Ministry

Forget the Picket Fence

Forget the Picket Fence

You know that white-picket-fence-perfect-life stereotype? Well, I have a white picket fence.  And it's GREEN!  No, we didn't intentionally do it for St. Patty's Day-- but it sure was convenient for this blog post.  Pray this encourages your heart as you press past the White Picket Fence Syndrome.

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NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Everyone has a way they receive love.  Gary Chapman covers the topic thoroughly in his book The Five Love Languages.  From what I remember of the book, and from what I identify in myself, is that we receive from all of the five ways love is expressed, but each of us has a primary love language. Evidently, my primary love language is quality time.  My secondary is acts of service.

But one thing I love so very much are words.  I love written words and spoken words.  I love the bridge words create connecting one person to another.  And recently, I received the most beautiful words from a beautiful family.

This family gifted each nurse who took care of their baby with a rustic cuff and the letter below.  I've changed a bit of the letter to protect the family's privacy, but wanted to share because of the insight it provides.  Sometimes we get so focused in, we forget how much value each of the little things holds in the hearts of those we as nurses get to care for.

As I read through this letter, the following passage of scripture was stirring in my thoughts.

Matthew 25:34-40 NLT Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."  Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"      

 

NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Hope- a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. 

We were so excited when we finally had our son on that autumn day in 2016.  He was beautiful and sweet and just perfect.  Then two days later we were told he wasn't going home with us and that our perfect little boy wasn't medically perfect.

Our emotions leapt from total joy and excitement to fear and confusion.  The next few days are totally lost in our memories, and the following weeks were so emotional and draining.  There is nothing to prepare you for the sadness and complete helplessness you feel as a parent with a child that is sick to any degree, let alone in and ICU where we weren't sure what the problem was or what the solution would be.

The things we do remember are the people who were there to take care of our son.  Upon arrival at the NICU, a nurse had prepared our baby's bed with personal bedding and had placed the sweetest blue knit cap on his precious head.  Within the first few days, our little man had a handmade name tag on the door to his room.  A few days later, a nurse brought in an outfit and said, "Let's dress this sweet boy!"

Being such an emotional time, I had never even thought to put clothes on my baby!

November arrived and our little turkey got to make his very own first craft!  A turkey!  Made using his little footprint.

Nurses who had taken care of him before would stop in on their shifts just to check-in on him.  We really felt as though the nurses here cared for his health and loved him as all children need to feel loved.

Although we as his parents were not the patients ourselves, we felt cared for.  The nurses here engaged in conversation with us both medically to keep us updated and socially to keep us feeling sane and a part of the world outside of that room.  Each night, a nurse brought in fresh bedding for us to sleep on and always asked if we needed anything else.  We received comfort in the form of positive words or encouragement, friendly smiles and even a few much needed hugs.

You are what gave us HOPE.  We desired for our baby's health to be taken care of and we had to trust that it would be.  In some cultures, blue is representative of hope.  The shade of blue we chose is the same shade of blue as the knit hat he received in his first night in the NICU.

When you wear this bracelet, please remember that what you do matters.  You give hope to a lot of families.  Your kindness, patience, and individual care matters.  We are forever indebted to this staff and this facility.

Love, a NICU Grad's Mom & Dad

 

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! 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.

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GUEST POST: The Untouched Gift

*a special post from special guest Michele Lee*

Picture this:
You spend much time, thought, and your resources in getting the perfect gift. You put so much of your mind on it that “the gift” becomes a personal and real place in your heart. You go to the celebration with great expectations in watching the person open the gift with as much passion as you put into the process only to see them smile and politely say thank you and set it aside……BIG SIGH….Letdown.

Or maybe they show great appreciation but you see that they never use the gift….. disappointment!

The greatest pleasure and gift given me is to both teach and pastor. And yes, I can preach too! I have in one hand the ability to take information and clearly present it with novelty, but also depth.  And in my other hand, I have a great need to guide, love, train, and be a safe place for people to gather—gifts that were given by our Lord Himself with the sole purpose to give Him glory in order to bring others to Him. Which is really the definition to a purpose-filled life.

But sadly, I was that person, like many, who was given this beautiful box with the most elaborate decorations that obviously showed the time and attention given to it. I opened these gifts one day, only to set them aside.

I was using one gift but not to its fullest.  It was like having this piece of technology with a million cool things, and I used only one feature.  Instead of using the whole gift, I smiled with a polite thank you and set it aside.

I allowed insecurities, inadequate feelings, and fear to stop me from real and genuine fulfillment.

I cannot set back and watch others make this mistake.

If I were to guess, there are people reading this right now that your gift is just sitting there, either unopened or collecting dust.

I can say this with certainty because I have observed much of this my 25 years in ministry and in private and public education. I’ve seen students and adults have so much potential, and use none.  They find themselves aimlessly walking in circles to find purpose and success, and yet still feel so unfulfilled. I’ve watched people use the gift, but quickly set it aside because they feel “uncomfortable ” with it. I mean who gets a gift and is a master the first time with it? Not even the most technologically gifted people can say that.
I’ve heard many people tell me they showed up late to the party and did not receive a gift.

What?!

In God’s family everyone gets a gift! He’s just generous like that.

On the other end, I have watched someone so insecure, so unsure and so hesitant have courage to use the gift and become “beyond what they ever thought or imagined.”

Gifts are unlimited with our limitless God but here are a few to get your mind thinking :

The gift:

  • of hospitality
  • of encouragement
  • of compassion
  • of serving
  • of leadership
  • of prayer
  • of generosity
  • of creativity
  • of listening
  • of writing
  • of speaking
  • of organizing
  • of planning
  • of music
  • of connecting
  • of teaching
  • of preaching
  • of filling in the gap where needed

This is just to name a few, but please don’t believe that all of these can’t be in your life, because they can. A gift just means you’re really strong in that area or areas. And the gifts aren’t limited to one place. Your gifts are for every area of your world—home, work, church, leisure, and even strange, as in, not-part-of-your-normal-routine places.

Most people have allowed unfortunate circumstances or a bump in the road with people to decide whether they will use the gift. And I am here today…. writing this post…. to encourage you to use the gift(s). Trust me…. I had prepared another post and God took me here.

Three things happen when you use the gift:

1. God is glorified. Everything that good happens is from God. Matthew 5:16 tells us people will see your good works and glorify your God. If it ever becomes about you, it’s not from God and you will quickly fall short and be empty.

2. You are blessed. We were created with a void that only God can fill. When it’s filled with Him we are fulfilled. He meets emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, and tangible needs. John 10 says God has come to give you life MORE abundantly.

3. Others are blessed through your gift.  You often are the game changer in someone’s life or circumstances. We don’t have to think BIG to bless people. It often is the daily moments we say “yes” to obedience that we bless others. Why else would Proverbs close its book with this beautiful description of a woman: “her children will rise and call her blessed”? Why? Because SHE blessed them! She said “yes” to using her God gifts.

When I made a deliberate effort to use the gifts daily ….. not every once in a while …. not when I felt good…. not when it was convenient, but daily use the gift and be passionate about it, things changed. All the excuses I made, He had a reply and the solution. He was just waiting for me to say, “Yes! I’m as excited to use the gift as You were to give it to me!”

Thank you God, that You love us generously. That You give to us generously. That You equip us generously. That You see each of us as your unique gift!

Happy to receive and use the gift,
The Mrs. Pastor

A Little Thought From Heather:
If I were to list out some individuals who helped me discover and develop the gift God gave to me, Michele would be right there at the top.  She and Steve have not only ministered to my life for 23 years but they have mentored me, something I wrote about in a former a couple years ago called InspiringInfluence. Much of who God grew me to be is from their generous investment into my life.  I’m overjoyed to have Michele share with us and challenge our hearts on our online home and I invite you to take some time to visit her at her online home, The Mrs. Pastor Blog.  I’m certain you’ll be sharpened and inspired in your time reading around there.   Heather

*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.*

About Little Bit About Michele

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My name is Michele and my husband Steve and I have three beautiful girls.  Morgan, my oldest is married and works hard at whatever her hands set out to do. Lauren is an Elementary Education major at Oklahoma State University (our alma mater) and Kinsey just graduated High School and will be with sister at OSU seeking to major in Sports Media.  We are a Disney family….its our happy place.  It was a childhood memory of mine and I wanted it to be for my girls as well.  I also am a second grade teacher and have the awesome opportunity to make the classroom another ministry opportunity.

I am the “Mrs. Pastor”.  A dear friend gave me that nickname, and it just stuck with me.  I never wanted to have the label as “pastor’s wife” (even though I love my husband and am proud to stand beside him!).  I have my own identity, callings, giftings, and voice.  When I finally realized this, I had purpose.

We have served in ministry for 25 years.  We started off volunteering in college and were soon called to Coweta Assembly and have been here ever since.  We served as the youth pastors for 15 years, associate pastor for 2 years, and have been the lead pastors for 7 years.

We have been blessed to have so many people we consider family.  We have been blessed to havementored teenagers and then watch them grow into strong adults, couples, and parents.  We have been blessed that our children have been a part of one community their entire school years.

My giftings: teaching and prayer

My greatest improvement: confident leadership

My favorite involvement: praying over the people

My biggest hangup: talking during service

My enjoyment: reading (the word and novels)

My favorite woman speaker: It’s a tie….Pricilla Shirer and Joyce Meyer

My saddest memory: When my husband, Steve, was burned

My greatest wish: to leave the greatest spiritual legacy to my girls….and they do the same for their children

My vision: to see a growing, thriving, loving, prospering, spirit-led, hungry-for-the-things-of-God, joyful, positive group of people who are prayed up and excited to be in God’s house each time the door is open.

My dream: to work side by side with my husband full time

My love language: I think I have two: acts of service and time

I’d love to hear from you.

