I Can’t Breathe

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I mean literally. Have you ever been met with such force that you lost your breath and momentarily lost the ability to take in another one?

There are a few things I think about when I imagine taking a breath. It has to do with tidal volume and vital capacity and respiratory nursing world technicalities. But before I learned about all of that terminology and mechanics of lung function, I learned what it felt like.

I remember back to my seven-year-old days being mechanically ventilated. Being intubated. Some call it life support.

I remember coming out from sedation.

Sedation. Those drugs that make you sleep; time passing without ever even knowing its existence.

I remember having moments of wakefulness and feeling that tube in my throat and thinking, I can’t breathe. It’s a scary feeling.

In a more common experience, I remember having the breath literally knocked out of me when I was about ten. My best friend Brad lived just down the road. Brad and Jon were the same age and after Jon died, Brad stepped in, giving his best to provide all the big-brother experiences he knew Jon would have given me. Like taking me fishing. Which included him fishing my hook out of his own hand on more than one occasion. Obviously, fishing wasn’t my knack. But Brad insisted I go nevertheless.

He’d call and scream into the answering machine on the early summer-break mornings, telling me to get my butt out of bed. If that didn’t work, he’d make his way down to the house to pester me awake. And we joined up for a decent amount of mischief, as Jon would have wanted, including throwing eggs off structures that I’m pretty sure people get arrested for. Brad was a gift of God’s grace in the tragedy of losing Jon. They were best friends, so having him was like getting to keep a piece of Jon.

However, I’m not sure I was thinking that the day he body slammed me over the couch. Don’t get me wrong- I deserved it. I had wrestled with the boys from my earliest beginnings. That’s what happens when you’re the only girl and the baby. If ya wanna be included, you got to run with the big boys. Who knows? Maybe it’s what developed my toughness for the road of recovery I faced.

But that day I hit the edge of the couch and fell off to the floor on my back, I looked at the ceiling and could not breathe. It was momentary, but no breath was to be caught. It scared me. And I think it scared Brad a little too.

I haven’t had the breath knocked out of me since that day. As I grew into a lady, I stopped wrestling with my big-brother figure and I played it safe going into vocal performance rather than high-impact activities.   But life has knocked the breath out of me many times over.

I remember having a dear friend, whom I loved very much, say something completely untrue about me. Our friendship shattered.   It took my breath away.

I remember sitting on an exam table and my obstetrician compassionately apologizing for our miscarried pregnancy. The feeling of emptiness took my breath away.

I remember being back in the burn unit recovering from skin grafts and Brandon walking in to my bedside telling me my Dad had passed away. I was in the same place I was when I found out my brother was dead seventeen years earlier. It took my breath away.

I remember my child making poor choices and receiving text messages from someone I loved and trusted telling me the behavior was linked to the way I had made my child feel. I was on the floor of parenting despair and that took my breath away.

I remember Brandon calling to tell me he had good news and bad news. Good news he was coming home and would get to spend the day with us. Bad news was he had lost his job in a highly unanticipated layoff. It took my breath away.

I could continue to trace back some moments where I felt someone had just knocked the wind right out of me, but the more important part is sharing how I got the breath to carry on.

There’s a worship song by All Sons and Daughters called, Great Are You, Lord. Here are some of the lyrics—

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

There are some key points to grab onto right there. When there is no breath left in you, He is your breath. God is breathing into our lungs. He is breathing in His life. His love. His light. His hope. We come up empty. We come up with darkness. We come up with brokenness. We come up apneic—that’s nursing terminology meaning not breathing. And He provides. Add this one to your playlist and sing it out when life’s trials, challenges and circumstances have knocked the wind right out of you. Praising Him in the storm restores and strengthens in supernatural ways we can’t even imagine.

So there’s one way—worship Him.

Here’s another—read, recall and repeat His Word. Psalm 34 is below with some bolded truths that I cling to. Remember—read, recall, repeat. There’s power in His Word! There’s breath for our life!

And finally, communicate to Him and His people. If you can’t breathe, you need intervention. I realized this when Jaron was born. Poor little fella couldn’t breathe—here’s that apnea word again, and retractions and all the things that go along with respiratory distress syndrome. It was more than a little skin-to-skin with mom could cure. Jaron Michael needed help. Specifically he needed some mechanical ventilation, but point is, when we need a breath, God is there to give it, but we need to reach out to Him and the people He longs to use to help us.

When life has knocked the wind right out of you, when there’s an internal anxiety and despair for air; let His peace, His presence and His breath fill your lungs as you walk in trust and rest. God is holding on to you.

