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.

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

Guest Post: Lindsay’s Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Sherri Valder

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

A Little Thought from Heather:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What 18 Years Means To Me

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Meadows was my fulfillment of that dream.

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

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

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

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

We were 18.

18 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. We’re hinged on choice.

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

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

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

I pray this post spoke to you. 

Did you know I’m writing a book about persevering through life’s painful places? 
Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? 

We can’t grow with out you.

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

Without Us

Mission trips are life changing.

I’ve heard countless stories as people returned, observing how the experience impacted not only their heart but also the way they think and interpret life.

Then I had the opportunity to experience it for myself last summer, joining a team from our church traveling to El Salvador with my husband, our daughter and oldest son. I signed up for the medical missions team, my husband and son, on the construction team, and our daughter on the evangelism team.

The time passing since our trip held an unanticipated job change, and we knew my husband would not be able to be a part of the team this year. Therefore, we counted our family out when it came time to sign-up for the 2017 team.

I didn’t give it a thought at all to the possibility of us not participating as a family.

Until….

Until, I had a power session with a dear friend of mine. We work together in the NICU, on opposite shifts, and we give it our best to meet consistently to pray for one another’s needs and agree together for unity in our unit.

During our get-together, my friend challenged me with the possibility of letting our teenage daughter go without us. I told her I just couldn’t do that. She proceeded, “Heather, I remember the first time I went on a mission’s trip without my parents. They were standing there at the gate [because remember, back then family could escort you all the way to boarding the plane].” She continued, “They really embarrassed me! They just stood there hugging me and crying! I totally get it now,” she said, “being a mom myself, I can only imagine how they felt.”

I’m sure you can predict the word that came next.

But,” she said, “going on a mission’s trip each year kept me grounded in the Lord. It was like the therapeutic dose I needed to keep me strong in my walk with Him through those teenage years.”

I heard what she was saying. And it did resonate in my heart. But I couldn’t imagine letting my teenage daughter go without us. I told my friend I would pray about it.

When I told my husband about my time with my friend that day, he replied, “I don’t even need to pray about it. She’s going.”

However, we really didn’t want to be that dogmatic about it. So we shared the story with our daughter and asked her to pray about it.

Time continued to pass and despite repetitive church announcements regarding the trip, she hadn’t made mention of any intention to go.

Until….

Until the Children of the World choir came to our church. Brandon and I were not in service that day, so the kids had gone to church with my mom. Brooklyn called immediately following service and said, “I’m going to go to El Salvador.”

What?!

You’d think we’d be elated but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Surprisingly, I heard myself calmly respond, “Okay.”

Even more, she had a determined desire to pay for the trip on her own. I could only think two words— Committed. Invested.

After my daughter shared with us that she would be going, I pretty much immediately met my anxiety with this thought: I could go with her. However, as quickly as the thought came to my mind I instantly knew that would be disobedient to the Lord.

Disobedient?! To go on a mission’s trip? I mean how could doing something good be disobedient to the Lord?!

Well, it’s disobedience when my desire compromises my need to trust God. It takes away my reliance on God and places it on myself. It takes Him out of the driver’s seat and puts me in. That is disobedience.

I knew immediately that this opportunity for Brooklyn was not only an opportunity for her to walk in obedience to the Lord, being away from the security and comfort of her family, but also an opportunity for me to walk in obedience to the Lord to trust Him in letting her go without us.

So what do ya do with that?!

I prayed and prayed and prayed asking for the Lord to help me trust Him, to feel His peace about it all. One day I was at home, all the kids were at school and the house was completely quiet. I wasn’t even praying at the moment, but I walked into Brooklyn’s room to put some clothes away and I felt the Lord speak this to my heart—“Heather, Brooklyn has been farther away from you in your own home than she will be in El Salvador.”

I sat down and cried. It was so true. It’s been the crummiest last couple years of parenting! And God wants Brooklyn. He wants her completely and consistently.

That reality became even more evident the closer we got to the trip.

Brandon and I repeatedly explain to our children that sin is ugly and difficult, and if there is sin in our home it will eventually show itself, and when it does, it has to be dealt with.

God is faithful to reveal that which is hidden. But oh, how difficult it is. How ugly it can be.

Brooklyn has been in a cycle Paul knew well and wrote about in Romans 7:14-20. Despite the struggle, she was going on this mission’s trip. Without us.

We’ve hardly spoken the last three weeks. The pain of this battle is excruciating to my mama heart and I quite frequently desire to uncover a secret passage of escape. Wouldn’t that be nice?!

When we took her to the church yesterday morning at 3:45 a.m. I imagined myself giving her the boot with a good-riddance disposition. [May seem harsh but this blog is about real-living, and in this case, real-challenges in parenting teens].

But that’s not what happened.

As everyone began to load-up, she hugged her Dad, and then hugged me. She began to weep. I interpreted many things from her tears. And suddenly I realized that this was why I could not go. Where she needs to be in her walk with the Lord, she has to go without us. My friend Jayne said it best when she wrote, “God does not have grandchildren. He only has children.” Our children have to choose Him, choose to walk with Him, choose to honor Him on their own, without us.

Holding my daughter tight, the emotion of the moment and the realization hit me. Matthew 16:25 was rolling through my heart and in my head. It says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.

What I heard was, “If you try to hang on to your daughter, you will lose her. But if you give her up for My sake, you will save her.”


I’m resting this week. Resting in letting go. Resting in my confident hope. Resting in trust. Resting in faith of what is now, is not what will be. Resting in the plans and purposes already set in motion. Resting in a testimony in the making. Resting in the beautiful life of an independent relationship with Jesus. Resting in knowing He alone is able, without us, God is able.