The Mrs. Pastor

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Guest Post: Nothing is Impossible with God

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*a special post from special guest Dr. Rachel Davis-Jackson* I was a little black girl born to a custodian and a laborer for a cement factory. At nine years of age, the Lord put a dream in my heart and I told my mother I was going to be a doctor. My father and mother divorced but my mom was a tough single mother. She made sure I stayed on track with grades. We weren’t rich but we weren’t poor either. My mom worked three jobs at times to give me all I needed and most of what I wanted. My mom brought me to church on Sundays and I went to catechism school. I completed all the lessons and ceremonies required by the Catholic church.

I was raised to be strong and independent. I have been working since I was 15 years old and obtained my license on my 15th birthday. I went through college without a break; working and studying. Looking back, I was driven. Didn’t realize at the time it was God’s dream in me driving me to fulfill my destiny.

I met my soon-to-be husband in my sophomore year of college and we were married by my 1st year of medical school. I knew of the Lord, because of my upbringing but did not have a relationship with Him at that time in my life. That goes to show you; God had a mission for me and He drove my life, my actions and my interactions from behind the scenes. He knew I would need a partner like Kevin.

When I met my husband, Kevin, I was at a point in my life that I didn’t want a boyfriend. Kevin knew way before I did that the Lord put us together. Even when I would tell him, “I just want to be friends.” He would always say, “I’m going to make you mine.” Obviously he did what he said.  We were married for over 25 years. 

The Lord revealed to me that not only had He placed in Kevin everything I needed to help me achieve my destiny, He also had placed in me, everything that I needed to give to Kevin. God placed in me all the love, patience, understanding and caring to repay Kevin for sufferings he endured early in life.

Kevin and I were married on December 29, 1990. Our marriage was filled with ups and downs. One of our biggest trials came on March 10, 1993. Our first child together was born at 26 weeks, 1 pound, 8.5 ounces. The doctor gave her less than a 50% chance of survival. I was devastated and knew she would die.

Not my husband. He worked with some God-fearing, praying women. He went to work and they prayed together. My husband heard from God and from that time on all he would say was, “ She is going to be fine.”

She is better than fine. She is a smart, beautiful Baylor college graduate. During those times, I doubted Kevin’s faith and his relationship with the Lord. However, while my faith was tested and I was the one doubting God, Kevin had enough faith for both of us. We both had been raised in the church and had strayed away but through trials the Lord brought us back to Him.

We had two other children and I was on bedrest for months for both pregnancies. My husband worked and took care of me and the baby. With God’s help and strength we both survived very troubling times. I completed medical school, pediatric residency and a pediatric subspecialty training by 2002 and had three babies during this time. All of which we could not have accomplished without the grace of God. Kevin used to say, “Baby, it’s me and you against the world.” God’s Word says He will supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Christ has always been there for me, even when I didn’t even acknowledge His presence as I do now.

My relationship with the Lord grew as we went through all those trials. After specialty training, I was working in a small NICU; definitely not being able to use all my skills and training. I had been praying for some time for the Lord to move me. His answer was to be content where I was and in due season He would move me. I did just that, I made the best of a less than opportune situation and early in 2006 things changed. The Lord told me to turn in my resignation and tell my job that I would be gone in six months. I obeyed and then started looking for another job.

I went on several interviews until the last one scheduled was in Oklahoma. I had never even considered Oklahoma as an option. My husband and I went on the interview. My prayer was, "Lord if this is where I’m supposed to be please tell Kevin too." I was sure he would never agree to move from Louisiana, after living in New Orleans for greater than 10 years, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. That showed me that what God has planned will come to pass, no matter what. After the interview, I asked Kevin what he thought. Without hesitation, he said, “Let’s try it, Bae.” I was floored. Long story short, we moved December 2006 and since being here, God has blessed me and my family above and beyond our wildest dreams. I started as just another newborn intensive care doctor with the group and the Lord promoted me to medical director of one of the two largest newborn intensive care units in the state of Oklahoma. I was doing what I loved to do, taking care of sick babies and being blessed by it.

My family and I have had our trials over the past 10 years but we also have had so many blessings and so much favor bestowed on us. For example, my oldest son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He went through two surgeries to remove it. I was terrified but I trusted God. I kept having to say, “Lord I believe, just help me with my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24) God does answer prayers. My son recovered from both surgeries with no deficits and he is healthy and cancer free to this day.

Remembering my trials and my blessings reminds me of what the Lord told me before we moved from Louisiana. “I will bring you into your land of milk and honey.” He also told me that He would give me the man of my desires in my husband. God did all that and more. My relationship with the Lord continues to grow and my relationship with Kevin just got better and better. My prayer was “Lord, bring Kevin and I closer together and closer to You.” We didn’t have a perfect marriage with no problems, but the last 10 years were the best of our 25-year marriage.

It seems the closer I got to God the more trials I have to endure. But His Word says, to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). I have to say that God is requiring a lot of me since He called the love of my life home to Him on July 26, 2016.  Kevin had just made 52 one month prior.

It was unexpected and almost unbelieveable. My husband’s presence was always larger than life. He lived a blessed and highly favored life, especially the last 10 years. His absence was felt like a tidal wave in a calm sea. The love and support that I and my family received after his passing, was immense. To look back now, I know I could have not made it through this ordeal without the Lord supplying me with all my needs through so many wonderful people.

During this time, I have also had two beautiful grandchildren born, such a bittersweet blessing. They will never get to know PaPa who loved them before they were born. This has truly been the hardest trial of my life. I miss my mate of 30 years and husband of over 25 years. My children miss their father, who has always been father and mother to them when mom was working. By God’s grace and mercy, we are all hanging in there. Our broken hearts are mending slowly. My prayer is “God heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

My God has never failed me and I know with time and His presence in my life, I will be healed. I thank God for the time I had with Kevin and the three beautiful children we conceived and the one beautiful girl that is my child because she is Kevin’s. I know one day I will see my love again. In the meantime, I stand on God’s words, “I will give you beauty for ashes and double for your trouble.” (Isaiah 61:3-7 The Message)

A Little Thought From Heather:Our lives speak a message.  I have half a blog post composed on that thought alone.  But Dr. Jackson's life is a message I've received from for years now.  I first met her during nursing school gaining some insight into the world of NICU Nursing as an extern in the summer of 2011.  In addition to the beautiful views from our unit, another one of the "pros" on my list to work there was this neonatologist who took time to routinely write words of inspiration for the staff.  I watched her gown-up for a lumbar puncture and after all protocols were followed for a time-out she paused, closing her eyes to pray.  Not too much time passed till I was working as a NICU nurse caring for a terminally ill baby.  Dr. Jackson came in the room, motioned for me to give her my hands, and we stood together and prayed over that little life together.  Dr. Jackson has ministered to my life as I've observed hers. And the message she speaks through it is a beautiful testimony of God's strength and faithfulness through all of life's moments-- the ones of rejoicing and the ones of pain.  I cannot express how grateful I am for her to share her story with us.  I pray the Lord continues to use the words of her journey to encourage and strengthen you on yours.  He is faithful.... in every season. ❤ Heather

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Guest Post: Murder Couldn't Kill God's Love

*a special post from special guest Teresa Nichols* February is known as the month of love so I wanted to share our story about God’s love.

God tells us over and over the importance of love, that no matter what we do for others, or in the name of God, if we do it without love in our hearts then it is nothing, He even gives a complete description of what Love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

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Then He tells us His greatest commandment is to love Him, then to love one another.

Yet sometimes things happen that we don’t understand in this life and we want to shake our finger at God and say, “How can You say You love us?

I can’t, in any way, say I understand the ways of God. Why some live and some do not. But I can tell you I believe what John 10:10 tells us, that the enemy is the one who steals, kills and destroys. God tries to teach us how important it is to love one another, but no matter how much we feel we love others, it is nothing close to the magnitude of God’s love for each and every one of us.

I know this first hand—by the way God has shown His love for me through our tragedy. God began showing me His love through miracles and blessings that He poured out on our family as we regained our strength to stand again.

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On March 28th of 2011 we made a move to Tulsa, Oklahoma from our small hometown in Iowa with our youngest son Ethan who was twenty, and his friend Casey, twenty-one at the time. Our little town had been quickly loosing businesses and unemployment was very high. My husband Scott left his job of thirty-two years so we could all have a new start in life. Our twenty-six-year-old daughter Leanne was already in Tulsa finishing her second year at Rhema Bible College.  We had prayed and asked God about making this move and He answered in a way that left no room for any doubt that we were to move.  This would be just one of the ways God showed us His love. 

Life was good. Within a month we all had jobs and were having a wonderful time. Along with jobs we had found the best places to play Frisbee golf, some favorite eating places, and a church home. We had all pretty much settled into our routines.

A short time later Ethan met an eighteen-year-old young woman named Carissa. We were all sure she would one day be his wife.

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Their days consisted of Ethan working and Carissa’s studies in Music Composition at ORU. Their evenings and weekends were filled with exploration throughout the town’s parks. 

On September 18th 2011, six short months after moving to Tulsa, Ethan and Carissa went for a jog at Hicks Park. As the sun was setting, they were surrounded by two men with a gun. They were robbed and forced to their knees.   Then, they were both shot in the head.

Nothing could have prepared us. Our world stopped and we felt as if our hearts would stop too. There was even a time I wished mine would because with every beat came unimaginable pain. Nothing could stop it. The loss of a child is unbearable in its own, but to lose them in such a violent-senseless way made it so much worse. Even though we knew they were with God the very moment they left this world, it still couldn’t stop our pain.

Ethan had always known God and was baptized as a young boy. But as this beautiful woman of God came into his life he had grown to be a Man of God. They had built their relationship around God first, praying together before they had even spent time together face-to-face. They both had such a trust and love in God. Even when I would try to warn him to be careful he would look me in the eyes and say, “I have God what do I have to be afraid of?

At first there was just the heartache and sadness but then came the “WHYS” and there were so very many.

As my mind darted from one thought to another in sort of a random-scrambled way trying to make some sense of things, it seemed every thought was attached to a WHY.  Those whys were quickly followed by condemnation, guilt, and “IF ONLYS.

