Tag Archives: God

Miracles Still Happen

The sunshine peered through the kitchen window as I sat at my table, trying to hold back my exhausted, heartbroken tears.  I can’t do this anymore, I thought.

My 9-year old son Brandon sat next to me, staring vacantly at a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  This used to be his favorite meal…but the soup had gotten cold without a single bite taken.  I got up to reheat the soup in the microwave once more.  As I cleared the lump in my throat, Brandon flew into a fury, covering his ears and screaming.  I jumped with a startled reflex, and mentally berated myself for upsetting the quietness that had become my son’s only haven of peace.

I set the soup down in front of him, urging him to try eating again.  Looking at the clock, we had been “trying” for 90 minutes now.  Tears welling, I blinked hard, commanding them to stop as I saw Brandon attempting to reach for his spoon.  His hand wouldn’t cooperate—it stopped and started, in a repetitive, jerking fashion.  With a face full of anguish, Brandon repeated a nonsensical phrase over and over.

“Ok, Brandon, you finally got the spoon. Good job. Now get a bite of soup.  You can do it, honey.”  I tried to stay calm, knowing that any increase in volume or change in tone of my voice could take us back to square one.

Autism was one thing—and had been our reality for 7 years.  However, when Brandon was afflicted with a second neurological condition known as PANDAS, a true test of our faith began.

Earlier that winter, he had contracted a strep infection without any obvious symptoms.  As his body produced antibodies to fight the infection, the antibodies attacked his brain in an autoimmune response (aka PANDAS).  This devastated his neurological functioning.  He began to develop Tourette’s-like “tics,” both vocal and motor, and as anxiety took over his personality, he quickly became a victim to full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Our once cheerful and happy boy was tormented and riddled with anxiety.  He had become a vacant shell of a child, and we no longer recognized him.

Brandon’s daily functioning was monumentally impaired: simple tasks such as getting dressed, toileting, eating a meal, leaving the house, and going to bed, took hours to complete.  Every moment of his day was dominated by anxiety and intricate rituals, accompanied by an enormous pressure on me to anticipate and minimize the next inevitable meltdown.

We consulted with numerous professionals:  pediatric neurologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, psychologists, behavioral experts, and autism experts.  When we got the diagnosis of PANDAS, our initial excitement to finally have a diagnosis quickly faded as doctors, one by one, told us that there was nothing that they could do to cure our son of this debilitating condition.  This was, as we were repeatedly told, to be our new normal.

During this time, I cried out to God for answers, help, strength to endure, and above all, healing.  There were certainly moments of despair, but I clung to God as the sovereign creator who knew and loved my son monumentally more than I could comprehend.  I trusted, I wept, I prayed –the cycle went on for 18 months.

In desperation, my husband and I held a prayer session at our church.  I remember sitting in a room, arms around Brandon as our friends, pastor, and the church elders surrounded us and offered up faith-filled prayers and petitions for healing (James 5:14-15).  It was an incredible moment of love lived out in the unity of faith.

As we drove home from church that sunny April afternoon, I stared out the window, thinking-while-praying, Ok God, it’s in your hands…I know that you CAN, but WILL you heal my son? Give me the strength to keep going no matter what is ahead.

A moment later, out of blue, Brandon began singing (a rare moment at that time) a phrase over and over:  Nothing is missing. Nothing is broken.  These were lyrics to a song that we had sung earlier that day in church.  As quickly as he had spontaneously and emphatically uttered those words, he fell silent.  And I knew that his words were God’s answer to my prayer.  Heather, trust me.  Brandon is in my hands.  You will soon see that nothing is missing or broken.

Over the coming months, Brandon gradually returned to the child we knew and recognized, and by the summer he was completely healed.  There was no medical explanation for it, but we knew, and all who had joined us on our journey of faith, that we had witnessed a miracle.

Brandon – 8 years after his PANDAS diagnosis

God is so good!  And He’s still in the business of miracles –able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Have you experienced a miracle?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please share below!

What’s Next?

I’m in a “what’s next?” season of life.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that my husband recently left the field of law enforcement after 18 years (16 as a sworn officer).  Looking back, I have a new understanding for how all-encompassing and intrusive his police occupation was.  It dictated everything in our lives – from the big decisions to the small.  For 18 years, I tailored my schedule to meet the demands of my husband’s job, the responsibility of raising three boys, and the management of my training business.  Finally able to catch my breath after this big transition, I’m getting around to me.

