attached but don’t focus on the stem mommy — it has to come before the flower. Focus on the flower.”

On the outside, it was the scraggliest-looking azalea I’d ever seen. But the bloom was BEAUTIFUL and carried inside those dark, frail-looking stems, flowed the life-blood of the creator himself.

This azaleas’ one mission was to carry that life-blood directly to my dark, frail-looking heart.  

Choking back tears I stood silent, holding two beautiful blooms —one in each hand.

This soft, white, delicate flower passed onto me by the soft, white, delicate hands of an equally beautiful creation.

Both uniquely designed. Both planted as a seed and both grown in the dark.

Because dark always comes before light. Just like stems always come before blooms.

And sometimes stems aren’t pretty, but they MUST BE present.

And sometimes stems contain thorns, but they MUST BE attached.

They pull from the dark what’s needed in the light and they take from the light what’s needed in the dark.

And without the dark there would be no stem.

And without the stem there would be no bloom.

And this bloom and this child that stemmed from the creator’s heart, was the connector that stemmed HIM back into mine.

We’re approaching Easter and for almost a solid year now, I’ve carried that withered, dried up flower in the dash board of my car —dark stem and all.

And I just keep thinking about stems being connectors and just how connected everything seems to be.

And I just keep thinking about the womb that gave me this child.

And I just keep thinking about the child that gave me this stem.

And I just keep thinking about the creator who ultimately gave me both.

This creator who sometimes uses the darkest of places to plant the tiniest of miracles.

This creator who once used another dark place to plant another tiny miracle —the miracle child.

                  —Who was planted in a womb, crucified on a cross, then sealed in a tomb.

Who bore our stripes, our sin, our shame, who hung and bled and bore our pain.

Who rent the veil, who split through hell, who drained his veins, lest dark prevail.

Who from the dark rose up again, who resurrected us with him.

Who cleansed us white as snow and bloom, whose life-blood FOREVER covering o’er our tomb.

Who said we’d suffer through darkness afraid, but told us,



Dear World: What happened one month ago today…

One month ago today, I awoke from a solid, uninterrupted, six hours of straight-through sleep-which almost NEVER happened.

One month ago today, I awoke to the quiet hum of a non-invasive ventilator and no other sound was heard.

No moans.

No groans.

No indication of discomfort in any way.

This was not the norm.

One month ago today, I awoke to a man fully conscious, definitely dying and in complete comfort with zero pain.

I have no natural explanation for this.  Only supernatural. 

One month ago today, we wheeled him from the hospital bed and into his favorite spot by the kitchen window.


One month ago today, the Lord had already gone before us, clearing our schedules and placing our children in the hands of others who love them almost as much as we do. He then sent a blanket of snowfall to hem us inside our home, thus ensuring a quiet and undisturbed Saturday morning.

Chad prayed often for a quiet and peaceful death at home.

His home.

Our home.

The place where he came face-to-face with God many times this side of eternity.

One month ago today, the ringing of phones stopped and so did the wringing of hands.

One month ago today, our tired hands embraced his tired hands as the door to his cell flew open, allowing Chad access to the land of eternal freedom.

The land of eternal peace.

The land where he could finally reside eternally with his rescuer.


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One month ago today, we watched Chad inhale one last breath.

A breath that contained all the polluted elements of this sin-sick world.

Then, we marveled.

We marveled as he exhaled that sin-sick smog, laced thick with the familiar stench of disease and death, into a new atmosphere.

A heavenly atmosphere.

An atmosphere perfectly cleansed by the one and only purifier who is strong enough to remove every disgusting pollutant containing any trace element of this sin-sick world.

One month ago today, we sat sad while Chad stood astounded!

One month ago today, we waded in tears while Chad waded through the river of life!

One month ago today, we closed his eyelids while God opened Chad’s eyes!

One month ago today, A-L-S instantly became S-L-A, SO LONG AFFLICITION, as GOD ALMIGHTY took Chad’s light and momentary affliction and turned it into his eternal weight of glory!  (II Corinthians 4:17)

Below are the words spoken during his eulogy.

