Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Inner Views of Evelyn Rennich

"Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:15,16
(NIV)

In our ongoing quest to minimize and simplify our lives,
I am always on the lookout for those who will encourage and keep us inspired 
on our journey.
My goal, when trying to seek out this encouragement,
is to not only to find those of like mind as far as the desire to live minimally,
but also who are Christians and whose motives for minimal living are driven by a passion to better serve Jesus Christ.

One of the first minimalism blogs I came to follow and appreciate was Becoming Minimalist,
written by Joshua Becker.
Joshua, who is also a dedicated Christian and pastor, 
was the very first person I interviewed for our new "Inner Views" endeavor,
and you can read that interview here.

At some point in time, while reading Joshua's blog,
I was introduced to yet another blog that talks about minimalism.
When I checked it out, I was thrilled to find out that the writer of the blog is also a Christian and a wife and mother.
I immediately began following her blog and have gleaned so much wisdom from her testimony and experiences.
I know you will, too.

I introduce to you, grace-clinger, mother of four, and Smallish blogger,
Evelyn Rennich.


The 
of
Evelyn Rennich.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself, Evelyn!

Evelyn:  I'm a Colorado girl, happily married to a great man and mother of four young kiddos. I love hiking and coffee.

Cheryl:  I would love to know about your Christian testimony. When did you become a Christian? Were you raised in a Christian home? What life events led up to your decision to follow Christ? How has that life choice affected your life since then?

Evelyn:  I was raised in a very happy, functional Christian home.  I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life at the age of 5, but my personal relationship with Him didn't begin until middle school. It was at that point that I learned that Christianity is a personal, intimate walk with the God of the universe.  My spiritual life has been characterized by a gradual deepening ever since.

Cheryl:  The name of your blog is “Smallish”. Can you explain what prompted the name?

Evelyn:  We were living in a very small apartment --450 sq. ft-- with two young boys, when I began Smallish.  We were just beginning to realize the benefits of living in a small place, and it all seemed to fit; this idea of living small, not just in physical space, but with smaller means (we are a one-income family), and with a small footprint on earth.  "Smallish" is our way of communicating our desire to live responsibly, joyfully.

Cheryl:  What inspired you to start blogging, and how has your blog enriched your life and journey towards minimalism?

Evelyn:  In the fall of 2012 we were excited to move out of the teeny apartment we called "the Shoebox" and "get on with normal life" in the 1,300 sq. ft. home we owned.  I realized over the course of the summer that there was much I would miss about living in the small apartment and also was surprised to learn that I had a regret-- that I had not blogged about all we had learned and our journey of living in a little home.  I started blogging just months before we were planning to move out.  Wouldn't you know it, God had other plans.  We ended up living in our "Shoebox" apartment for three more years before God decided that season was over. Smallish is a sort of souvenir that grew up with us. :)

Cheryl:  What does minimalism look like in your home?

Evelyn:  Minimalism, to us, is limiting possessions, certainly, for we see giant blessing in fewer belongings, but it is so much more.  Living intentionally with less is a holistic endeavor.  It positively affects nearly every area of our lives.

We are a family of 6, so minimalism in the strict, least-amount-of-belongings doesn't quite fit us. However, I am constantly purging physical things that we don't use or need.  In nearly every area of home or heart, I seek to "find the minimum level" of what I can live with.  Most days, the things we own still seems like too much, but this whole minimalism thing is a journey. :)  Minimalism also means we are committed to living slowly--not filling our schedules up with too many activities.  It means we'd like to live with minimal impact on the earth, which is also an area I feel like we have to get better at.
http://www.smallishblog.com/2015/10/08/what-minimalism-looks-like-for-us/

Cheryl:  What are the causes that are closest to your heart?

Evelyn:  I care deeply about salvation in Jesus Christ for a lost world, care for children, and about justice issues such as poverty/trafficking.

Cheryl:  How do you allow a mindset of minimalism to set the course of your Christmas spending, and what does Christmas day look like in your home? And favorite Christmas traditions you would like to share?

Evelyn:  We don't buy many presents for our kids, and we usually make something for other family and friends.  Our children receive wonderful gifts from family members, so my husband and I keep presents small and practical.  This year we bought our older 3 snow shovels because we knew we'd gain many hours of quiet and energy-exertion outside through the winter. ;)
Christmas day is a slow celebration including the reading of Scripture, giving gifts and giving thanks, grazing on good food, and enjoying family.


http://www.smallishblog.com/2013/12/16/three-christmas-traditions-for-joyful-holiday/

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you, specifically, at this season of life?

Evelyn:  What a sweet question!  As much as I love blogging and learning to live minimally or "green", raising four young children and supporting my husband is my primary calling in this season.  It is not a glamorous job, but I am keenly aware that if I don't invest my best in these years of building my marriage and setting foundations for my children, then I will have failed at my biggest tasking.  I would appreciate prayer that I can keep my priorities in order and serve my family each day with the joyful intention that translates Jesus' love into action.

Thank you so much for your heart and calling to share and minister, Cheryl!


And, thank YOU, dear Evelyn, for being willing to share your heart and thoughts with us here!
I love hearing from those of like mind, who are setting their focus on things eternal,
rather than the accumulation of things that are of this world.
Evelyn brings out some wonderful points in the two post links she has included above.
I hope you will take the time to click on the links and read her words of wisdom
and that you will consider subscribing to her blog, "Smallish"!

To read previous
 click the links below.

The Inner Views of Joshua Becker
 The Inner Views of Lisa Newton
The Inner Views of Dr. Alveda King
The Inner Views of Jen Avellaneda
The Inner Views of Tonya Shellnutt
The Inner Views of Karen Del Tatto

Thursday, January 28, 2016

7th Update on Brody & Announcement to Google Followers

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."
Proverbs 29:25
(KJV)

What is the worth of a smile?
How much does it mean?
How much difference can it make?

