Monday, June 27, 2016

A Lightning Strike, A Devastating Flood, and The Mercy of God

"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."
Lamentations 3:22

Tonight, I sit, surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, 
at one of my favorite spots in the whole world.
I am sitting on the front porch of my in-laws' home in West Virginia,
laptop on lap, the porch swing gently rocking and swaying, as I pound away at the keys.

There is nothing quite like night fall in the mountains.
 Earlier, Kevin and I were out here swinging side-by-side, with Zach nearby, 
watching the fireflies light up the darkening sky.
I have never seen so many lightning bugs, as I have seen lately.
Zach, Austin, and their cousins have been having a great time each night, coming out and collecting them in mason jars, with holes poked in the lids.
It takes me back to when I was a kid, doing the same thing.

In all of our years of living in South Carolina, I don't ever, not even one time, remember seeing a firefly.
I miss seeing them.
Sadly, I truly believe the mosquito control kills them all off.

But, here in the mountains of WV....they are abundant, and I love watching them.

Cattle are lowing nearby.
I hear a croaking bullfrog not so far away.
I even hear what we think we have identified as raccoons in the field across the road.
Crickets are singing a nighttime lullaby.
It makes me think of one of my all-time favorite songs that I will share with you here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

I am drawn to the mountains like a moth is attracted to a flame.
Mountains make me think of Dad.
I suppose it is because he grew up in the mountains of Tennessee.
Dolly Parton's songs about her home always make me think of him.
I miss him and Mom so much.
Somehow, I feel so much closer to them...and to the mountains.

This calm...this peace...this serenity seems so surreal, 
in light of the awful devastation just a few miles away from where I now sit.

This beautiful WV mountain area has taken an awful beating over the past few days.

All of you have probably seen/heard the news about the horrible storms and disastrous flooding here.
God has shown mercy to us time after time over the past week.
The storms started on Tuesday, with one of the most scary things I have ever personally witnessed.

Kevin and Austin were standing on the front porch, close to where I am swinging now,
and Zach was standing in the room where he sleeps a few feet and two walls away from them.
We had all just said good-bye to loved ones, who were then backing out of the long driveway
that runs alongside Mom and Dad Smith's house.

I had just sat down to work on my computer for a bit,
when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, came one of the most horrendous storms I have ever experienced.
There was a huge noise, like an explosion, followed by a huge, BRIGHT ball of light.
It felt like it was literally right in front of my face.

Immediately after, we all noticed that it began to smell like an electrical fire in the living room.
Upon closer examination, we discovered that lightning had struck just inches away from Kevin, Austin, Zach, and me.
There were black marks on the wall and the electrical outlet,
and when I say the modem that was plugged into the outlet was literally fried,
I mean it was literally fried.
The jolt had actually knocked the plastic casing off the modem plug.

As we assessed the damage, the miracle of God's mercy began to dawn upon all of us.
It was like He had specifically directed that powerful bolt of lightning,
and guided it away from all of us and allowed it to strike right in the midst of where we were all positioned!

We all began to immediately praise God and thank Him profusely for His protection and mercy to us,
but it was not until I sat across from my mother-in-law eating breakfast this morning that the total impact of what God has spared us from really hit me.

She began to tell me that her friend and neighbor had come to her back door this morning to talk,
and she told her she had stood on her porch the other day during that awful storm and watched, with her own eyes, as the lightning literally made a circle, as it struck this house!

When I heard her say that she saw it make a circle,
the magnitude of the miracle hit me with force.
God, in His loving, kind, infinite mercy, literally commanded that lightning bolt to circle around all of us and strike in one particular spot in the middle of where we all were in such a way that it would not injure any of us!

Oh, how we praised God together as we realized that any of our lives could have been taken that day,
and this house could have gone up in flames, without a doubt.

I am SO grateful that all of us are safe.

All of this happened on Tuesday....before the flash-flooding started on Thursday.

I can't even remember exactly when it began to rain.
I can't even tell you that it felt like such an abundance of it was happening.
But, somehow, the skies opened to such a degree that roads are completely washed out,
houses have been lifted right off their foundations and floated away,
(one of them was on fire, as it floated, click here to watch),
other houses have burned on their foundations,
a tunnel that has been in place for many years on the road where Kevin grew up has completely collapsed,
cars have been flipped and tossed about as if they were little, toy matchbox cars,
at least 25 people are dead, and there are countless others still missing.
It is hard to tell when the waters will completely recede or how long it will take to recover.

The Greenbrier Classic PGA Golf Tournament that was to soon take place at the famous Greenbrier Hotel Resort has been cancelled.

This beautiful, lush golf course where Kevin and his dad used to caddy, 
now looks like a raging, muddy river.

Click here, and here, and here to read more.

