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.

All You Care to Eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you with me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Living in a Layoff

Insurance is a complex matter to explain to kids. Actually, it’s a bit complex even for teenagers to understand. Honestly, let’s go ahead and include us adults too. There’s just so much to wrap our heads around.

Insurable interest. Risk analysis. Rates. Replacement Cost. Comprehensive and Collision. Deductibles. Liability. They are vocabulary words for the grown-up world.

Now that we have a driver-in-training, we frequently define these important words. And not just regarding auto insurance. A severe storm on July 14th brought one hundred mile-per-hour winds, and over forty thousand dollars worth of damage to our home. It was an unsettling site to see when we came out of the safe-room, especially for the kids. That was our time for informing them about homeowner’s insurance.

My dad sold insurance so I grew up hearing about “policies.” Life Insurance. Health Insurance. Auto Insurance. Homeowner’s Insurance. Flood Insurance. Dental Insurance. Long-term Care Insurance. The list goes on. At one time, Dad even sold Pre-Need Policies allowing for people to make arrangements for their funerals. It wasn’t something he just sold, but something he also did, which may I interject was a magnificent blessing to our family when he passed.

Insurance is a way for us to take precaution, preparing for the unexpected. We hope to never have to use it, but its there if we do. We’ve heard it called “peace-of-mind.”

The thing is, if you’re using your insurance it’s because something isn’t right, because something has gone wrong. And in those instances, while insurance is a blessing, it may not be enough for the unanticipated emotional storms we confront.

Nine days before the summer storm hit our house, Brandon called me with another storm.

“I have good news and bad news. Good news is I’m coming home to spend the day with you and the kids. The bad news is I lost my job.”

Hit the brakes. Tires screeching. Cars crashing. It was that feeling of being caught completely off guard.

I felt such shock and knew I needed to get off the phone. “Babe, would you want to sit out by the pool and visit about it when you get here? We can talk face-to-face or is it better to talk now?” He concurred to visit at home.

I got off the phone and immediately called a prayer warrior, “Brandon just called me. He lost his job. And I’m feeling very emotional. I need you to pray over me because I want to be strong for him when he gets home.” Let me say, while I felt broken during her prayer, I felt as strong as a lion by the time we said “amen.”

While our years of prepare-for-the-unexpected financial mindset, the influence and implementation of Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund, and the blessing of a severance package did of course give us peace of mind; we were on the forefront of reflection and evaluation.

I was the observer. Like a support-person for a patient in the hospital, I just watched, prayed and encouraged. My husband took everything into consideration, weighed every angle. I anticipated one of two things: major mid-life crisis or major encounter with God.

Although the situation came by much surprise, we never felt like it was an attack of the enemy. After having the last couple years with a rebellious child, we are familiar with an attack. We know the warfare of spiritual battles. This wasn’t one.

Brandon was transparent before the Lord desiring to know His plans for Brandon’s life. It’s something really. The whole ordeal made him question himself, his purpose, his abilities and value. As disheartening and helpless as it felt to walk through with him, we both gained treasures we would not have wanted to miss.

God revealed to Brandon that it was less about the plan and all about Him. The more Brandon sought the Lord the more peace He had in knowing that he was right where God wanted him to be and when it was time, the Lord would move him into the place He desired for him to be.

We both knew the big picture had nothing to do with finances, but everything to do with time. The names of the gifts were: time for family-fun with the kids, school drop-off and pick-up, even assisting for coaching soccer, time for physical improvement, time for spiritual growth, time for professional development getting his PMP, and time for marriage having omelet-and-mimosa-hot-tub Fridays.

My personal treasure from the experience was falling even deeper in love with this guy who’s held my heart since I was a teenager. Unemployment didn’t look pitiful to me—it looked admirable. It was an opportunity for what was stripped away to display this man’s character.

It was apparent when evaluating the budget that if I went back to work full-time we’d be able to keep the boat afloat. Not the lifestyle we’ve been used to, but meeting the needs nevertheless. Brandon wouldn’t have it. And he didn’t want us to tap into that emergency fund either. He had already made the decision to sell his car. “I’ll drive the truck.” The truck? The fifteen year-old-truck that doesn’t have a dash, the speaker is busted, the window doesn’t roll down and the rust has eaten away the fenders? “Babe. You love that car.” His response, “It’s just a car. It was fun, but it just isn’t fun anymore.” Hubba-hubba. He couldn’t have looked any sexier than at that moment. My love and respect grew even greater for this man of mine. I felt even deeper pride to be his wife.

