What 18 Years Means To Me

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” –Walt Disney

When I was a little girl I used to get behind my Grandma’s lace dining room curtains, drape them across my face, grasp some flowers between my two hands and cue off the wedding march all on my own. The drapes would slowly inch up my body, rising with each step over my face and falling off the top of my head. I was enacting a dream I had. A dream to one day wear a beautiful gown, hold some beautiful flowers and have a beautiful veil cover my face. Of course, my five year-old-self hadn’t given much consideration to a major player in this dream. The groom! This dream was all about a wedding. Not a marriage.

Just a couple short years later I was lying in the burn unit. On occasion, I expressed my assumptions. I can revisit those seven year-old-thoughts like they were rolling through my mind yesterday. Who will ever love me? No one will ever want to marry me. I will never have a husband. I will never have children.

Dreams of children are often full of fantasy. I suppose mine were no different. I hadn’t lived long enough to dream of high educational goals. I hadn’t lived long enough to envision myself in a respectable career. I simply dreamed of what I saw in my Disney movies. And while I saw what my body looked like, it was my Disney movies that influenced me to believe; believe that maybe, just maybe someone would love me, with all my scars still find beauty in me and love me.

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
 
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true ~ Cinderella

Brandon Meadows was my fulfillment of that dream.

Hopefully you didn’t vomit a little in your mouth at that last sentence, because while this post may be a little mushy-gushy, it does have some authentic marriage reflections I pray are encouraging to you.

I would have never ever thought in a million years that I’d meet the one “for whom my soul loves” at a Driller’s baseball game in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was only fifteen years old. Never. In a million years!

And while we didn’t “hit it off,” the introduction paved the way for interest, leading to friendship and as the fairytales would have it, growing into love. But anyone who has been married for a hot minute can agree that not every married-moment feels like a fairytale. Ours certainly hasn’t.

06.19.1999. Our wedding date. Our marriage date. The beginning of our life together. The fruition of one dream and the vision of many more.

We were 18.

18 years old.

Barely adults. Barely old enough to vote. Underage to rent a car. Underage to have a toast of champagne.

We had nothing…..EXCEPT a dream of a life together.

Dreams are created twice.
The first creation is spiritual. The second creation is physical.
But they always start with what if?
What if you knew you couldn’t fail- what would you do?
What if time or money weren’t an object- what God-sized goal would you go after? – Mark Batterson, If

Oh, we knew we could fail. Countless people pointed to the possibility.

Oh, we knew money was an object. We had a futon for our furniture and converted a barn for our house.

But here we are 18 years later. Here we are at this stage, where we’ve lived in our marriage covenant just as long as we lived before it; celebrating half our lives married in the happiest place on earth. (Because our thirty-six year-old selves still believe in dreams, fairytales and happily ever afters.)

And here are just a few things we’ve gathered-

  1. The two shall become one is an on-going process.

And man! Has it ever been a process! There have been many a moments we didn’t mesh like one. But those moments have become fewer and farther in between. God created us individually with our own giftings, personalities and strengths, but He called us to be one. Years ago our small group leaders, Larry & Joan, gave us some valuable insight: When you get married you’re not sprinkled with magic oneness dust. Now that we could relate to. Wouldn’t it be nice if Tinker Bell could flitter around every marriage ceremony with a little bit of oneness dust?! But getting married in Disney won’t even guarantee that. It’s an every day, sometimes moment-by-moment decision (especially in the heated ones) to desire unity above anything else. Amazingly, even people with as different personalities as Brandon and me, eventually start thinking like one another, even finishing each other’s sentences! (That one really creeps the kids out by the way!)

  1. Sacrificial love didn’t look like what we thought it would.

Has anyone seen Disney’s Inside Out? Joy multiplies the manufacturing of Riley’s imaginary boyfriend. You know, the boyfriend we all imagined as teenagers? He continuously says, “I would die for Riley.” But living for someone can be way more sacrificial. Like saying, “I’m sorry.” I don’t know about you but that one is SUPER HARD after some intense disagreements. And like protecting and defending your spouse even at the expense of other relationships. Or like declining a job transfer that would take you away from your spouse, even if it may mean losing your job. Can’t say when we made that commitment we pictured the potential of having to consider the reality of possibly taking a pay cut or a position below qualifications. Thankfully, when we said, “no” for our marriage, God opened a door for an even better career change. But we would’ve never known had we not had the mindset of sacrificial love.

  1. We’re hinged on choice.

With sacrifice comes vulnerability. Standing before God and witnesses, vowing our life to our spouse, forsaking our self and all others as long as we both shall live puts us in a pretty vulnerable place. Forever. Brandon and I are seeing 18 years married, simply because he has chosen me and I have chosen him each day since June 19, 1999. We can love each other but keeping this union going means we each have to choose. And knowing that at any point one person may choose otherwise can be freakishly vulnerable. We’re geared to self protect, but that doesn’t jive with sacrificial love. So we go all in, abandoning ourselves and trusting God. Trusting God to help us forgive, trusting God to help us face the sin and shortcomings (because as hard as it is to face our own sin and shortcomings, it’s even more challenging to have to deal with our spouse’s). And even if a choice is made to abandon the covenant, still trusting God.

