Thursday, October 27, 2016

Don't Pursue What Vexes You

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..."
Hebrews 12:1

Minimalism is not just about letting go of excess personal belongings.
It isn't just about downsizing and decluttering and organizing what we decide to keep.
It isn't just about clearing our schedules of unwanted and unnecessary obligations
for the sake of spending more quality time with the ones we love and who mean the most to us.
All of these factors are important, and they all play a huge role in living a minimal, peaceful life.

But, living simple involves something more, and this additional factor is a bit more complicated than the others since it has to do with people, relationships, and situations.
This vital part of living minimal is often overlooked,
and, when left unaddressed, holds the potential to cancel out every other peaceful element simple living brings into our lives.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that life is short and fast-moving.
It isn't just material possessions that make the journey weighted and hard to navigate.
The people we surround ourselves with and the circumstances and situations we allow to fill up our personal space can be equally as detrimental to us and to our living the abundant life Jesus wants us to live.

They may be even more detrimental than all of the other distractions and hindrances combined.
They are definitely more complex and problematic to sort through and fine-tune.
Because people are involved, and people have feelings.
All of us know how it feels to be wounded, rejected, cast aside, and shrugged off,
and none of us ever want to inflict that kind of hurt upon someone else.

So, it is a lot more tricky to address and simplify these types of issues than it is to sort through a drawer of kitchen utensils, sift through a box of old clothes, or even try to come to those hard decisions about what sentimental stuff we can bear to part with and what we will continue to hold on to and keep.

When something is continually draining our spirit,
when it is making us physically ill,
when it demands more and more of us and is impossible to please, no matter how hard we try,
it is time to stop and assess where we are.
Obviously, something is totally out of balance and needs to be addressed.
When a situation involves such vexation of spirit,
it is a clear sign that we have somehow veered from the path God wants us to pursue.

Vex means...
To irritate, annoy, provoke, torment, trouble, distress, plague, worry, disturb, stir up,
toss about, and afflict with physical pain.

Jesus came to give us life, and to give it more abundantly.
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
John 10:10

Nothing about being vexed 24/7, with no reprieve, is life-giving.
It is the spirit and to the physical body.

Health issues are great gauges of measurement and one of the clearest indications of what is going on inside of us.
A vexed spirit absolutely leads to and will demonstrate itself through poor physical health.

Just as ingested toxins poison our body,
the opening of ourselves to toxic people, relationships, and situations
absolutely poisons our spirit, our emotional health, and yes, will also, inevitably and eventually leak, spill over, and infect the state of our physical well-being.

Let's first talk about people who vex us.

There are people in all of our lives whose very presence is a discouragement.
You know the type.
Every time you visit, talk on the phone, or receive input from their direction, 
you leave the encounter disheartened and vexed in spirit.
Regardless how hard you try to change the mood and atmosphere,
they consistently bring it back around to a gloomy and pessimistic tenor,
dragging you and your spirits along.
You receive no edification or spiritual benefit from the relationship.
They are looking for a savior, and they are looking to and depending upon you to fill that position.
For too long, you have tried to comply, only to find that no matter what you do for this person, 
it is not, nor will it ever be enough.
Because none of us are capable of being another person's savior.
Only One Person has the ability to do that,
and He suffered and died to become what none of us could provide.
So, to adapt the martyr mindset and continue to perpetuate toxic relationships, just because we pity another person is a total waste and drain of our time and energy.
It only enables and prolongs their dependent, helpless, self-pitying mindset and behavior,
and it ends up continuing to vex our spirit, steal our peace, deplete our wellness, and rob us of the abundant life Jesus sacrificed Himself for us to be able to live.

So, what to do?  
How do you "shed" and minimize a toxic relationship?
Especially, when the relationship is with a family member or someone with whom you
cannot completely avoid having contact?

As I mentioned above, there are feelings involved, and, as a follower of Jesus,
we must be careful.
There is such a fine line between relentlessly showing His Divine love,
and trying to fill His shoes. 

Here are a few points I have learned am learning along the way.

