Tuesday, January 20, 2015

UPDATES on Baby Obed, Baby Caleb, & Emmett Marks and NEW Prayer Requests

"Be careful (anxious) for nothing:
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known unto God."
Philippians 4:6
(KJV)

Aren't you thankful God never tires of listening to us?
I thought of that today, as I spent my daily time with Him.
I feel like a broken record....over and over and over again,
I make my requests known unto God, just like the Bible instructs me to do in today's passage.
I do my utmost to do this in an intentional way...
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
Always with thanksgiving.
Because He has done SO much for me.
He has answered so many prayers...I can't even remember them all.

How many times have I hit my knees or just cried out to Him...
when my heart was crushed to bits,
when fear overwhelmed,
when needs were urgent and pressing,
when feelings were raw,
when bereavement from grief was more than I could bear,
when I heard His still, small voice whisper, 
"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest"?
(Matthew 11:28)

Oh, the sweetness of His words!
How precious to my soul!
How calming to my rattled nerves and unsettled spirit!

Jesus Christ, my Lord and Master, and the One I love more than I could ever express,
invites me...to come...to Him!
He wants to take this load...these burdens...that are way too heavy for me to carry.
He wants me to release them...into His grasp...so He can untangle the knotted threads
and speak peace to my bedraggled emotions.
This call to come to Him is not just for the ones who seem way more "spiritual" than me,
the ones who seem to have it all together,
who never seem to falter and flail and stumble...
like I do.
Wonder of wonders, this invite is for me.
Not just me....but, did you catch that little three letter word right after "Come unto Me"?
A-L-L.
This is not an exclusive invitation.
We are all invited to come and bow at His nail-scarred feet
and pour out our woes in His arms!
And we don't have to come cowering...terrified of rejection...afraid we aren't good enough....
as Esther had to approach her powerful, intimidating husband, Ahasuerus, the king.
Remember?
The law of the land said, you didn't just walk into the throne room for a friendly chat.
Regardless of the severity of your problem, you didn't just stroll up to the ceremonial  chair and make it known.
If Esther was sad, lonely, homesick, distressed, or desperately longing for her husband,
it wasn't permissible for her to just drop in and run into his noble arms.
There was a specific, definitive protocol that had to be carried out...even by his wife, the queen.
Failure to do so could result in disastrous consequences,
and the potential penalty for such an offense was no laughing matter.
The repercussions for meandering into the throne room, uninvited by the king,
was punishable by...death.
The only thing an uninvited, discovered culprit in the royal chamber could hope for was that the king, by an act of sheer mercy and generosity, would forgive the unwanted intrusion,
and hold out his royal scepter as an outward sign of invitation to come closer to the throne.

Oh, the relief Esther must have felt when she walked, unbidden, into her husband's sovereign chambers, and he extended the scepter to her!
All was well, and she would live!

How blessed we are that we have a perpetual, 24/7, open-ended invitation to...
"...come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy,
and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:16

God's "royal scepter" is continually held out to us,
a welcoming, constant appeal to each and every one of us.
We are always welcome at the feet of Jesus.
What a blessed place to be!

So, I come to you with a petition to join me in the throne room of our Heavenly Father
to present to Him these pressing needs.

***********************************************

BABY OBED



Here's the latest update about one of our favorite little guys from his Daddy, Travis.

"I can’t believe it’s been over a month since the last update - a lot has been happening.  
I apologize for not sending one sooner.

Obed was in the hospital again for 6 days with a respiratory/flu illness over New Years.  
He has recovered fully, which is great since it was pretty scary. 
He had to be on oxygen the whole time in the hospital.

We also have a time-frame for his heart surgery.  
The cardiologist is going to do all new tests and send them to the surgeon in Cincinnati sometime next month.  
We’ll then meet with him and his team again in March to discuss surgery in April.  
He will be 9 months old on April 15th.  
We’re just so thankful Obed has continued to grow and flourish; this should allow for a better recovery after his surgery.  He currently weighs about 11 lbs 3oz (more than double his birth weight-5lb 6oz)!

Thank you all for your patience and continued prayer,

-Travis"

So thankful God took good care of little Obed and brought him safely through another hurdle!
I am still hoping and believing for "no surgery necessary", 
but even if my hopes don't line up with God's will and Obed ends up having to undergo the operation,
I am believing God to pull him through to perfect health.

Please keep praying for Obed and his family.
God is listening to all of those prayers, and they are definitely being answered.
The picture above is perfect proof!

To read previous posts about little Obed, follow these links:
**********************************************
BABY CALEB


Baby Caleb is now home from the hospital and doing SO much better!
Praise our wonderful God!

Now, faithful prayer warriors, I ask that you please pray for Caleb's mother, Kim.
She is facing health issues of her own, along with a biopsy to see whether or not she has cervical cancer.
Please pray for good results for Kim, for continued healing for little Caleb, 
and for God's protection over Caleb's daddy, who is militarily deployed overseas.

***************************************************
EMMETT MARKS

Emmett is home from the hospital, praise God!
He is now on full-time oxygen, but is doing so much better!