Chad’s journey home deserves to be shared as our hearts seek the path that led him there…

Well here we are…at the end of this point in the journey. I stand before you today, at the end of the toughest road I have ever faced and one that has left me feeble and stronger in many ways. I don’t stand before you proud or feeling accomplished. I stand humbled, weak and honestly weary. I stand here with one goal in mind and that is to honor the life and death of Chad Austin Jude, the man I call my husband.  

There really are no adequate words to describe what Chad endured. There are no adequate words to describe what any ALS patient endures. I could easily stand here and skip over the realities he was forced to accept, but for us to really appreciate and truly honor Chad in his death, we must acknowledge the road that led him there.

For three years I’ve watched this man’s body revert back to an infant state. I’ve watched helpless as every physical ability he possessed was slowly stripped and taken from him one-by-one. If you knew Chad you knew he was a talker. I’m fairly certain he was the first to get his name written on the board in Kindergarten. The inviting sound of his laugh and his natural sense of humor left us all in stitches and his beautiful smile captured the gaze of all who crossed his path. Chad spoke in only one octave and that was loud and many times I wondered if he came with a remote control I could never seem to find. Never a soul was born that could top his soothing bass vocals and his deep, sultry voice charmed many-of which I was one. His voice was the first to go. I watched as the mechanics of his oral and vocal structures shut down, leaving him no longer able to verbally communicate with anyone. I then watched the masculine hands that once held my children and the strong legs that carried us all, slowly wither and draw up. I remember the day I found Chad beating the sides of his wheel chair, crying and begging to get out. I remember seeing the spirit of man broken little by little. Images like these are forever burned into my memory and many times I had to turn away because the sight became too much to bare. This disease process is horrendous and watching the body slowly imprison itself is beyond comprehension.

Toward the end of Chad’s life, I became drawn to books written by prisoners of war. Not because we had ever stepped foot inside a foreign prison but because these stories of perseverance and resolve underneath horrendous circumstances, gave us what we needed to make it through our final push and though the details were much different, they were also much in the same.

I tell you these things not to deepen your sadness but to give you a greater appreciation for this man lying here before you today.  I give you only small doses – enough that your hearts may consider this life that was slowly taken piece-by-piece. So that maybe a small piece of this life could be given to each one of you. Yes, through the stripping, Chad’s heart was broken into a million pieces but God taught Chad what to do with the broken pieces of his heart – he taught him to give them away so that each beautifully broken piece, could be given to each one of you.

Today, I ask you to take your piece of Chad’s heart and consider the seat your sitting in. I urge you to consider your connection to Chad’s story and what it has brought to you-or should I say, what it has brought you too? Has it brought you to question? To ask the infamous “Why”? Of course it has brought us all to tears but has it brought you to anger? To bitterness? To doubt? I can tell you without hesitation that if Chad could speak with you today, he would urge you to carefully ponder your piece and consider your orchestration in all of this-however large or small. If Chad were here today, he would submit to you that our always sovereign, wise, patient and good father, intentionally aligned your path to cross with his in some way. Some way that was pivotally used to point you past Chad’s disease and directly to Christ. Only two months ago, I asked him this simple question, “If you could go back and change any of this, would you?” His response riveted me to the core. ” No! Never!”, he said. “God’s will is always perfect and I am where I need to be.”  

We can question and we can cry but let not one of us leave here today saying “what a waste”. No! Chad’s pain will never be wasted and his life was intentionally orchestrated-even unto his death.

Yes, for three years I’ve seen the unthinkable but I’ve also seen the miraculous. I’ve seen the very hand of God strand together communities made up of countless people, who by combining their time and resources, literally pulled our drowning heads above water. I remember bills that were paid when there was no money to pay them. I remember groceries that were bought when the cabinets were empty and dinners that were delivered when there was little time to cook. I remember countless people offering their precious time to help care for my children when Chad’s care needs became too demanding. Once, when my body crashed due to exhaustion, many of you banded together to care for Chad and the children until I had physically recovered. For three years, I’ve seen folks, fix our cars, fix our house, mow our grass, and faithfully check in, in a multitude of ways. Chad and I literally experienced the body of Christ as it should be and for everything that was taken, God sent provision to replace it.

