Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year End Recollections...and More FREE Stuff!!

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

I don't know about you, but I cannot comprehend that today is the last day of 2015!
Honestly, I don't know where it went.
Each day sort of seems like a big blur to me now.

It was a hard year for us.
I've mentioned that more than once here,
and you may be a bit weary of hearing it.

There are parts I'd rather not disclose,
and, for months, I have hesitated to talk about the part I am getting ready to share.
Through my hesitation, God has nudged me from time to time, 
that this part is something that needs to be said,
because, perhaps it can bless someone else and give them hope to see how He has tunneled a path through our circumstances.

So, here it is....
Our Identity Crisis

I sat in our back room with Kevin, as he worked one night,
laptop on lap, and I began to file our taxes online.
We have done it this way for years, and we have never experienced any issues,
so I assumed that this year would be no different.

I worked through the amazingly easy process of online tax preparation, and I hit send, like always.

Soon, I heard the little beep alerting me that an email had come through.

And, there it was.
Those dreaded words.
I don't remember the exact wording, but, in a nutshell, this is the gist of what I read,
"The Internal Revenue Service has rejected your tax return.
The reason is that taxes have already been filed in your name and social security number..."
Blah, blah, blah, after that....I didn't care to read the rest.

I felt sick.
My head reeled.
It felt like my blood pressure spiked.



Aren't we always very careful?
So mindful of our privacy.
Never taking risks.
Putting safe security measures in place.

My "what?" and "how?" questions quickly changed to "WHO????"

Who would do this to us?

I felt so violated.
Our carefully-shielded privacy felt so invaded upon.
My stomach was in knots.

I picked up the phone.

And this small act, my dear friends, was the beginning of one of the most frustrating, aggravating ordeals I can describe to you.

To spare the mundane details, I found it near-impossible to speak with an actual human being.
I so wanted an answer!
That night.
Right there.
The suspense was near-unbearable.
I didn't want to have to wait until morning to hear an explanation of what had truly happened.
Finally, I reached a human voice, who informed me that, based upon the wording of our email from the IRS, our identity had possibly been stolen, but, he couldn't tell me anything for certain.
After realizing I was pretty much wasting my time by trying to get a definite answer, I politely said thank you, good-bye, and hung up.

Early the next morning, I quietly slipped out of our house, without waking my dear husband who had worked all night or Zach, who was still sleeping, and I drove over 60 miles to the closest office of the Internal Revenue Service.
I got my little number, and I sat and waited for a very long time to see a representative.
All the while I waited, I convinced myself that there had been a mistake.
That the rep would tell me this was all a fluke,
that everything was fine,
and our personal identity was safe.

After a few hours, I finally saw my number pop up on the flashing sign,
and I found that I was being called to Cubicle Three, where I was met by a very kind,
quiet sort of guy, who, though he was kind, was very non-committal and professional, to a fault.

I explained my plight, and I waited for him to tell me everything was going to be okay,
that nothing was amiss,
that this was all a bad dream,
and I could wake up to "normal life" now.

This was not the case.
He looked at everything I had brought with me,
listened to my sad tale,
pulled up several things on his computer,
and commenced to tell me that it looked like our taxes had already been filed on January 29th,
six days before I tried to file them on February 4th!

But, how, I asked him?
And, by whom?

I don't know if you have ever had dealings with an IRS worker, 
but trying to wrench information out of them is like trying to pull an eye tooth right out of their strictly-business head!
This man, however pleasant he might have been, was NOT budging.
He was not telling me anything.
I pushed the envelope just as far as I dared,
and then I surrendered.
He wasn't telling, so I may as well stop wasting my breath.

All he would truly reveal is that someone had indeed, beat us to the punch, and already filed OUR taxes before we could file them, in hopes that they would get our refund!

He told me to go home, make some very specific phone calls, 
including a call to our local law enforcement to report this crime,
and to bring Kevin back with me as soon as possible.

This journey began our quest to prove that we are who we really are.
Oh, my word!
I find that in "my words" I have no describe the level of despair one can reach while trying to prove that they are who they really are.

For sake of time and length, I will leave out the gory details,
and I will focus on what this whole ordeal has taught me.

I am Cheryl Smith.
But, Cheryl Smith is not who I really am.
My social security number is what it is.
But, my social security number is a mere series of nine numbers,
doled out to me by the United States of America government when I was a little girl,
and those nine numbers do NOT define me.
The name my parents gave me, at birth,
and the last name I was given the day I stood at the altar in front of a preacher when I gave up my maiden name and took on Kevin's last name, is only a means of "identifying" me, in this life.

If I were to enter some government protection program, or for some other reason I took upon a whole new name, it would have no bearing upon who I really am.

Because who I really am...that person inside of me....that soul that God placed there - the part of me that will return to Him when I die, has nothing whatsoever to do with the first name, Cheryl, or the last name, Smith.

