Family Life, October 2017

The Patience of Job

The Patience of Job

by Yvonne Thomas

Patience. Long-suffering. Forbearance. Whichever word you prefer to use, they all mean being tolerant and uncomplaining in spite of troubles, slow to anger, and able to show restraint. Patience is just one of the nine attributes of the “Fruits of the Spirit” that we should be actively presenting in our daily lives.

Take for example the book of Job. We have all heard the idiom, “You have the patience of Job,” a phrase that came about based on the extreme amount of suffering Job had to endure. He lost all of his children and his wealth in a single day. He then was covered in painful sores (Job 2:7). His wife encouraged him to give up, curse God, and die (Job 2:9).  In 

addition to that, his friends falsely accused him of wrongdoing and blamed his troubles on his unrepentant heart.Job was a believer. He did not know why so many terrible tragedies were happening in his life. But through it all, he patiently endured (Job 2:10). He never lost his faith in God, even though these circumstances tested him to his core. The Lord then blessed him with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10). This is the patience that we should all have despite what we are going through. Romans 8:18 says, “Our pain that we are feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.” God sees far more than we can see. He sees lessons that we need to learn that are beyond our understanding. He will bring us to places just to show us to trust Him. We may not know what He is doing in the background or how He is going to work it out, but we do know that nothing happens by chance. He is always present and always in control. His plan for our lives is always better than ours!

That term “the patience of Job” has been used on several occasions to describe how I have personally handled situations in my life. I may not have lost everything in one day (property, possessions and children) as Job did, but like so many of you out there, I have lost my home, my marriage, my job, my family, my friends, my possessions. I am also a domestic abuse survivor. I had to walk away from everything — my job, my family and friends and material possessions, to start all over in life after working so hard to accomplish all that I had. It took years to get back on my feet, struggling along the way as a single parent of three, and just as I thought I was finally doing well, I was once again in a similar position starting over again after yet another failed marriage with two more children in tow. The one thing that remained constant during these tests was my trust and patience in waiting on God to step in and work out my situation according to His will and purpose. The second time around was easier because I knew that if he did it once before, then He could surely do it again! I only had to be still and allow God to fight that battle for me (Exodus 14:14).

My faith has been tested countless times over and over again through the years. I have been through enough challenges and trials to have the strongest person depressed and suicidal. But I have come to realize that sometimes life puts us in these situations. We don’t always get to pick the situations we go through, but we can choose how we handle them. I continue to keep my head lifted up with a smile on my face, resting assured that “even though anxiety is great within me, His consolation brings joy to my soul” (Psalms 94:19).

The account of Job’s life is one that encourages us when we are facing discouraging and traumatic experiences, challenges and struggles, trials and tribulations. His story helps us learn to trust God patiently while waiting on Him to work things out in our life. Persevering and pushing forward, praising Him along the way until he shows up on time as He always does. Sometimes we may never find out exactly why we were put through so much suffering, but we must be patient and trust Him anyway because His ways are perfect. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is our responsibility to obey Him, trust Him and Submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. So ask yourself, will you be a person that is easily set off when things go wrong in your life or will you have the patience of Job and be able to keep a godly perspective in the face of life’s challenges?

yvonne thomas

Yvonne Thomas lives in Lafayette, LA, and is president and founder of the nonprofit Yvonne Thomas Foundation, which inspires, encourages and mentors young women through private sessions, guest speaking, seminars, and cooking and etiquette classes. She volunteers regularly for community events, and has authored two short stories — Letter To My Husband (released April 2017) and Letter To My Wife (to be released December 2017).

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Family Life, Septermber 2017

Cultivating Seeds of Kindness at Home

 

Cultivating Seeds

of Kindness at
Home

by Roger Butner, PHD, LMFT

We hat to admit it, but we know it’s the ugly truth:  it is often easier to show kindness to strangers and acquaintances than to our own beloved family members at home.

It’s as though we have an expectation of our spouses, kids, or other family members to get everything right all the time, yet we extend grace to those outside the home. And being exposed so often to so many of our family members’ faults can simply wear down our patience with them, to the point that we lose our spirit of kindness, gentleness and grace. How much stronger and more peaceful is our home life when we share these virtues in abundance with our loved ones!

God’s Word teaches us in Galatians 5:22 that His Holy Spirit produces in us the fruit of kindness, along with patience and gentleness for good measure. What wonderful news! This means God’s natural work is to produce in us the very virtues our family members long for us to share with them.

My favorite passage for guidance on how to live with spouses and children is Philippians 2:1-18.

A few years ago, I was reading this passage in an unfamiliar translation … The New Century Version. Suddenly, verses 12 and 13 took on clear meaning for me as they never had before: “ …Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. ” Wow! Seriously, read that again, and consider the incredible meaning. If we are seeking Him and His will, He will give us the additional motivation and tools we need to walk in His will – even to want to walk in His will. We just need to be willing to seek Him daily. My goal today is to offer you a few simple ideas to help you move closer in step with His Spirit as you share the life-giving fruit of kindness in greater abundance in your own home.

SEED 1

Offer an encouraging word every day. This may not be your current habit, but it surely is a good one to cultivate. Use an app on your phone or a simple note on your bathroom mirror to remind you to seize an opportunity at least once a day to verbalize to your spouse and each child something you like, appreciate or admire in them. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it – just keep looking for those moments to lift their spirits with your genuine words of kindness. This is such a simple practice that can make a world of difference at home or anywhere else you choose to practice this act of kindness.

