Happiness Doesn’t Happen

Do you ever wonder what it takes to just be happy?  Some days it can feel like such a struggle.

My friend Jenn Baxter asked me to write a guest post for her site, and it’s a topic I felt led to cover when sharing my story with her readers.  I hope you follow the story to her site to read the article and look around to see how Jenn is touching lives through her journey and online home.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you and for being a part of our online family here!
❤ Heather

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Heather, what more could make you happy?

It was a desperate question my mom asked as we sat on my bed looking in to a closet full of clothes, shoes and accessories.  “Not stuff, Mom.  Stuff can’t bring happiness.

I was only sixteen, but I had already concluded that trips to the mall, a brand new car and hosting parties with friends couldn’t fill the emptiness inside.  The void was far too vast for material, superficial things.  Happiness was a state I was battling to attain.

The battle began nine years earlier, when my world tragically changed on a country dirt road.

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

Guest Post: Life Is Short

Guest Post: Life Is Short

*a special post from a special guest*

Life is short I want to live it well
One life, one story to tell ~
Live it Well” by Switchfoot

When my mother (who was also my BFF) passed away in 2013, I was let in on a little secret. The secret was what life is really about and how we should all be living it. The thing is, it wasn’t like this information was hidden from me. It was there all along… but I, like most of us, had been walking around with blinders on.

We’ve all seen the words “Life is short” on bumper stickers, inspirational posters and coffee mugs. We’ve heard the phrase “Live like there’s no tomorrow” and some of us (that listen to country music) have sung along with the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” But when it comes right down to it, how many of us actually take this sentiment to heart?

My mother thought she had plenty of time left to do things. Again, just like most of us do. But when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in March of 2013 and passed away just six months later in September 2013, she ran out of time.

She had wanted to live in a condo at the beach, drive a VW Beetle Convertible and do a bunch of other things that she always said she would do “later.” Except now later would never come.

It was after watching her go through this experience and then reading her journals after she passed and see her talk about, in her own handwriting, how she had let fear hold her back her whole life… that I knew my life had to be different.

Both for me and for her.

See, my mother and I were very much alike. And I could very easily see myself ending up in the same place – writing in my journal at 65 years old, about how I hadn’t really lived my life either.

But I didn’t let that thought discourage me and I didn’t let the grief of losing my mother and very best friend send me into a downward spiral.

Instead, I decided I was going to live my life. And I was going to live it well.

So, I set out to “clean up” my entire life. I fell in love with the idea of a tiny house and made plans to have a 160 square foot home built. It was something that before I would’ve only talked about and dreamt of doing, but in honor of my mom, I wasn’t going to just talk about it… I was going to do it.

To get ready for the big move, I downsized and got rid of about 80% of my belongings. It was amazingly freeing as I was able to let go of things that represented someone I used to be, someone I never became or someone that I thought I “should” be.

I let go of all the excess that was never really necessary in the first place and kept only the things that I really used, needed and loved. It made those items even more special and freed up my space and energy immensely.

But as I went through the process of downsizing, something else happened along the way. I started letting go of emotional clutter too. As I got rid of physical clutter, I let go of old guilt, shame and regret. I finally let myself feel pent-up grief for people and things I had lost, so I could truly move on. And I got more in touch with who I truly am than ever before.

It wasn’t a coincidence that all of these things were intertwining at the same time. God was having me do a major clean out and there was one other “room” to be cleaned. My body.

Right before my mother was diagnosed, I had been struggling with some severe health issues of my own. Basically, my body felt like it was falling apart – headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues, brain fog and more. I had been to every doctor under the sun and came up with nothing but dead ends (or prescriptions for unwanted antidepressants).life-is-short-quote

But in God’s perfect timing, as He was leading me through this process of pruning – both physically and emotionally – He brought the right people into my path that would eventually bring about healing.

Through naturopathic medicine, exercise and meditation, we were able to finally begin repairing all the damage that advanced adrenal fatigue had done to my body over the past several years. Yes, my body had been feeling like it was falling apart, because it was. It had been pushed beyond its limits.

After a string of traumatic events that included the end of an almost 4-year abusive relationship, the death of both of my parents and an extremely stressful and toxic job, my adrenal function had been overworked and overused. But there was no “magic pill” that would make it all better.

The key to recovering from adrenal fatigue is lifestyle changes – eating healthier, using non-toxic products, practicing relaxation and mindfulness and cutting out stress. All pieces of the puzzle that fit in perfectly with what God was already doing in the other parts of my life.

So I started eating clean with no gluten, dairy or sugar and plenty of fresh vegetables and clean meats. I got rid of all of my personal and home care products that were laden with chemicals and replaced them with healthier alternatives.

And I began making my health and my life a priority. I started living NOW, going after my dreams and marking things off my bucket list.

Which, I believe, is how we all should be living all along. Why do we wait until we are at death’s door to make a change? Why do we walk through life telling ourselves we’ll start living “later”?

Why do we let ourselves get caught up with things that don’t matter like cell phones, iPads and celebrity gossip? Or fill up our bodies with unhealthy foods full of sugar and fat, while slathering our bodies with products that contain known carcinogens?

I decided I didn’t want to do any of those things any longer. I wanted to live a life that was stripped down and cleaned up, NOT to deprive myself… but to finally actually start living.

And you know what? I haven’t looked back once.

Remember, life is short. You’ve only got one life, one story to tell.

So, live it well.

Want tips on how to clean up your own life? Grab my FREE 5-part “Jump Start Guide” right here for tons of information on downsizing & de-cluttering, clean eating & non-toxic products, emotional health and “bucket list living”!

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Jenn Baxter is an accomplished writer in Charlotte, NC, who has been published in numerous print publications, as well as featured as a columnist on Beliefnet.com.  In 2015, she launched her website, Live a F.a.s.t. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living, emotional health and downsizing into a 160 sq. ft. tiny house, and released her first book, “Tiny Abundance: My Journey to a Simple, Yet Fabulously Abundant Life in 160 Square Feet,” which is available on her website and Amazon.com. She also helps others learn to clean up their homes, their bodies and their lives in her e-course collection, “De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress.”

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

A Little Thought from Heather:
Jenn & I were connected back in July as prayer partners for a writers/speakers conference we were attending.  God guides and directs every detail.  She has sharpened me through my writing and speaking endeavors, and her friendship has become a beautiful blessing to my life.  I pray you are encouraged and motivated in your New Year by her sharing her journey here.  All the best to you in your 2017, Heather ❤️
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What’s In This Box? The Meadows Merry Christmas to You!

What’s In This Box? The Meadows Merry Christmas to You!

Have you ever pulled wrapping paper off a box and got incredibly excited only to realize the box was solely for packaging purposes, that the item held within was not the one reflected on the box?

I’ve done that. It’s embarrassing.

Generally I still absolutely love the gift, but the situation makes me feel the necessity to overly emphasize my gratitude, as if I need to convince the giver that even though it wasn’t what I thought it was, it is still something I love.

You know. Something kinda like this year in reflection.

2016 held some things we would have preferred not to face, but the experiences have grown us individually and stronger together as a family. All in all, it was a year we’re overly grateful our Giver gave to us.

_42a8338Gavin turned 7 in July. He had his very first season of baseball last spring, and what an experience it was! His team was undefeated!!! Quite the start! Gavin took his position as catcher very seriously, not wanting the umpire to help him out in the least bit when throwing the ball back to the coach/pitcher. He may have found his niche, making the Dad so happy that Gavin shares his love of baseball. He played goalie in soccer and has now started his first year of basketball. Gavin is rocking it out in 1st grade, recently receiving Tiger Cub of the Month for December. While we wouldn’t consider him super social, his teacher tells us he demonstrates leadership qualities in the classroom and was just recognized for the life principle gentleness. Like all the rest of us, he’s making his way, doing a fine job.

_42a8353Caden moved out of the elementary school to middle school this year. All four kiddos are at different locations now, never to be back on the same campus again. Let the Mom shed a tear here.😢 Caden is in 4th grade with a rotating schedule, changing classes every hour, but his homeroom teacher is one of our best, dearest friends, having taught three of four kids so far. What a blessing! For Caden’s 10th birthday he wanted his room redecorated in a beach, surf theme. He has drums, a microphone, a guitar and a ukulele he tinkers around with here and there. We have a hunch that he’s got a music bug, but at this season he keeps busy with baseball, soccer and basketball. He is still the most laid-back, easy-going kid ever. Caden is very likable, even getting elected as class representative. He’s quite the guy.

_42a8347Jaron is in….wait for it….(can you hear the dun dun dunnn?)…..JUNIOR HIGH! We may have some negative opinions having been through this with child one, but Jaron seems to be handling the environment well at the time. 7th grade so far is good. He was able to join youth group starting in the summer and is on the student leadership team. Honestly it’s hard to wrap this kid up in one paragraph. He wants to be involved in everything and is starting to realize the challenge to be fully committed and effective in so many different areas. He’s playing soccer on a rec team, he ran cross country for the school, is playing school basketball and plays trumpet in band. I pray the Lord allows him many opportunities to soak up all he pursues in life. Jaron is the example of “making the most of our days,” and that translates to Mom and Dad trying to catch our breath in between it all!

_42a8366Brooklyn has put her best foot forward this year, finishing her first semester of 10th grade with an A in every class! She’s getting closer to becoming an independent driver having obtained her permit back in September. It was one of our highlights this year and we shared about it in The Other Side of Failing. Her passion is her horse, Gray Boy and she continues with improvements in making his house snazzy. She is enjoying having Jaron in youth group with her and serving on the student leadership together. We’re so proud of her growth, maturity and her vision for her future. It’s as if that future is speaking those words from playing tag, “ready or not, here I come.” And she is getting ready!

Brandon had an unexpected job change this year. We wrote about the experience in Living in a Layoff. We’ve always known that being an engineer in oil & gas in Oklahoma comes with a dose of unpredictability, but we never anticipated a layoff. Needless to say it was a big opportunity for our own growth. During the three months out of work he obtained his project management professional certification and is now working as a project manager for Rose Rock, and gets to work from home on Fridays! His office is right across the street from the hospital where I work.

The location is quite convenient and now Brandon and I carpool in together on the days I work. I’m still enjoying my NICU nurse gig at Saint Francis working a shift a week. Although I’m not there full time I’m quite passionate about my NICU babies. In April I obtained my RNC, a national certification in NICU nursing. In my time away from the hospital, I’m the official schedule coordinator for the family. I do my best but could definitely use more improvement. Nevertheless, we haven’t forgotten a kid. Yet. 😉 I continue serving events, conferences, schools, businesses, banquets and churches through inspirational motivational speaking when given the opportunity. However, the main task is the book project I’m working on, writing a personal memoir about persevering through life’s painful places. Our prayer is that it will be powerfully effective for those who need it in a time they need it most.

We’ve had some beautiful gifts in 2016. There was something special inside each package. Some were wrapped up in obvious goodness. Like our family’s mission trip with Brooklyn and Jaron to El Salvador with our church in June. Or our family vacation in October returning to see Mickey on Oahu. But even the challenging, unpleasant, unpredictable, unsure moments of the year held something special within them for us. And we have an expectation 2017 will hold the same.

It has been a joy sharing our moments with you through the year here on this blog. We can’t thank you enough for being a part of our online family. We pray the Lord continues using the posts to bring encouragement, inspiration, strength and joy to you as He continually provides to me in writing them.

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May you feel God’s presence and know His faithfulness today, in the New Year and every day thereafter, no matter what the package may look like!

Matthew 7:11NLT So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

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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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