Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Inner Views of Stephanie Hoium

"In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and He heard me."
Psalm 120:1
KJV

I love people.  
I am fascinated with their stories.  
I hang on their words as they open up their hearts and share what God has brought them through.  
I believe there is a Divine purpose for every single person that God allows us to meet.  
Recently, He brought a very devoted young mother and her precious little girl across my path.  
I knew from the moment we met, that there was something very special about them.  
Something about the way the mother scooted over in her chair to make room for the little girl, 
the kind tone she used while speaking to her, 
the comfortable way they interacted with each other, 
and the friendly reception I got when I ventured to say hello.  
Kevin and Zach often tell me that I never meet a stranger, and when they see me starting to strike up a conversation with someone we've never met, they know they're in for a wait!  
I love the quote, "Strangers are just friends we haven't met yet."  
The longer I talked to this sweet mother, the more I realized how much her story needs to be told.  She has endured untold heartache and extreme challenges, and she is still here to tell us about it.  Hers is a testimony of God's grace and healing and blatant proof that He does indeed still answer prayer, and He is still performing miracles in the lives of those who believe.  


So, without further ado, I gratefully present to you the 
of
Stephanie Hoium.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Stephanie:  Well, my name is Stephanie Hoium. I have been married for 5 years to my loving husband, Justin Hoium, whom I've been with for the past 10 years. We have a beautiful 6 year old girl, her name is Rozlynn Hoium. I'm different. I go against the grain. Nothing has ever... and I mean EVER restored my faith more than the day my daughter was born.

Cheryl:  What happened on the day before Easter six years ago?

Stephanie:  I was coloring Easter eggs with my little sisters, as I do every year. I was pregnant with our baby girl whom we had already picked out her name. (Rozlynn) 



I was having severe headaches through out my pregnancy. So I brought it up with my doctor, and she told me that headaches were "normal" during pregnancy, and to go take some Tylenol, and go lay down and sleep it off. Well, after I was done coloring Easter eggs, I did just that. My unknown aneurysm ruptured. I was found in my bed convulsing and not responding to anyone. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Harper Rd. They checked me out, and the doctor said " She's had aneurysm rupture." So, they took me by helicopter and flew me to Charleston. Justin, our best friend, Jeff, my mother and step-father all rushed to the hospital where they were told they could save Rozlynn, but they didn't know if I would make it. She was born with R.O.P ( retinopathy of prematurity) - she had two holes in her heart. One hole was through the top 2 ventricles of her heart, and one was on the outside of the lower right ventricle....







which have all closed!  For all the prayers that our little family of 3 received. it was miraculous. I didn't wake up for 2 months after that because I was in a coma. I finally was released from the hospital, still with no idea what was going on. I got to meet our little angel. She looked exactly like my husband, except she had my blonde hair. She was perfect.

Cheryl:  Will you describe the aftermath of that day's events?

Stephanie:  Well, I know that my mom has PTSD from it. She gets really sick even thinking about that day, or driving through WV. For my husband and I, it has brought us closer together. You never know when it will be your time to go. So we make sure we say all the things that need to be said before we go to bed, and we make sure we tell each other and our daughter we love them more than anything.


The happy day they got to bring little Rozlynn home!

Cheryl:  Looking back, what do you consider to be your darkest day?

Stephanie:  I was very depressed. I wasn't allowed to drive for a year after everything had happened. I just had to stay at home with constant supervision.



Cheryl:  What helped you cope during that time?  Was there a particular person who faithfully stood by you and encouraged you to keep going?  If so, can you tell us about him/her and some of the most meaningful and effective things they did to help you make it through? 

Stephanie:  My husband, Justin, my daughter, my mom. Justin would comfort me and tell me that we will make it. It was hard. If my husband wasn't there to tell me what happened everyday and calm me down from a complete emotional break down... wipe my tears away. I just don't know what I would have done.

Cheryl:  What suggestions can you make to someone who wants to reach out to someone else in distress?

Stephanie:  NEVER give up on God. He has a plan for everyone, even if you don't see it yet. Never give up on the one person who loves you unconditionally.

Cheryl:  How are you doing now?

Stephanie:  I'm doing well. I still have issues with my short term memory loss; That's why it has taken me so long to respond to this email!

Cheryl:  In retrospect, how would you describe your views towards God before this life-altering event? 

Stephanie:  Honestly, I hated Him. I didn't understand why He was giving me so many trails in my life. Why was He making it so hard for me? Why was He making it so hard for Justin and me to just be happy and comfortable? But I now realize that He was making me stronger. Making me stand up for what I believe in and to never give up.

Cheryl:  How did this whole experience draw you closer to God?

Stephanie:  All I can say is that He didn't give up on me even when I didn't believe in myself and I wanted to just end it all.

Cheryl:  What changes can you perceive in your perspective towards life in general? 

Stephanie:  I love my life and everyone who is in my life.


Stephanie, Rozlynn, & Justin Hoium

Cheryl:  Please tell us about your little girl.

Stephanie:  Oh the love of my life! Her name is Rozlynn Ember Hoium. She's 6 years old and smart as a tack. She's so smart! She loves to play games, read, and go to church. She's simply just amazing.



Cheryl:  What is your favorite part of being her mother?

Stephanie:  Teaching her things. I've taught her how to cook various things. I've taught her how to speak in Spanish.

Cheryl:  As a stay-at-home mom, what fulfills you most?

Stephanie:  Being able to provide for my family and keeping them healthy and active.

Cheryl:  What are some of the things you enjoy doing with your daughter?

