Katie Frugé Choosing Joy in Tough Trials

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Katie and DL Frugé, you will notice that they both have a sweetness of faith wrapped up in a duality of fun-and-truth loving attitudes.

Long ago, I played pickup soccer with DL while he and Bobby attended SWBTS. That was back when I still hadn’t learned the rules, (I thought ankle tackling meant actually tackling the other players’ ankles. I suppose I took that from my oldest brother’s rugby games). DL was always patient with me despite this, and Bobby encouraged me to get to know Katie, who was studying Systematic Theology at SWBTS.

There are few reasons I’m thankful for Facebook, but being able to see a story of grace play out over several years is one of the reasons that I continue to keep my profile active. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I couldn’t have stayed in touch with Katie over these years, even though I was just watching and commenting from the sidelines.

Katie’s story leaves me without words, because I find myself both encouraged and convicted. I pray the same for you, dear reader.

Meet Katie
Because of her attitude, intelligence, and stunning beauty, you might not expect Katie’s life to have had so many trials.

Her first major trial was at 13 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though this year riddled with difficulties and fears would eventually result in victory, her family came together with significant spiritual growth. This was the first time Katie saw how much joy and growth potential suffering offers, though humans naturally avoid trials and consider them as pure misery.

“We don’t like hard things. We tend to try and avoid them; but when it’s a physical issue like cancer, it’s in your face—you cannot avoid it and you have to just lean in and embrace it for what it is,” Katie stated.

Facing the Unexpected
Katie describes life as returning to normal until about a decade later when she was 26 weeks pregnant with their first child, Eve. After experiencing an abnormal ultrasound, the Frugés were told by doctors that Eve had miraculously survived a rupture of the amniotic sac and this had resulted in severe physical deformities of all four limbs. Doctors were unsure of the prognosis of her internal organs.

I personally felt excited when the Frugés announced their pregnancy. You see—Katie and I were both going through our first pregnancies that year.

I remember being in tears to read this news when I was expecting a gender reveal announcement. Pregnancy hormones greatly heighten empathy ability, especially when the other is also pregnant.

Katie had planned to give birth at a midwife facility but due to the complications of the pregnancy, she needed to also change those plans. My heart broke for her in the face of the unknown with so many decisions needing to be made under stress.

“What followed was 10 weeks of an incredibly stressful and high risk pregnancy followed by a healthy birth to a sweet 5 pound little girl who only had one leg and one arm. Her remaining leg was severely clubbed and her arm and hand has multiple scars and she’s missing parts of fingers; daily reminders of her miraculous life and God’s goodness to us,” Katie remembers.

The Frugés found their lives full of doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions as they began to learn to be faithful shepherds of Eve and her special needs.

Just to help give readers a tiny glimpse into their lives, Eve needs physical therapy for each time she outgrows her prosthetic leg. She will most likely not reach her full body maturity until she’s in her teens. That’s around 10 to 14 years of major changes if we assume she doesn’t have any growth spurts and doesn’t count any updating of prosthetic technology in the future after she reaches maturity.

Eve has also had major surgeries to help repair and heal her remaining limbs, which include costs, therapies, and time for healing.

Eve’s story is beautiful and she is a tenacious fighter from birth with unique abilities and gifts that have brought joy to her loving parents, supportive extended family, and admiring friends. (Just one proof, check out this Doritos and Adaptive Training Foundation commercial Eve appeared in – in total it had 60 million views across all social media platforms.)

Experiencing a Different Kind of Grief
When Katie became pregnant the second time with their daughter Felicity, she was still learning to be a confident parent to Eve.

They had taken precautions with the second pregnancy but all had seemed smooth until at 48 hours after birth, doctors rushed Felicity to the NICU. She had contracted an infection in her brain while in utero that needed an MRI to assess brain damage.

“So 72 hours after giving birth to our second child we realized we were facing life, firstly, as parents to two children with moderate to severe special needs and, secondly, parents to a child with both cognitive and physical disabilities,” Katie explained.

Katie vulnerably shared that Felicity’s diagnosis after birth has been one of the hardest trials she has faced.

“When we found out our second daughter, Felicity, had suffered severe brain damage, I grieved at a depth I haven’t since experienced. There truly is groaning too deep for words, and we experienced that when coming to terms with her diagnoses.

I write a lot more about the struggles we went through with Eve—that was certainly an incredibly difficult journey—because I feel like I have the words to express how I felt with her. Nearly three and a half years after her birth I still do not write much about the days and months following Felicity’s birth—there just aren’t words to express it.