So here we are, thanking God for the yesterdays and trusting Him for our tomorrows. Not always picturesque. Not always perfect. But grateful for sharing it together.

Colossians 1:17 He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.

I pray this post spoke to you. 

Did you know I’m writing a book about persevering through life’s painful places? 
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.

*thank you to Kevin with Disney Fine Art Photography & Video for capturing some Grand Floridian Anniversary moments for us!

Guest Post: Did You Know How Much God Just Loves You?

*a special post from special guest Heather Falana*

My husband loves me. It doesn’t matter what kind of a day I am having or if he disagrees with some of my decisions-he just loves me. He has been out of the country for 10 days and he returns tomorrow. To say I am excited is an understatement. While he has been away the Lord has been working some things out of me.

There is always stuff in us that can be worked on, worked in, or worked out. See, the thing is, people say “Jesus loves you” and ask “Did you know how much God just loves you?

…. “just loves you”.

Yes. I do know that He does love me.

But do I?

Grace means undeserved favor. It means that something is given to you that you do not deserve and it could never be earned, but I believe that over time I have come to slightly believe that I must earn some gifts from God. Today, I realized that the devil has been trying to keep things out of my grasp with this one lie; “Heather, you haven’t done enough.”

I find it very easy to love the Lord. To sing Him praises and talk about His goodness. It is also very easy for me to do that for people too; to brag on them and bring them gifts, but I have a hard time receiving it back. The Lord brought to my attention that I don’t always let Him love me. I’m always thinking about what I didn’t do or what I can do better. Not what He has done and wants to do in me and for me—there are things only my Heavenly Father can do.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. They are not perfect. They fight with each other on occasion. They sometimes lie. They don’t always follow the rules. They get mad at me. You want to know what? Sometimes they irritate me but I LOVE them so deeply that I correct and move forward knowing sure within myself that they love me too and they will improve. So, sitting in my living room today God gave me a dose of much needed unlimited, throw-all-caution-to-the-wind, cry-your-eyes-out LOVE.

Over the past month, while my prayer closet, I was sensing this wall. A wall. Not a wall to keep things in, a wall that was keeping something out. I couldn’t figure it out. I asked the Lord to show me what I was feeling on the inside. One thing I love about having a relationship with God is that He never fails to blow my mind.

I stand on scripture for healing in my body and protection over my family. I receive wisdom from God daily because His Word says in James that all I must do is ask for it and He gives it freely. Freely. God loves freely and He gives grace, mercy, and wisdom freely; however, it is never forced and must be received the same way. Today He spoke to my heart and said “Heather, you cannot earn the things I love to give you. I watch over your children because I love you. I desire to heal your body because I love you. And I gave you Jesus because I love you. Not because you remembered the scripture from last Sunday. Not because you prayed and read my Word four times or two times this week or you forgot. I just love you.

I cannot explain in a human tongue what this did to me. I know God loves me. I know that He sent Jesus because He loved us (John 3:16). It was different today. It went deeper than “Jesus loves you”. I felt like He took my face in His hands and looked me in the eyes and said “I just love you.

My husband and I moved last year to the west coast to start a church. People are people everywhere you go. I have come to realize that. Here in my new home I am finding it challenging to explain why we are here. Yes, we came to start a church to tell people about Jesus Christ and what He did but more importantly we came to share the love of Christ with people. I have been asking myself “How? How do I explain all of this extreme fondness I have for my savior?” and “How do I show them what it is like to know My savior?” and “How will they see that this is vital?

Outside of being an example of Christ and being a sweet fragrance to those around you (II Corinthians 2:14-15), I needed more. How do I put this thing in my heart into words? Wisdom is coming my friends. When you ask Jesus to come into your heart to be your Lord and Savior its more than a prayer. It’s a life changer. He said in II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new.

It’s one thing to know about a person, it’s another to hear about who that person is, and it is entirely different to live with that person. Christ desires to live with us because He just loves us. He desires to change our hearts because He knows about every little thing in your life that you need. He desires to lead us. He desires to heal us, protect us, and care for us.

We recently got a dog. He is almost a year. We found him at the Humane Society. We walked into this very loud, a bit stinky and crowded animal shelter. My family and I walked into the small dog room. There was this half Corgi half Chihuahua copper dog in the last kennel on the left. My oldest son just melted. The shelter had a name on his kennel and it was Nalu. When we brought him home the kids wanted to change that name so we threw out many ideas until we settled on Cooper.

Cooper has had to learn some new behaviors. He has had to learn that we are safe and how to trust us. When Cooper came out of his old life he received a new one. A better one. He came from a high-kill shelter in Hawaii and this was his last chance at living. He was surviving but he was not living. When God sent Jesus to us it was not to point His nose down at the human race and aim lightning bolts in our direction and yell “Look at all those people screwing everything up! They need a crutch! I’m sending them Jesus.”  No. He sent Jesus because the enemy has it out for all mankind (I Peter 5:8) and Jesus came to make a way of escape. Just like we were sent to Cooper to make him a way of escape. John 10:10 Jesus says “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In other words, Jesus came to bring something worth dying for and not so He could keep it to Himself. He came to give it away to you and me!

