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!!!

1529967_10202501346079109_6391647169054171819_o

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

It Happened Overnight (after almost 1,000 nights)

It took 2 years and 9 months (approximately 1,000 days) to get to this place on our journey, and then overnight, an amazing thing happened. Our destination was confirmed, and The Book about James debuted on Amazon as a #1 Best Seller and #1 Hot New Release on April 13-14, 2015. #1 Best Seller

The fourth book in my series, The Book about James, was written by Julia Gray. I initially approached her about my idea for the book in July, 2012. We’ve been working together ever since on this project which is very near and dear to both of us. It’s more apparent for others to see why it’s so close to Julia because she is James’s mother, and the book is about him. However, in some ways, I think it was even closer to my heart because I had to find a way to make this book all that she had hoped and prayed it would be. If it was not a success, it would have been like never reaching the promised land, and I feared I would have failed both Julia and her precious James.

Success to us was not that it would become a best seller, but rather simply stated, that God would be glorified throughout the pages. I had a vision for the book, and Julia trusted me completely to lead her down this very uncertain road of writing and publishing. I could not fail her, and more importantly, I knew I would have to trust the Lord to lead me as I should go because Julia was following right behind me. Suffice it to say our faith was tested, but we never faltered. As Julia wrote in her reflections at the end of the book, “The sole purpose for writing this book is to bring honor and glory to God, for it is he who blessed me beyond measure by giving me the honor and privilege of being James’s mother.”

You must be curious as to what this book is really about, so take a look at this 5-star review by Ashley Tetzlaff for Readers’ Favorite:

In her work, The Book about James, Julia Gray shares her thoughts on raising her son born with Down Syndrome. The book is broken into twenty-one “articles” – chapters that can be read as stand alones or in conjunction with the rest of the book (just like a magazine article). In each article, Julia Gray deals with a particular issue or experience: her reaction to James’ birth, schooling James, trusting in God when things are rough, side-effects of Down Syndrome, etc. Julia is honest about how her feelings were and what they are now. For those who are just starting to walk this road, this book will offer encouragement and hope. For all others, it’s a peek into the ups and downs of life with Down Syndrome and God’s grace for it all.

Wow! Julia Gray’s The Book about James blessed me so much! I confess, I have always had this little fear in the back of my head that I would have a “forever child” – a kid with Down Syndrome or something like it. This is funny since as a kid I had friends who had DS and I loved to be around them. Who doesn’t enjoy a forty-year-old who plays like someone who is six? But I was afraid of having one myself. Julia Gray came face-to-face with her own fears when James was born: what would others think of her? Of him? How would her other children be affected? I really appreciated Julia’s honesty. She is willing, not only to share her joy in James NOW, but the feelings of fear she had THEN. I was encouraged that even if I do have a forever child one day, DS can be a blessing and not a burden.

Even though my two children are “normal”, I still found much encouragement in this book as a mother: no matter what our kids do or don’t accomplish, they are special just the way they are. And God gives us the grace to deal with everything – no matter how overwhelmingly big it seems to us. He really does work all things together for good and The Book about James shows us that. Beautifully written. Wonderful witty style. Well edited. Altogether highly recommended. Is there such a thing as a dozen stars? (Read more 5-star book reviews here)

Now, back to what happened after 1,000 nights…. After our arduous task and what we felt was an inspired mission from the Lord, it was time to reveal the book to the world, so we started with a Facebook Book Launch, hoping those who had been waiting almost 3 years for this book would be excited to finally read it. And boy were they excited, so much so that after we announced its availability in eBook format on Facebook, it instantly became #1 in its category on Amazon the very first day of the launch. It was the hottest new eBook released on April 13, and right after midnight, it soared to the #1 spot for best sellers… Literally overnight our prayers were answered, and God was indeed receiving the glory for making this book what HE intended for it to be.

Amazon.com

So as we busily prepare for Julia’s Inaugural Book Signing and Reception on May 15, I am still in awe at what we have been able to accomplish. Julia wondered if she had written anything interesting, helpful, or worthwhile. I assured her that she had, but I guess she needed to hear it from others. They spoke very loudly and clearly by rushing to purchase the book, and the instant feedback was the confirmation that she needed. She wrote on her Facebook page, “I have been overwhelmed by the response of my friends to my book release. Thank you all so much for your support, sharing of the book with others, and most of all – encouraging words!!!”

Things really did happen overnight, but we had to live through those 1,000 days first. Now we both see exactly why God chose to take us down this path. So I encourage you to fulfill the plans God has for you as well. Do you feel as though the Lord has given you an assignment that is much too big or too difficult for you to accomplish? Do you feel ill-equipped to do what he has called you to do? Just trust and depend on him to direct your path, and you too will find yourself right where you need to be on this journey through life. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

I will leave you now with the 2 quotes on the back cover of the book and an invitation to come to the book signing and reception on May 15.

As a father of a child with Down syndrome, I could resonate with so many of the emotions, experiences, and steps of faith Julia described in her journey with James. Every parent, family member, or friend of someone with Down syndrome or any special needs should read this book. ~Andy Savage, Pastor, Speaker, Author, and Host of The Andy Savage Radio Show

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. ~Jo Gilbert, Executive Director, Madonna Learning Center

The Book About James Poster for 5.15.15

 

 

Intro to “The Book about James” on 3.21.2015 World Down Syndrome Day

I’ll be brief this time so you can watch and listen instead of read. March 21, 2015 is the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day. This video introduces the 4th book in my Living Inside the Testimony series entitled The Book about James, written by Julia Gray, the mother of James. It’s an emotional roller coaster of 21 unique short stories about James Gray, Julia’s 9th and youngest child, who just happens to have been born with Down syndrome. So please watch the video and be sure to LIKE us at Facebook.com/TheBookAboutJames

Love Never Fails

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, but I don’t have to remind you of that. Society and retailers have taken care of that ever since they took down Christmas decorations and replaced then with tons of Valentines. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married 28 years to the absolute love of my life, and we will be celebrating our wonderfully and enormously blessed love for each other on February 14 just like everyone else who has a special someone to share that day. We don’t take that blessing lightly!

However, I’d like to take just a couple of minutes of your time to reflect on true love, love that never fails. We know the 13th chapter of I Corinthians is considered the Love Chapter, and here’s the reason why as explained in verses 4-8 of the New International Version: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Yes, LOVE NEVER FAILS. So in this month of love, I’d like to leave you with 28 reminders of true love. If I had planned this better, it would have been delivered to your inbox on January 31 so that you could read one verse each day during the month of February. But alas, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Reality is this thought didn’t come to my mind until today. I have been enlightened and inspired by a fellow author who already found these 28 wonderful bible verses to encourage your hearts (pun intended).

God says you are...

God says that you are all of these 28 glorious descriptions. Now that’s TRUE LOVE!

I can attribute this lovely picture to www.JenniferDukesLee.com. I saw it on her website with the following quote: “Do you know what a treasure you are? Do you know how deeply loved you are? Maybe you’re like me, in need of a fresh reminder that you were created on purpose, for a glorious purpose, in the name of love. Your Savior loved you to life, even through His own death. He is your ultimate …”

So with that being said, Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the true love verses and know that God says that you are all of these 28 glorious descriptions.

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!