What 18 Years Means To Me

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” –Walt Disney

When I was a little girl I used to get behind my Grandma’s lace dining room curtains, drape them across my face, grasp some flowers between my two hands and cue off the wedding march all on my own. The drapes would slowly inch up my body, rising with each step over my face and falling off the top of my head. I was enacting a dream I had. A dream to one day wear a beautiful gown, hold some beautiful flowers and have a beautiful veil cover my face. Of course, my five year-old-self hadn’t given much consideration to a major player in this dream. The groom! This dream was all about a wedding. Not a marriage.

Just a couple short years later I was lying in the burn unit. On occasion, I expressed my assumptions. I can revisit those seven year-old-thoughts like they were rolling through my mind yesterday. Who will ever love me? No one will ever want to marry me. I will never have a husband. I will never have children.

Dreams of children are often full of fantasy. I suppose mine were no different. I hadn’t lived long enough to dream of high educational goals. I hadn’t lived long enough to envision myself in a respectable career. I simply dreamed of what I saw in my Disney movies. And while I saw what my body looked like, it was my Disney movies that influenced me to believe; believe that maybe, just maybe someone would love me, with all my scars still find beauty in me and love me.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
 
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true ~ Cinderella

Brandon Meadows was my fulfillment of that dream.

Hopefully you didn’t vomit a little in your mouth at that last sentence, because while this post may be a little mushy-gushy, it does have some authentic marriage reflections I pray are encouraging to you.

I would have never ever thought in a million years that I’d meet the one “for whom my soul loves” at a Driller’s baseball game in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was only fifteen years old. Never. In a million years!

And while we didn’t “hit it off,” the introduction paved the way for interest, leading to friendship and as the fairytales would have it, growing into love. But anyone who has been married for a hot minute can agree that not every married-moment feels like a fairytale. Ours certainly hasn’t.

06.19.1999. Our wedding date. Our marriage date. The beginning of our life together. The fruition of one dream and the vision of many more.

We were 18.

18 years old.

Barely adults. Barely old enough to vote. Underage to rent a car. Underage to have a toast of champagne.

We had nothing…..EXCEPT a dream of a life together.

Dreams are created twice.
The first creation is spiritual. The second creation is physical.
But they always start with what if?
What if you knew you couldn’t fail- what would you do?
What if time or money weren’t an object- what God-sized goal would you go after? – Mark Batterson, If

Oh, we knew we could fail. Countless people pointed to the possibility.

Oh, we knew money was an object. We had a futon for our furniture and converted a barn for our house.

But here we are 18 years later. Here we are at this stage, where we’ve lived in our marriage covenant just as long as we lived before it; celebrating half our lives married in the happiest place on earth. (Because our thirty-six year-old selves still believe in dreams, fairytales and happily ever afters.)

And here are just a few things we’ve gathered-

  1. The two shall become one is an on-going process.

And man! Has it ever been a process! There have been many a moments we didn’t mesh like one. But those moments have become fewer and farther in between. God created us individually with our own giftings, personalities and strengths, but He called us to be one. Years ago our small group leaders, Larry & Joan, gave us some valuable insight: When you get married you’re not sprinkled with magic oneness dust. Now that we could relate to. Wouldn’t it be nice if Tinker Bell could flitter around every marriage ceremony with a little bit of oneness dust?! But getting married in Disney won’t even guarantee that. It’s an every day, sometimes moment-by-moment decision (especially in the heated ones) to desire unity above anything else. Amazingly, even people with as different personalities as Brandon and me, eventually start thinking like one another, even finishing each other’s sentences! (That one really creeps the kids out by the way!)

  1. Sacrificial love didn’t look like what we thought it would.

Has anyone seen Disney’s Inside Out? Joy multiplies the manufacturing of Riley’s imaginary boyfriend. You know, the boyfriend we all imagined as teenagers? He continuously says, “I would die for Riley.” But living for someone can be way more sacrificial. Like saying, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know about you but that one is SUPER HARD after some intense disagreements. And like protecting and defending your spouse even at the expense of other relationships. Or like declining a job transfer that would take you away from your spouse, even if it may mean losing your job. Can’t say when we made that commitment we pictured the potential of having to consider the reality of possibly taking a pay cut or a position below qualifications. Thankfully, when we said, “no” for our marriage, God opened a door for an even better career change. But we would’ve never known had we not had the mindset of sacrificial love.

