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.*

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

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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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!!!!

 

When We Just Don’t Know

Back in the days of sending group emails, before we had social media sharing, I received one along the lines of The Fifty Best Things About Having a Baby. If my memory serves me right, I believe I was expecting Jaron about the time I read it. Within the top three was getting to name a person. Are you kidding me?! Some people consider that to be one of the most wonderful things about having a baby? I thought it was one of the most difficult things about having a baby.

Brandon and I read the entire 100,001 Baby Names book, both girls’ and boys’ names just in case one gave us inspiration. And I still was asking the Lord, “Can you please send me an angel like in biblical times to say, ‘Heather, you are with child and you shall name the child [fill in God-given name]’?” There was so much pressure picking a name for this little bitty being, and pressure in hoping that it was a name they would like to live with— for the rest of their entire life.

It was just the beginning steps of our challenges in parenting. Many times over I have thought how awesome it would be if I showed up to the post office, opened that little mail box and pulled out a step-by-step manual of what do to with and for the fabulous people God has given us called children. I realize God’s Word provides all the ins-and-outs we need, but wouldn’t it be great for a chapter covering cell phones and social media?

I remember a similar feeling when I was in nursing school. Where does He want me to work in this ministry of nursing? I did an externship (same as an internship) in three different areas during my journey through school. People would ask me, “So what area do you want to go into?” My response was always, “Wherever God leads me.” Talk about a vague answer. But it was true. I didn’t really know where God wanted me to be. I would say, “I’m believing the area I’m suppose to work as a nurse is packaged up like a gift with a red bow under the tree on Christmas morning, and when it’s time, I’m gonna unwrap it and be so excited to find out!”

You all know that the angel never appeared to name our children, the book hasn’t shown up in the mail, and the gift was not under the Christmas tree. However….my children all have names which suit them quite well, Brandon and I have never been hanging out to dry on what to do for and with our kids (even though at times we have certainly felt like it), and I found my work home in the area of neonatal nursing with four years of reassuring moments that it’s right where God wants me to be.

The point is, for those of us who cherish itineraries and game plans, the unpredictable things in life can feel downright scary and may I add, confusing. Even though there are times it seems like a roadmap would be an appealing amenity for life’s journey, it would deprive us of some essential components to walking with the Lord—faith and trust.

What is faith if everything can be explained?

What is trust if we know what is to come?

Walking in faith and trust in the times we don’t have explanations or any idea what will come produces the most peculiar result—joy!

There is an on-the-edge-of-my-seat excitement knowing the Lord is going to orchestrate things beyond what my mind could think or imagine. It’s living in anticipation of seeing His hand at work in the difficult moments, knowing that He will provide what we need when we need it.

You have either experienced, are experiencing or will experience the unpredictable, scary and confusing, but you’ve got what you need to get through it. Let your faith be strengthened, your trust be deepened and your joy be completely full as you keep your focus on the One holding the road map.

Psalm 16:11 ESV You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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How Could I Possibly Be Thankful?

My heart has been heavy approaching this day of Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of the mother facing the holidays for the first time after the tragic loss of her daughter; the family who lost their baby this week; the daughter whose holiday gatherings have been years without her mother and just recently will now be without her father; the wife waking up for her first holiday morning without her husband of over twenty-five years; the woman who lost the anticipation and excitement of her baby’s first Thanksgiving in a miscarriage; a family welcoming a precious new healthy baby but losing the young, beautiful first-time mother.

One can’t help but grieve with these who are hurting.

Grief has been known in my family. We’re familiar with the breath it takes out of you, the way it changes you, how it can overwhelm you and make your body feel physically ill. And we know that it never completely goes away. Every birthday, date of death, every milestone moment, and yes, this time of year, each holiday celebrated accompanied with traces of grief.

Someone is missing. How unnatural it feels to keep living life when life no longer feels like the life we knew. How bewildering it is seeing people go about their daily business, not even aware that someone so special, and so significant, is no longer on this earth. How empty it feels sitting down to a table with all our family, except our loved one lost.

After loss, I picture grief taking up a large part of our heart. Through healing, the element of grief becomes smaller and smaller, yet remains. Why?

The Lord uses the sorrow in my heart to believe for His healing, His joy, and His peace for others. These losses grieve me so deeply because I know how I’ve grieved for those I’ve lost. It’s so painful. It hurts. It’s dark. However, my losses fuel my intercession for others who mourn. Romans 12:15 ESV says it’s one of the marks of a true Christian, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

How has my family been able to be thankful in, through and after tragedy?

It’s difficult to praise God when so much is wrong. It’s a challenge to worship with a heavy hurting heart. However, praise, worship and thanksgiving are vital to healing.

Think about Paul and Silas sitting in prison. What did they do? They began to sing. Sorrow can feel like a prison. The release comes through the worship. Worship shakes the foundation to our grief, doors are swung open and bonds are unfastened. (See Acts 16:25-26).

