Family Life, Online edition!

Unstoppable God…..By Karen Milioto

My five-year old daughter has been spinning through the house belting out the lyrics to Unstoppable God, by Elevation Worship for three straight weeks.

“Unstoppable God let your glory on and on!

Impossible things in Your name they shall be done!”

At this point, the words are dancing in my own head. And I sit now, glancing out of the window at the midwinter landscape before me; barren with leafless branches swaying in the crisp January breeze.

The song reminds me of a day just like this one, six years ago. I had just learned I was pregnant. 

On that evening, I had stepped outside and studied my breath as it gently danced against the bleak backdrop of brown grass and sleeping trees. Silently wondering to myself, ‘How could this be?’ 

I couldn’t even grasp the notion of pregnancy after three years of waiting and wondering. Countless sonograms reflecting nothing but an empty womb. Pills and then needles. Surgeries and more tests.

Each elevator ride leaving the doctor’s office with nothing but a receipt in my hand. Watching happy couples gripping black and white strips of ultrasound photos. Expectant moms clutching large bellies full of life. And new families cradling infants. Each journey ushering me further away from my hope in impossible things. 

When I called the fertility clinic to tell them the news, I asked the nurse if it was even possible and she laughed saying, “Strange, yes. But anything is possible.” 

Anything was possible? I had wondered in response. 

That was a foreign concept to someone as dulled by disappointment as I was. One so far from the little girl she used to be. Who had once spun around her own childhood home, singing similar songs with conviction. Now replaced by an adult who weighed possibilities against numbers and reason. Letting logic decide what was truly possible.

No longer waking up in wonder at my Unstoppable God and giving glory to the impossible things that are constantly being done. From an empty tomb, to every single moment in-between when God has insisted on new life springing forth from dead things.

This January, as we are surrounded by the barren landscape of winter I pray to keep my eyes on the eternal promise of spring. 

Holding tight to my belief in a Kingdom that “reigns unstoppable”, as the song goes.

Knowing that God does such things through people by the power of His Spirit. 

People who believe in and make room for, the impossible to be born through them each day. 

It could be the birth of a new baby. Or the birth of an idea. 

Maybe it is one word of reconciliation, spoken to mend something in desperate need of repair. 

An act of love. Or an extension of grace. Some effort to bring peace or healing to this cold and dark world. 

Or maybe it’s something else completely. 

It might even be something that makes some of us step back for a minute saying, ‘how can this be?’

Don’t stop there. Step back towards it. 

Karen is a former Bostonian who now resides on a small farm just north of Baton Rouge.

She loves scripture and her garden and often weaves both into her work as a writer. In 2017, Publisher’s Weekly described her debut memoir, Mustard Seeds and Water Lines as an ‘emotional and finely crafted’ account of her personal journey towards healing after The Great Flood of 2016, in their annual Book Life Prize review. And, as her story has made its way across the country, readers have consistently embraced her as an authentic voice with a message of hope in the wake of a disaster.

Karen is a wife, mother and weekly co-host of The Back Porch Book Club, a podcast designed to build community and conversation surrounding books about Spiritual Formation and the Bible.

You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at

Family Life, October 2018

Family Life, With Special Needs Children

Special Needs Children …
Special Needs Families

by Todd Shupe

Todd Shupe loves to experience life with his son Kyle. He says that seeing the joy in his son’s face brings him happiness.

My second child, Kyle, was born May 24, 2002. He was a big, healthy baby and was, and will always be, a tremendous blessing to me. We noticed at an early age that he was not reaching the typical milestones for babies and toddlers in terms of walking, talking, etc. We had him tested for hearing loss, brain function, blood tests and more. All of the tests came back normal, but his development was not normal. In particular, he showed little interest in talking and had a very limited vocabulary.

Eventually, we received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder – not otherwise specified). I remember looking at that and thinking, “Okay, now we know what we have, so let’s make a plan to fix it.” However, I later realized that his autism is a spectrum disorder with no known cure, and the spectrum covers patients identified as high functioning to severe. To me, the diagnosis sounded more like — We don’t really know what your child has so we created a category and called it PDD-NOS instead of WDK (we don’t know).

Families with a special needs child have special needs of their own — schools, churches, restaurants, dentists, etc. that are accommodating to special needs children. We were blessed to find an excellent Pre-K program at Southdowns Elementary in Baton Rouge. However, Kyle aged out of the program and we were left looking at options that ranged from lousy to expensive. We declined lousy and hired a private teacher to work with our son. Also, our church was accommodating and invited us to attend several meetings to discuss setting up a special needs Sunday School room.

I have heard some parents say that when they received the diagnosis of autism, they felt as if part of their child had died, that their dreams and hopes for their child had been shattered and that their child would not live a “typical” life. I never felt that way. I believe in continuous improvement. So Kyle goes to school all year long. This is expensive, but it is best for his development.

I realize that there are many things he will never do, such as get married, drive a car, or play high school sports — and that is fine with me. I focus on the things that he can do. He can go for walks with me and hold my hand. He can go to the movies with me and share a tub of popcorn and a soda while we enjoy an animated movie. He enjoys playing fetch with our dog. And he can give the best hugs that will cure a headache much better than any aspirin.

A child with special needs certainly puts a strain on any marriage. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that parents with ASD children were nearly twice as likely to get divorced than couples without disabled children. The study revealed something else interesting: the divorce rates in parents with disabled children did not increase until the children became teens or adults. My own marriage ended after 20 years when Kyle was 12 years old.

Kyle has a bright future, and I want him to become as independent as possible. Like other children, he yearns for his father’s approval and I try to always acknowledge every good thing that he does. So there is no need to change or “cure” Kyle. He is perfect just as he is. He is a child of God and a tremendous blessing to me. I want him to live a happy life.

We hold hands and pray before each meal. I offer the blessing and then gently squeeze his hand at the end and he clearly and proudly says, “Amen!” Kyle is a blessing to me and has taught me so much about what is really important in life.

Todd Shupe is a wood science consultant and president of He is the president of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is in training as a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the General Commission of United Methodist Men. He writes Christian blogs at

Todd Shupe is the president of and a Christian blogger at He currently serves as president of Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is training to become a men’s ministry specialist under the General Commission of United Methodist Men.

Family Life, September 2018

The Childless Life

The childless life

by Lisa Tramontana

  • Did you know?
  • 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility?
  • 20% of all women reach the age of 45 without having children. 

For the childless woman, there’s nothing quite as painful as Mother’s Day. Sandy Michelet remembers walking into a restaurant and being greeted by the host with a carnation in his hand. “Are you a mother?” he asked cheerfully.

It was so unexpected Michelet didn’t know what to say. After years of trying to conceive a child, such a question seemed almost insulting, but she knew he meant no harm. “People say things that are insensitive all the time,” she said. “Usually they mean well, but it still hurts.”

Michelet married in her early 30s and tried for years to conceive, but it just never happened. “For a woman, there’s so much pain and shame associated with being childless. It’s different from being child-free. Childlessness is not a choice. And you really question why this is happening to you. Don’t I deserve to have a child? I remember wondering if I was being punished for something I did … maybe I talked back to my mom when I was 20 years old? What did I do?”