Stephanie:  Cooking, reading, and teaching.



Cheryl:  If you were having coffee with a reader who is discouraged and depressed, what advice would you draw from the well of your own life experiences and share with them to offer hope?

Stephanie:  I would tell them to never give up on God and to never give up on the people they love the most. God and these people have made you who you are. Never be ashamed of who you are. So what if people are going to judge you. You know who you are and what you believe. ALWAYS stick to what you believe.

Cheryl:  To the person who is now in the throes of a long, painful recovery process, what would you say?

Stephanie:  Prayer works. It will be hard. But never give up.

Cheryl:  Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. Surely God has spared your life and the life of your little girl for a special, Divine intent. Will you share with us about some of the good things you have seen come out of your own pain? How has God redeemed your suffering and turned it into something good? How is He turning your test into a testimony? 

Stephanie:  God has tested me on so many levels. I hated Him for it because I didn't really understand why. I just wanted to be happy. I felt so tortured by all this evil and negativity around me. I had one light in my life. That was Justin. He came to me when I was at my lowest. I was broken. He was broken. We've built our relationship on trust and love. We fixed each other with the help of God. I never knew that I could love someone with my entire soul. I wasn't even sure that I could even love. I met him, and together we walked hand in hand and he has NEVER left my side. I'm so thankful for the blessings that God has given me and my family. We are whole.



Cheryl:  In closing, are there any special words of comfort you would like to share with us?

Stephanie:  Love. Love hard and true. I want people to know that life is scary. There's so many unknowns. But, God has the answers. Don't ever turn your back on Him. I want everyone to know that this can happen. I didn't believe it would happen. I was 22. It happened to me. I made it out alive. God has kept me here for a reason.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you in this current season? 

Stephanie:  For peace and good health.


Wow!  
I am just so inspired by Stephanie, her never-give-up attitude, her resilience,
and, most of all, her faith in God and her desire to honor Him with her life.
I love seeing how Justin and Stephanie pulled together through such extenuating circumstances,
and how Justin stood by her through her darkest times.
Theirs is a beautiful true love story.
The trials they have walked through together have served to strengthen their marriage and deepen their bond and love for one another.
It is a rare and amazing thing to behold.

A BIG thanks to you, Stephanie, for being willing to step forward and share your heart and story with us here.  I can only imagine how God is going to use you and your testimony to encourage others who feel they have no hope.

I can't wait to see what great things He has in store for you and Justin and little Rozlynn in the future.
God bless the three of you again and again!

Dear reader, how are things with you?
Are you facing tough circumstances in your life?
Does it seem that all hope is gone?

I hope you will consider Stephanie's story and how God sustained her.
He didn't promise that we would never go through difficult times,
but He did promise to never leave us alone.
He always walks through the fire with us, and He is eternally faithful and true to His Word.

Be encouraged.
I trust that, regardless what you are going through, you feel His comforting presence walking alongside you, and that you always know how much you are loved.

God bless you, each and every one!


To read previous
click the links below.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Inner Views of Sarah Davison

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High:
To shew forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night,
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound."
Psalm 92:1-3
(KJV)

If you have been a reader/follower of Homespun Devotions for long at all,
you will know how much bluegrass music means to us.
Both Kevin and I were raised on it, and it just seems to course through our veins!
So, it is no surprise that when I somehow stumbled across the talent and harmony of a group called High Road, I was instantly intrigued and hooked on their music.
Their distinctive sound just drew me in.

A few years later, we were so blessed to see them perform in concert and were able to talk with one of the members off stage.
How thrilled and grateful I was when I later requested an interview with the founder of the group, and she agreed!

It was a true joy and blessing to me to get to know her a bit better, 
and I am so very excited to introduce you to her and the music of High Road today.


The 
of
Farm Girl, Piano Player, Dog Lover, Pie Baker, & Founder of High Road Music,
Sarah Davison.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Sarah:  I grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa. My family raises cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay. My mom taught elementary for 34 years and just recently retired. Our hometown is about 180 strong and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love my home area so much. The people there are so wonderful! I remember doing music as far back as my earliest memories go-- my dad would hold me as a baby while he played the piano and sang old country songs. That's where I learned to sing and play. I started playing with him when I was five at old time music festivals and concerts in our local park.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony.

Sarah:  My parents always were the greatest example when I was growing up. I watched them pray together and we talked through so many scriptures together as a family. Then my dad start our local Cowboy Church and I got to be involved in it from the ground up. I always knew I wanted to sing and play music and write gospel songs since I was thirteen- that was really the time where I decided to follow God and whatever He had planned for me in music. I was 21 when I was baptized and just out of college. That was a day I will never forget!

Cheryl:  Who is your greatest spiritual mentor? How has this person helped you in your walk with Christ?

Sarah:  My parents have been the most influential people in my walk with Christ. I still ask them questions and look for their guidance almost every day. I also really love the relationship I have with my cousin who I consider to be my sister, Amanda. She is one of my best friends and we pray for each other constantly. I think it's so important and special to have a person like that in our lives! I'm so thankful for her.

Cheryl:  What is your earliest memory of singing?

Sarah:  I remember singing at our township's community Memorial Day service when I was five. I played the old upright piano and sang God Bless America! I remember wearing a pink and white dress that my grandmother bought me and just how much fun it was to play and sing. Each Memorial Day our farm neighbors go to the little country cemetery on the hill and bring flowers in to decorate veterans graves. We sing and pray and have fellowship and all the children are involved. This annual event is one of the many wonderful memories I have of growing up on the family farm.

