inspiration

Journey with Jen: Mommin'

Journey with Jen: Mommin'

The month of May is full of so many changes for many of us mamas, but one thing that never changes is how much we love being moms. This month, Journey with Jen as she takes a look at lessons learned in Motherhood. 

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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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Journey with Jen: Bailing

Journey with Jen: Bailing

Everyone has times in their lives that feel like stormy seas, times that feel like we are sinking instead of sailing. During those seasons, we may feel like there is no such thing as trying hard enough and we are consistently taking on water. This month, Journey with Jen as she learns that bailing your own boat isn’t always the answer. 

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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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Guest Post: Why Getting Rid of My Stuff Made Me Happier

Guest Post: Why Getting Rid of My Stuff Made Me Happier

This week, learn how Jenn Baxter found peace, joy and fulfillment by simplifying her life and getting rid of 80% of her belongings.  After going through a string of traumatic events over the course of just a couple years, Jenn found herself emotionally and physically depleted.  But instead of spiraling downward into despair, God started her on a new journey by"stripping down" and "cleaning up" her life, which allowed her to not only survive the storms, but to rise above them.  

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Where Are We Going?  A Post for The New Year.

Where Are We Going?  A Post for The New Year.

Three focus points hit my heart regarding my approach to the New Year when I was recently driving in some unfamiliar territory.  I pray you take a few moments for me to share them with you and that you continue to join us in 2018.  We are so grateful for your support!   

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Dare to Dream

I read about a man who had a failed business venture and didn’t even have enough money to buy a railroad ticket to leave the scene of his failure. As the story goes he went door to door photographing babies, then sold his camera and bought a one-way ticket to California. Here’s my favorite part:

He left Kansas City in July, wearing a checkered coat and un-matching pants. He had $40 cash, and his imitation-leather suitcase contained only a shirt, two undershorts, two pairs of socks and some drawing material. But when he paid his fare for the trip to California, he bought a first-class ticket.1

A first-class ticket?!?!

It seems foolish for a guy who had just begged and borrowed for his failed business to spend money on a first-class ticket. Seems frivolous. A misprioritization of funds. But this man had a first-class dream only fitting for a first-class ticket.

The man was Walt Disney.

Walt had first–class vision and considering he left Missouri on the heels of defeat, I’d say he had first-class ambition. In reading his biography by Bob Thomas, Walt Disney: An American Original, I learned many things about Walt. Much was unknown to me, but for the parts I knew, I gained a deeper understanding. For instance, Walt didn’t face just this one obstacle of failure. He faced several. But one of the reasons I find him to be so inspiring is his relentless determination to hold on to his dream.

Stories like Walt’s inspire me to pursue God’s callings even though I have no guarantee of success and to keep trucking even if I’m met with some obstacles of failure.

First-class vision. First-class ambition.

Maybe you don’t have a Walt Disney sized dream. I mean, seriously, who would’ve ever imagined? But the potential for what God wants to produce from your dream will never be known unless you keep trying. Maybe it won’t look like what you thought it would. Maybe it will be more than you could have ever thought or imagined.

Ephesians 3:19-21 TLB Now glory be to God, who by His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.

There are some visions in my heart that just seem downright crazy. One I shared with my pharmacology instructor in nursing school. As I was speaking it out I thought, “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. She probably thinks I’m nuts.” But something must have resounded in her, because she, to this day, is one of my biggest encouragers and supporters to keep moving toward that vision.

Here are some questions to consider…

Would you pursue your goal even if others doubted your ability?

If you failed at something you desired would you try again?

Do you look for new possibilities when you get rerouted from the original goal?

These were my thoughts last year when approaching my test to get my national certification in neonatal nursing. The reality of failure was thick. I mean I’d walk out with a paper that either said, PASS or FAIL.

I had studied and studied still yet, felt like I hadn’t studied enough. I married my book for a good two weeks. I went through all online practice questions, looking at not only the right answer, but also all three of the wrong answers per question, making notes as to the rationale for each one.

It was pouring down rain the day I went to take the test and on my way there I got a call that my daughter’s school was on lockdown for a reported gun on campus! Seriously! Talk about being rattled when you’re already rattled! At the reassurance of my husband, I proceeded on to the testing center thankful for him to be making decisions regarding the safety of our child.

The few items I took into the testing center were zipped in a bag and locked away. I lifted my pants for an evaluation that I wasn’t stowing any cheat sheets in my socks. Cameras were recording every moment, and I was suppose to relax, focus and think. Did I mention I have testing anxiety? I kept thinking, “Why do I do this to myself?!” Then it came time for the photo. I knew this photo would either have a pass or fail beside it when I left, but I chose to smile anyway.

This was my goal. This was my personal desire. I knew I needed to smile because no matter the outcome I was going to give my best, and I was going to keep trying. No one or nothing could influence my motivation more than my own desire.

I guess God has hard wired that approach in me by this point. I mean, considering this blog, I consistently overcome questions of my own doubt and it’s value to others when I write. Then there’s the book, the memoir I’m writing. How many times I’ve asked myself, “What if no one reads it?” To add to it are the speaking commitments. It’s awesome being asked to speak at an event, but what’s the point if no one shows up to hear it, or if it’s not relevant to them in their life?

I suppose what makes a dream a dream, is the possibility of failure or of it never becoming a reality. Without the latter, it’s not really a dream at all.

But who wants to fail? Who wants to invest their heart, thoughts and efforts into something that may never come to fruition?

No one, I would think. But wouldn’t we miss something of great value if we didn’t go for it? And even if it doesn’t pan out, we know that we’re becoming something in the process, more of who God wants us to be.

Well, we’ll never know if we quit, or never even try.