SEED 2

Watch your tone. You’ve heard it before. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. This is such a powerful truth. One simple way to change our tone from harshness to kindness is to regularly ask ourselves before opening our mouths, “Am I going to invite my spouse or child to hear me and consider my words, or fight with me and reject my words?” If we really want to be heard and considered, why do we so often speak in a way that invites pushback, fighting and rejection? If this is a deeply engrained pattern in your relationships at home, try this exercise: Whenever you know you need to say or discuss something that may be emotionally charged, invite your spouse or child to come stand in front of a large mirror with you. You will find it easier to keep your words, tone and body language in a spirit of kindness when you have the immediate feedback of seeing your own “energy” while you speak. Seriously. Try it.

SEED 3

Take time to listen. Practice the wisdom of this classic prayer: “ O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love… ” Kindness in relationships is often demonstrated through taking the time to genuinely listen to and consider one another’s words. In fact, one of the most effective ways to “get” someone to listen to you with an open mind is to offer that very gift to them first. Spouses and kids who feel heard by your kind ear and heart are so much more likely to enjoy a peaceful and mutually respectful relationship with you.

May these simple suggestions bless you and your loved ones with a bumper crop of kindness! If I can assist you in any way, please reach out to me at Roger@hopeforyourfamily.com.

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Roger Butner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice specializing in teens and their parents, family dynamics, and addiction issues. His wife, Chemaine, is a baton rouge native. He has lived in br since 2002, and he and Chemaine have a 13 year old son. Contact Dr. butner and find out more at his website: hopeforyourfamily.com

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August 2017, Family Life

Freedom for Our Families

 

Freedom for Our Families

by Giselle Chiasson Saia

“My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s spirit. then you won’t feel the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness, unable to live according to how you feel on a given day. But when we use our freedom to live God’s way, He brings gifts to our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – we find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and divert our own energies wisely.” – Galatians 5:19-23 the Message

We probably do not typically equate the thought of self-control with freedom. Other synonyms come to mind such as restraint, self-discipline, self-possession and command. But when we reflect on the fact that God’s spirit dwells in us and we are set free by His sacrifice for us, we too experience freedom when we choose to walk with Him and in His spirit. Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.” It appears many of us suffer in this current day and age from much indulgence of flesh and of selfishness, or “Me Syndrome.” We must step out of this bondage in order to freely live and serve others in love. As Christians, we are called to “above all, put on love” (Col 3:14) and we possess the Holy Spirit “indwelling” us with His power. He gives us His spirit of power, love, a sound mind, and self-control (2Tim 1:7). So why do we struggle so much with practicing this especially at home, where the fruits of our choices matter most? One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch … how can we exercise freedom in self-control and fertilize the fruit trees in our homes and

families to yield a plentiful harvest as fruit appears in an orchard?

I have the honor and privilege of being a mom to a 22-year-old son, and 16-year-old daughter, a stepmom to three daughters, 16, 18 and 20, and a spiritual mother/mentor to many of God’s hurting children whom I counsel in my vocation/ministry as a Christian counselor. Upon reflection with my family and “children” as well as My Heavenly Father regarding self-control and family life, I encountered some revelations and “V8 slaps” in my own face and heart. Primarily, being a wife again in a second marriage and blending a family of teen girls at home brings much “baggage” on all our parts from painful past marriages and hurtful divorces.

God again (I am stubborn and He seems to keep leading me here) gently, lovingly, gracefully and mercifully, yet relentlessly, reminded me that the battle for self-control is within and with ME. He has not called me to control anyone but me.

The battle is with me, myself and I and on the last day, He will only converse with ME about ME and how I did with what He gave me – not to discuss my husband, my ex-husband,his ex-wife, or anyone else I happened to have had issue with.  If something is causing inner turmoil in me with my husband, then I must seek God’s face only to see if He is revealing an area in me that needs deeper healing, pruning or growing, and as I allow Him to work in me and I let go, He can deal directly with my husband much more efficiently than even I, the Christian counselor who “has done her work!”  Ha!  He reminds me I am not that co-dependent girl anymore and as I let Him sit on His throne and let His love flow in and through me, then I can choose love and let go and love my husband as He would love and forgive him. When I move in the spirit of self-control here, the atmosphere changes immediately in my marriage and in our children and household. Thus we are all free to love and serve and heal more deeply and we can do it with joyful hearts, free of selfishness, pride or irritation. I am reminded there is freedom in choosing selflessness over selfishness and in relinquishing control.

In our home, practicing self-control and self-discipline over our schedules and time is key.  If my husband and I prioritize early morning time set aside to sit at His feet in His Word, to quiet our minds and hearts to hear Him speak in a still, small voice to our loud minds and we allow ourselves to receive His peace and guidance for our marriage, work, family and other issues, we carry that peace into the remainder of our day. But on the days we oversleep, are rushed to get to work or roll over and grab the cell phones and are pulled in by the world and demands of the day, our entire household and those we influence suffer. One bad apple …! It is evident that feeding our spirit-man and

starving our flesh brings freedom, peace and joy even if it does not “feel” that way in the heat of the moment. If only we would roll over and grab our Bibles as quickly as we grab electronic devices to check news, work e-mails, Facebook, social media and other worldly distractions, what a difference our homes, communities and world would be, not to mention the joy we would bring to our Heavenly Father who simply wants a deeper relationship with His children.

He has not called me to control anyone but me. the battle is with me, myself and i and on the last day, He will only converse with Me about Me and how i did with what He gave me…

Deeper and more present and intimate relationships within our families also results from the fruit of self-control at home. If we all are more mindful and intentional about being fully present in the moments, not just present with cell phones in hands, then face-to-face loving interactions take place. Real connections are made. Loving memories that last forever are experienced at the heart level and those stay with us and can even help heal wounds of past disconnected places. Dinners, hanging out together on couches cutting up with each other, family vacations, moments between

spouses, and conversations take on a fuller and richer meaning much as God desires with us. It takes self-control within the home with cooperation from all parties to defeat the enemy’s distractions that Paul refers to in Galatians as works of the flesh. The enemy is referred to as the god of this world and the prince of the airwaves, and he seeks to destroy, divide, steal and kill unity and purity in the family. “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time; repetitive loveless cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; a brutal temper; impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives ….” (Gal 5:19-21) On that note, I must admit my beautiful 16-year-old daughter’s response to what self-control in the family looks like to her were powerful words from a mature and wise-beyondher-years young woman of God. My other beautiful 16-year-old stepdaughter has given me feedback as well and we have all been tested in this department as I prepared this article. Imagine that! Never any coincidences with our sweet God! I was reminded that parents set the tone for the family with self-control over our tongues and anger, and we should be quick to listen and slow to anger and slow to speak. As James reminds us in 1:19, we as parents should refrain from being short-fused with each other or our children because words do hurt. We should show emotional maturity by stepping back, reframing, resting, and responding versus reacting to our emotions because words cannot be taken back and they enter our heart like fiery darts being used by the enemy to stir more strife and division in families. I was reminded that we should also watch the profanities (yes, we slip up in that department) that fly as

little ears do hear all and then repeat all, and children do as they see, not as they are told not to do. Word curses and generational curses have their roots here often. From the perspective of the teenagers and children and self-control, my daughter shared that controlling emotions and responding first before reacting was important, especially around gossiping as one never knows what is really going on inside a person who is behaving in an unbecoming manner. Thus judging and gossiping would only make it worse. She added that selfcontrol or jealousy among siblings is not necessary because they should support and bless each other’s achievements. And if a parent is spending much time with a particular sibling, that sibling may be going through a difficult or dark time or emotional struggle and may need to lean on and be supported by one or both parents more than usual. She was insightful in noting that she would have to step aside from emotion and see what was really festering there that God may be dealing with. Definitely words for us all to live by and to remember to choose selflessness and put on love so His love flows throughout the home, not anger, jealousy or division.

I long to walk in the freedom and power of choosing self-control given freely to me by Him who lives in me. There will always be a battle between flesh and spirit as Paul reminds us in Romans 7:15-20. “I do what I don’t want to do and I hate what I do.” This statement holds so true, especially for those who struggle with addiction, compulsions, obsessive behaviors and even the choice to live a balanced life of healthy eating and exercise. May we remember the importance of feeding our spirits and starving our flesh and the power of prayer and fasting. I will stay focused on the One who is sovereign (Eph 1:11) and ask Him to continue to change ME into His likeness so His love and Holy Spirit flow in and through me to my spoise, my children, those I touch in counseling, and to His precious Body, the Church.  I will keep in mind that without love, and self-control, I am nothing.  May the choice to walk in the spirit of self-control, I am nothing.  May the choice to walk in the spirit of self-control and not in the flesh produce a lush harvest of love and connection on our family’s tree of life.

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Giselle Chiasson saia is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge. she specializes in PtsD, developmental and relational trauma recovery, healing the child within and family of origin healing. she practices from a “wounded healer” perspective with her own story and testimony from childhood abuse recovery and divorce recovery. thus, she is passionate about walking alongside those on their journeys out of shame identities and past bondage into lives of wholeness and freedom. she is married to Russell saia and they have a blended family of five children. For counseling, mentoring or spiritual direction services, call (985) 687-6595 or e-mail gbc143@yahoo.com.

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Family Life, July 2017

Pennington Explores Infertility

 

Pennington

Explores Infertility Gene

Mapping Study Seeks Participants

If you’ve struggled to get pregnant or know someone who has, there is a decent chance that a common hormonal disorder played a role. PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is the most common reason why many women have trouble getting pregnant. It affects 1 in

12 women around the world, which translates to 15 percent of women who are of reproductive age. “It can be incredibly frustrating for families who are trying to conceive and aren’t able to get pregnant,” said Dr. Leanne Redman, who studies maternal and infant health at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She is

leading up a study with scientists and endocrinologists around the country aimed at better understanding PCOS. PCOS develops when patterns of hormone signals from the brain become irregular and the ovaries make more testosterone than they should. Insulin from the pancreas can also contribute to this process which is why many women who suffer from PCOS are also insulin resistant. PCOS commonly results in irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain and increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Because of the elevated testosterone, many women with PCOS also experience unwanted hair growth. “I’ve talked with many women throughout my career who have dealt with PCOS and it’s heart-wrenching for them, particularly after many months and sometime years of trying to conceive. If we can better understand the genes behind this disorder, then we may be able to develop better therapies to help women prevent a diagnosis or to better treat PCOS,” Redman said. “We already know that PCOS runs in families, so genes play an important role in the disorder,” said Redman, who holds the LPFA Endowed Fellowship at Pennington Biomedical. The PCOS Gene Mapping Study is underway right now and its goal is to identify specific genes that increase the likelihood of a woman developing PCOS. To add to the already thousands of women we have studied, Redman and her team are now looking for women of African American heritage between the ages of 18 and 40 to participate in the PCOS Gene Mapping study. “We also know that the number of women affected differs by ethnic groups, so by studying the genes of large groups of women from diverse ethnic backgrounds, this research study hopes to identify the specific genes that increase PCOS risk, so we can better understand how the disorder develops.”

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Family Life, June 2017

A Humble Transition

A Humble Transition

by Leah Lively

Humility, a character quality lacking in our world today, has repeatedly been a challenge for me, as well. Moving …to the area last August required me to fully lay down all prideful control, anxiety, and fear, humbly allowing God to come to the forefront.

Humility, a character quality lacking in our world today, has repeatedly been a challenge for me, as well. Moving …to the area last August required me to fully lay down all prideful control, anxiety, and fear, humbly allowing God to come to the forefront.

On August 3, 2016, our family of six arrived in Baton Rouge. Born and raised in Virginia, my husband and I brought our four children to the bayou as a result of a promising job offer. Despite an appealing new adventure, I was content in our hometown surrounded by a loving church, close friends and family a few hours away. Knowing I had to release my desire to remain in Virginia, God began the process of stripping me of pride and the need to be in control, having no choice but to fully and humbly rely on his plan.

I knew nothing about Baton Rouge. All was unknown and uncomfortable, a challenge for this girl who likes everything planned and prepared. Recent news had overtaken my internet search of the region. Three weeks prior to arriving, police officers were ambushed by a shooter, wounding three and killing three in the wake of a summer of racial unrest. Angst crept in as I wondered, “God, why would you have us move to such a scary place?” Although my head was anxious, my heart was serene as the puzzle pieces for our move fell into place.

After rapidly securing a house, our road trip was uneventful. When the moving truck arrived with local movers to help unload, I was faced with the aftermath of the recent tragedy. One of our moving men was the father of a young officer killed, Montrell Jackson. He willingly spoke of his brave son, his passion for the community and the legacy he left for their family. The encounter was more than random. God used it to erase my uneasiness and replace it with compassion, connecting me to a hurting people. Once filled with fear, my heart now ached for the pain from which local residents were trying to recover.

Less than a week later, worry resurfaced as the floodwaters began to rise. Attempting to manage my own “disaster relief” at home with unpacking, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for those around me. A region already in anguish now faced catastrophic flooding. Yet again, God pushed overwhelming anxiety aside as our family became involved in serving local flood victims. Our older daughters distributed needed items at a nearby church. While I remained home with my younger two children, I began collecting and organizing shipments of household necessities from all over the country. Keeping information flowing on social media brought an outpouring of enthusiastic support from family, friends and acquaintances. Among the hundreds of items I received was a 250-lb. pallet of school supplies and book sacks from a church in North Carolina, along with numerous monetary donations and boxes of supplies from collection drives in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Through conversations with local residents (now friends), I was able to network to get supplies to area communities in need.

Upon moving here our family had few connections, but we had God. He wanted our pride and fears to subside and fully trust that we were here for His purpose. Whatever the reason may be, God placed us in circumstances that have required us to rely fully on Him and not on our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways obey Him and he will make your paths smooth and straight.” Trust requires humility, knowing that God placed you in your circumstance and will see you through it. Our understanding isn’t necessary, but humbly trusting and obeying God brings you to a closer relationship with Him while smoothing out His path before you.

                In nine short months, I feel more connected to this new community than I ever thought possible. Having no one else to rely on, I had to trust God to move aside my controlling pride and humbly open my eyes to His plan. With God at the forefront, I was able to encounter and serve the beautiful people of Baton Rouge. In the absence of fear, I saw a people devoted to carrying one another through pain and supporting one another in brotherly love. I am honored to call this place my home. 

 

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Leah Lively is a writer and blogger with a passion for encouraging women in day-to-day ministry to their families. She documents her journey from southwest Virginia to the Baton Rouge area in her blog Bayou Blessings at bayoublessingsblog.wordpress.com. Leah loves being a wife to her hardworking husband and mom to her three daughters, son and 4-year-old boxer, clinging to God every step of the way.

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Family Life, June 2017

Humility at Home

 

Humility at Home

by Frank Hopkins

Family keeps us humble. No matter how successful we become, our families will remember us as we were, and they will gleefully at times remind us that we came from more “humble” beginnings.

There’s nothing like a mom to make you rethink your outfit or a big brother to question your argument. I know when I’m coaching my clients I STILL hear my mother’s voice in my ear reminding me to be quiet and listen, or I see my polished (or not) shoes through her eyes. On some level, being “too big for my britches” can’t happen because of my family and how they anchor me and keep me humble.

In my house, one of the best ways to have deep conversations is over dinner. Sharing great food while sharing your heart deepens the connections we all make, and besides, who doesn’t feel better with a full tummy? Whether it’s dinner with your family, a dinner party with friends, or a neighborhood crawfish boil – getting together over food is a great setting for thoughtful, extended conversations. In our house, dinner is sometimes messy, sometimes hectic and occasionally reflective. My wife and I certainly try to cover the major, important topics, but we’re not perfect.

One way to have a meaningful conversation is by sharing and discussing one virtue for modern life during each dinner. Humility is one of the values I hold most dear, so a week back we decided to dig into that virtue over dinner. I have very smart kids and have worked hard to instill humility in them and do my best to model it. My wife is better at it, but I work hard. We discussed how one values and tries to act with humility in work and personal life. There were lots of interesting questions to ask:

• what are the differences between humility and modesty?

• what is the relationship between humility and success?

We all know that there are SO MANY loud voices clamoring for our attention in the media – in your life, do quieter tones receive any attention at all? Now that my kids are older we can talk more philosophically about these ideas. We have managed, at times, to discuss the fact that humility involves encouraging others, finding the company of those who may be more creative or talented than ourselves (as opposed to being threatened by or jealous of them). We’ve also discussed the fact that humility is self-evident when we understand ourselves as part of something bigger within the large sweep of history and faith: looking years back and thinking years forward.

Talking about humility as a matter of course, not as a matter of highbrow conversation, makes it something of everyday life. It goes toward normalizing the process of reflection. (And who among us couldn’t use a bit more reflection?) Building that into your family routine is much easier than it sounds. I’m looking forward to tackling another virtue together.

All of this being said, as a father of two, I find it humbling indeed when I run face first into the wisdom of a 15-year-old daughter. I ask at the table, “So, what is humility?” Ready with the answer she replies, “the act of being humble.” Right dad? Yes, sweetie, and now, why is it important in our lives? She replies without a second thought: “Because you don’t want people to think you are a jerk.” And folks, there you have it.

Frank Hopkins ELI-MP CPC, Life Coaching

Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge, La. He works with you to create change in your life by helping you find your blocks, giving you the tools to eliminate them, and helping you break out of what’s holding you back. He helps people with relationships, parenting, education, careers, lifestage adjustments and other challenges. His outlook is fresh and holistic. Trained in a variety of coaching methods, he can tailor his approach to each person’s specific needs. He can be contacted at frankhopkinsjr@gmail.com or 225-773-4538

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Family Life, June 2017

Humble Thyself


Humble Thyself

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

You’re running a hundred miles per hour trying not to become your father’s son. Why is that? Your father will catch up with you, he’s faster, stronger and mightier than you are. Humble thyself to your father for the legacy must go on even if you have to rewrite it…

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” But what are you giving back? If you were told to give up your first born son, what would you do and how would you feel? Jesus was given up for a good cause but we as people are forgetting the because
in the cause.

Being a believer doesn’t mean that you become so religious that you don’t live life to the fullest, or so judgmental of your religious beliefs that everyone who’s not participating in your man-made group is condemned to hell. Everyone doesn’t praise God the same way, but that doesn’t mean that they are not praising. He is different to everybody. He gives more grace. Therefore, the Bible says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

Does riding in your car with the air conditioner fill you with gratitude
to God and compassion for the man standing at the corner with a sign? Are you thankful enough that this isn’t your struggle? What about the small towns in South Africa where the houses are one roomed huts made of tin with little to no running water? Are you thankful you’re able to drive up to a luxurious house with brick and several rooms with running water, cable TV and a working toilet? But these people are all too eager to praise God anyway with little to no money or vehicles. What’s your excuse?

Are you praising God just for more stuff? I know everyone wants nice things, but is it a need? Sure, you work hard to accomplish things but who are you really doing that for because when “ashes is to ashes” and “dust is to dust” you’re just a mere wooden “box of bones” waiting to be eaten by the bugs that get inside the coffin, and none of that materialistic stuff can go with you. Oh, but your soul, the everlasting spirit is what God is concerned about. He doesn’t care about your riches and glory especially if you’re not using what you have to assist and encourage his people. He cares that you’re doing right by his son who gave his life so you could breathe.

So, I am challenging everyone for a week to go without the luxury and live solely from the bare essentials. I bet half of you guys won’t last a week without your cellphone. Sometimes you have to declutter to realize what really matters. I beg you to please humble thyselves to Christ Jesus.

Father, I beg your forgiveness for my proud ways. I know everything I have is because of you, Lord. Please forgive and enable me to live a life of humilty in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, affectionately known as “The Refresher,” is an american author, empowerment speaker and a life catalyst. She launched The Refresher Course to educate and empower others to dramatically shift the quality and direction of their lives by using spiritual principles as well as the Life Catalyst curriculum.

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Family Life, June 2017

Balancing Faith, Talent and Humility

 

Balancing Faith, Talent, and Humility

by Trapper S. Kinchen and photos by Beth Townsend

The Foto sisters work hard to remeber the purpose behind their music: to serve the Kingdom of God.

Millennials often look inward for answers to important problems, and that allows anxiety, panic, fear, and insecurity to overwhelm our faith. However—when we take a step back, look to Jesus for guidance, and put our skills to good use—there is nothing that can stop us from reaching our full potential.

The Foto Sisters are three Millennials leading incredibly interesting lives. Addy, 24, Katie, 22, and Gaylyn, 20 perform professionally as a vocal/strings trio. With sixteen years of musical experience under their belts, the sisters are well familiar with the difficulties of balancing faith, talent, and humility.

They began studying piano as little girls. Their parents wanted them to be as well rounded as possible, and music seemed like the ideal outlet for creative self-expression. It didn’t take long for the sisters to develop an aptitude for sound and rhythm, and, eventually, they began training on string instruments.

Not long after they got started, their mother signed them up for their first public performance. Addy said, “There was an ad in one of our home school papers asking for children to perform at an assisted living facility. So, our mom, who has a heart for elderly people, took us to play the piano.” Their recital was a hit, and the rest is history.

Their parents have also encouraged them stay humble, reminding them to use their talents for God’s Glory. Over time, they have reconciled their faith with their artistry by working together to express Jesus’s love through melody. And, even though they’re three members of a single group, each sister has maintained her own unique identity.

Sixteen years later, the Foto Sisters have become deeply accomplished and well-respected musicians. All three women are composed, confident, and wonderfully expressive. Katie says their father taught them professionalism, and she credits their mother for teaching them poise. She said, “Whenever we were being shy as kids, Mom would say, ‘girls, stop being so shy. That’s thinking about yourself and not considering others. It’s pride’.”



The Fotos: Jimmy (dad), Katie, Gaylyn, Adelyn, and Carolyn (Mon)

Their parents have encouraged them to stay humble, reminding them to use their talents for God’s Glory. And, even though they’re three members of a single group, each sister has maintained her own unique identity. Like the Body of Christ, they use their individual strengths to support the group as a whole.

