Category Archives: Uncategorized

Funding Fun

I know what you’re thinking, “How can I have any summer fun if my finances aren’t expendable at the moment? I want to enjoy some quality time with the family and/or friends but I don’t think I can afford it.” Don’t fret and get into a financial frenzy. There are ways to have an exciting new adventure and stay within your allotted budget. Not only can you find deals in your city, but you can even get out of town with a few tips and tricks. This article will examine hidden treasures within you city, exploring the idea of mini-vacations and things you can do at home in lieu of a vacation.
Hidden treasures within your city limits may seem far-fetched but can be a fun way to get the family away from its normal routine. All cities have tourist attractions, museums, and amusement parks. Explore your zip code for those forgotten gems. Search for something new that you and your group have not experienced before. One example, is historical tours and sites. Most will only think of history during school and with that comes sighs of assumed boredom and less enthusiasm. Ignore those preconceived notions while getting online and searching for cool historical facts about your city. Get your group excited by showing and/or telling them stories about the past and maybe even find some type of connection with a relative or someone you know. There’s always museums and its tours if there isn’t a specific attraction available in your area. Just keep in mind that a familiar story or connection will only heighten the excitement of all involved.

If you have the itch to get out of town, you can still do it. Instead of booking a week-long trip opt-in for 3-Day weekend specials. Groupon, BookIt, and LivingSocial.com are a few examples of sites that advertise a plethora of vacation deals. Sometimes, a special offer is given for becoming a member or simply signing up for a rewards program or newsletter. Take advantage of all reward offers and watch the discounts and specials come rolling in.
In fact, Groupon is offering inviting romantic getaway packages that include trips to New York or the Caribbean. If those places are too far for you, Expedia has an application that will find getaways specifically 3 hours from your location. If you are already a rewards member for certain hotels such as Holiday Inn, they also offer 3 day getaways for reaching a certain number of points.

Vacation at home might seem lackluster to some, but can open up a whole new world of new possibilities, with little, to no additional costs. Take off from work and if you have kids, let them stay home and together you can work on new ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) projects. Applications such as Pinterest have spiked an interest in all things creative, so get on board and find projects that peak your interests! BoredPanda.com and Topdreamer.com are two sites that have multiple ideas to assist in decorating your home and organizing items. One cute DIY example is making a photo clock to cover one wall in a common room. This project involves painting the hands of a clock but instead of painting numbers to tell time, framed pictures will hang in their places. What a wonderful way to showcase a photo story of special family moments!

Everyone deserves a break and the summer months are perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation. Do not let your financial situation prohibit you from joining in on the fun. Innovation and initiative can go a long way with the convenience of technology that lives at our fingertips. Psalm 128:2 reads, “You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!” (NLV) So reward yourself with a financially fun summer!

New Cash, New You

The New Year brings notions of new beginnings. New Year Resolutions flood the timelines on social media and takes over conversations worldwide. The promise of a new era, a second chance or a “do over” excites the masses and often motivates people to tackle a certain goal or goals. According to a recent newscast on the most common New Year resolutions, “spending less money or saving more” is among the top 5 (www.abc7.com). It may be commonly said but how often is this goal reached? In fact, the same data showing the most common resolutions also shows the gross lack of follow-through. Why not make this year different? Proper preparation for achieving financial goals can almost assure success. Creating a strategy is the key to unlocking your financial dreams. A career in financial assistance has inspired me to design a simple plan for saving, called C.A.S.H. Calculating, applying, saving, then helping the next person is a roadmap for any financial goal.

Calculating

Don’t be afraid to calculate what money you need to save for your specific goal. It can be a very specific ambition such as saving $3000 for a vacation or as broad as saving $500k for retirement. It can be as aggressive as trying to invest or as simple as wanting to start an emergency fund account. The goal to simply start saving only requires one calculation, finding out the amount you should save each month. Look at your net salary or wages per pay period. Take the amount and multiply that by 10% and the total is what you can use to save each period. For example, John D sees that he takes home $1000 per check. He multiplies 1000 X 0.10 and that equals $100. John D will put $100 into savings each pay period. Financial analysts agree that individuals should save between ten and twenty percent of their net income. You can adjust the percentage to whichever amount you’re comfortable with.

Applying

After settling on the percentage amount, make mental and physical notes it. John D has figured he would stick to the 10% and writes down $100 in his checkbook. He also tells his spouse about his new goal; unofficially asking her to be his accountability partner. Once the amount has been solidified in writing, you should the decide on a time period to track your progress. After the time period lapses, check your savings and be amazed at the amount you accumulate in a short period of time. John and his wife decide that he should try this percentage for at least 90 days.

Saving

You have calculated how much to save and how long to save it for progress, now it’s time to put the plan to action. Next, you should decide on where to place the savings. You can open a savings account, put into a safe deposit box, or hide it away in a secret stash. As you get started, make sure you pay into your savings plan first. We often worry about paying other bills with the funds if the money isn’t stored away first. Treat your savings plan as if it were another utility bill and don’t forget to track your progress. John D gets paid bi-weekly which caused him to save $200 in 30 days and $600 in just 90 days! This motivates him to stay with the plan and solidifies his new quest to save.

Helping

Now that you have conquered the art of saving, it’s time to share the information with your friends and family. Share your successes and struggles (if you have any) with them. Matthew 5:16 states, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (KJV)
John D’s success energizes his spouse to start saving. They also implement a new family tradition and teach their children the C.A.S.H. plan when they get their first jobs. The plan can start with one person and actually strengthen the financial health of the entire family.

If “saving more money” has become a struggle; try something new this New Year. Adopt the C.A.S.H. plan and use it to enhance the new YOU!

Active Faith, Active Love, Active Success

Where it All Began

Lanny and Kirbi Smith are the CEO and COO of Active Faith Sports. Lanny and Kirbi met in high school in Houston, TX. They were both student athletes. Their relationship has stood the test of time and distance. Kirbi attended Spelman College located in Atlanta, GA and Lanny, formerly known as Clarence, attended college at the University of Houston located in Houston, TX. Kirbi went on to pursue a career in education in Georgia after completing her bachelor’s degree while Lanny went on to pursue a career in professional sports in the NBA.

Lanny’s professional career in sports came to an end after he experienced a serious knee injury in 2009 that he was unable to bounce back from despite the many attempts through treatment. Though discouraged, Lanny sought God for his new venture as his dreams of playing basketball on a professional level were no longer possible. Lanny was inspired to create athletic gear with Christian inspiration. He shared his dream with his longtime girlfriend, Kirbi. Once Kirbi heard what Lanny was setting out to do she felt compelled to be of as much assistance as possible. After seeking God on the matter, Kirbi made a faith move from Georgia back to her home town of Houston, TX to help make Lanny’s vision a reality.

The Launch

As some of you may personally be aware, businesses are not extremely simple to launch. There are many decisions and plans to be made along with research, research and more research. That’s exactly what Lanny and Kirbi did to launch Active Faith Sports. Kirbi received her MBA and was a substitute teacher to supplement income while the business was in launching stages. Lanny shared how they began running the company from his mother’s garage in 2010.

Their initial sells were of the infamous bracelets and t-shirts which simply displayed the tag line “In Jesus Name I Play.” The tag line was birthed from a mis-spoken closing to a team huddle prayer from his time as an athlete. Lanny was always asked to pray during team huddles prior to games and one day he closed intending to say, “In Jesus name I pray” only to say, “In Jesus name I play.” While at that moment it was a mistake, God brought that back to Lanny’s remembrance while planning to launch the company and it has taken off and remains the company’s main phrase. The funds from selling the initial products helped to get things trademarked and legally in order before they made a full launch as an incorporation of the company in 2012 as a sports apparel brand.

The Business

Lanny was able to get other Christian athletes on board for the vision of Active Faith Sports. One of those being a longtime friend, Anthony Tolliver. At the time, Anthony Tolliver was on the roster for the Golden State

Warriors in Oakland, CA. Mr. Tolliver mentioned this vision to a rookie on the team, Wardell Stephen Curry II, popularly known as Steph Curry. Mr. Curry and Mr. Tolliver joined in the vision along with other Christian athletes as shareholders. Between 2012 until now the brand has grown tremendously.

There have been many athletes who have been seen in action wearing the active faith bands from James Hardin to Ray Lewis. Not only are their professionals of all genres of sports wearing the brand but others from Cornelius and Heather Lindsey to John and Aventer Gray have posted selfies on social media wearing the brand. Active Faith has been sold in over 40 countries and the company recently made a deal with Family Christian bookstores to sell their brand in 400 stores across the United States. Lanny and Kirbi also shared that in 2017 as they plan to continue to push to accomplish their dreams that they have had schools reach out to inquire about creating items for their athletic teams. The dream is that one day, Active Faith Sports, will be seen in the Christian community just as Nike or Adidas.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Lanny appreciates the way that he and Kirbi balance each other out even when it comes to Active Faith Sports. Lanny admitted that he is the creative, while Kirbi is the organizer and planner. They are both aware that they have strengths and weaknesses and accept each other for all of it.

Working as the CEO and COO of a new company can be a challenge. Lanny and Kirbi are pretty much with each other 24 hours a day because they work together and live together. When it comes to being able to separate work from their love life, it takes effort.

With Lanny and Kirbi being entrepreneurs of the same company as well as being married (since 2013) they make it a priority to set aside time where they do things together as well as with friends that has nothing to do with work. Why? Because as Kirbi stated, “It’s important to set dates whether a date night or lunch date where work is not discussed.”

