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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OUCH

We’re all familiar with the numeric pain assessment scale. How many times have you been asked the question, “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” My Aunt Donna has been asked the question several times over the last week in recovering from her second knee replacement for the year.  My favorite illustration of this process is when Baymax assesses Hiro in this clip from Disney’s Big Hero 6.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEeBXUUOBiI

The answer is not as easy to obtain when dealing with children. In those instances, the FLACC scale may be used to determine the level of pain. There is also the FACES pain scale used to help children identify their pain.  I remember as a child it was a challenge being asked many times over not only to rate my pain but also to describe my pain. It’s a difficult thing for children to be able to articulate the source of their pain and the intensity of it.

We can understand that though, can’t we?  Is it much different with all people? Not really. We’re proficient in expressing our physical pain, but those emotional wounds are another story. Wouldn’t it be nice to point to a face to indicate our emotional anguish or just slap a Band-Aid on those hurts until they heal?

Makes me think of Caden around four and five years old. Even the slightest of injuries warranted a Band Aid. And when I say “slightest of injuries,” I’m leaning heavily on the slightest end, referring to the most minor abrasion. Yes, that’s the delicate way of saying he wanted a Band Aid even for scratches. You know nurses, we assess the need, which only qualifies if there is an inclusion of blood, and many times over I assessed that Caden didn’t need a Band Aid. However, it didn’t take long to realize that he wasn’t like his big sister and big brother; he couldn’t be reasoned with about his injury. Forget the need, if Caden wanted a Band Aid, we weren’t moving on until Caden had a Band Aid. Soon I reveled in the simplicity of it. “Just slap a Band Aid on there and it’ll all be fine.” Oh if that were only the case in life.

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Gavin made this at church a few months ago.

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Seemed an appropriate message for the blog topic.

In the NICU we utilize NPASS to assess pain in neonates. Babies can’t tell us how they are feeling, so we gather information in regards to their crying and irritability, their behavior, their facial expression, the tone of their extremities and their vital signs to assess their level of pain. These indicators help us meet their need. Sound familiar?

How often do we see people hurting who won’t verbalize they are hurting? Let’s go even closer to home. How many times are you hurting and you never tell anyone your level of pain? Or here’s one more that might need a Band Aid after I put it out there. How many times has someone let you know of their pain and you only made the hurt deeper?

The last two weekends I have had the opportunity to take part in some very special retreats to speak into the lives of some very special women. I pray much hope, healing and love was received from our time together.

Of those retreats, one was based on the book Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. I was one of six speakers who poured our lives out to those in attendance. The point of it all is that we are all wounded. Recognizing those wounds make us cognizant to the enemy’s methods of attack. The defeated foe wants to use our pain to render us ineffective for the Lord.

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This retreat was a time women were speaking to women to heal wounds. Unfortunately, far too often women speaking to women can intensify the wound.

How?

Well, with the same things that bring healing can also bring hurt.

Wisdom and Words.

In James 3:13-18 we learn there are TWO kinds of wisdom.

  1. earthly, unspiritual demonic
  2. from above

Proverbs 18:20 we learn there are TWO kinds of words.

  1. Death
  2. Life

When someone trusts us enough to invite us into their wound, when they trust us enough to indicate their level of pain, let us be careful to use wisdom from above that, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere;” and let us be careful with our words that they may speak life.

James 3:13-18 ESV  —  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Proverbs 18:21 ESV  — Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Toby Mac says it well in Speak Life, “We can turn a heart with the words we say. Mountains crumble with every syllable. Hope can live or die”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBv9r92VQ0

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Inspiring Joy

Have you ever heard someone laughing and, without even knowing what was being laughed about, you started laughing too? I have. The sound of laughter is downright funny. It’s a pleasant sound, an amusing emotion and is instantly contagious.

There is one whose sound of laughter tickles me more than any I’ve ever heard— it’s my mom’s laughter. My mom doesn’t let an opportunity for laughing pass her by. She will belt out a hearty laugh even if it’s not really that funny. Hearing her prompts an instinctive reaction in myself. I’m going to laugh whether I intend to or not. I’ll find myself questioning, “Why am I laughing? It wasn’t funny.”