Trying to prove that I am Cheryl Smith was one of the worst nightmares I have walked through.
The grief of being denied the hard-earned tax refund that Kevin labored so hard all year to receive
was beyond telling.
Feeling like we had been violated and that someone else was going to get what was rightfully ours was extremely hard to endure.

But, through it all, God showed me that I am who I am, no matter what.
That He doesn't identify me as Cheryl Smith.
That Cheryl is just a name to identify who I am, in this life.
That this life isn't the life that really matters.
That one day, He will give me a new name in Heaven,
and that is the name that counts.

"Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.
I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it."
Revelation 2:17

I, at times, have fought a lot of ill feelings towards whomever it was that inflicted these burdens upon us.
They will more than likely never know how much anguish they have caused.
I won't bore you with the ordeals we have endured trying to remove weird things from our credit report and trying to fix the mess they have created.

God showed me, at some point, I can't even remember when,
that I must forgive.
That I must pray for the perpetrator(s), and realize that because of what they did,
my family and I have learned some of the most valuable lessons of our lives.
There was a moment in time, when victory came, my anger subsided, and then turned to gratitude.
To God be the glory.

During the pounding of the storm, and even in the aftermath,
we have learned to lean hard upon God.
To dig deep for who we are....not as defined by this life,
but who we are IN HIM....
who He created us to be.

I want to share some of the highlights of our lessons with you,
in hopes that these facts will comfort you in your own struggles and whatever you may be facing.

Lesson #1:
We will always be who we are in Christ,
regardless of what happens to our "identifying factors" in this life.
No one can steal that, take it away from us, or assume it as their own.
It is ours...our own...our individual inheritance that cannot be touched or destroyed by anything or anyone in this life.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
I Peter 1:3-5
Praise God!
I don't know about you, but that part about "an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you" just thrills my inmost soul!
Our true identity...that person we really "kept by the power of God", 
and bless His holy name, even satan himself cannot pluck us out of His hand!
Jesus said, 
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, 
neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
John 10:28

Lesson #2:
There is not much we can count on in this life as being a sure thing,
not even a tax refund that has been duly-earned, fair and square,
but God, Himself, is going to take care of us, no matter what.
God doesn't need.
He doesn't require the government or the most "sure thing" in this life
to fulfill His purpose and to supply our needs.

Lesson #3:
God's friendship is one that is deeper than all others.
He sticks closer to us than even a brother, and the precious Holy Spirit is a Comforter that never fails.

Lesson #4:
God is a jealous God.
"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God..."
Exodus 34:14
He wants to be our "all in all".
He doesn't want us to depend upon our own safety nets,
whether they be financial, physical, or spiritual.
When we do this, we are leaning to our own understanding,
and we are putting our trust in our own devices,
making them our "gods" and sources of deliverance and sustenance.
The strongest, most dependable of human safety nets and back-up plans can fail.
When we reach the end of our own resources, He hasn't yet begun to unveil His.

Lesson #5:
There are certain situations in this life that are completely beyond human help.
There are circumstances that require a genuine miracle to change,
and nothing short of Divine intervention will do.

There came a day when all was cleared, the government finally believed that we are who we are,
and the monies owed to us were released.
They even paid us a little interest!
Oh, how we rejoiced when the storm was over!
There were a lot of tears and there was a lot of praising going on in our house that day,
I can assure you!  

2015 has been mostly uphill, but mingled in the physical ailments,
the identity crisis, the spiritual battles, and other fiery trials, with the accompanying fears and tears,
God has blessed us again and again.
And He has proven Himself faithful to us.
He has absolutely convinced us that He is our all in all.
That if we have Him, we truly have all we need.
That He keeps His promises, and we should keep ours to Him.
Truly, on this last evening of the year, I have never known Him better or loved Him more.

He is...
My Strong Tower.
"For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy."
Psalm 61:3
My Defender.
"Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless...
for their Defender is strong; He will take up their case against you."
Proverbs 23:11
My Rock.
"Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock."
Isaiah 26:4
My Healer.
"I am the LORD that healeth thee."
Exodus 15:26
My Redeemer.
"This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go."
Isaiah 48:17
My Savior.
" spirit rejoices in God my Savior..."
Luke 1:47
My Provider.
"And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh. 
As it is said to this day, In the mount of Jehovah it shall be provided."
Genesis 22:14
My All in All.
"And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all."
I Corinthians 15:28
(Emphasis added.)

I close out this year and look forward to the new one ahead with the assurance that God is enough.
He is sufficient.
When all else fails, and when hope is gone, He remains.
He is sovereign.
He is God.
He is Lord of all.
He means everything to me.
Praise His name forevermore.

Now, for the fun stuff....
we came across several more little items to give away!
There are lots more, too....
but, I had better put them on in batches, so I don't overwhelm anyone.:~)
I know you're tired from all of the Christmas shopping, 
but this shopping trip will not weary you, I promise!
No tired feet.
No long lines.
No cranky customers.
No money required!
All you have to do is click your mouse here to be redirected to our 
Here's a quick preview of what you will find available tonight!

