What I’ve Learned from Living Inside the Testimony

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?


2 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned from Living Inside the Testimony

  1. you inspire me! thank you for being obedient to God’s direction and His plan! thank you for reminding us we all have a testimony.. SHARE IT!

  2. My dear, sweet Cindy!!! YOU are the one who inspires me because you live and share your testimony every single day! For those following the blog, I’d like to share YOUR testimony with them. Cindy is a dear friend and former co-worker who I was blessed to interview on my talk show in 2011. This was the intro for that episode on the show: “How can an unbearable and tragic loss end happily ever after for Matt’s mom? Matt was Cindy Owen’s only child, and after his heartbreaking, devastating death caused her to feel like someone had literally ripped her heart right out of her chest, how was a mother’s love restored and her heart healed? It’s only by the grace and mercy of God. You will discover as you listen to Cindy’s testimony that not only can you survive a tragic loss, the Lord will bless you to live happily ever after in ways you never thought imaginable.” And here’s the link to the actual interview for your listening pleasure… 🙂 WHAT AN AWESOME TESTIMONY. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING IT CINDY!!! (And yes, I know you had no idea I was going to share this today, but since you commented on this post, I felt an overwhelming need to do so.) http://webtalkradio.net/internet-talk-radio/2010/12/27/living-inside-the-testimony-%E2%80%93-matts-gift/

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