Sunday, April 8, 2018

Our God is "Bigger Than This" ~ Powerful New Song by Jo Dee Messina

"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?"
Jeremiah 32:27

Sometimes, I think about the people who take time out of their busy lives to visit here and listen to what the Lord places on my heart.
As I think of you, an image comes to mind, and I sort of drift off to an imaginary place.
Just for fun, will you join me today?
Let's say, God has orchestrated the details and made all of the arrangements, and through His Divine intervention, you and I have ended up on the same street corner where two busy boulevards connect.
Somehow, though we have never met face-to-face, we recognize each other instantly, and I say, "Oh, wow!  It's you!", To which you reply, "Cheryl!  Is that you?"
Suddenly the busy hustle and bustle and crowded noise around us come to a screeching halt, and we simultaneously reach for the door of the quaint, little cafe we both just noticed in front of us.
We lock arms, step inside, and find instant reprieve as the quiet so opposite the outside world wraps our souls in a warm blanket of peace and calm.
We choose a cozy table for two in the corner farthest from the door.  It feels like we've known each other for years and there is a sense of familiar ease between us.
Over steaming cups, I inevitably ask, "How are you doing?"

Though we aren't really in that cafe together, I really want to know, you know.
How are you doing?
How are you really doing?
I don't want the "passing-you-on-the-street-too-busy-to-really-care-or-listen" version.
I want to know how you're doing.

What is most bothering you today?  What feels out of balance?  What or who are you worrying about?  What keeps you awake at night?  Why are you crying?  Who hurt you?  What do you most regret?  Who do you miss the most?  How long since you broke out into a full belly laugh or even smiled?

Whatever it is, no matter how huge or horrible or scary or life-altering, here is my answer.

God is bigger.

Ephesians 3:20 says that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.

Genesis 18:14 asks, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

In Mark 10:27, Jesus said, "With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."

I John 4:4 says, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."

Romans 8:37 says, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

In 2 Kings 6:16, Elisha said, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."

In Isaiah 43:1-3, God said, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.  When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour."

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Hebrews 13:5 says, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Psalm 31:24 says, "Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD."

Isaiah 41:10, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

In John 14:27, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Psalm 46:1-3, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."

Romans 8:31 says, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Isaiah 40:28- says, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding.  He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint."

God is with you, my friend.
And, God is bigger than anything and everything you are walking through today.
He is walking through it with you.
Just like Jesus was with the three Hebrew children who were thrown into the fire (Daniel 3:24-25),
Jesus is in your situation and fiery trial with you.
He will not leave the fire one second before you do.

Last September, Jo Dee Messina was going through one of those very fiery trials,
and from the depths of her pain, she wrote a profoundly powerful song.
Please take a moment to listen to her sing it, and pay special attention to Mike Huckabee's introductory explanation of what Jo Dee was going through when she wrote it.

You can download this amazing song, sung so beautifully by Jo Dee, by clicking HERE.

I cannot begin to say how much this song is blessing my family and me right now,
and I know it will be a great encouragement to all who hear it.
Everyone is going through something, and everyone needs to be reminded that 

Let's get the word out and introduce this song to as many people as we can.

Be encouraged, dear friends, and if you ever need to talk or share a prayer request,
I am here.
As I type, I am praying for every person who ever reads these words.
God bless you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Please Pray for Our Dear Aunt Vaida

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16

Dear friends, you have been so faithful to pray for the many prayer requests I have posted here,
and we are so thankful for your support, encouragement, and every prayer you have prayed.
I come to you again tonight with yet another urgent request for prayer.

Our dear Aunt Vaida has just been diagnosed with brain cancer.

You might remember me mentioning her in the past when she was battling lung cancer, and she and Uncle Nelson lost nearly all they owned in the flood that hit White Sulphur Springs, WV in June of 2016.
If ever there were two living, breathing saints of God on this earth, 
they are Uncle Nelson and Aunt Vaida.
I have no doubt.
These two are the salt of the earth.
I wish each one of you could individually know them.

Uncle Nelson and Aunt Vaida are, hands-down, two of my favorite people in the world.
I cherish our heart-to-heart talks, our rummy games, and every moment we can spend together.
Aunt Vaida gives until there is nothing left to give.
She is one of the most caring people I have ever met.
She sacrifices and sends flowers and cards and is always, always, always thinking of others.
She intercedes and goes to war in prayer for the ones she loves.
"War Room" could have been written based on Aunt Vaida's prayer life.
So many, many times she has called when we have been sick or having a hard time,
and she has prayed for us over the phone or left a prayer on our voice mail.
We always try to pray together before we part ways after a face-to-face visit.
One of the things she says most often to me on the phone, as we are hanging up is,
"I'll put you on the prayer chain," and, of course, our last two words to each other before saying good-bye are always, "Love you."
The church she attends doesn't have one of these new, up-to-date, automated prayer lines.
Aunt Vaida IS their prayer line.
She sits and literally calls every, single person on the prayer chain when there is a need.
Now, she is the one who is standing in much need of prayer.