Kevin's sweet uncle and aunt, who lived right in the downtown part of White Sulphur Springs, 
have lost everything.
She just found out she has lung cancer and is facing surgery, and now this.
Other family members of Kevin's have severe flood damage and are facing a horrible aftermath.

A friend's sister was driving along, and one minute, all was well.
The next minute a huge gushing wave of water had flipped her car,
and had two men not been standing nearby, she would have drowned.
They threw a rope to her and told her to hold on and not let go,
and they were eventually able to pull her to safety.
Her car was washed away, and it still has not been found.

Another acquaintance had been missing for 24 hours after her car had been overcome by the current.
A kind stranger had managed to turn his truck sideways to block her car from being completely swept away.
Thankfully, she was found and is safe.

Yesterday, Kevin and Zach talked to a guy whose best friend is still missing.  

A mother was doing her utmost to hold on to her two young children, 
but the tide was just too strong, and her little son was snatched away from her.
His body was found down the road.

An 81 year old acquaintance of Kevin's aunt was sitting in her home and swept away with the current.
Her body was found later.

We are hearing story after horrifying story, just like these.

It all happened SO fast.
I have never seen anything like it.

Each time I hear more about it and see the devastation on the news,
my mind keeps going back to Jesus' words in Matthew 24:39, 
when He was describing what happened in the Old Testament flood.
"And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; 
so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

I just keep thinking how quickly life can change.
How one minute, life can be so calm and normal and routine,
and the next minute, one's whole world can be turned completely upside down.

And, this is just how quickly Jesus is one day going to come for us.
To say that we need to live in a state of preparedness for that event is such a huge understatement.
There will just be no time to make adjustments to our relationship with Him.

We were finally able to get out today and drive around, and, dear friends,
there just are no words to adequately describe to you how horrifying and devastating the conditions are in
Greenbrier County, West Virginia right now.

Google the pictures, and just imagine that it is even worse than what you see.

All I can do is cry when I realize how very, very blessed we are.
My heart just aches for those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their vehicles,
and whose lives have been totally uprooted and permanently altered.

Please, please pray for the dear people here in West Virginia.
Only God can send the comfort and healing they so desperately need.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Inner Views of Mary Zatkalik

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
Psalm 133:1

Oh, how I love this verse!
The unity that is found in the hearts of God's precious children 
is a beautiful and a pleasant and a good thing to behold.
It amazes me how the Holy Spirit is the great Unifier.
Romans 5:5 says,
"...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
When the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Ghost in you,
and the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Ghost in me,
and He orchestrates an intersection of our paths and allows us to meet,
it is a wonderful thing.
The Holy Spirit in you recognizes the Holy Spirit in me,
and there is an instantaneous union of souls.
Even from a great distance...
even when we haven't actually "met" face-to-face.
Such is the case with me (along with many of you) and the dear blogging friend and sister in the Lord who is so graciously sharing her heart with us here today,
I know you will be incredibly blessed by reading the story of her adventurous life and walk with Jesus, and I hope you will go by and visit her wonderful blog, Pile of Smiles.

I am so grateful and blessed to bring to you
Wife, Mother, Grandmother, and Writer of Short Stories,
Mary Zatkalik.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Mary:  I was born in the neat 50’s era; the country was at peace, emphasis was on family and God, and everybody loved Lucy and Ozzie & Harriet. I’m a middle child with an older brother and sister and a younger brother. My mom and dad were hardworking but fun parents.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony. How old were you when you became a Christian? Who would you say has been your strongest spiritual mentor?

Mary:  I grew up in a strict religious home. I strived to achieve perfection. I was serious about everything and never smiled. All my early photos portray a terrified little girl. I married the perfect man for me, we found the perfect starter home, we birthed the perfect child who rarely cried and smiled at everyone, yet I felt incomplete. I asked God to help me because I knew something was very wrong with me to have so many blessings and still not be happy. He answered me right away. My neighbor and I attended a women’s Bible study. I learned that religion is not enough. I needed a personal relationship with God.

Cheryl:  How has your walk with Jesus affected the decisions you have made throughout life?

Mary:  The changes in me were flagrant. God exchanged my timidity for His confidence. He took my guilt and filled me with His grace. He took my fear of people and gave me a healthy fear of God. I never felt empty again. I read my Bible like a starving woman filling myself with truth and learning how loved I am. I can love others the right way now. I love God’s Word! It’s a beauty secret; it transforms me every day. I cannot live without it.

Cheryl:  You have travelled to some amazing places and done such interesting things. Of all of the places you have visited, which location was your favorite? Where would you live, if given the choice?

Mary:  My favorite country is Costa Rica. I love the rainforests, the food, and the people there. However, the place I like the best and want to live is where I live now in the Verde Valley of Arizona! I love the openness of country and the climate.

Cheryl:  Can you share with us about your job in sales? What would you consider to be three of the highest points of your career?

Mary:  An opportunity came for me and my husband to work together in sales. The owner of the company hired us to manage one of his businesses because he saw our strength as a couple. This was conducive to our product line, an up-scaled manufactured home, and we attracted customers who, like ourselves, wanted to live in our part of the state in an affordable, well built home. I learned many things: 1) How to be a team player, 2) How big and beautiful the world is through traveling, and most importantly, 3) How to be salt and light in a dark world. Preachers and salesmen share a common gift: persuasion. I am thankful to have met so many people who not only needed housing but eternal life.

Cheryl:  When did you begin blogging? What inspired that decision? How did you come up with its name?

Mary:  In 2008, I designed Pile of Smiles with the intent of communicating with my daughter who traveled in the military. She had a blog and wanted me to have one. I think my best quality is my smile; Jesus gave it to me.

Cheryl:  How has “Pile of Smiles” enriched your life?

Mary:  It broadened my perspective. I am humbled to know wonderful bloggers who freely share themselves through writing. I learn so much from them and cherish each one of them!

Cheryl:  Looking back over the years, will you share with us about one of your darkest times? How did your faith in God see you through and sustain you?

Mary:  A few years ago, my daughter’s husband left her. It’s excruciating to see your child’s life fall apart, but we learned that the God we love and serve is a restorer. He uses everything, and I praise Him for all the hurting ones He brought into both our lives so that we can now encourage them from our dark time.

Cheryl:  If you could go back and live life over, what would you change?

Mary:  I would tell my younger self to lighten up and that it’s okay to fail. Quit worrying about pleasing man and focus on pleasing God.

Cheryl:  When did you meet Tom? How long have you been married? What quality first drew you to him? What are some of the things the two of you enjoy doing together?

Mary:  I met Tom at a family dinner party. He was on leave from the Navy. We corresponded while he served our country, and when his duty ended, he asked me to marry him. I have always been attracted to his powerful drive, risk taking with ability to make quick decisions. Today, we enjoy growing old together and sharing the simple country life. We’ll be married 45 years this summer.

Cheryl:  What causes are you most passionate about? Is there a particular ministry you would like to draw our attention to?

Mary:  I am most passionate about communication. In my earlier years, I joined Women’s Aglow International. My mentors taught me, trained me,and sent me. I taught women’s Bible studies, planned retreats, and spoke at women’s events. I also completed a course in Biblical counseling and earned a certificate from Extraordinary Women, American Association of Christian Counselors. I am as passionate about communication today. The Lord is full of surprises. He is the one that orchestrates my days and if I can help a hurting woman with these Biblical principles, I’m eager to be part of His plan.

Cheryl:  What spiritually fulfills you the most?

Mary:  I’m contemplative. I love to pray, to be with God and worship Him.

Cheryl:  Concerning your life’s bucket list, what are three feats you have already accomplished, and what are three desires still remaining?

Mary:  I’ve been blessed to be a mother, relocate from Chicago to the southwest, and visit Israel. I would like to take a cruise to Alaska, write a book someday, and experience a hot air balloon ride as long as they don’t fly too high. ☺

Cheryl:  For those who are discouraged, what are your favorite go-to Scriptures and spiritual resources? What words of encouragement would you like to share with us?

Mary:  Isaiah 41:10 is my go-to Scripture: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I always say that when Jesus is in the equation, we can’t fail! Great resources are The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere to overcome offenses. No Limits, by Tiz Huch empowers me to walk by God’s Spirit, and any Stormie Omartian book on prayer is excellent.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Mary:  I ask for prayer for my husband, Tom, who needs healing in his body. Thank you so much!

And, a HUGE thank you to YOU, dear Mary, for taking the time and being willing to share your beautiful heart with us here!
Your friendship and presence in my life has been and continues to be such a cherished gift from God.
May the dear Lord abundantly reward you for the blessing you are to me and to so many others!

Please add Tom to your prayer lists, dear friends.
God bless him and send the healing he needs and grant him and Mary many more happy, adventurous years together!
"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

Mary Zatkalik writes short stories about everyday life on her Christian blog, Pile of Smiles
She is married to Tom and has two grown daughters and two granddaughters. 
She goes by the handle “Saleslady 371” from her working days as a saleswoman in the marketplace. She and Tom enjoy their simple retired lifestyle in the high desert country of Arizona.

To read previous

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Inner Views of Shyla Brown

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:37-39

Most of you dear readers will remember the precious lady I am interviewing today.
Many of you have faithfully and earnestly prayed for her and her family.
Her story is one of untold heartache, yet, incredible strength.
She has faced the absolute worst, and, yet, she has proven to be more than a conqueror through her love for God and faith in His ability to sustain even in the worst of circumstances.
The original prayer request posted for her and her family in this post still continues to be 
one of the most popular posts ever published here on Homespun Devotions,
having been viewed over 264,000 times.
I know you are going to enjoy getting to know her better and reading an update on her
and her family.

Shyla, Quinton, Steven, Makeya, Neveya, and Max Brown

Wife, Mother of 4, and Someone who will never give up on hope, 
Shyla Brown.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Shyla:  I came into this world July 16, 1990, to the best mother any girl could ask for. I was the little girl she always wanted, but thought she could never have. I believe God gave my mother a baby when she would need one the most. You see, while my mom was in the operating room having me, my dad was on another floor fighting for his life. My dad made one promise to my mother - he would not leave this world until he heard me say, "Daddy". He was able to keep that promise, but shortly after I said my first word, "daddy", he went home to be with the Lord. My daddy passed away on Feb. 15, 1991, due to cancer. When I was 4 years old, my mom married my stepdad, and we moved into his house with his 2 daughters. I lived there until I was kicked out by my stepfather because I became pregnant at 17 years old. My mom and I rented out a trailer, and we stayed there until I decided to move in with the baby's father, when the baby was just a couple months old. MaKeya La-Shay Brown was born Feb 16, 2008, just one hour and fifty minutes from the day that my daddy had passed away 17 years before. Makeya was not only a gift from God, but she is also a gift from my daddy, as well. On May 3, 2009, I married that little girl's father, the boy who had been my best friend since I was 4 years old and my high school sweetheart.  On June 8, 2009, at just 36 weeks, we welcomed a handsome little boy into this world, Quinton Xaiver Brown. I had a lot of difficulties while pregnant with him and almost lost him several times. After having him, I got an IUD put in. I wanted more kids in the future, just not right then. The IUD ended up cutting into my cervix, and I had to get it removed. The IUD caused so much damage that the doctor told me I would not be able to carry any more children. That news devastated me. I always wanted a big family, and now they were telling me that I couldn't have that. I left it in Gods hands, and on Feb. 20, 2012, he gave me another handsome little boy. While in labor with him, though, I had a lot of complications. I lost a lot of blood. The baby was not doing so well either. He was having trouble breathing on his own, and he was transferred to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. We were not sure if he was going to survive. My husband had to go home to our other two children, but my mom and I never left Max's side. The doctors told us if he survived, he would be on a vent for at least a month. That month turned into five days. The doctors told us that after the vent was removed, he would probably be put on the cannula for another month. That month turned into just one day. The doctors also told me that it would take at least a week for him to even start sucking from a bottle. That week turned into 0 days because he drank half of the first bottle they gave him. He would have finished the bottle but the doctors did not him to over do it. What was estimated to be at least a 3 month stay turned into just 9 days. On Feb. 29, 2012, we brought Max Rian Brown home for the first time. God wasn't done yet. He not only gave me one child after the doctors told me I could not have anymore, but He gave me two. Neveya Ranaye Brown was born Feb. 22, 2013.

Cheryl:  How old were you when you became a Christian? Were you raised in a Christian home? What drew you to Christ?

Shyla:  I grew up in church. My mom took me to a church just about everyday. I became closer to God, though, when Max was first born, and even closer after our car accident in 2014.

Cheryl:  How did you meet Steven? When did you realize that he was “the one” for you? How long have you been married?

Shyla:  I first met Steven when I was just four years old. We became best friends quickly. We lost contact though for awhile, until we reached middle school. We became best friends again when we entered High School. I always had a crush on him, but I was afraid that if I admitted that to him, it would ruin our friendship. It was just a crush, right? It would go away. As time went on, I realized that what I was feeling was more then just a crush, and I had to tell him how I felt. Junior prom was coming up, and I decided to ask him to go with me. His response, "I thought you would never ask." We have been together ever since. We have been together for 9 years and married for 7.

Cheryl:  For those who are not familiar with your story, in your words, can you please tell us what happened on Saturday, August 2, 2014?

Shyla:  On August 2, 2014, my husband was driving our children and me to his mom's where we would drop him off to spend time with his mom, and I was going to take the kids to a back- to-school event at the church. We never made it to his mother's. My husband lost control of the vehicle, and we went off the side of the road into a tree. My big boy, Quinton, was called Home, instantly. My son, Max, was taken to a local hospital, where they airlifted him from there to Nationwide Children's Hospital. Steven and Makeya were airlifted from the scene to Cabell Huntington Hospital. That is where Makeya stayed until August 13, 2014, when we had her transferred to Nationwide. Neveya and I were transferred to a local hospital, where they took her by ambulance to Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Cheryl:  How did you and Steven cope with the loss of your precious 5 year old son, Quinton? How did your faith in God see you through such unthinkable pain?

Shyla:  There are 4 things that God gives you to help you get through life; love, patience, belief, and strength. God sent me 4 Angels to teach me each one of these things. My first Angel He sent me, named Makeya, taught me love. She showed me how to love greater then I knew was possible. My second Angel, named Quinton, taught me patience. He was a sweetheart, but he was also rotten. Not only did I have to have patience in those 5 years of having him but also while I was pregnant with him. My third Angel, named Max, taught me to have belief. If I didn't believe in God and didn't pray to Him, I would have lost that little boy when he was first born. My fourth Angel, named Neveya, taught me strength. I have never been good with pain, but when I had her, I was unable to get any kind of pain medication. I found out that day that I was stronger then I ever knew I was. Love, Patience, Belief, and Strength...that is the 4 things that help me daily. On the day they put my son's body in the ground, God sent me a fifth Angel that day. I got down on that ground, and I was ready to give up. I just wanted to be buried with him. I looked up at my cousin's tombstone, who had passed away in 2009, and I saw him standing there. As plain as day, my cousin was standing there looking right at me. He said to me, "Get up Shyla. Quinton is ok, but those other babies need you, so just get up, and go to them." So that is what I did. I got off that ground and went back to the hospital, hearing my cousin's words in my head every day and keeping in my mind those 4 things that all 4 of those Angels taught me; love, patience, belief, and strength.

Cheryl:  Along with the loss of your firstborn son, both your daughter, Makeya, and your son, Max, were left permanently paralyzed. How did you feel when you first received such devastating news? Can you tell us about the extent of their injuries?

Shyla:  I first learned about Makeya. They said she was a quadriplegic. The doctor told me she would never be able to color, write, brush her own teeth, or even push her own wheelchair. Her neck was broken, she damaged her spinal chord, she had spinal fluid leakage, and she had bleeding on the brain. All of this news was difficult to hear, but I think for me, the most difficult was to hear that she could never color or write again. If you knew Makeya, you knew how much she loved to color and draw. She loved being just like her daddy - an artist, she would say.

Max had a broken pelvis, his spinal chord was completely torn in half, he had bleeding on the brain, injuries to his chest, lungs, heart, and spleen. It took them almost 2 weeks to find out what was wrong with him, because even on a ventilator his O2 would drop every time they would try and get an X-Ray or MRI. When they finally did, I was told that he would be a paraplegic, vent-dependent.

I don't know how to explain in words what it was like to hear that two of your children would never be able to walk again, but I haven't given up hope and I never will. God's not done yet.

Cheryl:  How long did Makeya and Max have to be hospitalized? What most sustained you during those difficult days?

Shyla:  Makeya was released from the hospital on October 23, 2014. Max was released on December 19, 2014. When Makeya was released, we had my mom, who had been watching Neveya for me while the kids were in the hospital, bring her up there to us. Steven and I would take turns. One night, he would stay at the McDonald House with the girls while I stayed with Max, and the next night, we would switch. We even enrolled Makeya into a school while we were up there. All together, we spent 4 and a half months in that hospital.  It became our 2nd home. The workers became our 2nd family, and they sure helped us out a lot during our stay and even, to this day.

Cheryl:  How is Makeya doing now? How has her condition improved since the days immediately following the accident?

Shyla:  Makeya is the strongest little girl I have ever known. She has never once given up. She tells me everyday that God will make her walk again someday. Despite what the doctors told me, Makeya CAN push her own wheelchair, she CAN brush her own teeth. she CAN feed herself, she colors and draws everyday, and while she was attending school, I received a letter stating that she had beautiful handwriting. Makeya is now 8 years old and is homeschooled due to doctor appointments and being a little behind from where she had missed so much school. If you ask her what God has done for her, she responds with, "He moved my arms." Instead of a quadriplegic, she is now a quadriplegic with some hand movement.

Cheryl:  How is Max? Can you please share with us about his progress and how he is doing now?

Shyla:  Max has had a couple setbacks, but with each one he recovered a little more each time. At the beginning, the doctors told me he would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. They told me that the muscles that he uses to breathe were paralyzed. I am happy to announce that those muscles are now working, and he is only on a BI PAP machine at night, off everything during the day. He is now 4 years old, and instead of a paraplegic vent-dependent, he is a paraplegic working on getting his tracheotomy out in the future. 

Cheryl:  How are YOU? As a mother, how has life changed for you since August 2, 2014?

Shyla:  I still take it day by day. Even after almost 2 years, it still feels like a nightmare that I just want to wake up from. I hold my babies a little bit tighter, and I make sure daily they know just how much I love them.

Cheryl:  I know Steven was injured in the accident.  How is he doing now?  

Shyla:  He still takes it day by day. He still has to take over-the-counter medication because he can't sleep without having nightmares.. He still has trouble with his knee. Last summer, he had to go back to the ER because he went outside to mow the yard and did not wear his brace, so it damaged it a little more. He still needs the surgery, but still refuses to get it done.

Cheryl:  If you were sitting across the table from a parent who is dealing with severe challenges, what advice would you give them?

Shyla:  Trust in God, because through Him, anything is possible.

Cheryl:  What is the most valuable lesson you have learned through all you have suffered?

Shyla:  Something I tell my kids every day; never give up. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do, believe in God. He has the last say, and He can make anything happen.

Cheryl:  The aftermath of such devastating circumstances places an unbelievable level of strain upon a marital relationship. How do you and Steven manage to keep your love alive and your marriage strong? Can you share specific steps you take to insure that you do not grow apart as a couple?

Shyla:  A lot of people have asked me this question. But, in all honesty, we don't do anything different than we did before the accident. We never go to bed mad at each other, we try to spend sometime alone together, whether it be getting a babysitter and going out to eat and watching a movie, or just watching a movie at the house, or sitting on the back porch and talking at night while the kids are in bed. Steven and I need each other more now than we have ever needed each other. Our love has only grown stronger, and I honestly don't know what I would do without him.

Cheryl:  What have you learned about the goodness and kindness in the hearts of others through your heartbreak?

Shyla:  Even in this world of evil, there are still so many good people out there. I could never thank people enough for the love that they have shown my family since our accident. I have learned that no matter what people go through, when something happens, we still pull together to help a person in need.

Cheryl:  You received some very special news on Mothers Day of this year. Can you tell us about it?

Shyla:  It was February or March when I got the phone call from the rehab center at Nationwide Children's Hospital asking me if Makeya and Steven would be interested in doing a father/daughter video about their stay in the hospital. Steven was not home, but I told them, yes. Makeya loved attention, and I knew that she would love making a video. It was either the next day or the day after that when Steven got a phone call. Not sure what was said over the phone. The only thing he told me was that I was not allowed to go...that it could only be him and Makeya. Of course I got mad, because I never missed anything Makeya ever did. I thought it was Steven's fault, but then I thought, well, maybe he just wants a daddy/daughter day, so they went without me. About a month later, I found out why I was not allowed to go when I saw a video on Facebook that Lane Bryant, a clothing company, had shared. It is a video of my little girl telling them how much I mean to her. In that video they asked her if she could give me anything at all, what would it be? She answered, "Go to Disney Land." That video was a mothers day surprise to me. Two days before Mothers Day, I received a package with 2 Minnie Mouse dolls, a Mickey Mouse doll, Minnie Mouse ears, $500 gift card, and a letter letting us know that they were making Makeya's wish-to-parent come true, and they are sending us to Disney World at the end of this year. The same day we received this package, we also got the news that my nephew's adoption had been finalized, after 3 years. He was now in Kentucky with my mom, where he belongs to stay. Both of these gifts were wonderful, but the best gift did not come until Mothers Day, when Makeya was able to raise her foot up by herself when told to. This Mother's Day was wonderful, and the only thing that could have made it better was if I had my Quinton here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Cheryl:  Through your pain and heartbreaking trials, what has most comforted and sustained you? Are there particular Scriptures, books, hymns, or other resources that have helped you to know
that you are not alone?

Shyla:  Knowing that God was working on my children and seeing it daily. Seeing the signs that my guardian Angels that God sent to me really helped, as well. I knew I wasn't alone. There is a picture down below that we now have on a clock that says, "Every minute of the day, our guardian Angel walks beside us." In this picture, I want you to look beside me. That is what helps...knowing that my Quinton still walks with me daily.

 ​Cheryl:  How can we pray for you right now? What specific needs can we share and help to lift to the Father on your behalf?

Shyla:  Pray for more strength. Pray that my children continue to show improvements and continue showing those doctors that they don't have the last say. God does, and He is not done talking yet. 

To read previous
 click the links below.

The Inner Views of The Benham Brothers
The Inner Views of Beth Willis Miller
The Inner Views of Rodney Griffin
The Inner Views of Joni Eareckson Tada
The Inner Views of Gayle Cox
The Inner Views of Wayne Mobley
The Inner Views of Chris West
The Inner Views of Gail Purath

A BIG thank you to Shyla for sharing her heart with us here.
May God continue to bless and heal and comfort this dear family as only He can.

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share with others!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Our Precious Time With Shorty Bear

"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers..."
Philemon 1:4

Surely God looked down upon us with smiles tonight.
Only HE could have orchestrated such an amazing evening.
Let me explain.

I can't remember when I first met my precious blogging friend, Shorty Bear, aka "Coco's Momma".
I can't tell you how our paths originally crossed.
What I can tell you is that this dear friend has blessed me more times than I can remember.
Through our email communication, the times she has stopped here and left encouragement and kind words, and my visits to her blog, she has picked up my spirits countless times.
 I just really have no words to express how much I love and appreciate her.

You may remember me mentioning her in this post
when she was announced the winner of the spring giveaway.

Through a series of events, that looking back in retrospect reveal God's perfect orchestration,
my family and I ended up spending a bit of time in Chattanooga, TN.
God always has a plan.
I am convinced that He always has a purpose for placing us where we are.
As I was praying early the other morning, seeking His face for direction, asking Him what He wanted us to do while here, the dear Lord so clearly reminded me,
"Denise lives in Chattanooga."