When everyone knows about your struggle, their first impulse is to offer advice. “Just relax,” they say. “Pray more. Start drinking apple cider vinegar!”

Holidays and social events are especially painful, Michelet said. Most people don’t stop and think about what it’s like to navigate the everyday world without a child. At Christmas, it seems like everyone has a child on his or her lap opening presents, she said. At family get-togethers, parents are either bragging or complaining about their kids. “So many times, people have jokingly said to me, ‘Well, I’d be happy to give you one of mine!’ Really? Would you?”

The jokes are probably meant to ease the awkwardness. “It just seems natural that women are supposed to have children,” Michelet said. “Over the years, I found myself often offering to host or provide food for family gatherings. It’s the only way I could feel that I had a purpose like everyone else.”

Although Michelet mourns the fact that she never gave birth, she is grateful for her stepchildren, now adults, whom she has loved since she married their father Craig 18 years ago. “They are wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a full and happy life together.”

But it’s not the same as it is for a woman with children. Especially when Michelet thinks of the “family tree” concept. “I move into new phases of my life,” she said, “and new concerns pop up, especially as I get older. Everyone else has ‘branches’ on their family tree. But generations from now, there will be no children to trace back to me. It just ends. That’s part of the reason I started my blog (The Childless Life).”

Two years ago, Michelet sat down at the computer and just started typing … the words, the pain, the anger all started pouring out. “I realized I’d been hurting and hiding for so many years,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep it in any longer.”

Many women have benefitted from her blog, which gets thousands of hits every month. Michelet believes it’s her down-to-earth conversational style, her honesty, and the fact that she isn’t afraid to sprinkle in a bit of sarcasm occasionally. “I also understand the struggle with faith,” she said. “For years, I stopped going to church, and many women have that same experience.”

Michelet has found a new church that nourishes her spiritually, and she has come to terms with her childlessness. “It’s a hard thing to deal with, but I’ve accepted it and I realize now that I’ve had a ‘rich and satisfying life’ just as the Bible says in John 10:10. And John doesn’t say you must have children to achieve that.”

It took time, but Michelet has found happiness with her supportive husband, her stepchildren, friends, work, and her blog, which has become a meaningful ministry. “Not everyone can have children,” she said. “And if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re less than anybody else. You’re just different. Your life will just take a different direction that what you planned.”

For more information, visit

Thousands of readers visit Sandy Michelet’s blog each month
(from left) Brant, Craig, Sandy and Erica Michelet
August 2018, Family Life

Family Life

Is Your Marriage Built on the Right Foundation?

Alton and TaShawnda Jamison are the founders of The Empowerment Zone, a ministry designed to “empower people for everyday life” through products, events and messages. In addition, they are the pastors of The Empowerment Zone in Baton Rouge, a church plant that will launch this fall. The Jamisons, who have two children, have been sharing the gospel together for over 17 years. They recently completed their first book, Purpose, Passion & Prosperity: 3 Keys to A Godly Marriage. For more information, visit

The Bible reminds us in Hosea 4:6 that people perish for a lack of knowledge. Marriages are also destroyed for a lack of knowledge. In our current society, people separate and divorce quicker than you can imagine. Marriage has become like cell phone service carriers … if you don’t like the service, you switch to someone else.

I submit to you that knowledge is the main ingredient missing in most marriages. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the Word and its power. The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:24 that “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Most couples fail because they never become one flesh. One flesh is more than just sharing a house or a joint bank account. One flesh means that we both die to self and join in a way that no one can separate. One flesh means that even on our worst days, we find a way to push through because we our joined together both spiritually and naturally. In a social media society, marriage advice shouldn’t solely come from a Facebook post or an Instagram picture of your favorite celebrity couple. It must come from God’s Word, especially if you are going to build your marriage on a solid foundation. The Word is direct in its command in Joshua 24:15. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

When the Word of God is paramount in a marriage, then your household will be in order. Why is the foundation of the Word so critical? Well, Jesus illustrates to us in a parable in Matthew 7:24-25. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

When your marriage and family are built on the Word of God … when the rain, floods and the winds of life come, your marriage can endure. Your marriage may look good on paper, you may have the prettiest kids, a large home and the finest of cars. But if your foundation is not built on God’s Word, then nothing else matters. We are challenged in Mark 8:36 with the profound question, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” If you want your marriage and family to be strong, long-lasting and legacy-making, then exchange the world’s way and embrace God’s way. Storms will come in your marriage and family, but as a friend once said, “The good news about storms is that they all end at some point.”
Be encouraged and start building!

Family Life, June 2018

Family Life: The Divine Trinity, A Model for Marital Unity

Dennis and Jill Eenigenburg

The Divine Trinity: A Model for Marital Unity
By Dennis Eenigenburg*

The most profound and wonderful relationship in existence is found not in a grocery store tabloid, but in the Bible. Here, we find the dynamic and in many ways, mysterious relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Bible presents them as the creators of the universe and intimate companions. The nature of the relationship of this divine society leaves many unanswered questions to our finite minds. On the other hand, the Bible reveals much we can apply to our own relationships. In the following, I would like to focus the application to marriage. The oneness and unity experienced in the Trinity of the Godhead can instruct us in our pursuit of marital unity.

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives, while distinct as persons, have equal value.

In the Trinity: Each member has equal value.
One of the many passages illustrating the equal essence of the persons of the Trinity is Matthew 28:19 known as the “Great Commission.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In the Marriage:  Each member has equal value.
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
In many cultures, including our own, women have been treated as less important than men. This attitude often leads to neglect, abuse and disrespect. As men and women we are image bearers of our Creator, and thus, of equal value before God. As a husband, I want to treat my wife as God’s special creation. She is not only my wife, but she is the princess daughter of the King of Kings through her faith in Jesus Christ. In I Peter 3:7, husbands are reminded to “show honor” to their wives as fellow heirs of God’s grace.”

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives have unique, complementary roles.

In the Trinity: The members have complementary roles.
One example of the unique roles within the Trinity is illustrated by their roles in the redemption of mankind, from slavery to sin to the freedom of Salvation. Paul, in Ephesians 1, tells us we have been:
Predestined by the Father. “He predestined us to adoption as sons.”  V. 5
Purchased by the Son. “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” V. 7
Preserved by the Spirit. “You are sealed in Him the Holy Spirit of promise.” V. 13
In terms of the hierarchy of the Trinity, there are also distinct roles. Jesus, in His prayer to the Father, recorded in John 17:18, said this: “As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them (the disciples) into the world.” The one sending is exercising authority over the one sent. The sent one is submissive to the one sending. In the Godhead, there is a voluntary order of authority. Jesus says of the Holy Spirit,“for if I do not go away the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go I’ll send Him to you.”(John 16:7)
In the Marriage:  The members have complementary roles.
Most of the attitudes and actions that produce a healthy marriage are the same for both husbands and wives. We are to love each other with divine love found in I Corinthians 13. We are to prefer one another as Christ preferred us over His own well-being. We are to pray for each other and speak the truth in love. We are to raise our children in a way that points them to Christ. But there is also a unique role given to each husband and wife. The wife, for example, is given the honor of conceiving and bearing children. Children are eternal beings with great potential to bring honor and glory to God. The husband, illustrating the role of Christ and the Church, has been given the responsibility to lead, love, provide and protect his wife.
“Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself up for her.”  (Ephesians 5:25)
The wife is called to support that imperfect leadership as a way of honoring God. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) While in many other relationships, women may be in authority over men, marriage is a place where the headship/submission picture of the relationship of Trinity is to be painted.

