grief

Living: Thirty Years After Tragedy

Living: Thirty Years After Tragedy

Tragedy isn’t a one day event. It marks life forever. I pray this post speaks to you as I share my thoughts on this 30 year anniversary after our accident.

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More To The Story

More To The Story

Have I ever shared my story with you?  Well, even if I have this post is that plus much more.  It is a post for so many people-- those who face loss and grief, those whose plans haven't come to fruition, those looking for direction, those who have dealt or deal with depression, those who question God’s plan for their life, or those who just love a good story!  Please take a moment to read, listen and share with a friend.

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Tarnished

Tarnished

I wrote this guest post for The Essential Life.  In this post I share my story and what it was to live tarnished, the realities of grief and the darkness of depression.  Thank you to The Essential Life for contacting me to contribute.  I never know how these guest pieces will unfold, but I believe these words are for those in the midst of their toughest battles desiring to know there is a hope for tomorrow.

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I Can't Breathe

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I mean literally. Have you ever been met with such force that you lost your breath and momentarily lost the ability to take in another one?

There are a few things I think about when I imagine taking a breath. It has to do with tidal volume and vital capacity and respiratory nursing world technicalities. But before I learned about all of that terminology and mechanics of lung function, I learned what it felt like.

I remember back to my seven-year-old days being mechanically ventilated. Being intubated. Some call it life support.

I remember coming out from sedation.

Sedation. Those drugs that make you sleep; time passing without ever even knowing its existence.

I remember having moments of wakefulness and feeling that tube in my throat and thinking, I can’t breathe. It’s a scary feeling.

In a more common experience, I remember having the breath literally knocked out of me when I was about ten. My best friend Brad lived just down the road. Brad and Jon were the same age and after Jon died, Brad stepped in, giving his best to provide all the big-brother experiences he knew Jon would have given me. Like taking me fishing. Which included him fishing my hook out of his own hand on more than one occasion. Obviously, fishing wasn’t my knack. But Brad insisted I go nevertheless.

He’d call and scream into the answering machine on the early summer-break mornings, telling me to get my butt out of bed. If that didn’t work, he’d make his way down to the house to pester me awake. And we joined up for a decent amount of mischief, as Jon would have wanted, including throwing eggs off structures that I’m pretty sure people get arrested for. Brad was a gift of God’s grace in the tragedy of losing Jon. They were best friends, so having him was like getting to keep a piece of Jon.

However, I’m not sure I was thinking that the day he body slammed me over the couch. Don’t get me wrong- I deserved it. I had wrestled with the boys from my earliest beginnings. That’s what happens when you’re the only girl and the baby. If ya wanna be included, you got to run with the big boys. Who knows? Maybe it’s what developed my toughness for the road of recovery I faced.

But that day I hit the edge of the couch and fell off to the floor on my back, I looked at the ceiling and could not breathe. It was momentary, but no breath was to be caught. It scared me. And I think it scared Brad a little too.

I haven’t had the breath knocked out of me since that day. As I grew into a lady, I stopped wrestling with my big-brother figure and I played it safe going into vocal performance rather than high-impact activities.   But life has knocked the breath out of me many times over.

I remember having a dear friend, whom I loved very much, say something completely untrue about me. Our friendship shattered.   It took my breath away.

I remember sitting on an exam table and my obstetrician compassionately apologizing for our miscarried pregnancy. The feeling of emptiness took my breath away.

I remember being back in the burn unit recovering from skin grafts and Brandon walking in to my bedside telling me my Dad had passed away. I was in the same place I was when I found out my brother was dead seventeen years earlier. It took my breath away.

I remember my child making poor choices and receiving text messages from someone I loved and trusted telling me the behavior was linked to the way I had made my child feel. I was on the floor of parenting despair and that took my breath away.

I remember Brandon calling to tell me he had good news and bad news. Good news he was coming home and would get to spend the day with us. Bad news was he had lost his job in a highly unanticipated layoff. It took my breath away.