1.  Pray....for yourself first.
That God will give needed discernment to distinguish between what He is requiring and what are merely feelings of guilt.
Plead for His wisdom in knowing how to handle such a delicate situation in the exact way Jesus would.
Pray that you will fully and unconditionally forgive all wrongdoing.
"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."
James 1:5
2.  Pray....for the person(s) involved.
Love them from the heart.
Every time you feel the urge to hold something against them, sincerely pray and ask God to bless them richly and abundantly.
Pray that they will feel and experience and see His love demonstrated to them in meaningful ways...
that they will come to know HIM as their personal Savior, as the Friend they most desperately need, 
that they will allow Him in and permit Him to fill the void they have been looking to you to fill.
"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you."
Luke 6:27,28
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. 
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16
Zachary and I read of Hudson Taylor together in his literature class.
One of my favorite quotes of his that I took away from our reading about him is this...
"Learn to move man, through God, by prayer alone."
Wouldn't you love to see a genuine turnaround in the person who is vexing you so much?
Nothing is too hard for God.
Pray on, my friend.

3.  Pull back gently.
Stop listening to gossip and negativity.
It will only bring you down.
"But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."
2 Timothy 2:16
Stop enabling dependent behavior.
I know it hurts...because you love the one(s) involved.
Pulling away equals tough love.
This is for your own sanity.
You will never be able to "fix" another person.
Take baby steps.
Even though you still have to interact, very often in some situations, 
and even though you will face backlash, start saying "no".
Refuse to travel on proposed guilt trips.
"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men."
I Corinthians 7:23

4.  Be loving, but firm.
Hold your ground.
You will cry in private.
You will feel sympathy.
This is going to hurt.
The bigger your heart, the greater your capacity for compassion.
Don't allow feelings of pity to override your better judgment.
Remind yourself that continuing this path of martyrdom is ruining your life,
and you only get one to live, and that one moves along way too fast.
As you continue to refuse to succumb to the bondage and impossible demands,
you will grow stronger in your resolve, and the enabled one will realize that they are going to have to look to another source.
You are doing no favors, to yourself, or to anyone else, by absorbing toxins.
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."
3 John 1:2

5.  Release the person(s) involved to God.
He is the only true Savior.
He loves them more than you do.
He is perfectly capable of taking care of them.
They will have to make the choice as to whether or not to receive His help,
but their decision is not your responsibility.
He doesn't expect you to sacrifice yourself upon the altar of anyone else's self-pity,
no matter how much you love them.
Admit that He is God, and you are not.
"Be still, and know that I am God..."
Psalm 46:10

6  Don't be drawn back in.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1
Within a toxic relationship lies a vacuum.
Avoid situations that will pull you back to where you used to be.
Be kind, and use grace, but remain firm.
If the person is someone you have to be around often,
it will take more stamina and determination, but you can do this through Christ Who strengthens you.
You must...for your own well-being.
You can love...and continue to pray...from a safe distance.

So now, we've talked about people who vex us.

What about situations that continually cause our spirits to feel plagued and tormented?
What if it is a job?
Or, even more difficult, a ministry?

Situations is such a broad subject, it would be impossible to explore every possible scenario,
but leaving it open-ended allows us all to apply generic suggestions to our own personal circumstances.

You know what you are facing.
So does the dear Lord.
The thing to remember is this...
sometimes God has to allow a situation to reach a certain height of misery before we realize a change needs to take place.
Sometimes, we can feel so stuck, we hopelessly assume that it is our never-ending lot in life,
and we may as well learn to accept and deal with it.

Oh, dear friends!
I have been there...more than once.
I will never forget, when faced with such despair in one particularly vexing situation,
how the dear, still, small voice of God, unexpectedly spoke to me, literally stopping me in my tracks.

"Child, I will not require this of you much longer" is what He said.

I stopped walking, lifted my head Heavenward, and replied,
"Really, Lord?"

I honestly could not believe there was any hope.
My family and I were convinced that there was no chance of life ever being any different.

God had bigger...and oh, so much better plans for us.
We still can't believe the magnitude of the miracle He performed in order to set us free.