Kirbi went on to explain that with she and Lanny being together while working they try not to have the typical married couple conversation about their day. There isn’t a need to discuss the day because they have spent their work day together. The extra effort comes in being able to enjoy each other without discussing work at all.

Their advice to other married couples who may be thinking about becoming entrepreneurs is to consider the pro’s and con’s. If both spouses are involved in the company it can be easy to allow the business to take over and not have any personal time for each other, children, extended family, etc. Launching a company is hard work and takes up time outside of the normal responsibilities of day to day life.

DID YOU KNOW? -Teen Dating Violence Awareness

Happy New Year! We are so excited that God brought us to a new year. Of course, the new year brings new year’s resolutions… some last for just a few moments and others last a life time. For this issue,want to present a topic that if you or someone you know may be dealing with. Our prayer is that you will make the decision to escape it for a lifetime. So… In honor of February ‘s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, let’s learn about it!

What is Dating Abuse/Violence?
It is a type of violence between two people in a close relationship that can include physical,emotional or sexual offenses. The location does not matter as it can take place in person, over the phone or on the internet.

• Physical abuse/violence- when a person is pushed, hit, kicked or pinched against their will.
• Emotional abuse/violence- when a person’s self-worth is harmed or when a partner speaks in ways that makes their counterpart feel uncomfortable. This can also be a verbal threat such as spreading rumors or a threat to physically harm an individual or their family.
• Sexual abuse/violence- is when a partner engages in sexual acts against their will or when they cannot give permission.

Get The Facts:
• 1 out of 5 females experience dating violence, while one 1 of 10 males experience dating violence in their lifetime.
• Many individuals who experience dating violence are afraid to tell their family and friends about what they are experiencing.
• Teens who experience dating violence have an increased chance of suffering from depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to try tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
• Those who are victims when they are young are likely to be victims when they are older.

Risks of Being a Victim or Abuser:
• Belief that dating violence is acceptable
• Drug and alcohol use
• Aggressive behavior towards objects, animals or people
• Witnessing or experiencing violence at home
• Early sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners
•Having depression or anxiety
• Previous trauma in life
• Having a fight or conflict with your partner

How to Stop Abuse/Violence Before it Starts?
• Try to develop healthy relationships that make you feel comfortable and happy
•If you see concerning signs from the information given in this article, don’t overlook them. This could very well end in a relationship that makes you uncomfortable
• Refrain from becoming emotionally involved and with someone while getting to know someone so it’s not difficult to escape a relationship if needed
• Pay attention to how an individual treats their parents, siblings and others around them to check for potential reassuring or alarming signs
• Set boundaries at the beginning of the relationship…Let your counterpart know what you will not tolerate
• If you see yourself as an abuser or think you may become one, get help

I’m in an Abusive Relationship…What Can I do?
• When your partner is not around, tell a close friend or family member
• File for a restraining order
• Change your phone number and stop all communication.
• Make sure your wishes are made clear and act accordingly.
• Stay at a shelter for a few nights if needed
• If you are given a phone number for a place to get help, memorize the number. Do not take the brochure or card with you so that your partner does not find it
• If you know someone who has successfully gotten out of an abusive relationship, talk to them to see what their strategy and resources were.

Who Can Help?
• National Dating Abuse Helpline and Love is Respect: 866-331-9474 or text the phrase “loveis” to 22522
• National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE
• National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.

All in all, if you are dealing with dating violence, you should know that it is never okay. Dating violence can hinder your sense of self-worth and your physical and emotional health. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I AM WORTH MORE!” and get out quickly!

As always, feel free to contact me with questions at jaysloveyourlife@yahoo.com or speak to your health care provider.

~Dr. Jay

Let there be Peace on Earth

by: Darlyshia Menzie

 

Holidays are here! You know, family gatherings, food, and so much laughter. For some, this time of the year brings drama, bad memories, and outward displays in differences of opinions. Each family has its own functions and dysfunctions, however, as believers in Christ, we are commanded to love through it all.

Think with me on the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). He decided that his life in his father’s house was not what he wanted, so he went off to “live his own life.” He partied, drank, slept around, and squandered all of his inheritance on temporary things. Once he ran out of money, all of the temporary pleasantries ran out with it and he realized he was alone, hungry, and lost in his sin. In the midst of working a part-time job feeding pigs, the thought came to him that the pigs he was feeding had more to eat than he had, so he decided to return to his father’s house. Upon seeing his son approach the house, his father was overwhelmed with joy at his return. He forgave him immediately and prepared a celebration. On the other hand, his big brother was jealous and bitter about his return. He was frustrated that he had never gotten a celebration and he served his father faithfully and hadn’t messed up like his little brother. The father explained that the welcome celebration was necessary because the family was once again complete and the prodigal son was no longer lost and on his own. All was forgiven just like that! During this holiday season, consider the principles shared through the parable of the prodigal son.

