Dare to Dream

I read about a man who had a failed business venture and didn’t even have enough money to buy a railroad ticket to leave the scene of his failure. As the story goes he went door to door photographing babies, then sold his camera and bought a one-way ticket to California.

Here’s my favorite part:

He left Kansas City in July, wearing a checkered coat and un-matching pants. He had $40 cash, and his imitation-leather suitcase contained only a shirt, two undershorts, two pairs of socks and some drawing material. But when he paid his fare for the trip to California, he bought a first-class ticket.1

A first-class ticket?!?!

It seems foolish for a guy who had just begged and borrowed for his failed business to spend money on a first-class ticket. Seems frivolous. A misprioritization of funds. But this man had a first-class dream only fitting for a first-class ticket.

The man was Walt Disney.

Walt had first–class vision and considering he left Missouri on the heels of defeat, I’d say he had first-class ambition. In reading his biography by Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original, I learned many things about Walt. Much was unknown to me, but for the parts I knew, I gained a deeper understanding. For instance, Walt didn’t face just this one obstacle of failure. He faced several. But one of the reasons I find him to be so inspiring is his relentless determination to hold on to his dream.

Stories like Walt’s inspire me to pursue God’s callings even though I have no guarantee of success and to keep trucking even if I’m met with some obstacles of failure.

First-class vision. First-class ambition.

Maybe you don’t have a Walt Disney sized dream. I mean, seriously, who would’ve ever imagined? But the potential for what God wants to produce from your dream will never be known unless you keep trying. Maybe it won’t look like what you thought it would. Maybe it will be more than you could have ever thought or imagined.

Ephesians 3:19-21 TLB Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.

There are some visions in my heart that just seem downright crazy. One I shared with my pharmacology instructor in nursing school. As I was speaking it out I thought, “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. She probably thinks I’m nuts.” But something must have resounded in her, because she, to this day, is one of my biggest encouragers and supporters to keep moving toward that vision.

Here are some questions to consider…

Would you pursue your goal even if others doubted your ability?

If you failed at something you desired would you try again?

Do you look for new possibilities when you get rerouted from the original goal?

These were my thoughts last year when approaching my test to get my national certification in neonatal nursing. The reality of failure was thick. I mean I’d walk out with a paper that either said, PASS or FAIL.

I had studied and studied still yet, felt like I hadn’t studied enough. I married my book for a good two weeks. I went through all online practice questions, looking at not only the right answer, but also all three of the wrong answers per question, making notes as to the rationale for each one.

It was pouring down rain the day I went to take the test and on my way there I got a call that my daughter’s school was on lockdown for a reported gun on campus! Seriously! Talk about being rattled when you’re already rattled! At the reassurance of my husband, I proceeded on to the testing center thankful for him to be making decisions regarding the safety of our child.

The few items I took into the testing center were zipped in a bag and locked away. I lifted my pants for an evaluation that I wasn’t stowing any cheat sheets in my socks. Cameras were recording every moment, and I was suppose to relax, focus and think. Did I mention I have testing anxiety? I kept thinking, “Why do I do this to myself?!” Then it came time for the photo. I knew this photo would either have a pass or fail beside it when I left, but I chose to smile anyway.

This was my goal. This was my personal desire. I knew I needed to smile because no matter the outcome I was going to give my best, and I was going to keep trying. No one or nothing could influence my motivation more than my own desire.

I guess God has hard wired that approach in me by this point. I mean, considering this blog, I consistently overcome questions of my own doubt and it’s value to others when I write. Then there’s the book, the memoir I’m writing. How many times I’ve asked myself, “What if no one reads it?” To add to it are the speaking commitments. It’s awesome being asked to speak at an event, but what’s the point if no one shows up to hear it, or if it’s not relevant to them in their life?

I suppose what makes a dream a dream, is the possibility of failure or of it never becoming a reality. Without the latter, it’s not really a dream at all.

But who wants to fail? Who wants to invest their heart, thoughts and efforts into something that may never come to fruition?