I could continue to trace back some moments where I felt someone had just knocked the wind right out of me, but the more important part is sharing how I got the breath to carry on.

There’s a worship song by All Sons and Daughters called, Great Are You, Lord. Here are some of the lyrics—

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

There are some key points to grab onto right there. When there is no breath left in you, He is your breath. God is breathing into our lungs. He is breathing in His life. His love. His light. His hope. We come up empty. We come up with darkness. We come up with brokenness. We come up apneic—that’s nursing terminology meaning not breathing. And He provides. Add this one to your playlist and sing it out when life’s trials, challenges and circumstances have knocked the wind right out of you. Praising Him in the storm restores and strengthens in supernatural ways we can’t even imagine.

So there’s one way—worship Him.

Here’s another—read, recall and repeat His Word. Psalm 34 is below with some bolded truths that I cling to. Remember—read, recall, repeat. There’s power in His Word! There’s breath for our life!

And finally, communicate to Him and His people. If you can’t breathe, you need intervention. I realized this when Jaron was born. Poor little fella couldn’t breathe—here’s that apnea word again, and retractions and all the things that go along with respiratory distress syndrome. It was more than a little skin-to-skin with mom could cure. Jaron Michael needed help. Specifically he needed some mechanical ventilation, but point is, when we need a breath, God is there to give it, but we need to reach out to Him and the people He longs to use to help us.

When life has knocked the wind right out of you, when there’s an internal anxiety and despair for air; let His peace, His presence and His breath fill your lungs as you walk in trust and rest. God is holding on to you.

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

Psalm 34 NIV
I will extol the Lord at all times;
    His praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
    He delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to Him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    He saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
    and He delivers them.
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and His ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue His servants;
no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

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Gaining Hope in Difficult Days

In our home, we have this approach to bad days: go to bed early.  Our thought is, “the earlier we go to bed the sooner the day will be over, getting us to tomorrow, a brand-new day with brand-new beginnings.” Lynn Anderson was onto something when she sang, “I never promised you a rose garden.”  Bad days are as much a part of life as the good ones.  Thankfully, however, the good ones do overall outweigh the bad.  But sometimes the bad are more than bad.  They’re horrific.  And those are the seasons a simple turning-in-for-the-night won’t fix.  We wake up to the nightmare we long to escape.

..........Read The Rest of The Story at JaynePatton.com

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Happiness Doesn't Happen

Do you ever wonder what it takes to just be happy?  Some days it can feel like such a struggle. My friend Jenn Baxter asked me to write a guest post for her site, and it's a topic I felt led to cover when sharing my story with her readers.  I hope you follow the story to her site to read the article and look around to see how Jenn is touching lives through her journey and online home.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you and for being a part of our online family here! ❤ Heather

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

Heather, what more could make you happy?

It was a desperate question my mom asked as we sat on my bed looking in to a closet full of clothes, shoes and accessories.  “Not stuff, Mom.  Stuff can’t bring happiness.

I was only sixteen, but I had already concluded that trips to the mall, a brand new car and hosting parties with friends couldn’t fill the emptiness inside.  The void was far too vast for material, superficial things.  Happiness was a state I was battling to attain.

The battle began nine years earlier, when my world tragically changed on a country dirt road.

..........Read The Rest of The Story at LiveAFastLife.com

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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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Healing Words in the Emptiness of Tragedy

I’m deeply grateful for the open doors to share our story and the hope and healing I pray readers receive through it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been given the honor of being a guest on a few different sites. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. Here is one of them—a piece I wrote for Susan Greenwood’s site, Not of Myself. I met Susan attending a speaker/writer conference last year. I hope you hop on over to her site to read the article and peak around to see all the wonderful contributions Susan is making through her online home.