It didn’t stop there. We gave the dog a new name and a new life. He also received gifts and a bath! Now everything that belongs to the Falana’s also belongs to Cooper. He is in the family now! He enjoys our couch, our food, our neighborhood streets, and our love. It is the same with the Lord. You can know about Him or you can live in Him.


Picture yourself standing outside of a house and wondering what it holds. Nothing in that house belongs to you, in fact you cannot even see what it has to offer. Now, picture yourself walking through that house. You see all the rooms, the stairs, the fireplace. It is very inviting. You walk right through it and you move on.

Now, imagine you live in that house. Everything in that house belongs to you. It not only brings you the things you need, like a stove, washing machine, and toilets. It shelters you. It keeps you warm. It protects you. It also gives you room. Room to share. That is Christ. He desires for you to be “in Him”. Not to know about Him. Not to visit with Him once and move on. He desires to free you from a negative sentence in life. To change you. Rename you. Feed you. Shelter you. Most importunately, “to just love you.” I John 4:9-10 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Don’t just survive this one life you have been given. Live it in Him and let Him just love you.

The Falana Kiddos with their sweet little Cooper

A Little Thought From Heather…Meadows🤗

I could write a blog post alone about Heather Falana.  She is the portrait of Proverbs 27:17 in my life– “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We met several years ago in an anatomy class and journeyed through OU College of Nursing together, being referred to by many as Heather Squared.

She and her family are brave for Jesus, bold for Jesus and desire His plans for their life, moving across country, not knowing a soul, to minister His life, His love, His hope and His healing to lives. 

Would you pray about and consider blessing their ministry with a love offering?  Your tax deductible gift can be sent to:  
Church Alive ℅ Sam Falana 1339 NW Covey Ct. Silverdale, WA 98383 

Also, if you enjoy a good laugh, Heather periodically posts some super funny videos! Click here to look her up on Facebook. Her humor will lift you up, truly making you laugh out loud.  She’s such a gift to me! ❤ Heather

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

On the Hunt to Find Value, Importance & Uniqueness

I don’t know much about paintings. To cut to the chase, I’m not much into “The Arts.” I love the performing arts, only when it includes some type of musical, and if it’s a Disney musical it’s even better. I’m not into classical music, although I faked it for several years during my childhood because Aunt Donna listened to it and I was giving my best to be just like her. I’m lacking on classical novels, because reading typically only holds my interest if I get some life application out of it. But back to paintings. I wouldn’t recognize a Van Gogh or Monet if my life depended on it. I do know, however, that the number of paintings produced is one factor that determines its value.

Which brings me to a thought. And a question. Or maybe a few questions.

This world is populated with people. So how does one feel unique, valuable and important? Do we sometimes feel that we’re just another face in the crowd? How often do we consider that we’re one-of-a-kind?

Gavin got this post rolling a few months ago after a physical therapy screening he had.

Here’s the back-story:

Gavin has an in-toe walking pattern, what some refer to as pigeon-toed. We were first concerned with the issue when he was two. We asked his pediatrician about it at his well-child check-up that year. The determination was that it was due to internal hip rotation. Made sense. We were informed that it’d be more exaggerated when he was tired, but that it wouldn’t keep him from his ability to run or potentially one-day play sports.

I cannot even tell you how much we love our pediatrician. This doctor has not only cared for all four of our children, but even provided care to me in my teen years, and was a part of Brandon’s and my big day, attending our wedding! This isn’t just a physician to us. This is a very special individual. With that in mind, we didn’t take it lightly to get a second opinion. But let me say, if a doctor is offended for you to get a second opinion, maybe it’s not the right doctor for you. I knew ours would completely understand, so we saw a pediatric orthopedic specialist who took x-rays, did a physical assessment and returned the same determination. So we moved on with the thought that this was just the way God made Gavin.

Fast-forward four years. We signed Gavin up to play soccer when he was six. He hated it. We found out it was because of the running.

The following summer Jaron would put Gavin in as his goalie when Jaron practiced soccer at home. What a sweet big brother, potentially kicking soccer balls right at the baby brother. No slack around here. 😂

After a summer of being Jaron’s goalie, Gavin wanted to sign-up for soccer again. No surprise—as a goalie!

It was a better fit for him. However, I was concerned when he told me he wanted to sign-up for basketball. Despite giving him the information on the required running in basketball, he still wanted to play, so we signed him up.

A short time later, I was visiting with our physical therapist at work. Many don’t realize that premature babies need physical therapy and it starts early in their life. So here we were, both working on this baby, just visiting. I mentioned Gavin’s history and my doubts over our basketball-season-sign-up decision for him. She replied with, “He may just need inserts.” Inserts? She told me to call the pediatric physical therapy department and ask to make an appointment for a screening. So I did.

I took Gavin for his screening over Christmas break and it was quickly determined that inserts would be really beneficial for him. Through much more detailed explanation, I was also informed that it’s typically hard to make such a determination until after the age of three or four.

This gets us up to the topic here—feeling unique, important and valuable.

When our physical therapist told Gavin she was going to make him shoe inserts, he told her that wouldn’t be necessary because he could just get some at Wal-Mart.

I explained to Gavin that no one on the entire planet had a foot just like his, and that these inserts would be specially-made just for his foot.

