Summer Done Possibilities Begun

I remember years ago listening to parents comment on this time of year. Statements like, “I cannot WAIT for school to start” or “It can’t come fast enough” just made me a little sad inside.

I wondered, “How could anyone ever feel that way about their children? Their precious babies. Their little miracles from Heaven.”

Well, let’s just say, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under Heaven.” And for the parents in this house, school is an activity under Heaven we are so grateful to have. That Solomon sure knew what he was talking about!

There was a season of my life that I couldn’t even imagine receiving delight from the first day of school. I’ve even written about the emotional challenges of our little ducklings setting sail into a new school year. But that season is o-ha-ver-er! Yep. Just imagine it like Jim Carrey saying it, making over into a four-syllable word.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my children. And so did all those parents I’d listen to years ago and wonder where, in their heart, could they want their children to leave them for hours each day of the week.

No. They loved their children. Just as much as I loved and love mine. They were just speaking from a different season.

For example, a season like the one we’re in. You know. Two teenagers in the house. TWO!!! One of them being a female! The cry of my heart day-in and day-out, “Dear Jesus, help us!” But let’s not put it all on the teens. Oh no, no. The others. Those other two gave me a nice illustration just this past Sunday for how very timely the school year starting was for our home.

Standing at the ironing board for over four hours was not the ideal way to spend my Sunday afternoon. However, it is my own fault.  If I didn’t despise the task so much I wouldn’t have to spend such large chunks of time. Guess it’s part of that whole a stitch in time saves nine thing. But I don’t do stitching either so, carrying on.

Here I am at the ironing board with a boatload of wrinkled clothes draped across the couch awaiting the steam, when Caden comes down stairs half smiling in an attempt to avert his need to cry.

He said, “Mom, Gavin bit me.”

Puzzled, I replied with a question, “He bit you?

Caden raises the leg of his shorts to reveal a bite on the inside of his thigh! The inside of his thigh! Wow! Talk about pain! And problems. Wooie! Gavin was in trouble! Yep. Say that one with at least three syllables to get the intensity of the moment.

While I’ve never been a biter, I do get that even the best of circumstances lose thrill and passion.

I mean I’ve seen the Disney traveling families who have had so many magical moments they are over it! Over. It.

I also remember back to those days having my very, very best friend in the whole entire world, over to stay the night. One night wasn’t enough. So we’d ask for another night. Then that night wasn’t enough so we’d ask ,pretty please, for just one more! You know the story. After a week we were so sick of each other that every little thing brought aggravation and annoyance. It was like, “When is she going home?!

Point is. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And too much of summer break, too much of staying home together in the same general area can end up turning something good into something not so good.

And another point. Enjoy the season. Soak it up.

My Mom has been the best example to me in that. So many times we say, “I can’t wait till this” or “I just wish I could go back to that.”

You’ll never hear my Mom carrying on about how she wished she could go back to soak up more moments. And the reason this is so significant is because my Mom only had nine years of her life to spend with her baby boy. We’d all understand wanting to live in the past when the past is the only place you have with one you love. But that is why we make the most of today, because we never know what tomorrow holds.

My Mom truly makes the most of every opportunity. She lives in the here and now. Life is happening today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today.

Which brings me to my most favorite back-to-school post I saw, and last focus point to share. It said, “180 days of opportunities to make a difference.”

Wow!

Or as Junie B. Jones would say, “Wowie! Wow! Wow!

Each day is an opportunity to make a difference. Our kids walking the halls of their school. Our kids sitting at their lunch table. Our kids playing at recess. Our big kids pulling into the parking lots, sitting in their concurrent-enrollment courses and working at their part-time jobs. From taking tests to simple interactions with teachers and peers, our kids have an opportunity every single day to make a difference.  How in the world could we hoard that?!

And each day they head out the door and each night we tuck ‘em into bed, we echo the prayer of this back-to-school post,

Praying for a productive year filled with physical, mental and spiritual growth. New friends. New memories. And lots of fun!

Happy Back to School!!!!

Go make it awesome!

Colossians 4:5-6 NLT Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

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

Brooklyn ~ 11th —- Jaron ~ 8th —- Caden ~ 5th —- Gavin ~ 2nd *if Brooklyn wasn’t wearing heels she’d be eye-to-eye with her oldest little brother

I Can’t Breathe

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I mean literally. Have you ever been met with such force that you lost your breath and momentarily lost the ability to take in another one?

