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Let’s See Where Baseball Takes Him

That’s the title of one of my numerous photo albums on Facebook.

It’s also part of living inside the testimony. This testimony is actually my youngest child’s pursuit of a college baseball scholarship.

Allow me to digress for just a moment for those who have not visited my website before.

I’m a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. My desire is to help readers discover that we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help inspire and encourage others. You’ll find yourself laughing, crying, rejoicing, and soul-searching all at the same time as my books take you on a roller coaster of emotions and self-enlightenment. Discover the inspiration, faith, hope, humor, and love we all have in common. I share my own personal testimony in the first book, and the remarkable testimony of others in all the books that follow.

Living Inside The Testimony® is actually my trademark. I really do “own” it. So why didn’t I realize my baby boy was living inside his very own testimony?

Brandon has been playing ball every year since he was a 5 year-old kindergartner.

Brandon Collier - 5 year old T-baller

Brandon Collier – Ellendale Little League T-ball (5 years old)

Like many parents, we thought he would enjoy playing different sports. His first sport was basketball, and that’s where he earned the nickname Speedy. He was so fast running down the basketball court that his coach simply started calling him Speedy. Later that year, he started playing T-ball too, and somehow the nickname just stuck with him. After all, he had been running ever since he learned how to walk. He had been jumping, and climbing, and defeating the laws of gravity ever since he was a toddler. He scaled my kitchen cabinets like spiderman and then sat on top of the counter when he was only one. He leaped across the living room from the sofa to the love seat, and I caught him in mid-air once to prevent what surely would have been a terrible head injury as he jumped from a chair toward our brick hearth before he even turned two.

Fast forward 12 years, and Brandon is now a 17 year-old senior in high school whose dream is to earn a college baseball scholarship. He wants to major in Business Management and perhaps follow in his dad’s footsteps and own his own business one day.

Brandon Collier, Boltoh High School Varsity Outfielder, Class of 2017

Brandon Collier, Bolton High School Varsity Outfielder, Class of 2017

He’s still Speedy too. Just take a look at this video composed of several short clips of some of Brandon’s high school games which I thought would serve as my personal memories only. Little did I know that I would use these same “home videos” to create part of Brandon’s online recruiting profile for college coaches, recruiters, and scouts to view. On the video, he’s the one batting and/or running bases.

Okay, since this is a blog and not another book, I’ll try to be brief and get to my main point… 🙂

Whether Brandon earns a baseball scholarship or not, whether he ever plays baseball beyond his senior year of high school or not, and whether baseball doesn’t take him anywhere other than where he’s already been, Brandon knows life will go on with or without baseball. He will still go to college. He will still have a career. He will still become the man GOD created him to be. College baseball is a dream. If this dream doesn’t come true, all he has to do is dream of something else. It’s all part of living inside the testimony. Baseball is part of his testimony; it’s part of his life, but it’s not his whole life. It has taken him places he otherwise would not have gone. Being part of a team and the life lessons learned on the baseball field will serve him well later in life.

However, I most certainly do believe he will get a baseball scholarship. He believes that too. I also believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sin, and I will spend eternity in heaven. He believes that too. I believe we were all created for a purpose, our lives should glorify and magnify our Creator, and we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help encourage and inspire others. I believe he’s too young to fully understand that although he does understand people are watching him. His life is a testimony, so wherever baseball takes him, it’s all part of the journey.

One of the first projects he had for school this year was to create a small poster with a picture of himself and 10 words to describe who he is. Along with 10 adjectives, he included this picture of his favorite scripture:

Philippians 4:13

Count the words in the scripture. Yes, it’s 10 words.  It’s not 10 different adjectives that describe Brandon but a combination of 10 words put together into one sentence which describe him. This is what he brings to the baseball field. This is what others will learn from him as he continues living inside the testimony, whether the testimony is on or off the field. It really will inspire and encourage others even though he may be too young to see it right now.

Where will your dreams take you?

I hope your answer is “Wherever God leads me.”

So let’s see where baseball takes him…. Click here if you’d like to see some of the pictures from my Facebook photo album. (I think you have to log into Facebook once you click the link in order to see the pictures.)


BONUS VIDEO

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. I’m throwing in this little video clip simply because it’s part of the testimony. Brandon is a massive 5’7″, 140-pounder who starts on his high school varsity football team as a wide receiver and cornerback. Needless to say, I have to trust the Lord every.single.day for his safety and protection when he runs out on that football field because he is one of the smallest players out there. This was the season opener last week. All I’m going to say is watch this #StompDown by #27 Blue, my baseball player… LOL. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy watching him play baseball and football. What’s even better is watching him grow up and become the young man GOD created him to be. We can certainly enjoy his athletics along the way. 🙂

What I’ve Learned from Living Inside the Testimony

It was never about me!