It took some convincing but he started to understand his uniqueness—from the top of his head all the way to his little piggies.

Doesn’t seem so profound to us, does it? 

Or does it?
I believe we have a lot of people on this earth that don’t quite understand how unique, how valuable and how important they are.

In a song by Natalie Grant she sings, “and you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself.” Well, I believe that pertains to more than love. If we don’t understand how unique, important and valuable we are, it’s difficult to be able to identify how unique, important and valuable others are, which may be the reason why people treat each other so crummy at times. And on the other hand, it may be the reason why people allow others to treat them so crummy.

For us to live a life of fulfillment, we must see our value.

A friend of mine, Tracy Robbins, illustrates this so powerfully in one of her messages. She explained that the MSRP is the value the manufacturer has placed on an item, suggesting how much should be paid for the item. Well, that’s great if you’re studying economics I suppose, but she brought it home in a way I won’t forget. After that bit of information, she says, “And this is how much God says you are worth,” as an image comes on the screen of Jesus Christ, beaten and bloody, with a crown of thorns on his head, hanging on a cross.

God says we are valuable, so valuable that He sent His one and only Son.

It gives much meaning to Ephesians 2:10 that says in the NKJV, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

I guess that’s why I don’t get too carried away with designer stuff, or even gaining knowledge over the Van Goghs and Monets. The Word tells me I am God’s workmanship. In the NLT, it says I’m His “masterpiece.” Masterpiece!!! As in “a work of outstanding artistry!” I am outstanding artistry! Whether others see me as such or not, whether someone would place value on what I have to offer or not, whether I perform to my own level of expectation or not; I am God’s masterpiece. It’s liberating and reassuring.

YOU are God’s masterpiece.

I’m saying your foot isn’t like anyone else. So let’s get out of our Wal-Mart-Shoe-Insert mentality and realize how unique He created us!

In the movie The Help, Abileen spoke words of truth into little Mae as she said, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

Let’s look in the mirror, repeat those words, and remember we are custom-made by God and for God. One-of-a-kind. Unique. Valuable. Important.

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About the video–
the day of Gavin’s casting for his shoe inserts, he was confused asking, “you mean they’re going to put a cast on me?” I said, “No. It’s just what they call it when they make a mold of your foot.” He questioned, “You mean mold is going to grow on my foot?!?!” Obviously I was at a loss for words to effectively explain the process, so like any parent in 2017, I said, “Let’s watch a YouTube video.” However, I could not find one video that was consistent with what we would be doing that day. So I thought, “I need to video this so other kids will know what to expect.” I did just that. But after taking time to assemble the video and publishing it, I found several others that would have been perfect. So I’m going to take this as something we were meant to do, hoping it is still useful for someone.  Here is Gavin’s journey through the casting and fitting of his new shoe inserts!

 

I’m Not Enough

About fifteen years ago, Brandon and I were volunteering as youth leaders. Our youth pastor approached me with a question, “Heather, would you take the service the week after next?” Take the service? As in preach?!?! I pretty much said, “no” right then and there. Actually, I’m sure it was probably more delicate with something along the lines of, “Oh I don’t think so.” But our youth pastor, who had been my own youth pastor, didn’t let me off the hook that easily. He instructed me to do something that I’m pretty sure he knew would change my answer—he told me to pray about it.

Well, enough said. You know what happened.

I ended up taking the service—although it was laden with disclaimers that I was just “sharing” and not “preaching.” Preaching just seemed like too big of shoes to fill.

When I think about my journey as a speaker, that moment was the starting line; the beginnings of the Lord revealing His calling to me step-by-step through each opportunity He’s provided.

While the Lord has given me a vision of the work He has for me as a speaker, I sometimes confront doubt rising up in my heart. Not doubting God, but doubting myself, doubting my ability to accomplish what He desires for me to do.

Have you ever done the same?

Here’s a few scenarios right off the top of my head that may cause you to question if you have what it takes:

  • starting a new job
  • becoming a parent—and then pretty much every day thereafter
  • leading a small group
  • starting a new business venture
  • applying for college
  • graduating from college
  • writing a book
  • starting a blog
  • planting a church

There’s countless more, and if I sat here for a bit longer I know I could fill at least a page, but for the sake of word count, we’ll move on.

I know someone else who questioned if they were enough.

Moses.

God called Moses to do a work and speak to the king of Egypt. But Moses didn’t want to and made all kinds of excuses. The Lord was so patient with him and from what I read, really gave him some things to beef him up to stand before the king. You know—just a few things like a shepherd’s staff turning into and out-of a snake, and his hand instantaneously being afflicted with and then delivered from a severe skin disorder, oh and last but not least, the thing with the Nile River water turning into blood. I’m saying if that doesn’t make you feel that you’re on a guaranteed winning side, I just don’t know what will.

But honestly, I get Moses.

A few weeks ago the Lord opened a big door of opportunity to me. I accepted the invitation to speak for an event, but then afterward questioned if I was enough. I shared my doubts with Brandon and he looked at me as if I had just fallen off a pumpkin truck. The guy really says a lot with his eyes. Probably why he doesn’t need to utilize as many words as I do.

