Today I Took A Walk

Today I took a walk.

I’ve taken this walk countless times in my mind, but today I physically took the steps down the road. It’s an emotional journey. A journey I’ve traveled for 29 years today.

Some years are more difficult than others. This year falls on the more difficult end.

The walk came to me as a thought, but I dismissed it, as my to-do list automatically started rolling like end-credits in a movie.

  • Work on the PowerPoint for presentation.
  • Scan documents on the desk.
  • Go through mail.
  • Reply to text messages.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Send email.
  • Finish writing chapter for book.

I had too many things to do for a walk. But the thought came to me again. Instead of a to-do list, I got a little real with myself.

I don’t want to go for that walk today. I don’t want to revisit it today. I just don’t think I can.

Still the thought lingered. So I put on my tennis shoes.

Taking Ruby seemed like a good idea. The weather is so beautiful and I never just take her for a walk. I could take this walk and spend some time with my dog. But no. I began to understand this thought to go for a walk was more than a thought. It was a prompting. And the Lord was calling me to go alone.

I got in my car and drove to the road I needed to walk.

The road I needed to walk today.

It’s not like I never pass this way. I drive this road several times a week on our way to soccer practice and baseball practice and games. But today, my mind was in a different place, not hurried by the schedule, not distracted with conversation. I was completely present, willing to face my memories, my pain, my disappointments, my grief, as I physically put my body where the Lord challenged to take me today.

The comfort of the sun shining, the gentleness of the soft breeze, the sweetness of the bobwhite’s chirp accompanied my steps. My pace was slow; my spirit was strong as my thoughts went back to April 27, 1988.

It’s been a lifetime, but the memories are so vivid.

God called me to write a book. Seems like a bigger deal than simply being called to go for a walk. But there’s a critical component to both. Obedience.

Because the Lord called me to write this story of overcoming life’s darkest moments, I’ve needed to learn details I never knew from the accident. The accident that happened on the very road I walked today.

Those details. They are specifics I’ve learned from interviews over the last few months. The scene was playing out in my mind walking step-by-step this morning.

Jon and I—nine and seven years old, riding on a motorcycle, coming home from visiting friends, behind a truck, on a dirt road, unable to see from the cloud of dust. Swerving to the left and the right, and the left, and the right and the last swerve to the left lane we hit an oncoming truck. Gas leaking. A fire igniting. Tragedy transforming our innocent world.

I walked that road today. That road where my brother died. That road where I laid burning on fire. I walked that road today.

Yes, I physically walked that road today, but I have walked that road every single day of my life since April 27, 1988. I have walked that road every single day of my life for the last 29 years. I’ve looked at this scarred body every single day and remembered that day, every, single, day. No escaping the memories. The memories go with me wherever I go. The tragedy is etched throughout every piece of my existence.

Which is why I’ve reflected on a question we’ve all considered. If we could go back and change just one thing in life, what would it be?

If I could just have one, just one do-over, I would go back to April 27, 1988 and make one decision differently. I would choose against going to a friend’s. I would push and persist, as my personality naturally did and does, for us to instead play at home. One decision. One decision would mean I would have my brother alive to meet my husband and my children. He wouldn’t just be a photograph on my dresser whose name I share in stories. One decision. One decision would mean I would not have experienced a life-threatening injury, enduring indescribable pain, countless surgeries and challenging recoveries.

I stood for some time today at the place known as the scene of the accident. My mind was clear. I felt such peace and stillness. There were no words in my heart or my mind to speak, no prayers, or requests, pleas or questions. I began to think about the brief time I was alone on that road 29 years before. The driver of the truck used a blanket to smother the fire on my burning body then ran to call 911. Jon was gone. I didn’t know it then, but standing there alone today in that place I thought I’ve been alone here before.

Memories can be a source of much hurt and sorrow. Quite naturally, we want to avoid what hurts. We aim to box it up, set it in an area of our heart for pre-planned, scheduled moments to revisit. Some give much effort to that approach. Had it not been for the burn injury’s physical reminder, maybe I would have done the same. But that wasn’t an option. And what I’ve learned because of it is: there is strength in remembering. There is hope in remembering.

Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in Him!”

On my walk back to my car, I looked at the fence posts and the telephone posts and thought how so much stays the same as so many things change. I looked at the field where the helicopter landed to take me to the hospital. I looked at the cattle, picturing the scenes of spring calves in the pasture as the events unfolded that day.

As I walked alone back to the car, I instantly had a vision of people walking behind me. The man who took the first step to save my life and put out the fire. His brother who ran out to help. The man who stopped and held my hand while help arrived. The officer who worked the accident, and carried the memories for decades following. I had a vision of them there with me, walking behind me.