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

Psalm 34 NIV
I will extol the Lord at all times;
    His praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
    He delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to Him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    He saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
    and He delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and His ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue His servants;
no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

All You Care to Eat

When it comes to vacationing, we’re all geared a little differently. Some are drawn to the mountains and snow, some to the beaches and sand, some to museums, some to amusement parks, some cruising on the ocean blue, and some enjoy hitting the open road wherever it may lead them. And then there are those who enjoy it all.

Over the last seventeen years, Brandon and I have had a bit of variety in our get-out-of-town trips. We’ve hit a few big cities visiting museums and seeing shows, we’ve enjoyed a cruise (no surprise Mickey was on the ship—we just love that mouse), we’ve soaked up sun on a few beaches, and we’ve continued to feed our Disney addiction, cultivating one in our children, with return trips for fun in the parks.

Whatever it is we have planned for vacation, one feature is always at the top of our list— where we’ll eat!

I realize not everyone may look forward to food as much as we do, but stick with me. Even if you’re not a passionate eater, there’s still something here for you too.

On our recent vacation to Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu, we enjoyed a character dining experience called Menehune Mischief at their Makahiki restaurant. Oh my! The food!

Our family tried to remember all the different items on the buffet. There was mac and cheese, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, ham, chicken tenders, a salad bar, pork lion, pizza, ahi tuna, teriyaki chicken, stuffed tortellini, potatoes, sushi rolls, salmon, shrimp, crab legs, prime rib, apple cobbler, mud pie, cheesecake and more! Now is the time I should admit that this was the list of items consumed by our family alone!

I’m not proud to say, but I walked out of there so stuffed I felt sick. The buffet said, “all-you-care-to-eat.” Growing up, I always thought a buffet was all-you-can-eat. But it didn’t matter, because there was what seemed like an endless feast before me, and I enjoyed every last bite. Especially the crab legs!

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything. I want to thank you for hanging in here with me to find out.

While there were many, many people who partook of that meal, I ate as if it were prepared just for me. I wanted to try a little bit of everything. (And seconds of some—like the crab legs.)

And I came hungry. In anticipation of that meal, I had been chintzy with my intake the entire day. I wanted room to receive of all the goodness that was going to be set before me.

Could you imagine going to someone’s home for dinner, walking in and seeing a buffet of dishes they prepared for your visit? Now, could you imagine seeing those beautiful dishes, the heart and excitement of the one who prepared it for you, and then choosing to only eat a protein bar?

I eat protein bars. And I eat them for nourishment, not for delight. A buffet is pure delight. It goes beyond meeting the basic nutritional need, and adds enjoyment to it.

Are you with me?

It’s exactly the same thing God does for us.

He has prepared a feast for us!!! The buffet has every good thing you can imagine—peace in the midst of problems, trust facing the unknown, joy in the presence of sadness, comfort, security, courage, strength when we feel weak, grace for our mistakes, hope when times are hard, happiness after hurt, and much, much more!

Can you imagine walking in, seeing a buffet with those items and deciding not to get a plate?

We do it a lot. We walk around hungry, burdened with the trials of this world, all the while the Lord is inviting us, “Come sit down with Me, take in My plan. Take in what I have prepared for you. Get close to Me and you will smell the aroma of what I have in store for you.”

When it comes to an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, you may want to be a little more conservative than I was, but when it comes to receiving from your Heavenly Father’s buffet, get a plate, a big one, because He has so much goodness prepared for you!

Psalm 23:4-6 NLT
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.
Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings. 
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God this 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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I Lost My Pants!!!

“Ma’am, I’m sorry. Your driver’s license is faded and we can’t verify the security so we’ll have to screen you as if you didn’t have any identification.”

“Oh, no problem. I totally understand.” Well, yeah, that’s what I said on the outside, and I really did totally understand, but it didn’t stop me from searching for any ID that may serve as verification. You won’t be surprised to hear that while TSA may entertain your efforts when you pull out your Sam’s Wholesale Club Membership card, it won’t meet the need for identity verification.

In my mind I was thinking, “Unbelievable. I knew I should’ve brought my passport.” All the while proceeding up to the body scan.

“Ma’am, are you wearing a belt or do you have anything in your pockets? “

“No.”

“Okay, well we are going to have to pat you down…..” and on and on went the description of how intimate the TSA agent and I would be there in the middle of everyone shuffling out of the security check point. They are so polite and asked if I’d like a private screening room. I declined. It’d just take more time.