Yes, IT WAS NEVER ABOUT ME!!!

When I started writing what I thought would be my first and only book in January 2009, I thought it was totally about me. It didn’t take me long at all to realize that it was really about God’s amazing love and abundant blessings. The book was to bring HIM honor and glory. As I’ve noted on my website, I’m a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. My desire is to help readers discover that we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help inspire and encourage others.

Now that it has been almost 7 years since my first book, and I’m in the process of “wishing” to begin my 5th one, I want to take some time through this blog to reflect on each one. I hope that you have been inspired, encouraged, and enlightened. I hope that you have discovered that you do indeed live inside a testimony too and that by sharing your own testimony, you can help inspire and encourage other people. For we are overcome by the words of our testimony. (Revelation 12:11)


Living Inside The Testimony took me only 30 days to write the first draft from cover to cover. It took 44 years of living before I was prepared to write it. I had been living inside the testimony my whole life, but it wasn’t until God sat me down to right the book that I realized it.Living Inside The Testimony

I have come to realize that God was with me all along, and even when I did not acknowledge him in my life as I should have, he was always with me to ensure that I would walk down the path he had pre-ordained for me. Like the song says, Order my Steps in Your Word…. So even though the book is about me, it’s not “really” about me. It’s my testimony that I hope by sharing, others will discover God’s amazing love and abundant blessings in their own lives.

As one book reviewer described it, “This book is not your everyday read. It’s far from it. It’s a wonderfully amazing story of Ms. Collier’s walk with God. It’s her living testimony, her daily struggles, her daily acceptance that she is walking with her Father. Ms. Collier’s testimony is told with exuberance and love, helping people to understand that there will be trials along the way, but having faith and hope in your heart will help you to overcome any obstacle. From her ups and downs with her high school boyfriend, to marrying him, and living life as a wife, to work and pregnancy and family, Ms. Collier shares tragedies and milestones.” (Reviewed by Molly E. for Readers’ Favorite)


Angel in My Room is a story of love, compassion, and forgiveness. I hosted an online radio talk show for about 6 months (but that’s another story) and had the distinct honor and blessed privilege to interview Lillie Hopkins as she told her story for the first time after keeping silent for 31 years.  After the interview, it became apparent to both of us that she had so much more to share that would be a blessing to so many other people struggling with the insecurities of love, compassion, and forgiveness. We had no idea when the interview first aired in February, 2011 that the end result would be this book which I released a short 7 months later.Angel in My Room

I never thought I would write anything. I certainly didn’t think I’d write a book about my own testimony, let alone the testimony of someone else. But there I was in 2011 writing another book. Lillie had waited 31 years to talk about it, and she chose me to tell her story. Well, that’s not exactly true. God chose me. He knew all along that I would write it all those years later, and the sole purpose once again was to bring HIM honor and glory for what he had done through Lillie’s life.

Sometimes other people can describe it much better than I can. “Betty Collier has done an amazing job of writing Lillie’s story into a marvelous and inspiring book. The chapters flow nicely and once I began reading this book, I found myself so intertwined with it that I couldn’t put it down. I was truly moved and it tugged at my heart greatly. I also thank Lillie for sharing her story because it will inspire so many people who have not had the courage to forgive themselves even though God has forgiven them so easily. Through one woman’s journey, we feel her heartache and pain, her personal sacrifice, and her devotion to God. This is such a moving story and so many of us can relate to Lillie’s pain and suffering. Not all people are able to move past the agony and despair, but this book will change people’s lives forever.” (Reviewed by Rita V for Readers’ Favorite)


SHOWgrins will captivate you as you read the five inspirational stories of courage, determination and spirit from women who refuse to define themselves as only Sjogren’s patients. Join them on their journey of self-discovery as they reclaim their lives and find new purposes and meaning to how they can make a difference and be the women they always wanted to be. Those are the words of Steven Taylor, CEO, Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. Sjogren’s (pronounced SHOWgrins, hence the title of the book) is actually an autoimmune disease that few have heard about, yet 4 million Americans suffer from this incurable disease on a daily basis.SHOWgrins