Walking back to the car, I could feel my doctors, my nurses, my physical therapists. I could feel my friends and my mentors. I could feel my nursing school class, my educators and the amazing NICU team I get to work with today. I could feel the presence of countless people who have walked into my life because of the journey on that road. And there I began to cry. As I walked I could feel in this group of people the Lord brought to me through this tragedy and in that group I could feel Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin.

I can’t help but believe that our journey that day, led to this journey today. I can’t help but believe that the tragedy which changed the trajectory of my life, was setting the scene for God to introduce His greatest miracles to my life. My heart, my mind and my spirit are inclined to believe that the source of my greatest pain is also the source of my greatest joy. I don’t see them separated. I see them connected, one leading to the other. It’s what God does. He brings good things out of the worst situations.

It’s why I can’t see the word tragedy without thinking triumph. It may take a lifetime, but know God is working during that time. Sometimes it’s a big job and it takes a lot of work. But He’s a big God. Maybe we can’t see what He’s doing, but He is doing. He is working. He’s working all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It’s why I remember. There is strength in remembering, even if we feel weak. It’s okay to cry. In fact, I believe our tears are important to God, because the Word tells us He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8). There is hope in remembering. I have a glorious hope, not just hope, but a glorious hope of seeing Jon again. And I pray the days I live bring honor to the life he lived and to his memory I’ll carry forever.

It’s why today I took a walk.

 

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Happiness Doesn’t Happen

Do you ever wonder what it takes to just be happy?  Some days it can feel like such a struggle.

My friend Jenn Baxter asked me to write a guest post for her site, and it’s a topic I felt led to cover when sharing my story with her readers.  I hope you follow the story to her site to read the article and look around to see how Jenn is touching lives through her journey and online home.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you and for being a part of our online family here!
❤ Heather

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heather, what more could make you happy?

It was a desperate question my mom asked as we sat on my bed looking in to a closet full of clothes, shoes and accessories.  “Not stuff, Mom.  Stuff can’t bring happiness.

I was only sixteen, but I had already concluded that trips to the mall, a brand new car and hosting parties with friends couldn’t fill the emptiness inside.  The void was far too vast for material, superficial things.  Happiness was a state I was battling to attain.

The battle began nine years earlier, when my world tragically changed on a country dirt road.

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

Healing Words in the Emptiness of Tragedy

I’m deeply grateful for the open doors to share our story and the hope and healing I pray readers receive through it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been given the honor of being a guest on a few different sites. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

Here is one of them—a piece I wrote for Susan Greenwood’s site, Not of Myself. I met Susan attending a speaker/writer conference last year. I hope you hop on over to her site to read the article and peak around to see all the wonderful contributions Susan is making through her online home.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you and for being a part of our online family here!  ❤ Heather

“Don’t talk to Schultz like that,” my bossy three-year old self snapped at my six foot four inch three hundred pound father after he scolded our beagle dog for causing a near fall.  Granted, when tall people fall, they have a long way to go, which understandably, could have been bad.  But Dad’s response seemed completely unjust to me and I didn’t have any hesitation expressing it.

While that very early encounter of expressing myself so naturally may appear as a simple scenario in needing to correct a child, it was actually much more.  The minor incident was an indication of how well I connected with my feelings and how effective I was in being able to communicate them.  This was a critical component in the days that lie ahead.

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

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The Burns That Revealed My Beauty

A highlight for 2016 was writing a guest post called “The Burns That Revealed My Beauty” for Lightmakers, a website featuring stories to connect, heal and inspire.  

Before the year was over, I wanted to share the piece with you.

Thank you for being a part of our online family.  

All the best to you & yours in 2017- 

As a child I used to stand in front of the full-length antique mirror in my room and study myself.  After much evaluation I would ask, “Mom, am I pretty?” Deep down I wanted her to answer with a simple, “yes,” but instead I always got, “Heather, beauty comes from the inside.”

I gathered my earliest opinions of beauty as many young girls do; from Miss America pageants, beautiful women showcasing game show prizes, and grocery store checkout line exposure to the covers of numerous magazines featuring flawless bodies.

Beauty was all surface, merely skin deep. This philosophy is typical of a child who only has the capacity to think concretely, to only know what can be seen, felt or touched. But beauty, I learned, is much more obscure. Beauty must be discovered.

……….Read The Rest of The Story at Lightmakers.org

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Encouraged in Heart, United in Love

We don’t have much of a schedule during the summertime. And we aren’t too concerned with the forecast. Since it’s most likely gonna be hot our wardrobe doesn’t venture too far from our swim attire.