  1. Like the Trinity, husbands and wives are unified by common purpose of mutual honor and affirmation.

In the Trinity:  The members seek to bring glory and honor to each other.
One of the consistent themes that dominates the purpose of the Trinity is to honor one another by revealing the worship-worthy attributes of each other. One of the words used to describe the way the members of the Godhead honor each other is the word “glorify.  To “glorify” means to “make known or to reveal the greatness of another’s works or character.” Jesus said this about His crucifixion.
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”(John 13:31)
In the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, the Son and the Father would be glorified.  In other words, the titanic love, sacrifice and grace behind salvation would be revealed and give creation a cause for eternal praise and worship. Speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “He shall glorify me, for He shall take of mine and reveal it to you.” (John 16:14)
Over and over again, we see the individuals in the Godhead displaying the value and the virtues of the other members of the Godhead.
In the Marriage: The members seek to bring honor to
each other and their Lord.
When we survey the “one another” passages in the Bible, we find that we too should affirm and honor each other. In marriage, this includes being thankful, giving compliments, using words of affirmation and acts of service. Just as the members of the Trinity seek to exalt one another, so should we in our marriages and all relationships.  The real unifier, however, is when husbands and wives make it their common priority to glorify God … to live in a way that reveals the character of Jesus Christ living through them. A couple joined together in a bond of worship and obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit will experience two kinds of oneness, oneness with God and oneness with each other. This oneness brings joy and mutual enrichment to marriage and an impact on the world as they reflect the likeness of their Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus put it this way: “The glory which you have given me, I have given them: that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that you did send me and did love them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
In a world looking for role models, there is no greater relationship to study and emulate than one revealed in the Divine Trinity.
*Co-author with Jill Eenigenburg of The Heart of Marriage.

“Dennis Eenigenburg and his wife Jill lead a ministry called Equipping Network.  Their goal is to serve underserved “shepherds” primarily in third world countries.  One of the tools they use is a marriage seminar they authored called “The Heart of Marriage.”  Since 2012 they have taught pastors and church leaders in 13 countries. In May they taught Heart of Marriage at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Liberia.   Last year they celebrated 50 years of marriage with their three married sons and 11 grandchildren.”

Family Life, Learning For Life, May 2018

Work, Play, Read. Repeat

The Main Library is located at Goodwood Blvd. and Lobdell
In the newly built Main branch of the EBRP Libraries, the quiet room and reading rooms are great places to work and read! Or concentrate on a good book!


Work, Play, Read, Repeat

How the EBRP Library Can Enrich Your Life

by Kayla D. Perkins


While libraries are known as a hub for community programming and resources, the East Baton Rouge Parish Library (EBRPL) has made strides to ensure that we go far beyond the old expectations of your grandfather’s library.


For more than 75 years, EBRPL has served the community, and we work to add quality experiences at every age and stage of life. Not only is EBRPL an institution that fosters education and encourages learning and creativity, but we also are committed to providing fun and innovative environments for people to work, play and read.

For the sixth consecutive year, EBRPL was named one of America’s Star Libraries by Library Journal, the only Louisiana library system to be selected for this honor. Overall, in 2017 your EBRPL experienced an active year with almost 300,000 patrons who utilized the Library’s collection of more than 2 million free items! Our collection of digital resources continues to grow, with several major new online additions, including the Gale Small Business Builder for business planning, Lexis Nexis Legal for in-house legal content, Mergent Intellect which is a business research directory, and Kanopy for streaming films and documentaries, including the Great Courses.



Whether you’re a student, a mother, a small business owner or anything in between, the Library’s got something valuable for you. Patrons can find a robust Digital Library at the EBRPL website, full of tools and resources for business, online learning and continued education, scholarly research databases, online tutoring, foreign language learning and more. The Library’s Career Center is located within the Main Library at Goodwood and offers monthly seminars for job searching, résumé writing, mock interviews and one-on-one job coaching.



Your Library is FUN! Every year, we offer thousands of engaging performances, programs and events for all ages, including arts and crafts projects, monthly exhibits, game and movie nights for the whole family, plus after-hours book talks and events for adults. You even can search and research your family tree with free classes and workshops hosted by the Library’s Special Collections genealogy staff.

Rock out with tunes from Freegal or snag your never-ending concert ticket with Qello Concerts for full-length performances and documentaries. We also encourage the discovery of new interests and abilities through science, technology, engineering, art and math-centered (STEM/STEAM) programming for children and teens. The BR Mini Maker Faire® provides families a terrific opportunity to experience new technologies each fall.

The Summer Reading Program for kids, teens and adults (yes, adults can get in on the reading fun, too!) is designed to encourage an enjoyment of reading with incentives and prizes for books completed. Amazing performers and presenters like Harvey Rabbit and Friends, Farmer Minor and Daisy the Reading Pig, the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre and many others tour the Library system each summer to delight and entertain youngsters.



Whether you like to use an electronic device, listen to an audiobook or hold a hard copy in your hands, we’ve got a book format to suit you! In the Digital Library we offer ebooks with the Libby app from OverDrive, RBdigital for popular magazines, audiobooks and ebooks, Flipster for top digital magazines and much more. Print copies of daily local, national and some international newspapers are available for in-house browsing and hundreds of print magazine titles may be checked out.


With 14 convenient locations across the parish including the Main Library at Goodwood, EBRPL is open to serve you seven days per week, and 24/7 online at, and in the Digital Library at Get access to computers and Wi-Fi, computer classes, online databases, books and magazines, downloads and e-media, programs, concerts, book talks, game nights, various workshops and storytimes, business tools and seminars, career and technology resources and much more – all free with your Library card!

More space for reading!


Kayla Perkins is the Public Relations Director at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. A native of Baton Rouge, Perkins holds both a Bachelor of Art and a Master of Art in Mass Communication from Southern University. Perkins has worked for the Library for more than six years and is directly responsible for composing, editing and producing the monthly newsletter The Source, which has a distribution of more than 8,000 each month. Perkins also serves as the in-house reporter for “Beyond the Stacks” in the Library’s monthly television show, The Library Road Show.


Family Life, May 2018

A Mother’s Grief

A Mother’s Grief

Jan johnson

Micah Johnson, just 21, died suddenly in January after a brief illness

It’s been well over a month now since our family was blindsided by the most devastatingly gut-wrenching, life-changing blow to our hearts – the day our precious daughter and sister, Micah, went to be with her sweet Jesus.To say it was unexpected is the biggest understatement of all time, as the illness came suddenly and was seemingly no different from the many illnesses all kids regularly endure … a couple of days of fever and aches and pains, and then, as expected, a break in the fever Sunday night. I looked at her and said, “Tomorrow’s going to be a new day.” She nodded. Tomorrow came and was it a new day! Just not the new day we expected. Monday, January 29, 2018, Micah, our precious treasure, went home to her reward.

