Saturday, December 21, 2013

Be NOW Who You Want to be THEN....

Jon and I are currently spending the final days before Christmas in Palm Springs with our little family.  The shopping is done.  The gifts are wrapped.  It about killed us, but we did it.  And the payoff has been so worth it.  We still have 2 days left here, but so far, this trip has been just what the doctor ordered.  We also invited my parents to join us out here for a couple of the days.  My mom has FTD (Frontal Temporal Degeneration/Dementia)... and my dad cares for her and loves her in a way that makes even the most elaborate fairy tale look like child's play.  Being a care taker for a loved one is exhausting, and Jon and I couldn't come out here without inviting another weary warrior to retreat from the heaviness of life with us.  It has been a joy to retreat together.

For those that aren't familiar with FTD, I must tell you.  It is a devastating disease.  It is a very rare form of dementia - that tends to hit at a younger age - between ages 40-70.  My mom has the behavioral variant FTD which changes your personality, impacts your executive functions, reasoning, sequencing, speech, etc....  My mom has lost about 95% of her speech and much of the time resembles a child.  A very sweet, tender, loving child.  (SO grateful that is her demeanor.)

For those who don't know my mom, she is AMAZING.  My mom is an author, speaker, professional pianist, talk radio show host, teaches around the country on marriage, parenting, organization, keeping the sizzle in your marriage (yes, she taught on sex!)...  She is a Type A, go getter, larger-than-life personality, energetic, passionate, leader.  She loves her family - loves being a mom to us 3 girls and taught us to celebrate everything.  EVERYTHING.  She invented "Happy Nothing Day"just because she wanted more FUN and LIFE in our home, even if there wasn't something 'official' to celebrate.  The past few years, she and my dad held "cousin sleepovers" on the first Friday of every month, where they would take ALL 11 grandkids for an overnight sleepover, just so that us parents could have an overnight getaway each and every month.  I could go on and on and on, but I just wanted you to have a glimpse of who she is.  Who she was.
I never know how to refer to her in these instances.  It is who she IS.  On the inside.  But outwardly, she is now simply a child.  She "was" able to be and do all of that.  To say it is heartbreaking or devastating to have experienced this shift from "is" to "was" would be an understatement.  But I'm sure you can imagine....

So why am I telling you all of this?  Why does this matter, except just to fill you in on that part of my life?

Because this.

This is my mom.  Every single morning.  She sits in her chair.  And she reads her Bible.  She reads a Psalm.  And a Proverb.  And then she prays.  She has a prayer list that she goes through.  She prays for her husband.  She prays for her daughters.  She prays for her son-in-laws.  She prays for her grandkids.  She prays for her neighbors.  She prays for her friends that don't know Jesus.  She prays about specific things for specific people.  She spends time reading God's word.  And then she talks to God.  Every. Single. Day.

Almost a year ago, Jon and I had our 4th child - and although my mom was low-functioning, I knew how badly she wanted to be a part of helping me "post c-section," as she had done with my first 3 kids.  So my dad drove her up to our house and she stayed with us for a couple of days so she could "help."  I will never forget the first morning she was with us, I walked downstairs and I saw her sitting at my kitchen table.  No, I actually heard her voice before I saw her.  "God, I thank you for Paul and how he loves me and takes care of me.  Lord, I thank you for Paulie and the job you have given him to provide for the Bernard family.  God, I thank you for Melanie and how you have gifted her as a worship leader..."  She methodically went through each person - with either a praise or a request.  I remember walking into the next room and standing just far enough so that she couldn't see me, but just close enough so I could hear her words.  I was blown away and brought to tears.  Not because she was reading the Bible and praying, but because in her new "state" she was doing it.. still.  I mean, I had seen her do this routine my whole life, but today...  Wow, that's it:  I had seen her do this my whole life.  That was the key.

I don't know about you, but I have huge intentions.  I have big hopes and dreams for how I will be and who I will be in this or that situation.  But what I am learning - through my mom, through my dad, and now through Jon - is that when tragedy strikes....when illness hits.... when what you have is lost... THAT is a tough time to start a new routine.  In fact, when all else is lost, sometimes all that you have left is what you've built, up to that point.  Meaning, there is no way that my mom, in her childlike state, could possibly decide to start reading her Bible and praying daily today.  Her brain just wouldn't be able to initiate such a routine.  However, because she has built up a value for those things beforehand, her habits are a natural expression of who she is, even now.

Then there is my dad.  My dad can best be described in 2 words: Servant Leader.  These 2 words have been true of him my entire life and I'm confident anyone who knows him would agree.  Since my mom's illness, my dad has just continued to be exactly who he always was.  He is selfless.  He serves.  He leads us.  He loves.  He adores my mom.  And he continues to love her, as if she was the wife he has always known.  Last Christmas?  A diamond necklace with 3 diamonds, representing us 3 daughters.  Something he knew she had wanted.  Whether she is fully "there" or not, he gave it still.  Valentines Day?  Long stemmed red roses and a love letter.  Seriously.  He most recently had me come over to their house so I could teach him how to put my mom's make up on her.  He had me tell him what make up to buy, where to get it, and how to apply it.  He then went to my mom's hairdresser and had her teach him how to dry my mom's hair with a round brush, since he knows that's how she likes to do it.  He knows having her hair and make-up look nice is a value of my mom's, even if she can't express it now.  So he serves her daily, by getting up 45 minutes earlier to get her ready...  Again, I could go on and on with stories and examples of how beautiful my dad's love is. But the bottom line is, my dad didn't just conjure this up when my mom got ill.  He didn't go from selfish to selfless one day when he "had to" or "should."  No, he has lived a selfless life, and so these habits are a natural expression of who he is.  It's awe-inspiring to watch.