I started my journey with this book basically because I identified with the common symptoms of this difficult to diagnose disease, and I thought I had it too. It wasn’t until midway through writing it that my doctor told me he didn’t think I had Sjogren’s. But I was determined to tell the stories of the five fabulous women in the book to help bring about more awareness and education, as well as to raise much-needed funds for research into treatment and a cure one day. I ended the book by declaring my life was far better after meeting these 5 incredible women even though I didn’t have Sjogren’s. Well, as God’s Master Plan would later unveil, 2 years after I published the book, that same doctor officially diagnosed me as having Sjogren’s after all. WOW! WHEW! WHAT!?!? I never wanted to have Sjogren’s, but I did want to know if I had it, so that I could learn how to live well despite having it. So once again, I realized it wasn’t about me after all. It was about the 5 women in the book and what I could learn from them. Had I never met them, I likely would have crumbled and fallen apart after years and years of searching for answers to all that ailed me. Not only was my mission accomplished to bring about awareness and education of this little known disease, I was well-prepared for what I would learn to face for the rest of my life. Instead of being devastated, I am more determined than ever.

However, for those of you reading this post who know my mother, don’t tell her I have Sjogren’s! I don’t want her to worry about me. Please and Thank You!


The Book about James is my fourth book, but I am delighted that Julia Gray wrote it for me! Okay, so I was her mentor, consultant, manager, coach, and even picked the picture for the front cover, but James is her son, and she was the best one to actually tell that story. The book was my idea, I had the vision, but I couldn’t write it like she could. I had planned to write it, but once again, “fate” stepped in, a.k.a. GOD stepped in. The Book about James Little did I know when I first asked Julia if she would be willing to share her innermost thoughts about raising James that she had always desired to write a book. I had no idea, and quite frankly, I was afraid that she would reject my book proposal. Once again, I learned by being obedient to what I felt God had called me to do, I helped Julia fulfill a dream of hers.  More importantly, the book is changing lives and misperceptions about children with special needs. According to Jo Gilbert, Executive Director of Madonna Learning Center, “This book makes you laugh, cry, and give thanks, but it also inspires you to experience the love and joy that children with Down syndrome have to offer. God places children with special needs in our paths for a reason, and he is in full control.”  Ms. Gilbert’s words ring true on so many levels. God puts many things, people, and situations in our paths for a reason.

As a judge from Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards noted, “When people of faith talk about situations that may not be ideal, sometimes the temptation is to sugarcoat the less glamorous side of life. Yet Mrs. Gray lets us see the darker side of her thoughts without becoming maudlin, self-pitying, or causing the reader to doubt God’s faithfulness. This book is uplifting and definitely one that will be appreciated by Christians everywhere. I feel certain this book will be a perennial resource for those who need it. I hope readers who need it most will find it.” So, with that being said, it doesn’t really matter that the whole thing was my idea, does it? What matters is that Julia did a beautiful job telling her story, and for that, God will once again receive all the honor and glory.


And finally, about this “wishful thinking” 5th book which I have actually been praying about for the past 4 years… I fretted over whether to include this as part of my post at all. I woke up this morning with no intentions of writing anything today. After all, Christmas is right around the corner, I have oral surgery for some major dental work scheduled for Monday morning (part of those issues I deal with because of Sjogren’s, but that too is another story), and I have so many other things to do. I won’t even go there as I’m sure your TO DO lists are just as overwhelming as mine. Anyway, halfway through the day, I grabbed my laptop and took a seat in my favorite room in my house to try to get motivated while I looked at all my pretty Christmas decorations. I knew it was time! I prayed, asked for guidance as to what I needed to share with you today, and if I should include this picture.Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee

No, it’s not a book cover, but it is the beginning of my next journey which actually began over 4 years ago. For the sake of brevity (which I think I have already surpassed) let me back up just a tad bit and explain. This is a picture of Mr. Keith Lee and me from a couple of months ago when I had the privilege of meeting him for the first time to present my book proposal. (I couldn’t leave without getting an autographed basketball! After all, I was a Keith Lee super-fan long before I became an author). He never said I couldn’t share this picture with others, but I have been hanging on to it and not saying a word as I patiently and prayerfully wait for him to give me an answer about allowing me to have the honor of writing his testimony! If you’re not from Memphis or didn’t follow his basketball career, look here for more information about Keith Lee. This is probably the most “public” information you will ever read about him. Even in today’s social media craze, some people prefer to remain private, and very little is known about the personal side of Keith Lee. As the article states:

The media had always wanted the quiet 6-11 giant to say more, and now here was another reporter, asking the 51-year-old former Memphis State forward to reminisce on his college playing days more than a quarter-century after he led the Tigers to the 1985 Final Four.

Lee very politely declined. Maybe some other time. “I thank the fans for their support,” he said softly, clearly still appreciative of his place in Tigers history and in the hearts of the thousands who cheered for him from 1981-85.