IF ONLY, we would have not gone to a movie that night. IF ONLY they hadn’t gone to that park. IF ONLY we hadn’t moved to Tulsa.

And it was the same for Scott.

It was the question about moving to Tulsa that God opened my eyes to first. One day as this why came to me again God reminded me, “Teresa, you prayed- I gave you a clear answer. Do you doubt Me now? How can you condemn yourself when the answer was so clear that you were to go?” With that I began to realize that Satan was using all the whys to pull us down, to try and fill us with guilt. But with that one truth I also realized God had already made sure we could not have guilt for that, He had covered us.

I knew I had to take authority over Satan and hold tight to God's truth. For me the scripture Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

When Satan would try to push the whys into my thoughts I would tell him to be gone in the name of Jesus Christ. I also knew I needed to stop asking why all together and just let it go. Once I stopped asking “why,” God slowly started giving me answers. They did not come all at once but steadily, as my heart needed them.

One day I was having an exceptionally emotional day, I longed to hold my baby boy and nothing seemed to help me get past that longing. I finally decided to go have lunch with Scott. Although we tried, comforting each other was really impossible. It just does not work when both you and your spouse are hurting so bad. Yes we knew we needed to be together, but you cannot pull someone out of the ditch that you are stuck in too. You can only hold them tight when they need it. But God will slowly ease you out, giving you time to heal before pulling you up a little farther. This kind of deep loss does not disappear. It has to go through stages.

On this day I really needed my husband to hold me, even if it was just for a few minutes. But as I left from lunch to drive back home I could feel the longing coming back strong.

I decided I did not want to go home to sit in the house alone so I stopped at a clothing store and decided to just look around a bit. I found a shirt I wanted to try on so I went into the dressing room to see if it would fit. When I came out of the room to look in the big mirror a woman came out of the adjacent dressing room with the same exact shirt on. We laughed a bit, then wound up in conversation, and I eventually shared about Ethan.

I could see the sadness in her eyes but there was something else too. As we walked out the door to the parking lot she asked if she could share something with me. She told me she was a prayer warrior and that she was getting ready to go next door to get a coffee, but God asked her to go try on some clothes. She tried at first to say she really didn't need anything but she could feel Him telling her to go. She told me that she had been praying for me and our family since she saw the story on the news.

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That obedient prayer warrior gave me confirmation that God was there with me. He knew I needed that particular encounter with this stranger to help give me strength to get through that rough day. What an amazing and wonderful God we have! 

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This was not the only time God made sure I knew He was with me. There were many different ways and so many blessings as we went through the weeks. But it took me awhile to realize the biggest blessing He gave me.  It was not something that I noticed right away but it became clearer to me as we went through counseling. Through our counselor I learned that no two people ever go through the healing process at the same pace. I had to let Scott heal for himself and not try to push him to where I was or vice-versa. 

This is where I first realized I had no anger. Scott, Carissa's parents, and many other people around me were very angry. I understood why they were angry but I couldn't understand why I was NOT angry.

You see I, like many of you mothers out there, I am like a mother bear. You might come around and see me playing gently with my cubs, but the moment anyone threatens my kids in any way I become a furious fighting animal with claws out and teeth bared to protect them. It doesn't matter how big or mean you may be, I would take you on in a second just to keep them safe. But I felt NO anger. Believe me I searched for it, but it was not there. Even at the preliminary hearing where I looked at the two murderers in the face for the first time there was not any anger.

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You see I do not do anger well. It takes a bit of pushing to get me angry but when I do it is not good in any way. Then it is almost always followed but a tremendous let down, followed by tears and sadness. I know God knew I couldn't handle anger so He took it from me.What a loving God! Because of this, forgiveness came easy for me and forgiveness must come in order to heal completely

This is just a small peek into of some of the ways God covered me throughout our time of loss. Even though my heart will always miss my baby boy my spirit leaps when I think of how God loves me. I wanted to share this with you so that you can see the love God has for each of us. He is always there reaching out to us. However, He is a polite and patient God. He will not push Himself upon us. We must invite Him in.

I ask you as we go through this month of love remember what God asks—love one another. There is no greater love than the love of our God.

A Little Thought From Heather: The enemy has netted so many people out of their tragedies-- they blame God and turn away instead of seeking Him for hope and healing. Teresa and Scott’s journey is an example of how hope and healing can unfold for those who choose to turn to God. A story that illustrates how much more powerful His love is than even the most unimaginable heartache. I am honored for Teresa’s willingness to share with us. I pray her words continue to strengthen our confidence and security in His mighty love.   Happy Valentine’s Day ❤ Heather

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I Lost My Pants!!!

“Ma’am, I’m sorry. Your driver’s license is faded and we can’t verify the security so we’ll have to screen you as if you didn’t have any identification.” “Oh, no problem. I totally understand.” Well, yeah, that’s what I said on the outside, and I really did totally understand, but it didn’t stop me from searching for any ID that may serve as verification. You won’t be surprised to hear that while TSA may entertain your efforts when you pull out your Sam’s Wholesale Club Membership card, it won’t meet the need for identity verification.

In my mind I was thinking, “Unbelievable. I knew I should’ve brought my passport.” All the while proceeding up to the body scan.

“Ma’am, are you wearing a belt or do you have anything in your pockets? “

“No.”

“Okay, well we are going to have to pat you down…..” and on and on went the description of how intimate the TSA agent and I would be there in the middle of everyone shuffling out of the security check point. They are so polite and asked if I’d like a private screening room. I declined. It’d just take more time.

Again, those nonchalant words, “no problem.” Honestly, it really wasn’t. I had just experienced a thorough pat down last month when we went to El Salvador. What’s one more? Can’t say I’d like to put myself on a monthly sign-up, but I understood and appreciate the need for security.

The agent proceeds with her assessment, honing in on my right leg. As she pats and then rubs and then pats and then rubs she pauses and looks at me asking, “What is this?”

“Are you feeling the edge of my pocket?” I’m internally reasoning that these are skinny jeans and you can pretty much outline every crease and crevice. Somewhat agitated, or maybe it was simply confused, she pats and rubs again firmly restating the concerned location, “No, right here.”

“Oh, you are feeling my scar tissue. I am a burn survivor and my scars are not smooth like skin.” No big deal right?

Wrong.

“Ma’am, I am so sorry, but I have to take you to a private screening room.”

Once more, my reply, “No problem.”

We trudged on to the private screening room. And you know what happened. I was depantsed! I’m not sure that’s even a word. Probably not since it’s underlined red on my screen, but it’s something my kids say when Gavin tries to be funny and unexpectedly jerks Caden’s pants down to his ankles. (He gets in trouble for that by the way. Gracious that boy is ornery!)

While this may or may not be an occurrence in The Meadows’ Home on any given day, I certainly never fathomed the possibility of it happening to me at the airport! And on a time I was already bummed about traveling by myself! The true irony is found in what I said for the week preceding my trip, “I just have to put my big girl britches on and go,” never imagining for a second those big girl britches would be pulled down the minute I checked in!

So maybe it kind of was a big deal. But I really do understand the caution and I appreciate it.

Today, shuffling back through the security line, I again had the whole body scan. The agent asks, “Ma’am, do you have on a belt or anything in your pockets?” I replied, “No.” She explained the need for the pat down again offering a private screening room. I told her I have metal in my body from an old burn injury and also, that when she pats me down she’d feel scar tissue. She continued, took a wipe-down sample of my hands and sent me on the way after that little machine popped up the results.

Needless to say, it’s been a very humbling airport experience, this trip.

But humility seemed to be the overall theme while attending my first writer’s and speaker’s conference here.

See, I stepped way out of my comfort zone and pitched my book idea to a publisher and agent while I was here. It’s a whole new world to me of One Sheets and Book Proposals, but it’s what the Lord has nudged me to step into. Why, oh why?

I’m so happy being wife and mom. I’m so happy being a NICU nurse. I’m so happy having the opportunities to speak for special events. And I’m so happy, tucked away with you here in my tiny, tiny spot in the massive blogging world.

But the Lord is asking me to humble myself and ask you to help me (which by the way doesn’t feel nearly as humiliating as having someone pull my pants down—it’s all perspective, right?).

You see, what is between my message of hope and healing being published, and getting into the hands and hearts of people who need it, is a number. The number publisher’s and agent’s want to see is at least 10,000 people who are already a part of my audience, who follow my blog and interact with me through it.

My words to the publisher, “I’ll never do that.” She said, “Don’t say that. You never know. You can get your numbers up and come see me next year.” I replied, “That’s just not where my heart is.” It’s not about a number to me. It’s about personal connection with people. It seems oversimplified and maybe impersonal merely trying to reach a number, but numbers are people and my heart is for people—whether it’s at the post office, folding endless loads of laundry, working as a nurse or speaking at a church.

Friends, I’m not sure exactly what this whole writing/speaking journey will look like. I just know I’m suppose to be right where God wants me to be, taking my little steps of obedience as He leads.

Today, I got to keep my pants on (praise the Lord!) but I’m humbling myself and asking you to help me build these numbers. It feels like a stretch but I remember another 10,000 number I felt was completely unattainable—and it was – in human standards. The website.

HeatherMeadows.com had a $10,000 price tag on it just a little over a year ago, and the Lord moved on the hearts of a generous, precious couple and they gave it to us for free! And became special friends of ours!  Bonus! I’m thinking the Lord wants me to get something about this 10,000 number.

Thank you to those whom have given me the opportunity to come and speak for your schools, special events and churches. Your investment into me completely provided for me to come for this conference and gain development as a speaker and writer! I couldn’t have been here if it weren't for you and I can’t go on without you!

I appreciate you so much!!!!

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19 NIV ~ Thank you, Lord for new things and for making a way!