I pondered these questions after receiving this precious photo sent to me yesterday from little Brody's grandmother, Debbie.
She said it was taken right after he was given some medicine to make him feel better and to ease his pain.


I can't even begin to comprehend the effect Brody's smile had upon the loving heart of the one taking this picture!

A smile speaks volumes.
It says that even though the road is difficult, it is absolutely worth the travel.
It says that God is looking down, and strength will be given to take that next impossible step.
It says that all is well from God's point of view, and things are better farther on.
It says that the rain will one day stop, and things will be right in our world again.
It slips into the room, like a glimpse of sunshine on a cloudy day,
and it brightens the whole atmosphere.

The worth of a smile cannot be measured.
Especially the smile of a child.

Along with the precious photo, I received this update about Brody:

"Yesterday things didn't look too good, his X-ray even looked worse than days before.
Well, thank God, today was a better day. 
The X-ray looked a lot better and the doctors seem more confident about being able to get him off the ventilator within the upcoming week or maybe if he continues to improve, this coming weekend. 
We had a scheduled meeting with a large group of doctors today at 1 this afternoon.
Brody has a very serious disease and the (hospital) staff that care for him wanted to discuss his care and what may be ahead for him.
Well, you and I know that it is God that knows what is ahead for Brody. 
The doctors are educated and great with his care but it is God who is in control."

Yes, dear Debbie, you and I DO indeed know Who is in control!
And it is in Him that we all live and move and have our being.
(Acts 17:28)

I must say that I cannot understand why a precious baby like Brody has to suffer like this.
It is hard for me to reconcile.
I don't think there is any way TO reconcile it.
He is so innocent...so dependent...so tiny.


So eager for life, bless his little heart!


As Kevin, Zach, and I looked at Brody's photos, Kevin and I recalled when dear Zachary was this tiny, and Kevin commented how he could not imagine what this dear mother and grandmother must
be feeling and going through.
If it breaks our hearts, how must it be breaking theirs?
And how tired and weary they must be, as life goes on, and its demands continue,
even while their world is falling apart, and worries increase.

Dear praying friends, please keep lifting Brody's name to the Father,
and please remember to pray for Debbie and her daughter, Jenn, (Brody's mother),
as they press onward through these trying days.

Surely God is their refuge and strength, a very present help to them in this time of trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)

God bless them and hold them extra close!

To read previous posts about Brody, please click the follow links:
On a sidenote, some of you have probably already noticed some things that have taken place when Google made changes to their programming on Monday, January 11th.
I don't really understand it all, but I know you can no longer sign in to Google Friend Connect
in all of the ways you used to be able to, and if you have a non-Google account profile,
you are being removed as a follower of certain blogs.

I have noticed that several of our Google Friend Connect Homespun Devotions followers have dropped off, and we, of course, have no way to tell who was dropped by Google or who may have chosen to stop following, nor do we have a way to get in touch with those who may still want to follow, but were removed because of the changes Google made.

My suggestions are these...
if you were dropped and didn't want to be, you can follow Homespun Devotions by entering your email address and clicking "subscribe" near the top of the page in the right sidebar of our home page.
Or, you could open a Google Account (if you do not have one) and follow Homespun Devotions (again) through Google Friend Connect by clicking on the blue "Join This Site" button near the bottom of the right sidebar on our home page.
You can also follow us on Pinterest by clicking here and/or Bloglovin' by clicking here.
I apologize if you have been dropped and didn't choose to be, 
and I truly have had no control over it.

I am sad that some were dropped and will miss the interaction and fellowship with them.
Hopefully, they/you will find your way back!
Thanks for your patience and understanding!

In closing, I ask, how are you today, dear friends?
I often wonder that...
as I type, click "publish", and send words on their way....out into the unknown.

How are you, dear readers?
I care deeply, you know.

Are the burdens of life pressing you down,
oppressing your spirit, 
causing distress?
Do you struggle with regrets of the past,
fear of the future,
anxiety about today?

I just want to encourage you and remind you that whatever you are facing, in this moment,
God holds you in the palm of His hand,
and He is aware of every, single thing that is touching your life.

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me."
Isaiah 49:15,16

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; 
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

Jesus knows.
He loves you SO much.
He is moved with compassion as He watches you.
He understands the struggle.
He remembers what fear feels like.
And physical pain!
Oh, how He can relate!
Rejection, betrayal, abuse, slander, grief, abandonment, loneliness, anguish, 
being completely misunderstood,
bewilderment over God's will,
being falsely accused,
 loss, heartache, concern, darkness beyond telling....
He has been there, my friend.
Standing in your shoes.
So, yes, He knows!

My prayer for you today is that you will feel His care for you ...as never before.
That somehow He will make you see how precious you are to Him,
how much He is concerned for you,
that He is there...with you...wherever you are...whatever you are facing.
May today, as never before, you really, truly know how very much you are loved.



If video doesn't load, click here.


If video doesn't load, click here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Please Pray, Dear Friends!

"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deuteronomy 33:27
(KJV)

Oh, blessed Lord!
What would we do without those everlasting arms?
Where would we turn in times of distress, anguish, and grief?
From whom would we draw strength to continue to press through the pain?

It seems I have been hearing a lot of sad news lately.
Last night, a precious reader, Rosz, emailed to let me know that her dear brother, Joey,
left this world to be with Jesus yesterday evening.
Oh, my heart breaks for her and her dear family!
She prayed SO hard for healing to come, but God had another plan.
Please pray hard for them, will you?

