hope

Guest Post: The Times I Break

Guest Post: The Times I Break

Meet Amy, our February Guest!!!

“Chronic illness almost always hits without warning. No age restrictions. No definitive directions included. Life sometimes seems almost like a game and we’re all handed different cards...it’s what we decide to do with them that determines who we are and how we handle life. Thank you for taking a few moments to read what God has done in my life so far! I hope it blesses you and helps you with whatever you’re going through.”

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Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #3

Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #3

What does drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes have to do with my book cover? Please join me for this fun “Behind the Story” story to find out!

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Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #2

Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #2

Welcome Back Blog Family! We’re up and running again with our second behind-the-scenes story of what unfolded during the writing of Transforming Tragedy. Please join me!

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Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #1

Behind the Story of Transforming Tragedy #1

Coming up to our book release I’m sharing some beautiful “Behind the Story” stories. Did you know I didn’t WANT to write this book? This story is what got me to change my mind and jumpstarted this journey!

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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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Carla's Column: The Privilege

Carla's Column: The Privilege

Carla's Column confronts the realities of a crisis in her post this month.  Maybe we desire to know the plan, or we question if there is goodness for our lives.  Fear or doubt, worry or despair, inadequacy or insecurity, there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is One who walks us through it.  Be comforted and encouraged as you read these words she shares with our hearts.  

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GUEST POST: The Morning of March 3rd

GUEST POST: The Morning of March 3rd

Our November guest post is from Stephanie Shingleton sharing her and her husband's stories of surviving burn injuries, the challenges in the days that followed, and the happily ever after in store!  Theirs is the most beautiful love story, a Thanksgiving post you will want to read!

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GUEST POST: How God Sees Our Big Mistakes

GUEST POST: How God Sees Our Big Mistakes

Ever judged someone?  Or been judged by another?  Or cast judgment on yourself?  Have you ever determined the outcome of a mistake?  This post from our guest, Jayne Patton, will bring encouragement, hope and inspiration to your heart, sharing what God sees, even in our mistakes.

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NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

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

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

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

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

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

 

NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, a NICU Grad's Mom & Dad

 

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

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It’s All About the Heart

For over a year now my precious husband has been making a funny sound. And it’s not funny as in “LOL” but as in “bizarre.”   To make it more curious, the sound is positional, meaning it is only produced when he goes to bed at night and lies on his left side. Furthermore, I don’t like the sound.

Knowing a little bit about blood flow, I’m not envisioning good things when I hear this sound. Our heart has four rooms, or chambers as we call them. Blood visits these four rooms. Blood returning to our heart makes its first stop into our right atrium. Then flows on down to our right ventricle. After it grabs some oxygen from the lungs it enters into our left atrium and then flows into the last room of our heart, the left ventricle. From there it goes on its journey through our body delivering oxygen to our cells like FedEx delivers packages to our door. Except our blood is also kinda like the garbage truck and picks up our cells’ trash while it’s there, but that’s a more lengthy post I suppose.

So. Considering that the last room our blood visits before it’s grand journey throughout the body is the left ventricle, and considering that my hubby makes an involuntary sound when laying on his left side at night, would make any person push for a professional assessment.

It took a year. First I suggested. Then I nudged. Nudging turned into pushing. Pushing turned into nagging. And then, as I’ve been known to do a time or two, I took matters into my own hands and called myself to make a cardiology appointment.

Puzzled. That’s what I would describe the cardiologist’s response. Brandon is not what we call symptomatic. He has no SOB. (I threw that in to be funny. But really, he doesn’t. That’s what we say in healthcare for shortness of breath). He can run without any issues. While he’s not as lean as he’d prefer, it’s not like he’s really overweight. And his EKG showed no concern with his heart’s electrical activity.

But his cardiologist was again, puzzled. Therefore, we went for an echo to get a little gander of the structure of his heart.

It’s amazing really that we don’t have to have a perfect heart for it to work well and sufficiently meet our body’s need. Which at the same time is both incredible and crazy. And realizing this provides much spiritual insight.

Ever wonder why there are so many scriptures about the heart? I mean why did the psalmist not say, “I will praise you O Lord my God with all my kidney”?

Instead the Psalm says in chapter 86 verse 12 of the NKJV, “I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.”

When we think about shock it definitely makes sense.

Blood shunts toward two vital organs when one’s body goes into shock. And they are two organs we read about so much in scripture. The heart and the brain.

Patients can lose limbs out of the physiological changes a body makes to preserve the heart and the brain. Reduced peripheral perfusion means it all shunts to the core.

See, I believe the science reveals the Creator and what He is telling us. Every part of our body is significant, every organ is vital, but the heart and the mind are core to who we are, not only for our physical existence but our spiritual life as well.

And while we give much attention to public service announcements, and funds to foundations researching and saving the lives of our physical hearts and brains, it is our spiritual hearts and brains that are most vulnerable to injury.

Psalm 7:9 NLT “End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous. For You look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.”