Thank you for allowing me to share with you and for being a part of our online family here!  ❤ Heather

“Don’t talk to Schultz like that,” my bossy three-year old self snapped at my six foot four inch three hundred pound father after he scolded our beagle dog for causing a near fall.  Granted, when tall people fall, they have a long way to go, which understandably, could have been bad.  But Dad’s response seemed completely unjust to me and I didn’t have any hesitation expressing it.

While that very early encounter of expressing myself so naturally may appear as a simple scenario in needing to correct a child, it was actually much more.  The minor incident was an indication of how well I connected with my feelings and how effective I was in being able to communicate them.  This was a critical component in the days that lie ahead.

..........Read The Rest of The Story at NotofMyself.com

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The Burns That Revealed My Beauty

A highlight for 2016 was writing a guest post called "The Burns That Revealed My Beauty" for Lightmakers, a website featuring stories to connect, heal and inspire.   Before the year was over, I wanted to share the piece with you.

Thank you for being a part of our online family.  

All the best to you & yours in 2017- 

As a child I used to stand in front of the full-length antique mirror in my room and study myself.  After much evaluation I would ask, “Mom, am I pretty?” Deep down I wanted her to answer with a simple, “yes,” but instead I always got, “Heather, beauty comes from the inside.”

I gathered my earliest opinions of beauty as many young girls do; from Miss America pageants, beautiful women showcasing game show prizes, and grocery store checkout line exposure to the covers of numerous magazines featuring flawless bodies.

Beauty was all surface, merely skin deep. This philosophy is typical of a child who only has the capacity to think concretely, to only know what can be seen, felt or touched. But beauty, I learned, is much more obscure. Beauty must be discovered.

..........Read The Rest of The Story at Lightmakers.org

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Struggling To See

*please note: this post was written to speak life, love and healing.  The many posts I've read have grieved my heart to see people I care about offended and hurt.  Please, please let us understand how detrimental our comments can be in the lives of others and weigh them before the Lord.  God does not want His people in this pain. Both my parents started experiencing a decline in vision around their mid-thirties. Understandably, I anticipated the likelihood of inheriting a genetic flaw to my sight around the same age. Accepting what I felt was an inevitable need, I made an appointment for an assessment.

My mental approach was pitiful. And vain. Very, very vain. Contacts are just not an option. I can take blood, puss, and even respiratory secretions over coming in contact with an eyeball any day. The thought of having to touch my own eyeball to insert a visual aid absolutely nauseated me. Then the vanity side is that, I do not look good in glasses. It seems to draw attention to my most prominent facial feature--- my nose. Definitely don’t need to add definition to that part of my face! So no, I wasn’t excited for the new world of possibilities—different colored eyes with contacts or perhaps a studious look with glasses. No. Not excited at all.

You can imagine my delight when the optometrist finished his exam and said, “Heather, if all my patients were like you, I’d be out of a job! You have textbook vision.” Textbook vision!!! That’s what he said! No contacts. No glasses. Just take the world into view with my very own God-given ability to see!

But honestly, there’s so much more I feel I can’t see than what I can.

There is a world I’m struggling to see. It’s a world Louis Armstrong sang about in his 1967 song “What a Wonderful World.” It was one of Dad’s favorites, so I grew up familiar with the lyrics.

I see trees of green, red roses too I see them bloom for me and you And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky Are also on the faces of people going by I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do They're really saying I love you.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow They'll learn much more than I'll never know And I think to myself what a wonderful world Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

Louis Armstrong sang of a world he wanted to see. The culture at the time was anything but beautiful. It’s a world we’re still longing to see today. But the recent event in my home state and the social media responses make it difficult to see.

I can’t see how in today’s world we can watch a video of someone die and not be completely broken by the sight. How do these images come across our feed and not cause us to lay awake at night? Our ability to see with our eyes is blinding our hearts, numbing our ability to feel.

I can’t see why opinion trumps compassion. We have limited knowledge, limited insight but we draw our conclusions with no regard for whomever it may hurt.

