Last month we had our California FWB Women's Retreat at the ECCO center in Oakhurst. Now, if you're a FWB California lady and you've never been to one of the annual retreats, you are missing out. It's a wonderful time to relax, laugh, meet others, bond with your church group, and become refreshed as you grow in God. This year's speaker was Amberly Neese. She is a wonderful lady full of humor and encouragement. (At the end of this blog I'll provide some links to her website and a youtube video.) It was a really good weekend.
During one of the services we watched a Cardboard Testimonies video. (There are many on Youtube and I couldn't remember which exact one we watched.) After we watched the video we were all handed an index card by the worship team. On one side we were suppose to write our testimony in a summary. On the other side we were suppose to write what God has done for us through our testimony...Just like what was done in this video. Once we finished writing we were suppose to hang our cards up along the room.
When handed this card I honestly had no idea what to write. Honestly, I still don't know what to write. I currently feel like there isn't just one or two sentences to describe what I had to write. I didn't need a piece of cardboard. I needed the whole cardboard box!!
While mine wasn't as "short and sweet" as other's that wrote their own, I think that's okay. The exercise was therapeutic for me. In my mind I've thought about life's ups and downs a lot. However, other then the occasional Facebook status update, I hadn't really written about what was occurring, my thoughts, feelings, and struggles.
I meant to pick up my card once the retreat was over. Instead I became busy and distracted with other things around me before leaving. This isn't exactly what my Cardboard (AKA: Index Card) had written on it as I can't remember exactly what I wrote, and I've also made some adjustments with some updates, but this is the basic summary of my testimony for the first side:
- My dad almost died in March from an infection, while being hospitalized for two weeks.
- Dad almost died again, was hospitalized again in May.
- We moved my sister and her husband across the country in June, to temporarily live with my parents and I, in expecting of their first child.
- My grandmother was diagnosed with her second battle of breast cancer in June.
- About one week later, while in Japan doing disaster relief work, my baby niece died and was born as a stillborn at 14 ounces. After coming home early for the visitation and burial service, I was able to hold her.
- A week later my sister (yes, the same one) had an emergency appendectomy.
- My youngest aunt found a lump and had to be tested for breast cancer. Found out she had a rare non-cancerous tumor that would need to be removed and have further testing for 100% confirmation. (There wasn't any cancer!)
- Found out a family member needs surgery for a physical issue.
- I, myself, became injured. Now needing surgery two months before going overseas. (Surgery has a one month healing time...But I just view this as a small speed-bump in comparison to this year.)
- Dad's health is still struggling.
- Been dealing with a lot of anger, some depression, and much fear. (While these three major things were a big personal battle for a few months, and a really big part of my life, I can now say they are less frequent. It has taken me a long time to admit to these feelings and battles, but do not want to deny that they have been in my life this year.)
- In the middle of the craziness I've been trying to raise $7,000 to serve overseas for 4 1/2 months in Germany and London. (I still have $5,700 to go...with less than a month and a half to raise the rest of this money.)
On the flip-side of my card, for the first time, I focused on what God had been doing. On what blessings God had given. This is what it said (again, updated to keep it current):
- God hasn't left my side once. He's stuck by me, never leaving.
- He's given me the gift of humor and laughter to find the funny moments in life.
- God has also given me an amazing family that is uniquely close and tight-knit to get through this storm together.
- Where God guides, He provides. He's showing me this in many ways.
- Friends from around the USA and world have been praying and encouraging my family.
- I've been replacing my anger, fears, and depression with happiness, trust, and joy!
What's on both sides of your card? Maybe you're like me. Maybe right now you're going through that storm and you just can't summarize the experience in a way that makes sense yet. Or, maybe you've just finished going through a storm that you can now summarize into one or two sentances that express your testimony.
The view I've always had in life is that life is like a puzzle. God is the only one who can see the preview on the cover of the box, and He is putting together a beautiful picture that only He can currently see or even fathom. Once in place, all the pieces come together with beautiful picture. (And we all know that a picture can easily say 1,000 words.) I truly do believe that through our pain and we will have a strong and beautiful story to tell. It's just in the writing phase.
Going through a storm is an interesting thing. Being in the storm we can sometimes only see the rain, pain, and heart ache that it brings our way. Yesterday my eyes were opened to a new perspective for my own personal storm.
While being in this storm I've only looked through my own eyes. As I visited with some local friends yesterday at a church I saw my life and current family situations through their eyes. What I've been seeing as painful, heart breaking, hard, and being full of fear, they saw as bravery and inspiring. To me this was at first a shock, but also a huge eye opener and encouragement. Never before had I thought, "What my family's continuing faith and story saying to other people?" (I've always said, "I wonder how God can one day use this?", never, "What is it saying to others right now?") Before this rough time in my family's lives I also never realized how truly blessed I am to have such an amazing family that is so tight-knit. I never realized the rarity in this. Within the last two months I've been told by at least five people what a unique family I have, which is another refreshing outside perspective.
What are you seeing in your current storms and struggles?? What positive things does your story say to those around you? Try looking at your situation from a new angle. I never realized how refreshing it could be to do so.
What is your story?
The Travelin' Chick,
Amberly Neese's information:
A Funny Youtube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mecQl86eleY