Abandoning the Imperfections

Let’s talk about comfort zones. Or risk zones. Or danger zones. I feel like there are signs regarding all three just sitting here composing this post.

The thing is, I’m willing to stretch myself to share my experiences, feelings and thoughts to encourage others as the Lord directs me, (see that comma? It’s the contingency mark to this situation), I’m willing to stretch myself as long as it’s not too far outside the comfort zone and as long as I don’t merge over the line into any risk or danger. Let’s keep it relatively safe and dignified.

Well, I’m nearly one hundred words into this and there’s a photo attached, therefore, I’m already very much outside the comfort zone.

Over the last fourteen days my requests for the Lord to speak the next post into my heart have returned quite silent. I wanted to set this particular one on the back burner and share it another day. Okay. Possibly never. It wouldn’t be the first post I’ve written that I never published. But above my dignity is my desire for Him to use this blog to encourage and inspire others when they need it most. In order to receive the next one, I must be obedient to share this one. This post is my abandonment of self for His glory. This post is my David-moment, dancing with all my might.

2 Samuel 6:14-15, 20-22
Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

For most of my life I dreamed of the day when medical advancements would remove my scars. In nearly three decades, that day hasn’t come.

In that time I’ve given much effort to covering my body and hiding my scars. No matter how many years and how much I’ve grown I’ve never got used to people staring. For the most part, when people see me they don’t notice my scars too terribly much because of my clothing. Actually, some don’t realize the extent of my injury. Until…..

Until I wear a swimsuit.

My backyard is a safe place surrounded by people who know me and love me, and while yes, they do obviously see my scars, they see me first. A public place is just the opposite. People don’t know me, therefore, they see the scars first. The looks could be categorized as curious or puzzled, but the expression I receive is negative and uncomfortable.

I’ve even experienced a couple individuals sharing those very thoughts with me. One random lady came up to me in the grocery store asking if she could pray with me for the Lord to take my scars away. Another was a man who went to our church attributing my scars to a lack of faith. I think Taylor Swift could have also been inspired by the super-spiritually-detached when she sang Shake It Off. In those situations there’s nothing else to do. Just go your separate ways picturing Olaf in your mind when he said, “he’s crazy.” (You should totally click here and watch the short clip.)

These instances explain why a baggage of inhibition accompanies me every time I put on a swimsuit, including recent events when our beach-loving family went to Hawaii for this year’s vacation. But as if it wasn’t enough to merely go in my swim shorts and tankini, the Lord challenged me with my very own David-moment….take pictures in a TWO PIECE!!!

And that’s only one part of the story (as you know, there’s always more than one part).

The other is that it is October. It’s been a couple months since this body has seen sun, especially my torso! So there I was, out on the beach for the first four days of our vacation, for the very first time in my entire life wearing a two-piece in public! While there was never any strolling along the beach, I was jumping hurdles of insecurities just sitting there in my lounge chair.

The third part of the two-piece swimsuit challenge was the day we actually took the photos. We got to the location and snapped a few photos in my dress. Nice, peaceful, no-people-around place. No. Not a soul. God honoring my obedience, right? Well, maybe Him challenging me more. It’s the only reason I can conclude as to why the moment that I was just pulling my dress off here came a wedding party! A WEDDING PARTY!!!! You’ve got to be kidding me! Talk about a test of commitment. I nearly bailed. And nearly vomited.

So why do it?

While I was incredibly inhibited I envisioned the image as a very powerful illustration of not only survival, but of overcoming. The Lord put it in my heart to share these scars for the power they portray. His power. There is a story in them. A story not about me but all about the evidence of His faithfulness.

This location the photographer chose with the black rocks and crashing waves made me feel brave. Brave enough to stand there and share my vulnerability, the imperfections I prefer to hide believing there are others who relate to doing the same thing. Believing that God truly can place some beauty in what’s damaged.