***************************************************
MICHAEL LAKE

Please pray for Michael Lake (64), who was hit by a car as he rode a bike in Berkeley, California. 
He has broken ribs, a broken leg, a broken hip, and swelling of the brain.  
He is currently experiencing short term memory loss and has no recollection of the actual accident.
Fortunately, he immediately recognized his sister and her daughter, 
when they walked in to see him at the hospital.
The family is requesting that we keep Michael in our continual prayers.

***************************************************
ANONYMOUS

I received a prayer request for someone who is going through a very hard time,
including difficulties in her marriage.
The load this person carries from day to day is beyond heavy,
and she really needs a lot of prayerful support at this time.

***************************************************
Family of JIMMY NEFF


Please continue to hold my family up in your prayers,
as they walk these lonely days of bereavement in the wake of Jimmy's homegoing.
My sister-in-law, Dorothy (Jimmy's mother),
my brother, David,
Jimmy's siblings, David, Naomi, and Melissa,
his step-sisters, Dorinda and Vicki,
and all others who are missing him and mourning his loss.
God is so faithful to send relief in each moment of heartache.
Jesus was a Man of sorrows and is so well-acquainted with grief.
He is moved with compassion as His children weep.

******************************************************

So, dear friend, what is on your heart tonight?
Are you heavy-laden?
Do you labor, trying to carry a load that is heavier than you can handle alone?
Remember this.
God is seated upon His throne, and His "royal scepter" is extended to you, at all times.
He knows your heart.
He sees your tears.
He understands your fears.
And He cares for you more than you will ever be able to comprehend.
Whatever your heartache, grief, problem, trial, difficulty, or insurmountable feat,
God is there...right where you are.
He invites you to come to Him, not timidly or anxiously, but boldly.
Courageously.
Expectantly.
Anticipating the answer to your prayer.
If you have a specific need you would like us to add to our prayer list,
(whether public or private), please feel free to get in touch with us HERE.
God bless you and meet your every need.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

GOOD-BYE, JIMMY...and A New Prayer Request

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:4
(KJV)

I sit here in disbelief, eyes filled with tears.
This is a post I never wanted to write.
These are words I never wanted to say.
Not that we didn't know it was coming.
We've been expecting it for days...weeks...even months.
Still, when it comes, it is so hard to say good-bye.
And, to the bitter end, I kept hoping...with all my might....for a miracle.
I know God could have done it.
We wanted Him to.
His thoughts are much higher than ours, and He had other plans.

After a long, hard, courageously-fought battle with cancer, 
Jimmy Neff quietly passed away this morning,
surrounded by the ones he loved most.


I suppose only those who have walked the path he trod could ever comprehend
the intense suffering he endured.
As I prayed earlier, I almost mentioned his name.
It is such a natural thing for me to do.
He has held a spot in my daily prayers for such a long time.
It will be so hard to stop doing that.

I feel so helpless.
So inadequate.
So unequal to the task of being able to help my brother and sister-in-law.
Their hearts are so broken.
Their anguish so intense.
Their grief beyond human utterance.

Words feel so empty and sound so hollow.

After all, what can one say at a time like this?

Dorothy never planned to bury her son.
David never planned for his step-son to precede him in death.
This is not the natural order, so it seems even harder for them to cope.

Jimmy goes way back to some of my earliest childhood memories.  
Remember the post Christmas From The Dumpster?
Jimmy was the little boy in that post who was about a year older than me.
I spent a lot of time with him and his brother, David,
since our parents were such close friends.

Several years after our "Christmas From The Dumpster" adventure,
and after several life changes and the divorce of Jimmy's parents,
my brother, David, married Jimmy's and David's mother, Dorothy.
So, at that point, my two childhood friends, Jimmy and David, also became my family.

We've shared a lot of happy times and made some precious memories,
the latest being in September and November of last year,
a few months after Jimmy was diagnosed with brain, lung, and adrenal cancer.
The moments we shared seemed ever more precious then,
knowing that, short of a Divine-intervention miracle, Jimmy's days were coming to an end.

During our September visit, he was still able to enjoy eating, and we shared a pizza from
my absolute all-time-favorite pizza place, Cassano's.
We reminisced and laughed....a lot.
We reminded each other of funny things that happened back in our younger days,
and we talked about all the years we spent going to Sunday School 
and young people's meetings together.
We also cried...many tears.
We knelt together, before we left, and poured out our hearts,
side-by-side, next to the living room couch.
We begged God to send a miracle....
to take away his pain....
to remove the cancer.
When we all stood to leave, his spot on the couch was soaked with tears,
he turned to me, hugged me tight, 
and through his tears, he said, "I love you SO much!"

I thought my heart would break.

A few weeks after we returned home, Kevin, Zachary, and I were out driving one day,
when, out of the blue, Kevin turned to look at me.
"You know, I wish we could go see Jimmy...just one, more time."

"I can't believe you said that", I replied.
The same, exact thought had just crossed my mind.

We decided then and there that we would figure out a way to get back to OH
to see him again before it was too late.
I called my sister-in-law, told her we were coming, and on the phone, 
we made plans to get Cassano's again.
Jimmy put in his order asking for a sub this time, instead of pizza.
I wrote it down, so I could make sure we ordered him exactly what he wanted.
I kept that piece of paper until just the other day.
I guess I just kept hoping we would be granted the gift of buying him that sub.