No one, I would think. But wouldn’t we miss something of great value if we didn’t go for it? And even if it doesn’t pan out, we know that we’re becoming something in the process, more of who God wants us to be.

Well, we’ll never know if we quit, or never even try.

It’s why we do what we do unto the Lord and not unto people (Colossians 3:23), because God will get us where He wants us to be. He will make us into more of who He wants us to be through the process, but we have to stay the course, focused on Him.

Walt Disney buying that first-class ticket shows me that failure is more of a mindset than a reality. As Walt said, “Around here however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Nothing holds a candle to God’s creative work in our lives. But we play a part. We have to dare to dream.

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, sharing with your friends and family, or making a purchase below? We can’t grow with out you.

**If you are considering testing for your RNC, I invite you to purchase my study notes.  Your purchase will help us generate funds needed for website redevelopment and editing our book for publishing! The notes are compromised from the book Core Curriculum for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by M. Terese Verklan and Marlene Walden. My study notes include all lab values as listed in the book, and the online practice questions, also from the workbook Certification and Core Review for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by Robin L. Watson. Also included is the information I needed to apply for the test.  After your purchase is complete, the study notes will be emailed to your address provided at checkout.**

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1Walt Disney: An American Original (p.66)

 

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

The month of June, what does it mean to you? Is it the remembrance of the D-Day Invasion in Normandy on June 6, Flag Day on June 14 or even the day we honor our fathers on the third Sunday in June?

For me, June 20-22 is etched in my memory forever. June 20, 1997 was the last time I heard my daughter Lindsay tell me “I love you” and the last time I got a hug from her. It was the last time I saw her blue-green eyes and her beautiful smile. Little did I know, 3 hours after telling her bye, she would be involved in a horrific car accident that would take her life.

Lindsay was my first daughter, the second of my three children. She was born May 22, 1981. She was a little sister to Ryan and a big sister to Rachel. She was a beautiful young lady. She was spunky and full of life. She lived life to its fullest. She wasn’t perfect and sometimes found trouble if it didn’t find her first. 

Just 4 years earlier, my kid’s father tragically died in a work related accident while working out of state. Lindsay struggled with the death of her dad. She stated on many occasions that she just wanted to be with her dad. Three weeks before her death, she told my friend that she wasn’t going to live to see the age of 25. The night before the accident, I remember her sitting on the couch crying. I asked her what was wrong and she just shook her head and said she didn’t know. Before she went to bed that night, she told my nephew and her brother that she knew she wasn’t going to live much longer. She knew before we did that her life on this earth was going to end.

Lindsay and my nephew were headed to Dallas to spend the weekend with my cousin. Their trip ended just south of Caddo, Oklahoma. For unknown reasons, the car ended up crossing the center median and they were hit by a semi going 70 mph. The impact of the semi hitting the car caused the car to split in half. The seat’s belt broke and Lindsay was found just 3 feet behind the car. My nephew was thrown 65 feet. He had asphalt burns to his face, hand and leg. He had a broken hand and a large horseshoe cut on the back of his head. Thankfully, he lived, but lives with survivor’s guilt.

There were two off-duty EMT’s who drove upon the accident and immediately started CPR on Lindsay. Her heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital in Durant, Oklahoma. We did not find out about the accident until 3:30 pm. The doctor informed my husband that Lindsay had no brain activity and they wanted to transfer to a hospital in Sherman, Texas because they had a trauma unit. Before they transferred her to Sherman, they performed surgery to repair a tear in her liver. That trip to Sherman was the longest trip of my life. I knew things weren’t good, but I prayed and prayed. I asked God to watch over Lindsay and to help me make decisions that I knew I was going to have to make.

It was 9:00 pm when we finally arrived. The moment I walked in the room to see Lindsay, I saw that she was at peace. She was on life support and they had shaved part of her hair in order to insert a probe to measure the pressure on her brain. As the ICU nurse began to explain all the numbers on the monitor, it showed the pressure on her brain was 110 and was rising. I asked what was normal and with a hesitation in her voice and tears in her eyes, she said 8-10. Once again, I knew things were not good. I continued to pray and as the night wore on, the pressure continued to rise to 150. To look at Lindsay, you would think she was just sleeping. Visibly, you could see a bruise on her cheek, a puncture wound on her hand and one of her toes had been severed, but it had been repaired.   We talked to her and prayed for her through the night.