We have so many things about ourselves that we don’t like, but that we can change. It gives us ambition, hope and joy pursuing self-improvement. But what about the things we can’t change?

I’m not happy with my body, but I’m happy with me. Growing up damaged on the outside motivated my development of who I am on the inside. My goal was for people to see me, not my scars. When we’re standing in an elevator, or the grocery line, or even at the pool, people merely see our shell. And we know, the pretty shells are the ones we search for on the beach. No, I’m not happy to have scars. I don’t love my body. But I am happy and love who God has made, and is still making, me to be. It is possible to be happy, even in what we can’t change.

This was one of the most uncomfortable and yet most meaningful things I’ve ever done. It felt serene. It felt sacred.  It felt liberating.

It’s my hope this speaks a message to your heart, like what it spoke to another girl on the beach. Brooklyn was quite aware of the unwanted attention during my time tanning. One afternoon she came to walk the short distance with me from the chair to the water. I noticed her effort in blocking my view walking into the ocean. I said, “Thanks Brook. You’re amazing.” She replied, “I think you’re amazing.” Is it because I am, and have been, amazing? No. She of all people knows that’s not true. I think it had more to do with the courage to be seen when I really wanted to hide.  That’s a message I’m honored to live out before my kids.

For fellow burn survivors, those with psoriasis, vitiligo, rosacea, surgery scars, breast reconstruction, varicose veins, stretch marks, and any other imperfection, take it from my daughter, you’re amazing! And you feel nothing less in your own David-moment glorifying the God who brings you through it! This photo is for you.

*thank you to Anthony Calleja for his talent and heart in capturing this message
*thank you to Athleta for swim wear for all women, for everyday-life women
*The song I sang during these moments- You Make Me Brave

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in….
You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Mark your calendar to join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God on Sunday November 6th at 6pm as we dig in to the words we need to receive, repeat and those we need to rebuke in order to walk in the label the Lord has given us. All are welcome to attend. And if you know a teenage girl, bring her along too!

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48 thoughts on “Abandoning the Imperfections

  1. Heather Meadows, you are one of the most beautiful people I know. So many people, myself included put so much emphasis on how they look that they just cannot get over that. Why do we do it? I wish I had the answer. When I look at you I see no imperfections, only a beautiful person, inside and out. You are a loving wife, parent, and daughter. You spread love and joy wherever you go. I am blessed to have met you! Keep up the good work!

    • Christine– thank you so much for reading, for sharing a thought and for the encouragement!!! It’s one thing the Lord laid on my heart that we all relate to- the emphasis every one of us tends to put on appearance. Thankful He used these words and this image to speak to hearts, and hopefully, in challenging me to let go of appearance, may help others do the same. ❤

  2. I think these are probably the most beautiful pictures of you that I have seen because they so display survival in and through God the Father….what you see as scars, I see as courage, what you feel intimidated by, I see hope….Heather thank you for not only baring your body to show Gods healing touch, but for showing the beauty of a body and soul devoted to following His lead so that others might feel brave enough to see themselves through His eyes! You are beautiful on the inside, but wondrously made on the outside! Thanks for being so used of Him even when it required so much for you personally….Brooklyn’s right, you are amazing!

    • Gayle– if there were a jar sitting on my desk of encouragement, your comments would make up a huge investment for me to make withdraws from in composing such challenging posts like this one. Thank you for taking a moment and making another deposit in my heart!!! The Lord uses your words to push me through in moments He’s called me to write what’s difficult! ❤

  3. Heather I think you look INCREDIBLE!!! I am so proud of you and so touched by your stories and your transparency! I am so glad to know you!

    • This is a level of transparency I could have never anticipated but continuing to trust the Lord in using it to encourage others to accept what we can’t change and rejoice that He is with us in it. Bless you for reading!!! and for commenting— brings much encouragement to me! ❤

  4. Heather, you are beautiful inside and out. What a wonderful woman you are to share so much. Such a blessing to so many and you are touching more lives than you will ever know.