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Here are some fabulous sites to check out of some fabulous women I met at She Speaks. I feel deeply privileged to have learned and grown alongside them these last few days.

www.LiveaFastLife.com

www.jaynepatton.com

www.jessicastone.org

www.lisaonthecape.wordpress.com

www.notofmyself.com

www.susangreenwood.net

www.reneebollas.com

www.katelynquattlebaum.wordpress.com

www.micahmaddox.com

www.KarenGirlFriday.com

www.tfcmcallen.com

www.BethAnnForo.com

www.caradury.com

www.oldthingsnewblog.com

www.priscillasharrow.com

www.JulieKMcComas.com

www.westbowpress.com

Jacob's Hope by Dr. Laura Sparks

Unique custom made jewelry by Chandra Holcomb.

www.DoANewThing.com

 

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Encouraged in Heart, United in Love

We don’t have much of a schedule during the summertime. And we aren’t too concerned with the forecast. Since it’s most likely gonna be hot our wardrobe doesn’t venture too far from our swim attire. With that being said, we’ve been delayed in hearing of recent events. It wasn’t until surfing social media that I realized of the events in Dallas. Honestly, as we were enjoying our British family’s visit, I wasn’t even aware of the situations in Louisiana and Minnesota.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I invite you to read over them.

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

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

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el salvador

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A Helping Heart

Have you ever been in a position where you needed help? It’s humbling isn’t it? I think of my grandparents’ generation. They demonstrated immense work ethic. Something my generation, and the one after me, could be inspired by.

Along with that head strong, determined spirit to persevere and get the job done, came the resistance in allowing others to help.

I get it. It’s difficult to be in a place where we need help. It’s even more difficult to ask for it. But imagine with me being in that place of abandoned pride and emptied dignity, expressing your request for help, extending yourself in need only to be met with superiority.

It happens all the time actually. And it’s anything but helpful.

As disheartening as these situations are, the Lord can use them. And He used many encounters I had throughout the year to gear my mindset and heart for our mission trip. For instance, I learned a thing (or two, okay maybe three) about being helpful.

#1 I’ve learned that the best people to seek for help are the ones who either have been, or can at least imagine putting themselves, in my shoes. This is widely identified as compassion.

#2 I gained a personal lesson from my own humbled-heart-required experience, turned mortifyingly humiliating. What I gained from the heartache was a heart laced with something essential for missions—don’t focus on fixing, instead focus on serving, and know I’m just as in need as those I serve.

#3 I came to the realization of what one of our mission’s coordinators mentioned in conversation at the end of a meeting, “Helping isn’t helping unless it helps.” Helping isn’t about what we get out of it. Helping is all about what the person we’re serving gets out of it. It’s all about their need. We were reminded to show respect for the way things were done, follow the system in place trusting the process developed by those who have established it. We were only there for a week. There’s no way we could get the entire picture. We were there to serve, not get snagged by any arrogance that could come with doing it a better way. Truly help; don’t merely seek the self-satisfaction of what we feel helping should be.

Going back to last December when we made the decision and commitment to go on the missions trip—only two weeks later I had a friend ask me to go through the book Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren with her. The name alone may have been reason to run, but as seamlessly as I responded to Brandon when he said we needed to go on the trip, I found myself replying to her, “Absolutely!”

Well this book is no walk in the park. I mean who loves the thought of surrender? Even Christians singing, “I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender,” hang onto a little bit of control. So as if surrender alone wasn’t challenging enough, let’s slap on the adjective dangerous.

I love how despite my planning (seriously, you should see our vacation itinerary—I might take the word planning to a whole different level- or extreme), the Lord drops His timing into my life. This book was so timely. It was a heart-check to make sure mine was beating in sync with His.

Here’s a bit of the evaluation….

As long as we refuse to look squarely into the mirror of God’s Word and get an accurate picture of ourselves, we actually do more harm than good. We must see ourselves, not as separate from others—better, more educated, more cultured, more sophisticated, more civilized, less sinful, less evil, less prone to violence, less likely to cause harm—but as identical to them in our capacity to do evil. Otherwise, we end up serving others from a position of pride, congratulating ourselves for our noble sacrifices rather than coming alongside a fellow stumbler and offering not our wholeness but our brokenness.

-Kay Warren, Dangerous Surrender, pg. 120

So there it is. There we are. Just as humbling as it is to need help, so as humbling as it should be to give it. Because….we are all in need. Our scenery and situations may look differently, but we’re all in the same boat.

I am incredibly grateful to the missionaries and the citizens who allowed us to serve, showing me how much I can be helped from being willing to help others with a helping heart. What a great place to be!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (TLB)   What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the One who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us.

----If you would like to help with a financial gift to the ministries ministering in El Salvador, visit the following links:

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Spiritual Stretch Goals

It’s incredible how when God puts something on your radar your eyes see it and your ears hear it as if it were for the first time. It’s like getting a new car and then noticing every other driver with the same one. Once your brain registers that make, model and color, you all of a sudden notice every other driver driving your car. Well back last December God put a mission trip on our radar and registered it in our brain.

May I use the word “incredible” again? It was incredible to me that never before had Brandon nor I felt called to go on a mission trip, but the Lord placed it on our hearts at exactly the same time. We have a heart for missions and we have a budget for missions, I mean I have an aunt and uncle who devoted their lives to the mission field, but I never imagined myself personally, physically going, to literally be the hands and feet of God’s love extended. Honestly, each time we had missionaries come speak at our church, or would listen to the reports of former mission teams from our church, I’d--for real--sit there and thank the Lord that He hadn’t called me to go. It just sounded so miserable.

However, when Brandon said, “We need to go on a missions trip,” I heard myself reply, “You’re so right.” And I really meant it! We’re big budgeters in our home, and although we had already had our meeting to formulate our 2016 budget, we trusted God would provide so Brandon called our Pastor the very next day and signed us up along with Brooklyn and Jaron.

When reflecting back on our first foreign mission trip, this is where the joy begins. The joy of this experience started with the decision to go. The greatest message I can share with you here is that the decision to go wasn’t out of obligation or guilt or inferiority.

I never felt this was a duty. And I never felt those who served in foreign missions were more stellar for Jesus. I still don’t.

What I do know is that our uniqueness is His design of working His creative plans in and through us.

See, the good news is we don’t have to go on a mission trip to be effective for Jesus. We just need to be sure we are where He wants us to be, when He wants us to be there doing what He wants us to do. It may look a little different for each of us. Or it may just look different in different seasons.

God will stretch us out to accomplish His plans and purposes in the places He desires. We don’t need to feel we must replicate another’s path, we simply trust Him to lead us in His unique design for us.

But cue up the Lion King’s “Be Prepared” song here. We must be prepared to extend ourselves beyond ourselves. This may mean the anticipation of discomfort.

In listening to the May 8th, 2016 “God’s Workmanship” podcast from Mark Batterson, he spoke about another podcast of an interview with Anders Ericsson regarding Deliberate Practice, a concept from Ericcson’s book Peak. In his message Batterson shares,

Deliberate Practice-- you have got to be practicing, we’ll put it in the terms of physical exercise, at 70% maximal strength. In other words, when you do physical activity your body has to be stressed to the point beyond 70% where homeostasis cannot be maintained. In other words, your body has to adjust to what’s happening. Where your metabolism has to change because of the way that you are pushing your body. The body has to grow new capillaries to get more oxygen to your muscles. And then here’s the crazy thing, once you hit your goals, a certain point of physical fitness, the work out that got you there won’t get you to the next level. So now you’ve got to do it all over again! It’s called a stretch goal. And what’s true physically is true spiritually.

I’m sure this message could have challenged me to spend a few more minutes on the tread mill or at least increase the incline of my run, but as this concept fell on my ears I knew it was to motivate my mindset for missions.  For months, the Lord poured material into my heart in preparation for this trip.  The trip was on my radar.

See, I’m the girl who goes on trips and enjoys a nice soft bed, a temperature controlled environment, gourmet meals, wardrobe options, several pairs of shoes, a snazzy bathroom and enough drawers and closet space to move in for the week. Sounds pretty rotten doesn’t it? But work with me here.

Although I enjoy the cushy things I’m so grateful the Lord has allowed me to experience, I can tell you that when He called me to go without them, there was just as much enjoyment. Isn’t that so incredibly awesome?!?!

How could that be? Because, I wasn’t there for any other reason than the simple fact that God called me to be there. And while I anticipate more mission trips in my future, I can say…

  1. I’ll never go expecting to have the same experience I just had. That would be disappointing. Nothing could be just like it was. And I wouldn’t want it to be. That would limit God.
  2. I’ll never make my decision to go based on who else is attending. We committed to this trip before we ever knew who may go, but God knew. He knew that Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron and I needed a special time connecting with our church family and He packaged up a special bond with some people we didn’t even know before we left. I’d have never wanted to miss out on that sweet gift.
  3. I’ll never feel like I dodged a bullet again when hearing the stories of those in the mission field. I’m still amazed at how much we received. It was so unexpected and incredibly humbling. As surprised as I was to have had such spiritual nourishment there, the Lord reminded me of those words found in Luke 6:38, “Give, and you will receive….” Oh how we received.

It’s too much for one blog post. But a series would suffice. Would you please join me again as I share some of our moments from El Salvador?

My prayer in preparing and my prayer there was, “Lord, speak in us and through us.”

He did just that. Not just for El Salvador but for home.

As we leave today, let's continue to ask, "Lord, how do you want to stretch me?"

I pray your heart is encouraged, inspired, motivated, challenged and blessed as those treasures are shared in the posts to follow.

“One mission trip is worth fifty-two sermons.” Mark Batterson

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Keep It Real

Caden had a friend over today; a friend who has been to our home many times over; a friend who knows the ins and outs of where to find kitchen essentials- locations of cups, silverware, and plates. However, this friend went to another drawer today expecting to see what was inside, but it wouldn’t open. It was a false front, solely there for aesthetic appeal; no function whatsoever, just for show. We see it in our homes. Words like fascia, which exist to merely cover up what’s unappealing to the eye; and faux, as noticed in painting walls, cabinets and furniture. They’re all delicate ways of saying something is fake. It’s okay though because it meets the purpose of looking the way we desire something to look. Many carry this position when purchasing jewelry or handbags. Doesn’t matter if it’s a knockoff. People will say, “you can’t even tell.” Forget if it’s authentic, as long as it looks authentic the goal is met.