The Israelites used the words “heart” and “mind” as virtual synonyms to refer to a person’s innermost center of conscious life. To ask God to look deep within the heart and mind, means we are inviting Him to examine the hidden places of our heart, and the hidden places of our thoughts. It’s asking Him to perform His own echocardiogram and get detailed with us, evaluating the structure of our character and motive.

And that is something that is not natural. It is part of our human nature to hide. I mean, do you remember when sin entered into the lives of Adam and Eve? They realized they were as naked as a jaybird and what did they do? They hid.

Asking the Lord to examine our heart and mind is the most significant thing we can do in our pursuit of a growing relationship with Him, because it may be hard to work on the hidden places He uncovers. Maybe we like some of the stuff we’ve got tucked away in the rooms of our heart. Maybe we find some enjoyment in those secret thoughts we revisit here and there. Maybe we’re wanting all the goodness of God but we’re not quite sure about cleaning out and throwing away what we’ve got in those rooms.

But if we are to have a healthy spiritual life, we have to protect our core.

We can’t fill our mind with garbage and pollute our heart with impurity and still experience true living. No. That kind of living is a crisis-mode life. It’s living in a constant state of shock.

And God did not call us to live in critical condition. He called us to live abundantly and victoriously.

So how?

Well here is a scripture from Psalm 51:10 to post on your wall, mirror, fridge or car and wholeheartedly pray,

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Friends! We have to be renewed! Daily! We are just people. We’re not living as supernatural beings. We’re flesh and we need to continually draw near to the Lord to be renewed and strengthened.

Then ask Him to change the way we think. Talk about a new mindset. Setting our thoughts on things above has some major influence on taking us from a critical state to a powerful state. Romans 12:2 in the NLT says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” If you want to have a healthy mind, ask the Lord to change the way you think. It’ll be different from the norm, but it will guide you to such goodness. It’s a kind of goodness that sticks with you even in the midst of difficulty.

Last one. Anticipate your mouth to follow. When you set your mind on things above, you think differently. And when you think differently, you sound differently. I’m not talking about the bizarre, out-of-the ordinary sound my husband makes when lying on his left side. No. I’m talking about what Jesus tells us about our hearts in Luke 6:45. “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Remember, we don’t have to have a perfect heart for it to work well. We simply need to allow it to be examined and treated by the hand of our loving Father.

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.

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Here’s a YouTube Link for you 

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GUEST POST: God Multiplies Goodness

*a special post from special guest Kim Couch*Ten.  Ten Years. Ten years ago, I was finishing my first year of teaching, trying to figure out how to be a mom to my 18 month-old son, and building a new house with my husband. It was a time in my life when I was in a good place.  It was also ten years ago that I found a lump in my breast.  So, at that point when I felt everything was coming together--everything came to a halt.  In June of 2007, at the age of 28,  I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The only previous experience I’d had with breast cancer was the loss of my high school friend’s mom due to the disease.  So, that was it.  The only person I’d known with cancer had lost her battle about ten years prior to my diagnosis.  It was at that very moment when I felt like I had been given a death sentence

Little did I know, while I was trying to grasp my new reality, God had already lined up numerous people in my life who would have an impact on the journey my family was about to start. Our family friends had resources that led me to Cancer Treatment Centers of America with the most amazing doctors and medical team.  Our pastor’s wife was a breast cancer survivor, so she was able to be an encouragement to me along the way.  Once I got set up with my medical team and had a plan, I was ready to go into battle.  I had decided that my attitude would be a major impact in my ability to beat this disease!  So right then and there, I decided that I would be positive and try to show God’s light to those around me.  I had a bilateral mastectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and 30 rounds of radiation.  I started in July 2007 and finished my treatments in April 2008.  

One of the first things I remember asking my doctor was, “Does breast cancer mean I can’t have any more children?

His response was, “Not now, but I’m not saying never.”  As time passed, I would ask him the same question.  Ultimately, the answer was the same.

There were many things on the journey that were hard, but looking back, the two hardest things for me were losing my hair and not knowing if I would ever have more children.  As I progressed on my treatment plan, my hair began to grow back, but I was still left with the pain of not having more children. There were points during this journey when I would imagine having another baby; however, while I obviously wasn’t pregnant, several of my friends were preparing for babies in their lives.  Although I was excited for them, it was truly a difficult time.  Please understand, I was grateful for my family of three and wasn’t willing to jeopardize my health, but I was still mourning the plans I had for my family.  My husband and I talked about and were open to the idea of adoption, but nothing seemed to work out for us.  I learned our plans are not always God’s plans.  

Finally, after about four years, my oncologist began to discuss the possibility of becoming pregnant.  Whoa!  When I was given that news, I panicked and questioned if it was something I really wanted. I felt like I had gone through the mourning process and had come to terms with my reality.  After about a year of praying and processing the idea, I had a sense of peace about the situation.  My husband and I decided we were ready to explore the idea.  We agreed that if I didn’t get pregnant then it wasn’t meant to be, and we would not seek fertility options.