There are a few things I think about when I imagine taking a breath. It has to do with tidal volume and vital capacity and respiratory nursing world technicalities. But before I learned about all of that terminology and mechanics of lung function, I learned what it felt like.

I remember back to my seven-year-old days being mechanically ventilated. Being intubated. Some call it life support.

I remember coming out from sedation.

Sedation. Those drugs that make you sleep; time passing without ever even knowing its existence.

I remember having moments of wakefulness and feeling that tube in my throat and thinking, I can’t breathe. It’s a scary feeling.

In a more common experience, I remember having the breath literally knocked out of me when I was about ten. My best friend Brad lived just down the road. Brad and Jon were the same age and after Jon died, Brad stepped in, giving his best to provide all the big-brother experiences he knew Jon would have given me. Like taking me fishing. Which included him fishing my hook out of his own hand on more than one occasion. Obviously, fishing wasn’t my knack. But Brad insisted I go nevertheless.

He’d call and scream into the answering machine on the early summer-break mornings, telling me to get my butt out of bed. If that didn’t work, he’d make his way down to the house to pester me awake. And we joined up for a decent amount of mischief, as Jon would have wanted, including throwing eggs off structures that I’m pretty sure people get arrested for. Brad was a gift of God’s grace in the tragedy of losing Jon. They were best friends, so having him was like getting to keep a piece of Jon.

However, I’m not sure I was thinking that the day he body slammed me over the couch. Don’t get me wrong- I deserved it. I had wrestled with the boys from my earliest beginnings. That’s what happens when you’re the only girl and the baby. If ya wanna be included, you got to run with the big boys. Who knows? Maybe it’s what developed my toughness for the road of recovery I faced.

But that day I hit the edge of the couch and fell off to the floor on my back, I looked at the ceiling and could not breathe. It was momentary, but no breath was to be caught. It scared me. And I think it scared Brad a little too.

I haven’t had the breath knocked out of me since that day. As I grew into a lady, I stopped wrestling with my big-brother figure and I played it safe going into vocal performance rather than high-impact activities.   But life has knocked the breath out of me many times over.

I remember having a dear friend, whom I loved very much, say something completely untrue about me. Our friendship shattered.   It took my breath away.

I remember sitting on an exam table and my obstetrician compassionately apologizing for our miscarried pregnancy. The feeling of emptiness took my breath away.

I remember being back in the burn unit recovering from skin grafts and Brandon walking in to my bedside telling me my Dad had passed away. I was in the same place I was when I found out my brother was dead seventeen years earlier. It took my breath away.

I remember my child making poor choices and receiving text messages from someone I loved and trusted telling me the behavior was linked to the way I had made my child feel. I was on the floor of parenting despair and that took my breath away.

I remember Brandon calling to tell me he had good news and bad news. Good news he was coming home and would get to spend the day with us. Bad news was he had lost his job in a highly unanticipated layoff. It took my breath away.

I could continue to trace back some moments where I felt someone had just knocked the wind right out of me, but the more important part is sharing how I got the breath to carry on.

There’s a worship song by All Sons and Daughters called, Great Are You, Lord. Here are some of the lyrics—

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

There are some key points to grab onto right there. When there is no breath left in you, He is your breath. God is breathing into our lungs. He is breathing in His life. His love. His light. His hope. We come up empty. We come up with darkness. We come up with brokenness. We come up apneic—that’s nursing terminology meaning not breathing. And He provides. Add this one to your playlist and sing it out when life’s trials, challenges and circumstances have knocked the wind right out of you. Praising Him in the storm restores and strengthens in supernatural ways we can’t even imagine.

So there’s one way—worship Him.

Here’s another—read, recall and repeat His Word. Psalm 34 is below with some bolded truths that I cling to. Remember—read, recall, repeat. There’s power in His Word! There’s breath for our life!

And finally, communicate to Him and His people. If you can’t breathe, you need intervention. I realized this when Jaron was born. Poor little fella couldn’t breathe—here’s that apnea word again, and retractions and all the things that go along with respiratory distress syndrome. It was more than a little skin-to-skin with mom could cure. Jaron Michael needed help. Specifically he needed some mechanical ventilation, but point is, when we need a breath, God is there to give it, but we need to reach out to Him and the people He longs to use to help us.