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My Mom in April 1953 ~ 16 months old ~ enjoying a different view very early in life, making others laugh straight from the start!

It’s more than laughter. It’s inspiration.

It’s a trait I’ve hoped to express in my own life. A couple weeks ago I received a great compliment when we were at the soccer fields for a tournament with our oldest son Jaron. Getting our tails whipped on a muddy field, my cheers were laden with positive reinforcement. As with previous posts, I’m not a sports guru, but I don’t believe we “kick ‘em while they’re down.” That was when Brooklyn leaned over to me and said, “Mom, you know that character ‘Joy’ on the new Disney movie ‘Inside Out’?” I answered,“Yes,” because I’ve watched some trailers and we can’t wait to see it on its June 19th release date, which so happens to be Brandon and my 16th Anniversary; what a perfect way to celebrate. Brooklyn continues, “Well, while everyone has a ‘Joy’ in their head, I think your ‘Joy’ character is REALLY, REALLY BIG!”

It was one of the greatest compliments I could have received from one who has observed me, studied me, and sometimes imitated me since she entered this world; my daughter. And it was a compliment that complimented the one who I have observed, studied and even imitated since I entered this world; my Mom.

My Mom’s laughter is a battle cry, an anthem to her God and a signal to the enemy that she is victorious, she is an overcomer, and not only has she won, but she still has what many people lose in a battle, her joy. My Mom’s joy is a reflection of her relationship with God.

Philippians 4:4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Always? It couldn’t really mean “always,” right?

תמיד, tamid, prounounced taw-meed, the Hebrew word for always, meaning constantly, ever, continually.

Could it happen? Is it true? How can it be?

My mom’s anthem goes something like this:

Susan Cochrane arrived to the scene of a tragic motorcycle accident. Her nine year-old son’s lifeless body covered on that nearby country road. When shock would overwhelm the mind to function, she surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit Who gave her the strength to crawl into a helicopter with the burned and injured body of her daughter.

Susan Cochrane endured the unknowns of her seven year-old daughter’s injuries sustained from that accident; would she live; would she walk; would she have quality of life?

Susan Cochrane spent her life visiting doctors and therapists for her daughter’s rehabilitation, followed by visits for the care of her husband’s ailing body, as affected by diabetes and heart failure.

Susan Cochrane stood at yet another grave near her son’s, seventeen years later, burying her husband.

A widow at fifty-three, she experienced what it was, for the very first time in her life, to live alone. Even with the death of my brother, my Mom had had my Dad to crawl in bed and grieve together. Losing Dad provided solitude she was not accustomed to, nor desired.

Heartache. Grief. Emptiness. Desperation. Loneliness.

However, joy not sacrificed.

My Mom is one of the most optimistic, upbeat, enthusiastic, look-for-the-good, and hopeful people I know. And she’s my Mom! How incredibly awesome is that?! Not only do I know her, but I’m related to her, and I’m an heir to the greatest asset she could impart—her joy.

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Summer 2011 ~ One of my favorite pictures of my Mom with the kids ~ everyone has a good time when they’re with Grandma!

You may be reading this and thinking, “That is so special. I am so happy for you. God knew you needed that influence in your life for what life held for you, but I came from a bunch of negative nellies and I’m just inclined to think pessimistically.”

I’ve heard it said, “You can’t give what you don’t possess.” The Word tells us we all can live a life of joy! It’s a choice to tap into the abundant resources the Lord provides to us. Even better, it’s not contingent upon our circumstances. Being glad, having joy, living in peace are by-products of following the Lord and trusting in Him.

What a blessing I count it that I have had the privilege of seeing such joy lived before me, but if you haven’t, I pray my Mom’s Inspiring Joy, inspires you to live an inspiring life for all whom your life touches.

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Romans 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 8:32  “And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful.