The next day they ran a series of test to see if she could breathe on her own. She could not. They checked to see if there was any blood flow to her brain. There was not.

We knew then that the Lindsay we knew and loved so much was already with our Lord and Savior. At that time, we talked with her doctor and made the decision to donate her organs. Southwest Transplant Alliance in Dallas was contacted. Two nurses made the trip to Sherman to discuss with us the process of organ donation. We chose to donate her heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver.

I had never felt so much peace, feeling of the arms of Jesus wrapped around me, as I did when I found out that there was nothing more they could do.  I remember talking to our pastor on the phone and telling him I had peace, because I knew where she was.

On Sunday morning, June 22, everyone went in to tell Lindsay how much she was loved and we would see her when we get to Heaven. I was left in the room by myself with Lindsay. I talked to her, prayed for her and then began to sing to her a Point of Grace song, “God Loves People More Than Anything”, except I sang “God Loves Lindsay More Than Anything”. I sang it over and over again just so she would know how much God really loved her and He was taking her away from all the heartache she was enduring in her earthly life. My husband told me I wasn’t really saying goodbye, but “I’ll see you later”, because we will see her again in Heaven. 

When I walked out of her room, the nurses were crying with me. I went back to the waiting room. One of the nurses came out to tell us that they pronounced her brain death at 9:45am and that is when they began harvesting her organs. We started our journey back to Coweta without our Lindsay.

We knew God had a plan from the very beginning. We believe God placed the off duty EMT’s in the exact spot on Highway 69 at the time Lindsay needed them to keep her alive. We know a 30 year-old woman received both of Lindsay’s lungs. Her transplant was needed because of a heart defect. Lindsay’s liver went to a 49 year-old man who had been disabled for eight years because of an unknown reason as to why he was in liver failure. Lindsay’s pancreas and one kidney went to a 46 year-old woman with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Lindsay’s other kidney went to a 32 year-old woman who had kidney failure due to hardening of the tiny vessels in her kidneys.

The most precious gift given was Lindsay’s heart. Her heart went to Wayne Battles. At the time of the heart transplant, Wayne was 55 and he had a birthday a month after his transplant. Wayne will be 76 in July!

Wayne’s story began 4 years prior to his transplant. That is when the doctors told him that he would need a new heart. He and his wife starting praying for their donor and their family if God’s plan included a new heart. 4 years prior for our family was when we were given the heartbreaking news that the father of my children had died. Wayne went into the hospital April 29, 1997. Through all of our visits, we found out that Wayne had gotten so bad they took him off the transplant list. But, on May 21, his numbers started improving and he was put back on the transplant list on May 22, Lindsay’s birthday.

In the beginning, all of the correspondence was anonymous and went through Southwest Transplant Alliance. It took me quite a bit of time to write back to them after receiving the very first letter, but finally completed a letter and a small photo album of Lindsay to send to them. When we received another letter after they celebrated his 1 year anniversary with his new heart, I could tell they never received my letter. After seeing a partial phone number and a church name, we could tell they lived in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My sister started her own investigation and finally found Sharon. After a brief conversation with her, she called me and told me she found Lindsay’s heart recipient and to be expecting a call. Many tears were shed when we talked. We discovered that my letter and photo album were sent to the transplant hospital. Sharon made a trip to the hospital to retrieve them and then she gave Wayne the letter and album that evening.

They made a trip to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma on September 19, 1998 so we could meet for the first time. I remember laying my hand upon his chest to feel Lindsay’s heartbeat. On August 13, 2014 was a monumental day for us. They surprised us by opening up a box which held a stethoscope. I was able to hear Lindsay’s heartbeat for the first time. 