If you are in a situation that unceasingly vexes your spirit,
causes you to lose sleep at night, 
makes you dread getting out of bed in the morning to face a new day,
and fills your heart with anxiety and fear,
I hope you will consider the possibility that God may be trying to arrest your attention.
He may be trying to tell you to stop pursuing what is vexing you.
He may have something, oh, so much better in store for you and your future.
He is always a Gentleman, and He will never force us against our will.
He also loves us too much to fail to provide warning signs when we are headed in the wrong direction.

Even in the lines of ministry, we can veer so far off-track.
In our eagerness to please God and work for Him, we can become so misguided.
Sometimes, we can fall into positions, simply by default...
merely because there is a need, and we are the only nearby, available person to fill it.
Other times, we get ahead of God by refusing to wait upon Him and His perfect timing, 
and, in the process, we place ourselves in positions that are far outside our God-given gifts.
This results in undue strain, with us being torn apart, and in our eagerness to run ahead of God, 
we rob the rightful candidate of the opportunity of being able to fulfill God's perfect will for their life.

If you find yourself in the wrong place or on the wrong path, 
may I encourage you?
All is not lost.
It could be that you were never meant to walk this way or end up where you are,
or it is possible that you were absolutely in the center of God's will up to this point,
and the misery you may be feeling is being caused by the fact that it is now time for a change.
Even when our well-meaning good intentions, do land us outside of God's "Plan A" for our lives, 
again, all is not lost. 
He allows all things (even the bad) to work together for our good.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

The truth of the matter is, He has taken every, single event in our lives so far to refine us...
to mold and shape us into the people we are today.
And if God reveals that we are headed in the wrong direction, what a comfort it is to know that He allows U-turns.
We can make necessary adjustments and turn around from where we are right now.
He has promised to show us the way, if we ask.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5,6

"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
Isaiah 42:16

"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn."
Jeremiah 31:9

Thank you ever so much for reading,
for your precious comments,
and for every time you have encouraged me on this journey.

May He bless each one of you dear readers in a special way.
May you always know His will,
remain free to follow Him wholeheartedly,
and trust Him in all things.

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

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 
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.

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

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.

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

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 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 13, 2016

Sweating The Sentimental Stuff

"He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; 
and he that hath meat, let him do likewise."
Luke 3:11

On this journey toward a more minimal life and a deeper trust in God,
we are finding that there are many layers.
Looking back, as we began minimizing, we peeled off what I call the superficial layers first...
stuff in our attic that hadn't seen the light of day in years,
clothes that no longer fit or were worn,
extra dishes and pots and pans and kitchen utensils that were never used,
excess that was collecting dust in our garage,
and forgotten things in drawers, cupboards, and closets that we no longer needed to keep.
Basically, these superficial layers weren't too difficult to handle, emotionally.
They were more physically-taxing than emotionally-draining.

Some time has passed, much progress has been made, by God's grace,
and now we have reached the deeper levels.
The hardest parts.
The parts I have been dreading.

As we continue to go through our stuff in storage,
(please read this post for an explanation),
I am finding a continual roadblock.

The things I am having the hardest time even considering placing in the ""to keep, or not to keep?"
category is the stuff that is sentimental.

That is what has given me the most trouble all throughout this minimizing journey.
Because I feel deeply.
I appreciate every, single thing anyone has ever done for me,
and when I know they have spent their hard-to-come-by money buying something for me,
or even harder yet, if they have made something for me with their own hands,
I just have such an awful time even considering letting it go.

I am ashamed to admit this, but up until a few months ago,
I still had both Dad's and Mom's clothing.
Dad went to be with Jesus in 2000, and He called my precious mother home in 2012.
(Speaking of Dad, today would have been his 82nd birthday....
perhaps that explains why I am missing him and Mom so much lately.
Does one ever stop missing them?)
I just never could bring myself to donate or let any of their clothing go.
Each time I would think about it, it was just too much for me,
and it was easier to put it away in a crate in the attic and postpone the inevitable.
Knowing it was up there, somehow comforted me...
made me feel closer to them or gave me a false sense of them still needing the clothes again.

I know.
Total foolishness and completely ridiculous.