When life has knocked the wind right out of you, when there’s an internal anxiety and despair for air; let His peace, His presence and His breath fill your lungs as you walk in trust and rest. God is holding on to you.

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

Psalm 34 NIV
I will extol the Lord at all times;
    His praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt His name together.
I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
    He delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to Him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    He saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
    and He delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and His ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue His servants;
no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Personal Connection is More Important Than Pretty Pot Pies

I am a girl who likes to eat, but doesn’t cook.  In other words, I cook to eat.

Kind of ironic that I have a cookbook I’ll be offering for purchase soon. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll love this cookbook. Zero intimidation for those just needing to fix some food.

Some people get real creative in the kitchen.  The ideas start flowing as they get out bowls and ingredients, pots and pans, spatulas, spoons and rolling pins. Not me.  I have the stuff.  I just don’t have the passion.

What I do have passion for is people.  And I love when people come to our home, sit around our table, or out on our patio, and eat with us.  Which is what happened just a couple weeks ago when my friend from work was coming for dinner and a visit with her hubby and three kiddos.

I decided a nice chicken-pot pie would be a good fit for the evening; I could prepare it ahead and it would be easy clean up.  Win.  And win!

So there I was before dawn that Tuesday morning.  I got my chicken going in the pressure cooker and started on my piecrust.  I rolled it out, transferred it to my 9×13 dish, put the remaining crust in a zip-lock bag and placed it in the fridge to use for the top later.  Check. Check and check.  I was feeling quite productive, as the sun still had not even begun to rise.

The morning was going to be a full one, and so was the rest of the day, so it felt oh so good to get this dinner prepared in advance.

Let’s fast-forward to an hour and a half before our guests are scheduled to arrive.

Feeling like I’ve done pretty much all the work already, I come into the kitchen, get out my chicken I have already deboned and shredded, remove my already pie-crust-assembled 9×13 dish from the fridge, along with the zip-lock bag of the crust I was using for the top of my pot pie.  I stirred together all my remaining ingredients in a bowl with my chicken, added seasoning to my liking, hoping it’s what my guests will like too, and then pour the contents into the awaiting casserole dish.  Oh this feeling is so good!  I’m just going to roll out the top, toss it on, throw the dish in the oven and get my shower in plenty of time to spare.

At this point I’m feeling quite good at my early arising, thinking that this is what Proverbs 31 women are made of.

The feeling shifted.

Quickly.

I floured my surface and began to roll out the remaining piecrust.  I’m sure everyone who loves to make pies would have a plethora of suggestions and most certainly corrections for what was taking place.  Let’s just say, I was having some challenges getting my piecrust rolled out as smoothly as I did earlier that day.  I got to thinking that maybe I’d just have to start over and make an entire batch of crust again, but before I did, as time was ticking away and it seemed I was now on the verge of possibly needing to rush, I took that crust in my hands and said, “Lord, You make all things good.  Please make this pie crust good.”

Yes.  I prayed over my piecrust.  We’ve shared this blogging journey long enough now for you to know that I lean heavily on the Lord’s intervention over my daily activities.  I’m just a mess.  In so many ways.  But I know He cares about these little things too.

So there I go with a renewed confidence that the piecrust will be easier to work with.  And guess what?  It was!  I rolled that puppy out with ease.  I delicately rolled it up, grabbed two spatulas, came at it, inserting a spatula on each side, and I held my breath as I slowly and carefully transferred it over to the top of the chicken pot pie.  I laid it down ever so easily, and feeling like the hardest part was behind me, I let out a sigh of relief and began unrolling it, covering the top of the pie.

So…… the Lord made it good.

I just didn’t make it long enough!!! 

I think I said out loud, “you have got to be kidding me?!?!

The rush was on.  Without a doubt I needed to make another batch of piecrust.  And I did.  In record time.  Not in record time for those cooking shows, but in record time for me.

As I’m sifting the flour, adding in some crisco, and topping it with a beaten egg, vinegar and water, I’m asking myself, “Why do you do this?  Why do you want to cook for people?”  And while the question was a thought, the answer was a verbal statement.

People don’t come for the perfect meal but for the personal connection.”

Yep. That’s what I said out loud for my ears to hear and to get my mind focused on the bigger picture of this let’s-get-together-for-dinner idea.

The thing is, I’ve been in some homes where I’ve eaten some amazing food, but didn’t receive a sprinkle of hospitality. And honestly, I’d rather have a ham sandwich with a side of hospitality than a filet minion with none.