I can’t see why we allow the spiritual attack of division.

I can’t see where humanity is often absent in the human race. Shouldn’t they be synonymous?

Merriam-Webster defines humanity as “the quality or state of being human; the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals; all people.”

Vocabulary.com provides this definition: “Humanity is the human race, which includes everyone on Earth. It’s also a word for the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion, be creative, and not be a robot or alien.” (bolding added).

I wish there were some contacts or glasses to provide a lens by which to see the world as Mr. Armstrong sang. If there were, would we use it?

I’m convinced the way to a beautiful world is found in one simple line, “I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do. They're really saying I love you.”

It comes down to you and me. It comes down to our everyday interactions, visiting with each other at the grocery store, praying with each other at church, and cheering with one another at the games.

The mainstream media nor social-media will preserve humanity in the hearts of humans. That comes down to you and me individually; speaking life, shaking a hand, giving a hug and showing love.

“She saw the world, not always as it was, but as it could be…” -Cinderella

Isaiah 26:3 NLT You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!

#peaceday #peaceeveryday #internationaldayofpeace

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How Could I Possibly Be Thankful?

My heart has been heavy approaching this day of Thanksgiving. I’m thinking of the mother facing the holidays for the first time after the tragic loss of her daughter; the family who lost their baby this week; the daughter whose holiday gatherings have been years without her mother and just recently will now be without her father; the wife waking up for her first holiday morning without her husband of over twenty-five years; the woman who lost the anticipation and excitement of her baby’s first Thanksgiving in a miscarriage; a family welcoming a precious new healthy baby but losing the young, beautiful first-time mother. One can’t help but grieve with these who are hurting.

Grief has been known in my family. We’re familiar with the breath it takes out of you, the way it changes you, how it can overwhelm you and make your body feel physically ill. And we know that it never completely goes away. Every birthday, date of death, every milestone moment, and yes, this time of year, each holiday celebrated accompanied with traces of grief.

Someone is missing. How unnatural it feels to keep living life when life no longer feels like the life we knew. How bewildering it is seeing people go about their daily business, not even aware that someone so special, and so significant, is no longer on this earth. How empty it feels sitting down to a table with all our family, except our loved one lost.

After loss, I picture grief taking up a large part of our heart. Through healing, the element of grief becomes smaller and smaller, yet remains. Why?

The Lord uses the sorrow in my heart to believe for His healing, His joy, and His peace for others. These losses grieve me so deeply because I know how I’ve grieved for those I’ve lost. It’s so painful. It hurts. It’s dark. However, my losses fuel my intercession for others who mourn. Romans 12:15 ESV says it’s one of the marks of a true Christian, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

How has my family been able to be thankful in, through and after tragedy?

It’s difficult to praise God when so much is wrong. It’s a challenge to worship with a heavy hurting heart. However, praise, worship and thanksgiving are vital to healing.

Think about Paul and Silas sitting in prison. What did they do? They began to sing. Sorrow can feel like a prison. The release comes through the worship. Worship shakes the foundation to our grief, doors are swung open and bonds are unfastened. (See Acts 16:25-26).

Worshipping the Lord in our grief is a sacrifice. God honors the sacrifice of worship. Worshipping not because we feel like it, but worshipping because He is worthy. I remember being in church two days after my Dad’s funeral. Imagining his casket at the front of the sanctuary was hindering my worship. I was so grieved. But then we began to sing “Blessed Be Your Name.” Yes, there was pain in the offering, but that is authentic worship. Hebrews 13:15 ESV “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”

The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion –this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

Thankfulness doesn’t negate our grief. Thankfulness brings joy in the grief. How? Thankfulness brings us closer to God and as we are closer to Him we receive of His glorious riches. His light, His love, His joy, His peace.  This isn’t denial. This isn’t fairytale, make-believe. This isn’t lying to ourselves. This is walking, not in the natural tendency of our nature, but in His supernatural power to transform our hearts in His presence. Habakkuk 3:17-18 ““Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest of Light to all the world. When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. – One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp

I pray for you, sweet readers to be the “change agents.” Our place is not in this world. Our place is destined to be with the Father. In the imperfections of this life we live, I pray for your heart of Thanksgiving to transcend every trial, displaying the light of His glory through your joy.

