Heather Messick is a Christian singer-songwriter who has sung on numerous Integrity Music and Brentwood-Benson projects, recorded two solo albums, and led worship at ladies events. Her life—and her testimony—was deeply impacted four years ago when she gave birth to a child with special needs.
Heather, her husband, Mark, and their three daughters, Elyssa, Natalie, and Victoria live in South Alabama.
Music was an important part of your childhood. Was there one special moment when you knew you wanted to pursue music as a career?
My mother played a very important role in my love of music. As a young child, it was not an option for me NOT to sing. My mom was the piano player at our church and she made my older sister, me, and my younger brother learn songs and sing them in three-part harmony. We use to hate practicing! As an adult, I am glad that my mom made me do all that I did with music as a youngster. She formed me into the music-lover I am today.
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music while in high school. I was deeply impacted by my chorus teacher, Joy Moore. She directed me in all of the show choirs I was a part of. She made learning music and performing so much fun. I knew I wanted to pass that gift along to others when I got older.
While pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance at the University of Mobile, I had the privilege of singing in the University’s premier group called Vision. We traveled most weekends and sang in lots of church services, youth events, and even high schools. It was in that group that I felt God leading me to minister more and more to people through music. I had a longing to go beyond teaching in a high school to using my gifts to minister to people in the church as a career.
How does your faith play into your work?
My faith has everything to do with my career and ministry as a musician and inspirational speaker. They are so intertwined that they are one. Every song I write or song I sing has everything to do with the greatness of God. Every opportunity I have as a speaker for an event is just another opportunity for me to share about how God has walked every step of this life with me and (to) encourage those experiencing difficulties to find hope in God’s faithfulness. Even the opportunities I have as a session singer . . . most of the songs I sing are Christian songs that I record for Christian music companies. I consider it a privilege to live my life ministering God’s love and hope to people through speaking and singing.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Definitely! My unexpected detour began in my OBGYN’s office on September 17, 2007. I was scheduled for my first ultrasound for our newest baby-on-the-way. Mark was out of town that day and couldn’t be at my doctor visit with me. I hated he was going to miss the opportunity to see our baby for the first time. My ultrasound was a little longer than normal but that was nothing that alarmed me. The technician told me that the doctor would be in to talk with me about the ultrasound that had just been done and I just assumed this was normal procedure. My doctor came into the room and let me know that the baby didn’t look “quite right.” There was extra nuchal translucency fluid at the back of the baby’s neck and this alerted the doctor of a genetic issue.
Initially, I was told that the baby might have Cystic Hygroma, which I had never heard of but later learned what a grim diagnosis that was for the baby. This diagnosis was changed when I made my first visit to an Obstetric Specialist office a few weeks later. No one knew exactly what was wrong with my baby, but they just knew there were signs of a genetic disorder. We would have to watch the baby closely the entire pregnancy and document every measurement and change the baby made on a regular basis. This was the beginning of an emotional roller coaster for me, my husband and our entire family.
After every doctor visit I broke down and cried because I wasn’t going to see my baby on each ultrasound; I was going to see what was wrong with my baby. There’s a big difference between the two. I clung to the passage of Scripture in Psalm 139:13-17. I had to believe that God was in control and that He had a special plan for this baby’s life. When I felt like I was on the verge of falling apart, I would pray immediately and ask God to give me strength to believe His promises to me through His Word. Eventually, Mark and I were told we were having a little girl and that our little girl would be born with congenital heart defects, some of which were pretty serious. This was another “detour” that we didn’t expect. As the pregnancy continued, Mark and I were told that it looked as if our little baby girl (whom we planned to name Victoria Jayne) was going to have Down syndrome.
On March 10, 2008, Victoria Jayne came into this world a little blue in color (because of her heart defects) and she did, in fact, have Down syndrome. Our world was rocked, to say the least. Even though I spent an entire pregnancy being told something might be wrong with my baby, when it actually came true . . . it was pretty hard to adjust to the fact that my life had completely changed with the birth of my baby. I tried to feel thankful that Victoria was finally with us, but it was hard. I felt sad and so overwhelmed. I didn’t have any prior experience with special needs kids and had no idea how to care for a child that wasn’t “normal.” I prayed harder than I ever had in my life for God to somehow help me with this gigantic life change.
For the sake of time, I cannot go into every detail of the past four years, but what I can do is tell you that God has been so wonderful to our family and God has always been faithful to help us. Victoria’s life has proved to be nothing but a huge blessing to our family. There have been many challenges, such as Victoria’s open-heart surgery when she was seven-weeks-old, but God has never failed to be there for us. Over the past four years, Victoria has had many therapy visits and many instructors work with her in our home and in her preschool to help aid in her progress. Even though she has continued to fall behind in speaking and reaching physical/mental milestones that other children reached long before her, we have always felt so thankful for everything she has accomplished. We haven’t taken a single thing for granted that she has been able to do through all of her hard work. She is one determined little cookie! Mark and I cannot imagine our family without Victoria and we are so glad that God has blessed us with her. Victoria’s sisters, Elyssa and Natalie, simply adore her. They love playing with her and taking care of her. We have had the honor of witnessing God work in our family’s life in a special way and even though it has been hard at times, we wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
You have a passion for speaking on behalf of special needs children. What’s the one best piece of advice you offer to someone who is raising a special needs child?