I completely understand. Obviously. Remember, I have the trickster fake false front cabinet drawer. Most often it doesn’t matter if something is fake, that is, unless it’s us.

I’d like to believe no one intends to be phony. So why are so many? Maybe it has something to do with a lack of garbage, or as I Peter 1:7 refers to it as trials.

These 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. -NLT

This past year we have sifted through a lot of garbage in our home. Quite honestly, it has smelled to high heaven. You know what I’m talking about. Trials. In the beginning we were like dogs licking our wounds, beaten and whipped by the unexpected. There were lots and lots of emotions. As you’ve come to know a little about me, I’m sure there is no surprise to imagine the intensity of those emotions. They are emotions familiar to trials: fear, failure, shame, disappointment, pain, hurt, betrayal, discouragement and despair. Yes, Heather Meadows, your inspirational blog writer knows the emotion of despair.

In the trials, we can experience such brokenness. I love how Dr. James Bradford views brokenness, “There’s no multiplication without the brokenness. Sometimes we want to go from blessed to favored without the brokenness.”

I’d love to report that the garbage has been gathered, bagged and taken to the dump. But honestly, we’re still cleaning. However, let me report something to you that is tremendously encouraging. The same trial we are experiencing, others have experienced and they have come out as pure gold.

Initially, we built a wall around the trash thrown on us, scared others may see it and make hurtful assumptions. As the Lord opened doors for us to share our trial, we have been ministered to by others who have been through similar. And there is where you find what is authentic and genuine.

Going through trials. Being tested in the fire. God produces a faith that is not only pure, but one that is effective.

The Message translates I Peter 1:7 as this: “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of His victory.

I’d rather go through garbage than to live phony forever. It’s not enough to appear as one with strong faith. It’s not enough to have a faux finish, to merely look like a woman of God. I desire authentic, genuine, pure. I desire a faith that is evidence of God’s victory in my life.  A faith that He can use to minister to someone else in their life.

Whatever momentary brokenness, trial or trash you may encounter, remember it is just that, momentary. He will bless it and multiply it. Even better, He will use it to bring hope and healing to others as they encounter similar trials.

"Our culture is filled with people who abandoned the church not because of the Gospel, but because of the poor example of ‘religious people.’" -Dr. James Bradford

Live genuine. Live authentic. Live real. Others are desperate to see it.

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[Dr. James Bradford quotes from Coweta Assembly podcasts: "Believe for Greater Things" on 1.3.16 & "Second Chronicles 7:14" on 2.7.16]

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We're Moving!

I was so discouraged on March 28th when I sat down to write the blog post, It Is Time. However, I wrote it because I’m familiar with Samuel’s instruction in I Samuel 15:22. But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:

your burnt offerings and sacrifices

or your obedience to his voice?

Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,

and submission is better than offering the fat of rams."

His voice. Obedience to His voice.

Obedience to His voice was what prompted my decision to cut back on my hours working as a neonatal intensive care nurse. He spoke to my heart while I was recovering from my third surgery in the year. “It is time.” I knew exactly what it was time for. It was time to humble myself, put aside my avoidances of looking foolish and start doing what He’s been preparing me to do for over a decade.

Sure I’ve made my list of excuses. “Lord, I can’t write a book. I don’t have any professional training as a writer.” But the Word tells me He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Hebrews 12:2. He’s not depending on my ability to write it anyway, He’s calling me to be obedient. He equips those He calls.

I’ve composed several questions. “Who is going to have me come speak? How will we maintain our personal budget on a speaker’s fluctuating income?” But the Word tells me He sees even the sparrow, Matthew 10:29, how much more does He care for me? Our budget goes a lot further if we’re investing our resources how He is directing, that includes our time and our money. Obedience to His voice. He provides for those He calls.

scriptureWhen I wrote to share this vision, I thought there’d be an element to share that the Lord had laid on our hearts months before, but it was further away than when we started. Had we heard His voice? It was most definitely my biggest concern. Regardless, I wrote it, knowing the simple functions of my human mind are nothing in comparison to His plans. For this reason, I Corinthians 1:25 NLT was on my heart, “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

Two days before, on March 26th, I had spent working a fulfilling day in the NICU. Upon checking my email that night I received an anticipated message from the broker who had been negotiating on our behalf for more than three months at that time, to purchase a domain the Lord had laid on our hearts.   His message was short, informing us he had heard from the owners and that they wanted $10,000 for the domain.

It seemed apparent that the Lord didn’t want us to simplify our blog website name.

Months before my dear friend, Sara who designed the Heather’s Blessed JouRNey logo a few years ago, jumped on board with our vision to have some brochures made. In this culture of technology, people still love to have information in hand. I’m one of those people. I’ll hit “print” just to be able to touch the material and put my yellow highlighter to use. So Sara put her creativity and talent to work and designed a brochure for us. When we got together to tweak it, I told her we were hoping to move the blog to a new domain. She selected the line, hit delete, and entered, “heathermeadows.com”. I quickly explained that we hadn’t got it yet. Sara, in her laid back, nonchalant personality said, “That’s okay. When you do, we’ll edit. But we have a place marker for it now.” Little did I know how the Lord would use that design to grow me.

My assurance teetered back and forth in the weeks to follow. I went from feeling confident in His calling to doubting my discernment of His voice. In that time, a reoccurring theme inundated my spirit. Trust. As the Lord spoke “rest” into my heart for 2014, see New Year, Same Life, “trust” is His message to me for 2015. Understanding that the way He grows our patience is to give us more opportunities to be patient, so is the process for us to grow in trust. And those opportunities have been presented in effective ways the last few months.

A lunch with a co-worker and friend on March 3rd informed me of a nurse turned nurse practitioner who had read one of my favorite books, The Circle Maker and how she put that book to use in her need regarding employment in her new role. It's such an encouraging story that she shared on her blog, visit http://www.wanderlove.co/drawing-circles-part-ii/ to read it.  I first read The Circle Maker a few years ago, in the spring of 2012, on a flight to Washington DC. Ironic that I first learned of Mark Batterson when flying to the city where he Pastors? No. Not when I consider the creative wonders of my Maker. That lunch on March 3rd stirred the text, which took root in my heart three years ago, and inspired me to come home and print out the rough draft brochure. I wrote Zechariah 4:6 NLT “…It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” I circled heathermeadows.com and I hung it in our bathroom on our safe room door.

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In the weeks to follow, I prayed the Word over that domain. “Lord, You don’t need a domain to accomplish Your purposes. But if this is Your will, it has to happen by Your Spirit. It is not by force. I can’t force this to happen. It is not by the sheer determination of my personality, but completely by You.”

Oh that prayer. I circled the domain. But honestly, I considered abandoning it numerous times. “Lay out a fleece before the Lord.” I’m familiar with the Biblical practice found in Judges 6. I’d resort in my mind, “if it’s not by such and such date, we’ll go ahead and print the brochures with Heather’s Blessed JouRNey.com”. Nevertheless, each date that came, it didn’t feel right. So when you don’t know what to do, you wait and you continue seeking God.

Sounds very encouraging doesn’t it? But allow me to remind you of what followed; the email on March 26th. $10,000. Wow! Now that would appear to be our answer. “Let it go.” But neither Brandon nor I could do that. We were stumped. Why had this been so heavy on our hearts, so important if it wasn’t going to happen?

Still yet, two days later, the Lord led me to write about the vision He’s laid on our hearts and to share the photo Mallory Hall Photography took for these endeavors of me by the ditch where I was injured. All I can say is God’s timing is perfect. Of all the different things I’ve written about it, it was instrumental that that post be the first one seen at the top of the blog at that time.

Discouragement still loomed. The next day Brandon stayed home from church to study for an upcoming certification, so he wasn’t with us in service that day. The boys went to their classes and Brooklyn and I were in service together. It was Palm Sunday, March 29th. Our Pastor concluded the message and invited attendees to the altars. Brooklyn and I bowed our heads and began our personal prayers. The Holy Spirit nudged me to the altar. I seriously thought, “Lord, I can’t go down to the altar to pray about a domain. You don’t even need the domain to accomplish Your purposes. You're greater.” Then I started to consider some of those in the altar, like a woman in our church who is battling bone cancer, and our Pastor who was most likely seeking the Lord for the lost who would be coming the next week for Easter. As if God couldn’t handle all of us at the same time. As if He weighs out importance of needs. As if we have to qualify to take something to the altar.

Obedience. Obedience to His voice.

I went to the altar. I kneeled down and I literally patted the altar with my two hands, as if laying a tangible item down. I said, “Lord, here it is. I give this to you. Accomplish Your will. By Your Spirit. Not by force, but by Your Spirit. If You want that domain, I believe You will provide for it, and if You don’t, please speak to my heart to know. Lord, may You be glorified. It’s all for You.”

The next day, I felt like it was a long shot, but I wrote a letter to the owner of heathermeadows.com. I shared my heart, our vision and the Heather’s Blessed JouRNey blog. How foolish it seemed. I remember writing without a pause or a hesitation. It flowed by His Spirit. But as I sent it on to our broker asking him to forward it to the owners, a sense of embarrassment was upon me. However, even though I felt like we were in way over our heads, obedience and trust was before me, and I desired to walk in both. I hit send that Monday, March 30th morning.

The following Thursday, April 2nd, I was pulling out of the Wal-Mart parking lot after getting items to make my assigned dishes for Easter lunch, when I prayed that prayer again, “Lord, I pray you speak to the owners of the domain. It has to be by Your Spirit. Not forced, but by Your Spirit.”

It was about forty-five minutes before school was to let out. I decided to wait, not wanting to drive home and then back again since I usually have my bag with me, to work on something while I wait. I parked, got out my computer, opened my email and read the following message:

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I was overcome. If anyone had seen me in that parking spot, they very well may have assumed someone had died. What an answer to prayer! I knew then that the Lord worked on our behalf.  It wasn't anything we could do on our own and the entire time God simply wanted us to reach out personally. I emailed back confirming that I was who I said I was.  From there we anticipated the next steps of making some type of agreement. Who would’ve thought?