He would simply prefer to remain private, like he always has…

And while he remains a private man, Lee said he’s enjoying himself as a coach at Raleigh-Egypt, where he’s sharing his knowledge of the game with players too young to know how dominant he was at the college level. Five years ago, he earned his degree at Memphis in interdisciplinary studies.

“I give God all the glory. I’m just a vessel used by God,” said Lee, who spent three seasons in the NBA and several more as a pro in the Continental Basketball Association and United States Basketball League.

Although I have no idea if this book will ever come to fruition, just accepting the fact that it is possible gives me the faith to believe. Perhaps it won’t be Keith Lee (because he is really a very private person who doesn’t even grant interviews, let alone entertain the idea of someone writing a book about him) so if this doesn’t work out, I’m sure another name will pop in my head, and God will direct me further. I certainly won’t be discouraged. For now I am satisfied just knowing I can accept this idea without doubting God, so whatever he decides to do, and wherever he decides to lead me, I’ll be there, ready to interview and write the testimony… whether it’s Keith Lee or somebody who is completely off my radar right now. The more I think about it, the more insane it sounds, but I will leave this paragraph here anyway. Only the Lord knows if this is going to happen or not. And if it does NOT, then the seed has already been planted in my head for me to “dream big” so even if I’m not ever going to be Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee, it will be someone…. Someone who walks through the door that the Lord opens. (Actually this paragraph is what I wrote on 4/7/11 when I first started praying about this book, and I just copied it here because it seems to fit.) I thought it and wrote it in April, 2011, and I still think it now.

I know Keith Lee has a story to tell. He has never told it. I know he has a testimony to share. He has never shared it publicly. I know there is no one who can help him tell it better than I can. I am praying that God will help him understand that so that he can be a blessing to others. It has nothing to do with my confidence or lack thereof. It has nothing to do with my writing ability or lack thereof. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with me at all. Quite simply, “Living Inside the Testimony with Keith Lee” is all about bringing honor and glory to God. I am assured of that, whether I ever write the book or not.

What testimonies do you have just waiting to be shared with others?

 

Dear Facebook Friend: Thanks for Venting!

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this morning and saw this post being shared by a friend from a year ago:

Today my Moma turned 81! I asked Moma what she wants for her birthday- she said “Chicken Alfredo from Macaroni Grill” check- that’s for dinner. We started talking about her being a year older- she said- all I want is for my family – kids, brothers, sisters, Grandkids, great Grandkids) to have good health, peace, prosperity and happiness. What a great reminder for all of us. I am going to share something a little more personal with my friends- My Moma did not receive one birthday card and only 2 phone calls today wishing her Happy Birthday. If she was on FB she would have received numerous Happy Birthdays- but she is not-What has happened with folks sending a bday card or picking up the phone and spending two minutes to wish someone Happy Birthday? (this is a rhetorical question, no one needs to respond) what a shame! Moma won’t say anything about this- it just breaks my heart.

After my friend posted this, she received over 20 comments from her family and friends wishing her mother a Happy Birthday. All she really wanted to do was vent, but her friends chimed in anyway.

This made me stop and think about social media and what has happened to face-to-face contact and really caring for each other on a personal scale instead of over social media.

So yesterday, my friend updated her post from last year and shared it again:

Today Momma turned 82- pretty much the same except she wants Eggplant Parmesan for dinner! She will definitely have that for dinner!!!

Several people have chimed in to wish her Happy Birthday again this year. But if things are pretty much the same, I guess she didn’t get very many personal phone calls or birthday cards in the mail this year either.

My friend doesn’t know I’m blogging about her Facebook post; however, she does subscribe to my blog, so I assume she will see this. First, DEAR FACEBOOK FRIEND: I’m posting this without using your name or any of your pictures since I didn’t ask for permission, but I sure did want to post a picture of your beautiful mother. Instead, I’ll share this picture of Jeanne Cooper to help make my point. When Ms. Cooper passed away in 2013 at the age of 84, Entertainment Weekly shared this post.

Jeanne Cooper, who played matriarch Katherine Chancellor on CBS’ hit soap The Young and the Restless, has died. She was 84.

Actress Jeanne Cooper arrives at the 37th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards held at the Las Vegas Hilton on June 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ATI)

Actress Jeanne Cooper arrives at the 37th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards held at the Las Vegas Hilton on June 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ATI)

Cooper, who has starred in the daytime series since its first year in 1973, had been in and out of a Los Angeles hospital recently due to an undisclosed illness. Her actor/son Corbin Bernsen had been informing fans of her condition via Facebook, where he confirmed her death today. “My mother passed away this morning just a short time ago, peaceful with my sister by her side, in her sleep. I was going to visit this afternoon, thought I had time. Reminder to self – time is a precious thing. I too am at peace however. I said my goodbyes several times over during the last few weeks.