  1. We’re hinged on choice.

With sacrifice comes vulnerability. Standing before God and witnesses, vowing our life to our spouse, forsaking our self and all others as long as we both shall live puts us in a pretty vulnerable place. Forever. Brandon and I are seeing 18 years married, simply because he has chosen me and I have chosen him each day since June 19, 1999. We can love each other but keeping this union going means we each have to choose. And knowing that at any point one person may choose otherwise can be freakishly vulnerable. We’re geared to self protect, but that doesn’t jive with sacrificial love. So we go all in, abandoning ourselves and trusting God. Trusting God to help us forgive, trusting God to help us face the sin and shortcomings (because as hard as it is to face our own sin and shortcomings, it’s even more challenging to have to deal with our spouse’s). And even if a choice is made to abandon the covenant, still trusting God.

So here we are, thanking God for the yesterdays and trusting Him for our tomorrows. Not always picturesque. Not always perfect. But grateful for sharing it together.

Colossians 1:17 He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.

I pray this post spoke to you. 

Did you know I’m writing a book about persevering through life’s painful places? 
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.

*thank you to Kevin with Disney Fine Art Photography & Video for capturing some Grand Floridian Anniversary moments for us!

Without Us

Mission trips are life changing.

I’ve heard countless stories as people returned, observing how the experience impacted not only their heart but also the way they think and interpret life.

Then I had the opportunity to experience it for myself last summer, joining a team from our church traveling to El Salvador with my husband, our daughter and oldest son. I signed up for the medical missions team, my husband and son, on the construction team, and our daughter on the evangelism team.

The time passing since our trip held an unanticipated job change, and we knew my husband would not be able to be a part of the team this year. Therefore, we counted our family out when it came time to sign-up for the 2017 team.

I didn’t give it a thought at all to the possibility of us not participating as a family.

Until….

Until, I had a power session with a dear friend of mine. We work together in the NICU, on opposite shifts, and we give it our best to meet consistently to pray for one another’s needs and agree together for unity in our unit.

During our get-together, my friend challenged me with the possibility of letting our teenage daughter go without us. I told her I just couldn’t do that. She proceeded, “Heather, I remember the first time I went on a mission’s trip without my parents. They were standing there at the gate [because remember, back then family could escort you all the way to boarding the plane].” She continued, “They really embarrassed me! They just stood there hugging me and crying! I totally get it now,” she said, “being a mom myself, I can only imagine how they felt.”

I’m sure you can predict the word that came next.

But,” she said, “going on a mission’s trip each year kept me grounded in the Lord. It was like the therapeutic dose I needed to keep me strong in my walk with Him through those teenage years.”

I heard what she was saying. And it did resonate in my heart. But I couldn’t imagine letting my teenage daughter go without us. I told my friend I would pray about it.

When I told my husband about my time with my friend that day, he replied, “I don’t even need to pray about it. She’s going.”

However, we really didn’t want to be that dogmatic about it. So we shared the story with our daughter and asked her to pray about it.

Time continued to pass and despite repetitive church announcements regarding the trip, she hadn’t made mention of any intention to go.

Until….

Until the Children of the World choir came to our church. Brandon and I were not in service that day, so the kids had gone to church with my mom. Brooklyn called immediately following service and said, “I’m going to go to El Salvador.”

What?!

You’d think we’d be elated but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Surprisingly, I heard myself calmly respond, “Okay.”

Even more, she had a determined desire to pay for the trip on her own. I could only think two words— Committed. Invested.

After my daughter shared with us that she would be going, I pretty much immediately met my anxiety with this thought: I could go with her. However, as quickly as the thought came to my mind I instantly knew that would be disobedient to the Lord.

Disobedient?! To go on a mission’s trip? I mean how could doing something good be disobedient to the Lord?!

Well, it’s disobedience when my desire compromises my need to trust God. It takes away my reliance on God and places it on myself. It takes Him out of the driver’s seat and puts me in. That is disobedience.

I knew immediately that this opportunity for Brooklyn was not only an opportunity for her to walk in obedience to the Lord, being away from the security and comfort of her family, but also an opportunity for me to walk in obedience to the Lord to trust Him in letting her go without us.

So what do ya do with that?!

I prayed and prayed and prayed asking for the Lord to help me trust Him, to feel His peace about it all. One day I was at home, all the kids were at school and the house was completely quiet. I wasn’t even praying at the moment, but I walked into Brooklyn’s room to put some clothes away and I felt the Lord speak this to my heart—“Heather, Brooklyn has been farther away from you in your own home than she will be in El Salvador.”

I sat down and cried. It was so true. It’s been the crummiest last couple years of parenting! And God wants Brooklyn. He wants her completely and consistently.

That reality became even more evident the closer we got to the trip.

Brandon and I repeatedly explain to our children that sin is ugly and difficult, and if there is sin in our home it will eventually show itself, and when it does, it has to be dealt with.

God is faithful to reveal that which is hidden. But oh, how difficult it is. How ugly it can be.

Brooklyn has been in a cycle Paul knew well and wrote about in Romans 7:14-20. Despite the struggle, she was going on this mission’s trip. Without us.

