Today I Took A Walk

Today I took a walk.

I’ve taken this walk countless times in my mind, but today I physically took the steps down the road. It’s an emotional journey. A journey I’ve traveled for 29 years today.

Some years are more difficult than others. This year falls on the more difficult end.

The walk came to me as a thought, but I dismissed it, as my to-do list automatically started rolling like end-credits in a movie.

  • Work on the PowerPoint for presentation.
  • Scan documents on the desk.
  • Go through mail.
  • Reply to text messages.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Send email.
  • Finish writing chapter for book.

I had too many things to do for a walk. But the thought came to me again. Instead of a to-do list, I got a little real with myself.

I don’t want to go for that walk today. I don’t want to revisit it today. I just don’t think I can.

Still the thought lingered. So I put on my tennis shoes.

Taking Ruby seemed like a good idea. The weather is so beautiful and I never just take her for a walk. I could take this walk and spend some time with my dog. But no. I began to understand this thought to go for a walk was more than a thought. It was a prompting. And the Lord was calling me to go alone.

I got in my car and drove to the road I needed to walk.

The road I needed to walk today.

It’s not like I never pass this way. I drive this road several times a week on our way to soccer practice and baseball practice and games. But today, my mind was in a different place, not hurried by the schedule, not distracted with conversation. I was completely present, willing to face my memories, my pain, my disappointments, my grief, as I physically put my body where the Lord challenged to take me today.

The comfort of the sun shining, the gentleness of the soft breeze, the sweetness of the bobwhite’s chirp accompanied my steps. My pace was slow; my spirit was strong as my thoughts went back to April 27, 1988.

It’s been a lifetime, but the memories are so vivid.

God called me to write a book. Seems like a bigger deal than simply being called to go for a walk. But there’s a critical component to both. Obedience.

Because the Lord called me to write this story of overcoming life’s darkest moments, I’ve needed to learn details I never knew from the accident. The accident that happened on the very road I walked today.

Those details. They are specifics I’ve learned from interviews over the last few months. The scene was playing out in my mind walking step-by-step this morning.

Jon and I—nine and seven years old, riding on a motorcycle, coming home from visiting friends, behind a truck, on a dirt road, unable to see from the cloud of dust. Swerving to the left and the right, and the left, and the right and the last swerve to the left lane we hit an oncoming truck. Gas leaking. A fire igniting. Tragedy transforming our innocent world.

I walked that road today. That road where my brother died. That road where I laid burning on fire. I walked that road today.

Yes, I physically walked that road today, but I have walked that road every single day of my life since April 27, 1988. I have walked that road every single day of my life for the last 29 years. I’ve looked at this scarred body every single day and remembered that day, every, single, day. No escaping the memories. The memories go with me wherever I go. The tragedy is etched throughout every piece of my existence.

Which is why I’ve reflected on a question we’ve all considered. If we could go back and change just one thing in life, what would it be?

If I could just have one, just one do-over, I would go back to April 27, 1988 and make one decision differently. I would choose against going to a friend’s. I would push and persist, as my personality naturally did and does, for us to instead play at home. One decision. One decision would mean I would have my brother alive to meet my husband and my children. He wouldn’t just be a photograph on my dresser whose name I share in stories. One decision. One decision would mean I would not have experienced a life-threatening injury, enduring indescribable pain, countless surgeries and challenging recoveries.

I stood for some time today at the place known as the scene of the accident. My mind was clear. I felt such peace and stillness. There were no words in my heart or my mind to speak, no prayers, or requests, pleas or questions. I began to think about the brief time I was alone on that road 29 years before. The driver of the truck used a blanket to smother the fire on my burning body then ran to call 911. Jon was gone. I didn’t know it then, but standing there alone today in that place I thought I’ve been alone here before.

Memories can be a source of much hurt and sorrow. Quite naturally, we want to avoid what hurts. We aim to box it up, set it in an area of our heart for pre-planned, scheduled moments to revisit. Some give much effort to that approach. Had it not been for the burn injury’s physical reminder, maybe I would have done the same. But that wasn’t an option. And what I’ve learned because of it is: there is strength in remembering. There is hope in remembering.

Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in Him!”

On my walk back to my car, I looked at the fence posts and the telephone posts and thought how so much stays the same as so many things change. I looked at the field where the helicopter landed to take me to the hospital. I looked at the cattle, picturing the scenes of spring calves in the pasture as the events unfolded that day.

As I walked alone back to the car, I instantly had a vision of people walking behind me. The man who took the first step to save my life and put out the fire. His brother who ran out to help. The man who stopped and held my hand while help arrived. The officer who worked the accident, and carried the memories for decades following. I had a vision of them there with me, walking behind me.

Walking back to the car, I could feel my doctors, my nurses, my physical therapists. I could feel my friends and my mentors. I could feel my nursing school class, my educators and the amazing NICU team I get to work with today. I could feel the presence of countless people who have walked into my life because of the journey on that road. And there I began to cry. As I walked I could feel in this group of people the Lord brought to me through this tragedy and in that group I could feel Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin.