With that thought, I quickly added some additional crust to the bare part of my chicken-pot pie. I wish now that’d I’d have taken a picture, but at the moment I was working through everything I could to stay focused on the people and not the pot pie. But let me just tell you. My chicken-pot pie looked like it had a diaper! My original crust that wasn’t long enough, met with my additional crust and it pretty much looked like a diaper. But you know what? Our company loved it! And what they loved more was the time we were able to spend together.

We sat around our kitchen table for nearly 3 hours visiting, laughing and telling stories. We watched pool-soaked kiddos pop in and out of the house with giggles of goodness, a toddler make the most fun of a box of tissues, and Ruby even got to enjoy her favorite past time with our sweet friends, a few rounds of some intense tug-of-war.

And to think I could’ve let an imperfect pot-pie make me feel inadequate for such an experience. I would’ve missed so much.

Luke 10:38-42 NLT As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

By the way—come to find out, there’s a reason I’ve always felt frustrated with my chicken-pot pie. I’ve been working with half the dough. Through a conversation with my Mom about the ordeal it was revealed that I’ve been trying to make half as much go twice as far! Good grief! Now THAT is a completely different lesson, maybe we’ll revisit in a future post someday.

Until next time…. Reach out. Love and be loved. Be hospitable. Make connection. Soak up the opportunities. Whether it’s china or chinet, whether it’s roasted lamb or a diapered pot pie—personal connection is the goal!

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

GUEST POST: God Multiplies Goodness

*a special post from special guest Kim Couch*

Ten.  Ten Years. Ten years ago, I was finishing my first year of teaching, trying to figure out how to be a mom to my 18 month-old son, and building a new house with my husband. It was a time in my life when I was in a good place.  It was also ten years ago that I found a lump in my breast.  So, at that point when I felt everything was coming together–everything came to a halt.  In June of 2007, at the age of 28,  I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The only previous experience I’d had with breast cancer was the loss of my high school friend’s mom due to the disease.  So, that was it.  The only person I’d known with cancer had lost her battle about ten years prior to my diagnosis.  It was at that very moment when I felt like I had been given a death sentence

Little did I know, while I was trying to grasp my new reality, God had already lined up numerous people in my life who would have an impact on the journey my family was about to start. Our family friends had resources that led me to Cancer Treatment Centers of America with the most amazing doctors and medical team.  Our pastor’s wife was a breast cancer survivor, so she was able to be an encouragement to me along the way.  Once I got set up with my medical team and had a plan, I was ready to go into battle.  I had decided that my attitude would be a major impact in my ability to beat this disease!  So right then and there, I decided that I would be positive and try to show God’s light to those around me.  I had a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and 30 rounds of radiation.  I started in July 2007 and finished my treatments in April 2008.  

One of the first things I remember asking my doctor was, “Does breast cancer mean I can’t have any more children?

His response was, “Not now, but I’m not saying never.”  As time passed, I would ask him the same question.  Ultimately, the answer was the same.

There were many things on the journey that were hard, but looking back, the two hardest things for me were losing my hair and not knowing if I would ever have more children.  As I progressed on my treatment plan, my hair began to grow back, but I was still left with the pain of not having more children. There were points during this journey when I would imagine having another baby; however, while I obviously wasn’t pregnant, several of my friends were preparing for babies in their lives.  Although I was excited for them, it was truly a difficult time.  Please understand, I was grateful for my family of three and wasn’t willing to jeopardize my health, but I was still mourning the plans I had for my family.  My husband and I talked about and were open to the idea of adoption, but nothing seemed to work out for us.  I learned our plans are not always God’s plans.  

Finally, after about four years, my oncologist began to discuss the possibility of becoming pregnant.  Whoa!  When I was given that news, I panicked and questioned if it was something I really wanted. I felt like I had gone through the mourning process and had come to terms with my reality.  After about a year of praying and processing the idea, I had a sense of peace about the situation.  My husband and I decided we were ready to explore the idea.  We agreed that if I didn’t get pregnant then it wasn’t meant to be, and we would not seek fertility options.

In September of 2012, our first month after making the decision to try, we became pregnant!  A month later when we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor said she saw something interesting.  I immediately thought the worst and asked if something was wrong.  She smiled and said, “Not necessarily.  You’re having twins!” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get pregnant, let alone getting pregnant in the first month of trying, and to top it off, pregnant with twins!!  