However, more than any of these beautiful things listed above, the biggest miracle I saw was watching a man once strong on the outside become strong on the inside. I saw a man who once leaned on his own understanding, learn to lean on the understanding of one much higher than he. I saw a prisoner discover freedom even while remaining trapped inside his cell. And I saw a good, good father lovingly reach down time and time again to bind the wounds of his child’s heart, even while that child was bound to a chair.

Today, as we prepare to lower this broken body deep down into broken earth, I ask you to join me in remembering that this very day Chad is no longer broken. He is no longer bound! Today Chad is walking in the presence of almighty God. I say, let this broken earth have back this broken body and let us walk away today carrying a smile on our face and piece of Chad’s story forever weaved into our hearts. Let us walk away shouting praises over the release of this prisoner for he has in all ways been set free and if Chad were here, he’d want you to know that God offers to you the same.  

Today, let us remember Chad for who he was before the disease and who he became after. Let us remember the talkative and hyper-active Chad and let us remember the calm and quiet spirit we saw him become. Let us remember the die-hard UK, Reds and Bengals fan who wildly clapped his hands while jumping up and down in the stands. And let us remember the days he sat in a wheelchair unable to move but still smiling during every touch-down and home run. Let us remember him as the man with thousands of fishing rods and let us remember him as the man whose death impacted thousands of people.

Let us remember the man who wrapped his babies in blankets each night and the man whose babies learned to wrap blankets around him in the end. Let us remember the husband who devoted his life to protecting and providing for his family and let us remember the husband who later devoted his family to God, fully trusting God to protect and provide.

Let us remember that in the end, Chad was ready. He sensed his life was coming to a close and made certain we all knew how much he loved us. Beyond that, he made certain we all knew that God had drawn him into a place of peace, of rest and of comfort. Chad knew his life was purposeful, intentional and used for good and he knew that the loss of his life was ultimately for the gain of others.

Finally, before we say our goodbye’s to Chad’s physical body let us remember that here we see only his shell-only his cocoon. His metamorphosis is now complete and this beautiful creature whose life points us all to hope, is now flying, laughing, walking and dancing forever free in the presence of Jesus.  

One morning, just a few months before Chad died, our then four-year-old daughter burst into our bedroom. She placed her hands on both sides of Chad’s face and said “Daddy you can’t believe it. Daddy you went to heaven and you could walk! Your legs worked again and you didn’t need your wheelchair!”

Today, In the same words of that four-year-old little girl, let us say with joy, “God we can’t believe it! Thank you Father that Chad is now with you in heaven. That he is able to walk again , talk again and to dance before your throne forever more!”

Chad- we love you! Your memory will always be alive and your story will always be told.

Death does not have the final victory. Amen and Amen.”





Tears and Tide


Two trips to our favorite spot in less than a month.

Both gifts.

Both unforgettable.

Both tears and tide drenching our shirt-tales the entire time.

I sit solo on a deserted beach that day, watching as Hurricane Hermine tries to give us all a run for our money.

Sitting awe-struck with eyes glued to sea, the roar of the waves draw me in deep and death is being washed up around my feet.

I am familiar with this roar…and I’m familiar with death…

Storms do that you know…they sift, they stir, they purge…

Earlier that morning I received a text from a friend. Her words SO encouraging and she sends a Spurgeon quote…

One I’ll never forget.

“I’ve learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages,”.    

Salt collects in strands of hair as tears stream down my cheeks.

I weep…

I weep because I know what it means to be thrown, pummeled, pelted…

There’s been a lot of that going on around here the past three years.

You see, this TIDAL WAVE called terminal disease came straight for us, trying to take us under.