Where are you today?  Are you transitioning to an empty nest, either with young adult children moving out, or with your youngest child heading off to kindergarten?  Perhaps you are facing a transition with your job, or you are relocating your family.

In terms of fitness: with winter coming, you might have finished your last race or other event/competition of the season.  Maybe you finished an exercise program and are looking for new goals.  Or, perhaps you are hoping to get into a regular exercise pattern, get fit, or lose weight.  What’s next for you?

Fall is my favorite season for walking and observing nature.  I was recently on a walk one crisp, cold morning—the fallen leaves crunching under every step.  As I passed a tree that had already lost most of its leaves, I noticed that there were also walnuts (about ping-pong ball-sized) everywhere.  The ground leaves were so thick in some spots that they camouflaged the walnuts.  I was looking ahead while walking (instead of down at my feet) and stepped on the walnuts, rolling my ankle.  In order to make it through that area while avoiding injury, I decided to look down as I stepped.

In that moment, I realized that this experience mirrored my tendency to get antsy in the “what’s next” moments.  I want so badly to project too far down the road, for God to show me the bigger vision of what He is doing in my life.  But in reality, He is only revealing the steps right in front of me…and I had better pay attention, because there might be things that trip me up or throw me off of my path.  I need to shift my gaze from the “horizon,” to what is directly in front of me.  With each faithful step, He will show me what’s next…and next…and next…in doses that I can handle.

With fitness, we can get caught up in the final outcome and forget about all of the steps that it takes to get there.  Yes, goals are important, but set those goals with your steps in mind because they are just as important as the end result.   Some things to consider:  How much time each day will you need in order to commit?  What preparation do you need before starting?  How can you anticipate and plan for things that might trip you up –like holidays or work travel, for instance?  Will you need to enlist support/accountability from others?  What is your body telling you (i.e., do you need more flexibility, or balance, or do you need to modify due to a nagging injury)?  If you’re wanting to increase strength or get better at running, do you have those activities scheduled at least 3 times per week, balanced with plenty of restorative activities on the other days to promote muscle recovery?  Many successful exercise plans contain a sequence of phases that build upon the previous phase, providing a natural progression toward the end goal.  By focusing on each step of your plan, you will be less overwhelmed by the end goal as you move toward it.  Success is more likely, too.

In a broader context, if you are experiencing a major “what’s next” season in your life, I want to encourage you to stop trying to focus on where you’re going to end up –you could miss the crucial steps right in front of you.  Look for your very next step and trust God to show it to you.  He never fails to show us what needs to be seen, with just the right timing.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)  

I’m More Than a Number…and So Are You!

Recently I had an experience that churned up some old emotions in me.  I couldn’t shrug it off because there was a lesson in it…but I wasn’t immediately certain what it was.

Earlier that day, I had a check-in with myself.  I don’t do this very often, but every few months I weigh myself and take measurements, just to keep myself in a healthy-but-not-obsessed place. It was one of those check-ins that ended with me sighing under my breath and declaring, WHATEVER, body!  You’re clearly running the show here!

Naturally this would also be the day that I had to do some (much-needed) clothes shopping.  Fabulous timing.  I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes because I prefer to avoid the “walk of shame.”  You know what I’m talking about.  Everything you take into the changing room doesn’t fit, and you have to rack it all or, worse yet, hand it off to a store clerk while avoiding eye contact.  And no matter our size, this happens to all of us at one time or another.

This particular day I found myself in a women’s clothing store.  I had just walked in when I saw out of the corner of my eye, a saleswoman helping a customer.  They were joking about the smaller sizes, “Who even wears (this size) anyway?”

I was flipping through a rack of dresses and suddenly felt like a fish out of water.  They’re talking about my size. Do I make eye contact with them? I didn’t feel like I could insert myself into their conversation, yet I felt them looking at me as they quickly switched subjects.

