CATERFLY-CAPTURES: AMBER WILSON

(Today’s CATERFLY-CAPTURES I am featuring a dear friend of mine, Amber Wilsonphoto-4. You may know her as the popular and highly accredited food blogger, “For The Love Of The South.” Since the day Amber and I met through a destined meeting in our church’s bathroom (I tell ya, women and bathrooms-ha!)…we’ve quickly become forever friends. She is one of the most beautiful of women both inside and out. Not to mention crazy creatively-gifted and wonderfully humble about it all, too! (You should definitely head over to her site to see—you’ll be so glad you did!) I wanted to share with you this snapshot of Amber’s story from her graduation over ten years ago. It’s so amazing to see her now—you would NEVER have imagined what she walked through! AMAZING!! I pray this also gives you hope in the area you need it most!)

“In Times of Graduation:

I can almost hear the applause, feel the square-shaped diploma holder in my hands, and feel the weight of the world being lifted off of my shoulders. Walking across that stage will not only be a victory for myself, but it’s a reminder of everything God has brought me through. The short jaunt across this platform represents a leap of faith.

This cap and gown are only for the ceremony. The smile and wave to the family are for the photos. My steps do not only reflect these past few years studying, but they reflect doing the impossible for God. Doctors told me that I would never be able to attend a normal university. But here I am, staring at a stage, with cap and gown in hand, thinking back to the miracle of God that brought me to where I am today.

My “impossible” situation began long ago, whenever my back was burdened with a bone tumor. I was 15 years old. I saw more of the hospital than I did of a football stadium or my school cafeteria. Originally, I was told my back was broken. I comforted my family by saying it could be more serious; it could have been a tumor or cancer. Then a day later, we got a call saying that it was a tumor. I said, “It could always be worse.” Who was I to complain about my situation? God used me through many lives along the way. One story stands out in particular.

There was a nurse that took great care of me. One day, we started talking about God. I told her that I didn’t know why I was going through this trial, but it was for a reason that was greater than me. She paused for a moment and then began to tell me about her life. She had a son that was the same age as me. He had a strong relationship with God, one that she never quite understood. Her son was diagnosed with leukemia and had passed away in the same room that I was laying in. She continued to say she never understood why God took away a person with such faith in Him. She told God she would never let go until she found a child with the same faith her son had. There in front of her, speaking out of the mouth of a child in the very room her son passed away in was God. His great peace allowed her to let go of the anger of her son’s passing. God brought me there for this nurse. For her and many others that felt that same peace and saw God in the eyes of a child.

There was a short time when we did not know if the tumor was benign or malignant. I knew if it were cancer, God would take care of me. Fortunately, this rare bone tumor was not cancerous, but there was a chance for it to grow back in my lungs. There have only been 2 other people with the same disease and one of them passed away. The odds were not in my favor but God was. The tumor never grew back, but what I was left with was permanent nerve damage that affected the use of my left leg.

I am constantly reminded of the pain. I bear scars like everyone else. They tell a story. They tell God’s story. I am at awe of God’s amazing grace and power. Through therapy, I was told that I would never be able to be like everyone else. There are better days than not. Through these past four years in school, I have been involved in yoga, kayaking, rock climbing, writing, photography and cooking. I have yet to miss more than 1 day in a semester in college. Everyday that I have been able to sit in a classroom is a testimony to God.

So this achievement today is more than just an achievement in my education. It represents doing the impossible for God. I would rather live in this daily pain and remember what God has done for me than to have never been in pain at all. I will carry this with me like a cross as I tread across the platform, receive my diploma and thank God for being my mountain mover in life. Here’s to the next step in life. Here is loving deeper, living whole and never complaining about my circumstance. Who am I to complain?”

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EXCITING NEWS!!!

OK, the news I’ve been waiting to share with you!!! (*drumroll, please*)…    photo-4

I. JUST. SIGNED. A. BOOK. CONTRACT. WITH. THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERS!!!…Oh my, how dreams REALLY DO come true!

But, let me tell you a little somethin’-somethin’ about this because just a few months back, I was having a REALLY hard time believing they actually do.

There will always be a time along the road of seeing our dreams come true where all hope gets lost. And, it’s at this stop where the mark of “impossible” is clearly established. It’s also the place where our hearts find true surrender in trying to make the dream possible through our own strength with understanding that it will ONLY be the move of God bringing about the impossible.

One evening at church a few months ago, I found myself in that deadened, hopeless place.

Here’s a little bit of a back-story:

Last Fall I self-published a book called, “Caterfly,” a book about identity and how to live confident and free in this image-crazed world; A book that took over seven years to write.  (Oh and side note: it will be available to purchase until Spring of 2016 which is when my newly “renovated” version will be released by Thomas Nelson—yeeees!!) I was eager to get this needed message out to women of all ages, which is why I chose to publish it myself. BUT, in order to truly spread this message to the nations, as I have dreamt, I knew I needed the help of large, reputable publisher. I did my research and set my sights on the best, the well-known publisher–Thomas Nelson. Here is a list of just a few of their authors: Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Karen Kingsbury, Donald Miller, Lysa TerKeurst, Dave Ramsey, John Maxwell, Bob Goff, Judah Smith, Craig Gross, Charles & Andy Stanley, Neil Anderson, Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Henry Cloud, and so many more!! But, seriously…talk about the IMPOSSIBLE and me getting published by them?! I was told they would NEVER look at my book because I was not famous enough, so might as well give up hoping for this to ever happen until then. And, honestly, 99% of me did.