Again, those nonchalant words, “no problem.” Honestly, it really wasn’t. I had just experienced a thorough pat down last month when we went to El Salvador. What’s one more? Can’t say I’d like to put myself on a monthly sign-up, but I understood and appreciate the need for security.

The agent proceeds with her assessment, honing in on my right leg. As she pats and then rubs and then pats and then rubs she pauses and looks at me asking, “What is this?”

“Are you feeling the edge of my pocket?” I’m internally reasoning that these are skinny jeans and you can pretty much outline every crease and crevice. Somewhat agitated, or maybe it was simply confused, she pats and rubs again firmly restating the concerned location, “No, right here.”

“Oh, you are feeling my scar tissue. I am a burn survivor and my scars are not smooth like skin.” No big deal right?

Wrong.

“Ma’am, I am so sorry, but I have to take you to a private screening room.”

Once more, my reply, “No problem.”

We trudged on to the private screening room. And you know what happened. I was depantsed! I’m not sure that’s even a word. Probably not since it’s underlined red on my screen, but it’s something my kids say when Gavin tries to be funny and unexpectedly jerks Caden’s pants down to his ankles. (He gets in trouble for that by the way. Gracious that boy is ornery!)

While this may or may not be an occurrence in The Meadows’ Home on any given day, I certainly never fathomed the possibility of it happening to me at the airport! And on a time I was already bummed about traveling by myself! The true irony is found in what I said for the week preceding my trip, “I just have to put my big girl britches on and go,” never imagining for a second those big girl britches would be pulled down the minute I checked in!

So maybe it kind of was a big deal. But I really do understand the caution and I appreciate it.

Today, shuffling back through the security line, I again had the whole body scan. The agent asks, “Ma’am, do you have on a belt or anything in your pockets?” I replied, “No.” She explained the need for the pat down again offering a private screening room. I told her I have metal in my body from an old burn injury and also, that when she pats me down she’d feel scar tissue. She continued, took a wipe-down sample of my hands and sent me on the way after that little machine popped up the results.

Needless to say, it’s been a very humbling airport experience, this trip.

But humility seemed to be the overall theme while attending my first writer’s and speaker’s conference here.

See, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and pitched my book idea to a publisher and agent while I was here. It’s a whole new world to me of One Sheets and Book Proposals, but it’s what the Lord has nudged me to step into. Why, oh why?

I’m so happy being wife and mom. I’m so happy being a NICU nurse. I’m so happy having the opportunities to speak for special events. And I’m so happy, tucked away with you here in my tiny, tiny spot in the massive blogging world.

But the Lord is asking me to humble myself and ask you to help me (which by the way doesn’t feel nearly as humiliating as having someone pull my pants down—it’s all perspective, right?).

You see, what is between my message of hope and healing being published, and getting into the hands and hearts of people who need it, is a number. The number publisher’s and agent’s want to see is at least 10,000 people who are already a part of my audience, who follow my blog and interact with me through it.

My words to the publisher, “I’ll never do that.” She said, “Don’t say that. You never know. You can get your numbers up and come see me next year.” I replied, “That’s just not where my heart is.” It’s not about a number to me. It’s about personal connection with people. It seems oversimplified and maybe impersonal merely trying to reach a number, but numbers are people and my heart is for people—whether it’s at the post office, folding endless loads of laundry, working as a nurse or speaking at a church.

Friends, I’m not sure exactly what this whole writing/speaking journey will look like. I just know I’m suppose to be right where God wants me to be, taking my little steps of obedience as He leads.

Today, I got to keep my pants on (praise the Lord!) but I’m humbling myself and asking you to help me build these numbers. It feels like a stretch but I remember another 10,000 number I felt was completely unattainable—and it was – in human standards. The website.

HeatherMeadows.com had a $10,000 price tag on it just a little over a year ago, and the Lord moved on the hearts of a generous, precious couple and they gave it to us for free! And became special friends of ours!  Bonus! I’m thinking the Lord wants me to get something about this 10,000 number.

Thank you to those whom have given me the opportunity to come and speak for your schools, special events and churches. Your investment into me completely provided for me to come for this conference and gain development as a speaker and writer! I couldn’t have been here if it weren’t for you and I can’t go on without you!

I appreciate you so much!!!!

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV ~ Thank you, Lord for new things and for making a way!