It’s why we do what we do unto the Lord and not unto people (Colossians 3:23), because God will get us where He wants us to be. He will make us into more of who He wants us to be through the process, but we have to stay the course, focused on Him.

Walt Disney buying that first-class ticket shows me that failure is more of a mindset than a reality. As Walt said, “Around here however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Nothing holds a candle to God’s creative work in our lives. But we play a part. We have to dare to dream.

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, sharing with your friends and family, or making a purchase below? We can’t grow with out you.

**If you are considering testing for your RNC, I invite you to purchase my study notes.  Your purchase will help us generate funds needed for website redevelopment and editing our book for publishing! The notes are compromised from the book Core Curriculum for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by M. Terese Verklan and Marlene Walden. My study notes include all lab values as listed in the book, and the online practice questions, also from the workbook Certification and Core Review for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Fourth Edition by Robin L. Watson. Also included is the information I needed to apply for the test.  After your purchase is complete, the study notes will be emailed to your address provided at checkout.**

Click Here to Purchase RNC Study Guide

1Walt Disney: An American Original (p.66)

 

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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.*

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On the Hunt to Find Value, Importance & Uniqueness

I don’t know much about paintings. To cut to the chase, I’m not much into “The Arts.” I love the performing arts, only when it includes some type of musical, and if it’s a Disney musical it’s even better. I’m not into classical music, although I faked it for several years during my childhood because Aunt Donna listened to it and I was giving my best to be just like her. I’m lacking on classical novels, because reading typically only holds my interest if I get some life application out of it. But back to paintings. I wouldn’t recognize a Van Gogh or Monet if my life depended on it. I do know, however, that the number of paintings produced is one factor that determines its value. Which brings me to a thought. And a question. Or maybe a few questions.

This world is populated with people. So how does one feel unique, valuable and important? Do we sometimes feel that we’re just another face in the crowd? How often do we consider that we’re one-of-a-kind?

Gavin got this post rolling a few months ago after a physical therapy screening he had.

Here’s the back-story:

Gavin has an in-toe walking pattern, what some refer to as pigeon-toed. We were first concerned with the issue when he was two. We asked his pediatrician about it at his well-child check-up that year. The determination was that it was due to internal hip rotation. Made sense. We were informed that it’d be more exaggerated when he was tired, but that it wouldn’t keep him from his ability to run or potentially one-day play sports.

I cannot even tell you how much we love our pediatrician. This doctor has not only cared for all four of our children, but even provided care to me in my teen years, and was a part of Brandon’s and my big day, attending our wedding! This isn’t just a physician to us. This is a very special individual. With that in mind, we didn’t take it lightly to get a second opinion. But let me say, if a doctor is offended for you to get a second opinion, maybe it’s not the right doctor for you. I knew ours would completely understand, so we saw a pediatric orthopedic specialist who took x-rays, did a physical assessment and returned the same determination. So we moved on with the thought that this was just the way God made Gavin.

Fast-forward four years. We signed Gavin up to play soccer when he was six. He hated it. We found out it was because of the running.

The following summer Jaron would put Gavin in as his goalie when Jaron practiced soccer at home. What a sweet big brother, potentially kicking soccer balls right at the baby brother. No slack around here. 😂

After a summer of being Jaron’s goalie, Gavin wanted to sign-up for soccer again. No surprise—as a goalie!

It was a better fit for him. However, I was concerned when he told me he wanted to sign-up for basketball. Despite giving him the information on the required running in basketball, he still wanted to play, so we signed him up.

A short time later, I was visiting with our physical therapist at work. Many don’t realize that premature babies need physical therapy and it starts early in their life. So here we were, both working on this baby, just visiting. I mentioned Gavin’s history and my doubts over our basketball-season-sign-up decision for him. She replied with, “He may just need inserts.” Inserts? She told me to call the pediatric physical therapy department and ask to make an appointment for a screening. So I did.

I took Gavin for his screening over Christmas break and it was quickly determined that inserts would be really beneficial for him. Through much more detailed explanation, I was also informed that it’s typically hard to make such a determination until after the age of three or four.

This gets us up to the topic here—feeling unique, important and valuable.

When our physical therapist told Gavin she was going to make him shoe inserts, he told her that wouldn’t be necessary because he could just get some at Wal-Mart.

I explained to Gavin that no one on the entire planet had a foot just like his, and that these inserts would be specially-made just for his foot.

It took some convincing but he started to understand his uniqueness—from the top of his head all the way to his little piggies.

Doesn’t seem so profound to us, does it? 

Or does it? I believe we have a lot of people on this earth that don’t quite understand how unique, how valuable and how important they are.

In a song by Natalie Grant she sings, “and you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself.” Well, I believe that pertains to more than love. If we don’t understand how unique, important and valuable we are, it’s difficult to be able to identify how unique, important and valuable others are, which may be the reason why people treat each other so crummy at times. And on the other hand, it may be the reason why people allow others to treat them so crummy.

For us to live a life of fulfillment, we must see our value.

A friend of mine, Tracy Robbins, illustrates this so powerfully in one of her messages. She explained that the MSRP is the value the manufacturer has placed on an item, suggesting how much should be paid for the item. Well, that’s great if you’re studying economics I suppose, but she brought it home in a way I won’t forget. After that bit of information, she says, “And this is how much God says you are worth,” as an image comes on the screen of Jesus Christ, beaten and bloody, with a crown of thorns on his head, hanging on a cross.

God says we are valuable, so valuable that He sent His one and only Son.

