Gaining Hope in Difficult Days

In our home, we have this approach to bad days: go to bed early.  Our thought is, “the earlier we go to bed the sooner the day will be over, getting us to tomorrow, a brand-new day with brand-new beginnings.”

Lynn Anderson was onto something when she sang, “I never promised you a rose garden.”  Bad days are as much a part of life as the good ones.  Thankfully, however, the good ones do overall outweigh the bad.  But sometimes the bad are more than bad.  They’re horrific.  And those are the seasons a simple turning-in-for-the-night won’t fix.  We wake up to the nightmare we long to escape.

……….Read The Rest of The Story at JaynePatton.com

Today I Took A Walk

Today I took a walk.

I’ve taken this walk countless times in my mind, but today I physically took the steps down the road. It’s an emotional journey. A journey I’ve traveled for 29 years today.

Some years are more difficult than others. This year falls on the more difficult end.

The walk came to me as a thought, but I dismissed it, as my to-do list automatically started rolling like end-credits in a movie.

  • Work on the PowerPoint for presentation.
  • Scan documents on the desk.
  • Go through mail.
  • Reply to text messages.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Send email.
  • Finish writing chapter for book.

I had too many things to do for a walk. But the thought came to me again. Instead of a to-do list, I got a little real with myself.

I don’t want to go for that walk today. I don’t want to revisit it today. I just don’t think I can.

Still the thought lingered. So I put on my tennis shoes.

Taking Ruby seemed like a good idea. The weather is so beautiful and I never just take her for a walk. I could take this walk and spend some time with my dog. But no. I began to understand this thought to go for a walk was more than a thought. It was a prompting. And the Lord was calling me to go alone.

I got in my car and drove to the road I needed to walk.

The road I needed to walk today.

It’s not like I never pass this way. I drive this road several times a week on our way to soccer practice and baseball practice and games. But today, my mind was in a different place, not hurried by the schedule, not distracted with conversation. I was completely present, willing to face my memories, my pain, my disappointments, my grief, as I physically put my body where the Lord challenged to take me today.

The comfort of the sun shining, the gentleness of the soft breeze, the sweetness of the bobwhite’s chirp accompanied my steps. My pace was slow; my spirit was strong as my thoughts went back to April 27, 1988.

It’s been a lifetime, but the memories are so vivid.

God called me to write a book. Seems like a bigger deal than simply being called to go for a walk. But there’s a critical component to both. Obedience.

Because the Lord called me to write this story of overcoming life’s darkest moments, I’ve needed to learn details I never knew from the accident. The accident that happened on the very road I walked today.

Those details. They are specifics I’ve learned from interviews over the last few months. The scene was playing out in my mind walking step-by-step this morning.

Jon and I—nine and seven years old, riding on a motorcycle, coming home from visiting friends, behind a truck, on a dirt road, unable to see from the cloud of dust. Swerving to the left and the right, and the left, and the right and the last swerve to the left lane we hit an oncoming truck. Gas leaking. A fire igniting. Tragedy transforming our innocent world.

I walked that road today. That road where my brother died. That road where I laid burning on fire. I walked that road today.

Yes, I physically walked that road today, but I have walked that road every single day of my life since April 27, 1988. I have walked that road every single day of my life for the last 29 years. I’ve looked at this scarred body every single day and remembered that day, every, single, day. No escaping the memories. The memories go with me wherever I go. The tragedy is etched throughout every piece of my existence.

Which is why I’ve reflected on a question we’ve all considered. If we could go back and change just one thing in life, what would it be?

If I could just have one, just one do-over, I would go back to April 27, 1988 and make one decision differently. I would choose against going to a friend’s. I would push and persist, as my personality naturally did and does, for us to instead play at home. One decision. One decision would mean I would have my brother alive to meet my husband and my children. He wouldn’t just be a photograph on my dresser whose name I share in stories. One decision. One decision would mean I would not have experienced a life-threatening injury, enduring indescribable pain, countless surgeries and challenging recoveries.