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Here are some fabulous sites to check out of some fabulous women I met at She Speaks. I feel deeply privileged to have learned and grown alongside them these last few days.

www.LiveaFastLife.com

www.jaynepatton.com

www.jessicastone.org

www.lisaonthecape.wordpress.com

www.notofmyself.com

www.susangreenwood.net

www.reneebollas.com

www.katelynquattlebaum.wordpress.com

www.micahmaddox.com

www.KarenGirlFriday.com

www.tfcmcallen.com

www.BethAnnForo.com

www.caradury.com

www.oldthingsnewblog.com

www.priscillasharrow.com

www.JulieKMcComas.com

www.westbowpress.com

Jacob’s Hope by Dr. Laura Sparks

Unique custom made jewelry by Chandra Holcomb.

www.DoANewThing.com

 

Encouraged in Heart, United in Love

We don’t have much of a schedule during the summertime. And we aren’t too concerned with the forecast. Since it’s most likely gonna be hot our wardrobe doesn’t venture too far from our swim attire.

With that being said, we’ve been delayed in hearing of recent events. It wasn’t until surfing social media that I realized of the events in Dallas. Honestly, as we were enjoying our British family’s visit, I wasn’t even aware of the situations in Louisiana and Minnesota.

To see my friends post concerns like “will my children be safe growing up in this country,” and others pointing to the realities of officers being shot yet we still share our plans of going to the lake or out to dinner, made me reconsider my intentions for this post.

When 9/11 happened I laid in bed and cried, more accurately bawled. My heart was so grieved. Brandon tried to understand my emotion. “Babe. I understand this was horrific, but you didn’t know any of those people.” I shared with him, “But I know loss. I know tragedy. And I’m devastated that so many people are hurting and will hurt for their rest of their lives from this evil.”

We protect our hearts when we resist the pain around us. Who wants to let the loss soak in? Who wants to attempt processing the senseless? Who wants to confront the reality of evil? Who wants to sign up for walking the long steps to healing if you’re not the one who was wounded? The truth is, if it doesn’t affect us directly, we rather avoid it entirely.

This post was intended to be the last one in my reflections of El Salvador. I’ve hesitated writing it, but the message it was to contain, while in light of current conditions, is still an appropriate one.

In our time there, we heard testimonies, over and over again, of people who had withstood unimaginable hardship. The message God spoke to my heart through each of them was His faithfulness. I’ve had the opportunity to hear many stories and I’ve had the opportunity to share my own many times, and it is the thread of His faithfulness that is sewn through them all. In El Salvador, in the United States, in the churches, in the families, and in our own personal lives, God is faithful. He will provide.

Another word that came to mind in reflecting on the week was “service”. From the moment we rose to the time we went to sleep our focus was on serving others. And it was our teenagers who illustrated this so beautifully.

So many times in our home Brandon and I have to point out when our children are being driven by selfishness. You know, when they keep score or demand justice. After correction and redirection we typically hear something along the lines, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Of course they didn’t. We understand that they are developmentally, appropriately selfish. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just where they’re at developmentally. We are born only concerned about our own needs. How many babies care that they’re waking you up in the middle of the night or perhaps never let you go to sleep to begin with? This drive to survive sets the path for looking out for number one. As we grow and mature we realize it is so much more fulfilling to live a life beyond ourselves, to love and serve others. We’ve had a lot of help gaining that understanding and our kids need the same.

But this wasn’t an issue in El Salvador.  Nineteen teenagers went on our trip and I never one time heard complaining! Nor any arguing! These young people had the mindset of Christ- to serve others. It was beautiful and something to be encouraged by for this next generation.

Finally, I saw unity. The missionary overseeing our construction team was under the impression that our construction group was a team who worked together at home. The group consisting of eight men, two women and four teenagers demonstrated such unity that their work was smooth and efficient. The team accomplished far more than what was projected. It’s amazing what God can accomplish when His people are united!

By the end of the week, I had it in my heart to ask each member on our team three words they would use to describe their week. The only condition was they couldn’t use the words awesome, amazing or incredible. We all agreed those were given.

When we came home I sent the words to my precious friend, Sara, who is the talent behind all the graphic design work for our website and print material. She took the words and placed them in the shape of the country of El Salvador.

I invite you to read over them.

And as we leave today, I ask you join me in praying for our country. I pray our desire for unity withstands any evil attack of division. I pray we can be strong enough to allow the pain of others to enter our hearts and fuel our passion for healing. I pray we trust the Lord for His faithful Hand. I pray we see beyond headlines and see people, to see the soul God created and loves.  I pray for His guidance, direction, wisdom, knowledge, understanding and insight to flood the hearts and minds of our leaders and the citizens of this great nation.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 NIV

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el salvador

A Helping Heart

Have you ever been in a position where you needed help? It’s humbling isn’t it?