I think the best advice I could ever give someone who has a child with special needs is to tell them that it is okay to feel emotional about it. I have met parents who denied profusely that their child obviously had Down syndrome to those that feel like they have to be a rock and never let their emotions show. They feel like it must be terribly wrong to feel any feelings of initial grief when their baby is born. I totally think it is okay and normal to mourn the loss of the idea that you expected your child to be “normal.” I cried and was an emotional basket case when Victoria was born because I didn’t know how to be the mother of a child with special needs. I felt completely overwhelmed. I mourned the loss of her being able to reach all of the milestones that her sisters reached in the time-frame that they reached them. I was sad that Victoria would probably have trouble speaking or learning. I hated seeing her go through open-heart surgery when she was only seven-weeks-old.
It was an emotional time for me those first few years of Victoria’s life. I think in allowing yourself to mourn when you need to, you are able to move on to accepting your new future as a family and seeing all of the positives that can come with it. That doesn’t mean that it will be easy, because we all know having a child with special needs can be extra-challenging, but hey . . . it can also be challenging to raise a “normal” child that is very rebellious! I’m just all about being transparent. Because I’ve been so open about our transition into the world of special needs, I’ve seen others gain strength from that. It has been very therapeutic for me to help new moms process all the feelings that have come along with being a parent to a “special” child and to help them see that their child will, indeed, be a great blessing to their family.
Writing She Is God’s Child was therapeutic for me. One day while playing my keyboard, the music and lyrics just started coming to me. It was like God was sending them directly to me; reminding me that this little baby girl He had given me was a gift. Although, I was struggling with accepting the “gift” of a special needs child at the time, this song reminded me that God made Victoria just the way she is. Every hair on her head . . . everything about her is special and unique. She is no mistake. Each time I sing this song at the end of a speaking session where I share my testimony about being the mother of a special needs child, I am, again, reminded of that truth!
To view Heather’s video song, She Is God’s Child, visit YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-1D5uYcolc&feature=relmfu.
Much of your music is available online. Where can it be purchased?
A few fun questions…
What is your favorite comfort food and why?
Lately, my favorite comfort food is ice cream with strawberry and hot fudge topping with pecans. Not good . . . especially, since I’m on Weight Watchers right now!! I’ve never been an ice cream junkie so I’m not sure what has turned me on to it recently. Maybe, because it is summertime and it’s hot down here in Alabama!
This website features authors as well as musicians. What’s the title of the last GREAT book you read?
The last great book I read was called Raising Champion Children for God: How to Build Faith and Character Into Your Children by Billy Joe Daugherty. I read this book along with a small group of women from my church. The book wasn’t intended to be a weekly Bible study, but we decided to read one or two chapters a week and then come together for about two hours once a week to discuss the chapter(s) we had read. All of the women in the Bible study were young mothers, so we all struggled finding time to sit down and read! We took it slow! It was an incredible book that I imagine I’ll read off and on until my children are grown adults. It covers everything from discipline and obedience to creating a home of peace.
Are you a major or a minor chord?
I believe I’m a little bit of both! I’m definitely a major chord when it comes to stepping out in faith to do something I feel led to do. I don’t look at the obstacles. I only look at the finish line and believe with all my heart that God will provide what I need to get there.
Although being determined to reach my dreams can be a good trait, it can also qualify me as a minor chord at the same time. The determined nature that I have can quickly turn into something ugly when my stubborn, unyielding self steps in. Ask my husband, he can testify! I have to keep this side of me in check constantly.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I’m the strong, female lead. I didn’t start out that way, though. I am a middle child so growing up I was timid and shy. I was a very quiet speaker; never loud and boisterous. But, as I grew and matured I always seemed to be placed in roles of servant leadership. Whether I was teaching my peers in Sunday School or leading a music rehearsal, I picked up leadership traits just because I was placed there. I was constantly picked out of the larger group to perform tasks that called for a leader. As an adult, I enjoy leading classes/groups. Others seem to ask my opinion and value what I have to say, which means a lot to me. I am not an overbearing leader, however, and always try to consider others feelings when I’m in charge.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
As a child, we always seemed to have a mutt-type of dog. You would never find a full-blooded anything at our house. We settled for the giveaway dogs and were completely happy with them. The only rule was that they would always be outside pets. My parents didn’t get into inside dogs at all. I think my parents must’ve let us name all of the dogs we ever had because they ended up with names like Pee Wee, Blackie, Cocoa, and Spotty.
Unfortunately, Mark and I have not yet entered the world of being pet owners as adults. Our children would love to have a pet (especially a dog), but we recognize all of the responsibility that comes with that and we feel like we are doing good to keep up with our kids at this point! Maybe one day we will take that plunge!
Thank you, Heather! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
Thanks for having me! It’s been a pleasure to share with your audience of readers!
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For more information about Heather and her music, visit her Facebook page at http://fb.bandpage.com/HeatherMessick.
To book her as a guest speaker and/or singer for you event, contact Heather Messick Ministries by calling (251) 591-3191 or emailing hcmessick (at) yahoo (dot) com.
To view Heather’s promotional video, visit her YouTube link at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knOxeYoRpHw.
To purchase Heather’s Meet Us Here CD, logon to: