Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Inner Views of Bettie Gilbert

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

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

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

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bettie with her husband, Barry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Jesus My Everything

Other days a hymn such as 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

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

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

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

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

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

He Will Carry You - Scott Wesley Brown

He Who Began A Good Work In You - Steve Green

Fall Upon Your Knees - Miriam Webster

To read previous
click the links below.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Inner Views of Donna Reidland

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

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

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

Cheryl:  Could you please tell us about yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read previous
click the links below.