Today, I got an email from another dear friend, telling me of a 46 year old father of four
who lost his battle with brain cancer and passed away Friday.
His funeral was today.
Please keep his grieving family in your prayers, too, if you will.

My dear Uncle John lies very ill and seems to be nearing the end of his long-term battle with cancer.
It breaks my heart.
I can still see him sitting there, across the table from me, at our last family reunion this past September, strumming his guitar and singing with Aunt Linda and playing for us when we sang.
How many times have we done that through the years?
How sad it makes me to know that, more than likely, we will sing together no more.
At least, not on this side of eternity.
Many of us knew there was a good chance he may not be at the next family reunion...
it made our time with him that day even more precious than usual.
Please keep him, Aunt Linda, all of their children, and the rest of my family in your prayers,
as we walk this sad journey.

And, dear praying friends, I come to you with yet another very urgent, heart-wrenched plea.
Little Brody is back in the hospital in ICU.


Bless his little heart, I can hardly keep from crying when I look at this picture!
He looks so pitiful, and his poor, little nose is sore and irritated from wearing the Bipap mask!

God had blessed him to go home from the hospital, and he was doing so much better,
but in a recent email from his grandmother, Debbie, I got the following sad news.
"He is back in ICU with pneumonia, a collapsed lung and a common cold. 
He is back on a ventilator again :(. 
This time even seems harder for Brody for some reason. 
He seems so weak. He was doing good, but he caught this cold and things went downhill fast. 
With his disease, it makes a virus so much more difficult to overcome. 
The doctor said his X-ray looks better today than yesterday,  but this will probably take a week or so to heal and get back off the ventilator. 
He is uncomfortable, but the (hospital) staff are trying to keep him as comfortable as possible. 
Please keep him in your prayers. 
He needs a lot of prayer again.
He is such a sweetie and is having to fight so hard again."

Please keep Debbie and her daughter, Jen, (Brody's mother), in your prayers, also.
I can't imagine how heartbreaking and difficult all of this is for them.
Their emotions must feel like they are on a continual roller-coaster.
God bless them, and may He hold them extra close!

To read previous posts about Brody, please click the follow links:

Surely we serve a BIG God, Who is able to do exceeding abundantly above 
all we can ask or even think.  (Ephesians 3:20)

I have been missing dear Mom and Dad SO much lately.
Grief is like that.
It comes in waves, doesn't it?

There have been so many times lately that I have wanted to turn to them for advice and direction,
and each time I feel that longing, I am hit once again with the sad, sad realization
that Mom and Dad are gone.

And, then I remember...all is not lost!
God is still here.
He will always be.
There is a Heavenly Father above Who is ever-present,
ever-concerned, ever-mindful of our every need.

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up."
Psalm 27:10

Oh, those everlasting arms!
Strong enough to "take us up"
hold us close, and never let us go.

"As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you..."
Isaiah 66:13

I am so thankful that we serve "the God of all comfort", aren't you?

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."
2 Corinthians 1:3,4

Let us look up to Him, dear friends!

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

"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
Psalm 61:2

In closing, here is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers, ever....
I hope it comforts you as much as it comforts me.


If video doesn't load, click here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

It's Time To Launch!

"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
(KJV)


Our One Word for 2016 is trust.

I have been living for Jesus for right around 39 years.
I have been professing to "trust" Him for nearly all my life.
I confess to you here that I am now seeing that there are many layers to trusting God.

There is that all-important, very first, and top layer,
when we first come to Him and repent of our sins,
and we trust that He will save and redeem,
and, most importantly, forgive us.
Our faith takes hold, and we know that without a shadow of a doubt,
He has heard our cry for salvation, and our sins are all washed away
by the precious blood He shed on Calvary.
At that point, we say that "we have trusted in Jesus to save us".
That, my friend, is the mere beginning of a lifelong voyage of learning what it means to
trust God.

I was 10 years old, when I first made my way to an old-time altar,
heart heavy-laden with the weight of my own personal responsibility for Jesus hanging on that awful, cruel cross, my young mind having been exceptionally tender toward Him for as far back as I can remember.

I am SO glad I made that decision.
Maybe one day I can share more about my personal testimony, God willing.

For now, I want to talk about now.
Where my little family and I are...on this ongoing, lifetime adventure of learning to trust Him.

The other day, I was praying.
Oh, my!
I was pouring out my heart about some things that loom thick above us,
and, right there, in the midst of my praying, God spoke.
Four words.
A short command.
But plenty enough to so drastically arrest my attention that I stopped doing the talking.

"It's time to launch."

That is what the precious Holy Spirit whispered to my inmost soul.
"It's time to launch."
I instantly knew what He meant.
He is always clear.
He always conveys His message, without mincing words.

You know The Voice.
It is still....and small.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me..."
John 10:27-30

When He spoke and told me it is "time to launch", 
my mind immediately went to the event recorded in Luke 5:4-7.

"Now when He (Jesus) had left speaking, He said unto Simon, 
Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net.
And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them.  And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink."

And, oh, the lessons God began pouring into my soul from these four verses of Scripture!

Lesson #1.

Jesus launches with us.
We do not launch alone.
He didn't step out of the boat, then tell Peter to launch.
He stayed in the boat as He gave the command to launch.
Having Him there, right by Peter's side, made the doing bearable.
The presence of Jesus changes everything.
No matter how difficult the directive, knowing He is there carrying it out with us,
miraculously fortifies our courage and determination to press forward.
His presence is absolutely all we need.

Lesson #2.

Jesus stays on board the vessel.
He won't leave.
He promised to never leave us alone.
He said He would be with us always, even unto the end of the world.  (Matthew 28:20)
Regardless how fiercely the storms may rage,
never mind the intensity of the heated, fiery trial,
He will remain in the midst of the flames with us.
The 4th Man will always be in the fire.  
(Daniel 3:24,25)
He will not walk out of the trial a moment sooner than we do.