I can’t help but believe that our journey that day, led to this journey today. I can’t help but believe that the tragedy which changed the trajectory of my life, was setting the scene for God to introduce His greatest miracles to my life. My heart, my mind and my spirit are inclined to believe that the source of my greatest pain is also the source of my greatest joy. I don’t see them separated. I see them connected, one leading to the other. It’s what God does. He brings good things out of the worst situations.

It’s why I can’t see the word tragedy without thinking triumph. It may take a lifetime, but know God is working during that time. Sometimes it’s a big job and it takes a lot of work. But He’s a big God. Maybe we can’t see what He’s doing, but He is doing. He is working. He’s working all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It’s why I remember. There is strength in remembering, even if we feel weak. It’s okay to cry. In fact, I believe our tears are important to God, because the Word tells us He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8). There is hope in remembering. I have a glorious hope, not just hope, but a glorious hope of seeing Jon again. And I pray the days I live bring honor to the life he lived and to his memory I’ll carry forever.

It’s why today I took a walk.

 

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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

Healing Words in the Emptiness of Tragedy

I’m deeply grateful for the open doors to share our story and the hope and healing I pray readers receive through it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been given the honor of being a guest on a few different sites. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

Here is one of them—a piece I wrote for Susan Greenwood’s site, Not of Myself. I met Susan attending a speaker/writer conference last year. I hope you hop on over to her site to read the article and peak around to see all the wonderful contributions Susan is making through her online home.

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

“Don’t talk to Schultz like that,” my bossy three-year old self snapped at my six foot four inch three hundred pound father after he scolded our beagle dog for causing a near fall.  Granted, when tall people fall, they have a long way to go, which understandably, could have been bad.  But Dad’s response seemed completely unjust to me and I didn’t have any hesitation expressing it.

While that very early encounter of expressing myself so naturally may appear as a simple scenario in needing to correct a child, it was actually much more.  The minor incident was an indication of how well I connected with my feelings and how effective I was in being able to communicate them.  This was a critical component in the days that lie ahead.

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

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Guest Post: Life Is Short

Guest Post: Life Is Short

*a special post from a special guest*

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both for me and for her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, live it well.

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

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

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

A Little Thought from Heather:
Jenn & I were connected back in July as prayer partners for a writers/speakers conference we were attending.  God guides and directs every detail.  She has sharpened me through my writing and speaking endeavors, and her friendship has become a beautiful blessing to my life.  I pray you are encouraged and motivated in your New Year by her sharing her journey here.  All the best to you in your 2017, Heather ❤️
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The Burns That Revealed My Beauty

A highlight for 2016 was writing a guest post called “The Burns That Revealed My Beauty” for Lightmakers, a website featuring stories to connect, heal and inspire.  

Before the year was over, I wanted to share the piece with you.

Thank you for being a part of our online family.  

All the best to you & yours in 2017- 

As a child I used to stand in front of the full-length antique mirror in my room and study myself.  After much evaluation I would ask, “Mom, am I pretty?” Deep down I wanted her to answer with a simple, “yes,” but instead I always got, “Heather, beauty comes from the inside.”

I gathered my earliest opinions of beauty as many young girls do; from Miss America pageants, beautiful women showcasing game show prizes, and grocery store checkout line exposure to the covers of numerous magazines featuring flawless bodies.

Beauty was all surface, merely skin deep. This philosophy is typical of a child who only has the capacity to think concretely, to only know what can be seen, felt or touched. But beauty, I learned, is much more obscure. Beauty must be discovered.

……….Read The Rest of The Story at Lightmakers.org

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All You Care to Eat

When it comes to vacationing, we’re all geared a little differently. Some are drawn to the mountains and snow, some to the beaches and sand, some to museums, some to amusement parks, some cruising on the ocean blue, and some enjoy hitting the open road wherever it may lead them. And then there are those who enjoy it all.

Over the last seventeen years, Brandon and I have had a bit of variety in our get-out-of-town trips. We’ve hit a few big cities visiting museums and seeing shows, we’ve enjoyed a cruise (no surprise Mickey was on the ship—we just love that mouse), we’ve soaked up sun on a few beaches, and we’ve continued to feed our Disney addiction, cultivating one in our children, with return trips for fun in the parks.

Whatever it is we have planned for vacation, one feature is always at the top of our list— where we’ll eat!

I realize not everyone may look forward to food as much as we do, but stick with me. Even if you’re not a passionate eater, there’s still something here for you too.

On our recent vacation to Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu, we enjoyed a character dining experience called Menehune Mischief at their Makahiki restaurant. Oh my! The food!

Our family tried to remember all the different items on the buffet. There was mac and cheese, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, ham, chicken tenders, a salad bar, pork lion, pizza, ahi tuna, teriyaki chicken, stuffed tortellini, potatoes, sushi rolls, salmon, shrimp, crab legs, prime rib, apple cobbler, mud pie, cheesecake and more! Now is the time I should admit that this was the list of items consumed by our family alone!

I’m not proud to say, but I walked out of there so stuffed I felt sick. The buffet said, “all-you-care-to-eat.” Growing up, I always thought a buffet was all-you-can-eat. But it didn’t matter, because there was what seemed like an endless feast before me, and I enjoyed every last bite. Especially the crab legs!