The details of how the Lord orchestrated Brandon from July 5th to today are ones I’ve written about in the book. There’s just so much to share. God in His perfect timing and His perfect ways moved Brandon into a better place than what we could have anticipated. And in the process, answered yet another prayer of ours,

Lord, open our eyes to the struggles of those around us. Make us relevant and effective for You. Speak Your hope to hearts through our life.”

This book about overcoming life’s darkest moments, about endurance and perseverance includes a storm so many of us face, one we can’t emotionally insure. Thankful God uses all things. Even layoffs.

I Timothy 6:17-19 ESV
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

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For Better or Worse — we are blessed to face it together

Struggling To See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#peaceday #peaceeveryday #internationaldayofpeace

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Control Freak

Getting in the car with my mom I must be prepared for one thing, the possibility she may honk her horn. And I don’t mean a little “toot-toot.” I mean, lay-on-the-horn, blaring-loud-for-all-to-hear kind of honk. It doesn’t end there. Whatever ability she has to demonstrate her displeasure on the outside of the car is only a glimmer compared to her expressions on the inside of the car. And my Mom is a nice person! However, she gets all riled up on the road. Inconsiderate people who pull out in front of her causing her to slam on her brakes. Distracted drivers, talking, or yes, even texting away on their phones. Rushed workers ignorning the lane closure signs to squeeze in at the last possible moment. It infuriates her.

When she rides with me she’ll identify every moment I should utilize my horn. My neglection of such an opportunity produces much discussion as she’ll inform me that I need to let them know what they did so they won’t do it again. There’s where her hope is. It’s not an angry, difficult, short little lady. It’s a woman who intends to help people out, highlight the error of their driving, so they can do it better the next time.

My take is different. Number one, I wonder if the person who pulled out in front of me, or cut me off, may be a mother who has a screaming baby in the car, a tired toddler and an argumentative child. Believe me, that causes some distractions and enough stress without being honked at. Or possibly, it’s a nurse who lives forty-five minutes from the hospital and got called-in before she had a shower or a trace of make-up on her face. It happens. Secondly, and most importantly for me is, I don’t care. I don’t care about honking at someone and getting all worked up over them, because I have no relational connection, nor any ounce of influence on them to change anything. If a driver is flat-out rude, they’re going to be flat-out rude whether I blast my horn or not. It’s just not worth the aggravation to me.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I do get worked up. I do get riled to the point of feeling steam come out my ears. Okay, not quite steam, but you get the picture. Flaming mad. Like Anger on Disney’s Inside Out or Donald Duck when he’s “had it up to here!” (Yes, that’s what he sometimes says, although it almost requires a translator to comprehend his lines.)

I tend to get all upset with things I think I have control over. Emphasis given to the word, “think.” It’s like a quantitative study. I have variables in an experiment. The independent variable is manipulated to produce the dependent variable. Since my lab puppy, sweet little Ruby Sue, is turning one this weekend, let’s consider dog food. The type of dog food is an independent variable because it’s something I can change (or manipulate), and the results I get are the dependent variables like her weight, her likability to the food, and maybe her coat being more shiny.

If I have no influence on the outcome, I don’t get too engaged. It’s that whole, “it is what it is” kind of situation; “que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.”

But let me share with you where I do get hung up. It’s again, in those areas I think I have control.

My parents were told, on more than one occassion, during my years of rehabiliation from my burn injury that I may develop an addiction to narcotics. I’ll share more about the topic when the book project pieces together, but for now, let me focus on this subject of control. Although I desire to be as out-of-it as possible when I’m recovering from surgeries, I’m quite eager to stop taking the medication when I no longer need it, because I don’t feel in control when I’m in a fog. Too much of my childhood was out of my control. As an adult, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the care I received. Absolutley overwhelmed. I’m living a life today because of the care I received. Nevertheless, I remember as a child wanting control over the situations I had absolutley none.

Memories of being restrained, with my arms braced out to my side, unable to move. Memories of a tube down my throat breathing for me, but occluding my ability to communicate. Screaming for help when those precious nurses were tearing bandages off my raw body. Fighting against amazing physical therapists as they ripped scar tissue to stretch my contractured body.

Yes, I have control issues.

I also have a good, good Father who loves me as I am, but desires me to grow in Him. Just as He provides opportunities to make the impatient patient and the prideful humble; He’s given me many opportunities to release control and grow in trust.

A reoccurring theme for 2015 was trust. As I felt challenged in 2014 to rest, 2015 was about trust. Here’s a bit of what I journaled toward the end of the year…

As I’ve sought the Lord, as He’s challenged me to trust Him, using situations to strengthen my trust muscle, I can see the control shatter. I needed to be here and He was preparing the time for me. I needed to grow in the quality, in this characteristic.

‘Do you trust God?’ Yes, I’ve always trusted God. However, do I trust God when I have no control, no influence over the outcome, when I have nothing to contribute, or even manipulate?  Not in a bad manipulate-evil-devising way, but in a manipulate as, take it in my own hands and change what it needs, or what I think it needs to be, to form it and mold it on my own. Do I trust God even then?

Oh, how I thought He was teaching me through the writing to trust Him. Oh, how I thought He was teaching me through the speaking to trust Him. Oh, how I thought my obedience to step away from full-time nursing was trusting Him, or being given our website was trusting Him- but, those situations were PREPARING me for the biggest trust exercise the Lord could have set before me….

I know where my desire to control comes from. It’s fear. I wanted control when I was little because I was scared. Not much has changed. I still to this day fight fear. The fear is a bit different, but I fight nevertheless. But again, God is so loving and kind towards me. His Word says, “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). Which means I don’t have to be in control. I just need to trust in Him.

Therefore, as you’re stepping into your dreams, visions and goals for 2016, be aware of the vision killers we’ve discussed the last few weeks: feeling overwhelmed, making assumptions, and fear.

Fear has no place. You serve a great God! And the same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in you (Romans 8:11).  Remember that fact, and exercise that muscle to trust in the face of any fear this year!

Isaiah 30:15 ESV For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and REST you shall be saved; in quietness and in TRUST shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,

This was one of the verses I’ve stood on, encompassing the Lord’s challenge for me to rest in 2014 and to trust in 2015. But unlike the people of Israel, may we be willing.

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Deflated

*please note: this post is from the heart of a woman, for a woman—may the men not be uncomfortable, but gain deeper understanding, value and appreciation for issues women confront and overcome.  additionally, may each reader see what it means to be a burn survivor, still now, over twenty-seven years later.

All my life I’ve listened to comments about how wonderful boobs are.

My problem is, I don’t have any. I never have.

They would have been nice to have when all my friends were growing their own set. You know, to at least have some clue to what they were experiencing. They would have been nice to pull out on my wedding night. From what I understand, it’s a pretty exciting component. And for certain, they would have been beneficial to have had when my children were born.

I’ve lived hearing about boobs, seeing paintings and sculptures of boobs, commercials about bras supporting boobs, reading scriptures about boobs, and helping NICU moms use their boobs for their babies.

So how does a woman feel like a woman without them? Without having ever had them? What does femininity mean to a woman who never experienced an obvious development of becoming a woman?

They’re not questions you would necessarily ask a thirteen year-old, or a sixteen year-old or a twenty year-old. They probably wouldn’t be able to answer them. These are deep questions, difficult for me to confront still, at thirty-four. But ones I’ve spent a lifetime attempting to answer—for myself.

These are questions I’ve brought to the Lord numerous times through my life, and many times again just in the last few weeks.

They do say when it rains it pours. Honestly, it’s all a matter of perception and experience. My family and I have endured the rain. I’ve witnessed others withstand heartbreaking circumstances. Therefore, when things feel like they’re falling apart, I cope from the reality that things could always be much worse.

But an attack is an attack. We have to see it for what it is to know how to battle it. At a time when we in our home were experiencing a storm, a time when our vulnerability to share it caused our character and integrity to come under fire, a time when my Mom was recuperating from a fractured wrist and my Aunt from knee replacement, I noticed a subtle change in my body.

Let me say, when we’re broken, we don’t know if what we’re seeing really is what is.

I was feeling weak, discouraged, and heavy-laden. During my shower, I thought, “My left implant seems smaller.” But I hoped my perception was affected by my state-of-mind. You know. I hoped I was just seeing things.

Over the next few days it became pretty obvious I wasn’t. My left implant had ruptured.

Seems like a simple fix. Go see the doc and get a new boob.

That may be somewhat of a straightforward solution if I actually had breasts to begin with. But remember, I don’t. I never have.