Lesson #3.

God will prove how much we need Him.
He will often allow us to come to the complete end of ourselves,
before coming on the scene.
Sometimes, He allows us, like Peter that night, to exhaust every human resource and remedy that we can muster, in order to show us just how inadequate we are on our own.
Sometimes, He wants to clearly define and reveal that His power is far greater than anything we can achieve, and to remind us that without Him, we can do nothing.  (John 15:5)
Jesus knew Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen had toiled all night long.
He saw them struggle to the point of exhaustion.
He sensed the height of their frustration.
He saw them give up in total defeat.
And, then He appeared with the remedy they needed most,
proving their inadequacy and His power, in the process.
"Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it..."
Psalm 127:1

Lesson #4.

Launching doesn't always make sense.
Especially, when you've repeatedly gone over the same situation with a fine-toothed comb,
and human reasoning can find no logic in God's suggestion solution.
He knows what He is doing, and even though His command defies our own understanding,
obedience to His command will produce the perfect, desired result every, single time.

Lesson #5.

Launching means letting go.
Of our own opinions, our own resources, our own solutions, our perfectly-laid plans.
It means taking our hands off the situation, acknowledging that we need God, 
realizing that His ways are always best, and that we don't know everything.
He does.
Launching means breaking loose from what feels safe.
It means letting go of the shore line and turning loose of every tie that binds.
It means flinging ourselves out at God's mercy and abandoning the familiar.
It means propelling out to where our feet can no longer touch bottom,
even though we have no clue how to swim.

Lesson #6.

There is a perfect time to launch.
There comes a time when we can procrastinate no longer.
We have to strike while the iron of Jesus' command to launch is hot.
His timing is always impeccable.
Remember how God told Joshua that the Israelites needed to stay within the particular distance of 2000 cubits behind the Ark of the Covenant?
When the priests who were bearing the Ark moved forward,
they were to move forward, lock-step in exact proximity of 2000 cubits (approximately 1/2 mile).
They were not to rush in to 1999 cubits.
They were not to lollygag behind 2001 cubits.
2000 cubits was the exact space that was to be maintained between them and the Ark.
Nothing more.  Nothing less.
There were Divine purposes for this, and timing was imperative.
Remember how Moses spoke of the time they circled around Mount Seir for many days?
They circled and circled, but there came a point when God made it clear that they had gone around in circles long enough!
"And the LORD spake unto me, saying,
Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward."
Deuteronomy 2:2,3
It was time for them to venture into unknown territory, to launch into uncharted-by-them waters.
When Jesus says, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets...",
it is the exact time to launch out into the deep and let down our nets.
Not a moment sooner, not a moment later.

Lesson #7.

Jesus knows where the fish are.
Remember when Jesus and Peter needed money to pay their taxes and Jesus told Peter 
to go put his hook in the water, that the first fish he caught would have a piece of money in its mouth, and it would be enough to cover His taxes and Peter's, too?
You can read this amazing story in Matthew 17:24-27.
It is an incredible faith-booster, especially when you are in dire need.
Jesus knew which fish had swallowed a coin.
Or perhaps He placed the coin there in that moment...or exactly when Peter dropped his line in the water.
At any rate, Peter had to walk in total trust and obedience in order to reap the benefits
of having enough money to pay his and Jesus' taxes.
Had he thought Jesus' command was absurd and disregarded it as ludicrous,
he would never have experienced the miracle, and his need would not have been supplied.
Yesterday, someone made this comment while sitting at our kitchen table...
"You can't catch a fish if you don't have a line in the water."
I was amazed at his words!
He had no idea how accurately fitting they were to our own situation,
nor did he know how God has been dealing with me about this launching situation.
Later, Kevin, Zachary, and I were talking about how we could drive to the nearest body of water,
take our fishing poles and bait, and sit there, like bumps-on-logs-dunces,
talking about how much we are craving some fresh fish,
dreaming about how much fun it would be to reel in a big one,
and leave there long-faced, completely disappointed, stomachs growling angrily,
all because we failed to bait our hook and cast our line.
Fish, no matter how closely they may be swimming to us, 
will not jump up out of the water into our laps.
We will never move forward in our walk with God and into the new things He has for us,
if we sit on the shore, clinging 'til our knuckles turn white, refusing to launch when Jesus tells us to.
We have to put our bait in the water, if we want to catch a fish.
Jesus knows where they are.
He knows when they will be swimming by.
He knows which one has a coin in its mouth.
When Jesus says, "Launch", we need to launch.

Lesson #8.

Letting down our nets means letting down our safety nets.
It means surrender...of our every back-up plan....of what we think is best.
It means trusting in God, and God alone.
It means allowing God to be our all in all...
our Provider, our Healer, our Deliverer, our Redeemer...
our everything.
Peter let down his literal, physical net, and he reaped a miraculous onslaught of fish.
As we release and let go of our "nets", we will witness miraculous results as we stand back 
and watch the creative ways God chooses to supply our every need.
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..."
Ephesians 3:20

Lesson #9.

Jesus won't let us drown.
"The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deuteronomy 33:27
Regardless how deep the depths of the waters He is asking us to launch into,
and regardless how ineptly we swim,
and no matter how fiercely we flail,
His arms are always underneath.
When Jesus asked Peter to step out of the boat that night and to join Him as He walked on the violently, turbulent sea, He did not stand by and watch Peter go under and drown when he became afraid and took his eyes off Jesus.
When Peter cried, "Lord, save me!",
"immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
Matthew 14:31
Jesus held on to Peter with His hand.
He is holding on to us, too.