Cheryl:  Who has most influenced your style, musically? Who were your favorite singers to listen to while growing up?

Sarah:  My favorites are Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss, The Isaacs, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Floyd Cramer, and even Broadway musicals. I love classical piano too- Chopin is my favorite. Gospel music was always played in our house- The Cox Family, the Goodmans, Gaithers, and old hymnals were sitting on the piano all the time.

Cheryl:  When did you know that God was calling you to sing full-time for Him?

Sarah:  When I was thirteen I knew that I wanted to surrender to doing music full time someday.

Cheryl:  Please share with us about your journey into singing and performing on a professional level.

Sarah:  I moved to Nashville to attend Belmont university school of music. I was a jazz piano major and loved my time there. I met a lot of wonderful people and still love having those relationships to this days with my fellow students and teachers. After graduating I worked in the country music side of things for a while and was leading music at church every Sunday.

Cheryl:  What musical instruments do you play, and how did you become involved in playing them?

Sarah:  I play mainly piano only. I can also play a couple other instruments but not well enough to do them in public! Lap dulcimer, mandolin, trombone and tuba because of band in high school, etc!

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about High Road? How did the group come to be? 

Sarah:  We all met through mutual friends in college. Some people ask if we are related- we aren't but we would claim each other!!!

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite parts about touring? What do you miss the most while you are on the road?

Sarah:  I love traveling and always have. I miss my dog the most! Lol!

Cheryl:  Can you share a special memory of seeing God move in a special way during one of your concerts?

Sarah:  One of the most special moments I recall was in East Tennessee when we had an invitation to pray for a woman who just found out she had cancer. It was one of the most powerful worshipful times of prayer I've ever felt. So awesome!!!

Cheryl:  What would you most like to accomplish through your musical career?

Sarah:  To be honest I don't think about the word accomplish too often-- I mainly think about what can I do to make a positive impact for Christ and be used in whatever way I can. This entire groups ministry is God's, and He put it together- so everything we do is not what we are doing, but what He puts in front of us.

Cheryl:  High Road will soon release a new album. How and can it be purchased?

Sarah:  It's going to be on iTunes as well as our website www.highroadmusic.com.

Cheryl:  On a personal level, what are some of your favorite things to do when you are taking some time off?

Sarah:  I love to crochet, bake pies and cakes, and make jam!

Cheryl:  Thus far in life, what is the most fulfilling thing you have ever done?  What about this experience meant the most to you?

Sarah:  The most fulfilling thing I've done if I say what comes to mind first would be to play on the Grand Ole Opry a couple times this year. It's always been a dream of mine and it was amazing to be a part of it!!!

Cheryl:  What are some things that still remain on your bucket list?

Sarah:  Bucket list item --would be to perform at the Ryman someday!

Cheryl:  Looking back over your Christian journey, what would you define as one of the darkest places, so far?  How did your faith in God sustain you through that difficult time?

Sarah:  There was a time just a couple years ago where I felt like Satan was trying to tear our ministry apart- using distraction and deceit in every way. I felt very alone and unsure of the future. It was a really tough time. Over a few weeks of serious prayer and reflection one day this assurance just came over me that said GO ON. And so I did. It was then I realized that God was teaching me to give everything to Him and let Him have the reins. Wow! Ever since that time I have felt like a weight was lifted off me. He is so good to us even when we don't deserve it.

Cheryl:  How do you stay encouraged, spiritually? Are there certain Scriptures, books, hymns, or other resources that you would like to recommend to the reader who may be finding it hard to remain hopeful in these troubled times?

Sarah:  I started writing scriptures on the mirror in my bathroom for a good amount of time- it's the first thing I see and the last thing I read usually and it helps me memorize verses. I also love listening to online messages and studies when we travel- I subscribe to several!!!

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Sarah:  Pray that this next album would just be an instrument to be used in whatever way God sees fit to bring the Gospel to those who need to hear it. We want to be real transparent people and these songs on the new project are almost all original, so it's really a window into our hearts. We pray it reaches someone in need and makes a difference for the good to a lot of folks! 



If video doesn't load, click here.

To order High Road's latest CD, click HERE, then click on "store".

A BIG thank you to Sarah Davison for taking the time to share her thoughts and heart with us here.
Please keep Sarah and her group in your prayers, dear readers.
May God just bless them abundantly as they travel and share His precious Gospel in song!

Surely God has a plan for us all, and even though our talents and gifts are varied and unique,
we are all important to the body of Christ.
So often, we struggle in trying to find out what it is that we are truly supposed to be doing in this life.
But, if we examine what we do well, naturally and without much effort, if often leads us to being able to figure out the Divine purpose for which we were created.

What are your gifts and talents, my friend?
Can you sing well?
Are you able to proficiently play a musical instrument?
Are you comfortable and in your element while publicly speaking?
Do you come alive while teaching?
Are you passionate about encouraging children and youth?
Does it fulfill you to the brim to write?
Are you often inspired while spending time with or ministering to the elderly?

God has a special place for each one of us to work in His Kingdom,
and there is certainly no shortage on work to be done.
"Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few..."
(Matthew 9:37)
God often directs us to our special place of ministry by allowing our personal gifts and talents to become evident and by allowing them to become the things we most love to do.
If we pay attention to this, it is really not all that difficult to figure out our life's purpose.
Once we figure it out and embrace it, God will always be faithful to open the right doors 
to allow us to live out our Divinely-ordained mission while on this earth.
Once He opens the doors, it is up to you...and to me....to walk through them.