On May 8, 2013 we welcomed Karlee Jo and Kynslee Jane to our family.

I’m a planner.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’m so thankful God’s plan was bigger and better.  I’m a stronger person because of my experience with cancer, and I’ve learned to trust God…even in the ugly, scary times.  Although we may not see it at the time, God is always working things out for our best.  It took longer than I wanted to see what God’s plan was, but the wait was so worth it.  He turned my ugly and scary  into something beautiful!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

A Little Thought from Heather:
I met Karlee and Kynslee on the day of their birth, and I’ll never forget their big brother trying to catch a glimpse of his brand new baby sisters as they were being rolled down the hallway.  A brief stop to let him gaze upon the miracle of their lives and God’s goodness beamed from the light of his little eyes.

Goodness.  Goodness is what I think of when I think of this amazing family.  So many times we see a diagnosis, but God sees a platform to display a mighty work of His hand– a work that can only be accomplished by His supernatural intervention.

Kim’s story gives hope to all.  Believing for a healing?  She did much more.  She believed for a healing without resolving to a sacrifice.  Did she desire to be healed from breast cancer?  Absolutely.  Did she forfeit her desire for more children?  Not at all.  She believed and held on, standing in faith for BOTH!  

I believe Kim is an example to all of us for how to believe.  Don’t believe for sufficient, believe for abundance; believe for fulfillment; believe for icing-on-the-cake; and in Kim’s case, believe for multiplication!

May you be blessed and encouraged today to continue standing confident in God’s goodness in the plans He has for your life!  ❤ Heather

*I pray this post spoke to you. Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.*

Happy 4th of July, Brave Fighter!

Seasons change in life.

Things change and shift, reflecting different pictures.

For a season of my life The Star Spangled Banner was one of my most favorite songs to sing. Today, I don’t do too much singing publicly, but I still sing. God bless my children and my hubby for all my singing they listen to around the house and in the car!

I remember singing this song for the first time in 8th grade choir. And then, my sophomore year of high school I was asked to sing this song at a basketball game.

Like I always did, I showed up with my accompaniment track, on a cassette tape in those days, and I sang the National Anthem at my first high school basketball game. Afterward, a coach encouraged me to do it next time without the music!

What?!

I could never sing without the music! That felt so naked!

The next few times I still brought my accompaniment, but then one random time I put on my big girl panties, pun totally intended, and I belted it out acapella.

I sang this song so often that one particular time I got finished, walked over to the student section where I planned to eat the hot dog waiting for me that I purchased right before I sang, and my friends said, “What happened? “ I had no idea what they were getting at. I mean, I would remember for sure if I cracked or flubbed. I’ve done that more times than I can count. But this instance I felt it went rather smoothly. Then one of them said, “You skipped straight to the bombs!” How funny! I didn’t even realize until that point that I had missed an entire stanza!

Time has changed very much. In the video you’ll notice my sweet Ruby Sue on the floor behind me and the kids’ cats moseying around, but as different as the picture looks, this is still one of my most favorites.

There is something about “the fight.” Something about a “perilous fight” and “our flag” still there that stirs my heart and my spirit.

We all face fights. We face unimaginable moments of hardship and difficulty, but we come from a people who are fighters.

I am so proud to be an American. Not just today on Independence Day. I am grateful I was born in this United States of America and have inherited the history of this country and my family.

We are a young country. We have many flaws in our past and our present. Something I can relate to and identify with personally.

But we are fighters. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Brave.

Brave is a word that has more definition, meaning and value to me than I can expand on in this post which I intended to be short and sweet.

But brave is something I connect with.

Brave is what the nurses called me in the burn unit during bandage changes.

Brave is what I tell myself when I’m standing on the brink of what I feel like I most certainly will fail at in my own ability.

Brave is what I tap into when I write posts, write this book in the making, show up to take care of NICU babies, step out on a limb to pray with someone I don’t know, parent my children each day, because honestly people, sometimes they scare me, and to record this song to share with you. Gracious that took lots of brave for me.

But just as we come from fighters. We come from so much more. Brave fighters.

I Timothy 6:12 NLT Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Psalm 27:14 NLT Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Happy 4th of July, Brave Fighter!

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

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Sherri Valder

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

A Little Thought from Heather:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*I pray this post spoke to you. Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.*

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!