We’ve hardly spoken the last three weeks. The pain of this battle is excruciating to my mama heart and I quite frequently desire to uncover a secret passage of escape. Wouldn’t that be nice?!

When we took her to the church yesterday morning at 3:45 a.m. I imagined myself giving her the boot with a good-riddance disposition. [May seem harsh but this blog is about real-living, and in this case, real-challenges in parenting teens].

But that’s not what happened.

As everyone began to load-up, she hugged her Dad, and then hugged me. She began to weep. I interpreted many things from her tears. And suddenly I realized that this was why I could not go. Where she needs to be in her walk with the Lord, she has to go without us. My friend Jayne said it best when she wrote, “God does not have grandchildren. He only has children.” Our children have to choose Him, choose to walk with Him, choose to honor Him on their own, without us.

Holding my daughter tight, the emotion of the moment and the realization hit me. Matthew 16:25 was rolling through my heart and in my head. It says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.

What I heard was, “If you try to hang on to your daughter, you will lose her. But if you give her up for My sake, you will save her.”


I’m resting this week. Resting in letting go. Resting in my confident hope. Resting in trust. Resting in faith of what is now, is not what will be. Resting in the plans and purposes already set in motion. Resting in a testimony in the making. Resting in the beautiful life of an independent relationship with Jesus. Resting in knowing He alone is able, without us, God is able.

 

Will you please intercede for our daughter Brooklyn and the team she is with this week?  May the Lord work in and through them as they serve the people of El Salvador.  May each heart, from those serving to those being served, be transformed by the hand of God.

I pray this post spoke to you.

Did you know I’m writing a book about persevering through life’s painful places?
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.

School Is Out = Summer Is Here = Fighting the Mushy Brain

Mom, can I play the Wii?” Oh if I had just a dime for every time I know I will hear that this summer.

School got out for our kiddos last week. I have to say, I was on the countdown just as much as they were. At one point I tapped the tips of my fingers together like Monsieur D’Arque does, who is the head of the insane asylum in Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast. I tapped the tips of my fingers together and said, “In just a few more days I will have them back to myself to begin the cultural detoxing process!” I considered adding in a maniacle laugh for effect, as if my children are a crazy science experiment. Sounds creepy, but that makes it all the more amusing!

However, in all seriousness, I do feel like I get them back from everything that pulls against the unit of our family throughout the year. To clarify, I’m not saying they’re facing only negative things through the year. Some of what we get them back from is the crazy schedule. Jaron asked me what I was looking forward to most for summer and I said, “Not having to keep a schedule and getting to have time, time with you all and time with friends.” Again, it’s not that we don’t do anything, but we just don’t have to have everyone up at a certain time and out the door. We have some evening activities here and there, but it’s not every single night of the week. We have time to be together. We have time to chill. We have time to reconnect and simply enjoy our family.

And that brings us back to the question I know I’ll hear over and over and over again— “Mom, can I play the Wii?

Part of this relaxed schedule is the threat of what I call, THE MUSHY BRAIN!

TV. Movies. Video Games. The Computer. Galaxy of Heroes for Jaron and The Dad.

Can I get a witness? Are any of your kids zoned out to electronics?

Last summer I informed the kids of what I thought was an incredibly bright idea.

Guys! This summer each of us are going to read one chapter a day and you and I are going to journal to each other each day!

In my head everyone was jumping around with enthusiasm seeing the great potential in this idea.

But that wasn’t the response. There was moaning and blahness. (Yes. I just made up that word, but it’s fitting so go with me on it—it’s a word that summer journals are made of).

Well, those little stinkers really made a stink about it. One child even wrote a whole journal page about how stinky journaling was. Creative writing. It’s a beautiful thing. (insert sarcasm)

But guess what?!

Despite the negativity at times, they liked it! No, they’re not begging to start again, and they weren’t super expressive, but here and there they’ve let the cat out of the bag different things they liked about journaling.

So this is how it looked for us. I pick a topic and write to them in their journal and then they write back to me. Like pen pals so to speak.

I wish we could do this throughout the school year, but it was very timely for last summer when Brandon was unexpectedly laid off. I wrote to each of the kids about what had happened. Jaron wrote back ministering to our hearts. He shared how he was kind of worried but then he remembered Psalm 23. He looked it up and wrote each verse out by hand for us to read:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
    Your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

You can imagine what Brandon and I were doing reading that journal entry! Can we say, “tears?!” And lots of them. We were hoping to give reassurance to our children and here one of our children was giving it to us.

Then, as balanced as life should be, we got a good chuckle when we opened Caden’s. He wanted to know the specifics of how everything would pan out, asking if we were going to sell our house and buy a tiny house. Which by the way, wasn’t such a bad idea to him.