I stood for some time today at the place known as the scene of the accident. My mind was clear. I felt such peace and stillness. There were no words in my heart or my mind to speak, no prayers, or requests, pleas or questions. I began to think about the brief time I was alone on that road 29 years before. The driver of the truck used a blanket to smother the fire on my burning body then ran to call 911. Jon was gone. I didn’t know it then, but standing there alone today in that place I thought I’ve been alone here before.

Memories can be a source of much hurt and sorrow. Quite naturally, we want to avoid what hurts. We aim to box it up, set it in an area of our heart for pre-planned, scheduled moments to revisit. Some give much effort to that approach. Had it not been for the burn injury’s physical reminder, maybe I would have done the same. But that wasn’t an option. And what I’ve learned because of it is: there is strength in remembering. There is hope in remembering.

Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in Him!”

On my walk back to my car, I looked at the fence posts and the telephone posts and thought how so much stays the same as so many things change. I looked at the field where the helicopter landed to take me to the hospital. I looked at the cattle, picturing the scenes of spring calves in the pasture as the events unfolded that day.

As I walked alone back to the car, I instantly had a vision of people walking behind me. The man who took the first step to save my life and put out the fire. His brother who ran out to help. The man who stopped and held my hand while help arrived. The officer who worked the accident, and carried the memories for decades following. I had a vision of them there with me, walking behind me.

Walking back to the car, I could feel my doctors, my nurses, my physical therapists. I could feel my friends and my mentors. I could feel my nursing school class, my educators and the amazing NICU team I get to work with today. I could feel the presence of countless people who have walked into my life because of the journey on that road. And there I began to cry. As I walked I could feel in this group of people the Lord brought to me through this tragedy and in that group I could feel Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin.

I can’t help but believe that our journey that day, led to this journey today. I can’t help but believe that the tragedy which changed the trajectory of my life, was setting the scene for God to introduce His greatest miracles to my life. My heart, my mind and my spirit are inclined to believe that the source of my greatest pain is also the source of my greatest joy. I don’t see them separated. I see them connected, one leading to the other. It’s what God does. He brings good things out of the worst situations.

It’s why I can’t see the word tragedy without thinking triumph. It may take a lifetime, but know God is working during that time. Sometimes it’s a big job and it takes a lot of work. But He’s a big God. Maybe we can’t see what He’s doing, but He is doing. He is working. He’s working all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It’s why I remember. There is strength in remembering, even if we feel weak. It’s okay to cry. In fact, I believe our tears are important to God, because the Word tells us He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8). There is hope in remembering. I have a glorious hope, not just hope, but a glorious hope of seeing Jon again. And I pray the days I live bring honor to the life he lived and to his memory I’ll carry forever.

It’s why today I took a walk.

 

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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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Everyday Easter

A grave can be beautiful. When Brooklyn was little she loved to go with my Mom to the cemetery to decorate the graves. It was a peaceful place, with beautiful flowers and meaningful stones. People visit to reflect on the life once lived. It’s a physical resting place in tribute of the one who once walked the earth. But I don’t like cemeteries.

I can count the number of times I have visited my brother’s and my dad’s grave sites. My very first memory of a cemetery came the day I was discharged from the hospital on July 11th 1988. You may have pictured a grand departure from the burn center, but it wasn’t. It was somber. My dad was there to take me home. (side note: my mom was home preparing the welcome home celebration).

On our way home, Dad turned into the cemetery. We pulled up beside the steps opening to the sidewalk which led to Jon’s grave. I don’t remember how my dad physically got me up to the grave. He probably carried me from the car. I do however, remember him kneeling down beside me and touching Jon’s marker. I took in the dates- January 18, 1979 to April 27, 1988. I remember Dad crying. I remember hurting inside more than the hurt I had sustained on the outside. I remember feeling empty, alone, and sadder than I believe many adults have ever encountered. I was seven.

Death didn’t claim me on April 27, 1988, but death, nevertheless, overwhelmed my life. Death has a sting. It’s realized in the days, unguaranteed and the questions, unanswered.