  5. Thank you for your story. You are amazing and Beautiful. I have Vitalgo and growing up, it made me so painfully shy. If I start tanning, I get those stares and odd looks. I’ve even been told that a friend’s uncle thought I had Leprosy. As I’ve gotten older, I have slowly learned that I too am beautiful and amazing. I do prefer people to come up and ask me about my skin and why it is two colors rather than one, rather than stare, but I know that is also taboo. I only hope that I remember every day that I am God’s beautiful child and made with a purpose. 🙂 Again, thank you.

    • Shawna– your journey resonates in my heart. It seems that the same truth, which has taken us a while to receive, now echoes within our hearts– God sees us as we truly are, His child, created with purpose, a beautiful and amazing creation in His sight. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. Blessings to you! May you have strength and joy with each un-welcomed look reminding yourself of that bigger picture some can’t see. ❤

  6. Liberating! Exhilarating! Powerful! I just love you!!!!!! I am so so so proud of you for jumping off the cliff and doing this. For letting it all go. You are one of the most beautiful people on the planet!!!! I just love you!

  7. Oh my sweet beautiful friend…… I have ALWAYS ssee YOU.. We go way back and remember many late night conversation about this subject. First time Brandon would see you in a swim suit…… honestly completely forget you are a burn Survivor. Love you ~Love your heart.

    • I remember those days well, Shelly! Thank you for reading this, for commenting and for those many times you reassured me that a young boy truly could see a girl for who she is and not merely for what her skin looks like. God is so good speaking those words into my life through people like you who have loved and encouraged me along this journey. ❤

  8. You are amazing , what a overwhelming andmy encuraging Post. As far as I’m concerned I think you are beautiful inside and out of course I maybe slightly biased cause your my cousin,and sister in the Lord! I often think to myself that it’s not that one doesn’t have enough faith to be completely healed but often its in the scars of previous wounds that we realize how far our God has brought us and in that realization He alone receives glory from us! Heather you said it well with much grace and humbleness I’m pretty sure God
    Is smiling along with many others what a huge example of an obedient follower of Christ! Gods blessings on you today and always! Love Jacki

    • Jacki– thank you for being so incredibly supportive to the contributions we make here through our words and for leaving these of yours, “its in the scars of previous wounds that we realize how far our God has brought us and in that realization He alone receives glory from us.” You have truly blessed my heart!!! ❤

  9. Wow! Amen! Your heart is so beautiful, full of love and encouragement a person has a hard time seeing scars Heather Meadows! I love you and Thank you for listening to the Lord I was blessed and by all these comments many more were as well! Love&Prayers! Love from Chouteau, come back soon!

    • Thank you so much, Nettie!!! I agree with you– I am truly encouraged and blessed by the comments readers have taken a moment to share. Bless you for adding to them, giving a beautiful gift to my heart. ❤

  10. You ARE an amazing woman, Heather! I love how you let the Lord guide your every step….even when it’s scary and perhaps intimidating! You set an inspiring example for your children and everyone around you. I am honored to call you my friend!
    Xoxo- Rachel

    • As difficult as it was to write, and even more challenging to share, I am overwhelmed to receive such response of how the Lord used it to connect with people. Scars or no scars, we all know the challenges of imperfections and inadequacies. Thankful the Lord is using my challenges to encourage others. Bless you for reading, for leaving a comment and a gift of encouragement! ❤

  11. Heather, I’ve cried all through this post as I’ve read it. My mind goes back through all those times you would come for lessons and we’d talk of God’s plan for your life. I know how hard these pictures were for you, because I remember those insecurities you shared. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done anything really important in my life that’s made a difference… then I look and see how God is using you to help others. Then I realize, that maybe I had a small part in that. I know we will never know here in this life what we have really done for God to help others, but sometimes we see a small glimpse of it…. 20 years later. You have encouraged me to keep doing what I do in my normal day that seems so unimportant at times. I am so proud of what you are doing and You embracing who God made you to be.
    Keep your Brave Heart!