Moses, on the other hand, was not good with words. And not even these words from the Lord in Exodus 4:11-12 could change his mind, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” God was so gracious to Moses and met him where he was. He’s so awesome like that. He meets us all right where we are. If you want to read on a little further you’ll see that God allowed Moses’ bro to speak for him—Aaron was good with words, plus it’s just pretty cool to see this portrait of family coming together for a big moment in biblical history like this!

Now that I’m in the planning stages of this big event, I’m getting pretty excited, mostly because I’ve reminded myself of God’s Word right there— Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say. He’s been so faithful each and every time from all those years ago when our youth pastor said, “take the service.”

So here’s where it stands—when we doubt, it’s probably because there’s some fear somewhere in it.

You know what Brooklyn and I just discussed recently? Identifying the antidote to fear. It’s faith. Each time we are confronted with fear, we fight it with faith.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I don’t know about you, but when I think of evidence, I think of something I can see. But faith is the evidence of what we can’t see. So if you can’t see yourself, let’s say graduating from college, starting a new job, leading a ministry or maybe writing a book, but if the Lord has planted it in your heart, then you can stand firm in faith that it will be, even though nothing with your physical eyes tells you so. You walk by faith—the substance of things hoped for.

Last but not least, let’s close with this thought. Don’t feel the pressure to be enough. We were never meant to be. If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus. When I consistently put myself out there in situations that make me question if I am enough, those situations are opportunities to remind how much I need Him.

II Corinthians 3:4-5 says, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”

I am enough in Him!!! And so are you!!!

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Beauty and The Beast Live Action ~ My Personal Review

My family and I bought tickets a month ago for the new release of the live action Beauty and The Beast. We were greatly anticipating this new movie. Actually, that’s an understatement. But we’ll go with it for consideration of word count here.

Now, let me say, I have never, ever, ever written a film review. I did take a film class in college to meet my arts requirement, but I hardly think that qualifies. Therefore, look at this post as one friend sitting in a coffee shop chatting over some nice caramel macchiato (okay, now we are obviously at Starbucks), but back on track here, just imagine me as a friend sharing my thoughts about the movie. It’s really meant to be that simple of a post.

I had seen the animated Beauty and The Beast movie in theaters for its 1991 release and fell in love with the story, feeling pulled in to that little village with Belle. I could have watched it over and over and over again. And I did—when it came out on video. I’m not sure what was going on in my life at the time, whether I had some stomach bug or if I just had a post-anesthesia upset tummy from surgery, but whatever it was I remember laying on the couch and saltine crackers being involved. I sat and snacked, sipping ginger ale watching the movie back-to-back. It was such a bummer I had to wait each time for the tape to rewind.

I loved this story for many, many reasons. But I connected with it through the opening narrative, particularly the very last line, “for who could ever learn to love a beast?

It was an important question for my ten-year-old self. I hadn’t quite formulated the question so elegantly as the film did, however, I had asked the question. Many times before. Laying in intensive care with a large red heat lamp rolled over my bed for excruciating bandage changes as even the most delicate nurse had to rip and pull the dried fabric from my raw skin. Raw skin turned to puffy red scars. At seven-years old I knew my body was no longer appealing. No one would look at me as they had numerous times before and say, “what a beautiful little girl.” More importantly, would anyone ever learn to love me?

Three years later, along came Beauty and The Beast, and I wanted to know, “COULD anyone ever learn to love a beast?”

Belle was such an odd duck. She stuck out in her little village. So I quickly connected with her character as well. Understanding the experiences of those who don’t quite blend in.

And the scene, where she discovers her father behind bars in this enchanted castle only to be confronted with an angry beast. Her courage and her love was something even a ten-year old realized. As I grew a little older, continuing to watch the movie, because again, the story was incredible and the music, well, it is timeless, but as I grew I connected that in-castle-prison scene to something else. Belle said, “Take me instead.” The Beast replied, “You would take his place?” You see, not only do I relate to looking like a beast with an 87% scarred body, but there have been more times than I can count that I’ve acted like a beast. But someone took my place. Jesus said, “Take me instead,” and He bore every imperfection of my wounded body and soul upon Him. The greatest illustration of sacrificial love ever known.

So now you know what big shoes this live-action film had to fill in my book.

Allow me to touch on a few different thoughts (in no particular order):

  • The Music
  • The Cast
  • A Comparison
  • The Controversy

I really loved the music. The songs written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were included in the movie, along with some new songs written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. (Howard Ashman passed before the theatrical release of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast and a tribute was made at the end of the film, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.”)

One of the new songs, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” recorded by Celine Dion has beautiful lyrics, some of which are included in the film sung by Belle’s father, Maurice.

I loved how the film offered some back-story. I always wanted to know why the prince was so cruel. I always wanted to know what happened to Belle’s mom, why was it just her and her dad? This film allows for those questions to be answered.

As far as the cast—let me say, they did a fabulous job with casting. We were Downton Abbey fans and I really could’ve used some good conversation to process what happened when Matthew Crawley left the show. However, Dan Stevens moved on to a grand role as The Beast. His eyes!!! Gracious. Who would’ve thought Disney would find a real-life set of eyes as beautiful as those of The Beast in the animated film?! But they did!