When we feel the grief of the grave, it is then, that we can understand the significance of an empty one.

When I celebrate the empty tomb on Easter morning, I’m celebrating from understanding the grief of a filled one.

For me, knowing Jesus overcame the grave means He overcame that dark day my brother was put into one.

In life, there is no greater defeat than death. Death is final. My mom has frequently said, “as long as we’re breathing, there is hope,” meaning, things can always change. It’s encouraging to think on such a statement when things are awry.

When the job has been lost; when the diagnosis has been given; when the spouse has forsaken or even abandoned the covenant; when the child is rebelling; when the flood waters rise and the storm keeps raging, we can remember there is still hope for better, because there is still life.

But actually, there’s more. There is hope beyond life.

We all aim to make choices we feel will result in a happy life. Even the most self-destructive of choices are made not necessarily to create misery but to escape it; all for the desire to just be happy.

So what helps us to be at peace with the life we have on this earth, even when this life has seemed pretty crummy?

It’s knowing that this isn’t all there is.

No matter what trials we face in this life, this life is nothing compared to the next.  (James 4:14)

It’s a truth applicable for every day we live, not just on Easter Sunday. It may be Wednesday, but He is still alive! The celebration isn’t confined to one day a year—it’s continually realized in the face of life’s darkest days and hardest places.

Rejecting the gift Jesus provided to us on the cross, and the victory He established on Resurrection Morning, is allowing death to accomplish the intended purpose. One choice, one choice, to accept and pronounce Jesus as Lord and Savior, conquers death and the grave forever.

This knowledge allows me to walk as an overcomer. This knowledge gives me the stride of a victor.

Scarred bodies, loved ones dead- not the end, because He rose again!

Philippians 1:20-21 NIV~ I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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The Good Things

This week we had the opportunity to sit in our kitchen and visit with some fine folks from a local television show. After the microphone was tucked away, the camera packed up and the vehicle pulled out of the driveway, I got to thinking about how God doesn’t just open doors, He opens them in ways we often don’t even anticipate.

The Explore Tulsa show door opened because of a thank you note. Over the summer I had written a thank you note to Video Revolution. They’re people who not only know cutting edge electronics, but they have heart too. Almost a year ago, Brandon shared with them how the Lord was calling us to share our story, and our need to video the events. They captured the vision and met the need. The least I could do was write a thank you note. Well, who would’ve known Video Revolution sponsors the Explore Tulsa show? That one note led to an email, a phone call, an interview, and soon a segment to air covering our story. God is so creative.

It’s a statement I find myself repeating over and over again. The creative plans of God are far above what we can think or imagine. I certainly would’ve never imagined how He would take such tragedy, loss and sadness and bring life, joy and abundance out of it.

One of my favorite, slightly embarrassing, but really funny stories about God’s creative plans goes back five years ago. I was in my first semester of nursing school at OU. I was in the 3pm-11pm clinical group. We had two back-to-back clinical days each week. The patient I was assigned to on day one was going into surgery the next day. As a student I desired the chance to observe the surgery. When the elderly patient asked me if I would be there, it gave me the motivation I needed to inquire of the possibility.

The next day, we’ll call surgery day, was the day the nursing students were assigned to be working a health fair for the Tulsa Run registrants. It was a late night before, and an early morning start. That may not sound like pertinent information, but it explains why I never took the time to eat. I stayed at the health fair until my clinical instructor gave me the green light to leave a little early, making it to the hospital for the patient’s surgery.

I checked in at the OR where I was escorted to change out of my nursing student scrubs and into surgical scrubs. Afterwards, a nurse accompanied me to the OR where I was encouraged to find a place out of the way, and not to draw any attention, or ask any questions, because the surgeon didn’t like students. Wow! Talk about intimidating. But I found a corner, where I assumed I’d be able to see, and I planned to be inconspicuous.

Shortly thereafter, the door swung open and a man walked right up to me and asked, “Are you the student?” I said, “Yes, I am.” Then another question, “Do you want to see something you’ll never see again in your life?” I said, “Absolutely.”