Much love.

Much sympathy.

Much hope.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Visit the link for the song: Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTpTQ4kBLxA

*If you are waking this day with pain and loss, I invite you to read this touching post my friend shared. https://abedformyheart.com/grateful-and-grieving/ *

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Eucharisteo

I’ve had happier things to write about. Still do. But not today. No, today I’m writing about the mound of dirt and tulips planted by the first tree on our driveway. I’m writing about tears and what-ifs. I’m writing about the constant cries of animal who longs for her companion, her buddy. It was a beautiful weekend in Oklahoma. One not to be missed.  Many were outside enjoying the out of the ordinary warmer temperatures for this time of year. Even our dogs took advantage of an opportunity to run past the barriers of our yard that protect them and head for adventure.

Brandon and I started our Sunday on the road at five in the morning excited to surprise the kids, getting home from that ten hour drive earlier than what they anticipated. A one o’clock phone call informed us of Saturday’s events. “The dogs got out about eleven. Libby came home about ten last night, but we can’t find Daisy,” Brooklyn said on the line.

We knew. We knew Daisy and Libby never split up. We knew Libby coming home alone was indicative of something bad. The visits to neighbors had been made. Phone calls placed. No sign of her. Gone.

This family began the process to accept what was evident. A process that is increasingly difficult when one doesn’t really know what happened.

Yesterday, I utilized social media resources, posting a picture of Daisy and Libby on Instagram, Twitter, and a few different groups on Facebook, including my own page. My words, “We’re fairly certain something bad happened to our sweet Daisy Mae while we were gone this weekend. She went missing Saturday. Libby came home that night. No sign of Daisy still. If anyone may know anything, please, please let us know. It’s the not knowing that is so hard.”

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A lady on one of the Facebook groups commented, “Please message me.” I did. She responded with information we knew in our hearts, but details we needed, “Unfortunately I wanted to tell you I stopped by the road on 51B going east….” She proceeded to inform me that our sweet Daisy Mae was lying there.  That it looked like she was hit.

My husband, who has been busy at work, bringing it home with him several nights a week, spreading it out across our table and working hours after everyone goes to bed, left the office immediately to go get our precious pet. He went to the place nearly two and a half miles from our home and found her. There she was lying on the side of the highway like road-kill. He picked her up, placed her in the truck, brought her home and dug a perfect 3’x5’ rectangle, 4 feet deep grave for our beloved Daisy Mae.

This is where I write about thankfulness. Yes, the topic of the book I’m reading, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The author takes the reader on a journey of what it is to be truly thankful. To live a life to the fullest. To have eucharisteo. Vos Kamp explains, “Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’” She continues, “Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo- the table of thanksgiving.

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Last night, I crawled into bed, eyes swollen, nose running, tears still falling, and my heart was full of thankfulness for the tool of social media. I hear so many gripe about the effects of social media. The negative results it renders on their lives. But why? Do we let it because of our lack of self-discipline? Nothing should rule over us. I think about the good things God has given us, and yet in our flesh, humanity and sin we distort the beautiful benefit it should bring to our lives. Like sex. God Himself designed the incredibly beautiful gift for us. An act of intimacy, love and security beyond what we share with anyone other than the one we’ve vowed our life to. But what has our culture done? Distorted the pricelessness of the gift.

Last night, I felt the gift of social media. I think on the scripture James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” And I believe the resources I had to utilize was a good gift, a perfect gift to bring our Daisy Mae home.