“I’ll go one last time now for a gentle kiss a final farewell for this lifetime,” he continued. “She has been a blaze her entire life, that beacon, that boxer I spoke of earlier. She went the full twelve rounds and by unanimous decision… won! And while her light finally gave into the wind that gives flight to all our journeys, there will always be a glimmer left behind by what she stood for. I will speak about that more in coming days, months I suppose. I will certainly dedicate what remains of my life to continue her purpose of honesty, equality, humility, empathy and love.”

So now I really started thinking… DEAR FACEBOOK FRIEND: Thank you so much for venting last year and reminding us again this year about your mother’s birthday and the lack of attention she was given. Too often we forget our manners or lose them completely. Social media has actually made us much less personable and much more thoughtless. I appreciate you so much and hope you don’t mind that I am sharing your post anonymously to make a point.

When I googled Jeanne Cooper’s funeral, I was surprised to see so many hits. There were all sorts of articles and videos, including a video that showed how Y&R aired her TV funeral.  Her family also had a private service in addition to the public memorial. I should have known to expect that since she’s a larger than life beloved soap opera star. There was such an outpouring of love and support for both her natural family and the Y&R family. Maybe we can learn from this (albeit shaky) comparison of these two vastly different lives. My friend’s 82-year-old mother is still alive and well. We shouldn’t wait until someone has passed away to show how much we love and care for them.

If my rambling thoughts have at least prompted you to think about those you love and hold close to your heart, then I have accomplished my task for this morning. I want to inspire others to live inside the testimony with me. Inside this testimony, we love, support, and encourage each other in a personal way by sharing our lives and our time with others.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines testimony like this:

  • An outward sign
  • Firsthand authentication of a fact
  • A solemn declaration usually made orally by a witness under oath in response to interrogation by a lawyer or authorized public official
  • An open acknowledgment
  • A public profession of religious experience

DEAR FACEBOOK FRIEND: Thank you for venting, and please tell your mother that I said Happy Birthday! Living to be 82 years old is quite a testimony all by itself. Loving your mother the way you do is the bonus testimony!!!

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Let’s all remember to share our lives and our time with others in a personal way, not just on social media. And let’s remember what my friend’s mother wanted for her birthday: for my family – kids, brothers, sisters, Grandkids, great Grandkids) to have good health, peace, prosperity and happiness.

Isn’t that what we all should want?

 

(Not) Too Busy to Post

When I launched this blog in January 2014, my prayer for each of you who chose to read it was that you would be inspired and encouraged by the testimonies and stories that I was going to share. My initial goal was at least a monthly post, but as I look back, I see I haven’t written anything for almost 4 months.

There is a storyteller bottled up inside me, and sometimes it seems to consume me. As I continue seeking the Lord for guidance concerning how to release all the stories floating around in my head, I find myself so overwhelmed that I don’t take time to sit down and pin my thoughts. “Busyness” circa 2015 has a new definition, and in this modern world we live, it can be quite mind-boggling. Like many of you, I am a self-proclaimed victim as well. I won’t try to come up with excuses about how busy I am or the many roles I have to fill every single day. Our degree of busyness is relative to our own personal situations. There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
walk a mile in my shoes

So I will offer no excuses for my failure to make time for what I truly enjoy, being a storyteller. It is a precious gift from God and truly my passion. What I would like to do is inspire you (as well as encourage myself) to take a look at our busyness and try to reconcile how to make a change. But to do this, one must understand this busyness phenomenon. True to 2015, my google search took me to numerous quotes about busyness. Here’s 5 of my favorites:

  • “Some times things just fall off your plate.”
    ― V.K. Springs 
  • “Busyness is not a reason for not getting other things done. It is an excuse for not claiming your true priorities.”
    ― Alan Cohen
  • “The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.”
    ― John C. Maxwell
  • “I understand our mornings can be busy; however, if we cannot make time for God now, then when?”
    ― Ashley Ormon
  • “Finally, everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.”
    ― Seneca

Right now I still don’t know how I will balance my busyness on a healthier scale, but at least I realize I have to do so. I sincerely hope I have motivated you to take a look at your own busy lives and realize if you need to work on changing things. We were all created for a unique and divine purpose. Make time to figure out what is important in this life. Time will pass us by whether we use it or not.

never give up

Merry Christmas…. to Africa

Everyone has that kind of relative, right? You know the one who shows up at the Family Thanksgiving Dinner after all the food has been put away or at Christmas time, empty-handed, looking for a handout. Well, I’ll call my relative (my mother’s brother) Uncle Singleton, but he’s not exactly THAT kind of relative. He’s from a little rural town in Ellendale, TN, but he spends most of the holidays deep in the bushes of Africa, specifically in Kenya, Nigeria, or Uganda being driven by a mission. His mission is to bring the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, to the people of Africa.

