“Breathtaking” 2.0 – The Preface

I’m posting a small part of our new book today.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time, but here we go!

As promised, here’s the preface for the new edition of Breathtaking, which will be published in 2012.

Please note copying and pasting onto a blog can cause spacing issues, so just focus on the words, please! 😉

Enjoy. 🙂


July 11, 2011—Full Circle

“Why go back and rehash the past?”

I constantly asked my husband this question during the winter of 2011, when we were contemplating rereleasing Breathtaking. The idea of going back over a book I released over three years ago and originally wrote between four and five years ago really didn’t excite me . . . at all. In my mind, we were going to be beating a dead horse. Since I am a visionary and always thinking about the “next big thing,” my five-year-old double lung transplant, and the book that was born out of the brokenness that came with my almost dying at nineteen, seemed like really old news—at least to me. I didn’t even know my husband until two years after my transplant. Life obviously had moved on. In my mind, so should we.

The almost two years between Breathtaking’s release and my marriage were filled with dozens of speaking engagements across the country. With Breathtaking in tow at each event, I shared about God’s sovereignty and goodness amidst human suffering. I also had television and radio interviews, completed my bachelor’s degree, and formed a non-profit ministry. Yes, I was an extremely blessed and busy single woman.

Now, over a year into my marriage, I was working out my salvation in a completely good and different, though not nearly as adventurous, way. I spent the vast majority of my time serving my husband, taking care of our home, and working from home as a publicity and marketing assistant to help pay down student loans. All and all, I was living a rather “normal” life for a young, married woman in her twenties.

The Lord wanted more, though—for me, for us.

Granted, John and I very much needed that first year of our marriage to cultivate our relationship with God and each other in order to build a foundation on which we can stand when times get tough. After all, if our marriage is not Christ-centered and solid and we have a hard time living out the gospel in our own home, how can we expect to minister to others?

When John, after consulting with the Lord, finally declared it was time to move forward with the ministry, I was more than elated. I was looking forward to the help of my husband and what God had in store for the two of us together. I had no desire to go back and revisit the past. Instead, I was ready for the two of us to pave our own way and tell our story, the good and the bad, for the glory of God, not tell my story all over again. In addition, like most authors, I was my own worst critic. I was starting to loathe some of the prose I used as a frail nineteen-year-old and longed to be able to go back and “fix” the book to my liking. Changing everything around didn’t seem like the right thing to do, though. In my mind, it was settled, then. We’d just leave the book the way it was and never look back.

God had other plans for me, though. Again.

I should have known from the start that I didn’t have it all figured out, but, like everyone, I’m still a work in progress. The Lord changed my heart and showed me that revisiting Breathtaking is not just something my husband needs but also something that I need, as well.

More importantly, the revised edition of Breathtaking is for you. Maybe you never read the first account and are diving into it for the first time. If so, welcome. I hope my brutal honesty hasn’t scared you away. If you’re familiar with me or my story, then I suppose you wouldn’t expect anything else. I know of no other way to write, so if refreshing honesty is what you’re looking for, then this book’s for you. If you’ve already read Breathtaking before, I pray God can reveal something different to you through your second, or third, reading of the text.

Through having to revisit the text myself, I’ve learned some valuable lessons. Most of all, I learned that I have a choice: On one hand, I can refuse to share my story again. In the process, however, I will derail plans God has for us to minister to you. On the other hand, I can humbly submit to His plan and go back and remember for myself the time of quiet desperation for Him that inspired Breathtaking. I can be encouraged by remembering a time that was excruciatingly painful but that shaped me into the woman who is a suitable helpmate for my husband, a helpmate who is wholly devoted to Christ and striving to be secure in who she is in Him. Even though the part of my life spotlighted in this book seems so very long ago, I now know there is profit in revisiting the pain that I often unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally, forget. I know there is benefit in remembering God’s faithfulness during my time of grave need and acknowledging He is still the same LORD today.

Beyond the readers’ and my own needs, my husband needs to feel a part of the time in my life that changed me forever, a time that I, and others, can tell him about, but one of which he has no memory. I can choose to honor that need or dismiss it, but regardless of what I decide, the need will not disappear. The bottom line is that he needs to feel a part of the ministry I started on my own before he’ll be ready to grow and shape it together. No, I can never physically take him back to the months of my being bedridden and dependent upon oxygen for air and a feeding tube for extra nourishment, but I can give him a tangible way to feel a part of what he was a part of all along. The truth is, even though we were hundreds of miles apart and unaware of each other’s existence, as he’ll tell you, he was praying for me and very much a part of my recovery. Now I can give him a tangible way to feel a part of what he was a part of all along.

That tangible way is through this revised edition of Breathtaking. Now that I am older and a more polished writer, there’s a part of me that still wants to change the majority of how the original text was written. As the Lord showed me, though, I can’t. I can’t go back and completely change how I expressed my thoughts during a time I will never see again. To do so would be nothing short of a lie and would deny readers the chance of knowing me for me, at least me during the time in which I wrote the original book.

In this revised and expanded edition, there are a few minor edits, but you won’t find a complete overhaul of the text. You will, however, find toward the back of the book the addition of two new chapters that I wrote after Breathtaking was first released. One is shares how the Lord is using me today and how, at least for a season, He chose to use me in a mighty, unique way, a way that I found—and still find—an honor and privilege of which to be a part. The other tells of how I met and married the man who is my best friend and the godly leader of our home. Since I wanted you to be able to hear his perspective too, there is also a new epilogue that was written by my better half, John. He will give you his thoughts on our journey to Christ-inspired oneness. Even though his writing style is completely different than mine, his is by far my favorite part of the book. (I’m just a little biased, I know.) Oh, and please note that my husband is not to be confused with my prior and only other boyfriend, John Varland, who also wrote a small section of this book. No, instead I bear the last name “Payne,” a name that suits me well and is a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness to me.

As you’ll see, I’ve gone through a lot of pain in my twenty-five years of life, but like all things that go through the Refiner’s fire, I (thankfully) have not only come out on the other side alive but also as a much purer, useable vessel for His kingdom. I have hardly arrived, but in many ways, my life has indeed come full circle, as has this book.

As I look forward, I am praying for at least a few more turns around the wheel of life. I want to continue to bring the Lord glory and become more like Him by His grace. I want to continue to be my husband’s wife, to become a mother, to write, to speak, and to be allowed to get caught up in life’s simple joys.

Beyond all of that, when I stop and think about what I truly want, I come up with the same strongest desire—I want more of Him and less of me. Living by John the Baptizer’s mantra of “He [Christ] must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30) is truly the only way life makes sense, has eternal meaning, and is filled with purpose and joy. After all, God knows the number of my days. Worrying about how many of them I have left, or how I am going to fill however many I have, get me nowhere. Just as I have in the past, by God’s grace, and not by sheer human effort, I will continue to trust Him, even when the road He has marked out for me is not easy. I pray in your own life, you will do the same. Most of all, I pray we meet again, if not in the pages of another book, in heaven – where all things will finally be made new.


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