Mom and Dad are resting in Jesus' arms.
They have won their crowns and are now clothed in the white raiment spoken about in this verse,
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."
Revelation 3:5

So, why would I insist upon hanging on to the simple, few, meager clothes they wore while here on earth?

As we continued to downsize and donate, sell, and throw things away,
I kept shoving the quandary about Mom and Dad's clothes to the far back recesses of my mind.
I just couldn't deal with it, so I ignored it.

When we knew for certain that God was leading us to make a long-distance move,
at some point, it came down to, "are we moving these clothes with us, or are we not?"

I finally mustered the courage to open the crate where I had, at some point, 
combined their clothes, and I started looking through them.
Amazingly, after being stored for so long, they were in the same condition they were
when I placed them there.

So, what to do with them?

A plan began to form in my mind.
I thought how nice it would be to make an heirloom quilt for Zachary, 
using pieces of Dad's shirts, Mom's clothes, some of Kevin's old shirts, and my maternity dresses. 
(Yes, you read that right.
Our sweet boy is now 15... and I still had them.)

But, even though I liked the idea of creating a family heirloom quilt for Zach to cherish,
and it was not only a way I could still hang on to those clothes,
but they would also, once again become useful, 
I cringed every time I thought about taking scissors to something that belonged to Mom and Dad.
It just didn't feel right.
It felt like I would be desecrating their possessions and disrespecting them in some way.

So, I did what I do when I have this sort of dilemma.
I called Aunt Joyce, who, sadly, now lives in another state.
I explained my problem, and I asked her for a humongous favor.
Would she consider cutting the clothing into squares for me?
It was a huge undertaking, and an even bigger favor to ask, 
and she is not in the best of health.
Would it be too much for her?

Bless her heart, she agreed to do it.
God bless her over and over.
We took the clothes to her, entrusting them to her faithful care,
and she began the arduous task.

As the process unfolded, she told me how hard it was, not only physically, due to her health limitations, but emotionally, as well.
She and Mom were close...she was close to Dad, too.

But, again, God bless her, she struggled through, and she got it all done.
She gave them to me when I saw her last month,
neatly cut into uniform, five-inch squares.
I could never thank her or repay her enough.

Now, I have the task of sewing them together.
I've been thinking of doing it by hand and just taking my time to relish the project.

So, the problem of Mom and Dad's clothes is solved,
the crate they used to be stored in is now being repurposed to hold other things,
and their clothes are condensed down into two small boxes sitting on the shelf of our bedroom closet.

The other day, as we were sorting through some stuff in the storage unit, 
getting a load ready to take to a local community thrift store,
we hit another hurdle.
There it was, Mom's old walker.
Oh, my!
How many times have we put that walker in and out of the trunk of our car on our many outings with Mom?
There must be a million or more memories...and emotions...wrapped around that walker.

Up until that moment, standing there, I had never even considered EVER getting rid of it.
I looked at that poor, old walker.
Then, I looked beside it at the nice, new walker Medicare had bought for Mom.
 She never liked that new one.
Even though it had an attached seat and would have made it easier for her to be able to sit when she became tired, the seat made it heavier for her to pick up and down,
and she never used it more than once, maybe twice.

The newer one didn't have near the emotional attachment to it that the old, faithful walker did,
so it was no problem handing the new one to Zach to place in the back of our truck to donate.

But, my eyes fell back on that other one...the one Mom used non-stop for so many years.
I felt a tug-of-war going on inside.
And, then, all at once, it was like I could hear Mom's voice.
"Cheryl, let it go.  I don't need a walker now.  I am walking, unassisted, on streets of gold.
My legs are strong.  I need no help in walking!  I am healed!  I am whole!"

I saw the absurdity of keeping that walker...
of paying storage rent to store it...
of not letting it go in order to bless some other soul, 
who may need one and who can't afford to buy one.

How ridiculous it all seemed to me, in that moment.

"Here, Zach, take this one, too."

He looked at me, with surprise in his eyes, and he told me how proud he is of me for letting it go.

Once I made up my mind, it didn't hurt near as much as I thought it would.

One of the things I have seen in lots of minimalism articles by those who also have a hard time with letting the sentimental stuff go, is to take pictures of the item(s) you are having such a hard time with.

