Gaining Hope in Difficult Days

In our home, we have this approach to bad days: go to bed early.  Our thought is, “the earlier we go to bed the sooner the day will be over, getting us to tomorrow, a brand-new day with brand-new beginnings.”

Lynn Anderson was onto something when she sang, “I never promised you a rose garden.”  Bad days are as much a part of life as the good ones.  Thankfully, however, the good ones do overall outweigh the bad.  But sometimes the bad are more than bad.  They’re horrific.  And those are the seasons a simple turning-in-for-the-night won’t fix.  We wake up to the nightmare we long to escape.

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

Guest Post: When God Speaks to The Broken

Guest Post: When God Speaks to The Broken

*a special post from a special guest*

So I want to start off by introducing myself and saying what an honor it is to share my story with everyone.

My name is Sean Westley, I am a husband to my beautiful wife Jasmine Westley.

My wife is an Aerospace Engineer and I am a Project Superintendent for a construction company. We have been married for almost 5 years and I am a father to 6 amazing children. We have 3 boys and 3 girls, so I guess you could say we are the modern age Brady Bunch. Those who know us, our friends and family, refer to our family as “Team W”. “Team W” because half of our family carries the last name of Westley and the other half last name Woody. Everyone having a last name starting with “W” is just one of God’s many winks for us. Go “Team W”!

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Most importantly, I am a child of God!  However, this isn’t what my life has always looked like. Matter of fact, it has looked vastly different from this beautiful picture I have painted.

I would like to start from the beginning. My life started out with a lot of hurt and pain. During my formative years there were several men brought into my life that, well let’s just say, were not very nice to me. Two of the men were sexually abusive and put much fear into me. Another was very physically and mentally abusive. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, my mom married the man she is married to today. Although he was an amazing dad, damage had already been done; all I knew to do, was distance myself from him and the rest of the family. At this point I started my own self destruction.

I quit school when I was 15 and started running around with the wrong crowd. I started smoking pot and drinking. I would sneak out at night and really just do whatever I wanted to do. In no time at all I found myself being arrested. I was completely out of control. I started doing meth and whatever I could to support that habit such as stealing from my mom and dad. It went so far that I started using stolen credit cards and that is when it all came to a head. I was arrested and ended up being charged and going to the penitentiary. The State charged me with 5 counts of credit card fraud and forgery for over $250,000 which carried a sentence of 20 to life on each count.

Let that sink in….. I’m 20 years old, facing spending the rest of my life in prison.


That’s when Grace stepped in. I received 5 consecutive 5 year sentences. All said and done, I served 5 years in an Oklahoma prison. What I overcame there in that place is yet another story. Let’s just say it was a very scary time in my life.

After getting out I started working and walking the straight path, but that didn’t last long. I started running around and fell into old habits. During this period of my life I met the mother of my kids. We were married for 13 years and we had 3 children in 3 years. That didn’t keep addiction at bay and I became addicted to several drugs. My main drug of choice was crack cocaine. I remember a time when I sold everything we owned to support my habit. Looking back it was a very low time in my life. The good news is that I made the decision to walk away from that life style. Although I wanted something else, my kid’s mom wasn’t ready to do that, so I made the decision to divorce her and fight for my kids.

And that is when Grace came to me again. Can you believe that? Me. After all I have done I was given Grace once again. The same judge that sentenced me to prison is the same judge that gave me full custody of my children. Now you are thinking, “Wow, he has overcome so much”, and yes, I would say you’re right, but that is when my toughest battle to date would come.

After getting custody of my kids I fell back into the drug scene. I also fell into a depression. Let me tell you, those two things do not go together well, at all, not at all. And that’s when it happened, ROCK BOTTOM. Yep, bottom of the barrel into the pit right where Satan wanted me. There I was lost and broken with all this responsibility and nowhere to turn. But, you guessed it, that’s when Grace entered in once again. Grace found me when I was on top of a 6 foot ladder with a noose around my neck. That is the moment when I heard God’s voice. Right then, God spoke to me and told me to get down. He said that He had a different plan for me.