In September of 2012, our first month after making the decision to try, we became pregnant!  A month later when we went in for our first ultrasound, the doctor said she saw something interesting.  I immediately thought the worst and asked if something was wrong.  She smiled and said, “Not necessarily.  You’re having twins!” 

I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get pregnant, let alone getting pregnant in the first month of trying, and to top it off, pregnant with twins!!  

On May 8, 2013 we welcomed Karlee Jo and Kynslee Jane to our family.

I’m a planner.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’m so thankful God’s plan was bigger and better.  I’m a stronger person because of my experience with cancer, and I’ve learned to trust God...even in the ugly, scary times.  Although we may not see it at the time, God is always working things out for our best.  It took longer than I wanted to see what God’s plan was, but the wait was so worth it.  He turned my ugly and scary  into something beautiful!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

A Little Thought from Heather:I met Karlee and Kynslee on the day of their birth, and I'll never forget their big brother trying to catch a glimpse of his brand new baby sisters as they were being rolled down the hallway.  A brief stop to let him gaze upon the miracle of their lives and God's goodness beamed from the light of his little eyes.

Goodness.  Goodness is what I think of when I think of this amazing family.  So many times we see a diagnosis, but God sees a platform to display a mighty work of His hand-- a work that can only be accomplished by His supernatural intervention.

Kim's story gives hope to all.  Believing for a healing?  She did much more.  She believed for a healing without resolving to a sacrifice.  Did she desire to be healed from breast cancer?  Absolutely.  Did she forfeit her desire for more children?  Not at all.  She believed and held on, standing in faith for BOTH!  

I believe Kim is an example to all of us for how to believe.  Don't believe for sufficient, believe for abundance; believe for fulfillment; believe for icing-on-the-cake; and in Kim's case, believe for multiplication!

May you be blessed and encouraged today to continue standing confident in God's goodness in the plans He has for your life!  ❤ Heather

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

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Guest Post: Lindsay's Heart

The month of June, what does it mean to you? Is it the remembrance of the D-Day Invasion in Normandy on June 6, Flag Day on June 14 or even the day we honor our fathers on the third Sunday in June? For me, June 20-22 is etched in my memory forever. June 20, 1997 was the last time I heard my daughter Lindsay tell me “I love you” and the last time I got a hug from her. It was the last time I saw her blue-green eyes and her beautiful smile. Little did I know, 3 hours after telling her bye, she would be involved in a horrific car accident that would take her life.

Lindsay was my first daughter, the second of my three children. She was born May 22, 1981. She was a little sister to Ryan and a big sister to Rachel. She was a beautiful young lady. She was spunky and full of life. She lived life to its fullest. She wasn’t perfect and sometimes found trouble if it didn’t find her first. 

Just 4 years earlier, my kid’s father tragically died in a work related accident while working out of state. Lindsay struggled with the death of her dad. She stated on many occasions that she just wanted to be with her dad. Three weeks before her death, she told my friend that she wasn’t going to live to see the age of 25. The night before the accident, I remember her sitting on the couch crying. I asked her what was wrong and she just shook her head and said she didn’t know. Before she went to bed that night, she told my nephew and her brother that she knew she wasn’t going to live much longer. She knew before we did that her life on this earth was going to end.

Lindsay and my nephew were headed to Dallas to spend the weekend with my cousin. Their trip ended just south of Caddo, Oklahoma. For unknown reasons, the car ended up crossing the center median and they were hit by a semi going 70 mph. The impact of the semi hitting the car caused the car to split in half. The seat’s belt broke and Lindsay was found just 3 feet behind the car. My nephew was thrown 65 feet. He had asphalt burns to his face, hand and leg. He had a broken hand and a large horseshoe cut on the back of his head. Thankfully, he lived, but lives with survivor’s guilt.

There were two off-duty EMT’s who drove upon the accident and immediately started CPR on Lindsay. Her heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital in Durant, Oklahoma. We did not find out about the accident until 3:30 pm. The doctor informed my husband that Lindsay had no brain activity and they wanted to transfer to a hospital in Sherman, Texas because they had a trauma unit. Before they transferred her to Sherman, they performed surgery to repair a tear in her liver. That trip to Sherman was the longest trip of my life. I knew things weren’t good, but I prayed and prayed. I asked God to watch over Lindsay and to help me make decisions that I knew I was going to have to make.

It was 9:00 pm when we finally arrived. The moment I walked in the room to see Lindsay, I saw that she was at peace. She was on life support and they had shaved part of her hair in order to insert a probe to measure the pressure on her brain. As the ICU nurse began to explain all the numbers on the monitor, it showed the pressure on her brain was 110 and was rising. I asked what was normal and with a hesitation in her voice and tears in her eyes, she said 8-10. Once again, I knew things were not good. I continued to pray and as the night wore on, the pressure continued to rise to 150. To look at Lindsay, you would think she was just sleeping. Visibly, you could see a bruise on her cheek, a puncture wound on her hand and one of her toes had been severed, but it had been repaired.   We talked to her and prayed for her through the night.

The next day they ran a series of test to see if she could breathe on her own. She could not. They checked to see if there was any blood flow to her brain. There was not.