I walked with him over to view an X-Ray as he explained to me that the patient had an amyand hernia. Then this surgeon, who supposedly didn’t even like students asked, “do you want to scrub in?” WHAT?!?! No. That’s what I said on the inside, but allow me to use quotations so you’ll realize how composed I was on the outside. “What does that entail?” He said, “Come on. I’ll show ya.”

So over we went to scrub in. As I washed and washed, up to my elbows, Dr. Johnson inquired of my burn injury. The questions, “how were you injured?” and “where did you receive your care?” revealed that Dr. Johnson not only knew my surgeons, but remembered my case. It was a neat moment to say the least.

Do you feel all the nice warm fuzzies? Hang on to those. It gets better.

There I was all scrubbed in, donning the sterile gloves and sterile gown, we moseyed up to the surgical field. Dr. Johnson instructed me to put my hands right up there by his. The surgery started, the incision was made and the cauterizing began. Now is the time I should remind you I hadn’t eaten that day. As the fat was cauterized the smell overwhelmed me. I remember the voice of Ms. BDub (our nickname for our clinical instructor) ringing in my head, “Don’t let anyone take away your opportunity to learn.” I was telling myself to pull it together, not wanting to throw the opportunity out the window from my own doing.

I’ve never completely passed out, but I was on my way that day. My head was sooo light. I was trying so very hard to hold it together. I believe I took a step back, keeping my hands in position on the sterile field, I then leaned over about to go down. Dr. Johnson yelled, “Grab her.” Suddenly, someone’s arms were around my waste and everyone was asking, “what’s her name,” “what’s her name?” I answered in a barely-with-it slur, “Heeeaaattthhherrrr.”

Oh dear. There was a whole need to scrub back in. Not for me. No, they found me a little stool to sit on for the duration of the surgery. Nevertheless, I was shocked when Dr. Johnson invited me in for the next case. It was nothing I could’ve ever anticipated. It was a skin graft on a burn patient.

What an incredible moment seeing for the first time what I had experienced so many, many times before. It was surreal. In my spirit I prayed for the patient, anticipating his pain upon awakening for him. Bless his heart. Skin grafts are not pleasant.

Couldn’t get much more incredible than that could it? One wouldn’t think. But with God life holds incredible moments when we least expect them.

A few weeks later I got a call from the marketing team at Hillcrest, the hospital I had received my burn care and the same hospital I was then doing my clinicals at, over twenty years later.

Dr. Johnson had suggested me for a marketing campaign they were launching.

Who would’ve ever thought? The girl who got excused early from community nursing hours to attend a surgery where the surgeon had a reputation of not even liking students, to getting an invitation to scrub in and practically blowing it by nearly fainting, to getting another invitation for a very personal experience on another surgery, to topping it off with a request to be a part of a television commercial and newspaper ads? You’ve got to be kidding!

Only God. Only God.

Every door He opens I know is His equipping of every good thing to accomplish His will.

In this post I hope you’ve had a little laughter and received a lot of hope.   The Lord uses everything. His ways are higher. His plans are creative. He wants you in the middle of it all!

Hebrews 13:21 (NLV)
May God give you every good thing you need so you can do what He wants. May He do in us what pleases Him through Jesus Christ. May Christ have all the shining-greatness forever! Let it be so.

Explore Tulsa airs locally on:
Saturdays Channel 19 at 6pm
Sunday Channel 6 at Midnight
Wednesdays Channel 47 at 10pm
segments are also on their website  www.exploretulsa.com

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Thursday November 19th 2015– a pleasure meeting Stevie, Stevie and Josh from Explore Tulsa

2011_06

Hillcrest sent me a photo of the billboard when it went up. Never thought this 87% burned body would be billboard material. Only God.

2011-02-28b

Hillcrest’s Changing Lives Banquet in February 2011– a very special memory to have my nursing class clinical group there with me. Including my instructor and now precious friend- Ms BDub!