Just click on over, pick out some stuff you want,
email and let us know, and Lord willing, it will soon be on its way to your mailbox!!!
What could be easier?
I hope to see you there, and I can't wait to share!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

3rd Update on Brody

"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."
I Corinthians 1:3-4

I wish I had better news to report on little 4 month old Brody.
I was so sad to get these two updates today.

Update #1:
"Brody is having a tough time, and he is still on a ventilator for breathing support and is still in ICU. The doctors want to move him to bipap support, but he has a virus and pneumonia, so they can't take him off the ventilator until what they call "that window" opens up. They are again hoping for later today or Tuesday for that to happen, but we have been told that for a few days now. It's a huge deal, and they do not want him to breathe air, just move from one machine to another. They do not want him to be removed from the ventilator then possibly have to be put back on it because it can cause all kinds of serious complications."

Update #2 later in day:
"Brody's group of doctors have decided to keep him on the ventilator for another day. 
Another 24 hours before we will know if they can expedite him. 
He is suffering so much with this tube down his throat. 
The virus he has, parainfluenza, is known to cause atelectasis,
 and it is just moving around from side to side. 
One day it's clear on the right and the next day it's full of mucus, etc etc. 
 We just want him off this ventilator, but they can't rush it and chance him not being able to stay off it."

OH, his dear, little face!
The picture above made me cry.
His little eyes just look like they are pleading for help!

I remember when Dad had to be put on the ventilator and how awful it was for him.
He told us he never wanted to be put back on it, and then, in later years,
it was necessary for him to have to go through that horrible ordeal again.
My dear mother had to endure the same.
If it is that horrible for an adult, can you even imagine how awful it is must be for this 4 month old baby?

He is so beautiful and precious!

Oh, dear Lord, please have special mercy and compassion upon this dear child!
Please relieve his suffering and allow him to breathe on his own.
Praise Jesus for nurses...those wonderful, precious souls who selflessly give of themselves 
and tirelessly pour into the lives of others.
This is one of Brody's nurses.

God bless her!
It looks like she got him to smile.
Bless his little heart!
It is just heart-wrenching to think that in spite of his plight,
the little fellow can muster a smile.

What an inspiration Brody is to us all!

Sometimes, our problems seem so huge to us, and we falter beneath our load.
Smiles are hard to produce when our hearts are broken.
Brody's tiny grin just warms my heart and presents a challenge to us all!
If he can smile, can't we?

As you pray hard for Brody while reading this, I ask you to please add Brody's grandmother, Debbie, to your prayers, also.
Her load is very heavy.
How I wish it were humanly possible to alleviate her pain!
But, praise God, even though none of us can adequately do that for her,
we know Who can!

I love the precious verses at the beginning of this post.
The God of all comfort!
Aren't you glad it says "all" comfort?
The God Who can comfort us in "all" circumstances?
Regardless what we are facing today, He is sufficient.
He is enough.
He can cover it all.

Jesus suffered more than any of us will ever comprehend,
and because of those anguished, agonizing experiences, 
He is able to empathize with us in ways and more fully than anyone else will ever be able to.
I can't imagine how His great, loving heart is breaking for this baby!

Please keep praying.

Your faithfulness is so appreciated!
God bless each one of you abundantly.

To read previous posts on Brody, click the following links:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2nd UPDATE on Brody, & A Brand-New Prayer Request

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

God is.

What would we do without His presence in our lives?
How do those who are unbelievers find hope?
To whom do they turn in times of grief, despair, and trouble?

So often, I think of theses words spoken by Abraham Lincoln,
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

There are just times, in this life, that we come to the utter end of our own resources.
We reach the exhaustion of our own remedies.
There are times that the situation in front of us demands a power much higher than our own.

How blessed we are, that in times like these, we have a Savior!
A Redeemer...One Who walked this path before us,
and Who "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."  Hebrews 4:15

I come to you tonight with another update and call for prayer for little Brody,
and also a new prayer request for the father of a dear, fellow-Christian blogger...
one whom you may already know and love.

First of all, I just got an email update from Brody's grandmother,
and this is what she said.
"Brody had a rough day, probably due from surgery, and the ventilator seems to be bothering him. The doctors are hopeful that they can take him off the ventilator tomorrow morning,
 if his chest X-ray shows more improvement. 
That would be a blessing, and that is what we need prayers for."

Please continue to pray, dear friends!
Pray for good X-ray results.
Pray for peace for his dear family and his grandmother, Debbie.
And pray for the MIRACLE that Brody needs to live a long life 
and to proclaim what God has done for him.

Let's keep lifting this dear baby and his family to our Father often in prayer.
I have no doubt that He is able to do this, to confound medical science, and to astonish us all!