You see, my uncle is an International Evangelist, and a couple of months ago, we celebrated his 25th anniversary as Founder and President of Christ International Ministries. How he got from Ellendale to the continent of Africa is a miracle all by itself as you will see in the video. If you visit his website, you will find information about his ministry to carry out the Great Commission of Jesus to go and preach the gospel and to assist in the growth of the body of Christ. What’s so interesting to me is that his “only” preparation for such an undertaking is simply being “called” by God. It is a gift. It is an anointing. It is the favor of God. It is most definitely a calling to be driven by such a mission… to preach, teach, and support!

L to R - American Traveling Companion - Dr. Dewayne Swift, Evangelist Singleton Hopkins, Evangelist Sybil Hopkins, 2 women from the village

L to R – American Traveling Companion – Dr. Dewayne Swift, Evangelist Singleton Hopkins, Evangelist Sybil Hopkins, 2 women from the Nigerian village

On his first mission trip to Nigeria in 1989, his contact person was afraid to send someone to pick him up from the airport for fear of being hijacked. There he was in a foreign land all by himself, unable to speak the language, dependent upon strangers to help him to his destination well before there was anything remotely similar to google maps. I don’t think his destination is even on a map today! A brave taxi driver took him through checkpoints with men holding machine guns, and he eventually arrived at the designated home safely. Singleton doesn’t travel to the “city” part of these countries. He goes in the villages and deep in the bushes where no American missionary has travelled.  He has preached in the midst of rebel activity, in refugee camps, and even to orphans whose schools had been bombed. While traveling through one rebel line, the people immediately behind his group were murdered.

The first church Christ International Ministries built in Nigeria

The most recent church Christ International Ministries built in Uganda

Through what seems to be a very dangerous mission, Singleton has witnessed miracles right before his eyes. Blind eyes have gained sight and deaf ears have been opened. Souls have been saved, and heaven rejoices. As his wife Sybil describes it, “These past years have been one of amazement…It has been a tremendous blessing, and I appreciate God for allowing me to have the privilege of leaving this country to go to another place in the world and tell people about Jesus.” They have ministered to thousands, spreading the gospel, and providing aid to the people of Africa. It is rare that we ever see him during the holidays because he is usually in Africa during Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s the best time of the year for him to travel because in order to fund this ministry, Singleton owns and physically labors every day in a small lawn care business. He works full-time on his day job to have the means to fund his mission trips. Because lawn care in his part of the world is slow during the winter months, he chooses to leave that work behind to travel to Africa between November and January. To me, it seems like he brings Christmas to Africa. What a gift!!!

Some of the Nigerians who came to hear Evangelist Singleton Hopkins preach the gospel

Evangelist Singleton Hopkins preaching inside the Nigerian church which he helped build

So as we continue our American traditions celebrating the Christmas season, I ask that you consider sending a Christmas gift to Africa. We have an overabundance of most things here in America, including material possessions, all the modern conveniences that we probably take for granted, and of course the freedom of religion. What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ than to help fund a mission trip to remote areas of Africa, so they too can hear “The Good News!”  You can make a secure online donation to Christ International Ministries by clicking here. Your donations are tax-deductible to this 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

As I mentioned in the beginning, everyone has that kind of relative. My uncle is usually late for Thanksgiving dinner because he is probably in a remote part of an African village preaching the gospel. He doesn’t really show up at Christmas time empty-handed either. Instead, he is most likely using his hands to help build churches and schools in these same remote areas of Africa. He’s not looking for a handout. He’s reaching up, all the way to heaven, and he’s teaching these precious souls in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda how to reach heaven too. WHAT A GIFT!

 

 

Living Inside the Testimony… in Spain

Have you ever met someone and wondered how in the world did he turn out like this? It can be a really good or a really bad impression. Either way, you probably remember him for the rest of your life.

When I first met Alex Galloway, Psy.D, he was working with Memphis Healthy Churches and Christ Community Health Services in Memphis, TN. He is a clinical psychologist who I had pictured in my mind as one who could (and should according to the world’s standards) be earning 100’s of thousands of dollars annually based on his education, skills, and abilities. However, he was devoting his time and energy to the under-served and poor of the inner city. He certainly left a lasting impression on me.

After he announced he was leaving Memphis to join Church Resource Ministries, (CRM) my heart was sad because I had never met anyone quite like him. According to CRM’s website, “CRM empowers leaders to go to the unreached and unchurched, bring transformation among the poor, and mobilize the Church for mission…so that disciples are made among the nations.” The website describes Alex like this: Alex is a clinical psychologist with specialized interest in marriage counseling, trauma recovery, and the holistic care of God’s people. He has worked among the poor for ten years in Memphis and has a passion for the marginalized and victims of injustice. He enjoys encouraging, equipping, and empowering those who minister on the “front lines” with CRM.

I would miss him terribly, but I knew God had a much greater calling on his life. He and his wife, Amy, along with their 3 daughters, would be giving up everything to move overseas to serve in an even greater capacity. Alex wouldn’t be able to do what he does without Amy, whom I may add, has a master’s degree herself. CRM’s website describes her like this: Amy makes a special contribution to the team with her deep love for women in ministry and their families. Her authentic living, transparency about the spiritual journey, and deep passion for Jesus permeate her teaching and ministry. Amy is passionate about prayer and commits herself to praying for CRM and our staff.

If they knew I was writing this blog about them, they would surely blush. If they knew I still had a hard time calling Dr. Galloway simply “Alex,” they would wonder why. If they knew I was mentioning their degrees and worldly earning potential, they would probably ask that I not write this blog post. However, it’s all part of my story: Living Inside the Testimony…in Spain.

Alex, Amy, and their three girls - Karis, Bella, and Lexy

Alex, Amy, and their three daughters – Karis, Bella, and Lexy

Today, Alex, Amy, and their three girls – Karis, Bella, and Lexy – live in Málaga, Spain, where they are establishing a missionary care and training hub. I subscribe to their newsletter, and the latest one is what gave me the idea for this post. Below is an excerpt from their newsletter.


Every wonder WHY we’ve been appointed to this particular era… the era of ice water fund-raising challenges, partisan stand-offs, the redefinition of marriage, and the disintegration of trust between the police and the people?



And what about the turmoil in the Middle East?  It’s horrifying to know there are videos of beheadings (American or not!  Children or adults!) circulating on the internet fueling the religious and ideological wars among religious groups.  We see the footage of entire villages being gassed to death and hear of Iraqi Christians being crucified because they won’t renounce their faith.  Then we close our computer, refill our coffee, swallow our helplessness and guilt, and go on about the day. I mean really, what can WE do about it?



Christianity Today recently posted an excellent article titled, “Crisis in Iraq:  Five Things You can Actually Do to Help” see the attached link:  (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/crisis.in.iraq.six.things.you.can.actually.do.to.help/39094.htm).

Two of their recommendations ring especially true for me.  



1)  PRAY for people living in these war-torn zones.  When I am worshipping on a Sunday morning, I often think of people sitting in refugee camps, young girls held hostage by religious fanatics, or Christians sitting in jail cells… all of them facing daily torture, and despair.  I ask God to sing over them, wherever they are, to send angels to minister to them, to reveal Himself to them in the darkness, and to strengthen their spirits.  And I pray for those receiving the overflow of refugees.  You think our immigration problem is bad – they estimate more than 30% of Lebanon will be Syrian refugees by the end of the year.  Yes.  Thirty percent.  Now that’s a humanitarian crisis that reshapes a whole nation.



2)  GIVE to organizations who are serving on the ground.  I know it seems “easy” or insignificant to just write a check.  But my belief is that our checkbooks can help to remind us and align us more clearly with our priorities and with the suffering around the world.    There is a practical (and I believe spiritual) release of resources that take place when we invest in the poor, the oppressed and the forgotten.

In case you are unconnected to an organization working in the Middle East, Alex himself (and several on our team) are working directly with the crisis in Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon.   Here’s how we are involved:

  • Alex trains workers from refugee camps and NGOs how to do crisis and trauma debriefing.  The trainings and materials are translated from English to Arabic as the workers come from many nations.  They then take those materials and train others… there’s a multiplication effect in resourcing others.
  • Our team provides debriefing and crises care for workers who themselves have been traumatized through sexual assault, deportation, abuse, and/or burnout.  Sometimes it’s a Skype call, sometimes we go to them, and other times they land here in Southern Spain for a period of time.
  • We host retreats where workers in the Middle East and north Africa  come for spiritual care, counseling, and rest.   They are always weary and often their belief in God and His goodness is rattled by the suffering they’ve seen.  They need a landing place, a M*A*S*H unit so to speak, to rest, heal and receive care.