Is there something God is showing you to do, but you haven't yet quite mustered the courage to take that first step of obedience ?
Your world...your realm of influence...your family, friends, loved ones, and acquaintances
are waiting to receive the blessings that only you living out your God-ordained purpose can bestow.
I encourage you to step forward and start sharing your gifts to edify your brothers and sisters in Christ!

I was challenged by a comment our sweet friend, Beth Willis Miller left on the blog
to encourage Zach after his recent interview.
"What would a boy, just like you, do in a situation just like the one you are in, if he was absolutely certain that God was with him?"

I place the same challenge before you, dear friend.
Be certain that God is with you.
Take that leap of faith you have been so hesitant to take, and be all God has created you to be!

I am so thankful Sarah and High Road have found the path God has created them to follow.
What a blessing they are to us all!
I hope you can take the time to enjoy a couple of their videos below,
and maybe even catch one of their upcoming concerts!
You can find their schedule by going to their website, then clicking "Calendar".


If video doesn't load, click here.


If video doesn't load, click here.

Thank you for reading, for praying, and for supporting the ministry endeavors we highlight here on Inner Views!!

To read previous
click the links below.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Two Special Smilestones...a Fifty & a Five!!

"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: 
forsake not the works of Thine own hands."
Psalm 138:8
(KJV)


I feel like I owe the readers of Homespun Devotions some sort of apology.
My blogging has been sporadic, even non-existent, of late.
It is just that there is so much going on in our lives that I am too busy enjoying what is happening to sit down and write about it.  ☺
And, believe me, that is a good thing.
The pieces are falling into place, like the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle shown in the picture above.
While I was working it, it is was a mystery.
Some pieces were lovely and bright and joy-inspiring.
Some pieces were dark and ugly and, at first glance, seemed pointless.
But, when it was all complete, just look at how pretty it became!
Every, single puzzle piece had a point and was designed by the one who created the puzzle.

(I wrote more about this in the 2nd blog post I ever wrote.
If you would like to read this blast from the past, just click here!)

Such is the story of our lives.
God, our glorious Creator, has done so much for us.
I keep telling Kevin and Zach that I never really feel like I am getting my praise completely out.
I just feel that even my grandest attempts to let Him know how much I appreciate all He has done and is doing just falls SO short of expressing the deep gratitude and JOY in my heart and soul.

He has delivered us from so much bondage.
He has lifted us out of the miry clay and set our feet upon a rock and established our goings.
(Psalm 40:2)
Praise His holy name!

While it would take me years to share all of His bountiful blessings with you,
I do want to mention two special smilestones He has recently permitted me to pass.

Number one, I turned 50 years old.
Can I believe it?
Not at all.
Is this me?
Sometimes, I am not sure!
Because, inside, I still feel like the 14 year old girl who handed God the reins to my life here in this sacred spot.
Hopeful.  Bursting with anticipation of what God is going to do next in our lives.
Excited for the future.
Longing for His will to be made known.
Yearning to fulfill His plan for me and live out the purpose for which He placed me upon this earth.
Dreaming of the adventures life holds for my little family and me.
An endless romantic-at-heart.
Perpetually thirsty for God.
Hungry for more of Him...His Spirit, His blessings, His love.

Do I feel 50 years old?
Not a bit.
Oh, the physical part of me feels it.
Every ache and pain and new age spot reminds me.
Where do they come from?  Age spots, I mean.
How can they just appear overnight?
The physical part of me feels 50 years old...some days older!
But does that inward part of me feel like it has inhabited earth for 50 years?
Not a chance!

"For which cause we faint not; 
but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."
2 Corinthians 4:16

Do you know what God has been showing me concerning my 50th birthday?
This is the Year of Jubilee!!!!
I love reading about the year of Jubilee in the Old Testament and how at the end of each 7th year,
there was a release, but at the 7th end of the 7th year (at the end of 49 years),
there was this amazing, wonderful, magnificent, liberating thing called "The Year of Jubilee".

“And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; 
and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, 
in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” 
Leviticus 25:8-10

"Hallow the fiftieth year"....I love that.
"proclaim liberty throughout all the land"...love that, too.

In this 50th year, slaves were released and set free.
Mortgages were cancelled.
Bondage was obliterated.
Chains of oppression were broken.
Families were reunited.

It was a time of great rejoicing.
It was a year of restoration and the righting of wrong.

50 used to sound so old to me.
Decrepit, even.
Like a dreaded event that meant life was over.

Now, that I am here, I find that it is not an event to be dreaded at all.
Turning 50 feels like turning a corner.
Like something truly amazing and wonderful is coming.
Like an incredible smilestone...a major accomplishment...not for me, but for GOD.
Without Him, I am nothing.
Without Him, I can do nothing.
Without Him, I would not be here.

In light of what He has done and is still doing in our lives,
how can I ever view turning 50 as a negative?
I am SO blessed to be alive.
I look back over the many health challenges and things God has brought me through,
and I am compelled to turn my face Heavenward,
raise my hands to Him Who has wrought such miracles,
and burst forth into heartwrenched praise!

I haven't shared much of that with you here, but suffice to say, 
life, to me, is a beyond precious gift...given by a loving Creator Who absolutely wants us to live it abundantly.

He is a mighty GOD to me.
I have seen Him do miraculous, humanly unexplainable things...
things that there was no other explanation for...
just HIM and His almighty power,

He has brought me to this place...
of turning 50, of entering into "The Year of Jubilee",
of the beginning of a new chapter for my family and me...walking forward together in a new place.
It is the beginning of new traditions, a fresh start, a clean slate.
Thank you, Jesus, from the bottom of my grateful heart.
Knowing this, makes me sing!
Here are two of my favorite songs in the world.
 I may or may not be known to often randomly break out singing them,
regardless of where I am or who is around me.
That is one of the sweet benefits of being a jubilant 50.
I no longer have to care what people think of me.
How liberating!!