Then there is Jon.  My dear husband who courageously gets out of bed every morning and leaves the comfort and safety of our home - with a paralyzed face.  He lets me post pictures of him on Facebook, starting just days after his brain surgery, and he lets our church put his face on huge screens in the services a they share his story.  He is now officially diagnosed as permanently deaf in his right ear, which as a worship pastor, leaves him vulnerable.  He has many challenges and unknowns in his future.  And yet even as I type this, he interrupts me to share with me a new Truth He learned while he was studying the Bible today.  And then the other Truths he meditated on while he ran 3 miles this afternoon.  Jon's roots are so firmly planted in Truth, even though fear and insecurity attempts to sway him, he remains grounded.  Friends, he did not decide to plant roots the day of his first MRI.  No, in the MRI, he meditated on scripture that he has had hidden deep in his heart for years.
Jon has led our family through this journey.  Through his excruciating journey, he has led us.  I have had the privilege of being a voice for it on here, but he has led it.

My mom, my dad and Jon have all inspired me.  They have challenged me.  They have humbled me.  In my life, I have had huge intentions.  Big hopes for who I will be in this and that situation.  But I want to start now.  I need to start now.  I want the depth - not the short cuts.   I want the track record.  I want the habits and the routine.  I want the passion and the love.

When tragedy strikes, illness arrives, loss is experienced, Life happens... OF COURSE we can choose to start.  Choose to Be.  Choose to love and love passionately.  Choose to serve.  Of course.  And by the grace of God, His mercies are new every single morning.  His faithfulness knows no end.  So it is never, NEVER too late.  Hope is ours.  Always.

However, I just don't want to wait any more.  I know it's often times possible to wait.  Heck, in many areas of my life I have waited and still wait.  And probably sometimes it's easier in the short run to wait.  But this race called Life is long.  It's hard.  It pulls us and stretches us in ways we cannot predict or imagine.  And we never know the time or the place or the details.  But it does come.  And when it comes, I want to ooze the good stuff.   You know, that place inside of each of us.  That place that holds things no one knows exists until you experience something so severe, it rips every layer off of yourself and exposes your core.  And at your core is all that matters.  That is where I want to invest.  That is where I want the good stuff.  That is where I want to build into and develop and grow and nurture.

Are you in a sweet spot in life?  Build into your core.  Are you in the 11th hour?  Start now.

I am in a season of life where I have been given a front row seat to some of the most beautiful cores in the world.  Without trying, and without their consent, my mom, my dad, and Jon were exposed.  And what has been exposed has been profound.
Now, when you have a front row seat, and you are holding the hand of someone's core, your core will be exposed too.  Mine has.  And God has graciously given me peace.  And comfort.  And strength.  And hope.  But I've also taken a hard look at my core.  Not the core you see.  But the core I know.  There exists selfishness.  And pride.  And laziness.  And carelessness.  And insecurity.  (Ouch.)

But let this be a line drawn in the dirt.  The old has gone, the new has come.  These are the promises and the Truth I hold on to.

I want to be NOW who I hope to be THEN.

The End.
Let it Be.


  1. Thank you for your continued transparency and inspiration. You're all amazing and a blessing!

  2. tears streaming down my face and praising God for the example your parents are and were when I knew them way back when ... and this challenge has hit me deeply. Thanks Deanna. - Shelly

  3. Deanna, I don't usually post much on blogs or much of anything else. However, your parents have made such a HUGE impact in my families life, I can't help but post. First off, I MISS your mom SOOOO MUCH! It's so hard to watch her slip away when all I want it to have her back. What she and your dad have had to go through has taught every person in our church how to truly LOVE. Your parents are an amazing gift to everyone who know them! They are beyond words the hands and feet of Jesus. I will always cherish and hold tight to the amazing memories and lessons your mom imparted on me. Tears keep coming. Your family is DEARLY loved! Thank you for your beautiful post! -Ty

  4. So very happy that your wonderful family is getting some downtime!! God is blessing all of you even over the "bumps" Miss you at Mariners Ocean Hills

  5. Saw this through a link on Facebook this morning and just wanted you to know what wisdom there is in your words and how the Lord spoke to me very much through your post. My heart aches for all those you love and what they are going through. Thanks for sharing it to show us why it's important to be now who we want to be later. I've watched people who were the opposite of what you describe descend into very difficult and lonely people who drive others away. I believe that, so much of the time, we don't decline in old age or in illness, we are revealed. Merry Christmas to all of you and may God continue to show you His deeper truths and may he give rest to the weary.