Cover Story, May 2017

Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards

Louisiana First Lady

Donna Edwards

by Susan Brown

Photos by Tee Wheeler

Jonathan Ricau, Samantha Bel edwards Ricau, First Lady Donna edwards, governor John Bel edwards, Sarah ellen edwards, John Miller edwards

“I’ve always heard and believed in the verse, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I’ve always believed that out of that stillness, you can hear the breath and words of God.”

– 2014 journal entry, First Lady Donna Edwards

With a passion built on faith and burnished by trials, Donna Edwards believes in prayer.

“You walk by faith – and a lot of prayer,” she said. “John Bel and I pray in the morning before he leaves. We pray together.” That’s the one message she would like to instill in younger women: start your marriage with prayer. Prayer builds unity and helps us through the tough times. Prayer opens our eyes to the reality of God’s work around us and invites us in. 

        “One of the things that God has really laid on my heart is to love your neighbor,” she said. That commitment motivates her to reach out to the most fragile and vulnerable, including children in foster care, those with special needs and victims of human trafficking. 

        At a recent Women in Spirit luncheon at St. Joseph Cathedral, Edwards said the I-10 corridor from Texas through Louisiana has contributed to an astonishing rate of human trafficking. “The stories – it is just unbelievable,” Edwards said. “We have a lot of events in New Orleans, so a lot of these young girls are brought to the city. We should all be eyes and ears and look out for signs as we travel all throughout the day,” she said. “We’re already making lots of headway teaching people in the hospitality profession how to acknowledge and recognize what they can do to save these girls.”

 

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, more than 100 human trafficking cases

related to Louisiana were reported in 2016 [https://humantraffickinghotline.org]. The governor’s office reports that Louisiana State Police investigated 27 human trafficking cases in 2016 and rescued 19 victims, 16 of whom were under the age of 18. 

        While the Houston to New Orleans highway has one of the worst human trafficking records in the nation, Louisiana is an acknowledged leader in the fight to curb the crime. “We were honored to meet the pope in an incredible visit to talk about human trafficking, and it was such a joy,” Edwards said. They traveled to Rome in conjunction with the Hospitaler Sisters of Mercy, who last month opened Metanoia House to help rescue girls under the age of 18.

        “One of the things I want to point out about human trafficking and other issues is that they really show how the faith-based community can work with the state and come together to address these issues. She’s seen the same cooperative success in foster care.

        “I never thought in a hundred years that I would have been talking about human trafficking and foster care. Be open to God’s Spirit. He does guide us. You’ve just got to listen,” she said.

        An avid supporter of adoption, Edwards believes there is a permanent family for every child, including those with special needs. In 2016, she recognized a milestone: more than 700 foster children were adopted in a one-year period, the highest rate ever recorded in Louisiana. 

 

As a pro-life advocate, Edwards works for more than simply an end to abortion. “I believe that

pro-life goes the whole life, from womb to tomb and all between,” she said. That includes Medicaid expansion and programs that support mothers and children.

        “The truth is, we all have trials and triumphs and things we go through, and we rely on Christ,” she said. The Bible tells us we are children of God and we should have childlike faith, an absolute dependence on God and belief in the power of prayer.

        Their oldest daughter, Samantha, was born with spina bifida. “The doctor encouraged me to abort her at 20 weeks,” Edwards said. “God put an amazing man, my husband, in my life to stand with me as a rock, and we got through that trial. And she’s a beautiful, lovely 25-year-old woman today.”

      But the challenges continued. A month after Samantha’s two surgeries, Edwards delivered her second daughter, Sarah. “My uterus ruptured in the middle of delivery, so we both almost lost our lives,” she said. The doctor told her she would never give birth again, but she became pregnant with her third child, John Miller. 

“One of the things I do every day is say, ‘God let me be your vessel,’ to fill me up. We so much want to control what we do,” she said. “Allow God to be a part in your life that day.” She begins every day with scripture and other inspirational reading.

“The doctor called me and said, ‘Donna, I just want you to be aware that a test came back that

shows you have a high percentage of this child having Down’s Syndrome.’ I just smiled and said, ‘You know what, I’ve broken every odd, and whatever the outcome is, I will trust God to get us through.’ And I never really wavered.”

       Then, when her father-in-law was 70 years old, he was told he must be removed from the heart transplant list. “It was the year that Pope John Paul died, and we decided to do the nine-day Novena for divine mercy,” she said. “And after the end of that Novena, Monday, he got a call and received a heart from Ochsner’s. That just transformed our whole family into a huge believer in the power of prayer.”