So many friends and family and even strangers have walked this path of grief with us. Our thank-you seems so inadequate. Your outpouring of love and prayers are sustaining us. Many want to know how we are doing. Honestly, it depends on the minute, and I mean minute, that you ask. At times we are laughing and remembering and just going about normal daily activities. At times we are paralyzed, with a grief so heavy and suffocating that it’s nearly impossible to breathe. The clock ticks and the days roll by, but not fast enough. Our eyes are set on heaven, and that is where we want to be. This life has definitely lost its appeal, although there are still joys in it.

I can’t say this is a new sentiment for us, though, especially for me. The past 10 years have been brutal. The Jacob family has suffered repeated losses … my dad, my mom, my brother, my nephew, and so many extended members. Watching my family members wither away with such debilitating and cruel illnesses has taxed us to our cores. In 2014, within about one month of each other, we buried my brother and my mom, from cancer and Alzheimer’s, respectively. They suffered terribly. During that same time, Jenna was diagnosed with a heart issue and Micah was also facing some intense struggles. I was broken. The only way I could survive was to look up! I’ve always loved the Word and valued my regular morning time with the Lord, studying, journaling, and praying. Along with my daily reading materials, I added books on Heaven. (I strongly recommend any by Randy Alcorn!) My eyes were open to new truths and the wonder of what awaits those who are His! From then on, more than ever we began desiring heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. My desire for heaven did not mean I wanted anything to be cut short on this earth. I loved my life. I loved my family. Those of you who know me well, know that my God is first and my family right behind. I didn’t and don’t need popularity, society, or anything other than my God and my family. If my kids did it, I was there. My husband Steve and I chose to include our kids on all of our travels because, honestly, we didn’t want to miss a thing. I didn’t do lunch or regular nights out with the ladies and Steve didn’t play golf regularly or do weekends with friends, etc. because we didn’t want to. My time was spent mostly at home facilitating life for my family, interceding in prayer for my loved ones, or volunteering for things in which my kids were involved. This is not to say that the way we have done things is the only way or that desiring other things is wrong. Not at all! We just made choices based on our hearts’ desires. We always felt our time with our kids was short just because they grow up so quickly, so we wanted to squeeze every ounce out of our time together. And I am SO glad we did!

We always tell/told our kids, “You’re not promised tomorrow.” In fact, last Christmas, our kids were disappointed that we would not have our Christmas as usual. Everyone on the Johnson side would not be at Steve’s parents’ house for our normal Christmas Eve celebration. We had missed spending Thanksgiving with them too. Marriages had changed the dynamics and cousins had to divide time between relatives, all understandable. Our three children, Christian, Micah, and Jenna were quite sad. I looked at them and said, “Enjoy this time. We are not promised another Christmas together.” Of course, I was thinking they might lose one of Steve’s parents or one of us before the next Christmas. NEVER did I understand, for even one minute, the reality that was buried in my warning. And with every ounce of my being, I want to scream to all of you: “You are not promised tomorrow!”

Funny thing is, I seriously thought Micah was promised tomorrow. I have journals full of scripture promises the Lord has given me concerning my children. I’ve always taught my kids to search the scriptures for every solution to their problems. Find out what God is saying about the problem. He uses His Word to speak to us today, and I have countless testimonies of how He gave me clear answers to common day problems through a particular scripture. It’s fascinating. Anyway, one day my children will inherit my journals, and they will be able to read everything I have recorded that the Lord has given me for them. Since her passing, I have had to try to reconcile what God gave me for Micah. The Word says, “God’s promises are yes and in Him amen.” In other words, His promises are true. If He has given you a promise, He will perform it. If He hasn’t performed it, it’s often just a matter of timing or your misinterpretation of the promise.

The Lord showed me years ago that there was a pattern of seven in Micah’s life. At age 7 and then again at age 14, the Lord mightily moved and answered long-requested prayers. I’m choosing not to share the details. Since then I have been warring in prayer for other challenges she was facing. Every time I prayed, I got the same answer – “Wait!” I was beyond frustrated. I tearfully told Steve on the night of January 28, when Micah was sick and Jenna was facing an excruciating trial of the day, “I can’t take this anymore. I can’t pray any more or read or fast any more. Why won’t He answer me?” And answer He did … again, not the way I expected.

Over the past couple of years, He reminded me of the pattern of seven for Micah. I dismissed it and even argued a bit with Him saying, “Surely, God, you’re not going to wait until she’s 21 to answer these prayers.” As she approached 21, I changed my tune and thought, “Please God, she’s 21, please answer my prayers.” In fact, all throughout 2017, the Lord showed and told me through every way possible that we were in a season of victory and deliverance. So for the first time in a while, I looked forward to a new year. I was so glad to see 2017 end, because it had been brutal. I thought, bring on the victory and deliverance in 2018! Bring on the blessings! And then in literally the blink of an eye, Micah was delivered! At age 21! His promises were true – but not in the way I had expected and even more true – not in the way I would ever have hoped!

The skeptic might ask, “Why? Why would a good God allow this? Why would He take a girl who loves Him with her whole heart, who is serving Him, who is selflessly loving kids and His people, who is a light to this dark world? Doesn’t this world need people with hearts and talents like hers?” But scripture says God is good, so He is. “His ways are righteous,” so they are. Scripture says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Scripture says heaven is our reward. And my heart knows my precious baby girl IS delivered. She IS victorious. She IS where we all want to be. And she would never, not now nor in a million years, choose to come back. She is in full joy with that beautiful smile of hers beaming for eternity. And she is now a part of the “heavenly cloud of witnesses” cheering us on! Yes, I miss her with every part of my being. I still cry a river of tears. But I literally can’t wait to see her again! I’m going to wrap my arms around her so tightly and spend an eternity loving her! By being His child, that is His promise to me!

This morning I put my coffee cup down on a glass coaster, which had a picture of Micah inside it. What’s strange is that I’ve had a set of these coasters for years and never had put pictures in them. A couple of months back, I asked Steve to do that for me. He gladly complied, but then both of my girls expressed how much they disliked the pictures he selected. Actually, I agreed, especially for Micah’s. I thought we have so many beautiful pictures of her. Why did he pick this one? Over the past few weeks, she’s been staring at me through it each morning. Some mornings I just can’t bear to look at it. The picture was taken last summer during our vacation to California at a succulent shop that Jenna loved. Micah was just “doing time” there because it didn’t give her any warm fuzzies. She’d rather be at a pizza shop or on an extreme adventure. But the picture brought back painful memories and incited longings for the future family vacations that we will never again experience.

For some reason though, this morning I picked up the coaster and really looked at it. Then I saw something I had never before seen. To the left of Micah’s sweet face was the word “lent.” It was the part of the word “succulent” that had made it into the picture. Wow, a punch in the gut! At the same time, a sweet reminder from God. I didn’t know whether to wail with grief or scream with joy. I was so conflicted. Micah was indeed “lent” to us, for way too short of a time. But to God, it was His perfect amount of time. She was not ours, but His. Questions raced through my mind. I was looking for assurances that I had stewarded this precious gift that the Lord had graciously lent me for 21 years. Had I missed anything? Left anything undone? With comfort from my God, I was able to feel confident that I had mothered her, loved her, trained her and supported her in every way that I humanly knew!