 

video from the Hillcrest Changing Lives Campaign

Exlpore Tulsa- interviews December 5th 2015

Part 1

Part 2

Deflated

*please note: this post is from the heart of a woman, for a woman—may the men not be uncomfortable, but gain deeper understanding, value and appreciation for issues women confront and overcome.  additionally, may each reader see what it means to be a burn survivor, still now, over twenty-seven years later.

All my life I’ve listened to comments about how wonderful boobs are.

My problem is, I don’t have any. I never have.

They would have been nice to have when all my friends were growing their own set. You know, to at least have some clue to what they were experiencing. They would have been nice to pull out on my wedding night. From what I understand, it’s a pretty exciting component. And for certain, they would have been beneficial to have had when my children were born.

I’ve lived hearing about boobs, seeing paintings and sculptures of boobs, commercials about bras supporting boobs, reading scriptures about boobs, and helping NICU moms use their boobs for their babies.

So how does a woman feel like a woman without them? Without having ever had them? What does femininity mean to a woman who never experienced an obvious development of becoming a woman?

They’re not questions you would necessarily ask a thirteen year-old, or a sixteen year-old or a twenty year-old. They probably wouldn’t be able to answer them. These are deep questions, difficult for me to confront still, at thirty-four. But ones I’ve spent a lifetime attempting to answer—for myself.

These are questions I’ve brought to the Lord numerous times through my life, and many times again just in the last few weeks.

They do say when it rains it pours. Honestly, it’s all a matter of perception and experience. My family and I have endured the rain. I’ve witnessed others withstand heartbreaking circumstances. Therefore, when things feel like they’re falling apart, I cope from the reality that things could always be much worse.

But an attack is an attack. We have to see it for what it is to know how to battle it. At a time when we in our home were experiencing a storm, a time when our vulnerability to share it caused our character and integrity to come under fire, a time when my Mom was recuperating from a fractured wrist and my Aunt from knee replacement, I noticed a subtle change in my body.

Let me say, when we’re broken, we don’t know if what we’re seeing really is what is.

I was feeling weak, discouraged, and heavy-laden. During my shower, I thought, “My left implant seems smaller.” But I hoped my perception was affected by my state-of-mind. You know. I hoped I was just seeing things.

Over the next few days it became pretty obvious I wasn’t. My left implant had ruptured.

Seems like a simple fix. Go see the doc and get a new boob.

That may be somewhat of a straightforward solution if I actually had breasts to begin with. But remember, I don’t. I never have.

Breast reconstructive surgeries started for me when I was fifteen. My first surgeon didn’t educate my parents on the process. Tissue expanders would have been a nice option, but in his defense, there wasn’t an industry then like there is now. Therefore, implants were inserted in my chest with minimal ability for the scarring to stretch. It was one of the most painful experiences. You’re probably thinking, “Really? Compared to third degree burns?” I can say, my first breast reconstructive surgery ranks up there with some of my most terrible memories over the years.

Up until eighteen, I went through several more surgeries for my breasts. The implants kept falling; lack of support to hold them. There was even an attempt to make nipples for me. Let me say ladies, looking back now, I would decline that option. But as a young teenage girl, whose body didn’t look anything like it was suppose to, I was desperate for whatever might help make me look a bit more normal. However, I’ve seen lots of nipples in my line of work, and even though it was a detailed process of grafting and tattooing, the fact of the matter is, they don’t look like nipples.

Not long ago, I spoke with a woman who underwent breast reconstructive surgery after her battle with breast cancer. She opted out of the nipple construction and decided to get her own tattoo. She had her favorite flower tattooed over her reconstructed breast. Obviously, it’s not an art everyone can see to appreciate, but it’s special, because it’s for her. It’s something beautiful in place of what would only be an attempt for normal. As we know, “normal” takes on a new meaning after such a loss.