Lesson #10.

The reward for launching will be a draught.
The original Greek meaning of this word is "catch" or "haul".
The reward for obeying God will produce exactly what He says it will.
The results of the effort required to obey will never be futile or come up short.
The reward will be bountiful, overflowing, and abundant.
Peter didn't catch one fish.
He caught "a haul" of fish.
He caught so many fish, that there was a huge overflow.
He caught so many fish, that he had to summon his companions.
He caught so many fish, that both of their boats began to sink!
God's rewards are not skimpy.
They are absolutely worth the effort required to obtain them.

Lesson #11.

The blessing awaits in the deep.
We are not going to find it in shallow waters.
God doesn't want us to be content to spiritually skirt around the edges.
We will never attain the spiritual depths and profound blessings God has for us as long as we cling to what feels sure and secure, as long as we insist upon having solid ground beneath our feet, or as long as we allow fear of drowning, failure, and embarrassment hold us paralyzed on the shore.

The word "launch" means "propel, promote, further, advance, carry forward."
Launching means letting go of the past, and advancing forward into what God has waiting for us.

Are you ready to launch?
What is holding you back?
Is God stirring your inmost soul with the realization that you have walked in circles long enough?
Have you tried everything you can imagine on your own, only to meet with continued frustration?

It's all about the trust issue...
letting go and letting God completely take over
and knowing that He will absolutely never let us go.

It's time to launch.
Out into the deep.
Where the answer awaits and the need will most assuredly be met.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Inner Views of Karen Del Tatto

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Psalm 27:17
(KJV)

I never cease to be amazed at the depths of genuine love and friendship that run 
throughout this blogging community.
Four years ago, when God first led me to start Homespun Devotions,
I never imagined how profoundly that decision would affect my life.
For years, my little family and I have diligently and regularly prayed "The Prayer of Jabez",
after reading Bruce Wilkinson's book by the same title.
In case you aren't familiar with Jabez's prayer, here it is...
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 
Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, 
and enlarge my coast, 
and that Thine hand might be with me, 
and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! 
And God granted him that which he requested."
1 Chronicles 4:10

One of the ways that God has chosen to "enlarge our coast" is through Homespun Devotions.
Without a doubt, we would never have "met" the dear people God has brought into our lives,
had we not started this blog. 
Many of you have become more than just mere acquaintances.
You have become cherished heart friends...
friends who share your prayer requests with me, and with whom I share mine,
friends who stop by and encourage me, both by leaving dear comments or by emailing privately,
friends who care and who show it in so many sweet and wonderful ways.

This Christian blogging community is tightly-knit, accepting, forgiving, and filled with grace.
It is a place of great encouragement to me.
Many of your names are written on my personal prayer list, 
and I regularly lift your names to the Father, as your personal needs and burdens have become very important to me.
I truly love all of you so much.

Several months ago...I can't even remember exactly when or how we found each other...
I became acquainted with a new blogger.
I have been so blessed by her deep and thought-provoking writings.

This dear lady has left encouragement for me and picked me up so many, many times.
She is filled with so much love...for God, for His Word, for His people, for her family.
She has become a dear and cherished friend,
and I am SO blessed to be able to present her interview to you here.

Many of you know her already, but for those who don't,
please allow me to introduce to you,
Pastor's Wife and Christian Blogger at Growing Together in Grace and Knowledge,
Karen Del Tatto


The 
of 
Karen Del Tatto.

Cheryl:  Could you tell us about yourself, Karen?

Karen:  You’ll always hear me tell people that I grew up in a “Leave it to Beaver” family.  I lived in a close-knit neighborhood with my parents and two brothers.  We would play kick-ball until dark, hide and seek in the back woods and, in the winter, sleigh down the front road, parents and kids alike. 

My father, a very hard worker, taught me to have a strong work ethic.  My love for the outdoors came from him.  Every weekend, he would have our family out hiking in the woods. (As a youngster you probably would have heard me complaining, but as an adult, those are some of my fondest memories, and ever since childhood my favorite place to be is outside!) 


My mom is my best friend.  We have a wonderful relationship.  Growing up, she was always home when I got home from school.  I would sit at the kitchen table, where she had cookies and milk waiting for me.  I would tell her about my day.  Our favorite thing to do together is laugh! It was very hard when I got married in my early 20's and moved four hours away from my family.  If I were to be honest, that is probably one of my biggest regrets, as I feel like I missed out on so much, but I know that God had a much bigger plan and it was through that move that I would eventually meet Him…


Cheryl:  How did you come to know Jesus Christ? When did you become a Christian, and what were the events that led up to that decision?

Karen:  The events leading up to my coming to know the Lord happened over a 12 year period - all beginning when I moved four hours away from my family.  I worked at AT&T in New Jersey and transferred with the company to Massachusetts.  In the first few months of working at AT&T, I met Liz who shared the Gospel with me and how God was working in her life.  In fact, there were several Christians who worked in the office where I did, and they would hold Bible studies in the conference room during lunch, but I wasn’t interested and rejected it.  Fast forward five years, when we began the process of moving from our first home to a bigger house to accommodate our expanding family.  The Lord did indeed “establish our borders”, blocking the house we thought we really wanted to buy and settling us in the home we are in now.  Our neighbor, Makiko, was a Christian.  One day, we were visiting, and she gave me a copy of "The Living Bible" and told me to read it, and God would speak to me.  I graciously took the Bible and attempted to read it, but I didn’t understand it and felt the Lord was not “speaking to me”. Fast forward another seven years when I met Paula, who had recently moved in a few houses down.  She had a little girl my daughter’s age.  She, too, was a Christian and invited me to attend Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs), a Christian mom’s group, with her.  I was looking forward to meeting other young moms.  It was then that the Lord started softening my heart; the manner of those Christian moms was something I wanted.  Their gentle ways and their excitement for the Bible was contagious!  Paula then introduced me to her friend, Cindy, another believer, who asked me if I wanted to do a Bible study with her.  She said I could pick the topic, maybe something I struggled with.  I struggled terribly with anxiety, and she picked out a Bible study that spoke on that subject.  During the study, I was quite taken by the story of the Apostle Peter walking on water and, upon seeing the waves, starts to sink and cries out to Jesus to save him.  I wanted that!  I wanted salvation from my anxiety and wanted to know more about this Jesus that could bring me peace that surpasses all understanding.  I bought a Bible and started to read on my own and, suddenly, God was “speaking to me”!