Until the divine moment at church a few months back when my pastor, Henry Seeley gave an invitation for those of us who felt hopeless in our dreams to respond in faith to believe again. My heart began to swell with tears. It took so much for me to believe again. I felt SO beat down and such a failure. Just four months prior, I took a crazy leap of faith and quit my job to pursue better health (Lupus challenges), as well as go after my dreams. But instead, I found myself living a life of a sojourner, like Abraham did staying in temporary dwellings, no income, living on food stamps, and battling disease in a fierce way. The thought of seeing my dream come true of being published by Thomas Nelson was consistently mocked in my head. It was hard to see beyond my circumstances and many times, I felt much despair trying to fight to believe. YET…I had a 1% hope left in me that JUST MAYBE, He has more for me!

God has a beautiful way of taking what’s seemingly dead and undeniably impossible…and bringing it to life!  photo-2

(Get ready for this next part because it’s SO good!)

Just…two…days…after the night I prayed at church to believe again for the dreams God had for me…an editor from Thomas Nelson contacted me and said they came across my manuscript and are interested in it. (*INSERT: CRAZY-WILD- DANCING-JUMPING-AROUND-SQUEELS OF JOY!!*)

They weren’t quite sure exactly how they got their hands on my book….but, I did ; ) His name is Jim Armstrong. I met him over a decade ago in a Kansas bookstore. He was a salesman for Zondervan publishers that I struck up a conversation with and can now see the divine appointment it turned out to be! He and his wife supported my ministry throughout the years and when he got ahold of the rough draft of my manuscript–he became one of my greatest cheerleaders. I will be forever grateful for his help in opening this door of a dream come true!

Since the initial contact with Thomas Nelson, it went fast with meetings, lunches, board meetings, conference calls and then officially signing a contract as one of their authors. WOW. GOD IS SO GOOD!

I hope you are encouraged by my story and pray that you, too, will believe again for the dream, the miracle you’re waiting on! Just because it doesn’t happen in your timing, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Trust His plan for you. He will ALWAYS have your very best in mind. And, when it gets tough (and it will)…DON’T GIVE UP!! NO matter how dark, HOLD on! God has not forgotten you. And what is impossible with you…IS POSSIBLE BY GOD!

Your miracle awaits you!!<3

“I can bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams.” (Jesus Culture Devotional)

 

HOW LOVE HEALS

It’s 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon and I am doing what I LEAST like to do in life…lay idle on a couch–sick. I have decided to finally write about something that I’ve kept hidden away like a dark secret because I just discovered something profound in the midst of this healing process….Love truly does heal.

Ya see, I’ve been battling a nasty autoimmune disease called, “Lupus” for quite some time now. I was formally diagnosed over three years ago when a doctor noticed symptoms on my body that he had seen on his wife, who has been battling Lupus herself for over a decade. But, prior to this, I had been through the ringer with every doctor under the sun (including the famous Mayo Clinic, specialists, and ER visits) trying to discover what in the world was causing all these horrible symptoms that Lupus brings. It mimics so many other health complications, but can be best described as feeling like a really bad flu with a bunch of added yuck that accompanies it, like rashes, bruises, and bumps all over, as well as cuts and sores in the mouth. Not to mention being CRAZY cold all the time (maybe sometime I’ll get to the place where I tell you all about my eskimo-outfits I wear to keep warm ; ) (You can read more about Lupus here: http://www.lupus.org/resources/impact-of-lupus-on-the-body)healing_love

People have asked me why I’m not more vocal about my daily battle with Lupus and honestly, the answer is because of my own pride. (Ok and also included are the misunderstandings, frustrations, and judgment that comes from well-meaning people, as to the “why” I’m sick and not healed, yet? Please graciously note…this really is not helpful.) We want people to think that all is well in our world and losing the control over my own body in this way has truly been the most humbling experience of my life. I laid in bed yesterday weeping with a dear friend kneeling next to me holding my hand while I expressed to her how this is NOT at all where I saw my life being at 40 years old. Especially as a former Division-1/semi-pro athlete who is such a dreamer and has lived a very active life, yet now, it often feels like…I’m a prisoner to my own body. And, honestly, many days…I yearn for heaven, my true home where I know there will be no more tears or suffering and I get my new body—YEEES, Lord!) But, until then…

The days of my hiding are over.

I’ve decided to brave and share with you more about my experiences of battling these yucky health challenges, as well as some ways to help. Why? Because I know there are so many others suffering in the same way, who also needs some encouragement and love.

One of my closest friends, Vanessa Gargano called me yesterday while in the thick of my despair to encourage me and just love on me in my affliction. While I was choking back tears because of my embarrassment of feeling so weak and broken, she said these life-changing words to me: “Lara….you just need to be LOVED.” And, it was in that moment, I discovered a powerful medicine to aid the human soul in the midst of sickness. And, that is–LOVE. Love from others. Yes, a love from God, but coming through the hands and feet of people. A practical-love that truly does bring healing.

What is the best way to help someone in their suffering? LOVE them. Love them through a phone call, a text, a visit, holding their hand while they cry, make a meal for them, bring them something sweet (besides yourself, of course ; ), make them laugh, help them with paying a bill, go to the store for them, reminding them of better days ahead, and SO much more! THESE WERE ALL WAYS MY SWEET FRIENDS BROUGHT HEALING TO ME IN MY SICKNESS THESE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS…through their love.

LOVE truly is what brings healing to the sick.

I encourage you to be an aid of healing to those in your life that battle health challenges by loving them through your actions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them to offer your help (because if their stubborn like me, they probably have a hard time asking and at times, receiving too!) I am so very grateful for the love shown to me by loved ones…it has TRULY made ALL the difference!

Signing off for now as…being healed by love ❤