 

Will you please intercede for our daughter Brooklyn and the team she is with this week?  May the Lord work in and through them as they serve the people of El Salvador.  May each heart, from those serving to those being served, be transformed by the hand of God.

I pray this post spoke to you.

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I’m Not Enough

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

Well, enough said. You know what happened.

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

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

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

Have you ever done the same?

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

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

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

I know someone else who questioned if they were enough.

Moses.

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

But honestly, I get Moses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facing People Problems During The Happy Holidays

Holidays are hard. Well. They can be. It’s not always “holly and jolly.” Our troubles are not always “miles away.” Sometimes they’re sitting right next to us at the dinner table. But so often a smile is slapped on, and “making-it-through” becomes the method of operation, because “it’s the holidays” and “that’s what families do.”

But are we cheating ourselves by taking that approach?

My cousin and I spent Thanksgiving together this year. It was really enjoyable. More importantly, it was authentic. May not sound like much. We spent Thanksgiving together last year too. And it was awkward. Why? Well, only for the reason that we hadn’t spoke for a period of time. Like five years!

Yes! Five years! “Whatever on earth for” you may ask. Well, that could cover a whole other blog post, or possibly even an entire book chapter. For purposes of this post, the details don’t matter, but for us personally, the lessons are in the details so just because I’m not sharing the nitty-gritty doesn’t mean my cousin and I never confronted it or dealt with it.

We have gained much from the ordeal.

For starters, we know that it’s a point on the enemy’s scoreboard. Or more like five points, for all the years we lost. However, we pray what we’ve gained gives us bigger boxing gloves to win the next round.

Next round?

“Heather, are you saying you anticipate problems?” Yep. I sure am.

Not being prepared was the most effective component in ripping our relationship. See, when Brandon and I were young-married, our small group leader would tell us, “The enemy wants your marriage. John 10:10 says ‘the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy’ and that includes your marriage.” This simple understanding made us aware of those things positioned to divide us.

Are you with me? You know, those issues that are camouflaged in marriages—everyone has their own. The bigger picture we frequently had to remind ourselves of was the enemy wanted to destroy our marriage.

The Word says in James 1:17 that everything good is a gift from God. Our relationships are good! Whether they are marriage relationships, family relationships, church-family relationships, or friend relationships. They’re all a gift! And stupid Satan doesn’t want anything good in our life. Simply put, relationships are a gift from God—expect the enemy to target them.

This isn’t meant to scare us. This is meant to prepare us. Cue up the Lion King song, Be Prepared!!!!   Not having a game plan to handle problems is more than naïve, it is foolish and relationally irresponsible. And remember, I’m writing from a place of walking this painful path, not a pointed-finger place.

The Word says in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts above everything. This may be a bit of a stretch, but where do we hold those relationships we hold dear? In our HEARTS! So we must, we must, we must guard our relationships.

As we’re guarding, understanding the enemy’s intent to tear our ties of love, security and belonging, remember he is not a conqueror, he’s a coward. I Peter 5:8 says he prowls around like (picture a phony pretender) a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The loser is searching out for weakness and cracks of opportunities. Seal your bond with others, guard and protect your special gift from God.

So what if there’s already a problem? What if there’s hurt and pain? Here’s a nugget of encouragement, trials can make our relationships stronger. But wait. Before we exhale that sigh of relief, there’s a contingency. Trials CAN make our relationships stronger, IF we let them.

Think of your relationships like your faith. I Peter 1:7 tells us, “trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Doesn’t that give us a different perspective about problems with the people we love?! Zechariah 13:9a says, “I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold.”  This gives us a different view of trials in our relationships. Those issues, those disagreements and hurts are fire. And we certainly feel it as such. But that fire purifies, removing impurities. The fire reveals something of great value.

So we shouldn’t resist it. When we choose to live with the elephant in the room or consistently return to our broom-and-rug avoidance we are choosing to live with fake-imitation-jewelry relationships instead of enjoying the high-quality-genuine-authentic-pure relationship.

This is where my admiration grew for my cousin. Honestly, I had idolized her my entire life. She’s seven years older than me and she was everything I ever wanted to be. But we realized that while our bond was shared, our personalities were not. If you had to place us in categories—I am fight; she is flight.

In Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued, she writes, “true peacekeeping is about properly processing the emotions before they get stuffed and rot into something horribly toxic” (page 92).

Our relationship had indeed rotted. And it grieved me. Seriously. Like a death. I didn’t think we’d speak again.

But you know how that story ends. I already told you we spent the last two Thanksgivings together. Talk about a spoiler alert. Goodness. I should aim to uncover some surprises in these posts.

God used those in-between years. He grew both of us. I let go (something a fighter and girl of control is never known to do) and Krista enlisted to fight.

It took, like I shared, five years, but she drove to my house, knocked on my door, sat on my couch and took the brave steps through the fire of refining our relationship. It wasn’t mended in a day. Remember, I had released it. I needed peace and happiness and grieving our loss was too painful, so I had let go, of the relationship, thus letting go of her. I couldn’t fight for both of us. But I did forgive. I forgave long before her drive up my driveway. However, forgiveness and restoration are not the same. Forgiveness depends solely on the individual; restoration depends on both. Restoration has less to do with forgiveness and everything to do with trust. And the flight personality girl who made a decision against herself to fight, persistently determined to build a new relationship cultivated a place of trust. We both became a little bit more of what we needed through those painful places of our relationship.

Holidays can be hard.

If you’re in a good place with those you love, be on guard, be prepared, have a plan to protect and defend.

If you’re in a hard place, don’t be afraid of the fire. Have courage to walk through it. Let the problems produce something genuine and authentic.

If you’re in the in-between place, have forgiveness and pray. Although you may not be able to speak, the Lord can and will and does.

Happy Holidays— much love…. ❤️

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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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