The doctor says she has a mass the size of a golf ball on her brain, near her right ear.
She has the option of undergoing surgery but is not advised to do so, due to her age.
She also has the option of taking chemo-therapy and radiation yet another time.
The doctor says this will keep cancer from spreading anywhere else in her body,
and it will also keep it from growing.
She has been so terribly light-headed, dizzy, and nauseous,
but the doctors feel that if she opts to take the treatments, they can keep this under control.

As we talked and cried together on the phone tonight, I told her that this is NOTHING for God to do.
He is SO much bigger than this.

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

"I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."
Job 42:2

'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You."
Jeremiah 32:17

"Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear."
Isaiah 59:1

Dear friends, please pray for Aunt Vaida, and if you could pass along this request for prayer to your prayer lines, chains, and groups, and your social media platforms, we would be most grateful.
Please pray for peace and comfort for Uncle Nelson and all other family members, too.

May the dear Lord bless each one of you for helping to, once again, share our burdens and heartaches.
We are so grateful for each and every one of you.
God bless you and meet your every need.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Inner Views of Bettie Gilbert

"The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places."
Habakkuk 3:19

In this amazing and wonderful world of blogging, I often forget exactly how I came across another blogger and how God orchestrated the details to weave their presence into my life.
I usually only remember how dear they have become to my heart over the past several years,
and I praise God for allowing our paths to cross and for the encouragement they are to me.
Such is the case with the precious woman of God I am interviewing today.
Her beautiful blog is chock full of Godly wisdom, profound Biblical teaching, and deep spiritual insight.
Her physical suffering continually produces the fruit of Godliness in her life,
and the sweet smelling fragrance of its effects pours out to bless every other life she touches.
I am so honored and blessed to call her friend and to share her inner views with you here.
Read, and be blessed indeed!

Jesus Follower, Wife, Mom, and Grandma, who seeks to be grateful and transparent while traveling through a path of chronic illness,
Bettie Gilbert

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.  

Bettie:  Hi! I am really so humbled and honored to share some of my story here.  I grew up in a small town in Northern Indiana, the baby of the family, with three older brothers. Our 60's ranch house sat on a small cul-de-sac surrounded by woods. Needless to say, I was a bit of a "tom-boy" playing in those woods, and our family's garden!  Our family attended the Assembly of God church in the city that was about 20 minutes away from our small town, and we were there for almost every service, 3 times a week.

Bettie's "tom-boy" days, while visiting her grandparents

Cheryl:  Will you tell us about your journey with Jesus?  Where and when did it begin?  Who introduced you to Him?  

Bettie:  My Mom told me that at the age of 4 I asked Jesus to come into my heart while I was at home. However, I had no memory of that, so when I was 9 years old, during a Sunday School prayer time, my favorite teacher gave an "altar call" and I raised my hand to say that I wanted to ask Jesus to forgive me of my sins, and to come live in my heart.

Cheryl:  As you look back over your Christian walk, what would you consider to be one of your biggest "mountaintop experiences"...a time when God's glory flooded your soul more than usual?

Bettie:  My 2 older brothers were 13 and 15 years older than I was, so during my teenage years, I would spend several weeks at their homes, and attend the churches where they were pastoring.  The summer I was almost 12 years old, while I was staying at my brother's house, his church had a children's crusade with "Cowboy Smiley."  At the end of one of his services, he asked if we wanted to pray for anyone to come to Jesus, then to come forward and pray together.  While I was praying, I received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and had a beautiful vision of the loved one I was praying for, as he came to know Jesus.  I am still praying for that loved one to be fully in love with Jesus, more than 40 years later!

Cheryl:  In the same way, what would you identify as being one of your lowest valleys?  How did you experience God's presence during this time?  Were there specific ways He ministered to you and let you know that you were not alone?

Bettie:  When my husband and I were young parents, and he was a Children's Pastor, we obeyed God's call to move across the country.  After we were there for several months, it was apparent that things were not working out as we had planned.  We were staying with people from the church there, and our whole world seemed to be collapsing, with no way to support ourselves, and a new baby on the way.  My husband went through a deep depression as we laid down so many of our notions of what we thought Christianity should look like.  It was the beginning of a process that God used to show us that He goes so much deeper than any of our own efforts and striving.

Bettie with her husband, Barry

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about the spiritual legacy and heritage God has instilled into your life.  Please tell us about the individual relatives who are a part of your Godly ancestry and how each of these dear souls influenced your life and pointed you closer to Jesus.

Bettie:  Both of my parents were Godly Christians who made sure that I learned about God and His Word. They weren’t perfect, but I always knew that Jesus was the Lord of their lives. That had a huge and lasting effect on me. And then, although my Dad’s parents had passed away before I was born, I heard so much about them while I was growing up. Their faith influenced all of my family!  My Mom’s Grandma was a strict old-order Mennonite. She was very quiet about her faith, but I knew that God was so important to her.  I even wrote a “Legacy of Faith” series over on my blog this winter because I felt there was so much that had been offered to me, and I wanted the Lord to show me just how deeply those who went before me had impacted my life.