With that being said, we’ve been delayed in hearing of recent events. It wasn’t until surfing social media that I realized of the events in Dallas. Honestly, as we were enjoying our British family’s visit, I wasn’t even aware of the situations in Louisiana and Minnesota.

To see my friends post concerns like “will my children be safe growing up in this country,” and others pointing to the realities of officers being shot yet we still share our plans of going to the lake or out to dinner, made me reconsider my intentions for this post.

When 9/11 happened I laid in bed and cried, more accurately bawled. My heart was so grieved. Brandon tried to understand my emotion. “Babe. I understand this was horrific, but you didn’t know any of those people.” I shared with him, “But I know loss. I know tragedy. And I’m devastated that so many people are hurting and will hurt for their rest of their lives from this evil.”

We protect our hearts when we resist the pain around us. Who wants to let the loss soak in? Who wants to attempt processing the senseless? Who wants to confront the reality of evil? Who wants to sign up for walking the long steps to healing if you’re not the one who was wounded? The truth is, if it doesn’t affect us directly, we rather avoid it entirely.

This post was intended to be the last one in my reflections of El Salvador. I’ve hesitated writing it, but the message it was to contain, while in light of current conditions, is still an appropriate one.

In our time there, we heard testimonies, over and over again, of people who had withstood unimaginable hardship. The message God spoke to my heart through each of them was His faithfulness. I’ve had the opportunity to hear many stories and I’ve had the opportunity to share my own many times, and it is the thread of His faithfulness that is sewn through them all. In El Salvador, in the United States, in the churches, in the families, and in our own personal lives, God is faithful. He will provide.

Another word that came to mind in reflecting on the week was “service”. From the moment we rose to the time we went to sleep our focus was on serving others. And it was our teenagers who illustrated this so beautifully.

So many times in our home Brandon and I have to point out when our children are being driven by selfishness. You know, when they keep score or demand justice. After correction and redirection we typically hear something along the lines, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Of course they didn’t. We understand that they are developmentally, appropriately selfish. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just where they’re at developmentally. We are born only concerned about our own needs. How many babies care that they’re waking you up in the middle of the night or perhaps never let you go to sleep to begin with? This drive to survive sets the path for looking out for number one. As we grow and mature we realize it is so much more fulfilling to live a life beyond ourselves, to love and serve others. We’ve had a lot of help gaining that understanding and our kids need the same.

But this wasn’t an issue in El Salvador.  Nineteen teenagers went on our trip and I never one time heard complaining! Nor any arguing! These young people had the mindset of Christ- to serve others. It was beautiful and something to be encouraged by for this next generation.

Finally, I saw unity. The missionary overseeing our construction team was under the impression that our construction group was a team who worked together at home. The group consisting of eight men, two women and four teenagers demonstrated such unity that their work was smooth and efficient. The team accomplished far more than what was projected. It’s amazing what God can accomplish when His people are united!

By the end of the week, I had it in my heart to ask each member on our team three words they would use to describe their week. The only condition was they couldn’t use the words awesome, amazing or incredible. We all agreed those were given.

When we came home I sent the words to my precious friend, Sara, who is the talent behind all the graphic design work for our website and print material. She took the words and placed them in the shape of the country of El Salvador.

I invite you to read over them.

And as we leave today, I ask you join me in praying for our country. I pray our desire for unity withstands any evil attack of division. I pray we can be strong enough to allow the pain of others to enter our hearts and fuel our passion for healing. I pray we trust the Lord for His faithful Hand. I pray we see beyond headlines and see people, to see the soul God created and loves.  I pray for His guidance, direction, wisdom, knowledge, understanding and insight to flood the hearts and minds of our leaders and the citizens of this great nation.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 NIV

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el salvador

Nurses Cry

There are a few days out of each month I have the privilege of walking the halls amongst many great minds and using my life to be of use to another. While I cherish the moments I have to spend working as a neonatal intensive care nurse, I know God is calling me to use my life in some other areas as well. We want to be right where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there. Although my time in the NICU looks differently now, I’m grateful I still have the opportunity to be there in some capacity. I see mighty works occur in that place, the power of God demonstrated before our very eyes.

There was a season I invested a full-time schedule in the NICU. And during that time I had the privilege of being a part of many families’ journeys. In our unit, our families are given the option to choose which nurses they would prefer to care for their baby. Personalities and dispositions of parents and nurses connect differently, and having a strong connection benefits the baby’s care. One way in particular is from the consistency it provides.

