Sponsored Post: My R+F Product Experience


***I’m excited to introduce Karen to you. I’ll touch back at the end of the post, but first, let’s hear from her heart. -Heather ❤***

Like Heather, my story begins as a young child. At the age of ten, I had my first surgery to remove a golf-ball-sized tumor from my left upper neck—right where we all feel around to see if our lymph glands are swollen when we’re sick. It wasn’t long and the tumors grew back. At twelve-years old I was sent to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The sights my eyes beheld that day took me far away from any concern for myself.

I saw children, of all ages, bald and pale, and terribly thin, some in wheelchairs while others walked with their IV stands. My heart broke. I still see these children in my memories and they help me determine that my challenge has been small by comparison.

Being that my struggle was with a benign tumor disease and not cancer, St. Jude’s sent me to another doctor.

Dr. Fleming’s surgery skills were a gift from God! He performed three surgeries on my neck and face when I was thirteen, fourteen and twenty, removing those tenacious tumors that grew little tentacles, planting seeds along the way. With each surgery, Dr. Fleming’s blessed hands had to be more invasive to remove radical sections, raising the chances of permanently paralyzing the left side of my face. Fortunately, I was spared any permanent damage.

At the age of twenty, I married, moved to California, and had three beautiful babies. It wasn’t until I moved back to Oklahoma that I went to see the doctor again, seeing the one remaining doctor who knew me as a young child.

Dr. Garber and the board of doctors at St. John’s Hospital sent me to MD Anderson because they had researched and found an effective treatment. And besides, this surgery was going to be even trickier than any I’d had before. The senior and junior doctor, as I refer to them, removed a great number of tumors again, including one the size of a cigar that had grown along the bottom of my mouth. Unfortunately, there would be no escaping permanent damage this time. On top of that, they found thyroid cancer and then, prescribed twelve weeks of radiation to thwart any future tumors.

Radiation. Temporary situation. Right?

One of my mottos is “I can get through anything, as long as I know it’s temporary.” As I endured the burns, the weight loss, the pain, and the loss of hair, I would say “Temporary!” When they said that my saliva glands would not regenerate, I said “Ha!” and they grew back. When they said that I would eventually go deaf in my left ear, I said “Ha!” and almost twenty years later I have perfect hearing.

What I didn’t realize is that radiation continues to burn for years after the treatments have stopped, and that left me permanently scarred, permanently damaged, and I thought of myself as permanently unattractive.

If you’ve had radiation, you know the terrible after-effects on your skin—not just how it feels, but how it looks. My parents would buy different products to help my skin, as did I! Nothing I tried made an impact on the pain from the ever-tightening skin, nor did any of it make my skin look better.


Fast-forward fifteen years when my friend introduced me to Rodan + Fields.

Immediately, I knew I wanted to use the “little blue roller” (AMP MD) and the NRS (night renewing serum) on my face and neck. Why? Because the AMP MD roller tricks your skin into thinking it is injured and thereby, it increases collagen production and the NRS is specially formulated with peptides and retinol to seep into those little roller pricks to “amp up” the collagen production. And sure enough, after two weeks of using it nightly, I started feeling some relief. After three weeks, I was becoming quite happy with the progress. But at four weeks, I went to see my parents and my mother just looked at me and started crying, crying tears of joy! She could see my skin didn’t hurt anymore!!

I believe we all experience different challenges in life and when we meet someone with a similar challenge, we should offer to help them. Through my years, I offered to help friends and family of friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. I had learned a lot from my experience.

When I read one of Heather’s blogs, I could only imagine that Heather’s burn scars were painful like mine were. Even though the AMP MD is a tool that has been FDA approved for use on the face and neck, we have found it to be effective on other areas of the body. So, I reached out to Heather and asked if she would want to try the AMP MD and NRS on her scars, and….

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

This is the very first collaborated post we’ve had. It’s also the very first sponsored post we’ve had!

Over the last four years of sharing little doses of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement on this blog, we’ve never chose to advertise. There’s been a few opportunities, but call me “controlling,” cause honestly, it’s true; but that characteristic and advantage of being able to regulate whether or not something is promoted on this site, has secured our efforts to share what we feel aligns with our message.

Karen reached out to me through this blog and shared not only her story with me, but extended her compassion for my own journey. While I was very interested in the delivery of what the product boasted, I had to share with her one important detail—my scars don’t hurt. Tenderness? Sure. Sensitivity? No doubt. But nothing, that in my experience, would qualify as pain.

Nevertheless, she convincingly felt it would be a great product for me to try.