        “I do want to say, and I mean this: Don’t stop praying for us. Sometimes we forget to keep praying when everything’s good. That’s what keeps us up,” she said. One of the most memorable experiences of their visit with Pope Francis was his personal request for prayer. “He asked us three times, John Bel and I: ‘Please pray for me.’ And I thought, wow. You really know that’s what holds you tight.”

        One of the things I do every day is say, ‘God let me be your vessel,’ to fill me up. We so much want to control what we do,” she said. “Allow God to be a part in your life that day.” She begins every day with scripture and other inspirational reading.

        Each year, she asks God to give her a word to study and share. During the 2015 campaign, her word was “believe.” “It took both of us to run really hard, and obviously, it was successful, but I remember sitting at St. Louis Cathedral the night of the election, nervous, and it was raining, and the outcome of voters wasn’t happening. And so, we just sat there, and I kept thinking, ‘Lord, just give me something to hold on.’ It was like a quiet whisper, ‘Just believe.’ So, okay, I’ll believe. And believe doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be your outcome. It just means believe in me and trust in me and I’ve got you, whatever happens.”

        Last year, her word was “trust.” “It was a very big challenge for all of us: those who were flooded, the shootings and the tornado. I had a wedding last year and the inauguration. It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of times when I was just scared. A lot of things happened that worried me. That’s when you open up that book, that Bible, and you go to the word of God and you really just rely on him. That’s faith. That’s what got us through.”

John Miller Edwards, Sarah Ellen Edwards, Samantha Bell Edwards Ricau

Her word for 2017 is “obey.” “Obey can be anything from obeying the word of God, the

scriptures, to obeying the Ten Commandments. But also, there’s that little voice that sometimes comes to us and says ‘Reach out to her,’ or ‘Why don’t you go and say a prayer with her?’ And when you do, I feel like God just opens a little door for you. It empowers you and gives you that trust.”

        God didn’t tell us who our neighbor was, and he didn’t define what they look like and who they are. We’re all children of God. I think that we, as Christians, really haven’t done a good job in showing others Christ because of the way we treat people and the way we point our fingers and condemn – judge. I know that’s not what God calls us to do. You don’t always have to agree with somebody, or their lifestyle, or who they are to love them. And I think that’s where people’s hearts are changed, when they see the love of God that we show them.

        One of her favorite quotes comes from St. Therese of Lisieux during a year she explored more deeply the love of God and love of neighbor. “There is one only thing to do here below: to love Jesus, to win souls for him so that He may be loved. Let us seize with jealous care every least opportunity of self-sacrifice. Let us refuse him nothing – He does so want our love.”[1]

        “And the truth is, we all have trials and triumphs and things we go through,” Edwards said. “We rely on Christ. And we get through those together by lifting each other up and by taking each other’s hands.”

[1] http://www.sttherese.org.au

Editor’s Note: Donna and John Bel Edwards met in Amite, LA where they became high school sweethearts. Donna graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a B.A. in Business Administration and John Bel graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They married in 1989 and served eight years as a military family. While raising children, Donna became a certified teacher and taught music for over eight years in the public school system.

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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.

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May 2017, Publisher's Letter

May Publisher’s Letter

May Publisher’s LETTER

The fruit of the Spirit: “long-suffering”

When we decided to use “fruits of the Spirit” for our themes this year, they sounded so joyful and pleasant! It wasn’t until a friend asked when we would address topics such as mental illness in the Christian community that I began to think more about how and why we struggle.

It was then that “long-suffering” came to mind: “Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; not easily provoked.” The range of definitions vary, but long-suffering in the Bible often just means “suffering long.”

One of the most common questions in the church today is why God allows suffering. Not many people have great answers to that age-old question. But we do know this, suffering is common from Biblical days and suffering is common today.

I’ve had seasons of suffering, starting long ago in my family of origin. My father was an alcoholic and was hospitalized twice for mental breakdowns when I was a child. The stories are endless and dramatic as to how that played out in our family of seven. Once my parents finally divorced, he went on to marry nine times.

As a wife and parent of now-adult children, we’ve had seasons when I literally wondered how I’d make it. There are few things better than raising children, but with it comes heartache. This world can be a brutal place to raise up a family. The attacks from the enemy on Christian families are unfortunately quite vicious.

Yet in other seasons, self-inflicted suffering from unwise decisions wreaked havoc in many areas of my life. Years of unhealthy relationships and hunger for a sense of significance led me down many a path of destruction. Looking back, I could have avoided so much pain.

I’ll admit to a few pity parties! Yet in recent years, I’ve come to accept seasons of hardship from a more productive lens. Looking back, God was kind and tender in bringing me through those hard places. Once I finally surrendered my life to him, I’d find myself in the quietness of my home crying out to Him. Sometimes on my knees, other times curled up in my prayer chair with a big cup of coffee, covered in journals, pens and my Bible. Oh, those precious moments.