Proverbs 16:20  Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

2 Corinthians 6:10  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

2 Corinthians 13:11  Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Zephaniah 3:17  For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Colossians 1:11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,

1 Peter 1:6  So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.

Philemon 1:7  Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

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Inspiring Strength

President Reagan declared fifteen major disasters in 1981. It was the same year the Hyatt Regency hotel’s walkway collapsed killing over one hundred people, leaving over two hundred injured. And it was in 1981 that the mysterious death of Natalie Wood occurred.

It was a tragic year for many, my family being one.

“You were the only good part of 1981,” so I’ve been told. It was the year I was born. It was also the year my Grandma fell, breaking her hip, the year my Grandma Cochrane underwent a mastectomy and the year my uncle passed from leukemia, only a week after my birth.

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Aunt Donna holding me — one of my favorite places to be.

What a time to come into a family; when loved ones are recovering, facing unknowns and grieving. There was too much sadness to celebrate.

Or was there?

One of the things I’ve learned from my family is that times of struggle are opportunities for increasing strength. The very time surrounding my birth was consistent with that truth; and the thirty-three-year-old woman who was burying her husband at that time has demonstrated inspiring strength to me, literally since the day I was born.

How much can one person take?

It’s a question I’ve asked many times when looking at the trials others walk through. Thirty-four years into this life has given me an unshakeable confidence. Confident in the truth: walk with Jesus; walk victoriously. He handles our unbearable circumstances, our trying seasons, our overwhelming moments.

That sounds like an easy statement from someone who appears to have a bed of roses life. However, I gained that insight, not from watching everything go “right” in life, but from watching one mountain climb after another.

There are things difficult to imagine; like losing a spouse, multiple miscarriages, unfaithfulness, burying a baby, breast cancer, brain tumor. Any one of them would be enough to do someone in. But all were had in one life. My Aunt Donna’s life.

I always knew my Aunt Donna was strong. After all, she gave me the “Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble” t-shirt when I was in the hospital. There was a strength I had to live up to. Asking, “Am I strong enough?” was merely rhetorical. Strong women are what I come from.

Those times in life when I’ve questioned my ability to withstand difficulty, I’ve revisited the image I took in at ten years old, reminding myself God is our strength when we have none. Perhaps the weakest one could ever feel, standing at a grave, a tiny casket lowered into the ground, picking up a piece of the earth and as it’s released to fall below, letting go of the little life, only fifteen months lived. She had no strength of her own that day, but God did. I stood by her and felt Him there.

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Aunt Donna with her girls– Austin Renae and Samantha Rae — Celebrating Samantha’s 1st Birthday in January 1991

It should have been enough loss for a lifetime. Unfortunately, in this imperfect world we live, this world we were never created for, there was much sadness to endure. Personal observations were avoided due to her move over six hundred miles away, nevertheless my awareness of her strength only grew.

Phone calls not only informed me of her breast cancer and then brain tumor, those phone calls also provided encouragement to hold on to our faith, unwavering in hope and assurance that He would provide. Yes, you read that correctly. She encouraged me! Even when we were prepared to hold her up, she remained solid and stood strong.

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Aunt Donna’s girls– Taylor and Maddy– leaving a legacy to the next generation, her grand babies!

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Aunt Donna and her daughter, Austin, thankful for moments together

I look at my Aunt Donna today. I’m a bit taller. She’s a bit older. But I still see that woman I nearly idolized growing up.

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One of my proudest moments was getting to share this accomplishment with her! Aunt Donna and me– May 2012 — OU College of Nursing Graduation

It isn’t hard to see why I adored her so. It’s not surprising I bought her perfume after she moved just to have a scent of her near, or that I loved jewelry and fashion and fine dining because of her influence. It’s easy to understand my desire to grow up and become a woman like her…pretty, smart and classy.

A master’s degree in education; over thirty years teaching in some of the most high-performing school districts; numerous awards and recognitions. The proof is in the pudding. She’s not held in high opinion by her niece alone. No, she is a game changer, recognized by all who have the privilege of knowing her. And it is for those who don’t that I write this post, that you may be encouraged by her inspiring strength, as I have been since those days back in 1981.

Isaiah 40:29 ESV

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.

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Why, Oh Why?