If video doesn't load, click here.


If video doesn't load, click here.

On a more serious note, another fact about turning 50 is not lost to me.
There is this intensified sense of responsibility.
Why?
Because, I now officially feel like one of those women the Apostle Paul was writing to in Titus chapter 2.
You know the passage. 
"The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."
Titus 2:3-5

God, please help me!
Am I qualified to fill these shoes?
I am here....I have arrived, by His amazing grace.
Am I ready for this new dimension of commission?

The second smilestone I recently passed is the 5th Anniversary of this blog.
Yep.
That's right.
50 years ago, I was born.
Five years ago, on October 1st, 2011, Homespun Devotions was born.
I can't believe it has been five years.

Thank you for walking this journey with me, dear friends.
Of all the places you could visit on the worldwide web,
of all the many other ways you could choose to spend your precious time,
you come here.
You read.
You subscribe.
You comment.
You follow.
You never cease to encourage me.
I am humbled indeed by your kindness, love, and the precious gift of your friendship.

You mean the world to me.

My prayer today is that God will be especially near to each one of you.
That you will know how much you are loved.
That you will see how special you truly are.
That you will feel His presence in brand-new and exciting ways.
That your burdens will be lighter,
your health will improve,
your days will be long upon this earth,
and that each one of those days will be filled with His most abundant blessings.

I don't know what you need today.
But, you and I, we share the same Father.
You are my brother.
My sister.
Dear to my heart.
And, our mutual Father is continually aware of each one of your...and my individual needs.
He cares about you so much!
He is watching.
He knows.
So, be of good cheer, and press on.
God has great plans for your future.
You are perpetually...and unconditionally loved!

God bless you, my dear friends.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Inner Views of Lisa Avellan

"Not that I speak in respect of want: 
for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Philippians 4:11
(KJV)

In our quest to seek a more minimal life, we consistently pursue encouragement
from those who, not only align themselves with our mission to live minimal,
but who do so from Jesus' viewpoint and acknowledge His mindset and perfect example.
Some of these encouragers have been introduced to us through reading the blog of Joshua Becker.
The sweet friend whose Inner Views are being shared with you today is one such encourager.
I first heard of her amazing blog when Joshua shared one of her posts on Becoming Minimalist
and I have been following her ever since.
I am so blessed and thankful to be able to introduce you to her today!
I know you will love reading her amazing testimony, and you will glean much wisdom from the fresh insight and encouragement God has placed upon her heart to share with us.


With joy and gratitude I present to you the
of
Stay-at-home Wife and Mom, Writer, Holistic Health Nut, Lover of Jesus, Minimalist, and Creative Spirit who blogs to inspire intentional living,
Lisa Avellan.

Cheryl:  Please introduce yourself to us.

Lisa:  Hello! Thank you, Cheryl for inviting me to share my story. First off, a little about myself: I’m Lisa, and I blog at CreativeHolisticHome.com. I am originally from Vancouver, Washington and have lived in San Diego, California for the last 12 years. 

I am the youngest of two and spent most of my childhood living in the country on a small goat farm. I think this experience, and being in 4-H with my goats, was one of the most defining experiences in my life (outside the church). It taught me about responsibility, communication, respect, and hard work. 

I was extremely shy and 4-H required me to interact with many types of people and situations. I think learning showmanship and presentation, and that I was good at it, was the first time I felt confident about myself. Though, being a grand champion dairy goat showman doesn’t get me far these days, it still remains one of my proudest achievements because it was the first time I felt I was good at something.

Now 20 years later, I sometimes feel that little grand champion goat showman rise up again when I write and my words resonate with people. My teens and twenties were difficult years of being fearful to pursue my dreams and uncomfortable in my own skin. After my first child was born and I realized there was a lot more to me than a fragile and quiet shell, I started believing I could return to the little girl who wasn’t afraid to be the best at something. 

So, for the last year my journey has been very exciting and difficult and surprising. I started writing again, a desire I’ve always had, and started simplifying my life. I realized most of what I owned was for comparison sake and what I pursued (or didn’t) was out of fear of being rejected, or worse yet…accepted. When you feel unworthy, succeeding at something can seem almost worse than failing, and I’m coming out of that, and learning about my worth and value and purpose in this life.

My husband and I have been married for 13 years and we have two beautiful miracle daughters, born after a five year struggle with infertility. They are God’s grace embodied, and I am humbled to be their mother. Camila is four and a half, and Carolina is two. At this point in my parenting journey, I’m most proud that they eat (and enjoy) vegetables and both are fully bi-lingual in Spanish and English. 

Cheryl:  When were you first introduced to Jesus? How has following Him affected your life?

Lisa:  I was raised in the church. My parents became Christians when I was a toddler, and I remember going to church as early as age four or five. I gave my life to Christ and was baptized when I was fifteen. I would say my experience growing up in the church was very positive and certainly affected the direction I would take as an adult. There were struggles just like any childhood, but the culture was very sheltered. Though I always knew Jesus saves and I believed in Him, it took me a long time to understand WHY I needed Him, on a personal, deep level.