Breast reconstructive surgeries started for me when I was fifteen. My first surgeon didn’t educate my parents on the process. Tissue expanders would have been a nice option, but in his defense, there wasn’t an industry then like there is now. Therefore, implants were inserted in my chest with minimal ability for the scarring to stretch. It was one of the most painful experiences. You’re probably thinking, “Really? Compared to third degree burns?” I can say, my first breast reconstructive surgery ranks up there with some of my most terrible memories over the years.

Up until eighteen, I went through several more surgeries for my breasts. The implants kept falling; lack of support to hold them. There was even an attempt to make nipples for me. Let me say ladies, looking back now, I would decline that option. But as a young teenage girl, whose body didn’t look anything like it was suppose to, I was desperate for whatever might help make me look a bit more normal. However, I’ve seen lots of nipples in my line of work, and even though it was a detailed process of grafting and tattooing, the fact of the matter is, they don’t look like nipples.

Not long ago, I spoke with a woman who underwent breast reconstructive surgery after her battle with breast cancer. She opted out of the nipple construction and decided to get her own tattoo. She had her favorite flower tattooed over her reconstructed breast. Obviously, it’s not an art everyone can see to appreciate, but it’s special, because it’s for her. It’s something beautiful in place of what would only be an attempt for normal. As we know, “normal” takes on a new meaning after such a loss.

From eighteen to twenty-eight, I was breast surgery free. That is, until after Gavin’s birth. My left implant ruptured and it had to be replaced. However, ten years wasn’t too shabby for that set. (Reread that last sentence as if you were talking about tires. It adds an element of humor that is a must in situations like these). The surgery was out patient and took longer than anticipated. Brandon’s concern heightened when the staff started turning the lights off in the waiting room to close and he still hadn’t heard what was going on with me. The surgery took four hours. Shortly after I was awake, vomiting post op, we were booted out with an emesis basin and a cool washcloth for the ride home. That was just the beginning of an unpleasant recovery. The amount of scar tissue made it a challenge to replace the implants, and I felt it in the days following.

These are the reasons for my tears. I get so frustrated with it all. Honestly, I just wish I had my own. At some point in my life, I wish I had had my own. I wish I experienced that effortlessly natural development of a woman’s body. I wish this was an issue of enhancement and not reconstruction.

These are the reasons for my tears. I don’t know how many times these suckers can be replaced before I hear something along the lines, “I’m sorry, Heather. All the previous surgeries have created too much scar tissue and we’re not going to be able to replace them.” I don’t know there will ever come an age I’ll be okay without having anything, because come on, it’s not like they look normal anyway, but at least in my clothes I have the normal shape of a woman. And while there are some women rendered flat chested without a hint of breast tissue with no desire for reconstruction after surviving cancer or injury, I can say, I don’t want to forfeit this small piece of femininity that I never experienced on my own.

So here we go, back to the OR today for a piece of femininity. My surgeon is practical, and yet super sensitive to my concerns. We’re giving it a go with some ADM, specifically Strattice Reconstructive Tissue Matrix derived from porcine tissue used to reinforce my weak scar tissue,  and some silicone gel implants. We’re hoping for a good twenty-five years for the next set. Which would be five times longer than the ones I have now. I’d say that’s something to be optimistic about!

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Heather and Dr. Mathers ready for surgery. Dr. Mathers goes back to 1997 when he started helping her.

So what about those questions? How does a woman feel like a woman without breasts? Without having ever had them? What does femininity mean to a woman who never experienced an obvious development of becoming a woman?

Remember how I said that I was broken when I realized my implant was ruptured?

It is such a metaphor. Life had me completely deflated. At the same time I realized my boob was too!

While some of you may be reading this not having experienced the loss of your breasts, you have experienced those feelings of deflation. Nothing is left in you. You’ve lost your volume. Your excitement is nil, you’re running on empty.

Again, how does one feel like a woman when one is deflated? When one is broken?

Last spring, Brandon and I had the opportunity to meet Bob Goff. After meeting him, I just had to read his book. My Mom got it for me for my birthday and I was able to get into it this summer. God’s timing is….well, timely.

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Brandon and Heather meeting one of the nicest guys on the planet– Bob Goff. March 2015

In his book, Love Does, Bob shares the story of his wedding cake. It landed on the pavement before it made it to the table. They served it anyway, gravel pieces and all! Bob used the experience to make an analogy to life. He says, “I simply decided that I wasn’t going to let the residual rocks and small pieces of gravel get in the way of me getting served up and used.”