There are things I’d do differently if I had it to do all over again. But I don’t, so I can’t. Accepting what is and where I’ve been is part of trusting God. Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” For that promise, I’m so thankful!

We hope you enjoy these stories. There are some tough topics within, but we know there are some tough struggles for many. As the Body of Christ, we are called to encourage one another and bear one another’s burdens. Get in a good church where you can find community. Speak Scripture into your life. Seek council from a therapist or pastor. Pray for Godly friends who are rich in wisdom. Position yourself for victory by being around those who are victorious.

Why is “long-suffering” a fruit of the Spirit? Perhaps because it brings us to our knees in surrender to a loving God who has a plan for our life.

For it is there we bear the fruit of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Faith Life, May 2017

Hope, Help and Healing ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO ‘BE BRAVE’

Hope, Help and Healing

ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO

“BE BRAVE”

by Lisa Tramontana

photos courtesy Nikyla Trask

If anyone had asked her, Nikyla Trask would have described her life as just about perfect after the birth of her third child. She was happily married and enjoyed her job as a teacher. She also served as a worship leader in her church. But just four days after she delivered her son Kris, Trask’s health took a sudden turn for the worse.

It started with preeclampsia, a complication often

accompanied by high blood pressure and other serious symptoms. Trask was alarmed because she had not had any problems during her pregnancy. Soon, she was diagnosed with heart failure, which kept her hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit for several days.

During her inpatient stay, she remembers being

obsessed with the heart monitor, always on edge when it beeped in response to her heart rate dropping. “It got to where I couldn’t relax and I certainly couldn’t fall asleep,” Trask said. “So I was in this fog. I developed horrible anxiety and depression. Even after I was released from the hospital and went back home, I ended up calling an ambulance almost every day for a month. The doctors diagnosed me with post-partum anxiety … so severe that I became psychotic.”

Clearly, she couldn’t return to her teaching job.

And her mental state was so fragile that her children had to go and live with relatives. Fortunately, her husband provided incredible emotional support during her darkest days. Trask became convinced that she was dying, and though her loved ones tried to convince her otherwise, their words only upset her more.

On Day 55, she connected with a psychiatrist who

helped her finally get her life back on track. The doctor prescribed a medication that induced sleep and Trask was finally able to get some much-needed rest. She began weekly counseling sessions to deal with her anxiety. Five months later, she was teaching again and her children returned home. Life was good again.

The Best FAMILY EVER

This Trask family photo includes Kristopher Trask, Sylvester glover, Cheryl glover, K’Mya Trask, Nikyla, Kyre’ Trask, Remiah Trask, and Sylvia Jackson.

“One thing I learned from my counseling is that I

probably had suffered some mild anxiety during childhood,” Trask said. “So it wasn’t as sudden as I thought. It had always been there but I had learned to deal with it. Looking back, I recall that I did experience some pressure as a child. I was very sensitive and I often feared that I wasn’t living up to what others expected of me. I strove for perfection. I never felt that I could make a wrong choice. When my physical problems surfaced after the baby, it gave the mental illness a chance to take hold.”

Trask was a gogetter before her illness. She was

rarely sick, had a lot of energy, and was used to being the caregiver for the loved ones in her life. “I wasn’t used to asking people for help, and when I had to do it, it was difficult,” she said. Once she started feeling herself again, Trask wanted to share her story with other women. She wanted to help destroy the stigma of mental illness and spread awareness about coping mechanisms and the support that is available. “I don’t want to ever see another mom on TV who drowns her children or jumps off a bridge,” she said. “At one point, I was suicidal. I had terrible thoughts going through my mind. I know in my heart that if I hadn’t gotten the proper care, I could have become a statistic.”

Due to her faith and her personal experience,

Trask developed a campaign called Be Brave, which encourages women to face their mental illness and take appropriate steps to recover. “First of all, we empower women with information,” Trask said. “Second, we offer contacts to local services and programs that can help. And third, we provide a support system.”

Three times a year, Be Brave partners with local

businesses to host special events. The next event is on Mother’s Day, Saturday May 6, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 P.M., at Love Alive Church on Jones Creek Road. The event features a special brunch, a musical performance and massage therapy. Tickets are $15 each. To order tickets, call (225) 400-5721.