 To read previous posts on Brody, click the following links:

And, now I ask you to add another name to your fervent, effectual prayers.
Glenn Stevens, Sr., the father of Chris Thompson, the writer of "So Much At Home",
is in very serious need of prayer.

I will let Chris describe her father's condition, in her own words.

"A couple of years ago, he needed bypass surgery, but was not physically able to have it.  
Instead, a brilliant doctor from Emory did high-risk stenting.  
For a few years now, he has had only 30% kidney function from one working kidney.  
He has neuropathy and several other illnesses.   
He had tests done a week ago to check the condition of his kidneys and an Aortic Aneurysm.
  At our Christmas Eve party tonight, I found out that one of his kidneys is calcified and the other has several cysts, so his kidney function is getting worse.  
Our main concern is the Aortic Aneurysm. 
The results are a little confusing, but hopefully Monday morning we will know more.  
It seems that his aneurysm has gotten larger and has a rip in it.  
Of course, the rip isn't complete or else he would not still be here."

My heart goes out to Chris so much during this time, because I have already walked a similar path.
I know how it feels to tread through the many and varied serious health issues of both of my own dear parents, and I know how overwhelming, terrifying, and difficult it all can be.
I'm sure many of you do, too.

Will you please lift dear Chris and her father, Glenn, to our dear Lord in prayer?
She is responsible for taking him to and from his appointment on Monday,
so I ask that you also pray for peace and traveling mercies and strength for Chris,
and also for her mother, who has health issues of her own.

It has been completely amazing to watch how this blogging community comes together
when there is a need.
You all are some of the kindest, most full-of-compassion, caring, and unselfish people I know.
Someday, I would love to try to write a whole post just endeavoring to find the words to tell you how much each one of you have come to mean to me.
Although, I don't know if such words exist.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for helping to carry the burdens of others.
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2

One more thing, in closing...
make sure you stop by our new "free thrift store"!
Several items have already found new homes, but there are several still up for grabs.
Lord willing, we will be adding more items one day next week, if not before!
So, check back often!
We would love to bless you!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS, and A Special Grand Opening!!!!

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. 
For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
James 4:14

 A vapor.
So uncertain.
So fleeting.
This life of ours.

Am I the only person who feels like this has been the fastest moving year of all time?
Honestly, I feel like we just started 2015!
And, now, here we stand...closely approaching year's end,
and Christmas is coming in only one more day!!!

Oh, how I love this time of year!
I know I say that a lot...but I just can't keep it in!

Everything about Christmas warms my heart.
There is a certain feeling in the air that is like no other.
Don't you just wish you could capture that special feeling,
put it in a bottle, and dispense a little bit of it every day of the year?
Don't you wish you could make it all last?

To me, the sweetest part of Christmas is the giving...
God giving His most precious gift...His dear Son, us,
and then us, giving loving gifts to one another.

The gifts we exchange do not have to be elaborate...or costly...or huge.
Sometimes, the tiniest gifts are the most precious of all.
After all, the most important Gift this world has ever received
came to us in the form of a tiny, newborn infant
on that first Christmas night.

As I contemplated the idea of keeping the spirit of Christmas going all year long,
I got to thinking about how much I enjoyed that book giveaway.

Oh, I was blessed!

"...remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 
'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Acts 20:35

Can I just tell you how true this is?
You probably already know that, but I just can't say it enough.

I not only had a wonderful time giving away the books,
but an added bonus to that joy was the wonderful email correspondence that ensued
with you, dear readers!

I met some new friends, and you won't believe what else happened!
One of the recipients of a book ended up being the daughter of a precious co-worker 
of Kevin's and mine from years and years ago!!

Can you imagine?
It truly IS a small world.
So, now, sweet Cindy and I have been able to reconnect and correspond,
and, oh, it has been just wonderful to rekindle this old friendship!
I got the sweetest letter in the mail from her the other day,
along with a picture of her and her beautiful family.
I am so looking forward to keeping in touch with her!

All glory to God!
It pays to mind Him.
He never lays something upon a heart without a Divine purpose for good.

So, since this book giveaway was SO much fun,
it got me to thinking.

As we continue to downsize, de-clutter, simplify, and minimize,
there are many things we are coming across that we just really don't need anymore.

So, why not keep the Christmas giving going right on
and passing things along here to you throughout the year?

So today, Homespun Devotions celebrates the grand opening of a new "store"!
But, this isn't just any kind of store, trust me.
Because anything you decide you would like from this store
will be yours for the asking!
No money required.
Not even postage!
We just want to give...that's all.

This will work just like the book giveaway.

Remember the Scripture I shared with you in that post?
" have not, because you ask not."  James 4:2
The only thing you will need to do if you want something in the store
will be to contact us and ask for it...first, before anyone else.
You can email us privately for the item, or you can leave a comment.
Provide your mailing address to us, (privately, of course), and it will be yours.
We will NEVER share your address or personal details with anyone.
Never fear.