Many tears were shed that evening. I have been able to listen each time we have met since then. We continue to see each other at least once a year. We have received letters and cards on every holiday from Wayne and Sharon for 20 years. The bond we have developed is unbreakable. Although, we have never heard from any of other the other recipients, I pray each one is doing well after their transplants.

In all of this, I am so thankful that God has given me the strength and courage to live beyond the accident. I know that because Lindsay believed in God and was saved by His grace, she has her place in Heaven. I am looking forward to the day when I am reunited with her in Heaven. I am thankful for the support I have received over the last 20 years from my husband, my son and daughter and their families, my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and the rest of my extended family.

Don’t take your organs to Heaven…Heaven knows we need them here.

-Sherri Valder

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

A Little Thought from Heather:

Back in November we had the honor of having Courtney Allen share the beautiful story of her brave little boy’s journey to a heart transplant, in Guest Post: A Thankful Heart. When I asked Courtney to write our guest post about Caysen, I had great hope of Sherri sharing Lindsay’s story, the story of a donor family.

This story is close to my own heart. For one, as long as I can remember I’ve personally understood the importance of organ donation. I would not be alive today if it weren’t for tissue donation. Families made the decision to donate their loved one’s tissue, the largest organ of our body and because of cadaver skin, and the donation of countless blood donors, I had the chance to live.

But Lindsay’s story is more than a story to me. I knew Lindsay.

School had not been pleasant for me after our accident. I experienced challenges in finding acceptance and security in returning to school. All of my elementary school years were spent bobbling back-and-forth between surgeries, doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. I just never settled back with my peers.

I was so scared, but I finally took a leap and changed schools in the 8th grade.

There was this girl in my English class. She had naturally curly blond hair, like me. She was outgoing. She lit up a room. Everyone was drawn to her personality. Her smile was more than a facial expression. It beamed from her heart. And this girl WELCOMED ME from the get-go. And to top it off, we shared the same middle name. Lindsay Renee and Heather Renee.

The song her mama sat at her bed and sang to her, “God Loves People More than Anything,” her family blessed me with the honor of singing at her memorial service. Even today, twenty years after her passing, I carry such gratitude for being able to do that little something for her, because what she did for me played a part of shifting my intimidated, insecure teenage world looking for acceptance to one filled with enthusiasm and joy each time I walked into a class we shared.

Lindsay had a gift of making other people feel valued. And I find it to be completely reflective of her life that she gave such insurmountable value even in her death.

Lindsay– a blessing to my 8th grade self. Life gifts treasured forever.

When you think of organ donation, when you consider the commitment to give, think of precious Caysen who has a life today because of a donor, and think of Lindsay who continues to touch others, from those of us who knew and loved her, to those who never even met her. Twenty years later, her life is touching lives.  

*I pray this post spoke to you. 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.*

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!

 

Guest Post: A Thankful Heart

Guest Post: A Thankful Heart

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*a special post from a special guest*
Hi there! My name is Courtney. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, and mother of two. Most people know my most defining role of the past three years is as a “heart mom,” a mom fighting the world of congenital heart defects while encouraging her brave three year old in his fight against Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Caysen was born in 2013 after a pregnancy that went smoothly until about 33 weeks. I began having health problems uncharacteristic to my norm, and after MRIs, spinal taps, extensive blood work and multiple specialists; it was determined I had optic neuritis. My body was attacking my optic nerves and taking my vision. After receiving my diagnosis, my mom turned to me and said “there’s something special about this baby”. It was literally attack after attack, and ironically we had NO idea of his heart defect until after birth. What foreshadowing that sentence had!

Caysen was born “healthy” and we took him home thinking our troubles were behind us. After 15 hours at home he began panting, and it was worrisome. We rushed him back to the hospital where I will never forget the NICU team coming out to us, shaking their heads and barely able to make eye contact with us as his situation was so grim. He was crashing and during the crash he had brain bleeds, liver damage, his lungs were sick, and his kidneys took a hit. This is where we learned of his diagnosis and that it was incompatible with life.14528176_10103802597471152_38629298_n

You see, HLHS essentially means half a heart. The three stages of surgery for it are called “palliative care”. If he stabilized, he could potentially sit for the surgeries and have a shot at living a good twenty years or so with half a heart and then potentially need a transplant. There of course are many risks, but the other option was to let him pass.