We knew then that the Lindsay we knew and loved so much was already with our Lord and Savior. At that time, we talked with her doctor and made the decision to donate her organs. Southwest Transplant Alliance in Dallas was contacted. Two nurses made the trip to Sherman to discuss with us the process of organ donation. We chose to donate her heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver.

I had never felt so much peace, feeling of the arms of Jesus wrapped around me, as I did when I found out that there was nothing more they could do.  I remember talking to our pastor on the phone and telling him I had peace, because I knew where she was.

On Sunday morning, June 22, everyone went in to tell Lindsay how much she was loved and we would see her when we get to Heaven. I was left in the room by myself with Lindsay. I talked to her, prayed for her and then began to sing to her a Point of Grace song, “God Loves People More Than Anything”, except I sang “God Loves Lindsay More Than Anything”. I sang it over and over again just so she would know how much God really loved her and He was taking her away from all the heartache she was enduring in her earthly life. My husband told me I wasn’t really saying goodbye, but “I’ll see you later”, because we will see her again in Heaven. 

When I walked out of her room, the nurses were crying with me. I went back to the waiting room. One of the nurses came out to tell us that they pronounced her brain death at 9:45am and that is when they began harvesting her organs. We started our journey back to Coweta without our Lindsay.

We knew God had a plan from the very beginning. We believe God placed the off duty EMT’s in the exact spot on Highway 69 at the time Lindsay needed them to keep her alive. We know a 30 year-old woman received both of Lindsay’s lungs. Her transplant was needed because of a heart defect. Lindsay’s liver went to a 49 year-old man who had been disabled for eight years because of an unknown reason as to why he was in liver failure. Lindsay’s pancreas and one kidney went to a 46 year-old woman with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Lindsay’s other kidney went to a 32 year-old woman who had kidney failure due to hardening of the tiny vessels in her kidneys.

The most precious gift given was Lindsay’s heart. Her heart went to Wayne Battles. At the time of the heart transplant, Wayne was 55 and he had a birthday a month after his transplant. Wayne will be 76 in July!

Wayne’s story began 4 years prior to his transplant. That is when the doctors told him that he would need a new heart. He and his wife starting praying for their donor and their family if God’s plan included a new heart. 4 years prior for our family was when we were given the heartbreaking news that the father of my children had died. Wayne went into the hospital April 29, 1997. Through all of our visits, we found out that Wayne had gotten so bad they took him off the transplant list. But, on May 21, his numbers started improving and he was put back on the transplant list on May 22, Lindsay’s birthday.

In the beginning, all of the correspondence was anonymous and went through Southwest Transplant Alliance. It took me quite a bit of time to write back to them after receiving the very first letter, but finally completed a letter and a small photo album of Lindsay to send to them. When we received another letter after they celebrated his 1 year anniversary with his new heart, I could tell they never received my letter. After seeing a partial phone number and a church name, we could tell they lived in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My sister started her own investigation and finally found Sharon. After a brief conversation with her, she called me and told me she found Lindsay’s heart recipient and to be expecting a call. Many tears were shed when we talked. We discovered that my letter and photo album were sent to the transplant hospital. Sharon made a trip to the hospital to retrieve them and then she gave Wayne the letter and album that evening.

They made a trip to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma on September 19, 1998 so we could meet for the first time. I remember laying my hand upon his chest to feel Lindsay’s heartbeat. On August 13, 2014 was a monumental day for us. They surprised us by opening up a box which held a stethoscope. I was able to hear Lindsay’s heartbeat for the first time. 

Many tears were shed that evening. I have been able to listen each time we have met since then. We continue to see each other at least once a year. We have received letters and cards on every holiday from Wayne and Sharon for 20 years. The bond we have developed is unbreakable. Although, we have never heard from any of other the other recipients, I pray each one is doing well after their transplants.

In all of this,I am so thankful that God has given me the strength and courage to live beyond the accident. I know that because Lindsay believed in God and was saved by His grace, she has her place in Heaven. I am looking forward to the day when I am reunited with her in Heaven. I am thankful for the support I have received over the last 20 years from my husband, my son and daughter and their families, my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and the rest of my extended family.

"Don’t take your organs to Heaven…Heaven knows we need them here.

-Sherri Valder

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

A Little Thought from Heather:

Back in November we had the honor of having Courtney Allen share the beautiful story of her brave little boy’s journey to a heart transplant, in Guest Post: A Thankful Heart. When I asked Courtney to write our guest post about Caysen, I had great hope of Sherri sharing Lindsay’s story, the story of a donor family.

This story is close to my own heart. For one, as long as I can remember I’ve personally understood the importance of organ donation. I would not be alive today if it weren’t for tissue donation. Families made the decision to donate their loved one’s tissue, the largest organ of our body and because of cadaver skin, and the donation of countless blood donors, I had the chance to live.

But Lindsay’s story is more than a story to me. I knew Lindsay.