Cheryl:  How did you meet your husband?  What are the three things you most love about being married?  Do you have any special advice or thoughts about the secret to a long-lasting marriage?

Bettie:  My husband became a Christian when he was a senior in high school after a close friend led him to the Lord.  When her family started attending my church, he came along also.  I was so attracted to his strong, new faith in Jesus, and it seemed that we kept being “thrown together” at different activities.  So as we became closer friends, one night he shared with me the surrender that God had called him to: He had asked him to lay down ever getting married.  But he hoped that we could still be friends because we had started getting together to read the Bible and pray. Instead of pulling back, I was even more drawn to his deep faith. I heard myself answer “I will be the friend to you that God wants me to be.”  Well, God had beauty in mind for us and revealed to him that the surrender had been a test and that the Lord had a beautiful gift for us together, and His love poured in.  Throughout our marriage, during times of difficulty, God has reminded me of that night, when He put those words in my heart: “I will be the friend to you that God wants me to be.” I think the Lord gave me the best marriage advice anyone could offer!

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite memories of motherhood?

Bettie:  Oh, there are so many! I remember playing with my oldest son when God allowed me to quit work and be at home with him finally. And then I remember driving through the mountains on our move out west, over the snowy roads that were so scary to us, and our youngest son chomping away on his pacifier as he sensed the tension in the car! I remember long walks and splashing in the puddles with my daughter and her little friend. And then I remember the late night talks when they were teenagers after they had been out, stopping in my room to tell me about the events of their day.  

Cheryl:  How has your relationship with your individual children changed/strengthened/deepened now that they are grown and away from home?  

Bettie:  Oh, I have learned (and I am still learning!) how to keep silent and just pray.  That is a process for me for sure! But I love to see the ways that they interact with their spouses and with their children, and how their own love has matured and grown into such a sweet way of giving of themselves now.  

Cheryl:  What do you consider to be one of the most challenging parts of being a mother?

Bettie:  During the times of struggle, as they each had to walk a path of difficulty and choose the Lord for themselves, there were times when I felt my heart might break from the weight of it all. The Lord taught me so much about how to surrender, and how to pray, as I listened to Him speak His love over them.  There were so many times that I didn’t get it right, and I tried to fix things on my own—that is the biggest area that God has had to work on in me.  

Cheryl:  Will you share with us about your physical afflictions and how they have changed your life? 

Bettie:  I thought that I had learned what it meant to lay down my own will, and not to try to do things on my own. But when the diagnoses for chronic illnesses were handed down: Rheumatoid Arthritis first, then fibromyalgia, and then osteoporosis (and accompanying issues) I realized that I had never had to surrender my physical being. I took it for granted that I was fairly strong and healthy, and could basically just tell my body to do whatever I wanted it to. My Mom suffered with many different illnesses when I was growing up, and I did not want to ever become weak in that way. I loved to work in the garden and help my neighbors with other ways of serving.  All of those ways of being active were instantly changed, as the pain came on very suddenly.  Even my old ways of bringing comfort to myself, such as taking a walk, were not able to be used—all at a time when I desperately needed comfort!  So God began to ask me to lay down my ways of being self-sufficient.  In the very midst of the ugly, painful times, He called me to come to Himself and to surrender more of my whole being to Him.

Cheryl:  How do you maintain faith in the face of such intense suffering?  

Bettie:  It amazes me that in the most intense times of pain, the pain is loud, but the heart is silent, and really there is no one who can be there with you in that place. A good friend might sit with you, and let you know they care, and that is a very precious gift that means so very much! But even the best of friends cannot meet that broken heart cry.  Only Jesus can do that.  When I stop fighting the waves of pain or anxiety (fibromyalgia comes with a host of symptoms, anxiety being one of them,) I can hear Jesus calling me to Himself, in the middle of the waves.  And that has been (and continues to be) the biggest surprise of all: Jesus wants me when I am feeling my ugliest! Even though I feel shame at my awful position, He still calls me beautiful right there.

Cheryl:  If you were given the opportunity to sit down with Jesus face-to-face, what are the three questions you would most like to ask Him?

Bettie:  I would like to ask Him, “How long, Lord Jesus, until you come and make things right?”  And then I would like to ask Him to show me the true depths of what suffering accomplishes. And I would then want to ask Him the biggest question of all:  “Why would You choose to love me?”

Cheryl:  Please tell us about your blogging journey.  When did you start blogging?  What prompted you to blog?  How has blogging enriched your life?  