It is here where we met some of the most encouraging nurses (Heather included!), and where we met doctors with such strong faith and hope in God that they would grab our hands and pray with us over his little incubator all while machines clicked and whirred keeping him alive and allowing him to heal and hopefully sit for his first surgery.

We have walked a long and grueling path over the past few years. Initially we were told Caysen wouldn’t make it. God said otherwise. He had his first surgery, then we had a problem with his patched up stents in his heart at five months old. He crashed again. We were told the pump of his heart wasn’t good. They told us then we would need a transplant. Then our cardiologist made a last ditch effort in the cath lab doing an intervention procedure and relaxed the heart. Again, God said otherwise.14518237_10103802597436222_1384129447_n

After a grueling third open heart surgery and recovery, complications have now led to us being listed on the heart transplant list.  We continue to recognize God’s hand in everything and His perfect timing. God has the ultimate plans and holds our future.  He has shown it time and time again!

Throughout our entire journey we as a family have learned so much about our faith in God. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, you’re beaten down from the journey and utterly exhausted – you will find God will give you exactly what you need to carry on. You may not know how, but when you least expect it God provides the way. We’ve learned so much about God’s timing versus our timing, and how His timing doesn’t always make sense but when we look back you can see how that timing saved us from another complication or difficulty. God is never late.14569204_10103802597456182_879538776_n

We have learned when the pain is just too much to bear, check your perspective. The greatest lessons often come during life’s most challenging trials. What can you walk away with? Better perspective? Strength? A reminder to take things one day at a time? To be present in each moment, no matter where you are – even if living in a hospital away from your family – because we aren’t promised anything and it’s a blessing to still have your child? Find the good. Find the joy. Anne Lamott once said, “joy is the best makeup”. Putting a smile on your face can change the whole outcome of your day. On the bad days you might have to look exceptionally hard to find the joy, but choose joy.

Praising God through the storm is difficult, but such an intense form of worship. When the world is crumbling around you, still praising Him and acknowledging His goodness keeps your mind and heart on track. It allows you to lean into Him in the valleys. If you can do this, the view from the mountaintop will be that much sweeter.

I would be honored if you felt led to follow and pray for Caysen’s journey as we wait for a new heart. We can be found at Caysen’s Heart Updates on Facebook. But most importantly I want to encourage you all today. Everyone has pain and suffering and turmoil, it’s impossible to escape in this broken world. It’s up to you how you choose to respond to it. I, for one, couldn’t have made it this far without my hope in God and our future promises! Such a comfort to know He has this all figured out and a beautiful eternity is the end result!

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Update:
When I contacted Courtney back on September 22nd, I could’ve never anticipated what would transpire by the time this post was composed and published.   When she sent it back to me, I knew it was perfect, but not the right time. So like all our posts, I waited for the Lord to nudge me when to share it. Allow me to share what occurred in the meantime….

The call came on October 13th. Caysen received his new heart in the early morning hours of October 14th. He came home with his family on November 13th. After a lifetime in the hospital, going home was a process. Courtney said, “Caysen spent the ride home telling us he didn’t want to go home. I think he was confused as he just didn’t feel like he lived with us anymore. When we told him Daddy would mow – his attitude changed completely and he was more than excited.”

I asked Courtney if she knew how many days of Caysen’s life have been spent in the hospital. She answered, “Hard to say. This stay was our longest at 184 days. Before that it was 86. Our NICU stay was 72. We had another at least 60 days inpatient between that too, and that might be minimizing.”