In Isaiah 28: 23 NIV it says, “Listen and hear My voice; pay attention and hear what I say. You see, right in scripture, God the Father, tells us that He has given us the ability to hear His voice.

What I have come to understand is that we are too busy and too loud in our own heads to hear. I am a testimony that God speaks to the broken and on that day, I heard the audible voice of the Good Shepherd.

I hear people say that they have never heard the audible voice of God.  My question is this: how do you know? If you don’t know what His voice sounds like, how do you know that you haven’t heard it?

Well, here is my opinion on that…..we might not hear a voice out loud, vocally, where it tickles our ear drums; however, I wonder if you have ever felt strongly that God, the Creator of the Universe, spoke directly to your inner most being. Isn’t that hearing Gods voice?

Well, on that day, when that happened for me, everything changed. That is the day that I gave my life to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That day is what I call, the first day of my life. My real life, my true life, the one that God had purposed me for. That day is when I started living in God’s will. God delivered me from all my addictions and planted me firmly on the rock. On that day, I chose to be ALL in not just half in. I was all in! Every time the church doors were open my kids and I were there. Now you’re thinking “end of story,” right? Not so fast, although life got a lot better for my children and I, I had a lot of growing to do.


At this point I want to mention how extremely important our amazing church family was for my little family. By God’s leading, not out of convenience, we became family to an amazing church family at Coweta Assembly of God. In all my mess and all my failures this body of believers never once judged me, or looked down on me. They received us with open arms and have always loved on us from the very first second we walked in the doors. This was crucially important in my walk. They showed us the true definition of the love of Christ. After attending the church for about a year and going strong, my kids told me that they wanted me to be happy. “Happy?” I asked, I had never been so happy. “No dad, we want you to start dating again” they said. I told them that when it was time, God would send someone. This was when I started praying and asking God for direction, expressing that when He was ready, I was ready. We need to be very specific in our prayers and believe me I was.

I described to God what I would like to have in someone. Someone that would love my kids as her own. Someone that loved God with all her heart.  Someone that would love me unconditionally and that didn’t need to depend on me to fulfill all her needs. Someone who could stand on her own two feet. Let me tell you, God loves us and he hears our prayers and it wasn’t but a short time later that I met Jasmine.

This brings me to the next time I heard God’s voice. After only dating Jasmine for a month, I was standing on my parent’s porch and God spoke to me again.  I heard, “Sean, you prayed and asked Me to send her to you and I sent her. What are you waiting for?”

“Are you kidding me, Lord? There is no way.  I can’t do that………”

You know– that argument we have with the Lord when He asks us to trust Him.

After losing the argument, I reached into my pocket grabbed my phone, YES MY PHONE, and I called Jasmine. When she answered the phone the call went a little like this, “Jasmine, this is going to sound really strange and I am so sorry for doing this to you on the phone, but Jasmine, I am supposed to ask you to marry me.”

Without any hesitation Jasmine said yes!

You see that doesn’t just happen BUT GOD, He had a better plan.


I have stood on the scripture Jerimiah 29:11 from the first day I got saved, because a dear friend of mine was obedient to God’s voice. He approached me and told me that God told him to give me this scripture, “‘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 a future.'”

Needless to say, one month later Jasmine and I got married. Now, it hasn’t been a cake walk.  We had a lot to figure out such as bringing two families together and everything that comes with that. Wow, what a ride it has been let me tell you. Just when the story should say, “happily ever after,” it happened… another test.

I fell into a state of depression again. Yep, that’s right, yet another test, and it almost broke us. But, remember we serve a big God. He says that whatever He brings together let no man separate. This test lasted on for two years and it completely consumed me. I thank the Lord for a wife that prays for her husband and that will stand on God’s Word. That’s exactly what she did.

I will never forget the day that I was set free from the grip of depression.  My wife came to me and said, “This family and I are not doing this anymore with you.  I refuse to allow you to bring us into the pit with you. It is time for you seek God and rise up and be the MAN that God has called you to be and lead our family as God has instructed you to do.”

That’s when it happened, I started seeking God and He spoke to me saying, “This season has come to an end to never return. You are an overcomer and you are My child and I love you.” 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV says this, “He has saved us and called us to a Holy life not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Wow! Did you hear that?! Before the beginning of time, our Father in Heaven purposed our lives!  Your life!!! Wow! I’m happy to say, God is true to His word. I have never had a season like that since.

Matter a fact, we are in a great season, and life is good. God is doing so much in our family.  I went to Haiti a few years back on a mission trip and this year we as a family went to El Salvador with our church including Heather Meadows and her family. Today, my wife and I are serving our church by leading a marriage class.

I truly believe that God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Each of the battles that we face is the exact test we need to make us stronger. It grows us so we can share it with someone to help them along in their struggles.

There is so much more to the story.  I gave you the short version. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.  I hope it blesses you. If there are any of you that would like to contact me so I can pray with you, I welcome you contacting me. Or, if you are in a season that just seems never ending and need someone to talk to, my wife and I are always available.

Thank you for the pleasure of sharing with you.

May God bless you and keep you,  Sean Westley— a child of God!
(click on Sean’s name to contact him through Facebook)

A Little Thought from Heather:
I met Sean sitting in my seat at church, listening, as he bravely stood at the pulpit sharing his testimony.  We’ve attended church together with our families for over six years.  I’ve observed Sean Westley.  I’ve watched him worship, with abandonment, holding nothing back.  To meet Sean is to know him.  He is transparent, genuine and authentic and the gratitude he has for his life restored overflows in his everyday interactions.  I’m honored to know this man and his beautiful family.  We’ve all been through some mud and mire.  Allowing the Lord to shine through it is a powerful testimony to our world.  May you and yours be blessed and encouraged this Christmas season by Sean’s story.  A story illustrating The Gift we celebrate this time of year–  Jesus wrapped up His hope, His love, His grace to transform our lives when He came to this earth, born in a manger, loving us to the cross and giving us victory in His resurrection.  Merry Christmas!  Much love, Heather ❤️

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Comfort in Support

Comfort in Support

Sometimes we get things we don’t even know we need.

What a perfect topic to cover at Christmas. There are so many different gift-giving approaches.
• There’s the giver who buys something for someone, because they mentioned how they needed it or wanted it.
• There’s the giver who buys something because it’s an item the giver themselves loves so much and they just imagine the receiver loving it equally the same.
• There’s the giver who wants to completely surprise the receiver with something they know the person needs, but maybe never asked for it or mentioned it.

I’ve been in all the above situations.

When it comes to Christmas or Birthdays, I love wish lists. Some people find it offensive, but I find it to be incredibly efficient! It’s seamless picking out an item you know your loved one really wants. And then to see them open it??? Well, that right there is absolutely fabulous! There’s such excitement and joy.

Then, there have been items I so much enjoy that I want to get them for people I love. Like PETALS Strawberry Pepper Jam (petals74429@yahoo.com), or a Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Candle, or a gift card for a pedicure. You know…some of those little indulgences we don’t always spend the money for ourselves?

I’ve been more on the receiving end of the last item in question. I think back to our wedding and to when we were beginning to have our babies. Yes, we registered; however, there were so many items we never knew we needed. But our loved ones sure did. And they gave them. Included were both treasured pieces and practical items; things I couldn’t have imagined going without.

While I’ve given gifts that I didn’t personally love, but gave because the receiver did; and while I’ve also given gifts from a wish list, there’s one in particular I specifically remember giving several years ago; it was one that was never requested, but I bought it anyway. My Dad-in-law is a homebuilder/remodeler, so I gave him a painting of Jesus as a boy, and his father Joseph the carpenter. Although he had never requested the piece, he was delighted to receive it. I feel I was the one to end up with the gift; for the memory, and for how my heart is touched every time I’m in his office and see it hanging on the wall. I bought it for him, not because he’s my husband’s father, but because of my own love for him and my own knowledge of those things dear to his heart.

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The painting “Destiny” by an anonymous artist depicts the child Jesus in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph. He casts the shadow of a cross

Well, here it is, the time of year we put so much focus on gifts and I’ve received what Jesus knows is the greatest gift in my life, those most dear to my heart; people.

Everyone has struggles. There’s power in identifying them; then we don’t feel captive to them. And one thing I know about myself is I am a people person. Being around others inspires me, refreshes me and rejuvenates me. As you can imagine, having two surgeries within thirty days of each other really took me out of the loop. Like all the loops, my kids’ activities loop, my work loop, my church loop, my friends loop. It was kind of nice the first go around. I rested, I read, I caught up on all my favorite shows, but as I mentioned in “Why, Oh Why,” I hadn’t planned for this last procedure, so I wasn’t eager to sit around several weeks on top of already sitting around. Sitting. And laying. And sitting. And laying. Blah.

I’m very sensitive to the seeds of depression, because I’ve been there. And I know isolation is the growth media for depression. So having already a month of retreat, I felt the dread in my heart of having more. Everything in moderation. Right? We all need time of solitude, but too much of anything is not a good thing. Therefore, I shamelessly and somewhat pitifully invited, welcomed, asked, or maybe even begged for visitors and company; choose to insert whichever word to describe it, different moments appropriately apply. However, I believe it takes strength to identify our weaknesses, and it makes us even stronger to protect ourselves against them.

There can be such beauty in humility. Such value in vulnerability. Such fulfillment in openness. Although, I could have kept this next procedure quietly to myself, as I do some, I shared it and in return received the gift of what is written:

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

The Lord uses people to GIVE– whether it’s wrapped or not, we get gifts so often. Those gifts of joy and comfort are just what I needed. It’s lonely sometimes. It can be scary. It feels painful. And I’m speaking to you, dear friend. I could write this for myself in my own little journal, without regard for sentence variety or structure, but I write this for you. Because you sometimes feel lonely. You sometimes feel scared and are in pain; all the many different types of pain. But I encourage you to find comfort, even if you have to ask for it.

This last surgery, my Aunt Donna walked into my hospital room with a symbol of comfort. It was Mouse! No, I’m not referring to the classy mouse who can so perfectly don polka dots and big yellow shoes, because you know how much The Meadows love that mouse too. But no, this was Mouse, the Puffalump Aunt Donna got for me when I was originally injured back in 1988. Mouse went with me to most of my surgeries. She’d sit at the foot of my bed when we’d roll back and she’d have a hat, a mask, and yes, sometimes even surgical booties. She was such a source of comfort to me. And having Mouse sitting in my hospital room this time, kept me thinking, “Wow! How far we’ve come. How much has changed.” “Just a stuffed animal,” one may be inclined to think, but I see a focal point, a focal point of comfort.

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Mouse still with me nearly 27 years later…. when Mom & Dad couldn’t be there, Mouse could. Symbol of comfort.

And then let’s talk about the people! Oh my! My precious husband, at my side; one tech sweetly described him as “hovering.” He’s so protective, and although he doesn’t don an outfit of armor, he is most definitely my knight. And the kids. Their world is so expanded by the experiences they’ve had with me as their mom. They were born into the story and although they’ve observed some unpleasant and even grotesque sites, I pray it’s been an advantage to develop them into the people God intends them to be. And my Mom and my Aunt, those women who have walked this very long road and still show no signs of weariness in their support and their pride for the survivor they desired me to become.

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Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin visiting me after surgery. Yes…they keep us laughing!

Bits of comfort walked through my door the next day. When I was mentally preparing myself to spend the day alone, as I knew my husband would have to be in the office and my children at school. God sent His gifts, my nursing school friend, Misty and her little boy Jeremiah. More followed: my friend, mentor and previous professor at OU, Rhonda Lawes, spending the afternoon with me sharpening me, challenging me both spiritually and intellectually.

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Rhonda and Misty– treasures from my nursing school days. Was definitely one of the most challenging times, but in return I got amazing opportunities, experiences and relationships– to keep!

Then my team! For a girl who has NO athletic ability, I love referring to my co-workers as my team, because we demonstrate qualities that make a team great, which in turn is not only vitally beneficial for our patients, but rewarding to us as friends. Carrie, Haley, Carly and Molly spruced up my day with gifts in hand and laughter of heart. Oh what comfort! What joy! As if the Lord hadn’t packed in enough comfort I so desired, my in-laws topped it off by bringing us dinner. My Dad-in-law observing how I was drifting off, mentioned how he felt it was time for them to go so I could rest. And I told him no, because although I could hardly stay awake, I just wanted to hear their voices. Comfort.