Honesty, I was a little obsessed with checking my email the next day. Can you imagine? We were going to work something out!!! I couldn’t imagine what it would be! However, by about eleven, I knew I needed to be patient and wait. Brandon was off that Good Friday, and I really wanted us to enjoy our day without incessant email checking. We had to run a few errands before taking Gavin for his afternoon Pre-K class. There’s no better way to disengage than leaving your phone at home when you leave, so that’s what I did. We came back home while the kids were at school and watched a movie together.

Just before we left to pick them up, Brandon took our new puppy, Ruby for a little break outside. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to load my email real quick. Well, I did and I received this message (feel free to click on the center of the image to enlarge it):

You may imagine my heart sinking at those words, "So I won't sell you the domain.  I would never be able to sleep at night."  But it didn't.  When I read those words I thought, "Okay, Lord.  This is Your answer."  So of course I didn't foresee the remaining to fold out like it did!!!  I didn't make it much further.  "I will give you the domain for a promise."  That's the sentence that grabbed my gut, twisted it, and pulled me to my knees.  I barely got out the door. Brandon thought someone had died when I ran out screaming to him.  Actually, he recalls that even though he was the person who informed me of my Dad's passing, I didn't have a hysterical reaction as one would anticipate.  But this day, this Good FridayApril 3rd, I was nothing close to composed.  I'm an emotional girl, but not typically as emotional as I was that day.

Brandon kept reading.  With every word I was overcome by the presence of God.  See, I've read several Mark Batterson books.  I've read the story of the crack house turned coffee shop Batterson and his church circled in prayer, that God made Himself known through His provision for it.  But I never imagined having and Ebenezers-type moment in my life.  I was brought to my knees, overcome, overwhelmed, by His presence.  This was my burning bush (Exodus 3).  #1, I knew this was Holy Ground for the presence of God had moved right before me.  It was only "by His Spirit" that this could happen and His Spirit was nearly tangible to me that day.  #2 I was in awe of His Glory, reminding myself how mighty and powerful He is, reminding myself Who He is.  #3 I knew this was a sign from God reaffirming everything He had spoke into my heart months before, everything I wavered in when it didn't appear like I thought it would, I knew this was the Lord telling me He is the One sending me and He is with me.

It's now been over two months, and I can't refrain from crying when I revisit it.  What would we have missed if we we had hushed the Small Voice leading us to reach out personally with our story?  What would we have missed if we would have given in merely because a date we set rolled around on the calendar instead of the Spirit of God? It's more than my mind can think or conceive.  Ephesians 3:20 NLT  "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."

The following Sunday, on Easter, I looked at my husband and whispered in his ear at the conclusion of service.  I needed to pass by, "I have to say 'thank you.'"  Brandon wasn't sure what I meant.  He smiled gently and let me pass through.  I made my way to the altar, knelt down and simply said, "thank you, Lord."  Oh, there were many more words to follow, and I eventually felt the strong hand of my husband grasp mine, and at that altar I laid down all of my planning and thanked Him for the creativity and love of His perfect plans.

Obedience.  Obedience to His voice.

 

Please visit us at our new online home, on our 16th Wedding Anniversary, this Friday June 19th!  Feel free to invite a friend!

We'd love to hear your Circled Prayer story too!  We invite you to comment below and share it to encourage others.

We look forward to sharing a little more of this story with you, and many more to come!

VISIT  www.heathermeadows.com  JUNE 19th 2015

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Inspiring Influence

Inspiring. It’s a big word. And so are the people I’ve introduced you to over the last several weeks. Wrapping them into a blog post seems too simplistic for the individuals they are, the lives they live, and the people they’ve touched. This last inspirational series blog post brings home the definition of inspiring.

Dictionary.com provides the following:

  • to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence: to influence or impel

British Dictionary definitions for inspire:

  • to exert a stimulating or beneficial effect upon (a person); animate or invigorate

Word Origin:

  • enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);"
  • enspirer , from Old French, "to prompt or induce (someone to do something),"
  • enspirer from Latin "inflame; blow into",

One of the greatest, and yet deeply humbling of compliments I’ve been given over the years of sharing my story through personal conversations, public speaking and writing, is “You are so inspiring.”

I’m grateful the Lord has provided the days He has given me to continue living this life and I’m grateful for the people to share with where He has brought us on this journey. I’m humbled knowing it is not anything by my own doing, nothing I have orchestrated or accomplished, but it is completely by His mighty hand at work.

Why have others received inspiration from my journey? Because it has been written, directed, and kissed with the intentions, plans and purposes of my Heavenly Father. It’s what makes each one of our journeys inspiring. God uses His people to influence, to flame, to blow into, to prompt one another to become and to do all He desires, for us to live our lives to the fullest making the greatest impact for Him. These are the reasons I have written this series, sharing these people to inspire you and encourage you to inspire others.

It’s natural to assume I wouldn’t be who I am, nor sharing my life, eager to touch others, if it weren’t for one couple touching mine so magnificently spanning the last twenty-one years.

Steve and Michele Lee became my youth pastors in August 1994. I didn’t even know I was broken when I met them, but God knew I was to quickly find out, and He strategically put help in place before the storm began brewing.

My family had attended church all my life, but were never involved. I didn’t grow up knowing what it felt like to have a church family. Not until my parents decided to get plugged into a church closer to home. It was my first experience in a youth group, although it was quite small, only half a dozen students, and we technically didn’t have a youth pastor at the time, as Steve and Michele came a few months after we started attending.

This couple had a passion for youth. It was evident. They jumped in coordinating after-glows, which were social events after Sunday night service, ranging from pizza in someone’s home to bowling or putt-putt golf; and, weekly visitations, taking us to go visit students who were new to the youth group. Steve and Michele took us to summer youth camp, summer ski days at the lake, a back-to-school retreat where we floated the river and played during the day and had a service with worship, a message and prayer at night. Seems like a lot, but there’s more. They got involved in our schools, and we saw Steve regularly at our on-campus Bible club, he visited us at lunch, came to our sporting events, talent shows, and graduations. Steve and Michele took us to concerts, discipleship camp, mission trips, youth conferences and snow ski trips. A week didn’t go by that we didn’t have an opportunity to serve in our youth group or participate in a youth event, and this was on top of our weekly Wednesday night services!

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It’s been said people bond through experience, and Steve and Michele definitely provided the experiences to bond with the teenagers they were called to minister to, growing the group to over two hundred students.

They were intentional.

How grateful I am for them. When the emotional trauma from Jon and my accident eventually surfaced, Steve and Michele were equipped with faith, the Word of God, and prayer to minister to me, speaking healing, vision and inspiration into my heart, into my life, into my bones.

Steve and Michele Lee threw a cloak over me. For years, I had the opportunity to serve in music ministry, singing on the youth worship team, which provided for an array of different experiences. Then years later, after Brandon and I had married and joined the youth leadership team, Steve asked me to take one of the Wednesday night youth services. I never thought of myself speaking; that was beyond my vision. But I did it, because they believed in me. They saw what I couldn’t see in myself, and continued to give me opportunities to grow in what God was preparing. Michele asked me to come speak to her 2nd grade class, which I have done for about a decade now, and Steve plugged me in to speak through the abstinence program at several of the schools. A few years ago, when the Lord was carrying me through my nursing school studies, Steve asked if I would speak in one of our Sunday morning services. God has given me a variety of experiences to demonstrate His calling upon my life as a speaker, and He has used Steve and Michele Lee to illustrate it, as this ministry has been perpetuated through theirs.

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This couple has been the most influential on my life. We share a bond. A bond created when I was just a young lady and strengthened over time. Those times have brought much change.

We’ve shared some trials, as we walked through many of my surgeries and also Steve’s own burn injury. They comforted us after our miscarriage and faced all four of our high-risk pregnancies with us. And we grieved the loss of my Dad together, Steve doing the most difficult, being the one who told my Mom of my Dad's passing.  Above all, our joys have exceedingly outweighed the sorrows. We’ve had the privilege of being a part of their lives as they started their family, watching their three little girls grow into beautiful young women, one in high school, one starting college, and one soon to get married. They celebrated life goals with us when Brandon finished his engineering degree and I, my nursing degree.  And the influence of their ministry continues on in our life, even today, as our lead pastors.

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.      Hebrews 13:7 NLT

Oh how I’ve followed their example. As a young teenager, I looked at Steve and Michele and I prayed the Lord would give me a husband like Steve and make me a wife like Michele. I desired my family to love the Lord, be passionate for His Word, and be obedient to His callings, to be real, relevant, love people, and choose happiness.

Steve and Michele Lee’s influence upon my life goes back to my parents and the decision they made over twenty years ago. When my parents chose to join the congregation, they chose to commit to a family. As we all know, families go through hard times. We’re not always going to agree with them. We’re not always going to feel important. Things may not go as we think they should. But it’s a commitment. We don’t bail in dry seasons. We don’t jump ship when waters get rough. We commit to where God has called us to be. Church is about serving. It’s an opportunity to give of ourselves. Yes, we get a lot. I’ve written about a portion of it here. But when our hearts are in the place of giving and not getting, then the measuring stick is gone, no one keeping track of who got what and who’s doing what. And then there is so much freedom and liberty for God to work creatively, beyond what we could think or imagine.

When we’re committed to a church, to serve in a body of believers, we walk away with far more than we could ever bring, one thing is a family.

The Lord uses people. He uses people to touch and influence us and He uses us to touch and influence others. Isn’t that awesome?! God who is all-powerful, holy and wise, uses those He created to create what He desires.

I pray you have been blessed by these inspiring people. I pray these normal every-day individuals illustrate that what takes each of us from being ordinary to extraordinary is the influence of the Holy Spirit working through us.

May you feel inspired to let your life be an inspiring influence to this world!