Trask is also available to share her story at women’s functions, church services and social gatherings. For more information visit the website at Bebravenow.com.
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Nikyla Trask

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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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Faith Life, May 2017

The WEIGHT of the Wait

The Weight of the Wait

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

I’ve cried, tried and prayed, but my marriage is troubled. I’ve cried, tried and prayed for my addiction. I’ve cried, tried and prayed for my mother to be healed. But nothing has moved in my favor. Lord, tell me what can I do? Why aren’t you listening me? Do you even hear me? I need answers as I am ready to give up on all of it.

“Why my child? Have I ever given up on you even when you were at your lowest point? When you were avoiding me or even speaking to me? Remember when you were out drinking with your friends and became totally wasted and drove home? I drove you there. Don’t you know that I took the wheel? Remember when you were walking down the dark alleyway and you felt like you were being followed? You were — by me and a murderer. But he all of a sudden stumbled, so you could run. I was there and I pushed him. Remember when you were in rehab and your body was shutting down from the overdose and you wanted to let go? I was right there by your bedside telling you that it wasn’t time yet. You have great work to do. So now that you’re sober, you want everything at your fingertips. It doesn’t work like that. I don’t work like that. I suffered long and so will you in a different way. Patience is your struggle, so exercise it.”

The weight of the wait is phenomenal when you are trying to do it on your own. The weight of the wait causes stress, depression, and other types of emotional concerns. But the weight of the wait can disappear if you give the weight to the Lord and just patiently wait like He told you. We’ve all waited on the Lord. And because of this, we know that this is a test of endurance and patience. That’s the hard part! As believers, we often think that when something good happens, it’s God and when something bad happens, it’s the Devil. That is not always the case. During life’s struggle, God is testing for endurance and tranquility. Only the strong survive. Folks often think that the race is won by the swift, but the race is really won by the slow, steady, and patient. “Dare to dream big and trust God” is easily said, but less often courageously endured. I can hear your spirit saying that it is easy for a successful person to say that, but the road to the top has numerous speed bumps, especially for believers.

The process of making a gold ring is to melt it down, build it up to shape, form the design, then shine for purchase. So what do you think the process is for the making of a wholesome believer? Longsuffering is the thought-provoking process that shows patience in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people. When there is trouble within your marriage, your finances or your children, you must exercise patience and the ability to forgive and overcome. I know that is easier said than done.

The same process is used when God has dwindled us down to nothing … where we feel empty. Then He builds us up to shape us into the design that He created for our lives. It is okay to have dreams and to conquer them only if it is in the will of God for your life. Don’t become discouraged when your dreams aren’t manifested. This just means that you are outside the will of God. (Ephesians 5:17) Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Just ask God: If this is your will for my life, allow me to conquer —. The truth is if He said it, then He meant it. You just don’t get to decide the timeframe in which He moves. He is just that kind of God!

TonyaHeadshotNew

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, 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.

patty

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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Creative LIFE, May 2017

Allison Collins Acosta Still Going Strong: The Allison Collins Band

 

Allison Collins Acosta
Still Going Strong: The Allison Collins Band

Excerpts from an interview with Sharon Furrate Bailey

I first heard Allison Collins perform at the Caterie and will never forget when she sang “Son of a Preacher Man.” Her journey as a musician/artist has been long and full of peaks and valleys, but The Allison Collins Band is still a much sought after band, with an ardent fan base.

Q:  When did you first discover you were gifted in music?

A: I’ve always loved to sing, but I never thought about whether I could sing or not. When I was 10 years old, Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” was the number one song on the radio. My cousin and I were singing it while playing on her porch. I will never forget when she said, “Ally, you sound like that lady!” She would get me to sing at family gatherings and slumber parties.

Q:  What would you say is your artist statement, why you sing?

A: I realize now that is why I was put on this earth. Also, even though musicians (not all of them) are known to have dabbled with drugs or alcohol, I can honestly say I have never tried a drug in my life. I remember a feeling of “ecstasy” at eighteen when I first sang with a band, and that made me feel like I was floating. It was incredible. God has been so good to me. Although I have a couple of degrees from LSU, I’ve never had a typical 9-to-5 job. My three children have also been top priorities in my life, and this career path has given me quality time with them.

Q: Do you ever feel God’s presence or the Holy Spirit when performing?

A: It depends on what I’m singing and where I’m singing, but when it happens, there is nothing on this earth that compares to His presence. I remember leading worship in church one morning, and I was singing the song, “There is a River” (I Will Rejoice and Be Glad). I was so overcome with emotion I could hardly catch my breath. God’s redemption plan and what Christ did for me on the Cross became so real to me.

Now, when I’m playing secular shows, I don’t necessarily feel the Holy Spirit moving through the music, but I do feel that God is with me. Isaiah 45:2 says, “I will go before thee, and make the rough places smooth.” So true. Whether one is singing, painting, or creating something out of nothing, there is a healing aspect.

Q:  Share anything you would like our readers to know about your walk with God.

 A: I gave my life to Christ in October of 1995. After many potholes, deep valleys and giant mountains, I’m still walking with Him. He has used the trials and tribulations of my life to give me unshakeable faith and unwavering compassion.

One of my go-to verses is James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” The only way we can be transformed more and more into the likeness of our merciful and compassionate Christ is through the storms.

My husband, Terry Acosta, and I often lean on Isaiah 54:7: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and your righteousness is from me, says the Lord.” When there are people in the world who are going above and beyond to tarnish your reputation and make themselves look better, this is a great scripture to meditate on. It brings us peace and blessed assurance that God is in control.

Q: What are your goals this year regarding your music and the band?

A: My band plays various clubs, restaurants, festivals, private parties and wedding receptions. My personal goal is just to be in the will of God. I ask God every day to open doors and close the ones he wants to shut. On a personal note, I’m a huge Saints fan and wrote and recorded a song called “Imma Who Dat.” We produced a video and one may find it on YouTube. It would be awesome if the Saints one day decided to play it in the Superdome.

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Q: You came out of a major storm in your life and have found love again?

A: Life as a newlywed is pure bliss. Terry Acosta, my husband, is an amazing bass player who not only plays in the band but helps me manage the band. Terry sings, as well, and this break away from the microphone allows my voice to rest.

Aside from our professional career, I would have to say he is the most considerate, thoughtful, kind, loving, respectful, romantic and goofy man I’ve ever met….and he is so dang cute! My three kids adore him, too.

Terry and I wrap our arms around each other when we pray together and there is nothing more intimate and beautiful. I’m so thankful my children get to see how it’s supposed to be between a husband and wife. They see laughter, playfulness, affection and argument, but they see us work things out.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” This is our family’s prayer on a daily basis. Call out to God, and he will hear you. I am living proof.

To book The Allison Collins Band, see her Facebook page or call       225-773-9662.


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BRCLM Lagniappe, May 2017

Suffering

Suffering

by Jannean Dixon

“One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord. After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints. This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.” He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”

“One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You’d walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”

This poem, by Mary Stevenson, has long been one of my absolute favorites. I can look back on my life and reflect on trials and see that no, I could not have done it alone. Financial troubles, relationship problems, the illness of a child, these are all the things that can prompt us to feel scared, sad, and isolated.
When we suffer, we are reminded in a very visceral way that we are only human. When we suffer, we can build walls around ourselves to carry us, and the relationship can become one-sided. God never leaves us, but our wall can make it feel like he has. This is untrue! When we feel alone is when He is most with us.

None of us are safe from isolation and suffering. Mother Teresa herself wrote to her spiritual advisor that she felt lonely and abandoned. She felt as though God had abandoned her in the darkness.

Later, Mother Teresa wrote that she felt that her long suffering helped her to identify with Jesus and increased her understanding of those she spent her life helping. (From the book Mother Teresa: Come be My Light)

How can we turn our suffering into understanding? How can we learn from our unhappiness? How can we learn to serve God and others through our grief? Maybe we can take a page from Mother Teresa and identify with Jesus. His time on earth was spent serving others, sometimes others who felt hatred for Him. He suffered long and hard and ultimately to his death. When we think of our own suffering as helping us identify with our Savior, let us pray that it will be a comfort to us in our darkness and times of need.

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Jannean Dixon is a mother of two, special educator, and local business owner. She has a Master’s Degree from LSu. She finds that writing is therapeutic and helps her reflect and feel closer to god.

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Man on the Street, May 2017

Locals Share Thoughts on Long-suffering

Locals Share Thoughts on Long-suffering

compiled by Shannon Roberts

Christian Life Magazine asked several local residents the following questions: “What does long-suffering mean to you? What makes this fruit of the spirit easy or difficult to obtain?” Here are their responses.