I asked for at least one full page, but sometimes because of the subject matter I got more. Here were a few of things I shared with the kids about our summer writing—

  • Please write back to me in a three-step process:
    • FIRST– start out writing your thoughts about what I’ve written to you in the beginning of the journal entry and
    • THEN– share you’re thoughts about the middle part of what I wrote to you
    • and LAST, answer any questions.  Follow this pattern every time you write back.
      • For Gavin who was turning 7 last summer I asked him to write to me and draw a picture of what he wrote.
  • Please… Make the most of this.  You’ll love what you get from it.  One day it’ll mean the world to you to have this glimpse back.  Today, it’ll be like a magic mirror revealing what you never knew was there.
  • Please fill in the following pages using your thoughts, feelings, engaging your mind and utilizing your vocabulary and most importantly exploring your heart.
  • Let your mind wander, your creative side to explore, let your imagination paint a picture with your words.  Journaling connects you to what you didn’t even know was there.  Now….start your adventure.
  • Thank you for opening this door of writing, allowing me to not only peek in your heart, but to be welcomed in— as if stepping through a door, coming in and staying for a cup of tea.

So how did I get them to oblige? It was simple—all the answers to what they wanted to do were a “no” until they did their journal and read their chapter. I know. Mean Mom, right? But I’ve got these treasures of their lives, penned from their own hand, on topics that are meaningful and valuable. Those are my summer treasures and it helps them fight the manifestation of the summer mushy brain!

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! 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.

**If you would like some ideas and focus points to write to your kids this summer, I invite you to download Journal Writing Topics – Fighting the Mushy Brain for free.  We just got regular ol’ journals at Walmart and wrote to each other like pen pals.  The document shares some of our topics. Don’t feel pressured to write every single day, but just a consistent flow of communication with them through the project. Also, visit my friend, Shawna Fisher at Water Walker Events Design Planning for a fun free-to-download journal that includes a Summer Bucket List and Nature Scavenger Hunt.**

 

 

Guest Post: Did You Know How Much God Just Loves You?

*a special post from special guest Heather Falana*

My husband loves me. It doesn’t matter what kind of a day I am having or if he disagrees with some of my decisions-he just loves me. He has been out of the country for 10 days and he returns tomorrow. To say I am excited is an understatement. While he has been away the Lord has been working some things out of me.

There is always stuff in us that can be worked on, worked in, or worked out. See, the thing is, people say “Jesus loves you” and ask “Did you know how much God just loves you?

…. “just loves you”.

Yes. I do know that He does love me.

But do I?

Grace means undeserved favor. It means that something is given to you that you do not deserve and it could never be earned, but I believe that over time I have come to slightly believe that I must earn some gifts from God. Today, I realized that the devil has been trying to keep things out of my grasp with this one lie; “Heather, you haven’t done enough.”

I find it very easy to love the Lord. To sing Him praises and talk about His goodness. It is also very easy for me to do that for people too; to brag on them and bring them gifts, but I have a hard time receiving it back. The Lord brought to my attention that I don’t always let Him love me. I’m always thinking about what I didn’t do or what I can do better. Not what He has done and wants to do in me and for me—there are things only my Heavenly Father can do.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. They are not perfect. They fight with each other on occasion. They sometimes lie. They don’t always follow the rules. They get mad at me. You want to know what? Sometimes they irritate me but I LOVE them so deeply that I correct and move forward knowing sure within myself that they love me too and they will improve. So, sitting in my living room today God gave me a dose of much needed unlimited, throw-all-caution-to-the-wind, cry-your-eyes-out LOVE.

Over the past month, while my prayer closet, I was sensing this wall. A wall. Not a wall to keep things in, a wall that was keeping something out. I couldn’t figure it out. I asked the Lord to show me what I was feeling on the inside. One thing I love about having a relationship with God is that He never fails to blow my mind.

I stand on scripture for healing in my body and protection over my family. I receive wisdom from God daily because His Word says in James that all I must do is ask for it and He gives it freely. Freely. God loves freely and He gives grace, mercy, and wisdom freely; however, it is never forced and must be received the same way. Today He spoke to my heart and said “Heather, you cannot earn the things I love to give you. I watch over your children because I love you. I desire to heal your body because I love you. And I gave you Jesus because I love you. Not because you remembered the scripture from last Sunday. Not because you prayed and read my Word four times or two times this week or you forgot. I just love you.

I cannot explain in a human tongue what this did to me. I know God loves me. I know that He sent Jesus because He loved us (John 3:16). It was different today. It went deeper than “Jesus loves you”. I felt like He took my face in His hands and looked me in the eyes and said “I just love you.

My husband and I moved last year to the west coast to start a church. People are people everywhere you go. I have come to realize that. Here in my new home I am finding it challenging to explain why we are here. Yes, we came to start a church to tell people about Jesus Christ and what He did but more importantly we came to share the love of Christ with people. I have been asking myself “How? How do I explain all of this extreme fondness I have for my savior?” and “How do I show them what it is like to know My savior?” and “How will they see that this is vital?