Like the Body of Christ, they use their individual strengths to support the group as a whole. They even described the different roles each of them plays within the trio:

Addy said, “Katie is a mix between Gaylyn and myself. She’ll follow with creative ideas, and she’s amazing at getting tasks done. She’s just so diligent.”

            Gaylyn said, “Addy is the most creative. She handles our arrangements and, most of the time, decides what we wear on stage.”

            Katie said, “Gaylyn’s a very merciful person with lots of heart. She’s always driving us to feel the music from within. We call her the lioness or the sergeant, because she keeps us practicing.”

Of course, even though they often get along, the Foto Sisters have their fair share of arguments. Katie said, “We have strong disagreements sometimes.” But, in the end, they resolve their issues with compassion and mutual respect.

Like many Millennials, the sisters live at home with their parents. And like most of us, they sometimes struggle with finding a balance between asserting their independence and respecting their parents and one another. Addy said, “As of now, we’re three adults—plus mom and dad—living in the same house. So, we have daily struggles. Especially with mom and dad learning how to allow we three girls to make our own decisions. And it’s up to us to show them grace as they figure that out.”

They also rely on God’s Grace to help them muster the courage and energy to perform. Adrenaline and anxiety often well up before a show, but the Foto Sisters are professionals. They say a prayer, step out in faith, and let the Lord work through them to reach the audience. Here’s what they had to say about being on stage:

Addy said, “To be honest, my favorite part of music is the involvement of people. Getting to talk with people after a performance is the best.”

            Gaylyn said, “For me, performing is about the buildup. You practice and practice for that goal, and when you’re performing you get to express yourself.”

            Katie said, “I like to perform. It’s kind of thrilling. I like a little bit of pressure on stage.”

As artists, the Foto Sisters are constantly checking their pride. They work hard to remember the purpose behind their music: to serve the Kingdom of God. Katie said, “There are many times when you think you don’t even want to step out onto that stage. And you have to ask God to work through you, otherwise you’d have nothing to offer the audience.”

Even though their lives might seem a little idealistic, the sisters face the same emotional, spiritual, and psychological hurdles as the rest of us. It isn’t always easy for them to rely on God, but they spend a great deal of time seeking His presence. They also count on the emotional support of their friends. Katie said, “It’s all about being honest with the Lord and being accountable to people.”

Music is the Foto Sisters’ fulltime job, and it takes up most of their time. They practice on weekdays, perform most weekends, go back and forth between Baton Rouge and Nashville for recording sessions, and spend quiet time with God every day. Yet, on top of all that, they still manage to find ways to have fun. When they aren’t busy practicing, they play Ultimate Frisbee, cook, romp outdoors, shop, and spend time with close friends.

Long term, they aren’t sure what lies in store, but they are excited to continue making music for as long as God keeps opening doors for them to do so. For now, though, they have a sincere passion for sharing His Love with audiences through song. Katie said, “We definitely want to travel and perform more in the coming years.”

Their newest project, which will be released this month, is—as yet—untitled. The album, produced in Nashville, mixes incredible production value and epic arrangements with their signature, airy, performance style. Their new record—and all their other music—is available via their website www.thefotosisters.com, on iTunes, and through most other online music resources. You can also check them out on YouTube and Facebook.

No matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, God has an ideal plan for your life. But it’s up to you to surrender your pride, tap into your talents, and answer His calling. Nothing worthwhile ever happens without hard work. Just ask the Foto Sisters. If you’re willing to put forth the effort and seek God, Christ will help you meet every challenge with courage.

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Trapper was born on the lip of Lake Pontchartrain. He was raised there, reading in the salt-flecked breeze on a splintered wharf that jutted into South Pass. Never bored, he divides his time between trying to raise organic chickens in the Livingston Parish piney woods, traveling to different time zones, and exercising his mind by steadily learning as much as he can. He graduated from LSU in 2013 and Wayne State University in 2015. He is a busy fiction writer and contemplative naturalist. He has a great time living life.

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Alicia Murphy, Florence Fontenot, Laneceya Russ and Kirsten Raby at a Charming Charlie’s fundraiser for STaR.
Family Life, May 2017

Supporting Surviors of Sexual Violence

Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence

By Dominique Dunbar, Laneceya Russ, and Florence Fontenot

Sexual violence affects people of all genders, ages and classes, leaving devastating effects on the survivor, their family and the community. Sexual violence can be committed in many different ways and is defined in different ways. Our society normalizes sexual violence, creating  an environment in which people are almost blinded to its impact on communities and people’s lives.

Sexual violence is a public health issue that affects people at a higher rate than the general public may recognize. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. These numbers are unsettling. According to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey presented in 2014, 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by perpetrators known to the victim. This fact, in addition to lack of public support, impacts the rate of reporting to law enforcement. In 2013, there were 2,863 acts of rape reported to law enforcement in the state of Louisiana (FBI:UCR , 2013). This number would be much higher if survivors felt empowered to come forward. However, we know that this does not happen because of the stigma associated with being a survivor of this type of violence.

Sexual violence is a “silent issue,” meaning that many survivors choose not to tell others because they are embarrassed or feel they may not be believed. Because of this, it may be hard to identify survivors of sexual trauma right away. However, there may be warning signs that indicate sexual assault or past sexual abuse.