Now, due to shipping costs, we will have to keep the items small, obviously.
So, there won't be any big things, but as we come across things we think our readers
may be interested in, we will post a picture to the "FREE Stuff" page.
You can come by as often as you want and window shop.
If something catches your eye, just ask for it, and you will be blessed!
But, I insist that we are the ones who will be most abundantly blessed,
because if just feels so wonderful to give!

Money never has meant a whole lot to me.
I know...I'm weird.
But, it just doesn't.
After our needs are supplied and our bills are paid,
I would just as soon give most of the rest away.
Great happiness comes from giving.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Of the 13 original books up for grabs, there is only one left!
We would love to get it out in the mail to someone who could use it.
Could that someone be you????

Here it is:

An anonymous commenter did ask for this book,
and I have left a couple of replies to let her know that I need her contact information
in order to send her the book, but, so far, I haven't heard back.
Su Ann, if you are reading this, please contact me, if you are still interested.  :~)

Dear readers, please understand that if you remain anonymous,
no matter how hard I try, I have no possible way of connecting with you.
So, I ask of you, please comment by using your name
and leave some way for me to get back in touch with you!
We really want to bless you, and anonymous commenters leave us no way of doing that!

Today, during our "Grand Opening", we added several more items!
You can view them by clicking here,
you can access the "store" anytime by going to our home page
and clicking on the tab that says, "FREE Stuff"!

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
He is so good to us.
As the year winds down, I have been doing a lot of thinking and evaluating.
This year has been really, really tough for my family and me.
Honestly, dear Zach told me last night that this has been one of the hardest years of his life.
Bless his was hard on this mama's heart to hear that.
Especially, in light of the past difficult years and things he has endured.

But, through it all, as I look back over the events and the days that were so hard to plow through,
I see the hand of our Redeemer.
Oh, I do love Him, dear friends!
Now more than ever!
He has proven over and over again that He is a faithful Lord Who absolutely walks through the fire
with His trusting children.
He allows the hard places, but He walks the rocky path right alongside us.
Bless His holy name forever and ever!

As this year comes to a close and we look forward to a brand new one unfolding,
perhaps He will lead me to share at least part of the trials of 2015.
I continually seek His face for direction.
This is His blog.
His platform.
And, I am His...yielded, surrendered, and willing to follow His lead.

For now, let's continue to enjoy the wonders of this blessed season by adding yet a couple more Christmas music videos!
I never tire of hearing these dear, old carols.
Do you?  :~)

These are so inspiring and are beautifully performed by two BYU a cappella groups.
I hope you can find the time to watch!

If video doesn't load, click here.

The words to this next one are just glorious and brought tears to my eyes
and a sense of worship to my soul!

If video doesn't load, click here.

Now, in the spirit of Christmas, and even more importantly,
in the spirit of following the example of our dear, endlessly-giving Lord, 
why don't you go give something away?

Think about it.
How much stuff do you have just lying around, collecting dust,
that is still in good shape, but you really don't need anymore?

Why not pass it along and make someone else's day?

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

I send my love to every one of you faithful readers.
Each one of you are dear to my heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

UPDATE on Baby Brody

"For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers..."
1 Peter 3:12

Aren't you glad we serve a living God?
One Who is always awake and Who is ever mindful of our problems?

"Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."
Psalm 121:4

Praise our wonderful Lord for a Savior like ours!

Your prayers reached Heaven, dear friends...
all the way to the ears of Almighty God.

I just got an email from little Brody's grandmother,
and she said the surgeon just came in and said that his surgery could not have gone any better!!!

Will you please take a moment to stop and thank the Lord with me?

Here is a picture of this sweet boy right after surgery.

Dear friends, please keep praying!
The concern now is that he can come off the ventilator and be able to start breathing again on his own, without assistance.

To God be the glory for bringing him this far and for all He will continue to do for Brody!
Regardless of medical prognoses, prayer changes things, and God is not limited.
How wonderful it would be if His great heart were to be moved with compassion 
to the point of healing this dear child completely and allowing him to live to a ripe, old age,
in spite of what the family has been told!

"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

God wants us to ask Him for the things we desire.

"..ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."
John 16:24

"And Jesus looking upon them saith, 
With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
Mark 10:27

"As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, 
Be not afraid, only believe."
Mark 5:36

Did you notice the color of those words?
Jesus Christ Himself said them to His disciples,
and He repeats them now to you...and to me, dear friend.

Let us keep the faith, and keep interceding on behalf of little Brody.
Lord willing, I will continue to post updates as they are made available to me.

Also, if God wills, I will be making a special announcement tomorrow concerning
something new that is coming to Homespun Devotions!
So, be sure and drop by to find out what it is.  :~)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

URGENT Prayers Needed for 4 Month Old, Brody!!!

"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.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:15,16
(KJV, emphasis added)

Jesus knows and understands every, single emotion we will ever face in this life.
His dear heart overflows with compassion, as He ever remembers how it feels to walk this earth
as a human, with its many heartaches, toils, and cares.