Outside of being an example of Christ and being a sweet fragrance to those around you (II Corinthians 2:14-15), I needed more. How do I put this thing in my heart into words? Wisdom is coming my friends. When you ask Jesus to come into your heart to be your Lord and Savior its more than a prayer. It’s a life changer. He said in II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new.

It’s one thing to know about a person, it’s another to hear about who that person is, and it is entirely different to live with that person. Christ desires to live with us because He just loves us. He desires to change our hearts because He knows about every little thing in your life that you need. He desires to lead us. He desires to heal us, protect us, and care for us.

We recently got a dog. He is almost a year. We found him at the Humane Society. We walked into this very loud, a bit stinky and crowded animal shelter. My family and I walked into the small dog room. There was this half Corgi half Chihuahua copper dog in the last kennel on the left. My oldest son just melted. The shelter had a name on his kennel and it was Nalu. When we brought him home the kids wanted to change that name so we threw out many ideas until we settled on Cooper.

Cooper has had to learn some new behaviors. He has had to learn that we are safe and how to trust us. When Cooper came out of his old life he received a new one. A better one. He came from a high-kill shelter in Hawaii and this was his last chance at living. He was surviving but he was not living. When God sent Jesus to us it was not to point His nose down at the human race and aim lightning bolts in our direction and yell “Look at all those people screwing everything up! They need a crutch! I’m sending them Jesus.”  No. He sent Jesus because the enemy has it out for all mankind (I Peter 5:8) and Jesus came to make a way of escape. Just like we were sent to Cooper to make him a way of escape. John 10:10 Jesus says “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In other words, Jesus came to bring something worth dying for and not so He could keep it to Himself. He came to give it away to you and me!

It didn’t stop there. We gave the dog a new name and a new life. He also received gifts and a bath! Now everything that belongs to the Falana’s also belongs to Cooper. He is in the family now! He enjoys our couch, our food, our neighborhood streets, and our love. It is the same with the Lord. You can know about Him or you can live in Him.


Picture yourself standing outside of a house and wondering what it holds. Nothing in that house belongs to you, in fact you cannot even see what it has to offer. Now, picture yourself walking through that house. You see all the rooms, the stairs, the fireplace. It is very inviting. You walk right through it and you move on.

Now, imagine you live in that house. Everything in that house belongs to you. It not only brings you the things you need, like a stove, washing machine, and toilets. It shelters you. It keeps you warm. It protects you. It also gives you room. Room to share. That is Christ. He desires for you to be “in Him”. Not to know about Him. Not to visit with Him once and move on. He desires to free you from a negative sentence in life. To change you. Rename you. Feed you. Shelter you. Most importunately, “to just love you.” I John 4:9-10 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Don’t just survive this one life you have been given. Live it in Him and let Him just love you.

The Falana Kiddos with their sweet little Cooper

A Little Thought From Heather…Meadows🤗

I could write a blog post alone about Heather Falana.  She is the portrait of Proverbs 27:17 in my life– “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We met several years ago in an anatomy class and journeyed through OU College of Nursing together, being referred to by many as Heather Squared.

She and her family are brave for Jesus, bold for Jesus and desire His plans for their life, moving across country, not knowing a soul, to minister His life, His love, His hope and His healing to lives. 

Would you pray about and consider blessing their ministry with a love offering?  Your tax deductible gift can be sent to:  
Church Alive ℅ Sam Falana 1339 NW Covey Ct. Silverdale, WA 98383 

Also, if you enjoy a good laugh, Heather periodically posts some super funny videos! Click here to look her up on Facebook. Her humor will lift you up, truly making you laugh out loud.  She’s such a gift to me! ❤ Heather

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! 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.

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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Guest Post: What Takes Friendship To The Next Level?

Friendship. It’s one of those special, almost magical things in life. When you have real, honest, genuine friends, it feels as though you can go through just about anything in life and still come out sane, and maybe even with a smile on your face. And without those people, you feel like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a really, really long time. Perhaps even one that has lived at my house, deprived of water, oxygen, and love, and then thrust outside thinking a little sunshine will revive it, only to char it to death.

Currently, I am a plant living somewhere other than my own house. I am thriving. I am flourishing. I feel loved, supported, encouraged on a regular basis. I am surrounded by a community of women that I cherish. I am part of a mom’s group that meets every Monday and leaves me feeling refreshed in my heart and soul and ready to face the week. I live 10 houses away, from a soul mate of a friend. I am part of an accountability group/goal setting group of women who love Jesus so deeply and fiercely that every time I’m with them I desire to grow in my relationship with Jesus. And other dear friends, who also live close by, who regularly make time for play dates with me and my kids, girl time, family dinners, and drop anything to help and support me.