Bettie:  After my diagnosis with chronic illness, I began searching the internet for information about how to live and deal with it all.  I found medical sites, and non-profit sites, and lots of chat boards for people with all kinds of illnesses.  But I had a very hard time finding any Christian connection points.  After about a year into it all, I finally read a post about a Christian woman who had walked a path of faith while dealing with chronic illness. And the Lord began nudging me to check out the little “blogger” button within my Gmail account.  Finally out of obedience to His prompting, I wrote my first post, and with fear & trepidation sent it out “into the world.”  Suddenly, in just a few short weeks, I began to come across so many beautiful Christian bloggers and found such great encouragement as I shared honestly from my own heart.  And it has continued like that, throughout this journey, finding amazing friends and Godly prayer-partners that I would never have imagined possible.

Cheryl:  What is the main thing you hope to accomplish through your blog?

Bettie:  I want to bring encouragement to my readers that Jesus is there for them too.  If He could meet me in the middle of the lonely nights of pain, then He can meet them wherever they are also.  He has such love and grace to pour over our lives.  I pray that these verses would become so real, even on the hardest of days: “But as for me, afflicted and in pain—may your salvation, God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:29-30

Cheryl:  Will you share with us about your other writing endeavors?  How can we find them?

Bettie:  I am part of the team at Beloved Prodigal where my sweet friend Anna Smit (another blogging connection that only God could have arranged) followed God’s leading and opened a team website for prodigals returned, and Mamas of Prodigals still waiting, to be able to share their stories together.  As Anna and I have shared our own stories with each other (she is a prodigal returned, and I have been a Mama of Prodigals,) we have been so deeply encouraged by the Lord.  And that is what is happening on the website also. As others now share their stories, the Lord is building a community to encourage each other to continue praying and not give up. 

Cheryl:  What are some of your "go-to" Bible verses, songs, and other resources that you turn to in times of discouragement? 

Bettie:  Isaiah 55 is a chapter that God takes me back to again and again.  

Isaiah 46:3-4  was pivotal in our lives when we moved across the country, but it still remains so encouraging:  
““Listen to Me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born.
4 Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.  

Isaiah 40:28-31 is a great encouragement when I am feeling so weak.   
“Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and His understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.”

Jesus own words in John 14:27 are so precious to me:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

And Philippians 3: 7-11 is so valuable to me: 
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

I love to listen to all kinds of Christian music.  So I am very thankful for Youtube.  Some days it might be a contemporary Worship Song such as

  Jesus My Everything

Other days a hymn such as 

And on other days I listen to some of the praise music from the 70s & 80s such as 

Cheryl:  Of all of the characters in the Bible, saints of yesteryear, and Christians you have known, who do you want to emulate?  Why?  

Bettie:  I have always loved the story of the young boy Samuel, and his willingness to listen to the voice of God.  I have been so blessed by Mary (Martha’s sister) as she sat at Jesus’ feet. And I have loved the writings of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the early 1900’s, as she served the Lord from her own place of brokenness and pain.

Cheryl:  What do you most long to accomplish before life's end?  Are there loose ends you want to tie up, unfinished projects you hope to complete, or acts of benevolence you wish to bestow?

Bettie:  I want to be able to say to the Lord that “I have fought the good fight.”  Whatever God has for me, I hope that I will let Him help me to obey Him.

Cheryl:  If you were to mention things on your "spiritual bucket list", what would they be?

Bettie:  I would love to see all of my family, kids, and grandkids, and my spiritual “second children” walking with Jesus and knowing Him as their personal Lord and Savior.  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Bettie:  I would appreciate prayers to be able to surrender my stubborn heart when Jesus calls me to obey Him.  Whether that is in times of pain, or weariness, will you pray that I will trust Him to do what is best for me?  

Thank you so much, Cheryl, for this amazing opportunity. You are such a beautiful friend and Godly woman of character. I am so thankful God brought our paths together!

A big thank you to you, dear Bettie!
I am so thankful to have met you.
Your friendship is a precious gift, and it was so wonderful to have you share with us here!

Dear readers, please add Bettie to your regular prayer list, and I hope you will take a moment and visit her wonderful blog and/or connect with her on Instagram.

In closing, I am sharing a few more of Bettie's favorite songs.

He Will Carry You - Scott Wesley Brown

He Who Began A Good Work In You - Steve Green

Fall Upon Your Knees - Miriam Webster

To read previous
click the links below.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Inner Views of Donna Reidland

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe."
Proverbs 18:10

One of the most wonderful benefits of joining the blogging community is the gift of friendship.
When I started Homespun Devotions, I never dreamed that it would be the channel God would use to bring so many amazing encouragers and friends into my life, but that is exactly what happened.
One such person is the dear lady I am interviewing today.
Her years of serving Jesus and working for Him has equipped her with an enormous amount of wisdom that she so graciously and faithfully shares on her blog, Soul Survivor.
I know you will enjoy getting to know her better, as you read her words and amazing testimony below!

Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Great-grandmother, Writer, Counselor, 
but most importantly, Child of God, 
Donna Reidland

Cheryl:  Could you please tell us about yourself?

