testimony

But You Wouldn't Know Me

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” -C.S. Lewis

Amanda Ciurdar shares her very personal story of faith and hope as she continues to walk through a season of challenge and heartache. This month as part of #socalityherproject we are featuring stories from women that inspire others. 

I sat in my dark closet, crumpled in a ball on the floor with my head hanging low. I clutched my heart desperately as I was sure it would physically shatter and I watched my dreams go down the drain yet another month. Water fell out of my eyes as if someone inside me had turned a faucet on and forgot to switch it back off. I could not breathe. My heart, though broken, still thumped wildly. My husband Sam was in the other room watching TV, clueless as to the puddle of heartache I was sitting in. I tried to keep quiet to avoid him hearing my sobs and gasps for air. I didn’t want him to know I was crying… yet again.

October was the first month I thought it had really happened. It had been only 6 months and we had kept the information a secret as we were hoping to surprise our friends and family, who otherwise thought a baby was far from our current plans. Six months sounds like such a short time, but considering I was “ready" a whole year before my husband, every day our baby was not in my arms or growing in my belly was absolute agony. When my body made it clear that I was not pregnant, I could not handle the weight of reality, and I crumbled. My once hopeful and fervent prayers had turned into shortened, soft pleas, and then into numbed silence. What was even the point, anymore? The Lord had turned a deaf ear to me and all I ever heard back was the sound of my own desperate breath. Hopelessness and despair had swallowed me whole.

Fast forward 6 more months, add a million more tears, loads of anger, confusion and depression, and this brings us to present day, where our bouncing bundle of joy has yet to make its debut. I have somehow survived umpteen pregnancy announcements, the birth of multiple babies of dozens of friends, and 12 very long months of grief and loss. We’ve spent thousands of dollars on herbs and supplements, teas and acupuncture treatments, and after only one appointment at the Fertility Center, over a thousand more. Searching for answers gets expensive pretty quick.

They say hindsight is 20/20 vision. I think most of us would agree that the storms we have endured held within them major character-defining moments - events we had to brave in order to become who we are now. That we would be someone completely different had they not occurred, and though they were difficult times, that they stretched and grew us in the best of ways.

It’s a much different story when you’re smack in the middle of a storm, or have been wandering in a desert for what feels like 40 years, no Promise Land in sight. You don’t have the luxury of hindsight yet, so it’s much easier, in the midst of chaos, to feel forgotten, abandoned, and completely alone. To lose sight of why you’re even here in the first place. To question the journey, to question the pain, to question the goodness of our God.

I have been ashamed of who I became through this journey and learned that I fail miserably when my character is tested. I am embarrassed by how flimsy my faith proved to be. Jealousy, anger, judgment and spitefulness toward God and others made their home in the darkest corners of my heart.

I came across the following verse last year, and I have engraved it on the tablet of my heart ever since: “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’” -John 13:7. One thing I’ve learned through all this, is that even when God chooses to be silent, He is never absent and always at work.

God has stretched me far past my breaking point this past year, to remind me that He is my portion and is sufficient for me in any season. And though I hate to admit it, and though it has been the most painful season of my life, I have truly grown. The ugly and broken parts of my soul that I did not know were there, have been exposed, and I have allowed God to begin replacing them with light and truth. Incredible life-long friendships have come to fruition in my life because of this trial — friends who understand me at my very core, and who walk with me hand-in-hand through the fire that's still ablaze brightly before me. The vulnerability my husband and I have shared has caused our marriage to grow deep roots in love and understanding. I have learned an incredible amount about validation and empathy, what to say and what not to say to someone with a broken heart, and I can only hope that God is being glorified as I trust His plan and continue to take faithful steps into the unknown.

A friend recently sent me a poem called “Wait” by Russell Kelfer. And though the character in the poem questions God during his season of wait, the Lord simply replies, “I could give all you seek and pleased you would be, you’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.”

Friends, I am with you and for you, and you are never alone.

You can follow Amanda and her journey at @amandaseeyoudarrr.

Do we pray?

BY: STACI LANDIS

"The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live."

1 Timothy 2:1 (MSG)

I've recently experienced a renewed awareness of the difference between what culture and society tells us versus what the word of God tells us. 

As I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, etc., I see post after post containing news and articles about the latest scandal or the latest political and social issues. I see dozens of various thoughts and opinions offering advice on what we should do about it all and advice on how to think.

This morning I was reading 1 Timothy during my study time. When I got to 1 Timothy 2:1, I stopped after reading that verse. I was convicted about how I proceed after I read posts and hear about issues, politics and/or people in our culture. I realized that I rarely stop and just pray.

It's such a different way to proceed than our human nature leads us to believe we should. Our human nature tells us to share the information or the article! Like the article! Argue against the article or information! Gossip about the person and/or info! But, pray for the situation, information and/or people?!

Prayer changes things because prayer changes us. Prayer brings us before a holy God and allows us to hold out our empty hands and admit that we do not have the answers.  We can't fix people. We can't fix this broken culture. We can't fix human nature. It gives us the courage to admit that we are sinful. That we need grace and mercy just like the next person.

Ultimately, the word of God reminds us that prayer gives us peace.

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

"Do You Believe Me?"

by: Ezra Cohen

1 Corinthians 2:9 says,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Maybe you’ve never heard this verse before. Or maybe you’re like me, and you’ve heard it 1,000 times. Perhaps, even as you read this, it’s going in one ear and out the other. (Growing up in church, this became a very familiar occurrence for me in my teenage years).