    • Maybe it’s our bond we formed so many years ago, but reading your comment brings many tears as well. You not only fed my love for singing, but you cultivated my heart for ministering to people. There’s not a microphone, stage or accompaniment, but it’s the little corner of space the Lord has blessed me with to share the encouragement He’s been so generous providing to me in those most difficult moments of life through people like you! You weren’t a small part at all– you were a vital part, Traci McDaniel!!! Please never stop doing what your doing! It’s some of His most valued work! ❤

  12. Heather you are beautiful! You have overcome so much more than so many people in their lives could ever imagine and it has made you powerful, beautiful, gracious, and so many other amazing qualities! Thank you for sharing your story and pictures with us. It is inspiring for so many others out there, myself included! But girl how have you had four babies and don’t even look it?! Whew! Keep reaching Heather…you’re an inspiration to so many!
    Hugs,
    Tara H.

    • There couldn’t have been a more personal hit to my heart than your comment right here, Tara!!! Maybe the Lord is allowing us to pass the inspiration between one another because, girl, you have been quite the inspiration to me!!! You’re brave, strong, smart and determination is your crown! I’m honored to witness your own journey! I’m grateful this post connects with you and I pray the Lord continues to use it to speak reminders of the beauty He has placed in you! ❤

  13. The first time I met you I came to your home with the Rathbones to swim one summer afternoon. Our first introduction you were in a swim suite. Who knew a few short years later we would become great friends. Even then I never noticed your scars. Your personality has always shined so bright!

    The courage you show when I know it’s hard is always encouraging! I can see a cape behind you blowing In the wind with your hands on your hips!

    Love ya friend!

    • For someone who has walked so much of this journey with me, for someone who knows the weakness I have felt, the darkness I have fought, the depression I have experienced and STILL sees a cape is the biggest indication of God’s faithful hand. Thank you, Katie for always seeing me. Thank you for being my friend through the most difficult moments, valuing me for me. Your friendship is one God used to reveal to me that people can see the heart! ❤

  14. Sweet Heather,

    Your beauty shines from the inside out. When I look at these pictures, I don’t see scars, I see a blessed woman of God, with power and honor, and with the Holy Spirit exuding from every pore. You are an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with. Every morning when you get up and put your feet on the floor, you scare the enemy. God has given you the voice and the platform to help others with their scars; they may not be visible, but they are scars nonetheless. I speak from experience. May God continue to provide you with the strength and courage to continue to share your testimony. I know that when you stand before the throne of grace, your will hear, “Well done by good and faithful servant!”

    Love,

    Jackie

    • Jackie– your words, “God has given you the voice and the platform to help others with their scars; they may not be visible, but they are scars nonetheless;” those are the very words which drove this post. I pray the Lord uses each and every word to continue to minister to and encourage all of us who feel challenged to see past our own imperfections and flaws, and grab focus of the beauty He has created in us. Thankful nothing is wasted. He uses every bit of pain, every ounce of disappointment, every token of loss for His glory. Bless you for sharing with me!!! ❤

  15. Amazing Heather!! You are an inspiration to me. The Lord just shines through you and your entire family!! We are do blessed to know you. Your obedience is such an example to so many!! Thank you! You are so beautiful both inside and out!!

  16. Heather, now that you have posted this, your followers, friends, and family have spoken. I pray you are blessed and encouraged by their comments. Only those who are close to you know and understand how difficult this post was and, although the “staring” will never stop, I praise God for His direction in your life; where He has taken you already and, your next journey; always with Him leading and directing your pathway. I love you so much and you make me very proud! Mom

    • Mom– for seeing what I couldn’t, for believing when I didn’t, for speaking that which I never thought was possible– for every single ingredient God knew I’d need, THANK YOU for holding it all! You and Dad were never embarrassed or ashamed when people would stare, and it’s given me deposits of strength to work on having that same mindset for myself. I love you so much!!! ❤

  17. Sweet Heather, you have truly touched a nerve for women everywhere! We are so body conscious from our earliest years. As little girls we hope to grow into beautiful teenagers; from those insecure moments, we hope to have cute figures after the kids come along.