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To be a part of something so grand! These ladies are core– Molly Carrie, Carly & Haley. Love my NICU Family!

The next day, my precious friends Beverly and Michele, women I admire and feel strengthened just with their presence and conversation. Comfort. That afternoon, even my cousin, brought me my very first eggnog malt from Braum’s. Acts of comfort.

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For my medical people– we love to see the work. Upper right donor site, lower right z plasty, left, two contracture releases with grafts. 5 days Post Op

After coming home, I had a full week of meals provided from friends. Truly it was the hand of Jesus extended; meeting basic needs in the most personal way. And after a week of love poured out, my best friend, Amber of over twenty years came to take care of me. Even getting on to me, as any best friend would, for my determination to attend my co-worker’s wedding, an event I couldn’t miss for the deep admiration I have for her as a person, as a young woman, and as a nurse. Some moments just can’t be missed.

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Love how gorgeous these women look, because they’re all equally as amazing! It’s fun to spiff up since we mostly hang out in scrubs, but man, how we spring into action. This is my TEAM! So blessed!

 

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She’s as beautiful and genuine on the inside as she so evidently looks on the outside. Thankful for Carly and to share a part of her day with her.

Not a day has gone by without a call from someone. And even several visits. Personal, come to my house kind of visits. People, I don’t live by anything. Not one person who came to visit, popped by on their way to run errands or Christmas shop, they intentionally came to visit. Like my precious, precious, dearest friend, Heather who shared an entire day, seriously, an entire day with me, right before she was suppose to be leaving for a road trip to Massachusetts. Comfort.

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We got dubbed “heather squared” in nursing school. Talk about iron sharpening iron. God orchestrated this friendship five years ago and I cherish and grow from each moment we share together.

You may think I’ve named everyone. I haven’t. It’d be a book. And that’s just from this one procedure. This one procedure that I feel I’ve done a million times. In almost twenty-seven years, I imagined people eventually running dry on concern and compassion. I mean. It’s not like it’s life threatening at this point. It’s just another toggle mark on the count, another one under the belt. It’s an investment in furthering the immense quality of life I’ve been able to experience. But above all, what I’ve had the privilege of receiving is so much love; love which never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.

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What tugs at my heart strings? Teenagers who are compassionate! These girls made me some sweet treats and wrote encouraging words to brighten my recovery time. My daughter and her friends Laura and Katherine are truly the example of God’s love.

We all may think we know what we want. We all may have an idea of what gift would benefit or suit us best. My lesson? Maybe we do sometimes. I’m so glad I opened the door for people to share love. I needed it. I needed to feel comfort and friendship and joy and laughter. If I had made a list, it would have had, “visitors and conversation” on it. God knew exactly what I needed and He has provided.

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So incredibly generous– Amber, my neighbor and stylist loaded up everything to color my hair at my house. I asked her about rescheduling, but she offered to come to me. A lot of extra work for her. Such a huge blessing to me.

If you committed your time to read this post, please let the scripture take root in your heart. You may need to allow others to refresh you, and you may need to flat out ask for it. On the other side, you may be just what someone needs. Oh, it might seem like you’re not doing much by picking up the phone, but that conversation may be more timely than you could have thought or imagined.

Love. Joy. Comfort. Kindness. Refreshed. Those are gifts. On the list or not; those are gifts.

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

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Such comfort in a lifelong friend. My dishes, my laundry, putting my kids to bed, keeping my pain meds on schedule, even my Christmas shopping– she left her family to take care of me for two days. We’ve been through so much together and I couldn’t love a sister more than I love Amber!

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Why, Oh Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From His temple He heard my voice;

my cry came before Him, into His ears.

Psalm 18:6

NIV

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

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25 Years Later

When I Google “anniversary” beaucoups of definitions pop up; like, “the annually recurring date of a past event, especially one of historical, national, or personal importance.”