School had not been pleasant for me after our accident. I experienced challenges in finding acceptance and security in returning to school. All of my elementary school years were spent bobbling back-and-forth between surgeries, doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. I just never settled back with my peers.

I was so scared, but I finally took a leap and changed schools in the 8th grade.

There was this girl in my English class. She had naturally curly blond hair, like me. She was outgoing. She lit up a room. Everyone was drawn to her personality. Her smile was more than a facial expression. It beamed from her heart. And this girl WELCOMED ME from the get-go. And to top it off, we shared the same middle name. Lindsay Renee and Heather Renee.

The song her mama sat at her bed and sang to her, “God Loves People More than Anything,” her family blessed me with the honor of singing at her memorial service. Even today, twenty years after her passing, I carry such gratitude for being able to do that little something for her, because what she did for me played a part of shifting my intimidated, insecure teenage world looking for acceptance to one filled with enthusiasm and joy each time I walked into a class we shared.

Lindsay had a gift of making other people feel valued. And I find it to be completely reflective of her life that she gave such insurmountable value even in her death.

When you think of organ donation, when you consider the commitment to give, think of precious Caysen who has a life today because of a donor, and think of Lindsay who continues to touch others, from those of us who knew and loved her, to those who never even met her. Twenty years later, her life is touching lives.  

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

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Today I Took A Walk

Today I took a walk. I’ve taken this walk countless times in my mind, but today I physically took the steps down the road. It’s an emotional journey. A journey I’ve traveled for 29 years today.

Some years are more difficult than others. This year falls on the more difficult end.

The walk came to me as a thought, but I dismissed it, as my to-do list automatically started rolling like end-credits in a movie.

  • Work on the PowerPoint for presentation.
  • Scan documents on the desk.
  • Go through mail.
  • Reply to text messages.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Send email.
  • Finish writing chapter for book.

I had too many things to do for a walk. But the thought came to me again. Instead of a to-do list, I got a little real with myself.

I don’t want to go for that walk today. I don’t want to revisit it today. I just don’t think I can.

Still the thought lingered. So I put on my tennis shoes.

Taking Ruby seemed like a good idea. The weather is so beautiful and I never just take her for a walk. I could take this walk and spend some time with my dog. But no. I began to understand this thought to go for a walk was more than a thought. It was a prompting. And the Lord was calling me to go alone.

I got in my car and drove to the road I needed to walk.

The road I needed to walk today.

It’s not like I never pass this way. I drive this road several times a week on our way to soccer practice and baseball practice and games. But today, my mind was in a different place, not hurried by the schedule, not distracted with conversation. I was completely present, willing to face my memories, my pain, my disappointments, my grief, as I physically put my body where the Lord challenged to take me today.

The comfort of the sun shining, the gentleness of the soft breeze, the sweetness of the bobwhite’s chirp accompanied my steps. My pace was slow; my spirit was strong as my thoughts went back to April 27, 1988.

It’s been a lifetime, but the memories are so vivid.

God called me to write a book. Seems like a bigger deal than simply being called to go for a walk. But there’s a critical component to both. Obedience.

Because the Lord called me to write this story of overcoming life’s darkest moments, I’ve needed to learn details I never knew from the accident. The accident that happened on the very road I walked today.

Those details. They are specifics I’ve learned from interviews over the last few months. The scene was playing out in my mind walking step-by-step this morning.

Jon and I—nine and seven years old, riding on a motorcycle, coming home from visiting friends, behind a truck, on a dirt road, unable to see from the cloud of dust. Swerving to the left and the right, and the left, and the right and the last swerve to the left lane we hit an oncoming truck. Gas leaking. A fire igniting. Tragedy transforming our innocent world.

I walked that road today. That road where my brother died. That road where I laid burning on fire. I walked that road today.

Yes, I physically walked that road today, but I have walked that road every single day of my life since April 27, 1988. I have walked that road every single day of my life for the last 29 years. I’ve looked at this scarred body every single day and remembered that day, every, single, day. No escaping the memories. The memories go with me wherever I go. The tragedy is etched throughout every piece of my existence.

Which is why I’ve reflected on a question we’ve all considered. If we could go back and change just one thing in life, what would it be?

If I could just have one, just one do-over, I would go back to April 27, 1988 and make one decision differently. I would choose against going to a friend’s. I would push and persist, as my personality naturally did and does, for us to instead play at home. One decision. One decision would mean I would have my brother alive to meet my husband and my children. He wouldn’t just be a photograph on my dresser whose name I share in stories. One decision. One decision would mean I would not have experienced a life-threatening injury, enduring indescribable pain, countless surgeries and challenging recoveries.

I stood for some time today at the place known as the scene of the accident. My mind was clear. I felt such peace and stillness. There were no words in my heart or my mind to speak, no prayers, or requests, pleas or questions. I began to think about the brief time I was alone on that road 29 years before. The driver of the truck used a blanket to smother the fire on my burning body then ran to call 911. Jon was gone. I didn’t know it then, but standing there alone today in that place I thought I’ve been alone here before.