From eighteen to twenty-eight, I was breast surgery free. That is, until after Gavin’s birth. My left implant ruptured and it had to be replaced. However, ten years wasn’t too shabby for that set. (Reread that last sentence as if you were talking about tires. It adds an element of humor that is a must in situations like these). The surgery was out patient and took longer than anticipated. Brandon’s concern heightened when the staff started turning the lights off in the waiting room to close and he still hadn’t heard what was going on with me. The surgery took four hours. Shortly after I was awake, vomiting post op, we were booted out with an emesis basin and a cool washcloth for the ride home. That was just the beginning of an unpleasant recovery. The amount of scar tissue made it a challenge to replace the implants, and I felt it in the days following.

These are the reasons for my tears. I get so frustrated with it all. Honestly, I just wish I had my own. At some point in my life, I wish I had had my own. I wish I experienced that effortlessly natural development of a woman’s body. I wish this was an issue of enhancement and not reconstruction.

These are the reasons for my tears. I don’t know how many times these suckers can be replaced before I hear something along the lines, “I’m sorry, Heather. All the previous surgeries have created too much scar tissue and we’re not going to be able to replace them.” I don’t know there will ever come an age I’ll be okay without having anything, because come on, it’s not like they look normal anyway, but at least in my clothes I have the normal shape of a woman. And while there are some women rendered flat chested without a hint of breast tissue with no desire for reconstruction after surviving cancer or injury, I can say, I don’t want to forfeit this small piece of femininity that I never experienced on my own.

So here we go, back to the OR today for a piece of femininity. My surgeon is practical, and yet super sensitive to my concerns. We’re giving it a go with some ADM, specifically Strattice Reconstructive Tissue Matrix derived from porcine tissue used to reinforce my weak scar tissue,  and some silicone gel implants. We’re hoping for a good twenty-five years for the next set. Which would be five times longer than the ones I have now. I’d say that’s something to be optimistic about!

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Heather and Dr. Mathers ready for surgery. Dr. Mathers goes back to 1997 when he started helping her.

So what about those questions? How does a woman feel like a woman without breasts? Without having ever had them? What does femininity mean to a woman who never experienced an obvious development of becoming a woman?

Remember how I said that I was broken when I realized my implant was ruptured?

It is such a metaphor. Life had me completely deflated. At the same time I realized my boob was too!

While some of you may be reading this not having experienced the loss of your breasts, you have experienced those feelings of deflation. Nothing is left in you. You’ve lost your volume. Your excitement is nil, you’re running on empty.

Again, how does one feel like a woman when one is deflated? When one is broken?

Last spring, Brandon and I had the opportunity to meet Bob Goff. After meeting him, I just had to read his book. My Mom got it for me for my birthday and I was able to get into it this summer. God’s timing is….well, timely.

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Brandon and Heather meeting one of the nicest guys on the planet– Bob Goff. March 2015

In his book, Love Does, Bob shares the story of his wedding cake. It landed on the pavement before it made it to the table. They served it anyway, gravel pieces and all! Bob used the experience to make an analogy to life. He says, “I simply decided that I wasn’t going to let the residual rocks and small pieces of gravel get in the way of me getting served up and used.”

Isn’t that good stuff? Well, take this in. He proceeds,

“It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”

Now that changes the outlook of being deflated!

When I acknowledge the reality that my body isn’t what it was born to be. When I recognize there is not much of my body that is natural. When I get fed up with the reminders of my injury, I remind myself what a testimony it is and how God is using all my brokenness to connect and reach out to people in theirs. Deflated boob and all.

I’ve seen many women with boobs of their own, who didn’t have an ounce of authentic beauty, and I feel more sorry for them than I’ve ever felt in my own moments of self-pity.

Beauty is a mindset. And when the world comes in attack against your beauty, acknowledge your imperfections, be realistic with what is in the mirror, but remind yourself that God can use every piece of you, especially the broken ones, as you give yourself to Him. And He makes ALL THINGS beautiful!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

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Attention all ladies– this upcoming retreat is for you!

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I have the privilege to take part in this retreat. I encourage you to check it out, as I believe many hearts will be touched, changed and renewed. Friday November 6th starting at 4:30pm through Sunday November 8th 2:30pm. Email speaking@heathermeadows.com for more information or visit the link http://www.tulakogee.com look under “events”

Why, Oh Why?