"Tell her I'm paying for it", I heard him say in the background.

"No, Dorothy, tell him, this will be our treat", I replied.

"You tell her I can still wrestle her like we did when we were little", 
I heard him tease from across the room.

We laughed, and Dorothy and I hung up the phone.

Little did we know that the Cassano's we enjoyed together in September would end up being our last.

A few days before we got back to Ohio, Jimmy took a turn for the worse,
could no longer enjoy eating,
and had to be hospitalized.
Our visit with him there was precious, but not nearly as happy as the one a couple of months before.
He was so frail...so gaunt...so weak...sitting there in the chair beside his hospital bed.
I couldn't believe how much he had gone down hill in such a short time.
We still laughed, but not so much. as we realized it would more than likely be our last visit together on this side of eternity.
After the room was emptied of all other visitors except Kevin, Zach, and me,
we gathered around his chair, and the four of us bowed our heads in prayer.
After all those years of praying together in church, Sunday School, and youth meeting,
this would be the last prayer I would ever pray with Jimmy.

When we finished, I found it hard to tear myself from his room, 
but he was tired, and I knew he was only sitting up to be polite.
We walked away, and I knew.
There are just some things you know with a deep-down heart knowledge.
Living over 600 miles apart, we would never have the chance to see him again.
Out in the hall of that hospital, I even considered going back...
just to spend a few more moments with him,
I was just that certain it was final.

Jimmy was one of the kindest, most giving, unselfish people you could ever hope to meet.
He was tender-hearted, abundantly generous, and caring.
He made a good living, but it seems he gave nearly all of it away.
If he knew you needed something, he wouldn't think twice about giving you what he had.
He was just that way.

People like Jimmy are few, far between, and hard to find.

Today, has been a sad, sad day.
Tonight, it still hasn't sunk completely in to my senses that he is gone.
He left this world a better place, just by being a part of it for the past 49 years.
God bless and reward him for all the kindness, love, and compassion he has shown.

And now I beg of you, dear friends, please do remember our family in your prayers.
I will no longer ask for prayers for Jimmy.
His need for prayer is over and past, as the angels have come and carried him away.

In Heaven, there is no cancer.
No pain.
No brokenness.
No heartache.
No good-byes.
No sadness or tears.
What a wonderful place that must be!

So, for now, good-bye, Jimmy, my dear, childhood, lifelong friend.
God be with you, until we meet again.

**********************************************************************
As I close the chapter on asking for prayers for Jimmy,
I open a new one requesting you pray for a little 8 week old baby boy named, Caleb.
He is in the hospital suffering from RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus),
and now has developed pneumonia.


His mother has health issues of her own, while trying to deal with little Caleb's illness alone, 
as his daddy is deployed overseas fighting for our country.
Please pray hard for this little guy and both of his parents and family.
God bless them, comfort them, send healing, and see them through this trying time.

*****UPDATE 1/18/2015*****
Little Caleb is off the ventilator, praise God, and is now on full oxygen.
His mother, Kim, is in much need of prayer, as she is facing what could be a very serious health issue of her own.
Please continue to pray for Caleb's healing, Kim's healing and positive prognosis,
and Caleb's daddy for peace of mind and protection while serving our country.
A big thank you to each one who is praying for this dear family!


"One Word" For 2015

"He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
Psalm 23:3
(KJV)

There is a difference in praying....and well, praying.
There is the kind of prayer that we hurriedly breathe while rushing out the door...
the kind that just begs for mercy...
the kind that simply says, "God, help me",
and so many other little, short pleas that we send up on a regular basis.
I'm not saying that those prayers aren't "real" or effective,
nor am I implying that God doesn't hear those brief cries of the heart.
They are, and He does.
"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,
and His ears are open unto their prayers..."
I Peter 3:12

But, I believe there are...what I call "levels" of prayer.
There are quickly whispered prayers, then there are those prayers that demand more than a whisper.
The kind that compel us to hit our knees or bow our heads and cry out to Him with such intensity,
it wrenches tears from what feels like the bottom of our souls.

My prayers lately have been somewhere in between, but you could safely say
they have been closer to the latter level.
I feel such an overwhelming desire for clarity.
I so want to know what He wants from me.
I want to stay within the perimeters of His perfect will.

So, I am searching for Him with all my heart.
"And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:13

Since this brand new year began,
I have been praying about a focal point
and seeking God concerning what my "one word" for 2015 should be.
For days I've been asking.
The Lord kept giving me a sense of some of the things He wants us to do,
and each day, I sort of felt like I was getting closer to narrowing it down,
yet, I didn't want to just pull a word of my own choosing or fabrication out of thin air.
I wanted HIM to direct the word.
To let it be a unification of all of the things He is asking of us right now.

As I shared with you in this New Year's Day post,
all 3 of us have been feeling a sort of internal "stirring"...
kind of like there could possibly be a crossroads coming?
We believe God has revealed that there are good changes up ahead.
That the changes involve "a door" being opened to us.
Will it be this year?
Only the One who controls and orchestrates the future knows.