Memories can be a source of much hurt and sorrow. Quite naturally, we want to avoid what hurts. We aim to box it up, set it in an area of our heart for pre-planned, scheduled moments to revisit. Some give much effort to that approach. Had it not been for the burn injury’s physical reminder, maybe I would have done the same. But that wasn’t an option. And what I’ve learned because of it is: there is strength in remembering. There is hope in remembering.

Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT I will never forget this awful time,     as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope     when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends!     His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness;     His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;     therefore, I will hope in Him!”

On my walk back to my car, I looked at the fence posts and the telephone posts and thought how so much stays the same as so many things change. I looked at the field where the helicopter landed to take me to the hospital. I looked at the cattle, picturing the scenes of spring calves in the pasture as the events unfolded that day.

As I walked alone back to the car, I instantly had a vision of people walking behind me. The man who took the first step to save my life and put out the fire. His brother who ran out to help. The man who stopped and held my hand while help arrived. The officer who worked the accident, and carried the memories for decades following. I had a vision of them there with me, walking behind me.

Walking back to the car, I could feel my doctors, my nurses, my physical therapists. I could feel my friends and my mentors. I could feel my nursing school class, my educators and the amazing NICU team I get to work with today. I could feel the presence of countless people who have walked into my life because of the journey on that road. And there I began to cry. As I walked I could feel in this group of people the Lord brought to me through this tragedy and in that group I could feel Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin.

I can’t help but believe that our journey that day, led to this journey today. I can’t help but believe that the tragedy which changed the trajectory of my life, was setting the scene for God to introduce His greatest miracles to my life. My heart, my mind and my spirit are inclined to believe that the source of my greatest pain is also the source of my greatest joy. I don’t see them separated. I see them connected, one leading to the other. It’s what God does. He brings good things out of the worst situations.

It’s why I can’t see the word tragedy without thinking triumph. It may take a lifetime, but know God is working during that time. Sometimes it’s a big job and it takes a lot of work. But He’s a big God. Maybe we can’t see what He’s doing, but He is doing. He is working. He’s working all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It’s why I remember. There is strength in remembering, even if we feel weak. It’s okay to cry. In fact, I believe our tears are important to God, because the Word tells us He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8). There is hope in remembering. I have a glorious hope, not just hope, but a glorious hope of seeing Jon again. And I pray the days I live bring honor to the life he lived and to his memory I’ll carry forever.

It’s why today I took a walk.

 

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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

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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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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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Guest Post: When God Speaks to The Broken

*a special post from a special guest* So I want to start off by introducing myself and saying what an honor it is to share my story with everyone.

My name is Sean Westley, I am a husband to my beautiful wife Jasmine Westley.

My wife is an Aerospace Engineer and I am a Project Superintendent for a construction company. We have been married for almost 5 years and I am a father to 6 amazing children. We have 3 boys and 3 girls, so I guess you could say we are the modern age Brady Bunch. Those who know us, our friends and family, refer to our family as “Team W”. “Team W” because half of our family carries the last name of Westley and the other half last name Woody. Everyone having a last name starting with “W” is just one of God’s many winks for us. Go “Team W”!

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Most importantly, I am a child of God!  However, this isn’t what my life has always looked like. Matter of fact, it has looked vastly different from this beautiful picture I have painted.

I would like to start from the beginning. My life started out with a lot of hurt and pain. During my formative years there were several men brought into my life that, well let’s just say, were not very nice to me. Two of the men were sexually abusive and put much fear into me. Another was very physically and mentally abusive. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, my mom married the man she is married to today. Although he was an amazing dad, damage had already been done; all I knew to do, was distance myself from him and the rest of the family. At this point I started my own self destruction.

I quit school when I was 15 and started running around with the wrong crowd. I started smoking pot and drinking. I would sneak out at night and really just do whatever I wanted to do. In no time at all I found myself being arrested. I was completely out of control. I started doing meth and whatever I could to support that habit such as stealing from my mom and dad. It went so far that I started using stolen credit cards and that is when it all came to a head. I was arrested and ended up being charged and going to the penitentiary. The State charged me with 5 counts of credit card fraud and forgery for over $250,000 which carried a sentence of 20 to life on each count.

Let that sink in….. I’m 20 years old, facing spending the rest of my life in prison.

That’s when Grace stepped in. I received 5 consecutive 5 year sentences. All said and done, I served 5 years in an Oklahoma prison. What I overcame there in that place is yet another story. Let’s just say it was a very scary time in my life.

After getting out I started working and walking the straight path, but that didn’t last long. I started running around and fell into old habits. During this period of my life I met the mother of my kids. We were married for 13 years and we had 3 children in 3 years. That didn’t keep addiction at bay and I became addicted to several drugs. My main drug of choice was crack cocaine. I remember a time when I sold everything we owned to support my habit. Looking back it was a very low time in my life. The good news is that I made the decision to walk away from that life style. Although I wanted something else, my kid’s mom wasn’t ready to do that, so I made the decision to divorce her and fight for my kids.