I was very active in my youth group and still believe that the group of kids and adult youth leaders who God surrounded me with at that time dramatically changed the direction of my life. I went to a public school with kids I’d gone to school with since first grade and had I not had the youth group experience I would have fallen somewhere on the wayside. Our youth group was very much spirit-filled and active in worship and prayer. My best friends were made there, and I developed as a young Christian through those relationships and guidance from the youth leaders.

Cheryl:  Who has been most influential in your Christian walk?

Lisa:  My parents for sure. They struggled in their own walks of faith but they made sure we were always connected to a church. Their example of sacrifice, resilience, and hard-pressed faith were very influential through-out my life, and still is. 

I also would say my youth minister and his wife played a huge role during my teen years. Their daughter was my best friend, and I spent a lot of time with their family. I recognized many characteristics about their family life that I knew I wanted to implement whenever I had a family of my own. They were there to celebrate me and redirect me when I started veering. Their wisdom and leadership was invaluable.

And there have been many others along the way; from the missions program I attended and spent a year doing mission work in Mexico City to the ordinary people who have extraordinary hearts of Jesus in the churches we’ve attended throughout the years.

Cheryl:  How did you meet your husband? How long have you been married? What qualities about him do you most admire?

Lisa:  I met Rolando at a missions program in Lubbock, Texas. We were studying to serve on the mission field as apprentice missionaries and became good friends. It wasn’t until we had served our time on the field (he went to Lisbon, Portugal, and I served in Mexico City, Mexico) that we both returned to Lubbock and started dating. We’ve been married for 13 years.

I am not sure how to begin when I think about what I admire about him. Marriage is a peculiar thing, as it gives us such a deep and rich perspective into someone else’s heart and life and struggles and joys. 

I admire his tenacity to never quit. He moved to the States at age 18 from Guayaquil, Ecuador, not speaking English, to stay with a family friend who knew Spanish, but wouldn’t speak it so he could learn English quickly. He never gave up. 

He’s faced adversity, spiritually and physically, and he’s never given up.

He’s fought for his education, his career, his family, and my heart much harder than I think anyone else would.

He won’t give up on anyone. He believes in people until it hurts, and still never stops. 

He is deeply faithful to Jesus. He became a Christian not long after moving to San Diego when he met a girl in English class who was an apprentice missionary here in San Diego (from the same program we would eventually meet at. And in the beautiful way God weaves stories together, she was from Mexico City, and I worked very closely with her when I lived and worked there). When he met Jesus for the first time, his life was radically changed and the trajectory of his life catapulted in the opposite direction from where he was heading. He’s never forgotten what Jesus did for him, and he lives daily the life of a transformed man for Christ. 

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about your infertility journey? How did walking this difficult path enrich your marriage?

Lisa:  We struggled with infertility for about 5 years. That journey led us to a few diagnoses that I continue to deal with today and supposedly were the main factors in our infertility. I was given oral medications, topical creams, invasive exams of my reproductive system, and sent to a fertility center when nothing worked. At the fertility center we were given very slim odds at achieving pregnancy with insemination procedures, but they agreed to try three rounds. After three failed rounds of insemination we were encouraged to move on to Invitro-fertilization. But, even that only gave us 30% chance of conception and because of a thyroid disorder my chances of carrying a fetus full term were less than 10%.

This was not encouraging information.

So we decided, prayerfully, not to pursue fertility treatments. We took a couple months to rest, pray for wisdom, and restore our relationship with each other. Within that time we felt God turning our hearts toward adoption.

We sought wise counsel, researched adoption agencies locally and nationally and decided to pursue adoption. We spent the next year and a half in that process. Toward the end of that year and a half, I became interested in holistic health and nutrition; I cut gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet. In an effort to better control my thyroid disease and overall health I found a holistic nutritionist who after the first examination found a high level of toxins (mainly chlorine) in every major organ of my body.

His first recommendation was to put a filter on my showerhead to filter the chlorine. Within two months of using the filter, I was pregnant with my first daughter. 

What the medical community swore was infertility due to hypothyroidism and PCOS turned out to be a chemical toxin blocking the hormone receptors. I’ve since had another daughter with no fertility issues.

We were married for four years before we began trying to get pregnant and had been through some difficult times. Throughout our marriage we’ve always felt that nothing has been easy for us. We’ve had to fight for everything; nothing has been handed to us. And so we continue to fight. 

Fertility seemed like one more thing we would have to fight for. We faced it together, sometimes struggling and sometimes hopeful, but always together. 

I think the most enriching part of this journey for our marriage came during the adoption process. The same day that I went to see the holistic nutritionist we received the call that we’d been waiting for. We had a baby. He was due in 10 days. So we hustled to get ready and planned a trip to Colorado where the birth mother was. 

We spent those 10 days in constant prayer and anxiety. We had so many people praying for us and joining our anticipation. We met with our adoption agency, and they organized a meeting between us and the birth mom. We were at the hospital every minute for the 2 days she was in labor. 

And while waiting in the room next door, the birth mom gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and decided she couldn’t let him go.

As we were informed that we wouldn’t be taking our baby home - a home which was now full of baby clothes, diapers, bottles, and formula – my husband was there to catch me as I crumbled. That was a pivotal moment for our marriage, I think. 

We left the hospital and got on a plane the next day and together, with God, we faced this terrible and unbelievable circumstance the way we always did, we fought through it. We trusted God had a plan.

We believed that we were meant to be parents, even though we didn’t know what that would look like now.

We had a great support team around us as well. It was one of the most difficult trials of our marriage, but God was (and always is) faithful. He never left us, and we knew that if we clung to His promises one day He would give us our hearts’ desires.

And within a couple months, He did.