1. Forgiveness is a must! Forgive your family members for any offense they may have caused you or the family. Colossians 3:13 (ERV) states “Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity.”

2. Be available for your family. For some, you are the only bible that they will ever read. Make sure your witness is not tainted and that you are loving with the love of Christ, being careful to not be standoffish and/or overbearing. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).”

3. Rely on the Holy Spirit to move through you. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ERV) says it best in saying “Trust in the Lord completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. With every step you take, think about what he wants, and he will help you along the way.” When your family is experiencing dysfunction and you aren’t sure what to say or do in response, call on the Spirit of God to guide you. You never know who, in your family, you might lead to Him or help, by depending on Him for instruction.

4. Love is always the answer. When you respond in love, you get love back. I know you’ve read 1 Corinthians 13 and it is convicting once you realize you might not have been loving your loved ones the right way. Endure with them. Don’t constantly bring up past mistakes. Be gentle in responses and patient in waiting. Don’t be arrogant in thinking that you are better, rather, be meek and enjoy the company. Don’t get yourself in a spiritual debate trying to tell a family member how to live his or her life, just love on them and let that be that. Overall, Christ is love, unconditional.

5. It’s perfectly okay to have your convictions about your faith and what you will allow in your spirit, but above all, love is the greatest focus and goal. Pray for your family members who are unsaved, but don’t beat them over the head with it. God is a gentleman and never forces Himself on us. To love God, is to love His people. Let Joshua 24:15 be your prayer for your family. “But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord. You must choose for yourselves today. But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Declare and decree it, in Jesus’ name, and let God do the rest. Your responsibility is to live an upright lifestyle before them and love them like Jesus would if He were walking this earth.

Family is a gift; never take them for granted.

Healthy Holiday

It’s that time of year again. Time to celebrate with our family and loved ones. Time reminiscing about the past, talking about the present and discussing our plans about the future. This is the season of giving and sharing, laughter and tears; joy and love, and seeing those you haven’t seen in a long time. It is also the season of weight gain.

Here, we will give tips on how to stay fit and healthy through the holiday season. Let’s start with food.

Holiday Eating Tips

• Bring food with you. If you are concerned about eating all the wrong things, you can take your food with you.

• Eat before you go. Before leaving the house or hotel, fill up on vegetables. Take vegetables, fruit and nuts to eat before the big meal. Filling up on healthy foods before the big meal, leaves less room for the unhealthy food you want to eat.

• Eat a little bit of everything. A lot of times we eat with our eyes or we think (unconsciously due to our upbringing) we must eat everything on our plate. To avoid over eating, place small amounts of food on a saucer to control your portion sizes.

• Eat more vegetables than anything else. Our plates should be filled with lots of vegetables and smaller portions of everything else. Eat all the vegetables first, again this leaves less room for other food we want to indulge in.

 

• Drink a lot of water. When we are full, there is less room for the foods we would indulge in.

• Eat slow. Eating fast allows us to take in too many calories. From the time we start eating, it takes 20 minutes for our brain to tell our body we are full. Slow down and you will become fuller sooner.

• Leftovers are a no, no. After eating, don’t go back for more food later. If you do, only eat veggies and protein (nothing fried). Don’t take leftovers home. If there are no leftovers to eat, it is easier to get back on track and keep the weight down. If you are the host, ask everyone to take as much food with them when they leave. If there is a lot of food left over, think about giving the food to a shelter.

These tips are not to prevent anyone from enjoying the foods they love, but eating them in moderation is key. We can eat our favorite food; we just have to eat them in smaller portions. The last option is to enjoy yourself and eat what you would like. Choosing this option means, one, we are not allowed to beat ourselves up the next day by telling ourselves, “I shouldn’t have eaten all that food”. One day isn’t going to get us off track as long as we don’t continue to eat the food (see #5). Second, don’t step on the scale the next day. The extra calories, sodium and sugar will cause weight gain

Holiday Fitness Tips

• Workout in the morning. There will be a lot of extra calories eaten during the holiday season. One way to help with weight gain (on Thanksgiving and Christmas days) is to workout in the morning or before leaving for the day. You want to burn more calories than you take in to control weight gain. According to WebMD.com, “…the average American consumes approximately 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat from eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And that doesn’t include breakfast, lunch, or late-night snacking on leftovers. Studies show that the average American gains 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season (Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, n.d.).” We may not burn 4,500 extra calories, but burning some calories is better than none at all.

• Walk after you get done eating. This is a great time for family and friends to go outside after eating, and go for a walk.

• We can take a workout with us. If we are visiting family and friends, go to YouTube and do a quick workout.