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything. I want to thank you for hanging in here with me to find out.

While there were many, many people who partook of that meal, I ate as if it were prepared just for me. I wanted to try a little bit of everything. (And seconds of some—like the crab legs.)

And I came hungry. In anticipation of that meal, I had been chintzy with my intake the entire day. I wanted room to receive of all the goodness that was going to be set before me.

Could you imagine going to someone’s home for dinner, walking in and seeing a buffet of dishes they prepared for your visit? Now, could you imagine seeing those beautiful dishes, the heart and excitement of the one who prepared it for you, and then choosing to only eat a protein bar?

I eat protein bars. And I eat them for nourishment, not for delight. A buffet is pure delight. It goes beyond meeting the basic nutritional need, and adds enjoyment to it.

Are you with me?

It’s exactly the same thing God does for us.

He has prepared a feast for us!!! The buffet has every good thing you can imagine—peace in the midst of problems, trust facing the unknown, joy in the presence of sadness, comfort, security, courage, strength when we feel weak, grace for our mistakes, hope when times are hard, happiness after hurt, and much, much more!

Can you imagine walking in, seeing a buffet with those items and deciding not to get a plate?

We do it a lot. We walk around hungry, burdened with the trials of this world, all the while the Lord is inviting us, “Come sit down with Me, take in My plan. Take in what I have prepared for you. Get close to Me and you will smell the aroma of what I have in store for you.”

When it comes to an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, you may want to be a little more conservative than I was, but when it comes to receiving from your Heavenly Father’s buffet, get a plate, a big one, because He has so much goodness prepared for you!

Psalm 23:4-6 NLT
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me.
Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings. 
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God this Sunday November 6th at 6pm as we dig in to the words we need to receive, repeat and those we need to rebuke in order to walk in the label the Lord has given us. All are welcome to attend. And if you know a teenage girl, bring her along too!

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Struggling To See

*please note: this post was written to speak life, love and healing.  The many posts I’ve read have grieved my heart to see people I care about offended and hurt.  Please, please let us understand how detrimental our comments can be in the lives of others and weigh them before the Lord.  God does not want His people in this pain.

Both my parents started experiencing a decline in vision around their mid-thirties. Understandably, I anticipated the likelihood of inheriting a genetic flaw to my sight around the same age. Accepting what I felt was an inevitable need, I made an appointment for an assessment.

My mental approach was pitiful. And vain. Very, very vain. Contacts are just not an option. I can take blood, puss, and even respiratory secretions over coming in contact with an eyeball any day. The thought of having to touch my own eyeball to insert a visual aid absolutely nauseated me. Then the vanity side is that, I do not look good in glasses. It seems to draw attention to my most prominent facial feature— my nose. Definitely don’t need to add definition to that part of my face! So no, I wasn’t excited for the new world of possibilities—different colored eyes with contacts or perhaps a studious look with glasses. No. Not excited at all.

You can imagine my delight when the optometrist finished his exam and said, “Heather, if all my patients were like you, I’d be out of a job! You have textbook vision.” Textbook vision!!! That’s what he said! No contacts. No glasses. Just take the world into view with my very own God-given ability to see!

But honestly, there’s so much more I feel I can’t see than what I can.

There is a world I’m struggling to see. It’s a world Louis Armstrong sang about in his 1967 song “What a Wonderful World.” It was one of Dad’s favorites, so I grew up familiar with the lyrics.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

Louis Armstrong sang of a world he wanted to see. The culture at the time was anything but beautiful. It’s a world we’re still longing to see today. But the recent event in my home state and the social media responses make it difficult to see.

I can’t see how in today’s world we can watch a video of someone die and not be completely broken by the sight. How do these images come across our feed and not cause us to lay awake at night? Our ability to see with our eyes is blinding our hearts, numbing our ability to feel.

I can’t see why opinion trumps compassion. We have limited knowledge, limited insight but we draw our conclusions with no regard for whomever it may hurt.

I can’t see why we allow the spiritual attack of division.

I can’t see where humanity is often absent in the human race. Shouldn’t they be synonymous?

Merriam-Webster defines humanity as “the quality or state of being human; the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals; all people.”

Vocabulary.com provides this definition: “Humanity is the human race, which includes everyone on Earth. It’s also a word for the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion, be creative, and not be a robot or alien.” (bolding added).

I wish there were some contacts or glasses to provide a lens by which to see the world as Mr. Armstrong sang. If there were, would we use it?

I’m convinced the way to a beautiful world is found in one simple line, “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do. They’re really saying I love you.”

It comes down to you and me. It comes down to our everyday interactions, visiting with each other at the grocery store, praying with each other at church, and cheering with one another at the games.

The mainstream media nor social-media will preserve humanity in the hearts of humans. That comes down to you and me individually; speaking life, shaking a hand, giving a hug and showing love.

“She saw the world, not always as it was, but as it could be…” -Cinderella

Isaiah 26:3 NLT
You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in You,
all whose thoughts are fixed on You!

#peaceday #peaceeveryday #internationaldayofpeace

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