I think of my grandparents’ generation. They demonstrated immense work ethic. Something my generation, and the one after me, could be inspired by.

Along with that head strong, determined spirit to persevere and get the job done, came the resistance in allowing others to help.

I get it. It’s difficult to be in a place where we need help. It’s even more difficult to ask for it. But imagine with me being in that place of abandoned pride and emptied dignity, expressing your request for help, extending yourself in need only to be met with superiority.

It happens all the time actually. And it’s anything but helpful.

As disheartening as these situations are, the Lord can use them. And He used many encounters I had throughout the year to gear my mindset and heart for our mission trip. For instance, I learned a thing (or two, okay maybe three) about being helpful.

#1 I’ve learned that the best people to seek for help are the ones who either have been, or can at least imagine putting themselves, in my shoes. This is widely identified as compassion.

#2 I gained a personal lesson from my own humbled-heart-required experience, turned mortifyingly humiliating. What I gained from the heartache was a heart laced with something essential for missions—don’t focus on fixing, instead focus on serving, and know I’m just as in need as those I serve.

#3 I came to the realization of what one of our mission’s coordinators mentioned in conversation at the end of a meeting, “Helping isn’t helping unless it helps.” Helping isn’t about what we get out of it. Helping is all about what the person we’re serving gets out of it. It’s all about their need. We were reminded to show respect for the way things were done, follow the system in place trusting the process developed by those who have established it. We were only there for a week. There’s no way we could get the entire picture. We were there to serve, not get snagged by any arrogance that could come with doing it a better way. Truly help; don’t merely seek the self-satisfaction of what we feel helping should be.

Going back to last December when we made the decision and commitment to go on the missions trip—only two weeks later I had a friend ask me to go through the book Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren with her. The name alone may have been reason to run, but as seamlessly as I responded to Brandon when he said we needed to go on the trip, I found myself replying to her, “Absolutely!”

Well this book is no walk in the park. I mean who loves the thought of surrender? Even Christians singing, “I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender,” hang onto a little bit of control. So as if surrender alone wasn’t challenging enough, let’s slap on the adjective dangerous.

I love how despite my planning (seriously, you should see our vacation itinerary—I might take the word planning to a whole different level- or extreme), the Lord drops His timing into my life. This book was so timely. It was a heart-check to make sure mine was beating in sync with His.

Here’s a bit of the evaluation….

As long as we refuse to look squarely into the mirror of God’s Word and get an accurate picture of ourselves, we actually do more harm than good. We must see ourselves, not as separate from others—better, more educated, more cultured, more sophisticated, more civilized, less sinful, less evil, less prone to violence, less likely to cause harm—but as identical to them in our capacity to do evil. Otherwise, we end up serving others from a position of pride, congratulating ourselves for our noble sacrifices rather than coming alongside a fellow stumbler and offering not our wholeness but our brokenness.

-Kay Warren, Dangerous Surrender, pg. 120

So there it is. There we are. Just as humbling as it is to need help, so as humbling as it should be to give it. Because….we are all in need. Our scenery and situations may look differently, but we’re all in the same boat.

I am incredibly grateful to the missionaries and the citizens who allowed us to serve, showing me how much I can be helped from being willing to help others with a helping heart. What a great place to be!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)   What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the One who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.

—-If you would like to help with a financial gift to the ministries ministering in El Salvador, visit the following links:

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Comfort in Support

Comfort in Support

Sometimes we get things we don’t even know we need.

What a perfect topic to cover at Christmas. There are so many different gift-giving approaches.
• There’s the giver who buys something for someone, because they mentioned how they needed it or wanted it.
• There’s the giver who buys something because it’s an item the giver themselves loves so much and they just imagine the receiver loving it equally the same.
• There’s the giver who wants to completely surprise the receiver with something they know the person needs, but maybe never asked for it or mentioned it.

I’ve been in all the above situations.

When it comes to Christmas or Birthdays, I love wish lists. Some people find it offensive, but I find it to be incredibly efficient! It’s seamless picking out an item you know your loved one really wants. And then to see them open it??? Well, that right there is absolutely fabulous! There’s such excitement and joy.

Then, there have been items I so much enjoy that I want to get them for people I love. Like PETALS Strawberry Pepper Jam (petals74429@yahoo.com), or a Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Candle, or a gift card for a pedicure. You know…some of those little indulgences we don’t always spend the money for ourselves?