And I am moving. Far, far way.

It’s been a slow and gradual thing, something we’ve been talking about for the last few months. The job sounds amazing. We are going to start a water well drilling company. (Let me clarify, we equals my husband and his current boss.) The company will be a for-profit company, but with the purpose of providing first-time access to clean water for communities by using the company profits to create a price point for not-for-profit organizations, churches and ministries that is affordable. We will be importing world-class water-well-drilling equipment, employing first-world drilling techniques and be undertaking hydro-geological investigations and site-specific surveys. We are really excited to be bringing a different business model to Nicaragua and impacting a different segment of society for Christ through our mission, approach to business, treatment of employees, and quality of goods and services that we provide.

We are both pumped. Like for real. And we’re moving back to a country we used to live in, Nicaragua. So the whole scary-moving abroad-thing isn’t as scary since we know and love this country very much.

Jessica with her husband Brandon and children Eliana, Hudson and Audra

However, despite that, I’m not handling this move very well. I’ve moved before, if fact, I’ve moved a lot. Specifically, eighteen times in the last fourteen years I’ve been married. But this time, I’m a hot mess. Like a, I had to cover my face while at the park with a friend, because I was crying such an ugly cry I didn’t want her to see my face mess. Jessica.get.it.together. But I can’t.
I recently heard a woman, Tonya Esler, speak on friendship, and some of the things she shared were so poignant, I have been mulling them over in my mind and heart all week. I have to share just three of her points with you:

~We all need trustworthy friends. (Can I hear a TRUTH to this?!) Look up Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

~A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9

~A friend is dependable. Romans 12:10

As we sat around our small group to talk through this, our leader asked a great question, “What, in your opinion, takes a friendship to the next level?” And immediately I knew my answer.

Letting your friends help you.

There are so many reasons why I don’t let others help me. Sometimes it’s simply because I don’t need help. Or rather, I’d love help, but I don’t know in what particular thing to ask for help. Perhaps it’s also because I don’t like asking. And, of course, it’s messy. It’s complicated. It has the potential to be slightly awkward. That is how I feel. And, put all those excuses together and tie them up with a pretty little bow of guilt. A sparkly one. Right on top. Tell me, how can I ask my friend to help me do anything, when I know her schedule is full? Or she also has a gaggle of kids so how can I ask her to watch another for me? Won’t that make life hard on her if she helps me?

Maybe.

Or, think back on the last time you helped someone out. How did you feel after? Pretty amazing, am I right? The last time I helped a friend we were at the park and her son hit the back of his head so hard he was gushing blood. As she applied pressure to her son’s head, I offered to take her newborn home with me so she could go to the ER. But after she pulled away, and only then, did I realize I wasn’t sure I could actually fit another car seat in my car. Gulp. So I calmly placed my three in their seats. Then I just sat there looking at the car seats jammed in there and as I looked closely, I realized I could probably fit three across in the middle. All I had to do was yank each car seat away from the empty middle seat and his infant carrier slid right it! I buckled him up and away we went. I was smiling to myself, knowing my friend could focus on her other child and I could handle FOUR kids. (Okay, true confession, it was only like 1 hour.)

When we allow others into the messy part of our lives, the part where things are hard or hectic or so wild that we need someone to help us, it has the potential to change us. I know this to be true because it changed me.

I honestly didn’t even know I had a problem with this. Clueless. It took a good friend to say to me, ever so lovingly, “Hey there, let me help you. Like for real. I wanna help, and I wouldn’t offer my help if I didn’t mean it.” Ooooo, she hit on something there. Often times I wonder what if the person offering to help didn’t really meant it, and they are annoyed that I actually took them up on it. Well, this same wise friend also told me, “You are not responsible for how other people feel.”

Boom! Game changer right there.

So for the past year I’ve been working on letting others in. More specifically, letting them help me. Because I’ve always been fairly good at pouring my heart out, being genuine and real and honest about life, my struggles, my marriage, my kids, etc. But what good does it do to share with a good friend how undone I am after my husband has been gone for a week, when if she offers to help and I respond, “thanks, that’s so sweet, but I’m ok.” Right?! It’s ridiculous. It’s like not putting a band-aid on my four-year old’s knee when she’s scraped it up. There is a problem, and I have the solution to help her wound heal (hello love me some Neosporin) and make her stop crying (cue Dory band-aid), and forget she even fell (lots of kisses and tickling).

And a funny thing has happened. I have done things I never dreamed of, or thought I could accomplish! Primarily because more hands really do lighten the load, and also my friends have different gifts and talents than I do! I’d love to share a few every-day examples that have made life more full, along with bigger examples of what I’ve seen come to fruition because I’ve allowed dear friends to help me.