It’s mile-wide expanse ripped clean-through the lay, of well, everything…leveling us right to the ground.

It was blunt-force trauma and it seemed unstoppable….

Until it hit the rock…

The same rock that has shattered a thousand waves into a thousand pieces…

The waves move in closer. Their roar piercing me through.

This storm wants me. It wants to claim me for its own…but this time, I’m still.

This time, my storm-stance is different…

You see, I know the one who commands the waves. They serve the same master I do and because I know the master, I can face this storm unarmed.

Because I know the master, I can stand ready to kiss the very wave that was sent to pelt me into the rock of ages…

Because I KNOW the master, I can embrace the very wave threatening to take my life, knowing it is actually the catalyst sent to save it…

Friends, today I’m reminded, it is possible to sit silently on the shore while watching the waves roll in hard toward you.

It is possible to Choose Joy over dread in the midst of the storm, knowing you’ll be getting wet regardless.


It is possible to know that “life-preservers” don’t always come in the form of something that snaps around your waste in effort to keep you above water, un-harmed and preserved in your original state.

Because sometimes the real “life-preservers” come in the form of real “life-threateners” and sometimes the real harm is remaining in your original state.

The reality is that sometimes we must lose our life before we can really find it…

THE REALITY is that sometimes being carried away by an enormous wave is better than being swept away by a deceitful current…

Today, I’m reminded not to fear the waves or the rocks because the waves were sent to carry my tattered-tired self to a solid-rock fortress where I can be hidden, healed and restored.

A place where the rescuer can breathe real life into lungs that were designed to inhale all of his goodness and exhale all of his praise.

Psalm 62:2 “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken”.

Today, I am reminded that HE IS the solid-rock fortress into which I’ve been cast and I will forever kiss the wave that washed me up to his feet.

I lift my eyes toward a break in the clouds, sea fouls fly overhead. And it strikes me…


The same rescuer that holds his creation above the waves will also hold his creation in the midst of them.

Dear World: Intermission over…


So the trouble with living is that sometimes you actually have to…well…live!

You see, this season is absolutely, indescribably, BEAUTIFUL in so many ways. But friends…lean in close…SHHHH…here comes the secret. This season has also been absolutely, indescribably, MESSY, painful, lonely and completely slaying on ALL levels.

The days AND nights are often too long AND too short at the same time and the exhaustion levels you experience are unlike any other.

The emotional highs and lows you experience cannot be described adequately and the battle we’ve engaged in for more than three years now has at times, leveled us mentally, physically and spiritually.

After almost exactly one year since we began our blog, we will be picking back up and sharing a bit more of our journey.  Please bear with us and enjoy the next several posts to be published.

It’s not just about sharing what it’s like navigating through life in the midst of a terminal disease.

It’s about sharing survival in the most unlikely of ways and it’s about sharing  miracles in the most unlikely of forms.

It’s about sharing divine revelations in the deepest, darkest moments of our life and it’s about sharing our “heart transplant” procedure-so pieces of HIS heart can be transplanted into yours…

As you read this collective of memoires, both from the current and the past, please keep in mind that we will bounce around a bit since “stand-out” moments are more valuable here than adhering to a strict, consecutive timeline.

At first we’ll be rewinding back to August of 2016 and covering A LOT of sacred ground.

These are a collection of memorized moments, recorded on a journey and now shared for the greater good…

The good they were intended for all along.


Dear World: Why we know this pain will not be wasted…


“This is ALS,”…

These were NOT the words we ever expected to hear.

“This is ALS,” was the LAST thing in the world we would have picked had the choice been ours to make.

What do you do when someone standing in a white coat tells you the highly anticipated end to your journey is in fact just the beginning and you will definitely experience death along the way?

What do you say when they tell you there are no treatments and no cures? That two-five years is the life expectancy and preparations should be made, documents should be signed and wishes should be lined out?

How do you act when you lock eyes with your mate in a moment of shock and disbelief and see tears fill the bottoms of his eyelids? When you see the film strip of graduations, T-ball games and weddings they say he will likely never be a part of flash before his eyes?