We feel like we are in the "pre" stage....the time when God is working on us,
working on situations, working in the shadows and under the surface.
Much of His work is not apparent to us.
So, we trust, and we wait, and while we are waiting,
we have been feeling we need to do certain things.

"Things" like shed, lighten, lessen, condense, consolidate, cut back, pare, cut down, cut off, cut out, trim, decrease, curtail, organize, streamline, disentangle, free, disencumber, liberate, loose, untie, clear the way, untighten, emancipate, clear up, clear away, and simplify kept coming to mind.
So many words...such similar meanings.
But, how to narrow them down to "one word" that would perfectly express what we are to do
at this season of life...during this new year?

I feel a strong sense that if we do not heed these "GENTLE URGES", we will regret that we didn't
once "THE DOOR" opens to us and that we will wish we had been more attentive and obedient to the prompts He is faithfully and steadily sending our way.

Why all the shedding?
Why do we feel the need to downsize and simplify things?
Why are we feeling so compelled to loose ourselves from entanglements?

We truly have no idea.
Hebrews 11:8 comes to mind often these days.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went."
Hebrews 11:8

Abraham obeyed.
Even though it did not make sense,
and in spite of the fact that he didn't know where he was being led to go.
God gave him preparatory orders, before He ever explained the plan.

The more these words came over the past several days, the more I wondered how I could ever hope to merge them all into one, single word...a perfect summary of them all.

Finally, I got my answer during prayer the other morning.
It was crystal clear.
And it makes such perfect sense.
A seven letter word.
The perfect number.



Just one word...a simple coalescence of all we are being led to do...
and an acronym thrown in with lots of supporting Scriptures, to boot!

The word?
P R E P A R E
When I first saw the word spelled out on the screen,
I realized that many times the word itself suggests negative connotations and undertones.
But, this time it is all positive.
It's all good, in Jesus' name.

P   - purge
R   - reduce
E - eliminate
P       - prune
A - anticipate
R      - release
E     - expect

Purge
Definition:
"To rid of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release."
PURGE what?
The excess.
Physical weight and other things that are dragging us down.
Things we no longer need, want, or use.
Spiritual baggage that pulls us backwards and impedes forward movement.
Old hurts that still want to be nursed, but no longer need to be.
Bad memories that only serve to vex our spirits.
Dross.
"And I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, 
and take away all thy tin (impurities)."
 Isaiah 1:25

Reduce
Definition:
"To make smaller or less in amount, degree, or size."
REDUCE what?
Spending.
Eating.
Accumulating.
Clutter.
Debt.
Self.
Selfish ambitions.
Selfish dreams.
Self promotion.
Selfish preferences.
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:30

Eliminate
Definition:
"To completely remove or get rid of something."
ELIMINATE what?
While some things need to be reduced, some things need to be plain eliminated.
Unnecessary stressors.
Deterrent and distracting roadblocks.
Toxic hindrances.
Negative influences.
Fostering grounds for besetting sin.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, 
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."
Hebrews 12:1

Prune
Definition:
"Reduce the extent of something by removing superfluous or unwanted parts."
PRUNE what?
What is unnecessary, so the good parts can thrive, be more productive, and bear more fruit.
Those things that drain life, joy, good health, and well-being.
Those things that are not like Christ.
"He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
John 15:2
(NIV)

Anticipate
Definition:
"Be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared; look forward to."
 ANTICIPATE what?
Good things from God.
"The wonderful, effectual door" that is up ahead.
The glory that lies behind it.
The fulfillment of His promises.
The unveiling of His beautiful plan for the future.
"...hope that is seen is not hope:  for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."
Romans 8:24, 25

Release
Definition:
"Allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free."
RELEASE what?
The caged past.
Regrets.
Shore lines.
Those things that hold us back from being all God is calling us to be.
Shackles.
Drains.
Bitterness.
Unforgiveness.
Grudges.
Hurts.
Betrayals.
Injustices.
It is such a relief to let these things go.
"...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, 
and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
Philippians 3:13


Expect
Definition:
"To look forward to the probable occurrence or appearance of."
EXPECT what?
God's promises...both the ones in His Word and His personal ones to us...to be fulfilled.
God's best.
Life and health and prosperity.
Showers of blessings and times of refreshing.
"There shall be showers of blessing."  Ezekiel 34:26
"...when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."  Acts 3:19
Good things.
Peace.
The fruition of God's beautiful dreams for our lives to begin to unfold.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
Jeremiah 29:11

It is time to let go of the past and  prepare to receive the blessings our Heavenly Father has for us.

This song is my personal testimony going forward.



If video doesn't load, click here.

Are you ready to join me?
Place your hand in His.
By God's grace, we will go on and walk this faith walk together,
exploring the good things He has in store!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Eleven Things Worth Fighting For & NEW Prayer Request Added at End

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Colossians 3:2
(KJV)

Sounds of Julie Andrews singing, "A Few Of My Favorite Things" is still echoing in my head,
long after Christmas has come and gone!!



(Click here, if video doesn't load)

I thought it would be fun to share a few of 
my own personal favorite things causes...
undertakings that I passionately believe are worth fighting for.