It gives much meaning to Ephesians 2:10 that says in the NKJV, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

I guess that’s why I don’t get too carried away with designer stuff, or even gaining knowledge over the Van Goghs and Monets. The Word tells me I am God’s workmanship. In the NLT, it says I’m His “masterpiece.” Masterpiece!!! As in “a work of outstanding artistry!” I am outstanding artistry! Whether others see me as such or not, whether someone would place value on what I have to offer or not, whether I perform to my own level of expectation or not; I am God’s masterpiece. It’s liberating and reassuring.

YOU are God’s masterpiece.

I’m saying your foot isn’t like anyone else. So let’s get out of our Wal-Mart-Shoe-Insert mentality and realize how unique He created us!

In the movie The Help, Abileen spoke words of truth into little Mae as she said, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

Let’s look in the mirror, repeat those words, and remember we are custom-made by God and for God. One-of-a-kind. Unique. Valuable. Important.

****Three ways to help us grow—sharecommentsubscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!Choose this link to see a video of our story

About the video-- the day of Gavin’s casting for his shoe inserts, he was confused asking, “you mean they’re going to put a cast on me?” I said, “No. It’s just what they call it when they make a mold of your foot.” He questioned, “You mean mold is going to grow on my foot?!?!” Obviously I was at a loss for words to effectively explain the process, so like any parent in 2017, I said, “Let’s watch a YouTube video.” However, I could not find one video that was consistent with what we would be doing that day. So I thought, “I need to video this so other kids will know what to expect.” I did just that. But after taking time to assemble the video and publishing it, I found several others that would have been perfect. So I’m going to take this as something we were meant to do, hoping it is still useful for someone.  Here is Gavin's journey through the casting and fitting of his new shoe inserts!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYRc4IQuKpo&feature=em-upload_owner[/embed]

 

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Guest Post: A Thankful Heart

14522310_10103802597491112_2101148165_o *a special post from a special guest* Hi there! My name is Courtney. I'm a daughter, sister, wife, and mother of two. Most people know my most defining role of the past three years is as a "heart mom," a mom fighting the world of congenital heart defects while encouraging her brave three year old in his fight against Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Caysen was born in 2013 after a pregnancy that went smoothly until about 33 weeks. I began having health problems uncharacteristic to my norm, and after MRIs, spinal taps, extensive blood work and multiple specialists; it was determined I had optic neuritis. My body was attacking my optic nerves and taking my vision. After receiving my diagnosis, my mom turned to me and said "there's something special about this baby". It was literally attack after attack, and ironically we had NO idea of his heart defect until after birth. What foreshadowing that sentence had!

Caysen was born "healthy" and we took him home thinking our troubles were behind us. After 15 hours at home he began panting, and it was worrisome. We rushed him back to the hospital where I will never forget the NICU team coming out to us, shaking their heads and barely able to make eye contact with us as his situation was so grim. He was crashing and during the crash he had brain bleeds, liver damage, his lungs were sick, and his kidneys took a hit. This is where we learned of his diagnosis and that it was incompatible with life.14528176_10103802597471152_38629298_n

You see, HLHS essentially means half a heart. The three stages of surgery for it are called "palliative care". If he stabilized, he could potentially sit for the surgeries and have a shot at living a good twenty years or so with half a heart and then potentially need a transplant. There of course are many risks, but the other option was to let him pass.

It is here where we met some of the most encouraging nurses (Heather included!), and where we met doctors with such strong faith and hope in God that they would grab our hands and pray with us over his little incubator all while machines clicked and whirred keeping him alive and allowing him to heal and hopefully sit for his first surgery.

We have walked a long and grueling path over the past few years. Initially we were told Caysen wouldn't make it. God said otherwise. He had his first surgery, then we had a problem with his patched up stents in his heart at five months old. He crashed again. We were told the pump of his heart wasn't good. They told us then we would need a transplant. Then our cardiologist made a last ditch effort in the cath lab doing an intervention procedure and relaxed the heart. Again, God said otherwise.14518237_10103802597436222_1384129447_n

After a grueling third open heart surgery and recovery, complications have now led to us being listed on the heart transplant list.  We continue to recognize God's hand in everything and His perfect timing. God has the ultimate plans and holds our future.  He has shown it time and time again!

Throughout our entire journey we as a family have learned so much about our faith in God. Just when you think you can't take anymore, you're beaten down from the journey and utterly exhausted - you will find God will give you exactly what you need to carry on. You may not know how, but when you least expect it God provides the way. We've learned so much about God's timing versus our timing, and how His timing doesn't always make sense but when we look back you can see how that timing saved us from another complication or difficulty. God is never late.14569204_10103802597456182_879538776_n

We have learned when the pain is just too much to bear, check your perspective. The greatest lessons often come during life's most challenging trials. What can you walk away with? Better perspective? Strength? A reminder to take things one day at a time? To be present in each moment, no matter where you are - even if living in a hospital away from your family - because we aren't promised anything and it's a blessing to still have your child? Find the good. Find the joy. Anne Lamott once said, "joy is the best makeup". Putting a smile on your face can change the whole outcome of your day. On the bad days you might have to look exceptionally hard to find the joy, but choose joy.

Praising God through the storm is difficult, but such an intense form of worship. When the world is crumbling around you, still praising Him and acknowledging His goodness keeps your mind and heart on track. It allows you to lean into Him in the valleys. If you can do this, the view from the mountaintop will be that much sweeter.

I would be honored if you felt led to follow and pray for Caysen's journey as we wait for a new heart. We can be found at Caysen's Heart Updates on Facebook. But most importantly I want to encourage you all today. Everyone has pain and suffering and turmoil, it's impossible to escape in this broken world. It's up to you how you choose to respond to it. I, for one, couldn't have made it this far without my hope in God and our future promises! Such a comfort to know He has this all figured out and a beautiful eternity is the end result!

