Scars Fade. Embracing Faith and Friendship

Charli hold a heart with open heart surgery scar shown faded

This year has been all about inspiration and envisioning the future. Like an actor getting into character, I believe the words from our event themes have played a crucial role in restoring my soul. We often forget how vital it is to be challenged and inspired by our community and faith. Through faith, we understand our purpose: to be the light for others. I hope to always remember the profound impact my faith has had on my healing journey and all the people who have embraced me along the way.

July 8, 2021. This is the day my heart valve was repaired. It was the day I woke up knowing that the Almighty God made time for me. He was there when I prayed and asked Him specifically to repair my valve instead of replacing it. He was there, reminding me through my mother’s voice to breathe on my own, and He was there when I asked what had happened. He knew I needed confirmation that He was with me before I faced one of the most difficult recoveries of my life. He filled my lungs with deeper breaths each day and helped me take more steps to restore my strength. He was there in the challenge with me—the voice that I hear, my encourager, my comforter, my strength. I believe the Holy Spirit is always there, guiding me in the right direction.

It’s amazing to think of all the things I have done in three years. From producing conferences that connect industry leaders to embarking on a European trip that rekindled my love for adventure and different cultures, I have embraced life fully. The work has just begun, and I am encouraged about the future. There is so much opportunity at home and abroad to share our stories and help each other feel more connected in community.

However, the biggest challenge I faced was internal. I needed to heal from all the scars, both physical and emotional. By February, I chose to give to myself. It was my birthday and a perfect excuse to be surrounded by those who love me. I knew my life was about to change because I was praying for just that. I was stepping into faith, making many changes, and resting in the Lord and His plan for my life. This was a gift I didn’t know I needed.

I filed for divorce. This is a much longer story, one I am willing to discuss with anyone who might find my experience helpful. Figuring out how to share this is still a work in progress. I’ll share a few things that were healing activities for me. I moved into a townhome that I could decorate however I liked. I left dishes in the sink just because I could. I went on walks, slept in, stayed up late, danced, twirled my baton, had meaningful conversations, traveled to see friends internationally, joined a small group, bought art, praised and worshiped like never before at Soma church where I was baptized. I scheduled doctor visits, bought insurance, traveled, ate pasta, visited family long overdue for a visit, and asked for help.

Let me tell you a story about what asking for help can do…

For three years, I felt my repaired heart valve constantly. It was there when I tried to sleep, exercise, talk, and breathe. It caused fear and restricted me, even when doctors assured me I could exercise. Despite hiking mountains and keeping up with my children, I couldn’t believe I was healed. There was still work to be done—choosing to take care of myself, replacing toxic patterns with laughter and joy.

June 12, 2024.  This is the day my heart was healed. The best example of my healing happened just a few weeks ago. In physical therapy, we were working on stretching. During a stretch called “open book,” I felt my valve. I paused, feeling my blood pressure rise and tears well up. I called a staff member over to talk to me. For me, asking for help in such a vulnerable situation was huge. As she talked to me and I explained what was happening, my tension eased. I noticed my arm hitting the wall—I was fully stretched out, in full open book. She said she was proud of me, and as she walked away, I realized the tension and pull that had been there for three years were gone. I cried tears of relief and gratitude.

The pull was gone because I needed someone to validate my pain, to believe in me, to encourage me, and to really see me. When you aren’t loving yourself, your creator knows. He uses events, people, and any tool He wants to bring you back to Him. You were created to shine, to share your joy with the world, and to love one another. Thank you to those who have loved me and those who are still working on it. I am going to continue working on it as well.

To my fellow zipper club members, have someone touch your scar. Massage it, embrace it as your strength, and let it help you grow deeper relationships. Use your struggle to help others. The fight to recover physically and mentally from surgeries is unparalleled. Do the work—it will help you with all the other hard things in life. God is always with us. Let Him show His goodness to you and praise Him even more for it. He has great plans for you. This I know, because the Bible tells me so.

Until next time, be empowering.