Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful For The Valley

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
I Peter 4:12,13
(KJV)

Today is Thanksgiving Day...
that national day that was set aside to commemorate all of our blessings, past, present, and future, 
to turn our steps towards home, loved ones, and family,
and to turn our hearts towards our Heavenly Father in order to bow our heads and give Him praise.

There are so many blessings I am thankful for today.
They are innumerable...great and small.
How I thank Jesus for saving my soul and forgiving my sins,
for a loving husband who is dearer to my heart than life,
for a precious son who brings more joy and love to us than our hearts can hold,
for four siblings, their families, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so much extended family who all mean the world to me,
for every bit of health we have,
for our home and physical blessings,
for the amazing privilege of homeschooling our precious son,
for every family member, friend, and loved one who bless us so much more than words can convey,
for the enormous gift of life itself,
and for you...precious readers, who take time out of your busy day to stop here and read the simple words God places upon my heart.

These are the good things.
The pleasant, happy things that put a spring in my step
and bring warmth and joy to my heart.

It is easy to thank God for the good things, is it not?

I know the title of this post is going to seem odd to some of you.
Did you read it right?


Some of you will do a double-take.

No, it isn't a typo.
No, I haven't lost my mind...(though sometimes I wonder!  :~)
Yes, it has been a hard year for us,
and much of it has been spent in the valley of severe testing.
It has felt very dark and God-forsaken,
and more than once, I have questioned His will and purpose.
If I had been able to capture all the tears that have fallen this year,
it would fill quite a bucket.
The severity of our trials started on February 4th and have continued most of this year.
Perhaps one day I will feel led to elaborate and go into more detail.
Right now, it is too fresh and too painful.

But, do you know what?

Today, on Thanksgiving Day 2015, I am THANKFUL...
from the bottom of my soul...for all the good things, yes....
but, in addition to being grateful for the good things,
I am thanking God for the valley.

Why, you ask?
Because it has been good for us.
Because I feel like God has taken us through a crash learning course.
Because I feel like we have gleaned some of the most profound lessons of our lives.

It has been an amazing journey.
Painful, but amazing indeed.

Valleys stretch us.
Valleys are testing grounds.
In the life of a Christian, tests are important.

 How can I be 100%, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thankful for the darkness?
The deep valleys?
The tears?
The tests?

I think I found a way to explain it through a talk I recently had with "Little Mr. Wisdom",
who, by the way, is not so little anymore.

Homeschooling high school is different than anything we have done heretofore.
It's a whole new ball game.
I am enjoying every, single moment, as I realize these homeschooling years are flying
by way too fast, and there are only four more to go (including this one).

Insert long, tear-filled, mournful, Mama-sized sigh.

How did we get here so fast?
Where have the years gone?
The reality of how quickly our "baby" boy is growing up brings me often to tears.

Dear, precious Lord, help us to get this right.

In child-rearing, there are no do-overs.
No second chances.
No repeats.

World History is hard.
Whew!
I have forgotten so much since I was in school,
and is it just me, or have they made it more difficult since way back when?
And the massive amounts of memorization????
Seriously?
Let me just say, it is good that I am not expected to memorize all of this,
and it is good that they make you do school early in life before your head is so full,
and short-term memory is so....well, short.

We're plowing through it all together, grateful for the privilege and opportunity, and definitely by God's grace, and I am often reminding God of James 1:5, as I quote it verbatim to Him in prayer....
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

That "any of you lacking wisdom" part?
Yeah.
That's me.
In a big way.

I told the Lord in prayer just today that even though I have felt a dire need for Him
all throughout my life, I don't EVER feel like I have needed Him more than I do now.
Not only in childrearing and homeschooling, but in every part of my life.
It seems I need Him more and rely upon Him more
and lean more into His everlasting arms every, single day.

In my opinion, it is the absolute best there is.
I know there are many other Christian homeschool curriculum publishers out there 
who do just as good a job, no doubt, but A.C.E. will always be my personal choice.

I can't thank God enough that they are still around, and it is really fun working through these P.A.C.E.s with Zach...the very same ones (with updates and revisions, of course),
 that I used when I was in school.

A.C.E. designs their lesson plans with several "check-ups" throughout the workbook (P.A.C.E.),
then there is a Self Test, at the very end of the workbook, then a final Test after that.

The student cannot proceed with their work after doing a check-up 
until they score their work, then go back and do the corrections,
and make certain they have a full understanding of the material.

After all check-ups, including the last one that comes directly before the Self Test, 
are completed and corrected and all material understood,
the student proceeds to take the Self Test.
Once they have corrected any errors, they are then given permission to take the final test.

One of the things I love most about A.C.E. is that they provide every possible opportunity
for the student to fully comprehend what they need to know before ever requiring that final Test 
to be administered.

Today, we have struggled.
Due to the increase in volume and difficulty of high school work, 
we fell a couple of days behind in World History and Biology.

Zach was having a hard time with the final check-up in World History,
and was filled with dread over thinking about the Self Test, then the Final Test that were to follow.

I finally told him to just go ahead, take the Self Test, and do his best.

"The Self Test will reveal your weaknesses, then we will deal with them before taking the Final Test", 
I told him.

The impact of what I had just said caused me to stop swirling the wooden spoon through the pan of goulash in front of me on the stove,
as I realized these were not my own words at all, but had been prompted by the precious Holy Spirit...maybe not as much for Zach as they were for me.

"Tests reveal our weaknesses, then we can deal with them, 
before taking the final test."

I repeated it out loud....to myself this time.

So, this is the purpose for our tests...in life.

We wonder sometimes, don't we?
Why things have to be so hard?
Why we feel we can't catch our breath from the last hurdle 
before another one comes our way?
Why we face such adversity?
Why?  Why?  Why?

