vulnerability

Abandoning the Imperfections

Let’s talk about comfort zones. Or risk zones. Or danger zones. I feel like there are signs regarding all three just sitting here composing this post. The thing is, I’m willing to stretch myself to share my experiences, feelings and thoughts to encourage others as the Lord directs me, (see that comma? It’s the contingency mark to this situation), I’m willing to stretch myself as long as it’s not too far outside the comfort zone and as long as I don’t merge over the line into any risk or danger. Let’s keep it relatively safe and dignified.

Well, I’m nearly one hundred words into this and there’s a photo attached, therefore, I’m already very much outside the comfort zone.

Over the last fourteen days my requests for the Lord to speak the next post into my heart have returned quite silent. I wanted to set this particular one on the back burner and share it another day. Okay. Possibly never. It wouldn’t be the first post I’ve written that I never published. But above my dignity is my desire for Him to use this blog to encourage and inspire others when they need it most. In order to receive the next one, I must be obedient to share this one. This post is my abandonment of self for His glory. This post is my David-moment, dancing with all my might.

2 Samuel 6:14-15, 20-22 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

For most of my life I dreamed of the day when medical advancements would remove my scars. In nearly three decades, that day hasn’t come.

In that time I’ve given much effort to covering my body and hiding my scars. No matter how many years and how much I’ve grown I’ve never got used to people staring. For the most part, when people see me they don’t notice my scars too terribly much because of my clothing. Actually, some don’t realize the extent of my injury. Until…..

Until I wear a swimsuit.

My backyard is a safe place surrounded by people who know me and love me, and while yes, they do obviously see my scars, they see me first. A public place is just the opposite. People don’t know me, therefore, they see the scars first. The looks could be categorized as curious or puzzled, but the expression I receive is negative and uncomfortable.

I’ve even experienced a couple individuals sharing those very thoughts with me. One random lady came up to me in the grocery store asking if she could pray with me for the Lord to take my scars away. Another was a man who went to our church attributing my scars to a lack of faith. I think Taylor Swift could have also been inspired by the super-spiritually-detached when she sang Shake It Off. In those situations there’s nothing else to do. Just go your separate ways picturing Olaf in your mind when he said, “he’s crazy.” (You should totally click here and watch the short clip.)

These instances explain why a baggage of inhibition accompanies me every time I put on a swimsuit, including recent events when our beach-loving family went to Hawaii for this year’s vacation. But as if it wasn’t enough to merely go in my swim shorts and tankini, the Lord challenged me with my very own David-moment….take pictures in a TWO PIECE!!!

And that’s only one part of the story (as you know, there’s always more than one part).

The other is that it is October. It’s been a couple months since this body has seen sun, especially my torso! So there I was, out on the beach for the first four days of our vacation, for the very first time in my entire life wearing a two-piece in public! While there was never any strolling along the beach, I was jumping hurdles of insecurities just sitting there in my lounge chair.

The third part of the two-piece swimsuit challenge was the day we actually took the photos. We got to the location and snapped a few photos in my dress. Nice, peaceful, no-people-around place. No. Not a soul. God honoring my obedience, right? Well, maybe Him challenging me more. It’s the only reason I can conclude as to why the moment that I was just pulling my dress off here came a wedding party! A WEDDING PARTY!!!! You’ve got to be kidding me! Talk about a test of commitment. I nearly bailed. And nearly vomited.

So why do it?

While I was incredibly inhibited I envisioned the image as a very powerful illustration of not only survival, but of overcoming. The Lord put it in my heart to share these scars for the power they portray. His power. There is a story in them. A story not about me but all about the evidence of His faithfulness.

This location the photographer chose with the black rocks and crashing waves made me feel brave. Brave enough to stand there and share my vulnerability, the imperfections I prefer to hide believing there are others who relate to doing the same thing. Believing that God truly can place some beauty in what’s damaged.

We have so many things about ourselves that we don’t like, but that we can change. It gives us ambition, hope and joy pursuing self-improvement. But what about the things we can’t change?

I’m not happy with my body, but I’m happy with me. Growing up damaged on the outside motivated my development of who I am on the inside. My goal was for people to see me, not my scars. When we’re standing in an elevator, or the grocery line, or even at the pool, people merely see our shell. And we know, the pretty shells are the ones we search for on the beach. No, I’m not happy to have scars. I don’t love my body. But I am happy and love who God has made, and is still making, me to be. It is possible to be happy, even in what we can’t change.

This was one of the most uncomfortable and yet most meaningful things I’ve ever done. It felt serene. It felt sacred.  It felt liberating.

It’s my hope this speaks a message to your heart, like what it spoke to another girl on the beach. Brooklyn was quite aware of the unwanted attention during my time tanning. One afternoon she came to walk the short distance with me from the chair to the water. I noticed her effort in blocking my view walking into the ocean. I said, “Thanks Brook. You’re amazing.” She replied, “I think you’re amazing.” Is it because I am, and have been, amazing? No. She of all people knows that’s not true. I think it had more to do with the courage to be seen when I really wanted to hide.  That's a message I'm honored to live out before my kids.

For fellow burn survivors, those with psoriasis, vitiligo, rosacea, surgery scars, breast reconstruction, varicose veins, stretch marks, and any other imperfection, take it from my daughter, you’re amazing! And you feel nothing less in your own David-moment glorifying the God who brings you through it! This photo is for you.

*thank you to Anthony Calleja for his talent and heart in capturing this message *thank you to Athleta for swim wear for all women, for everyday-life women *The song I sang during these moments- You Make Me Brave

As Your love, in wave after wave Crashes over me, crashes over me For You are for us You are not against us Champion of Heaven You made a way for all to enter in.... You make me brave You make me brave You call me out beyond the shore into the waves You make me brave You make me brave No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

Mark your calendar to join me for a Women’s Night at Coweta Assembly of God on Sunday November 6th at 6pm as we dig in to the words we need to receive, repeat and those we need to rebuke in order to walk in the label the Lord has given us. All are welcome to attend. And if you know a teenage girl, bring her along too!

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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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