So today, while I put away her bowl and clean her bed, I’ll think about Vos Kamps’ list, about the sunlight hitting the suds, about the smell of clean sheets and the porcelain dove, that bears the word peace hanging in her kitchen window. In the sadness, I’ll have joy, the joy that comes from thankfulness, eucharisteo. Thankfulness to have had Daisy Mae; how she loved to chase skunks but always lost, how we had to feed her pricey dog food otherwise we’d suffer the aroma of consequences, how despite her very quiet nature, Libby had inspired her to just start using her voice.

For these things, I wake this morning, thankful.

We will miss you, Daisy Mae.

We loved you! Thank you, for loving us!

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A Hurricane Hit

A catastrophic storm hit eight years ago today.  Complete devastation came upon the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  Many remember August 29, 2005 because of the violent natural event that affected many cities, especially New Orleans. I remember that morning very well.  I was back in the burn center recovering from my sixth surgery within the previous five months.  My mom was staying with Brooklyn and Jaron, and we were on the phone visiting about the kids.  Mom told me I needed to turn on the news and see the coverage on this hurricane.   We concluded our visit and hung up.

Brandon was there with me and left the room somewhat abruptly.  He returned with our Pastor behind him.  I was slightly puzzled that our Pastor was with Brandon, because he had just been to visit and pray with us.  I quickly concluded in my mind that my Grandma Cochrane, my Dad’s mom, must have just passed away.  She had had a stroke the week before.  It seemed obvious that there was loss.

Brandon came to the right side of my hospital bed, Pastor Gary to my left.  I felt a hurricane hit my own heart when my precious husband informed me that my Dad died.  Floods of tears and complete disbelief.  My Dad was two weeks away from getting a pacemaker.  He physically appeared to be in better condition than he had previously.  But none of that mattered, because the fact is, he sat in that chair, at my own desk, in our office, speaking on the phone to a client who was also a dear friend from our church, and his heart stopped.  His life ended.  He was gone.

Gone was his boisterous personality.  Gone were his jokes.  Gone were his stories and his laughter.  His laugh alone would bring such joy to those around him.  And I cry today just thinking that its sound is fading in my memory.  No longer could I consult with him over investments, no longer could I pick his mind regarding finances.  He wasn’t just a phone call or desk away when business questions arose.  I’d never lift my eyes up to his tall stature again.  No longer would I wrap arms around his neck or kiss his face.  No more getting smoked playing cards or Monopoly.  No more long dinner conversations or prayers for our future.  My Dad was gone.

Moving on was so painful.  After Dad’s memorial service on Friday, Mom and I were back in the office the following Tuesday.  We had a company to maintain.  I found myself going about life, looking at other people driving on the road, buying their groceries, filling up their gas tanks, and wondering how they couldn’t feel that someone so special was no longer here on this earth; how they didn’t even realize the void.  Nothing even looked the same to me.  My perspective had changed.  And my identity was challenged.  Someone who had always been here, forever and ever, someone who made me and raised me and loved me, was dead.  I felt so alone.

And alone is just another description for grief.  Grief feels so lonely and so desperate.  It physically hurts to grieve.  It is that pit in the stomach that makes us literally feel nauseous.  When we cry and cry, our eyes are swollen, our nose is raw, and we seem to only pause in between, until the flood of sorrow rains again.

In this time the Lord comforted my heart with two gifts of peace.

One; my Pastor.  Even today in the sadness that accompanies my reflection on losing my Dad, I remember my Pastor sitting there at my hospital bed and all he said was, “Jesus.”  Over and over and over again he whispered the Name of Jesus.  When there were no words, there was His Name, Jesus.  Isaiah 9:6 tells us His Name is, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Two; the Word.  Shortly afterwards, I had friends and loved ones encouraging me to read James.  “Dig into a study on James, Heather.”  But the Lord led me to Job.