To every parent out there, please know your children are “lent.” They belong to the Lord. He can call them home at any time. The greatest comfort I have in this period of intense grief is that I have no regrets, and I know where my sweet Micah is. If I didn’t have both of those things, I could not go on. From the time my children were born until today, my prayer has been, “Lord, let them know they are loved by You and by Steve and me. Let them be single-focused. Let them not turn to the right or to the left. Let them love righteousness and hate sin. Let them know why they are here and what You created them to be, with no veering off. Let them stay straight and strong for You.”

I didn’t want kids that had to be great at everything. I wanted them to stay targeted and focused on those things “God prepared in advance for them to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). Many times my kids have been forced to stand alone, to not do the “thing” the crowd was doing. I always told them that if the thing they wanted to do was what the majority was doing, chances are it wasn’t the right thing. I told them Jesus wasn’t popular. The world hated Him. The gospel is not popular. So … don’t try to be popular. Love people, but don’t need their approval. Seek God’s approval above all else. Granted, this mentality won’t put you high on the popularity list, but it will keep you humble before God. I am so thankful that my Micah listened!

She was not always “loved by the world,” but she was always 100% herself and “about her Father’s business.” If you knew Micah, you know she loved so many unusual things. A few of those were archery, knife throwing, skeet shooting, etc. There was just something she loved about hitting the target. Well, she hit hers! Well done baby girl! And if I can speak for my Micah, please do everything now to hit your target and to help your children hit theirs. This life is short, sometimes shorter than we think. But eternity is forever. Don’t miss that mark!

Jan Johnson says every parent should realize that their children belong to the Lord, and can be called home at any time

The Johnson family (from left) Christian, Jan, Jenna, Steve and Micah.

April 2018, Family Life

The Love of the Father – Earthly and Divine by Robert Maxie

The Love of the Father… Earthly and divine

Robert and Aminga Maxie

Robert and Aminga Maxie spend time with their children Kianna, Robert Jr., Olivia, Elijah, and Jon’Benet

By: Robert Maxie

It was in February of 2014 that I woke up from a dream with an urgent need to call my father. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed his number, and to my surprise he picked up the phone on the first ring. I tried making small talk but it was mostly silent. My father and I have never been close. Years of physical abuse, alcoholism, and domestic violence made it very hard for me to build any type of relationship with him. Finally, he asked me what I wanted and I replied “a better relationship.” I told him I loved him and just wanted his love as well. After I finished speaking, there was an awkward silence. Finally, he said, “I think our relationship is just fine.” His cold reply hurt, but I did what I felt God wanted me to do. So I had peace.

In May I received a voicemail from my mother asking me to call home as soon as possible. She stated that Dad awoke that morning unable to see and she was taking him to the doctor. We would later find out that he had brain cancer that was very aggressive. Within a month, he was in hospice. I flew home to see him knowing that this would be my last time. My father, who was always so huge in my eyes, looked frail and worn. The brain tumor had taken his sight completely and he was quickly losing normal functioning. My mom announced my presence, saying, “Your son is here.” At that moment, my father looked up as if he could see me and said, “I have no son.” My mother quickly stated that he didn’t know what he was saying … those were my father’s last words to me.

My father passed away on July 1, and on that day I was discharged from the Navy and started preparing to move back to Louisiana. Within a week, we were home, moving into a new house and preparing for my father’s funeral. Everything happened so fast there was no time to grieve and I don’t remember even crying — until one evening when my mom called and asked me how I was doing. I said I was fine and she replied, “You do know your father loved you?” Within seconds, I was on the floor crying and screaming, “No I don’t.”

I heard those words in my head every day — “I don’t have a son.” I felt like Esau standing at the bed of Isaac, saying, “Would you just bless me!” In my mind I know my father was sick and probably didn’t know what he was saying, but for the last four years the enemy has had a field day attacking my mind with thought after thought and with lie after lie. I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression and no one knew I was suffering.

One day I just got tired of letting the enemy torment my mind, and instead of focusing on what my earthly father did or did not do, I would instead focus on my heavenly father and his unconditional love for me. He never denies me and he calls me son. For so long I felt like an orphan and I began reading and talking about the heart of God the father and what he says about me. I allowed Jesus into those father wounds so he could heal me. I needed God to remove the fear of rejection from my heart. The pain was killing me slowly and making me become bitter.

(Galatians 4:5-7) “To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father. So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

He called me a son! He is my perfect father. I spent years looking for a father figure only to continually end up hurt and disappointed. But God has been there the whole time waiting for me to forgive and to let go of the pain of the past. It doesn’t matter the size of the wound … I learned that a person never finds healing until we forgive.

Today I choose to remember the best about my earthly father because I know that in his own way, he did love me and he did the best he could with what he had. But my identity comes from God and every day I feel his love and acceptance. So as I raise my three boys, I tell them every day how much I love them, but more importantly, I want them to know how much God loves them. I want them to know that I am human and I will make mistakes — but God will never leave them nor forsake them. He loves them unconditionally and that will never change.

(1 John 3:1) “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

Family Life, February 2018

The Lord is Their Shepherd

The Lord is Their Shepherd

55-year marriage is a gift from God

by Lisa Tramontana

Congratulations to Milton and Leola Lee, who recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. The Lees have two children and eight grandchildren, and are lifelong members of New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Zachary.

Milton and Leola were high school sweethearts at Northwestern High School in Zachary, where Milton played football and Leola performed in the band. After marrying in 1962, Milton worked as a lab technician at Copolymer Corporation and retired after 40 years. Leola was a Motor Vehicles Officer at the State Police Headquarters for 33 years.

They keep a positive attitude by staying involved in hobbies and church activities. At least once a week, Milton plays golf and Leola competes in a bowling league. He is active in the Zachary Men’s Club, and she has long been a member of the East Baton Rouge Women’s Auxiliary. At church, they have both served in various roles, including choir, Bible study, and social committees.

They agree on the secret to their long and happy marriage … God.

“God is in our life and always has been,” said Milton. “Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, but as long as we’ve put him before everything else, he has kept us together.”


BRCLM Image for Family Life
Milton and Leola Lee celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.

Words of Comfort

Click to hear an audio recording of Leola Lee reading the 23rd Psalm from the Old Testament.

Leola says communication is another key to a successful marriage … with her husband and with God. “With Milton, I talk about whatever is on my heart,” she said. “With God, I pray … to keep my faith strong and to watch over the people I love.”

And when she needs comfort, Leola says, she goes to her Bible and reads her favorite Scripture, the 23rd Psalm.

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Family Life, January 2018

Saving Babies…by Loving their Mothers

Saving Babies

… by Loving their Mothers

God has used the ministry of Clelie and Charles Carpenter to save more than 600 babies.

Photo by Taylor Frey

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Charles and Clelie Carpenter make the 30-minute drive to a small building off Goodwood Boulevard. Their mission is literally a matter of life and death.