Last night I packed for a trip. I’ll be gone for three to five days. And while I know I’ll be taken good care of, I’m not too excited about going. But I grabbed items which bring me comfort and encouragement; my soft navy blue polar fleece blanket, I’ll take my pillow before leaving, and I packed three pictures from my house; one of our trip to Hawaii, one of our last visit to see Mickey, and one of us from last year taken at home by our fence. The photos help me focus on what I have, over what I’ve lost. Has their been loss? Immense. Has their been pain? Excruciating. But I’ve experienced a far greater portion of joy, peace and happiness. And that is what gripped my heart as I was pulling out of my doctor’s office last week after scheduling today’s surgery.

Before my most recent surgery, I had a very small area of scar tissue tear on my back. This was a reoccurring problem after my injury during the rehabilitating years, and on into my adolescence as my body was growing from that of a child to an adult. However, this was a scenario I no longer anticipated having over twenty-six years later. Regardless, it had to be addressed, so when my surgeon came in to do surgical markings for the last operation, I asked him if we could have an “adder” and take care of that area. He examined it. He then informed me it would be more than a simple release of scar tissue. He said the dreaded words, “We need to do a skin graft.” Yuck. To say those are painful is a bit of an understatement. It’s surprising to some when I explain that it’s not even the area released which causes such discomfort as it is the donor site.

Addressing the issue is always more than the obvious. Having another surgery this year was not in this planner’s plan. It meant making arrangements for the kids, missing activities with them, along with all the holiday parties during my most favorite time of year, and, it meant regrouping my commitments at work. I was bummed. I was frustrated. I was disappointed. Those emotions came in to check quickly.

I left my doctor’s office, pulled out on Utica, stopped at the light, and began crying. Through my tears, I sang, “Thank you, Lord. I just want to thank you. I just want to thank you. I just want to take a little time right now, and say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ for all You’ve done for me.” It’s a minor inconvenience to spend the last part of my year recovering from what is, yes, a highly unpleasant procedure, but not a complicated one with uncertain outcomes. This trip to the hospital and stay in the burn center won’t necessarily be fun, but it will all be okay. In consideration of this beautiful life God has provided me to live, it’s petty to complain about it, even to grumble about it in my own heart.

The “why such emotion and tears” thought may arise. Why cry? Why sob? It was out of my immense gratitude and deep conviction, because there were so many, many times I begged the Lord to allow me to die. I didn’t want to live a life in this body. I didn’t want to walk the road ahead of me. I didn’t understand why I lived and my brother died. I couldn’t imagine a future for me. I didn’t have life experience to help me reason it out, and even at that, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to find reason. I didn’t have coping skills to work through the physical, emotional and psychological trauma. I asked God, “Why?” I prayed prayers, “Please let me come to Heaven and be with you, let me see Jon. I don’t want to live here.” For years, I mean for years I prayed like this. What came out of it wasn’t pretty, but necessary. Much of what I felt, I internalized. Being the brave little girl was a role assigned to me early, and one I felt I had to uphold. Which is why an eating disorder was the outlet for me to channel my emotion privately. The path was ugly, depression was as real as the sun in the sky, but a light I couldn’t see.

But the uglier it got the more I cried out to my God. And the entire time, all those years, He was listening. All those years, all that time, He had a plan. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that He didn’t allow me to die, not from the physical trauma of that tragic accident, and neither from the emotional wounds thereafter. No, He held me. He never let go. And He was speaking, “Heather, I have a plan, to prosper you and not harm, to give you hope and a future.” He was saying, “All things work together for those who are called according to My purposes, and my child, I have a purpose for your life.”

I am going on this trip today. I am going to be back in the place where it all began so many years ago. I’m going to stand in awe of what the precious people there did to save my life. I’m going to meet some new faces, learn some new names and thank them for caring for people like me, whose lives are forever changed, but whose lives are always worth living, because God is greater, His ways are higher and His plans are perfect.

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From His temple He heard my voice;

my cry came before Him, into His ears.