~I launched my own Esthetician business in my house. This required the gifting of several different friends to help me decorate, chose which products to carry, create a menu and business cards, and one even hosted an opening night party for me!

~I called a neighbor friend crying so hard all I could squeak out was “You home?” to which she arrived one minute later. My son had busted his head open and dripped blood all around the house trying to find me. She watched my other two (because my husband was out of town) so I could take him to the ER, and even programmed it in my phone so I could find my way through teary eyes!

~Through the encouragement and prayers of many dear friends and family members I finally starting writing the book I’ve been dreaming of writing for over 7 years. (And because of them, I even went to an incredible conference called She Speaks (where I met the beautiful and delightful Heather!!), which put my butt in gear and got me writing!

~I “let” friends bring me dinner when my husband is out of town. (I’m telling you this was a hard one for me, to actually say, “yes, dinner would be amazing, because otherwise we’re having nuggets or eggs again).

~I let dear friends watch my kids. Sometimes so I can sleep, other times so I only have to take one sick child to the doctor (a huge, huge help!!) And once, a friend watched my kids so I could go get a pedicure!! (I was on day 9 of my husband being out of town, and she offered to watch my two kids so my 10-month-pregnant self could be pampered!)

I guess what I’m getting at is this: we’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” But I’ve realized I don’t need a whole dang village. I just need a few. A few rare and beautiful gems. And for me, some live close, while sadly, others are far away. But they are women who lift me up and point me to Jesus. They are women who love me unconditionally. They are women who ask me hard questions, and hold me accountable in many areas of my life. They are women who I laugh the hardest with and cry the ugliest with. They are women who have taught me how to let them in deeper still. Women who aren’t afraid of the sleep deprivation, the tantrums, the ugly, and the messy. Women I cannot do this fun, wild, hectic thing called life without.

So when was the last time you let someone help you? Are there people in your life that you have truly let in? Do you have a support system surrounding you? If so, perhaps consider sending them a note telling them just how special they are to you. And if not, I understand. I’ve been there. I’m about to be there again. So join me in praying. Come boldly before the Father, as I am. Let’s ask Him to provide amazing friends we can do life with, or maybe we just need to ask Him to show us how to go deeper with the friends He’s already put in our path.

A Little Thought From Heather:

When I think of the phrase “chance encounters,” I think of Jessica.  It’s why I’m not a big believer in “chance encounters” but rather in “divine appointments.”  

She and I thought we were just staying at a hotel close to the writers/speakers conference we were attending.  And we both thought we were just grabbing a bite to eat at the end of the pre-conference meetings.  I actually planned to take my food to the room and work on blog stuff while I ate.  But the Lord orchestrated our meeting along with three other women.  Hours later we had transitioned from the hotel cafe to the hotel lobby where we had our own prayer meeting for one another’s needs, callings and visions.  

My heart was prepared to meet Jessica.  Our family had recently returned from our very first foreign missions trip and here I met her, learning of her and her husband’s history as missionaries and their amazing miraculous journey through infertility.  It was one of those things where you just don’t want to ask, but then again you do.  I’m not sure how it eventually came up, but she proceeded to share with us the births of her two children and that in fact, she was expecting again (accompanying miracle number three as shown in the above photo).

Jessica is working on composing this beautiful story into a book, all while raising her three little people AND transitioning back to living in a foreign country.  In the meantime, you can gain nuggets of joy and inspiration as she shares her life through her blog. Please take some time to visit her at jessicastone.org   ❤ Heather

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On the Hunt to Find Value, Importance & Uniqueness

I don’t know much about paintings. To cut to the chase, I’m not much into “The Arts.” I love the performing arts, only when it includes some type of musical, and if it’s a Disney musical it’s even better. I’m not into classical music, although I faked it for several years during my childhood because Aunt Donna listened to it and I was giving my best to be just like her. I’m lacking on classical novels, because reading typically only holds my interest if I get some life application out of it. But back to paintings. I wouldn’t recognize a Van Gogh or Monet if my life depended on it. I do know, however, that the number of paintings produced is one factor that determines its value.

Which brings me to a thought. And a question. Or maybe a few questions.

This world is populated with people. So how does one feel unique, valuable and important? Do we sometimes feel that we’re just another face in the crowd? How often do we consider that we’re one-of-a-kind?

Gavin got this post rolling a few months ago after a physical therapy screening he had.

Here’s the back-story:

Gavin has an in-toe walking pattern, what some refer to as pigeon-toed. We were first concerned with the issue when he was two. We asked his pediatrician about it at his well-child check-up that year. The determination was that it was due to internal hip rotation. Made sense. We were informed that it’d be more exaggerated when he was tired, but that it wouldn’t keep him from his ability to run or potentially one-day play sports.