Isn’t that good stuff? Well, take this in. He proceeds,

“It has always seemed to me that broken things, just like broken people, get used more; it’s probably because God has more pieces to work with.”

Now that changes the outlook of being deflated!

When I acknowledge the reality that my body isn’t what it was born to be. When I recognize there is not much of my body that is natural. When I get fed up with the reminders of my injury, I remind myself what a testimony it is and how God is using all my brokenness to connect and reach out to people in theirs. Deflated boob and all.

I’ve seen many women with boobs of their own, who didn’t have an ounce of authentic beauty, and I feel more sorry for them than I’ve ever felt in my own moments of self-pity.

Beauty is a mindset. And when the world comes in attack against your beauty, acknowledge your imperfections, be realistic with what is in the mirror, but remind yourself that God can use every piece of you, especially the broken ones, as you give yourself to Him. And He makes ALL THINGS beautiful!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

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I have the privilege to take part in this retreat. I encourage you to check it out, as I believe many hearts will be touched, changed and renewed. Friday November 6th starting at 4:30pm through Sunday November 8th 2:30pm. Email speaking@heathermeadows.com for more information or visit the link http://www.tulakogee.com look under “events”

Peace with Others

No one likes to be criticized. No one enjoys negative comments. No one desires or requests put-downs. But the reality is, anyone who does anything takes the risk of being ridiculed. The tendency is, fly under the radar. Don’t do anything to stand out. Don’t do anything to create a target. Don’t do anything to warrant attention, ‘cause it could be negative.

When it comes to making a list of things we love about ourselves versus things we don’t really like or would like to change, the latter tends to be an easier list to make. I know it is for me. And I actually observed this when speaking at a women’s conference. I gave the ladies thirty seconds to make a list of things they didn’t like about themselves and then the same amount of time to make a list of things they loved about themselves. The “things loved” list was shorter than the “things not liked” list. Which means that we are hard enough on ourselves without the help of others. So why the need to contribute to someone’s “things not liked” list?

One thing I wish I could change about myself is how I care about others’ opinions of me. I can’t begin to describe how it hurts me when I realize I’ve been the topic of destructive speech or when I’m the recipient of unpleasant actions. It’s an emotion I much rather avoid. Therefore, it’s tempting to disregard the callings, ignore the vision and forget about being the person God desires me to be.

Yep. I just wrote that! Because, it is for real! I seriously have those thoughts. But I know I’m not the only one—which is why I wrote it. This blog is relational; reaching out, walking through and regrouping when these unpleasantries of life surface.

For someone who cares about others, I surely do put myself in a position of being criticized. I spent years performing vocally. Talk about vulnerability. There is always someone in the audience who thinks they could have sang it better, and many times probably could. I’ve opened my life up to numerous people through public speaking. While the Lord has given me the blessing of knowing and seeing lives touched through that ministry, I also am well aware of the critical hearts. And then there is here, in my writings. I share my life with countless people and yet again, there are those who have blessed my heart with encouragement, and others who have picked me apart.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us there is life and death in the power of the tongue, and many people are walking around like zombies because of the words they choose to speak. How refreshing to speak life. I know. I know. Sometimes it’s a challenge, but that’s when we can remember what Thumper’s father says. Remember? In Disney’s Bambi, when Thumper points out that Bambi doesn’t walk very well, his mama says, “Thumper, what did your father tell you this morning?” Yes. You remember. “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Putting people down is like dripping barbeque sauce on a white shirt; it stains. While we may ask for God’s forgiveness and their forgiveness, while we may try to clean it up, those words leave a mark, and not just on their heart, but on ours too.

Yes, those thoughts like, “what’s the point?” and “who really cares?” cross my mind. And although it bothers me and hurts me, it’s not gonna stop me, because I know these are tactics to prevent me from doing and being what the Lord desires. Who said it would be easy? Who said it’d always be fun or pleasant?

I realize there are people who flat out don’t like me, they don’t agree with me and they don’t want anything to do with me. But I can’t let pessimisms predicate who I am. And you can’t either. At the end of each day, remember whom we live to please. He gives us the courage to fly in the radar. He equips us to be all we can. He’s the greatest contributor to our best qualities. And He reassures us when the world hurts us.

May you feel His peace…..

Proverbs 16:7 (NKJV) When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Romans 12:18 (NIV) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

So cute…. So true….

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