I began what I referred to as my washing-and-rolling-nighttime routine back in September.

Now, allow me to be very transparent with you. I guess I have a healthy dose of skepticism for being an optimist. Plus, we’re major budgeters in our family. Meaning that skin-care spending falls in the frivolous category. I didn’t see myself using it long-term. However, I was all-in, following the step-by-step system every night.

Well. You know where the story goes. The fact alone that we’re sharing this on our blog as our first advertised product ever, speaks to the effectiveness of it.

Maybe it’s a mom-thing, but my mom’s reaction was similar to the one Karen’s mom had. While I’m only using the product on my face, my mom commented on how smooth and “not so red” the scar appeared. She noticed a change within the first month of me using the product.

Okay—so maybe you don’t have any scarring on your face. Let me share with you one more thing I absolutely love about my nighttime-rolling routine—I’m not so shiny!

Shiny only looks good on me if it’s coming from my heart and soul. Shiny soul– it’s a classification created by one of my sweet friends! I just love that! Anyway, shiny on the face is a problem of the oily-skinned people like me. Our make-up doesn’t last as long and it smears and it’s just blah. But that nuisance has been eliminated since I’ve used this product. I’ve read that it “improves skin texture, minimizes the appearance of pores and helps reduce and soften wrinkles while increasing skin firmness and elasticity.” A few snazzy words from the company that having now used the product I can say, “yep—it sure does!

I really wanted you to meet Karen and know her story—it’s why she does what she does. It’s also the reason why I’m recommending you contact her and explore what skin care products she has that may work for you.  The AMP MD and NRS has been a great experience for me. As we do in all our posts, I’m sharing this life experience with you.

I hope the information is helpful, and I also hope we see and seize the moments God provides in connecting us with others. He may be working something really good into our lives through it!

Hebrews 10:24 NLT Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

contact Karen on Facebook or through email karenforsythe@myrandf.com or on her website

karenforsythe Did you enjoy this post? Want to join in the journey with Heather? ****Three ways to help us grow—sharecommentsubscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact Heather! Choose this link to see a video of Heather's story

Some R+F Before and Afters

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Tough Cookie

A few months ago I received a message from a reader asking me to write about a subject I’ve had some experience; pain.  I’m deeply touched by messages I receive from readers, and I began seeking the Lord to direct my heart to share what would minister to hearts regarding this subject. Can you recall your first memories of pain?  My earliest memory was when I was five years old.  After a family dinner, several of us decided to walk down to the bridge.  My Grandma lived across the driveway from us and we had stopped at her pear tree before beginning our stroll.  I must have piddled around, as was very typical for me, because everyone had started off out of the driveway.  I ran to catch up, slid on the gravel and cut a gash in my right knee.  The beautiful sunny afternoon ended with a trip to the emergency room and my very first set of stitches.  I was terrified and experiencing the worst pain in my life.  I knew the scar it left would be permanent, as would be the memories.

As you can imagine, that experience wasn’t enough to prepare me for the tragedy to come on April 27, 1988.  I remember the sting in my eyes from the dust as my brother and I traveled on our motorcycle behind the little red truck that sunny spring day.  I remember the blur in the flame as I lay in that fiery ditch.  I remember my face feeling so hot as I was grabbed underneath the arms and drug out of that blaze.  I remember that terrifying helicopter ride, telling my Mom I wanted to go home, thinking that if I could just go home it would all be okay.  These were my first encounters with a pain that, although I experienced, I still cannot fully comprehend.

I spent many years trying to understand something senseless.  How could I possibly make sense of an accident?  It was an accident.  But how difficult it was to let go of the desire for answers.  The question I kept asking was “why?”  I had to stop thinking about the “what ifs.”  While many different small things could have prevented our accident, nothing was going to change it.  My life was changed forever.

But you know this story.  You know how this story ends; with a little girl who overcame the odds and lived and walked again.  This story ends with a sweet boy who fell in love with a girl for who she was instead of seeing the scars she bore.  This story ends with a marriage and four precious babies.  This story has what I would consider, the perfect ending.

It’s much more pleasant to focus on the end.  It makes me happy.  But surprisingly, so does every detail in between.  And that in between time was filled with pain, with years and years of pain.

There was the physical pain.  The bandages being ripped off.  The scar tissue tearing.  The surgeries.  The procedures.  The tests.  Then there was the emotional pain.  The loss of my brother.  The loss of my carelessness.  The loss of my mobility, my hair, my skin, my body as I’d known it.  How I would have loved to have seen that small scar from the fall on the gravel road.  I searched for it, but there was no trace.  Only burns.  Only smelly ugly mushy burns.