Job 1:1 tells us that Job was a great guy, he “was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:8 the Lord brags on Job, telling satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” As you read in Job 1:9-10 you will see that satan suggests that Job’s faithfulness is only out of the blessing God has bestowed on him, and satan proposes that when calamity strikes Job that Job will curse God.  Job 1:12 God allows satan to have control over everything Job has, except “the man himself.”

Read Job 1:13-19 and take note of the phrases I have put in bold.

“13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Can you imagine???  Job can’t even process one bit of tragic information over the messengers interrupting each other to give him more!

But how does Job respond? Verse 20 tells us by falling to the ground in worship.  In verse 21 Job says, ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

This passage challenged me in my time of grief.  And my Pastor’s presence to whisper the sweet Name of Jesus brought peace.  Altogether, COMFORT.

Despite the disaster, He is there and He loves you.  He is enough, even when so much seems gone.

“If everything I had was lost

If everything I had was gone

If everything I knew was suddenly a fraud

And all I had was you holding on

Would it all be the same?

Could I find beauty in the pain?

Would I sing your praise?

Would I seek your face?

I raise my voice loud and sing

Tell them all what you’ve done for me

Even in my darkest days

I’m gonna sing your praise.”

Lyrics from Raise My Voice ~ Robbie Seay Band

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Bottled Tears

“There are worse things in life than death.”  That is a statement I have heard my Mom make many times.  I didn’t really understand the significance of her words as I recall the first encounters of her making them.  But through the years, I knew what she meant and I knew that those words were her sense of peace. My Mom showed up to the scene of my brother and my accident over 25 years ago now.  Her senses received the reality of immense tragedy.  Smoke.  Fire.  Wreckage.  And amidst it all lay her little boy’s dead body.  There was nothing within her power to change what took place there.  Nothing she could do would bring him back.

How does one process an incredible loss?  How does one begin to cope?  I know that my Mom’s walk with God carried her through that unimaginable pain and grief.  I also know that she was at peace knowing my brother was at peace.  In a time that no one could have ever anticipated or prepared for, it helped to look for the goodness, even when it seemed there was none.  That goodness was that my brother Jon did not suffer in his death.  Jon’s days were full. He had a life of quality, despite such short duration.

I find myself confronted with this scenario in my career as a neonatal nurse.  I have observed such unfair realities of mommies and daddies faced with losing their baby.  My heart breaks, between my sympathy for the family and my compassion for the baby.  There are times their little bodies are put through so much, with every effort to save their life.  Where is the line between saving a life and a peaceful passing?

An article featured in Advances in Neonatal Care, titled “What Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses Need to Know About Neonatal Palliative Care,” explores this ethical issue. “Advocating For a Dying Baby, Assessing and Managing Pain in a Dying Baby, and Helping Parents Say ‘Goodbye,’” are just a few of the twenty-three items identified as providing good palliative care in neonatal nursing. But what left an impression on me was that although 40% of graduating neonatology fellows “felt well-equipped to discuss predictions of morbidity and mortality and treatment options, they felt less well trained to address the more emotional and social issues related to palliative care, such as discussing families’ spiritual and religious needs.”

When there is nothing within our power to change the circumstance, what need is higher than those emotional and spiritual? There is no black and white.  But there is prayer.  And I pray over each of the babies I care for.  A recent assignment had me specifically praying for quality.  It’s a prayer fueled from those words spoken by my own Mom; my Mom who knew that there was a God greater than her grief.  He held her as He does her son, as He does the babies and their precious parents who say goodbye.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT) “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

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25 Years Later

When I Google “anniversary” beaucoups of definitions pop up; like, “the annually recurring date of a past event, especially one of historical, national, or personal importance.” Anniversaries roll around causing recollection of the day’s events.  It’s one of the things that make wedding anniversaries so special. Today marks the 25th anniversary of a past event of personal importance.  This day never rolls around without some recollection of events, but this year is a milestone, this year, my mind is being flooded with memories both tragic and uplifting.