Staying fit and health during the holiday season is possible, if we are willing to make small changes.

Dreaming of a Debt Free Christmas

The holiday season can really become a burden for some families. Magnifymoney.com states, “between gifts, hosting parties, family emergencies, and for some, fewer work hours, it’s easy for debt to add up if you don’t have savings on hand. While the $986 of those surveyed added to their debt on average is a manageable amount, it can easily snowball (1).” In a time where building wealth and living a comfortable life is top priority in many households, the want to shower loved ones with expensive Christmas gifts does not fade. The Christian doctrine preaches that the “reason for the season” is to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior through charitable works and goodwill toward mankind, but it’s just words, if no real action is practiced. Christians can make an impact on the war against debt by simply leading with our faith. Family leaders can create new traditions that will promote healthy financial decisions and deter common debt occurred during the holiday season.

model: Alyssa Banister photographer: Emajhn Johnson
model: Alyssa Banister
photographer: Emajhn Johnson

 

Start shopping early. Striving for a debt-free Christmas does not have to mean a ban on gifts. One of the common fails of creating debt is families struggling to come up with large sums of cash to get gifts. Millions of people prepare for the Christmas sales, when some of the same discounts are offered all year. Catch the Valentine’s specials or the special coupons for Mother’s Day and purchase a few Christmas gifts during that time. Spreading the costs over time will lighten the load on your finances and decrease the need to borrow or charge large amounts to credit cards. Slow and steady shopping will relieve the stress of impulse spending and may even create a more pleasurable and economical giving experience.

Give repurposed gifts. Repurposing has become a hidden treat amongst the craftier people of the world. With the help of Pinterest, Instagram and other social media, recycling has become cool again! The key to this new trend, is to take old items and change them to be used in a way other than its intended use. Here are a few examples to try.

Turn an old picture frame into an earring holder. A person that loves jewelry would appreciate a thoughtful gift such as this. You’ll need some sort of wire (picture wire works really well) to hang your earrings on. Just run the wire across the frame and then hang up your earrings. This is a great gift idea for girls of all ages and you can run as much wire, making as many levels, as you want. If you have longer earrings that dangle, make longer levels.

 

Instead of hauling that old entertainment center off to the dump, take a couple of hours and turn it into an adorable play kitchen for your little girl. The center doesn’t have to be in perfect condition as you can reinforce anything that needs it and it won’t really be expected to hold much weight, anyway. Just a little paint and imagination are really all you need to turn that old eyesore into something that any little girl will get hours of pleasure from. Plus, it’s a great place to store all those play cooking toys.

Pay it forward. Charitable acts usually peak during the holiday season, but there is always room for more community service. Start a tradition of some special charitable act that your family can enjoy together. Proverbs 19:17 states that “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.” Following the example of this scripture emanates the very essence of the reason for the season. The name Christian or “Of Christ” compels us to be the Good Samaritan. Find a local soup kitchen or church that is serving the less fortunate for Christmas. Utilize this time to create fun memories and instill a desire to help those in need along with the family celebration.

The burden of debt eats at our destined happiness and creates the type of stress that is not easily shaken. Refuse or release the shackles of debt, by adjusting habits and traditions and relax into financial freedom. Once debt is eliminated from the picture, a white Christmas can once again invade our dreams!

The Carter Link

Meet the Carters. Joel and Summer Carter met each other at the age of 16 and have been inseparable since. Joel has worked in the field of education for several years at William Frantz Elementary School and he was recently made head of the athletics department. For the historians, the name of the school may sound familiar to you. It’s the school that Ruby Bridges attended to desegregate. Summer, Joel’s wife, has a knack for creativity. Her background is in art and fashion. She creates oil paintings and fashion designs. Summer is also a stay at home mom caring for their two beautiful children.

The Carters are known on their social media accounts as The Carter Link. They have become a social media sensation in recent months, but they aren’t new to the scene.

Joel is the original entertainer in the family with a passion for rapping. He posted the first video showing the proposal he made to his then fiancé, now wife, over a year ago. Summer Carter was surprised with a proposal upon her arrival home after a long day of work. She came to the door only to find a trail of notes from the front door to her tablet telling her to check her Facebook. Once she finally sat down to check her account she saw the video that Joel created. At the end of video was an address for her to meet Joel. Summer recalls thinking she needed to be presentable and while getting herself together to be glammed for the occasion there was a knock at the door. Someone came by telling her they couldn’t let her go to her destination alone. When she turned around to head back to the room to get ready she saw a room filled with family, friends and most importantly, Joel. That video was the beginning of something amazing, and I’m not just talking about their marriage.