Donna:  I’ve been married to the love of my life for 35 years. We’re a blended family with 4 grown children. That’s an understatement since we have grown grandchildren, as well. Our oldest son and his wife have 4 children. Three of them are married with one child a piece. Our oldest daughter has 4 sons, all grown but one. Our younger daughter has two children, one in college and one in high school. And our youngest son has 3 children, all still in school, the oldest has graduated. We have 13 grandchildren altogether, 4 great-grandchildren and 1 more on the way.

My husband Mike just retired. He was the Counseling & Discipleship Pastor at our church. He’s passionate about God’s Word and seeing lives change, and I never cease to be amazed that God would allow me to be married to him. We are truly more in love today than when we met, and that, as you’ll see from my testimony, is because of God’s grace, not anything in us.

I retired a year and a half ago from my job as a Biblical counselor working alongside him, and now work 1 or 2 days a week as a volunteer. I wanted to have more time to spend with family and do more writing. But we also have had a desire to start a full-time marriage ministry. We did that this year. It’s called Joyful Marriage Ministries.

Together, we have also done marriage conferences and retreats in the past and found it very rewarding. Seeing marriages that are broken restored, those that are surviving thrive, and those that are good get even better is our passion. So, God willing, we will do more of that.  

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony.  Were you raised in a Christian home?  What life events led you to turn your life over to Christ?  How have you most witnessed the transforming power of God in your life?

Donna:  I wasn’t raised in church. My mother attended church for a short time when I was in elementary school, but I don’t remember my dad ever going to church, although he did receive the Lord shortly before his death.

I loved going to church as a child and would go occasionally when someone invited me. I would, also, attend with my grandmother when she visited us. In fact, I clearly remember praying a prayer of salvation sitting beside her in the back of a little Baptist church when I was about 12.
I don’t remember telling anyone, even her, and whether or not I was genuinely saved at that time, only God knows. I do know that God protected me and continued to work in my life though that wouldn’t be apparent for many years.

I married the first time when I was 17. Even though my mother begged me not to, my dad overruled her. After about 7 years of marriage I left with my two small children. After all, it was the 70s, and I wasn’t happy, so I did what everyone else was doing, I filed for a divorce. Looking back, I know God was at work in spite of me. A friend had recently invited me to start attending church with her and her husband. She begged me not to leave my marriage, but I had stubbornly made up my mind. Instead, I stopped attending church and set out to start a new life my way.

After a few years of single parenting, I married again, despite many red flags. When things turned bad, I desperately tried to hold on, but eventually left and filed for a divorce once again. Instead of agreeing to a divorce, he stalked me for the better part of the next two years. My life was filled with calls to the police, broken windows, slashed tires, and regular threats. But God protected my children and me from serious harmm although I gave Him little thought, if any.

Growing up I was a good student, didn’t get in any trouble, didn’t drink or use drugs, and besides deciding I was going to get married, never really went against my parents’ wishes. In short, I saw myself as a “good girl,” and despite all my bad decisions, I still saw myself that way.  But after two failed marriages, I decided “being good,” at least by my standard, wasn’t working. I might as well live like everyone else. But once again, God was at work.

In the meantime, the man who would become my husband, left his wife and filed for his second divorce. Our lives were strangely parallel. When we met, we assured each other we weren’t looking for a serious relationship, but God had other ideas.

At least in my case, I needed to see that I wasn’t a “good girl,” before I would be ready to see my desperate need for a Savior. When our relationships turned serious, we knew what we had been doing hadn’t been working and we decided to “try church.” Instead, God got a hold of our hearts, and our lives have never been the same.

It’s still amazing to see what God has done with our two broken, messed up lives.

The early years of our marriage was challenging, blending a family and learning to live life God’s way. But He has been faithful and blessed us beyond our wildest imaginations.
We know what life is like when you try to live it your own way and we know what life is like with God at the center. That understanding has given us a passion for helping others through counseling and discipleship.

Cheryl:  Who would you say has had the most influence upon you, spiritually?  Is there a particular person who prayed for you and lived a Christian example before you, causing you to be drawn to the Lord?

Donna:  Although there have been wonderful, godly mentors since I’ve become a believer, it was a series of people God used to get my attention and draw me back to Himself.  He has taken my broken life and my sin and given me His righteousness. I’m forever thankful for His “Great Exchange”!

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about “Soul Survival”.  When did you begin blogging?  How has your blog affected and expanded your ministry?  What caused you to make the decision to start your blog?  How did you decide on the name of your blog?

Donna:  I have done freelance writing off and on, but have always had a passion to write more. I wrote regularly for Christian magazines for a few years, but working full time for the last 10 years made that more challenging.

I started “Soul Survival” because I had been emailing a daily devotional to a growing group of friends for about 3 years. It started as a challenge to the ladies in our women’s ministry to encourage them to read through their Bibles the next year. Every year people would ask me to do it again. When the email list became increasingly cumbersome, I decided there had to be an easier way. The blog grew out of that.

