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“There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice.” – Po Bronson Woman Standing In Front Of Friends Holding Paper With Question M

The great goal of my life after being burned on 100% of my body as a kid was to just be ordinary.

Perhaps that sounds unambitious, but after spending five months in the hospital and years recovering, I longed to be normal. I wanted my voice to disappear into the chorus of those around me.

After being released from the hospital and learning to walk and write again, I went back to grade school, played soccer, made great friends and generally fit in. I went through high school and college, pledged a fraternity, was the social chair and had a blast.

Through it all, though, I was missing something that I would later learn makes my voice most remarkable. And until I had this realization: I actually refused to tell anyone about it. The experience of how I got burned as a kid.

I never shared with roommates, friends or family. I endured it, survived it and left it in the past.
Organic Rice Field With Dew DropsIn my late 20s my mom and dad wrote their book Overwhelming Odds detailing their experience as the parents of a little boy who was critically burned, coping with their five other kids who were displaced after the house fire, supported by the outpouring of their community and buoyed through it all by their unwavering faith. They printed a couple hundred copies for their friends. Today they’ve sold more than 60,000 copies.

One of those copies they sold to their son, John. That’s right, for 10 bucks I got to learn how I got burned as a kid! But more importantly, I got to learn how remarkable my voice is; how beautiful my story is.

My friends, reading their book changed my life.

I realized for the first time the scars I’d always hidden were worthy of being embraced. I learned that in order to learn the true sound of my voice I had to stand apart from the chorus. We all do, actually.

Everyone has a story. [Tweet this.]

We’ve all been burned, dealt with struggle, endured storms in life. We’ve lost parents, children and friends. We’ve failed in businesses, marriages and dreams. We’ve stumbled spiritually, physically and financially. And yet what I am absolutely certain of today is that our scars from these experiences aren’t signs of weakness to be covered up, but symbols of strength to be celebrated. [Tweet this.]

I lived 20 years stuck in fear, hiding in the shadows and struggling to fit in. What a beautiful gift to wake up today on fire with love, dancing in the light and at total peace with the reflection in the mirror.

My friends, there is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. And once you know the sound of your voice you have the opportunity to sing it out for others.

We all have stories. In sharing them we reveal both the strength of our character and provide hope to others. Today, I’m asking for you to share a chapter of your story with me in the comments.

Can’t wait to hear your voice.

0 replies on “Find Your Voice”

John, thanks for you email/story. And yes, I have a story too. I was a straight A student all through school (even grounded myself for making a B once). When a sophomore, a new boy moved into town. I was very interested and somehow he liked me too. He was a year older and I fell head over heels. Well, unfortunately, he was the kind to talk the talk until I was won over and then I wasn’t good enough. He talked me into things that I should’ve fought but thought this was how love was. I ended up pregnant at 15. I finished that school year but dropped out. I got my license at 17 and we stayed together – me hoping to be a family. We were planning on getting married when I was 18. My parents were wise enough to not allow it before then. They even let him move in w/ us to keep us together and safe I’m assuming. Well, I got my GED a year earlier than I would’ve graduated High School. We moved out and I got a job. He had one which had him travel to other states. Well, low a behold, he called on my 18th birthday and stated that he wasn’t coming back. Our son was 1 1/2. I was devastated but it was the best thing that could’ve happened. I was free of his verbal abuse and negative attitudes towards me. It took time to heal and my now husband had to help heal my emotional wounds. Now, my son is 22 and my husband is his dad. My husband & I went to college half time, worked full-time, and raised him and another child. We have master’s degrees and are successful members of society. It didn’t stop me from achieving my dreams! I don’t tell many people about this because I think sometimes they’ll down upon me as a young lady that was “loose” or “easy” which that wasn’t it at all. I think of myself as a survivor and a success story, not a statistic when they talk about teen moms. Everyone’s situation is different, it’s how to you deal with what you’re given and keep going.

April, thank you for sharing your story with us. Your son and your life are absolutely worth celebrating – thanks for letting us join the celebration today! Continue boldly — J

Liz – thank you for so beautifully sharing your scars with us. You are truly a symbol of strength just as your neighbors were a symbol of love. Thanks for staying connected since our time together at the Catholic Diocesan Teacher Retreat and if there is ever something I can write about that I’ve not yet / do – please let me know. J

Scars, hmmm, yep. Six surgeries, walk with a limp, had a surprise blocked carotid artery, which was diagnosed rather surprisingly as a young, healthy, never smoking/drinking/overeating woman. That one left me with my most obvious scar, big long one down the side of my neck for all to see. Funny things scar you, but that is only “surface” scarring. It’s the “heart scars” that are the hard ones! Mine is when the FBI came into my home looking for my husband at the time. Turns out he had been abusing my daughter and I never knew. We were what most would say was the “normal” American family. I had 3 young children at the time and had to pick up the pieces, as my ex will be in prison until my children are grown and gone. I thank God daily that I had my heart centered on God prior to this experience and had my church that was my lifeline. They defined what “loving your neighbor” really looks like to me. I now have a heart that WAS scarred but has healed up rather nicely….you can’t even tell where the damage is now! 🙂 Now I embrace all of my scars for what John says here I know to be true: They ARE “…symbols of strength to be celebrated”.