I’ve been more on the receiving end of the last item in question. I think back to our wedding and to when we were beginning to have our babies. Yes, we registered; however, there were so many items we never knew we needed. But our loved ones sure did. And they gave them. Included were both treasured pieces and practical items; things I couldn’t have imagined going without.

While I’ve given gifts that I didn’t personally love, but gave because the receiver did; and while I’ve also given gifts from a wish list, there’s one in particular I specifically remember giving several years ago; it was one that was never requested, but I bought it anyway. My Dad-in-law is a homebuilder/remodeler, so I gave him a painting of Jesus as a boy, and his father Joseph the carpenter. Although he had never requested the piece, he was delighted to receive it. I feel I was the one to end up with the gift; for the memory, and for how my heart is touched every time I’m in his office and see it hanging on the wall. I bought it for him, not because he’s my husband’s father, but because of my own love for him and my own knowledge of those things dear to his heart.

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The painting “Destiny” by an anonymous artist depicts the child Jesus in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph. He casts the shadow of a cross

Well, here it is, the time of year we put so much focus on gifts and I’ve received what Jesus knows is the greatest gift in my life, those most dear to my heart; people.

Everyone has struggles. There’s power in identifying them; then we don’t feel captive to them. And one thing I know about myself is I am a people person. Being around others inspires me, refreshes me and rejuvenates me. As you can imagine, having two surgeries within thirty days of each other really took me out of the loop. Like all the loops, my kids’ activities loop, my work loop, my church loop, my friends loop. It was kind of nice the first go around. I rested, I read, I caught up on all my favorite shows, but as I mentioned in “Why, Oh Why,” I hadn’t planned for this last procedure, so I wasn’t eager to sit around several weeks on top of already sitting around. Sitting. And laying. And sitting. And laying. Blah.

I’m very sensitive to the seeds of depression, because I’ve been there. And I know isolation is the growth media for depression. So having already a month of retreat, I felt the dread in my heart of having more. Everything in moderation. Right? We all need time of solitude, but too much of anything is not a good thing. Therefore, I shamelessly and somewhat pitifully invited, welcomed, asked, or maybe even begged for visitors and company; choose to insert whichever word to describe it, different moments appropriately apply. However, I believe it takes strength to identify our weaknesses, and it makes us even stronger to protect ourselves against them.

There can be such beauty in humility. Such value in vulnerability. Such fulfillment in openness. Although, I could have kept this next procedure quietly to myself, as I do some, I shared it and in return received the gift of what is written:

Philemon 1:7
Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

The Lord uses people to GIVE– whether it’s wrapped or not, we get gifts so often. Those gifts of joy and comfort are just what I needed. It’s lonely sometimes. It can be scary. It feels painful. And I’m speaking to you, dear friend. I could write this for myself in my own little journal, without regard for sentence variety or structure, but I write this for you. Because you sometimes feel lonely. You sometimes feel scared and are in pain; all the many different types of pain. But I encourage you to find comfort, even if you have to ask for it.

This last surgery, my Aunt Donna walked into my hospital room with a symbol of comfort. It was Mouse! No, I’m not referring to the classy mouse who can so perfectly don polka dots and big yellow shoes, because you know how much The Meadows love that mouse too. But no, this was Mouse, the Puffalump Aunt Donna got for me when I was originally injured back in 1988. Mouse went with me to most of my surgeries. She’d sit at the foot of my bed when we’d roll back and she’d have a hat, a mask, and yes, sometimes even surgical booties. She was such a source of comfort to me. And having Mouse sitting in my hospital room this time, kept me thinking, “Wow! How far we’ve come. How much has changed.” “Just a stuffed animal,” one may be inclined to think, but I see a focal point, a focal point of comfort.

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Mouse still with me nearly 27 years later…. when Mom & Dad couldn’t be there, Mouse could. Symbol of comfort.

And then let’s talk about the people! Oh my! My precious husband, at my side; one tech sweetly described him as “hovering.” He’s so protective, and although he doesn’t don an outfit of armor, he is most definitely my knight. And the kids. Their world is so expanded by the experiences they’ve had with me as their mom. They were born into the story and although they’ve observed some unpleasant and even grotesque sites, I pray it’s been an advantage to develop them into the people God intends them to be. And my Mom and my Aunt, those women who have walked this very long road and still show no signs of weariness in their support and their pride for the survivor they desired me to become.

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Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin visiting me after surgery. Yes…they keep us laughing!

Bits of comfort walked through my door the next day. When I was mentally preparing myself to spend the day alone, as I knew my husband would have to be in the office and my children at school. God sent His gifts, my nursing school friend, Misty and her little boy Jeremiah. More followed: my friend, mentor and previous professor at OU, Rhonda Lawes, spending the afternoon with me sharpening me, challenging me both spiritually and intellectually.