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Update: When I contacted Courtney back on September 22nd, I could’ve never anticipated what would transpire by the time this post was composed and published.   When she sent it back to me, I knew it was perfect, but not the right time. So like all our posts, I waited for the Lord to nudge me when to share it. Allow me to share what occurred in the meantime….

The call came on October 13th. Caysen received his new heart in the early morning hours of October 14th. He came home with his family on November 13th. After a lifetime in the hospital, going home was a process. Courtney said, “Caysen spent the ride home telling us he didn't want to go home. I think he was confused as he just didn't feel like he lived with us anymore. When we told him Daddy would mow - his attitude changed completely and he was more than excited.”

I asked Courtney if she knew how many days of Caysen’s life have been spent in the hospital. She answered, “Hard to say. This stay was our longest at 184 days. Before that it was 86. Our NICU stay was 72. We had another at least 60 days inpatient between that too, and that might be minimizing.”

This little baby and his family touched my heart over three years ago. The optimism and strength at work in their life is evidence of their relationship with the Lord, their unwavering faith and trust in Him. From the earliest days of their hospital stays, Caysen’s room was filled with praise and worship music. It can be difficult to find something to praise the Lord for when nothing seems right, when your baby is in critical condition facing more unknown than known. But we don’t praise and worship because of our circumstances, we praise and worship for WHO GOD IS. We don’t let our circumstance define God. We let God define the circumstance. And we’ve had the blessing of seeing that demonstrated in The Allen Family.

I pray Caysen’s story brings joy to your holiday. I pray you are encouraged to see God’s hand at work in the trials. I pray your heart overflows with gratitude. And I pray this precious boy inspires you to enlist as an organ, eye and tissue donor. May Caysen’s journey in getting his new heart bless your heart this Thanksgiving.

“After transplant our life quality has changed SO MUCH. He is happy and chatty and interacts with people…….So thankful for life outside of a hospital. For God bringing us a happy heart to allow us more time with Caysen.”- Courtney Allen

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The Other Side of Failing

When my friend Sara and I were revamping the website from heathersblessedjourney.com to heathermeadows.com we also reworked the tag line. Changing the name of the website was going to lose the emphasis placed on the “RN” in jouRNey, but it was still my hope to reflect my work as a nurse somewhere in the new tag line.

We met the goal with two words: “little doses.” It’s a subtle hint most may not even see.   But here’s the story behind it. As a NICU nurse, the amount of medication I administer to my tiny, tiny patients is quite small. Too much is harmful, but those itty-bitty doses achieve great things in their bodies.

That is what I wanted this place to be. A place where you can pop in for a few minutes and grab a little dose of something good. My heartbeat was to inject small amounts of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement from my life moments into yours.

This last week I received more than a “little dose” from a life moment with my daughter.

Let me give a short back-story.

There was a mother and daughter who had a beautiful relationship. But then, something changed. It started with an “H” and ended with “ormones”! It was NOT pretty! This change brought out the worst, most ugly, dark sides of both the mother and daughter. If it had been a marriage, I’m most certain divorce court would have been considered, but parent/child relationships face the good, the bad and the ugly and sometimes have to just hang on for dear life.

Yes. That’s our story. That’s Brooklyn and me. I’ll share more about the season in the book I’m writing, but for now, I want to share with you one of the scriptures I stood on in those dark moments.

Galatians 6:9 NLT So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

I’m not proclaiming there won’t be any more bumps in the road, but I am sharing that when everything hit the fan, when doors were slamming, drinks were tossing, and voices yelling, I’d stand on this scripture as if on a mountain and quote it at the top of my lungs. We got tired. We were wore out. We got discouraged. We were disheartened, disappointed and dismayed at times, but—we would not give up.

“…..a harvest of blessing IF we don’t give up.”

The day the Lord so faithfully brought our baby girl into this world, He had every intention of her life being a blessing. Not just for her parents, but for herself and for Him. We weren’t giving up on that.

And what a blessing she was to me this last week. Watching Galatians 6:9 at work in her own personal life injected an incredibly special dose of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement into my heart.

Brooklyn’s half birthday fell on Sunday, September 4th. Labor Day on Monday pushed Brooklyn back in being able to test for her driver’s permit to Tuesday. She wanted to be the first in line when they opened. We got up on Tuesday at 5am, left the house at 6am and pulled in the parking lot at 6:33am to line up for the 7am opening. Brooklyn was seventh in line.

I stood, waiting excitedly for her to complete her test knowing that she’d get her paper signed and off to the tag agency we’d go for her permit. Well, she didn’t pass.

A bit taken aback, she declared that we aren’t the type of people who quit in the face of failure and that she wanted to try again the next day. Super proud parent moment.

So. There you have it. We got up Wednesday morning, a smidge bit earlier at 4:30am, left the house at 5:30am, and we arrived an hour before opening, putting us third in line. We checked in and the agent asked Brooklyn, “Did they tell you about the skip button?” Brooklyn said, “No.” The agent informed, “If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can hit ‘skip’. If it’s a question you need it will come back around, but it may not come back at all.” Awesome!

I took a seat over by the door on the bench. Brooklyn completed the test and walked around the corner. I whispered, “How’d it go?” She shook her head. I responded quietly and compassionately, “What?”

We’re doing a parent-taught driving course, so I knew she knew the information to pass the test. We got in the car and before I could ask a question the floodgates opened. Whoa! Emotion! Hold the phone!

In borderline hysteria she proceeded to express all the inadequacies attached to that test. I was sifting through my mental rolodex of encouraging words, when she revealed, “And when I checked back in with the lady, she asked me why I didn’t skip any of the questions but I just thought I could answer them without having to!!!”