But a couple years ago, I had one of those moments where it felt like the words were jumping off the page and God was speaking them directly to me. Suddenly, as I read this scripture again, I saw it in a new and fresh light:

"No eye has seen.

No ear has heard.

No mind has imagined

What God has prepared for those who love Him."

As a young Christian man beginning my journey as a creative, these words came alive and sparked passion and hope in my heart like nothing I had felt before. This became more than just a memory verse. It became an anthem. A promise from God to me as I endeavored to create with Him as the center of my work. Whether I was taking photos, writing songs, shooting videos, drawing, writing or whatever, I lived every moment on this powerful promise.

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But there’s this funny thing that starts happening as we continue our journey as creative people. We start comparing ourselves to others and setting our work up next to theirs. We start realizing the sheer breadth of the incredible work that has already been accomplished. We start looking at the people we follow and admire and start believing that we’ll always be one step behind—never ahead.

I know these thoughts well because they were the ones that began to infiltrate my heart over the course of this past year. And if I’m being even more vulnerable, I will tell you that, working for a church, these thoughts were only magnified. I began to believe that I would never be able to create anything truly “cool” or “creative” because I was doing it for a church.

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Ouch! Even typing this out, it feels like a dagger in my heart when I look a few lines above at the incredible promise God had given to me.

But I'm currently writing this from my office, trying to fight back the tears in my eyes because it was just last week that God spoke to me again.

Driving home, I heard the Lord speak to me so clearly. His voice cut through all the noise to ask me a question I will never forget: “Do you believe me? Do you believe that I can give you ideas for films and photos and designs that no eye has seen? Do you believe that I can give you melodies, songs and soundscapes that no ear has heard? Do you believe that if you fix your eyes on Me, we can create things the world has never seen? DO YOU BELIEVE ME?”

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These four simple words hit me so hard. I began realizing just how much I had allowed doubt and disbelief to control the way I thought about my creativity. How much I had allowed comparison to fuel my disbelief. But in this unforgettable moment, God reminded me of the incredible promise He made to me those years ago—the promise He has given to ALL of us as creatives who love Him:

"No eye has seen.

No ear has heard.

No mind has imagined.

What God has prepared for those who love Him."

Today, I challenge you with the same question God asked me: Do you believe Him?

I pray that this story will inspire you to dream bigger than ever before, to take authority over the the lies that may infiltrate your heart and to listen to His voicethe voice that spoke the universe into being and wants to speak to you today. 

Thoughts of Mine

by: AJ Abshire

I recently moved to Seattle, Washington, from Lafayette, Louisiana. Before the move, I had multiple opportunities to travel to other areas of the country and world.

I’ve been moving around for some time now and I can’t help but write about a few things I’ve learned thus far.

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Movement is intelligence.

While there are a multitude of areas in the world that I have still not visited, I’ve noticed that the more I travel and drown myself in the overwhelming culture shock, the more I truly understand about those particular cultures and areas of the world.

There are some things a person can never learn through textbooks: language terms, personality types and interactions, common cuisine preferences, etc. The more I travel the more I understand that the world is so much bigger than I am. In the vastness, I realize it doesn’t need me; I can’t do anything for this world. It needs Jesus.

In the future, I’d like to share things that I’ve learned about life through my movements on this earth. I like to think I gain a lot of valuable perspective while on the road so much.

Building community is really hard for most people.

There are multitudes of relocated people out there who have come from another social position or culture, like myself, and all of it changes in an instant. In a post-college setting, there are no longer events that bring strangers together, at least not really the kinds that I would want to go to.

So there are other ways, like social media, but the issue is that people tend to use it as a wall, hiding who they truly are and preventing anyone from developing an actual vulnerable relationship – the kind where people share their passions and desires about life. And love. And everything else brothers talk about. I don’t know about you, but I need brothers – people to hold me accountable with standards and values similar to mine. Specifically? Christians – the “weird ones” who live it out.

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If things make you happy, that’s really sad.

Brussels. When I went to Brussels this past summer I experienced something that I never thought I would – an airline strike. The goal was to go to Brussels on behalf of a ministry here in the U.S., while encouraging and interacting with college students at the local university campuses. What none of us expected was that our luggage would be stuck in the airport the entire two weeks of the trip. With just our carry-on bags, we roughed the streets of Brussels and Paris as best we could. Initially, it was hard: one change of clothes, one pair of shoes, toothbrush/paste and a phone. We all thought our lives were over – as most Americans would. Funny thing is, by the end of our journey, none of us needed or even noticed that we were without. The necessary items to fulfill our daily tasks were always minimal and our value was much greater for those things in which we actually possessed.

Naturally, like most things, this got me thinking.

Shortly before I moved, I gave away close to 90% of my possessions. When I left for Washington I had: my vehicle, my guitar, a couple bags (clothes and electronics) and a bicycle. The downsizing of quantity is absolutely what cleared the room for me to see a bigger picture of what should be valued in life. We should value people, our relationships – necessities like food, water, shelter, etc (considering many people in the world still don’t have some of these).

The things people hold as value are normally things we could all live without. The world needs to step away from consumerism and realize that there’s something so much greater than that fashion statement or social status. There are people who want to be loved – inspired – shown that there is something so much greater than all of us. False hope in product and glam lifestyle is not how to reach them. It’s Jesus.