My mind went back to mailing her prize package to Chattanooga,
and I also remembered her mentioning it on her blog.

As the Lord reminded me, I could hardly believe it!
I immediately got on my laptop and emailed my dear friend to ask her if there was any way we could meet up during our time here.
I knew she was going through some very hard health issues, and I wasn't sure if she would be physically able to make this happen, but I had to ask and see.

Sure enough, bless her dear heart, she emailed back and so graciously agreed to meet!

Tonight, we met at Cracker Barrel, where we ate together and shared the sweetest visit.
I could not hold back the tears as her husband, Eddie, pushed her wheelchair towards the spot where Zach and I sat waiting for them on the porch.
My heart overflowed with emotion and gratitude to finally meet my sweet encourager face to face.

As we visited tonight, I reached an even deeper love and compassion for her
and a stronger appreciation for all she has endured and had to go through.
The love of Jesus shines so brightly and sweetly through her every word and deed,
and it just meant the world to me to get to know her better.
Her testimony and story is beyond amazing, and as she talked, it was so evident to Zach and me that the power of God has been upon her since even before the moment of her birth.

 Sweet Shorty Bear and the love of her life, Eddie

Many of you already know and dearly love Shorty Bear.
If you have never met her or enjoyed her blog,
I encourage you to stop by and visit her here, and while you are there,
be sure to leave a kind comment of encouragement for her.

Her health battles are so severe, and she is now facing uncertainty concerning a toe that will not properly heal.
Dear friends, PLEASE pray for God to lay His healing hand upon her body,
to restore her health, and to grant her and Eddie many more years together.
We all know that there is nothing impossible with our God,
and Jesus Christ is the same today as He was when He walked the earth.

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

As we unite our prayers for Shorty Bear, surely the heart of our God will be moved with compassion.

Jesus said, 
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 18:19

His brother, James, wrote this, 
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
James 5:16

As you pray for dear Shorty Bear, may I ask you to add one other person to your prayer lists?

God allowed us to be blessed with the sweetest waitress tonight,
and we shared with her about how we were meeting for the first time,
told her about our blogs, and how God had brought about our visit, etc. 
As we were getting ready to leave, she asked that we pray for her 7 year old daughter, 
Kayleigh, who recently suffered a seizure and whose EEG showed abnormal results.
She is to have an MRI tomorrow.
Please pray for good results and healing for little Kayleigh and for peace for her sweet mother.
Surely God can do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or even think.
(Ephesians 3:20)

Thank You, dear Father, for my precious friend, Shorty Bear,
for ordering our steps,
and for bringing us together tonight for the gift of this precious visit!

Dear friends, be on the lookout for Shorty Bear's amazing story to be featured here in an upcoming 
You will not want to miss reading how God's hand has rested and continues to rest upon her life.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Changing Emotions & Our Unchanging God

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil."
2 Thessalonians 3:3

The gamut of human emotions is vastly wide.
It is amazing how you can go from the highest mountain to the lowest valley...
in just a matter of hours...or even minutes.

In the early morning hours of Monday, May 2nd, 
I heard my sister-in-law's voice on the voicemail of our phone.

"Cheryl, call me as soon as you can, honey.
It's an emergency."

Her voice was shaky.
I knew the news couldn't be good.

Quickly, I rallied to life and was soon wide-awake.
I dialed her number.
Nothing could have prepared me for what she said next.

"They found Vicki murdered in her apartment."

In that moment, everything changed.
I was near-speechless.
And, if you know me at all, you know that doesn't happen often.
I just could not absorb what was being said...what I was hearing.

It was one month yesterday since that dreadful phone call.
So much has happened in the meantime.
I know many of you are praying faithfully for my family and me,
and knowing that just means the world to all of us.
You will never know how much we appreciate you and every prayer and kindhearted deed.

If you have been following this story here, you will know that my precious niece, Victoria, was brutally and ruthlessly murdered, the security camera showed her killer walking out of her apartment with no apparent or outward remorse, then his decomposing body was found a few days later by some fishermen.
(You may read previous posts concerning this tragedy by clicking 

One of the details that I haven't shared here yet is that after Victoria's killer walked out of her apartment, as if nothing unusual had happened, he was picked up by someone who took him to church.
I was told he stayed there all day long, then left, and afterwards completely disappeared.
No one saw him again, until the fishermen found his body floating in the river.  

Connecting some of the dots by finding out he spent part of his missing time in church filled me with some very mixed emotions.
At first, it occurred to me that the man must truly have possessed a seared conscience in order
to be able to commit such a horrific crime in the first place, then to go and sit in the house of God,
surrounded by Godly worshipers, pretending all was well.
Who could do such a thing?
This type of behavior would just prove more than ever
that his heart was surely as an adamant stone.