This little baby and his family touched my heart over three years ago. The optimism and strength at work in their life is evidence of their relationship with the Lord, their unwavering faith and trust in Him. From the earliest days of their hospital stays, Caysen’s room was filled with praise and worship music. It can be difficult to find something to praise the Lord for when nothing seems right, when your baby is in critical condition facing more unknown than known. But we don’t praise and worship because of our circumstances, we praise and worship for WHO GOD IS. We don’t let our circumstance define God. We let God define the circumstance. And we’ve had the blessing of seeing that demonstrated in The Allen Family.

I pray Caysen’s story brings joy to your holiday. I pray you are encouraged to see God’s hand at work in the trials. I pray your heart overflows with gratitude. And I pray this precious boy inspires you to enlist as an organ, eye and tissue donor. May Caysen’s journey in getting his new heart bless your heart this Thanksgiving.

“After transplant our life quality has changed SO MUCH. He is happy and chatty and interacts with people…….So thankful for life outside of a hospital. For God bringing us a happy heart to allow us more time with Caysen.”- Courtney Allen

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November 13th 2016 ~ The Allen Family Home Together

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The Other Side of Failing

When my friend Sara and I were revamping the website from heathersblessedjourney.com to heathermeadows.com we also reworked the tag line.

Changing the name of the website was going to lose the emphasis placed on the “RN” in jouRNey, but it was still my hope to reflect my work as a nurse somewhere in the new tag line.

We met the goal with two words: “little doses.” It’s a subtle hint most may not even see.   But here’s the story behind it. As a NICU nurse, the amount of medication I administer to my tiny, tiny patients is quite small. Too much is harmful, but those itty-bitty doses achieve great things in their bodies.

That is what I wanted this place to be. A place where you can pop in for a few minutes and grab a little dose of something good. My heartbeat was to inject small amounts of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement from my life moments into yours.

This last week I received more than a “little dose” from a life moment with my daughter.

Let me give a short back-story.

There was a mother and daughter who had a beautiful relationship. But then, something changed. It started with an “H” and ended with “ormones”! It was NOT pretty! This change brought out the worst, most ugly, dark sides of both the mother and daughter. If it had been a marriage, I’m most certain divorce court would have been considered, but parent/child relationships face the good, the bad and the ugly and sometimes have to just hang on for dear life.

Yes. That’s our story. That’s Brooklyn and me. I’ll share more about the season in the book I’m writing, but for now, I want to share with you one of the scriptures I stood on in those dark moments.

Galatians 6:9 NLT So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I’m not proclaiming there won’t be any more bumps in the road, but I am sharing that when everything hit the fan, when doors were slamming, drinks were tossing, and voices yelling, I’d stand on this scripture as if on a mountain and quote it at the top of my lungs. We got tired. We were wore out. We got discouraged. We were disheartened, disappointed and dismayed at times, but—we would not give up.

“…..a harvest of blessing IF we don’t give up.”

The day the Lord so faithfully brought our baby girl into this world, He had every intention of her life being a blessing. Not just for her parents, but for herself and for Him. We weren’t giving up on that.

And what a blessing she was to me this last week. Watching Galatians 6:9 at work in her own personal life injected an incredibly special dose of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement into my heart.

Brooklyn’s half birthday fell on Sunday, September 4th. Labor Day on Monday pushed Brooklyn back in being able to test for her driver’s permit to Tuesday. She wanted to be the first in line when they opened. We got up on Tuesday at 5am, left the house at 6am and pulled in the parking lot at 6:33am to line up for the 7am opening. Brooklyn was seventh in line.

I stood, waiting excitedly for her to complete her test knowing that she’d get her paper signed and off to the tag agency we’d go for her permit. Well, she didn’t pass.

A bit taken aback, she declared that we aren’t the type of people who quit in the face of failure and that she wanted to try again the next day. Super proud parent moment.

So. There you have it. We got up Wednesday morning, a smidge bit earlier at 4:30am, left the house at 5:30am, and we arrived an hour before opening, putting us third in line. We checked in and the agent asked Brooklyn, “Did they tell you about the skip button?” Brooklyn said, “No.” The agent informed, “If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can hit ‘skip’. If it’s a question you need it will come back around, but it may not come back at all.” Awesome!