Cheryl:  What is your favorite thing about being a mother? How has your struggle with infertility deepened your bond with your children?

Lisa:  Becoming a mother was the most life-changing experience. I knew that I wanted kids and that we could provide a very loving and healthy home for them, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with babies before having my own so I didn’t know how I’d do. 

Immediately seeing my first daughter being placed in my arms I knew that I was different. I knew that I wouldn’t ever be the same woman. My heart was exposed now. The insecurities I always battled of being enough, being seen, being heard vanished and I became more confident and less worried about what others thought and said. Having a newborn came naturally to me. I didn’t mind the middle of night feedings. In fact, before having kids I was not a nice person if I didn’t get enough sleep – not to mention if I was woken up in the middle of the night. Suddenly, I happily would get out of bed at 3 am to nurse. And then at 6 am I’d be as happy as could be for my husband as he got ready for work.

I was meant to be a mom, and the story God has given me makes it ever the more priceless.

My girls are miracles. They are tangible answers to our prayers – our soul deep crying out to the Lord. They are grace in person. They are God’s promises with skin and bones and soul. Mothering to me is nothing short of a spiritual experience every day, and I love them with a mother’s heart, but also with the heart of a child of God who’s been lavished with grace upon grace.

Cheryl:  What are you most passionate about? What fulfills you most?

Lisa:  Well, as you can tell from the previous answer my kids and being a mother and wife is my number one passion. But I also am passionate about writing. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing but I quit writing in my early twenties. I was riddled with self doubt eventually I couldn’t pick up a pen. After a series of events early last year I decided to pursue my passion and purchased a writing course online. That was early 2015. and I’ve since started my blog, a book, writing for other blogs, and dreaming of all the ways I can pursue writing.

I’m also a classic introvert. I test very high on every introvert test, and I suspect I may be highly sensitive, too. So, for me, time alone is essential for me to recharge. I love to read and exercise and be creative in some way.

God has also blessed me with a love of travel and culture and language. My husband is from Ecuador, and we travel there as often as we can. We are raising our girls in a bi-cultural and bi-lingual home so they grow to understand they are not just American, but Ecuadorian, too. And more importantly, we are passionate about teaching them they are a part of a world community and to be compassionate and world thinkers.

Cheryl:  When did you first begin your journey towards a minimal life? Were there specific life events that caused you to feel the need to downsize and simplify?

Lisa:  I discovered minimalism in a round-about way, but by no means do I think it was accidental. I attended a conference in November of last year that focused on telling a better story with our lives. We learned how to use the principles of story to live full lives as God intended. It was really powerful. There were several breakout sessions and one of them was Joshua Becker speaking on minimalism. I was immediately interested, however, I chose a breakout session from another author I admire. When I returned home from the conference a few days later I looked up Joshua's blog, and his ideas clicked for me. It made so much sense to me that telling a better story with my life would include letting go of all that doesn’t matter and to create a life with only the things I truly love. 

Cheryl:  What does minimalism look like in your life and home? How has becoming minimal brought a sense of peace and calm to your life?

Lisa:  Its created a lot of space, physical and mental. I really enjoy removing clutter and the feeling of freedom that instantly comes over me. I love the empty spaces in our home that decluttering has left. Before, I thought every space needed a table or bookshelf but when I started removing the “extra”, all the things that were there just because, I really felt like I could breathe better. 

My husband and I both pared down our wardrobes recently, and that has been a blessing. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought. It felt good to finally cut ties with clothes that I don’t like anymore or that don’t fit. Better yet, there is less laundry and more space in our closets.

We also are working on being very intentional about including our kids. We will go through their toys every couple weeks and have them decide what stays and what goes. There have been a couple items she’s asked about later, but for the most part she doesn’t care. Getting rid of all the excess toys has been a huge relief. 

Our house seems bigger now, and it actually motivates me to clean more! I hate to clean but I do enjoy clean, spacious areas, so I’m willing to keep up with dusting. 

I think the peace that comes from minimalism that I’ve found is that as I remove things from my life, I also remove the false sense of security, the need for validation, and comparison cycle. I started to see how much of my identity was wrapped around my stuff, and it was suffocating the story I really wanted to live. As I let go of all that baggage (and still am), I find peace in my own worth, what I can offer the world with just my heart and my hands, and I know that it’s enough.

Minimalism strips away the outer layers which we tend to live under for comfort and forces us to deal with the inner layers; the scary stuff we’ve been trying to hide. I think for me this process has brought a lot of underlying struggles to the surface, and as I step into those I see how much I need God to break in and free me. It’s as much a spiritual journey as physical.

Cheryl:  What would you say to the person who is discontent with the clutter and chaos in their lives, but who feels too overwhelmed to begin to make changes? What is the most effective first thing they can do to feel they are making a successful start towards minimalism?

Lisa:  I always say start small. Miniscule, in fact. Choose one area, a favorite spot in the house and get rid of the clutter. It might just mean putting a few books on a shelf instead of stacked on an end table. Or if family dinners are really important to you, but the dining table is covered with mail and personal belongings, start there. I started with my writing desk that occupies a corner in our bedroom. It took me about thirty minutes to find a home for each item (and that home wasn’t on top of the desk) and when I was finished I felt liberated and ready to create something. I also felt motivated to find the next spot to declutter.

It can be very overwhelming when you look at the big picture of your home or life. When we focus on one spot, one desk, or one corner, the task becomes doable. I also like to tell people this isn’t a race. Simplifying is a slow and steady unpacking of emotional baggage, and we have to take care of our souls at the same time. There is no benefit to working harder than your heart is, so be intentional and mindful about the process and work at a pace that’s right for you.