We have lots of pictures, already, of Mom's walker.

I let it go.
I know she would want me to.

Mom was never a sentimental sort like I am.
Come to think of it, Mom had this minimalism thing down pat years ago.
She never hoarded anything, and even when it came to the real sentimental stuff,
like cards we would give to her,
she would only keep them for a certain time, then she would let them go.

It used to hurt me a little, when I would see her going through the stash of cards we had given her,
tossing the majority of them in the trash.
I wondered why she never seemed emotionally attached to things like that.
After she died, I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I was to not have to deal with deciphering which one of those cards and sentimental trinkets to let go of or keep.
It is most difficult to make balanced decisions when you are in the throes of grief.
Bless her dear heart, Mom had already made those decisions for me.
She always knew that this life is temporary, and she lived her life with eternity continually in view.

There are so many things I am coming across as we sort through our stuff in storage
that I am having such a hard time coming to a decision about.
It is all coming down to choices, really.
Our current living situation is limited on space, and I have questioned the Lord as to why He allowed this at this season of our lives, because had He led on a different path, we would not have had to have the additional expense of a storage unit rental imposed upon us.

As I sought Him diligently,
He clearly showed me that this is all a very specific part of His plan.
Had He allowed us to occupy a larger space, we would not have encountered the need for a storage unit, BUT, we would have simply transferred our stuff from one location to another.
We would have more than likely felt that our minimizing journey was complete and that we should hang onto every, remaining thing we owned, and, clearly, this is not God's will or plan.

Living small is forcing us to make very intentional choices.
We are literally taking a hold of every, single possession we own,
regardless of how big or small it is,
and truly assessing its worth to us.
Oh, it is a cumbersome, tedious task!

To be honest, when we remove the lock and open the storage unit door, my heart sinks.
Every, single time.
It is daunting.
Because, even though we have downsized from a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, with a very large, attached two-car garage to a 10x20 storage unit, we still own SO much stuff!
Sometimes when I look in there, it doesn't feel like we have even made a dent.
But, we are taking it one box at a time...
one piece of furniture,
one remaining drawer, etc.,
and we are steadily, but very slowly, making progress.

I really thought when we left our home of 14 1/2 years, we could truthfully qualify as "minimalists"...or close to being minimalists.
Looking back now, it feels like the downsizing we did while still living in our home was the mere beginning.

Again, the sentimental stuff is the hardest for me.

God is continuing to teach us some very simple, yet practical points through this process,
and, though I've probably mentioned at least some of this before, I wanted to share again, as these lessons continue to become more clear to me, in very tangible ways.

1.  Choose between two...let go of what you love less.
If I open a garbage bag, and it contains one of the soft, "waffle-style" blankets we have owned for years, (and we love to use so much, by the way), and it also contains an afghan I crocheted for Kevin several Christmases ago, which happens to be his favorite extra cover to add to our bed each fall/winter, there is a choice to be made.
Yes, we love the blanket.
But, we love the homemade, hand-crocheted afghan more.
So, the blanket goes.
The afghan stays.

2.  Condense what you decide to keep.
We have several, and I do mean several, small crates full of pictures.
By the way, pictures are where I draw the line on letting things go.
Many of them are of departed loved ones and can never be replaced, and they are just beyond precious to us.
Some minimalists say to digitize everything, including pictures,
but, my personal opinion is that is not something I am interested in doing, at this point.
I may or may not reach that conclusion one day.
For now, I really like holding an actual photograph in my hand and looking at it,
so, by personal preference, the elimination of pictures is not an option.
Anyhow, as I looked at these crates of photos that are piled high on the shelf in top of our bedroom closet, it hit me that there is absolutely nothing at all stored under our bed.
So, I believe I will go to Walmart and buy a flat, long crate with a lid that will fit under the bed,
and I will transfer all of those pictures into one crate, and this will free up a lot of space in the top of our closet, and it will efficiently utilize an out-of-sight already available storage space at the same time.
It's a win-win.