Words cannot describe the range and depth of pain.  There are years and years I would never want to revisit, but make me happy.  “How?” you may ask.  Because I overcame.

My Aunt Donna gave me a t-shirt when I was in the hospital that said, “Tough Cookies Don’t Crumble.”  She explained the shirt to me, but at seven years old, I didn’t completely understand it.  All I knew was that she thought I was tough, but I didn’t get what that really had to do with cookies.

Well, that right there is what makes me happy when I think about all the pain.  I was a tough cookie, and I didn’t crumble.  Even years later, when I was still asking God, “Why didn’t I die too?” He was carrying me, and I didn’t crumble.  I overcame.

Pain teaches us a lot about ourselves and more about our God.  And I know in the darkest moments, in the hardest years, in the scariest times, my God was there.  I was never alone.

Many people are hesitant to ask me what happened.  They want to know, but they don’t want to hurt me.  Usually it is phrased like this, “So what happened? If you don’t mind me asking.”  And I don’t mind, because I overcame.

The Word tells us in Revelation 12:11 “They triumphed over him
 by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much
 as to shrink from death.”  I recommend reading the verse in its context, but take this to heart, we overcome by the victory Christ provided to us from His sacrifice on the cross and by our testimony, which is why I absolutely love to share with others what happened to me, because although it’s the most physically and emotionally painful story, it’s my testimony and I’m so grateful to be alive to share it.



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Please Be Our 100

Last week, my husband and I marked our 13th anniversary as parents.  Put another way, our oldest child had her 13th birthday one week ago, marking the day we first became parents.  Many of you are familiar with our story.  The story that our daughter may have never been born and we would have never become parents at all.  The story that confronted our faith, stared down the doubt in our hearts and faced fear head on. Brooklyn is a beautiful and healthy thirteen year old, and no matter how many years pass us by, I am still moved to tears to reflect on the moment when an obstetrician reviewed my medical history and advised us to consider terminating our pregnancy.  My burn injury is obvious, but it was the unknown condition to the repair of my descending aorta that had so much cause for concern.  I wanted nothing more than to have my baby, and having a physician lay out the risk of my death before my very young eyes was terrifying and infuriating all at the same time.

I had a plan.  And terminating our pregnancy was not at all part of it.  More importantly, God had a plan and His plan echoed the words of Jesus, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 1:27).  We clung to that scripture, and on March 4th 2001 at 11:24pm our precious baby girl made her entrance into the world, weighing five pounds, nine ounces, five weeks early due to the onset of preeclampsia.



It would have been foolish to proceed with our own family planning agenda without further investigating the condition of my aortic repair.  Therefore, a little over a year later, I had a transesophageal echocardiogram, or TEE, performed to assess the current state of my repair.  Following the procedure, in my drug induced state, I repeatedly asked the cardiologist one question, “Will I be able to have more children?”

The answer was, obviously, “yes!”  But my second pregnancy wasn’t without complication.  A mama’s body remembers pregnancy and is somewhat ahead of the game for subsequent pregnancies.  Every mama knows what I’m talking about.  That belly may not get bigger overall, than the last pregnancy, but one thing is apparent, that belly gets bigger faster, and that caused incredible discomfort for me the second time round.  I remember my husband getting home in the evenings and telling him that I just couldn’t stand to stretch anymore for one day.  It was so uncomfortable.  But it was well worth it, because I got one amazing little man.  My very first son was born December 23, 2003 at 7:26pm.  We gave him the name Jaron, which means “he will sing; he will cry out.”  Jaron was my largest baby, weighing in at exactly seven pounds; not large compared to many others, but large for me.  My narrow pelvis presented a challenge for every one of my deliveries, but since my abdomen is scarred, my doctor avoided C-Section at all cost in order to avert the likeliness of a skin graft.  Jaron was quite distressed upon birth and was taken to the NICU and placed on a ventilator.  Despite his arrival with respiratory distress, he was out of the hospital and home with us after eight days.  My now ten year old is strong and active, as any athlete would be.



My heart held the dream of a somewhat large family, but I knew my abdomen couldn’t accommodate it.  I visited my plastic surgeon and he released scar tissue and did skin grafts to my abdomen, groin and inner thighs; the abdomen for previously stated reasons, my groin and inner thighs in attempt to help with the delivery process.  This made a tremendous difference in my third and fourth pregnancies.  Still yet, it was incredibly tight, but I carried Caden longer than any other of my children.  He arrived only eleven days early on August 15th 2006 at 8:40 a.m., weighing six pounds, eight ounces.  Caden did amazing.