John, I was deeply moved when you spoke to our group of teachers in Jefferson City, MO at the Catholic Diocesan Teacher Retreat. I could only briefly speak with you but am so thrilled to keep “reading you” in your weekly boost to my heart! Bless you sir….I’m now passing on copies of these to my college-aged son who also needs a boost every now and again (or a kick in the pants sometimes 🙂 ). Yes, wahoo, one already in college!!! Please keep writing!!!!

Liz – thank you for so beautifully sharing your scars with us. You are truly a symbol of strength just as your neighbors were a symbol of love. Thanks for staying connected since our time together at the Catholic Diocesan Teacher Retreat and if there is ever something I can write about that I’ve not yet / do – please let me know. J

Scars are a tender topic for me. In my teen years, I was going through some real difficulties at home, including fearing an alcoholic parent. I was terribly unhappy, unable to sleep, and full of anxiety. The latter created a self-loathing that lead to self-mutilation. (Wow…can’t believe how hard that was to write!)
I’ve gotten way past all that, but the scars still make me uncomfortable and self-conscious. I always lie when asked how I got them. I haven’t learned to change that shame into a badge of survival. Even as I write this, I struggle with erasing it and not posting…
Maybe doing so will be the start to seeing the scars in a different light. Thanks for your inspiration, John.

Joyce, thank you for sharing your story, your voice and your scars. That takes courage! Your life and your journey ARE worth celebrating – thanks for celebrating with us today. Now – keep that celebration going 😉 J

Where are you, God?

Seven years ago, after twelve years of marriage and a ten year old daughter, I suddenly found myself on the receiving end of an undesired divorce. I had moved to Florida only after becoming married in 1994. My husband’s business ventures were best served with us living in Florida. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where my loving family continues to reside and I still call my “home” even today. As difficult as it was to leave, it was exciting to be starting out as a newly married couple in a different environment with high hopes for a future life together. I never imagined that someday I would be left essentially alone here without the security of my husband’s love and support and so far away from my family.

Over the years, my husband and I had built, what I considered, many strong and steadfast friendships here in Florida. Much of our social life revolved around time spent with other couples who also had children and a strong sense of family values. When the separation occurred, I was at least encouraged by the thought that I could trust in the loyalty of these friends where the sanctity of marriage was concerned. Wouldn’t they sympathize with me, choosing my friendship over his, if he failed to stay in the marriage? It seemed so clear to me in my raw, emotional state, but in their world, it was just not that easy to do…so the divisions began. Any choice of friendship with my husband over me was like reopening a festering wound. Add an opposing attorney and a forensic accountant to the mix, and I felt surrounded by “enemies!” “Where are you, God?” I would pray.

My sadness turned to anger and resentment toward my husband, consuming my every thought day and night. Realizing I was headed down a path toward bitterness, I met with a Christian counselor. He affirmed my anger as “righteous,” but then gave me a piece of life-changing advice: “Whatever you do…do not allow your epitaph to read, ‘I despised him till the day I died,’ as if that is some worthwhile accomplishment. Choose, instead, to leave a legacy with eternal value. Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t.” From that day on, my attitude about everything shifted. In time, I forgave my former husband.

Where was God? He was by my side all along, waiting for me to do what I was able to do naturally, before He acted supernaturally. God’s healing handiwork was evident when “IT” wasn’t the last thing I thought about before falling asleep at night or the first thing upon wakening in the morning. God granted me peace, freeing me to pursue a legacy worthy of His creation and purpose for my life.
Thanks be to God!

Sandi: Thank you for this amazing testimony and example. YOU are a gift. Thanks for sharing yourself with us…blew me away. Blessings. John

I had abdominal surgery a few years ago, which left a nasty scar on my belly. Thought it’s not visable to anyone (I don’t wear bikinis 😉 It’s a reminder to me that God was watching over me and helped the doctors detect a cyst early enough to do something about it.

Thanks Michelle – – What a gift a scar can be, huh?! Thanks for sharing and thanks for all you do – John

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