Being asked to primary a baby is a great honor. I mean, to be chosen, is a pretty incredible feeling. Picture being asked out on a date. It means you stood out, you’ve been evaluated and assessed, and the conclusion made is that you’re of value. Someone wants to take you out and spend their money just to spend some time with you and get to know you more. It’s more than the, you’re good enough message, it’s communicating, you’re really great!

While primary nursing isn’t exactly as charming as dating, it certainly provides for a strong bond to be made. Spending twelve hours a day, three days a week, for sometimes and often, months at a time, creates a special connection for nurses with the baby and the family. It’s an endearment that lasts far beyond the discharge date. Friendships are frequently formed. Updates are routinely given. Messages are usually exchanged and occasionally, invitations are extended.

Just a month ago I received such a message and along with it came a request. A sweet woman who once chose me to be a part of caring for her sick baby, was now asking me to help her with an endeavor to help others. She contacted me only a month ago regarding a charitable organization they had formed, expressing her intentions for this project, “to help families with preemie or sick babies.” Her heart for others was evident, “our goal is to help with breast pumps or paying the rental fee for moms who want to breastfeed.” She continued, “to also provide information and resources to them.”

Upon receiving the message, I was honored she felt my contributions through writing would be advantageous for her organization. I was more than willing to compose a post for her. Her last message to me was in regards to her precious baby, “we have such a miracle thanks to all of you that worked so hard on her behalf.”

There is so much I don’t understand about life. There are so many questions I have.

It was a rainy morning that particular Thursday I found myself back in the NICU. I was eager to be there. See, we’ve had a storm at home. From it I’ve contended those occasionally inevitable feelings that nothing I do is good enough and that I can’t get right the stuff that really matters. It sounds selfish, but I needed some time to feel useful, to feel productive, to feel good about what I do. Barely into the eight o’clock cares, my phone received messages my heart could not process.

Message after message came through from those who knew of my connection to this family.

While I didn’t know them well, I knew enough. I knew being a mother was the most important role to this woman. I knew her children to be kind, well mannered and respectful. I knew her to be concerned for others, wanting to help in any way she could. She was dedicated, sensitive, kind, sweet and reasonable. Why use the word reasonable? The NICU sees parents at their worst, when they have no control over caring for their own baby. We walked through a dark time with them, and they came alongside us as a team, for what was best for their baby.

I can’t imagine all the things that may be said about them. Who knows what may or may not have happened? Who knows why?

We’re so inclined to ask, but nothing could attest to the senseless tragedy which has unfolded before us all.

There are times I wish I could emotionally “end my assignment.” We log in at the end of our shift, report off to the next shift, select our patients in the charting program, right click, select “end my assignment,” we clock out and we go home to come back and do it again.   But sometimes we barely get the car door closed before the well bursts open, tears of compassion a nurse can’t help but shed. Sometimes we can’t go to sleep fueled with concern for our little patients. Sometimes we call in the middle of the night just to check in where our heart has stayed, with the patient, with the family, with the hope that a positive outcome will surface.

Nursing is more than a career option. It’s more than a schedule of twelve-hour shifts in which you rarely sit down and sometimes even forgo eating and bathroom breaks. It’s more than stethoscopes, meds and tracking I’s and O’s. It’s an investment of heart. It’s giving a piece of your life for another, and there are times, you’re blessed to be given a piece of theirs. Sometimes it hurts. Many times we cry. But there’s no doubt, someone who is called to be a nurse, will always come back to do it again.

This mother asked me to use my voice here at this blog to inform readers about their organization. I am grieved by the opportunity I no longer have to fulfill her request. So today, I write a little about what I knew of her and her family. I write to say something good about their family while many may be formulating very negative opinions. Above all, I write to point to the One who is greater than the most heinous of all acts, our magnificent God. Only He can bear the turmoil, only He can touch the hearts, only He can speak into the darkness, only He can comfort the overwhelming loss.

Job 19:25 ESV

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last He will stand upon the earth.

Romans 16:20 ESV

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

A Nurse’s Prayer by Rita Riche

Almighty God, Divine Healer of all, grant me Your handmaiden, strength and courage in my calling.

Give to my heart, compassion and understanding.

Give to my hands, skill and tenderness.

Give to my mind knowledge and wisdom.

Especially, Dear Lord, help me always to remember the true purpose of my vocation, that of self-less service and dedication to the weak and despairing in body and spirit. Amen

*please help in avoiding any mention of names in comments– bless you for your thoughts, your compassion, and your prayers.

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A Bit Different

Is being different good?

Is being different fun?

Is being different easy?

These are questions I asked the group of 2nd graders whom I shared my story with yesterday.