He empathizes with us more than anyone else ever will,
for He suffered more human anguish and brokenness than any of us can even imagine.

He is our High Priest, now seated beside the throne of His Father in Heaven,
and His great, compassionate heart is deeply moved and touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
He watches from on high, and He sees every tear that falls.
He hurts each time we are wounded.
And He intercedes to His/our Father, continually on our behalf.

"It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, 
Who also maketh intercession for us."
Romans 8:34

He, Himself intercedes, and He invites us to come to Him...
not sheepishly or fearfully, but boldly
in full assurance that He is listening to our prayers, and He cares more than we will ever comprehend.

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: 
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Dear, praying friends,
I come before you today with an urgent prayer request for a precious four month old
baby boy, named Brody.

What a little dollbaby!

This precious little boy has been diagnosed with
SMA Type 1, spinal muscular atrophy, and is not expected to live past 15 months or so.
Brody is having a very serious operation tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, 12/23,
so the family would truly appreciate your prayers during this time.
The hospital is reserving a room in ICU, just in case there are complications.

I am typing this through flowing tears, just thinking about this sweet, innocent baby,
and the awful fear that must be overwhelming the hearts of his parents, grand-parents,
and loved ones.

All of us have seen what God can and will do when we come together, as the unified Body of Christ,
bombarding Heaven with intercessory prayer.
Jesus prayed that we all might be one, and when we pray in one accord,
miracles take place.

This sweet baby needs a miracle, and he needs prayer warriors to pray him through.

As I type this, dear Zach came in to the room to pick up his prayer list book, 
so he could go have his time with the Lord and pray.
I told him I had another name to add to his list, and as he picked up a pen to add little Brody's name,
he said, "Mama, that baby is going to live!"

This boy's faith is such an inspiration to me, 
as I often think of the amazing miracle God performed to send him to us, 
and how He opened my barren womb for one moment in time to allow him to be conceived.
A God Who can do that, after my diagnosis and 12 1/2 years of marriage and many years of infertility struggles, can do anything, my friends!
Zach is a miracle in every sense of the word.
His own miracle story has given him a foundation of faith that challenges me every, single day,
and now that same faith inspires him to pray for others who also need miracles.

As he prays, and we pray, will you please join our prayers?
Please pray for Brody's healing and for peace for his family during this trying time.
In spite of medical diagnoses, God still reigns.
He is still sovereign.
He is still in control.
Jesus Christ still heals.

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
Hebrews 13:8

In closing, I would like to repeat a testimony I have shared here before involving my dear mother.

When Mom was nine years old, she was stricken with polio and rheumatic fever, simultaneously.
Her situation looked very grim, and my Papaw, who was an old-time minister of the Gospel and one of the most faithful, Godly men I have ever known,
was, understandably, very alarmed and concerned.

Papaw believed in Divine healing, and his faith was nothing short of amazing.
He called for two other old-time ministers to come and anoint Mom with oil
and lay hands on her and pray, as instructed in James 5:14,15.

Right before the two ministers began praying, they said to Papaw, 
"Bro. McCoy, don't look at the affliction.
Look to the power of God!"

They prayed, and God answered.
The very next morning, Papaw awoke to the sounds of my nine year old mother,
out of bed, sitting in a rocking chair downstairs, singing!
He said it was the sweetest music he had ever heard.

That was many years ago, and Mom lived to the ripe, old age of 84.
Both Papaw and Mom now wait for me in Glory.
Their race is run, their crown is won.
But, the faith they instilled and poured into me all those years still remains,
and God is still God!

I have seen what He can do....first hand, many times over.
And I believe with all my heart, He is able to heal Brody
and to present him a living, breathing testimony of His power.

Let us pray and believe together for the Christmas miracle this dear baby needs.
Please share this prayer request tonight and tomorrow with every prayer warrior you know!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your faithfulness to pray.
Each one of you are so precious and dear to my heart!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Inner Views of Jen Avellaneda

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

One day, last summer, I was in the midst of a quandary,
as I was seeking God's will about something that concerns my family and me.
I had earnestly prayed and asked God for direction,
and in that prayer, I asked Him to give me a certain "sign" to confirm what I felt He was already showing me.
Later that evening, I came in to check email, and there it was...
on my computer screen...
contained in the last part of an email from a blogger I had been following
and linking up with for quite a while.
Of course, she had no idea what I was privately praying about.
Only God knew.
But, He worked through her...and He spoke straight to my heart through her words.

I couldn't believe my eyes, so I emailed her and told her about what had happened.
She wrote me back right away and told me that she didn't usually have the house to herself,
but, for some reason, that day her whole family was gone at the same time,
and God had prompted her to go outside on her porch and compose that email to her blog followers.
It wasn't even her normal time to send out that email!!!

It turned out that she was writing that email around the same, exact time that I was praying that prayer...
from almost 3,000 miles away!!!