The Carpenters are pro-life advocates who, along with other advocates from different churches, stand outside Delta Clinic to try to change the minds of women who are seeking abortions. Because the clinic provides escorts to meet the women at their cars and take them into the building, the Carpenters have very small windows of opportunity to make a connection.  But when they do, these “sidewalk counselors” do it in a loving way. “If we hope to have a meaningful conversation with a mother, she needs to know that she can trust us and we are not here to condemn her,” said Clelie. “These women find themselves in a desperate situation, broken and often in tears. Our message is that we care about them and their baby. We remind them that God has a purpose for both mother and child. We let them know that there are alternatives to abortion and we offer to help them in any way we can.”

Those are not just words.  The Carpenters are board members of the Baton Rouge Right to Life and members of Bethany Church, which advocates for he rights of the unborn. The church annually gives money to BRRTL and designates that the funds be used to help women who have decided against abortion – a ministry they call Loving Moms, Saving Babies. For some, that means reimbursement of the $125 ultrasound that all women must have on their initial visit to the clinic. For others, it may mean money to pay rent, groceries or other

bills. The Carpenters provide such assistance through BRRTL. “Our goal throughout their pregnancy is to show the love of Christ by our support and to share the gospel,” said Charles.

The Carpenters have even given baby showers to mothers they have met at the clinic. “Twice, I’ve been invited into the delivery room to witness the birth of babies we’ve saved,” said Clelie. “What an honor … one of the mothers told me, ‘I want you to be the first person who holds my baby … we owe her life to you.’”

The couple estimates that the pro-life ministry at Delta has saved more than 600 babies in the past six years, 130 babies in the last year alone. Louisiana has a mandatory 48-hour waiting period from the initial clinic visit until the procedure. “Sometimes we will talk to a woman at her first visit, and then we’ll never see her again,” said Charles. “Of course, we would like to believe that she changed her mind. Others come out of the clinic and tell us that after talking with us, they thought about what they were about to do and decided against it. They always thank us for our part in that.”

So how do so many women reach such a heartbreaking crossroads in their lives? Some women who find themselves pregnant are afraid their boyfriends will leave them. Teenagers and young women often fear their parents will kick them out of their homes. Other women say they already have children and can’t afford another. In these cases, the

Standing outside Delta Clinic, Charles and Clelie Carpenter pray for an end to abortion.

Photo by Taylor Frey

Each year, Christians of every denomination gather peacefully for 40 Days for Life to pray for an end to abortion. Clelie and Charles Carpenter are pictured on the bottom row, far right.

Photo provided by the Carpenters

Pro-life advocates kneel in front of Delta Clinic.

Photo provided by the Carpenters

Clelie Carpenter said she was honored to be invited into the delivery room by a mother who decided to keep her baby. A fetus at about 12 weeks gestation.

Photo provided by the Carpenters

A fetus at about 12 weeks gestation.

Carpenters, along with other sidewalk counselors, encourage women to look beyond their immediate circumstances and consider the long-term effects of abortion and the emotional consequences of ending the life of their child. They also make referrals to the Woman’s New Life Center (next door to the clinic) for further counseling and adoption information.

Charles believes the Baton Rouge community should know more about the abortion issue. “Certainly, they’re not aware of the magnitude of it,” he said.

“In 2016, the clinic was shut down, but only for a few weeks. I think a lot of people aren’t aware that it reopened. And I believe people are desensitized to the issue. It’s been going on so long now …”

The Carpenters would like to see area churches more engaged in the pro-life effort. “I really think that a lot of pastors don’t talk about abortion because they don’t want to offend the people in their congregation who have had one,” said Clelie. “And it’s such a shame because if no one talks about this topic in a spiritual setting, there’s no way to discuss forgiveness, no way to find healing. Instead, it becomes a source of silent shame.”

Indeed, the Carpenters say they have met women who want to talk about their abortion experiences from 30 or 40 years earlier. Many speak of ongoing pain, sadness, guilt and regret. The Carpenters are always willing to listen and offer comfort — not just because they are strong Christians committed to a noble cause, but because they have both experienced abortion personally. “I think that’s why so many women listen to us,” Clelie said. “We would never judge anyone. We know exactly how these women feel, and we know that in Christ, there is hope.”

Male sidewalk counselors are uniquely qualified to talk to the men who come to the clinic, most of whom say, “She is the one who wants this and I’m just supporting her.” Charles encourages them to speak up if they want to keep their baby. “There are plenty of men out there hurting because of an abortion in their past,” Charles said. “If they believe it’s wrong, they should make their feelings known. At the same time, they must commit to share responsibility for the child.”

A young woman returns to Delta Clinic to show off her beautiful newborn.

Louisiana Life March
Saturday, January 20, 2018
10 a.m. – noon
State Capitol to Downtown Riverfront Levee green

Theme: every Life Deserves a Lifetime The march begins in the grassy area outside the State Capitol near Spanish Town Road and N. 4th Street. it will proceed south on N. 4th Street, west on North Boulevard, and south on River Road to the Levee green near the U.S.S. Kidd. A formal program will be held at the Levee Stage at 11 a.m.

When they are not at the clinic, the Carpenters make themselves available to schools, churches and other groups to present a class called Defending Life. The session covers the physical and emotional aspects of abortion, an overview of the history of abortion, and an animated video that explains the most common abortion procedures. Most important, the class enables individuals to have informed, non-confrontational conversations with anyone about abortion.

“The video is very effective because it’s narrated by a physician who performed 12,000 abortions during his career and is now a pro-life advocate,” said Charles. “Our goal is to make the truth known … to expose exactly what happens during an abortion and make it unthinkable.”

There are days when the Carpenters and other sidewalk counselors are unable to make any kind of connection with the women arriving at the clinic. On those days, they continue to pray – for the mothers, the babies, the nurses and staff, and especially, the doctor who performs the abortions. “Even if we are not able to make a difference and save a life, at the very least, we are honoring the lives of these babies as they pass from life to death,” said Clelie.

The Carpenters believe that the tide is turning on the abortion debate. Charles stays informed of legislative decisions and new laws that affect the issue. And Clelie is determined to get more churches to join the fight. “Just imagine if a woman drove up to the clinic and saw not 15, but 100 Christians praying for her and her baby!”

“God has called the Church to confront evil,” she said. “If this is going on in our midst and we don’t confront it, then we are accomplices. We are allowing it to continue. The blood of innocents is on our hands. If the church would show up to the battle … we would certainly win.”

If you would like to know more about the pro-life movement in Baton Rouge, contact the Carpenters at

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Family Life, January 2018

Seeing His Goodness, Even in Tragedy

Seeing His Goodness, Even in Tragedy

by Karen Milioto

I stepped out of my daughter’s room and heard the door click softly behind me. The tears that I had suppressed through her bedtime prayers began to pour down my already blistered cheeks. It had been two weeks since the floodwaters tore through our property, trapping our beloved horses on a hill far beyond our house. My husband and I were nearly killed, as we fought for hours to rescue them from the raging current in the pitch black and pouring rain. Then, when our efforts proved futile, we headed home, heartbroken and shaken beyond belief.

