Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Journey stories

I was asked to speak at the annual women's conference at our church. Several people would be sharing their individual life journeys and the attendees would be encouraged to begin writing their own stories. The event would serve as a mini-writing workshop. We all have stories to tell and our lives are so different. I was asked to talk about our decision to adopt our children from China.

My initial response was to say no to the request. I do not like speaking in front of a group, especially a crowd as large as this one would be. It is stressful and uncomfortable for me. I had little time to prepare. There were plenty of reasons why I couldn't do it. Then the thought came to me that maybe I had something important to share, something that would be beneficial to others. Maybe a child somewhere would have a home because I told of my wonderful daughters and how they have blessed my life. Maybe someone struggling with defeat would be encouraged by my story of God's forgiveness. My adoption story is really a story of forgiveness--too long to tell here now. Bottom line--God was nudging me to speak, and in reluctant obedience I said I would participate.

What an incredible morning it was! I realized how much I missed the women of my church. Since I began homeschooling, I let go of a lot of church activities that used to be so important to my life. I spent much time through the years with so many of the women who were here this day. Many were close at one time and I was so glad to see them and catch up on our lives.

Each of the very different speakers gave testimony to God's hand on her life as each traveled a very different journey. An older woman spoke first. She was one of the founding members of our church, a girl from Kentucky who, with her husband, began one of the largest churches in this suburban area. I was second to speak. Maybe I will have the courage to post my story here someday. It was hard to tell that morning and it would be hard to tell here. In summary, my story is about a woman who loved Jesus but decided at one point to pursue her own interests and rebel against God's ways. It is the story of my way back and how God forgave me when I didn't deserve it and then abundantly blessed me with these two precious daughters.

Next, to my amazement, was my "angel" K.! Yes, the same woman who shared her wisdom with me on Christmas Eve. She spoke first about her difficulties with family members afflicted with mental illness. She said she heard a sermon once and the pastor quoted Philippians 1:21: "For to me, to live is "____." He invited people to fill in the blank. K. said, "For to me, to live is suffering." Later she realized that throughout her life she had been such a joyful person, and that God had given her a gift of joy from childhood. She saw she had lost that joy and with God's help, reclaimed it. Later she could honestly say, "For to me, to live is Christ." She then told about her diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer a year ago. Through her testimony, we saw that even now she has not lost that joy. She told her story with great humor and no sign of self-pity. She ended her story with the next line of the scripture, "For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain."

The next speaker unexpectedly lost her husband last year. She honestly told of the excruciating pain she's endured. She revealed how God has ministered to her through the Word that keeps coming to her mind. All the scriptures she's memorized throughout her lifetime now comfort her. God continually reassures her of his presence and that keeps her going forward each day.

Jesus said, "In me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." I've told some sad tales lately on this blog and I need to remember these words myself. God will sustain us through whatever life brings. He's given us his Word to comfort us by promising he will always be with us. His Word is living! He has also given us the sisterhood of other women to console and affirm and encourage each other. When we are strong, we uphold others who have lost their strength. We weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

What would your journey story be?


IdaLee Hansel said...

What a journey and the best of it all is God has been with you at all times and I can feel your love of God while reading your words. You have beautiful girls and I have been introduced to them by your, mother, Diane, whom has filled my life as a sister ever could.

What a blessing I have received through your blog today.

Deb said...

IdaLee, I am so happy to hear from you! My mother talks about you so often. Thank you for your kind words.