God was answering my prayer by putting a message upon the heart of a dear sister in Christ
all the way across the country from me!
And she was faithful!
She minded God, and in that obedience, she helped God answer my prayer!

Both of us were astonished.
It reminded me of Peter and Cornelius (read Acts chapter 10)
and how God always works on both ends of a problem and/or situation.
If only we are faithful to Him, we never know how He might use us
or what wonderful door we may open for Him to work through!

Since that email correspondence, a beautiful, precious friendship has ensued,
and this dear lady has blessed me more times than I can even express.
Her love for Jesus is evident in every, single post she writes.
Her heart for children deeply challenges me and is an amazing thing to witness.
God is using her to change the little life at a time.

Some of you already enjoy her blog and her weekly link-up,
so you already know how special she is!
For those of you who don't, allow me to introduce to you,
Adoption, Foster Care, and Orphan Advocate, 
Christian Blogger, and Inspirational Speaker,
Jen Avellaneda.

Jen and her adopted daughter, Nicole
(See video of Nicole's adoption story later in this post.)

Jen Avellaneda.

Cheryl:  Could you please give us an introduction as to who you are?

Jen:  I'm Jen Avellaneda, a Northwest native who blogs at Rich Faith Rising and is a contributing author at Missional Women.  I've been married for twenty-three years.  My husband and I have been foster parents for the past decade.  We are also adoptive parents.  We are parents to four children; two biological kids, a nine-year-old adopted daughter, and an almost three-year-old we have as a foster daughter and hope to adopt.  I also speak, occasionally, and will be in Denver this April to speak at the Missional Women Conference.

Cheryl:  What are your passions and the causes closest to your heart?

Jen:  My heart beats for family and also for adoption.  Coincidentally just before this, I was doing a personal study on the word “blessing”, and I was astonished to discover that the very first mention of “blessing” is in correlation with “being fruitful” and “multiplying” (Gen 1:22 & 28).  I love God's model of family, and I love the beauty found in His picture of adoption.  In my experience, adoption is not something to bow our heads low about or be ashamed of...but something we can raise and open our hands to, rejoice over, and celebrate.  I am not sure what I would have done if He hadn't taken me in...broken, neglected, abandoned, and disconnected...and called me into His family.  It excites me that God is no respecters of persons. His club is not exclusive.  Biblical unity is also something that stirs in me deeply.  With so much division in our nation lately, I find it comforting that one thing God's Spirit does for us (if we let Him) is unites us together.  Our family, (I wish you could meet them in person), just so happens to be this beautiful palette of Latin, Caucasian, Bi-racial, African-American, and Samoan.  It's so much fun to get to represent our multi-faceted, people-loving, good, and unifying God every time we simply walk into a store together, and I very openly and voluntarily love discussing adoption and foster care, every, single chance I get.  I love how, although it's easy to try and make a mold for God, He won't fit into some box.  Lastly, I am passionate about missions and discipleship.  Often, it's easier to convert someone, than to choose to walk in the trenches with other people.  Still, I love how God says He walks with us through the valley.  Oh how thankful I am that He does that!

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about your foster-parenting journey? How many children have you fostered? What has been the most difficult part? What about it has fulfilled you the most?

Jen:  Thanks for asking about fostering, Cheryl.  Like I mentioned, our family has been fostering for ten years.  It is something that has been on my heart since I was a little girl.  As a child, I grew up in a big house with just one sibling.  I remember begging my mom, "It's just not fair, there are so many kids out there who need families, and we have this big house. We HAVE to do something."  As a little girl I used to line up my dolls in cribs all around my room and pretend that I had an orphanage.  All I can say is, I think fostering is something God deposited in me, even before I was born.  In the past decade we have fostered over a dozen kids. We usually only take one child at a time because in raising our older two, our goal was to really keep balance between family and our calling to foster.  The most difficult part?  Well, you could probably guess...saying "goodbye".  (I only wish I was made of steel!)  The truth is, often it takes less than five minutes for me to fall in love with these children.  But we realize, it's ultimately His multiplying love that transforms when we love big, getting hurt can, sadly, just be part of the journey.  God also often gives me a much-needed reminder that this calling is about serving Him, dispersing His heart, and living for His will.  It's not about our feelings.  What has fulfilled me the most?  Seeing the transforming power of His love in the lives of these children.  Love is always worth the risk.  And honestly, I couldn't imagine more fulfilling work!  There is nothing like seeing a child who reportedly hits, bites, and throws things, come into our home and, by His grace, leave gentle, kind, and patient.  Or others come traumatized and paralyzed with fear and in just a few months they are walking, talking, smiling, and laughing.  God still heals wounds and is so gracious.  It is such humbling work.  We feel honored to be doing it.  It is like having a front row seat to His miracles and goodness every, single day.

Cheryl:  I so admire your heart for orphans. When did you first feel led to become an advocate for them, and what life event triggered this calling?