3.  Decide what is truly meaningful.
Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I love primitive decor.
It just makes me happy.
I love anything old and antiquey and rustic looking.
We had still have lots, and I do mean lots, of these special pieces that we have collected over the years.
Some of it is just really neat-looking...things that have caught my eye while shopping at thrift stores,
yard sales, and the occasional antique mall.
Even though the item still catches my eye, and I think it adds a primitive touch to a special spot in our new space, we find ourselves asking the question, is the item really meaningful to Kevin, to Zach, or to me?
Is there a special memory attached to it?
When we look at it, does it bring to mind a really special day or time the 3 of us or someone else special spent together?
For instance, we have several primitive lamps, repurposed from old things, and most of them are pieces I have personally come across and purchased through the years.
But, there is this one electric, primitive lamp created from an old lantern that Kevin picked out and bought for me that I really love.
That one stays, and I am ready to part ways with most of the rest.

4.  Do not, under any circumstances, get rid of anything you really, really love.
I have been collecting Boyd's bears for years.
I am not sure when I started, but I love Boyd's bears.
I loved them when I started collecting them, and I love them still.
Even after moving them all the way from one state to another,
and even after them sitting in storage for a while,
as we uncover them tucked in boxes, usually purposefully placed around something fragile to protect it, I still love Boyd's bears.
They make me smile.
Kevin has bought me nearly every Boyd bear I own.
They are extremely precious to my heart, and, yes, they truly spark joy each time I look at them.
They look adorable placed in and around primitive decor,
they don't take up much space, and, at least to me, they do not look cluttered.
So, I have decided to keep all Boyd's bears.

5.  To accurately analyze and assess what to keep, 
put all like items together in one place.
As we unpack, one box at a time, I am starting to really realize how many quilts, afghans, and other linens we have accumulated over the years.
At our old home, a lot of them were stored away in closets or scattered throughout the house, in various spots, so I never really had them all in one place.
Let me just tell you, that, as far as material possessions in this life, I must confess that linens are a sort of obsession for me.
All kinds...doilies, blankets, pillowcases, afghans, throws, scarves, you name it,
but of all of my linen obsession, there are no other linens I value more highly or love more dearly, than comfy, old (even new) quilts.
I just absolutely harbor a deep love for quilts.
They speak to me of home, and family, and Mom and Dad, and love, and security, and deep-running traditions, and hard work, and stability, and durability, and longevity, and old-timey values.
I used linens, including quilts, and the above-mentioned Boyd's bears, to carefully pack in boxes around breakable items when I was packing for our long-distance move.
So, as we unpack, I am finding them often.
Instead of putting them away in a linen closet, I am stacking them all together,
on the bottom shelf of a special, handcrafted table we have placed at the bottom of our stair landing.

As the pile keeps growing, (it has actually enlarged since I took this picture, and, oh, my, it is now nearing the underside of the top shelf), I am starting to see how many quilts/linens we really own.
And the thing is, I can think of at least five additional, special quilts that are still packed away somewhere.
Putting like items together in one place gives a visual and allows us to assess just how many like items we need or want to keep, and, it makes us see how much excess there really is in our home.

And, I find that I am ashamed, dear friends.
Because I read the words of John the Baptist,
"He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none;
and he that hath meat, let him do likewise",
and I see the tremendous error of my ways.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness website makes this claim,
"On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program."

Here we sit, with blankets, throws, quilts, and afghans galore, and there are people sleeping on the street, many of them without adequate means of keeping warm.

As I ponder this and continue to work through this minimizing process,
I am reminded, once again, of why we started doing this, in the first place.

There is a special tug-of-our-heartstrings going on...
you know the feeling.
It's when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that GOD is asking you to lay aside something, or even yourself, for the sake of a greater cause...HIS cause.
There is this calling to let go of what is temporal, for the sake of what is eternal.
There is this compelling, impossible-to-ignore pull upon our hearts to be more like JESUS...
to live the minimal, undistracted, unencumbered, unattached-to-this-earth, God-honoring,
Divine-ordained-mission-focused life that He lived.

Once again, the echo of Mom's gentle voice sets things right for me,
as in the corridors of my memory I hear her repeat,
"Only one life, 'twill soon be past.
Only what's done for Christ will last."

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