Karen Milioto authored the book Mustard Seeds and Water Lines.

In the following days, I was forced to tackle challenges I never anticipated as a parent. How do you explain to a small child that the same water that churned outside of her home for two days had made it impossible for her pets to come home? She had built up the two bold and valiant creatures as unbreakable in the ongoing fairytale in her young and optimistic mind. Which words are best to convey that kind of defeat – without also simultaneously defeating her? And is there a perfect answer to the ongoing stream of questions about the lines of debris piles, the tents in yards, the cars in ditches and the families struggling to survive behind each of them? And how does one concoct the kind of courage within themselves capable of convincing a child that the world is still safe when their own bones lock in fear at the sight of a single drop of rain?

These were just a few of the concerns that swirled in my mind as I stepped into the hallway after listening to her prayerfully request that Jesus scratch those two sweet pets in their new heavenly home. As I headed toward our living room, I stopped for a moment to study a large piece of art on the wall, the words of Jeremiah 29:11 carefully scripted in white: “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.”

“These are Your plans?” I whispered to God, indignantly. I mentally tallied everything the flood had damaged in our home and throughout our community, and couldn’t help but wonder if God was failing to deliver on this once comforting promise.

Now I am quick to take clips of cozy feeling scripture to display on the walls of my home. The poetry of the Bible’s sweetest words comfort and encourage me through each hectic day. But the problem is that somewhere along the line, the context of those phrases can be lost after a while. Clearly it had been for me, because that verse would have made much more sense in those critical moments after the flood, if I had taken it for what it truly was: God’s promise to a group of broken people in the face of massive destruction and limited hope.

Later, when I pulled my Bible off the shelf, wiped the dust from its cover and flipped through each page of Jeremiah, I processed the details of the Israelites’ struggles with a fresh perspective. Then, when I got to the 29th chapter, it was no longer the 11th verse captivating me. Instead, it was the 12th and 13th verses drawing me in: “Then you will come to Me and call on Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” In that moment, I realized that I needed to seek God with far more tenacity than I had been previously. I needed to pursue Him in the places of scripture that confused me and even scared me. If I wanted to understand God’s presence in tragedy, then I needed to dig into His Word and worship, study and pray in such a way that begged God to reveal answers to me for the questions that I never wanted to ask. Short clips of scripture may be catchy and sweet, but the peace that I received from fervent seeking was what ultimately comforted me with an unshakeable resolve that God is with me always and His plans are infinitely good.

Karen Milioto

Karen Milioto says prayer, study and worship helped her realize that god’s plans are infinitely good.

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December 2017, Family Life

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Sandra Russell’s legacy of compassion

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Sandra Russell’s legacy of compassion

photos courtesy Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Suzanne Keller, her father Gerry Russell, and Rachael Lagarde

As a child, Suzanne Keller’s Saturday mornings were often spent going to garage sales with her mother, Sandra, who loved nothing more than finding a good bargain.

“It was her hobby,” Suzanne said, “but she took it seriously. She took us all over the place … yard sales, thrift stores, you name it. She drove us to New Orleans to check out places like the Salvation Army stores. She would pick up things from the side of the road if she thought they could be useful to someone.”

So it didn’t surprise anyone in the family when Sandra announced that she felt called by God to open a thrift store – not as a way to earn income, but as a way to donate to worthy causes. Her business model was simple. The family would take in donations and keep half of the sale profits to cover their business costs. The other half would be donated to local charities.

“In other words, we were never going to make money from it,” said Suzanne. “It was simply a way to contribute to those in the community who needed help.”

That was in 1993. The Russell family worked hard at their new enterprise, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. They bought a sprawling building on Burbank Avenue and spent months getting it in shape. The facility still had dirt floors in some areas. But eventually, the new owners hung their rainbow-themed sign in front of the store and opened for business.

Sandra enjoyed her work – thanking donors, greeting customers and networking with local charities. Most of all, she loved knowing that her work was helping others. Her favorite philanthropies were the Battered Women’s Program and several local churches. “She loved her work,” said Suzanne. “Everything about it made her happy.”

On certain days of the week, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow offers 50% discounts to seniors, students and government employees. The store also participates in programs that provide prom dresses to young girls and business attire for women in need of low-cost professional clothing.

Gerry and Sandra Russell opened Here Today, Gone Tomorrow in 1993.
The store carries clothing, household goods, jewelry, books and many other items.

Sadly, Sandra died just five years after opening the store. It would have been easy to just close the doors at that point, but Sandra’s husband Gerry, who had just retired from his job at Shell Chemical, felt obligated to keep his wife’s dream alive. So, he took her place and for the last (almost) 20 years, has worked hard to keep the business going. Suzanne worked as many hours as she could considering she already had a full-time career. Since her own retirement a few years ago, she has worked almost full-time at the store. Her brother Donald has been instrumental in designing a software program used to ring up sales and ensure clients receive proper credit. Two other siblings helped along the way, but are no longer involved. 

Inside Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, visitors can find just about anything – furniture, appliances, clothing, shoes, jewelry, LSU and Southern items, artwork, electronics, books, games and toys. There is even a section for vintage hats, clothing, and jewelry. Local residents and groups drop off donations, and volunteers spend hours sorting, organizing, tagging and displaying items for sale.

Local jeweler Rachael Lagarde started as a volunteer in 2013 and now works at the store part-time as Director of Operations and Marketing. Because of her background, she specializes in the jewelry and collectibles section of the store.

“I love my work because I have a chance to see the difference we’re making in people’s lives,” she said. “Whenever I’m having issues in my life, I’m reminded of the people we help – people starting over late in life, parents trying to make ends meet, women who have escaped abusive relationships – it humbles me and makes me realize my problems are small compared to theirs.”

Lagarde says her faith in the business never wavers, and she often sees God’s hand at unlikely moments. She describes a humorous incident to make her point, one that some might see as coincidence, but Lagarde views as an answered prayer.

“We were getting ready to ship some items through the mail and we had run out of bubble wrap,” she said. “We were also strapped for cash. I said a prayer for God to please help us and then I left the store to run errands. When I came back a few hours later, our cashier said there was a surprise in my office. I walked in and saw an enormous industrial-sized roll of bubble wrap. Apparently, it had fallen off the back of a truck going down the road in front of our store. There’s an incline from the road to our building, so when it fell off the truck, it literally rolled right down the hill and landed at our doorstep!”

Over the years, there have been many times when the family’s prayers were answered just in time to avert some disaster or disappointment. But their success is also based on the family’s commitment to Sandra Russell’s memory. “My father is 76 now,” said Suzanne. “He retired 20 years ago, and has ended up working another 20 years because of his love for my mom. Since we started the business, we’ve donated about $1.5 million to local organizations. I think he’s done a great job and deserves to take a break now.”

Suzanne says she is often asked about her goals. “Simple,” she says. “To keep going. To keep helping as long as people need us.”

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is always in need of volunteers. If you are interested, call (225) 769-2259. For more information, visit the HTGT page on Facebook.