When I consider God’s grace, I remember weeping for Felicity in the hospital and very clearly hearing from the Lord that Felicity’s journey and path were going to play a monumental role in shaping Eve. That somehow Felicity was to be a cornerstone in shaping Eve to be who God wants her to be in His kingdom.

My prayer is that Felicity’s life will help shield Eve from bitterness or scorn. That Eve’s heart would be marked by compassion and empathy for others, despite having disabilities herself.

Alongside that, while I grieved the loss of the baby we thought we had, it was a life-giving thought to consider that despite having such difficulties, Felicity would still be able to have a major and positive impact on others. It felt like she had lost so much because of the virus, but even that could not stop her from being used by God for His glory (John 9).”

Whirlwind Trials and Grace

“A little over a year after our second daughter was born we discovered that the cancer my mother had when I was 13 was actually a genetic form of cancer and each of my siblings had a 50% of inheriting the gene,” Katie continued with her story.

All four siblings tested positive for the genetic mutation, which is a double cancer mutation that causes both breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer.

“Without going into many details, the only way they can definitively treat this particular type of stomach cancer is to totally remove the stomach. It’s very difficult to detect even with MRI, CT Scan, and endoscopies.”

In April 2016, Katie had her stomach removed while her sister and brother completing the same surgery earlier that year.

“CDH1 mutations also carry a high risk of breast cancer, so until I go forward with a preventative double mastectomy we’ll be checking in every six months with monitoring,” Katie posted on Facebook..

“The pathology report showed I already had cancer in my stomach when they removed it, so within a few months we learned I had a genetic mutation, underwent lots of different tests, had a life changing surgery, and ultimately found out I’m now a cancer survivor.”

Joy in Suffering and Still Fighting Sin
Despite all she has been through, Katie still takes a humble view of her trials and translates that into grace for others experiencing hardships.

“The thing about trials and suffering is that for many people, our trials can be on-going,” she explained.

“I’m never going to have a stomach again and there are daily trials I face as a result of that. I’m a mother to two beautiful children that have special needs. That is a daily trial. We all have things we face daily that someone could say is a trial.”

You might see a tag #choosejoy on her posts when related to her children’s or her own doctors’ visits. And that’s what she strives to do.

“I think we also have freedom in how we choose to view these hardships. We can resent them, but really what’s the point? We can grieve for them—and there certainly is a place for that—but at some point I think there comes a time when we can choose to lean in and choose joy.”

That doesn’t at all mean that these trials have eradicated all of her sin struggles and that she has reached a level of holiness beyond the reach of her sisters in Christ. As any solid believer does, she finds her righteousness in Christ alone, as no amount of suffering can completely perfect her on this side of eternity.

Her biggest battle is guarding her thoughts and minds, which she and I both believe many of us also battle.

“I have to be on guard against comparing my life to others, [and] I have to be on guard against bitterness,” she confessed.

“It is easy to view our struggles as things that have prevented other good things from happening and that’s where the temptation comes in. I think we have to take our cue from Scripture and literally work towards taking every thought captive,” she says, referring to 2 Cor 10:5.

“When I allow myself to indulge in the thoughts of “what ifs” and “what could have been” situations it quickly leads to other sins; anger, bitterness, jealously. So it all starts in the mind. When I don’t let my thought life go there, I’m not nearly as likely to becoming ragingly jealous or bitter,” she explained.

“For the first several years of Eve’s life I found that I just had to avoid public parks unless I was in the right head space to handle it,” she started when going into more detail about her struggle.

Katie isn’t able to sit on a bench and let her children burn energy, as in the case of Eve, she needs to physically help her climb or go down slides.

But where she finds herself tapped out is through the emotional exhaustion.

“Children are relentlessly curious. I love that about them. But when I have to explain why the cute little girl only has one arm and one leg to 25 curious kiddos, I am emotionally run down. I never mind questions, but there does come a point where you just want to go enjoy the park with your children,” she explained.

“I found myself watching the moms on the benches and could feel the anger of the jealously beast rise up within me. I watched the kids running around effortlessly and wondering if anyone had even considered that we have to go to physical therapy hours every weeks to learn a skill that should come naturally. And then self pity follows. It’s a vicious cycle,” she confessed.

Katie made a great decision in her fight against sin in her thought life. She started by removing herself from the circumstance. She did blame the situation for her sin, but she did understand she wasn’t prepared to fight that battle.