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ..."
I Peter 1:6, 7

Did you catch that "if need be" part?
Though now, for a season, if need be, we are in heaviness through various trials.

Why?
Because at the very end of life, we will stand in a "courtroom", before the ultimate Judgment seat, and face a righteous Judge.
One Who knows our hearts.
Sees us inside and out.
We will, individually, stand before the One Who created us, 
and we will face the ultimate trial when we give account of how we lived this life.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; 
that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, 
whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10

In the words of Hank Williams, Sr., our main trial is yet to come.
These trials we are facing now are preliminary trials.
They are tests to reveal our weaknesses and give us ample opportunity to do something about them before we ever approach that final trial at the end of life.

God would not be a fair and righteous Judge, if He allowed us to skim through life 
on a bed of ease, all the while harboring things in our lives and hearts that would prevent us
from making it to Heaven.

So, He allows "check-ups" and preliminary "Self Tests" to bring dross to the surface.

Some are smaller trials, "check-ups", if you will...
things that make us stop and take pause long enough to correct small errors God has brought to light through those "light" trials.

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:17
(Emphasis added.)

Then, there are those heavy-duty ones...
you know...the ones that knock us off our feet and onto our knees,
bringing us face-to-face with our own mortality...
the kind the Apostle Peter was referring to when he said,
"...think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you..."
the ones that hit us with such force that life screeches to a halt,
and we are forced to stop and consider.

"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: 
God also hath set the one over against the other..."
Ecclesiastes 7:14

The extreme testing valley my little family and I have walked through this year
has knocked us to our knees more times than one.
The fiery trials have forced us to stop...and consider.
The preliminary testing has accomplished its purpose.

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: 
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11

We now rest in the aftermath of this awful valley, and we have reached the "nevertheless afterward". all glory be to God.

And as we rest, we look back, and we realize the purpose for our test.
There were weaknesses in us that were unbeknownst to us, but not unknown to God.
The tests revealed these weaknesses and brought them to light for a purpose...
so we could deal with them now....while there is time and opportunity to make necessary adjustments.

When I look at the valley in this light, from this angle, I say, from the very bottom of my soul...
Thank You, Jesus!

I am reminded of this old song written by Dottie Rambo.


If video doesn't load, click here.

God knows how hard we try to please Him.
He knows our hearts.
He sees our integrity.
He is now preparing a Heavenly home for us, 
and He knows that in order for us to enter and take possession of that holy place,
we must be holy.

So, He refines us through the fire.
He purges us by way of the valley's narrowness.
He allows us to be tested, severely, at times, in order to reveal dross,
 so we can see it and deal with it.

It is not His will that any of us miss Heaven.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; 
but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, 
but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9

After we pass through such testing valleys, we can often look back and realize
the magnitude of the good we have gleaned through our trials.

The other night, the three of us were in the car, and this song came on the radio.



If video doesn't load, click here.

Oh, my!
I was crying so hard and so caught up in my own tears that I could barely see the road,
and it took me a while to realize that both Kevin and Zach were crying just as hard.
We were all so overcome with emotion as the powerful words to this song written by Sandy Blythe
seemed to have been written specifically for us.

How is it with you, my friend?
In the midst of your gratitude this Thanksgiving, do you find yourself in a hard place?
Are you now in the fiery furnace of trial?
Does hope wane dim?
Do you wonder why it seems God hides His face?
Are you walking through the valley low, with no glimmer of His light?

He is with you, dear one.
He knows what you are facing.
He understands.
He hasn't forsaken you, regardless how dark your life has become.
He is there.
In the valley.
One day, you, too, will see this valley from the Shepherd's point of view,
and as He holds you close, He will make all things clear to you.

Remember this...
the teacher is often silent during a test.
Author Unknown

I trust that no matter what is going on in your life,
you have a wonderfully blessed holiday.
May you never forget how very much you are loved.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Inner Views of Dr. Alveda King

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
I Corinthians 2:2
(KJV)

You never know when one moment, one event, or one decision can change and impact your life 
in ways you could never have beforehand imagined.

God does.
And He often orchestrates our steps and moves us in directions that will forever change us for the better.

Several months ago, I was invited to attend the then-upcoming Truth For A New Generation conference to volunteer as a member of Concerned Women For America's Prayer Team at the event.

At the time, we were in the throes of some very difficult trials in our personal lives,
and I saw no possibility of ever being able to do what I was being asked.
However, I prayed about it and told the Lord I was willing to go if He would remove the obstacles and work out a way.

Through happenings that were nothing short of miracles,
He did make a way, and my little family and I headed for the conference.

That weekend literally changed our lives.
One of those changes came about through our personally meeting many of the Concerned Women for America ladies, enjoying sweet fellowship with them, and through this, God giving me much-needed answers as to whether or not He wanted me to proceed in becoming more involved with CWA.
And another of those changes came through the wonderful privilege we had of listening to several of the key note speakers while there.

Today, God has opened the amazing opportunity for me to introduce you to one of those speakers!
The message she brought forth at TNG blessed and encouraged and inspired us in more ways than we can even express, and when we later contacted her to request an interview by phone,
she was beyond gracious and granted our request!

So, without further ado, I present to you,
author of King Rules and Director of African American Outreach with Priests for Life,
Dr. Alveda King.



The

of
Dr. Alveda King.

Cheryl:  God has placed you on the front lines of ministry in our time. He has given you a platform of your own to stand for truth and what is right. How does the battle your uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought in his generation compare with the cultural wars you are fighting today?