You can find several videos on their Facebook and YouTube accounts after the proposal. Those videos include scenes from their wedding ceremony and the most popular video, their anniversary celebration. The anniversary video was the premier of the entire family coming into the act and having lyrics to perform as well. Even their daughter choreographs her own dance moves.

Joel and Summer don’t take for granted the platform that God is blessing them with through their social media account for The Carter Link. They have received feedback from so many who can relate to their story and find encouragement from their social media posts. They see it as a ministry and they want all the glory to go to God.

Grace for the Journey

Statistics show that single mother pregnancies have been on the rise for decades. While it is a belief that long gone are the days where this population of women is kept in secret or held to shame, don’t be deceived.

If you take a moment to think about the people in your circle you probably know at least one woman who has been or currently is pregnant and single. Did they announce the pregnancy right away or hide it? Were they welcomed with open arms of love and concern or shunned with disappointment and judgement? The Christian church teaches from a biblical stance against fornication (sex before marriage), in turn a pregnancy that is a result of fornication is deemed something to be ashamed. Many times the creation of life is not celebrated by anyone.

Typically, the church is extremely vocal when it comes to saying that a single woman should have the baby instead of an abortion, but they [Church] are nowhere to be found afterwards for support and guidance. Well, one church did something to change that for the women they could impact. Gateway Church, located in Texas, started a ministry for single, pregnant women. The name of this organization is Embrace Grace. They have a mission “To inspire and equip the church to love on single and pregnant young women and their families.” Their vision is “For every girl with an unplanned pregnancy to have a church to go to for spiritual, emotional and physical support.”

The founders are Amy Ford and Salina Duffy. Upon speaking with Christy I learned that Amy was inspired to start Embrace Grace over eight years ago as God began to remind her of her own experience as a young mother finding out she was pregnant at the age of 19. Amy felt ashamed and scared. Although she never thought that she would decide to have an abortion, once she found herself pregnant and fearing the unknown she and her boyfriend made the choice that she would get one. Amy went for her appointment and passed out at the clinic and the nurse had her go home for the day. After the failed attempt, she and her boyfriend prayed and decided they would tell their parents. Amy remembered the feelings she had and how she could have used someone to show her the love of Christ. That memory, along with how giving Amy was to friends and family as they celebrated the births of their children sparked a desire in her to want to do something for single, pregnant women. Salina, at the same time, had a vision and kept hearing help the mommies and the babies.

When the founders first came together with the burning desire to help single, pregnant women they started a class at their church and over time the class was refined by creating teaching materials and guidelines. Other churches began to reach out and inquire on the course so they could model the same thing for women in their community.

 

I had the recent opportunity to speak with a staff member of Embrace Grace, Christy Bolling, about this amazing ministry and learn more about what it is that they do and how they do it. Christy is on staff as the group developer for Embrace Grace. She has only been a staff member since January of 2016, but has offered of herself by volunteering and donating for groups over the years. Who better to have as a staff member than someone who was willing to assist as much as possible without being compensated?! She truly has a passion for the work that she does and the overall mission of this organization as well as knowledge of the history and programs.

Through churches reaching out for information to offer the program, Embrace Grace slowly but surely became a nationwide organization. The groups are not designed to be parenting classes or to meet needs of the women such as a place to stay or funds for bills. There are already other groups and resources available for those things. The Embrace Grace groups are simply to connect the participants with churches that can help the women to understand that even though they did fall that Jesus still loves them and there is still purpose in them and even more important for the child inside.

Embrace Grace has been in operation at Gateway campuses for eight and a half years, offering 17 semesters of groups to women at the Gateway campuses alone. They obtained their non-profit status in October 2012. The groups run for 10-12 week sessions (per semester) and meet once a week for an hour to an hour and a half. Embrace Grace is a prolife organization, but they do not advise on whether the babies should be kept by the mothers or for the parents to go through an adoption agency to bless another family who would love to raise the child for them. The organization does however try to ensure that they are connecting the participants with church groups that will check in on them during the week along with the weekly meetings. The semester ends with a baby shower for the participants, held by the hosting church. Ultimately, the hope is that the women become connected to the church and plug in even after the course is complete.
There have been past participants known as “Blooms” who have become leaders through Embrace Grace. Many of the past participants choose to volunteer here and there to assist with events and groups or donate towards the baby showers. There is also another section of the organization known as Embrace Life. Embrace Life is designed for single mothers. It “equips single new moms on how to flourish in their relationship with God and not only survive in life but THRIVE.”

Embrace Grace, Inc. has launched nearly 300 groups in 42 United States and 4 countries. If you would like to learn more about Embrace Grace or Embrace Life and how to either find a group, start a group or donate to the organization you can find them online at www.embracegrace.com.

Summer Shaping Fun

Beaches, amusement/ water parks, family vacations, back yard barbecues, outdoor exercise classes, mommy get-a-ways…Yes, honey! Summer is here!