Then we have the sweet, precious, head-strong girl Hermione Granger who we bonded with through the Harry Potter movies. Emma Watson is all grown up and made a beautiful Belle. Her wearing that full-yellow gown in the ballroom scene was gorgeous!!! But on the downside, Belle’s voice was a little lack-luster. The notes were sung, they didn’t modify any songs to accommodate. I have to say, she did it. However, there wasn’t the power and passion I anticipated from what Paige O’Hara delivered in the animated film.

The film consistently follows the original movie. And I’m not totally sure what my opinion is on it. Maybe I should watch it again. During the movie I had the thought, “The live-action of Cinderella, Maleficent and Pete’s Dragon were all similar yet quite different. Wonder if I’d feel more into this if it wasn’t so much the same?” I wish I could answer that question for you. While I’m so happy Disney kept true to the original, for me, it wasn’t until the story started to take some different turns that I felt more engaged. Honestly, I think it was the vocals for me. I felt a little bleh, when Belle was on the hill singing, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can stand.” I just wasn’t convinced. Again, it wasn’t powerful and passionate.

Lastly, since I’ve already received some comments, questions and a link to a mom who is now boycotting Disney over this film, I’m going to jump right into the controversy of Disney announcing this film to include it’s first openly gay character.

Here’s my response posted to Facebook regarding the movie, “it’s so indirect that kids who have only known a traditional family won’t even pick up on it. Actually, I kinda thought the two little snippets were funny and so did our younger boys – they didn’t have any idea what it was insinuating.”

I’ve read several articles and opinions regarding the representation of the gay community in Disney films. Some I agree with, but there’s a lot I don’t. This is such a delicate issue for so many. Honestly, I’m not looking at this as an us versus them; traditional versus modern. We are all people. And I like what Bob Goff says about it on page 98 of Love Does, “We can show them that God is full of love and is really the source of hope and every creative idea. People don’t want to be told that their experiences were wrong or that their wrapper or someone else’s wrapper is made out of the wrong stuff. Instead, we get to be the ones to show them real love from a real God.”

At the end of the film, and the day, and at the end of my life for that matter, I pray that people can say of me that no matter who they were, I loved liked The Beast, rather than acted like one.

I John 4:12 NLT  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.

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Gracious– I am saddened to even add this, but please remember that this is our online home.  Unkind comments will not be welcomed in.

Guest Post: Nothing is Impossible with God

Guest Post: Nothing is Impossible with God

*a special post from special guest Dr. Rachel Davis-Jackson*

I was a little black girl born to a custodian and a laborer for a cement factory. At nine years of age, the Lord put a dream in my heart and I told my mother I was going to be a doctor. My father and mother divorced but my mom was a tough single mother. She made sure I stayed on track with grades. We weren’t rich but we weren’t poor either. My mom worked three jobs at times to give me all I needed and most of what I wanted. My mom brought me to church on Sundays and I went to catechism school. I completed all the lessons and ceremonies required by the Catholic church.

I was raised to be strong and independent. I have been working since I was 15 years old and obtained my license on my 15th birthday. I went through college without a break; working and studying. Looking back, I was driven. Didn’t realize at the time it was God’s dream in me driving me to fulfill my destiny.

I met my soon-to-be husband in my sophomore year of college and we were married by my 1st year of medical school. I knew of the Lord, because of my upbringing but did not have a relationship with Him at that time in my life. That goes to show you; God had a mission for me and He drove my life, my actions and my interactions from behind the scenes. He knew I would need a partner like Kevin.

When I met my husband, Kevin, I was at a point in my life that I didn’t want a boyfriend. Kevin knew way before I did that the Lord put us together. Even when I would tell him, “I just want to be friends.” He would always say, “I’m going to make you mine.” Obviously he did what he said.  We were married for over 25 years. 

The Lord revealed to me that not only had He placed in Kevin everything I needed to help me achieve my destiny, He also had placed in me, everything that I needed to give to Kevin. God placed in me all the love, patience, understanding and caring to repay Kevin for sufferings he endured early in life.

Kevin and I were married on December 29, 1990. Our marriage was filled with ups and downs. One of our biggest trials came on March 10, 1993. Our first child together was born at 26 weeks, 1 pound, 8.5 ounces. The doctor gave her less than a 50% chance of survival. I was devastated and knew she would die.

Not my husband. He worked with some God-fearing, praying women. He went to work and they prayed together. My husband heard from God and from that time on all he would say was, “ She is going to be fine.”

She is better than fine. She is a smart, beautiful Baylor college graduate. During those times, I doubted Kevin’s faith and his relationship with the Lord. However, while my faith was tested and I was the one doubting God, Kevin had enough faith for both of us. We both had been raised in the church and had strayed away but through trials the Lord brought us back to Him.

We had two other children and I was on bedrest for months for both pregnancies. My husband worked and took care of me and the baby. With God’s help and strength we both survived very troubling times. I completed medical school, pediatric residency and a pediatric subspecialty training by 2002 and had three babies during this time. All of which we could not have accomplished without the grace of God. Kevin used to say, “Baby, it’s me and you against the world.” God’s Word says He will supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Christ has always been there for me, even when I didn’t even acknowledge His presence as I do now.