I had nothing witty to say anyway.  I was tired, hot, slightly annoyed, and simply wanted to shop quietly.  As I roamed through the racks, I encountered the saleswoman a few times.  Wow, she’s putting off an ugly vibe. In a forced voice with judgment in her eyes, she asked me if I was finding everything I needed.  I cheerfully held up a jacket that I had found and explained that I’d been searching for something like it and was happy to have finally found it.  “Oh, that’s nice,” she replied, again obligatory and patronizing.  Ok, I feel uncomfortable for being ‘me,’ but I’m going to take the high road here.  Remember the iconic store scene sequence in Pretty Woman, the first time she goes in?  I felt like that.  Be kind to her anyway.  Everyone has a story.

Yes, everyone has a story.  I wanted to say something to this woman, but didn’t want my emotions to get in the way and cause more harm than good.  All I could do was smile and keep shopping.  I found what I was looking for (and then some), paid and exchanged generic-yet-kind banter with the saleswoman and her coworker, and went on my way.

In the car, I asked myself:  What’s bugging you? If you could have a do-over, would you have handled it differently?  Is there a lesson here?

After some prayer and thought, this is what I would gently say if I could replay the scene:

No one likes being judged or shamed by their outward appearance.  Yes, I’m that particular “size” that seems out of reach, but there’s a story behind it…

First, I used to be 6 sizes bigger.  I spent lots of hours in the gym and kitchen, taking it one day at a time, merging weeks into months and years.  It didn’t happen overnight or accidentally.

Before you assume that somehow my life is easier/better/happier because of this size, look a little deeper.  I’ve struggled with insecurities, frustrations with cravings, lack of progress with my best-laid plans, hormones scoffing at my attempts to balance them, major health issues, scars from an eating/body image disorder, questioning my calling in life, pushing back fear and anxiety, doubting my effectiveness as a wife, mother, trainer, and writer.  I’m not always confident; ironically, I had a frustrating body image moment just this morning.

I’m more than what you see.  I love Jesus, yet I wrestle with temptation and not-so-nice thoughts and emotions from time to time.  I’ve tried to be perfect and have fallen flat on my face…lots.  But, I’m grateful that He loves me anyway and sees fit to rescue me from the “pits” of life.  I’m grateful that in my weakest moments, I have His strength and don’t have to rely on myself.  In fact, it’s His strength that gives me the ability to rise above my emotions in a moment like this one, and to choose love.  As a result, I’m aware that I’ve focused too much on my own perspective and that I need to take a moment to really look at you.

And you know what?  I bet you and I aren’t all that different once you get a pesky number out of the way.  We probably share some of the same struggles and insecurities because we are people first.  I promise not to judge you by your appearance and instead to see you as a child of God, who has a story, as well as real fears, dreams, needs, questions, and emotions.  I choose to see you as God sees you…with love and grace….because you are beautiful, no matter how you feel in this moment.

Whew!  I wish I’d really said those things.  But, I found what I was looking for (a lesson, not the jacket), and it couldn’t be more perfect for the times we are living in.  That day reminds me that we need to extend more love and grace to one another in so many contexts.  All of us.  Myself included.  And in terms of body image, women, let’s dare to look past the surface.  I’m more than a number…and so are you!


umbrellaIt was what I call an “of course” moment.  Many refer to it as Murphy’s Law.  On a dreary morning with a driving rain storm, I was tasked with getting my youngest son to his bus stop with minimal drenching.  The ‘of course’ piece came when I realized that my husband was gone with our only running vehicle…containing all of our umbrellas.

My son and I stood in our garage watching the deluge, when I said a prayer out loud, “Could you please just cause the rain to let up long enough for him to get on the bus?  Please?”  I even thought to myself, Gee God, this would be a great moment to make yourself more real to my son, ya know?  I pray and you answer?  At that moment, the rain began to fall harder and faster.  Of course.

Something prompted me to do a final, desperate scan of our garage before making a run for it.  Maybe there is an umbrella here that I forgot we had.  Sure enough, I spotted one hanging on the wall next to the door that leads into the house.  I chuckled to myself, and whispered, “Thank you!”

My son made it mostly dry to the bus that morning and as I walked back to my house, I couldn’t help but think about the storms of life.  When we are in the midst of our storms, we often ask God to take them away.  Sometimes He does; other times He doesn’t.  But every time He provides us shelter.  All we need to do is look.