I don’t have one of those testimonies where I had this stand-out moment of salvation.  Mine was a gradual calling out to the Lord.  My assurance - this "Miss Goody Two-Shoes" now saw herself as a sinner in need of a Savior.

This is the reason I am passionate about the Word of God, because although the Lord used many people throughout my testimony, it was ultimately in the pages of the Bible that the Lord showed me His great Salvation.


Cheryl:  Tell us about how God has led you throughout life...in marriage, being married to a minister, various ministries you have been involved in, raising children, etc.

Karen:  I have been married to my husband Michael for almost 32 ½ years.  Like all marriages, we have had our ups and downs.  God used the book, "Sacred Marriage", by Gary Thomas, to show me His great purpose in my marriage – to bring Him Glory, by being a testimony in showcasing Christ’s love for His bride, the church, by how I conduct myself in marriage.

As I raised my children, the Lord used another book, "Shepherding a Child’s Heart", by Tedd Tripp, a book whose insights had such a profound effect on my children’s behavior and, most especially, me, as a mother.  Our family was truly blessed as a result.

When I felt called to homeschool, the Lord surrounded me with Godly mothers to share their insights and wisdom to help me along in my homeschool.

Prior to my husband feeling called to attend seminary, the Lord was preparing me, yet at the time, my husband and I didn’t realize God was working on both of us to that end.  It was only in hindsight that we could see God moving in us to be willing to obey the call.

The Lord used several Pastor’s wives to mentor me during the five years my husband was in seminary.  The words of wisdom they shared from their own experiences was such a blessing to me and truly helped me in my role as a Pastor’s wife.

My husband’s first pastoral assignment was not an easy one.  A majority of the congregation were not believers.   I relied heavily upon the Lord for strength during the two years we served. The Lord used me through a very successful Vacation Bible School to show a doubtful congregation that God would provide the children to attend.  And He did!  Abundantly!

Years ago, the Lord laid a ministry to the Marines upon my heart, which was born out of heartache when my “now” son-in-law was in harm’s way overseas for nine months.  As I sought the Lord for guidance on this ministry, He provided the means to have a successful run for many years where thousands of dollars were raised, and many Marines were reached.

Throughout my years as a Believer, the Lord has used His people, whether it be through interaction, their writing, their wisdom, or their prayers, to help guide me to walk in obedience with Him.  He has also used trials in profound ways to mold me and shape me, the loving hand of the Father refining His daughter.  And most especially, God’s Word has been my rock in my marriage, as a parent, and in ministry


Cheryl:  When did you start blogging, and what triggered God leading you to begin "Growing Together In Grace and Knowledge"?

Karen:  I began blogging the first week of January 2015.  The first week of 2015 seemed like the perfect time to start a blog for the purpose of deepening my relationship with the Lord and encouraging others; a desire the Lord laid on my heart five years ago.  You might wonder why so much time passed before I began blogging.  My Heavenly Father was preparing and refining me for such an endeavor.


In the past five years, I've endured many trials and life changes which caused a greater dependence upon the Lord.  It may not always be revealed to us this side of heaven, but the Lord, in His infinite mercy, showed me in a few very difficult circumstances that "what man meant for evil, God meant for good".  Through those trials, He sustained me and brought about amazing blessings that were above and beyond what I hoped or imagined.  In any trial or affliction, we have opportunity to bless others with the Comfort in which we were comforted. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV  Through blogging, I desire to bring those experiences and blessings, as the Lord leads.

The Lord had used those five years to prepare me, both practically and spiritually, to begin writing a blog in Janaury 2015 - in the Lord's perfect time.  After being parched for a season, I had a true thirst to drink up the Word of God and to share all that the Lord revealed to me.

Cheryl:  How has your blog enriched your life and walk with Jesus?

Karen:  Writing a blog is humbling to me.  I am not an eloquent writer, but I love to share what God is teaching me through His Word and in my life experiences.  This blog is just as much about my growth and accountability to the Word as it is about bringing gracious readers encouragement and hope.

My faith has been incredibly strengthened in writing a blog.  When I stare at the computer screen and see what I have written, I praise God for His words; because what I see typed out just doesn’t seem like something I am capable of writing.  All glory and honor go to the Lord.


Cheryl:  What would you say are your biggest blessings at this season of life?

Karen:  Ahh, I have so many blessings at this season of my life.

Most notably, having my daughter, son-in-law, and nine-month old baby granddaughter living with me and my husband.  I enjoy Gabrielle and Garrett so much! And, to have been a part of my first granddaughter’s life in such a close, intimate way - since the day she was born, being present at the birth and now living under my own roof, watching her reach her milestones, enjoying her big personality and her infectious smile, has been such an incredible blessing!

Seeing my parents who are in their late 70’s still living such vibrant, active lives, walking four miles a weekend, every weekend.