“For me, long-suffering means choosing to let God’s peace flow within you regardless your external environment. It’s a faith game. Long-suffering can only exist if the work of faith and embracing peace is in progress. Life is going to be hard regardless. Job 14:1 confirms it. But just like Job, despite all odds, I know that faith and the peace that follows will give me the strength to make it through the unthinkable.” –
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Sara Anne Martin
Baton Rouge
“It’s really about dying to self, thinking in terms of what’s really important as it relates to glorifying God. Most people … all people … are really selfish without Christ and even with Him, we struggle to keep that selfishness down. If we understand we’re all in the same boat and can put our own ??? aside, then we can see what long-suffering is about. People aren’t coming from the same place. Being aware of where they’re coming from, how well they deal with their personal pain with the Lord determines how easy it is to do long-suffering. Every day you have to put Christ on the throne of your life. As for how someone can achieve long-suffering? Understanding that in the long-term, there is a benefit to all of it.”
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Victor Canada
Prairieville
“Long-suffering to me means experiencing strong feelings of shock, sadness, anger, social isolation, and bewilderment lasting for at least six months. My experience with long-suffering is much more emotional than physical. My season of long-suffering actually began in 2003 when a traumatic loss occurred in my life. I had strong feelings about this event for five to six years.
This fruit of the spirit is difficult to obtain because it takes a long time to finally begin to understand the possible reasons for going through hard times. By seeking the Lord in prayer, supporting each other, and reading His word, we can realize that we do indeed have strength while we endure long-suffering.”
jackie manning
Jackie Manning
Denham Springs
“It’s a characteristic used to describe God’s nature, who He is and what He does. In the New Testament, it translates to a characteristic of believers. The natural result of a believer, someone who is trusting in God, is that they become long-suffering. The phrase ‘slow to anger’ is very picturesque. The Hebrew word for anger literally means ‘nostrils’ or nose. So this picture of anger is your nose flaring. The Hebrews would have read it as ‘long nose.’ Their nostrils aren’t fully flaring — it’s a level of tolerance. What about him is long-suffering or slow to anger? First, it has to be his approach to sin. God hates sin and he would be well within his rights to blow us out of our flip flops where we would cease to exist. But He doesn’t. He gives us a season of time to repent of our sins. So you see that reflected in 2 Peter 3:9. Peter says that ‘the Lord is not slow in fulfilling his promises as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.’ He allows (sin) to continue with the desire that people would repent. God is this creator who is longing for his creation to come back to him.”
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Danny Mann, Pastor
Hebron Baptist Church, Denham Springs

Shannon Roberts

Shannon is a Denham Springs native who has been writing since before she knew how words were put together. a 2015 graduate of LSu’s Manship School of Mass Communication, Shannon has worked as both a reporter and freelance writer for a number of publications and newspapers. When she’s not writing she enjoys thinking about the future, reading, and spending time with her rescue pup, Mocha.

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May 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Long-Suffering A Fruit of the Spirit that Builds Character

 

Long-Suffering

A Fruit of the Spirit

that Builds Character

by Rusty Domingue

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23)

When reading this scripture, I noticed that just two of the nine fruits of the Spirit are somewhat negative: long-suffering and self-control. I believe that we should pay special attention to these two fruits of the Spirit because they reveal a lot about our character.

Exodus 34:6-7 says “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (NKJV).

God is a God of great character, and to become more like Him, we must also be a people of great character. Long-suffering is a powerful fruit of the Spirit because it says so much about our ability to withstand trials and testing. Long-suffering produces a patient endurance in our lives, which is where character is developed.  One of the greatest things a person can have is character and integrity.

Forty years ago, I discovered this principle the hard way. Playing football at LSU in the 70’s, I found myself in serious trouble due to a lack of character. Not realizing that God had a purpose for my life, it took a long time and a lot of heartache for God to develop character in me. Raised in a home that had a lot of drinking and partying, I was not exposed to a lot of good character and integrity. After the Nebraska game in Tiger Stadium where we tied them 6-6, I went out partying and acting crazy, got drunk and got into a fight where I stabbed a man.

From that point on, God had my attention and that is when I turned my heart to Christ at Chapel on the Campus at LSU. Still facing a trial and jail time, God started working on the inside of me. Long-suffering was one of the fruits that God began to develop in my life. Forty years later I realize that God is the One who is long-suffering. There was so much that needed to be worked out in me besides what I faced with the law. After the trial, in which I was convicted of attempted manslaughter and was facing jail time, the Lord really had me.

Unable to go anywhere or do anything, I started reading my Bible. The Bible came alive to me for the first time.  Someone told me to start with the gospel of John and when I got to John 15:7, a light came on. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (NKJV). I started declaring this verse and praying that God would release me from jail. Six months later, the police came in late one night and said, “Rusty Domingue, you are the only one free to go.”

Rejoicing as I left, I said, “God, I will go wherever you send me.” I didn’t really understand what I was praying then, but looking back, I am in awe of what all the Lord has done. It really is a miracle. I went back and got my degree from LSU and then went to Dallas, TX to get a two-year practical theology degree. After that, Dr. Jere Melilli from Christian Life Fellowship called me and asked me to be the youth pastor. The next 13 years at Christian Life is where the Lord began to really deal with me in long-suffering. I realized that God sent me to Christian Life to work on my own heart and character through pastoring people.