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check out Michele's The Mrs. Pastor blog at http://themrspastor.blogspot.com

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It Is Time

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

There are few things I enjoy as much as I enjoy “walking right down the middle of Main Street USA,” grabbing a hot dog at Casey’s Corner and watching the three o’clock parade in Magic Kingdom. It’s like stepping into Bert’s painting the way Jane and Michael did with the one who is “practically perfect in every way,” Mary Poppins. However, there is a part of Disney World that doesn’t feel quite so magical to me. It’s the roller coaster rides.

“Cautious” is the word. Or maybe it’s “scaredy cat.” The scene is a bit similar to when Brooklyn was attempting to walk on her own. She wanted to walk, but she wanted something to hold onto, even if she didn’t need it to balance. I tried to supplement a sharpie marker for my finger, but she didn’t “fall” (pun intended) for that. For the longest time, she’d cruise along with my index finger barely within her grasp. She was just too cautious to let go. The same goes with roller coasters and me. I want to ride with the group, but it’s the unpredictable course, the unexpected turns and surprising drops that almost make me bow out. I know, that’s why people ride, but “thrill” is not in my vocabulary. “Family memories” is though.  So I gather up the nerve and ride anyway. When the ride is over, I’m always glad I got on.

How many rides do we skip because we don’t have the courage to experience the unexpected? When is that little something in our grasp keeping us from having the courage to let go and take those first steps? What do we miss in life because we don’t have courage?

In my time recovering from surgery, the Lord whispered into my heart repeatedly, “It is time.”

“But I went to nursing school to be a nurse.” I felt Him speak that He gave that to me.

“But I have these beautiful children who I’m always so busy with.” I felt Him speak that He gave them to me too.

Then there’s my sweet husband, but the Lord gave him to me as well.

What I really wanted in life is what I thought I’d never have, my husband and my children. I have all I ever needed with them.

“It is time, it is time;” the message stirred in my spirit.

Yes, it is time.

This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. I Corinthians 1:25 NLT

We want to be right where God wants us to be, when He wants us to be there. His plan is wiser than all others.

The place He’s calling me to be, took me back to the place where it all started on April 27th 1988. It was the ditch where I laid, my body burning; my brother dead. It was the scene of a horrific accident. This course of life changed.

That ditch. That place of tragedy, photographed for its symbolism of triumph!

Here I am, stepping on the ride. Here I am letting go of what’s in my grasp that I can feel and see and know.  Here I am silencing the "what if's" and "hows."

Steps of courage: setting a three-year time line to write a memoir of this journey

Steps of courage: sharing with others through speaking opportunities

Steps of courage: developing brochures to capture who we are, our past speaking experiences and testimonials

Steps of courage: seeking options for where our online home should be

Steps of courage: sending our story to different publications

Steps of courage: asking for your prayers and requesting your support in following this blog, sharing it with friends, and connecting us with others to share our story publicly

These things which God has done must be shared. “To God be the glory for the things He has done!” Sharing what He has done gives hope. Giving of ourselves brings encouragement. Telling our stories inspires, sharpens, motivates.

What has the Lord done in your life that could make a difference in another’s?  We all have a story to tell.  Whether it's to forty or four thousand, whether it's over coffee or in a presentation, we make a difference when we share where we've been.  That may look a little different for each of us, but make no mistake, it still makes a difference!  So take those steps of courage with me when God opens the door.

In the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing some people with you who have inspired me. These individuals are courageous in being who God has called them to be, and encouraging to all who have the privilege of knowing.

This journey has unexpected turns, twists, and curves. But when it’s over, I’ll sure be glad I got on.

“Decisions are not always easy…especially ones that are life changing. Faith gets you founded. Courage gets you moving.” Pastor Steve Lee, Coweta Assembly

If you know of an occasion where I could share my story,                                                                       click here to complete and submit the form.

View More: http://malloryhallphotography.pass.us/heathersblessedjourney

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Who Do You Think You Are?

On our back porch, we have sign which reads, “work like a captain, play like a pirate.” It felt to be a very appropriate message to hang by our pool, the summertime hangout of fun, relaxation and laughter. We love to have a good time in our family, but it’s also very important to Brandon and me that we raise our children to be contributors, who know the meaning of teamwork, and how to jump in and get the job done. A nice swim in the pool has more meaning and appreciation after doing the laundry, cleaning up the kitchen or most definitely after some time working in the yard. How do we fully appreciate rest if we’re never tired? How do we completely appreciate play if we’ve never worked? Is that the reason we sometimes see people still working who aren’t relying on the job for their financial security? My husband has worked with several engineers who have retired multiple times, but keep coming back for the simple fact they like the work they do. My thoughts go toward an entertainer who came out of retirement after seventeen years, doing a world tour that stopped in his stomping grounds of Tulsa. Garth Brooks. The man loves what he does and it’s evident in his performance. He could shelve his guitar forever, and never be in want. But there’s more to it than a paycheck. It’s his passion.

There’s immeasurable fulfillment that comes from pursuing our passion. And the fulfillment comes in different forms, like: connecting with others in the same field, intellectual stimulation, recognition for outstanding work, receiving compensation for our time, stamina and thought invested. However, it’s not our job that defines us. It’s not our career that validates who we are. Even our role as parents is not the foundation of our identity. It’s difficult to imagine, but every single position we fill, can be changed or terminated.

These are the reasons we need to know who we are. I pray, dear readers that tragedy is not the cause of you to question who you are or what your purpose is. But should it be, know that there is a purpose for your life. God has a plan bigger than the pain. Regardless of how small the steps may be, continue your walk of faith and trust. He is faithful. May you rest in Romans 8:28 NLT, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Maybe another is dealing with a different kind of questioning, a different area of evaluation. Maybe the Lord is calling you to do something that you don’t quite have all the pieces of the puzzle together yet. Maybe the Lord is asking you to take steps of obedience. Matthew 25:23 NLT, “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” Sometimes we’re called to exercise our faith when we only see a small portion of the picture. We’re called to be faithful. Whether He lays out a map, or takes our hand to lead us step-by-step, we are called to be faithful.

Who’s directing our passions? Who’s managing the desires of heart? Is it us? Or is it is the One who created us?

Whether life takes an unexpected turn or whether life gets redirected, whatever work He is calling us to is our offering to Him. Colossians 3:23 NIV, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”   While our work is fulfilling, while it is a privilege and honor, nothing we ever do should define who we are. Our Father does, and I pray these scriptures keep you close to that ever faithful and secure foundation.

Isaiah 43:4 I am precious in God’s sight. I am honored and loved by Him.

I Peter 1:18-19 I am valuable to Him because He purchased me with the precious blood of Jesus.

Jeremiah 31:3God loves me with an everlasting love He draws me to Himself with loving kindness.

Romans 8:38-39 Nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

Psalm 5:12 I am blessed by God and He surrounds me with favor as a shield.

Psalm 17:8 I am the apple of God’s eye.

Psalm 139:13-14 I was fearfully and wonderfully created by God. I am His masterpiece.

Psalm 139:15-16 God watched as I was being formed in my mother’s womb. He wrote down in His book His special plan for me.

Psalm 139:17-18 His thoughts are precious toward me. If I could count them they would outnumber the sand.

Jeremiah 29:11 God’s plan is to prosper me and not to harm me. He gives me hope for my future.

II Corinthians 6:18 God is my Heavenly Father and I am His precious child.

II Corinthians 5:21 I am the righteousness of God in Christ.

Ephesians 1:4 I am holy and blameless in His sight because of Jesus.

I Corinthians 12:12-31 I’m a very important part of the body of Christ. My gifts are needed to fulfill God’s purpose on the earth. I’m an important part of God’s plan.

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One Magical Year To The Next

There is a family photo, which sits on our bathroom vanity, in a frame that reads, “Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.” And when this season comes around, when we gather the highlights of the year and send our cherished family and dear friends Christmas greetings, we feel incredibly blessed how the Lord gave so many fairy tale moments to such ordinary people like us. Some big news making it at the tail end of 2013 was the newest addition to our family, Libby Lou. We wrapped up a pretty box, put her inside and gave her to the kids on Christmas morning. She is another little black lab, like Miss Daisy Mae. Then in May, a little calico kitten joined our family; we named her, Callie, after Sheriff Callie on The Disney Channel.

Keeping up with the kids is undoubtedly our greatest achievement for the year. We’re not sure how we can go in four different directions. Again, these are the reasons it all feels a bit magical. We must have some pixie dust under our feet to keep up with the schedules!

Brooklyn turned 13 on March 4th. We celebrated her milestone year with a painting party. We transformed the living room into a “studio” where an instructor directed the “artists” in painting their own tiger’s eye on a 16x20 canvas. It was a classy celebration for our classy girl. We’re so proud of the young lady she has become. Her interest and passion for playing trumpet in band, learning Spanish and having her own horse continue to grow. This fall we built a three-stall horse barn; so the next step is to find her fit for a horse. Nana is planning to bring her horse out too. And we can only anticipate the priceless memories they’ll create together.

Jaron is approaching his 11th birthday on December 23rd, our little eve of Christmas Eve baby. He continues to pursue his passion too…sports! He was on a successful basketball team through the winter and is back with the same group kicking off another season. Spring soccer was equally exciting; he even received MVP from one of their tournaments, a great honor considering the talent on that team. This fall, he stepped out for his very first season on the football field. But he surprised us all with his hidden theatrical niche this past March when he participated in the school talent show performing “In Summer,” from the number one animated film of all time, Frozen.

Caden should have a TV show titled, “Everybody Loves Caden.” It was a topic of conversation at his parent/teacher conference this year. Talk about a compliment. Suppose it’s part of God’s design for the third child. His “go with the flow” personality brings balance in a lot of different social settings, like in his family! Caden turned 8 on the 2nd day of 2nd grade, August 15th. We celebrated with cupcakes at school followed by a pool party with lots of classmates at home. Caden followed in Jaron’s footsteps and has enjoyed his experiences in basketball, soccer & baseball, but he’s stepping out on a new adventure and starting gymnastics this winter.