I’m remembering that beautiful spring day, April 27th 1988.  I remember the sun shining. Records indicate that the high was 75 degrees with winds at only 5 miles per hour.  My brother Jon and I got off the bus that afternoon and I’m sure did our little chore list that my Mom had on the fridge.  Although it doesn’t stand out in my mind, I’m sure we did them, as was routine for our after school activities.  What I do remember is putting on my play clothes; my shorts and t-shirt and those ever so popular 1980s jelly shoes.  I loved mine, and had them in a few different colors.

I remember Jon and me standing in front of the shed behind my Grandma’s house.  The driveway beside our house wrapped around the back of my Grandma’s and there was a shed and storm cellar right behind her house.  Jon filled up our blue two-wheeler motorcycle and then we proceeded with our plan to visit our friend’s house.  We anticipated no harm on our nearly 3 mile ride away.  We felt so big to see our friends on our own will and at our own convenience. After some time, Jon said it was time to go and we swung our legs over that bike, revved it up, and headed back home.

On that country dirt road there was a factor present which was not present before.  The travel back coincided with travelers returning home from work for the day.  Jon pulled out onto the road behind a small red truck.  The dust stirred up from the truck made it so difficult to see.  My arms were wrapped tightly around Jon’s waist and I turned my head to my right, attempting to avoid the dust that stung my eyes.

It was such a challenge to see.  No goggles.  No helmets.  We were just two children, innocent to the danger that surrounded us.  Jon swerved to the left and all life changed forever.  We hit an oncoming truck.  Jon was killed.  The bike went under the truck.  A fire ignited.

I remember lying in the ditch as flames engulfed me.  I don’t remember pain from my body being on fire.  What I remember is the blur in the flames.  It distracts me to this day when I become mesmerized by the bright colorful light fires produce.  I remember my face feeling unbearably hot.  And I remember someone grabbing me under my armpits from behind and dragging me out of the fire.  That man was my first hero.  That man was the first person who took action to save my life.  It just so happened to be the man we hit.

For the memories being so choppy, I still have a bank of them.  I don’t remember the helicopter ride to the hospital, but I do remember telling my Mom that I wanted to go home.  I remember feeling that if I could just get home that it would all be okay.  She told me that we were going to see the doctor and then we would.

I remember being in a tiny room in the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest with a multitude of stuffed animals and posters around me.  Someone put a turquoise My Little Pony on the far left shelf for me.  Those little tokens were a small part of the many gifts I received from my injury.  Yes.  I said gifts.  And the greatest of those were the intangible kind.

Something about tragedy brings out the purest, most kind parts of people. For instance, my Dad’s brother stood on the left side of my bed and promised to take me on a camping trip when I got better.  He made good on that promise.  I remember that big red heat lamp being positioned over my bed in ICU and one of my doctors, on a few different occasions, holding my hand through those excruciating bandage changes.  I remember my brother, Barry and his friend, Chris coming to watch Wheel of Fortune with me.  I remember Barry bringing the entire collection of Alf dolls that Burger King featured.  I remember my friend Brad coming to visit me in ICU.  Brad was our neighbor, and like a brother to me, even more so after I returned home from the hospital.  He had his head shaved to match mine on that visit to the burn center.  He was the only kid allowed to come see me while in ICU and it was perhaps the greatest gift the staff could have given me.  His small amount of time with me reconnected me to who I was—a kid.

So many times I am asked if I remember that day.  Oh how I remember that day and many others.  But I wouldn’t change that.  I wouldn’t want to forget.  If I forgot how bad it was, then I’d lose sight of how great God is.

Memories can be painful, but comforting as well.  We can’t appreciate where we are if we don’t remember where we were.

O Lord, I will honor and praise Your name, for You are my God.  You do such wonderful things!  You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. Isaiah 25:1 (NLT)

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