To answer the question, we must consider what is meant by “different.” We go through phases when we strive to fit in, and then periods when we pursue establishing our authentic self. Once again, I might be putting a little tune in your head. The memory of watching Sesame Street when my oldest child was a toddler comes to mind. Ernie would sing, “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

It seems somewhere along the way of identifying different “things” we get some type of mindset that it applies to people too, or to ourselves specifically. Scripture tells us we are uniquely made, Ephesians 2:10 (NIV), “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Meaning something made by hand is not an assembly line, cookie cutter product. No, we are all unique and special individuals. Which means we were meant to be different.

Different can seem appealing when we’re talking about creating a new style or breaking out with an original talent. Who doesn’t want to be set apart when it results in affirmation and admiration? However, different doesn’t seem so appealing when it involves disfigurement and defects.

This summer my family and I finally watched Bethany Hamilton’s story, Soul Surfer. I tried to be discrete in my sobbing watching the scenes as they rushed her to the emergency department, her Mom in the following car asking the Lord to please not let her die, medical professionals swarming around her as her parents were pushed to the side. Then she went home. Same home, not the same life. The challenges lay before her, like Bethany lying in her bed looking at her Barbie Doll questioning her own beauty and love in her future, and shopping at the grocery hearing a little girl ask, “Mama, what happened to her arm?” Such an innocent question, but so hurtful.

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2003 shark attack didn’t keep 13 year old Bethany Hamilton from surfing

But you know Bethany’s story, because hello, they made a movie about it! And if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it, although you’ll probably need a box of tissue, especially if you’ve experienced personal tragedy yourself. So we know that Bethany has the most inspiring ending. She figured out how to return to surfing as the incredible athlete she had within her.

bethany_hamilton

Bethany Hamilton

Now, let’s consider another athlete who amazed us last season on ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars. I have to say, I don’t avidly watch the show, but I did catch a couple of Amy Purdy’s dance routines. I was impressed by her dancing ability, and then to watch intently enough to see she had prosthetics was captivating! Talk about an overcomer!

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Amy Purdy and Derek Hough Dancing with the Stars ~ Season 18

I touched on these brave women’s stories when sharing my own with the 2nd graders. And they absorbed the message sensitively and respectfully. But when I put up Elsa’s picture, they were engrossed! Why Elsa? Because Disney gave us a story of a girl who was different and felt defective because of it, and children know and understand her character.

Elsa had a gift, but it took a challenge to discover it. Her ability to thaw was suppressed by her fear to love. Once she learned it, what made her different was no longer a curse but completely magical. Kids get that.

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Bethany Hamilton was an amazing surfer, but now she’s even more, she’s inspiring. She faced the possibility that she may never be able to get up on a board again, but she still tried. Now she’s touched countless lives across the world with her courageous story.

Amy Purdy, on top of being a three-time world cup gold medalist, is a dancer, model, speaker, spokesperson for the National Meningitis Association, and a co-founder of a company who helps adaptive athletes get involved in action sports.

So the questions remain…

Is being different good? No, it’s not always good.

Is being different fun? No, it’s not always fun.

Is being different easy? No, it’s not EVER easy.

But I am encouraged by these stories because what could have caused the story to end actually was what spurred the next chapter.

Personally, I could have never imagined the Lord using my most heart wrenching experiences to touch others. The countless times I laid in bed asking, “Why didn’t I die too?” The many incidences I’ve wanted to crawl in a hole when people stare, or much more, when they point. The memories. The fear. The disappointment. The heartache. The loss. It’s been a journey. Honestly, there are times I still cry. One moment. One decision, at such a young age, changed absolutely everything.

In time, I began to see all the goodness which came from it. I just had to wait. Because only the Lord could have written a story like this.

No, it wasn’t good. No, it wasn’t fun. No, it wasn’t easy. But through the difficulty, I’ve had the chance to see God’s hand at work in my life. He didn’t intend this tragedy to happen, but He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV), which means He gets the final say.  He’s writing the scenes and I’m grateful to be in His storyline.

Yesterday, I looked at about seventy-five 2nd grade faces and shared my story. They learned about rules to keep them safe, they learned about burn injury, they learned about accepting others as unique and special individuals, they learned not to laugh at or make fun of other people, and I hope they learned sometimes in life, we must simply wait.  Because God can use what’s different.  He loves what’s not like the other.  Just wait… He’ll show you.

Psalm 27:14 NIV

Wait for the Lord;
  be strong and take heart
 and wait for the Lord.

 

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Speaking to the 2nd Graders ~ September 2014

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Learning about burn injury and sometimes doing things we don’t want to do ~ September 2014

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