Dr. Alveda King:  Well, as we look at cultural wars throughout the ages, we can go back to the 20th century when my father, Reverend A.D. King, Martin Luther’s brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., I also marched during those times, but all the way through the history of humanity, starting with the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there has been strife and contention. And the most successful campaigns against those have been when people called on the name of the Lord and depended on the Lord and set aside strife, envy, and offense in all of that. So, that is what I have worked to do myself, and that’s what I’m trying to do now. 

Cheryl:  Evil is waging war upon God’s church, in these last days. Sometimes, there are so many battles being waged at one time, it is hard to keep up the fight, and God calls us to choose specific battles to fight, on an individual basis. What would you say are the most pressing issues God has placed upon your heart, personally, and what is the main burden of your unique ministry?

Dr. Alveda King:  Well, the most pressing issue now as an evangelist is to let people know about Jesus Christ and Him crucified and John 3:16. That can touch on so many other things...that touches on my pro-life work, my work for natural marriage and family, eradicating evil, even down to ISIS and that battle.  So, I think that when I look at it as in a perspective of prayer and evangelizing, then everything else can be included in that.

Cheryl:  How has growing up in the shadow of your uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shaped and molded your own ministry?

Dr. Alveda King:  Well, I came up under the shadow of God’s wings according to Psalms 91, and so, just being covered by God as the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the daughter of his brother, Reverend A.D. King.  It’s just wonderful being in this family and having been brought up by people who love the Lord. 

Cheryl:  You are the Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life. Can you tell us more about this ministry?

Dr. Alveda King:  Well, Priests for Life is a Catholic ministry. I’m a non-denominational Christian, but I came in to work with African-American Outreach for Priests for Life over 10 years ago now. And so it’s been a beautiful experience informing the public about the harms of abortion and related products to that (abortion) that are harmful, chemicals and devices for birth control and all of that, how its genocide, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, etc. So, I have been a part of Priests for Life for 10 years now, over 10 years actually, and they’ve just been a tremendous blessing to me.

Cheryl:  Can you share any childhood memories that you have with your father, as a minister, and your uncle (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)?  Is there anything you could share with us that we could share with our readers...just some special memories that you might have?

Dr. Alveda King:  I was blessed to go to church and hear them all preach.  Daddy King, my grandfather, who encouraged my mother not to abort me in 1950, not to have a D&C, abortion was illegal, but a D&C, and that he had seen me in a dream three years before I was born.  He described me.  I was born looking just like that.  My Mom and Dad had, during their marriage, five of us.  I was their firstborn.  Daddy King used to preach about faith, hope, and love, and the “least of these”, helping others, caring more about others than ourselves.  My father, A.D. King, preached about the miracles of Jesus, and Jesus became very real to me as a girl. Listening to my Daddy’s sermons, and then my uncle’s sermons on the Good Samaritan, for example, and The Love of God.  All of their sermons impacted my life and helped to shape and mold my spirituality. And it is true...train up a child in the way he or she should go, and when the child grows up, they won’t depart, or in my case, return to it.  So, I never really departed from the truth upon which I was raised.

Cheryl:  I am a Prayer Action Leader for Concerned Women for America, and as you well know, we really love to pray and get under the burden for those of you who are out there on the front lines.  How can we pray for you, specifically, and your ministry?  Are there needs or burdens upon your heart in this current season of your life that you would specifically like us to pray for?

Dr. Alveda King:  My heart longs that people will abandon and come away from strife, offense, and arguing and division and come together as one as a repentant world, as a repentant nation, a repentant community, a repentant family, a repentant individual, and ask God first to forgive us, then help us to learn to forgive others, and that we, in love, can move forward together. That is a sincere desire of my heart.

Cheryl:  Amen!  Thank you, dear sister!

Dr. Alveda King:  Bless you, my sister in Christ.  Thank you, and God bless!

*********************************************************************
A BIG thank you to Dr. Alveda King for making time in her busy schedule to share her
with us!

What a powerful, dear, precious woman of God!
I felt so humbled and so enjoyed my time with her on the phone.
It was an honor and a Divinely-orchestrated gift from our dear Lord!
And, what a blessing that at the end of our interview,
we were privileged to enjoy a sweet season of prayer together! 

If you would like to order your own copy of Dr. King's latest book, 
you can do so by clicking King Rules to be re-directed.

To learn more about Priests for Life and their pro-life work, click here.

Please keep Dr. King in your consistent prayers as she continues to carry on 
the Godly legacy of her amazing family.

(To read the first interview in this series, click The Inner Views of Joshua Becker.)
(To read the second interview in this series, click  The Inner Views of Lisa Newton.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

We're Almost Home!

"And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; 
and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 
 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, 
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 
 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
Acts 1:9-11
(KJV)

I have often shared that while I was growing up, we moved a lot.
Not even your normal "a lot".
Somewhere around the tune of 45 and upward "a lot".

But regardless what our street/mailing address was,
and no matter how long we stayed in that one spot,
(usually no where near long enough to allow any grass to grow under our feet),
as long as my family and I lived there,
that address was home.

Moving around a lot lent itself to fostering deep-seated, hard-to-overcome,
much-lessened-but-somewhat-still-lingering insecurities deep in the heart of me.
Plain and simple, I do not like to move, and I dodge change like I would avoid the plague.

I walked into marriage at age 21, by then living on my own and desperately longing for constancy.

Praise the Lord above, I married one of the most even-keeled,
steady, consistent, stable, stay-put men the dear Lord ever created.
Praise Jesus, my husband does not like to move.
Once we get somewhere, he is settled.
He is a very calm man, not given to frenzy or emotion.
His strength and solidity grounds me and is like the Rock of Gibraltar.
Over the course of our so-far 27 years of marriage,
(I am praying and believing God for at least 27 more, please dear Lord?),
his gentle strength has been a soothing balm to not only me, but to my entire family.