And that is when Grace came to me again. Can you believe that? Me. After all I have done I was given Grace once again. The same judge that sentenced me to prison is the same judge that gave me full custody of my children. Now you are thinking, “Wow, he has overcome so much”, and yes, I would say you're right, but that is when my toughest battle to date would come.

After getting custody of my kids I fell back into the drug scene. I also fell into a depression. Let me tell you, those two things do not go together well, at all, not at all. And that’s when it happened, ROCK BOTTOM. Yep, bottom of the barrel into the pit right where Satan wanted me. There I was lost and broken with all this responsibility and nowhere to turn. But, you guessed it, that’s when Grace entered in once again. Grace found me when I was on top of a 6 foot ladder with a noose around my neck. That is the moment when I heard God's voice. Right then, God spoke to me and told me to get down. He said that He had a different plan for me.

In Isaiah 28: 23 NIV it says, "Listen and hear My voice; pay attention and hear what I say." You see, right in scripture, God the Father, tells us that He has given us the ability to hear His voice.

What I have come to understand is that we are too busy and too loud in our own heads to hear. I am a testimony that God speaks to the broken and on that day, I heard the audible voice of the Good Shepherd.

I hear people say that they have never heard the audible voice of God.  My question is this: how do you know? If you don’t know what His voice sounds like, how do you know that you haven’t heard it?

Well, here is my opinion on that…..we might not hear a voice out loud, vocally, where it tickles our ear drums; however, I wonder if you have ever felt strongly that God, the Creator of the Universe, spoke directly to your inner most being. Isn’t that hearing Gods voice?

Well, on that day, when that happened for me, everything changed. That is the day that I gave my life to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That day is what I call, the first day of my life. My real life, my true life, the one that God had purposed me for. That day is when I started living in God’s will. God delivered me from all my addictions and planted me firmly on the rock. On that day, I chose to be ALL in not just half in. I was all in! Every time the church doors were open my kids and I were there. Now you’re thinking “end of story,” right? Not so fast, although life got a lot better for my children and I, I had a lot of growing to do.

At this point I want to mention how extremely important our amazing church family was for my little family. By God’s leading, not out of convenience, we became family to an amazing church family at Coweta Assembly of God. In all my mess and all my failures this body of believers never once judged me, or looked down on me. They received us with open arms and have always loved on us from the very first second we walked in the doors. This was crucially important in my walk. They showed us the true definition of the love of Christ. After attending the church for about a year and going strong, my kids told me that they wanted me to be happy. “Happy?” I asked, I had never been so happy. “No dad, we want you to start dating again” they said. I told them that when it was time, God would send someone. This was when I started praying and asking God for direction, expressing that when He was ready, I was ready. We need to be very specific in our prayers and believe me I was.

I described to God what I would like to have in someone. Someone that would love my kids as her own. Someone that loved God with all her heart.  Someone that would love me unconditionally and that didn’t need to depend on me to fulfill all her needs. Someone who could stand on her own two feet. Let me tell you, God loves us and he hears our prayers and it wasn’t but a short time later that I met Jasmine.

This brings me to the next time I heard God’s voice. After only dating Jasmine for a month, I was standing on my parent's porch and God spoke to me again.  I heard, “Sean, you prayed and asked Me to send her to you and I sent her. What are you waiting for?”

"Are you kidding me, Lord? There is no way.  I can’t do that………"

You know-- that argument we have with the Lord when He asks us to trust Him.

After losing the argument, I reached into my pocket grabbed my phone, YES MY PHONE, and I called Jasmine. When she answered the phone the call went a little like this, “Jasmine, this is going to sound really strange and I am so sorry for doing this to you on the phone, but Jasmine, I am supposed to ask you to marry me.”

Without any hesitation Jasmine said yes!

You see that doesn’t just happen BUT GOD, He had a better plan.

I have stood on the scripture Jerimiah 29:11 from the first day I got saved, because a dear friend of mine was obedient to God’s voice. He approached me and told me that God told him to give me this scripture, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Needless to say, one month later Jasmine and I got married. Now, it hasn’t been a cake walk.  We had a lot to figure out such as bringing two families together and everything that comes with that. Wow, what a ride it has been let me tell you. Just when the story should say, "happily ever after," it happened... another test.

I fell into a state of depression again. Yep, that’s right, yet another test, and it almost broke us. But, remember we serve a big God. He says that whatever He brings together let no man separate. This test lasted on for two years and it completely consumed me. I thank the Lord for a wife that prays for her husband and that will stand on God’s Word. That’s exactly what she did.

I will never forget the day that I was set free from the grip of depression.  My wife came to me and said, “This family and I are not doing this anymore with you.  I refuse to allow you to bring us into the pit with you. It is time for you seek God and rise up and be the MAN that God has called you to be and lead our family as God has instructed you to do.”

That’s when it happened, I started seeking God and He spoke to me saying, "This season has come to an end to never return. You are an overcomer and you are My child and I love you." 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV says this, "He has saved us and called us to a Holy life not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."

Wow! Did you hear that?! Before the beginning of time, our Father in Heaven purposed our lives!  Your life!!! Wow! I’m happy to say, God is true to His word. I have never had a season like that since.