Last night I packed for a trip. I’ll be gone for three to five days. And while I know I’ll be taken good care of, I’m not too excited about going. But I grabbed items which bring me comfort and encouragement; my soft navy blue polar fleece blanket, I’ll take my pillow before leaving, and I packed three pictures from my house; one of our trip to Hawaii, one of our last visit to see Mickey, and one of us from last year taken at home by our fence. The photos help me focus on what I have, over what I’ve lost. Has their been loss? Immense. Has their been pain? Excruciating. But I’ve experienced a far greater portion of joy, peace and happiness. And that is what gripped my heart as I was pulling out of my doctor’s office last week after scheduling today’s surgery.

Before my most recent surgery, I had a very small area of scar tissue tear on my back. This was a reoccurring problem after my injury during the rehabilitating years, and on into my adolescence as my body was growing from that of a child to an adult. However, this was a scenario I no longer anticipated having over twenty-six years later. Regardless, it had to be addressed, so when my surgeon came in to do surgical markings for the last operation, I asked him if we could have an “adder” and take care of that area. He examined it. He then informed me it would be more than a simple release of scar tissue. He said the dreaded words, “We need to do a skin graft.” Yuck. To say those are painful is a bit of an understatement. It’s surprising to some when I explain that it’s not even the area released which causes such discomfort as it is the donor site.

Addressing the issue is always more than the obvious. Having another surgery this year was not in this planner’s plan. It meant making arrangements for the kids, missing activities with them, along with all the holiday parties during my most favorite time of year, and, it meant regrouping my commitments at work. I was bummed. I was frustrated. I was disappointed. Those emotions came in to check quickly.

I left my doctor’s office, pulled out on Utica, stopped at the light, and began crying. Through my tears, I sang, “Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you. I just want to thank you. I just want to take a little time right now, and say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ for all You’ve done for me.” It’s a minor inconvenience to spend the last part of my year recovering from what is, yes, a highly unpleasant procedure, but not a complicated one with uncertain outcomes. This trip to the hospital and stay in the burn center won’t necessarily be fun, but it will all be okay. In consideration of this beautiful life God has provided me to live, it’s petty to complain about it, even to grumble about it in my own heart.

The “why such emotion and tears” thought may arise. Why cry? Why sob? It was out of my immense gratitude and deep conviction, because there were so many, many times I begged the Lord to allow me to die. I didn’t want to live a life in this body. I didn’t want to walk the road ahead of me. I didn’t understand why I lived and my brother died. I couldn’t imagine a future for me. I didn’t have life experience to help me reason it out, and even at that, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to find reason. I didn’t have coping skills to work through the physical, emotional and psychological trauma. I asked God, “Why?” I prayed prayers, “Please let me come to Heaven and be with you, let me see Jon. I don’t want to live here.” For years, I mean for years I prayed like this. What came out of it wasn’t pretty, but necessary. Much of what I felt, I internalized. Being the brave little girl was a role assigned to me early, and one I felt I had to uphold. Which is why an eating disorder was the outlet for me to channel my emotion privately. The path was ugly, depression was as real as the sun in the sky, but a light I couldn’t see.

But the uglier it got the more I cried out to my God. And the entire time, all those years, He was listening. All those years, all that time, He had a plan. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He didn’t allow me to die, not from the physical trauma of that tragic accident, and neither from the emotional wounds thereafter. No, He held me. He never let go. And He was speaking, “Heather, I have a plan, to prosper you and not harm, to give you hope and a future.” He was saying, “All things work together for those who are called according to My purposes, and my child, I have a purpose for your life.”

I am going on this trip today. I am going to be back in the place where it all began so many years ago. I’m going to stand in awe of what the precious people there did to save my life. I’m going to meet some new faces, learn some new names and thank them for caring for people like me, whose lives are forever changed, but whose lives are always worth living, because God is greater, His ways are higher and His plans are perfect.

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From His temple He heard my voice;

my cry came before Him, into His ears.

Psalm 18:6

NIV

*scriptures mentioned: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28

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