Before you proceed, let me issue two warnings and two reasons.
Warning #1.  I get pretty "fired up" about these eleven things.
and #2.  I apologize, but this is a very long post!
Reason #1.  I really, really care about and believe in these things...very deeply.
and #2.  I just couldn't seem to condense it and still say all that was in my heart.

So, here's my little soap box,
and here's me stepping onto it!!

1.  Jesus Christ
His Kingdom,
keeping Him front and center,
making His will my own,
fighting for holiness and righteousness in this present world,
contending for faith in Him,
defending His Word,
glorifying Him and endeavoring to please Him.
His approval means absolutely everything to me,
and His holy cause is very near and dear to my heart.
Seeing Him scorned, hearing His name profaned and used irreverently,
observing the way the true meaning of Christmas is ignored,
and watching the sacrifice He made for our sins be tossed aside, disregarded, and unappreciated,
literally breaks my heart and brings me to tears time after time.
I honestly love and adore Him more than I can say.

2.  Prayer
I find I need it more and more.
I don't know what I would do without it.
To think that I have the privilege...an open invitation...
to approach the throne of Heaven anytime I need or want to
is hard for me to grasp sometimes.
Two-way communion with God is one of the most cherished parts of my day.
It saddens me greatly to know the children in our schools are no longer aloud to publicly pray,
and it makes me even sadder to see the results of that very unwise decision.
Our children need to know how to pray.
They need to see us, as Mamas and Daddies, on our knees in prayer...for them,
for our families, our marriages, our country, and the Body of Christ.
They need to know that when crises arise, when funds are low, when sickness strikes,
when problems overwhelm,
falling to our knees is our most natural, automatic reaction
and is the very first resource we seek for refuge and help.
A steady, consistent prayer life is one of the most vital components in the life of a Christian.
I will never be able to thank God enough that I had diligently praying parents
and that they taught me to pray from my first moment of remembrance.
After Dad died, Mom spent countless hours in prayer.
No matter what time I called her, it seemed I would "catch" her during a season of prayer.
I know that many of those prayers were for my four siblings and me,
our families, our homes, and our problems.
I cannot begin to express how much I miss those faithful prayers now.
Oh, the times I have longed to pick up the phone and dial her number and say,
"Mom, will you please pray for me...or for Kevin...or for Zach?"
Dear Lord, sometimes the pain of missing her and Dad is nearly too much!
They never accumulated much in the way of riches and worldly goods,
but they left behind something far more precious than gold.
They taught me how to pray.
Now that I am a mother, I want Zachary to remember his Mama as a woman of fervent prayer.
May he sees those prayers answered by a loving Father Who loves him even more than Kevin and I do.
One of the most touching things I regularly experience, as a mother,
is watching Zachary take his Bible out every morning and tell me he is going to his room to have his devotions.
He often comes out later and says, "Mama, the Lord spoke to me while I was praying!"
There is such wonder in his eyes!
How I praise God that he is establishing his very own prayer life and finding that same, sweet communion with God that I enjoy so much!
This foundation will carry him through life, whatever the future brings.
God bless him!

3.  Marriage
Have you ever seen or heard of such a disposable society?
For most things that are solid and permanent in our modern world, 
there is an alternative that is disposable.
Disposable is just easier.
It is more convenient.
It requires less effort and energy.
Many times, it is a time saver.
So, when given the choice, we often opt for the throw-away version.
Paper plates, instead of the dishes in our cupboard.
Plastic cups and utensils, instead of the ones we have on hand.
Paper napkins, paper towels, disposable diapers, instead of cloth ones that can be washed and reused.
Disposable batteries, instead of rechargeable ones.
Tissues, instead of old-timey handkerchiefs.
Disposable cameras and razors, instead of permanent ones.
Disposable and short-lived has become a way of life for us.
The products are filling up our landfills and doing a number on our environment and eco-system.
Some of these things take a long time, even years, to decompose.
But, we do what feels good for the moment, 
often not taking into account the long-term consequences and repercussions.
We have become a non-stop busy society,
and because of this, we understandably try to take the easy way out every time we can.
Sad to say, we often go into the more important parts of life,
such as into something as serious as marriage, with the same mindset.
Marriage used to be approached with a great deal of thought and consideration.
It used to be regarded as a sacred commitment that was expected to be kept for a lifetime.
"Til death do us part", was taken very seriously, and the words were spoken solemnly
and with conviction.
The decision of saying "yes" to a marriage proposal used to be something that had been carefully thought out and considered ahead of time.
Men used to ask girls' fathers' permission, approaching the whole marriage scene with reverence.
So, how did we get to the point that our young people are approaching weddings as mere social events and walking into matrimony with words like, 
"Oh, well, if it doesn't work out, we'll go our separate ways, and find someone else"?
In the Bible, God uses marriage as a visual representation of the sacred relationship 
between Jesus Christ and His Church.
The Church is referred to as His bride, now physically separated from Him,
but one day to be joined with Him forever in Heaven.
(Revelation 21:2, Revelation 19:7-9) 
The fact that God chose a marital union as the thing He wanted to use to portray His relationship with us leads me to believe that He takes marriage very seriously.
Life is not easy.
Sometimes it piles on problem after problem until we feel we are snowed under, 
with no hope of coming out from under the load.
Those moments often work as triggers to our "fight or flight" responses,
and in those times, we are tempted to flee stressful scenes.
We buy into the lie that marriage is not worth fighting for,
that it is better to take the easy way out, throw up our hands,
and give in to defeat.
The problems will be there, so pulling away and apart from each other will not solve anything.
Life is not easy, any way you slice it, but it is a lot harder to face when you are alone.
The truth is marriage is SO worth the effort it takes to hold on to.
Kevin and I were just talking the other day about how thankful we are that he remembers my parents,
that we can look back together and recall so many things that have happened through the years,
that we understand each other when we reminisce, because much of what we are reflecting on has been experienced together.
I was 21 when I walked down the aisle and said "I do".
I am now 48, so I have been married for more than half of my life.
Looking back, I cannot express how wonderful the journey has been.
Looking ahead, I cannot imagine how many blessings God still has in store for us.
Life has thrown us some very difficult, unusual, breath-knocking curves,
but knowing we were building it together, not alone,
has brought more solace than I could ever put into words.
There is just something so comforting about sticking it out with the same person.
It is such a beautiful thing to watch the union of souls that happens over a long period of being together and to literally experience what it means for two to become one.
"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow:  but woe to him that is alone when he falleth;
for he hath not another to help him up."
Ecclesiastes 4:9,10
Marriage is absolutely worth fighting for.
It touches Kevin and me when we are having family worship,
and we hear Zachary praying for the girl he will one day marry and asking God to lead him to her.
May he always feel the weight of the sanctity of marriage,
and may God direct him to the right girl when it is time.