My relationship with the Lord grew as we went through all those trials. After specialty training, I was working in a small NICU; definitely not being able to use all my skills and training. I had been praying for some time for the Lord to move me. His answer was to be content where I was and in due season He would move me. I did just that, I made the best of a less than opportune situation and early in 2006 things changed. The Lord told me to turn in my resignation and tell my job that I would be gone in six months. I obeyed and then started looking for another job.

I went on several interviews until the last one scheduled was in Oklahoma. I had never even considered Oklahoma as an option. My husband and I went on the interview. My prayer was, “Lord if this is where I’m supposed to be please tell Kevin too.” I was sure he would never agree to move from Louisiana, after living in New Orleans for greater than 10 years, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. That showed me that what God has planned will come to pass, no matter what. After the interview, I asked Kevin what he thought. Without hesitation, he said, “Let’s try it, Bae.” I was floored. Long story short, we moved December 2006 and since being here, God has blessed me and my family above and beyond our wildest dreams. I started as just another newborn intensive care doctor with the group and the Lord promoted me to medical director of one of the two largest newborn intensive care units in the state of Oklahoma. I was doing what I loved to do, taking care of sick babies and being blessed by it.

My family and I have had our trials over the past 10 years but we also have had so many blessings and so much favor bestowed on us. For example, my oldest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He went through two surgeries to remove it. I was terrified but I trusted God. I kept having to say, “Lord I believe, just help me with my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24) God does answer prayers. My son recovered from both surgeries with no deficits and he is healthy and cancer free to this day.

Remembering my trials and my blessings reminds me of what the Lord told me before we moved from Louisiana. “I will bring you into your land of milk and honey.” He also told me that He would give me the man of my desires in my husband. God did all that and more. My relationship with the Lord continues to grow and my relationship with Kevin just got better and better. My prayer was “Lord, bring Kevin and I closer together and closer to You.” We didn’t have a perfect marriage with no problems, but the last 10 years were the best of our 25-year marriage.

It seems the closer I got to God the more trials I have to endure. But His Word says, to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). I have to say that God is requiring a lot of me since He called the love of my life home to Him on July 26, 2016.  Kevin had just made 52 one month prior.

It was unexpected and almost unbelieveable. My husband’s presence was always larger than life. He lived a blessed and highly favored life, especially the last 10 years. His absence was felt like a tidal wave in a calm sea. The love and support that I and my family received after his passing, was immense. To look back now, I know I could have not made it through this ordeal without the Lord supplying me with all my needs through so many wonderful people.

During this time, I have also had two beautiful grandchildren born, such a bittersweet blessing. They will never get to know PaPa who loved them before they were born. This has truly been the hardest trial of my life. I miss my mate of 30 years and husband of over 25 years. My children miss their father, who has always been father and mother to them when mom was working. By God’s grace and mercy, we are all hanging in there. Our broken hearts are mending slowly. My prayer is “God heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)


My God has never failed me and I know with time and His presence in my life, I will be healed. I thank God for the time I had with Kevin and the three beautiful children we conceived and the one beautiful girl that is my child because she is Kevin’s. I know one day I will see my love again. In the meantime, I stand on God’s words, “I will give you beauty for ashes and double for your trouble.” (Isaiah 61:3-7 The Message)


A Little Thought From Heather:
Our lives speak a message.  I have half a blog post composed on that thought alone.  But Dr. Jackson’s life is a message I’ve received from for years now.  I first met her during nursing school gaining some insight into the world of NICU Nursing as an extern in the summer of 2011.  In addition to the beautiful views from our unit, another one of the “pros” on my list to work there was this neonatologist who took time to routinely write words of inspiration for the staff.  I watched her gown-up for a lumbar puncture and after all protocols were followed for a time-out she paused, closing her eyes to pray.  Not too much time passed till I was working as a NICU nurse caring for a terminally ill baby.  Dr. Jackson came in the room, motioned for me to give her my hands, and we stood together and prayed over that little life together.  Dr. Jackson has ministered to my life as I’ve observed hers. And the message she speaks through it is a beautiful testimony of God’s strength and faithfulness through all of life’s moments– the ones of rejoicing and the ones of pain.  I cannot express how grateful I am for her to share her story with us.  I pray the Lord continues to use the words of her journey to encourage and strengthen you on yours.  He is faithful…. in every season. ❤ Heather

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Illustrations of Favor for My Teenage Daughter

We take just a few moments each morning to read some Scriptures and pray. There is so much that flows from those prayers, but one of the things I pray over my children is for the Lord’s favor to be upon them. It’s a prayer that comes from Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

While I had no intention of boring you with the milestone celebrations of Brooklyn turning 16, and the Disney-themed party we had planned, or the car we surprised her with, the events of today require a modification to those intentions. Please allow me to share with you today’s events and allow the Lord to shine His flashlight upon the little things He works in and through.

I made the appointment for Brooklyn to take her driving test three weeks ago. I got online, paid, gathered all the documentation and eagerly awaited the day, as I knew it would be one she’d never forget. Well. I was right about one thing. It’s a day she’ll never forget.

We arrived to the Department of Safety for her 9am appointment. Brooklyn approached the counter with her folder of documents. Although she was anxious about the test, she cool and calmly retrieved the required papers from the folder laying them out for the agent. Then a statement, “I’m going to need your affidavit from the completion of your driver’s education course.”