“This is ALS,” was not part of our first phone conversation.   It wasn’t scripted into our vows as we stood before God and everyone pledging to love one another in sickness and in health. It wasn’t part of the conversation as we walked hand-in-hand down a Jamaican beach mapping out the rest of our lives together as husband and wife.

“This is ALS,” was the farthest thing from mind as God began entrusting us with our own little people. Like, who starts a family thinking there might be some mutated-genetic-gene lurking in the corners of your DNA just waiting to rear its ugly, thieving-head?

In short, “This is ALS,” was NEVER part of the plan…

Not our plan anyway.

The Mess…

The story begins in November of 2014 when Chad began experiencing difficulty swallowing. Then, in February of 2015, his speech began to slur. In August of 2015, a scan revealed two “surgically fixable” neurological issues and in October of 2015 brain surgery was attempted.

Six weeks into recovery, when symptoms should have been retreating, Chad continued to regress.

It’s tempting to skip this “recovery period”.

One, because the details are endless and two, because these were some of my hardest days.

The striving for answers seemed endless. Fear of the unknown was torment. During this period we endured job loss, health insurance loss and a continued progression of symptoms that were supposed to be getting better. There were endless 12 hour-round-trips to Chad’s treatment facility in Cleveland, Ohio and endless medical bills stacking up on my counters.

Endless was a great adjective during these days…

And did I mention we had a baby in the middle of all this?

So yeah. I found out I was pregnant with our third bundle in October of 2014, one month before the disease-onset began. Turns out, his ETA was perfect and could have only been orchestrated by our creator but still… (sigh) My big, swollen, pregnant self gave birth to a son in the privacy of our own home in July of 2015.  Other than what is commonly referred to as “bulbar symptoms” in the neurological community, Chad was still physically strong during the birth and functioned as my “oak tree”.

The birth was beautiful and one of the most sacred experiences either of us have ever been apart of but the subsequent months that lay ahead where some of the most grueling.

From this point forward, we proceeded to endure three months of true-infant-colic. There were non-stop sleepless nights and grueling pumping sessions-since traveling together with a newborn baby and a sick husband was not an option.

Only grace friends.  Only God!

At times, the low’s we experienced mentally and physically were more than humanly possible to bear.


“How much more can we POSSIBLY bear God?”

Then in February of 2016, after more imaging and extensive muscle and nerve tests had been conducted, the masked culprit was unveiled.

“This is without question ALS,” they said.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

A death-sentence by all medical standards.

Enter swift kick in the gut.

Our hearts literally sank into our chests.

I’ve always heard people use this phrase to describe their feelings. Now I know…

This was the diagnosis we had secretly feared but tried not to speak of. Maybe we didn’t want to see it. Maybe we didn’t want to give it the room or attention we felt it didn’t deserve or MAYBE because only five years of marriage, three minor children and a life in full-swing doesn’t really allow for words like these.

The Beautiful…

Fast-forwarding six months later I wish I could tell you Chad is physically doing better…but he’s not. The reality is that we are dealing with a progressive disease and thus, Chad is progressing.  I wish I could tickle your ears with a story telling you how he is physically defying all the odds…but I cannot. What I can tell you is though Chad’s physical body is failing, God is still prevailing.

You see, Chad’s story hasn’t been altered.  The plans have never changed. The same God who knit Chad together in his mother’s womb. Who called him fearfully and wonderfully made and said all his days were ordained before even one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16), that same God is using the ugly places of this life to complete this fearfully and wonderfully made process.  The same God who said He would work ALL things together for our good is doing just that! (Romans 8:28)

How does the phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made” go in the same sentence as ALS?

How does the word “good” fit in the same context as the word “terminal”?

How does a story about grace that brings life fit in the same paragraph as a diagnosis that means death?

The EVEN MORE Beautiful…

I’ll tell you how it fits. While we in fleshly form equate “This is ALS” with the end, God who is sovereign over ALL things said, “I know this is ALS but THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING.”