We tell you this not to be self-promoting (though we do have needs), but to give you an opportunity to participate in something tangible you can do for people on the other side of the globe.  And it’s not insignificant – to us or to them.



Join with us in praying and serving our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world!

In Him,


Amy


That is what I want to share with you today, Amy’s message in the newsletter.  Don’t you see now why I wonder how they ended up like this? I’ve heard of overseas missionaries, but I’ve never seen a couple so totally devoted to it like they are. They have given up everything to serve others, and I’d just like to share their message with my readers. You can read more about Alex and Amy at this link that follows. Be sure to scroll down beyond the top story after you click the link to see some really cute pictures of the family’s visit back home to America. Click here: Galloway Updates from Spain.

The Galloways are living inside the testimony in Spain

The Galloways are living inside the testimony in Spain

I have been making a monthly contribution to help them fulfill their mission ever since they left Memphis years ago. If you feel led to make a one time or ongoing, tax-deductible donation to support the Galloway family and their ministry, you may give in the following ways:

ONLINE:  
http://www.crmleaders.org/give  or click here.

BY MAIL:
CRM Empowering Leaders
1240 N. Lakeview Ave #120
Anaheim, CA 92807

BY PHONE:
Call 1 (800) 777-6658 x122 to make a donation by credit card.

Thank you so much for taking the time to live inside the testimony with me by subscribing to my blog. Like I always say, “We all live inside testimonies meant to be shared to help inspire and encourage others.” The Galloways inspire me all the way from Spain! I hope that I have inspired you today.

Constant Reminders

At work the other day, I was chatting with a co-worker (who I will call Jill), and somehow we got off task. Before I knew what happened, Jill was telling me how her mother always told her how much money it took to raise her. It wasn’t specifically in dollar amounts, but even as a young girl, Jill was constantly reminded by her mother that they had to pay for so many things to take care of her. To a young child who doesn’t understand the value of money or that it costs to raise a family, being constantly reminded of this fact simply didn’t mean anything. As she got older, Jill realized her mother was actually complaining about the cost of raising a family.

The more we talked, the more off task we became. Then another co-worker chimed in and said that God gives her constant reminders too. These were of a much different sort. Her reminder that morning was a song “Fix my Eyes on Jesus.” Instantly, she was reminded that no matter how bad her day at work was going, she did not have to stress out about it. Instead, all she had to do was fix her eyes on Jesus, and she knew he would help her through the day no matter how stressful the job was.

That sidetrack at work made me think about God and all the constant reminders that we get from him. Sometimes we’re like little children who don’t understand the value of the reminders. Then there are times when that’s all the hope we have left, and if it wasn’t for the Lord’s constant reminders, we would surely faint.

A magnificent sunset over the horizon after a stressful day at work, the calm after a raging storm, holding a tiny newborn for the very first time so close to you that you can feel his or her little heartbeat, an astronaut’s view of this wondrous earth from the vastness of outer space, and simply falling in love – deeply and profoundly in love for the very first time. All of those things are constant reminders that God is ever-present, and this world and everything in it is what he created in the beginning. Knowing he has the hairs on my head numbered simply blows my mind, but that too is a constant reminder that He knows absolutely everything about me.

So as I continue this journey of discovering the storyteller inside me, I am constantly reminded that I write because He called me to do it. I tell people that I’m a nurse by profession, author by passion, and storyteller by the grace of God. I have a purpose for writing and sharing testimonies with others, and it has nothing to do with me. It’s not a job, nor is it my chosen career path. It’s so much more than that. It’s a “calling” that I have answered. As I share my thoughts through this blog, my prayer is that each of you will be inspired and encouraged by the stories that I share. As I seek the Lord for guidance as to what I should write, I earnestly pray that you will be blessed and inspired. As Revelation 12:11 teaches us, we are overcomers by the words of our testimonies.

Living Inside The TestimonyThat’s how I started my first book, Living Inside The Testimony. And that’s how I will end this post, with a gentle reminder for each of you. Remember that we all live inside testimonies meant to be shared with others. I finally realized that God doesn’t have to constantly remind me of that. Thank you for living inside this testimony with me.

Are there reminders from the Lord that you don’t recognize or perhaps ignore? Are there things in your life that you need to share with others to help inspire and encourage them along the way? Does God have to constantly remind you that HE created you for a purpose? Are you fulfilling that purpose?