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.

Facing People Problems During The Happy Holidays

Holidays are hard. Well. They can be. It’s not always “holly and jolly.” Our troubles are not always “miles away.” Sometimes they’re sitting right next to us at the dinner table. But so often a smile is slapped on, and “making-it-through” becomes the method of operation, because “it’s the holidays” and “that’s what families do.”

But are we cheating ourselves by taking that approach?

My cousin and I spent Thanksgiving together this year. It was really enjoyable. More importantly, it was authentic. May not sound like much. We spent Thanksgiving together last year too. And it was awkward. Why? Well, only for the reason that we hadn’t spoke for a period of time. Like five years!

Yes! Five years! “Whatever on earth for” you may ask. Well, that could cover a whole other blog post, or possibly even an entire book chapter. For purposes of this post, the details don’t matter, but for us personally, the lessons are in the details so just because I’m not sharing the nitty-gritty doesn’t mean my cousin and I never confronted it or dealt with it.

We have gained much from the ordeal.

For starters, we know that it’s a point on the enemy’s scoreboard. Or more like five points, for all the years we lost. However, we pray what we’ve gained gives us bigger boxing gloves to win the next round.

Next round?

“Heather, are you saying you anticipate problems?” Yep. I sure am.

Not being prepared was the most effective component in ripping our relationship. See, when Brandon and I were young-married, our small group leader would tell us, “The enemy wants your marriage. John 10:10 says ‘the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy’ and that includes your marriage.” This simple understanding made us aware of those things positioned to divide us.

Are you with me? You know, those issues that are camouflaged in marriages—everyone has their own. The bigger picture we frequently had to remind ourselves of was the enemy wanted to destroy our marriage.

The Word says in James 1:17 that everything good is a gift from God. Our relationships are good! Whether they are marriage relationships, family relationships, church-family relationships, or friend relationships. They’re all a gift! And stupid Satan doesn’t want anything good in our life. Simply put, relationships are a gift from God—expect the enemy to target them.

This isn’t meant to scare us. This is meant to prepare us. Cue up the Lion King song, Be Prepared!!!!   Not having a game plan to handle problems is more than naïve, it is foolish and relationally irresponsible. And remember, I’m writing from a place of walking this painful path, not a pointed-finger place.

The Word says in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above everything. This may be a bit of a stretch, but where do we hold those relationships we hold dear? In our HEARTS! So we must, we must, we must guard our relationships.

As we’re guarding, understanding the enemy’s intent to tear our ties of love, security and belonging, remember he is not a conqueror, he’s a coward. I Peter 5:8 says he prowls around like (picture a phony pretender) a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The loser is searching out for weakness and cracks of opportunities. Seal your bond with others, guard and protect your special gift from God.

So what if there’s already a problem? What if there’s hurt and pain? Here’s a nugget of encouragement, trials can make our relationships stronger. But wait. Before we exhale that sigh of relief, there’s a contingency. Trials CAN make our relationships stronger, IF we let them.

Think of your relationships like your faith. I Peter 1:7 tells us, “trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Doesn’t that give us a different perspective about problems with the people we love?! Zechariah 13:9a says, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold.”  This gives us a different view of trials in our relationships. Those issues, those disagreements and hurts are fire. And we certainly feel it as such. But that fire purifies, removing impurities. The fire reveals something of great value.

So we shouldn’t resist it. When we choose to live with the elephant in the room or consistently return to our broom-and-rug avoidance we are choosing to live with fake-imitation-jewelry relationships instead of enjoying the high-quality-genuine-authentic-pure relationship.

This is where my admiration grew for my cousin. Honestly, I had idolized her my entire life. She’s seven years older than me and she was everything I ever wanted to be. But we realized that while our bond was shared, our personalities were not. If you had to place us in categories—I am fight; she is flight.

In Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued, she writes, “true peacekeeping is about properly processing the emotions before they get stuffed and rot into something horribly toxic” (page 92).

Our relationship had indeed rotted. And it grieved me. Seriously. Like a death. I didn’t think we’d speak again.

But you know how that story ends. I already told you we spent the last two Thanksgivings together. Talk about a spoiler alert. Goodness. I should aim to uncover some surprises in these posts.

God used those in-between years. He grew both of us. I let go (something a fighter and girl of control is never known to do) and Krista enlisted to fight.

It took, like I shared, five years, but she drove to my house, knocked on my door, sat on my couch and took the brave steps through the fire of refining our relationship. It wasn’t mended in a day. Remember, I had released it. I needed peace and happiness and grieving our loss was too painful, so I had let go, of the relationship, thus letting go of her. I couldn’t fight for both of us. But I did forgive. I forgave long before her drive up my driveway. However, forgiveness and restoration are not the same. Forgiveness depends solely on the individual; restoration depends on both. Restoration has less to do with forgiveness and everything to do with trust. And the flight personality girl who made a decision against herself to fight, persistently determined to build a new relationship cultivated a place of trust. We both became a little bit more of what we needed through those painful places of our relationship.

Holidays can be hard.

If you’re in a good place with those you love, be on guard, be prepared, have a plan to protect and defend.

If you’re in a hard place, don’t be afraid of the fire. Have courage to walk through it. Let the problems produce something genuine and authentic.

If you’re in the in-between place, have forgiveness and pray. Although you may not be able to speak, the Lord can and will and does.

Happy Holidays— much love…. ❤️

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