Anniversaries roll around causing recollection of the day’s events.  It’s one of the things that make wedding anniversaries so special. Today marks the 25th anniversary of a past event of personal importance.  This day never rolls around without some recollection of events, but this year is a milestone, this year, my mind is being flooded with memories both tragic and uplifting.

I’m remembering that beautiful spring day, April 27th 1988.  I remember the sun shining. Records indicate that the high was 75 degrees with winds at only 5 miles per hour.  My brother Jon and I got off the bus that afternoon and I’m sure did our little chore list that my Mom had on the fridge.  Although it doesn’t stand out in my mind, I’m sure we did them, as was routine for our after school activities.  What I do remember is putting on my play clothes; my shorts and t-shirt and those ever so popular 1980s jelly shoes.  I loved mine, and had them in a few different colors.

I remember Jon and me standing in front of the shed behind my Grandma’s house.  The driveway beside our house wrapped around the back of my Grandma’s and there was a shed and storm cellar right behind her house.  Jon filled up our blue two-wheeler motorcycle and then we proceeded with our plan to visit our friend’s house.  We anticipated no harm on our nearly 3 mile ride away.  We felt so big to see our friends on our own will and at our own convenience. After some time, Jon said it was time to go and we swung our legs over that bike, revved it up, and headed back home.

On that country dirt road there was a factor present which was not present before.  The travel back coincided with travelers returning home from work for the day.  Jon pulled out onto the road behind a small red truck.  The dust stirred up from the truck made it so difficult to see.  My arms were wrapped tightly around Jon’s waist and I turned my head to my right, attempting to avoid the dust that stung my eyes.

It was such a challenge to see.  No goggles.  No helmets.  We were just two children, innocent to the danger that surrounded us.  Jon swerved to the left and all life changed forever.  We hit an oncoming truck.  Jon was killed.  The bike went under the truck.  A fire ignited.

I remember lying in the ditch as flames engulfed me.  I don’t remember pain from my body being on fire.  What I remember is the blur in the flames.  It distracts me to this day when I become mesmerized by the bright colorful light fires produce.  I remember my face feeling unbearably hot.  And I remember someone grabbing me under my armpits from behind and dragging me out of the fire.  That man was my first hero.  That man was the first person who took action to save my life.  It just so happened to be the man we hit.

For the memories being so choppy, I still have a bank of them.  I don’t remember the helicopter ride to the hospital, but I do remember telling my Mom that I wanted to go home.  I remember feeling that if I could just get home that it would all be okay.  She told me that we were going to see the doctor and then we would.

I remember being in a tiny room in the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest with a multitude of stuffed animals and posters around me.  Someone put a turquoise My Little Pony on the far left shelf for me.  Those little tokens were a small part of the many gifts I received from my injury.  Yes.  I said gifts.  And the greatest of those were the intangible kind.

Something about tragedy brings out the purest, most kind parts of people. For instance, my Dad’s brother stood on the left side of my bed and promised to take me on a camping trip when I got better.  He made good on that promise.  I remember that big red heat lamp being positioned over my bed in ICU and one of my doctors, on a few different occasions, holding my hand through those excruciating bandage changes.  I remember my brother, Barry and his friend, Chris coming to watch Wheel of Fortune with me.  I remember Barry bringing the entire collection of Alf dolls that Burger King featured.  I remember my friend Brad coming to visit me in ICU.  Brad was our neighbor, and like a brother to me, even more so after I returned home from the hospital.  He had his head shaved to match mine on that visit to the burn center.  He was the only kid allowed to come see me while in ICU and it was perhaps the greatest gift the staff could have given me.  His small amount of time with me reconnected me to who I was—a kid.

So many times I am asked if I remember that day.  Oh how I remember that day and many others.  But I wouldn’t change that.  I wouldn’t want to forget.  If I forgot how bad it was, then I’d lose sight of how great God is.

Memories can be painful, but comforting as well.  We can’t appreciate where we are if we don’t remember where we were.

O Lord, I will honor and praise Your name, for You are my God.  You do such wonderful things!  You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. Isaiah 25:1 (NLT)

Jon_Heather_summer_1986

Jon and Me

Barry_Heather_Spring_1988

Barry and Me (and the awesome Alf)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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