Brooklyn glanced at me. I uncovered the paper. So I thought. “No Ma’am. That’s the affidavit for enrollment. We need the affidavit for completion.” I was a little concerned. Okay, on the inside I was really concerned, but before I allowed myself to get worked up over attaining Worst Mom of the Year, I asked if I could make a quick phone call and have the document faxed over; never minding the fact that I was fairly certain it wouldn’t be that easy.

I called Triple A where Brooklyn is enrolled for the Parent-Taught course. That phone call confirmed that I needed to arrange for Brooklyn to take the post-test after completing her 55 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Obviously, this is what I did not do. I asked if there was any way we could get the test taken today.

Here’s FAVOR #1—the Triple A lady said if we could come right then she could get us in.

Awesome.

And done.

On our way.

Optimistically thinking it’s all gonna pan out, I approach the counter and inform the agent of the mishap. I ask if there is any way we could return after obtaining the form. She apologizes and tells us their appointments are all taken for the day. I press, a little, “Is there any possibility you may have a cancellation or a no show?” “No, Ma’am, people don’t cancel their appointments.” Practically begging for a glimmer of hope I asked if we could walk-in and wait. No hope for that either. She said we could come back in the morning at 7 and wait, but I explained that I had to work tomorrow and asked yet one more question, “Are there ANY other testing facilities that we may be able to get into today?” She compassionately shook her head and said, “No.”

Not to be deterred, we loaded up to head to the Triple A office. Brooklyn had a lot of questions and I immediately fessed up to completely dropping the ball. I hadn’t looked at the one letter with THAT information for over six months. I missed it. Completely missed it and I apologized and apologized acknowledging that she’d never forget this day for the rest of her life. But I also said, “We may not get you in for a driving test today, but we’re certainly gonna try.”

A few Google searches. A couple phone calls. And then….. a text to a friend and we found a place!

I called and explained the situation.

The testing center lady asked, “What time could you be here?” I told her we could be there by 10:30 but that we could come any time today. She said, “Let me look and see what I have.” She got back on the phone.

Here’s FAVOR #2—“I only have a 10:30 open so if you can make it we can do it then.

Awesome.

And done.

We’ll be there.

We arrive to Triple A and Brooklyn is handed a 50-question test. Brooklyn forever and always has needed to know the plans, and when things don’t go as planned she has no choice but to go with it, but she certainly doesn’t like. It rattles her. Well. Today she was rattled on the inside but rolling with it. I was so proud of seeing her allow the situation to stretch her beyond her personality. She hadn’t looked at the driving manual since she took her written test for her permit, so she was not at all refreshed like she’d have preferred.

The clock was ticking away. She had 30 minutes if we were going to make the driving test appointment; however, as she headed off to take the written post-test I heard myself say, “No worries. Take your time.” Time?! We didn’t have any time! Crazy what comes out of my mouth when it’s not at all what I’m thinking. The power of the Holy Spirit at work right there speaking the words of calmness Brooklyn needed to hear.

The Triple A agent graded her test and called her over to the desk. I hung back for a bit slowly gathering my things to join her. The lady said, “You need a 70% to pass. You got a 68%.” Brooklyn said she thought the floodgate of tears were about to open and her face must’ve shown it, because the lady quickly shook her hand and said, “But it’s alright. You changed the answer on two of them that you had right so I gave you credit for those.” Can we sing it together? FAVOR #3!!!!

To sum up this story, we made it to the testing center with two minutes to spare. Brooklyn had the sweetest ever driving examiner. And Brooklyn passed!!!! Yay!!!!

But let me tell you a few of our take-aways that I pray are encouraging to you.

First of all, there’s this—the Lord compensates where we lack. This mishap was completely my fault. But God provided. He opened the doors we needed opening and it all panned out. Even when we parents can’t be all and do all, God’s got it!

Second—don’t give up. If there wasn’t a decent combination of optimism and bull-dog in me I don’t think we’d have discovered that it would’ve even been possible for it to all work out today. Yes, she would’ve gotten to test another day, but because of the fortitude in trying, Brooklyn got to see how things can still turn out to be a “yes” when someone has already said “no” (although again, let me add how compassionately and nice the DPS agent said it).

Third— “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT. Brooklyn was convinced that this was the Lord re-directing us to sweet Jennifer, the best driving examiner ever! So thankful He directs our steps!

Fourth— God is God over all our challenges. Today we had an undesirable situation, and while it doesn’t appear like a big deal, cause it the grand scheme of life it’s really not, it was still something of great importance to Brooklyn and God worked on her behalf. I hope Brooklyn remembers moments like these and that when she is an adult she has the experiences to know that the first person to turn to is the Father over all things. Sometimes we feel we need to have a qualifying need—job loss, rocky marriage, cancer, rebellious child, death of a loved one—to ask the Lord’s involvement, but God cares about it all, big and small. He wants to walk with us. Whether that’s into the driving center or the treatment center, whether that’s visiting a mechanic’s garage or a counselor’s couch, whether that’s at the bank or the graveside. He wants to walk it with us. Every single day.

Thanking the Lord for His favor!

P.S. If you see this car…..please be kind.  She’s a brand new driver 😊❤


 

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