In 1995, I moved with my wife and two children to Nairobi, Kenya to be missionaries. We worked for a church called Nairobi Lighthouse and what an incredible experience that was. Today I’m a full-time missionary evangelist. I have had the opportunity to work on projects such as the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and have helped with starting churches in India. We are also getting ready to finish a church building that we started in 1985. God has done incredible things and has been faithful every step of the way.

As you walk with God, He will use things in your life to produce the fruit of long-suffering. As we allow Him to teach us and mold us, we will walk in a grace towards others that allows us to see people the way the Lord sees them. Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.” (NKJV). Let the Lord mold you today through patient endurance and long-suffering so that you may become more like Him. God has a plan for your life!

Russell “Rusty” Domingue was born in 1954 to French parents, Mr. & Mrs. Freddie Domingue. Raised with his older brother, Joe, in Port Arthur, Texas, the Domingues were Catholic, though not devout. Having few interests, Rusty’s brother who played baseball for the Farm Team of the Houston Astros, encouraged the younger Domingue to play football. Recalling being angry for most of his adolescent life, Rusty played football for Thomas Jefferson High School with an intensity and skill that led LSU in Baton Rouge to recruit him to the Fighting Tiger Team on scholarship in 1973. Rusty’s testimony of the success he enjoyed through football at LSU and his later conviction in 1976 of attempted manslaughter and immediate conversion, is one of god’s undeniable grace and Love. after serving a miraculously short six month prison term, he was released and soon after moved to Dallas, Texas, where he attended Bible School. in 1983, the Lord led Rusty back to Baton Rouge again…but this time to Christian Life Fellowship where he served as associate Pastor along with Dr. Jere D. Mellili, Pastor. in addition, he served as Spiritual Life Director for Christian Life academy, coached the school’s football team, led a daily intercessory Prayer group at 6:30 AM, and held a College group on LSU campus called Living Waters Fellowship where many of the students are now in full time ministry. He also led the missions program for the church leading teams to India, Peru and Africa to build churches and help the poor. He moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1995 with his wife and two kids to be missionaries. They worked on the Hatti earthquake, Sri Lanka tsunami and built over 30 homes. The 6’1” and 210 lb. former linebacker is today fighting spiritual warfare – not blocker – and is saving souls-not games!
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Russell “Rusty” Domingue

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Learning For Life, May 2017

Hospice Owner Heeds God’s Call to Provide Physical and Spiritual Comfort

Hospice Owner Heeds God’s Call
To Provide Physical and Spiritual Comfort

by Lisa Tramontana

Roulston, right, is pictured here with Katherine Schillings at a meeting held by Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area.
Hospice in His Care organized a Mardi Gras event for staff and patients last month. Roulston, center, worked with staff members at St. James Place Retirement Community.

It takes a special kind of person to care for patients with advanced illness. It’s especially difficult when the word “hospice” emerges in family conversations, making it clear that comfort, not cure, is the best possible outcome.

Janette Roulston understands this on a personal and professional level, thanks to 40 years of experience as a registered nurse in the home health and hospice care industries. For the last 13 years, she has owned and managed Hospice in His Care, based in Baton Rouge. The company has a staff that includes nurses, aides, social workers, volunteers and chaplains who provide services for patients in their homes, in nursing facilities and in assisted living facilities. More than a supervisor, Roulston is involved in the company’s day-to-day activities, from providing medical treatment to serving lunches to organizing special events.

Hospice in His Care accepts patients when two physicians have certified that their diagnosis indicates they have six months or less to live should their disease follow its normal course — thus the term comfort care. It’s appropriate for many conditions, including late stage heart or lung disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s among others.

A positive outlook

Even so, it’s wrong to equate hospice with hopelessness, Roulston said. Hospice care is dedicated to helping patients and families accept terminal illness in a positive way with a determination to make the quality of life the best it can be. This means ensuring that the patient is surrounded by compassion, respect, sensitivity, hope and love during their final days. That means forming relationships and making connections, Roulston said. While some patients simply want help with household chores or personal care, others long for more, such as creating new friendships and sharing stories and memories.

During hospice care, patients continue to receive medical treatment, especially for things like infections, pain or anxiety. If their symptoms or conditions cannot be managed through hospice care, they can be transferred temporarily or permanently to an inpatient hospice in Baton Rouge — Carpenter House, The Butterfly Wing or The Crossing, for example.

Emotional and spiritual support

“But basically, we are providing physical comfort while offering emotional support and honoring the family’s wishes and choices,” Roulston said. “Hospice in His Care is not affiliated with any particular denomination, but the company honors all beliefs and backgrounds. And there is definitely a spiritual component to what we provide.”