God blessing me to walk through life hand-in-hand with Kevin is one of the sweetest,
most precious things He could ever bestow, and I will never cease to praise Him for this life and its many, many blessings.

We have lived in our current home for the past soon-to-be 14 years....
by far, my longest span of staying put at one address.
Zach was just a baby...just a few days past 11 months...when we moved here.
Oh, how I miss those baby days!

Time marches on.
Life has happened.
It has evolved, and it is much different in untold ways for us now than it was then.

Things have changed in our neighborhood, too.
New homes have been built, trees have been planted, and a church building was erected on what used to be empty land with lots of trees right next door to our house.

Other things have stayed the same.
One of the constants that remain is a certain feeling I get right after we turn on to our street.
As you look ahead, you can see only a limited distance in front of you,
because almost immediately, there is a bend in the road.


I feel a sense of comfort when I see that bend, 
because I know that just beyond it is....HOME.
I know that, even though I can't see our little tan house with the green shutters,
it sits, faithful and steadfast, just around that bend.

As we drive on, sure enough, after we round that little curve in the road,
our eyes are instantly drawn to the left, as we search for the place we'd rather be than anywhere else on earth.


And there it is....
calling to us....
tugging at our heartstrings....
tempting us to drive a little faster to get there sooner.

Our house is not huge.
It measures, oh, somewhere around 1200 square feet.
It is the perfect size for the three of us...actually a bit larger than what we really need.
Our house is not fancy.
I wouldn't want it to be.
Because fancy and me...well, we're sort of like oil and water...
we just don't mix or belong in the same sentence.
I don't long for anything more than what God has given us...
except for more time of exactly what we have.
Oh, how I do love life!
 I pray every day that God will extend it to us as long as possible.

But, all the while I am praying, I know in my heart that even when that moment does come for the fragile flicker of my life's candle to be extinguished,
the end here will only be the beginning there.

As much as I love life...and home down here, I realize that one day, all of these scenes will end,
and the curtain will close.

This body I live in is aging.
It seems like new aches and pains and issues develop on a steady basis.
Sometimes, it feels like I go from one health concern to the next, with not much reprieve in between.
I am not complaining.
I am so grateful for every breath of life, and every single moment is a Divine gift.

We know that when we are born we will someday die.
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment..."
Hebrews 9:27

As Mom used to often tell me,
"None of us came here to stay always."

We know that as we age, the outward shell that harbors our eternal soul will deteriorate.
"...though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:16

We know that our homes, built of wood, brick, concrete, and stone, will one day crumble. 

What now is....what now seems so permanent in this life...what feels like home to us, 
will someday become mere memories of the way things used to be.
Naught of earth is lasting.

"Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God's unchanging hand."
Jennie Wilson

I deeply appreciate our house, but what makes our house home to me is still the same as it was during my childhood.
Home is the people I love...the ones who live here with me.
Whatever the building in which we live, it is only a shell.

As much as I cherish our earthly home,
and as much as I treasure every moment of this life,
I feel a down-deep conviction that this world is not my true home.

All of this leads me to the same exact conclusion to which C. S. Lewis came,
and I quote...

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, 
the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

Tonight, we came home after a family outing, and as we looked ahead of us,
there were dense patches of fog....so thick that it was hard to see what was approaching.
Living in the country, we see a lot of wildlife, especially deer,
and we always have to be vigilant, even on clear nights with no fog,
as so often, they are standing by the road, ready to leap.

The patches of fog continued for most of the 40 some mile drive home,
but when we reached our little town and turned on to our road, 
the fog had lifted, and after we passed that familiar bend,
I did something I don't ever remember doing before.
It was completely spontaneous.
Unplanned.
Unrehearsed.
From my lips there arose an audible sigh of relief.
I was tired, and I knew that just ahead stood the place we most wanted to be.

There stood home.

Driving in that fog got me to thinking about life.

The future is so uncertain...so unclear...so foggy.
It is hard to see in front of us.
Every step we take is by faith, and often, we have to press forward,
even though the visibility is so limited.

What keeps us going, anyhow?
What gives us the fortitude to keep walking, even when we have no clarity of direction?
How do we find courage to take another step when the fog is so thick and the sky is so dark?

We keep pressing on because we have been given a promise.
We keep putting one foot in front of the other because we know something is waiting for us.
We keep persevering because we know deep in our hearts that we are going home.

"In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; 
that where I am, there ye may be also."
John 14:3

Jesus Himself is there, now preparing a place for you...and for me!
An eternal home.
It is a beautiful place of peace...and rest...and comfort...and welcome.
It is never-ending.
It is our forever home.

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, 
we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
2 Corinthians 5:1

Oh, glory to God!
A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,
that Jesus Himself has gone before us to prepare!

In case anyone has failed to notice, the world around us is getting darker.
Just take a peek.
It doesn't take long to figure it out.
As blessed as this Christian life is, it is hard to maintain hope.

As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:19,
"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

But, you see, my friend, it is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ.
This life, along with the hope we have in it while living for Jesus, is temporary.
But, we have something more...something that extends beyond this mortal engagement.

We have hope of that building of God, not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens,
never to be destroyed,
never to be taken away from us,
never to end!

Our hope in Christ doesn't end when we draw our last breath.
That hope extends through all eternity, because of Jesus' redemptive work on the cross.
Thank you, Jesus!

The promise He made in John 14:2-3 is two-fold.
He not only said He would go away and prepare a place for us,
but He promised that He would come again and receive us unto Himself, 
so we could be where He is!!

Forever.

The signs of His soon coming are everywhere we look.
Prophecies are being fulfilled so blatantly and at such breakneck speed we are foolish to ignore them.