4.  Motherhood
I will never forget the moment the midwife placed Zachary into my arms.
After 12 1/2 years of marriage/infertility and 15 1/2 hours of hard labor waiting for him,
I was physically and emotionally spent,
but every fiber of my being came instantly alive when I looked down into the face
of the sweetest miracle I had ever seen.
Becoming and living life as Zachary's Mama is hands-down one of the greatest gifts and joys
God has ever bestowed upon my life.
Everyday with him, watching him grow, seeing the changes, walking through life with him in our home...the whole parenting journey are things that Kevin and I thank God for every, single day.
One of the most precious parts of motherhood is the reality
of assisting God in the making of a miracle.
From the time I was a little girl, my biggest dreams were to be a wife and a mother.
To have someone to call me "mama" is the sweetest sound I've ever heard.
Before I became a mother and experienced the whole childbearing miracle,
I had a deep love for children.
But after living through nine months of pregnancy,
natural childbirth,
and the daily, ongoing, wondrous beauty of raising such a precious Heaven-sent gift,
I have an even deeper love for them.
To think that someone would or even could willfully abuse or wound
one of these fragile, God-sent angels is hard to comprehend.
Born or unborn, they are living human beings who deserve the chance to live,
to be protected, to be loved and cherished.
You know, it never ceases to amaze me how the liberal-minded are so intent on saving whales,
rescuing stray animals, and preserving wildlife,
yet, they adamantly fight for the right to kill unborn human babies!
How can this be even remotely perceived as humane????
Don't get me wrong.
I am all FOR saving all of God's creatures and making sure every stray dog, cat, and hamster finds a loving forever home.
These causes are noble, they are right, and they should be promoted.
But, tell me, when did a baby stop being classified as a noble, defendable cause?
Since when is a baby not one of God's creatures?
How is it that it is wrong to kill a mink for its fur,
but it is politically correct and justifiable to kill a baby because it was conceived "by mistake"?
Who will rise in their defense?
Who will take up the cause of the over 50 million human babies murdered before they had a chance to breathe or look into their mama's eyes or feel their Daddy's arms pulling them close?
It just flabbergasts me that a mother will be prosecuted for the murder of her newly-born baby,
but had she made the same "choice" a few weeks before, it would have been perfectly legal.
Every child is beyond precious, and God has a unique design for its life.
To take matters into one's own hands, ending a child's life, is to thwart God's plan.
If you have a child of your own, hug him/her a little tighter.
Show a little more patience.
Give a little more love.
And know that there are many who would give anything they own to be standing in your shoes.
Which brings me to #5.

5.  Infertility
Okay, so I already said we had waited for 12 1/2 years to have Zachary.
My health issues prevented it, and to be honest, no one still knows how it happened,
other than it was a Divine-intervention miracle.
According to my physical condition and diagnosis, it wasn't possible.
But, Jesus said,
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
Luke 18:27
Praise His name!
I follow a few infertility blogs of ladies God has brought across my path over the past year or so.
My heart goes out to each of them with deep compassion, because I know how they feel.
I once stood in their shoes.
My arms were once empty...and ached.
My womb was once barren...and empty.
There is nothing in the world to describe the pain of being a woman who is not able to conceive or to carry a baby full-term.
NOTHING.
I felt so inadequate, like such a failure, knowing I could not "do" the one thing a woman's body was designed to do.
I dealt with so much depression and so many issues, and though I have the sweetest husband alive
and our life together is wonderful, there was a deep, aching void that only a child could fill.
I want to share with you the blogs I follow, so you can get to know them, too.
I pray for these ladies on a regular basis,
that God will heal their barrenness and send them babies of their own.
I hope you will make a commitment to do the same.
"He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.
Praise ye the Lord."
Psalm 113:9
Lisa at Amateur Nester,
Caroline at In Due Time,
Elisha at Waiting For Baby Bird,
Amber at Amber Under Construction,
Katie at A Hundred Affections,
(Katie is now expecting twins, praise God!
Please pray for a smooth, safe, full-term pregnancy and healthy babies!),
and another dear one whose mother I have come to "know" in blogland.
I only know her as "Amy", and I pray for her often.
There are many others, but these are ones God has introduced me to in recent months.
Lisa, at Amateur Nester, was so kind to publish Kevin's & My Infertility Testimony last January.
If you would like to read it, click HERE, to be re-directed to Lisa's blog.