I’m not sure how I came up with the name, just brainstorming.

Cheryl:  Where do you most find inspiration for your writing?  Is there a particular place or setting you prefer while writing?

Donna:  The inspiration for my writing is everywhere. I’ve done so much counseling and I know there is a great need to help people understand how to apply the Bible to daily living. That colors everything I write. I usually write in my office at home, but when the weather is nice, I often sit outside on my patio and watch the birds at my feeder and enjoy God’s handiwork ... and my husband’s since he has worked hard to give me a beautiful backyard to enjoy!

Cheryl:  Looking back over your life, what would you say were some of the darkest times you have lived through?  How did your faith in God sustain you during these times, and what advice would you give to others who may be now walking the same path(s)?

Donna:   During many of the darkest times in my life, I was not walking with the Lord, but, in hindsight, I know He was always with me and brought me through them.

As a believer, we have certainly had our challenges blending a family and working through all the issues that divorce can create, but God has used it all for good and has given us the grace we’ve needed at each step along the way.

I had two emergency surgeries about 19 years ago, one of them on my back. At the time, we had just moved across the state, had no personal physician and no church family. I had always dreaded any kind of medical procedure, but God used that time of having to depend completely on Him to take away my fear in that area. I truly had the peace which passes all understanding.
Also, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery again. God gave my husband and I both so much peace throughout the process. Thankfully, there is no longer any sign of cancer. 

Cheryl:  If you could go back in time and change one decision you have made, what would it be?

Donna:  I wish I had known more of God’s truth when my children were younger. Divorce is hard on kids and I wish I had been better equipped to help them through all that.

And both my husband and I wish we had known before we were ever divorced that the world’s view of divorce is a lie. God hates divorce because divorce hurts people, especially children. And even though, God has blessed us with the marriage we have today, it has not been without consequences.

People sometimes come to one of us for counseling, thinking we’ll give them a pass and say divorce is OK in their situation because we’ve been divorced. The truth is, we’ll fight harder to help someone save their marriage than anyone because we know that in most cases, the best things is for them to learn to be the husband and wife God wants them to be now in their marriage.

Cheryl:  What would you define as being some of the most pressing battles in the cultural war of our time?  Can you share some of your favorite go-to Scriptures that help to keep you encouraged in these dark days?

Donna:   I think our nation is in a desperate situation and I wonder how long God will continue to bless us even to the degree that He is, while we, as a nation, condone abortion and other policies He hates. But I also know that God will take care of His faithful remnant and will use hardship and calamity to turn others to Himself.

I frequently take people to Romans 8.28 & 29 or 1 Corinthians 10.13 and those verses are ingrained in my heart. Also, reading the Prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, I’m encouraged that He says over and over that He will care for His own. 

Cheryl:  What are you most passionate about?  What causes are closest to your heart? 

Donna:  I’m passionate about seeing lives changed, but I know genuine change only takes place when hearts are changed. Only God can do that through His Word and the power of His Spirit. I pray He’ll allow me to continue to play some part in that process.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you at this season of life?  Are there particular burdens upon your heart that we can help to carry to the Father?

Donna:   You can pray for my family and for God’s wisdom for our new ministry and my husband’s over the next few years.

Thank you so much, Cheryl, for the opportunity to share with you and your readers. May God bless you richly! 

And, thank you, dear Donna, for being willing to participate in Inner Views!
We are so blessed by your presence here, and trust God to richly bless you, in return!

Dear readers, please keep Donna and her husband and family in your prayers, as they continue to share the Good News and work together in His service.
I hope you will stop by and visit Donna at Soul Survival.
You can also connect with her on FacebookPinterestTwitter, and Instagram,
and you can email Donna at

Thank you so much for reading, and God bless you all!

To read previous
click the links below.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Biblical Minimalism

"For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."
Hebrews 10:36

Many of you have followed along, as God has led my family and me to take what may seem like drastic measures to live a simpler, more Biblical-aligned life.
Though some of the reasons for our minimizing has been apparent to us, I still felt there may be another purpose, and I longed to know the deeper meaning behind it all.
During my time with Jesus early one morning, the answer to my question became clear.
The many lessons we have learned while walking this path were not exclusively intended for us,
but I was to write a book, so our story and all that He has taught us could be shared with others.
You may have noticed that I haven't posted a "minimizing journey update" in a long time,
This is because I have been pouring all of that type of energy into the book, 
and I was trying to avoid spoilers!