I took a seat over by the door on the bench. Brooklyn completed the test and walked around the corner. I whispered, “How’d it go?” She shook her head. I responded quietly and compassionately, “What?”

We’re doing a parent-taught driving course, so I knew she knew the information to pass the test. We got in the car and before I could ask a question the floodgates opened. Whoa! Emotion! Hold the phone!

In borderline hysteria she proceeded to express all the inadequacies attached to that test. I was sifting through my mental rolodex of encouraging words, when she revealed, “And when I checked back in with the lady, she asked me why I didn’t skip any of the questions but I just thought I could answer them without having to!!!”

“Wait. What?” I couldn’t believe she didn’t take the lady’s advice and skip the questions. Not one!   This shifted our conversation from the topic of intellect to the issue of pride. Was she too prideful to humble herself in admitting that she possibly didn’t have all the answers to every question? Hmm.

The girl made it back before school started and I anticipated the possibility that she may just want to push it off for a few days to review. Maybe she’d want to go ahead and miss school for an afternoon testing time. Some of us just can’t think when the sun is barely up.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t surprised when I picked her up from school and she decided to go back on Thursday, for the third day in a row, before the crack of dawn to try again. Nope. I wasn’t shocked. Galatians 6:9 was at work within her. She was gonna reap a blessing cause she wasn’t gonna give up!

So up we were again, in the dark of the morning, headed in for round three reviewing the blessing of the “skip” button! In the true ironies of life, I got pulled over for doing around or about 75 in a 65. Let me tell you about grace. The Lord must have sprinkled our car with the pixie dust of His favor because that officer gave me a warning on no account of my own. Although I’m a talker, I don’t say too much when flashing lights, a uniform and handcuffs accompany the individual. What a story for Brooklyn to tell her kids one day.

Brooklyn checked in, was humble, raw and transparent with the agent and confirmed what she needed to know to approach this test. “Ma’am, this is my third time here.” (Which honestly, the lady already knew. By this point we felt maybe we should add the two Department of Public Safety agents to our Christmas card list). Brooklyn expressed her understanding of the skip button wanting to make sure it would not penalize her for the number of times she hit it. Then Brooklyn went over to take her test. At this point I headed out to the car, where she and I had agreed to meet.

I sat in the car with a small view of Brooklyn standing at the voting-booth-style computer. I prayed for her. “Lord, You created her innermost being. You stitched her together. I pray You speak Your peace, calmness and confidence from the top of her head to the sole of her feet. Let her know You have equipped her for success. Give her assurance.” And on and on I prayed.

I watched as she walked back over to the lady, had an exchange that I couldn’t see and proceeded out to the car. I got out of the car and there she did it—a thumbs up! I may have gotten overly excited. Oh, who am I kidding?! I totally got overly excited and she and I hugged and jumped like giddy girls in the parking lot of the DPS!

Brooklyn said that when she went back to the agent to get her paper signed, the lady exclaimed, for all to hear, “You passed!!!” And she only skipped two questions, not missing any! The agent was so happy for Brooklyn!

“…..a harvest of blessing IF we don’t give up.”

I know Brooklyn contemplated canning the whole idea. I know because in her despair of failing the second time she expressed those very thoughts. But we all know that’s not even a logical option. She’d have to pass it at some point in her life.

The question for us to consider though is: How many blessings have we missed out on because we gave up?

I can’t recall how many times I’ve said, “Just forget it!” or “I’m done!” or “I quit!” Sometimes our emotions make us completely illogical. Exactly the reason we don’t make important decisions when we’re super emotional. In those times, this Voice inside me says, “Heather, don’t give up. I have good things in store for you. Believe. Persevere. Press in.”

The Lord whispers that truth to all of us. Our challenges may look a little different but we’ve all got them, and there is a blessing tucked inside each and every one we overcome!

Thank you for spending some time allowing me to share this life moment with you! Please take it for the little dose of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement it has tucked into it.

Bless you!

*side note- thankful my girl wanted me to share this story for whomever it could encourage.