It is NEW life by way of death. It is NEW birth by way of pain.

Pain is like that. Feared. Hated.   Avoided at all cost. Why is there pain? Why is there suffering, sickness, disease and death? I’m not here to debate your theological understanding or beliefs on why pain and suffering exists. I’m only here to tell you that this pain has a purpose and whether or not you believe God sent it, He IS without a doubt using it to change hearts and lives – yours and mine included.

This is a season of extreme bending and stretching. Bending our will to His and stretching our understanding of who He is and what He can do. It is transitional and transcendental. And yes friends, it is painful.

But though we are being bent, He already said He wouldn’t break us (Matt 12:20). So I know this bending is not done with the intention to punish or harm. We’re being fashioned…like clay. Bent and molded into vessels whose edges have been smoothed and whose inward parts have been meticulously contoured. Vessels designed ONLY to be emptied and filled again.

Emptied of self and filled with Him.

All of Him.

You see, the world see’s a man physically wasting away. A wife loosing her husband and small children loosing their father. But I see a work-of-art occurring. I see the master potter at work molding His clay.  He’s patiently seated at the wheel -molding, shaping and refining us into vessels worthy of honorable use.

Though Chad spends most of his time a prisoner in his own body, continually loosing the ability to enjoy the material, tangible pleasures of this world, He is experiencing something invaluable that many of us never will. He is TRULY learning what James say’s in James 1:3 “Count it ALL joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,”.

God is securing a steadfastness in Chad’s heart that no man, disease or calamity can take from him! Through the weakening of Chad’s physical body, God is at work strengthening and building up His body! The body of Christ! Through our weakness, He really is made strong and it is because of this that we can count it a joy! Chad’s testimony will be one that will be shared and remembered for years to come, ultimately pointing people straight to Jesus. Glory be to God! None of this is in vain!

Friends, this is a NEW beginning – not an end. NEW Life – not death. Transformation – not degeneration.

On the surface this is ugly. It’s messy. A million questions dance through my head as tears stream down my cheeks. I am grieving. We are all grieving. BUT GOD, in the midst, is giving us NEW eyes, His eyes, to see past the mess and into the beautiful.

Through the sickness, surgery and failed physical recovery, He’s teaching us how frail the human condition really is and just how feeble we ALL really are.

Through the stripping of our perceived “control”, He’s teaching us that He REALLY IS in absolute control.


Through the loss of our individual bodily abilities, He is teaching us true gratitude for His body. The body of Christ. The ones called to be His hands, His feet. The ones who HAVE BEEN His hands and feet toward our family and have pulled our sinking heads above water when the drowning ensued.

Through the waiting and wringing of hands, He is teaching our pale, wrought and wrung out hands to fold in prayer.

We don’t have it all figured out and we don’t know how this story will end. But we do know we are chosen. That we are closely being watched, cared for, and loved-on by our daddy-God who sometimes uses despairing depths to illuminate beautiful heights and who weaves together quilts of splendor from the worn-out, tired and frayed patch-work-pieces of lives that have been cut-up, ripped up and torn.

We think we know torn…

Nobody knows torn like He does…

Because He’s a torn-kind-of-God.

His back was torn on a cross so that ours could bear the weight…bear the weight of this sometimes burdensome path down which we’ve been led.

Friends, we can bear because He first bore. And we can bend because He first broke. And when it feels like we’ve been stretched out to far across the board, He reminds us that He was stretched out across two. That His hands were punctured right through so that when we’re sifted through them, that which is pure may escape through holy-holes designed to purge us of that which is not. Holes designed to rid us of the ugly so that the beautiful may be revealed.

So now we wait and we take it one God-given-gift day at a time.

And we cast our gaze high early on, when the birds offer up their first songs of praise.

Because they know it’s coming. We know it’s coming.

The light.

It’s about to come right up, shattering the dark, revealing the beautiful lay of a land abundant…

– the messy beautiful.



The Judes