Without Us

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do ya do with that?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not what happened.

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

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

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

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


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

I pray this post spoke to you.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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