But, then I got to wondering if possibly he may have gone to church for other reasons...
that perhaps he came to his senses, realized the awful thing he had done, and felt remorse deep enough that it drove him to his knees.
I can only hope that this was the case, and that somehow he made his peace with God,
because even though I am still fighting a fierce battle of trying to forgive him for taking her from us,
the amazing grace of God compels me to feel a deep sadness and concern over the plight of his eternal soul.

The thought of a soul...any soul...being lost for eternity is far beyond any other tragedy I can imagine.

Mystery surrounds his final details, and all we know for certain is that he died from drowning.

Did he jump off a bridge, intentionally taking his own life?
Did he accidentally fall in?
Did someone kill him, then dispose of him in the river?

God knows.
We probably never will.

As I hung up from that early morning phone call with my sister-in-law,
I was in such a state of shock, I could hardly think.
My emotions had plunged to about as low as they could possibly go.

Then, lo, and behold, just a few hours later, the emotional pendulum swung polar opposite, 
when we got another phone call with news so wonderful that we could hardly believe it was true.
Something we have been wanting to happen for a very long time was finally coming to fruition,
and God was answering our intercessory prayers in a huge way.

Our emotions traveled the full possible gamut that day, exactly one month and one day ago.

I have thought much about this fact over the course of the past month.
The emotional roller coaster upon which I have been riding has had me rising with exhilaration one minute, then plunging to near-despair the next, only to repeat the process regularly.

But, through all of my ups and downs and highs and lows, one thing has been continually evident.
God is consistent.
He does not change.
He is not affected by our ups and downs nor our highs and lows.
Jesus Christ truly IS the same...yesterday, today, and forever,
regardless what we may be experiencing in this life.

The tide of human emotions is fickle.
We are often driven and tossed by what is going on around us.
We were created to feel and with certain inherent response-mechanisms.
When we are sad, tears are triggered...
when we feel happy, smiles are automatic...
when we're worried, we frown.
And, when we are heartbroken, there is a deep ache within.

Since God created us, He understands,
and, since He actually came to us, in a body of flesh and lived the full gamut of life as a human for over 33 years, He knows firsthand what every emotion feels like.

I love the way He felt every, single thing we will ever feel,
yet, He didn't allow any of those human emotions to alter Him from His intended purpose.

One of the most distinct examples of this is His reaction to the contrasting ways He was treated/mistreated from the time of His Triumphal Entry to His scourging and crucifixion...
only one week apart.

One week, the crowds were praising Him, exalting Him, throwing palm branches in His path, crying, "Hosanna, in the highest", and the very next week, their cries had turned to, "Crucify Him!"
Worship quickly turned to cruel war waged against Him.

Again, how fickle the tide of human emotions!

Regardless what was happening around Him or being directed towards Him, be it adoration or abuse,
Jesus was unfaltering in His resolve.
He came to seek and to save the lost, and nothing,
from the highest praises of men to being degraded to dying the most cruel death known to man,
could keep Him from pressing forward to fulfilling the mission for which He was sent.

Oh, to be more like Him!
To stay consistent in my resolve to do His will!
To press forward toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,
no matter what is happening in this life!

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13,14

Human emotions are so transient.
He is unchanging.

Thinking of our recent tumultuous roller-coaster ride brings this song to my mind.

He's My Guide
Words and Music by Sonya Isaacs

From the highest mountain,
To the lowest valley,
I do not fear, for He is walkin' by my side;
When the sun is shining,
When the shadows creep in,
I trust the Lord, He's good, He's faithful, He's my guide.

If video doesn't load, click here.

Whether we are on the peak of the highest mountain...spiritually, emotionally, and/or physically,
or whether we are in the lowest valley,
whether we are at the top of the roller coaster and life is exhilarating and good,
or everything familiar to us has taken a downward spiral to the point of utter despair,
God is faithful.
He is constant.
He is unchanging.
He's my guide.
He leads out of the darkness, when it seems all hope is lost.
He leads beside still waters when our souls cry out for restoration.
He always knows what we need the most, and He is faithful to provide.
Everything in this life is subject to change.
Nothing is sure.
We dare not place our trust in any mortal person or thing.

These songs have been a true comfort to me lately.
I hope they will bless you, too.

If video doesn't load, click here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

How are you, my friend?
Do you also find yourself on a roller-coaster of emotions?
Do you wonder if things will ever again be level in your life?
Are you completely overwhelmed by an onslaught of trials?

Let me remind you of the words of our Lord Jesus in one of my favorite verses,
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. 
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

He is with us, dear friends.
No matter what we face.
No matter where we find ourselves in this life.
He is ever near.

"Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?"
Jeremiah 23:23

"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, 
though He be not far from every one of us..."
Acts 17:27

God hold you ever close and bless each one of you, dear readers.
Your continued prayers are so appreciated!