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.

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.

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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When We Just Don’t Know

Back in the days of sending group emails, before we had social media sharing, I received one along the lines of The Fifty Best Things About Having a Baby. If my memory serves me right, I believe I was expecting Jaron about the time I read it. Within the top three was getting to name a person. Are you kidding me?! Some people consider that to be one of the most wonderful things about having a baby? I thought it was one of the most difficult things about having a baby.

Brandon and I read the entire 100,001 Baby Names book, both girls’ and boys’ names just in case one gave us inspiration. And I still was asking the Lord, “Can you please send me an angel like in biblical times to say, ‘Heather, you are with child and you shall name the child [fill in God-given name]’?” There was so much pressure picking a name for this little bitty being, and pressure in hoping that it was a name they would like to live with— for the rest of their entire life.

It was just the beginning steps of our challenges in parenting. Many times over I have thought how awesome it would be if I showed up to the post office, opened that little mail box and pulled out a step-by-step manual of what do to with and for the fabulous people God has given us called children. I realize God’s Word provides all the ins-and-outs we need, but wouldn’t it be great for a chapter covering cell phones and social media?

I remember a similar feeling when I was in nursing school. Where does He want me to work in this ministry of nursing? I did an externship (same as an internship) in three different areas during my journey through school. People would ask me, “So what area do you want to go into?” My response was always, “Wherever God leads me.” Talk about a vague answer. But it was true. I didn’t really know where God wanted me to be. I would say, “I’m believing the area I’m suppose to work as a nurse is packaged up like a gift with a red bow under the tree on Christmas morning, and when it’s time, I’m gonna unwrap it and be so excited to find out!”

You all know that the angel never appeared to name our children, the book hasn’t shown up in the mail, and the gift was not under the Christmas tree. However….my children all have names which suit them quite well, Brandon and I have never been hanging out to dry on what to do for and with our kids (even though at times we have certainly felt like it), and I found my work home in the area of neonatal nursing with four years of reassuring moments that it’s right where God wants me to be.

The point is, for those of us who cherish itineraries and game plans, the unpredictable things in life can feel downright scary and may I add, confusing. Even though there are times it seems like a roadmap would be an appealing amenity for life’s journey, it would deprive us of some essential components to walking with the Lord—faith and trust.

What is faith if everything can be explained?

What is trust if we know what is to come?

Walking in faith and trust in the times we don’t have explanations or any idea what will come produces the most peculiar result—joy!

There is an on-the-edge-of-my-seat excitement knowing the Lord is going to orchestrate things beyond what my mind could think or imagine. It’s living in anticipation of seeing His hand at work in the difficult moments, knowing that He will provide what we need when we need it.

You have either experienced, are experiencing or will experience the unpredictable, scary and confusing, but you’ve got what you need to get through it. Let your faith be strengthened, your trust be deepened and your joy be completely full as you keep your focus on the One holding the road map.

Psalm 16:11 ESV You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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Control Freak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I have control issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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