Matter a fact, we are in a great season, and life is good. God is doing so much in our family.  I went to Haiti a few years back on a mission trip and this year we as a family went to El Salvador with our church including Heather Meadows and her family. Today, my wife and I are serving our church by leading a marriage class.

I truly believe that God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Each of the battles that we face is the exact test we need to make us stronger. It grows us so we can share it with someone to help them along in their struggles.

There is so much more to the story.  I gave you the short version. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.  I hope it blesses you. If there are any of you that would like to contact me so I can pray with you, I welcome you contacting me. Or, if you are in a season that just seems never ending and need someone to talk to, my wife and I are always available.

Thank you for the pleasure of sharing with you.

May God bless you and keep you,  Sean Westley-- a child of God! (click on Sean's name to contact him through Facebook)

A Little Thought from Heather: I met Sean sitting in my seat at church, listening, as he bravely stood at the pulpit sharing his testimony.  We've attended church together with our families for over six years.  I've observed Sean Westley.  I've watched him worship, with abandonment, holding nothing back.  To meet Sean is to know him.  He is transparent, genuine and authentic and the gratitude he has for his life restored overflows in his everyday interactions.  I'm honored to know this man and his beautiful family.  We've all been through some mud and mire.  Allowing the Lord to shine through it is a powerful testimony to our world.  May you and yours be blessed and encouraged this Christmas season by Sean's story.  A story illustrating The Gift we celebrate this time of year--  Jesus wrapped up His hope, His love, His grace to transform our lives when He came to this earth, born in a manger, loving us to the cross and giving us victory in His resurrection.  Merry Christmas!  Much love, Heather ❤️

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Election Results - Regardless of the Outcome

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A few weeks ago we were buzzing around the kitchen making lunches, unloading the dishwasher and getting breakfast. For some reason or another, completely off topic from the current task, Jaron made a comment about how destitute our country would be if a particular presidential candidate was voted into office. At times I really wonder what triggers their thoughts. Like all Americans, we have had many discussions regarding the election. Brooklyn will be able to vote in the next presidential election so this one felt more relevant to her. Nevertheless, I didn’t think any of our discussions had created a mindset of gloom and doom. I don’t know. Maybe because we weren’t super passionate about our options. There could have been some subliminal tones of negativity.

I explained to Jaron that out of the presidential elections I’ve been able to vote in, not every person I voted for won the election. While the people on the losing end feel they’re left with a result that isn’t what is best, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of life-as-we-know-it. Our hope is not in the candidate. Our hope is in the Lord. I wrapped it up with this, “Jaron, either way this election goes, I know one thing to be true. The Lord will take care of His people.

Several months ago in my prayers for our country, I began praying one scripture. Psalm 7:9 “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure— You, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.” And this prayer was not dependent on whether one candidate won or another. This prayer is the cry of my heart for our country. Only the Lord knows hearts and minds, and I interceded for Him to help me see beyond the person and see who He could use. On the day after Election Day, I pray no matter what side we were on, we can continue to seek the Lord to work through our leaders.

Most of my children voted yesterday, not at a polling station but in their classrooms. And while they don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the big picture, they are learning the importance of the process. Their votes weren’t counted yesterday but they cast them nevertheless. They practiced what it is to exercise a right, a privilege and a responsibility granted to them by the sacrifices of so many before them. Again, regardless of the outcome, your vote honored our veterans.

Before we left for school this morning we had prayer for our country. This isn’t a sporting event with a winning and losing team. This is the UNITED States of America, so we interceded for unity. I think of it similar to marriage. You know when you have a fight with your spouse? (If you’ve ever fought with your spouse. I realize some of us may have more experience than others). But even if you get your point across, it doesn’t feel like you’ve won anything, because fighting brings dissension. And somewhere in the moment, we have to desire unity over being right.

My friend Jayne Patton said it so well in her Facebook post this morning,

I'm sorry - gloating just looks terrible on believers. If you truly believe God answered your prayers, then with all humility - be grateful. Don't be tempted to take credit for something you profess God did. Maintain a spirit of repentance. Look for opportunities to share the gospel. Love well and seek to build unity. And please, PLEASE continue to pray for our Nation!! The battle isn't over until Jesus comes...#sameconversationIhadwithmykids #startsinthehome

Lastly, I have to share what another friend posted, “Wouldn't it be nice if we were as vocal about our belief in Christ as we were about which candidate we wanted to win? Life is short. If you are a believer you know who wins in the end. Stop pouting and go tell your loved ones what they mean to you, hug your friends, forgive those who've hurt you, share your faith, and make a difference in the life of another. Those are the things that matter in eternity.”

That is some good stuff.

If you won- congratulations. Pray for your leaders.

If you lost- I’m sorry. Pray for your leaders.

Let’s aim for eternity and meet on the other side. God has something way better in store! In the meantime, if things get too uncomfortable maybe we should meet up in Disney. I did see a shirt that said, “friends who Disney together, stay together.”

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