“Wait. What?” I couldn’t believe she didn’t take the lady’s advice and skip the questions. Not one!   This shifted our conversation from the topic of intellect to the issue of pride. Was she too prideful to humble herself in admitting that she possibly didn’t have all the answers to every question? Hmm.

The girl made it back before school started and I anticipated the possibility that she may just want to push it off for a few days to review. Maybe she’d want to go ahead and miss school for an afternoon testing time. Some of us just can’t think when the sun is barely up.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t surprised when I picked her up from school and she decided to go back on Thursday, for the third day in a row, before the crack of dawn to try again. Nope. I wasn’t shocked. Galatians 6:9 was at work within her. She was gonna reap a blessing cause she wasn’t gonna give up!

So up we were again, in the dark of the morning, headed in for round three reviewing the blessing of the “skip” button! In the true ironies of life, I got pulled over for doing around or about 75 in a 65. Let me tell you about grace. The Lord must have sprinkled our car with the pixie dust of His favor because that officer gave me a warning on no account of my own. Although I’m a talker, I don’t say too much when flashing lights, a uniform and handcuffs accompany the individual. What a story for Brooklyn to tell her kids one day.

Brooklyn checked in, was humble, raw and transparent with the agent and confirmed what she needed to know to approach this test. “Ma’am, this is my third time here.” (Which honestly, the lady already knew. By this point we felt maybe we should add the two Department of Public Safety agents to our Christmas card list). Brooklyn expressed her understanding of the skip button wanting to make sure it would not penalize her for the number of times she hit it. Then Brooklyn went over to take her test. At this point I headed out to the car, where she and I had agreed to meet.

I sat in the car with a small view of Brooklyn standing at the voting-booth-style computer. I prayed for her. “Lord, You created her innermost being. You stitched her together. I pray You speak Your peace, calmness and confidence from the top of her head to the sole of her feet. Let her know You have equipped her for success. Give her assurance.” And on and on I prayed.

I watched as she walked back over to the lady, had an exchange that I couldn’t see and proceeded out to the car. I got out of the car and there she did it—a thumbs up! I may have gotten overly excited. Oh, who am I kidding?! I totally got overly excited and she and I hugged and jumped like giddy girls in the parking lot of the DPS!

Brooklyn said that when she went back to the agent to get her paper signed, the lady exclaimed, for all to hear, “You passed!!!” And she only skipped two questions, not missing any! The agent was so happy for Brooklyn!

“…..a harvest of blessing IF we don’t give up.”

I know Brooklyn contemplated canning the whole idea. I know because in her despair of failing the second time she expressed those very thoughts. But we all know that’s not even a logical option. She’d have to pass it at some point in her life.

The question for us to consider though is: How many blessings have we missed out on because we gave up?

I can’t recall how many times I’ve said, “Just forget it!” or “I’m done!” or “I quit!” Sometimes our emotions make us completely illogical. Exactly the reason we don’t make important decisions when we’re super emotional. In those times, this Voice inside me says, “Heather, don’t give up. I have good things in store for you. Believe. Persevere. Press in.”

The Lord whispers that truth to all of us. Our challenges may look a little different but we’ve all got them, and there is a blessing tucked inside each and every one we overcome!

Thank you for spending some time allowing me to share this life moment with you! Please take it for the little dose of inspiration, joy, strength and encouragement it has tucked into it.

Bless you!

*side note- thankful my girl wanted me to share this story for whomever it could encourage.

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The Good Things

This week we had the opportunity to sit in our kitchen and visit with some fine folks from a local television show. After the microphone was tucked away, the camera packed up and the vehicle pulled out of the driveway, I got to thinking about how God doesn’t just open doors, He opens them in ways we often don’t even anticipate. The Explore Tulsa show door opened because of a thank you note. Over the summer I had written a thank you note to Video Revolution. They’re people who not only know cutting edge electronics, but they have heart too. Almost a year ago, Brandon shared with them how the Lord was calling us to share our story, and our need to video the events. They captured the vision and met the need. The least I could do was write a thank you note. Well, who would’ve known Video Revolution sponsors the Explore Tulsa show? That one note led to an email, a phone call, an interview, and soon a segment to air covering our story. God is so creative.

It’s a statement I find myself repeating over and over again. The creative plans of God are far above what we can think or imagine. I certainly would’ve never imagined how He would take such tragedy, loss and sadness and bring life, joy and abundance out of it.

One of my favorite, slightly embarrassing, but really funny stories about God’s creative plans goes back five years ago. I was in my first semester of nursing school at OU. I was in the 3pm-11pm clinical group. We had two back-to-back clinical days each week. The patient I was assigned to on day one was going into surgery the next day. As a student I desired the chance to observe the surgery. When the elderly patient asked me if I would be there, it gave me the motivation I needed to inquire of the possibility.

The next day, we’ll call surgery day, was the day the nursing students were assigned to be working a health fair for the Tulsa Run registrants. It was a late night before, and an early morning start. That may not sound like pertinent information, but it explains why I never took the time to eat. I stayed at the health fair until my clinical instructor gave me the green light to leave a little early, making it to the hospital for the patient’s surgery.

I checked in at the OR where I was escorted to change out of my nursing student scrubs and into surgical scrubs. Afterwards, a nurse accompanied me to the OR where I was encouraged to find a place out of the way, and not to draw any attention, or ask any questions, because the surgeon didn’t like students. Wow! Talk about intimidating. But I found a corner, where I assumed I’d be able to see, and I planned to be inconspicuous.