But, this is no reason for us, as Christians, to be alarmed.
It should invoke no fear!

For Jesus said,
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; 
for your redemption draweth nigh."
Luke 21:28

Just as Kevin's, Zachary's, and my heart leap for joy as we round that bend in our road,
and we catch the first glimpse of home,
you and I should know that we, too, can rejoice to know that just around the bend,
shine the lights of our eternal home!

I heard the most meaningful song today by the Inspirations called "It's Not Long Until Forever".
I have loved the Inspirations since my growing up years, and especially after attending one of their live concerts at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio back in the early 80's.

I was crocheting in the car as Kevin and Zach did some Christmas shopping today when I heard this song, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I listened to the words.

If video doesn't load, click here.

I do hope you will take the time to listen to it all.
It takes less than four minutes.
I trust it will bless you as much as it encouraged me.

"It's Not Long Until Forever".
Praise Jesus!
It won't be long until He comes to receive us unto Himself,
that where He is, there we can be also!
And then will arise from each one of our grateful lips an instinctive, irrepressible sigh,
as we hear those golden gates click behind our weary heels,
and we know that our "forever" has begun, and we are, at last, home!

Be encouraged, my dear friend.
Keep your eyes fixed on HIM, not on the darkness!

"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,
Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; 
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2

Force yourself to elevate your sights above the terror, violence, confusion, and evils of this world,
and remind yourself that this is not forever, and it won't be long until we reach our eternal home,
where we will never have to deal with any of this ever again.

Many relatives, friends, and dear loved ones have already gone before us
and have reached that home of eternal rest.
They have laid claim to their mansion that Jesus prepared for them, 
and they are now numbered with those who have overcome and are a part of that great cloud of witnesses.

Look up, and know that Jesus is soon coming to take all of us home!

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 4:17

It's not long until forever!
 Praise God, we are almost home!
Home lies just around the bend.

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen
Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Revelation 22:21

Yes!
Lord Jesus, even so, come!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Inner Views of Lisa Newton


"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: 
for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
Revelation 4:11
(KJV)

Many of you will remember that on January 17, 2014, a dear blogger friend so kindly published 
It was so wonderful to be able to express and more widely proclaim what the dear Lord has done for us, and to give Him glory as we shared how He answered prayer and sent us a miracle son after many years of infertility struggles and 12.5 years of marriage.

I was drawn to her blog because she, too, was struggling with infertility,
and my heart went out to her, as I read of her longing for a child and recalled the pain of my own battles.
I began to pray in earnest for her and her husband, begging God on a regular basis,
to send them a miracle baby of their own.

Fast forward to today...nearly two years later, and what do we find?
A reverse interview with her for Homespun Devotions!!!!
And with a surprise miracle tucked in, for good measure,
all glory be to God!

But, I don't want to spoil the surprise or hold you in suspense any longer, 
so without further ado, I introduce to you, 
writer of and woman behind the blog, Amateur Nester.
Tom and Lisa Newton
Photo by Vanessa Hicks


The
.
of infertility blogger and advocate,
 Lisa Newton.

Cheryl: Could you please tell us a little about yourself and your husband and how long you have been married?

Lisa:  My name is Lisa Newton and I've been married to my husband, Tom, for a little over 4 years. We live on the Central California Coast and have a spoiled orange-and-white cat named Hemingway. As I write this, I am 37 weeks pregnant with our first child, a girl. My husband is a vice-principal at a local school and a former varsity head football coach. I've spent the last 10 years working as a school librarian, but I recently quit my job to stay at home with our child and have been doing some library consulting for local schools instead.

Cheryl:  How did you meet and fall in love?

Lisa:  Tom grew up going to school and coaching football with the husband of one of my best friends, Heather. We met during a very awkward set-up at a party, and I wasn't interested because he was so different from me and very forward about his interest in me. To make a long story short, I dumped him after our third date, but ended up asking him for a second chance shortly after. We were married 6 months later! I wrote a guest post about the whole story on A Little Wife's Happy Life Blog. http://alittlewifeshappylife.blogspot.com/2014/11/i-dumped-my-husband.html

Cheryl:  When did you first realize you were experiencing infertility, how many years have you struggled to conceive, and what exciting news do you have to share with us now?

Lisa:  I began to think we might have some issues with conceiving after we had been trying on our own for about 6 months. I had been charting my fertility signs and symptoms and I knew our "timing" was perfect. We started seeing a fertility specialist exactly one year after starting trying, and it took another 3 years for us to achieve a viable pregnancy. We went through 3 failed IUIs, one canceled IUI, and 3 cycles of IVF. I experienced a chemical pregnancy (very early miscarriage) after our first IVF cycle that was very disheartening. But as I said in the first question, our third IVF cycle this past March resulted in a pregnancy, and I'm due to give birth December 4!

Cheryl:  How has your steadfast faith in God carried you through the agonizing process of infertility? Can you name some specific times that you would not have made it through without your faith?

Lisa:  I think the low point came after our chemical pregnancy. The first IVF cycle was extremely grueling, and we were so ecstatic that it had worked after only one try. We called our families and our friends with the good news. But 48 hours later, we found out I had already lost the pregnancy, and we faced the terrible task of calling everyone again. I was devastated at the thought of going through another IVF. We had to rely on our belief that God was in control of everything and that He was going to work this out for good- even if we didn't understand how or why.

Another time when we had to rely on our faith was the time between our second and third IVF cycle. Due to work schedules and finances, we waited 8 months between those two IVF attempts. My husband was working 60+ hours a week teaching and coaching football, and I was in an unfulfilling job where I stayed just so we could afford IVF. Tom had to work on Sundays, so we weren't going to church often (I hated going alone) and when we did, it felt like there were babies everywhere. I felt very isolated, lonely and without a clear purpose. I listened to a lot of sermon podcasts and went to a Christian counselor who helped me deal with my depression.