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Held On for Sweet Success!!!!

 

The Good Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only God. Only God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

video from the Hillcrest Changing Lives Campaign

Exlpore Tulsa- interviews December 5th 2015

Part 1

Part 2

Share Your Story

I feel like I need to introduce myself.

Hi. I’m Heather Meadows, the absentee blog writer. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen days since our last post.

Now would be a good time to thank you for your continued support and welcome the new subscribers. During this downtime I did a little more than get in some fabulous vacation time with the family, I also got in some fabulous opportunities to share my story with such wonderful groups of people.

I continually say there’s power in our stories. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be shaking up my predictable life with the forecast of unpredictability common for every speaker. Who knows what the next few months will look like? It truly is putting one step in front of the other being available to the Lord as He opens doors.  It’s all about being where He wants us to be when He wants us to be there. Sometimes that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you try to put paper and pencil to it. But my God is much bigger than paper and pencil plans, so I’m going where He leads regardless if I see the whole picture or not.

So back to the power of our stories. The last thirteen years has provided a variety of experiences to speak into diverse groups. Maybe it’s because the opportunities were here and there, or maybe it’s because I’m in a different place with such vision and intention, but I’m receiving something I never anticipated out of these commitments—and it’s your stories.

I take in the faces of those in an audience. Typically they start out with a polite and welcoming look. At points they have such depths of compassion. Sometimes I observe surprise in their eyes as I share things maybe they didn’t assume, because you know we sum each other up whether we intend to or not, and sometimes we’re surprised by information we wouldn’t have thought based on our impression. Reminds me of the nursing student who shadowed me recently. She looked so young and hip, so vibrant and fresh. I was stunned when she answered my question, “So do you have children?” I totally didn’t expect her to say, “Eight.” And no, no blended family. No his, hers and ours. She and her husband felt it was God’s will for them to have a large family, so they did. And she, having double the amount of children I have, appeared far more together than what I give myself credit for; therefore, I assumed she may have not had any. Oh what surprise! The same look of surprise I commonly observe in those opportunities I’m given to publicly share my own story.

Then there’s the melting. When I expose what’s beneath my image, I watch others let their own melt away. As it does, those walls we so naturally walk around with protecting our disappointments, our hurt, our painful memories, our tragedies and losses seem to come down. Being vulnerable with my audiences provides the opportunity for them to be vulnerable with me. It’s communicating, “See how damaged I’ve been, on the inside as well as the outside. See how God can take something so broken and put it back better than it could have been before. You’re safe to think what you think and feel how you feel. And you’re safe to believe it can be more.” What moves me to tears is the thought that those who desire to speak with me at the end of an event do so because something I shared connected within them and they want to share a piece of their self with me, those pieces we typically keep so poised and polished. What a privilege to see people so personally.

Above all the expressions I see, one element fuels me to continue on bearing all for God’s glory. The testimonies. Testimonies inspire people to believe and trust God for His mighty works in their life. How blessed I feel to hear so many. It’s like I carry along a treasure chest collecting encouragement from those who take a moment to share what God has done in their life with me. Your testimonies fan the flame inside me knowing how important it is to press on down this path wherever He may lead.

What He has called me to as a nurse, as a writer, as a speaker makes me so aware of His presence, everywhere. Whether I’m wearing scrubs for the day, standing with a mic in my hand, or sitting at this computer writing, receiving your stories in return touches me and makes me so deeply grateful the Lord called me to simply share of myself.

O Lord, you are my God;

    I will exalt you; I will praise your name,

for you have done wonderful things,

    plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Share your story with us– comment below to tell others of such wonderful things.  And remember, we’re always grateful for those private messages too.

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Please be in prayer with us for:

November 6th, 7th & 8th Hearts in Full Bloom Retreat in Tulakogee

November 13th & 14th Exciting Southeast Baptist Women’s Retreat in Pryor

We invite you to watch the following video and share with your friends. Copy and paste the URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-3u3RONI8 or search “Heather Meadows Story” on YouTube