Shortly thereafter, the door swung open and a man walked right up to me and asked, “Are you the student?” I said, “Yes, I am.” Then another question, “Do you want to see something you’ll never see again in your life?” I said, “Absolutely.”

I walked with him over to view an X-Ray as he explained to me that the patient had an amyand hernia. Then this surgeon, who supposedly didn’t even like students asked, “do you want to scrub in?” WHAT?!?! No. That’s what I said on the inside, but allow me to use quotations so you’ll realize how composed I was on the outside. “What does that entail?” He said, “Come on. I’ll show ya.”

So over we went to scrub in. As I washed and washed, up to my elbows, Dr. Johnson inquired of my burn injury. The questions, “how were you injured?” and “where did you receive your care?” revealed that Dr. Johnson not only knew my surgeons, but remembered my case. It was a neat moment to say the least.

Do you feel all the nice warm fuzzies? Hang on to those. It gets better.

There I was all scrubbed in, donning the sterile gloves and sterile gown, we moseyed up to the surgical field. Dr. Johnson instructed me to put my hands right up there by his. The surgery started, the incision was made and the cauterizing began. Now is the time I should remind you I hadn’t eaten that day. As the fat was cauterized the smell overwhelmed me. I remember the voice of Ms. BDub (our nickname for our clinical instructor) ringing in my head, “Don’t let anyone take away your opportunity to learn.” I was telling myself to pull it together, not wanting to throw the opportunity out the window from my own doing.

I’ve never completely passed out, but I was on my way that day. My head was sooo light. I was trying so very hard to hold it together. I believe I took a step back, keeping my hands in position on the sterile field, I then leaned over about to go down. Dr. Johnson yelled, “Grab her.” Suddenly, someone’s arms were around my waste and everyone was asking, “what’s her name,” “what’s her name?” I answered in a barely-with-it slur, “Heeeaaattthhherrrr.”

Oh dear. There was a whole need to scrub back in. Not for me. No, they found me a little stool to sit on for the duration of the surgery. Nevertheless, I was shocked when Dr. Johnson invited me in for the next case. It was nothing I could’ve ever anticipated. It was a skin graft on a burn patient.

What an incredible moment seeing for the first time what I had experienced so many, many times before. It was surreal. In my spirit I prayed for the patient, anticipating his pain upon awakening for him. Bless his heart. Skin grafts are not pleasant.

Couldn’t get much more incredible than that could it? One wouldn’t think. But with God life holds incredible moments when we least expect them.

A few weeks later I got a call from the marketing team at Hillcrest, the hospital I had received my burn care and the same hospital I was then doing my clinicals at, over twenty years later.

Dr. Johnson had suggested me for a marketing campaign they were launching.

Who would’ve ever thought? The girl who got excused early from community nursing hours to attend a surgery where the surgeon had a reputation of not even liking students, to getting an invitation to scrub in and practically blowing it by nearly fainting, to getting another invitation for a very personal experience on another surgery, to topping it off with a request to be a part of a television commercial and newspaper ads? You’ve got to be kidding!

Only God. Only God.

Every door He opens I know is His equipping of every good thing to accomplish His will.

In this post I hope you’ve had a little laughter and received a lot of hope.   The Lord uses everything. His ways are higher. His plans are creative. He wants you in the middle of it all!

Hebrews 13:21 (NLV) May God give you every good thing you need so you can do what He wants. May He do in us what pleases Him through Jesus Christ. May Christ have all the shining-greatness forever! Let it be so.

Explore Tulsa airs locally on: Saturdays Channel 19 at 6pm Sunday Channel 6 at Midnight Wednesdays Channel 47 at 10pm segments are also on their website  www.exploretulsa.com

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video from the Hillcrest Changing Lives Campaign

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfkDF46M5z4

Exlpore Tulsa- interviews December 5th 2015

Part 1

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

Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mZTganfOVM

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Share Your Story

I feel like I need to introduce myself. Hi. I’m Heather Meadows, the absentee blog writer. I can’t believe it’s been fifteen days since our last post.

Now would be a good time to thank you for your continued support and welcome the new subscribers. During this downtime I did a little more than get in some fabulous vacation time with the family, I also got in some fabulous opportunities to share my story with such wonderful groups of people.

I continually say there’s power in our stories. If I didn’t believe it, I wouldn’t be shaking up my predictable life with the forecast of unpredictability common for every speaker. Who knows what the next few months will look like? It truly is putting one step in front of the other being available to the Lord as He opens doors.  It’s all about being where He wants us to be when He wants us to be there. Sometimes that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you try to put paper and pencil to it. But my God is much bigger than paper and pencil plans, so I’m going where He leads regardless if I see the whole picture or not.

So back to the power of our stories. The last thirteen years has provided a variety of experiences to speak into diverse groups. Maybe it’s because the opportunities were here and there, or maybe it’s because I’m in a different place with such vision and intention, but I’m receiving something I never anticipated out of these commitments—and it’s your stories.

I take in the faces of those in an audience. Typically they start out with a polite and welcoming look. At points they have such depths of compassion. Sometimes I observe surprise in their eyes as I share things maybe they didn’t assume, because you know we sum each other up whether we intend to or not, and sometimes we’re surprised by information we wouldn’t have thought based on our impression. Reminds me of the nursing student who shadowed me recently. She looked so young and hip, so vibrant and fresh. I was stunned when she answered my question, “So do you have children?” I totally didn’t expect her to say, “Eight.” And no, no blended family. No his, hers and ours. She and her husband felt it was God’s will for them to have a large family, so they did. And she, having double the amount of children I have, appeared far more together than what I give myself credit for; therefore, I assumed she may have not had any. Oh what surprise! The same look of surprise I commonly observe in those opportunities I’m given to publicly share my own story.