Cheryl:  There is a unique transition process that comes to couples who have experienced long-term delays in being able to conceive and bear children. How are you (and your husband) adjusting yourselves in preparation for your new baby girl?

Lisa:  The biggest adjustment has been in our work. About a year ago, we began to feel the Lord was leading Tom away from coaching football. This was a very tough decision for him to make, but we knew we could not raise a family the way we wanted to with him working 60+ hours a week and unable to attend church. He stepped down from his coaching position about a month before we began our IVF cycle. Almost immediately after we found out we were pregnant, he was offered a promotion (from teacher to vice principal). Now that we no longer had to pay for further infertility treatments, his increase in income would cover my loss of income if I were to resign my job. A divine provision, indeed! His job is still demanding and he still works long hours, but we are now able to be active in our church and have more family time.

Additionally, we are trying to focus on keeping our marriage first after baby arrives instead of letting baby become the center of our lives.

Cheryl:  How has your blog, “Amateur Nester”, enriched your life during your waiting process?

Lisa:  The blog has been a true gift. It started off as a place where I thought I'd chronicle my decorating attempts, but I soon realized I'm not good at decorating! HA! Then we started our infertility journey and it became a place to turn our pain and struggle into something meaningful. As it has grown, I've been blessed to "meet" so many women who are going through similar journeys. Some of them have grown into true friends. It has given me a creative outlet, too, and I'm discovering that I really enjoy a lot of the other aspects of blogging like marketing, technical stuff, etc. Most importantly, I hope it has given other women hope in their journeys, too.

Cheryl:  Could you give us your favorite go-to Scriptures that have sustained you when hope grew dim?

Lisa:  In the year or two before I got married at age 30, I was really struggling with my singleness. I clung to Isaiah 51:3 and memorized it. When infertility became a part of my life, I went back to that verse over and over again- this time from a different perspective. I love how God's Word truly is "living." I've written two blog posts about how this verse continues to comfort me. You can find them here (http://www.amateurnester.com/2014/10/pray-for-comfort-31-days.html) and here (http://www.amateurnester.com/2013/11/deserts-will-blossom.html)

Cheryl:  What would you say to those in the infertility community who are still waiting on their miracle? How would you encourage them?

Lisa:  I recently listened to a beautiful episode of the Ransomed Heart Podcast about Psalm 27. (http://www.ransomedheart.com/podcast/rescue-psalm) The hosts talk about how verses 11-14 give us instruction on what to do while we wait for God's rescue. We are to stay with God, take heart, don't quit and stay with God. The podcast dives deep into each step (and talks about why it says "Stay with God" twice), and I encourage you to listen to it. But basically, it means Wait Patiently, Drink in the Lord's Strength, Don't Give up Hope, and Wait Patiently.

I think that advice is spot-on for anyone facing infertility. You have no choice but to wait, so wait confidently and patiently for God's timing. You will be faced with your own weakness and lack of control, so drink in the strength God will give you if you ask. You may be tempted to despair, but don't give up hope of God doing amazing and wondrous things in your life (even if it doesn't look how you think it should), and above all wait for His perfect timing.


A BIG thank you to Lisa for taking the time to interview with me
for our second installment of
all while she is just three weeks away from giving birth!!
What a trooper and true inspiration she is to us all!

(To read the first interview in this series, click The Inner Views of Joshua Becker.) 

I am SO grateful to God that He has answered prayer 
for Lisa and Tom,
and I can't wait to hear when their little one arrives!!

What an awesome GOD we do serve!!!!

"Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, 
With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26

I love the verses in Psalm 27:11-14 that Lisa shared and wanted to type them out for you here.

"Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: 
for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: 
wait, I say, on the LORD."

No matter what you are going through, 
God's Word stands, my friend.
You can count on His promises being fulfilled for you, 
just like He fulfilled Lisa's mainstay verse, Isaiah 51:3, for her.

"For the LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; 
and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; 
joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."

I hope you enjoy Lisa's interview as much as I have,
and I ask that you please keep Lisa and Tom in your prayers 
for the safe, smooth delivery of a healthy baby girl!!!

God bless you, Lisa and Tom!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Inner Views of Joshua Becker

"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7
(KJV)

I have mentioned a few times in previous posts that God has been leading my family and me
towards a simpler, less encumbered life.
(This post and this post talk a bit more about this.)
He has dealt with us repeatedly about shifting our focus from the things of this world
to those things that are eternal.
At the beginning of this year, as I sought His will for my blogging "One Word for 2015",
the word He gave to me was "Prepare".
(You can read that post here.)

As we began to downsize, declutter, and minimize our physical belongings,
I found myself searching online for encouragement.
I sought for articles that were not only written about minimizing,
but ones that were written by those who share our spiritual points of view, as well,
for this is most important to me.

Early in my search, I came across a blog called Becoming Minimalist, written by Joshua Becker,
and right away I was reeled in and subscribed by email so as to not miss a single post.
I cannot begin to express how much my family and I have learned
and the depths of encouragement we have found while reading Joshua's blog.

So, when God began to lay it upon my heart to start conducting interviews for Homespun Devotions,
Joshua was one of the first people He brought to my mind.

Many of you probably already know him.
Perhaps you are already being blessed by the bounty of wisdom he bestows.
But, for those of you who have never met or heard of Joshua,
let me take this opportunity to introduce you, if I may.


The following is the very first installment of our new interview portion of Homespun Devotions!!!
I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed conducting the interview!

The
.
of minimalist,
 Joshua Becker.