The survivor may show signs of depression such as withdrawing from their normal activities and/or changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Survivors may also suffer from anxiety or worry about things that they did not worry about in the past. Survivors may avoid specific situations or places that they used to frequent before the trauma. Survivors may also increase their alcohol or drug use to numb the memories of the sexual assault or abuse, or even engage in thoughts of suicide or self-harming behaviors such as cutting. This is why it is important to show encouragement and support to survivors from the beginning so that they can receive help and begin healing from their trauma.

When a survivor discloses that he or she has been sexually assaulted or abused, they are reaching out for help and support. The survivor wants to know that you believe them, you won’t judge them, and you will listen to them. Let the survivor know that you are a safe space and they can trust you. Show them love, kindness, gentleness and goodness always, and let the fruit of the spirit lead you.

Don’t force a survivor to take any action they don’t want to. Empower the survivor to make their own decisions. Let the survivor know that what happened to them was not their fault no matter what the circumstances were at the time of the assault or abuse. Let them know they should not blame themselves. Survivors experience trauma in many different ways, and validate or normalize their feelings and responses. A supportive response from you lets the survivor know that they don’t have to go through this alone. Let them know that resources are available and that it is never too late to get the help they need.

A client from STAR spoke about their experience with counseling: “It has helped me become more at peace with my abuse,” she said. “I am better able to cope. I am healing and growing to become a stronger person.” Healing comes through long-suffering and it is not a linear process. It will take time and that is okay. Renewed joy and peace is possible through the healing process.

Alicia Murphy, Florence Fontenot, Laneceya Russ and Kirsten Raby at a Charming Charlie’s fundraiser for STaR.
Alicia Murphy, Florence Fontenot, Laneceya Russ and Kirsten Raby at a Charming Charlie’s fundraiser for STAR.

Dominique Dunbar, Social Change Coordinator, presenting Dating 101 to high school students.
Enna Mathema and Florence Fontenot, Resource advocates at STAR, presenting to a small group on services provided to survivors of sexual trauma.

Dominique Dunbar, Social Change Coordinator, presenting Dating 101 to high school students.
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“I have now begun to feel as though my sexual trauma is manageable and I’m able to cope with what sexual trauma I’ve suffered in the past on a daily basis in a healthy manner.” – Anonymous.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual trauma, please reach out for help and support by visiting www.star.ngo or call (225) 615-7093. Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response (STAR) offers free and confidential services such as individual counseling, advocacy and legal representation to survivors of sexual trauma.

(Citation Link)  https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/5tabledatadecpdf/table_5_crime_in_the_united_states_by_state_2013.xls

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Family Life, May 2017

The Spiritual Gift of Long-Suffering

The Spiritual Gift of Long Suffering

by Patty Reeves

Perhaps we might begin in considering the definition of long-suffering as patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship. How can we view and embrace long-suffering as a spiritual gift? 

My story of long-suffering is connected with a family secret.

I grew up with a beautiful, loving mother, who also suffered with lifelong depression, due to an untreated trauma earlier in her life. I never understood why she slept so much of her life; and randomly flew into rages. She became more reclusive as the years progressed. Eventually, I learned as an adult that she self-medicated with prescriptions for pain medication received from several doctors. By the time I understood she was addicted, no one in the family wanted to force her to treatment. When I confronted her, she adamantly denied her use was a problem, in spite of her avoidance and withdrawal from life. I learned that addiction is a family disease that creates fear, worry and secrets that are mistakenly believed to “protect” the addict or avoid shame in the family.


Addiction is a disease that bears much stigma and taboo, which creates barriers for people to seek the help that can give them a new life.

I’ve known others who have fought this disease with the support of loved ones. Often they may need to “hit bottom” through painful events that give them the incentive to make the difficult choice to seek treatment, and learning their recovery is based on a power greater than themselves. I’ve learned about Al-Anon, where families and friends of addicts can find support and recovery for themselves. I’ve learned that when loved ones can speak the truth in love, barriers can be overcome. With love, patience and endurance, addicts can receive the help they need to find their true selves.

In my journey with loved ones with addiction, I learned God does not desert us.

As I learned to be open with folks I could trust, asking for prayers, others opened up to me about their loved ones who had struggled with addiction. I also obtained support from a therapist. When we are wandering in the wilderness of grief and pain, it is important to reach out for support from others who are willing to listen. Carl Jung frequently spoke of “legitimate suffering.” He taught that legitimate suffering may often be lived out in avoidance, denial or repression. We tend to do everything we can to avoid suffering, which may extend our suffering, rather than accepting it as a necessary part of life and finding support. Long-suffering can be a gift if we are willing to share it with others willing to walk our journey with us. Our pain may create more compassion within us to reach out to others. God’s love does not let our wounds be wasted.

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Patty Rives, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, living in Baton Rouge, LA. She provides consulting and clinical support in the areas of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. She is also an international trainer for education and training in the areas suicide prevention and intervention. In addition, she is a trained Spiritual Director and. Patty contracts with LivingWorks Education, located in Calgary, Canada, as a Senior Training Coach and Team Leader for ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and an Instructor Consultant for safeTALK. She is married to Rev. Gene Rives, pastor of Baker and Bethel United Methodist churches.

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Family Life, March 2017

Peace in Your Storms

Peace in Your Storms

by Susan Brown

“Be anxious for nothing…” Really? When tangible trauma rocks our world or the subtle suspicion that we’ve missed our purpose steals our peace, what then? Those who have thought deeply and dealt daily with these issues, two pastors and a licensed professional counselor, look at the promise and practice of peace.

