By Heather Bjur
God's Brave Women - Heather's Story
It’s been a BIG year in my world.
Big is such a ‘vanilla’ word, and my creative Enneagram 4 mind is struggling to leave it on the page. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, people regularly come to me for help navigating BIG times like this, when everything seemingly blows up. This time it was I who needed the help.
"People regularly come to me for help navigating BIG times like this, when everything seemingly blows up. This time it was I who needed the help."
The Cliff Notes version goes like this…
September: Left beloved organization of 11 years to pursue dream of pioneering new Christian counseling center at a new church in town. October: Youngest son tested positive for Covid, had to stay home for the allotted time from school and new job.
November: Upper respiratory infection and 10 days out of commission (me). December: Christmas! January: After avoiding Covid for almost two years (including the October incident with my son), my eldest contracted it, gave it to me, and we gave it to my self-employed husband (which meant much time off work for him). Also, after nearly 5 years on Prozac, I suddenly decided it was a good time to see if I could go without. I don’t recommend this to clients in the wintertime, so I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea for me.) February: Ambulance ride to the ER for my 77-year-old father causing a cancer scare that showed itself to be severe pneumonia and 6-day hospital stay for my dad. Went back on Prozac. March: Thyroid cancer diagnosis for my mom. Additionally, residing in the upper Midwest this past year meant living through the worst winter I’ve ever experienced here... the Winter That Never Ended... like the song... but worse. April: My mom’s surgery to remove thyroid (which ended in a cancer-free diagnosis, thank you Jesus!) May: I took a week off of work to rest... and crashed.
Burnout hit fast and hard. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I’d been rolling with the punches for so long at that point, I was like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water. A week and a half after returning from my time off, I burst into tears (a rare occasion) and declared to my husband I just wanted to quit everything.
Migraines for days, imposter syndrome, doubt over my work performance, parenting, writing, and just about everything else. I called my counselor of 10 years (I’m a big fan of counselors having counselors), told him I was not doing well, and was afraid if I didn’t take some serious time off, I would leave the field entirely.
Everyone has days or even weeks when we feel like jumping ship from our normal lives and running away. I’ve joked for years that I would start a cupcake shop as my getaway job. But this time, even cupcakes didn’t sound good. Something was seriously wrong.
I called our Executive Pastor who was packing up his belongings to move halfway across the country to join our team in person. I was half numb and half terrified. While I didn’t truly believe I would be met with sternness, doubt, or a hard “no,” I had never walked into a conversation like this one before.
“Brandin, I’m not well.”
I explained to him how I’d been feeling physically and emotionally, that I’d spoken with my counselor, and that I wanted to know if there was some way I could take the next three and a half weeks off work - a pause. His response?
“Heather, let me touch base with the appropriate people, and we will get something figured out for you. We want you to be well, and if a few weeks off work is part of that equation, we will find a way to make that happen. I’ll be back in touch with you in 24 hours, if that’s okay.”
I exhaled. That was more than okay. I felt the weight of a year’s worth of heaviness begin to lift.
Was there guilt? Some. I had to ask my temporary assistant who had been with me all of two weeks to call all my clients and let them know I wouldn’t be in the office until next month. Would they be upset? Would they be okay? I knew they would be fine, and I had a back up plan, if needed. So I put that out of my mind, and focused on healing my worn out soul.
Then I slept. And journaled. I prayed, read, and slept some more. I went out for ice cream, and sat in the sunshine. I went to bed early, and spent every morning on the front deck with my Bible, favorite pen, and iced vanilla latte. I listened to the birds, weeded my flower beds, and fed my chickens cold watermelon. I went for walks with my boys. I let my shoulders relax. I had fewer migraines.
The resulting strength is like nothing I’ve experienced before, probably because it isn’t my strength. It didn’t happen right away, either. In fact, my first week back in the office was quite rough. Honestly, I wondered if I’d made the right choice in returning.
What I discovered is that God really does work in brokenness best... when I am weak, He is strong.
"The resulting strength is like nothing I’ve experienced before, probably because it isn’t my strength... What I discovered is that God really does work in brokenness best... when I am weak, He is strong."
God surrounded me with people who practice what they preach, something I’ve always been hesitant to trust. Happily, this care can’t be mistaken for anything but what it is: grace and love.
I found that I can fall apart, and I won’t be blamed, shamed, or pushed to put everything back together. The one who is always there for others was given the gift of others being there for her. Showing up. Coming through.
"I found that I can fall apart, and I won’t be blamed, shamed, or pushed to put everything back together. The one who is always there for others was given the gift of others being there for her. Showing up. Coming through."
Asking for almost a month away from work felt daunting, even extravagant. I knew it was a do-or-die situation for me, personally and professionally. The result was honor, in so many forms. Ultimately, I was given the gift of being loved just as I am, a gift I couldn’t have received in any other way except by bravely asking for help.
"I was given the gift of being loved just as I am, a gift I couldn’t have received in any other way except by bravely asking for help."
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story.
And by the way...
You are Brave!
No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.
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Heather and Chris have been married for 18 years and have two boys, Elijah (14) and Ezra (12). Heather is a trauma-informed Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Director of True North Counseling. She has over 18 years of experience and is trained in Spiritual Direction by Dr. Larry Crabb, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) through the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP).
In her downtime, Heather enjoys writing, studying the Enneagram, tending her many houseplants, and decorating. They have a golden retriever named Judah, a red fish named Lava, and 18 chickens (who also have names, but asked to remain anonymous).
Heather's deepest passion in life is seeing people find emotional and spiritual healing through the freedom and grace Jesus offers because of his finished work on the cross.