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Rhonda and Misty– treasures from my nursing school days. Was definitely one of the most challenging times, but in return I got amazing opportunities, experiences and relationships– to keep!

Then my team! For a girl who has NO athletic ability, I love referring to my co-workers as my team, because we demonstrate qualities that make a team great, which in turn is not only vitally beneficial for our patients, but rewarding to us as friends. Carrie, Haley, Carly and Molly spruced up my day with gifts in hand and laughter of heart. Oh what comfort! What joy! As if the Lord hadn’t packed in enough comfort I so desired, my in-laws topped it off by bringing us dinner. My Dad-in-law observing how I was drifting off, mentioned how he felt it was time for them to go so I could rest. And I told him no, because although I could hardly stay awake, I just wanted to hear their voices. Comfort.

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To be a part of something so grand! These ladies are core– Molly Carrie, Carly & Haley. Love my NICU Family!

The next day, my precious friends Beverly and Michele, women I admire and feel strengthened just with their presence and conversation. Comfort. That afternoon, even my cousin, brought me my very first eggnog malt from Braum’s. Acts of comfort.

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For my medical people– we love to see the work. Upper right donor site, lower right z plasty, left, two contracture releases with grafts. 5 days Post Op

After coming home, I had a full week of meals provided from friends. Truly it was the hand of Jesus extended; meeting basic needs in the most personal way. And after a week of love poured out, my best friend, Amber of over twenty years came to take care of me. Even getting on to me, as any best friend would, for my determination to attend my co-worker’s wedding, an event I couldn’t miss for the deep admiration I have for her as a person, as a young woman, and as a nurse. Some moments just can’t be missed.

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Love how gorgeous these women look, because they’re all equally as amazing! It’s fun to spiff up since we mostly hang out in scrubs, but man, how we spring into action. This is my TEAM! So blessed!

 

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She’s as beautiful and genuine on the inside as she so evidently looks on the outside. Thankful for Carly and to share a part of her day with her.

Not a day has gone by without a call from someone. And even several visits. Personal, come to my house kind of visits. People, I don’t live by anything. Not one person who came to visit, popped by on their way to run errands or Christmas shop, they intentionally came to visit. Like my precious, precious, dearest friend, Heather who shared an entire day, seriously, an entire day with me, right before she was suppose to be leaving for a road trip to Massachusetts. Comfort.

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We got dubbed “heather squared” in nursing school. Talk about iron sharpening iron. God orchestrated this friendship five years ago and I cherish and grow from each moment we share together.

You may think I’ve named everyone. I haven’t. It’d be a book. And that’s just from this one procedure. This one procedure that I feel I’ve done a million times. In almost twenty-seven years, I imagined people eventually running dry on concern and compassion. I mean. It’s not like it’s life threatening at this point. It’s just another toggle mark on the count, another one under the belt. It’s an investment in furthering the immense quality of life I’ve been able to experience. But above all, what I’ve had the privilege of receiving is so much love; love which never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.

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What tugs at my heart strings? Teenagers who are compassionate! These girls made me some sweet treats and wrote encouraging words to brighten my recovery time. My daughter and her friends Laura and Katherine are truly the example of God’s love.

We all may think we know what we want. We all may have an idea of what gift would benefit or suit us best. My lesson? Maybe we do sometimes. I’m so glad I opened the door for people to share love. I needed it. I needed to feel comfort and friendship and joy and laughter. If I had made a list, it would have had, “visitors and conversation” on it. God knew exactly what I needed and He has provided.

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So incredibly generous– Amber, my neighbor and stylist loaded up everything to color my hair at my house. I asked her about rescheduling, but she offered to come to me. A lot of extra work for her. Such a huge blessing to me.

If you committed your time to read this post, please let the scripture take root in your heart. You may need to allow others to refresh you, and you may need to flat out ask for it. On the other side, you may be just what someone needs. Oh, it might seem like you’re not doing much by picking up the phone, but that conversation may be more timely than you could have thought or imagined.

Love. Joy. Comfort. Kindness. Refreshed. Those are gifts. On the list or not; those are gifts.

Philemon 1:7
Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

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Such comfort in a lifelong friend. My dishes, my laundry, putting my kids to bed, keeping my pain meds on schedule, even my Christmas shopping– she left her family to take care of me for two days. We’ve been through so much together and I couldn’t love a sister more than I love Amber!