Psalm 18:6

NIV

*scriptures mentioned: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28

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Tough Cookie

A few months ago I received a message from a reader asking me to write about a subject I’ve had some experience; pain.  I’m deeply touched by messages I receive from readers, and I began seeking the Lord to direct my heart to share what would minister to hearts regarding this subject.

Can you recall your first memories of pain?  My earliest memory was when I was five years old.  After a family dinner, several of us decided to walk down to the bridge.  My Grandma lived across the driveway from us and we had stopped at her pear tree before beginning our stroll.  I must have piddled around, as was very typical for me, because everyone had started off out of the driveway.  I ran to catch up, slid on the gravel and cut a gash in my right knee.  The beautiful sunny afternoon ended with a trip to the emergency room and my very first set of stitches.  I was terrified and experiencing the worst pain in my life.  I knew the scar it left would be permanent, as would be the memories.

As you can imagine, that experience wasn’t enough to prepare me for the tragedy to come on April 27, 1988.  I remember the sting in my eyes from the dust as my brother and I traveled on our motorcycle behind the little red truck that sunny spring day.  I remember the blur in the flame as I lay in that fiery ditch.  I remember my face feeling so hot as I was grabbed underneath the arms and drug out of that blaze.  I remember that terrifying helicopter ride, telling my Mom I wanted to go home, thinking that if I could just go home it would all be okay.  These were my first encounters with a pain that, although I experienced, I still cannot fully comprehend.

I spent many years trying to understand something senseless.  How could I possibly make sense of an accident?  It was an accident.  But how difficult it was to let go of the desire for answers.  The question I kept asking was “why?”  I had to stop thinking about the “what ifs.”  While many different small things could have prevented our accident, nothing was going to change it.  My life was changed forever.

But you know this story.  You know how this story ends; with a little girl who overcame the odds and lived and walked again.  This story ends with a sweet boy who fell in love with a girl for who she was instead of seeing the scars she bore.  This story ends with a marriage and four precious babies.  This story has what I would consider, the perfect ending.

It’s much more pleasant to focus on the end.  It makes me happy.  But surprisingly, so does every detail in between.  And that in between time was filled with pain, with years and years of pain.

There was the physical pain.  The bandages being ripped off.  The scar tissue tearing.  The surgeries.  The procedures.  The tests.  Then there was the emotional pain.  The loss of my brother.  The loss of my carelessness.  The loss of my mobility, my hair, my skin, my body as I’d known it.  How I would have loved to have seen that small scar from the fall on the gravel road.  I searched for it, but there was no trace.  Only burns.  Only smelly ugly mushy burns.

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The first time out of bed since the accident. Trying to “stand” in June 1988.

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Mom and Dad weren’t able to be here for this moment. Tried my best to smile for their picture.

Words cannot describe the range and depth of pain.  There are years and years I would never want to revisit, but make me happy.  “How?” you may ask.  Because I overcame.

My Aunt Donna gave me a t-shirt when I was in the hospital that said, “Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble.”  She explained the shirt to me, but at seven years old, I didn’t completely understand it.  All I knew was that she thought I was tough, but I didn’t get what that really had to do with cookies.

Well, that right there is what makes me happy when I think about all the pain.  I was a tough cookie, and I didn’t crumble.  Even years later, when I was still asking God, “Why didn’t I die too?” He was carrying me, and I didn’t crumble.  I overcame.

Pain teaches us a lot about ourselves and more about our God.  And I know in the darkest moments, in the hardest years, in the scariest times, my God was there.  I was never alone.

Many people are hesitant to ask me what happened.  They want to know, but they don’t want to hurt me.  Usually it is phrased like this, “So what happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”  And I don’t mind, because I overcame.

The Word tells us in Revelation 12:11 “They triumphed over him
 by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much
 as to shrink from death.”  I recommend reading the verse in its context, but take this to heart, we overcome by the victory Christ provided to us from His sacrifice on the cross and by our testimony, which is why I absolutely love to share with others what happened to me, because although it’s the most physically and emotionally painful story, it’s my testimony and I’m so grateful to be alive to share it.

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Sharing my Testimony— don’t have many pictures of me sharing my testimony; received this from a women’s conference I had the privilege of speaking at back in 2007.

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