The chaplains on staff visit patients frequently, sing and pray with them, bring Holy Communion to those who request it, and counsel patients and family members. The social workers help families secure funds, enroll them in appropriate healthcare services, and connect them to “Make a Wish”-type organizations. “We become very close to our patients,” Roulston said, “and we come to understand that it is a privilege to serve them in this way and at this time in their lives.”

Hospice in His Care was recently named a 2016 Hospice Honors Elite winner. The award, given by Deyta, a division of HEALTHCARE First, recognizes hospices that provide the highest level of satisfaction for both the patient and caregiver experience as noted by the patients’ families.

Hearing God’s call

In spite of the long hours and the emotional toll, Roulston loves her work and always has. After all, what could be more important than helping people pass away peacefully and with dignity as they leave the physical life behind and enter eternal life?

“I’m in a position to see just how short life can be,” she said. “I think the most important thing any of us can do is discover our calling — figure out what God wants us to do in this life. Every morning when I wake up, I want to walk beside God, hear his voice, and know that I am doing what he wants me to do. It’s important to me to answer his calling.”

Roulston says she is blessed with a 47-year marriage and an extended family that has grown to include five grandchildren. “God is wonderful,” she said. “I look around me and see that I’ve been blessed beyond words. And best of all, I’m happy — truly happy.”

For more information, visit the website at hospiceinhiscare.com or call (225) 214-0010. Roulston can answer questions regarding finances, patient services, staff support, and how to tell when hospice care is appropriate for your loved one.

Hospice care is dedicated to helping patients and families accept terminal illness in a positive way with a determination to make the quality of life the best it can be. This means ensuring that the patient is surrounded by compassion, respect, sensitivity, hope and love.

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Faith Life, May 2017

The Last Mile

 

The Last Mile

Why am I sick? Why don’t I feel fulfilled? Why am I struggling through life? Have you ever wrestled with questions like these?

Life is hard, even for Christians, and when life doesn’t seem to be going the way we want it to or thought it would, it’s natural to wonder why. Is God upset with me? Did I do something wrong?

For many of us, it is easier to see our flaws than to believe that our lives serve a purpose. It is easier for us to ask forgiveness and accept correction from God than it is to believe that He wants to (and can) bless us even in the midst of our struggles. The devil has millions of Christians believing that they aren’t worthy of the blessings of God. And when bad things happen to us, it’s like an “I told you so.” But today God wants to exchange the devil’s “I told you so” for one of His own.

In John chapter 9, Jesus and his disciples came across a man whowas blind from birth. In verse 2, his disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

It may not seem fair that part of this man’s journey in life was to be blind for a while so that God could be glorified by healing him, but the man gained much more than his eyesight that day. He became a believer and gained eternal life (John 9:38). Have you ever considered that had his trials not occurred, perhaps he would have had his eyesight, but not his salvation?

Sometimes our struggles are indeed caused by our own sins or the sins of others, but at other times, they are meant to be a part of our journey so that God can be glorified and we can be blessed.

In June of 2012, my life changed. It started with God telling me to give my truck away to a stranger in a donut star parking lot. God then had me sell my shares and resign as Chief Operating Officer of one of the fastest growing IT firms in the country and go into full-time ministry instead. It’s been an incredibly hard journey. My wife and I moved from a place of comfort to a place of not being sure how we would pay the bills. But God has taught us to trust Him with everything. God has taught us to get up every day believing that we are “in the last mile” and the blessing is on its way.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The blind man in John chapter 9 had no idea when he woke up that day that a miracle would be done in his life. He had no idea that what he had longed for his entire life would actually come to pass. Jesus healed him that day and made a point to his disciples and to us — God has a plan and a blessing for each of us, but we must trust Him to receive it. It’s time to stop striving and struggling through life trying to make it what you want it to be. Your Father, the creator of the universe, wants you to trust Him and surrender control so that He can take care of you and show you the purpose and blessings He has for you.

The next time you’re in a situation where things don’t feel good, where you see no way out, and you need a miracle — dare to believe that you’re in the last mile. Live every day expecting the miracle, anticipating the breakthrough, acknowledging, trusting, and resting in the fact that God is and His promises are true. It’s time to let go and see the goodness of God.

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Michael Phillips was once the owner and COO of one of the fastest growing IT firms in the country. But in June of 2012, in response to what he describes as a “calling from God,” he walked away from his business and gave his truck away to a stranger in a donut store parking lot. “I thought I was happy,” he said, “but it wasn’t until I went ‘all in’ that real life began.”
Michael’s story is climbing the best seller charts at Amazon, but he says the book isn’t about his journey. It’s about yours. Learn more and get the book at www.justchoose.org.

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