Our fourth child, Gavin was born July 13th 2009 at 6:32 a.m., weighing five pounds, four ounces, five weeks early; again, due to preeclampsia.  Gavin came out vigorous and strong, but it wasn’t long until the magnesium that I was on throughout labor started taking a toll on his little body.  Gavin also ended up in the NICU for respiratory distress, but came home on a monitor at five days of life.



Every one of my pregnancies was a challenge.  None of them were easy breezy.  Every one of my deliveries were hard.  Each child was born with the assistance of vacuum and forceps.  I was quite consistent in my pushing, getting every one of them out after approximately two and a half hours.  It was exhausting, it was thrilling, and it was scary.  I had the privilege of bringing four incredible human beings into this world.  But again…..it wasn’t without difficulty.  It was actually laden with complication, and some my say, for that, I am foolish.  But I had a plan, remember?  I had a plan of a big family and I knew, with God, that was possible.


Thankfully, there is an organization who helps babies born with complication.  They have developed materials to educate women on how to grow healthy babies; not merely just be pregnant, but how to grow a person.  This organization has researched and formulated drugs given to babies for their best chances of survival after birth.  This organization dedicates funds to continual research and development for babies.

There are many who have a dream to be a mom, but that dream comes with challenges.  Sometimes, despite doing everything right, things go wrong, and there are interventions utilized in those moments, thanks to the contributions from March of Dimes.

As you tuck in your children this evening, or ponder the memories of days gone by, please consider those families who haven’t had the opportunity and consider those families who do, because of what someone else gave.  Our goal is to have 100 friends support us.  100 friends giving $5 each, helping us raise a total of $500 for the babies.

Would you please consider clicking here and making a $5 donation on our behalf?  Your donation honors many families and it honors those of us who dedicate our professional lives to care for the sick babies, to make them well…..forever there is hope.

Romans 5:5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. NIV


http://www.marchforbabies.org/personal_page.asp?pp=3709568&ct=4&w=6360721&u=meadows99    please be one of our 100 for $5

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Small People with Great Expectations

In a small town, there is a small school, with small students who are establishing GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Early in the school year, a teacher and her students illustrate a character. The teacher has her students take turns using their creativity to draw specific features. It’s a fun activity as they may draw spaghetti for the hair, or buttons for the eyes and so on, in regards to facial features and limbs. The students decide a gender for this character and then give a name. When all is said and done, their teacher asks her students if this created individual would be welcomed into their classroom.

This classroom activity is conducted by my dear friend, Michele Lee, who invited me to begin sharing my story with her second grade students, nearly ten years ago, in connection with the Great Expectations program. In such time, her team of fellow teachers valued my story in such a way, that I have had the privilege of sharing it with the entire second grade class at Central Elementary for the last several years.

The presentation varies minimally year to year. I have used a clip from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and asked the students why Belle loved the Beast and not Gaston. Those little second graders don’t hesitate in answering that the Beast is nice and Gaston is mean. It emphasizes the value of our heart over our appearance. Another illustration utilized is the book, The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin. The students hear how the scarred girl endures the comments from her cruel sisters, but in the end, the Invisible Being’s sister sees that, “though her skin was scarred, her hair burnt, her clothes strange, she had a beautiful, kind heart.” But my favorite book to use is Little Quack’s New Friend by Laura Thompson. This book portrays a cute group of five little ducklings and a green frog that is obviously different from the rest. Four ducklings state their reasoning for not wanting to play with the frog, but Little Quack chooses to play with the frog regardless. In the end, they are all playing together and happy about their new friend.

Each year, I share the details of Jon and my motorcycle accident. I share pictures of Jon and me, so they will know him, as this is his story too. I show a picture of me in the first grade, before the accident. I show them pictures of me standing up for the first time after the accident, having physical therapy and what I looked like when I returned to school in the second grade. And there lies the connection. I was the same age when I returned to school as the audience of students to which I speak. However, I returned to a school that didn’t benefit from a Great Expectations program. I felt a bit like that frog from the little children's book.  Therefore, my emphasis in speaking to these students is on Expectation #1, “We will value one another as unique and special individuals,” and Expectation #2 “We will not laugh at or make fun of a person's mistakes nor use sarcasm or putdowns.”