6.  Homeschooling
While I know it is not a perfect fit for every family,
the cause of homeschooling is very precious to me.
It was a choice that we knew God wanted us to make from the moment we found out we were expecting a child.
Actually, it feels more like a calling than just a choice we have made.
Homeschooling allows us to be careful stewards over what infiltrates Zachary's life...
from being able to control which curriculum is imposed upon him
to the ability of making sure Scripture is strongly represented in his education.
It provides flexibility in our schedule and opens up many learning opportunities
that would not be available to him otherwise.
But the very best part of homeschooling, to me, is the one-on-one time I get to spend with him every day...the moments I have his undivided attention and we really connect are beyond precious to me.
I pray every, single day that God will preserve our freedom to homeschool
and that He will always allow us to choose our own curriculum.
What a gift!


7.  Home & Family
Home sweet home!
How I love and cherish it!
I love to keep it clean and care for every nook and cranny and make it shine.
I so enjoy primitives and antiques and fitting them into the decorating of the home God has lent to us.
But, it isn't just the wooden beams, walls, floor, and decor that calls to me.
It isn't so much a building at all.
It is that sense of belonging...
that I am accepted and a part of a unified unit...
of feeling that I am at ease...
that I can be who I am without the need for pretense, facades, or trying to meet someone else's expectations,
of knowing I am safe and loved and with the ones I love more than anyone on earth.
Over the past year or so, the three of us have done a lot of traveling.
There have been times we have been gone for up to a few weeks at a time,
and while packing before leaving home,
I have often wondered how I would stand being away for so long.
I just love home so much!
But, I have found, time after time, that it isn't so much where I am...
but who I'm with that makes me feel "at home".
We have learned that it doesn't really matter if our clothes come from a dresser drawer or from a suitcase, and many times, we don't need everything we think we do.
We are learning to travel lighter, as we go, and to cherish every second together,
no matter where we happen to be.
Home is definitely where the heart is.
And family...how precious it is!
Never before has the entity of family been under such attack.
Never before has satan tried harder to undermine, sabotage, and annihilate the strength and stability of the family unit.
Children are suffering because of it.
In God's beautiful and perfect design, little ones are raised in a secure, loving, nurturing environment,
in which both Mama and Daddy are physically and emotionally present and hands-on in their everyday lives, and both parents love, defend, nurture, and protect.
When Daddy is missing or Mama is disengaged, a vacuum is created,
leaving the family picture incomplete and fractured.
Family is important.
Immediate, extended, blended, or whatever family God has given you,
it is vital and necessary to your life.
Don't neglect it or the ones who make it up.
There is no promise of life.
We have to seize opportunities to live and care and love while they are within our grasp.
I want to introduce you to three of my favorite champions of the cause of God's vision of family.
To me, they are absolutely worthy of our prayers, backing, and financial support.
If you click on the name, you will be re-directed to their website.
Focus On The Family,
American Family Association,
and Family Research Council.
Each one of these organizations put their heart and soul into fighting for the preciousness and sacredness of everything family is and means.
They are on the front lines fighting the good fight day after day,
doing all they can to reinforce and support the sacred cause of family.

8.  America
Oh, America!
 I weep for you!
Were I a prophet from long ago, my clothing would be sackcloth.
I picture our Lord seated above one of your cities as He sat over Jerusalem,
more than likely weeping,
repeating the words He mournfully spoke so many years ago,
"O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem...how often would I have gathered thy children together,
as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings,
and ye would not!"
Luke 13:34
How many more million babies will be aborted before God says it is enough?
If the blood of Abel cried out from the ground and reached the ears of God
after he was murdered by his own brother's hand,
how must the cries of the unborn now ascend to His hearing?
Dear Lord, how far we have drifted!
Removing prayer from our schools and the Ten Commandments from our court houses,
is like pulling the foundation out from under a standing building.
Do we honestly think that if we remove His commandments from our sight,
if we tune out His voice,
if we forbid our children from praying,
that we will somehow subjugate God, making Him conform to our lawlessness?
Do we foolishly believe that if we pretend He isn't there, He and His Holy Word will just go away?

