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?”

To Church or Not to Church?

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Recently we asked some members of Cross Point to share with us what does Cross Point mean to them? Featured first is Lara Izokaitis.”Nine months ago, around Christmas time last year, I moved from California to Nashville with a job transfer. And, if you have ever moved to a new city, then you can relate to the uncomfortable and often times, unavoidable pain of loneliness of transitioning into a new world. A world where everything is new and unfamiliar. I remember driving to a Starbucks that was twenty minutes away from my new home here instead of the one that was right down the street…why? Because the one 20 minutes away felt just like the one I went to in Cali and for a short moment would alleviate the pain of the unfamiliar and make me feel at home.

Then there was the church question?

To be honest with you, as a single girl who has been in full-time Christian ministry for the last fourteen years and working on multiple church staffs, I have had my share of some church wounds. So, when it was time for me to find a church home here, it required a lot from my heart to keep moving forward in this pursuit. Because what I had discovered to be true in my healing process was that God IS good, and although His people may be broken, He still desires for us to be on a team to do life together with Him and for His purposes, i.e. the church.

I began my “church tour” of going from church to church each Sunday to see which one was going to be a good fit for me. I had been invited multiple times to Cross Point by a few others, but to my fault I had originally judged it as a church for Nashville hipsters, thinking that a girl like me, who doesn’t own a pair of skinny jeans would probably not fit in well there. But one wonderful Sunday morning, when I was running late to another church I was close to joining, I decided to accept the invite of my co-worker, Eve Annunziato to join her as her guest at Cross Point. So glad I did!

It has been a “Cross Point Whirlwind” ever since! From the moment I walked through the front doors, I was treated as if I have always been a part of this church. The warm welcome of the greeters, volunteers, and also the staff was so disarming and heartwarming. Felt like home. After attending a “Discovering Cross Point” class, I became a member. And, to me the next step and the most natural one was to contribute to this team I am now on through volunteering. So, I signed up to help with being a greeter on the First Impressions team. I loved being able to meet lots of new people and help make them feel welcomed, as someone had so graciously done when I was visiting as a guest. I also recently became a community group leader and had our first meeting with a group of lovely ladies, who also want to talk about God and do life together.

So, what has Cross Point meant to me?

Life. Loved. Accepted. Grace. Healing. Friendship. Fun….and HOME. Because of Cross Point, I have experienced God in a beautiful new way and for that, I am so grateful.