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Family Life, November 2017

Our Perfectly Imperfect Family


Our Perfectly Imperfect


by Natalie Gaspard photo  –  courtesy the Gaspards

“Wait, for real? You have how many siblings? You
are the oldest? That’s like one kid every year!”
Twelve little humans in one house consists of lots of
chalk, bubbles, and rainbow hunts. We indulge in
lots of laughter, popsicles, and Chick-fil-a. But we
have our downside as well. We are not always
“best buddies.” We fight, argue, scrape knees, bust
chins, cry, and fail to ever keep a clean house.

What’s it like? I’d say that it’s PERFECTLY IMPERFECT and here are several things I’m thankful to have learned along the way:

Serving equals greatness.

(Mark 10:43) “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.”  Matthew 20:26 says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” God’s work is never below his servant and everything from preaching the gospel to late night laundry can be used for His glory. In this era, we seem to focus too much on leadership and too little on servanthood. Being raised in a Christian home has taught me that to be like Jesus is to have the heart of a servant.

Serving equals greatness.

(Mark 10:43) “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.”  Matthew 20:26 says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” God’s work is never below his servant and everything from preaching the gospel to late night laundry can be used for His glory. In this era, we seem to focus too much on leadership and too little on servanthood. Being raised in a Christian home has taught me that to be like Jesus is to have the heart of a servant.

When given a choice to be right or kind, choose to
be kind.

Be the one God uses to build others up. Choosing to be kind goes a long way and will always be worth the outcome. To be kind is to have compassion. My parents repeat daily, “Be a problem solver and not a problem maker!” instead of refereeing useless arguments. Choose to be kind!

The grass isn’t greener on the other side.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote, “I’ve learned that in whatever situation I am to be content.” Contentment brings blessings and builds our capacity to appreciate and to be thankful for ordinary pleasures. I have learned that in order to increase my contentment, I must focus on the bigger picture in life: eternity.

Life’s not fair.

My siblings and I have learned to steer away from the “that’s not fair” card with our parents. News flash: Life’s not fair! It’s not fair that Jesus had to be killed to save me. It’s not fair that despite my countless sins, I can be God’s child. It’s not fair that God gives me grace upon grace every single day. Life is not fair!

Do hard things.

“Mom, Dad, please, I can’t do this. I don’t have enough time. What’s the point anyway? It’s just too hard …” What response can I expect to receive? Certainly not a pity party. “Natalie,” they will say. “Do hard things!” As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. Scripture tells us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Hard things make us more like Jesus, deepen our relationship with the Living God, show the world how strong our God is, and remind us that He is God and we are not.

Hold on to materialistic things loosely.

Being raised in a Christian home, my parents have taught me the power in
giving. During a ballet performance a couple of years ago, my friend said, “Mrs. Jessica! I love your bracelet so much!” My mom then casually tells the history of the bracelet, which was made by Haitian women to support their families, unclasps it from her wrist and gives the bracelet to her. Rather shocked, my friend stutters, “Oh my gosh, no! I can’t take your bracelet.” My mom then insists that it would be her pleasure to give it to my friend because the same thing once happened to my mom when she complimented a girl on her belt. This inspired me and ever since then, I try to freely give away my material things. The outcome is always worth it.

Your joy is hidden in your gratitude.

My joy easily can fade when I become unthankful. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I have learned that in order to have beautiful joy, I must first become grateful. There is power in gratitude. I choose to find joy in the journey that God has set before me.

So what’s the point of all this anyway, right? To know God and to make Him known! To discover Him daily and to relish in His goodness. To glorify Him in all we do. To perform for an audience of one. That’s the point!

Our family is messy and very loud. We try to leave restaurants before we are asked to leave. But there is beauty in brokenness. Despite all our dysfunctions, our perfectly imperfect family will continue to prioritize what is prime: “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” (John 17:3)

“But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24).


Natalie Gaspard, 16, is the daughter
of BRCLM founding advertiser Scott
Gaspard of the Gaspard Team and his
wife Jessica. She is the oldest of their
12 children. She is a junior at Sequitur
Classical Academy and is a company
member of Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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Family Life, October 2017

Car Show Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking


Car Show

Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking

by Sharon Holeman          photos by Praise First Media, LLC

My friend speedy is a classic car enthusiast. He spends hours restoring things that might otherwise be disregarded. He repairs the broken pieces of an engine, replacing old parts and tweaking the rest, polishing and detailing until the metal shines and sparkles

The same loving care is then taken on the car’s interior – from floorboards and seating, to the dashboard gauges, to the exterior paint, tires and rims. Every detail is taken into account. It’s not a quick process. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s a process that requires patience and a lot of effort, but he does it knowing that the result will be worth the work. Doesn’t this sound like what our loving Father does for us?

Webster’s Dictionary defines patience as “the power of suffering with fortitude; uncomplaining endurance of evils or wrongs.” My goodness, I don’t think I ever realized how much Jesus looks like patience personified. “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7 NLT)

The expanded definition from Webster’s reads “constancy in labor or application; perseverance.” I see Jesus in this description, too. His determination when it comes to the pursuit of our hearts and the restitution he offers through his loyalty in labor testifies of his great love for us.

This restoration, both in ourselves and in classic cars, is reflected in Cars at the Crosses, an event sponsored by Bethany Church. The annual car show benefits Trafficking Hope, an organization that aims to fight human trafficking on the frontlines of neighborhoods and communities. Founded in 2007 by Laura and Lee Domingue, the group partners with local and state law enforcement agencies, corporate and private sector groups and churches. Their C.A.R.E.S Initiative (Coalition, Awareness, Rescue, Education, Service) helps local churches combat the problem, and they even have a resource designed for small groups.

Restoration, both in ourselves and in classic cars, is reflected in the Cars at the Crosses event sponsored by Bethany Church.

According to a report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the number of substantive calls received from Louisiana in 2016 was 334, which constitutes the 20th highest call volume of all 50 states and Washington D.C. Louisiana also reported 108 trafficking cases. As of June 30, 2017, the number of calls in Louisiana was 139 with 59 trafficking cases reported. These statistics sadly put us on target to exceed last year’s case count. That’s 59 daughters and sons in our state whose lives have been tragically impacted already this year, and possibly others who could currently be in despair.

While the figures are disheartening, we must not grow weary of doing good, for perseverance pays off. As an informed community, we can be better prepared to help stop this unthinkable crime, and through organizations like Trafficking Hope, reach out to victims with the expectation of healing and renewal through Jesus. It will take forgiveness and fortitude, commitment and strength, patience and time to see improvements. And while we know patience isn’t always easy, and restoration is rarely a quick process, it’s always worth the work.

For more information, visit the website at or attend the Cars at the Crosses event on Saturday, October 21, at Bethany Church off Siegen Lane, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Although the show is raising money for a serious cause, Cars at the Crosses is a familyfriendly event complete with food trucks, live music, inflatables for the kids, and of course, some of the coolest cars in town. You’ll be able to donate to Trafficking Hope, admire some beautifully polished vintage chrome, and you might even run into my friend Speedy.


Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles – 12 American Women, 12 True stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her
Glory and inspire Louisiana , she is now penning her first screenplay. Ministry Today
showcased one of her photographs on the cover and several others as article imagery. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Texas at san Antonio and The Art institute of Houston. she is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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