I cannot even tell you how much we love our pediatrician. This doctor has not only cared for all four of our children, but even provided care to me in my teen years, and was a part of Brandon’s and my big day, attending our wedding! This isn’t just a physician to us. This is a very special individual. With that in mind, we didn’t take it lightly to get a second opinion. But let me say, if a doctor is offended for you to get a second opinion, maybe it’s not the right doctor for you. I knew ours would completely understand, so we saw a pediatric orthopedic specialist who took x-rays, did a physical assessment and returned the same determination. So we moved on with the thought that this was just the way God made Gavin.

Fast-forward four years. We signed Gavin up to play soccer when he was six. He hated it. We found out it was because of the running.

The following summer Jaron would put Gavin in as his goalie when Jaron practiced soccer at home. What a sweet big brother, potentially kicking soccer balls right at the baby brother. No slack around here. 😂

After a summer of being Jaron’s goalie, Gavin wanted to sign-up for soccer again. No surprise—as a goalie!

It was a better fit for him. However, I was concerned when he told me he wanted to sign-up for basketball. Despite giving him the information on the required running in basketball, he still wanted to play, so we signed him up.

A short time later, I was visiting with our physical therapist at work. Many don’t realize that premature babies need physical therapy and it starts early in their life. So here we were, both working on this baby, just visiting. I mentioned Gavin’s history and my doubts over our basketball-season-sign-up decision for him. She replied with, “He may just need inserts.” Inserts? She told me to call the pediatric physical therapy department and ask to make an appointment for a screening. So I did.

I took Gavin for his screening over Christmas break and it was quickly determined that inserts would be really beneficial for him. Through much more detailed explanation, I was also informed that it’s typically hard to make such a determination until after the age of three or four.

This gets us up to the topic here—feeling unique, important and valuable.

When our physical therapist told Gavin she was going to make him shoe inserts, he told her that wouldn’t be necessary because he could just get some at Wal-Mart.

I explained to Gavin that no one on the entire planet had a foot just like his, and that these inserts would be specially-made just for his foot.

It took some convincing but he started to understand his uniqueness—from the top of his head all the way to his little piggies.

Doesn’t seem so profound to us, does it? 

Or does it?
I believe we have a lot of people on this earth that don’t quite understand how unique, how valuable and how important they are.

In a song by Natalie Grant she sings, “and you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself.” Well, I believe that pertains to more than love. If we don’t understand how unique, important and valuable we are, it’s difficult to be able to identify how unique, important and valuable others are, which may be the reason why people treat each other so crummy at times. And on the other hand, it may be the reason why people allow others to treat them so crummy.

For us to live a life of fulfillment, we must see our value.

A friend of mine, Tracy Robbins, illustrates this so powerfully in one of her messages. She explained that the MSRP is the value the manufacturer has placed on an item, suggesting how much should be paid for the item. Well, that’s great if you’re studying economics I suppose, but she brought it home in a way I won’t forget. After that bit of information, she says, “And this is how much God says you are worth,” as an image comes on the screen of Jesus Christ, beaten and bloody, with a crown of thorns on his head, hanging on a cross.

God says we are valuable, so valuable that He sent His one and only Son.

It gives much meaning to Ephesians 2:10 that says in the NKJV, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

I guess that’s why I don’t get too carried away with designer stuff, or even gaining knowledge over the Van Goghs and Monets. The Word tells me I am God’s workmanship. In the NLT, it says I’m His “masterpiece.” Masterpiece!!! As in “a work of outstanding artistry!” I am outstanding artistry! Whether others see me as such or not, whether someone would place value on what I have to offer or not, whether I perform to my own level of expectation or not; I am God’s masterpiece. It’s liberating and reassuring.

YOU are God’s masterpiece.

I’m saying your foot isn’t like anyone else. So let’s get out of our Wal-Mart-Shoe-Insert mentality and realize how unique He created us!

In the movie The Help, Abileen spoke words of truth into little Mae as she said, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

Let’s look in the mirror, repeat those words, and remember we are custom-made by God and for God. One-of-a-kind. Unique. Valuable. Important.

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About the video–
the day of Gavin’s casting for his shoe inserts, he was confused asking, “you mean they’re going to put a cast on me?” I said, “No. It’s just what they call it when they make a mold of your foot.” He questioned, “You mean mold is going to grow on my foot?!?!” Obviously I was at a loss for words to effectively explain the process, so like any parent in 2017, I said, “Let’s watch a YouTube video.” However, I could not find one video that was consistent with what we would be doing that day. So I thought, “I need to video this so other kids will know what to expect.” I did just that. But after taking time to assemble the video and publishing it, I found several others that would have been perfect. So I’m going to take this as something we were meant to do, hoping it is still useful for someone.  Here is Gavin’s journey through the casting and fitting of his new shoe inserts!