Worshipping the Lord in our grief is a sacrifice. God honors the sacrifice of worship. Worshipping not because we feel like it, but worshipping because He is worthy. I remember being in church two days after my Dad’s funeral. Imagining his casket at the front of the sanctuary was hindering my worship. I was so grieved. But then we began to sing “Blessed Be Your Name.” Yes, there was pain in the offering, but that is authentic worship. Hebrews 13:15 ESV “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”

The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion –this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Thankfulness doesn’t negate our grief. Thankfulness brings joy in the grief. How? Thankfulness brings us closer to God and as we are closer to Him we receive of His glorious riches. His light, His love, His joy, His peace.  This isn’t denial. This isn’t fairytale, make-believe. This isn’t lying to ourselves. This is walking, not in the natural tendency of our nature, but in His supernatural power to transform our hearts in His presence. Habakkuk 3:17-18 ““Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest of Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

I pray for you, sweet readers to be the “change agents.” Our place is not in this world. Our place is destined to be with the Father. In the imperfections of this life we live, I pray for your heart of Thanksgiving to transcend every trial, displaying the light of His glory through your joy.

Much love.

Much sympathy.

Much hope.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Visit the link for the song: Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA

*If you are waking this day with pain and loss, I invite you to read this touching post my friend shared. https://abedformyheart.com/grateful-and-grieving/ *

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The In Between

I’ve heard it my entire life…. “The older you get the faster time passes.”

Who can testify to the truth of that statement? But I have just a small stipulation to add —the older your kids get the faster time passes.

I’m just not ready to lay claim to aging. I mean I’m only thirty-four. Regardless, life is on fast forward (or that button you hit on your DVR remote to skip forward ten seconds at a time). I mean, didn’t we just have Christmas? We’ve already made it more than halfway through 2015 and our children are headed back-to-school!

Let me confess, this school year was more difficult than ones before. At the conclusion of the 2014-2015 school year, we stood in the kitchen, all six of us shuffling around one another as we unloaded the dishwasher, filled it again, and dished up our evening dinner. In an effort to digest the fact that our baby wasn’t a baby anymore, I posed a question to my husband, “Babe, can you believe we have a kindergartener in our house now?! Not a PreKer, but a kindergartner?!” Our daughter interjected, “And a high schooler.” I corrected, “No. No. We don’t have a high schooler,” incredibly serious, as there was no way we ourselves were old enough to have a child in high school. She insisted, “Yes, Mom. I’m going to be a freshman. That’s high school.” [Insert mom’s heart sinking into my lower intestine here.]

You see, I longed for and desired my children since I was a child. I vividly remember lying in my intensive care unit bed thinking about my future. Before our accident I frequented my Grandma’s dining room and draped her lace curtains over my face pretending to get married. An eighty-seven percent burn injury makes marriage seem like even more of a fantasy to a small child. So when this story started trending toward the fairytale I had abandoned so many years before, my desire for the children I thought I’d never have escalated.

I was more than ready to become a mom when my little Brooklyn Nicole arrived on the scene three weeks before my twentieth birthday. I felt like I had waited for her my entire life, and the first true breath that had ever fully filled my lungs was the one I took in of her and her precious life. I breathed even deeper with the arrival of my baby boys, Jaron Michael, Caden Robert and Gavin Lee.

Being their mom is and has been the most meaningful moments of my life.

And that’s where we want to put things in slow motion, but rather than having the amenity of slowing things down, it only passes all the more quickly when they arrive. Most of the time, we’re juggling the day’s duties, and before we know it we’re into the next. Rarely do we experience a full night’s rest after the birth of our children, and I’m not just referring to the season that they’re little. No, they grow as we tackle everything with them in the daylight hours. Then in the night, in the quiet stillness while they sleep, we continue on. But we acclimate, don’t we? We adjust to late nights and early mornings until it becomes normal. It is there I ask myself, “Man. If it went this fast, how fast would it have gone if I would have slept?” [We’re making inserts into this post—so insert a winky face here].

Well, I assume it would have passed all the more quickly. So here we are, in a brand new season. For the first time in fourteen and a half years, all of my children are in school all day. That’s enough to bring a tear, isn’t it? I hope so, because I’m telling you, I didn’t think I’d really cry on the outside, maybe feel it a little in my heart, but no, I totally did. I barely got out the door. I mall-walked it to my car after dropping off the last child. I’m not talking a little teary-eyed either. No, I’m talking lip-quivering kind of crying. Who would have thought?! Not me. There are times I even surprise myself.

The last fourteen and a half years of having at least one child home with me for at least some part, if not all of the day has been my normal. Now, the season has changed and I’m settling into a new normal. Kissing all four of their faces as they exit the car in the morning, picking them up in the chaos of car rider line in the afternoon; and in the in-between, being brave, pursuing what God has called me to do with those hours He’s purposed for this time now.

There is so much in store; so much ahead that I can hardly stand to allow myself to shed a tear for what has been. But those were amazing chapters. My tears were more of a “thank you, God for letting me experience that,” than an “I’m so sad it’s over.”

We have many great things to come in our family. It will nevertheless, continue to change. It’s constantly going to be looking a little different. Most likely, I’ll cry again. I’m emotional like that. I’ll cry for what has been, for what will be and for the fact that God walks with me in the in-betweens.

Psalm 90:14 NLT  

Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.

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First Day of School~~~ Brooklyn- 9th ~ Jaron- 6th ~ Caden- 3rd ~ Gavin- Kindgergarten