Gavin celebrated his 5th birthday Ninja Turtle style on July 13th. We had family and friends over to swim, drink toxic ooze and eat nothing other than what a ninja turtle would eat, pizza! In August, he started pre-K at Caden’s school, so he is definitely feeling pretty grown-up going to school with the big kids. We are amazed how our socially uncomfortable child has become so, well…social! All in good time I suppose. Being the baby of the family, he gets lugged around to all the activities but we’ve never signed him up for his own. Well, say no more. He is joining his big brother and will start gymnastics this winter.

June marked a momentous occasion for us, and we headed to a couple’s only resort in St. Lucia to celebrate it—our 15th anniversary! It’s hard not to get emotional thinking about those 18 year-old kids who had many unanswered questions but knew two things: they loved God and they loved each other. We aren’t even the same people 15 years later; we’re better, we’re even more in love…with God and with each other. That is definitely something to celebrate! Click here for the Packing for Possibilities” story. We’re blessed to share it.

What made to be a really fun part of our year was that our children assumed we weren’t going on a family vacation since we went on a couple’s trip. Unbeknownst to them, we had secretly booked our annual Disney trip and had plans underway, details lined out and reservations made. We hadn’t been to Disney WORLD in almost five years and we surprised them the morning we left. That story and the video of the surprise are also here on the blog titled, “The Best Kept Secret” and “I’m So Jealous”. The surprise, the trip, the time together was nothing less than magical.

Brandon continues on with his engineering work at Quanta and I continue to love on the sick babies through my nursing ministry in the NICU. We frequently express how much we love what we do. And the Lord continues to stretch us and give us vision. We share our lives through blogging and pursue the plans God has through a variety of speaking opportunities. He has opened doors with nursing schools, elementary schools, women’s groups and churches. Using our story to educate on the different facets of patient care, to address bullying and the importance of a healthy self-image, to motivate, challenge and inspire, as well as helping people examine their purpose and the power of being an overcomer has been fulfilling, healing and challenging in a way only the Lord could orchestrate. Please consider how our story could be used in your special events, workshops, seminars, classes or churches.  Visit the Speaking Events page for details and contact information. We ask for your prayers as we follow His leading in growing this endeavor.

Our year certainly wouldn’t have been what it was without the people we shared it with. We want to thank all of you who supported us to reach our annual $500 March of Dimes goal for 2014. Our family joined fellow Saint Francis NICU co-workers and their families for the walk. Looking toward the 2015 walk this spring, we once again, ask you to consider making a donation to this organization which blesses so many families in getting their sick babies home. click here to donate

More magical moments included getting to take the kids to their very first college football game. We got to see Oklahoma State win over Iowa State at the October 4th home game. Over Mother’s Day weekend we headed to Chicago for our nephew, Charlie’s baby dedication. It was a fast trip, but a celebration we couldn’t miss. Other family moments included time with our England family, Pam & John, when they visited in September and then in October with my cousin Austin and her girls, Taylor and Maddy. Brief time yet cherished memories.

Whatever it is 2015 may hold, we pray you are blessed as you see His hand at work orchestrating your very own fairy tale.

There’s nothing more magical than feeling His love,

Brandon, Heather,

Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden, & Gavin Meadows

and Daisy Mae, Libby Lou & Callie Rae too!

View More: http://malloryhallphotography.pass.us/meadowsfamily2014

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Comfort in Support

Sometimes we get things we don’t even know we need. What a perfect topic to cover at Christmas. There are so many different gift-giving approaches. • There’s the giver who buys something for someone, because they mentioned how they needed it or wanted it. • There’s the giver who buys something because it’s an item the giver themselves loves so much and they just imagine the receiver loving it equally the same. • There’s the giver who wants to completely surprise the receiver with something they know the person needs, but maybe never asked for it or mentioned it.

I’ve been in all the above situations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Gift of Belonging

Every group I’ve been a part of started with some anticipation of not being received.  It must be a little natural to assume the possibility of not fitting in.  After all, there was a time in my early adolescence that I couldn’t seem to find my fit.  In the fog of trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, I had this longing to belong.  It can be a dangerous place for young people; the reason why I’m deeply grateful for how the Lord orchestrated my steps and the people who helped me walk them. I’ve heard people refer to groups as being clicky.  The word carries a very negative portrayal of a cruel, obnoxious group of people.  But that doesn’t necessarily fit all the people who have been labeled as such.  I wonder how many people evaluate a group and conclude that they’re not accepted because they didn’t put themselves out there to take that first step, to face that possibility of rejection or perhaps the wonderful gift of belonging.

I remember my first day working in my unit.  I was super nervous about nursing alone.  I mean, I had the BSN education behind my name and that RN certification, but I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and for some reason I had this fear-- as if I was going to need to resuscitate a baby on my own the first day (I didn't really think that, I just felt THAT nervous).  Coupled with anxiety was concern I wouldn’t be received.  I had signed a two-year contract.  I was committed to this place come rain or shine, and nothing would make that time inch by more than a cold hearted atmosphere.

My approach was to show myself friendly; don’t wait for others to introduce themselves to me; don’t wait for someone to roll out a welcome mat; just put myself out there and start learning this new group of people who were now my co-workers.  I spent the day saying, “Hi.  My name is Heather.  I’m new.”  There’s no telling how many times I shared that bit of information.  Everyone was warmly receptive.  But it wasn’t until I was in the break room and introduced myself to one of the ladies in housekeeping that I was told, “Yes.  I know.  You have a yellow badge.”  Oh my goodness!  My temporary new employee badge was this bright yellow, which screamed, “I’m new!”  And there I had been including that bit of information in my introductions.  So embarrassing, but so funny!

At this time of year when I’m evaluating all the gifts so meaningful to my life, I count the gift of belonging to such an incredible group of health care professionals as one of them.  I work with wonderful people!  And work is only one area.  I’m prompted to reflect on the groups I’ve had the privilege of belonging during the course of my life, the ones that played a role in who I became.

Why does this matter?  Because we all are designed to be loved.  Genesis 1:27 says that we were created in the image of God, and I John 4:8 tells us God is love.  Therefore, we are all geared to be loved.  To be accepted.  To be well received.  Anything less is a wall of protection and fear.

People give meaning to one another.  Being apart of something provides purpose.  The challenge is finding where is our niche.  And thankfully, we have the perfect Navigator to guide and direct us where we will be most effective for Him.  It may take some closed doors, but our ultimate goal is to be right where He wants us when He wants us there.

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My Gift of Belonging:

Age 11

Oklahoma Kids ~ George and Rose Earley’s “Rock On” group

This group came along in God’s perfect timing.  I had great difficulty connecting with my peers at school and never felt that I fully re-assimilated with them after my accident.  Once I returned to school, I was constantly in and out for surgeries.  It was like the first day of school several times throughout each year. I just didn’t feel a part.  Then I found I really loved to sing.  I was nervous and shaky getting on stage, but still loved it and wanted to keep doing it.  George and Rose Earley gave their time to drive nearly an hour one way to work with a group of young performers in creating a show titled “Rock On.”  We practiced several nights a week and had shows on the weekends.  I found purpose and meaning during that time.  And above all, I found acceptance.  I experienced the wonderful feeling that comes from the gift of belonging.

My Gift of Belonging:

Age 13

Frontline Youth Ministries ~ Coweta Assembly of God ~ Steve and Michele Lee (click to visit Michele at her blog)

Yes, this was the age that things really started to unravel.  I was increasingly aware of my body, as many young people are at that age. The image I had of myself was very negative.  I detested the scars covering my body.  And insecurity paved the way for me to believe that those scars were what people really saw when they looked at me.  This led me down a path to take control of what I could control- my weight.  And it got ugly and dark.  I experienced that deep place of depression and that spiral fall of an eating disorder.  My youth pastors constantly spoke God’s Word into my heart and challenged me to see myself the way He saw me.  They allowed me to experience what it was to serve in ministry through music, singing praises to Him in our worship services.  It was a long road.  But my youth group provided me warm memories of fun, laughter and purpose through the many activities we shared together.

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My Gift of Belonging:

TABS ~ Tulsa Area Burn Survivors

From the time I was injured in 1988 until now, my family has been involved with TABS.  When I was young we had consistent support group meetings, which was a magnificent blessing to my family.  My parents were greatly involved with giving of their time coordinating an annual 5K run, and constantly giving of their hearts, sharing their pain of loss and their obstacles of my recovery.  The time in TABS kept me close to the burn center where I received my care.  Literally.  The meetings were always in the burn center and that consistent return allowed me to see my nurses and meet new ones.  It kept the place that was home for a few months, feeling like home.  And that’s how it remains when I return today.  I’m proud to have the gift of belonging to such strong and brave people.

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My Gift of Belonging:

OU College of Nursing

When I started to pursue the calling God had placed in my heart to become a nurse, I did it with complete focus on accomplishing exactly that-- becoming a nurse.  I didn't even consider the possibility of building special friendships with those along the way.  And I got more than friendships from the experience, I got a family.  We spent countless hours together in the classroom, in lab, in study and in clinical.  Nursing school was so taxing on my family.  It was a very difficult two years.  By the time we got to the end I told my husband, "I am so done.  I just want to be finished.  But I'm afraid that when it is, I will miss what has been one of the greatest seasons of my life."  Yes, I did say that it was a very difficult two years AND I said that it was one of the greatest seasons.  And that is because of the people who I spent it with.  Only God could have assembled our group the way He did, and the memories I have, the friendships I carry, the bond we share will be a most treasured gift of my life.

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My Gift of Belonging:

My Family

God gave me a custom made group; my lil’ family.  Mark Batterson said something in one of his podcasts along the lines of the people who know you the best should love you the most.  My husband and my children see me.  They see every angle of me; the good, the bad and the ugly.  And they love me.  These people within the walls of the house I live in are my drive, my ambition, my joy, my pride, and they give the greatest meaning and purpose.  God wrapped up a gift in each of them.  I get to belong to them and them to me.  My precious gift.

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