“I made the decision to find other fun places to go until I could control my thought life more successfully. I removed myself from the situation temporarily until I was stronger. I still don’t go to the park often, but I can tell you it’s easier today than it was a year ago. And it’s easier a year ago than It was 2 years ago. Mental victories are hard won but every small victory helps and makes you that much stronger for the next big battle,” she shared.

By the way, please read this heartfelt post from a different abled woman who grew up needing to educate her peers about disabilities. Please make the choice to educate your own children about people who are different, encouraging them to show grace and love and friendship.

Frugé family choosing joy together.

Strength Around Her
Now for those who don’t have any knowledge about Katie, I should comment here that her closeness to her family didn’t end when she got married. That spiritual strength that grew after her mother’s battle with cancer has played out over the years through these trials.

Together the family has taken trips to celebrate Eve, Felicity, cousins, siblings, parents, and surviving cancer. They spiritually and joyfully encourage one another in seriousness and in fun. DL and Katie recently gave physical support to her parents in Houston after hurricane Harvey.

Her church also showed love to her by simply being there for her.

“With each trial, I remember specific people just showing up in the moment. They didn’t say profound things, they didn’t try and explain away my sorrow. They were just there, but by being there they helped take a little bit of the load off my shoulders and carried some themselves,” she commented.

“By being there you are also in close proximity to see what is needed. When someone is going through a trial it can be incredibly difficult to know what you need in the moment. So don’t ask, “What do you need?” Instead, tell them what your plan is and let them adjust if needed.”

She explained that this is the same that she would do if she were to minister to others in her situations. In the case when she can’t be there for someone physically, she can always be there spiritually and emotionally.

“Don’t just glance over them and assume someone else will reach out. My husband calls it “irrefusable grace.” Don’t just say, “let me know if you need dinner.” Instead say, “I’m bringing you dinner, will Thursday night work?” Don’t just say, “Let me know what you need.” Instead, take a quick 5-10-minute investigation into what they may need and immediately offer something concrete. When people are going through struggles, we have the opportunity to be the physical hands of Christ,” she instructed.

“When I was pregnant with Eve I was put on bedrest for 10 weeks. Without asking we had friends and family just start bringing dinners, because they knew it was a need they could meet. When I was in the hospital with Felicity a friend brought be healthy smoothies that helped keep my recovering postpartum body nourished while I focused on my baby. Proximity provides a front row seat to a person’s needs, and when you see a need find a way to try and help meet it,” she remembers.

And for me, this is where her story is so convicting. I was living down the road from her when she was pregnant with Eve and learning to be a parent to a special needs child. All I could muster to do was to cry and pray when I saw her posts.

I could have been there for her or any of my other friends who have gone through trials. I am guilty of being that friend who is more keenly aware of my own problems than the need down the road.

“Before my own trials I don’t think I appreciated how difficult it is to ask for help when you need it. I would throw out vague “let me know” offers but since they never requested I think I missed out on many opportunities. Now when I see a [fellow church member] struggling, I pray for the Holy Spirit to lead me and try to seek out a tangible way I can help within 24 hours,” she explained.

Final Thoughts and Action
Katie’s views on trials are totally in line with scripture. The opening chapter of James tells believers to “consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Not only are believers strongly exhorted to choose joy, but choosing joy in the face of trial is for our ultimate good in reaching spiritual maturity. If you want to run the race with endurance, learning to be content in all circumstances is a great place to prepare for running the faith marathon.

The fight for contentment starts in the mind, and as Katie said, she must take every thought captive to put all of her faith and trust in the God who has allowed these trails for her good. Like every other sister, she has to daily fight with her own flesh to see Christ as supreme and remember that God is good in all things. Many of us probably just think on autopilot, but that’s losing the fight before its begun.

Lastly, if we are content in our circumstances, we will be spiritually and emotionally ready to physically help those who are hurting in the midst of trials. I want to challenge you to think about those in your church and in your neighborhood who are going through a trial.

If you don’t know how to help them, do as Katie suggested and offer help in a specific way, (maybe you don’t like to cook – like me – there’s always laundry and cleaning to be done or a child to be watched or errands to run or a hug to give).

And maybe the reason we don’t know of any need is because of proximity. Maybe if we were there with them in their home, in their school, God would open our eyes to see the need he sees.

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Photos: Youtube.com, and all other photos reserve rights with DL and Katie Frugé

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