The book is called, "Biblical Minimalism:  One Family's Journey from a Life of Abundance to a More Abundant Life ©"
It is a Scripture-saturated documentation of my family's journey towards a more minimal, eternity-focused life and how God led us to sell our 4 bedroom, 3 bath home and release about 90% of our physical possessions to pay off debt and free ourselves for the sake of a higher call.
I have alluded to our journey, at various times, here on the blog, and the book contains much of that information, plus a WHOLE lot more, including many profound lessons God has taught us that I haven't yet shared.
Laying some of those things bare presented a huge struggle for me, and God required a lot of stretching in the writing of this book.
He revealed so much to me about pride and how that even though I care deeply about and strongly defend our privacy, sometimes the guarding of confidentiality holds the potential of robbing others of truths He wants to reveal through the disclosing of our stories and the sharing of our journeys.
If the telling of God's redemption of our mistakes and brokenness can give another person hope, then I say amen to God's desire to not allow our story to go untold.

This book is so near and dear to my heart, because coming more in alignment with the minimal life Jesus lived while walking this earth is one of my greatest passions.
Writing it was quite a task.
There were moments I thought I would never finish.
Many things were going on in our lives that were difficult and hard to press through.
Through Christ alone, the book is now written and copywritten, and I am beyond grateful for God's enabling power and sustaining grace.

So, what now?

Of course, my preferred next step is that one of the traditional publishing houses would miraculously love it, get behind it, publish it, and market it to the masses. 😀
Not as much for personal gain, but, most importantly, that a desperately vital message can reach as many lives as possible.
My research, thus far, shows that to get a mainstream Christian publishing company to even read a manuscript from a very ordinary, non-famous person is near-impossible.
The industry has evolved into a not-so-accessible place to navigate, and many writers far greater than I are still waiting for someone to catch their vision and publish their dream.
As I have time, I am looking into editing, self-publishing, and partner-publishing options and will move forward, as God leads.

So much has changed in our lives even since I finished writing the book, and God is already laying a foundation for a sequel "Biblical Minimalism" book #2, as our journey continues.
I am also feeling led to write an accompanying Bible Study guide to ask probing questions and allow the reader to personalize the Scriptural applications to their own, unique situations, circumstances, and getting-out-of-debt journeys.

So, what do you think?
Would you be interested in reading, "Biblical Minimalism"© if it were to be published?
Do you find this subject matter interesting and relevant?
I'd love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments below or via email,
and, Lord willing, I will keep you posted of any developments, should there be any.
May His perfect will be done, regardless.

Thank you ever so much for following along with us on our incredible adventure.
We love and appreciate you from the bottom of our hearts.
God bless you all!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Inner Views of Brackin & Lindsay Kirkland of "Sounds Like Reign"

"Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise."
Psalm 98:4

It is no secret that my family and I dearly love music.
We always enjoy coming across a new musical group who has the ability to draw our hearts into a closer walk with Jesus, and when that group also includes the element of good harmony and an acoustic sound, well, it isn't too long until we are hooked.
Before I go any farther, I need to tell you how I heard about today's "Inner Views" guests.
I recently got a comforting email from dear friend and fellow blogger, Bettie
and this is a small portion of what she said,
"Today, when I heard this song, I just knew I had to stop what I was doing, and send it to you right now. It is such a beautiful rendition of this hymn, "Softly and Tenderly," one of my favorites.   And, I just kept thinking of your loved ones that the Lord has called home this past year.  When He calls, we can't help but go with Him!  Oh may He comfort you in the missing and the longing, though!!"
Attached to the email was a video (you will find it below) of this old, beloved hymn sung by the couple I am interviewing today.
I hope you enjoy getting to know them and hearing them share their amazing musical gifts!

"Sounds Like Reign" Husband and Wife Duo,
Brackin and Lindsay Kirkland

Cheryl:  Please introduce yourselves, and tell us who you are and what you do.  

Brackin & Lindsay:  Hi. We are Brackin and Lindsay Kirkland. We have five boys. We've been married for 12 years, and we live in North Carolina. We write and record music called "Sounds Like Reign", and we have a weekly vlog (video-blog) on YouTube called "Tiny Notes From Home".

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about each of your individual testimonies and spiritual journeys.  When did you become a Christian?  What life events led you to the cross?  Were either of you raised in a Christian home?  

Brackin: I was raised in a Christian home, but strayed from the faith in my teenage years. The Lord drew me to Himself in my 20's after years of wandering in the wilderness.

Lindsay: I grew up in a Unitarian Universalist home, but I knew as a young child that Jesus was the only way to the Father. I made a profession of faith in high school, and the Lord has been my guide ever since.

Cheryl:  Who do you consider to be your strongest spiritual mentor(s)?  Who has most helped you to draw close to Jesus throughout life?  Is there a particular person who has prayed for you, individually?

Brackin & Lindsay:  We look up to a number of strong, unnamed brothers. Just God-fearing, Christ-honoring folks in our church who are humble in spirit and would otherwise go unnoticed in their genuine walk with God. 

Cheryl:  How did the two of you meet?  We'd love to hear your love story.

Brackin & Lindsay:  We met at a mutual friend's house in PA in our late high school years. We were immediately drawn to each other. We dated for a couple years and were married during our college years.

Cheryl:  What is your favorite part of being parents? 