Then there’s the melting. When I expose what’s beneath my image, I watch others let their own melt away. As it does, those walls we so naturally walk around with protecting our disappointments, our hurt, our painful memories, our tragedies and losses seem to come down. Being vulnerable with my audiences provides the opportunity for them to be vulnerable with me. It’s communicating, “See how damaged I’ve been, on the inside as well as the outside. See how God can take something so broken and put it back better than it could have been before. You’re safe to think what you think and feel how you feel. And you’re safe to believe it can be more.” What moves me to tears is the thought that those who desire to speak with me at the end of an event do so because something I shared connected within them and they want to share a piece of their self with me, those pieces we typically keep so poised and polished. What a privilege to see people so personally.

Above all the expressions I see, one element fuels me to continue on bearing all for God’s glory. The testimonies. Testimonies inspire people to believe and trust God for His mighty works in their life. How blessed I feel to hear so many. It’s like I carry along a treasure chest collecting encouragement from those who take a moment to share what God has done in their life with me. Your testimonies fan the flame inside me knowing how important it is to press on down this path wherever He may lead.

What He has called me to as a nurse, as a writer, as a speaker makes me so aware of His presence, everywhere. Whether I’m wearing scrubs for the day, standing with a mic in my hand, or sitting at this computer writing, receiving your stories in return touches me and makes me so deeply grateful the Lord called me to simply share of myself.

O Lord, you are my God;

    I will exalt you; I will praise your name,

for you have done wonderful things,

    plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Share your story with us-- comment below to tell others of such wonderful things.  And remember, we're always grateful for those private messages too.

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personal messages welcomed to speaking@heathermeadows.com

Please be in prayer with us for:

November 6th, 7th & 8th Hearts in Full Bloom Retreat in Tulakogee

November 13th & 14th Exciting Southeast Baptist Women's Retreat in Pryor

We invite you to watch the following video and share with your friends. Copy and paste the URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-3u3RONI8 or search “Heather Meadows Story” on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-3u3RONI8

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A Name Given

I remember the first time I saw my name in print. It was the spring of 1999 just before our June 19th wedding, and it was on a hotel reservation that had come in the mail for our road-trip honeymoon. Since we weren’t old enough to have the option of renting a car, we decided we probably shouldn’t fly anywhere, so we drove.  Oh the challenges for those married young. When I got that envelope in the mail I remember just staring at that name. Heather Meadows. That was going to be me. I didn’t identify with the name. I had spent eighteen years as Heather Cochrane, but I was soon to take on a new name. A name given to me by my husband, and one I’ve spent the last sixteen identified by.

Over the years I received occasional comments about it. For instance, one was when we had our family accounting business. I called the IRS for an audit on one of our accounts. I gave all the necessary information along with my name and the agent said, “Wasn’t your mom creative.” I was taken aback because my Mom and I shared the same office, prompting my mind to consider that maybe the agent had spoke to her regarding the account, but still wondering how in the world the agent knew we were related. Something clicked quickly, and I amusingly informed the agent that “Meadows” was my married name.

That scenario has happened more than once. It’s where I came up with saying, “Heather Meadows. Heather like a flower. Meadows like a field.” It is a nice fit. And sweeter still—it was given to me!

I’ve been so proud to carry my husband’s name and that of his family’s. I remember shortly after we got married having this discussion about how Christ gives us His name when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior—we become Christians, carrying His name and representing Him to others. And Jesus paid it all to give us His name. It is truly a gift— given!

We speak to our children about their names too. We teach them that their name is a reflection of their family, and that their actions should honor the name which has been given to them. Just as we steward those things the Lord has entrusted to us, our time, our money, our home, our vehicles; we must steward the name He has given us.

And it is this name I have carried the last sixteen years, the name I have identified myself with that I slowly become detached from in the process of changing the website name.

Why change the name of our website?

To be completely transparent, the answer is, I’m not completely sure.

Brandon and I knew God was stirring change. We knew this tragic story of loss and injury had to be shared. The Lord has given us enough opportunities to experience how He can use it for others. I know He spared my life for far more than my own fulfillment of it. What He accomplished on that dirt road back in 1988, and in those operating rooms and in that hospital bed and in those therapy sessions was for His glory. And it must be shared.

Our ongoing online development revealed to us that most of the searches going to Heather’s Blessed JouRNey were simply searches for Heather Meadows. So it seemed obvious to us that if we were going to change it, we’d just change it to my name. Make it "easy peasy" for visitors to find us and to share our testimony.

Well. Actually. It would have been just that…simple. In the process of trying to obtain heathermeadows.com, I became further and further removed from my own name. This was never about me to begin with. However, being real, it seems natural to say, “yes, that’s me!” or raise a hand, when your name is called. But not in this story. No. I was four months asking to obtain a domain of my own name. I was ten thousand dollars removed from my own name.

“By definition, a God-ordained dream will always be beyond your ability and beyond your resources. But that is how God gets the glory.” Mark Batterson, The Grave Robber

I’m so thankful this was complicated. I’m so thankful it wasn’t a simple process. What would we have missed had it been?

We would have missed growing in trust and obedience. We would have missed an experience to be totally wowed and impressed by His hand at work in the smallest details. We would have missed a gift given. We would have missed an opportunity to build a friendship, visit a new place and we would have missed a chance to share our story.  Additionally, we would have missed the anticipation of what He wants to do through what He's already done.

Because it wasn't simple, we now get to meet the sweet couple who generously gave us our new online home, Joel and Lori Pacheco. In one week we will be meeting them face to face, hugging their necks, sharing some meals, and speaking at their church.  We're getting far more than a domain name-- that would have been too simple!