Cheryl:  So, to get started, would you mind giving us an introduction and a brief explanation as to how you began your journey towards minimalism?

Joshua:  I’m Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist.  I pastored for 15 years before doing this full-time.  The journey into minimalism happened on a Saturday morning when I was cleaning my garage, and my son was alone in the backyard.  After hours of working out in the garage, I suddenly had this realization that my possessions weren’t making me happy.  
The further realization was not only that my possessions weren’t making me happy, they were actually taking me away from the very things that did bring me happiness, and purpose, and fulfillment in life. That started the process of, "let’s get rid of the stuff that we don’t need, so we can focus more time on the things that do matter."  And it was a journey for us, I mean it took, I would say going through the house initially for us, it took 6-9 months. But, we moved, years later, into a smaller house, and even that move forced us to go through more things and more stuff that we didn’t need. So, just like you said, it’s a journey and where we are going and changing and generally speaking, I’m trying to think how to own less, rather than how to get more.

Cheryl:  And, from a Christian standpoint, how do you think living minimally relates to living a life pleasing to God?

Joshua:  I’ll mention two specific things:
  1. It forces me to learn more about my heart and motivations than if I hadn’t lived minimally. So, in Luke chapter 3 where John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus, the Israelites come to him, and say, "What do we have to do?  We’re ready..were with you, we want to get ready for the kingdom."  And he tells them to get rid of their extra clothes and extra food and to be content with what they have and don’t seek more and don’t extort for more. All of the instructions had to do with possessions, interestingly enough. What I found is, as we began getting rid of things, number one, we found that we were more tied to possessions than we thought we were, but number two, we realized that we had bought way more than we needed to in the first place, and so the question became, "what was in our hearts?"  What we were holding on to in our hearts that would allow us to buy far more stuff than we needed in the first place?  Things like selfishness and greed, things like jealousy and envy, like trying to impress people with the things that we had, being controlled by the world and its messages and advertisements more than we realized. We were forced to learn those things that I don’t think we would have ever had to learn before. So, there’s the introspection of what was motivating my heart and life.
  2. And then, the second one is, we were freed up.  Because we were spending less time and money and energy caring for the things that we owned or things that we were trying to own, we discovered that we had more opportunity to follow God with our whole lives. Which I think is Jesus’ point in Luke 18 where the rich young ruler comes to follow Him and Jesus says, "Well, if you really want to experience eternal life, sell your possessions, give to the poor, and then come follow Me."  That is to say, we can’t really appreciate all of the abundant life that God is offering if we are carrying around a whole bunch of things that we don’t need.
Cheryl:  In today's culture, there is such a push to accumulate earthly goods.  If Jesus lived on earth today, what steps do you think He would take to avoid falling prey to being caught up in the chaos and consumerism madness so prevalent in our modern world?

Joshua:  Well, I think He would probably live very similar to how He lived before. First of all, singular focus, single-minded focus, that He was here to glorify God, that He was to do what God called Him to do, and that He was going to be obedient to that even though the world around Him wanted Him to do something different.  What’s interesting about Jesus is that you find Him doing the same thing that He tells us to do. And by that I mean, He lived every day in the Spirit.  We find Him leaving the towns to go spend time alone with God, and He would routinely remove Himself from culture, from society, from people, so that He could sit and just listen to God and reorient His will and His heart around Him.  So, I think that He would do the same, and I think that is what we are to do.  So much of that is walking in the Spirit, and I think it was Dallas Willard who said, “We’re not called to live the same life as Jesus lived. But, we are called to live our life the way Jesus would live our life.”  I think it’s kind of a fascinating story in Mark chapter 5 where the demon-possessed man is healed and Jesus was getting ready to leave with His disciples, and the demon-possessed man, who is no longer demon-possessed, but now a healed man, comes to Jesus, and he says, "I’m ready to go, I’m ready to leave everything and follow You", and Jesus says, "No, no, go back home, go back home and live in your house, be My witness in your city."  This is so interesting because He had just called His 12 apostles to give up everything…to leave everything…to leave their jobs, to leave there homes, their families, and to follow Him, and then here’s another guy who is ready to do it and Jesus says, "No, no, that’s not the call that I have on your life. You go live in your home."  You know I used to think of Mother Teresa, and how she left everything.  That’s not what we are all called to do, but we are all called to walk in the Spirit and live the life that He’s called us to…that’s single-focused, for sure.

Cheryl:  On a personal level, how has becoming a minimalist affected and enhanced your ministry and your God-given calling?  (What doors has it opened for you, how has it enlarged your spiritual realm of influence and effectiveness, etc.)

Joshua:  Numerically speaking, certainly it has given me a wider audience, more people to reach and talk to, and more opportunities for speaking and writing.  I was just thinking about this today. It has given me a passion for a single change…there are a lot of things going on in the church, a lot of conversation, and a lot of unhealthy movements, a lot of bad things in the church that could and should be changed, but I don’t feel called, at least at this point in life, to be addressing all of those things, but I do feel like God is calling me to speak to this one area and to challenge Christians in this spot. So it is has given me a new focus and a new change. But, I think, broader speaking, there’s a parable in Luke chapter 8 where the parable of the sower that sows the seeds all over, and the one falls on the path and never grows, the one falls on the rock and starts to grow but gets burned up, the 3rd seed grows roots but the fruit gets choked out by the weeds, then the 4th seed actually grows roots and grows fruit. Jesus comes back and explains...it’s one of the rare parables where He explains what He meant...when He gets to the 3rd seed, the seed that grows roots but doesn’t bear fruit, He says the weeds that choked out the fruit are - riches, pleasures and worries. And, it’s not even the love of riches, it’s not the love of pleasure, but it’s almost the mere existence of riches and pleasures and the worry that accompanies it that chokes out the fruit of the seed.  I think the American church is actually the third seed, that we are not nearly as fruitful as we could be, because the riches and the pursuit of possessions and the worry that come with it are choking out the fruitfulness of so many. So many of us, myself included, for so many years and probably even still to this day, in some points. My ministry has changed, but I think part of that is considering that parable, and as we remove those things, we begin to see ministry opportunities that we didn’t notice before.