Jen:  Thank you, Cheryl.  As mentioned earlier, foster care and adoption has always been like a seed placed deep within my heart since as long as I can remember.  Yet, there was a time, over ten years ago, where God radically turned our world upside-down (in a good way).  I was reading Oswald Chambers', "My Utmost For His Highest".  There's too much to share in this interview, but basically God revealed His Sovereignty, how we are called to serve Him, and when we do, life isn't always going to be neat, tidy, perfect, or easy.  Prior to that season, I had been deceived into thinking that Christianity meant maintaining this perfect image versus abandoning ourselves in love and following Him as His servants.  That year we began homeschooling, started fostering kittens, and then within a year we applied to be foster parents. It was just his perfect timing, I guess.  And honestly, getting a right view of Christianity created a huge shift in literally every aspect of our lives.  I used to think suffering meant being cursed, but instead found that “letting go” and abandoning ourselves to His will is where power and miracles happen, and where He shows up unfailingly, time and time again.  Romans 8:18-31 comes to mind as I write this, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed...”

Cheryl:  How did your time in China and Guatemala affect and influence your mission to help orphans?

Jen:  It's funny that you mentioned both of these trips, as these were the two that significantly changed me the most.  Words can't even summarize what I saw in China; heartbreaking situations, countless children abandoned.  It was everything you might see or think about when you hear about a government orphanage in China.  I will never forget those faces, the ones left in those cribs, so many almond eyes staring deep into your soul, as if begging for hope, and for someone, anyone to reach them.  Our family's Guatemala trip was monumental in our fostering decision.  We had already started our paperwork when we left, but the trip really cemented our calling in every sense.  On this trip, my husband and I took our older two children, stayed at an orphanage, and really "caught" the calling to where we were willing to walk out orphan ministry in full faith and dependence on Him.  We had the gift of traveling around the country with The Kaitlin's Mobility Foundation and helped to disperse wheel chairs to special needs kids. My husband and I also led a team of five children from America to do Children's Ministry in schools and villages throughout the country.  One government orphanage we ministered at was heart-breaking.  I lost my late Grandmother Jade's cross necklace there.  At the time, I was upset, but looking back, God reminded me, that's where Jesus would have likely been if He had gone to Guatemala.  He reminded me that the cross represents His gospel, and that He wants all people to know Him, even the most unlikely children trapped behind barbed wire in remote orphanages in Guatemala.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about the adoption of your daughter, Nicole?

Jen:  Nicole came to us as a foster daughter at three and a half months old.  She was this beautiful bundle that we all instantly fell in love with.  Her beginning was hard, but the road to adopting her was fairly simple and pain-free.  Originally, when applying to be foster parents, we had not signed up to adopt, only foster, but when we knew this baby wouldn't be returning to her biological family, it was an easy decision and pretty much a no-brainer that we were meant to adopt her.  Nicole faces some unique circumstances in that she is part deaf.  Nicole is now nine and loves life and people.  God's hand has always seemed to be with this child. Adopting her and realizing that you CAN love an adopted child as much as any biological child, has also ignited our hearts for adoption even more.  Too often, we only hear about the hard things in foster care and adoption.  But the truth is, beauty is all around caring for needy children, and I wish people knew just how much His grace simply saturates this type of ministry.

Nicole's Adoption Story
If video doesn't load, click here.

Cheryl:  How long have you been blogging, and how has it enriched your life?

Jen:  I started blogging in 2011.  It's crazy because I actually grew up dyslexic.  I "slipped through the cracks" some might say and barely graduated.  Before I was married, I had never read an entire book in my life.  Then, I met my husband.  He grew up in an elite British school and has an I.Q. that I have heard reported to be in the one-sixties. (Slightly intimidating, right?) When we got married, I was determined to push myself to read.  I ended up reading progressively well, and even ended up going to college and getting a degree.  But something was missing.  It was like I had this voice inside me desperately trying to get out.  When I first started blogging, I was completely anonymous.  I was scared of my voice, my own words...and even more frightened that those who might read them would somehow reject me.  Eventually, I found my voice and years later now I try to use my words to express His heart, less as a way to understand myself and more as a tool I can use to glorify Him and reach others with His truth and love.  Thank you Cheryl, for giving me this opportunity to share a little bit of my story. You’re a blessing and such a gift.  Thanks for your patience and encouragement in my writing journey."

Oh, my, Jen!
Truly I am the one who is blessed...believe me, dear friend.

A big THANK YOU to Jen for taking the time to do this segment of
with us!!!!
Dear readers, 
I do hope you will take the time to click here to be directed to Jen's blog, Rich Faith Rising.
You will definitely be blessed and leave there encouraged!
And I hope God has used Jen's testimony and story to inspire and challenge you 
to reach out in your corner of the world, doing all you can for Him through your service to 
"the least of these".

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, 
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
Matthew 25:40