Cheryl:  How does pushing back against the tide of consumerism and living with less align with the values and lifestyle Jesus lived while on earth?

Lisa:  Minimalism is elevating the non-physical over the physical. As Christians, the non-physical or the spiritual should always be our focus, and sometimes our stuff can stifle our spiritual walk. It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game or seeking contentment in earthly things rather than heavenly things, and when we start stripping away the excess, we are pointed directly to Jesus. He teaches us to leave everything for His ministry, to lay everything down and follow. Minimalism calls us to lay down our confidence in our physical blessings and rest in our spiritual blessings.

Cheryl:  What inspired you to begin living a holistic life? How has it benefited you and your family?

Lisa:  Infertility was the major factor in reaching out for a holistic approach. I learned about holistic nutrition and a greener lifestyle and, fertility aside, it just made a lot of sense to me! My personal experience has shown me all the damage that chemicals and toxins and poor nutrition can do to the body, so my mindset shifted about what health really means. 

Cheryl:  Looking back over your Christian walk, what do you define as one of your darkest seasons? Can you share with us about some tangible ways God demonstrated His providential care and love for you during that time? How did He use others to minister to you and encourage you?

Lisa:  The darkest season for me was definitely our infertility and failed adoption. It was such a long and dark period of spiritual warfare as well as physically distressing. Doubt was constant, but so was God. I felt alone in my struggle, but God would send people to encourage me or just walk along with me. During that time I met a co-worker who was in the midst of her own infertility journey, and we struggled together and lifted each other up together. 

We also were surrounded by amazing Christian friends and family who supported us and prayed for us. Some even prophesied over us. I didn’t understand the spiritual significance of that until much later. And God was present and active. He provided resources for us to pursue and even in our despair He comforted us with His Spirit and Word. 

One Sunday after we returned from Colorado without our baby, God orchestrated that a woman from my childhood in the Northwest would be at our church in San Diego, who had a similar experience. She had also been there the first Sunday after we attended our orientation with the adoption agency at the very beginning of the process. She was there at the beginning and the end. And she spoke truth to me like no one else, she let me cry and cry and cry on her shoulder. She didn’t let me believe that was the end of my story. 

There was a very tangible moment of being prayed over the week before I found out I was pregnant. The same woman and a few other faithful servants laid hands on us and prayed like I’d never heard before. That day I was at the bottom, the darkest place I’d been and they were conduits of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that prayer sanctified my pregnancy.

Seven days later, I took the first of three positive pregnancy tests (we didn’t believe the first two ☺).

I don’t think I could have come out of such a dark and long battle with my faith intact had God not surrounded us with prophets, teachers, encouragers, and prayer warriors. We learned how essential community is to our faith.

Cheryl:  At the end of life, what legacy would you most like to leave for your daughters? As a Christian mother, what life lessons do you most diligently aspire to teach them? What qualities are you most intent upon instilling in them and hoping they will carry into their adult lives?

Lisa:  I want my daughters to know that they are complete and perfect in the eyes of God. My hope is that they understand they are enough, created to be exactly the way they are by a living God who is present and loving and gracious. 

Our desire as parents is to teach them to be kind to everyone, to accept and love everyone, to offer grace in abundance and give of themselves generously. It is important to us as parents that they view each and every person, of any race, color, nationality, religion, or social status just as God sees them. 

We pray they will follow Jesus with all their hearts and love people.

We also hope that our life of simplicity and purpose will lead them to focus most on purpose instead of stuff. As a mother and a woman who struggles with self-confidence and self-image, I work intentionally to overcome those struggles and show them what they can do if they believe in and love themselves.

We aren’t perfect at this parenting gig but we have learned that simplifying our lives allows space to be intentional with how we raise our kids and what values we instill in them. We want minimalism to be a blessing to our kids as it is to us.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite go-to Scriptures, books, hymns/music, and other resources in times of spiritual dryness or discouragement?

Lisa:  I love worship music. Music reaches deep into my soul and lifts my eyes to Jesus. Currently, I’m listening to a lot of Bethel Music worship. I love reading as well. John Eldridge, Beth Moore, Donald Miller, C.S. Lewis are some personal favorites. 

Recently, I’m finding so much encouragement and spiritual freedom in Galatians. I have read and reread the book for weeks and God is teaching me about the bondage I’ve been living under and showing me to where true freedom lies. Because I write about minimalism I talk a lot about the freedom this way of life gives, but I’m learning that physical freedom of minimalism is actually a metaphor for the spiritual freedom that Christ gives when we surrender to Him.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Lisa:  Thank you for asking!!! Please pray for my blog and creative projects, that they will speak truth and encouragement. My hope is not that I receive any glory from my writing but that God uses my words to bring hope to others. 

I would also ask for prayers as we raise our young girls. That as parents we will keep God first in our personal walks, in our marriage, and in our home. 

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story.

Thank YOU, Lisa, for being willing to share with us here!
I love your heart and the requests for prayer you presented to us.
It was so wonderful getting to know you better and learning more of your story.
Praise God for the miracles He has performed in and through your life!
You are such a consistent blessing and encouragement to my family and me on our journey,
and I look forward to seeing how God uses you and your ministry in the future!

Please keep Lisa and her prayer requests in your regular prayers, dear readers,
and I hope you will stop by her blog and consider following her.

God bless Lisa and her family and each and every one of you, too!

To read more about our minimalism journey, click the following links:
To read previous
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