Cheryl:  Acts 2:44,45 says, ~All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.~  And Acts 4:32 says, ~All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. ~ From a pastor’s standpoint, how do you think these two passages of Scripture contribute to a minimalistic mindset, and what would happen in our world today if we, as believers, adapted this lifestyle?

Joshua:  I think what would happen is we would discover the very thing that so many of us are looking for in our money. By that I mean, as we begin living this out, I have discovered that there is no more secure a place to be, financially-speaking, or any way speaking, that there is nothing more secure than walking in the will of God and honoring Him with the things that I have. What I think happens is, without even realizing it, so many Christians are looking for security in their money, and they’re looking for security in their possessions, and they live with this mindset that, "Once I feel secure with my bank account, then I will begin to share and then, I’ll become generous."  And so, generosity is always, "I wish I could give, but I just can’t, because we don’t have enough money or we’re worried about this."  In reality, it works completely opposite, that when we become generous, when we begin sharing what we have, when we begin doing what God has called us to do, caring for the widow and the orphan, caring for those who have need, when we begin doing those things, we find that we are far more secure than we ever thought we were, because our security is in God, not in a bank account somewhere. And so, what I think would happen is obviously, the poor would be cared for and more needs would be met, so those lives would improve, but even more than that, that the person who started sharing, and that the person who became generous would find the security and the happiness that they’ve been looking for and everything they’ve been trying to accumulate all along the way.

Cheryl:  I just became aware of  The Hope Effect as I was reading Evelyn Rennich's latest blog post. I was instantly moved and blessed to learn more about it at the website.  I think it is an amazing thing you are doing, and I was wondering if you would like to share more about it with our readers?


(Here, I insert a video where Joshua explains his new outreach in detail.)

If video doesn't load, click here.

Joshua:  It’s interesting that, most people think that the orphan care crisis is being addressed.  I think most people think that we have orphanages set up, and orphans go there.  In reality, it is a pretty big problem, and it’s a problem that we have known about for decades.  It's not only that there are more orphans that need to be cared for, but it's also that the typical model of the orphanage where there’s 50 kids and just a couple of adults is actually having some pretty harmful effects on kids.  God’s original design for human development is that kids would be raised in a family.  This is the model, this is the design.  Not that they would be raised in these institutions with such high kid-to-adult ratios. So, we are hoping to address that, and while we’re not the first, there are other people doing it pretty well, we don’t think globally, or certainly not nationally, that people even know about it or that people are talking about it. And so, we’re hoping to do this in a way that helps more people see that there is a problem, and see that there are solutions out there, and then give them a very easy way to get involved to start making a difference. So, that’s what The Hope Effect is.

Cheryl: And the first one that you’re opening is going to be in Honduras, is that right?

Joshua:  There’s an orphanage in Honduras called La Providencia. They’ve been around about 8 or 10 years, and they do this family model. They put up homes and they put 6 orphans and a Mom and Dad in these homes. So, our first project is, we are going to build for them a home on their campus. We’re going to build it and fund it for 2 years. They have 10 years of experience, so there’s a lot that we can learn, plus they have everything in place already, like a director, a place to find parents, and everything.  So, our first project is building a home on their campus for them, and then, our next campus project is likely to be in Mexico.  This is what we’re planning on now, if things don’t change.

Cheryl:  That’s wonderful!  What a vision you have to do that! You’re right, I read those Scriptures about the Lord wanting us to take care of the orphans…..my heart goes out to them, but I didn’t really comprehend the gravity and how it affects their lives. Thank God for laying this on your heart, and I hope and pray He will bless you abundantly with that and in every other part of your ministry. You are making such a difference!


Joshua:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  Thanks for looking me up and having a conversation with me today.  It was fun.

Cheryl:  I appreciate it so very much. I hope God will bless you and continue to enlarge your coasts and just bless everything you’re doing.  We’ll be praying for you, that’s for sure.  I know you are out there on the front lines, and this is not an easy time to be there, especially with everything going on in our world with Christians, and so, may God just bless you and protect you and your family and just be with you every step of the way. 

A BIG thank you to Joshua for taking the time to share his
with us!

I found him to be very humble and kind and such a blessing and pleasure to talk to.
I absolutely love the insights he shared.
Such profound wisdom, and such a great help to my family and me on our current journey!
Please keep Joshua and his family and their outreaches of ministry in your prayers,
and please remember the orphans.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27
(NIV)

"For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, Who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.
He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. 
He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing."
Deuteronomy 10:17,18
(NLT)

********************************************************************************
How can YOU help????

Here are some ways....

Another blog that I follow and find wonderfully inspiring is Smallish, written by 
Evelyn Rennich.


In her latest post called, "How Minimalism Can Change The World", she explains how adapting a minimalist mindset enables us to give more bountifully to others and to make more of a positive difference in our world.
During the whole month of November, Evelyn is hosting a fundraiser for The Hope Effect.
 She makes it super easy to give to this worthy cause!
All you have to do is click HERE and donate, as the Lord leads!
No gift is too small.  :)

OR

In his latest post, Joshua Becker also offers other ways you can become involved,
including a recurring monthly $10 (or any amount) donation, by clicking HERE.

OR

For all of my blogging friends, please click HERE for a special way YOU can help!
Together, by God's grace, we can and will make a difference!