Even today, I see examples that cause me to think, “We could all benefit from reciting the Eight Expectations like those young students.” We know that school is so much more than intellectual development; it encompasses social and moral development as well. But it doesn’t stop at elementary school, or junior high, or high school. It continues on everyday that we live and work with those around us.

It’s for reasons like this that I have great admiration for the great teachers who set such great expectations; truly making a difference!

Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (NLT)

~~~August 21, 2013 at Central Elementary~~~






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Let My Lifesong Sing

I took an unintended sabbatical from writing here.  Life is precious and time is limited.  Everyday decisions are made what to do with the allotted time we have in a day, and the numbered days we have in this life. A consistent prayer I have is, “Lord, please make it matter.  Make what I do, with this life You’ve given me, matter to more than just me.”  It’s my prayer as I sit down to write every post and it’s a prayer that is the reason I’ve been unable to write one for some time now.

The Lord presented an opportunity to me that required I take five days away from my family.  As we all know, heading out for a few days requires a lot of pre-planning and arranging; not to mention the tear-at-your-heart comments like, “Do you really have to go?” and “I want to go with you.”  Sometimes what the Lord calls us to do requires something that many don’t want to give….sacrifice.

For me it was a sacrifice of time, a sacrifice of emotion, and a sacrifice of comfort.  The time away meant putting other responsibilities on the back burner, thus costing more time upon arriving back home.  The whole trip I missed my husband and kids immensely; which was a bizarre thing that a grown woman could feel so homesick; coupled with the insignificant, but obvious discomforts of being away from home.

But what a loss it would be if we only weighed the sacrifice and ended up missing the blessing!

The Oklahoma Firefighter’s Burn Camp was started back in 1999.  I learned of this camp when I was back in the burn center for some more rounds of releases and skin grafts in the summer of 2005.  This was something I desired getting involved in, but was unable to do so until now.

My participation in this year’s burn camp was an experience I didn’t imagine or anticipate.  I arrived to learn that my camper would be a 4 year-old little girl; close to turning five.  I didn’t even know kids could attend camp that young, or that my little camper would handle being away from her mama for five days.  One thing I did quickly learn is that this little girl just so happened to have sustained her injury during the brief four month period that I externed in the burn center almost two years ago. So I actually got to take care of her a bit.  It was a special connection right from the start.

Mady was my little camper.  I spent time away from my children and filled in as a mom for Mady, to experience a camp that was deeply meaningful for both camper and counselor; both burn survivors.  I tended to Mady’s little needs and watched as she was able to relish in the attention and love of those around her; from those older campers, counselors and staff.  I observed the beginnings of new relationships; ones that I fondly imagine will stay with Mady throughout her entire life, and serve as a source of strength in the days that can be so very difficult.

These observations had me constantly thinking, “I wish they had had something like this when I was growing up.”  People bond through similar experiences, and I believe more so for kids.  Even as an adult, there was security and comfort like I had never experienced.  For example, going to the pool in my swimsuit and everyone having scars just like me; not being the “different” one.

I was overwhelmed to see the amount of time and financial contributions made to make this camp possible for the kids.  It stirs quite the emotion to think those who make this camp happen have most likely never encountered firsthand the physical and emotional pain, the anger, the regret, the confusion, and all the other boat load of emotions that burn survivors have; especially kids who don’t have the coping skills or psychological development to process these things.  The individual and corporate contributors allow themselves to try to imagine the unfair reality that these young people have encountered, and they give to make life grand for them, even if it’s just for those five days.

In an interview a couple of years ago I expressed how life after a burn injury is never the same, but that it can still be good.  Unfortunately, that comment was edited, so the full thought didn’t come across as I had intended.  Nevertheless, it’s a truth I’ve come to realize.  My life would be much different had that tragic accident never occurred.  If we just hadn’t decided to get out on the road, it would have never happened.  My brother would be alive.  I would not have scars covering my body.  I would not have experienced the horrendous pain.  I would not have had the challenge to learn to walk again.  I would not have reoccurring skin tears.  I would not have had the complications and risks during my pregnancies with my children.

One decision could have prevented it all. It’s obvious what I lost.  And yet….and yet I gained so very much.  I gained the realization of the courage and determination within me.  I gained the importance of character over attractiveness.  I gained the security of a husband’s genuine love over men’s fleeting flattery.   I gained an entire family of healthcare providers rather than impersonal doctors and nurses.  Above all, I gained an opportunity to literally see the hand of God at work in my life.  I gained a story that I feel makes the scars beautiful.

And that is burn camp; overcomers, coming together, with a beautiful story, from the scars we carry.


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