Brackin & Lindsay:  We love working together as a team to train our children. We love having separate but equal roles in the home, which gives us freedom to explore our God-given abilities as "mom" and "dad". 

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite things to do together as a family?

Brackin & Lindsay:  We enjoy playing music together, and spending time outdoors. And who doesn't love a good road trip. We LOVE travelling together :) 

Cheryl:  Tell us about "Sounds Like Reign".  What is the significance of the name? 

Brackin & Lindsay:  We describe "Sounds Like Reign" this way: These are the sounds of the reign of God in our hearts. These are songs born out of adversity, trials and triumphs in our walk as followers of Jesus.

Cheryl:  What instruments do each of you play, and what is your history with each instrument?   

Brackin & Lindsay:  We both grew up in musical homes. Lindsay played the guitar from an early age, and Brackin has learned a variety of instruments over the years.

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite songs to sing together?  Why?

Brackin & Lindsay:  We like to sing old hymns and contemporary worship songs. Really anything that can strengthen and encourage our hearts. 

Cheryl:  Who has most influenced each of you, musically?  Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians?

Brackin & Lindsay:  Lindsay prefers acoustic folk music, like the Forbes Family. Whereas Brackin listens to a WIDE variety of instrumental music from around the world. Together these styles have become the style of "Sounds Like Reign". 

Cheryl:  How can we buy your music?  Are there other ways we can support your ministry?

Brackin & Lindsay:  Our music is available for free download (or you can purchase CDs) at our website, Sounds Like Reign.

You can also show your monthly support on our Patreon page, and join a community of over 100 people who are invested in our music and videos. 

Cheryl:  Please tell us about your tiny house.  What led you to choose living in a tiny home?

Brackin & Lindsay:  We have been living in "Tiny Houses" for about 9 years. We started out in a mini-van, and slowly moved up to the 14x40 shed that we dwell in now. Our approach to life is to only have the basic necessities to take care of our family and do the work/ministry that the Lord has placed on our hearts. Everything else must GO!

Cheryl:  If you were speaking to someone who is considering downsizing their lives, what advice would you share?

Brackin & Lindsay:  Just do it! It's never too late to simplify your life for the sake of the Gospel. Just keep in mind WHY you should downsize. Jesus said that we should live our lives for the sake of others. And Paul said that if we sell all we have and give to the poor, but we don't have love, then we're just making noise. Downsizing can be motivated my selfishness, but we should have love for others and live a simple life so that we can GIVE our resources to those in need.

Cheryl:  What do you define as one of the darkest times of your life?  How did your faith in God sustain you and give you hope?  

Lindsay:  Brackin's darkest time was when I tried to end my life due to anxiety and depression. This was around the age of 18. God was merciful to sustain my life and give me a second chance. So now I give every breath to Him for His service and glory! 

Cheryl:  We are living in the perilous times prophesied about in God's Word.  It seems that the culture that surrounds us is becoming increasingly hostile towards God, His Word, and His people.  How do you stay encouraged in these dark days?  Are there particular Scriptures, songs, books, or other resources that you turn to in times of discouragement?

Brackin & Lindsay:  Yes, we draw inspiration and encouragement from the early Christian testimonies of martyrs and those who have stood strong in the face of great evil. One story of particular interest is that of Michael Sattler from the 1500's. He was being chased across an icy pond by an assailant who plunged into the icy water. Instead of leaving his "enemy" there to drown, he heeded the words of Jesus to LOVE his enemies, and so he turned around and lifted the man from certain death. As a result he was apprehended and thrown into prison, but he lived in peace knowing that he had done what our Lord, Savior and Master would have wanted him to do. Love always prevails!

Cheryl:  What advice would you give to a person reading this who has lost hope and is desperate, even to the point of considering taking their own life?  

Brackin & Lindsay:  Talk. Find someone to talk to. Don't hold it in. God cares, and He has provided His BODY (friends, family, even strangers) to help you. Don't give up hope. This is just a short season in what WILL BE an AWESOME life! 

Cheryl:  At the end of your lives, what legacy do you most hope to leave?  How do you want to be remembered?

Brackin & Lindsay:  Our desire is for Christ to magnified in all that we do, so that when our lives fade away, only His glory remains! 

Cheryl:  How can we connect with you?

Brackin & Lindsay:  You can find us on 
YouTube Music ChannelTiny Notes from HomeFacebookInstagram, and our website.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you and your family?  

Brackin & Lindsay:  We are always in need of prayer to discern the Lord's will for our family and ministry. It's a lot to take on, and we want to stay focused on the most important things. 

Thank you, Brackin and Lindsay, for taking the time to answer our questions and share your hearts with us!
May God richly bless you and your family and ministry!
And, thank you to Bettie for making the introduction and sharing this video by "Sounds Like Reign"!

In closing, here are a couple more of my favorite "Sounds Like Reign" videos.
Enjoy, and be blessed!

To read previous
click the links below.