My blog and meeting so many kindred bloggers who love the Lord Jesus – Iron sharpening Iron…


Cheryl:  In many ways, we are living in very dark days. In closing, what words of encouragement would you like to share with the people of God?

Karen:  That they would “fix their eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Wonderful encouragement and advice, indeed, in these troubled times!
A big thank you to Karen, for sharing her heart and testimony with us here!
I hope you are as blessed in reading her interview, as I was in conducting it.

I do hope you will take the time to stop by Karen's blog.
I know you will be abundantly edified while reading what God has placed upon her heart.

Thank you, dear readers, for your faithfulness to visit here.
You are so appreciated and loved!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Inner Views of Tonya Shellnutt

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
Ephesians 4:1
(NIV)

Looking back in retrospect, one of the most meaningful new entrances into my life in 2015 was, undoubtedly, the dear lady I am interviewing for this portion of Inner Views.
The way we met was unusual.

Let me explain.
I have been impressed with Concerned Women for America for years,
often seeing news bits with Penny Nance speaking out against abortion and other issues
that are close to my heart.
So, one morning, early in 2015, when I got an email from CWA announcing that the state I live in was, for the first time ever, going to have a State Director for CWA, I was ecstatic.
The email explained that our new director would be a lady who 
was moving to our state from Montana, where she had served as the state director there.
There was a spot to "click" and read more about her, which I did.
There, it gave the opportunity to either email her or call her, to get acquainted.

Immediately, I felt one of those unmistakable Holy Spirit nudges to contact her.
At first, I thought I would email, because the thought of talking to her seemed intimidating to me.
But, the longer I sat at my laptop composing an email to her,
the more that still, small voice kept urging, "Why don't you call her instead?"

I finally decided to be obedient, picked up the phone, and dialed her number.
I found that my intimidation was unnecessary, as my phone call was very warmly received, 
and we were both at ease and enjoyed a sweet and encouraging conversation.
I found that her worldview was the same as mine,
and that the burdens upon my heart, were upon hers, also.

We made plans to meet after she moved to our state, and I hung up the phone inspired
and looking forward to our meeting.

Fast forward past many emails between the two of us to last September,
when my family and I attended a conference to be a part of the Concerned Women for America
prayer team.

There, the new director and I were finally able to meet face-to-face,
and we shared a wonderful time together!
We laughed, but we also cried, as she told her side of the story about that first phone call
and about some of the things she was going through the day I called her.
I had no idea.
Just another example of how God works on both ends of a situation,
and how important it is that we mind God, when we feel His Spirit nudging us to do something.
We just never know what is riding upon that nudge, and to fail to follow His lead 
could absolutely impact the life of another.

This dear lady has become very precious to my heart, and the more I get to know her and work with her, the more the Lord strengthens our bond.

She is training me to work for CWA as a Prayer Action Leader,
and I look forward to what God has in store for this venture in 2016!

I am ever so grateful to her for sharing her story/testimony with us.
I will forewarn you that you may need tissues while reading.
She has been through a lot of pain, but God has redeemed that pain,
and He has turned it into a real blessing to many, including me.

So, without further delay, I would like to introduce to you, 
SC State Director for Concerned Women for America,
Tonya Shellnutt.


The
.
of 
Tonya Shellnutt.

Cheryl:  Can you give us an introduction of who you are, a bit about your personal Christian testimony/journey, and the issues that are closest to your heart?

Tonya:  My story isn’t one that is all warm and fuzzy. I had a pretty rough upbringing despite being very loved by my mother. My birth father left when I was six months old, and my mom married a man who was in law enforcement, but who was a drunk. I was sexually assaulted when I was just five years old by a neighbor whom my parents left me alone with. Obviously, the traumatic incident left me scarred and was one that would shape my future negative behavior patterns. When I was 21 years old I met my future husband Rich, and he suggested I enter into treatment for my alcohol addiction. Really it was just a way for me to cope with the traumatic events in my life. I went through treatment and have been sober for 21 years. In 1997, I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ and have been freed from the chains of shame and guilt. My mother passed away in 1997 in a motorcycle accident. That day, I lost my mom and my dad. I do not know my birth father, and, unfortunately, my adoptive dad wants nothing to do with me. I am orphaned from the world’s standpoint, but so loved by my Heavenly Father. This is my story. This is what has shaped everything about how I live my life. I work with women in crisis situations who have been physically abused, dealing with addictions, or just needing someone to mentor them. Everyone wants to be loved and if we can help them bring Hope, then we will see real change and grace.

Cheryl:  For those who are not familiar with Concerned Women for America, will you kindly explain their history, their mission, and the seven core issues they defend?

Tonya:  Concerned Women for America is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization, with over 500,000 members across the country.

The Judeo-Christian worldview once served as the bedrock of Western Civilization. In recent times, Western Civilization has willingly chosen to exchange the faith and logic of a Biblical worldview for an irrational secularism based on an unthinking and cruel relativism. This foolish exchange is at the root of the glaring injustices of modern American public policy.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) affirms the Bible's unmistakable standard that there is right and wrong; that God is the Authority who established right and wrong by creation and by revelation in His Word, the Bible; that He has sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, to free us from our sin (wrong) by simple repentance and to enable us through the Holy Spirit to do what is right.

Thus, through its Board of Trustees, CWA has established seven core issues on which we focus our efforts. Because the culture war that has engulfed our society makes claims on every area of life, we must set priorities thoughtfully to determine how best to fulfill our calling.

Provided below are very basic descriptions of our core issues.

Sanctity of Life:
CWA supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death. We also support alternatives to abortion and healing for mothers suffering from the results of abortion.

Defense of Family:
CWA believes that marriage consists of one man and one woman. We seek to protect and support the Biblical design of marriage and the gift of children.