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Stacey and Jay Coleman

Journey pastors Jay and Stacey Coleman were returning from their son’s wedding in Arkansas when they heard the news: Flood waters were rising in Baton Rouge. After two uncertain days in Natchitoches, they returned to Greenwell Springs to find – chaos. Journey Church welcomed the community with a message: We’re with you, we’re suffering too. But in the middle of the muddy mess, we can have peace and even joy. The parking lot was packed.

“We personally flooded – our house and the church. We were trying to minister to a bunch of people in the community; everything was just chaotic,” Pastor Jay Coleman said.

We talk about peace all the time and we’re kind of flippant with it, actually,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments. But you discover that the peace and joy the Lord brings really is a strength to you: to hold you up, to help you make decisions in the hard days, to be able to stand up and put one foot in front of the other and move forward. So, for me, personally, it just comes down to knowing who you are in Christ.

So, how do we have peace, when circumstances and emotions seem out of control? Coleman said first, “focus on relationship, not rules. So many believers seem to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” Coleman said. A focus on Christianity as a set of obligations isn’t peaceful or fun. It’s exhausting. The game-changer for Coleman was discovering what it meant to have a relationship with God: “I really began to embrace that God loved me and wanted to walk with me and know me, that through the Holy Spirit he dwelt inside of me,” he said. “It means really discovering your DNA, your identity, your purpose, the plan that you have here on earth.”

Sherry Kadair
Sherry Kadair

“We need to understand who God is and who we are as belonging to him,” said Licensed Professional Counselor Sherry Kadair of the Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center.

“We’re beloved, not abandoned by God. We are forgiven. Walk in full forgiveness. That includes forgiveness for not living up to expectations in ourselves. Sometimes we think God is secretly mad,” she said.

“We are created for purpose. There is a greater sense of purpose in community,” Kadair said. “Although I am living through the flood, I also have something I can give to the community. We need to see beyond our own pain.”

Kadair said lack of peace frequently comes when we are functioning in the place where we have the least control: changing circumstances, relational stress or past wounds such as growing up with chaos or abuse. “So often it flows back to the Serenity Prayer: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.’”

In general terms, Kadair recommends:

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBe honest.  Jesus ministered to the man who said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). “Understand there is hope and transformation rather than read scripture and admonish ourselves. Invite God into where we are.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundStop judging yourself.  For example, “If I was really a good mother, it would look like this,” rather than the current reality. “I want God to be known so well that I know I can safely run to him,” Kadair said.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBreathe deeply.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Slow, deep breathing triggers a physical change that gets us out of fight or flight,” Kadair said. “Look around to remind ourselves we’re not in the flooded house or in the boat.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundPractice peace.  Slow down, relax. “Write down what you want to accomplish and prayerfully revisit it later,” Kadair advised. “Come up with a strategy.”

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundUnpackage memories and process them.  There may be depression and re-living of hard situations. Those who experienced flooding may be back in the house but still not okay. There is trauma. Some may have flashes of water coming up again or other memories. Kadair said some may benefit from professional help such as EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundBe patient.  It makes sense this will happen for a while. Accept it will take some time to recover emotionally as well as physically.

1487434470_christian-cross-religion-blue-roundMeditate on scripture.  “Use a short snippet of scripture,” Kadair said. “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27). Worship rather than be caught in the storm. Focus on Christ, like Peter, who was able to walk on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, rather than the surrounding  turbulence (Matthew 14:22-32).

“It’s important to take time to put on some worship music, even in my car when I’m by myself,” said Journey Worship Pastor Stacy Coleman. “I use that time to enter into prayer as well, especially when it’s been extremely stressful.”

“Constantly surround yourself with others you can trust, so you can express how you’re feeling. And be honest with the Lord about your feelings,” she said. “Don’t try to keep those things inside of you and deal with them on your own,” Jay Coleman said. “Choose to be with people who will encourage you. Let them be honest with you.”

Talk it out, but don’t get stuck in a cycle of never-ending negative thought, Jay Coleman advised. Keep moving forward in your thoughts and actions. “There are times when you say, ‘I don’t feel like doing this.’ Well you can’t go on feelings. Every day you get up, and put one foot in front of the other,” he said.

“Another thing that robs our peace is when there’s sin in our life,” Jay Coleman said. “We want to pretend that God only loves to bless us, but if we’re knowingly walking in sin we’re not going to have peace in our life.”

“I’ve talked to people throughout the year who say God laid something on their heart to do whether it was ministry or a specific calling, and they sidestep and go the other way. They begin to struggle with that. Is there a second chance? Well, absolutely,” Jay Coleman said. “Wherever the Lord puts you, whatever he puts in front of you, do it with everything you’ve got.”

That includes reaching out to others who are not experiencing peace. “If we really are the body of Christ, when the Holy Spirit leads us, we need to step out. You’re not going to know all the right things to say,” Jay Coleman said. “Don’t try to solve all their problems. Measure your speech very carefully.”

Or, don’t speak at all. “One of my neighbors, a big old burly guy like me, came walking down the driveway at my house. He had flooded, too, and we just embraced and stood there and cried,” Jay Coleman said. “That, in itself, meant the world. James 1:19 tells us: ‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak.’ We’re not called to be the lone ranger. Accept and give practical assistance.”

“Then, sometimes we need to step outside our circle and seek help,” the Rev. Coleman said. “Just acknowledge that there may be a need for professional counseling. And, sit down with your doctor and see if there are some health things going on.”

“Peace is a foundation in the midst of what’s coming up,” Kadair explained. “Remember God is not surprised by what surprised you. In the midst of the unknown there is a known God and we can rest in him. God does promise to use everything for our good and his glory.”


Susan Brown began her career in radio news. she was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds Master’s Degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional institute for Women.