Summer time brings about various memories and good times with family and friends. To ensure that you enjoy it to the fullest, I’d like to discuss a few health maintenance topics.

 

Fun in the sun!

  • Who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying the summer breeze and sunlight? Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to hideous sunburns and tans. You know, the ones that make wearing that beautiful prom, wedding or summer dress almost impossible? It can also lead to wrinkled or early aging of skin, skin cancer and cataracts of the eyes. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
    • Wear sun screen, SPF 15 or higher
    • Wear hats to cover your face, ears and neck
    • Get in the shade in the midday hours
    • Wear clothing that protects your skin if you are planning to work outside for a long time

 

Get your exercise on, girl!

  • Sometimes this is hard while on vacation. Here are a few ideas for exercise when you’re not in your normal environment:
    • Find a local park- While the children play, walk or run the path around the park
    • Look for free outdoor classes in the community- Many communities are sponsoring activities to help their citizens be healthy.
    • Go hiking or mountain climbing- You’ll get a full body workout and have an opportunity to capture some breathtaking photos!
    • Go boating- Moving those paddles are bound to get your upper body muscles toned!
    • Go skating with the children- You already know this will get those legs and buttocks muscles “on fleek!”
    • Find a local gym and get a 1-week visitor pass.

Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink! Water, that is- Yes, you must stay hydrated!

  • You’d be surprised how many people we see in the emergency department because they are dehydrated or worse. Here are a few tips to save yourself the time and money:
    • Your body is made of 70-80% water, which gets released when you void, sneeze, speak, sweat, etc. To replace the water lost, drink at least 6- 8 ounce glasses of water per day. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll need much more than that.
    • Drink Gatorade or Powerade to replenish your water intake.
    • Decrease the amount of soda, sweet tea and sugary drinks. These will dehydrate you.

 

Practice safety!

  • It’s fun to go riding with your girls in your drop top, or windows down for most of us, with your hair flowin’ and make up poppin’, but please remember to buckle up!
  • Know your surroundings. Criminals are looking for victims who are “off their square” or are clueless of their surroundings because they are talking on their phones or texting.
  • Label your emergency contacts in your phone “ICE,” This is short for, In Case of E This way, your emergency contacts can be called if you are unable to call them yourself.
  • No texting and driving! Use hands free methods of communication while driving.
  • If you’ve had a little too much to drink, call a cab or friend for a ride home.

 

Well, that’s it for now! I pray that you all enjoy the blazin’ summer and make new memories for a lifetime!

Dr. Jay

I Weathered the Storm!

by: Anise Marshall

 

Vanessa Murray’s testimony is the definition of what it means to be a bold believer, bold dreamer and bold achiever. Vanessa’s dream as a teenager was to become a successful meteorologist. As a child, she was always intrigued with the inner workings of weather. She had her entire life planned out and thought about her plans daily. As for many, when we desire to accomplish something, everything and anything happens to deter us from moving forward.

During the interview, I was beyond grateful to be able to hear her testimony and unbeknownst to Vanessa, she was encouraging me. Vanessa has faced so much in her life. At only 26 years of age, she has experienced things that make most want to give up and curse God, like Job. Vanessa, however, has chosen to play a role that insists on giving God praise instead of grief. Not everyone will face the same test in life and that’s okay. I’ve found that every testimony comes with a test, built to encourage someone else. I hope this testimony will encourage others just as it has recharged my heart. She has truly weathered the storm at such a tender young age.

Decisions we make sometimes cause us to have setbacks in life. How many of you know that those “setbacks” are nothing but setups for come backs? The enemy will cause us to believe that things we have not planned, will stop us from reaching our destination. That is a lie from the pit of hell. Vanessa found that even though she lost loved ones (her great-grandmother) along the way, God had a plan for her, her husband, her children and her extended family.  God had taken her on a path that would speak to multitudes whether Christian or a non-believer. She has a story that many young women face daily, only to throw in the towel. Included in this story, is a visual timeline of the life of a walking success.

2006

– Junior year of high school, got pregnant with her first born child.

2008

– Turned down an opportunity to visit, and gain first-hand knowledge from, a news station due to shame of being pregnant again.

2009

– While pregnant, with her second child, she was attacked by racially motivated individuals causing her to lose control of the car.

– Hospitalized and told she may lose her child due to the accident.

– Brought up charges against individuals responsible but was told that, “they had a future,” and case was thrown out.

2010

– Got married to the love of her life.

– Boldly changed her negative views of herself, and asked for a transfer from junior college at home to a university, 6 hours away, in Edwardsville, IL.

– Moved to Edwardsville with a scholarship as basketball manager.

 

2012

– Had to move back to her home town due to financial stability and personal issues.

– Did not have a place for her and her children. Vanessa was pregnant with her 3rd child, and “Homeless.”