9.  The Elderly
Lately, I have been missing Mom and Dad so much.
I miss being around older people.
They are so wise, and they have so much to contribute.
There is something very comforting and secure about being with an elderly person.
It saddens me to see how they are often dismissed and undervalued in our modern world
and how the younger generation seems to have lost a lot of their sense of regard for them.
They are a priceless gift that should never be ignored or cast aside as unnecessary or irrelevant.
They still feel.
They have emotions.
They hurt.
Just because they are calloused, wrinkled, worn, and confused doesn't mean they aren't alive
or that they don't notice impatience, abuse, slights, insults, and rude treatment.
They already feel like a burden, so they don't need to be reminded.
One day, we will all walk in their footsteps, if God spares our lives that long.
Shouldn't we treat them the way we hope to be treated?
They have SO much to give.
Shouldn't we take the time to allow them to?
I love sitting down to talk with an elderly person.
To be able to listen to their stories and glean from their wisdom is a treasure.
There are many passages in the Bible that refer to how we are to care for and respect the elderly,
two of my favorite ones being...
"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary (gray) head, and honor the face of the old man,
and fear thy God:  I am the LORD."
Leviticus 19:32 
and
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.
Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility:
for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
I Peter 5:5
Treating the elderly with due respect and consideration is something that is close to God's heart.
It should be close to ours, too.

10.  Advocacy
I have a real problem with injustice.
It "just" doesn't sit right with me.
I have felt its sting more times than I care to recall.
The scars it leaves behind linger all through life and never go away,
constantly reminding of past inflicted pain.
Maybe that is why I take injustice to heart so much and am so intent on taking it on.
Standing in the gap is something I feel called and overwhelmingly compelled to do.
Championing the cause of children, the elderly, downtrodden, underdog, unchampioned, defenseless, and those in need of prayer is a calling for me and one that I cannot seem to ignore.
Isn't that what Jesus did and continually does?
He is our Advocate.
He went to the cross for us, not for His Own sins, but for mine...and yours.
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous..."
I John 2:1
Homespun Devotions is here, not to promote me, my agenda, or selfish ambitions,
but to promote HIM and to serve as a platform for His cause and the cause of those who need a voice.



11.  Benevolence
Outreach.
Kindness.
Charity.
Meeting the needs of others.
Giving generously.
Jesus said,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren,
ye have done it unto Me."
Matthew 25:40
and
"Freely ye have received, freely give."
Matthew 10:8
Doing what Jesus would do.
"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power:
who went about doing good..."
Acts 10:38
The word "benevolence" literally means
"desire to do good to others,
goodwill,
charitableness,
an act of kindness".
I have a deep longing to make this world a better place,
to leave every situation better than the way I found it,
to smile and love and spread goodness,
to perform at least one random act of kindness every day.
I think the most important ones to bestow this kindness upon are
the ones who live within the walls of my own home.
My husband deserves my benevolence.
Our son merits my benevolence.
Only when their needs are met and after I have poured sufficient effort into kind treatment of them
should my goodwill and benevolence flow beyond to the outside.
I want to make a positive difference in both of their lives.
I want to serve them and do all I can for them because I love both of them with more love than my heart can hold.
The more charity I can show and give at home, the more filled we, as a family, will be to love others.
The Apostle Paul said,
"I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak,
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said,
It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35
We are so abundantly blessed.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over."
Psalm 23:5
I don't want to hoard the overflow.
I want to share it and allow it to spill over into the lives of those I meet.
God is so faithful to orchestrate opportunities for benevolent acts.
May we always be aware, observant, and in tune with His prompts,
when He presents them!
Many times, after we have walked away from one of these Divine encounters,
Zachary will say, "Mama, Daddy, that was an assignment!"
He recognizes it clearly.
This is the way we are to live life.
Not selfishly.
It is not about me...or us.
It is all about Him...and others.

I close this post with a story that is probably familiar to at least some of you.
In my googling, trying to find a detailed account of it,
the Lord led me to this wonderful post at deeperchristian.com.
After receiving permission from N R Johnson, I am copying it here.

"It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army in London, England was near the end of his life. His health was poor, and he was going to be unable to attend the Army’s annual convention. Booth had become an invalid, and his eyesight was failing him. No one knew that he would not live to see another Christmas.
Somebody suggested that General Booth send a telegram or a message to be read at the opening of the convention as an encouragement to the many soldiers of the Salvation Army that would be in attendance following Christmas and their many hours of labor ministering to so many others through the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed to do so.
Knowing that funds were limited and desiring not to use any more money than necessary so that as much money as possible could be used to help the many people in need, General Booth decided to send a one word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, looking for the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the others to continue on.
When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth would not be able to be present because of failing health and eyesight. Gloom and pessimism swept across the floor of the convention. Then, the moderator announced that Booth had sent a message to be read with the opening of the first session. He opened the telegram and read the one word message:

Others.
General Booth."


Need I say more?



PLEASE pray earnestly for this prayer request I received last night...
"His name is Emmett Marks. He has been in the hospital since New Years Eve and has the flu and pneumonia. He has weak lungs and is very weak and very sick and not responding well to anything regarding his breathing. Now co2 levels are dangerously high."  UPDATE 01/08/14 @ 3:33 PM - Praise Report!!!!!
"Emmett has shown great improvement!
Still has a long way to go. But definitely showing improvement and much better then he was when admitted."  PRAISE GOD!!!  Please keep praying!!

UPDATE 01/11/14 - Praise Report!!!
Emmett has been released from the hospital, praise God!  Your prayers are most appreciated!!