Education:
CWA supports reform of public education by returning authority to parents and also accessibility to alternate forms of education.

Religious Liberty:

CWA supports the God-given rights of individuals in the United States and other nations to pray, worship, and express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or persecution.

National Sovereignty:
CWA believes that neither the United Nations nor any other international organization should have authority over the United States in any area. We also believe the United States has the right and duty to protect and secure our national borders. We believe in budget restraint which embodies responsible spending, small government, and a budget in which the U.S. government spends within its means and ceases to steal from future generations.

Sexual Exploitation:
CWA endeavors to fight all pornography, obscenity, prostitution, and sex slavery.

Support for Israel:
CWA believes that the people and nations who stand with Israel and the Jewish people will be blessed by God. We believe that any foreign policy effort to withdraw U.S. support for Israel is in direct contradiction to America’s national interests.


Cheryl:  Of all of the committees, causes, and ministries available, what drew you to this particular coalition, and how did you personally become involved with CWA?

Tonya:  I believe that the prayers of my Great-Grandmother were the blessing of my salvation. She prayed for me and told me stories about the Great Depression. All she wanted for her birthday one year was butter. Butter, nothing else. I couldn’t even imagine, and it inspires me to protect the freedoms that she endured for me. My grandfather was in WWII. The military is VERY important to me. They know what sacrifice is, and there is nothing more inspirational than one laying down their life for another, just as Christ did for us. We are called to reflect that same sacrifice. Why wouldn’t we be involved in causes that inspire others to do the same and reflect biblical values?

Cheryl:  We are in the midst of a spiritual downward spiral in America, yet I am encouraged to believe that God is raising up a generation with a renewed passion for righteousness. On a personal level, as a mother with children still living at home, what do you feel is the single-most important thing, habit, or trait we should focus on instilling and fostering in the hearts of our children to give them the strong foundation they will need in the future?

Tonya:  One of the most important things we must do for our children is to prepare them for the real world. Yes, it is important to shield them from age-appropriate content, but look for every opportunity to be a teachable moment. A lot of the women I mentor have very little coping skills. It isn’t because they were brought up in terrible homes, rather they were not given coping skills to deal with adversity. Kids need to see adversity and how you handle it. They need to see Jesus in us and how we cling to His word and promises and how they help us get through life. More often than not, kids learn by example, not the words we say. Therefore, if we teach our children to love Jesus, life skills, and empower them to greatness, we will see a generation rise up and protect our faith and freedom.

Cheryl:  I absolutely believe the quote that says, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." As Christian women, wives, and mothers, how can we most effectively wield and utilize the power of our influence to promote the cause of Jesus Christ?

Tonya:  Women hold a tremendous amount of influence. God ALWAYS intended it for us to use for good. We have a society today where women misuse their God-given power. I wrote a book about this. It is called Woman Power Revolution. The book isn’t about women gaining power, rather about how our wounds can define how we treat men. If we don’t let God heal our wounds and treat our husbands and children as the Lord would see fit, we can use our power and influence in destructive ways. We were meant to empower others to greatness. God gave us this gift. If we live our lives for selfish gain, rather than seeking how to leave behind a meaningful legacy of courage and intentionality, we fail to utilize our God-given potential. Everyone needs a cheerleader, so encouraging those around us can make a life lasting impact. I like to refer to God’s desire for us to be sparklers for Christ. Light up a room when you walk in!

Cheryl:  Through your involvement with CWA, you are on the front lines of a cultural battleground, fighting a war that must seem insurmountable and impossible to win. On a personal level, how do you stay encouraged to press on and continue the fight?

Tonya:  My story is one that God has allowed perseverance and endurance to be developed into my being. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit NOT of fear but of power and love and self-control.” When we trust the Lord to walk us through the valleys and we believe He is Sovereign, life is totally doable and we endure for the sake of our legacy which is ultimately God’s story of our lives. Don’t give up before the miracle happens.

Cheryl:  The role of Christian wife and mother is truly one of great demands and responsibility. Adding the obligations of ministry and/or advocacy to that already-overflowing-plate can be overwhelming. How do you find balance?  What advice would you give the woman who is reading this and feeling called to become more involved with CWA, but feels intimidated?

Tonya:  Our first and most important ministry we can ever have is our family. If we neglect our family, we have strayed from the will of God. However, one of the greatest tragedies, in my opinion, is not doing something because of fear. If God has put a desire in your heart, don’t be afraid, and minimize every reason why you can’t. Our families can be inspired by our courage and boldness. I would never counsel a woman to walk with such caution in life that she lives her life paralyzed. There is little freedom in that. God tells us over and over in scripture, DO NOT BE AFRAID. This isn’t a suggestion.

What an amazing and powerful testimony of the redemption plan Jesus put in place as He hung on an old, rugged cross for each one of us!

Tonya is living proof that, through His grace, we can rise triumphant over our past,
regardless how difficulty-ridden it happens to be,
and we can emerge victorious over every obstacle satan has managed to insert into our lives.

Dear friends, my prayer is that you will find hope in Tonya's story.
That you will come to the full realization that Jesus loves you,
and He wants to give you a new start, free from guilt and despair.

We are here to pray for you.
If you would like to share specific prayer needs with us,
please contact me via email, and, if you would like me to, 
I will happily share your requests with Tonya, also, so she can pray for you, too.

Please keep Tonya and her family in your prayers,
as they continue to courageously fight on the front lines of the intense cultural battlefields of our day.
Surely God is using them to portray what it means to stand for His truth.

Thank you for reading, and thank you, dear Tonya,
for opening your heart to us here.
Transparency takes a great amount of courage, and we so appreciate you being willing 
to share your redemption story with us.
I know your testimony will bless and inspire many!