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A Hurricane Hit

A catastrophic storm hit eight years ago today.  Complete devastation came upon the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  Many remember August 29, 2005 because of the violent natural event that affected many cities, especially New Orleans.

I remember that morning very well.  I was back in the burn center recovering from my sixth surgery within the previous five months.  My mom was staying with Brooklyn and Jaron, and we were on the phone visiting about the kids.  Mom told me I needed to turn on the news and see the coverage on this hurricane.   We concluded our visit and hung up.

Brandon was there with me and left the room somewhat abruptly.  He returned with our Pastor behind him.  I was slightly puzzled that our Pastor was with Brandon, because he had just been to visit and pray with us.  I quickly concluded in my mind that my Grandma Cochrane, my Dad’s mom, must have just passed away.  She had had a stroke the week before.  It seemed obvious that there was loss.

Brandon came to the right side of my hospital bed, Pastor Gary to my left.  I felt a hurricane hit my own heart when my precious husband informed me that my Dad died.  Floods of tears and complete disbelief.  My Dad was two weeks away from getting a pacemaker.  He physically appeared to be in better condition than he had previously.  But none of that mattered, because the fact is, he sat in that chair, at my own desk, in our office, speaking on the phone to a client who was also a dear friend from our church, and his heart stopped.  His life ended.  He was gone.

Gone was his boisterous personality.  Gone were his jokes.  Gone were his stories and his laughter.  His laugh alone would bring such joy to those around him.  And I cry today just thinking that its sound is fading in my memory.  No longer could I consult with him over investments, no longer could I pick his mind regarding finances.  He wasn’t just a phone call or desk away when business questions arose.  I’d never lift my eyes up to his tall stature again.  No longer would I wrap arms around his neck or kiss his face.  No more getting smoked playing cards or Monopoly.  No more long dinner conversations or prayers for our future.  My Dad was gone.

Moving on was so painful.  After Dad’s memorial service on Friday, Mom and I were back in the office the following Tuesday.  We had a company to maintain.  I found myself going about life, looking at other people driving on the road, buying their groceries, filling up their gas tanks, and wondering how they couldn’t feel that someone so special was no longer here on this earth; how they didn’t even realize the void.  Nothing even looked the same to me.  My perspective had changed.  And my identity was challenged.  Someone who had always been here, forever and ever, someone who made me and raised me and loved me, was dead.  I felt so alone.

And alone is just another description for grief.  Grief feels so lonely and so desperate.  It physically hurts to grieve.  It is that pit in the stomach that makes us literally feel nauseous.  When we cry and cry, our eyes are swollen, our nose is raw, and we seem to only pause in between, until the flood of sorrow rains again.

In this time the Lord comforted my heart with two gifts of peace.

One; my Pastor.  Even today in the sadness that accompanies my reflection on losing my Dad, I remember my Pastor sitting there at my hospital bed and all he said was, “Jesus.”  Over and over and over again he whispered the Name of Jesus.  When there were no words, there was His Name, Jesus.  Isaiah 9:6 tells us His Name is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Two; the Word.  Shortly afterwards, I had friends and loved ones encouraging me to read James.  “Dig into a study on James, Heather.”  But the Lord led me to Job.

Job 1:1 tells us that Job was a great guy, he “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:8 the Lord brags on Job, telling satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” As you read in Job 1:9-10 you will see that satan suggests that Job’s faithfulness is only out of the blessing God has bestowed on him, and satan proposes that when calamity strikes Job that Job will curse God.  Job 1:12 God allows satan to have control over everything Job has, except “the man himself.”

Read Job 1:13-19 and take note of the phrases I have put in bold.

“13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Can you imagine???  Job can’t even process one bit of tragic information over the messengers interrupting each other to give him more!

But how does Job respond? Verse 20 tells us by falling to the ground in worship.  In verse 21 Job says, ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

This passage challenged me in my time of grief.  And my Pastor’s presence to whisper the sweet Name of Jesus brought peace.  Altogether, COMFORT.

Despite the disaster, He is there and He loves you.  He is enough, even when so much seems gone.

“If everything I had was lost

If everything I had was gone

If everything I knew was suddenly a fraud

And all I had was you holding on

Would it all be the same?

Could I find beauty in the pain?

Would I sing your praise?

Would I seek your face?

I raise my voice loud and sing

Tell them all what you’ve done for me

Even in my darkest days

I’m gonna sing your praise.”

Lyrics from Raise My Voice ~ Robbie Seay Band

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Mom & Dad
enjoying what ended up being our last big dinner out together
June 2005

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