    When the laugh lines begin to show up, as well as the double chin, we discover that first gray hair and we think it’s all downhill from there! Some of us rejoiced to read that it’s impossible to be truly elegant until you have a certain number of years on you.

    You epitomize what we should have learned long ago; real beauty transcends the physical and starts with the inner character and spirit–the beauty from within. I join with all the rest in saying you truly are a bequity, inside and out! Sooo proud of you, Heather!

    • Thank you, Aunt Carolyn!!! It took six hours to write this post (longest composition ever), with many tears and breaks for prayer. The Lord nudged me with the relevance it held in many lives. I will forever and always look forward to the day in glory when we get a new body, but I’ll continue to work on embracing those uncomfortable moments when people see the scars, rejoicing for the opportunities it’s opened to share about God’s goodness and faithfulness. I pray the words and image continue to provide encouragement to countless others who, like me, feel challenged in allowing Him to use those beautiful imperfections. ❤

  18. Heather, all I can say is wow! I can not even imagine what you have had to endure most of your life but I can recognize courage and faith. As a man I am inspired by your story and wish more men I have come across would show even a small amount of the courage you show. If I had a daughter you would be the role model I would like her to have. Thank you for sharing!

    • Chris– your comment is a gift!!! I’m pretty sure you’re the only man who has left one here 🙂 — thank you for sharing what this spoke to you! In our culture of pursuing perfection and age defying attempts, I pray our hearts receive a dose of encouragement in realizing how the Lord uses our imperfections. I’m grateful He gave me the strength to illustrate that truth and I pray He continues to speak it into lives when they need it most. Thank you so much for reading! All the best to you! ❤

  19. Thank you so much for sharing. A friend of mine tagged me when she posted your story. What my friend does not know is that I am preparing to have pictures done that will capture the scars on my stomach and legs that still bare from an unsolved incident that occurred 39yrs ago. Your photos are stunning and they give me hope that mine will be just as beautiful. Thank you for allowing God to shine through you as a beacon of hope for me.

    • Melissa– a message like yours is the confirmation my heart is so grateful to receive after this post. Incredibly personal. Immensely vulnerable. This project had been on my heart for a couple years. I never knew when or how it would unfold, but the Lord revealed it step-by-step giving me His strength to complete what He challenged me to do. Part of me still can’t believe I went through with it, but I have and am still growing from it. Understanding the difficulty, I pray for you as you have your own David-moment for God’s glory. May you take another step in the ongoing journey of overcoming. Thank you so much for reading and blessing my heart with your comment! All the best to you!!! ❤

  20. Oh sweet sister! These pictures bring tears to my eyes. Tears of joy, hope and thankfulness. You are so joy filled with everything that life has handed you. You are giving hope to SO many people not just in Oklahoma but around the world. Thankful that your story didn’t end with your accident, otherwise my sweet (well now sassy) Hadley wouldn’t have been cared for by you. My family wouldn’t have been blessed by your grace, laugh, hugs and sweet spirit. Keep letting your light shine! Love you!

    • Heather- I’ve tied a few times to find words to reply and none seem sufficient. My prayer through the emotional challenge of survivor’s guilt has been for the Lord to make this life of value and benefit to others. Sharing Hadley’s journey with you all is one of the many sweet blessings in the Lord answering that prayer. I can’t thank you enough for your support to this blog, for reading this post, for your encouraging comment and for the gift of the special connection we made there in those NICU days. Much, much love! ❤️

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