– Decided her prayer life and spirituality needed to be revitalized and strengthened regarding marriage, children and family.

2013

– Hospitalized, for a month, after a severe bout of pneumonia. Had to withdraw from an accredited meteorology program at NIU.

– Gave birth to 3rd child and found that he had many medical issues causing constant hospital visits.

– Oldest child started having medical issues that caused frequent hospital visits.

– Noticed a positive shift in her home and decided to move back to Edwardsville and pursue degree in Geography.

2015

– Made dean’s list and got nominated for academic achievement and leadership, in Geography program, along with the Madison county scholarship award of $1,500.

– Great-grandmother passed.

– Criticized for working on degree while being a non-traditional student.

2016

– At the peak of her prayer life, she found that her husband could potentially have cancer.

– Found that husband was cancer free on drive to her externship, with a meteorologist, to Cleveland, Ohio.

– Graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Geography, with a Minor in Meteorology/ climatology.

 

Vanessa’s journey did not unfold as she had planned as a child, but it was the journey that established her into the praying woman she is today. She will soon be blessed with the gift of recording a sample meteorology tape, to submit for job offers. If you take anything from Vanessa’s story, learn that adversity does not have to stop you from reaching your dream. In the midst of: financial turmoil, racist attacks, stereotype of being a non-traditional student, medical scares and even death, Vanessa still found a way to find the calm in every storm. Let God use your trials, to draw you closer to him and trust that he is equipping you for your future. He will bring the right people in, at just the right time. She learned that instead of giving up, she must weather the storm.

 

Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm”, and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm” – Unknown

LXW Chicago, A League of Their Own

In 2014, gospel singer and pastor, Deitrick Haddon, introduced LXW (League of Xtraordinary Worshippers) to the gospel scene. With hits like “Great God” and “Just Like He Said He Would,” this amazing group began to take flight. Fast forward to 2015, where Haddon and Eric Rideout (Co-founder of LXW Chicago) came together to form LXW Chicago. According to Haddon’s wife, Dominique Haddon, and Eric Rideout, Co-founder, the group is an identical replica of the group located in L.A. “Due to costs, there were two groups created so that LXW L.A. could handle west coast engagements, and LXW Chicago could handle mid-west and east coast engagements.”

Though a young group, the leadership is full of experience and talent. Along with the founders of the group there is Zeke Locke, director of LXW Chicago, Nina Goshay, ministry director, Tiffany Williams, support staff, Baneika Holeyfield, finance administrator, Marquese McCoy, music director, Dwayne Verner, bass player, and Tony Taylor, drummer (who recently won the Guitar Center Drum Off).

Make no mistakes, LXW Chicago is not just another choir doing the same old thing. They hit the stage, voices ready to capture your ears and bodies ready to morph to the beat. Their ministry statement describes them as a group that, “captures the high-energy, larger-than-life sound and meticulous melodies that fans have grown to love about choir music…” Their purpose, is to “show youth in church and not in church, that there is a positive way to live and, be in this society.” So, don’t let the high energy and talent of LXW Chicago cause you to think it’s all about entertaining. From leadership’s mouths, they said that this group is all about ministry.  Director, Zeke Locke avowed, “We want to break the mold, we want to be that group that can set an atmosphere and be swagged out.”

The first qualification to be a part of LXW Chicago, is salvation. Of course, there is the factor of talent for vocals, but you must be saved! At the end of the day, they want everyone in the ministry to show Christ wherever they go. The standard has been set by the leadership team making sure that the lifestyle of every member reflect what they sing about. They don’t want anyone doing anything that will cause someone else to stumble or deter someone from giving their heart to Jesus.

The standard has been set by the leadership team making for the lifestyles of the members reflect what they sing about. They don’t want anyone doing anything that will cause someone else to stumble or deter someone from giving their heart to Jesus.

LXW Chicago makes it a point to constantly go before God in prayer. Not just the huddles before ministering for an event or those quick prayers to open and close rehearsal. Their chaplain, Darien Mickens, or their Director, Zeke Locke, lead LXW in a short bible study lesson before rehearsals. There have been times where the presence of the Lord fills the room they rehearse in. It has gotten to the point where everyone is in a spirit of praise and worship that is undeniable. They have a heart for God and it is evident when they minister.

If you have not seen them in action yet, you can catch them before summer ends. Their summer events are all about outreach and ministry. They have already ministered at the Edwin & Walter Hawkins Music & Arts Love Fellowship Conference in Chicago, IL and C.O.G.I.C. National Aim Convention in Cincinnati, OH. They are scheduled to do much more. If you can’t make any of their summer appearances, be sure to mark your calendars for a concert they will be having on October 29th in Chicago, IL with special guest. For more information concerning the groups schedule, you can view their social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.