Mark Batterson writes in The Grave Robber, “And when you experience a miracle, the way you steward it is by believing God for even bigger and better miracles.”

Yes. My name is Heather Meadows and I’m a steward. I’m stewarding some miracles. From that seven year-old little girl, to her married name, to the website she shares it at. All beyond my abilities. All for God’s glory!

I pray that through this gift given to me, the Lord will pass on many more gifts.  It is my hope to give a little something to you in each visit.  The baby nurse in me administers little doses of what little babies need.  May you receive the perfect portion of encouragement, inspiration, joy, and strength, through Him who provides for all our needs.

Isaiah 12:4 ESV

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,

call upon His name,

make known His deeds among the peoples,

proclaim that His name is exalted.

*Still to come-- a picture with Joel and Lori!

*click heathermeadows.com to tour the new site

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We're Moving!

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

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:

your burnt offerings and sacrifices

or your obedience to his voice?

Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,

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

His voice. Obedience to His voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obedience. Obedience to His voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obedience.  Obedience to His voice.

 

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

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

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

VISIT  www.heathermeadows.com  JUNE 19th 2015

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Inspiring Influence

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

Dictionary.com provides the following:

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

British Dictionary definitions for inspire:

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

Word Origin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were intentional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inspiring Joy

Have you ever heard someone laughing and, without even knowing what was being laughed about, you started laughing too? I have. The sound of laughter is downright funny. It’s a pleasant sound, an amusing emotion and is instantly contagious. There is one whose sound of laughter tickles me more than any I’ve ever heard--- it’s my mom’s laughter. My mom doesn’t let an opportunity for laughing pass her by. She will belt out a hearty laugh even if it’s not really that funny. Hearing her prompts an instinctive reaction in myself. I’m going to laugh whether I intend to or not. I’ll find myself questioning, “Why am I laughing? It wasn’t funny.”

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It’s more than laughter. It’s inspiration.

It’s a trait I’ve hoped to express in my own life. A couple weeks ago I received a great compliment when we were at the soccer fields for a tournament with our oldest son Jaron. Getting our tails whipped on a muddy field, my cheers were laden with positive reinforcement. As with previous posts, I’m not a sports guru, but I don’t believe we “kick ‘em while they’re down.” That was when Brooklyn leaned over to me and said, “Mom, you know that character ‘Joy’ on the new Disney movie ‘Inside Out’?” I answered,“Yes,” because I’ve watched some trailers and we can’t wait to see it on its June 19th release date, which so happens to be Brandon and my 16th Anniversary; what a perfect way to celebrate. Brooklyn continues, “Well, while everyone has a ‘Joy’ in their head, I think your ‘Joy’ character is REALLY, REALLY BIG!"

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It was one of the greatest compliments I could have received from one who has observed me, studied me, and sometimes imitated me since she entered this world; my daughter. And it was a compliment that complimented the one who I have observed, studied and even imitated since I entered this world; my Mom.

My Mom’s laughter is a battle cry, an anthem to her God and a signal to the enemy that she is victorious, she is an overcomer, and not only has she won, but she still has what many people lose in a battle, her joy. My Mom’s joy is a reflection of her relationship with God.

Philippians 4:4  Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Always? It couldn’t really mean “always,” right?

תמיד, tamid, prounounced taw-meed, the Hebrew word for always, meaning constantly, ever, continually.

Could it happen? Is it true? How can it be?

My mom’s anthem goes something like this:

Susan Cochrane arrived to the scene of a tragic motorcycle accident. Her nine year-old son’s lifeless body covered on that nearby country road. When shock would overwhelm the mind to function, she surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit Who gave her the strength to crawl into a helicopter with the burned and injured body of her daughter.

Susan Cochrane endured the unknowns of her seven year-old daughter’s injuries sustained from that accident; would she live; would she walk; would she have quality of life?

Susan Cochrane spent her life visiting doctors and therapists for her daughter’s rehabilitation, followed by visits for the care of her husband’s ailing body, as affected by diabetes and heart failure.

Susan Cochrane stood at yet another grave near her son’s, seventeen years later, burying her husband.

A widow at fifty-three, she experienced what it was, for the very first time in her life, to live alone. Even with the death of my brother, my Mom had had my Dad to crawl in bed and grieve together. Losing Dad provided solitude she was not accustomed to, nor desired.

Heartache. Grief. Emptiness. Desperation. Loneliness.

However, joy not sacrificed.

My Mom is one of the most optimistic, upbeat, enthusiastic, look-for-the-good, and hopeful people I know. And she’s my Mom! How incredibly awesome is that?! Not only do I know her, but I’m related to her, and I’m an heir to the greatest asset she could impart—her joy.

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You may be reading this and thinking, “That is so special. I am so happy for you. God knew you needed that influence in your life for what life held for you, but I came from a bunch of negative nellies and I’m just inclined to think pessimistically.”

I’ve heard it said, “You can’t give what you don’t possess.” The Word tells us we all can live a life of joy! It’s a choice to tap into the abundant resources the Lord provides to us. Even better, it’s not contingent upon our circumstances. Being glad, having joy, living in peace are by-products of following the Lord and trusting in Him.

What a blessing I count it that I have had the privilege of seeing such joy lived before me, but if you haven’t, I pray my Mom’s Inspiring Joy, inspires you to live an inspiring life for all whom your life touches.

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Romans 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 8:32  “And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful.

Proverbs 16:20  Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

2 Corinthians 6:10  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

2 Corinthians 13:11  Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Galatians 5:22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Zephaniah 3:17  For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Colossians 1:11  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,

1 Peter 1:6  So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.

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

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